walkitout: (Default)
I am not a lawyer (that would be a large chunk of my husband's family, but not us). This is not legal advice.


There was a Thing that happened at Google recently, in which an engineer who was never named by google vomited up on internal systems the Larry Summers argument about why men are so overrepresented in high paying, high status tech / science / etc. jobs. It's a classic evil argument. Discrimination produces an outcome, and then afterwards, the beneficiaries claim that it wasn't the discrimination -- this is what the victims of discrimination _wanted_. You don't want to argue with their _choice_, do you?!? I'm not sure _why_ they think this is a solid argument for anything other than, they are being an awful human being. Which they are. I assume this is one of those denial mechanisms that allows people to enjoys the fruits of someone else without feeling guilty about it. Most of us have been there, and we should feel bad about it when it is brought to our attention.

Anyway. The engineer was fired, self-identified, said he would pursue legal remedies, and it looks like maybe? again NOT a lawyer, he's going to claim some kind of retaliation under California labor law intended to protect people engaged in worker organizing type behavior and speech. Which is really interesting for someone trying to appeal to a conservative end of society, with a decent chance of backfiring politically even if it succeeds legally.

But will it succeed legally? I am not a lawyer. But I did find this!


I will say straight up that if you get a bunch of people on Stack Exchange committed to finding out that you lied on your resume, you really better have done every single thing you claim on that resume. And it looks like maybe that was not entirely the case here.

Here is why this matters:


We _don't_ know precisely why google fired him -- they didn't say, at least, not as far as I have been able to find (but if you found it, I want to see it!). This article however says:

"The employer may be able to get the lawsuit thrown out, on the theory that the employee should not be able to sue for wrongful termination because the employee should never have been hired in the first place. If the case isn't thrown out and the employee can prove wrongful termination, the employee's damages might be limited. Typically, courts allow employees in this situation to collect damages for lost pay only up until the employee's lie is discovered. Once the employer learns of the fraud, even if it happens because of the employee's lawsuit, damages are cut off."

So. Engineer better be able to prove every single solitary thing on that resume. Or this case seems deeply flawed (again, I am not a lawyer). But honestly, I would not be even a little bit surprised to discover that he maybe shaded the truth or outright lied about one or more things on that resume. Because if there is one thing people do who are trying to preserve their position of privilege, it is lie, lie, lie, lie, lie.


That said, here's an employment lawyer who is still willing to help people in California who lied on their resume:

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I probably should have warned you about that triggery statement there in the subject line, hunh?

Oh well.

I had a great hour and a half (to make up for some other missed and short calls) convo with K. She's so sane it sort of rubs off on me and I'm a little less crazy for a while after I talk to her. It's great.

I had a walk with M. It's warm and muggy again, but that's okay; we have great AC.

T. came home and rapidly headed out with his sitter to go to a splash park. But not before he and A. got into a fight about how loud the Echo was and how that made T. feel like he couldn't survive. I said this was A. getting back at him for things he does to her. I also said, this isn't really going to kill you, it just feels like it will. He was in a great mood a few minutes after I told A. she had to turn it down so I could talk to the sitter. I think maybe he'll understand better now not to piss his sister off. OTOH, this may take a few rounds. Supervision keeps sibling rivalry from permanent consequences.

We need to move some things away from walls for some work to be done increasing the insulation in those walls next week. Things includes book cases full of books. I'm going to view this as an opportunity to cut my library down by about half (again); I never read paper books if I can possibly help it. And there are a lot of things that have been sitting unread for decades now, which I finally understand why they are terrible books. Turns out that learning about politics for a number of years completely changes one's opinion about a lot of books that don't _look_ like they are political, but they actually are.

Also, if you want to convince me of something, DO NOT invoke the probable end or decline of civilization / the world as we know it. I'll just put you in the useless column and ignore you. And I honestly believe (altho I may change my mind) that the world would be much better off if everyone who invoked DOOM / end of the world was ignored. Make a better argument. I know you can.
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This is one of those posts that I'll have a hard time understanding in a few months. So if it doesn't make any sense, don't worry about it. It is the very definition of ephemeral.

POTUS attacked the two hosts of Morning Joe recently. It was every bit as despicable as you would expect (and honestly, that's being unkind to the word "despicable"). One of the targets replied with an image of a Cheerios box that has the headline "Made for small hands", or some such. Obviously, this is what you would expect -- a reference to POTUS' sensitivity to being described as having small hands, presumably in part because of the whole hand size = dick size thing. And yes, I'm going there. This is a _box of Cheerios_, which are very small o's. I don't _know_ that the host meant that additional commentary, but it was pretty hilarious when it occurred to me.

BI today had an article with the headline, "Trump wants to start a trade war with the biggest countries in the world". I think this is technically incorrect. I think he would greatly prefer if he could just be mean to other countries, and them not respond in kind.

And now I will refrain again from more commentary, in favor of the kinds of posts I generally prefer to make.
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An increasingly normalized thread in the Republican party is attacking reporters and/or the media. Generally speaking, these attacks are verbal in nature. In Montana, however, things have recently taken a turn for the crazy.


Short form: Guardian reporter in candidate's office asking questions about the health care bill (the one recently scored by the CBO). Another reporter, from Fox News, and her camera crew are also in the office, but not recording. Someone is recording audio (presumably the Guardian reporter). The reporters are in basic agreement that the candidate then physically attacked the Guardian reporter, who later went to the police. Misdemeanor assault charges have been brought against the candidate; sheriff saying it didn't rise to the level of felony assault and there is the interesting sidelight that the sheriff has given money to this candidate's campaign, apparently.

OK, so let's just start with the most amazing part of this story, which, IMO, is NOT that a crazy candidate physically assaulted a reporter. It's that the crazy candidate did this on (audio)tape, in front of multiple witnesses, including, and yes, I'm about to be sexist here, because I'm reflecting the sexist world in which I was raised, one of whom was a woman. (ETA: If you are too young to have been raised in that sexist world, yay! There used to be norms among men about beating each other up in front of women.)

Who does that?

I'll tell you who does that. I mean, other than, this guy, who I sincerely hope voters in Montana now know better than to elect, but honestly, as I noted to my husband, when you put Montana up next to Idaho for unusual, Montana wins pretty much every time, because there's fewer people and more space, so people looking for a place to freely exercise their nuttery in the lower 48 but who do not care for the heat tend to go there.

Here is an article about who does that, and how it starts young, and what can be done to redirect people who suffer from this collection of disabilities:


It's not a great article, but it does get one thing really right. It breaks down a monolithic conception of psychopathy into modules of disability, and explores which ones might be modifiable. One of the particular modules of disability is -- and it is portrayed brilliantly in this article, without being specifically addressed -- is a total lack of ability to take perspective. The "lock" that people with this set of issues suffers from is relentless. When this candidate beat down a reporter in front of another reporter, I doubt it even occurred to him that the other reporter would have an issue with this. And if it had, he wouldn't have cared. It certainly didn't occur to him what would happen to his political career once it all came out (in front of reporters! Dude!).

A sizeable minority of our population similarly suffers from problems with perspective taking. Fortunately, most of these people have enough cognitive abilities and/or fear to know better than to do stupid shit like this (ETA: In front of reporters. Who are recording.) Unfortunately, a lot of them still really _want_ to do stupid shit like this. So if you are in Montana, and you recognize what a bad idea it is to have a representative that can't see things from more than their own perspective -- whatever that perspective might be -- please vote for anyone but him.
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Subtitled: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama

I _should_ have read this when it came out, but I am sort of happy I did not, because I got to read it for the first time now instead, and then chat about it at book group. Of course we all love Ifill, and are so sad that she is no longer with us. Ironically, everyone else at book group had probably watched her on the news more than I had -- and I loved the book while most of the group was very disappointed. And it wasn't because we all felt the same about the book, and the bar was in different places for each of us. Nope -- I thought this was a five star book and there wasn't anyone agreeing with me.

I had thought, as I read it, that this would have been a really different book for me if I had _not_ been watching TRMS (and before it, Countdown with Keith Olbermann) for over a decade (collectively). With a few exceptions (notably, at the chapter level, Artur Davis), I could readily bring to mind images from the shows -- I could remember seeing the people in the book on the shows, being interviewed or consulted for commentary on recent events. I head their voices, I had a feel for their sense of humor (or lack thereof). If you could not readily imagine the people in this book, I can see how it would have been incredibly confusing and difficult to read. But instead, this was roughly equivalent to reading Soap Opera Digest, and I followed it up with wikipedia level research to figure out Where Are They Now.

The funniest of all _those_ stories are the many veering curves in the career arc of Artur Davis. Not only did he _not_ win the 2010 Alabama gubernatorial election he was aiming for during this book, he didn't win his primary. He switched parties, moved to Virginia, started writing for the National Review and supported Mitt Romney -- all after NOT supporting ACA because he didn't care for the mandates (which, in turn, were all there because of Republicans and especially Mitt Romney).

Don't take my word for it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artur_Davis

It's a heckuva story.

But that's not in _The Breakthrough_. What _is_ in _The Breakthrough_ are the early stories of Michael Nutter, Adrian Fenty, Deval Patrick, Cory Booker, David Paterson among many others. These are the stories of the first generation of electable and often elected African American (mostly) men who didn't win office exclusively in majority-minority districts. Ifill explores how they found ways to appeal to white voters without offending their black base. She also explores the dynamic of the 2008 election and the question of which is harder to overcome: racism or sexism. This was the part my group, I think, was least convinced by, perhaps because of the result of the 2016 election. While those African American women elected to office (Kamala Harris gets a few pages) and interviewed here deprecate how serious sexism was for them vs. racism, this is, actually, the strategy for dealing with bigotry that cannot yet be faced head on. Ifill also touches -- very lightly -- on how women don't vote as a bloc, which I think is more important for the sexism vs. racism question.

If you can make sense of the names that people this book -- if they are familiar to them, or you can become familiar with them enough to animate the interviews that form the backbone of this book -- it is a wonderful, nuanced and light-handed exploration of the intersection of race, gender and class. And honestly, even if you did read it back in 2009, you might want to go re-read it. Time has only made it more interesting as an examination of a generation of leaders and how they got to where they were.
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I've already posted about how I _think_ this should be solved in the long run. If you are going to bottom feed and monetize, go all the way. But that's not where I am going right now. Right now, I'm poking at the relevant law on getting on a plane and how the airline can then get you back off it before arriving at your destination.

We all know the rules about how they can _stop_ you from boarding. FAA regulations give airlines quite a lot of latitude. They basically say this:


"In the event of an oversold flight, every carrier shall ensure that the smallest practicable number of persons holding confirmed reserved space on that flight are denied boarding involuntarily."

Then there's all that stuff about compensation.

Nothing is really said about then telling a boarded passenger, oh, sorry, you have to get back off. At least, not on the part of FAA. And the FAA doesn't do a fabulous job of defining "oversold". It is supposed to mean there are more ticketed, confirmed passengers than safe places to put them. In practice, however, airlines will sometimes pre-emptively take passenger seats for "must rides", and say they have oversold what would not have been oversold if the "must rides" didn't exist. I'll come back to "must rides" in a minute.

In any event, in the scandalous event, all sides agree (altho the media has been a bit slow on the uptake) that this was _not_ an overbooked, oversold, over whatever flight. Also, they had already boarded all the ticketed, confirmed passengers when they then decided they had "must rides".

So that FAA rule above doesn't apply. What might apply is the part of the Contract of Carriage labeled "Refusal of Transport". That's where they can kick you off the plane for being barefoot or smelling bad or whatever. But there is nothing in United's Refusal of Transport that obviously applies to the situation, and the only "generic" clause relates to safety and no one is saying the victim here was being unsafe.

Thus: United violated their own Contract of Carriage. The small print used to _justify_ their heinous behavior actually _condemns_ their heinous behavior. Surprise! Reading the small print is rewarding. Who knew!?!

Another justification being tossed around online is that there is some sort of regulation from the DOT or the FAA or some other body that says "must rides" must ride. Basically, if the airline, in its scheduling wisdom, concludes they must put some employee bodies on a flight to move them to some other location to work a shift there, the airline gets to boot paying, confirmed customers to do so.

This is Not True. Airlines are exploiting the vagueness of the above mentioned FAA regulation about refusing boarding. But you can't bounce a ticketed, confirmed customer from his (her, their) seat(s) for a "must ride". And you _certainly_ can't then claim the guv-mint made you do it. That's an airline policy likely in violation of FAA regs (because they are NOT minimizing the impact ON THE PRESENT FLIGHT) when they do it and justify doing it because of the impact on later flight schedules. The FAA reg is pretty clear.

Here, let me repeat it:

"In the event of an oversold flight, every carrier shall ensure that the smallest practicable number of persons holding confirmed reserved space on that flight are denied boarding involuntarily."

FAA says you do not get to use the impact on a later flight as a reason to screw over ticketed, confirmed people on THIS FLIGHT. OPPOSITE OF TRUE. The FAA rule here is a clear instance of:


I know there is an entire genre of posts of people doing ridiculous shit and getting kicked off planes for it, complaining and then everyone points out what they did wrong and why they got kicked off. This particular set of events is proof that we should all be REAL CAREFUL before participating in defending the indefensible. Because this sucker is completely indefensible in a way that I haven't seen since, oh, I don't know. Enron? Probably? And lest you forget, Lay died after he was convicted but before sentencing (conviction vacated after he died) -- and Skilling is still in prison. Fastow also served time, but he's been out a few years. There isn't a lot in common between the two scandals -- other than the breathtaking scale and stinkiness of them.

ETA: Or VW. It has that same rolling quality of, but wait, there's more! Confusion throughout the industry and its heaviest users of what the rules really are is a terrible sign, especially when people then try to game those rules.



This is really entertaining.

"“This will be just a short kind of hit,” said Lakshman Krishnamurthi, a marketing professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. “Volkswagen had the diesel problem, and their sales are fine. Toyota had a problem years ago, and nothing really happened to their sales.”"

Really? That's not how I remembered it. VW stock took an immediate hit and still hasn't fully recovered. Their market share similarly. Suppliers who are known to be revenue dependent on VW took a hit to their stock prices as well. If by "fine" you mean knock double digit percentage off market cap, sales, what have you and STILL be working through the litigation and fine process, then, sure, VW is "Fine". They haven't recovered to where they were before that scandal, tho.

Toyota is a trickier thing to analyze, because the accelerator scandal went on for so damn long (their final fine in the US didn't happen until 2014, IIRC). Their sales took a multi-year hit and their profitability for at least a year was pretty much wiped out by that fine.

If VW and Toyota are examples of "short kind of hit", well, this could take a while and wind up costing United money in court, ticket sales, market penetration, ability to enter new markets, etc.

While VW worldwide sales have recovered to a new all time high, there are indictments, at least one guy was being held without bail because of concern he would flee to Germany and we wouldn't get him back -- and senior VW guys are being warned not to travel to the US. Is this _really_ a great definition of a "short kind of hit"?

ETA Still More: http://www.beloitdailynews.com/article/20170412/AP/304129712
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I was really pleased to read this:


While the party Out of Power tends to do better in the next midterm, it is by no means a sure thing, and Republicans have seemed to outperformed Democrats in this respect, probably in part because midterm turnout favors older and whiter which, well, you can finish this sentence.

Special elections and off year elections such as Virginia can give some indications about what to expect for turnout in the midterms. And I am finding those indications encouraging.
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We've been talking a lot post-election about the urban/rural divide. And every single time I hear about that, I think, really, what we need is Broadband Everywhere (and honestly, I'm pretty agnostic about the details on how that is delivered, altho I'm prepared to get into the weeds about what qualifies as broadband). There are a lot of people who moved from one part of the country to a coastal city for a better job market -- and a lot of those people miss where they come from, and where a lot of their family still resides. They miss the food. They miss the people, obviously. They miss the climate, the terrain, the places they went when they were kids, the restaurants they loved, the way people talk. It's a little different for everyone, but missing where one came from -- even if you never intend to go back -- is a remarkably common phenomenon. If the thing stopping you from going back is because there are Jobs and Restaurants and Music and Cultural Experiences where you live now, and there is an opioid epidemic and some scary, homophobic, racist people where you come from, it's kind of not even a choice. Even if the scary, homophobic, racist people are the people you love.

This is an important thing to notice. Because the way values evolve is by seeing how people we love have changed, admiring that change, and emulating it. If people with education and jobs get the opportunity to take their small business or even just their telecommutable job back to wherever they came from, their income and education and age and experience will almost instantly cause them to be a pillar of the community, which will initially be a little bit of a shock to everyone involved because they probably weren't when they left for college as a teenager who might have been a bit of a hellion when younger.

So. Broadband means Our Future Economy Today can go anywhere ... that Broadband is, for suitable definition of Broadband. Which would let everyone move _back_ to the places they love and be around the people they love. This would be great for the people who get the much lower cost of living in an amenable environment. And it would be even better for the people who never left, to have their loved one back ... and the money they spend in the local restaurants and so forth. And it would be really amazeballs for our country, to have the further mixing occur that moves us all gently forward into the future, rather than painfully, by forcing more people to move to already very expensive cities that are not so much to the liking to the people who have remained persistently rural.

ETA: I hope it is obvious that none of this is about me, since I am from Shoreline, a city immediately north of Seattle, and thus not lacking for broadband now or ... ever, since the invention of broadband. But I've sure heard about it from other people who moved to Seattle, and who missed where they came from.
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There are a variety of ways to divvy up the political parties in our system. Here are a few that are directly relevant to the tax code, its complexity and any chance it has of being simplified.

Democrats want to do some redistribution (have the rich pay more, and then send it off to those with less income/more demands on their resources to even out the inevitable unfairness of our political system). Republicans have a horror of redistribution.

Democrats kind of like the idea of having government being all orderly and with the structure matching the function: an agency for each category of activity, regulations on a per agency basis, etc. This is complicated, so on balance, they try to simplify by moving more up to the federal level instead of doing it at the state level. But life is full of unpleasant compromises, and they'd rather make their own state(s) have the right kind of rules than wait until the feds can be convinced to do it right.

Republicans kind of like the idea of government being small, and running as much of government functionality through a common system as possible. On balance, they would prefer the federal government to do as little as possible, and anything complicated that needs to be done, they'd like to push down to the smallest unit of social organization that it possibly can. In practice, that means to the state level. The more ideological members would just as soon everything was handled at some nuclear family level. But life is full of unpleasant compromises, so if we are going to have to distribute money to people -- people with kids, people who need health insurance, etc. -- and it is going to be done at the federal level, they'd like it done as cheaply as possible, which means, tax credits. They also like it when the feds do the redistribution _FROM_ the general tax revenue _TO_ states, to do what they like with (block grants). They'd rather make their own states have the right kind of rules than wait until the feds can be convinced to do it right.

In practice, this means things like: even when everyone agrees that we should implement some kind of program, we probably can't agree or by happy with how we decide to implement that program. Democrats want the feds to send money or money-equivalents to individuals around the country who meet rule defined criteria. Republicans want states to get that money to make their own rules for who should benefit from federal largesse. You can be cynical about either or both perspectives -- the phenomenon, however, is real.

Everyone agrees, periodically, that the tax code has become unfair somehow and that it has become onerously complex and difficult to comply with. Republicans tend to focus on how this makes it hard to do business, hire employees, compete with other countries. Democrats tend to focus on how the tax code contributes to increasing inequality and that it should be made more progressive to reduce inequality. Republicans want a simple code that gets a bunch of its simplicity by having a "flat" tax -- the same percentage taken from everyone regardless of income. Democrats want a simple tax code with a steep curve after some point taking more and more of greater and greater amounts of income. Occasionally, you'll get some oddball come along and suggest a wealth tax (Piketty); in practice, outside of things like property taxes, we don't do wealth taxes in the US, and for very good reasons (administering wealth taxes is _hard_ and honestly somewhat expensive).

The two parties are unlikely to ever happily agree to the basic structure of the tax code (ignoring a true flat tax, even the number of brackets and the rates for each bracket tends to be controversial). But it is difficult to make progress towards simplification. For example, getting rid of AMT would simplify the tax code -- it would also make it a lot less progressive. Getting rid of the AMT is a pure-play Republican thing. What about the mortgage interest rate deduction? It's pretty simple to show that the mortgage interest rate deduction increases wealth inequality over time and is probably regressive. It is also one of the few items that pushes households over the line into claiming itemized deductions vs. claiming the standard deduction. With Democrats liking getting rid of a regressive and/or wealth inequality increasing thing, and Republicans wanting a simpler tax code, you would _think_ this would be a thing they could agree to change.

But only if you forget that while people vote Republican or Democrat -- quite consistently -- people who own homes and have mortgages vote at much higher rates than people who don't. And that interest deduction is kind of a big deal.

I'm not saying it will never go away. Things happen. The world changes. But the tax code retains its complexity for very good reasons.

Here is why it is likely to get worse. With Republicans in charge, with their preference for helping people via the tax code vs. creating/increasing the scope of agencies and "entitlements", if the current administration is going to make good on its various campaign promises to help people caring for children, disabled family members or aging family members (remember -- Republicans want to push that kind of task as far down the social structure as they can), it will be via tax credits. That's exactly what was promised in the last campaign season. And that will NOT lead to a simpler tax code.

I vote Democratic. That's not likely to change, at least, not until we live in a world where both parties are really, really, really clear on the right of women to decide what happens to their own bodies. Which is a world which keeps receding further, and further into the future. But I can see the appeal of delivering money through the tax code -- even while I can clearly envision a number of problems with doing so. But whatever I might think of the _merits_, I think it is fairly safe to say that the tax code does not look like it is going to get a lot simpler any time soon. Unless by simpler, you mean, even more complicated.

Oh, and I argued all that without even getting into the weeds of the costs of implementing a program with an agency vs. through the tax code.
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Just to be clear, I LOVED early voting in Massachusetts and want it to continue. R. and I had a discussion at the time about the possible costs of early voting. I noticed that the state auditor, Suzanne Bump, was working on collecting data about these costs. I put in my To Do file to keep an eye out for follow up coverage. I'm a little slow -- vacation, etc. -- but here is some:


Basically, Massachusetts is not supposed to require municipalities to do stuff without providing the money for it.

"Under state law, the Legislature and state agencies are not allowed to pass unfunded mandates on to cities and towns. If state officials do pass an unfunded mandate, municipalities can ask the auditor's office to make an official determination. They can then petition to the court to seek an exemption from the law until state funding is provided."

Oh, New England. You're so cute. No wonder it is so hard to make changes around here. In any event:

"She determined that they paid approximately $720,000 in mandated costs and another $1.2 million in other costs -- for optional polling hours, newspaper advertising, police personnel for early voting, etc. Bump did not consider the $1.2 million for purposes of requiring state reimbursement.

Bump wrote in her determination that the $400,000 appropriated by lawmakers for early voting was insufficient and was not used to cover the mandated expenses. "The primary issue in this case is the burden that early voting placed on municipal clerk's offices and the lack of state funding for early voting," Bump wrote."

The next step is to figure out how to fix this. Again, to be clear, it is my fervent hope that whatever is decided, early voting continues, because it was a great experience, very convenient, increased turnout, etc. I'm happy to pay for the additional cost, however they choose to extract it from me (there are a variety of options, what with Massachusetts having income, property and sales taxes!) and the rest of the tax base.

ETA: Baker administration says they'll figure out a way to make this work for 2018. There is no interest in rolling back early voting. Few towns complained about the cost, altho there was some complaining about it being a PITA. (Not their choice of words.)


ETA Still more:


More detailed coverage, everyone seems to both want this going forward, want money from the state to help with the cost, and also there is the thought that what the law mandated was maybe a bit too bare bones and more really needs to be done.
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I loved Levinson's _The Box_, even though it took me years to get around to reading it. I had bought it in hardcover for my husband around the time it came out, and then promptly quit reading things in paper. Despite that, it took me a while -- altho only months, not years -- to convince myself to take a flyer on _An Extraordinary Time_. Levinson's book is about the immediate post war decades, but his perspective is to show how odd those decades were by comparing them to what came before and after. And since the after is my entire life, I've got some pretty strong feelings about those decades and I haven't run into a lot of economists or economic historians who agree with me much. I didn't want to find out that Levinson was just another one of Them.

Lucky me! I love this book.

Naturally, when I read something that runs along lines that I already think, I am predisposed to like it. Aren't we all. Actually, this is not entirely true. I can get hypercritical of stuff I like a little too much. But honestly, that didn't really happen here, either, because Levinson focuses on telling the story: what happened, what were the policy responses, what happened after the policy responses, how did various investigators, whether bureaucrats or academics, interpret the policy responses and the results of the policy responses.

And it is actually pretty impossible to entirely agree with the way I have thought about the world in which I grew up, because I've changed my mind far too many times. From a world in which I hated Reagan and Thatcher, to an age where I don't think what they did really worked in any larger sense but I can now really understand what they were reacting to, it's difficult to imagine how one could reconcile those very divergent opinions, each of which I have held in turn. And yet, Levinson's analysis is so measured, he can describe the outrageous demands being made and the dire economic circumstances, the bizarre and not particularly consistent ideologies subscribed to by supply siders and Conservatives in the UK, and come out the other side basically saying, well, you definitely couldn't keep doing what had been the status quo, and the new stuff didn't work either, but . . . it's not at all clear that anything was really going to make that much of a difference anyway.

If it all sounds kind of dry and non-committal, it didn't feel that way reading it. To me, it was like watching a sped up version of the background of my life, and along it unreeling the many ways I have tried to understand it. Behind it all, Levinson does really _get_ that this all went the way it did because of two underlying factors which are not handled in great detail. First, technological change and progress which initially was compatible with full employment but later was not. Second, different societal goals that arose over time that were not well captured by economic statistics (environment, especially, but others as well). Significantly lacking in the background is a sense of the massive demographic changes -- if I have a complaint, it would be that. Backgrounding the technological changes and the What Do You Measure problem does not bother me; backgrounding the demographics leaves me with a chicken and egg problem.

It's a great book. I have no idea what it would be like to read this book if you are significantly older or younger than me, nor do I have any idea what it would be like to read this if you've never explored an economics perspective on history. I can readily imagine that reading this with a different life span to measure it against, or with a different sense of economics could result in a very, very different opinion of the book.
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One of the most valuable aspects of our time is the ease with which ordinary people can live for a decade or more in a country not of their birth, their extended family, or even because of a particular job or education. You can go live somewhere else, without having to irrevocably give up your place of origin, and all that went with it.

Trump is attacking refugees, with an order issued at a time of remembrance for refugees we failed in their time of need.

Trump is attacking people who played by the rules, who navigated a difficult bureaucracy, who are hoping to find a life that is safe for them, better for them.

Trump is attacking the fragile fabric that ties open minded nations together, by attacking the ability of our individual citizens to live in other nations for a time, and to build connections across borders.

Hopefully, the incompetence of the attack, coupled with the vigorous response of people who understand the seriousness of this, will mitigate the harm.
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Some days, I feel like I'm just shifting from a too-warm spot in hell to another, possibly even warm location.

Other days, I feel like I live a charmed life.

Honestly, my life isn't changing -- this is purely an artifact of my current mood, and I am almost always aware of that. Here is an example of that in action. I took myself off to Solomon Pond Mall the other day with my iPad with the cracked screen. It broke before T-weekend, and I've shifted the appointment twice because I just couldn't get my act together enough to get there sooner. I tell my tale of woe to the nice gentleman who says he didn't actually hear any of it, because the warranty will actually cover the crack in question.

No shit. I didn't even buy the AppleCare or anything like that. Turns out a hairline crack, no evidence of a point of impact, and no spider webbing, etc. -- that particular kind of crack might actually not be my fault and therefore might be covered by the warranty. But they don't have a swappable device, so I have to wait for one to arrive. Fingers crossed that it is still covered by warranty when I return.

A couple days ago, I had this great talk-about-books convo with a friend of mine. I mentioned -- in the course of this convo -- a podcast over on SBTB about billionaire novels. I was thinking it was from a couple years ago. Apparently 2 = 4 because it was actually from 2012. Which was a mistake I also made that same evening, when I mentioned to someone that I was attending that event to see him, and I still vividly and with pleasure recalled our previous meeting, a couple years ago, again, probably in 2012.

Anyway. The podcast includes a variety of assertions about what Extremely Rich People Do and Don't Do, and one of the recession stories included the offspring of great wealth who was having to fly first class when previously he had only experienced private planes.

I thought of that podcast _again_ when I read about Eric Trump running into a Muslim American comedian in first class.


The world is what it is. And it is often hilarious. Even if we are, actually, sitting in a warmish spot in hell.
walkitout: (Default)
It's 4H around here! Okay, not really. I had a haircut this morning, and I got going early enough to walk. I dropped a check off at the post office after, and then went for a walk with M. It was T.'s half day, so I picked him up, and then took him to gymnastics. He was unhappy with the choice of t-shirt and shorts (not quite matching green color apparently was not acceptable). Sitter texted in sick for the third day in a row; poor T. really misses her.

I headed out at 4 after R. came home early from work to watch T. I had a program to attend at Harvard, a UCS national food policy panel that was probably intended to be a bit of a victory lap and then buckle down to continue working on food but instead, as a result of the election not turning out as expected, turned into something else entirely. One nutter on the microphone during the q&a. Bittman's presentation got me thinking about the line 501(3)c organizations have to walk in terms of not taking a position on specific candidates. Emily Broad Lieb's presentation was fantastic -- she talked about some specific issues that might well arise in the next few years: there may well be a push to convert school lunch funding and/or SNAP to state block grant programs. She outlined other programs (AFDC and TANF) that went through this conversion back in the 1990s and the ramifications from that conversion that continue to this day in terms of state-to-state differences in coverage. Very, very, very good things to talk about and stay focused on, with bipartisan, broad interest. Salvador had a good presentation as well, talking about how the new administration's promises are out of step with the direction the population as a whole has been moving and also about how some of those promises, if implemented, would be directly and immediately harmful to people who helped elect this administration. 2 big tables (about a dozen per) at Henrietta's after. I got to chat with several really nice, pleasant people from various backgrounds about a variety of topics, some related to the presentation but a lot just getting to know each other. One of the nicest things about giving money consistently to organizations which align well with one's values is getting the opportunity to meet other people doing the same thing, and finding out that, what do you know, they are really wonderful. Big crowd at the main discussion -- over 300.
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I finally finished this. I bought it in hardcover and it got buried under a stack of papers that I recently filed in a filing rampage brought on by my inability to find a somewhat unnecessary letter from an insurance agent that was mixed in with charitable solicitations. I found the letter after the filing rampage when I wrote charity checks. All of this resulted in me noticing the book -- after returning the stack of library books which replaced the paperwork -- and bringing it with me on T-weekend to LBI and thus finishing reading it.

I bought it in paper because it has maps. They are not color maps. They aren't particularly necessary maps -- you could look online at other maps and they would work just fine. But it is sort of handy having it all in one place, and with somewhat appropriate granularity and so forth. Map making is always a set of choices about which geographical and/or political features to include or exclude, and those are important if your entire thesis involves political geography or the geographics of politics or hegemony or whatever you care to call it.

Like all arguments that purport to attribute a large sweep of human behavior and/or history to a comparatively simple aspect of the physical world, Marshall's arguments get very bogged down in the details. But like any good argument about the influence of physical reality on human behavior and/or history, there are a lot of good insights here. The main problem is that the overselling isn't limited to the subtitle (Ten Maps That Explain Everything About the World).

But if you've never read a breakdown of the various regional hegemonies the predated the Cold War duality, and which have risen to prominence once again, it's a reasonable introduction and it slides by fairly quickly. I didn't put it down because it was bad -- I lost it in a stack of papers. If you already have a sophisticated understanding of, say, China's involvement in the global South, then you'll gain little from this. And depending on how old you are, you might be kind of disappointed and/or confused by the flippant handling of things you remember from your youth, like why East Pakistan is now Bangladesh.

If you know of a better book on a related topic, I'd be interested in it.
walkitout: (Default)
I did NOT finish this book. I hit the chapter on pregnancy and the number of false assertions just Got To Me.

The first assertion that caught my attention was the claim that there isn't any good reason to smoke marijuana. What, chemo nausea doesn't count any more? He thinks you should take marinol in pill form, instead, when all the research I've seen over the last few years suggests that the desirable compounds in marijuana for most purposes are NOT THC -- that's just the part that makes you high. Worse, of course, if you've got bad enough nausea, you aren't gonna be able to swallow, much less keep a pill down. But you know, he is in favor of recreational marijuana as a harm reduction strategy, so I was prepared to allow his bigotry and ignorance pass.

The first one that made me do research was the claim about MET. I'd never heard of MET.


Mohammad makes a variety of claims for MET, none of which seemed all that plausible to me. From page 99 in the hardcover:

"Motivation enhancement therapy (MET) has been thoroughly researched in the field of substance misuse and has been proven to be exceptionally effective at enhancing an individual's motivation to make positive changes in behavior."

Assuming that actually means something, let's focus on "thoroughly researched" and "proven to be exceptionally effective".


Effects are small, highly variable, especially by program site. This does _not_ sound like "thoroughly researched" or "proven to be exceptionally effective". MET probably does help, and in fact, if you wanted to claim it worked better than other forms of beginning counseling for substance misuse, I wouldn't even argue with you. But he is overselling it here.

While I absolutely support the use (and think it should be much more widespread) of Suboxone, I think there are points in this book where he oversells that, as well (altho I'm having trouble finding the one I remember right now).

The chapter on teens and drinking/drugs has a tight focus on harm reduction, rather than abstinence, and I completely agree with the argument there. However, it is immediately followed by the chapter on pregnancy that caused me to completely abandon the book (apparently, a non-pregnant teen gets harm reduction strategies because, you know, they work. But a _pregnant_ teen or non-teen gets hard core judgement.

In fact, the author is advocating for nothing less than insisting that _all_ women of reproductive age stop drinking entirely (at this point, I kicked myself. It's not like I couldn't have seen this coming, right?).

"All of this diagnostic and treatment services would be unnecessary if women would simply not drink while pregnant, if they plan on becoming pregnant, or run the possibility of becoming pregnant."

Basically, if you are pre-menopausal and haven't been sterilized, he thinks you shouldn't drink. He may be thinking, well, you can drink if you aren't having sex. But then he has clearly ignored the possibility of rape and sexual assault. As far as he is concerned, if a woman who could possibly become pregnant still drinks despite knowing the risks of FAS:

"the mother, despite understanding the danger, has the medical illness of alcohol addiction known as alcoholism". That sentence is framed as once she's pregnant, but just a paragraph earlier is any woman who might become pregnant. Given that as many as half of all pregnancies aren't planned, and given that he doesn't seem to think that abortion is an option, he figures adult women who drink are, per se, alcoholics.

Honestly, he's a fool and tool. And worse. Don't read this book. I am _so_ glad I got it from the library because at least this way he doesn't get any money for it.

Also, as bad as these detailed complaints are, they are just the tip of the iceberg with the problems in this book. I knew that there was developing resistance to evidence based medicine, but since I mostly read stuff by H. Gillbert Welch and his associates, I was a little puzzled about why. Well, this guy answered that question. If he thinks he is doing evidence based medicine, then I would resist it, too.
walkitout: (Default)
R. had bought tickets to Teenage Fan Club last May but never put it on the calendar. People who know me IRL may wonder, did you check the other calendar to see if it didn't get transferred to your new calendar when you did the switch in August/September (I'm a 17 month or 18 month calendar person)? Yes. Yes I did. It wasn't there, either. Nor was it on the electronic calendar that R. and I share (it may have been on his).

So that was tricky, because I also had book group last night. But our sitters came through for us and were willing to juggle their schedules and stay later so that we could both do our Own Things. I'm glad I went to book club; it was a great discussion.

This month's selection was Ta-Nehisi Coates _Between the World and Me_. I read it on Monday during the late morning and afternoon and then we discussed it in the evening so it was quite fresh in my mind. Upon further reflection on the book and the discussion, I have concluded that my quibbles -- and they were quibbles, as I gave it a 5/5 in our rating at the end -- because Coates isn't too positive about police reform, and because I think he may be underestimating how corporal punishment creates an apocalyptic and paranoid worldview are irrelevant to what this book is absolutely incredible at, which is consciousness raising. It is some of the very best consciousness raising I have ever encountered (that became utterly clear in the course of the book group discussion), so if you have already been through some of the process which this book does such an amazing job of evoking in the reader, you might not realize just _how_ good a job it is doing.

Part personal memoir, part intellectual journey, part letter to adolescent son about the hardness of the world, part paean to The Struggle, Coates provides all the narrative momentum anyone could ever need to continue to read something that, for many readers, is probably fairly difficult. If you have some familiarity with the issues, it's like a freight train: there is no stopping reading this book.

What this book isn't: policy suggestions. So don't go looking for them! (That is as much a reminder to me as anything else.)

The cover of my large print edition from the library has a quote from Toni Morrison: "This is required reading." I'm inclined to agree, at least for most people in this country.


Oct. 12th, 2016 03:23 pm
walkitout: (Default)
I recently read this post by a blogger I respect enormously:


I feel like I should state clearly how I have been thinking about politics.

I was raised a JW and remained an adult member until I was 25. Officially and unofficially, I was outside of politics. JWs don't vote; if they involve themselves in politics, they are kicked out. Nevertheless, my parents -- even tho my father was born to JW parents himself, and my mother was raised a JW from some time in her teens or thereabouts (she was born into a Mennonite community in Canada) -- were pretty clearly in many respects Democrats. My dad was in a union (itself a dodgy proposition as a JW) as an electrician and both of them were hugely nostalgic for the Kennedys and Camelot. My mother at least favored -- as far back as the 80s, at least -- the legalization of marijuana. They were very pro-contraception (JWs would rather you didn't have kids, so you could spend all your time going door to door), but equally strenuously anti-abortion.

When I quit being a JW, I had to figure out what I valued in terms of policy and politics. For me, reproductive choice -- a full range, from access to abortion independent of means, through cheap and readily available choices of contraception, and all the way to medical and technological intervention to help people have children who were having difficulties doing so -- is a no brainer. No central organization, no list of rules can possibly capture the range of dilemmas faced by women; women should always have the right to choose, supported by the people they choose to support them. After that, my generation takes environmental issues as fundamental.

I flirted for a while with all kinds of bad ideas. I've had a concealed carry permit and spent a lot of time at the range. My big issue there was, We Need Unleaded Ammo. I couldn't get any traction on that idea at all. When I got to red belt in my martial arts, I quit feeling like I needed to carry and eventually entirely stepped out of that community. (So if you are wondering what happened to the No War/Anti Violence of my heritage, well, _that_ is definitively Gone.) I believe in liberty, so a variety of things from anarcho-socialism to libertarianism held some appeal. But I also am a big believer in solving problems as a group, and I'm not so idealistic that I can ignore free loaders.

When I finally stuck my toe in the water and started voting, it was a simple matter to list off my beliefs, the beliefs of the two major parties and pick one. That Single Issue at the top determined the answer for me. But my other major issues -- the environment, solving problems together, addressing the free loader problem, etc. -- make my party alignment unambiguous.

This election cycle has presented me with a conundrum. I would have loved Elizabeth Warren to be our first woman president. But she didn't run, and I never took Bernie Sanders seriously because he seems to utterly lack the ability to come to a consensus, to compromise or even to see an issue from someone else's perspective unless they bludgeon him with something embarrassing and then hold him still while a team yells at him. That's nothing I want in a leader.

I, personally, really enjoyed both Clinton administrations. I made a ton of money. Don't Ask Don't Tell was better than actively prosecuting homosexuality as a crime in the military. The Clintons switched to supporting the death penalty, which I had some mixed feelings about, but their reasoning I fully supported: they talked to the families of victims and understood how they were feeling. I _like_ people who listen, and who are willing to change in the face of a compelling argument. I _really_ like that when someone has a strong commitment to _representing_ their constituency, not just telling their constituents what they _should_ believe.

I heard a lot of awful lies, rumor and innuendo about the Clintons. When I moved to New Hampshire, and was reading shelves, I came across a book written about the many and varied lies told -- in the pages of the New York Times, giving them credibility they otherwise never would have had -- about them and their associates. I had a pretty good sense about how all the investigations had turned out and honestly wasn't too impressed by how little fire there was under all that smoke. And I have since watched more of the same play out, always ending in a sputter, rather than a scandal. Hours billed incorrectly. Minor regulations routinely ignored by others were also broken by a Clinton or a Clinton associate. Etc.

Obviously, I want a woman President. And I want a Democratic President. I actually really, really like and admire HRC. If you look up my record of donations (you can! It's public information), you'll see I haven't given her any money. Instead, I've been giving money to women candidates challenging Republican and/or Tea Party incumbents in districts where they have a chance. Not a great chance, but a chance. Those women all share my Single Issue. They come from a range of backgrounds, a range of ages. But they are all supporting HRC for President; I haven't been impressed yet by someone who endorsed Bernie and refused to support HRC after the convention and I don't expect I ever will (there's no Jamie Eldredge sign on my lawn this year for a reason).

I don't know, and on some basic level, I don't much care how you make up your mind how to vote or who to vote for in this election cycle. But I do care about this. I want you to think about it. I want you to _care_ about what happens. I want you to think about the future, and your kids or the children of people you love, and I want you to think about the world they will grow up to live in. From that future orientation, I want you to look at the candidates -- and the ballot questions -- that you will have to tick boxes next to on election day (or sooner), and decide _not_ whether you like the person, and _not_ whether you've ever been made suspicious of the person.

Ask yourself: Can this person do the job the way you think it needs to be done? Fundamentally, elected office is a job. I think you can figure out who is better prepared to do it in the way you want it done. Vote for that person.

And after you've figured out who will make a better president, spend a little time learning about the many other races you will be voting in (and the questions you may be answering). You'll learn a lot about yourself and you'll be doing your part to make our country the way it always has been: the greatest democracy the world has ever seen.
walkitout: (Default)
Let's say you buy something from a store. I think we're all clear on things like, hey, store, you are supposed to protect my credit card information from hackers. But what other requirements/limitations apply to a merchant?

Depends on where you are!

Linkage to follow, expect updates:


Visa and MC really don't want the customer slowed down or pissed off. They have rules preventing merchants from requiring additional ID for purchases as part of the regular process. Returns, by contrast, _can_ require state ID.

Basically, everything people did when you used to pay by check seems to be Not Allowed, and maybe that's part of why no one takes checks any more. However, this isn't necessarily the kind of privacy rules I was looking for.

There's this:


But that's more about borrowing/lending/etc. financial institution stuff, not going out and buying something from a store, or buying something from an online shop that is then mailed to you.

Another way to think about this is not a right to privacy but a right to control publicity associated with one's name.


Chuck Yeager sued a wireless company for using his name in a press release and won (I have no idea what happened on appeal, and honestly, the amount won didn't look like it justified the effort put into the suit), and also sued Virgin America for something similar.

This is a law firm warning you that this kind of thing can happen:


They mention this lawsuit, which was settled:


It's unclear what the total was from that, but there was a lot of money from a related case, that he then donated:


However, all the right to publicity laws are, er, trumped by first amendment rights. So while a shop that said this:

"Famalicious McCelebrity Shopped at FunFunSexyTimes!!!!! Order Your Sex Toy from FunFunSexyTimes Today!!!"

would probably lose in court should Famalicious McCelebrity choose to sue FunFunSexyTimes, I suspect that "Hey, It Is Political Speech And Thus Protected", if what FunFunSexyTimes said was actually this:

"Famalicious McCelebrity Shopped at Our Store and We Donated the Proceeds to support SomeCauseOrOther".

Especially if there was any reason to believe that Famalicious McCelebrity opposed SomeCauseOrOther.

I am trying to figure out what I think of all this. But the fact that this is not something that generally arises is all by itself kind of interesting. I mean, we've had lawsuits about whether the guv'mint can take a gander at your library record and what kind of warrant they need to do so. There's all kinds of stuff that stores can't ask the purchaser for. But boy, if the store knows who you are, and they are not actually trying to make money off you in an apolitical way -- like, if they wanted to share with the general public your shoe size or how you liked your burger prepared or that you really hate coleslaw -- there's really not much stopping them.

If you find evidence to the contrary, please share! I'll probably retain some interest in this for a while.
walkitout: (Default)
First, my friend J.'s rumor that Tower of Terror was going to be re-done as something else has turned out to be true:


I will be visiting a few months too early to experience it. Hopefully, I'll return sooner than a decade the next time I go after that.

Second: Oliver Stone on Pokemon Go! It's totalitarianism. Well, because I think calling something totalitarianism is a reflex for Stone.


I don't think you can summarize something that incoherent, but as near as I can tell, the logic mashup goes something like this:

Google is big, new and scary and growing super fast. Google does data mining. [Gap in logic.] Pokemon Go! is surveillance capitalism that loses money now but will make money later by following you everywhere and figuring out what you want and then manipulating your behavior through luring you. That is totalitarianism.

Let's contemplate the definition of totalitarianism:


So, basically, central control, gotta follow the rules, we don't give a shit what you think or want or whatever. In other words, if Pokemon Go! and surveillance capitalism work by figuring out what you want and then luring you with it, it would seem to be the exact _opposite_ of totalitarianism.

Let's have a quickie look at "surveillance capitalism" (perpetrator of this term was NOT on the panel, as near as I can tell, which is a pity, because that back-and-forth could have been entertaining):


Ironically, where google and most other people who are getting tagged with this derogatory term seem to think they are giving people what they want in a personalized/customized way, Zuboff and (possibly) others instead frame it this way:

"It is constituted by unexpected and often illegible mechanisms of extraction, commodification, and control that effectively exile persons from their own behavior while producing new markets of behavioral prediction and modification."

All I can say is, if your Self is so incoherent that someone giving you what you want causes you to feel disconnected from Who You Are, well, wow. I feel bad for you. That sounds painful. But that is not how it works when people give me what I want.

I do recognize that Pokemon Go! is causing people to get more exercise than they otherwise might have. This raises a bunch of questions about prioritization of basic needs that I find fascinating. But it does not make me think that anyone has been "exiled" from "their own behavior". It's more along the lines of turning the alphabet into a fun song and then singing it relentlessly with very high affect as a pre-literacy learning activity disguised as a Fun Game. Did the kiddo really WANT to learn the alphabet?

Does anyone fucking care? And how many of those kids, once grown up, feel exiled from their own behavior because they can now read?

Also, what _precisely_ is the difference between FiestaWare, Funk & Wagnalls encyclopedia volumes, grocery store tokens, frequent flyer miles, Dorothy Sayers' fictional "whiffling" campaign, and Pokemon lures bought by businesses to draw in customers? I mean, other than, it's a virtual good instead of a physical good. No one went around saying that frequent flyer miles was totalitarianism. (You know, I haven't done a definitive search. Hmmm.)

ETA: Also, most of us _have_ actually figured out that you can say no to free stuff. We walk past free food on trays at the grocery store. We drive past free used furniture by the side of the road. We decline to use rewards cards. We tell the cashier that the next person in line can have those little stamps for loyal customers. We "opt out" of promotional emails and online coupons. We don't apply for every damn store card offered to us in exchange for some percentage off of today's bill. Etc. If the concern is that we are given free stuff to manipulate us because we can't say no to free, well, some people do have that problem and we probably should help them with that, but that's no reason to put a stop to the freebies more generally. If anyone has read the Zuboff article and can figure out how this is argued:

"Surveillance capitalism challenges democratic norms and departs in key ways from the centuries long evolution of market capitalism."

I'm curious to know, but not can't quite bring myself to read an entire article written in a style resembling that extract. I know a decent amount about the rise of political machines, and about the many and varied tricks used to attract custom. I don't see any "key way" in which either google or Pokemon Go! departs from "market capitalism".

ETA: Ugh. It is even worse than I thought. This really is right up there with that website I poked fun at for saying "scientists" in 1668 thought baker's yeast was a bad idea for health reasons. Look, if you want to create an argument, you really should not just take random other complaints, misunderstand them, and then patch them together. It isn't compelling. It is incoherent and annoying.

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