Later On

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

Archive for July 1st, 2021

Rachel Maddow speaks on Frederick Douglass

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Rachel Maddow:

In 1845, Frederick Douglass, the great American abolitionist, published the first of what would become three autobiographical accounts of his life. The first one was called Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave.

Frederick Douglass is, of course, one of the greatest Americans of all time. His autobiographies about life as a slave and his struggle to become free, in addition to everything else he did in his life, those written works are some of the most influential written American accounts of anything on any subject.

In Narrative of the Life, which is the most widely read of the three of his three autobiographical accounts but also in the subsequent autobiographies he wrote as well, including the next one, My Bondage and My Freedom, one of the most harrowing things that Frederick Douglass describes about his own life is a yearlong period when the man who owned him as a slave decided that young Frederick Douglass was incorrigible.

Douglass’ owner decided that Frederick Douglass needed in effect to be tamed, to be broken. And so he shipped Frederick Douglass off to a man that is literally known as a slave breaker. The slave breaker was named Edward Covey. C-O-V-E-Y.

This is part of how Frederick Douglass describes him in My Bondage and My Freedom. He says, quote, “I have now lived with him [meaning his slave owner] nearly nine months, and he had given me a number of severe whippings, without any visible improvement in my character or my conduct. Now he was resolved to put me out as he said, quote, to be broken.”

There was, in the Bay Side, a man named Edward Covey, who enjoyed the execrated reputation of being a first rate hand at breaking young Negroes. Breaking.

Frederick Douglass then goes on in chapter after chapter after chapter in this autobiography. Look at this. The experiences at Covey’s, unusual brutality at Covey, driven back to Covey’s. You know, Covey’s manner of proceeding to whip, right? Chapter after chapter after chapter, he describes this experience, the way that Edward Covey tortured him and beat him nearly to death and worked him nearly to death all the try to destroy Frederick Douglass’ spirit, to try to destroy his mind, to turn him into a docile slave who would work out question whereupon he would then be returned to his owner.

And because Douglass is so capable and so brilliant, his own recounting of what happened to him in that period of his life, what happened to him when his slave owner sent him to Edward Covey, what happened to him at Edward Covey’s hands, what happened to him when he stayed for a year at Edward Covey’s farm and Covey was tasked there with breaking him, because Frederick Douglass is such a luminous, important, brilliant, inspiring, incredible figure, unparalleled figure in American history, because of what we know he is capable of, because of what we know what his mind was capable of and what he did for his country in his life, when he recounts what happened to him at the hands of Edward Covey, it is the most dispiriting and desolate and just miserable thing that Douglass writes about.

He wrote:

I shall never be able to narrate the mental experience through which it was my lot to pass during my stay at Edward Covey’s. I was completely wrecked, changed and bewildered, goaded almost to madness at one time and at another reconciling myself to my wretched condition. I suffered bodily as well as mentally.

“The overwork and brutal chastisements of which I was the victim, combined with that ever gnawing and soul devouring thought, I am a slave, a slave for life, a slave with no rational ground to hope for freedom, it rendered me a living embodiment of mental and physical wretchedness.

That was Frederick Douglass’ account of his own life in that lowest period in his own life. And that written account did more than any other to galvanize the American abolitionist movement to bring an end to slavery. Of course, it was not fiction. It really happened and it happened as Frederick Douglass said it did and Edward Covey was a real person who operated a slave breaking operation at his farm to which Frederick Douglass was sent.

Now, if you go back to that initial description, Douglass describes Covey’s farm as being on the Bay Side. What he meant by that is that the farm was on the far side of Chesapeake Bay, the far side of Chesapeake Bay from the mainland of Maryland, which is where Douglass was being sent there from.

Edward Covey’s farm, his slave breaking operation which he tortured Frederick Douglass and countless others was this house and its surrounding farmland on the eastern shore of Maryland, in a town that’s now called St. Michael’s.

The farm and the house at the farm itself had a name, a fitting name. It was called Mount Misery.
About 15 years ago now, a literature professor wrote a very thoughtful piece in the Baltimore Sun newspaper suggesting a new future for Mount Misery, suggesting that the United States of America should consider buying Mount Misery to make it a commemorative site. He argued, would not the most fitting outcome for Mount Misery be as a monument or museum wherein a key moment from the country’s past can find a rightful place in the public memory. The old Edward Covey house deserves our understanding and preservation, the fight between slave and slave breaker that took place there is emblematic of two of the elemental themes of American history, the horrors of legally sanctioned racial violence and also the nobility of the struggle against it.

And then her;`s actually the kicker from that piece. The professor writes, “Preserving Mount Misery as a public site of contemplation where the meanings of democracy and despotism are given a human face also would help keep St. Michael’s from being merely a resort for the wealthy.”

A resort for the wealthy? Check this out. The occasion for that call that well-argued piece in the Baltimore Sun that Mount Misery should be purchased and preserved by this country as a monument to the epic violence committed there against slaves in great numbers but specifically against one of the greatest Americans of all time, the key role that the torture in that house played in turning on our American conscious to eventually overthrow slavery, the occasion for that call to preserve Mount Misery as a monument to the hell that happened there, the reason the Baltimore Sun published that just less than 15 years ago now was this revelation that was published in the New York Times exactly 15 years ago today.

On June 30th, 2006, it’s titled “Weekends with the President’s Men.” It is kind of a kicky sidebar piece in the New York Times that was published in the summer of 2006. And that piece revealed that that site on the eastern shore of Maryland, Mount Misery, that house, that farm had actually been recently purchased and was now being lived in as a private home.

Can you imagine, right? First of all, the house is still called Mount Misery today. That`s still the name by which it is known. Who would want to live in a place called Mount Misery?

But then you get to the reason that it`s called Mount Misery, right? It was the home, the same building standing there since 1804. Frederick Douglass was tortured there in 1833 and 1834. It`s the same actual physical place in which the great Frederick Douglass was tortured and beaten and worked nearly to death every day for a year.

Whether or not you think that place should be purchased by this country and made into a memorial for the worst most violent evils of slavery and their role on turning on American’s conscious to end slavery, again, that’s a substantive and interesting proposal. Whether or not you are into that idea, would you want to live there yourself? Would you like to wake up there in the morning and plan breakfast, have that be your home? Who would do that?

That article published in the New York Times“15 years ago today was actually controversial at the time that it was published because in writing that piece it did reveal the exact home address of a senior government official who in fact had made Mount Misery his private home. His name is Donald Rumsfeld, and he was at the time, the summer of 2006, struggling to the end of his disastrous tenure as Secretary of Defense in the George W. Bush administration.

He lived at the time at Mount Misery. He bought the place in 2003 as he was leading the nation into the invasion of Iraq. That was where he went to get away from Washington while running two disastrous wars. He would like to have the Chinook helicopter drop him off at the slave breaker’s home where Douglass was tortured to death. He could relax there.

Written by Leisureguy

1 July 2021 at 10:31 pm

Continue to mask

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Maggie Fox reports for CNN:

Nearly all the staff at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health are vaccinated against Covid-19. Yet they are all still wearing masks to work.

These researchers, who are among the most well-versed in the tricks of the coronavirus, aren’t taking any chances. They’re advising the rest of the country and the world to be similarly careful as strains like the Delta variant arise and spread.

“We still have a masking policy here, particularly in group situations,” Andrew Pekosz, a professor of immunology at Johns Hopkins who is studying the coronavirus, told CNN. “This pandemic isn’t over yet.”

Dr. Mark Mulligan, director of the New York University Langone Vaccine Center, is equally cautious. “I would just say maybe keep your mask in your pocket and if you feel you are in a situation that warrants it, it certainly is good to have it available,” he told a briefing sponsored by the International Antiviral Society Tuesday.

“Very clearly vaccination and the variants are in a footrace.”

On Monday, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health urged even fully vaccinated people to start wearing masks again in some circumstances.

“With increased circulation of the highly transmissible Delta variant, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health strongly recommends everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks indoors in public places as a precautionary measure,” it said in a statement. “In the week ending June 12, Delta variants comprised of nearly half of all variants sequenced in Los Angeles County.”

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday that the coronavirus vaccines available offer protection against the variant, telling ABC’s Good Morning America, “the vaccinated, we believe, still are safe.” The unvaccinated, however, remain at risk.

“We are still seeing uptick in cases in areas of low vaccination, and in that situation we are suggesting that policies be made at the local level,” Walensky said. “Those masking policies are really intended to protect the unvaccinated.”

The Delta variant of coronavirus accounted for 26% of Covid-19 cases in the United States as of June 19, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in updated estimates Tuesday. Mulligan predicted that would rise to 40% soon, and the genetic sequencing company Helix said its testing indicates Delta already accounts for 40% of cases.

The B.1.1.7 or Alpha lineage of the virus, first spotted in the UK, was still the dominant variant in the US as of June 19, representing 47.8% of cases, the CDC estimated.

Delta does look to be more transmissible, said . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by Leisureguy

1 July 2021 at 9:56 pm

Age of Invention: Grain Drain

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Anton Howes writes at Age of Invention:

Whatever happened to “the Agricultural Revolution” of seventeenth and eighteenth-century Britain? In recent years I’ve hardly seen the term used at all, and the last major book on the subject was seemingly published twenty-five years ago. It has become almost totally eclipsed by its more famous sibling “the Industrial Revolution”, with its vivid associations of cotton, coal, and exponential hockey-stick graphs.

Yet for all that popularity, nearly every book investigating the causes of modern economic growth complains about the use of The Industrial Revolution. Even one of the pioneers of economic history, T. S. Ashton, who actually wrote the book The Industrial Revolution, complained on the very second page about the term’s inaccuracy. Much like “Holy Roman Empire”, there’s an error in every word. It involved too many series of changes to really be a The, was about so much more than just industry, and was too gradual a process to properly call a revolution. Yet Ashton had to concede that the term had “become so firmly embedded in common speech that it would be pedantic to offer a substitute.” And this was in 1948. In the intervening three quarters of a century, the term has become all the more difficult to dislodge.

I am, like everyone else, guilty of perpetuating the term Industrial Revolution. It’s a useful shorthand for people to at least get a rough idea of what I’m talking about, for me to then refine. Best to start with what people know, or at least what they think they know, and go from there. You may think of the Industrial Revolution as being about cotton, coal, and steam, but the period also saw major developments in every other industry, from agriculture to watch-making, and everything in-between. And so on. My preferred terms, like “acceleration of innovation”, always require at least a paragraph or two of explanation first.

With the term Agricultural Revolution, however, there’s just no need to reference it. Nobody really talks about it, or has anything more than a very vague conception of what it may mean. At best, people recall a few things from decades-old textbooks: names like “Turnip” Townshend or Jethro Tull, and perhaps a smattering of jargon like selective breeding, crop rotation, or enclosures. Even these are widely misunderstood. See last week’s post, for patrons, on how we get almost everything about the enclosure movement wrong. As for the Agricultural Revolution’s timing, who knows? When, over the course of the sixteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth, and maybe even nineteenth centuries is it supposed to have occurred? With the Industrial Revolution, there’s at least a “classic” period of 1760-1830, with a few decades of leeway. That is of course up for debate, and I’m especially keen on pushing it back much earlier, but it’s at least a half-decent starting point. With the Agricultural Revolution, there’s just no baseline at all. The experts themselves can’t agree.

For all that the term Agricultural Revolution has lost its salience, however, early modern changes to the productivity of agriculture were perhaps the most important of all. The ability to support a much larger population is itself a major economic achievement. For all that we obsess over historical measures of GDP per person, we often forget the much earlier and extraordinary increase in just the sheer number of people. In the early seventeenth century England’s population not only recovered to its pre-Black Death peak of about 5 million, but then from 1700 onwards it began to exceed it. By 1800, after just another century, the population of Britain had doubled to 10 million. And this in a period throughout which the country was a net exporter of grain.

At the start of the eighteenth century Britain exported enough grain to feed a whopping quarter of its own population, sending it instead to the Netherlands, France, and Spain. The government even subsidised the exports. It was only in the late eighteenth century that the pressures of the growing population forced Britain to rely on food sources from abroad. First, in the 1760s, it began to import more livestock products like beef, butter and pork from Ireland, to free up more land back home for the plough. In the 1770s, in years of shortage, it was also occasionally a net importer of grain, initially from Ireland, then also the Baltic and with a little coming from America too. If needed, the use of grains for alcohol might also be temporarily banned. Yet it was only really from the 1800s onwards, under the pressure of a few major harvest failures and the Napoleonic Wars, that the country became a regular and major net importer of grain. Indeed, in just the first fifty years of the nineteenth century, Britain’s population would double yet again, despite the government imposing severe restrictions and tariffs on imported grain (the infamous Corn Laws).

Britain’s ability to feed itself is all the more extraordinary when you consider that all the other unusual growth spurts in Europe had, over the centuries, been highly dependent on foreign food. The great early industrial centre of Nuremberg was known for being “planted in a barren soil”, relying on its artificers and their inventions to pay for grain from afar. Its granaries were said to contain many years’ worth of provisions. The Dutch Republic’s Golden Age was also famously fed using imported Baltic grain, sometimes English grain too. Even before the Dutch fought for independence from the Hapsburgs in the 1560s, enough Baltic grain was being imported to feed about 15-20% of the population of the entire Low Countries.

The Dutch also re-exported Baltic grain to the Mediterranean, where it fed the latter decades of the Italian Renaissance. By 1600, merchants bearing grain to Italy were said to be especially “cherished by the princes, with fair words and rewards, that they may come again” — especially the Medici dukes of Tuscany, who built up the port of Livorno as a place of free trade, extensive merchant privileges, and religious tolerance, even for Protestants and Jews. The port’s ascent began in the 1590s, when the duke sent agents to secretly negotiate huge grain purchases in the Baltic, to be carried there by English, Hanseatic, and Dutch ships. English and Dutch grain merchants, despite being dangerous heretics, were soon even welcomed by the Pope.

Britain stands out, then, for having . . .

Continue reading. There’s more, and the good stuff is later. Surprising.

Written by Leisureguy

1 July 2021 at 8:32 pm

Putting the puzzle pieces of the January 6 insurrection together

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CNN’s Reliable Sources had a good column this morning:

“Thank God for a free press — which is doing the investigating and reporting that Congress should have done way before now,” Asha Rangappa wrote Wednesday.

She was talking about this brand new New York Times video investigation titled “Day of Rage,” based on thousands of videos from the January 6 riot, plus radio dispatches, interviews with witnesses, and other material. The extraordinary Times production was widely praised by reporters on Wednesday.

But Rangappa could have also been talking about CNN’efforts in court to obtain riot footage; or ProPublica‘s recent investigation that indicated “Senior Trump Aides Knew Jan. 6 Rally Could Get Chaotic;” or Just Security’s new “clearinghouse” for riot research. Her broader point is spot on: Newsrooms have been putting the January 6 puzzle pieces together, creating a detailed rough draft of history, in spite of partisan efforts to bury that history.

Now the House is creating a select committee to investigate the deadly attack. The front page of Thursday’s Washington Post sums it up this way: “House, in partisan split, votes to create panel to probe Jan. 6.” Karoun Demirjian‘s lead focuses on the “political challenges that face Democrats” as they investigate the attack, acknowledging that the lopsided vote showed how “Republicans have rallied against scrutinizing an attack they once strongly condemned.”

“Just two Republicans joined with Democrats to support its formation — Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois,” CNN’s story notes.

Multiple things are happening at the same time. Pro-Trump media outlets are becoming increasingly brazen about excusing the insurrectionists. Legit reporters are bringing new info about the attack to light. And government agents are locking more alleged rioters. “Prosecutors have also been targeting those who allegedly attacked members of the media or damaged their equipment,” WaPo’s Spencer S. Hsu and Rachel Weiner noted Wednesday…

Meet the “Sedition Hunters”

HuffPost senior justice reporter Ryan Reilly has spent much of the past six months covering the crowdsourced FBI manhunt for the rioters. On Wednesday he came out with a new story about the “anonymous online sleuths who tracked down the digital breadcrumbs that Capitol suspects had often unknowingly sprinkled across the internet.”

These sleuths call themselves “Sedition Hunters” – and they’ve been “generating leads, making connections, and keeping the feds on their toes.” Now Reilly is expanding his reporting to book form: Ben Adams at Public Affairs has acquired his work, tentatively titled “Sedition Hunters,” about both the online investigators and “the probe’s implications on civil liberties and 21st century policing.”

This is the first book deal I’ve seen that is specifically pegged to January 6 and the aftermath. Many of the upcoming books about Trump’s final year in office will contain new reporting about the riot, though…

PolitiFact’s angle

Why are reporters for a fact-checking website reviewing court filings about January 6? Because they want to document what role misinformation played in the attack. Bill McCarthy published “initial findings” on Wednesday and promised more to come.

Documents pertaining to about half of the 430 defendants arrested through June 1 “shed light on how misinformed beliefs influenced the defendants’ lives ahead of the riot,” McCarthy wrote, from a music teacher in DC “who amplified false conspiracy theories on his podcast and YouTube channel” to a “woman from Pennsylvania who suggested on Facebook that people who ‘start researching’ will find that Democrats ‘have been trafficking children for years'” to a “man from Ventura, Calif., who said in videos posted on YouTube and other platforms long before Jan. 6 that the Smithsonian Institution is hiding evidence of giants, and that we may be living in a simulation.” Read the full report here. It really was a riot of lies…

Fresh fears about August, all because of a loony theory

Speaking of misinfo, here’s . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by Leisureguy

1 July 2021 at 8:27 pm

How Rumsfeld Deserves to Be Remembered

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George Packer vocally and enthusiastically backed the idea of the US invading Iraq by the US during the George W. Bush administration, when Donald Rumsfeld was Secretary of Defense and Dick Cheney was Vice President. Cheney and Rumsfeld seemed to work closely together. Packer now writes in the Atlantic:

In 2006, soon after I returned from my fifth reporting trip to Iraq for The New Yorker, a pair of top aides in the George W. Bush White House invited me to lunch to discuss the war. This was a first; until then, no one close to the president would talk to me, probably because my writing had not been friendly and the administration listened only to what it wanted to hear. But by 2006, even the Bush White House was beginning to grasp that Iraq was closer to all-out civil war than to anything that could be called “freedom.”

The two aides wanted to know what had gone wrong. They were particularly interested in my view of the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, and his role in the debacle. As I gave an assessment, their faces actually seemed to sag toward their salads, and I wondered whether the White House was so isolated from Iraqi reality that top aides never heard such things directly. Lunch ended with no explanation for why they’d invited me. But a few months later, when the Bush administration announced Rumsfeld’s retirement, I suspected that the aides had been gathering a case against him. They had been trying to push him out before it was too late.

Rumsfeld was the worst secretary of defense in American history. Being newly dead shouldn’t spare him this distinction. He was worse than the closest contender, Robert McNamara, and that is not a competition to judge lightly. McNamara’s folly was that of a whole generation of Cold Warriors who believed that Indochina was a vital front in the struggle against communism. His growing realization that the Vietnam War was an unwinnable waste made him more insightful than some of his peers; his decision to keep this realization from the American public made him an unforgivable coward. But Rumsfeld was the chief advocate of every disaster in the years after September 11. Wherever the United States government contemplated a wrong turn, Rumsfeld was there first with his hard smile—squinting, mocking the cautious, shoving his country deeper into a hole. His fatal judgment was equaled only by his absolute self-assurance. He lacked the courage to doubt himself. He lacked the wisdom to change his mind.

Rumsfeld was working in his office on the morning that a hijacked jet flew into the Pentagon. During the first minutes of terror, he displayed bravery and leadership. But within a few hours, he was already entertaining catastrophic ideas, according to notes taken by an aide: “best info fast. Judge whether good enough [to] hit S.H. [Saddam Hussein] @ same time. Not only UBL [Osama bin Laden].” And later: “Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not.” These fragments convey the whole of Rumsfeld: his decisiveness, his aggression, his faith in hard power, his contempt for procedure. In the end, it didn’t matter what the intelligence said. September 11 was a test of American will and a chance to show it.

Rumsfeld started being wrong within hours of the attacks and never stopped. He argued that the attacks proved the need for the missile-defense shield that he’d long advocated. He thought that the American war in Afghanistan meant the end of the Taliban. He thought that the new Afghan government didn’t need the U.S. to stick around for security and support. He thought that the United States should stiff the United Nations, brush off allies, and go it alone. He insisted that al-Qaeda couldn’t operate without a strongman like Saddam. He thought that all the intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction was wrong, except the dire reports that he’d ordered up himself. He reserved his greatest confidence for intelligence obtained through torture. He thought that the State Department and the CIA were full of timorous, ignorant bureaucrats. He thought that America could win wars with computerized weaponry and awesome displays of force.

He believed in regime change but not in nation building, and he thought that a few tens of thousands of troops would be enough to win in Iraq. He thought that the quick overthrow of Saddam’s regime meant mission accomplished. He responded to the looting of Baghdad by saying “Freedom’s untidy,” as if the chaos was just a giddy display of democracy—as if it would not devastate Iraq and become America’s problem, too. He believed that Iraq should be led by a corrupt London banker with a history of deceiving the U.S. government. He faxed pages from a biography of Che Guevara to a U.S. Army officer in the region to prove that the growing Iraqi resistance did not meet the definition of an insurgency. He dismissed the insurgents as “dead-enders” and humiliated a top general who dared to call them by their true name. He insisted on keeping the number of U.S. troops in Iraq so low that much of the country soon fell to the insurgency. He focused his best effort on winning bureaucratic wars in Washington.

By the time Rumsfeld was fired, in November 2006, the U.S., instead of securing peace in one country, was losing wars in two, largely because of actions and decisions taken by Rumsfeld himself. As soon as he was gone, the disaster in Iraq began to turn around, at least briefly, with a surge of 30,000 troops, a policy change that Rumsfeld had adamantly opposed. But it was too late. Perhaps it was too late by the early afternoon of September 11.

Rumsfeld had intelligence, wit, dash, and endless faith in himself. Unlike McNamara, he never expressed a quiver of regret. He must have died in the secure knowledge that he had been right all along.

Written by Leisureguy

1 July 2021 at 6:31 pm

An Oral History of ‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day’

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Read this terrific article in Ringer about the making of Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Totally fascinating for anyone who likes movies, and particularly those who have seen the movie (and their number is legion). In the article there’s a mention of ADR that’s a link. By all means click the link and watch that video — also fascinating. And some of the video clips used in the article end with “also watch” links. Here’s one:

Written by Leisureguy

1 July 2021 at 2:09 pm

Wildfires reflect human folly

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An article in The Conversation points out the dangers that humans pose to themselves and their houses. The article begins:

The heat wave hitting the northwestern U.S. and Canada has been shattering records, with temperatures 30 degrees Fahrenheit or more above normal. With drought already gripping the West, the intense heat has helped suck even more moisture from millions of acres of forests and grasslands, bringing dead vegetation in many regions to record-dry levels and elevating the fire danger to its highest categories.

With this combination of extreme drought, heat and dry vegetation, all it takes is a spark to ignite a wildfire.

That’s why over 100 fire scientistsincluding us, along with fire officials across the West, are urging people to skip the fireworks this Fourth of July and to avoid other activities that could start a blaze.

Humans start the most wildfires on July Fourth

For decades, one of the most striking and predictable patterns of human behavior in the western U.S. has been people accidentally starting fires on the Fourth of July. From 1992 to 2015, more than 7,000 wildfires started in the U.S. on July 4 – the most wildfires ignited on any day during the year. And most of these are near homes.

With this year’s tinder-dry grasslands and parched forests, sparks from anything – a cigarette, a campfire, a power line, even a mower blade hitting a rock – could ignite a wildfire, with deadly consequences.

Year-round, humans extend the fire season by igniting fires when and where lightning is rare. And it is these very fires that pose the greatest threat to lives and homes: Over 95% of the wildfires that threatened homes in recent decades were started by people. Farther from human development – beyond the “wildland-urban interface” – the majority of area burned by wildfires in the West is still due to lightning.

Whether ignited by people or lightning, human-caused climate change is making fires easier to start and grow larger due to increasingly warm, dry conditions. The western U.S. saw these consequences during 2020’s record fire season – and the 2021 fire season has the ingredients to be just as devastating.

Here’s how to stay safe

We’ve spent years studying the causes and impacts of wildfires across North America and around the globe, and working with managers and citizens to envision how best to adapt to our increasingly flammable world. We’ve outlined strategies to manage flammable landscapes and thought carefully about how communities can become more resilient to wildfires.

When asked “What can we do?” many of our suggestions require long-term investments and political will. But there are things you can do right now to make a difference and potentially save lives.

Around your home, move . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more, and it’s useful advice.


Written by Leisureguy

1 July 2021 at 11:35 am

Kagan rips conservative SCOTUS majority for protecting voter suppression laws

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Alexander Bolton reports in The Hill:

Justice Elena Kagan ripped her conservative colleagues on the Supreme Court on Thursday in a blistering 41-page dissent, accusing them of ignoring the legislative intent of the 1965 Voting Rights Act as well as the high court’s own precedents.

Kagan’s fiery dissenting opinion in a voting rights case, which was joined by the two other liberal members of the court, Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, accused her conservative colleagues of undermining Section 2 of the landmark Voting Rights Act and tragically weakening what she called “a statute that stands as a monument to America’s greatness.”

“Never has a statute done more to advance the nation’s highest ideals. And few laws are more vital in the current moment. Yet in the last decade, this court has treated no statute worse,” she wrote, in what is likely to become a rallying cry for Democratic lawmakers and progressive activists pushing for election reform laws, including the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, in Congress.

She warned that “efforts to suppress the minority vote continue” yet “no one would know this from reading the majority opinion.”

Kagan said the court in its 6-3 decision penned by stalwart conservative Justice Samuel Alito gave “a cramped reading” to the “broad language” of the voting law and used that reading to uphold two Arizona voting restrictions “that discriminate against minority voters.”

One is a 2016 Arizona law that prohibits the transporting of another person’s absentee ballot to election officials unless done by a family member or caregiver, a practice which critics call “ballot harvesting” but proponents say is necessary to give voters with limited mobility or in remote areas access to the polls.

The second is a longtime Arizona election rule that requires provisional ballots cast in the wrong precincts to be discarded.

Kagan argued that “in recent months, state after state has taken up or enacted legislation erecting new barriers to voting” and those laws shorten the time polls are open, imposed new prerequisites to voting by mail, make it harder to register to vote and easier to purge voters from the polls.

The court’s majority opinion upheld both policies and overturned an en banc decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco that held the restrictions disproportionately impacted minority voters and thus violated the Voting Rights Act.

Alito wrote that . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by Leisureguy

1 July 2021 at 11:06 am

Rockwell is having a summer sale, July 1-5

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The Rockwell 6S — which is what I would recommend well above the other choices — is 20% off. Notice that you have a choice of 4 colors: Matte (steel color), Matte Black, Red, and Blue. This razor is extremely good — it’s included in my list of favorite razors.

Written by Leisureguy

1 July 2021 at 10:45 am

Posted in Shaving

Donald Rumsfeld, despicable person, dies at age 88

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Update: See also “The Hell Donald Rumsfeld Built.”

Spencer Ackerman has a good obituary of Rumsfeld in the Daily Beast:

The only thing tragic about the death of Donald Rumsfeld is that it didn’t occur in an Iraqi prison. Yet that was foreordained, considering how throughout his life inside the precincts of American national security, Rumsfeld escaped the consequences of decisions he made that ensured a violent, frightening end for hundreds of thousands of people.

An actuarial table of the deaths for which Donald Rumsfeld is responsible is difficult to assemble. In part, that’s a consequence of his policy, as defense secretary from 2001 to 2006, not to compile or release body counts, a PR strategy learned after disclosing the tolls eroded support for the Vietnam War. As a final obliteration, we cannot know, let alone name, all the dead.

But in 2018, Brown University’s Costs of War Project put together something that serves as the basis for an estimate. According to Neda C. Crawford, Brown’s political-science department chair, the Afghanistan war to that point claimed about 147,000 lives, to include 38,480 civilians; 58,596 Afghan soldiers and police (about as many American troops as died in Vietnam); and 2,401 U.S. servicemembers.

Rumsfeld was hardly the only person in the Bush administration responsible for the Afghanistan war. But in December 2001, under attack in Kandahar, where it had retreated from the advance of U.S. and Northern Alliance forces, the Taliban sought to broker a surrender—one acceptable to the U.S.-installed Afghan leader Hamid Karzai. At the Pentagon, Donald Rumsfeld refused. “I do not think there will be a negotiated end to the situation, that’s unacceptable to the United States,” he said. That statement reaped a 20-year war, making it fair to say that the subsequent deaths are on his head, even while acknowledging that Rumsfeld was hardly the only architect of the conflict.

Crawford in 2018 also tallied between 267,792 and 295,170 deaths to that point in Iraq. That is almost certainly a severe undercount, and it includes between a very conservatively estimated 182,000 to 204,000 civilians; over 41,000 Iraqi soldiers and police; and 4,550 U.S. servicemembers. As one of the driving forces behind the invasion and the driving force behind the occupation, Rumsfeld is in an elite category of responsibility for these deaths, alongside his protege Dick Cheney and the president they served, George W. Bush.

Rumsfeld’s depredations short of the wars of choice he oversaw—and yes, responding to 9/11 with war in Afghanistan was no less a choice than the unprovoked war of aggression in Iraq – were no less severe. His indifference to the suffering of others was hardly unique among American policymakers after 9/11, but his blitheness about it underscored the cruel essence of the enterprise. When passed a sheet of paper that, in bureaucratic language, pitched a torture technique of forcing men held captive at Guantanamo Bay for hours on end, Rumsfeld scribbled a shrug on it: “I stand for 8-10 hours a day.” Months earlier, when Rumsfeld was banking on using the U.S. military to invade Iraq, a reporter asked about using U.S. forces to provide security for rebuilding Afghanistan at a moment before Taliban resistance coalesced. “Ah, peacekeeping,” he sneered in return, explaining that such tasks were beneath U.S. forces.

But to those forces, for whom he was responsible, he was no less indifferent. In Kuwait in December 2004, National Guardsmen preparing for deployment confronted Rumsfeld in the hope of enlisting his help with a dire circumstance. They were scrounging through scrap heaps for metal to weld onto their insufficiently armored vehicles so the RPGs they were sure to encounter wouldn’t kill them. Rumsfeld let it be known that the war mattered, not the warfighter. “You go to war with the Army you’ve got, not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time,” he replied.

If Rumsfeld was indignant at the question, it reflected the unreality he inhabited and the lies he told as easily as he breathed. He wrapped himself in a superficial understanding of epistemology (“there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns…”) that a compliant press treated as sagacity. He wore a mask of assuredness, a con man’s trick, as he said things that bore no resemblance to the truth, such as his September 2002 insistence that he possessed “bulletproof” evidence of a nonexistent alliance between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. As resistance in Iraq coalesced in summer 2003, Rumsfeld said it couldn’t be “anything like a guerrilla war or an organized resistance,” even as a reporter quoted U.S. military doctrine explaining why it was. He insisted, “I don’t do quagmires” when quagmires were all he did.

He had reason to suspect he would get away with it. Manipulating the media was, to Rumsfeld, a known known, since reporters loved Rumsfeld before they hated him. U.S. News & World Report put a grinning Rumsfeld on the cover above the headline “Rum Punch.” (“A Secretary of War Unlike Any Other… You Got A Problem With That?”) Vanity Fair dispatched Annie Liebovitz to photograph him amongst Bush’s war cabinet. People magazine called him the “sexiest cabinet member” in 2002. A typical thumbsucker piece, this one in the Los Angeles Times of August 17, 2003, began with the falsity that “Donald H. Rumsfeld has won two wars and won them his way…” The conservative press reflected the subtext. “The Stud” was what National Review called the septuagenarian Rumsfeld as it depicted him in a come-hither pose. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more. He wasn’t any good at his job, and he never recognized that nor expressed any regret or remorse. He was a man who couldn’t be bothered.

Written by Leisureguy

1 July 2021 at 10:28 am

Grooming Dept pre-shave counteracts dryness from Martin de Candre shaving soap

with 5 comments

Yesterday I speculated the moisturizing effect of Grooming Dept Moisturizing Pre-Shave might counteract the drying effect of Martin de Candre shaving soap. Today I tested the idea. I prepped with Grooming Dept pre-shave, then applied a very nice lather made with the Yaqi Target Shot synthetic shown. Martin de Candre easily produces a fine and fragrant and effective lather, the only drawback being the aftermath: I noticed that after the shave, when I am dressed and on my way, my skin was terribly dry. Using a balm rather than a splash helped, but I decided to set MdC aside for a while. And then I thought that perhaps that effect would not be so evident if I used Grooming Dept pre-shave.

The shave went quite well. That’s an Edwin Jagger head on a stainless handle, and three passes produced a flawless smooth result. A splash of Fougère Classique from Barrister & Mann finished the job. I like this aftershave a lot, and he mentioned that he was thinking of bringing it back — but when I checked just now, it’s not listed among the aftershaves available. Maybe if others would show interest that would expedite its return. You can ask him directly via the website contact page. I still have some left, but I’m hoping you can get a chance to try it.

In weather news, the heat dome has dissipated, and it’s 74ºF in my apartment this morning. What a relief.


Written by Leisureguy

1 July 2021 at 8:53 am

Posted in Shaving

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