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Weekend Longread
Posted by Heebie-Geebie on 10.20.18

This is a really wonderful article. First is Fred Cruz, an inmate-turned-legal-scholar trapped in the Texas prison system in the 60s:

On another occasion, while picking cotton, Cruz had asked a guard for water with the words "no water, no work." For that he received a week in solitary. Then there was the time he received the punishment of standing on a rail, which meant standing for days at a time on a six-by-two plank turned sideways. The offense that day: "inmate started chasing an armadillo."
The infractions went on and on: "unsatisfactory work" ... "creating a disturbance" ... "impudence" ... "refusal to work" ... "disobeying a direct order" ... "disrespectful attitude" ... "insolence" ... "insubordination" ... "insubordination."
Cruz always lost, but with each encounter he learned a little more about the nature of the Texas Department of Corrections. He learned it the same way someone can learn a great deal about the nature of a grizzly by poking it with a stick.

Next up is Frances Jalet:


So, late in the summer of 1967, she packed her car and set out on the long drive to Austin. After a difficult marriage and two decades of motherhood, she was suddenly off on a new adventure. She drove west and south, through the August heat and thunderstorms. She was 56 years old.

A few days after she got to town, the Austin American-Statesman ran a short profile of this peculiar woman who had moved from the East Coast to Texas to help low-income plaintiffs. The writer of the story called her "Portia for the Poor," after the heroine in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice--a rich heiress who dresses up as a man and fools everyone into believing she is a competent lawyer.
The next week, she received a letter from a prisoner named Fred Cruz. He'd read the article, he said, and wondered if she could help him with his case. Jalet had never set foot in a prison, never handled a criminal complaint--never headed any type of litigation, for that matter. She had yet to pass the Texas Bar. Helping a prisoner was also outside the bounds of her job description at the Legal Aid and Defender Society of Travis County. She was supposed to stick to predicaments in the lives of poor locals: evictions, consumer credit, and unfair debt collection. But Jalet decided she could make the visit on her own time. She called the prison to schedule a visit, and a couple of weeks later, on a breezy and cool late October day, she got into her car and drove the 160 miles to meet Cruz.

and finally, there are many, many villains. For example:

McAdams was another big man. Chinless, with a large gut, the warden had a reputation for brutality. His lumbering girth belied a capacity for sudden ferocity. Prisoners whispered stories of his ability to silently walk up on a man and lay him out with a roundhouse kick to the head. One Houston Chronicle reporter described McAdams as a "big man with a velvet voice, a cherub's face," who, "despite the paunch," could "move like a mongoose when there is trouble brewing." From later interviews, it seems McAdams disliked Jalet at first sight. He recalled that her skirt was far too provocative for a prison visit and that her mane of graying blond hair was only partially tamed into a bun. "If you dreamed of a witch," McAdams told a video crew, "that's exactly what she looked like."

Ironically, two of the main players in this story are named Beto and Cruz.

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What to buy
Posted by Heebie-Geebie on 10.19.18

This isn't exactly surprising, but it does contradict/refine the studies we've all heard about buying experiences over things:

In a series of studies, researchers Jacob C. Lee of Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), Deborah Hall of Arizona State University, and Wendy Wood of the University of Southern California found that only individuals who were relatively higher in social class showed the well-known effect of greater happiness from purchasing experiences, such as going to a concert or the movies, compared with purchasing material goods, such as a pair of shoes or accessories.
Lower class individuals, on the other hand, did not show the same pattern - in some cases, they reported the same degree of happiness from experiential and material purchases, whereas in others they actually reported that material purchases made them happier.

Off the top of my head, ISTM that there's two different effects of wealth on your time:
1. Filling your time with activities that cost money
2. Outsourcing your least-favorite jobs to someone else, to free up time.

I do remember hearing about a study that basically claimed that "everybody's got too much to do, and not enough time to do it!" is class-linked. That poor people, with erratic work schedules and not being able to afford tons of extracurricular activities for their kids, do spend significantly more downtime around the house.

"For lower-class consumers, spending money on concert tickets or a weekend trip might not result in greater happiness than buying a new pair of shoes or a flatscreen TV," Hall explains. "In fact, in some of our studies, lower class consumers were happiest from purchasing things, which makes sense given that material goods have practical benefit, resale value, and are physically longer lasting."

This reminds me of something that stuck with me hard from Sideways Stories from Wayside School: Joy stealthily steals and enjoys Dameon's magnificent lunch, and no one knows where Dameon's lunch has disappeared to, and he's sad and hungry. Then Joy's mother shows up with Joy's shitty lunch, which Joy generously gives to Dameon, and everyone praises her generosity. The chapter ends with something like, "Joy had the best lunch of her life, and five minutes later she couldn't taste it anymore. Dameon had a terrible tasting lunch, and five minutes later he couldn't taste it anymore, either."

I do sometimes think about that with the weekend getaway vs. the new pair of shoes. I really like the new shoes I bought myself as a reward for surviving a particularly disciplined week recently. I would also like a weekend getaway, but it's sort of true that five minutes later, you can't taste it anymore, so to speak.

In conclusion, I like both material goods and free time.

Via Tia

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Guest Post - Schism!
Posted by Heebie-Geebie on 10.18.18

Mossy Character writes: The orthodox are heterodoxing!:

The Russian Orthodox Church said on Monday it had decided to sever all relations with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in protest over its endorsement of Ukraine's request for an "autocephalous", or independent, church.
[...]
Ukraine last week secured approval from Constantinople to establish an independent church in what Kiev said was a vital step against Russian meddling in its affairs, but that the Russian Orthodox Church lamented as the biggest split in Christianity for a thousand years.
And Putin has lost this round!:
it's as difficult for Putin as it is for Moscow Patriarch Kirill to accept an independent Ukrainian church blessed by Constantinople. It would go against his oft-repeated assertion that Russians and Ukrainians are one people. And admitting that not Moscow but Istanbul, with only a few hundred Orthodox believers, is the true seat of power of global Orthodoxy would be almost unbearable.
Of course this is all current politics, so it may well get papered over. OTOH, people must have been saying that in 1054. Personally, I'm thrilled. It has all the frisson of a genuine world-historical event, without all the inconvenience of an even more genuine world-historical event, like a nuclear war.

Heebie's lack of a take!

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The NPR effect
Posted by Heebie-Geebie on 10.18.18

Elizabeth Warren preoccupies us in a way that the Supreme Court disenfranchising 70,000 Native American voters doesn't, and it's not because any of us think that the latter is not extremely wrong. I'm going to call it the NPR effect: Elizabeth Warren is human, and therefore worth debating, whereas the authors of the Supreme Court decision are monsters, and therefore there's not much interesting to say about it. If you tried to use "radio time" as a heuristic for which is the bigger problem, you quickly upend yourself because we fret and wring our hands over human foibles, not clear cut monster destruction.

That was a really confusing sentence for me to write: the use of "radio time" has nothing to do with why I'm calling it the NPR effect, but I can't think of a substitute phrase that doesn't connote "air time" or "time spent discussing" or "words wasted" or something that still sounds like I'm talking about NPR.

The reason this I'm calling this the NPR-effect is that in the archives, there's a long-standing phenomenon where we endlessly criticize NPR but we don't criticize CNN, or worse, USAToday, and while we do criticize Fox News, the bar for them to clear is stupidly low. NPR is run by intelligent humans who can be expected to be thoughtful, and therefore when they aren't, it drives us crazy. It's not very interesting when the Ministry of Propaganda fails to be thoughtful.

(And specifically NPR, not the NYT. Nitpicking NPR feels different from the criticisms of the NYT, because their foibles arguably tilt elections and seem more malicious than the nitpicking we do of NPR, but lest this be deemed an analogy, I'll back out of the weeds now.)

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