Later On

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Archive for October 3rd, 2017

Trump admin denied Puerto Rico request to let victims use food stamps for fast food

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Trump allowed victims of the hurricanes in Texas and Florida to use food stamps for fast food. He just doesn’t like people who speak Spanish, I guess, even though they are American citizens. Josh Delk and Nathaniel Weixel report in The Hill:

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello says that the federal government has denied the U.S. territory’s request for its citizens to redeem food stamps for ready-to-eat hot meals, amid widespread food shortages and power outages in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

The nearly 1.3 million people on food stamps in Puerto Rico — almost 40 percent of its population— are unable to use the benefits of the federal program to buy fasts food or pre-prepared meals at supermarkets, according to The New York Times.

Food-stamp recipients are usually prohibited from buying hot foods and other items that can be eaten “in store” such as sandwiches, soup or pizza.

Puerto Rico requested the administration temporarily lift the restrictions on the program, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

So far, the administration has refused, even after granting similar waivers in Texas after Hurricane Harvey and in Florida after Hurricane Irma. . .

Continue reading.

Trump is a POS.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 October 2017 at 1:07 pm

Texas Official After Harvey: The ‘Red Cross Was Not There’

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I never donate to the American Red Cross. The organization always seems to fail now in its mission. Justin Elliott, Jessica Huseman, and Decca Muldowney report in ProPublica:

The Red Cross’ anemic response to Hurricane Harvey left officials in several Texas counties seething, emails obtained by ProPublica show. In some cases, the Red Cross simply failed to show up as it promised it would.

In DeWitt, a county of 20,000 where Harvey rippedapart the roof of a hotel, Emergency Management Coordinator Cyndi Smith upbraided a Red Cross official in a Sept. 9 email:

Red Cross was not there as they were suppose[d] to be with the shelter and again no communication to what this is actually about and that you have been in DeWitt County doing anything.”

With fewer than 24 hours’ notice, Micah Dyer, a school superintendent in DeWitt County, was forced to run a shelter on his own in an unused district building that would eventually house 400 people. For the first three days the shelter was opened, only two Red Cross volunteers were there — neither had any experience running a shelter, Dyer said in an interview.

“Every hot meal came from us,” Dyer said. “[School district employees] had to go to our pantries and walk-in coolers and get whatever we could get so people would have food.” Dyer says the Red Cross didn’t appear with supplies until the fourth day of the storm, and didn’t bring enough cots or food for those housed in the shelter, he said. A significant portion of the Meals-Ready-to-Eat the charity did bring had gone bad, he said.

The charity contested his account, saying in a statement that it maintained two shelters in DeWitt County — including the one Dyer ran — “and recorded a total of 1,599 overnight stays.”

We have only a partial picture of the Red Cross’ response to the massive storm. ProPublica received emails through public records requests from several counties, large and small. But they don’t cover the full swath of the state affected by the storm.

Still, the frustration many authorities felt with the Red Cross was striking. Officials in Jefferson County, which contains Beaumont, were so fed up with the Red Cross that they kicked out a charity employee assigned to work with government officials from the headquarters for the storm response.

“Everything we asked him to do, I didn’t feel was getting done in a timely manner,” said Mike White, Jefferson County’s deputy emergency management coordinator.

In Colorado County, west of Houston, a local official told colleagues on Aug. 30 the charity had simply failed to show up at a shelter as promised.

“Persons needing intermediate-term shelters have been transferred to the Red Cross Shelter in Sealy. Red Cross approved the shelter, but the promised shelter management teams and the supply trailer never arrived, nor do they know where they went,” Charles Rogers, the county’s emergency management coordinator, wrote.

On Aug. 27, two days after Harvey made landfall, the fire marshal of Humble, a small city in the Houston metro area, sent an urgent plea as his city faced severe flooding: Could the Red Cross help to staff a shelter in his area?

“I hate to say this but the Red Cross is completely out of resources and have almost no road accessibility,” responded Kristina Clark, an emergency management official in Harris County, which contains Houston. “The best thing I can recommend is to open something and message to your people to bring THEIR OWN food, sleeping bags, clothes, medication, etc.”

The Red Cross said in a statement that, overall, it has provided more than 414,000 overnight shelter stays, and with its partners served “almost 3.2 million meals and snacks.”

Providing relief in the wake of the storm was an enormously difficult task. Tom McCasland, Houston’s director of housing and community development, said in an interview that it wasn’t just the Red Cross — but also city and county governments — that didn’t have the resources to respond to the storm. The storm destroyed over 15,000 homes and damaged over 200,000.

“No one was prepared for this in terms of magnitude of numbers that showed up” at the George R. Brown Convention Center, one of the major shelters in Houston, McCasland said. “Given the circumstances, I can say that [the Red Cross] worked their hearts out.”

Many others singled out the Red Cross for criticism. At a public meeting earlier this month, Houston City Councilman Dave Martin let loose on the charity for being the “most inept, unorganized organization I’ve ever experienced.”

Martin urged Houstonians not to donate. “I have not seen a single person in Kingwood or Clear Lake that’s a representative of the Red Cross,” he said, referring to two hard-hit areas. “You know who opened our shelters? We did. You know who sent water and supplies? We did.”

In an interview with ProPublica, Martin said he ran into Gail McGovern, the charity’s CEO, in a parking lot several days after Harvey hit. When he raised his concerns to her, Martin said she responded: “Do you know how much we raised with Katrina? $2 billion. We won’t even raise hundreds of millions here.’ I just thought, ‘Really, Gail? That’s your response to me?’”

Asked about McGovern’s conversation with the city councilman, the Red Cross said, “We understand his frustration.” The charity said it has raised around $350 million for Harvey.

As ProPublica has previously detailed, the charity’s attempts to respond to large disasters in recent years have been harshly criticized by victims, government officials and, in many cases, by the Red Cross’ own staff. Reconstruction efforts after the 2010 Haiti earthquake fell far short of the charity’s public claims. After Superstorm Sandy hit New York in 2012, Red Cross leadership diverted disaster relief resources for public-relations purposes. And after floods in Louisiana, a state official wrote that the Red Cross “failed for 12 days.”

While the Red Cross operates largely as a private nonprofit, it was created by Congress more than a century ago and has an officially mandated role to work with the government in providing food and shelter after disasters.

As disasters have gotten larger and more frequent, the Red Cross has gotten smaller. Under the nine-year tenure of McGovern, who came from the private sector, the group has had budget shortfalls and cut staff sharply. Local chapters, including in Texas, have been shuttered.

The cuts have stripped the charity of experienced disaster management personnel. Under McGovern, the number of paid employees has shrunk from 36,000 in 2008 to just over 21,000 in 2015, according to tax filings. . .

Continue reading.

McGovern famously talked about the “Red Cross brand” and what a great brand it was, etc. Very little focus on the Red Cross mission.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 October 2017 at 12:53 pm

A fascinating look at the production design in the movie “Her”

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The title is “Her: Building a beautiful future.” It’s less than 7 minutes long. Worth watching if you like movies and have seen “Her.”

Written by LeisureGuy

3 October 2017 at 12:28 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

Why We Keep Having The Same Argument About Guns

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In Buzzfeed Anne Heller Petersen has a thoughtful article on what drives the opposing view of gun control:

When eight people were shot at Burnett Chapel Church in Burnett, Tennessee, last week, an Idaho man posted a link to a news story on the shooting. “My church is a ‘Guns Welcome’ church,” he wrote. “I pity the fool who would try something like this there.” This man, a Facebook friend whom I won’t name here, is a proud gun owner; in fact, he moved to Idaho in part because it’s easier to own and carry guns there.

This friend articulated one of the main reasons why the gun control debate remains at an impasse even in the aftermath of dozens of mass shootings, including an attack on Sunday night at a country music festival in Las Vegas that killed more than 50 people and injured hundreds. Specifically: the deeply held belief, among many people in this country, that evil men with guns should be countered with righteous men with guns — or that evil is uncontrollable. It’s the same idea that guides the training of teachers to wield rifles in a rural Idaho town and that allows the concealed carry of firearms on Idaho college campuses. At a public meeting held last week in Idaho, I saw the telling bulge of at least three concealed weapons.

This philosophy is not limited to Idaho: All 50 states permit concealed carry; 23 states allow individual institutions to decide gun laws on their campus; 10 additional states mandate that concealed carry must be allowed (with specific provisions). Most of the laws that permit guns on campus — or reverse bans on concealed carry — were introduced and passed in the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007. It’s the pro-gun version of gun control: Protect Americans from bad people with guns by allowing more guns to circulate.

Whether or not you believe that philosophy, you can see how fundamentally discordant it is with the liberal belief that restrictions on access to guns — whether banning certain types of guns, mandating waiting periods, preventing certain individuals from obtaining guns, or eliminating public ownership of guns altogether — will decrease mass shootings, accidental shootings, homicides, and even suicides. Data, and comparisons to countries with tighter and/or complete gun control, supports these claims. Thus the declarations that percolate across social media after every mass shooting: “Why does anyone need a gun like this?” “Why do we keep letting this happen, when there’s an obvious solution?”

With each mass shooting — and there have been 273 in 2017 alone — these oppositional philosophies harden. The same conversations, statistics, accusations, videos, memes, and, as Jamilah Lemieux put it on Twitter, “vague chatter about the mentally ill that doesn’t lead to any action other than further stigmatizing the mentally ill,” cycle through the media, then go dormant until the next mass shooting reactivates them.

The impasse remains, at least in part, because these discussions of gun control don’t really address the deeper, seemingly intractable difference between the two sides — one that has everything to do with the way that each conceives of individual agency. Simply put, one side believes in the responsibility of the group to put controls in place that protect its individual members. The other believes, above all else, in the rights of the individual. What we’re nottalking about when we talk about gun control is just how difficult it is to for these viewpoints to meet in conversation.

For those opposed to government-mandated gun control, no limit will actually inhibit an individual who is set on committing violence. To impose any of those strictures, even on people with mental illnesses, would limit the inalienable rights of all citizens — making many answer for the actions of the few. That’s why many gun advocates prefer to be called advocates for or “protectors” of the Second Amendment: Their answer to tragedy isn’t more regulation, but more freedom. (Those in favor of gun control would counter that the first inalienable right outlined by the Declaration of Independence is the right to life, which is impinged upon by those who abuse their access to guns.)

These attitudes align fairly precisely with the two sides of the political spectrum. Liberal ideology supports governmental regulation in the name of the greater good, for higher taxes that pay for social safety nets, for universal health care. Each of those ideas is rooted in the belief that what happens to one of us happens to all of us, and measures should be put in place to ensure the greater good.

On the other side of the ideological spectrum, the conservative stance is rooted in the individual’s ability and right to make decisions for themselves and their families, to decide how to spend the money they earn, to do the right thing, to use guns safely and correctly. One person shouldn’t have to have to pay for others’ mistakes, nor should their liberty be compromised because of the tresspasses of another. These ideas fuel the canny and successful messaging of the NRA, which calls itself “freedom’s safest place” and incites membership by warning that “our rights are under attack like never before.”

One position leans toward socialism, the other toward libertarianism, and our country has been built through compromises on both sides. The agreement that we’ll pay taxes that fund schools even if we don’t have children in them and the reliance on programs like Medicare and Social Security are all undergirded by a persistent belief in the American dream, which suggests that any person, of any race or religion or class or upbringing, can become a thriving member of society if they work hard enough.

The American democratic project survives through détente between left and right, through the election of moderates who seem to reconcile both sides and extremists who balance each other out. It is often troubled, and never without conflict. But it endures, an assurance to voters that their philosophy of the country and their place in it remains intact.

But certain issues — Obamacare and gun control foremost among them — are increasingly treated by many conservatives as warning shots, threats to the integrity of the entire enterprise. Within this logic, a move to curtail gun ownership is a move to curtail liberty, full stop. That’s why so many politicians currently making inroads from the the far right label themselves “liberty-minded”: They have pledged to prevent the first rock from sliding down the slippery slope toward government control. They do more than pledge it — they make it a centerpiece of their campaigns. This then forces their opponents in both primary and general elections to pick a side, which often means reassuring people that they aren’t out to take away anyone’s all-American rights.

In the dozens of states that aren’t solidly blue, to come out for even limited gun control dooms you as a conservative candidate, and severely hobbles a moderate hoping for independent voters. When Montana Democrat Rob Quist ran to replace Ryan Zinke, the newly appointed secretary of the interior, in the House, on a platform that included the registration of assault rifles, he was painted as a gun control fanatic. Montana Sen. Jon Tester, a Democrat in a state that voted overwhelmingly for Trump, has repeatedly pledged to “stand up to anyone — Republican or Democrat — who wants to take away Montanans’ gun rights.”

These examples are deeply Montanan, and Montana, like so much of the Mountain West, is a state where guns do have a utilitarian role. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 October 2017 at 11:57 am

Make buying a gun follow same template as getting an abortion

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How about we treat every young man who wants to buy a gun like every woman who wants to get an abortion — mandatory 48-hr waiting period, parental permission, a note from his doctor proving he understands what he’s about to do, a video he has to watch about the effects of gun violence, an ultrasound wand up the ass (just because). Let’s close down all but one gun shop in every state and make him travel hundreds of miles, take time off work, and stay overnight in a strange town to get a gun. Make him walk through a gauntlet of people holding photos of loved ones who were shot to death, people who call him a murderer and beg him not to buy a gun.
It makes more sense to do this with young men and guns than with women and health care, right? I mean, no woman getting an abortion has killed a room full of people in seconds, right?

Original was by Brian Murtagh, and the story of the quotation is here.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 October 2017 at 11:49 am

Posted in Guns, Law

A national legacy of bullying

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Jonathan Fast is

Professor Emeritus at Yeshiva University. He attended Princeton, earned his masters at Columbia and his doctorate at Yeshiva. He is the author of nine novels; two non-fiction books on the subject of bullying, including Beyond Bullying: Breaking the Cycle of Shame, Bullying, and Violence. He currently lives in Palm Springs with his wife, the Reverend Barbara Fast, and devotes his time to writing, lecturing, and a psychotherapy practice.

He has an interesting post at the OUP blog:

In the 1990s a rash of school shootings changed the landscape of American childhood. Research eventually revealed that they all had one characteristic in common: the shooters had all been victims of bullying. Suddenly, bullying, an activity that had been more or less ignored for centuries, or praised as a way of toughening up the next generation, took the spotlight as a source of personal misery and potential public menace. These researchers fell in line behind the grandfather of bullying research, the Swedish psychologist Dan Olweus, who, decades earlier discovered that school bullying victims suffered from crippling psychological sequelae including lifelong depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.

I have devoted most of my academic career to studying and writing about bullying and shame. I strongly believe that the aggression that goes on between bullying populations and vulnerable minorities (homophobia, racism, misogyny) resembles child bullying in its shame-centered motivation and toxic results. The shame comes from the universal desire to belong to a group, either explicit (church congregations, country clubs, the Boy Scouts,) or implicit (children who are good students, adults in midlife transition) and the membership being denied to them. A middle school bully might call his victim a baby, suggesting that he is not mature enough to belong to a cohort of 6th graders. A real estate broker might steer a black couple away from a white neighborhood, suggesting that they wouldn’t feel comfortable there. In either case the victim or victims have been shamed through exclusion from a group.

The most important group for which belonging and exclusion are most primally felt is, to paraphrase Bertrand Russel, the group of all groups, the “uberkultur,” or the “dominant culture.” Most people yearn to be successful within the uberkultur, the exceptions being the nonconformists—the beatniks, hippies, creators of deviant art, hermits. One’s relationship to the uberkultur, however, inevitably informs many types of behavior both individually and collectively.

My grandfather emigrated from a shtetl in Lithuania at the age of 15, and by the time I was born, he had achieved the American Dream. He was president of a profitable newspaper distribution company, owned a Lincoln Continental and had a black chauffeur—a schwartze, as he called him—on his payroll to drive him back and forth to work. I recall during the late 1950s and early ‘60s, hearing my grandparents discussing the predicament of the schwartzes with my parents and uncles and aunts. Despite their sympathies for the Civil Rights movement, a tone of self-congratulation might creep into the discussion, pride in all that my grandparents and their children had achieved in a relatively short time, as opposed to the meager gains of the schwartzes, who had come to America long before them.

I knew there was something wrong with this comparison of immigrant Jews and African-Americans but as a seven-year old child, I could never quite put my finger on it.

Fifty years later, I came across the work of John Ogbu, an African-born educator who taught for many years at UC Berkeley. Ogbu had encountered the kind of negative comparisons that my grandparents sometimes made. He wrote that it was not so much the people themselves, their biology or their intellect, that was responsible for the success they had achieved—or failed to achieve—when transplanted, but the role in which history had cast them. Immigrant minorities who came voluntarily, seeking political or religious asylum, or better economic prospects, came with an idealistic vision of their future. They had a goal to work towards that spanned generations. Caste-like minorities, on the other hand, “grow up firmly convinced that one’s life will eventually be restricted to a small and poorly-rewarded set of social roles,” in the words of the well-known German Jewish psychologist Ulric Neisser. Such a future inspires neither ambition among adults nor academic commitment among children. Ogbu hypothesized that the situation could lead to a kind of “cultural inversion,” which would involve rejecting behaviors that represent the culture of the dominant group, or “acting white.”

So many of the blacks embedded in American culture might constitute a group that has no wish to belong to the uberkultur, because the uberkultur had bullied them and their ancestors for generations denying them educational opportunities, hiring them less frequently than light skinned competitors, paying them poorer wages, forcing them to live in ghettoes because of racist real estate practices, incarcerating them at rates vastly out of proportion to their lighter skinned counterparts, and so forth.

If the United States is truly sorry about these centuries of the bullying of blacks, and allowing or encouraging the bullying to take place, several acts are in order. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 October 2017 at 11:26 am

Trump Justice Department releases legal memos declaring presidential nepotism unlawful

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Not that being unlawful is of any discernible importance to Donald J. Trump. Max Greenwood reports in The Hill:

The Justice Department has released several legal memos issued under past administrations that found it is unlawful for presidents to appoint family members to White House positions or commissions.

The memos, issued to White Houses run by former Presidents Nixon, Carter, Reagan and Obama, were overruled in January by Deputy Assistant Attorney General Daniel Koffsky, a longtime Justice Department lawyer.

That decision paved the way for President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to become a senior adviser at the White House.

The president’s elder daughter, Ivanka Trump, eventually became a senior adviser as well, albeit in an unpaid capacity.

The legal memos concluding that the president cannot appoint relatives to his White House staff or advisory commissions were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by Politico, which posted them online.

According to the documents, Justice Department lawyers had held for decades that a 1967 anti-nepotism law barred the president from appointing family members to White House positions.

For example, a 2009 opinion issued to the Obama White House forbade the president from appointing his half-sister to a White House fellowships commission and his brother-in-law to a fitness commission. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 October 2017 at 11:17 am

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