Later On

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

Archive for October 23rd, 2014

Belated SOTD post: Good lather, great shave with the iKon S3S

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SOTD 23 Oct 2014

I was about to post my SOTD this morning when I was interrupted, and by the time I got back the “already posted” flag had been set in my brain. But I did remember at last. (I like to have the SOTD mark the beginning of the day’s posts—this one marks the end instead.)

The Vie-Long horsehair brush did a very fine job with Honeybee Saps Vetyver: absolutely no lather problems today, either in thickness or in lifespan—plenty of lather left in the brush at the end, unlike yesterday’s shave. (I’m going to try the Lilac soap again with a horsehair or badger brush to see whether the problem was the boar.)

The iKon S3S is a stainless razor with a massive asymmetric head, and the iKon handle shown is their “Bamboo” model, which I don’t think is available any more. However, Maggard has a new razor, the MR5, with a handle that is quite similar. The blade was SuperMax Titanium and three passes produced a BBS result without a sign of a nick.

A good splash of Pinaud Lilac Vegetal—the aftershave I should have used yesterday for a lilac theme—and it turns out to be quite nice after the initial blast dies down (though of course fragrances are very much YMMV).

Apologies for the delayed post.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 October 2014 at 6:10 pm

Posted in Shaving

Blackwater employees go to prison, their boss remains free and rich

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In The Intercept Jeremy Scahill has a good report on the Baghdad massacre of civilians done by the Blackwater employees:

A federal jury in Washington, D.C., returned guilty verdicts against four Blackwater operatives charged with killing more than a dozen Iraqi civilians and wounding scores of others in Baghdad in 2007.

The jury found one guard, Nicholas Slatten, guilty of first-degree murder, while three other guards were found guilty of voluntary manslaughter: Paul Slough, Evan Liberty, and Dustin Heard. The jury is still deliberating on additional charges against the operatives, who faced a combined 33 counts, according to the Associated Press. A fifth Blackwater guard, Jeremy Ridgeway, had already pleaded guilty to lesser charges and cooperated with prosecutors in the case against his former colleagues. The trial lasted ten weeks and the jury has been in deliberations for 28 days.

The incident for which the men were tried was the single largest known massacre of Iraqi civilians at the hands of private U.S. security contractors. Known as “Baghdad’s bloody Sunday,” operatives from Blackwater gunned down 17 Iraqi civilians at a crowded intersection at Nisour Square on September 16, 2007. The company, founded by secretive right-wing Christian supremacist Erik Prince, pictured above, had deep ties to the Bush Administration and served as a sort of neoconservative Praetorian Guard for a borderless war launched in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.

While Barack Obama pledged to reign in mercenary forces when he was a senator, once he became president he continued to employ a massive shadow army of private contractors. Blackwater — despite numerous scandals, congressional investigations, FBI probes and documented killings of civilians in both Iraq and Afghanistan — remained a central part of the Obama administration’s global war machine throughout his first term in office.

Just as with the systematic torture at Abu Ghraib, it is only the low level foot-soldiers of Blackwater that are being held accountable. Prince and other top Blackwater executives continue to reap profits from the mercenary and private intelligence industries. Prince now has a new company, Frontier Services Group, which he founded with substantial investment from Chinese enterprises and which focuses on opportunities in Africa. Prince recently suggested that his forces at Blackwater could have confronted Ebola and ISIS. “If the administration cannot rally the political nerve or funding to send adequate active duty ground forces to answer the call, let the private sector finish the job,” he wrote.

None of the U.S. officials from the Bush and Obama administrations who unleashed Blackwater and other mercenary forces across the globe are being forced to answer for their role in creating the conditions for the Nisour Square shootings and other deadly incidents involving private contractors. Just as the main architect of the CIA interrogation program, Jose Rodriguez, is on a book tour for his propagandistic love letter to torture, Hard Measures: How Aggressive CIA Actions After 9/11 Saved American Lives, so too is Erik Prince pushing his own revisionist memoir, Civilian Warriors: The Inside Story of Blackwater and the Unsung Heroes of the War on Terror.

While the Blackwater verdict is an important and rare moment of accountability in an overwhelmingly unaccountable private war industry, it does not erase the fact that those in power—the CEOs, the senior officials, the war profiteers—walk freely and will likely do so for the rest of their lives.

What is so seldom discussed in public discourse on the use of mercenaries are the stories of their victims. After the Nisour Square massacre, I met with Mohammed Kinani, whose 9-year-old son, Ali, was the youngest person killed by Blackwater operatives that day. As he and his family approached the square in their car: . . .

Continue reading.

He includes this brief movie:

Written by LeisureGuy

23 October 2014 at 4:43 pm

“Carb-Loaded,” a new movie on food and its effects on you

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As I’ve mentioned, we now follow a low-carb, high-fat diet. Andreas Eenfeldt, a Swedish MD, explains it here. There’s now a movie out, which Dr. Eenfeldt briefly describes. Here’s the trailer:

If you click the link to watch the trailer on YouTube, you’ll see a bunch of related clips in the column at the right.

More info on the movie at its home site.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 October 2014 at 4:24 pm

The NY Fed looks increasingly like a criminal organization, facilitating bank scams

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23 October 2014 at 4:09 pm

Capitalism vs. The public

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Sometimes the drive to charge people for everything—particularly those who have fallen on hard times—is somewhat sickening.

Here are some examples:

How Insurers Are Trying To Get Around Obamacare And Avoid Covering Sick Patients

That article explains the primary tactics and provides more detail under three headings:

1. Offering skimpy plans to workers that don’t cover all their needs.

2. Making drugs too expensive for sick patients to afford.

3. Forming narrow networks to discourage sick people from enrolling.

Of course, these things could be easily fixed were it not for the absolute opposition of the GOP, which does not want healthcare to work.

A Dallas Company Finds Profit in Video-Only Jail Visitations. The article begins:

There’s nothing nice about jail. The food stinks. There’s nothing to do. People are in a bad mood. The best you can hope for is to get out quickly with minimal hassle. One of the few things you have to look forward to is a visit from a friend or a loved one—a brief face-to-face connection to remind you that the world is waiting on the other side of the glass. But some Texas jails are eliminating in-person visitation and requiring instead the use of a video visitation system sold by Dallas-based Securus Technologies. Critics say it’s an outrageous profiteering scheme that has no policy rationale and could actually deteriorate security at jails.

Securus markets its video system as a cost-saver for jails and a convenience for family members who live far from their incarcerated loved ones. But the structure of the deals suggests there are powerful financial incentives for jails to curb or eliminate face-to-face visitation. Securus charges callers as much as a dollar a minute to use its video services, and jails get a 20 to 25 percent cut. For big-city jails, that could mean millions in extra money. . .

The article concludes:

. . . A report released this morning by Grassroots Leadership and the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition found that disciplinary infractions, assaults and contraband cases all increased within the year after the video-only policy was put in place. The report concedes that the trends may be an aberration or temporary but cites social science and long-standing prison policies holding that visitations improves jail security and lowers recidivism rates. One studyof 16,420 offenders commissioned by the Minnesota Department of Corrections, for example, found that “prison visitation can significantly improve the transition offenders make from the institution to the community.” Even one visit lowered the risk that a person would re-offend by 13 percent.

“Video-only visitation policies ignore best practices that call for face-to-face visits to foster family relationships,” the report argues. “They advance arguments about security that are dubious, not rooted in research, and may be counter-productive.”

Grassroots Leadership and the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition report found 10 counties in Texas that have already deployed video-only systems, with more considering the option.

Because cutting taxes means less money for government services, many police departments look for other sources of revenue, such as civil asset forfeiture in addition to things like the cash-up-front video-only visitation system. Indeed, Ferguson MO’s criminal justice system had a nice little racket going, constantly extorting money from the poor.

Turning Public Education Into Private Profits

One excellent way to destroy public education is to turn it over to private, for-profit companies. It may start okay, but pretty quickly the drive to grow profits will result in cost-cutting, and the schools will go downhill, short of teachers, short of supplies, short of maintenance, and so on. The article at the link is worth reading, particularly if you will at some point have children that will attend schools. Take a look at the start of that Pacific Standard article by Marian Wang:

In late February, the North Carolina chapter of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation—a group co-founded by the libertarian billionaire Koch brothers—embarked on what it billed as a statewide tour of charter schools, a cornerstone of the group’s education agenda. The first—and it turns out, only—stop was Douglass Academy, a new charter school in downtown Wilmington.

Douglass Academy was an unusual choice. A few weeks before, the school had been warned by the state about low enrollment. It had just 35 students, roughly half the state’s minimum. And a month earlier, a local newspaper had reported that federal regulators were investigating the school’s operations.

But the school has other attributes that may have appealed to the Koch group. The school’s founder, a politically active North Carolina businessman named Baker Mitchell, shares the Kochs’ free-market ideals.  His model for success embraces decreased government regulation, increased privatization, and, if all goes well, healthy corporate profits.

In that regard, Mitchell, 74, appears to be thriving. Every year, millions of public education dollars flow through Mitchell’s chain of four non-profit charter schools to for-profit companies he controls.

The schools buy or lease nearly everything from companies owned by Mitchell. Their desks. Their computers. The training they provide to teachers. Most of the land and buildings. Unlike with traditional school districts, at Mitchell’s charter schools there’s no competitive bidding. No evidence of haggling over rent or contracts.

The schools have all hired the same for-profit management company to run their day-to-day operations. The company, Roger Bacon Academy, is owned by Mitchell. It functions as the schools’ administrative arm, taking the lead in hiring and firing school staff. It handles most of the bookkeeping. The treasurer of the non-profit that controls the four schools is also the chief financial officer of Mitchell’s management company. The two organizations even share a bank account.

“This isn’t as if one of the board members happens to own a chalk company where they buy chalk from, and he recused himself from buying chalk. This is the entire management and operation of the school.”
Mitchell’s management company was chosen by the schools’ non-profit board, which Mitchell was on at the time—an arrangement that is illegal in many other states. . .

Written by LeisureGuy

23 October 2014 at 4:03 pm

Prosecutors must be held accountable

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If they are not, we get a criminal justice system driven by the politics of power, following directions to imprison people that the power structure dislikes. Unlawful prosecutions are where it starts, and it goes stronger if unethical prosecutors doing illegal prosecutions go unpunished. I recently blogged about the innocent man imprisoned for years, thanks to a Brooklyn prosecutor: the man got a $10 million settlement, and the prosecutor, after taking a couple of months of taxpayer-funded vacation, resigned quietly and is living happily, with no actions taken against him.

Now Pamela Colloff has an excellent article in the Texas Monthly that makes a strong case for punishing prosecutors who misuse their powers. She writes:

On September 17, in a decisive 7–2 ruling, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned the capital murder conviction of a Corpus Christi woman named Hannah Overton. Readers of Texas Monthly may recall Overton’s case, which I examined in an article a few years ago called “Hannah and Andrew,” a lengthy story that questioned the assumptions that had led to her prosecution. Overton is one of a number of defendants I have written about in recent years whose convictions have been overturned by the CCA.Michael Morton, who was sentenced to life in prison in 1987 for the murder of his wife, and Anthony Graves, who was sent to death row in 1994 for killing six people, were exonerated after spending a collective 42 years behind bars. Although these three cases are each quite different, they share a common theme: the prosecutors who sought their indictments and secured their convictions should never have tried the cases in the first place.

Take, for example, the facts surrounding Overton’s case. The mother of five was arrested in 2006 after Andrew Burd, a four-year-old foster child whom she and her husband were in the process of adopting, mysteriously died from a rare case of salt poisoning. Overton, who had no prior arrests and no previous run-ins with Child Protective Services—and who had earned an excellent reputation as a private-duty nurse for special-needs children—quickly became the focus of the Corpus Christi Police Department’s investigation into Andrew’s death. The Nueces County district attorney’s office discounted evidence suggesting that Andrew had an undiagnosed eating disorder called pica, which is not uncommon among foster children and involves ingesting inappropriate items, including salt. Concluding that a crime had taken place, the DA’s office secured an indictment for capital murder.

The Nueces County DA’s office aggressively pursued Overton, asking jurors to find her guilty and give her a life sentence without the possibility of parole, even though prosecutors could not answer the most basic questions about how she would have committed the crime. How had the diminutive Overton, who was six months pregnant at the time of Andrew’s death and mostly confined to her bed because she was recovering from whiplash after a car accident, managed to overpower the boy? How had she gotten him to choke down such a considerable quantity of salt without causing any lacerations or injuries to his mouth? How could Overton, who had no history of mental illness or violence, have suddenly become capable of the cold-blooded murder of a child? Worst of all, prosecutors could never establish a plausible motive. If she was too overwhelmed by the demands of parenting Andrew, as they told jurors, why hadn’t she terminated the adoption process?

During oral arguments before the CCA earlier this year, Overton’s appellate attorney, Cynthia Orr, asserted that lead prosecutor Sandra Eastwood had been so intent on winning a conviction that she failed to disclose exculpatory evidence—a charge Eastwood has strenuously denied. According to Orr, the defense was never told about a container of Andrew’s vomit that had been collected on the day he was hospitalized. Its low sodium level corroborated Overton’s account that on the day Andrew fell ill he’d likely ingested the salt on his own, when she briefly dozed off that morning, and not that afternoon, when he was under her supervision.

Yet the seventeen-page decision the CCA handed down in September largely laid the blame for Overton’s conviction on her defense attorneys for failing to call a key witness, a world-renowned expert on salt poisoning. As to the assertion that prosecutors withheld evidence, Judge Lawrence E. Meyers demurred, writing, “Because we are granting relief on Applicant’s first claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, there is no need for us to address the second issue of whether the state failed to disclose exculpatory evidence.”

Judge Cathy Cochran, though, did not hold back in her criticism of the prosecution. In a blistering concurring opinion, she took Eastwood to task, noting that the prosecutor had conceded during a 2012 evidentiary hearing that she had been an alcoholic and had also been taking prescription diet pills that affected her memory at the time of Overton’s trial. “[Eastwood] repeated seventy-two times that she did not recall or did not know the answers to questions concerning the investigation or trial of applicant,” Cochran observed. The judge, who noted that Eastwood was later fired for unrelated ethical violations, did not stop there. Cochran went on to explain how the second-chair prosecutor, an assistant DA named Anna Jimenez, had taken the stand during the hearing to testify that Eastwood “told her that ‘she would do anything it would take to get an advantage over the Defense,’ including sending a ‘spy’ to applicant’s church group to learn the defense strategy. The second-chair prosecutor testified that the lead prosecutor was not ethical and was ‘not truthful.’ She said that the lead prosecutor told her that no vomit samples had been saved as evidence.”

Sadly, the themes that run through the Overton case—from tunnel vision to an overly aggressive prosecution—are hardly unique. Take the case of Alfred DeWayne Brown, currently on death row. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 October 2014 at 3:14 pm

Campaigns of malicious falsehoods

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We know that “I read it on the Internet” is not the most convincing way to substantiate a fact: many postings may contain errors, show ignorance of facts, and so on. But one also must contend with deliberate malicious deception not just of individual posts or message, but of coordinated serious efforts to deceive and destroy. I already mentioned the fake-news site that tries to create fear and, I suppose, panic (if they can).

Now I found one that’s even worse: a hate group (identified as such by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Tara Culp-Ressler describes it at ThinkProgress:

A misogynist group is attempting to co-opt a well-known international campaign against domestic violence, setting up a fake website intended to confuse visitors who may be trying to donate to the cause.

The new website is attempting to divert supporters looking for the White Ribbon Campaign, a nonprofit group in Canada that engages men in the effort to stop intimate partner violence. It was founded in 1989 in response to the “Montreal Massacre,” in which a 25-year-old gunman shouted “You’re all a bunch of feminists, and I hate feminists!” before opening fire and killing 14 female students. Since then, the White Ribbon movement has spread to other countries like Scotland and Australia. It also has a relatively popular Facebook page.

The real sites have international URLs, like The fake campaign, however, is hosted on — something that may trick Americans into thinking it’s the United States’ official chapter. There’s a fake Facebook account to go along with it.

The fake site urges people to be wary of “false White Ribbon initiatives” dedicated to addressing “violence against women,” telling them to donate to its group instead.

“There are numerous attempts by other entities to corrupt the message of the White Ribbon Initiative by inserting dishonest and sexist messages into this movement,”claims a post on the fake White Ribbon site. “Hopefully this message, and the other content on this website (which is provided to you by the world’s foremost experts on family violence), will help you see through the corruption and dishonesty being furthered by other programs.”

But the dishonesty is actually being furthered by itself. As reported by We Hunted The Mammoth, a blog dedicated to tracking anti-feminist online groups, the fake site was set up by A Voice For Men — an infamously misogynist forum dedicated to “men’s rights activists.” Indeed, when you click on the “One-Time Paypal Donation” button on the fake White Ribbon site, it leads to a donation page for A Voice For Men.

The men’s rights movement believes that feminism harms men, and is primarily fueled by resentment over the women’s rights movement. That’s why MRAs take issue with the real White Ribbon Campaign, which seeks to challenge “harmful ideas of manhood that lead to violence against women.” A Voice For Men’s fake site makes it clear that this framing is offensive to them, writing that “family violence is a serious problem that knows no gender” and “we cannot address this complicated, critical problem by pointing the finger at one sex as the default perpetrator and at another sex as the default victim.”

But the members of A Voice For Men — which has been designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center — aren’t simply interested in a conversation about how violence affects both men and women. They have a well-documented history of manipulating facts, accusing feminists of encouraging domestic violence to make money, and even making violent threats against women. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 October 2014 at 2:28 pm

‘Facebook is a gift to intelligence agencies’

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Very interesting interview with Laura Poitras (author of the quotation of the title) in the Washington Post.

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23 October 2014 at 2:12 pm

The total failure of the war on drugs, Afghanistan division

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Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 1.38.06 PM

$7.6 billion dollars bought us that little dip toward the right. It’s like pushing a beach ball under the water: as soon as the pressure’s release (the money stops flowing), the ball bounces right back to the surface. We would be well ahead to deflate the damn ball if we want to keep it underwater: legals drugs (all of them), regulate (and tax) their sale, and deal with addiction as a medical problem rather than a criminal problem. But that makes sense, and politicians and governments are strongly resistant to things that make sense. Their attention is focused on big donors and lobbyists, and they seem to pay little attention to anything else..

The graph is from a very good article by Christopher Ingraham in the Washington Post:

The U.S. government wasted $7.6 billion on an ill-conceived drug war in Afghanistan that was doomed to failure from the start, according to ascathing new report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. The Afghan opium poppy crop, providing the raw material for the bulk of the world’s heroin supply, reached record levels in 2013 and is likely to climb even higher this year, the report finds.

“The recent record-high level of poppy cultivation calls into question the long-term effectiveness and sustainability” of the past decade of counter-narcotics efforts in Afghanistan, Special Inspector General John F. Sopko concludes. “Given the severity of the opium problem and its potential to undermine U.S. objectives in Afghanistan, I strongly suggest that your departments consider the trends in opium cultivation and the effectiveness of past counter-narcotics efforts when planning future initiatives.”

Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Vanda Felbab-Brown, who has written extensively about the relationship between drug economies and military conflict, is not at all surprised by the findings. “A lot of these programs were counterproductive,” she told me, “and more importantly did not really address the structural drivers of [poppy] cultivation.”

At its root, the Afghan poppy trade is just a symptom of a much broader problem: Afghanistan is “an extremely weak state with an extremely weak economy, and huge insecurity,” Felbab-Brown said. Given the uncertainties, many Afghan farmers turn to poppy because they know they can turn a profit off it.

Until Obama took office, most U.S. anti-drug efforts were focused onunsustainable crop eradication efforts. Starting in 2009, U.S. policies focused more on economic development and the structural drivers of poppy cultivation, but Felbab-Brown says the implementation of these programs has been deeply flawed. . . .

Continue reading.

We piss away money on things like this, shoveling sand against the surf, letting our government services—parks, our public educational system (elementary, secondary, and higher ed),  public hospitals and so on—gradually collapse.


Written by LeisureGuy

23 October 2014 at 2:11 pm

The psychology of bribery and corruption

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A very interesting article in Pacific Standard by Lauren Kirchner explores what drives and protects bribery and corruption. The article describes in some detail the two incompetent conspirators (one an FBI agent working in counter-intelligence) and how they worked, but it also looks at the general picture.  From that article:

. . . The very particular set of thinking and expectations involved in bribery and corruption has been an occasional topic of research for economists and psychologists throughout the years—on the overall cultural, organizational, and personal levels.

Researchers have measured and studied corruption on the global scale, for instance. The World Bank has estimated that $1 trillion gets paid every year in bribes, worldwide. There’s corruption in every government in the world, but what varies is how extreme, how visible, and how tolerated it is. Researchers at the University of Toronto have made a connection between the cultural “collectivism” of a country’s population and its acceptance of bribery (as opposed to its “individualism”). It might sound counter-intuitive, but the results of their study suggest that “collectivism promotes bribery through lower perceived responsibility for one’s actions.”

Likewise, researchers writing in the journal Social Psychological & Personality Sciencehave found a correlation between the “seemingly unrelated behaviors” of voluntary tipping and bribery. Namely, “countries that had higher rates of tipping behavior tended to have higher rates of corruption”—even after they control for GDP and income inequality. The context surrounding those two acts may be different, but the expectation of a quid-pro-quo for good service rendered seems to be the same.

A duo of psychologists in Germany struggled to identify the particulars of “a corrupt organizational culture in terms of its underlying assumptions, values, and norms.” But, writing in the Journal of Business Ethics this year, they found generally that “corrupt organizations perceive themselves to fight in a war, which leads to their taken-for-granted assumption that ‘the end justifies the means.’” Wartime attitudes degrade the traditional values of the members of the group, and they start to develop rationalizations and something the authors call “ethical blindness.” Corrupt organizations also tend to protect the “social cocoon” they’ve built up by harshly punishing those members of the group who aren’t willing to join in the rule-breaking.

It seems that the structure of the organization itself can have a subconscious effect on its members, as well. When asked about kickbacks and bribes in the U.S. military, a spokesperson for the government watchdog group Project on Government Oversightsaid that the strict, top-down structure of the military means that commanders must work even harder to set an ethical example for their subordinates. Otherwise, corruption trickles down. . .

Here’s the abstract of the article the duo of psychologists in Germany:

Although theory refers to organizational culture as an important variable in corrupt organizations, only little empirical research has addressed the characteristics of a corrupt organizational culture. Besides some characteristics that go hand in hand with unethical behavior and other features of corrupt organizations, we are still not able to describe a corrupt organizational culture in terms of its underlying assumptions, values, and norms. With a qualitative approach, we studied similarities of organizational culture across different corrupt organizations. In this study, we performed content analysis on interviews of 14 independent experts about their experience with corrupt organizations. With this approach, we gained insights about different corrupt organizations spanning different branches (e.g., government, foreign trade, pharmacy, sports, building industry). We found that corrupt organizations perceive themselves to fight in a war, which leads to their taken-for-granted assumption that “the end justifies the means”. This assumption inspires many values and norms of the organizational culture. An important value in a corrupt organization is “security”, and an important norm is punishment of deviant (i.e., non-corrupt) behavior. Furthermore, managers and employees differ in their perception of organizational culture. While the management endorses values, such as success, results, and performance, and implements these values in their norms of goal setting, employees make use of rationalization strategies and endorse values of security and team spirit.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 October 2014 at 1:35 pm

Posted in Daily life, Law, Science

The momentum to recognize a Palestinian State is unstoppable

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Farhang Johanpour writes at Informed Comment:

Once again, the British Parliament has led the way with an epoch-making decision. On Monday 13 October 2014, British lawmakers voted overwhelmingly in favour of recognizing Palestine as a state. With 274 to 12 votes they passed a motion stating: “This House believes that the Government should recognise the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel as a contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution.”

The Conservative Party’s whips advised the party’s MPs to stay away from the vote. As a result, nearly 90 per cent of the ruling Conservative Party members were absent from the vote. (1)

The Israeli government lobbied actively against the motion. The Zionist Federation of Great Britain, the oldest Zionist federation in the world, launched a campaign calling on British Jews to write letters to their MPs, urging them to oppose the motion. The more mainstream Jewish organizations also joined the campaign.

On the other hand, a number of Jewish MPs spoke eloquently in favour of the motion. The veteran Labour Party MP Gerald Kaufman, supporting the motion, accused Israel of “harming the image of Judaism” and contributing to anti-Semitism. In fact, the motion would not have made it to the floor of the House without the support of the Jewish leader of the Labour Party Ed Miliband.

Most of those who spoke in favour of the motion were emphatic about Israel’s right to exist, but they felt that it was time to give the Palestinians the same rights that the Israelis enjoy.

Nearly a hundred years ago, on 2 November 1917, the British Foreign Secretary Lord Balfour issued a short statement that has come to be known as the Balfour Declaration, which set in motion the events that led to the establishment of the state of Israel.

It read: . . .

Continue reading. It’s a lengthy post that includes much valuable historical background that provides some insight into how the situation became so wretched.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 October 2014 at 12:20 pm

Posted in Mideast Conflict

A cool way to visualize rhythm

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Written by LeisureGuy

23 October 2014 at 12:06 pm

Posted in Jazz, Music, Video

Extremely interesting and informative post on tribalism and counter-insurgency

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David Moore has a good post at Informed Comment:

The rise of ISIL, as well as the resurgence of the Taliban, has brought numerous “experts” out to offer analyses on the best way to combat these developments. The consensus is to bomb and arm (or re-arm Sunni) groups to fight ISIL. Since I have written a book on insurgency and counter-insurgency warfare in the First and Second Indochina Wars, I feel qualified to point out that my research shows we are on the wrong path for defeating ISIS, the Taliban, or any other insurgency in the future. (The book is based on my 1982 Master’s thesis in anthropology.)

My interest in unconventional warfare stemmed from my service in Vietnam, along with interest and education in the ancient Middle East and anthropology (a multi-disciplinary approach here is important: the first documented counter-insurgency dates to around 1,500 BC, between the Hittite Empire and Kaska tribesmen). Tribesmen have been recruited in history by diverse empires such as Babylonia, Rome and France, a practice that led to some disastrous outcomes for all three. This led me to write an anthropological case study of the effects of insurgency and counter-insurgency warfare on the various tribal groups of Vietnam, from the French involvement to the American. I later published it as “Tribal Soldiers of Vietnam: the Effects of Unconventional Warfare on Tribal Populations.”

In my book, I note that the French discovered in the First Indochina War they were not only fighting the “typical” or “historical” insurgency, i.e. guerrilla war, but a much more complex form of warfare combining politics with unconventional warfare. The signature aspect of this new insurgency, which the French considered the key aspect of modern insurgency, was labeled “parallel hierarchies.” Simply put, the insurgency establishes an effective parallel government and social services, mimicking the ineffective government offices in contested tribal areas. The French ultimately published in 1957 a landmark—but much ignored—study in the magazine Revue Militaire d’Information devoted entirely to the parallel hierarchies.

One way I described the two competing forms of warfare was through the formula RW = (GW + PW), meaning revolutionary (insurgency) warfare was a close combination of guerrilla warfare married to political warfare. The North Vietnamese set up efficient parallel services of courts, social services, military, etc. I wrote the formula for Western counter-insurgency as COIN = (GW) + (PW). Lacking an effective central government and incorruptible bureaucrats, not to mention lacking the will to create one, the quick Western fix was to hire local warlords while leaving their often brutal mechanism for control intact. These warlords supplied their own version of “anti-communism,” telling Western military and political leaders what they wanted to hear while pursuing their own agendas, oftentimes counterproductive by driving their victims into the insurgency.
The expedient use by the US military of warlord armies to fight these insurgents, in my opinion, was a foreseeable catastrophe.

The explosion of armed gangs extorting villages and individuals in Iraq and Afghanistan was not a surprise for anyone familiar with counter-insurgency in Vietnam. As I showed in my book, the growth of armed groups demanding “protection,” “taxes,” etc., is directly related to the standard recruiting and training practices of Western militaries.

Conversely, using the communist model employing parallel hierarchies, insurgencies co-opt and absorb through politics. Politics and religion can overcome tribalism, but US counter-insurgency doctrine (especially in the Middle East) has only further entrenched tribal animosities, sectarianism and chaos. As I showed in my book, left to their own devices, tribal minorities may unite for a united political end, such as independence. . .

Continue reading.

At the link you’ll find not only the rest of the post, but also a video of a panel discussion of tribal societies and tribalism in Pakiston.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 October 2014 at 12:00 pm

How Esperanto has changed since Zamenhof’s time

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Very interesting responses to a question on Quora. The first (of two) responses is from Judith Meyer, a polyglot, who writes:

A lot of new words have been added, especially in the sciences, because Esperanto-speaking scientists regularly meet up to discuss how best to render the terminology of their fields into Esperanto.

New vocabulary is not prescribed though; for new words of common usage, such as “computer”, the Akademio de Esperanto merely watches people’s language usage to see if “komputero” or “komputilo” would become more popular. There are many neologisms that gradually become wide-spread, such as the word “mojosa” for “cool”, that originated in Europe and is now increasingly being used by South American and Asian Esperanto-speaking youths as well. Some of these neologisms are originally coined in songs (as in English as well); the band La Perdita Generacio is particularly known for trying to popularize certain neologisms of their own creation.

Other words that Zamenhof used have now become uncommon, so that reading Esperanto literature from the earliest period is a bit more difficult than reading more recent works, as in any language.


There are two gender-neutral 3rd person pronouns now: ŝli or ri. Ŝli is used as a shortcut by people who don’t want to keep writing “ŝi aŭ li” in texts, while ri is used by a minority of Esperanto speakers, who would prefer for the he/she distinction to be abolished entirely.


The ĥ is almost non-existent by now; words involving ĥ have largely been replaced, e. g.
ĥoro -> koruso (choir)
ĥino -> ĉino (Chinese person)


It is much more common to use verbs instead of adjectives now, which lends Esperanto an Asian feel. E. g.
ŝi estas bela -> ŝi belas  (she is beautiful)

The same rule can lead to complex verb forms based on participles, e. g.
ŝi estas kantanta -> ŝi kantantas (she is singing)
(both “estas kantanta” and “kantantas” are still rare though)

-unt- and -ut- have been accepted as conditional participles, since all participles are created based on the same vowels as in the verb tenses (-as, -is, -os, -us) and the participles with U were missing. I am not aware of any other language that has conditional mood participles, but they can be useful on occasion. For example there were a lot of organizational problems at one of the international youth congresses and towards the end, two participants presented a poem about the various problems. Instead of ending it with the expected “Dankon al la organizantoj” (Thanks to the organizers), they said “Dankon al la organizuntoj” (Thanks to those-who-would-have-organized). Everyone was laughing hard.

There is a new preposition “na”, which is still inofficial but widely understood now, which can be used instead of the Accusative -n for words that don’t easily allow adding an -n, such as names:
Mi ŝatas Facebook-n -> Mi ŝatas na Facebook.


-enda is a new suffix for something that ought to be done:
legenda libro (a book to be read)
farendaĵoj (things to be done)

You already mentioned the -io/-ujo debate, which some older people still feel strongly about.

The use of -ino has been revised: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 October 2014 at 10:28 am

Posted in Esperanto

Cool street art: Trompe l’oeil and (separately) tiny figures

with one comment


Take a look.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 October 2014 at 10:14 am

Posted in Art, Daily life

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