Later On

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Archive for November 16th, 2015

Ted Cruz: ignorant as well as despicable.

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In the New Yorker Amy Davidson tries to make sense of Ted Cruz. Emphasis added:

“President Obama and Hillary Clinton’s idea that we should bring tens of thousands of Syrian Muslim refugees to America—it is nothing less than lunacy,” Ted Cruz said on Fox News, the day after the attacks on Paris. If there are Syrian Muslims who are really being persecuted, he said, they should be sent to “majority Muslim countries.” Then he reset his eyebrows, which had been angled in a peak of concern, as if he had something pious to say. And he did: “On the other hand,” he added, “Christians who are being targeted for genocide, for persecution, Christians who are being beheaded or crucified, we should be providing safe haven to them. But President Obama refuses to do that.”

The next day, at a middle school in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Cruz spoke even more openly about those whom he considers to be the good people in the world. He told reporters that we should accept Christians from Syria, and only Christians, because “There is no meaningful risk of Christians committing acts of terror.” [He did say that. Amazing ignorance. – LG] This will come as a profound surprise to the people of Oklahoma City and Charleston, to all parties in Ireland, and to the families of the teen-agers whom Anders Breivik killed in Norway, among many others. The Washington Post noted that Cruz “did not say how he would determine that refugees were Christian or Muslim.” Would he accept baptismal certificates, or notes from pastors? Does he just want to hear the refugees pray?

On Monday, President Barack Obama reacted to this suggestion with some anger. “When I hear folks say that, well, maybe we should just admit the Christians but not the Muslims, when I hear political leaders suggesting that there would be a religious test for which person who’s fleeing from a war-torn country is admitted, when some of those folks themselves come from families who benefited from protection when they were fleeing political persecution, that’s shameful,” Obama said. (That last bit, about “families who’ve benefited” when fleeing persecution, was an unmistakable reference to Cruz and Marco Rubio.) Obama continued, “That’s not who we are. We don’t have religious tests to our compassion.” The question is whether Obama can put that compassion to use, in this precipitous moment after Paris, when so many bad choices will seem appealing, including attacks on our fellow citizens. (On Monday, Donald Trump said that, though he’d “hate to do it,” as President he would “seriously consider” closing mosques that were viewed as centers of radicalism.) The real criticism is that the United States has taken so few Syrian refugees of any religion—just about fifteen thousand, all of whom have been screened by a process that can take up to two years.

Cruz is cruder than some, but he is not alone among Republicans. On Sunday, Jeb Bush also said that, although he isn’t entirely opposed to helping refugees who’d been screened, “I think our focus ought to be on the Christians who have no place in Syria anymore.” (Christians were ten per cent of Syria’s population when the civil war broke out.) . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

16 November 2015 at 3:44 pm

Posted in Election, GOP, Terrorism

Why Autistics Avoid Eye Contact

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A very interesting video, made by a person with autism, on why eye contact is difficult for autistics. This is via a Motherboard article by Melissa Cronin, which adds:

. . . There are a few different reasons, she says: for her, it feels “unnatural” and that it’s difficult for her to gauge how long to hold eye contact with a person. With all of these different concerns combined together, making eye contact triggers a kind of sensory overload, making it too difficult to focus on the actual content of the conversation.

“When I’m having a conversation with someone, [if] I would make eye contact, I would miss everything that person is saying,” she said.

One 2013 study that looked at kids with and without autism found that children with autism spectrum disorders also are more likely to have a reduced ability to control their eye movements. Another 2005 study found that seeing other people’s faces triggered a “threat response” in people with autism, another reason why eye contact might prove challenging.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 November 2015 at 1:14 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science, Video

The Dark Money Behind the Elizabeth Warren “Commie” Ad

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I blogged the video that attacked the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau yesterday—there are some big business that most definitely do not want consumers to have any financial protection, and in particular don’t want a government agency to work to protect consumers. Pam Martens and Russ Martens offer a good comment on the video and its source:

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the federal agency created after the 2008 crash to protect the little guy from Wall Street predators, which has done a top-flight job of it, was portrayed as a commie organization in a advertisement that ran repeatedly during the Republican Presidential debate on November 10. To enhance the communist theme of the ad (see full video below) giant banners of CFPB Director, Richard Cordray, and Senator Elizabeth Warren, who pushed for the creation of the agency, hang on the wall in a nod to Soviet dictators.

The advertisement is grossly misleading, overtly suggesting that the job of the CFPB is to deny car loans and mortgages to regular folks seeking credit. The agency, in fact, has absolutely nothing to do with approving credit applications. Its job is to root out and punish financial institutions that are ripping off customers. For example, in July of this year, the serial looter, Citigroup, was ordered by the CFPB to reimburse an estimated $700 million to 7 million of its credit card customers for deceptive marketing and billing for services that were never provided. The agency has also recently gone after student loan and mortgage servicers for ripping off borrowers with excessive fees and unwarranted interest payments.

The CFPB’s main threat to Wall Street’s padding of its bottom line through ever-creative frauds against millions of small borrowers is that the CFPB is both educating consumers and making it easy for them to file a complaint on how they’ve been fleeced. Even more dangerous, the CFPB is actively inviting whistleblowers inside financial corporations to blow the whistle directly to them on the lawbreaking.

There is one more reason that a much broader swath of corporate America is fighting the CFPB than just financial firms. According to the New York Times, a corporate front group that funded the ad has admitted that keeping private justice systems alive for corporations, known as mandatory or forced arbitration, is one reason behind the $500,000 outlay for the ad. The Times notes:

“Its sponsor wants to rein in the agency in part because of its efforts to restrict arbitration — the widespread practice in corporate America of requiring customers and employees to resolve disputes not in the courts, but in private proceedings with neither judge nor jury. In fact, arbitration is one of the reasons the ad’s sponsor, American Action Network, wanted to blast the agency with the $500,000 campaign, the group said.”

The American Action Network, which launched the $500,000 ad campaign, has the fingerprints of all the likely suspects: Koch money, Big Pharma, Big Oil, and Wall Street operatives. Its tactics look like a replay of how a former Koch-funded front group, Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE), targeted the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Wall Street On Parade, using a data trove available at the Center for Responsive Politics, drilled down to the source of some of the money funding the American Action Network in the past. (Most of its donors are allowed to hide in the dark under current law.) A Big Pharma group called Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America (PRMA) has given over $6 million to the American Action Network. PRMA donors in 2012 included Merck, Amgen, Pfizer, Abbott Labs, Eli Lilly and AstraZeneca.

Donors Trust, a group we previously connected to Charles Koch, is another funder of American Action Network. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Donors Trust has given at least $150,000 to American Action Network. As we reported in 2010, a sister front group to Donors Trust, Donors Capital Fund, financed a $17 million campaign that unleashed 28 million race-baiting, fear-mongering DVDs through 100 newspaper and magazine inserts just seven weeks before the 2008 Presidential election which brought Barack Obama to the White House.

We reported at the time:

“There are shades of Charles Koch all over Donors Capital and Donors Trust. Two grantees receiving repeat and sizeable grants from Donors Capital are favorites of the Koch foundations: George Mason University Foundation and Institute for Humane Studies. Another tie is Claire Kittle. A project of Donor’s Trust is Talent Market.org, a headhunter for staffing nonprofits with the ‘right’ people. Ms. Kittle serves as Talent Market’s Executive Director and was the former Program Officer for Leadership and Talent Development at the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. Then there is Whitney Ball, President of both Donors Capital Fund and Donors Trust. Ms. Ball was one of the elite guests at the invitation-only secret Aspen bash thrown by Charles Koch in June of this year, as reported by ThinkProgress.org. Also on the guest list for the Koch bash was Stephen Moore, a member of the Editorial Board at the Wall Street Journal. Mr. Moore is a Director at Donors Capital Fund. Rounding out the ties that bind is Lauren Vander Heyden, who serves as Client Services Coordinator at Donors Trust. Ms. Vander Heyden previously worked as grants coordinator and policy analyst at the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation.

“Legal counsel for the Kochs has declined to respond to two emails with a week’s lead time seeking clarification of the relationship the Kochs have to Donors Capital and Donors Trust.”

The Kochs’ involvement in corporate front groups dates back at least three decades. In 2013, the health professionals’ journal, Tobacco Control, published a detailed report on the origination of the Tea Party, dating it to the 1980s.  The research was funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH), a Federal Agency and titled ‘To Quarterback Behind the Scenes, Third Party Efforts’: The Tobacco Industry and the Tea Party.

The report reveals that Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE), which split into Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks in 2004, “was co-founded in 1984 by David Koch, of Koch Industries, and Richard Fink, former professor of economics at George Mason University, who has worked for Koch Industries since 1990.” According to the report, “CSE supported the agendas of the tobacco and other industries, including oil, chemical, pharmaceutical and telecommunications, and was funded by them.”

Long before the modern-day Tea Party gained attention, CSE started the first online Tea Party in 2002, calling it the US Tea Party. The Tobacco Control report shows that between 1991 and 2002, Philip Morris and other tobacco companies gave CSE at least $5.3 million.

CSE was seen as an integral part of the Philip Morris strategy to thwart Federal regulation of cigarettes and second hand smoke. The study states that Philip Morris designated CSE a “Category A” organization for funding and it was assigned its own Philip Morris senior relationship manager.

Very similar to the current attack on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, in 1994 and 1995, Big Tobacco launched an assault, using corporate front groups including CSE, to undermine the credibility of the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA at the time was attempting to regulate second-hand smoke.

A Philip Morris memo in late 1994 documented that CSE and other front groups were working “to define the FDA as an agency out of control and one failing to live up to its congressional mandate regarding regulation of drugs and medical devices.”

Beginning in December 1994, the memorandum stated, . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

16 November 2015 at 1:08 pm

Some sensible words on terrorist goals and our response to the attacks

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Paul Krugman points out that the entire point of terrorist attacks is to induce terror: the more panic the attack produces, the more the terrorist goals are achieved, since panic causes over-reactions, which is exactly their goal. He writes:

Like millions of people, I’ve been obsessively following the news from Paris, putting aside other things to focus on the horror. It’s the natural human reaction. But let’s be clear: it’s also the reaction the terrorists want. And that’s something not everyone seems to understand.

Take, for example, Jeb Bush’s declaration that “this is an organized attempt to destroy Western civilization.” No, it isn’t. It’s an organized attempt to sow panic, which isn’t at all the same thing. And remarks like that, which blur that distinction and make terrorists seem more powerful than they are, just help the jihadists’ cause.

Think, for a moment, about what France is and what it represents. It has its problems — what nation doesn’t? — but it’s a robust democracy with a deep well of popular legitimacy. Its defense budget is small compared with ours, but it nonetheless retains a powerful military, and has the resources to make that military much stronger if it chooses. (France’s economy is around 20 times the size of Syria’s.) France is not going to be conquered by ISIS, now or ever. Destroy Western civilization? Not a chance.

So what was Friday’s attack about? Killing random people in restaurants and at concerts is a strategy that reflects its perpetrators’ fundamental weakness. It isn’t going to establish a caliphate in Paris. What it can do, however, is inspire fear — which is why we call it terrorism, and shouldn’t dignify it with the name of war.

The point is not to minimize the horror. It is, instead, to emphasize that the biggest danger terrorism poses to our society comes not from the direct harm inflicted, but from the wrong-headed responses it can inspire. And it’s crucial to realize that there are multiple ways the response can go wrong.

It would certainly be a very bad thing if France or other democracies responded to terrorism with appeasement — if, for example, the French were to withdraw from the international effort against ISIS in the vain hope that jihadists would leave them alone. And I won’t say that there are no would-be appeasers out there; there are indeed some people determined to believe that Western imperialism is the root of all evil, and all would be well if we stopped meddling.

But real-world examples of mainstream politicians, let alone governments, knuckling under to terrorist demands are hard to find. Most accusations of appeasement in America seem to be aimed at liberals who don’t use what conservatives consider tough enough language.

A much bigger risk, in practice, is that the targets of terrorism will try to achieve perfect security by eliminating every conceivable threat — a response that inevitably makes things worse, because it’s a big, complicated world, and even superpowers can’t set everything right. On 9/11 Donald Rumsfeld told his aides: “Sweep it up. Related and not,” and immediately suggested using the attack as an excuse to invade Iraq. The result was a disastrous war that actually empowered terrorists, and set the stage for the rise of ISIS.

And let’s be clear: . . .

Continue reading. And do read the whole thing.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 November 2015 at 9:00 am

Meißner Tremonia Elemi, Fine’s brush, and the #102

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SOTD 16 Nov 2015

A BBS result because (a) two-day stubble, (b) the iKon #102 slant, and (c) very good prep. Plus a certain amount of practice.

Meißner Tremonia’s Exotic Elemi is indeed exotic with a very nice fragrance—prominent, but once the lather’s rinsed away, the fragrance is gone so that you have a clean slate for your aftershave. The lather was excellent, thanks in part to Fine Accoutrements’ angel-hair synthetic. The brush is also available in a color combination of black and clear, but I like the white and red somewhat more (quite clearly personal taste, beauty being famously in the beholder’s eye).

Three passes with the ultra-comfortable #102, followed by a small drop of Esbjerg’s aftershave gel, and I’m ready for the day if not the week.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 November 2015 at 8:54 am

Posted in Shaving

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