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Archive for October 27th, 2019

How Trump Radicalized ICE

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Franklin Foer wrote this in September 2018 in the Atlantic. It’s only gotten worse. We now read frequently of people dying in ICE custody, including children, and of children lost in the systems and lost to their families. He wrote:

Settling into a sense of safety is hard when your life’s catalog of memories teaches you the opposite lesson. Imagine: You fled from a government militia intent on murdering you; swam across a river with the uncertain hope of sanctuary on the far bank; had the dawning realization that you could never return to your village, because it had been torched; and heard pervasive rumors of former neighbors being raped and enslaved. Imagine that, following all this, you then found yourself in New York City, with travel documents that were unreliable at best.

This is the shared narrative of thousands of emigrants from the West African nation of Mauritania. The country is ruled by Arabs, but these refugees were members of a black subpopulation that speaks its own languages. In 1989, in a fit of nationalism, the Mauritanian government came to consider these differences capital offenses. It arrested, tortured, and violently expelled many black citizens. The country forcibly displaced more than 70,000 of them and rescinded their citizenship. Those who remained behind fared no better. Approximately 43,000 black Mauritanians are now enslaved—by percentage, one of the largest enslaved populations in the world.

After years of rootless wandering—through makeshift camps, through the villages and cities of Senegal—some of the Mauritanian emigrants slowly began arriving in the United States in the late 1990s. They were not yet adept in English, and were unworldly in almost every respect. But serendipity—and the prospect of jobs—soon transplanted their community of roughly 3,000 to Columbus, Ohio, where they clustered mostly in neighborhoods near a long boulevard that bore a fateful name: Refugee Road. It commemorated a moment at the start of the 19th century, when Ohio had extended its arms to accept another influx of strangers, providing tracts of land to Canadians who had expressed sympathy for the American Revolution.

Refugee Road wasn’t paved with gold, but in the early years of this century, it fulfilled the promise of its name. The Mauritanians converted an old grocery store into a cavernous, blue-carpeted mosque. They opened restaurants that served familiar fish and rice dishes, and stores that sold CDs and sodas imported from across Africa.

Over time, as the new arrivals gave birth to American citizens and became fans of the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Cleveland Cavaliers, they mentally buried the fact that their presence in America had never been fully sanctioned. When they had arrived in New York, many of them had paid an English-speaking compatriot to fill out their application for asylum. But instead of recording their individual stories in specific detail, the man simply cut and pasted together generic narratives. (It is not uncommon for new arrivals to the United States, desperate and naive, to fall prey to such scams.) A year or two after the refugees arrived in the country, judges reviewed their cases and, noticing the suspicious repetitions, accused a number of them of fraud and ordered them deported.

But those deportation orders never amounted to more than paper pronouncements. Where would Immigration and Customs Enforcement even send them? The Mauritanian government had erased the refugees from its databases and refused to issue them travel documents. It had no interest in taking back the villagers it had so violently removed. So ICE let their cases slide. They were required to regularly report to the agency’s local office and to maintain a record of letter-perfect compliance with the law. But as the years passed, the threat of deportation seemed ever less ominous.

Then came the election of Donald Trump. Suddenly, in the warehouses where many of the Mauritanians worked, white colleagues took them aside and warned them that their lives were likely to get worse. The early days of the administration gave substance to these cautions. The first thing to change was the frequency of their summonses to ICE. During the Obama administration, many of the Mauritanians had been required to “check in” about once a year. Abruptly, ICE instructed them to appear more often, some of them every month. ICE officers began visiting their homes on occasion. Like the cable company, they would provide a six-hour window during which to expect a visit—a requirement that meant days off from work and disrupted life routines. The Mauritanians say that when they met with ICE, they were told the U.S. had finally persuaded their government to readmit them—a small part of a global push by the State Department to remove any diplomatic obstacles to deportation.

Fear is a contagion that spreads quickly. One ICE officer warned some Mauritanians sympathetically, “It’s not a matter of if you’ll be deported, but when.” Another flatly said, “My job is to get you to leave this country.” At meetings, officers would insist that the immigrants go to the Mauritanian consulate and apply for passports to return to the very country whose government had attempted to murder them.

One afternoon this spring, I sat in the bare conference room of the Columbus mosque after Friday prayer, an occasion for which men dress in traditional garb: brightly colored robes and scarves wrapped around their heads. The imam asked those who were comfortable to share their stories with me. Congregants lined up outside the door.

One by one, the Mauritanians described to me the preparations they had made for a quick exit. Some said that they had already sold their homes; others had liquidated their 401(k)s. Everyone I spoke with could name at least one friend who had taken a bus to the Canadian border and applied for asylum there, rather than risk further appointments with ICE.

A lithe, haggard man named Thierno told me that his brother had been detained by ICE, awaiting deportation, for several months now. The Mauritanians considered it a terrible portent that the agency had chosen to focus its attention on Thierno’s brother—a businessman and philanthropically minded benefactor of the mosque. If he was vulnerable, then nobody was safe. Eyes watering, Thierno showed me a video on his iPhone of the fate he feared for his brother: a tight shot of a black Mauritanian left behind in the old country. His face was swollen from a beating, and he was begging for mercy. “I’m going to sleep with your wife!” a voice shouts at him, before a hand appears on-screen and slaps him over and over.

In 21st-century America, it is difficult to conjure the possibility of the federal government taking an eraser to the map and scrubbing away an entire ethnic group. I had arrived in Columbus at the suggestion of a Cleveland-based lawyer named David Leopold, a former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Leopold has kept in touch with an old client who attends the Mauritanian mosque. When he mentioned the community’s plight to me, he called it “ethnic cleansing”—which initially sounded like wild hyperbole. But on each of my trips back to Columbus, I heard new stories of departures to Canada—and about others who had left for New York, where hiding from ICE is easier in the shadows of the big city. The refugees were fleeing Refugee Road.

Since taking office, Donald Trump has regularly thundered against the “deep state.” With the term, he means to evoke a cabal of bureaucrats burrowed within law enforcement, the intelligence community, and regulatory agencies, a nebulous elite that will stop at nothing to countermand his will—and, by extension, that of the people.

But one segment of the deep state stepped forward early and openly to profess its enthusiasm for Trump. Through their union, employees of ICE endorsed Trump’s candidacy in September 2016, the first time the organization had ever lent its support to a presidential contender. When Trump prevailed in the election, the soon-to-be-named head of ICE triumphantly declared that it would finally have the backing of a president who would let the agency do its job. He’s “taking the handcuffs off,” said Thomas Homan, who served as ICE’s acting director under Trump until his retirement in June, using a phrase that has become a common trope within the agency. “When Trump won, [some officers] thumped their chest as if they had just won the Super Bowl,” a former ICE official told me.

Whatever else Trump has accomplished for ICE, he has ended its relative anonymity. His administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration regime has triggered a noisy debate about the organizations he has deployed to enforce his policies. For weeks this spring, the nation watched as officers took children from their parents after they had crossed the U.S.–Mexico border in search of asylum. Although ICE played only a supporting role in the family-separation debacle—the task was performed principally by U.S. Customs and Border Protection—the agency has emerged as a shorthand for what critics say is wrong with Trump’s immigration agenda. Virtually every Democratic politician hoping to flash his or her progressive bona fides has called for ICEs abolition.

The history of the agency is still a brief one. When terrorists struck the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, ICE didn’t exist. In the Justice Department, there was the old Immigration and Naturalization Service. But while the mission of INS had always included the deportation of undocumented immigrants—and it occasionally staged significant workplace raids—it never had a large force that would enable their systematic removal from the nation’s interior.

ut following the shock of 9/11, ice was created as part of the Department of Homeland Security, into which Congress awkwardly stuffed a slew of previously unrelated executive-branch agencies: the Secret Service, the Transportation Security Administration, the Coast Guard. Upon its creation, DHS became the third-largest of all Cabinet departments, and its assembly could be generously described as higgledy-piggledy. ice is perhaps the clearest example of where such muddied, heavily politicized policy making can lead.

Since its official designation, in 2003, as a successor to INS, ice has grown at a remarkable clip for a peacetime bureaucracy. By the beginning of Barack Obama’s second term, immigration had become one of the highest priorities of federal law enforcement: Half of all federal prosecutions were for immigration-related crimes. In 2012, Congress appropriated $18 billion for immigration enforcement. It spent $14 billion for all the other major criminal law-enforcement agencies combined: the FBI; the Drug Enforcement Administration; the Secret Service; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; and the U.S. Marshals Service.

ice quickly built a sprawling, logistically intricate infrastructure comprising detention facilities, an international-transit arm, and monitoring technology. This apparatus relies heavily on private contractors. Created at the height of the federal government’s outsourcing mania, DHS employs more outside contractors than actual federal employees. Last year, these companies—which include the Geo Group and CoreCivic—spent at least $3 million on lobbying and influence peddling. To take one small example: Owners of ice’s private detention facilities were generous donors to Trump’s inauguration, contributing $500,000 for the occasion. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by Leisureguy

27 October 2019 at 6:18 pm

Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?

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Jean M. Twenge had an important article in the Atlantic in 2017. Here’s just one extract:

One of the ironies of iGen life [iGen = born between 1995 and 2002 – LG] is that despite spending far more time under the same roof as their parents, today’s teens can hardly be said to be closer to their mothers and fathers than their predecessors were. “I’ve seen my friends with their families—they don’t talk to them,” Athena told me. “They just say ‘Okay, okay, whatever’ while they’re on their phones. They don’t pay attention to their family.” Like her peers, Athena is an expert at tuning out her parents so she can focus on her phone. She spent much of her summer keeping up with friends, but nearly all of it was over text or Snapchat. “I’ve been on my phone more than I’ve been with actual people,” she said. “My bed has, like, an imprint of my body.”

In this, too, she is typical. The number of teens who get together with their friends nearly every day dropped by more than 40 percent from 2000 to 2015; the decline has been especially steep recently. It’s not only a matter of fewer kids partying; fewer kids are spending time simply hanging out. That’s something most teens used to do: nerds and jocks, poor kids and rich kids, C students and A students. The roller rink, the basketball court, the town pool, the local necking spot—they’ve all been replaced by virtual spaces accessed through apps and the web.

You might expect that teens spend so much time in these new spaces because it makes them happy, but most data suggest that it does not. The Monitoring the Future survey, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and designed to be nationally representative, has asked 12th-graders more than 1,000 questions every year since 1975 and queried eighth- and 10th-graders since 1991. The survey asks teens how happy they are and also how much of their leisure time they spend on various activities, including nonscreen activities such as in-person social interaction and exercise, and, in recent years, screen activities such as using social media, texting, and browsing the web. The results could not be clearer: Teens who spend more time than average on screen activities are more likely to be unhappy, and those who spend more time than average on nonscreen activities are more likely to be happy.

There’s not a single exception. All screen activities are linked to less happiness, and all nonscreen activities are linked to more happiness. Eighth-graders who spend 10 or more hours a week on social media are 56 percent more likely to say they’re unhappy than those who devote less time to social media. Admittedly, 10 hours a week is a lot. But those who spend six to nine hours a week on social media are still 47 percent more likely to say they are unhappy than those who use social media even less. The opposite is true of in-person interactions. Those who spend an above-average amount of time with their friends in person are 20 percent less likely to say they’re unhappy than those who hang out for a below-average amount of time.

Read the whole thing.

Written by Leisureguy

27 October 2019 at 5:47 pm

A radical legal ideology nurtured our era of economic inequality

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Sanjukta Paul is an assistant professor of law at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan whose current work involves the intersection of antitrust law and labour policy. She writes in Aeon:

Where does economic power come from? Does it exist independently of the law? It seems obvious, even undeniable, that the answer is no. Law creates, defines and enforces property rights. Law enforces private contracts. It charters corporations and shields investors from liability. Law declares illegal certain contracts of economic cooperation between separate individuals – which it calls ‘price-fixing’ – but declares economically equivalent activity legal when it takes place within a business firm or is controlled by one.

Each one of these is a choice made by the law, on behalf of the public as a whole. Each of them creates or maintains someone’s economic power, and often undermines someone else’s. Each also plays a role in maintaining a particular distribution of economic power across society. Yet generations of lawyers and judges educated at law schools in the United States have been taught to ignore this essential role of law in creating and sustaining economic power. Instead, we are taught that the social process of economic competition results in certain outcomes that are ‘efficient’ – and that anything the law does to alter those outcomes is its only intervention.

These peculiar presumptions flow from the enormously powerful and influential ‘law and economics’ movement that dominates thinking in most areas of US law considered to be within the ‘economic’ sphere. Bruce Ackerman, professor of law and political science at Yale University, recently called law and economics the most influential thing in legal education since the founding of Harvard Law School. The Economics Institute for Federal Judges, founded by the legal scholar Henry Manne, has been a hugely influential training programme in the law and economics approach. A recent paper found, through extensive data-gathering and statistical analysis, that the many judges who attended the training were more likely thereafter to ‘render conservative verdicts in economics-relevant cases’ and ‘to rule against regulatory agencies, in particular the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and NLRB (National Labor Relations Board)’.

Law and economics in fact revives an earlier legal ideology that also cast an affirmative preference for hierarchy and inequality as non-intervention. The infamous Lochner v New York decision of 1905 has come to represent this ideology. In that case, the US Supreme Court overturned a maximum-hours law for bakery workers on the grounds that it violated principles of ‘freedom of contract’. But of course this sort of judicial action is in fact intervention by government in private affairs or in ‘the market’: it’s simply a particular type of state action. The decision represents a policy favouring the robust enforcement of property rights and private contracts, and disfavouring both the public, legislative ordering of the market and workers’ organisations.

During the period that this legal ideology dominated courtrooms in the US, a group of lawyers and economists who called themselves legal realists and institutionalists made just these points. The ‘Lochner era’ in the US courts – from roughly the turn of the 19th century through to the New Deal of the 1930s – signified an affirmative preference for governmental intervention to enforce contracts against weaker parties. These were often contracts into which people entered in order to access the necessities of life, for example by working for pay. Such contracts infamously included the ‘yellow-dog contracts’ of the coalmine operators, by which mine workers agreed not to join a union. One party to such a contract, namely the mine operator, already possessed many more property rights than the other party, the worker. The government had created and enforced the advantage in rights that the mine owner held. Generally, superior property endowments allow one party to bargain a contract favourable to their own interests, particularly when the other party is impoverished. In the vision of Lochner-era judges, government intervention ought to consist primarily in enforcing property rights and enforcing contracts bargained in the shadow of those asymmetric property rights. Obviously, the effect is to magnify inequalities in economic power.

The genius of law and economics, whose influence in legal institutions became really ascendant in the 1970s, was to resuscitate the key elements of the Lochner-era approach but to clothe them in connections to a supposedly objective and neutral social science, rather than to a particular political and moral vision. In this way, law and economics obscured its own activism on behalf of the powerful. In the US in particular, where lawyers have always played an outsized role in public life, law and economics provided much of the intellectual (and legal) language and thought for the rise of conservative economic policy. The political projects of dismantling public rights over markets, diminishing working peoples’ influence by attacking unions, and delegitimising the social provisions of the welfare state, all drew upon the law and economics movement.

Following neoclassical economic theory, law and economics suggested that society’s resources are best allocated by permitting competition to set prices, and that market ordering through legislatures or workers’ organisations interferes with this optimal ‘natural’ process. Few other social scientists believe this, and a growing number of economists do not believe it either. Around the same time as the rise of law and economics, a group of thinkers that came to be known as the critical legal studies (CLS) movement in the 1970s argued (as the realists had done in the Lochner era) that the policy prescriptions of law and economics in fact relied as much upon law as they did on economics.

The ideology of law and economics revolves around the concept of competition – suggesting to the world that this is the main value it seeks to promote, thus also seeking to limit governmental intervention with that process. But competition does not take place in a vacuum: it always requires rules, from property to contract to antitrust, that are themselves, logically speaking, limits upon competition. All of these rules in essence authorise economic coordination that is necessary to make competition work. For example, property rights authorise control over economic activity to the extent of their bounds. A contract too is a form of economic coordination.

And competition law itself authorises all kinds of in-firm economic coordination that it prohibits out-of-firm. In short, it’s governmental intervention all the way down. The law from the outset makes choices about where and how it will limit competition, and those choices can either balance economic power or create imbalances. The ideology of law and economics is that only interventions that help to balance power in society are in fact government interventions – but this is not true.

Unlike the first generation of realists and institutionalists, who helped to shape the New Deal, their latter-day heirs unfortunately did not, largely, shape public policy. At least not yet. These issues are resurfacing today in public discussion about competition law – or antitrust law as it’s known in the US – which is the area of law perhaps most colonised by law and economics. Public debates have centred around economic power and the role of the law in it, with renewed calls for the law to do more to ameliorate economic domination rather than exacerbate it. Defenders of the status quo regularly point to ‘economics’ as a defence. They suggest that only the reformers have a moral and political vision. But of course this isn’t true. Just as law and economics does generally, the current framework for antitrust law chooses certain legal rules over others, and takes them to define ‘the market’.

Competition law makes the affirmative decision to organise economic coordination primarily through traditional capitalist firms, rather than through alternative forms. These alternatives might include looser forms of producer associations that are more dispersed in ownership and more democratic in decisionmaking. Since the 1970s’ takeover by law and economics, . . .

Continue reading.

This explains a lot.

Written by Leisureguy

27 October 2019 at 5:01 pm

How to make Julia set

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Written by Leisureguy

27 October 2019 at 4:52 pm

Posted in Math

Upcoming new cast-iron skillet brand: Prepd

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I’ve not tried them because they are still on Kickstarter, but they look as if they’ll be good. Their 12″ is the same weight as the Field Company No. 12, which has a cooking surface of 11.5″. Their 10″ is 1 lb less than the Field Company No. 10, which has a cooking surface of 9.75″. The ring of cast iron .75″ wide and 9.75″ in outside diameter might well account for the pound.

At any rate, these look pretty good if you’re  Kickstarter gambler. Delivery is scheduled for May 2020, but in my experience things tend to take a little more time than expected. Still, you’re likely to have them well before Christmas next year.

Here’s the pitch. They do look good—but I’ve not tried them.

Written by Leisureguy

27 October 2019 at 2:19 pm

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