Later On

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

Archive for August 26th, 2014

Good response to the anti-rape-drug nail polish

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Very cogent argument.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 August 2014 at 2:19 pm

Posted in Daily life

Uber seems to be opening itself up to an anti-trust action

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See if you don’t think so. I think this is a little too overt for comfort.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 August 2014 at 2:16 pm

Posted in Business, Government, Law

Fascinating finding: Couples who smoke marijuana are less likely to engage in domestic violence

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Christopher Ingraham writes in the Washington Post:

A new study by researchers at the University of Buffalo finds a significantly lower incidence of domestic violence among married couples who smoke pot. “Couples in which both spouses used marijuana frequently reported the least frequent IPV [intimate partner violence] perpetration,” the study concludes.

These findings were robust even after controlling for things like demographic variables, behavioral problems, and alcohol use. The authors studied data from 634 couples over nine years of marriage, starting in 1996. Couples were administered regular questionnaires on a variety of issues, including recent drug and alcohol use and instances of physical aggression toward their spouses.

Previous research on the relationship between marijuana use and domestic violence has largely been based on cross-sectional data (that is, data from one point in time), and those findings have been mixed: some studies found links between marijuana use and/or abuse and domestic violence, while others did not. The Buffalo study is one of the few to use data collected over the course of decades to examine the question, putting it on solid methodological ground compared to previous work. . .

Continue reading.

You can see why the DEA works so hard to block all studies of marijuana: because studies keep turning up reasons it should not be illegal, and the DEA, for whatever reason, really wants to keep it illegal. This study quite nicely avoids avenues the DEA can block, and so we have yet another positive finding.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 August 2014 at 2:10 pm

Posted in Drug laws, Science

The Honor Culture Creates the Violence Culture

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Interesting article. And the Old South’s cultural weaknesses, from colonial times to the present day, includes inflated notions of “honor” (honor, in that cultural view, being perfectly compatible with owning slaves: the rise of the double standards of the Southern outlook). This folly has long been noted: Mark Twain clearly identified Southern culture and its weaknesses and put the blame on the novels of Sir Walter Scott for creating a kind of romantic fantasy, one that the Old South attempted to emulate. (See below for quotation from Life on the Mississippi.)

From the article at the link above:

In Albion’s Seed, historian David Hackett Fischer argues that honor culture arose among the herding societies that populated the border region between England and Scotland. The region’s frequent wars led to political instability and the lack of a strong criminal justice system, and the result was strong norms in favor of private vengeance and self-protection. Furthermore, as Nisbett and Cohen emphasize in their work, poor farming conditions led these regions to be dominated by herders, and the mobile nature of a herder’s property—a flock rather than a field—often required more forceful protection and a reputation for retaliation. Ultimately, colonists from these “borderlands” settled in what would become the Southern states, and they brought their cultural norms with them. [The article includes other theories about the origins of the cultural value of “honor.” – LG]

It occurs to me that the Old South has (duh) two distinct cultures regarding honor, because quite obviously the honor culture of the Southern whites was not an option for their slaves: a slave quick to take offense at any perceived slight or insult would not last long, I imagine. So two distinct cultures (at least) emerge: that of the slaves and that of the slave-owners.

When I was a very young boy my grandmother read and told me lots of Uncle Remus stories, and I suddenly realized that these stories are all about avoiding direct conflict, which Br’er Rabbit (or a slave) would be sure to lose. Instead, Br’er Rabbit, clever and alert, outwits Br’er Bear (brute power and a slow intellect, possibly how plantation owners were viewed by their slaves) and Br’er Fox (smarter and more dangerous, but also to be outwitted rather than outfought). And it should be noted that on one occasion Br’er Rabbit did indeed show the kind of sensitivity to slights that is an earmark of honor culture, he got into serious trouble. That’s the story of the Tar Baby, which refused to respond to Br’er Rabbit’s friendly greetings and so at first enraged and then trapped him. Having fallen in the clutches of his enemies by showing aspects of honor culture, Br’er Rabbit is able to escape only by falling back on his wits, using practical psychology: “Br’er Fox, do anything with me you like, but please don’t fling me into that briar patch. Please don’t do that.” etc. I see the Tar Baby story as a parable of the dangers for blacks of assuming honor society mores.

Stories like this define and teach the cultural values of the storytellers. Such stories are children’s stories, because cultural values must be taught to children at an early age. (And I just realized that “Br’er” is not pronounced to rhyme with “there,” as I’ve always read it, but is pronounced “BRUH-er,” eliding the “th” in “Brother.” That’s why it’s generally spelled with an apostrophe to mark the elision: “Br’er.”)

AND, it just occurs to me, Uncle Remus is a former slave telling these stories to a young white boy, son of the plantation owner, thus teaching the boy values subversive of the honor culture. A battle of memes, for sure. And the battle goes both directions: certainly there are black populations that now have embraced the honor culture. UPDATE: I just found this interesting post on this view of Uncle Remus, which notes:

Uncle Remus, a former slave, tells stories involving Brer Rabbit and the other critters to a little white boy after the Civil War. The Brer Rabbit stories are, for the most part, versions of African-American folk tales that Harris collected. Harris created the characters Uncle Remus and the little boy to serve as a narrative frame.

Also still UPDATE: I just discovered that Amazon has several Uncle Remus collections by Joel Chandler Harris free for the Kindle.

But I imagine there are libraries full of volumes about black culture and how it developed. So I’m very late to this party. But it’s clear that the culture Fischer describes is a white culture. (And, BTW, I cannot recommend highly enough his book Historians’ Fallacies: Toward a Logic of Historical Thought. Anyone who reads history should read that.)

Update: Of course, the very best study of honor culture is Don Quixote. Don Quixote himself personifies the devotion to honor, the sensitivity to slights, the readiness to fight physically to defend abstract notions, that bedevil honor culture.

UPDATE: Mark Twain writes in Life on the Mississippi:

Against the crimes of the French Revolution and of Bonaparte may be set two compensating benefactions: the Revolution broke the chains of the ancien regime and of the Church, and made of a nation of abject slaves a nation of freemen; and Bonaparte instituted the setting of merit above birth, and also so completely stripped the divinity from royalty, that whereas crowned heads in Europe were gods before, they are only men, since, and can never be gods again, but only figureheads, and answerable for their acts like common clay. Such benefactions as these compensate the temporary harm which Bonaparte and the Revolution did, and leave the world in debt to them for these great and permanent services to liberty, humanity, and progress.

Then comes Sir Walter Scott with his enchantments, and by his single might checks this wave of progress, and even turns it back; sets the world in love with dreams and phantoms; with decayed and swinish forms of religion; with decayed and degraded systems of government; with the sillinesses and emptinesses, sham grandeurs, sham gauds, and sham chivalries of a brainless and worthless long-vanished society. He did measureless harm; more real and lasting harm, perhaps, than any other individual that ever wrote. Most of the world has now outlived good part of these harms, though by no means all of them; but in our South they flourish pretty forcefully still. Not so forcefully as half a generation ago, perhaps, but still forcefully. There, the genuine and wholesome civilization of the nineteenth century is curiously confused and commingled with the Walter Scott Middle-Age sham civilization; and so you have practical, common-sense, progressive ideas, and progressive works; mixed up with the duel, the inflated speech, and the jejune romanticism of an absurd past that is dead, and out of charity ought to be buried. But for the Sir Walter disease, the character of the Southerner—or Southron, according to Sir Walter’s starchier way of phrasing it—would be wholly modern, in place of modern and medieval mixed, and the South would be fully a generation further advanced than it is. It was Sir Walter that made every gentleman in the South a Major or a Colonel, or a General or a Judge, before the war; and it was he, also, that made these gentlemen value these bogus decorations. For it was he that created rank and caste down there, and also reverence for rank and caste, and pride and pleasure in them. Enough is laid on slavery, without fathering upon it these creations and contributions of Sir Walter.

Sir Walter had so large a hand in making Southern character, as it existed before the war, that he is in great measure responsible for the war. It seems a little harsh toward a dead man to say that we never should have had any war but for Sir Walter; and yet something of a plausible argument might, perhaps, be made in support of that wild proposition. The Southerner of the American Revolution owned slaves; so did the Southerner of the Civil War: but the former resembles the latter as an Englishman resembles a Frenchman. The change of character can be traced rather more easily to Sir Walter’s influence than to that of any other thing or person.

One may observe, by one or two signs, how deeply that influence penetrated, and how strongly it holds. If one take up a Northern or Southern literary periodical of forty or fifty years ago, he will find it filled with wordy, windy, flowery ‘eloquence,’ romanticism, sentimentality—all imitated from Sir Walter, and sufficiently badly done, too—innocent travesties of his style and methods, in fact. This sort of literature being the fashion in both sections of the country, there was opportunity for the fairest competition; and as a consequence, the South was able to show as many well-known literary names, proportioned to population, as the North could.

But a change has come, and there is no opportunity now for a fair competition between North and South. For the North has thrown out that old inflated style, whereas the Southern writer still clings to it—clings to it and has a restricted market for his wares, as a consequence. There is as much literary talent in the South, now, as ever there was, of course; but its work can gain but slight currency under present conditions; the authors write for the past, not the present; they use obsolete forms, and a dead language. But when a Southerner of genius writes modern English, his book goes upon crutches no longer, but upon wings; and they carry it swiftly all about America and England, and through the great English reprint publishing houses of Germany—as witness the experience of Mr. Cable and Uncle Remus, two of the very few Southern authors who do not write in the Southern style. Instead of three or four widely-known literary names, the South ought to have a dozen or two—and will have them when Sir Walter’s time is out.

A curious exemplification of the power of a single book for good or harm is shown in the effects wrought by ‘Don Quixote’ and those wrought by ‘Ivanhoe.’ The first swept the world’s admiration for the medieval chivalry-silliness out of existence; and the other restored it. As far as our South is concerned, the good work done by Cervantes is pretty nearly a dead letter, so effectually has Scott’s pernicious work undermined it.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 August 2014 at 10:47 am

The window of opportunity to fix climate change is closing quickly

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Justin Gillis has a sobering report in the NY Times, a report that I fear will do nothing to stir Congress and governments to take action. He writes:

Runaway growth in the emission of greenhouse gases is swamping all political efforts to deal with the problem, raising the risk of “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts” over the coming decades, according to a draft of a major new United Nations report.

Global warming is already cutting grain production by several percentage points, the report found, and that could grow much worse if emissions continue unchecked. Higher seas, devastating heat waves, torrential rain and other climate extremes are also being felt around the world as a result of human emissions, the draft report said, and those problems are likely to intensify unless the gases are brought under control.

The world may already be nearing a temperature at which the loss of the vast ice sheet covering Greenland would become inevitable, the report said. The actual melting would then take centuries, but it would be unstoppable and could result in a sea level rise of 23 feet, with additional increases from other sources like melting Antarctic ice, potentially flooding the world’s major cities.

“Human influence has been detected in warming of the atmosphere and the ocean, in changes in the global water cycle, in reduction in snow and ice, and in global mean-sea-level rise; and it is extremely likely to have been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century,” the draft report said. “The risk of abrupt and irreversible change increases as the magnitude of the warming increases.”

The report was drafted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a body of scientists and other experts appointed by the United Nations that periodically reviews and summarizes climate research. It is not final and could change substantially before release.

Continue reading. Given the crop failures we’re likely to see as global warming intensifies (drought, extreme rainfall, and so on), I would expect food wars to erupt within a few years. Indeed, the Arab Spring uprising seems to have been prompted in part because of food shortages that caused increased prices.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 August 2014 at 10:39 am

How a Chinese National Gained Access to Arizona’s Terror Center

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Arizona seems to get more than its share of problematic public officials, and sometimes they do great damage simply through incompetence. Ryan Garielson and Andrew Becker report in ProPublica:

LIZHONG FAN’S DESK WAS AMONG A CROWD of cubicles at the Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center in Phoenix. For five months in 2007, the Chinese national and computer programmer opened his laptop and enjoyed access to a wide range of sensitive information, including the Arizona driver’s license database, other law enforcement databases, and potentially a roster of intelligence analysts and investigators.

The facility had been set up by state and local authorities in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks, and so, out of concerns about security, Fan had been assigned a team of minders to watch him nearly every moment inside the center. Fan, hired as a contract employee specializing in facial recognition technology, was even accompanied to the bathroom.

However, no one stood in Fan’s way when he packed his equipment one day in early June 2007, then returned home to Beijing.

There’s a lot that remains mysterious about Fan’s brief tenure as a computer programmer at the Arizona counterterrorism center. No one has explained why Arizona law enforcement officials gave a Chinese national access to such protected information. Nor has anyone said whether Fan copied any of the potentially sensitive materials he had access to.But the people responsible for hiring Fan say one thing is clear: The privacy of as many as 5 million Arizona residents and other citizens has been exposed. Fan, they said, was authorized to use the state’s driver’s license database as part of his work on a facial recognition technology. He often took that material home, and they fear he took it back to China.

Under Arizona law, then-Gov. Janet Napolitano and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, whose agencies admitted Fan into the intelligence center, were required to disclose to the public any “unauthorized acquisition and access to unencrypted or unredacted computerized data” that includes names and other personal information.

To this day, they have not.

Terry Goddard, attorney general of Arizona in 2007, said Fan’s access and disappearance should have been reported to his office, but it was not. Arizona law puts the attorney general in charge of enforcing disclosure.

The state was supposed to have scrubbed drivers’ names and addresses from the license data. State officials denied requests to discuss the extent of the data breach, including what personal information was in the files.

In fact, a review of records shows that David Hendershott, who was second-in-command at the sheriff’s office, moved aggressively to maintain silence, a silence that has now lasted some seven years. Two weeks after Fan departed, Hendershott directed others in writing not to discuss Fan and the possible breach. In an email to the outside contractor that had hired Fan, Hendershott wrote: “Keep this between us and only us.”

Even among administrators at the Phoenix center, very few learned that the Chinese programmer had left the country or that their own personal information might have traveled with him. Mikel Longman, the former criminal investigations chief at the Arizona Department of Public Safety, said he received no warning about the incident.

“That really is outrageous,” Longman said. “Every Arizona resident who had a driver’s license or state-issued ID card and all that identifying stuff is potentially compromised. That’s a huge breach.”

Napolitano, who went on to serve as President Barack Obama’s secretary of Homeland Security, did not reply to multiple interview requests.

Hendershott, Arpaio’s longtime chief deputy, hung up on a reporter when reached by telephone. The sheriff’s office fired Hendershott in 2011 over anarray of alleged misconduct. And he in turn filed suit in 2012, saying his legitimate law enforcement work had been mischaracterized as abuses of power. His suit was dismissed earlier this year.Today, he sells real estate in west Phoenix.

Col. Robert Halliday, the director of the Arizona Department of Public Safety who formally oversaw the operations of the intelligence center at the time Fan worked there, also did not respond to repeated interview requests. . .

Continue reading.

While one doesn’t wish to misconstrue the refusal to speak to the press, it does look very much as if those in charge believe that something happened that was so bad no one wants to talk about it—and no one wants to be held responsible. (And if so, they are living in the right country, since the US very seldom holds public officials accountable for their actions.)

Interesting story.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 August 2014 at 9:13 am

Posted in Government, Law

Smooth shave with new Lutz slant

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SOTD 26 Aug 2014

A very nice shave, overall.

Huntlee is the American brand name for Wickham shaving soap. I noticed that this one was much smoother and firmer than the Garden Mint Wickham I had tried before, and when I went to load Mr Pomp, it did not lather at all. I then figured out that what I took to be the soap was a cardboard cap for the soap. I removed it and discovered that the soap has the same soft texture as my previous experience with Wickham, and the brush loaded easily.

I got a very nice lather but the Southsea Spray fragrance was too light for me to detect.

The Lutz slant is NOS that I just received. The handle bears a striking resemblance to the Merkur 1904 handle, but I believe this pattern was pretty common at the time. I used a Personna Med Prep and got a good shave, though this razor is not so mild in its feel as the Walbusch bakelite slant or the Merkur 37C. But perhaps I have not found the right brand of blade for it—plus it generally takes a few shaves to find your groove with a new razor.

Still, the result is a flawless BBS.

The aftershave is an experiment. Pinaud’s Lilac Vegetal is roundly disliked by many, but those who favor it advise ignoring the smell fresh from the bottle: what you want is how it smells after the drydown, after an hour or so. (Obviously, fragrances are very much YMMV, both in appreciating (or not) certain fragrances and in how they respond to your individual skin chemistry. So my conclusions may not hold for you.)

At any rate, the fragrance out of the bottle didn’t seem all that bad to me, and now, about half an hour after my shave, the fragrance does indeed seem changed. I will probably use this one fairly regularly.

UPDATE: The fragrance does indeed improve as the top notes depart. Interesting. It reminds me of those blades (Sputnik was one, as I recall, and perhaps Zorrik) that shave better on the second shave than the first, presumably because the first shave abrades some coating from the cutting edge. Second time charm, as they almost say.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 August 2014 at 8:41 am

Posted in Shaving

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