Later On

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Archive for February 19th, 2019

Vatican’s Secret Rules for Catholic Priests Who Have Children

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Jason Horowitz and Elisabetta Povoledo report in the NY Times:

Vincent Doyle, a psychotherapist in Ireland, was 28 when he learned from his mother that the Roman Catholic priest he had always known as his godfather was in truth his biological father.

The discovery led him to create a global support group to help other children of priests, like him, suffering from the internalized shame that comes with being born from church scandal. When he pressed bishops to acknowledge these children, some church leaders told him that he was the product of the rarest of transgressions.

But one archbishop finally showed him what he was looking for: a document of Vatican guidelines for how to deal with priests who father children, proof that he was hardly alone.

“Oh my God. This is the answer,” Mr. Doyle recalled having said as he held the document. He asked if he could have a copy, but the archbishop said no — it was secret.

Now, the Vatican has confirmed, apparently for the first time, that its department overseeing the world’s priests has general guidelines for what to do when clerics break celibacy vows and father children.

“I can confirm that these guidelines exist,” the Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti wrote in response to a query from The New York Times. “It is an internal document.”

The issue is becoming harder to ignore. “It’s the next scandal,” Mr. Doyle said. “There are kids everywhere.”

As the Vatican prepares for an unprecedented meeting with the world’s bishops this week on the devastating child sexual abuse crisis, many people who feel they have been wronged by the church’s culture of secrecy and aversion to scandal will descend on Rome to press their cause.

[Read more about the upcoming Vatican meeting.]

There will be the victims of clerical child abuse. There will be nuns sexually assaulted by priests. And there will be children of priests, including Mr. Doyle, who is scheduled to meet privately in Rome with several prominent prelates.

For the church, stories like Mr. Doyle’s draw uncomfortable attention to the violation of celibacy by priests and, for some former clerics and liberals inside the church, raise the issue of whether it is time to make the requirement optional, as it is in other Christian churches.

The Vatican has confirmed that it has general guidelines for clerics who father children, pressuring them to prioritize the welfare of the child and leave the priesthood.

The children are sometimes the result of affairs involving priests and laywomen or nuns — others of abuse or rape. There are some, exceedingly rare, high-profile cases, but the overwhelming majority remain out of the public eye.

The tradition of celibacy among Roman Catholic clergy was broadly codified in the 12th century, but not necessarily adhered to, even in the highest places. Rodrigo Borgia, while a priest, had four children with his mistress before he became Pope Alexander VI, an excess that helped spur Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation. Luther wrote mockingly that the pope had as much command over celibacy as “the natural movement of the bowels.”

There are no estimates of how many such children exist. But Mr. Doyle said his support group website, Coping International, has 50,000 users in 175 countries.

He said he was first shown the Vatican guidelines in October 2017 by Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, the Vatican’s envoy to the United Nations in Geneva.

“You’re actually called ‘children of the ordained,’” Mr. Doyle recalled Archbishop Jurkovic having said. “I was shocked they had a term for it.”

Archbishop Jurkovic declined a request for an interview.

Mr. Gisotti, the Vatican spokesman, said that the internal 2017 document synthesized a decade’s worth of procedures, and that its “fundamental principle” was the “protection of the child.” He said the guideline “requests” that the father leave the priesthood to “assume his responsibilities as a parent by devoting himself exclusively to the child.”

But another Vatican official said that the “request” was a mere formality. Monsignor Andrea Ripa, the under secretary in the Congregation for the Clergy, which oversees more than 400,000 priests, said in a brief interview that “it is impossible to impose” the dismissal of the priest, and that it “can only be asked” for by the priest.

But he added that the failure to ask to be relieved of priestly obligations was reason for the church to take action: “If you don’t ask, you will be dismissed.”

The Irish bishops have their own guidelines, and made them public in 2017. Mr. Doyle, who once studied for the priesthood and has sought to cooperate with church leaders, played a role in developing them, said Martin Long, a spokesman for the Irish Bishops’ Conference.

The Irish church’s principles do not explicitly require clerics to leave the priesthood but state: “A priest as any new father, should face up to his responsibilities — personal, legal, moral and financial.”

Pope Francis’ remarks on the issue are limited. In his 2010 book, “On Heaven and Earth,” which he co-wrote when he was the archbishop of Buenos Aires, Francis argues that a priest who in a moment of passion violates a vow of celibacy could potentially stay in the ministry, but one who fathers a child could not.

“Natural law comes before his right as a priest,” he writes, adding that a priest’s first responsibility would be to his child, and that “he must leave his priestly ministry and take care of his child.”

Canon lawyers say that there is nothing in church law that forces priests to leave the priesthood for fathering children. “There is zero, zero, zero,” on the matter, said Laura Sgro, a canon lawyer in Rome. “As it is not a canonical crime, there are no grounds for dismissal.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 February 2019 at 7:40 pm

Posted in Daily life, Religion

Jazz on the Edge of Change

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“I Like Jazz” was the title of a 1955 Columbia LP sampler of jazz from different eras and in different styles, and in high school I listened to it until I knew it by heart. In my mind I can still hear every track:

The LP is still available via eBay and the like, but be warned: having no soul, Columbia used the same name and cover art for a different collection of jazz tracks. (Capitalism’s motto: “We’ll do anything for profit.”)

Jazz is truly the music that I most love, and thus this NY Times piece by David Sager was of particular interest:

The Armistice to end World War I brought elation and a sense of relief to millions of Americans, but also a jolt of reality. The country had only been in the conflict for 19 months, but it had already adjusted to the rhythms and strictures of a society on a total-war footing. When it ended so abruptly, the result was a sudden permissiveness in the culture, a weakening of social rules and an opening for new ideas, creating a fertile atmosphere for America’s new, unruly musical child: jazz.

What was jazz? It had no real definition; it referred to many things. The year 1919 is usually not considered an important marker on the jazz timeline, but that year subtle yet compelling forces took hold that would turn this invasive novelty into something with far more clarity and promise as an art form. It was the year jazz came into its own.

Feb. 17, 1919, was a cold, overcast New York day that threatened snow. Tens of thousands of people had come to the streets of Manhattan for a victory parade. At the corner of 60th Street, a crowd packed the sidewalks and clustered onto a grandstand, vying for a glimpse of the returning heroes parading northward.

Along the route marched the 369th Infantry, a highly decorated all-black regiment that had just returned from a year in France. The Germans, whom they flushed from their trenches, called them “blutdürstige schwarze Männer,” or “bloodthirsty black men” — or more respectfully, “Hellfighters.” The French government gave the unit the Croix de Guerre for its bravery.

On cue, the cheering crowd fell into an abrupt hush, as line upon line of soldiers appeared, proceeding in immaculate precision. “For a moment there was almost complete silence, as the throngs of men and women gazed upon the dark-skinned warriors who had beaten the best regiments of veterans the enemy could send them,” wrote The New York Tribune.

Nearly all accounts of the parade singled out the 369th’s band, under the direction of Lt. James Reese Europe, an immensely successful and well-known African-American musician. The press consistently referred to them as a “jazz band,” whose “jazz music” had become the sensation of France. Even Gen. Henri Gouraud, a staid and dignified French commander, was enthralled, and made his headquarters wherever the band was stationed. Lieutenant Europe was already known as the “Jazz King.”

Such praise marked the first time anything associated with jazz had received such glowing approval. In 1919, jazz, or “jass,” as some still called it, was a peculiar word with musical and sexual connotations. It could be noun, verb or adjective, indicating pep, liveliness and noise. Jazz was the new counterculture dance music replacing ragtime — but more dangerous, disorderly and discordant, consisting of random, wrong-sounding musical obstreperousness and percussive turmoil. The music had been considered a scourge on polite society, particularly by whites, even if many of them had no idea what the word meant. Now, thousands — both white and black — cheered Europe’s “jazz” band.

They kept the “jazz music” under wraps at first. Marching along, Europe kept his men reined in, playing dignified military music, matching the solemnity and discipline of the moment. But as they passed 60th Street, where the crowd became more and more densely populated with African-Americans, the band let loose with “That Moaning Trombone” and other syncopated numbers. Verve and enthusiasm stood in bold relief.

James Reese Europe was born in 1881 in Mobile, Ala., and raised in Washington, D.C., where he studied violin, piano and composition. In 1903, he relocated to New York, seeking work as a musical director and composer. There he associated with the black musical cognoscenti of Manhattan, including Bert Williams, J. Rosamond Johnson and Bob Cole. He became New York society’s favorite band leader, charming the likes of the Vanderbilts, and was musical director for Vernon and Irene Castle, a popular pair of white dancers. Along the way he mentored a string of future musical stars, like Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake.

Although historians often associate Europe with ragtime and jazz, his focus was on neither. He wanted to create music that he believed reflected the artistic temperament and souls of African-Americans, whatever style it took, and to use it to promote the validity and viability of Negro musicians.

In 1910 he formed the Clef Club, a union for New York’s black musicians, along with the enormous Clef Club Symphony Orchestra, which emphasized instruments that he felt were commonly used by black musicians: banjo, mandolin, bandora and harp guitar. In interviews, Europe avoided the word “ragtime,” simply calling it “Negro music.” The orchestra performed lavish concerts — several at Carnegie Hall — featuring works by black composers like Will Marion Cook, William H. Tyers and Europe himself. It played marches, concert pieces, tangos and waltzes, with a sprinkling of ragtime.

Europe’s reputation as a purveyor of ragtime and “proto jazz” is based on recordings made in 1913 and 1914. Of these, “Castle House Rag,” a Europe composition, captures our imagination today, offering a rare glimpse into black dance music, partly read and partly played by ear. Exciting and edgy, it has hints of “Shortenin’ Bread” and what might be described as “country ragtime.”

Few who heard Europe’s music were acquainted with the dance music then brewing in New Orleans, which some regarded as “ragtime played by ear.” Because it went largely unrecorded during the 1910s, it would be years before the rest of the country could hear the rhythmic drive and hot quality of its pioneers, like King Oliver, Freddie Keppard and Jelly Roll Morton. One exception was the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, who made a recording in 1917 that was listened to from California to New York. Many musicians tried to copy their seemingly discordant approach, and failed. Most couldn’t hear, beneath that mélange, the band’s harmonic and rhythmic order, spontaneous sounding counterpoint and interlocking parts. Musicians copied the effects — the musical veneer. Capturing musical essence was a far more complex task than aping the obvious.

And yet 1919 was the year when that began to change. In March, the Original Dixieland Jazz Band sailed for England, to tour British theaters. While there, they rerecorded a number of their old hits, along with two waltzes, unlikely choices for a New Orleans jazz band. Still, those recordings, “Alice Blue Gown” and “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles,” have the propulsion and lilt that characterized New Orleans. More and more people, far outside New Orleans, were suddenly hearing, and enjoying, jazz. . .

Continue reading.

Update: Listen also to:

Written by LeisureGuy

19 February 2019 at 5:41 pm

Posted in Jazz

Between gods and animals: becoming human in the Gilgamesh epic

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I view becoming a person as a process of acquiring memes and building from them a human person. One reason people react so strongly to evidence that the memes they hold are wrong is that such evidence is a direct threat to what they are (a complex assortment of memes). People who deny climate change, for example, are personally threatened by evidence that contradicts that belief because that belief is a part of who they are.

Thus I am find no difficulty in allowing a woman and her doctor to decide whether to have an abortion because I don’t view an early-stage foetus as human: it has not acquired the memes that make it human. A human without memes is just an animal, as we see in the tragic stories of very young children abandoned in the wild and who grow up with no human contact: no language, no songs, no stories, no social conventions—none of the things that make us human rather than animal.

I’ve observed that not everyone agrees with this view, but it seems sound to me, so I found an article by Sophus Helle in Aeon of considerable interest. He writes:

The Epic of Gilgamesh is a Babylonian poem composed in ancient Iraq, millennia before Homer. It tells the story of Gilgamesh, king of the city of Uruk. To curb his restless and destructive energy, the gods create a friend for him, Enkidu, who grows up among the animals of the steppe. When Gilgamesh hears about this wild man, he orders that a woman named Shamhat be brought out to find him. Shamhat seduces Enkidu, and the two make love for six days and seven nights, transforming Enkidu from beast to man. His strength is diminished, but his intellect is expanded, and he becomes able to think and speak like a human being. Shamhat and Enkidu travel together to a camp of shepherds, where Enkidu learns the ways of humanity. Eventually, Enkidu goes to Uruk to confront Gilgamesh’s abuse of power, and the two heroes wrestle with one another, only to form a passionate friendship.

This, at least, is one version of Gilgamesh’s beginning, but in fact the epic went through a number of different editions. It began as a cycle of stories in the Sumerian language, which were then collected and translated into a single epic in the Akkadian language. The earliest version of the epic was written in a dialect called Old Babylonian, and this version was later revised and updated to create another version, in the Standard Babylonian dialect, which is the one that most readers will encounter today.

Not only does Gilgamesh exist in a number of different versions, each version is in turn made up of many different fragments. There is no single manuscript that carries the entire story from beginning to end. Rather, Gilgamesh has to be recreated from hundreds of clay tablets that have become fragmentary over millennia. The story comes to us as a tapestry of shards, pieced together by philologists to create a roughly coherent narrative (about four-fifths of the text have been recovered). The fragmentary state of the epic also means that it is constantly being updated, as archaeological excavations – or, all too often, illegal lootings – bring new tablets to light, making us reconsider our understanding of the text. Despite being more than 4,000 years old, the text remains in flux, changing and expanding with each new finding.

The newest discovery is a tiny fragment that had lain overlooked in the museum archive of Cornell University in New York, identified by Alexandra Kleinerman and Alhena Gadotti and published by Andrew George in 2018. At first, the fragment does not look like much: 16 broken lines, most of them already known from other manuscripts. But working on the text, George noticed something strange. The tablet seemed to preserve parts of both the Old Babylonian and the Standard Babylonian version, but in a sequence that didn’t fit the structure of the story as it had been understood until then.

The fragment is from the scene where Shamhat seduces Enkidu and has sex with him for a week. Before 2018, scholars believed that the scene existed in both an Old Babylonian and a Standard Babylonian version, which gave slightly different accounts of the same episode: Shamhat seduces Enkidu, they have sex for a week, and Shamhat invites Enkidu to Uruk. The two scenes are not identical, but the differences could be explained as a result of the editorial changes that led from the Old Babylonian to the Standard Babylonian version. However, the new fragment challenges this interpretation. One side of the tablet overlaps with the Standard Babylonian version, the other with the Old Babylonian version. In short, the two scenes cannot be different versions of the same episode: the story included two very similar episodes, one after the other.

According to George, both the Old Babylonian and the Standard Babylonian version ran thus: Shamhat seduces Enkidu, they have sex for a week, and Shamhat invites Enkidu to come to Uruk. The two of them then talk about Gilgamesh and his prophetic dreams. Then, it turns out, they had sex for another week, and Shamhat again invites Enkidu to Uruk.

Suddenly, Shamhat and Enkidu’s marathon of love had been doubled, a discovery that The Times publicised under the racy headline ‘Ancient Sex Saga Now Twice As Epic’. But in fact, there is a deeper significance to this discovery. The difference between the episodes can now be understood, not as editorial changes, but as psychological changes that Enkidu undergoes as he becomes human. The episodes represent two stages of the same narrative arc, giving us a surprising insight into what it meant to become human in the ancient world.

The first time that Shamhat invites Enkidu to Uruk, she describes Gilgamesh as a hero of great strength, comparing him to a wild bull. Enkidu replies that he will indeed come to Uruk, but not to befriend Gilgamesh: he will challenge him and usurp his power. Shamhat is dismayed, urging Enkidu to forget his plan, and instead describes the pleasures of city life: music, parties and beautiful women.

After they have sex for a second week, Shamhat invites Enkidu to Uruk again, but with a different emphasis. This time she dwells not on the king’s bullish strength, but on Uruk’s civic life: ‘Where men are engaged in labours of skill, you, too, like a true man, will make a place for yourself.’ Shamhat tells Enkidu that he is to integrate himself in society and find his place within a wider social fabric. Enkidu agrees: ‘the woman’s counsel struck home in his heart’.

It is clear that Enkidu has changed between the two scenes. The first week of sex might have given him the intellect to converse with Shamhat, but he still thinks in animal terms: he sees Gilgamesh as an alpha male to be challenged. After the second week, he has become ready to accept a different vision of society. Social life is not about raw strength and assertions of power, but also about communal duties and responsibility.

Placed in this gradual development, Enkidu’s first reaction becomes all the more interesting, as a kind of intermediary step on the way to humanity. In a nutshell, what we see here is a Babylonian poet looking at society through Enkidu’s still-feral eyes. It is a not-fully-human perspective on city life, which is seen as a place of power and pride rather than skill and cooperation.

What does this tell us? We learn two main things. First, that humanity for the Babylonians was defined through society. To be human was a distinctly social affair. And not just any kind of society: it was the social life of cities that made you a ‘true man’. Babylonian culture was, at heart, an urban culture. Cities such as Uruk, Babylon or Ur were the building blocks of civilisation, and the world outside the city walls was seen as a dangerous and uncultured wasteland.

Second, we learn that humanity is a sliding scale. After a week of sex, Enkidu has not become fully human. There is an intermediary stage, where he speaks like a human but thinks like an animal. Even after the second week, he still has to learn how to eat bread, drink beer and put on clothes. In short, becoming human is a step-by-step process, not an either/or binary.

In her second invitation to Uruk, Shamhat says: ‘I look at you, Enkidu, you are like a god, why with the animals do you range through the wild?’ Gods are here depicted as the opposite of animals, they are omnipotent and immortal, whereas animals are oblivious and destined to die. To be human is to be placed somewhere in the middle: not omnipotent, but capable of skilled labour; not immortal, but aware of one’s mortality.

In short, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 February 2019 at 4:57 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life, Memes

Active-Shooter Drills Are Tragically Misguided

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Erika Christakis writes in the Atlantic:

At 10:21 a.m. on december 6, Lake Brantley High School, in Florida, initiated a “code red” lockdown. “This is not a drill,” a voice announced over the PA system. At the same moment, teachers received a text message warning of an active shooter on campus. Fearful students took shelter in classrooms. Many sobbed hysterically, others vomited or fainted, and some sent farewell notes to parents. A later announcement prompted a stampede in the cafeteria, as students fled the building and jumped over fences to escape. Parents flooded 911 with frantic calls.

Later it was revealed, to the fury of parents, teachers, and students, that in fact this was a drill, the most realistic in a series of drills that the students of Lake Brantley, like students across the country, have lately endured. In the year since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last February, efforts to prepare the nation’s students for gunfire have intensified. Educators and safety experts have urged students to deploy such unlikely self-defense tools as hockey pucks, rocks, flip-flops, and canned food. More commonly, preparations include lockdown drills in which students sit in darkened classrooms with the shades pulled. Sometimes a teacher or a police officer plays the role of a shooter, moving through the hallway and attempting to open doors as children practice staying silent and still.

These drills aren’t limited to the older grades. Around the country, young children are being taught to run in zigzag patterns so as to evade bullets. I’ve heard of kindergartens where words like barricade are added to the vocabulary list, as 5- and 6-year-olds are instructed to stack chairs and desks “like a fort” should they need to keep a gunman at bay. In one Massachusetts kindergarten classroom hangs a poster with lockdown instructions that can be sung to the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”: Lockdown, Lockdown, Lock the door / Shut the lights off, Say no more. Beside the text are picture cues—a key locking a door; a person holding up a finger to hush the class; a switch being flipped to turn off the lights. The alarm and confusion of younger students is hardly assuaged by the implausible excuses some teachers offer—for instance, that they are practicing what to do if a wild bear enters the classroom, or that they are having an extra-quiet “quiet time.”

In the 2015–16 school year, 95 percent of public schools ran lockdown drills, according to a report by the National Center for Education Statistics. And that’s to say nothing of actual (rather than practice) lockdowns, which a school will implement in the event of a security concern—a threat that very well may turn out to be a hoax, perhaps, or the sound of gunfire in the neighborhood. A recent analysis by The Washington Post found that during the 2017–18 school year, more than 4.1 million students experienced at least one lockdown or lockdown drill, including some 220,000 students in kindergarten or preschool.

In one sense, the impulse driving these preparations is understandable. The prospect of mass murder in a classroom is intolerable, and good-faith proposals for preventing school shootings should be treated with respect. But the current mode of instead preparing kids for such events is likely to be psychologically damaging. See, for instance, the parting letter a 12-year-old boy wrote his parents during a lockdown at a school in Charlotte, North Carolina, following what turned out to be a bogus threat: “I am so sorry for anything I have done, the trouble I have caused,” he scribbled. “Right now I’m scared to death. I need a warm soft hug … I hope that you are going to be okay with me gone.”

As James Hamblin wrote for The Atlantic last February, there is precious little evidence that the current approach is effective:

Studies of whether active-shooter drills actually prevent harm are all but impossible. Case studies are difficult to parse. In Parkland, for example, the site of the recent shooting, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, had an active-shooter drill just [a] month [before the massacre]. The shooter had been through such drills. Purposely countering them may have been a reasonthat, as he was beginning his rampage, the shooter pulled a fire alarm.

Moreover, the scale of preparedness efforts is out of proportion to the risk. Deaths from shootings on school grounds remain extremely rare compared with those resulting from accidental injury, which is the leading cause of death for children and teenagers. In 2016, there were 787 accidental deaths (a category that includes fatalities due to drowning, fires, falls, and car crashes) among American children ages 5 to 9—a small number, considering that there are more than 20 million children in this group. Cancer was the next-most-common cause of death, followed by congenital anomalies. Homicide of alltypes came in fourth. To give these numbers yet more context: The Washington Post has identified fewer than 150 people (children and adults) who have been shot to death in America’s schools since the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School, in Colorado. Not 150 people a year, but 150 in nearly two decades.

Preparing our children for profoundly unlikely events would be one thing if that preparation had no downside. But in this case, our efforts may exact a high price. Time and resources spent on drills and structural upgrades to school facilities could otherwise be devoted to, say, a better science program or hiring more experienced teachers. Much more worrying: School-preparedness culture itself may be instilling in millions of children a distorted and foreboding view of their future. It’s also encouraging adults to view children as associates in a shared mission to reduce gun violence, a problem whose real solutions, in fact, lie at some remove from the schoolyard.

We’ve been down this road before. In an escalating set of preparations for nuclear holocaust during the 1950s, the “duck and cover” campaign trained children nationwide to huddle under their desk in the case of a nuclear blast. Some students in New York City were even issued dog tags, to be worn every day, to help parents identify their bodies. Assessments of this period suggest that such measures contributed to pervasive fear among children, 60 percent of whom reported having nightmares about nuclear war.

Decades later, a new generation of disaster-preparedness policies—this time geared toward guns rather than nuclear weapons—appear to be stoking fear once again. A 2018 survey by the Pew Research Foundation determined that, despite the rarity of such events, 57 percent of American teenagers worry about a shooting at their school. This comes at a time when children are already suffering from sharply rising rates of anxiety, self-mutilation, and suicide. According to a landmark study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, 32 percent of 13-to-18-year-olds have anxiety disorders, and 22 percent suffer from mental disorders that cause severe impairment or distress. Among those suffering from anxiety, the median age of onset is 6.

Active-shooter drills reflect a broad societal misunderstanding of childhood, one that features two competing images of the child: the defenseless innocent and the powerful mini-adult. On the one hand, we view children as incredibly vulnerable—to hurt feelings, to non-rubberized playground surfaces, to disappointing report cards. This view is pervasive, and its consequences are now well understood: It robs children of their agency and impedes their development, and too often prevents them from testing themselves either physically or socially, from taking moderate risks and learning from them, from developing resilience.

But on the other hand, we demand preternatural maturity from our children. We tell them that with hockey pucks and soup cans and deep reservoirs of courage, they are capable of defeating an evil that has resisted the more prosaic energies of law-enforcement officers, legislators, school superintendents, and mental-health professionals. We ask them to manage not the everyday risks that they are capable of managing—or should, for their own good, manage—but rather the problems they almost by definition cannot.

This second notion of the child stems from what I call adultification, or the tendency to imagine that children experience things the way adults do. Adultification comes in many forms, from the relatively benign (dressing kids like little adults, in high heels or ironic punk-rock T-shirts) to the damaging (the high-stakes testing culture creeping into kindergartens). We also find adultification in the expectation that kids conform to adult schedules—young children today are subjected to more daily transitions than were previous generations of children, thanks to the dictates of work and child-care hours and the shift from free play to more programmed activities at school and at home.

Similarly, we expect children to match adults’ capacity to hurry or to be still for long periods of time; when they fail, we are likely to punish or medicate them. Examples abound: an epidemic of preschool expulsions, the reduction in school recess, the extraordinary pathologizing of childhood’s natural rhythms. ADHD diagnoses, which have spiked in recent years, are much more common among children who narrowly make the age cutoff for their grade than among children born just a week or so later, who must start kindergarten the following year and thus end up being the oldest in their class; this raises the question of whether we are labeling as disordered children who are merely acting their age. The same question might be asked of newer diagnoses such as sluggish cognitive tempo and sensory processing disorder. These trends are all of a piece; we’re expecting schoolchildren to act like small adults.

Adultification is a result of a mind-set that ignores just how taxing childhood is. Being small and powerless is inherently stressful. This is true even when nothing especially bad is going on. Yet for many children, especially bad things are going on. Nearly half of American children have experienced at least one  . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

These children will in time become adults. I wonder what sort of adults they will be.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 February 2019 at 4:21 pm

Meet Ed Calabrese, Who Says a Little Pollution Can Be Good For You

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Kevin Drum blogs:

Susanne Rust of the LA Times brings us the latest fabulous news from the Trump adminstration:

In early 2018, a deputy assistant administrator in the EPA, Clint Woods, reached out to a Massachusetts toxicologist best known for pushing a public health standard suggesting that low levels of toxic chemicals and radiation are good for people….Less than two weeks later, [Ed] Calabrese’s suggestions on how the EPA should assess toxic chemicals and radiation were introduced, nearly word for word, in the U.S. government’s official journal, the Federal Register.

“This is a major big time victory,” Calabrese wrote in an email to Steve Milloy, a former coal and tobacco lobbyist who runs a website, junkscience.com, that seeks to discredit mainstream climate science. “Yes. It is YUGE!” wrote Milloy, in response.

We could stop right there if we wanted. Steve Milloy is one of the most prominent purveyors of crap science in the world. He’s a climate change denier with close ties to the tobacco industry and the author of (among others) Green Hell: How Environmentalists Plan to Control Your Life and What You Can Do to Stop Them. If Calabrese and Milloy are buddies, that’s probably all you need to know.

And where has Calabrese’s funding come from? Do I even have to tell you?

By the 1990s, Calabrese had solidly established himself as a trusted scientist with the tobacco industry. He found they were interested in research that questioned the methods that regulatory agencies use to assess risk.

….It was when he began his work on hormesis that Calabrese got attention from a broader range of industries. With seed money from R.J. Reynolds, Dow Chemical, Procter & Gamble and others, as well as the EPA, Calabrese established a hormesis working group at the University of Massachusetts, which he called the Biological Effects of Low Level Exposures, or BELLE….Between 1990 and 2013, Calabrese received more than $8 million from companies and institutions, including R.J. Reynolds, Exxon Mobil, Dow Chemical, General Electric, the Department of Energy and the U.S. Air Force, to conduct research on hormesis.

There you have it. As usual, the tobacco industry is the root of all scientific evil, and their approach long ago caught on with every other polluting industry out there. “Manufacturing doubt” is their goal, and abuse of research into processes like hormesis is their holy grail. It’s not that hormesis is impossible. There may well be a few isolated examples where it has application—and as far as polluting industries are concerned, one example is plenty. They can then fund research claiming to find it all over the place.

If you want to read the whole grim story, check out Rebecca Leber’s piece from last October about how Calabrese’s ideas became embedded in the EPA’s rulemaking process after Trump took office. It’s the Trump era in a nutshell.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 February 2019 at 2:00 pm

Intimidation, Pressure and Humiliation: Inside Trump’s Two-Year War on the Investigations Encircling Him

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Mark Mazzetti, Maggie Haberman, Nicholas Fandos, and Michael S. Schmidt report in the NY Times:

As federal prosecutors in Manhattan gathered evidence late last year about President Trump’s role in silencing women with hush payments during the 2016 campaign, Mr. Trump called Matthew G. Whitaker, his newly installed attorney general, with a question. He asked whether Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York and a Trump ally, could be put in charge of the widening investigation, according to several American officials with direct knowledge of the call.

Mr. Whitaker, who had privately told associates that part of his role at the Justice Department was to “jump on a grenade” for the president, knew he could not put Mr. Berman in charge, since Mr. Berman had already recused himself from the investigation. The president soon soured on Mr. Whitaker, as he often does with his aides, and complained about his inability to pull levers at the Justice Department that could make the president’s many legal problems go away.

Trying to install a perceived loyalist atop a widening inquiry is a familiar tactic for Mr. Trump, who has been struggling to beat back the investigations that have consumed his presidency. His efforts have exposed him to accusations of obstruction of justice as Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, finishes his work investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Mr. Trump’s public war on the inquiry has gone on long enough that it is no longer shocking. Mr. Trump rages almost daily to his 58 million Twitter followers that Mr. Mueller is on a “witch hunt” and has adopted the language of Mafia bosses by calling those who cooperate with the special counsel “rats.” His lawyer talks openly about a strategy to smear and discredit the special counsel investigation. The president’s allies in Congress and the conservative media warn of an insidious plot inside the Justice Department and the F.B.I. to subvert a democratically elected president.

An examination by The New York Times reveals the extent of an even more sustained, more secretive assault by Mr. Trump on the machinery of federal law enforcement. Interviews with dozens of current and former government officials and others close to Mr. Trump, as well as a review of confidential White House documents, reveal numerous unreported episodes in a two-year drama.

White House lawyers wrote a confidential memo expressing concern about the president’s staff peddling misleading information in public about the firing of Michael T. Flynn, the Trump administration’s first national security adviser. Mr. Trump had private conversations with Republican lawmakers about a campaign to attack the Mueller investigation. And, there was the episode when he asked his attorney general about putting Mr. Berman in charge of the Manhattan investigation.

Mr. Whitaker, who earlier this month told a congressional committee that Mr. Trump had never pressured him over the various investigations, is now under scrutiny by House Democrats for possible perjury.

A Justice Department spokeswoman said that the White House had not asked Mr. Whitaker to interfere in the investigations. “Under oath to the House Judiciary Committee, then Acting Attorney General Whitaker stated that ‘at no time has the White House asked for nor have I provided any promises or commitments concerning the special counsel’s investigation or any other investigation,’” said the spokeswoman, Kerri Kupec. “Mr. Whitaker stands by his testimony.”

The White House declined to comment for this article.

The story of Mr. Trump’s attempts to defang the investigations has been voluminously covered in the news media, to such a degree that many Americans have lost track of how unusual his behavior is. But fusing the strands reveals an extraordinary story of a president who has attacked the law enforcement apparatus of his own government like no other president in history, and who has turned the effort into an obsession. Mr. Trump has done it with the same tactics he once used in his business empire: demanding fierce loyalty from employees, applying pressure tactics to keep people in line, and protecting the brand — himself — at all costs.


It is a public relations strategy as much as a legal strategy — a campaign to create a narrative of a president hounded by his “deep state” foes. The new Democratic majority in the House, and the prospect of a wave of investigations on Capitol Hill this year, will test whether the strategy shores up Mr. Trump’s political support or puts his presidency in greater peril. The president has spent much of his time venting publicly about there being “no collusion” with Russia before the 2016 election, which has diverted attention from a growing body of evidence that he has tried to impede the various investigations.

Julie O’Sullivan, a criminal law professor at Georgetown University, said she believed there was ample public evidence that Mr. Trump had the “corrupt intent” to try to derail the Mueller investigation, the legal standard for an obstruction of justice case.

But this is far from a routine criminal investigation, she said, and Mr. Mueller will have to make judgments about the impact on the country of making a criminal case against the president. Democrats in the House have said they will wait for Mr. Mueller to finish his work before making a decision about whether the president’s behavior warrants impeachment.

In addition to the Mueller investigation, there are at least two other federal inquiries that touch the president and his advisers — the Manhattan investigation focused on the hush money payments made by Mr. Trump’s lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, and an inquiry examining the flow of foreign money to the Trump inaugural committee.

The president’s defenders counter that most of Mr. Trump’s actions under scrutiny fall under his authority as the head of the executive branch. They argue that the Constitution gives the president sweeping powers to hire and fire, to start and stop law enforcement proceedings, and to grant presidential pardons to friends and allies. A sitting American president cannot be indicted, according to current Justice Department policy.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers add this novel response: the president has been public about his disdain for the Mueller investigation and other federal inquiries, so he is hardly engaged in a conspiracy. He fired one F.B.I. director and considered firing his replacement. He humiliated his first attorney general for being unable to “control” the Russia investigation and installed a replacement, Mr. Whitaker, who has told people he believed his job was to protect the president. But that, they say, is Donald Trump being Donald Trump.

In other words, the president’s brazen public behavior might be his best defense.

The investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign aided the effort presented the new White House with its first crisis after just 25 days. The president immediately tried to contain the damage.

It was Feb. 14, 2017, and Mr. Trump and his advisers were in the Oval Office debating how to explain the resignation of Michael T. Flynn, the national security adviser, the previous night. Mr. Flynn, who had been a top campaign adviser to Mr. Trump, was under investigation by the F.B.I. for his contacts with Russians and secret foreign lobbying efforts for Turkey.

The Justice Department had already raised questions that Mr. Flynn might be subject to blackmail by the Russians for misleading White House officials about the Russian contacts, and inside the White House there was a palpable fear that the Russia investigation could consume the early months of a new administration.

As the group in the Oval Office talked, one of Mr. Trump’s advisers mentioned in passing what then-Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin had told reporters — that Mr. Trump had asked Mr. Flynn to resign.

It was unclear where Mr. Ryan had gotten that information, but Mr. Trump seized on Mr. Ryan’s words. “That sounds better,” the president said, according to people with knowledge of the discussions. Mr. Trump turned to the White House press secretary at the time, Sean Spicer, who was preparing to brief the media.

“Say that,” Mr. Trump ordered.

But was that true, Mr. Spicer pressed.

“Say that I asked for his resignation,” Mr. Trump repeated.

The president appeared to have little concern about what he told the public about Mr. Flynn’s departure, and quickly warmed to the new narrative. The episode was among the first of multiple ham-handed efforts by the president to carry out a dual strategy: publicly casting the Russia story as an overblown hoax and privately trying to contain the investigation’s reach.

“This Russia thing is all over now because I fired Flynn,” Mr. Trump said over lunch that day, according to a new book by Chris Christie, a former New Jersey governor and a longtime Trump ally.

Mr. Christie was taken aback. “This Russia thing is far from over,” Mr. Christie wrote that he told Mr. Trump, who responded: “What do you mean? Flynn met with the Russians. That was the problem. I fired Flynn. It’s over.”

Mr. Kushner, who was also at the lunch, chimed in, according to Mr. Christie’s book: “That’s right, firing Flynn ends the whole Russia thing.”

As Mr. Trump was lunching with Mr. Christie, lawyers in the White House Counsel’s Office met with Mr. Spicer about what he should say from the White House podium about what was a sensitive national security investigation. But when Mr. Spicer’s briefing began, the lawyers started hearing numerous misstatements — some bigger than others — and ended up compiling them all in a memo.

The lawyers’ main concern was that Mr. Spicer overstated how exhaustively the White House had investigated Mr. Flynn and that he said, wrongly, that administration lawyers had concluded there were no legal issues surrounding Mr. Flynn’s conduct.

Mr. Spicer later told people he stuck to talking points that he was given by the counsel’s office, and that White House lawyers expressed concern only about how he had described the thoroughness of the internal inquiry into Mr. Flynn. The memo written by the lawyers said that Mr. Spicer was presented with a longer list of his misstatements. The White House never publicly corrected the record. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more and it shows how serious the crisis now is.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 February 2019 at 11:33 am

Quora has opened my eyes

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For many years, I said and believed “There is no such thing as a stupid question.” Quora pretty much demolishes that myth.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 February 2019 at 11:07 am

Posted in Daily life

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