Later On

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

Archive for July 11th, 2013

The Making of “Longbird”

leave a comment »

Totally fascinating, explained here.

Written by Leisureguy

11 July 2013 at 7:24 pm

Posted in Movies & TV, Video

Petraeus: He infects what he touches.

leave a comment »

At Crooked Time Corey Robin lays out the various Petraeus scandals:

Petraeusgate is a rapidly unfolding scandal of multiple parts and pieces. I mostly focus here on the third, which involves a potential cover-up. The first two—the crimes, as it were—are more important. But if you want to get to the newest and most scandalous revelations, jump to the third section of this post.

(I won’t touch here on the ethics of hiring a man who has been publicly linked to the torture of Iraqi detainees, which may be the gravest evil of all. Nor will I touch on the larger issue this scandal has raised: our failing-up political culture, where fuck-ups in the power elite get rewarded for their fuck-ups. Alex Pareene’s got that beat covered.)

Scandal #1 (with apologies to Harold Lasswell): Who Gets What…

The first scandal is CUNY’s decision to pay General David Petraeus anywhere from $150k to $200k to teach a course at the Macaulay Honors College next year. A cash-strapped public university—which pays its adjuncts, who do most of the teaching, about $3000 per course—forking over 50 times that amount to a celebrity hire: it doesn’t look good.

Particularly when CUNY is giving Petraeus a bevy of graduate students to do the work of designing, administering, and grading for the course. This is not a large lecture, mind you, but a small seminar. (I’ve been teaching at CUNY for 14 years and like most of my colleagues I’ve never had a TA or any kind of graduate assistant.)

In a February 23 email, Petraeus says that he already has a group of Harvard research assistants working on the design and prep of the course.

So his plan for the fall is to roll into town every Monday morning, “do some prep and then lead the seminar” on Monday afternoon. Where any course at CUNY requires most of us to spend a lot of time outside the classroom (prepping, grading, office hours, etc.), Petraeus’s duties pretty much come down to the three hours a week he’ll spend in the classroom. As Gawker pointed out, that works out to $2250 per hour.

Scandal #2 (with further apologies to Harold Laswell): …When and How

The second scandal is: who’s going to pay for all this? In his February 22 offer letter to Petraeus, outgoing CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein writes:

We are prepared to offer you a salary of $200,000 per annum, supplemented by funds from a private gift. While I do not yet have a commitment for such a gift, Sid Goodfriend and I agreed that, working together, we can make it a reality.

In a May 29 letter to Petraeus, the status of which has yet to be determined—more on this below—Macaulay dean Ann Kirschner writes:

Your compensation consists of $150,000 per annum. As we have discussed, this may be supplemented by funds from a private gift, though that has not been secured.

A lot of ink has been spilled on the question of whether taxpayer or private money will fund this position. But that’s a distinction without a difference. As Scott Lemieux points out, the “private donors are paying for this” line of argument

could fly as a defense of CUNY’s conduct under one circumstance only: if a fundraiser approached CUNY offering $150K for this purpose alone and could not be persuaded to allow CUNY to do something useful with it instead. Otherwise, as I said it’s no defense at all; the fact that CUNY is willing to spend money and raise it later for this purpose is not meaningfully different than using pre-existing funds. (After all, CUNY can only ask the same people for money so many times; money raised for purpose A probably can’t be raised for purpose B, and the choice of what to raise money for reflects the administration’s priorities.)

But this is all bullshit anyway, as Scott goes onto explain, because as of the morning of July 1, according to CUNY’s own spokesperson, the funds had not yet been secured. As Gawker reporter J.K Trotter wrote in that piece July 1 piece:

But it seems like he’s [Petraeus] far less coveted among wealthy donors. When asked if the “private gift” sought to fund Petraeus’s salary had been nailed down — less than a month before Petraeus begins teaching — the school’s Director of Communications emailed back: “The University is in the process of fundraising for this position.”

On the afternoon of July 1, just hours after Gawker broke the story of Petraeus’s salary, CUNYreleased an email in which Kirschner wrote Petraeus:

Chancellor Matthew Goldstein has provided private funding for your position, which will be paid through the CUNY Research Foundation.

It’s still unclear from this email whether private funding has been secured or not. It’s also unclear whether that private money will fund the entirety of Petraeus’s costs or merely the supplement to his $150k base salary. But again, the private/public distinction hardly matters.

As a side note, CUNY grad student and Jacobin editor Peter Frase has raised another serious concern about the use of Research Foundation monies. Check out his comment here.

Scandal #3: The Cover-up . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

11 July 2013 at 6:15 pm

Supermarket/discount store distribution

leave a comment »

An interesting article, with this graph:

grocery stores

There’s much more at the link, including more graphs. Go read.

Written by Leisureguy

11 July 2013 at 5:50 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life, Food

Equally important to the Catholic hierarchy, I’m sure

leave a comment »

Take a look: Leaks are illegal! Oh, and also sexual violence, prostitution, and possession of child pornography.

Written by Leisureguy

11 July 2013 at 5:42 pm

Posted in Religion

The U.S. today

leave a comment »

As Alabama Cuts Benefits, Desperate Man ‘Robs’ Bank To Get Food, Shelter In Jail

My understanding of why we form communities and states is so that we are able to help one another and improve the lot of all. We pool our resources and (for example) build roads and schools, take care of the sick and the poor, and in general comport ourselves like caring adults. Obviously, not all feel that way—the GOP is a prominent exception.

Written by Leisureguy

11 July 2013 at 5:22 pm

Posted in Daily life, Government

Climate Change Will Make It Harder For Us to Adapt to…..Climate Change

leave a comment »

Very interesting post by Kevin Drum. One example: drought (see below).

blog_climate_change_power

Written by Leisureguy

11 July 2013 at 4:47 pm

Posted in Global warming

What’s in it for Obama? – review of a book on the CIA

leave a comment »

Stephen Holmes writes at the London Review of Books:

  • The CIA, a Secret Army and a War at the Ends of the Earth by Mark Mazzetti
    Penguin, 381 pp, £22.50, April, ISBN 978 1 59420 480 7

‘It is not a function of not trying to take people to Guantánamo,’ the US attorney general, Eric Holder, told a Senate subcommittee on 6 June as he struggled to defend President Obama’s targeted killing programme. His ungainly syntax betrayed his acute embarrassment. He is not the only government spokesman who finds it difficult to answer questions about America’s loosing of drones onto the world.

A central thesis of Mark Mazzetti’s book is that the CIA and the Pentagon have opted to hunt and kill suspected enemies in order to avoid the extra-legal tactics of capture and interrogation adopted under Obama’s predecessor. Mazzetti returns to this charge numerous times, in a characteristically understated way: ‘With few options for detaining terror suspects, and little appetite for extensive ground operations in Somalia, killing sometimes was a far more appealing option than capturing.’ Or: ‘Killing was the preferred course of action in Somalia, and as one person involved in the mission planning put it, “We didn’t capture him because it would have been hard to find a place to put him.”’ In other words, the administration doubled-down on what look suspiciously like extrajudicial executions, faute de mieux, after shuttering Bush’s black sites and deciding not to send anyone else to Guantánamo, where approximately a third of the hundred detainees on hunger strike are receiving a macabre form of Obamacare through tubes in their noses.

Mazzetti adds, as a second unspoken and perhaps unspeakable explanation for Obama’s escalation of drone warfare, that the members of the intelligence establishment were afraid they could be held legally responsible for engaging in torture, a felony under American law. If we follow this account, Obama’s controversial ramping up of drone killings was driven in part by rumblings of rebellion at the CIA, where fear of being hung out to dry by bait-and-switch politicians is legendary. By the time Obama stepped smartly into office, the agency was apparently preoccupied by the possibility that ‘covert officers working at the CIA prisons could be prosecuted for their work.’ This dampened the interrogators’ enthusiasm for extracting information by physically and psychologically abusing their prisoners: ‘each hit the CIA took for its detention-and-interrogation programme pushed CIA leaders further to one side of a morbid calculation that the agency would be far better off killing, rather than jailing, terror suspects.’ According to John Rizzo, a career CIA lawyer, Obama officials ‘never came out and said they would start killing people because they couldn’t interrogate them, but the implication was unmistakable … Once the interrogation was gone, all that was left was the killing.’ Summarising his interviews with Rizzo and other insiders, Mazzetti concludes: ‘Armed drones, and targeted killing in general, offered a new direction for a spy agency that had begun to feel burned by its years in the detention-and-interrogation business.’

The inflammatory implication of this charge is that ‘liberal criticism’ of an unnecessarily harsh and negligently supervised but only sporadically lethal national security policy bears some responsibility for Obama’s swing towards sudden death by drones. Mazzetti himself does not mention it, but the thesis that liberal national security principles produce more cruelty than they prevent has long been a favourite conceit of conservatives. Before he became attorney general in Bush’s second term, Michael Mukasey informed civil libertarians that they, and not those who illegally tortured prisoners of war, were going to have blood on their hands. The offence of the liberals, he claimed bizarrely in the Wall Street Journal, was to advocate judicial oversight of executive decisions about detention: ‘it bears mention that one unintended outcome of a Supreme Court ruling exercising jurisdiction over Guantánamo detainees may be that, in the future, capture of terrorism suspects will be foregone in favour of killing them.’ All that advocates of legal rights were going to achieve was the death of suspected terrorists, not their fair treatment.

But has Obama’s switch from a policy of detain and interrogate to a policy of kill on sight really followed an anti-liberal script written by Bush-era hawks?

The speculation has a ring of truth. At the very least, Obama’s armed drone programme is a blood relative of Bush’s original unindicted detention programme. Their kinship is suggested by the shared principle that suspected enemy combatants do not deserve hearings to prove they are innocent of the charges against them. The claim that both policies derive from the same sensibility is also supported by the career trajectory of John Brennan, a veteran of the CIA who recently became the agency’s director. Having served as its deputy executive director under George W. Bush, Brennan returned to government in 2008 as Obama’s chief counterterrorism adviser and, in some accounts, as a kind of father confessor, blessing the president’s lethal strikes as fully compliant with Catholic thinking about morally just wars. Be this as it may, Brennan played a key role in the remarkable transformation of the CIA into ‘a killing machine, an organisation consumed with man hunting’. More concretely, ‘America’s kill list’, during Obama’s first term, was ‘co-ordinated in the basement office of John Brennan’.

There’s a clue here to the origins of Obama’s drone policy. Under Bush, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

11 July 2013 at 3:38 pm

I’m using DuckDuckGo now—have you tried it?

leave a comment »

I learned about it in Tim Lee’s interview of the founder.

Written by Leisureguy

11 July 2013 at 3:35 pm

Posted in Software

Life in Guantanamo Continues to Improve as Genital Searches Are Halted

with one comment

Elspeth Reeve in the Atlantic Wire:

The U.S. government has taken another step toward showing its great concern about the well-being and comfort of Guantanamo’s 166 detainees by ending searches of their genitals,–granted, only because it is being required to. On Thursday, Royce Lamberth, chief judge of the U.S. District Court in Washington, ordered the genital searches to stop. The comes only days after the military decided that, out of respect for the detainees’ religious faith and individual convictions, during Ramadan it would force-feed 45 hunger strikers only before dawn and after sunset. It seems life continues to improve for the men held at Gitmo, where fewer than two-thirds of them are on hunger strike, seeking to escape indefinite detention without trial through suicide.

It appears the genital searches were rather extensive: “The detainees had complained that guards had recently begun touching and holding detainees’ genital and anal areas during searches,” the Associated Press’ Frederic J. Frommer reports. The genital searches began when detainees had to meet with their lawyers in a location outside the prison. Judge Lamberth ordered ruled that guards can only grab a detainee’s waistband and shake his pants to see if there’s something hidden. . . .

Continue reading.

Forced feeding is considered torture, not that Obama gives a shit.

Written by Leisureguy

11 July 2013 at 3:33 pm

Is memory reconsolidation the key to transformation?

leave a comment »

Bruce Ecker, Robin Ticic, and Laurel Hulley have an interesting article in Psychotherapy Networker:

Nearly 90 years since F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote his classic The Great Gatsby, the new film version has given renewed currency to the novel’s famous final line: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” What’s afforded this passage such staying power is not only its haunting poetry, but the worldview it expresses—however hard we may try to reinvent ourselves, we’re doomed to remain captives of our pasts. Another celebrated author, William Faulkner, put it this way: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Eugene O’Neill penned these words: “There is no present or future, only the past, happening over and over again, now.”

Throughout its history, many in the field of psychotherapy have been similarly pessimistic about people’s ability to liberate themselves from the past. It can even be argued that most modern cognitive-behavioral approaches are based on the assumption that, at best, therapists can only incrementally create new emotional and behavioral habits that work around—but don’t actually transform—the deep-seated emotional programming that causes clients’ most visceral distress. This way of thinking, however, doesn’t reflect our current understanding of how memory functions, nor do the therapeutic approaches that aim simply to manage or circumvent entrenched emotions, beliefs, and behaviors rooted in painful past experiences.

While most neuroscientists once believed that implicit memories, avoidance reactions, and rigid schemas were locked permanently in the brain’s synaptic pathways, recent brain research shows that, under certain conditions and within a brief timeframe, we can not only unlock these neural pathways, but actually erase them and substitute new learning. What psychotherapy has added to the discoveries of the research lab is a range of experiential methods that make it possible for therapists to help clients move on from the past, allowing it to release its terrible grip on the present.

This type of swift, deep, enduring change—popularly known as the clinical breakthrough—has occurred in a wide range of relatively new “deep change” approaches, all of which have a strong experiential component: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, Somatic Experiencing, Emotion-Focused Couples Therapy, Coherence Therapy, Internal Family Systems Therapy, Hakomi, and Neuro-Linguistic Programming, to name just a few. Of course, therapists have used all sorts of metaphors and theoretical concepts to describe breakthroughs since the emergence of our field. The difference today is that through understanding what’s happening in the brain, we can unshroud the mystery of what’s happening in the consulting room and make such breakthroughs happen far more regularly in our offices.

Locked and Unlocked Emotional Learnings

Therapeutic breakthroughs don’t come easily for good reason. As relatively puny, hairless, vulnerable creatures in a world of stronger, more aggressive predators, we’ve evolved to favor false positives—reacting to learned signs of danger even in the absence of actual danger—over false negatives—ignoring potential threats. Since before our oldest hominid ancestors walked the earth, our nervous systems were biologically wired to keep fully alive the memory circuits of learned threat and danger for the duration of our lives, guaranteeing that we won’t ignore cues to potentially perilous situations that could threaten our survival. From this perspective, the staying power of intense, distressing emotional arousal isn’t a sign of dysfunction—quite the opposite. The fact that raw feelings of fear and rage can be retriggered by implicit cues learned in the past for alerting us to threats, even if the threat is no longer present, indicates that the emotional brain is functioning properly.

The hidden workings of emotional memory are greatly clarified by . . .

Continue reading

Written by Leisureguy

11 July 2013 at 2:24 pm

And the FBI will not get better

leave a comment »

As noted in the Democracy Now! headline: “Senate Set to Confirm New FBI Head Who OK’d Waterboarding, Defends Mass Spying, Indefinite Detention”. You should look at that program. The transcript begins:

At his confirmation hearing to head the FBI, former Bush administration Deputy Attorney General James Comey refused to criticize the broad, ongoing collection of the phone records of Americans and defended the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens deemed to be enemy combatants. Comey also explained why he signed off on a memo authorizing waterboarding while serving under Attorney General John Ashcroft. We get reaction from former special FBI agent Coleen Rowley, who served with the Bureau from 1981 to 2004. The New York Times just published her op-ed titled “Questions for the FBI Nominee.” In 2002, Time magazine named her and two other female whistleblowers as Time’s “Person of the Year,” for warning about the FBI’s failure to help prevent the 9/11 attacks.

TRANSCRIPT
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: In our next segment, we’ll be looking at the trial of Bradley Manning. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: We turn now to the confirmation hearing of James Comey, President Obama’s nominee to run the FBI for the next 10 years, replacing Robert Mueller. Comey served as deputy attorney general under John Ashcroft in the Bush administration. In this role, Comey signed off on a controversial legal memo authorizing waterboarding of prisoners and approved of the indefinite detention of José Padilla, a U.S. citizen who was held on a military brig for three years without charge. During his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Comey was questioned about these issues as well as his views on domestic surveillance. This is committee chair Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY: I’ll ask you the same question I asked Attorney General Mukasey when he was before this committee for confirmation. I found—actually, I found his answer unsatisfactory, but I’ll ask you the same question. Do you agree that waterboarding is torture and is illegal?

JAMES COMEY: Yes.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY: Thank you. And would you agree to answer this question the same way no matter who is president?

JAMES COMEY: Oh, certainly.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY: Thank you. Now, the surveillance powers of the FBI have grown. Americans are becoming increasingly concerned the FBI is becoming more of a domestic surveillance agency than a crime-fighting, intelligence-gathering organization. The PATRIOTAct, other authorities, they can get vast amounts of information, including the data of law-abiding Americans, something that creates concerns, I know, among my fellow Vermonters. So, do you believe the bulk collection of metadata for domestic telephone calls or emails is appropriate, even when the majority of individuals with whom the calls or emails are associated are law-abiding Americans?

JAMES COMEY: Senator, I am not familiar with the details of the current programs. Obviously, I haven’t been cleared for anything like that, and I’ve been out of government for eight years. I do know, as a general matter, that the collection of metadata and analysis of metadata is a valuable tool in counterterrorism.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: That was FBI nominee James Comey. While Comey described waterboarding as torture and illegal, he acknowledged signing a memo authorizing its use when he was in the Bush Justice Department. Comey did not say why his view on waterboarding had changed since 2005.

During the hearing, senators repeatedly praised Comey for refusing to reauthorize the Bush administration’s warrantless spy program while serving as acting attorney general in the place of John Ashcroft, who was recovering from surgery. Comey alerted Ashcroft after top White House aides rushed to Ashcroft’s hospital bed in a failed bid to win his approval for the spying. According to news reports, the surveillance program later resumed under a similar legal framework, and senior Bush administration officials have said Comey raised few objections to other surveillance programs. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

11 July 2013 at 2:19 pm

The FBI is not your friend

leave a comment »

Although the FBI still does some investigations (despite incredibly sloppy work: their forensics lab problem is but one example), their mission these days seems to be building a case against people the government doesn’t like and wants to silence—by throwing them in prison or—even better—getting them to realize that if they are not silent, they will be in prison for a long time. (Aaron Schwartz was facing a 105-year sentence when he committed suicide, which more or less was the result the DoJ and FBI wanted: to silence him once and for all.)

Thomas Hedges in Salon has a column on John Kiriakou’s view of the FBI. (Kiriakou is the guy who informed the country about the tortuer program that our government had secretly instigated—secretly, because the government believed that the public would not care for it, perhaps, or (more likely) because it was a war crime. Fortunately for the perpetrators, it turns out that Obama doesn’t care about war crimes.

John Kiriakou, the former CIA officer who blew the whistle on Bush’s torture program and is now in prison, sent an open letter to Edward Snowden last week warning him not to trust the FBI.

“DO NOT,” Kiriakou wrote, “under any circumstances, cooperate with the FBI. FBI agents will lie, trick, and deceive you. They will twist your words and play on your patriotism to entrap you. They will pretend to be people they are not – supporters, well-wishers, and friends – all the while wearing wires to record your out-of-context statements to use against you. The FBI is the enemy; it’s part of the problem, not the solution.”

These are the words of a registered Republican who voted for Gary Johnson, who the Rosenberg Fund for Children denied a grant, informing him that he wasn’t “liberal enough,” Kiriakou says, for the award — and who last year received a birthday card from Jerry Falwell Jr.

Kiriakou is the first CIA veteran to be imprisoned. It was after he blew the whistle on Bush’s torture program that the CIA, FBI, and Justice Department came down on him, at first charging him with aiding the enemy and later convicting him of disclosing the identities of undercover colleagues at the CIA.

The FBI raided his house in the process. They took his computers. They also took his family photos because, they said, he could have embedded secret messages in them.

“I did not start this thing with the idea that I was going to be a whistleblower,” Kiriakou told Salon in December, two months before being sent off to a low-security prison in Loretto, Pennsylvania with a 30-month sentence.

I interviewed Kiriakou for about an hour and half at that time, a couple of months before he went to prison, waiting to publish it until he was well into serving his sentence. The idea was to outline the slope of his descent – his journey from the powerful to the powerless.

“In this weird, roundabout way,” he told me then, “the Justice Department, the FBI and the CIA made me the anti-torture guy, which I never set out to be…But over the years,” despite the initial intentions, “my feelings have grown stronger and stronger” against torture, “that torture is not right under any circumstances.”

Recruited by the CIA while in graduate school, Kiriakou spent most of his life on the side of the establishment, leading raids against top al-Qaeda officials in Pakistan as the Chief of counterterrorism operations, including the one in which Abu Zubaydah was captured.



He had said in an ABC interview with Brian Ross that al-Qaeda members “hate us more than they love life,” that they wanted to kill every American and every Jew because, he said, it’s just who they are.

That was also the interview in which Kiriakou pissed off the power establishment, becoming the whistleblower he had never set out to be. He was on Ross’ show defending himself against allegations that he, personally, had tortured Zubaydah. But what he didn’t know was that torture as a state policy had never been confirmed in any official capacity, even though everyone in Washington knew about it.

Five years before, in 2002, Kiriakou had never heard of “enhanced interrogation techniques.” He’d just left Greece where he was doing counterterrorism work when the CIA decided to move him to a different office in Pakistan. In the interim, a fellow CIA officer approached Kiriakou and said that they were going to use some of these interrogation techniques on Zubaydah.

“I had never heard of water boarding,” Kiriakou said. “So [the CIA officer] explained to me that it simulates drowning and that we’re gonna keep him up for nine, ten days at a time, and we’re gonna put him in a dog cage, and – [Zubaydah] had this fear of bugs – we’re gonna put cockroaches in the cage. I said that wasn’t something I wanted to be involved in.”

Kiriakou was alarmed by the proposal. He consulted a senior agency officer who called it “torture,” Kiriakou said, and then told him “‘that this was a slippery slope, that someone would die and there would be a congressional investigation. Do you want that?’” the officer asked. “I said ‘no.’”

The officer would later deny that this conversation took place.

Kiriakou and other officers were told that the CIA rarely used these interrogation techniques. Internally, it was reported that Zubaydah had been water boarded one time. It wasn’t until spring of 2009, five years after leaving the agency, that Kiriakou found out that was a lie. Zubaydah, in fact, had been water boarded 83 times according to the inspector general’s report. They had tortured him before getting legal approval, “in anticipation of getting permission,” Kiriakou said.

“It was a cover up,” Kiriakou said. “Everyone is corrupt I’ve come to learn.”

The incident, coupled with all the travel, rubbed Kiriakou the wrong way and in 2004 he stepped down from his position.

“I resigned to spend more time with my kids,” he said. “I was tired of going off to Baghdad and Kabul and Yemen.”

Kiriakou worked as a consultant for the Big Four accounting firm Deloitte in the years following, before moving on to ABC News as a terrorism expert. With his security clearance gone, he fell out of the loop — until he got the phone call from Brian Ross.

“I had been out four almost four years at that point,” Kiriakou said. “I had stopped paying attention to this kind of stuff. I was vaguely aware that Human Rights Watch had reported that prisoners had been water boarded and Amnesty was talking about it.”

It was true that the public knew. But Kiriakou went too far when he detailed the approval process. Bush had been defending the administration by saying that any cases of torture were because of rogue officers.

“I said no, no, no. This had the signature of the President on it,” he said. “And not just the President but Condi Rice as National Security Advisor, John Ashcroft as the Attorney General, George Tenet as Director of the CIA and about a dozen lawyers from the National Security Council.

“And it wasn’t just that one day Tenet signed this paper and then they started torturing people,” Kiriakou said. “It was every single time they wanted to torture someone, they had to get the [Director of Central Intelligence] signature.”

“And so I confirmed it,” he told me, “confirmed that torture was a state policy and when I confirmed it, my whole life changed.” . . .

Continue reading.

Lucky for those ordering the torture that Obama condones what they did and has agreed to protect them—which makes him an accessory after the fact. But more and more the wealthy/powerful are not subject to the law.

Written by Leisureguy

11 July 2013 at 2:01 pm

Now I can save money by not buying wild-salmon oil

with 3 comments

:sigh: As Steve of Kafeneio will surely observe, when you read a finding on some specific nutrient—particularly a nutrient that is extracted and concentrated—it saves time to simply forget the finding, because some years later a counter-finding will come out. Now we know that too little salt is bad—and perhaps/probably we’d be better using sea salt than pure sodium chloride—and here comes the information that I should stop already with the salmon-oil capsules:

Everyone knows that fish oil is good for you, right? It’s a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are marketed to reduce the risk of just about everything from heart disease to Alzheimer’s.

But a startling study shows men who have the highest levels of these compounds – the kinds found in fish but not in vegetable sources — have a higher risk of prostate cancer. Men with the very highest levels had a 71 percent higher risk of high-grade prostate cancer – the kind most likely to spread and kill, they report in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

It might be a sign that popping a pill is not only possibly a waste of money – it might be downright dangerous. And eating fish too often might be, also. . .

Continue reading.

My vegan and vegetarian friends will be interested in this paragraph:

Fatty acids found in vegetable oils, flaxseeds and other vegetable sources – including alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) – did not affect prostate cancer risk, the researchers found.

Written by Leisureguy

11 July 2013 at 1:13 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Health, Science

The Secret to Finland’s Success With Schools, Moms, Kids—and Everything

leave a comment »

Some countries seem to be on track. Olga Khazan writes in the Atlantic Monthly:

The country has cheaper medical care, smarter children, happier moms, better working conditions, less-anxious unemployed people, and lower student loan rates than we do. And that probably will never change.

It’s hard not to get jealous when I talk to my extended family.

My cousin’s husband gets 36 vacation days per year, not including holidays. If he wants, he can leave his job for a brief hiatus and come back to a guaranteed position months later.

Tuition at his daughter’s university is free, though she took out a small loan for living expenses. Its interest rate is 1 percent.

My cousin is a recent immigrant, and while she was learning the language and training for jobs, the state gave her 700 euros a month to live on.

“Everyone should get a slice of the cake so that they have what they need to realize their life projects.”

They had another kid six years ago, and though they both work, they’ll collect 100 euros a month from the government until the day she turns 17.

They of course live in Finland, home to saunas, quirky metal bands, and people who have for decades opted for equality and security over keeping more of their paychecks.

Inarguably one of the world’s most generous — and successful — welfare states, the country has a lower infant mortality ratebetter school scores, and a far lower poverty rate than the United States, and it’s the second-happiest countryon earth (the U.S. doesn’t break the top 10). According to the OECD, Finns on average give an 8.8 score to their overall life satisfaction. Americans are at 7.5.

Sometimes when I’m watching the web traffic for stories here at The Atlantic‘s global desk, I’ll notice a surge in readership in one of a couple of archival stories we have about how fantastic Finland is — usually thanks to Reddit or a link from another news site. One is about Finland’s “baby boxes, ” a sort of baby shower the Finnish government throws every mom. A package sent to expecting women contains all the essentials for newborns — everything from diapers to a tiny sleeping bag. (Want to choose your own baby clothes? You can opt instead for the box’s cash value, as my cousin did.)

The other popular story is about Finland’s school system, which ranks as one of the world’s best — with no standardized testing or South Asian-style “cramming” but with lots of customization in the classroom. Oh, and students there also spend fewer hours physically in school than their counterparts in other Western countries.

As the U.S. raises student loan rates, considers cutting food stamps, guts long-term unemployment insurance, and strains to set up its first-ever universal healthcare system, it’s easy to get sucked into articles about a country that has lapped America in certain international metrics but has also kept social protections in place. Like doting parents trying to spur an underperforming child, American liberals seem to periodically ask, “Why can’t you be more like your brother?”

It’s a good debate to have, and in some ways, it seems like there’s no reason why the U.S. shouldn’t borrow from Finland or any other Nordic country — we’re richer and just as committed to improving education and health, after all. Here’s the difference: Finland’s welfare system was hardwired into its economic development strategy, and it hasn’t been seriously challenged by any major political group since. And just as Finland was ramping up its protections for workers, families, and the poor in the 1960s, Americans began to sour on the idea of “welfare” altogether. What’s more, some economists argue that it’sbecause of all that American capitalism contributes to the global economy that countries like Finland — kinder, gentler, but still wealthy — can afford to pamper their citizens. With actual Pampers, no less.

***

Let’s start with mandatory maternity leave, . . .

Continue reading. And do read the whole thing. From the article, a very interesting graph:

africanamericansmagazines

Written by Leisureguy

11 July 2013 at 12:39 pm

Posted in Daily life, Government

More on the corruption of journalism

leave a comment »

David Gregory believes that anyone who gets a paycheck earns $200,000/year or more. That’s a bad sign—and it’s just the tip of the iceberg. As Peter Hart notes on the FAIR blog:

During a discussion of the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”), NBC‘s Meet the Press host David Gregory (7/7/13) said this:

I don’t understand exactly how the exchanges are going to work. I don’t understand all the ins and outs of the employer mandate and how that works. But anybody who gets a paycheck in this country understands one thing, that there’s a new line item. And it says Medicare surtax.

So the tax part’s working. You’re paying more taxes for Obamacare. That part’s working. It makes a lot of people mad.

It’s revealing that someone with Gregory’s job admits that he doesn’t know much about the new healthcare law. (Was he not paying attention  when his guests were talking about every week for months on end? Or were his interviews just not very informative?) But the part that he thinks he does know–that “anybody who gets a paycheck” is paying a new Obamacare tax–isn’t true.

That Additional Medicare Tax is paid by people making over $200,000, as the IRS helpfully explains here. So it doesn’t apply to “anybody who gets a paycheck”–it applies to wealthy people, in the top 2 percent of household income.

Now, of course, being wealthy doesn’t make it impossible to understand life as it is experienced by, say, non-millionaires. But as argued in my recent piece forExtra! (6/13), it can pretty obviously skew one’s perspective.

As the article noted, Gregory is apparently a member of the exclusive Chevy Chase Club, which requires an $80,000 initiation fee.  Perhaps in those circles  everyone is paying this new tax, or the one on investment income. That’s got to make at least some of the people at the country club pretty mad.

But Gregory is just one (highly compensated) person. What is the overall situation? Peter Hart again, writing for FAIR, discussing the “media millionaires”—reporting by and for the 1%:

Mainstream journalism is, we’re often told, in a state of severe crisis. Newsroom employment began to decline as a result of corporate takeovers in the 1990s. Then the digital revolution destroyed the advertising market, plunging the industry into serious doubt about its very business model.

But times aren’t rough all around. There are many pundits and TV anchors who are doing very well in the media world, racking up millions of dollars from their media contracts, book deals and lucrative speaking fees. Though they don’t generally approach the compensation packages awarded to network morning show hosts like Matt Lauer or evening anchors like Diane Sawyer, they’re not exactly hurting.

Of course, being the boss means the biggest payday—and media company CEOs have been posting unbelievable incomes. In 2012, CBS head Les Moonves made $62 million, Disney’s Robert Iger made $37 million and Rupert Murdoch ofFox took home a comparatively modest $22 million (New York Times,5/5/13). Don’t feel sorry for Murdoch, though; as No. 91 on Forbes’ list of the world’s richest people, with an estimated net worth of $11.2 billion, he’s unlikely to go to bed hungry.

The media business outstrips other industries in generously compensating its top executives (New York Times5/5/13), and those resources could of course be put to better use by hiring reporters. But that’s not the way the system works. And it’s not just the bosses getting rich. Indeed, many high-profile members of the media elite live a rather charmed life. The journalism business looks to be in a disastrous state—but the view from the top is just fine.

Thomas Friedman

New York Times foreign affairs columnist Tom Friedman has written a number of bestsellers, and regularly holds forth on outlets like public TV’s Charlie Rose show. All of the globe-trotting and yearning for a “radical centrism” in American politics—where sensible climate policies could be paired with cuts to social spending—have paid off handsomely.

Friedman is married to real estate heiress Ann Bucksbaum, and lives in a “palatial 11,400-square-foot house, now valued at $9.3 million, on a 7½-acre parcel” near the Bethesda Country Club (Washingtonian7/1/06).

Like most media figures, Friedman’s compensation is not reported. But by one relatively outdated account (Washingtonian7/1/06), “His speaking fee recently passed $50,000; with his Times salary, syndication rights, and royalties from his bestselling books, his annual income easily reaches seven figures.”

Some of Friedman’s extracurricular employment has caused controversy. In 2009, the Times public editor (5/24/09) noted that Friedman’s acceptance of a $75,000 speaking fee from a California government agency violated company guidelines.

But clearly such arrangements are worth the potential trouble. That could explain the existence of The Next New World, a gathering scheduled for June in San Francisco. It was billed as an “invitation-only, highly interactive forum” with CEOs, “tech pioneers” and “influential decision-makers”—and, of course, Tom Friedman.

It’s worth keeping in mind that when you read Friedman (1/6/13) complaining that “Obama has spent a lot of time lately bashing the rich” and insisting that it’s time for him “to stop just hammering the wealthy”—as the action movie cliché puts it, this time it’s personal.

David Gregory

As host of NBC’s Meet the Press, David Gregory is paid to quiz politicians on the tough issues of the day. But he offers his own opinions on the show, too; he’s encouraged the Obama White House to propose “big spending cuts” in order to confuse Republicans (1/27/13;FAIR Blog1/29/13). He thinks the White House should have done more to have a “moment in the Rose Garden” with a few corporate CEOs (11/11/12; FAIR Blog11/13/12), and demanded to hear more from the White House about the “hard choices” Americans must make to get by with less (1/29/12). He worried about the problem of Occupy activists “demonizing Wall Street” (10/10/11). He expressed concern that the more people criticize big banks, “the closer you get to wiping out the shareholder completely”—a person “who is not just a fat cat” (2/22/09).

In that sense, Gregory is reflecting what passes for conventional wisdom in corporate media—but also among people in Gregory’s economic class. His salary is not disclosed, but his predecessor, Tim Russert, reportedly made more than $5 million a year (Washington Post5/23/04). As Politico reported (3/15/12), Gregory was seeking membership in the exclusive Chevy Chase Club, which requires an $80,000 “initiation fee.” Gregory was sponsored by a couple of Washington-area real estate moguls.

Like other members of the media elite, . . .

Continue reading. It’s depressing but interesting.

Written by Leisureguy

11 July 2013 at 11:54 am

Posted in Media

The tide in the US is turning against journalists who report what those in power prefer to keep concealed

leave a comment »

At one time, the investigative journalist—those who ferreted out what the powerful were up to—had strong public backing, which the powerful did not much like. Now journalism has in general been replaced by “news” that focuses mainly on celebrities, including nonce-celebrities, and many “journalists” (particularly those who attend the White House Correspondents Dinner) yearn to be among the powerful or at least the wealthy, so the last thing they want to do is to annoy them.

With a new cultural environment, the powerful now feel free to attack journalists. Laws are passed making it a felony to report on corporate abuses and problems in our factory farms and assembly-line meatpacking, whistleblowers (whose help journalists need) are viciously persecuted, and the Obama Administration has even made threatening moves toward journalists.

This undermining of public information is important if the government really is to become a police state, otherwise reports on what’s happening might stir the people up. But the direction we’re going is clear. Here’s a program from Democracy Now! on Barret Browning:

Journalist Barrett Brown spent his 300th day behind bars this week on a range of charges filed after he used information obtained by the hacker group Anonymous to report on the operations of private intelligence firms. Brown faces 17 charges ranging from threatening an FBI agent to credit card fraud for posting a link online to a document that contained stolen credit card data. But according to his supporters, Brown is being unfairly targeted for daring to investigate the highly secretive world of private intelligence and military contractors. Using information Anonymous took from the firm HBGary Federal, Brown helped discover a secret plan to tarnish the reputations of WikiLeaks and journalist Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian. Brown similarly analyzed and wrote about the millions of internal company emails from Stratfor Global Intelligence that were leaked in 2011. We speak to Peter Ludlow, professor of philosophy at Northwestern University, whose article “The Strange Case of Barrett Brown” recently appeared in The Nation. “Considering that the person who carried out the actual Stratfor hack had several priors and is facing a maximum of 10 years, the inescapable conclusion is that the problem is not with the hack itself but with Brown’s journalism,” Ludlow argues. He adds that the case against Brown could suggest criminality “to even link to something or share a link with someone.”

The transcript (at the link above) begins:

UAN GONZÁLEZ: As NSA leaker Edward Snowden remains at a Moscow airport, Army whistleblower Bradley Manning is on trial, and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, today we look at the strange story of another man tied to the world of cyber-activism who faces over a hundred years in prison. His name is Barrett Brown. He’s an investigative reporter with ties to the hacking collective Anonymous. He has spent the past 300 days in jail and has been denied bail. He faces 17 charges, ranging from threatening anFBI agent to credit card fraud for posting a link online to a document that contained stolen credit card data. But according to his supporters, Brown is being unfairly targeted for daring to investigate the highly secretive world of private intelligence and military contractors.

AMY GOODMAN: Before Brown’s path crossed with the FBI, he frequently contributed to Vanity FairThe Huffington PostThe Guardian and other news outlets. In 2009, Brown created Project PM, which was, quote, “dedicated to investigating private government contractors working in the secretive fields of cybersecurity, intelligence and surveillance.” He was particularly interested in the documents leaked by WikiLeaks and Anonymous. In the documentary We Are Legion, Barrett Brown explains the importance of information obtained by hackers.

BARRETT BROWN: Some of the most important things that have been—have had the most far-reaching influence and have been the most important in terms of what’s been discovered, not just by Anonymous, but by the media in the aftermath, is the result of hacking. That information can’t be obtained by institutional journalistic process, or it can’t be obtained or won’t be obtained by a congressional committee or a federal oversight committee. For the most part, that information has to be, you know, obtained by hackers.

AMY GOODMAN: In 2011, the group Anonymous hacked into the computer system of the private security firm HBGary Federal and disclosed thousands of internal emails. Barrett Brown has not been accused of being involved in the hack, but he did read and analyze the documents, eventually crowdsourcing the effort through Project PM. One of the first things he discovered was a plan to tarnish the reputations of WikiLeaks and sympathetic journalist Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian. Brown similarly analyzed and wrote about the millions of internal company emails for Stratfor Global Intelligence that were leaked on Christmas Eve 2011. Shortly thereafter, the FBI acquired a warrant for Brown’s laptop and authority to seize any information from his communications—or, in journalism parlance, his sources. In September 2012, a troupe of armed agents surged into Brown’s apartment in Dallas, Texas, and handcuffed him face down on the floor. He has been in prison ever since.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, for more, we’re joined by Peter Ludlow, professor of philosophy at Northwestern University. He has written extensively on hacktivist actions against people—against private intelligence firms and the surveillance state. His recent article for The Nation is called “The Strange Case of Barrett Brown.”

Peter Ludlow, welcome to Democracy Now!

PETER LUDLOW: Hi. Thank you very much.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Talk to us about Barrett Brown, the importance of his case, given all the others that we’ve been dealing with on this show now for many years.

PETER LUDLOW: Well, yeah, it’s important for two reasons. First of all, it’s showing that, to some extent, all of us could be targets, because the principal reasons that they’re going after him with this sort of claim that he was involved in credit card fraud or something like that, I mean, that’s completely fallacious. I mean, in effect, what he did was take a link from a chat room and copied that link and pasted it into the chat room for Project PM. That is, he took a link that was broadcast widely on the Internet, and it was a link to the Stratfor hack information, and he just brought it to the attention of the editorial board of Project PM. And because there were, for whatever reason, unencrypted credit card numbers and validation codes among those five million other emails, the government is claiming that he was engaged in credit card fraud. They’re claiming that Project PM was a criminal enterprise. And so, basically, for our interest, why this is interesting to us is basically it makes this dangerous to even link to something or to share a link with someone.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And—

PETER LUDLOW: Go ahead, yeah, please.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, one of the things that you raise is, in some of your writings on this, is the incestuous relationship between the Justice Department, the government and these private firms that are being now targeted by cyber-activists. And could you talk about that, as well?

PETER LUDLOW: Well, sure. A lot of these private intelligence companies are started by ex-CIA,NSA people. Some people come from those agencies and rotate back into the government. I mean, you even see, with the case of Snowden, he was actually a contractor for a private intelligence company, Booz Allen. And, I mean, people think about the NSA, FBI, CIA, and they think of—those are the people that are doing the surveillance of you and doing this intelligence work, but really, if you look at how much the United States spends on intelligence, 70 percent of that is actually going to these private intelligence contractors. So, you know, if you add up CIA, NSA, FBI, that’s just a tip of the iceberg. So there’s all this sort of spook stuff going on in the private realm. And, yeah, right, a lot of it is very incestuous. There’s a revolving door. And no one is investigating it or even talking about it, as far as I can tell.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go to Barrett Brown in his own words. In March 2012, Democracy Now!spoke with Barrett soon after his house was raided. . . .

Here’s a brief (8-minute) explanation:

We’re watching the shuttering of American democracy in real time, day by day.

Written by Leisureguy

11 July 2013 at 11:31 am

“Two American Families” and The Town

leave a comment »

Alex Pareene writes in Salon:

This morning I intended to write about “This Town,” a new book about Washington, D.C., by a writer named Mark Leibovich, but last night I got distracted and spent 90 minutes watching “Two American Families,” a “Frontline” documentary that aired on the local PBS affiliate. It’s one of the best, and most heartbreaking, documentaries I’ve seen this year. It’s not about a tragedy or disaster. It wasn’t “hard to watch” because it was about a singularly awful moment in human history or one unspeakable monstrous act — a hurricane or war or even a specific crime committed by specific people — but because it just happened to document the lives of some struggling working-class families beginning at shortly after the point when the ground fell out from beneath the American lower middle class and ending now, when there’s clearly no hope for a return to economic security.

Bill Moyers began following the lives of two Milwaukee families, the Stanleys and the Neumanns, in 1992, when they were the subjects of a documentary called “Minimum Wages: The New Economy.” In the 1980s both families were supported by union manufacturing jobs. Those jobs have just disappeared when we first meet the Neumanns — Terry and Tony, a white couple — and the Stanleys — Jackie and Claude, black — in 1991. Moyers followed up with the families with additional documentaries in 1995 and 2000. “Two American Families” combines the footage shot throughout the ’90s with follow-up material shot last year.

To use the regrettable cliché, both families “played by the rules.” They are in fact superhumanly devoted to the rules. They both attend church — Claude is actually a minister — and they hate the idea of going on the dole and they take any available work and the kids are Boy Scouts and their parents are dedicated to their educations. The families are so virtuous, so imbued with the great American work ethic, that it is practically unfair to other struggling Americans; families that fuck up deserve our sympathy, and the support of a social safety net, as well. But as George Packer wroteearlier this month, the film serves as a rebuke to right-wing social critics like the execrable Charles Murray, “who believe that the decline of America’s working class comes from a collapse of moral values, social capital, personal responsibility, and traditional authority…” These people are overflowing with personal responsibility.

Here is a very brief summary of the documentary/America since 1991: Tony Neumann lost his job at Briggs and Stratton not long after the family bought a nice, but modest, Milwaukee home. (“But it’s either rent for the rest of your life or own,” says Terry.) In 1991 they’re behind on their mortgage payments. By the time the documentary ends, in 2012, the home, where the family lived for 24 years, has been foreclosed upon: JPMorgan Chase demands $124,000 from Terry to stay in her home and then sells it for $38,000. The Neumanns spent those 24 years working, nonstop, but always for wages insufficient to stay afloat.

The 1990s for the families are a series of crappy, low-paid jobs and ever-present anxiety. In 1991, Claude Stanley takes up manual labor at poverty wages while Jackie gets her real estate license. (“I can’t sell the suburbs here,” she says. “I can’t sell the most affluent areas. But they’ll call me for central city.”) We get to watch the inauguration of President Bill Clinton with the Stanleys. Young Claude Jr. is optimistic: “I guess in the next four years we might have openings, and I guess you might not have to film as many people,” he says. His older brother Keith, who remembers Reagan, is more cynical, but Keith goes on to become the first member of the family to graduate high school and he even goes on to college, thanks to Jackie closing two real estate deals. But the family still needs a $1,000 cash advance on a new credit card, at 18 percent interest, to keep Keith in school. “It’ll tide me over ’til I can get the miracle,” Jackie says. In 1998, the Stanleys have $30,000 in medical bills they can’t afford, and the rest of the Stanley kids are unable to go to college. Klaudale joins the Navy. Keith is working two jobs and still forced to pay for college on credit cards, at usurious interest rates.

And this was during the boom years. The viewer knows, when the documentary jumps from 1999 to 2012, that those skipped years were not kind to families like these. And so we find Claude Stanley working, at 60 years old, two jobs — manual labor, still — for $26,000 plus benefits. (He is one of those lazy, overpaid government employees we hear a lot about.) He is exhausted, obviously, but won’t quite admit it. Retirement is not really a realistic scenario. The Neumanns are divorced and Terry is effectively homeless, working part-time for next to nothing. She is saving money to buy a place in a trailer park. Tony is no longer willing to cooperate with the filmmakers.

The kids are mostly working odd jobs. Keith Stanley is the film’s closest thing to a genuine success story, as an aide to a Milwaukee alderman. He has a college degree and a good job. He’s smart and insightful and will hopefully go on to be some sort of public servant and advocate for people like the ones who raised him. Klaudale is a military contractor working in Afghanistan. Adam Neumann, Terry and Tony’s son, living paycheck to paycheck and expecting his second child, says, “they still call me middle class but I don’t see that.” Terry Neumann sums it up: “We’ll just work until we collapse and keel over and die.”

The film doesn’t say so — it primarily just tells the story of these families — but all of these people are the victims not just of “the economy” but of a series of specific policy decisions made, over the last few decades, by people very much like the ones whose trivial, cloistered lives are documented in “This Town.” . . .

Continue reading.

And while you’re at it, read Pareene’s review of The Town.

Written by Leisureguy

11 July 2013 at 9:33 am

Eating salt: low intake is bad, high intake is bad, moderation is best

leave a comment »

Interesting that moderation seems to be a good guide. From a press release by the National Academies:

. . . While cautioning that the quantity of evidence was less-than-optimal and that the studies were qualitatively limited by the methods used to measure sodium intake, the small number of patients with health outcomes of interest in some of the studies, and other methodological constraints, the committee concluded that:

  • evidence supports a positive relationship between higher levels of sodium intake and risk of heart disease, which is consistent with previous research based on sodium’s effects on blood pressure;
  • studies on health outcomes are inconsistent in quality and insufficient in quantity to conclude that lowering sodium intake levels below 2,300 mg/day either increases or decreases the risk of heart disease, stroke, or all-cause mortality in the general U.S. population;
  • evidence indicates that low sodium intake may lead to risk of adverse health effects among those with mid- to late-stage heart failure who are receiving aggressive treatment for their disease;
  • there is limited evidence addressing the association between low sodium intake and health outcomes in population subgroups (i.e., those with diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, hypertension or borderline hypertension; those 51 years of age and older; and African Americans). While studies on health outcomes provide some evidence for adverse health effects of low sodium intake (in ranges approximating 1,500 to 2,300 mg daily) among those with diabetes, kidney disease, or heart disease, the evidence on both the benefit and harm is not strong enough to indicate that these subgroups should be treated differently from the general U.S. population. Thus, the evidence on direct health outcomes does not support recommendations to lower sodium intake within these subgroups to or even below 1,500 mg daily; and
  • further research is needed to shed more light on associations between lower levels of sodium (in the 1,500 to 2,300 mg/day range) and health outcomes, both in the general population and the subgroups.

The report does not establish a “healthy” intake range, both because the committee was not tasked with doing so and because variability in the methodologies used among the studies would have precluded it. . .

A summary of the report gives a little more information, also there’s an interesting article that includes this observation:

. . . A paper published in the American Journal of Hypertension warns that once average daily consumption dips to below 6.25g, the risk of heart attacks and strokes starts to increase once more. Restricting salt consumption increases levels of cholesterol and triglycerides — both of them harmful fats which cause heart disease — and also leads to insulin resistance (the early stages of type-2 diabetes). [It’s interesting that the emphasis on reducing salt intake corresponds with the rise in type 2 diabetes. Correlation is not causation, of course, but causation does produce correlation. – LG] Diets low in salt also increase the levels of fat and hormones in the blood that are known to increase the risk of heart disease.

The problem is not salt, it’s the type of salt we use. It takes just half an hour for one meal high in table salt to significantly impair the arteries’ ability to pump blood around the body, alarming research has shown. Blood flow becomes temporarily more restricted between 30 minutes and an hour after the food has been consumed. “Most scientific studies use processed table salt as a source of sodium which the body has a hard time physiologically to process unlike its natural counterpart sea salt,” said Dr. Jamil Najma who only recommends sea salt to his patients.

Many experts argue that salt could be just what we need for healing, health and longevity. Modern salt, they agree, is unhealthy. But common table salt has almost nothing in common with traditional salt, say the salt connoisseurs. Just look at the rose-coloured crystals of Himalayan rock salt, or the grey texture of Celtic salt — both pride themselves on traditional harvesting, avoiding heat treatment or refining methods — and you know you’re getting something special, not least that when you taste them, they actually have flavour. And unlike the sodium chloride you find on most kitchen tables, unrefined rock salt contains more than 84 different minerals. . .

I’ve long used sea salt as my salt. Iodine I get through seafood and sea vegetables (kelp is a particularly good source). It would be interesting if the inconspicuous omnipresence of processed table salt was skewing the findings. It has been pointed out that laboratories doing biological research on microorganisms (e.g., medical laboratories) are typically illuminated with fluorescent lighting, which puts out much more UV than incandescent lighting, so the results found are the results from a UV-saturated environment. Whether that results in a similar skewing I don’t know.

At any rate, I can ease up on my salt restrictions—mostly I’ve just not added a lot of extra salt, but now I’ll not be so cautious.

Written by Leisureguy

11 July 2013 at 9:12 am

Creating a Military-Industrial-Immigration Complex: How to Turn the U.S.-Mexican Border into a War Zone

leave a comment »

We lost the Iraq in the sense that we completely failed to achieve our objectives: we never did find the weapons of mass destruction. (I believe the extension of that term to cover things like grenades and RPGs and IEDs was after the war. At the time, I don’t think the American public would have been satisfied by a photo of a box of grenades under the headline “WMDs Found!”) And our later objective, to do nation-building and establish a stable democracy in Iraq, we also completely failed to achieve.

At any rate, the Iraq War is over, the Afghanistan War is closing down, so what’s the poor wealthy military-industrial complex to do to keep those profits endlessly rising. One venture is well underway: sell military equipment and training to local police forces, who can use it to terrorize their communities. Another seems to be to focus on a war on undocumented immigrants. Todd Miller writes about that effort at TomDispatch.com. Tom introduces Todd:

I mean, come on.  You knew it had to happen, didn’t you?  In a 2010 Department of Homeland Security report, wrested from the bowels of the secrecy/surveillance state (thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request by the Electronic Frontier Foundation), the Customs and Border Protection agency suggests arming their small fleet of surveillance drones.  The purpose: to “immobilize TOIs,” or targets of interest, along the U.S.-Mexican border.  Those arms would, of course, be “non-lethal” in nature.  It’s all so civilized.  Kinda like the Star Trek folks putting their phasers on “stun,” not kill.  And count on it, sooner or later it will happen.  And then, of course, the lethal weapons will follow.  Otherwise, how in the world could we track and eliminate terrorists in “the homeland” efficiently?

All of this comes under the heading of self-fulfilling prophecy.  You create and take to your battle zones a wonder weapon that, according to the promotional materials, will make the targeting of human beings so surgically precise it might even end the war on terror as we know it.  (Forget the fact that, in the field, drones turn out, according to the latest military study of Afghanistan, to be far less precise than manned aircraft if you’re measuring by how many civilians are knocked off, how much “collateral damage” is done.)  Anyway, you use that weapon ever more profligately on distant battlefields in distant wars.  You come to rely on it, even if it doesn’t exactly work as advertised.  And then, like the soldiers you sent into the same war zones (who didn’t exactly work as advertised either), the weaponry begins to come home.

Drones?  You can rant about them, write about them, organize against them, try to stop them from flying over your hometown. And still, like the implacable Terminators of film fame, they will arrive in “the homeland.” Will? Have. As FBI Director Robert Mueller testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee recently, the Bureau is already using them.  In a coda meant to relieve us all of drone anxiety, however, he pointed out that it’s employing them “in a very, very minimal way and very seldom… we have very few.” And, oh yes, the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives are testing drones for similar use. Also undoubtedly very minimally and very few, so don’t fret (for now).  As for police departments wielding armed drones, count on that, too, sooner or later.

In the meantime, those Border Patrol types, according to the New York Times, have been oh-so-happy to lend their military-grade Predator B drones to, among others, the North Dakota Army National Guard, the Texas Department of Public Safety, and the Forest Service.  In 2012, they loaned their robotic planes out 250 times.

And these days, drones are the least of it.  Lots of stuff is “coming home.”  As Todd Miller, who covers the U.S. borderlands for TomDispatch, makes clear, sometimes you just have to change the label on the package to suddenly find reality staring you in the face.  Call it “immigration reform” and it looks like you’re dealing with enormous numbers of human beings in this country illegally.  Think of it as “surveillance reform” and you’ll see that, as Miller points out, we’re using our borderlands and those undocumented migrants as an excuse to build, experiment with, and test out a new kind of surveillance state, drones included.  And count on it, too: one of these days, maybe tomorrow, some version of that surveillance state will make it to your hometown, no matter how far you are from any border. Tom

Creating a Military-Industrial-Immigration Complex 
How to Turn the U.S.-Mexican Border into a War Zone 
By Todd Miller

The first thing I did at the Border Security Expo in Phoenix this March was climb the brown “explosion-resistant” tower, 30 feet high and 10 feet wide, directly in the center of the spacious room that holds this annual trade show. From a platform where, assumedly, a border guard would stand, you could take in the constellation of small booths offering the surveillance industry’s finest products, including a staggering multitude of ways to monitor, chase, capture, or even kill people, thanks to modernistic arrays of cameras and sensors, up-armored jeeps, the latest in guns, and even surveillance balloons.

Although at the time, headlines in the Southwest emphasized potential cuts to future border-security budgets thanks to Congress’s “sequester,” the vast Phoenix Convention Center hall — where the defense and security industries strut their stuff for law enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) — told quite a different story.  Clearly, the expanding global industry of border security wasn’t about to go anywhere.  It was as if the milling crowds of business people, government officials, and Border Patrol agents sensed that they were about to be truly in the money thanks to “immigration reform,” no matter what version of it did or didn’t pass Congress. And it looks like they were absolutely right.

All around me in that tower were poster-sized fiery photos demonstrating ways it could help thwart massive attacks and fireball-style explosions. A border like the one just over 100 miles away between the United States and Mexico, it seemed to say, was not so much a place that divided people in situations of unprecedented global inequality, but a site of constant war-like danger.

Below me were booths as far as the eye could see surrounded by Disneyesque fake desert shrubbery, barbed wire, sand bags, and desert camouflage.  Throw in the products on display and you could almost believe that you were wandering through a militarized border zone with a Hollywood flair.

To an awed potential customer, a salesman in a suit and tie demonstrated a mini-drone that fits in your hand like a Frisbee.  It seemed to catch the technological fetishism that makes Expo the extravaganza it is. Later I asked him what such a drone would be used for. “To see what’s over the next hill,” he replied.

Until you visit the yearly Expo, it’s easy enough to forget that the U.S. borderlands are today ground zero for the rise, growth, and spread of a domestic surveillance state.  On June 27th, the Senate passed the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. Along with the claim that it offers a path to citizenship to millions of the undocumented living in the United States (with many stringent requirements), in its more than 1,000 pages it promises to build the largest border-policing and surveillance apparatus ever seen in the United States. The result, Senator John McCain proudly said, will be the “most militarized border since the fall of the Berlin Wall.”

This “border surge,” a phrase coined by Senator Chuck Schumer, is also a surveillance surge. The Senate bill provides for the hiring of almost 19,000 new Border Patrol agents, the building of 700 additional miles of walls, fences, and barriers, and an investment of billions of dollars in the latest surveillance technologies, including drones.

In this, the bill only continues in a post-9/11 tradition in which our southern divide has become an on-the-ground laboratory for the development of a surveillance state whose mission is already moving well beyond those borderlands. Calling this “immigration reform” is like calling the National Security Agency’s expanding global surveillance system a domestic telecommunications upgrade.  It’s really all about the country that the United States is becoming — one of the police and the policed.

Low-Intensity War Zone

The $46 billion border security price tag in the immigration reform bill will simply expand on what has already been built. After all, $100 billion was spenton border “enforcement” in the first decade after 9/11. To that must be added the annual $18 billion budget for border and immigration enforcement, money that outpaces the combined budgets of all other federal law enforcement agencies.  In fact, since Operation Blockade in the 1990s, the U.S.-Mexico border has gone through so many surges that a time when simple chain link fences separated two friendly countries is now unimaginable.

To witness the widespread presence of Department of Homeland Security agents on the southern border, just visit that international boundary 100 miles south of Border Security Expo. Approximately 700 miles of . . .

Continue reading.

We are moving rapidly to a corporate/police state. I wish people would learn about their government and vote. But so it goes.

Written by Leisureguy

11 July 2013 at 8:17 am

I do like rose

leave a comment »

SOtD 11 July 2013

I used D.R. Harris Rose shaving cream and my Whipped Dog silvertip with the optional ceramic handle: a very nice little brush.

Loads of fragrant lather—rose is a great fragrance to start the day. Three easy passes with the iKon 2-piece stainless razor (I forget the model number) holding an Astra Superior Stainless blade, and a splash of Coral Skin Food to finish the shave and continue the rose.

UPDATE: Oops: the following paragraph is true, but it concerns the razor I’ll use tomorrow. The razor in the photo, which I used today, is the iKon S3S, a three-piece razor with an asymmetric head—the head is very like the head of the two-piece iKon, as you’ll see tomorrow. It’s by virtue of the three-piece construction that I was able to swap the regular S3S handle for the “bamboo” handle shown in the photo.

I made the error because I was setting up tomorrow’s shave and that razor is indeed the one described: I just jumped the gun.

The iKon is, like the Pils and unlike the various Merkur two-piece razors (the 34C “HD”, for example), in fact a two-piece razor: a cap, with the baseplate and handle permanently joined with a roller bearing (so that the handle can turn independently). The Merkur two-piece design attaches baseplate and handle in such a way that the handle cannot rotate independently. Thus to tighten the cap, some other means must be found. Merkur uses a hollow handle with an internal threaded shaft that can turn freely and is held inside the shaft by a friction ring: not exactly “two-piece.”

One small chin nick, put to rest promptly with My Nik Is Sealed.

Written by Leisureguy

11 July 2013 at 7:58 am

Posted in Shaving

%d bloggers like this: