Later On

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

Archive for August 17th, 2014

I really like L.E. Sissman, and here’s an example why

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He’s a poet, and his collected poems are in Hello, Darkness (at the.link, secondhand editions from $1). Here’s an example of his poetry, and he’s one who’s fun to read aloud—Don Marquis is another.

No matter how awful it is to be sitting in this
Terrible magazine office, and talking to this
Circular-saw-voiced West side girl in a dirt-
Stiff Marimekko and lavender glasses, and this
Cake-bearded boy in short-rise Levi’s, and hearing
The drip and rasp of their tones on the softening
Stone of my brain, and losing
The thread of their circular words, and looking
Out through their faces and soot on the window to
Winter in University Place, where a blue-
Faced man, made of rags and old newspapers, faces
A horrible grill, looking in at the food and the faces
It disappears into, and feeling,
Perhaps, for the first time in days, a hunger instead
Of a thirst; where two young girls in peacoats and hair
As long as your arm and snow-sanded sandals
Proceed to their hideout, a festering cold-water flat
Animated by roaches, where their lovers, loafing in wait
To warm and be warmed by brainless caresses,
Stake out a state
Of suspension; and where a black Cadillac 75
Stands by the curb to collect a collector of rents,
Its owner, the owner of numberless tenement flats;
And swivelling back
To the editorial pad
Of Chaos, a quarter-old quarterly of the arts,
And its brotherly, sisterly staff, told hardly apart
In their listlessly colored sackcloth, their ash-colored skins,
Their resisterly sullenness, I suddenly think
That no matter how awful it is, it’s better than it
Would be to be dead. But who can be sure about that?

L.E. Sissman

Written by LeisureGuy

17 August 2014 at 2:00 pm

Posted in Books

Sudden shave, no photo

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How I shave when you’re not watching: I was finishing my shower, planning not to shave, when I remembered that The Wife and I are celebrating our wedding anniversary by going out to dinner, and I didn’t want to look scruffy—so I launched into a shave: Mr. Pomp, the Striped Brush; Organic Asses’-Milk shaving soap from Paris, the Stealth slant, and D.R. Harris After Shaving Milk. Extremely nice shave.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 August 2014 at 8:45 am

Posted in Shaving

Gil Kerlikowske has his job cut out for him at US Border Patrol

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Take a look at what the recently removed head of Internal Affairs at the US Border Patrol has to say in this article by Andrew Becker at the Center for Investigative Reporting:

More than two dozen people have died in violent clashes with U.S. Customs and Border Protection since 2010. Despite public outrage over some of the killings, no agent or officer has faced criminal charges – or public reprimand – to date.

Yet at least a quarter of the 28 deaths were “highly suspect,” said James F. Tomsheck, the agency’s recently removed head of internal affairs. In a sweeping and unauthorized interview with The Center for Investigative Reporting, he said the deaths raised serious questions about whether the use of lethal force was appropriate.

Instead, Tomsheck said, Border Patrol officials have consistently tried to change or distort facts to make fatal shootings by agents appear to be “a good shoot” and cover up any wrongdoing.

“In nearly every instance, there was an effort by Border Patrol leadership to make a case to justify the shooting versus doing a genuine, appropriate review of the information and the facts at hand,” he said.

Those comments and others represent the most scathing public criticism ever lodged against Customs and Border Protection from a high-ranking official at the nation’s largest law enforcement agency. Although Tomsheck was removed from the internal affairs office, he is assigned to the Border Patrol as its executive director for national programs.

Tomsheck said border politics, internal policy and the Border Patrol’s warped view of itself hampered his efforts to investigate shootings while he was head of internal affairs.

He said the Border Patrol suffers from “institutional narcissism,” a view that it is the premier federal law enforcement agency. It’s part of a broader culture of impunity at its parent agency, Customs and Border Protection, which sees itself as above reproach and “constitutional constraints” and aims to shield agents’ misconduct and a massive corruption problem from outside scrutiny, he said.

“It has been suggested by Border Patrol leadership that they are the Marine Corps of the U.S. law enforcement community,” Tomsheck said. “The Border Patrol has a self-identity of a paramilitary border security force and not that of a law enforcement organization.”

Tomsheck, who was reassigned June 9 after serving eight years as the assistant commissioner for internal affairs, has given closed-door briefings to Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and House Oversight and Government Reform committee leaders. Committee representatives declined to comment on the nature of those briefings.

Tomsheck recently filed a whistleblower retaliation complaint with the federal Office of Special Counsel, which is under review. A spokesman for the special counsel had no comment.

A former U.S. Secret Service agent for 23 years, Tomsheck said he believed that between 5 and 10 percent of border agents and officers are actively corrupt or were at some point in their career. Those crimes include stealing government property, leaking sensitive information and taking bribes to look the other way when smugglers bring drugs or people into the country.

“To a large degree, it (corruption) was an undetected problem and far more severe than the actual number of arrests,” he said.

Other high-ranking officials have backed up Tomsheck’s accusations.

In briefings to the FBI in fall 2012, senior Customs and Border Protection leaders outside of internal affairs had pegged the corruption rate among employees at one time or another in their career as high as 20 percent or more. Shocked by that “integrity gap,” the FBI adjusted its priorities to focus its anti-corruption efforts on federal employees, with an emphasis on border agents and officers, said Ronald Hosko, a retired FBI assistant director for the criminal investigative division who attended the briefings. . . .

Continue reading. There’s quite a bit more.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 August 2014 at 7:56 am

Israel supporter steps back

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And not just any supporter of Israel, but a man who risked his life in WWII to protect Jews from the Nazis, and who was awarded a medal proclaiming him as one of the Righteous Among Nations. He has now returned the medal. The story, by

THE HAGUE — In 1943, Henk Zanoli took a dangerous train trip, slipping past Nazi guards and checkpoints to smuggle a Jewish boy from Amsterdam to the Dutch village of Eemnes. There, the Zanoli family, already under suspicion for resisting the Nazi occupation, hid the boy in their home for two years. The boy would be the only member of his family to survive the Holocaust.

Seventy-one years later, on July 20, an Israeli airstrike flattened a house in the Gaza Strip, killing six of Mr. Zanoli’s relatives by marriage. His grandniece, a Dutch diplomat, is married to a Palestinian economist, Ismail Ziadah, who lost three brothers, a sister-in-law.

On Thursday, Mr. Zanoli, 91, whose father died in a Nazi camp, went to the Israeli Embassy in The Hague and returned a medal he received honoring him as one of the Righteous Among the Nations — non-Jews honored by Israel for saving Jews during the Holocaust. In an anguished letter to the Israeli ambassador to the Netherlands, he described the terrible price his family had paid for opposing Nazi tyranny.

“My sister lost her husband, who was executed in the dunes of The Hague for his involvement in the resistance,” he wrote. “My brother lost his Jewish fiancée who was deported, never to return.”

Mr. Zanoli continued, “Against this background, it is particularly shocking and tragic that today, four generations on, our family is faced with the murder of our kin in Gaza. Murder carried out by the State of Israel.”

His act crystallizes the moral debate over Israel’s military air and ground assault in the Gaza Strip, in which about 2,000 people, a majority of them civilians, have been killed. Israel says the strikes are aimed at Hamas militants who fire rockets at Israeli cities and have dug a secret network of tunnels into Israel.

Mr. Zanoli transformed over the decades from a champion to a critic of the Israeli state, mirroring a larger shift in Europe, where anguish over the slaughter of six million European Jews led many to support the founding of Israel in 1948 as a haven for Jews worldwide.

But in the years since Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza during the 1967 war, Europeans have become more critical. Israel blames anti-Semitism, which has grown in Europe with the rise of right-wing politicians. Some European protests against Israeli military action have been marred in recent weeks by open anti-Semitism, blurring the line between criticism of Israeli policy and hate speech against Jews. But many other critics, like Mr. Zanoli, say their objection to Israeli policy is not anti-Jewish but consistent with the humanitarian principles that led them to condemn the Holocaust and support the founding of a Jewish state.

“I gave back my medal because I didn’t agree with what the state of Israel is doing to my family and to the Palestinians on the whole,” Mr. Zanoli said in an interview Friday in his spare but elegant apartment, adding that his decision was a statement “only against the state of Israel, not the Israeli people.”

“Jews were our friends,” said Mr. Zanoli, a retired lawyer who uses a motorized scooter but remains erect and regal, much as he appears in a yellowing 1940s photograph archived at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem.

Mr. Zanoli said he had never publicly criticized Israel “until I heard that my family was the victim.”

In Gaza, Mr. Zanoli’s in-laws say his gesture is a fitting response to the losses of their family and others who have lost multiple relatives in strikes on homes. Those in-laws include Hassan al-Zeyada, a psychological trauma counselor who is an older brother of Ismail Ziadah. Their mother, Muftiyah, 70, was the oldest family member to die in the bombing.

Like Mr. Zanoli, Dr. Zeyada, 50, who works to treat the many Palestinians in Gaza traumatized by war and displacement, has given much thought to the fact that Israel was founded after the Holocaust, one of history’s greatest collective traumas.

Dr. Zeyada, who transliterates his family name differently from his brother, said Friday that he admired Mr. Zanoli and his family for their struggle in World War II against “discrimination and oppression in general and against the Jews in particular.”

“For them,” he added, “it’s something painful that the people you defended and struggled for turn into aggressors.”

Dr. Zeyada said last month that none of his family members were militants. Israel says that it takes precautions to avoid killing civilians, and that Hamas purposely increases civilian casualties by operating in residential neighborhoods. It has offered no information on whether the Zeyada family home was hit purposely, and if so, what the target was and whether it justified a strike that killed six civilians. The military told the left-leaning Israeli newspaper Haaretz, which first reported Mr. Zanoli’s decision, only that it was investigating “all irregular incidents.” . .. .

Continue reading.

And see also this article, which begins:

GAZA CITY — Hassan al-Zeyada has spent decades counseling fellow residents of the Gaza Strip who experience psychological trauma. Now, as he prepares to aid his neighbors after a new round of combat and carnage, he has a challenging new patient: himself.

An Israeli airstrike demolished Dr. Zeyada’s family home on July 20, killing six close relatives, including his mother and three of his brothers.

“You try to help the people with their suffering,” the doctor said recently in his Gaza City living room, lined with psychology textbooks. “It’s totally different when you have the same experience. You lose six from your family — three brothers, your mom, one of your nephews, your sister-in-law. It’s really” — he paused, red-eyed — “unexpected.”

He took a mental step back, to diagnose the hallmarks of trauma in himself: He was exhibiting dissociation, speaking in the second person to distance himself from pain, as well as denial. When he heard about new shelling near where his family lived in the Bureij refugee camp, he picked up the phone to call his oldest brother there. He had forgotten that the house was already gone, his brother already dead.

Dr. Zeyada, 50, works to destigmatize mental health care for a Palestinian population exposed repeatedly to war and displacement, practicing at the Gaza Community Mental Health Program, which was led by the pioneering Palestinian psychiatrist and human-rights advocate Dr. Eyad El-Sarraj until his death from leukemia in December.

Dr. Zeyada is not the only Palestinian caregiver to become a trauma victim. . . .

Continue reading. Later in the article, the grim facts that make Gaza an open-air prison—and now an open-air killing ground:

People cannot flee from Gaza; Israel and Egypt keep their borders virtually sealed. Residents can flee their neighborhoods, but even United Nations schools being used as shelters in Gaza have come under deadly fire. And in downtown Gaza City, where Israel has urged people to go for safety, Israeliairstrikes have repeatedly hit apartment buildings packed with residents and refugees. One strike collapsed most of a building and killed the family of a bank employee who had moved to Gaza City because of Israeli instructions.

The border restrictions, stemming from an eight-year standoff between Israel and Hamas, the militant group that dominates Gaza, have steadily eroded livelihoods in Gaza, adding to a sense of powerlessness. Even during relative lulls in violence, Israeli strikes periodically kill militants — and bystanders. People who do not want Hamas and other militants to use their farm fields to fire rockets, for fear of return fire from Israel, say they cannot always stop the combatants.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 August 2014 at 7:30 am

Posted in Mideast Conflict

“Can We Say What Diet Is Best for Health?”

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Steve of Kafeneio pointed out this article by D.L. Katz and S. Mellar in the Annual Review of Public Health. The abstract:

Diet is established among the most important influences on health in modern societies. Injudicious diet figures among the leading causes of premature death and chronic disease. Optimal eating is associated with increased life expectancy, dramatic reduction in lifetime risk of all chronic disease, and amelioration of gene expression.

In this context, claims abound for the competitive merits of various diets relative to one another. Whereas such claims, particularly when attached to commercial interests, emphasize distinctions, the fundamentals of virtually all eating patterns associated with meaningful evidence of health benefit overlap substantially.

There have been no rigorous, long-term studies comparing contenders for best diet laurels using methodology that precludes bias and confounding, and for many reasons such studies are unlikely. In the absence of such direct comparisons, claims for the established superiority of any one specific diet over others are exaggerated.

The weight of evidence strongly supports a theme of healthful eating while allowing for variations on that theme. A diet of minimally processed foods close to nature, predominantly plants, is decisively associated with health promotion and disease prevention and is consistent with the salient components of seemingly distinct dietary approaches.

Efforts to improve public health through diet are forestalled not for want of knowledge about the optimal feeding of Homo sapiens but for distractions associated with exaggerated claims, and our failure to convert what we reliably know into what we routinely do. Knowledge in this case is not, as of yet, power; would that it were so.

The complete article is at the link. I’ve noticed in his previous writing that Dr. Katz tends to treat low-carbohydrate diets as though they are high in protein, which of course is by no means the case. In my own low-carbohydrate, protein consumption is totally within the normal range. The diet I follow is a LCHF (low-carbohydrate, high-fat, normal protein) and the diet Dr. Katz keeps talking about is LCHP (low-carbohydrate, high-protein, normal-fat), a horse of a different color.

Still, it’s an interesting article. When he talks about the ecological impacts of raising meat animals, he has moved beyond the study of nutrition and health, but certainly the ecological consequences are important from an overall public-health perspective. But one key question to be answered is “what diets are most healthful for humans?” If it turns out that meat is important, then we need to figure out better approaches to getting meat—vat-grown meat, for example, which is indeed a subject of research.

Read the whole thing.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 August 2014 at 7:14 am

Posted in Food, Health, Low carb, Science

Teaching Is Not a Business

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Trying to fit all experiences or relationships into a single model can lead people seriously astray, though the view of those who attempt such a thing is that they have found The Secret. I recall someone I once worked with who would interject into any discussion the question, “Who’s the customer?”, thinking that this was always clarifying. She insisted that in any relationship or transaction, one party could be identified as “the customer” and that everything would become clear: parent-child, spouses, teacher-student, military commander-subordinates, and so on: just identify the “customer” and you would know what to do.

Now we’re seeing everything viewed through the lens of a profit-making business with competitor. A pastor with a church? It’s a business! Diversify, fight competitors, try loss-leaders, ….  A teacher and a class? It’s a business! etc. A married couple? It’s a business!…

I’ve talked before about the importance of frames. When you choose a particular perspective from which to examine a situation or decision, you have framed it. Frames highlight some aspects (things within the frame) and hide other aspects (things outside the frame). For a thorough (and interesting) discussion of frames, I recommend Winning Decisions, by Russo and Schoemaker. (Inexpensive secondhand copies at the link.)

David Kirp, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and the author of Improbable Scholars: The Rebirth of a Great American School System and a Strategy for America’s Schools,” explains in the NY Times ways in which teaching differs from a business:

TODAY’S education reformers believe that schools are broken and that business can supply the remedy. Some place their faith in the idea of competition. Others embrace disruptive innovation, mainly through online learning. Both camps share the belief that the solution resides in the impersonal, whether it’s the invisible hand of the market or the transformative power of technology.

Neither strategy has lived up to its hype, and with good reason. It’s impossible to improve education by doing an end run around inherently complicated and messy human relationships. All youngsters need to believe that they have a stake in the future, a goal worth striving for, if they’re going to make it in school. They need a champion, someone who believes in them, and that’s where teachers enter the picture. The most effective approaches foster bonds of caring between teachers and their students.

Marketplace mantras dominate policy discussions. High-stakes reading and math tests are treated as the single metric of success, the counterpart to the business bottom line. Teachers whose students do poorly on those tests get pink slips, while those whose students excel receive merit pay, much as businesses pay bonuses to their star performers and fire the laggards. Just as companies shut stores that aren’t meeting their sales quotas, opening new ones in more promising territory, failing schools are closed and so-called turnaround model schools, with new teachers and administrators, take their place.

This approach might sound plausible in a think tank, but in practice it has been a flop. Firing teachers, rather than giving them the coaching they need, undermines morale. In some cases it may well discourage undergraduates from pursuing careers in teaching, and with a looming teacher shortage as baby boomers retire, that’s a recipe for disaster. Merit pay invites rivalries among teachers, when what’s needed is collaboration. Closing schools treats everyone there as guilty of causing low test scores, ignoring the difficult lives of the children in these schools — “no excuses,” say the reformers, as if poverty were an excuse.

Charter schools have been promoted as improving education by creating competition. But charter students do about the same, over all, as their public school counterparts, and the worst charters, like the online K-12 schools that have proliferated in several states, don’t deserve to be called schools. Vouchers are also supposed to increase competition by giving parents direct say over the schools their children attend, but the students haven’t benefited. For the past generation, Milwaukee has run a voucher experiment, with much-debated outcomes that to me show no real academic improvement.

While these reformers talk a lot about markets and competition, the essence of a good education — bringing together talented teachers, engaged students and a challenging curriculum — goes undiscussed.

Business does have something to teach educators, but it’s neither the saving power of competition nor flashy ideas like disruptive innovation. Instead, what works are time-tested strategies.

“Improve constantly and forever the system of production and service”: That’s the gospel the management guru W. Edwards Deming preached for half a century. After World War II, Japanese firms embraced the “plan, do, check, act” approach, and many Fortune 500 companies profited from paying attention. Meanwhile, the Harvard Business School historian and Pulitzer Prize-winner Alfred D. Chandler Jr. demonstrated that firms prospered by developing “organizational capabilities,” putting effective systems in place and encouraging learning inside the organization. Building such a culture took time, Chandler emphasized, and could be derailed by executives seduced by faddishness.

Every successful educational initiative of which I’m aware aims at strengthening personal bonds by building strong systems of support in the schools. The best preschools create intimate worlds where students become explorers and attentive adults are close at hand.

In the Success for All model . . .

Continue reading.

UPDATE: Another inappropriate frame that’s in common use: a war. The War on Drugs made us view drug users as “the enemy,” so drug addiction (except for alcoholism) was treated as a crime rather than as a medical condition. The War on Poverty seems to have transformed itself into a War on the Poor, who of course are where poverty is found. The War on Christmas views non-Christians—and insufficiently enthusiastic Christians—as the enemy. With “war” as the dominant frame, many effective approaches are never exampled.

Yeah, do take a look at Winning Decisions. Very useful book.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 August 2014 at 6:51 am

Posted in Business, Education

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