Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for March 31st, 2019

Rapper Nipsey Hussle killed in shooting, and something he said

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From an article in the LA Times:

Hussle, born Ermias Asghedom, was from South L.A. and had talked in the past about his early life in a street gang. He was a well-known community organizer who most recently was involved in the new Destination Crenshaw arts project.

He told The Times in 2018 that he had managed to develop a love of music and technology.

“I grew up in gang culture,” he said. “We dealt with death, with murder. It was like living in a war zone, where people die on these blocks and everybody is a little bit immune to it. I guess they call it post-traumatic stress, when you have people that have been at war for such a long time. I think L.A. suffers from that because it’s not normal yet we embrace it like it is after a while.”

In a 2014 interview with YouTube channel Vlad TV, Hussle confirmed that he had joined the Rollin’ 60s, a notorious Crips gang clique, as a teen. . .

Read the whole thing.

I find it interesting and likely that those living under near-wartime conditions will fall prey to PTSD, and they go untreated and unremarked. As he says, LA suffers from it.

Written by Leisureguy

31 March 2019 at 5:39 pm

Boeing Crashes Highlight the High Costs of Cheap Government

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Eric Levitzz writes in New York:

In 2005, the Federal Aviation Authority gave airplane manufacturers the power to cast their own employees as in-house regulators. This policy streamlined the inefficient “revolving door” process by making it possible for Boeing to regulate itself without the hassle of getting its lobbyists appointed to the F.A.A. The George W. Bush-administration argued that such “delegation” would allow the agency to concentrate its scarce resources on the most important safety issues, while also helping America’s aviation giants get new planes to market faster.

The F.A.A.’s rank and file saw things differently. As the New York Timesreports:

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association, whose members include F.A.A. certification employees, said at the time that the F.A.A.’s new approach “provides less specific and technical F.A.A. oversight and therefore would in time lower the safety of the flying public.”

Another F.A.A. union now known as the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists said it would oppose “any system that allows industry to self-regulate oversight via the honor system.” The union wrote that the F.A.A.’s “blatant outsourcing” was “reckless” and would “actually compromise public air safety, not enhance it.”

The F.A.A. was “rushing to hand off their oversight responsibilities to industry and virtually establishing a ‘fox guarding the henhouse’ mentality,” the union wrote.

Nevertheless, delegation persisted. And for a simple reason: The F.A.A. could not afford to directly oversee all aircraft certification without either slowing aviation production to a crawl, or securing much higher funding from Congress. The cost of bringing all aviation certifications under the F.A.A.’s roof last year would have meant a $1.8 billion increase to the agency’s budget, the F.A.A.’s acting director told the Senate this week.

The cost of not doing so, meanwhile, might have been 346 human lives.

Within the past five months, two Boeing 737 MAX airplanes have crashed, killing all who were aboard them. Investigators now believe that the 737 MAX’s flawed flight-control system — known as MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System) — caused these tragedies. And reporting from the Seattle Times suggests that — if the flight control system is responsible — then the F.A.A.’s delegation policy is, too:

As Boeing hustled in 2015 to catch up to Airbus and certify its new 737 MAX, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) managers pushed the agency’s safety engineers to delegate safety assessments to Boeing itself, and to speedily approve the resulting analysis.

But the original safety analysis that Boeing delivered to the FAA for a new flight control system on the MAX — a report used to certify the plane as safe to fly — had several crucial flaws.

… [B]lack box data retrieved after the Lion Air crash indicates that a single faulty sensor — a vane on the outside of the fuselage that measures the plane’s “angle of attack,” the angle between the airflow and the wing — triggered MCAS multiple times during the deadly flight, initiating a tug of war as the system repeatedly pushed the nose of the plane down and the pilots wrestled with the controls to pull it back up, before the final crash.

It is true that the F.A.A.’s current delegation rules have been around for more than a decade — and that America’s commercial airlines have assembled an enviable safety record over that period. But the available evidence also suggests that America’s refusal to adequately fund the F.A.A. allowed corporations to gain inordinate influence over a public-sector function — and many people died as a result.

In this respect, the Boeing 737 Max fiasco is indicative of a broader pathology in American civic life. In the U.S., we don’t just underfund our regulatory agencies (thereby forcing them to outsource many of their core functions, and making it impossible for them to compete with the private sector for top talent), but scrimp on virtually every level of government.

The stinginess might be most egregious at the state level. In Nebraska, state legislators earn just $12,000; in North Carolina’s statehouse, lawmakers are provided no staff while the legislature is in session. Many progressives attribute regressive policy outcomes to the abundance of corporate money in political campaigns, but the dearth of public money in governance is similarly corrosive. As the political scientist Alexander Hertel-Fernandez documents in his new book State CaptureThe American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) — a right-wing organization that drafts model legislation to fit the specifications of its corporate benefactors, and then provides ready-made bills to state lawmakers across the country — owes much of its success (if not, it’s entire existence) to the lack of public resources at state legislature’s disposal.

And our federal legislature suffers from a similar pathology. As Betsy Wright Hawkins explained for The Hill in 2018:

When House and Senate appropriations deliberations began this year, funding levels for the Legislative Branch had been stagnant for a decade. Numbers of experienced policy staff in personal and committee offices were hollowed out, and the salaries of those who remain eroded. The resulting staff attrition means Congress employs roughly three-quarters of the people it did in the late 1970s. Meanwhile, the average House member represents approximately 200,000 more constituents, and each senator an estimated 1.6 million more constituents than they did 30 years ago …

… As a chief of staff in the House of Representatives for more than 25 years, I saw firsthand the personal toll funding shortfalls took on the dedicated, civic-minded men and women who are the lifeblood of the institution. Personal office budgets were cut by more than 20 percent during the last 10 years I served there. In the mid-2000s, I could budget to pay a highly-qualified legislative assistant $60,000 — no pittance, but an amount stretched by Washington’s high cost of living. By the end of my service in the House in 2015, I could afford to pay a similarly qualified staffer about $40,000.

As Congress has cut spending on legislative aid, the private sector has filled in the gap. Today, corporations spend more than $2.6 billion a year on congressional lobbyists — more than American taxpayers spend on all of Congress. If our elected representatives didn’t let special interests write legislative copy for them, it’s not clear that they would be able to do their jobs.

This is not an accident. The conservative movement understands that the fewer resources legislatures and bureaucracies receive from the public, the more they will accept from private interests — who will then see considerable returns on their investment in state capture.  . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

31 March 2019 at 5:31 pm

Food discovery for bitter melon

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I made the rest of the chicken hearts, and since I just improvise all my recipes, it came out a little different. For oil, I had earlier cooked some marrow bones: I roasted for 15 minutes in a 425ºF oven, in the Field No. 12, and the fat that cooked out was what I used: marrow fat. There wasn’t quite enough, so I added about 1.5 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil—really, a glug or two.

I used mostly the same veggies—a carrot chopped with the cut-roll-cut-roll method, a long Chinese leek, 10 cloves minced garlic, 2 jalapeños chopped small, half a red bell pepper, chopped, 2 baby bok choy, sliced, and a bitter melon (a whole one this time) halved lengthwise and each half cut lengthwise into three radial segment, all the same. Plus a good pinch of salt and several grindings of pepper.

But I also added several stalks of asparagus, chopped, and as it cooked, several dashes of Maggi and about 1.5 Tbsp toasted sesame oil, for flavor. When the dish was cooked, the bitter melon and asparagus were the same color and looked, to my bleary eyes, pretty much the same. Thus you didn’t know which taste to be set for, asparagus or bitter melon. And sometimes you’d take a spoonful that has one asparagus and one bitter melon. That combination turns out to have a very interesting and pleasant taste, taken together.

If I were making this in my stainless steel pan, I would add the juice of a lemon or two, but I don’t think that would be a good idea in the cast iron. Of course, I can easily squeeze lemon juice over the plated dish. Do that.

Written by Leisureguy

31 March 2019 at 5:00 pm

Why Barr’s summary of the Mueller report is a big win for America

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Andrew Sullivan, a conservative, writes in New York:

Why do I find the summary of the Mueller report by Attorney General William Barr to be something of a relief?

Firstly, I’m relieved as an American that a serious and dogged prosecutor deemed it impossible to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the president of the United States had knowingly conspired with a foreign government to undermine the integrity of the 2016 presidential election. It’s not exactly a high bar, I know, but we have been failing to reach the lowest bars lately, so count me a happy person. I’m glad, simply, that the worst doesn’t appear to be true. I prefer my presidents not to be traitors.

Second, we were able to hold an independent inquiry into a serious question of electoral malfeasance and see it to a conclusion, without Mueller being fired, or the inquiry blocked, or stymied. When push came to shove, the Congress protected Mueller, despite an avalanche of abuse and propaganda directed toward him. And the president didn’t fire him, which, let’s be honest, we were all fearing he would. We ducked that particular constitutional crisis.

More to the point, in what was an inevitably fraught political moment, Robert Mueller conducted himself impeccably. How thrilling to hear absolutely nothing from him. I don’t even know what his voice sounds like. The lack of leaks or grandstanding; the efficiency and obvious rigor of the process; the resistance to becoming the Resistance: Mueller single-handedly showed that the norms of liberal democracy and the rule of law can be upheld even as most of the political actors, especially the president, have been behaving like bit players in a banana republic.

Give it up for old-school WASP Republican values! And in this, Mueller is someone we should study if we want to see how to oppose this president effectively. You can’t out-tweet or out-insult the clinically narcissistic and characterologically disgusting. You cannot beat him at his own game. But you can consistently refuse to take his boorish bait and maintain your own standards of conduct. You can calmly stare down a bully, and you can let your actions speak louder than your words.

In a world of endless distraction, Mueller kept his focus. It is hard not to see the inquiry as an epic cultural and moral clash between the honorable American and the irredeemably ugly one; between the war-hero public servant and a draft-dodging liar and thug; between elegant, understated class and fathomless, bullhorn vulgarity. In a liberal society, it really does matter more that the rules are fair than that any side wins. Mueller walked that line — and did not fall off it, as, for example, James Comey did.

Above all, I’m grateful Mueller did not find a clear-cut case of provable treasonous criminality either on the president’s part or his family’s. The reason I’m relieved is that, however grave the crime, Trump would almost certainly have gotten away with it. In our current politics, there is simply no way for this Senate to convict Trump of an impeachable offense. And so there was always a real danger that this entire ordeal would end with an obviously proven high crime and misdemeanor, a thereby unavoidable impeachment process, and then an inevitable failure to convict in the Senate. And so Trump would become an openly criminal president, a walking inversion of the rule of law, leverage impeachment into his reelection, and our slide into strongman politics would have accelerated still further.

The other lesson to learn is that Trump would happily obstruct justice even if he knew he was as innocent as the driven snow. It’s his core instinct. He’ll always act guilty — whether he’s guilty or not. He cannot see the process of an inquiry as a way for the entire system to examine and fix itself — let alone exonerate him. He instinctively recoils from any independent challenge to his control. Letting the law take its course would require a modicum of appreciation of a liberal society, and an understanding that the world doesn’t simply revolve around him. And he is clinically incapable of either.

And so if Trump is charged or accused of anything, he has the identical reflex. Always deny. Always lie. Always undermine. Never concede. Accuse your opponents of doing exactly what they accuse you of. Even if you’re innocent. This is the Roy Cohn playbook, and it’s damaging when even a real-estate developer deploys that kind of tactic, but in a president, charged with the faithful execution of the laws, it’s potentially fatal. But it will also mislead others, as it may have in this case. Most people tend to assume that someone who is acting incredibly guilty probably is a little guilty. But that misses the particular mind-set of this particular president.

None of this is to say this is over. No one apart  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

31 March 2019 at 4:18 pm

Have you tried drawing?

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Drawing is mostly a matter of getting your mind out of the way so you can actually see what you’re looking at without the shortcuts the mind imposes. That’s the idea behind Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, by Betty Edwards, and she has ingenious exercises to short-circuit the mind’s shortcuts (e.g., turn a picture upside down to draw it, which forces you to focus on what you see rather on your assumptions of what you see; or drawing not the object (a chair, say) but rather the space around the object: the boundary between that space and the chair).

Mark Frauenfelder points out a good site for drawing exercises, and of course like any skill, drawing requires practice.

Written by Leisureguy

31 March 2019 at 8:18 am

Posted in Art, Books, Daily life, Education

Should Hillary Clinton be in prison?

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The question above was asked on Quora, and it is certainly no secret that many Republicans would like to “Lock her up! Lock her up!

Ron Wagner (who describes himself as “USAF pilot in Presidential Wing at Andrews, airline pilot, aero engineer”) has an excellent answer to the question:

This is a good, simple question and I’ll give you a good, simple answer.

Lots of answers here go into all kinds of detail and speculation, which none of us really have access to. So, let’s consider just the bright, glaring facts that we know for absolutely sure:

  1. The Republicans have conducted somewhere around 17 federal investigations into the Clintons and the Clinton Foundation.
  2. The Republicans absolutely hate both Clintons and would walk across the country bare-foot on broken glass to get them in prison.
  3. Putting either of the Clintons in prison would be the greatest political victory the modern Republicans have ever attained.
  4. The Republicans have investigated both Clintons and their foundation over about two decades.
  5. The Republicans have spent more than $100 million of yours and my taxpayer money on these investigations.
  6. Millions of Republican voters absolutely believe that the Clintons are the most corrupt two people in the USA. There would be dancing in the streets if either Clinton were so much as arrested. The day of their entering prison would be celebrated among Republicans for generations.
  7. The Republicans would charge the Clintons or any employee of their staff or of the Clinton Foundation with jaywalking if they could substantiate it with evidence.
  8. The Republicans have never, ever filed a single charge against the Clintons—nor anyone who works for them or has ever worked for them. Contrast this to the 200+ charges filed already against people who worked for or with Donald Trump.
  9. People don’t go into prison in the USA without four things happening first:
    1. They must be charged with a crime.
    2. Then there has to be a trial.
    3. The trial must end with a guilty verdict from a jury.
    4. And, finally, a judge has to invoke a sentence of prison time.

So, the answer to your question is a simple no.

Or, maybe, Hillary Clinton will be in prison as soon as those four things happen, but not one day before.


And now I’m going to close with my personal beliefs, which are separate from the list of undeniable facts I wrote above.

I used to think as much as anyone else that the Clintons were sleazy and corrupt. I would have loved to see them taken down.

And finally, in October of 2015 I figured the day of reckoning had come for Hillary. She was summoned to sit down at a table in front of Trey Gowdy, a panel of angry Republicans who hate both Clintons, and a bank of national TV cameras.

She had with her a microphone and a glass of water—actually I think she had a couple of Diet Cokes during the day.

Trey Gowdy and his panel had with them an army of staffers, advisors, and lawyers, running back and forth with a library of documents.

But 11 hours later—speaking only from memory with no reference material and no advisor—she alone slaughtered all of them.

Trey Gowdy closed down the investigation.

And then, in shame, in 2018 he didn’t even run for reelection for his own seat in Congress.


No two people in American history have been investigated more doggedly and had more money spent on those insane pursuits than the Clintons. Their pursuers make the infamous Inspector Javert in Les Misérables look like a boy scout.

Today’s Republicans would write the ending of Les Miz to have Javert shoot Jean Valjean, dump him in the river, and walk away laughing.

I guess that few Republicans have watched and understood Les Miz.

But for me, after October, 2015 I realized that the Jean Valjean character in the drama of pursuing Hillary—the good guy—was Hillary Clinton.

I almost hated to admit it, but after the epic failure to find even a single charge against either Clinton, or even against a lowly Clinton staffer, I have concluded that the Clintons are either the cleanest couple in America or the smartest of all time.

They have either not committed crimes, or they are vastly smarter than any Republican they’ve faced over the past 20 years.

Either way, they have earned my respect and I thank the Republicans for spending $100 million to teach me that.

And, in case you’re wondering, I’ll be clear that unless the Republicans end this drama the way Inspector Javert did, I will never respect them again. Of course they won’t actually shoot themselves, die, and float away, but metaphorically it’s time for them to give us a Les Miz ending.

Written by Leisureguy

31 March 2019 at 6:31 am

Mayor Pete is very impressive

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I like the way he talks: he doesn’t orate, he converses. Watch this:

Written by Leisureguy

31 March 2019 at 5:55 am

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