Later On

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

Archive for February 23rd, 2021

Lawyers Who Were Ineligible to Handle Serious Criminal Charges Were Given Thousands of These Cases Anyway

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The US increasingly seems like a shoddy country. Example. And another example: “In the only state with no public defenders, people charged with murder and other serious crimes can get assigned attorneys who are legally ineligible to take on their cases. The state claims it was unaware.”

That’s the blurb for a report in ProPublica by Samantha Hogan, The Maine Monitor, and Agnel Philip, ProPublica, which begins:

Soon after receiving his license to practice law in Maine in May 2015, Jeremiah McIntosh, 36, began a new career as a small-town lawyer in the northeast corner of the state’s rural Aroostook County.

McIntosh advertised online that he had spent almost a dozen years working as a civilian employee for the Defense Department. Now, he quickly fell back into life in his hometown. He volunteered for the town planning board, helped the library register as a nonprofit and opened a rural law office in the small, close-knit community of Washburn, where fewer than 2,000 people live.

Among McIntosh’s clients were poor residents of the county who had been accused of crimes. Unique among states, Maine has no public defenders. Instead, private lawyers like McIntosh contract with the Maine Commission on Indigent Legal Services, or MCILS, to represent impoverished defendants in criminal cases and other legal matters.

The agency is supposed to screen attorneys to make sure they have enough legal and trial experience to represent their clients, especially those charged with violent felonies or complex criminal matters. Under the agency’s rules, McIntosh, as a new lawyer, lacked the required years of experience to handle dozens of cases in which he served as counsel.

In an interview, McIntosh said he felt qualified to work on the cases even though state rules said he wasn’t eligible to take them. At a certain point, McIntosh gained the appropriate amount of experience to apply to MCILS to work on more complex criminal cases, but he never did.

“If you look at the amount of trials and other experience I’ve had, then am I the most experienced up here? No. Am I brand new? No,” said McIntosh, now six years into his career. “Do I have the experience to handle these cases? Sure.”

McIntosh was one of scores of attorneys in Maine who represented clients when they did not have the training or experience required by state rules, according to an investigation by The Maine Monitor and ProPublica based on state records, court files and interviews. The news organizations identified at least 2,000 case assignments — ranging from murder cases to children charged with felonies — that had been handed off to ineligible lawyers over a period of five years.

This means more than 1 of every 8 case assignments that required specialized representation was given to an attorney who was supposed to be ineligible to serve, the analysis found. In some cases, the attorney lacked experience and could not have qualified to represent clients under state rules. In other cases, they had the necessary expertise, but they failed to apply to MCILS to represent defendants facing serious charges.

Maine’s top judges and court clerks claim they were unaware of the problem until contacted by the news organizations.

“That shouldn’t have happened. Period,” said Superior Court Chief Justice Robert Mullen, who oversees Maine’s trial courts.

No single person or agency is responsible for enforcing Maine’s court appointment rules. MCILS, judges, clerks and individual lawyers all play a role in making sure that a private attorney has met the requirements before representing a defendant.

To work on serious cases, such as drunk driving or domestic violence, an attorney must have at least a year of legal experience and have represented people in two trials and hearings. As the severity of the crime climbs, lawyers need additional trials and experience. The executive director can grant waivers for either requirement.

MCILS’s standards for attorney qualifications are . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 February 2021 at 4:34 pm

Tom Stoppard’s Charmed and Haunted Life

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In the New Yorker Anthony Lane reviews a new biography of Tom Stoppard by Hermione Lee. His review begins:

In 2007, the playwright Tom Stoppard went to Moscow. He was there to watch over a production of his trilogy—“Voyage,” “Shipwreck,” and “Salvage,” collectively known as “The Coast of Utopia.” The trilogy had opened in London in 2002, and transferred to Lincoln Center in 2006. Now, in a sense, it was coming home. The majority of the characters, though exiled, are from Russia (the most notable exception being a German guy named Karl Marx), and, for the first time, they would be talking in Russian, in a translation of Stoppard’s text. Ever courteous, he wanted to be present, during rehearsals, to offer notes of encouragement and advice. These were delivered through an interpreter, since Stoppard speaks no Russian. One day, at lunch, slices of an anonymous meat were produced, and Stoppard asked what it was. “That is,” somebody said, seeking the correct English word, “language.”

The meat, of course, was tongue, and the anecdote—one of hundreds that Hermione Lee passes on to us in her new biography, “Tom Stoppard: A Life” (Knopf)—is perfect to a fault. If any writer was going to be on the receiving end of so deliciously forgivable a mistake, it had to be Stoppard. Likewise, at a performance of his 1974 play, “Travesties,” how was he to know that the handsome fellow he was chatting with was not, as he believed, his French translator but was, in fact, Rudolf Nureyev? Is it somehow in Stoppard’s nature that Stoppardian events befall him, or is it only in his telling that they come to acquire that distinctive lustre? He emerges from Lee’s book as a magnetic figure to whom others cluster and swarm, and around whom happy accidents, chance encounters, new loves, and worldly goods are heaped like iron filings. According to one friend, he’s “good at being adored.” Stoppard’s fellow-playwright Simon Gray gave this assessment:

\It is actually one of Tom’s achievements that one envies him nothing, except possibly his looks, his talents, his money and his luck. To be so enviable without being envied is pretty enviable, when you think about it.

The placing of that “possibly” is unimprovable. Many folk, less deserving than Stoppard, and with scarcely a whit of his charm, are greeted with godsends. What marks him out is the unusual thoroughness with which he has probed the mechanism of fate, as if it were his moral duty—shaded, perhaps, with a touch of guilt—to understand why he, of all people, should have got the breaks.

What matters, for instance, is not just that Stoppard belonged to a bunch of English-speaking writers who were dispatched, in the summer of 1964, to live and (if possible) to fructify in West Berlin, on a scholarship from the Ford Foundation; not just that he used his time there to toil on something called “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern at the Court of King Lear”; not just that a new and Lear-less version was staged, by the Oxford Theatre Group, at the Edinburgh Festival in 1966; not just that an enraptured review of the production was read by Kenneth Tynan, one of Stoppard’s heroes, who was then a presiding demigod at the National Theatre; not just that, with the blessing and the exhaustive counsel of Tynan and Laurence Olivier, “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” opened at the National Theatre in 1967; and not just that its author, three months shy of his thirtieth birthday, was immediately mantled with a fame that would never slide from his shoulders; but that the play itself begins with the toss of a coin, as if all too aware that, after so prolonged a birth, it was lucky to be alive. “Heads,” Rosencrantz announces, again and again. “Heads. Heads. Heads.” Thereby hangs a tale.

To say that Tom Stoppard was born in Zlín, in Moravia, is true, but it’s not the whole story. For Stoppard, stories are never whole. At his birth, on July 3, 1937, he was named Tomáš Sträussler—the second son of two Jewish Czechs, Eugen Sträussler and Marta Becková. Zlín is still Zlín, though from 1948 to 1990 it wasn’t; instead, it was graced with the name of Gottwaldov, in honor of Klement Gottwald, the drunken and syphilitic Communist who ruled the country from 1948 to 1953, purging undesirables in a bid to keep favor with Moscow. Then, there is Moravia, which began the twentieth century as part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and ended it as a region of the Czech Republic. As Lee says, “All the names have changed.”

Zlín was a company town, centered on the Bata shoe factory, and Eugen was a company doctor. In April, 1939, after the Germans invaded Czechoslovakia, the Sträusslers and other Jews departed in haste. For the Sträusslers and their neighbors the Gellerts, there was reportedly a choice of destination: Singapore or Kenya? Heads or tails? Tomáš and his family went to Singapore—“probably via Hungary and Yugoslavia and thence to Genoa,” Lee writes. As the Japanese advanced on Singapore, in early 1942, Marta and her two sons made their escape, on a crowded ship. At Colombo, in what is now Sri Lanka, they were transferred to another vessel, which Marta thought was heading to Australia. But, no, it sailed to India. In the churnings of wartime (and not only then, the adult Stoppard might say), entire lives can change course in the wake of a simple misunderstanding. I would welcome a map in Lee’s book, to complement the family tree that she provides, yet maybe the lines of travel would be too faint. At a deep distance, one imagines, memories dim.

The Sträussler boys never saw their father again. Decades later, Stoppard learned that Eugen had probably been on a ship that was sunk near Sumatra. Marta—the definition of a strong and protective mother, her resilience rivalled only by her anxiety—disembarked, with her sons, in what was then Bombay. According to Lee, “In the next four years, the family would move across India six or seven times.” Anyone whose early years were nomadic, for whatever reason, will know that the spectre of peregrination never fades; if anything, it returns to haunt one’s middle age, as thrilling and as destabilizing as ever. Thus, Stoppard’s “Indian Ink” (1995) was set in both the nineteen-thirties and the present day. Time is a looking glass, through which we come and go.

Readers may be puzzled to discover that, for Stoppard, his spell in India offered “a lost domain of uninterrupted happiness.” The high point of that domain was Darjeeling, with a view of the Himalayas. The city was busily multinational, and he was struck by the glamour, as he recalls it, of passing American soldiers; does a flicker of that impression survive in “Empire of the Sun” (1987), which he adapted from the novel by J. G. Ballard for Steven Spielberg, and in which the youthful hero, meeting Americans in a prison camp, is seized with similar awe? Stoppard’s mother, meanwhile, was making plans for the security of her sons. Without telling them, “she got on the train from Darjeeling and travelled all day (a six-hundred-kilometre journey) to marry Major Stoppard in St. Andrew’s Church, Calcutta, on 25 November 1945.”

In its plain way, that is the most extraordinary sentence in Lee’s book, calmly illustrating the lengths to which people will go to put an end to chaos. The war was over; Major Stoppard was a British officer, to whom Marta had been introduced at the Mount Everest Hotel, when he was on leave in Darjeeling; he could supply her with peace. And so, on the last leg of their odyssey, the Sträusslers turned into the Stoppards, took ship to England, and set in motion the process by which Tomáš would become the very English Tom, with a lavish command of his adopted tongue.

No surprise, then, that to watch Stoppard’s work—or merely to inspect his titles, like “New-Found-Land” (1976) and “Rough Crossing” (1984), which is partly set on the tilting deck of a boat, not to mention “The Coast of Utopia”—is to be schooled in restlessness, and in the yearning to reach safe haven. “Shakespeare in Love” (1998), for which Stoppard, in league with Marc Norman, wrote the Oscar-winning screenplay, concluded with Gwyneth Paltrow, as the survivor of a shipwreck, striding up a beach into the New World. Even our ultimate journey gets the treatment; think of the sepulchral joke in “The Invention of Love,” Stoppard’s 1997 play about the poet and classical scholar A. E. Housman, which starts with our hero preparing to be rowed across the river Styx. He is delighted to be en voyage. “I’m dead, then,” he says. “Good.”

If childhood, as Graham Greene remarked to John le Carré (one peripatetic soul confiding in another), is the credit balance of the writer, then Stoppard was rich by the time he made landfall in England, as an eight-year-old. He was sent with his older brother, Peter, to boarding school and swiftly inculcated into the classic traditions of his new country: cricket, fly-fishing, and a diplomatic camouflage of what is most keenly felt. Chez Stoppard, “the past was not much spoken of,” Lee tells us. “Keeping things quiet was their habit: this family did not much communicate its emotions or share confidences.” For a writer, such secrecy need not be a hardship. Experiences of value can be safely stored, accruing interest, and awaiting retrieval in maturity.

Stoppard’s teen-age years, in Lee’s recounting,  . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 February 2021 at 4:25 pm

Posted in Art, Books, Daily life

There’s a Hidden Binary Message on Perseverance’s Mars Parachute

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This is so cool.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 February 2021 at 4:09 pm

Posted in Daily life, Math, Technology

I cook the Taishan cauliflower

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I misread the label and thought it was “Taiwan cauliflower.” It’s really called Taishan cauliflower. I didn’t think to look up a recipe — it’s a vegetable, so I did a standard vegetable cooking:

• 1.5 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oily
• 1 large red onion, chpped
• 1 Taishan cauliflower, chopped

I used my Field Company No. 10 skillet, for which I have a third-party glass lid that fits well. I sautéed onion for a while, then added the chopped cauliflower and continued to cook, stirring frequently, until the cauliflower wilted a bit, then put on the lid reduced the heat and cooked it until tender (about 10-15 minutes), stirring a few times.

Here you see the original cauliflower, some of it chopped, and the cooked cauliflower (and that’s the whole head — it’s quite fluffy unlike regular caulflower).

It’s an interesting vegetable, and there are quite a few recipes online. And the Taishan cauliflower is described:

This is probably pretty much what European cauliflower looked like in the time of the Roman Empire. Selective breeding during Medieval and Renaissance times developed the heavy white curd cauliflower we enjoy today. The photo specimen is a particularly fine specimen, whiter and with less stem showing than many. When they first appeared, in 2017, they were greener and more disorderly, so selection has been in effect.

The taste of this vegetable is very much that of cauliflower, but “greener” and sweeter than our regular Western cauliflower – less of a blank canvas and more of a feature flavor. Raw, it sometimes has a little bitterness, but not objectionably so, and the bitterness fades with cooking. . .

It’s really tasty and is indeed sweet, though some sweetness comes from the cooked onion. I’m definitely getting this again.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 February 2021 at 3:30 pm

“Power Companies Get Exactly What They Want”: How Texas Repeatedly Failed to Protect Its Power Grid Against Extreme Weather

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Perhaps in Texas it should be referred to not as a “power grid,” but as a “weakness grid.” Jeremy Schwartz, Kiah Collier, and Vianna Davila report in ProPublica:

In January 2014, power plants owned by Texas’ largest electricity producer buckled under frigid temperatures. Its generators failed more than a dozen times in 12 hours, helping to bring the state’s electric grid to the brink of collapse.

The incident was the second in three years for North Texas-based Luminant, whose equipment malfunctions during a more severe storm in 2011 resulted in a $750,000 fine from state energy regulators for failing to deliver promised power to the grid.

In the earlier cold snap, the grid was pushed to the limit and rolling blackouts swept the state, spurring an angry Legislature to order a study of what went wrong.

Experts hired by the Texas Public Utility Commission, which oversees the state’s electric and water utilities, concluded that power-generating companies like Luminant had failed to understand the “critical failure points” that could cause equipment to stop working in cold weather.

In May 2014, the PUC sought changes that would require energy companies to identify and address all potential failure points, including any effects of “weather design limits.”

Luminant argued against the proposal.

In comments to the commission, the company said the requirement was unnecessary and “may or may not identify the ‘weak links’ in protections against extreme temperatures.”

“Each weather event [is] dynamic,” company representatives told regulators. “Any engineering analysis that attempted to identify a specific weather design limit would be rendered meaningless.”

By the end of the process, the PUC agreed to soften the proposed changes. Instead of identifying all possible failure points in their equipment, power companies would need only to address any that were previously known.

The change, which experts say has left Texas power plants more susceptible to the kind of extreme and deadly weather events that bore down on the state last week, is one in a series of cascading failures to shield the state’s electric grid from winter storms, ProPublica and The Texas Tribune found.

Lawmakers and regulators, including the PUC and the industry-friendly Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates the oil and gas industry, have repeatedly ignored, dismissed or watered down efforts to address weaknesses in the state’s sprawling electric grid, which is isolated from the rest of the country.

About 46,000 megawatts of power — enough to provide electricity to 9 million homes on a high-demand day — were taken off the grid last week due to power-generating failures stemming from winter storms that battered the state for nearly seven consecutive days. Dozens of deaths, including that of an 11-year-old boy, have been tied to the weather. At the height of the crisis, more than 4.5 million customers across the state were without power.

As millions of Texans endured days without power and water, experts and news organizations pointed to unheeded warnings in a federal report that examined the 2011 winter storm and offered recommendations for preventing future problems. The report by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation concluded, among other things, that power companies and natural gas producers hadn’t properly readied their facilities for cold weather, including failing to install extra insulation, wind breaks and heaters.

Another federal report released three years later made similar recommendations with few results. Lawmakers also failed to pass measures over the past two decades that would have required the operator of the state’s main power grid to ensure adequate reserves to shield against blackouts, provided better representation for residential and small commercial consumers on the board that oversees that agency and allowed the state’s top emergency-planning agency to make sure power plants were adequately “hardened” against disaster.

Experts and consumer advocates say the challenge to the 2014 proposal by Luminant and other companies, which hasn’t been previously reported, is an example of the industry’s outsize influence over the regulatory bodies that oversee them.

“Too often, power companies get exactly what they want out of the PUC,” said Tim Morstad, associate director of AARP Texas. “Even well-intentioned PUC staff are outgunned by armies of power company lawyers and their experts. The sad truth is that if power companies object to something, in this case simply providing information about the durability of certain equipment, they are extremely likely to get what they want.”

Luminant representatives declined to answer questions about the company’s opposition to the weatherization proposal. PUC officials also declined to comment.

Michael Webber, an energy expert and mechanical engineering professor at the University of Texas at Austin, said the original proposal could have helped in identifying trouble spots within the state’s power plants.

“Good engineering requires detailed understanding of the performance limits of each individual component that goes into a system,” Webber said. “Even if 99.9% of the equipment is properly rated for the operational temperatures, that one part out of 1,000 can bring the whole thing down.”

Luminant defended its performance during last week’s deep freeze, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 February 2021 at 12:18 pm

The quote I was missing in the Libertarian post

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I kept searching for a quotation I had read that I wanted to include in my post on the foolishness of Libertarianism, and I finally found it:

William W. Hogan, considered the architect of the Texas energy market design, said in an interview this past week that the high prices reflected the market performing as it was designed.

The rapid losses of power — more than a third of the state’s available electricity production was offline at one point — increased the risk that the entire system would collapse, causing prices to rise, said Mr. Hogan, a professor of global energy policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School.

“As you get closer and closer to the bare minimum, these prices get higher and higher, which is what you want,” Mr. Hogan said.

I’ve updated the earlier post to include this, which nicely encapsulates the embrace of logic over experience. The quote is from a NY Times report by Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, and Ivan Penn

Written by LeisureGuy

23 February 2021 at 9:52 am

Time to Take the Penis off Its Pedestal

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Rachel Gross writes in Scientific American:

It can taste, smell and sing. It can be a corkscrew, a crowbar or a hypodermic needle. It can stretch up to nine times your body length (if you’re a barnacle); be a detachable tentacle covered in suckers (if you’re an argonaut octopus); or even see, using light-sensing cells that guide it smoothly to its destination (if you’re a Japanese yellow swallowtail butterfly). Or, it can be a limp, fleshy tube, hardly worth writing home about, if you’re a human.

It is the penis, as you’ll know if you’ve read Phallacy: Life Lessons from the Animal Penis, biologist and journalist Emily Willingham’s recent exploration of phallic diversity across the animal kingdom.

Meanwhile, another book argues that what we need is even more penis science. GUYnecology: The Missing Science of Men’s Reproductive Health, by Yale sociologist Rene Almeling, asks why medicine has failed to fully probe “the male gonad,” as one scientist put it, and its role in human reproduction. Almeling explains why no medical specialty exists that is devoted to male reproductive health—the guy equivalent of gynecology. When it comes to penis science, it seems, men have gotten shafted.

At first glance, these two very different books appear to point to the same enduring truth: that scientists—and readers—remain as penis-obsessed as ever. Or, as Willingham puts it, “Nothing gets clicks like a story about dicks.”

Actually, it’s the opposite. In both, the flashy focus on the male member serves as a Trojan horse (pun intended) for a very different message: that a culture of phallus-worship has slanted the science in crucial and sometimes unexpected ways. On the one hand, we’ve inflated the role of the penis in genital evolution; on the other, we’ve left the male contribution to infertility, genetic abnormalities and other reproductive consequences unexamined. The result is stunted, lopsided science that shows only one side of the story.

Consider that myriad beetle species are classified solely by their penis shape, while the true breadth of vaginal diversity has yet to be explored. This tradition has deep roots: Going back to Charles Darwin, who waxed poetic on the wonders of barnacle dongs, biologists have trained their lens on the penis while remaining largely uninterested in what vaginas were doing. Yet penises don’t evolve in a vacuum. All those traits we ooh and aah over—length, girth, bristles—are shaped by vaginal evolution, and the mutual dance between the two that plays out over generations.

Today, as more women and LGBTQ scientists enter the field, we’re finding that vaginas, far from passive tubes for ejaculate, are active organs that sort, store and reject sperm. Kangaroos have three vaginas (two for sperm reception, one for joey ejection); swallowtail butterflies see out of theirs; and duck vaginas spiral and curve in a penis-repelling labyrinth. Even for non-vagina-lovers, these facts help us understand how genitals evolve as a whole. Both are part of the same unified story—a much richer tapestry than just one body part can tell. Leaving one out, whichever one, blinds us to the fuller picture of sex and sexuality.

Similarly, leaving guys out of gynecology paints a false picture that, beyond sperm, men don’t contribute much to human reproduction. While medical messaging hits women over the head with the fact of their ticking biological clocks, men are rarely told how their health and age will affect their offspring. This incongruity gives the impression “that reproduction is women’s business—that it occurs primarily in women’s bodies and is solely women’s responsibility,” Almeling writes. In reality, sperm age and quality likely play just as large a role in rates of developmental disorders and infant survival as eggs do—to say nothing of the interactions between the two.

Both examples reflect a deeper flaw in science’s approach to sex: the assumption that . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 February 2021 at 9:27 am

Stunning: Welsh Open 2021 Snooker Final Frame Decider

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Written by LeisureGuy

23 February 2021 at 9:19 am

Posted in Games, Snooker, Video

Pine and Cedarwood and MR GLO, with the iKon X3 slant

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For the coming week (though next Monday), I’ll use MR GLO in place of Grooming Dept Moisturizing Pre-Shave so I can renew the baseline for a second comparison. I did note this morning that MR GLO is not bad at all, and we’re talking degrees of refinement here. I do think, however, that the Grooming Dept pre-shave is more moisturizing.

Still, it was pleasant to have MR GLO once more start the shave, and the lather from Mike’s Natural Pine and Cedarwood was excellent. Three passes with the X3 did an efficient and comfortable job, and then I enjoyed the splash of Anthony Gold’s Red Cedar aftershave.

And the sun is brightly shining.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 February 2021 at 8:44 am

Posted in Shaving

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