Later On

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

Archive for September 28th, 2016

Compare and contrast the Marine Corps with the Army: Excellent answer

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I think this is well-stated. And while we’re on the topic, I heartily recommend Tom Ricks’s book Making the Corps. Extremely interesting and informative. I’m pretty sure Chris Argyris, who studied organizational learning, identified the USMC as a learning organization, and Ricks’s book provides some reasons why that is so. The book link is to inexpensive secondhand editions.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 September 2016 at 3:50 pm

Posted in Books, Military

The Most Embarrassing Thing Senate Has Done

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Zaid Jilani and Alex Emmons report in The Intercept:

The White House reacted harshly to the Senate’s overwhelming vote on Wednesday to override President Obama’s veto of a bill that would enable the family members of 9/11 victims to sue the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in U.S. Courts.

Press Secretary Josh Earnest called it “the single most embarrassing thing the United States Senate has done possibly since 1983.”

As it happens, the White House’s principled opposition to the bill was based on its worry that it would open the door to lawsuits from foreigners accusing the U.S. government of crimes, possibly including the killing of hundreds of thousands of people in Iraq and Afghanistan, torture, deaths of innocent people with drones, and global mass surveillance.

That makes Earnest’s comment the single most hyperbolic thing he’s said since – well – ever.

For the record, here are just a few of the Senate actions in the aforementioned time period that were truly, profoundly – and therefore way more – embarrassing:

  1. Greenlighting the Invasion of Iraq: The October 2002 77-23 vote to authorize war powers for Iraq paved the way for a conflict that has consumed hundreds of thousands of lives and an outbreak of instability that still reverberates today. Only six senators even read the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq prior to their votes.
  2. Refusing to Take Up a Bill to Address Global Warming: The House of Representatives passed a cap-and-trade plan to tackle global warming in 2009. The Senate’s leadership decided to never take it up.
  3. Deciding to Leave a Supreme Court Justice’s Seat Unfilled: Since the passing of former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Senate Republicans have decided to simply leave the seat unfilled, refusing to consider Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland for the spot since March.
  4. Systematically Undermining Marriage Rights for Gay and Lesbian Americans: The 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, passed in an overwhelming 85-14 vote, defined marriage as only between a man and a woman in federal law. It also allowed states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. The key features of the law werelater ruled unconstitutional.
  5. Making It Much Harder for Poor Americans to Declare Bankruptcy: The Senate voted 74-25 in 2005 to reform bankruptcy laws to make it significantly more difficult for Americans in dire financial straights to discharge their debts.
  6. Protecting America By Making Illegal Spying Legal: In 2005, the New York Times revealed that the Bush administration had allowed the NSA to illegally spy on Americans’ transnational communications without a warrant. The Bush administration claimed that it had inherent wartime authority to do that, but nonetheless urged Congress to give the president “additional authority.” Congress robustly responded to the scandal in 2007 by passing the “Protect America Act,” which effectively made what Bush did legal. In 2008, Congress passed another law that further expanded the President’s surveillance powers, while granting retroactive immunity to telecom companies that assisted in the original surveillance program.
  7. Filibustering Aid for 9/11 Responders: In 2010, Senate Republicans successfully blocked a bill that would provide health care for 9/11 first responders. After Jon Stewart shamed them for their filibuster on The Daily Show, the bill finally passed less than two weeks later. Stewart had to return to his show five years later to pressure Congress into passing an extension.

You can add other embarrassing votes in the comments.

And, speaking of global warming and how the US has done nothing substantial to combat global warming, take a look at Sarah Emerson’s article “Goodbye World: We’ve Passed the Carbon Tipping Point For Good.” That article begins:

It’s a banner week for the end of the world, because we’ve officially pushed atmospheric carbon levels past their dreaded 400 parts per million. Permanently.

According to a blog post last Friday from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, “it already seems safe to conclude that we won’t be seeing a monthly value below 400 ppm this year—or ever again for the indefinite future.” Their findings are based on weekly observations of carbon dioxide at Hawaii’s Mauna Loa Observatory, where climate scientists have been measuring CO2 levels since 1958.

What’s so terrifying about this number? For several years now, scientists have been warning us that if atmospheric carbon were allowed to surpass 400 parts per million, it would mark a serious “tipping point” into some unstoppable climate ramifications. In 2012, the Arctic was the first region on Earth to cross this red line. Three years later, for the first time since scientists had begun to record them, carbon levels remained above 400 parts per million for an entire month. . .

Continue reading. Note this image from the article:


And, on the specific Saudi aspect, note Nicolas Pelham’s NY Review of Books article “In Saudi Arabia: Can It Really Change?”

Written by LeisureGuy

28 September 2016 at 3:04 pm

In ‘Hitler,’ an Ascent From ‘Dunderhead’ to Demagogue

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Michiko Kakutani has a very interesting (and relevant) book review in the NY Times:

How did Adolf Hitler — described by one eminent magazine editor in 1930 as a “half-insane rascal,” a “pathetic dunderhead,” a “nowhere fool,” a “big mouth” — rise to power in the land of Goethe and Beethoven? What persuaded millions of ordinary Germans to embrace him and his doctrine of hatred? How did this “most unlikely pretender to high state office” achieve absolute power in a once democratic country and set it on a course of monstrous horror?

A host of earlier biographers (most notably Alan Bullock, Joachim Fest and Ian Kershaw) have advanced theories about Hitler’s rise, and the dynamic between the man and his times. Some have focused on the social and political conditions in post-World War I Germany, which Hitler expertly exploited — bitterness over the harsh terms of the Treaty of Versailles and a yearning for a return to German greatness; unemployment and economic distress amid the worldwide Depression of the early 1930s; and longstanding ethnic prejudices and fears of “foreignization.”

Other writers — including the dictator’s latest biographer, the historian Volker Ullrich — have focused on Hitler as a politician who rose to power through demagoguery, showmanship and nativist appeals to the masses. In “Hitler: Ascent, 1889-1939,” Mr. Ullrich sets out to strip away the mythology that Hitler created around himself in “Mein Kampf,” and he also tries to look at this “mysterious, calamitous figure” not as a monster or madman, but as a human being with “undeniable talents and obviously deep-seated psychological complexes.”

“In a sense,” he says in an introduction, “Hitler will be ‘normalized’ — although this will not make him seem more ‘normal.’ If anything, he will emerge as even more horrific.”

This is the first of two volumes (it ends in 1939 with the dictator’s 50th birthday) and there is little here that is substantially new. However, Mr. Ullrich offers a fascinating Shakespearean parable about how the confluence of circumstance, chance, a ruthless individual and the willful blindness of others can transform a country — and, in Hitler’s case, lead to an unimaginable nightmare for the world.

Mr. Ullrich, like other biographers, provides vivid insight into some factors that helped turn a “Munich rabble-rouser” — regarded by many as a self-obsessed “clown” with a strangely “scattershot, impulsive style” — into “the lord and master of the German Reich.”

• Hitler was often described as an egomaniac who “only loved himself” — a narcissist with a taste for self-dramatization and what Mr. Ullrich calls a “characteristic fondness for superlatives.” His manic speeches and penchant for taking all-or-nothing risks raised questions about his capacity for self-control, even his sanity. But Mr. Ullrich underscores Hitler’s shrewdness as a politician — with a “keen eye for the strengths and weaknesses of other people” and an ability to “instantaneously analyze and exploit situations.”

• Hitler was known, among colleagues, for a “bottomless mendacity” that would later be magnified by a slick propaganda machine that used the latest technology (radio, gramophone records, film) to spread his message. A former finance minister wrote that Hitler “was so thoroughly untruthful that he could no longer recognize the difference between lies and truth” and editors of one edition of “Mein Kampf” described it as a “swamp of lies, distortions, innuendoes, half-truths and real facts.”

• Hitler increasingly presented himself in messianic terms, promising “to lead Germany to a new era of national greatness,” though he was typically vague about his actual plans. He often harked back to a golden age for the country, Mr. Ullrich says, the better “to paint the present day in hues that were all the darker. Everywhere you looked now, there was only decline and decay.”

• Hitler’s repertoire of topics, Mr. Ullrich notes, was limited, and reading his speeches in retrospect, “it seems amazing that he attracted larger and larger audiences” with “repeated mantralike phrases” consisting largely of “accusations, vows of revenge and promises for the future.” But Hitler virtually wrote the modern playbook on demagoguery, arguing in “Mein Kampf” that propaganda must appeal to the emotions — not the reasoning powers — of the crowd. Its “purely intellectual level,” Hitler said, “will have to be that of the lowest mental common denominator among the public it is desired to reach.” Because the understanding of the masses “is feeble,” he went on, effective propaganda needed to be boiled down to a few slogans that should be “persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward.”

• Hitler’s rise was not inevitable, in Mr. Ullrich’s opinion. There were numerous points at which his ascent might have been derailed, he contends; even as late as January 1933, “it would have been eminently possible to prevent his nomination as Reich chancellor.” He benefited from a “constellation of crises that he was able to exploit cleverly and unscrupulously” — in addition to economic woes and unemployment, there was an “erosion of the political center” and a growing resentment of the elites. The unwillingness of Germany’s political parties to compromise had contributed to a perception of government dysfunction, Mr. Ullrich suggests, and the belief of Hitler supporters that the country needed “a man of iron” who could shake things up. “Why not give the National Socialists a chance?” a prominent banker said of the Nazis. “They seem pretty gutsy to me.”

• Hitler’s ascension was aided and abetted by the naïveté of domestic adversaries who failed to appreciate his ruthlessness and tenacity, and by foreign statesmen who believed they could control his aggression. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 September 2016 at 1:32 pm

Posted in Books, Election, GOP

“Where did the money go?” Part 7: The Half-Billion-Dollar Glitch

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David Dayen continues his interesting series of reports on a stock scam perpetrated by large corporations using penny stocks. The blurb for part 7:

Knight Capital made headlines around the world when one of its computers went on a shopping spree that ended up costing the company $440 million. So surely its secrets would come out now.

This is the final part for the time being. The SEC seems to be shirking its responsibilities, but the SEC has proved to be an ineffective regulator

Written by LeisureGuy

28 September 2016 at 12:23 pm

Russia did provide missile that shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17

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Somini Sengupta and Andrew Kramer have an interesting report in the NY Times:

A Dutch-led investigation has concluded that the powerful surface-to-air missile system that was used to shoot down a Malaysia Airlines plane over Ukraine two years ago, killing all 298 on board, was trucked in from Russia at the request of Russian-backed separatists and returned to Russia the same night.

The report largely confirmed the already widely documented Russian government role not only in the deployment of the missile system, called a Buk, or SA-11, but the subsequent cover up, which continues to this day.

The report by a team of prosecutors from the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia and Ukraine was significant for applying standards of evidence admissible in court, while still building a case directly implicating Russia, and is likely to open a long diplomatic and legal struggle over the tragedy. . .

Read the whole thing.

Obviously, the Ukrainian separatists are responsible for firing the missile at the airliner. Russia provided them the missile but was not responsible for targeting the passenger airliner. So Russia in this case is guilty simply of providing arms, which the US does as well: arms deals are a major US export industry, and the US provides arms to groups that target civilians—for example, the US provides the planes and munitions that Saudi Arabia uses to kill large numbers of Yemeni civilians, including the targeting of hospitals. So if Russia is to be punished for provide arms used against civilians, the US should have to answer as well.

And, though the story does not mention it, the US Navy shot down an Iranian airliner, killing everyone on board. The captain of the USS Vincennes, the ship that fired the missile, was William C. Rogers III, and he was awarded the Legion of Merit for his actions while commanding the ship.

I wonder whether those who are outraged that Russia provided a missile to the Ukrainian separatists are similarly outraged at the US Navy for its action in shooting down Irain Air Flight 655, or at the US for selling arms to Saudi Arabia.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 September 2016 at 11:07 am

Posted in Government, Iran, Military

Meißner Tremonia Woody Almond and the Phoenix Artisan Bakelite slant

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SOTD 2016-09-28

The Satin Tip is a fine little brush, and the lather from Meißner Tremonia’s Woody Almond was wonderful. The shave was only so-so: for some reason I got off on the wrong foot and had a couple of nicks on lip and chin (each). Just couldn’t get comfortable with the razor this morning.

A good splash of Hâttric restored my good mood, and the middle of the week is upon us.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 September 2016 at 11:00 am

Posted in Shaving

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