Later On

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

Archive for July 16th, 2015

Good satire for those who follow politics: Bulworth

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Pretty much a Warren Beatty production, and quite good: he wrote it, stars in it, and directed it. Bulworth. With Halle Berry. Netflix streaming.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 July 2015 at 7:23 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

More on the Sandra Bland case

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How long can police in this country do anything they want? Read this.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 July 2015 at 6:59 pm

Posted in Law Enforcement

Seattle Kids Have Lower Polio Vaccination Rate Than Rwanda

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Insanely optimistic? or just plain stupid? You decide.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 July 2015 at 5:28 pm

Posted in Medical, Mental Health

Obama takes a very relaxed approach to implementing Dodd-Frank anti-corruption rule: 5 years so far, and no hurry shown

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I continue to think that Obama is likely to reap big rewards from Wall Street once he’s out of office for the way he has protected them. Jon Schwarz reports in The Intercept:

When Barack Obama signed the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill five years ago, on July 21, 2010, he looked extremely pleased with himself. It had been a tough fight, he said: “We had to overcome the furious lobbying of an array of powerful interest groups and a partisan minority determined to block change.” But now, Obama proclaimed, the bill’s reforms “will become the law of the land.”

HA HA PSYCH.

The reality of U.S. politics is that good ideas don’t win and take effect just because they’ve “become the law.” Yes, to get even that far, they have to have somehow threaded their way through a campaign system ruled by money instead of people; passed a House of Representatives overflowing with members from bizarrely gerrymandered districts; and made it past a filibuster in the anti-democratic Senate. But that is often just the start of the truly bloody trench warfare.

One case study is Dodd-Frank’s Section 1504. Congress, on July 21, 2010, gave the Securities and Exchange Commission 270 days to issue a rule on how exactly to implement it. Today, 1,821 days later, there still is no rule.

Section 1504 is intended to address a terrible problem, one so common it has two names: “the paradox of plenty” and “the resource curse.” Countries with lots of oil, gas and mineral wealth are, oddly enough, very frequently poor, corrupt and polluted.

What happens is that big multinational corporations have enormous incentives to bribe government officials so they can get the right to extract and sell the country’s natural resources. That, in turn, leads those government officials to spirit away vast sums of money that rightfully belong to the people to London or Zurich. Not only do ordinary citizens miss out on the looting, but they tend to suffer from the ancillary corruption, wasteful spending, military adventurism and instability.

Section 1504 requires corporations traded on U.S. stock exchanges to publicly disclose the payments they make to governments for natural resources on all of their projects around the world.

People in, say, Angola would learn exactly how much money their government has received from big oil companies, making it harder for their leaders to hide and pocket as much of it.

Meanwhile, knowing what kind of a deal Angola struck, other governments could use that information to drive harder bargains.

The SEC did finally issue a rule for Section 1504 in August 2012, after a lawsuit by Oxfam America. But then the American Petroleum Institute, the main trade group for the oil industry, challenged the rules, and they were vacated by a U.S. District Court. Now the SEC claims it will issue a “proposed rule” — only the first step in the process — in April 2016.

Meanwhile, during the past five years, . . .

Continue reading.

It’s quite obvious that stalling the rule is an Obama Administration priority.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 July 2015 at 3:45 pm

Retired General: Drones Create More Terrorists Than They Kill, Iraq War Helped Create ISIS

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Both states seem pretty obvious, but obviously some disagree (but without evidence—the evidence supports the retired general’s observations). Murtaza Hussain reports in The Intercept:

Retired Army Gen. Mike Flynn, a top intelligence official in the post-9/11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, says in aforthcoming interview on Al Jazeera English that the drone war is creating more terrorists than it is killing. He also asserts that the U.S. invasion of Iraq helped create the Islamic State and that U.S. soldiers involved in torturing detainees need to be held legally accountable for their actions.

Flynn, who in 2014 was forced out as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, has in recent months become an outspoken critic of the Obama administration’s Middle East strategy, calling for a more hawkish approach to the Islamic State and Iran.

But his enthusiasm for the application of force doesn’t extend to the use of drones. In the interview with Al Jazeera presenter Mehdi Hasan, set to air July 31, the former three star general says: “When you drop a bomb from a drone … you are going to cause more damage than you are going to cause good.” Pressed by Hasan as to whether drone strikes are creating more terrorists than they kill, Flynn says, “I don’t disagree with that.” He describes the present approach of drone warfare as “a failed strategy.”

“What we have is this continued investment in conflict,” the retired general says. “The more weapons we give, the more bombs we drop, that just … fuels the conflict.”

Prior to serving as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Flynn was director of Intelligence for the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. During his time in Iraq, Flynn is credited with helping to transform JSOC into an intelligence-driven special forces operation, tailored to fight the insurgency in that country. Flynn was in Iraq during the peak of the conflict there, as intelligence chief to Stanley McChrystal, former general and head of JSOC. When questioned about how many Iraqis JSOC operatives had killed inside the country during his tenure, Flynn would later say, “Thousands, I don’t even know how many.”

In the upcoming interview, Flynn says that the invasion of Iraq was a strategic mistake that directly contributed to the rise of the extremist group the Islamic State. “We definitely put fuel on a fire,” he told Hasan. “Absolutely … there’s no doubt, I mean … history will not be kind to the decisions that were made certainly in 2003.”

Over his 33 years in the Army, Flynn developed a reputation as an iconoclast. In 2010, he published a controversialreport on intelligence operations in Afghanistan, stating in part that the military could not answer “fundamental questions” about the country and its people despite nearly a decade of engagement there. Earlier this year, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 July 2015 at 1:43 pm

Hopeless quest: Kevin Drum asks conservatives to make a real (not fatuous) argument against the Iran deal

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Written by LeisureGuy

16 July 2015 at 1:41 pm

Mass Graves of Immigrants Found in Texas, But State Says No Laws Were Broken

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Democracy Now! has a video report with transcript. Their summary:

Texas says there is “no evidence” of wrongdoing after mass graves filled with bodies of immigrants were found miles inland from the U.S.-Mexico border. The bodies were gathered from the desert surrounding a checkpoint in Falfurrias, Texas, in Brooks County. An investigation was launched after the mass graves were exposed last November in a documentary by The Weather Channel in partnership with Telemundo and The Investigative Fund. The report also found many of the migrants died after crossing into the United States and waiting hours for Border Patrol to respond to their 911 calls. We speak with reporter John Carlos Frey, who found rampant violations of the law.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 July 2015 at 12:32 pm

Posted in Law Enforcement

Not just “Serve and protect,” but “Serve, protect, and kill”

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Radley Balko reports three more deaths due to police:

Adding to yesterday’s post, there are a few more more police-involved deaths in the news this week:

  • Johnathan Sanders, a black, unarmed Mississippi man was choked to death by a police officer last week. Witnesses say Officer Kevin Harrington used a racial slur before chasing Sanders down and putting him in a chokehold for about 20 minutes. He also brushed off a witness who tried to administer CPR. According to the Guardian, local district attorney Bilbo Mitchell boasted at a Town Hall meeting this week that no police officer had ever been indicted under his watch.
  • In Denver, witnesses and surveillance video are contradicting the initial claims Denver police made after killing Paul Castaway. The police said Castaway stabbed his mother with a knife, then charged at the police officers with the same weapon. But a local reporter who viewed a surveillance video says it appears to contradict the claim that Castaway charged at the officers. A neighbor then told local media that Castaway’s mother was never stabbed. Castaway’s mother says her never threatened her, either. She also said he was schizophrenic, depressed, and she called the police because she feared for his safety. According to local reporter Tammy Vigil, the surveillance video shows Castaway holding the knife to his own throat when the police shoot him.
  • The family of Chicago resident Sandra Bland is expressing doubt about the official explanation of her death in a Texas jail cell last week. Local authorities say Bland hung herself in the cell. She had been pulled over for improperly signaling before a lane change. The traffic stop somehow escalated to the point in the video at the link, where two officers are on top of her as she lies face-down on the side of the road. This story is still fresh, but there are lots of questions here, like how a traffic stop for an improper lane change escalates to that kind of force. Bland’s family is understandably skeptical of the suicide claim, given that the reason she was in Texas in the first place was to begin a new job. Over the years, there have been dozens of similar cases in which people arrested for relatively minor offenses were later found hanging in their jail cells. Many had no prior history of mental illness. Subsequent investigations have inevitably confirmed the deaths as suicides. But that should only raise more questions: Suicide isn’t a sane reaction to an arrest over a traffic offense. Why does this happen? What sort of conditions must these jails be in that people facing only minor charges see no other option but to take their own lives?

UPDATE: More on the Sarah Bland “suicide.” From the report:

Waller County Sheriff Glenn Smith, who made several statements to the press about her arrest, which he characterized as a result of Bland becoming “combative,” was fired from his previous post in 2007 for documented cases of racism.

There’s a video at the link.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 July 2015 at 12:29 pm

Posted in Law Enforcement

Mindfulness experiment

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In Leisureguy’s Guide to Gourmet Shaving the Double-Edge Way (the latest edition of the Guide), I discuss how shaving supports mindfulness, which I take to be a focused and non-judgmental awareness of what is happening at the the present moment—being clearly aware of what your various senses are experiencing and what you as a result are feeling, with that awareness unmediated by words or thoughts; being alert and aware and in the moment, paying attention to, and absorbed in, your immediate experience, without thoughts of the past or the future.

It’s a state of mind people often get when they are in a completely natural environment, with no mark of human activity. [Edit: It occurs to me that this state of mind has high survival value and thus is reinforced by naturaly selection: if you’re walking through a forest you are more or less evolved to pay attention closely to every sound and every smell while your eyes are constantly watchful and scanning the surroundings. And because that state of mind is rewarding (in terms of survival), it feels good and natural. – LG] And it’s a state of mind that seems to offer emotional and psychological benefits (and thus, indirectly, physical benefits).

In Motherboard Emiko Jozuka describes an experiment soon underway to see what effects mindfulness training will have on early teens:

For the last two years, 14-year-old Enaya Ali has been taking part in “mindfulness” training—a technique designed to improve attention and resilience —at her local school in the UK.

“I suffer a lot from anxieties so I’ll have moments where I’ll find it difficult. But I’ll have a mindfulness moment, and when I come back from it, I’m more in control of myself,” Ali told me over the phone.

A new trial, launched yesterday, aims to scientifically test the effectiveness of mindfulness training as a way of bolstering young people’s resilience to mental health disorders later on in life. With multiple research institutions and nearly 6,000 teenagers taking part over a seven-year period, the study is pretty epic. If successful, mindfulness training could be incorporated into UK schools.

For the uninitiated, “mindfulness” is a mental state that allows us to be able to pay attention to how our emotions and thoughts are developing in the present moment. It’s a skill that can be trained, and researchers believe that the technique helps us better navigate our social relationships, and ward off negative thoughts and feelings.

In the £6.4 million (almost $10 million) three-part study launched yesterday, researchers at the University of Oxford, University College London, University of Exeter, and the Medical Research Council (MRC) Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, will assess whether introducing this training more widely across schools could prevent teenagers from developing mental health disorders in adulthood. The Wellcome Trust, a global medical and health non-profit, reports that over 75 percent of mental disorders begin before the age of 25 and half by 15.

“Some 50 percent of all mental health problems will emerge by late adolescence, so it’s really a key window where we could potentially do something to change the trajectory of young people’s lives,” Willem Kyuken, the study’s principal investigator and a research clinical psychologist from the University of Oxford, told me. “We could potentially prevent mental health problems, and enhance the possibility for [adolescents] to flourish.”

The trial, involving students from 76 schools, is expected to begin in late 2016. In the first part of the study, thirty-eight schools will train 11-14 year old students in mindfulness over 10 lessons within a school term, as part of the normal curriculum. Thirty-eight other schools will act as a control by teaching regular personal, health, and social education lessons.

In a second, lab-based part of the study, researchers from UCL and the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit will examine whether mindfulness training improves the emotional and self-control of nearly 600 participants between the ages of 11 to 16. The third part of the study sees researchers testing the best ways of training teachers to give mindfulness lessons to their students, and evaluating the potential challenges of implementing the training at schools. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 July 2015 at 11:19 am

Two disturbing instances of citizens shot by police

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Radley Balko reports in the Washington Post:

There were two more disturbing stories about police officers killing people this week, although both of the actual incidents occurred two years ago. The first is the 2013 shooting from Gardena, California, depicted in a disturbing video here.

Here’s the description, from the Los Angeles Times:

The grainy videos, captured by cameras mounted in two patrol cars, show three men mistakenly suspected of stealing a bicycle standing in a street under the glare of police lights. With their weapons trained on the men, officers scream at them to keep their hands up.

While two of the men in the videos remain motionless, Diaz Zeferino appears confused by the officers’ instructions. He drops and raises his arms repeatedly, showing the officers his hands and stepping backward and then forward a few paces. A laser dot from an officers’ pistol can be seen on his shirt. After Diaz Zeferino removes a baseball cap from his head, officers standing to the side of the men unleash a volley of gunfire.

The videos show Diaz Zeferino, 35, collapsing to the ground, along with Mendez, who was wounded.

The officers were cleared of any wrongdoing. Note the immediate escalation. They’ve drawn their guns and are screaming out orders immediately . . . for a bicycle theft. The shooting itself is equally suspect. But even if you buy the L.A. County district attorney’s office determination that the officers could reasonably have believed that Zeferino was reaching for a gun, it never should have reached that point. It should never have reached a point where cops were screaming life-and-death orders at a confused man who had done nothing wrong and who the police suspected had — at worst — stolen a bike.

This goes back to a point I’ve made many times before on this site. Three innocent, unarmed men were fired upon by cops. One of them is dead. None of them broke any laws. If these cops’ actions were within the department’s procedures, then the police department needs new procedures. It’s a painfully obvious thing to write, but it apparently needs to be written: Innocent, unarmed men dying in a hail of bullets can not be the acceptable outcome of an investigation into a bicycle theft.

The police department and the city of Gardena then went to court to keep the video from the public. There was also apparently an internal investigation, but under California law, the results of that investigation will be hidden from the public. Meanwhile, the public gets to foot the bill for the settlement paid out to Zeferino’s family. The public also gets to continue to pay these officers’ salaries and benefits and know that they’re still carrying badges and guns.

The second story comes from Georgia. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has published a long investigation into the death of Caroline Small, a 35-year-old mother of two shot and killed by Glynn County police. Police had responded after someone saw Small sitting in her car and suspected drug use. Small, who suffered from mental illness and was distraught, then led police on a low-speed chase. The officers claimed they opened fire on her when they feared she was about to hit them with her car.

From the Journal-Constitution:

After the shooting, Sasser and Simpson are heard on video discussing the shoot.

“Where did you hit her?” Simpson asks, according to a GBI transcript.

“I hit her right in the face,” Sasser says.

“I watched the bridge of her nose…I pulled the trigger and I watched it hit her at the same time I think I fired,” Simpson says.

Sure Small was dead, Simpson waved off a witness and former EMT who offered to render aid, leaving her slumped against the window bleeding, records show.

In fact, she wasn’t dead. She would live for another week. And then the cover-up began.

Within hours of the shooting, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 July 2015 at 10:45 am

Posted in Law Enforcement

A poverty-fighting tool that is liked by both Republicans and Democrats: The Earned Income Tax Credit

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It encourages employment and it helps the poor—and employers like it better than the minimum wage because it’s paid by the government. Both parties like it and economists like it, too.

So why isn’t it supported? Kevin Drum explains.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 July 2015 at 10:41 am

iKon open comb again—different model

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SOTD 16 July 2015

An extremely nice shave this morning. The organic (“bio”) asses’ milk shaving soap makes a great lather, and with Mr Pomp, the brush shown, I really enjoyed it.

This is a different iKon open-comb from yesterday’s. The Bulldog handle is somewhat longer, and this one has a nice matte finish. As with yesterday’s, blade alignment is achieved by a bar (as in the Gillette NEW) rather than by two studs or by corner brackets. The bar is a good device for aligning the blade: holds it securely in place as the razor’s tightened.

Three passes to a perfect result, then a good splash of Klar Seifen Klassik.

I have to say that I was sitting comfortably in my chair, still in my pajamas, and perusing the news, when my calendar popped up to tell me I had a dental appointment in 15 minutes. I jumped up, quickly selected the shaving items and did the photo (since I promised Larry I would take a photo of the razor), also a photo of two bowls, showered, shaved, dressed, and drove to the appointment (2.1 miles away—Google says 7 minutes), arriving 10 minutes late. Not bad, all things considered.

The bowls are by Ross Spangler and we broke one yesterday and have lost another, so we want to replenish the supply. He suggested I send him a photo so he knows which bowls and he will throw more:

Bowls

Written by LeisureGuy

16 July 2015 at 10:19 am

Posted in Shaving

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