Later On

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

Finally created a Facebook page for the Guide to Gourmet Shaving

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It has been repeatedly suggested that I establish a Facebook page for the Guide, and now that the Kindle version is out, it seems time. Here’s the page. I’ll post my SOTD there (as well as in this blog), along with other things as they occur to me. Suggestions welcomed.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 May 2015 at 3:34 pm

Posted in Books, Shaving

United Nations: Encryption and Online Anonymity Are Basic Human Rights

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The United Nations does not agree with US Federal law-enforcement officials (James Comey of FBI, Loretta Lynch of DoJ, et al.). The Federal LEOs all believe that encryption and online anonymity are creations of the devil and must now be allowed, since citizens in a free democracy have no right of privacy at all. The Feds oppose encryption—at least, secure encryption. Jason Koebler reports in Motherboard:

The ability to anonymize yourself online and encrypt your data and communications is fundamental to free expression and should be a protected human right, a United Nations report said Thursday. The agency added that the tools are “necessary for the exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression in the digital age.”

The world’s most important intergovernmental organization finally weighed in on the encryption debate that’s been raging over the last year or so. Last year, Apple and Google both announced plans to make encryption default on their mobile operating systems, meaning only users with a passkey would be able to access data stored on their devices. The FBI, NSA, and intelligence groups in the United Kingdomhe FBI, NSA, and intelligence groups in the United Kingdom immediately said that such a move would make tracking criminals more difficult, and rallied against it.

Since then, the FBI has repeatedly waged a public relations campaign asking politicians and hardware manufacturers to work on making encryption crackable by the government in certain instances, a move that essentially everyone in the security field has said would ruin encryption altogether, creating vulnerabilities that could be exploited by authoritarian governments or hackers.

Meanwhile, the Department of Justice has said that anonymizing software such as Tor, which can be used to access hidden services, have created a “zone of lawlessness” used by criminals.

The UN, in a report from the body’s Human Rights Council’s special rapporteur, said that any attempt to undermine encryption must be looked at as an affront to human rights.

“Encryption and anonymity, and the security concepts behind them, provide the privacy and security necessary for the exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression in the digital age,” the report said. “Such security may be essential for the exercise of other rights, including economic rights, privacy, due process, freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and the right to life and bodily integrity.”

In the 21 page report (embedded below), the body repeatedly outlines why encryption and anonymity are important, and why any attempt to break it could threaten those living under an authoritarian government. It further stated that groups such as the FBI who have proposed “backdoor access” have not proven that encryption puts up additional barriers for law enforcement to do their job.

The UN’s take on the issue aligns closely with what human rights groups and security experts in the United States have been saying repeatedly: that it’s impossible to give a “back door” to the FBI or NSA without also creating a vulnerability for hackers to exploit. . .

Continue reading.

Congress should make it clear that US citizens have an absolute right to encrypt their data.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 May 2015 at 1:18 pm

New type font and new layout engine for the Kindle

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Already present with iOS Kindle apps; coming to the Kindle itself by Sept 22.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 May 2015 at 12:21 pm

Posted in Books, Software, Technology

Behavior of Military Lawyer in Boondoggle HQ Inquiry Under Scrutiny

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The military has many problems, and its strong and consistent efforts to cover up any mistakes and problems is a systemic weakness of the organization. Megan McCloskey reports in ProPublica:

An investigation released last week into why the U.S. military built a $25-million headquarters in Afghanistan that it never used condemned the behavior of one officer in particular:  the top commander‘s lawyer.

In a series of emails to other officers in 2013 and 2014, Army Col. Norm Allen said that he wanted to “slow roll” investigators, that he wouldn’t personally cooperate out of loyalty to the command, and that he would consider it inappropriate for others to do so. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) recommended that Allen be disciplined.

Turns out not only did the Pentagon disagree, but Allen has moved up the military’s food chain.  Today he is the legal advisor for the prestigious command that oversees Special Forces, such as the Navy SEALs.

But his emails are drawing renewed scrutiny from both his peers in the military legal community and from U.S. senators charged with the military’s oversight.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee,wrote in a letter to the Pentagon that “it was disturbing to read some of the comments” in Allen’s emails.

The Defense Department, McCain said, “should do everything necessary to ensure” that people comply with inspectors general, “including when it comes to investigations into the decisions made at all levels of the chain of command”–a direct rebuke to Allen’s assertions that SIGAR didn’t have the authority to look into top commanders.

Some retired and active duty judge advocates, what the military calls its lawyers, said they were appalled by how Allen had seemed to openly conspire to conceal fraud, waste and abuse–the very things that staff  lawyers are supposed to keep from happening.

During the military’s own investigation into the 64,000-square-foot headquarters, Allen also appeared to coach a witness, SIGAR said. He emailed Lt. Gen. Peter Vangjel, who overruled three other generals and approved the building, and told him what investigators believed happened before getting the general’s testimony. Later, Allen emailed Vangjel to say he had appreciated his support in the past and would “try and reciprocate on this one.” . . .

Continue reading.

And he was promoted for those actions: that tells you a lot about military culture. And, later in the story:

In his current job, Allen provides legal and ethical guidance to the U.S. Special Operations Command, the umbrella for all the military’s Special Forces.

I think there is an implied “(wink, wink, nudge, nudge)” following “legal and ethical guidance.”

Later in the story is a section that shows clearly that the military no longer considers itself under civilian command but is free to ignore Congress and its civilian overseers:

. . . Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. and several other senators are calling for the Pentagon to hold those who advocated for the unneeded Afghanistan headquarters or obstructed its investigation accountable.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said in a statement that the headquarters was a “classic example of Pentagon waste” and “actively impeding a watchdog investigation adds insult to injury.”

McCaskill called the project “one of the most outrageous, deliberate, and wasteful misuses of taxpayer dollars in Afghanistan we’ve ever seen.”

So far the Pentagon has declined to discipline anyone, deeming the building “prudent.”

In his letter, McCain wrote that he was unclear how the building “can be viewed as anything other than a failure of fiscal stewardship, let alone be described as ‘prudent.’” . . .

The military is off the reservation now, and refuses to be directed or disciplined.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 May 2015 at 11:23 am

Sen. Ted Cruz: “A charlatan”

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So says Dana Milbank in the Washington Post, providing as an example:

As he prepared for his presidential run over the last year or so, a hawkish Sen. Ted Cruz has said U.S. policy in the Middle East and elsewhere is a mess because of President Obama’s weakness — particularly his failure to enforce his own “red line” after the Syrian regime used chemical weapons.

“A critical reason for [Vladimir] Putin’s aggression has been President Obama’s weakness,” the Texas Republican said in a typical appearance, on ABC News last year. “You’d better believe that Putin sees that in Syria,” he added. “Obama draws a red line and ignores the red line.”

This takes quite a lot of chutzpah, even by Cruz standards. It’s true that Obama didn’t enforce his red line in Syria — in large part because Cruz rallied opposition to bombing Syria.

I was reminded of Cruz’s hypocrisy this week by Rep. Adam Kinzinger, an Illinois Republican who served three tours in Iraq and two in Afghanistan as an Air Force pilot. Kinzinger, who favors a muscular foreign policy, was one of a small group of House Republicans leading the effort to give Obama authority to bomb Syria in 2013 — but they were undone when Cruz began declaring that bombing the Syrian regime would make the United States “al-Qaeda’s air force.”

“I think Ted Cruz bears some responsibility for not enforcing the red line,” Kinzinger told me. “The Republican support began crumbling the more Cruz spoke. His words implied that anyone who voted for strikes would be acting as an agent of al-Qaeda.”

Condemning Obama for failing to enforce the Syrian red line after blocking him from enforcing the very same red line? This is vintage Cruz, who I’ve long suspected to be a charlatan. . .

Continue reading.

 

Written by LeisureGuy

28 May 2015 at 11:15 am

Posted in Congress, GOP, Government

Chris Christie turns out to be terrible at governing

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Even if you overlook the Fort Lee/George Washington Bridge mess—a deliberate act against the public—and the incompetence and politics involving distribution of aid following Hurricane Sandy, take a look at how Christie fails as a governor. And it goes beyond failing for a common GOP trope—favoring business interests over the public interest. In the case of New Jersey’s crumbling and rapidly failing infrastructure, businesses are calling for action and improvements and a program to get New Jersey back on track. Christie ignores those calls. Emma Fitzsimmons reports in the NY Times:

Bridges across the state are falling apart. Roads are rife with potholes. Frustrated New Jersey Transit riders are facing another fare increase.

As many commuters bemoan the mounting delays and disruptions, state officials say New Jersey is confronting a transportation funding crisis with no easy way out. Voters are so fed up, support is growing for a revenue option long viewed as politically untenable: raising the state’s gas tax, which is the second lowest in the country.

Whatever happens with the gas tax, many New Jerseyans soon will be paying more to get to work. New Jersey Transit has proposed raising fares by about 9 percent for its 915,000 daily riders, and an increase of some amount is all but certain. Federal and state subsidies as a share of the agency’s annual budget have been falling, and that has left it increasingly reliant on fares to cover costs, even as many passengers say service is slipping.

Here at one of the busiest rail hubs in the state, the exasperation was evident, in interviews with people headed home, and in the pointed testimony of commuters who turned out last week for a public hearing on the proposed fare increase.

Marianne Sailer, of Wood-Ridge, who works as a property manager in Manhattan, said she could not afford higher fares because she had not received a raise in three years.

“Any increase would be devastating to my family,” Ms. Sailer told officials. “The service does not warrant an increase – filthy cars, constantly late.”

Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, has said little in recent months about roads and transit even as his own transportation commissioner, Jamie Fox, has forcefully called for revenue for the state’s depleted transportation trust fund. Despite the governor’s relative silence, the troubles of the state’s transportation agencies have emerged as a grinding issue for him, including the scandal involving his appointees to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the growing backlash over his decision to halt construction of a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River.

Officials across the country are wrestling with how to pay for big transportation projects in an era of less federal funding. Nowhere is the problem more pronounced than in the transit-dependent Northeast.

In Connecticut, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat, is trying to marshal a infrastructure plan that would invest $100 billion over 30 years for roadways and mass transit. In New York, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, has championed the replacement Tappan Zee Bridge across the Hudson between Rockland and Westchester Counties, even as he faces questions over paying for the crossing’s projected $3.9 billion cost and for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s $32 billion capital plan.

Here in New Jersey, Mr. Fox has been sounding the alarm over the state’s aging infrastructure for months. He shut down a bridge in Franklin Township in Somerset County in January and has partially closed other bridges for emergency repairs.

“Our bridges and roads are old, crumbling and getting worse every day,” Mr. Fox told state lawmakers in April. “We can no longer kick the can down the road.” . . .

Continue reading.

Later in the story:

. . . Mr. Christie’s pledges not to raise taxes might win favor with Republicans in a presidential primary, but his stance on transportation funding has opened him to criticism at home with business groups. They say the state’s poor infrastructure has hurt its competitiveness with other states. . .

And:

. . . The Quinnipiac poll also found that two-thirds of voters thought it was important to add another rail tunnel between New Jersey and Manhattan. A top official from the Obama administration recently urged local leaders to work together to build the tunnel, calling it the most important rail proposal in the country.

Amtrak and New Jersey Transit rely on the current tunnels, which Amtrak has said need to be temporarily shut down to repair damage from Hurricane Sandy. Some residents bitterly recall how Mr. Christie stopped a project to build a tunnel under the river in 2010.

It becomes ever more evident that Mr. Christie does not care about the needs of businesses in his state, nor about the public’s needs and desires, but purely about his own personal ambition. Narcissistic personality disorder? Who knows?

He also has taken a firm stance against requiring businesses to offer paid sick leave. Kira Lerner reports in ThinkProgress:

New Jersey resident Jose Vera spent eight months working in marketing at a company that did not offer its employees paid sick leave. On multiple occasions throughout the winter, he visited customers’ homes while he had the flu or severe nausea because he did not want to risk losing his job, he told ThinkProgress.

“There were quotas that had to be made and if you missed one of those days and you didn’t reach your quota that week, after two weeks you’d get fired and automatically lose your job,” he said. “At times I felt like I couldn’t do this anymore, but I had to.”

The company’s lack of a paid sick day policy was one reason Vera sought other employment — he now works as a community organizer with New Jersey Working Families (NJWF), a group advocating for legislation to guarantee that workers across the state would not risk their jobs because of their health or the health of their families.

Eighty-three percent of New Jersey residents support a paid sick day law and nine cities in the state have passed legislation requiring employers to give workers paid leave. But New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) continues to oppose the legislation.

On Thursday night, members of NJWF organized a protest outside a New York City fundraiser for the likely presidential contender’s super PAC, the latest in a seriesof demonstrations the group has held at Christie fundraisers in cities which already have paid sick leave legislation.

“We need to pass a statewide bill that will cover the 1.2 million workers who regularly have to choose between their livelihood and their heath and the health of their family,” Rob Duffey, the policy and communications director for NJWF, told ThinkProgress.

The NJWF, other activists groups, labor unions and workers were instrumental in securing victories for the legislation in cities across the state — in September alone, four different cities passed paid sick day laws, all without the support of the governor. In total, nine of the state’s cities — including Newark and Jersey City — have already passed and enforce the laws, covering nearly 150,000 workers.

But Christie has said statewide legislation would place an unnecessary burden on businesses and would deter companies from investing in New Jersey.

“Let’s face it, resistance to paid sick days is deeply unpopular,” Duffey said. “Paid sick days are twice as popular as Governor Christie is here in New Jersey. He’s polling in the 40s, it polls at 83 percent. He wishes he had paid sick days’ poll numbers.”

As Christie continues to put a hold on sick day legislation that the state legislature has advanced, New York City expanded its paid sick day law last year to include hundreds of thousands of additional workers. And President Obama made the issue a national priority earlier this year when he urged state and local governments to act and to give workers across the U.S. up to seven paid sick days a year.

While Christie has resisted legislation on a state level, workers’ advocates have continued their fight locally. Last month, a state court judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by the New Jersey business community arguing that the capital city of Trenton didn’t have the authority to enforce paid sick day legislation without the support of Christie or the state legislature.

And the nine municipalities that have enacted the paid sick leave laws say the legislation is working. Michael Venezia, the mayor of Bloomfield, told the Wall Street Journal that most businesses are willing to go along with the law. And since passing earned sick days in 2013, Jersey City’s employment gains have significantly outpaced the rest of the state.

This isn’t the first time the advocates have pushed pro-worker policies despite opposition from the governor. Christie also opposed a statewide minimum wage increase andvetoed the measure when it reached his desk in 2013. Proponents kept the fight alive and put the issue on the ballot later that year, when voters approved an increase to $8.25 an hour with nearly 61 percent in support.

“Governor Christie has stood in the way of every piece of pro-worker legislation that’s been proposed in New Jersey for the last five years,” Duffey said. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 May 2015 at 11:10 am

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Government

Trying the Mongoose

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SOTD 28 May 2015

The Mongoose is a single-edge (SE) razor that uses blades made for professional shavettes: somewhat wider and a lot narrower than a DE blade or a GEM-style SE blade. Tryablade sells a couple of good blade-sampler packs for this razor, and I recommend it if you get the razor.

I got two, including handles, to test. One will become a gift or be sold. The handles have deeply engraved spirals with no cross-check, so for me they are not fully comfortable, feeling as though they might twist. (In the UFO spiral handles and in the British Gillette spiral handles, the spirals include cross-checks so there’s no tendency to twist; this spiraling is more like that of the Merkur barberpole handle (38C and 39C), and I do not care for that handle either.

The stain-finish handle is not bad, but I think I would replace the polished handle: it really is slick and twisty. However, the threads are totally standard, and I’ve already tried a couple of other handles, so it’s easy to swap handles—and you can also purchase the heads by themselves, which is basically what I recommend. However, given the weight of the head, you will want a pretty heavy stainless handle for comfort and balance.

Now to the shave: I got a very nice lather with Tim’s Greek Peach, which has a terrific fragrance that will provide year-round enjoyment and should certainly spark up a cold, dark, drizzly morning. Today I got two good passes before finding the lather pretty much gone by the third—similar to the pattern with the R&B commemorative boar brush. That brush was completely broken in after a week’s use and no more lather problems ensued. So I think I’ll continue to use the Whip Dog High Mountain Badger for a week and watch it improve.

The shave: I used a Kai Captain Sharpblade in one razor, a Feather Pro Super in the other. And, naturally enough, I forgot which was which, but they both did a good job. BostonPhotoTourist had strongly recommended the Mongoose, which was the push that moved me to buy, and he’s right: the razor is extremely comfortable and extremely efficient. No cuts or nicks—didn’t feel like such was possible, but I didn’t try to test it—and the result is BBS. I have to say that I like the razor.

Typical of a SE razor, though, you’ll rinse more often: once the razor fills with lather, you can’t flip to the other side. Minor drawback.

The fit, finish, and overall quality of the razor is really superb: top-notch workmanship and a terrific razor to use. My comments about the handles are undoubtedly in the YMMV, personal-preference area, but it does mean that, so far as I’m concerned, you can order the head alone and get along fine with a Bulldog handle from Weber or iKon, or use the iKon OSS handle, or one of the Maggard stainless handles, or a handle from Above the Tie or Wolfman Razors: there’s no shortage of choices.

TL; DR: Great shave, superb razor.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 May 2015 at 10:54 am

Posted in Shaving

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