Later On

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

Archive for the ‘Daily life’ Category

Lead/Crime Update: White Folks and Alabama Prisoners

leave a comment »

I think the lead/crime hypothesis is standing up very well. Here’s the latest from Devin Drum.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 March 2017 at 7:07 pm

Lawsuit Seeks Transparency as Searches of Cellphones and Laptops Skyrocket at Borders

leave a comment »

I think borders generally are starting to close as countries batten down the hatches, as it were, in anticipation of the disruptions that climate change will bring. Certainly the U.S. military has been studying the national-security aspects of climate change. (OTOH, I know a young man who has a good job and a college degree, who totally denies the reality of climate change, seeing it as a political movement and conspiracy of scientists, with absolutely nothing to back it up. His attitude is not all that uncommon, I think.)

Murtaza Hussain reports in The Intercept:

A LAWSUIT FILED today by the Knight First Amendment Institute, a public interest legal organization based at Columbia University, seeks to shed light on invasive searches of laptops and cellphones by Customs and Border Protection officers at U.S. border crossings.

Documents filed in the case note that these searches have risen precipitously over the past two years, from a total of 5,000 searches in 2015 to 25,000 in 2016, and rising to 5,000 in the month of February 2017 alone. Among other questions, the lawsuit seeks to compel the federal government to provide more information about these searches, including how many of those searched have been U.S. citizens, the number of searches by port of entry, and the number of searches by the country of origin of the travelers.

Civil rights groups have long claimed that warrantless searches of cellphones and laptops by government agents constitute a serious invasion of privacy, due to the wealth of personal data often held on such devices. It is common for private conversations, photographs, and location information to be held on cellphones and laptops, making a search of these items significantly more intrusive than searching a simple piece of luggage.

A number of recent cases in the media have revealed instances of U.S. citizens and others being compelled by CBP agents to unlock their devices for search. In some instances, people have claimed to have been physically coerced into complying, including one American citizen who said that CBP agents grabbed him by the neck in order to take his cellphone out of his possession.

The legality of warrantless device searches at the border remains a contested issue, with the government asserting, over the objections of civil liberties groups, that Fourth Amendment protections do not apply at ports of entry. Some particularly controversial cases of searches at the border have involved journalists whose electronic data contains sensitive information about the identity of sources. Last year, a Canadian journalist was detained for six hours before being denied entry to the United States after refusing to unlock devices containing sensitive information. It has also been alleged that border agents are disproportionately targeting Muslim Americans and people with ties to Muslim-majority countries for both interrogation and device searches.

This February, Sen. Ron Wyden sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security head John Kelly stating that . . .

Continue reading.

 

Written by LeisureGuy

27 March 2017 at 1:06 pm

From Kevin Drum’s keyboard to God’s eyes: How to make Trumpcare a good word

leave a comment »

Kevin Drum blogs at Mother Jones:

Earlier this morning I sketched out a possible compromise between Obamacare and Trumpcare that might have a chance of getting through Congress if everyone agrees to a plan that would rely on both Republican and Democratic votes. I consider the odds of such a thing small, but nevertheless it’s worth looking at why nearly everyone should find this idea attractive:

  • Donald Trump gets a big win. Paul Ryan couldn’t get his plan through Congress, but then Trump steps in and pulls off a huge deal. His presidency is back on track.
  • Republicans in Congress get an albatross off their backs. Right now, health care is a loser for them, and the Freedom Caucus is riding high. But if they pass a bipartisan plan, it sticks a finger in the eye of the FC ultras. And if they’re worried about their base, they don’t have to be. Trump will sell the hell out of the plan, and his fans will buy it.
  • Democrats have to make some concessions, but in return they get stability and permanence—and the possibility of future enhancements—for a social welfare program they’ve been trying to get enacted for decades.
  • The health care industry gets some certainty about the future, along with a system that promises to be a moneymaker for them.

Who are the losers in this deal? Hardly anyone. The ultras lose, but everyone wants them to lose. Rich people lose a bit because they continue paying a modest tax, but frankly, I haven’t noticed that rich people are all that upset about it. They care more about capital gains taxes and top marginal rates. Talk radio shouters lose a reliable audience pot stirrer, but they’ll support Trump in the end. And they have plenty of other ways of keeping their listeners at a fever pitch of outrage anyway.

Oh, and I almost forgot: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 March 2017 at 12:41 pm

Reprise of Covey’s 7 habits

leave a comment »

I’ve applied at various times the method Stephen Covey describes in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Restoring the Character Ethic, and it seems time to dive in again. Franklin (of Franklin Planners) acquired the Covey organization some time back, with the name changed to FranklinCovey, but the site seems to be called Franklin Planner.

Since I’m going to start again, I wanted to get a good weekly planner. A new gig seems to have started at Franklin, 5 Choices, and their 5 Choices Weekly Planner looks like a good format for the weekly planning the Covey approach requires, schedule one’s important but non-urgent priorities as appointments, with specific tasks in those areas to be accomplished. Two drawbacks, though: it’s $30 (the weekly planner covers a year in total), and the current offering starts in July 2017.

So I looked around—you can really use any weekly planner, but it’s nice if the design accommodates the kind of planning Covey describes in his book—and I found The Simple Elephant: good design and you can start it at any point since you provide the date information. Despite the Amazon entry saying that it’s a day planner, it is in fact a weekly planner, and it includes the kind of goal tracking that Covey’s method requires. (At the link you can see the various page layouts.)

The Blue Sky weekly planner is only $7.34 but it is not such a good fit and when I tried to order it, I found that it would not be delivered until the end of April. Plus it’s a 2017 calendar year book.

There are also pads of weekly planning sheets that you tear off—the Bloom Weekly Planner looks quite good—but I wanted a book so I could look back, and I wanted a 5″ x 8″ (approximately) format, not 8 1/2″ x 11″.

I also found some templates for a DIY approach—for example, a page with links to a PDF template and an Excel template. But again, I wanted a book. Still, it’s a good design. Below is the PDF version: print and use as directed by Covey’s book. (The labels on the page are reversed: the one labeled as PDF is Excel, the one labeled as Excel is PDF.)

There’s also WeekPlan.net, specifically designed around Covey’s book, but I found it somewaht awkward to use. Handwriting seems to me the most effective approach for this kind of planning, so while the Excel workbook looks nice, it seems impractical. The PDF would work, though.

I settled on The Simple Elephant for now, and my copy should arrive today. In the meantime, I updated the study outline for the 7 Habits book: corrections, links, and more information. The outline is certainly no substitute for the book itself, but I think it is helpful since sometimes Covey’s book is a little difficult to follow. (It seems to be based on transcripts from his talks, and without intonation and gestures some passages don’t work so well.) The idea is to read the outline along with or prior to reading the book.

I didn’t have my copy of the book, but at the link above are inexpensive secondhand editions—quite inexpensive, in fact: I ordered a hardbound copy of the book in “very good” condition for $3.65 including postage.

If you’ve tried using Covey’s method, I’d be interested in hearing of your experience. I think it has quite a few strong points—e.g., planning a week at a time, and scheduling first the appointments to work on items that are important but not urgent, so that you make progress on those. A month would be too long—too easy to put stuff off—but a week see about right.

 

Written by LeisureGuy

27 March 2017 at 10:16 am

Posted in Books, Daily life

New hope to end gerrymandering, the cancer of democracy

leave a comment »

I’m really excited about this, and more hopeful about the US than I have been for a long time.

David Daley writes in Salon:

Gerrymandering, the process of drawing distorted legislative districts to undermine democracy, is as old as our republic itself. Just as ancient: the Supreme Court’s unwillingness to get involved and determine a standard for when a partisan gerrymander has gone too far.

That might be changing. During the 2000s, Justice Anthony Kennedy expressed openness to a judicial remedy, if an evenhanded measure could be devised to identify when aggressive redistricting was no longer just politics as usual.

When the pivotal swing justice looks for a standard, law professors and redistricting nerds get to work. There are now several cases related to the extreme maps drawn after the 2010 census – by Republicans in Wisconsin and North Carolina, and by Democrats in Maryland – on a collision course with the Supreme Court.

The case with the most promise to deliver a lasting judicial remedy is Whitford v. Gill, from Wisconsin, which advances a fascinating standard called the “efficiency gap.” It is the brainchild of law professor Nicholas Stephanopoulos and political scientist Eric McGhee, but has an elegant simplicity that is easily understandable outside of academia. If gerrymandering is the dark art of wasting the other party’s votes – either by “packing” them into as few districts as possible, or “cracking” them into sizable minorities in many seats – the efficiency gap compares wasted votes that do not contribute to victory.

In November, a panel of federal judges smiled upon this standard and ruled that the state assembly districts drawn by a Republican legislature in the Whitford case represented an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. “Although Wisconsin’s natural political geography plays some role in the apportionment process, it simply does not explain adequately the sizable disparate” advantage held by Republicans under these new maps, wrote the court.

The judges ordered new state assembly maps in time for the 2018 election – a big deal, considering these district lines have helped give Republicans their largest legislative majorities in several decades, despite years in which Democratic candidates receive more votes. But just as important, it accepted the “efficiency gap” rationale and sent it toward Justice Kennedy. If Kennedy finds it workable, it would become much more difficult for politicians to choose their own voters and rig maps in their favor.

If this case makes history, it will be thanks to the commitment of lawyers and political scientists, but also to the Wisconsin citizens who launched it, starting with regular meetings at a Madison tea room. The plaintiff whose name could become synonymous with taming the gerrymander and restoring fairness and competitiveness to our elections is a retired law professor named Bill Whitford. We sat down at a redistricting conference at Duke University this month to discuss his case, the efficiency gap and all the luck it has required along the way.

Let me start with the obvious questions: How did you become interested in redistricting? And how did you become the plaintiff in what could be the most important Supreme Court decision on partisan gerrymandering ever?

I’ve been a political junkie from the word go. I grew up in Madison. My mother was very political. By the time I was 13 or 14, I was a big-D Democrat, working on campaigns. I was chairman of the Young Democrats as an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin. Then I went to law school straight out of college, mostly interested in constitutional law. Baker v. Carr was decided [in 1962] while I was in law school. I wrote my very first academic article, as a student, on Baker v. Carr.

That’s amazing: Baker v. Carr is the decision that allows the federal courts to get involved in redistricting matters. The hunt for redistricting’s holy grail – a standard to measure partisan gerrymandering, the goal of Whitford – begins there.

Yes, it argued even then about what the standard should be. I got a job as a law school professor teaching assigned contracts, and then went a different way in terms of my academic specialties. But I always remained a Democratic activist interested in politics and redistricting. That’s my birthright, I guess!

Your retirement comes 50 years after the Baker decision, and at a time when Wisconsin is the new ground zero of the gerrymandering fight. Republicans captured both chambers of the state legislature in 2010, Scott Walker became governor, and the maps they enacted in 2011 are some of the most tilted any state has seen in four decades. Democrats win more votes, but Republicans win an outrageous 2012 Assembly supermajority anyway. How did you join the fight?

There was a group that met and talked in the Watts Tea Room in Madison that grew out of the lack of success of the first legal challenge to these maps. [The court found an unconstitutional racial gerrymander in that case and forced several largely Latino districts in Milwaukee to be redrawn.] I wasn’t a part of the original group, but the guy who was as responsible as anybody for it was a Wisconsin legislator and redistricting guru named Fred Kessler. We’d been active in Young Democrats as undergraduates. He knew that I was retiring and asked me if I would like to join the group. That’s how I became involved in this case.

Let me get this straight: You’re saying that we’re this close to a national standard on partisan gerrymandering because a group of frustrated old friends and retirees had a regular meeting at a Madison tea room and put this whole thing together?

Well, some of the members of that group were lawyers in the earlier case. They were very aware of the kind of information [about the behind-the-scenes GOP redistricting chicanery] that was available in discovery. We knew we had a lot of smoking-gun evidence that would indicate partisan intent, and it turned out that we had even more than we thought. But by then we also had the results of the 2012 elections, where Democrats got a majority of the statewide vote but only 39 percent of the seats. By any measure for partisan effect, that was pretty good data. Then we began shopping for lawyers and we stumbled onto Nick Stephanopoulos and Ruth Greenwood.

That’s remarkable luck: Nick and Eric McGhee had been studying the Wisconsin redistricting. Using a new standard they developed called the efficiency gap to quantify the impact of a partisan gerrymander, they discovered that you had one of the most unrepresentative legislatures in any state over the last several decades. How did you stumble across this?

One of the roles I played in the group was to reach out to professors in academia, both to feel them out for ideas and to see if they thought we had a decent test case. We thought we had a very good fact situation for a test case, but there was also the issue of whether we should wait for the 2020 cycle before it wound up in court. Rick Pildes of NYU Law School was one of these people. I just called him up cold.

Turns out, Rick got the original Stephanopoulos and McGhee draft paper where they explained the efficiency gap. As part of the election-law community, he’d been asked to make comments. He alerted us to this and suggested Eric would make a good expert witness. I read the article and saw that he talked all about Wisconsin. That’s how we got into the efficiency gap. Then in my initial phone call with Nick, he mentioned that his girlfriend was the incoming voting rights director for the Chicago Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights. Ruth and Nick soon came to Madison and started meeting with the group.

How do you explain the efficiency gap to your friends and neighbors? It’s complicated and involves math. What’s the elevator pitch?

I simply start out talking about “packing and cracking.” They’re the essential tools of gerrymandering. I don’t really stress the efficiency gap. If I had to explain the efficiency gap, I’d go to the concept of lots of wasted votes – but I would first start off with packing and cracking, then explain wasted votes in the context of packing and cracking.

And what do we mean by “wasted votes” in this context? . . .

Continue reading.

I’m hopeful.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 March 2017 at 9:16 am

Learning about learning: A quiz about some common canards regarding how you learn

leave a comment »

Very interesting little quiz in NPR article by Anya Kamenetz. I got 100% on the 7-question test, but I read a lot about learning. I was pleased to see a reference to Carol Dweck’s research, since her book Mindset is one of my standard recommended books.

One takeaway: highlighters do not help in the least. Very glad to hear it. I hate buying secondhand books that have been victims of highlighting.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 March 2017 at 6:56 am

It seems revealing that Trump has no pets

leave a comment »

I imagine that he doesn’t want any competition for attention. Plus loving a pet requires a kind of empathy, not a Trump strength. So: no pets.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 March 2017 at 4:26 pm

%d bloggers like this: