Later On

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

Archive for September 4th, 2022

The first Labor Day

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Heather Cox Richardson:

One hundred and forty years ago, on September 5, 1882, workers in New York City celebrated the first Labor Day holiday with a parade. The parade almost didn’t happen: there was no band, and no one wanted to start marching without music. Once the Jewelers Union of Newark Two showed up with musicians, the rest of the marchers, eventually numbering between 10,000 and 20,000 men and women, fell in behind them to parade through lower Manhattan. At noon, when they reached the end of the route, the march broke up and the participants listened to speeches, drank beer, and had picnics. Other workers joined them.

Their goal was to emphasize the importance of workers in the industrializing economy and to warn politicians that they could not be ignored. Less than 20 years before, northern men had fought a war to defend a society based on free labor and had, they thought, put in place a government that would support the ability of all hardworking men to rise to prosperity.

By 1882, though, factories and the fortunes they created had swung the government toward men of capital, and workingmen worried they would lose their rights if they didn’t work together. A decade before, the Republican Party, which had formed to protect free labor, had thrown its weight behind Wall Street. By the 1880s, even the staunchly Republican Chicago Tribune complained about the links between business and government: “Behind every one of half of the portly and well-dressed members of the Senate can be seen the outlines of some corporation interested in getting or preventing legislation,” it wrote. The Senate, Harper’s Weekly noted, was “a club of rich men.”

The workers marching in New York City carried banners saying: “Labor Built This Republic and Labor Shall Rule it,” “Labor Creates All Wealth,” “No Land Monopoly,” “No Money Monopoly,” “Labor Pays All Taxes,” “The Laborer Must Receive and Enjoy the Full Fruit of His Labor,” ‘Eight Hours for a Legal Day’s Work,” and “The True Remedy is Organization and the Ballot.”

The New York Times denied that workers were any special class in the United States, saying that “[e]very one who works with his brain, who applies accumulated capital to industry, who directs or facilitates the operations of industry and the exchange of its products, is just as truly a laboring man as he who toils with his hands…and each contributes to the creation of wealth and the payment of taxes and is entitled to a share in the fruits of labor in proportion to the value of his service in the production of net results.”

In other words, the growing inequality in the country was a function of the greater value of bosses than their workers, and the government could not possibly adjust that equation. The New York Daily Tribune scolded the workers for holding a political—even a “demagogical”—event. “It is one thing to organize a large force of…workingmen…when they are led to believe that the demonstration is purely non-partisan; but quite another thing to lead them into a political organization….”

Two years later, workers helped to elect Democrat Grover Cleveland to the White House. A number of Republicans crossed over to support the reformer Cleveland, afraid that, as he said, “The gulf between employers and the employed is . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

4 September 2022 at 8:36 pm

Made it — by the skin of my teeth

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Despite a brisk walk (3.25 mph) for 27 minutes, I go only 3 PAI for the walk. So I walked to the supermarket and did chores around the house and finally got the total to 100 PAI. 

But it’s clear that the Amazfit is simply not picking up heart rate accurately. For example, although the graph at the right shows that I not pulse at all for about an hour, that is not in fact what happened. — update: The source of the problem seems to have been placement of the Band 5 on my arm. Original documentation said to place it one finger-width above the wrist, but a support person said that should be two finger-widths. Once I did that, I got accurate readings.

But I’ve had a paradigm shift, so that my focus is no longer on PAI but on consistency of effort. If I walk daily, I’m happy with that. And in fact, I am already finding it easier — and it will be even easier tomorrow because I replaced the paws on my Nordic walking poles. 

So tomorrow’s priority: take a walk. 

Written by Leisureguy

4 September 2022 at 6:52 pm

Lawsuits over tragedies can drag on. Not in the Florida condo collapse.

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A tragedy that seems to have brought people together instead of driving them apart. Patricia Mazzel reports in the NY Times (gift link, no paywall):

MIAMI — Each day, before the unusual hearings unfolded inside Judge Michael A. Hanzman’s Miami courtroom this summer, the judge’s aides would stock the judge’s bench, the lawyers’ tables and the witness stand with boxes of tissues. At some point, they knew, almost everyone would cry, and each excruciating presentation would end with Judge Hanzman offering people hugs.

The hearings in the civil case over the deadly collapse last year of a beachfront condominium tower in Surfside, Fla., gave survivors and victims’ families a chance to seek financial compensation for their enormous losses. But those involved in the proceedings also describe them as far more meaningful — something akin to catharsis — which they credit to the extraordinary handling of a case born out of calamity.

After five weeks of lengthy and emotional hearings, the court issued letters in late August, informing survivors and victims’ families of how much they would receive in damages from a settlement of more than $1 billion with insurance companies, the developers of an adjacent building and other defendants. Individual awards ranged from $50,000 for some post-traumatic stress disorder claims to more than $30 million for some wrongful death claims, Judge Hanzman said in an interview this week.

“I don’t think I have shed as many tears in my 61 years as much as I have throughout the last five weeks,” he said.

The collapse killed 98 people and left 135 unit owners dispossessed. There was no public fund like the one created for the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Lawyers braced their clients for years of litigation, but instead, the Surfside checks are expected to be cut by the end of September, just 15 months after part of the Champlain Towers South came crashing down.

In a country with no shortage of plaintiffs or disasters, the story of the Surfside case and the people who brought it swiftly and sensitively to near its close could serve as a model for how the justice system treats and compensates victims in the future. Judge Hanzman said he has already fielded requests to speak about the case at legal seminars.

“Of everything bad that happened, this was the positive thing,” Elena Pazos, who lost her 23-year-old daughter, Michelle, and 55-year-old husband, Miguel, in the collapse, said in an interview.

She flew to Miami from her home in Montreal for the unusual closed-door claims hearings, which she said were handled with friendliness and understanding. The judge knew everyone by name.

“It made it so much easier than it would be otherwise to go through the legal system,” she said. “Emotionally, we are all brokenhearted people.”

There was no clear playbook to follow. In retrospect, the success of the Surfside case required  . . .

Continue reading. (gift link, no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

4 September 2022 at 5:48 pm

Chile’s Vote on a New Constitution Is a Big Loss for the CIA and the “Chicago Boys”

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The US — and the CIA — did shameful things in Chile, overthrowing a democratically elected president and government to install a murderous dictator. And no one in the CIA or the US government was held accountable for that crime. (Well, no surprise: neither George W. Bush or Dick Cheney were held accountable for lying the US into an invasion in Iraq, with the resulting destabilization and at least tens of thousands of civilian deaths.

Jon Schwarz reports in the Intercept:

IF YOU VISIT the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C., you can read on the wall Thomas Jefferson’s perspective on constitutions. It’s a slightly edited version of a letter he wrote to a friend in 1816:

I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as a civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.

While it’s gotten little attention in the U.S., Chile is currently putting Jefferson’s views into action. This Sunday, September 4, the country will vote on whether to adopt an entirely new constitution written by a convention last year.

Current polls suggest that the new constitution may be voted down, with support having fallen precipitously since the beginning of the year amid widespread disinformation. One recent survey showed that 37 percent of Chileans approved of it and 46 percent did not. However, voting is compulsory for all Chileans not overseas, and enough remain undecided to tip the balance. The perceived stakes are high enough that forces rejecting the new constitution ran over pro-constitution cyclists with a horse and carriage.

The proposed constitution is quite long — arguably too long, since complexity is always useful for the powerful — with 388 articles. Highlights include:

  • A requirement that membership of all “collegiate bodies of the State” be at least half women, as well as the boards of all companies owned or partially owned by the government.
  • A new, lower voting age of 16. Moreover, voting “constitutes a right and a civic duty,” and so voting would become compulsory for everyone 18 and over. (Voting previously was compulsory in Chile until 2012. Voting in regular elections is no longer compulsory, but the current constitutional referendum is a special case.) Also, foreigners can vote in all Chilean elections once they’ve lived there for five years.
  • Everyone has the right “to make free, autonomous and informed decisions about one’s own body, [including] reproduction” — i.e., the right to abortion. Until 2017, abortion was illegal in Chile under all circumstances, and it is still only permitted in rare cases.
  • Special provisions governing water, which is mentioned 32 times. Everyone has “the human right to water and sufficient, healthy, acceptable, affordable and accessible sanitation,” and “it is the duty of the State to guarantee it.” Chile has been suffering from a disastrous megadrought for a decade, likely caused by global warming and certainly exacerbated by voluminous water use by its mining and agriculture industries.
  • The state will have the duty “to stimulate, promote and strengthen the development of scientific and technological research in all areas of knowledge.”
  • New power and representation for Chile’s Indigenous population, who make up about 10 percent of the country’s citizenry.

But the significance of the proposed constitution is not simply its specifics. Whatever the outcome of the vote, the fact that it’s gotten this far is a vivid illustration of how regular people can generate an explosion of political imagination if they ever get the opportunity. And if the constitution is adopted, it will inevitably expand the imagination of regular people in Latin America and elsewhere — just as American leaders have long feared.

American corporations and the U.S. government have enthusiastically meddled in Chilean politics for centuries, but our involvement intensified during the 1950s and 1960s. In particular, successive U.S. administrations were anxious to prevent Salvador Allende, a popular socialist politician, from being elected president. After Allende narrowly lost the 1958 contest to the conservative, wealthy Jorge Alessandri, the U.S. spent heavily to support Alessandri’s government. When Allende ran again in the next election in 1964, the U.S. successfully went all-out to stop him from winning, with a huge investment of funds funneled into Chilean politics via the CIA and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

But Allende ran for president yet again in 1970, and on September 4 of that year, the worst nightmare of the U.S. came to pass: He won. The Nixon administration was desperate to prevent him from taking office. Their panic can be gauged by notes taken soon afterward by Richard Helms, then the director of the CIA: “1 in 10 chance perhaps, but save Chile!; $10,000,000 available, more if necessary; full-time job — best men we have; game plan: make the economy scream.” The next day, Nixon’s secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, warned American newspaper editors off the record that Chile could be a “contagious example” that would “infect” U.S. allies in Europe.

Despite this, Allende was sworn in. Nixon and company did not give up, however, conducting an enormous covert campaign to undermine Allende’s government. On September 11, 1973, a military junta led by Chilean Gen. Augusto Pinochet seized power, with Allende dying under murky circumstances in the presidential palace. The coup does not seem to have been directly organized by the U.S., but it’s obvious that we created the conditions that made it possible, and the plotters knew that America wouldn’t mind at all if they took over.

Pinochet’s new regime swiftly rounded up troublesome Chileans, killing over 3,000 of them. Meanwhile, his economic team — nicknamed the “Chicago Boys” due to the education many of them had received in right-wing economics at the University of Chicago — moved to restructure the Chilean economy. This was a success, in that both poverty and corporate profits (Chilean and American) increased.

Chile’s first real constitution had . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

4 September 2022 at 5:33 pm

Unexpected effect of climate change: Buildings whose foundations are rotting

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Sabrina Shankman and Daniel Kool report in the Boston Globe (no paywall):

In the mid-19th century, as architects and builders erected many of the neighborhoods and landmarks that now define Boston, they leaned on a European practice of driving wood pilings deep into the ground and building up from there. Saturated by groundwater, those pilings could stay strong for centuries — as long as they remained submerged.

Of course, those architects and builders didn’t know about climate change.

Now, as a prolonged climate-fueled drought afflicts the region, groundwater levels have dropped to alarming levels, in some cases to record lows, triggering worries that buildings across large swaths of the city could be put at risk as pilings are exposed to air and begin to decay. There are nearly 10,000 row houses and other buildings in nearly a dozen neighborhoods that rely on wood pilings for support, from the North End to the Back Bay and Fenway. Some of the city’s most historic landmarks, including Trinity Church, Custom House Tower, and Old South Church, are supported by the pilings, which typically extend 15 to 20 feet below the surface.

Experts said rotting halts when groundwater levels rise again, but will resume whenever pilings are re-exposed, a prospect made increasingly possible by the likelihood of more frequent and long-lasting droughts.

“The more prolonged periods of drought, the more frequent we have them, the more sustained they are, the bigger risk it is to the buildings that are supported on pilings,” said Christian Simonelli, executive director of the Boston Groundwater Trust, an organization established by the Boston City Council to monitor groundwater levels in threatened parts of the city and make recommendations.
This summer, as drought in Boston went from mild to significant to critical, the trust has observed drops in many of its 813 monitoring wells across the city, with 31 at their lowest level on record, Simonelli said.

“I’ll be very clear: We need rain. We can’t go another three or four months like this.” . . .

Continue reading. (no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

4 September 2022 at 9:22 am

Libertarians on the loose in New Hampshire

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Libertarians strike me as hopelessly naïve and determined to ignore the times Libertarian has been tried — and failed. Some examples:

Von Ormy, TX
Sears corporation
Colorado Springs CO
Grafton NH

The last example is particularly relevant because, even with a failure right at hand, New Hampshire is still home to a network of Libertarians determined to throw off the yoke of democracy (“a soft form of communism”) and install … what?

Libertarians, it strikes me, use blind logic. That is, they follow their logic regardless of what experience has shown. But, as Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., pointed out, “The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience.” Mere logic is too thin until and unless it is leavened by experience. Libertarians ignore experience. They are logic-proud.

Brian MacQuarrie has an interesting article in the Boston Globe (no paywall) on the New Hampshire effort:

MANCHESTER, N.H. — The doormat outside Carla Gericke’s house carries the warning “Come back with a warrant.” It’s a stark reflection of her broad distrust of government bureaucracy, an attitude that is the driving force behind the Free State movement, which has led thousands of like-minded people to move to New Hampshire on a quixotic quest — to build a libertarian utopia.

Gericke helps lead that movement, and her agenda is broad and unapologetically radical. More than 6,000 people have relocated to New Hampshire since the effort was launched 21 years ago, according to its organizers. And while some dispute that claim, legislators on both sides of the aisle in Concord agree that Free Staters have come to wield outsize political influence.

Inside her home, Gericke explained why an independent New Hampshire is a good idea, why its public schools are hopelessly broken, why Washington, D.C., is pervasively corrupt, and why Free Staters who believe big government is the enemy of personal freedom are determined to turn society upside down.

“I’m a problem-solver, I’m a solutionist, I am an innovator, I’m a visionary,” said Gericke, a former corporate attorney who moved to New Hampshire from New York in 2008 as part of the Free State movement. “I want to take a swing at making one place better, and this is the place I picked.”

But where Gericke and other “porcupines” — a nickname Free Staters have adopted — see a blueprint for shrinking government and protecting the rights to privacy and private property, critics see a back-door assault on democracy itself.

Their end game, detractors say, is to infiltrate New Hampshire government at all levels — from select boards to the State House — with the aim of dismantling it. State support for public schools is a priority target.

“Their whole mission is to take over state government and to use the threat of secession as leverage” against the federal government, said Zandra Rice Hawkins, executive director of Granite State Progress, a progressive advocacy group.

Jeremy Kauffman, a Free State Project board member, describes democracy itself as a threat.
“Democracy is a soft form of communism that basically assures bad and dangerous people will be in power,” Kauffman said by e-mail. The Manchester resident, a tech entrepreneur, is running for US Senate as a Libertarian.

The movement began with a 2001 essay by Jason Sorens, then a Yale graduate student and now director of the Center for Ethics in Society at St. Anselm College in Manchester. The goal was at once simple and sweeping: attract 20,000 libertarians to a single state with a small population, get elected to public office, concentrate power, and enact change from the inside out.

In 2003, Free Staters chose New Hampshire, with its deep vein of conservatism and “Live Free or Die” motto, as their prospective homeland, and more than 19,000 people have since signed a pledge to move to the state, organizers said. Only a third of that number are estimated to have relocated so far, but Sorens said they have made a major impact.

“There’s been the emergence of a significant group of libertarian legislators, and some of them are in leadership” in Concord, the state capital, Sorens said. “I’ve been pleased overall with what we’ve achieved. I may have hoped that we would reach 20,000, but I’m not sure I ever expected we would.”

House majority leader Jason Osborne, for example, . . .

Continue reading. No paywall.

They are ideologues, and ideologues value their ideology more highly than facts or experience. Because their ideology is part of their identity, they cannot see that they can part with it until and unless they experience a paradigm shift (cf. Covey’s Habit 1).

It’s a sad situation that will get worse.

Written by Leisureguy

4 September 2022 at 7:57 am

Healthy relationships

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Good advice in infographic form:

Written by Leisureguy

4 September 2022 at 7:24 am

The benefits of an alcohol-free whole-food plant-based diet were known in ancient times

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I included this observation in another post, but it really deserves its own post. The Book of Daniel in the Tanakh (Jewish Bible) or Old Testament (Christian Bible) begins (in the New International Version translation):

1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia and put in the treasure house of his god.

3 Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king’s service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility— 4 young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians. 5 The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service.

6 Among those who were chosen were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 7 The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.

8 But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. 9 Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel, 10 but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.”

11 Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12 “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food [and drink wine – LG], and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” 14 So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.

15 At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food [and drank wine – LG]. 16 So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.

The verses of interest are 8 through 13. Presumably “royal food” includes (and probably is heavy on) meat, and likely includes dairy and eggs as well. (An article on Vatel gives a look at “royal food,” albeit for a much later king. Still, royal tastes over the centuries seem to have favored a diet that’s rich, extravagant, and heavy on meat and alcohol.)

The fact that Daniel refused wine was wise, given what we now know of the health impact of alcohol. And his decision to stick with a plant-based diet was, as we now know, also wise. The story may have been intended as an account of a minor miracle — on the basis that royal food must be the very best food of all — though Daniel’s food choice may have been motivated by a desire to keep kosher when the food came from a non-kosher kitchen. But who knows? The four of them may have followed a plant-based diet even at home.

The guard didn’t care about keeping kosher, and he was very much worried about the health and appearance of his charges (and keeping his head). To his credit, he was willing to experiment with the alsohol-free plant-based diet (something many people won’t do even today), and the results were convincing: “they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food.” (Their vegetable diet was also a whole-food diet, given that refined and highly processed foods were not a thing back then.)

I do like the way Daniel framed his dietary choice: that he would follow an alcohol-free whole-food plant-based diet so that he would not “defile” himself. It provides a nice turn of phrase when some urges you to have some of the meat or cheese or manufactured food: “No, thanks. I don’t want to defile myself. But you go ahead.” 🙂

So the benefits of an alcohol-free whole-food plant-based diet were thus established by an experiment. Those who have ears, let them hear; those who have eyes, let them see.

Written by Leisureguy

4 September 2022 at 6:56 am

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