Later On

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

Archive for May 2020

President Trump cowers in White House bunker; Joe Biden talks to protestors

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Heather Cox Richardson’s column is, as always, worth reading. I thought today, “Nero tweets while Rome burns.” From her column:

. . . Also notable is that some police officers are attacking protesters and journalists, while others are honoring their badges and listening to the protesters. In some cities, police are escalating the tensions while in others, they are kneeling in a sign of solidarity with the protesters and joining them as they march.

. . . For all the uncertainty, there was one very clear story today. Although he tweeted angrily, Trump stayed out of sight, and from the safety of the White House continued to feed the flames burning America. “The Lamestream Media is doing everything within their power to foment hatred and anarchy,” he tweeted this morning, apparently unmoved by the videos of journalists arrested and shot with rubber bullets last night. “As long as everybody understands what they are doing, that they are FAKE NEWS and truly bad people with a sick agenda, we can easily work through them to GREATNESS.”

He announced “The United States of America will be designating ANTIFA as a Terrorist Organization,” although there is actually no organized group of radicals identified as Antifa (a term drawn from “anti-fascist”), and U.S. law does not permit the government to designate domestic groups as terrorist organizations anyway. “FAKE NEWS!” he tweeted, and “LAW & ORDER!”

Trump’s attempt to project strength took on quite a different cast when a New York Times story this evening revealed that he had spent an hour Friday night in the White House underground bunker, where Secret Service had taken him. The Associated Press reported that Trump has told advisors he is worried for his safety, and that he and his family “have been shaken by the size and venom of the crowds,” according to “a Republican close to the White House.”

An A. P. story then offered a doozy of a paragraph: “As cities burned night after night and images of violence dominated television coverage, Trump’s advisers discussed the prospect of an Oval Office address in an attempt to ease tensions. The notion was quickly scrapped for lack of policy proposals and the president’s own seeming disinterest in delivering a message of unity.”

That Trump hid in the White House while he was urging others to violence captures his personality, but it undercuts his carefully crafted image as a man of courage. The leak of this story is itself astonishing: we should not know how a president is being protected, and that Trump is bullying to project an image of being a tough guy while he is actually hiding is a big story, especially since presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden was out in the streets talking to protesters today. And to admit that Trump has no policy proposals and has no interest in delivering a message of unity…. Wow.

A curfew goes into effect at 11:00 tonight in Washington, D.C. For the past several days, trouble has begun as peaceful protesters go home, leaving the streets to those spoiling for a fight. As 11:00 hits, crowds around the White House are setting fires and attempting to break into the White House grounds.

Just before the curfew, the lights that usually illuminate the outside of the White House were turned off.

Written by Leisureguy

31 May 2020 at 10:29 pm

Bad report from Murfreesboro

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Written by Leisureguy

31 May 2020 at 6:43 pm

American policing is broken. Here’s how to fix it.

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Good column in Vox by German Lopez from three years ago:

When a Baltimore police shift commander created an arrest form for loitering on public housing, he didn’t even try to hide his racist expectations. In the template, there was no space to fill in gender or race. Instead, that information was automatically filled out: “black male.”

This attitude was not exclusive to one cop in Baltimore. A Justice Department investigation conducted in 2015 and 2016 found black people in Baltimore were much more likely to be stopped than their white counterparts even after controlling for population. One black man in his mid-50s was stopped 30 times in less than four years — nearly one stop a month — despite never receiving a citation or criminal charge.

And these were just some of the many alarming findings of racial bias in the Baltimore Police Department that were unearthed by the Justice Department’s investigation. By the end of it all, the Justice Department found Baltimore police consistently violated at least three amendments in the US Constitution — the First, Fourth, and 14th — and engaged repeatedly and persistently in a pattern of racial bias.

“Racially disparate impact is present at every stage of BPD’s enforcement actions, from the initial decision to stop individuals on Baltimore streets to searches, arrests, and uses of force,” the report concluded. “These racial disparities, along with evidence suggesting intentional discrimination, erode the community trust that is critical to effective policing.”

It would be one thing if this were just a particularly bad police department in the US. But when you zoom out to look at all the investigations the Justice Department has done over the past several years, typically after protests ignite due to a police shooting perceived as unjust, a pattern emerges: Whether it’s Baltimore; Cleveland; New Orleans; Ferguson, Missouri; or, most recently, Chicago, the Justice Department has found horrific constitutional violations in how police use force, how they target minority residents, how they stop and ticket people, and virtually every other aspect of policing. These issues come up time and time again, no matter the city that federal investigators look at.

One is left with just one possible conclusion: Policing in America is broken.

Many Americans seem well aware of this: The statistics show that many simply don’t trust the very people who are supposed to protect them. But there are essentially two worlds — black and white — for police trust.

A 2016 Pew Research Center survey found, for instance, that black people are less than half as likely to trust the police as their white counterparts. When asked whether police treat racial and ethnic groups equally, 75 percent of white people said cops do an excellent or good job in this area, while just 35 percent of black people said the same. And 75 percent of white people said police do a good or excellent job using the right amount of force for each situation, while just 33 percent of black people did.

Meanwhile, statistics show police are arguably failing to protect residents in black communities: While black people made up about 13 percent of the population in 2015, they made up more than half of reported murder victims.

Thomas Abt, a criminologist at Harvard University, put it in stark terms: “In addition to all of these burdens that we’re placing on African-American communities in terms of aggressive policing, we’re fundamentally failing them at keeping them safe.”

So I set out to find out how, exactly, policing in America can be fixed. I spoke to nine veteran policing and criminal justice experts across the country, with a focus on the big question: How should police and lawmakers address complaints of racial bias while making sure communities are effectively policed for crime?

Based on what I heard from experts, I nailed down eight big policy ideas. These ideas could be done even under a Trump administration that fashions itself as “tough on crime”almost all policing is done at the local and state, not federal, level — out of the nearly 18,000 law enforcement agencies in America, only a dozen or so are federal. And the ideas are not in any specific order, but experts consistently said that nothing else will work if the first step on this list isn’t fully embraced by law enforcement across the US.

1) Police need to apologize for centuries of abuse

Time and time again, I heard the same thing from several experts: Until police own up to how minority communities view them, they won’t be able to effectively police their communities.

Some police officers might feel many of the criticisms are unfair. Some might hear about the history of police being used on slave patrols, and feel that they are wrongly blamed for things they weren’t even alive for. Some might feel that they are good cops, and it’s only a few officers who are bad.

But that doesn’t matter. The reality is minority communities distrust police. That sentiment is based on a long history of flat-out racist policing in America, even if it doesn’t apply to every single officer or department today. Until police acknowledge that, they will be perceived by many people as trying to cover up a long history of oppression.

David Kennedy, a criminologist at John Jay College, argued that there will always be distrust between police and black communities until cops own up to historical abuses, mimicking what a police chief might say to a community: “We recognize these facts — whether we were there or not, whether we were around during slavery, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, attacks on the civil rights movement, or whether it’s more recent things that we have done that you have found disrespectful and untoward, like zero-tolerance policing and high levels of stop and frisk.”

So how can police repair this? For one, experts said police need to undertake a big effort — through community meetings, going door to door, their daily patrols, and TV appearances — to get their communities aligned with how policing should be done.

“In order to overcome lack of trust and confidence, the police have to make contact — door-to-door, face-to-face contact — with members of their community,” said Richard Rosenfeld, a criminologist at the University of Missouri in St. Louis. “The police will be rebuffed on occasion, but that’s the only way I see to, in the long run, rebuild trust or, really, build it for the first time in the police in members of these communities.”

Walter Katz, a California attorney who specializes in oversight of law enforcement agencies, likened the potential process to South Africa’s post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Throughout those hearings, investigators spoke candidly with the victims and enforcers of apartheid about what happened. Much of the hearings were televised. In doing this, people not only got to air their grievances and see their concerns heard, but plans were also set in place — including reparations — to help undo the damage that had been done.

Above all, the point is to let communities know that police hear them, are taking what they say seriously, and are planning further steps to address their complaints.

2) Cops should be trained to address their racial biases

Out of all the complaints leveled against the police, the biggest one in recent years — echoed by the Black Lives Matter movement — is that police are racially biased.

Sometimes the cause is explicit racism — such as in North Miami Beach, Florida, where police officers used mug shots of black people as target practice. But other times, such biases may occur at the implicit level, where people’s subconscious biases guide their choices even when they’re not fully aware of it.

Josh Correll, a University of Colorado Boulder psychology professor, tested police for racial biases through a shooting simulation. His initial findings showed officers generally did a good job of avoiding shooting unarmed targets of all races. But when shooting was warranted, officers pulled the trigger more quickly against black suspects than white ones. This suggests that officers exhibit some racial bias in shooting.

In the real world, this could lead police to shoot black people at disproportionate rates. Real policing situations, after all, are often much more complicated: Factors — such as a real threat to the officer’s life and the chance that a bullet will miss and accidentally hit a passerby — can make the situation much more confusing to officers.

“In the very situation in which [officers] most need their training,” Correll previously told me, “we have some reason to believe that their training will be most likely to fail them.”

That’s one of the reasons there are racial disparities in police use of force: An analysis of the available FBI data from 2012 by Vox’s Dara Lind found black people accounted for 31 percent of police killing victims, even though they made up just 13 percent of the US population. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

31 May 2020 at 6:41 pm

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Mantic59 of Sharpologist has launched a new site to serve as a communications vehicle from shaving vendors to potential customers: new products, special offers, discounts, and the like. Take a look.

Written by Leisureguy

31 May 2020 at 10:07 am

Posted in Business, Shaving, Software

Heather Cox Richardson on May 30

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Dr. Richardson writes:

It is too early to know what is actually happening inside the protests and riots happening in cities across the country, especially Minneapolis, after the murder of George Floyd by police officer Derek Chauvin there on Monday. That is, we know there are protests and looting and violence, but who is doing what remains unclear, and will stay unclear for a while. There are plenty of videos and tweets, but they can only give us windows into events, not a full picture.

That being said, there do seem to be some patterns emerging.

The protests began as Black Americans and allies protested Floyd’s murder, coming, as it did, after a number of similar murders—such as Breonna Taylor’s, shot in her own home during a botched police raid—that illuminated police brutality against Black Americans. Quickly, though, the protests appeared to turn into something else, as more people—possibly (and I would guess probably) from outside the cities—rushed in to create chaos.

It is not clear who these people are. This morning, Trump tweeted that the protesters at the White House were “professionally organized,” and midday, Attorney General Barr gave a hasty press conference in which he claimed that “outside radicals and agitators are exploiting the situation to pursue their own separate and violent agenda.” He said, “in many places, it appears the violence is planned, organized and driven by anarchic and left extremist groups, far-left extremist groups, using antifa-like tactics, many of whom travel from outside the state to promote the violence.”

There is currently no evidence that what Barr said is true.

He went on to say “It is a federal crime to cross state lines or to use interstate facilities to incite or participate in violent rioting, and we will enforce those laws.” After Barr spoke, Trump tweeted: “80% of the RIOTERS in Minneapolis last night were from OUT OF STATE. They are harming businesses (especially African American small businesses), homes, and the community of good, hardworking Minneapolis residents who want peace, equality, and to provide for their families.” He added: “It’s ANTIFA and the Radical Left. Don’t lay the blame on others!”

About the same time Barr was speaking, St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter told reporters that “Every single person we arrested last night, I’m told, was from out of state,” and Minnesota Governor Tim Walz estimated that 80% of those destroying property were from out of state. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey added: “We are now confronting white supremacists, members of organized crime, out-of-state instigators, and possibly even foreign actors to destroy and destabilize our city and our region.” The Minnesota Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington said they had begun tracing those they arrested to see if they were part of larger networks.

A preliminary study today by local network KARE found that, in fact, 86% of those arrested were from Minnesota. Of the others, at least one was associated with a white supremacist group.

While we cannot know yet what’s going on now, it is of note that the president has encouraged violence lately in his tweets, retweeting a video in which a supporter says “The only good Democrat is a dead Democrat,” and a famous line from segregationist politician George Wallace “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.”

In some places, police are deescalating protests and things are calming. In others, they seem to be deliberately escalating riots and violence.

In the places the police are escalating the riots, they seem to be targeting journalists and photographers, as well as people of color—there are harrowing videos of young men dragged from cars or from the street and mobbed by officers. Multiple stories tonight tell of journalists arrested or shot with rubber bullets, even after identifying themselves as press. One has lost an eye.

This recalls the president’s constant attacks on the press. He has tweeted the phrases “Fake News” and “Enemy of the People” 796 times, and suggested in a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin that he, Trump, should “Get rid of them. Fake news is a great term, isn’t it? You don’t have this problem in Russia [where Putin has journalists killed], but we do.”

If we cannot yet fully know the dynamics of the protests, there are a few things we do know.

First, the protests have wiped from public discussion all the major stories that were distressing Trump: the deadly toll of the coronavirus and his administration’s abysmal response to the pandemic, the skyrocketing unemployment as the economy falters, and Friday’s revelations about his 2016 campaign team’s collaboration with Russian spies.

Second, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

31 May 2020 at 10:04 am

The Cooper Review is insightful as well as funny

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Take this post, for example: 9 Non-Threatening Leadership Strategies for Women. And browse around the site.


Written by Leisureguy

31 May 2020 at 7:34 am

Posted in Books, Daily life, Humor

More about Duolingo, learning, and Esperanto

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I’m going steadily ahead with the Duolingo Esperanto course and I’m amazed by how much I know after (as you see) just six weeks. It seems true that in two months study of Esperanto one can achieve liftoff, as it were. Great quarantine activity, and I thought this post in the discussion section was interesting.

The more I use it, the more I discover (or figure out) about its methods. One basic thing is that you are not simply told you gave an incorrect response (should that ever happen), you are also told the correct response and then the question is repeated later in the lessons so you can give the correct response (and, if necessary, repeated again and again, until you give the correct response).

This strikes me as a basic pedagogical tactic that:

  1. provides a sense of reward (dopamine hit) when you do finally get it right (and hear the “right answer” chime instead of the “wrong answer” buzzer), and
  2. is the approach used in any performance education: the musician must willy-nilly replay the passage until it is played correctly, the actor must rehearse the lines until they are delivered correctly, the tennis player must practice the stroke until it is made correctly, the dancer must practice the step until movement and gesture are perfect — in performance, simply marking something as wrong is insufficient (and largely irrelevant), since the action must be repeated until it is not only right but almost habitual (and language speaking, listening, reading, writing are performance), and
  3. matches exactly the approach used in AI to train a neural network, and of course in learning how to do something one is exactly training the original neural network, the brain.

Duolingo uses other mechanisms to promote learning, such as encouraging daily practice by giving a prominent “streak” award for an unbroken series of daily lessons. Some Duolingo students have streaks of 5 years or more.

I wish I had dived into this earlier. There are several languages of which I would like to have a smattering. Well, it’s never too late.

Consider trying one for your quarantine activity.

Written by Leisureguy

31 May 2020 at 7:16 am

Extremist cops: how US law enforcement is failing to police itself

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Maddy Crowell and Sylvia Varnham O’Regan report in the Guardian:

Ever since he was a teenager, Joshua Doggrell has believed that the former slave-holding states of the American south should secede from the United States. When he was a freshman in college at the University of Alabama in 1995, Doggrell discovered a group whose worldview chimed with his – the League of the South. The League believes that white southern culture is in danger of extinction from forces such as religious pluralism, homosexuality and interracial coupling. Doggrell wanted to protect that culture. In 2006, when he was 29 years old, he applied to be a police officer in Anniston, Alabama, a sparsely populated city at the foothills of the Appalachian mountains, where more than half of the residents are people of colour. On his police application, Doggrell wrote that he was a member of the League. Shortly after, he was hired.

During nearly a decade on the police force, Doggrell was a vocal advocate for the League, working to recruit fellow officers to the group. He encouraged his colleagues to attend the League’s monthly meetings, which he held at a steakhouse not far from the police station. On Facebook, he posted neo-Confederate material, including a photo of an early leader of the Ku Klux Klan, and wrote that he was “against egalitarianism in all forms”. He often refused to be in the room when the department recited the pledge of allegiance in front of the American flag.

In 2013, Doggrell delivered the opening speech at the League’s annual conference, on how to “cultivate the good will” of police officers. “The vast majority of men in uniform are aware that they’re southerners,” Doggrell told the audience, which included the prominent neo-Nazi Matthew Heimbach and another Anniston police officer Doggrell had recruited to the group. Doggrell added that most southern officers were “a lot closer” to joining the League than they were 10 or 15 years ago. “My department,” he added, “has been very supportive of me. I’ve somehow been promoted twice since I was there.”

“Everybody knew he was in the League of the South,” Matt Delozier, a retired sergeant from the Anniston police department, told us when we met him near Anniston earlier this year. “I think the general consensus was that nobody understood – if you’re out here in law enforcement in a supervisor’s role, why are you involved in this group?” But it wasn’t until 2015, when a leaked video of Doggrell’s speech led to a report that went viral across the US, that the city’s manager fired him. (Doggrell’s superiors did not raise any concerns over his conduct as an officer.) Doggrell went on to appeal the dismissal and sue both the city and the city manager, arguing that his termination had violated his constitutional rights.

Although it is unusual for a police officer to be so open about his involvement in an extremist organisation, for decades, anti-government and white-supremacist groups have been attempting to recruit police officers into their ranks. “It is something a lot of folks are overlooking,” says Vida B Johnson, an assistant professor of law at Georgetown University. “Police forces are becoming more interested in talking about implicit bias – the unconscious, racial biases we carry with us as Americans. But people aren’t really addressing the explicit biases that are present on police forces.”

According to Johnson’s research, there have been at least 100 different scandals, in more than 40 different states, involving police officers who have sent racist emails and text messages, or made racist comments on social media, since the 1990s. A recent investigation by the Center for Investigative Reporting found that hundreds of active-duty and retired law enforcement officers from around the country were members of confederate, anti-government and anti-Islam groups on Facebook. But there is no official record of officers who are tied to white supremacist or other extremist groups because, in the US, there is no federal policy for screening or monitoring the country’s 800,000+ law enforcement officers for extremist views. The 18,000 or so police departments across the country are largely left to police themselves.

To much of the rest of the country, the town of Anniston, Alabama is primarily known as the site of a traumatic episode in the American civil rights movement. On 14 May 1961, the Freedom Riders, a group of black and white civil rights activists, arrived by bus in Anniston to protest segregation. They were attacked by a mob of Ku Klux Klansmen, who slashed the bus’s tyres, broke its windows and set fire to it in an attempt to kill the protesters. Even though the Anniston police department was only a block away, the officers didn’t show up on the scene until the early afternoon, and made no arrests.

Today, Anniston remains sharply divided along racial lines. The majority of the city’s black community lives south-west of downtown, in run-down, single-storey houses. East of the city centre, manicured lawns and picket fences adorn the predominantly white neighbourhood. Although roughly 50% of the city’s 24,000 residents are black, the people who govern the city are mostly white. “It always comes down to leadership,” said David E Reddick, one of the city’s two black council members and a former president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, when we met in his office. “You’ve got a city where you’ve got three whites and two blacks on the council, and you need three votes to get anything done.”

“Blacks are being targeted in this city,” Reddick continued. According to the city’s other black council member, Ben Little, its officers regularly pull black people over for minor offences such as traffic violations. Little also said that members of the police department had often intimidated and harassed him, or stood by while others did. After being particularly vocal in his criticisms of police abuses in 2012, he woke up one morning to find caution tape wrapped like a noose around his truck. When Little and Reddick voiced their concerns about local policing two years ago, the local newspaper, the Anniston Star, responded with the headline: “NAACP leaders, with little evidence, claim racism by police, courts”.

Joshua Doggrell claims that his views are not unusual in Anniston. “My people are Southern people and we grew up proud of our Southern heritage,” he told us, when we met him at a restaurant where he used to host League of the South meetings. He is solidly built, with a round, puffy face, and drove a black pickup truck with Confederate flags on the front bumper. He insisted that he was not a racist or a white supremacist, and claims that he had ceased his involvement with the League by early 2015, but admitted he thought “there are some things the white race did better throughout the history of mankind, like governing”. He couched his extremist views in careful terms, often centred on his religious beliefs: he wasn’t “against blacks”, he claimed – he just didn’t believe God had created the races to be mixed.

Doggrell presented himself as a victim who had been wronged by the city when he was fired from the police department. When he joined the force in 2006, none of his superiors flagged his membership in the League of the South as an issue, he told us. (The police department refused multiple requests for interviews.) Three years later, Doggrell started a local chapter of the League, and invited a number of fellow officers to its first meeting. At the meeting, the League’s founder, a former history professor named Michael Hill, argued that the time had come for a new civil war. “The way I look at it,” Hill told the group, “This is round two of the same battle.”

The department’s tolerance for Doggrell seemed to be mirrored by some of the local press. When Doggrell held his League chapter’s first meeting, in an Anniston diner, he invited a reporter from the Anniston Star to cover it. The Star published a 380-word account of the meeting that read like the announcement of a new seniors’ night at the bingo hall: “Local Secessionists Hold 1st Meeting.”

But several people of colour in Anniston recognised Doggrell’s name in the report and were alarmed. Abdul Khalil’llah, the director of an Anniston-based civil rights organisation, sent letters to the Alabama attorney general’s office and the US secretary of homeland security in April 2009. “I was basically astonished to hear that a police officer – someone who’d taken an oath to uphold the law – could be in a neo-Confederate type of organisation,” Khalil’llah said.

Khalil’llah’s letters went unanswered, but in response to his complaints, the Anniston police department decided to conduct an internal investigation into Doggrell later that year. A few officers had found Doggrell’s views odd, but the department decided to take no action against him. “He is a dedicated, professional police officer,” then police chief, John Dryden, wrote in a report. “He has never showed any radical action in his duties as a police officer.” It was not a concern to the police department that Doggrell was part of an organisation that the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors rightwing extremist organisations, had labelled a “hate group” since 2000. (The SPLC “can label anything”, Dryden wrote in the report.)

Not long after the investigation, Doggrell was promoted to sergeant and then, a few years later, to lieutenant. Doggrell’s former boss, Layton McGrady, acknowledged at a 2015 hearing into Doggrell’s dismissal that Doggrell’s association with the League of the South wasn’t a factor when he was up for promotion. Asked why not, McGrady said it “didn’t affect his job performance or the police department”.

While not every police officer who is tied to a white supremacist group will necessarily act out their beliefs violently, the presence of even a single radicalised officer can terrorise a community. “Even if the number of officers is numerically small, because of the intense risks posed of having a ticking time bomb like that in a department, that’s a big deal,” said Brian Levin, a former NYPD officer who directs the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism in California.

In a number of cases, ideologically radicalised police officers have gone on to commit extreme forms of violence. In one of the most disturbing cases, a civil rights lawsuit from 1991 alleged that a group of officers from the Los Angeles county sheriff’s department systematically terrorised and harassed minority residents by vandalising their homes, beating and torturing them, and even killing members of the community. The accused officers turned out to be members of the Lynwood Vikings, a “neo-Nazi, white supremacist gang”, according to a federal judge. (The county settled the case for $9m.) In 2012, an officer in Little Rock, Arkansas who had once attended a KKK meeting, shot and killed a 15-year-old black boy. Earlier this year, in Holton, Michigan, an officer was fired after a framed KKK application and Confederate flags were discovered in his home.

“Since the inception of this nation, black people have been under threat from the police,” said Whitney Shepard, who works at the DC-based organisation Stop Police Terror Project. “There’s not really ever been a time in this country where the police have protected our communities.”

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

30 May 2020 at 1:57 pm

Racism in action in Central Park

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Gina Bellafonte writes in the NY Times:

Of all the ways Amy Cooper might have expressed her exasperation during a dispute with a birder in Central Park — rolling her eyes as she agreed to restrain her cocker spaniel, railing against avian life-forms, giving him the finger and moving on — she instead chose a potentially lethal option. Confronting her adversary, Christian Cooper, she said that she was going to call the police to report that “an African-American man” was “threatening” her life.

It was the dissonance in her language that immediately distinguished the episode from the countless other occasions in which white people have become dangerously unhinged in the presence of black men.

Three times, before and during the 911 call in which her voice climbed to horror-movie pitch as she leveled a phony accusation, she found the space to specifically identify Mr. Cooper as “African-American.” A resident of the Upper West Side with a graduate degree from the University of Chicago, a rescue dog and a face mask, Ms. Cooper engaged in a calculated act of profiling even as she accommodated the dictates of progressive speech.

The moment provided a bracing tutorial in what bigotry among the urbane looks like — the raw, virulent prejudice that can exist beneath the varnish of the right credentials, pets, accessories, social affiliations, the coinage absorbed from HBO documentaries and corporate sensitivity seminars.

Two years ago, a Manhattan lawyer named Aaron Schlossberg announced to the world that he was not “a racist” after he was caught on video ranting about immigrants. As he put it in his apology, the tirade did not capture who he really was, someone who had come to New York “precisely because of the remarkable diversity.” As it turned out, this was not Mr. Schlossberg’s only ethnically charged outburst.

In the video Mr. Cooper recorded, after Ms. Cooper refused to follow park rules and leash her dog, he asked her to keep her distance. Still, the next day, she told CNN by way of explanation for actions she now deemed inexcusable, that she had been scared — that before he began filming her, Mr. Cooper appeared out of nowhere.

“He came out of the bush,’’ she said, failing to recognize, given the racial context, that there was surely a better way to refer to the shrubbery of central Manhattan.

Judgment of Ms. Cooper was swift and fierce. Within 24 hours, she had lost her job as an investment manager at Franklin Templeton; members of New York State’s legislature introduced a bill that would make filing certain false reports actionable as hate crimes; a neighborhood group, the Central Park South Civic Association, called on Mayor Bill de Blasio to impose a lifetime ban from the park “on this lady for her deliberate, racial misleading of law enforcement.”

Despite Ms. Cooper’s public statement to Mr. Cooper — “I hope that a few mortifying seconds in a lifetime of forty years will not define me in his eyes and that he will accept my sincere apology” — by Wednesday night, various city officials were demanding her arrest.

It was Mr. Cooper who publicly extended more generosity toward her than anyone else, telling my colleague Sarah Maslin Nir that although he could not excuse the racism, he wasn’t sure if Ms. Cooper’s life “needed to be torn apart.”

In the most forgiving interpretation of these events, Ms. Cooper didn’t understand . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

30 May 2020 at 9:33 am

Posted in Daily life, Memes

A sensible take on racism in the US

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Shola MRichards on Facebook has a very level-headed take on racism in the US:

Twice a day, I walk my dog Ace around my neighborhood with one, or both, of my girls. I know that doesn’t seem noteworthy, but here’s something that I must admit:

I would be scared to death to take these walks without my girls and my dog. In fact, in the four years living in my house, I have never taken a walk around my neighborhood alone (and probably never will).

Sure, some of you may read that and think that I’m being melodramatic or that I’m “playing the race card” (I still have no clue what the hell means), but this is my reality.

When I’m walking down the street holding my young daughter’s hand and walking my sweet fluffy dog, I’m just a loving dad and pet owner taking a break from the joylessness of crisis homeschooling.

But without them by my side, almost instantly, I morph into a threat in the eyes of some white folks. Instead of being a loving dad to two little girls, unfortunately, all that some people can see is a 6’2” athletically-built black man in a cloth mask who is walking around in a place where he doesn’t belong (even though, I’m still the same guy who just wants to take a walk through his neighborhood). It’s equal parts exhausting and depressing to feel like I can’t walk around outside alone, for fear of being targeted.

If you’re surprised by this, don’t be. We live in a world where there is a sizable amount of people who actually believe that racism isn’t a thing, and that White Privilege is a made-up fantasy to be politically-correct. Yes, even despite George Floyd, Christian Cooper, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor (and countless other examples before them, and many to come afterward), some people still don’t seem to get it.

So, let me share some common sense points:

1) Having white privilege doesn’t mean that your life isn’t difficult, it simply means that your skin color isn’t one of the things contributing to your life difficulties. Case in point, if it never crossed your mind that you could have the cops called on you (or worse, killed) for simply bird watching then know that is a privilege that many black/brown people (myself included) don’t currently enjoy.

2) Responding to “Black Lives Matter” by saying “All Lives Matter” is insensitive, tone-deaf and dumb. All lives can’t matter until black lives matter.

3) Racism is very real, and please don’t delude yourself into thinking it’s limited to the fringes of the hardcore MAGA crowd. As Amy Cooper proved, it’s just as prevalent in liberal America as it is anywhere else.

4) While racism is real, reverse-racism is not. Please don’t use that term, ever.

5) In order for racism to get better, white allies are absolutely critical. If you’re white and you’ve read this far, hopefully you care enough to be one of those allies. Please continue to speak up (despite some of your friends and family rolling their eyes at you), because your voices matter to PoC now more than ever. Special shoutouts to my friends Becky, Catherine, Dory, Elizabeth, Greta, Jessica, Kayte, Kurt, Peter, Sharri, and Teri (and anyone else who I missed) for doing it so well.

6) And if you’re white, and you’re still choosing to stay silent about this, then I honestly don’t know what to say. If these atrocities won’t get you to speak up, then honestly, what will? Also, it’s worth asking, why be my friend? If you aren’t willing to take a stand against actions that could get me hurt or killed, it’s hard to believe that you ever cared about me in the first place.

As for me, I’ll continue to walk these streets holding my 8 year-old daughter’s hand, in hopes that she’ll continue to keep her daddy safe from harm.

I know that sounds backward, but that’s the world that we’re living in these days.


VIRAL EDIT: Whoa, so this post blew up. I am deeply touched by all of your kind words, and also, for your willingness to step up as allies. The comments on this post have only strengthened my faith in humanity, and for that, I am very grateful. We have a lot of work to do, and I’m ready to stand at your side to do it ❤️.


Written by Leisureguy

30 May 2020 at 9:18 am

Posted in Daily life, Memes

Martin de Candre with an aftershave milk

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Continuing my series of seeing how to compensate for the drying effect of Martin de Candre’s shaving soap, this morning I tried an aftershave milk: The Shave Den’s Coconut-Lime-Verbena fragrance, which I find extremely pleasant.

A good lather again, this time with the Maggard 22mm synthetic shown, and then three passes with RazoRock’s original Game Changer. A very smooth result, though perhaps a smidge less smooth than the previous shaves (with the RazoRock Old Type and the two Yaqi DOC razors).

The aftershave milk did indeed help offset the drying effect of MdC, though not quite to the degree that the balms did. Still the result was quite acceptable and noticeably better than when using a plain splash with this soap.

Overall, you’re better off simply getting a better soap (at half the price or less). As I mentioned earlier, MdC runs $10 per ounce, and Declaration Grooming’s Milksteak and Phoenix Artisan’s CK-6 provide noticeably superior performance and results at $5 per ounce, and there are even less costly soaps that don’t leave the skin so dry.

Written by Leisureguy

30 May 2020 at 9:07 am

Posted in Shaving

The Pillage of India

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I found this book review interesting because I’m getting the feeling that the US is being pillaged as well. Christopher de Ballaigue writes in the NY Review of Books:

The Anarchy: The East India Company, Corporate Violence, and the Pillage of an Empire
by William Dalrymple
Bloomsbury, 522 pp., $35.00

Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India
by Shashi Tharoor
Melbourne: Scribe, 294 pp., $17.95 (paper)

In the eighteenth century a career with the East India Company was a throw of the dice for unattached young British men. Arriving in India wan and scurvy after a year at sea, many quickly succumbed to disease, madness, or one of the innumerable little wars that the company fought in order to embed itself on the subcontinent. The salary was hardly an incentive. In the 1720s junior clerks, or “writers,” received just £5 per year, not enough to live on in Bengal or Madras and a pittance when set against the handsome 8 percent annual dividend the company’s shareholders awarded themselves back in London. Such drawbacks tended to put off all but those whom circumstances had already disfavored: second sons, members of the down-at-heel Anglo-Irish gentry, dispossessed Scottish landowners who had backed the losing side in a rebellion against the crown.

Being on the company payroll was rather a means to an end; moonlighting was where the money lay in one of the richest places on earth. In 1700 India is estimated to have accounted for 27 percent of the world economy and a quarter of the global textile trade. A considerable number of company employees who survived the shock of arrival went on to make fortunes from off-books trading in textiles, saltpeter, indigo, opium, salt, tobacco, betel, rice, and sugar; sidelines also included selling Mughal-issued tax exemptions and lending money to distressed Indian grandees.

The wills of company officials in the early 1780s show that one in three left their wealth to Indian wives, or as one put it, “the excellent and respectable Mother of my two children for whom I feel unbounded love and affection and esteem.” Others went home. Newly enriched returnees elbowed their way into high society and were rewarded with a moniker, “nabob,” which derived from an Indian word for prince, nawab, and signified an Indian-made plutocrat of boundless amorality.

Neither the directors in Leadenhall Street, the company’s headquarters in the City of London, nor the Mughal authorities who had granted the company its trading privileges in return for “presents” and taxes, approved of the nabobs’ freelancing. But the directors didn’t particularly mind, provided that the thirty-odd ships that sailed east every year from England’s south coast returned laden with luxury imports, along with a share of the taxes collected from the Indian enclaves that the company controlled. All the while the authority of the emperor, the unwarlike Shah Alam, was crumbling under the pressure of repeated Maratha, Afghan, and Iranian incursions into the Mughal heartland of the Gangetic Plain. These and the foragings of another group of armed Europeans, the French Compagnie des Indes, turned what the Mughal chronicler Fakir Khair ud-Din Illahabadi called “the once peaceful abode of India” into “the abode of Anarchy.”

Through adroit use of its well-trained, disciplined armies, over the course of the eighteenth century the company expanded its influence inland from the three littoral “Presidencies” of Calcutta, Madras, and Bombay. By the 1750s, William Dalrymple tells us in The Anarchy, his new account of the rise of the company, it accounted for almost an eighth of Britain’s total imports of £8 million and contributed nearly a third of a million pounds to the home exchequer in annual customs duties.

Awell-known historian both in his native Britain and his adoptive India, where he cofounded what may be the world’s biggest literary festival, at Jaipur, Dalrymple has influenced the scholarly as well as the popular understanding of South Asian history through his use of both European and Indian sources, thus uniting the halves of a previously bisected whole. (To pick just two examples from the extensive company literature, both John Keay’s 1993 book, The Honourable Company, which also deals with its extensive involvement in Southeast Asia, and Nick Robins’s commercial history, The Corporation That Changed the World, from 2012, are entirely reliant on British sources.) Dalrymple’s ability to present events from an Indian as well as a European perspective owes much to his mining of the National Archives in Delhi and his collaboration with the late Bruce Wannell, a waspish global flaneur and gifted linguist who lived in a tent on Dalrymple’s lawn in South Delhi while translating Mughal-era texts for him.

The company was transformed into an instrument of imperialism under Robert Clive, a terse, pugnacious delinquent from Shropshire. After arriving in Madras as a writer in 1744, Clive distinguished himself on the battlefield, making up in daring what he lacked in experience. In 1752 he and a fellow officer led a company force that took prisoner almost three thousand troops from the Compagnie des Indes, for which he was rewarded with a lucrative sinecure.

In 1756, after a spell back home, Clive’s taste for conquest and treasure took him to Bengal, whose production of silks and muslins made it the biggest supplier of Asian goods to Europe. In 1757 Clive led the company’s forces to victory against both the French and the uncooperative local nawab; from defeating the latter the company received what Dalrymple calls “one of the largest corporate windfalls in history”—in modern terms around £232 million. Clive himself pocketed an astronomical £22 million, with which he went on to acquire a string of desirable British properties, including an estate outside Limerick to go with his Irish peerage, while Lady Clive, as the Salisbury Journal informed its readers, garlanded her pet ferret with a diamond necklace worth more than £2,500.

Besides his military exploits Clive was admired by the directors for his administrative vigor, and he ended his Indian career as governor of Bengal. In 1765—two years before he returned to Britain for good—he secured his most substantive legacy when he forced Shah Alam to recognize the company’s financial authority over three of his richest provinces, Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa. A Mughal chronicler lamented that the British “have appointed their own district officers, they make assessments and collections of revenue, administer justice, appoint and dismiss collectors…heaven knows what will be the eventual upshot of this state of things.”

The baneful consequences of a commercial concern enjoying political power but answering only to its shareholders became apparent during the Bengal famine of 1770–1771. Company officers exacted dues from a dying populace as diligently as they had from a healthy one. Tax evaders were publicly hanged. The following year Calcutta informed Leadenhall Street that “notwithstanding the great severity of the late famine…some increase [in revenue] has been made.”

While at least one million Bengalis were dying of the famine and its effects, some company employees enriched themselves by hoarding rice. According to one anonymous whistleblower whose account was published in the Gentleman’s Magazine back in London:

Our Gentlemen in many places purchased the rice at 120 and 140 seers a rupee [a seer was about two pounds], which they afterwards sold for 15 seers a rupee, to the Black [Indian] merchants, so that the persons principally concerned have made great fortunes by it; and one of our writers…not esteemed to be worth 1,000 rupees last year, has sent down it is said £60,000 to be remitted home this year.

In Calcutta, the same source went on, “one could not pass the streets without seeing multitudes in their last agonies,” while “numbers of dead were seen with dogs, jackalls, hogs, vultures and other birds and beasts of prey feeding on their carcases.”

Back home, denunciations of the company’s conduct equaled in vehemence anything that would be uttered by nationalist Indians in the later stages of British rule. One satire attacked the directors of the company, among them “Sir Janus Blubber,” “Caliban Clodpate,” “Sir Judas Venom,” and “Lord Vulture,” as a “scandalous confederacy to plunder and strip.” But when Clive was investigated by Parliament on charges of amassing a fortune illegally, his achievements in defeating the French and increasing company revenues counted for more than the regime of plunder he had overseen—and Parliament included company shareholders and men who owed their seats to his largesse. Clive was exonerated in May 1773. The following year he committed suicide. He had, Samuel Johnson wrote, “acquired his fortune by such crimes that his consciousness of them impelled him to cut his own throat.”

The company was now a permanent subject of controversy in Britain, which was, in strenuous, unemphatic fits, moving from absolutism to accountability. But only rarely . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 May 2020 at 8:06 pm

Posted in Business, Government, Law, Military, Politics

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It’s never too late to start eating healthy

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Written by Leisureguy

29 May 2020 at 10:35 am

Attempts to build squirrel-proof bird feeder

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Ninja squirrels — impressive.

Written by Leisureguy

29 May 2020 at 10:03 am

The Racist Origins Of Trump’s ‘When The Looting Starts, The Shooting Starts’ Quote

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Sara Boboltz writes at HuffPost:

As protests intensified in Minneapolis following the death of a Black man pinned down by a white police officer, President Donald Trump issued a naked threat in a pair of tweets.

“I can’t stand back & watch this happen to a great American City, Minneapolis,” he wrote Thursday night. “Either the very weak Radical Left Mayor, Jacob Frey, get his act together and bring the City under control, or I will send in the National Guard & get the job done right.”

He continued in a second tweet: “These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!”

Twitter posted a content warning over the latter half of the president’s message, warning users that it violated the platform’s rules about glorifying violence but was still available out of public interest. (The same label was applied to an identical tweet from the official White House account.) It was the second time this week that the company labeled Trump’s tweets with some kind of content warning.

Trump did not coin the phrase “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” The line is half a century old, and combative Miami Police Chief Walter Headley Jr. originally used it during the height of civil rights protests in the 1960s.

Headley led the Florida city’s law enforcement from 1948 until his sudden death in 1968. He attracted national attention and condemnation in December 1967, when he threatened to step up already severe policing practices that included use of tear gas and an aggressive stop-and-frisk policy.

“This is war,” Headley told reporters, according to a United Press International article from the time. He described his problem with “young hoodlums, from 15 to 21, who have taken advantage of the civil rights campaign.”

“We don’t mind being accused of police brutality,” Headley said. “They haven’t seen anything yet.”

The police chief then explained that he maintained order by threatening violence: “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.”

His comments angered civil rights leaders at the time. Martin Davies, a spokesman for the NAACP, told UPI: “This man has no place in a position of public trust. If necessary, we will get a lawsuit to keep him from enforcing this type of arbitrary action.”

Headley’s news conference so alarmed residents that he was put before the Miami City Commission to explain himself, according to his New York Times obituary. He claimed his remarks had been partly misinterpreted, and the publication said he “held his ground on enforcement and gained the commission’s support.” The city council and its mayor were all white men at the time.

It wasn’t the first time Headley would publicly use the “looting” phrase, either. Facing criticism in August 1968 for remaining on vacation while riots broke out in Liberty City, a majority-Black neighborhood in Miami, Headley said his department could handle the situation without him. “They know what to do. When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” he said, according to the Times obituary.

His officers killed three people. Eighteen were wounded.

Headley’s defenders said he transformed the department, which Miami Herald columnist Charles Whited had once described as being “comprised of more beef than brains.” But it became known for brawny tactics.

In the Headley era, two cops strip-searched a Black teenager suspected of bringing a knife into a pool hall and dangled him by his feet over a bridge crossing the Miami River, according to a Washington Post article about the era’s unrest.

At the time, local leaders claimed Headley was effective, but his authoritarian policies increased distrust between the Black community and law enforcement ― a long trend that has since led to the Black Lives Matter movement.  . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 May 2020 at 10:02 am

Another insightful person: Heather Cox Richardson

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Heather Cox Richardson has a daily post that is well worth reading — and you can subscribe to it. Here’s her background, as listed on Wikipedia:

Heather Cox Richardson is an American historian and Professor of History at Boston College, where she teaches courses on the American Civil War, the Reconstruction Era, the American West, and the Plains Indians.[1] She previously taught at MIT and the University of Massachusetts.[2]

Richardson has authored six books. Her sixth, entitled How the South Won the Civil War: Oligarchy, Democracy, and the Continuing Fight for America, was published in March 2020 with Oxford University Press.[3]

She is also a founder and editor at, which presents professional history to a public audience through short articles. Between 2017 and 2018, she co-hosted the NPR podcast Freak Out and Carry On.[4] Most recently, Richardson started publishing “Letters from an American,” a nightly newsletter that chronicles the 2019 Trump–Ukraine scandal in the larger context of American history.[5][6]

. . . In late 2019, Richardson began writing a daily synopsis of political events surrounding the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump. Originally posted late every evening or in the early hours of the next day on her Facebook page, Richardson later moved to add a newsletter format, titled “Letters from an American”, published via Substack.[13]

The “About” for Letters from an American explains:

About Letters from an American

Historians are fond of saying that the past doesn’t repeat itself; it rhymes.

To understand the present, we have to understand how we got here.

That’s where this newsletter comes in.

I’m a professor of American history. This is a chronicle of today’s political landscape, but because you can’t get a grip on today’s politics without an outline of America’s Constitution, and laws, and the economy, and social customs, this newsletter explores what it means, and what it has meant, to be an American.

These were the same questions a famous observer asked in a book of letters he published in 1782, the year before the Treaty of Paris ended the Revolutionary War.

Hector St. John de Crevecoeur called his book “Letters from an American Farmer.”

Like I say, history doesn’t repeat itself, but it sure rhymes.

This page lists recent letters, and last night’s newsletter (which I receive via free email subscription, but is also posted on the Web) is a good example of why I find her insights invaluable. It begins:

The coronavirus pandemic has ripped the remaining tatters of cover off this country’s racial inequality as black Americans are dying in much higher numbers than white Americans. Racial inequality is not new, but racial brutality has become more and more obvious in the past several years as cell phones have recorded the deaths of black Americans at the hands of authorities or white Americans who took it upon themselves to police their black neighbors.

On Monday night, a Minneapolis police officer killed a handcuffed man, George Floyd, by kneeling on his neck for ten minutes as other officers either held him down or looked away. It took only five minutes for Floyd, who had initially begged “Please, please. I can’t breathe,” to stop moving. A passerby captured the murder on video, and it has been widely shared on social media.

Last night, in Minneapolis, and then Los Angeles, Denver, Chicago, and Manhattan, protesters took to the streets. In Minnesota, the protests turned into riots and looting after police greeted the protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets. This morning, after two nights of violent protests, the U.S. Department of Justice said it would make a federal investigation into the killing a “top priority.” Tonight, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz (D) called in the state’s National Guard to keep the peace.

It didn’t work: as I write, it appears the Minneapolis precinct police department whose officers were involved in the murder is on fire. Police are reporting that 170 businesses in St. Paul have been damaged and dozens of fires have been set. Protests have spread to Phoenix, Arizona, and to Louisville, Kentucky, too, where 26-year-old Breonna Taylor was killed in her home on March 13 by plainclothes police executing a warrant for a man who lived in a different part of Louisville and had already been arrested.

Historically, political rioting in America is an attempt to call attention to a perceived injustice. In its aftermath, ordinary citizens decide whether or not the rioting was justified. Usually, they support social justice movements and shut down reactionary mobs.

When associated with a political riot, looting takes on a political meaning as well. If a population feels that the law is oppressing them—as it did for African Americans during slavery times, for example—they often break the law deliberately to illustrate their opposition to it (as African American abolitionists did in the years before the Civil War). There are always bad eggs in any mob scene, but in this case the larger story of the looting, after an event where an officer of the law murdered an unresisting man in full view of an audience, demonstrating his sense of untouchability, falls into a pretty well established historical pattern.

Crucially, white Americans are finally paying attention to the violence against the black community. I suspect the reason for this attention is that the current leadership of the Republican Party has gone so far toward consolidating power in favor of an oligarchy that ordinary white Americans are identifying with marginalized people. This is precisely what happened in the 1850s, when even desperately racist white Americans pushed back against the elite slave owners taking control of the American government because they recognized that they, too, could be sacrificed if leaders thought they stood in the way of the economic system that enriched a few.

Another story from last night illustrates exactly this point, showing the lengths to which Republican leaders are willing to go to achieve their legislative goals. In Pennsylvania, a member of the state legislature tested positive for Covid-19. He told his Republican colleagues, who engaged in appropriate quarantining and distancing, but neither they nor the Republican House Speaker, Mike Turzai, told the Democrats, who learned much later that one of their colleagues had tested positive for coronavirus from a reporter.

People outside the legislature learned of the situation last night, when Democratic Representative Brian Sims posted a passionate video on Twitter, angrily calling out his Republican colleagues for putting lives at risk. Sims revealed that he had recently donated a kidney to a patient dying of kidney failure, putting him at particularly high risk of contracting the coronavirus. His outrage that his Republican colleagues would keep such vital information from him and his Democratic colleagues, in order to make sure their goal of reopening the state did not falter, resonated. The idea that Republicans who, theoretically, were supposed to be working with Democrats for the good of Pennsylvanians, would deliberately endanger the life of a man who had secretly donated a kidney seemed the epitome of partisanship gone toxic.

More stories today illustrated that the Republicans are determined to cement their ideology into law no matter what voters want. Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told judges over 65 that they should consider retiring to make sure Trump could fill their seats. “This is an historic opportunity. We’ve put over 200 federal judges on the bench. I think 1 in 5 federal judges are Trump appointees. … So if you’re a circuit judge in your mid-60s, late 60s, you can take senior status; now would be a good time to do that if you want to make sure the judiciary is right of center. This is a good time to do it,” Graham added.

Yesterday, Senate Democrats released a report examining how Republican leaders, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have packed the courts. Funded by millions of dollars of “dark money” contributions, they are “rolling back the clock on civil rights, consumer protections, and the rights of ordinary Americans, reliably putting a thumb on the scale in favor of corporate and Republican political interests.” The report notes that the House has passed more than 350 bills this session, nearly 90% of which are bi-partisan and popular, but that McConnell has refused to take them up, focusing instead on judicial confirmations. This “judicial capture” is designed to rewrite federal law “to favor the rich and powerful.”

Their point had another illustration today, when we learned that . . .

Continue reading.

She is of a scholarly mindset, so her columns end with links of sources. The column quoted above has these Notes at the end:



Marc Short:



GOP fears:


Breonna Taylor:

Looting and fires:

Economic projection halted:

Social media e.o.

Written by Leisureguy

29 May 2020 at 9:27 am

Trump said, “I have the best words.” Sarah Cooper shows how.

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The article begins:

Donald Trump has some ideas about fighting the coronavirus. “We hit the body with a tremendous, whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light,” the president says, to the bafflement of nearby aides. “Supposing, I said, you brought the light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or … in some other way,” continues the president, gesturing toward her —

Her? I should explain. The words are 100 percent Donald J. Trump’s. The actions belong to the comedian Sarah Cooper, whose homemade lip-syncs of the president’s rambling pandemic-related statements have become the most effective impression of Mr. Trump yet.

Ms. Cooper posted that first video, titled “How to Medical,” to TikTok and Twitter in April. In a 49-second tour de force, Ms. Cooper illustrates his musings on light and disinfectant using a lamp and household cleaning products, playing the president’s puzzled aide in cutaways.

She captures her Trump entirely through pantomime. She crosses her arms and bounces on her heels, like a C.E.O. filibustering through a meeting while the staff suffers. Plenty of wags seized on Mr. Trump’s bleach prescription for easy jokes, but her performance gets at something deeper: the peacocky entitlement of the longtime boss who is used to having his every whim indulged, his every thought-doodle praised as a Michelangelo.

Ms. Cooper has been on a tear since, her karaoke Trump holding forth on the math of disease testing and wrestling with what it means to test “positively” for a virus. Channeling the president’s announcement that he was taking the drug hydroxychloroquine (against prevailing medical advice) as a Covid preventive, she’s a manic Willy Wonka, handing out a blister pack of pills to herself as a girl in pigtails.

Long before he was elected, Donald Trump posed the challenge of being easy to imitate, and thus nearly impossible to satirize. Everyone has a Trump, and when everyone has a Trump, no one does.

A big problem comes when a writer tries to take the president’s belligerent spoken jazz (“I know words. I have the best words”) and force it into comedic 4/4 time. Even the most lacerating satire has to impose coherence on Mr. Trump, which — like news reports that try to find a narrative in his ramblings — ends up polishing the reality, losing the chaos essential to the genuine article.

Which maybe destined Donald Trump to be the TikTok president. The service was built around the concept of lip-sync videos, and to spoof this president, the perfect script is no script.

Before Ms. Cooper’s “How to Medical,” other TikTok users riffed on a Trump ramble about the power of “germs.” Kylie Scott posted “Drunk in the Club After Covid,” lip-syncing Mr. Trump’s words as a rambling inebriate, finding 80-proof logic in the teetotaler president’s musings.

“The germ has gotten so brilliant,” she mouths — cradling a drink, squinting her eyes and spiraling a finger toward her temple — “that the antibiotic can’t keep up with it.” (A TikTok search on “#drunktrump” yields a growing crop of examples.) . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 May 2020 at 9:03 am

Martin de Candre seems to require a balm for a soft, supple result

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Whereas some shaving soaps — Declaration Grooming’s Milksteak line and Phoenix Artisan’s CK-6 line — are formulated to be moisturizing, so that using just an aftershave splash is fine,  Martin de Candre’s simple formula, which does make a fine and slick lather, lacks such ingredients, so the post-shave result if you use just a splash is skin that feels dry rather than soft and supple.

The answer suggested by yesterday’s shave is that the moisturizing ingredients the soap lacks must be provided by the aftershave, and that means using a balm or an aftershave milk. I planned to use my D.R. Harris After Shaving Milk, a wonderful rose-frangranced concoction, forgetting that it was a casualty of the move. So I went with a balm, one of the Phoenix Artisan Star Jelly line: the Alt-Eleven shown.

First, though, the shave: the excellent Keyhole brush from Italian Barber has the fine bristles that have worked so well with MdC, and again the lather was all that one could ask in terms of consistency, slickness, and fragrance. The razor this morning, also from Italian Barber, is their Old Type, which has the same extreme comfort combined with extreme efficiency demonstrated by the Yaqi DOC of the two previous shaves. These razors are so comfortable that, as you use them, it doesn’t feel as though they doing much, so the resulting BBS result is somewhat startling. With most of my other highly efficient razors, the feel promises efficiency; with these, the feel doesn’t even touch efficiency, which comes as a diffident, by-the-way sort of afterthought.

Then the Star Jelly balm. It is very lightly mentholated, just enough to hint at the cooling effect of an alcohol splash. Phoenix Artisan describes its ingredients thus (from the Dapper Doc Star Jelly, the Alt-Eleven not shown — and the packaging is new and seems better as well: a pump bottle):

Star Jelly?

If an aftershave balm and alcohol based splash were to have a baby, our Star Jelly Aftershave Formula would be their love child. Not to be confused with an alcohol free balm, meaning; this stuff still contains alcohol and a kiss of menthol to give you that classic splash feel at first. Then there is that familiar cool down we all know and love…but something more is going on, something cosmic!

Unlike traditional balms, our Star Jelly absorbs rapidly into freshly shaven skin without any greasy, heavy feeling build up! Star Jelly leaves your skin moisturized and silky.  A refreshing, alternative that you instantly will fall in love with! 

What’s Inside?

Allantoin: a naturally ocurring nitrogenous compound used as a skin conditioning agent. It can be derived from animals, however the allantoin we use is derived from plants.

Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides: from coconut oil and glycerin, it’s considered an excellent emollient. It’s included in cosmetics due to its mix of fatty acids that skin can use to resist moisture loss. This ingredient’s value for skin is made greater by the fact that it’s considered gentle.

Vegetable Glycerine: is derived from soy and is used in cosmetics and body care products to assist in retaining moisture. It is invaluable as a natural source ingredient with emollient like properties which can soften the skin.

Ingredients: Deionized Water, Perfumers Alcohol, Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides, Glycerin, Butylene Glycol, Caprylyl Methicone, Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP Copolymer, Cetearyl Alcohol, Allantoin, Menthol, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Hexylene Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin

It’s certainly true that the balm is rapidly absorbed, and it did indeed leave my skin feeling soft and supple (and — thanks to the soap and the razors — totally smooth as well).

Now I want to try an aftershave milk. I have a couple. I’ll use one tomorrow.

Written by Leisureguy

29 May 2020 at 8:20 am

Posted in Shaving

Capitalism and death: Private equity and nursing homes — and death (and money)

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Lucy Schiller writes at

RECENTLY, MY GRANDMOTHER LOUISE and I have discovered new uses for the slender stainless steel device known as a turkey lacer. Usually, it stitches up an avian cavity; under our set of circumstances, it gently scrapes out my grandmother’s hearing aids and loosens Velcro rollers from her hair. Our discovery of the implement’s many uses has come out of a particular necessity. About three weeks ago, my extended family extracted Louise from her assisted living facility in Denver, which is owned by a company called Brookdale Senior Living, the largest operator of senior living facilities in the United States. In the frantic move, which was spurred by a sudden burst of Covid-19 deaths in her facility, as well as similar facilities around the country, several things were lost: whatever item is actually meant to clean her hearing aids, the shoehorn she needs, a few slightly-less-essential medications.

I’m giving Louise a pseudonym in case she ever returns to her Brookdale facility. Her boyfriend still lives there, as do many of her friends. She didn’t necessarily want to leave, but she also doesn’t know if she wants to go back: at the time of this writing, her facility has twenty-six Covid-positive patients inside, most of whom Brookdale moved there from their other facilities, with seemingly no warning to residents or most staff. If residents return to the facility, they must undergo a strict two-week quarantine—but everyone inside is already on lockdown, and the two-week clock resets with every new case. Effectively, residents in Louise’s facility have been quarantined for two months in their rooms, while on the fourth floor, Covid-positive residents from Brookdale facilities across Denver struggle.

News on the building’s death statistics comes to residents and their families via mass Zoom calls. We have tried to keep good cheer around Louise, removed so far from her home. After dinner one night, we trotted out a bag of crackerjacks that had come with her from Brookdale—staff had left them at each resident’s door, to cheer them up during their enforced self-isolation. We thought she’d be pleased, but as she began to snack, Louise looked slightly rueful. “I’ll have to check the bill at the end of the month,” she said, “to see if they charged me for these.”

The comment piqued my interest. The move was tiring, and Louise was sleeping a lot of the day. Filled with that restlessly angry quarantine feeling, I began to read two large tomes about private long-term care, released into the world nearly a century apart from one another—Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain for joy and humor, and Brookdale’s 10-K filings with the U.S Securities and Exchange Commission for everything else. More than half of Colorado’s Covid deaths have been tied to senior care facilities; I felt, reading, like I was working to fill in the background, the backstory of an unfurling plot. I didn’t yet understand the differences between assisted living, skilled nursing, memory care, independent living, and all of the other deadening terms that the senior living industry very carefully defines—for each has its own profit to make, and each unit can be fitted to another one, like a Lego landscape in which you stand “aging in place,” as the industry calls the very lucrative act of being alive.

In the first few pages of Brookdale’s most recent 10-K, the document that most comprehensively sums up a company’s financial performance to investors, I read that although Brookdale only operates two senior living facilities in the state of Delaware (for comparison, they operate eighty-seven facilities in Florida), the company is what is known as a Delaware Corporation, incorporated there presumably for the state’s amorous relationship to its many big businesses. “The First State,” reported the New York Times in 2012, “land of DuPont, broiler chickens and, as it happens, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., increasingly resembles a freewheeling offshore haven, right on America’s shores.” Reading further, I began feeling increasingly like that endlessly replicated gif so many have used to express the political web in which we’re stickily wrapped—Charlie from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia gesturing frantically at his complex diagram of an office mail system. It would be funny if it weren’t so numbing, the largeness of the Brookdale web, and the many directions into which one could look.

You could write a whole book, for instance, on simply the part of the story set in Nashville, where Brookdale is actually headquartered, in a little bronchiole of Brentwood, not far from where Taylor Swift keeps a house. There, too, sits one of the corporate offices of DaVita—whose logo you might recognize from their strip mall dialysis centers across the country—and HCA, the Healthcare Corporation of America. One of the first hospital management companies in the United States, it sprung up uncannily around the same time as Medicare and was structured explicitly after KFC. HCA, of course, remains slightly fragrant with Florida ex-Governor Rick Scott’s tenure as its CEO, during which, one might say, he oversaw the largest Medicare fraud in American history.

Today, for-profit health care companies in Nashville number more than five hundred. They rake in nearly $47 billion in annual revenue. Many of them have been backed by the same tangle of hedge funds, in different permutations over time, those vaguely pastoral names redolent of New England subdivisions: BlackRock, Glenview, Deerfield. Several of these for-profit health care companies donate, too, to the same Tennessee Trumper politicians (Brookdale via its own PAC): Bill Hagerty, Nashville native and free market health care proponent, and Marsha Blackburn, who has voted numerous times to repeal the ACA.

Propelled by the winds of private equity firms like BlackRock, Deerfield, and Glenview Capital Management, Brookdale has, in the past few years, set forth on a strategy of consolidation. They have . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

28 May 2020 at 8:47 pm

The love that lays the swale in rows

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Nicholas Carr writes in his blog:

There’s a line of verse I’m always coming back to, and it’s been on my mind more than usual over these last few disorienting months:

The fact is the sweetest dream that labor knows.

It’s the second to last line of one of Robert Frost’s earliest and best poems, a sonnet called “Mowing.” He wrote it just after the turn of the twentieth century, when he was a young man, in his twenties, with a young family. He was working as a farmer, raising chickens and tending a few apple trees on a small plot of land his grandfather had bought for him in Derry, New Hampshire. It was a difficult time in his life. He had little money and few prospects. He had dropped out of two colleges, Dartmouth and Harvard, without earning a degree. He had been unsuccessful in a succession of petty jobs. He was sickly. He had nightmares. His firstborn child, a son, had died of cholera at the age of three. His marriage was troubled. “Life was peremptory,” Frost would later recall, “and threw me into confusion.”

But it was during those lonely years in Derry that he came into his own as a writer and an artist. Something about farming—the long, repetitive days, the solitary work, the closeness to nature’s beauty and carelessness—inspired him. The burden of labor eased the burden of life. “If I feel timeless and immortal it is from having lost track of time for five or six years there,” he would write of his stay in Derry. “We gave up winding clocks. Our ideas got untimely from not taking newspapers for a long period. It couldn’t have been more perfect if we had planned it or foreseen what we were getting into.” In the breaks between chores on the farm, Frost somehow managed to write most of the poems for his first book, A Boy’s Will; about half the poems for his second book, North of Boston; and a good number of other poems that would find their way into subsequent volumes.

“Mowing,” from A Boy’s Will, was the greatest of his Derry lyrics. It was the poem in which he found his distinctive voice: plainspoken and conversational, but also sly and dissembling. (To really understand Frost—to really understand anything, including yourself—requires as much mistrust as trust.) As with many of his best works, “Mowing” has an enigmatic, almost hallucinatory quality that belies the simple and homely picture it paints—in this case of a man cutting a field of grass for hay. The more you read the poem, the deeper and stranger it becomes:

There was never a sound beside the wood but one,
And that was my long scythe whispering to the ground.
What was it it whispered? I knew not well myself;
Perhaps it was something about the heat of the sun,
Something, perhaps, about the lack of sound—
And that was why it whispered and did not speak.
It was no dream of the gift of idle hours,
Or easy gold at the hand of fay or elf:
Anything more than the truth would have seemed too weak
To the earnest love that laid the swale in rows,
Not without feeble-pointed spikes of flowers
(Pale orchises), and scared a bright green snake.
The fact is the sweetest dream that labor knows.
My long scythe whispered and left the hay to make.

We rarely look to poetry for instruction anymore, but here we see how a poet’s scrutiny of the world can be more subtle and discerning than a scientist’s. Frost understood the meaning of the mental state we now call “flow” long before psychologists and neurobiologists delivered the empirical evidence. His mower is not an airbrushed peasant, a rustic caricature. He’s a farmer, a man doing a hard job on a still, hot summer day. He’s not dreaming of “idle hours” or “easy gold.” His mind is on his work—the bodily rhythm of the cutting, the weight of the tool in his hands, the stalks piling up around him. He’s not seeking some greater truth beyond the work. The work is the truth.

The fact is the sweetest dream that labor knows.

There are mysteries in that line. Its power lies in its . . .

Continue reading.

Old tools can be better than new tools: cf. shaving, pens, paper, and more.

Written by Leisureguy

28 May 2020 at 5:41 pm

Posted in Daily life, Technology

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