Later On

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

Archive for April 17th, 2018

America once fought a war against poverty – now it wages a war on the poor

leave a comment »

Reverend William Barber and Dr Liz Theoharis write in the Guardian:

In 2013, Callie Greer’s daughter Venus died in her arms after a battle with breast cancer. If caught early, the five-year survival rate for women diagnosed with breast cancer is close to 100%. But Venus’s cancer went undiagnosed for months because she couldn’t afford health insurance. She lived in Alabama, a state that refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Venus’s death is not an isolated incident – more than 250,000 peoplelike her die in the United States from poverty and related issues every year.

Access to healthcare is just one of the issues facing the 140 million people who live in poverty in the US today. Over the past two years, the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival has carried out a listening tour in dozens of states across this nation. We have met with tens of thousands of people from El Paso, Texas, to South Charleston, West Virginia, to Selma, Alabama, where we met Callie, gathering testimonies from poor people and listening to their demands for a better society.

On Tuesday, we announced a Poor People’s Campaign Moral Agenda, a set of demands that is drawn from this listening tour, as well as an audit of America we conducted with allied organizations, including the Institute for Policy Studies and the Urban Institute, 50 years after the original Poor People’s Campaign.

As grim as the situation was in 1968, the appalling truth is deep inequalities still exist and, in some ways, we are worse off.

While our nation once fought a war against poverty, now we wage a war on the poor. The richest 1% in our country own more wealth than the bottom 90% combined, tightening their grip on political power to shape labor, tax, healthcare and campaign finance policies that benefit the few at the expense of the many. A full 60% more Americans now live below the official poverty line than in 1968, and 43% of all American children live below the minimum income level considered necessary to meet basic family needs.

In the last eight years alone, 23 states have passed voter suppression laws – gutting the Voting Rights Act civil rights leaders helped secure more than a half century ago. This is the true hacking of our democracy, allowing people to win office who deny healthcare, living wages, cut necessary social programs and push policies that promote mass incarceration, hurt immigrants and devastate our environment.

These racist laws hurt not just people of color, but poor whites whose lives are upended by the politicians put in office by the violent extremism that is voter suppression.

Coretta Scott King would call all of this violence. She’d say that violence isn’t just killing people with guns, but denying them living wages, allowing them to live in ghetto housing. We rightfully get in the streets and protest when the police shoot unarmed black men, but we must also stand up to the public policy violence that is ravaging our society. We must no longer allow inattention to violence to keep the poor, people of color and other disenfranchised people down.

People are poor not because they are lazy, not because they are unwilling to work hard, but because politicians have blocked living wages and healthcare and undermined union rights and wage increases. Our nation’s moral narrative is shaped by Christian nationalists whose claims run contrary to calls in the Scripture, which is very clear that we need to care for the poor, immigrants and the least among us.

If you claim to be evangelical and Christian and have nothing to say about poverty and racism, then your claim is terribly suspect. There needs to be a new moral discourse in this nation – one that says being poor is not a sin but systemic poverty is.

The Moral Agenda we announced on Tuesday demands a massive overhaul of the nation’s voting rights laws, new programs to lift up the 140 million Americans living in poverty, immediate attention to ecological devastation and measures to curb militarism and the war economy.

We call for major changes to address systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, the war economy and our distorted moral narrative, including restoration and expansion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, repeal of the 2017 federal tax law, implementation of federal and state living wage laws, universal single-payer healthcare and clean water for all.

To make sure these demands are heard, poor and disenfranchised people from coast to coast are preparing for 40 days of action centered around statehouses and the US Capitol. Over six weeks this spring, people of all races, colors and creeds are joining together to engage in nonviolent moral fusion direct action, massive voter mobilization and power building from the bottom up.

To prepare for the 40 days, poor and disenfranchised people, clergy and advocates will participate in nonviolent direct-action trainings across the country on Saturday. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 April 2018 at 6:22 pm

GOP N.H. governor confronted White House over lack of opioid funding

leave a comment »

John Bowden reports in The Hill:

GOP New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu initially resisted a visit to his state from President Trump last month over the country’s opioid addiction crisis, telling the White House that he didn’t want his state used as a prop for the administration.

CBS News reports  that Sununu battled White House aide Katy Talento, who sits on the White House Domestic Policy Council, over whether Trump could come to the state to promote his plan to battle the opioid epidemic while not providing additional funding for state initiatives.

“The president cannot come to New Hampshire without a plan that has substance,” Sununu reportedly told the White House. “You can’t come here with an empty bag and use the state as a prop,” a source added, paraphrasing the governor.

Talento, who was in charge of coordinating Trump’s March visit to the Granite State, was “clearly unhappy,” according to the report.

Congress put aside $6 billion to fight the opioid crisis in 2018 and 2019 in the budget passed earlier this year, but that number was far less than some New Hampshire lawmakers were hoping for and it was not clear how much of that money the state would receive.

Trump eventually spoke in New Hampshire later that month, vowing to stop the heroin flow over the U.S.’s southern border with Mexico. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 April 2018 at 5:59 pm

Two Decades of War Have Eroded the Morale of America’s Troops

leave a comment »

Phil Klay, USMC veteran, also writes in the Atlantic:

South of fallujah’s Route Fran were hundreds of insurgents who’d spent months digging trench lines, emplacing roadside bombs, barricading streets, training with their weapons, reading the Koran, and watching videos of suicide bombers to inspire them for the fight to come. North of Route Fran were the roughly 1,000 men of 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, preparing themselves for the assault. Route Fran itself was a wide, four-lane highway. On November 9, 2004, the highway was wet—it’d rained the previous day—and the sky was gray and foreboding.

“You just know that this whole company crossing this road,” marine Justin Best later told a reporter, “someone’s gonna get hit.”

When crossing an open space like Fran, it’s important to have units in overwatch, shooting at locations from which the enemy might fire at you and your buddies. Most of the bullets expended in war aren’t intended to kill the enemy so much as to keep his head down while you maneuver your way to a place where you can kill him. It doesn’t always work. There were enough large buildings on either side of Fran that the marines could never hope to cover every window.

The marines started to cross—one platoon running at full speed, the others firing away, filling the sky above with bullets. Insurgents on the other side opened up as well, one of them hitting Sergeant Lonny Wells, a 29-year-old father of four children. The round tore through his leg and he pitched forward, falling to the ground. Wells, his mother later recalled, had wanted to join the military since he was young. She’d tell him, “Why don’t you try to be a model? You’ve got the looks.” And he’d reply, “Oh, Mom, I’m gonna be a marine.” Now he was facedown in the middle of an open highway in Fallujah, blood pooling around his body.

Gunnery Sergeant Ryan Shane, whose platoon had been providing covering fire, put down his rifle. As a senior leader, he wasn’t expected to be the one to recover Wells. Nevertheless, he ran out to the fallen marine, grabbed him by the drag strap on his body armor, and, along with one other marine, began tugging him to safety. After Shane took few steps, a bullet slammed into his lower back, and he fell to the ground. Now there were two injured men facedown in the middle of the open highway, bleeding onto the wet pavement.

Everyone in overwatch had seen Wells fall, and they’d seen what had happened to Shane when he’d tried to help. They all must have known that the two injured men were now bait, that insurgents were waiting to fire on anyone else foolish enough to try to save their brothers. Naturally, marines being marines, two more of them ran out. Thanks to them, Shane would live, but they were too late for Wells. He bled to death.

This is a common sort of war story. Every war provides them—young men and women risking and sometimes losing their lives in ways that provoke a kind of entranced awe. How, and why, do they do it? In America, we have a very particular set of answers. Driving through the South, outside of churches you’ll occasionally see a Fallen Soldier Battle Cross next to a sign bearing an image of Christ and a message: they both died for your freedom. Ronald Reagan once posed the author James Michener’s question about the heroes of the Korean War—“Where do we find such men?”—only to answer it with, “Well, we find them where we’ve always found them. They are the product of the freest society man has ever known.”

In this view, ours is a democratic courage, the purest reflection of the nature and quality of our society. Those men who rushed out under fire were formed by our civic body. Raised in our American democracy, with its love of liberty, strong civic institutions, and glorious past, those men would fight courageously as, in George Washington’s words, “Freemen” and not as “base hirelings and mercenaries.”

In turn, we, as members of that body from which they came, are to take heart from their example and commit ourselves with equal vigor to sustaining an American civil society that will continue to inspire such courage. When Abraham Lincoln stood at Gettysburg, he channeled what he claimed were the democratic impulses of the Union dead, urging the nation to rededicate itself with “increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.” When Woodrow Wilson stood at the American cemetery in Suresnes, France, he channeled the same impulses in articulating what he called the “unspoken mandates of our dead.”The fraternal bonds of combat have always been invoked to political ends. But as we stand on the edge of 17 years of war, these ends have become smaller, indeed almost pathetic. When Donald Trump addressed the widow of a fallen Navy sealin the middle of a speech to Congress in February 2017, he didn’t articulate a vision of American ideals, or outline our broader moral purpose in the world, but merely defended his claim that the raid in which the seal was killed had been a success, generating intelligence that would lead to more targets in the never-ending War on Terror. The president and the widow received rapturous applause. “He became president of the United States in that moment,” one political commentator on CNN said, arguing that the president’s deployment of the grieving widow was “unifying.” If it was, the blood of the fallen seal proved a weak glue, lasting little longer than the bipartisan applause that briefly filled the Capitol building.

“War will purify the political atmosphere,” one magazine argued on the eve of the War of 1812, America’s first great military disappointment. “All the public virtues will be refined and hallowed; and we shall again behold at the head of affairs citizens who may rival the immortal men of 1776.” In our era of constant war, something like the opposite is happening. Though the military currently enjoys stratospheric approval ratings—72 percent of Americans express a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in it—almost every other major institution of American life is in the red: 12 percent approval for Congress, 27 percent for newspapers, 40 percent for the Supreme Court, and 41 percent for organized religion. Meanwhile, 27 percent of Democrats and 36 percent of Republicans see the opposing party as a threat to the nation.

If the courage of young men and women in battle truly does depend on the nature and quality of our civic society, we should be very worried. We should expect to see a sickness spreading from our public life and into the hearts of the men and women who continue to risk their lives on behalf of a distracted nation. And when we look closely, that is exactly what we see: a sickness that all the ritualistic displays of support for our troops at sporting events and Veterans Day celebrations, and in the halls of Congress, can’t cure. Such tributes don’t begin to get at what “the last full measure of devotion” actually means on the ground, or what might be required to sustain it. The bonds of men in combat are far stranger, and perhaps more fragile, than our lofty rhetoric would suggest.

In 1999, Maurice Emerson Decaul was preparing to deploy overseas with a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Decaul, who is black, was a lance corporal in a Marine artillery battery. Because your average military unit is a cross section of American society, he might well have expected to work alongside a broad range of Americans—white kids from the Northern Virginia suburbs, Hispanic kids from small towns in New Mexico, children of Vietnamese refugees from rural Indiana. More surprising, though, was the West Virginia kid from a family so deep in the Klan that he showed up to the battery’s barracks with a hooded white robe packed in among his Marine Corps uniforms. I’ll call him “J.”

If Decaul had wanted to—if anybody in the unit had wanted to—he could have gotten J. booted out of the Corps. The Marines don’t tolerate hate groups, and the service regularly runs classes on how to spot gang and hate-group tattoos to help officers identify and remove their members. When General Robert B. Neller, the commandant of the Marine Corps, tweeted out a condemnation of racial hatred and extremism in the wake of last year’s neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, he was giving voice to a policy that dated back to the 1980s. That policy was kicked into even higher gear after Timothy McVeigh, a Gulf War veteran, bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, in Oklahoma City. As far as the military was concerned, men like J. didn’t just undermine unit cohesion and the moral character of the force, they were also a domestic terror threat. If somebody had notified the chain of command, or even left an anonymous note at the office of the unit lawyer, the unit would have investigated, and that would have been that. Such things, a military lawyer told me, are a pretty straightforward affair. But this is not what happened.

Instead, J.’s fellow marines observed him in training as they geared up for deployment. Even though it was pre-9/11, combat was a possibility. The previous unit to go on their planned deployment had ended up taking a detour to the Balkans. The leadership had impressed upon Decaul’s unit that they might be relying on their fellow marines for their lives. Which meant that Decaul and the rest of the black and Hispanic and Asian and Jewish kids might be relying on a Klansman, and not simply in a day-to-day, “Can I trust this guy at the office?” kind of way. The question before a deploying marine as he looks at his brothers and sisters is quite simple: If I am, like Sergeant Wells and Gunny Shane, facedown and bleeding to death in the middle of an open highway as small-arms fire rages around me, will you run out to save my life?

This might seem like a lot to expect of J., but Decaul didn’t have any serious concerns. “I never felt like I couldn’t trust J. in combat,” Decaul told me, seeming a bit amazed by the words coming out of his mouth. “I never felt like J. didn’t know his job. In training, you see who you can trust. You see the guys who shy away. And, well, he wasn’t one of those guys.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 April 2018 at 2:37 pm

Posted in Daily life, Military

The Warrior at the Mall

leave a comment »

Phil Klay, USMC veteran, writes in the NY Times:

“We’re at war while America is at the mall.”

I’m not sure when I first heard this in Iraq, but even back in 2007 it was already a well-worn phrase, the logical counterpart to George W. Bush’s arguing after the Sept. 11 attacks that we must not let the terrorists frighten us to the point “where people don’t shop.”

Marines had probably started saying it as early as 2002. “We’re at war while America is at the mall,” some lance corporal muttered to another as they shivered against the winds rushing down the valleys in the Hindu Kush. “We’re at war while America is at the mall,” some prematurely embittered lieutenant told his platoon sergeant as they drove up to Nasiriyah in a light armored vehicle.

Whatever the case, when I heard it, it sounded right. Just enough truth mixed with self-aggrandizement to appeal to a man in his early 20s. Back home was shopping malls and strip clubs. Over here was death and violence and hope and despair. Back home was fast food and high-fructose corn syrup. Over here, we had bodies flooding the rivers of Iraq until people claimed it changed the taste of the fish. Back home they had aisles filled wall to wall with toothpaste, shaving cream, deodorant and body spray. Over here, sweating under the desert sun, we smelled terrible. We were at war, they were at the mall.

The old phrase popped back into my head recently while I was shopping for baby onesies on Long Island — specifically, in the discount section on the second floor of the Buy Buy Baby. Yes, I was at the mall, and America was still at war.

There’s something bizarre about being a veteran of a war that doesn’t end, in a country that doesn’t pay attention. At this point, I’ve been out of the military far longer than I was in, and the weight I place on the value of military life versus civilian life has shifted radically. On the one hand, I haven’t lost my certainty that Americans should be paying more attention to our wars and that our lack of attention truly does cost lives.

“We’ve claimed war-weariness, or ‘America First,’ and turned a blind eye to the slaughter of 500,000 people and suffering of millions more,” the former Marine Mackenzie Wolf pointed out in a March essay on America’s unconscionable lack of action in Syria up to that point. On the other hand, I’m increasingly convinced that my youthful contempt for the civilians back home was not just misplaced, but obscene and, frankly, part of the problem.

After four United States soldiers assigned to the Army’s Third Special Forces Group were killed in an ambush in Niger, the American public had a lot of questions. Why were they in combat in Niger? What was their mission? How do you pronounce “Niger”? Answering these questions would have required a complex, sustained discussion about how America projects force around the world, about expanding the use of Special Operations forces to 149 countries, and about whether we are providing those troops with well-thought-out missions and the resources to achieve them in the service of a sound and worthwhile national security strategy.

And since our troops were in Niger in a continuation of an Obama administration policy that began in 2013, it also would have meant discussing the way that administration ramped up “supervise, train and assist” missions in Africa, how it often tried to blur the line between advisory and combat missions to avoid public scrutiny, and how the Trump administration appears to have followed in those footsteps. It would have required, at a bare minimum, not using the deaths as material for neat, partisan parables.

Naturally, we didn’t have that conversation. Instead, a Democratic congresswoman who heard the president’s phone call to the widow of one of the fallen soldiers informed the news media that Mr. Trump had ineptly told the grieving woman that her husband “knew what he signed up for.”

Quickly, Americans shifted from a discussion of policy to a symbolic battle over which side, Democratic or Republican, wasn’t respecting soldiers enough. Had the president disrespected the troops with his comment? Had Democrats disrespected the troops by trying to use a condolence call for political leverage? Someone clearly had run afoul of an odd form of political correctness, “patriotic correctness.”

Since, as recent history has shown us, violating the rules of patriotic correctness is a far worse sin in the eyes of the American public than sending soldiers to die uselessly, the political battle became intense, and the White House was forced to respond. And since in a symbolic debate of this kind nothing is better than an old soldier, the retired Marine general and current chief of staff, John Kelly, was trotted out in an Oct. 19 news conference to defend the president.

He began powerfully enough, describing what happens to the bodies of soldiers killed overseas, and bringing up his own still painful memories of the loss of his son, who died in Afghanistan in 2010. He spoke with pride of the men and women in uniform.

But then, in an all too common move, he transitioned to expressing contempt for the civilian world. He complained that nothing seemed to be sacred in America anymore, not women, not religion, not even “the dignity of life.” He told the audience that service members volunteer even though “there’s nothing in our country anymore that seems to suggest that selfless service to the nation is not only appropriate, but required.” He said veterans feel “a little bit sorry” for civilians who don’t know the joys of service.

To cap things off, he took questions only from reporters who knew families who had lost loved ones overseas. The rest of the journalists, and by extension the rest of the American public who don’t know any Gold Star families, were effectively told they had no place in the debate.

Such disdain for those who haven’t served and yet dare to have opinions about military matters is nothing new for Mr. Kelly. . .

Continue reading.

There’s more, and it’s worth reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 April 2018 at 2:29 pm

I never knew: The Forgotten Nazi History of ‘One-Pot Meals’

with one comment

I’m a big one-pot meal fan, and whenever I improvise a dinner it is always a one-pot (or one sauté pan) affair. It just appeals to me to have everything cooked in a single pot (I do the dishes), and of course there are the GOPM recipes. (I’m making another, probably tomorrow.) In Gasto Obscura Natasha Frost tells the story of the one-pot initiative in Nazi Germany:

ON OCTOBER 1, 1933, GERMANS sat down to an unusually frugal Sunday lunch. For decades, even centuries, the norm had been a roast dinner, usually characterized by a great, bronzed hunk of animal, flanked by potatoes. This was the crowning glory of the week—a meal to be savored and celebrated. But that day, nine months after the Nazis first came to power, Germans ate simple, inexpensive food. Some ate Irish stew; others steaming pots of pea soup, made with Speck and dried beans. Another common dish was macaroni Milanese, a stodgy predecessor to mac and cheese flecked with a confetti of rosy ham. All these dishes had three important things in common: They were inexpensive; they were made in a single pot; and they had been officially sanctioned by the Nazis.

This was the Eintopfsonntag campaign—a Nazi push to make German families eat one-pot meals. Eventually, it would endure well into the Second World War and popularize these stews, soups, and pilafs in Germany for generations to come.

The impetus was an annual charity drive, the Winterhilfswerk, run by the Nazis to feed and clothe veterans and the poor throughout the winter. Wealthier Germans were expected to pitch in as much as they could, but actually getting people to cough up cash had proven challenging. So, in October 1933, the Nazis developed a new campaign centered around these one-pot meals.

On the first Sunday of every month, they decreed, every German family should replace their traditional roast with a thriftier one-pot meal—an Eintopf, from the German ein Topf, or “one pot”—and set aside the savings for the charity drive. On those Sunday afternoons, collectors around the country knocked on doors to recuperate the money. Even families who didn’t want to cook were expected to join in: Restaurants were legally obligated to offer appropriately inexpensive Eintopf meals at a reduced rate on the designated Sundays.

At least initially, Eintopfsonntagen were quite popular. People seem to have enjoyed the challenge of finding meals that fit the bill, and the campaign raised hundreds of thousands of Deutsche Marks for charity.

Its popularity was aided by extensive government efforts. As gatekeepers to the German kitchen, housewives and mothers were especially targeted. In time, a whole genre of cookbooks for these kinds of recipes appeared, bolstered by suggestions in magazines and newspapers for one-pot meals. Sauerkraut with lard and broad beans was a classic example—traditional, inexpensive German food that used scraps of meat to canny effect. The government even released children’s books about Eintopf and promotional photos of Adolf Hitler sitting down to a steaming pot of stew. The message was clear: Everyone is doing this, and participation is a national obligation.

In fact, while Hitler officially supported the campaign, he probably did not participate privately. By 1937, he was known internationally as a vegetarian, and had likely been eating a mostly plant-based diet for some time. While Eintopf meals were occasionally meatless, they often featured some bacon or beef. On top of that, Hitler vacillated between preferring a raw diet—he blamed cooked foods for cancer—or extravagant vegetarian meals, occasionally set off with spoonfuls of caviar. Eintopf recipes, on the other hand, were plain, stodgy, and always served hot.

But charity and thrift do not fully explain the Nazis’ zeal for one-pot meals. There was an equally important allegorical element: A single pot meal was democratic and accessible, blurring class lines and undermining bourgeois eating culture. All across the country, Nazi propaganda materials theorized, people of the same race would eat the same diet at the same time: common sacrifice for a common purpose. More than that, writes Alice Weinreb in Modern Hungers: Food and Power in Twentieth-Century Germany, “Cooking in ‘one pot’ (ein Topf) was supposed to symbolize the Nazi creation of ‘one people’ (ein Volk), the crafting of a delicious casserole by combining diverse ingredients analogous to the uniting of the various native German peoples into a single and self-sustaining whole.” (Of course, this so-called diversity—Prussian, Bavarian, Saxon—was as limited and homogenous as many of the suggested dishes.)

To take part in Eintopfsonntag, Germans had to experience deprivation for the good of the collective—a common, unifying Nazi theme. In a 1935 speech, Hitler castigated those who did not take part or give as much as they could to the Wintershilfswerk: “You have never known hunger yourself or you would know what a burden hunger is,” he said. “Whoever does not participate is a characterless parasite of the German people.” Those who greedily refused a day’s abstinence were said to be . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 April 2018 at 12:43 pm

Posted in Food, Government

Tagged with

Late start, great shave after brush repair

leave a comment »

Not an altogether late start: I awoke at 4:00 a.m. and finally got up around 5:30 a.m. I stayed up until 8:30, then back to bed until noon.

Yesterday I repaired The Grooming Company brush shown in the photo. The knot had fallen out, and I used this auto/marine sealant, 100% silicone, to glue it back. It seems to have done the job well, and it has some flex: this morning I noticed the knot was slightly tilted, I was able to straighten it.

A feally fine lather from the ABC soap, and the Baby Smooth was its usual excellent self. A dot of ABC aftershave milk, and the day is finally underway, though late.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 April 2018 at 12:31 pm

Posted in Shaving

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: