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Archive for June 18th, 2020

‘Banking While Black’: How Cashing a Check Can Be a Minefield

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The US has a LONG way to go to reform race relations and end the doctrine of white supremacy and privilege. Emily Flitter reports in the NY Times:

Clarice Middleton shook with fear as she stood on the sidewalk outside a Wells Fargo branch in Atlanta one December morning in 2018. Moments earlier, she had tried to cash a $200 check, only to be accused of fraud by three branch employees, who then called 911.

Ms. Middleton, who is black, remembers thinking: “I don’t want to die.”

For many black Americans, going to the bank can be a fraught experience. Something as simple as trying to cash a check or open a bank account can lead to suspicious employees summoning the police, causing anxiety and fear — and sometimes even physical danger — for the accused customers.

There is no data on how frequently the police are called on customers who are making legitimate everyday transactions. The phenomenon has its own social media hashtag: #BankingWhileBlack.

Most people who experience an episode of racial profiling don’t report it, lawyers say. Some find it easier to engage in private settlement negotiations. The few who sue — as Ms. Middleton did — are unlikely to win in court because of loopholes in the law. Now, the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, which set off nationwide protests against systemic racism, is prompting more people to speak up.

Ms. Middleton had gone to the Wells Fargo branch in Druid Hills, a wealthy, mostly white neighborhood in Atlanta, to cash a refund for a security deposit from a real estate company that had an account with the bank. Three bank employees examined the check and her identification, but refused to look at the additional proof Ms. Middleton offered. They declared the check fraudulent, and one employee called the police, according to her lawsuit.

When an officer arrived, Ms. Middleton showed him her identification and the check stub. As a former bank teller, she knew that would be proof enough that her check was authentic. The officer left without taking action. The Wells Fargo employees asked Ms. Middleton whether she still wanted to cash the check.

“I said yes, because they had written all over the back of the check,” said Ms. Middleton, who sued Wells Fargo last year for racial discrimination and defamation and sought an unspecified amount of damages.

Mary Eshet, a Wells Fargo spokeswoman, said Ms. Middleton had begun yelling “abusive and profane language” at the employees when she saw her ID being scanned.

“Employees tried to address Ms. Middleton’s concerns by explaining our policies, but Ms. Middleton continued to yell profane language,” Ms Eshet said. “She was asked to leave the branch multiple times and refused, so our employees followed their processes to engage law enforcement.” She added that the bank “appreciates the sensitivities of engaging law enforcement and the importance of continually reviewing our training, policies and procedures.”

Ms. Middleton’s lawyer, Yechezkel Rodal, said her client had not used profanity. “Wells Fargo is in possession of the video surveillance showing exactly what happened in the branch that morning,” he said. “The video will not support Wells Fargo’s lies.”

Some incidents play out without the involvement of police or courts.

In March 2019, Jabari Bennett wanted to withdraw $6,400 in cash to buy a used Toyota Camry from a dealership in Wilmington, Del. He had just sold his house in Atlanta and moved to Wilmington to live with his mother. Having been a Wells Fargo customer for four years — he had around $70,000 in his account from the sale of his house — Mr. Bennett walked into a nearby branch expecting to be back at the dealership and in his Camry within minutes.

He came away empty-handed and reeling.

First, a teller refused to accept that he was the account holder, questioning his out-of-state driver’s license, he said — even though Mr. Bennett had informed the bank of his new address just two weeks earlier. Then, a branch manager told Mr. Bennett to leave. He left in disbelief, then returned to try to complete the transaction. This time, the manager threatened to call the police. Mr. Bennett left again.

The experience “made me feel like I was nothing,” Mr. Bennett said.

He abandoned the deal on the car. A week later, he moved all his money out of Wells Fargo and then hired Mr. Rodal, who had gained a reputation for representing black customers against the bank after the story of one of his clients went viral in 2018. Mr. Rodal sent Wells Fargo a letter, but negotiations stalled.

Mr. Bennett decided to share his story publicly in light of the recent protests: “I don’t want anybody else to go through what I went through.”

Ms. Eshet, the Wells Fargo spokeswoman, said that branch employees were trained to spot potential fraud, and that the bank had increased security protocols to thwart internet scams involving large transfers of money.

“In this instance, there were enough markers for our team to conduct extra diligence in order to protect the customer and the bank,” she said.

The protests also pushed Benndrick Watson into action.

Last spring, Mr. Watson was driven out of a Wells Fargo branch in Westchase, a wealthy neighborhood near Tampa, Fla., by what the branch manager described as a “slip of the tongue.”

Mr. Watson, who was already a bank customer with a personal checking account, went to the branch to open a business account for his law firm.

A banker did a corporate records search and found Mr. Watson’s other business, a record label. Mr. Watson tried to direct the employee to the records for his law firm instead.

Eventually, the branch manager got involved. He sat down across from Mr. Watson and watched him enter information, including his Social Security number, into a keypad.

Then, the man uttered the N-word.

”He just said it — clear as day, no mistake,” Mr. Watson said. “My jaw just dropped, I dropped the pen, there was silence, he kind of looked at me, I said: ‘Did you really just say that?’”

Mr. Watson said the man had immediately begun to protest, saying that he had not meant to use the word, and that he was deeply sorry. Mr. Watson did not buy it. He got up and left. The manager followed him to his car, apologizing profusely, and resigned from the bank shortly afterward.

“I felt like I had a knife in my gut,” Mr. Watson said. “It’s a sickening word.”

Mr. Watson turned to Mr. Rodal, who wrote to Wells Fargo seeking an apology. The bank’s regional president, Steve Schultz, responded. “It seems that the utterance of the offensive term was unintentional,” Mr. Schultz wrote, but said the bank had taken “corrective action” against the branch manager anyway, without providing details. Ms. Eshet of Wells Fargo said the manager was deemed ineligible for any job with the bank.

Mr. Watson sued Wells Fargo in federal court in Florida on June 4.

In a statement, Ms. Eshet said: “We . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 June 2020 at 4:03 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

Tagged with

Ptolemy’s magical theorem

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Full disclosure: I studied (and taught) Ptolemy’s Almagest, though it was only as I taught it that I realized what a terrific book it is.

I found this video quite fun:

Written by LeisureGuy

18 June 2020 at 3:03 pm

Posted in Math

The Slow Road to Sudden Change

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Ernest Hemingway famously wrote (in The Sun Also Rises):

“How did you go bankrupt?”

“Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.”

The same phenomenon can be observed in many spheres. Sometimes it’s simply because the incremental change is not noticed until it is glaringly obvious, and the suddenness of the tipping point is an artifact of inattention, but often there truly is an abrupt phase shift, as when the ice breaks up on a lake or river, or when a key log is removed from a log jam.

Rebecca Solnit writes at Literary Hub:

I. The Bonfire

The death of George Floyd was a match that lit a bonfire, and how the fuel for the bonfire piled up is worth studying. That is, for a national and international uprising against anti-Black racism and police violence to achieve such scale and power, many must have been ready for it, whether they knew it or not. Not in the sense of planning it or expecting these events, but by having changed their minds and committed their hearts beforehand. For those who were not directly impacted by decades and centuries of racist police violence this great uprising underway is about a long-overdue critical mass of solidarity with the fury and frustration of those directly impacted.  And finally there is something mysterious about why something happens at this moment and not that—in this case why the response to the police killing of George Floyd is so much larger than previous reactions, and why it is having such a widespread impact on Americans understanding of racism.

A great public change is the ratification of innumerable small private changes; the bonfire is a pile of these small changes lit by some unforeseen event. Looking back on the American Revolution, this country’s second president,  John Adams reflected, “The revolution was in the minds of the people, and in the union of the colonies, both of which were accomplished before hostilities commenced.” Adams was a waffler on slavery, both opposed to it and opposed to strong measures to abolish it, but he offers a useful description of how change works: the revolution was in consciousness; the war with Britain was just an outcome of it. Chateaubriand said something similar of the French Revolution, that it “was accomplished before it occurred.”

CNN reported on June 9, “that 67% of Americans believe the criminal justice system favors white people over black people in this country. And the same percent say that racism is a big problem today, compared to just 49% in 2015, a year after [Michael] Brown’s death in Ferguson… Those findings were echoed in a recent Monmouth University poll that found 57% of Americans believe police are more likely to use excessive force against black people—up from 34% in 2016.” And then the report cited a Republican pollster who exclaimed, “In my 35 years of polling, I’ve never seen opinion shift this fast or deeply. We are a different country today than just 30 days ago.” But the change in consciousness didn’t happen overnight, or over 30 days; it happened over years, and the organizers—most especially Black Lives Matter, founded in 2013—deserve credit for building this.

You can point to specifics about this moment—the horrific brutality of Floyd’s public death by lynching at the hands of the police. To the frustration and desperation of people who had been locked up and financially crushed by the pandemic and had seen Covid-19, thanks to structural racism, become increasingly a disease of black and brown people. To the years of simmering disgust and rage against the white supremacist destructiveness of Donald J. Trump. But none of these would have signified if the smallest thing hadn’t happened millions of times over: people changed their minds. Or in the case of the young, grew up with minds shaped by something better than the obliviousness and indifference that passed as not being racist in my own youth.

There is a danger of believing, as the Republican pollster seemed to, that this happened all at once, rather than that something slowly growing and changing suddenly became visible. The same misperceptions happened with what got called #MeToo in 2017: several years into a remarkable era of feminist activism, organizing, education, and transformation things suddenly escalated when the Harvey Weinstein stories broke in the New York Times and New Yorker and a number of other stories came tumbling out.

And at last there were consequences where there had been none. Too many pundits and amnesiacs framed that as something that began then and there. It wasn’t a beginning, but a culmination, of decades of work by feminists that resulted in people who believed women deserved equal rights, power, and valuation began to be in charge—to some extent—of what stories got told, who got believed. Gradually, more people who regarded women as people whose rights mattered and voices should be heard had come to play a role the news, the courts, the universities, and it mattered. And so it is with this moment.

One more group deserves credit for the present moment: the police. They themselves have made a fantastic case for defunding or abolition—at least as they currently exist. Nationwide, with the whole world watching, these civil servants showed they use public funds to brutalize, murder, and deny the constitutional rights of members of that public. One might imagine they’d have wanted to be careful in the wake of the Floyd murder, but they went on a spectacular display of their own sense of immunity by—well, shooting out the eyes of eight people with “sublethal” weapons, managing to blind a photojournalist in one eye; attacking and arresting dozens of members of the media at work, especially nonwhite ones; San Jose police shooting their own anti-bias trainer in the testicles; knocking over an old man who’s still in critical condition as a result (yeah the one Trump theorized must be Antifa); teargassing children; pointing weapons at other small children; and generally showing us that the only people the police protect are the police. They struck the match that lit the bonfire. Because they thought they could not themselves burn, and that they were indispensable. They’re wrong on both counts.

 

II. The Waterfall

You can think of it as a bonfire. Or a waterfall. The metaphor of the river of time is often used to suggest that history flows at a steady pace, but real rivers have rapids and shallows, eddies and droughts. They freeze over and get dammed and their water gets diverted. And sometimes the river comes to the precipice and we’re all in the waterfall. Time accelerates, things change faster than anyone expected, water clear as glass becomes churning whitewater, what was thought to be impossible or the work of years is accomplished in a flash.

This had already happened in a way with the pandemic. Suddenly life changed; institutions from schools to air travel largely shut down; the federal government pulled three trillion dollars out of thin air and threw it around; nearly everyone changed their daily life. The status quo’s old excuses that change is impossible got smashed up in the torrent of change. And this too prepared the way for what is happening now. The civil unrest has shifted and grown and had extraordinary effect. Early on people who preferred order to justice carped that riots never change anything, and then out of this uprising monumental change came.

Cities all over the USA are rethinking the funding and parameters of policing and what the alternatives are. Minneapolis, where all this started, actually voted to abolish the police department, and dozens of cities, from Los Angeles to New York, voted to cut funding to the police and in many cases narrow their mission. While all this actual living out of the mandates to #abolishthepolice and #defundthepolice was happening way too many mostly white people around me fussed that #defundthepolice was scary and incoherent and proposed exactly the kind of polite language for reform that has accomplished little in recent years.

It was both a kind of tone policing and a tone deafness about the fact that the people who feared being killed by the police—or mourning those who were—were impatient, six years after the shooting of Michael Brown Jr. and seven after the birth of Black Lives Matter. Impatient and not looking for messaging lessons from white people. The willful incomprehension and disapproval brought back the early days of Occupy Wall Street, when pundits and purse-lipped onlookers were calling the insurrectionary gatherings incoherent and incomprehensible and demanding to know what the demands were, imagining the occupiers as supplicants, not people in earnest conversation with each other about what the alternative to economic injustice might look like. Occupy was immensely effective as it spread across the world, and in the US it reshaped the conversation about the economy in ways that still matter.

Continue reading. There’s much more.

One interesting point, later in the essay:

It is an ongoing mistake to refer to politicians as leaders. Almost all are followers, and they should be if they are to be representatives.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 June 2020 at 2:36 pm

One reason for police violence? Too many males with badges.

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Rosa Brooks, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center (where she do-directs the Georgetown Innovative Policing Program) and a reserve police officer in the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, writes in the Washington Post:

The countless recent images of police officers facing off against protesters consistently show one thing: men. You’ll see policemen in helmets and gas masks, policemen with batons and riot shields, policemen with Tasers and tear gas canisters. But no matter how hard you scan those images, women are rarely present.

Women make up just 12.6 percent of all police officers. Much of the debate about police violence and misconduct has focused on race while skipping past this stunning statistic. No honest observer can deny that too many American policing practices reflect and contribute to racial injustice, but the focus on racial injustice shouldn’t make us lose sight of the gender disparities that also distort American policing. One simple way to achieve a less violent and more equitable form of law enforcement is to push agencies to hire more women.

Decades of research show female officers can handle hostile and violent suspects as well as their male counterparts, but a 2017 Pew survey found only 11 percent of female officers reported they had ever fired their weapon while on duty, compared with 30 percent of male officers. Female officers were also less likely to believe aggression is more useful than courtesy, less likely to agree some people “can only be brought to reason the hard, physical way” and less likely to report their jobs had made them callous.

These attitudinal differences are reflected in behavior. Controlling for differences in assignments, studies show female officers are significantly less likely to use force than male officers, more likely to display empathy and more likely to de-escalate fraught encounters. One study, for instance, found female officers were 27 percent less likely than male officers to “exhibit extreme controlling behaviors such as threats, physical restraint, searches, and arrest” in their interactions with citizens. Another concluded suspects arrested by female officers were less likely to be injured.

Similarly, female officers partnered with other women used force and extreme force least often compared to men partnered with men and men partnered with women. When women with male partners took the lead in encounters, force was less likely to be used than it was when the male officer took the lead.

Of course, gender isn’t destiny: Every officer, female or male, can and should be expected to police respectfully and with restraint, and statistics tell us nothing about how a given individual is likely to behave. There are many men and women who defy gender stereotypes: In my four years as a reserve police officer in Washington, D.C., I’ve been lucky enough to work with many empathetic and restrained male police officers. Statistics also don’t tell us whether men and women police differently because of nature, nurture or both. Most obviously, addressing gender disparities in policing can’t solve deeper problems such as over-criminalization or structural racism.

Nonetheless, the aggregate data make a compelling case that gender diversity could reduce police violence.

Having men dominate the profession might also be costing police departments more in lawsuits to settle claims of misconduct. A 2002 study found that although women made up 12.7 percent of officers in large urban police departments, female officers generated just 5 percent of citizen complaints and accounted for 6 percent of the money that departments “paid out in court judgments and settlements for excessive force.” The study concluded that male officers cost between 2½ and 5½ times as much as female officers in payouts after lawsuits regarding excessive force.

Since then, a 2015 New York Police Department’s Inspector General’s report examined all substantiated cases of excessive force by NYPD officers between 2010 and 2014 and concluded that although women made up 17 percent of all officers, they were involved in only 3.2 percent of excessive force cases. Another study looked at all reported police uses of force in the District of Columbia from 2014 to 2018 and found although women made up 22 percent of sworn officers during the study period, they accounted each year for only 10 to 16 percent of all uses of force.

Despite these data, there are still few female police officers and as of 2018, only about 11 percent of America’s hundred largest police departments had female chiefs. . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Later in the article:

A major reason for this is that law enforcement recruitment, training and treatment of officers tends to drive women away. Recruiting ads frequently emphasize images of SWAT teams battering down doors; recruiters focus on job fairs for veterans and male-dominated university criminology programs; police academies are modeled on military boot camps and overvalue physical strength while undervaluing communication skills and emotional intelligence.

locker room atmosphere prevails in many police precincts, and rotating patrol shifts are devastating to family life. Even police uniforms and equipment are largely designed for men. When I joined the D.C. police reserve corps in 2016, I discovered the “unisex” pants and shirts issued at the police academy pinched and gaped in all the wrong places, the required firearms were harder to use for those with smaller hands and the duty belt system was clearly designed only for those able to pee standing up.

Years of research make clear the kinds of changes needed to recruit, retain and support more female officers: Use recruiting messages that depict police as helpers and public servants, not warriors; be creative in recruiting nontraditional applicants; abandon counterproductive paramilitary training rituals; crack down on workplace sexual harassment, and develop more family-friendly schedules.

Kevin Drum notes:

Hire more women. Reduce discretionary encounters between police and civilians. Change the rules on use of deadly force. End no-knock warrants. Reform the qualified immunity standard. Train, train, and train again on de-escalation. There are so many things we could do if we were really serious about reforming policing in America.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 June 2020 at 1:48 pm

Facebook removes Trump ads with symbol once used by Nazis to designate political prisoners

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Trump and his supporters are showing their true colors and bedrock beliefs. Isaac Stanley Becker reports in the Washington Post:

In its online salvo against antifa and “far-left mobs,” President Trump’s reelection campaign displayed a marking the Nazis once used to designate political prisoners in concentration camps.

A red inverted triangle was first used in the 1930s to identify Communists, and was applied as well to Social Democrats, liberals, Freemasons and other members of opposition parties. The badge forced on Jewish political prisoners, by contrast, featured a yellow triangle overlaid by a red triangle.

In response to queries from The Washington Post, Facebook on Thursday afternoon deactivated ads that included the inverted red triangle.

The red symbol appeared in paid posts sponsored by Trump and Vice President Pence, as well as by the “Team Trump” campaign page. It was featured alongside text warning of “Dangerous MOBS of far-left groups” and asking users to sign a petition about antifa, a loose collection of anti-fascist activists whom the Trump administration has sought to link to recent violence, despite arrest records that show their involvement is trivial.

“We removed these posts and ads for violating our policy against organized hate,” said Andy Stone, a Facebook spokesman. “Our policy prohibits using a banned hate group’s symbol to identify political prisoners without the context that condemns or discusses the symbol.”

But the ads on the president’s page alone, which began running on Wednesday, gained as many as 950,000 impressions by Thursday morning. Identical ads on Pence’s page gained as many as 500,000 impressions. . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Facebook is increasingly a problem, an infectious site in a democracy.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 June 2020 at 11:14 am

Weeks after PTSD settlement, Facebook moderators ordered to spend more time viewing online child abuse

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Sam Biddle reports in The Intercept:

WITH THE INK still drying on their landmark $52 million settlement with Facebook over trauma they suffered working for the company, many outsourced content moderators are now being told that they must view some of the most horrific and disturbing content on the internet for an extra 48 minutes per day, The Intercept has learned.

Following an unprecedented 2018 lawsuit by ex-Facebook content moderator Selena Scola, who said her daily exposure to depictions of rape, murder, and other gruesome acts caused her to develop post-traumatic stress disorder, Facebook agreed in early May to a $52 million settlement, paid out with $1,000 individual minimums to current and former contractors employed by outsourcing firms like Accenture. Following news of the settlement, Facebook spokesperson Drew Pusateri issued a statement reading, “We are grateful to the people who do this important work to make Facebook a safe environment for everyone. We’re committed to providing them additional support through this settlement and in the future.”

Less than a month after this breakthrough, however, Accenture management informed moderation teams that it had renegotiated its contract with Facebook, affecting at least hundreds of North American content workers who would now have to increase their exposure to exactly the sort of extreme content at the heart of the settlement, according to internal company communications reviewed by The Intercept and interviews with multiple affected workers.

The new hours were announced at the tail end of May and beginning of June via emails sent by Accenture management to the firm’s content moderation teams, including those responsible for reviewing Child Exploitation Imagery, or CEI, generally graphic depictions of sexually abused children, and Inappropriate Interactions with Children, or IIC, typically conversations in which adults message minors in an attempt to “groom” them for later sexual abuse or exchange sexually explicit images. The Intercept reviewed multiple versions of this email, apparently based off a template created by Accenture. It refers to the new contract between the two companies as the “Golden SoW,” short for “Statement of Work,” and its wording strongly suggests that stipulations in the renewed contract led to 48-minute increases in the so-called “Safety flows” that handle Facebook posts containing depictions of child abuse.

“For the past year or so, our Safety flows (CEI,IIC) as well as GT have been asked to be productive for 5.5 hours of their day,” reads one email reviewed by The Intercept, referring to “Ground Truth,” a team of outsourced humans tasked with helping train Facebook’s moderation algorithms. “Over the last few weeks the golden sow, Accenture’s contractual agreement with Facebook, was signed. In the contract, it discussed production time and the standard that all agents will be held to.” Accenture moderators, the email continues, “will need to spend 6.3 hours of their day actively in production” — meaning an extra 48 minutes per day viewing the arguably most disturbing possible content found on the internet.

The email then notes that Accenture is “aligning to our global partners as well as our partners in MVW,” a likely reference to Mountain View, California, where, the email suggests, moderators were already viewing such content for 6.3 hours per day. It is understood, the email said, that there could be “one offs every now and then when you are unable to meet the daily expectation of 6.3″ hours of exposure, but warned against letting it become a pattern.

Pusateri, the Facebook spokesperson, told The Intercept, “We haven’t increased guidance for production hours with any of our partners,” but did not respond to questions about Accenture’s announcement itself. Accenture spokesperson Sean Conway said only that they had not been instructed to enact any change by Facebook, but would not elaborate or provide an explanation for the internal announcement.

Not only does the increase in child pornography exposure seemingly run afoul of Facebook’s public assurances that it will be “providing [moderators] additional support through this settlement and in the future,” it contradicts research into moderator trauma commissioned by the company itself. A 2015 report from Technology Coalition, an anti-online child exploitation consortium co-founded by Facebook and cited in Scola’s lawsuit, found that “limiting the amount of time employees are exposed to [child sexual abuse material] is key” if employee trauma is to be avoided. “Strong consideration should be given to making select elements of the program (such as counseling) mandatory for exposed employees,” the paper also noted. “This removes any stigma for employees who want to seek help and can increase employee awareness of the subtle, cumulative effects that regular exposure may produce.” The Accenture announcement, however, appears to fall well short of mandatory counseling: “Agents are free to seek out wellness coaches when needed,” the email states. A request for comment sent to Technology Coalition was not returned.

Accenture’s “wellness” program is a contentious issue for Facebook moderators, many of whom say such quasi-therapy is a shoddy stand-in for genuine psychological counseling, despite the best intentions of the “coaches” themselves. Last August,  . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

FWIW, I make a small monthly contribution to The Intercept.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 June 2020 at 11:08 am

Federal judge who thinks it “madness” to rename bases honoring Confederate officers who took up arms against the US gets schooled by a clerk

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Ryan Grim reports in The Intercept:

THE BATTLE OVER renaming U.S. bases that currently honor Confederate officers broke out in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., on Monday. But the argument was not in the courtroom; rather, it was launched, and settled, over email.

In an email sent Circuit-wide on Sunday, Judge Laurence Silberman, a Reagan appointee, lambasted Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., for her amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act requiring the military to strip the names of rebel officers from any military assets.

“Since I am about to be interviewed I thought it would be appropriate to unburden myself in opposition to the madness proposed by Senator Warren: the desecration of Confederate graves,” Silberman wrote.

The interview Silberman referenced was part of a series of chats judges do, open only to court staff. Silberman went on to explain that his great-grandfather had fought for the Union as part of Ulysses S. Grant’s army and was badly wounded at Shiloh, Tennessee. His great-grandfather’s brother, meanwhile, joined the Confederate States Army and was captured at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. “It’s important to remember that Lincoln did not fight the war to free the Slaves Indeed he was willing to put up with slavery if the Confederate States Returned,” he wrote (lack of punctuation and errant capitalization in the original, and throughout). “My great great grandfather Never owned slaves as best I can tell.”

Silberman’s post, which went out widely to scores of Court staff and judges, sat unanswered over the next day, until the first volley was sent back not by a fellow judge but by a clerk: courtroom employees who work directly with judges to research and write their opinions.

“Hi Judge Silberman,” began the career-risking reply-all email, “I am one of only five black law clerks in this entire circuit. However, the views I express below are solely my own,” they went on. “Since no one in the court’s leadership has responded to your message, I thought I would give it a try.”

[M]y maternal ancestors were enslaved in Mississippi. While the laws of this nation viewed my ancestors as property, I view them as hostages. In a hostage situation, when someone does something that leads to the freeing of the hostages, I am not sure if the hostages would be concerned as to whether the person that saved them, actually intended to save them. In this instance, as people considered to be property, my ancestors would not have been involved in the philosophical and political debates about Lincoln’s true intentions, or his view on racial equality. For them, and myself, race is not an abstract topic to be debated, so in my view anything that was built to represent white racial superiority, or named after someone who fought to maintain white supremacy (or the Southern economy of slavery), see Photo of Liberty Monument attached, should be removed from high trafficked areas of prominence and placed in museums where they can be part of lessons that put them in context.

In your message, you talked about your ancestors, one that fought for the confederacy and one that fought for the Union. This seems to be a true example of a house divided. However, it is very clear what the Confederacy stood for. In 1861, at the Virginia secession convention, Henry L. Benning (for whom Fort Benning is named) in explaining the reasoning for Georgia’s decision to secede from the United States stated, “[it] was a conviction … that a separation from the North was the only thing that could prevent the abolition of her slavery…[I]t is probable that the white race, being superior in every respect, may push the other back.” Unfortunately, in this scenario, no matter how bravely your uncle fought for the Confederacy, the foundation of his fight was a decision that he agreed more with the ideals of the Confederacy, than he did with those of the Union. And in the end, he chose the losing side of history.

Finally, I will note that the current movement to rename Government owned facilities is in line with your previous opinions on the importance of names and what they represent. In 2005, you publicly advocated for the removal of J. Edgar Hoover’s name from the FBI Building due to the problematic material you came across in your review of his FBI files after his death. You equated it to the Defense Department being named for Aaron Burr. In view of your opinion of J. Edgar Hoover’s history and your advocacy for renaming the FBI building because of the prominence it provides Hoover’s legacy, it is very strange that you would be against renaming our military facilities, since the legacy of the Confederacy represents the same thing. This moment of confronting our nation’s racial history is too big to be disregarded based on familial ties.

The correspondence was provided to The Intercept by a member of the Court staff on the condition the identity of the clerk (who was not the source) and judges who replied be kept confidential.

The ice broken, others weighed in, with two federal district judges, both of them black as well, replying all to thank the clerk for their thoughtful note. A third worked to do clean up for Silberman, noting that, while he couldn’t speak for Silberman, perhaps he only meant to refer to the possibility that the legislation may have applied not just to base names, but also to gravesites.

Indeed, during the debate over the amendment, which took place behind closed doors, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., offered an amendment that would . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 June 2020 at 10:54 am

A citrus shave: Meißner Tremonia Pink Grapefruit and Stirling Lemon Chill

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Meißner Tremonia’s Pink Grapefruit shaving paste includes eucalyptus, which greatly modifies the pink grapefruit fragrance, the result being bracing rather than sweet. MT’s shaving pastes easily make a fine lather, today via Wet Shaving Products’ Baroness shaving brush.

Three passes with the Lupo left my face perfectly smooth, and a splash of Stirling’s Lemon Chill finished the job. “Chill” is code for “too much menthol,” at least for me. It’s not a mild hit of menthol, it a full-on blast that lasts for quite a while. Still, it might feel good on a hot summer day.

Altogether a great way to greet the day.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 June 2020 at 9:47 am

Posted in Shaving

Murder exposes Facebook’s Boogaloo problem

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Judd Legum points out in Popular Information how Facebook promotes a violent right-wing anarchist group, a member of which murdered two law-enforcement offices. The column is definitely worth reading (as is Popular Information in general). A small snippet from a column that contains much more:

On June 2, shortly after Underwood’s murder, Facebook announced it would exclude Boogaloo pages from its recommendation engine. “We continue to remove content using boogaloo and related terms when accompanied by statements and images depicting armed violence. We are also preventing these Pages and groups from being recommended on Facebook,” a company spokesperson told Popular Information.

That doesn’t appear to be true. Boogaloo content continues to thrive on Facebook — and many Boogaloo-related pages continue to be included in Facebook’s recommendation engine.

Facebook still recommends the Boogaloo

Popular Information visited Boogaloo Side Quest, a popular Boogaloo page with more than 11,000 followers. Facebook then recommended two other Boogaloo pages: Boog Memes About Living The Dream (23,000 followers) and Rhett E. Boogie 2020 (13,700 followers).

Written by LeisureGuy

18 June 2020 at 9:46 am

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