Later On

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

My God! Listen to this guy play!

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From Open Culture, where the post tells about him.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 March 2017 at 2:14 pm

Posted in Jazz, Music, Video

12 more soaps go to auction

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You can see all 12 here. The MWF is the very tub I used in my lathering video, so it’s famous. Strop Shoppe always made great soaps (and I’ve kept some). Pêche has a fine peach fragrance, quite pure. I also had Tim’s Soaps Greek Peach, also a great peach fragrance (and also a soap company that is no more). When I decided to get rid of one, I kept Pêche, but now it, too, must go.

Hybrid is a very interesting soap, a collaboration with Shave Revolution (now also gone) and Tim’s soaps. You can read the full story of this dual-nature soap at Tim’s website.

There are also some shave sticks this time.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 March 2017 at 12:19 pm

Posted in Shaving

New hope to end gerrymandering, the cancer of democracy

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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

” The Clinton campaign warned you about Russia. But nobody listened to us.”

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Jennifer Palmieri, communications director for Hillary Clinton’s campaign, writes in the Washington Post:

At the Democratic convention in Philadelphia last summer, Jake Sullivan and I took to our golf carts one afternoon to make the rounds of the television networks’ tents in the parking lot of the Wells Fargo Center. It is standard for presidential campaign staffers to brief networks on what to expect during that night’s session. But on this day, we were on a mission to get the press to focus on something even we found difficult to process: the prospect that Russia had not only hacked and stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee, but that it had done so to help Donald Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton.

Sullivan was Clinton’s policy adviser. He had been Vice President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, a deputy to then-Secretary Clinton at the State Department and a lead negotiator of the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran. He is a widely respected national security expert and, as he does every day, he spoke carefully, without hyperbole. All we had to go on then was what had been reported by the press. We weren’t sure if Russia was doing this to undermine Americans’ faith in our political process or if it was trying to make Trump the next president. But we wanted to raise the alarm.

We did not succeed. Reporters were focused on the many daily distractions, the horse race, the stories they were doing based on the stolen DNC emails and the many other Trump scandals that were easier to explain. Voters didn’t seem worried. Earlier that week, our campaign manager, Robby Mook, was mocked for telling CNN that the leak of stolen emails before our convention was an indication that Russia was trying to help Trump. We did not know, as FBI Director James B. Comey told Congress this past week, that the bureau had already opened an investigation into Russian interference — and into possible links between Trump’s associates and the Russian government, including whether they worked together on his behalf. At the time, it seemed far-fetched that Russia would meddle so openly, and reporters and voters alike seemed convinced that it didn’t matter anyway, because Clinton was going to win.

Now that Trump is president, though, the stakes are higher, because the Russian plot succeeded. The lessons we campaign officials learned in trying to turn the Russia story against Trump can help other Democrats  (and all Americans) figure out how to treat this interference no longer as a matter of electoral politics but as the threat to the republic that it really is.

* * *

For me, Comey’s disclosure on Monday brought nearly unfathomable frustration. I will never understand why he would send a letter to Congress 11 days before the election to let lawmakers know that the FBI had happened upon more emails — which they didn’t yet know the contents of — that may or may not have been relevant to Clinton, but he did not think the public should know that federal agents were also investigating Trump’s campaign.

Without anyone knowing about the FBI’s interest, it was difficult to bring appropriate attention to the Russia issue and Trump’s curious pro-Putin bent. The week after the convention, we sought out credible national security voices to sound alarms. I was surprised by the enthusiasm with which some, such as former acting CIA director Michael Morell, jumped into the fray. When I worked in the Obama White House, people in national security positions had been uneasy making broad public arguments, particularly about political matters. Not this time. They were so concerned about the situation that, to me, the language they used to describe the threat they believed Russia and Trump posed was shocking. I remember my jaw dropping as I sat in our Brooklyn campaign headquarters and read the op-ed Morell submitted to the New York Times in early August, in which he shared his view that Russia had probably undertaken an effort to “recruit” Trump and that the Republican nominee had become an “unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.”

But the sheer spectacle of Trump kept the Russia allegations from getting the attention they would have had with any previous candidate. His unconventional campaign had so disrupted the press-political ecosystem that no one could fathom or absorb that — in addition to all the drama they saw on stage — Russia may have been conspiring with Trump or his allies behind the scenes to win the election for him. Compared with the lawsuits women were filing against Trump for alleged assault or his 3 a.m. tweets attacking a former Miss Universe, the details of who hacked whom seemed less interesting and more complicated. And because nearly everyone was sure that Clinton would win, and that she therefore needed more watchdogging, reporters and analysts were faster to jump on the latest batch of stolen emails or announcement from Comey.

We sought moments for Clinton and Tim Kaine, her running mate, to talk about Russia when we knew they would be on live television and couldn’t be edited. The debates offered the best opportunity, and Clinton took advantage, culminating with her famous line calling Trump Putin’s “puppet ” in the third one. It was tough deciding how much of her time to devote to the issue. We were in a Catch-22: We didn’t want her to talk too much about Russia because it wasn’t what voters were telling us they cared about — and, frankly, it sounded kind of wacky. At the same time, we understood the issue would never rise to the front of voters’ minds if we weren’t driving attention to it. It was already pretty clear they weren’t going to hear much about it in the press.

On Oct. 7, I thought the Russia story would finally break through. We were at a debate prep session in Westchester County, N.Y., when the director of national intelligence and the secretary of homeland security put out a joint statementsaying that the U.S. intelligence community was “confident” that not only had the Russian government hacked Democrats’ emails, but “Russia’s senior-most officials” were probably directing their release to influence the election. Incredible. Finally, here was the break we had been waiting for. I was on a conference call with my colleagues to discuss our response when someone said: “Hey, Palmieri. There’s an ‘Access Hollywood’ video that just got released.” Literally minutes later, WikiLeaks put out the first batch of John Podesta’s stolen Gmail. And that was that. The rest is history.

* * *

All of us — the press, Congress, the public, the administration — are still guilty of the soft complicity of low expectations. As president, Trump does and says outrageous and false things every week, from ordering arbitrary travel bans to accusing President Obama of illegal wiretapping with no evidence. The Russia charges blend in, making it all too easy to treat them as just the latest thing the president has blustered his way through. I understand how difficult it is to put the threat in the right context. We trod lightly at times during the campaign because it sounded too fantastic to be credible, too complicated to absorb.

In another era, Americans would have been able to count on both Democrats and Republicans in Congress to stand up to this kind of threat. A lot of Democrats like to play the “If we were Republicans” game. I usually hate it; I don’t want to behave like the Republicans do. But it’s useful here. If Clinton had won with the help of the Russians, the Republicans would have impeachment proceedings underway for treason. No doubt. Instead, dealing with Russia falls nearly solely on Democrats’ shoulders.

But Democrats can break out of the Catch-22 of the campaign: If we . . .

Continue reading.

Later in the article:

The worst part about our lackluster collective response to Russia’s interference is that it represents exactly what the Russians were hoping to produce: apathy. Their goal, in addition to installing a president sympathetic to their views, was to undermine Americans’ belief in our democracy. For Americans to think that none of this really matters, that it’s all a game. That’s how they truly erode U.S. moral authority and strength over the long term. It’s what they have sought to do to European adversaries for many years, and now they have brought this seed of destruction here.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 March 2017 at 7:16 am

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

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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

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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

The practical side of Jesus’ ukase on wealth

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Tejvan Pettinge writes in Economics Help:

Diminishing marginal utility of income and wealth suggests that as income increases, individuals gain a correspondingly smaller increase in satisfaction and happiness.

Utility means satisfaction, usefulness, happiness gained. Utility could be measured by the amount you are willing to spend on a good.

Marginal utility of first £100

If you have zero income, and gain £100 a week. This £100 will improve your living standards significantly. With this £100 you will be able to pay for basic necessity of life – food, drink, shelter and heating. Without this basic £100 a week, life would be tough.

Marginal utility of income increasing from £500 to £600 (6th £100)

However, if you already gain £500 a week, an extra £100 has a proportionately smaller increase in utility. You  may be able to eat out at restaurants more often, but it doesn’t significantly affect your standard of living and happiness. At £500 a week, you can afford most things you need. But, still most people would be happy to gain an extra £100 to spend on luxuries like going out.

Marginal utility of income increasing from £10,000 to £10,100

If you are earning £10,000 a week – you would hardly notice an extra £100 a week. You may not even have time or ability to spend it; this extra income is liable to be just saved. Therefore, we say the marginal utility of an extra £100 at this income level is very limited.

Therefore as income increases, the extra marginal benefit to individuals declines.

Diminishing marginal utility of wealth

Income is the amount of money received per time period. Wealth is a stock concept (the amount of savings, property owned)

It is a very similar effect with wealth. If you have savings of £10,000 – this can be useful for giving you insurance in periods of unemployment or the need to buy large items, like a new cooker. If you own one car, it can be useful for getting to work. Also, owning a house is a form of wealth and it is important for giving you a place to live.

However, suppose your wealth increases. If you now own two cars, the extra benefit is much diminished compared to the first car. It might be useful to have two cars in case one breaks down, but you can only drive one at a time. If you have 7 or 8 cars like a collector, you may get some joy from having a collection, but the extra utility of that 8th car is significantly lower than the working person who has just one car to get to work.

Positional wealth

Some economists argue that wealthy people can use their wealth primarily to gain feelings of prestige and show their position in society. For example, the utility of a £100,000 car is not because you get anywhere quicker, but because it becomes a status symbol – a symbol to show other people your success. Therefore, the utility to society is very minimal. . ..

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 March 2017 at 4:24 pm

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