Later On

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

Archive for March 8th, 2014

The incredible stock-picking ability of SEC employees

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SEC employees get notified of companies scheduled for investigation and dump their stocks, generally before the company’s stock sinks on news that it’s under investigation. Why do SEC employees even control their stock holdings? Haven’t they heard of a blind trust?

More news on the SEC gravy train here.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 March 2014 at 6:56 pm

A sinking realization regarding certain types of disagreement

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When you disagree with someone about evolution, global warming, vaccines, or the like, I believe that you’re likely to encounter a way of thinking that is sufficiently foreign to me that I just now figured out what might be going on. What I have experienced in such arguments has convinced me that some people view a strong belief as in itself evidence that the belief is true (presumably because “if it wasn’t true, I wouldn’t believe it so strongly—duh!”). In other words, belief is treated as though it were evidence, and the intensity of the belief measures the evidence for it: intense belief equals strong evidence, just by itself.

When you try to argue against such a belief, you probably usewhat we normally think of as evidence, namely facts. You then run into another problem. The person who views beliefs as constituting evidence for the beliefs also views facts as opinions. Thus when you point out a fact that contradicts their belief (for which they have loads of evidence, in their sense: that is, they believe it strongly), a common response is, “That’s (just) your opinion.” That is, just as they weigh beliefs as we normally weigh evidence, actual evidence—that is, verifiable facts—is weighed as we normally weigh opinions: an opinion being something that’s perfectly fine for you to accept, but really has nothing whatsoever to do with whether I accept it—that is, whether it is also my opinion/fact. Just as someone can have an opinion on something without affecting my own opinion on the same thing, so the facts you present (which are viewed as merely your opinion) don’t really effect what the other believes. Daniel Moynihan specifically warned that, while you are entitled to your own opinions, you are not entitled to your own facts, and that was not an empty warning: some, I think, do view facts as opinions (as shown by their reasoning).

That does seem to describe what happens and shows why the arguments go nowhere: the rational person has been offering something that simply has no weight for the believer—the rational one thinks he’s offering evidence, but the believer views him as offering opinion, and of course his opinion is beside the point: “I have my own opinions.”

So: the question becomes, what does have weight for the believer and thus triggers a change in view? It may be couching ideas in terms the believer already accepts: e.g., “I say to you in the name of Jesus our Lord and Savior, send a donation now.” The demand for money is accepted because of the accompanying incantations from the belief system: the system passwords, in effect. And as we’ve seen from a long string of huckstering ministers, those incantations actually work: when the ministers demand money, they tie in salvation, and so it sounds like a pretty good deal: something real and of paramount importance (salvation) for mere money. I recall that Oral Roberts once advised his radio audience that God was going to take him if his listeners didn’t contribute $44 million before some date. (I believe this may have been for Oral Roberts University.) The listeners came through (or at least the Rev. Roberts said that they did, and it’s certainly true that he did not die at the time, which sort of proves it). The response seems a little odd given that the penalty—God taking Oral Roberts into His Kingdom and Arms—actually sounds like exactly what Roberts claims to want and has been working toward.

At any rate, perhaps we must cast our case for evolution, global warming, and vaccines in theological terms—invoking the name of our Savior liberally, but also sticking with the facts: rational Christianity, in effect. And isn’t that exactly what the Moral Mondays in North Carolina are all about? Aren’t the Moral Mondays an effort to get people to look at recent public policy and legislation and view the effects in religious terms. This seems natural enough: it’s what Jesus Himself did when facing in His time circumstances similar in some ways to the US today: helping and caring for the poor and humble—and, you will recall, He condemned wealth harshly. In effect, He was head of the Occupy Jerusalem Movement. And He suffered for it, as is often the case for those who try to help the poor and humble and protect them from the wealthy and powerful.

So it’s been done before. That indicates it might work.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 March 2014 at 1:05 pm

I really like 3-cushion billiards

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The player’s cue ball must bounce (from the cushions) at least 3 times before it hits the second object ball and thus completes the shot—note that the 3 bounces can be three times on the same rail (using extreme English): the requirement is for 3 bounces, without regard to which cushion. More than 3 before the shot is complete is fine, and 5-cushion shots are pretty common, though still admirable. With more bounces it’s easier to get a bad kiss from the first object ball, which is put in motion by the strike of the player’s cue ball. Since the first object ball is rolling around as the shot is still being completed, it can strike the cue ball or the second object ball, which can disrupt the position enough to foil the shot.

Take a look at an actual game:

UPDATE: Since I didn’t know either of the players in the video, and I had no idea who won the match, I was on the edge of my seat after about the first 5 minutes. The video is with real-time announcers, who of course get things wrong—“Okay, that miss opens the door to his opponent. These guys can make runs of ten, even fifteen, points. One little thing can decide the game,” and so on, and then the guy misses his very first shot. The comment then from the announcers: “Too thick. Hit it way too thick.”

At the same time, they do explain things I would not have known—for example, Sanchez makes one jaw-dropping shot (of many) by having his cue ball travel up and down the table, and the announcer said, “That’s a good shot, but remember that the Spanish style is to play the shots long, so he’s had a lot of practice. He just sees shots in terms of the long shot, and he plays it that way. An American would never take the long shot in that situation, always play the short game.” So, of course, when Americans do take a long shot, they are not well practiced and thus more apt to miss, which reinforces not taking the long shots.

Thus do we get little curlicues of memes (culture).

Written by LeisureGuy

8 March 2014 at 11:44 am

Posted in Games

CIA: We Spied On Senate Intelligence Committee Only Because They Took Classified Documents That Prove We’re Liars

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At the time I did not think John Brennan was a good pick for director of the CIA. His predecessor, Leon Panetta, is well respected and was not involved in the CIA during its program of torture. Panetta did allow evidence to be destroyed (92 videotapes of torture sessions) with no punishment for the CIA officer who obstructed justice—or would have obstructed justice had Obama shown one-tenth the prosecutorial zeal he’s shown in the case of Edward Snowden, who unfortunately for him does not have the wealth and connections that protect those who instituted and ran the US torture program. (For those, Obama elected to just let it go: “Look forward, not back,” a sentiment he has yet to express regarding Snowden.)

Brennan was highly involved in the torture program and naturally enough wants to avoid accountability, so he is fighting against the release of the report prepared under Panetta, who had no ax to grind. The problem with the Panetta report that the Senate committee now has is that it shows that the report prepared by Brennan is packed with self-serving lies.

TechDirt.com reports:

Earlier this week, we wrote about the accusations that the CIA was spying on Senate staffers on the Senate Intelligence Committee as they were working on a massive $40 million, 6,300-page report condemning the CIA’s torture program. The DOJ is apparently already investigating if the CIA violated computer hacking laws in spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee computers. The issue revolved around a draft of an internal review by the CIA, which apparently corroborates many of the Senate report’s findings — but which the CIA did not hand over to the Senate. This internal report not only supports the Senate report’s findings, but also shows that the CIA has been lying in response to questions about the terror program.

In response to all of this, it appears that the CIA is attempting, weakly, to spin this as being the Senate staffers’ fault, arguing that the real breach was the fact that the Senate staffers somehow broke the rules in obtaining that internal review. CIA boss John Brennan’s statement hints at the fact that he thinks the real problem was with the way the staffers acted, suggesting that an investigation would fault “the legislative” branch (the Senate) rather than the executive (the CIA).

In his statement on Wednesday Brennan hit back in unusually strong terms. “I am deeply dismayed that some members of the Senate have decided to make spurious allegations about CIA actions that are wholly unsupported by the facts,” Brennan said.

“I am very confident that the appropriate authorities reviewing this matter will determine where wrongdoing, if any, occurred in either the executive branch or legislative branch,” Brennan continued, raising a suggestion that the Senate committee itself might have acted improperly.

A further report detailed what he’s talking about. Reporters at McClatchy have revealed that the Senate staffers working on this came across the document, printed it out, and simply walked out of the CIA and over to the Senate with it, and the CIA is furious about that. Then, in a moment of pure stupidity, the CIA appears to have confronted the Senate Intelligence Committee about all of this… directly revealing that they were spying on the Committee staffers.

Several months after the CIA submitted its official response to the committee report, aides discovered in the database of top-secret documents at CIA headquarters a draft of an internal review ordered by former CIA Director Leon Panetta of the materials released to the panel, said the knowledgeable person.

They determined that it showed that the CIA leadership disputed report findings that they knew were corroborated by the so-called Panetta review, said the knowledgeable person.

The aides printed the material, walked out of CIA headquarters with it and took it to Capitol Hill, said the knowledgeable person.

“All this goes back to what is the technical structure here,” said the U.S. official who confirmed the unauthorized removal. “If I was a Senate staffer and I was given access to documents on the system, I would have a laptop that’s cleared. I would be allowed to look at these documents. But with these sorts of things, there’s generally an agreement that you can’t download or take them.”

The CIA discovered the security breach and brought it to the committee’s attention in January, leading to a determination that the agency recorded the staffers’ use of the computers in the high-security research room, and then confirmed the breach by reviewing the usage data, said the knowledgeable person.

There are many more details in the McClatchy report, which I highly recommend reading. And, yes, perhaps there’s an argument that Senate staffers weren’t supposed to take such documents, but the CIA trying to spin this by saying it was those staffers who were engaged in “wrongdoing” is almost certainly going to fall flat with Congress. After all, the intelligence committee is charged with oversight of the CIA, not the other way around. “You stole the documents we were hiding from you which proved we were lying, so we spied on you to find out how you did that” is not, exactly, the kind of argument that too many people are going to find compelling.

Still, the latest is that the CIA has successfully convinced the DOJ to have the FBI kick off an investigation of the Senate staffers, rather than of the CIA breaking the law and spying on their overseers. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 March 2014 at 9:01 am

Another great shave, but lather problem resurfaces

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SOTD 8 Mar 2014

A return to the original situation, and once again I experienced lather collapse disorder. The brush had very good lather for the first two passes, but by pass three, no lather remained. Very strange. This brush works great with other soaps, and I found that the soap worked pretty well with other brushes. I think I’ll just have to abandon this effort without solving the problem.

Still, the shave itself was great. (I reloaded the brush with another soap for the third pass.) The Maggard razor is quite nice and delivered a BBS result, and Krampert’s Finest is an excellent Bay Rum. The weekend begins in style.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 March 2014 at 8:53 am

Posted in Shaving

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