Later On

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

Archive for November 26th, 2019

Christian Right Leaders Suggest Trump Critics Are Possessed by Demons

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The US is in bad shape and it seems to be getting worse. Ed Kilgore writes in New York:

Energy Secretary Rick Perry created a bit of a stir by disclosing to Fox & Friends that he had assured the president he was “the chosen one,” quite literally on a mission from God in his role as our “ruler.” In my piece on the incident, I noted this was pretty standard fare among Christian right opinion leaders and politicians. But at roughly the same time, we got an indication from two other prominent Trump fans that it’s not enough to endow this strange and heathenish figure of manifold wicked ways with the cloak of divine sanction; his critics must be cast in the same apocalyptic drama as instruments of demonic forces. Seriously. Veteran adviser to Republican presidents on matters moral and spiritual, Peter Wehner, scathingly writes it up for The Atlantic:

During his November 21 interview with [Franklin] Graham, [Eric] Metaxas, a Salem Radio Network talk-show host, asked the son of the late evangelist Billy Graham, “What do you think of what is happening now? I mean, it’s a very bizarre situation to be living in a country where some people seem to exist to undermine the president of the United States. It’s just a bizarre time for most Americans.”

Franklin Graham, president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelical Association, responded, “Well, I believe it’s almost a demonic power that is trying—”

At which point Metaxas interjected, “I would disagree. It’s not almost demonic. You know and I know, at the heart, it’s a spiritual battle.”

In Evangelical-speak, “spiritual battle” or “spiritual warfare” means a test of power between God and Satan (or his demonic minions), with human souls and the fate of all Creation in the balance. Describing one’s opponents as on the wrong side of a “spiritual battle” is simultaneously an expression of the most extreme hatred available to a Christian, and a rationalization for it on grounds that the object of demonic possession is not entirely responsible for becoming the devil’s workshop (it’s a variation on the old conservative Christian dodge of “hating the sin but not the sinner” when it comes to, say, being gay). In the context of politics, Graham, who has been busily ruining his father’s good name since he took over Billy’s ministries in 2000, and Metaxas, a veteran culture warrior, are suggesting that the moral and spiritual superiority — nay, necessity — of Trump and his party are so resplendently obvious that only a turn to the darkest side imaginable can explain it, as Wehner writes:

They didn’t make the case that Trump critics are sincere but wrong, or even that they are insincere and unpatriotic. Instead, they felt compelled to portray those with whom they disagree politically as under demonic influences, which for a Christian is about as serious an accusation as there is. It means their opponents are the embodiment of evil, the “enemy,” anti-God, a kind of anti-Christ.

There is no biblical or theological case to support the claim that critics of Donald Trump are under the spell of Satan. It is invented out of thin air, a shallow, wild, and reckless charge meant to be a conversation stopper.

The rationalizations these people go through to treat Trump as God’s champions requires an incredible, almost comic, amount of huffing and puffing. Here’s Metaxas being quoted after Trump’s outrageous comments on the white-nationalist rioters of Charlottesville in the infamous “spiritual biography” of the president that David Brody and Scott Lamb published in 2018:

We’re going to stand up for Trump a hundred times more. It’s been unbelievably despicable the way he’s been treated. And I think there’s some kind of demonic deception. I mean I’ve never seen anything like it begin to compare it to in my lifetime.

Actually, yes, he has: in the attacks Christian right leaders incessantly made on Bill Clinton when his moral failings went public — moral failings that now seem tepid compared to those of his current successor in the White House. Wehner delivers an impressive jeremiad about what Graham and Metaxas are overlooking by way of mocking the latter’s claim that Trump’s Christian critics are splitting hairs over theological differences:

Trump’s Christian critics don’t really care whether he leans more in the direction of predestination or free will; what troubles them is that he’s a pathological liar engaged in an effort to annihilate truth as a concept; a conspiracy-monger; and a misogynist and bully who dehumanizes his critics and mocks former prisoners of war, the parents of fallen soldiers, and people with disabilities. What upsets them is Trump’s open admiration for brutal dictators, including Kim Jung Un, who ranks among the worst persecutors of Christians in the world; his easy betrayal of everyone from his wives to allies like the Kurds; and his history of engaging in predatory sexual behavior. What alarms them is that we have a president who fans the flames of ethnic and racial hate, who is willing to pressure foreign nations to dig up dirt on his political opponents, and who was the subject of a nearly 500-page report by a special counsel offering a portrait that was damning and went unrefuted. . . .

Continue reading.

I suppose it’s only a small step from seeing a free press as “the enemy of the people” and calling Republicans who disagree with Trump “human scum” to saying that anyone who opposes Trump is possessed by demons and driven by evil forces.

This is not looking good.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 November 2019 at 4:11 pm

The Bass technique for brushing teeth

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Very interesting, and thanks to Eddie of Australia for point this out.

There’s another video that shows the technique using a regular toothbruhs, and it is clear that the regular toothbrush has the weaknesses described in the video above — but the other video also offers a better look at the angle and teeth.

OralWellness.com sells toothbrushes of the Bass design and also Oral Mouth Blend:

Organic and wild crafted essential oils of: cinnamon leaf, peppermint, spearmint, clove, myrrh, and manuka in a base of certified organic almond oil (or certified organic jojoba oil for nut free version)

It has a very refreshing taste, and they note that it is “gluten free, soy free, GMO free, fluoride free, SLS free, glycerin free, and NO additives, toxins, ‘questionable ingredients’, or artificial anything.”

I like enough that I’ve also ordered a jar of their Shine Remineralizing Tooth Whitening Powder.

As I note in Disclaimer (see links at right):

I get no remuneration of any sort—money, discounts, products, services, meals, or gift—from any of the vendors or manufacturers mentioned in my blog or books except as specifically noted. Unless otherwise noted, the services, products, and merchants are mentioned purely because they impressed me and I wanted to share the knowledge. Nor do I get any remuneration from the blog itself, other than the satisfaction of bringing joy into the lives of my several readers. In other words: no affiliate links, other than the one case of linking to my own book, for which I do get a royalty. But when I praise (say) some brands of cast-iron or carbon-steel skillets, I get nothing other than the pleasure of sharing the knowledge I derived from my experience. — LeisureGuy (his mark)

So I’m telling about this for the same reason Eddie told me: I tried it and like it and am passing the word along. No affiliate links, kickbacks, no remuneration of any kind.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 November 2019 at 1:59 pm

West Virginia Inmates Will Be Charged by the Minute to Read E-Books on Tablets

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The US is in bad shape and it seems to be getting worse. C.J. Ciaramella reports in Reason:

Inmates at several West Virginia prisons are getting free electronic tablets to read books, send emails, and communicate with their families—but there’s a catch.

Any inmates looking to read Moby Dick may find that it will cost them far more than it would have if they’d simply gotten a mass market paperback, because the tablets charge readers by the minute.

Under a 2019 contract between the West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation (WVDCR) and Global Tel Link (GTL), the company that is providing electronic multimedia tablets to 10 West Virginia prisons, inmates will be charged 3 cents a minute to read books, even though the books all come from Project Gutenberg, a free online library of more than 60,000 texts in the public domain.

The WVDCR says the tablets provide access to educational materials, incentives for good behavior, and an easy way to stay in touch with loved ones. But the Appalachian Prison Book Project, a nonprofit that offers free books and education to inmates, says the fee structure is exploitative.

“If you pause to think or reflect, that will cost you,” says Katy Ryan, the group’s founder and educational coordinator. “If you want to reread a book, you will pay the entire cost again. This is about generating revenue for the state and profit for the industry. Tablets under non-predatory terms could be a very good thing inside prisons. GTL does not provide that.”

According to the contract, detailed by Appalachian Prison Book Project, using the tablets will cost $0.05 per minute (currently discounted to $0.03) to read books, listen to music, or play games; $0.25 per minute for video visitations; $0.25 per written message; and $0.50 to send a photo with a message.

The Prison Policy Initiative estimated in 2017 that wages in West Virginia prisons range between $0.04 and $0.58 an hour.

According to the contract, the WVDCR will also receive a 5 percent commission on gross revenue from the tablets.

In a statement to Reason, a WVDCR spokesperson noted that no inmates are being forced to use the tablets. In addition, the 5 percent commission will go toward a fund at each prison that inmates “use for such things as paying for cable TV and hosting open house visitation events for families.” And the agency is not restricting purchases or donations of regular print books.

That last item is important, and hopefully it will remain true. There’s been a troubling trend in other parts of the country of prisons restricting book donations and forcing inmates to purchase books through pre-approved vendors or to use electronic tablets provided by private contractors like GTL and JPay.

Earlier this year, Book Riot reported that numerous Ohio prisons were banning book donations by groups like Appalachian Prison Book Project. Amid media scrutiny, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) announced it would lift the bans for third-party book donations. But family members are still banned from sending print material. In at least one Ohio prison, family members must put money into the inmate’s account so they can order it themselves. JPay, which handles money transfers for the Ohio prison system, takes a cut on all deposits. The director of the ODRC is the former general manager of JPay.

PennsylvaniaWashington, and three prisons in New York all attempted similar bans on donations of used books to inmates, then relented under citizen pressure. The prisons cited security concerns over contraband, but news investigations showed there was little actual evidence of smuggling via donated dictionaries.

Last year, after Florida inked a new contract with JPay to provide multimedia tablets to inmates, inmates were forced to return MP3 players they had purchased through the state’s previous provider, losing all the tracks they had purchased as well.

Pennsylvania also pays a private contractor $4 million a year for digitized mail services, where letters to inmates are scanned and sent to inmates as black and white photocopies while the original letters are destroyed.

In 2017, the WVDCR instituted a policy barring inmates from receiving original mail.

Although the books on Project Gutenberg are all free, there is little the organization can do to stop GTL and the WVDCR from charging for access to the tablets. . .

Continue reading.

Mahatma Gandhi: “The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.”

What’s happening here is wrong.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 November 2019 at 1:01 pm

‘They’re profiting off pain’: the push to rein in the $1.2bn prison phone industry

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The US is in bad shape and it seems to be getting worse. Michael Sainato reports in the Guardian:

Tory Brito spends hundreds of dollars every month on phone calls just to speak with her husband, who is currently imprisoned at a state prison in Waupun, Wisconsin.

Brito works two jobs to make ends meet and struggles to maintain the huge amount of funds required to call her husband in prison on a regular basis, even though such phone calls are vital for their relationship and his morale.

She is one of millions of family members of people in prisons and jails across the United States who fund the $1.2bn prison phone industry, an industry that prison reform advocates have been trying – and failing – to fix for years and that the Federal Communications Commission head, Mignon Clyburne, called “the greatest, most distressing, type of injustice I have ever seen in the communications sector”.

Two companies, Securus and GTL, control more than 70% of the market for prison calls. These companies have won contracts across the US by awarding kickbacks and commissions to jail and prison facilities, and boosted profits by adding consumer fees and including extra services into phone contracts.

Prison reform advocates are now pushing for legislation to make phone calls free for prisoners or significantly lower and cap the high rates and fees charged by prison phone corporations.

New York City and San Francisco made phone calls from local jails free this year, the first major cities in the US to do so. Statewide bills to make phone calls in prisons and jails free have been proposed in Connecticut and Massachusetts.

But progress at the federal level to reduce prison phone call rates were rolled back under the Trump administration as the FCC commissioner, Ajit Pai, directed FCC lawyers to stop defending caps on call rates approved by the agency in 2015 under Obama from a legal challenge filed by the prison phone industry.

Drained by undisclosed fees

Prisons and jails throughout the US continue to charge exorbitant rates and fees for family members to speak with loved ones in prisons and jails.

Allison McAllister’s fiance is being held at a state prison in at New Lisbon, Wisconsin, and struggles with similar issues.

“Initially they told us it was going to be a decreased rate to six cents a minute. What they didn’t tell us and we didn’t find out until they completed the switch, is ICS is charging taxes and fees they never disclosed to us. They’re very evasive. It’s not something they ever disclosed,” said McAllister.

Wisconsin department of corrections declined to provide the costs of the taxes and fees. ICSolutions did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

“The majority of inmates are able to call individuals if they have funds available in the new system, and if the called party accepts the phone call,” said a spokesperson for WDOC in an email to the Guardian. “Family and friends are not required to have an account with the new system, unless they wish to accept collect calls. The new phone system allows inmates to fund their own calling account to make outgoing calls. Money will no longer be sent out to family and friends for calling accounts.”

McAllister spends at least $100 a month to speak to her husband by phone and up to 60% of the money she sends to her husband’s prison account is automatically deducted for restitution fees.

“I work a full-time job and it’s very tough to make all the ends meet, my own bills, rent, and make sure he has everything he needs,” added McAllister. “Sometimes I come home and I’m a wreck because I don’t know how I’m going to make it from one paycheck to the next. We’re out here trying to live our lives, support our family, and maybe put a little something away for our loved one’s future and all these fees and costs, they add up. It’s crazy.”

Wisconsin’s jails and prisons charge among some of the highest phone rates in the US. A national survey published in February 2019 by the Prison Policy Initiative found that, in 2018, the highest cost of a 15-minute in-state jail phone call in Wisconsin was $21.97 (£17.12), the third most expensive rate in the country. The average cost of an in-state jail 15-minute phone call in Wisconsin was $7.99 (£6.23), the sixth-highest in the US. These rates are often compounded with extra fees for family members to open and maintain accounts.

“The burden placed on families is outrageous and cruel that folks are having to pay this amount of money to speak with their loved ones in order to maintain contact with their family,” said Sean Wilson, a statewide organizer with ACLU-Wisconsin who spent 17 years in Wisconsin’s prison system.

‘Our situation is being exploited’

In Missouri, a 15-minute phone call from a jail can cost over $20, and these costs are part of difficult conditions reported at St Louis medium security institution, referred to as the Workhouse, that activists have been pushing to have closed down.

“If you’re already there because you’re poor and can’t afford bail, the odds of you having someone on the outside who can make the trip to the Workhouse to put money on your account and being able to constantly add money is not realistic,” said Inez Bordeaux, manager of community collaborations with ArchCity Defenders, a St Louis-based legal advocacy organization. Bordeaux spent a month in the Workhouse jail in 2016. . .

Continue reading.

Mahatma Gandhi: “The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.”

The true measure of the US is pretty low.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 November 2019 at 12:55 pm

‘There’s something terribly wrong’: Americans are dying young at alarming rates

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The US is in bad shape and it seems to be getting worse. Joel Achenbach reports for the Washington Post:

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “help” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

Death rates from suicide, drug overdoses, liver disease and dozens of other causes have been rising over the past decade for young and middle-aged adults, driving down overall life expectancy in the United States for three consecutive years, according to a strikingly bleak study published Tuesday that looked at the past six decades of mortality data.

The report, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, was immediately hailed by outside researchers for its comprehensive treatment of a still-enigmatic trend: the reversal of historical patterns in longevity.

Despite spending more on health care than any other country, the United States has seen increasing mortality and falling life expectancy for people ages 25 to 64, who should be in the prime of their lives, while other wealthy nations have generally experienced continued progress in extending longevity. Although earlier research emphasized rising mortality among non-Hispanic whites, the broad trend detailed in this study cuts across gender, racial and ethnic lines. By age group, the highest relative jump in death rates from 2010 to 2017 — 29 percent — has been among people ages 25 to 34.

The findings are sure to fuel political debate about causes and potential solutions, because the geography of rising death rates overlaps to a significant extent with states and regions that are hotly contested in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election.

About a third of the estimated 33,000 “excess deaths” that the study says occurred since 2010 were in just four states: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Indiana — the first two of which are critical swing states in presidential elections. The state with the biggest percentage rise in death rates among working-age people in this decade — 23.3 percent — is New Hampshire, the first primary state.

“It’s supposed to be going down, as it is in other countries,” said the lead author of the report, Steven H. Woolf, director emeritus of the Center on Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University. “The fact that that number is climbing, there’s something terribly wrong.”

He said many factors are at play. The opioid epidemic is a major driver of the worrisome numbers, but far from the sole cause. The study found that improvements in life expectancy, largely because of lower rates of infant mortality, began to slow in the 1980s, long before the opioid epidemic became a national tragedy.

The 33,000 excess deaths are an estimate based on the number of all-cause midlife deaths from 2010 to 2017 that would be expected if mortality was unchanged vs. the number of deaths actually recorded by medical examiners.

“Some of it may be due to obesity, some of it may be due to drug addiction, some of it may be due to distracted driving from cellphones,” Woolf said. Given the breadth and pervasiveness of the trend, “it suggests that the cause has to be systemic, that there’s some root cause that’s causing adverse health across many different dimensions for working-age adults.”

The all-cause death rate — meaning deaths per 100,000 people — rose 6 percent from 2010 to 2017 among working-age people in the United States.

Men, overall, have higher all-cause mortality than women, but the report pulls out some disturbing trends. Women are succumbing to diseases once far more common among men, even as men continue to die in greater absolute numbers.

The risk of death from drug overdoses increased 486 percent for midlife women between 1999 and 2017; the risk increased 351 percent for men in that same period. Women also experienced a bigger relative increase in risk of suicide and alcohol-related liver disease.

Increasing midlife mortality began among whites in 2010, Hispanics in 2011 and African Americans in 2014, the study states.

Outside researchers praised the study for knitting together so much research into a sweeping look at U.S. mortality trends.

“This report has universal relevance. It has broad implications for all of society,” said Howard Koh, a professor of public health at Harvard University who was not part of the research team.

The report reveals a broad erosion in health, with no single “smoking gun,” said Ellen Meara, a professor at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice.

“There’s something more fundamental about how people are feeling at some level — whether it’s economic, whether it’s stress, whether it’s deterioration of family,” she said. “People are feeling worse about themselves and their futures, and that’s leading them to do things that are self-destructive and not promoting health.”

The JAMA report looked at life expectancy and mortality across the country from 1959 through 2017. Final life expectancy numbers for 2018 will soon be released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The general trend: Life expectancy improved a great deal for several decades, particularly in the 1970s, then slowed down, leveled off, and finally reversed course after 2014, decreasing three years in a row.

The average life expectancy in the United States fell behind that of other wealthy countries in 1998 and since then, the gap has grown steadily. Experts refer to this gap as America’s “health disadvantage.”

There are some factors that manifest themselves only gradually, such as the effects of smoking. For example, in the late 1960s and early ’70s, cigarette companies aggressively marketed to women, and the health effects of that push may not show up for decades.

Princeton professors Anne Case and Angus Deaton, whose much-publicized report in 2015 highlighted the death rates in middle-aged whites, published a paper in 2017 pointing to a widening gap in health associated with levels of education, a trend dating to the 1970s. Case told reporters their research showed a “sea of despair” in the United States among people with only a high school diploma or less. She declined to comment on the new report.

Obesity is a significant part of the story. The average woman in America today weighs as much as the average man half a century ago, and men now weigh about 30 pounds more. Most people in the United States are overweight — an estimated 71.6 percent of the population ages 20 and older, according to the CDC. That figure includes the 39.8 percent who are obese, defined as having a body mass index of 30 or higher in adults (18.5 to 25 is the normal range). Obesity is also rising in children; nearly 19 percent of the population ages 2 to 19 is obese. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 November 2019 at 12:48 pm

The plague of feral pigs

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David Gilbert reports in Vice:

A woman in Texas was found dead outside the home of an elderly couple she cared for after being attacked by a group of feral hogs on Sunday morning.

The victim, 59-year-old Christine Rollins, arrived at work in the rural southeast Texan town of Anahuac around 6 a.m. on Sunday when it was still dark. The 84-year-old homeowner found Rollins’ body lying in the front yard when he looked outside after she didn’t arrive at their door for work.

Police were called and initially considered the possibility that Rollins had died of a medical condition before her body was discovered by the feral hogs.

However, an autopsy Monday confirmed the cause of death as loss of blood “due to feral hog assault,” Chambers County Sheriff Brian Hawthorne told reporters during a news conference.

“It looks like she got out of her car and locked it,” Hawthorne said. “[She] was probably trying to make her way to the front door when, it appears, these animals must have come along.”

The medical examination found that Rollins was attacked by “multiple hogs” based on the various size of the bites on her body.

“There is no question in the medical examiner’s mind that this was feral hogs that caused her death,” Hawthorne said, adding: “In my 35 years, I will tell you it’s one of the worst things I’ve ever seen.”

Feral hogs have taken over some pasture land around the home, Hawthorne said, adding that they are a problem throughout Chambers County. Attacks on humans, however, are extremely rare.

Feral hogs are one of the most destructive invasive species in the U.S. and have long been a problem for Texas farmers.

The hogs cause roughly $1.5 billion in damage each year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, tearing up crops and property, eating endangered species, and spreading diseases to livestock and humans.

Continue reading.

A “group” of pigs isn’t quite right. You would not say a “group” of lions or a “group” of cattle — it would be a pride of lions and a herd of cattle. For pigs, you could use drift, drove, team, passel, parcel, or sounder (see Animal Collective Nouns).

In any case, I support the extermination effort and see the video below changed my mind on one thing: the utility of a semi-automatic hunting rifle. I have in past said that hunting rifles properly should be bolt-action because the idea of hunting is the carefully aimed shot — but I was thinking of hunting the old way, tracking and then stalking the animal and firing when the animal is still. Helicopter hunting is not like that, and a semiautomatic hunting rifle is clearly required.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 November 2019 at 12:27 pm

The wrong aftershave was a shock, but the shave was superb (thanks to Dorco PL602)

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I had thought I had picked the bottle of D.R. Harris Marlborough aftershave to match the soap — I didn’t look closely, and their bottles all look alike — so the shave ended with a bit of a surprise.

First, though, was the really excellent lather that D.R. Harris shave sticks provide, this morning brought forth by the Rooney Victorian. And then the wonderful shave that the Dorco PL602 provides: totally comfortable, wonderfully efficient. It left my face perfectly smooth, and then the shock of being ready for Marlborough’s woody fragrance and being struck instead by the citrus notes of Arlington. It’s okay, but not what I wanted.

So soon I will replicate this shave, paying closer attention to the bottle I pick.

Of course, if this is the worst the day has in store, I shall count myself lucky indeed.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 November 2019 at 7:43 am

Posted in Shaving

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