Later On

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Archive for January 25th, 2017

Trump literally doesn’t seem to know what to do

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“Floundering” doesn’t cut it. This guy has no idea what to do in fact (though he’s in frantic motion: gotta keep the audience interest up—he’s certainly mastered that from his years in reality tv). He spends time watching TV, reads nothing, demands Congress accept his 3-5 million illegal votes… He’s flipping out. This is reality TV without the TV part: just plain reality.

I would say that before March Amendment 25 will be invoked. This is painful.

Think I’m exaggerating? Just read this Jennifer Rubin column in the Washington Post:

President Trump seems to be testing just how gullible his anti-immigration supporters are. The “executive orders” issued today on defunding sanctuary cities, building the wall and reviewing past executive orders are not so much orders — in the sense that they change things on the ground — at all. These are props for glorified press events to take the place of real action. For the vast majority of his intended actions, the only immediate action is planning, meeting, etc. Cato Institute scholar Alex Nowrasteh observed via email, “These orders are pretty weak compared to his campaign promises — for which we can be (temporarily) thankful.”

Legal scholar John Yoo, renowned for his robust interpretation of executive power, agrees the wall cannot be built without Congress. “If President Trump wants to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, he will need Congress’s cooperation. Under Article I of the Constitution, only Congress can appropriate the funds necessary to construct a wall, a fence, or even a walking path along the border.” He adds, “There may be some loose change sitting around unspent from past appropriations, but nothing in the range of the $12 billion or more needed. Without the enactment of a new law by Congress, the only thing Trump can really do by executive order is start some early planning.”

A senior Democratic Senate aide scoffs, “This house of cards built from executive orders is going to collapse at some point. Not today or tomorrow, but a few months or a year from now when not a single thing has changed, his whirlwind, hard-charging first few days in office will be exposed as the fraud they are.”

As for the effort to cut off “sanctuary cities,” we have previously discussed that it is not clear what he is talking about. If a city simply prioritizes apprehension and detention for trials of say, murderers, and chooses not to expend resources on illegal immigrants who have not committed serious crimes, what would the federal government decide? Would, say, Chicago get no federal funds? Libertarian Cato Institute scholar Ilya Shapiro tells me that “a lot depends on the specific authorization in current law and in how much discretion it gives the executive. What happens under a new law/appropriation is then a separate question. But it’s absolutely constitutional for the feds to deny fed law enforcement funding to states that don’t cooperate on law enforcement.”

Yoo agrees. “On the cities, it might be possible for Trump to reduce funding to some cities. Congress has already budgeted funds that the government gives to cities for a variety of purposes, such as law enforcement assistance and joint task forces on terrorism, drugs, and so on,” he said. “Trump could place conditions on the receipt of these funds — that cities that take funds must report to the federal government when they release an illegal alien convicted of a felony — that sanctuary cities would reject.” That, however, only covers existing appropriations. Moreover, all Trump is doing here is studying the issue.

Once again, if Congress wants to change the law and condition funds to cities in the next budget, it can try. (Watch red-state governors holler.) That, however, raises real 10th Amendment concerns.

As the Wall Street Journal reported: . . .

Continue reading.

And she’s a staunch Republican, even a conservative Republican.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 January 2017 at 4:11 pm

Why President Trump’s Meetings With CEOs Seeking Mergers Trouble Observers

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Justin Elliott and Jesse Eisinger report in ProPublica:

When the CEOs of Monsanto and Bayer met now-President Donald Trump earlier this month, eager for a nod of assent for their controversial merger into an agrochemical and seed giant, they promised jobs and investment.

Sure enough, a week later, the companies and a Trump spokesman announced that the combined company wouldcreate several thousand new U.S. jobs. Trump himself Twitter-touted the companies’ pledge.

But as Trump talked with the CEOs from his perch on Fifth Avenue, antitrust experts shook their heads.

By meeting with the CEOs of Monsanto and Bayer as well as the head of AT&T, which is trying to merge with Time Warner, Trump has violated decades of White House practice by injecting himself directly into mergers awaiting Justice Department review.

“The public should be concerned that the career attorneys’ and economists’ analysis of the deals is not what the decision is going to be made on,” said Holt Lackey, a former antitrust counsel to the Republican-led House Judiciary Committee.

Several former Justice Department antitrust officials said in interviews they are worried that Trump will cut deals with companies that could hurt American consumers.

“If a transaction is harmful to competition and merging companies raise prices to consumers by 10 to 15 percent, it would not be good to allow that to happen just because the merged companies created some jobs,” said Gene Kimmelman, who was chief counsel in the Antitrust Division during the Obama administration. “That would be a horrible trade-off.”

Critics of the roughly $60 billion Monsanto-Bayer deal say that it will give the combined company too much pricing power, particularly in the seed and pesticide markets. While Bayer is known for its aspirin and other consumer products, the German conglomerate is also a big player in agriculture.

“I am concerned that the merger will curtail chemical and seed choices, and raise prices for farmers and the American consumer,” said Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, in a letterto the Justice Department.

Bayer and Monsanto together control 70 percent of the U.S. market for cotton seeds. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 January 2017 at 1:55 pm

President Trump’s Tweets Are Not For You

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Kevin Drum explains why not, and who is the intended audience. (Not the lying, malicious press, which will just quote them just to make trouble the way they do, pointing out what they call “falsehoods,” which shows you right there that they’re lying. And malicious.) Worth reading.

Update: And read this: a change in German law…

Written by LeisureGuy

25 January 2017 at 1:47 pm

What seems quite possible: Using section 4 of the 25th Amendment to remove the President from office

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Heather Digby Parton writes in Salon:

Donald Trump is in over his head. This comes as no surprise to the millions of people who could see that he was unprepared and unfit for the job of president of the United States and voted against him. He’s basically a celebrity heir to a fortune who was so entitled that he believed his privileged existence proved he was competent to run the most powerful nation on Earth. That’s the attitude of an aristocrat who ascended to the throne without having any idea what it actually takes to rule. History’s full of such men. It doesn’t often work out well.

Trump managed to convince enough voters in just the right places that his “business success,” born mostly of hype and relentless public relations over many years, qualified him for the Oval Office. Since the Protestant work ethic and the philosophy of virtuous capitalism still permeate American culture, it’s not uncommon for people to equate financial success with superior intelligence and character. Many individuals among the public undoubtedly assumed that Trump’s persona at the rallies was somewhat of a salesman’s act,  that he was playing the role of demagogue to rile up the crowd. They assumed that behind closed doors he was a smart and able businessman, making tough decisions on the fly, handling many issues at once.

Those voters did not see what millions of others felt instinctively and that explains the shocked reaction and immediate resistance to his election: Trump’s incessant bragging, his lack of empathy or remorse, his pathological lying and even his bizarre appearance have been signs of an unstable personality. It was obvious to many of us that something was not right.

The presidential transition was a dumpster fire with endless resignations, rumors and public humiliations. Trump’s refusal to deal responsibly with the intelligence community’s investigations of Russian interference in the campaign was worrisome. Picking a fight with the intelligence community over this was downright alarming. Still, one couldn’t help but think that the weight of the job might inspire Trump’s staff and the people close to him to instill some discipline into the system and keep the new president focused once he took the wheel. That hasn’t happened. The first days of the new administration have been a disaster.

From last Saturday through Tuesday night, it’s been one surreal event after another, starting with Trump’s visit to the CIA headquarters where he stood in front of the Memorial Wall — marked with 117 stars honoring agents who have died in the line of duty — and acted like he was at a rally in a high school gym in Indiana.

He didn’t seem to have a clue that he was being inappropriate. He compounded the bad impression by sending out his press secretary Sean Spicer to insist that the crowd for his inauguration was bigger than any in history. When Kellyanne Conway defended Spicer by saying he had simply offered “alternative facts,” members of the media were stunned. It’s not that they assume officials always tell the truth. But they were clearly shocked that the White House would chastise them for reporting something that was obviously and provably correct.

When the president was reported to have told congressional leaders on Monday that he still believed 3 million to 5 million illegal votes had been cast in the election, causing him to lose the popular vote to Hillary Clinton, it became clear that Trump’s erratic behavior was not stopping. Leaks have been pouring out from inside the nascent administration, giving a picture of an insecure, irrational man who is obsessed with his image and little else.

According to an article in The Washington Post, Trump’s inner circle is overwhelmed by power struggles and internecine battles while the president fulminates over every criticism. The New York Times has reported that his staff is concerned about his “simmering resentment” at what he thinks is unfair press coverage. Politico has reported that aides are trying to minimize his incessant TV viewing, and according to a report by Axios, Trump is running his administration almost entirely in reaction to what he sees in the media. He sounds as if he is unable to handle the stress and is using avoidance mechanisms.

So what happens if President Trump cannot pull himself together and continues to psychologically unravel? There is a remedy other than impeachment. Even conservatives like David Frum have been talking about it for a while:

The 25th Amendment was added to the Constitution after the assassination of John F. Kennedy and provides for the replacement of the vice president if the office becomes vacant. (So it led indirectly to the presidency of Gerald Ford, the only American president who was never elected to any national office.) But Section 4 is about something else entirely:

Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.

A temporary transfer of power has happened a handful of times since the Kennedy assassination, once when Ronald Reagan had cancer surgery and twice when George W. Bush underwent colonoscopies. Most people have thought of the 25th Amendment as a way to deal with a president who has had a heart attack or a stroke and has become incapacitated, as Woodrow Wilson did, with his wife effectively assuming the duties of the presidency for the remainder of his term.

But the language of the amendment clearly encompasses other scenarios besides physical incapacitation. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 January 2017 at 1:38 pm

George Orwell Explains How “Newspeak” Works, the Official Language of His Totalitarian Dystopia in 1984

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A contemporary example of Newspeak is “alternative facts,” used instead of “lies.” Josh Jones has a good post at Open Culture, from which the above is taken. His post begins:

As we noted yesterday, and you likely noticed elsewhere, George Orwell’s classic dystopian novel 1984 shot to the top of the charts—or the Amazon bestseller list—in the wake of “alternative facts,” the latest Orwellian coinage for bald-faced lying. The ridiculous phrase immediately produced a barrage of parodies, hashtags, and memes; healthy ways of venting rage and disbelief. But maybe there is a danger there too, letting such words sink into the discourse, lest they become what Orwell called “Newspeak.”

It’s easy to hear “Newspeak,” the “official language of Oceania,” as “news speak.” This is perfectly reasonable, but it gives us the impression that it relates strictly to its appearance in mass media. Orwell obviously intended the ambiguity—it is the language of official propaganda after all—but the portmanteau actually comes from the words “new speak”—and it has been created to supersede “Oldspeak,” Orwell writes, “or Standard English, as we should call it.”

In other words, Newspeak isn’t just a set of buzzwords, but the deliberate replacement of one set of words in the language for another. The transition is still in progress in the fictional 1984, but is expected to be completed “by about the year 2050.” Students of history and linguistics will recognize that this is a ludicrously accelerated pace for the complete replacement of one vocabulary and syntax by another. (We might call Orwell’s English Socialists “accelerationsts.”) Newspeak appears not through history or social change but through the will of the Party.

The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of Ingsoc, but to make all other modes of thought impossible.

It’s entirely plausible that “alternative facts,” or “altfacts,” would fit right into the “Ninth and Tenth Editions of the Newspeak Dictionary,” though it might easily fall out of favor and “be suppressed later.” No telling if it would make the cut for “the final, perfected version” of Newspeak, “as embodied in the Eleventh Edition of the Dictionary.”

These quotations come not from the main text of 1984 but from an appendix called “The Principles of Newspeak,” which you can hear read at the top of the post. Here, Orwell dispassionately discusses the “perfected” form of Newspeak, including its grammatical “peculiarities,” such as “an almost complete interchangeability between different parts of speech” (an issue current translators have encountered). He then introduces its vocabulary, divided into “three distinct classes,” A, B, and C.

The A class contains “everyday life” words that have been mutated with cumbersome prefixes and intensifiers: “uncold” for warm, “pluscold and doublepluscold” for “very cold” and “superlatively cold.” The B class contains the compound words: sinister doublethink coinages like “joycamp (forced-labor camp)” and “Minipax (Ministry of Peace, i.e. Ministry of War).” These, Orwell explains, are similar to “the characteristic features of political language… in totalitarian countries” of the early 20th century.

Continue reading.

I checked 1984‘s sales rank on Amazon just now (1320 Pacific time, 25 Jan 2017):

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Written by LeisureGuy

25 January 2017 at 12:17 pm

Controlled (and well-funded) panic: Doomsday Prep for the Super-Rich

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Evan Osnos reports in the New Yorker on how the very wealthy and setting up their escape for when things go south.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 January 2017 at 12:12 pm

Posted in Daily life

If Sugar Is Harmless, Prove It

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David Bornstein interviews Gary Taubes in the NY Times:

Over the past half-century, the rate of obesity in America has nearly tripled, while the incidence of diabetes has increased roughly sevenfold. It’s estimated that the direct health care costs related to obesity and diabetes in the United States is $1 billion a day, while economists have calculated the indirect costs to society of these epidemics at over $1 trillion a year.

In recent years, some researchers have focused on the particular role refined sugar may play in these epidemics. Perhaps the most comprehensive analysis of this research has been put forth by the science journalist, Gary Taubes, author of the recent book, “The Case Against Sugar.” I spoke with Taubes about his research and what people should know about sugar to make better choices in their diets.

— David Bornstein

David Bornstein: What’s the essence of the case against sugar?

Gary Taubes: To understand the case against sugar, using a criminal justice metaphor, you have to understand the crimes committed: epidemics of diabetes and obesity worldwide. Wherever and whenever a population transitions from its traditional diet to a Western diet and lifestyle, we see dramatic increases in obesity, and diabetes goes from being a relatively rare disorder to a common one. One in 11 Americans now has diabetes. In some populations, one in three or four adults have diabetes. Stunning numbers.

So why sugar? Well, for starters, recent increases in sugar consumption are always at the scene of the crime on a population-wide level when these epidemics occur. And sugar is also at the scene of the crime biologically, and it’s got the mechanism necessary. But the evidence is not definitive; what I’m arguing is still a minority viewpoint.

Continue reading the main story

D.B.: What’s the common explanation?

G.T.: The conventional wisdom is that obesity is a problem of energy imbalance. We eat too much, we’re too sedentary, so we get fatter — and this in turn causes the diabetes, Type 2, which is the common form. I don’t find this energy balance concept meaningful. It’s like saying when somebody gets richer, they make more money than they spend; they accumulate wealth. It’s a tautology; it tells you nothing about why it happens.

Still, it’s this energy balance thinking that leads us to blame the food industry for providing too much tasty food, and the individual who’s afflicted for not being able to eat in moderation and not being suitably active.

D.B.: Can you explain what you call the alternative hypothesis?

G.T.: Simple. Obesity is a hormonal/regulatory disorder just like any other growth defect. And the hormone that primarily drives fat accumulation is insulin, the same hormone that is disregulated in diabetes. Just as growth hormone is the primary driver of skeletal and muscular growth, insulin is the primary driver of our horizontal growth, the expansion of our fat tissue.

We secrete insulin in response to carbohydrates in our diet and there’s a condition called insulin resistance that is the fundamental defect in Type 2 diabetes and is so closely associated with obesity that we can speculate that it might be the cause. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 75 million American are insulin resistant.

D.B.: Can you explain insulin resistance?

G.T.: Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas that can be thought of as orchestrating how the body uses or partitions its fuel. It tells your cells to take up blood sugar and burn that sugar, technically glucose, for fuel. But it also tells your fat tissue to take up fat and inhibits the release of fat; it tells your muscles, your lean tissue, to use protein for rebuilding.

If you’re insulin resistant, your pancreas needs to secrete more insulin to control blood sugar, and that insulin will increase your fat accumulation as a consequence.

Researchers studying insulin resistance believe it begins in the liver, beginning with the accumulation of fat in the liver cells. As it turns out, the fructose constituent of sugar — half of cane or beet sugar, 55 percent of high fructose corn syrup — is metabolized primarily in the liver, and when it is delivered to the liver in high doses, the liver converts it into fat. So that’s what I mean when I say sugar is at the scene of the crime both in populations and biologically, in the body itself.

D.B.: Given the rates of obesity and diabetes in the United States, what do you think is called for today?

G.T.: I’m arguing the reason we’ve failed to curb the obesity and diabetes epidemics is we’ve misunderstood the cause. We blame eating too much and exercising too little, rather than the carbohydrate content of the diet, specifically sugar.

We need better research that asks the correct questions and rigorously, methodically and skeptically identifies the precise dietary causes of these disorders so we know what has to be removed to reverse or stop them. We need studies that can disassociate the physiological or toxic effects of sugar — on body fat, on insulin resistance status — from the calories it contains.

D.B.: Let’s say that happens. Then what?

G.T.: Then we have to get the message right. If we believe that sugar is just empty calories, then it’s reasonable to say eat it in moderation and balance the calories in sugary snacks by exercising more. We don’t have to steal Christmas, in effect, by removing sugar from our diets and our lives.

But I’m arguing that if sugar causes obesity and diabetes, then we should drop the “too much of,” or “overconsumption of,” or “excess of,” and just say sugar causes these diseases. (We could say added sugars, or refined sugars, if we don’t want to implicate fruit). We know that smoking too many cigarettes will cause lung cancer, but we don’t say “too many cigarettes” cause lung cancer; we say “cigarettes cause lung cancer.” The message is fundamentally different.

D.B.: What do you think the sugar industry should do? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 January 2017 at 9:49 am

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