Later On

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

Archive for February 16th, 2021

Thomas Friedman: What Trump, San Francisco and the Deer in My Backyard Have in Common

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Tom Friedman writes in the NY Times:

What do the left-wing San Francisco Board of Education, Donald Trump’s right-wing G.O.P. and all the deer that hang out in my neighborhood have in common? So much more than you’d think. And the future of American democracy rides on understanding why.

Let me start with the deer. The reason they are so comfortable lollygagging through our yards and multiplying like rabbits is that they know from experience that they have no predators — no hunters, no mountain lions out here in suburban Maryland. So, they do all sorts of stupid stuff, like walk into the middle of the road and get hit by cars, rub the bark off tree trunks and eat all our flowers.

Well, those deer are like the San Francisco Board of Education when it recently decided — in a self-parody of political correctness — to prioritize renaming 44 public schools that had been named for people who, it argued, had exhibited racist behaviors in their lifetimes, including Abraham Lincoln, Paul Revere and Senator Dianne Feinstein. They put this task ahead of getting kids back into those schools, which have been shut for the pandemic.

Such nonsense happens because, like my deer, San Francisco’s school board has no political predators. Liberal democrats dominate politics there, so there’s no serious threat from a conservative alternative.

That is a lot like Trump and his followers, whose attachment to him has become so cultlike that every other Republican leader knows that challenging Trump is potential political suicide. The result: He, too, has no serious predators (I don’t count a waffling Mitch McConnell). This reality, plus Trump’s warped character, made him so reckless that he believed that he could shoot a whole branch of the U.S. government in the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue and his base would stick with him. And he was right!

My deer and San Francisco’s school board are local problems. The fact that one of our two national parties would stick with a leader who dispatched a mob to ransack the Capitol in hopes of overturning our last election is an acute national problem — a cancer, in fact. And like any cancer, the required treatment is going to be painful for the patient.

For me, that starts with getting rid of the filibuster in the Senate, granting the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico statehood (they each have more U.S. citizens than Wyoming) and passing a new Voting Rights Act that forbids voter suppression. While that may sound hyperpartisan, it’s the necessary, but not sufficient, remedy for America to regain its political health.

Some quick history. A new Republican Party was supposed to have been born after Mitt Romney’s defeat by Barack Obama in 2012, when the Republican National Committee the next year produced a blueprint for a new G.O.P., called the Growth and Opportunity Project. As ABC News wrote, it was “an extensive plan the R.N.C. believes will lead the party to victory with an extensive outreach to women, African-American, Asian, Hispanic and gay voters.” A key proposal was “backing ‘comprehensive immigration reform.’”

But instead of adopting that plan, the party doubled down on its old ways: It tried to gain and hold power one more time with a guy named Trump winking at white supremacy, defending Confederate statues and using every voter suppression trick in the book to protect a predominantly white Christian America.

Why not, it asked? More and more, Republican members of the House were being elected from gerrymandered districts drawn up by Republican state legislators from gerrymandered districts. Meanwhile, the Senate overrepresented sparsely populated red states, meaning the Electoral College favored Republican presidential candidates, who could then stack the court system with conservative judges who would allow Republican politicians to suppress the votes of Black and other Democratic-leaning constituencies.

So why not rinse and repeat?

The result of years of G.O.P. reliance on this strategy is . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 February 2021 at 9:50 pm

Korean Street Toast recipe

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Details in this blog post, including recipe in printable form.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 February 2021 at 6:36 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes, Video

Libraries Between the State and the Multitude

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A little free library near my apartment (photo by me)

As I’ve mentioned, little free libraries are plentiful in Victoria, which has at least 400 scattered about the city. Sam Popowich looks at the practice through a Marxist lens on his blog:

Controversy over “Little Free Libraries” has arisen once again, this time in the UK. I don’t want to go into the specifics of the problem with Little Free Libraries (officially branded or not). Jane Schmidt and Jordan Hale have written a foundational article about it, which everyone should read.

What I want to get at in this blog post is what I see as a fundamental contradiction (in the Marxist sense) that keeps cropping up in the discussion. What defines a contradiction for Marxism is that the opposition it describes and the problems that flow from it cannot be resolved or fixed within the existing structure. The two poles of the contradiction are irreconcilable within the current social, political, economic, and cultural context. In the discourse around community book boxes there is an opposition between community solidarity, self-reliance, local support, etc, and public or common goods which need to be supported and maintained at a higher level, regional or national.

Defenders of the book boxes argue that they are a form of community self-regulation. Harmless at worst, helpful at best, they provide a sense of community support which is perhaps more about the affective or symbolic significance of freely sharing objects whose use-value is traditionally considered positive (books) outside the dominant structures of exchange. Looked at this way, book boxes are a form of local resistance to commodity exchange more generally, an attempt to recapture the ability of community members to relate to each other outside what Marx and Engels called the “cash nexus” of exchange. Taken to its limit, these book boxes could be seen as one element in a comprehensive network of mutual aid.

However, in a context of massive defunding and closure of state-run libraries, book boxes, like volunteer staffing of library branches, can give the state the ammunition it needs to continue to withdraw financial and political support for public good provided at scale. If book boxes can be considered libraries, then why should the government continue to support libraries? If libraries can be run by volunteers, then why should the government continue to hire trained library workers? One aspect of the geographical issue around LFL’s which Schmidt and Hale point out is that they tend to be most prominent in areas where public libraries are least under threat, and so the problem posed by LFLs to public library support is muted, obscured, or made invisible.

So the debate on Twitter often came down to the question of localism vs. state support: the benefits of communities acting together for themselves vs. the economies of scale and resource redistribution provided by a tax-funded national network of libraries. Many of the arguments tried to point out the benefits of one side or the other, without making much headway. I think the reason this argument is actually irresolvable in the current context is that it actually expresses a fundamental contradiction within capitalism itself.

Essentially, it comes down to the well-established contradiction within the capitalist economy over the question of the common/commons. Capitalism is predicated on private property, but it requires common resources in order to keep going. Control over resources is maximized by being privatized (i.e. the private owner of a thing has full control over it), but some things only work properly when they are held in common (ideological reproduction through schools and libraries, for example). One of the ways capitalism has tried to work within the terms set by this contradiction is to draw a firm distinction between the individual and the state: the individual is the private owner, the commons is managed by the state.

In Marx’s critique of civil rights, he argues that . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 February 2021 at 3:21 pm

This retired baseball player built the largest Black-owned McDonald’s franchise operation. Now he’s suing the fast-food chain for its ‘racist’ policies.

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Carrying forward the theme from the story I just posted: Tracy Jan reports in the Washington Post:

Herb Washington, a former Oakland Athletics player who built the country’s largest Black-owned McDonald’s franchise operation, filed a lawsuit Tuesday accusing the fast-food giant of systemic racial discrimination for its pattern of steering Black owners into restaurants in impoverished neighborhoods that yielded less profit, targeting them with unequal assessments that made it harder to renew their contracts, then pressuring them to sell to White owners.

Washington, 69, owned 27 McDonald’s restaurants in New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania during his four decades as a franchisee but alleged that the company began a campaign to drive him out in 2017 in retaliation for speaking about the “predatory, racially biased steering practices” against Black franchisees. Today he owns 14 McDonald’s restaurants, he said, having been forced to sell seven stores in the last three years alone to White owners.

“McDonald’s has targeted me for extinction,” Washington said during a Zoom press conference from his home, appearing in a gray suit and black tie before a painting of Muhammad Ali knocking out Sonny Liston. “It took every ounce of me to succeed against the incredible and unfair odds that McDonald’s forced on me.”

Washington said he’s suing to end McDonald’s “two-tiered system where Black owner operators cannot be as successful as Whites. There is a system for them and one for people who look like me.” He said many Black franchisees left McDonald’s broke because of that system.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Ohio, accused McDonald’s of hypocrisy, joining corporations releasing statements proclaiming Black Lives Matter while “it has done nothing to change its own internal policies that perpetuate systemic racism by disadvantaging and squeezing out its Black franchise owners.”

McDonald’s responded to the lawsuit Tuesday by blaming Washington for his business challenges.

“This situation is the result of years of mismanagement by Mr. Washington, whose organization has failed to meet many of our standards on people, operations, guest satisfaction and reinvestment,” McDonald’s said in a statement. “His restaurants have a public record of these issues including past health and sanitation concerns and some of the highest volumes of customer complaints in the country.”

The company said it invested significantly in Washington’s franchise, helped him sell restaurants as part of his business improvement plan, and offered him multiple opportunities to address the concerns. Washington said McDonald’s recent investments amounted to just $6 a day per restaurant to help narrow the gap between his sales and his White counterparts.

[52 former franchisees accuse McDonald’s of racial discrimination in lawsuit]

Washington’s lawsuit comes amid an alarming exit of Black franchisees from McDonald’s and widespread allegations of racial bias. Last fall 52 Black former franchise owners sued McDonald’s for setting them up to fail despite the company’s public commitment to racial equity. McDonald’s denied the allegations and said it was committed to diversity and equal opportunity across its franchisees.

The decline in Black restaurant owners accelerated after Steve Easterbrook and Chris Kempczinski became presidents and chief executives of McDonald’s Corporation and McDonald’s USA, according to Washington’s lawsuit.

Black franchise ownership is at an all-time low today. In 1998, there were 377 Black franchisees in the McDonald’s system, according to the lawsuit. Now there are 186.

“These numbers are not a coincidence; they are the result of McDonald’s intentionally racist policies and practices toward Black franchisees,” Washington’s lawsuit alleges.

McDonald’s said that the company has seen a reduction in the total number of franchise organizations across all demographic groups in recent years, and that the overall representation of Black operators remains broadly unchanged.

Black senior executives who objected to the company’s policies suffered swift retaliation, the lawsuit alleged. During Easterbook’s and Kempczinski’s leadership, the number of Black executives dropped from 42 to seven. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 February 2021 at 3:04 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life, Law, Law Enforcement

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Racism in the US is not subtle or difficult to see (unless one deliberately chooses not to see it): Housing example

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Julian Glover reports for CNN (and there’s a video at the link):

In the New Year, systemic racism has continued to force inequity in home ownership rates across the Bay Area, and Black families who are in a position to purchase a home often face discrimination.

It is no secret that home ownership is a proven pathway to building wealth in the United States. But in a competitive housing market with some of the most expensive homes in the country, it is tough for Black Bay Area residents to buy a home to start the process.

“It was work, but it was exciting,” said Paul Austin, a homeowner in Marin City. He and his wife Tenisha Tate Austin feel like they captured a slice of the American dream when they purchased their first home together in 2016. The couple secured an original Marin City pole home, but faced a number of challenges in obtaining the property.

“As soon as like a house came on the market, you go in, you put your bid in, and then you get outbid by like, $100,000 or more, rather quickly,” Austin said. “That can be a little bit depressing.”

The Austins bought the home off-market from another Black family, who were hoping to make homeownership a reality for a young black couple. After moving in to their home, which was originally built in the 1960s, the Austins staged major renovations. The couple added an entire floor and more than another 1,000 square feet of space. They didn’t stop there, building a deck, new floors, a fireplace, and adding new appliances.

Then, the Austins got the home appraised.

“I read the appraisal, I looked at the number I was like, ‘This is unbelievable’,” said Tate Austin. The family tells ABC7 that their appraiser was an older white woman. The Austins are convinced race was a factor in her estimate. The appraisal contains what the family believes was coded language, like “Marin City is a distinct area.”

The home appraised for $989,000, or just $100,000 more than what the Austins got it appraised for prior to their renovations, despite $400,000 in costs.

“It was a slap in the face,” said Austin. The family immediately called their lender and pushed back. After a month of escalating their complaints, The Austins were approved for a second appraisal. When the day came for inspection, they got creative with the process.

“We had a conversation with one of our white friends, and she said ‘No problem. I’ll be Tenisha. I’ll bring over some pictures of my family,'” Austin said. “She made our home look like it belonged to her.”

The home appraised for $1,482,000, or roughly $500,000 more than it appraised for just weeks prior. The change was equal to a nearly 50% increase in value. The Austins were outraged. They believe this is another ugly result of larger, systemic issues in the United States.

“There are implications to our ability to create generational wealth or passing things on if our houses appraise for 50% less than its value,” said Tate Austin.

“We know discrimination is in nearly every aspect of that home buying process,” said Jessica Lautz, National Association of Realtors vice president of demographics and behavioral insights. “We need to be addressing it as an industry.”

Discrimination in the housing market comes in many forms, and has a long history in our country and in the Bay Area. The phenomenon has led to alarmingly low rates of Black Americans owning their own home. Black home ownership lags across the country with only 44% of Black Americans owning their home in 2020, according to Redfin. Compare that to 74% for white Americans.

In California, just 34% of Black Californians own a home, according to the National Association of Realtors. . .

Continue reading. There’s more, plus the aforementioned video.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 February 2021 at 12:36 pm

European Anthem, “Ode to Joy” from Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, sung by eminent baritone

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Written by LeisureGuy

16 February 2021 at 12:20 pm

Posted in Humor, Video

Fantastic shave, thanks to Grooming Dept and iKon

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The star of this particular show is not pictured: Grooming Dept Moisturizing Pre-Shave is the real deal. I’m blown away by how good it is. Those of you who have read the Guide know that I tried quite a few pre-shaves, and none of them did much for me except MR GLO (or the same soap under the Ach. Brito label), and that did seem to help somewhat. The pre-shave from Grooming Dept is in a whole other league. It substantially has improved my shave, though I admit this is only the second day — but from now on it will be a part of my regular routine. (Anyone want some MR GLO?) I noticed that I was more efficient in using it than I was in yesterday’s shave.

I used an amount somewhat larger than a lentil and certainly smaller than a bean, so calling it “pea-sized” is about right — and not a large pea at that. I rubbed it into my damp stubble with my hand also damp, and over the minute and a half I added just a little water a couple of times by wetting my fingers under the faucet and continuing to massage the pre-shave into the stubble. I again used my Sonicare toothbrush’s 30-second blips to time myself — handy because it’s right there when I want it.

Grooming Dept Chypre Peach is another soap using the Kairos formula, like the soap I used yesterday. The peach fragrance is by no means so in your face as some other peach soaps I’ve used — this one is more complex and muted. And now that I know what “chypre” means, I note it as well. West Coast Shaving’s description:

This Chypre Peach aroma is a complex combination of citrus, florals, spices, on an earthy base. This is a classic chypre with citrus top notes, middle of labdanum, and a base of oakmoss, but it departs from the traditional with a note of sweet peach.

My Green Ray brush from Phoenix Artisan had no trouble at all in getting an excellent lather. I added a little water — a very little — once as I was loading the brush, and as I worked up the other on

The iKon stainless open-comb (now sold with B1 coating) is a top-notch razor: extremely comfortable (and not inclined at all to nick) while being extremely efficient. And today the razor glided so smoothly across my face that I was surprised, especially since my skin felt… well, protected. The end result was total wonderful smoothness, and my skin felt like a million dollars.

Barrister & Mann’s Reserve Classic worked very well as a finishing touch: again a fine but restrained (though noticeable) fragrance. What a great way to start the day — and the sun’s out with snow melting away.

I have to say that I am taken aback by how good Grooming Dept Moisturizing Pre-Shave works. I didn’t think pre-shaves could do all that. Of course, the shaving soap and razor (and water and skill) help, but still, that pre-shave is amazing.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 February 2021 at 10:58 am

Posted in Shaving

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