Later On

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Archive for November 5th, 2020

Shut down ICE and replace with an agency that is not corrupt

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Gianna Toboni, Ana Sebescen, and Nicole Bozorgmir report in Vice:

Ana Cajigal Adan is potentially a key witness in an ongoing congressional investigation into medical mistreatment at a Georgia ICE facility where detainees allege they were subjected to unneeded gynecologic surgeries without their consent. On Tuesday, she said, ICE notified her that she would be imminently deported to Mexico, a country she left when she was just six months old.

Adan, 25, is one of five women who tell VICE News that they were treated by Dr. Mahendra Amin, the gynecologist accused of mistreating more than 50 detainees, and say ICE deported or attempted to deport them before they were able to testify or fully testify. She was told Tuesday night that she would be deported; Congressman Hank Johnson stepped in to stop her deportation, but her lawyers still fear it could happen at any time.

“I’ve been writing letters to congressmen. I’m talking to my lawyer, to organizations. I’m willing to participate in any investigation that’s going on,” Adan told VICE News from Irwin County Detention Center Tuesday night.

Immigration attorney Andrew Free, who is working with other attorneys to investigate widespread claims against Amin, said ICE is systematically getting rid of evidence. “There has been a policy choice to allow the system that deports people without allowing them to testify or allowing government to investigate what happened to them,” Free, who says that even more women have been deported or moved toward deportation before they were able to fully testify, told VICE News. “The consequence is that they essentially complete the obstruction of evidence.”

“People who may be willing to speak up and speak out about what they suffered and to provide medical records about what they suffered are seeing what happens when you speak out when you make your name known. They’re thinking, ‘Is this going to be something that could affect my deportation case? Is this something that could lead me to be permanently separated from my children?’”

“The women, like the girls that are speaking up, they’re getting deported, like they’re getting rid of them. They’re getting rid of us,” Adan said.

ICE responded to VICE News’ request for comment by directing us to a previous statement that indicates these allegations are concerning and should be investigated. 

An independent group of the country’s top OB-GYNs is, on behalf of immigration attorneys, reviewing the medical records of multiple patients who claim they were given unneeded surgery by Amin. Many of these women were told they had cysts and then, after being prescribed birth control, scheduled for cyst removal surgery, according to these women, their medical records and independent doctors. The team of medical experts has determined that a number of women at Irwin County Detention Center faced “pressure to have unnecessary surgery without a discussion of risks, benefits, or alternatives.”

In a previous statement issued to VICE News, Amin’s lawyer, Scott Grubman said the medical records reviewed for this report were “severely incomplete, at best.” The report’s authors acknowledged they did not receive all of the patient’s medical records, but were confident in their damning conclusions. 

“Any serious medical professional would agree that one cannot possibly come to a conclusion regarding the appropriateness of a medical procedure without reviewing all of the relevant medical records, especially the records from the physician who performed the procedure and the hospital where the procedure was performed,” Amin’s attorney, Scott Grubman wrote. He added that Amin is cooperating with the investigation. . .

Continue reading.

The YouTube clip is audio only.

Written by Leisureguy

5 November 2020 at 12:42 pm

Trump made America nostalgic for a past that never existed

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Cheryl Thompson, Associate Professor at Ryerson University in Toronto, writes in The Conversation:

As a Canadian, I sit at the edge of my seat every election night in America.

Even though it is not my country, like many, I feel the magnitude of what’s at stake in a country increasingly divided over issues of race, gender, the economy and the coronavirus pandemic.

While this has been the narrative of the past four years, America has always been a nation divided. This division was thoroughly examined in the New York Times 1619 Project, which sought to reframe the country’s history by placing plantation slavery and the African American experience at the centre of American history.

Despite historical facts, what has made the Trump era unique in its divisiveness is the way in which his presidency has been marked by a stark failure to disavow white supremacy while discrediting African American attempts to reclaim their place in American history. He condemned the 1619 Project while paradoxically claiming that he has done “more for the African American community than any president with the exception of Abraham Lincoln.”

While we may not know the winner of the election for some time, what was clear on election night is that Trump did better than pollsters predicted. Why was this race so close?

Different ideologies

Trump and Biden could not be more different in terms of ideology. But when it comes to nostalgia, both candidates relied on a similar notion of returning America to a different time.

For Trump, “Make America Great Again” has not only functioned as a political slogan, it has also morphed into a battle cry for his followers who yearn for a past that has never existed.

Through repeated invocations, the slogan is not only a reference to the past but also a “structure of feeling” — a term cultural theorist Raymond Williams coined in the 1950s. The term describes the paradox between the reality of people’s lived experiences — with its intangible and undefined parts of cultural life — and the official, material and defined forms of society.

In other words, MAGA has nothing to do with policy — hence why Trump’s re-election campaign had undefined policy objectives — but everything to do with how and what his followers “feel” and think about MAGA.

Biden also has a brand of nostalgia and has played on the trope of an industrial America of yesteryear, where people work hard, love their families as they do their neighbours. It’s a place where “honest Joe” can acknowledge that some of the neo-liberal policies of the Democratic Party that he endorsed, including the 1994 crime bill, might have harmed African Americans — the very people whose votes he needed — but for which he, unlike Trump, is at least able to apologize and show some modicum of empathy.

Biden’s selling point, then, was that “at least” he cares. Was that enough to win over African Americans?

Black men iffy about Kamala Harris

Even with Kamala Harris, a Black woman (who also identifies as South Asian) on the ticket, African Americans have been divided about her loyalty.

While Black women were excited about Biden’s pick, many Black men were not. That wasn’t because of policy decisions as a California senator, but because of her former job as California’s attorney general, and before that, as district attorney of San Francisco where, under her tenure, Black people made up less than eight per cent of the city’s population but accounted for more than 40 per cent of police arrests.

So unlike the narrative of community organizing and activism that was attached to Barack Obama during his 2008 presidential run, a narrative that seemed to supersede his work as a senator, Harris’s past has seemingly overshadowed her Senate work, even as her votes have been in aid of Black America.

The closeness of the 2020 election has much to do with the way in which both Trump and Biden have invoked an imagined past, a narrative that suggests America needs to perpetually look back instead of looking forward.

Looking backwards

Obama’s 2008 slogans — “Change we can believe in” and the chant “Yes We Can” — were so powerful because they projected an air of possibility about the future, that things could improve and that voters had the power to make it happen.

Trump’s “Make America Great Again” and Biden’s “Battle for the Soul of America” have nothing to do with the voters or their ability to create a future; instead, both slogans send the same message — there was a time in America where things worked, where the nation was untainted by division, and that it must return to.

This act of forgetting reality by clinging to a fictive, golden-days past is reminiscent of the title-track of the 1973 film The Way We Were, starring Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford. The song, performed by Streisand, was a huge hit, No. 1 on the Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles in 1974.

Most people don’t remember that Gladys Knight & The Pips also released an R&B cover of the same song in 1974. In the collective memory of The Way We Were, the song belongs to Streisand; it’s hard to even imagine anyone else singing that song. In other words, people forget details, but what gets remembered is the iconic. Streisand is an icon. (Knight’s an icon in her own right, but primarily among African Americans.)

Trump is iconic

Similarly, Trump is an iconic figure whose fan worship has managed to literally trump the Republican Party itself. He has convinced his loyal following to cling to the past because it was simpler then, and it gives people a chance to live out that simplicity — however fictional Democrats believe it to be — over and over again.

Our memories of the past do not matter; what matters in the Trump era is

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

5 November 2020 at 11:20 am

The loss of so much local journalism leaves us in the dark

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Kyle Pope writes at the Columbia Journalism Review:

THE FINAL VOTE TALLIES still aren’t known, but the media verdict of this presidential election is in: it’s 2016 all over again. Four years ago, in the hours after Donald Trump declared victory on the strength of 306 Electoral College votes and the ballots of nearly sixty-three million Americans, I wrote a column about the failures of the press throughout that campaign, and declared that “journalism’s moment of reckoning” had arrived. “Reporters’ eagerness first to ridicule Trump and his supporters, then to dismiss them, and finally to actively lobby and argue for their defeat have led us to a moment when the entire journalistic enterprise needs to be rethought and rebuilt,” I wrote then. 

It is astonishing, today, how little we seem to have learned since. Once again, opinion polls were overhyped and under-scrutinized. Some of them were also wildly off—and, though that’s different from 2016, when the polls were largely accurate but widely misunderstood, it doesn’t let media organizations off the hook for their treatment of the numbers. Newsrooms leaned too heavily on polls as a substitute for on-the-ground reporting, and they were led astray. Journalists spent too much time talking to each other on Twitter, inhabiting an alternate algorithmic reality that bore little resemblance to the life of the country. And major media institutions made it all but impossible to envision that, despite the wealth of reporting on the president’s lies and his racism and his circus—nearly half the country remains beholden to the man and his beliefs. “We can’t go back to assuming, just because we think Donald Trump is an outlier, that he is not connecting to a lot of American people in ways that, frankly, a lot of us cannot understand,” Claire McCaskill, a former Missouri senator, said Wednesday morning on MSNBC. The feeling of déjà vu, and of lost journalistic opportunity, is inescapable.

This, then, will be the media debate as we move forward: How much of the election outcome is about Americans and what they think, and how much is it about the proto-authoritarian who occupies the Oval Office, who used party machinery and the most powerful propaganda networks in history to mislead the electorate? Both factors matter, of course. But it is certain that much less journalistic firepower has gone into probing the country than into pointing out the infinite faults of the man who, at the moment, leads it. (Remember the post-2016 pledges to “go out into the country”? We seem to have forgotten.)

It would be unfair not to note what many reporters got right in this cycle. They predicted that early voting would favor Biden, and that turnout in big cities would be huge. They advised the electorate of entirely legitimate delays in vote counting, and warned that Trump would likely declare premature victory. They chastised Republican legislatures for engineering an electoral process that would leave Trump a legal opening. They counseled patience, which is never a reporter’s instinct. They knew that, the closer we came to the election, the darker and more threatening Trump would become.

Still, we’ve kept too big of a distance from too much of America, nearly half of which has voted for an administration that downplayed a deadly pandemic; exacerbated the climate crisis; emboldened racism, xenophobia, and gender-based violence; and embraced an authoritarian’s handbook on misinformation. In 2016, the press determined that our inability to grasp Trump’s rise ranked as one of our deepest failures. To repeat that mistake—as it appears we have—is somehow worse. Our task now is to report on the fact, ugly as it is, that Trump won more than sixty-seven million votes. That story is only partly about the president’s odious tweets and lies. Voters who support him know about most, if not all, of his flaws—thanks in no small part to some great journalism—and yet pulled the lever for him anyway. Now is our time to focus on the America he has laid bare.

We are hindered in our efforts by . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

5 November 2020 at 9:55 am

Thoughts on where the US can go from here

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This is an excellent point:

Written by Leisureguy

5 November 2020 at 9:50 am

Posted in Daily life, Politics

Stanley McChrystal: Every American Should Serve For One Year

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The idea of a national service year (or two years) following high school, with a deliberate mixing of class, race, religion, and outlook among the participants, strikes me as a worthwhile idea. When people of different backgrounds work together day after day, they get to know one another and see ways in which they have common interests — and they learn from each other.

These two years would also allow people to consider their futures and what they want from any further education, so that those who choose to continue their education in college can approach that education with more seriousness of purpose and a better idea of what they want from it.

Moreover, the large labor pool perhaps could address and fix some of the glaring deficiencies in US infrastructure and services to citizens.

Here’s what Stanley McChrystal wrote in Time:

America needs a restart. It has long devoted its energies to solving its many big problems — unequal opportunity, crumbling infrastructure, lagging education, inadequate training in a changing economy and threats to peace around the world. But it has done so with tired methods. Simply doing more or less of what we have done in the past will not fix what the United States faces. Every solution requires more than another budget negotiation or Facebook post. Each also requires trust and consensus — the hard and disappearing work of democracy.

Our civic landscape today is quite disturbing. Trust in one another and in key institutions are at historic lows. Our politics have become nastier; it’s harder to get anything done. Meanwhile, most of the other indicators of our civic connectedness — volunteeringvotingjoining voluntary and civic associations — are significantly down from previous years.

This is not the America we can be. We are a nation of innovators and problem-solvers who sparked revolutions in democratic government, civil rights, communications, flight, rural electrification and technology. We are a country defined by ideals now in need of rescue.

America needs a big idea that plays to its strength. It should look to national service.

We should get to the business of providing at least one million opportunities each year for young Americans to spend a service year with peers who are different from them — by race, ethnicity, income, politics and religious belief. At this scale of one full quarter of an age cohort, serving together to solve public problems will build attachment to community and country, understanding among people who might otherwise be skeptical of one another and a new generation of leaders who can get things done. I saw these effects for 34 years in the U.S. Army. We need them in civilian life.

Building from the outstanding infrastructure of AmeriCorps, YouthBuild, Peace Corps and other programs, Service Year Alliance analysis shows we could unleash the energy of our young people to tutor and mentor students in low-performing schools; support the elderly so they age with dignity; help communities respond to disasters; assist veterans reintegrating into their hometowns; and perform a thousand different tasks of value to our country. The Serve America Act — passed by Congress nearly a decade ago — already contemplates that we ramp up these opportunities from about 75,000 AmeriCorps positions today to 250,000, getting us one-quarter of the way toward our goal. Congress needs to follow through on its bipartisan commitment and fund these positions.

National service has already proven its value.

In coal country in Kentucky, fifty Volunteers in Service to America helped put unemployed coal miners back to work in computer coding and telework jobs and connected more than 25,000 unemployed workers to job training and placement services. We should bring this effective approach to scale across rural America and the rust belt.

In Detroit, 150 national service members in an Urban Safety Corps are reducing crime and increasing public safety by engaging residents in boarding up vacant homes, expanding neighborhood watch groups, ensuring students get to school safely, and conducting home safety audits to protect residents from violence. Crime has declined in these neighborhoods and saved taxpayers millions of dollars. There is no reason to believe this couldn’t be replicated elsewhere.

States like Iowa and Virginia are using existing resources across agencies to create new corps to address public problems to boost literacy and alleviate child hunger and are hiring national service members across state government because they have built skills in leadership, problem-solving, and working in teams. All states could do this and meet public needs at lower cost.

Sargent Shriver wanted to run the Peace Corps through colleges, but the infrastructure did not exist when he founded the agency in 1961. It does now. Many colleges, including William and Mary, Tufts, Miami-Dade College, Tulane and Averett, are creating service year opportunities for their students at home and abroad, while connecting service to courses of study, offering course credit and embedding a serious commitment to national service in their policies of admission and graduation. More of America’s colleges could make a similar commitment.

Congress can do three powerful things to help. First, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

5 November 2020 at 8:22 am

Posted in Daily life, Government, Law

How the Dumb Design of a WWII Plane Led to the Macintosh

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This Wired article by Cliff Kuang was especially interesting to me because The Wife was a UX (user-experience) designer, a discipline that grew from the findings discussed in the article, which begins:

THE B-17 FLYING Fortress rolled off the drawing board and onto the runway in a mere 12 months, just in time to become the fearsome workhorse of the US Air Force during World War II. Its astounding toughness made pilots adore it: The B-17 could roar through angry squalls of shrapnel and bullets, emerging pockmarked but still airworthy. It was a symbol of American ingenuity, held aloft by four engines, bristling with a dozen machine guns.

Imagine being a pilot of that mighty plane. You know your primary enemy—the Germans and Japanese in your gunsights. But you have another enemy that you can’t see, and it strikes at the most baffling times. Say you’re easing in for another routine landing. You reach down to deploy your landing gear. Suddenly, you hear the scream of metal tearing into the tarmac. You’re rag-dolling around the cockpit while your plane skitters across the runway. A thought flickers across your mind about the gunners below and the other crew: “Whatever has happened to them now, it’s my fault.” When your plane finally lurches to a halt, you wonder to yourself: “How on earth did my plane just crash when everything was going fine? What have I done?”

For all the triumph of America’s new planes and tanks during World War II, a silent reaper stalked the battlefield: accidental deaths and mysterious crashes that no amount of training ever seemed to fix. And it wasn’t until the end of the war that the Air Force finally resolved to figure out what had happened.

To do that, the Air Force called upon a young psychologist at the Aero Medical Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio. Paul Fitts was a handsome man with a soft Tennessee drawl, analytically minded but with a shiny wave of Brylcreemed hair, Elvis-like, which projected a certain suave nonconformity. Decades later, he’d become known as one of the Air Force’s great minds, the person tasked with hardest, weirdest problems—such as figuring out why people saw UFOs.

For now though, he was still trying to make his name with a newly minted PhD in experimental psychology. Having an advanced degree in psychology was still a novelty; with that novelty came a certain authority. Fitts was supposed to know how people think. But his true talent is to realize that he doesn’t.

When the thousands of reports about plane crashes landed on Fitts’s desk, he could have easily looked at them and concluded that they were all the pilot’s fault—that these fools should have never been flying at all. That conclusion would have been in keeping with the times. The original incident reports themselves would typically say “pilot error,” and for decades no more explanation was needed. This was, in fact, the cutting edge of psychology at the time. Because so many new draftees were flooding into the armed forces, psychologists had begun to devise aptitude tests that would find the perfect job for every soldier. If a plane crashed, the prevailing assumption was: That person should not have been flying the plane. Or perhaps they should have simply been better trained. It was their fault.

But as Fitts pored over the Air Force’s crash data, he realized that if “accident prone” pilots really were the cause, there would be randomness in what went wrong in the cockpit. These kinds of people would get hung on anything they operated. It was in their nature to take risks, to let their minds wander while landing a plane. But Fitts didn’t see noise; he saw a pattern. And when he went to talk to the people involved about what actually happened, they told of how confused and terrified they’d been, how little they understood in the seconds when death seemed certain.

The examples slid back and forth on a scale of tragedy to tragicomic: pilots who slammed their planes into the ground after misreading a dial; pilots who fell from the sky never knowing which direction was up; the pilots of B-17s who came in for smooth landings and yet somehow never deployed their landing gear. And others still, who got trapped in a maze of absurdity, like the one who, having jumped into a brand-new plane during a bombing raid by the Japanese, found the instruments completely rearranged. Sweaty with stress, unable to think of anything else to do, he simply ran the plane up and down the runway until the attack ended.

Fitts’ data showed that during one 22-month period of the war, the Air Force reported an astounding 457 crashes just like the one in which our imaginary pilot hit the runway thinking everything was fine. But the culprit was maddeningly obvious for anyone with the patience to look. Fitts’ colleague Alfonse Chapanis did the looking. When he started investigating the airplanes themselves, talking to people about them, sitting in the cockpits, he also didn’t see evidence of poor training. He saw, instead, the impossibility of flying these planes at all. Instead of “pilot error,” he saw what he called, for the first time, “designer error.”

The reason why all those pilots were crashing when their B-17s were easing into a landing was that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

5 November 2020 at 8:12 am

Lavanille, the 1940’s Gillette Aristocrat, and a brush with a bulb-and-base handle

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I noticed this yesterday and checked it today: this Barrister & Mann formula is the exact opposite of thirsty. (I don’t know the word for that — “thirsty” I know but the best I have for the opposite is “not thirsty.”)

Particularly with a synthetic knot, it’s important to shake the brush 3 times to ensure that all excess water is removed. This soap is not quite so sensitive as The Dead Sea to excess water, but it’s close. Yesterday I gave two good shakes to the brush (which had a synthetic knot), and there was still too much water remaining in the brush. Today, with 3 shakes (and another synthetic knot), loading and lathering went noticeably better.

The brush shown is the Fine Classic, and this kind of handle, with a well defined base in one color and the knot-containing bulb in another, is found with many variations. It’s an attractive design, IMO, and I do like this brush, which has a soft and somewhat fluffy knot.

Lavanille is a good soap, but I have to say that, to my nose, the fragrance of Cologne Russe puts Lavanille in the shade. Lavanille is a good fragrance, but Cologne Russe is an exceptional fragrance.

Three passes of the 1940’s Gillette Aristocrat did the job, though I think it needs a new blade: it was just a little too much work. As I shaved, I was thinking that this razor is just not as good as a good modern razor. That may well be true, but also I think a new blade will help.

A splash of Lavanille aftershave and the vigil to see who will be the US president continues.

Written by Leisureguy

5 November 2020 at 8:03 am

Posted in Shaving

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