Later On

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

Update to meal pattern

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I corrected an error in this post (only 1 serving of cruciferous vegetables on the checklist, not 3) and added the meal pattern I follow and mention my new odometer app for walking.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 February 2020 at 1:10 pm

Facebook dances to the Right’s tune

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Working the refs has long been a GOP standby—and Republicans seem to love misinformation. Craig Timberg reports in the Washington Post:

Facebook created “Project P” — for propaganda — in the hectic weeks after the 2016 presidential election and quickly found dozens of pages that had peddled false news reports ahead of Donald Trump’s surprise victory. Nearly all were based overseas, had financial motives and displayed a clear rightward bent.

In a world of perfect neutrality, which Facebook espouses as its goal, the political tilt of the pages shouldn’t have mattered. But in a videoconference between Facebook’s Washington office and its Silicon Valley headquarters in December 2016, the company’s most senior Republican, Joel Kaplan, voiced concerns that would become familiar to those within the company.

“We can’t remove all of it because it will disproportionately affect conservatives,” said Kaplan, a former George W. Bush White House official and now the head of Facebook’s Washington office, according to people familiar with the meeting who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect professional relationships.

When another Facebook staff member pushed for the entire list to be taken down on the grounds that the accounts fueled the “fake news” that had roiled the election, Kaplan warned of the backlash from conservatives.

“They don’t believe it to be fake news,” he said, arguing for time to develop guidelines that could be defended to the company’s critics, including on the right.

The debate over “Project P,” which resulted in a few of the worst pages quickly being removed while most others remained on the platform, exemplified the political dynamics that have reigned within Facebook since Trump emerged as the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee to the White House in 2016. A company led mainly by Democrats in the liberal bastion of Northern California repeatedly has tilted rightward to deliver policies, hiring decisions and public gestures sought by Republicans, according to current and former employees and others who have worked closely with the company.

Trump and other party leaders have pressured Facebook by making unproven claims of bias against conservatives amid rising signs of government action on the issue, including investigations by Congress and the Justice Department. Republicans also have leveraged Facebook’s fears of alienating conservative Americans to win concessions from a company whose most widely shared news content typically includes stories from Fox News and other right-leaning sources.

These sensitivities — in conjunction with the company’s long-standing resistance to acting as “an arbiter of truth” — have affected Facebook’s responses to a range of major issues, from how to address fake news and Russian manipulation of American voters on the platform to, more recently, the advertising policies that have set the political ground rules for the 2020 election, say people privy to internal debates.

Such factors have helped shape a platform that gives politicians license to lie and that remains awash in misinformation, vulnerable to a repeat of many of the problems that marred the 2016 presidential election.

Facebook, unlike Google and Twitter, also has refused calls to restrict politicians’ access to powerful ad-targeting tools — which Trump used with particular relish four years ago — that allow messages to be tailored to individual voters, based on characteristics Facebook has gleaned over years of tracking user behavior.

“I think Facebook is looking at their political advertising policies in explicitly partisan terms, and they’re afraid of angering Republicans,” said Alex Stamos, head of the Stanford Internet Observatory, a research group, and a former Facebook chief security officer. “The Republicans in the D.C. office see themselves as a bulwark against the liberals in California.”

The company says its decisions are guided not by political calculations but by global policy goals of expanding connections among users and protecting them from government overreach, in line with chief executive Mark Zuckerberg’s commitment to allowing speech on the social media platform to remain as unrestricted as possible.

Continue reading. There’s much more.

One comment: chief executive Mark Zuckerber’s commitment is not to “allowing speech on the social media platform to remain as unrestricted as possible,” but rather to increase revenue and profits as much as possible. His concern is money and profit, not the welfare of the community and country.

Later in the article:

Trump already has spent more than $32 million on the platform for his reelection effort, while Democratic candidates, collectively, have spent more than $107 million, according to Facebook’s Ad Library, one of its transparency initiatives. Andrew Bosworth, a top corporate executive considered a confidant of Zuckerberg, said in a post in December that Facebook was “responsible for Donald Trump getting elected” in 2016 through his effective advertising campaign — a comment that underscored the stakes of the company’s policy moves.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 February 2020 at 10:44 am

Strop Shoppe and the Game Changer

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I had everything ready to post and then got distracted. This is the pre-Vulfix Simpson Emperor 3 Super, and a fine brush it is. The lather from my vintage Strop Shoppe Via Dell’Ambra was quite good, and the original Game Changer works quite well for me: 3 passes to a perfect result. A splash of Royal Copenhagen from the little travel bottle, and I’m good to go.

I downloaded an odometer app for my iPhone, which should greatly facilitate keeping track of times, speeds, and distances walked. I’m looking forward to trying it out later today.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 February 2020 at 10:36 am

Posted in Shaving

How an AT&T Lawyer Helped Monopolize Cheerleading and Induce Drug Shortages

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Matt Stoller writes in Big:

How an AT&T Lawyer Created a Cheerleading Monopoly

I’ve been doing a lot of research on cheerleading, as readers of this newsletter know, and it’s beginning to hit two different audiences. One group are people involved in cheerleading, gym owners, coaches, Varsity Brand ex-employees, and so forth. The second are antitrust experts and reporters; Emily Stewart at Vox noted the cheer monopoly yesterday in a piece not on cheerleading, but on the relationship of monopolies to the economy.

These two audience are linked, because how the business of cheerleading is structured, like how our pharmaceutical or technology industry is structured, is a function of law. I’m going to try to bring these two groups together by showing how Debbie Feinstein, a powerful lawyer in D.C., helped to concentrate the cheerleading industry as part of her career concentrating a whole series of other industries.

The basic story of the cheerleading monopoly is as follows. Decades ago, a corporation called Varsity Brands began buying up its competitors in cheer competitions and apparel. It used its control over competitions to give itself an advantage in selling cheerleading apparel. In addition, Varsity also financed governing bodies for cheerleading, and gained control over distribution with exclusive deals to gym owners for its products.

The key moment for Varsity was in 2015, when it bought its last and largest competitor, Jam Brands. Jam Brands had its own competitions, and it served as a place where competitors to Varsity, like Rebel Athletics, could market clothing. Once Jam Brands came under Varsity’s control, it ended the marketing arrangement with Rebel. After this merger, Varsity essentially had total power over the sport, including setting terms and conditions over pricing for competitions and compensation for judges.

A Merge to Monopoly

Varsity should not exist in its current form; many of its mergers, and certainly that of Jam Brands, were likely illegal. We have a law designed to stop anti-competitive mergers. It’s called the Clayton Act, and it is enforced by the Department of Justice Antitrust Division and/or the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Such investigations usually involve soliciting feedback from industry and asking questions of the merging parties. Most mergers are cleared, while a few, particularly in concentrated industries, are challenged.

In the case of the Varsity-Jam Brand merger, the transaction reduced the number of players in a market from two to one, a ‘merge to monopoly,’ so it should have received real attention. And there were at least rudimentary investigations. I got ahold of a complaint from 2015 by a former gym owner and Varsity ex-employee explaining, in detail, to the DOJ and FTC, what Varsity was doing. The complainant predicted *exactly* what would happen, and noted that Varsity had bought dozens of event producing and uniform production companies as part of its plan to monopolize the industry. (You can read the complaint here).

The key for today’s merger analysis is consumer price, so the crux of the complaint were these sentences: “Cheerleading uniform prices have gone through the roof due to Varsity forcing their company on to unsuspecting gym owners…. Competition costs are so high that many athletes have to quit the sport due to the cost. (Competitions and Uniforms are the largest fees any athlete pays in respect to being on a team.)” Enforcers should have recognized that higher consumer prices was a signal of market power, and so this merger was worth blocking. But they did not. Why? Who received the complaint, and who was in charge of the bureau of enforcement when Varsity formed its monopoly?

The answer, as far as I can tell, is a lawyer named Debbie Feinstein, who DOJ Antitrust was telling complainants to contact about the case. At the time of the merger, Feinstein was the head of enforcement for the FTC, and she has exactly the personality of the kind of person you want as an enforcer. She’s a very hands-on manager, with a forceful personality, deep knowledge of the law, and an aggressive advocate for her clients. She is a respected in the community; trade publication Global Competition Review called her “lawyer of the year,” and Obama DOJ Antitrust chief Bill Bauer said she is “one of the leading antitrust lawyers in the country.”

And yet, despite her eminent qualifications and personal grit, Feinstein comes from a world where enforcing the antitrust laws doesn’t mean protecting competition in markets. For her, it means protecting a specific pro-monopoly vision of the law.

Before she was at the Obama FTC, Feinstein was the head of antitrust at a firm called Arnold and Porter, where she represented clients in the “retail, food, consumer products, healthcare, medical devices, chemicals, industrial equipment and services, and automotive parts” industries, like GE, NBC, Unilever, and Pepsi. Arnold and Porter is, like several of the big law firms in New York and D.C., part of the world of biglaw, the repository of legal and governing expertise upon which both parties draw. It’s a shadow government, with people out of power working in biglaw, and then returning to public service to punch their ticket.

The philosophy of much of the biglaw antitrust world is that technocrats should be in charge of our industries, and antitrust law should be narrowly constrained. When in doubt, defer to merging parties, because in their view it is inappropriate for government to interfere with the liberty to monopolize. Biglaw types work for monopolies, structure monopolies, and tend to believe that monopolists deliver better prices and quality for consumers. Feinstein is part of this world, she largely agrees with the philosophical underpinnings of it, and when she was in public service, she believes in concentration as a social virtue. While at the FTC, for instance, Feinstein oversaw one of the key mergers allowing CVS to become even more dominant in health care.

At roughly the same Feinstein helped allow Varsity’s merge to monopoly, reporter Dave Dayen wrote a profile on her, noting that “during Feinstein’s tenure, the FTC has largely abandoned its attempts to block mergers.” Dayen didn’t mention Varsity-Jam Brands, instead focusing on drug prices and mergers. Here’s the story:

Earlier this month, the FTC let Dyax’s $6 billion acquisition by Shire Pharmaceuticals go through, choosing to take no action before the antitrust waiting period lapsed. Even Wall Street expected a challenge; when it didn’t transpire, Dyax’s stock jumped 13 percent.

It was the latest in a rush of mergers and acquisitions in the industry. There were $221 billion in pharma mergers in just the first half of 2015, even more than the $162 billion for the entire previous year.

And consider what these giant companies do: Valeant Pharmaceuticals has acquired, licensed, or agreed to co-promote over 140 drugs since 2008, and as part of its strategy it buys the rights to rival drugs and increases the prices overnight by as much as 525 percent.

Horizon, another drugmaker, sells a medication called Duexis, which costs $1,500 a month, even though its component drugs cost no more than $40 a month. In 2013, Horizon acquired Deuxis’ main competitor, called Vimovo, and raised the price 600 percent.

Questcor performed the same trick by buying the main rival to its immune-deficiency drug. The FTC never challenged any of these purchase agreements.

People complain a lot about high drug prices, and rightfully so. But there are now even more serious issues. I wrote about supply chains and China last week, in particular medical shortages. This problem has been with us for over twenty years, despite Congressional action. Why? “Drug shortages exploded in 2001” because of mergers, according to pharmacist Erin Fox. Consolidation in this space has led to less production, and to the elimination of niche production and/or the offshoring of production to China. To the elite antitrust bar, being concerned that concentration might reduce resiliency of a supply chain sounds like the irrelevant whining of a non-expert, much like the arguments from a cheer industry participant observing problems with a merge to monopoly.

Today, Feinstein is once a partner at the biglaw firm Arnold and Porter, and the marketing materials on the site show that she’s been key in host of mergers. She was an architect in helping AT&T buy Time Warner, as well as in the rolling up of the dialysis industry in the sale of NxStage Medical to Fresenius Medical Care Holdings. She’s been part of a host of other mergers, but the gist is that Feinstein basically encourages consolidation whether she is in or out of government.

The biglaw world of antitrust lawyers try . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 February 2020 at 6:44 pm

How Much Has the Government Spent at Trump’s Properties? It Won’t Say.

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Ilya Marritz, WNYC, reports in ProPublica:

This month, The Washington Post detailed lots of previously undisclosed government spending at the president’s properties. For example, the Secret Service has paid $650 per night to stay at Mar-a-Lago, despite Eric Trump’s statement that his father’s company would provide rooms “for free — meaning, like, cost for housekeeping.”

The Post’s figures — adding up to $471,000 — are far from complete because government agencies have resisted disclosing their spending at Trump properties.

“He’s paying our money to himself,” the Post’s David Fahrenthold said in our latest episode of “Trump, Inc.” “There must be so much more we haven’t seen.”

While the president has visited his properties on nearly a third of his days since he took office, the Secret Service has not listed its spending on Trump properties in a public database of federal spending. And some of what has been disclosed has been misleading. The Post discovered that the nearly dozen payments listed as “Trump National Golf Club” were actually made to Mar-a-Lago, which is not a golf club.

The White House did not respond to the Post’s questions about the payments. The Secret Service said it always “balances operational security with judicious allocation of resources.” It did not explain why it hadn’t disclosed the spending in the government’s public database. And the Trump Organization said it’s not currently charging the Secret Service $650 per room per night.

There are still plenty of questions. For one: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 February 2020 at 1:30 pm

Split-pea soup recipe

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This is an old standby, and it’s excellent — and very simple to make.

2 cups dried split peas
2 quarts water
1 cup minced celery
1 medium onion finely chopped
1/2 cup diced carrots
1 sprig parsley
1/2 teaspoon pepper
pinch of dill
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon salt

Bring water and peas to boil. Boil gently for 2 minutes, then remove from heat, cover, and let cool.

Add the remaining ingredients. Simmer 3 hours, refrigerate overnight. Heat to boil, simmer 5 minutes, serve.

Variations: use a bunch of celery, including leaves; use some thyme, cayenne; use more parsley. Also: try skipping the bay leaf — so far as I can tell, it contributes nothing. YMMV.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 February 2020 at 1:25 pm

Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen, annotated

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This is almost certainly one of those posts that I will continue to revise over time. I have arranged these by the number of daily servings, where ☐ = 1 serving. I list the foods I mostly eat just to stimulate thought. I believe in cooking a batch of food and refrigerating it, and then take a portion from each batch (grain, beans, greens, vegetables) to make a meal, adding nuts/seeds, and flaxseeds as desired. Fruit I generally eat between meals, with berries as a dessert.

Beverages — ☐ ☐ ☐ ☐ ☐
Serving: 12 ounces water, sparkling water, flavored unsweetened water (for example, La Croix water), tea (black, green, or white — for me mostly white), coffee. If your sweeten the beverage, use erythritol, not refined sugar or artificial sweeteners. I mostly drink unsweetened iced tea, either white tea or hibiscus tea, though I start the day with a pint of hot tea, usually a black tea or a black-and-green combination (for example, Murchie’s No. 10 blend).

Beans — ☐ ☐ ☐
Serving: 1/4 cup hummus; or 1/2 cup cooked beans (black, pinto, chickpea, soy, kidney, navy, Lima, red, and others, including mixed beans), split peas, lentils, edamame, tempeh, or tofu. A bowl of split-pea soup would be a serving.

Whole grains — ☐ ☐ ☐
Serving: 1/2 cup cooked intact whole grain: oat groats, hulled barley, wheat berries, whole rye, kamut, spelt, emmer, farro, einkorn, red fife, etc.; or pseudograins like amaranth, buckwheat groats, quinoa, or chia seed. I avoid grain that has been cut (steel-cut oats, pot barley) or polished (pearled barley, white rice) or smashed (rolled oats, barley flakes) or pulverized (foods made from flour such as bread, pasta, bagels, English muffins, pancakes, tortillas, boxed cereals, and so on). I do not eat rice or corn in any form (steamed, chips, popped, cakes, etc.). I cook a batch of intact whole grain and refrigerate it to make the starch resistant and not so quickly digested. I generally use 1/3 cup for a serving.

Fruit Other Than Berries — ☐ ☐ ☐
Serving: 1 medium fruit or 1 cup cut-up fruit or 1/4 cup dried fruit. Key is to keep a good selection of fruit on hand. I keep a fruit bowl filled with apples, citrus (navel oranges, tangerines, lemons), pears, and in season persimmons, peaches, plums, nectarines, and others. Watermelon is a good source of lycopene. Cantaloupe, musk melon. Never bananas or grapes. (It’s easy to make a fruit-fly trap to stop that nuisance.)

Greens — ☐ ☐
Serving: 1 cup raw or 1/2 cup cooked greens, either a single green or a combination of greens: cabbage (green, red, savoy, or Napa), kale, collards, spinach, chard, dandelion greens, mustard greens, tung ho, bok choy, turnip greens, Brussels sprouts, romaine, leaf lettuce, watercress, endive, radicchio, chicory. Note that many of these count both as a green and as a cruciferous vegetable.

Other Vegetables — ☐ ☐
Serving: 1 cup raw leafy vegetable; or 1/2 cup raw or cooked non-leafy vegetables, which can be one vegetable or a mix of vegetables. I usually cook a batch of mixed vegetables, always with allium (garlic, leeks (including leaves), spring onions (including leaves), scallions (including leaves), shallots, red or yellow onion, sweet onion), raw/cooked beets, cooked tomatoes, tomato paste (no salt added), asparagus, eggplant (Japanese, Italian, Indian), carrots, celery, green beans, sugar snap peas, snow peas, red/yellow/orange bell pepper, chiles (jalapeño, habanero, serrano, Anaheim, poblano, banana, Thai (green or red), New Mexico green chiles), mushrooms (white, crimini, oyster), bitter melon, summer squash, zucchini, chayote squash, winter squash (delicata, kombucha, butternut, buttercup, ambercup, acorn, carnival, spaghetti). I avoid potatoes in all forms (chips, baked, hash browns, french fries, etc.) I usually cook a batch of mixed vegetables, and cook them just al dente — it’s not as though I’m cooking pork.

Cruciferous Vegetables — ☐
Serving: 1 cup raw or 1/2 cup cooked broccoli, broccolini, rapini (broccoli rabe), romanesco broccoli, Chinese broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage (red, green, savoy, Napa), Brussels sprouts, kale, collards, bok choy (also: baby bok choy, Shaghai bok choy), turnip, rutabaga (Swedes), turnip greens, watercress, mustard greens, mustard seed, kohlrabi, arugula (rocket), watercress, radish, daikon; or 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish from the refrigerated section. I often use 1-2 tablespoons horseradish to ensure I’m getting three servings of cruciferous vegetables, adding it to vegetables or greens.

Berries — ☐
Serving: 1/2 cup fresh or frozen. I usually buy frozen mixed berries (blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries).

Flaxseeds — ☐
Serving: 1 tablespoon, ground

Nuts/seeds — ☐
Serving: 1/4 cup unsalted walnuts, pecans, almonds, cashews, pistachios, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, brazil nuts, pepitas, sunflower seed, hempseed; or 2 tablespoons nut butter (raw, unsalted, no sugar, salt, or other additives). I eat these by themselves or mixed with berries or vegetables or greens or grain.

Spices — ☐
Serving: 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric (always) plus other salt-free herbs and spices: minced fresh turmeric, minced ginger root, dried mint, Ceylon cinnamon (never cassia cinnamon), ground cloves, oregano, Mexican oregano, marjoram, thyme, rosemary, dried basil, curry powder, ground chiles (ancho, chipotle, chimayo, cayenne), ground cumin, amla powder, and others. I add no salt  to food during or after cooking, and I eat no salty foods (such as sauerkraut, pickles, capers, olives, and so on). I use pepper sauce, but pick brands with low sodium content.

Exercise — ☐
Serving: 90 minutes moderate activity or 40 minutes vigorous activity. Nordic walking is my choice. Strength-training exercise is also advisable.

Typical meals for me

The following meals check all the boxes. Generally I get “extra credit” because (for example) the greens might be kale (2 servings = 2 checks for cruciferous vegetables plus 2 checks for greens), plus I usually mix 1 tablespoon horseradish into a meal (another check for cruciferous vegetables).

Before breakfast
1 pint hot tea

Breakfast
1 serving beans,
1 serving grain,
1 serving other vegetables,
1 serving greens,
1 serving ground flaxseed,
1 serving ground turmeric,
1 serving unsalted nuts or unsalted pepitas,
1 serving beverage (unsweetened oat milk)

Snack
1 piece fruit

Lunch
1 serving beans,
1 serving grain,
1 serving greens,
1 tablespoon horseradish (cruciferous vegetable)
1 piece fruit

Snack
1 piece fruit

Dinner
1 serving beans,
1 serving grain,
1 serving other vegetables,
1 serving berries

Beverages
During afternoon and even I consume multiples glasses of iced tea (white or hibiscus)

Exercise
Nordic walking, and I use GPS Odometer, a smartphone app, to measure the walk in terms of time, distance, and speed. Example from today: 1.89 miles at 3.16mph, duration 00:35:54.

I’ve started a spreadsheet to keep a lot of the stats.

As you can see, the basic meal pattern is beans+grain and then either greens or other vegetables, except breakfast is loaded: greens and other vegetables, along with flaxseed, nuts/seeds, and spices. Thus my big meal is breakfast.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 February 2020 at 1:11 pm

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