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Archive for June 17th, 2020

The $500 billion black box

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Judd Legum describes one of the biggest heists ever. He begins:

The COVID-19 pandemic has been an acute threat to millions of small businesses. Congress created the Paycheck Protection Program as a lifeline. The program provided loans — equivalent to about two-and-a-half months of payroll — to businesses with 500 employees or less. As long as most of the money was spent on payroll, the loans are forgiven by the government. Thus far, the program has allocated over $500 billion in taxpayer dollars.

But who got the money? The Trump administration won’t say.

Initially, the Small Business Administration (SBA), which oversees the program, said it was focused on getting the money out as quickly as possible but would disclose the recipients once the loans were dispersed. The SBA “intend[s] to post individual loan data in accordance with the information presently on the website after the loan process has been completed,” an SBA spokesman told the Washington Post on April 16.

Now that most of the money has been distributed, however, the Trump administration has changed its tune. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said in a hearing earlier this month that the administration will not release the “names and amounts of specific PPP loans” because it is “proprietary information” and “confidential.”

The PPP, however, is modeled after a longstanding federal loan program, known as 7(a). For years, that program has facilitated loans to small businesses backed by SBA guarantees. The SBA routinely discloses the recipients of 7(a) loans. You can review them here.

While the PPP program has undoubtedly helped many workers, it is also subject to abuse. A small number of loans were disclosed because they were obtained by publicly traded companies that are required to report the loans to the Securities and Exchange Commission. As Popular Information reported, many of these loans went to companies that paid their CEOs in excess of $1 million or had other sources of capital. After these loans were subjected to public scrutiny, dozens of corporations returned the money.  . .

Read the whole thing. The brazenness is breathtaking.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 June 2020 at 9:23 pm

Popular song in Locrian mode?

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Written by LeisureGuy

17 June 2020 at 7:52 pm

Posted in Music, Video

The Scientist Who Predicted 2020’s Political Unrest On What Comes Next

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Interesting interview in Vice with a link to the predictions published in 2012. Jamie Clifton interviews Peter Turchin (aka Hari Seldon?):

In 2012, VICE published an article titled, “2012 Is Bullshit; 2020 Is When We’ll Really Be in Trouble”. That headline was fairly prophetic: while 2012 saw the embers of the Arab Spring uprisings and quaint fears of a foretold apocalypse, it had nothing on what we’re experiencing now.

In 2020, the climate is on its deathbed. A global pandemic has killed almost half a million people and sent economies spiralling. The world is finally reckoning with centuries of entrenched racial inequality, with street protests met by a violent response from police and the far-right, exacerbated by an American president who intentionally stokes division among his base.

That 2012 headline was for an interview with the scientist Peter Turchin, whose field of study, “cliodynamics”, tracks “temporally varying processes and the search for causal mechanisms” throughout US history, to essentially predict the future. You can read his team’s assessment of the last ten years here. VICE News recently caught up with him over email to ask what’s coming next.

VICE: When we spoke in 2012, you explained that 2020 would see the next state of upheaval in the US. Do you feel validated? Or were you just always certain it was coming?
Peter Turchin: The theory that made this prediction was validated, rather than me. Of course, nobody could be certain it was coming – future cannot be predicted in any absolute sense.

Fair point. Was there any stage over the last few years where you began to see it coming, though, and could tell what it might be related to?
It is a cumulative thing. The structural trends driving up instability – falling living standards, increasing intra-elite competition and conflict – have actually been going in the wrong direction since roughly 1980, so by 2010, I and my colleagues saw three decades of these trends already.

Furthermore, there were no signs that our political elites were ready to take the appropriate action to reverse these trends. They still aren’t. Then there was a growing wave of suicide terrorism, AKA rampage shootings. Life expectancies of large swaths of the American population actually shrank in absolute terms – I didn’t expect that things would get so bad. The election of Donald Trump is a very good example of a political entrepreneur channeling mass discontent – there are lots of historical examples of this. So, as I said, it was a cumulative thing.

READ: Know Their Names – Seven Stories of Police Brutality in Europe

You also said revolutions start when “members of the elite try to overturn the political order to better suit themselves”. Could you expand on that, knowing what we know now?
As I said, Donald Trump is a good example of intra-elite conflict. In terms of our theory, he started as a frustrated elite aspirant who was attempting to translate his wealth into political power. He was eventually able to do it riding the wave of mass discontent with the established elites in 2016. This resulted in even more polarisation and intra-elite conflict than what we saw before 2016.

Finally, your theory says these periods work in 50-year cycles, but does it predict when this specific period of upheaval will come to an end?
You actually didn’t get this part right – the fundamental dynamic results in very long cycles. So in American history we had two broad cycles. First, there was a rising tide of prosperity and elite unity that peaked around 1820. From there, the crisis indicators rose sharply in the years leading up to the Civil War. Indicators of crisis conditions then dropped slightly from their peak but remained high until 1920 – the years of Reconstruction, Jim Crow, Gilded Age and violent labour unrest, and the anarchists. This was our first Age of Discord.

Then the tide shifted; as a result of the reforms introduced during the Progressive Era and clinched in the New Deal, wages rose and political unity grew stronger. The 1950s were . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 June 2020 at 7:35 pm

An entire Florida SWAT team resigned last week. It’s for the best.

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Radley Balko writes in the Washington Post:

Last week, all 10 members of the SWAT team in Hallandale Beach, Fla., resigned (from the SWAT team, not the department). The members believe the team is “minimally equipped, under trained and often times restrained by the politicization of our tactics,” and were offended that the chief of the city’s police department “took a knee” in solidarity with anti-police brutality protesters, including the city’s 22-year-old Vice Mayor Sabrina Javellana. But maybe it’s best if Hallandale Beach doesn’t have a SWAT team.

I’ve written about Hallandale Beach both in a 2006 paper on police militarization for the Cato Institute and in my 2014 book “Rise of the Warrior Cop,” where I cited the city as an example of why small towns shouldn’t have SWAT teams. The city has a population of less than 40,000 and had just a single murder in 2018, the last year for which FBI crime statistics are available. Outside the SWAT team, over the past 10 years the police department has shot several shoplifting suspects, killing two, and paid out other settlements for police brutality. In fact, at times, the annual number of people killed by its police department has nearly equaled the number of murders in the city. (Nationally, the ratio over the past few years has been about 15 murders for every killing by police.) Hallandale Beach is about 80 percent white, but a 2015 Broward/Palm Beach New Times investigation found that 33 of the 38 no-knock raids the city’s SWAT team carried out over a decade were done in a single square mile enclave that is mostly black. The other five were within a quarter-mile of the enclave. None turned up a major stash of illegal drugs.

The Cato paper opened with a story from Hallandale: In 1999, a city SWAT team conducted a late-night raid on the home of Edwin and Catherine Bernhardt. The police team threw Catherine to the floor, and handcuffed her at gunpoint. An officer brought Edwin, who was still nude, clothing to cover himself: a pair of his wife’s underwear. They then took Edwin to jail, where he waited for hours still clothed only in the underwear. The police eventually realized they’d made a mistake and released him.

The couple later sued. In defending the police actions, a city attorney told the Miami Herald, “[The police officers] made a mistake. There’s no one to blame for a mistake. The way these people were treated has to be judged in the context of a war.”

In 2014, the city’s SWAT team conducted a raid on a 34-year-old black man named Howard Bowe Jr. and his 16-year-old son. The raid team first shot and killed Bowe’s dog, then confronted Bowe in his kitchen. Claiming he saw something “shiny” in Bowe’s hands, a SWAT officer shot Bowe twice in the stomach. Bowe was unarmed and would later die from his injuries. As Bowe was being taken to an ambulance, a neighbor heard him scream, “Why’d y’all shoot me?” The police claimed they knocked and announced, but neighbors say they heard no announcement.

In 2018, the city settled with Bowe’s family for $425,000. At the city council meeting to vote on the settlement, several critics of the police department weren’t permitted to speak before the vote, the resolution was passed in private and no one on the council would say Bowe’s name out loud. One of the people who was scheduled to speak, but then disallowed, was Javellana.

It’s not as if the end of the Hallandale Beach SWAT team would mean the town would no longer have access to one. The Broward County Sheriff’s Office, which contracts to provide policing to smaller towns in the county, has 38 SWAT officers, enough for three or more additional SWAT teams. At least 10 other cities in Broward County have police departments with their own SWAT team. That’s 14 SWAT teams for a county of 2 million people, in addition to any federal-local multi-jurisdictional anti-drug and anti-gang task forces operating in the county.

In the early 2000s, both the Miami Herald and the St. Petersburg Times published investigations of the proliferation of SWAT teams into south Florida and the Miami suburbs, including Broward County. The reports found that many cities exaggerated their crime rates to get surplus military gear from the Pentagon to equip their SWAT teams. The reports also found that though city officials cited incidents such as hostage takings to justify budgets for SWAT teams, the teams were primarily used to serve low-level drug warrants.

Not surprisingly, many of the other SWAT teams in the county have also faced controversy for illegal searches and questionable shootings during drug raids. Most famously, in 2017 the Broward County Sheriff’s Office kicked a sergeant off the SWAT team for wearing a patch for the Internet fringe conspiracy group QAnon during a publicity photo with Vice President Pence. The officer was also wearing what is apparently the unofficial logo of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team — a patch emblazoned with what appears to be the Grim Reaper’s scythe and an executioner’s ax. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 June 2020 at 4:50 pm

Posted in Law Enforcement

Updated post

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I updated the Anki observations post with some illustrations.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 June 2020 at 2:19 pm

Meißner Tremonia Himalayan Heights and Edwin Jagger

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The brush is a Rooney Style 1 Size 1 and the soap Is Meißner Tremonia’s Himalayan Heights, which does have cedar tinge to the fragrance and left my skin feeling very good. The razor is an Edwin Jagger head on a Maggard Razors stainless handle, and it did an excellent job. A splash of Stirling Vetiver aftershave, and the day begins.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 June 2020 at 9:31 am

Posted in Shaving

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