Later On

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

Archive for March 13th, 2017

He SAID he had the proof. Trump administration wants more time to give Intel committee wiretapping proof

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Joe Uchill reports in The Hill:

President Trump’s administration has asked for more time to comply with a House Intelligence Committee request for evidence substantiating Trump’s claims of wiretapping.

The Monday evening request came hours before the committee-set midnight deadline.
This afternoon, the Department of Justice placed calls to representatives of the Chairman and Ranking Member of the United States House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence to ask for additional time to review the request in compliance with the governing legal authorities and to determine what if any responsive documents may exist,” the DOJ letter read.

House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes’s (R-Calif.) office confirmed the request in a statement, and said the delay could force the committee to “resort to a compulsory process if our questions continue to go unanswered.”

“The Department of Justice has asked for more time to comply with the House Intelligence Committee’s request for information related to possible surveillance of Donald Trump or his associates during the election campaign,” Nunes’ statement said.

“We have asked the Department to provide us this information before the Committee’s open hearing scheduled for March 20. If the committee does not receive a response by then, the Committee will ask for this information during the March 20 hearing and may resort to a compulsory process if our questions continue to go unanswered.”

Ranking member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) weighed in on the delay on Twitter. . .

Continue reading.

It’s the tax returns all over again. Do we at least get Arpège?

Written by Leisureguy

13 March 2017 at 5:42 pm

Government marijuana looks nothing like the real stuff. See for yourself.

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The maijuana the government supplies to researches might as well be dried oregano. Read the article.

Written by Leisureguy

13 March 2017 at 4:23 pm

They ain’t seen nothing yet: Remember the People America’s Healthcare System Has Already Killed

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Jason Koebler reports at Motherboard:

We’ve heard brave stories from people whose lives have been saved by health insurance, but thousands of Americans have already died because of lackluster coverage.

It struck me as normal, somehow, to watch my girlfriend enter an online sweepstakes that would help decide whether or not she would be able to afford to buy medicine. Only now, watching the Republican establishment dismantle the Affordable Care Act, has this struck me as cruel.

I don’t remember the specifics of the promotion, but I remember that it was a monthly trivia contest run by an online cystic fibrosis pharmacy. Answer the questions right, and your name was entered to receive $500 toward your meds. I’d ask Katelin about it now, but she is dead.

The Republican plan to repeal Obamacare and replace it with something that offers more “choice” has inspired thousands of people to confront lawmakers with their stories about how the law—and health insurance more generally—has saved their lives or prevented financial ruin. Their courage should be applauded, their voices amplified.

We should remember, though, that we are hearing from the fortunate ones. The ones who were repeatedly fucked by insurance companies before Obamacare? They are dead.

If Jason Chaffetz, Paul Ryan, and Donald Trump want to offer Americans more healthcare choice, they’re on the right track. Obamacare closed many of the loopholes insurance companies used to keep the chronically ill from purchasing coverage, but any system that treats healthcare as a luxury rather than a basic human need is going to afford people plenty of options as their insurance lapses or benefits are suddenly changed.

Katelin was afforded the choice to do fewer breathing treatments to preserve her medicine until her insurance company would pay for more. For a few months, she made the choice to take generic nebulized albuterol because she couldn’t afford the more effective Xopenex out of pocket. She had regular battles with her insurance company about when it was appropriate to refill her prescription for digestive enzymes, which she needed to take in order to eat almost anything. She chose to enter insane online sweepstakes to pay for medicine and wake up before dawn to ride multiple buses to get to work on time and to act in plays.

Three years after she died, I cannot piece together a timeline of when she had coverage, when she did not, and the varying quality of that coverage. There were times when she had excellent doctors and excellent insurance, and times when she had next to nothing thanks to a clerical error or benefits changes.

What I do know, though, is that she was constantly engaged in some bureaucratic battle about whether she was allowed to buy medicine, go to the doctor, or refill a prescription. About whether she should be allowed to live. A pre-Obamacare study found that lack of health insurance killed roughly 45,000 Americans annually. A study published Monday found that Canadians with cystic fibrosis have a life expectancy of roughly 10 years longer than Americans with CF. The discrepancy is attributed to Canada’s universal healthcare.

Somehow, through all of this, most people didn’t know that Katelin was sick, that she had been sick since the day she was born, and that she was slowly getting weaker because skipped treatments were beginning to take a toll on her lungs. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

13 March 2017 at 4:19 pm

NOT the “best healthcare in the world”: Canadians With Cystic Fibrosis Live 10 Years Longer Than Americans

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Kate Lunau reports in Motherboard:

Canadians had a 77 percent lower risk of death over the course of this study than US patients with no health insurance.

There’s no cure for cystic fibrosis, a fatal genetic disorder, but better treatments mean that people with the disease are living longer. Still, Canadians with CF can expect to live nearly 10 years longer than Americans, according to a new, wide-ranging study in Annals of Internal Medicine. Given the life expectancy of those who have the disease (median age of survival was 50.9 years in Canada, 40.6 years in the US), getting an extra 10 years is a lot.

The study doesn’t draw any firm conclusions about why there’s such a discrepancy between Canada and the US, but it does offer some insights. Health insurance status, among other factors, seems to have an impact. Canadians have universal and publicly funded healthcare coverage, whereas Americans with no insurance (or unknown insurance) fared worst of all in this study.

Under the GOP’s new legislation, and following the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, an estimated 14 million Americans stand to lose coverage by next year alone. It’s another stark reminder—if we needed one—that a patient’s insurance status has a real impact.

Dr. Anne Stephenson, lead author of the paper, is a respirologist at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, where she works with CF patients. “It’s the largest adult centre [for CF patients] in Canada,” she told me, with over 450 patients in treatment.

In the study, she and collaborators in the US looked at data from national cystic fibrosis registries, where patients are tracked. (It included 5,941 in Canada and 45,456 in the US, from 1990 to 2013.) Even after adjusting for other characteristics, like age and how severe the disease was, the risk of death for CF patients was 34 percent lower in Canada. . .

Continue reading.

With Trumpcare, Canadians will move even further ahead in cystic fibrosis survival.

Written by Leisureguy

13 March 2017 at 4:12 pm

Trump’s much better than Obama at taking vacations

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Written by Leisureguy

13 March 2017 at 3:44 pm

Denial is the most primitive defense: Trump official slams CBO score: It’s ‘just not believable’

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The CBO score is calculated. They use numbers. All assumptions are explicit. Trump should not just say it’s not believable, he should show where it’s wrong. But he cannot. Same reason he cannot produce the evidence that convinced him that Obama had had his phones tapped.

Jordan Fabian reports in The Hill:

The Trump administration on Monday slammed a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate that millions of people would become uninsured under the Republicans’ plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare.

“We disagree strenuously with the report that was put out,” Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price told reporters at the White House.

Price said the analysis released Monday afternoon does not take into account the entirety of the GOP plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, which he said would cover more people while lowering costs.

The long-awaited report has roiled the debate over the GOP’s bid to overhaul the healthcare system, which would include repealing many elements of the Affordable Care Act and creating a new tax credit to help people buy insurance.

The plan, formally titled the American Health Care Act, is already facing resistance from conservatives who say the bill doesn’t go far enough, while more moderate Republicans have expressed concern about the bill’s defunding of Planned Parenthood and the rollback of expanded access to Medicaid.

The CBO, an independent scorekeeper for Congress, found that 14 million people would lose their insurance coverage by next year under the bill, with the number rising to 24 million over a decade.

Of the 14 million figure, Price said, “it’s virtually impossible to have that number occur.”

“It’s just not believable, is what we would suggest,” he added.

The health secretary said the nonpartisan budget office only looked at the House bill and not the two other parts of the administration’s three-phase healthcare plan, which includes regulatory changes and additional legislation. . .

Continue reading.

Show where it’s wrong, Price.

Written by Leisureguy

13 March 2017 at 3:29 pm

The U.S. is moving in a “Papers, please” direction, but now they say, “Phone, please.”

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Patrick G. Lee reports in ProPublica:

This story has been updated to add that Customs and Border Protection agents must have probable cause of wrongdoing to make stops outside the 100-mile border zone within which they have broad search powers.

A NASA scientist heading home to the U.S. said he was detained in January at a Houston airport, where Customs and Border Protection officers pressured him for access to his work phone and its potentially sensitive contents.

Last month, CBP agents checked the identification of passengers leaving a domestic flight at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport during a search for an immigrant with a deportation order.

And in October, border agents seized phones and other work-related material from a Canadian photojournalist. They blocked him from entering the U.S. after he refused to unlock the phones, citing his obligation to protect his sources.

These and other recent incidents have revived confusion and alarm over what powers border officials actually have and, perhaps more importantly, how to know when they are overstepping their authority.

The unsettling fact is that border officials have long had broad powers — many people just don’t know about them. Border officials, for instance, have search powers that extend 100 air miles inland from any external boundary of the U.S. That means border agents can stop and question people at fixed checkpoints dozens of miles from U.S. borders. They can also pull over motorists whom they suspect of a crime as part of “roving” border patrol operations.

Sowing even more uneasiness, ambiguity around the agency’s search powers — especially over electronic devices — has persisted for years as courts nationwide address legal challenges raised by travelers, privacy advocates and civil-rights groups.

We’ve dug out answers about the current state-of-play when it comes to border searches, along with links to more detailed resources.

Doesn’t the Fourth Amendment protect us from “unreasonable searches and seizures”?

Yes. The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution articulates the “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” However, those protections are lessened when entering the country at international terminals at airports, other ports of entry and subsequently any location that falls within 100 air miles of an external U.S. boundary.

How broad is Customs and Border Protection’s search authority?

According to federal statutes, regulations and court decisions, CBP officers have the authority to inspect, without a warrant, any person trying to gain entry into the country and their belongings. CBP can also question individuals about their citizenship or immigration status and ask for documents that prove admissibility into the country.

This blanket authority for warrantless, routine searches at a port of entry ends when CBP decides to undertake a more invasive procedure, such as a body cavity search. For these kinds of actions, the CBP official needs to have some level of suspicion that a particular person is engaged in illicit activity, not simply that the individual is trying to enter the U.S.

Does CBP’s search authority cover electronic devices like smartphones and laptops? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

13 March 2017 at 3:23 pm

Is there now an afterlife? Turns out, the answer is yes, though digital

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Watch this amazing video, about 25 minutes. Several segments, sequential in nature, shot in different locations and with different people on different aspects of one’s digital afterlife. Some very odd questions arise: do you want your posthumous bot making jokes of the sort you would made but were not made by you—though in the natural mental shorthand people use, the joke was made by “you.” You and your digital ghost will be merged in people’s memories, like grafting a lemon branch onto an orange tree.

Written by Leisureguy

13 March 2017 at 2:17 pm

A president without an administration

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Jennifer Rubin in the Washington Post:

President Trump’s decision to fill out his White House staff and leave the rest of the executive branch without leadership tells us a lot about his limited business experience. He’s run a family business, a small one which operates on his gut instincts and impulses. That’s precisely what he recreated in the White House, complete with overlapping power centers where aides duke it out to win his favor. It may not be surprising then that what the Trump administration is lacking is the administration.

The Associated Press reports, for example:

Jim Mattis is not lonely in the Pentagon, but two months into his tenure as secretary of defense not a single political appointee has joined him.

The retired Marine general, who took office just hours after President Donald Trump was sworn in, has sparred with the White House over choices for high-priority civilian positions that, while rarely visible to the public, are key to developing and implementing defense policy at home and abroad.

When the Obama administration closed shop in January, only one of its top-tier Pentagon political appointees stayed in place — Robert Work, the deputy defense secretary. He agreed to remain until his successor is sworn in. So far no nominee for deputy has been announced, let alone confirmed by the Senate.

The administration has announced four nominees for senior Pentagon civilian jobs, and two of those later withdrew. Trump’s nominee to lead the Army, Vincent Viola, withdrew in early February because of financial entanglements, and about three weeks later Philip B. Bilden, the Navy secretary nominee, withdrew for similar reasons.

On Tuesday, the White House announced it intends to nominate John J. Sullivan to be the Pentagon’s chief lawyer. In January, Trump announced former congresswoman Heather Wilson of New Mexico as his nominee to be Air Force secretary, but he has not submitted the nomination to the Senate.

Trump cannot blame Congress for this inexplicable ineptitude. The New York Times counts only 36 nominations sent to the Senate, about half the number President Obama had sent up at this stage. The problem certainly is not limited to the Defense Department. This is the slowest transition in history, with more than 500 unfilled spots. Trump says he doesn’t need them — after all he has all his people at the White House — but this excuse once again reflects his limited prior experience and his paranoia about trusting anyone outside of his inner circle:

The lag has left critical power centers in his government devoid of leadership as he struggles to advance policy priorities on issues like health care, taxes, trade and environmental regulation. Many federal agencies and offices are in states of suspended animation, their career civil servants answering to temporary bosses whose influence and staying power are unclear, and who are sometimes awaiting policy direction from appointees whose arrival may be weeks or months away.

Without deputies, undersecretaries, assistant secretaries and other political appointees the government drifts, inertia sets in and Trump becomes a prisoner of the bureaucracy he does not understand and hasn’t bothered to tether to his White House with political appointees.

He was perfectly entitled to dismiss all 46 U.S. attorneys who were holdovers from the Obama administration, but in his haste he’s left 46 slots open, to be filled by assistant U.S. attorneys whom he did not hire. We’ll watch with interest how quickly he can fill those slots.

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

13 March 2017 at 1:09 pm

Trump’s budget chief says Obama fudged jobs data. If that were true, he’d be able to prove it.

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But no proof will be offered, because the accusation is false. This constant flow of lies from the Trump Administration is, IMO, bad for the country.

Max Ehrenfreund reports in the Washington Post:

Mick Mulvaney, President Trump’s budget director, accused the Obama administration on Sunday of doctoring federal data to minimize the number of Americans out of work.

“We’ve thought for a long time, I did, that the Obama administration was manipulating the numbers, in terms of the number of people in the workforce, to make the unemployment rate — that percentage rate — look smaller than it actually was,” Mulvaney told CNN’s Jake Tapper.

It was the latest attack from a string of Republicans — including President Trump — who have said the monthly jobs reports were fake or unreliable, contradicting economists who say federal data on business in the United States is some of the most trustworthy in the world.

The agencies responsible for collecting that data observe strict rules designed to prevent politicians from cooking the books, and Erica Groshen, the commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics under President Obama, rejected the accusation. “If he is talking about actual interference with the process that ensures the integrity of the data, then he’s mistaken,” she said.

Now that Mulvaney is in charge of the Office of Management and Budget, he has the opportunity to put the issue to rest, one way or the other. He and other skeptics in Trump’s new administration have the authority to demand the evidence that they would support their claims about manipulation — evidence that they have not provided so far.

In his new position, Mulvaney is legally responsible for coordinating statistical work across the federal government. He supervises the department that sets standards for all the agencies that collect and report data, including the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which publishes the monthly report on employment.

The bureau’s publications are also periodically audited by the Labor Department’s inspector general and by the Government Accountability Office. Mulvaney could request an audit, as could Trump’s nominee for labor secretary, Alexander Acosta, if he is confirmed.

These audits are part of the government’s continuing efforts to ensure that official data are immune to political interference and to help keep the process up to date in response to changing technology and an evolving economy, Groshen said.

“BLS data have not been manipulated by previous administrations,” she said. “Not by the Obama administration, nor by the Trump administration.” (Obama’s first BLS director, Keith Hall, was first put in the position by former president George W. Bush and is now head of the Congressional Budget Office.)

Many Republicans and some Democrats have argued that the bureau distracts from more important issues by concentrating on the unemployment rate — a measure of how many people are looking for work, compared to how many are employed. The data also show that there are fewer people in the labor force overall, including both those who are looking for work and those who are working, in part due to increasing discouragement and disability among workers.

In his comments Sunday, Mulvaney seemed to go further. Rather than arguing that the size of the labor force is more informative than the unemployment rate, he suggested that the Obama administration had manipulated data on the labor force.

“Any user of data is entitled to interpret the data as they see fit, and to choose to highlight that they find most useful,” Groshen said, “but that’s not manipulation.”

During his confirmation hearing in the Senate, Mulvaney implied that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

13 March 2017 at 12:49 pm

“If someone set out to devise a plan to hit Trump voters the hardest it would be difficult to come up with something to match House Republicans’ plan”

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Jennifer Rubin, the conservative Washington Post columnist has a very good column on the Republican effort to destroy the Affordable Care Act. From the column:

. . . using the Kaiser Family Foundation figures, the Los Angeles Times found: “Most affected by the Republican health plan would be parts of Alaska, Arizona, Nebraska, Tennessee and Oklahoma, where Obamacare insurance subsidies have been crucial in making high-priced insurance affordable. All five states went for Trump. Also hit hard would be parts of key swing states that backed Trump, including Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Michigan.” If someone set out to devise a plan to hit Trump voters the hardest it would be difficult to come up with something to match House Republicans’ plan:

In 27 Nebraska counties — all of which backed Trump — a 60-year-old shopper with a $30,000 income would see financial aid drop by $12,950 a year under the House Republican legislation.

The annual subsidy in 22 counties in Oklahoma, another Republican stronghold, would plummet by $11,970. Trump won all but one of the counties by more than 28 percentage points. . . .

In Berks and Lancaster counties, west of Philadelphia, subsidies would drop by $9,500. Trump narrowly won both Pennsylvania counties.

And in western North Carolina, which helped power Trump’s victory in that state, subsidies would fall by more than $10,000.

Read the whole thing. The GOP seems to really dislike people who vote Republican, at least based on their efforts regarding healthcare—but they do love to give tax cuts to the wealthy, who will see the changes the GOP is pushing as highly profitable for them.

See also: “Republicans are now paying the price for a years-long campaign of Obamacare lies,” by Matt Yglesias in Vox.

Written by Leisureguy

13 March 2017 at 12:43 pm

A person with a conviction is a hard person to change

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Julie Beck has an interesting article in the Atlantic, which includes an account a famous 1957 book, When Prophecy Fails. From the article:

“A man with a conviction is a hard man to change,” Festinger, Henry Riecken, and Stanley Schacter wrote in When Prophecy Fails, their 1957 book about this study. “Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point … Suppose that he is presented with evidence, unequivocal and undeniable evidence, that his belief is wrong: what will happen? The individual will frequently emerge, not only unshaken, but even more convinced of the truth of his beliefs than ever before.”

This book stimulated Alison Lurie’s wonderful novel Imaginary Friends, about a similar situation, an enjoyable novel well worth reading.

Later in the Atlantic article:

Outside of a lab, this kind of selective exposure is even easier. You can just switch off the radio, change channels, only like the Facebook pages that give you the kind of news you prefer. You can construct a pillow fort of the information that’s comfortable.

Most people aren’t totally ensconced in a cushiony cave, though. They build windows in the fort, they peek out from time to time, they go for long strolls out in the world. And so, they will occasionally encounter information that suggests something they believe is wrong. A lot of these instances are no big deal, and people change their minds if the evidence shows they should—you thought it was supposed to be nice out today, you step out the door and it’s raining, you grab an umbrella. Simple as that. But if the thing you might be wrong about is a belief that’s deeply tied to your identity or worldview—the guru you’ve dedicated your life to is accused of some terrible things, the cigarettes you’re addicted to can kill you—well, then people become logical Simone Bileses, doing all the mental gymnastics it takes to remain convinced that they’re right.

People see evidence that disagrees with them as weaker, because ultimately, they’re asking themselves fundamentally different questions when evaluating that evidence, depending on whether they want to believe what it suggests or not, according to psychologist Tom Gilovich. “For desired conclusions,” he writes, “it is as if we ask ourselves ‘Can I believe this?’, but for unpalatable conclusions we ask, ‘Must I believe this?’” People come to some information seeking permission to believe, and to other information looking for escape routes.

In 1877, the philosopher William Kingdon Clifford wrote an essay titled “The Ethics of Belief,” in which he argued: “It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone to believe anything on insufficient evidence.”

Lee McIntyre takes a similarly moralistic tone in his 2015 book Respecting Truth: Willful Ignorance in the Internet Age: “The real enemy of truth is not ignorance, doubt, or even disbelief,” he writes. “It is false knowledge.”

Whether it’s unethical or not is kind of beside the point, because people are going to be wrong and they’re going to believe things on insufficient evidence.

It’s an interesting article. That last statement in the quotation above does strike me as peculiar. It seems to say that ehtical concerns are irrelevant if they are raised about things people do. I’ve always considered that the things people do are the very focus of ethical concerns. We don’t say that because people will be doing murder, arson, and theft that considering those unethical is beside the point. If ethics is irrelevant to what people do, then what is the point of ethics?

What she seems to have meant to say (but did not say) is something along the lines of “It can be argued that jumping to conclusions and ignoring evidence that contradicts one’s beliefs is unethical, but people do it a lot and it’s worthwhile to figure out why—especially if doing such things is unethical.” But what she wrote seems to me to be simply wrong.

I do agree, though, that memes are self-protective and, since (in my view) our identity is built from the memes we harbor, we naturally try to protect the memes that we host.

Written by Leisureguy

13 March 2017 at 9:28 am

Posted in Books, Daily life, Memes, Science

Copper Hat Brush, Dead Sea soap, Merkur bakelite slant, and Geo. F. Trumper Spanish Leather

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Dead Sea is a very fine soap that takes very little water. Today I was so careful in shaking out the brush that I ended up having to add a little water during loading. The resulting lather was excellent, and I do like the fragrance of this soap—pronounced, but not strong. The Copper Hat brush with a Delrin® handle is very nice indeed, plus it’s a memento of a trip to Victoria.

My vintage white bakelite slant did a superb job—totally smooth, no nicks—but based on feel, I did replace the blade following the shave. There was no actual tugging, but the action was not quite so smooth as it has been.

A good splash of Geo. F. Trumper Spanish Leather aftershave, and the week begins.

Written by Leisureguy

13 March 2017 at 8:50 am

Posted in Shaving

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