Later On

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

Archive for May 15th, 2021

The GOP’s war against poor Americans

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Heather Cox Richardson has a good column on the origin of the GOP’s hostile attitude toward the public good. The column begins:

This morning, as expected, the House Republicans elected Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Trump’s choice for conference chair, to replace Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY). This means that the four top House Republican leaders—Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), Stefanik, and Policy Committee Chair Gary Palmer (R-AL)—all voted to overturn Biden’s 2020 victory after the January 6 attack on the Capitol.

Stefanik thanked “President Trump for his support,” saying “he is a critical part of our Republican team.” She went on to say that “House Republicans are united in our fight to save our country from the radical Socialist Democrat agenda of President Biden and Nancy Pelosi.”

Today’s vote confirmed that the leaders of the current Republican Party are willing to abandon democracy in order to save the country from what they call “socialism.”

But what Republicans mean when they say “socialism” is not the political system most countries recognize when they use that word: one in which the people, through their government, own the means of production. What Republicans mean comes from America’s peculiar history after the Civil War, when new national taxation coincided with the expansion of voting to include Black men.

In the years just after the firing stopped, white southerners who hated the idea that Black men could use the vote to protect themselves terrorized their Black neighbors. Pretending to be the ghosts of dead Confederate soldiers, they dressed in white robes with hoods to cover their faces and warned formerly enslaved people not to show up at the polls. But in 1870, Congress created the Department of Justice, and President U.S. Grant’s attorney general set out to destroy the Ku Klux Klan.

In 1871, southern leaders changed their tactics. The same men who had vowed that Black people would never be equal to whites began to say that their objection to Black voting was not based on race. No, they said, their objection was that Black people were poor and uneducated and would elect lawmakers who promised to give them things—hospitals, and roads, and schools—that could be paid for only through tax levies on people with property: white men. In this formulation, voting was not a means to ensuring equality; it was a redistribution of wealth from hardworking white men to African Americans who wanted a handout. Black voting meant “socialism,” and it would destroy America.

With this argument, northerners who had fought alongside Black colleagues and insisted they must be equal before the law on racial grounds were willing to see Black men kept from the polls. Black voting, which northerners had recognized as key to African Americans being able to protect their interests—and, for that matter, to defend the national government from the former Confederates who still wanted to destroy it—slowed. And then it stopped.

The South became a one-party state ruled by a small elite class, defined by white supremacy, and mired in poverty. For its part, the North also turned on workers, undermining the labor movement and focusing on protecting the new industrial factories whose owners claimed they were the ones driving the economy.

In the 1930s, the Great Depression changed this equation. When the bottom fell out of the economy, Democrats under Franklin Delano Roosevelt transformed the government to regulate business, provide a basic social safety net, and promote infrastructure. As early as 1937, Republican businessmen and southern Democrats began to talk of coming together to stop what they considered socialism. But most Americans liked this New Deal, and its opponents had little hope of attracting enough voters to stop its expansion.

That equation changed after World War II, when Presidents Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower began to use the government to advance racial equality. Truman’s 1948 desegregation of the military prompted southern Democrats to form their own short-lived segregationist party. The Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, decision declaring segregation in public schools unconstitutional enabled opponents of the new government system to tie racism to their cause. They warned that the expanded government meant the expensive protection of Black rights, which cost tax dollars. They argued it was simply a redistribution of wealth, just as their counterparts had done in the Reconstruction South.

With the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, that. . .

Continue reading. The history is interesting and relevant. She concludes the column:

. . . With the election of Democrat Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, along with a Democratic Congress, the leadership of the Republican Party has taken the next step. They are rejecting the legitimacy of the election, doubling down on Trump’s Big Lie that he won. Claiming to want to combat “voter fraud,” they are backing bills across the country to suppress Democratic voting, making sure that no one but a Republican can win an election.

Just as white southerners argued after the Civil War, Republican leaders claim to be acting in the best interests of the nation. They are standing firm against “the radical Socialist Democrat agenda,” making sure that no wealthy person’s tax dollars go to schools or roads or social programs.

They are “saving” America, just as white supremacists “saved” the Jim Crow South.

Written by Leisureguy

15 May 2021 at 10:08 am

The Miracle of the Commons

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Local wardens conduct a game count in Caprivi, Northeastern Namibia. Photo courtesy NACSO/WWF Namibia

Michelle Nijhuis, a project editor at The Atlantic, extracts the following essay in Aeon from her book Beloved Beasts: Fighting for Life in an Age of Extinction (2021):

In December 1968, the ecologist and biologist Garrett Hardin had an essay published in the journal Science called ‘The Tragedy of the Commons’. His proposition was simple and unsparing: humans, when left to their own devices, compete with one another for resources until the resources run out. ‘Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest,’ he wrote. ‘Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all.’ Hardin’s argument made intuitive sense, and provided a temptingly simple explanation for catastrophes of all kinds – traffic jams, dirty public toilets, species extinction. His essay, widely read and accepted, would become one of the most-cited scientific papers of all time.

Even before Hardin’s ‘The Tragedy of the Commons’ was published, however, the young political scientist Elinor Ostrom had proven him wrong. While Hardin speculated that the tragedy of the commons could be avoided only through total privatisation or total government control, Ostrom had witnessed groundwater users near her native Los Angeles hammer out a system for sharing their coveted resource. Over the next several decades, as a professor at Indiana University Bloomington, she studied collaborative management systems developed by cattle herders in Switzerland, forest dwellers in Japan, and irrigators in the Philippines. These communities had found ways of both preserving a shared resource – pasture, trees, water – and providing their members with a living. Some had been deftly avoiding the tragedy of the commons for centuries; Ostrom was simply one of the first scientists to pay close attention to their traditions, and analyse how and why they worked.

The features of successful systems, Ostrom and her colleagues found, include clear boundaries (the ‘community’ doing the managing must be well-defined); reliable monitoring of the shared resource; a reasonable balance of costs and benefits for participants; a predictable process for the fast and fair resolution of conflicts; an escalating series of punishments for cheaters; and good relationships between the community and other layers of authority, from household heads to international institutions.

When it came to humans and their appetites, Hardin assumed that all was predestined. Ostrom showed that all was possible, but nothing was guaranteed. ‘We are neither trapped in inexorable tragedies nor free of moral responsibility,’ she told an audience of fellow political scientists in 1997.

What Hardin had portrayed as a tragedy was, in fact, more like a comedy. While its human participants might be foolish or mistaken, they are rarely evil, and while some choices lead to disaster, others lead to happier outcomes. The story is far less predictable than Hardin thought, and its twists and turns can lead to uncomfortable places. But in those surprises lie the possibilities that Hardin never saw.

You might think that scientists, and the public, would eagerly trade Hardin’s dark speculations about human nature for Ostrom’s sunnier findings about our capabilities. But as I learned while researching and writing my book Beloved Beasts (2021), a history of the modern conservation movement, Ostrom’s conclusions have faced stubborn resistance. During the early years of her career, colleagues criticised her for spending too much time studying the differences among systems and too little time looking for a unifying theory. ‘When someone told you that your work was “too complex”, that was meant as an insult,’ she recalled.

Ostrom insisted that complexity was as important to social science as it was to ecology, and that institutional diversity needed to be protected along with biological diversity. ‘I still get asked, “What is the way of doing something?” There are many, many ways of doing things that work in different environments,’ she told an audience in Nepal in 2010. ‘We have got to get to the point that we can understand complexity, and harness it, and not reject it.’

Her research gained global prominence in 2009, when, aged 76, Ostrom became the first woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences. But for a variety of reasons – perhaps because she was a woman in a male-dominated field, or perhaps because her sophisticated work didn’t lend itself to a catchy name – her carefully collected data hasn’t dislodged Hardin’s metaphor from the public imagination.

When Ostrom died in 2012, she was celebrated by her colleagues for her pioneering work, her plainspoken humility, and her steady resistance to what she called ‘panaceas’. She knew from experience how corrosive simple stories could be. Hardin, for his part, seemed bent on making his own ideas as repugnant as possible. Among his proposed solutions to the tragedy of the commons was coercive population control: ‘Freedom to breed is intolerable,’ he wrote in his 1968 essay, and should be countered with ‘mutual coercion, mutually agreed upon’. He feared not only runaway human population growth but the runaway growth of certain populations. What if, he asked in his essay, a religion, race or class ‘adopts overbreeding as a policy to secure its own aggrandisement’? Several years after the publication of ‘The Tragedy of the Commons’, he discouraged the provision of food aid to poorer countries: ‘The less provident and less able will multiply at the expense of the abler and more provident, bringing eventual ruin upon all who share in the commons,’ he predicted. He compared wealthy nations to lifeboats that couldn’t accept more passengers without sinking.

In his later years, Hardin’s racism became more explicit. ‘My position is that this idea of a multiethnic society is a disaster,’ he told an interviewer in 1997. ‘A multiethnic society is insanity. I think we should restrict immigration for that reason.’ Hardin died in 2003, but the nonprofit Southern Poverty Law Center, alert to the longevity of his ideas, maintains his profile in its ‘extremist files’ and classifies him as a white nationalist.

Still, many of those who abhor Hardin’s racist ideas – or would if they were aware of them – are seduced by the simplicity of his tragedy. If academic citation indexes are any guide, the tragedy of the commons remains far better known to scholars than any of Ostrom’s findings. It continues to be taught, uncritically, to high-school students in environmental science courses. It’s used as a justification by those who support severe restrictions on human immigration and reproduction. Even more frequently, it’s casually invoked as an explanation for human failures: even the eminent biologist E O Wilson, in his book Half-Earth (2016), describes the weakness of international climate-change agreements and the ongoing depletion of ocean resources as tragedies of the commons, without making clear that such tragedies can be averted.

Despite the evidence gathered by Ostrom and her colleagues, it seems, many are still all too willing to believe the worst of their fellow humans – to the detriment of conservation efforts worldwide. Like Hardin, many . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more, including a variety of photos.

Craftsmanship Magazine ran an interesting article in Winter 2017 on how people use Shari’ah law to manage a common resource in the American West: water. It’s well worth reading. Hardin seems to overlook the fact that people can make choices, and among those are choosing to cooperate.

Written by Leisureguy

15 May 2021 at 9:31 am

The Eros slant reclaimed and an unusual aftershave

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The Simpson Case, once known as the Wee Scot 3 (with the current Wee Scot being the Wee Scot 2, and an even smaller brush as the Wee Scot 1), brought forth a fine lather from Phoenix Artisan’s Kokum Butter formula, here dressed in Bay Rum.

My razors move up and down in my esteem, based on how well they seem to be working for me. The razor itself doesn’t change, of course, but the context certainly varies: the brand and age of the blade, the prep, my current manifestation of skill and habit, and probably my mood and outlook. Some razors tend to ride low (iKon Short Comb and OG1, as I’ve mentioned, plus other razors I abandoned, like the RazoRock Wunderbar and the Mühle R41), while others typically ride high (almost all of my current collection), but even then there is movement.

The Eros slant I used today started out well, then seem to become unruly, with a tendency to nick. It has been totally redeemed by Grooming Dept’s Moisturizing Pre-Shave, to the point that it is now among my favorite slants. The improvement in standing probably results from a combination of factors — the pre-shave certainly improves glide and offers some protection, which increases my confidence and probably thus affects my technique. Whatever the causes, the net result today was a wonderfully enjoyable shave that left my face as smooth as it could be, with not a nick to see.

This aftershave, packaged by Bathhouse (which no longer offers it), is a commercial product that you can buy in bulk if you’re so inclined. It’s basically an augmented alcohol-free witch-hazel-based lotion that can be used as an astringent on face or body, and it works extremely well as an aftershave. Details can be found at the link. The ingredients can be read from the label in the photo, but more legibly here:

Common Names

Organic Aloe Leaf Juice, Phenoxyethanol, Witch Hazel Water, Malic Acid, Citric Acid, Tartaric Acid, Glycolic Acid, Lactic Acid, DMAE Bitartrate, Glycerin, Organic Alcohol, Organic Sugar Cane Extract, Organic Bilberry Fruit Extract, Organic Sugar Maple Extract, Organic Orange Peel Extract, Organic Lemon Peel Extract, Organic Cranberry Fruit Extract, Organic White Willow Bark Extract, Tea Tree Leaf Oil, Bergamot Peel Oil, Tea Tree Leaf Oil, Roman Chamomile Flower Oil, German Chamomile Flower Oil, Geranium Oil, Polysorbate 20, Polysorbate 80, Organic Alcohol, Tetrasodium Glutamate Diacetate

International Nomenclature

Organic Aloe Leaf Juice (Aloe Barbadensis), Phenoxyethanol, Witch Hazel Water (Hamamelis Virginiana), Malic Acid, Citric Acid, Tartaric Acid, Glycolic Acid, Lactic Acid, DMAE Bitartrate (Dimethylaminoethanol Bitartrate), Glycerin, Organic Alcohol, Organic Sugar Cane Extract (Saccharum Officinarum), Organic Bilberry Fruit Extract (Vaccinium Myrtillus), Organic Sugar Maple Extract (Acer Saccharinum), Organic Orange Peel Extract (Citrus Sinensis), Organic Lemon Peel Extract (Citrus Limon), Organic Cranberry Fruit Extract (Vaccinium Macrocarpon), Organic White Willow Bark Extract (Salix Alba), Tea Tree Leaf Oil (Melaleuca Alternifolia), Bergamot Peel Oil (Citrus Bergamia), Tea Tree Leaf Oil (Melaleuca Alternifolia), Roman Chamomile Flower Oil (Anthemis Nobilis), German Chamomile Flower Oil (Chamomilla Recutita), Geranium Oil (Pelargonium Graveolens), Polysorbate 20, Polysorbate 80, Organic Alcohol, Tetrasodium Glutamate Diacetate

I like it, even in the absence of the alcohol hit. And I have to admit that my skin does feel very good. A half-gallon (priced at $21.66, 34¢ per ounce) would last a long time — or you could buy a gallon ($31.58, 25¢ per ounce) and split it with a friend or friends — if it’s a four-way split, each person would get a quart for $7.90. For comparison, a 3.5 oz bottle of Aqua Velva Classic Ice Blue aftershave from Walmart is $6 ($1.71 per ounce), and Aqua Velva’s ingredients are not so impressive:

SD Alcohol 40, Water, Glycerin, Fragrance, Menthol, Benzophenone 1, Ext D&C Violet 2 (CI 60730), FD&C Blue 1 (CI 42090).



Written by Leisureguy

15 May 2021 at 9:07 am

Posted in Shaving

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