Later On

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

Archive for October 2016

A fascinating look at H.G. Wells

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When I read H.G. Wells in junior high, I was enthralled. Roger Luckhurst was interviewed by Five Books and has some interesting things to say:

Three of the books that you have selected to talk about today were written early in H G Wells’ career, in the 1890s. Do you think that his biggest contribution to literature has been those early scientific romances?

Yes, that’s probably right. There is a common critical line about Wells which is that he started off young and enthusiastic, writing lively, ambivalent and ambiguous works. He seemed to be delightedly thinking up new ways of destroying humanity over and over again, or perversely pointing out how we were all going to degenerate down the evolutionary scale, back into sea squids. His work of the 1890s is satirical and provocative.

Then, quite early in his career, he became a famous writer and personality very fast, and in a sense started to treat himself too seriously. He did a famous lecture in 1902 at the Royal Institution called The Discovery of the Future, where he essentially said: fiction is boring! We can scientifically predict the future! And that is what I am going to do in this lecture. Some critics of Wells say that that is what he did for the next 44 years of his life. He got increasingly didactic and uninteresting; literary people in the liberal establishment like Virginia Woolf and E. M. Forster hated him; he became estranged from early fans like Henry James. After his early work, he only wrote didactic utopias and non-fiction about ‘world government’. He hectored.

I think this picture is way too simple, but it is the case that if you are interested in science fiction and popular culture, then those early works—The War of the Worlds, The Time Machine, The Island of Doctor Moreau—are crucial. After that, he did write some interesting works in a bewilderingly diverse array of genres, including social realism and utopias. He even had a religious phase briefly during the First World War, but also wrote histories, textbooks, novels and endless utopias. It was a very diverse career, not easy to encapsulate.

What is the enduring appeal of his early scientific romances? Why do people still read them?

He is not the ‘father of science fiction’, as people sometimes say, but he was part of a generation that was beginning to think about science as a resource for literature. I think he was very lucky to be born when he was, in 1866. He got the benefit of the Education Act of 1870, which meant he could go to college and be among the first generation to be taught scientific subjects. Consequently when he became a journalist in the 1890s his frame of reference was no longer Greek and Roman and Classical literature, as it would have been if he had been to public school and university.

So he was a young upstart from the petit bourgeoisie, of a generation that was relying on new kinds of knowledge. His cleverness was in being able to put them into a new kind of the old romance form and produce the ‘scientific romance’. They are a deliberate mix of new and old: romances rather than novels. They can be utopian or dystopian, but not in the style of literary utopia, established by Thomas More, which is often quite static, descriptive and boring. Instead, Wells’ fictions are dynamic and melodramatic, full of wild, disordered emotions, sensations of sublime awe, and total horror. You’re never quite sure where the sympathies lie, and that ambiguity is why I think they endure.

Writing about The Time Machine, you have identified the ‘Further Vision’—which occurs towards the end of the book—as one of Wells’ most impressive literary passages. Could you talk us through this scene? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

31 October 2016 at 4:01 pm

Posted in Books, Science fiction

Comey’s asymmetric sensitivities

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James Fallows has an excellent column that I urge you to read. This is in the column:


Written by Leisureguy

31 October 2016 at 3:51 pm

This widely-shared video alleging US election fraud shows nothing of the sort

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Interesting how the GOP (including Trump) seems to now be in bed with Russia, which hacks emails for them and apparently contributed to a fake video of election fraud. Alastair Reid reports at First Draft:

For weeks now, Donald Trump has been telling his supporters that next week’s US presidential election will be “rigged” against him. His claims have even gone so far as to inspire one woman in Iowa to be arrested on felony charges for voting twice in the fear that her first vote would be “changed to Hillary”, according to Iowa Public Radio. The clamour for greater oversight into the election process and any evidence of misconduct is growing.

On October 12, a YouTube user called “Tea Partier” posted a video titled “Democrats Busted On Camera Stuffing Ballot Boxes”. The full video features four soundless, separate clips, each showing people ramming paper into election boxes as the name of a US state is super-imposed on the footage. Two of the videos take place in halls decorated in red, white and blue. The others are clearly identifiable as voting stations.

The only problem? They are all from Russia.

“Tea Partier” regularly posts political news videos relating to the US election, social issues and world events, but doesn’t appear to have any official ties to the Tea Party movement. However, by taking screenshots from key moments in each of the clips and uploading them to Yandex images and Google images, we can track down the original versions of each of the featured clips.

Clip 1 – “Illinois” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

31 October 2016 at 2:16 pm

Posted in Election, GOP

iKon OSS goes to auction

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OSS side

The OSS was the first asymmetric iKon razor (bar guard on one side, comb guard on the other), and also the first asymmetric modern razor. (I don’t know about vintage razors, so there may have been a vintage asymmetric razor at one point—God knows that they seemed to have tried every other variation.)

This is really an excellent razor, but I must pare down the collection, so I am reluctantly putting it up for auction.

Written by Leisureguy

31 October 2016 at 1:38 pm

Posted in Shaving

In defense of James Comey

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In the New Yorker Ryan Lizza has an interesting column making the case in favor of James Comey, and I highly recommend it. As he points out, Loretta Lynch, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama had previously muddied the water to the point where Comey felt that what he did was appropriate and necessary. It begins:

On October 11, 2015, President Obama was asked by Steve Kroft of CBS News about Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server while she was the Secretary of State. It was an awkward question for Obama. The F.B.I., led by James Comey, whom Obama chose to run the agency, was in the middle of an investigation into whether Hillary Clinton mishandled classified information. His Administration has been unusually aggressive in prosecuting government officials who leak classified material. But the Clinton e-mail investigation had also turned into a highly partisan issue, with Republican Presidential candidates making wild and unsubstantiated claims about her conduct. Still, Obama could have remained silent. There is a long-standing tradition by which Presidents do not comment about ongoing F.B.I. investigations, especially when a former member of their own Administration is under scrutiny. Obama seemed to want to follow that protocol and swat the question away. “Well, I’m not going to comment on—” he said before he was cut off.

“You think it’s not that big a deal?” Kroft asked.

If Obama had intended to stick to the standard “no comment” that tradition dictated, he changed his mind. “I can tell you that this is not a situation in which America’s national security was endangered,” the President said, asserting a firm conclusion about the matter eight months before the investigation was completed.

The following April, after it was revealed that classified information did pass through Clinton’s unsecured e-mail server, Obama was asked by Chris Wallace of Fox News if the President stood by his October comment. “Can you still say flatly that she did not jeopardize America’s secrets?” Wallace asked. Obama again hesitated. “I’ve got to be careful because, as you know, there have been investigations, there are hearings, Congress is looking at this. And I haven’t been sorting through each and every aspect of this,” he said.

But once again the President added a seemingly exculpatory comment about the target of an ongoing investigation. “She would never intentionally put America in any kind of jeopardy,” Obama said, of Clinton.

The second comment was less specific than the first, but, as Benjamin Wittes, the editor-in-chief of the Lawfare blog and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and Jack Goldsmith, a former assistant attorney general in the Bush Administration, note in a careful analysis of the e-mail investigation, “Both of these statements gave the appearance to many observers that the President had prejudged legally relevant aspects of the investigation.”

Obama’s Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, who oversees the F.B.I, allowed herself to be similarly compromised. On June 27th, President Bill Clinton boarded Lynch’s plane while it was on the tarmac at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, and the two spoke for about thirty minutes. Clinton and Lynch, who both insisted that the e-mail investigation was not discussed, quickly admitted that the meeting was a mistake. “People have a whole host of reasons to have questions about how we in government do our business,” Lynch said in an interview with Jonathan Capehart, in Aspen, Colorado, on July 1st. “My meeting on the plane with former President Clinton could give them another reason to have questions and concerns.”

An aide to Bill Clinton told CNN that the meeting “was unplanned” and “entirely social” but “recognizing how others could take another view of it, he agrees with the attorney general that he would not do it again.”

To remove any doubts about political meddling in the matter, Lynch said that she would accept whatever recommendations career prosecutors sent to her in the investigation, but later a Justice official muddied that position by insisting that Lynch would actually be “the ultimate decider.”

Two days later, on July 3rd, the Times reported that “Democrats close to Mrs. Clinton say she may decide to retain Ms. Lynch, the nation’s first black woman to be attorney general,” a report that did little to ease the concerns of those who were worried that Lynch and Obama and the Clintons were trying to unduly influence the investigation.

Why does any of this matter now? Because the statements and actions of Obama, Lynch, and Bill Clinton are necessary to understand the context of Comey’s unusual decision this week to break with long-standing Department of Justice procedures about not taking actions or making public disclosures that could affect an election. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

31 October 2016 at 1:03 pm

Law enforcement moments

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Radley Balko has a list of links in the Washington Post, such as these:

  • Dozens of deputies, FBI agents raid a man and his 7-year-old son, search the house for hours, apparently before realizing they had hit the wrong home. [This story shows quite clearly that the US is on the road to being a police state: police and FBI can destroy private property even without a warrant without being held accountable—and the poor homeowner just has to pay for the damage from his own pocket. I find this sort of thing both acutely depressing and frighteningly common. At the very least, it seems appropriate that, for each of the men in charge of this raid, have a large group of men break into his house, wreck everything, and leave it to him to deal with the mess. At least they would then know what it feels like. – LG]
  • Judge (again) rebukes Orange County officials for concealing evidence in ongoing jailhouse informant scandal.
  • The latest massive forensics scandal comes courtesy of the Ohio state crime lab.
  • Mississippi woman was held in jail for 96 days without charges — and no one has been held accountable for it.
  • Surprise! Company that has been spying on Baltimore from the air with permission from local officials violates its promise to only keep aerial surveillance data for 45 days.
  • Alabama lets police and prosecutors take pens, paper and phones into executions, but not attorneys for the condemned.

Written by Leisureguy

31 October 2016 at 12:14 pm

Climate change is taking out seafood

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Tara Duggan reports in the San Francisco Chronicle:

In the shallow waters off Elk, in Mendocino County, a crew from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife dived recently to survey the area’s urchin and abalone populations. Instead of slipping beneath a canopy of leafy bull kelp, which normally darkens the ocean floor like a forest, they found a barren landscape like something out of “The Lorax.”

A single large abalone scaled a bare kelp stalk, hunting a scrap to eat, while urchins clustered atop stark gray stone that is normally striped in colorful seaweed.

“When the urchins are starving and are desperate, they will leave the reef as bare rock,” said Cynthia Catton, an environmental scientist with Fish and Wildlife. Warm seawater has prevented the growth of kelp, the invertebrates’ main food source, so the urchins aren’t developing normally; the spiky shells of many are nearly empty. As a result, North Coast sea urchin divers have brought in only one-tenth of their normal haul this year.

The plight of urchins, abalones and the kelp forest is just one example of an extensive ongoing disruption of California’s coastal ecosystem — and the fisheries that depend on it — after several years of unusually warm ocean conditions and drought. Earlier this month, The Chronicle reported that scientists have discovered evidence in San Francisco Bay and its estuary of what is being called the planet’s sixth mass extinction, affecting species including chinook salmon and delta smelt.Baby salmon are dying by the millions in drought-warmed rivers while en route to the ocean. Young oysters are being deformed or killed by ocean acidification. The Pacific sardine population has crashed, and both sardines and squid are migrating to unusual new places. And Dungeness crab was devastated last year by an unprecedented toxic algal bloom that delayed the opening of its season for four months.

The collapses are taking a financial toll on the state’s seafood industry. A report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released Wednesday showed the California fishing harvest decreased in value by $109 million between 2014 and 2015, or by 43 percent.

The impact has already been felt in Bay Area homes. This summer, chinook salmon sold for more than $35 per pound in some markets, about 50 percent higher than in previous years. The absence of Dungeness crab during the 2015 holidays jarred many locals, though the Bay Area’s favorite crustacean is still slated to return to tables on Nov. 15, when the 2016 commercial season is scheduled to begin.

More disturbing are signs that the recent changes to the Pacific Ocean could represent the new normal. . .

Continue reading.

As you know, the GOP denies that climate change is happening so it uses all its power to oppose efforts to alleviate or stop climate change. Their position—that climate change is a hoax—is based on ideology, not evidence (since the evidence all shows that climate change is happening).

Written by Leisureguy

31 October 2016 at 9:06 am

Money Manager Thinks “High-Decibel” Elizabeth Warren Doesn’t Know Her Place

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David Dayen has an excellent column in The Intercept:

“High-decibel” Sen. Elizabeth Warren doesn’t know her place, according to a Friday New York Times op-ed.

Roger Lowenstein, the journalist-turned-chairman of the Sequoia mutual fund, criticizes Warren, “the nation’s unelected regulatory czar,” for being too outspoken about the financial industry. At one point, Lowenstein condemns her for “painting bankers with as broad a brush as Donald J. Trump uses to demean Muslims.”

For the record, Warren has not called for all bankers to be barred from entry into the United States “until we figure out what’s going on.”

Lowenstein first disparages Warren for calling for the termination of Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Mary Jo White for “failing to have the SEC draft rules requiring corporations to disclose details of their political spending.”

While it is terribly uppity of a senator to have a perspective on a public policy issue, the corporate political spending rule is only one of Warren’s criticisms of White.

The letter she wrote to President Obama urging White’s firing is 12 pages long, only three of which discuss the political spending rule. Warren spends much more time in the letter on White’s desire to have public companies reduce disclosure to investors (a key priority of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce) and the SEC’s refusal to finalize 19 Congressionally mandated rules under the Dodd-Frank Act, from regulations on disclosure of conflict minerals to enhancing reporting of borrowing of securities.

Lowenstein calls Warren’s position on the SEC “turf encroachment,” adding that, “Last I checked, the SEC was a regulatory agency of the executive branch, in which Ms. Warren is not, in fact, employed.”

Last I checked, the SEC is an independent regulatory agency accountable to Congress, established by the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Congressional oversight of the SEC happens at the committee level, for example by the Senate Banking Committee, of which Warren is a member.

Lowenstein also demeans Warren for opposing the appointment of investment banker Antonio Weiss to the No. 3 position in the Treasury Department. The author notes that, after Weiss withdrew from the appointment and was made an adviser to Treasury, he “brokered a highly praised law to restructure Puerto Rico’s debt,” proving that Warren is a dunderhead who doesn’t understand anything about regulation.

That law has been met with vociferous protest in Puerto Rico because it installed an unelected control board to usurp the island’s sovereign government and force continued austerity on its impoverished citizens. In the rarefied circles where Lowenstein mingles, this is seen as responsible and praiseworthy.

Finally, Lowenstein fumes that the SEC shouldn’t have to develop a political spending rule at all, because it distracts from the agency’s core mission. Instead, the SEC should think about “retail investors flocking to index funds” and whether they understand the risks of doing so.

As noted, Lowenstein is the director of a mutual fund, which stands to lose significant market share if investors leave for index funds. So his hit job on Elizabeth Warren has the dual purpose of lobbying a regulatory agency to protect his business. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

31 October 2016 at 8:46 am

Congress is deaf to CIA and NSA whistleblowers (as Edward Snowden learned)

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Snowden did attempt to report through normal channels the problems he found, but after repeated attempts were rejected, he took drastic action (and I believe for the good of the country).  And in fact those who follow procedure find that procedure does not work. Patrick Eddington reports in The Intercept:

Do the committees that oversee the vast U.S. spying apparatus take intelligence community whistleblowers seriously? Do they earnestly investigate reports of waste, fraud, abuse, professional negligence, or crimes against the Constitution reported by employees or contractors working for agencies like the CIA or NSA? For the last 20 years, the answer has been a resounding “no.”

My own experience in 1995-96 is illustrative. Over a two-year period working with my wife, Robin (who was a CIA detailee to a Senate committee at the time), we discovered that, contrary to the public statements by then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Colin Powell and other senior George H. W. Bush administration officials (including CIA Director John Deutch), American troops had in fact been exposed to chemical agents during and after the 1991 war with Saddam Hussein. While the Senate Banking Committee under then-Chairman Don Riegle, D-Mich., was trying to uncover the truth of this, officials at the Pentagon and CIA were working to bury it.

At the CIA, I objected internally — and was immediately placed under investigation by the CIA’s Office of Security. That became clear just days after we delivered the first of our several internal briefings to increasingly senior officials at the CIA and other intelligence agencies. In February 1995, I received a phone call from CIA Security asking whether I’d had any contacts with the media. I had not, but I had mentioned to CIA officials we’d met with that I knew that the CBS newsmagazine “60 Minutes” was working on a piece about the Gulf War chemical cover-up. This call would not be the last I’d receive from CIA Security about the matter, nor the only action the agency would take against us.

In the spring of 1995, a former manager of Robin’s discreetly pulled her aside and said that CIA Security agents were asking questions about us, talking to every single person with or for whom either of us had worked. I seemed to be the special focus of their attention, and the last question they asked our friends, colleagues, and former managers was, “Do you believe Pat Eddington would allow his conscience to override the secrecy agreement he signed?”

The agency didn’t care about helping to find out why hundreds of thousands of American Desert Storm veterans were ill. All it cared about was whether I’d keep my mouth shut about what the secret documents and reports in its databases had to say about the potential or actual chemical exposures to our troops.

Seeing the writing on the wall, I began working on what would become a book about our experience: “Gassed in the Gulf.” The agency tried to block publication of the book and attempted to reclassify hundreds of previously declassified Department of Defense and CIA intelligence reports that helped us make our case. After I filed a lawsuit, the agency yielded. We left and became whistleblowers, our story a front-page sensation just days before the 1996 presidential election. Within six months, the CIA was forced to admit that it had indeed been withholding data on such chemical exposures, which were a possible cause of the post-war illnesses that would ultimately affect about one-third of the nearly 700,000 U.S. troops who served in Kuwait and Iraq. None of the CIA or Pentagon officials who perpetrated the cover-up were fired or prosecuted.

Around this time, a small, dedicated group of NSA employees was trying to solve another national security problem: how to make it possible for the government to eavesdrop successfully in the age of the internet.

Led by NSA crypto-mathematician Bill Binney, the team developed an ingenious technical program called ThinThread, which allowed the NSA to process incoming surveillance information but segregate and discard the communications of innocent Americans. The program was innovative, cheap, and badly needed. But just months before the 9/11 attacks, then-NSA Director Michael Hayden rejected ThinThread in favor of an untested, expensive alternative called Trailblazer, offered by a Washington, D.C.-based defense contractor. It became a pricey boondoggle that never produced a single piece of intelligence.

Enraged that a program they believed could have prevented the 9/11 attacks had been jettisoned, Binney and his colleagues privately approached the House Intelligence Committee. When that failed to produce results, they issued a formal complaint to the Defense Department’s inspector general.

The subsequent investigation validated the allegations of the NSA ThinThread team. But in spite of this vindication, all who had filed the complaint were subsequently investigated by the FBI on bogus charges of leaking classified information. The episode is now the subject of an Office of Special Counsel whistleblower reprisal investigation, involving former NSA senior manager and ThinThread proponent Tom Drake. I have read the Defense Department inspector general report, which is still almost completely classified, and filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking its declassification. The Pentagon has stonewalled my request for more than a year and a half.

Congress has made no effort to investigate any of this.

Within the small, tight-knit circle of ex-intelligence community whistleblowers and the nonprofit organizations that work on their behalf, the ThinThread/Trailblazer case became infamous. By early 2013, it had come to the attention of a young NSA contractor named Edward Snowden, who had surreptitiously collected damaging proof that the NSA had taken the very technology that Binney and his team had developed and turned it inward, on the American public. . .

Continue reading.

It’s interesting that, like police officers, those within the government who work to cover-up misconduct, misdeeds, and mistakes, and virtually never punished for their malfeasance.

Read the whole thing. It shows why Snowden took the course he did. The conclusion:

. . . We now live in a country where the committees charged with reining in excessive domestic spying instead too often act as apologists and attack dogs for the agencies they are charged with regulating. As a result, it’s pretty clear that those intelligence agencies — and not the elected representatives of the American people — are really running the show in Washington.

Written by Leisureguy

31 October 2016 at 8:39 am

Upcoming adjustable DE in machined stainless steel: The Barbaros adjustable

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It’s also called (even on their Web page) the Barbaros & Rocnel, so it’s still not clear which name they will settle on. Scroll down at the link for comments from some who used the prototype. I gather the launch is Real Soon Now.

Written by Leisureguy

31 October 2016 at 8:33 am

Posted in Shaving

Plisson synthetic, Strop Shoppe Pêche, and the iKon DLC slant

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SOtD 2016-10-31

The brush is a Plissoft by Plisson, as it were, and a very nice brush it is, too. I do miss Strop Shoppe, which made excellent soaps, and I treasure those that I have, including Pêche, which has a bountiful peach fragrance similar to Tim’s Greek Peach, also an orphan soap.

I was cleaning up my razors to sell a few more, and I had the iKon DLC-coated stainless slant on the block (shown here on iKon’s SE handle), but I played with it a bit too much and lost interest in selling it. It’s a beautiful razor, IMO. iKon moved to the current B1 coating when some of the DLC models had problems with the coating peeling away. I got one of the very first ones made, and I’ve never had the slightest problem with the coating, but the B1 coating is by all accounts better overall.

The problem I’ve had with this razor (and the reason I seldom use it) is that it has a tendency to nick me on the XTG pass, particularly on the upper lip. (Note how I attribute the problem to my razor rather than to, say, my technique.) Today I took special care to keep the pressure light, and I didn’t have a single nick. Instead, I had a totally enjoyable shave and a BBS result. I think now that my technique had just gotten sloppy, and that perhaps is also the source of the problems I’ve recently had with the Maggard slant, the Fine slant, and the PAA Bakelite slant. So I’m going to try those again and focus on keeping the pressure lighter.

A good splash of Zi’ Peppino finished the shave, and I’m looking forward to the week despite Comey’s Hallowe’en surprise.

Written by Leisureguy

31 October 2016 at 8:11 am

Posted in Shaving

Corporate influence in the DOJ and DEA

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An editorial in the Washington Post:

DESTRUCTIVE AND persistent, the epidemic of opioid addiction is also deeply ironic: Unlike previous drug scourges in U.S. history, this one spread via perfectly legal channels. Millions of people were introduced to addictive pain-killing medications by doctors’ prescriptions, filled at pharmacies, ultimately supplied by pharmaceutical manufacturers. All of this went on in one of the most heavily regulated sectors of the U.S. economy — health care — which is supervised by a veritable army of officials working for dozens of agencies, state and federal.

Understandably, Americans want to know how the corporate, governmental and medical establishment could have presided over the growth of a public health crisis that caused 18,893 overdose deaths related to prescription pain relievers in 2014, plus 10,574 from a follow-on heroin epidemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some of the answers — or, at least, more good questions — emerged from a recent series of articles in The Post about the interaction between two little-known but crucial players in the pharmaceutical business: wholesalers that link factory to pharmacy, and the Drug Enforcement Administration, which is responsible for ensuring that legally produced narcotics aren’t diverted for improper or illegal use.

The key finding of the articles by Lenny Bernstein, Scott Higham and David S. Fallis is that DEA career personnel responded to the rise in opioid abuse after the turn of the 21st century by pursuing aggressive civil enforcement against wholesalers suspected of pumping drugs into corrupt “pill mills” around the country. These efforts were important because they enabled DEA officials to stop abusive practices through administrative orders, backed by financial penalties, without mounting full-blown criminal prosecutions. Yet the DEA officials told The Post they eventually ran into resistance from higher-level Justice Department officials who were being heavily lobbied by the wholesalers, which include some of the biggest corporations in the United States. The number of civil case filings against wholesalers plunged from 131 in fiscal 2011 to 40 in fiscal 2014 before rebounding to 64 in fiscal 2016.

Whether this decline is due to regulatory capture of DEA by the industry, as the DEA’s in-house critics allege, better conduct by industry, as industry says, or a combination of the two is a matter Congress should investigate. Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) sent Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch a letter asking her for a detailed response to the evidence in the Post stories — something neither Justice nor the DEA was willing to provide when our reporters asked. Congress too may have some explaining to do; this year it enacted, and President Obama signed, a law that makes it more difficult for the DEA to initiate civil enforcement actions against wholesalers, by raising the legal standard for doing so — all in the name of better “cooperation” between industry and government and patient “access” to necessary medicines. . .

Continue reading.

This seems a pretty clear example of large corporations controlling the government and deciding which laws will be enforced and which will not.

Written by Leisureguy

30 October 2016 at 7:37 pm

Kevin Drum: “Comeygate is looking worse and worse”

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Kevid Drum has an excellent post at Mother Jones, which begins with this anecdote:

We’re into single digits, people. There are only 9 days left until the hellscape of this year’s presidential campaign ends. In the meantime, let’s play a game! Can you guess who the mystery man is in this story?

In the fall of 1996, a charity called the Association to Benefit Children held a ribbon-cutting in Manhattan for a new nursery school serving children with AIDS. The bold-faced names took seats up front. There was then-Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani (R) and former mayor David Dinkins (D). TV stars Frank and Kathie Lee Gifford, who were major donors. And there was a seat saved for Steven Fisher, a developer who had given generously to build the nursery.

Then, all of a sudden…“There’s this kind of ruckus at the door…He just gets up on the podium and sits down.”…“Frank Gifford turned to me and said, ‘Why is he here?’ ” Buchenholz recalled recently. By then, the ceremony had begun. There was nothing to do.

Once he was onstage, he played the part of a big donor convincingly. Photos from the event show him smiling, right behind Giuliani, as the mayor cut the ribbon. During the “celebratory dance” segment of the program, he mugged and did the macarena with Giuliani, Kathie Lee Gifford and a group of children.

“I am just heartsick,” Buchenholz, the executive director, wrote the next day to the donor whose seat had been taken. Buchenholz provided a copy of the email.

What’s that? You all guessed Donald Trump? Seriously? All of you? Damn. And here I thought I was being so clever. But click the link anyway to read David Fahrenthold’s latest reporting on the almost pathological aversion to actual charity that has marked Donald Trump’s life.

Meanwhile, in the breaking news department, Comeygate is getting fishier and fishier. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

30 October 2016 at 3:03 pm

Comey and the destruction of norms: A comment by James Fallows

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James Fallows in the Atlantic has a particularly good column (with good links):

The rules in politics haven’t changed that much in recent years. What has changed is adherence to norms, in an increasingly destructive way.

I made that case, using examples different from the ones I’m about to present here, nearly two years ago. The shift in norms is also a central part of Thomas Mann’s and Norman Ornstein’s prescient It’s Even Worse Than It Looks and Mike Lofgren’s The Party Is Over, plus of course Jonathan Rauch’s “How American Politics Went Insane,” our very widely read cover story (subscribe!) this summer.

Today’s examples:

—Before 2006, use of a Senate filibuster to block legislation or nominations was an occasional tool-of-the-minority, not a routine practice. Now it has become so routine and, well, normalized that a story in our leading newspaper can matter-of-factly say, “It actually takes 60 votes to bring a Supreme Court nomination to the Senate floor.” Actually it takes 60 votes only if there is a filibuster, which didn’t use to be normal. Inconceivable as it now seems, three of Ronald Reagan’s nominees—Justices Scalia, Kennedy, and O’Connor—were approved unanimously. Most Democrats in the Senate disagreed with some or all of their views. Not a single Democrat voted against them.

—Before February of this year, the universal assumption was that a sitting president’s nominations for the Supreme Court would be considered, although of course they might be voted down. But before the sun had set on the day of Antonin Scalia’s death, Mitch McConnell had made clear that the Senate would not consider any nomination from the 44th president, and since then John McCain and others have suggested that, depending on who becomes the 45th president, her nominations might not be considered either. (For historic reference you can see an official list here, showing relatively prompt consideration up-or-down of previous nominees.)

—Before this year, the norm through the post-Watergate era was that any major-party presidential nominee would make tax-return information public, in enough time before the election for voters to consider the implications of income sources, debts, donations, and other entanglements. Donald Trump has flatly refused, and his own party’s members barely bother to mention it anymore.

—Before this summer, . . .

Continue reading.

My own thought is that people who violate norms so overtly and so clearly are showing that “anything goes” and both testing the limits and (if they get away with it) practicing for the next step: instead of just ignoring norms for their benefit, they will begin to ignore laws—and indeed in some police departments this already is common practice, as we’ve seen. It’s almost as though our government is moving aggressively in an authoritarian direction.

Written by Leisureguy

30 October 2016 at 2:57 pm

On Clinton Emails, Did the F.B.I. Director Abuse His Power?

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Richard Painter begins his NY Times op-ed with a striking (and exact) analogy:

The F.B.I. is currently investigating the hacking of Americans’ computers by foreign governments. Russia is a prime suspect.

Imagine a possible connection between a candidate for president in the United States and the Russian computer hacking. Imagine the candidate has business dealings in Russia, and has publicly encouraged the Russians to hack the email of his opponent and her associates.

It would not be surprising for the F.B.I. to include this candidate and his campaign staff in its confidential investigation of Russian computer hacking.

But it would be highly improper, and an abuse of power, for the F.B.I. to conduct such an investigation in the public eye, particularly on the eve of the election. It would be an abuse of power for the director of the F.B.I., absent compelling circumstances, to notify members of Congress from the party opposing the candidate that the candidate or his associates were under investigation. It would be an abuse of power if F.B.I. agents went so far as to obtain a search warrant and raid the candidate’s office tower, hauling out boxes of documents and computers in front of television cameras.

The F.B.I.’s job is to investigate, not to influence the outcome of an election.

Such acts could also be prohibited under the Hatch Act, which bars the use of an official position to influence an election. That is why the F.B.I. presumably would keep those aspects of an investigation confidential until after the election. The usual penalty for a violation is termination of federal employment.

And that is why, on Saturday, I filed a complaint against the F.B.I. with the Office of Special Counsel, which investigates Hatch Act violations, and with the Office of Government Ethics. I have spent much of my career working on government ethics and lawyers’ ethics, including two and a half years as the chief White House ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush, and I never thought that the F.B.I. could be dragged into a political circus surrounding one of its investigations. Until this week.

(For the sake of full disclosure, in this election I have supported Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, John Kasich and Hillary Clinton for president, in that order.) . . .

Continue reading.

The concluding paragraph:

. . . This is no trivial matter. We cannot allow F.B.I. or Justice Department officials to unnecessarily publicize pending investigations concerning candidates of either party while an election is underway. That is an abuse of power. Allowing such a precedent to stand will invite more, and even worse, abuses of power in the future.

Written by Leisureguy

30 October 2016 at 2:03 pm

Watching “Good Girls Revolt” and remembering

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It does take me back. Episode 2 starts with a consciousness-raising exercise, and I do recall when those were going on. As I recall, it was mostly women’s groups but a lot of men also needed their consciousness raised, so perhaps there were men’s groups as well.

It’s interesting to look at how my views have changed over the decades. I think people often grow up with a certain outlook and are not aware that they even have an outlook or worldview. It’s like viewing the world only through a tinted window: it’s just the way things are. But when the window becomes clear, things certainly do look different. Once you no longer see through a glass darkly, it’s hard to remember how you got your earlier worldview. In most cases, people grow up in it, learning by absorption, much as we learn our native language.

Very interesting series for those of my generation: to see from the outside (now) things we once took for granted. Even small things, like the guy on the plane lighting a cigarette…

Written by Leisureguy

30 October 2016 at 12:22 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

Phoenix Shaving Stainless Steel DOC Safety Razor, Aluminum DOC & New Switchback 400

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Cool looking, but I’ve not tried them yet. The brush seems particularly intriguing.

Also, there’s a campaign for a traditional wetshaving merit badge. God knows I could have used some good instruction when I started shaving in high school


Written by Leisureguy

30 October 2016 at 10:51 am

Posted in Shaving

Helping children develop virtues

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Darcia Narvrez writes at the OUP blog:

Helicopter parenting is denounced by onlookers (e.g., David Brooks) as babying children who should be self-reliant, a highly valued characteristic in the USA. Children should not need parents but should use their own capacities to get through the day. The notion of a good person is intertwined with this individualistic view of persons and relationships. Good people know how to behave. They stand on their own, with little dependency on others. They are given rules and obey them. Bad people don’t–they are whiny and weak.

It should be noted that when one applies this view to babies, to make them “independent,” one not only misunderstands baby development but creates the opposite result—a less confident, regulated and capable child (see Contexts for Young Child Flourishing). 

This machine-like view of persons and relationships contrasts, not only with what we know about child development (kids’ biology is constructed by their social experience) but with longstanding theories of virtue and virtue development. A virtue-theory approach to persons and relationships emphasizes their intertwining. One always needs mentors as one cultivates virtues throughout life. Relationships matter for moral virtue. One must be careful about the relationships one engages in or they can lead one astray.

What does it mean to be virtuous? Virtue is a holistic look at goodness and, for individuals, involves reasoning, feeling, intuition, and behavior that are appropriate for each particular situation.  Who the person is—their feelings, habits, thinking, perceptions—matters for coordinating internally-harmonious action that matches the needs of the situation. This holistic approach contrasts with theories of morality that emphasize one thing or another—doing one’s duty by acting on good reasoning and good will (deontology) or attending to short-term consequences (utilitarianism). (Most moral systems pay attention to all three aspects but emphasize one over the others.)

The high-demand definition of goodness in virtue theory suggests that few of us are truly good. Instead, most of us most of the time act against our feeling, behave in ways that counter our best reasoning, or completely miss noticing the need for moral action. In other words, our feelings/emotions, reasoning, inclinations are not harmonious but in conflict.

Some philosophers are particularly concerned with the inconsistencies in people’s behavior—for example, a person might be honest on taxes, but dishonest in business dealings or interpersonal situations.

However, among social-cognitive psychologists inconsistency is not a surprise. . .

Continue reading.

The post is made in reference to the book Developing the Virtues.

Written by Leisureguy

30 October 2016 at 9:47 am

Posted in Books, Daily life, Science

A reading list compiled by librarians

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The librarians were asked to specify one title that they would recommend. The backstory and full list can be found in this post by Sally Bittner at Oxford University Press. Here is the beginning of the list:

A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

A Passage to India by E. M. Forster

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada

Brodeck’s Report by Philippe Claudel

Butcher’s Crossing by John Williams

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchy

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Dangerous Liaisons by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos

Dark Fire by C. J. Sansom

Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol

Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov

Dune by Frank Herbert

Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman

Engleby by Sebastian Faulks

Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl

Flambards by K. M. Peyton

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J. K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling

Hunger (Sult) by Knut Hamsun

Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer

It by Stephen King

Juniper by Monica Furlong

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

30 October 2016 at 5:27 am

Posted in Books

Repeal, Don’t Celebrate, the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986

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More in this Radley Balko column in the Washington Post.

Written by Leisureguy

29 October 2016 at 8:24 pm

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