Later On

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

Nouns for verbs: Processes stilled

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I’m now totally enraptured by Tana French’s In the Woods. I blogged the opening paragraph and suggested that you could continue reading if you went to Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature. And perhaps you did.

But now I want to quote a passage, a rather long passage but one in which—a mark of good writing—every part fits into a whole, and the absence of any ruins the integrity. So read it hereafter because I think it leads to a nice insight.

I took it to show the importance of experiencing the moment, of course, and experiencing one’s life as continuous on-going change, because it is that change, that process, that is life itself—that’s it. Surf or sink.

And reflecting on the scene reminded me of the (well-told) story of how the two developed their friendship—first, tentative steps (well-described), dealing with things as they arise: that does not “develop” a friendship, that is the friendship: it’s not one thing, it’s a continuing and changing relationship in which both are figuring it out as they go along. Those experiences are the friendship—it sounds like a noun, but it does not exist as a “thing,” but as the experience of a changing relationship—and changing in part because you yourself are changing—the “you” is similarly fictive: a noun to denote a process. A process some stilled by encapsulating all that change in one sturdy noun.

And that’s what this passage made me think of:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

19 September 2014 at 7:52 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life

If we are going to do anything about global warming, the time is now

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Take a look at the photos in this article in Slate. From the article:

ason Box knows ice. That’s why what’s happened this year concerns him so much.

Box just returned from a trip to Greenland. Right now, the ice there is … black: [and then a lot of photos of black ice - LG]

The ice in Greenland this year isn’t just a little dark—it’s record-setting dark. Box says he’s never seen anything like it. I spoke to Box by phone earlier this month, just days after he returned from his summer field research campaign.

 “I was just stunned, really,” Box told me.

The photos he took this summer in Greenland are frightening. But their implications are even more so. Just like black cars are hotter to the touch than white ones on sunny summer days, dark ice melts much more quickly.

As a member of the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, Box travels to Greenland from his home in Copenhagen to track down the source of the soot that’s speeding up the glaciers’ disappearance. He aptly calls his crowdfunded scientific survey Dark Snow. . .

Continue reading.

I simply cannot understand why there are still people—Senator James Inhofe, would you please take a bow? Rush Limbaugh? Fox News?—who deny that global warming is happening. A “hoax”, eh? Well, whoever’s doing the hoax has gone to a lot of work to make the Greenland icepack black.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 September 2014 at 5:50 pm

Posted in Global warming

First, the police start becoming militarized. Now, the military is acting as a domestic police force.

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This is really disturbing. I guess the idea is that people who are given authorization to use deadly force can do whatever they damn well please, including ignoring the courts. (See earlier post today about how SWAT teams are used in defiance of court rulings.) Jason Koebler writes in Motherboard:

It’s not just the NSA: A Federal Appeals Court has just noted a disturbing and “extraordinary” trend of the Navy conducting mass surveillance on American civilians, and then using what they find to help local law enforcement prosecute criminals.

In this specific case, a Navy Criminal Investigative Service agent in George scanned the computers of every civilian in Washington state who happened to be using the decentralized Gnutella peer-to-peer network, looking for child pornography. The agent, Steve Logan, found child porn on a computer owned by a man named Michael Dreyer.

Logan then passed his evidence on to local law enforcement, who arrested and eventually convicted Dreyer, who was sentenced to 18 years in prison. The US Ninth Circuit of Appeals ruled that this was a massive overstep of military authority, a disturbing trend, and a blatant violation of the Posse Comitatus Act, a law that prohibits the military from conducting investigations on civilians.

The government argued that it conducted the surveillance on the off chance that it caught a military member violating the law and suggested that it has this authority in any state with a military base.

This case, Judge Marsha Berzon argued, demonstrates that that’s clearly not the case.

“The government’s position that the military may monitor and search all computers in a state even though it has no reason to believe that the computer’s owner has a military affiliation would render the PCA’s restrictions entirely meaningless,” she wrote. “The record here demonstrates that Agent Logan and other NCIS agents routinely carry out broad surveillance activities that violate the restrictions on military enforcement of civilian law.”

The violation was so egregious that Berzon and her fellow judges argued that “the extraordinary nature of the surveillance demonstrates a need to deter future violations.”

“It has become routine practice for the Navy to conduct surveillance of all the civilian computers in an entire state to see whether any child pornography can be found on them, and then to turn over the information to civilian law enforcement when no military connection exists,” she added. . .

Continue reading.

Doesn’t that strongly remind you of the Soviet Union back in the old days?

Written by LeisureGuy

19 September 2014 at 3:52 pm

Fighting Global Warming: Cheap and Free?

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Paul Krugman has a hopeful column, although the hope part depends on rational responses from governments…  so perhaps not so hopeful. Still, it’s something:

This just in: Saving the planet would be cheap; it might even be free. But will anyone believe the good news?

I’ve just been reading two new reports on the economics of fighting climate change: a big study by a blue-ribbon international group, the New Climate Economy Project, and a working paper from the International Monetary Fund. Both claim that strong measures to limit carbon emissions would have hardly any negative effect on economic growth, and might actually lead to faster growth. This may sound too good to be true, but it isn’t. These are serious, careful analyses.

But you know that such assessments will be met with claims that it’s impossible to break the link between economic growth and ever-rising emissions of greenhouse gases, a position I think of as “climate despair.” The most dangerous proponents of climate despair are on the anti-environmentalist right. But they receive aid and comfort from other groups, including some on the left, who have their own reasons for getting it wrong.

Where is the new optimism about climate change and growth coming from? It has long been clear that a well-thought-out strategy of emissions control, in particular one that puts a price on carbon via either an emissions tax or a cap-and-trade scheme, would cost much less than the usual suspects want you to think. But the economics of climate protection look even better now than they did a few years ago.

On one side, there has been dramatic progress in renewable energy technology, with the costs of solar power, in particular, plunging, down by half just since 2010. Renewables have their limitations — basically, the sun doesn’t always shine, and the wind doesn’t always blow — but if you think that an economy getting a lot of its power from wind farms and solar panels is a hippie fantasy, you’re the one out of touch with reality.

On the other side, it turns out that putting a price on carbon would have large “co-benefits” — positive effects over and above the reduction in climate risks — and that these benefits would come fairly quickly. The most important of these co-benefits, according to the I.M.F. paper, would involve public health: burning coal causes many respiratory ailments, which drive up medical costs and reduce productivity. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 September 2014 at 3:38 pm

Obama quails (again)

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Obama is taking steps against excessive use of antibiotics by signing an executive order. Because of evolution, which actually does work, natural selection favors pathogens that can resist the antibiotics used, so such pathogens proliferate. In this case, however, the selection is not really “natural”: since humans are administering the antibiotics (in large numbers), we are in effect artificially selecting pathogens for antibiotic resistance—that is, we are engaged in a stupendously large program to breed pathogens that we cannot kill with our current medications.

Why one earth would we do such an insane thing? Money! You can make a lot of money by breeding superstrong pathogens that we cannot kill. Of course, eventually such pathogens will become a real problem, with people once again dying from small infections, but the beauty part is by then the money will have been made!

That is actually the “thinking” (if one can call it that) behind the great pressure to continue the super-pathogen breeding program.

Of course, Obama all to frequently seems incapable of committing himself to effective action. He may indeed have good intentions, but they are frittered away in compromises, half-measures, and backing down. Kerry Grens writes in The Scientist:

President Obama yesterday (September 18) signed an executive order and announced a National Strategy to fight antibiotic resistance. His administration also offered up a $20 million reward for developing a fast diagnostic test that could identify highly resistant bugs.

The National Strategy is a five-year plan including goals such as slowing the spread of drug-resistant bacteria; accelerating the development of new antibiotics, vaccines, and drugs; and enhancing the surveillance of antibiotic resistance. The President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology (PCAST) also released its report outlining similar strategies.

“What’s new here is there is a highly federal focus that’s highly coordinated,” Eric Lander, the cochair of PCAST and founding director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, told CNN. “We are endorsing a variety of specific goals in order to get our arms around this problem. If we’re producing antibiotics at a greater rate than we’re losing them, then we win in the long run.”

Those in the infectious disease community appeared pleased by the attention on antibiotic resistance.“The President’s engagement and actions in fighting antimicrobial resistance are a great step forward, but follow-up with resources and leadership in implementation will be critical,” Jesse Goodman, the director of the Center on Medical Product Access, Safety and Stewardship at Georgetown University Medical Center, said in a statement e-mailed to The Scientist.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), however, expressed disappointment in the lack of focus on antibiotic use on farms. “Just as the administration is taking steps to deal with abuse of antibiotics in humans, it must take steps to curb the overuse of antibiotics in animals, which consume about 80 percent of the antibiotics sold in the United States. Shying away from taking these needed steps will not yield the ‘substantial changes’ that PCAST says are necessary,” Mae Wu, health attorney at the NRDC, said in a statement. The FDA has spearheaded efforts to get drugmakers to change their labeling to help curb the use of antibiotics for beefing up livestock.

Emphasis added. And Obama? He went home. He will do nothing about the core of the problem, just kind of tap around the edges.

I am so disappointed in this Administration. Plenty of fire in the belly for going after whistleblowers, protecting torturers, making more and more of government secret, letting the NSA and CIA do whatever they want, and so on—but actual constructive change? I think he used it all up in the Affordable Care Act.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 September 2014 at 3:30 pm

Good account of amazing chess double round-robin GM tournament

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Written by LeisureGuy

19 September 2014 at 3:14 pm

Posted in Games

Federal appeals court: Stop using SWAT-style raids for regulatory inspections

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However, it should be noted that the Appeals Court already had ordered the police department in question to stop using SWAT raids for routine business, and the police department simply ignored that—as, I’m sure, they will ignore the repeated request.

Radley Balko reports in the Washington Post:

On Tuesday, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit issued a ruling on the sort of issue you’d hope a federal appeals court would never need to rule on — whether the government should be allowed to use SWAT-style tactics to perform regulatory inspections.

At issue were a series of police raids on barbershops around the city of Orlando. The raids were basically fishing operations for drug crimes and to recruit confidential informants. All of the raided shops were black- or Hispanic-owned. The problem is that, because they were fishing expeditions, the police didn’t have enough evidence to obtain a warrant. Instead, the police asked an occupational license office to send along an inspector. Voila! These were no longer drug raids. For the purposes of the Fourth Amendment, they were now officially licensure inspections that just happened to include armored cops storming the businesses as if they were harboring an ISIS sleeper cell.

From the ruling:

It was a scene right out of a Hollywood movie. On August 21, 2010, after more than a month of planning, teams from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office descended on multiple target locations. They blocked the entrances and exits to the parking lots so no one could leave and no one could enter. With some team members dressed in ballistic vests and masks, and with guns drawn, the deputies rushed into their target destinations, handcuffed the stunned occupants — and demanded to see their barbers’ licenses . . .

We first held nineteen years ago that conducting a run-of-the-mill administrative inspection as though it is a criminal raid, when no indication exists that safety will be threatened by the inspection, violates clearly established Fourth Amendment rights. . . . We reaffirmed that principle in 2007 when we held that other deputies of the very same Orange County Sheriff’s Office who participated in a similar warrantless criminal raid under the guise of executing an administrative inspection were not entitled to qualified immunity. Today, we repeat that same message once again. We hope that the third time will be the charm.

A clear case of hope triumphing over experience: No, the message will not be heeded: we know that already, from previous experience. Because nothing happens if the Sheriff’s department ignores the court—no one is penalized, no one goes to jail, nothing happens except that the court (again) tells the Sheriff to stop doing it—then the Sheriff has no reason not to continue, other than respect for the law, which is exactly what is lacking. At what point will the Court grasp that words are not enough? I can see it now: “On 27 separate previous occasions the Court has told the Sheriff’s office to stop doing this, and now we hope that this time, the Sheriff’s office will heed our plea.”

Here’s how the raid went down at one of the shops:

Two plain clothes officers initially entered the barbershop to observe any potential violations. Five or six barbers were on duty at the time, and the shop was filled with anywhere from ten to twenty-five waiting customers. As the first day of the school year was approaching, several of the customers in the shop were children.

Shortly after the arrival of the plain-clothes officers, a “whole bunch” of police cars pulled into the shopping plaza and completely blocked off the parking lot, preventing all ingress and egress. Officers then “rushed into” Strictly Skillz “like [a] SWAT team.” Based on the plaintiffs’ collective recollection, it appears that somewhere between eight and ten officers, including narcotics agents, descended upon the barbershop, along with a [Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation] inspector. Some of the officers donned masks and bulletproof vests and had their guns drawn. The officers immediately ordered all of the customers to exit the shop and announced that the shop was “closed down indefinitely.”

Plaintiffs [Reginald] Trammon, [Jermario] Anderson, and [Edwyn] Durant were in the barbershop when the officers stormed in. The officers directed Anderson and Durant to present their driver’s licenses for identification, and Inspector [Amanda] Fields instructed Anderson to retrieve his barbering license from his work station. Trammon and Anderson, who were in the process of cutting customers’ hair, were then immediately patted down and handcuffed with plastic zip ties. Anderson was handcuffed by a masked officer, and Trammon was restrained by two deputies who were not wearing masks. Sometime after Trammon was handcuffed, he informed the officers that he was in possession of a concealed firearm for which he had a valid concealed-weapons permit. The officers patted him down to retrieve the weapon and located the permit without incident.

[Police Cpl. Keith] Vidler, who was the supervisor on the scene, admits that he ordered deputies to detain Trammon. When Trammon argued to one of the officers that he had done nothing wrong, the officer responded, “It’s a pretty big book, I’m pretty sure I can find something in here to take you to jail for.” Durant, though told to “sit down and shut up,” was not handcuffed and was eventually permitted to leave the shop.

Shortly thereafter, [Brian] Berry, who had been behind the shop in the parking lot when the officers initially entered, walked into Strictly Skillz through the back entrance. Upon seeing that Trammon and Anderson were in handcuffs and being patted down by officers, Berry made his way to the front of the shop, identified himself as the owner, and demanded to know what was going on and why Trammon and Anderson were in handcuffs. Deputy Leslie then immediately placed Berry into metal handcuffs and patted him down. Though angry, Berry did not physically resist and complied with the officers’ instructions.

While Trammon, Anderson, and Berry were restrained, Inspector Fields and the OCSO officers conducted their “inspection” of the barbershop. OCSO officers called in the barbers’ driver’s license information to ascertain whether any of them had outstanding warrants, and Inspector Fields, for the second time in two days, checked the barbering licenses to ensure that they were still valid and current. The officers, along with Inspector Fields, then searched the premises by inspecting each of the barbers’ workstations and looking through their drawers. OCSO officers also went to the back of the shop without Inspector Fields and searched through an unlocked storage room where no barbering services were rendered.

At the conclusion of the inspection, it was determined that all of the barbers had valid licenses and that the barbershop was in compliance with all safety and sanitation rules. No criminal violations were discovered, and Berry, Anderson, and Trammon were released from their handcuffs. The entire inspection lasted approximately one hour. After the officers and Inspector Fields left, the barbershop resumed operations.

There was a series of raids like this one across Orlando during the summer of 2010. One such series of coordinated raids targeted nine barbershops and produced 37 arrests, 34 of which were for “barbering without a license,” a misdemeanor for which only three people had ever previously been arrested in the state of Florida.

But it isn’t just Orlando. We’re increasingly seeing police departments, state and federal regulatory agencies and federal police agencies use more force to police increasingly petty offenses. I documented a few other examples in a 2010 article about the Orlando raids:

New Haven recently sent a SWAT team to a local bar to investigate reports of underage drinking. Last week the Atlanta City Council agreed to pay a $1 million settlement to the customers and employees of a gay nightclub after a heavy-handed police raid in which 62 people were lined up on the floor at gunpoint, searched for drugs, and checked for outstanding warrants (and, incredibly, unpaid parking tickets). The September 2009 raid was conducted after undercover vice cops claimed to have witnessed patrons and employees openly having sex at the club. But the police never obtained a search warrant. Instead the raid was conducted as part of an alcohol inspection. There were no drug arrests, but eight employees were arrested for permit violations.

I’ve since posted about incidents in which SWAT teams were sent to raid someone suspected of credit card fraud and a woman involved in an ongoing zoning dispute with the local government. Of course, we’ve also seen hundreds of SWAT-style raids on people in the medical marijuana business, even though they pose little threat to police or the public. There have also been SWAT raids on doctors and patients suspected of crimes involving prescription painkillers, even though, again, there’s little reason to think these suspects are dangerous. Last year, a spokesperson for the St. Louis County, Mo., police department told a local TV station that all felony warrants there are now served with SWAT teams, regardless of the crime.

So a level of force once reserved for hostage situations, bank robberies and active shooters is now being used on low-level drug offenders, people suspected of white-collar crimes, people who have unkempt property and to make sure the local bar is properly labeling its beer. Keep in mind, too, that anyone who happens to be in these homes or businesses at the time of the raid gets subjected to the same terror, fright, and abuse as the suspect or business owner.

The good news here is . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 September 2014 at 3:08 pm

Posted in Law Enforcement

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