Later On

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

Archive for October 2nd, 2018

“Dear young people: Don’t vote”

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Written by LeisureGuy

2 October 2018 at 5:57 pm

Posted in Election

A nail-biting frame: Ronnie O’Sullivan v. Neil Robertson, Shanghai Masters 2018

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Written by LeisureGuy

2 October 2018 at 5:40 pm

Posted in Games

Nooses in cells, rotting teeth — report details harsh conditions at Adelanto immigration facility

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The US is a cold-hearted nation. Brittany Mejia and Paloma Esquivel report in the LA Times:

Federal inspectors have issued a scathing report on conditions at the Adelanto ICE Processing Center, which houses more than 1,000 immigrant detainees in the high desert, after officials found nooses made of bed sheets in cells, improper use of disciplinary segregation and inadequate medical care during an unannounced visit to the facility earlier this year.

The report comes one year after immigrant advocates raised alarms about conditions at the facility after three detainees died there in a three-month period in 2017. One of them, Osmar Epifanio Gonzalez-Gadba, 32, of Nicaragua, died six days after he was found hanging from bed sheets in his cell.

The Los Angeles Times reported in August 2017 that there were at least five attempted suicides at the facility, according to a review of 911 calls.

The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General, which is tasked with providing independent oversight of DHS, issued the alert late last month, saying the problems officials found during their visit in May “pose significant health and safety risks at the facility” and are in need of immediate attention.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment. But the report notes that ICE agreed with a recommendation to conduct a full review of the facility and its management by the GEO Group, which owns and operates the facility.

During their May visit, inspectors found braided bed sheets, referred to as “nooses” by staff and detainees, hanging from vents in about 15 of 20 male detainee cells.

“When we asked two contract guards who oversaw the housing units why they did not remove the bed sheets, they echoed it was not a high priority,” the report says. ICE’s “lack of response to address this matter at the Adelanto Center shows a disregard for detainee health and safety.”

The report notes that in the months after Gonzalez’ suicide, ICE compliance reports documented at least three suicide attempts by hanging at Adelanto, two of which specifically used bed sheets.

One detainee told inspectors that he had seen “a few attempted suicides using the braided sheets by the vents.”

“The guards laugh at them and call them ‘suicide failures’ once they are back from medical,” the detainee told officials.

The report also notes that some detainees reported waiting “weeks and months” to see a doctor and said that appointments were canceled without explanation, with detainees placed back on the waiting list.

From November 2017 to April 2018, detainees filed 80 medical grievances with the facility for not receiving urgent care, not being seen for months for persistent health conditions and not receiving prescribed medication, according to the report.

The report notes that ICE’s own death reviews for three Adelanto detainees who died since 2015 also cited medical care deficiencies related to providing necessary and adequate care in a timely manner.

“ICE must take these continuing violations seriously and address them immediately,” the report states.

The report also highlights serious problems with dental care at the facility, saying detainees are placed on waitlists for months and, sometimes, years to receive basic care, “resulting in tooth loss and unnecessary extractions in some cases.”

No detainees have received fillings in the last four years, according to the report. One detainee reported multiple teeth falling out while waiting more than two years for cavities to be filled.

One dentist at the facility said he did not have time to . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 October 2018 at 4:32 pm

“I Know Brett Kavanaugh, but I Wouldn’t Confirm Him”

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Benjamin Wittes, Editor-in-chief of Lawfare and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, writes in the Atlantic:

If I were a senator, I would not vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh.

These are words I write with no pleasure, but with deep sadness. Unlike many people who will read them with glee—as validating preexisting political, philosophical, or jurisprudential opposition to Kavanaugh’s nomination—I have no hostility to or particular fear of conservative jurisprudence. I have a long relationship with Kavanaugh, and I have always liked him. I have admired his career on the D.C. Circuit. I have spoken warmly of him. I have published him. I have vouched publicly for his character—more than once—and taken a fair bit of heat for doing so. I have also spent a substantial portion of my adult life defending the proposition that judicial nominees are entitled to a measure of decency from the Senate and that there should be norms of civility within a process that showed Kavanaugh none even before the current allegations arose.

[Read Caitlin Flanagan on why she believes Christine Blasey Ford]

This is an article I never imagined myself writing, that I never wanted to write, that I wish I could not write.

I am also keenly aware that rejecting Kavanaugh on the record currently before the Senate will set a dangerous precedent. The allegations against him remain unproven. They arose publicly late in the process and, by their nature, are not amenable to decisive factual rebuttal. It is a real possibility that Kavanaugh is telling the truth and that he has had his life turned upside down over a falsehood. Even assuming that Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations are entirely accurate, rejecting him on the current record could incentivize not merely other sexual-assault victims to come forward—which would be a salutary thing—but also other late-stage allegations of a non-falsifiable nature by people who are not acting in good faith. We are on a dangerous road, and the judicial confirmation wars are going to get a lot worse for our traveling down it.

Despite all of that, if I were a senator, I would vote against Kavanaugh’s confirmation. I would do it both because of Ford’s testimony and because of Kavanaugh’s. For reasons I will describe, I find her account more believable than his. I would also do it because whatever the truth of what happened in the summer of 1982, Thursday’s hearing left Kavanaugh nonviable as a justice.

[Read Deborah Copaken on facing her rapist ]

A few days before the hearing, I detailed on this site the advice I would give to Kavanaugh if he asked me. He should, I argued, withdraw from consideration for elevation unless able to defend himself to a high degree of factual certainty without attacking Ford. He should remain a nominee, I argued, only if his defense would be sufficiently convincing that it would meet what we might term the “no asterisks” standard—that is, that it would plausibly convince even people who vociferously disagree with his jurisprudential views that he could serve credibly as a justice. His defense needed to make it possible for a reasonable pro-choice woman to find it a legitimate and acceptable prospect, if not an attractive or appealing one, that he might sit on a case reconsidering Roe v. Wade.

Kavanaugh, needless to say, did not take my advice. He stayed in, and he delivered on Thursday, by way of defense, a howl of rage. He went on the attack not against Ford—for that we can be grateful—but against Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee and beyond. His opening statement was an unprecedentedly partisan outburst of emotion from a would-be justice. I do not begrudge him the emotion, even the anger. He has been through a kind of hell that would leave any person gasping for air. But I cannot condone the partisanship—which was raw, undisguised, naked, and conspiratorial—from someone who asks for public faith as a dispassionate and impartial judicial actor. His performance was wholly inconsistent with the conduct we should expect from a member of the judiciary.

Consider the judicial function as described by Kavanaugh himself at his first hearing. That Brett Kavanaugh described a “good judge [as] an umpire—a neutral and impartial arbiter who favors no litigant or policy.” That Brett Kavanaugh reminded us that “the Supreme Court must never be viewed as a partisan institution. The justices on the Supreme Court do not sit on opposite sides of an aisle. They do not caucus in separate rooms.”

[Read Judith Donath on the secret to Brett Kavanaugh’s specific appeal]

A very different Brett Kavanaugh showed up to Thursday’s hearing. This one accused the Democratic members of the committee of a “grotesque and coordinated character assassination,” saying that they had “replaced advice and consent with search and destroy.” After rightly criticizing “the behavior of several of the Democratic members of this committee at [his] hearing a few weeks ago [as] an embarrassment,” this Brett Kavanaugh veered off into full-throated conspiracy in a fashion that made entirely clear that he knew which room he caucused in:

When I did at least okay enough at the hearings that it looked like I might actually get confirmed, a new tactic was needed.

Some of you were lying in wait and had it ready. This first allegation was held in secret for weeks by a Democratic member of this committee, and by staff. It would be needed only if you couldn’t take me out on the merits.

When it was needed, this allegation was unleashed and publicly deployed over Dr. Ford’s wishes. And then—and then as no doubt was expected, if not planned—came a long series of false last-minute smears designed to scare me and drive me out of the process before any hearing occurred.

He went on: “This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election, fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record, revenge on behalf of the Clintons, and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups.”

[Read Caitlin Flanagan on what’s changed since 1982]

As Charlie Sykes, a thoughtful conservative commentator sympathetic to Kavanaugh, put it on The Weekly Standard’s podcast Friday, “Even if you support Brett Kavanaugh … that was breathtaking as an abandonment of any pretense of having a judicial temperament.” Sykes went on: “It’s possible, I think, to have been angry, emotional, and passionate without crossing the lines that he crossed—assuming that there are any lines anymore.”

Kavanaugh blew across lines that I believe a justice still needs to hold.

The Brett Kavanaugh who showed up to Thursday’s hearing is a man I have never met, whom I have never even caught a glimpse of in 20 years of knowing the person who showed up to the first hearing. I dealt with Kavanaugh during the Starr investigation, which I covered for the Washington Post editorial page and about which I wrote a book. I dealt with him when he was in the White House counsel’s office and working on judicial nominations and post–September 11 legal matters. Since his confirmation to the D.C. Circuit, he has been a significant voice on a raft of issues I work on. In all of our interactions, he has been a consummate professional. The allegations against him shocked me very deeply, but not quite so deeply as did his presentation. It was not just an angry and aggressive version of the person I have known. It seemed like a different person altogether.

My cognitive dissonance at Kavanaugh’s performance Thursday is not important. What is important is the dissonance between the Kavanaugh of Thursday’s hearing and the judicial function. Can anyone seriously entertain the notion that a reasonable pro-choice woman would feel like her position could get a fair shake before a Justice Kavanaugh? Can anyone seriously entertain the notion that a reasonable Democrat, or a reasonable liberal of any kind, would after that performance consider him a fair arbiter in, say, a case about partisan gerrymandering, voter identification, or anything else with a strong partisan valence? Quite apart from the merits of Ford’s allegations against him, Kavanaugh’s display on Thursday—if I were a senator voting on confirmation—would preclude my support. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 October 2018 at 3:58 pm

‘They just told my story’: What happens when a play about union busting tours Rust Belt cities

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Peter Marks reports in the Washington Post:

Hunched over and weeping, Fred Kimbrew had to look away from the stage. He would say later that it felt as if he were seeing the pain in his own life being reenacted . And in a way, he was.

 The play was “Sweat,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama by Lynn Nottage about the racial animus aroused by busting a steelworkers’ union in a dying, blue-collar Pennsylvania town. In a one-of-a-kind event, New York’s Public Theater is taking an ensemble of Broadway and off-Broadway actors to 18 small towns and cities over 29 days in five Rust Belt and Upper Midwestern states — the heart of MAGA country — to foster the notion that the arts shouldn’t be classified as blue or red. Rather, they are red, white and blue.

“The difference the play makes to the people whose stories are being told is extraordinary,” said Nottage, standing in the makeshift theater in one of Erie’s poorest neighborhoods, where the “Sweat” tour was launched Thursday. “I think that what red and blue can recognize is that we all share the same narrative.”

It is unheard of for a distinguished theater company to look beyond America’s major cities and book a play such as “Sweat” — which had a pre-Broadway run at Washington’s Arena Stage and played for 129 performances on Broadway last year — into places like Erie; Ashtabula, Ohio; Saginaw, Mich.; and Hayward, Wis. And not just visit unconventional cities, but also unorthodox stages: “Sweat” on tour is being presented free of charge in union halls, churches, food pantries, even centers for men and women recently released from prison, like Climate Changers Inc., a social-service facility on hardscrabble East 11th Street in Erie.

Theater is often viewed as a diversion for moneyed classes of a progressive bent in cosmopolitan places. To Oskar Eustis, the Public’s artistic director, this tour attempts to redress the imbalance and seek out audiences in Donald Trump’s America. “One of the things that we have done is turn our back to half of America, in the idea that the riches of theater belong to the coasts, to the elites,” Eustis said. “The Public has done a commendable job of reaching out to urban populations, but we’ve said to half the country, ‘We got nothing for you.’ We have done the same thing to that part of the country that the economy has done: We’ve abandoned them.”

“Sweat” seems a fitting vehicle to start changing that perception. Set in 2000 to 2008 in Reading, Pa., where Nottage did her research, the play is built around the friendship of two women, one white, one black, who work the assembly line in a metal tubing plant. The breakdown of their relationship and the tensions that escalate around them occur as the African American worker, Cynthia, is promoted to management just as the company locks out union members, recruits cheaper replacements from the local Latino community, and starts shipping jobs to a plant in Mexico. Seething, the locked-out white worker, Tracey, provokes a violent incident in the union workers’ favorite watering hole, with terrible consequences.

Watching a story so familiar, played out with such rawness, by actors on a makeshift stage barely an arm’s length away, is too much for some audience members, including those who have never been to a play before. “I’m from Aliquippa, Pa.,” Kimbrew said during the post-show discussion, led by the Public’s Chiara Klein, that follows every performance. “My grandfather worked in the steel mill for 40 years. When you took out the mill, out came the drug activity. So it was play ball, or sell drugs,” he added, choking up.

Asked afterward why he cried, Kimbrew replied: “You ever went somewhere and felt, ‘They just told my story?’ ”

In Ashtabula, on Friday night, 50 miles down Interstate 90 from Erie, Eustis was in the audience at a food pantry, where people came for the food and stayed for the play. “The audience was older and very quiet during the show — very few laughs, little sort of rumbles of recognition,” he said. “I was not quite sure how they were reacting. Then, after the show, they started talking, and every single person broke into sobs. I thought, ‘These are people who don’t know how to respond to theater, but it’s getting to them.’ It was about losing the town’s identity and their feeling of belonging not to the future but the past. Their reaction was powerful, but in different ways than I would have thought.”

Ashtabula County gave Donald Trump 57.2 percent of its vote in 2016, and Sawyer County in Wisconsin, where Hayward is located, awarded him nearly 60 percent. Trump even scored narrow victories in more reliably Democratic counties, like Saginaw and Erie. So in a sense with this tour, the Public Theater’s Mobile Unit — a company arm that traditionally brings Shakespeare productions to New York’s outer boroughs — was venturing into what might be regarded for a liberal theater troupe as politically hostile territory.

So intent was Eustis that the show not be perceived as one-sided that he added this note to the programs handed out every evening: “This isn’t a Republican or Democrat play. This play does what theater does best: it tells the truth about the lives of people who don’t normally get the spotlight, who aren’t glamorous or rich, but who are as heroic and deep and complicated as anyone.”

Erie, a city of 98,000 on the shores of Lake Erie, halfway between Buffalo and Cleveland, suffered from the same kind of deindustrialization that has afflicted communities across the Rust Belt. Since 1960, it has lost about a third of its residents, and at the same time has become a significant destination for refugees and immigrants. About 20 percent of the population is made up of what the city calls “New Americans.” In an interview in his downtown offices, Mayor Joseph Schember (D) recalled working as a teenager as a chipper in an aluminum casting plant in the city’s once-bustling industrial corridor. “You could walk down 12th Street and get five good jobs,” he said.

Now, the plants are closed and the city has been regrouping, with bipartisan efforts to lure innovative businesses and participate in federal community-development initiatives. As to whether the corrosive political battles in the nation’s capital have much impact in Erie, the city’s genial mayor observed: “I think we think more about what’s going on here. The leadership is working together like never before.”

Schember would show up Thursday evening at Climate Changers, but the question hanging in the air in the hours before the event was, would anyone else? A lot rode on the success of this first stop, as it would set the tone for a month’s worth of stops on the tour, a project underwritten largely by the Ford and Mellon foundations. “This is hugely different from any theatrical experience I’ve ever had,” said Steve Key, who was an understudy in the Broadway production and now plays Stan, the former plant worker who presides over the bar in which the play takes place.

Public staffers need not have worried; by 6 p.m., the space was filling up, with an audience about equally black and white — a rare occurrence in Erie, people were saying. “This event is very, very important,” said Patrick Fisher, executive director of Erie Arts and Culture, a local support organization. “The fact that you can use an art form for an impartial conversation — that is why the arts matter.”

By 6:30, the room had an overflow crowd of 125. Extra folding chairs had to be brought in, although the supply of free vanilla cupcakes at intermission seemed just about right. Even more important was the nourishment the main event was providing.

“It does take you into how things really are,” said Gail Mitchell, a longtime Erie resident who came with her husband, Arthur. Wearing a Pittsburgh Steelers cap, Arthur Mitchell was compelled to think about . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 October 2018 at 1:10 pm

Posted in Art, Daily life

Tagged with

How Salt Helped Win the Civil War

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Anne Ewbank writes in Gastro Obscura:

LOUISIANA’S AVERY ISLAND IS THE ancestral home of Tabasco hot sauce, manufactured there since 1868. But Avery Island isn’t an island at all. Surrounded by marsh, it’s a massive salt dome. That salt sat relatively undisturbed until the Civil War, when it suddenly became a precious commodity.

Salt is easy to overlook today, but before refrigeration, it was essential for preserving food and curing leather, not to mention that a minimum amount of salt is necessary for a healthy diet. Union officials realized early in the war that salt was the key to feeding soldiers and civilians in the South. As soon as southerners built their own facilities to make salt, they became military targets.

In the 1800s, most American salt production took place in the North. Millions of years ago, an inland sea near Syracuse, New York, gradually filled in with sediment, leaving behind massive salt deposits and brine springs. In 1862 alone, the Onondaga salt works turned these deposits into nine million bushels of salt. Workers pumped water from the salty springs, and boiled and sun-dried it. (Even today, a Central New York specialty consists of potatoes boiled in powerfully salty water, a remnant of when salt workers cooked their lunches in the salt brine.) On the other hand, the South depended on imported salt, much of which was used as ballast when foreign ships came for Southern cotton.

The Civil War began in April 1861, and immediately, the Union blockaded the Confederate states to stall the export of money-making cotton. While scholars debate its ultimate effectiveness, the blockade made staples such as coffee and flour scarce almost immediately. Some imported salt continued to come through the blockade, but it was never enough, not to mention difficult to distribute. Even as recipes for “Confederate Plum Cake” swapped cornmeal for flour, sorghum for sugar, and lard for butter, finding a salt substitute was harder. According to historian Andrew F. Smith, desperate Southerners even re-used salt, by brushing it off their salted meat or boiling it out of the floorboards of smokehouses.

Preserving meat was the biggest problem. Salted beef and pork were staples for soldiers and civilians alike. In the hog-raising South, the situation quickly became dire. The Commissary General of the Confederacy, Lucius B. Northrup, fretted over the lack, writing to another official in 1862 that “in consequence of the insufficient quantity and inferior quality of salt among the inhabitants, much of their meat is spoiling.” Speculation and shipping difficulties compounded the problem. At the beginning of the war, a 200-pound sack of salt in New Orleans cost 50 cents. By 1862, the price was $25.

Soon, Southern states offered rewards to those who found and harvested salt. During the Civil War, Avery Island became one of many burgeoning salt works across the South. Salt was so important that many laborers working rock-salt mines and saline wells were exempt from military service. Some workers, though, didn’t have a choice. Many enslaved people, men and women, were forced to labor in the salt works.

Union leaders realized early on that keeping salt from the South could win the war. “What good could it do to destroy salt?” the United States Navy admiral David Dixon Porter asked rhetorically, 20 years after the war. “It was the life of the Confederate army … they could not pack their meats without it. A soldier with a small piece of boiled beef, six ounces of corn-meal, and four ounces of salt, was provisioned for a three-day march.” Soon, raids on salt works became a matter of course.

More than once, what led to the downfall of Southern salt works was the bravery of the enslaved, who gave vital information on their location and defenses. In one account of the destruction of a Florida salt works, a group of enslaved men escaped to the U.S. ship Kingfisher. They came with news of a half-finished salt works off of St. Joseph’s Bay. According to the officer recounting the event to Harper’s Magazine in 1862the ship “sent a flag of truce, and politely informed them they must stop, or we should destroy them.” When the salt-works refused to acknowledge their flag, the Kingfisher fired two shells into the building, then, after it was vacated, disembarked to dismantle it.

It was a huge blow. Historian Adam Wasserman notes that the Confederacy had been depending on a whole winter’s worth of salt for Florida and Georgia from the destroyed site. This made the attack equivalent, perhaps, to taking 20,000 rebel soldiers out of commission. For the rest of the war, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 October 2018 at 10:27 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Military

Michael Lewis: The Big Short author on how Trump is gambling with nuclear disaster

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I just started reading The Fifth Risk, Michael Lewis’s new book, and I found this interview about how he came to write the book quite interesting. Alex Blasdel writes in the Guardian:

Government positions left empty, cronyism, anti-government ideology – everything about Trump’s administration makes America more vulnerable to risk…

Michael Lewis began thinking about his new book, The Fifth Risk, in late 2016 or early 2017 during the weeks before Donald Trump’s inauguration. He was bedridden after surgery and was “laying there going crazy about Trump,” he recalls. Lewis had just published his latest bestseller, The Undoing Project, about two Israeli psychologists, the Nobel prize-winner Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, who studied how people grapple with risk. “One of the insights that dropped out of some of their experiments was: people don’t,” Lewis says. “When you change something that has a one in a million chance of happening to a one in ten thousand chance, people don’t feel that.”

One way to think about the US government, Lewis realised, was as a manager of big risks – from military conflict, to financial collapse, to natural disaster. As risk-manager-in-chief, Trump now had the frightening ability to boost the odds of catastrophe from, say, one in a million to one in ten thousand “over a vast portfolio of risks”. “People sense an unease,” Lewis continues, “but nobody quite puts it that way.”

Continue reading.

See also: The 4 Most Alarming Revelations From Michael Lewis’ New Trump Tell-All ‘The Fifth Risk’

Written by LeisureGuy

2 October 2018 at 10:16 am

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