Later On

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

Archive for October 8th, 2014

A thoughtful take on Excellent Sheep and its critics

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Very interesting review of a review of a book. (Full disclosure: I am a strong proponent of a four-year liberal arts education and in fact attended St. John’s College in Annapolis MD (the “Great Books” Program) and a decade later was for a while its director of admissions.)

Written by LeisureGuy

8 October 2014 at 2:08 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life, Education

Israel Squatters Chop Down Dozens of Palestinian Olive Trees Near Nablus (800,000 since 1967)

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Hamas is strengthened by this sort of thing. Even if you think the recent Gaza war was because “Israel has the right to defend itself,” Israel doesn’t seem to me to have the right to chop down its neighbor’s olive orchards. Such actions seem based on a notion that the law is meaningless and you can do what you. That’s not a good attitude to push.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 October 2014 at 1:46 pm

Posted in Mideast Conflict

Step back and take a look at the US public’s worldview

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It happened so fast that, at first, I didn’t even take it in.

Two Saturdays ago, a friend and I were heading into the Phillips Museum in Washington, D.C., to catch a show of neo-Impressionist art when we ran into someone he knew, heading out.  I was introduced and the usual chitchat ensued.  At some point, she asked me, “Do you live here?”

“No,” I replied, “I’m from New York.”

She smiled, responded that it, too, was a fine place to live, then hesitated just a beat before adding in a quiet, friendly voice: “Given ISIS, maybe neither city is such a great place to be right now.”  Goodbyes were promptly said and we entered the museum.

All of this passed so quickly that I didn’t begin rolling her comment around in my head until we were looking at the sublime pointillist paintings of Georges Seurat and his associates. Only then did I think: ISIS, a danger in New York?  ISIS, a danger in Washington?  And I had the urge to bolt down the stairs, catch up to her, and say: whatever you do, don’t step off the curb.  That’s where danger lies in American life.  ISIS, not so much.

The Terrorists Have Our Number

I have no idea what . . .

That’s by Tom Englehardt and is the beginning of an excellent column posted at Informed Comment.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 October 2014 at 1:38 pm

Posted in Daily life

Extremely cool 19th-century camera lens back in production

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And just look at those photos! (Scroll down.) But the lens itself is pretty cool.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 October 2014 at 1:25 pm

Posted in Technology

Very interesting side-effect of Obamacare

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Wal-Mart is using an Obamacare provision to stop paying for health insurance for employees working under 30 hours per week.

Totally sensible move for Wal-Mart: cut costs by externalizing the price of healthcare insurance—the workers without healthcare insurance from their employer can get health insurance from Obamacare, and in that income bracket, subsidies as well. Plus they have more coverage choices (the various plans). So it works out well for the employees, too.

And that moves us along to single-payer healthcare.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 October 2014 at 1:06 pm

Protesters hit back at cops—in court

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The police are increasingly overstepping the bounds of legal behavior, and now protesters are taking them to court. Notice how police departments often simply refuse to obey the law—e.g., in the story at the link, how the NYPD continues to attack people using cellphones to record police in action. Generally speaking, an armed group that is contemptuous of the law is nothing more than a pack of thugs and vigilantes. That is what some police departments have become.

The article is well worth reading and has an interesting twist to show that the responsibility of cops’ illegal treatment can be traced to City Hall, and the damages become noticeably large. Highly recommended.

A meme comment: this passing along of information is vital to meme spread and survival—and evolution (attracting other memes, variegating, etc.). So I am in effect doing this work to help ensure a meme’s survival and expansion.

I don’t think this was possible to this degree before the Internet. I just proposed a national central database of cop misbehavior. It’s totally do-able and indeed some organization might try. And then try to think of how that might have happened 30 years ago. Much slower, much more easily stopped or disrupted, and lacking the fast turnaround of evolutionary change and having the meme refined (in effect) by the number of people seeing it.

To take the obvious example: the story at the link is a meme—in effect, it’s a brief course in an effective method of standing up against the police, who truly have, in many cities, become an occupying military, at least for a part of the population. This meme, read by other protesters, will result in rapid replication of the meme. I think this might well be a successful meme. People are unhappy enough to want to do something, and this certainly describes how to strike at one of the distressing system of our overall systemic infection that has led to the current economy—some virulent meme of everything being driven purely by profit. We see the side-effects of that meme, and they’re pretty bad (and getting worse, on the whole).

Just a thought. Memes do pop up if you look for them. The Ferguson police had a meme of how to deal with protesters. That meme is fast being killed, the result of a counter-meme (anti-meme?).

Written by LeisureGuy

8 October 2014 at 12:34 pm

Posted in Law Enforcement, Memes

Texting while driving: Live with it—bans don’t make sense

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Very interesting article by the redoubtable Radley Balko on reading text while driving.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 October 2014 at 12:29 pm

Posted in Daily life, Law

Finally an unethical prosecutor gets some pushback

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Generally prosecutors are free to hide evidence from defense attorneys, send innocent people to prison and even to death row, and never suffer any consequences for the dishonesty and/or incompetence: qualified immunity. But I think judges may be starting to rethink this protective shield for unscrupulous prosecutors.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 October 2014 at 12:21 pm

Posted in Law, Law Enforcement

Laughable fines: AT&T example

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AT&T has been fined $105 million for charging cellphone customers for services they did not order (and for concealing those charges under an innocuous title).

Despite receiving numerous complaints regarding the practice, said Ramirez, AT&T made “hundreds of millions of dollars” directly from the spam fees by taking “at least 35 percent” of every charge.

Hmm. AT&T made “hundreds of millions of dollars” from the fraudulent practice, and they pay only one hundred million in fines. I think the fine should have been set equal to the total of the money collected for such fraudulent charges: the total. I think that might make AT&T think twice about doing future frauds. But if they ended up making several hundred million dollars in profit, and have to pay in fines only one hundred million, from a profit perspective it looks like it’s worthwhile trying it again in a few years.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 October 2014 at 12:10 pm

Black Teen Pepper-Sprayed By Cops After Entering His White Foster Parents’ Home

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Our occupying military police departments seem to be increasingly unconcerned about “serve and protect.” Read this report: he was pepper-sprayed in his face in his own home.

I would point out that a neighbor that observes the neighborhood so closely probably knew the boy was living there and called the police out of racial vindictiveness. The problem is how well it worked. (Cf. the witness who told police that John Crawford was pointing a rifle at people: a flat-out lie, but John Crawford’s dead and that lying jerk is doing well.)

Written by LeisureGuy

8 October 2014 at 12:04 pm

Posted in Law Enforcement

A possible remedy for the scourge of cops who lie on the record

with 2 comments

More and more we are seeing that some cops simply lie. From an interesting TruthOut report by Candice Bernd:

On New Year’s Day in 2012, Antonio Buehler, a West Point graduate and former military officer, witnessed two Austin police officers assaulting a woman. He pulled out his phone.

As he began photographing the officers and asking questions about their activities, the cops assaulted and arrested him. He was charged with spitting in a cop’s face – a felony crime.

However, two witness videos of the incident surfaced and neither of them showed that Buehler spit in Officer Patrick Oborski’s face. A grand jury was finally convened in March 2013 and concluded there was not enough evidence to indict Buehler on any of the crimes he was charged with.

Not enough evidence to indict Buehler, but some very valuable evidence regarding the willingness of the two police officers to lie. (And, not so BTW, the entire article is well worth reading, along with many of the comments.)

Here’s my idea: Create a simple database: name of cop, city/state of department, and a link to a report of that cop lying (as the two officers above). The database can be updated by organizations that keep track of such things—CopWatch, the group Buehler started (read at the link above: it’s called the Peaceful Streets Project), the ACLU, and others—really, anyone who can enter the name of a cop who lied and (very important) a link to a corroborating report. (That is, verification occurs when a defense attorney wants to use the information, not when the information is entered: anything can be entered, but without a link to corroboration, it’s worthless.)

This would, I think, be quite useful to defense attorneys: if a cop is to be a witness in a trial, it would be easy to look in the database for the cop’s name, with the city/state info to verify it’s probably the right cop. If it is, the attorney can use the link can to find the corroborating evidence. Then, in examination, the defense attorney can easily establish that the cop in question has a history of prevarication and false allegations. That should invalidate his or her testimony.

My goal is to make lying on a police report a firing offense—a cop who lies and gets into the database is useless as a witness, and the department might not want to keep him or her on the payroll since any testimony they offer in a trial is easily nullified by pointing to their record of lying.

Of course, false allegations can be put into the database—someone might just not like a particular cop. But by requiring a link to independent corroborating evidence, a defense attorney can ignore allegations that lack substantiation. In time a lying cop might become a departmental liability.

UPDATE:It occurs to me that one could easily enter incidents other than lying that would reflect on the officer’s character: e.g., abusing suspects. While it’s not lying, a jury might find a cop less believable if s/he seems to be of bad character.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 October 2014 at 11:18 am

Posted in Law Enforcement

Classic British Lavender Shaving Soap

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SOTD 8 Oct 2014

Someone on Wicked Edge asked about classic British lavender shaving soaps, someone complained that the Standard razor was (for them) uncomfortable because a narrow range of cutting angles, and someone said that their Wee Scot was scratchy—you can see how I build my shaves.

It was stated that Simpson’s quality control of their “Best” grade had slipped and indeed one does get the occasional scratchy Wee Scot. (This guy said that it seemed to be just a few bristles, which suggests that he might be able to remove them.) I have no information, but I have to wonder whether this is not a side-effect of Vulfix buying Simpson and trying to improve profits by streamlining old-fashioned procedures. But mine (purchased some years before Vulfix bought Simpson) is perfectly fine and immediately worked up a wonderful traditional lavender lather from the tub of Truefitt & Hill shaving soap.

Another excellent old British lavender is made by D.R. Harris, and I’ll use that one tomorrow if I remember. Vintage Blades LLC has their own triple-milled shaving soap, and it is quite similar. All are recommended.

The Standard did not disappoint: it was extremely comfortable for me, and I think I unconsciously keep the angle right by listening to the sound of cutting. I ran through an comfortable shave, ending with a BBS result. The blade was a previously used SuperMax Titanium.

A good splash of Stirling’s Lemon Chill, and we get belatedly underway.

I’m working on plotting some razors on a 2-dimensional plane: one axis is discomfort/comfort (-5 to +5), the other is efficiency at removing stubble (1-10). I got enough responses to plot the Gillette Tech. You can see the charts in the comment to this Wicked Edge post.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 October 2014 at 10:57 am

Posted in Shaving

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