Later On

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

Archive for August 24th, 2011

Celebratory luncheon

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I haven’t yet decided what I’m celebrating, but it was a very nice luncheon at a little sushi place near the Monterey PO. I had sashimi: a small order of saba (pickled mackerel) that was quite fine and doubtless took care of my omega-3 intake, and a large order of an assortment that had quite a bit of hamachi (everyone’s favorite, I think), octopus, salmon, and maguro. Quite a bit of shredded daikon and several nice leaves of shiso, together with a small bottle of excellent junmai sake.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 August 2011 at 12:18 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food

US secret-police force being kickstarted by NYPD

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Interesting that the NYPD no longer considers itself restricted by the  boundaries of New York City or even of New York state. The NYPD now apparently considers itself qualified and authorized to conduct operations anywhere in the country—provided they can keep judges from seeing their work.

I think we’re starting a domestic Gestapo here. The secrecy and the barring of judicial review is particularly troublesome, as is the CIA involvement in domestic intelligence operations, something that I believe is clearly against the law: that’s the FBI’s purview, not that they’re very good at it. (Robert Hansen, previously mentioned.) And the FBI, like the CIA, reflexively breaks the law whenever it wants, with no repercussions. (If a whistleblower does reveal the misdeeds, they simply take out the whistleblower with lawsuits, threats of prison, etc. — the Obama Administration has developed this tactic to a high degree, including abusive imprisonment before any trial or charges.)

Here’s the story so far, much of which is still to be revealed, I’m sure. The Associated Press reports:

In New Brunswick, N.J., a building superintendent opened the door to apartment No. 1076 one balmy Tuesday and discovered an alarming scene: terrorist literature strewn about the table and computer and surveillance equipment set up in the next room.

The panicked superintendent dialed 911, sending police and the FBI rushing to the building near Rutgers University on the afternoon of June 2, 2009. What they found in that first-floor apartment, however, was not a terrorist hideout but a command center set up by a secret team of New York Police Department intelligence officers. After the attacks of Sept. 11, the New York Police Department has dispatched teams of undercover officers into minority neighborhoods and used informants to monitor sermons at mosques, even when there’s no evidence of wrongdoing.

From that apartment, about an hour outside the department’s jurisdiction, the NYPD had been staging undercover operations and conducting surveillance throughout New Jersey. Neither the FBI nor the local police had any idea.

Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the NYPD has become one of the country’s most aggressive domestic intelligence agencies. A months-long investigation by The Associated Press has revealed that the NYPD operates far outside its borders and targets ethnic communities in ways that would run afoul of civil liberties rules if practiced by the federal government. And it does so with unprecedented help from the CIA in a partnership that has blurred the bright line between foreign and domestic spying.

Neither the city council, which finances the department, nor the federal government, which contributes hundreds of millions of dollars each year, is told exactly what’s going on.

The department has dispatched teams of undercover officers, known as “rakers,” into minority neighborhoods as part of a human mapping program, according to officials directly involved in the program. They’ve monitored daily life in bookstores, bars, cafes and nightclubs. Police have also used informants, known as “mosque crawlers,” to monitor sermons, even when there’s no evidence of wrongdoing. NYPD officials have scrutinized imams and gathered intelligence on cab drivers and food cart vendors, jobs often done by Muslims.

Many of these operations were built with help from the CIA, which is prohibited from spying on Americans but was instrumental in transforming the NYPD’s intelligence unit.

A veteran CIA officer, while still on the agency’s payroll, was the architect of the NYPD’s intelligence programs. The CIA trained a police detective at the Farm, the agency’s spy school in Virginia, then returned him to New York, where he put his new espionage skills to work inside the United States.

And just last month, the CIA sent a senior officer to work as a clandestine operative inside police headquarters.

While the expansion of the NYPD’s intelligence unit has been well known, many details about its clandestine operations, including the depth of its CIA ties, have not previously been reported. . .

Continue reading. I don’t like the idea of secret police in the US, particularly when (a) they hide their activities from judicial review; and (b) the CIA is involved. The CIA is a criminal organization.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 August 2011 at 11:13 am

Excellent guidance on creating easy-to-remember, hard-to-guess passwords

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And in a cartoon, no less. (Via this interesting post on good tech news by James Fallows.)

Written by LeisureGuy

24 August 2011 at 10:56 am

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Having other countries do our dirty work

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The US has embraced a panoply of shameful policies, and arranging for the torture of its own citizens is one of the worst. Nick Baumann reports for Mother Jones:

WHEN GULET MOHAMED FINALLY returned home on a chilly Virginia morning in January, the 19-year-old from Fairfax was wearing the same outfit he had on when he disappeared a month earlier in Kuwait. Clad in a fleece hat and a gray Real Madrid sweatshirt, the straggly-bearded, wide-eyed teenager stepped out of arrivals at Dulles Airport and into a phalanx of television cameras. He wore a bewildered smile—as if he was still unsure of what had happened to him but was just grateful it was over.

For more than a year, Mohamed had been living in Kuwait City with an uncle. On December 20, 2010, according to legal records (PDF), he went to the airport to renew his tourist visa for an additional three months. The process took longer than usual. From a waiting area, Mohamed emailed his brother to let him know he’d run into some red tape.

Soon afterward, two men in street clothes came in, blindfolded him, escorted him out of the airport, and led him into the back of a vehicle. They drove maybe 15 or 20 minutes. When the men removed his blindfold, he was in a cell with white walls.

Later, the men—members of Kuwait’s security forces, Mohamed inferred—marched him to an interrogation room, where they shouted names at him in Arabic.

“Osama bin Laden! Do you know him?” “Anwar al-Awlaki?”

When he responded “no,” his interrogators slapped him across the face. As the days passed, Mohamed claims, they beat him with sticks on the soles of his feet, asked him to choose between torture by electrocution or power drill, and threatened his family.

Sometimes, Mohamed later told his lawyer, his captors escorted him, blindfolded, to another part of the facility, where a man who spoke with an American accent posed specific questions about his life in the US. He inquired about Mohamed’s siblings by name. “Don’t you know we know everything about you?” he asked.

MOHAMED IS ONE OF A GROWING number of American Muslims who claim they were captured overseas and questioned in secret at the behest of the United States, victims of what human rights advocates call “proxy detention“—or “rendition-lite.” The latter is a reference to the Bush- and Clinton-era CIA practice of capturing foreign nationals suspected of terrorism and “rendering” them to countries such as Egypt, Jordan, or Morocco (PDF) for interrogations that often involved torture.

Many of these episodes follow a similar script.

A US citizen is detained, questioned, and sometimes abused in a Middle Eastern or African country by local security forces. Often his interrogators possess information that could only have come from US authorities; some of the detainees say American officials have been present for the questioning. When the suspect is released from detention, he often discovers he’s on the no-fly list and can’t return home unless he submits to further questioning by FBI agents. Sometimes he’s denied access to a lawyer during these sessions.

In the past, the FBI has denied that it asks foreign governments to apprehend Americans. But, a Mother Jones investigation has found, the bureau has a long-standing and until now undisclosed program for facilitating such detentions. . .

Continue reading. Of course, Obama is protecting the foul miscreants responsible for such atrocities, while at the same treating with extreme harshness those who expose such wrong-doing. Hard to avoid condemning that sort of behavior. And of course the FBI lies about its behavior—it always does that because its behavior is so often reprehensible, even illegal. No one ever is punished, though, save for the whistleblowers. And Robert Hansen: they punished him.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 August 2011 at 10:20 am

Strange imbalance on climate change

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Normally, in what passes for “journalism” these days, a news story will carefully quote both sides of an argument (often one side factual and the other crazy) and end the story there, satisfied that the reporter maintained “balance” and carefully avoided giving the reader any guidance as to facts in the case. An alternative is to quote critics of both sides of an argument, again with no guidance as to facts, but a true devotion to “balance.”

And yet in the Washington Post, one of the most devoted practitioners of this sort of pseudo-journalistic “objectivity,” we find in a story on climate change a careful recounting of the charges hurled in “climategate” with some acknowledgement that the investigations have consistently found no wrong doing, and a TOTAL ABSENCE of any mention of the thousands of misstatements, outright lies, conflicts of interests with heavy payments, and general bad behavior on the part of those opposing any action to ameliorate climate change. The opposition has consistently be caught in errors and lies, but the Post article never ever mentions those. Why? The Post editors themselves oppose taking any constructive actions to reverse or even ameliorate climate change, so they use the paper to achieve their goals.

Here is the relevant section from a recent story:

Missteps by scientists have given critics ammunition. Most notorious were “Climate-gate” e-mails hacked from computers at the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in Britain in 2009. The e-mails showed scientists being combative and clubby, but multiple investigations in both the United States and Britain cleared the researchers of scientific misconduct, concluding that there was no evidence they tried to cook the books, as critics had alleged.

Embarrassing errors were also found in a seminal 2007 report by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was supposed to establish, beyond question, the scientific consensus. One passage in the 3,000-page report, for example, stated that massive glaciers in the Himalayas would vanish by 2035 — which isn’t true.

Such missteps revealed that the scientific establishment does not always function like a well-oiled machine and that climate science in the raw is a more contentious enterprise than the average academic news release might suggest. But the errors did not change the basic science behind the theory of anthropogenic, or human-caused, global warming.

That the planet has warmed is a fact hardly anyone disputes — it has been measured with instruments on land and sea and in space. That humans have contributed to the warming through industrial activities is a theory supported by multiple scientific organizations, including the National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the U.S. Global Change Research Program, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and NASA.

“Ultimately, we go back to physics. If you burn fossil fuel, you make CO2,” said Richard B. Alley, a geophysicist at Penn State University and author of “Earth: The Operator’s Manual.” “You can do this with bookkeeping. How much did we burn? How much CO2 does that make? Where is it? There it is.”

Isn’t it odd that none of the bad actions of those fighting taking action against climate change are mentioned or even alluded to. It’s as though proponents had this nasty business—which seems to have amounted to nothing—but the opponents are given carte blanche to do and say whatever they want, with no accountability.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 August 2011 at 8:30 am

Interesting finding re: conservatism v. liberalism

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I’m a progressive liberal, as you may have noticed, but of course I have my reasons. Satoshi Kanazawa is an evolutionary psychologist, and The Eldest pointed out this interesting article at Psychology Today:

It is difficult to define a whole school of political ideology precisely, but one may reasonably define liberalism (as opposed to conservatism) in the contemporary United States as the genuine concern for the welfare of genetically unrelated others and the willingness to contribute larger proportions of private resources for the welfare of such others. In the modern political and economic context, this willingness usually translates into paying higher proportions of individual incomes in taxes toward the government and its social welfare programs. Liberals usually support such social welfare programs and higher taxes to finance them, and conservatives usually oppose them.

Defined as such, liberalism is evolutionarily novel. Humans (like other species) are evolutionarily designed to be altruistic toward their genetic kin, their friends and allies, and members of their deme (a group of intermarrying individuals) or ethnic group. They are not designed to be altruistic toward an indefinite number of complete strangers whom they are not likely ever to meet or interact with. This is largely because our ancestors lived in a small band of 50-150 genetically related individuals, and large cities and nations with thousands and millions of people are themselves evolutionarily novel.

The examination of the 10-volume compendium The Encyclopedia of World Cultures, which describes all human cultures known to anthropology (more than 1,500) in great detail, as well as extensive primary ethnographies of traditional societies, reveals that liberalism as defined above is absent in these traditional cultures. While sharing of resources, especially food, is quite common and often mandatory among hunter-gatherer tribes, and while trade with neighboring tribes often takes place, there is no evidence that people in contemporary hunter-gatherer bands freely share resources with members of other tribes.

Because all members of a hunter-gatherer tribe are genetic kin or at the very least friends and allies for life, sharing resources among them does not qualify as an expression of liberalism as defined above. Given its absence in the contemporary hunter-gatherer tribes, which are often used as modern-day analogs of our ancestral life, it may be reasonable to infer that sharing of resources with total strangers that one has never met or is not likely ever to meet – that is, liberalism – was not part of our ancestral life. Liberalism may therefore be evolutionarily novel, and the Hypothesis would predict that more intelligent individuals are more likely than less intelligent individuals to espouse liberalism as a value.

Analyses of large representative samples, from both the United States and the United Kingdom, confirm this prediction. In both countries, more intelligent children are more likely to grow up to be liberals than less intelligent children. For example, among the American sample, those who identify themselves as “very liberal” in early adulthood have a mean childhood IQ of 106.4, whereas those who identify themselves as “very conservative” in early adulthood have a mean childhood IQ of 94.8.

Continue reading. The article includes this graph of the data:

Written by LeisureGuy

24 August 2011 at 8:15 am

Posted in Politics, Science

Re-enter the Vision

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The Edwin Jagger was the boar brush of the day, and I love Klar Kabinett shaving soap: light rose fragrance, fulsome lather, great buy (1.1 lbs (0.5 kg) for $20). I got a very nice lather—brush still breaking in, though.

I haven’t used the Vision much since it froze up so badly I had to return it to Merkur. Something about that design needs some attention. But I got to thinking that if I don’t use it, there’s no point in having it, so I’ll just go for intense ultrasonic cleaning when I change blades. And it does deliver a very good shave: it’s somehow both massive and agile. I find it quite easy to manipulate—easier than the Futur, in fact, which is another heavy razor.

Three passes, swapping out one Swedish Gillette blade after the first pass for another that has seen light use.

I realized, thanks to a commenter, that I am woefully short of rose-fragranced aftershaves, so I just got the D.R. Harris Pink Aftershave, which seems to be a type of rosewater. It may have some alcohol content, but I would guess it’s relatively low. Still, a very nice splash, and they also make a balm, Pink Milk, that perhaps I shall someday try.

Very fine shave, and now to clean up for the cleaning ladies.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 August 2011 at 7:50 am

Posted in Shaving

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