Later On

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

Archive for November 2016

Odd that employers are exempt from illegal immigration punishment

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Read this post by Kevin Drum. It begins:

Controlling illegal immigration has never seemed all that hard to me. The vast majority of those who are in the United States illegally—either by crossing the border or overstaying their visas—are here to find jobs. So if you want to reduce illegal immigration, you need to make it hard for employers to hire anyone who’s not authorized to work. But in the LA Times today, Wayne Cornelius says that’s not in the cards:

There has never been much public or congressional appetite for a harsh crackdown on employers,especially the small businesses that depend most heavily on workers in the U.S. illegally. They are pillars of their communities and campaign contributors. Besides, immigration agents have had higher enforcement priorities — tracking down immigrants who committed serious crimes or pose national security threats.

President-elect Trump has called for full implementation of an electronic employment eligibility verification system called E-Verify….E-Verify, however, is no panacea. It does not prevent immigrants who are ineligible to work from getting jobs by providing valid information pertaining to other people (borrowed documents). And as long as penalties are weak, requiring employers to use E-Verify will not significantly reduce violations.

Will Congress approve crippling fines or even prison sentences for business owners who ignore E-Verify rules? Will lawmakers direct the Justice Department to make these scofflaws a top priority? Unless and until that happens, many employers will continue to view hiring those in the U.S. illegally as a low-risk, high-reward crime. In 2014, the probability that one of the nation’s 6 million employers would be investigated for violating immigration laws was 0.03%.

I don’t personally care all that much about the level of illegal immigration. The current numbers strike me as reasonable. But obviously a lot of people do care, and most of them are Republicans. They talk tough, they build walls and fences, and they promise to hire lots of border enforcement agents. But this all a sham. If the economic incentives continue to exist, so will illegal immigration. . .

Read the whole thing.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 November 2016 at 8:33 pm

Are You Sure You’re Not Racist?

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Jodi Picoult writes in Time magazine:

When my son was 4, we were crossing the Dartmouth campus when we passed an African-American student. “Mommy,” Kyle asked, “Who is the tan man?” He said this loud enough for the young man to overhear. I turned 10 different shades of red, and fell all over myself trying to diffuse the awkwardness. I told my son that although people came in different shades, we’re all the same. I told him I was colorblind, and he should be too. I was sure this was the right response.

I was wrong.

But then, I was wrong about a lot when it came to race, and it took 48 years of my life to start to figure it out.

A few years before that encounter on the Dartmouth Green, I had tried to write about racism. I had been working in NYC and was deeply moved by a news story of a black undercover cop on the subway who was shot four times in the back by his white colleague. Whenever I’m troubled by a topic, I start a novel — it’s how I process difficult issues and hopefully get my readers to do the same. But this time, after I started writing, I struggled daily. I just couldn’t find manage to find authenticity, and eventually I shelved the manuscript. I wondered if maybe my difficulty was because I had no right to write about racism — after all, I am not African American. Then, I’d play devil’s advocate with myself: I’d written multiple books from the points of view of people I was not — Holocaust survivors, rape victims, school shooters, men. Why was it so hard for me to write from the point of view of someone black?

Because race is different. Racism is different. It’s hard to discuss without offending people. As a result, we often choose not to discuss it at all. . .

Continue reading.

Later in the article (but read the whole thing):

. . . Here is the grievous mistake I had made for the majority of my life: I assumed that racism is synonymous with bias. Yet you could take every white supremacist and ship him off to Mars and you’d still have racism in the world. That’s because racism is systemic and institutional, but it is both perpetuated and dismantled in individual acts. Racism is the white lady standing in line at the bus stop who moves her purse to the opposite side when a black man comes to wait beside her. It’s the fact that if you’re black and convicted of a crime, justice may not be so just: although African Americans are not even 13% of the U.S. population they are 37% of those arrested for drug offenses; black drug defendants are 20% more likely to be sentenced to prison than white defendants. It’s the realization that although people of color can likely name three shampoos that white people use, the reverse is rarely true.

It’s easy to see the headwinds of racism — the obstacles that make it harder for people of color to achieve success. It’s more challenging to see the tailwinds of racism — the ways that being white makes it easier to achieve success. . .

Written by LeisureGuy

30 November 2016 at 11:47 am

Posted in Daily life

An overview of physics today

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Very interesting video:

Written by LeisureGuy

30 November 2016 at 11:17 am

Posted in Science, Video

Mr Pomp, Asses’ Milk shaving soap, iKon 102, and Chiseled Face Summer Storm

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SOTD 2016-11-30

Mr Pomp is quite a good brush, and the lather from the asses’s milk shaving soap The Wife brought me from Paris is excellent. I was thinking as I lathered that I wish I had known in high school how to shave properly. If I had, I probably would never have grown a beard.

So it goes. No beard today, by God. Three passes with the iKon 102 left my face perfectly smooth without even the threat of a nick. And a good splash of Chiseled Face Summer Storm was a great finish—petrichor is a fragrance that I think most must find attractive.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 November 2016 at 11:06 am

Posted in Shaving

Kevin Drum shows Trump’s swamp-draining scorecard

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And it seems pretty damn accurate. Here’s some of it:

screen-shot-2016-11-29-at-4-09-53-pm

Written by LeisureGuy

29 November 2016 at 4:11 pm

How the NY Times prepared for Castro’s death

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Jason Kottke has a great post on the trials and tribulations of the obit department.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 November 2016 at 4:07 pm

Posted in NY Times

Fighting authoritarianism: 20 lessons from the 20th century

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Jason Kottke has a good post. I think I’ll copy the whole thing. The more copies are out there, the better.

Yale history professor Timothy Snyder took to Facebook to share some lessons from 20th century about how to protect our liberal democracy from fascism and authoritarianism. Snyder has given his permission to republish the list, so I’ve reproduced it in its entirety here in case something happens to the original.

Americans are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience. Now is a good time to do so. Here are twenty lessons from the twentieth century, adapted to the circumstances of today.

1. Do not obey in advance. Much of the power of authoritarianism is freely given. In times like these, individuals think ahead about what a more repressive government will want, and then start to do it without being asked. You’ve already done this, haven’t you? Stop. Anticipatory obedience teaches authorities what is possible and accelerates unfreedom.

2. Defend an institution. Follow the courts or the media, or a court or a newspaper. Do not speak of “our institutions” unless you are making them yours by acting on their behalf. Institutions don’t protect themselves. They go down like dominoes unless each is defended from the beginning.

3. Recall professional ethics. When the leaders of state set a negative example, professional commitments to just practice become much more important. It is hard to break a rule-of-law state without lawyers, and it is hard to have show trials without judges.

4. When listening to politicians, distinguish certain words. Look out for the expansive use of “terrorism” and “extremism.” Be alive to the fatal notions of “exception” and “emergency.” Be angry about the treacherous use of patriotic vocabulary.

5. Be calm when the unthinkable arrives. When the terrorist attack comes, remember that all authoritarians at all times either await or plan such events in order to consolidate power. Think of the Reichstag fire. The sudden disaster that requires the end of the balance of power, the end of opposition parties, and so on, is the oldest trick in the Hitlerian book. Don’t fall for it.

6. Be kind to our language. Avoid pronouncing the phrases everyone else does. Think up your own way of speaking, even if only to convey that thing you think everyone is saying. (Don’t use the internet before bed. Charge your gadgets away from your bedroom, and read.) What to read? Perhaps “The Power of the Powerless” by V’aclav Havel, 1984 by George Orwell, The Captive Mind by Czeslaw Milosz, The Rebel by Albert Camus, The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt, or Nothing is True and Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev.

7. Stand out. Someone has to. It is easy, in words and deeds, to follow along. It can feel strange to do or say something different. But without that unease, there is no freedom. And the moment you set an example, the spell of the status quo is broken, and others will follow.

8. Believe in truth. To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.

9. Investigate. Figure things out for yourself. Spend more time with long articles. Subsidize investigative journalism by subscribing to print media. Realize that some of what is on your screen is there to harm you. Bookmark PropOrNot or other sites that investigate foreign propaganda pushes.

10. Practice corporeal politics. Power wants your body softening in your chair and your emotions dissipating on the screen. Get outside. Put your body in unfamiliar places with unfamiliar people. Make new friends and march with them.

11. Make eye contact and small talk. This is not just polite. It is a way to stay in touch with your surroundings, break down unnecessary social barriers, and come to understand whom you should and should not trust. If we enter a culture of denunciation, you will want to know the psychological landscape of your daily life.

12. Take responsibility for the face of the world. Notice the swastikas and the other signs of hate. Do not look away and do not get used to them. Remove them yourself and set an example for others to do so.

13. Hinder the one-party state. The parties that took over states were once something else. They exploited a historical moment to make political life impossible for their rivals. Vote in local and state elections while you can.

14. Give regularly to good causes, if you can. Pick a charity and set up autopay. Then you will know that you have made a free choice that is supporting civil society helping others doing something good.

15. Establish a private life. Nastier rulers will use what they know about you to push you around. Scrub your computer of malware. Remember that email is skywriting. Consider using alternative forms of the internet, or simply using it less. Have personal exchanges in person. For the same reason, resolve any legal trouble. Authoritarianism works as a blackmail state, looking for the hook on which to hang you. Try not to have too many hooks.

16. Learn from others in other countries. Keep up your friendships abroad, or make new friends abroad. The present difficulties here are an element of a general trend. And no country is going to find a solution by itself. Make sure you and your family have passports.

17. Watch out for the paramilitaries. When the men with guns who have always claimed to be against the system start wearing uniforms and marching around with torches and pictures of a Leader, the end is nigh. When the pro-Leader paramilitary and the official police and military intermingle, the game is over.

18. Be reflective if you must be armed. If you carry a weapon in public service, God bless you and keep you. But know that evils of the past involved policemen and soldiers finding themselves, one day, doing irregular things. Be ready to say no. (If you do not know what this means, contact the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and ask about training in professional ethics.)

19. Be as courageous as you can. If none of us is prepared to die for freedom, then all of us will die in unfreedom.

20. Be a patriot. The incoming president is not. Set a good example of what America means for the generations to come. They will need it.

A great thought-provoking list. “Corporeal politics”…I like that phrase. And I’ve seen many references to Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism in recent weeks.

See also Five Steps to Tyranny and The 14 Features of Eternal Fascism.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 November 2016 at 4:00 pm

Posted in Daily life, Government

They certainly hooked me. How about you? “The Attention Economy – How They Addict Us”

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Written by LeisureGuy

29 November 2016 at 3:57 pm

The change in the nature of TV comedy

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Written by LeisureGuy

29 November 2016 at 3:53 pm

Interesting insight into the U.S infrastructure problem: We went overboard, and now must pay the piper

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Ben Kelley has a good answer on Quora:

The part of the problem is the US built infrastructure.

While the rest of the world was struggling after WW2, the US spent a huge amount of money in its infrastructure in the 1950s. People had cars; it was a golden age for the US.

But now this infrastructure is 60–70 years old. It doesn’t last forever, and concrete and steel reinforcing is aging a bit quicker than people expected. What people thought would be fine for 100+ years really only has a lifespan of ~50 years. In many countries, that is not a huge issue, just rebuild or fix when these issues pop up. But the US had a real infrastructure boom in the 1950s that it’s not just one or two, it’s the whole network. . .

Continue reading.

And, of course, the very time we need to spend more, the GOP is going to starve the government. But the infrastructure rebuilding will go ahead: there’s more money to be pulled from the public at the same time taxes are lowered: just increase the deficit! Money can be funneled directly from the Treasury (and our future) into the pockets of very big private corporations. Can that be right?

Written by LeisureGuy

29 November 2016 at 3:30 pm

Posted in Daily life, Government

Fascinating short video on—correct me if I’m wrong—Epicureanism

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I touch on some of the points mentioned in the film, but the film has quite a bit more in terms of the alternatives.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 November 2016 at 3:09 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life, Memes, Video

Tagged with

The template of a story—any story: same template.

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Interesting to read at this particular time in history, when it looks as though nations are going through the story cycle, nations being one of the stories we tell ourselves. (Cf. memes, which survive if they are replicated by others—that is, only if they are “catchy” in some way, so that more people are drawn into the meme. Darwinian evolution takes care of the rest.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 November 2016 at 2:42 pm

The problems with Price’s Obamacare replacement

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Kevin Drum lays it out:

The Washington Post tells us this morning that we have another new member of the incoming cabinet:

Trump picks fierce Obamacare critic as health and human services secretary

His name is Tom Price, a Republican member of Congress from Georgia, and the fact that he’s a “fierce” critic of Obamacare doesn’t really faze me. He’s a Republican, after all. Anyone Trump picked would be a fierce critic of Obamacare.

However, there is something different about Price: he actually has a replacement plan. Not a white paper, but actual legislation. Sarah Kliff runs down Price’s plan here, but I want to pull back from the details and focus on the bigger picture instead.

You’ve probably heard a million times that Obamacare relies on a three-legged stool. If you want universal coverage, you have to require insurers to cover everyone, even those with pre-existing conditions. That’s guaranteed issue. But that will wreck the insurance pool: it will have too many sick people, who will rush to buy coverage, and not enough healthy people. So you also need to provide an incentive for healthy people to join your plan. In Obamacare, that’s the tax penalty for going without insurance. Finally, once you’ve done that, you have to provide financial help for the poor, since they can’t afford full-price coverage no matter how much incentive you give them. In Obamacare, that’s the subsidies.

This is not just an Obamacare thing. It’s true of all health insurance. Take the employer market that most of us are familiar with. Everyone who works for a company that offers health coverage gets it. That’s guaranteed issue. It’s pretty cheap and the price is deducted painlessly from your paycheck. That’s an incentive for everyone to join. And the company provides the insurance either free or at a very discounted price. That’s the equivalent of Obamacare’s subsidies.

So how does Price’s plan work? He mandates that insurance companies cover even those with pre-existing conditions. That’s guaranteed issue. However, insurers are only required to take you on if you maintain continuous coverage. That’s a huge incentive for healthy people to buy insurance, since if you skip it for a year you might not be able to get coverage if you get sick. Finally, he offers tax credits based on age to everyone, and a high-risk pool for those who still can’t afford insurance. That’s very similar to Obamacare’s subsidies.

So what’s the problem? Why shouldn’t Democrats ditch Obamacare and accept Price’s substitute? Or to flip things around, why should Republicans bother with this? If they’re just going to get a different version of Obamacare from Price, why not skip the whole thing? . . .

Continue reading.

Do read the rest of the column. It’s grim. We’re so screwed.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 November 2016 at 2:32 pm

They’re battening down the hatches: Internet Archive putting database in Canada to keep it from Trump

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Clearly a lot of companies and organizations and individuals (e.g., me) think we’re in for a very rough ride. Take a look at this report.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 November 2016 at 2:03 pm

Mary Elizabeth Williams provides plain talk to journalists who have no experience with abusive relationships

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Many journalists lack real-life experience as a partner in an abusive relationship—thank God—which leaves them WAY out of their depth in trying to deal with Trump. They lack the experience of dealing daily with a narcissistic and disordered personality who’s accustomed to abusing others, from grabbing them by the pussy to the sort of vengeance he feels entitled to if anyone crosses him in any way, however slight, like claiming that he—he, Donald Trump—lost the popular vote. It’s also possible that some are in such a relationship currently but not yet ready/able to look directly at the situation, and so they simply block out things that would lead them to confront something they are now not ready confront. The effect is the same: they don’t see what’s going on.)

In contrast, Donald Trump has loads of experience in dealing with regular people in daily life, and he knows exactly how to handle them—e.g., promise whatever they want to hear, and once he has what he wants, discard them.

Compare: An ordinary person meeting a famous person is struck dumb, particularly if the famous person is one the ordinary person “knows” and admires (from afar). Such an encounter is extremely unusual for the ordinary person, who therefore does not know how to act in the situation. But for the famous person an encounter with an ordinary person happens all the time, so the famous person is quite comfortable: because s/he’s accustomed to this.

An ordinary person who meets many famous people, as does some rising start making the transition from ordinary to famous, will from the experience from these encounters learn how to handle it and loses the awkwardness and self-consciousness that s/he had at the beginning: it’s just a skill, learned through practice, and a famous person has more practice in meeting ordinary people than ordinary people have in meeting famous people.

It’s all a matter of having enough experience with a kind of situation to know how to react in that situation. See also this earlier post; from that post:

One interesting statistic: We were told that the average assailant has done 17 attacks [on women], so that the victim is totally outclassed just on the basis of experience. The victim is going through something for the first time, trying to work out a response on the fly, while the attacker has the advantage of experience and knows what to expect and how to deal with it.

But during the 12-week course [in Model Mugging], the students go through 54 very realistic simulated attacks, with full force. So if a student later faces an assailant, the experience tables are turned. The assailant just doesn’t have the depth of experience in dealing with physical assault that this particular victim does, and he finds himself out of his depth.

So Donald Trump knows exactly what to do with people like you, from long experience and much practice, but the ordinary person, without any experience with that sort of situation, is totally outmatched. He knows how to handle you, but you don’t know how to handle him. That’s how he got away with being a serial sexual assaulter for so many years.

Mary Elizabeth Williams makes some good points in her Salon column:

Friends, fellow members of the media and those of you with far more reach and influence than I will ever attain: I know you’re used to dispensing free advice, but let me offer you some today. If you don’t have a lot of direct experience with how vindictive, possibly unbalanced people behave, bless your heart.

If you’re low on the chain of groups that are currently being targeted by a former reality star and his rogue’s gallery of intended allies, congratulations on your good fortune. Now, I ask you to take a step back from lecturing everybody else about what is a “distraction” these days — because this would be an excellent moment to start listening and reconsidering some of your views.

In a period between Sunday and early Tuesday, Donald Trump, a man who lost the popular vote by 2 million votes and counting, went on a number of separate, reckless Twitter rants. First, he went gunning after the results of the election, falsely claiming, “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”

 It’s a thoroughly bogus statement, one that can be traced to screaming conspiracy theorist and Sandy Hook truther Alex Jones. Trump next announced he would just met with former general David Petraeus and was “very impressed” with a man who not so long ago was under investigation for revealing classified information to his mistress.

He then moved on to a genuinely baffling series of tweets to his followers — including at one point, specifically a 16-year-old Oakland Raiders fan — about his ongoing media grudges. “What PROOF do u have DonaldTrump did not suffer from millions of FRAUD votes? Journalist? Do your job! @CNN,” he fumed, calling out CNN senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny as “just another generic CNN part time wannabe journalist! 

He added, “Pathetic — you have no sufficient evidence that Donald Trump did not suffer from voter fraud, shame! Bad reporter. There is NO QUESTION THAT #voterfraud did take place, and in favor of #CorruptHillary!”

It was a veritable smorgasbord of paranoia, narcissism and direct bullying. By Tuesday morning, he was still carrying on about CNN, but also cryptically threw in a new target, announcing, “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag — if they do, there must be consequences — perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!” (Note: Your right to burn the flag is constitutionally protected, as is your citizenship — at least for now.)

With every tweet, with every public declaration he makes — especially every one since Nov. 8 — Donald Trump reveals himself to be dangerously, willfully ignorant, hellbent on punishing his perceived enemies and profoundly butthurt about just about everything. And every time it happens, along come a trove of well-meaning individuals — often male, often white, often straight — to offer a scolding about how what Trump is doing is a “distraction” that “we” shouldn’t pay attention to.

I suspect that many smart, talented people, like Jack Shafer, who says we should “stop being Trump’s Twitter fool,” are coming from a genuine place, based on their own political and media experience. But let me break it down: Trump is not a politician. Trump is not a person with an iota of public service experience. Trump is, to say the least, a really outside the box human being. It is unhelpful to talk about him like any of the normal rules apply.

It also unhelpful right now to sermonize about who “we” are when many of “us” are immigrants, POC, women, persons with disabilities or members of the LGBTQ community. I’d love for the self-appointed arbiters of What Really Matters to grasp that much of the threat to American liberties right now is coming from people who are super duper invested in their white male privilege, so maybe you’ll excuse us if hah!

We’re a little burned out on guys like that telling everybody else how to think and behave. And if you, like Shafer, look at Trump and can be reminded of a petulant toddler and not an abuser, I sincerely envy you.

I suspect that if you’re accustomed to the world operating for you in ways it doesn’t for millions of others, the idea that a man who consistently behaves in a manner that shows himself to be uncurious, unkind and totally lacking in impulse control could attain the highest level of power does not compute. All around me, I see wise, nice people who went to good schools twisting themselves into knots over this. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 November 2016 at 2:01 pm

Medical Innovation Bill Would Water Down Disclosure of Industry Payments to Doctors

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It’s always interesting what businesses try to conceal—for example, that a doctor speaking on behalf of a new wonder drug is being paid large sums by the pharmaceutical company that manufactures the drug. So the pharmaceutical companies AND the doctors do everything they can to conceal the payments. Note that the doctors are just as sleazy and dishonest as the corporations in this set-up.

Charles Ornstein writes at ProPublica:

UPDATE:  Provisions in the 21st Century Cures Act dealing with disclosure of physician payments were removed from the bill Tuesday, following criticism from some lawmakers and transparency advocates, a GOP aide said. /update [interesting what a disinfectant sunlight can be, which is why the FOIA is so important—and the Obama administration record of compliance with FOIA requests is abysmal, but I bet it is much better than what we’ll see from the Trump administration. My earlier post is right to the point. – LG]

This week, Congress is expected to consider a bill promoting biomedical research and innovation that would also weaken requirements on pharmaceutical and medical device companies to disclose certain payments to doctors.

The goal of the 21st Century Cures Act, which has bipartisan support, is to help bring drugs and devices to market faster and at lower cost. It would increase funding for the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration and would provide grants to states to address the growing problem of narcotic overdoses.

But tucked into the 996-page bill, released on Friday, are provisions that would water down some requirements of the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, passed in 2010 as part of the Affordable Care Act. That law requires drug and device companies to publicly report virtually all payments to doctors, including meals, gifts, travel, royalties, as well as speaking and consulting fees. The disclosures can be found on the government’s Open Payments website and on ProPublica’s Dollars for Docs tool.

Under the Cures Act, companies would not have to report the value of textbooks and medical journal reprints given to doctors. They also wouldn’t have to disclose payments for continuing medical education courses, essentially training programs funded by companies about subjects that they care about and run by third-parties. Drug companies are not supposed to have a say in the speakers for such programs.

The preponderance of payments reported under the Sunshine Act are for meals. Of the 26.5 million non-research payments made from August 2013 to December 2015, 22.9 million of them, or 87 percent, were for meals. These would remain disclosed under the new measure.

By contrast, about 4 percent, or 1 million, were for educational items and gifts, according to a ProPublica analysis.

Dozens of medical societies have called for the exemptions, saying patients benefit when physicians have access to the most up-to-date medical information.

“These are smart tweaks to the law,” said Thomas Sullivan, president of Rockpointe Corp., which provides continuing medical education to physicians, and editor of a website that follows industry developments. “This is not trying to tear down transparency in any respect. This is simply to make it a little bit more clear that things that are for education, which really falls into the free speech clause of the Constitution, aren’t reported on.”

But critics say the changes would weaken an important pillar of oversight for drug companies. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 November 2016 at 1:51 pm

What being poor feels like

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From this post, which has the story and some great posters at the bottom of the article, the video below and this interesting fact:

Tipping Point has been around for more than a decade, but the campaign marks its biggest advertising effort to date.

“We’re well known among a few different groups in the Bay Area and the country but not as well-known as we’d like,” says Tipping Point CEO and founder Daniel Lurie. “We just wanted to make something that made people stop and think.”

The group is unique in that it’s able to put 100 percent of its donations towards those in need, thanks to a board of directors that covers all operating costs.

Since its inception in 2005, the nonprofit has raised more than $120 million, and last year alone, it helped 22,000 people move toward a path out of poverty.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 November 2016 at 1:39 pm

Posted in Daily life

How Stable Are Democracies? ‘Warning Signs Are Flashing Red’

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In the NY Times Amanda Taub provides a reason for occasionally feeling depressed if not alarmed:

Yascha Mounk is used to being the most pessimistic person in the room. Mr. Mounk, a lecturer in government at Harvard, has spent the past few years challenging one of the bedrock assumptions of Western politics: that once a country becomes a liberal democracy, it will stay that way.

His research suggests something quite different: that liberal democracies around the world may be at serious risk of decline.

Mr. Mounk’s interest in the topic began rather unusually. In 2014, he published a book, “Stranger in My Own Country.” It started as a memoir of his experiences growing up as a Jew in Germany, but became a broader investigation of how contemporary European nations were struggling to construct new, multicultural national identities.

He concluded that the effort was not going very well. A populist backlash was rising. But was that just a new kind of politics, or a symptom of something deeper?

To answer that question, Mr. Mounk teamed up with Roberto Stefan Foa, a political scientist at the University of Melbourne in Australia. They have since gathered and crunched data on the strength of liberal democracies.

Their conclusion, to be published in the January issue of the Journal of Democracy, is that democracies are not as secure as people may think. Right now, Mr. Mounk said in an interview, “the warning signs are flashing red.”

Early signs of decline

Political scientists have a theory called “democratic consolidation,” which holds that once countries develop democratic institutions, a robust civil society and a certain level of wealth, their democracy is secure.

For decades, global events seemed to support that idea. Data from Freedom House, a watchdog organization that measures democracy and freedom around the world, shows that the number of countries classified as “free” rose steadily from the mid-1970s to the early 2000s. Many Latin American countries transitioned from military rule to democracy; after the end of the Cold War, much of Eastern Europe followed suit. And longstanding liberal democracies in North America, Western Europe and Australia seemed more secure than ever.

But since 2005, Freedom House’s index has shown a decline in global freedom each year. Is that a statistical anomaly, a result of a few random events in a relatively short period of time? Or does it indicate a meaningful pattern?

Mr. Mounk and Mr. Foa developed a three-factor formula to answer that question. Mr. Mounk thinks of it as an early-warning system, and it works something like a medical test: a way to detect that a democracy is ill before it develops full-blown symptoms.

The first factor was public support: How important do citizens think it is for their country to remain democratic? The second was public openness to nondemocratic forms of government, such as military rule. And the third factor was whether . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 November 2016 at 1:28 pm

Posted in Daily life, Government

Pheasant under glass

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When I was young, the expression “pheasant under glass” was used to exemplify the very best of foods and the greatest of entitlement: no doubt a person ordering pheasant under glass has a butler. However, it was commonly used in phrases such as, “Well, whaddaya want? Pheasant under glass?”, to signify a ridiculous extreme.

But today I found that it’s really a thing, and there’s a reason for the glass:

. . . Place the pheasant breasts skin side up on hot serving plates and top each with half the mushroom mixture, then the sauce.

Enclose each breast with (ideally) a glass cover. Alert your guests to the olfactory possibilities, so they don’t blow the experience the way I did. Once they are seated and you have their attention, lift the cover and fan the essence toward them, if necessary.

Oddly, I had always pictured the glass as flat, with the pheasant squashed beneath. The actual way seems better.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 November 2016 at 1:22 pm

Posted in Food, Recipes

Coping with Chaos in the White House

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N Ziehl has a very interesting post on Medium:

A few days ago, I wrote a post for my Facebook friends about my personal experience with narcissistic personality disorder and how I view the president elect as a result. Unexpectedly, the post traveled widely, and it became clear that many people are struggling with how to understand and deal with this kind of behavior in a position of power. Although several writers, including a few professionals, have publicly offered their thoughts on a diagnosis, I am not a professional and this is not a diagnosis. My post is not intended to persuade anyone or provide a comprehensive description of NPD. I am speaking purely from decades of dealing with NPD and sharing strategies that were helpful for me in coping and predicting behavior. The text below is adapted from my original Facebook post.

I want to talk a little about narcissistic personality disorder. I’ve unfortunately had a great deal of experience with it, and I’m feeling badly for those of you who are trying to grapple with it for the first time because of our president-elect, who almost certainly suffers from it or a similar disorder. If I am correct, it has some very particular implications for the office. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

1) It’s not curable and it’s barely treatable. He is who he is. There is no getting better, or learning, or adapting. He’s not going to “rise to the occasion” for more than maybe a couple hours. So just put that out of your mind.

2) He will say whatever feels most comfortable or good to him at any given time. He will lie a lot, and say totally different things to different people. Stop being surprised by this. While it’s important to pretend “good faith” and remind him of promises, as Bernie Sanders and others are doing, that’s for his supporters, so *they* can see the inconsistency as it comes. He won’t care. So if you’re trying to reconcile or analyze his words, don’t. It’s 100% not worth your time. Only pay attention to and address his actions.

3) You can influence him by making him feel good. There are already people like Bannon who appear ready to use him for their own ends. The GOP is excited to try. Watch them, not him. President Obama, in his wisdom, may be treating him well in hopes of influencing him and averting the worst. If he gets enough accolades for better behavior, he might continue to try it. But don’t count on it.

4) Entitlement is a key aspect of the disorder. As we are already seeing, he will likely not observe traditional boundaries of the office. He has already stated that rules don’t apply to him. This particular attribute has huge implications for the presidency and it will be important for everyone who can to hold him to the same standards as previous presidents.

5) We should expect that he only cares about himself and those he views as extensions of himself, like his children. (People with NPD often can’t understand others as fully human or distinct.) He desires accumulation of wealth and power because it fills a hole. (Melania is probably an acquired item, not an extension.) He will have no qualms *at all* about stealing everything he can from the country, and he’ll be happy to help others do so, if they make him feel good. He won’t view it as stealing but rather as something he’s entitled to do. This is likely the only thing he will intentionally accomplish.

6) It’s very, very confusing for non-disordered people to experience a disordered person with NPD. While often intelligent, charismatic and charming, they do not reliably observe social conventions or demonstrate basic human empathy. It’s very common for non-disordered people to lower their own expectations and try to normalize the behavior. DO NOT DO THIS AND DO NOT ALLOW OTHERS, ESPECIALLY THE MEDIA, TO DO THIS. If you start to feel foggy or unclear about this, step away until you recalibrate.

7) People with NPD often recruit helpers, referred to in the literature as . . .

Continue reading.

The key is to ignore the words and watch the behavior closely. Note this point:

9) Gaslighting — where someone tries to convince you that the reality you’ve experienced isn’t true — is real and torturous. He will gaslight, his followers will gaslight. Many of our politicians and media figures already gaslight, so it will be hard to distinguish his amplified version from what has already been normalized. Learn the signs and find ways to stay focused on what you know to be true. Note: it is typically not helpful to argue with people who are attempting to gaslight. You will only confuse yourself. Just walk away.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 November 2016 at 12:48 pm

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