Later On

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

Archive for November 6th, 2013

It wasn’t Giulani, it wasn’t Bloomberg, and it damn sure wasn’t Ray Kelly

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Kevin Drum tries to set the record straight:

TheEconomist warns New York’s mayor-elect Bill de Blasio not to screw things up:

New York has been well run for 20 years. It used to be one of America’s most dangerous big cities; now it is one of the safest. Crime has fallen faster in the Big Apple than elsewhere, thanks to police reforms begun by Rudy Giuliani (the mayor from 1994 to 2002) and continued by Mike Bloomberg, his successor.

Can we please, please, please stop this? I almost don’t care anymore if you accept the hypothesis that reductions in childhood lead exposure are primarily responsible for America’s dramatic decline in violent crime over the past two decades. But can we at least get our facts straight? Lots of big cities have seen drops in their violent crime rate. At least three others—Chicago, Dallas and Los Angeles—have seen declines as big as New York’s. Others, like Phoenix and San Diego, now match New York’s crime rate. They did this without Giuliani and Bloomberg. They did it without CompStat. They did it without broken windows. Hell, even New York did it for four years without these things: Its crime rate started plummeting in 1991, long before these reforms showed up.

There’s a considerable controversy around all of these policing reforms, and my semi-informed belief is that they probably played a role in reducing crime. But honestly, the data simply doesn’t support the notion that they played a primary role. Neither the time frame nor the evidence from other cities fits. Rather, they rode the tailwind of something else—probably reduced childhood exposure to lead—and helped things along. Unless Bill de Blasio starts up a city program to seed the clouds with lead dust, he doesn’t really have anything to screw up.

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It would be great if people automatically looked for disconfirming evidence—counterexamples, for instance—whenever they heard a significant assertion. That might have saved the Economist from looking like a naive fool.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 November 2013 at 2:22 pm

Posted in Daily life, Law, Science

Some people do indeed take a hit from the Affordable Care Act

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As this excellent report by Charles Ornstein in ProPublica makes clear, the change in the healthcare landscape, regardless of the number of winners, will indeed produce some losers. As the article states (in part—I urge you to read the whole thing):

“In a few cases, we are able to find coverage for them that is less expensive, but in most cases, we’re not because, in sort of pure economic terms, they are people who benefited from the current system … Now that the market rules are changing, there will be different people who benefit and different people who don’t.”

“There’s an aspect of market disruption here that I think was not clear to people,” Stenrud acknowledged. “In many respects it has been theory rather than practice for the first three years of the law; folks are seeing the breadth of change that we’re talking about here.”

That’s little comfort to Hammack. He’s written to California’s senators and his representative, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., asking for help.

“We believe that the Act is good for health care, the economy, & the future of our nation. However, ACA options for middle income individuals ages 59 & 60 are unaffordable. We’re learning that many others are similarly affected. In that spirit we ask that you fix this, for all of our sakes,” he and Brothers wrote.

Consumer advocate Anthony Wright said it’s important to remember the way the insurance market worked before the act was passed, when insurers could deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions. “It’s impossible to know what the world would have looked like for these folks in the absence of the law,” said Wright, executive director of the group Health Access.

“We certainly had an individual market, especially in California which was the Wild Wild West, where there was huge price increases, cancellations, a range of other practices.

“That doesn’t mean that there were certain people who lucked out in the old system, who wound up in a group with a relatively healthy risk mix and thus lower premiums,” he added. “The question is: Is health insurance something where people get a rate based on the luck of the draw or do we have something where we have some standards where people who live in the same community, of the same age, with the same benefit package are treated equally?”

Wright said discussions should focus on how to provide consumers like Hammack with assistance if they barely miss qualifying for subsidies.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 November 2013 at 2:14 pm

Don’t raise your voice—especially not to your children

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I’m a little aghast at this—I think I yelled at my children, and probably more than I realized. Wish I had read this article by Katy Waldman in Slate years ago:

The word discipline comes from a Latin noun that means “teaching” and an Old French one that means “suffering” or “martyrdom.” The three words live in a mostly harmonious linguistic family, but they also occasionally yell at one another. How could they not? Because while discipline is supposed to be about education, it’s often more about punishment—a punishment to produce adult catharsis.

How should you discipline your infuriating spawn when conflict arises? NOT BY YELLING. A study out in the September issue of the Journal of Child Psychologysuggests that yelling is really bad for spawn. Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh found that “harsh verbal discipline”—cursing, insults, and shouting—can be as harmful to kids as hitting or spanking. The scientists tracked 967 middle-schoolers for two years. The students attended 10 public schools in eastern Pennsylvania and came from middle-class families that were not considered “high risk.” Sifting through surveys these kids and their families completed on “their mental health, child-rearing practices, the quality of the parent-child relationship and general demographics,” researchers concluded that 1) yelling and bratty behavior reinforced each other, 2) yelling increased the likelihood that a child would become depressed, and 3) even kids in homes that were otherwise “warm and loving” were not immune to a raised voice’s damaging effects.

As many commenters have already pointed out, this leaves parents’ hands even more tied than they were already. No spanking. Timeouts don’t really work. Bribery is wrong. Death-stares, displaying no reaction, walking away, distraction, and gentle explanation of wrongdoing are all suboptimal. Now yelling is off the table, too. According to Alan E. Kazdin, author of The Kazdin Method for Parenting the Defiant Child, the only real option is to coolly rescind a privilege according to a plan you have already discussed with your demon offspring—and then to disengage. (Or perhaps to resign yourself to the fact that your children will forever be maladjusted feral animals.)

But what’s wrong with yelling, exactly? “If you yell at your child, you either createsomebody who yells back at you or somebody who is shamed and retreats,” Meghan Leahy, a mother of three and a local parenting coach, told the Washington Post. “You’re either growing aggression or growing shame. Those are not characteristics that any parents want in their kids.” When I asked my co-workers, a few said their parents bellowed at them all the time and that they were “probably scarred” (although one speculated that the screamfests “were more emotionally taxing for my dad than they were for me”). A second colleague remembered her father yelling at her to stop crying: “Not terribly productive. Also unnecessary … because I used to send myself to my room if I thought I’d done something bad.” As for the parents, though many knew that apoplexy is less a childrearing technique than a health condition, they said they couldn’t help shouting anyway (and feeling awful about it afterwards). Their kids, they explained, were “FUCKING MADDENING” and “don’t respond to reason (although they don’t respond to yelling either).”

Other colleagues . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 November 2013 at 1:59 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science

Report of evidence that US Special Forces committed war crimes in Afghanistan

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Unfortunately, it seems extremely unlikely that the US military will investigate, and certainly will not investigate and hold those responsible accountable. Investigations, if any, will have to be carried out by the press—for example, see this report in Rolling Stone by Matthieu Aikins:

In the fall of 2012, a team of American Special Forces arrived in Nerkh, a district of Wardak province, Afghanistan, which lies just west of Kabul and straddles a vital highway. The members installed themselves in the spacious quarters of Combat Outpost Nerkh, which overlooked the farming valley and had been vacated by more than 100 soldiers belonging to the regular infantry. They were U.S. Army Green Berets, trained to wage unconventional warfare, and their arrival was typical of what was happening all over Afghanistan; the big Army units, installed during the surge, were leaving, and in their place came small groups of quiet, bearded Americans, the elite operators who would stay behind to hunt the enemy and stiffen the resolve of government forces long after America’s 13-year war in Afghanistan officially comes to an end.

But six months after its arrival, the team would be forced out of Nerkh by the Afghan government, amid allegations of torture and murder against the local populace. If true, these accusations would amount to some of the gravest war crimes perpetrated by American forces since 2001. By February 2013, the locals claimed 10 civilians had been taken by U.S. Special Forces and had subsequently disappeared, while another eight had been killed by the team during their operations.

“They’re venomously anti-American there,” one U.S. official says. “It’s always been that way. Sometimes our adversaries are the men and women of a community.”

Officials at the American-led International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, categorically denied these allegations, which came at an extremely delicate moment – as Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the American government were locked in still-unresolved negotiations over the future of American forces in Afghanistan. The sticking point has been the U.S.’s demand for continued legal immunity for its troops, which Karzai is reluctant to grant. Privately, some American officials have begun to grumble about a “zero option” – where, as in Iraq, the U.S. would rather withdraw all its forces than subject them to local law – but both sides understand that such an action could be suicidal for the beleaguered Afghan government and devastating for American power in the region. Yet a story like the one brewing in Nerkh has the potential to sabotage negotiations.

RS War Stories: Afghanistan in 2002 – Not Much War, But Plenty of Hell

Last winter, tensions peaked and President Karzai ordered an investigation into the allegations. Then on February 16th, a student named Nasratullah was found under a bridge with his throat slit, two days, his family claimed, after he had been picked up by the Green Berets. Mass demonstrations erupted in Wardak, and Karzai demanded that the American Special Forces team leave, and by April, it did. That’s when the locals started finding bodies buried outside the American base in Nerkh, bodies they said belonged to the 10 missing men. In July, the Afghan government announced that it had arrested Zikria Kandahari, a translator who had been working for the American team, in connection with the murders, and that in turn Kandahari had fingered members of the Special Forces for the crimes. But the American military stuck to its denials. “After thorough investigation, there was no credible evidence to substantiate misconduct by ISAF or U.S. forces,” Col. Jane Crichton told The Wall Street Journal in July.

But over the past five months, Rolling Stone has interviewed more than two dozen eyewitnesses and victims’ families who’ve provided consistent and detailed allegations of the involvement of American forces in the disappearance of the 10 men, and has talked to Afghan and Western officials who were familiar with confidential Afghan-government, U.N. and Red Cross investigations that found the allegations credible. In July, a U.N. report on civilian casualties in Afghanistan warned: “The reported disappearances, arbitrary killings and torture – if proven to have been committed under the auspices of a party to the armed conflict – may amount to war crimes.”

Last year, on the morning of November 10th, a slight, meek-faced, 38-year-old farmer – let’s call him Omar – with a fan-shaped beard and heavily callused hands, was standing with his neighbor, a 28-year-old shopkeeper and father of three named Gul Rahim, when they heard a bomb blast followed by gunfire. The two had been trying to dig out a tree stump in front of Omar’s house, which looked out onto the village of Polad Khan, adjacent to the main road between the provincial capital of Maidan Shahr and Nerkh’s district center.

Nerkh, despite its orchards of apple trees and clean Himalayan air, is not an easy place to live. Like much of Afghanistan’s rural population, the residents of the district, impoverished tenant farmers, are trapped between the inexorable pressures of the insurgency and the American military. The militants, who have deep roots among the local population, will kill anyone who cooperates with the foreigners. Even being seen talking to the Americans is a risk. When the Taliban come to their houses at night, demanding food and shelter or the services of their sons, refusal can mean death. And yet the presence of those militants might draw a drone strike or a raid from the Americans. It is an impossible but daily dilemma. A slip can be fatal.

That November day, a roadside bomb had hit the American Special Forces team as it patrolled nearby, lightly injuring an American soldier and a translator. Soon afterward, a convoy of Americans mounted on ATVs, followed by Afghan soldiers, came rumbling down the road. Fearful, Omar and Gul Rahim put down their tools and went inside. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 November 2013 at 1:40 pm

Comcast was indeed able to prevent a good broadband public utility in Seattle

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Comcast contributed heavily to defeat the Seattle mayor who was going to bring inexpensive broadband to Seattle. (Comcast saw it as competition, which may have forced them to improve their broadband service (improvements cut into profits) and may even drop their prices (really cuts into profits). But Colorado is proceeding on a course similar to what Seattle was attempting, as reported in the Washington Post by Brain Fung:

In 2009, Vince Jordan was one of a handful of Coloradans hoping to flip the switch on a next-generation fiber optic network in his area. Longmont’s 17-mile loop of fiber would have been capable of connecting Jordan to the Web at speeds 100 times faster than the national average. The city owned the cables already. All it needed was approval from the city’s voters.

But Jordan, the broadband manager for Longmont’s public electric utility, failed to anticipate one thing: The cable companies.

“We got creamed,” he says. “We lost by 12 [percentage points] in that vote.”

On that election night four years ago, they were caught flat-footed. The cable industry had poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into thwarting its prospective government-owned challenger at the polls. It dwarfed the advocates’ expenditures, which that year amounted to all of $95.

That history made last night’s election results particularly sweet for the city’s municipal fiber advocates. Longmont residents approved a $45.3 million bond issuance that will go toward funding a city-wide fiber network. But recent political fights haven’t always had a happy ending for advocates of municipal broadband projects.

A nationwide campaign

Cable incumbents have been fighting to defeat municipal fiber proposals all over the country. We recently reported that cable groups invested money to defeat Seattle mayor Mike McGinn, a municipal fiber supporter. (For the record, Sena Fitzmaurice, a Comcast spokesperson, denied Tuesday that the company’s political contributions had any connection with McGinn’s broadband policies. She says Comcast has contributed consistently to the Seattle Broadband Communications Coalition of Washington over the past five years.) In early returns Tuesday, McGinn was trailing challenger Ed Murray, 56-44.

But the battle of Seattle is far from the only time advocates of new broadband initiatives have crossed swords with incumbent cable companies. Across the United States, cable lobbyists have helped erect legal barriers to stifle competition from public utilities. Industry groups have repeatedly filed lawsuits to block city attempts to roll out fiber service. And they have also opposed public referendums to allow cities to build their own networks.

Longmont, Colo., was merely one such battleground. In North St. Paul, Minn., a 2009 ballot measure to let muni fiber move forward was defeated by a resounding 34-point margin. Opposition to the fledgling network, PolarNet, was led by the Minnesota Cable Communications Association. In the weeks leading up to the vote, it and other opposition groups spent some $40,000 campaigning against the measure. MCCA alone contributed more than $15,000 to the effort over the same period.

Part of the organization’s message was that despite consumer confusion about the options for commercial Internet, the local market for broadband was actually very competitive — people just didn’t know it.

“So many things have happened since then,” says Michael Martin, MCCA’s treasurer. “The state has developed a mapping system that shows all the providers in an area so people can go to an objective source and identify the competitors that are available to them. That wasn’t available at the time. A lot of what people knew about what was available came mainly through word of mouth. It was anecdotal.”

Whatever workarounds may have been built since the push for PolarNet, the fiber optic cables it was supposed to light up with traffic remain dark today. Paul Ammerman, North St. Paul’s economic development director, seemed resigned to the cable industry’s will.

“We’re trying to figure out if it’s worth the effort,” he says. “Certainly we’ve got a lot of capacity that’s not being used. On the horizon there’s always the next breakthrough that might do it. Some say maybe the last mile is not fiber; maybe it’s wireless. But that gets beyond the current technology.”

In Chattanooga, one of the few places where municipal fiber has managed to gain traction, the state cable association filed a lawsuit in 2007 alleging that the local public utility, EPB, would be breaking the law if it allowed its electricity division to cross-subsidize its fiber optic service. When a judge threw out the case the following year, Comcast filed its own suit. That too was dismissed — and once more on appeal in 2009.

Big Cable’s big stand

Still, Longmont may offer the most vivid example of cable industry groups trying to hobble a public broadband provider. Colorado is . . .

Continue reading.

It’s perfectly clear that these companies have zero interest in the common good and are primarily interested in extracting as much money as possible while delivering as little service as they can, and that means keeping broadband at the lowest speed they can get away with. (You may recall the sudden and startling advances in phone service once the AT&T monopoly was ended.)

This country is more and more a hunting ground for predatory companies unrestrained now by government, thanks in large measure to the (well-funded) GOP.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 November 2013 at 1:12 pm

In Public Education, Edge Still Goes to Rich

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Public education was a great innovation, but we now seem bent on its destruction. Eduardo Porter writes in the NY Times:

“There aren’t many things that are more important to that idea of economic mobility — the idea that you can make it if you try — than a good education,”President Obama told students at the State University of New York in Buffalo in August.

It is hardly a partisan belief. About a decade ago, on signing the No Child Left Behind ActPresident George W. Bush argued that the nation’s biggest challenge was to ensure that “every single child, regardless of where they live, how they’re raised, the income level of their family, every child receive a first-class education in America.”

This consensus is comforting. It provides a solution everyone can believe in, whether the problem is income inequality, racial marginalization or the stagnation of the middle class. But it raises a perplexing question, too. If education is a poor child’s best shot at rising up the ladder of prosperity, why do public resources devoted to education lean so decisively in favor of the better off?

The anguished and often angry national debate over how to improve American educational standards, focused intently on grading students and teachers, mostly bypasses how the inequity of resources — starting at the youngest — inevitably affects the outcome.

“The debate about education reform is a lot about process,” said David Sciarra, executive director of the Education Law Center in Newark, an advocacy group for disadvantaged students. “To a large extent it is a huge distraction. We never get to the question of what resources we need to get the students to meet the standards.”

The United States is one of few advanced nations where schools serving better-off children usually have more educational resources than those serving poor students, according to research by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Among the 34 O.E.C.D. nations, only in the United States, Israel and Turkey do disadvantaged schools have lower teacher/student ratios than in those serving more privileged students.

Andreas Schleicher, who runs the O.E.C.D.’s international educational assessments, put it to me this way: “The bottom line is that the vast majority of O.E.C.D. countries either invest equally into every student or disproportionately more into disadvantaged students. The U.S. is one of the few countries doing the opposite.” The inequity of education finance in the United States is a feature of the system, not a bug, stemming from its great degree of decentralization and its reliance on local property taxes.

“Decentralization was wonderful for the initial diffusion of high schools,” said Lawrence Katz, a professor of economics at Harvard who helped write “The Race between Education and Technology,” one of the most comprehensive analyses of the spread of the American educational system throughout the 20th century. “But it created big geographic inequality.”

Today, the federal government provides only about 14 percent of the money for school districts from the elementary level through high school, compared to 54 percent, on average, among other industrial nations. More than half the money comes from local sources, mostly property taxes, which is about twice the share in the rest of the O.E.C.D.

This skews the playing field from early on. In New York, for instance, in 2011 the value of property in the poorest 10 percent of school districts amounted to some $287,000 per student, according to the state’s education department. In the richest districts it amounted, on average, to $1.9 million.

The state government in Albany redresses part of the imbalance: In the 2010-11 school year it transferred $6,600 per student to the state’s poorest school districts, about four times as much as it sent to the richest. But it’s still a long way from closing the gap.

That year, the most recent for which comprehensive data is available, the wealthiest 10 percent of school districts, in rich enclaves like Bridgehampton and Amagansett on Long Island, spent $25,505 on average per pupil. In the poorest 10 percent of New York’s school districts — in cities like Elmira, which has double the nation’s poverty rate and half its median family income — the average spending per student was only $12,861.

Disparities across the country are even starker. In New York, schools spend an average of $19,000 per student. In Tennessee they spend $8,200. The Alpine school district in Utah spends only $5,321. And funding in some states is even more skewed than in New York. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 November 2013 at 11:50 am

Posted in Education, Government

JFK assassination: CIA and New York Times are still lying to us

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David Talbot has an intriguing Salon article—and a reading list—regarding the many unanswered questions about the assassination of JFK, which he seems to believe was a coup d’etat.

We’ll never know, we’ll never know, we’ll never know. That’s the mocking-bird media refrain this season as we commemorate the 50th anniversary of America’s greatest mystery – the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson hijacked a large chunk of her paper’s Sunday Book Review to ponder the Kennedy mystery. And after deliberating for page after page on the subject, she could only conclude that there was some “kind of void” at the center of the Kennedy story. Adam Gopnik was even more vaporous in the Nov. 4 issue of the New Yorker, turning the JFK milestone into an occasion for a windy cogitation on regicide as cultural phenomenon. Of course, constantly proclaiming “we’ll never know” has become a self-fulfilling prophecy for the American press. It lets the watchdogs off the hook, and excuses their unforgivable failure to actually, you know, investigate the epic crime. When it comes to this deeply troubling American trauma, the highly refined writers of the New Yorker and the elite press would rather muse about the meta-issues than get at the meat.

All this artful dodging about the murder of President Kennedy began, of course, nearly 50 years ago with the Warren Commission, the blue-ribbon panel that was appointed by President Lyndon Johnson — not to get at the truth, but to “lay the dust” (in the words of one commissioner) on all the disturbing rumors that were swirling around the bloody events in Dallas. Two new books take us inside the Warren Commission sausage factory, and show in often shocking detail how the august panel got it so terribly wrong.  Soon after the Warren Report was released in September 1964, polls began showing that the American people rejected its conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin of the president – and nearly a half century later, the report remains a notorious symbol of official coverup. [This does not prevent Abramson from blithely declaring that “the historical consensus seems to have settled on” the lone gunman theory – there is no such consensus, only a deeply fractious ongoing debate.]

A Cruel and Shocking Act” by former New York Times investigative reporter Philip Shenon has been soaking up most of the media spotlight in recent days. The book proclaims itself to be a “secret history of the Kennedy assassination.” Based largely on interviews with Warren Commission staff lawyers, the book reveals how the investigation was immediately taken over by the very government agencies — the CIA, FBI and Secret Service — that had the most to hide when it came to the assassination. The other new book, “History Will Prove Us Right,” was written by Howard Willens, a Warren Commission lawyer who refused to speak with Shenon. As suggested by the title — which is taken from a defiant statement by the commission chairman, Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren – Willens’ book is a stubborn defense of the report that he helped produce. But ironically, after grinding one’s way through Willens’ serviceably written but highly revealing story, a reader can only come to the same conclusion that Shenon’s sexier expose’ demands – namely, that the Warren Report was the result of massive political cunning and investigative fraud.

Both books contain juicy and informative details that shed new light on the JFK investigation. (Shenon’s book also contains a few breathlessly advertised “scoops” that turn out to be rehashed stories or false leads.) But the two books also suffer from a strange cognitive dissonance. After elaborating on the many ways that the Warren Commission’s work was sabotaged by President Johnson, FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover (who immediately took charge of the investigation), former CIA director Allen Dulles (who conveniently got himself appointed to the commission), Treasury chief C. Douglas Dillon (who oversaw the Secret Service) and other Washington power players, the books seem to arrive at the same baffling conclusion as the deeply compromised Warren Report – i.e., that Oswald did it.

When it comes to the million-dollar question, Shenon is much more equivocal than Willens. He seems to think that Oswald might have had accomplices – but Oswald nonetheless remains at the center of Shenon’s story, rather than the intelligence officials, for instance, whom Sen. Richard Schweiker once remarked had their “fingerprints” all over the young alleged assassin. In following the conspiracy trail, Shenon quickly takes a wrong turn down the “Castro-as-mastermind” path. Perhaps because as a writer he found this story of deep espionage more intriguing than the Warren Commission’s twisted bureaucratic tale, the author lights off for Mexico City, where Oswald apparently visited (or was impersonated visiting) the Soviet and Cuban embassies in the days before Dallas. Shenon has Oswald dallying with a sexy clerk in the Cuban embassy, and perhaps getting entangled in a sinister Fidelista plot against JFK.

The problem with this tantalizing tale of Cuban intrigue is that it’s completely bogus and has been consistently debunked over the years – despite the best efforts of former CIA spooks like Brian Latell (“Castro’s Secrets”), whom Shenon credits as an inspiration, to revive it. One of the better jobs at deconstructing the Castro theory was done by Gerald McKnight, a professor emeritus of history at Maryland’s Hood College. In “Breach of Trust” – his 2005 exploration of the Warren Commission’s failure, which remains the best book on the topic – McKnight illuminates how immediately after the gunfire in Dealey Plaza, the CIA began an aggressive disinformation campaign to link Oswald with Castro. As McKnight documents, President Johnson was so alarmed that this propaganda offensive would lead to war with Cuba (and perhaps a nuclear confrontation with the Soviet Union) that he prevailed on his friend J. Edgar Hoover to help him shut down the CIA’s explosive rumor-mongering. Fifty years later, Shenon has fallen into the same spook trap on Cuba.

Shenon does have a remarkable story to tell about Castro – and it completely undermines his dark conjecture about the Cuban leader. In the summer of 1964, Castro passed word to Washington that he wanted to tell his story to the Warren Commission. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 November 2013 at 11:47 am

Posted in Government, Law

The politics of marijuana

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A very interesting series of brief video segments, in which the Washington Post interviews the Post‘s Reid Wilson and Marijuana Policy Project’s Dan Riffle about efforts to legalize and decriminalize marijuana use in several U.S. states. One neat formulation: when the interviewer asked a question about “legalizing” marijuana, Riffle responded that instead of using the word “legalize,” they prefer “tax and regulate.” 🙂

It’s a backgrounder, so there’s quite a bit of useful and interesting information.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 November 2013 at 9:29 am

Posted in Drug laws, Video

A spicy shave, nicely done

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SOTD 6 Nov 2013

I postponed trying this entry in the Scent-Off competition despite its being already on sale and tried by others (including The Son). So while others have purchased this soap and tried it, today is the first for me.

I am doing the first of the three test shaves, and I begin again with a boar brush. This particular Omega brush is quite appealing to me, and it’s breaking in nicely.

So: the soap. My first impression is from the packaging and presentation, which I like a lot. He elected to do a variant of his standard packaging with a new label (shown) and a new color of tin (doubtless to match the “pumpkin pie” theme, but it might become the mark of limited-edition soaps from this vendor. We’ll wait and see. But in the current context, and for the current soap, it works quite well. AND—important note—the tin is giftworthy as it stands: one doesn’t need to supplement it with a container to give the recipient the complete package.

Fragrance: This time I had no difficulty at all: pumpkin pie (or “pi”), through and through. And it’s an inspired choice: quite holiday-specific, quite familiar, and warm and comforting. It’s a good fragrance early in the morning.

Lather: I’ve had consistently good luck with HTGAM soaps in the lathering department: they immediately produce a thick, creamy, abundant, and protective lather, and this soap is no different. Truthfully, I would put this up against any commercial shaving soap so far as lather quality is concerned. And the brush stayed fully loaded with lather for the whole three passes, with loads left at the end.

My Merkur Progress holds a previously used Gillette Rubie blade (another brand that seems to have vanished from the US market—and it was a very good brand for me). Three passes to BBS with not a trace of trouble. The Progress is a very good razor and probably the best modern adjustable.

I carried the spice theme along with a good splash of Booster Oriental Spice aftershave.

And then I immediately went to the vet to get Megs a manicure (i.e., front paws only). She’s been sticking to stuff. I just got back and opened the carrier to let her out, but she refused and is staying in the carrier for now. Weird kitty, but that’s redundant.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 November 2013 at 9:01 am

Posted in Shaving

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