Later On

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

Archive for August 17th, 2021

How much do doctors actually know about nutrition?

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Along with the video, the American Heart Association has an article with the same title that reaches the same conclusion. The article is definitely worth reading. From the article:

Dr. David Eisenberg, director of culinary nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, applauded the AHA report, saying it documents “the total lack of requirement” in most medical schools to understand the practical skills necessary to advise patients struggling with their weight, blood sugar, blood pressure or heart disease.

“It is a scandal that health professionals are not introduced to these facts above and beyond minimal information about nutritional deficiencies in biochemistry, and that these things do not appear on their examinations to become a practicing physician,” said Eisenberg, who was not part of the group that wrote the advisory. “Nor are they required on board certification, whether it’s to become an internist, cardiologist, endocrinologist – you name it.”

And see also this report in Circulation.

Written by Leisureguy

17 August 2021 at 7:51 pm

Government Report: Pentagon Had ‘Willful Disregard’ for Reality in Afghanistan

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Matthew Gault reports in Motherboard:

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, a U.S. government watchdog group that chronicled America’s failures in the country, has released a new report summing up two decades of war. The 140-page report, titled What We Need to Learn: Lessons From Twenty Years of Afghanistan Reconstruction, is a damning list of failures. It tells the story of an ineffectual empire with no plan, no will to learn, and no idea how to do anything but spend money.

Much of the report is a brutal condemnation of a historic failure, and some of the anecdotes—one of which explains how officials used the TV shows Cops and NCIS to teach policing concepts—are simply mind-boggling. “The U.S. government did not understand the Afghan context and therefore failed to tailor its efforts accordingly,” the report states. And, it says, “U.S. government agencies rarely conducted sufficient monitoring and evaluation to understand the impact of their efforts.”

The report, based on hundreds of interviews and done by a government entity that has studied the war in Afghanistan for more than a decade, portrays the United States as a country that attempted to do nation building in a nation it didn’t understand and didn’t care to learn about. It said that the turnover within the rebuilding efforts’ ranks was such that the U.S. made the same mistakes over and over again, which SIGAR likened to an “annual lobotomy.”

“U.S. officials rarely had even a mediocre understanding of the Afghan environment, much less how it was responding to U.S. interventions,” it said. “Many mistakes were borne from a willful disregard for information that may have been available.”

From the very beginning of the report, which tallies the dead and the amount of money spent, the report explains how the U.S. government failed its own people and, more importantly, the people of Afghanistan: “The U.S. government has now spent 20 years and $145 billion trying to rebuild Afghanistan, its security forces, civilian government institutions, economy, and civil society. The Department of Defense has also spent $837 billion on warfighting, during which 2,433 American troops and 1,144 allied troops have been killed and 20,666 U.S. troops injured,” the report said.

“Afghans, meanwhile, have faced an even greater toll,” it said. “At least 66,000 Afghan troops have been killed. More than 48,000 Afghan civilians have been killed, and at least 75,000 have been injured since 2001—both likely significant underestimations.”

The report has seven lessons it wants America’s leaders to learn from Afghanistan. In a list, they feel like a tallying of major failures. According to SGIAR, the U.S. government continuously struggled to develop and implement a coherent strategy for what it hoped to achieve, set unrealistic timelines that fostered corruption, poured money into unsustainable infrastructure projects, hired and trained the wrong people poorly, and underestimated the violence that would plague an occupied country.

It’s a big-picture report with specific anecdotes that explain how terrible America’s efforts were. Facing a shortage of cops to train local civilian forces, America hired helicopter pilots to do the job. Helicopter pilots knew little about policing and had to be trained themselves. “The training many military advisors did receive was not even Afghanistan-specific,” the report said. “With such a training deficiency, some policy advisors turned in desperation to television shows like Cops and NCIS to become more familiar with policing.”

In 2009, when America realized it didn’t have enough people to build out the country’s infrastructure, “it tried to mass-produce these teams by taking chemical warfare response units and giving them a four-week-long PowerPoint training, with poor results.”

When these chemical warfare experts turned their sights to civil engineering, they began to turn in policy proposals with information copied from each other and the PowerPoint slides. “Another senior military officer told SIGAR that some justifications even included references to ‘sheikhs,’ indicating they were being copied from proposals written in Iraq.”

Staffing ambitious projects were a perennial problem in Afghanistan, the report found. The more than $144 billion the U.S. spent in the country on reconstruction went, largely, to buildings. It often couldn’t find people to do the jobs it needed done. “The United States government repeatedly undertook new projects without first guaranteeing enough personnel resources were available to see them through,” it said. “At one point, a USAID employee noted that the organization was so desperate for additional staff that they were hiring anyone with ‘a pulse and a master’s degree.’”

Those who did come to work didn’t stay very long, and by the time a competent person had gotten a handle on their job, it was often time for them to go home. “With personnel taking critical information with them as they rotated out, the reconstruction effort essentially experienced an annual lobotomy, as newly arriving staff made the same mistakes as their predecessors,” SIGAR said.

SIGAR documented the various problems of America’s war in Afghanistan for 12 years. The mistakes of the past were available for any U.S. official or general who cared to learn. According to SIGAR, its warnings were mostly ignored. “The U.S. government continuously struggled to develop and implement a coherent strategy for what it hoped to achieve in Afghanistan,” the report said. “The most fundamental of questions were continuously revisited, including who America’s enemies and allies were, and exactly what the U.S. government should try to accomplish. The ends were murky, and grew in number and complexity.”

As new political parties and new leaders took control in America, . . .

Continue reading. There’s (sadly) more.

Kevin Drum on Afghanistan

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Written by Leisureguy

17 August 2021 at 4:05 pm

Former Pastor Is Changing Evangelicals’ Minds on COVID Vaccines

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Andrea Guzman’s interview of Curtis Change for Mother Jones is worth reading. It concludes:

. . . On coercion tactics to convince the unvaccinated: I understand that people are frustrated, that they’re losing patience, that they just want to make things via mandate, and give up trying to persuade these people. I think that’s short-sighted, for a couple of reasons. One, if you just resort to sheer coercion, it just confirms the narrative that they’re out to get us, that they are shoving things down our throat. You’re just laying the groundwork for a deepening divide. The second reason is that you have to realize that we’re still in the first or second inning of vaccine outreach, globally. You have to realize that parts of Africa and Asia are heavily influenced by Christian culture. A country like Uganda is like 90 percent Christian. Those churches, those places in Africa, they actually take their cultural cues to a great extent from American evangelicals, especially leading white evangelical voices. So America is—unfortunately, through evangelical culture—exporting its vaccine hesitancy. A lot of the same conspiracy theories and doubts and fears that we’ve been battling here, we are definitely seeing emerge and being replicated in the rest of the world. Changing American culture is not just about getting more American evangelicals to take the vaccine, it’s going to be critical to getting the rest of the world vaccinated. And ultimately, for all of us, if we don’t get the entire world vaccinated, we’re all at risk. 

On the next phase of the pandemic: What’s going to be really important is for Christians to convey to other Christians is that it’s okay to change your mind. The Christian virtues of grace and acceptance are going to be paramount here because people are going to be even more resistant if they think that in changing their mind they are going to be shamed.

Written by Leisureguy

17 August 2021 at 3:50 pm

US Senate actually REQUIRES that some buses be polluting

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The US Senate is astonishing, and I mean that in the pejorative sense. Michael Laris reports in the Washington Post:

The Senate infrastructure bill approved last week includes an unprecedented boost in funds for a Transportation Department program to reduce harmful emissions from buses.

But the provision adding billions to the Low or No Emission Vehicle Program has an unusual requirement: At least $1.4 billion must be spent on buses that pollute.

In a legislative turn of phrase with far-reaching implications, the bill says that for at least a quarter of spending in the $5.6 billion program, the secretary of transportation shall “only consider eligible projects related to the acquisition of low or no emission buses or bus facilities other than zero emission vehicles and related facilities.”

That would represent a sharp break from recent practice. Over the past two years under Presidents Biden and Donald Trump, at least 95 percent of funds in the program went toward electric buses, which have zero tailpipe emissions. Canada launched a $2.2 billion Zero Emission Transit Fund last week with no money for polluting buses. And California has mandated that transit agencies purchase only zero-emission buses starting in 2029.

The provision appears about halfway into a 2,702-page infrastructure bill released to the public nine days before it was approved Aug. 10, leaving little time for those outside closed-door negotiations to learn of its existence. But a closer look at the origin of the 42-word passage shows the difficulty of getting the federal government fully behind efforts to address emissions and climate change in a politically divided nation deeply reliant on fossil fuels.

The inclusion of the provision requiring polluting buses followed lobbying to shape the program by the natural gas industry — which wants to fuel dramatically more U.S. vehicles in the coming decades — and the insistence of an enthusiastic industry advocate, Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.), according to federal disclosures and interviews.

Natural Gas Vehicles for America, a group representing major utilities and others in the industry, said in a statement that its lobbying on the Low or No Emission program was meant to help transit agencies quickly purchase the “cleanest available technologies that suit their needs. Natural gas buses are more affordable, more reliable and deliver greater environmental benefit than electric buses,” the advocacy group said.

Members of Toomey’s staff said he was responsible for the 25 percent mandate for emitting buses. . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

I have a strong sense that Natural Gas Vehicles for America is highly biased and guilty of motivated reasoning — and much more concerned about corporate profits than climate change.

Written by Leisureguy

17 August 2021 at 3:07 pm

Today’s delight: A bottle of Kiss

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I’ve wanted a bottle of this ever since we moved here in 2017. Once when I was at the Devine winery/distillery/tasting room I tried to buy it, but was told the last bottle of the current batch had been sold the day before.

Then things intervened, and I missed my chances — but this year, I signed up in advance and bought a bottle online the day it was available, and today The Wife is picking up two bottles, hers and mine.

Devine describes it in this wise:

A one-of-a-kind spirit only available in the de Vine summertime; it is highly anticipated by our most loyal fans. The first craft spirit we ever released, the Kiss is made from one ton of Peninsula grown strawberries and nothing else. Distinctly clean and refreshing with an extraordinary real strawberry taste.

If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on our most limited release of the year, enjoy your Kiss on ice with lemon or mint, or with tonic, soda, or sparkling wine.

Summer Seasonal Release Coming August 16th!

As you can see, I was johnny on the spot this year. I was told by a person at the distillery, “this is the best batch we have ever made,” so I’m particularly looking forward to it.

And on a sad note, the notification I received yesterday said, “We don’t know when we’ll be able to find this many local strawberries again.”

I’ll update this post after tasting Kiss. BTW, note the amount of glass in the (very heavy) bottle. I’ve noticed that local distilleries — particularly Devine — use extraordinarily heavy (and thus robust) bottles, I imagine because (unlike national brands) they don’t have to worry about shipping costs.

Update:  I just tried Kiss in two ways:

First, neat, in a scotch snifter. I loved the aroma — the strawberry comes through, and with interesting overtones — but it was a little stiff in taste for me — not raw or rough, just a little hard-hitting.

Second, on the rocks in a lowball glass. I liked that much better: the slight dilution made the sip easier. The flavor is excellent. The aroma is more muted, but still present in the aftermath of the sip.

Wonderful stuff. Their suggestion: with sparkling water or club soda, ice, and a spring of mint — and I would crush the leaves.

Written by Leisureguy

17 August 2021 at 1:19 pm

Posted in Daily life, Drinks

A closer view of a swarm of starlings

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The usual videos of a flock of starlings shows them at a distance, swirling here and there against the sky. This video includes closer shots, including the flock on the ground.

Written by Leisureguy

17 August 2021 at 12:26 pm

Posted in Daily life, Video

Speaking in whistles

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Bob Holmes writes in Knowable magazine:

Tourists visiting La Gomera in the Canary Islands can often hear locals communicating over long distances by whistling — not a tune, but the Spanish language. “Good whistlers can understand all the messages,” says David Díaz Reyes, an independent ethnomusicologist and whistled-language researcher and teacher who lives in the islands. “We can say, ‘And now I am making an interview with a Canadian guy.’”

The locals are communicating in Silbo Gomera, one of the last vestiges of a much more widespread use of whistled languages. In at least 80 cultures worldwide, people have developed whistled versions of the local language when the circumstances call for it. To linguists, such adaptations are more than just a curiosity: By studying whistled languages, they hope to learn more about how our brains extract meaning from the complex sound patterns of speech. Whistling may even provide a glimpse of one of the most dramatic leaps forward in human evolution: the origin of language itself.

Whistled languages are almost always developed by traditional cultures that live in rugged, mountainous terrain or in dense forest. That’s because whistled speech carries much farther than ordinary speech or shouting, says Julien Meyer, a linguist and bioacoustician at CNRS, the French national research center, who explores the topic of whistled languages in the 2021 Annual Review of Linguistics. Skilled whistlers can reach 120 decibels — louder than a car horn — and their whistles pack most of this power into a frequency range of 1 to 4 kHz, which is above the pitch of most ambient noise.

As a result, whistled speech can be understood up to 10 times as far away as ordinary shouting can, Meyer and others have found. That lets people communicate even when they cannot easily approach close enough to shout. On La Gomera, for example, a few traditional shepherds still whistle to one another across mountain valleys that could take hours to cross.

Whistled languages work because many of the key elements of speech can be mimicked in a whistle, says Meyer. We distinguish one speech sound, or phoneme, from another by subtle differences in their sound frequency patterns. A vowel such as a long e, for example, is formed higher in the mouth than a long o, giving it a higher sound. “It’s not pitch, exactly,” says Meyer. Instead, it’s a more complex change in sound quality, or timbre, which is easily conveyed in a whistle.

Consonants, too, can be whistled. A t, for example, is richer in high frequencies than k, which gives the two sounds a different timbre, and there are also subtle differences that arise from movements of the tongue. Whistlers can capture all of these distinctions by varying the pitch and articulation of their whistle, says Meyer. And the skill can be adapted to any language, even those that have no tradition of whistling. To demonstrate, Meyer whistles English phrases such as “Nice to meet you,” and “Do you understand the whistle?”

Learning to whistle a language you already speak is relatively straightforward. Díaz Reyes’s Spanish-language whistling students spend the first two or three months of the course learning to make a loud whistle with different pitches. “In the fourth or fifth month, they can make some words,” he says. “After eight months, they can speak it properly and understand every message.”

This articulation of speech within a whistle only works for nontonal languages, where the pitch of speech sounds isn’t crucial to the meaning of the word. (English, Spanish and most other European languages are nontonal.) For tonal languages, in contrast, the meaning of a sound depends on its pitch relative to the rest of the sentence. In Chinese, for example, the syllable “ma” said with a steady high pitch means “mother,” but said with a pitch that dips and rises again, it means “horse.”

In ordinary tonal speech, . . .

Continue reading. At the link is the audio of whistled English — actually understandable.

And see also How a second language can boost the brain.

Written by Leisureguy

17 August 2021 at 12:17 pm

Posted in Daily life, Memes

Making sense of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy in Russia: Lessons from the past and present

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Samantha Jane King, Professor, Kinesiology and Health Studies, and Natalia Mukhina, PhD Student, Kinesiology and Health Studies, both of Queen’s University, Ontario, write in The Conversation:

In August 2020, Russia became the first country in the world to approve a COVID-19 vaccine. One year later, just 19 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated. With such a low vaccination rate, a summer surge in infections has produced the highest death rates since the pandemic began. According to official figures, since mid-July close to 800 people have died each day, and these numbers are almost certainly undercounted.

While other countries have struggled to meet vaccine demand, Russia has faced the opposite problem: an excessive supply, resulting from tepid uptake among a deeply hesitant population.

English-language coverage of the failures of the Russian rollout has focused largely on concerns about safety and ethics protocols in the vaccine development, the prevalence of conspiracy-fuelled vaccine skepticisminconsistent public health messaging and fear mongering by the media.

Each of these factors plays a part, but Russian-language research (Natalia Mukhina, one of the co-authors, translated the Russian-language research for this article) complicates this picture, highlighting the importance of attending to both the historical roots and contemporary specificities of public health challenges.

From passive subjects to responsibilized consumers

In the former Soviet Union, there was no room for vaccine hesitancy. The national immunization program was massive and mandatory. It was also highly successful, mobilizing domestically produced vaccines to eradicate polio, smallpox, measles and a host of other communicable diseases.

This approach to vaccination started to change in the late 1980s, when the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, launched a series of reforms that would loosen the stranglehold of the authoritarian regime and open a path for the free market.

For the first time in almost seven decades, people were allowed to criticize the Soviet way of life, including the health-care system. Then, during the 1990s, foreign vaccines gradually became available, and new laws required citizens to consent to any medical procedure, including vaccination.

Citizens in what was now post-Soviet Russia went from being passive recipients of state-controlled health-care interventions to responsibilized consumers, who, if they had the necessary resources, could make choices about how to protect their health.

Vaccine skepticism, which was intensifying globally during the 1990s, became one way through which to express resistance to lingering Soviet ideology. But mistrust was rampant across the political spectrum, and vaccine decision making became an arena for the enactment of resistance to the state, even for Russians who believed in vaccines.

Mistrust and marginalization

It is within this context that Russian sociologist Ekaterina Borozdina cautions that public hesitancy about Sputnik, the Russian COVID-19 vaccine, is not “about mistrust in medical science as such.” Rather, hesitation or refusal to get vaccinated emerges in the context of fraught relations between citizens and the state.

In research that predated the pandemic, Borozdina reveals how perceptions of a technocratic, heartless and incompetent government bureaucracy shape the attitudes of Russian parents towards the vaccination of their children.

For educated and economically privileged citizens especially, postponing vaccination, following an alternative schedule, or choosing a particular make of vaccine to be delivered at a particular clinic, are all ways of asserting choice and delineating their independence from the state as they protect what they believe to be the best interests of their children.

Sociologist Anna Temkina further complicates the picture. She says the educated middle classes, a demographic which overlaps significantly with the “activist classes” opposed to the Putin regime, were among the first to get vaccinated, even though they generally try to avoid following government rules and advice. These dissidents make the argument that not everything emerging from the government is bad, and they try to break the link between what they see as a corrupt and oppressive state and effective epidemiological measures.

It may seem surprising that the . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

17 August 2021 at 12:07 pm

Losing a Language

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Charles Schifano writes in Desk Notes:

Toward the end of Vladimir Nabokov’s kaleidoscopic memoir, we see the young writer arrive in Cambridge, fresh from a lengthy trip across Europe—his aristocratic childhood now conclusively over, a mob of executioners having just missed him.

At a bookstall in the Market Place, I unexpectedly came upon a Russian work, a secondhand copy of Dahl’s Interpretative Dictionary of the Living Russian Language in four volumes. I bought it and resolved to read at least ten pages per day, jotting down such words and expressions as might especially please me, and I kept this up for a considerable time.

Already fluent in English, the language of his new country wasn’t a shock. The sounds of his birthplace, however, were receding behind him. Nabokov, now twenty years old, would never again set foot in Russia.

My fear of losing or corrupting, through alien influence, the only thing I had salvaged from Russia—her language—became positively morbid and considerably more harassing than the fear I was to experience two decades later of my never being able to bring my English prose anywhere close to my Russian.

You might recognize these undulations if you’ve ever struggled with a new language. An unwanted symbiotic relationship comes to your lips: the structure of your native tongue infects the new language, and, startlingly, the new language infects your native tongue.

I used to sit up far into the night, surrounded by an almost Quixotic accumulation of unwieldy volumes…It would have horrified me at the time to discover what I see so clearly now, the direct influence upon my Russian structures of various contemporaneous (“Georgian”) English verse patterns that were running about my room and all over me like tame mice.

Sentences do, in fact, have this rather unfortunate tendency to echo. What’s heard in your ear is soon transferred to your mouth. You see this best with children, who acquire those first birth-cries of language through a stuttered mimicry of what’s around them. But you can also catch it with your own speech. Where did that slogan come from? Why did I just repeat that cliché? And most people have a careless nature when it comes to picking up phrases along the way—mirroring the accents of friends, regurgitating the expressions they hear at lunch. Any sufficiently focused writer will realize that it takes determination to resist the speech patterns of those around you.

For Nabokov, however, the trouble pertained to the sentences already in his mind. Could he discriminate among his languages? Or would the ooze from one seep into another? Each of his languages (Russian, English, French) has its own cadence, each has a distinct sense of timing, and each leaves its own reverberations on the page. How could he possibly keep them separate?

Languages aren’t, it’s worth remembering, a mere collection of words and a few bits of grammar. Only the superficial aspects of a language land in a dictionary. All the undertones and nuances and lyricisms are hidden somewhere else. And if that weren’t true, then acquiring a language wouldn’t require anything more than a good memory.

A curious detail about Nabokov’s languages comes from those who met him in person. Many people were surprised to discover that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

17 August 2021 at 12:02 pm

Inside MK-Ultra, the CIA’s Secret Program That Used LSD to Achieve Mind Control (1953-1973)

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The CIA has what one might charitably call a spotted track record, which sounds better than a record of lawbreaking and brutality. (It was the CIA that operated the US program of systematic and deliberate torture — sometimes to death — of suspects, and it was the CIA that deliberately destroyed all video evidence of that war crime. That’s one example. Latin American can provide many more.) If you want a successful criminal organization, embed it within the government (cf. also activities of the FBI and many local police departments) or, as previously noted, within a religion.

Ted Mills in Open Culture looks back at the CIA MK-Ultra program:

If the CIA ever wants to change its motto to something hip and trendy that the kids’ll like, may I suggest “f*ck around and find out”? Because in this above mini-doc on the secret LSD mind-control experiments known as MK-Ultra (1953-1973), they were certainly doing a lot of the former, and then they took a lot of the latter and sent it down the old memory hole.

Could the Soviets be developing mind-control programs? The CIA, as several of these accounts tell us, became convinced they were. However, it’s never specified why they were convinced. Could it be a bit of guilt for hiring some ex-Nazi (and/or Nazi supporting) German scientists through Operation Paperclip? Or was this all just a cover because the CIA really wanted to experiment with mind control? I mean, it’s 70 years later, you can admit it. There were all these new drugs being developed that altered the mind, so why not start there?

Top among the cornucopia of pharmacologica was lysergic acid diethylamide, and the man who knew LSD the best was Dr. Sidney Gottlieb, the “Poisoner in Chief” as his biographer Stephen Kinzer calls him. Raised in the Bronx, Gottlieb’s love of chemistry and science earned him a prestigious place at CalTech. By the end of the 1940s he had been recruited by the CIA.

Gottlieb’s paradox was his love of LSD. He took it more than 200 times. He tended towards Buddhism, not surprising for those whose mind has been expanded by psychedelics. And he lived like a proto-hippie, growing his own vegetables and living “off the grid” for a while with his family. Yet at the same time, he had no problems with absolute devilish behavior. Once he convinced the CIA to buy up the world’s supply of LSD, he set to work. He’d dose colleagues with massive amounts and only tell them afterwards. He’d conduct experiments on sex workers, prisoners, or people with terminal illness. Many didn’t know what they were signing up for. The LSD in heavy doses were meant to annihilate the mind, and allow a new mind to be put in place. That didn’t work out that well, but Gottlieb and associates kept trying, under the aegis of then-CIA director Allen Dulles and Chief of Operations Richard Helms. In reality, Dulles and others high up in the CIA had a hands-off approach. Better not to know what Gottlieb was up to, especially when it went against the Nuremberg Code of experimenting on people against their will–the very things the Nazis did.

There were many victims too, corpses that were the cost of doing business in the Cold War, and so many we will not know about. The highest profile death—and what pulled MK-Ultra out of obscurity—was government scientist Frank Olsen. His jump from a NYC hotel room was ruled a suicide by the government, a result of work stress. (The whole Olsen affair forms the backbone of Errol Morris’ 2017 documentary series Wormwood.) The uncovering of the truth helped expose the history of MK-Ultra to a mid-‘70s America that had lost faith in its government and was ripe for conspiracy theories to take hold.

Yes, MK-Ultra was an actual thing. But because Gottlieb and his bosses had destroyed most of the records, conspiracy theories filled in the gaps. Were Lee Harvey Oswald and Sirhan Sirhan MK-Ultra experiments gone wrong? What about Charles Manson, who . . .

Continue reading and check out the videos in the post. Here’s one:

Written by Leisureguy

17 August 2021 at 10:20 am

An odd inconsistency: Critics of leaving Afghanistan

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Heather Cox Richardson has a good post today. Here’s the concluding paragraphs:

. . . While many U.S. observers have quite strong opinions about what the future looks like for Afghanistan, it seems to me far too soon to guess how the situation there will play out. There is a lot of power sloshing around in central Asia right now, and I don’t think either that Taliban leaders are the major players or that Afghanistan is the primary stage. Russia has just concluded military exercises with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, both of which border Afghanistan, out of concern about the military takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban. At the same time, the area is about to have to deal with large numbers of Afghan refugees, who are already fleeing the country.

But the attacks on Biden for the withdrawal from Afghanistan do raise the important question of when it is in America’s interest to fight a ground war. Should we limit foreign intervention to questions of the safety of Americans? Should we protect our economic interests? Should we fight to spread democracy? Should we fight to defend human rights? Should we fight to shorten other wars, or prevent genocide?

These are not easy questions, and reasonable people can, and maybe should, disagree about the answers.

But none of them is about partisan politics, either; they are about defining our national interest.

It strikes me that some of the same people currently expressing concern over the fate of Afghanistan’s women and girls work quite happily with Saudi Arabia, which has its own repressive government, and have voted against reauthorizing our own Violence Against Women Act. Some of the same people worrying about the slowness of our evacuation of our Afghan allies voted just last month against providing more visas for them, and others seemed to worry very little about our utter abandonment of our Kurdish allies when we withdrew from northern Syria in 2019. And those worrying about democracy in Afghanistan seem to be largely unconcerned about protecting voting rights here at home.

Most notably to me, some of the same people who are now focusing on keeping troops in Afghanistan to protect Americans seem uninterested in stopping the spread of a disease that has already killed more than 620,000 of us and that is, once again, raging.

Written by Leisureguy

17 August 2021 at 10:07 am

The Catholic Church siphoned away $30M paid to Native people for stolen land

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In some ways the Catholic Church seems like a criminal organization — for example, protecting the pedophile members and, when a community grows suspicious, transferring them to a new community where they can find new opportunities; and then when the organization is sued, transfer funds and/or declare bankruptcy so it does not have to pay settlements to victims; and — in this example — simply stealing money. And yet — oddly — the Catholic Church claims the right to lecture others about moral behavior. Matthew (7:5) comments on this attitude:

Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

Mary Annette Pember reports in Indian Country News:

The brittle wooden floors creak as we climb the stairs to the long room that served as a dormitory for Ojibwe girls at St. Mary’s Mission School on the Red Lake Indian Reservation in Minnesota.

“My mother slept here,” says Kathryn “Jody” Beaulieu, 70, my guide and a Red Lake tribal citizen. She points to one end of the narrow room. A few white iron bed frames are still stacked in the corner. “Her sisters slept down at the other end, about 100 feet away.”

Beaulieu’s mother, Ruth Jourdain-Fevig, was 6 when she was sent away to the mission school in the early 1930s. “She said she was afraid and tried to crawl into bed with her older sisters, but the nun would scold her and drag her back to her bed,” Beaulieu says. “It was as though they had no compassion for the suffering of a child. Her sisters must have seemed so far away.”

It took decades for Ruth, who died in 2015, to tell Beaulieu about her experiences. Even then, it was only in brief. “I had no idea she’d gone to school here until we went on a tour of the mission buildings in the 1990s,” Beaulieu says. “I think she must have suppressed the memory of her days here until we walked up the stairs and she physically stood in this spot. I think it was just too painful for her.”

Indian boarding and day schools attempted, for decades, to forcibly assimilate Native children. The schools have a long, documented history of abuse and cultural debasement. Former students have recounted sexual abuse, corporal punishment and neglect at the hands of teachers and administrators. Students were prohibited from speaking Native languages and practicing Native traditions, often with the threat of violence. Abuse was reported at both government-run and religious institutions.

Of the approximately 400 Indian boarding and day schools in the United States (which started around 1830), the federal government operated more than half. Various Christian denominations operated the remaining schools, but the Catholic Church dominated the field with about 100. My mother attended one of these schools in the 1930s and 1940s: St. Mary’s Indian Boarding School on the Bad River Ojibwe Reservation in Wisconsin, about 250 miles from Red Lake. Like others, my mother carried the trauma and shame of that experience her entire life.

The economic violations committed at these schools, however, have not been widely reported. A yearlong effort from Type Investigations and In These Times has found that, for the greater part of the 20th century, the federal government routed funds—designated as direct payments for Native people—to Catholic mission schools, draining families of millions of dollars by today’s measures.

For many parents, some of whom were barely literate, the approval to send their children to these religious boarding schools took the form of thumbprints. Pressed on government forms, signed and witnessed by church and government officials, these thumbprints authorized the mission schools to take portions of treaty and trust funds—owed to Native families by the federal government in exchange for their land—to pay tuition.

Ostensibly, Native Americans chose to send their children to these mission schools rather than free, government-funded schools. But federal schools were rarely built on reservations in the early 20th century. With the distribution of rations and other goods also sometimes dependent on Native children attending school, Native Americans were often effectively coerced into paying for their own assimilation.

In 1920, Beaulieu’s grandfather, Joseph Jourdain, signed a petition allowing St. Mary’s to take portions of his treaty and trust funds to cover tuition. Although tuition costs varied, Jourdain agreed to pay approximately three shares of his treaty funds annually—more than $400 today.

“In those days on the reservation, people hunted and fished all year round, like subsistence living,” Beaulieu says. She surmises there was not much cash money available to pay for things.

The sight of her grandfather’s name on the petition offers Beaulieu an uncomfortable, tangible proof of her mother’s experience. “Not only was my mom separated from her sisters during nights, she was also separated from her parents during her time at the mission,” she reflects later.

“That must have been a terrible memory for her.”

The story of Indian treaties and subsequent federal Indian policies is a labyrinth of confusing and sometimes conflicting actions aimed at solving the “Indian problem.” Native Americans living on ancestral lands presented an obstacle to colonists’ occupation and settlement. From 1778 to 1871, hundreds of treaties, signed by the U.S. government, promised Native people not only cash and goods but often healthcare and education—in exchange for more than 1.5 billion acres. Subsequent policies, like the 1887 Dawes Act, appropriated even more land. Individual treaty and trust funds were established by the federal government to pay Native peoples for profits earned through the use of their ceded lands.

But the schools promised by the federal government were not built on every reservation. Meanwhile, the government gave Christian churches, including the Catholic Church, land for mission schools. Federal schools were also known to be particularly cruel to Native students, often forbidding contact between students and families. This led some parents to opt for religious boarding schools in the hope that their children would be treated marginally better.

In 1900, Catholic leadership introduced the idea of allowing Native Americans to authorize the federal government to divert individual Native treaty and trust funds to pay for tuition at Catholic schools. Shortly after, a group of three Sioux Indians from South Dakota sued the federal government, arguing the agreements amounted to theft. Schooling should have already been provided for free, the plaintiffs argued, through previous treaties. The case, Quick Bear v. Leupp, reached the Supreme Court in 1908. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by Leisureguy

17 August 2021 at 9:09 am

A fine shave with a Baili 179/Vikings Blade The Chieftain

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When I first posted about my new Vikings Blade The Chieftain razor, a reader pointed out that the razor is the Baili 179 — though Vikiings Blade does add gift-worthy packaging. However, The Chieftain costs $25 and you can buy a Baili 179 for just over $6. Live and learn. (Luckily, I enjoy both.)

I prepped using the Yaqi Target Shot synthetic (which comes with a badger knot as well — a knot that requires a week or two of use to break in). This is a very nice synthetic — bristles quite fine — and the badger knot also is excellent.

JabonMan’s Rosa Bourbon is an extremely good shaving soap, in both lather and fragrance, so the prep was as enjoyable as the shave — and the shaving was enjoyable indeed. This razor is comfortable and efficient and feels solid in the hand. It would be a good starter razor for men who like a twist-to-open (TTO) design. (My own general preference is the three-piece design, but I do like this razor.)

Three passes left my face smooth, and a splash of Saint Charles Shave Dark Rose EDT, augmented with a squirt of Grooming Dept Hydrating Gel, gave me a good start on the day, feeling good and looking sharp.

A side note: One option shown for a Baili 179 kit includes a brush — painted wood handle, looks like a 22-24mm knot, with the knot being horse and goat hair. I’m sorely tempted, especially since one can buy the brush separately. The thing is, you see, I don’t have any goat-hair brushes…

Written by Leisureguy

17 August 2021 at 8:36 am

Posted in Shaving

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