Later On

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

Archive for January 17th, 2017

Trump disrupts world. This is getting more serious as we approach Friday.

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Robin Wright writes in the New Yorker:

Donald Trump knows how to rattle the world. Since Friday, the President-elect has given two interviews that jolted governments from Brussels to Beijing. Many of his ideas disparage the principles, institutions, and alliances central to U.S. foreign policy. Some date back to the Republic’s founding, while others have been adopted since the mid-twentieth century to prevent global conflagrations.

In a joint interview with Britain’s Times and Germany’s Bild, Trump didn’t just laud the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union as a “great thing”; he predicted—and implicitly welcomed—the dismantling of the entire E.U., a bloc backed for sixty years by the United States as the key to healing the divisions that sparked two world wars. “I believe others will leave,” he said. “I do think keeping it together is not going to be as easy as a lot of people think.”
Trump called nato—the centerpiece of trans-Atlantic security—“obsolete.” He charged that it “didn’t deal with terrorism,” even though its first deployment outside Europe was to Afghanistan after 9/11. From 2003 to 2014, natocommanded the International Security Assistance Force, which, at its peak, included a hundred and thirty thousand troops from fifty-one nato and partner countries. It was the longest and toughest single mission in nato history.
Trump also put German Chancellor Angela Merkel, one of America’s half dozen closest allies, in the same category as Russian President Vladimir Putin, a man who controls the world’s largest nuclear arsenal, seized the Crimea from Ukraine, and has warplanes bombing the opposition to President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. “I start off trusting both, but let’s see how long that lasts,” he said. “It may not last long at all.” He even took on BMW, warning that the German company and other foreign automakers would face a tariff of thirty-five per cent if they tried to import cars built at plants in Mexico to the United States.
In a separate interview, with the Wall Street Journal, Trump said that the long-standing “One China” policy—initiated by President Nixon in 1972 and a cornerstone of U.S. policy ever since—is no longer guaranteed. “Everything is under negotiation, including One China,” he said. He charged that Beijing manipulates its currency in ways that disadvantage American companies. China was one of Trump’s most frequent targets during the campaign. Shortly after he won, he had a telephone conversation with Taiwan’s President, Tsai Ing-wen—ending a protocol in place since 1979 that froze communication between American and Taiwanese leaders.
“What he’s saying is so serious, so grave, that if you take it all seriously it’s a world crisis,” a senior envoy from a long-standing ally told me on Monday. “And he’s saying it all in such a reckless and ignorant way that I suspect everyone is praying that this is not serious.”
Over the next four years, Trump’s comments—made by an ingénue in foreign policy and national security, with no apparent respect for the nuances and niceties of diplomacy—could throw an already fragile world into disorder. It’s one thing to go after Meryl Streep and Hollywood, on Twitter, in polarized America after the Golden Globes. It’s quite another blithely to go after China (the world’s most populous country, with one of the two largest economies and the three strongest militaries), Germany (Europe’s largest economy), and twenty-eight allies (in the mightiest military alliance in world history)—and all at once and all on a global stage.
The pushback, on Monday, was fast and furious. . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

17 January 2017 at 4:12 pm

Video of the SWAT raid from ‘Do Not Resist’

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Radley Balko reports in the Washington Post:

Last fall, I wrote a review of the documentary “Do Not Resist,” which looks at how aggressive, militaristic police tactics have become nearly mundane. One of the more infuriating scenes in the movie is a SWAT raid over some pot. What’s most striking is the nonchalance the cops show when, after smashing windows and storming the place with guns, they don’t find the massive stash of drugs they’re looking for. (There were also children in the home — the officer who planned the raid had said there weren’t.)

Instead, the cops keep looking until they find some alleged pot residue at the bottom of a duffle bag. They then arrest a young black man for the alleged residue and confiscate about $900 he has in his pocket. But they didn’t find the money — he volunteered it to them. He ran a lawn-mowing business to put himself through school and had asked the cops to give the cash to his partner, who was supposed to pick up some mowers and a weed eater. The police took the money under civil asset forfeiture law.

And here’s the clip:

 

Written by LeisureGuy

17 January 2017 at 3:06 pm

What Trump Is Throwing Out the Window

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A very interesting review in the NY Review of Books by Jessica Mathews on several books of foreign policy. The review begins:

For three decades, roughly since the end of the cold war, American foreign policy has been the subject of a passionate battle among three groups with radically different views of the part the United States should play in the world and of whether force or diplomacy should be its primary method.

Neoconservatives, who were passionate advocates for the Iraq war, want the United States to be the world’s policeman, concerned not only with states’ external behavior but with their internal adherence to American values, which, they believe, the United States should impose principally through the use of force. They care little for international agreements, believing that bad guys will flout them and good guys don’t need them.

Liberal internationalists, most of whom are supporting the current nuclear agreement with Iran, also want the US to act globally. But they want to build an increasingly strong international system of cooperation and alliances and avoid unilateralism. They see international progress deriving from increasing interdependence and agreed-upon rules to which the United States, however exceptional it may be, must adhere.

For realists, international relations are propelled by powerful states promoting their own self-interest. This view holds that the US should concentrate on its relations with the other great powers and on the balance of power in the most important regions and not waste resources on other parts of the world. Generally, realists argue for a much more limited US involvement in the conflicts of the Middle East.

The global financial crash of 2008 at America’s hands, the rise of ISIS, the transformation of Russia under President Vladimir Putin into a dangerous and committed adversary marked by its 2014 annexation of Crimea and invasion of eastern Ukraine, nuclear weapons programs in North Korea and Iran, cyber interventions in the US election, and a steadily more nationalistic and militarily provocative China—all of these have dramatically raised the stakes of these conflicts over policy. The crux is no longer in deciding how far America should reach in deploying its power and forcing its values on others, but in what it must do to meet a cascade of challenges to its core interests and national security.

Into this particularly dangerous moment comes Donald Trump. What he has done is to take the few things on which neocons, realists, and liberal internationalists agree and throw them out the window. These are fundamentals of American foreign policy, taken as givens by both parties for the seven decades since the close of World War II. They include, first, the recognition of the immense value to the security of the United States provided by its allies and worldwide military and political alliances.

Second, there is the belief that the global economy is not a zero-sum competition, but a mutually beneficial growth system built on open trade and investment. Since the 1940s the United States has invested in the growth of the world economy out of considered self-interest, believing that it was building growing markets for itself that would operate under a set of rules that it wished to live by. And third, Americans of all political stripes have believed that while authoritarian governments may temporarily enjoy greater freedom of action than governments that have to consider public support, in the long run democracy will prove superior. Dictators have to be tolerated, managed, or confronted, not admired.

Trump’s foreign policy often seems invented in the moment—a mixture of impulse and ignorance amid a morass of contradictions. But in fact its essence, the opposite of the three core beliefs I’ve cited, has been remarkably consistent for decades.* In 1987, either toying with the possibility of a presidential run or building publicity for the forthcoming publication of The Art of the Deal (or both), Trump paid to publish an open letter to the American people in The New York Times and two other major papers with the headline “There’s Nothing Wrong with America’s Foreign Defense Policy That a Little Backbone Can’t Cure.”

Other nations, he wrote, “have been taking advantage of the United States.” They convince us to pay for their defense while “brilliantly” managing weak currencies against the dollar. “Our world protection is worth hundreds of billions of dollars to these countries”; yet weak American politicians respond “in typical fashion” to “these unjustified complaints.” “End our huge deficits,” he concludes, “reduce our taxes, and let America’s economy grow unencumbered by the cost of defending those who can easily afford to pay us for the defense of their freedom. Let’s not let our great country be laughed at anymore.”

In a 1990 interview he returned to the same theme: “We Americans are laughed at around the world for losing a hundred and fifty billion dollars year after year, for defending wealthy nations for nothing…. Our ‘allies’ are making billions screwing us.” The same is true for Europe: “Pulling back from Europe would save this country millions of dollars annually…. These are clearly funds that can be put to better use.” Asked, as recently as last April, if he believed that the US gains anything from its bases in East Asia, he answered, “Personally I don’t think so.”

Trump’s admiration for strongmen showed up in praise of Putin in 2016 and previously of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Qaddafi. “Instead of having terrorism all over the place,” he said in February 2016, “we’d be—at least they killed terrorists, all right?” We find similar sentiments in 1990 in Trump’s criticism of then Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev for weakness, and his praise for China’s handling of the Tiananmen Square uprising: “The Chinese government almost blew it. Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength.”

The views Trump published in 1987, when he was forty-one, have not changed with time: mercantilist economic views; complete disdain for the value of allies and alliances; the conviction that the world economy is rigged against us and that American leadership is too dumb or too weak to fix it; admiration for authoritarian leaders and the view that the United States is being “spit on,” “kicked around,” or “laughed at” by the rest of the world. Critics of President Obama might say that Trump’s language was deserved, but these comments were directed at Ronald Reagan.

Trump’s core views don’t align with any of the current approaches to foreign policy I’ve mentioned. Their close relatives are to be found in Charles Lindbergh and the America Firsters’ admiration for dictators, the mercantilist and isolationist policies of Robert Taft, also in the 1940s, and the similar views of Patrick Buchanan twenty years later. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 January 2017 at 2:41 pm

Some of what is at stake in the replacement [sic] of Obamacare/the Affordable Care Act

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Jason Kottke blogs:

I posted earlier about Atul Gawande’s piece in the New Yorker on the importance of incremental care in medicine. One of the things that the Affordable Care Act did was to make it illegal for insurance companies to deny coverage to people with “preexisting conditions”, which makes it difficult for those people to receive the type of incremental care Gawande touts. And who has these preexisting conditions? An estimated 27% of US adults under 65, including Gawande’s own son:

In the next few months, the worry is whether Walker and others like him will be able to have health-care coverage of any kind. His heart condition makes him, essentially, uninsurable. Until he’s twenty-six, he can stay on our family policy. But after that? In the work he’s done in his field, he’s had the status of a freelancer. Without the Affordable Care Act’s protections requiring all insurers to provide coverage to people regardless of their health history and at the same price as others their age, he’d be unable to find health insurance. Republican replacement plans threaten to weaken or drop these requirements, and leave no meaningful solution for people like him. And data indicate that twenty-seven per cent of adults under sixty-five are like him, with past health conditions that make them uninsurable without the protections.

That’s 52 million people, potentially ineligible for health insurance. And that’s not counting children. Spurred on by Gawande, people have been sharing their preexisting conditions stories on Twitter with the hashtag #the27Percent.

The 27% figure comes from a recent analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation:

A new Kaiser Family Foundation analysis finds that 52 million adults under 65 — or 27 percent of that population — have pre-existing health conditions that would likely make them uninsurable if they applied for health coverage under medical underwriting practices that existed in most states before insurance regulation changes made by the Affordable Care Act.

In eleven states, at least three in ten non-elderly adults would have a declinable condition, according to the analysis: West Virginia (36%), Mississippi (34%), Kentucky (33%), Alabama (33%), Arkansas (32%), Tennessee (32%), Oklahoma (31%), Louisiana (30%), Missouri (30%), Indiana (30%) and Kansas (30%).

36% uninsurable in West Virginia! You’ll note that all 11 of those states voted for Trump in the recent election and in West Virginia, Trump carried the day with 68.7% of the vote, the highest percentage of any state. The states whose people need the ACA’s protection the most voted most heavily against their own interest.

Oh and one last thing. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 January 2017 at 1:17 pm

The Heroism of Incremental Care

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Atul Gawande suggests in his New Yorker article that medicine is barking up the wrong tree.

By 2010, Bill Haynes had spent almost four decades under attack from the inside of his skull. He was fifty-seven years old, and he suffered from severe migraines that felt as if a drill were working behind his eyes, across his forehead, and down the back of his head and neck. They left him nauseated, causing him to vomit every half hour for up to eighteen hours. He’d spend a day and a half in bed, and then another day stumbling through sentences. The pain would gradually subside, but often not entirely. And after a few days a new attack would begin.

Haynes (I’ve changed his name, at his request) had his first migraine at the age of nineteen. It came on suddenly, while he was driving. He pulled over, opened the door, and threw up in someone’s yard. At first, the attacks were infrequent and lasted only a few hours. But by the time he was thirty, married, and working in construction management in London, where his family was from, they were coming weekly, usually on the weekends. A few years later, he began to get the attacks at work as well.

He saw all kinds of doctors—primary-care physicians, neurologists, psychiatrists—who told him what he already knew: he had chronic migraine headaches. And what little the doctors had to offer didn’t do him much good. Headaches rank among the most common reasons for doctor visits worldwide. A small number are due to secondary causes, such as a brain tumor, cerebral aneurysm, head injury, or infection. Most are tension headaches—diffuse, muscle-related head pain with a tightening, non-pulsating quality—that generally respond to analgesics, sleep, neck exercises, and time. Migraines afflict about ten per cent of people with headaches, but a much larger percentage of those who see doctors, because migraines are difficult to control.

Migraines are typically characterized by severe, disabling, recurrent attacks of pain confined to one side of the head, pulsating in quality and aggravated by routine physical activities. They can last for hours or days. Nausea and sensitivity to light or sound are common. They can be associated with an aura—visual distortions, sensory changes, or even speech and language disturbances that herald the onset of head pain.

Although the cause of migraines remains unknown, a number of treatments have been discovered that can either reduce their occurrence or alleviate them once they occur. Haynes tried them all. His wife also took him to a dentist who fitted him with a mouth guard. After seeing an advertisement, she got him an electrical device that he applied to his face for half an hour every day. She bought him hypnotism tapes, high-dosage vitamins, magnesium tablets, and herbal treatments. He tried everything enthusiastically, and occasionally a remedy would help for a brief period, but nothing made a lasting difference.

Finally, desperate for a change, he and his wife quit their jobs, rented out their house in London, and moved to a cottage in a rural village. The attacks eased for a few months. A local doctor who had migraines himself suggested that Haynes try the cocktail of medicines he used. That helped some, but the attacks continued. Haynes seesawed between good periods and bad. And without work he and his wife began to feel that they were vegetating.

On a trip to New York City, when he turned fifty, they decided they needed to make another big change. They sold everything and bought a bed-and-breakfast on Cape Cod. Their business thrived, but by the summer of 2010, when Haynes was in his late fifties, the headaches were, he said, “knocking me down like they never had before.” Doctors had told him that migraines diminish with age, but his stubbornly refused to do so. “During one of these attacks, I worked out that I’d spent two years in bed with a hot-water bottle around my head, and I began thinking about how to take my life,” he said. He had a new internist, though, and she recommended that he go to a Boston clinic that was dedicated to the treatment of headaches. He was willing to give it a try. But he wasn’t hopeful. How would a doctor there do anything different from all the others he’d seen?

That question interested me, too. I work at the hospital where the clinic is based. The John Graham Headache Center, as it’s called, has long had a reputation for helping people with especially difficult cases. Founded in the nineteen-fifties, it now delivers more than eight thousand consultations a year at several locations across eastern Massachusetts. Two years ago, I asked Elizabeth Loder, who’s in charge of the program, if I could join her at the clinic to see how she and her colleagues helped people whose problems had stumped so many others. I accompanied her for a day of patient visits, and that was when I met Haynes, who had been her patient for five years. I asked her whether he was the worst case she’d seen. He wasn’t even the worst case she’d seen that week, she said. She estimated that sixty per cent of the clinic’s patients suffer from daily, persistent headaches, and usually have for years. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 January 2017 at 1:12 pm

DARPA’s Off-Roaders Ditch Windows for a Digital World View

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That headline was totally opaque to me. They’re going to Linux? Is it a game?

Eric Adams’s article in Wired begins:

AUTONOMOUS WARRIORS MAY dominate the battlefield of tomorrow, but even those that still require human flesh will take on a robotic sheen. That shift could start with the end of windows.

This, at least, is what Raytheon is proposing for its contribution to Darpa’s new Ground X Vehicle Technologies program, an effort to improve of future tanks, fighting vehicles, and transports. Darpa hopes smart new tech will obviate the need for increasingly heavy armor by making vehicles harder to spot, catch, and kill.

Ditching windows is a natural move: you eliminate a key vulnerability in both structural strength and crew protection. Problem is, you have to figure out how the folks inside the vehicle will know what’s going on around them.

While a simple external camera feeding an internal LCD “window” could do the trick—like in one supersonic plane concept—Raytheon thinks it can deliver a whole lot more. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 January 2017 at 12:26 pm

Posted in Military, Technology

Soap Commander Endurance, the Fatip Testina Gentile, and Barrister & Mann Spice Reserve

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dscn5574

Soap Commander soaps are quite good, and the lather from Endurance was excellent, thanks in part to the Maggard 24mm synthetic brush. I used a little too much water, but just loaded a bit more and it worked out fine.

I used my Fatip Testina Gentile, and indeed the testina is very gentile: extremely comfortable with little blade feel, but totally efficient. This is an admirable razor, IMO. I did not like the Fatip Grande because it was so uncomfortable, but the Testina Gentile is a completely different matter.

Three passes produced the smooth finish one wants, and then a splash of Barrister & Mann Spice Reserve finished the job. The day is off to a good start, thanks to the mindfulness meditation a shave can offer.

I should note that there are other types of meditation, as noted in this brief video:

That’s from this OpenCulture post (which has a couple of other videos, by David Lynch) by Colin Marshall.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 January 2017 at 9:29 am

Posted in Shaving, Video

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