Later On

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

Archive for December 2nd, 2012

Quite an action movie

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Large-scale action film with a complex plot, with a mutated smallpox virus as the MacGuffin. I thought it was excellent, and it never slowed down. The Viral Factor, on Netflix Watch Instantly.

UPDATE: I should add that this is in many ways a remarkable movie: first, many exotic locales. Second, the continuous action earlier referenced, including fights, car chases, good explosions, jumps from tall buildings, slo-mo firearm shots (watching bullet). Plus action scenes in cars, a helicopter, a train, a ship, a court house (with staircase fights), and so on. Really remarkable. Of course, one must mention one of the best train movies: Andy Lau in World Without ThievesThe egg-peeling contest is truly memorable, and that’s only one small bit of business.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 December 2012 at 5:57 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

The practice of science vs. Human nature

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A very interesting quotation opens Part One of Chris Mooney’s book The Republican War on Science. It’s by Steven Pinker:

The success of science depnds on an apparatus of democratic adjudication—anonymous peer review, open debate, the fact that a graduate student can criticize a tenured professor. These mechanisms are more or less explicitly designed to counter human self-deception. People always think they’re right, and powerful people will tend to use their authority to bolster their prestige and suppress inconvenient opposition. You try to set up the game of science so that the truth will out despite this ugly side of human nature.

The tendency Pinker describes is why authoritarianism is so destructive—of truth and of everything. And the GOP tilts heavily toward an authoritarian structure and process.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 December 2012 at 11:04 am

Posted in GOP, Science

The strange saga of John McAfee

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What a weird turn McAfee’s life has taken. David Segal writes in the NY Times:

Belize – Daniel Guerrero promised during his campaign for mayor here to clean up San Pedro, the only town on this island, a 20-minute puddle jump from the mainland. But if he ever runs for re-election, don’t expect him to mention that vow.

“I meant clean up the trash, the traffic, that sort of thing,” he says. “I didn’t mean this.”

“This” is a full-blown international media frenzy and the kind of mess that no politician could have seen coming. It started on Nov. 11, the morning that Gregory Faull, a 52-year-old American, was found dead, lying face up in a pool of blood in his home. He had been shot in the head. His laptop and iPhone were missing. A 9-millimeter shell was found nearby.

What happened next turned this from a local crime story to worldwide news: The police announced that a “person of interest” in the investigation was a neighbor, John McAfee, a Silicon Valley legend who years ago earned millions from the computer virus-fighting software company that still bears his name.

A priapic 67-year-old, with an improbable mop of blond-highlighted hair and a rotating group of young girlfriends, Mr. McAfee quickly melted into the island’s lush green forest. Then, for Belizean authorities, the real embarrassment began.

Asserting his innocence, Mr. McAfee became a multiplatform cyberdissident, with a Twitter account, and a blog at whoismcafee.com with audio links, a comments section, photographs and a stream of invective against the government and the police of Belize. He has done interviews on podcasts, like the “Joe Rogan Experience,” and offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of “the person or persons” who killed Mr. Faull. He has turned lamming it into a kind of high-tech performance art.

“I am asking all people of conscience to read this blog, especially the links in the ‘Background’ section,’ and see the ugly truth unfolding here,” he posted on Nov. 18. “Speak out. Write your congressmen. Write the prime minister. Do what you can.”

Before he went underground, Mr. McAfee led a noisy, opulent and increasingly stressful life here. He was known for the retinue of prostitutes who he says moved in and out of his house, and for employing armed guards, some of whom stood watch on the beach abutting his house. He also kept a pack of untethered dogs on his property who barked at and sometimes bit passers-by.

Two days before the murder, someone had poisoned a handful of those dogs. As it happens, Mr. Faull had complained about the animals, as well as the guards and the constant late-night inflow and outflow of taxis on the dirt path that runs behind his and Mr. McAfee’s homes — a path so tiny that it’s supposed to be off-limits to cars.

Mr. Faull had shown up at the town council office a few weeks ago with a letter decrying the din and the dogs, as well as Mr. McAfee’s guns and behavior. Nothing came of it.

“We were planning to meet with John McAfee and hand him the letter,” Mr. Guerrero said. “But it never happened. We were busy doing other work.”

In hindsight, that looks like a blunder. Mr. McAfee has since said on his blog that he had no choice but to flee because police and politicians in Belize are corrupt and eager to kill him. As proof, he has written at length about a late April raid that the country’s Gang Suppression Unit conducted at a property of his on the mainland, in a district called Orange Walk.

Some McAfee watchers have a different theory — namely, that he grew paranoid and perhaps psychotic after months of experimenting with and consuming MDPV, a psychoactive drug. These experiments were described in detail by Mr. McAfee himself, under the pseudonym “Stuffmonger” in a forum on Bluelight, a Web site popular with drug hobbyists.

So, here’s one hypothesis: Rich man doses himself to madness while seeking sexual bliss through pharmacology. Then shoots neighbor in a rage. Case closed, right? Ah, but those Bluelight posts were a ruse, Mr. McAfee would later blog, just one of the many pranks he has perpetrated over the years — part of a bet with a friend to see if he could create Bluelight’s largest-ever thread.

“I am indeed that same Stuffmonger,” he posted on Nov. 20. “I, however, do not do drugs, and I am no chemist. I am, however, a practical joker who does not mind investing months in a given joking enterprise.”

Joke or not, the posts and every element of his new renegade life have gone viral. Which is to say, the guy has done it again. Throughout his varied, occasionally confounding and hoax-filled career, the one constant has been a genius for self-promotion. Little of his adult life has gone unpublicized. The current inconvenience of hiding has simply altered his stratagems and given his usual winking and mischievous tone an angry, survivalist cast. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 December 2012 at 10:48 am

Posted in Daily life

Former chairman of GOP in Florida admits that rules changes were simply to prevent Democrats from voting

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The GOP lacks integrity and does not operate in good faith. The former Party Chairman in Florida admits it. David Firestone reports in the NY Times:

It’s common knowledge that Florida cut back on early voting in 2011 to reduce the turnout of blacks and other groups likely to vote for Democrats. But it’s refreshing to see that former top Republicans in the state are now saying so out loud.

In an interview with The Palm Beach Post published on Sunday, the former chairman of the Florida Republican Party said voter suppression was the sole reason for the change to the election rules. Jim Greer, the party chairman in from 2006 to 2010, said he went to several meetings during which Republican officials discussed the damage that early voting — which brought an unprecedented number of black voters to the polls in 2008 — had done to the party.

“The Republican Party, the strategists, the consultants, they firmly believe that early voting is bad for Republican Party candidates,” Mr. Greer said. “It’s done for one reason and one reason only.”

He made it clear the stated reason for the change, to reduce voter fraud, was nonsense.

“They never came in to see me and tell me we had a fraud issue,” he told The Post. “It’s all a marketing ploy.”

It’s true that Mr. Greer is under indictment — charged with stealing money from the party — and Republican officials have dismissed his comments as motivated by bitterness. But other party officials and consultants, including former Gov. Charlie Crist, confirmed his observations in the Post article.

What they’re admitting has long been self-evident, since there is no connection between early voting and fraud. But their publicly admitting this illuminates how the Republican Party reacted after President Obama’s election in 2008, in Florida and many other states. The cry of “voter fraud” was used to justify a range of sins against democracy, from cutting back on early voting and registration drives to unnecessary photo ID cards.

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 December 2012 at 10:29 am

Posted in Election, GOP, Politics

First same-sex marriage at West Point Chapel

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Here’s the article. This is an excellent thing—and, oddly enough, I don’t feel that my own marriage is the least bit threatened or damaged by this.

Wonderful photos at the link: they look totally joyous.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 December 2012 at 9:59 am

Posted in Daily life, Military

Sometimes I get the feeling that I have no idea what goes on

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Take this long article by Mark Aimes and Alexander Zaitchik in Salon about a CIA-front organization and its unraveling. It’s weirder than fiction:

On the morning of Nov. 19, 1985, a wild-eyed and disheveled homeless woman entered the reception room at the legendary Wall Street firm of Deak-Perera. Carrying a backpack with an aluminum baseball bat sticking out of the top, her face partially hidden by shocks of greasy, gray-streaked hair falling out from under a wool cap, she demanded to speak with the firm’s 80-year-old founder and president, Nicholas Deak.

The 44-year-old drifter’s name was Lois Lang. She had arrived at Port Authority that morning, the final stop on a month-long cross-country Greyhound journey that began in Seattle. Deak-Perera’s receptionist, Frances Lauder, told the woman that Deak was out. Lang became agitated and accused Lauder of lying. Trying to defuse the situation, the receptionist led the unkempt woman down the hallway and showed her Deak’s empty office. “I’ll be in touch,” Lang said, and left for a coffee shop around the corner. From her seat by a window, she kept close watch on 29 Broadway, an art deco skyscraper diagonal from the Bowling Green Bull.

Deak-Perera had been headquartered on the building’s 20th and 21st floors since the late 1960s. Nick Deak, known as “the James Bond of money,” founded the company in 1947 with the financial backing of the CIA. For more than three decades the company had functioned as an unofficial arm of the intelligence agency and was a key asset in the execution of U.S. Cold War foreign policy. From humble beginnings as a spook front and flower import business, the firm grew to become the largest currency and precious metals firm in the Western Hemisphere, if not the world. But on this day in November, the offices were half-empty and employees few. Deak-Perera had been decimated the year before by a federal investigation into its ties to organized crime syndicates from Buenos Aires to Manila. Deak’s former CIA associates did nothing to interfere with the public takedown. Deak-Perera declared bankruptcy in December 1984, setting off panicked and sometimes violent runs on its offices in Latin America and Asia.

Lois Lang had been watching 29 Broadway for two hours when a limousine dropped off Deak and his son Leslie at the building’s revolving-door rear entrance. They took the elevator to the 21st floor, where Lauder informed Deak about the odd visitor. Deak merely shrugged and was settling into his office when he heard a commotion in the reception room. Lang had returned. Frances Lauder let out a fearful “Oh—” shortened by two bangs from a .38 revolver. The first bullet missed. The second struck the secretary between the eyes and exited out the back of her skull.

Deak, fit and trim at age 80, bounded out of his office. “What was that?” he shouted. Lang saw him and turned the corner with purpose, aiming the pistol with both arms. When she had Deak in her sights, she froze, transfixed. “It was as if she’d finally found what she was looking for,” a witness later testified. Deak seized the pause to lunge and grab Lang’s throat with both hands, pressing his body into hers. She fired once next to Deak’s ear and missed wide, before pushing him away just enough to bring the gun into his body and land a shot above his heart. The bullet ricocheted off his collarbone and shredded his organs.

Deak crumbled onto the floor. “Now you’ve got yours,” said Lang. A witness later claimed she took out a camera and snapped photographs of her victim’s expiring body. The bag lady then grabbed the banker by the legs, dragged him into his office, and shut the door.

She emerged shortly and headed for the elevator bank, where three NYPD officers had taken position. They shouted for Lang to freeze. When she reached for her .38, an officer tackled her to the floor. A second cop grabbed her arm as the first hammered her hand with the butt of his gun. As he jarred the revolver free, she turned into a cowering child — “like a frightened animal,” one of the officers later testified.

“Please don’t hurt me,” Lang begged. “He told me I could carry the gun.”

* * *

Lois Lang was tried, convicted and institutionalized under the assumption that she was mad. According to state psychiatrists, she targeted Deak because of random delusions, and her handlers were figments of her cracked imagination. The first judge to hear Lang’s case ruled her unfit for trial and sent her to Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Center. She was sentenced eight years later, in 1993, when a state Supreme Court justice convicted her on two counts of second-degree murder and sent her to the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility upstate, where she remains. Conspiracy was never part of the trial.

Arkadi Kuhlmann has long scoffed at the court’s conclusion. Kuhlmann, then 35 and newly in charge of Deak-Perera’s Canadian operations, became CEO after Deak’s death. Like his Deak-Perera colleagues, he understood that many criminal account holders had lost millions when the firm went bankrupt in 1984. Deak’s subsequent murder, he felt, was no coincidence.

“I never believed that the whole thing was random,” said Kuhlmann, in an interview with Salon. Ditto the government inquiry that triggered the collapse preceding Lang’s rampage. “We were the CIA’s paymaster, and that got to be a little bit embarrassing for them,” he said. “Our time had passed and the usefulness of doing things our way had vanished. The world was changing in the ’80s; you couldn’t just accept bags of cash. Deak was slow at making those changes. And when you lose your sponsorship, you’re out of the game.”

Kuhlmann is the founding CEO of ING Direct, acquired last year by Capital One for $9 billion. It’s a company that sees itself as the banking world’s Southwest Airlines, a cost-cutting upstart with excellent customer service, and its chief executive has a little bit of an outlaw-entrepreneur vibe. He likes to paint and was photographed straddling his customized Harley-Davidson for a 2007 Time magazine profile. If only the magazine had known that his other hobbies include researching the global conspiracy he believed is behind the murder of his old friend and boss. “The question is: Who was actually able to put the hit on?” said Kuhlmann.

Following Deak’s death, Kuhlmann hired a team of private investigators to answer that question. “We went through all the records trying to figure out what happened,” he said. “Deak had assets stuffed away all over the place — in Israel, Macau, Monte Carlo, upstate New York, Hawaii, Saipan.” According to former Deak executives, the company was compartmentalized in a way that only the CEO fully understood, which made efforts to locate deposits like entering a labyrinth. . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 December 2012 at 9:14 am

Posted in Business, Government

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