Later On

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

Archive for April 3rd, 2017

Dinner tonight: Craig Claiborne and Pierre Franney’s Chicken Fricassee With Vermouth

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Really tasty. My changes after making it:

Use 3 Tbsp flour, not two. And 4 cloves of garlic, not one.

Consider cooking domestic white mushrooms (quartered) with chicken and onions. Or, better, yet, sauté mushrooms separately in a little butter until they release their liquid and turn brown and tender. Add that to the fricassee along with the vermouth, etc.

I used a family pack (2.8 lbs, this one) of boneless, skinless chicken thighs, which I cut into chunks.

For leeks and carrots: bring one pan of water to boil. Add leeks, and after 3 minutes add carrots, and after 1 minute, dump contents of pan into a strainer. A 2-qt pan is ample.

It’s very tasty and very easy. Do cut up the veg in advance, and measure out flour, vermouth, and chicken stock (I just used water with 1/2 tsp Penzeys chicken soup base). I used more like a teaspoon of thyme and put it in the measuring up that held vermouth, water, and chicken soup base, since they’re all added at the same time.

We had no rice, of course: low carb. (The recipe has 16g carbs of which 2g is dietary fiber, so 14 net grams of carbs: quite reasonable.)

Written by LeisureGuy

3 April 2017 at 7:18 pm

Posted in Food, Low carb, Recipes

Feynman’s technique for efficient and effective study

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Essentially, he would get an empty notebook that would be dedicated to whatever he wanted to learn, and he would fill it with explanations of that, written in simple concrete language, as though teaching it to someone with no background in the field.

By doing this, it quickly became apparent when he entered an area he didn’t really know (though he may have thougtht he did) because he would find himself unable to explain it in simple terms, and unable to answer the “Why?” questions that the person to whom he was explaining it would ask.

This video is from an Open Culture post that’s worth reading, but don’t watch the video there. It has a long and obnoxious advertisement at the beginning.

And take a look at “Wynton Marsalis Gives 12 Tips on How to Practice: For Musicians, Athletes, or Anyone Who Wants to Learn Something New“.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 April 2017 at 6:45 pm

Posted in Education, Video

Force-Feeding Videos Remain Sealed

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It’s very much as though the military does not want people to see how they treat people, isn’t it? (And the CIA made sure to destroy all the videos of the torture they inflicted on their prisoners. Same reason, I would say.)

David Kimball-Stanley writes at Lawfare:

On Friday, a three-judge panel in the D.C. Court of Appeals rejected a request to release recordings of military personnel in Guantanamo Bay force-feeding a detainee who was on a hunger strike. The detainee in question is Abu Wa’el (Jihad) Dhiab, whose habeas corpus proceedings have previously been covered by Lawfare.  Dhiab has since been released to Uruguay, but media organizations continue to press for the public release of the military’s force-feeding recordings. Friday’s ruling came with three separate opinions, each agreeing with the result but offering different takes on the law supporting the panel’s decision. This post will examine the three opinions and consider their implications.

Background

Abu Wa’el (Jihad) Dhiab, a citizen of Syria, was detained at Guantanamo Bay starting at least in 2002. In 2005, Dhiab filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus challenging his detention. In 2009, the Guantánamo Review Task Force cleared Dhiab for release. Dhiab was not actually released from Guantanamo until December of 2014, and in the interim period he went on a hunger strike to protest his continued indefinite detention.  On April 9th, 2013, the government notified Dhiab’s counsel that it had begun force-feeding him through his nose. In May of 2014, the government disclosed that it had recordings of Dhiab being removed from his cell, brought to a medical facility, and fed against his will. The recordings were made in order to help the train military personnel on how to handle detainees in such situations. The recordings are classified as “SECRET,” a designation reserved for information “the unauthorized disclosure of which reasonably could be expected to cause serious damage to the national security.”

While he was being held, Dhiab filed motions to enjoin his force-feedings. The district court ordered the government to provide Dhiab’s counsel, who had been given security clearance, access to the tapes. Dhiab’s counsel then entered those recordings into the court’s record under seal. Sixteen press organizations intervened in the proceedings and moved for those recordings to be unsealed. Though Dhiab has been released and is no longer a party to this case, he previously made clear that he wanted the tapes released:

I want Americans to see what is going on at the prison today, so they will understand why we are hunger-striking, and why the prison should be closed. If the American people stand for freedom, they should watch these tapes. If they truly believe in human rights, they need to see these tapes.

The district court judge, Gladys Kessler, granted the request to unseal the recordings, but on the condition that there be several redactions and edits. Both sides appealed the decision, with the government contending the recordings should remain sealed and the news organizations arguing the mandated redactions were too broad.

The Opinions

The district court came to its holding by analyzing the public right of access to the recordings under the Supreme Court’s tests established in Press-Enterprise Co. v. Superior Court I and II. Under Press-Enterprise II, the court determines if there is any right to public access using the so-called “experience and logic” test.  The first prong (experience) looks to whether or not there is a history of public access to the proceeding. The second prong (logic) looks to whether public access “plays a significant positive role in the functioning of the particular process in question.” If the proceeding fails either part of this test, there is no right of public access. If it does pass both parts, then the right is a qualified one, analyzed under another test, expressed in the Press-Enterprise I. Under that test, the qualified right to public access can only be overridden if it is shown that closure is essential to serving “higher values.”

Senior Circuit Judge A. Raymond Randolph’s opinion for the court argues that “Press-Enterprise II is not comparable to this case.” First, Judge Randolph notes that Press-Enterprise II was a criminal case that arose from California state court. The record “consisted of testimony and exhibits relating to murder charges, not classified material.” Moreover, Judge Randolph sees an important distinction between criminal proceedings and Dhiab’s civil habeas corpus proceeding, pointing out that the Classified Information Procedures Act governs the use of classified information in criminal cases. Under CIPA, the court may look at the admissibility of confidential evidence a defendant wants to use in private. If it is admissible, the government can suggest substitute information, declassify the information in question, or simply dismiss the charges. Judge Randolph notes that none of these procedures are available in a civil proceeding in which the government is the defendant.

Even if Press-Enterprise II were applicable, Judge Randolph disagrees with its application by the district court. Under the “experience” prong, Judge Randolph writes that there exists no history of public access to habeas corpus proceedings comparable to criminal cases. While early English courts were only in session a few months a year, they nonetheless heard habeas petitions out of session, meaning that “between 1500 and 1800, about one-fifth of the writs the judges of England issued” were heard without public access. While Judge Randolph concedes that there might be more open court hearings today, there remain plenty of exceptions (such as CIPA). Further, he points out that specifically in the case of the Guantanamo Bay habeas corpus cases, courts have litigated under orders to protect classified information.  Judge Randolph disposes of the second prong of the “experience and logic” test by asserting that logic must be dictated by “first principles,” and that one such principle is that “there is no higher value than the security of the nation.”

Under similar logic, Judge Randolph writes that even had the intervenors succeeded in the establishing a qualified right of public access, such a right not be sufficient to unseal these recordings. The government fears that the recordings, if public, could assist outside militants in training to combat cell-extraction and force-feeding, and has argued that the release of the recordings could serve propaganda purposes and even encourage other detainees to disobey guards in the hopes that more recordings might be made and made public. Judge Randolph writes that, “The district court had no basis for ruling that publicly releasing the recordings could not be expected to cause such harm.”

The other judges’ opinions arrive at the same result, but expose some ambiguity in the law. Judge Judith Rogers disagrees with . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 April 2017 at 5:08 pm

Posted in Law, Military

LA Times editorial series, Part 2 of 4: Why Trump lies

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The LA Times editorial board writes:

Donald Trump did not invent the lie and is not even its master. Lies have oozed out of the White House for more than two centuries and out of politicians’ mouths — out of all people’s mouths — likely as long as there has been human speech.

But amid all those lies, told to ourselves and to one another in order to amass power, woo lovers, hurt enemies and shield ourselves against the often glaring discomfort of reality, humanity has always had an abiding respect for truth.

In the United States, born and periodically reborn out of the repeated recognition and rejection of the age-old lie that some people are meant to take dominion over others, truth is as vital a part of the civic, social and intellectual culture as justice and liberty. Our civilization is premised on the conviction that such a thing as truth exists, that it is knowable, that it is verifiable, that it exists independently of authority or popularity and that at some point — and preferably sooner rather than later — it will prevail.

Even American leaders who lie generally know the difference between their statements and the truth. Richard Nixon said “I am not a crook” but by that point must have seen that he was. Bill Clinton said “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” but knew that he did.

The insult that Donald Trump brings to the equation is an apparent disregard for fact so profound as to suggest that he may not see much practical distinction between lies, if he believes they serve him, and the truth.

His approach succeeds because of his preternaturally deft grasp of his audience. Though he is neither terribly articulate nor a seasoned politician, he has a remarkable instinct for discerning which conspiracy theories in which quasi-news source, or which of his own inner musings, will turn into ratings gold. He targets the darkness, anger and insecurity that hide in each of us and harnesses them for his own purposes. If one of his lies doesn’t work — well, then he lies about that.

If we harbor latent racism or if we fear terror attacks by Muslim extremists, then he elevates a rumor into a public debate: Was Barack Obama born in Kenya, and is he therefore not really president?

If his own ego is threatened — if broadcast footage and photos show a smaller-sized crowd at his inauguration than he wanted — then he targets the news media, falsely charging outlets with disseminating “fake news” and insisting, against all evidence, that he has proved his case (“We caught them in a beauty,” he said).

If his attempt to limit the number of Muslim visitors to the U.S. degenerates into an absolute fiasco and a display of his administration’s incompetence, then he falsely asserts that terrorist attacks are underreported. (One case in point offered by the White House was the 2015 attack in San Bernardino, which in fact received intensive worldwide news coverage. The Los Angeles Times won a Pulitzer Prize for its reporting on the subject).

If he detects that his audience may be wearying of his act, or if he worries about a probe into Russian meddling into the election that put him in office, he tweets in the middle of the night the astonishingly absurd claim that President Obama tapped his phones. And when evidence fails to support him he dispatches his aides to explain that by “phone tapping” he obviously didn’t mean phone tapping. Instead of backing down when confronted with reality, he insists that his rebutted assertions will be vindicated as true at some point in the future.

Trump’s easy embrace of untruth can sometimes be . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 April 2017 at 4:41 pm

How Right-Wing Media Saved Obamacare

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Conor Friedersdorf writes in the Atlantic:

As the Republican Party struggled and then failed to repeal and replace Obamacare, pulling a wildly unpopular bill from the House without even taking a vote, a flurry of insightful articles helped the public understand what exactly just happened. Robert Draper explained the roles that Stephen Bannon, Paul Ryan, and others played in deciding what agenda items President Trump would pursue in what order. Politico reported on how and why the House Freedom Caucus insisted that the health care bill repeal even relatively popular parts of Obamacare. Lest anyone pin blame for the GOP’s failure on that faction, Reihan Salam argued persuasively that responsibility rests with poor leadership by House Speaker Paul Ryan and a GOP coalition with “policy goals that simply can’t be achieved.”

But dogged, behind-the-scenes reporting and sharp analysis of fissures among policy elites do not capture another important contributor to last week’s failure—one Josh Barro came closest to unpacking in a column titled, “Republicans lied about healthcare for years, and they’re about to get the punishment they deserve.”

The article isn’t an attack on conservatives and libertarians.

Plenty of plausible alternatives to Obamacare have been set forth by people who are truthful about the tradeoffs involved. For instance, The Atlantic published a plan in 2009; Ezra Klein and Avik Roy usefully illuminated the disagreements between serious conservative and progressive health-care wonks; and Ross Douthat suggested reforms that borrow heavily from Singapore. Barro is aware of many smart right-leaning critiques of Obamacare and sympathetic to some.

What he points out in his column is that the GOP didn’t honestly acknowledge the hard tradeoffs inherent in health-care policy before making the case for a market-driven system.

Republicans tried to hide the fact of tradeoffs:

For years, Republicans promised lower premiums, lower deductibles, lower co-payments, lower taxes, lower government expenditure, more choice, the restoration of the $700 billion that President Barack Obama heartlessly cut out of Medicare because he hated old people, and (in the particular case of the Republican who recently became president) “insurance for everybody” that is “much less expensive and much better” than what they have today. They were lying. Over and over, Republicans lied to the American public about healthcare. It was impossible to do all of the things they were promising together, and they knew it.

That is basically correct. And it helps explain how Republicans could win a presidential election and lots of congressional elections on the promise of repealing and replacing Obamacare, only to produce a bill that was wildly unappealing to voters.

Once Republicans commenced governing, the tradeoffs couldn’t be elided any longer.

Still, even the insight that Republicans spent years willfully obscuring the tradeoffs involved in health-care policy doesn’t fully explain the last week. Focusing on GOP officials leaves out yet another important actor in this debacle: the right-wing media. By that, I do not mean every right-leaning writer or publication. Over the last eight years, lots of responsibly written critiques of Obamacare have been published in numerous publications, and folks reading the aforementioned wonks, or Peter Suderman at Reason, or Yuval Levin, or Megan McArdle at Bloomberg, stayed reasonably grounded in the actual shortcomings of Obamacare.

n contrast, Fox News viewers who watched entertainers like Glenn Beck, talk-radio listeners who tuned into hosts like Rush Limbaugh, and consumers of web journalism who turned to sites like Breitbart weren’t merely misled about health-care tradeoffs.

They were told a bunch of crazy nonsense.

As I was drafting this article, Ted Koppel made headlines by telling Fox News entertainer Sean Hannity that he is bad for America. This upset some conservatives, who felt it was just another instance of the mainstream media attacking a fellow conservative. I don’t think that conservatives are typically bad for America. But I lament the fact that Hannity is still employed in my industry, in large part because his coverage of subjects like Obamacare is dishonest—and I say that as someone who has preferred a very different health-care policy since 2009. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 April 2017 at 3:28 pm

Why states should allow illegal immigrants to get driver’s licenses: Hit-and-run accidents fell after California gave those here illegally driver’s licenses, study finds

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The facts overwhelmingly support allowing illegal immigrants to get driver’s licenses, assuming you want to decrease hit-and-tun accidents, but sometimes people are not persuaded by facts. For example, some will want hit-and-run accidents to go down but still refuse driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, though they cannot offer a rational explanation.

This is similar to the finding that offering comprehensive sex education in schools from an early age and make sure that contraceptives are readily available greatly reduces abortions. So you’d think that those who oppose abortion would be strongly in favor of comprehensive sex education in schools and readily available contraception. You’d be wrong. Those against abortion also favor abstinence-based sex education (despite clear evidence that it simply does not have any effect on the abortion rate) and dislike making sure contraceptives are readily available to those who are sexually active. Thus they favor measures that keep the abortion high, and oppose measures that lower the abortion rate. And yet they say they are against abortion. That simply makes no sense to me.

Benjamin Oreskes reports in the LA Times:

California law giving immigrants here illegally the ability to get driver’s licenses appears to have helped decrease hit-and-run accidents, according to a Stanford University study released Monday.

The controversial law, part of a larger effort by state officials to provide rights and services to California residents in the country illegally, resulted in more than 850,000 people getting driver’s licenses since the law took effect in 2015.

Supporters of the measure argued that it would make California roads safer because those here illegally would be forced to take driver’s tests and would be less likely to flee from accidents out of fear of being arrested or deported.

The Stanford study estimated that the rate of hit-and-run accidents decreased at least 7% in 2015 compared with 2014. Using a complex formula, the researchers concluded that there were 4,000 fewer hit-and-runs that year because of the new law.

The Department of Motor Vehicles would not release data on who got the new licenses on a county-by-county basis. So the research team of Hans Lueders, Jens Hainmueller and Duncan Lawrence had to estimate how many new licenses in each county were given to people here illegally.

Hainmueller, a political science professor, said in an interview that the team looked at driver’s licenses issued in the years before the law took effect. In 2015, the number of licenses issued in certain counties with large populations of people here illegally jumped dramatically. They then compared those data to hit-and-run records in those counties and determined they had decreased.

This marked the first time researchers had tried to measure the effects of this policy change.

We were really interested in part because California is not the only state to have implemented this law,” said Lawrence, another study author and a political science researcher.

The license is intended for people who cannot show proof of legal resident status in the United States. This license though has limits. For example, a Californian couldn’t use an AB-60 license to board an airplane or cross into Canada.

There are 12 states and the District of Columbia with similar laws on the books. Hainmueller pointed out that New York state is currently debating a similar bill, and that the debate there is occurring without much evidence about whether these laws are helpful.

“It’s shocking to see how you have these controversial debates and everyone is flying blind in terms of evidence,” Hainmueller said. “People in favor of it love it, and people against immigration hate it.”

Researchers posited that this new law would give people who may have been driving without a license a new confidence about being on the roads. Before, if they had been in a fender-bender, they may have been worried about waiting for authorities to arrive. These results suggest “that, if anything, providing unauthorized immigrants access to driver’s licenses reduced their incentives to flee the scene of an accident,” the authors of the study write.

The study finds that this reduction in hit-and-runs had a marked economic benefit. “Because AB60 led to an annual decline in hit and run accidents by about 4,000, not-at-fault drivers avoided out of pocket expenses for car repairs (physical damage) of about $3.5 million,” according to the researchers.

That’s on top of $17 million per year that . . .

Continue reading.

Why are legislators so uninterested in evidence? Because it might change their views? (But wouldn’t that be stupid?)

Written by LeisureGuy

3 April 2017 at 3:18 pm

Twitter Suspensions Reveal the Company’s Skewed Views on ‘Extremism’

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Jillian York reports at Motherboard:

Every society engages in censorship. Whether from church or state or otherwise, the desire to suppress information seems a natural human impulse, albeit one variant in all its manifestations. Most of us readily accept certain kinds of censorship—think child sexual abuse imagery—but are reluctant to call it by its name.

The restriction of content we deem beyond the pale is still, in fact, censorship. The word “censorship” is not itself a value judgement, but a statement of fact, an explanation for why something that used to be, no longer is. The American Civil Liberties Union defines “censorship” as “the suppression of words, images, or ideas that are ‘offensive’, [that] happens whenever some people succeed in imposing their personal political or moral values on others.” The definition further notes that censorship can be carried out by private groups—like social media companies—as well as governments. And when carried out by unaccountable actors (be they authoritarian governments or corporations) through opaque processes, it’s important that we question it.

According to Twitter’s latest transparency report, the company suspended more than 377,000 accounts for “promoting extremism.” Twitter said that 74 percent of extremist accounts were found by “internal, proprietary spam-fighting tools”—in other words, algorithms and filters built to find spam, but employed to combat the spectre of violent extremism.

Few have openly questioned this method, which is certainly not without error. In fact, the filtering of actual spam inspired more of a debate back in the day—in 1996, residents of the town of Scunthorpe, England, were prevented from signing up for AOL accounts due to the profanity contained within their municipality’s name, leading to the broader realization that filters intended to catch spam or obscenity can have overreaching effects. The “Scunthorpe problem” has arisen time and time again when companies, acting with good intentions, have filtered legitimate names or content.

The Scunthorpe problem demonstrates that when we filter content—even for legitimate reasons or through democratic decisions—innocuous speech, videos, and images are bound to get caught in the cracks. After all, you can’t spell socialism without “Cialis”.

We know that companies, using low-wage human content moderators and algorithms, undoubtedly make mistakes in their policing of content. To err is human, and algorithms are built and implemented by humans, lest we forget. But when a company takes charge of ridding the world of extremism, with minimal to no input from society at large, there’s something more insidious going on.

Twitter’s deeming of some content—but not other content—as “extremist” is, after all, a value judgement. Although there’s little transparency beyond numbers, much of the banned content matches up neatly with the US government’s list of designated terrorist organizations. We don’t know what kinds of terms Twitter uses to weed out the accounts, but accounts expressing support for Islamic terror organizations seem to make up the bulk of takedowns. Meanwhile, neo-Nazis like Richard Spencer are rewarded with a “verified” checkmark—intended to signify a confirmed identity, but often used and seen as a marker of celebrity.

By choosing to place its focus on the faraway spectre of ISIS—rather than the neo-Nazis closer to home—Twitter is essentially saying that “extremism” is limited to those scary bearded men abroad, a position not unlike that of the American media. In fact, extremism is a part of our new, everyday reality, as elected officials opt for racist and sexist policies and as President Trump eggs on his most ardent white supremacist fans, offering tacit support for their vile views. As white supremacist hate gains ground, companies seem caught unaware, and unwilling or unprepared to “tackle” it the way they have Islamic extremism.

The question of whether to censor, of what to censor, is an important one, one that must be answered not by corporations but through democratic and inclusive processes. As a society, we may in fact find that censoring extremism on social platforms helps prevent further recruitment, or saves lives, and we may decide that it’s worth the potential cost. At that point, we could work to develop tools and systems that seek to prevent collateral damage, to avoid catching the proverbial dolphins in the tuna nets. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 April 2017 at 3:06 pm

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