Later On

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

Archive for July 3rd, 2018

Aztec moral philosophy: Life on the slippery Earth

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Sebastian Purcell, assistant professor of philosophy at SUNY-Cortland in New York, writes in Aeon:

When Halloween rolled around last year, my wife and I were prepared to be greeted by scores of eager trick-or-treaters. Guided by the thought that too much candy was better than too little, we bought entirely too much, and simply poured the excess on to a platter in our living room. The problem is: I have a sweet-tooth. ‘I can’t stop eating these!’ I said to my wife, peevishly, a few days later. Nearly every time I passed the coffee table, I succumbed to my cravings for a sugar rush, and then I’d feel frustrated and irritated.

When I returned from work that evening, I noticed the platter was empty. ‘Oh, I just took it to work and gave it away to the students,’ my wife said, when I asked. Just like that, my cycle of transgression and guilt was broken.

This little episode illustrates two aspects of Aztec virtue ethics that distinguish it from ‘Western’ forms, such as Plato’s or Aristotle’s. The first is that I did not overcome my vice so much as manage it. The second is that I didn’t manage it on my own, but rather did so (almost entirely) with the help of another person.

While Plato and Aristotle were concerned with character-centred virtue ethics, the Aztec approach is perhaps better described as socially-centred virtue ethics. If the Aztecs were right, then ‘Western’ philosophers have been too focused on individuals, too reliant on assessments of character, and too optimistic about the individual’s ability to correct her own vices. Instead, according to the Aztecs, we should look around to our family and friends, as well as our ordinary rituals or routines, if we hope to lead a better, more worthwhile existence.

This distinction bears on an important question: just how bad are good people allowed to be? Must good people be moral saints, or can ordinary folk be good if we have the right kind of support? This matters for fallible creatures, like me, who try to be good but often run into problems. Yet it also matters for questions of inclusivity. If being good requires exceptional traits, such as practical intelligence, then many people would be excluded – such as those with cognitive disabilities. That does not seem right. One of the advantages of the Aztec view, then, is that it avoids this outcome by casting virtue as a cooperative, rather than an individual, endeavour.

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 July 2018 at 2:22 pm

Posted in Daily life

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Senate panel upholds finding that Russia backed Trump

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John Bowden reports in The Hill:

The Senate Intelligence Committee has unequivocally upheld the conclusion of the intelligence community that Russia developed a “clear preference” for then-candidate Donald Trump in the 2016 election and sought to help him win the White House.

The assessment, announced in an unclassified summary released Tuesday, represents a direct repudiation of the committee’s counterpart in the House – and of President Trump himself, who has consistently rejected assertions that Moscow sought to bolster his candidacy.

“The Committee has spent the last 16 months reviewing the sources, tradecraft and analytic work underpinning the Intelligence Community Assessment and sees no reason to dispute the conclusions,” said Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said in a statement .

The so-called “intelligence community assessment,” or ICA, is a “sound intelligence production,” according the Senate panel.

“A body of reporting, to include different intelligence disciplines, open source reporting on Russian leadership policy preferences, and Russian media content, showed that Moscow sought to denigrate Secretary Clinton,” the unclassified summary reads.

The ICA relied not only on public Russian leadership commentary and state media reports, but also “a body of intelligence reporting to support the assessment that Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for Trump,” the committee found.

Senate investigators also rejected the notion that the ICA was inappropriately influenced by politics, as some of Trump’s supporters have alleged.

The committee says it reviewed “thousands of pages of source documents” and interviewed all the relevant officials who were involved in developing the ICA, from agency heads and managers to line analysts-and “heard consistently that analysts were under no politically motivated pressure to reach any conclusions.”

A subtle difference in confidence between the NSA and the CIA and FBI on the assessment that Russian President Vladimir Putin wanted to help Trump’s election chances “appropriately represents analytic differences and was reached in a professional and transparent manner,” the Senate panel found.

In yet another contradiction to Trump allies claims, the Senate panel also found that a piece of Democratic-funded opposition research known as the Steele dossier did not “in any way the analysis in the ICA – including the key findings.”

This was “because it was unverified information and had not been disseminated as serialized intelligence reporting,” the Senate report found.

All in all, the Senate panel’s report was a unflinching contradiction of many of the core claims made by Trump allies in the House.

The House Intelligence Committee in March released their report into 2016 election meddling, finding that the small group of intelligence officials who made the assessment in January 2017 did not meet the appropriate evidentiary standard to make that judgment with such certainty.

The House committee declined to make an assessment about whether the intelligence community’s underlying claim – that Putin developed a clear preference for Trump – was correct, one of the GOP members leading that probe said at the time. What the panel has taken issue with, according to Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas), is “how they came to it and the underlying documents they used.”

The Senate committee is still in the process of preparing the classified report detailing its conclusions about the ICA, which when completed will go through a classification review with an eye towards making a version public. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 July 2018 at 2:08 pm

More ominous signs: “Are we the baddies?”

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The question comes from this skit, embedded in Hadley Freeman’s column in the Guardian:

Do read her column, which includes this interesting paragraph:

In 1940, Nazi propaganda described concentration camps as being like youth camps; today, Fox News presenter Laura Ingraham describes migrant juvenile detention centres as being “essentially summer camps”. In 1942, Jews were led into showers and gassed to death; in 2018, migrant toddlers are taken away from their parents by US officials who say they need a bath, only to ship them out to a “summer camp” thousands of miles away. Trump himself famously described a neo-Nazi rally in 2017 as being full of “very fine people”, yet we continue to be surprised by what he does.

Written by Leisureguy

3 July 2018 at 12:25 pm

Some instances of daily life in the US

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Radley Balko has a few links in the Washington Post this morning:

  • A new study in the Lancet finds that police shootings of unarmed black people affects the mental health of other black people in the same state “nearly as much as having a chronic disease such as diabetes does.”
  • Infuriating first-person essay by a black doctoral student who was apprehended and attacked by police . . . on suspicion of stealing his own car. A woman called the police because she saw a black man in a hoodie entering a car — and just assumed he was stealing it. Note that despite that the caller telling the dispatch officer every reason to suspect that the man had done nothing wrong, he was nonetheless treated as if he were guilty. He was violently tackled by several cops in a what appears to be an imposition of “street justice.” He was then charged with “resisting arrest,” after which one cop told him he was lucky they didn’t kill him. The charge was dropped, but none of the officers were punished.
  • Meanwhile, campus police at Portland State University shot and killed a black man who witnesses say was trying to break up a fight. He had a valid conceal-carry permit. It appears that his gun fell out during the scuffle, and the cops shot him as he was trying to retrieve it. Jason Erik Washington was a Navy vet, a postal carrier, a married father of three and a grandfather of one. Perhaps at some point, groups such as the National Rifle Association will realize that aggressive, quick-to-fire cops are more of a threat to gun owners than Colin Kaepernick.
  • The former chief counsel for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been sentenced to four years in prison. His crime? Stealing from immigrants.
  • Federal jury awards $17 million to a man who served 21 years in prison after being framed by a corrupt Chicago cop.
  • A hospital in Minnesota has been enrolling patients in a study about the effects of ketamine on “excited delirium.” There are a number of problems, here. The first is that the patients were enrolled without their permission. The second is that it appears that area police have been improperly instructing paramedics to sedate people. Third, “excited delirium” is a fake condition pushed by the company that makes Tasers to explain why people have been dying after getting shot by a “non-lethal” weapon.
  • Before you take Greyhound, understand that in doing so you’re giving up most of your Fourth Amendment rights.
  • Some encouraging poll numbers: A growing percentage of Americans think legal immigration should be increased, and a solid majority does’t want it decreased, even among Republicans.
  • A black man called cops the cops who arrested him “Nazis.” He’s now being charged with a hate crime.

More at the link above.


Written by Leisureguy

3 July 2018 at 10:25 am

The ongoing problem of conveniently malfunctioning police cameras

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Radley Balko has a column that shows the direction police culture is going in the US, similar to police in Eastern Europe it seems to me:

Techdirt has the goods on a pretty crazy story out of Albuquerque. Five police officers were at the scene of a fatal shooting. All five were wearing body cameras. And miraculously, none of the five captured usable footage from the shooting on their body cameras.
A sergeant on the scene claimed to have turned his camera on, but the camera didn’t record. He’d later say his camera had never malfunctioned like that before. Ditto for another officer whose camera weirdly captured footage so pixelated that it was unusable — again, no one had ever seen that problem before. A third officer says his camera malfunctioned just before the shooting. Mysteriously, the camera has not had a problem since. A fourth said his camera mistakenly became unplugged. Analysis showed it had been turned on eight minutes before the shooting, then turned off just moments before the fatal encounter. A fifth officer’s camera captured 10 seconds of vague footage. It should have captured at least 30, given the camera’s buffer function. He had failed to turn it on.
Regular readers of The Watch may recall that this isn’t even the first time five police cameras all conveniently malfunctioned at a critical time. (Regular readers may also recall that the Albuquerque Police Department has a long and colorful history of excessive force, shootings, cover-ups and other misconduct.) In 2014, I posted about a story from Utahin which a man with a severe back condition was injured by three Utah officers during a traffic stop. The man had called his wife, who had claimed to hear the entire altercation over the phone. There should have been footage from five different cameras, the lapel camera worn by each of the three officers, plus the dash cameras in the two squad cars at the scene. Somehow, all five cameras failed to produce any footage.
But both these stories are topped by this 2007 case from Maryland:

In 2007 Andrea McCarren, an investigative reporter for the D.C. TV station WJLA, was pulled over by seven Prince George’s County police cars as she and a cameraman followed a county official in pursuit of a story about misuse of public funds. In a subsequent lawsuit, McCarren claimed police roughed her up during the stop, causing a dislocated shoulder and torn rotator cuff. McCarren won a settlement, but she was never able to obtain video of the incident. Prince George’s County officials say all seven dashboard cameras in the police cruisers coincidentally malfunctioned.

I’m currently working on a long investigation into police misconduct in Little Rock. It’ll be published here in the weeks to come. In the meantime, here’s a little preview: A couple of years ago, civil rights attorney Mike Laux deposed Little Rock Police Department Capt. Heath Helton about a similar recurring pattern in the LRPD — the pattern in which cops fail to activate their cameras during use-of-force incidents, and are ultimately found to have violated policy there, but are cleared of excessive force, precisely because there’s no footage to corroborate the alleged abuse.  . .

Continue reading. Video at the link.

Written by Leisureguy

3 July 2018 at 8:38 am

Maggard 22mm synthetic, Van Yulay Sandalwood, Maggard V3A

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A very nice shave indeed, thanks to Van Yulay and Maggard Razors.

I’ve added a 20-minute daily walk to my weight-loss regimen: got stuck on a lengthy plateau as I neared goal. Out now for the walk.

Written by Leisureguy

3 July 2018 at 7:50 am

Posted in Shaving

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