Later On

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

Archive for January 2nd, 2017

With No Warning, House Republicans Vote to Hobble Independent Ethics Office

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Wow. Guess this shows the direction the US government is headed. Eric Lipton reports in the NY Times:

House Republicans, defying their top leaders, voted Monday to significantly curtail the power of an independent ethics office set up in 2008 in the aftermath of corruption scandals that sent three members of Congress to jail.

The move to weaken the Office of Congressional Ethics was not public until late Monday, when Representative Robert Goodlatte, Republican of Virginia and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, announced that the House Republican Conference had approved the change with no advance public notice or debate.

In its place, a new Office of Congressional Complaint Review would be set up within the House Ethics Committee, which before the creation of the Office of Congressional Ethics had been accused of ignoring credible allegations of wrongdoing by lawmakers.

Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the majority leader, opposed the measure, aides said Monday night. The full House is scheduled to vote Tuesday on the rules, which will last for two years, until the next congressional elections.

The surprising vote came on the eve of the start of a new session of Congress, with emboldened Republicans ready to push an ambitious agenda on everything from health care to infrastructure, issues that will be the subject of intense lobbying from corporate interests. The move by Republicans would take away both power and independence from an investigative body, and give lawmakers more control over internal inquiries.

Mr. Goodlatte defended the action in a statement issued Monday evening, saying it would strengthen ethics oversight in the House while also giving lawmakers better protections against what some members have called overzealous efforts by the Office of Congressional Ethics. . .

Continue reading.

I can think of only one reason the GOP is determined that the House lack the means to investigate ethical lapses: The GOP is embracing corruption.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 January 2017 at 6:55 pm

Important post in DailyKos: “Why are people surprised when a dysfunctional community votes against their self-interests?”

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bkamr posts at DailyKos:

I’m posting a comment I made in a diary, because: 1) I haven’t seen anyone offering an explanation for why Trump voters voted against their self-interests; 2) I haven’t seen anyone suggesting that Progressives might respond like we successfully responded in the past; and 3) a number of folks suggested I put the comment up as an independent diary to invite discussion.

Trump supporters voting against their own self-interest doesn’t surprise me one bit, but then, I live with, work with, and try to help Trump supporters on a daily basis.

I’m a teacher in KY.  And as such, I’ve been working on the front lines with this sub-culture for over a decade. Teachers are some of the government workers that members of this subculture allow “in,” and so, I’m welcomed onto porches and into kitchens to visit and to help. I not only bring their children’s school assignments when the kids go missing from school for weeks at a time, I also bring food and medicine. I bring clothes and Christmas hams and turkeys and art supplies (there’s a surprising number of artists!) and I’ve even found musical instruments. I bring a lot of dog food. I assist with filling out forms.  Sometimes, in response to a desperate email from one of my students, in the middle of the night, I’m a taxi service to the ER or to Grandma’s after he’s beat the shit out of her (again). I plead with children and adults to believe in themselves and get into welding and LPN programs. I help fill out Financial Aid forms.  Increasingly, I attend and and hold and rock my bereft students and their family members at funerals. (9 of my current 71 students have lost a parent to heroin)  Teachers, here in KY, are afforded access and given trust, and so, while I thought I was signing up to teach science and history, it’s turned out to be a hell of a lot more.  I’ve gotten to know the good, bad, and the ugly of it over the years.

What I don’t think I’ve seen anyone addressing is the self-hatred so many Trump supporters feel towards themselves.  Why is anyone surprised that people filled with self-hatred could and did vote against their self-interest?

Voting in their self-interest would be a rational, healthy choice, but the people I live with and try to help are members of a profoundly dysfunctional sub-culture.

Why would anyone expect a child who comes from a family generationally riddled with:

  • addiction (both drug and alcohol based)
  • poverty
  • domestic violence
  • parental loss and abandonment (the number of kids being raised by Grandma is epidemic due to drugs, death and one or both parents “being away for awhile,” in jail)
  • spotty and interrupted educational experiences
  • unstable housing scenarios
  • few economically successful role models
  • pseudo male machoness, but Grandma is actually the Rock most families rest upon
  • quasi-criminal-syndicate-anti-gubment tribal orientation — moonshine was but one of the many illegal family “businesses.” Now, it’s drugs, copper theft, and even dog theft.

Why do we expect people growing up in this kind of environment would somehow become emotionally and psychologically healthy, rational, critically thinking, outside news trusting voters?

I perceive their Trump votes like the pained, hurting, angry wail and flailing tantrum of a confused and hurting child desperately throwing their arms in every direction. Their clinched fists are hitting others, yes, but they’re also bruising and bloodying themselves at the same time. And, here’s the thing:  they expect to be shafted, because they always have going back to when the British took their lands and moved them up into the rocky highlands. Yes, it does go back that far and it played out here, too. And, even now, too often “home” is a trailer precariously perched on the side of a hill in a holler.

If we want to “respond,” with a response designed to actually DO something, then I suggest we consider going back to the Hull Houses of our Progressive roots for a start. It’s not like we haven’t been there done that before.

If we want to really help and change what’s happened and happening in so many communities, then I suggest we stop spending millions on political ads going to NYC ad firms and take a community action approach.

We could take all that ad money we’ve been sending to the DCCC and give it to our passionate “Bernie Movement” youth to establish Hull Houses to help heal the communities broken by the plutocracy, and the people themselves.

I dream of us putting our Progressive values to work by rolling up our sleeves and being of service instead of continuing our donating hundreds of millions to the DNC coffers,  We could investing all that money and energy in both rural and urban communities and responding to the real needs in those communities. THAT’s  the direction I’d like to see the “Bernie Movement” take.

I look at the map of how Hull House grew and the services it offered, and I dream of what we could, we might do, to help heal our hurting nation.

In the meantime, my son and I are making a run down to one of those hollers, today. There’s a number of families who are probably short on food with the kids not getting their Free and Reduced breakfasts and lunches over the Winter Break.  And, I’ve heard that one family’s toilet is broken. We have an extra kit in the basement that we didn’t have to use, so I’ll take it along in case it might do the trick …

UPDATE:  Wow. Rec List? Thank you for the interest, folks. I appreciate the discussion and interest. I’m glad a number of you found this helpful.

UPDATE 2:  I’m moving a comment I made up here.  It’s poverty people and basic, political, community action 101 that I’m talking about.

Sigh.

Here’s the issue for me. Too often, it’s just me, with teachers in my school, and the kids’ Service Club we’ve created as the only non-faith-based group helping these people.  THINK about that.  A handful of teachers and some kids using money we really can’t afford to take our of our own pockets?  [And, I don’t want to hear that I’m a saint. I’m not. How many of you could specifically know where there was a hungry child and not do whatever was needed to feed them?]

But, I’m in my late 50’s. I’m disabled, in a wheelchair, with chronic pain. The only money I have is coming from my pay check and the donations in kind I can scrape up using my FB Friends.

(Oh, and my son and I also make runs into downtown Cincinnati to take the Care Bags we put together for the unsheltered homeless every few weeks. THAT’s where people end up when they’ve exhausted their welcome on friends and family’s couches. They need water, blankets, coats, gloves, hand warmers, granola bars, bandaids, aspirin, SOCKS, and more water.) I’ve got a real problem sleeping at night know exactly where people are trying to sleep under underpasses in 22 degree weather.

Where the hell IS the Progressive “Movement?”  Why do people in KY and other rural areas turn to and are influenced by faith based, religious groups?  They are the only groups I see trying to help!  The. Only. Ones. So, we’re surprised when they are significantly influenced by the teachings of these religious groups?  Where is the non-faith-based group [us] on the ground trying to do stuff?  Oh sure, there are government programs, but exactly how do you get to those government offices when they are located at the County Seat, well over an hour away, there’s no mass transit, and you don’t have a fucking car!  You have to wait until Uncle Ted is going to the grocery store as it is.  You can’t ask him to give up an entire day, one day a month, to take you to sit in an office … where you get treated like crap BTW.  (The hill people often get treated like the “trash” they are called often to their faces when they venture outside their community. How often would you go out if all you got were dismissive looks, snickers, and sometimes called trash? “Hillbilly White Trash”  THINK about what that does to a poeple’s self-worth, their trust in anyone outside their subculture …

^^^ Access to services and Access to Non-GO groups providing assistance.  This is one of the KEY differences between rural poverty and urban poverty.

My family had local level politicians in our family back in Philly.  I grew up knowing you had to be out there, directly, getting stuff done for your constituency, if you wanted to get elected.  I repeat: You had to be there, being seen, getting things done — personally.  I’ve lived in a state where the Democrats actually control the state House (and had the governorship until just last year), and I have yet to meet or see ONCE the D-Rep from our area.  The R-State Senator is everywhere all the time!  But, our Democratic politicians? How many times have I seen them organize a community toy drive or dentist visit or information meet-ups regarding Obamacare or Black Lung?  Never.

I dream of us putting our Progressive values to work by rolling up our sleeves and being of service instead of continuing our donating hundreds of millions to the DNC coffers,  We could investing all that money and energy in both rural and urban communities and responding to the real needs in those communities. THAT’s  the direction I’d like to see the “Bernie Movement” take.

I look at the map of how Hull House grew and the services it offered, and I dream of what we could, we might do, to help heal our hurting nation.

In the meantime, my son and I are making a run down to one of those hollers, today. There’s a number of families who are probably short on food with the kids not getting their Free and Reduced breakfasts and lunches over the Winter Break.  And, I’ve heard that one family’s toilet is broken. We have an extra kit in the basement that we didn’t have to use, so I’ll take it along in case it might do the trick …

UPDATE:  Wow. Rec List? Thank you for the interest, folks. I appreciate the discussion and interest. I’m glad a number of you found this helpful.

UPDATE 2:  I’m moving a comment I made up here.  It’s poverty people and basic, political, community action 101 that I’m talking about.

Sigh.

Here’s the issue for me. Too often, it’s just me, with teachers in my school, and the kids’ Service Club we’ve created as the only non-faith-based group helping these people.  THINK about that.  A handful of teachers and some kids using money we really can’t afford to take our of our own pockets?  [And, I don’t want to hear that I’m a saint. I’m not. How many of you could specifically know where there was a hungry child and not do whatever was needed to feed them?]

But, I’m in my late 50’s. I’m disabled, in a wheelchair, with chronic pain. The only money I have is coming from my pay check and the donations in kind I can scrape up using my FB Friends.

(Oh, and my son and I also make runs into downtown Cincinnati to take the Care Bags we put together for the unsheltered homeless every few weeks. THAT’s where people end up when they’ve exhausted their welcome on friends and family’s couches. They need water, blankets, coats, gloves, hand warmers, granola bars, bandaids, aspirin, SOCKS, and more water.) I’ve got a real problem sleeping at night know exactly where people are trying to sleep under underpasses in 22 degree weather.

Where the hell IS the Progressive “Movement?”  Why do people in KY and other rural areas turn to and are influenced by faith based, religious groups?  They are the only groups I see trying to help!  The. Only. Ones. So, we’re surprised when they are significantly influenced by the teachings of these religious groups?  Where is the non-faith-based group [us] on the ground trying to do stuff?  Oh sure, there are government programs, but exactly how do you get to those government offices when they are located at the County Seat, well over an hour away, there’s no mass transit, and you don’t have a fucking car!  You have to wait until Uncle Ted is going to the grocery store as it is.  You can’t ask him to give up an entire day, one day a month, to take you to sit in an office … where you get treated like crap BTW.  (The hill people often get treated like the “trash” they are called often to their faces when they venture outside their community. How often would you go out if all you got were dismissive looks, snickers, and sometimes called trash? “Hillbilly White Trash”  THINK about what that does to a poeple’s self-worth, their trust in anyone outside their subculture …

^^^ Access to services and Access to Non-GO groups providing assistance.  This is one of the KEY differences between rural poverty and urban poverty.

My family had local level politicians in our family back in Philly.  I grew up knowing you had to be out there, directly, getting stuff done for your constituency, if you wanted to get elected.  I repeat: You had to be there, being seen, getting things done — personally.  I’ve lived in a state where the Democrats actually control the state House (and had the governorship until just last year), and I have yet to meet or see ONCE the D-Rep from our area.  The R-State Senator is everywhere all the time!  But, our Democratic politicians? How many times have I seen them organize a community toy drive or dentist visit or information meet-ups regarding Obamacare or Black Lung?  Never. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 January 2017 at 6:36 pm

Which scientific term or concept would you have more widely known?

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The question was posed to 205 eminent scientists. Edge has collected their responses, learned via Open Culture.

BTW, I would amend Richard Dawkins’s response:

Natural Selection equips every living creature with the genes that enabled its ancestors—a literally unbroken line of them—to survive in their environments. To the extent that present environments resemble those of the ancestors, to that extent is a modern animal well equipped to survive and pass on the same genes. The ‘adaptations’ of an animal, its anatomical details, instincts and internal biochemistry, are a series of keys that exquisitely fit the locks that constituted its ancestral environments.

Given a key, you can reconstruct the lock that it fits. Given an animal, you should be able to reconstruct the environments in which its ancestors survived. A knowledgeable zoologist, handed a previously unknown animal, can reconstruct some of the locks that its keys are equipped to open. Many of these are obvious. Webbed feet indicate an aquatic way of life. Camouflaged animals literally carry on their backs a picture of the environments in which their ancestors evaded predation. . .

It continues, but the problem is the las sentence quoted. The markings and colorings of the animal also made it a more efficient predator in its environment, but Dawkins considers only prey, a big oversight IMO. Look at the sandy color of lions in the Kalihari, shadowed-and-sunlit tripes of the tiger, the white of the polar bear, the dappled-jungle-shadows look of the jaguar.

The general question he poses seems like a natural for the kind of AI machine learning that has become available—see this post, for example. It seems to be a natural and obvious fit. Wonder whether it’s occurred to him. I’ve asked.

Richard Thaler has an excellent one that I’ve actually used in planning a project: the premortem. Before you start, write a retrospective report on the assumption the project has failed miserably, pointing out (as though in hindsight) the reasons for the failure. Excellent exercise.

Janna Levin pretty much puts paid to free will. The feeling of free will persists, but it’s clearly just an illusion (everything happens according to the principle of least effort), just as is consciousneess.

Hell, read ‘3m all. The neurodiversity one makes an excellent case for not casting human variations as “flaws.” They are not flaws, they are examples of ways human can be. I just saw on Facebook a reference to this interesting article on “flaws.”

Written by LeisureGuy

2 January 2017 at 12:24 pm

Where the heaviest-drinking Americans live

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I suppose an alternative title would be “states to avoid on cross-country drives.” Chrtophere Ingraham reports in the Washington Post:

While we here at Wonkblog don’t recommend that you “binge drink through New Year’s,” there’s no doubt that the holidays have traditionally been a time for boozing it up. Take a gander, for instance, at the total monthly alcohol sales in the United States. If you squint really hard you may detect a seasonal trend — those spikes are December of each year.

screen-shot-2017-01-02-at-12-11-54-pm

We’re not just buying booze during the holidays, of course — we’re guzzling it down, too. Various direct and indirect measures of alcohol consumption, including breathalyzer data, Web searches for hangover relief and alcohol-related traffic deaths all suggest that peak American drinking happens between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.

But who among us is likely to do the most drinking this holiday season? The Department of Health and Human Services recently updated the official federal statistics on the percent of state residents ages 12 and older who drink at least once a month. Here’s a map of how those figures break down by state for the years 2014 and 2015. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 January 2017 at 12:15 pm

Wonderful cartoon: “What’s Opera, Doc?”

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And, it should be noted, a cartoon that inspired several of today’s opera singers. The backgrounds and colors are just amazing. From 1957, directed by Chuck Jones with Mel Blanc doing the vocal characterizations:

Written by LeisureGuy

2 January 2017 at 10:45 am

Posted in Movies & TV

A very long and very interesting look at making football not so dangerous to the players

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I’m not much of a football fan—indeed, not much of a fan of any team sport—but I found Nicholas Schmidle’s lengthy and informative article in the New Yorker quite interesting to read: tackling robots, redesigned helmets, objective tests for concussion (an instrument that tracks rapid-eye movement in both eyes and detects lack of synchronization, an indicator of concussion), which show concussions are more common than people realized in sports like soccer and volleyball. The article begins:

On October 4, 1986, the University of Alabama hosted Notre Dame in a game of football. Notre Dame had won the previous four contests, but this time Alabama was favored. It had a stifling defense and a swift senior linebacker named Cornelius Bennett. Ray Perkins, Alabama’s head coach, said of him, “I don’t think there’s a better player in America.”

Early in the game, with the score tied, Bennett blitzed Notre Dame’s quarterback, Steve Beuerlein. “I was like a speeding train, and Beuerlein just happened to be standing on the railroad track,” Bennett told me recently. Football is essentially a spectacle of car crashes. In 2004, researchers at the University of North Carolina, examining data gathered from helmet-mounted sensors, discovered that many football collisions compare in intensity to a vehicle smashing into a wall at twenty-five miles per hour.

Bennett, who weighed two hundred and thirty-five pounds, drove his shoulder into Beuerlein’s chest and heard what sounded like a balloon being punctured—“basically, the air going out of him.” Beuerlein landed on his back. He stood up, wobbly and dazed. “I saw mouths moving, but I heard no voices,” he later said. He had a concussion. After Bennett’s “vicious, high-speed direct slam,” as the Times put it, Alabama seized the momentum and won, 28–10.

Following college, Bennett was drafted into the National Football League. Between 1987 and 1995, he played for the Buffalo Bills, and appeared in four Super Bowls. During his pro career, he made more than a thousand tackles, playing through sprains, muscle tears, broken bones, and concussions. I asked him how many concussions he’d had. “In my medical file, there are probably six.” The real number? “I couldn’t even begin to tell you.” Fifteen? “More.” Twenty? “I played a long time,” he said. “Every week after a game, I got some sort of headache.”

In 1996, he signed a thirteen-million-dollar contract with the Atlanta Falcons. He received weekly injections of Toradol, an anti-inflammatory drug. “It was magic—it made me feel like I was twenty-four again,” Bennett said. He helped carry Atlanta to the Super Bowl—his fifth. (A more dubious distinction: his team lost in every one.) In 2000, at the age of thirty-five, Bennett retired and moved to Florida. He lived in a hotel in Miami’s Bal Harbour area, worked on his golf handicap, and vacationed with his wife and friends in Europe and in the Napa Valley.

Several of Bennett’s football peers were having a far tougher time. Darryl Talley, a former Bills teammate, suffered from severe depression. Mike Webster, a Hall of Fame center for the Pittsburgh Steelers, had become a homeless alcoholic; he died, of a heart attack, in 2002. Three years later, Terry Long, another former Steeler, committed suicide by drinking antifreeze. Andre Waters, a former Philadelphia Eagles safety, killed himself with a gunshot to the head.

A neuropathologist named Bennet Omalu autopsied Webster, Long, and Waters, and detected a pattern: each had a high concentration of an abnormal form of a protein, called tau, on his brain. Scientists associated tau buildup with Alzheimer’s, but that disease ravaged the elderly. This was clearly a different pathology, and in a 2005 paper Omalu called it chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or C.T.E., which he categorized as a degenerative disease caused by the “long-term neurologic consequences of repetitive concussive and subconcussive blows to the brain.”

The N.F.L. tried to discredit Omalu’s findings. The league had set up a committee for traumatic-brain-injury research, led by a rheumatologist with a medical degree from the University of Guadalajara; the committee insisted that there was “no evidence of worsening injury or chronic cumulative effects of multiple mTBIs”—mild traumatic brain injuries—“in N.F.L. players.” When Bernard Goldberg, of HBO’s “Real Sports,” asked a committee member if multiple head injuries could cause “any long-term problem,” the member replied, “In N.F.L. players? No.” At a congressional hearing, in 2009, Linda Sánchez, a Democratic representative from California, compared the league’s “blanket denial” about C.T.E. to the defenses once mounted by Big Tobacco.

Bennett, outraged by the league’s stance, joined the board of the N.F.L. players’ union. In 2010, he was elected to head the Board of Former Players, and he participated in heated discussions among league representatives, team owners, and players. “What the hell was a rheumatologist doing talking about head injuries?” he asked himself. Current and former players, he told me, harbored a “lack of trust” toward the league. In 2011, players launched a class-action lawsuit against the N.F.L., alleging that it had “ignored and concealed” evidence about the “risks of permanent brain damage,” and had “deceived players” into thinking that serial concussions did not pose “life-altering risks.” Bennett told Bloomberg News, “If the lack of information and negligence continues, you aren’t going to have moms let their little boys play football.”

His own son, Kivon, had just turned eleven, and was starting to play tackle football. Bennett was flattered (“I’d dreamed of having a son that followed in my footsteps”), but also anxious (“You never want to get that call”). Parenting is about providing children with opportunities while protecting them from harm, and few recreational activities put those impulses in opposition the way football does. Yet Bennett never considered trying to stop Kivon from playing. “This country is built on giving you a chance to pursue your dreams,” he said.

Kivon was big for his age, like his father had been, and performed well on his youth team. Bennett shared safety tips with Kivon: how to protect his head when tackling by hitting his opponent with his shoulder instead of his helmet; how to improve his footwork. “I always tell him, ‘Positioning, positioning,’ ” Bennett said to me. “If he’s going full speed and he’s positioned, I feel as though that’s safe football.” Above all, he stressed to Kivon that he should let someone know if he thought he’d received a head injury.

Bennett wanted to give Kivon the best chance to excel. In 2015, when Kivon was a high-school junior, he transferred to St. Thomas Aquinas, a prestigious Catholic high school in Fort Lauderdale. Kivon, a strong student, enrolled in Advanced Placement classes. He had recently discovered “Macbeth,” he told me this fall. “I like the way the story lines didn’t add up at first but in the last few scenes it comes together,” he said. He has a Twitter account, and in his bio he posts his G.P.A.—currently 3.7.

But Kivon went to St. Thomas primarily to play football. The school has produced more pro players than any other high school in the country. By the time Kivon enrolled, the St. Thomas Aquinas Raiders had won eight state championships and two national titles. Moreover, the school had embarked on a potentially radical experiment. The head football coach, Roger Harriott, had been instituting changes to make the game safer. He limited practices to ninety minutes, and got the school to acquire a pair of motorized human-size robots, wrapped in foam, which players could tackle, saving their teammates from unnecessary hits. Harriott hoped to put St. Thomas at the vanguard of football safety while remaining champions. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 January 2017 at 10:12 am

Whipped Dog silvertip, Connecticut Yankee shaving soap, the X3, and Pinaud Clubman

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SOTD 2017-01-02

For my first shave of the new year, I decide to take a traditional slant. The Whipped Dog silvertip is excellent, housed in the Firehouse ceramic handle shown. Razor Emporium made their Connecticut Yankee from James Baker Williams’s original 1840 formula for Williams Mug Soap, made in Connecticut. [UPDATE: The comment below prompted me to read the current website description, which differs from the promotional pamphlet that I received with the tub (above) that I purchased when it was first announced. That leaflet said that the original formula was used. From the current description, it seems that it’s more that this soap is “inspired by” the original formula. – LG] It’s a tallow soap with a citronella fragrance and the lather is excellent (though the fragrance is probably divisive: I for one don’t care for it all that much, though I do like the lather).

The X3 is not exactly traditional, but it’s a razor that I like a lot, and it again demonstrated why: perfectly comfortable and left a perfectly smooth face without any problems at all.

A splash of Clubman Classic Vanilla, and I feel the new year energy surge through me.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 January 2017 at 9:10 am

Posted in Shaving

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