Later On

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

Archive for May 30th, 2014

Like it or not, back to the one-income family

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The headline at the Pacific Standard is “Stay-at-Home Parenting Is on the Rise Because Mothers Can’t Find Work”. What is available is “Homemaker,” but with crap wages. It makes one wonder whether the 50’s sitcom families had but one breadwinner each whether that was also a result of women being unable to find jobs, rather than a choice to stay at home. Erin Hoekstra provides the details.

Written by Leisureguy

30 May 2014 at 5:44 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

Interesting developments at US Border Patrol

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I wonder if this will go anywhere. I had high hopes for Gil Kerlikowske as head of the DEA because he seemed to have progressive ideas on dealing with drug problems—but in office he totally toed the party line. To a fault. But I, of course, have no idea of the constraints he was under, the conditions he accepted when he took the position, and so on. But certainly nothing seems to hold back Michelle Leonhart. She does pretty much as she pleases, so I think Gil could have done more.

Still: again we don’t know the marching orders. It could have been, “Go in there and clean up that thing. Do what it takes.” Who knows? We’ll just have to wait and see.

Written by Leisureguy

30 May 2014 at 5:38 pm

Smart rifle: Dystopian SF novel just around the corner.

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Hendrik Hertzberg has a good column in the New Yorker:

Soon after the Isla Vista mass shooting, an e-mail from Breitbart News, one of the slicker right-wing Web sites, popped into my inbox. Considering the source, the breathless subject line was startling: THE WORLD’S FIRST SMART RIFLE – NOW IN SEMI-AUTO

A smart gun, as you probably know, is one that can be fired only by an authorized person, such as the weapon’s legal owner. Anyway, that’s the usual meaning. The way a smart gun works, explains, “is that the gun’s biometric system is set up to recognize the rightful user through a unique identity marker such as a person’s fingerprint, magnetic rings, RFID chips or other proximity devices.”

A smart gun is a technological fix. If guns were smart, we wouldn’t need to worry so much about their falling into the wrong hands—such as the hands of a toddler who might playfully point one at his sister and pull the trigger, the hands of a troubled teen-ager who might borrow Dad’s hunting rifle to commit suicide, or the hands of a thug who has just wrested away a cop’s pistol.

Does it surprise you that the National Rifle Association opposes any attempt to mandate or encourage the use of smart guns, or even study their potential? Or that, earlier this month, when a couple of gun-shop owners decided to stock a few, they changed their minds after being smeared online as traitors and Communists, and threatened with arson and death?

Me neither. That’s why I did a double take at that enthusiastic-sounding subject line. After all, Breitbart, like every other site that caters to the populist Republican base, is a faithful lapdog of the N.R.A.

The mystery cleared up when I opened the e-mail. It wasn’t a news story but a “special message”—that is, an advertisement. And the rifle being hawked to the Breitbart readership is indeed “smart,” but in an altogether more sinister way:

TrackingPoint smart rifles, developed by military experts and a team of over forty engineers, have virtually eliminated shooter error and adverse conditions from the firing equation. Our Tag-Track-Xact system can more than double the proficiency of a skilled shooter and let them take shots they’d never before even attempt, while capturing it all on video. TrackingPoint smart rifles increase effective range, maximize accuracy, and almost entirely eliminate the possibility of errant shots. We’ve combined our technological innovations with the best hardware in the American gun industry has to offer, fusing our integrated trigger and groundbreaking scope system with 7.62, 300 BLK & 5.56 Semi Auto Platforms along with .338 Lapua and .300 Win Mag bolt action rifles to create a firing system unparalleled in the world today.

For the full effect, I clicked through to a Web site, whence I was taken to a video, which I present here for your convenience. It’s a must-see, believe me.

The gun is expensive, from around ten thousand to more than twenty thousand dollars. But price is no object if you’re a wealthy but myopic, arthritic, or just unskilled “sportsman,” or an enforcer for a Mexican drug gang, or a roving troubleshooter (as it were) for a moderately well-heeled jihadist network or an excessively pro-Second Amendment nongovernmental militia.

Continue reading.

And you really must watch this video:

Very slick technology, and the automatic firing mode—where the computer fires the gun the instant the gun acquires the target (with the proper lead computed for moving targetss): the human’s job is just to keep aiming at the target.

I don’t think this will end well. Put those guns on autonomous robots who have some half-assed algorithm to figure out who’s a valid target?

Written by Leisureguy

30 May 2014 at 3:51 pm

Posted in Business, Guns, Technology

Slipshod police work let Santa Barbara massacre happen

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One’s jaw drops on reading this story. They did not even make a simple check to see whether he had guns. Those two officers should face some accountability, including an in-person apology to each family with a loss from their dereliction of duty.

Written by Leisureguy

30 May 2014 at 3:29 pm

Posted in Guns, Law Enforcement

Why does government fail so often?

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A very interesting interview with the author of a book on the subject—and highly relevant given the posts today: failure of Congress to fund the VA (and then surprise and anger when the VA turns out not to work if it lacks money), failure of Michelle Leonhart to understand the failure of the DEA and her insistence on failing more and bigger, the lack of maternity leave in the US, and so on.

Written by Leisureguy

30 May 2014 at 3:01 pm

Posted in Books, Government

Would it be okay to have autonomous robots kill people?

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I think we should by now have learned the lessons of Terminator: five movies and a TV series. But there is money to be made—defense contractors are doubtless already counting the profits to be had—so we will probably push ahead with it. Here’s a story on a conference to take a look at the idea.

If the title question seems difficult, try this: Would it be okay to have autonomous robots kill you and/or members of your family?

Written by Leisureguy

30 May 2014 at 2:58 pm

Posted in Law, Technology

GOP-Controlled House Votes to Block Feds from Interfering in States with Legal Medical Pot

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The DEA is finally getting the close scrutiny their actions and attitude deserve. Janet Allon reports at AlterNet:

The GOP-controlled House showed signs of sanity when it voted early Friday in favor of blocking the federal government from interfering with states that permit the use of medical marijuana.

The 219-189 vote came about as the House debated a bill funding the Justice Department’s budget, AP reported.

Conservative GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California, the first state in the country to legalize medical marijuana, was among those behind the amendment, pointing out that, “Public opinion is shifting.” This is true even among Republicans. A recent Pew Research Center survey found that 61 percent of Republicans support the legalization of medical marijuana. And in general, Pew found nearly three-in-four Americans (72%) believe that efforts to enforce marijuana laws cost more than they are worth. But the federal government, and the DEA, have lagged far behind the rest of the public and continued their hard line of oppression and enforcement against the industry, medical marijuana users and legal pot in general.

A few other related landmark votes were taken as well Friday. An amendment prohibiting the DEA from interfering with state hemp production laws passed with 237 yes votes. An amendment prohibiting the DEA from interfering with state hemp research programs passed with 246 yes votes.

“Each of these votes represents a major victory for those seeking more sensible marijuana policies,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “Taken together, they represent an unprecedented change in course in the war on drugs. For years state after state has reformed their drug laws; now there’s a bipartisan consensus in Congress in favor of letting states set their own marijuana policies.”

According to the Drug Policy Alliance:

The votes are an embarrassment for the DEA and DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart who is under increasing pressure to step down. Earlier this month the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General launched investigations into numerous DEA scandals, including the massacre of civilians in Honduras, the use of NSA data both to spy on virtually all Americans and to systematically fabricate evidence, controversial uses of confidential informants, airline passenger searches, and sexual misconduct. DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart herself has been at the center of several scandals, including the House of Death scandal in which the DEA may have turned a blind eye to torture and murder, and the Andrew Chambers scandal, in which the DEA rehired a confidential informant with a history of lying.

“DEA Administrator Leonhart is virtually the only person left who still zealously supports the failed war on drugs,” said Piper. “These votes are her wake up call. It is time for her to go.”

Leonhart contradicts drug policy reforms being pursued by her bosses, Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama, and both Republicans and Democrats in Congress. She publicly rebuked President Obama for admitting that marijuana is as safe as alcohol, told members of Congress that the DEA will continue to go after marijuana even in states where it is legal despite DOJ guidance stating otherwise, and has spoken out against bipartisan drug sentencing reform in Congress that the Obama Administration is supporting. Attorney General Eric Holder recently scolded her. Criminal justice reformers have said Leonhart lacks the ability to lead and should resign. Activists are using the Twitter hashtag #FireLeonhart.

The measure now heads to the Democratic Senate.

Michelle Leonhart is a dangerous zealot. She is unsuited for a position of responsibility. Obama appointed her.

Written by Leisureguy

30 May 2014 at 2:41 pm

More on the VA mess

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The primary problem, as I noted in the previous post, is an incompetent, uncaring, corrupt, and cowardly Congress in which greed has replaced principles. Here’s an excellent collection of reports on how shabbily the US treats its veterans, from underfunding the VA to failing to provide necessary services.

Just click the link and scan the page. The US has failed its troops, and Congress is primarily to blame—specifically, the GOP, which cuts funding for everything so that taxes for the wealthy can be further reduced.

Written by Leisureguy

30 May 2014 at 2:00 pm

Posted in Government, Military

U.S. alone among Western countries on lack of paid maternity leave

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The US is “special” (in the pejorative sense) in many ways: one of 3 nations in the world that refuse to use the metric system (the other two are Liberia and Myanmar), the nation that imprisons the highest proportion of its citizens (we really lead here: no other nation is even close), the only advanced nation that witnesses mass killings of its citizens as a part of daily life, and so on. Our healthcare system, though recently improved, lags far behind that of other advanced nations. And the US does not provide paid maternity leave. John Zarocostas reports in McClatchy:

The United States is the only Western country—and one of only three in the world—that does not provide some kind of monetary payment to new mothers who’ve taken maternity leave from their jobs, a new U.N. study reports.

Two other countries share the U.S. position of providing “no cash benefits during maternity leave,” according to the report, which was released Tuesday by the International Labor Organization: Oman, an absolute monarchy in the Persian Gulf; and Papua New Guinea, a South Pacific nation where the U.S. State Department says violence against women is so common that 60 percent of men in a U.N. study acknowledged having committed a rape.

The other 182 countries surveyed provide either a Social Security-like government payment to women who’ve recently given birth or adopted a child or require employers to continue at least a percentage of the worker’s pay. In 70 countries, paid leave is also provided for fathers, the report said, including Australia, which introduced 14 days of paid paternity leave last year, and Norway, which expanded its paternity leave from 12 to 14 weeks.

The United States also provides for fewer weeks of maternity leave than what other Western countries mandate, the report said. . .

Continue reading. It’s too bad that the US simply cannot get its act together. The problem in part is due to an antiquated Congressional structure that doesn’t allow effective operation. In additional to structural problems, it seems that most in Congress operate in fear (of the next election) and greed and don’t have any sense of responsibility to the nation and its citizens. For example, those making the most noise about the breakdown of the VA healthcare system are the very same people who voted against providing the funding so the VA could do its work. They eagerly blame Shinseki and ignore the damage that they themselves have done by underfunding the agency—an attitude typical of Congress, and an attitude that results in the continuing decline of the US.

UPDATE: More on how Congress shafted the VA.

Written by Leisureguy

30 May 2014 at 1:37 pm

A perfect three-brush shave

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SOTD 30 May 2014

A terrific shave. The three-brush thing came about in one of the many discussions that begin with a statement that soft brushes don’t work on hard soaps—for those one needs a stiff, dense, scrubby brush. This idea is, based on my own experience, completely false. The softest brush I own can quickly make a lather from a hard soap—in this case Geo. F. Trumper’s Rose shaving soap. The same discussion mentioned specifically the Ecotools brush as not making lather well and lacking in lather capacity: my experience contradicts that.

So I used a different brush on each pass:

Pass 1: The Ecotools. Loaded for 10 seconds, which was ample. Moved to beard and worked up the lather for 25-30 seconds. I know the Ecotools has ample capacity—I’ve used it for many three-pass shaves—but this time I was merely verifying, yet again, that makes an excellent lather quickly and easily. I quite understand that some may prefer the feel a stiff, dense, scrubby brush, so I am merely discussing performance. The Ecotools quite obviously performs well, based on my continuing use.

Pass 2: An Omega silvertip. This and another Omega brush very much like it have the softest, fluffiest knots of any brush I have. It has enormous capacity, which of course was not brought into play today. Again, I loaded the brush for 10 seconds, worked the lather up on my face for 25-30 seconds. Absolutely no trouble in creating lather with a soft, fluffy brush. Again, some may prefer a different feel for their shaving brush, but in terms of performance a soft, fluffy knot works just fine on hard soap.

Pass 3: The Simpson Chubby 1 in Best. This was my comparison brush, and it, too, did a fine job: again, loading for 10 seconds and working up the lather for 25-30 seconds. The Chubby did no better and no worse than the other two brushes. It does have a difference feel, but in terms of performance, I would say that the brushes are equal.

The razor was my new Axwell, and it did a fine job. Because of its red handle, I went with Rose as the shave theme, so finished the shave with Saint Charles Shave’s Savory Rose.

An excellent, BBS shave, and loads of lather.

Written by Leisureguy

30 May 2014 at 8:26 am

Posted in Shaving

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