Later On

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

Archive for June 15th, 2017

Man ravaged by amnesia somehow able to hold down demanding legal job

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Andy Borowitz writes in the New Yorker:

An Alabama man whose brain was ravaged by severe amnesia is somehow able to function in an extremely demanding legal job, leading neurologists reported on Tuesday.

The man, whom neurologists are calling a “medical mystery,” has performed highly exacting tasks in one of the country’s top legal positions despite having virtually no short- or long-term memory.

Dr. Davis Logsdon, the chairman of the neurology department at the University of Minnesota Medical School, said that the Alabaman’s brain “defies explanation.”

“In all the medical literature, we have never seen an example of someone capable of holding down such a high-powered job while having no memory whatsoever of people he met, things he said, places he has been, or thoughts he has had,” Logsdon said. “It’s the stuff of science fiction.” . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

15 June 2017 at 2:25 pm

The link between domestic violence and mass shootings

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Jane Mayer writes in the New Yorker:

Within hours of the shooting of the House Majority Whip, Steve Scalise, and four others, one couldn’t help but feel tired watching the predictable brief moment of political unity. The country has been through enough horrors to know that political adversaries will soon line up and take their battle stations on Twitter and talk shows as no solutions are found and no lessons are learned. They will blame each other’s political ideologies and rhetoric for the bloodshed. It won’t be long until the conspiracy theorists come along and throw doubt on whether the facts are the facts, or something more sinister.

No one wants to talk policy reform so soon, but there’s one that is glaringly necessary, and really ought not to be divisive. Wednesday’s shooter, James Hodgkinson, reportedly had a history of domestic violence. Yet he was able to legally obtain an assault rifle. These two facts are incompatible with public safety.

The Daily Beast reported, on Wednesday:

In 2006, he was arrested for domestic battery and discharge of a firearm after he stormed into a neighbor’s home where his teenage foster daughter was visiting with a friend. In a skirmish, he punched his foster daughter’s then 19-year-old friend Aimee Moreland “in the face with a closed fist,” according to a police report reviewed by The Daily Beast. When Moreland’s boyfriend walked outside of the residence where Moreland and Hodgkinson’s foster daughter were, he allegedly aimed a shotgun at the boyfriend and later fired one round. The Hodgkinsons later lost custody of that foster daughter.

“[Hodgkinson] fired a couple of warning shots and then hit my boyfriend with the butt of the gun,” Moreland told The Daily Beast on Wednesday. Hodgkinson was also “observed throwing” his daughter “around the bedroom,” the police report said. After the girl broke free, Hodgkinson followed and “started hitting her arms, pulling her hair, and started grabbing her off the bed.”

In this, Hodgkinson fits a pattern. As Rebecca Traister has written, for New York magazine, “what perpetrators of terrorist attacks turn out to often have in common more than any particular religion or ideology, are histories of domestic violence.” Traister cites Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, who drove a truck through a Bastille Day crowd in Nice, last summer, and Omar Mateen, the Pulse night-club shooter. She also cites Robert Lewis Dear, who killed three people at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, in 2015. According to Traister, “two of his three ex-wives reportedly accused him of domestic abuse, and he had been arrested in 1992 for rape and sexual violence.”

Last year, Amanda Taub also wrote powerfully on this issue in the Times. “Cedric Ford shot 17 people at his Kansas workplace, killing three, only 90 minutes after being served with a restraining order sought by his ex-girlfriend, who said he had abused her,” Taub wrote. “And Man Haron Monis, who holed up with hostages for 17 hours in a cafe in Sydney, Australia, in 2014, an episode that left two people dead and four wounded, had terrorized his ex-wife. He had threatened to harm her if she left him, and was eventually charged with organizing her murder.”

Obviously, not everyone accused of domestic violence becomes a mass shooter. But it’s clear that an alarming number of those who have been accused of domestic abuse pose serious and often a lethal threats, not just to their intimate partners but to society at large.

The statistical correlation between domestic violence and mass shootings has also been documented. As the Times reported:

When Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control group, analyzed F.B.I. data on mass shootings from 2009 to 2015, it found that 57 percent of the cases included a spouse, former spouse or other family member among the victims — and that 16 percent of the attackers had previously been charged with domestic violence.

In the meantime, many domestic-violence suspects, like Hodgkinson, are arrested only to have the charges dropped later, which leaves them armed and dangerous. The National Rifle Association and its allies have successfully argued that a mere arrest on domestic-violence charges—such as Hodgkinson had—is not sufficient reason to deprive a citizen of his right to bear arms.

After the Sandy Hook massacre, in 2012, an overwhelming majority of Americans favored tighter gun control, including laws that would require background checks for gun purchasers to be extended to sales at private gun shows. Yet a bill proposing that very measure failed to make it through Congress. . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

15 June 2017 at 1:59 pm

If Obamacare Dies, National Health Care Will Take Its Place

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Kevin Drum has an excellent post, and points out an excellent report from Ezra Klein at Vox:

Ezra Klein makes an argument about Obamacare that I’ve heard a lot of lately:

If Republicans wipe out the Affordable Care Act and de-insure tens of millions of people, they will prove a few things to Democrats. First, including private insurers and conservative ideas in a health reform plan doesn’t offer a scintilla of political protection, much less Republican support. Second, sweeping health reform can be passed quickly, with only 51 votes in the Senate, and with no support from major industry actors. Third, it’s easier to defend popular government programs that people already understand and appreciate, like Medicaid and Medicare, than to defend complex public-private partnerships, like Obamacare’s exchanges

This sounds pretty plausible to me. If passing a cautious, incrementalist program like Obamacare doesn’t provide any protection against Republicans destroying it, Democrats have no motivation to bother with cautious, incrementalist programs. They might as well just bend the rules, pass national health care, and be done with it. If insurance companies don’t like it, tough. Democrats contorted themselves into pretzels to design a program acceptable to insurers, and were rewarded with disaster. Insurers screwed up both their pricing and participation so epically that they brought Obamacare to its knees, and when Republicans proposed ditching the whole thing they just sat on their hands. It’s obvious now that the support of the insurance industry provides zero—or maybe negative—benefit. So the hell with them.

And that’s all in addition to the fact that the Bernie movement has made single-payer health care a live possibility in a way it’s never been before.

Republicans are basically hellbent not on any positive agenda, but on repealing everything Obama did in his eight years. Dodd-Frank. Obamacare. Paris. Higher taxes on the rich. A less interventionist approach to the Middle East. Immigration. Cuba. Net neutrality. Almost literally, they have nothing left of their own that they’re interested in doing. . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

15 June 2017 at 11:50 am

Kansas’s conservative experiment may have gone worse than people thought

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Max Ehrenfreund writes in the Washington Post:

When Kansas Republican lawmakers voted to raise state taxes last week, they were not only rebuking their own governor, they were tacitly admitting that his tax cuts hadn’t produced the economic boom their proponents promised.

It is not just that tax cuts didn’t achieve their purpose, though. New research suggests that the cuts were, in fact, counterproductive.

A working paper by economists at Oklahoma State University suggests that cutting taxes actually may have damaged Kansas’s economy, resulting in fewer jobs, reduced incomes and a slower pace of growth.

Distinguishing among the national and global factors that affect a state’s economy is difficult, but the paper is some of the most specific and detailed research yet on the consequences of the cuts for ordinary Kansans.

Gross state product — a measure of the overall size of Kansas’s economy — increased about 7.8 percent less than it would have had Gov. Sam Brownback (R) not cut taxes, according to the paper, which is being reviewed for publication. The number of Kansans working has increased 2.6 percent less than it would have otherwise, the results suggest. Brownback’s policies also reduced the share of the state’s population participating in the labor force.

Reduced taxes forced the state to spend less, which could have brought down the overall level of demand for goods and services in the state, the economists believe. At the same time, concern about whether the state would be able to balance its budget might have deterred businesses from making major new investments.

The authors also studied Wisconsin, where Gov. Scott Walker (R), a 2016 presidential candidate, also cut taxes. Although those cuts did not have as clear a negative effect on the state, they did not appear to benefit Wisconsin’s economy, either.

“Both experiments seem to not be working,” said Dan Rickman, who wrote the paper along with his colleague Hongbo Wang.

An underperforming economy

Brownback brought down taxes beginning in 2012, allowing wealthy taxpayers to pay the same marginal rate as the middle class by eliminating the uppermost of the three brackets in Kansas’s income-tax scheme. He also allowed taxpayers to exempt income from small business, with the goal of fostering entrepreneurship in the state.

The governor and his Republican allies said that these changes would have benefits for ordinary Kansans.

“Our new pro-growth tax policy will be like a shot of adrenaline into the heart of the Kansas economy,” Brownback wrote in 2012.

Since then, however, Kansas’s economy has consistently lagged behind that of neighboring states and the country as a whole. Brownback, though, has argued that Kansas’s poor performance is a result of other factors, and that the tax cuts are beginning to have their intended effect despite those obstacles.

It is difficult to identify the cause of a downturn in a state’s economy. Local conditions and global forces can combine in ways that are not easy to observe or understand. In Kansas’s case, a strong dollar relative to foreign currencies has made U.S. agricultural exports more expensive, which is bad news for the state’s wheat farmers.

One approach would be to compare Kansas to other agricultural states in the Great Plains, but there are important differences. States such as Oklahoma and North Dakota have come to rely on more shale-gas production, while Kansas has long had an important aerospace sector.

Instead, using historical data from a variety of other states with similarly structured economies, Rickman and Wang created an index to use as a point of comparison for Kansas. This composite benchmark almost exactly mimics the actual data from Kansas before Brownback took office, showing that it is a useful indicator of the broader economic forces affecting the state’s economy in general. . .

Continue reading.

There’s a lot more including a good chart.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 June 2017 at 11:03 am

Wee Scot at the Dead Sea, with Maggard V2 open-comb and Barrister & Mann Reserve Spice

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I’m liking the Wee Scot these days, as you’ve doubtless noticed. And I like the Dead Sea shaving soap quite a bit as well. Gave the brush a good shake so it was just damp—Dead Sea doesn’t like water—and made a fine lather with enough left after three passes to do another three (or more).

The Maggard V2 open-comb is a fine razor, here with the MR7 handle. Three passes, no problems, BBS result, and a good splash of Barrister & Mann Reserve Spice to finish the job. This is shaving as it should be.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 June 2017 at 10:41 am

Posted in Shaving

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