Later On

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

Archive for November 16th, 2020

Giulani’s Last Stand

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Written by Leisureguy

16 November 2020 at 7:32 pm

More Than 82,000 People Have Now Accused the Boy Scouts of Abuse

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Paul Blest reports in Vice:

More than 82,000 people in all 50 states plus military bases in Germany and Japan have accused the Boy Scouts of America of enabling sexual abuse, according to the New York Times.

The 82,663 alleged victims, ranging in age from 8 to 93, have come forward as a federal bankruptcy court in Delaware considers the Boy Scouts’ bankruptcy claim, filed this past February. In May, Judge Laurie Selber Silverstein set Monday at 5 p.m. as the court-ordered deadline for alleged victims to come forward with claims. Those claims will eventually be vetted, according to the Times.

“The response we have seen from survivors has been gut-wrenching,” the Boy Scouts of America said in a statement to the New York Times. “We are deeply sorry.”

The organization and its affiliates had nearly $5 billion in assets as of earlier this year, according to the Wall Street Journal, and the national organization claimed it has more than $1 billion in assets in its court filings, the Times reported.

At least 26 local Boy Scouts councils named in sexual abuse lawsuits received between $8.2 million and $20.9 million in Payroll Protection Program (PPP) loans authorized by Congress earlier this year, VICE News reported in July.

There are currently more than 2.2 million scouts and 800,000 volunteers, according to the organization.

The decision to file for bankruptcy in a bid to save the organization has now revealed an astronomical number of allegations that dwarf even those against the Catholic Church. Though the true number of victims of priests and other church officials will never be known, Terry McKiernan, a leading Catholic Church abuse watchdog, told the Times that more than 9,000 victims have come forward over the years.

“[The Boy Scouts] thought they could get in, get out, limit their liability, and protect their local organizations,” Seattle attorney Michael Pfau, who represents more than 1,000 people making the claims, told the Seattle Times. “But they grossly underestimated the level of abuse in scouting.”

“Instead, it’s now crystal-clear that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

16 November 2020 at 4:03 pm

The peril of pursuing perfection

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I have written about the difficulty faced by adult beginners in playing piano: they are hyperconscious of the mistakes they make, and they don’t want to play until they can play without making such mistakes. But studying our mistakes is how we learn.

I just came across this story from Art and Fear, by David Bayles and Ted Orland:

The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pounds of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot – albeit a perfect one – to get an “A”. Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes – the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.

Update: Cf. Linus Pauling: “The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas.”

Written by Leisureguy

16 November 2020 at 3:42 pm

Trump or No Trump, Religious Authoritarianism Is Here to Stay

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Katherine Stewart, author of The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism, writes in the NY Times:

Will President-elect Joe Biden’s victory force America’s Christian nationalists to rethink the unholy alliance that powered Donald Trump’s four-year tour as one of the nation’s most dangerous presidents? Don’t count on it.

The 2020 election is proof that religious authoritarianism is here to stay, and the early signs now indicate that the movement seems determined to reinterpret defeat at the top of the ticket as evidence of persecution and of its own righteousness. With or without Mr. Trump, they will remain committed to the illiberal politics that the president has so ably embodied.

As it did in 2016, the early analysis of the 2020 election results often circled around the racial, urban-rural, and income and education divides. But the religion divide tells an equally compelling story. According to preliminary exit polls from Edison Research (the data is necessarily rough at this stage), 28 percent of voters identified as either white evangelical or white born-again Christian, and of these, 76 percent voted for Mr. Trump. If these numbers hold (some other polls put the religious share at a lower number; others put the support for Mr. Trump at a higher number), these results indicate a continuation of support for Mr. Trump from this group.

The core of Mr. Trump’s voting bloc, to be clear, does not come from white evangelicals as such, but from an overlapping group of not necessarily evangelical, and not necessarily white, people who identify at least loosely with Christian nationalism: the idea that the United States is and ought to be a Christian nation governed under a reactionary understanding of Christian values. Unfortunately, data on that cohort is harder to find except in deeply researched work by sociologists like Andrew Whitehead and Samuel Perry.

Most pollsters shoehorn complex religious identities into necessarily broad labels, so they fail to separate out the different strands of Mr. Trump’s support. There are indications that the president in fact expanded his appeal among nonwhite evangelical and born-again Christians of color, particularly among Latinos. Mr. Biden, on the other hand, who made faith outreach a key feature of his campaign, appears to have done well among moderate and progressive voters of all faiths.

Conservative voters of faith “came in massive numbers, seven and a half million more above the 2016 baseline, which was itself a record,” Ralph Reed, head of the Faith and Freedom Coalition and a longtime religious right activist, said at a postelection press briefing. “We believe they’re the reason why Republicans are going to hold the Senate.”

In their responses to the election outcome, some prominent religious right leaders have enabled or remained true to the false Trumpian line of election fraud. Michele Bachmann, the former Minnesota congresswoman and 2012 presidential candidate, said, “Smash the delusion, Father, of Joe Biden is our president. He is not.” In Crisis Magazine, a conservative Catholic publication, Richard C. Antall likened media reporting on the Biden-Harris ticket’s victory to a “coup d’état.” Mat Staver, chairman and founder of Liberty Counsel, added, “What we are witnessing only happens in communist or repressive regimes. We must not allow this fraud to happen in America.”

Even as prominent Republican figures like George W. Bush and Mitt Romney slowly tried to nudge Mr. Trump toward the exit, leaders of the religious right continued to man the barricades. The conservative speaker and Falkirk Center fellow David Harris, Jr. put it this way:

If you’re a believer, and you believe God appointed Donald J. Trump to run this country, to lead this country, and you believe as I do that he will be re-elected the President of the United States, then friends, you’ve got to guard your heart, you’ve got to guard your peace. Right now we are at war.

Others stopped short of endorsing Mr. Trump’s wilder allegations of election fraud, but . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more. (Or read her book.) Her column concludes:

Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the Christian nationalist response to the 2020 election is that we’ve seen this movie before. The “stolen election” meme won’t bring Mr. Trump back into the Oval Office. But then, the birther narrative never took President Barack Obama out of office, either. The point of conspiratorial narratives and apocalyptic rhetoric is to lay the groundwork for a politics of total obstruction, in preparation for the return of a “legitimate” ruler. The best guess is that religious authoritarianism of the next four years will look a lot like it did in the last four years. We ignore the political implications for our democracy at our peril.

Written by Leisureguy

16 November 2020 at 1:52 pm

Denying reality while dying: Delusion’s grip is strong when it’s anchored in the ego

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Jodi Doering has a powerful thread on Twitter. Read the whole thread. It begins with this tweet:

Written by Leisureguy

16 November 2020 at 1:40 pm

Vincent van Gogh online

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Open Culture has a post that discusses the online digitized archive of van Gogh paintings and drawings. The post (illustrated with images from the collection) begins:

Every artist explores dimensions of space and place, orienting themselves and their works in the world, and orienting their audiences. Then there are artists like Vincent van Gogh, who make space and place a primary subject. In his early paintings of peasant homes and fields, his figures’ muscular shoulders and hands interact with sturdy walls and gnarled trees. Later country scenes—whether curling and delicate, like Wheatfield with a Reaper, or heavy and ominous, like Wheatfield with Crows (both below)—give us the sense of the landscape as a single living entity, pulsating, writhing, blazing in brilliant yellows, reds, greens, and blues.

Van Gogh painted interior scenes, such as his famous The Bedroom, at the top (the first of three versions), with an eye toward using color as the means of making space purposeful: “It’s just simply my bedroom,” he wrote to Paul Gauguin of the 1888 painting, “only here color is to do everything… to be suggestive here of rest or of sleep in general. In a word, looking at the picture ought to rest the brain, or rather the imagination.”

So taken was the painter with the concept of using color to induce “rest or sleep” in his viewers’ imaginations that when water damage threated the “stability” of the first painting, Chicago’s Art Institute notes, “he became determined to preserve the composition by painting a second version while at an asylum in Saint-Rémy in 1889,” then demonstrated the deep emotional resonance this scene had for him by painting a third, smaller version for his mother and sister.

The opportunity to see all of Van Gogh’s bedroom paintings in one place may have passed us by for now—an exhibit in Chicago brought them together in 2016. But we can see the original bedroom at the yellow house in Arles in a virtual space, along with almost 1,000 more Van Gogh paintings and drawings, at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam’s site. The digitized collection showcases a vast amount of Van Gogh’s work—including not only landscapes, but also his many portraits, self-portraits, drawings, city scenes, and still-lifes. . .

Continue reading. There’s more — and, of course, there are the digitized paintings themselves, which allow you to zoom in enough to examine brushstrokes.

Written by Leisureguy

16 November 2020 at 9:23 am

Posted in Art, Technology

When words and money don’t match: Charles Koch edition

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Judd Legum has an interesting column at Popular Information:

Charles Koch, the right-wing billionaire who spent hundreds of millions of dollars to radicalize the Republican party, now says he regrets his “partisanship.” In advance of a new book to be released on Tuesday, Koch is recasting himself as a pragmatic problem-solver seeking to bring people together. He participated in an extensive interview with the Wall Street Journal as part of the rebranding process:

Mr. Koch said he has since come to regret his partisanship, which he says badly deepened divisions. “Boy, did we screw up!” he writes in his new book. “What a mess!”

Mr. Koch is now trying to work together with Democrats and liberals on issues such as immigration, criminal-justice reform and limiting U.S. intervention abroad, where he thinks common ground can be found.

This spirit of cooperation, however, is not reflected in his political giving. During the 2020 election, the Koch Industries PAC contributed $1.37 million to Republicans and $46,000 to Democrats. Koch Industries PAC is more heavily partisan than it was in 2010 when it donated $1.18 million to Republicans and $112,000 to Democrats.

But perhaps the results of the 2020 election have changed Koch’s approach? In an email to the Wall Street Journal, he congratulated Biden and Harris on their victory.

I congratulate Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on their victory. I look forward to finding ways to work with them to break down the barriers holding people back, whether in the economy, criminal justice, immigration, the Covid-19 pandemic, or anywhere else. At the same time, I hope we all use this post-election period to find a better way forward. Because of partisanship, we’ve come to expect too much of politics and too little of ourselves and one another.

Again, no. Since the election, an organization funded by Koch, Americans for Prosperity Action, has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars supporting the campaign of Senator David Perdue (R-GA), who will face voters again on January 5 in a run-off election against challenger Jon Ossoff. Perdue’s election would secure Republican control of the Senate, severely curtailing the ability of Biden to tackle the country’s problems.

Americans for Prosperity Action has reported spending $440,000 in support of Perdue’s candidacy. Koch is supporting Perdue even as the Senator publicly fuels conspiracy theories that the election was stolen from Trump.

Perdue’s radical attack on democracy

Koch is funneling money to Perdue as  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

16 November 2020 at 9:15 am

Vetiver morning

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I always look forward to Monday mornings because the shave — a two-day stubble — is always so good. I tend to pick a slant for those shaves — piliing on, as it were, or putting more icing on the cake or the cherry on top. This morning I started with Jabonman’s Vetiver de Haiti and a Vie-Long brush that I believe is horsehair and badger — certainly it includes horsehair, so it was soaked.

The lather was great — I’m loading the brush a bit longer, and that has made the lathe richer — and the combination of the iKon X3 slant head and Italian Barber’s RazoRock Barberpole handle was a pleasure to use. Three easy passes and then a good splash of Royall Vetiver and I’m ready for the day.

The cold-water segment at the end of my morning shower is now 7 seconds. I add one second a day. It still would be a stretch to call it “pleasant,” but it does wake me up.

Written by Leisureguy

16 November 2020 at 8:31 am

Posted in Shaving

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