Later On

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

Archive for October 21st, 2014

This is what it’s come to: The government seizing your assets in secret

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Written by LeisureGuy

21 October 2014 at 3:41 pm

It does seem true that the effort to disenfranchise voters is more naked than it once was

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Indeed, some Republicans have openly admitted that the idea is to keep African-Americans and Hispanics from voting because those groups tend to vote Democratic. So, naturally enough, the GOP finds it is thus appropriate to put as many obstacles in their path as possible, because their belief seems to be that winning justifies just about anything.

At any rate, it’s working, and this Supreme Court, after gutting the Voting Rights Act, is quite evidently going to make it worse.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 October 2014 at 3:34 pm

Posted in Election, GOP, Government, Law

Laws have consequences—cf. drug laws that have created the opium trade in Afghanistan

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Ryan Devereaux reports in The Intercept:

A new report has found the war on drugs in Afghanistan remains colossally expensive, largely ineffective and likely to get worse. This is particularly true in the case of opium production, says the U.S. Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

In a damning report released Tuesday, the special inspector general, Justin F. Sopko, writes that “despite spending over $7 billion to combat opium poppy cultivation and to develop the Afghan government’s counternarcotics capacity, opium poppy cultivation levels in Afghanistan hit an all-time high in 2013,” hitting 209,000 hectares, surpassing the prior, 2007 peak of 193,000 hectares. Sopko adds that the number should continue to rise thanks to deteriorating security in rural Afghanistan and weak eradication efforts.

Though the figures it reports are jarring, the inspector general’s investigation highlights drug policy failures in Afghanistan that have been consistently documented for years. Indeed, Sopko himself has been raising concerns over the failing drug war in Afghanistan for some time. In January, he testified before the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control and described a series of discouraging conversations with counternarcotics officials from Afghanistan, the U.S., and elsewhere.

“In the opinion of almost everyone I spoke with, the situation in Afghanistan is dire with little prospect for improvement in 2014 or beyond,”Sopko told the lawmakers. “All of the fragile gains we have made over the last 12 years on women’s issues, health, education, rule of law, and governance are now, more than ever, in jeopardy of being wiped out by the narcotics trade which not only supports the insurgency, but also feeds organized crime and corruption.”

While many of the numbers included in the inspector general’s investigation have been made public before, the report . . .

Continue reading.

Mother Jones has an excellent article on this: We Spent $7.6 Billion to Crush the Afghan Opium Trade—and It’s Doing Better Than Ever

The NY Times has a report on Afghanistan as a narco-state.

Here’s an ABC News report. All those billions of dollars, totally pissed away to no purpose.

I earlier blogged the review of a new book on Afghanistan.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 October 2014 at 3:21 pm

Moving slowly toward peace: Israeli Squatters Sabotage Palestinian Wells in Jordan Valley

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I realize that Israel has the right to defend itself, but it also seems to believe that it has the right to chop down Palestinian orchards, beat up Palestinian women, and wreck Palestinian wells. Of course, the Israelis doing this because they want to steal the Palestinians’ land and homes and that is most easily done if they can drive away or kill the Palestinians. So they set to it, as they have for years and years. A news report at Informed Comment:

Dozens of Israeli settlers damaged wells belonging to Palestinians in the Khirbet Samra area of the Jordan Valley, a local official said Wednesday.

Aref Daraghma, the head of a local village council, told Ma’an that dozens of Israeli settlers who gathered to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Sukkot damaged more than seven wells in the al-Malah area of Khirbet Samra.

The covers of the wells were damaged, and parts of some of the wells were “destroyed,” Daraghma said.

He said the settlers’ actions were meant to pressure Palestinian residents to leave the area.

The Jordan Valley is within the 61 percent of the occupied West Bank it is under full Israeli military control as “Area C.”

Area C comprises the only contiguous piece of land connecting 227 Palestinian residential communities in areas A and B as well as about 150,000 Palestinian residents.

More than 500,000 Israeli settlers live in settlements across the West Bank and East Jerusalem, in contravention of international law.

Every year there are dozens of attacks by Israeli settlers on Palestinians and their property in the occupied West Bank, but such crimes are rarely prosecuted by Israeli authorities.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 October 2014 at 1:53 pm

Posted in Mideast Conflict

Cool timepiece you can easily read by touching

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Take a look. From the link (which has lots of photos and a few videos):

Wouldn’t it be great if you could check the time in a dark movie theater without having to illuminate your smartphone? What about not having to look down at your watch to check the time during a drawn-out client lunch?

The Bradley is a tactile timepiece that allows you to not only see what time it is, but to feel what time it is.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 October 2014 at 1:45 pm

Posted in Technology

The Beluga Razor

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The Beluga Razor is an interesting variant. It is a single-edged razor that uses a double-edged blade, so that when the edge dulls, you switch the blade to give it a second life.

I have gradually learned not to give too much weight to my expectations, since experience so frequently contradicts them. So take my worries about the razor with a grain of salt.

I am disinclined to abandon control of blade angle. With a pivoting head, you lose any chance of controlling blade angle, and I have found that I vary blade angle during my shave. For example, for the little depressions underneath my jawline on either side of the chin, I increase the angle. (I didn’t even know I was doing it until I shaved with a Gillette Guard, a single-blade cartridge razor with a pivot: I tried to increase the angle in the usual way, by moving the handle, and nothing happened: the pivot killed the maneuver.)

It also seems as though the head may be too large for shaving (say) the upper lip: the cutting edge is at the bottom of a relatively large assembly. Once I shave with the razor, though, I’ll know for sure.

At any rate, it’s an interesting razor and the prototype seems very well made.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 October 2014 at 1:38 pm

Posted in Shaving

Two more excellent articles on Snowden and Poitras

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Two quite fascinating articles in the New Yorker.

How Edward Snowden Changed Journalism, by Steve Coll

The Holder of Secrets: Laura Poitras’s closeup view of Edward Snowden, by George Packer

The second article is quite long and quite interesting. One wonders what was going through George Packer’s mind as he interviewed Poitras, given Packer’s intense enthusiasm for the invasion of Iraq.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 October 2014 at 1:13 pm

Wrongful convictions must be investigated and malfeasance punished

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If prosecutors are not held accountable, then one can expect many more innocent people sentenced to prison for things they did not do. This editorial in the Boston Globe states it well:

TWENTY-NINE YEARS ago, a Berkshire County prosecutor named Daniel A. Ford made at least one awful decision: On the skimpiest evidence he charged a 19-year-old man with multiple counts of child rape. That may not be the worst of it; there are indications he may have played fast and loose with trial rules in order to get a conviction. Although Ford denies he did anything wrong, trial records suggest the defense attorney was unaware of significant exculpatory evidence held by the prosecution. In an atmosphere of homophobia and hysteria, the defendant, an openly gay teenager named Bernard F. Baran Jr., didn’t stand a chance. Convicted, he spent 21 years in prison for crimes he didn’t commit.

The death of Baran last month, at the age of 49, has brought renewed attention to the travesty of his trial and the tragedy of his imprisonment, and rekindled calls for disciplining Ford. Writing on the Globe op-ed page, lawyer Harvey Silverglate, who helped win Baran’s release in 2006, raised the possibility of removing Ford from his current job as a Superior Court judge, a position he has held since 1989.

That’s premature — but Silverglate and Baran’s other supporters are right to seek a full, public inquiry into both the prosecution’s conduct and its decision to try the case in the first place. The decision to release Baran in 2006 did not settle the question of whether Ford and the Berkshire County district attorney Gerard Downing acted appropriately, or whether the Commonwealth has adequate safeguards to prevent such a wrongful conviction again. Reviewing the long-ago prosecution now may seem pointless, since it’ll be difficult to establish facts and Baran will never be able to see the results anyway. But wrongful convictions represent a serious failure of the justice system. To prevent such miscarriages of justice in the future, it’s critical that the state revisit this painful episode. Whatever an investigation reveals about Ford, it’s crucial for the Commonwealth to set the precedent that prosecutors will answer for their actions in cases of wrongful conviction.

The 1985 prosecution took place against a backdrop of hysteria about a supposed wave of sex abuse at day care centers like the one in Pittsfield where Baran worked as a teachers’ aide. From the beginning, the case against Baran was full of warning signs. The mother of the first boy to raise accusations against Baran had previously complained about a gay worker caring for her child, using a slur and expressing the view that gays should not be allowed outside. Videotaped interviews show that other supposed victims were coached into making accusations against Baran after first denying he did anything to them. The first boy to accuse Baran later said it was his mother’s boyfriend that had abused him.

Part of the current dispute is the allegation that Ford and Downing didn’t share the full videotapes with Baran’s lawyer, misled the grand jury by implying there was nothing of note on the removed sections of the tapes, and didn’t alert the lawyer to the child’s claim against the mother’s boyfriend. Those would indeed be serious violations. The appeals court, when it upheld Baran’s release in 2009, didn’t rule on those questions, but pointedly suggested that the prosecution may have acted inappropriately. After the 2009 ruling, the Office of Bar Counsel reportedly investigated Ford but took no action and did not release any findings. Getting to the bottom of what happened might help determine whether the solution that Silverglate has proposed — an open-file system, in which prosecutors must give defense access to their files — would prevent such an outcome from happening again. . .

Continue reading. It’s good.

Radley Balko discusses this very case.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 October 2014 at 12:58 pm

Could Police Reform In Cincinnati Provide Model For Ferguson?

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William Freivogel writes for St. Louis Public Radio:

Cincinnati’s police reform following a deadly police shooting and riots in 2001 has lessons for Ferguson and St. Louis. Here is what the reformers there say:

  • Police reform will take a long time – many years, not many months.
  • A Justice Department investigation, such as the one underway in Ferguson, is necessary but not sufficient to bring about lasting reform. The Justice Department goes away after five years.
  • An enforceable court order will be necessary to make sure changes are implemented in the long term. A new policing strategy is also needed to bring the police and community together.
  • The reforms should include transparency when police shoot civilians, an early warning system to identify troubled officers, new policies minimizing use of force, a civilian review board and video and audio on police cars and officers.

Here’s the story of the reformers in Cincinnati.

A stranger in her hometown

Iris Roley burst into tears when a federal monitor told her a decade ago that it would take more than 10 years to transform the relationship between the black community and the Cincinnati police.

Roley, a leader of Cincinnati’s Black United Front, wanted action right away. She felt so alienated that when people asked where she lived she refused to say Cincinnati. “I didn’t feel included,” she said.

Police had killed 15 young black men in the six years leading up to the 2001 shooting death of Timothy Thomas. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 October 2014 at 12:54 pm

“Shaken-baby” syndrome: Bad science

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Interesting article by Lee Scheier in the Boston Globe, providing an example of how strongly prosecutors resist admitting error. From the article:

AFTER COMING under attack in an political ad for not doing enough to protect children, Martha Coakley, the Democratic candidate for governor, defended her record. In a large above-the-fold photograph published in the Globe Oct. 3, Coakley is seen standing next to Deborah Eappen, mother of Matthew Eappen, the baby whom Louise Woodward was charged with shaking to death in 1997.

Coakley, the prosecutor in that infamous trial, set up the photo op ostensibly to remind the public of her commitment to protecting children. If so, Coakley must think Massachusetts voters have short memories.

Although Woodward was found guilty of second degree murder by the jury, trial judge Hiller Zobel reduced the sentence to manslaughter and set Woodward free. Zobel’s skepticism of the justice of Woodward’s murder conviction was prescient: Dr. Patrick Barnes, Coakley’s chief expert witness in the case, later publicly renounced his own trial testimony as based on flawed scientific assumptions.

And another brief article on Coakley, this one by Radley Balko. The conclusion of that article:

It’s probably not surprising, then, that as DA in Middlesex County, Coakley opposed efforts to create an innocence commission in Massachusetts, calling the idea “backward-looking instead of forward-looking.” Of course, that’s sort of the point — to find people who have been wrongfully convicted. So far, there have been at least 23 exonerations in Massachusetts, including several in Coakley’s home county.

I had my own exchange with Coakley in the letters section of The Boston Globe a few years ago over the issue of prescription pain medication. Coakley had told the paper that “accidental addiction” to opiate pain medications such as OxyContin was a common problem among chronic pain patients, despite considerable medical evidence to the contrary. Such wrongheaded statements by law enforcement officials and the policies that go with them are a big reason why doctors have become increasingly reluctant to treat pain patients. Coakley conceded that she’s “no medical expert” but then went on to question the body of medical literature showing accidental addiction to be a myth. Coakley cited only her own experience as a DA to contradict the litany of peer-reviewed medical research.

As a member of the Senate, not only would Coakley be creating new federal criminal laws; given her record as a prosecutor, there’s a good chance she’d serve on committees with oversight over the Justice Department and the judiciary. She’d also be casting votes to confirm or deny federal judicial appointments. Advocates for criminal justice reform should be wary. Coakley may share Kennedy’s opposition to the death penalty, but her record as a prosecutor leaves plenty of doubt about her commitment to justice.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 October 2014 at 12:47 pm

Google launches support for Security Key,

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Interesting idea. I’m sure NSA will working produce keys that include additional microprogramming to install spyware in computers that use it and try to get those in circulation…

Written by LeisureGuy

21 October 2014 at 12:31 pm

Posted in NSA, Technology

Excellent analysis of the overarching problem baked into Microsoft Word

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I have increasing problems with Word as documents grow larger and more frequently revised. Sometimes Word will suddenly change the entire document—e.g., dropped caps vanish, stuff stops being centered, etc.

The problem, as Edward Mendelson explains in the NY Review of Books, is that Word developed its architecture top-down, logically, chunking out the tasks and goals. WordPerfect (which, like Mendelson, I greatly preferred) was built bottom-up, and as a result fitted the task better.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 October 2014 at 12:27 pm

Posted in Software, Writing

Still learning the iKon DLC slant

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SOTD 21 Oct 2014

A very fine shave this morning with a lesson learned.

Today is the second Honeybee Soaps sample. I really like the fragrance on this one, but I’m a sucker for vanilla. (One thing we do know about fragrances: they are very much YMMV.)

I used two brushes, both synthetic, to test lather. Almightywhacko likes that Omega brush a lot, and indeed I bought it on his recommendation. The HJM synthetic I’ve had for a while, and a more recent version (not quite so soft and fluffy) is now what’s sold.

No one could say that the Omega brush shown is soft or fluffy: the bristles are extremely resilient and practically snap back into place. When loading the brush, I use some pressure to splay the brush open a bit. Not with the Omega: the knot strongly resists splaying and actually seems to draw itself together. You can also feel this almost-rigidity on the face. I do see how some could like such a brush, and I’m pretty sure those would dislike the HJM I have: a nice, very soft, fluffy knot that splays open under very mild pressure on the soap.

Both brushes quickly worked up a good lather, and I do see that this lather is not so dense and creamy as lather from (say) a D.R. Harris shaving soap, or a Synergy soap from HTGAM, or one of the Strop Shoppe Special Edition soaps—but of course those also cost substantially more. Stainless steel is better for a razor head than a chrome-plated zinc alloy—but stainless steel costs substantially more. If the cost tradeoff is relevant, then I continue to find that I get a good lather from Honeybee soaps. So far.

I read this account of discoveries made in switching to a slant just this morning, and as I shaved this morning I was extremely conscious of pressure—I really tried using too little pressure, as I have so often recommended to others. And lo! not one nick or even trace of a nick. No weepers. Just a BBS face.

I think what I had done was learn a good pressure for most DE razors—light, but effective—and in using the iKon used that same pressure. It was light enough that I had few problems, but still I kept getting one or two nicks more frequently than is good. Today I realized I was using noticeably lighter pressure than usual with this razor—and no problems. I wonder….

Seriously, it seems another instance of an old story: “I thought I was using light pressure, but then I found I could use even less pressure, and the problem vanished.” Live and learn.

A good splash of Very V, and I’m getting a late start. Still, I’m very excited for tomorrow’s shave: light pressure. No, lighter than that.

And so far the lather is still pretty good for me.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 October 2014 at 12:13 pm

Posted in Shaving

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