Later On

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

Archive for March 12th, 2022

Inflection points in US history

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Heather Cox Richardson writes:

In our history, the United States has gone through turning points when we have had to adjust our democratic principles to new circumstances. The alternative is to lose those principles to a small group of people who insist that democracy is outdated and must be replaced by a government run by a few leaders or, now, by a single man.

The Declaration of Independence asserted as “self-evident” that all people are created equal and that God and the laws of nature have given them certain fundamental rights. Those include—but are not limited to—life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The role of government was to make sure people enjoyed these rights, and thus governments are legitimate only if those they rule consent to that government.

The Founders’ concept that all men were created equal and had a right to consent to the government under which they lived, the heart of the Declaration of Independence, was revolutionary. For all that it excluded Indigenous Americans, Black colonists, and all women, the very idea that men were not born into a certain place in a hierarchy and could create a government that reflected such an idea upended traditional western beliefs.

From the beginning, though, there were plenty of Americans who doubled down on the idea of human hierarchies in which a few superior men should rule the rest. They argued that the Constitution was designed to protect property alone and that as a few men accumulated wealth, they should run things. Permitting those without property to have a say in their government would mean they could demand that the government provide things that might infringe on the rights of property-owners.

These undercurrents have always tossed our republic, but four times in our history, new pressures have brought these two ideas into open conflict. In the 1850s, 1890s, and 1930s and in the present, we have had to fit our democracy to new circumstances.

In the 1850s, the pressures of western expansion forced Americans to figure out what, exactly, they wanted the nation to stand for. Northern states, whose mixed economy needed educated workers, and thus widely shared economic and political power, opposed the hierarchical system of human enslavement. Southern states, whose economy rested on the production of raw materials by enslaved workers, opposed equality. Aside from occasional flare-ups, the two systems had muddled along together for sixty years, despite the reality that the enslavers were shrinking farther and farther into the minority as population in the North boomed.

The U.S. acquisition of western land with the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo opened the opportunity for enslavers to address their weakening position by dominating the national government. If they could spread enslavement into the new territories, they could overawe the North in Congress and pass laws to make their system national. As South Carolina Senator James Henry Hammond put it: “I repudiate, as ridiculously absurd, that much lauded but nowhere accredited dogma of Mr. Jefferson that ‘all men are born equal.”’

When Congress, under extraordinary pressure from the pro-southern administration, passed the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act, overturning the Missouri Compromise and letting slavery spread into the West, northerners of all parties woke up to the looming loss of their democratic government. A railroad lawyer from Illinois, Abraham Lincoln, remembered how northerners were “thunderstruck and stunned; and we reeled and fell in utter confusion. But we rose each fighting, grasping whatever he could first reach—a scythe—a pitchfork—a chopping axe, or a butcher’s cleaver” to push back against the slaveowning oligarchy. And while they came from different parties, he said, they were “still Americans; no less devoted to the continued Union and prosperity of the country than heretofore.”

Slavery apologists urged white voters not to worry about Black Americans held in slavery, but Lincoln urged Americans to come together to protect the Declaration of Independence. “I should like to know if taking this old Declaration of Independence, which declares that all men are equal upon principle and making exceptions to it where will it stop?… If that declaration is not the truth, let us get the Statute book, in which we find it and tear it out!”

When voters agreed with Lincoln and elected him to the presidency in 1860, southerners tried to create their own nation based on human inequality. As Georgia Senator Alexander Stephens, soon to be the vice president of the Confederacy, explained in March 1861: “Our new government is founded…upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”

In office, Lincoln reached back to the Declaration—written “four score and seven years ago”— and charged Americans to “resolve that…this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

The victory of the United States government in the Civil War ended the power of enslavers in the government, but new crises in the future would revive the conflict between the idea of equality and a nation of hierarchies.

In the 1890s, the rise of industrialism led to the concentration of wealth at the top of the economy. Steel baron Andrew Carnegie celebrated the “contrast between the palace of the millionaire and the cottage of the laborer,” for although industrialization created “castes,” it created “wonderful material development,” and “while the law may be sometimes hard for the individual, it is best for the race, because it insures the survival of the fittest in every department.” Those at the top were there because of their “special ability,” and anyone seeking a fairer distribution of wealth was a “Socialist or Anarchist…attacking the foundation upon which civilization rests.” Instead, he said, society worked best when a few wealthy men ran the world, for “wealth, passing through the hands of the few, can be made a much more potent force for the elevation of our race than if it had been distributed in small sums to the people themselves.”

Once again, people of all political parties came together to reclaim American democracy. Although Democrat Grover Cleveland was the first to complain that “corporations, which should be the carefully restrained creatures of the law and the servants of the people, are fast becoming the people’s masters,” it was Republican Theodore Roosevelt who is now popularly associated with the development of a government that regulated the excesses of big business. He complained about that “small class of enormously wealthy and economically powerful men, whose chief object is to hold and increase their power,” and ushered in the Progressive Era with government regulation of business to protect the ability of individuals to participate in American society as equals.

The rise of a global economy in the twentieth century repeated the pattern. After socialists took control of Russia in 1917, American men of property insisted that any restrictions on their control of resources or the government were a form of “Bolshevism,” but in the 1930s a worldwide depression brought voters of all parties behind President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who used the government to provide a “New Deal for the American people.” His government regulated business, provided a basic social safety net, and promoted infrastructure. Then, after Black and Brown veterans coming home from World War II demanded equality, that New Deal government, under Democratic president Harry Truman and Republican president Dwight D. Eisenhower, worked to end racial and, later, gender hierarchies in American society.

Now, once again, we are at an inflection point. The rise of global oligarchs and the internet, which enables those oligarchs to spread disinformation, has made significant numbers of American voters once again slide away from democracy to embrace the idea that the country would work better with a few leaders making the rules for the rest of us. In nineteen states,

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

12 March 2022 at 9:11 pm

“We Are Witnessing a New Form of Warfare”

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In the Washington Monthly Paul Glastris interviews a source who has some interesting observations:

On March 9, I had a conversation about the war in Ukraine with a longtime source of mine who has had a decades-long career in the military and in the intelligence community, serving both in and out of government. The source requested anonymity to speak freely. The following Q&A has been edited for brevity.

Q: What do you make of the offer by Poland to provide MiG fighters to the United States that we would then deliver to Ukraine?

A: It was really not smart of the Poles to float this publicly. It was an unforced error on their part. The more visible this discussion is, the less helpful it is.

Q: So how will Ukraine get the fighters it needs?

A: There are countries that have MiGs that are not members of NATO. This is a classic case where the U.S. government gets its checkbook out and quietly goes to one of those countries. The fighters just show up in Ukraine. The Russians wouldn’t even necessarily know where they came from—remember, right now, they don’t even control the airspace over Ukraine. They would obviously know what happened, but the United States and NATO would have deniability. It’s called “foreign material acquisition.” We did this all the time during the Cold War.

Q: How vital is it to get those MIGs to Ukraine?

A: I don’t see it as being decisive. Maybe I’m wrong. The Ukrainians seem to want them badly. I’m sure they want to use them to hit Russian tanks and deny Russia control of the airspace. But they are doing an amazing job of that with the weapons we already gave them. We’ve supplied them with something like 17,000 anti-tank missiles and I don’t know how many [antiaircraft] Stingers. We should be giving them thousands more.

We are witnessing a new form of warfare. To put a tank on a battlefield costs maybe $30 million. A Javelin anti-tank missile costs $175,000. Similarly with fighter jets and antiaircraft missiles. You can defend territory at a tiny fraction of what it costs the aggressor to take it. The drones the Ukrainians bought from the Turks are doing incredible damage. But just the cheap commercial drones you buy at Walmart can give you total tactical awareness of the battlefield. So Ukrainians can see everything the Russians are doing. They don’t even need satellites. But you can buy satellite imagery on the commercial market, too, and that gives you strategic awareness.

Q: How worried are you that the Russians will be able to cut off the supply of weapons and other key material from the West to the Ukrainians?

A: The Russians are said to be able to interdict supplies. But if you have Ukrainian convoys equipped with Stingers and also teams equipped with Stingers on fixed sites along the routes, all they need to do is shoot down a few Russian aircraft and the Russians are going to be saying, “Forget it, I don’t want to go there.” Will it be harder to get supplies into Kyiv if the Russians manage to blockade the city? Yes. But the Ukrainians can then attack the Russians from behind.

Q: How much of the military resistance we are seeing in Ukraine is the result of citizens rising up themselves and how much of it is being directed by the Ukrainian military?

A: Yeah, you see the photos in the media of the handmade Molotov cocktails. No question: The will of the Ukrainian people is incredible. You saw a taste of that determination in 2014. I saw it when I was in Ukraine right after the 2014 revolution. If Putin had been paying attention, they would’ve seen that, too. But also, we’ve had Green Berets going into Ukraine for years training Ukrainian special forces for just this kind of moment. This resistance was very well planned out.

Q: How does this end?  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

12 March 2022 at 4:46 pm

Debt Diaries: 19 stories of the student-debt ‘hamster wheel’ that borrowers of all ages and incomes can’t escape

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Ayelet Sheffey presents an interesting collection of stories in Insider:

The $1.7 trillion student-debt crisis in the US continues to grow, making the burden heavier for millions of Americans.

Since March 2020, as part of pandemic relief measures, federal borrowers have not had to make student-loan payments, and interest on the loans has been waived. President Joe Biden recently extended the pause for a third time, through May 1, citing uncertainty with the Omicron variant. Advocates and lawmakers lauded the decision and the additional relief for 43 million federal borrowers.

But even during the payment pause, many borrowers did not feel relieved. The looming date for restarting payments sparked anxiety and fear among some borrowers who knew that even though they had not been required to pay off their debt over the past two years, they would not be able to afford an additional bill in just a few months. That’s why some Democratic lawmakers are calling for Biden to cancel student debt for every federal borrower.

“More than 40 million Americans have benefited from the federal pause on student-debt payments, but without cancellation they will be buried under a mountain of debt once again,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts told Insider. “The president campaigned on canceling at least $10,000 in student debt, he has the executive authority, and now is the time to deliver.”

Over the past year, Insider has spoken with over a dozen borrowers who shared their experiences with the “hamster wheel” of student debt, its impact on their lives and their families, and their fears that their debt will follow them to their graves. Here are their stories. 

Continue reading. What follows is a collection of links to various stories. For example:

Older people are giving up hope of paying off their student loans before they die: ‘There’s a real fear in dying in this’

Over 8 million borrowers over 50 hold 22% of the federal student-debt load. The burden can be so heavy that some of those Americans will never see a life without student debt.

Three borrowers who fall into that category — David Wise, Linda Navarro, and Theresa Teders — shared how their debt had permanently altered their lives. They said they don’t see it going away until they die.

Read the full story here.

There are 18 other stories, all showing the need, for the good of the country, to eliminate this debt.

Written by Leisureguy

12 March 2022 at 4:16 pm

Oddly satisfying video genre: Rug cleaning

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You can find numerous videos showing rug cleaning, and they are somehow deeply satisfying. For example:

Making the world a better place, one rug at a time. It’s satisfying to do a job and see clearly the difference you made.

Written by Leisureguy

12 March 2022 at 3:41 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life, Video

Leo Major and heroism in wartime

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Via Facebook:

Leo Major’s story is so preposterous that Hollywood still hasn’t made a movie about it.

A French-Canadian who saw action in the Normandy landings, Leo began his military career by capturing an armored vehicle full of communications equipment, providing the Allies with invaluable intelligence. He then single-handedly took out a group of elite Nazi SS troops, but lost his left eye after a dying enemy managed to ignite a phosphorus grenade. When a doctor tried to send him home,

Leo reportedly replied that he only needed one eye to aim.

He later broke several bones in his back, but again refused to be evacuated, returning to the battlefield to participate in the liberation of Holland. During an early-morning reconnaissance mission at the Battle of the Scheldt, he spotted a German contingent in a village, most of them asleep. A typical soldier would have returned to report to a superior, but for a guy like Leo this was an opportunity.

He captured the German commander, and after killing a few soldiers, the entire company of 93 men surrendered to him. He then escorted them back to the Allied lines. But Leo’s greatest feat was still to come.

In April 1945, the Canadians were tasked with liberating the Dutch city of Zwolle. Their plan was to bombard the German positions with artillery until they surrendered. Leo was once again sent on a reconnaissance mission, this time with a friend. His superiors really should’ve known better. Realizing that an artillery barrage would also kill innocent civilians, Leo and his buddy Willie decided to liberate the city all by themselves.

Unfortunately, around midnight, Willie was shot and killed. Enraged, Leo grabbed his friend’s weapon and gunned down two Germans, with the others fleeing in terror. He then proceeded to capture a different German vehicle and forced the driver to bring him to an enemy officer at a nearby tavern. Leo then informed the surprised officer that the town was surrounded by an overwhelming Canadian force and that an attack was imminent, before strolling out of the tavern and disappearing into the night.

The next step was to convince the Germans that what he had told the officer was true. Leo spent the rest of the night racing around the town, gunning down Nazis and throwing grenades like a one-man army.

After seeing their comrades gunned down by a mad Canadian in an eyepatch, most enemy soldiers made the smart choice and surrendered. As the night wore on, Leo kept appearing at the Allied lines with groups of confused German prisoners—before returning to the city.

His final feat was to clear out the local SS headquarters. By 4:00 AM, the Germans had abandoned the town. The artillery attack was canceled, the city saved by a single man. Leo received numerous medals for his deeds in World War II, and earned even more in Korea. Leo Major died in 2008, but his memory lives on in Zwolle, where he is regarded as a hero.

Written by Leisureguy

12 March 2022 at 12:13 pm

Posted in Army, Daily life, Military, War

Blast from the past: President Nixon’s National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse

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A Facebook discussion on various problems in government services — for example, in BC we currently have a shortage of medical professions (doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, et al.), but one can see various problems in various government services — started with the question of how to fix the problem.

I offered this thought:

Solutions are found when the problem is fully understood, and that requires some committed research by knowledgeable people — a team, or a (good) commission that will do some serious investigation. And I believe that there are two problems: one is the problem of nurses, nurse practitioners, physicians in various specialities, therapists, and so on leaving the health profession prematurely. So one question is to look at the reasons for the losses. For example, I recently learned that ER physicians get no sick leave. That might in some cases be the straw the broke the camel”s back, but we need a full inventory of reasons to understand and prioritize the fixes needed. (The fix in this case is simple: ER physicians should get 2 weeks paid sick leave per year, at a minimum, especially since they are routinely exposed to infectious diseases.)

So loss is one problem. Supply is another. How can the province increase the supply? (And that amounts to finding out why people are not choosing the profession.)

I would say there are two ways: one is to make the working conditions more attractive; the other is to lower barriers to entry, which could be done by subsidizing educational and training costs (in return for a commitment to practice in BC for a decade, or some such).

I think both avenues of investigation would prove fruitful, and the more transparent the investigation is — that is, the more the public is informed of the work in progress — the better. People really need to know a) that something is being done to address the problem and b) what that something is. Right now it seems almost as though work on the problem (if any) is done in secret for fear the public will learn what is being found.

One commenter derided my suggestion:

😆 🤣 😂 the govt? In charge of investigating? 😆 🤣
Bless your ❤️

I responded:

Governments (legislatures and executive branches) will often appoint an independent commission of persons outside the government who have relevant expertise to do the investigation and make a report and recommendations. This is not at all uncommon, and it’s done specifically to avoid (as you say) the government investigating itself. Of course, the government doesn’t always agree with findings nor follow the recommendations of the expert commission.

For example, President Nixon’s National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse recommended that “marihuana” be legalized and regulated. Nixon, based on his own (lack of) expertise decided to reject that in favor of a War on Drugs, which cost billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of lives and failed utterly. You can read the report that Nixon ignored.

And the report is pretty interesting. Here it is.

Written by Leisureguy

12 March 2022 at 11:51 am

If you want to give aid directly to Ukraine…

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In the YouTube description of the video below are these links:

National Bank of Ukraine armed forces account:
https://bank.gov.ua/en/news/all/natsi…

National Bank of Ukraine humanitarian account:
https://bank.gov.ua/en/news/all/natsi…

Come Back Alive:
https://www.comebackalive.in.ua

At the beginning of the video Ian discusses the differences among the three accounts.

Written by Leisureguy

12 March 2022 at 11:37 am

Dapper Doc and Above the Tie, with the mighty Pro 48

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What a great shave! First, I do love the mighty Pro 48, and whenever I come back to it after having not used it for a while, I fall in love again. It’s always better than I expect, even when I allow for its being better than I expect. 

And of course CK-6 is wondrous stuff, and I do like the Dapper Doc fragrance of lilac and fig — old timey in a good way. With excellent prep, my Above the Tie R1 shave well — extremely well, so much so that I checked the brand of blade after the shave. I was using a relatively new (in the razor) Swedish Gillette, as we once called them. It’s an old stash, with blades in a slide-out dispenser, coming out alternately at one end or the other, but so old that the oil that lubricated the slide has oxidized so that the blades were stuck together to the point that I had to pry apart the container and peel off a blade as I need it. But still, a fabulous razor and a great shave.

A splash of lilac and fig, with a squirt of Hydrating Gel, and I’m ready for a new day.

The tea this morning is Storm Watcher, somewhat appropriate to the oncoming weather. Still, I might be able to work in a walk today.

Written by Leisureguy

12 March 2022 at 11:10 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

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