Later On

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

Archive for January 22nd, 2015

The USMC really is a learning organization

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Chris Mooney reports in the Washington Post:

In the arid lands of the Mojave Desert, Marine regimental commander Jim Caley traveled alongside a 24-mile stretch of road and saw trucks, tanks and armored tracked vehicles all idling in the heat — and wasting enormous amounts of expensive fuel.

Caley had already led forces in Iraq, and at the time was charged with seven battalions comprising 7,000 Marines. But this was a new and different challenge. Overseeing a major spring 2013 training exercise at the Marine Corps’ Twentynine Palms base in southern California, he was struck by how little he knew about how America’s war-fighting machine used energy.

“No targets prosecuted, no miles to the gallon, no combat benefit being delivered,” Caley, a Marine colonel, says of the scene. “At the time, I had no system to understand what was going on, and what was occurring, and how much further I could go on the same fuel.”

The Department of Defense is the single biggest user of energy in the U.S. — its energy bill in 2013 was $18.9 billion — and Caley now plays a central role in trying to ensure that just one of its branches, the Marine Corps, uses that power in the optimal way. The implications for the military are vast. For instance, the Marines alone have estimated that they could save $26 million per year through a 10 percent energy reduction at their installations and bases, to say nothing of Marine field operations, which used an estimated 1.5 million barrels of fuel in 2014.

But most striking is how these changes are coming about. As head of the Marines Corps’ five-year-old Expeditionary Energy Office, Caley is tapping into one of the hottest trends in academic energy research: looking to use psychology and the behavioral sciences to find ways of saving energy by changing people — their habits, routines, practices and preconceptions.

“The opportunities that we see on the behavioral side of the house are phenomenal,” Caley explained during a recent interview in his Pentagon office. “And they’re frankly less expensive than us trying to buy new equipment.”

Through behavioral changes alone — tweaking the ways that Marines drive their vehicles, power their outposts, handle their equipment — Caley thinks he can increase their overall battlefield range by as much as five days, a change that would provide immense tactical benefit by cutting down on refueling requirements (and the logistical hurdles and vulnerabilities associated with them). If he succeeds, the Marines would stand at the forefront of an energy revolution that may someday rival wind or solar in importance: one focused not on changing our technologies or devices, but on changing us. And its applications would touch every corner of our society, from how we behave in our homes to how we drive our cars.

The behavioral science wave

Any change to how the military uses energy has momentous implications simply because it uses so much of it — roughly the same amount of power annually as the state of West Virginia. But the behavioral revolution in energy is also highly significant in the civilian sector, where truly Pentagon-sized energy gains could be reaped just by tweaking little behaviors. For instance, here are some published estimates of possible energy savings from behavioral changes. These shouldn’t be taken as exact, but rather as ballpark figures: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 January 2015 at 6:59 pm

C.I.A. Report Found Value of Brutal Interrogation Was Inflated

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The problem with self-investigations: even if they are rigorous investigations, the (internal) report is easily quashed and covered up. Mark Mazzetti reports in the NY Times:

Years before the release in December of a Senate Intelligence Committee report detailing the C.I.A.’s use of torture and deceit in its detention program, an internal review by the agency found that the C.I.A. had repeatedly overstated the value of intelligence gained during the brutal interrogations of some of its detainees.

 The internal report, more than 1,000 pages in length, came to be known as the Panetta Review after Leon E. Panetta, who, as the C.I.A.’s director, ordered that it be done in 2009. At least one of its authors won an agency award for her work, according to a recent briefing that the agency’s inspector general gave to staff members of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The contents of the Panetta Review, which remain classified, are now central to simmering battles over the Intelligence Committee’s conclusions about the efficacy of torture and the C.I.A.’s allegations that committee staffers improperly took the review from an agency facility. The C.I.A. has publicly distanced itself from the report’s findings, saying that it was an incomplete and cursory review of documents, and has blocked its release under the Freedom of Information Act.

New details of the Panetta Review, presented last month by the C.I.A. inspector general in a briefing to the committee, came as Senator Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, the new chairman of the Intelligence Committee, wrote to President Obama with an odd request: He wants the committee’s report back.

Mr. Burr sent a letter last week to the White House saying that his Democratic predecessor, Senator Dianne Feinstein, should never have transmitted the entire 6,700-page report to numerous departments and agencies within the executive branch — and requested that all copies of the report be “returned immediately,” according to people who have seen the letter.

The Intelligence Committee publicly released only the report’s executive summary. But Congress has since changed hands, and the committee is now controlled by Republican lawmakers like Mr. Burr who have long opposed the committee’s detention investigation, which they said was a partisan effort to discredit the C.I.A. and the Bush administration.

The ongoing controversies, more than a month after Intelligence Committee Democrats released their explosive findings about the C.I.A’s detention and interrogation program, signal just how much all sides are still positioning to control the history of one of America’s most polarizing recent episodes. The latest actions show that Republicans and the C.I.A. are still fighting to challenge the conclusions of a report they consider to be a partisan smear.

The internal C.I.A. review ordered by Mr. Panetta was an attempt by the agency to better understand millions of documents that the C.I.A. was handing over to the committee as it began its investigation into the Bush-era detention program.

The result of the internal review, led by Peter Clement, who at the time was the agency’s deputy director of intelligence for analytic programs, was a series of memos on what the documents revealed about the internal workings of the program.

One of the report’s findings, according to people who have seen the document, was that the C.I.A. repeatedly claimed that important intelligence to thwart terror plots and track down Qaeda operatives had come from the interrogation sessions of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed when, in fact, the intelligence had other origins. . .

Continue reading

Two obvious takeaways, already shown to be true:

a. The CIA lacks any sense of integrity.

b. The CIA is systematically dishonest and deceitful, so statements from them should be assumed to be worthless unless independently corroborated.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 January 2015 at 5:59 pm

Supreme Court Justices not only live in a bubble divorced from criminal law, they were raised in it.

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Thoughtful post by Radley Balko.

This term, the Supreme Court heard two cases involving the actions of police officers during traffic stops. How the court comes down on the two cases will likely have significant repercussions far beyond the facts of the cases themselves. The court’s decisions could affect how police target motorists, which motorists they target and how often, and how they interact with motorists once they’ve pulled them over. The decisions will likely affect how police profile motorists to look for drug couriers, who gets detained and searched, and who has property confiscated through civil asset forfeiture.

Here’s the problem: You’d be hard-pressed to assemble nine lawyers in America who as a collective are further removed from the realities of the facts of these cases than the nine justices of the Supreme Court. The road from law school to the Supreme Court today starts at Harvard or Yale (all nine of the current justices attended Harvard or Yale for law school, although Ruth Bader Ginsberg later transferred to Columbia). From there the next stop is a clerkship or two with a federal judge, followed by a post in academia, the Justice Department, or a white shoe law firm. Rise quickly and get noticed, and you might eventually earn an appointment to the federal judiciary. From there you’ll want to write strong opinions (but not too strong) that will attract the eye of court watchers, influential ideological organizations like the Federalist Society and the American Constitution Society, and the legal media commentators who draw up those Supreme Court short lists.

What’s missing from that career trajectory is any real experience in criminal law. . .

Continue reading. He raises some important and worrisome points.

Later in the article:

We haven’t had a justice with significant criminal defense experience since Thurgood Marshall retired in 1992. Given the intense politicization of the nominating process, and that we’re increasingly seeing the practice of criminal defense used as a political cudgel, it seems unlikely we’ll see another example any time soon. (Can you imagine the uproar if a president were to nominate a prominent attorney like Brian Stevenson who has made his name defending prisoners on death row, or an ACLU lawyer who specializes in criminal law?)

The point here isn’t that we should stock the court with votes to broaden the rights of criminal suspects, or to limit the powers of police and prosecutors. But in some of the most important and profound issues we face in a free society — issues like what limits should be put on the government’s power to use force, to inflict violence, to detain, to imprison, and to kill — the Supreme Court lacks any firsthand perspective on how those issues arise and are handled day to day on the streets, in the jails and prisons, and in prosecutor offices.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 January 2015 at 3:27 pm

Very interesting column on LBJ and Selma

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Written by LeisureGuy

22 January 2015 at 2:57 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

The Impact Of Smoking Marijuana Regularly On Your Lungs, According To Science

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Sam Collins writes at ThinkProgress:

Evolving attitudes about marijuana among the majority of Americans, as well as decriminalization laws starting to sweep the nation, have done little to quell questions about the health effects of longtime use among medical professionals, lawmakers, and people on both sides of an ongoing debate about the plant.

Even with a dearth of research, the general consensus in past decades has been that smoking marijuana regularly poses significant health risks. A new study out of Emory University in Atlanta, however, could challenge what has become the fundamental argument for maintaining the plant’s designation as a Schedule 1 drug.

“Lifetime marijuana use up to 20 joint-years is not associated with adverse changes in spirometric (exhalation strength) measures of lung health,” the study, featured in the medical journal Annals of the American Thoracic Society, concluded.

In an effort to measure marijuana’s impact on lung function, researchers used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys to conduct a cross-sectional analysis measuring participants’ forced expiratory volume — defined as the amount of air one can forcibly exhale in one second. They found that adults between the ages of 18 and 59 who smoke one marijuana cigarette, also known as a joint, per day had the same expiratory volume as someone who didn’t partake in the plant.

The data collected suggests that it’s unlikely that prolonged marijuana use would cause respiratory diseases in a way that smoking tobacco would. While researchers at Emory University found that marijuana users who smoked joints reported coughing and having a sore throat — symptoms of bronchitis — they attributed that to the use of rolling papers, especially since those who used vaporizers reported similar problems less often.

The results of the Emory University study bear a striking similarity to previous research about marijuana’s effects on lung function. In 2012, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 January 2015 at 2:36 pm

Posted in Drug laws, Health, Science

Taking stock of Edgar Allan Poe

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Very good article by Marilynne Robinson in the NY Review of Books:

Edgar Allan Poe was and is a turbulence, an anomaly among the major American writers of his period, an anomaly to this day. He both amazed and antagonized his contemporaries, who could not dismiss him from the first rank of writers, though many felt his work to be morally questionable and in dubious taste, and though he scourged them in print regularly in the course of producing a body of criticism that is sometimes flatly vindictive and often brilliant.

It seems to have been true of Poe that no one could look at him without seeing more than they would wish or he could tolerate. His clothing was always neat and genteel and very shabby. His manner was gracious and refined and notoriously pathetic or outrageous if he happened to have been drinking. He was always too desperate for money to be tactful in his solicitations of acquaintances, being the sole support of a beloved and tubercular wife, a cousin he had married when she was not quite fourteen. He was a popular writer and a very successful editor, and always meagerly paid. The gentility that was his entrée and his armor was of a Southern kind, not much appreciated by the New Englanders who dominated literary life. And the Virginia family among whom he had acquired the manners and tastes of refinement had disowned him without a dime.

The writer Thomas Wentworth Higginson said Poe had “the look of over-sensitiveness which when uncontrolled may prove more debasing than coarseness.” And he does seem to have been overwhelmed by himself, intolerably sensitive and proud and intolerably brilliant, his drinking and bitterness abetting his discomfitures and humiliations. That said, his strange little household of aunt/mother and cousin/wife, through it all and while it lasted, was always reported to be warm and sweet. He was a strong, athletic man who, through the whole of his career, bore up under his weaknesses and afflictions well enough to be very productive, most notably in the unique inventiveness, the odd purity, of his fiction.

Poe published The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket in 1838, relatively early in his career. It is his only novel. Its importance is suggested by the fact that his major work comes after it. That is, in writing Pym he seems to have come to a realization of the strongest impulses of his imagination. The book shows evidence of haste, or of a certain waning of interest in the earlier, more conventional part of it.Pym’s flaws are sometimes ascribed to the fact that it was written for money, as it surely was, and as virtually everything else Poe wrote was also. This is not exceptional among writers anywhere, though in the case of Poe it is often treated as if his having done so were disreputable. Everything about him, however neutral in itself, seems to be subsumed into his singular reputation and to reinforce it. Be that as it may, the Narrative makes its way to a climax as strange and powerful as anything to be found in his greatest tales.

The word that recurs most crucially in Poe’s fictions is horror. His stories are often shaped to bring the narrator and the reader to a place where the use of the word is justified, where the word and the experience it evokes are explored or by implication defined. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 January 2015 at 11:04 am

Posted in Books

Netanyahu Imported by GOP to ensure Iran War

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The GOP still cannot grasp that a war is a man-made disaster. So far our wars have created more problems than they have solved, and a war with Iran would be an ENORMOUS deal: it would make our Iraq War (fought purely on the basis of deliberate lies from the Bush Administration) look almost pleasant.

Juan Cole writes at Informed Comment:

Republican House Majority leader John Boehner secretly invited Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to Washington to address Congress and then once it was set up he let Barack Obama know about it.

The reason for bringing Netanyahu is that Boehner wants to craft a super-majority in Congress that can over-ride Obama’s veto of new sanctions on Iran. He doesn’t have enough Republican votes to do so, but if he can get Democrats beholden to the Israel lobbies of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee to join the veto over-ride effort, he might succeed.

Obama has spent a great deal of time and effort trying to negotiate with Iran over its civilian nuclear enrichment program, intended to allow Iran to replicate the success of France and South Korea in supplying electicity. (That would allow Iran to save gas and oil exports for earning foreign exchange).

Because nowadays producing enriched uranium for fuel via centrifuges is always potentially double use, this program has alarmed the US, Europe, and Israel. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has given several fatwas (akin to encyclicals) orally in which he forbids making, storing or using nuclear weapons as incompatible with Islamic law (a position also taken by his predecessor, Ayatollah Ruhullah Khomeini). So maintaining that Iran is committed to making a nuclear bomb is sort of like holding that the Pope has a huge condom factory in the basement of the Vatican.

But, there are no doubt Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps commanders and maybe some engineers and scientists who really wish Khamenei would change his mind (he won’t).

So if you wanted a compromise between Iranian nuclear doves (the hard line leadership) and Iranian nuclear hawks (the subordinates who have to take orders from the doves), what would you do? You’d keep options open. And keeping options open also has a deterrent effect, so it is almost as good as having a nuclear bomb. That is, if Iran has all the infrastructure that would be needed for a nuclear weapons program but didn’t actually initiate such a program, you’d put enemies on notice that if they try to get up a war on you the way Bush-Cheney got one up on Iraq, they could force you into going for broke and abruptly making a bomb for self-defense. This posture is called in the security literature “nuclear latency” or colloquially “the Japan Option” (we all know Tokyo could produce a bomb in short order if they felt sufficiently threatened).

I started arguing that this policy was what Iran was up to some 7 or 8 years ago, and I think it is now widely accepted in policy circles.

So the point of the UNSC plus Germany negotiations with Iran is really about how long Iran would take to break out and produce a bomb. Will it be 3 months or one year? Iran wants a shorter timeline (for maximum deterrence, since they already saw what happened to Baghdad). The P5 + 1 want a much longer timeline. They would also like to spike the centrifuges and make sure there is no heavy water reactor (plutonium builds up on the rods).

If the two sides can reach an acceptable compromise, sanctions would be lifted, Iran would run its Russian-built reactors to produce electricity (though likely within a decade they will be undercut in price by solar panels; still, solar doesn’t have deterrent properties ), and there would be thorough frequent UN inspections of its enrichment facilities (plutonium leaves a signature). It isn’t really possible to have a big nuclear facility hidden from US satellites; the US spotted Fordo immediately. You need a lot of water, truck traffic, etc.

But Iran would have latency and therefore . . .

Continue reading.

Note that Israel strongly objects to settling disputes through the courts.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 January 2015 at 9:12 am

Posted in Mideast Conflict

Privacy is dead and it’s never coming back, Harvard professors say

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Via Jack in Amsterdam, this report in Raw Story:

Imagine a world where mosquito-sized robots fly around stealing samples of your DNA. Or where a department store knows from your buying habits that you’re pregnant even before your family does.

That is the terrifying dystopian world portrayed by a group of Harvard professors at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Thursday, where the assembled elite heard that the notion of individual privacy is effectively dead.

“Welcome to today. We’re already in that world,” said Margo Seltzer, a professor in computer science at Harvard University.

“Privacy as we knew it in the past is no longer feasible… How we conventionally think of privacy is dead,” she added.

Another Harvard researcher into genetics said it was “inevitable” that one’s personal genetic information would enter more and more into the public sphere.

Sophia Roosth said intelligence agents were already asked to collect genetic information on foreign leaders to determine things like susceptibility to disease and life expectancy.

“We are at the dawn of the age of genetic McCarthyism,” she said, referring to witch-hunts against Communists in 1950s America. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 January 2015 at 8:55 am

Ersatz engine rumble: Recorded engine noise to appeal to the macho

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With more efficient car engines, the full-throated rumble and roar of the old V-8 is pretty much a relic of the past, but some are eager to be able to produce such sounds from their car or truck as a signifier of power and masculinity. The obvious answer: recorded engine noise, played back at volume.

Drew Harwell writes for the Washington Post:

Stomp on the gas in a new Ford Mustang or F-150 and you’ll hear a meaty, throaty rumble — the same style of roar that Americans have associated with auto power and performance for decades.

It’s a sham. The engine growl in some of America’s best-selling cars and trucks is actually a finely tuned bit of lip-syncing, boosted through special pipes or digitally faked altogether. And it’s driving car enthusiasts insane.

Fake engine noise has become one of the auto industry’s dirty little secrets, with automakers from BMW to Volkswagen turning to a sound-boosting bag of tricks. Without them, today’s more fuel-efficient engines would sound far quieter and, automakers worry, seemingly less powerful, potentially pushing buyers away.

Softer-sounding engines are actually a positive symbol of just how far engines and gas economy have progressed. But automakers say they resort to artifice because they understand a key car-buyer paradox: Drivers want all the force and fuel savings of a newer, better engine — but the classic sound of an old gas-guzzler.

“Enhanced” engine songs have become the signature of eerily quiet electrics such as the Toyota Prius. But the fakery is increasingly finding its way into beefy trucks and muscle cars, long revered for their iconic growl.

For the 2015 Mustang EcoBoost, Ford sound engineers and developers worked on an “Active Noise Control” system that amplifies the engine’s purr through the car speakers. Afterward, the automaker surveyed members of Mustang fan clubs on which processed “sound concepts” they most enjoyed. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 January 2015 at 8:51 am

Picadillo again, this time with more appropriate olives

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Dos Olivos

I’m making this Picadillo recipe again, only this time I will indeed use salad olives (like the one on the right) and not Martini olives (the one on the left).

Written by LeisureGuy

22 January 2015 at 8:38 am

Posted in Food, Low carb, Recipes

BBS with British Gillette Aristocrat—and some intense soap

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SOTD 22 Jan 2015

What a great shave. I used the tiny Omega silvertip with Seifenglatt’s Camphor shaving soap: an intense fragrance that I definitely will use when next I have a cold or the flu: full camphor intensity—and a very good lather indeed.

Three passes with the British Gillette Aristocrat shown—and I have the identical razor in rhodium—using a SuperMax Titanium blade, and a perfect BBS result easily achieved.

A good splash of Pinaud Coachman and we’ll start wrapping up the week.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 January 2015 at 8:14 am

Posted in Shaving

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