Later On

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

‘Facebook is a gift to intelligence agencies’

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Very interesting interview with Laura Poitras (author of the quotation of the title) in the Washington Post.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 October 2014 at 2:12 pm

The total failure of the war on drugs, Afghanistan division

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Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 1.38.06 PM

$7.6 billion dollars bought us that little dip toward the right. It’s like pushing a beach ball under the water: as soon as the pressure’s release (the money stops flowing), the ball bounces right back to the surface. We would be well ahead to deflate the damn ball if we want to keep it underwater: legals drugs (all of them), regulate (and tax) their sale, and deal with addiction as a medical problem rather than a criminal problem. But that makes sense, and politicians and governments are strongly resistant to things that make sense. Their attention is focused on big donors and lobbyists, and they seem to pay little attention to anything else..

The graph is from a very good article by Christopher Ingraham in the Washington Post:

The U.S. government wasted $7.6 billion on an ill-conceived drug war in Afghanistan that was doomed to failure from the start, according to ascathing new report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. The Afghan opium poppy crop, providing the raw material for the bulk of the world’s heroin supply, reached record levels in 2013 and is likely to climb even higher this year, the report finds.

“The recent record-high level of poppy cultivation calls into question the long-term effectiveness and sustainability” of the past decade of counter-narcotics efforts in Afghanistan, Special Inspector General John F. Sopko concludes. “Given the severity of the opium problem and its potential to undermine U.S. objectives in Afghanistan, I strongly suggest that your departments consider the trends in opium cultivation and the effectiveness of past counter-narcotics efforts when planning future initiatives.”

Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Vanda Felbab-Brown, who has written extensively about the relationship between drug economies and military conflict, is not at all surprised by the findings. “A lot of these programs were counterproductive,” she told me, “and more importantly did not really address the structural drivers of [poppy] cultivation.”

At its root, the Afghan poppy trade is just a symptom of a much broader problem: Afghanistan is “an extremely weak state with an extremely weak economy, and huge insecurity,” Felbab-Brown said. Given the uncertainties, many Afghan farmers turn to poppy because they know they can turn a profit off it.

Until Obama took office, most U.S. anti-drug efforts were focused onunsustainable crop eradication efforts. Starting in 2009, U.S. policies focused more on economic development and the structural drivers of poppy cultivation, but Felbab-Brown says the implementation of these programs has been deeply flawed. . . .

Continue reading.

We piss away money on things like this, shoveling sand against the surf, letting our government services—parks, our public educational system (elementary, secondary, and higher ed),  public hospitals and so on—gradually collapse.


Written by LeisureGuy

23 October 2014 at 2:11 pm

The psychology of bribery and corruption

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A very interesting article in Pacific Standard by Lauren Kirchner explores what drives and protects bribery and corruption. The article describes in some detail the two incompetent conspirators (one an FBI agent working in counter-intelligence) and how they worked, but it also looks at the general picture.  From that article:

. . . The very particular set of thinking and expectations involved in bribery and corruption has been an occasional topic of research for economists and psychologists throughout the years—on the overall cultural, organizational, and personal levels.

Researchers have measured and studied corruption on the global scale, for instance. The World Bank has estimated that $1 trillion gets paid every year in bribes, worldwide. There’s corruption in every government in the world, but what varies is how extreme, how visible, and how tolerated it is. Researchers at the University of Toronto have made a connection between the cultural “collectivism” of a country’s population and its acceptance of bribery (as opposed to its “individualism”). It might sound counter-intuitive, but the results of their study suggest that “collectivism promotes bribery through lower perceived responsibility for one’s actions.”

Likewise, researchers writing in the journal Social Psychological & Personality Sciencehave found a correlation between the “seemingly unrelated behaviors” of voluntary tipping and bribery. Namely, “countries that had higher rates of tipping behavior tended to have higher rates of corruption”—even after they control for GDP and income inequality. The context surrounding those two acts may be different, but the expectation of a quid-pro-quo for good service rendered seems to be the same.

A duo of psychologists in Germany struggled to identify the particulars of “a corrupt organizational culture in terms of its underlying assumptions, values, and norms.” But, writing in the Journal of Business Ethics this year, they found generally that “corrupt organizations perceive themselves to fight in a war, which leads to their taken-for-granted assumption that ‘the end justifies the means.’” Wartime attitudes degrade the traditional values of the members of the group, and they start to develop rationalizations and something the authors call “ethical blindness.” Corrupt organizations also tend to protect the “social cocoon” they’ve built up by harshly punishing those members of the group who aren’t willing to join in the rule-breaking.

It seems that the structure of the organization itself can have a subconscious effect on its members, as well. When asked about kickbacks and bribes in the U.S. military, a spokesperson for the government watchdog group Project on Government Oversightsaid that the strict, top-down structure of the military means that commanders must work even harder to set an ethical example for their subordinates. Otherwise, corruption trickles down. . .

Here’s the abstract of the article the duo of psychologists in Germany:

Although theory refers to organizational culture as an important variable in corrupt organizations, only little empirical research has addressed the characteristics of a corrupt organizational culture. Besides some characteristics that go hand in hand with unethical behavior and other features of corrupt organizations, we are still not able to describe a corrupt organizational culture in terms of its underlying assumptions, values, and norms. With a qualitative approach, we studied similarities of organizational culture across different corrupt organizations. In this study, we performed content analysis on interviews of 14 independent experts about their experience with corrupt organizations. With this approach, we gained insights about different corrupt organizations spanning different branches (e.g., government, foreign trade, pharmacy, sports, building industry). We found that corrupt organizations perceive themselves to fight in a war, which leads to their taken-for-granted assumption that “the end justifies the means”. This assumption inspires many values and norms of the organizational culture. An important value in a corrupt organization is “security”, and an important norm is punishment of deviant (i.e., non-corrupt) behavior. Furthermore, managers and employees differ in their perception of organizational culture. While the management endorses values, such as success, results, and performance, and implements these values in their norms of goal setting, employees make use of rationalization strategies and endorse values of security and team spirit.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 October 2014 at 1:35 pm

Posted in Daily life, Law, Science

The momentum to recognize a Palestinian State is unstoppable

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Farhang Johanpour writes at Informed Comment:

Once again, the British Parliament has led the way with an epoch-making decision. On Monday 13 October 2014, British lawmakers voted overwhelmingly in favour of recognizing Palestine as a state. With 274 to 12 votes they passed a motion stating: “This House believes that the Government should recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel as a contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution.”

The Conservative Party’s whips advised the party’s MPs to stay away from the vote. As a result, nearly 90 per cent of the ruling Conservative Party members were absent from the vote. (1)

The Israeli government lobbied actively against the motion. The Zionist Federation of Great Britain, the oldest Zionist federation in the world, launched a campaign calling on British Jews to write letters to their MPs, urging them to oppose the motion. The more mainstream Jewish organizations also joined the campaign.

On the other hand, a number of Jewish MPs spoke eloquently in favour of the motion. The veteran Labour Party MP Gerald Kaufman, supporting the motion, accused Israel of “harming the image of Judaism” and contributing to anti-Semitism. In fact, the motion would not have made it to the floor of the House without the support of the Jewish leader of the Labour Party Ed Miliband.

Most of those who spoke in favour of the motion were emphatic about Israel’s right to exist, but they felt that it was time to give the Palestinians the same rights that the Israelis enjoy.

Nearly a hundred years ago, on 2 November 1917, the British Foreign Secretary Lord Balfour issued a short statement that has come to be known as the Balfour Declaration, which set in motion the events that led to the establishment of the state of Israel.

It read: . . .

Continue reading. It’s a lengthy post that includes much valuable historical background that provides some insight into how the situation became so wretched.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 October 2014 at 12:20 pm

Posted in Mideast Conflict

A cool way to visualize rhythm

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Written by LeisureGuy

23 October 2014 at 12:06 pm

Posted in Jazz, Music, Video

Extremely interesting and informative post on tribalism and counter-insurgency

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David Moore has a good post at Informed Comment:

The rise of ISIL, as well as the resurgence of the Taliban, has brought numerous “experts” out to offer analyses on the best way to combat these developments. The consensus is to bomb and arm (or re-arm Sunni) groups to fight ISIL. Since I have written a book on insurgency and counter-insurgency warfare in the First and Second Indochina Wars, I feel qualified to point out that my research shows we are on the wrong path for defeating ISIS, the Taliban, or any other insurgency in the future. (The book is based on my 1982 Master’s thesis in anthropology.)

My interest in unconventional warfare stemmed from my service in Vietnam, along with interest and education in the ancient Middle East and anthropology (a multi-disciplinary approach here is important: the first documented counter-insurgency dates to around 1,500 BC, between the Hittite Empire and Kaska tribesmen). Tribesmen have been recruited in history by diverse empires such as Babylonia, Rome and France, a practice that led to some disastrous outcomes for all three. This led me to write an anthropological case study of the effects of insurgency and counter-insurgency warfare on the various tribal groups of Vietnam, from the French involvement to the American. I later published it as “Tribal Soldiers of Vietnam: the Effects of Unconventional Warfare on Tribal Populations.”

In my book, I note that the French discovered in the First Indochina War they were not only fighting the “typical” or “historical” insurgency, i.e. guerrilla war, but a much more complex form of warfare combining politics with unconventional warfare. The signature aspect of this new insurgency, which the French considered the key aspect of modern insurgency, was labeled “parallel hierarchies.” Simply put, the insurgency establishes an effective parallel government and social services, mimicking the ineffective government offices in contested tribal areas. The French ultimately published in 1957 a landmark—but much ignored—study in the magazine Revue Militaire d’Information devoted entirely to the parallel hierarchies.

One way I described the two competing forms of warfare was through the formula RW = (GW + PW), meaning revolutionary (insurgency) warfare was a close combination of guerrilla warfare married to political warfare. The North Vietnamese set up efficient parallel services of courts, social services, military, etc. I wrote the formula for Western counter-insurgency as COIN = (GW) + (PW). Lacking an effective central government and incorruptible bureaucrats, not to mention lacking the will to create one, the quick Western fix was to hire local warlords while leaving their often brutal mechanism for control intact. These warlords supplied their own version of “anti-communism,” telling Western military and political leaders what they wanted to hear while pursuing their own agendas, oftentimes counterproductive by driving their victims into the insurgency.
The expedient use by the US military of warlord armies to fight these insurgents, in my opinion, was a foreseeable catastrophe.

The explosion of armed gangs extorting villages and individuals in Iraq and Afghanistan was not a surprise for anyone familiar with counter-insurgency in Vietnam. As I showed in my book, the growth of armed groups demanding “protection,” “taxes,” etc., is directly related to the standard recruiting and training practices of Western militaries.

Conversely, using the communist model employing parallel hierarchies, insurgencies co-opt and absorb through politics. Politics and religion can overcome tribalism, but US counter-insurgency doctrine (especially in the Middle East) has only further entrenched tribal animosities, sectarianism and chaos. As I showed in my book, left to their own devices, tribal minorities may unite for a united political end, such as independence. . .

Continue reading.

At the link you’ll find not only the rest of the post, but also a video of a panel discussion of tribal societies and tribalism in Pakiston.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 October 2014 at 12:00 pm

How Esperanto has changed since Zamenhof’s time

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Very interesting responses to a question on Quora. The first (of two) responses is from Judith Meyer, a polyglot, who writes:

A lot of new words have been added, especially in the sciences, because Esperanto-speaking scientists regularly meet up to discuss how best to render the terminology of their fields into Esperanto.

New vocabulary is not prescribed though; for new words of common usage, such as “computer”, the Akademio de Esperanto merely watches people’s language usage to see if “komputero” or “komputilo” would become more popular. There are many neologisms that gradually become wide-spread, such as the word “mojosa” for “cool”, that originated in Europe and is now increasingly being used by South American and Asian Esperanto-speaking youths as well. Some of these neologisms are originally coined in songs (as in English as well); the band La Perdita Generacio is particularly known for trying to popularize certain neologisms of their own creation.

Other words that Zamenhof used have now become uncommon, so that reading Esperanto literature from the earliest period is a bit more difficult than reading more recent works, as in any language.


There are two gender-neutral 3rd person pronouns now: ŝli or ri. Ŝli is used as a shortcut by people who don’t want to keep writing “ŝi aŭ li” in texts, while ri is used by a minority of Esperanto speakers, who would prefer for the he/she distinction to be abolished entirely.


The ĥ is almost non-existent by now; words involving ĥ have largely been replaced, e. g.
ĥoro -> koruso (choir)
ĥino -> ĉino (Chinese person)


It is much more common to use verbs instead of adjectives now, which lends Esperanto an Asian feel. E. g.
ŝi estas bela -> ŝi belas  (she is beautiful)

The same rule can lead to complex verb forms based on participles, e. g.
ŝi estas kantanta -> ŝi kantantas (she is singing)
(both “estas kantanta” and “kantantas” are still rare though)

-unt- and -ut- have been accepted as conditional participles, since all participles are created based on the same vowels as in the verb tenses (-as, -is, -os, -us) and the participles with U were missing. I am not aware of any other language that has conditional mood participles, but they can be useful on occasion. For example there were a lot of organizational problems at one of the international youth congresses and towards the end, two participants presented a poem about the various problems. Instead of ending it with the expected “Dankon al la organizantoj” (Thanks to the organizers), they said “Dankon al la organizuntoj” (Thanks to those-who-would-have-organized). Everyone was laughing hard.

There is a new preposition “na”, which is still inofficial but widely understood now, which can be used instead of the Accusative -n for words that don’t easily allow adding an -n, such as names:
Mi ŝatas Facebook-n -> Mi ŝatas na Facebook.


-enda is a new suffix for something that ought to be done:
legenda libro (a book to be read)
farendaĵoj (things to be done)

You already mentioned the -io/-ujo debate, which some older people still feel strongly about.

The use of -ino has been revised: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 October 2014 at 10:28 am

Posted in Esperanto


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