Later On

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Archive for November 14th, 2021

Should the US allow more than one religion? Michael Flynn says, “No.”

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Heather Cox Richardson’s post describes the continuing descent of the Republican party:

Last night, Trump’s disgraced former national security advisor Michael Flynn spoke at the “Reawaken America” conference in San Antonio, Texas, designed to whip up supporters to believe the 2020 election was stolen and that coronavirus vaccines are an infringement on their liberty. Flynn told the audience: “If we are going to have one nation under God, which we must, we have to have one religion. One nation under God, and one religion under God.”

This statement flies in the face of our Constitution, whose First Amendment reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….” James Madison of Virginia, the key thinker behind the Constitution, had quite a lot to say about why it was fundamentally important to make sure the government kept away from religion.

In 1772, when he was 21, Madison watched as Virginia arrested itinerant preachers for attacking the established church in the state. He was no foe of religion, but by the next year, he had begun to question whether established religion, which was common in the colonies, was good for society. By 1776, many of his broad-thinking neighbors had come to believe that society should “tolerate” different religious practices; he had moved past tolerance to the belief that men had a right of conscience.

In that year, he was instrumental in putting Section 16 into the Virginia Declaration of Rights on which our own Bill of Rights—the first ten amendments to the Constitution—would be based. It reads, “That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity toward each other.”

In 1785, in a “Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments,” he explained that what was at stake was not just religion, but also representative government itself. The establishment of one religion over others attacked a fundamental human right—an unalienable right—of conscience. If lawmakers could destroy the right of freedom of conscience, they could destroy all other unalienable rights. Those in charge of government could throw representative government out the window and make themselves tyrants.

Madison believed that a variety of religious sects would balance each other out, keeping the new nation free of the religious violence of Europe. He drew on that vision explicitly when he envisioned a new political system, expecting that a variety of political expressions would protect the new government. In Federalist #51, he said: “In a free government the security for civil rights must be the same as that for religious rights. It consists in the one case in the multiplicity of interests, and in the other in the multiplicity of sects.”

Right on cue, Flynn’s call for one religion runs parallel to modern Republican lawmakers’ determination to make their party supreme.

The 13 Republicans in the House who were willing to vote yes and give Democratic president Joe Biden a win with the popular bipartisan infrastructure bill are now facing increasing harassment, including death threats from Trump supporters. Although he talked about passing his own infrastructure bill, former president Trump opposed the measure on Biden’s watch, and Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene called those voting for it “traitor Republicans.”

Meanwhile, Republicans remain silent about the video released by Representative Paul Gosar (R-AZ), showing a cartoon version of himself killing a Democratic congresswoman. Sixty Democratic representatives are sponsoring a bill to censure Gosar; not even the Republican Minority Leader, Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), has condemned the video.

It turns out the plot to overturn the election of a Democratic president was wider than we knew. New information from a forthcoming book by ABC News chief Washington correspondent Jonathan Karl reveals that Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows was deeply involved. On New Year’s Eve, Meadows emailed to then–vice president Mike Pence’s top aide a memo outlining how Pence could steal the election for Trump.

On Friday, Meadows refused to testify before the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, ignoring a subpoena. His lawyer, George Terwilliger III, said that Trump had told him not to testify on the grounds of executive privilege, but as far as I can tell, Trump has not actually made that claim over Meadows’s testimony.

That did not stop Meadows’s lawyer from taking to the pages of the Washington Post to try to defend his client. His op-ed was quite misleading both about precedent and about the limits of executive privilege: as the committee chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and vice-chair Liz Cheney (R-WY) said, “there’s nothing extraordinary about the Select Committee seeking the cooperation of a former senior administration official. Throughout U.S. history, the White House has provided Congress with testimony and information when it has been in the public interest. There couldn’t be a more compelling public interest than getting answers about an attack on our democracy.”

But Terwilliger insisted the committee was out of bounds in demanding that Meadows testify. He indicated that . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more. And she notes at the end:

Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) pointed out this morning, “Senate Republicans are blocking the confirmation of our NATO and EU Ambassadors so as to deliberately hamper global security…because they believe global instability will hurt Biden, and hurting Biden is all that matters.”

Written by Leisureguy

14 November 2021 at 10:15 pm

Book Excerpt: Navy SEAL’s Behavior Led Teammates to Change Their Mission

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The NY Times has an article adapted from Alpha: Eddie Gallagher and the War for the Soul of the Navy SEALs,” by David Philipps, published in August 2021 by Crown. The article link is a gift link that bypasses the paywall. The article begins:

Throughout the contentious trial of Eddie Gallagher, a Navy SEAL chief accused of killing a prisoner in Iraq in 2017, Navy prosecutors never mentioned the name of the Islamic State fighter he had actually been charged with murdering. He was just “the kid” or “the victim,” sometimes “the dirtbag” — not even “John Doe.” In “Alpha: Eddie Gallagher and the War for the Soul of the Navy SEALs,” the New York Times reporter David Philipps names and writes a chapter about the captive, a 17-year-old whose father had desperately tried to stop him from running away to join ISIS. The teenager’s name is Moataz, and his father did not know he was dead until he saw his son’s photo in media coverage of the trial.

This is one of many revelations in the book by Mr. Philipps, who covered Chief Gallagher’s trial and acquittal for The Times, and whose detailed new reporting of those events and what led to them is based on dozens of interviews, thousands of text messages, and thousands of pages of court transcripts, service records and confidential military documents. “The Line,” a docuseries on Apple TV+ that was inspired by The Times’s reporting on the case, premieres on Nov. 19.

(In May 2020, Eddie Gallagher filed a lawsuit accusing the Navy of illegally leaking information to Mr. Philipps and alleging that his articles were defamatory. A judge dismissed most of the lawsuit’s claims against Mr. Philipps last month.)

The book paints a picture of Chief Gallagher that contradicts the image presented by his defenders in court and by some conservative media outlets. In “Alpha,” the SEAL platoon members, deployed in Mosul, worry their chief is becoming “unglued” — abusing opioids and other drugs, stealing, and putting their lives at risk so he can court more battlefield action without any tactical gain. Both in Iraq and after they break their code of silence to report him, platoon members fear he might kill one of them.

In the edited excerpt below, during their time in Mosul, they also worry he is indiscriminately killing civiliansThis account is based on the author’s coverage in The Times, Navy investigators’ interviews and investigation files, photos, Navy service records, texts between Eddie Gallagher and several SEALs, and SEALs’ court testimony and their interviews with the author. — Grace Maalouf


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Dylan Dille scanned the medieval maze of old Mosul through the black-rimmed eye of his scope. The senior sniper was hidden about 750 meters away in a pile of rubble across the Tigris River. As he searched the alleyways and street corners, he could feel his heart beat under his body armor and his brow go tense because he knew Eddie was hunting, too, and he would have to try to get the first shot.

It was June 2017, four months into the deployment. Eddie had given up on going back to the roof of the pink house and instead had settled on a new place that the SEALs in Alpha called the Towers. The site was two buildings on the east bank of the Tigris standing side by side across the green water from old Mosul. Around the Towers stood the ruins of a carnival grounds still filled with rides and a weed-choked park where locals once spent holidays. The Towers had high ceilings and curving staircases designed to host lavish celebrations. But the war had left the park waist-high with weeds and littered with unexploded shells, and the Towers were little more than bombed-out gray concrete bones.

At the base of the Towers, a modern six-lane concrete bridge had once crossed the river, but it and every other bridge across the Tigris had been destroyed. The center lay broken in two by a massive airstrike, as if snapped by a mighty karate chop. The pieces had fallen into the water, leaving two jagged stumps that jutted out over the river.

The battle for Mosul was in its last desperate weeks. Block by block the Iraqi Army had pushed ISIS into one corner of the old city with its back up against the river. Alpha had set up across the river to shoot the enemy in the back. The platoon spent day after day there, harassing ISIS from the rear while the Iraqi Army attacked from the front. . .

Continue reading. Link bypasses the paywall.

Written by Leisureguy

14 November 2021 at 9:55 pm

The Human Cost of Recycled Cotton

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Alden Wicker writes in Craftsmanship magazine:

Everyone in the fashion world wants to find a more sustainable, environmentally friendly way to make cotton clothes—or a benign (and comfy) alternative. Some are on the brink of succeeding. But almost no one understands these innovations’ social costs.

1. Fashion’s Problematic Fave
2. Disrupting Cotton
3. Better for Whom?
4. Organic Cotton’s Hidden Promise and Perils
5. Fashion’s Coming Revolution

Editor’s note: This article was updated from the original by the author for re-release in our Fall 2021 issue.  

In the spring of 2018, as part of my effort to find promising pioneers in sustainable clothing, I traveled to Kristinehamn, a small town on the southern corner of the Värmland region of Sweden. Värmland is nicknamed the Paper Province because approximately 200 companies within its borders are dedicated to pulping Sweden’s trees, primarily for paper products. And I’d heard that the smallest of these operations, a startup called Renewcell, was taking this pulping tradition in a very promising new direction.

After a short taxi ride down a forested road, I arrived at a small, nondescript, modern building, where I was greeted by Mattias Jonsson, Renewcell’s CEO. Jonsson handed me a hard hat, then ushered me inside a plant designed to redefine the concept of textile recycling. Inside a 2,000-square-meter, metal-and-concrete room, two metal cubes of dense piping and machinery about 10 feet high stood across from each other, puddles of pulp sitting below them on the concrete floor. The air smelled tangy and rotten.

Jonsson is tall and trim. His glasses, thinning hair, and v-neck cardigan give him the air of a science professor. Like most Scandinavians (and in contrast to the world-disrupting bluster of Silicon Valley bros), Jonsson is prone to understatements. “What we make is dissolving pulp,” he said.

The product called “dissolving” pulp is not, in itself, anything new. Since the turn of the last century, the white slurry has been the base ingredient for fabrics such as viscose, otherwise known as rayon (that silky material that lines your jackets and dresses); the satiny-soft lyocell and its cousin Tencel (which are both eco-friendlier than rayon); and Modal, the ultra-soft fabric used for t-shirts and sweats. The raw material behind all these fabrics is called “dissolving” pulp because, after it’s made and shipped, the pulp must be dissolved in order to be put to use.

In this case, what makes the factory special—bringing interest and investment from dozens of fashion companies, like Levi’s and the Swedish fashion giant H&M—is an entirely different idea. The Renewcell team has invented a way to make dissolving pulp from old cotton clothes and factory remnants.

To demonstrate, Jonsson walked me over to a machine that’s fed with shredded denim, collected from German charities and Turkish factories. After the cotton is ground up, Renewcell’s team adds water and a proprietary mix of chemicals (which Jonsson assured me complies with Europe’s guidelines for safe chemical use) to break down the cotton into wet pulp. Any dye falls out to be flushed away; what’s left is a white, wet-toilet-paper-like mush that gets piped to the other side, where it is formed into sheets and dried under a red infrared light. Two hours after the jeans go in, a wide flat sheet of thick, nubby paper rolls out onto a conveyor belt, which is cut and stacked into desk-size sheets. The sheets are then shipped to a textile factory, where they are re-soaked to become another slurry, then alchemized into threads—the next step in their journey toward your closet. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more, including many photos.

Written by Leisureguy

14 November 2021 at 7:34 pm

Too Big to Sail: How a Legal Revolution Clogged Our Ports

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Matt Stoller writes in Big:

The Suez Canal and Our Big Dumb Ship Problem

With an overwhelming news cycle, it often seems like weird problems in the economy have been here forever. But the first time the supply chain crisis snarling imports hit the headlines was just eight months ago, when an ultra-large container ship called the Ever Given wedged itself into the side of the Suez Canal, blocking one of the busiest and most vital shipping lanes in the world. The Ever Given is the height of the Empire State Building, and many people mocked the situation, noting that big things tend to be hard to fit into small spaces. While hilarious at the time, it was a harbinger of things to come.

What’s happened since – the intense backlog at the ports and the possibility of a Christmas without presents – has shown that the Ever Green was not a one-off accident, but a sign of a systemic weakness in the transportation networks we rely on to move things. And while the trigger of this latest crisis was Covid, there have been signs of instability in shipping for decades. In 2017, a cyberattack at Danish shipping giant Maesk snarled supply chains for months. A few years earlier, the South Korean ocean carrier Hanjin went bankrupt, stranding boxes out at se as its mega-ships, bobbing in the waves, couldn’t be unloaded. In the early 2000s, West Coast port traffic nearly came to a standstill.

These traffic snarls and financial problems were accompanied by formal warnings. In 2001, Craig Philip, the Chair of the National Waterways Conference, testified to Congress, “Never before in this century, except during the two World Wars, has the country’s transportation system been as stressed as it is now.” The situation has only gotten worse over the last two decades. And finally, with Covid boosting imports, the whole network snapped. The net result is that at this point, more than half of Americans have experienced a shortage, and politicians are panicking over inflation.

To understand why we’re in crisis, it’s useful to start with what caused the Suez problem, the ultra-large container vessels that are essential to global shipping. Over the last 20 years, these too big to sail container ships have become pervasive, perhaps the “most burning issues in maritime transport.” Why does size matter? Well, such mega-ships are making the import bottlenecks much worse than they should be. Marc Levinson, an economist who wrote a book on container shipping called The Box, had a useful discussion on the podcast Odd Lots about why these ships have “generally fouled up the transportation system.”

You actually have fewer ships calling at most ports today than you used to have. They’re much bigger. And so think of what this does to the operation of the port. You don’t have a smooth flow of cargo going through the port. Now you’ve got nothing happening in the port. It’s dead today. And then tomorrow, a ship shows up and it wants to unload 3,000 containers in your port. What do you do with this? How do you get it unloaded? Where do you put the containers?

One thing that’s happened is that ships spend more time in port, which is very wasteful because it just takes more time to get so many containers on and off. The trucks are lined up at the gate because there’s so many containers to bring into, send out on these ships or so many containers to deliver. The railroads can’t handle this sudden flood of containers. So you have the cargo sitting around longer before it gets removed from the port.

All of these things have tended to make transit times longer and have made it harder for shippers to get their freight where it’s supposed to be on deadline. And that’s bad for everybody.

If ultra-large ships are so bad, then why do we use them? As is often the case, this business trend started with a good idea, which then was turned horribly wrong by unregulated monopolization. In the 1960s, ‘containerization’ – or standardizing the flow of cargo on shipping containers that can go over ships, rail, or truck – made shipping far more efficient. And with containerization came the growth in ship size, because larger ships can carry more stuff at a lower cost per container. As ship sizes gradually increased from the 1960s into the 1990s, shipping prices declined, and world trade boomed.

Starting in the 2000s, increases in ship size accelerated. But once you go from big ships to Empire State Building size ones, cost savings are minimal, and diseconomies of scale kick in. Efficiency gains from newer generations of mega-ships are four to six times lower than previous generations, and 60% of that gain has to do with better engines, not size. Ultra-large ships can be harder to steer, they create massive instability in scheduling, and they require lots of extra infrastructure. Loading and unloading containers for these behemoths can only be done at a small number of ports, and if a mega-ship is early or late, it can create what is in effect a traffic jam. And that’s what’s happening en masse.

This traffic jam has turned into a political crisis. The inability to export and import goods is far more impactful than the Trump tariffs on trade. It has caused firms to order more inventory than they otherwise would, tying up their working capital, since they don’t know when they will receive their next load of goods. I’ve talked to business leaders who have already planned to re-shore production, and politicians are beginning the conversation about policies to make that happen. But there is no consensus why the transportation grid is so inflexible, especially in the U.S. It just seems like a giant tangled up mess.

The easiest excuse is that  . . .

Continue reading.

See also: “I’m A Twenty Year Truck Driver, I Will Tell You Why America’s “Shipping Crisis” Will Not End.”

Written by Leisureguy

14 November 2021 at 6:43 pm

How to Make Power Less Corrupting

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Jennifer Taub reviews in Washington Monthly a book that addresses a perennial problem with some interesting ideas:

Does power corrupt, or does it attract the already corrupt? Are scoundrels and tyrants created by corrupt institutions, or are they just born that way? With enough power, would almost any of us skim riches or torture enemies? These compelling questions are the centerpiece of Brian Klaas’s Corruptible. To solve these and other puzzles about power, Klaas, a professor of global politics at University College London, travels the globe introducing some of the “cult leaders, war criminals, despots, coup plotters, torturers, mercenaries, generals, propagandists, rebels, corrupt CEOs, and convicted criminals” he has interviewed. The result is a fascinating look at how power is dispensed by heads of state, police forces, school administrators, and pretty much anyone else who has authority over others. His tour of rulership styles yields the depressing fact that humans being humans, tyrants will probably always be among us. But in the tradition of Nudge, authored by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, or The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg, Klaas suggests ways in which we can steer people in the right direction. The U.S. Constitution was written in the belief that without checks and balances, tyrants would rise. (And the past four years show they can, even with a multitude of constitutional safeguards.) Klaas wants us to think about how we can make any abuse of power—not just, as the title may imply, forms of corruption such as bribery—less likely.

We eagerly drink in the details of his bistro conversation with a daughter of Jean-Bédel Bokassa, the former dictator of the Central African Republic, who was rumored to have served human flesh to his guests. We share his amused disdain for petty tyrants like a school facilities director in Schenectady, New York, who plotted violence against his rivals and whistleblowers. It’s not only stories, though. Klaas elucidates complex concepts, exposing readers, including this one, to scholarly research about human behavior that he draws on to address core questions about what leads to corruption. Such literature reviews can be excruciating in the hands of a dull author, but Klaas lays out the academic tableau clearly. He weaves together research about the Neolithic revolution with recent studies about gender bias when reviewing résumés. His historical examples are telling. King Leopold II’s progressive reforms in Belgium in the 19th century were impressive because Leopold “faced accountability and oversight.” His colonial and savage treatment of the Congolese, where “he was a tyranny of one and his atrocities were hidden,” demonstrates that accountability plays a crucial role in guiding individual behavior.

That said, Corruptible does not offer precise answers about why there are tyrants among us. Instead, Klaas invites us on an epistemological adventure with no destination. We are warned in the first chapter that “our world is too complex for one unifying theory that explains everything.” Armed with historical evidence, empirical data, and persuasive theories, readers are exposed to diminutive despots and everyday corruption. The book provides suggestions for designing recruitment efforts to avoid attracting sadists and psychopaths for important positions in private and public spheres. He recommends that we “recruit smarter; randomly select people to perform oversight; rotate people around more; and audit decision-making processes, not just results.” Corruptible is also filled with enough cautionary tales that we can more quickly recognize red flags or establish monitoring systems (such as surveillance of suspected corrupt police officers to see whether they will steal money from what they believe is a drug den). This allows institutions to detect and remove bad actors as soon as possible. Abusive behavior in one area—say, inappropriate language—is a warning sign for other abuses. Sexual harassers are usually abusive in other fora as well. Speaking of which, Klaas recommends giving power to more women. Why? “Substantial research has demonstrated that, on average, women are less prone to despotism than men and more eager to rule by democratic means.” However, he correctly cautions against “being a gender essentialist (suggesting that men and women are fundamentally and irreconcilably good at some things and bad at others).” 

Quite welcome are the instances in which he corrects widespread misunderstandings that may have warped our view of power. For example, the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini did not make the trains in Italy run on time—a
common bit of conventional wisdom suggesting that his hold on power was due to ruthless efficiency rather than just ruthlessness. 

Klaas is particularly instructive when he explains why the widely understood belief about the results of the Stanford Prison Study of 1971 is wrong. A staple of Psych 101 classes for decades, the study supposedly demonstrates how ordinary people will behave when assigned the role of a guard or a prisoner, respectively. According to the study, those tapped to be guards became sadistic and the pseudo prisoners became compliant. But, as it happened, the 18 student participants were not quite a random sample. They responded to an ad regarding a “psychological study of prison life,” which may have unintentionally but decisively skewed the results. In 2007, researchers from Western Kentucky University conducted a new version of the study. In some college towns, they used the original wording in the ad, but they removed any mention of prison in others. When the volunteers arrived, researchers conducted personality evaluations and psychological screenings. Those who responded to the ad that included the word prison scored higher on tests measuring “aggressiveness, authoritarianism, Machiavellianism, narcissism, and social dominance and significantly lower on dispositional empathy and altruism.” 

In other words, you get what you ask for, which should give pause to anyone writing a “Help Wanted” ad or trying to reform a government agency—the latter being a longtime concern of this magazine. Consider police departments. The federal government has given police departments more than $7 billion in military hardware since 1997, including “helicopters, military-grade ammunition, bayonets,” and more. These weapons of war have apparently attracted more aggressive applicants. “Even after controlling for confounding variables such as crime rate or population size,” Klaas explains, “researchers have found that police departments that bought the most surplus military gear killed more civilians to begin with and saw the numbers of civilians that they killed in a given year rise significantly after the military equipment arrived.” 

What can be done? Perhaps we can follow . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

14 November 2021 at 6:23 pm

Marketplace tested Perrier, LaCroix, Bubly sparkling waters to see which is most acidic

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Your carbonated beverage might be eating away your teeth. Charlsie Agro and Jenny Cowley report for CBC News:

When it comes to your teeth, sparkling water isn’t always as safe as you might think it is.

Some flavours could be hazardous to your oral health.

To see which products pose the greatest potential risk to your smile, Marketplace tested a number of Perrier, Bubly and LaCroix sparkling water flavours available on Canadian store shelves to find out which are most acidic.

Everything we eat and drink has a pH level; the lower the pH level, the higher the acidity. Food and drinks that are acidic can pose a risk to your teeth because they can weaken a tooth’s enamel (the outer, protective layer of your teeth).

The Canadian Dental Association says people should be mindful of drinking some carbonated water drinks because “the higher acid levels significantly increase the risk of damage to tooth enamel and can increase the risk of erosion of the enamel and tooth decay.”

Unlike regular water from your tap, which has a neutral pH of between six and seven, some flavoured and sparkling waters can be acidic.

“When we have a pH below five, this can be a danger,” said Dr. Walter Siqueira of the University of Saskatchewan’s school of dentistry.

Previous studies have found some flavoured carbonated waters to have pH levels as low as three, just slightly better than Coca-Cola, which has been found to have a pH of just over two.

Using a pH meter and pH test strips, Siqueira and his team at the University of Saskatchewan measured the acidity of the selected drinks. All were found to have a pH of below 5.5, and some were considerably more acidic than others.  . .

Continue reading to see a table of relative pH levels of various beverages.

Written by Leisureguy

14 November 2021 at 6:14 pm

Dominoes galore

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Written by Leisureguy

14 November 2021 at 5:59 pm

Posted in Daily life, Games, Video

Loving Your Job Is a Capitalist Trap

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Erin A. Cech associate sociology and mechanical-engineering professor at the University of Michigan and author of The Trouble With Passion: How Searching for Fulfillment at Work Fosters Inequality. writes in the Atlantic:

Since the start of the pandemic, Americans have been talking seriously with friends, family, and themselves about the shortcomings of their modern-day work lives. Millions of people have joined the “Great Resignation,” and many, especially the college-educated, have vowed to follow their passion and embark on a different career.

But this yearning for more meaningful work isn’t new: Over the past three decades, college students and college-educated workers have turned to what I call the “passion principle”—the prioritization of fulfilling work even at the expense of job security or a decent salary—as a road map for how to make decisions about their career. According to my research, which draws on surveys and interviews with college students, graduates, and career coaches, more than 75 percent of college-educated workers believe that passion is an important factor in career decision making. And 67 percent of them say they would prioritize meaningful work over job stability, high wages, and work-life balance. Believers in this idea trust that passion will inoculate them against the drudgery of working long hours on tasks that they have little personal connection to. For many, following their passion is not only a path to a good job; it is the key to a good life.

Yet, as I discuss in my new book, The Trouble With Passion, prioritizing meaningful work in career decisions has many drawbacks, and they’re not limited to the ones you might think. Sure, pivoting from a stable but unfulfilling career to a more meaningful one could be financially risky. But the passion principle also poses existential hazards. Put frankly, the white-collar labor force was not designed to help workers nurture self-realization projects. It was designed to advance the interests of an organization’s stockholders. When people place paid employment at the center of their meaning-making journey, they hand over control of an essential part of their sense of self to profit-seeking employers and the ebbs and flows of the global economy.

The passion-principle doctrine has become ubiquitous career advice; even most of the college career counselors and coaches I interviewed espoused it. But advising career aspirants and burned-out workers to “follow their dreams” presumes financial safety nets and social-network springboards that only upper-middle-class and wealthy individuals typically have reliable access to. I found that when working-class college graduates pursue their passion, they are about twice as likely as wealthier passion seekers to later end up in unstable, low-paid work far outside that passion.

Recommending that career aspirants do what they love and figure out the “employment stuff” later (something I was guilty of before beginning this research) ignores the structural obstacles to economic success that many face, and blames career aspirants if they cannot overcome those obstacles. The passion principle is ultimately an individual-level solution. It guides workers to avoid the grind of paid work by transforming it into a space of fulfillment. But it does nothing to address the factors that make paid work feel like drudgery in the first place. Many companies, for their part, also tend to exploit workers’ passion. My research finds that employers prefer workers who find their jobs fulfilling, precisely because passionate employees often provide additional uncompensated labor.

Expanding social safety nets and protections for workers would go a long way to make passion seeking less financially risky. And advocating for collective solutions—better working conditions, more predictable hours, better benefits, more bargaining power, less overwork—in our workplaces and through national policies would not only make paid work more manageable, but also make work better for people in jobs that have little potential for the expression of passion.

In order to circumvent the existential problems of passion, individuals can . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

14 November 2021 at 5:45 pm

The Main Driver of Inflation Is a Murderous Psychopath in Riyadh

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Ryan Grim and Ken Klippenstein report in the Intercept:

SAUDI CROWN PRINCE Mohammed bin Salman is enacting revenge on Democrats in general and President Joe Biden specifically for the party’s increasingly standoffish attitude toward the kingdom — by driving up energy prices and fueling global inflation.

Biden himself seemed to allude to this at a town hall event with CNN last month, during which he attributed high gas prices to a certain “foreign policy initiative” of his, adding, “There’s a lot of Middle Eastern folks who want to talk to me. I’m not sure I’m going to talk to them.”

Biden was making a not-so-veiled reference to his refusal to meet with the crown prince and acknowledge him as Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler due to his role in the grisly murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October of 2018. The move came after Biden vowed during a debate with President Donald Trump to make MBS, as he’s known, “a pariah” and represented a stark departure from Trump’s warm relations with the desert kingdom and the crown prince.

In 2017, Trump broke with tradition by choosing Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, for his first foreign visit and soon announced a record arms sale to the kingdom. Later, after Khashoggi, a contributor to the Washington Post, was brutally dismembered in a Turkish consulate, Trump cast doubt on MBS’s involvement, saying, “Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t.” After his own CIA director briefed Congress on MBS’s culpability, Trump reportedly boasted about his efforts to protect the crown prince, saying, “I saved his ass.” Since then, a senior adviser to Trump’s campaign, Tom Barrack, has been indicted for allegedly working as an unregistered agent of the United Arab Emirates — Saudi Arabia’s closest ally.

In June 2018, heading into the midterms, Trump requested that Saudi Arabia and its cartel, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, lower energy prices by increasing output, and the kingdom complied. Prices bottomed out in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic, and usage sank to record lows. Prices surged once the pandemic waned and the economy reopened, and this August Biden requested that OPEC again increase output.

This time MBS refused, angry at having yet to be granted an audience with Biden and contemptuous of the U.S. pullback from the war in Yemen. As one of his first pieces of business, Biden had ordered the end of American support for Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s war, though caveated it by barring only the backing of “offensive operations.” Saudi Arabia nevertheless received it as a grievous blow.

Ali Shihabi, a Saudi national who is considered a voice for MBS in Washington, made that clear in October, tweeting, “Biden has the phone number of who he will have to call if he wants any favours.”

Shihabi wrote in a statement to The Intercept, “Saudi has . . .

Continue reading. I don’t think the US should simply do whatever MBS wants. MBS disagrees, of course.

Written by Leisureguy

14 November 2021 at 5:40 pm

The Irish abortion referendum: How a Citizens’ Assembly helped to break years of political deadlock

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From a newsletter sent by Exponential View:

There are many experiments going on with democratic mechanisms. I’ve been a fan of deliberative methods which allow groups of citizens to take their time exploring issues. Through a process of facilitated deliberation, where experts and advocates present arguments, a citizen’s jury can tease out the real issues that society might face. It helps frame contentious issues and that framing can be used by lawmakers or even in a plebiscitary referendum.

One great example of this process working was in Ireland back in 2018 when a series of citizen’s juries led to a referendum on reviewing a constitutional ban on abortion.

The article at that link, by Michela Palese, was posted 29 May 2018. It begins:

In a historic referendum on Friday, the Irish electorate voted with a resounding Yes in favour of removing the Eighth Amendment (article 40.3.3) from the Constitution.

Citizens were asked whether or not to replace the Eighth Amendment, which banned abortion in almost all circumstances by recognising the constitutional right to life of the unborn, with a provision enabling the Oireachtas (the Irish Parliament) to regulate the termination of pregnancy by law.

With a turnout of 64%, all constituencies bar Donegal voted in favour of repealing.

In addition to the salience of the issue (this was the first time since 1983 that citizens had a direct say on this high-profile and divisive topic,) the referendum was significant because of the process that led to its occurrence.

A Citizens’ Assembly is a form of deliberative democracy: a process through which citizens can engage in open, respectful and informed discussion and debate with their peers on a given issue.

The Irish Citizens’ Assembly was established in 2016 by a parliamentary resolution and tasked with deliberating on a number of issues, including the Eighth Amendment.

The Citizens’ Assembly followed the model of its predecessor, the Convention on the Constitution, which ran from 2012 to 2014 and whose recommendations had led to the 2015 marriage equality referendum.

The Assembly was composed of a chairperson, appointed by the government, and 99 ordinary citizens ‘randomly selected so as to be broadly representative of Irish society’ in terms of age, gender, social class, and regional spread.

The assembly deliberated on the Eighth Amendment over the course of five sessions from November 2016 until April 2017. Members were given information on the topic, heard from 25 experts and reviewed 300 submissions (out of around 12,000 received) from members of the public and interest groups.

Members adopted the following key principles to guide their debate: openness of proceedings; fairness in how differing viewpoints were treated and of the quality of briefing material; equality of voice among members; efficiency; respect; and collegiality.

By the end of the deliberations, the Assembly members overwhelmingly agreed that the constitutional provision on abortion was unfit for purpose and that article 40.3.3 should not be retained in full (87% of members agreed).

A majority of members (56%) recommended amending or replacing article 40.3.3, and 57% of members recommended that it should be replaced with a provision authorising the Oireachtas to legislate on matters relating to termination of pregnancy.

The Assembly members also made a series of recommendations about what the legislation should cover and about the gestational limits that should apply.

As per its terms of reference, the Assembly submitted its recommendations and final report to the Oireachtas in June 2017. . .

Read the whole thing.

Certainly this seems an approach worth trying as we observe the posturing, incompetence, and bull-headedness so common in (say) Congress.

Written by Leisureguy

14 November 2021 at 11:22 am

‘The Dawn of Everything’ rewrites 40,000 years of human history

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Another review of The Dawn of Everything, this one by Bruce Bower in Science News. It begins:

The Dawn of Everything
David Graeber and David Wengrow
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $35

Concerns abound about what’s gone wrong in modern societies. Many scholars explain growing gaps between the haves and the have-nots as partly a by-product of living in dense, urban populations. The bigger the crowd, from this perspective, the more we need power brokers to run the show. Societies have scaled up for thousands of years, which has magnified the distance between the wealthy and those left wanting.

In The Dawn of Everything, anthropologist David Graeber and archaeologist David Wengrow challenge the assumption that bigger societies inevitably produce a range of inequalities. Using examples from past societies, the pair also rejects the popular idea that social evolution occurred in stages.

Such stages, according to conventional wisdom, began with humans living in small hunter-gatherer bands where everyone was on equal footing. Then an agricultural revolution about 12,000 years ago fueled population growth and the emergence of tribes, then chiefdoms and eventually bureaucratic states. Or perhaps murderous alpha males dominated ancient hunter-gatherer groups. If so, early states may have represented attempts to corral our selfish, violent natures.

Neither scenario makes sense to Graeber and Wengrow. Their research synthesis — which extends for 526 pages — paints a more hopeful picture of social life over the last 30,000 to 40,000 years. For most of that time, the authors argue, humans have tactically alternated between small and large social setups. Some social systems featured ruling elites, working stiffs and enslaved people. Others emphasized decentralized, collective decision making. Some were run by men, others by women. The big question — one the authors can’t yet answer — is why, after tens of thousands of years of social flexibility, many people today can’t conceive of how society might effectively be reorganized.

Hunter-gatherers have a long history of revamping social systems from one season to the next, the authors write. About a century ago, researchers observed that Indigenous populations in North America and elsewhere often operated in small, mobile groups for part of the year and crystallized into large, sedentary communities the rest of the year. For example, each winter, Canada’s Northwest Coast Kwakiutl hunter-gatherers built wooden structures where nobles ruled over designated commoners and enslaved people, and held banquets called potlatch. In summers, aristocratic courts disbanded, and clans with less formal social ranks fished along the coast.

Many Late Stone Age hunter-gatherers similarly assembled and dismantled social systems on a seasonal basis, evidence gathered over the last few decades suggests. Scattered discoveries of elaborate graves for apparently esteemed individuals (SN: 10/5/17) and huge structures made of stone (SN: 2/11/21), mammoth bones and other material dot Eurasian landscapes. The graves may hold individuals who were accorded special status, at least at times of the year when mobile groups formed large communities and built large structures, the authors speculate. Seasonal gatherings to conduct rituals and feasts probably occurred at the monumental sites. No signs of centralized power, such as palaces or storehouses, accompany those sites.

Social flexibility and experimentation, rather than a revolutionary shift, also characterized ancient transitions to agriculture, Graeber and Wengrow write. Middle Eastern village excavations now indicate that  . . ..

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

14 November 2021 at 10:58 am

Researchers have unlocked the secret to pearls’ incredible symmetry

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Researchers have discovered how oysters and other mollusks grow such symmetrical pearls, such as those of Akoya pearl oysters, pictured here. The finding could inspire new materials for solar panels and spacecraft. – LAURA OTTER

Rachel Crowell writes in Science News:

For centuries, researchers have puzzled over how oysters grow stunningly symmetrical, perfectly round pearls around irregularly shaped grains of sand or bits of debris. Now a team has shown that oysters, mussels and other mollusks use a complex process to grow the gems that follows mathematical rules seen throughout nature.

Pearls are formed when an irritant gets trapped inside a mollusk, and the animal protects itself by building smooth layers of mineral and protein — together called nacre — around it. Each new layer of nacre built over this asymmetrical center adapts precisely to the ones preceding it, smoothing out irregularities to result in a round pearl, according to an analysis published October 19 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Nacre is this incredibly beautiful, iridescent, shiny material that we see in the insides of some seashells or on the outside of pearls,” says Laura Otter, a biogeochemist at the Australian National University in Canberra.

A pearl’s symmetrical growth as it lays down layers of nacre relies on the mollusk balancing two basic capabilities, Otter and her colleagues discovered. It corrects growth aberrations that appear as the pearl forms, preventing those variations from propagating over the pearl’s many layers. Otherwise, the resulting gem would be lopsided.

Additionally, the mollusk modulates the thickness of nacre layers, so that if . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

14 November 2021 at 10:52 am

Posted in Science

Ensuring food variety

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Eating a variety of foods seems to be the best way to ensure getting adequate amounts of the essential micronutrients. Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen, for example, is a template of selected categories of food that offers good guidance. (In the post at the link I describe I incorporate that template into my meals and how my approach has changed with experience: still eating the same categories, but some with smaller servings).

Another template to ensure variety and good coverage of essential micronutrients takes a somewhat different tack: making sure that your daily intake of whole plant-based foods includes a full range of colors, colors being visual cues regarding phytochemical content.  In an earlier post, I include a description and a downloadable checklist to assist with getting the full range of colors each day. The checklist is a daily list for four people (e.g., a family) or a four-day list for one person (days A, B, C, and D).

Written by Leisureguy

14 November 2021 at 4:27 am

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