Later On

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

Archive for January 5th, 2015

Sen. Feinstein to seek law to bar torture by CIA

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She probably won’t get the law passed: the CIA seems determined to be able to do anything they want, and a GOP-controlled Congress (both houses now) will not forbid torture after having watched so many seasons of 24, which repeatedly showed torture as effective. But it’s a nice gesture. (It would have been even nicer had Congress actually provided close oversight to the second government of the CIA, NSA, military, et al.

Jonathan Landay reports in McClatchy:

The CIA could hold prisoners only on a short-term basis and would be restricted to using U.S. Army interrogation methods under legislation that former Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein says she’ll sponsor to ensure that detainees are never again tortured.

Feinstein, D-Calif., outlined a series of recommendations for legislative and administrative reforms in a letter that she wrote last week to President Barack Obama seeking his support.

“These recommendations are intended to make sure that the United States never again engages in actions that you have acknowledged were torture,” Feinstein wrote to Obama in the letter, a copy of which was released by her office Monday.

Her proposals stem from a four-year, $40 million investigation into the CIA’s use of simulated drowning, known as waterboarding, and other brutal interrogation techniques on suspected terrorists who were abducted or captured and held in secret overseas prisons under the Bush administration between 2002 and 2007.

The declassified executive summary of the report, written by Democratic committee staffers, found that the methods produced no significant intelligence that couldn’t have been obtained by other means. It also said that the CIA misled the Bush administration, Congress and the American people about the effectiveness of its once top-secret interrogation program.

“I believe that several of the committee’s findings should prompt additional oversight and better sharing of information for all covert action and significant intelligence collection programs,” Feinstein wrote to Obama.

Republicans, who take control of both houses of Congress this week, and former CIA and Bush administration officials disputed the report’s findings. The CIA also rejected the key conclusions, but it agreed with findings outlining serious problems in the way the interrogation program was managed. . .

Continue reading, though, given the paragraph immediately above, what’s the point? The GOP will do whatever the CIA wants because Jack Bauer.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 January 2015 at 5:12 pm

Dinner tonight: Chinese braised lamb shanks

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Smells good so far. I braised the shanks (after browning them) by adding the 1/2 cup white wine, covering, and putting them into a 200ºF oven overnight (8 hours, in fact). Then I let them cool and proceeded with the recipe. I certainly did not spend any half hour in browning them, though.

The Wife cannot eat bok choy, so we are having Swiss chard as the green. Kale would work as well, or red chard.

No rice, of course: LCHF.

UPDATE: Really quite good. I used an enormous bunch of Swiss chard, and it was fine and even could have used more greens. Next time, I’ll try it with 2 bunches of red chard. I do use the stalks. I sautéed the greens using 2 Tbsp toasted sesame oil.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 January 2015 at 4:00 pm

Posted in Food, Recipes

Psychologists and warfare

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An interesting post adapted in part from An Atomic Love Story: The Extraordinary Women in Robert Oppenheimer’s Life, by Shirley Streshinsky and Patricia Klaus. It begins:

Near the end of 2014 the Senate Intelligence Committee’s release of its so-called “torture report” held no surprises for those who had read, a few weeks earlier, New York Times reporter James Risen’s new book Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War, which calls into question the role played by psychologists in the CIA’s interrogation practices. In a November New York Times story, Risen wrote: “Psychologists were involved in developing the enhanced interrogation techniques used on terrorism suspects by the Central Intelligence Agency. Later, a number of psychologists, in the military and in the intelligence community, were involved in carrying out and monitoring interrogations.”

In Risen’s and other stories, two psychologists emerge as central to the torture issue: James Elmer Mitchell and John “Bruce” Jessen are credited not just with devising the methods of enhanced interrogation that is at the core of the controversy (i.e. water boarding, rectal feeding, death threats) but of implementing the torture as well. And—there’s more—they were asked to rate their own methods. Though studies exist that maintain that information gleaned from torture is rarely valuable, the two contract psychologists insisted otherwise, and from 2005 to 2009, charged $81 million for their services.

After the successful test of the first atomic bomb, Oppenheimer thought of words from the Bhagavad Gita: “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” He had helped give humans the means of their annihilation.

The American Psychological Association (speaking for its 130,000 members) declared on its homepage: “APA is outraged that two psychologists committed such clear and inexcusable violations of their professional ethics. Drs. Mitchell and Jessen are not APA members, they are therefore beyond the reach of our ethics enforcement program but, if the allegations made about them are true, we believe they should be held accountable for violations of human rights and U.S. and international law.”

Looking back over the major stories of the past 12 months is a year-end ritual. But the enhanced interrogation/torture story and the curious relationship it exposes between psychology and warfare needs a longer view, beyond the Bush Administration. In fact, we should look back to the year 1874 when psychology became a separate discipline, first described as “the study of consciousness.” It began in Germany, and quickly spread throughout Europe and to the United States where William James—“the father of American psychology”—signed on to discover “how behavior works to help people live in the environment.” A worthy goal. James died before the first of the 20th century’s two world wars, so wasn’t around to witness how the new science would be shaped by those years of global trauma.

In World War II, psychology and propaganda teamed up to demoralize the enemy through radio programs: Tokyo Rose called out to “G.I. Joe” in American English, taking aim for his vulnerabilities; Lord Haw Haw and Axis Sally taunted Allied troops on a radio program Germany Calling, produced by the Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda.

Early in the war, the Intelligence Services of both the Reich and Great Britain put their psychologists to work in a more subtle form of warfare: devising tests to reveal which candidates for covert assignments could perform well under stress.

The U.S. came late to the game. Still, even before Pearl Harbor, psychologists flocked to Washington, D.C., to offer their services. Among them was Ruth Tolman, who was 47 in 1940, and who had a doctorate in psychology from the University of California-Berkeley. She had followed her physicist husband, Dr. Richard Tolman, to Washington, where he was vice chairman of the National Defense Research Committee and the scientific advisor on the Manhattan Project—the building of the atomic bomb. Robert Oppenheimer, the man who would lead the effort to build that first great weapon of mass destruction, was a close friend of both Tolmans. Ruth’s connections were prodigious; in her own field was her brother-in-law, Edward Tolman, head of U.C. Berkeley’s psychology department, who also had been summoned to Washington. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 January 2015 at 2:13 pm

Watch penguins play iPad games like tiny, cute, flightless people

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Cute story (and video).

Written by LeisureGuy

5 January 2015 at 2:08 pm

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Why It’s Sometimes Cheaper to Fly with a Fake Layover

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Corporations really hate it when you outsmart them. And in the US corporations pretty much can get what they want from Congress, so I expect this good service to be railroaded out of business soon.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 January 2015 at 2:06 pm

Posted in Business, Technology

Interesting anomaly: A woman firing randomly at citizens and pointing a loaded gun at police is arrested without being harmed

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You will recall John Crawford, shot to death by two police officers for shopping for a BB gun at Wal-Mart while being black. And Tamir Rice, shot to death by two police officers for playing alone in a public park with a toy gun while being black. Those are depressing stories, and there are many other stories like those—Eric Gardner, Michael Brown, and many others.

Charles Blow in the NY Times offers a contrasting incident:

The day after Christmas, a shooter terrorized the streets of a Chattanooga, Tenn., neighborhood. According to the local newspaper, the shooter was “wearing body armor” and “firing multiple shots out her window at people and cars.” One witness told the paper that the shooter was “holding a gun out of the window as if it were a cigarette.”

There’s more:

“Officers found two people who said they were at a stop sign when a woman pulled up in a dark-colored sedan and fired shots into their vehicle, hitting and disabling the radiator. Then more calls reported a woman pointing a firearm at people as she passed them in her car, and that she fired at another vehicle in the same area.”

When police officers came upon the shooter, the shooter led them on a chase. The shooter even pointed the gun at a police officer.

Surely this was not going to end well. We’ve all seen in recent months what came of people who did far less. Surely in this case officers would have been justified in using whatever force they saw fit. Righti?

According to the paper, the shooter was “taken into custody without incident or injury.”

Who was this shooter anyway? Julia Shields, a 45-year-old white woman.

Take a moment and consider this. Take a long moment. It is a good thing that officers took her in “without incident or injury,” of course, but can we imagine that result being universally the case if a shooter looks different? Would this episode have ended this way if the shooter had been male, or black, or both?

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 January 2015 at 1:54 pm

Posted in Guns, Law Enforcement

Pittsburgh police take a stand against opposing racism

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Amazing. Radley Balko comments:

Pittsburgh’s police chief is under fire from the city police union for holding an anti-racism sign while posing in a photo. Seems to me that once you find yourself getting angry about a public official taking a public stand against racism, it might be time to recheck your priorities.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 January 2015 at 11:10 am

Perfect shave, with ATT S1 on iKon Bulldog handle—with The Drunken Goat

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SOTD 5 Jan 2015

Quite a wonderful shave today: a two-day stubble is always a pleasant shave. My Rooney Style 2 Finest whipped up a terrific lather from Mickey Lee Soapworks The Drunken Goat, a soap I really like. However, I always look at the level of soap and wish that he used a shorter tub so the tub would be more filled. I know the soap is sold by weight, but the fact that the tub is less than half-filled when new does not create a good impression. A squat jar 1.5″ tall would be very nice, especially since it could then be shipped in a USPS Priority Mail Small Flat-Rate Box. (The current tub is too tall for that.)

Quibbles aside, I did enjoy the lather. One guy on Wicked_Edge recently was asking whether brushless shave creams would work as well as using a brush. My response:

By a true lather, I mean specifically a lather made with a shaving brush from shaving soap or shaving cream and water, but more broadly any prep that uses shaving soap/cream and water whether or not a brush is involved. However, even though some brushless shave creams are excellent—see this post—I generally mean involving a shaving brush—and the reason is that I think most find that using a brush is enjoyable. You’re going to have to spread stuff around in any case, so you can use your hand or a brush. I think most prefer the brush (once they’ve actually tried it, not merely speculating) because it is more enjoyable: it increases the pleasure of the shave.

In part this is because the making of the lather is a skill, and a skill once learned is enjoyable to practice—and, to be honest, this is a pretty easily learned skill. So there’s that: watching how skillfully you whip up a really fine lather—and while you’re at it, enjoying the fragrance that emanates from it.

And then you touch brush to face, and that is truly enjoyable if you have a brush of any quality at all—and if touching brush to face is not a pure pleasure, then you have the wrong brush. Try one of these and, since I’ve been advised the minimum order is $15, a tub of J.M. Fraser shaving cream, a really wonderful and curiously effective shaving cream (for use with brush, note) that is a total knockout bargain: $15 for a 1-lb tub.

Since Shoebox Shaveshop (which is where the product links take you) also sells the Parker 26C, you can get my recommended beginner’s kit from them. Throw in a blade sampler pack, a styptic, and an alum block with the brushes, shaving cream, and razor, and Bob’s your uncle.

I used the Above the Tie S1 slant on an iKon Bulldog in response to a request. It works and feels fine. I like the UFO handle a lot (appearance, weight, and feel), but UFO handles are difficult to procure—the drawback of an artisanal operation that becomes popular—and so someone who has an iKon Bulldog handle wanted to know how it would work with this head. It works fine. Three passes to BBS.

A good splash of Fine’s Clean Vetiver, and we’re all back at work.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 January 2015 at 9:30 am

Posted in Shaving

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