Later On

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

Archive for October 12th, 2020

Pete Buttigieg puts “late-term abortions” in context

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Annie Renau reports in Upworthy:

The subject of late-term abortions has been brought up repeatedly during this election season, with President Trump making the outrageous claim that Democrats are in favor of executing babies.

This message grossly misrepresents what late-term abortion actually is, as well as what pro-choice advocates are actually “in favor of.” No one is in favor of someone having a specific medical procedure—that would require being involved in someone’s individual medical care—but rather they are in favor of keeping the government out of decisions about specific medical procedures.

Pete Buttigieg, who has become a media surrogate for the Biden campaign—and quite an effective one at that—addressed this issue in a Fox News town hall when he was on the campaign trail himself. When Chris Wallace asked him directly about late-term abortions, Buttigieg answered Wallace’s questions is the best way possible.

“Do you believe, at any point in pregnancy, whether it’s at six weeks or eight weeks or 24 weeks or whenever, that there should be any limit on a woman’s right to have an abortion?” Wallace asked.

“I think the dialogue has gotten so caught up on where you draw the line that we’ve gotten away from the fundamental question of who gets to draw the line,” Buttigieg replied, “and I trust women to draw the line when it’s their own health.”

Wallace wanted to clarify that Buttigieg would be okay with late-term abortion and pointed out that there are more than 6000 women who get third trimester abortions each year.

“That’s right,” responded Buttiegieg, “representing one percent of cases. So let’s put ourselves in the shoes of a woman in that situation. If it’s that late in your pregnancy, than almost by definition, you’ve been expecting to carry it to term. We’re talking about women who have perhaps chosen a name. Women who have purchased a crib, families that then get the most devastating medical news of their lifetime, something about the health or the life of the mother or viability of the pregnancy that forces them to make an impossible, unthinkable choice. And the bottom line is as horrible as that choice is, that woman, that family may seek spiritual guidance, they may seek medical guidance, but that decision is not going to be made any better, medically or morally, because the government is dictating how that decision should be made.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

12 October 2020 at 5:45 pm

Pizza Rusticana: Easter meat-and-cheese pie (non-vegan in a big way)

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Another Chef John recipe. Printable recipe here.

Written by Leisureguy

12 October 2020 at 5:04 pm

A man discovers for himself that Covid-19 is not a scam — a personal story

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The Washington Post has been running a series in which people recount their personal experience with Covid-19. Tony Green had this to say to the Post Reporter:

When President Trump got sick, I had this moment of deja vu back to when I first woke up in the hospital. I know what it’s like to be humiliated by this virus. I used to call it the “scamdemic.” I thought it was an overblown media hoax. I made fun of people for wearing masks. I went all the way down the rabbit hole and fell hard on my own sword, so if you want to hate me or blame me, that’s fine. I’m doing plenty of that myself.

The party was my idea. That’s what I can’t get over. Well, I mean, it wasn’t even a party — more like a get-together. There were just six of us, okay? My parents, my partner, and my partner’s parents. We’d been locked down for months at that point in Texas, and the governor had just come out and said small gatherings were probably okay. We’re a close family, and we hadn’t been together in forever. It was finally summer. I thought the worst was behind us. I was like: “Hell, let’s get on with our lives. What are we so afraid of?”

Some people in my family didn’t necessarily share all of my views, but I pushed it. I’ve always been out front with my opinions. I’m gay and I’m conservative, so either way I’m used to going against the grain. I stopped trusting the media for my information when it went hard against Trump in 2016. I got rid of my cable. It’s all opinion anyway, so I’d rather come up with my own. I find a little bit of truth here and a little there, and I pile it together to see what it makes. I have about 4,000 people in my personal network, and not one of them had gotten sick. Not one. You start to hear jokes about, you know, a skydiver jumps out of a plane without a parachute and dies of covid-19. You start to think: “Something’s really fishy here.” You start dismissing and denying.

I told my family: “Come on. Enough already. Let’s get together and enjoy life for once.”

They all came for the weekend. We agreed not to do any of the distancing or worry much about it. I mean, I haven’t seen my mother in months, and I’m not supposed to go up and hug her? Come on. We have a two-story house, so there was room for us to all stay here together. We all came on our own free will. It felt like something we needed. It had been months of doing nothing, feeling nothing, seeing no one, worrying about finances with this whole shutdown. My partner had been sent home from his work. I’d been at the finish line of raising $3.5 million for a new project, and that all evaporated overnight. I’d been feeling depressed and angry, and then it was like: “Okay! I can breathe.” We cooked nice meals. We watched a few movies. I played a few songs on my baby grand piano. We drove to a lake about 60 miles outside of Dallas and talked and talked. It was nothing all that special. It was great. It was normal.

I woke up Sunday morning feeling a little iffy. I have a lot of issues with sleeping, and I thought that’s probably what it was. I let everyone know: “I don’t feel right, but I’m guessing it might be exhaustion.” I was kind of achy. There was a weird vibration inside. I had a bug-eye feeling.

A few hours later, my partner was feeling a little bad, too. Then my parents. Then my father-in-law got sick the next day, after he’d already left and gone to Austin to witness the birth of his first grandchild. I have no idea which one of us brought the virus into the house, but all six of us left with it. It kept spreading from there.

I told myself it wouldn’t be that bad. “It’s the flu. It’s basically just the flu.” I didn’t have the horrible cough you keep hearing about. My breathing never got too terrible. My fever peaked for like one day at 100.5, which is nothing — barely worth mentioning. “All right. I got this. See? It was nothing.” But then some of the other symptoms started to get wild. I was sweating profusely. I would wake up in a pool of sweat. I had this tingling feeling all over my body, this radiating kind of pain. Do you remember those old space heaters that you’d plug in, and the red lines would light up and glow? I felt like that was happening inside my bones. I was burning from the inside out. I was buzzing. I was dizzy. I couldn’t even turn my head around to look at the TV. I felt like my eyeballs were in a fishbowl, just bopping around. I rubbed Icy Hot all over my head. It was nonstop headaches and sweating for probably about a week — and then it just went away. I got some of my energy back. I had a few really good days. I started working on projects around the house. I was thinking: “Okay. That’s it. Pretty bad, but not so terrible. I beat it. I managed it. Nothing worth shutting down the entire world over.” Then one day I was walking up the stairs, and all of the sudden, I couldn’t breathe. I screamed and fell flat on my face. I blacked out. I woke up a while later in the ER, and 10 doctors were standing around me in a circle. I was lying on the table after going through a CT scan. The doctors told me the virus had attacked my nervous system. They’d given me some medications that stopped me from having a massive stroke. They said I was minutes away.

I stayed in the hospital for three days, trying to get my mind around it. It was guilt, embarrassment, shame. I thought: “Okay. Maybe now I’ve paid for my mistake.” But it kept getting worse.

Six infections turned into nine. Nine went up to 14. It spread from one family member to the next, and it was like each person caught a different strain. My mother-in-law got it and never had any real symptoms. My father is 78, and he went to get checked out at the hospital, but for whatever reasons, he seemed to recover really fast. My father-in-law nearly died in his living room and then ended up in the same hospital as me on the exact same day. His mother was in the room right next to him because she was having trouble breathing. They were lying there on both sides of the wall, fighting the same virus, and neither of them ever knew the other one was there. She died after a few weeks. On the day of her funeral, five more family members tested positive.

My father-in-law’s probably my best friend. It’s an unconventional relationship. He’s 52, only nine years older than me, and we hit it off right away. He runs a construction company, and I would tag along on his jobs and ride with him around Dallas. I’ve been through a lot in my life — from food stamps to Ferraris and then back again — so I could tell a good story and make him laugh. He builds these 20,000-square-foot custom homes, but he’d been renting his whole life. We decided to go in together on 10 acres outside Dallas, and he was finally getting ready to build his own house. We’d already done the plumbing and gotten streets built on the property. We’d planted 50 pecans and oaks to give the property some shade. He had his blueprints all drawn up. It was all he wanted to talk about.

He was on supplemental oxygen, but the doctors kept reducing the amount he was getting. They thought he was getting better. He was still making jokes, so I wasn’t all that worried. He told me: “They’ve got you upstairs in the Cadillac rooms because you’re White, but all of us Mexicans are still down here in the ER.” I got sent home, and I had a lot of guilt about leaving him there. I called him at the hospital, and I was like: “I’m going to come bust you out Mission Impossible style.” He said he preferred El Chapo style. We were laughing so hard. I hung up, and a few hours later I got a call from my mother-in-law. She was hysterical. She could barely speak. She said one of his lungs had collapsed and the other was filling with fluid. They put him on a ventilator, and . . .

Continue reading.

It’s not a scam. It’s a highly infectious disease that can be fatal and, even if not fatal, cause long-lasting problems. Of course, you might be lucky. Me, I would never play a game of Russian roulette.

Written by Leisureguy

12 October 2020 at 4:46 pm

Posted in Daily life, Medical

Rabbi David Wolpe: Jewish Wisdom — an interview with David Pell

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David Pell has a podcast of his interview with Rabbi David Wolope, and he thoughtfully includes a transcript. The interview begins:

Newsweek Magazine once called Rabbi Wolpe the most influential rabbi in America. He is the Senior Rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and he’s the author of eight books including one about King David and another gem called Why Be Jewish? I don’t remember the last time I enjoyed preparing for an interview so much. I’m named after King David, but until this interview, I hadn’t explored the history of my name in more than a decade.

This interview touches on various parts of Judaism including how rabbis should interpret the Bible, what we can learn from King David, and how Judaism anchors us when a loved one dies. There were two parts that I’ll always remember. The first was a discussion about the concept of aloneness in Judaism. On one hand, the book of Deuteronomy says: “It is not because you are the most numerous of peoples that I have set my heart upon you and treasured you—indeed, you are the fewest.” On the other, community is everywhere in Jewish life and the first thing God called not good in the Bible is loneliness — “It is not good for the man to be alone (Gen 2:18).” Secondly, I enjoyed our conversation about repentance in the Jewish faith and how you must repent after a loved one dies but also have to stop after 11 months. If this conversation interests you, I recommend his sermons on YouTube and the book I mentioned before called: Why Be Jewish? . . .

David: Preparing for this interview has sparked a lot of really interesting conversations. But I think the most interesting one was I called my father and I said, “Why did you name me David?” He said that one of the three reasons was that it was Jewish enough that it was Jewish, but it wasn’t so Jewish that it was obviously Jewish. There’s something very Jewish about naming your kid in that way. In a way that is enough of the tradition that you’re part of the sacred lineage of people going all the way back to the time of Moses. But also something that is subtle and that is discreet because of the oppression that Jews have historically faced.

Rabbi Wolpe: Well, there is among Jews … It’s not unique to Jews, but it’s certainly significant to Jews. There is self-hatred and self-shame of different degrees that has afflicted Jews throughout the generations. Some Jews try very hard to hide it. There’s a great story about Ben Hecht. He was a screenwriter. He was a famous personality in Hollywood. He wrote a lot of famous movies. When Israel was founded, he was a very proudly identified Jew. He went around to collect money for Israel. He went to David O. Selznick, the producer, and he said, “I want you to give money for Israel.” Selznick said, “I’m sorry. I don’t think of myself as Jewish.” Hecht said, “I’ll tell you what, I want you to pick up the phone and call 10 of your non-Jewish friends and say to each of them, am I Jewish?” If any of them says, no, I won’t bother you again. Selznick wrote him a check.

Because even when Jews have tried to hide it, the world thinks of them as Jewish. There is a sort of sadness and a quixotic effort to pretend we’re not Jewish when everyone knows we are. This, I’ll be Jewish, but not too obviously Jewish is one way of Jews saying, “I want to be part of this society without entirely giving up what I am.” That’s a struggle that Jews have had ever since they’ve been a minority in a majority culture.

David: You could call it Jew-ish.

Rabbi Wolpe: Yes. Just so. Jew-ish.

David: Is that something that you see as much in Israel as you see in, say America or in Europe? Or is it something that happens when Jews feel like they’re a real minority?

Rabbi Wolpe: Well, something else happens in Israel, which is not the same phenomenon. It’s a different phenomenon. That is, that a lot of young, especially young Israelis think of themselves not as Jewish but as Israeli. That Israeli is its own characteristics. They’re not religious and they think of Jewish as the religious part, but they are Israeli. There is a different kind of identification that goes with being in Israel that’s not exactly analogous to the way Jews have felt in Europe or in the United States.

David: You wrote in, I believe 1995, a nice little book called Why Be Jewish? My favorite line in there was, if you wish to know the character of a people, look to its heroes. How have the heroes of the Jewish tradition changed since you started practicing being a rabbi?

Rabbi Wolpe: The biggest change I think, I would say there are two. One is that … I’m not sure that this is since I started practicing as a rabbi. But I think in the last 100 years, they’ve changed to a great extent from religious to political. Heroes became Zionist heroes. Or for Jews, not so much today, the more they know about it, but FDR was a hero. Before that, the heroes were generally religious figures. Not exclusively, but generally. That’s one difference. Then the second difference is that Jewish figures, to the extent that they succeed in the secular world become Jewish heroes. Einstein is a Jewish hero and he’s a Jewish hero because he’s succeeded outside the Jewish world. I think that also has changed to some extent, although again, it was always true a little bit. It’s much truer now.

I think you would be very hard-pressed to think since the death of Elie Wiesel to maybe Sharansky is the only one that I can think of who is a Jewish hero who’s identified for his Judaism that is accepted all across the Jewish world. Very, very hard to find such a person. There used to be a lot of them, but now there aren’t. I think as I said, maybe Sharansky is the only one.

David: Is that something to be worried about, to be concerned about? Because this is something that I struggle with with Judaism. I went to Hebrew school growing up and I so distinctly remember stories about how you have to knock on the rabbi’s door three times and get rejected twice before you can be admitted to the faith. I contrast that with my Christian friends who are so explicit about conversion, some of them. For them, there’s this metric basically like, we are successful in so far as we’re growing the religion. When you take a story like that, on one hand, I’m like, “That’s really concerning.” Maybe Jews were losing this faith. I remember a song that we used to sing in day school. It was, the words in English, I forget what the Hebrew was, it was keep the dream alive. It was sort of trying to keep the religion alive. But at the same time there aren’t those conversion rituals. I’m ambivalent here about how to interpret what you just said.

Rabbi Wolpe: . . .

Continue reading — or listening (at the link).

Written by Leisureguy

12 October 2020 at 4:11 pm

Posted in Daily life, Religion

Whole Grains: Another of Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen

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From the Daily Dozen newsletter series that’s marching through the Dozen one by one:

Whole Grains

Quick tips

Whole Grains – mix up your morning routine with a bowl of buckwheat or quinoa. Add whole intact grains, such as barley, buckwheat, quinoa, farro, oat groats, or millet to soups and salads.

Grains topic page.

Fast Facts

As shown in our series on arsenic, there is a concern about arsenic in rice. Until we know more, Dr. Greger’s current thinking on the matter is: if you really like rice, you can moderate your risk by cutting down, choosing lower-arsenic varieties, and cooking it in a way to lower exposure even further. But, if you like other whole grains just as much—like if you simply don’t care either way if you have rice vs. another grain, then we’d suggest choosing the lower-arsenic option. To see the whole series, visit the arsenic topic page.

Tasty Recipes

Southwest Quinoa Stew

An easy and delicious Daily Dozen-inspired meal that uses some pantry staples.

Banana Oat Cookies

A delicious breakfast or snack idea using just 3 ingredients: oats, bananas, and any add-ins of your choice. Serve these banana oat cookies for breakfast with some fresh fruit or enjoy on their own as a mid-day snack!

Soba Noodle Soup

A light broth soup, packed with a rainbow of vegetables and hearty buckwheat soba noodles. Toss in edamame or your favorite vegetables and spices to make this recipe your own. This recipe comes from Hailey, Chinese Social Media Manager

Top Viewed Videos on Grains

Which Is a Better Breakfast: Cereal or Oatmeal?

The remarkable impact of the structure of food beyond nutritional content or composition.

Is It Worth Switching from White Rice to Brown?

What happens when brown rice is put to the test in a randomized controlled crossover trial?

Whole Grains May Work as Well as Drugs

The consumption of three portions of whole grains a day appears as powerful as high blood pressure medications in alleviating hypertensio

Written by Leisureguy

12 October 2020 at 3:53 pm

A Robert Mitchum profile from 1982

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Robert Mitchum is a favorite actor. Carrie Dickey wrote this profile in The Village Voice 38 years ago, and it begins:

Trouble waits in sullen pools along the way l’ve taken.
Silent windows stare the empty street.
No love beckons me save that which I’ve forsaken.

And the anguish of my solitude, sweet. 

— Robert Mitchum, circa 1932
Verse written to his mother while he was serving time on a chain gang in Chatham County, Georgia

Shortly after he drowsily recites this “sophomoric” poem written at the worldly wise age of 15, Mitchum invisibly shifts gears and tartly remembers, “How­ard Hughes always said to me, ‘Robert, you’re like a pay toilet, aren’t you? You don’t give a shit for nothing.’” Hughes was wrong, but the self-deprecating Mitchum would be the last to care. At 65, the only observation he makes on his own behalf is “I know shit from pound cake, I know bad from good.” His slang is pep­pered with references to bodily functions. He returns from the bathroom, self-satis­fied, announcing, “That was a three-flush piss. I feel like the frog-prince.”

Robert Mitchum confides his poetic sentimentality and communicates his vio­lent antiauthoritarianism in the same voice, that husky, gravel-purr monotone two octaves below basso profundo, just at the edge of audibility. His lack of inflec­tion alerts listeners to content. An acid rain of profanity sears the air after the humid sweetness of a stray confession. He wears the fragrance of Tequila like after­shave, chain-smokes Pall Malls and what­ever other filterless weed is within reach. He is a reluctant interview, likening his promotional tour for That Championship Season to serving time (he’s been in the slammer on 11 occasions, for everything from vagrancy to conspiracy to marijuana possession, and refers to prison as “the great leveler”). But much as he wants to hold back, he’s a congenital raconteur, rapping improvisationally with a jazz man’s syncopation and stream of con­sciousness, immensely articulate if, at times, semicoherent.

He’s large. Burly shouldered, barrel chested, ample bellied, Mitchum, upon our introduction at a publicist’s lunch, intimidates me by barking, “Fuck you and the boat that brought you!” I smile, “No boat, sorry,” and he gets raffishly apologetic, extending his hands, which I inspect to see if the knuckles are still tattooed with “LOVE” and “HATE” from his role as the evil fundamentalist preacher in Night of the Hunter. “Been in so many fistfights since then, they got erased,” he drawls, his lazy, bruised mouth curling. For those of you, like me, worried about the condition of his hams, he still has the digit severed in The Yakuza. Impulsively, he gives me a bear hug, and what I’ve suspected for 30 years is confirmed: I’m in love with Mr. Love/Hate, and he acts out every contradiction he projects on screen.

Alternately mucho macho and muy simpatico, Mitchum respects people who hold their ground, because he’s always held his and knows it’s hard. After lunch I arrive at his Waldorf suite for the inter­view (“You’ll have to be nude between the sheets,” he’d instructed me, “and wear a false mustache”), and we discuss his vagabond childhood, how his railroad­worker dad was killed in a train accident, how his mom, he, and two siblings were always the new folks in town. “My brother and I were always put in the position of proving ourselves. The trick was to push the challenger’s nose to the back of his brain without giving him a cerebral hemorrhage.” Mitchum slithers off the settee and forcefully rearranges my face without doing any damage, while I silently get hysterical and imagine Post headlines (ACTOR REVISES CRITIC’S PAN) but hold my ground. He’s respectful. He’s let­ting me know how far I can pursue this line of questioning. I ask him a little more about the early days, and he’s disgusted. “Why should I tell you when I can write it myself and get a $1 million advance?” He’ll tell some, but not all.

Dad’s early death. Gypsy life with his mother, brother, and half-sister. Mom’s a newspaperwoman who worked her way up from the linotype room. Robert was a habitual runaway and scrapper, given sax­ophone lessons as therapy (“Because I shit in the teacher’s hat or something”), and by his account, which sounds more mythopoetic than documentary, he played instrumental scat-tattoos during the “Star Spangled Banner” while his classmates plugged perfunctorily away. At 15 he was in Manhattan attending high school and working after school as a lyric arranger at WMCA. (“At the age of 15?”   I ask. He doesn’t answer.) He idolized Johnny Mercer and new music, which was jazz. Various arrests. (How?) Pissing in alleyways, vagrancy. Chain gang. Hopped a freight for California during the mid-­’30s. Wrote some radio plays. Directors told him whenever he wants to be in front of the mike, he’s hired. He accepted. He can ride a horse, so he was hired as a movie extra. Because he’s dumb enough to do his own stunts, he was in constant demand as actor/stuntman, directors get­ting two performances for the price of one.

Since 1943 (he was 26), Mitchum has been in 100-plus movies and slowly chiseled an acting career of Rushmore monumentality. He brought a new kind of love to the postwar screen (sex) and a new kind of ethos (stoic doubt). His bedroom eyes and barroom mouth bespoke the rig­ors of the sack and the sauce. In the two movies be made with Jane Russell — ­Macao and His Kind of Woman — the pair are so sultrily laconic and sleepy (they look like twins) that it seemed as though they were filmed between rounds in the boudoir. When I mention my fondness for these films, he dismisses me with “You just like tits, Carrie.” I reply: “Hers or yours?” Almost guffawing, Mitchum growls, “Hers are bigger, mine are fur­ther.” I don’t know what he means, nei­ther does he, but we both know a punch line when we hear one.

For Mitchum on screen, sex wasn’t about romance or conquest; it was an  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

12 October 2020 at 2:53 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

Why are US conservatives so authoritarian?

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I answered that question on Quora, and the answer came up when someone commented on it, and it struck me as good (perhaps not a total surprise). I wrote:

Conservatives and liberals tend to differ psychologically, as described in Jonathan Haidt’s excellent book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. His findings are that conservatives and liberal differ in the values they place on five moral foundations:

Harm/Care
Fairness/Reciprocity
Authority/Respect
Ingroup/Loyalty
Purity/Sanctity

This post goes into more detail, but basically liberals place a very high value on the first two, and very little on the other three, whereas conservatives value Authority, Loyalty, and Purity higher than Fairness/Reciprocity.

Other differences are found in tolerance of risk: conservatives tend to be risk-avoidant and dislike novelty—or, more likely, those who are risk-avoidant and dislike novelty find conservatism comfortable and liberalism unsettling. Those who are risk-tolerant and novelty seeking find liberalism matches their mindset better.

If you place a high value on Respect of Authority and Ingroup Loyalty, then you find authoritarianism comfortable—or at least more comfortable than someone whose highest values are Harm/Care and Fairness/Reciprocity. The (free, downloadable) book The Authoritarians is both interesting and informative.

Of interest in this context is Colin Prince’s abstract for his course “Moral Foundation Theory and the Law” at Seattle University School of Law:

Moral foundation theory argues that there are five basic moral foundations: (1) harm/care, (2) fairness/reciprocity, (3) ingroup/loyalty, (4) authority/respect, and (5) purity/sanctity. These five foundations comprise the building blocks of morality, regardless of the culture. In other words, while every society constructs its own morality, it is the varying weights that each society allots to these five universal foundations that create the variety. Haidt likens moral foundation theory to an “audio equalizer,” with each culture adjusting the sliders differently. The researchers, however, were not content to simply categorize moral foundations—they have tied the foundations to political leanings. And it is here that moral foundation theory becomes a truly practical tool for the lawyer. . . . This Comment will use moral foundation theory, and the recognition of this discontinuity between the liberal and conservative moral foundations, to demonstrate how a lawyer can avoid polarizing and intractable moral debates and become more persuasive in the courtroom. To do so, . . .

Haidt’s model provides an explanation for several things—e.g., why saying someone is “dirty” or “unclean” or “impure” works as severe condemnation for some while others are relatively unmoved. Or why liberals, who value Harm/Care and Fairness/Reciprocity very highly and Loyalty and Respect for Authority not nearly so much are most often whistleblowers. And why cops, who by and large are conservative, protect and cover for officers who beat and kill civilians: Ingroup/Loyalty is very strong, and totally overrides Fairness/Reciprocity.

Written by Leisureguy

12 October 2020 at 1:44 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life, Politics

Justin Cowen kindly fixes White House proclamation on Columbus Day

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Written by Leisureguy

12 October 2020 at 1:27 pm

Posted in Government, Trump administration

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A NY Times column that casts strong doubt on a NY Times report (and NY Times reporter)

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Ben Smith reports in the NY Times about the NY Times — and critically. He writes:

Derek Henry Flood wasn’t looking for work in March of 2018, when he sent a direct message to a New York Times reporter he admired, Rukmini Callimachi, to congratulate her on the announcement of her big new podcast about the terror group known as the Islamic State.

By that time, major American news outlets had mostly stopped hiring freelancers like Mr. Flood in Syria, scared off by a wave of kidnappings and murders.

But when Mr. Flood mentioned that he was in the northern city of Manbij, Ms. Callimachi wrote back urgently, and quickly hired him for a curious assignment. She sent him to the local market to ask about a Canadian Islamic State fighter called Abu Huzayfah.

The assignment, Mr. Flood recalled thinking, was both hopeless and quite strange in its specificity, since the extremist group had been forced out of Manbij two years earlier. But he was getting $250 a day, and so he gamely roamed the bazaar, reporting on all he saw and heard. Ms. Callimachi was singularly focused. “She only wanted things that very narrowly supported this kid in Canada’s wild stories,” he told me in a phone interview.

Mr. Flood didn’t know it at the time, but he was part of a frantic effort at The New York Times to salvage the high-profile project the paper had just announced. Days earlier, producers had sent draft scripts of the series, called Caliphate, to the international editor, Michael Slackman, for his input. But Mr. Slackman instead called the podcast team into the office of another top Times editor, Matt Purdy, a deputy managing editor who often signs off on investigative projects. The editors warned that the whole story seemed to depend on the credibility of a single character, the Canadian, whose vivid stories of executing men while warm blood “sprayed everywhere” were as lurid as they were uncorroborated. (This scene and others were described to me in interviews with more than two dozen people at The Times, many of whom spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive internal politics.)

The Times was looking for one thing: evidence that the Canadian’s story was true. In Manbij, Mr. Flood wandered the marketplace until a gold merchant warned him that his questions were attracting dangerous attention, prompting him to quickly board a bus out of town. Across the Middle East, other Times reporters were also asked to find confirmation of the source’s ties to ISIS, and communicated in WhatsApp channels with names like “Brilliant Seekers” and “New emir search.” But instead of finding Abu Huzayfah’s emir, they found that ISIS defectors had never heard of him.

In New York, Malachy Browne, a senior producer of visual investigations at The Times, managed to confirm that an image from Abu Huzayfah’s phone had been taken in Syria — but not that he had traveled there.

Still more Times reporters in Washington tried to find confirmation. And one of them, Eric Schmitt, pulled a thread that . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more. Bottom line: the NY Times messed up big time, and a reporter there should put her CV in order.

Written by Leisureguy

12 October 2020 at 12:43 pm

Active-data bar chart showing Covid-19 infections by state with political leanings indicated

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You see above how the bars are colored. States are stacked and ordered by number of Covid cases, longest bars on top. What’s unusual and very interesting is that the chart is active, going day by day through the period of the pandemic, with the bars gradually growing — and switching positions, as Covid cases surge or ebb, with state positions moving up and down as their relative ranking changes.

The date, clicking forward day by date, is shown on the lower right of the chart.

Take a look. It’s amazing to watch. Here’s a snapshot of the “most cases” view from Aug 26. You can pause and restart the display with the control at bottom left. There’s also a “least cases” view. It’s worth playing around with.

Written by Leisureguy

12 October 2020 at 10:47 am

Indian Flavour and a brush handle cousin to Saturday’s brush

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As you can see, the RazoRock 400 is definitely related to the Copper Hat brush I used Saturday. They doubtless share a common ancestor, the vintage Rubberset 400, with RazoRock’s hand being, so far as I can see, an exact duplicate, though the RazoRock’s knot is modern: a Plissoft synthetic. The RazoRock 400 comes in a variety of handles. Mine is aluminum, but it also comes in resin in various colors (butterscotch, for example, which is the classy name for “orange”).

It did a great job with Meißner Tremonia’s Indian Flavour shaving and the lather this morning was exceptional. I do wish that soap were more readily available outside Germany. The fragrance was exceptional and definitely had an Indian aspect. (Brief Esperanto factoid: the Esperanto word for the country is “Barato,” which is derived from the name India itself uses — “India” is a Western name, based on the Indus River. (In contrast, the Esperanto name for Beijing is “Pekino,” based on the old Western name Peking, which feel out of use decades ago.)

That wasn’t quite so brief as I thought it would be. Back to the shave, and what could have been better: a really thick and creamy lather with a tantalizing fragrance, an exceptionally soft knot mounted in a comfortable handle, and then the time-tested Merkur 37 slant, mine being the 37G. (This is the razor that Hoffritz, who prided itself on having the best of cutlery — scissors, knives, razors, etc. — chose as the razor to carry the Hoffritz name. You can still find secondhand Hoffritz razors from time time: they’re excellent, and they are basically Merkur 37s.)

Three passes, quite comfortable, and a face as smooth as it’s ever been. A splash of Pashana aftershave to carry forward the Indian theme, and I’m ready for a new week — and (up here) Thanksgiving.

Written by Leisureguy

12 October 2020 at 10:27 am

Posted in Shaving

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