Later On

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

Archive for March 5th, 2018

Cool Go game: Player thinks aloud in a live game against an AI

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Very instructive.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 March 2018 at 4:52 pm

Posted in Games, Go, Video

The Six Stages of Trump’s Resistance

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Peter Elkind reports in ProPublica:

In the grand scheme of his many legal and regulatory conflicts, President Donald Trump’s spats with state regulators over damaged wetlands and excess water use at his New Jersey golf courses seem almost trivial. Trump ultimately was fined $147,000 — less than he banks from a couple of new memberships at the two private country clubs where he was cited for breaking state law. Both disputes were resolved during his presidential campaign and went unnoticed in the press.

Yet, as small as the sum was for a man like Trump, these two episodes are telling, not just because his resistance to oversight seems so disproportionate to the underlying allegations, but also because they provide a revealing anatomy of the five primary stages of Trump response. They could be summarized as DelayDissembleShift BlameHaggle and Get Personally Involved. (The elements can be used in any order, more than once.) Often, there’s a sixth stage, too: Offer a job to one of the key players on the opposing side. Trump deployed those tactics again and again in his titanic real estate battles in New York, and his mega-dollar fights over casinos in New Jersey, according to Wayne Barrett’s biography, “Trump: The Deals and the Downfall.”

The stakes may have been smaller on the golf courses, but documents and interviews show the playbook was the same. Historically, Trump’s approach has proved effective, and so it was in New Jersey. The Trump Organization’s repeated infractions at the two clubs lingered unresolved for years. In the end, Trump paid just a fraction of the penalties that state law allows. Then the key regulator, who helped negotiate the generous terms, signed on to a job in the Trump campaign.

The conflicts with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection began on a 500-acre property once owned by disgraced carmaker John DeLorean, which Trump bought for $35 million in 2002. Situated in horse country 40 miles west of Manhattan, the site is now familiar as the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster. It’s where President-elect Trump paraded cabinet aspirants before the media; where he plays golf on warm-weather weekends; and where he’s spoken about wanting to be laid to rest after his final deal is done.

Trump transformed the property, building two golf courses, a 25-meter heated pool, tennis courts, clubhouse, fitness center, guest cottages and a helipad. The president has a home at the club; so do Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, who were married there. The membership fee has been variously reported at between $100,000 and $350,000.

The violations at Bedminster date back to 2009. At the time, Trump had recently added a second golf course and was making improvements on the first. In the process of reshaping the land — building tee boxes and cart paths and clearing lines of play — his workers chopped down trees, uprooted vegetation and covered open waters. Trump was legally permitted to make changes on the property, but state law required that certain portions, particularly sensitive wetlands, be left untouched.

The Bedminster mini-saga began with what appeared to be a forthright admission of responsibility. On May 29, 2009, Edward Russo, then Trump’s environmental consultant, “self-reported” damage to 4.34 acres of wetlands, open waters and wetland transition areas. In doing so, the Trump Organization was seeking forgiveness under a DEP policy that allows as much as a 100 percent reduction in fines for offenders who voluntarily disclose violations “in a timely manner” and correct them promptly.

Subsequent violations would not be self-reported in a timely manner — indeed, they wouldn’t be self-reported at all — and the series of infractions would take six years to resolve. Indeed, before the first problem was even addressed, state inspectors began discovering more damage during follow-up visits, a problem that continued over the succeeding two years. The violations seemed to multiply faster than the Trump promises to fix them.

It didn’t help that Trump’s representatives sometimes dissembled.  . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 March 2018 at 3:53 pm

Regulate Weapons Like We Do in the Military, Says an Army Officer

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In the Atlantic James Fallows continues to publish reader comments on gun control. Today’s column I found particularly interesting:

For the list of previous entries in this series, please see the index at the end of the post. But: if you’re revving up to send me a note explaining what kind of ammunition the AR-15 uses, and how it is similar to (and different from) the military’s M-16 (and so on), please first at least look at this 8,000 word Atlantic article I did on that exact topic more than 35 years ago.

For today’s installment, letters from readers who are familiar with weapons and with the military application of firepower, and the lessons it has for civilian use.

First, from an Army officer:

I’m a Regular Army officer and have served in frontline positions in Iraq (this only to mean that I’ve got a very small slice of experience with the practical application of what military grade weapons were designed to do).

I’m a southerner who grew up shooting .22s in the field behind the house from the time I could hold the rifle.

I own several “classic” firearms like the M-1 Garand and a Martini-Henry, though not an AR-platform, which I shoot enough at work, to be honest (something half-submerged in my mind makes me think that in my house I don’t need a weapon designed exclusively for combat, either for sport or home defense—my German Shepherd is a much better platform for both).

All that to say that for the first time ever, I find myself more strongly on the side of gun control than of unrestricted gun circulation. (Addendum: I am not one who “vet-splains” and expects that my service makes my point of view infallible, but I hope this might tease out some further lines in the discussion.)

My niche perspective is this: in the Army, firearms are much more heavily regulated than in civil society. How can so many enthusiastic gun owners say that they hold the military as a model, and yet not accept the strict regulations that go with the military’s use of firearms?

Probably with the same logic that they use when they buy military tactical kit and shoot GoPro videos on their homemade urban range, but would never carry a hundred pounds on their back for 20 miles or sit freezing in a foxhole for days on end. This is another facet of rights without responsibility, or privilege without duty, in our present “liquid society.”

In the Army, firearms are stored under lock, key, and sometimes guard, and god help you if one goes missing—the post shuts down and a frenzied search bordering on a religious quest begins. After basic training, soldiers are required to go through a few hours of refresher training with practical drills before they are even allowed on a range for individual shooting qualification. These are ranges that are heavily monitored, with a monumental emphasis on safety.

What might be shocking to people who have not been around the military is that if a soldier cannot qualify with his weapon, he is not allowed to carry or shoot it on live-fire exercises or downrange. (Some people might object that a commander can override this regulation, but having been a unit commander, I can tell you that a CO is assuming huge risk personally by doing so. Ergo his decision is communally understood to have repercussions, and he knows he will be held responsible not only for himself but for the unqualified soldier, something that is decidedly not the case in civilian life. As regards that civilian AR owner, who is his brother’s keeper?)

Can many of the gun-rights advocates be heard seriously advocating for hours and hours of training and qualification by competent authorities before a civilian is allowed to own the same weapon soldiers carry? Perhaps, but I am not aware of it….

After those individual qualification ranges, soldiers spend hours upon hours day after day drilling to conduct more complex operations like a squad live-fire. And perhaps the most complex of all—clearing a room or building in a live fire scenario… It is very difficult for trained military units to deal with lone shooters on a battlefield, yet something in the American psyche—let’s call it the Lone Ranger archetype—is being convinced that one armed teacher can make a stand and take down an evil menace, then receive his hero’s laurels. Perhaps we ought to consider regulating John Wayne movies as well.

What is to be done? Clearly, with several hundred million firearms in circulation, mass confiscation is not practical, politically toxic, and as a sporting man myself, I would say culturally undesirable. But simple steps such as limiting high-capacity magazines, stringent background checks (lets’s not pretend they hold water now), and a licensing process are all good starts. After a certain list of tangible steps is exhausted though, the question becomes a nebulous one of cultural norms. Is there going to be a shift toward seeing firearm ownership as innately bound up in social responsibility? One can hope.

As a very small child I was taught, with fear and wonder approaching holy revelation, that safety with firearms was paramount, and I intend to teach that to my children when they are old enough. But until more Americans interact with structures like the military where safety and social responsibility are innate to firearms, I don’t see how that sentiment can grow organically so that people will accept it, as opposed to seeing it as imposed from above.

Will most Americans grow up and out of the fairy tale that their right to bear arms is without nuance or burden of responsibility? Will they realize they are probably not Lone Rangers waiting for their moment to save the day in their home or school? That the intent of the second amendment is to ensure that any armed, but unorganized and untrained citizenry, is able to overthrow a tyrannical government (a ludicrous proposition, in any case)? I am not sure, but our history and our geography—unlike that, say, of the Swiss, who have long seen firearms as a means to defend their country collectively from invasion—do not bode well for it….

To put a final twist on Oscar Wilde, even in the niche of American gun culture we are living with both extreme barbarism and extreme decadence, with only a precarious sliver of civilization in between.


Now, from veteran war-correspondent and author Arnold Isaacs,  about another civilian-military ramification of the current debate: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 March 2018 at 11:33 am

Posted in Daily life, Guns, Military

Wee Scot, Asses’ Milk shaving soap, iKon X3, and Guerlain Vol de Nuit

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A half-French shave. I like using the Wee Scot with small-diameter tubs of soap, and again the Asses’ Milk shaving soap did a good job—as did the wonderful X3, here on a UFO handle. A splash of Guerlain Vol de Nuit in honor of The Wife’s visit yesterday to the Guerlain store, where she was able to smell their Vol de Nuit parfum. She says it’s a whole new level of fragrance from the EDT (which is what the photo shows).

Written by LeisureGuy

5 March 2018 at 10:14 am

Posted in Shaving

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