Later On

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

Archive for June 14th, 2017

Special counsel is investigating Trump for possible obstruction of justice, officials say

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Things are moving right along, aren’t they? Of course, Trump publicly admitted on national television that he obstructed justice, in everything but using the actual words. He said he fired Comey and had the Russia investigation in mind when he fired him. It’s pretty obvious that he didn’t fire Comey to facilitate or help the Russia investigation, but to the contrary. And Trump ask various people (Comey and two others) to stop that Flynn investigation.

I don’t think obstruction of justice will be difficult to prove.

And I don’t think Marc Kasowitz’s bluster will take him very far. The United States has very deep pockets indeed. Throwing up a bunch of countersuits will not help any more than bluster and threats: the United States also has a lot of lawyers…

We’re coming to a Saturday Night Massacre moment, if we make it to Saturday night.


Written by LeisureGuy

14 June 2017 at 5:38 pm

Workflowy mayo

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I’ve been using Workflowy a lot, and it’s turning out to be surprisingly useful.

It’s an outliner that you run in your browser, and it’s free. Its operation is in general intuitive, but it has some special tricks, so click “Help” and watch all the little 1-minute videos. You can space them out: they’re in order of relative importance and usefulness.

You have just one giant outline, but if you click the bullet for any item, then you get the outline of that item as the main heading, and all the children beneath, with a diagram at the top that allows you to back out by clicking on the level you want.

I in fact just used it after a phone call with TYD in which we exchanged cooking discoveries and ideas, and one thing I contributed was my experience in making mayo with an immersion blender in the little plastic beaker you get with it. The recipe makes one cup, and it is so easy and quick that I no longer buy mayo at all, just make up a cup and use it. When it’s gone, make another cup.

So that’s the node I’m going to share to (a) let you know how I make mayo and (b) let you get a feel for what Workflowy is like.

Again, I have just one giant outline, any level of which can be clicked to make it the top of an outline with its children beneath. Making mayo is just one node way down in my one giant outline, and I’m sharing it with you. Because sharing is fun, as our moms used to say.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 June 2017 at 5:22 pm

Posted in Recipes, Software

Wow: Contra Costa County district attorney is charged with perjury and theft of campaign funds

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If you’ve been following the various ways that the criminal justice system has become corrupted beyond belief, then this report is big news.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 June 2017 at 5:13 pm

Posted in Law, Law Enforcement

Trump Tells Mayor Of Sinking U.S. Island Not To Worry About Climate Change

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Obviously, the island is not sinking, though it looks that way. Instead, the ocean is rising. Chris D’Angelo reports in the Huffington Post:

President Donald Trump, apparently confirming his disregard for the risks of global climate change, reportedly told the mayor of a small Chesapeake Bay island that could soon disappear to erosion and rising seas that there’s no cause for concern.

Trump phoned James “Ooker” Eskridge, the mayor of Tangier, Virginia, on Monday, a few days after CNN aired a story about the impacts of climate change on the island in the middle of the bay, The Daily Times in Salisbury, Maryland, reports.

Trump “said not to worry about sea-level rise,” Eskridge told the newspaper. “He said, ‘Your island has been there for hundreds of years, and I believe your island will be there for hundreds more.’”

It’s a bold claim, even for a longtime climate-change nonbeliever who has dismissed the phenomenon as “bullshit” and a Chinese “hoax.”

Since 1850, nearly 70 percent of Tangier’s landmass has been lost, according to a 2015 study by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers scientists. Those scientists predict that in as little as 25 years, erosion and rising seas will sink much of the remaining land, forcing residents to abandon their island homes.

Today, the historic crabbing community is home to about 450 people. The population is overwhelmingly Republican, with roughly 87 percent of island residents who cast a ballot in the 2016 election voting for Trump.

CNN highlighted the voting numbers in its report, likely triggering Trump to reach out to the mayor.

Eskridge told The Daily Times that after introducing himself, Trump said, “You’ve got one heck of an island there,” and “I’ve just got to talk to that guy.” The mayor said he responded by telling Trump just how much island residents appreciate him.

“This is a Trump island; we really love you down here,” Eskridge said he told the president.

Trump also reportedly urged Eskridge not to worry about the negative response from the CNN report.

Eskridge acknowledged to CNN the threat climate change poses to the island’s future, saying, “We’re running out of land to give up.” But he puts his trust in Trump, and said the island would welcome any assistance the president might provide.  . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 June 2017 at 2:49 pm

Trump White House Stays Quiet as Russia Flouts North Korea Sanctions

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Dan De Luce and Elias Groll write in Foreign Policy:

Trump administration officials and lawmakers are increasingly concerned that Russia is stepping up trade with North Korea in defiance of international sanctions, jeopardizing a U.S. effort to pressure Pyongyang over its nuclear and missile programs.

The White House, however, has yet to call out Russia publicly for its dealings with North Korea.

Russia is filling a gap left after China began to scale back some trade with North Korea in response to pressure from the Donald Trump administration, and has already replaced China as the top supplier of jet fuel for North Korea. Moscow also signed an agreement in March with Pyongyang to import more North Korean workers and opened a ferry line last month out of Vladivostok that carries passengers and cargo to the deeply isolated regime.

“It’s something we need to watch closely if we’re serious about turning the screws economically on North Korea,” one administration official told Foreign Policy.

The White House is concerned about Russia helping the North gain access to jet fuel and cash, but China remains North Korea’s crucial lifeline. “It will take some doing for the Russians to back-fill all of what China supplies,” the official added.

Russian support for North Korea presents a dilemma for a White House that has sought to isolate Kim Jong Un’s regime and improve relations with Moscow. The Russian moves undercut attempts to inflict economic punishment on North Korea for its nuclear program and missile development, and present yet another obstacle to closer ties between Washington and Moscow.

While the Trump administration has not publicly challenged Russia’s trade with North Korea, senior officials have hinted at the issue. Speaking to reporters last month, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley praised China for enforcing the sanctions regime but noted that “other countries are trying to fill that void.”

“If you are a country that is supplying or supporting North Korea, we will call you out on it,” Haley said. So far, however, the White House has not publicly rebuked Moscow.

The magnitude of Russian support to North Korea remains difficult to quantify, but South Korean experts have in recent months observed a significant uptick in trade between the two nations, said Go Myong-hyun, a research fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, a Seoul-based think tank. . .

Continue reading.

I hope Tillerson’s on top of this. Unfortunately the State Department currently has many unfilled positions. And, of course, the Trump Administration is friendly with Russia.

Note also: “North Korea Is About to Test a Missile That Can Reach Trump Tower.” I certainly wish we had a full-time president, and one who knew foreign policy.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 June 2017 at 1:57 pm

Democratic Congress Members Raise Alarm About Security at Trump Properties

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Democrats seem to be more on top of national security issues than Republicans. Jeff Larson reports in ProPublica:

Two dozen House Democrats have sent a letter to White House counsel Donald McGahn, warning that digital security holes at the Trump Organization’s clubs and hotels are risks to national security and the secrecy of classified information.

“The White House must act immediately to secure the potentially sensitive information on these systems,” said the letter, which was signed by 24 Congress members and went to McGahn last week.

Their concerns were in response to an article published last month by ProPublica and Gizmodo that documented the cybersecurity vulnerabilities at properties the president has frequented since being elected. Our reporting found unencrypted login pages, servers running outdated software, accessible printers, and Wi-Fi networks that were open to anyone close enough to access them.

We were able to detect vulnerable networks at Mar-a-Lago — Trump’s “Southern White House” — from a small motorboat about 800 feet from the club on Florida’s Intracoastal Waterway. We also found open Wi-Fi networks at the grounds of the Trump golf courses in Bedminster, New Jersey, and accessible Wi-Fi-enabled printers at Trump’s course in Sterling, Virginia.

“To leave these networks unsecured undermines our national priorities and the trust the American people place in the Office of the President,” the letter warned.

The White House and the Trump Organization did not comment on the letter.

Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., the letter’s author, said the vulnerabilities revealed by our story demand immediate action, but he’s received no response from the administration so far. “It needs to be addressed quickly. Potentially every minute something is leaking,” he said. “It is too late to close the henhouse after the foxes come in.”

Since becoming president, Donald Trump has spent time at his clubs on most weekends and has met with foreign dignitaries like Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago.

In February, members of Mar-a-Lago posted pictures of a dinner meeting between Trump and Abe on the patio of the club. Cybersecurity experts warned that sophisticated hackers could turn guests’ cellphones into clandestine listening devices if they gained access to the networks at the club.

Hackers may not need to travel to each of the Trump Organization’s clubs and hotels in order to gain access. We found that the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C., was hosting a server running software that is more than a decade old and is still accessible from the internet.

After we notified the company that administers the Trump clubs’ websites about our findings, they disabled an insecure login page that lead to a database of sensitive information that we found on Mar-a-Lago’s website. However, the company, called Clubessential, has not locked down its customer documentation website, which includes usernames and passwords to internal accounts and is accessible to anyone with an internet connection.

Clubessential did not respond to a request for comment. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 June 2017 at 1:41 pm

The Trump administration detests the Congressional Budget Office. Here’s why it’s important.

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Philip Joyce reports in the Washington Post:

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is under attack again.

Trump’s Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Mick Mulvaney, recently said that “the time of CBO has probably come and gone,” noting that there are plenty of other places, including the OMB itself and Washington think tanks, that can estimate the costs of policies. Mulvaney is far from the first official to disagree with the CBO’s numbers, but he is one of very few people who want to get rid of the CBO altogether. He joins former House speaker Newt Gingrich, who has been trying to gut the CBO for decades. In fact, a 1995 argument by Gingrich that the agency should be cleaned out prompted The Washington Post, in an editorial, to remind readers of the important role that CBO had played as “an excellent skunk” at the “congressional picnic.”

The problem for Congress — even a Republican-dominated Congress — is that the CBO is useful. The CBO was created intentionally to strengthen the Congress in its battles with the president, which have happened both when the president and Congress are dominated by different parties and when there is unified rule.

The CBO is the product of fights over budgets

The CBO was created as part of the congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974, which looked to resolve what Allen Schick has called the “seven-year budget war” over who shaped the budget process. This act reasserted Congress’s role in budgeting, including budget committees in each house, and a new agency — the CBO — that would serve as a nonpartisan source of numbers and analysis. Without the CBO, Congress would have had to depend on OMB — which works directly for the White House — for economic and budgetary figures which it needs to participate in budget making.

The first director, Alice Rivlin, was appointed in February 1975 and had to build the agency, including its capacity to estimate costs and make forecasts, from scratch. Rivlin also made the crucial decision that CBO would not make policy recommendations, as she was concerned that doing so might make the nonpartisan role untenable. Rivlin, who was a lifelong Democrat, described herself as a “card carrying middle of the roader.”

The eight subsequent directors (five nominal Republicans — including current director Keith Hall — and three nominal Democrats) have followed Rivlin’s lead as centrist and professional voices in budget and economic debates. My own research on CBO — based on the only book-length history of the agency — suggests that the CBO has put Congress on a more equal footing with the president, changed how policymaking works through cost estimates, and helped federal budget making become more open and transparent.

The CBO has helped Congress challenge the arguments of presidents

Since its early days, the CBO has poured cold water over the optimistic policy arguments of Democratic and Republican presidents. Jimmy Carter’s energy policy and Ronald Reagan’s supply side economic estimates both fell victim to CBO analyses. When Reagan tried to get Senate Republicans to remove Alice Rivlin as director (the law provides that either chamber can remove a CBO director by majority vote), Majority Leader Robert Dole and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Pete Domenici refused, understanding that such an action would be an attack on the independence of Congress.

The CBO has continued to cause controversy over presidential policy initiatives. It challenged  Clinton administration estimates of the fiscal effect of its “reinventing government” revisions and George W. Bush administration claims about the cost of adding a prescription drug benefit to Medicare. The Obama administration and CBO clashed over the employment effects of the Affordable Care Act and the job effects of a proposed increase in the minimum wage. In both cases, the White House went on the offensive to challenge the CBO analysis.

It has helped Congress estimate the costs of legislation

The CBO provides Congress with an objective source of information on the cost of individual pieces of legislation. Before it was created, the committees or groups proposing changes in policy often estimated the costs and were sometimes exuberantly optimistic.

For the past quarter-century, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 June 2017 at 12:09 pm

Trump was going to end this on Day One, but: Trump administration grants work permits to thousands of illegal immigrants

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David Nakamura reports in the Washington Post:

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants have been granted work permits by the Trump administration under an Obama-era deferred-action program that President Trump had promised to end on his first day in office, according to federal data.

Trump had called the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program an “unconstitutional executive amnesty” during his campaign. But statistics from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services released last week showed that more than 17,000 new DACA applicants were approved for the program in the first three months of 2017.

In addition, 107,000 immigrants already enrolled in DACA had their two-year work permits renewed during that time, which includes the final 20 days of President Barack Obama’s tenure in January.

The new figures make clear that the deferred-action program for immigrants brought to the country illegally as children — often known as “dreamers” — has continued at a robust pace under Trump. This comes despite concerns from some immigrant advocates that the administration would start targeting work permit-holders for deportations.

Trump has waffled on DACA since taking office. In April, he told the Associated Press that dreamers should “rest easy” and not fear deportation. But his failure to follow through on a key pledge to voters has angered immigration hawks. . .

Continue reading.

I wish we had a real president instead of just a simulacrum.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 June 2017 at 10:22 am

Imprisoning innocent people and other foibles of US law enforcement

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Just some of Radley Balko’s morning links in the Washington Post:

Interesting how frequently innocent people are sent to prison and how long they stay. And, of course, many states provide little or no compensation for the injustice suffered.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 June 2017 at 10:14 am

Posted in Law Enforcement

What Duck Sex Reveals about Human Nature

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In an interview with Der Spiegel, Richard Prum, an ornithologist and curator at the Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale University, discusses the violent mechanics of duck sex, the beauty of bird-mating rituals and why human civilization was made possible by love.

SPIEGEL: Professor Prum, among all the wonders of nature you were most inspired by the sex of ducks. Why?

Prum: For a long time, I have been fascinated by the sex life of birds. But there is probably no other species where the deep sexual conflict between male and female sex is as blatant as in ducks.

SPIEGEL: And so you started studying their genitalia?

Prum: No, it was actually even more simple than that. I had a prospective post-doctoral student who was looking for something to do, and she was interested in studying genitalia. I said to myself: Well, I have never worked on that end of the bird before. As a result, we studied duck sex intensively for six, seven years.

SPIEGEL: What surprised you most?

Prum: Oh, there were many surprises. Not the least that we had all these descriptions of duck genitalia, and when we looked ourselves, we said: There is almost nothing to see. How could this be? That is how we discovered that the genitalia of ducks regress and regrow each year, so that a 10- or 15-centimeter penis in the summer will reduce to less than 1 centimeter in the winter and then grow back the next year.

SPIEGEL: This is part of the sexual conflict you mentioned before?

Prum: Yes, indeed. Mate choice occurs first. In winter the males do these elaborate displays, and the females choose the one they like most. Because, parallel to the evolution of the males’ display behavior, the females have evolved preferences for these displays. We call this “coevolution.”

SPIEGEL: So far, this sounds quite harmonious.

Prum: Yes, it is. The pairs stay together until the clutch is laid and the females incubate. The conflict part comes next. Because now some of the males pursue an alternative mating strategy, which is to violently enforce copulation. For this they make use of their penis, which is regrown by now. This penis is a very bizarre structure. It is counterclockwise coiled, and erection takes place in less than half a second. Erection, penetration and ejaculation in ducks is one and the same event, and it happens very, very rapidly.

SPIEGEL: How do the females react?

Prum: It’s very interesting. Of course, in the short run, females struggle to escape from forced copulations. But in the long run, female ducks coevolve vaginal morphologies for the purpose of preventing forced intromission (or insertion of the penis) — sort of dead end cul-de-sacs and a series of clockwise spirals that have a chiral (or non-superimposable) mismatch with the shape of the penis. These are literally anti-screw devices.

SPIEGEL: Why all this effort? Wouldn’t it be easier to just give in to the aggressor’s assault?

Prum: To understand this, you have to consider the evolutionary mechanisms involved: If the female gets the mate she likes, then her offspring will inherit the green head and the quack-quack-quack, all those displays that she likes so much. And since all other females have coevolved to prefer those same traits, her sons will be very successful and she will have lots of grandchildren from him. But if she’s fertilized by force, then some random male will father her kids, which means that her offspring are less likely to inherit the attractive traits that she and other females like. That means fewer grandkids. Therefore, evolution will favor any mutation that allows her to get her own choice — for example by protecting her vagina against forced sex.

SPIEGEL: Are you saying that nature works to protect female rights?

Prum: You can put it like that. Sexual autonomy matters to animals. It’s not just a political idea invented by feminists, but an evolved feature of social species.

SPIEGEL: In other words, nature created a sex that is focused on autonomy and another that is focused on violence — a good and an evil sex?

Prum: You are right: In our world, we do associate violations of autonomy with abuses of power. But this doesn’t mean, of course, that there are ethical standards among ducks as there are among humans. Females are not the inherently more ethical sex, but it is just that there is something about female reproduction that limits the potential for the sexual abuse of power.

SPIEGEL: Somehow birds seem to be particularly successful in achieving their sexual autonomy. Among them, female mate choice is more common than among other animals. Why?

Prum: For a very simple reason: Unlike ducks, 97 percent of birds cannot be forcibly fertilized, because the males don’t have a penis. Copulation in most birds is achieved by a cloacal kiss, just an apposition (or touching) of orifices. So, to be fertilized, the female has to actively take up the sperm, which means that she retains full control of her sexual choice. By the way, I think this is the essential reason why birds are so beautiful. Since they have the freedom of choice, females exhibit aesthetic preferences. And, as a result of these preferences, males developed amazingly elaborate ornaments.

SPIEGEL: Does that mean beauty arises wherever there is female mate choice?

Prum: Wherever you have mate choice, period — not necessarily because the females are choosing. There are examples of male mate choice, or mutual mate choice as well. Take puffins for example. They court each other with elaborate displays, and therefore both sexes look the same. They both have the same colorful beaks and the same preferences for these beaks.

SPIEGEL: How about humans? Does our conception of beauty also stem from mate choice?

Prum: I’m convinced it does. Socrates was interested in Eros as the source of art and beauty, but it is important to be aware that our sense of aesthetics was reinvented over the course of human evolution. Because looking at the lives of chimpanzees and gorillas, our nearest relatives, we don’t see much evidence for sexual choice. In chimpanzees, males will pursue every sexual opportunity they get and females will acquiesce to every sexual request made to them.

SPIEGEL: And because chimps are sexually indiscriminate they don’t have any sense of beauty?

Prum: Yes, I think their lives are basically devoid of the aesthetic.

SPIEGEL: How did this transformation happen — when did beauty enter our world as humans?

Prum: This question is very difficult to answer. But just posing it already represents substantial progress. If you look in any current textbook of human evolutionary biology you will find that mate choice as a topic is almost entirely absent.

SPIEGEL: Do you think it was more likely to have been the males or the females that introduced mate choice into human evolution?

Prum: Initially, it was the females, for sure. Males didn’t need to become choosy until they were actively engaging in the upbringing of their offspring. And that happened much, much later.

SPIEGEL: What do you think were the criteria for female choice then?

Prum: Well, we don’t know for sure, of course. But I propose that the main male ornament females were selecting for was social personality itself. . .

Continue reading.

And see also “Duck Sex and the Patriarchy,” by Richard Prum in the New Yorker:

Four years ago, as the country was wrestling with a federal-budget crisis, conservative news outlets turned their attention, once again, to the topic of wasteful government spending. That March, a reporter with CNS News, a Web site devoted to countering “liberal bias” in the media, came across what seemed to be the quintessential example of such waste—a National Science Foundation grant to Yale University for a study of duck penises. Within days, the story had made its way to Fox News. “It’s part of President Obama’s stimulus plan, and it’s just one example of the kind of spending decisions that have added up to massive debt and deficits,” Shannon Bream told viewers. The following week, Sean Hannity piled on. “Don’t we really need to know about duck genitalia, Tucker Carlson?” he asked. To which Carlson responded, with a smirk, “I know more than I want to know already!” The controversy, dubbed Duckpenisgate by Mother Jones, roared back to life some months later, when Senator Tom Coburn, of Oklahoma, included the N.S.F. grant in his “Wastebook 2013.” At $384,949, it accounted for only a thousandth of one per cent of all the spending that Coburn had tallied up, but it made headlines again. Clearly, the combination of money, sex, and power—your money, ducks’ sex, and Ivy League power—was irresistible to the graying male demographic for conservative news.

I followed Duckpenisgate with particular trepidation, since I was one of the co-investigators on the maligned study. For the past decade, in collaboration with Patricia Brennan, of Mount Holyoke College, and other colleagues, I have explored the sexual behavior and genital evolution of waterfowl. Contrary to what Carlson thinks, it is a fascinating business. It can also be shockingly brutal. In the wintry months before breeding begins, male ducks flaunt their plumage, putting on dramatic courtship displays in an effort to entrance a mate. The females can be choosy, often picking a male only after extensive deliberation. (Their preferences tend to coalesce, like a genetic fashion trend, around a shared ideal of male beauty, with each species evolving off in its own distinct aesthetic direction.) When spring arrives, the pairs migrate together to the breeding grounds. But, as the nest-building and egg-laying season approaches, unpaired males start causing trouble. Many attempt to force copulation with paired females, sometimes even ganging up on them in groups. The female ducks resist strenuously; often they are injured, or even killed, in the process.

The males’ sexual attacks are made possible by the fact that, unlike most birds, ducks still have a penis. It is not, however, an organ that most humans would recognize, being shaped like a counterclockwise corkscrew and possessing a ribbed or spiky surface. Ducks’ erections are driven by lymphatic, not vascular, pressure, which means that their penises never become stiff. Rather, they erect flexibly, but explosively, into the female’s body in less than half a second. Ejaculation takes place immediately. And duck penises can be long—really long. A breeding male mallard in your typical city park has a five-inch penis. In the case of the diminutive Argentine lake duck, the penis is longer than the duck itself—more than sixteen inches.

What, exactly, is the function of these bizarre organs? To find out, Brennan dissected the genitalia of fourteen species of waterfowl. By comparing the results, we discovered that, as males have evolved longer penises with more heavily armed surfaces, females have coevolved increasingly complex vaginal structures—dead ends, cul-de-sac side pockets, clockwise spirals. We hypothesized that these twists and turns create a mechanical barrier to the penis, frustrating forced intercourse and lowering the likelihood of a female duck being fertilized against her will. Our subsequent experiments—high-speed videos of duck penises erecting into glass tubes of various shapes—suggested we were right. (Our observations also revealed that when a female duck solicits sex with a chosen mate, her cloacal muscles dilate to allow uninhibited entry.) The result is that, even for species in which nearly forty per cent of all copulations are violently coerced, only between two and five per cent of ducklings come from extra-pair matings. As a method of contraception, ducks’ vaginal barriers can be ninety-eight-per-cent effective—a level of reliability that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration would readily approve.

A female duck’s vaginal barriers cannot shield her from physical harm. On an evolutionary level, though, they protect her in another way—by allowing her to choose the father of her offspring. If she has ducklings with her chosen mate, then they will inherit the fancy plumage that she and other females prefer. But, if she is fertilized by force, then her offspring will inherit either random display traits or traits that she has specifically rejected as less attractive. These extra-pair offspring will, on average, be less attractive to their peers, which could mean fewer grand-ducklings for the mother duck—and fewer of her genes passed on to posterity. By using her vaginal barriers, she is able to maintain her sexual autonomy in the face of sexual violence. Freedom of choice, in other words, matters to animals; even if they lack the capacity to conceptualize it, there is an evolutionary difference between having what they want and not having it. Unfortunately for female ducks, though, evolving complex vaginal structures doesn’t solve the scourge of sexual violence; it exacerbates it. Each advance results in males with longer, spikier penises, and the coevolutionary arms race continues.

Although many duck species are trapped in costly and unproductive sexual battles, other birds have pursued different evolutionary paths toward male disarmament. In bowerbirds, for instance, females have used mate choice to transform male behavior in ways that have advanced their own sexual autonomy. Male bowerbirds build elaborate seduction theatres, called bowers, out of sticks, which they decorate with gathered artifacts such as feathers, fruits, and flowers. When the time comes to breed, females visit a number of prospective mates, choosing one based on the attractiveness of the male, his bower, and his ornaments. As a result, the architecture of the bowers is shaped by females’ aesthetic preferences. Males work from a blueprint that actually prevents them from successfully coercing copulations. A so-called avenue bower, for example, features two parallel walls of sticks. The female sits cozily between them while the male does his dance at a safe remove. To copulate with her, he must go around the walls and mount her from behind, which gives her a chance to pop out the front, if she prefers, with her freedom of choice intact.

Scientists admonish one another, often with good reason, to avoid anthropomorphizing animals. But they themselves regularly redraw the line between good science and anthropomorphism as a way of policing scientific discourse and favoring particular ideas. Most of us, for example, learned a strictly adaptationist version of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution; we were told that almost every feature of the biotic world, no matter how tiny, could be explained by how it contributed to an organism’s ability to survive and reproduce. In fact, though, Darwin also proposed a theory of sexual selection, in which animals may choose their mates according to aesthetic standards—their own subjective desires. This view has frequently been rejected as too anthropomorphic precisely because it implies that sexual selection can act independently of natural selection—an unsettling thought for the typical adaptationist.

When it comes to the sexual politics of birds and people, there are, of course, enormous differences. Birds don’t have elaborate social cultures, money, or any notion of their own histories. Humans do. But, in seeking to understand the complexities of human evolution and sexuality, we can learn a lot by examining the diversity of life on Earth and acknowledging the parallels where they exist.

Consider, for a moment, that the sexual arms race between male and female ducks is not really a fair fight. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 June 2017 at 9:21 am

Posted in Evolution, Science

A shave of favorites: the Vie-Long brush I like best, Tallow+Steel Grog, and the Dorco PL602

with 3 comments

Of the various Vie-Long horsehair brushes I’ve tried, this one is my favorite, and I believe it’s still available. It made a very nice lather with my favorite of the Tallow+Steel fragrances, Grog. I thought I would like Dark better—and I do like Dark a lot—but Grog is particularly entrancing to me. (Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be available any longer.)

I noticed that as I loaded the brush I automatically added water a couple of times. I no longer have to think about it. I can just observe how the brush is loading and see directly now that it needs a bit more water to do the job, and I did that twice, resulting in a very fine lather indeed.

The Dorco PL602 is such a fine razor, in terms of comfort and efficiency, that I think everyone should try it. Even when I know it will give an excellent shave, it still surprises me by just how excellent it is. I need to buy a few more to have on hand for gifts.

Three passes, BBS result, no nicks, and a good splash of Grog to finish the shave.

I can’t believe how long I shaved with cartridge razor and canned foam, hating it. Ignorance is a terrible burden and a devastating curse.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 June 2017 at 8:56 am

Posted in Shaving

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