Later On

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

Archive for August 25th, 2014

Modern business ethics and principles in one question

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It’s in an article in the Washington Post by Craig Timberg: “So my phone can be tracked anywhere. Can I make it stop?

No, that’s not the question. The question is the last sentence of the article:

“Why would you protect your customers if your customers don’t complain about not being protected?” Nohl [a German telecommunications researcher] said.

Exactly. And why provide supplements as described on the label if no one is complaining? Or secretly slaughter diseased cattle for food if no one complains?

It’s the ethical posture anything you can get away with is allowed—and of course that’s exactly the guiding ethical principle of the modern corporation. (Bank of American is writing a $16 billion check, in effect, to pay fines, but the executives responsible not suffer in the slightest: their jobs, salaries, and exorbitant bonuses will continue as before. And certainly no one will go to prison. Are you kidding? For fraud this enormous? It’s just not done.

Eric Holder is another person for whom I’ve lost a lot of respect.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 August 2014 at 3:52 pm

Posted in Business, Government, Law

Is medical marijuana the answer to America’s prescription painkiller epidemic?

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Interesting question, eh? More and more one becomes aware that ll decisions involve tradeoffs, and figuring those out seems to be where managers (for example) spend a lot of time. Certainly legalizing marijuana cannot be an unalloyed good, but the tradeoffs: billions saved through ending the (futile, brutal, costly, life-wrecking) War on Drugs. a drastic decline in prescription painkiller addiction (and some increase in the number addicted to marijuana, but the addiction rate for marijuana is quite low), help for many in pain or with ills such as epilepsy, which marijuana can relieve—those tradeoffs look damn good. Not to mention additional tax revenue. (Most drug dealers cheat on their income tax, it turns out.)

Jason Millman writes in the Washington Post of a very interesting study. Although conclusions were not clear-cut the findings are encouraging enough to suggest more studies, especially in states like Colorado and Washington, where marijuana is (relatively) freely available to adults.


Written by LeisureGuy

25 August 2014 at 3:28 pm

Posted in Drug laws, Health, Medical

Didn’t we fight a revolution to keep this sort of thing from happening?

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Where the government can simply take away your personal property—even though you’ve not been convicted of any crime? They just take it?

Radley Balko reports in the Washington Post: has the story of Steve Oates, an Arizona man who could lose $455,000 for growing medical marijuana. Oates says he thought his operation was legal, and in fact he was never convicted of any crime. But under civil asset forfeiture law, the local police believe they can take everything he has and keep the proceeds for their department.

Video with Balko’s article in the Post.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 August 2014 at 11:03 am

The same people who called for the last war are urging another one

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Because this time we’ll get it right—and also because the people calling for the war won’t be fighting it (and indeed have in general taken pains to avoid military service altogether—cf. Dick Cheney, who said he had better things to do).

Kevin Drum notes:

I was chatting with a friend about the relentless, one-sided hawkishness on display yesterday on the morning chat shows, and he responded:

The recurring “stay tuned for” loop are clips of McCain (“We never should have left”), Graham (“ISIS no longer JV”), Ryan (“What’s the president’s plan for eradicating ISIS?”). Over and over again. Nowhere are clips of people urging caution or restraint. War is great news, is action, is drama. Whether consciously or not, the media simply drives inevitably to pushing for a clash.

It’s really beyond belief. Israel invades Lebanon and gets Hezbollah out of the deal. We arm the mujahideen and get the Taliban and Al Qaeda out of the deal. We depose Saddam Hussein and play kingmaker with Nouri al-Maliki, and we get ISIS out of the deal. But hey—this time is different. Really. This time we’ll be done once and for all if we just go in and spend a decade wiping the theocratic butchers of ISIS off the map. This time there won’t be any blowback. This timewe’ll fix the Middle East once and for all. This time things can’t possibly get any worse. Right?

Of course, the hawks always have Munich, don’t they? Always Munich. And so we need to fight. We need troops. We need leadership. And no one with political aspirations really wants to argue the point. There’s no future in siding with the thugs, is there?

Besides, maybe this time really is different.

See this article in Salon about people in power start pushing for war. And note this program from Democracy Now! Their blurb:

Militants from Islamic State stormed an air base in northeast Syria on Sunday, capturing it from government forces. Fighters from Islamic State have seized three Syrian military bases in the area in recent weeks. This comes as the Pentagon considers expanding its airstrikes against Islamic State in Iraq to include targets inside Syria. Meanwhile, another journalist who had been kidnapped in Syria, Peter Theo Curtis, has been freed after two years in captivity by the Nusra Front — another militant group in Syria. Calls have been growing for the United States to attack Syria since Islamic State posted video showing the kidnapped American journalist James Foley being beheaded. Foley was captured in Syria in 2012. Meanwhile in Iraq, officials say suicide bomber targeted a Shiite mosque in Baghdad today, killing at least 12 people. We speak to Vijay Prashad, professor of international studies at Trinity College. He is the author of several books, including Arab Spring, Libyan Winter and, most recently, The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South.


Written by LeisureGuy

25 August 2014 at 10:57 am

Posted in Mideast Conflict

The Surveillance Engine: How the NSA Built Its Own Secret Google

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An article with astonishing content. We should start a pool of how soon this tool will be used to stifle dissent. Ryan Gallagher reports in The Intercept:

The National Security Agency is secretly providing data to nearly two dozen U.S. government agencies with a “Google-like” search engine built to share more than 850 billion records about phone calls, emails, cellphone locations, and internet chats, according to classified documents obtained by The Intercept.

The documents provide the first definitive evidence that the NSA has for years made massive amounts of surveillance data directly accessible to domestic law enforcement agencies. Planning documents for ICREACH, as the search engine is called, cite the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Administration as key participants.

ICREACH contains information on the private communications of foreigners and, it appears, millions of records on American citizens who have not been accused of any wrongdoing. Details about its existence are contained in the archive of materials provided to The Intercept by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Earlier revelations sourced to the Snowden documents have exposed a multitude of NSA programs for collecting large volumes of communications. The NSA has acknowledged that it shares some of its collected data with domestic agencies like the FBI, but details about the method and scope of its sharing have remained shrouded in secrecy.


ICREACH has been accessible to more than 1,000 analysts at 23 U.S. government agencies that perform intelligence work, according to a 2010 memo. A planning document from 2007 lists the DEA, FBI, Central Intelligence Agency, and the Defense Intelligence Agency as core members. Information shared through ICREACH can be used to track people’s movements, map out their networks of associates, help predict future actions, and potentially reveal religious affiliations or political beliefs.

The creation of ICREACH represented a landmark moment in the history of classified U.S. government surveillance, according to the NSA documents.

“The ICREACH team delivered the first-ever wholesale sharing of communications metadata within the U.S. Intelligence Community,” noted a top-secret memo dated December 2007. “This team began over two years ago with a basic concept compelled by the IC’s increasing need for communications metadata and NSA’s ability to collect, process and store vast amounts of communications metadata related to worldwide intelligence targets.”

The search tool was designed to be the largest system for internally sharing secret surveillance records in the United States, capable of handling two to five billion new records every day, including more than 30 different kinds of metadata on emails, phone calls, faxes, internet chats, and text messages, as well as location information collected from cellphones. Metadata reveals information about a communication—such as the “to” and “from” parts of an email, and the time and date it was sent, or the phone numbers someone called and when they called—but not the content of the message or audio of the call.

ICREACH does not appear to have a direct relationship to the large NSA database, previously reported by The Guardian, that stores information on millions of ordinary Americans’ phone calls under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. Unlike the 215 database, which is accessible to a small number of NSA employees and can be searched only in terrorism-related investigations, ICREACH grants access to a vast pool of data that can be mined by analysts from across the intelligence community for “foreign intelligence”—a vague term that is far broader than counterterrorism.


Data available through ICREACH appears to be primarily derived from surveillance of foreigners’ communications, and planning documents show that it draws on a variety of different sources of data maintained by the NSA. Though one 2010 internal paper clearly calls it “the ICREACH database,” a U.S. official familiar with the system disputed that, telling The Intercept that while “it enables the sharing of certain foreign intelligence metadata,” ICREACH is “not a repository [and] does not store events or records.” Instead, it appears to provide analysts with the ability to perform a one-stop search of information from a wide variety of separate databases.

In a statement to The Intercept, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence confirmed that the system shares data that is swept up by programs authorized under Executive Order 12333, a controversial Reagan-era presidential directive that underpins several NSA bulk surveillance operations that target foreign communications networks. The 12333 surveillance takes place with no court oversight and has received minimal Congressional scrutiny because it is targeted at foreign, not domestic, communication networks. The broad scale of 12333 surveillance means that some Americans’ communications get caught in the dragnet as they transit international cables or satellites—and documents contained in the Snowden archive indicate that ICREACH taps into some of that data.

Legal experts told The Intercept they were shocked to learn about the scale of the ICREACH system and are concerned that law enforcement authorities might use it for domestic investigations that are not related to terrorism.

“To me, this is extremely troublesome,” said Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice. “The myth that metadata is just a bunch of numbers and is not as revealing as actual communications content was exploded long ago—this is a trove of incredibly sensitive information.”

Brian Owsley, a federal magistrate judge between 2005 and 2013, said he was alarmed that traditional law enforcement agencies such as the FBI and the DEA were among those with access to the NSA’s surveillance troves. . .

Continue reading. There’s more, and you can practically see democracy go down the drain and authoritarian thought police gain control. I would think the small-government people (i.e., the GOP) would be all over this.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 August 2014 at 10:36 am

Monday with a slant and a new brush

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SOTD 25 Aug 2014

An extremely good shave. The Omega synthetic brush, one of their new “Hi-Performance” line, is $20 from I do like the handle, and the synthetic knot is soft on the tips and surprisingly resilient—indeed, a little too resilient for my taste. I like brushes of natural bristles, which soften somewhat when wet.

Still, tastes vary, and this brush is quite well made and should please those who like the combination of strong backbone and soft tips.

I had no problem working up a good lather from Barrister & Mann’s Roam shaving soap, though I think I should have shaken the brush out more: the lather was a tiny bit loose (too much water, I suspect). I did do palm lathering, which this soap seems to like.

The Shavecraft #102 slant works quite well on iKon’s Bulldog handle. The handle I had been using is the iKon “Tuckaway” (stubby) handle. I like this length better. The blade is still the same Personna Lab Blue that I loaded when I began, and it still did a very fine job. The razor goes back today, though, so until I buy a copy, you’ll not see it here again.

Shulton Old Spice (imported from India) did indeed seem closer to the Old Spice of my high-school days than the modern Old Spice made in the US. However, it’s somewhat hard to be sure: we’re talking 57 years ago…

A very enjoyable shave, a very smooth result, and no nicks. Good start to the week.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 August 2014 at 10:08 am

Posted in Shaving

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