Later On

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

Archive for March 28th, 2015

The Radical Humaneness of Norway’s Halden Prison

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Very different penal philosophy in Norway, described in the NY Times Magazine by Jessica Benko:

Like everything else in Norway, the tw­o-­hour drive southeast from Oslo seemed impossibly civilized. The highways were perfectly maintained and painted, the signs clear and informative and the speed-­monitoring cameras primly intolerant. My destination was the town of Halden, which is on the border with Sweden, straddling a narrow fjord guarded by a 17th-­century fortress. I drove down winding roads flanked in midsummer by rich green fields of young barley and dense yellow carpets of rapeseed plants in full flower. Cows clustered in wood-­fenced pastures next to neat farmsteads in shades of rust and ocher. On the outskirts of town, across from a road parting dark pine forest, the turnoff to Norway’s newest prison was marked by a modest sign that read, simply, HALDEN ­FENGSEL. There were no signs warning against picking up hitchhikers, no visible fences. Only the 25-­foot-­tall floodlights rising along the edges hinted that something other than grazing cows lay ahead.

Smooth, featureless concrete rose on the horizon like the wall of a dam as I approached; nearly four times as tall as a man, it snaked along the crests of the hills, its top curled toward me as if under pressure. This was the outer wall of Halden Fengsel, which is often called the world’s most humane maximum-­security prison. I walked up the quiet driveway to the entrance and presented myself to a camera at the main door. There were no coils of razor wire in sight, no lethal electric fences, no towers manned by snipers — nothing violent, threatening or dangerous. And yet no prisoner has ever tried to escape. I rang the intercom, the lock disengaged with a click and I stepped inside.

To anyone familiar with the American correctional system, Halden seems alien. Its modern, cheerful and well-­appointed facilities, the relative freedom of movement it offers, its quiet and peaceful atmosphere — these qualities are so out of sync with the forms of imprisonment found in the United States that you could be forgiven for doubting whether Halden is a prison at all. It is, of course, but it is also something more: the physical expression of an entire national philosophy about the relative merits of punishment and forgiveness.

The treatment of inmates at Halden is wholly focused on helping to prepare them for a life after they get out. Not only is there no death penalty in Norway, there are no life sentences. The maximum term for any crime is 21 years — even for Anders Behring Breivik, who is responsible for probably the deadliest recorded rampage in the world, in which he killed 77 people and injured hundreds more in 2011 by detonating a bomb at a government building in Oslo and then opening fire at a nearby summer camp. “Better out than in” is an unofficial motto of the Norwegian Correctional Service, which makes a reintegration guarantee to all released inmates. It works with other government agencies to secure a home, a job and access to a supportive social network for each inmate before release; Norway’s social safety net also provides health care, education and a pension to all citizens. With one of the highest per capita gross domestic products of any country in the world, thanks to the profits from oil production in the North Sea, Norway is in a good position to provide all of this, and spending on the Halden prison runs to more than $93,000 per inmate per year, compared with just $31,000 for prisoners in the United States, according to the Vera Institute of Justice, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization.

That might sound expensive. But if the United States incarcerated its citizens at the same low rate as the Norwegians do (75 per 100,000 residents, versus roughly 700), it could spend that much per inmate and still save more than $45 billion a year. At a time when the American correctional system is under scrutiny — over the harshness of its sentences, its overreliance on solitary confinement, its racial disparities — citizens might ask themselves what all that money is getting them, besides 2.2 million incarcerated people and the hardships that fall on the families they leave behind. The extravagant brutality of the American approach to prisons is not working, and so it might just be worth looking for lessons at the opposite extreme, here in a sea of blabaerskog, or blueberry forest.

“This punishment, taking away their freedom — the sign of that is the wall, of course,” Gudrun Molden, one of the Halden prison’s architects, said on a drizzly morning a few days after I arrived. As we stood on a ridge, along with Jan Stromnes, the assistant warden, it was silent but for the chirping of birds and insects and a hoarse fluttering of birch leaves disturbed by the breeze. The prison is secluded from the surrounding farmland by the blueberry woods, which are the native forest of southeastern Norway: blue-­black spruce, slender Scotch pine with red-­tinged trunks and silver-­skinned birches over a dense understory of blueberry bushes, ferns and ­mosses in deep shade. It is an ecosystem that evokes deep nostalgia in Norway, where picking wild berries is a near-­universal summer pastime for families, and where the right to do so on uncultivated land is protected by law.

Norway banned capital punishment for civilians in 1902, and life sentences were abolished in 1981. But Norwegian prisons operated much like their American counterparts until 1998. That was the year Norway’s Ministry of Justice reassessed the Correctional Service’s goals and methods, putting the explicit focus on rehabilitating prisoners through education, job training and therapy. A second wave of change in 2007 made a priority of reintegration, with a special emphasis on helping inmates find housing and work with a steady income before they are even released. . .

Continue reading.

The US prison system pretty much ignores rehabilitation altogether. The assumption is that those who serve their sentence and are finally released will soon return, and the way US prisons are run ensures that that’s what happens.

Written by Leisureguy

28 March 2015 at 2:29 pm

The challenges of marrying outside your class

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Interesting article by Jessi Streib in the Washington Post:

Jessi Streib, an assistant professor of sociology at Duke University, is the author of “The Power of the Past: Understanding Cross-Class Marriages.”

Madison didn’t have an easy childhood. As a kid, her house was always in disrepair. Her parents couldn’t consistently afford electricity or indoor plumbing, never mind fancy appliances and wall hangings. Madison’s classmates made fun of her shabby surroundings. Some refused to play with her.

Even after graduating from college, marrying and settling into a middle-class life, Madison couldn’t shake her insecurity about her home. She read design magazines and blogs obsessively, poring over the latest trends in closet organization and wall colors. She redecorated frequently and was rarely confident in her choices. When she redid her kitchen, she considered more than 200 faucets.

Her husband, Evan, hated how much Madison (their names, like all names in this piece, have been changed as a condition for my interviews) spent on furniture and gadgets they didn’t need. He couldn’t understand her fixation. Why would he? Evan grew up with middle-class parents, in the kind of house Madison was so desperate to re-create.

Studies show that couples argue more about money than about sex, chores or spending time together. For partners who marry across class lines, however, money isn’t just something to fight about. In researching my book about inter-class couples, I found that the financial stability of the spouses’ childhoods shaped their marriages in many ways, contributing to clashes about leisure time, home maintenance and even how to talk through their feelings. These pairs were middle class by the time I met them, but their different backgrounds still caused problems.

For example, Danielle grew up in a working-class family. She dropped out of high school and left her home town, marrying a man she’d later call a lunatic. Over the next six years, she moved 17 times, stood in countless welfare lines and even thought about stealing toilet paper. To cope with this crushing poverty, she “just pretended like [money] didn’t exist,” she told me. “I would just spend what I needed to and never think about it. I was afraid to face the realities of it, which is that it’s limited.”

Then she met her second husband, Jim, whose boss joked that he had grown up with a silver spoon in his mouth. It was true — Jim was raised in a mansion and attended a prestigious university. Though Jim and Danielle have been married for almost 30 years, they still treat money very differently. Danielle, like many of the spouses who grew up working class, didn’t like to budget or develop a long-term savings plan.

Jim, who’d grown up with a financial safety net, wanted the same for his family. He managed his money carefully, always aware of how much was being spent on what. He would pore over coupons and spend hours researching purchases; Danielle would get annoyed with his constant drive to “save 11 cents.” Jim so routinely returned items Danielle bought that she once deliberately spilled soda on their couch so he couldn’t take it back. Another time, she lied and told him stores would not accept returned cologne.

I saw this divide — between planning and going with the flow — flare up in other ways, too. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

28 March 2015 at 2:22 pm

Burning Man has legs: Healing Fire in Londonderry: The Temple Was Built to Burn

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Interesting article, and I do hope it can help heal that fractured city. Katrin Bennhold writes in the NY Times:


Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

28 March 2015 at 1:37 pm

Posted in Art, Daily life, Religion

The Difference Between Quaker Meeting and Other Christian Services

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An interesting video on how and why Quaker meetings are so unlike, say, the Methodist services that I grew up attending. Quakers as a group are the Religious Society of Friends.

More videos on Quaker thought and experience here.

Written by Leisureguy

28 March 2015 at 1:31 pm

Posted in Religion

One cop, 12 brutality and corruption lawsuits

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And where were the superior officers? Busy protecting the cop and excusing what he did? It’s an ugly story.

Written by Leisureguy

28 March 2015 at 1:24 pm

Posted in Law Enforcement

Obama’s Plan to Save Antibiotics Has a Big Loophole

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Kaleigh Rodgers has an interesting article at Motherboard:

Antibiotics are one of the greatest medical advancements in human history. But over the last few decades our zeal for antibiotics has contributed to the growth of antibiotic-resistant superbugs. That’s why, on Friday, President Barack Obamareleased a long-awaited National Action​ Plan to respond to antibiotic resistance (AR), setting goals to be met by 2020.

The World Health Organization warned ​us all last year that if we didn’t start to seriously curb our antibiotic use, we would be heading towards “a post-antibiotic era,” in which bacterial infections from E. coli to gonorrhea would no longer be treated as they are now. Already, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 2 million illnesses and 23,000 d​eaths in the US each year are caused by drug-resistant bacteria.

The action plan is a fairly thorough document that implements a many of the necessary steps that WHO and others have recommended to slow the growth of antibiotic-resistant bugs. It calls for more judicious use of antibiotics and more rigorous, standardized testing to prevent people from taking antibiotics unnecessarily. It will also require each state to introduce AR prevention program to monitor AR bugs, and prioritize research into both drug-resistant microbes and new kinds of antibiotics.

But while attacking the problem in both the lab and doctor’s office is an important part of the strategy, many argue that the larger issue still lies on the farm. Right now, 80 percent of all of the antibiotics sold in the US are sold to livestock producers,according​ to the Natural Resources Defense Council. Farmers started using antibiotics to prevent disease in their livestock, but soon discovered the antibiotics also promoted growth. Over the past few decades, antibiotic use on farm animals has surged and is now standard practice, creating a dangerous breeding ground for antibiotic-resistant bugs in the process.

While the action plan calls for the “elimination of the use of medically-important antibiotics for growth promotion in food-producing animals,” a loophole would still allow farmers to use antibiotics to prevent disease. But since antibiotics provide both growth and disease-prevention benefits at the same time, it’s pretty hard to distinguish the two uses, leaving the door wide open for livestock producers to continue routinely using the drugs on their animals.

“This stance ignores clear evidence that the use of medically important antibiotics for routine disease prevention creates a public health risk that is identical to those posed by routine use for growth promotion,” said Steve Roach, a lawyer and senior analyst for Keeping Antibiotics Working, a nonprofit that advocates for the prevention of antibiotic resistance.

“The plan also fails to set any targets for reductions in antibiotic use in food animals,” Roach said in a press release. “All the other actions in the National Action Plan—including research, outreach to producers and veterinarians, and improved monitoring—will be wasted as long as the target to be reached falls so short of what needs to be done.”

Many chicken producers, for example, have alrea​dy decided to eliminate the use of medically-important antibiotics (i.e. ones that we use for human drugs) and chain restaurants from Chipotle to McDonald’s have committed to only sourcing chicken from these producers.

The chickens still receive antibiotics, called ionophores, that aren’t used in human medicine, so it’s more or less a win-win. The trouble is that not all chicken producers are on board and even fewer beef and pork producers have curbed their antibiotic use. Without any legal obligations to do so under the new action plan, it will continue to be an uphill battle to convince livestock producers to change common practice.

The action plan has some other, softer commitments, like . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

28 March 2015 at 1:09 pm

Pilots on the Germanwings Murder/Suicide

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James Fallows has an excellent column of professional pilots commenting on the Germanwings incident:

After the Germanwings crash I argued that no single safety device or security protocol could protect the flying public against a pilot determined to do harm. A number of veteran pilots write in to agree, but also to suggest that this episode illustrates some structural problems within the modern cost-cutting air-travel industry.

1) “Low-cost pilots, low-cost lives.” Adam Shaw, who has had a varied and interesting career as a writer and flyer and now leads an aerobatics team in Europe, writes as follows. I’ve added interstitial explanations in brackets [like this]:

No one can disagree with your: “ no new regulation… can offer perfect protection against calculated malice.”

But eliminating P2F is the first step. [JF note: P2F, or “Pay to Fly,” is a scheme in which pilots-in-training, while still paying tuition to a flight school, simultaneously serve as flight-crew members on real airlines carrying real passengers. That is, rather than earning pay for their work, they are the ones paying. Without getting into all the details this is now widely considered a scam.]

A good second step is the FAA’s reinstatement of  the very old  (your piece leads folks to believe it is new…) rule  requiring 1500 hrs of flight time before taking the ATP written. [JF: The change that the FAA ordered two years ago, as explained here, was requiring first-officer or “co-pilot” candidates to have an Airline Transport Pilot certificate, which among other things requires 1500 hours of flying experience. Before that, people could apply for first-officer positions with only a Commercial certificate, with an experience minimum of only 250 hours.]

Asian and European authorities should instantly copy this. Why? Because in the years it takes to get to 1,500 hrs (flight instructing, crop dusting, banner towing, flying jumpers, or whatever) budding pilots get real experience with airplanes with that are often gritty, shitty, and temperamental.

The years they put in to get those 1500 hrs also—and this is just a critical—expose them to their peers, to repeated medical examinations… to repeated scrutiny. [JF: Working with ATP privileges requires a First Class FAA medical certificate, with a full medical exam every six months. Working with Commercial privileges requires a Second Class medical, with an exam once a year. Private pilots like me can fly with a Third Class medical, which lasts either two or five years, depending on your age.]

These days, the 250-hr button twiddling geeks  can go from pounding the sidewalk to the right seat of a passenger jet in less than two years. That’s two medicals, and practically no peer-review, not time for quirks, or worse, to become apparent. I know the trend is for low cost airlines ( low cost training)  low cost clothes, low cost food, low cost… lives.

With most old-fashioned pilots retired or within minutes of retirement, we’re now faced with left-seaters who have come up the ab-initio or worse, the geek P2F, way.

Unless things change, and change fast, we’re going to see a lot more AF# 447, Asiana #214, Transasia #235  events in the coming years.

And when people start looking for whom to blame, the answer is simple: Joe-six-pack who wanted a $99 flight from New York to L.A, or Pierre Baguette who wanted a 65 Euro Paris-Casablanca…and the cynical bean counters who make this possible

You can see a video of Adam Shaw’s formation-flying team here, and one of him flying through the mountains with his dog as first officer here.

On the point he makes about the value of sheer experience: Within the next year I should have reached 2,000 hours of total flying time. That is not much from the perspective of someone who does this as a professional but reflects my trying to stay at it steadily year by year.

The difference from when I had 250 hours of experience, or 500, is not any particular new skill. Indeed, many obligatory pass-the-test skills have certainly atrophied. (Like, an NDB approach or “turns around a point.”)

The difference is simply that I’ve seen more things happen, so there’s an ever-decreasing realm of situations I will encounter for the first time. It’s roughly similar to the difference between parents’ first few nervous weeks with a baby and what they learn as the months (and children) roll on. In the amateur-flying world this includes: what it’s like when the alternator fails; what it’s like when you have an oil problem; what it’s like when you have to tell a controller “unable”; which mountain passes you’re better off avoiding; which level of crosswinds and gusty winds you can handle on landings; which clouds mean trouble and which don’t; what cues let controllers think you know what you’re doing and which signal the reverse; at what temperature range just above and below freezing you need to be most alert to icing; what errors or lapses you’re most likely to make. This is known in the aviation world as “filling up the experience bucket before the luck bucket empties out,” and I agree with Adam Shaw, from his much more experienced perspective, that it’s an important part of developing qualified airline pilots.

2) “An incentive to cheat.” . . .

Continue reading.

Later in the article, one of the pilots comments:

There is a national and international shortage of commercial pilots resulting in the lowering of standards in employment and certification, particularly among foreign carriers. It is also why there is increasing reliance on automation in aircraft design, particularly in the Airbus philosophy of restricting pilots from overriding the autopilot to enhance sales. Watch the video [below – LG] on the Airbus’ own chief test pilot fly a new a-320 into the woods at the Paris Air Show a decade ago as a demonstration of the potential evils of automation.

Here’s that video:

Written by Leisureguy

28 March 2015 at 1:01 pm

Posted in Business, Government

Col. Conk and Plisson: The movie

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SOTD 28 Mar 2015

This morning I responded to a request from IllegalMonk on Wicked Edge, to show how I make lather from Col. Conk Shaving soap using the Plisson synthetic brush.

My tap water is pretty soft, so it’s really no problem. And though Col. Conk is not a favorite shaving soap, it’s not because its lather is especially bad, it’s just that it’s not a very interesting soap. The brush loaded quickly, and I shaved using the Parker 24C head on a Stealth handle. Unfortunately, the Parker’s threading is nonstandard, and I had difficulty tightening the handle. The result was that the head went from being very comfortable to being uncomfortable—even somewhat harsh. After the shave (two small nicks on upper lip from the XTG pass), I reverted back to the regular handle, which makes the razor again very comfortable. Too bad.

A splash of Penhaligon’s Blenheim Bouquet finished the shave, and here’s the lathering process. I did no timing, but you’ll notice that the loading once again took 10 seconds—maybe 11.

Written by Leisureguy

28 March 2015 at 12:40 pm

Posted in Shaving

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