Later On

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

Archive for August 19th, 2019

The South loves to execute people

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That’s from a post by Kevin Drum at Mother Jones. Take a look.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 August 2019 at 9:04 pm

The First Inside Report from an Ice Mental-Health Facility

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Ken Silverstein writes in the New Republic:

As reports exposing the shockingly brutal conditions at immigrant detention centers have drawn comparisons to ethnic detention compounds under authoritarian regimes, it becomes ever more pressing for the country’s vast immigration bureaucracy to lean on whatever prestige it can muster at the height of the Trump border crackdown. And like everything else connected with this deranged chapter in our national nativist culture war, the present administrative charm offensive is steeped in gruesome irony: As U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) implements policies all but certain to engender lifelong trauma in detained children separated from their families at the border, it is simultaneously promoting an initiative designed to demonstrate compassion and competence toward adult detainees, particularly those diagnosed with mental illnesses. That’s right: An agency now sowing the conditions of mass traumatic stress among child detainees has been trying for years to set up shop as the caregiver of first resort for psychically traumatized undocumented immigrants.

ICE’s crown jewel in this initiative is a Miami facility called the Krome Service Processing Center, which is administered in conjunction with a host of private contractors. Krome was founded in the 1960s as a Cold War military base designed to protect the nation against the threat posed by Fidel Castro’s Cuba. Beginning in 1980, the U.S. government began transitioning it to hold immigration detainees.

ICE officials have previously bragged in the press about facilities at Krome. To hear them tell it, Krome is a state-of-the-art treatment facility for immigrants (documented and otherwise), housed at its nationwide complex of more than 200 detention facilities. It provides stellar medical services, agency officials say, and especially so in the pivotal realm of immigrant mental health.

For a crown jewel, though, Krome is awfully hard to find and access, if you’re not taking part in a prearranged press junket. I went out to see conditions there in June as part of a reporting trip funded by the Project on Government Oversight. The Krome complex is in a vast dead zone on the outskirts of Miami, just on the border of the Everglades. The gigantic Dolphin Mall is nearby, as is a resort and gambling complex run by the Miccosukee Tribe, but the facility sits at the end of an unmarked road off a major freeway. If you don’t have a detained relative or some other reason to know it’s there, it’s out of sight and out of mind. Locating detention camps in such isolated spots is not uncommon for ICE. For all the official hoopla surrounding the level of care supposedly available to suffering detainees in its ambit, Krome, like most other detainee facilities, operates far out of range of sustained public and media scrutiny.

In the years prior to the Trump presidency, this strategy worked like a charm. ICE’s carefully massaged narrative placing Krome on the vanguard of mental health care has gone largely unchallenged—while Krome garnered some press coverage over several decades, only a few outlets ever mentioned its mental health facilities at all, and most that did referenced them positively. A 2015 Miami Herald story, published after the newspaper got an official ICE tour, reported that the former military base—the “only visible remnants from that tense time are three diamond-shaped pads where Nike missiles once stood, ready to thwart an attack from Cuba”—was now “a fully renovated detention center.”

As reporter Alfonso Chardy noted at the time, the facility’s mental health treatment center—known in placid bureaucratese as the Krome Transitional Unit (KTU)—had never before been shown to the media. It had “30 beds where detainees deemed to have behavior problems are monitored and treated before they can join or rejoin the general detainee population,” Chardy wrote. “As part of the treatment, detainees are given group therapy sessions. In one of the day rooms in the transitional unit, a small group of detainees watched Pope Francis’ address to a joint session of Congress … in which he urged lawmakers to help immigrants.”

A digital news outlet,, was pleased to report in 2016 that even though ICE facilities “have reputations for neglecting mental health”—in some cases, consigning mentally ill detainees to solitary confinement “against the advice of prison doctors” and negligently leaving “immigrants at clear risk of suicide”—Krome was making great strides. The Florida facility had “set up a dedicated mental health wing,” Statnews writer Max Siegelbaum marveled, noting that its staff “works closely with local health professionals, attorneys, and immigration judges with expertise in the field to address the needs of detainees with psychiatric disorders.” This assessment was largely based on observations made by Elizabeth Hildebrand Matherne, “an attorney who has represented detainees.” Matherne, whose now-closed immigration practice was based in Georgia, and who currently works for a civil rights group in Alabama, appears to have little direct experience with Krome detainees. She could not be reached for comment.*

An ICE spokesperson, contacted about the quality of detainee treatment at Krome, replied with a statement citing the facility’s high standards of care for detainees facing both routine and emergency health issues. ICE seeks to ensure “timely and appropriate responses to emergent medical care requests” for all detainees “regardless of location,” the statement read in part. It also cited the Krome center’s high marks in both scheduled and unannounced inspections conducted by third-party contractors: “the facility has repeatedly been found to operate in compliance with federal law and agency policy. Krome was most-recently inspected in February and found to be fully compliant with the agency’s 2011 Performance Based National Detention Standards in each of the 41 categories the inspectors reviewed.”

My own trip to Krome came at the behest of Friends of Miami-Dade Detainees(FOMDD), which got me inside the camp as a community member. I thus became the first journalist to get unsupervised interviews with detainees. What emerged from the visit, along with months of additional reporting, was a far darker and more sinister picture than the one painted by the Trump administration, ICE, and the immigration system’s many media enablers.

Krome, a male-only facility, is designed for 611 detainees but, numerous detainees interviewed allege, is routinely overcrowded. Most detainees are held in about a dozen “pods,” a word that has a more pleasant ring to it than “cells.” Pods are single-room, enclosed rectangular units, roughly the size of a high school gym, where detainees sleep in row after row of steel bunk beds with thin mattresses, according to multiple accounts. Fiberglass chairs are bolted to the floor. Toilets and showers offer no privacy. TVs blare in Spanish and English, and the “pods” emanate an enormous, steady din.

As at detention camps elsewhere around the country, Krome’s broad medical care is horrendous. In addition to being fed terrible food—high-calorie-and-starch institutional fare with little to no nutritional value—detainees face long waits to see doctors and are rarely provided medicines other than Tylenol or other over-the-counter painkillers. What’s more, ICE officials—and the private contractors who run most of the agency’s facilities—have a long record of cost-cutting, avoiding spending that might eat up budgets and profit margins. Because of that, they sometimes refrain from sending detainees in their charge to outside hospitals until their health has deteriorated to a critical point. “You have to wait so long to be seen, you’ll get better or die first,” an advocate at Adelanto—the country’s second-largest detention camp, near Los Angeles—told me when she took me inside there last year.

While some media outlets have covered allegations of abuse and corruption at Krome, they’ve mostly failed—aside from some local publications like the Miami New Times—to seriously investigate the facility’s grotesque charade of providing high-quality mental health care . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 August 2019 at 4:35 pm

Netanyahu Banned Omar And Tlaib Because The Occupation Must Be Hidden To Survive

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Interesting article by Peter Beinart in Forward:

Most establishment American Jewish leaders think Israel’s decision to bar Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar from visiting the West Bank was, in the words of The Democratic Majority for Israel, “unwise.”

Benjamin Netanyahu, the American Jewish Committee argued, should have realized that “visiting Israel is essential to gaining a better understanding of this… open, democratic society.”

AIPAC said “every member of Congress should be able to visit and experience our democratic ally Israel firsthand.”

Of course they think that. Most officials of mainstream American Jewish organizations have never been to the places Tlaib and Omar planned to go. They’ve never talked to Palestinians whose homes are about to be bulldozed because they lack the building permits that, as non-citizens under military rule, they can’t get. They’ve never heard Palestinian parents explain the terror they feel when Israeli soldiers come in the middle of the night to take their children to be interrogated, often for days, in the absence of a lawyer.

They’ve never stood in a Palestinian village that receives a few hours of water per day and seen swimming pools in the settlements nearby. They’ve never visited the village of Beit Ur al-Fauqa, home to Rashida Tlaib’s grandmother, where according to a 2015 report, local children waded through sewage channels to reach a high school enclosed by the separation barrier on three sides. American Jewish leaders think Netanyahu is a fool because they don’t realize how much he has to hide.

He’s not a fool. He may have barred Omar and Tlaib partly because Donald Trump asked him to. He may have felt the stunt would appeal to right-wing voters in Israel’s upcoming elections. But he likely also understood that if Omar and Tlaib brought the American media with them to the West Bank, they might begin to puncture the cocoonthat he and his American Jewish allies have worked so hard to build.

That cocoon shields both American Jews and American politicians from Palestinian reality. AIPAC maintains it with trips—like the one it hosted for members of Congress earlier this month—that afford them barely any opportunity to hear ordinary Palestinians in the West Bank (let alone the Gaza Strip) talk about life without basic rights.

A few years ago, a member of Congress who travelled with AIPAC told me that when his delegation visited the Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, they did so in an armed convoy and “saw almost no actual people.” As a result of this isolation, he noted, most of his colleagues never realized that West Bank Palestinians “live under a different legal system” from their Jewish neighbors. This ignorance is by design. “We call it the Jewish Disneyland trip,” one “pro-Israel” official told The New York Times.

But when Americans leave this cocoon, the effect is often shattering. The organization Encounter takes American Jewish officials to meet ordinary Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

“After one day on your trip I felt like I had never been to Israel before,” admitted one participant. “And I am considered a professional Israel expert who travels to Israel several times a year.”

When six members of Congress—five of them African-American—travelled with J Street to the West Bank city of Hebron in 2012, they saw alleys where Palestinians walked because they were banned from the streets nearby.

In The New York Times Magazine, Nathan Thrall described how the representatives looked up from those alleys “to see garbage-filled nets hanging above their heads, put up [by local Palestinians] to catch trash thrown by Israeli settlers.”

Former Maryland Congresswoman Donna Edwards said that Hebron “looked like the stories that my mother and my grandmother told me about living in the South.” When Israeli soldiers stopped Edwards and her colleagues from visiting the non-violent Palestinian activist Issa Amro, they “locked arms and sang ‘We Shall Overcome.’” That’s what Netanyahu is afraid of.

Because Tlaib and Omar cannot serve as witnesses, the responsibility falls even more heavily on us.

Like the white (and often Jewish) college students who went to Mississippi during Freedom Summer in 1964, we who are white and Jewish and can name our Bar Mitzvah Parshas at Ben Gurion Airport must use our privilege to go the places Omar and Tlaib could not.

We must find creative ways of showing other Americans what we see there. And we must make it unacceptable for Democrats to continue to visit Israel with AIPAC—as 41 did last week—and thus sustain the cocoon that keeps Americans comfortably ignorant about Palestinian suffering.

When journalists start asking Democratic politicians why they visited Israel without visiting Hebron or Khan al-Ahmar, and why they met Benjamin Netanyahu without meeting Issa Amro or Fadi Quran, then the cocoon will start to crack. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 August 2019 at 3:10 pm

If Everyone Ate Beans Instead of Beef

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James Hamblin writes in the Atlantic:

Ecoanxiety is an emerging condition. Named in 2011, the American Psychological Association recently described it as the dread and helplessness that come with “watching the slow and seemingly irrevocable impacts of climate change unfold, and worrying about the future for oneself, children, and later generations.”

It’s not a formal diagnosis. Anxiety is traditionally defined by an outsized stress response to a given stimulus. In this case, the stimulus is real, as are the deleterious effects of stress on the body.

This sort of disposition toward ecological-based distress does not pair well with a president who has denied the reality of the basis for this anxiety. Donald Trump has called climate change a fabrication on the part of “the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” He has also led the United States to become the only G20 country that will not honor the Paris Climate Accord, and who has appointed fossil-fuel advocates to lead the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency.

For people who experience climate-related anxiety, this all serves as a sort of exacerbation by presidential gaslight. The remedy for a condition like this is knowing what can be done to mitigate environmental degradation, from within in a country singularly committed to it.

Like what?

Helen Harwatt is a researcher trained in environmental nutrition, a field focused on developing food systems that balance human health and sustainability. She’s interested in policy, but realistic about how much progress can be expected under the aforementioned leadership. So she and colleagues have done research on maximizing the impacts of individuals. As with so many things in life and health, that tends to come down to food.

Recently Harwatt and a team of scientists from Oregon State University, Bard College, and Loma Linda University calculated just what would happen if every American made one dietary change: substituting beans for beef. They found that if everyone were willing and able to do that—hypothetically—the U.S. could still come close to meeting its 2020 greenhouse-gas emission goals, pledged by President Barack Obama in 2009.

That is, even if nothing about our energy infrastructure or transportation system changed—and even if people kept eating chicken and pork and eggs and cheese—this one dietary change could achieve somewhere between 46 and 74 percent of the reductions needed to meet the target.

“I think there’s genuinely a lack of awareness about how much impact this sort of change can have,” Harwatt told me. There have been analyses in the past about the environmental impacts of veganism and vegetarianism, but this study is novel for the idea that a person’s dedication to the cause doesn’t have to be complete in order to matter. A relatively small, single-food substitution could be the most powerful change a person makes in terms of their lifetime environmental impact—more so than downsizing one’s car, or being vigilant about turning off light bulbs, and certainly more than quitting showering.

To understand why the climate impact of beef alone is so large, note that the image at the top of this story is a sea of soybeans in a silo in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest. The beans belong to a feed lot that holds 38,000 cattle, the growth and fattening of which means dispensing 900 metric tons of feed every day. Which is to say that these beans will be eaten by cows, and the cows will convert the beans to meat, and the humans will eat the meat. In the process, the cows will emit much greenhouse gas, and they will consume far more calories in beans than they will yield in meat, meaning far more clearcutting of forests to farm cattle feed than would be necessary if the beans above were simply eaten by people.

This inefficient process happens on a massive scale. Brazil, the world’s largest exporter of red meat, holds around 212 million cattle. (In June, the U.S. temporarily suspended imports of beef from Brazil due to abscesses, collections of pus, in the meat.) According to the United Nations, 33 percent of arable land on Earth is used to grow feed for livestock. Even more, 26 percent of the ice-free terrestrial surface of Earth is used for grazing livestock. In all, almost a third of the land on Earth is used to produce meat and animal products.

This means much less deforestation and land degradation if so many plant crops weren’t run through the digestive tracts of cattle. If Americans traded their beef for beans, the researchers found, that would free up 42 percent of U.S. crop land.

“The real beauty of this kind of thing is that climate impact doesn’t have to be policy-driven,” said Harwatt. “It can just be a positive, empowering thing for consumers to see that they can make a significant impact by doing something as simple as eating beans instead of beef.”

She and her colleagues conclude in the journal Climatic Change: “While not currently recognized as a climate policy option, the ‘beans for beef’ scenario offers significant climate change mitigation and other environmental benefits, illustrating the high potential of animal to plant food shifts.”

The beans for beef scenario is, it seems, upon us.

“I think it’s such an easy-to-grasp concept that it could be less challenging than a whole dietary shift,” said Harwatt. The words vegetarian and vegan . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 August 2019 at 2:27 pm

Ilhan Omar Is Already Changing Washington

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A very interesting article in the New Republic by Emily Tamkin:

This week, Donald Trump opened a new front in his war against women of color in Congress. “It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep. Tlaib to visit,” the president tweeted Thursday morning, referring to Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, two young Muslim Democrats who make up half of the progressive congressional “squad” that Trump last month wished would “go back” to “the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” This time, Trump was even less nuanced in assailing Omar and Tlaib: “They hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds… They are a disgrace!”

On one hand, such attacks aren’t new—particularly to Omar, who is in her first term as a representative from Minneapolis and is perhaps the most controversial of all the high-profile progressive Democrats, which include her fellow “squad” members (Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley), the co-chairs of the Progressive Caucus (Pramila Jayapal and Mark Pocan), and champions of rethinking U.S. intervention abroad (Ro Khanna). Last month, Omar introduced a resolution arguing that “all Americans have the right to participate in boycotts in pursuit of civil and human rights at home and abroad, as protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution.” Though it doesn’t mention Israel or Palestine by name, the resolution was meant to protect the speech of advocates of the Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which promotes economic pressure on Israel to end its occupation of the West Bank and grant full equality to Arab citizens. Omar’s political opponents and some members of the media quickly characterized her measure as an “anti-Israel resolution.” National Republican Senatorial Committee Adviser Matt Whitlock tweeted that her resolution compared Israel to Nazi Germany, complete with a screenshot of the resolution’s text, which clearly showed that it didn’t.

In this week’s case, however, Trump’s insta-published line of attack quickly became foreign policy. Israeli officials confirmed that they planned to bar Omar and Tlaib from entering the country on a visit because of “suspected provocations and promotion of BDS.” “We won’t allow those who deny our right to exist in this world to enter Israel,” Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely announced shortly after Trump’s tweet, adding (in a manner that sounded not unlike Trump), “In principle, this is a very justified decision.”

The irony of that decision is rich, particularly in the case of Omar, who sits on the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee, which helps dole out roughly $4 billion a year in U.S. aid to Israel. Her presence in one of the government’s most influential old clubs has produced plenty of heat on right-wing airwaves, but it’s the light—her potential to steer her country and her party toward a different foreign policy—that’s far more interesting. Can a legislator like Omar bring change to the way foreign affairs matters are conducted on the Hill without being overwhelmed by controversy? Or is the controversy just a sign that such change is already underway?

Certain dogmas in American foreign policy have gone, if not unquestioned, then at least largely accepted by both major political parties in Washington for generations: The United States is a strong ally of Israel; the United States chooses Saudi Arabia over Iran; the United States military is a force for good in the world. That’s slowly changing, though, thanks to opposition to Trump’s presidency, as well as the elevation of a new generation of progressive politicians who are fed up with the usual foreign policy.

Omar, who came to the U.S. as a refugee from Somalia, sits on House Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee for Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations, as well as the Subcommittee for Oversight and Investigations. She’s sponsored some legislation, including a May resolution that would bring sanctions against Brunei officials who implement a draconian new penal code that prescribes death for homosexuality and adultery. But she hasn’t enacted much tangible legislative change.

It wasn’t just a tougher interrogation than many expected; it was Omar starting from the premise that a member of the political elite, a longtime diplomat, and a senior fellow on the Council of Foreign Relations had no business being in another position of power. “That’s a very key moment,” said Matthew Duss, foreign policy adviser to Senator Bernie Sanders. “I would compare that in some ways to what Senator Sanders said in the 2016 primary about Henry Kissinger.” (Sanders said “Kissinger was one of the most destructive secretaries of state in the modern history of this country.”) There is an understanding in Washington, Duss said, that certain politicos shouldn’t be questioned or challenged, because they’re part of the club. “These people should not be part of any club,” he said. “And a club that treats them as members of good standing is a club that really needs to reexamine its rules of membership.”

Mainstream Democrats have spent much of the summer downplaying differences between the politics of the “squad” and their own. That is also the case on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“Rep. Omar brings a unique perspective based on her powerful life story,” Representative Ami Bera, the California Democrat who chairs Foreign Affairs’ oversight subcommittee—and the only Democrat on the committee, including Omar, to comment on the record for this piece directly—said in a statement, adding that Omar “has been a valuable addition” to the committee. But, Bera added, “I don’t necessarily believe she’s moving the conversation ‘left.’ We would be covering these important issues regardless of the committee makeup.”

But progressive observers outside Congress push back on that narrative a bit. “Congresswoman Omar has absolutely moved the conversation forward on how we build a more values-driven, morally just foreign policy,” said Kate Kizer, policy director of Win Without War, a network of left foreign policy activists and organizations. “She has been fearless in speaking truth to power, whether that’s questioning why our government advocates for human rights only when convenient, as in the case of Saudi Arabia and Palestine, or holding officials like Elliot Abrams accountable for their role in past human rights atrocities.”

Others point to her commitment to challenging authoritarian regimes, particularly in the Muslim world. “Traditionally seen allies—like Saudi Arabia, the UAE, whose authoritarian and human rights abuses the U.S. ignores in exchange for cheap oil and regional stability—their narrative is disrupted by Ilhan Omar,” Robert McCaw, government affairs director at the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said. “American Muslims are developing their own unique perspective on American foreign affairs, [and] Ilhan Omar has an authentic agenda in the Foreign Affairs Committee that looks to carry the voice of the Muslim community.”

“I think she’s absolutely broadening—working with others—broadening the boundaries of what we discuss and how we discuss it,” said Duss, the Sanders adviser. That, he said, is “unquestionably positive” in the push for a more progressive American foreign policy.

None of this is to say that Omar puts forth perfect progressive policy or messaging. Her views on U.S. responsibility for Venezuela’s democratic and food crises, for example, have been criticized by some as apologia for strong-arm leader Nicolás Maduro, whose record on human rights is abysmal and separable from arguments about U.S. interventions there.

Nor did Omar do herself or the country any favors last February, when she tweeted that support for Israel was “all about the Benjamins.” Critics have pounced on far more nuanced critiques of Israeli lobbying and financial influence in Washington; Omar was savaged for what her detractors called an anti-Semitic trope. (Her spokesperson, who is Jewish, later responded that “anti-Semitism is a right-wing force.”)

An argument can be made that the celebrity and controversy that surrounds Omar is a distraction from her work and progressive foreign policy goals. What this argument misses, however, is  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 August 2019 at 12:25 pm

Jeffrey Epstein Learned His Sexual Depravity from Wall Street; Then Took It to the Next Level

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Pam Martens and Russ Martens write in Wall Street on Parade:

From 1976 to 1981, Jeffrey Epstein worked for the Wall Street investment bank, Bear Stearns. Epstein was found dead in his jail cell on August 10 while awaiting trial on charges of sex trafficking of underage girls, dozens of whom he allegedly sexually assaulted after grooming them first with “inappropriate touching.”

Bear Stearns collapsed in the early days of the 2008 financial crisis and was purchased by JPMorgan Chase. One of the last acts of Bear Stearns’ CEO, Jimmy Cayne, was to make a $2 million payment to a woman who charged that the legendary Chairman of Bear Stearns, Ace Greenberg, had engaged in “inappropriate touching.” The young woman was said to have had a witness to her charges.

In a 2017 report by the New York Times, a former Managing Director of Bear Stearns, Maureen Sherry, reported that “…it was mostly the same men who preyed on young women.” In a 2016 report by Maureen Callahan at the New York Post, a former Bear Stearns’ employee reports that men at Bear Stearns were “getting bl*w jobs in front of staff – that happened all the time.” Claims that men at Bear were demanding sexual favors from female colleagues and getting away with it date all the way back to the 1980s.

As more allegations emerge daily into the sexual assault horrors of Jeffrey Epstein and his band of enablers, a profile is emerging that bears a striking resemblance to how Wall Street has allowed its highest-producing brokers to behave toward vulnerable young female employees for decades. In both situations, there are the enablers; in both situations there is a failed justice system and powerful lawyers cutting deals; in both situations there are hundreds of different females asserting the same type of claims over a long period of time with no governmental authority stopping the abuse; and in both situations, powerful men who were an important cog in Wall Street’s insatiable quest for profits were allowed to walk away from a multitude of credible sexual assault allegations.

Jeffrey Epstein’s major divergence from the sexual assaults by Wall Street brokers’ is that he preyed on underage girls. It is notable, however, that many Wall Street firms hire young women just out of high school to be “trained” to work in their branch offices. The sexual grooming is not as overt as in the Jeffrey Epstein cases, where the young girls were hired to give a massage and then told, over time, the massage had to be administered by them naked; and then, after more time, upped to a full-scale sexual assault. But young women in these Wall Street offices are sent a clear message by their Human Resources departments that they need to “get along” with those big producing brokers who generate outsized profits for the firm.

Walk into any of the Wall Street retail brokerage offices that dot the landscape in every major town and city across America and you will see glass-windowed offices filled with white male brokers and pretty, young female sales assistants (a/k/a client service associates) sitting in a low-wage, subservient position at a desk directly outside that office.

Subservience to that broker is ingrained in the following ways: the sales assistant’s performance is officially evaluated by that broker and becomes a written, permanent part of her employment file; the broker, if he is a big producer for the firm, can have the sales assistant fired over any flimsy, trumped-up claim; and, importantly, most Wall Street firms pay these women low wages, leaving it to the broker they work for to give the woman a percentage of his commissions if he finds her “performance” to be to his liking.

All that Wall Street would have to do to alter these sexual and power dynamics is to pay these women a good salary and take the broker’s additional compensation out of the equation. The fact that Wall Street doesn’t alter this dynamic suggests that the industry likes its hunting band to hone their skills on the vulnerable prey in the office as a form of target practice.

Just as Epstein was able to keep his abuse hidden for decades by employing a roster of expensive lawyers who knew how to work the system, Wall Street has all of the largest law firms in America at its beck and call. These law firms have systematically convinced the U.S. Supreme Court and Appellate Courts around the country that Wall Street should be allowed to run its own private justice system; that it should be allowed to make its employees sign a waiver giving up their rights to access the nation’s courts and use Wall Street’s rigged kangaroo court system instead.

Most Americans would agree that Wall Street is the most corrupt industry in America. And yet, the most corrupt industry is the only industry that universally requires both employees and customers to waive their rights to use the nation’s courts to settle claims and, instead, must use the Wall Street-created mandatory arbitration system which has none of the procedural protections of a court of law.

What is hiding behind that rigged system of justice is akin to what happened in the Catholic Church where abusing priests were transferred from parish to parish and sexual assault claims were secretly settled with gag orders. At the hands of Wall Street and its private justice system, the media is deprived of a seat in an open courtroom; there are no publicly available court transcripts of the hearings; and the worst sexual assaults are settled quickly with a gag order on all parties. Invariably, the abusive broker keeps his job with no mark on his publicly available record about any sexual assault or sexual harassment settlement. The broker’s public record is maintained by Wall Street’s self-regulator, FINRA – the very same organization that runs the private justice system for Wall Street.

In March of last year Lorena Alcantara filed a . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 August 2019 at 9:47 am

Bad headline, small changes at the New York Times

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Jay Rosen takes a sharp look at the weaknesses of the NY Times as a journalistic enterprise:

Knowing the characters involved — columnist Joan Walsh and the New York Times — this announcement last week caught my eye:

Separating from the Times was not a decision she took lightly, Walsh said. “I’ve put this off for almost 3 years. They are blowing their coverage of this crisis. I’m out.” 

I’m still in. I consider myself a Times loyalist. My loyalty is expressed through criticism and watchfulness, and by paying for a digital (plus print on weekends) subscription. I have no stake in the company, but in the institution of the Times, especially the ongoing journalism of it, I do feel a kind of stake, a public one. It’s not clear to me how I am supposed to protect it. So I write. 

What do you do? 

At this site ten months ago, I tried to explain why there was such tension between Times journalists and many of their core readers— like say, people who follow Joan Walsh! (Absorb that earlier post before this one if you really want my sense of the situation.) 

The core readers have more power now. They are a bigger part of the mix. How that power should be recognized, when it might be used, how to listen carefully to it without listening too much… no one really knows yet. The digital audience itself, the Times own interconnected public, does not know its own power. 

But how to achieve independence from the newest corrupting influence — the most attached part of the audience — is already a live concern among Times editors. These events lie in the background of Trump Urges Unity vs. Racism, which is not just a hastily abandoned headline but the name of a public episode now. 

The readers have more power:

They have more power because they have more choices. And because the internet, where most of the reading happens, is inherently two-way. Also because Times journalists are now exposed to opinion and reaction on social media. And especially because readers are paying more of the costs. Their direct payments are keeping the Times afloat. This will be increasingly so in the future, as the advertising business gets absorbed by the tech industry. The Times depends on its readers’ support more than it ever has.

1.) Depends on readers’ support more than it ever has. 2.) Got rid of the public editor. That’s an example of the kind of disconnect that has created tension. 

Meanwhile, pressures on the news system because an authoritarian got into office are exposing to public view parts of the Times that have never been strong. For example, filtering out the more lurid and unfounded criticisms to hear what concerned people are trying to tell you. The Times is not great at that. 

The Times is not great at learning from past mistakes when the fuller dimensions of that mistake come into view. Investigating Donald Trump, F.B.I. Sees No Clear Link to Russia. Or at reframing the way they approach Trump’s racism, away from a long string of deplorable incidents to a structural, load-bearing and thus central feature of his campaign and presidency. 

Steven Greenhouse is a former reporter for the New York Times:  . . .

. . . In October, 2018 I made an easy prediction

In so many ways since the election, the Times has risen to the occasion and excelled. But it has a problem with its core supporters. Until it is put right, there will be blow-ups, resentments and a lot of misunderstanding.

The mixture I described came to a boil this week and last. Not a boil over. Just a boil. But contained movement is still movement. I will try to isolate for you some of the small changes. 

It started on August 5th. Public reaction to a majestically bad headline, Trump Urges Unity vs. Racism, was so strong that executive editor Dean Baquet had to do multiple interviews to explain what happenedand limit the damage. These pieces are still coming in. 

On Monday, August 12, Baquet called a staff meeting at the Times to air complaints. According to reports in the Daily Beast and Vanity Fair, journalists of color and younger generations of Times journalists often led the questioning. Inconsistency and lack of logic in calling things racist were said to be some of the items on the table. Though quickly corrected, the bad headline remained a flashpoint inside the paper and out. 

One of the editors on Baquet’s team explained it this way: 

“I think this is a really difficult story to cover, the story of Donald Trump and race and his character. We’re in a bit of uncharted territory. There is definitely some friction over, how does the paper position itself?

A Times newsroom in uncharted territory. Uncertainty over where to stand in the triangle formed by Trump, race and American politics. These were not the confident tones the editors had been striking before Monday’s meeting, or before the wildly discordant headline. Small change. 

That nameless Times editor (there are lots of them in this episode) asks a good question: how does the paper position itself toward the Trump movement, which incorporates the New York Times as a hate object and tries to disqualify Times journalism in the minds of Trump supporters before they have read it, even though Donald Trump lives and dies by what the New York Times says about him? 

What kind of public actor can readers, supporters and subscribers realistically expect the Times to be? And what kind of actions — what range of proper motion — can its own journalists expect from the institution they have joined? 

These are some of the problems that came to a boil this week. But as I said, only a mild boil. 

There is still no public editor to push the discussion along. But “why did we get rid of the public editor?” is now a question on the floor at staff meetings, the Daily Beast reported. It was asked of Dean Baquet in one of his sorry-for-that-bad-headline interviews. A decision announced in June 2017 is being publicly doubted two years later. It’s like the case against it has been re-opened. Small changes. 

According to Vanity Fair, an editor at the Times said this week: 

Reporters on the front lines, particularly reporters of color, are really attuned to something happening in the country that is, to a lot of them, deeply scary, both personally and politically, and there’s a hunger to have a conversation about it. If this rhetoric continues, how is the Times covering it? What are the rules of engagement for a president who traffics in this stuff? How do we, as a newsroom, grapple with that?

Does it sound like they know what to do next? Not so much, right? That too is movement. 

Check out this attitude among the editors, as reported by Vanity Fair. “There’s a clear feeling from the top that we’re not gonna be a part of the resistance, and how that gets translated day to day can frustrate people.” (My emphasis.) 

That clear feeling came through when Dean Baquet spoke to CNN this week. 

What Baquet is certain about is that The Times should not serve as a publication of the left. “Our role is not to be the leader of the resistance,” he said, adding that “one of the problems” that would come about if the paper took that role is that “inevitably the resistance in America wins.” Baquet further explained, “Inevitably the people outside power gain power again. And at that point, what are you? You’re just a chump of the people who won. Our role is to hold everybody who has power to account.”

As a Times loyalist, I kind of resent the implication: Come join our resistance, New York Times! As if that’s what we want from the journalism, to do our politics for us. We’re not gonna be part of the resistance says nothing about how to provide less assistance to Trump’s othering instincts. We’re not gonna be part of the resistance doesn’t tell you what to do if Trump breaks through all barriers and runs a specifically racist campaign from the pulpit of the presidency. 

I asked earlier what kind of public actor can readers, supporters and subscribers realistically expect the Times to be? We got an answer this week. The kind of actor that . . .

Continue reading.

I observed when Margaret Sullivan was Public Editor at the NY Times (and a very good public editor, unlike some who have been given that role) that the reporters and editors of the NY Times always dismissed criticism of what they wrote. Their typical response was to blame the reader for “misreading” their reports. Certainly, they responded (implicitly) they themselves were not to blame. So nothing changed except that inevitably the editors and journalists removed the burr under their saddle and ended the office of Public Editor.

Particularly read his update to his article. From that update:

Shortly after I posted this piece, Ashley Feinberg of Slate published a lightly edited transcript of the staff meeting between Baquet with his top editors and the rank and file. “The New York Times Unites vs. Twitter” was the headline Slate put on it. Feinberg wrote: 

The problem for the Times is not whether it can navigate social-media controversies or satisfy an appetite for #resistance-based outrage, both of which it can tell itself are not a newspaper’s job to do. It’s whether it has the tools to make sense of the world. On this point, Baquet was not reassuring or convincing.

Exactly! (My italics.) Here are some quotes from Times staffers that show what I meant above by a generational divide.  . . .

. . .  Meanwhile, David Roberts of Vox, who normally writes about climate change, put it this way in an exasperated thread reacting to this post: 

What frustrates people is not that they want to see the word “racist” in the paper. What frustrates them is that the country’s core institutions are under assault by a radical ethnonationalist minority and the sense of crisis is not being conveyed.

It has always struck me that while the people at the New York Times consider it the apex of journalism, the highest the ladder of excellence goes, they have not extended that reputation for quality to the acts of listening, receiving criticism, sorting signal from noise, and changing their work. It’s like they know they can’t do it well, so they don’t even try. And being the best in the world at listening and evolving isn’t even an aspiration there. “We are not the resistance” is a crappy read on what people are trying to tell you. But this is one area where mediocrity and worse — incompetence — is tolerated at the Times. Responsibility for that has to flow to Dean Baquet. There is no other place it can pool.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 August 2019 at 9:34 am

Posted in Business, Media, NY Times

Miles Davis: ‘Kind of Blue’

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Nancy Wilson for years had an NPR program Jazz Profiles, and her program devoted to “Kind of Blue” is well worth listening to. Audio of the entire program is at the link—and it’s worth listening to—along with an article that begins:

The best-selling jazz record of all time is a universally acknowledged masterpiece, revered as much by rock and classical music fans as by jazz lovers. The album is Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue.

Kind of Blue brought together seven now-legendary musicians in the prime of their careers: tenor saxophonist John Coltrane, alto saxophonist Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, pianists Bill Evans and Wynton Kelly, bassist Paul Chambers, drummer Jimmy Cobb and, of course, trumpeter Miles Davis.

Davis and his cool, measured trumpet style had been attracting attention in the jazz world since the mid-1940s. By 1958, at age 32, Davis was an international jazz star whose playing set the standard for jazz musicians of the day.

And just as younger artists looked to Davis for guidance and inspiration, he looked to them for raw, new talent and innovative musical ideas. In the mid-1950s, Davis discovered gold in the subtle sounds of 25-year-old pianist Bill Evans, whom he recruited into his late-1950s sextet. Evans would prove an essential contributor to the Kind of Blue sessions.

Even before Kind of Blue, Davis was experimenting with “modal” jazz, keeping the background of a tune simple while soloists played a melody over one or two “modes,” or scales, instead of busy chord progressions — the usual harmonic foundation of jazz.

In addition, Evans introduced Davis to classical composers, such as Béla Bartók and Maurice Ravel, who used modalities in their compositions. Davis also drew on his knowledge of the modal qualities in the blues.

With Evans, Davis worked up a few basic compositional sketches, and when the musicians arrived at the studio on March 2, 1959, they were given the outlines. Davis wanted to capture the musicians’ spontaneity — and he wanted to capture it on the first take.

The first tune recorded, “Freddie Freeloader,” is representative of the “first take” magic on the record, and it features the happy, swinging playing of pianist Wynton Kelly, who had recently joined Davis’ sextet.

The second tune recorded that day ended up as the lead and probably best-known album track. “So What” took an unusual tack: bassist Paul Chambers stated the opening melody, and with Evans playing rather unorthodox chords underneath, the song serves as somewhat of a fanfare or overture, hinting at what was in store for the listener.

Davis was at a musical peak in the 1950s and had been preparing the ideas that would become Kind of Blue for years. A year before the recording, Davis slipped Evans a piece of paper on which he’d written with the musical symbols for “G minor” and “A augmented.”

“See what you can do with this,” Davis said. Evans went on to create a cycle of chords as a meditative framework for solos on “Blue in Green.”

The second day of recording did not take place for seven weeks. When the band finally gathered again,  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 August 2019 at 8:21 am

Posted in Jazz

Italian this morning, with a touch of German and Spanish

with 2 comments

My Colonia shaving soap (I don’t even try to figure out the specific name given all the options) responded well to the Mühle second-generation synthetic and produce a very nice, thick, rich lather. The iKon Shavecraft X3, a sterling (well, aluminum alloy) razor, here mounted on a stainless steel UFO handle (Spanish), delivered a very fine result with pleasure, and a splash of the genuine Floïd (as it says on the bottle) finished the shave with a warm fragrance and a hint of menthol. The week is well launched.

An observation on the difficulty of changing one’s habits. The daily dozen that Dr. Greger recommends as a healthful diet includes 3 servings of fruit a day (plus also a bowl of berries). I was not in the habit of eating fruit, so that seemed very difficult for a few weeks. But then I just started having a lot of fruit on hand (peaches, plums, mandarin oranges, nectarines, apples, and navel oranges right now), and then it became trivially easy.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 August 2019 at 8:12 am

Posted in Daily life, Shaving

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