Later On

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

Archive for April 13th, 2017

Wow! A complete course in chess tactics, theory AND practice (problems included)

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Really a comprehensive job. This Open Culture post points out this amazing free resource. The Open Culture post also has links to free ebook downloads of the book.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 April 2017 at 8:39 pm

Posted in Books, Chess

Trump has been easing Obama-era gun restrictions. You just may not have heard.

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More and more our government does things in secret or at least tries to keep the public from learning what it is doing. The reason is that the public would oppose what the government is doing, and the US government no longer takes its direction from its citizens.

Anita Kumar reports in McClatchy:

With little attention, President Donald Trump’s administration has been quietly loosening firearms restrictions in the United States after successfully seeking the support of gun owners on the campaign trail.

His agencies narrowed the definition of “fugitive,” a change that cuts the number of people who’ll be included in a database designed to keep firearms from people who are barred from owning them.

Federal officials have also signaled that they may no longer defend the Army Corps of Engineers’ ban on carrying loaded firearms and ammunition on federal lands.

Trump signed a bill behind closed doors that killed an Obama-era regulation that required the government to add to the no-buy list people whom the Social Security Administration has deemed eligible for mental disability payments. He signed another one that lifted restrictions on hunting on federal lands in Alaska.

With Republicans in control of the White House and Congress, gun rights groups are on the offensive for the first time in years, aggressively looking to push a series of new laws on Capitol Hill and regulations in various federal agencies to ease restrictions.

“All of these things considered in isolation may not be a big deal,” said Chelsea Parsons, vice president of guns and crime policy for the left-leaning Center for American Progress. “But what is the overall goal, keeping in mind the extreme investments made by the NRA?”

The National Rifle Association was a strong backer of Trump from the start, unlike most traditional conservative organizations, many of which were leery of the brash businessman-turned-reality-TV-host and political novice. It endorsed him earlier than it had other candidates in previous years and became one of his top donors, with $30 million in contributions and TV ads that targeted his opponent, Hillary Clinton.

“Ultimately you judge a politician on whether he or she keeps their promises that they made during the campaign,” said Chris Cox, chief lobbyist and principal political strategist for the Institute for Legislative Action, the NRA’s lobbying arm. “NRA members and supporters across this country are very pleased with what we’ve seen out of this administration so far. But there is still a lot of work to do.”

Before he hit the campaign trail, Trump, who says he doesn’t hunt but does own a gun, had come out in favor of a waiting period for gun purchases and a ban on assault weapons. But after he entered the race, he changed his views, speaking forcefully on behalf of gun rights regularly as he found support in many rural pockets of the country. . .

Continue reading.

What the people of the US actually want, according to Gallup polls:

Written by LeisureGuy

13 April 2017 at 5:58 pm

Airlines are required to handle cosmetics more carefully than they are people

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Curtis Tate writes for McClatchy:

United Airlines was fined $35,000 by the federal government for improperly kicking people off flights. Bath and Body Works took a $750,000 hit for improperly packaging cosmetics for shipment on cargo planes.

What kind of a system is this?

It’s one in which the U.S. Department of Transportation focuses more on safety than it does consumer protection. The result? A record period of safety for the industry, but also one of low customer satisfaction.

Aviation watchdogs say the federal government’s small civil penalties for messing with consumers do little to discourage the kind of treatment of passengers the world witnessed Sunday, when United ejected four passengers from a Chicago-to-Louisville flight after they’d already boarded so that flight crew members could get to their next worksite.

The widespread public outrage over the incident could push Congress into changing the law.

“There will be new regulations,” said Mary Schiavo, a former DOT inspector general in the Clinton administration. “It’s a mugging in the air.”

United Airlines was fined $35,000 last year for failing to produce a printed explanation of why passengers were denied boarding at airports across the country.

Delta Air Lines faced a record fine of $375,000 in 2009 for failing to seek volunteers before it denied boarding to passengers on overbooked flights. It also failed to notify passengers of the flight vouchers or cash payments they were due.

By contrast, the Federal Aviation Administration fined Bath and Body Works $750,000 in 1997 for improperly shipping cologne, considered a hazardous material under federal law, on cargo planes. The FAA is a safety agency and does not handle consumer protection issues.

The courts might offer the quickest remedy.

On Thursday, a lawyer for David Dao, a 69-year-old Kentucky doctor who was forcibly removed from the aircraft by Chicago Department of Aviation Police, said his client had suffered a concussion, a broken nose and two lost teeth.

Dao’s lawyer, Thomas Demetrio, said at a Chicago news conference his client’s experience, viewed worldwide on cellphone video from other passengers, was “more horrifying and harrowing” than when Dao had fled Vietnam in 1975.

“This makes the airline no different than a thug who bops you on the head in the street,” Schiavo said.

While airlines usually can claim they can be sued only in federal court because only federal rules apply, Schiavo said that since Dao had been seated on the plane, he could charge United with assault.

“The airline has no federal regulation cover,” she said.

On Thursday, United apologized again for its treatment of Dao and said the company and its chief executive, Oscar Munoz, had called Dao.

The airline also said it would no longer ask law enforcement officers to remove passengers from flights and would begin a review of how it handles crew movement and how it offers passengers compensation for oversold flights.

Congress is on recess until April 24, but some have already proposed legislation to end the practice of bumping passengers from oversold flights and to make sure passengers are offered adequate compensation before they board.

“If an airline chooses to oversell a flight, or has to accommodate their crew on a fully booked flight, it is their responsibility to keep raising their offer until a customer chooses to give up their seat,” Rep. Jan Schakowsky, an Illinois Democrat, said in a statement.

It could be a tough sell. United Continental Holdings, United’s parent company, spent $3.4 million lobbying Congress last year, according to government watchdogs. The airline industry’s principal advocacy group, Airlines for America, spent another $6.4 million. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 April 2017 at 4:40 pm

Who are the new jihadis?

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Olivier Roy writes in the Guardian:

There is something new about the jihadi terrorist violence of the past two decades. Both terrorism and jihad have existed for many years, and forms of “globalised” terror – in which highly symbolic locations or innocent civilians are targeted, with no regard for national borders – go back at least as far as the anarchist movement of the late 19th century. What is unprecedented is the way that terrorists now deliberately pursue their own deaths.

Over the past 20 years – from Khaled Kelkal, a leader of a plot to bomb Paris trains in 1995, to the Bataclan killers of 2015 – nearly every terrorist in France blew themselves up or got themselves killed by the police. Mohamed Merah, who killed a rabbi and three children at a Jewish school in Toulouse in 2012, uttered a variant of a famous statement attributed to Osama bin Laden and routinely used by other jihadis: “We love death as you love life.” Now, the terrorist’s death is no longer just a possibility or an unfortunate consequence of his actions; it is a central part of his plan. The same fascination with death is found among the jihadis who join Islamic State. Suicide attacks are perceived as the ultimate goal of their engagement.

This systematic choice of death is a recent development. The perpetrators of terrorist attacks in France in the 1970s and 1980s, whether or not they had any connection with the Middle East, carefully planned their escapes. Muslim tradition, while it recognises the merits of the martyr who dies in combat, does not prize those who strike out in pursuit of their own deaths, because doing so interferes with God’s will. So, why, for the past 20 years, have terrorists regularly chosen to die? What does it say about contemporary Islamic radicalism? And what does it say about our societies today?

The latter question is all the more relevant as this attitude toward death is inextricably linked to the fact that contemporary jihadism, at least in the west – as well as in the Maghreb and in Turkey – is a youth movement that is not only constructed independently of parental religion and culture, but is also rooted in wider youth culture. This aspect of modern-day jihadism is fundamental.

Wherever such generational hatred occurs, it also takes the form of cultural iconoclasm. Not only are human beings destroyed, statues, places of worship and books are too. Memory is annihilated. “Wiping the slate clean,” is a goal common to Mao Zedong’s Red Guards, the Khmer Rouge and Isis fighters. As one British jihadi wrote in a recruitment guide for the organisation: “When we descend on the streets of London, Paris and Washington … not only will we spill your blood, but we will also demolish your statues, erase your history and, most painfully, convert your children who will then go on to champion our name and curse their forefathers.”

While all revolutions attract the energy and zeal of young people, most do not attempt to destroy what has gone before. The Bolshevik revolution decided to put the past into museums rather than reduce it to ruins, and the revolutionary Islamic Republic of Iran has never considered blowing up Persepolis.

This self-destructive dimension has nothing to do with the politics of the Middle East. It is even counterproductive as a strategy. Though Isis proclaims its mission to restore the caliphate, its nihilism makes it impossible to reach a political solution, engage in any form of negotiation, or achieve any stable society within recognised borders.

The caliphate is a fantasy. It is the myth of an ideological entity constantly expanding its territory. Its strategic impossibility explains why those who identify with it, instead of devoting themselves to the interests of local Muslims, have chosen to enter a death pact. There is no political perspective, no bright future, not even a place to pray in peace. But while the concept of the caliphate is indeed part of the Muslim religious imagination, the same cannot be said for the pursuit of death.

Additionally, suicide terrorism is not even effective from a military standpoint. While some degree of rationality can be found in “simple” terrorism – in which a few determined individuals inflict considerable damage on a far more powerful enemy – it is entirely absent from suicide attacks. The fact that hardened militants are used only once is not rational. Terrorist attacks do not bring western societies to their knees – they only provoke a counter-reaction. And this kind of terrorism today claims more Muslim than western lives. . .

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The article is in effect describing the evolution of memes. Try reading it from that perspective.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 April 2017 at 3:30 pm

The (fascinating) story of the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas

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I like the behind the scenes detail of this blow-by-blow of the relocation of the NFL Raiders from Oakland to Las Vegas. The lives led by those named in the story are unimaginable to me.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 April 2017 at 3:27 pm

Posted in Business, Games, Government

Making your own iPhone 6S

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Pretty cute geek adventure, via Jason Kottke. This video is from the two links, but there’s more at the links.

Update: I talked to The Wife about the video and she pointed out how regional such things are in China. In Shenzhen you will have those back-alley markets of digital electronics; in another city it will be handbags; and the city whose specialty is art is well known.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 April 2017 at 1:46 pm

Experiencing grief can feel like tripping on hallucinogens

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Jason Kottke quotes from a very interesting Guardian article by Ariel Meadow Stallings. Kottke posts:

Last year, Ariel Meadow Stallings wrote a piece in the Guardian called Seven things I wish I’d known before my divorce: an optimistic guide to the future. It’s a good list, full of problems turned into opportunities, but the first item blew my mind a little.

1. Trip out on grief — it’s a hallucinogen.

Regardless of how your marriage ends, it’s a death. Maybe it’s a loving euthanasia that you both agree on, maybe it’s a violent one-sided decision that only one of you sees coming, but it’s a death regardless. This means both of you will go through grief — a powerful mind-altering substance.

In the darkest of my days, I felt like I was on a low dose of LSD at all times — time was weird, my vision was odd, I threw up for no reason, my emotions were out of control. Even eating was an intellectual exercise (chew, chew … swallow? Is that what you do next?). I generally felt like I was tripping.

This state of mind was profoundly uncomfortable, but also weirdly educational. Never a big crier, I received a crash course in what tear-induced catharsis felt like — and holy wow, it felt good. Like many mind-altering substances, there are lessons there if you want to learn them.

I didn’t realize it until I read this, but . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 April 2017 at 1:29 pm

Posted in Daily life

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