Later On

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

Archive for October 15th, 2020

Wes Montgomery – Four On Six

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Written by Leisureguy

15 October 2020 at 8:31 pm

Posted in Jazz

A couple of daily notes: Tempeh and “Scaramouche”

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I finally isolated the tempeh problem. I had another failure, even though using my homemade tempeh incubation box (which kept temperature within a degree of 88ºF), so while the earlier batches may have failed due to temperature, something else was at work.

I finally twigged to a change I made about the time I moved in here. When I cook beans, I soak them in brine (1 teaspoon salt per 1 cup of dried beans), and after they’ve soaked I add fresh water and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) per 1 cup of dried beans. The result is that the beans cook faster (that is, they are tender and tasty in less time) and their skin doesn’t split.

BUT: tempeh mold craves an acid environment, the reason one adds 1 tablespoon vinegar to the cooked beans once they’ve been dried (heating in cooking pot, and I also use a hair dryer). I didn’t think the small amount of baking soda would overcome the vinegar, but then it occurred to me that the beans were being cooked in that alkaline water and probably ended by being pretty alkaline themselves — that is, toxic to the tempeh mold.

So I just cooked yesterday a new batch of soybeans sans salt and sans soda. They did take a lot longer to get done, but they were pure bean, without the alkalinity toxic to mold.

After I dried them, I added the vinegar and then the mold and put them into my new tempeh incubator: some were in a Ziploc produce bag (pre-perforated) and some were in an open storage dish but covered with a clean dishtowel.

I just checked on them. It’s been 21 hours, and I’m happy to say that the tempeh mold looks very healthy. I apparently was unwittingly poisoning it by the way I cooked the beans.

I’ll know more tomorrow and will post a photo (which I know you’re dying to see).

And, related on chronologically, I finished Rafael Sabatini’s Scaramouche and it seemed better than ever — sent me to the dictionary about as often, too, though someone who knows French would probably fare better.

It’s truly a great read and in an earlier post I described how to download a free copy for your ebook reader. (It’s long since been out of copyright.)

Written by Leisureguy

15 October 2020 at 4:44 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life, Food, Non-animal diet

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Philosophy, in 1000 words exactly

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A 1000-word essay from the anthology website 1000-Word Philosophy, an interesting site:

1000-Word Philosophy: An Introductory Anthology is a constantly-growing collection of original essays on important philosophical topics. These essays are introductions rather than argumentative articles. Each essay is as close to 1000 words (while never going over!) as the author can get it. A 1000-word essay takes between five and ten minutes to read. That’s about the length of a short bus ride or a waiting room stay, or the lead-up to a class meeting.

Professional philosophy can seem abstract, esoteric, and hyper-specialized. But we all ask and try to answer philosophical questions myriad times daily: philosophy is the purview not just of the expert, but of all thoughtful people. 1000-Word Philosophy is an open-access journal of philosophy. Its intended audience is general readers who are interested in philosophy and students in philosophy, and philosophical, courses. 

Our goal in writing and sharing these essays is to provide high-quality introductions to great philosophical questions and debates. We hope that philosophers and non-philosophers alike will benefit from perusing these essays. Our authors generally provide references or sources for more information for readers whose interest is piqued by a particular topic or debate.

The Blog of the American Philosophical Association posted a story about the Anthology, entitled “1,000-Word Philosophy: Philosophy for Everyone.” This story provides more information about the project and its goals. 

So that’s where I got this essay: a philosophical essay about philosopy:

Author: Thomas Metcalf
Category: Metaphilosophy
Word count: 1000

If you’ve ever wondered whether God exists, whether life has purpose, whether beauty is in the eye of the beholder, what makes actions right or wrong, or whether a law is fair or just, then you’ve thought about philosophy. And these are just a few philosophical topics.

But what is philosophy? The question is itself a philosophical question. This essay surveys some answers.

1. Defining Philosophy

The most general definition of philosophy is that it is the pursuit of wisdom, truth, and knowledge.[1] Indeed, the word itself means ‘love of wisdom’ in Greek.

Whenever people think about deep, fundamental questions concerning the nature of the universe and ourselves, the limits of human knowledge, their values and the meaning of life, they are thinking about philosophy. Philosophical thinking is found in all parts of the world, present, and past.[2]

In the academic world, philosophy distinguishes a certain area of study from all other areas, such as the sciences and other humanities. Philosophers typically consider questions that are, in some sense, broader and/or more fundamental than other inquirers’ questions:[3] e.g. physicists ask what caused some event; philosophers ask whether causation even exists; historians study figures who fought for justice; philosophers ask what justice is or whether their causes were in fact just; economists study the allocation of capital; philosophers debate the ethical merits of capitalism.

When a topic becomes amenable to rigorous, empirical study, it tends to be “outsourced” to its own field, and not described in the present day as “philosophy” anymore: e.g., the natural sciences were once called “natural philosophy,” but we don’t now just think about whether matter is composed of atoms or infinitely divisible: we use scientific experiments.[4] And most of the different doctoral degrees are called “Doctor of Philosophy” even when they’re in sociology or chemistry.

Philosophical questions can’t be straightforwardly investigated through purely empirical means:[5] e.g. try to imagine a lab experiment testing whether societies should privilege equality over freedom—not whether people believe we should, but whether we actually should. What does moral importance look like in a microscope?

The main method of academic philosophy is to construct and evaluate arguments (i.e. reasons intended to justify some conclusion). Such conclusions might be that some theory is true or false or might be about the correct analysis or definition of some concept. These arguments generally have at least some conceptual, intellectual, or a priori, i.e., non-empirical, content. And philosophers often incorporate relevant scientific knowledge as premises in arguments.[6]

2. Branches of Philosophy

Philosophy deals with fundamental questions. But which questions, specifically, is philosophy about? Here’s a standard categorization:[7]

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

15 October 2020 at 4:06 pm

Posted in Daily life

Celebrating the Playful Magic of John Horton Conway

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Pradeep Mutalik writes in Quanta:

The legendary mathematician John Horton Conway, who died in April of COVID-19, took a childlike delight in inventing puzzles and games. He performed detailed analyses of many puzzles, such as the Soma cubepeg solitaire and Conway’s soldiers. He invented the “Doomsday algorithm” (a fast method of calculating the day of the week in your head — Conway could do it in under two seconds) and countless games, including Sprouts and the famous Game of Life, which launched the study of cellular automata.

A great deal of Conway’s serious mathematical work also arose from his penchant for playing mathematical games. He made original contributions to group theory (the Leech latticemonstrous moonshine), higher-dimensional geometry, tessellations, knot theory, number theory (surreal numbers), algebra, mathematical logic and analysis.

This month, we celebrate the playful genius of the famous British mathematician with two puzzles and an exploratory game. First, we’ll play around with a numerical puzzle Conway invented that is perfection itself. Then we’ll enjoy a geometric puzzle that relates to some of his most visually pleasing work. Finally, we’ll immerse ourselves in an open-ended game contributed by a Quanta reader that resembles Conway’s iconic Game of Life.

Puzzle 1: Digital Perfection

There is a mysterious 10-digit decimal number, abcdefghij. Each of the digits is different, and they have the following properties:

a is divisible by 1
ab is divisible by 2
abc is divisible by 3
abcd is divisible by 4
abcde is divisible by 5
abcdef is divisible by 6
abcdefg is divisible by 7
abcdefgh is divisible by 8
abcdefghi is divisible by 9
abcdefghij is divisible by 10

What’s the number?

Before you begin this puzzle, take a minute to admire the absolute perfection of its form. It flows completely naturally, without an iota of arbitrariness or artifice. Once you read the first two conditions, you know exactly what the rest of puzzle is going to be. And then to have this natural set of conditions yield a unique answer is amazing. For me as a puzzle maker, this digit substitution puzzle inspires the same feeling that Mozart inspired in Einstein, who said that Mozart’s music “was so pure that it seemed to have been ever-present in the universe, waiting to be discovered by the master.” Only someone as numerically gifted as Conway could have plucked such a perfect Platonic form from puzzle heaven!

You can solve this puzzle by performing a brute-force search with a computer, of course, but you don’t need to. I urge you to do it using pencil and paper. All digit substitution puzzles of this type can be solved with a two-step process familiar to those who’ve solved a sudoku puzzle — first you deduce relationships between the digits, which narrows the possibilities, and then you do a systematic trial-and-error search for the unknown digits. In this case, you can use the tricks you learned in school for determining if a number is divisible by a given digit. If you squeeze the last drop of deduction from the puzzle conditions, you won’t have too many trial-and–error candidates to search through.

In fact, if you want a stiffer challenge, try doing this puzzle entirely in your head. After all, Conway was known for solving math problems “with his bare hands.” It requires a lot of focus and patience, but I assure you it can be done.

Puzzle 2: The Ambiguous Triangles

There is an isosceles triangle that contains an angle of x degrees. The ratio of the two different lengths of its sides is y.

It turns out that not one but two different triangles have the exact same values of x and y!

What are the values of x and for these two isosceles triangles? What’s special about the triangles, and how do they relate to Conway’s work?

For our final offering, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

15 October 2020 at 3:21 pm

Posted in Games, Math

What if a Pill Can Change Your Politics or Religious Beliefs?

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I’ve been interested in trying psilocybin for years, but properly supervised. Maybe I’ll get the chance yet. Eddie Jacobs writes in Scientific American:

How would you feel about a new therapy for your chronic pain, which—although far more effective than any available alternative—might also change your religious beliefs? Or a treatment for lymphoma that brings one in three patients into remission, but also made them more likely to vote for your least preferred political party?

These seem like idle hypothetical questions about impossible side effects. After all, this is not how medicine works. But a new mental health treatment, set to be licensed next year, poses just this sort of problem. Psychotherapy assisted by psilocybin, the psychedelic compound in “magic mushrooms,” seems to be remarkably effective in treating a wide range of psychopathologies, but also causes a raft of unusual nonclinical changes not seen elsewhere in medicine.

Although its precise therapeutic mechanisms remain unclear, clinically relevant doses of psilocybin can induce powerful mystical experiences more commonly associated with extended periods of fasting, prayer or meditation. Arguably, then, it is unsurprising that it can generate long-lasting changes in patients: studies report increased prosociality and aesthetic appreciation, plus robust shifts in personalityvalues and attitudes to life, even leading some atheists to find God. What’s more, these experiences appear to be a feature, rather than a bug, of psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy, with the intensity of the mystical experience correlating with the extent of clinical benefit.

These are undoubtedly interesting findings, but should any of it matter? However unusual a treatment’s consequences, shouldn’t we prioritize the preferences of an informed, consenting patient? Yes, I understand that this might change me in strange ways. But my depression is debilitating. I will roll that dice. Putting aside the matter of how well-informed one could really be about such radical transformations, political realities make things more complicated, with the case of psilocybin— currently a Schedule 1, highly illicit drug—showing vividly how values, politics and social narratives can influence the development of biomedical science.

The taboo of the illicit is not an insuperable obstacle. The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), an organization that advocates for “careful uses” of psychedelics, has gone an impressive way in rehabilitating MDMA (i.e., ecstasy) into a legitimate medicine. MAPS’s masterstroke was to focus on demonstrating its potential for treating PTSD. By articulating how MDMA-assisted therapy could help veterans, support for whom enjoys a rare level of bipartisan agreement, MAPS have attracted supporters from across the political spectrum, receiving positive coverage from MSNBC and Fox News alike.

Advocates of psilocybin-assisted therapy tout it as the solution to the burgeoning mental health crisis. But, like MDMA, psilocybin is far from a culturally neutral drug, carrying both the shame of Schedule 1 status and a checkered social history. It too may need to build the kind of politically heterogeneous coalition of supporters that MDMA-assisted therapy enjoys.

But to generate a breadth of appeal, one challenge stands out: psilocybin seems to make people more liberal. Scientific reports associating psychedelic use and liberal values stretch back as far as 1971, and although these findings have been replicated more recently, a noncausal explanation is readily available. Those with conservative attitudes tend to look more disapprovingly on illicit drug use, making them less likely than liberals to try a psychedelic drug in the first place.

However, emerging evidence suggests the relationship could be causal, with clinically administered psilocybin actively shifting political values, just as it shifts many other nonclinical characteristics. Notably, one study of psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression reported that the treatment decreased authoritarian political views in patients. That clinical trial also detected another effect that had previously been reported in healthy participants: psilocybin use leads to increases in the personality domain of openness, itself a predictor of liberal values. . . .

Perhaps psilocybin removes learned stereotypes and allows the mind to see reality for what it is, and reality has a well-known liberal aspect (one reasons conservatives are so strongly opposed to education).

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

15 October 2020 at 3:01 pm

Ohio’s quarter-mile early-voting lines? That’s what voter suppression looks like

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David Litt writes in the Guardian:

In-person early voting started in Ohio this week, and in the state’s largest cities, it was a total mess. In Columbus, the line stretched for a quarter of a mile. In Cuyahoga county, the hours-long wait began before polls even opened.

All of this was entirely predictable. Thanks to an Ohio state law passed in 2006 by a Republican-controlled legislature and signed by a Republican governor, the number of in-person early voting sites is limited to just one per county. That means Vinton County, a Republican stronghold in the state’s southeast that’s home to just 13,500 Ohioans, has approximately 97 times more polling-places-per-voter than Franklin County, the deep-blue bastion with a population of more than 1.3 million.

The office of Frank LaRose, Ohio’s chief elections official, recently tweeted that “lines are due to enthusiasm”. But blaming voters for the long lines they endure ignores the massive, intentional disparity in resources between the more and less populous parts of the state. Ohio’s politicians have made voting far easier for Republicans and far more difficult for Democrats. But what makes the needlessly long lines that have appeared throughout Ohio’s cities particularly notable is that they are not merely the result of election mismanagement or an ad hoc act of voter suppression. Instead, they reflect a view of democracy that prioritizes the imaginary preferences of land over the very real preferences of people, and in so doing, undermines the principle of “One Person, One Vote”.

To understand exactly what makes the actions of Ohio’s Republican politicians so insidious, and so antithetical to modern democracy, it’s important to understand the history of One Person, One Vote – a concept that sounds timeless, but in fact is younger than George Clooney. At the turn of the 20th century, as Americans began migrating from the countryside to cities, rural politicians came up with ways to retain power without having to retain population. The simplest way to do this was to avoid redrawing legislative district boundaries every year. The population of cities boomed – but the number of representatives allocated to them did not.

By 1960, American representation, or lack thereof, had become almost farcical. Maricopa county, Arizona, which contained the city of Phoenix and more than half the state’s population, elected just one-third of the state’s representatives to Congress. “One state senator represented Los Angeles county, which had a population of more than 6 million people,” write authors Seth Stern and Stephen Wermiel, “while another represented three northern California rural counties with a total population of 14,294.” Author Anthony Lewis provides an example from Connecticut: “177,000 citizens of Hartford elected two members of the state house of representatives; so did the town of Colebrook, population 592.” (The most egregious example of what political scientists call “malapportionment” was surely in New Hampshire, where one district’s assemblyman represented a constituency of three.)

Another strategy politicians used to maintain control despite dwindling popular support was to distribute power by county rather than by population. The most infamous of these was Georgia’s “county unit system”. Created in 1917, the system gave each county a set number of votes in Democratic primaries: urban counties received six votes, towns received four, and rural counties received two. Atlanta’s Fulton county had a population 80 times larger than that of three least-populous counties combined, yet they received an identical six votes. Because Democrats dominated Georgia, the winner of the party primary was the de facto winner of the general election – which made the county unit system a powerful tool for disenfranchising urban voters in general, and Black voters (who were more likely to live in cities) in particular. . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

The GOP is pulling out all stops to keep people from voting. I wonder why. <- (irony)

Written by Leisureguy

15 October 2020 at 2:45 pm

Earth’s New Gilded Era

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You might think humans could do better. Van R. Newkirk II writes in the Atlantic:

Consider the cantaloupe. It’s a decent melon. If you, like me, are the sort who constantly mixes them up, cantaloupes are the orange ones, and honeydews are green. If you, like me, are old enough to remember vacations, you might have had them along with their cousin, watermelon, at a hotel’s breakfast buffet. Those spreads are not as bad as you remember, especially when it’s hot out; add a couple of cold bagels and a pat of unmelted butter and it’s a party.

Maybe you want the cool, refreshing mildness of a melon cup at home. Unless there’s a good fruit stand nearby and cantaloupe is in season, that means taking a trip to the grocery store. Maybe you’ll stroll down aisles kept just cool enough to make the skin on your arms prickle. You’ll browse refrigerated produce shelves doused in cold water every so often. Then you’ll find it: the perfect cantaloupe. It’s round and rough, with no dimples or spots. When you thump it, there’s a satisfying, muffled thud. It’s a sweet one.

Consider how the cantaloupe got there. It likely took a long ride to the supermarket or the hotel kitchen in a truck cooled to just above freezing. Maybe, like many melons, it was planted, picked, and packed on a plantation in the town of Choluteca, in southern Honduras, before it began its careful ballet of climate control.

Workers told me they aren’t allowed phones in the fields in Choluteca, so they don’t always know exactly how hot it is. But during the growing season on the Fyffes melon plantation, temperatures hover in the mid-30s in Celsius—the mid-to-upper 90s in Fahrenheit. The sun broils the open spaces where workers chop the melons from their stems. The heat is overwhelming and omnipresent, an overseer whose hand is always heavy, and whose eye is never distracted.

Workers have told me of conditions that push the human body to its limits—sometimes, past them. Protective gloves are prohibited, they say, so their hands bleed from the rough work handling plants that are doused in corrosive chemicals. Pickers say they are hesitant to show any signs of weakness or illness, fearing that taking time off or even appearing to be sick while working will result in termination. (A Fyffes spokesperson told me that gloves are always provided upon request, and are mandatory in certain parts of the packhouse where workers handle chemicals, and that unwell workers receive sick days and are required to see a doctor.)

But the most common complaint is the most elemental: It’s damn hot in the fields. “El calor es bien fuerte,” one woman, 25, told me. She didn’t want to reveal her name for fear of retaliation, but she said she’s worked on a farm in Choluteca for four years, shuffling through almost every job available, from cleaning the facilities to picking the fruit. Many people who have worked for decades are marked by skin blemishes that, even if they’re not yet cancerous, aren’t all benign: hives, rashes, and chocolate-colored splotches. The spokesperson for Fyffes told me that the workers start very early in the morning to avoid the heat as much as possible, and are provided cold water and hats to shield them from the sun. But even for workers who begin in the dark, when sun and heat and exertion act together over long periods of time, the effects can be worrisome. “Varias mujeres se desmayan,” the same worker said. “Se les sube la presión … todo eso.” They faint. Their blood pressure spikes. And they keep working.

Thousands of miles separate the fields of Honduras and the continental breakfasts in the States. But these are terminals of a single, continuous system. Heat bears down most on the global working poor and developing countries, while their wealthier planetmates are able to evade the worst of the warming. What’s more, consumption by those wealthier folks helps create the warming, which in turn robs the poor of opportunity and walls off economic mobility. Garment workers in Cambodia and Bangladesh toil in sweatshops to sew the moisture-wicking fabrics that make summer in Phoenix or Miami or Washington, D.C., bearable. In Qatar, itinerant workers labor at the outer edge of human survivability to fabricate air-conditioned hotels, malls, and arenas for the rich. And thousands of families flee environmental pressures in Central America only to find themselves suffering from the heat in the United States.

Scientists and people with good sense around the world recognize the manifold perils of a climate crisis: an onslaught of tropical systems in the Atlantic Ocean, the relentless burn of wildfires in California and Oregon, the hundred-year floods that now encroach annually. Less appreciated, perhaps, are the direct effects of that increasing warmth on human bodies and communities. Heat is already often deadly, and even below fatal thresholds it is a grinding attrition that saps personal and economic vitality a little more each day. In the coming century, when wealth inequality will likely increase and the spaces where humans can live comfortably will shrink, the heat gap between rich and poor might be the world’s most daunting challenge. It will reflect existing wealth disparities, but will also deepen them. It will destroy some bodies, while others are spared. It will spark uprisings and set the stage for conflict, both between and within nations. In a hot world, the heat gap will be a defining manifestation of inequality.

One billion people work in agriculture, performing the same kind of labor as the melon pickers in Choluteca. Add to that the millions and millions of people who work outdoors in construction jobs, or indoors in sweatshops and factories without air-conditioning, and significant numbers of low-income workers—including hundreds of millions of children—have little control over the temperatures in which they spend the majority of their waking hours. According to a recent report by the United Nations’ International Labour Organization (ILO), heat stress is threatening their work and their lives.

Heat stress—defined by the ILO as “heat received in excess of that which the body can tolerate without physiological impairment”—has always affected workers in the summer and in tropical or subtropical climates. Sunburns, skin cancer, heat exhaustion, fainting, dehydration, and long-term kidney problems have been accepted as basic risks of outdoor work. But as the Earth has experienced a sustained, record-breaking run of overall temperatures, these problems have become more and more of a burden—and, more and more often, a fatal one. Tord Kjellstrom, an environmental- and occupational-health expert and one of the main authors of the ILO report, told me that “it’s well understood from a physiological, medical point of view that these hot temperatures limit people’s abilities to carry out work.” It’s not just work—extreme heat can disrupt or destroy many of the pieces of a healthy life—but in his research, Kjellstrom has found productivity to be one of the main proxies for all the ways heat can affect the global poor.

Kjellstrom’s work has zeroed in on so-called mass fainting events in South Asian and Southeast Asian factories over the past decade. In 2017, hundreds of garment workers in Bangladesh fell ill with what one worker described as “nausea, vomiting and stomach pain after working [a] few hours.” That same year, “there were more than 1600 cases of factory workers in Cambodia fainting in various incidents,” according to an epidemiological study of the faintings.

Over and over, these incidents have been described as “mysterious.” One common explanation is possession by spirits. The usual official line is that mass fainting—among a mostly female workforce—is caused by “hysteria” of an inexplicable, gendered extraction. A secret report by officials in Cambodia after two such mass fainting events found its way to Kjellstrom. “Their report was quite long, and half of it was about the heat problems,” he told me. “And still, at the end they concluded that it was hysteria: You know, one young woman in the factory, she faints, and then all her friends start fainting as well. And of course that doesn’t make sense.” Epidemiological evidence also points to stress, air pollution, long hours, and the punishing pace of work as potential contributors to the fainting incidents, but with factory temperatures in Cambodia regularly topping 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the likely main contributor seems obvious.

Other places have caught Kjellstrom’s eye as well. In Qatar, where the stadiums the emirate is scrambling to build for the 2022 World Cup require lots and lots of outdoor labor, heart-disease deaths among workers have spiked during the summer months. Chronic kidney disease has swept Central America; again, the etiology of the epidemic has been described as mysterious. Similar waves of kidney disease have been observed in India and Sri Lanka. Scientists have tended toward a kitchen-sink explanation, identifying genetics, diet, pollution, and age as contributors to the epidemic. But a common factor in each outbreak—and the one that has increased most dramatically in recent years—is the heat.

One way to track the increasing impact of heat on people has been to measure how . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more. It’s grim, but it’s factual.

Written by Leisureguy

15 October 2020 at 2:38 pm

Landmark study reveals opportunities to engage nearly 100 million Americans who don’t vote

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Evette Treewater Alexander writes in Medium:

On February 19, 2020, Knight Foundation released a new study that sheds light on the 100 million Americans who don’t vote, their political views and what they think about the 2020 election. Knight’s Evette Alexander shares more below. View the , the  and the  for more information.

We’re well into campaign season in what could be one of the most divisive elections in living memory. While the polls and pundits focus on likely voters, who reliably cast ballots, nearly 100 million non-voters — and the underlying causes keeping them home on Election Day — will likely be ignored.

Americans who do turn out will drive the election result, but so much of the underlying health of our democracy can be assessed by looking at those who don’t turn out — and asking why.

That’s why Knight Foundation commissioned Bendixen and Amandi International to develop an unprecedented study of 12,000 chronic non-voters, nationwide and in key battleground states. No previous study has surveyed this segment of the electorate at such depth and scale. Knight is focused on ensuring the enduring strength of our representative democracy. And a truly representative democracy is just that: one defined by the broad and representative participation of its people.

Voting is a fundamental form of democratic engagement, but the United States lags behind most of the  It’s a long running trend, according to , that active voters over-represent certain groups (the college educated, upper income and over 40) and under-represent others. This has ramifications on the capacity of our elected government to mirror the values of its entire citizenry.

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Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

15 October 2020 at 2:27 pm

Posted in Election, Science

Just made a batch of Other Vegetables

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Working with ratatouille in mind, using of course the 6-qt All-Clad d3 Stainless pot.

Olive oil – with the drizzler top, I used less, probably 1.5 tablespoons
Enormous leek, sliced up including all the (well-rinsed) green part
3 large jalapeños, chopped small and including seeds and core

Sauté over medium-high heat until it wilts. Add to the pot:

almost 1 cup thinly sliced garlic that had been resting while I prepped veg
2-3 tablespoons Mexican oregano
1.5 tablespoons dried thyme
1.5 tablespoons cracked rosemary
2-3 tablespoons ground black pepper

Sauté for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently.

1 very large fennel bulb with 4” fronds, cored and chopped (including fronds)
1 very large zucchini, diced
10 large crimini mushrooms, halved and then sliced thick
2 medium Japanese eggplant, halved and sliced somewhat thick
1 yellow pattypan squash, diced
1/2 large yellow bell pepper, diced
1 bunch Italian parsley, chopped

Cook for a while — I had to add it in parts, letting the first addition cook down before I could add the rest.

After that has cooked a while, add:

1 small can no-salt-added tomato paste
then, using the can as a measure:
— 1/3 can apple cider vinegar
— 1 can sweet vermouth
1 28 oz can diced Italian tomatoes
1 18 oz can “Spicy red pepper” diced stewed tomatoes
pitted Kalamata olives from deli section (drained) — about 1.3 cups
2-3 tablespoons Red Boat fish sauce
2 tablespoons tamari

The 18oz (540ml) size can for tomatoes and beans is common here. Those diced stewed tomatoes come in a variety of flavors, and I find them useful.

Simmer 30 minutes, stirring from time to time. Make about 6 quarts.

Those who remember the Dagwood and Blondie comic strip will note that my cooking bears influences of Dagwood’s sandwiches.

Written by Leisureguy

15 October 2020 at 1:45 pm

Videos show closed-door sessions of leading conservative activists: ‘Be not afraid of the accusations that you’re a voter suppressor’

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Pursuant to the New Yorker article blogged earlier today, Robert O’Harrow, Jr. has videos. Reporting in the Washington Post (where you can see the videos) he writes:

As the presidential campaign entered its final stages, a fresh-faced Republican activist named Charlie Kirk stepped into the spotlight at a closed-door gathering of leading conservatives and shared his delight about an impact of the coronavirus pandemic: the disruption of America’s universities. So many campuses had closed, he said, that up to a half-million left-leaning students probably would not vote.

“So, please keep the campuses closed,” Kirk, 26, said in August as the audience cheered, according to video of the event obtained by The Washington Post. “Like, it’s a great thing.”

The gathering in Northern Virginia was organized by the Council for National Policy, a little-known group that has served for decades as a hub for a nationwide network of conservative activists and the donors who support them. Members include Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and Leonard Leo, an outside adviser to President Trump who has helped raise hundreds of millions of dollars from undisclosed donors to support conservative causes and the nominations of conservative federal judges.

Videos provided to The Post — covering dozens of hours of CNP meetings over three days in February and three in August — offer an inside view of participants’ obsessions and fears at a pivotal moment in the conservative movement. The videos, recorded by CNP to share with its members, show influential activists discussing election tactics, amplifying conspiracy theories and describing much of America in dark and apocalyptic terms.

“This is a spiritual battle we are in. This is good versus evil,” CNP’s executive committee president, Bill Walton, said on Aug. 21, addressing attendees at the Ritz-Carlton in Pentagon City. “We have to do everything we can to win.”

Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, told attendees that same day that the left is “war-gaming” a plan to delay the election tally until Jan. 20, 2021, and enable House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to become acting president. “This is kind of like crazy talk” among political people, Fitton said. But he added: “This is not an insignificant concern.”

Expressing concern about voter fraud and disenfranchisement, Fitton called on the audience to find a way to prevent mail-in ballots from being sent to voters. “We need to stop those ballots from going out, and I want the lawyers here to tell us what to do,” said Fitton, whose organization is a tax-exempt charity. “But this is a crisis that we’re not prepared for. I mean, our side is not prepared for.” . . .

Continue reading. There’s more. The GOP does not like it when people vote — and they don’t seem to care all that much about law and the Constitution.

Written by Leisureguy

15 October 2020 at 1:21 pm

Why the Right Keeps Saying That the United States Isn’t a Democracy

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Sue Halpern writes in the New Yorker:

If the most urgent questions raised by this election season have been “What kind of democracy do we live in?” and “What kind of democracy do we want to live in?,” then Senator Mike Lee, of Utah, has an answer. Just hours before the F.B.I. revealed a plot by members of a white-supremacist militia to kidnap the governor of Michigan, the Republican senator let loose a volley of tweets that could be interpreted as a shorthand version of the gospel of many on the right. “Democracy isn’t the objective: liberty, peace, and prospefity [sic] are,” Lee wrote. “We want the human condition to flourish. Rank democracy can thwart that.” Earlier, he had written, “We’re not a democracy.”

As shocking as this sounds, especially from a sitting member of Congress, it is a point of view that comes from a hidebound reading of the Constitution and stems from a selective interpretation of the Framers’ intent, articulated most directly by James Madison in the Federalist Papers. “We may define a republic to be, or at least may bestow that name on, a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people, and is administered by persons holding their offices during pleasure, for a limited period, or during good behavior,” he wrote in Federalist No. 39. A democracy, by contrast, puts government directly in the hands of the governed. (Lee clerked for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, a champion of “practical originalist” jurisprudence, which holds that the law should adhere as closely as possible to the meaning of the words in the Constitution at the time it was written. Lee’s argument is a similar kind of textualism.)

The 2016 election was a rude reminder that we aren’t a popular democracy. Donald Trump’s victory was an Electoral College math trick. But, in fact, we aren’t a direct democracy, either, where we all show up in the public square to hash things out. Plato, you may remember from an intro-to-political-philosophy class, was especially wary of that kind of government, because he doubted that most men—he was writing only about men—possessed the intellectual capacity or the temperament to govern themselves. The Framers, including Madison, who were similarly suspicious of the rabble, gifted us instead with a representative democracy, which puts the people one degree of separation from the halls of power. Our sovereignty as citizens comes from the right to choose the people who we believe best reflect our interests. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which put those interests up for sale, is a striking example of how the Framers’ intent has been debased by those who use the claim that America is a republic, and the libertarianism on which that claim feeds, to justify siphoning power away from the electorate.

When Senator Lee says, “We’re not a democracy,” he’s not just being provocative. He is also pointing out that, from the start, the Founders limited the franchise. Though it’s always refreshing to be reminded that it took constitutional amendments and acts of Congress to extend voting rights to Black Americans, women, and Native Americans, it’s equally heartening to remember that American democracy, for all its shortcomings and its flaws, has proved to be elastic. Incrementally but inexorably, it has expanded to include the excluded. It is a testament to the inherent dynamism of the electorate that it continues to survive every attempt to diminish it by those whose fear of “the public”—as in public health and public education—is masked by appeals to “liberty.”

Lee’s words also underscore something else: that many on the right view voting as an existential threat. At a gathering of evangelicals back in 1980, Paul Weyrich, a Republican strategist and a co-founder of the Heritage Foundation, asked, “How many of our Christians have what I call the ‘goo-goo syndrome’? Good government. They want everybody to vote. I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people. They never have been from the beginning of our country, and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”

Gerrymandering and restrictive voter-I.D. laws are products of this sentiment, as are the dismantling of the Voting Rights Act, legal impediments to casting ballots, and voter suppression propagated through social media. These efforts, which began before Donald Trump’s Presidency, intensified when he took office, and have escalated as the 2020 election approaches. Lately, we’ve watched as Republican-controlled state legislatures, Republican-appointed judges, and Republican secretaries of state shutter polling places, limit the number of ballot drop boxes, undo the restoration of felons’ voting rights, and prevent absentee voting. The hacking of this election—through the use of such democratic institutions as the courts and the legislatures, which are exploited to erode and subvert democratic norms—is under way, and it has been for years.

The paradox of American democracy is that its survival is a choice; it persists solely at the discretion of an electorate that can, if it so wills, dismantle it. If the polls are accurate, Trump’s reëlection bid is in trouble. Early voting in swing states indicates that more Democrats have voted than Republicans, and groups that supported Trump in 2016, such as white, suburban woman, are abandoning him. Apparently, Trump sees cheating as his best chance to win, so he has been denouncing

. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

15 October 2020 at 10:31 am

Posted in Daily life, Election, GOP

James Fallows takes a shrewd look at the vice-presidential debate

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James Fallows (a one-time presidential speechwriter) comments in the Atlantic:

Will this latest debate make a measurable difference in the outcome of the election? Probably not; vice-presidential debates rarely do. But something significant may have happened last night, and it involves what usually turns out to matter, if anything does, from televised debates. Namely, the parts of their personalities and identities each candidate purposefully or unintentionally conveyed.

If vice-presidential debates are remembered at all, it’s usually for stage-business drama or rhetorical zingers. The most famous case is Lloyd Bentsen’s “Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy” dressing-down of Dan Quayle in 1988. But that line of Bentsen’s, which lastingly affected Quayle’s reputation, didn’t dent the vote share for the Republican ticket that year. (Quayle and George H. W. Bush won in an Electoral College landslide, 426 votes to 111.) The similarly instant-classic moment from last night’s debate was when a black housefly camped on the snow-white hair of an unaware Mike Pence for two full minutes. Depending on how the election turns out, this will eventually be seen as a minor embarrassment, comparable to toilet paper on your shoe (if Pence and Donald Trump should win), or on the contrary as an overobvious portent (if they lose), without itself making either outcome more likely.

When rhetoricians go back to study the transcript, I think they’ll find a number of carefully prepared and effective lines. To me, the debate-prep work that had gone into crafting responses was easier to notice from Kamala Harris than from Pence. This was partly because Harris herself is a fresher and less familiar figure on the national scene; partly because Pence’s answers were mostly versions of what we’ve heard so often in Trump rally speeches; but mainly because Harris at least began most of her answers with a response to the question that had been asked. By contrast, Pence frequently brushed aside the question and talked about whatever he liked.

After the moderator, Susan Page, said she wanted to shift the topic to a vice president’s responsibilities, during an election in which the presidential candidates are the oldest in U.S. history, Pence said he preferred to talk instead about the timetable for a vaccine—and did just that. Neither in that case nor in any other did Page reel him back or follow up to say, “Mr. Vice President, the question was …” When Page asked Pence a question about climate change and he responded, as Trump does, with an answer about “clean air and water,” she did not say, “Sir, I am asking about climate change.” Page’s list of prepared questions was overall very good, but she did not adjust her approach when Pence repeatedly ignored them. If you’d like to see how it looks when a moderator does adjust and insists on getting answers, check out how Ted Simons of Arizona PBS handled himself in this week’s Arizona Senate debate.

With the first words of her first response, Harris presented what was essentially a prosecutor’s opening argument about mismanagement of the pandemic. “The American people have witnessed what is the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country,” she began, looking not at Page or Pence but directly at the camera. Hundreds of thousands of people dead; millions infected; one in five American businesses closed; “frontline workers treated like sacrificial workers … They knew what was happening, and they didn’t tell you.”

She made her case on many other fronts, including in a set piece on why in 1864 “Honest Abe” Lincoln waited until after an election to fill a Supreme Court vacancy. Pence had his own responses, again mainly familiar from Trump’s speeches. For now I am going to skip past all those specifics, because if past vice-presidential debates are any guide, policy details from the running mate don’t change many voters’ minds.

What has historically mattered, when vice-presidential candidates present themselves, is temperament. Voters want to know what kind of person they’re dealing with; whether he or she would be ready if called upon; what it says about the presidential nominee that he or she chose this running mate. Back in 2000, it was taken as a “reassuring” sign that the youngish George W. Bush, inexperienced outside Texas, was running with the well-traveled Dick Cheney. (It was a long time ago.) Eight years later, it was a worrisome sign about John McCain that he rolled the dice by choosing Sarah Palin.

In 2020, with two presidential candidates who are so old, the steadiness of the running mate matters all the more. And in conveying temperament, I think Harris helped herself in a way that might matter electorally, while Pence did himself and his running mate harm.

The axis for both displays was Pence’s version of Donald Trump’s rampaging disregard for debate “rules” during the cage-match Trump-Biden spectacle one week ago. That time, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

15 October 2020 at 10:13 am

Move to R4 from R3, and a great vintage lather

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The Wet Shaving Products Monarch — a very fine brush — also uses the wasp-waist ball-top (WWBT) handle design. It’s a good design, and this particular knot is excellent: more resilient that the G.B. Kent BK4 — more backbone — but still very pleasant on the face and effective at creating lather, which this morning comes from a vintage tub of Yardley, whose age I would guess at about 50 years. Its (lavender) fragrance is still quite present and the lather was excellent.

On a whim I moved from the R3 baseplate on my Rockwell 6S to R4. The blade is an Astra Keramik Platinum (speaking of vintage shaving stuff), and the shave was excellent. For me every one of the Rockwell baseplates, R1 through R6, is extremely comfortable.

A splash of Pinaud Coachman — vintage in years but still on the market — and the day begins.

I had another tempeh failure but a new theory, which I’m testing with the new batch: that, whether or not temperature was a factor, the use of baking soda was a primary culprit, making the beans alkaline and thus toxic to a mold that thrives on acidic foods.

Written by Leisureguy

15 October 2020 at 10:05 am

Posted in Shaving

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