Later On

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

Archive for July 14th, 2014

Good news: Those who hated us for our freedoms must be hating us a lot less these days

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Andrea Peterson has a good article in the Washington Post, in which she quotes this from a new report by Pew Research:

The Snowden revelations appear to have damaged one major element of America’s global image: its reputation for protecting individual liberties. In 22 of 36 countries surveyed in both 2013 and 2014, people are significantly less likely to believe the U.S. government respects the personal freedoms of its citizens. In six nations, the decline was 20 percentage points or more.



Read the whole thing. More charts and graphs at the link.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 July 2014 at 4:50 pm

Well-stated: Handwriting as a basic human skill

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Perhaps I exaggerate… but perhaps not. Ted Scheinmann writes at the Pacific Standard:

If you want to gauge in earnest just how divorced education has become from the simple practice of handwriting, here is an experiment. On the first day of a college course in elementary composition, try starting the class with a “little freehand writing exercise.” From the general demeanor of the room (mere stupefaction if you’re lucky), an observer might imagine you had asked them to recite the Gettysburg Address in Aramaic. Friendly whispers will ensue, followed by the sound of respectful paper-tearing as a handful of apparent antique-enthusiasts furnish their classmates with a sheet or two. The exercise will then proceed in peaceable fashion.

This is an embellishment but not entirely an exaggeration. In my own classrooms, and to the credit of my students, I have yet to see a mutiny—even when I declare a ban on laptops for significant stretches of the semester. Like most of their peers across the nation, these young scholars are required to arrive on campus with a computer (and the university provides thousands each year for those who cannot afford one). Only a hardened neo-Victorian would bemoan this arrangement. But personal computing and Web-research and furtive meme-hunting (I understand; lectures get boring) need not be incompatible with a modest foundational fluency in taking notes in pen and ink. When we lose that fluency, we lose a great deal else besides.

The truth for many of these students is that no one ever taught them cursive (let alone something like shorthand), and note-taking is thereby all the slower, even without the comparison to typing. But the problem is of much wider ambit. Dysgraphia—genetically determined—already slows development in certain children it affects, especially the development of memory-skills; meanwhile we are speedily removing the expectation that non-dysgraphic children will receive any practical instruction in a fairly delicate motor skill. The resulting developmental deficiencies can mimic the dysgraphic symptom model, and cognitive scientists are building a consensus that this failure of conditioning will probably hold kids back.

In his 1999 book The Hand: How Its Use Shapes the Brain, Language, and Human Culture, Frank R. Wilson offers an emphatic argument that our brain development depends in no small way on what we do with our hands. The New York Times‘ reviewer may have caviled a bit with Wilson’s interview methods, but recent scholarship has more or less borne out Wilson’s thrust. Nancy Darling, professor of psychology at Oberlin, summarizes the growing consensus:

Using our hands requires the development of particular areas of the brain. That’s true when we are learning to use a tool, like our ancestors wielding an axe. It’s true when we learn to play the piano. It’s true when we learn to write. It’s true when we learn to sew or play with blocks. One of the advantages of moving away from the keyboard and doing something that requires greater flexibility in how we use our hands is that it also requires greater flexibility in how we use our brains. This, in turn, requires our brains to develop in new ways.

The benefits of writing by hand, and doing so from a young age, are fundamental: improved and sustained development in social skills, hand-eye coordination, long-term memory. And when one considers “fluency” in its literal sense, it makes sense that . . .

Continue reading.

Also, note this.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 July 2014 at 4:13 pm

Posted in Daily life

US spying on Germany

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From a good report in the New Yorker by Amy Davidson. Markus R. is the German working in the BND who was spying for the US:

Markus R. would be a lesser figure if the Germans were not still enraged about the N.S.A.’s unabashed spying on its citizens, including the agency’s eavesdropping on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s telephone calls. (Merkel, whose own life in East Germany gives her some perspective on spying, said this week that she wasn’t angry, just really disappointed.) Even before that, there was the case of a car salesman from the German city of Ulm whom the C.I.A. accidentally kidnapped because his name was similar to someone whom they were interested in—and who was then held in a secret prison for months, even after the Agency realized its mistake.

Also: the CIA tortured him, and when he was released he was simply dumped in the countryside in Macedonia, and the US has refused to apologize, allow him to sue for damages, or even to acknowledge our actions (presumably because of shame, but it’s not a constructive response).

I’m beginning to think that it’s not our freedoms that makes others hate us—or perhaps it is, in a way: that the US feels it’s free to do whatever it damn pleases and to refuse to accept any accountability for its actions.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 July 2014 at 3:42 pm

DARPA’s new experimental sniper bullet can turn in mid-flight

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I’ve seen bullets that chase down the target—they were used in Who Framed Roger Rabbit—but now DARPA has developed an actual sniper round. Check out the video in this story.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 July 2014 at 3:16 pm

Posted in Guns, Military

Good take on the wretched Daily Mail

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Well worth reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 July 2014 at 3:06 pm

Posted in Media

Ever Wondered Why the World is a Mess? Here’s why.

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Roberto Savio explains at the Inter Press Service News Agency:

Addressing this column to the younger generations, Roberto Savio, founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News, offers ten explanations of how the current mess in which the world finds itself came about.

ROME, Jul 11 2014 (IPS) – While the Third World War has not been formally declared, conflicts throughout the world are reaching levels unseen since 1944.

Of course, for the large majority of people throughout the world, news about these conflicts is just part of our daily news, but another share of our daily news is about the mess in our countries.

This is so complex and confusing that many people have given up the effort to attempt any form of deep understanding, so I thought it would be useful to offer ten explanations of how we succeeded in creating this mess.

1) The world, as it now exists, was largely shaped by the colonial powers, which divided the world among themselves, carving out states without any consideration for existing ethnic, religious or cultural realities. This was especially true of Africa and the Arab world, where the concept of state was imposed on systems of tribes and clans.

Just to give a few examples, none of the present-day Arab countries existed prior to colonialism. Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, the Gulf Countries (including Saudi Arabia) were all parts of the Ottoman Empire. When this disappeared with the First World War (like the Russian, German and Austro-Hungarian empires), the winners – Britain and France – sat down at a table and drafted the boundaries of countries to be run by them, as they had done before with Africa. So, never look at those countries as equivalent to countries with a history of national identity.

2) After the end of the colonial era, it was inevitable that to keep these artificial countries alive, and avoid their disintegration, strongmen would be needed to cover the void left by the colonial powers. The rules of democracy were used only to reach power, with very few exceptions. The Arab Spring did indeed get rid of dictators and autocrats, just to replace them with chaos and warring factions (as in Libya) or with a new autocrat, as in Egypt.

The case of Yugoslavia is instructive. After the Second World War, Marshal Tito dismantled the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and created the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. But we all know that Yugoslavia did not survive the death of its strongman.

The lesson is that without creating a really participatory and unifying process of citizens, with a strong civil society, local identities will always play the most decisive role. So it will take some before many of the new countries will be considered real countries devoid of internal conflicts.

3) Since the Second World War, the meddling of the colonial and super powers in the process of consolidation of new countries has been a very good example of man-made disaster.

Take the case of Iraq. When the United States took over administration of the country in 2003 after its invasion, General Jay Garner was appointed and lasted just a month, because he was considered too open to local views.

Garner was replaced by a diplomat, Jan Bremmer, who took up his post after a two-hour briefing by the then Secretary of State, Condolezza Rice. Bremmer immediately proceeded to dissolve the army (creating 250,000 unemployed) and firing anyone in the administration who was a member of the Ba’ath party, the party of Saddam Hussein. This destabilised the country, and today’s mess is a direct result of this decision.

The current Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, whom Washington is trying to remove as the cause of polarisation between Shiites and Sunnis, was the preferred American candidate. So was the President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, who is now virulently anti-American. This is a tradition that goes back to the first U.S. intervention in Vietnam, where Washington put in place Ngo Dihn Dien, who turned against its views, until he was assassinated.

There is no space here to give example of similar mistakes (albeit less important) by other Western powers. The point is that all leaders installed from outside do not last long and bring instability.

4) . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 July 2014 at 2:21 pm

Young boy beaten by Israeli police gets zero help from his Representative

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Obviously, Rep. Kathy Castor (R-FL) really doesn’t care all that much that the young son of two of her constituents was brutally beaten by Israeli police. Max Blumenthal reports in AlterNet:

On July 10, Democratic Representative Kathy Castor of Florida’s Tampa Bay area issued an impassioned plea for the protection of endangered manatees. At the same time, she remained conspicuously silent about the brutal beating and ongoing detention of one of her constituents by a foreign government.

Tarek Abu Khdeir, a 15-year-old Palestinian-American high school student from Tampa, was brutally beaten in a videotaped July 3 incident in occupied East Jerusalem by Israeli border police. After being thrown in prison, he is now held under house arrest without charges, unable to receive adequate medical care for the extensive injuries he sustained during the beating. (Video of the alleged beating at the bottom of this article)

Abu Khdeir’s family has beseeched their congressional representative, Castor, to publicly call for his release and immediate return to the United States. Though her staff has met repeatedly with the family, she has said and done nothing of substance to assist them.

“If Tarek [Abu Khdeir] was a Jewish American teen, everybody and their mother would be howling for his release,” Hassan Shibly, chief director of CAIR-Florida and the Abu Khdeir family’s legal representative told me. “What we’re seeing here is a clear double standard.”

While sources close to Abu Khdeir’s family say Castor’s staff has treated the family with respect even as they rebuffed their demands, a distant relative who visited Castor’s field office in Washington D.C. to plead for help said she was “yelled out, intimidated, and insulted” by a staffer.

Despite my repeated requests for an interview, members of Castor’s staff have refused to discuss the case with me.

In a private letter issued to Abu Khdeir’s family, Castor pointedly stated that she had not called for the teen’s release and return to the US. Instead, she assured them that she “requested for Tariq to be provided with the appropriate and needed medical care and for [her] to be kept apprised of any plans of his return to the United States.” In a separate letter to the US consulate in Jerusalem, Castor merely stated that she would “appreciate being kept apprised of any plans for the return of Tariq and his parents to the United States.”

Florida Rep’s Bill Deutsch and Ileana Ros-Lehtenin recently embarked on a junket to Israel where they met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, issued statements of sympathy for the three Jewish Israeli teens kidnapped and killed last month apparently by Palestinian militants, and expressed vehement support for Israel’s ongoing military assault on the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Neither lawmaker has said a word on Abu Khdeir’s beating and detention, however.

While Florida Senator Bill Nelson has kept mum over Abu Khdeir, another Florida Democrat, Representative Dennis Ross, a Republican, sent a letter to a member of the Abu Khdeir family questioning whether Tariq Abu Khdeir was actually innocent. “Though all of the facts surrounding the incident remain somewhat unclear,” Ross wrote, “it is widely reported that Tariq was participating in a protest in Palestine in response to the kidnapping and murder of his cousin, a Palestinian teenager.”

In fact, Abu Khdeir was in Jerusalem for a family wedding and denied any participation in the rioting sparked by the news of his cousin’s murder. “[The police] just kept beating him,” Leen Barghouti, a Georgetown University graduate student from East Jerusalem who witnessed the incident told journalist Alex Kane. “It was pretty much an ambush.”

Barghouti added, “It was really crazy. [Tariq Abu Khdeir] wasn’t anywhere near the main street, that’s the weird part. I know they keep saying he was taking part in the demonstration or clashes, but he wasn’t anywhere near the street.”

In CCTV video footage of the beating aired on international media outlets and disseminated across the internet, Abu Khdeir appeared prostrate, fully immobilized and restrained as two cops gratuitously kicked and pummeled his head and torso. He told reporters that he was beaten so badly he lost consciousness.

After the beating, Abu Khdeir was jailed in the Russian Compound in central Jerusalem, a detention center where Palestinian suspects are occasionally tortured. There, according to his family, he was badly beaten again.

Through their lobbying of the US Embassy in Israel, family members were able to get Abu Khdeir transferred to a nearby hospital, where he was handcuffed to his bed. “I thought I was dead for a second until I woke up in the hospital,” he told reporters. The teen was then taken back to prison.

Only after the State Department called for an investigation into the incident and his parents posted $877 in bail did the Israeli police release Abu Khdeir to his family in Jerusalem, where he remains under house arrest. He has yet to be formally charged for any crime. . .

Continue reading.

Obviously, Israel places little value on Palestinian lives (cf. the growing number of civilians killed in airstrikes on civilian areas, including a clinic and a mosque), so it’s unsurprising that such things as this beating happen. But it’s somewhat surprising that the US government cares so little about a US citizen.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 July 2014 at 2:09 pm

Posted in Mideast Conflict

Surgeons: Does the nature of the work require a certainly personality type?

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Very intriguing article by Wen Chen in Pacific Standard:

My profession is filled with exceptional individuals who do amazing, lifesaving work. Many of us are jerks.

This is the trouble with surgeons. We are a sub-tribe of doctors who have long been celebrated for our abilities yet reviled for our personalities. In movies and TV shows, we are egomaniacal, hostile, and even mentally unstable. A low point came in 1993 with the film Malice, which featured a scenery-chewing turn by Alec Baldwin as a gifted but evil cardiac surgeon who denied having a God complex. “I am God,” he clarified.

Behind the caricatures lies some truth. Many surgeons are abrasive, abusive, and wildly self-centered—so much so that observers have speculated that they suffer from psychiatric disorders. In 2012, British psychologist Kevin Dutton published The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success, a controversial book arguing there are certain benefits to being ruthless, cunning, and indifferent to the feelings of others. Dutton included a list (based on an Internet survey) of professions with the highest proportion of psychopaths. Surgeons landed at number five, barely trailing CEOs and lawyers.

Within the past two decades, though, the surgical profession has attempted a wholesale revamping of its image and ideals. Compassion, communication, and collaboration are now strongly emphasized during training. It’s been a rapid and turbulent metamorphosis that has undoubtedly led to improvements for patients, hospital co-workers, and even surgeons themselves. Nonetheless, in the process, surgery may have created its own identity crisis. We want to believe we’re better off with nicer surgeons. But what do we lose?

SURGERY HAS ALWAYS BEEN, at its core, a brutal undertaking. Prior to the introduction of anesthesia in the mid-19th century, surgeons often worked to a sound track of screams. Writing in 1812, British novelist and playwright Frances “Fanny” Burney provided a rare patient-centered account of the horrors of a mastectomy without anesthesia. “When the dreadful steel was plunged into the breast,” she wrote, “I began a scream that lasted unintermittingly during the whole time of the incision—& I almost marvel that it rings not in my Ears still! so excruciating was the agony.”

No surgeon could inflict such anguish for long without developing a tough shell. Thirteenth-century French surgeon Henri de Mondeville wrote that two of the most important requirements for a surgeon were a strong stomach and the ability to “cut like an executioner.” Samuel Cooper, a British surgeon of the early 19th century, identified the surgeon’s most valuable quality as “undisturbed coolness, which is still more rare than skill.”

Because of their grisly work and perceived lack of refinement, surgeons lagged far behind their medical counterparts in social status, on a par with blacksmiths or barbers. Then, with the invention of anesthesia in the 1840s, followed a few decades later by the introduction of antiseptic techniques, surgeons began to achieve success upon success in invading the body and curing disease. Their profession skyrocketed in prestige. In 1904, New York surgeon Frederic Dennis delivered an exuberant keynote address at the Universal Exposition in St. Louis and lauded the “conspicuous grandeur” of surgery’s ascendance and the “self-reliance, principle, independence, and determination” of those who could perform it.

While surgery grew somewhat less gruesome, surgeons of the 20th century retained many of the personality traits of their pre-anesthetic forebears: detachment, resolve, and a thirst for action.

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 July 2014 at 1:36 pm

Posted in Medical, Mental Health

When expectations shape experience

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Very interesting article on what all influences our taste of wines.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 July 2014 at 1:14 pm

Posted in Drinks, Food, Science

Brookings: One political party is actively working to make government fail

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Talk about stating the obvious! As Kevin Drum points out, our current migration crisis is completely due to an obstructionist political party. Christopher Ingraham and Tom Hamburger write in the Washington Post:

The federal government is failing now more than ever. That’s the conclusion of a unique taxonomy of federal ball-dropping just released by Paul C. Light, a non-resident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Light analyzed 41 high-profile cases of federal failure from 2001 to the present day, culled from the Pew Research Center’s News Interest Index. Because it’s ultimately derived from news accounts, the contours of the list are roughly what you’d expect. It starts with the 9/11 terrorist attacks and ends – for now – with the VA waiting list debacle in Phoenix. In between it covers everything from the search for WMDs in Iraq to Hurricane Katrina to Operation Fast and Furious. You check out the full list in an interactive over at the Brookings website, or scroll to the bottom of this post.

As with any qualitative taxonomy, there’s plenty of room quibble over which government mishaps made the cut and which didn’t. For instance, last year’s government shutdown, and the debt ceiling brinkmanship that led to the loss of S&P’s AAA credit rating for U.S. debt in 2011, didn’t make the cut. This is because Light focused only on “management/delivery failures by agencies. Some of these failures involved poorly crafted policy as a contributor, but failure had to come from the bureaucracy in some way.” So business-as-usual gridlock in Congress doesn’t make the cut.

Setting aside questions of inclusion/exclusion, Light’s work is the only methodologically rigorous account of government failures we know of, so it’s worth hearing what he has to say about these failures, what caused them, and how similar missteps can be avoided in the future.

Light breaks down the myriad factors that contribute to each of the failures he studies – bad policy, limited resources, and structural, leadership and cultural shortcomings. The study tracks the growing failure rate through the past five presidents. While many factors contribute to the generally increasing frequency of bureaucratic failures, the fluctuating numbers do reflect on an administration’s overall managerial competence. Light believes that Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush led especially competent White House teams. Reagan, his study shows, averaged 1.6 failures per year during the final part of his term.

On the other hand, George W. Bush’s administration was the most failure-ridden of them all. W. averaged 3.1 failures per year – overseeing more than twice as many annual failures as his father. . .

Continue reading. Article includes graphs, and also includes this quotation from Light’s report:

Republicans exploited the Democratic cowardice by doing everything in their power to undermine performance. They stonewalled needed policy changes, and made implementation of new programs as difficult as possible; they cut budgets, staffs, and collateral capacity to a minimum, proving the adage that the logical extension of doing more with less is doing everything with nothing; they used the presidential appointments process to decapitate key agencies, and appointed more than their share of unqualified executives; and they muddied mission, tolerated unethical conduct, and gamed the performance measure process to guarantee failing scores for as many government policies as possible.

As the WaPo article notes:

Republicans exploited the Democratic cowardice by doing everything in their power to undermine performance. They stonewalled needed policy changes, and made implementation of new programs as difficult as possible; they cut budgets, staffs, and collateral capacity to a minimum, proving the adage that the logical extension of doing more with less is doing everything with nothing; they used the presidential appointments process to decapitate key agencies, and appointed more than their share of unqualified executives; and they muddied mission, tolerated unethical conduct, and gamed the performance measure process to guarantee failing scores for as many government policies as possible.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 July 2014 at 12:45 pm

Airbus wants to patent the most uncomfortable plane seats ever

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The idea of air travel is to make it increasingly unpleasant until people stop traveling—at least that seems to be the case.

Take a look at the “seats” Airbus is contemplating.

Airbus seats



Written by LeisureGuy

14 July 2014 at 12:34 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

Three New JPMorgan IT Deaths Include Alleged Murder-Suicide

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For those following the unnatural deaths count for JPMorgan, three more to add to the tally. Pam Martens and Russ Martens have been tracking this for a while. The SEC doesn’t want to hear anything about it, of course—the SEC views its job as protecting Wall Street, not holding any Wall Street firms accountable. The latest report:

Since December of last year, JPMorgan Chase has been experiencing tragic, sudden deaths of workers on a scale which sets it alarmingly apart from other Wall Street mega banks. Adding to the concern generated by the deaths is the recent revelation that JPMorgan has an estimated $180 billion of life insurance in force on its current and former workers.

Making worldwide news last week was the violent deaths of JPMorgan technology executive Julian Knott and his wife, Alita, ages 45 and 47, respectively, in Jefferson Township, New Jersey. However, two other recent, sudden deaths of technology workers at JPMorgan have gone unreported by the media.

The bodies of the Knott couple, who have a teenage daughter and two teenage sons, were discovered by police on July 6, 2014 at approximately 1:12 a.m. According to a press release issued by the Morris County Prosecutor’s office, Jefferson Township Police Officers Tim Hecht and Dave Wroblewski responded to the Knott home located in the Lake Hopatcong section following a “report of two unconscious adults.”

Who made the call to police and whether the children were home at the time has not been announced by the police or the prosecutor’s office. After a preliminary investigation, the police announced on July 8 that they believe Julian Knott shot his wife repeatedly and then took his own life with the same gun.

Friends and colleagues say Julian Knott was a kind and thoughtful individual. The idea that he would orphan his three teenage children, leaving them with the memory of the brutal murder of their mother at the hands of a father they loved and trusted, is causing shock and disbelief among relatives and friends in the U.K. . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 July 2014 at 12:30 pm

Posted in Business, Law

Megyn Kelly explains why Nancy Pelosi is sexist and Hobby Lobby is not

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Laura Clawson has a very good post at Daily Kos:

Nancy Pelosi’s objections to the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision are sexist, according to Fox News host and noted sexism expert Megyn Kelly. Pelosi, of course, noted correctly that the five justices who put the religious beliefs of corporations over the health care rights of actual people (though women people, who obviously matter less than others) were all men, and suggested that this was a problem. Here is Kelly’s impeccable logic demonstrating that Pelosi is ignorant or intentionally misleading:

“First of all, the gender of the justices in the Hobby Lobby majority is totally irrelevant,” Kelly said, pointing out that the justices who ruled in the majority for Roe v. Wade were also men. “Does Ms. Pelosi think those justices were ill-equipped to fairly decide that case? Or is it only when a judge disagrees with Ms. Pelosi that his gender is an issue.”

Or else, it’s an issue when a group of one type of people acts to remove rights from a group of another type of people, but it’s a different thing when one group of people acts to expand rights to another group of people. Just a thought. Kind of like how it was white people who enslaved black people, and that was bad, and it was also white Abraham Lincoln who signed the Emancipation Proclamation and mainly white politicians who passed the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, and that was good. Funny how that works, eh?

She added, “If Speaker John Boehner made a similar comment about the female Supreme Court justices, Nancy Pelosi would be crying sexism — and that’s what she is guilty of here.”

Yes, and this is happening in a fictional land in which there are five female Supreme Court justices acting unanimously to harm men, while insisting that their decision should in no way ever be applied to women.

This is where I point out that Megyn Kelly is one of the smartest, most-making-sense people hosting shows on Fox News. And then we all choose one of the following responses: cringe, facepalm, or wearily disgusted head shake.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 July 2014 at 12:18 pm

Posted in GOP, Law

George Orwell comments on what we now see in the US and the UK

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Via a good post at Daily Kos by La Feminista, I read again George Orwell’s famous 1946 essay “Politics and the English Language,” which begins:

Most people who bother with the matter at all would admit that the English language is in a bad way, but it is generally assumed that we cannot by conscious action do anything about it. Our civilization is decadent and our language — so the argument runs — must inevitably share in the general collapse. It follows that any struggle against the abuse of language is a sentimental archaism, like preferring candles to electric light or hansom cabs to aeroplanes. Underneath this lies the half-conscious belief that language is a natural growth and not an instrument which we shape for our own purposes.

Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible. Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step toward political regeneration: so that the fight against bad English is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers. I will come back to this presently, and I hope that by that time the meaning of what I have said here will have become clearer. Meanwhile, here are five specimens of the English language as it is now habitually written.

These five passages have not been picked out because they are especially bad — I could have quoted far worse if I had chosen — but because they illustrate various of the mental vices from which we now suffer. They are a little below the average, but are fairly representative examples. I number them so that I can refer back to them when necessary: . . .

Continue reading.

La Feminista quotes Orwell’s conclusion, and adds emphasis:

I have not here been considering the literary use of language, but merely language as an instrument for expressing and not for concealing or preventing thought. Stuart Chase and others have come near to claiming that all abstract words are meaningless, and have used this as a pretext for advocating a kind of political quietism. Since you don’t know what Fascism is, how can you struggle against Fascism? One need not swallow such absurdities as this, but one ought to recognize that the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language, and that one can probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end. If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy. You cannot speak any of the necessary dialects, and when you make a stupid remark its stupidity will be obvious, even to yourself. Political language — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one’s own habits, and from time to time one can even, if one jeers loudly enough, send some worn-out and useless phrase — some jackboot, Achilles’ heel, hotbed, melting pot, acid test, veritable inferno, or other lump of verbal refuse — into the dustbin, where it belongs

Written by LeisureGuy

14 July 2014 at 12:14 pm

Posted in Daily life

OWS activist comments on the plight of women in jail

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Cecily McMillan is interviewed at Democracy Now!, transcript plus video. Their blurb:

On July 2, Occupy Wall Street activist Cecily McMillan was driven to Queens, New York, and dropped off on the side of the road, with only a MetroCard, after serving nearly two months in Rikers jail. McMillan’s sentence for allegedly assaulting a police officer was the most severe served for any of the thousands of Occupy Wall Street protesters arrested over the course of the movement. She was detained in March 2012 as protesters tried to re-occupy Zuccotti Park, six months after the Occupy Wall Street movement began. McMillan says she felt someone grab her breast from behind, and swung out instinctively, striking her assailant, who turned out to be police officer Grantley Bovell. Nine of the 12 jurors who convicted McMillan of second-degree assault asked the judge for leniency, saying they did not think she should serve any time in jail. McMillan served 59 days, and has now become an advocate for the women she met behind bars, many of whom she says were denied adequate medical care. “Your body is no longer your own,” she says of life behind bars.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 July 2014 at 12:01 pm

Interesting defense to charge of corruption: He says it was fraud, not corruption (and that apparently is fine)

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I have to admit that defending oneself against charges of corruption (taking £12,000 per mont (roughly $20,500 per month) to lobby Parliament and the British government on behalf of the Cayman Islands was simply against the rules of Parliament, but the member (of the House of Lords) made the interesting defense that, although he was accepting the money for the lobbying, he actually had no plans whatsoever to do any lobbying. So it was okay??

I do not understand this at all. Perhaps it is one of those cultural differences. Here’s the story by Melanie Newman at The Bureau of Investigative Journalism:

Conservative peer Lord Blencathra – formerly known as David Maclean – has been ordered to apologise to the House of Lords for signing a contract with the Cayman Islands government under which he pledged to lobby both Houses of Parliament.

The move follows a two-year investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism into the former Tory Chief Whip’s activities as director of the Cayman Islands Government Office in London.

Related story: Conservative peer hired as tax haven lobbyist

The Standards Commissioner for the House of Lords ruled today that by signing the contract Lord Blencathra broke the House of Lords Code of Conduct and ordered an apology.

But the Commissioner, Paul Kernaghan, accepted the peer’s assurances that despite signing the £12,000 per month contract, Lord Blencathra had not intended to lobby either House and did not do so.

Lord Blencathra’s apology is likely to take place on Thursday July 17, after the report into his conduct is formally considered by the House of Lords.

Two complaints

The apology follows two complaints to the Standards Commissioner about the peer’s conduct by the Labour MP Paul Flynn. The investigation into the first of these complaints found Lord Blencathra had not lobbied Parliament or ministers for gain and therefore had not breached the Code.

A second inquiry was opened in March 2014 after the Bureau revealed that under his contract the peer was required to promote the Caymans’ interests to peers, MPs and the government.

In the latest report published today, the Standards Commissioner for the House of Lords concludes that “by agreeing to a contract which would involve the provision of parliamentary services Lord Blencathra breached paragraph 8(d) of the Code of Conduct (which prohibits members from accepting or agreeing to accept payment or other reward in return for providing parliamentary advice or services).

“Although the Commissioner finds that there is no evidence that Lord Blencathra in fact provided such services, the mere existence of that contractual term put him in breach of the Code.” . . .


Continue reading.

I am still bemused that his defense—that it was his intent to defraud the Cayman Islands, taking the money and not rendering the service, is so readily accepted.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 July 2014 at 11:59 am

Posted in Government, Law

iKon DLC slant—and the damned nick!

with one comment

SOTD 14 July 2014

Very good prep: fine lather from Tiki Bar using the Omega R&B brush (it’s sold here for $30 as a limited edition model, but the limited edition seems to refer to the R&B (Razor & Brush, a great vendor of the recent past) stamp. The brush itself is a part of the Omega line: model 21762, and that may be available elsewhere when the R&B run is exhausted. Indeed, on searching “Omega 21762”, I find that sells it without the R&B stamp for $37. So the brush will probably be available in any case—but $30 is a good price for such a remarkably good boar brush.

I used the shorter “bamboo” style iKon handle with the DLC head this morning, and I went to a new blade right away—and got a couple of nicks! I don’t know why I can sometimes shave flawlessly with this razor, having no problems at all, and sometimes cannot seem to avoid a nick. I think it’s probably my technique—perhaps if I shaved with it every day I would master it sooner. It’s possible that blade play may be a cause: I’ve read reports of such a thing with the regular iKon slant, but I really haven’t noticed in either iKon slant: DLC or plain.

I’ll keep working on it—I finally did figure out Stirling soap, after all—but from Wednesday through Sunday I will not shave. I want to test an idea that I read on Wicked_Edge, that the Stealth will not deal well with more than a couple of days of stubble. The idea’s not been tested—someone thought it would “probably” take 4 passes to get a smooth shave with the Stealth since the Stealth is so mild/comfortable. I see comfort as independent of efficiency, so my own expectation is that 3 passes with the Stealth, even on a 5-day stubble, will produce BBS. So: different expectations, and we’ll look to experience to decide. (My own record of having my expectations validated by experience is mediocre, which is why I turn so often to experience to decide.)

I think part of the problem is that many have a strong feeling that comfort and efficiency are incompatible: if a razor is extremely comfortable it cannot be extremely efficient. I have found that not to be true in practice (cf. Feather AS-D1/2, Stealth, Standard, and others), but I’ve not go without shaving for several days for a long, long time. So I’ll make the sacrifice of skipping my shave for several days—and those who shave in the traditional manner understand that it is indeed a (minor) sacrifice—to see what actually happens.

A good splash of Hâttric, and the week gets in motion.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 July 2014 at 10:32 am

Posted in Shaving

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