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Archive for August 6th, 2021

History of the Civil Rights Struggle

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Heather Cox Richardson writes:

Fifty-six years ago today, on August 6, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act. The need for the law was explained in its full title: “An Act to enforce the fifteenth amendment to the Constitution, and for other purposes.”

In the wake of the Civil War, Americans tried to create a new nation in which the law treated Black men and white men as equals. In 1865, they ratified the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, outlawing enslavement except as punishment for crimes. In 1868, they adjusted the Constitution again, guaranteeing that anyone born or naturalized in the United States—except certain Indigenous Americans—was a citizen, opening up the suffrage to Black men. In 1870, after Georgia legislators expelled their newly seated Black colleagues, Americans defended the right of Black men to vote by adding that right to the Constitution.

All three of those amendments—the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth—gave Congress the power to enforce them. In 1870, Congress established the Department of Justice to do just that. Reactionary white southerners had been using state laws, and the unwillingness of state judges and juries to protect Black Americans from white gangs and cheating employers, to keep Black people subservient. White men organized as the Ku Klux Klan to terrorize Black men and to keep them and their white allies from voting to change that system. In 1870, the federal government stepped in to protect Black rights and prosecute members of the Ku Klux Klan.

With federal power now behind the Constitutional protection of equality, threatening jail for those who violated the law, white opponents of Black voting changed their argument against it.

In 1871, they began to say that they had no problem with Black men voting on racial grounds; their objection to Black voting was that Black men, just out of enslavement, were poor and uneducated. They were voting for lawmakers who promised them public services like roads and schools, and which could only be paid for with tax levies.

The idea that Black voters were socialists—they actually used that term in 1871—meant that white northerners who had fought to replace the hierarchical society of the Old South with a society based on equality began to change their tune. They looked the other way as white men kept Black men from voting, first with terrorism and then with state election laws using grandfather clauses, which cut out Black men without mentioning race by permitting a man to vote if his grandfather had; literacy tests in which white registrars got to decide who passed; poll taxes; and so on. States also cut up districts unevenly to favor the Democrats, who ran an all-white, segregationist party. By 1880 the south was solidly Democratic, and it would remain so until 1964.

Southern states always held elections: it was just foreordained that the Democrats would win them.

Black Americans never accepted this state of affairs, but their opposition did not gain powerful national traction until after World War II.

During that war, Americans from all walks of life had turned out to defeat fascism, a government system based on the idea that some people are better than others. Americans defended democracy and, for all that Black Americans fought in segregated units, and that race riots broke out in cities across the country during the war years, and that the government interned Japanese Americans, lawmakers began to recognize that the nation could not effectively define itself as a democracy if Black and Brown people lived in substandard housing, received substandard educations, could not advance from menial jobs, and could not vote to change any of those circumstances.

Meanwhile, Black Americans and people of color who had fought for the nation overseas brought home their determination to be treated equally, especially as the financial collapse of European countries loosened their grip on their former African and Asian colonies, launching new nations.

Those interested in advancing Black rights turned, once again, to the federal government to overrule discriminatory state laws. Spurred by lawyer Thurgood Marshall, judges used the due process clause and the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to argue that the protections in the Bill of Rights applied to the states, that is, the states could not deprive any American of equality. In 1954, the Supreme Court under Chief Justice Earl Warren, the former Republican governor of California, used this doctrine when it handed down the Brown v. Board of Education decision declaring segregated schools unconstitutional.

White reactionaries responded with violence, but Black Americans continued to stand up for their rights. In 1957 and 1960, under pressure from Republican President Dwight Eisenhower, Congress passed civil rights acts designed to empower the federal government to enforce the laws protecting Black voting.

In 1961 the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) began intensive efforts to register voters and to organize communities to support political change. Because only 6.7% of Black Mississippians were registered, MIssissippi became a focal point, and in the “Freedom Summer” of 1964, organized under Bob Moses (who passed on July 25 of this year), volunteers set out to register voters. On June 21, Ku Klux Klan members, at least one of whom was a law enforcement officer, murdered organizers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner near Philadelphia, Mississippi, and, when discovered, laughed at the idea they would be punished for the murders.

That year, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which strengthened voting rights. On March 7, 1965, in Selma, Alabama, marchers led by John Lewis (who would go on to serve 17 terms in Congress) headed for Montgomery to demonstrate their desire to vote. Law enforcement officers stopped them on the Edmund Pettus Bridge and beat them bloody.

On March 15, President Johnson called for Congress to pass legislation defending Americans’ right to vote. It did. And on this day in 1965, the Voting Rights Act became law. It became such a fundamental part of our legal system that Congress repeatedly reauthorized it, by large margins, as recently as 2006.

But in the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision, the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts gutted the provision of the law requiring that states with histories of voter discrimination get approval from the Department of Justice before they changed their voting laws. Immediately, the legislatures of those states, now dominated by Republicans, began to pass measures to suppress the vote. Now, in the wake of the 2020 election, Republican-dominated states have increased the rate of voter suppression, and on July 1, 2021, the Supreme Court permitted such suppression with the Brnovich v. DNC decision.

If the Republicans are allowed to choose who will vote in the states, they will dominate the country in the same way that the Democrats turned the South into a one-party state after the Civil War. Alarmed at what will amount to the loss of our democracy, Democrats are calling for the federal government to protect voting rights.

And yet, 2020 made it crystal clear that if Republicans cannot stop Democrats from voting, they will not be able to win elections. And so, Republicans are insisting that states alone can determine who can vote and that any federal legislation is tyrannical overreach. A recent Pew poll shows that more than two thirds of Republican voters don’t think voting is a right and believe it can be limited.

And so, here we stand, in . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

6 August 2021 at 8:38 pm

What We Are Not Teaching Boys About Being Human

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Ruth Whippman is author of America the Anxious: How Our Pursuit of Happiness Is Creating a Nation of Nervous Wrecks, which Amazon describes thus:

Are you happy? Right now? Happy enough? As happy as everyone else? Could you be happier if you tried harder?

After she packed up her British worldview (that most things were basically rubbish) and moved to America, journalist and documentary filmmaker Ruth Whippman found herself increasingly perplexed by the American obsession with one topic above all others: happiness. The subject came up everywhere: at the playground swings, at the meat counter in the supermarket, and even – legs in stirrups – at the gynecologist.

The omnipresence of these happiness conversations (trading tips, humble-bragging successes, offering unsolicited advice) wouldn’t let her go, and so Ruth did some digging. What she found was a paradox: despite the fact that Americans spend more time and money in search of happiness than any other nation on earth, research shows that the United States is one of the least contented, most anxious countries in the developed world. Stoked by a multi-billion dollar “happiness industrial complex” intent on selling the promise of bliss, America appeared to be driving itself crazy in pursuit of contentment.

So Ruth set out on to get to the bottom of this contradiction, embarking on an uproarious pilgrimage to investigate how this national obsession infiltrates all areas of life, from religion to parenting, the workplace to academia. She attends a controversial self-help course that promises total transformation, where she learns all her problems are all her own fault; visits a “happiness city” in the Nevada desert and explores why it has one of the highest suicide rates in America; delves into the darker truths behind the influential academic “positive psychology movement”; and ventures to Utah to spend time with the Mormons, officially America’s happiest people.

What she finds, ultimately, and presents in America the Anxious, is a rigorously researched yet universal answer.

She is writing a book about raising boys, and her column today in the NY Times doubtless comes from that book:

A while back, at the bookstore with my three sons, I started flicking through a kids’ magazine that had the kind of hyper-pink sparkly cover that screams: “Boys! Even glancing in this direction will threaten your masculinity!”

In between the friendship-bracelet tutorials and the “What Type of Hamster Are You, Really?” quizzes, the magazine featured a story about a ’tween girl who had been invited to two birthday parties scheduled for the same time. Not wanting to disappoint either friend, she came up with an elaborate scheme to shuttle, unnoticed, between the parties, joining in the games at one before racing off to arrive just in time for the same games at the other, then repeating the sprint for cake at each house and so on. This was a tale of high-stakes emotional labor and I related to it strongly — if not the actual scenario itself, then at least the nerve-frazzling, people-pleasing compulsions driving it.

This birthday party stressfest is a pretty standard-issue story for female childhood. The girls in my sons’ classes will likely have read or watched hundreds like it — stories framed around people, their friendships, relationships and emotions, their internal dramas and the competing emotional needs of others. These were my stories as a young girl, too — the movies and TV shows I watched, the books and comics I read, the narratives I internalized about what was important.

But reading the magazine now, as the mother of three boys, this type of people-driven story felt oddly alien. I realized that, despite my liberal vanities about raising my sons in a relatively gender-neutral way, they had most likely never read a story like this, let alone experienced a similar situation in real life. It turns out that there is a bizarre absence of fully realized human beings in my sons’ fictional worlds.

As male toddlers, they were quickly funneled into a vehicle-only narrative reality. Apparently, preschool masculinity norms stipulate that human dilemmas may be explored through the emotional lives of only bulldozers, fire trucks, busy backhoes and the occasional stegosaurus.

As they aged out of the digger demographic, they transitioned seamlessly into one dominated by battles, fighting, heroes, villains and a whole lot of “saving the day.” Now, they are 10, 7 and 3, and virtually every story they read, TV show they watch or video game they play is essentially a story with two men (or male-identifying nonhuman creatures) pitted against each other in some form of combat, which inevitably ends with one crowned a hero and the other brutally defeated. This narrative world contains almost zero emotional complexity — no interiority, no negotiating or nurturing or friendship dilemmas or internal conflict. None of the mess of being a real human in constant relationship with other humans.

An exception to the “no real humans” rule: The small subgenre of realistic fiction aimed at elementary and middle schoolboys is actually wildly popular. Jeff Kinney’s beloved “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series, for example, has sold more than 250 million copies while the middle school graphic novel series “Big Nate” has sold over 20 million. My sons and their friends gobble up these books, hungry for something that reflects their own lives. They gain a lot from them too — a jumping off point to think about their own real-world challenges and relationships, and a way to open up discussions about the emotional dilemmas they face.

But the main characters in this genre tend to be slightly depressing antiheroes, middle school nihilists who are almost defiantly mediocre. Their driving narrative motivation is often a kind of contempt — for school, teachers, annoying siblings and nagging parents. This background sense of grievance can sometimes be casually misogynistic, in the “stupid, dumb girls” vein. Although later examples of these books have dialed this back, if we follow these characters’ trajectory of resentment and self-loathing to its most extreme conclusion, it’s not a huge stretch to imagine one of them in 10 years’ time, trolling feminists online from his parents’ basement.

The lack of positive people-focused stories for boys has consequences both for them and girls. In the narratives they consume, as well as the broader cultural landscape in which they operate, girls get a huge head start on relational skills, in the day-to-day thorniness and complexity of emotional life. Story by story, girls are getting the message that other people’s feelings are their concern and their responsibility. Boys are learning that these things have nothing to do with them.

We have barely even registered this lack of an emotional and relational education as a worrying loss for boys. We tend to dismiss and trivialize teenage girls’ preoccupation with the intricacies of relationships as “girl-drama.” But as Niobe Way, a professor of psychology at New York University and the author of “Deep Secrets, Boys’ Friendships and the Crisis of Connection” says, “When we devalue things associated with femininity — such as emotions and relationships — boys miss out.”

The imbalance doesn’t just put exhausting pressure on girls and women to bear the social and emotional load of life — to remember the birthdays and wipe the tears and understand that Grandma’s increasingly aggressive eyebrow twitch means that she needs to be separated from Aunt Susan — it harms boys and men, too. They are missing out on internalizing concepts and learning skills crucial to a connected, moral, psychologically healthy life.

Probably because of this difference in socialization, boys score lower than girls of the same age on virtually all measures of empathy and social skills, a gap that grows throughout childhood and adolescence. This has implications across the board. Among first graders, social emotional ability, including the skills to form and maintain friendships, is a greater predictor of academic success than either family background or cognitive skills. Boys are now lagging behind girls academically at every grade level through college, so providing them with a more nuanced and people-focused emotional world — in what they read and watch, and in the conversations we have with them — might go some way toward closing that gap.

The impact on boys’ mental health is also likely to be significant. From a young age, girls’ friendships tend to be more intimate, deeper and more emotionally focused, providing a support structure that is often sorely lacking for boys. According to the American Psychological Association, this lack of support, and the masculinity norms that underpin it, can contribute to a range of serious mental health problems. Adolescent boys are also at almost twice the risk for death by suicide than girls — so this is an urgent problem.

We talk about toxic masculinity as an extreme scenario — the #metoo monster, the school shooter — but it is more like a spectrum. We have normalized a kind of workaday sub-toxic masculinity, which is as much about what we don’t expose boys to as what we do.

The stories we tell become our emotional blueprints, what we come to expect of ourselves and others and how we engage with our lives. And in the vast majority of situations we are likely to encounter in the course of a lifetime, there is no hero or villain, no death and no glory, but rather just a bunch of needy humans kvetching over who said what. Understanding how . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

6 August 2021 at 7:50 pm

Heather Cox Richardson on the Battle of Mobile Bay, August 5, 1864

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Richardson wrote last night:

I wrote a letter tonight about the rising radicalism of the Republican Party. But then, sorting through the dark chaos of today’s news, I found myself thinking instead about the Battle of Mobile Bay, which happened on this date in 1864.

By the spring of 1864, victory in the Civil War depended on which side could endure longest. Confederates were starving as they mourned their many dead; Union supporters were tired of losing sons to battles that seemed to accomplish nothing. President Abraham Lincoln knew he must land a crushing blow on the South or lose the upcoming presidential election. If he lost, the best Americans could hope for was a negotiated peace that tore the nation in two. In March 1864, Lincoln appointed Ulysses S. Grant commander-in-chief of all the Union armies, hoping that this stubborn westerner could win the war.

Grant set out to press the Confederacy on all fronts. In the past, the Union armies had acted independently, permitting Confederates to move troops to the places they were most needed. Grant immediately coordinated all the Union armies to move against the South at once.

In the East, the Army of the Potomac would hit Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. In Georgia, William T. Sherman’s western troops would smash their way from Tennessee to Atlanta. Finally, Grant wanted the U.S. Navy to move against Mobile, Alabama, a port on the Gulf Coast so well protected by shifting sands that it had become the major harbor for the blockade runners that still linked the Confederacy to Europe. Grant hoped this strategy would lock the South in a vise.

By midsummer, the plan had faltered. The Army of the Potomac had stalled in Virginia after an appalling 17,000 casualties at the Battle of the Wilderness, 18,000 at Spotsylvania, and another 12,000 at Cold Harbor, where soldiers pinned their names and addresses to the backs of their uniforms before the battle so their bodies could be identified. Sherman was stopped outside Atlanta. And the navy had run aground up the Red River in Louisiana as it made a feint in that direction before the move against Mobile Bay. Union morale was so low that even President Lincoln thought he would lose the election and the war would end in an armistice.

By late summer, the pressure was on Admiral David G. Farragut to deliver a victory in Mobile Bay. After weeks of waiting for reinforcements, on the morning of August 5, Farragut ordered the captains of the fourteen wooden ships and four ironclads under his command to “strip your vessels and prepare for the conflict.” At 5:40 a.m., with the wooden ships lashed together in pairs and the ironclads protecting them, the vessels set out in a line to pass the three forts and four warships that guarded the harbor above water, and the minefield that guarded all but a 500-yard channel below. The admiral’s flagship, the Hartford, was in the second pair in line, behind the Brooklyn and its partner.

As the ships proceeded under heavy fire, going slowly to stay behind the lumbering ironclads, the foremost ironclad hit a torpedo, turned over, and sank instantly, taking all hands with it. Aware he was on the edge of the minefield, the commander of the Brooklyn hung back, throwing the whole line into confusion under the pummeling of the land batteries. Farragut ordered the captain of the Hartford to take over the lead. As the Hartford passed the stalled Brooklyn, the Brooklyn’s captain warned that they were “running into a nest of torpedoes.”

“Damn the torpedoes!” Farragut allegedly shot back. “Full speed ahead!”

By 10:00 a.m., the U.S. Navy had taken Mobile Bay, cutting off all Confederate contact with Europe. It was the victory the Union needed, and others followed in its wake: Atlanta fell on September 2, and the Army of the Potomac began to gain ground in Virginia. Finally able to believe that victory was near, voters rallied behind Lincoln’s determination to win the war and backed his administration in November. They gave him 55% of the popular vote and gave the Republicans supermajorities in both the House and the Senate.

Damn the torpedoes, indeed.

Written by Leisureguy

6 August 2021 at 7:26 pm

Posted in History, Military

Shanghai Beautiful: Bok Choy Delight

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Last night I cooked grain (oat groats), this morning beans (a mix of pinto and soybeans), and now I’m cooking some greens. I bought 6 medium heads of Shanghai Bok Choy, and I’ve chopped them to rest for 45 minutes, and then peeled some garlic cloves and got out a carrot and a couple lemons that will be included. I chopped the garlic to rest, and the carrot and lemons are out so I’ll remember to include them.

I will start by cooking a couple of bunches of scallions and half a red onion in a little olive oil, then add diced carrot and garlic and cook those for a while.

Once those have cooked a while, I’ll add the bok choy, the lemons (diced, after cutting off and discarding the ends), and I think a pinch of asafoetida. I got some and have not used it, so I’m interested to try it. It seems to be more commonly used with lentils and the like, and I’ll do that, but I wanted to give it a go.

Perhaps a few cut-up chipotle peppers would be good to include, and I have them on hand. I’d really prefer fresh jalapeños, but as a Columbia journalism professor would shout at his charges as the deadline neared, “Go with what you’ve got! Go with what you’ve got!” while slapping a metal ruler on the desk.

I’ll also include some kala namak and, toward the end, some ground black pepper.

I’ll add a photo of the finished dish once I’m done, along with any lessons learned in process.

It’s cooking now, 200ºF for 15 minutes with the pan covered, and then I’ll check. I added a splash of Bragg’s apple-cider vinegar, a good splash of Eden Foods Shoyu Sauce and Eden Foods Mirin (both for flavor and for liquid, in addition to that provided by the diced lemons). I did add a pinch of asafoetida after everything else was in the skillet.

After the burner beeped and turned off, I took a look, gave it a stir, and cooked it 12 minutes more at 225ºF. I had been worried that it would cook dry, but it didn’t come close. (I was using my 4-qt All-Clad d3 Stainless sauté pan, whose lid fits well.) The greens taste good, though I don’t notice the asafoetida in particular. I’ll have to try that with lentils. Here’s the final result, still in the pan:

Written by Leisureguy

6 August 2021 at 4:15 pm

When the climate-change chickens come home to roost: Rech, Germany

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This NY Times report by Katrin Bennhold seems a cousin to the report on the enormous Sturgis motorbike rally: political leaders choosing politics over leadership. (See also the lengthy and very interesting cover article in Politico, “Where Republicans Are Starting to Worry About Big Oil.”) Bennhold writes:

Shortly before midnight Dominik Gieler received one last WhatsApp message from his mother. She had watched as a tsunami of river first took one, then two, then all of the houses around her own. “I won’t make it out of here,” she told him.

Then the connection failed.

Mr. Gieler, the mayor of a small village in the Ahr Valley, a lush winemaking region in western Germany that became the epicenter of devastating floods last month, was only five minutes down the road from his mother but he could not help her. He was trapped on the top floor of his own house with his wife and children after the gentle brook he had played in as a boy had turned into a 33-foot raging river that roared past his second-floor windows on both sides carrying roof tops and whole camper vans.

The river swallowed not just Mr. Gieler’s entire childhood home that July night but the ground it once stood on. His mother’s body was found five miles downriver 10 days later.

“I have never felt so small and powerless,” he said one recent afternoon gazing at the now empty space on the opposite bank of the river.

“We have to rebuild, but we have to rebuild differently,” he said. “We have to completely rethink how we live with our environment.”

Three weeks after the megaflood killed 189 people and cut a wide path of destruction through western Germany, people in the valley are still in shock. There is grief, desperation, fear of the next heavy rainfall and anger at politicians who did not heed urgent warnings in the days before. German prosecutors have opened an investigation into two officials in the region on suspicion of “negligent homicide.”

But amid the cacophony of recriminations there is also something else. A sense of humility in the face of a calamity that no one had thought possible. The disaster brought home the realization that climate change is here, already, and even a rich country like Germany is living its effects. And it forced a painful recognition that the flooding was made worse by many bad decisions over decades, even centuries, that turned the Ahr Valley into a death trap.

“There have always been floods here but never like this,” said Guido Nisius, a local politician. “It’s the sum of all our mistakes that caused the catastrophic dimension of this.”

Mr. Nisius sees the evidence of this every day. He lives south of Rech near the Nürburgring, Germany’s most famous car racing ring. It was built in 1925 at the expense of a water retention reservoir, which had been planned after a devastating flood in 1910 but was derailed by World War I.

At the time strapped local politicians faced a trade-off: Build the reservoir as a flood protection measure. Or build the racing ring, which would put 2,500 unemployed locals to work for two years and give one of Germany’s poorest regions a nationwide attraction tied to one of the most promising innovations at the time: the automobile.

“There is no question that this water reservoir would have helped us today,” said Wolfgang Büchs, a biologist who grew up in the region and has written about the geography and vegetation in the Ahr Valley.

Economics has a way of trumping other arguments, Mr. Büchs said.

He points to the monocultures of spruce trees dotted around the mountain sides. They were first planted here in the 19th century because they grow faster and produce more wood than the native oak and birch trees. But their shallow roots do not bind the earth together as well, and these days they absorb no water at all because they are dead or dying of a bark beetle plague caused by warmer summers.

Fields of sweet corn are cultivated for cheap animal feed, but they retain much less water than grassland. The vineyards have been planted vertically, rather than horizontally, because it makes them easier to work and more productive — but the design gives rainwater a clear path into the valley.

And then there are the roads and the buildings that have encroached on the river, sealing the ground on what should be natural flood plains.

“In a way, the river has taken back what we took from it,” said Mr. Büchs, whose sister lost her job after the pharmacy she worked for was destroyed in the floods. “Our past sins, they are coming back to haunt us.”

There is a bigger lesson in the floods, he said. Germans have long lived under the illusion that the catastrophic consequences of climate change would be felt elsewhere.

That helps explain why urgent warnings from meteorologists in the days before the floods were not taken seriously by regional and local politicians and many residents.

“It was a failure of our imagination,” said Andreas Solheid, a doctor and member of the fire brigade who was on duty for two weeks straight after the floods hit. “We simply could not imagine it. We thought this happens to other countries. We see something like this on the news every week but then we change the channel and forget about it.”

Like most Germans, Mr. Solheid never doubted that climate change was real and man-made. He tracks his carbon footprint. His parents have solar panels on their roof. But the floods have disabused him and many others here of the notion that small fixes, rather than fundamental changes, are enough.

“It’s here,” he said. “We have to do what we can to limit it. And we have to learn how to adapt to it.” . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

And see also:

Written by Leisureguy

6 August 2021 at 3:58 pm

“Kamome” — a brief documentary worth watching

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Written by Leisureguy

6 August 2021 at 2:51 pm

Posted in Daily life, Video

Hundreds of Thousands Are Expected at Sturgis Motorcycle Rally Starting Today—Last Year’s COVID Spread Be Damned

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There’s a word for not learning from experience. Can’t think of it right now, but it might come to mind as you read Madison Pauly’s article in Mother Jones, which begins:

While the Delta variant continues to drive new COVID outbreaks and hospital bed shortages around the country, an estimated 700,000 people are expected to pack into a small South Dakota town this week for the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally—a 10-day bacchanal of bikers from around the country and the world.

During last year’s rally—one of the largest public gatherings held in the first part of the pandemic—the virus spread from body to body as attendees expressed defiance at COVID restrictions by packing into bars, music venues, and restaurants. Almost none wore masks. The event, CDC researchers wrote in a study published this summer, had “many characteristics of a superspreading event: large crowds, high intensity of contact between people, potential for highly infectious individuals traveling from hotspots, and events in poorly ventilated indoor environments.” Contact tracers identified 463 attendees and 163 secondary and tertiary contacts who got COVID as a result of the rally—including 17 people hospitalized and one who died.

But these numbers underestimate the rally’s true impact on viral spread nationally, CDC researchers concluded, because attendees with mild or asymptomatic illness may not have been tested. On the other hand, an analysis by a group of economists, while not peer reviewed, gives an idea of the upper limit of Sturgis’ impact. Their study, which analyzed anonymized cell phone location data and COVID case rates by county, estimated that last year’s rally was responsible for more than 266,000 new COVID cases nationwide. “The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally represents a situation where many of the ‘worst-case scenarios’ for super-spreading occurred simultaneously,” the economists wrote. (Read a critique of their conclusions here.)

The CDC researchers, meanwhile, implied in their recent paper that this year’s rally should be postponed. “Recent modeling suggests that interventions such as postponing voluntary, mass events may be the most viable option to maintain epidemic control in an unvaccinated population,” they wrote. If postponement was “not an option,” the researchers continued, they recommended public messaging on the risks the event posed for unvaccinated people; mitigation strategies like masking, distancing, and quarantining; and mass COVID testing during and after the event.

While rally organizers will reportedly offer free masks, coronavirus tests, and hand sanitizer, there will be not be a screening process to ensure attendees have been vaccinated or tested negative recently for the coronavirus. . .

Continue reading.

“There’s a risk associated with that we do in life,” and it is the government’s job to increase that risk, at least in the mind of the state’s Republican governor Kristi Noem.

What’s that word??

Written by Leisureguy

6 August 2021 at 2:34 pm

Coments on, and examples of, translation

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Translation is betrayal. That sentence came to mind when I thought of this post, and I naturally wondered, “Is that my own sentence? or am I remembering?”

Google provides an easy way to check. With the sentence as search term, the first hit is an article “To Translate Is To Betray?“, by Robert Bethune, which begins:

There is an old Italian saying: “Traduttore, traditore.” It’s a cynical remark; it assumes that the task of translation is hopeless, that you can’t ever properly transmit a work from one culture to another. It may, in the end, be true; but if there must be treason, it does not have to be committed in the first degree, with malice aforethought.

I first became aware of these issues when I studied French and heard Jacques Brel’s own recordings of the songs used in “Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well And Living In Paris.” That’s when I learned that the people who produced that musical revue took several of his great songs and substituted their own lyrics that had absolutely nothing to do with what Brel wrote.

Recently, I’ve been working my way through five translations of a classic Italian comedy by Carlo Goldoni, “La Locandiera” — better known in English as “The Mistress of the Inn” or “Mirandolina.” One translator, Ranjit Bolt, commits out-and-out murder. There is hardly a single phrase in his English text that can be directly related to what Goldoni wrote. Another, Lady Gregory, bless her sainted soul, was one of the guiding spirits behind the founding of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, one of the world’s great theatrical treasures. But when it came time to translate Goldoni, for some reason she turned butcher. The whole thought pattern of every scene is hers, not Goldoni’s. She cheerfully removed all the asides, consigns two important characters to oblivion, and runs the lines through a blender. Trying to trace the relationship of her text to Goldoni’s is like trying to follow the noodles in a plate of spaghetti.

What’s worse, these crimes against the work are committed silently. The reader who doesn’t or can’t compare the text to the Italian has no clue to the butchered nature of the text they’re reading.

I won’t bore you further with a litany of translator’s sins. The real question is, does this matter? And can it be avoided?

Yes, it most certainly does matter. We tend to forget . . .

And read more — it’s good.

The sentence came to mind when I read an emailed Atlantic newsletter by Kate Cray, who writes:

Haruki Murakami’s English translators may have skyrocketed the Japanese author to global success, but they took enormous liberties in the translation process, the writer David Karashima reveals in his book Who We’re Reading When We’re Reading Murakami. The English version of An Adventure Surrounding Sheep—titled instead A Wild Sheep Chase—dropped all references to its 1970s setting, because the editors believed readers would prefer something contemporary. Translators shaved some of the more explicit scenes from Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. A whopping 25,000 words were cut from The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.

Translators constantly wrestle with remaining faithful to an original work and ensuring success in a foreign language; these changes to Murakami’s books represent one extreme. At the other end of the spectrum, one finds writers such as David Bentley Hart, who published a “pitilessly literal” translation of the New Testament in 2018. “Where an author has written bad Greek … I have written bad English,” Hart notes. His fidelity to his source material is so great that in at least one instance he chose to forgo his most fundamental duty—to translate—and simply kept the original Greek word, Logos.

Regardless of the degree of intervention, many works of translation read as collaborations between the translator and the original text. A version of a work in a new language invariably bears the marks of the interpreter, no matter how subtle. In this sense, Elena Ferrante’s work is ripe for translation: Her novels reject any notion that storytelling is solitary and instead acknowledge that narratives are shaped by all of the people they pass through, including Ferrante’s own English translator, the retired New Yorker editor Ann Goldstein. The author Jonathan Franzen reflects on the value of this mode of collaboration, which he experienced while translating the Austrian writer Karl Kraus’s work into English for his own book The Kraus Project. As Franzen considers how a single word might change the implication of the text, he seems to enter Kraus’s mind—and emerges with a deeper understanding of how humanity and technology intersect.

Gerard Reve’s 1947 novel, The Evenings, was long considered untranslatable—too Dutch to ever appeal to a mainstream audience. The tale of how it came to exist in English shows the payoff for undertaking this messy enterprise. When an English version was finally published, it both stood on its own and captured the humor and stylistic brilliance of the original. It embodied the best of translation, transforming national specificity into universal relatability.

Written by Leisureguy

6 August 2021 at 1:15 pm

Posted in Art, Books, Daily life, Memes, Writing

Time to Reconsider the ‘Disease Model’ of Mental Health

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Markham Heid writes in elemental+ on Medium:

In 2013, the British Psychological Society published a position statement that raised alarms about “the increasing medicalisation” of mental health care.

In particular, the BPS took issue with the language and criteria outlined in the American Psychiatric Association’s newly updated Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — the DSM-5 — which psychiatrists and many other mental-health experts around the world rely on to guide their work.

The BPS called the DSM-5’s classification models “flawed” and unreliable.

It argued that the DSM-5’s current approach to identifying and labeling mental health problems lacks consistency and scientific rigor, over-emphasizes biological factors and the usefulness of prescription drugs, and downplays the role of “psychosocial” factors such as life experiences and behavior.

The result, the BPS said, is that people often receive a diagnosis that is highly subjective, and that can “negatively shape a person’s outlook on life, and their identity and self-esteem.”

“Many of the issues that arise in relation to psychiatric diagnosis stem from applying physical disease models and medical classification to the realms of thoughts, feelings and behaviours, as implied by terms such as ‘symptoms’ and ‘mental illness’ or ‘psychiatric disease’,” the statement argued. “There is a need for a paradigm shift . . . towards a conceptual system which is no longer based on a ‘disease’ model.”

Peter Kinderman couldn’t agree more.

Kinderman, PhD, is a professor of clinical psychology at the University of Liverpool. He’s also former president of the BPS, and the author of A Prescription for Psychiatry: Why We Need a Whole New Approach to Mental Health and Wellbeing.

He’s spent much of the last 30 years researching and writing about the problems with the way most mental-health professionals discuss, diagnose, and attempt to treat mental anguish.

“My view, in a nutshell, is that the things we talk about when we refer to mental health problems are best thought of as human experiences,” he says. “These can be very distressing human experiences — it’s very distressing to be depressed, and people who are depressed absolutely need help — but that doesn’t’ mean they’re suffering from a disease or illness.”

He says it’s time that psychiatrists and psychologists “drop the language of disorder,” which “reifies” diagnostic labels and categories, and unhelpfully mischaracterizes as illnesses what should properly be viewed as natural responses to life’s challenges.

“Let’s say your friend is depressed because his marriage is failing,” he says. “There’s nothing wrong with your friend’s brain or biology. But once he’s diagnosed as suffering from depression, that introduces all these medical tropes and solutions that don’t address the source of his depression directly.”

For example, that depressed friend may be prescribed an SSRI or other depression drug, which may help but doesn’t ameliorate the cause of his sorrow (i.e., his failing marriage), and that could induce any number of side-effects. Even if his depression eventually fades, he may walk away from the experience thinking of himself as psychologically vulnerable or susceptible to a relapse — like a person whose cancer is in remission.

Kinderman readily acknowledges that many forms of psychological distress are not be traceable to any particular event or source. He also emphasizes, over and over again, that none of what he’s proposing minimizes the reality or burden of depression, anxiety, or other forms of mental anguish.

“Depression is a real problem,” he says. “But it’s not an illness. My contention is if we were to get away from these disastrous labels and stop pathologizing normal human experiences as dysfunctions of the brain, we could start to get a better handle on why people are depressed and how best to help them.”

To emphasize his point, he highlights a 2021 study in which he and his colleagues examined the medical records of more than 4,600 people recently diagnosed with a mental health disorder in the U.K.

In just 39 instances, or less than 1% of cases, the medical professional who made the diagnosis noted socioeconomic or psychosocial factors — such as recent unemployment, childhood trauma, or work-related trouble — that may have contributed to the person’s strife.

In other words, the why hardly seemed to matter. And Kinderman says this marginalization of cause tends to carry forward into care and treatment.

“People walk away thinking the problem is with them,” he says.

So what new approaches does he propose?

First, he says that the negative experiences people have — sadness, worry, fear, anger, compulsion, etc. — should be considered and addressed as specific phenomena, rather than as “symptoms” to be clumped together under some overarching disease or disorder label.

“If some phenomena tend to co-occur — for instance, low mood and fatigue, or the relatively common constellation of obsessional thoughts and compulsions— that’s to be expected [because] that’s inherent in how our psychological processes work,” he says. “But that still doesn’t mean we’re talking about an ‘illness’ or a ‘disorder.’ ”

This shift would help doctors better tailor treatments to a person’s specific challenges, he says. It would also reduce the odds that a person’s self-image or identity would be saddled with the burden of a disorder diagnosis. “This moves us away from the current situation where people learn about a disorder and internalize it, which I think happens a lot,” he says. “Right now, someone who has pessimism and low mood and fatigue — which are all really common human experiences — may go online and learn that these are all symptoms of depression, and discovering that can have consequences.”

“We’ve gotten to a situation,” he adds, “where incredibly large numbers of people meet the criteria for a psychiatric diagnosis, and we’ve reduced the pool of ‘normality’ to a puddle.” (In this concern, Kinderman is far from alone; other experts have spotlighted the phenomenon of “concept creep,” or the steady expansion of the criteria and concepts that categorize people as psychologically unwell.)

Second, he says that healthcare providers should make a greater effort to identify psychosocial factors — the aspects of a person’s life, past or present — that may cause or contribute to their unpleasant mental experiences. “There may well be some biological factors at play, and medication could conceivably be helpful,” he says. “But if a person’s problems come from issues in their world, the answers probably lie there, too.”

Most importantly, he says we should stop . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

6 August 2021 at 12:23 pm

Maana Electric’s TerraBox turns sand and electricity into solar panels

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Ashwini Sakharkar writes in InceptiveMind:

The Luxembourg-based startup Maana Electric will soon be testing its TerraBox, a fully automated factory the size of several shipping containers that takes sand and produces solar panels. The company aims to send these small warehouse container-like boxes, capable of building solar panels using only electricity and sand as inputs, to the deserts of the Earth, in order to contribute to the fight against climate change.

If all goes according to the plans, the technology could reach the Moon, Mars, and beyond as well to help future space colonies meet their energy needs. The TerraBox fits within shipping containers, allowing the mini-factories to be transported to deserts across the globe and produce clean, renewable energy.

In addition to contributing to the fight against climate change, this potentially revolutionary product could also help reduce the dependence of renewable energy operators on China, which manufactures the majority of the world’s photovoltaic solar panels.

The first pilot uses of TerraBox will begin here on Earth in 2022, and the company is already working on a suitable lunar version of its TerraBox, designed to convert lunar regolith into high purity silicon. This is theoretically enough to produce one megawatt of energy per year. The solar panel manufacturing process also releases oxygen as a by-product, which could be used by future astronauts to create breathable environments in space.

Maana Electric’s Space TerraBox is designed to be lighter so it can be easily transported off the planet. The TerraBox designed for Earth and the one designed for space share about 60% of the same technology.

According to the company, today’s solar panels are cleaner than our current energy mix, but their production process produces more CO2 per kWh than where we need to be by 2040 to stop global warming. The company claims that its panels are 100% clean from the moment they are produced until the end of their lifetime. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

6 August 2021 at 8:55 am

Freedom does not negate responsibility

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Written by Leisureguy

6 August 2021 at 8:50 am

Doppelgänger and Gillette Heritage

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Doppelgänger was, I believe, the first soap Phoenix Artisan made in the CK-6 formula, and I recall my being amazed by the quality of the lather. This is Doppelgänger Orange, an homage to (or knockoff of, depending on your view) Ralph Lauren’s Chaps:

Top notes: Anise, Clary Sage, Bergamot, Lavender, Lime, Lemon
Heart notes: Jasmine, Patchouli, Orris, Geranium, Sandalwood, Cedarwood
Base notes: Amber, Vanilla, Musk, Honey, Moss, Benzoin, Tonka Bean

The fragrance is delightful, and the lather all that you would expect from an ultrapremium soap.

Three passes with the Gillette Heritage did a good job, though at one point I noticed the head was loose. I’ll have to check head tightness before using this razor, since I didn’t loosen it, so it must not hold itself in place all that well.

A splash of Doppelgänger aftershave with a squirt of Hydrating Gel, and I’m ready for a walk.

Written by Leisureguy

6 August 2021 at 8:42 am

Posted in Shaving

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