Later On

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

Archive for November 5th, 2014

Thoughts while watching Jack Bauer

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As I watch it, it does seem incredibly heavy-handed in driving home the message that, yes, the good guys do have to ignore those laws and the Constitution and human decency, and torture the be-jesus out of suspects and “we don’t have time for PC lawyers” because it’s an emergency. Of the direst sort, usually, but I imagine the point is to condition us to accept and understand that, in exigent circumstances, the good guys, the government, even, may have to do the most barbarous acts you can imagine, and that is okay.

And once we accept, then we are conditioned enough that if our neighbor became a suspect, we’d understand, because it is probably some sort of emergency. And then the surprise when one day you yourself become the suspect.

So I think the series is a sort of training program to get us accustomed to what’s coming next. There may even be signs the discerning eye can see.

Written by Leisureguy

5 November 2014 at 5:29 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

Israel’s attacks on Gaza homes called ‘callous,’ possible war crimes

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I don’t think the judgment of Amnesty International will have any effect on Israeli policies regarding Gaza. It seems clear that Israel intends to wipe Gaza out, little by little: closing borders, bombing, more and more restrictions on daily life. That approach does seem to create and intensify animosity. Joel Greenberg reports for McClatchy:

The human rights group Amnesty International said Wednesday that Israel had displayed “callous indifference” and in some cases committed war crimes when it bombed scores of homes of suspected militants, sometimes killing entire families, during last summer’s war in Gaza.

The attacks on family homes of suspected operatives was the signature tactic of the 50-day Israeli campaign against Hamas and allied militant groups in the Gaza Strip in July and August.

Israel’s declared aims of the war, which included bombardments from land, sea and air, followed by a ground offensive, were to stop rocket fire at Israel and destroy networks of tunnels, some of which reached into Israel.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry dismissed the Amnesty International report as biased, saying that it ignored war crimes by Hamas, including “the use of human shields, as well as ammunition storage and firing at Israeli civilian population centers from within schools, mosques and civilian neighborhoods in Gaza.”

More than 2,100 Palestinians were killed in the conflict, about 70 percent of them civilians, according to the United Nations. On the Israeli side, 73 soldiers and civilians were killed in combat, and in rocket and mortar strikes.

The 49-page report documented eight cases in which family homes were attacked without warning, causing the deaths of at least 104 civilians, including 62 children.

Philip Luther, Amnesty’s director for the Middle East and North Africa, said that the findings show a pattern of attacks in which Israeli forces showed “a shocking disregard for the lives of Palestinian civilians.”

“Israeli forces have brazenly flouted the laws of war,” he said, “displaying callous indifference to the carnage caused.”

He added, “The repeated, disproportionate attacks on homes indicate that Israel’s current military tactics are deeply flawed and fundamentally at odds with the principles of international humanitarian law.”

The single deadliest attack documented in the report was a strike in which 36 members of four families, including 18 children, were killed when a three-story building was bombed. The second most lethal case was a strike in which 25 civilians, including 19 children, were killed when another house was leveled.

Amnesty International said it identified possible military targets in the first building, and a member of Hamas’ armed wing was outside the second, but “regardless of the intended targets, both of these attacks constitute grossly disproportionate attacks under international law” and should have been called off when it became clear that so many civilians were present.

The Israeli army said during the war that it had repeatedly warned Palestinians to leave combat zones, but Gaza residents said that no place was safe during the fighting in the crowded coastal strip, and that there was nowhere to flee. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

5 November 2014 at 4:28 pm

Central Banks Have Lost Their Credibility on Inflation

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If, year after year after year, central banks state that their goal is 2% inflation, and year after year after year they simply don’t reach (or try to reach) that goal, one necessarily begins to question their good faith and/or competence. Kevin Drum notes:

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Ryan Avent is unhappy that the Fed has basically declared the economy in good shape and ended its quantitative easing program. I’m inclined to agree with him, though I’ll grant that it’s a legitimately debatable point. But on another point—the Fed’s prolonged inability to hit its own 2 percent inflation target—Avent is absolutely spot on:

Inflation has been below the desired level for all but a handful of months since the target was announced. In the nearly three years since the Fed has operated under an explicit 2% inflation targeting regime, annual inflation has been 1.5% on average. In the two most recent months, year-on-year inflation has been 1.4%, below both the target and the average for the period under which the target has been in place.

….We can debate whether the Fed has the right target or not….Do you know what’s not up for debate? Whether what we have experienced in America over the last few years represents good monetary policy making. It doesn’t.Setting a public target, consistently missing that target, projecting that the target will be consistently missed in future, and conducting policy so as to make sure the target is in fact missed: that is lousy monetary policy making. And I cannot understand why the Fed does not see this record as detrimental to the recovery and highly corrosive of the Fed’s credibility.

In fact, this is actually an even bigger problem than Avent acknowledges. Think about it. We now . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

5 November 2014 at 11:15 am

Posted in Business, Government

The Evolutionary Advantages of Infidelity

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Interesting article by Amy Amos in Pacific Standard:

I hadn’t thought much about bird sex in a long time—30 years. But as I stood on a dirt road in the Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge in West Virginia this past summer, instinct (or perhaps muscle memory) took over. I lifted my binoculars to my eyes, listened for a distinctive bubbly song, and scanned the fence posts in the adjacent field. Sure enough, two male bobolinks were perched a few posts apart singing like mad to keep the other away from his territory.

Typical male behavior, I thought.

Years ago, as a wildlife biology major at Cornell University, I spent an entire summer watching a field of bobolinks do their thing. Males fiercely guarded their territories and females chose mates based on some mysterious combination of alluring song and impressive real estate. The mated pairs built nests and raised their broods together in seemingly monogamous bliss. On the surface, it was a Father Knows Best kind of scenario straight out of the Eisenhower era. But all of us on the research team watching knew that some of those daddies were fooling around on the side. We called the mistresses “secondary” and “tertiary” females. They raised their young on father’s territory, but he never acknowledged their existence. Instead, he doted faithfully on his “primary” female and helped her feed the brood.

As I watched a few bobolinks posture again this past summer for the first time since then, I suddenly saw things a bit differently. The fence posts morphed into bar stools and the bobolinks became men in some rowdy roadhouse. And I wondered: How did our research on bobolink sex influence thinking about human sex? This wasn’t a random question. Thirty years earlier, our team discovered something just beginning to be recognized: The mommy birds were fooling around on the side too.

Ever since Charles Darwin put his ideas about sexual selection down on paper in 1871 (in The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex) biologists had been reinforcing conventional thinking about female sexuality. Namely, that males of most species compete for as many females as they can get, that their “investment” in mating is low (sperm and copulation are energetically cheap compared with eggs and pregnancy), and therefore it’s to their advantage to seek out as many sexual partners as possible. Females, the thinking went, would gain no such advantage from having more than one sexual partner. Instead, it made evolutionary sense for females to choose one really good mate and put her eggs in one basket (figuratively and literally).

Scientists quibbled over the details and tweaked these ideas over the decades, but didn’t challenge them much. A.J. Bateman seemed to prove this point in 1948 with his classic study of fruit flies: Male fruit flies that mated with many females had more offspring that those who mated with few. But he found no such advantage for female fruit flies. Robert Trivers added consideration of parental investment to the discussion in 1972, noting that the sex that invests more in raising offspring would be choosy about mates, and the sex that invests less would compete with others of their gender for partners. But since females of most species—including humans—typically invest more time and energy in their offspring than males, scientific thinking didn’t change all that much.

Until DNA analysis.

By the mid-1980s, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

5 November 2014 at 11:10 am

Posted in Evolution, Science

#102 with Utopia Care handle—and Maggard shaving soap

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SOTD 5 Nov 2014

An extremely nice shave today. Mr Pomp has no problems at all in getting a really fine lather from the Maggard shaving soap, which as you see is a coconut-oil soap. If you’re going to use a single oil, coconut oil strikes me as an excellent choice: thick, creamy, protective lather easily generated. This particular fragrance is light to my nose—but fragrances are enormously YMMV. I don’t really know the Fougère fragrance—I apparently have soaps that carry that fragrance, but it has yet to achieve a clear identity for me. I know this is my own olfactory failing, but other fragrances are much more clearly defined—rose, for example, is unmistakeable. But I could not pick Fougère out of a line-up if it mugged me in broad daylight.

I tried the Utopia Care handle with the #102 head, and indeed it does work great. The Utopia Care razor is $11, and typically a stainless handle will cost more than that. So with this handle and the #102 head, you have a very fine slant for $59—which is more than the $45 that the 37C costs, but not a lot more, and (for me) the #102 is more comfortable.

Again I can detect no difference in the cutting action or performance of this non-torqued slant and a torqued slant, but I shall continue. It might be that a guy with a thick, tough, coarse, wiry beard would detect a difference, but so far I don’t.

A good splash of the (extremely pleasant) D.R. Harris Pink After Shave—and despite the color, it is totally not a rose fragrance. I don’t know how to describe it, but I like it. It’s the sort of fragrance that would pair well with tweed jacket and regimental striped tie.

On a minor political note, I am surprised to see that Kansans want more of the same. Perhaps the appeal of what has happened in Brownback’s first term as governor is not visible to nonresidents.

Written by Leisureguy

5 November 2014 at 9:40 am

Posted in Shaving

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