Later On

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

Archive for December 6th, 2022

Reality Winner’s treatment is how the US now works

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In the NY Times, Megan K. Stack has a profile of Reality Winner (no paywall). The profile begins:

It was a big deal that Reality Winner’s probation officer let her travel from Texas to her sister’s house in North Carolina over Thanksgiving. She is, after all, a traitor, in the eyes of the law.

Ms. Winner was arrested in 2017 for leaking to journalists a classified intelligence report on Russian hacks into U.S. election infrastructure and has been confined ever since — in a Georgia county jail, a federal prison, a halfway house and, most recently, in a probation so strict that she often feels strangled.

Still, Ms. Winner viewed the trip with the wariness of an underdog conditioned to expect any small kindnesses to turn back against her.

“It wasn’t my idea,” she said flatly by phone. “I preferred not to go.”

Oh, and another thing, she said pointedly: She went during Thanksgiving but for her niece’s birthday.

“I hate Thanksgiving,” she said. “I hate the food. I hate the vibe.”

This side of Ms. Winner becomes familiar after a while: the cranky prison yard impulse to let everyone know just how much she doesn’t care and can’t be hurt. It poorly camouflages the battered idealist who, despite disillusionment and harsh punishment, appears bent on finding some way to make herself useful on a grand scale. She never had much money, education or connections, but in her own way, she has repeatedly tried to save the country — first as a military linguist guiding foreign drone attacks and later by warning the public that Donald Trump was lying to them about Russia.

Both efforts went bad, though, which is why I think of Ms. Winner as a sorrowful casualty — not only of our poisoned political culture but also of a contemporary America replete with corruption and amoral bureaucracy. The harder she tried, it seems, the more her ideals soured into disgust.

When I first spoke to Ms. Winner, in the summer of 2021, she was still fighting the drug habit she’d picked up behind bars and trying to tamp down the explosive aggression she’d used on the guards. On home confinement at her mother and stepfather’s ranch outside Corpus Christi, Texas, she held forth in meandering, disarmingly frank phone calls about the degradations of prison, the power of linguistics, a surreal childhood crossing back and forth into Mexico on pharmacy runs with her opioid-addicted father.

All these months later, Ms. Winner is still on probation, but she’s grown more focused and stable. Most of her energies now are fixed on attracting clients to her CrossFit coaching practice. At 31, she is already a living relic of one of our nation’s most surreal political crises.

She still isn’t allowed to talk about her military service or the contents of her leak, leaving me to puzzle over why a young woman who still guards the secrets of the terrorism wars would risk everything to expose a five-page National Security Agency file on efforts to hack voter registration systems.

Ms. Winner mailed the report anonymously to The Intercept, where a reporter took the ill-advised step of giving a copy to the N.S.A. for verification. The authorities almost immediately zeroed in on her. She was charged under the Espionage Act, the same laws used to prosecute the Rosenbergs, Aldrich Ames and pretty much any other 20th-century spy you can name. The act has long been criticized for lumping together leaks motivated by public interest and, say, peddling nuclear secrets to a foreign government. Ms. Winner is considered a prime example of its downside.

She pleaded guilty and was given 63 months in prison, the longest federal sentence ever for the unauthorized release of materials to the media. (The former C.I.A. director David Petraeus got off with probation and a fine for sharing eight notebooks full of highly classified information with his biographer, who was also his mistress.)

Deemed a flight risk and denied bail, Ms. Winner languished for 16 months in a crammed Georgia county jail cell. While negotiating her plea deal with prosecutors, she said, she plotted suicide and fantasized about federal prison “like I was going away to an elite university — ‘Oh, look, they have a rec center, they have a track, they have a commissary, they sell makeup.’”

All of that for nothing or, at least, for very little. Ms. Winner’s intervention hardly registered. She wanted to prove that the White House was lying: U.S. officials knew that Russia had attacked U.S. voting infrastructure just days before the 2016 election. But the revelation hardly scratched public awareness. . .

Continue reading. (no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

6 December 2022 at 5:28 pm

Use emojis, not emoticons

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Emojis are little symbols — 🙂 is an example — whereas emoticons are constructed with punctuation marks — for example, a colon followed by close-parenthesis is used to indicate a smiley-face, or this representation of Ronald Reagan:  7:^)] — looks cute, but a visually impaired person hears the screen reader say “seven colon carat close-parenthesis close-bracket,” uninformative if not tedious.

Emojis have built-in alt text descriptions and will be parsed as text by a screen reader. Emoticons are manipulated punctuation marks and will be read out as punctuation marks.

That’s from an interesting and informative page, Emojis, which begins:

Following this helps people with:

• time-pressures: not having to guess what emojis mean saves time
• stress: confusing content can increase stress levels
• multi-tasking: if meaning is clear this is easier to do
• cognitive impairments: trying to work out meaning increases cognitive load
• sight loss: be aware of emoji alt text and contrast levels
• autism: emphasing the feeling you want to express may be helpful


In a face to face conversation you communicate with tone and body language, as well as words, to help express what you mean. Emojis are small, digital expressions that can be used to represent many things, including objects, people, actions, ideas. They can:

• support meaning
• add feeling
• be fun to use

Emojis are a recognised aspect of . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

6 December 2022 at 3:38 pm

Video of a Death Spiral

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What is amazing is that so many — including many in power — do not care. Yet.

Written by Leisureguy

6 December 2022 at 1:58 pm

US police do not want the FBI to know how many the police shoot and kill

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A chart show total shootings each year from 2015 through 2021, and also number reported to the FBI, and that number — always short of total — drops more every year. In 2015, police reported only 452 of 995 shootings to the FBI. By 2021, police reported only 168 of 1047 shootings.

I blogged earlier about the number of times police shoot someone to death in the US vs. in several other countries (the US is No. 1 by an enormous margin — on a per-capita basis, US police kill more than 5 times as many as the next closest country does). 

Apparently, US police are not so keen on having people know about their shooting skill. Their reports to the FBI undercount their kills, and the number not reported has steadily increased.

Andrew Ba Tran, Marisa Iati, and Claire Healy a lengthy and interesting report (gift link, no paywall) in the Washington Post, with many charts and a way to learn your local statistics. The article begins:

Fewer fatal police shootings are recorded by the federal government every year, despite renewed scrutiny of police use of force and millions of dollars spent to encourage local law enforcement to report the data.

Even though federal records indicate that fatal shootings by police have been declining nationwide since 2015, The Washington Post’s Fatal Force database shows the opposite is true: Officers have shot and killed more people every year, reaching a record high in 2021 with 1,047 deaths. The FBI database contains only about one third of the 7,000 fatal police shootings during this time — down from half when The Post first started tracking.

Fatal shootings by officers in at least 2,250 police and sheriffs’ departments are missing from the past seven years of federal records, according to an analysis of the database maintained by The Post, which began tracking the killings in 2015. The excluded data has created a misleading government picture of police use of force, complicating efforts at accountability.

The incomplete data also obscures a racial discrepancy among those killed by police that is larger than the federal data suggests. Black people are fatally shot by police far more often than is evident in the FBI data, The Post has found — at more than double the rate for White people.

Among the missing data: shootings by officers in 440 departments whose local governments received nearly $90 million in federal grants to track and report crime data; and shootings from another 700 departments required by local laws to report the killings to state authorities, but no higher.

In at least 34 states, laws require police to report crime data to the state. But most of the laws are vague about whether police shootings must be included, offering minimal accountability at the state or local level, The Post found. In California, for example, only half of departments’ fatal police shootings appear in the FBI data.

Boston was among the larger departments with missing data: The Post documented 11 fatal shootings by its officers since 2015, but none of those are recorded in the FBI’s records. The Chicago Police Department reported six officer-involved shootings, but The Post logged 45. Police in Boise, Idaho, fatally shot 12 people, whose deaths were not recorded in the FBI database.

“This shows that the data from the FBI, the FBI database, has largely failed,” said Rashawn Ray, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a University of Maryland professor who has testified at state and federal levels about police reform. That some departments have received federal dollars while their shootings are unreported, he said, “speaks to how flawed the system currently is, not just the organizational structure of policing, but also the way that government funding operates. . .

Continue reading. (gift link, no paywall) There’s much more.

I can’t shake the feeling that the US is on a downward spiral.

Written by Leisureguy

6 December 2022 at 1:56 pm

Ousia with Ascension

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shaving set-up: A silvertip badger shaving brush by Rooney with an ivory-colored handle; a tub of Ousia shaving soap whose label shows the interior of a cathedral with stained glass windows on every side, and a bottle of Blenheim Bouqet aftershave, with a double-open-comb double-ed razor in front: the Ascension.

Grooming Dept Ousia is a particularly pleasing soap in a variation of their Kairos formula — namely, including lamb tallow and emu oil. The fragrance is quite pleasing: “Fennel, Crystallized Mandarin, Ginger, Immortelle, Tobacco, Vanilla, and Vetiver.”

The lather was dense and slick in addition to being fragrant, and my Rooney Style 2 Size 1 Finest did an excellent job. This knot, when filled with lather, feels very good on my face. The knot has excellent capacity and performance.

Phoenix Artisan’s Ascension is a wonderful little razor. This is the aluminum version and the handle is extremely comfortable and slip-proof. The double-open-comb helps the razor glide easily, and it is very efficient in addition to being very comfortable. With three passes, all traces of stubble were wiped away.

A splash of Haligon’s Blenheim Bouquet finished the shave.

The tea today is Murchie’s Cherry Blossom tea, a nice contrast to a dark, cold day.

Written by Leisureguy

6 December 2022 at 1:36 pm

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

Conservative justices come to same-sex marriage controversy with minds made up

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Joan Biskupic, CNN Senior Supreme Court Analyst, writes at CNN:

At the Supreme Court, the conservative majority seems to have a new mantra that half way is no way.

From the beginning of oral arguments on Monday, it appeared the Supreme Court’s conservatives had come to the bench with their minds set. They sidestepped the lack of clear facts in the case, brushed off worst-case consequences and diminished past rulings that would seem to disfavor a Colorado website designer who has refused to serve same-sex couples.

Justice Samuel Alito was even prepared to invoke lines from Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 landmark that gave same-sex couples a right to marry, for the proposition that certain business owners can refuse gay couples.

He noted that the author of the opinion, the now-retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, had referred to “honorable” people who might object to same-sex marriage, and Alito suggested “religious objections to same-sex marriage” could be differentiated from other discrimination, for example, based on race.

Other justices on the right wing highlighted the expressive dimension of website designer Lorie Smith’s work, downplaying that she runs a commercial enterprise subject to the state’s public accommodation laws.

“You’re on your strongest ground,” Justice Amy Coney Barrett told Smith’s lawyer, Kristen Waggoner, “when you’re talking about her sitting down and designing and coming up with the graphics to customize them for the couple.”

Conservative justices seemed unpersuaded by the fact that, as liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor pointed out, if they rule for Smith, “this would be the first time in the court’s history that it would say … a commercial business open to the public, serving the public, could refuse to serve a customer based on race, sex, religion or sexual orientation.”

The right-wing majority that coalesced with former President Donald Trump’s three appointments has shown a single-minded focus to transform certain areas of the law, notably those that touch on religious liberty.

Individual justices have made clear that they believe religion is under siege and that Christian views have been suppressed. They have ruled broadly, even when the facts of the case might suggest that believers have not been victimized.

Last session, the court by a 6-3 vote (the conservative majority against liberal dissenters) ruled in favor of a football coach who had been suspended by a Washington state public school district for praying at midfield after games.

The majority, in an opinion by Justice Neil Gorsuch, portrayed coach Joseph Kennedy’s conduct as modest and solitary, far from disruptive to players or people near the field. Dissenters contended the majority had misconstrued the facts of the case, ignoring how Kennedy’s behavior could affect students and breach the Constitution’s separation of church and state. Dissenters took the rare step of including in their opinion photographs of Kennedy surrounded by kneeling players in prayer.

In the most consequential dispute of last session, over a Mississippi ban on abortions at 15 weeks of pregnancy, which carried some religious overtones, conservative justices went beyond the legal question presented to unflinchingly reverse a half century of precedent, striking down the 1973 Roe v. Wade case that first made abortion legal nationwide.

Justices punted four years ago

In a 2018 case between a Colorado baker and the state civil rights commissioners enforcing a ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation, the justices ruled on narrow legal grounds. They sided with baker Jack Phillips, a devout Christian, who had refused to make a custom cake for a gay couple and been sanctioned. But the decision was based on specific facts tied to anti-religious bias voiced by individual commissioners.

In that controversy over the Masterpiece Cakeshop, the Supreme Court declined to  . . .

Continue reading.

The GOP’s long-term effort to put partisan hacks on the Supreme Court seems to have succeeded.

Written by Leisureguy

6 December 2022 at 6:29 am

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