Later On

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

Archive for November 20th, 2020

Trump’s Indifference Amounts to Negligent Homicide

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I wish he would be prosecuted, but in the US (as in many countries) wealthy people are afforded a good deal of impunity that’s unavailable to the poor. James Fallows writes in the Atlantic:

Negligent homicide has a specific meaning in the law books. The standards of proof and categories of offense vary from state to state. But the essence is: Someone died because someone else did not exercise reasonable care.

An adult leaves loaded weapons where children can find them. A factory owner or amusement-park operator ignores the safety standards for their equipment. A motorist in a hurry, or heading back from a bar, roars through a school-crossing zone full of children. A parent leaves an infant “just for a few minutes” in a car with rolled-up windows on a baking-hot day. Prosecutors and juries draw the line between cases like these and murder, based mainly on intent. Did the person who caused the death actually mean to do harm? It’s a distinction that matters a lot to the defendant, but not to the victim. Whatever the legal outcome, a person who—except for another’s indifference to risks that should have been foreseen—would still be living and learning and loving, instead is dead.

That’s the law of negligent homicide. The ultimate legal reckoning for what we are now living (and dying) through will be a matter for legal authorities to take up, or decide to drop, when they have the evidence; I have no standing to do so. Instead, I want to consider the nonlegal, commonsense meanings of the term, and of its more gruesome-sounding cousin, manslaughter.

Many terms that have legal connotations can be useful in their plain everyday sense as well. Not everything we’d call an assault matches the state-by-state standards that define that crime. Not everything we call theft—or blackmail, or even rape—would count as such in an indictment or could be proved in court. Similarly, when removed from their courtroom and legal implications, terms like negligence and manslaughter and, yes, homicide are useful right now. They give us a way of assessing the horror a government is visiting upon its people.

More than a year ago, I argued in these pages that if Donald Trump held virtually any other position of responsibility in modern society, he would already have been removed from that role. The article was called “If Trump Were an Airline Pilot,” and the examples ranged from CEOs to nuclear-submarine commanders to surgeons in an operating room. If any of them had demonstrated the impulsiveness, the irrationality, the vindictiveness, the ceaseless need for glorification that all distinguish Trump, responsible authorities would long ago have suspended them. The stakes—in lives, legal exposure, dollars and cents, war and peace—would be too great to do otherwise.

At the time of that comparison, the main case against Trump involved his temperamental, intellectual, and moral unfitness for the job. But since then we’ve moved into the realm of manslaughter. Yesterday nearly 2,000 Americans died of COVID-19. By Thanksgiving Day, another 10,000 to 15,000 will have perished. By year’s end, who knows? And meanwhile the person in charge of guiding the national response does nothing.

Or worse than nothing. He tweets in rage. He fires anyone suspected of disloyalty. He encourages endless lawsuits that are tossed out of court one after another but that, one after another, do cumulative damage to confidence in elections and democracy. His cat’s-paw in charge of the General Services Administration does what none of her predecessors ever dared, pretending that the outcome of the election is still in doubt. Thus she blocks Joe Biden’s transition team from receiving the funding or cooperation it needs during the rapidly dwindling days until inauguration. (Rapidly dwindling from an incoming administration’s perspective, with so many plans to prepare and staffers to select. Moving like molasses from other perspectives.)

We’re beyond the range of my earlier comparisons to a leader of a museum “who routinely insulted large parts of its constituency” or a CEO “making costly strategic decisions on personal impulse.” The problem with finding analogies to illuminate the Trump administration’s reckless disregard for national welfare now is that all of them seem so extreme.

  • Is this like Nero fiddling while Rome burns? That’s too mild and clichéd, and it implies a more cultured form of distraction than Trump’s tweeting about Fox and OAN.
  • Is it like the Allied generals during the grimmest trench-warfare stage of World War I, sending wave after wave of young troops “over the top” and to certain death from German machine guns? At least the generals and the troops thought they were fighting for something larger than themselves.
  • Is it like an armed school security guard who hears gunfire inside the school building but doesn’t go in to protect the children, not wanting to get shot himself? Something like this has happened, but at least such a guard would be acting on the natural if nonheroic instinct for self-preservation. (Today’s government figures, by contrast, would face no physical risk by making the pandemic the center of their efforts. Their only risk is criticism for defying the will of Trump.)
  • Is it like an airline captain who stops looking at the instruments because he is wrapped up in a Twitter war, while the plane heads straight into a mountain? No, because under long-developed airline protocols, the other pilot in the cockpit would already have grabbed the controls.
  • It is like a nurse or doctor strolling past an emergency room just as a patient goes into cardiac arrest—and nonchalantly continuing to stroll to the break room? Or like a Marine Corps medic letting a wounded comrade bleed out on the battlefield while the medic paused for a smoke? Yes, it would be like that—except that such things are impossible to imagine. It’s similar when you try to imagine a firefighting crew, outside an apartment-building inferno, deciding to go home even as residents scream desperately from upstairs windows amid the flames. You can’t imagine it. It wouldn’t occur.

But it is happening with the pandemic. These examples are the equivalent of an administration looking the other way, leaving states and cities and hospitals and families to their own resources—even as first those hospitals, and then the mortuaries, fill up, and medical workers serve endless shifts, knowing that they may be next to succumb. And all of this with the pandemic taking a cruel and disproportionate toll on racial minorities, and on families that are already under pressure from an unequal economy.

In these circumstances a “normal” national leader would be doing several things urgently, and all at once. One is  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

20 November 2020 at 5:48 pm

Donald Trump, scam artist

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This video is somewhat dated (it’s three years old) but David Cay Johnson presents well the basic con-artist techniques Donald Trump relies on. The interview concerns Johnson’s book The Making of Donald Trump (summary at the link). I found the interview interesting.

Written by Leisureguy

20 November 2020 at 3:17 pm

Size and its impact on living things

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Written by Leisureguy

20 November 2020 at 1:43 pm

Posted in Evolution, Science, Video

The Uniqueness of Mammals

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Amando Simon writes in Areo:

In 2017, I presented a paper at the Florida Academy of Sciences entitled “The Importance of Being a Mammal.” Its thesis was threefold. First, a number of behaviours appear to be characteristic of mammals. Those behaviours can be used as taxonomic markers alongside physical traits—a suggestion Konrad Lorenz made long ago, but which has been largely ignored. Second, some of those behaviours have heretofore been thought of as characteristic of human beings, but can now be seen as an extension of evolution.

I call these behaviours “the mammalian factor.” These behaviours have been overlooked by both ethologists and comparative psychologists and there is scant, if any, formal documentation of them in the professional literature. But they can be observed and anecdotal stories and videos could be used as a starting point for research. There is historical precedent for using anecdotes as the basis for scientific investigation, as in reports of a snow-capped mountain in central Africa (Mt. Kilimanjaro), an aquatic mammal with a duck’s bill that lays eggs and injects poison (the platypus) and a huge, hairy, human-like monster from central Africa (the gorilla).

The behaviours that appear to be characteristic of mammals include the following.


To my knowledge, there has been no formal study of kissing in non-human animals, although a perusal of Google Images reveals a plethora of mammals kissing each other. Usually, at least one of the participants closes its eyes as it is being kissed and, if bipeds are involved, one of them will hold the face of the other kisser. In elephants, the trunks intertwine.

Epimeletic Interspecies Behaviour

There have been several instances of an animal of one species helping an animal of a different species. For example, a hippopotamus was recorded lifting up a duckling that was unsuccessfully trying to get out of a pond, a bear rescued a crow from drowning, a cat attacked a dog that was trying to maul a toddler, a dog saved a cat from drowning, humans have saved various wild animals in distress, a dolphin helped a beached pygmy sperm whale, a rabbit dug out a trapped cat and a rhinoceros freed a zebra foal that was immobilized by mud. The hippopotamus and rhinoceros examples are particularly interesting, since those species are notorious for being highly aggressive. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more, including photos of the behaviors described — e.g., mammals kissing.

Written by Leisureguy

20 November 2020 at 1:37 pm

When you risk Covid-19, you’re risking it for those close to you — and people do die

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Rachel Maddow has a short clip worth watching.

And here are the current charts from Kevin Drum:

Written by Leisureguy

20 November 2020 at 12:04 pm

Edward Norton has a powerful Twitter thread

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The thread begins:

Continue reading at the link

Written by Leisureguy

20 November 2020 at 11:08 am

The tide on the Right begins to turn, with Tucker Carlson as the bellwether

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The bellwether is the lead sheep in a flock of sheep, and certainly the Right has shown a sheep-like (if not sheepish) willingness to follow Trump wherever he leads them. But now the cliff’s edge is being reached, with Joseph Biden’s clear victory being certified, county by county and state by state.

So what can Trump do? “Send in the clowns” seems to be his answer (in addition to unleashing an on-going string of hysterical tweets). Reed Richardson offers a clip of Tucker Carlson breaking ranks to head in a new direction in a Mediaite article that is very much worth watching.

The article begins:

Fox News host Tucker Carlson laid out in great detail the incredible allegations about massive, nationwide election fraud put forward by Trump campaign lawyer Sidney Powell — and then patiently explained how she was unable to provide any evidence to back up her claims, despite numerous, polite requests from his show.

During his Thursday evening show, Carlson began by reviewing the latest in President Donald Trump’s increasingly desperate attempts to reverse his 2020 election loss.

Just hours earlier, at a bizarre press briefing, Powell had trotted out on Trump’s behalf a byzantine election fraud conspiracy theory, one that roped in a large cast of conservative boogeymen, including the Communist Party, Antifa, George Soros, the deceased Hugo Chavez, and, for good measure, the Clinton Foundation. Powell was joined by the similarly bonkers spectacle of Rudy Giuliani re-enacting a courtroom scene from My Cousin Vinnyleaking what looked to be hair coloring product down both cheeks, and lashing out at reporters who dared to ask to see the evidence to back up his claims.

Calling the Powell claims a “bombshell,” Carlson explained that she is accusing “international leftists” of changing seven million votes across the country via Dominion election software — a claim that has already been debunked by numerous news sources, and even pooh-poohed by Fox & Friends host Steve Doocy.

“Sidney Powell has been saying similar things for days, on Sunday night, we texted her after watching one of her segments. What Powell was describing what amount to the single greatest crime in American history,” Carlson noted. “Millions of votes stolen in the day. Democracy destroyed, the end of our centuries-old system of self-government, not a small thing.”

The Fox host went to say he did not dismiss Powell’s claims out of hand, despite their elaborate and hard-to-believe nature. . .

Continue reading. And do watch the clip.

The comments to the article are also interesting. Here are two:

“Rat-tucker leaves the sinking Trumptanic.”

“I am no longer impressed that Sacha Baron Cohen tricked Rudy Giuliani.”

Written by Leisureguy

20 November 2020 at 10:09 am

I Coloniali’s rhubarb-based shaving cream was wonderful

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I was very sorry to see I Coloniali’s shaving cream discontinued — but then the shave today is a parade of discontinueds, beginning with the Rooney Victorian brush I used. It’s a wonderful brush, having a good knot that, though not of great loft, is soft, with hooked tips. But the Rooney brand seems to be dead.

The shaving cream has a refreshingly clean fragrance that perks one up at a time of day when that’s a benefit — plus it affords excellent easy lather.

The Wolfman handle I like a lot (but it’s long since discontinued — handles seem to have short runs except for the common styles like the bulldog), and the Charcoal head shown is no longer available — in a sense. Charcoal has moved to high-end machined razors exclusively, and that offered this relatively inexpensive model only briefly. But to my eye and to my face this head seems very much like a stock rebranded Edwin Jagger head. It did indeed afford a really excellent shave today.

I ended the shave with the wonderful Diplomat aftershave, which is, for US and Canadian customers, as good as discontinued since I cannot find it available anywhere. It seems to still be available in Europe, but in different packaging.

Written by Leisureguy

20 November 2020 at 9:29 am

Posted in Shaving

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