Later On

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

Archive for August 9th, 2022

US crisis also intensifies: This afternoon, Representative Scott Perry (R-PA) said the FBI has confiscated his phone after presenting him with a search warrant.

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The pace seems to be picking up. Heather Cox Richardson writes:

This afternoon, Representative Scott Perry (R-PA) said the FBI has confiscated his phone after presenting him with a search warrant.

Perry was deeply involved in the attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election. He connected former president Trump with Jeffrey Clark, the environmental lawyer for the Department of Justice (DOJ) who supported Trump’s claims and who would have become acting attorney general if the leadership of the DOJ hadn’t threatened to resign as a group if Trump appointed him. Cassidy Hutchinson, former top aide to Trump’s White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, told the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol that Meadows burned papers after a meeting with Perry.

The DOJ searched Clark’s home in June. On the same day, it seized the phone of John Eastman, the author of the memo laying out a plan for then–vice president Mike Pence to refuse to count presidential electors for Democratic candidate Joe Biden and thus throw the election to Trump.

Eastman sued to get his phone back and to force the government to destroy any information agents had taken from it; the Department of Justice says the phone was obtained legally and that purging it would be “unprecedented” and “would cause substantial detriment to the investigation, as well as seriously impede any grand jury’s use of the seized material in a future charging decision.” A court hearing on the matter is scheduled for early September.

Trump and his supporters have spent the day complaining bitterly about yesterday’s search of Mar-a-Lago by the FBI, painting it an illegal “witch hunt” and threatening to launch a “revolution” over it. A search warrant requires a judge to sign off on the idea that there is probable cause to believe a crime has been committed and that a search will provide evidence of that crime. While the FBI cannot release the search warrant, Trump has a copy of it and could release it if he wanted to.

Legal analyst Andrew Weissmann, who spent 20 years at the Department of Justice, pointed out on Twitter that the law requires the FBI to give Trump an inventory of what they found. If indeed he wants to claim the search was a witch hunt and he had no government property in his home, he should release the search inventory.

Kyle Cheney at Politico noted that on January 19, 2021, the day before he left office, Trump revoked the authority he had previously given and named seven new loyalists as his representatives to the National Archives with regard to his presidential records. They were Meadows; then–White House counsel Pat Cipollone; then–deputy White House counsel Patrick Philbin; lawyer John Eisenberg, who as legal advisor to the National Security Council tried to keep the story about Trump’s call to Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky under wraps; Scott Gast, also of the White House counsel’s office during Trump’s term; lawyer Michael Purpura; and lawyer Steven Engel, who argued that Congress could not subpoena White House advisors.

Meanwhile,  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

9 August 2022 at 10:06 pm

China’s Mortgage Crisis, including video of the simultaneous explosive demolition of multiple empty skyscrapers with unsold housing

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I posted a couple of other videos earlier on these crisis, videos from this month. This is an older video, from two weeks ago (28 July 2022), but I decided to post it because one doesn’t often see multiple skyscrapers being destroyed because the real estate company that built them couldn’t sell them.

Worth watching (as are the two earlier videos). Some scenes were censored by YouTube, and I presume that was done at the request of the Chinese government.

Written by Leisureguy

9 August 2022 at 9:58 pm

Fermented raw potatoes are pretty good

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I described the idea and process in a post a couple of days ago, and I’ve now updated that with the results. Look there for details, but I’ll say that they are good and I will definitely repeat (along the lines described in the post at the link).

Written by Leisureguy

9 August 2022 at 5:25 pm

Planet eBook offers good free ebooks

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Planet eBook, like Standard Ebooks, offers well-edited, carefully proofread ebook editions of a wide variety of classics. However, Planet eBook offers books in just 3 formats — epub, pdf, and mobi whereas Standard Ebooks has more formats, including the native Kindle format.

But if you get ebooks, you certainly should download and install the ebook management app Calibre. Calibre will import your free ebooks (so that if you get a new device, you can upload the books from Calibre to the device), let you edit the metadata, allow you to change the cover art, and — important for users of Planet eBook, convert ebooks from one format to another (e.g., from epub to azw3, the Kindle format).

More info in the ebook section of my list of often-recommended books.

Written by Leisureguy

9 August 2022 at 4:43 pm

Posted in Books, Software, Technology

Twice Accused of Sexual Assault, He Was Let Go by Army Commanders. He Attacked Again.

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Vianna Davila, Lexi Churchill, and Ren Larson have an excellent (though infuriating) report in ProPublica that begins:

Christian Alvarado began to type as he sat alone in an interrogation room at Fort Bliss, a sprawling Army post in El Paso, Texas. He’d spent most of the previous seven hours hooked up to a polygraph, answering a military investigator’s questions about an allegation that he’d sexually assaulted a fellow soldier.

His story had changed several times during the interview in late July 2020. The investigator told Alvarado he’d already failed two polygraph tests, then left the room so that the young soldier could type up his account in a sworn statement. With his fingers on the keyboard, Alvarado began describing the night in December 2019 that he spent in the barracks with a female soldier he’d met that day.

“She was drunk and so was I,” Alvarado, an Army private first class, typed on the investigator’s computer. “We had sex, but she passed out.”

He wrote that he’d lied about the encounter being consensual in previous interviews with investigators because he wanted to protect his Army career.

When Alvarado was done with his written admission, the military investigator walked back in the room. He asked Alvarado why he continued to have sex with the woman after she passed out. “I was in the moment,” the 20-year-old soldier replied.

The investigator then asked Alvarado about another allegation against him. An Army chaplain’s assistant had accused him of sexually assaulting her in May 2020 after a house party. Sex with her was “wrong due to how intoxicated she was,” Alvarado said, but he would not agree to a sworn statement about the second allegation because it would just be “icing on the cake.”

Alvarado told the investigator that he’d had sex with 42 women in the past four years, about a quarter of whom were intoxicated at the time. His sexual experiences had become boring and they blurred together, he said, to the point that he struggled to remember specific details about his partners.

At the end of the daylong interrogation, Alvarado’s commanders didn’t place him in detention or under any restrictions beyond the orders he had already received to stay at least 100 feet away from the two women who had accused him of assault, according to records. He was free to leave.

A month later, he sexually assaulted another woman.

Had Alvarado’s case been handled by civilians and not the military, his written admission could have been enough evidence to quickly issue an arrest warrant, according to two lawyers who previously worked for the El Paso County district attorney’s office.

“I would have felt comfortable charging at that point,” said Penny Hamilton, who led the Rape and Child Abuse Unit at the district attorney’s office and later served as an El Paso County magistrate judge. “When you have the offender admitting the sexual act took place and you have the offender admitting that the alleged victim couldn’t have consented because she was passed out, then you have the elements” of a criminal charge.

In Texas’ civilian system, a person charged with sexual assault goes before a magistrate judge, who’d set a bail amount that experts said could easily be in the tens of thousands of dollars. Civilian magistrates and judges use bail to ensure suspects show up at trial. Suspects are released only if they can pay the bond.

The military justice system has no bail. Many decisions about who should be detained for serious crimes before trial are made not by judges but by commanders, who are not required to be trained lawyers.

Recent congressional reforms changed the system, which has long drawn criticism for the extensive discretion commanders wield. While the revisions stripped some of their authority, commanders continue to control various aspects of the judicial process, including deciding whether service members accused of crimes should be detained while awaiting trial, a process called pretrial confinement.

A ProPublica and Texas Tribune investigation into how commanders in the Army, the nation’s largest military branch, use pretrial confinement revealed a system that treats soldiers unevenly and draws little outside scrutiny. Over the coming months, ProPublica and the Tribune will explore how military justice operates, often in vastly different ways than the civilian system.

The news organizations obtained data from the Army on nearly 8,400 courts-martial over the past decade under the Freedom of Information Act. The resulting analysis, the first-of-its-kind, showed that soldiers accused of sexual assault are less than half as likely to be placed in pretrial confinement than those accused of offenses like drug use and distribution, disobeying an officer or burglary.

The analysis showed that, on average, soldiers had to face at least eight counts of sexual offenses before they were placed in pretrial confinement as often as soldiers charged with drug or burglary crimes.

That disparity has grown in the past five years. The rate of pretrial confinement more than doubled in cases involving drug offenses, larceny and disobeying a superior commissioned officer, but it remained roughly the same for sexual assault cases like Alvarado’s, the analysis found.

For instance, the Army opted against pretrial confinement for a staff sergeant who was accused of raping the wife of a soldier in his command at Fort Bliss, while at another post a 19-year-old Texas woman was placed in detention for more than three months for using drugs and mouthing off to commanders.

“Justice that’s arbitrary is not justice,” Col. Don Christensen, a former chief prosecutor for the Air Force, said. “It shouldn’t come down to the whims of a particular commander.”

Army officials defended the system. They said  . . ..

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

9 August 2022 at 4:02 pm

The Psychology of Killing

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Perhaps it’s an artefact of the algorithms of the streaming services I watch, but TV series involving murder seem to be amazingly easy to fine — not perhaps so common as grass, but maybe as common as roses. In fact, just last night I watched a movie based on a George V. Higgins novel, Cogan’s Trade (which was a sequel to his first novel, The Friends of Eddie Coyle, both eminently worth reading). The 2012 movie, Killing Them Softly, starred Brad Pitt, Richard Jenkins, Ray Liotta, and James Gandolfini, and it was a good watch. (It’s on up here; apparently not available right now in the US.)

So what causes killing to be so common? has an interesting interview with Gwen Adshead, a forensic psychiatrist and psychotherapist who works in prisons and secure psychiatric hospital providing therapy to violence perpetrators who have mental health problems. In the course of the interview Dr. Adshead recommends five books, as the site name suggests. The interview begins:

Let’s start by looking at the topic you’ve chosen: the psychology of killing. How did you become interested in this area?

I’m a forensic psychiatrist and psychotherapist. A forensic psychiatrist is someone who specialises in the assessment and treatment of people who have offended while they were in some kind of abnormal mental state. There are two questions there: first, the legal question—does this abnormal state affect their legal responsibility?—and secondly, if the offender is mentally ill, do they need to be treated in secure hospital rather than go to prison?. That treatment will be designed to look not only at their mental health, but also their risk to the public.

Mental health problems are rarely a risk factor for crime generally, so a forensic psychiatrist won’t be dealing with people who are committing minor crimes, like shoplifting . We tend only to get involved in crimes of violence, and usually where that violence has been fatal. So most of my working life has involved assessing people who have committed serious acts of violence, or who are threatening to do so. For a long time I ran a therapy group for people who had killed a family member while they were mentally ill. I’ve also been involved in assessing mothers who have been abusive, or are considered at risk of abusing their children.

So this has been my bread and butter for about thirty years—an interest in the mental states that give rise to killing.

The obvious question, to me, is: if one commits murder, does that not indicate that, almost by definition, that the assailant is undergoing an abnormal mental state?

That question has always been of great significance, and one that humans have asked themselves for thousands of years. What is fascinating about humans is the many ways in which we do kill each other. We are one of the few animals that kill each other in different ways. Chimpanzees, for example, do have very serious fights, competitions over power, which can be fatal. And chimpanzee tribes can wage war on other chimpanzee tribes, killing in the process. But killing in the way that we kill appears to be pretty unique. Killing over territory is one thing, but we also kill over money, over politics and in the context of relationship disturbance; and that last context is quite unusual.

For as long as we have had recorded data about humans, we’ve written about the impact of murder. I don’t think there’s legislation in any culture in any age which hasn’t set aside some kind of law or ruling about how and when you can kill somebody, and what should happen to people who kill.

Take the Old Testament. There are rules in there about killing that are very specific. The Ten Commandments separate killing from murder, for example. Traditionally, in many cultures, if you killed somebody, you had to make restitution to their family. That didn’t always mean being killed yourself. Different countries and ethnic groups have had different rules, but all human societies have developed rules about killing, in what circumstances it might be legitimate to kill, and what punishments and sanctions there should be for the different kinds of killing.

The first thing to say about homicide is that it is not all the same. I think that’s one of the things I didn’t understand when I started out. Like anybody else, I thought that all killers must be really odd or mad. That if you killed once, you must be permanently in a homicidal state of mind. But once I began to spend time with people who had killed, I learned that killing is often highly contextual and arises from a specific set factors that are present at that time; which may never occur again. Someone who’s killed their wife in a jealous rage is not likely to be a threat to the general public; although they might be dangerous to future wives, of course.

So does that mean that everyone has the capacity for murder? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

9 August 2022 at 3:10 pm

Kamut and chana dal tempeh done

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Click a photo for slide show; right-click photo to enlarge it in a new tab. 

Above on the left you see the finished slab of tempeh out of the bag (and the grid of dots from the perforations in the Ziploc Fresh Produce bag) and on the right a cross section of the finished slab. I saw “finished” slab, but obviously the mycelium did not quite finish the job at the top (which is still perfectly edible, and in fact I am eating it right now.

I made a stir-fry in my 12″ nonstick MSMK skillet that I had Evo-sprayed with EVOO:

• about a cup of chopped red onion
• about the same amount of diced tempeh
• a chopped tomato
• 4 chopped mushrooms
• a good handful of chopped gai lan
• 2 tablespoons of walnuts
• 3 chopped yellow cayenne peppers
• a pinch of MSG.

update:  Damn! I just remembered I have some very nice garlic scapes that would have worked well in this dish. Oh, well. I’ll be making something else soon. Maybe tomorrow I’ll get some baby Shanghai bok choy.

I started that cooking at “4” on the induction burner, then put the lid on the skillet, turned the burner to 225ºF / 107ºC, and set the burner timer for 15 minutes.

When it was done, I took a bowl full, mixed in 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed, and topped it with some Asian variant Hollyhock salad dressing.

This is the batch I began 4 days ago. Normally a batch in done in 3 days, but I went an extra day, hoping the mycelium would finish its job. Still, this tempeh tastes really good, and I just cooked and ate that top strip (diced). The tempeh — with Kamut and chana dal — has excellent texture with just the right amount of chewiness. I think this will be very good in a curry or a chili, and its certainly excellent in this little dish I improvised. (Tomorrow is the big shopping day.)

I don’t understand why more people are not making tempeh. For some, the reason is that their plate’s pretty full with jobs and young children, but I notice that even retired folk do little or no tempeh. Pity. They don’t know what they’re missing (but I do).


Written by Leisureguy

9 August 2022 at 2:23 pm

Cathie Wood: China’s COLLAPSE Is FAR Worse Than You Think

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This is another video on the perils the Chinese economy faces. Worth watching.

Written by Leisureguy

9 August 2022 at 12:54 pm

What is the optimal diet?

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Something happened in 1926, and I have no idea what it was. Look at the two charts in the video at 00:44 to 00:51. Note the sharp change in rate of increase that happened in 1926. Any ideas about that year?

— Update: Just received a phone call from The Eldest, who works at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University. She told me that it was around 1926 — in fact, slightly before — that scientists began to discover the chemistry of food: what things in food made it nutritious. She sent me a PDF of a timeline of nutrition research. 

Still, that leaves open the question of what happened in 1926 to bend upward the rate of deaths from heart disease — e.g., 

Chart from the video below, which includes also a chart for Females (showing the same upward bend at 1926)

Written by Leisureguy

9 August 2022 at 11:47 am

Why does the IRS need $80 billion? Just look at its cafeteria.

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click to enlarge

Catherine Rampell has an excellent article (gift link, no paywall) in the Washington Post with photos by Matthew Busch. It’s truly worth reading, and scrolling through the working environment of the IRS shows why they need the money. The article begins:

[The cafeteria in the Austin office of the IRS] is part of what the IRS calls the “Pipeline”: a 1970s-era assembly line used to process tax returns at several locations around the country. And it might give you a sense of why Congress is on the verge of handing the agency $80 billion through the Inflation Reduction Act — not only for more enforcement but also for tech modernization.

As of July 29, the IRS had a backlog of 10.2 million unprocessed individual returns. Blame the pandemic, sure, but also the agency’s embarrassingly outdated, paper-based system, which leaves stacks and stacks of returns cluttering shelves, hallways and even the cafeteria.

On the Pipeline, paper tax returns aren’t scanned into computers; instead, IRS employees manually keystroke the numbers from each document into the system, digit by digit.

Even if you, Joe Taxpayer, file your taxes electronically (as most Americans do), you still might land in paper purgatory. Any issues with your “e-filed” return, and the IRS sends you a letter; then, you must reply by snail mail or fax.

Remember fax machines?

Taxpayers are trapped in this time warp because Congress has systemically underinvested in the IRS. Its funding was cut for most of the past decade, despite the agency receiving evermore responsibilities: stimulus checks, child tax credit payments, Obamacare enforcement, foreign bank account tracking and, lately, hunting down Russian yachts. Without reliable, long-term funding guarantees, the IRS has struggled to upgrade its systems.

I recently took a (chaperoned) tour of the Pipeline, which is usually off-limits to journalists. Imagine Willy Wonka’s secretive chocolate factory, but instead of gumdrops and lollipops it’s … paper. Everywhere, paper.

Keep scrolling and see for yourself. . .

Continue reading. (gift link, no paywall) 

Written by Leisureguy

9 August 2022 at 11:34 am

Creed’s Green Irish Tweed seemed especially present this morning

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A cup of the same coffee will taste spectacular one morning and meh another. We know how tastes can vary from one to person another (thus “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”: one person viewing the Jackson Pollack painting at the right (click to enlarge) will be struck by its beauty, while another will see nothing in it (and generally will see the problem as being the painting rather than his perception). 

But tastes vary in the same person from time to time, perhaps because a person is not really the “same” from one day to the next. Moods are clearly changeable, and most recognize that they are substantially different from the person they were a decade ago. (Indeed, one of the things that I like about is that when I read a letter I wrote in the past I can see how much I’ve progressed — or not, as the case may be, but generally progress in some areas.)

It’s those changes in ourselves that make the morning coffee seem occasionally transformed so that it transcends what we expected. The same will occasionally happen in the morning shave: we expect the usual pleasant experience, and instead our socks are knocked off.

That was my experience with Creed’s Green Irish Tweed this morning, both the shaving soap and the EDT.

Shaving soap first: The Mühle silvertip in the photo above has a very gentle knot, though a wisp more substantial than the G.B. Kent BK4 I used yesterday. It loaded easily and the fragrance of the lather was (this morning) almost overwhelming: it was so rich and present — and good — that I loaded the brush longer than I normally would, and so the lather on my face was thicker and richer than usual — and with that fragrance that this morning seemed so intense.

Perhaps because I was already entranced, my Rockwell Model T seemed exceptionally good. I run it at 4, and this morning it left nothing to be desired, so for this shave I could not understand why the Model T2 was needed. Three passes did a perfect job.

And then I sprayed a tiny pool of Green Irish Tweed EDT into my palm, added a couple of squirts of Grooming Dept Hydrating Gel (very helpful when using an EDT as an aftershave), and now still enjoy the fragrance as I write. I fear, however, that I might have used the last of my supply, and though this morning’s experience of it was exceptional (extinction burst?), I probably won’t replace it. The 100ml bottle shown is US$450.

The tea this morning is Murchies Assam Tippy Golden: “A dark, rich tea with full-bodied, malty flavour, with a hint of sweetness and a silk smooth finish.”

Written by Leisureguy

9 August 2022 at 10:39 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

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