Later On

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

Archive for May 23rd, 2014

Tactfully never mentioned in the US press

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Save by the brash Dr. Krugman in his blog on the NY Times:

People are pretty down on European economic performance these days, with good reason. But mainly what we’re looking at is bad macroeconomic policy, the result of premature monetary union plus austerity mania. That’s a very different story from the old version of Eurotrashing, which focused on Eurosclerosis — persistent low employment allegedly caused by excessive welfare states.

Now, people like John Schmitt and Dean Baker began pointing out a long time ago that this story was out of date. If you looked at Europe in general and France in particular, you saw that yes, people retired earlier than in America, and also that fewer young people worked — in part because they didn’t have to work their way through college. But on the eve of the economic crisis employment rates among prime-working-age adults had converged.

Well, I hadn’t looked at this data for a while; and where we are now is quite stunning:

France v EU

Since the late 1990s we have completely traded places: prime-age French adults are now much more likely than their US counterparts to have jobs.

Strange how amid the incessant bad-mouthing of French performance this fact never gets mentioned.

Written by Leisureguy

23 May 2014 at 5:27 pm

Posted in Business

Cool 3-wheel car, 84 mpg on the highway, 49 mpg in the city

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Pretty cool. It will be available next year for $6800, it says here.

Written by Leisureguy

23 May 2014 at 1:37 pm

Posted in Technology

Glenn Greenwald responds to Michael Kingsley

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Interesting column in The Intercept by Glenn Greenwald:

In 2006, Charlie Savage won the Pulitzer Prize for his series of articles in The Boston Globe exposing the Bush administration’s use of “signing statements” as a means of ignoring the law. In response to those revelations, Michael Kinsley–who has been kicking around Washington journalism for decades as the consummate establishment “liberal” insider–wrote a Washington Post op-ed defending the Bush practice (“nailing Bush simply for stating his views on a constitutional issue, without even asking whether those views are right or wrong, is wrong”) and mocking concerns over it as overblown (“Sneaky! . . . The Globe does not report what it thinks a president ought to do when called upon to enforce or obey a law he or she believes to be unconstitutional. It’s not an easy question”).

Far more notable was Kinsley’s suggestion that it was journalists themselves–not Bush–who might be the actual criminals, due both to their refusal to reveal their sources when ordered to do so and their willingness to publish information without the permission of the government:

It’s wrong especially when contrasted with another current fever running through the nation’s editorial pages: the ongoing issue of leaks and anonymous sources. Many in the media believe that the Constitution contains a “reporter’s privilege” to protect the identity of sources in circumstances, such as a criminal trial, in which citizens ordinarily can be compelled to produce information or go to jail. The Supreme Court and lower courts have ruled and ruled again that there is no such privilege. And it certainly is not obvious that the First Amendment, which seems to be about the right to speak, actually protects a right not to speak. . . .

Why must the president obey constitutional interpretations he disagrees with if journalists don’t have to?

Last Sunday, same day as the Globe piece, The New York Times had a front-page article about the other shoe waiting to drop in these leak cases. The Bush administration may go beyond forcing journalists to testify about the sources of leaks. It may start to prosecute journalists themselves as recipients of illegal leaks. As with the Globe story, this turns out to be a matter of pugnacious noises by the Bush administration. Actual prosecutions of journalists for receiving or publishing leaks are “unknown,” the Times article concedes. But this could change at any moment.

Well, maybe. And maybe journalists are right in their sincere belief that the Constitution should protect them in such a case. But who wants to live in a society where every citizen and government official feels free to act according to his or her own personal interpretation of the Constitution, even after the Supreme Court has specifically said that this interpretation is wrong? President Bush would actually top my list of people I don’t want wandering through the text and getting fancy ideas. But why should he stay out of the “I say what’s constitutional around here” game if his tormentors in the media are playing it?

This is the person whom Pamela Paul, editor of The New York Times Book Review, chose to review my book, No Place to Hide, about the NSA reporting we’ve done and the leaks of Edward Snowden: someone who has expressly suggested that journalists should be treated as criminals for publishing information the government does not want published. And, in a totally unpredictable development, Kinsley then used the opportunity to announce his contempt for me, for the NSA reporting I’ve done, and, in passing, for the book he was ostensibly reviewing.

Kinsley has actually done the book a great favor by providing a vivid example of so many of its central claims. For instance, I describe in the book the process whereby the government and its media defenders reflexively demonize the personality of anyone who brings unwanted disclosure so as to distract from and discredit the substance revelations; Kinsley dutifully tells Times readers that I “come across as so unpleasant” and that I’m a “self-righteous sourpuss” (yes, he actually wrote that). I also describe in the book how jingoistic media courtiers attack anyone who voices any fundamental critiques of American political culture; Kinsley spends much of his review deriding the notion that there could possibly be anything anti-democratic or oppressive about the United States of America.

But by far the most remarkable part of the review is that Kinsley—in the very newspaper that published Daniel Ellsberg’s Pentagon Papers and then fought to the Supreme Court for the right to do so (and, though the review doesn’t mention it, also published some Snowden documents)—expressly argues that journalists should only publish that which the government permits them to, and that failure to obey these instructions should be a crime (emphasis mine): . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

23 May 2014 at 11:33 am

Law enforcement vs. the hippies

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Law enforcement officers are, by and large, conservative, so they react with violence to left-wing protest groups, bludgeoning them to the ground, squirting pepper spray in their faces, arresting them en masse, and so on. Right-wing protest groups, equally angry at the government (cf. the Tea Party protests) are treated gently.

Kevin Drum has a good post on the phenomenon.

Written by Leisureguy

23 May 2014 at 11:15 am

Posted in Law Enforcement

Cutting Off Emergency Unemployment Benefits Hasn’t Pushed People Back to Work

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So much for the GOP argument for why we should cut of unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed. Of course, though the GOP said that was their reason, the GOP is notoriously a party of bad faith, and the actual reason was their unremitting war against the poor. (Similarly, the GOP is putting requirements on clinics that do abortions—in Texas, in Loouisiana, in Alabama, and elsewhere—that doctors must be affiliated with a local hospital. The reason the GOP offers—the safety of the patient—makes no sense: if there were problems or complications, the hospital would admit the patient in any case. The actual reason is simply to shut down the clinics, as various Republicans have admitted. The voter ID laws are passed, the GOP says, to prevent voter fraud, a problem that doesn’t exist, and occasionally a Republican will admit the actual reason is simply to lower turnout of Democratic voters.)

For the story on unemployment insurance and its effects—a slap in the face of those who were laid off through no fault of their own and who have been unable to secure a job in this economy—see this Five Thirty Eight article by Ben Casselman:

Helene Laurusevage still gets up at 6 a.m. every day and packs lunch for her husband. She still sits down at her computer every morning to hunt for a job, and still updates the meticulous spreadsheet that she uses to document that search. Just one thing has changed: In January, the biweekly checks for $1,126 from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry stopped showing up in her bank account.

Laurusevage, 52, is one of more than a million Americans who lost payments when Congress allowed the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program to expire at the end of last year. The program, which Congress created in 2008, extended jobless benefits beyond the standard 26 weeks provided by most states; at its peak, the federal government provided an unprecedented 6 million workers with up to 73 weeks of benefits. The Senate earlier this year voted to renew the program, but House Speaker John Boehner hasn’t allowed the measure to come to a vote in the House.

The case against extending unemployment benefits essentially boils down to two arguments. First, the economy has improved, so the unemployed should no longer need extra time to find a new job. Second, extended benefits could lead job seekers either to not search as hard or to become choosier about the kind of job they will accept, ultimately delaying their return to the workforce.

But the evidence doesn’t support either of those arguments. The economy has indeed improved, but not for the long-term unemployed, whose odds of finding a job are barely higher today than when the recession ended nearly five years ago. And the end of extended benefits hasn’t spurred the unemployed back to work; if anything, it has pushed them out of the labor force altogether.

Of the roughly 1.3 million Americans whose benefits disappeared with the end of the program, only about a quarter had found jobs as of March, about the same success rate as when the program was still in effect; roughly another quarter had given up searching. The rest, like Laurusevage, were still looking.

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

23 May 2014 at 10:03 am

Low-carbohydrate diet

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On the trip I read Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It, by Gary Taubes. As he explains, this book is more or less the Cliff Notes version of his earlier and longer work Good Calories, Bad Calories, which I read some years back and found impressive. The link to GC, BC is to inexpensive secondhand editions—though I would recommend his newer book because in condensing the arguments he made in the earlier book, he made them sharper and more cogent: a kind of distillation of the findings.

The problem with cutting back on fat is, as Marion Nestle points out, is that you cannot cut back fat without increasing the proportion of carbs and protein—and a carb-heavy diet (cf. Dean Ornish, Pritikin, et al.) triggers a cascade of reactions in the systems in the body that lead ultimately to obesity and very ill health. The reason—as Taubes explains, with many references to actual studies—is that the digestion of carbohydrates fills the system with sugars, which triggers insulin to burn the sugar and store the fat, so that people (as you see) get fatter and fatter and fatter, even if they cut drastically back on calories. Programmers in particular will understand how the system is working: given the inputs, the processes and outputs are inevitable.

The answer is to cut back carbohydrates drastically. This is not a problem for those who eat meat—indeed, Taubes describes one experiment in which two men voluntarily lived for a year, eating nothing but meat (and fat) and gained no weight and suffered no problems: they remained perfectly healthy. Vegetarians face a bit more of a challenge, but the Atkins site has guidelines for vegetarians and vegans. It also some good free tools for those following the Atkins low-car plan and an enormous collection of low-carb recipes.

I like the way Atkins uses a 4-stop process, starting with a first steop (“induction”) in which your diet is very low in carbs (a limit of 20 gramsof “net carbs” (grams of carbs minus grams of fiber) per day) for the first two or three months and then a limit of 50 grams. You can eat all the protein and fat that you want. The site explains it well.

I highly recommend Why We Get Fat: Taubes makes his case well. And if you want the Cliff Notes version of of that book, try the 99¢ Kindle book Key insights from Why We Get Fat – And What to Do About It. That will give you enough information to decide whether to give it a go. I’m doing it, and I started on the trip—e.g., for breakfast yesterday I stopped at a Denny’s and had their “meat-lover’s omelette”—but without the potatoes or toast. It was very filling, and I’m sure quite a few calories, but this morning I found that my weight is down after the trip.

Meat Lover’s Omelette
Three-egg omelette with prime rib, crumbled chorizo sausage, bacon, fire-roasted bell peppers and onions, and a smoky cheese blend covered with Pepper Jack queso. Served with Hash Browns or grits and choice of bread. [I didn’t get those – LG]

And fortunately the baby back ribs I plan for Memorial Day fit right in with the plan. Tonight I’m making Stretch’s Chicken Savoy along with a salad. Diet Controller automatically analyzes the foods I enter, so finding the grams of carbohydrates and fiber for a meal and a day is not problem at all.

UPDATE: Alterations to Stretch’s Chicken Savoy recipe: Roast for 20 minutes, not 25. Use only 1/2 c red wine vinegar. Remove chicken from skillet before pouring off the grease. (That last is obvious, but somehow they seem to have poured of the grease without the chicken pieces spilling out; I didn’t even try.)

Written by Leisureguy

23 May 2014 at 9:24 am

Great to be back—and to get a good shave

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SOTD 23 May 2014

Say what you like about cartridge razors—convenient, expensive, and so on—one thing’s for sure: they don’t give a very good shave at all. I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s the inability to control the angle. Perhaps it’s that the blade used in the cartridge is not a good blade for me. But the shave I got this morning is much better than the on-the-road shaves.

I used Cold River Soap Works Original Soft Shaving Soap:

Made with Stearic Acid, Coconut Oil, Shea Butter, Castor and Avocoado Oils. Essential Oils of Lavender, Rosemary & Cedarwood

Loved the fragrance, and I think the soap is probably good, but the container size is way too small: it is quite difficult to load the brush with a container this small. I did contact them to say that I could not recommend the soap based purely on container size and suggested that they look at using a container that is 4″ or even 5″ in diameter. I will try the soap again, using the Wee Scot, which would be easier than the Omega R&B brush to load in the tiny container.

Due to insufficient loading, I ran out of lather for the third pass, so reloaded brush using Barrister & Mann’s Roam for the final pass.

The Weber DLC head on the aluminum bronze UFO handle did a superb job: BBS.

I find that I really enjoy Thayers Rose Petal Witch Hazel & Aloe Vera. That will become a regular aftershave in my rotation. And it’s inexpensive. Check out healthfood stores (Whole Foods, etc.).

It’s good to be back home. Hope you all are doing well.

Written by Leisureguy

23 May 2014 at 8:19 am

Posted in Shaving

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