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

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.


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 . . .

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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 . . .

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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

Harvard psychologists identify 5 things done by parents who raise “good kids”

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A very interesting article by Simon Segal in

Times have changed greatly and with new times come new habits, sets of behavior and attitudes that seem very different from the ones we were used to when we were kids.

Today’s generations are all geared up with the newest technology that seems to distract them from the need to go out and play, socialize in the ways we used to or just spend time having fun.

All these changes have brought a great challenge to parents who, if you ask a kid, weren’t fortunate enough to have the benefits of today’s modern technology.

The challenges vary in many ways, but the main things is that today’s parents raise their children way more differently than they were raised and the outcome of those parents’ care is the greatest challenge.

Will my kid learn to be a complete person, the one who pushes forward and a person who can bond and communicate with others freely and openly.

Every parent asks the same questions: Am I missing something? Am I doing everything right? Will my child succeed in life?

Psychologists at Harvard University have thought of the same questions and have found that there are several elements that are still very important and basic. The key to upbringing a well-adjusted child in these changing times is not as complicated as you may think.

These are the 5 secrets to raising a good kid, according to Harvard psychologists


It’s not enough just to be physically around your kid – you need to be with them completely. This means that no Xbox console or new iPhone can replace the bonding that the child truly needs. By communicating with them openly, listening carefully and doing the things they like together, your child will not only love you more, but will also learn how to be a considerate and caring person.

This is the foundation of it all. Your kid would very much prefer (above everything else) having a real person to talk to and to share ideas and experiences with, even if they may not seem aware of it.

Ask them how their day was, listen carefully and discuss the dilemmas they may have in their head – be careful not to ‘dogmatize’ lessons from your experiences though, they need to experience these things through their own perspective. We’ll talk about this later in this article.

See what their favorite things are and try to learn from them how to play the games they like – they would enjoy sharing their ‘fun’ with you!

Read them a book before bed (or do it together during the day if they are in the mood for it). Just be around them completely and acknowledge their emotions.

Practically speaking:

  • Devote some time of your day to play their favorite games with them;
  • Read them a bedtime story and enjoy the whole story with them;
  • Ask them questions about their day, include questions like:
    What was the best part of your day? The hardest part?
    What’s something nice someone did for you today?
    What’s something nice you did?
    What’s something you learned today – in school or outside school?


Children learn the most from their surroundings especially at younger age. What you do is what they will become. This is why you should always pay close attention to your actions and be ready to admit faults and mistakes. Show your child that you care and that you are ready to accept your faults and work on them.

The result you wish to see in your child comes from the effort you put into yourself on this one. Practice fairness, honesty and care for yourself. This picture will teach your kid to do the same habits. The key to all this is to talk these things through with your child.

Acknowledging your mistakes, especially those that involve your kid in them, and speak openly about these things.

The aim is to show your child humility and honesty and with that they will feel a lot more comforted and encourage to look to a positive outcome in their problems.

Your child will look up to you only if you earn their trust and respect. Achieving this is showing your child that you are as human as you can be, and that comes with faults too.

Practically speaking:

  • Admit your mistakes, apologize and show that you wish to make up for them and plan to avoid it next time.
  • Tell your child how you plan to avoid that mistake and what you learned from it.
  • Make time for yourself and re-energize yourself during that time. You will need that energy to be more attentive to and caring with others.


Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 April 2017 at 3:02 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science

“What I Learned from Reading the Islamic State’s Propaganda Instruction Manual”

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Charlie Winter has an interesting post at Lawfare:

Editor’s Note: The Islamic State has long issued a steady torrent of sophisticated propaganda to demonize its enemies, inspire its followers, and advance its cause in general. How does the Islamic State think about its own propaganda efforts? Through serious sleuthing and impressive analysis, Charlie Winter of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation has unearthed the Islamic State’s media guide for its own operatives and explains to us its three-pronged strategy.


Two years ago, the Islamic State published a video about its propaganda operations. The 12-minute clip, which was produced by its Wilayat Salahuddin Media Office, celebrated strategic communication in a manner that was unprecedented. It framed offensive and defensive “information jihad” as an aspect of the Islamic State’s warfare that was easily as important as any of the material battles it was waging at the time.

The video wasn’t just interesting because of its hyperbolic exaltation of propaganda—there was something else, too. Right at its outset, a young man—one of the Islamic State’s media officials—was shown casting his eyes over a pocket-sized booklet titled Media Operative, You Are a Mujahid, Too. It was the self-proclaimed caliphate’s field guide for information warfare, a document that I’d heard rumours about, but never actually seen. After this video finally confirmed its existence, I spent months trawling through encrypted chatrooms and password-protected forums looking for it, but to no avail. Until, that is, 2016, when its second edition finally appeared on of the Islamic State channels I monitor on Telegram.

Media Operative makes for fascinating reading. The authors use the 55-page Arabic-language monograph to wax lyrical about information warfare, offering theological exhortation and strategic advice in equal measure to their target audience, the media operatives employed by the group to document battles, produce radio shows, photograph schools, and film ultraviolence. Its authors don’t just contend that information warfare is instrumental to jihad—part and parcel of Islam for over a thousand years—they give advice as to how Islamic State media operations should actually be constructed. In so doing, they shed light on the very essence of its propaganda strategy, a tripartite approach to communication that has given the group an edge over its rivals and transformed its war against the rest of the world.

If the international community is ever to meaningfully challenge the so-called caliphate’s information supremacy, it must begin by better comprehending the strategic logic that underpins it. To that end, I put together a research paper on the matter, using the Media Operative document’s innumerable insights as a lens through which to dissect its component parts.

Broadly speaking, the Islamic State has three information principles. First, present an alternative narrative, a comprehensive offer of existence; second, counter the “intellectual invasion” being conducted by the mainstream news media; and, third, launch propaganda “projectiles” against the enemy. Combined, these three facets form the foundations of the group’s propaganda strategy.

The Islamic State Alternative

Regarding the first principle, the authors write that the Islamic State brand must be implicitly positive, an offer of an attractive lifestyle as well as an outright rejection of the status quo. “The Islamic ummah [community of believers] today,” they write, “is waiting for you to lead it by its hands to the sharia and rid it of the inferiority and injustice from which it suffers.” If presented with the “right” information and the “correct” narrative, they contend, Muslims everywhere will inevitably end up rallying around the caliphate’s banner.

In this pursuit, the authors repeatedly call upon media operatives to transmit “to the simple people a true picture of the battle without exaggeration and with no lies” to “paint a brighter picture” of the jihad without dwelling on any one issue. It is this idea that underpins the Islamic State’s remarkably comprehensive utopian propaganda, which ranges from depictions of grazing livestock, bustling markets, and sunsets, to dentistry clinics, mosques, and public amputations. According to Media Operative, propaganda must simultaneously address and water down the negative aspects of living under the Islamic State, while also conveying a rose-tinted image of its positive facets. In this way, the Islamic State can sell itself as a utopia to which Salafi-jihadists can go to live as heroes, rather than an insurgent group to which new adherents go to die as martyrs.

Undermining the Global Conspiracy

The next component consists of propaganda that directly “responds to the frenzied media campaign” and “deceptive ways” of the “enemy,” and “exposes the deviances of secularists and hypocrites, responding to those who dishearten, alarm or discourage the Muslims [and] call for tolerance and coexistence with the unbelievers.” In other words, it is propaganda explicitly designed to counter and discredit narratives about the Islamic State promoted by its opponents in the West and in the Muslim world.

The authors note that, while a positive central narrative is a necessary foundation upon which to build the caliphate brand, this counter-propaganda is an “especially critical” complement to it “given the rise and acceleration of the propaganda war that the Crusaders—led by America and its allies—are waging against the Islamic State today.” Media operatives are obliged to work to form a reservoir of arguments and rebuttals with which to repudiate claims made about the organization. In recent weeks, this kind of media has been more salient than ever, chiefly appearing as a way for the group to navigate through its seemingly inevitable undoing in Mosul.

With this in mind, the “monotheist media operative” who “says what is just and true in an era in which there are few companions of the truth and even fewer sincere ones,” is regarded as being on the intellectual frontline, charged with working constantly to counter the “daily lies and professionalized falsification” of the modern mainstream media.

Media Projectiles

The final prong of the Islamic State strategy—media “projectiles” —is regularly referenced in the document. These “weapons” are . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 April 2017 at 2:52 pm

Low-carb snacks: The best and the worst

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I happened across this page of low-carb snacks and thought it was an excellent summary with good information. It’s a very long page, so keep scrolling. It also includes both snacks read to eat and recipes for low-carb snacks, with links to guides for low-carb vegetables, fruits, alcohol, and nuts. At the very bottom of the page are comments.

I offer this in the public interest, since with the no-bite rule now in effect, I won’t be having snacks.

Written by Leisureguy

3 April 2017 at 11:25 am

Easing into morning exercise

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I have been excessively sedentary, so as part of the overall Covey program, I’m instituting regular exercise. I certainly shall be focusing on progress rather than performance, because (as I noted this morning) performance right now is pretty dismal. By a happy coincidence, the NY Times this morning feature a 9-minute morning exercise program: The 9-Minute Strength Workout.

It uses 1-minute intervals, and for those this 1-minute repeating timer is useful.

So far, so good.

Written by Leisureguy

3 April 2017 at 11:08 am

Posted in Daily life, Fitness, Health

Stories From Another Time, for Our Times: ‘We Do Our Part’

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James Fallows reviews an interesting book in the Atlantic:

To the extent I spent any time studying in college, it was to learn about American history. The main impression the lectures and readings left on me was the realization that the country has always had big, serious problems.

Slavery, violence, corruption, injustice—things were worst-ever during the Civil War, but if you choose your decade, you can name the corresponding set of failures and crises. As I think back to almost any stage in my own lifetime, I can tick off the emergencies of each time: the nearest-ever approach to nuclear destruction during the Cuban Missile Crisis; the embittering years of the Vietnam War; the seemingly nonstop assassinations of the 1960s; and that just brings us to the cusp of presidential impeachment during Watergate and all that followed. The country’s ability to get out of trouble is enormous, which is a good thing given how constantly the troubles have come on.

The good side of being aware of American fallibility is that it helps avoid Golden Age-ism. Yes, 2017-era America has [name your troublesome issue]. But the America of most other eras was more violent, more crime-ridden, more corrupt in certain ways, more closed to many kinds of opportunity. My view is that we can concentrate more clearly on the actual emergencies of this time—which include economic polarization unmatched since the 1890s, and an unqualified, ignorant president unmatched at any point in our history—if we don’t imagine that this is the first generation of Americans to face serious challenges. In addition, studying past crises-and-responses might increase the chances of devising a successful escape from the

But there’s a danger in this perspective: it can lead to discounting any of the moment’s problems as just another phase. Charles Peters has seen even more of American history than I have—he turned 90 recently, and was already active in politics during the 1950s—and he has written a book whose great virtue is to argue that there is something genuinely different and dangerous in the politics and culture of this era, and to suggest what might be done about it.

* * *

I am strongly biased in Charlie Peters’s favor. I’ve known him for most of my life, and half of his. I started my first-ever magazine job at what was then the fledgling publication he had founded, The Washington Monthly, when I was 22 and he was 45. Ever since then I (and my wife Deb) have viewed him (and his wife Beth) as close friends and mentors. Still, I am as objective as I can be in heartily recommending his new book, just as Charlie’s successor as TWM editor, Paul Glastris, did in a recent extensive and very good review, because it fills in a missing part in our current political discussion. Jonathan Martin also did an excellent piece about Charlie Peters, his argument, and his career in the NYT last month.

This book, We Do Our Part, is not directly about the Trump era or phenomenon, though Charlie gets to Trump at the end. But it is all about the resentful, unequal, uncaring parts of today’s American culture that Trump has inflamed and that have made Trump possible—and how to cope with them. Charlie’s essential argument is: Once upon a time, American culture genuinely was less selfish and money-minded than it is now (i.e., that the culture depicted in It’s a Wonderful Lifewas connected to something real); that a specific set of cultural and political changes led us in today’s unfortunate direction; but that things could again be different.

The “once upon a time” part of the book involves Charlie’s childhood in West Virginia through the Depression, then the World War II and post-war years. Charlie is a contemporary and long-time friend of the writer Russell Baker, and the spirit Charlie evokes is like that in Baker’s sublime memoir Growing Up.Charlie describes how the New Deal motto “We Do Our Part” captured a genuine sense of civic obligation through the shared hardships of the Thirties and Forties. He argues that some of that spirit survived into the 1960s. Charlie spent most of those years as a senior official for the Peace Corps, after playing an important part in John F. Kennedy’s effort to convince the mainly Protestant voters of West Virginia that they could take the step of voting for a Catholic.

The big change, Charlie argues, with an epidemic of one-ups-manship and snobbery from the 1960s onward that had the twin effects of dissolving a sense of “us”-ness and supercharging the normal human appetite for money into exaggerated and destructive forms. Technological, market, and global-trade shifts are part of what have changed the America of my Baby Boomer youth, in which a CEO might make 10 times as much as a line worker, into today’s Gilded Age phantasmagoria, with top “earners” getting hundreds or thousands of times more than anyone else. But Charlie charts the eroding concept of “enough”-ness, and of an overall sense of propriety and fellow-feeling, that have accelerated the process.

This sets up the “could be different” part of Charlie’s appeal, which draws on something that Trump’s emergence may already have triggered: thoroughgoing civic engagement across the country, by younger (and older) people who feel as if there is something important about their country they must fight to defend.

I’ll leave the rest of Charlie Peters’s argument to the book itself, and to the precis within Paul Glastris’s review. But I genuinely hope that We Do Our Part will be widely read, especially by young men and women who are just setting out in their professional and civic lives, much as I was when I started working at Charlie’s magazine.

Through his long career Charlie’s passion as a journalist has been matched by dedication as a coach and teacher. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 April 2017 at 9:01 am

Fine Classic brush, Barrister & Mann Lavanille, and the redoubtable iKon X3

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Following the shave, I read this recommendation in the Lavanille entry on the Barrister & Mann web site:

The vanillin in Lavanille may cause it to discolor animal hair shaving brushes. Use of a dedicated brush or a synthetic-fiber shaving brush is recommended.

As luck would have it, I did use a synthetic brush, the Fine Classic shown. Lavanille has a great fragrance: “lavender, vanilla, cedar, and the elegant musk Exaltolide.” It is, as you see in the photo, a dark brown, and the lather, too, is brown, though more a tan. Several of my soaps with vanilla have darkened with age, though they still smell and work fine. This one starts off dark—and very fragrant. Its ingredients:

Potassium Stearate, Aqua, Glycerin, Sodium Stearate, Potassium Tallowate, Sodium Tallowate, Potassium Ricinoleate, Potassium Shea Butterate, Sodium Ricinoleate, Coconut Milk, Sodium Shea Butterate, Carthamus tinctorius hybrid (Hybrid Safflower) Seed Oil, Potassium Palm Kernelate, Allantoin, Lanolin, Sodium Palm Kernelate, Sodium Citrate, Lavandula angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Fragrance/Parfum, Juniperus virginiana (Virginia Cedarwood) Oil, Tocopherol Acetate, Hydrolyzed Silk Protein

The shave itself was very nice: a two-day stubble being easily felled by the iKon X3. Then a splash of Lavanille aftershave finished the job. Its ingredients:

Denatured Alcohol, Hammamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Distillate, Aqua, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Fragrance, Calendula Officinalis (Calendula) Extract, Panthenol, Sodium Lactate


Written by Leisureguy

3 April 2017 at 8:56 am

Posted in Shaving

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