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Which is more fundamental: processes or things?

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My immediate response on reading the title is that processes are fundamental, because things are simply slow-motion processes. I think most people understand that they themselves are processes, a tree is a process, and even rocks and mountains. Still, I thought this is of interest.

Celso Vieira, who has a PhD in philosophy from the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil and lives in Belo Horizonte (where he started the first Brazilian chapter of the effective altruist group The Life You Can Save) writes in Aeon:

Metaphysics is the attempt to understand how existence works by examining the building blocks of reality, the distinctions between mental and physical entities, and the fundamental questions of being and reality. But metaphysics is not only an arcane branch of philosophy: human beings use metaphysical assumptions to navigate the world. Assumptions about what exists and what is fundamental exert a powerful influence on our lives. Indeed, the less aware we are of our metaphysical assumptions, the more we are subject to them.

Western metaphysics tends to rely on the paradigm of substances. We often see the world as a world of things, composed of atomic molecules, natural kinds, galaxies. Objects are the paradigmatic mode of existence, the basic building blocks of the Universe. What exists exists as an object. That is to say, things are of a certain kind, they have some specific qualities and well-defined spatial and temporal limits. For instance: Fido is my dog, he is grey, and was born one year ago. (It’s worth noting that such a simple statement will give rise to a litany of metaphysical disputes within substance metaphysics: realists believe that universals, such as the natural kind ‘dogs’, exist while nominalists believe them to be only intellectual abstractions.)

Though substance metaphysics seems to undergird Western ‘common sense’, I think it is wrong. To see this, consider the cliché about the glass of water: is it half-empty or half-full? The question assumes a static arrangement of things serving as a basis for either an optimistic or a pessimistic interpretation. One can engage in interminable disputes about the correct description of the physical set-up, or about the legitimacy of the psychological evaluations. But what if the isolated frame ‘a glass of water’ fails to give the relevant information? Anyone would prefer an emptier glass that is getting full to a fuller one getting empty. Any analysis lacking information about change misses the point, which is just what substance metaphysics is missing. Process philosophers, meanwhile, think we should go beyond looking at the world as a set of static unrelated items, and instead examine the processes that make up the world. Processes, not objects, are fundamental.

Continue reading.

I’ve long been interested in process theology, which applies process to the idea of God. That was initially developed by Charles Hartshorne working in the light of Alfred North Whitehead’s Process and Reality. (And see also A Key to Whitehead’s Process and Reality.)

Written by LeisureGuy

30 September 2019 at 8:13 pm

Posted in Books

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How Derren Brown Remade Mind Reading for Skeptics

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Adam Green writes in the New Yorker:

In 2005, when I was visiting London, a magician friend told me that I had to see the English mentalist Derren Brown, who was appearing in the West End, in his one-man show “Something Wicked This Way Comes.” Brown had become famous for an astonishing ability to seemingly read the thoughts of his fellow-humans and to control their actions. In a series of TV specials, he’d reinvented a waning branch of magic—mentalism—for a new generation, framing his feats as evidence not of psychic powers but of a cutting-edge knowledge of the mind and how to manipulate it.

A few days later, I was sitting in a capacity audience at a theatre in Covent Garden. A slim, pale, vulpine man in his mid-thirties, with well-tended light-brown hair and a goatee, came onstage, dressed in a trim black suit and a black shirt. He looked more like the creative director of an advertising agency than like a mind reader, and seemed to take neither his spectators nor himself too seriously: when someone’s cell phone went off, he gave a look of mock alarm and said, “Don’t answer it. It’s very bad news.” Beneath his genially impudent manner lurked a suggestion of preternatural self-assurance and even menace.

Brown spent the next two and a half hours performing a series of increasingly inconceivable set pieces, organized around the theme of how susceptible we are to hidden influence. He gave demonstrations of subliminal persuasion, lie detection, instant trance induction, and mass hypnosis, as well as manipulation of his own mental state to control his response to pain. To show that participants were selected at random, he hurled a stuffed monkey into the auditorium, and whoever caught it would come up onstage. (You can see a later performance of the show on YouTube.)

Early on, a woman in the audience was entrusted with a locked briefcase. For the finale, Brown held up a large envelope, which he said contained “a prediction of the future, about the decisions that you’re going to make”; clipped the envelope to a metal stand at center stage, where it remained in full view; and summoned the woman back up. He then tossed that day’s editions of ten assorted newspapers into the audience and asked her to pick someone who’d caught one of them. Next, he gave her and other audience members a series of choices, through which, eventually, page 14 of the Daily Mail was torn into dozens of pieces, and the woman selected a single word on one of them: “influences.”

Pointing out the number of papers he’d tossed out and the approximate number of words in each one, Brown said, “That’s 1.6 million different words that you had to choose from in this room, and you choose the word ‘influences.’ Is that fair?”

“Yeah,” she said.

“No!” Brown said in a stage whisper. “No, it’s not. It is not fair. It is inevitable.”

He went over to the stand where he’d left the envelope, opened it, and, giving the woman one end to hold, unfurled a long roll of paper that read, in large letters, “Influences.” The audience gasped and started cheering.

Brown held up a hand for quiet, saying, “Hold on a second. You’re all intelligent people. You’re going to be having a drink afterwards, or driving home, or up at four in the morning trying to work out how that worked. And you’ll think, Maybe it didn’t make any difference what she chose. Maybe all that happened is magic boy here switches a bit of paper at the end, hopes she goes for that word, or something. It’s a comfortable thing to think. But here’s the point: if that is what happened and it didn’t matter what paper you chose or what page, and all that was rubbish, then that word ‘influences’ wouldn’t really be on page 14 of today’s Daily Mail. And it is.”

Brown unlocked the woman’s briefcase and removed an envelope containing page 14 of that day’s Mail, with the word “influences” circled in red. The audience roared and leaped to its feet. “Thank you all for coming—good night!” Brown said, taking a bow and starting to walk offstage.

But then he paused and again signalled for quiet. He explained that he had been exposing us to secret messages and that it thus made no difference who got selected for the final trick—anyone in the audience would have picked that word on that page of that paper. “Let me tell you what I’ve been doing,” he said. “We’ve been filming little bits from the wings, little clips of the show.”

There followed a montage of moments from that night, in which Brown gave verbal suggestions, sometimes via subtle mispronunciations or non sequiturs, that we had apparently absorbed subconsciously. In one clip, Brown set up a stunt that involved hammering a nail into his nasal cavity, saying, “Do you hammer daily a number 14 mail into your head?”

In another, he explained, “Because of the sorts of unconscious behaviors that we unconsciously choose daily”—and here he turned to the camera and winked—“male subjects tend to be . . .”

And in another he said, “Pain is a subjective thing, like when you’re young and you tear around influences, and you cut yourself, and you don’t really know that you’re cut till you look down and see the blood.”

“This is what you’ve been hearing without realizing you’ve been hearing it,” Brown announced triumphantly. “That’s why it was the Daily Mail, that’s why it was page 14, and that’s why it was the word ‘influences.’ Thank you for your attention, thank you for coming out tonight, and thank you for playing. Good night!”

This is what Brown does best: he takes an effect from the mentalism repertoire and generates from it an escalating series of climaxes that forces you to rethink everything you’ve just seen. Rather than diminish the mystery, Brown’s revelation of his ostensible methods reasserts and deepens it. He has always maintained that he neither has nor believes in any kind of psychic power, and his emphasis on manipulating people with techniques from the outer frontiers of psychology gives an audience too sophisticated to believe in the paranormal something scientific-seeming to hold on to. Often, the explanations end up being even more perplexing than the feat itself. Whether one believes that he’s actually doing what he claims or that he’s simply cloaking sleight of hand and the like in brilliant theatrics, he seems to be drawing back the curtain and offering a glimpse into some uncanny realm. As Brown once told me, “People feel that they understand something about what I’m up to but not everything, which satisfies their rational side but leaves room for something more playful and subterranean.”

In the U.K., Brown has been a household name for nearly two decades, thanks to dozens of TV shows, several stage shows, two Olivier Awards, and a number of best-selling books. Despite various forays into the U.S., including an Off Broadway run and Netflix specials, he remains relatively unknown here, but now he is making his Broadway début, with the show “Secret.” One of the producers, Thomas Kail, who directed “Hamilton,” told me that he’d been obsessed with Brown for years. “He just kind of lifts you up and takes you away, showing you things that should not be, and yet they are,” Kail said. “He tells you that it’s not real, and then he does it.”

Kail’s words reminded me of something that had happened after the London show I saw. I’d been invited to say hello to Brown in his dressing room. Though clearly exhausted, he was courtly and chatty, but, as we talked, he sat down and started picking tiny shards of glass out of the sole of his foot. Earlier, he’d done a routine that involved walking barefoot across a carpet of jagged broken bottles without bleeding or feeling pain. As I stood in his dressing room, I wondered whether these glass splinters were really from earlier or if he was just treating me to an extra layer of deception—what magicians call a “convincer.” Fourteen years later, I’m still not sure.

I met up with Brown again for breakfast one summer morning last year in Southend-on-Sea, a down-at-the-heels resort town about forty miles east of London. . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 September 2019 at 6:02 pm

Posted in Daily life

What if Your Abusive Husband Is a Cop?

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Rachel Aviv writes in the New Yorker:

Jessica Lester’s friends persuaded her to date Matthew Boynton, a boy in the eleventh grade, by saying, “If you don’t like him, you can always break up.” He was the grandson of the sheriff of Spalding County, where they lived, an hour south of Atlanta, and his friends were football players and cheerleaders. Jessica thought that Matthew, who was baby-faced but muscular, looked rich; he wore Ralph Lauren boots and collared shirts from Hollister. Jessica, who was in tenth grade, was less popular. She wore hand-me-downs and liked to take nature photographs. Her parents had abandoned her when she was three, along with her sister and brother, and she grew up on a farm with her mother’s adoptive parents. “I guess she felt like ‘Matthew could have picked anybody, and for some reason he picked me,’ ” her sister, Dusty, said.

Jessica had pale-green eyes, a melodic voice, and blond hair that hung down her back like a slab of wood. In the spring of 2013, when she was sixteen and had dated Matthew for a year, she took her grandparents into the kitchen, closed the door, and told them, apologizing, that she was pregnant. Jessica’s grandparents, who are Baptist, were willing to help her bring up the child, but Jessica decided to settle down with Matthew, her first boyfriend. Her aunt Kathy, who lives on the farm, said, “With Jessica’s family background, there was probably just a feeling of ‘Oh, I’ve finally found someone who loves me.’ ”

Jessica and Matthew moved into a house across the street from the sheriff, Wendell Beam, and his wife. Jessica was the kind of intuitive mother who predicts a baby’s danger—a fall, a spilled drink, a choking hazard—a few seconds before it happens. But she felt isolated. She finished her high-school coursework online, and almost never saw her friends or family. She said that Matthew told her she wasn’t related to them by blood.

For their son’s first Christmas, Matthew took Jessica to her grandparents’ house—the first time she’d seen them in months—but before she opened her presents he told her that they had to leave. When Jessica graduated from high school, her grandparents held a party for her and projected a movie on the side of their barn. Shortly after the movie started, Matthew said that it was time to go. “The rest of us enjoyed her graduation party,” Martha, her grandmother, said.

Matthew’s childhood dream was to work in law enforcement—a career inspired by his grandfather, who had helped bring him up following his parents’ divorce. After high school, he worked as a jailer at the Pike County sheriff’s office before being hired as a patrol officer in Griffin, the largest city in Spalding County. In his personnel file there, a supervisor described him as “fiercely loyal” but “stiff and unwilling to bend.” Another officer described him as “the type who wants to make ten arrests a day if he could.” A senior officer privately advised Matthew, “Lighten up a little bit, man.”

That mentality spilled into his home life. Twice, Matthew called the police on Jessica, for yelling or cursing or poking his chest. According to a police report, Jessica was “very reserved and appeared to be upset.” She said that the officers recommended that she not yell at Matthew.

In December, 2014, Jessica had a brief affair and got pregnant again. Her family wondered if this was her way of escaping the relationship. But Matthew said that he’d raise the child as his own. They decided to get married. Jessica could never quite explain why—there was no proposal, just an understanding that there was too much momentum to break up. Martha worried that Jessica had “lost her feistiness. It was almost like her personality got squished out of her.”

Her aunt Denise, a public-school teacher, said that, at the wedding, “there was just this sadness in her eyes, like, ‘I’m done.’ ” She had the demeanor of a child who had promised herself not to cause trouble or draw attention to her own feelings. Jessica and Matthew left their wedding reception, which her family hosted, after less than an hour. Matthew wore a titanium wedding ring with a blue stripe, to signify that he was in law enforcement.

They rented an apartment in Griffin, in a complex of beige two-story buildings surrounding a swimming pool. But the sheriff still loomed large in their relationship. Matthew asked Beam to phone him in the morning to wake him up. Jessica didn’t have her own credit card or car, so if she needed something from the supermarket she texted Matthew, who either took her to the store himself or asked Beam or his wife to deliver the item. When Matthew drove his patrol car, he would often take the keys to his truck, a Chevrolet Avalanche, so that Jessica couldn’t use it.

Denise was on a science-curriculum committee with Matthew’s stepmother, Amy, a teacher in the same district. A few months after the wedding, Denise and Amy went out for lunch. Denise said that Amy confided that Matthew had once hit her and that their relationship was strained. “She became dead serious—I’d never seen her so serious,” Denise said. “She said we needed to know what kind of kid he was. She said, ‘Do me a favor. I want you to make sure that Jessica is going to be O.K., because he’s going to hurt her.’ ”

In the spring of 2016, less than six months after the wedding, Jessica discovered that Matthew was having an affair with Courtney Callaway, a dispatcher at the Spalding County sheriff’s office, a mile away from the Griffin Police Department.

“If you don’t want to be with me anymore,” Jessica texted him, “I’m not going to stay here and play house.” Matthew, who had begun spending his free days with Callaway, told her, “It’s not gonna work for us. I already know it won’t.”

Jessica’s grandmother made an appointment with a lawyer who could help her file for divorce. In a composition note­­book, Jessica documented the times she assumed Matthew had been with his girlfriend, and she jotted down notes for the lawyer. “Difference between non-­contested & adultery divorce?” she wrote. “Most important to me. Custody (full?).” She and the boys planned to move into her sister Dusty’s house on Friday, April 15th, and the next week she would begin working at a chiropractor’s office. “She had both of the boys packed and ready to go,” Dusty said.

Jessica had to wean her baby before starting the job, so on Thursday night she and Matthew drove to Walmart, to buy formula. At the store, they got into a fight, and when they left Jessica said she didn’t want to get into the car. Matthew called a Griffin police lieutenant for advice. “She’s a grown lady,” the lieutenant told him. “You can’t force her into the truck.” (Matthew refused to comment for this story.)

From her porch, Jessica’s neighbor Megan Browning saw Jessica and Matthew return home. A half hour or so later, Browning was lying in bed when she heard a gunshot. Unnerved, she went out to the porch, where she heard another. Not long afterward, she saw Matthew walk briskly to his truck.

He drove to a nearby Waffle House to have a late dinner with a fellow Griffin police officer. On his way, at 12:54 a.m., he said, he received a text from Jessica: “I can’t do this anymore. Take care of” the children. “Please tell them I love them everyday. I have been suffering for a while now and no one has noticed. Here lately I have not been able to recognize the person I see in the mirror. This is not the first time I have had suicide thoughts. I love you and the boys.”

A minute later, Matthew responded to a joke from Callaway. “Haha I’m sorry I didn’t think about that lol,” he wrote. Then he called E.M.S. “Can you please dispatch a unit out to my location?” he said calmly. “In reference to my wife.” He explained that she was having suicidal thoughts and “she told me to take care of the boys. So I’m trying to hurry up and get back home, just to make sure that nothing is going to happen to them.”

Six minutes later, Matthew reported on his police radio that he had heard two gunshots as he was walking up the stairs to his apartment. He had looked in the master bedroom, and when he didn’t see the baby, who typically slept there, he ran outside. “I didn’t know if it was an active scenario,” he later told investigators. “I was scared to death, because I couldn’t find him, that she would shoot me, shoot him, and then kill herself.”

Eleven Griffin police officers arrived at the apartment complex. With their guns drawn, the officers checked every room in the house. The older boy was asleep in his bedroom, and the baby was in his own room, crying in his crib. The officers found Jessica in her bedroom closet, unconscious and lying on her side, her head on a bloody pillow. She was wearing fluffy slippers. On a shelf by her head was the notebook documenting Matthew’s infidelity. Matthew’s service gun was under her stomach.

Jessica’s grandparents live on two hundred acres of farmland in Pike County, a twenty-five-minute drive from her apartment. A fence separates their house from an open field, where nine cows and two donkeys graze. Just before 2 a.m. on April 15th, Wendell Beam asked the sheriff of Pike County to send officers to the house. Two deputies woke Jessica’s grandparents and told them that Jessica had committed suicide, using Matthew’s gun. “No, that doesn’t ring right,” Martha told them. Four of her grandchildren had taken target-shooting classes together, but Jessica had refused to participate. “Jessica would not touch a gun,” she said. “She did not want to have anything to do with it.”

Dusty and her husband drove to Jessica’s apartment. The first officer she saw in the parking lot was Beam. The sheriff’s department does not respond to incidents inside the Griffin city limits, and he was the only one from his office there. Dusty asked him where Jessica was, and he said that she had been taken by helicopter to Atlanta Medical Center. He did not explain why he’d earlier sent word that Jessica was dead. Dusty approached a group of Griffin police officers and asked whether Matthew had shot her sister. “She loved those kids more than anything, and she knows how it feels to grow up without a mom,” she said. “She wouldn’t have done that to them.” The officers told Dusty she needed to either calm down or leave the property.

The police asked for assistance from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Early that morning, Matthew was interviewed by Chris DeMarco, a G.B.I. agent who lived near Spalding County and had worked with Beam on several cases over the years. DeMarco told Matthew that his clothes might need to be collected as evidence. “Absolutely,” Matthew said. “I didn’t try to brush off anything. I didn’t try to wash my hands—nothing.” He sounded like an eager student. “I didn’t think about getting any other clothes.”

G.B.I. agents canvassed the apartment complex and discovered that Megan Browning and her fiancé and a couple that lived next door to Jessica were the only neighbors who had heard gunshots. Both couples said that the shots occurred around 11 p.m.—not at 1 a.m., when Matthew had reported them. One of the neighbors said that, not long before he heard the gunshots, he also heard “some banging, like she was banging on the door or something.”

Browning, who sometimes socialized with Jessica and Matthew, cried throughout her interview. “I hope he goes to jail for this shit,” she said. She wanted to elaborate on what she’d witnessed, but the agents left after eight minutes and never came back.

On a hospital-admission form, Jessica was described as a “19 year old reported to have shot herself in the right skull.” But Vernon Henderson, a trauma surgeon for more than two decades, who treated Jessica, wrote that her injury “did not fit with that description”; neither of her hands had “any evidence of any gunpowder stippling.” And her wound was on the top of her skull, which suggested that she would have had to hold the gun above her head, pointing downward—“a very unusual direction in which to point the gun at one’s self with the intention of committing suicide,” Henderson wrote. Indentations in the walls of Jessica’s closet suggested that one bullet had been shot at an upward angle—it entered the wall near the top of the closet—and another bullet hit the wall near the floor. Her neurosurgeon, Paul King, told me, “It seemed most likely that someone else shot her.” . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more. Much.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 September 2019 at 4:45 pm

The sort of nation the US has become: These Sheriffs Release Sick Inmates to Avoid Paying Their Hospital Bills

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The US seems to have become a nation in which all decisions are based on money rather than on morality, ethics, legality, self-respect, respect for others, community spirit, and so on. Just as corporations look only at increasing profit with no other considerations nearly so important, so governments (local, county, state, and federal) look only at costs and how to cut them, rather than at their responsibilities and how to fulfill them.

This is, I know, an overstatement, but there definitely is a strong strain of that running through the US, and Connor Sheets of reports on one example in ProPublica:

Michael Tidwell’s blood sugar reading was at least 15 times his normal level when sheriff’s deputies took him to the hospital. But before they loaded the inmate into the back of a car, deputies propped up his slumping body and handed him a pen so he could sign a release from the Washington County Jail.

“I could barely stand up or keep my eyes open,” he recalled.

Tidwell said that he didn’t know what he was signing at the time, and that he lost consciousness a short time later. The consequences of his signature only became clear in the weeks that followed the 2013 medical emergency.

By signing the document, which freed him on bond from the small jail in south Alabama, Tidwell had in essence agreed that the Washington County Sheriff’s Office would not be responsible for his medical costs, which included the two days he spent in a diabetic coma in intensive care at Springhill Medical Center in Mobile.

It’s unclear whether Tidwell, who was uninsured at the time and in poor health afterward, was billed for his care or if the medical providers wrote it off. Neither Tidwell’s attorneys nor the hospital was able to say, and Tidwell was unable to get answers when he and a reporter called the hospital’s billing department.

What is clear is that the sheriff’s office avoided paying Tidwell’s hospital bills.

Tidwell had been on the receiving end of a practice referred to by many in law enforcement as a “medical bond.” Sheriffs across Alabama are increasingly deploying the tactic to avoid having to pay when inmates face medical emergencies or require expensive procedures — even ones that are necessary only because an inmate received inadequate care while incarcerated.

What’s more, once they recover, some inmates are quickly rearrested and booked back into the jail from which they were released.

Local jails across the country have long been faulted for providing substandard medical care. In Alabama, for instance, a mentally ill man died from flesh-eating bacteria 15 days after being booked into the Mobile County Metro Jail in 2000. And in 2013, a 19-year-old man died of gangrene less than a month after he was booked into the Madison County Jail. In both cases, officials denied wrongdoing and surviving relatives settled lawsuits alleging that poor jail health care contributed to their loved ones’ deaths.

But the use of medical bonds isn’t about inferior care. It’s about who pays for care.

While medical bonds have been a last resort in many states for more than 20 years, experts say they are employed in Alabama more often than elsewhere. Their use in some counties but not in others illustrates the vast power and latitude that sheriffs have in Alabama, which is the subject of a yearlong examination by and ProPublica.

Several Alabama sheriffs, including Washington County Sheriff Richard Stringer, said in interviews that they often find ways to release inmates with sudden health problems to avoid responsibility for their medical costs. Stringer denied any wrongdoing in his office’s handling of Tidwell’s emergency.

“We had a guy a couple of weeks ago with congestive heart failure. … The judge let him make bond so the county didn’t get stuck with that bill,” Lamar County Sheriff Hal Allred said in a March telephone interview. “We don’t have any medical staff in the jail. I wish we did, that would be great, but the way the county finances are, I won’t live long enough to see it.”

Typically the process works like this: When an inmate awaiting trial is in a medical crisis, a sheriff or jail staffer requests that a judge allow him or her to be released on bond just before, or shortly after, the inmate is taken to a hospital. If the request is granted, the inmate typically signs the document granting the release.

Michael Jackson, district attorney for Alabama’s 4th Judicial Circuit, said he is aware of multiple recent cases in which sheriffs released inmates on bond without first obtaining a judge’s approval. Jackson said he also worries about the risk of inmates reoffending after they receive medical treatment.

“I’m not saying there should be no situation where an inmate can get released early, but it shouldn’t be about money,” Jackson said in a phone interview this month. “No one’s watching them when they get out, and people might get robbed or their houses might get broken into.”

While judges usually sign off on bonds, lawyers who represent inmates and other experts say sheriffs are often the key decision-makers and can be held legally responsible for what happens after they release inmates via such methods.

If an inmate is already sick or injured when he or she is released, sheriffs are “not going to be able to avoid the liability just by opening the trap door and letting them go,” said Henry Brewster, one of Tidwell’s attorneys.

“They Have to Do Something”

Shortly after Tidwell was locked up for a probation violation in 2013, his sister Michelle Alford, a nurse at a Mobile hospital, said she brought his diabetes medications to the Washington County Jail and gave them to the guard on duty.

She says she explained to the staff that her brother is a “brittle” diabetic, meaning he needs frequent monitoring. She provided the jail with a two-page document that explained how often his blood sugar needed to be checked, what symptoms to watch for and the purpose of each medication.

The jail’s employees, none of whom had any formal medical training, did not follow those instructions, according to Tidwell’s jailhouse medical records, a copy of which Alford provided to and ProPublica.

On his fourth day in the aging jailhouse, Tidwell became ill and vomited off and on for the ensuing 48 hours. He was unconscious for most of his final two days there, according to court and medical records.

Before he was taken to Washington County Hospital, Tidwell’s blood sugar reading was 1,500 mg/dl; a normal reading for him is 80 to 100 mg/dl. Over the less than seven full days he was incarcerated, he had lost at least 17 pounds, records show.

Tidwell’s release form bears his signature scrawled incomprehensibly outside the signature box, overlapping the typed prompt for “Signature of Defendant.” It does not match other examples of his signature on court documents reviewed by and ProPublica.

“If you’re in there and you get sick, they have to do something and get some medical attention,” he said. “But if you’re in so bad of shape that they’re trying to hold you up and get you to sign something, that’s wrong.”

Tidwell, who was 42 at the time, was assessed at the local hospital and taken to Springhill, a larger and better-equipped hospital, where he lay in a coma in the intensive care unit. He was suffering from renal failure and other complications related to his diabetes, according to the records.

During a conversation in his office in downtown Chatom, Stringer, the Washington County sheriff, said that he and his jail staffers are not medically trained. Instead, they “listen to what [inmates are] complaining about and examine them to determine if they need medical bond, because people will do anything to get out of jail.”

If they decide an inmate has a serious and potentially costly medical issue — and doesn’t pose a threat to the public — Stringer said he or the jail’s administrator will call a judge and request that the inmate be released.

Asked last week whether he believes Tidwell was legally able to provide consent to being bonded out, Stringer said: “They’ve got to be physically able to sign the bond. I’m sure he was [conscious] or he wouldn’t have been able to be bonded out. … It’s been so long ago it’s hard to remember all these things. I’m sure we did what needed to be done.”

But in an earlier interview, the sheriff provided an alternate explanation for Tidwell’s hospitalization.

“When someone comes in and says he’s a diabetic, we try to prepare a meal that will accommodate his diabetes,” Stringer said. “But now on commissary, they’re on their own there. I mean, you know you’re diabetic. Don’t order — he actually ordered 12 honey buns.”

Tidwell, who denies eating a dozen honey buns in the jail, recovered and was sent home from the hospital.

He filed a lawsuit against Stringer and several sheriff’s office employees in 2014; it was settled the following year. Stringer said he believes he and his employees would have been exonerated had the suit gone to trial, but because he said the settlement was for “something like $20,000 … it’s not worth fighting it.”

But Tidwell’s problems didn’t end there. Exactly three months after Tidwell was released on bond, a judge issued a bench warrant for his arrest on another probation violation.

“They’ll Lower the Bond” and ProPublica have reviewed the cases or media reports of inmates in 15 of Alabama’s 67 counties who were issued last-minute bonds or released on their own recognizance just before they were hospitalized for emergencies.

In September 2018, for instance, a 38-year-old inmate at the Lauderdale County Jail was taken to a nearby hospital after he suffered a stroke that left him partially paralyzed and unable to communicate verbally, stand or perform daily tasks, state court records show. The inmate, Scottie Davis, was released from sheriff’s office custody on bond the following day, though he couldn’t sign the release document. Someone instead wrote the words “Unable to sign due to medical cond.” in the space for the inmate’s signature. Davis was responsible for the medical costs after he was bonded out.

Lauderdale County Sheriff Rick Singleton said when inmates are too ill to sign their names, sheriff’s officials notify a judge who decides whether to allow them to be released on bond.

And earlier last year, in Randolph County, an inmate was

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 September 2019 at 12:21 pm

The risks of Trump’s hyperbolic defense

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James Hohmann writes in the Washington Post:

Sunday started with President Trump’s former homeland security adviser, Tom Bossert, saying he was “deeply disturbed” by the implications of his call to the Ukrainian president and ended with a GOP congressman, Adam Kinzinger, calling one of Trump’s tweets “beyond repugnant.”

While key Republicans have rallied to the president’s defense since House Democrats opened an impeachment inquiry last week, the bookends to the day underscore the riskiness of a scorched-earth defense strategy that is predicated on an insistence that Trump did absolutely nothing wrong.

The president is running the smashmouth playbook he learned from Roy Cohn, his mentor and Joe McCarthy’s hatchet man. It’s worked repeatedly for Trump, from fighting the Justice Department’s investigation of racial discrimination at his family’s rental properties in the 1970s to overcoming Bob Mueller’s investigation the past two years. Among other things, this strategy involves denying everything and counterattacking critics by accusing them of whatever you’ve been accused of.

The don’t-give-an-inch mentality is what prompts someone like White House policy adviser Stephen Miller to declare on “Fox News Sunday” that “the president of the United States is the whistleblower, and this individual is a saboteur trying to undermine a democratically elected government.” And it is why Trump allows Rudy Giuliani, his ferocious personal attorney, to keep defending him on television despite the messes he seems to make each time he goes on the air.

— Bossert’s appearance Sunday morning on ABC’s “This Week” showed that even Trump loyalists cannot always be counted on to espouse Trump’s I-know-what-you-are-but-what-am-I talking points. The former homeland security adviser strongly criticized the president for furthering the unfounded conspiracy theory that the cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike played a role in shielding the Democratic National Committee’s server and perhaps the true origins of the hackers. Bossert noted that the U.S. intelligence community has concluded that the Russians hacked the Democratic servers.

“That conspiracy theory has got to go,” Bossert said, explaining that Trump is motivated to spread the “completely debunked” theory because he had “not gotten his pound of flesh yet” over being “wrongly accused of colluding with Russia” to win the 2016 election. But Bossert warned that he risks taking it too far: “If he continues to focus on that white whale, it’s going to bring him down,” he said.

Bossert resigned as the top homeland security official in the White House in April 2018 at the request of John Bolton, one day after Bolton took over as national security adviser. On ABC, where he has a contributor contract, Bossert also criticized Giuliani for pushing conspiracy theories on the president because “it sticks in his mind when he hears it over and over again.”

Bossert’s comments were measured. He said he’s not convinced that Trump leveraged U.S. aid to Ukraine for political dirt, noting that there might have been legitimate reasons to hold back the money, such as getting other European countries to put up more. “That said,” Bossert added, “it is a bad day and a bad week for this president and this country if he is asking for political dirt on an opponent.”

Appearing later in the program, Giuliani told anchor George Stephanopoulos: “Tom Bossert doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

— Kinzinger’s tweet on Sunday night suggested that there’s some limit to how much congressional Republicans will defend Trump’s tactics. The president vigorously defended himself on Twitter all weekend and continued to attack the whistleblower whose complaint set in motion the impeachment inquiry. At one point, the president highlighted a quote he apparently heard on Fox News from an evangelical pastor who supports him.

“If the Democrats are successful in removing the President from office (which they will never be), it will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal,” Trump tweeted, adding his own parenthetical to a comment from Robert Jeffress, a Southern Baptist preacher who is based in Dallas.

Kinzinger, a decorated Air Force veteran who served as a pilot in Iraq and Afghanistan and represents the Chicago suburbs in Congress, quickly replied: “I have visited nations ravaged by civil war,” he tweeted. “I have never imagined such a quote to be repeated by a President.”


— Nancy Pelosi, mindful of her front-line moderates, is counting on House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff to keep the impeachment inquiry focused on Ukraine. She thought the House Judiciary Committee’s hearing with Corey Lewandowski the week before last was a debacle for Democrats. By coincidence, that embarrassing fiasco came just days before the deluge of revelations about Trump’s interactions with Ukraine’s president. Those two events prompted the speaker to change strategy. For now, she’s largely sidelined Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler to elevate Schiff. Pelosi wants the investigation to focus narrowly on Ukraine and believes it’s easier for the public to understand than what was covered in the Mueller report. (Rachael Bade and Mike DeBonis have more on the internal machinations.)

 “On a conference call with House Democrats on Sunday afternoon, Pelosi told her colleagues that public sentiment — something she had frequently cited as an obstacle to pursuing impeachment — had begun to swing around,” per Felicia Sonmez and DeBonis. “‘The polls have changed drastically about this,’ she said, urging a careful approach, according to notes taken by a person on the call: ‘Our tone must be prayerful, respectful, solemn, worthy of the Constitution.’”

— Here’s the jurisdictional breakdown by committee: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 September 2019 at 10:34 am

The RazoRock Lupo and a comment on pre-shave soaps

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I’ve been switching back and forth between my new shave soap, Phoenix Artisan’s Cube 2.0 (the original) at $5.95 for 8oz, and my old standby MR GLO (Musgo Real Glyce Lime Oil soap), though I now use the same product under the Ach. Brito label because it costs less—€3.05 at the link (orders from outside the EU don’t pay VAT), or $3.32 for 6oz. (I say it’s the same product because sometimes when I unwrap the Ach. Brito version I see the bar is stamped with the Musgo Real stamp.) Even with shipping, the Ach. Brito GLO is pretty inexpensive, especially if you buy several bars to minimize shipping cost per bar. Cube 2.0: 74¢ per ounce; Ach. Brito GLO: 55¢ per ounce. Shipping is in addition, of course.

Both soaps work well for the pre-shave task. I got the non-mentholated Cube, since I’m meh on menthol. After switching back and forth, I have decided that I personally prefer MR (or Ach. Brito) GLO. YMMV.

Today I continued my shaving switch—slants for regular shave, conventional razor for the two-day stubble Monday morning, the opposite of previous practice—and I chose the RazoRock Lupo. The Lupo is somewhat aggressive in feel and performance, so I thought it would do well on a two-day stubble. Again I chose a Mama Bear soap for the excellent lather, and this Turkish Mocha has a good fragrance as well. The Plissont synthetic really did a fine job working up the lather.

The shave was good, though I did feel some initial resistance from the stubble, more than I’ve felt when using a slant. That could just mean I should change the blade, and I’ll do that before the next shave. After three passes, though, my face was totally smooth with one tiny nick on the upper lip, which My Nik Is Sealed took care of instantly.

A good splash of Phoenix Artisan’s Spring-Heeled Jack, an excellent coffee-fragranced aftershave, and the week gets underway.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 September 2019 at 9:28 am

Posted in Shaving

Diabetics should take their pulses

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Written by LeisureGuy

29 September 2019 at 8:49 pm

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