Later On

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

Archive for June 11th, 2020

A Facebook account copied Trump’s words. Facebook censored the account for inciting violence.

leave a comment »

And yet Facebook will take no steps against powerful/wealthy people. Mark Zuckerberg is a despicable person — and does not embrace American values of equal treatment. David Gilbert reports in Vice:

UPDATE Thursday, June 11, 2020 6:56 p.m.: After the original story was published, the account holder confirmed that the post had been restored without warning. Facebook told VICE News the post had been deleted in error, but when asked how that error happened, Facebook failed to respond.

An account that copies word-for-word what the U.S. president posts on Facebook has been told to delete a controversial comment even though President Trump’s post was left untouched.

The SuspendThePres account was set up as an experiment to show how social media platforms treat high-profile public figures — specifically Trump — differently from ordinary users.

Last week a Twitter version of the account was temporarily suspended for posting the same message.

On Thursday it reported that Facebook had followed Twitter’s lead in forcing it to delete the controversial post, which includes the inflammatory phrase “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” which has racist origins.

The account was warned that a repeat would trigger an automatic 24-hour suspension.

The reason Facebook gave the account holder, who has remained anonymous, was that the post “goes against Community standards on violence and incitement.” . . .

Continue reading. There’s more, and it’s worth reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 June 2020 at 8:56 pm

Languages spoken in the US

leave a comment »

From Wikpedia:

Tree map of languages spoken in the United States by number of speakers (note: “Chinese” is a family of languages) from United StatesModern Language Association.

Interesting that Native American languages (Navajo, Cherokee, and so on) don’t even show up. I wonder whether they would be visible if you lumped them all together, as was done for the various languages from China.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 June 2020 at 8:35 pm

Posted in Daily life

What is a melody? – Leonard Bernstein’s Young People Concert

leave a comment »

I enjoyed this.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 June 2020 at 8:07 pm

Posted in Music, Video

Strange sensation vis-à-vis Esperanto and Duolingo

leave a comment »

I’ve been doing Duolingo now for less than two months (53 days, to be exact) and I do around 100-200XP per day, sometimes more. What I’ve noticed the most recent few days is that my experience in listening to the dictated passages has totally changed: I now hear them clearly, though before I had to click the repeat button again and again, working out the sentence word by word and often not getting it at all. Now I don’t see what the problem was.

And when I go back to an earlier lesson to “fix” the “broken” skill by doing a practice session, I listen to sentences I know I struggled to understand earlier, but now they’re clear as a bell. It really is training a neural net, and as the net is trained, the errors diminish. And of course what’s happening — the improvement — lies outside conscious awareness, so it seems that it just mysteriously clarifies itself.

I mentioned this to The Wife who speaks fluent French, and she described how she recalls reading Diary of a Country Priest in French one fall and working through it, understanding all the words but not getting much, and then at the end of that school year reading it again and this time really reading it, and getting the story. Again, because of the intensive work, the improvement was clear because the time span was short.

Two months was suggested as the amount of study required to start really understanding Esperanto, and for me that’s a week away, so it seems that things are happening pretty much on schedule. Still, it’s an odd sensation to have understanding occur when before there was puzzlement.

I will say I’ve been working quite steadily, every day, and in those earlier passages that I just couldn’t understand, when Duolingo displayed the correct answer, I would repeatedly play the dictation, following along by reading the answer, until I could hear it clearly, and then I would listen several more times with my eyes shut, just focusing on understanding — and I was doing this deliberately to train my own neural net. And it seems to be working.

I have to say I’m enjoying this.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 June 2020 at 7:56 pm

Posted in Daily life, Esperanto

The Myth of the Kindly General Robert E. Lee

leave a comment »

Adam Serwer wrote in the Atlantic three years ago:

The strangest part about the continued personality cult of Robert E. Lee is how few of the qualities his admirers profess to see in him he actually possessed.

Memorial Day has the tendency to conjure up old arguments about the Civil War. That’s understandable; it was created to mourn the dead of a war in which the Union was nearly destroyed, when half the country rose up in rebellion in defense of slavery. This year, the removal of Lee’s statue in New Orleans has inspired a new round of commentary about Lee, not to mention protests on his behalf by white supremacists.

The myth of Lee goes something like this: He was a brilliant strategist and devoted Christian man who abhorred slavery and labored tirelessly after the war to bring the country back together.

There is little truth in this. Lee was a devout Christian, and historians regard him as an accomplished tactician. But despite his ability to win individual battles, his decision to fight a conventional war against the more densely populated and industrialized North is considered by many historians to have been a fatal strategic error.

But even if one conceded Lee’s military prowess, he would still be responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans in defense of the South’s authority to own millions of human beings as property because they are black. Lee’s elevation is a key part of a 150-year-old propaganda campaign designed to erase slavery as the cause of the war and whitewash the Confederate cause as a noble one. That ideology is known as the Lost Cause, and as the historian David Blight writes, it provided a “foundation on which Southerners built the Jim Crow system.”

There are unwitting victims of this campaign—those who lack the knowledge to separate history from sentiment. Then there are those whose reverence for Lee relies on replacing the actual Lee with a mythical figure who never truly existed.

In the Richmond Times DispatchR. David Cox wrote that “for white supremacist protesters to invoke his name violates Lee’s most fundamental convictions.” In the conservative publication TownhallJack Kerwick concluded that Lee was “among the finest human beings that has ever walked the Earth.” John Daniel Davidson, in an essay for The Federalistopposed the removal of the Lee statute in part on the grounds that Lee “arguably did more than anyone to unite the country after the war and bind up its wounds.” Praise for Lee of this sort has flowed forth from past historians and presidents alike.

This is too divorced from Lee’s actual life to even be classed as fan fiction; it is simply historical illiteracy.

White supremacy does not “violate” Lee’s “most fundamental convictions.” White supremacy was one of Lee’s most fundamental convictions.

Lee was a slave owner—his own views on slavery were explicated in an 1856 letter that is often misquoted to give the impression that Lee was some kind of abolitionist. In the letter, he describes slavery as “a moral & political evil,” but goes on to explain that:

I think it however a greater evil to the white man than to the black race, & while my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more strong for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things. How long their subjugation may be necessary is known & ordered by a wise Merciful Providence. Their emancipation will sooner result from the mild & melting influence of Christianity, than the storms & tempests of fiery Controversy.

The argument here is that slavery is bad for white people, good for black people, and most important, better than abolitionism; emancipation must wait for divine intervention. That black people might not want to be slaves does not enter into the equation; their opinion on the subject of their own bondage is not even an afterthought to Lee.

Lee’s cruelty as a slave master was not confined to physical punishment. In Reading the Man, the historian Elizabeth Brown Pryor’s portrait of Lee through his writings, Pryor writes that “Lee ruptured the Washington and Custis tradition of respecting slave families” by hiring them off to other plantations, and that “by 1860 he had broken up every family but one on the estate, some of whom had been together since Mount Vernon days.” The separation of slave families was one of the most unfathomably devastating aspects of slavery, and Pryor wrote that Lee’s slaves regarded him as “the worst man I ever see.”

The trauma of rupturing families lasted lifetimes for the enslaved—it was, as my colleague Ta-Nehisi Coates described it, “a kind of murder.” After the war, thousands of the emancipated searched desperately for kin lost to the market for human flesh, fruitlessly for most. In Reconstruction, the historian Eric Foner quotes a Freedmen’s Bureau agent who notes of the emancipated, “In their eyes, the work of emancipation was incomplete until the families which had been dispersed by slavery were reunited.”

Lee’s heavy hand on the Arlington, Virginia, plantation, Pryor writes, nearly led to a slave revolt, in part because the enslaved had been expected to be freed upon their previous master’s death, and Lee had engaged in a dubious legal interpretation of his will in order to keep them as his property, one that lasted until a Virginia court forced him to free them.

When two of his slaves escaped and were recaptured, Lee either beat them himself or ordered the overseer to “lay it on well.” Wesley Norris, one of the slaves who was whipped, recalled that “not satisfied with simply lacerating our naked flesh, Gen. Lee then ordered the overseer to thoroughly wash our backs with brine, which was done.”

Every state that seceded mentioned slavery as the cause in their declarations of secession. Lee’s beloved Virginia was no different, accusing the federal government of “perverting” its powers “not only to the injury of the people of Virginia, but to the oppression of the Southern Slaveholding States.” Lee’s decision to fight for the South can only be described as a choice to fight for the continued existence of human bondage in America—even though for the Union, it was not at first a war for emancipation.

During his invasion of Pennsylvania, Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia enslaved free black Americans and brought them back to the South as property. Pryor writes that “evidence links virtually every infantry and cavalry unit in Lee’s army” to the abduction of free black Americans, “with the activity under the supervision of senior officers.”

Soldiers under Lee’s command at the Battle of the Crater in 1864 massacred black Union soldiers who tried to surrender. Then, in a spectacle hatched by Lee’s senior corps commander, A. P. Hill, the Confederates paraded the Union survivors through the streets of Petersburg to the slurs and jeers of the southern crowd. Lee never discouraged such behavior. As the historian Richard Slotkin wrote in No Quarter: The Battle of the Crater, “his silence was permissive.”

The presence of black soldiers on the field of battle shattered every myth that the South’s slave empire was built on: the happy docility of slaves, their intellectual inferiority, their cowardice, their inability to compete with white people. As Pryor writes, “fighting against brave and competent African Americans challenged every underlying tenet of southern society.” The Confederate response to this challenge was to visit every possible atrocity and cruelty upon black soldiers whenever possible, from enslavement to execution.

As the historian James McPherson recounts in Battle Cry of Freedom, in October of that same year, Lee proposed an exchange of prisoners with the Union general Ulysses S. Grant. “Grant agreed, on condition that black soldiers be exchanged ‘the same as white soldiers.’” Lee’s response was that “negroes belonging to our citizens are not considered subjects of exchange and were not included in my proposition.” Because slavery was the cause for which Lee fought, he could hardly be expected to easily concede, even at the cost of the freedom of his own men, that black people could be treated as soldiers and not things. Grant refused the offer, telling Lee . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 June 2020 at 6:59 pm

Border officials spent emergency humanitarian funds on dirt bikes, dogs and enforcement programs

leave a comment »

Customs and Border Protection is a despicable agency — the Minneapolis Police Department of Federal agencies. Nick Miroff reports in the Washington Post:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection used emergency funding meant for migrant families and children to pay for dirt bikes, canine supplies, computer equipment and other enforcement related-expenditures, according to a report published Thursday by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

Congress last June approved a $4.6 billion emergency funding bill to cope with an unprecedented inflŭ of Central American families and children at the U.S.-Mexico border that left U.S. agents overwhelmed and detention cells dangerously crowded.

The supplemental bill included a line item for about $112 million in “consumables and medical care,” but CBP used some of the money to pay for enforcement-related hardware and expenses that were not authorized, according to the GAO, the federal government’s leading oversight agency.

CBP spent some of the funds on motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles, boats and other transportation equipment, as well as supplies and services for CBP’s canine program, vaccines for CBP personnel, computer upgrades, printers and security camera systems and other expenses, the report found.

The GAO report did not indicate how much money was misused, but it said the expenditures were a violation of the law.

“CBP did not provide any explanation as to how these items relate to the consumables and medical care line item appropriation,” the report states. “Therefore, we conclude that CBP violated the purpose statute when it obligated the consumables and medical care line item appropriation for these purposes and should adjust its accounts.”

The crisis at the southern border reached a peak in the weeks before the supplemental was passed, when CBP detained and processed more than 144,000 unauthorized migrants in May 2019. The majority were family groups from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, and in most cases they were issued an appointment to appear in immigration court and released into the interior of the United States.

Overcrowding and unsanitary conditions in CBP border stations grew dire, and the deaths of seven children in less than one year put additional pressure on lawmakers to provide the border agency with the emergency funds it was seeking. Once the bill was passed, conditions at the border rapidly improved, as border officials set up spacious temporary facilities with air conditioning, toys and games for children and ample food and medical supplies.

Some lawmakers who voted against the emergency funding, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N. Y), argued at the time that the Trump administration would redirect the money to enforcement. Democrats were divided, but the bill passed both the Senate and House by a wide margin.

“Congress provided this additional funding for the primary purpose of improving conditions for migrants at the border and ensuring migrants were receiving adequate health care after the deaths of multiple children in custody,” Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said in a statement Thursday. “This callous disregard for the law is yet another example of this administration’s continuing failure to carry out its duty to provide humane conditions and medical care for migrants in its care.

CBP said in a statement Thursday that the report is . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 June 2020 at 6:19 pm

Great photo by Kevin Drum

leave a comment »

Story of the photo.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 June 2020 at 6:01 pm

Posted in Daily life

Another great lather and the Edwin Jagger workaround

with 4 comments

Since I seem to be focused for now on lathers, D.R. Harris naturally must appear. Back before the artisanal shave-soap scene took off, and long before the super-premium lathers like Milksteak and CK-6, we mostly used traditional brands, and in those days I would from time to time say to myself, “Wow! Great lather today,” and then realize that I was using a D.R. Harris soap. It happened repeatedly, which indicates that the Harris lather is indeed better than most of the shaving soaps I had.

And it still is a good lather. When Taylor of Old Bond Street and Geo. F. Trumper and Truefitt & Hill outsourced their shaving soap manufacture, and in so doing allowed a change of formula, the quality of the soaps suffered noticeably. D.R. Harris kept making its soap in-house.

I like to use the Wee Scot with a shave stick to flaunt its impressive lather capacity, and again today there were loads of lather available for all three passes and beyond.

Yesterday I mentioned that the threaded shaft on Edwin Jagger razors is chrome-plated Zamak, and though the chrome plating is excellent, the underlying material lacks tensile strength (though is well-adapted for the molding process). Thus it is important to minimize the stress on the threaded stud from the cap, which means that, while it should be snug enough not to loosen during the shave, it should not be tight. If you tighten it to much, the stress will weaken it so that in time it will simply break off even though the impact was slight.

So that’s one workaround: avoid over-tightening. Another is to use a material with greater tensile strength, and today’s razor, the RazoRock MJ90-A, is an Edwin Jagger clone with a head of machined aluminum. (The handle is stainless steel, and the the ribbed treatment provides a secure grip.) Construction details from the link:

What is the MJ-90A? We took the ever popular DE89 razor head, studied it, analyzed all it’s positive and negative qualities and made it WAY better!

What did we do and why is it better?

1) Materials: Instead of low-quality zinc-alloy (Zamak/pot metal), we used aircraft aluminum block for the head and 316L stainless steel rod for the handle.

2) Build: Instead of cheap, non-precise stamping/casting, we have built the razor using precision CNC milling, both for the head and handle. The tolerances are superior to the DE89.

3) Design: Instead of having the blade tabs exposed, we have milled the tolerances of the guideposts to precisely hold the blade with very little blade play, meaning the blade tabs can be covered, protecting your precious ear lobes 🙂

4) Longevity: The DE89 is well known for its threaded post snapping off. Why? Because it uses cheap pot metal and because it’s post is spot welded on. Drop it from 12-18 inches and the post breaks off into the handle rendering your $40-45 razor useless and ready for the landfill. We completely milled the top cap from a block of aircraft aluminum, meaning the top cap is one solid piece, no broken posts here!

5) Handle: Instead of using a hollow cheap handle, we have milled our handle from solid 316L marine-grade stainless steel and hand polished it. We have also milled in our RazoRock Halo rings for extreme grip and comfort!

At US$30, it is priced lower than most EJ razors. And this morning it effortlessly delivered a great shave.

A splash of Marlborough — I love the woody fragrance — and the day begins.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 June 2020 at 10:18 am

Posted in Shaving

%d bloggers like this: