Later On

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

Congressman Combating Harassment Settled His Own Misconduct Case

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This sort of thing seemed to happen frequently in the military, where the officer responsible for fighting sexual assault and harassment was found later to be guilty of same. Katie Rogers and Kenneth Vogel report in the NY Times:

Representative Patrick Meehan, a Pennsylvania Republican who has taken a leading role in fighting sexual harassment in Congress, used thousands of dollars in taxpayer money to settle his own misconduct complaint after a former aide accused him last year of making unwanted romantic overtures to her, according to several people familiar with the settlement.

A married father of three, Mr. Meehan, 62, had long expressed interest in the personal life of the aide, who was decades younger and had regarded the congressman as a father figure, according to three people who worked with the office and four others with whom she discussed her tenure there.

But after the woman became involved in a serious relationship with someone outside the office last year, Mr. Meehan professed his romantic desires for her — first in person, and then in a handwritten letter — and he grew hostile when she did not reciprocate, the people familiar with her time in the office said.

Life in the office became untenable, so she initiated the complaint process, started working from home and ultimately left the job. She later reached a confidential agreement with Mr. Meehan’s office that included a settlement for an undisclosed amount to be paid from Mr. Meehan’s congressional office fund.

After this article was published online on Saturday, John Elizandro, Mr. Meehan’s communications director, issued a statement saying that the congressman “denies these allegations” and “has always treated his colleagues, male and female, with the utmost respect and professionalism.” . . .

Continue reading.

And see also “House and Senate Are ‘Among the Worst’ for Harassment, Representative Says.” That article begins:

A senior Senate staff member is accused of trying to tug open a junior aide’s wrap dress at a bar; she said he asked why she was “holding out.” A former aide says a congressman grabbed her backside, then winked as he walked away. A district worker said a House member told her to twirl in a dress for him, then gave her a bonus when he liked what he saw. . .

Written by LeisureGuy

20 January 2018 at 12:47 pm

In bizarre reversal under Trump, consumer agency reveals moves to protect payday lenders

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David Lazarus writes in the LA Times:

In what would be a laughable move if it wasn’t so incredibly tragic, the Trump administration’s newly emasculated Consumer Financial Protection Bureau this week sided with payday lenders over consumers.

You heard right. The CFPB, now led by an appointee of a businessman-politician whose companies have gone bankrupt a half-dozen times, has decided to back off from a planned crackdown on one of the financial sector’s most blood-sucking industries.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the bureau announced Thursday it was requesting no new funds to get things done in the upcoming quarter, as opposed to the $217 million sought for the last three months, before President Trump made his presence felt.

Put it all together, and you get a clear message that consumers increasingly are on their own.

On payday lending, the bureau said in a terse statement it will “reconsider” the first federal rules providing oversight of short-term loans, including car title loans.

This is a nearly $50-billion industry, preying on millions of low-income people living paycheck to paycheck.

Say a customer borrows $400. He or she would be obligated to repay the loan within two weeks, plus $60 in interest and fees — the equivalent of an annual percentage rate of more than 300%.

If the loan can’t be repaid — and all too often it can’t — the borrower’s obligation gets rolled over into a new loan, resulting in a never-ending cycle of high-interest debt.

The Center for Responsible Lending estimates that payday and car-title lenders rake in about $8 billion a year in combined fees from beleaguered borrowers. . .

Continue reading.

Later in the article:

The bureau’s announcement this week is a first step toward revising or repealing the rules. Odds are good that the CFPB’s payday loan rules will end up in the wastebasket.

Advance America, the country’s largest payday lender, issued a statement saying the CFPB’s move “signals a welcome return to the agency’s central mission of serving as an independent, nonpartisan government agency that protects and empowers consumers and advances evidence-based rulemaking.”

No. It signals the unwelcome prospect of the nation’s top consumer watchdog doing the bidding of business interests, including those whose profits are based on destroying the lives of hardworking people and families.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 January 2018 at 11:12 am

Represent is a new ProPublica service that informs you about Congress

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From an email I received from ProPublica:

My name is Derek Willis, and I’ve spent a lot of time over the past 18 years thinking about Congress, which could not agree on a spending plan on Friday, shutting down large parts of the federal government. Thinking about Congress is part of my job at ProPublica, where I use data to build websites to help people understand politics and elections.

Sometimes my friends and family ask me to explain what’s going on in Congress, or what they should expect to happen with a particular policy. I’m not an expert on everything Congress does or a policy wonk, but it’s nice to be asked. I’m hoping that Represent, our website about Congress, can be an even better translator for you.

A little more than a third of American adults can name their representative in the House, according to a 2017 survey by Haven Insights. If we don’t know who our elected representatives are, keeping track of them is a pretty big ask.

So, here’s what Represent can do for you:

I live in Montgomery County, Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C. If I want to check in on my representatives, I can plug my address into Represent. It will tell me that Jamie Raskin is my congressman and my senators are Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin.

I can go further. For each of them, if I want to know what bills they’ve introduced or cosponsored, Represent has that information. There’s also a feed of activity—votes, press releases and news stories—that helps me keep up with what each of them is doing and saying. I can compare their voting records to other members of the House and Senate to see how they fit into the larger political context, too.

If I’m interested in a topic, like DACA, or opioids, I can search Represent’s collection of press releases (here’s what Congress is saying about the shutdown) or database of bills to see what lawmakers are doing. And I can even look at or search lobbying registrations to see who is trying to influence lawmakers on issues I care about, like homelessness.

Being able to see not only who represents me but what they are doing in the job helps me make a more informed decision when I vote. We built Represent so that it can help you, too.

So please check it out. And if you see anything interesting, let us know.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 January 2018 at 10:10 am

A comment on the GOP failure represented by the shutdown

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Jennifer Rubin writes in the Washington Post:

In a vote he surely knew would fail, McConnell (R-Ky.) could not get a simple majority, let alone 60 votes to proceed on the House continuing resolution. While McConnell has not cast his vote, he will likely be compelled for procedural reasons to vote no (to bring up the bill later), thereby leaving the vote at 50-48. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who is battling brain cancer, did not vote.

There are several aspects worth noting at this late hour. First, although Schumer lost five Democrats (who voted to proceed), McConnell remarkably lost four votes, making it that much harder to pin the shutdown on Democrats. The degree to which the hard-line anti-immigration crowd has divided the GOP is remarkable. Second, to put on my former labor lawyer hat, McConnell’s lack of urgency today was stunning. This situation is akin to a labor contract negotiation leading up to a strike deadline. Not to have a single joint meeting with Democrats and the president or exchange any proposals in the final day represents a stunning level of irresponsibility. Republicans control both houses and the White House; not to make every effort to initiate talks and find a solution suggests they no longer know how to cut deals. Finally, having a self-described dealmaker in the Oval Office was worthless, since the dealmaker is totally incapable of mastering policy details, expressing a policy preference (and sticking with it for more than an hour) and moving both sides to conclusion. This is what comes from electing someone entirely in over his head. It did not help that Trump reportedly whined to staff about missing his party at Mar-a-Lago. His reputation as a man-child remains intact.

The shutdown awaits, but the weekend provides time to find a solution before the start of business on Monday. Let’s hope saner and more experienced heads prevail.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 January 2018 at 9:44 am

Pope Francis, company man: He shocked Chile by accusing victims of pedophile priests of slander

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Kevin Cullen writes in the Boston Globe:

Let the record show that the promise of Pope Francis died in Santiago, Chile, on Jan. 18, in the year of our Lord 2018.

When Pope Francis slandered victims of sexual abuse, ironically by accusing those very victims of slandering a Chilean bishop who was complicit in that abuse, he confirmed what some critics have said all along, what I have always resisted embracing: Pope Francis is a company man, no better than his predecessors when it comes to siding with the institutional Roman Catholic Church against any who would criticize it or those, even children, who have been victimized by it.

I offer my hearty congratulations to His Holiness, His Eminence, or whatever self-regarding, officious title that his legion of coat holders, admirers, apologists, and enablers insist we, the great unwashed, call him. Because he has revealed himself like no one else could.

By saying he needs to see proof that Bishop Juan Barros was complicit in covering up the abuse perpetrated by the Rev. Fernando Karadima, Francis has shown himself to be the Vatican’s newest Doubting Thomas. And it’s not a good look.

The pope’s outrageous slander of Karadima’s victims is all the more stunning and disgraceful because the Vatican itself had in 2011 accepted the truth of what those victims said and sentenced Karadima to what it called a lifetime of “penance and prayer” for abusing young people. Sounds like how a previous pope “punished” Cardinal Bernard Law for his dutiful coverup of sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Boston by putting him in charge of one of the great basilicas of Rome and giving him digs in a palatial apartment where he was waited on hand and foot by servile nuns. Some punishment. Where do I sign up?

And just what exactly would constitute the proof that Pope Francis is now seeking, years after the Vatican accepted the claims of Karadima’s victims, who said Bishop Barros facilitated the abuse by refusing to take action against Karadima even though he knew Karadima was a predator?

Juan Carlos Cruz, one of Karadima’s victims and one of Bishop Barros’s most outspoken critics, put it this way: “As if I could have taken a selfie or a photo while Karadima abused me and others and Juan Barros stood by watching it all.”

Like others who have been physically assaulted by priests and mentally tortured by the craven complicity and inaction of bishops who are supposed to protect their flock from predators in Roman collars, Cruz has ruefully concluded that Pope Francis is no better than the others.

“These people are truly crazy,” Cruz said, “and the pontiff talks about atonement to the victims. Nothing has changed, and his plea for forgiveness is empty.”

Empty. Good word. Describes what an increasing number of Catholic churches in Chile and in many other countries are becoming.

Oh, well, lucky for the Vatican, there are still many places where people are horribly poor, sadly uneducated, and not served by a robust, free press, where deference to the clergy and the majesty of the Vatican is still as thick as the fine robes that some of the worst enablers of sexual abuse hide behind.

It should be noted that, for all the talk of Pope Francis cutting a new path for the Catholic Church, he was elected by a conclave of cardinals that included some of those cynical and criminal enablers of abuse, like the disgraced and disgraceful former archbishop of Los Angeles, Roger Mahony.

To be honest — and the good Sisters of Providence who taught me at Cheverus School in Malden always stressed the importance of honesty — I knew that Francis was no different, that he was right out of central Vatican casting, last year, when Marie Collins quit the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors that Francis had created to much fanfare.

Collins, who was molested by a priest when she was 13, quit the panel because the Vatican was resisting genuine reform. I met Collins years ago in Ireland, where she is from and where I at one time lived, and I think she is a courageous, compassionate person who understands what sexual abuse at the hands of priests can do to one’s soul better than any of the mandarins in the Vatican, including the pope.

That commission, headed by the pope’s closest American confidant, Boston’s own Cardinal Sean O’Malley, was allowed to expire last month without an explanation from the same pope who took figurative bows for forming it in the first place. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 January 2018 at 9:39 am

Post-work: the radical idea of a world without jobs

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I think the idea is that there will be a lot fewer jobs, not that there will be no jobs at all. But many jobs will vanish, and Andy Beckett in the Guardian takes a look at what might result:

Work is the master of the modern world. For most people, it is impossible to imagine society without it. It dominates and pervades everyday life – especially in Britain and the US – more completely than at any time in recent history. An obsession with employability runs through education. Even severely disabled welfare claimants are required to be work-seekers. Corporate superstars show off their epic work schedules. “Hard-working families” are idealised by politicians. Friends pitch each other business ideas. Tech companies persuade their employees that round-the-clock work is play. Gig economy companies claim that round-the-clock work is freedom. Workers commute further, strike less, retire later. Digital technology lets work invade leisure.

In all these mutually reinforcing ways, work increasingly forms our routines and psyches, and squeezes out other influences. As Joanna Biggs put it in her quietly disturbing 2015 book All Day Long: A Portrait of Britain at Work, “Work is … how we give our lives meaning when religion, party politics and community fall away.”

And yet work is not working, for ever more people, in ever more ways. We resist acknowledging these as more than isolated problems – such is work’s centrality to our belief systems – but the evidence of its failures is all around us.

As a source of subsistence, let alone prosperity, work is now insufficient for whole social classes. In the UK, almost two-thirds of those in poverty – around 8 million people – are in working households. In the US, the average wage has stagnated for half a century.

As a source of social mobility and self-worth, work increasingly fails even the most educated people – supposedly the system’s winners. In 2017, half of recent UK graduates were officially classified as “working in a non-graduate role”. In the US, “belief in work is crumbling among people in their 20s and 30s”, says Benjamin Hunnicutt, a leading historian of work. “They are not looking to their job for satisfaction or social advancement.” (You can sense this every time a graduate with a faraway look makes you a latte.)

Work is increasingly precarious: more zero-hours or short-term contracts; more self-employed people with erratic incomes; more corporate “restructurings” for those still with actual jobs. As a source of sustainable consumer booms and mass home-ownership – for much of the 20th century, the main successes of mainstream western economic policy – work is discredited daily by our ongoing debt and housing crises. For many people, not just the very wealthy, work has become less important financially than inheriting money or owning a home.

Whether you look at a screen all day, or sell other underpaid people goods they can’t afford, more and more work feels pointless or even socially damaging – what the American anthropologist David Graeber called “bullshit jobs” in a famous 2013 article. Among others, Graeber condemned “private equity CEOs, lobbyists, PR researchers … telemarketers, bailiffs”, and the “ancillary industries (dog-washers, all-night pizza delivery) that only exist because everyone is spending so much of their time working”.

The argument seemed subjective and crude, but economic data increasingly supports it. The growth of productivity, or the value of what is produced per hour worked, is slowing across the rich world – despite the constant measurement of employee performance and intensification of work routines that makes more and more jobs barely tolerable.

Unsurprisingly, work is increasingly regarded as bad for your health: “Stress … an overwhelming ‘to-do’ list … [and] long hours sitting at a desk,” the Cass Business School professor Peter Fleming notes in his new book, The Death of Homo Economicus, are beginning to be seen by medical authorities as akin to smoking.

Work is badly distributed. People have too much, or too little, or both in the same month. And away from our unpredictable, all-consuming workplaces, vital human activities are increasingly neglected. Workers lack the time or energy to raise children attentively, or to look after elderly relations. “The crisis of work is also a crisis of home,” declared the social theorists Helen Hester and Nick Srnicek in a paper last year. This neglect will only get worse as the population grows and ages.

And finally, beyond all these dysfunctions, loom the most-discussed, most existential threats to work as we know it: automation, and the state of the environment. Some recent estimates suggest that between a third and a half of all jobs could be taken over by artificial intelligence in the next two decades. Other forecasters doubt whether work can be sustained in its current, toxic form on a warming planet.

Like an empire that has expanded too far, work may be both more powerful and more vulnerable than ever before. We know work’s multiplying problems intimately, but it feels impossible to solve them all. Is it time to start thinking of an alternative?

Our culture of work strains to cover its flaws by claiming to be unavoidable and natural. “Mankind is hardwired to work,” as the Conservative MP Nick Boles puts it in a new book, Square Deal. It is an argument most of us have long internalised.

But not quite all. The idea of a world freed from work, wholly or in part, has been intermittently expressed – and mocked and suppressed – for as long as modern capitalism has existed. Repeatedly, the promise of less work has been prominent in visions of the future. In 1845, Karl Marx wrote that in a communist society workers would be freed from the monotony of a single draining job to “hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner”. In 1884, the socialist William Morris proposed that in “beautiful” factories of the future, surrounded by gardens for relaxation, employees should work only “four hours a day”.

In 1930, the economist John Maynard Keynes predicted that, by the early 21st century, advances in technology would lead to an “age of leisure and abundance”, in which people might work 15 hours a week. In 1980, as robots began to depopulate factories, the French social and economic theorist André Gorz declared: “The abolition of work is a process already underway … The manner in which [it] is to be managed … constitutes the central political issue of the coming decades.”

Since the early 2010s, as the crisis of work has become increasingly unavoidable in the US and the UK, these heretical ideas have been rediscovered and developed further. Brief polemics such as Graeber’s “bullshit jobs” have been followed by more nuanced books, creating a rapidly growing literature that critiques work as an ideology – sometimes labelling it “workism” – and explores what could take its place. A new anti-work movement has taken shape. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 January 2018 at 8:54 am

Nancy Boy and the Gillette 1940s Aristocrat, with Spring-Heeled Jack

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Everyone should try Nancy Boy Signature shave cream. The photo shows the travel size, which I got because I almost always use a soap—but this is one shaving cream I’ll never be without.

The brush is from Whipped Dog, and a very nice little brush it is. I noted today how very little of the shaving cream is required for a shave. Don’t overdo it.

The Gillette 1940s Aristocrat is one of a series of excellent TTO razors Gillette made in the late forties and early 50’s: the President and the Diplomat are two others. The shave is excellent: a painless and easy three passes to a perfectly smooth result with no nicks.

A splash of Spring-Heeled Jack (after shaking the bottle well), and the weekend is underway.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 January 2018 at 8:40 am

Posted in Shaving

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