Later On

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

Archive for July 25th, 2015

For Molly, biting shower curtain = popping bubble-wrap

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She loves the sound. Shower curtain has little perforations as high as Molly can comfortably reach.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 July 2015 at 5:35 pm

Posted in Cats, Molly

Obama’s statements on gun violence become stronger

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Adam Gopnik writes in the New Yorker:

Brand diversification is part of the American Way—and so now we can add, to all our other smaller-portion spinoffs, a new American phenomenon: the mini-massacre, a gun killing that is horrific in its shock and numerous in its casualties but not sufficiently large enough in the number of dead to really register as a major event in the way that Newtown and Charleston, and, oh yes, Fort Hood, and, right, Aurora and Virginia Tech all did. These mini-massacres, which now occur regularly, are, indeed, perhaps more like what’s called, in branding, a line extension—the same product in a slightly different form. The gun massacre in Louisiana yesterday was one of those; a man with a handgun that was designed only to kill, killing helpless people in a movie theatre. Once again, it seems essential to give the young victims faces—Mayci Breaux, who was just twenty-one, and Jillian Johnson, who was thirty-three. Once more, one has the heart-breaking duty of imagining them dead on a night when they thought only of a small and silly pleasure.

Of course, we hear, If only they had been heavily armed, with loaded guns not just in their purses, but ready in their laps, they all could have fired back at the assailant, aiming and shooting their guns, too, in that dark, crowded space. That would have saved them. Or, perhaps, an armed guard with infrared goggles and an assault rifle should be posted in every screening room in every American multiplex. Of such things American civilization might yet be made. “Whenever we hear about these senseless acts of violence, it makes us both furious and sad,” Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said. Furious, sad, and, apparently, determined to do absolutely nothing to stop the next gun massacre from happening—indeed, determined to do everything possible to stop anyone from doing anything about it at all.

Once again, someone for whom possessing a semi-automatic .40-calibre handgun ought to have been made hugely difficult was able to get his hands on one, with results we know and that, given his history, might have been predictable. Within hours of the killings, we found out that the killer was, well, not the first man you’d want in line for a weapon. As recently as 2008, the AP reports, the killer’s family petitioned a court to have him involuntarily committed “because he was a danger to himself and others.” Apparently, his wife took the guns out of their home when he “exhibited extreme erratic behavior” and made “disturbing statements.” Just the man who ought to have a semi-automatic pistol—the simple kind of gun-control laws that exist in almost every other developed country, which make it hard to get your hands on a gun, particularly when you have any history of mental illness, would likely have kept those two young people alive.

This genuinely insane circumstance—an ongoing national tragedy with an inarguably simple and available solution—once seemed to have merely depressed President Obama. But now, in this oddly rich harvest time of his Presidency, it seems to have properly outraged him, too. “It ought to obsess us,” he said about American gun violence after the Navy Yard gun massacre—remember that one?—“It ought to lead to some form of transformation.” On Thursday, in an interview with the BBC, the President stated, eloquently and succinctly, the basic circumstance of American case: “The United States of America is the one advanced nation on Earth in which we do not have sufficient common-sense gun-safety laws. Even in the face of repeated mass killings.” He also pointed out that . . .

Continue reading.

I think the aggressive and military-like attitude of US police reflects how common guns are among the general population: the police reasonably fear that anyone they confront may be armed.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 July 2015 at 8:59 am

Posted in Daily life, Guns

Men Kill Women in the U.S. So Often that It’s Usually Not Even Newsworthy

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Amanda Marcotte writes in Slate:

When news emerged that a middle-aged white man in Lafayette, Louisiana opened fire at a showing of the Amy Schumer vehicle Trainwreck, I immediately had this sinking feeling that the movie choice wasn’t a coincidence—that this was, like the Elliot Rodger and George Sodini killings, an act of rage at women. While Trainwreck is a fluffy rom-com, it’s also a popular topic of chatter in the feminist-sphere, and therefore likely to be noticed by the seething misogynists who monitor the online activities of feminists with unsettling obsessiveness.

That fear is now moving from the uneasy-feeling column to the likely-possibility column, with Dave Weigel of the Washington Post reporting that alleged shooter John Russell Houser was a rabid right-winger—he even went to one of those unranked conservative Christian law schools—who had particularly strong anger towards women for their growing independence and rights. Former talk show host Calvin Floyd had Houser on as a frequent guest, knowing that his off-the-wall opinions would generate audience interest: “The best I can recall, Rusty had an issue with feminine rights,” Floyd said. “He was opposed to women having a say in anything.” Houser also had a history of domestic violence.

It would be nice, as Jessica Winter argued in Slate after the Charleston shooting, if this country could have a grown-up conversation about gun control in the wake of crimes like this. Instead, we’re just going to hear a bunch of ridiculous rhetoric about how more guns will fix this problem, as if Lafayette isn’t one of those parts of the country where every and their poodle is packing heat. But since that’s not happening, maybe we can talk about the continuing role that misogyny plays in the relentless drumbeat of gun violence in this country.

As my colleague Ben Mathis-Lilley noted today at Slatest, there were 14 other gun-based murder-suicides in the past week in this country, resulting in the loss of 36 lives. If you look down the list of the killings, an unmistakeable pattern pops out: “shot and killed his 37-year-old wife… shot and killed his ex-wife… shot and killed his 62-year-old wife… shot and killed his 23-year-old girlfriend…” and so on. Most of these killings involve men killing women that they were in a relationship with, had lost a relationship with, or likely wanted a relationship with, but were rejected. . .

Continue reading.


Written by LeisureGuy

25 July 2015 at 8:58 am

Posted in Daily life, Guns

Police Force Hired Only Those Applicants Who Said They Wouldn’t Arrest Other Cops

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Once you put bad cops in charge of deciding who will be hired as a cop, the department’s quality can drop quickly, going from a protective force to a corrupt gang. Randa Morris reports at Addicting Info:

A recent investigation into the hiring practices of a Massachusetts-based police department revealed that officers in charge of the hiring process gave bonus points to candidates who said they would not arrest family members or fellow police officers. At the same time, officials deducted points from candidates who indicated that they would arrest other officers or members of their own family.

The Massachusetts Civil Service Commission began investigating the Methuen police department after they declined to hire 26-year-Michael Phillips. Phillips received a letter notifying him that he had not been selected for a position on the Methuen police force because the screening process showed  a “lack of discretion.” The hiring panel reached this conclusion because Phillips said that he would arrest family members or fellow officers, if he caught them driving drunk.

The letter stated:

“This answer appears insincere and sounds like Mr. Phillips is trying to respond in the way he thinks the panel wants him to respond.”

During testimony before the commission, Methuen officers, who were involved in the hiring process, stated that the question was designed to assess the “honesty of applicants.” A candidate that responded to the question with a “yes” was deemed “insincere.”

The Boston Globe reports that Methuen Police Lieutenant Michael Pappalardo testified:

“I’m looking for some bearing, some honesty, and how quickly the person can think on their feet.”

According to the Boston Globe:

“Pappalardo also said he wouldn’t believe anyone who claimed they would arrest their family and friends. And when candidates said they wouldn’t arrest family or fellow officers, the hiring panel noted the person “knows discretion.”

Following the investigation, Christopher C. Bowman, chairman of the Civil Service Commission said that the interview process had been turned upside down. Instead of screening out candidates who indicated that they would bend or break the law for someone they knew, the process screened those candidates in. Bowman wrote in the decision:

“The city turned the interview process upside down, by awarding the highest points to candidates who indicated that they would engage in conduct unbecoming of a police officer, and potentially illegal, while giving the lowest points to candidates such as Mr. Phillips who gave answers that were consistent with the high standard that should be expected of all police officers.”

He also noted that:

“Some of the interview panelists actually heaped high praise on those candidates who stated that they would arrest a stranger but not arrest a friend or family member based on the same facts, citing their understanding of ‘discretion.’

The Eagle-Tribune reports that “knows discretion” was awarded as a favorable mark, by the hiring panel.

The Methuen police department is certainly not the only law enforcement agency in the country that has been actively working to keep good cops out of their ranks. The biggest threat to a corrupt cop is another cop who takes the job seriously. Bad cops don’t hire good cops. Corrupt cops don’t recruit police officers who might investigate their corruption, and they don’t look kindly on cops that might arrest them for breaking the law.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 July 2015 at 8:38 am

Posted in Law Enforcement

In Iraq, I raided insurgents. In Virginia, the police raided me.

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Alex Horton served as an infantryman in Iraq with the Army’s 3rd Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry, and writes in the Washington Post of a recent encounter with the police:

I got home from the bar and fell into bed soon after Saturday night bled into Sunday morning. I didn’t wake up until three police officers barged into my apartment, barking their presence at my door. They sped down the hallway to my bedroom, their service pistols drawn and leveled at me.

It was just past 9 a.m., and I was still under the covers. The only visible target was my head.

In the shouting and commotion, I felt an instant familiarity. I’d been here before. This was a raid.

I had done this a few dozen times myself, 6,000 miles away from my Alexandria, Va., apartment. As an Army infantryman in Iraq, I’d always been on the trigger side of the weapon. Now that I was on the barrel side, I recalled basic training’s most important firearm rule: Aim only at something you intend to kill.

I had conducted the same kind of raid on suspected bombmakers and high-value insurgents. But the Fairfax County officers in my apartment were aiming their weapons at a target whose rap sheet consisted only of parking tickets and an overdue library book.

My situation was terrifying. Lying facedown in bed, I knew that any move I made could be viewed as a threat. Instinct told me to get up and protect myself. Training told me that if I did, these officers would shoot me dead.

In a panic, I asked the officers what was going on but got no immediate answer. Their tactics were similar to the ones I used to clear rooms during the height of guerilla warfare in Iraq. I could almost admire it — their fluid sweep from the bedroom doorway to the distant corner. They stayed clear of one another’s lines of fire in case they needed to empty their Sig Sauer .40-caliber pistols into me.

They were well-trained, their supervisor later told me. But I knew that means little when adrenaline governs an imminent-danger scenario, real or imagined. Triggers are pulled. Mistakes are made.

I spread my arms out to either side. An officer jumped onto my bed and locked handcuffs onto my wrists. The officers rolled me from side to side, searching my boxers for weapons, then yanked me up to sit on the edge of the bed.

At first, I was stunned. I searched my memory for any incident that would justify a police raid. Then it clicked. . .

Continue reading.

Later in the column:

. . . We’ve seen this troubling approach to law enforcement nationwide, in militarized police responses to nonviolent protesters and in fatal police shootings of unarmed citizens. The culture that encourages police officers to engage their weapons before gathering information promotes the mind-set that nothing, including citizen safety, is more important than officers’ personal security. That approach has caused public trust in law enforcement to deteriorate.

It’s the same culture that characterized the early phases of the Iraq war, in which I served a 15-month tour in 2006 and 2007. Soldiers left their sprawling bases in armored vehicles, leveling buildings with missile strikes and shooting up entire blocks during gun battles with insurgents, only to return to their protected bases and do it all again hours later.

The short-sighted notion that we should always protect ourselves endangered us more in the long term. It was a flawed strategy that could often create more insurgents than it stopped and inspired some Iraqis to hate us rather than help us.

In one instance in Baghdad, a stray round landed in a compound that our unit was building. An overzealous officer decided that we were under attack and ordered machine guns and grenade launchers to shoot at distant rooftops. A row of buildings caught fire, and we left our compound on foot, seeking to capture any injured fighters by entering structures choked with flames.

Instead, we found a man frantically pulling his furniture out of his house. “Thank you for your security!” he yelled in perfect English. He pointed to the billowing smoke. “This is what you call security?”

We didn’t find any insurgents. There weren’t any. But it was easy to imagine that we forged some in that fire. Similarly, when U.S. police officers use excessive force to control nonviolent citizens or respond to minor incidents, they lose supporters and public trust.

That’s a problem, because law enforcement officers need the cooperation of the communities they patrol in order to do their jobs effectively. In the early stages of the war, the U.S. military overlooked that reality as well. Leaders defined success as increasing military hold on geographic terrain, while the human terrain was the real battle. For example, when our platoon entered Iraq’s volatile Diyala province in early 2007, children at a school plugged their ears just before an IED exploded beneath one of our vehicles. The kids knew what was coming, but they saw no reason to warn us. Instead, they watched us drive right into the ambush. One of our men died, and in the subsequent crossfire, several insurgents and children were killed. We saw Iraqis cheering and dancing at the blast crater as we left the area hours later.

With the U.S. effort in Iraq faltering, Gen. David Petraeus unveiled a new counterinsurgency strategy that year. He believed that showing more restraint during gunfights would help foster Iraqis’ trust in U.S. forces and that forming better relationships with civilians would improve our intelligence-gathering. We refined our warrior mentality — the one that directed us to protect ourselves above all else — with a community-building component.

My unit began to patrol on foot almost exclusively, which was exceptionally more dangerous than staying inside our armored vehicles. We relinquished much of our personal security by entering dimly lit homes in insurgent strongholds. We didn’t know if the hand we would shake at each door held a detonator to a suicide vest or a small glass of hot, sugary tea.

But as a result, we better understood our environment and earned the allegiance of some people in it. The benefits quickly became clear. One day during that bloody summer, insurgents loaded a car with hundreds of pounds of explosives and parked it by a school. They knew we searched every building for hidden weapons caches, and they waited for us to gather near the car. But as we turned the corner to head toward the school, several Iraqis told us about the danger. We evacuated civilians from the area and called in a helicopter gunship to fire at the vehicle.

The resulting explosion pulverized half the building and blasted the car’s engine block through two cement walls. Shrapnel dropped like jagged hail as far as a quarter-mile away.

If we had not risked our safety by patrolling the neighborhood on foot, trusting our sources and gathering intelligence, it would have been a massacre. But no one was hurt in the blast.

Domestic police forces would benefit from a similar change in strategy. Instead of relying on aggression, they should rely more on relationships. Rather than responding to a squatter call with guns raised, they should knock on the door and extend a hand. But unfortunately, my encounter with officers is just one in a stream of recent examples of police placing their own safety ahead of those they’re sworn to serve and protect. . .

Written by LeisureGuy

25 July 2015 at 8:33 am

This Plant Covers Itself in Insect Corpses as a Defense Mechanism

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Evolution produces interesting solutions. Michael Byrne reports at Motherboard:

It’s a shrewd but certainly dark adaptive strategy. The serpentine columbine, a pretty herbaceous plant endemic to California’s wet coastal regions, doesn’t defend against or attack its enemies directly. Instead, it sends out a chemical signal, which attracts random nearby bugs who then detour to the columbine to check things out but suddenly find themselves ensnared on the plant’s “sticky” surfaces—which are leaves and appendages coated with layers of hairlike barbs. These insect passerby, known to biologists as “tourists,” are trapped and eventually die,

The result is that the columbine winds up with a beneficial coating of death. This sheen of corpses is more properly referred to as carrion and it serves to attract carnivorous bugs and spiders, who then unwittingly protect the plant by attacking and-or repelling herbivores that would otherwise pose a threat to the columbine. This strategy, described in the current issue of Ecology, is the only indirect defensive mechanism of its type that’s so-far been observed, though the researchers behind the report note that it may be quite common.

The general idea is known as carrion provisioning. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 July 2015 at 8:02 am

Posted in Evolution, Science

Another great shave with a slant: Stainless Stealth and i Coloniali

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SOTD 25 July 2015

A great shave in all respects: enjoyable and totally trouble-free BBS.

The Wet Shaving Products Baroness brush made a fine lather from a little i Coloniali shaving cream smeared onto my beard. I really like the fragrance, lather, and performance of this shaving cream. I don’t see it mentioned much, but it is definitely worth a try.

Three easy passes with the stainless Stealth: extremely comfortable and totally BBS at the end. This is an excellent razor.

A good splash of Stetson aftershave, and the weekend is here.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 July 2015 at 8:00 am

Posted in Shaving

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