Later On

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

Archive for June 25th, 2021

Too much heat can be bad

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Written by Leisureguy

25 June 2021 at 9:15 pm

Posted in Daily life, Medical

Why Police Have Been Quitting in Droves in the Last Year

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Neil MacFarquhar reports in the NY Times:

As protests surged across the country last year over the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police, Officer Lindsay C. Rose in Asheville, N.C., found her world capsized.

Various friends and relatives had stopped speaking to her because she was a cop. During a protest in June around Police Headquarters, a demonstrator lobbed an explosive charge that set her pants on fire and scorched her legs.

She said she was spit on. She was belittled. Members of the city’s gay community, an inclusive clan that had welcomed her in when she first settled in Asheville, stood near her at one event and chanted, “All gay cops are traitors,” she said.

By September, still deeply demoralized despite taking several months off to recuperate, Officer Rose decided that she was done. She quit the Police Department and posted a sometimes bitter, sometimes nostalgic essay online that attracted thousands of readers throughout the city and beyond.

“I’m walking away to exhale and inhale, I’m leaving because I don’t have any more left in me right now,” she wrote. “I’m drowning in this politically charged atmosphere of hate and destruction.”

Officer Rose was hardly alone. Thousands of police officers nationwide have headed for the exits in the past year.

A survey of almost 200 police departments indicated that retirements were up 45 percent and resignations rose by 18 percent in the year from April 2020 to April 2021 when compared with the previous 12 months, according to the Police Executive Research Forum, a Washington policy institute.

New York City saw 2,600 officers retire in 2020 compared with 1,509 the year before. Resignations in Seattle increased to 123 from 34 and retirements to 96 from 43. Minneapolis, which had 912 uniformed officers in May 2019, is now down to 699. At the same time, many cities are contending with a rise in shootings and homicides.

Asheville was among the hardest hit proportionally, losing upward of 80 officers, more than one third of its 238-strong force.

The reason has partly to do with Asheville itself — a big blue dot amid a sea of red voters in western North Carolina. Residents often refer to the city, a tourist mecca of 90,000 people tucked into the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains, as the South’s version of Austin, Texas, or Portland, Ore.

Protests are commonplace, although none in recent memory had roiled the city quite like those prompted by the death of Mr. Floyd. Asheville has removed its three Confederate monuments, including the obelisk that dominated the central square for more than 100 years. In June, the City Council agreed to earmark an initial $2.1 million to pay reparations to the Black community of more than 10,000 residents.

The police already had come under criticism in recent years, churning through half a dozen chiefs in the past decade amid widespread complaints about overly harsh policing. Often cited is a case in 2019, when an officer pleaded guilty to assaulting a Black man after an argument over jaywalking — at night with few cars on the road.

The past year’s racial justice protests brought these long-simmering tensions swiftly back to the surface.

Chief David Zack, 58, said that officers were pushed to quit because the protests were directed at them. “They said that we have become the bad guys, and we did not get into this to become the bad guys.”

A sense that the city itself did not back its police was a key reason for the departures, according to officers as well as police and city officials. Officers felt that they should have been praised rather than pilloried after struggling to contain chaotic protests.

Low pay deepened the frustration. With a starting salary around $37,000, few officers can afford houses in Asheville, where housing prices have sharply increased in recent years.

Finally, officers said they were asked to handle too much; they were constantly thrown at tangled societal problems like mental health breakdowns or drug overdoses, they said, for which they were ill-equipped — then blamed when things went wrong.

Officers who left said they endured a barrage of “good riddance” taunts on social media.

One sergeant who quit after a decade on the force, who did not want his name published because of the attacks online, said last summer had chipped away at his professional pride and personal health. He could not sleep and drank too much.

In September, somebody dropped a coffin laden with dirt and manure at the front door of Police Headquarters. “The message was taking a different turn,” Chief Zack said. “The message was not about police reform, but, ‘We endorse violence against police.’”

Of the more than 80 officers who left, about half found  . . .

.Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

25 June 2021 at 5:12 pm

How radical gardeners took back New York City

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The video above appears in an interesting Open Culture column by Ayun Halliday.

Written by Leisureguy

25 June 2021 at 4:18 pm

They Seemed Like Democratic Activists. They Were Secretly Conservative Spies.

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Mark Mazzetti and  report in the NY Times:

The young couple posing in front of the faux Eiffel Tower at the Paris hotel in Las Vegas fit right in, two people in a sea of idealistic Democrats who had arrived in the city in February 2020 for a Democratic primary debate.

Large donations to the Democratic National Committee — $10,000 each — had bought Beau Maier and Sofia LaRocca tickets to the debate. During a cocktail reception beforehand, they worked the room of party officials, rainbow donkey pins affixed to their lapels.

In fact, much about them was a lie. Mr. Maier and Ms. LaRocca were part of an undercover operation by conservatives to infiltrate progressive groups, political campaigns and the offices of Democratic as well as moderate Republican elected officials during the 2020 election cycle, according to interviews and documents.

Using large campaign donations and cover stories, the operatives aimed to gather dirt that could sabotage the reputations of people and organizations considered threats to a hard-right agenda advanced by President Donald J. Trump.

At the center of the scheme was an unusual cast: a former British spy connected to the security contractor Erik Prince, a wealthy heiress to the Gore-Tex fortune and undercover operatives like Mr. Maier and Ms. LaRocca who used Wyoming as a base to insinuate themselves into the political fabric of this state and at least two others, Colorado and Arizona.

In more than two dozen interviews and a review of federal election records, The New York Times reconstructed many of the operatives’ interactions in Wyoming and other states — mapping out their associations and likely targets — and spoke to people with whom they discussed details of their spying operation. Publicly available documents in Wyoming also tied Mr. Maier and Ms. LaRocca to an address in Cody used by the former spy, Richard Seddon.

What the effort accomplished — and how much information Mr. Seddon’s operatives gathered — is unclear. Sometimes, their tactics were bumbling and amateurish. But the operation’s use of spycraft to manipulate the politics of several states over years greatly exceeds the tactics of more traditional political dirty tricks operations.

It is also a sign of how ultraconservative Republicans see a deep need to install allies in various positions at the state level to gain an advantage on the electoral map. Secretaries of state, for example, play a crucial role in certifying election results every two years, and some became targets of Mr. Trump and his allies in their efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

The campaign followed another effort engineered by Mr. Seddon. He aided a network of conservative activists trying to discredit perceived enemies of Mr. Trump inside the government, including a planned sting operation in 2018 against Mr. Trump’s national security adviser at the time, H.R. McMaster, and helping set up secret surveillance of F.B.I. employees and other government officials.

Mr. Prince had set Mr. Seddon’s work in motion, recruiting him around the beginning of the Trump administration to hire former spies to train conservative activists in the basics of espionage, and send them on political sabotage missions.

By the end of 2018, Mr. Seddon secured funding from the Wyoming heiress, Susan Gore, according to people familiar with her role. He recruited several former operatives from the conservative group Project Veritas, where he had worked previously, to set up the political infiltration operation in the West.

Project Veritas has a history of using operatives with fake names to target liberal organizations and make secret recordings to embarrass them.

The endeavor in the West appears to have had two primary goals: penetrate local and eventually national Democratic political circles for long-term intelligence gathering, and collect dirt on moderate Republicans that could be used against them in the internecine party battles being waged by Mr. Trump and his allies.

Nate Martin, the head of Better Wyoming, a progressive group that was one of the operation’s targets, said he suspected that its aim was to “dig up this information and you sit on it until you really can destroy somebody.”

Toward the first goal, operatives concocted . . .

Continue reading. There’s much, much more. This seems close to be an active and funded effort to destroy the foundations of American government — the government that is supposed to be of, by, and for the people but is seen as some as a way to seize control regardless of the will of the public.

Written by Leisureguy

25 June 2021 at 12:59 pm

How to cook greens for maximum nutritional benefit

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Written by Leisureguy

25 June 2021 at 12:17 pm

Why Did Congress Just Vote to Break Up Big Tech?

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Matt Stoller writes in BIG:

It’s been an extraordinary week. On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled against the NCAA for abusing its monopoly over the terms and wages of student athletes. Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee, which is the body that has jurisdiction over antitrust law, wrote and voted on legislation to break up big tech firms Apple, Google, Amazon, and Facebook. There are problems with the bills, and I’ll get into them. But the underlying content is less important than the political message, which is that breaking up big tech is looking increasingly inevitable.

Meanwhile, the new Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan has taken full control of the agency. She’s hired acting directors to run the bureaus, and announced that the FTC will be holding open commission meetings where the public can watch the commissioners vote and debate things. Open meetings haven’t happened in decades, so this is something of a shock to the agency. There’s even a period where the public gets to talk back to the commissioners. Imagine that. The underlying agenda is pretty aggressive (though in the administrative weeds), and starts with finalizing a rule against lying about Made in USA labels. (If you want to sign up to speak, you can do so here.)

And now to the good, bad, and meaning of the break-up votes. . .

The Good

The Judiciary Committee wrote and passed six different bills, two of them being general purpose antitrust acts and four being big tech-specific ones. These bills are an outgrowth of the 16-month investigation into Apple, Google, Amazon, and Facebook, with an analysis of millions of documents and hundreds of witnesses.

This isn’t the end of the process, but it’s the first Congressional vote to actually restructure powerful firms since the 1996 Telecom Act, and the first real Congressional attack on concentrated corporate power since the Bank Holding Company Act Amendments of 1970. Congressman Mondaire Jones summed up the hearing where they voted to do so. “Unless we break these companies up,” he said, “they will continue to be above the law.’”

So what do these bills do?

The first two are relatively simple. The first increases the amount of money that our antitrust enforcers can use to bring cases and regulate markets. (The FTC’s budget is $351 million, this would boost it to $418 million, while the Department of Justice Antitrust Division would go from $188 million to $252 million.) I wasn’t so keen on this one for a long time, because the Federal Trade Commission and the Antitrust Division are terrible and asking for more resources was an excuse for bad legal strategy. But with Lina Khan at the FTC, I’m more optimistic that she can restore the agency’s legitimacy. Or at least, now I know there’s someone there who recognizes the task at hand.

The second is a bill that is very procedural, but antitrust is a weedy area, and it matters. One of the techniques that monopolists use to avoid scrutiny is to move cases brought by state attorneys general to courts that are friendlier to big corporations. California, for instance, is well-known for tech-friendly judges – Google tried to move one key antitrust case on adtech to its home state. But big pharma does it too. In 2016, 40 state attorneys general filed suit in Connecticut against 18 pharmaceutical companies alleging price-fixing and market allocation of 15 generic drugs. The pharmaceutical companies, most of which were headquartered in the Philadelphia-area, successfully transferred the case to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. It still hasn’t gone to trial. The second bill stops this nonsense, and lets state AGs keep the cases in the district they choose to bring suit. (Jurisdictional fights have always been a problem – in my book I profiled a 1937 suit over the monopolist Alcoa, in which the firm got the suit moved to its home town of Pittsburgh, and Congress in response nearly passed a law making it easier to remove judges.)

These two bills might not seem like a big deal. However, if these two bills were all that passed, they would still comprise the single most important strengthening of Federal antitrust law in a generation. For decades, antitrust was just not important, and the Judiciary Committee didn’t bother to focus on it. So to have these markups, and pass these bills, is in itself meaningful.

The other four bills solved for problems specific to Google, Apple, Amazon, and Facebook, problems ostensibly laid out in the big tech report by the subcommittee last year. Here are the four bills and what they did.

1) The ACCESS Act mandates that big tech firms have to make their systems open to competitors and business rivals, in the same way that AT&T customers can talk to T-Mobile customers, or users of different email systems can communicate with one another.

2) The merger bill makes it harder for big tech firms to buy rivals.

3) The nondiscrimination bill is intended to ban the ability to big tech firms to preference their own products, the way Google substitutes its own reviews for Yelp reviews, even if Yelp’s reviews are better.

4) The break-up bill is supposed to split apart big tech firms by prohibiting platforms from owning any line of business that uses that platform.

All four passed the committee, which is extraordinary and unexpected. And not only did they pass, but they passed with both Republicans and Democrats working on them.

The Anti-Monopolists vs Friends of Eric

There were two coalitions at work, though these coalitions weren’t partisan in nature The first was the coalition of big tech, meaning Silicon Valley California Democrats led by Zoe Lofgren, as well as conservatives led by Republican Jim Jordan. Call them ‘Friends of Eric,’ after Google ex-CEO Eric Schmidt.

The second coalition opposing big tech consisted of Democrat David Cicilline, Republican Ken Buck, along with a host of progressives including Pramila Jayapal (who was the sponsor of the break-up bill) and Mondaire Jones, as well as right-winger Matt Gaetz.

Republican Congressman Gaetz praised Democratic counterpart Jayapal, saying Teddy Roosevelt would be proud, even as Republicans Jim Jordan and Darrell Issa lavished agreement on Silicon Valley Democrats Zoe Lofgren and Eric Swalwell. The bipartisanship was evident among partisans paying attention. Tucker Carlson praised the bills and laid into GOP leaders for opposing them, and conservative Republicans noticed Jim Jordan doing the bidding of Google.

The Bad

The bad is pretty simple. The tech-specific bills, as written, probably won’t deliver what their sponsors think they will, because they didn’t get all the specifics right. This isn’t intentional, it’s just that it is hard to write this kind of legislation. A friend once told me a good legal expression, ‘to write a good law, you have to think like a criminal.’ And that’s basically right. There are extremely well-paid lawyers who will spend their time exploiting the tiniest loophole, so good drafting means thinking about making statutes airtight. Competition law is complex and warped to make drafting full of legal minefields, so without extreme care in the language, the law will likely be subverted.

To understand why it’s so hard to get these laws right, it helps to start with the two basic problems with antitrust law. The first is that regulators and enforcers make key policy decisions, and have done a very bad job at it. A good example is they just decided to stop enforcing the anti-chain store Robinson-Patman Act, which prohibits certain forms of kickbacks, as well as . . ..

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by Leisureguy

25 June 2021 at 11:23 am

The Ascension is quite a good razor

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The photo rendering is intended to suggest heat, since we are expected to suffer a 6-day heat wave. I’ll be taking it easy, my natural inclination. This morning’s shave was certainly easy — Phoenix Artisan’s CK-6 shaving soaps seem to leap into lather for me, that leap this morning ably assisted by the Simpson Persian Jar brush shown.

The Ascension’s double-open-comb design is quite effective, and the razor, though comfortable (and thus disinclined to nick), is extremely efficient, so a quick and easy shave produced a perfect result. A small dab of PA’s Star Jelly aftershave, and I’m ready for the day.

Written by Leisureguy

25 June 2021 at 11:02 am

Posted in Shaving

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