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Archive for April 28th, 2018

At Nike, Revolt Led by Women Leads to Exodus of Executives Guilty of Misconduct and Harassment

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Julie Creswell, Kevin Draper, and Rachel Abrams report in the NY Times:

For too many women, life inside Nike had turned toxic.

There were the staff outings that started at restaurants and ended at strip clubs. A supervisor who bragged about the condoms he carried in his backpack. A boss who tried to forcibly kiss a female subordinate, and another who referenced a staff member’s breasts in an email to her.

Then there were blunted career paths. Women were made to feel marginalized in meetings and were passed over for promotions. They were largely excluded from crucial divisions like basketball. When they complained to human resources, they said, they saw little or no evidence that bad behavior was being penalized.

Finally, fed up, a group of women inside Nike’s Beaverton, Ore., headquarters started a small revolt.

Covertly, they surveyed their female peers, inquiring whether they had been the victim of sexual harassment and gender discrimination. Their findings set off an upheaval in the executive ranks of the world’s largest sports footwear and apparel company.

On March 5, the packet of completed questionnaires landed on the desk of Mark Parker, Nike’s chief executive. Over the next several weeks, at least six top male executives left or said they were planning to leave the company, including Trevor Edwards, president of the Nike brand, who was widely viewed as a leading candidate to succeed Mr. Parker, and Jayme Martin, Mr. Edwards’s lieutenant, who oversaw much of Nike’s global business.

Others who have departed include the head of diversity and inclusion, a vice president in footwear and a senior director for Nike’s basketball division.

It is a humbling setback for a company that is famous worldwide and has built its brand around the inspirational slogan “Just Do It.” While the #MeToo movement has led to the downfall of individual men, the kind of sweeping overhaul that is occurring at Nike is rare in the corporate world, and illustrates how internal pressure from employees is forcing even huge companies to quickly address workplace problems.

As women — and men — continue to come forward with complaints, Nike has begun a comprehensive review of its human resources operations, making management training mandatory and revising many of its internal reporting procedures.

While the departure of top executives has been covered in news accounts, new reporting by The New York Times, including interviews with more than 50 current and former employees, provides the most thorough account yet of how disaffection among women festered and left them feeling ignored, harassed and stymied in their careers. The Times also viewed copies of three complaints to human resources.

“I came to the realization that I, as a female, would not grow in that company,” said Francesca Krane, who worked for five years in Nike’s retail brand design area before leaving in 2016. She said she grew tired of watching men get promoted into jobs ahead of women she felt were equally or better qualified.

Many of those interviewed, across multiple divisions, also described a workplace environment that was demeaning to women. Three people, for instance, said they recalled times when male superiors referred to people using a vulgar term for women’s genitals. Another employee said that her boss threw his car keys at her and called her a “stupid bitch.” She reported the incident to human resources. (She told her sister about it at the time, the sister confirmed.) He continued to be her supervisor.

Most of the people who spoke to The Times insisted on anonymity, citing nondisclosure agreements or a fear of being ostracized in the industry, or in the Portland community, where Nike wields outsize influence. Some have spouses or family members still working there.

In response to questions, Nike portrayed its problems as being confined to “an insular group of high-level managers” who “protected each other and looked the other way.”

“That is not something we are going to tolerate,” said a spokesman, KeJuan Wilkins.

In a statement, Mr. Parker said the vast majority of Nike’s employees work hard to inspire and serve athletes throughout the world. “It has pained me to hear that there are pockets of our company where behaviors inconsistent with our values have prevented some employees from feeling respected and doing their best work,” he said.

For Amanda Shebiel, who left Nike in September after about five years at the company, the promise to address longstanding systemic problems is welcome, but late.

“Why did it take an anonymous survey to make change?” she asked. “Many of my peers and I reported incidences and a culture that were uncomfortable, disturbing, threatening, unfair, gender-biased and sexist — hoping that something would change that would make us believe in Nike again.”

“No one went just to complain,” Ms. Shebiel added. “We went to make it better.”

An Inner Circle of Men

With a market value of about $112 billion and annual revenues of around $36 billion, Nike is a global behemoth in the athletic market, where its dominance went largely unchallenged for several decades.

But the company is facing significant business hurdles. Adidas, one of its biggest competitors, has gained ground in key markets like apparel and footwear. Nike is also struggling to get traction in women’s categories, the fastest-growing segment of the market.

Some of those interviewed by The Times said the weakness in women’s products in part reflected a lack of female leadership and an environment that favored male voices. Nike’s own research shows that women occupy nearly half the company’s work force but just 38 percent of positions of director or higher, and 29 percent of the vice presidents, according to an April 4 internal memo obtained by The Times.

And while Nike executives have told investors that the women’s category was a crucial part of its revenue growth strategy, former employees said it was not given the budget it needed to roll out the sophisticated marketing campaigns that were the hallmark of traditional men’s sports, like basketball.

When Nike did put money behind campaigns targeting women, it sometimes flailed.

Last year, Mr. Edwards, the former president, gave the green light for a marketing campaign for the fall launch of the VaporMax shoe for women; the female British singer FKA Twigs was given creative license for a shoot in Mexico City. The result, according to a person who saw a rough cut of the commercial and another who saw the final cut, featured few shots of the shoes and instead had a woman twirling on what looked like a stripper pole and male athletes in sports bras striking odd poses. The campaign was killed, costing Nike millions of dollars.

Asked about the aborted campaign, Mr. Wilkins of Nike said the company was proud of its relationship with the singer. “We have a history of pushing the boundaries in marketing, just as we do in product development,” Mr. Wilkins said. “We create a lot of material that is not deployed in the marketplace.’’

Nike forcefully disputed the notion that women were not involved in the creative and marketing operations, noting that a female executive leads its women’s division. But Mr. Wilkins, the spokesman, acknowledged that, in areas like basketball, “there was more room and opportunity for the company to increase female representation in its senior positions.”

While women struggled to attain top positions at Nike, an inner circle of mostly male leaders emerged who had a direct line to Mr. Edwards. Within the company, as reported earlier in The Wall Street Journal, this group was known as F.O.T., or Friends of Trevor. They texted him in meetings or bragged about having lunch or dinner with him. . .

Continue reading.

Oddly, the original headline read “At Nike, Revolt Led by Women Leads to Exodus of Male Executives,” as if the problem were that the executives were male. That was not the problem, as the article makes clear.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 April 2018 at 6:00 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life, Law

Almost 1,500 Migrant Children Placed in Homes by the U.S. Government Went Missing Last Year

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This report is shocking, and though I don’t trust the government in such matters as these, I do hope there is an investigation, indictments, and imprisonment of the guilty, which would include government officials whose dereliction of duty led to this state of affairs. Garnace Burke reports in TIME:

Federal officials lost track of nearly 1,500 migrant children last year after a government agency placed the minors in the homes of adult sponsors in communities across the country, according to testimony before a Senate subcommittee Thursday.

The Health and Human Services Department has a limited budget to track the welfare of vulnerable unaccompanied minors, and realized that 1,475 children could not be found after making follow-up calls to check on their safety, an agency official said.

Federal officials came under fire two years ago after rolling back child protection policies meant for minors fleeing violence in Central America. In a follow-up hearing on Thursday, senators said that the agencies had failed to take full responsibility for their care and had delayed crucial reforms needed to keep them from falling into the hands of human traffickers.

“You are the worst foster parents in the world. You don’t even know where they are,” said Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. “We are failing. I don’t think there is any doubt about it. And when we fail kids that makes me angry.”

Since the dramatic surge of border crossings in 2013, the federal government has placed more than 180,000 unaccompanied minors with parents or other adult sponsors who are expected to care for the children and help them attend school while they seek legal status in immigration court.

An AP investigation found in 2016 that more than two dozen unaccompanied children had been sent to homes where they were sexually assaulted, starved or forced to work for little or no pay. At the time, many adult sponsors didn’t undergo thorough background checks, government officials rarely visited homes and in some cases had no idea that sponsors had taken in several unrelated children, a possible sign of human trafficking.

Since then, the Health and Human Services Department has boosted outreach to at-risk children deemed to need extra protection, and last year offered post-placement services to about one-third of unaccompanied minors, according to the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

But advocates say it is hard to know how many minors may be in dangerous conditions, in part because some disappear before social workers can follow up with them and never show up in court.

From October to December 2017, HHS called 7,635 children the agency had placed with sponsors, and found 6,075 of the children were still living with their sponsors, 28 had run away, five had been deported and 52 were living with someone else. The rest were missing, said Steven Wagner, acting assistant secretary at HHS.

Republican Sen. Rob Portman gave HHS and the Department of Homeland Security until Monday to deliver a time frame for improving monitoring.

“These kids, regardless of their immigration status, deserve to be treated properly, not abused or trafficked,” said Portman, who chairs the subcommittee. “This is all about accountability.”

Portman began investigating after a case in his home state of Ohio, where eight Guatemalan teens were placed with human traffickers and forced to work on egg farms under threats of death. Six people have been convicted and sentenced to federal prison for their participation in the trafficking scheme that began in 2013. . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 April 2018 at 2:15 pm

The Galvanizing Shock of the Bill Cosby Verdict

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Jia Tolentino writes in the New Yorker:

Early on Thursday afternoon, at the culmination of his retrial in Norristown, Pennsylvania, Bill Cosby was found guilty on three counts of sexual assault. This should not have been surprising. Women have accused Cosby of drugging and molesting them on a timeline that stretches from the mid-sixties to 2008. In 2000, a report of his misbehavior made the New York Post. In 2005, Andrea Constand’s allegations against Cosby became public, and Tamara Green went on the “Today” show to accuse Cosby of assaulting her in the nineteen-seventies. By the time that Philadelphia magazine and Peoplecovered the story, in 2006, there were a dozen accusers. In 2014, Gawker resurrected the accusationsNewsweek investigated them, and Hannibal Buress called Cosby a rapist during a standup routine, prompting thirty more women to come forward. In the summer of 2015, New York put thirty-five of Cosby’s accusers on the cover of the magazine. At the end of that year, Cosby was charged with raping Constand. His trial, in 2017, ended with a hung jury, but a public consensus had formed that the comedian and TV star would be remembered as a rapist. A few months later, starting with the Harvey Weinstein story, man after man after man was exposed and investigated for sexual assault and harassment. The tables, everyone said, were turning.

Nonetheless, I went blank with shock when I saw the verdict on Thursday. So did a lot of people. It didn’t matter that this was, by now, a he-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she-said situation. For all the fears that the #MeToo moment will be marked by overreach, the fact remains that a single instance of justice feels more surprising than several decades of serial rape.

I covered Cosby’s first trial, last summer, from Norristown, where I sat in a pack of reporters, inexperienced and reeling. I had never covered a trial before, let alone a rape trial. I had not watched a woman try to prove to twelve strangers, under cross-examination, beyond a reasonable doubt, that a man had raped her. Before Constand testified, a woman named Kelly Johnson told her own story about being drugged and assaulted by Cosby. (Johnson was the only prior bad-act witness allowed by the judge.) To watch the defense question Johnson and then Constand was to watch an essential part of our criminal-justice system align with some of the worst things about being a woman. Women put their sanity and selfhood on the line in the process of securing sexual justice. They accept that they will be dressed up like paper dolls to look cruel, selfish, naïve, dishonest, slutty, greedy, stupid, or just unwanted—another woman talking about something we’d rather not know.

I wasn’t surprised, last year, when the first jury couldn’t settle on a verdict. I wasn’t surprised by the Weinstein story, or by the excruciating months that followed. It’s hard to graft new values onto an old world. There are a lot of people who think that men’s jobs are as important as women, period. (The careers and happiness and earning power that women have lost as victims of sexual assault and harassment, rather than as perpetrators of those crimes, still mostly go unmourned.) But people kept speaking up. Women kept voluntarily reëntering a world they had been dragged into, their pain and bravery always inextricable and twinned.

Writing about sexual assault, you get a tiny glimpse of what these women deal with: the way they are asked to answer for the entire spectrum of sexual encounters, the way they open themselves up to a firehose of other people’s pain. In February, I wrote about sexual assault again, this time at Columbia. It was the thirteenth story I’d written about the subject in a year. I had gotten sad and tired, and wanted the sort of peace that all of these women had denied themselves. I never suggested to my editor that I go back to Pennsylvania for the retrial. I expected a not-guilty verdict. There were far fewer reporters in Norristown this time around.

At Jezebel, Diana Moskovitz, who attended both trials, suggested that, the second time, the gloss of celebrity scandal, the shock of seeing an iconic cultural father figure on trial, had worn off, leaving the mundane fact of violence against women. My surprise at the verdict has reminded me how much fear and cynicism I’m still carrying around. Inequality has all of history on its side. Stories have already been published about how Matt Lauer and Louis C.K.could stage comebacks; Charlie Rose is reportedly in talks to do a #MeToo-themed television series interviewing his predatory peers. The President, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by nearly twenty women, remains inconceivably untouchable. As Andi Zeisler tweeted, many people still think of sexual assault as a matter of opinion rather than as a crime.

But all of the women—and not only women—who have come forward in the past year mattered; what they endured, what they continue to endure, mattered. For a jury to convict in this case, its members had to understand that the absence of a yes was a violation of consent, as Kevin Steele, the Montgomery County district attorney, asserted in the prosecution’s opening statement. The Weinstein case shed light on many aspects of sexual assault that tend to confuse people: that victims often maintain relationships with their attackers, or act irrationally in an attempt to rescue their dignity, or stay silent for years. These past six months have shown that serial abusers behave in predictable patterns, and that these patterns are crucial: the judge in Norristown allowed five bad-act accusers, rather than one, to testify at Cosby’s retrial. The presence of these accusers, I suspect, made the difference. This isolated outcome is the result of the accumulated outpouring of an unfathomable amount of female pain.

To be surprised at this verdict is disheartening, destabilizing. After all of this, are our expectations still so low? (Clickhole caught the mood with its headline: “A Slippery Slope: Could Bill Cosby’s Conviction Lead to a Mob Mentality Where Society Wantonly Punishes Any Serial Rapist After Decades of Inaction?”) It’s also galvanizing. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 April 2018 at 1:33 pm

Why we should bulldoze the business school

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Martin Parker writes in the Guardian:

Visit the average university campus and it is likely that the newest and most ostentatious building will be occupied by the business school. The business school has the best building because it makes the biggest profits (or, euphemistically, “contribution” or “surplus”) – as you might expect, from a form of knowledge that teaches people how to make profits.

Business schools have huge influence, yet they are also widely regarded to be intellectually fraudulent places, fostering a culture of short-termism and greed. (There is a whole genre of jokes about what MBA – Master of Business Administration – really stands for: “Mediocre But Arrogant”, “Management by Accident”, “More Bad Advice”, “Master Bullshit Artist” and so on.) Critics of business schools come in many shapes and sizes: employers complain that graduates lack practical skills, conservative voices scorn the arriviste MBA, Europeans moan about Americanisation, radicals wail about the concentration of power in the hands of the running dogs of capital. Since 2008, many commentators have also suggested that business schools were complicit in producing the crash.

Having taught in business schools for 20 years, I have come to believe that the best solution to these problems is to shut down business schools altogether. This is not a typical view among my colleagues. Even so, it is remarkable just how much criticism of business schools over the past decade has come from inside the schools themselves. Many business school professors, particularly in north America, have argued that their institutions have gone horribly astray. B-schools have been corrupted, they say, by deans following the money, teachers giving the punters what they want, researchers pumping out paint-by-numbers papers for journals that no one reads and students expecting a qualification in return for their cash (or, more likely, their parents’ cash). At the end of it all, most business-school graduates won’t become high-level managers anyway, just precarious cubicle drones in anonymous office blocks.

These are not complaints from professors of sociology, state policymakers or even outraged anti-capitalist activists. These are views in books written by insiders, by employees of business schools who themselves feel some sense of disquiet or even disgust at what they are getting up to. Of course, these dissenting views are still those of a minority. Most work within business schools is blithely unconcerned with any expression of doubt, participants being too busy oiling the wheels to worry about where the engine is going. Still, this internal criticism is loud and significant.

The problem is that these insiders’ dissent has become so thoroughly institutionalised within the well-carpeted corridors that it now passes unremarked, just an everyday counterpoint to business as usual. Careers are made by wailing loudly in books and papers about the problems with business schools. The business school has been described by two insiders as “a cancerous machine spewing out sick and irrelevant detritus”. Even titles such as Against Management, Fucking Management and The Greedy Bastard’s Guide to Business appear not to cause any particular difficulties for their authors. I know this, because I wrote the first two. Frankly, the idea that I was permitted to get away with this speaks volumes about the extent to which this sort of criticism means anything very much at all. In fact, it is rewarded, because the fact that I publish is more important than what I publish.

Most solutions to the problem of the B-school shy away from radical restructuring, and instead tend to suggest a return to supposedly more traditional business practices, or a form of moral rearmament decorated with terms such as “responsibility” and “ethics”. All of these suggestions leave the basic problem untouched, that the business school only teaches one form of organising – market managerialism.

That’s why I think that we should call in the bulldozers and demand an entirely new way of thinking about management, business and markets. If we want those in power to become more responsible, then we must stop teaching students that heroic transformational leaders are the answer to every problem, or that the purpose of learning about taxation laws is to evade taxation, or that creating new desires is the purpose of marketing. In every case, the business school acts as an apologist, selling ideology as if it were science.

Universities have been around for a millenium, but the vast majority of business schools only came into existence in the last century. Despite loud and continual claims that they were a US invention, the first was probably the École Supérieure de Commerce de Paris, founded in 1819 as a privately funded attempt to produce a grande école for business. A century later, hundreds of business schools had popped up across Europe and the US, and from the 1950s onwards, they began to grow rapidly in other parts of the world.

In 2011, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business estimated that there were then nearly 13,000 business schools in the world. India alone is estimated to have 3,000 private schools of business. Pause for a moment, and consider that figure. Think about the huge numbers of people employed by those institutions, about the armies of graduates marching out with business degrees, about the gigantic sums of money circulating in the name of business education. (In 2013, the top 20 US MBA programmes already charged at least $100,000 (£72,000). At the time of writing, London Business School is advertising a tuition fee of £84,500 for its MBA.) No wonder that the bandwagon keeps rolling.

For the most part, business schools all assume a similar form. The architecture is generic modern – glass, panel, brick. Outside, there’s some expensive signage offering an inoffensive logo, probably in blue, probably with a square on it. The door opens, automatically. Inside, there’s a female receptionist dressed office-smart. Some abstract art hangs on the walls, and perhaps a banner or two with some hopeful assertions: “We mean business.” “Teaching and Research for Impact.” A big screen will hang somewhere over the lobby, running a Bloomberg news ticker and advertising visiting speakers and talks about preparing your CV. Shiny marketing leaflets sit in dispensing racks, with images of a diverse tableau of open-faced students on the cover. On the leaflets, you can find an alphabet of mastery: MBA, MSc Management, MSc Accounting, MSc Management and Accounting, MSc Marketing, MSc International Business, MSc Operations Management.

There will be plush lecture theatres with thick carpet, perhaps named after companies or personal donors. The lectern bears the logo of the business school. In fact, pretty much everything bears the weight of the logo, like someone who worries their possessions might get stolen and so marks them with their name. Unlike some of the shabby buildings in other parts of the university, the business school tries hard to project efficiency and confidence. The business school knows what it is doing and has its well-scrubbed face aimed firmly at the busy future. It cares about what people think of it.

Even if the reality isn’t always as shiny – if . . .

Continue reading. There’s a lot more.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 April 2018 at 12:33 pm

It’s official: Praying for the poor is a firing offense in the GOP House

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Dana Milbank writes in the Washington Post:

Praying for the poor is now apparently a firing offense in the corridors of power.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) did not give a reason when his chief of staff this month told the Rev. Patrick Conroy, a Jesuit priest and House chaplain, to resign or face dismissal.

But we know this much: Ryan’s office complained to Conroy about a prayer he offered on the House floor during the tax overhaul debate that those who “continue to struggle” in the United States would not be made “losers under new tax laws.” Ryan admonished the priest after the Nov. 6 prayer, saying, “Padre, you just got to stay out of politics,”Conroy told the New York Times.

He was warned. He was given an explanation. Nevertheless, he persisted.

Over the five months since Ryan’s warning, Conroy dared to continue to preach the teachings of Jesus on the House floor:

He prayed to God that lawmakers would help “the least among us.”

He prayed for them to follow the example of St. Nicholas, “who fed the hungry, brought hope to the imprisoned, gave comfort to the lost.”

He admonished lawmakers “to serve other people in their need” and “to pray for the unemployed and those who work but still struggle to make ends meet.”

After an immigration deal collapsed, he urged “those who possess power here in Washington be mindful of those whom they represent who possess little or no power.”

He prayed for lawmakers to be “free of all prejudice” and, after the Parkland, Fla., school shooting, to “fulfill the hopes of those who long for peace and security for their children.”

But such “political” sentiments are apparently no longer compatible with service as House chaplain. “As you have requested, I hereby offer my resignation,” Conroy, named chaplain seven years ago by then-Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), wrote to Ryan on April 16. The ouster became public Thursday.

Only in this perverted time could a priest lose his job after committing the sin of crying out for justice for the poor. But then, look around: Everywhere are the signs of a rising kleptocracy. The $1.5 trillion tax cutdid make winners of corporations and the wealthy. And actions since then show that the Trump administration is making losers of the poor.

In a speech to bankers this week, Trump budget director Mick Mulvaney spoke of the “hierarchy” he followed when he was in Congress: “If you were a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you. If you were a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you.”

Also this week, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt was on Capitol Hill, defiant as lawmakers grilled him about his lavish expense account (at a time when Trump wants to cut the EPA budget by 25 percent) and coziness with corporate lobbyists — most notably renting a condo at a sweetheart rate from the wife of an energy lobbyist. “I simply have not failed to take responsibility,” Pruitt said after blaming bureaucrats and others. “I’ve simply recited the facts.”

Meanwhile, Ben Carson, secretary of housing and urban development, this week proposed to triple the rent charged to the poorest familiesliving in subsidized housing. “It’s clear from a budget perspective and a human point of view that the current system is unsustainable,” Carson explained. It’s hard to sustain help for the poor when you’re proposing to cut HUD spending by 14 percent next year — and when you’ve borrowed $1.5 trillion to give tax breaks mostly for the wealthy.

Conroy, of course, didn’t preach about such truly political things; he prayed, generically, for compassion. In the prayer that earned him Ryan’s reprimand, he merely reminded lawmakers that “the institutions and structures of our great nation guarantee the opportunities that have allowed some to achieve great success, while others continue to struggle.” He prayed that lawmakers “guarantee that there are not winners and losers under new tax laws, but benefits balanced and shared by all Americans.”

Such heresies continued. He prayed for “peace and reconciliation where those virtues are so sorely needed.” He prayed for them to rise above “self-interest” and “immediate political wins.” He prayed for them to promote “justice, equity and truth.” He admonished them to “show respect for those with whom they disagree.”

On Friday morning, in the well for one of his last remaining prayers, Conroy prayed “for all people who have special needs” and “those who are sick” and for those “who serve in this House to be their best selves.”

Best selves? Respect? Reconciliation? No can do. Later Friday,  . . .

Continue reading.

Notice that the GOP’s actions, which could have been accurately predicted if you took as an assumption that the GOP hates the poor, were done by a group whose members profess (in some cases strongly) to be Christian.

I am not saying that the GOP does hate the poor, just that what they do is what people would do if they did hate the poort.

So I propose a different definition of Christian. The usual definition is that a Christian who believes in Jesus (i.e., believes that Jesus is divine) and believes that Jesus offers salvation to the world for those who believe in Him.

The problem is that belief is very easy to fake, since belief is something completely internal to a person. It’s truly impossible to know what a person believes, but it is fairly easy to see what what a person does.

So I propose eliminating the “belief” part of the definition of Christian and focus on words and actions: a person whose words and actions are in accordance with what Jesus taught is a Christian, regardless of what the person believes. (I suddenly realize that this is the exact definition my mother used, which I could not understand at the time, being fixated on the belief definition.)

So a person who prays in public, seeks wealth, and is okay with divorce: not a Christian, since those are things Jesus specifically forbade. Their belief may or may not be Christian—who knows?—but their actions show clearly that they do not follow the teachings of Jesus. Indeed, Jesus Himself said (in the Sermon on the Mount), “By their fruits [i.e., their words and deeds: what they produce] you will know them.” Not by their beliefs. By their deeds. And, BTW, rereading the Sermon on the Mount shows that the GOP’s actions (not their beliefs, but their actions) are profoundly un-Christian.

The number of Christians is much diminished by this definition, I would guess. But no one said being a Christian was easy.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 April 2018 at 12:07 pm

Of increasing interest: Can the President Be Indicted? A Long-Hidden Legal Memo Says Yes

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Charlie Savage reports in the NY Times last July:

A newfound memo from Kenneth W. Starr’s independent counsel investigation into President Bill Clinton sheds fresh light on a constitutional puzzle that is taking on mounting significance amid the Trump-Russia inquiry: Can a sitting president be indicted?

The 56-page memo, locked in the National Archives for nearly two decades and obtained by The New York Times under the Freedom of Information Act, amounts to the most thorough government-commissioned analysis rejecting a generally held view that presidents are immune from prosecution while in office.

“It is proper, constitutional, and legal for a federal grand jury to indict a sitting president for serious criminal acts that are not part of, and are contrary to, the president’s official duties,” the Starr office memo concludes. “In this country, no one, even President Clinton, is above the law.”

Mr. Starr assigned Ronald Rotunda, a prominent conservative professor of constitutional law and ethics whom Mr. Starr hired as a consultant on his legal team, to write the memo in spring 1998 after deputies advised him that they had gathered enough evidence to ask a grand jury to indict Mr. Clinton, the memo shows.

Other prosecutors working for Mr. Starr developed a draft indictment of Mr. Clinton, which The Times has also requested be made public. The National Archives has not processed that file to determine whether it is exempt from disclosure under grand-jury secrecy rules. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 April 2018 at 9:47 am

Accidental rewilding

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Brigid Haines writes in Aeon:

I stepped out into the sunlight, scarcely able to believe what I had seen or, rather, what I had not. I stared at the hills around me, contrasting them with the old photos of those same hills I had seen. Where dense forests now grew, forming a high, closed canopy — in the valleys, over the hills and up the mountain walls until they shrank, many thousands of feet above sea level, into a low scrub of pines, which diminished further to a natural treeline — there had been almost nothing. In the photos, taken on the western side of Slovenia during the First World War, the land was almost treeless.

So tall and impressive are the trees now and so thickly do they now cover the hills that when you see the old photos — taken, in ecological terms, such a short time ago — it is almost impossible to believe that you are looking at the same place. I have become so used to seeing the progress of destruction that scanning those images felt like watching a film played backwards.

Tomaž Hartmann had driven for almost an hour along a forest track through Kočevski Rog to bring us here. The woods of beech and silver fir towered over us, in places almost touching across the road. Their roots sprawled over mossy boulders. They rolled down into limestone sinkholes: karstic craters. Karst topography — weathered limestone landscapes of chasms and caves, sinkholes, shafts and pavements — is named after this region of Slovenia, which is sometimes called the Kras or Karst plateau. The word means barren land. When Karst landscapes are grazed, they are rapidly denuded, but it was hard to connect the term with what I now saw.

Where the road clung to the edge of a hill, I could see for many miles across the Dinaric Mountains. The mountains rambled across the former Yugoslavia, fading into ever fainter susurrations of blue. The entire range was furred with forest. Where the road sank into a pass, the darkness closed around us. Through the trunks I could see the air thicken, shade upon shade of green. A few yards from the road, a fox sat watching us. Its copper fur glowed like a cinder in the shadows, which cooled to charcoal in the tips of its ears. It raised its black stockings and loped away into the depths. Woodpeckers swung along the track ahead of us.

The leaves of the beeches glittered in the silver light above our heads. The great firs grazed the sun, straight as lances. They looked as if they had been there forever.

‘All this,’ Tomaž told us, ‘has grown since the 1930s.’

He parked the car and we set off up a forest trail. Mushrooms nosed through the leaf litter beside the path. Saffron milk caps, orange and sickly green, curled up at the edges like Japanese ceramics. Dryad’s saddle, sulphur tuft and cauliflower fungus accreted around rotting stumps. Russulas — scarlet, mauve and gold — brightened the forest floor.

Tomaž led us up a limestone slope towards a stand of virgin forest, the ancient core of the great woods that had regenerated over the past century. As we climbed, we stepped into a ragged fringe of cloud. Sounds were muffled. The trees loomed darkly out of the fog. As we walked, Tomaž spoke about the dynamism of the forest system: how it never reached a point of stasis, but tumbled through a constant cycle of change. He had noticed some major shifts, and knew that, as the climate warmed, there would be plenty more. Though he described himself as both a forester and a conservationist, he had no wish to interrupt this cycle, or to seek to select and freeze a particular phase in the succession from one state to another. He sought only to protect the forests, as far as his job permitted, from destruction.

Ahead of us something dark and compact shot across the path in a blur and disappeared into the undergrowth: probably a young wild boar, Tomaž said. Then, though it was not clear where the transition had occurred, we found ourselves in the primeval core of the forest. The trees we had walked past until then were impressive, but these were built on a different scale. The beeches grew, unbranched — smooth pillars wrapped in elephant skin — for 100 feet until they blossomed, like giant gardenias, into a leafy plateau in the forest canopy. Silver firs pushed past them, the biggest topping out at almost 150 feet high. Only where they had fallen could you appreciate the scale of their trunks. . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

28 April 2018 at 9:37 am

Posted in Daily life, Environment

The Coal Industry Extracted a Steep Price From West Virginia. Now Natural Gas Is Leading the State Down the Same Path

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Those who do not learn from history are doomed to make the same damn mistakes repeatedly. Ken Ward, Jr., reports in ProPublica:

This article was produced in partnership with the Charleston Gazette-Mail, which is a member of the ProPublica Local Reporting Network.

It was a warm Monday afternoon in late February. Thousands of teachers, public school employees and supporters rallied on the steps of West Virginia’s Capitol building, on the banks of the Kanawha River in Charleston.

Schools in all 55 counties were closed again. Teachers, cooks and janitors were in the third day of a strike. They wanted pay raises and a fix to the skyrocketing cost of their health insurance.

On the other end of the state, at a town hall meeting with teachers in Wheeling, Gov. Jim Justice tossed out a possible solution: Fund the pay raises with an increase in taxes on the state’s booming natural gas industry.

West Virginia “benefited from the extraction of coal and we benefited from the extraction of timber, but we were still dead last in everything,” said Justice, whose family made its fortune in coal. “And now we have this gas situation and we’re on fire, and we have a real opportunity again.” If the state doesn’t pass a gas-tax hike, the governor said, “we’re going to be left holding the bag again.”

But what seemed like a stunning change of direction proved to be little more than a feint. Gas industry lobbyists strongly criticized the proposal and the governor’s tax hike idea quickly faded.

West Virginia has been here before.

Sixty-five years ago, then-Gov. William Marland, the son of a mine superintendent, shocked state lawmakers by proposing a new tax on coal to upgrade schools and roads.

“Let’s use this equitable source of revenue, because whether we like it or not, West Virginia’s hills will be stripped, the bowels of the earth will be mined and the refuse strewn across our valleys and our mountains in the form of burning slate dumps,” Marland told a joint session of the Legislature in February 1953.

Marland’s proposal was soundly defeated following an onslaught of criticism. One biographer called it “political suicide.”

Today, West Virginia’s headlong race into the gas rush is taking the state down the same path that it’s been on for generations with coal.

Elected officials have sided with natural gas companies on tax proposals and property rights legislation. Industry lobbyists have convinced regulators to soften new rules aimed at protecting residents and their communities from drilling damage.

In 2011, for example, then-Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, a Democrat, and his party’s legislative leadership weakened a measure to regulate the growing industry, at the urging of gas company lobbyists. Among other changes, language was eliminated that would have given state regulators more authority to deny drilling permits that threatened water supplies and populated areas.

Supporters say the state’s actions over the past few years have positioned West Virginia to compete for growth.

“We have a regulatory body and a legislative body and an industry that are all willing to work together,” said Al Schopp, chief administrative officer for Antero Resources, the state’s biggest natural gas producer. “That makes it a good environment.”

But critics fear that West Virginia won’t fully share in the riches the industry creates and will be forced to bear the long-term environmental, health and infrastructure costs, much as it has for the now-dwindling coal industry.

“It’s repeating the same cycle,” said former state Senate President Jeff Kessler, a Democrat from Marshall County, one of the state’s biggest producers of both coal and natural gas.

In 2014, after several years of trying, Kessler persuaded the Legislature to approve a plan to use gas industry taxes for educational and infrastructure projects, to help diversify the state’s economy. Six U.S. states have such programs, including North Dakota and Alaska.

But while West Virginia lawmakers created a similar program on paper, they haven’t set aside any money for it.

Retired Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., also worries about what he’s seen in recent years. Rockefeller, who served for 30 years in the Senate and, before that, as the state’s governor, recalled “devastating” testimony about the gas industry during a 2012 public hearing in Fairmont. A local sheriff, Rockefeller remembered, described an “invasion” of heavy traffic and damage to local roads from thousands of trucks servicing all the new natural gas wells. Such complaints continue today.

“It’s a terrible peril for a rural state like West Virginia to have so much drilling,” Rockefeller said in an interview this month. “Natural gas is doing well now, but at what price?”

As One Industry Busts, Another Booms

For generations, coal has been the most economically significant, politically powerful and socially influential industry in the state. West Virginia coal provided high-wage jobs, paid a large portion of state and local budgets, and fueled a nation hungry for both electricity and steel. The state’s mining jobs peaked at more than 125,000 in the 1940s.

Along the way, the industry received huge tax breaks, often to offset the costs of machines that allowed much more coal to be mined with fewer workers. Lobbyists, lawmakers and regulators picked away at environmental and worker safety rules and enforcement.

Over time, the costs of these regulatory and tax breaks became clear: Miners died in horrific explosions, massive mine cave-ins or from deadly black lung disease. Creeks were left polluted and land scarred.

In the past 10 years, the job losses in coal have picked up. The 14,000 miners working in West Virginia last year represented a drop of about 40 percent from 2008, according to U.S. Department of Labor data. Today, the parts of West Virginia that for generations produced the most coal are among the poorest communities in the region. . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

28 April 2018 at 9:33 am

If you can’t get a RazoRock Baby Smooth, get a Dorco PL602

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The Dorco PL602 and the RazoRock Baby Smooth have the same head geometry, which includes extreme curvature of the blade, and so the feel (on the face) and performance of the two razors is quite close. The Baby Smooth is made from machined aluminum alloy and the Dorco PL602 is molded plastic, so the prices and durability differ substantially, but looking simply at the shave, I would say it’s a tie.

The Sabini brushwith the ebony handle (and very fan-shaped knot) made a fine lather from Barrister & Mann’s aromatic Cologne Russe, and the Dorco removed lather and stubble comfortably and efficiently. A splash of Cologne Russe aftershave, and the weekend is underway.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 April 2018 at 7:57 am

Posted in Shaving

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