Later On

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

Archive for December 16th, 2013

Conor Friedersdorf on the US attack on the Yemen wedding party

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UPDATE: Salon report here.

This is, of course, not the first US attack on a wedding party. The US did the same thing in Iraq. We did apologize, for all the good it did. Friedersdorf writes in the Atlantic:

On my wedding day, my wife and I hired a couple of shuttle vans to ferry guests between a San Clemente hotel and the nearby site where we held our ceremony and reception. I thought of our friends and family members packed into those vehicles when I read about the latest nightmarish consequence of America’s drone war: “A U.S. drone mistakenly targeted a wedding convoy in Yemen’s al-Baitha province after intelligence reports identified the vehicles as carrying al Qaeda militants,” CNN reported, citing government sources in Yemen. “The officials said that 14 people were killed and 22 others injured, nine in critical condition. The vehicles were traveling near the town of Radda when they were attacked.”

Can you imagine the wall-to-wall press coverage, the outrage, and the empathy for the victims that would follow if an American wedding were attacked in this fashion? Or how you’d feel about a foreign power that attacked your wedding in this fashion?

The L.A. Times followed up on the story and found slightly different casualty figures: “The death toll reached 17 overnight, hospital officials in central Bayda province said Friday. Five of those killed were suspected of involvement withAl Qaeda, but the remainder were unconnected with the militancy, Yemeni security officials said.”

More than a dozen dead, many more injured, and an unknown number of survivors whose lives have suddenly taken a nightmarish turn the likes of which we cannot imagine, and all for the sake of five people suspected of ties to al-Qaeda. How many actual al-Qaeda terrorists would we have to kill with drones in Yemen to make the benefits of our drone war there outweigh the costs of this single catastrophic strike? If U.S. drone strikes put American wedding parties similarly at risk would we tolerate our targeted-killing program for a single day more? Our policy persists because we put little value on the lives of foreign innocents. Even putting them through the most horrific scene imaginable on their wedding day is but a blip on our media radar, easily eclipsed by a new Beyonce album.

The Obama Administration dishonestly talks of “surgical” drone strikes, as if surgeries ever result in double digit casualties. “Before any strike is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured—the highest standard we can set,” President Obama promised back in May. The CNN story about this latest strike says, “The convoy consisted of 11 vehicles, and the officials said that four of the vehicles were targeted in the strikes.” Is attempting to pick off alleged militants while in a wedding convoy with innocents the highest standard we can set to avoid civilian deaths? If so, the results speak for themselves.

In that same May speech, Obama said: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 December 2013 at 3:30 pm

New meme in martial-arts films

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I just watched another martial-arts film with some really good fight choreography, The Girl from the Naked Eye, and ran into another scene of an intense fight in a very small space. In New World, it was an intense fight between one unarmed man and a handful of assassins with knives, taking place in an elevator. (This movie is particularly good, IMO.) In A Company Man, it was an intense fight, including gunfire inside a moving car. (That movie, too, is excellent, and I believe clearly a savage satire.)

Or are intense fights in small confined spaces a regular thing? Perhaps I’ve only noticed from having seen several in a row.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 December 2013 at 3:24 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

An interesting educational experiment

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I found this letter in the NY Times fascinating:

To the Editor:

“Zero tolerance” must be replaced with something. A simple school time-capsule project, started in Dallas in 2005, is providing that replacement.

Beginning in sixth grade, students write periodic letters to themselves about their plans and dreams for the future. They do it in response to letters from their parents and others who write about their dreams for these students. The letters go into a self-addressed envelope that goes into a 500-pound vault in the school lobby: the time capsule.

Every day, students pass the vault. Occasionally, they may think of their letters inside and what they say.

Letters are rewritten, with final letters left for a 10-year class reunion. Students know that at their reunions they will be invited to make their own recommendations to current students about what they would do differently if they were 13 again.

In the last nine years, graduation rates have doubled, discipline issues have been cut in half, and pregnancy rates cut to less than half. That is the power of a constant focus on the future.

BILL BETZEN
Dallas, Dec. 3, 2013

The writer is coordinator of the School Time-Capsule Project, Lulac National Educational Service Center, Dallas.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 December 2013 at 10:34 am

Posted in Daily life, Education

Routes to happiness

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A couple of recent articles are quite interesting for those who wish to be happy. The first is “A Formula for Happiness,” by Arthur C. Brooks. The entire article is worth reading. He notes:

It turns out that choosing to pursue four basic values of faith, family, community and work is the surest path to happiness, given that a certain percentage is genetic and not under our control in any way.

The other is an excerpt from the book Dedicated to God: An Oral History of Cloistered Nuns,  by Abbie Reese, and describes how the Poor Clares order approaches the question of happiness. I found this article particularly interesting. It is a good description of a basic attitude-adjustment that women entering the order must make, and the rewards from making it. And it makes sense to me that it would work. It’s a particularly direct effort at shaping one’s personality. What’s interesting is how malleable they view the personality as being (with some good evidence), with the personality always shaped by external cultural conventions and cues. This fits well with my notion that we are, as individuals, mostly collections of memes we’ve picked up. What the nuns do is strip off the memes stuck to the person by the commercial culture in which we live, in which everything seems now to directed by the hypercapitalistic drive to monetarize every experience, and rebuilding much of the personality with memes from the culture the nuns keep alive.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 December 2013 at 9:20 am

Posted in Daily life

What’s next for the gun control movement? A Brady Campaigner lays it out

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Interesting column on what those who support firearms control are planning next. Lydia DePillis interviews Brian Malte, mobilization director for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Both those who support and those who oppose firearms control will find the interview interesting.

A year ago Saturday, the dialogue around guns in America changed: The mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., mobilized more people in a more sustained way than any such tragedy had before it. At least, that’s what gun-control advocates sensed. But it wasn’t enough to get anything done on Capitol Hill, and since then, Brian Malte, mobilization director for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, has overseen efforts in dozens of states to strengthen gun-control laws and has more in the works for 2014. In the meantime, he says, work on the federal level is still very much underway. I spoke with Malte about those efforts. The transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

Lydia DePillis: What explains gun advocates’ success in the states, when things failed so spectacularly in Congress? Brian Malte: First of all, starting at the federal level, we still feel like we have a lot of momentum. If you look at the vote in the Senate, the Toomey-Manchin background check legislation, we got 55 votes. Of course, Senator Reid switched his vote to a “no” vote to allow for reconsideration. And we need five more, and we’re going after those votes. And that’s a majority of the Senate, and of those who voted yes, six were A-rated NRA senators, including the two sponsors, [Pat] Toomey and [Joe] Manchin. So we’ve made a lot of progress, even on are what are considered to be the toughest votes in the country. Whether that vote takes place next spring or later, we’ll win.

But a big part of the equation is going to the states. And the key states are those that are pushing for legislation to require background checks on all gun sales: Washington, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Minnesota, you’ll see resources from the national groups going to help these kind of states. They have well-organized groups already on the ground, and you’ll see a big push this year and over the next couple years to keep that momentum going.

And I think what’s really important, too, is some of the states that passed gun laws this year, some of them already have strong gun laws, and that’s great, they passed stronger gun laws, in New York and California. But you also saw states like Colorado pass stronger gun legislation. Colorado’s a state with a proud tradition of hunting and gun ownership, passed legislation requiring background checks on all gun sales. When states like Washington and Colorado act, it really sends a strong message to Congress that they need to finish the job and get it done at the federal level.

But in Colorado, a couple of the state senators who pushed that bill got fired.  . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 December 2013 at 9:06 am

Posted in Guns

Heisman Trophy trumps police investigation

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The opportunity for Jameis Winston to be awarded the Heisman Trophy clearly outweighed the requirement for a police investigation—so, basically, the police didn’t bother to investigate. Details here.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 December 2013 at 8:59 am

Posted in Business, Daily life, Law

A shave of two slants

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SOTD 16 Dec 2013

I got a new white Bakelite slant. No manufacturer name on the box or razor. It definitely is not the Merkur white Bakelite slant (shown in the foreground): handle is shorter, head not quite the same, and quality of manufacture not quite so good—e.g., the top of the cap has small irregularities: little hills and valleys. Here’s a side-by-side view, with the “Bakelite slant” (as it’s usually called, meaning the one made by Merkur and sold for several months by ItalianBarber.com) at the right:

Two slants

So I was interested to see what it could do. I got an immediate great lather from my Geo. F. Trumper Rose shaving soap—that Ecotools brush really does the job—and then set to work: 3 passes using a Gillette Super Stainless blade (same brand as Saturday’s shave).

I got a BBS result but also a couple of nicks (which were not an issue, thanks to My Nik Is Sealed). It could be operator error, but I’m switching out the blade and trying a different brand next time. (The Gillette Super Stainless is certainly an excellent blade for me in other razors, so I’m not discarding the blade: I’ll use it for the next razor that requires a new blade.)

A good splash of TOBS Sandalwood—and I can see from the level in the bottle that I like this aftershave. And on to the new week.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 December 2013 at 8:54 am

Posted in Shaving

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