Later On

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Archive for April 21st, 2018

Can America’s Two Tribes Learn to Live Together?

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Park MacDougald has an interesting book review in New York. I’ve added some emphases below. He writes:

Nearly everyone writing about politics today seems anxious about tribalism. Although trends toward greater political polarization have been in place for decades, the chaos of the Trump era has made the country’s divisions seem starker and more dangerous than at any time since at least the 1960s. And no wonder: Geographical mobility, racial and ideological sorting along party lines, and the segmentation of media mean that for many Americans, their political opponents are no longer friends and neighbors but a nation of hostile foreigners with whom they happen to share a country — they look and speak differently, live in different places, and cling to strange and potentially malevolent beliefs with all the irrational fervor of a doomsday cult. More literal forms of tribalism are on full display as well: Trump ran and won as, among other things, a white racial demagogue who mocked and insulted minorities on his way to the White House; while the left, as it has grown more diverse, has become accustomed to periodic spasms of hostility and mutual recrimination among its various minority groups and their white allies. Perhaps the most bitter of all contemporary political battles — and a Trump favorite — is immigration, which behind the ideological posturing is a referendum on whose tribe will control the country’s demographic future.

Making sense of this mess is the task set by Amy Chua in her new book, Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations, published in February. Chua, a law professor at Yale, is most famous for her 2011 book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother — a paean to authoritarian Asian parenting — but she has a long history of publishing unorthodox books on race, ethnicity, and nationalism. Her 2003 book, World on Fire, argued that the combination of free markets and democracy in diverse societies often leads to ethnic conflict, as certain “market-dominant minorities” become disproportionately wealthy and provoke majoritarian backlash. And her 2014 book, The Triple Package, co-authored with husband Jed Rubenfeld, argued that three cultural traits — insecurity, impulse control, and a feeling of superiority — are the secret to success in America (though a subsequent study suggests otherwise). Moreover, Chua herself knows something about just how bad ethnic relations can get. Her family are ethnic Chinese from the Philippines, members of a market-dominant minority that accounts for a little under 2 percent of the population but controls perhaps 70 percent of the economy. Such stark inequality tends to undermine ethnic harmony. In 1994, Chua’s 58-year-old aunt, still living in Manila, was stabbed to death with a butcher’s knife by her ethnic Filipino chauffeur, an episode Chua recounts in the opening of World on Fire. The belief that diversity inevitably leads to universal brotherhood is not an illusion to which she is likely to be inclined.

The central conceit of Political Tribes is that Americans, and especially American elites, are afflicted by a blindness to the importance of tribalism and group identity, of which ethnic and racial identity are but two particularly stubborn examples. The United States is what Chua calls a “super-group,” which means that unlike the ethnic nations of Europe, it provides its citizens with an overarching national identity without asking them to abandon their more particular and specific identities — one can still be a Southerner or a Korean-American without being any less of an American. Because the United States has proved successful in absorbing people from so many different backgrounds, the American political elite has, since the mid-20th century at least, tended to look on group identity as a kind of irrational atavism. Given the opportunity, they believe that most people, whether they live in Baghdad or Kansas City, will jump at the opportunity to shed their restrictive, premodern identities and become citizens of liberal-democratic states, with political preferences defined by individual interests and ideology. If it works in New Haven, why wouldn’t it work around the world?

For Chua, this idealism is both inspiring and completely false. People care very much about their group identity, tribalism is a part of our evolved psychology that cannot be educated away, and history is full of evidence that groups — whether ethnic, racial, religious, or political — are more than happy to dehumanize, exploit, and murder one another at the drop of a hat; indeed, we may take positive pleasure in watching members of our out-group suffer. Conflict becomes especially likely in conditions of extreme between-group inequality and in political systems that foreground group difference rather than providing a basis for common identity and solidarity — conditions that apply to the United States today, and which help to explain the country’s worsening partisan and racial divides. Conflict is not inevitable, and Chua is optimistic that America can find a way out of the downward spiral into tribalism. But doing so requires taking group feeling seriously, lest we blindly march down the road to Yugoslavia.

Much of the first half of Political Tribes is dedicated to showing how the American elite’s group blindness has crippled U.S. foreign policy in far-flung parts of the world. In Vietnam, for instance, American policymakers interpreted the war as a Cold War ideological conflict between communism and capitalism. Yet there was a hidden ethnic dimension that undermined U.S. efforts to prop up the South. South Vietnam, like the Philippines and many other Southeast Asian countries, had a private economy dominated by a tiny Chinese minority called the Hoa. This was a source of great resentment for ethnic Vietnamese, whose own national identity had been defined by centuries of resistance to Chinese imperialism. To many Vietnamese, “capitalism” was code for exploitation at the hands of the Hoa, and “communism” a dog-whistle for Vietnamese ethnic nationalism; predictably, the latter proved more popular. Subsequent chapters focus on Afghanistan and Iraq, where U.S. ignorance of sectarian and tribal divisions spelled disaster for postwar reconstruction efforts. Washington needed local allies who opposed the regime, and these often came from formerly subordinated groups eager to take revenge on their old masters. Meanwhile, American troops were inevitably seen by formerly dominant groups — the Pahstun in Afghanistan and the Sunni Arabs in Iraq — as foreign patrons of their ethnic rivals, pushing them into extremist sectarian movements such as the Taliban and ISIS. Referring to Pashtun intransigence, Chua lays out what she calls a “cardinal rule of tribal politics: once in power, groups do not give up their dominance easily.” It’s a rule that applies to the United States as well.

While the bulk of Political Tribes’ page count is taken up by examples drawn from around the world, the real focus of Chua’s book is contemporary American tribalism. The short version of the problem is, as she writes, that “race has split America’s poor, and class has split America’s whites.”

Whites, that is, have begun to separate more and more cleanly into two tribes defined largely along class, educational, and increasingly, partisan lines. (There are also, though Chua doesn’t mention them, subterranean ethnic divisions: Germans, Italians, and “Americans” — usually a proxy for Scots-Irish — were more likely than other whites to vote for Trump.) Better-educated whites, who dominate the country’s political and cultural institutions and are the main beneficiaries of the globalized economy, have adopted as their “tribal” identity a sort of post-national cosmopolitanism, defined against what they regard as the provincial culture of poor whites. Meanwhile, less-educated whites have defined their tribal identity in opposition to the Establishment, which they perceive as a distant, occupying foreign power, indifferent to their interests and intent on elevating minorities and foreigners to pride of place within “their” country. Donald Trump was their tribune, and his election has led to an omnidirectional escalation of hostility and mistrust. Progressive whites see him as a monstrous goon elected through appeals to America’s worst impulses; poor whites identify with his vulgarity and open contempt for elite mores; and minorities see in him the face of a terrifying white revanchism that has long bubbled under the surface of post-civil-rights America. Every group feels it is under attack, causing them all to “close ranks and become more insular, more defensive, more punitive, more us-versus-them.”

This analysis is not exactly new — we know, for instance, that poor whites feel alienated from the “coastal elite” and that minorities fear the backlash of poor whites. Much of the post-2016 debate on the left, for instance, has concerned the extent to which the Democratic Party should tone down its focus on identity politics in order to make inroads with working-class whites. Where Chua innovates is in applying her ethnic- and tribal-based lens specifically to the transformations of white America over the past few decades, a difficult task made easier by considering the country’s racial neuroses as a specific case of a global problem. People everywhere are attached to their own group cultures, and dominant groups don’t like to give up their dominance. This is as true of America’s whites, Chua argues, as it is of Pahstuns in Afghanistan. And thanks to the combined effects of immigration and fertility, it seems inevitable that American whites will lose their majority status sometime around the middle of the current century. More cosmopolitan whites tend to view this prospect with indifference or even excitement, but for many others it is a source of deep anxiety, made worse by the sense that they and their culture — which they view as identical with American culture writ large — are increasingly objects of scorn and vilification in the eyes of the progressive coalition. (Fifty-two percent of Trump supporters, Chua notes, feel like “strangers in their own land.”) The sense that they are rapidly losing both demographic weight and cultural influence to people who despise them is leading these whites to adopt what Chua calls “ethnonationalism lite” — a form of white identity politics that, while officially colorblind, would like to return to an era of implicit white cultural hegemony. It is not that these whites would like for minorities to be expelled or oppressed, but they would like them to quit complaining so much.

Something like this narrative has been repeated countless times in analyses of the 2016 election, but any recognition that cultural anxiety drove white Trump support is typically taken as proof that these voters were motivated by racism, or “racial resentment,” to use the social-science term of art. From Chua’s perspective, however, they are simply doing what you would expect most groups in most places to do most of the time: hold on to whatever power they have, an impulse that becomes all the more desperate the more tenuous that hold on power becomes. Chua does not intend this as an excuse for white racism, and she is emphatic that ethnonationalism lite is not a viable way forward for an increasingly diverse country — minorities are not going back in the closet, so to speak. But she is critical of those on the left who regard even a limited empathy with this perspective as tantamount to compromising with evil, and suggests that the more aggressive forms of left-wing identity politics, which move from demands for equality to the blanket demonization of American society, tend to exacerbate tribal sentiment on both sides of the country’s racial divide. A less tribal future will likely require talking whites off the identitarian cliff by addressing at least some of their cultural anxieties — without, however, indulging their uglier impulses.

Ultimately, Chua believes that   . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 April 2018 at 3:34 pm

Trump Fundraiser Offered Russian Gas Company Plan to Get Sanctions Lifted for $26 Million

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Pay to play, and a reason for (and example of) collusion and corrupt intent. Ryan Grim and Alex Emmons report in the Intercept:

SHORTLY AFTER PRESIDENT Donald Trump was inaugurated last year, top Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy offered Russian gas giant Novatek a $26 million lobbying plan aimed at removing the company from a U.S. sanctions list, according to documents obtained by The Intercept.

Broidy is a Trump associate who was deputy finance chair of the Republican National Committee until he resigned last week amid reports that he had agreed to pay $1.6 million to a former Playboy model with whom he had an affair. But in February 2017, when he laid out his lobbying proposal for Novatek, he was acting as a well-connected businessman and longtime Republican donor in a bid to help the Russian company avoid sanctions imposed by the Obama administration. The 2014 sanctions were aimed at punishing Russia for annexing Crimea and supporting pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine.

In February 2017, Broidy sent a draft of the plan by email to attorney Andrei Baev, then a Moscow- and London-based lawyer who represented major Russian energy companies for the firm Chadbourne & Parke LLP. Baev had already been communicating with Novatek about finding a way to lift U.S. sanctions.

Broidy proposed arranging meetings with key White House and congressional leaders and generating op-eds and other articles favorable to the Russian company, along with a full suite of lobbying activities to be undertaken by consultants brought on board. Yet even as he offered those services, Broidy was adamant that his company, Fieldcrest Advisors LLC, would not perform lobbying services but would hire others to do it. He suggested that parties to the deal sign a sweeping non-disclosure agreement that would shield their work from public scrutiny.

The plan is outlined in a series of emails and other documents obtained by The Intercept. Broidy and Baev did not dispute the authenticity of the exchanges but said the deal was never consummated.

In March, Bloomberg News reported that Broidy “offered last year to help a Moscow-based lawyer” — Baev — “get Russian companies removed from a U.S. sanctions list.” The news outlet did not identify the Russian firms or provide details of that proposal.

“At the time when I was a partner of Chadbourne & Parke LLP I had very preliminary discussions with Elliott Broidy with regard to possible engagement of him as a strategic consultant with regard to a possible instruction by one of my corporate clients. This instruction has never materialized,” Baev told The Intercept in an email. “Nor did I or Chadbourne provide any services to any other individual or entity in connection with any attempt to remove any Russian company or an individual from the US sanctions list.”

Broidy told The Intercept through a spokesperson that Baev had approached him about the proposal, but that Broidy had decided not to go through with it for political reasons. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 April 2018 at 3:16 pm

The Restaurant Industry Ran a Private Poll on the Minimum Wage. It Did Not Go Well for Them.

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Lisa Graves and Zaid Jilani report in the Intercept:

ONE OF THE nation’s most powerful anti-minimum wage lobbying groups tapped a longtime Republican pollster to survey the public about a range of issues impacting the industry.

A significant chunk of the survey focused on attitudes toward the minimum wage — and many members of the powerful lobby group aren’t going to like the results.

The poll — which was presented on a slide deck obtained by The Intercept and Documented — found that seven in 10 Americans want to see the minimum wage raised even if it means that they’d have to pay more for meals. It also found that the industry’s various talking points against raising the wage are mostly falling flat with the general public.

Conducted by GOP pollster Frank Luntz’s firm LuntzGlobal on behalf of the other NRA — the National Restaurant Association — the poll found that 71 percent of people surveyed support raising the minimum wage to at least $10 an hour.

The NRA, which did not respond to a request for comment, is the trade association for the massive restaurant industry. It has estimated that restaurant sales reached $799 billion in 2017, up 4.3 percent over 2016, and boasts eight years of consecutive growth in revenue for U.S. restaurants.

“The restaurant industry now in the United States is larger than 90 percent of the world economies,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the NRA’s Research and Knowledge group.

The NRA paid its CEO, Dawn Sweeney, more than $3.8 million in total compensation, including a bonus of $1.7 million. If her total compensation were computed hourly, it would amount to $1,867.88 per hour (as of four years ago), which would take a minimum-wage worker 247 hours, or six weeks of full-time work, to earn.

The NRA has long claimed that increasing the government wage floor would “ratchet up restaurants’ labor costs and result in thousands of jobs lost,” but these results show that the NRA’s rhetoric on the minimum wage is failing to move the American public. Indeed, as Democrats embrace a $15 per hour minimum wage ahead of the 2020 presidential campaign, the NRA is moving in the opposite direction.

Industry Messaging Backfiring

The leaked NRA poll is the first instance of a known national poll commissioned by the industry itself that shows how widely popular raising the minimum wage is and how small the opposition is, even though other published national surveys have shown a similar level of public support. . .

Continue reading. There’s a lot more, including a chart that shows that 71% want the minimum wage even if the restaurant’s prices go up some to cover the expense.

One interesting point:

A small minority of those surveyed don’t care: Twenty-nine percent told the Luntz pollsters that they would not support raising the minimum wage “even if the average food service employee cannot make ends meet.” Twenty-nine percent of respondents also said they were most concerned about cost increases.

I’m sure it’s a coincidence, but 29% is very close to the percentage of voters that support Trump (through thick and thin). Maybe that’s the percentage of people who lack empathy and the spirit of a community working together for the benefit of all.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 April 2018 at 2:35 pm

James Comey Told Barack Obama That His Use of the Phrase “Mass Incarceration” Was Insulting to Law Enforcement Officers

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Apparently (at least in Comey’s view) law enforcement officers are sensitive snowflakes unable to withstand even indirect criticism. That’s not the view I hold, FWIW.

Peter Maas reports in the Intercept:

IN HIS NEW BOOK, James Comey portrays himself as a law enforcement saint who desires only the best for us, and the best is manifestly not President Donald Trump. But if you read “A Higher Loyalty” with more than its anti-Trump morsels in mind, a less benevolent version of Comey emerges — akin to the King George character in “Hamilton,” who lovingly sings to his rebellious American subjects, “And when push comes to shove/ I will send a fully armed battalion/ To remind you of my love.”

Most stories about Comey’s best-selling memoir have focused on its Hamlet-like agonizing over his potential role in tilting the 2016 election, and his horror at discovering that Trump, once in the White House, was as thuggishly corrupt as the mafia dons Comey had prosecuted before he led the FBI and got fired by Trump. But Comey’s insistence on upholding the law is devotional to the point of ruthlessness, as he makes clear when explaining the need to send Martha Stewart to jail in 2003 for lying about an insider stock tip she had received.

“People must fear the consequences of lying in the justice system or the system can’t work,” Comey writes. “There was once a time when most people worried about going to hell if they violated an oath taken in the name of God. That divine deterrence has slipped away from our modern cultures. In its place, people must fear going to jail. They must fear their lives being turned upside down. They must fear their pictures splashed on newspapers and websites. People must fear having their names forever associated with a criminal act if we are to have a nation with the rule of law.”

This is ridiculous and dangerous, because it suggests Americans are insufficiently cowed by the necessarily God-like wrath of the machinery of law enforcement. Comey is worried that the country risks degenerating into criminality and sloth — and that all that’s standing between us and chaos is the FBI’s lash and our submission to it. Rather than separating himself from the Trump administration’s extremism, Comey sounds much like retired Gen. John Kelly, the White House chief of staff who recently bemoaned the lost discipline of an earlier and supposedly sunnier era.

“You know, when I was a kid growing up, a lot of things were sacred in our country,” Kelly said during a bitter press conference, in which he tried to smear a member of Congress who had accurately reported that a grieving war widow was offended by comments Trump made in a fumbled condolence call. “Women were sacred, looked upon with great honor. That’s obviously not the case anymore, as we see from recent cases. Life — the dignity of life — is sacred. That’s gone. Religion, that seems to be gone as well.”

Like Kelly, Comey frames his blinkered nostalgia as public virtue, and he’s largely succeeding: His book has been lavishly and warmly received. Comey is certainly right about the danger of Trump, but that doesn’t mean he’s right about other things. For instance, he shows minimal concern for the police killings of black men and the protest movement that’s grown out of them. He seems unable to believe that poor and minority communities have a fair case against the way law enforcement has been practiced on them.

In a short chapter on racial injustice, Comey describes the killings of Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, and Freddie Gray as “tragic deaths.” But he turns the killings around, lamenting that they “dominated perceptions of the police. They swamped and overshadowed millions of positive, professional encounters between citizens and police officers, and extraordinary anger was building toward all uniformed law enforcement.” Yes, Comey really went there — blaming the victims of police abuse for making people upset that police were abusing them.

Comey did not hide these views while at the FBI, and after making a speech in Chicago in 2015 that was not well received by the civil rights community, he was summoned to the Oval Office by then-President Barack Obama. Comey describes that session in his book, and he seemed to double down, telling the country’s first black president that the law enforcement community was upset at the way Obama had used the phrase “mass incarceration.” It was offensive, Comey told the president.

“I thought the term was both inaccurate and insulting to a lot of good people in law enforcement who cared deeply about helping people trapped in dangerous neighborhoods,” Comey writes. “It was inaccurate in the sense that there was nothing ‘mass’ about the incarceration: every defendant was charged individually, represented individually by counsel, convicted by a court individually, sentenced individually, reviewed on appeal individually, and incarcerated. That added up to a lot of people in jail, but there was nothing ‘mass’ about it.”

This is a delusion worthy of King George.

The idea that poor defendants are represented individually is true in a strict sense, but if you cannot afford a good lawyer of your own (many Americans cannot), you are unlikely to have decent representation in the face of prosecutor’s offices with significant resources. The idea that  . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 April 2018 at 2:28 pm

Posted in Books, Law Enforcement

Denial by a different name

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Kate Aronoff reports in the Intercept:

IT CAN FEEL GOOD to make fun of climate deniers. So let’s take a little romp with one: Wolfgang Müller.

Here he is in a Dusseldorf hotel conference room, 100 people gathered to take a group photo before him. He’s distributing stemware and pouring champagne, at the 11th annual International Conference on Climate and Energy, a convening this past November of some of Europe’s pre-eminent denialist minds.

Given that this is Europe, it’s not a huge crowd. Müller and company fit the stereotype: cranks poking holes in scientific consensus, railing against the pointy-headed academics — often, though not in his case, with generous industry funding. This particular gathering is co-hosted by the European Institute for Climate and Energy, known as its German abbreviation EIKE; the Competitive Enterprise Institute, an American outfit; and a handful of smaller groups of self-identified climate skeptics.

It’s not hard to see why EIKE sits on the margins. In one presentation, a historical building preservationist argued that medieval building practices — castles with 2-foot-thick stone walls — were better suited to insulate heat than Germany’s apparently tyrannical energy efficiency standards, in a talk that included an extended, only half-joking anecdote involving sex and boar skins. A session on renewables pleads sympathy for wildlife; literature handed out by the presenter features a picture of a dead bird at the foot of a wind turbine. The sole caption, in German, asks: “Bird shredder?”

Billed as a “Contra-COP23,” it takes place about an hour’s train ride from COP23, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s 23rd annual Conference of Parties talks in Bonn, where the world is vowing to redouble its efforts to combat climate change in spite of the spurning of U.S. President Donald Trump.

Back in Dusseldorf, it’s cause for celebration. For the camera, they toast: “To Donald Trump pulling out of the Paris Agreement!”

It is the patent impotence of Müller and his cohort that allows us to laugh at him. In the realm of international policymaking at the UNFCCC talks, he is far more than an hour from the main conversation, where climate change is universally acknowledged to exist, to be manmade, and to present one of humanity’s most pressing challenges — a fact that even right-wing heads of state rarely dispute.

Viewed close-up, the two sides and their competing conferences couldn’t look any less alike. Yet panning back and taking a longer and broader view — the one that actually matters to the health of the climate — the daylight between them shrinks.

Müller, at least, is honest about this denialism — even if he prefers the term “skeptic.”

Müller’s own scientific rationale may make no sense, but his conclusion is easy on the conscience: Relax, everything will be OK. Another version of that message is being marketed across COP23. As climate scientists call for a dramatic transformation of the world’s economy, a different set of deniers is starting to coalesce around something easier — plans to seemingly tackle climate change that may well still portend planetary catastrophe, even according to conservative climate projections. Unlike Müller, they’re at the center of the climate policymaking debate in Bonn. Like its predecessor events, exhibition halls at COP23 were dotted with stalls sponsored by fossil fuel companies proselytizing carbon capture and storage technology; international investment banks eager to discuss the central role of private finance in driving the new green revolution; industry-backed think tanks exploring the necessity of spraying particulates into the air to block out the sun. The solutions coming out of high-level talks don’t inspire much more confidence.

They peddle in a set of easy fixes: a market signal here, an industrial-grade aerosol there, and the crisis will be an artifact of history, with corporate shareholders better off for it.

If you believe that, then I have a clean coal plant to sell you.

AMERICA MAY WELL be the only country in the world where climate deniers making claims similar to Müller enjoy access to the reins of power. Given its status as the world’s largest economy and its second-largest polluter, that’s not something to be taken lightly; former EPA administrators estimate that the damage wrought by agency head Scott Pruitt in his first year could take three decades to repair. A few dozen miles from the EIKE confab, though — at a sprawling U.N. campus along the Rhine — was a preview for the kinds of climate politics that will dominate the 21st century once Trump and Pruitt are out of office. Unfortunately for the rest of us, they’re only marginally more in touch with scientific reality than our German revelers.

The relevant question isn’t whether the Earth is heating up, but what we intend to do about it. That’s a radically different conversation about climate change than the one that’s been had in America to this point. Here, decades of propaganda from the fossil fuel industry and the denialist think tanks they support have forced the debate to orbit around whether there’s a problem at all, prying open the Overton window to accommodate conspiracy theorists and Nobel Prize winners alike. That the two co-habitated for years on the same cable news panels put the climate debate on deniers’ terms, taking any discussion of reasonable, large-scale solutions — stringent regulation, massive public investment, an economy planned around reducing emissions — virtually off the table. In its place has come a parade of utopian techno-fixes and market-based solutions, dreamed up by the likes of Milton Friedman and now embraced by left and right alike. The same disinformation campaigners that created a debate over the reality of climate change have hedged their bets and staked a claim to solving a problem that they had tried to convince the world didn’t exist.

In late March, Royal Dutch Shell — Europe’s biggest oil company — released a pathway to meeting the low-bar commitment laid out in the Paris Agreement to cap warming at 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels; the actual text calls to cap it at “well below” 2 degrees Celsius. Still, the company’s decarbonization plan — to reach net-zero emissions by 2070 — is hugely ambitious. As Vox’s David Roberts notes,  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 April 2018 at 10:40 am

Trump admin announces abstinence-focused overhaul of teen pregnancy program

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Moving to abstinence programs because it has come to their attention that the number of teen pregnancies is too low, I presume. (It has been well-established that abstinence programs don’t work, but I think the people who back them are more interested in making a statement than solving a problem.)

Jessie Hellmann reports in The Hill:

The Trump administration will shift federal funding aimed at reducing teen pregnancy rates to programs that teach abstinence.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced Friday the availability of grants through the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, (TPPP) a grant program created under former President Obama that funds organizations and programs working to reduce teen pregnancy rates.

Trump’s HHS announced, however, that unlike under the Obama administration, grants will be geared toward organizations that teach abstinence education to teens instead of the comprehensive sex ed approach the previous administration supported.

In a funding announcement released Friday, the administration announced two tiers of funds for the TPP program.

In the first, grantees would have to follow one of two abstinence programs to receive funding.

One of the programs uses a “sexual risk reduction model,” which is designed to reduce sexual risk behaviors.

The other program uses a “sexual risk avoidance model,” which teaches teens to avoid sex completely.

“Projects will clearly communicate that teen sex is a risk behavior for both the physical consequences of pregnancy and sexual transmitted infections; as well as sociological, economic and other related risks,” the funding announcement reads. “Both risk avoidance and risk reduction approaches can and should include skills associated with helping youth delay sex as well as skills to help those youth already engaged in sexual risk to return toward risk-free choices in the future.”

In total, tier one will award up to $61 million in funds, ranging from $200,000 to $500,000 per year.

The second tier solicits applications to develop and test “new and innovative strategies” to prevent teen pregnancy while improving adolescent health and addressing “youth sexual risk holistically by focusing on protective factors.”

The changes represent a major change to the way the federal government treats teen pregnancy.

The Obama administration mostly awarded TPP grants to organizations that taught comprehensive sex education, which can include teaching teens about contraception and abstinence.

But the Trump administration has been shifting toward abstinence programs since hiring several HHS employees who support the approach, including Valerie Huber, the chief of staff for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Health, which oversees the TPP program.

Prior to coming to HHS, Huber led Ascend, a national abstinence education advocacy group.  . .

Continue reading.

Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 April 2018 at 10:23 am

Amazon Gets Tax Breaks While Its Employees Rely on Food Stamps, New Data Show

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Claire Brown reports in the Intercept:

LATER THIS YEAR, Amazon will begin accepting grocery orders from customers using the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the federal anti-poverty program formerly known as food stamps. As the nation’s largest e-commerce grocer, Amazon stands to profit more than any other retailer when the $70 billion program goes online after an initial eight-state pilot.

But this new revenue will effectively function as a double subsidy for the company: In Arizona, new data suggests that one in three of the company’s own employees depend on SNAP to put food on the table. In Pennsylvania and Ohio, the figure appears to be around one in 10. Overall, of five states that responded to a public records request for a list of their top employers of SNAP recipients, Amazon cracked the top 20 in four.

By 2021, Amazon is projected to handle 50 percent of all online sales in the United States. To accomplish this, it must add to the dozens of fulfillment centers that ensure the swift delivery of cheap televisions and shampoo bottles to nearly every corner of the nation. And to finance this expansion, the company will doubtless continue to leverage the promise of full-time jobs with benefits that it has used to win more than $1.2 billion in incentives from state and local governments so far.

However, though taxpayers have generously subsidized the build-out of Amazon’s warehouses, it’s not clear that the company has held up its end of the bargain. The jury is still out on its warehouses’ net effects on long term employment in the places they’re located. And independent analyses have shown that the company pays below-average wages for the warehouse jobs it brings to town.

The new data showing Amazon employees’ extensive reliance on SNAP demonstrates an additional public cost of the corporation’s rapid expansion. Even as generous subsidies help its warehouses turn a profit, its workers still must turn to the federal safety net to put food on the table. In Pennsylvania, for instance, an estimated $24.8 million in subsidies support 13 warehouses employing around 10,000 workers. At the same time, more than 1,000 of those workers don’t make enough money to buy groceries, according to public data provided by the state.

The American people are financing Amazon’s pursuit of an e-commerce monopoly every step of the way: first, with tax breaks, subsidies, and infrastructure improvements meant to lure fulfillment centers into town, and later with federal transfers to pay for warehouse workers’ food. And soon, when the company begins accepting SNAP dollars to purchase its goods, a third transfer of public wealth to private hands will become a part of the company’s business model.

IN JANUARY, AFTER Policy Matters Ohio reported state data showing 1,430 Amazon workers and their family members enrolled in SNAP, the New Food Economy and The Intercept submitted public records requests to the 30 states we could identify with Amazon fulfillment centers. We requested information on employers with the largest number of workers enrolled in SNAP. We asked for data from the years 2014 to 2017 in hopes that several years’ worth of numbers would help us establish patterns in Amazon’s reliance on the SNAP program. All told, five states responded, and most sent in partial data that included either the year 2017 or a single month during that year. (Many states don’t track SNAP data by employer and are not required by law to generate new reports when public records are not readily available; some also cited privacy concerns in their refusals to grant our request.) Data from a sixth state, Ohio, was already publicly available.

In five out of these six states, . . .

Continue reading. There’s a lot more, and it’s bad news for the future of American labor as automation, robots, and AI move in.

A strong union movement would help, as Harvard graduate assistants and teaching assistants are discovering.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 April 2018 at 9:53 am

A dark-chocolate shave and my breakfast this morning

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The Chiseled Face synthetic in the photo, like the Phoenix Artisan Valentine’s Day Dark Chocolate shaving soap and aftershave, is a one-off, though all are delightful.

The lather loaded the brush with brown soap, but as I worked the lather into the stubble it became white—and very fragrant, for those who like dark chocolate. (I in fact have a wonderful dark-chocolate rye whiskey.)

Three passes with the Rockwell 6S R3 plate was easy, comfortable, and effective, and a splash of the dark-chocolate aftershave finished the job.

Then I enjoyed a good breakfast. I put my small (8″) T-Fal pan over medium heat (6 on my 10-point dial on electric range) and let it sit to warm, since the nonstick coating is insulating (which it is difficult to sear meat in a nonstick pan—and because the nonstick coating will release toxic gas if heated on high).

UPDATE: It turns out that nonstick coatings are not to be warmed empty because the toxic gas is released even if the heat is not high. As The Eldest wrote to me, “The Consumer Product Safety Commission rejected putting black box warning labels on non-stick stovetop cookware because the instructions that come with the products explain how to use them safety — explain they should be used in a well-ventilated kitchen, that pet birds should not be in the vicinity (the off-gasses kill them), etc.”

So I am discarding my current nonstick T-Fal pan and from now on will use this 8″ carbon-steel skillet (rated best by America’s Test Kitchen), which is nonstick if well seasoned and often used, and I found this conditioner for cast-iron and carbon-steel cookware, which will be a big help in seasoning. No more nonstick for me.

This post discusses carbon-steel pans in greater detail, including an interesting video of the testing and benefits.    /update

When the pan is well-heated, add:

2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves minced
good pinch of salt
several grindings of black pepper

Sauté for a few minutes until the onion is soft and translucent, then add:

3/4 cup chopped oyster mushrooms (emphasis is on the caps, not the stems)
5 bay scallops
1 chopped Serrano or jalapeño pepper

When the mushrooms start to release their water, add:

4 cherry tomatoes, sliced (the ones I have are long, like little Roma tomatoes)

When tomatoes have cooked through, add:

2 jumbo eggs, beaten in a bowl

Use spatula to stir and turn, then slide it into a bowl. Very tasty and only 3 WW points (from the olive oil—everything else is zero points).

Also: two mugs of tea (in a 1-pint mug).

Written by LeisureGuy

21 April 2018 at 9:37 am

Posted in Food, Recipes, Shaving

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