Later On

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

Archive for June 16th, 2017

Ted Nugent suggests we should tone down the rhetoric

leave a comment »

And he’s pledged to cease violent rhetoric.

I think it’s worth noting that he made no such pledge when the victim of a shooting by a madman was Gabby Giffords, a Democratic member of Congress. It is only when a madman shot a Republican man that Nugent was moved to recognize the problem.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 June 2017 at 3:07 pm

Posted in GOP, Guns

Today is Bloomsday: Five stream-of-consciousness novels

leave a comment »

June 16 is the day recounted in James Joyce’s Ulysses. Five Books has an apposite recommendation:

Is it possible to describe or study our inner experience, and – if so – how might one go about it? Charles Fernyhough, professor of psychology and author of The Voices Within chooses five of the best books that employ or examine streams of consciousness.

What do we mean, when we talk about ‘streams of consciousness’?

My book, The Voices Within, is about a phenomenon that many people report: that they are producing, participating, and listening to an internal conversation, or an internal monologue, a verbal stream of consciousness. Not everybody reports this, some people’s thinking seems to be very highly visual, or it doesn’t have any sensory elements. But many people identify with this idea that we are talking to ourselves a lot of the time. We are either talking to ourselves completely silently in our heads, or sometimes we talk to ourselves out loud. There are good reasons for thinking that these are all part of the same phenomenon.

This is a really hard thing to study scientifically. You are talking about somebody’s internal private conversations. What changed in the last 20 years or so is that we have better techniques and better methods both psychological and neuroscientific for getting at it.

Often when you talk about this topic, people start talking back to you about the ‘inner voice,’ and this is a term I avoid because it is vague and metaphorical, as I say quite early in the book. The term ‘inner voice,’ is used to refer to everything from gut instincts to artistic inspiration. Scientists don’t use the term. I find it more helpful to focus on something that you can be more specific about, using terms like ‘inner speech,’ or ‘internal monologue,’ or ‘internal dialogue.’

You have written two novels, and there are three novels on this list. What is the relationship between the novelistic voice and the inner voices you are describing?

Try to avoid the term ‘inner voice.’ ‘Inner speech’ is the right term. For a start, it is not a single voice; it’s voices. I think there are voices in our consciousness. In relation to literature, the term voice gets used in this vast variety of ways. When writers like Joyce or Woolf try to portray someone in speech — through internal monologue or stream of consciousness — there are absolutely connections between what psychologists study and what these writers are bringing to life on the page.

But there’s another way in which internal voice is used in relation to writing. If you talk to a writer about finding his or her voice, you’re going to get a writer’s standard answer about where their creativity comes from. But if you say to writers, ‘Do you hear the voices of your characters? Do they actually speak? Do you hear them?’ and then you say to them, ‘Tell me exactly what that is like,’ then you can get into something much more specific, and I think much more interesting. That’s what we’ve been trying to do in our research. Okay, it is a cliché that writers hear the voices of their characters, let’s try to find out: do they really hear the voices of their characters, and if so, what is that like?

If Joyce, for example, is trying to depict Leopold Bloom in a monologue, then—if he is successful in that task—when you read Ulysses you’re going to hear that voice resonating in your head. And so, another big part of this project for me was thinking about what effects writers have on their readers. When we read, do we hear these voices activated in our heads? There’s some fascinating science showing that yes, these voices are activated when we read, and writers play all sort of games with them. This is one of the main ways in which they create their effects and give us the pleasure we get from reading.

So these voices become part of us?

You can take on these fictional inner dialogues and you can become someone else. You can enter into the mind of Stephen Dedalus, for example. You can really be him, you can think his thoughts, and you can go to the places that he goes to. You can become Leopold Bloom at the end of Ulysses, you can become Clarissa Dalloway, you can become Mary Hooligan lying in her bed in Edna O’Brien’s Night. You can become history, but then you can come back to who you are. And it is a cliché that writers give us a way of being other than we are, they take us into different worlds. Of course they do, and they do that in all sorts of interesting ways. One of the ways they do it is by filling our heads with voices.

Why is Ulysses (1922) on your list?

It is seen as the archetypal stream of consciousness novel. With more ambition than possibly any other writer, Joyce tries to get us into the inner monologues and dialogues of Leopold Bloom, Molly Bloom, and Stephen Dedalus. He didn’t invent the technique. He credited the French writer Édouard Dujardin in a novel from the 1880s as starting to explore this technique, but others have argued that the stream of consciousness style started much earlier than that. In fact, the term ‘stream of consciousness’ appeared in literature for the first time in a discussion of the British novelist Dorothy Richardson’s work.

So Joyce didn’t invent it, but he makes it flourish in the most extraordinary way. I’m particularly interested in how he depicts inner speech. He gives us a stream of consciousness that doesn’t seem like a standard novelistic narrative. He is trying to capture the particular qualities you would notice if you listened to someone else’s inner speech. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 June 2017 at 3:04 pm

Posted in Books

The Younger Daughter’s potato suggestion

leave a comment »

Her general instructions are to use a 400ºF oven and parchment paper in the baking sheet (roasted eggplant, for example, will stick to foil and not to parchment paper). For fingerling potatoes, she mixes olive oil, salt, fresh rosemary, and crushed garlic in a plastic bag, then adds to potatoes, squishes the bag to coat them, and let them sit a few hours before roasting. I used my good mortar and pestle to pound together the salt, rosemary, and garlic, and then adding just a little olive oil and pounding some more to make a paste. It works best if you mince the garlic and the rosemary needles before you add them to the mortar, getting them part-way to the goal, as it were.

Here they are on the quarter-sheet baking sheet. (The usual baking sheet for home cooking is a half-sheet.)

Written by LeisureGuy

16 June 2017 at 2:37 pm

Posted in Recipes

American Chipmakers Had a Toxic Problem. Then They Outsourced It

leave a comment »

So far as I can tell, modern corporations care only about profit and have thrown overboard moral and ethical concerns and often legal ones as well—for example, ignoring and then hiding the dangers of Takata airbags or the GM ignition switch problem, despite both problems causing deaths. The deaths were, perhaps, regrettable to the companies, but not nearly so regrettable as would be a dip in profits.

Cam Simpson writes in Bloomberg Businessweek about a toxic chemical that companies deemed too dangerous for their US employees, but were happy for workers in other countries to be exposed to (probably because the companies felt that could fend off class-action lawsuits from abroad). The ethics of that stance? Piffle, who cares?, say the companies.

Simpson writes:

Results in epidemiology often are equivocal, and money can cloud science (see: tobacco companies vs. cancer researchers). Clear-cut cases are rare. Yet just such a case showed up one day in 1984 in the office of Harris Pastides, a recently appointed associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

A graduate student named James Stewart, who was working his way through school as a health and safety officer at Digital Equipment Corp., told Pastides there had been a number of miscarriages at the company’s semiconductor plant in nearby Hudson, Mass. Women, especially of childbearing age, filled an estimated 68 percent of the U.S. tech industry’s production jobs, and Stewart knew something few outsiders did: Making computer chips involved hundreds of chemicals. The women on the production line worked in so-called cleanrooms and wore protective suits, but that was for the chips’ protection, not theirs. The women were exposed to, and in some cases directly touched, chemicals that included reproductive toxins, mutagens, and carcinogens. Reproductive dangers are among the most serious concerns in occupational health, because workers’ unborn children can suffer birth defects or childhood diseases, and also because reproductive issues can be sentinels for disorders, especially cancer, that don’t show up in the workers themselves until long after exposure.

Digital Equipment agreed to pay for a study, and Pastides, an expert in disease clusters, designed and conducted it. Data collection was finished in late 1986, and the results were shocking: Women at the plant had miscarriages at twice the expected rate. In November, the company disclosed the findings to employees and the Semiconductor Industry Association, a trade group, and then went public. Pastides and his colleagues were heralded as heroes by some and vilified by others, especially in the industry.

SIA, representing International Business Machines Corp., Intel Corp., and about a dozen other top technology companies, established a task force, and its experts flew to Windsor Locks, Conn., to meet Pastides at a hotel near Bradley International Airport. It was Super Bowl Sunday, January 1987. “That was a day I remember being at a tribunal,” Pastides says. The atmosphere “bordered on hostility. I remember being shellshocked.” Soon after the meeting the panel formally concluded that the study contained “significant deficiencies,” according to internal SIA records. Nevertheless, facing public pressure, SIA’s member companies agreed to fund more research.

Scientists from the University of California at Davis designed one of the biggest worker-health studies in history, involving 14 SIA companies, 42 plants, and 50,000 employees. IBM opted out, hiring Johns Hopkins University to study its plants, because IBM executives said their facilities were safer than the others, recalls Adolfo Correa, one of the lead Johns Hopkins scientists.

In epidemiology, follow-up studies usually get bigger and tougher, and for that reason they often contradict one another. But by December 1992, something rare had happened. All three studies—all paid for by the industry—showed similar results: roughly a doubling of the rate of miscarriages for thousands of potentially exposed women. This time the industry reacted quickly. SIA pointed to a family of toxic chemicals widely used in chipmaking as the likely cause and declared that its companies would accelerate efforts to phase them out. IBM went further: It pledged to rid its global chip production of them by 1995.

Pastides felt vindicated. More than that, he considered the entire episode one of the greatest successes in public-health history, as do others. Despite industry skepticism, three scientific studies led to changes that helped generations of women. “That’s almost a fairy tale in public health,” Pastides says.

Two decades later, the ending to the story looks like a different kind of tale. As semiconductor production shifted to less expensive countries, the industry’s promised fixes do not appear to have made the same journey, at least not in full. Confidential data reviewed by Bloomberg Businessweek show that thousands of women and their unborn children continued to face potential exposure to the same toxins until at least 2015. Some are probably still being exposed today. Separate evidence shows the same reproductive-health effects also persisted across the decades.

The risks are exacerbated by secrecy—the industry may be using toxins that still haven’t been disclosed. This is the price paid by generations of women making the devices at the heart of the global economy.

In 2010 a South Korean physician named Kim Myoung-hee left her assistant professorship at a medical school to head a small research institute in Seoul. For Kim, who’s also an epidemiologist, it was a chance to spend more time on the public-health research she’d embraced as a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard five years earlier.

In her new post, a series of cancer cases in South Korea’s microelectronics industry drew her interest, including one particular episode that had caught the public eye: Two young women working side-by-side at the same Samsung Electronics workstation and using the same chemicals contracted the same aggressive form of leukemia. The disease kills only 3 out of every 100,000 South Koreans each year, but these young co-workers died within eight months of each other. And their disease was among those most clearly tied to carcinogens. Activists discovered more cases at Samsung and other microelectronics companies, mostly among young women. Industry executives denied any link.

Kim began compiling and analyzing occupational-health studies about semiconductor workers worldwide, a body of work that had drawn little attention in South Korea despite the industry’s importance there. She found 40 different works published by 2010, and virtually every one mentioned exposure to toxic chemicals. “I had no idea that this is a chemical industry, not the electronics industry,” she says.

Physics drives the design of microchips, but their production is mostly about chemistry. In a basic sense, chemicals and light combine to photographically print circuits onto silicon wafers. Gordon Moore, a founder of Intel and a major figure in the creation of the modern chip in 1960, is a chemist. He worked closely on the printing process with a physicist named Jay Last. “We were putting into industrial production a lot of really nasty chemicals,” Last said in an interview he did with Moore for an oral history project of the Chemical Heritage Foundation. “There was just no knowledge of these things, and we were pouring stuff down into the city sewer system.”

Moore recalled how, years later, when workers dug up the pipes beneath Intel, they discovered the “bottom was completely eaten out the whole way along, and that was just about the time we really started recognizing how much you had to take care of this.” Authorities would end up designating more Superfund hazardous waste sites in Santa Clara County, the heart of Silicon Valley, than in any other county in the U.S.

As Kim learned in her scientific review, one critical chemical cocktail in the printing process is called a photoresist. It’s a light-sensitive compound that allows circuit patterns to be photographically printed on the chips. Moore and Last suggested in their oral-history interview that the dangers of the chemicals they were using were unknown in 1960, but studies linking photoresist ingredients to dangers dated to the 1930s. The toxic ingredients were called ethylene glycol ethers, or EGEs. They also became key ingredients in solvent mixtures known as strippers, which are used to clean the chips during printing.

Kim could see that Pastides pointed to these same chemicals when he did his study at Digital Equipment, as did the Johns Hopkins scientists working with IBM. The IBM study found miscarriage rates tripled for women who worked specifically with EGEs. Separate studies showed EGEs easily permeated rubber gloves, like water through a net, and that skin absorption was the most dangerous route, leading to exposure rates 500 to 800 times above the level deemed safe. The dangers were so abundantly clear that the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration in 1993 formally proposed exposure levels so minute that, practically speaking, companies would have to ban EGEs to comply.

Kim’s study took her through not only all of that research but also the studies done since. Historical reproductive-health studies connected microelectronics production to fatal birth defects in the children of male workers, childhood cancers among the children of female workers, and infertility and prolonged menstrual cycles.

Yet in virtually every study published since the 1990s, Kim read one form or other of the same phrase: The global semiconductor industry had phased out EGEs in the mid-1990s, signaling the end of reproductive-health concerns. The statements made sense. Not only had IBM and other companies publicly announced that the use of EGEs had been discontinued, but the chemicals also had become classified as Category 1 reproductive toxins under international standards, and European regulators had placed them on a list of the most highly toxic chemicals known to science, designating them Substances of Very High Concern.

Still, something nagged at Kim. In focus groups, young South Korean women working in chip plants told Kim’s colleagues it was not uncommon to go months, or even a year, without menstruating. (Some saw these potentially ominous changes to their reproductive systems as blessings, not warnings. It was just easier not to have periods.) As in the U.S., women dominated production jobs in South Korea’s microelectronics industry, which employs more than 120,000 of them, mostly of childbearing age; they’re often recruited right out of high school. Kim and a colleague decided they needed to conduct a new reproductive-health study. They faced a challenge, however, that Pastides and the other U.S. researchers hadn’t, at least on the front end: a lack of industry cooperation.

In 2013 they persuaded a member of South Korea’s parliament to pry loose national health-insurance data. They got five years of physician-reimbursement records through 2012 for women of childbearing age working at plants owned by the country’s three largest microelectronics companies: Samsung, SK Hynix, and LG. Samsung and SK Hynix accounted for the vast majority of women in the study, as the two have long been among the world’s largest chipmakers. The data covered an average of 38,000 women per year. From that number, the researchers looked at the records of those who had gone to doctors for miscarriages.

The results were both undeniable and shocking to Kim, just as they had been for Pastides almost three decades earlier. She found . . .

Continue reading.

If there is a Hell, I would be that many corporate CEOs are languishing there.

This is a textbook example of why governments must closely inspect and regulate businesses: to protect the public, which includes company employees. (Companies obviously have little interest in protecting low-level employees.)

And do read the whole thing. There’s more. Later in the article:

After the outcry in the U.S. in the 1990s, chemical companies said they’d changed the formulations for the photoresists and other products they supplied to chipmakers, including those in Asia. But testing data obtained by Bloomberg Businessweek show that changes weren’t made quickly or, in some cases, completely.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 June 2017 at 2:21 pm

Ivanka Trump has noticed a new ‘level of viciousness.’ Its sources are clear.

leave a comment »

Dana Milbank writes in the Washington Post:

Now we’ve done it. We’ve hurt Ivanka Trump’s feelings.

“There’s a level of viciousness that I was not expecting,” the presidential daughter and senior White House official told Fox News this week, adding that she was “blindsided” by the “ferocity.”

The poor dear.

Here are a few sources the blindsided footwear magnate might consult to understand why things are so vicious:

●Her brother Eric. The previous week, he called the head of the Democratic Party a “total whack job” and declared that “morality is just gone” from Democrats. “To me, they’re not even people,” he said.

●Her brother Donald Jr. On Wednesday, after the shooting at the Republican congressional baseball team practice, the president’s son retweeted with approval a claim tying the shooting to “NY elites glorifying the assassination of our President.”

●Newt Gingrich. On Thursday, the informal Trump adviser and surrogate tweeted a conspiracy claim that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III “is now clearly the tip of the deep-state spear aimed at destroying or at a minimum undermining and crippling the Trump presidency.”

●Her dad. The president on Thursday went on yet another Twitter tirade. He declared himself the victim of the “single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history — led by some very bad and conflicted people!” And he renewed his attack on his vanquished opponent, saying, “Crooked H destroyed phones w/hammer.

This is why Washington is so vicious right now. Plenty bad before Trump’s campaign and presidency, it has gotten markedly worse. This is what happens when the president and his surrogates portray opponents as immoral, subhuman and criminal, when they hack away at the courts, the press and other pillars of a free society — and when they promote conspiracy theories suggesting American justice is tainted.

In attacking Mueller, Trump is attacking the man whom George W. Bush named to head the FBI and who was selected for his current role as special counsel by the deputy attorney general Trump himself appointed. And everybody should react with cheerful goodwill when these honorable public servants are defamed, said to be part of a “deep state” conspiracy?

It was sickening that a lunatic apparently converted his hatred of Trump this week into violence, shooting House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and others on a baseball diamond. The would-be assassin’s act — the ultimate assault on the rule of law — is the antithesis of the principled opposition to Trump.

Revolting in a different way is the speed with which a few on the right have tried to use the shooting to delegitimize the justifiable and widespread anger that Trump has generated. Rush Limbaugh called the gunman “a mainstream Democrat voter.” Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said of the shooting: “I do want to put some of this at the feet of Barack Obama.” Sean Hannity of Fox News, broadcasting from the scene of the shooting, alleged a “record level of vicious left-wing hate,” claiming this is the “biggest issue we have to face as a country.”

 Some have gone in search of precedent to justify this attempt to smear Trump’s opposition by blaming it for a madman’s bullets. A writer for the conservative Washington Examiner falsely claimed this week that in 2011 I “blamed” Sarah Palin for the shooting that injured then-Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.) and killed others. In fact, I wrote then that “there’s no evidence that either Palin or [Glenn] Beck inspired the Tucson suspect” but that they both deserved to be “held to account for recklessly playing with violent images.” Now, as then, nobody but the shooter is to blame for a depraved act, but we all should be careful with violent language and imagery that could be misconstrued by the unhinged. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 June 2017 at 10:41 am

Aggrieved male entitlement and violence

leave a comment »

An editorial in the New Haven Register:

Mass shootings are on the rise in the United States, and men are almost always to blame.

Tristan Bridges and Tara Leigh, writing for Sociological Images, note, “This type of rampage violence happens more in the United States than anywhere else. But, gun control is only a partial explanation for mass shootings in the U.S. … It’s a problem related to American masculinity and to the ways American men use guns.”

Bridges and Leigh conclude there are two reasons why American men commit more mass shootings than anyone else in the world. The social psychological explanation demonstrates that when an identity someone cares about is called into question, they are likely to react by over-demonstrating qualities associated with that identity.

“Some sociologists call this ‘masculinity threat,’” a result of threats from their peers and, sometimes, “simply from an inability to live up to societal expectations associated with masculinity (like holding down a steady job, being able to obtain sexual access to women’s bodies, etc.),” they write.

In studies, men who have their masculinity experimentally “threatened” are more supportive of violence, less likely to identify sexual coercion and more likely to support statements about the inherent superiority of males, note Bridges and Leigh. “The research does not suggest that men are somehow inherently more violent than women. Rather, it suggests that men are likely to turn to violence when they perceive themselves to be otherwise unable to stake a claim to a masculine gender identity.”

A cultural explanation for mass shootings “articulates the role that American culture plays in influencing boys and young men to turn to this kind of violence.”

In addition, social movements have progressively chipped away at the privileges “white, educated, middle and upper class, able-bodied, heterosexual men” have historically benefited from and some men have not responded well. Sociologist Michael Kimmel calls this “aggrieved entitlement,” a sense that you are entitled to certain things, such as power, wealth, sex and that you are entitled to use violence to restore what you believe is rightfully yours.

Many of the men who commit this type of violence perceive themselves as “the perfect guy,” a “supreme gentleman,” constantly rejected in favor of “brutes” and “jerks,” including African Americans, Asians and Latinos. “It only made me fume with rage,” wrote one. “I could go nowhere without being insulted by my enemies. The mere sight of them enjoying their happy lives was an insult to me, because I deserve it more than them.”

“In the upside-down world of male entitlement, it’s women who commit the injustice,” writes Kimmel. “You forced me to suffer all my life, now I will make you all suffer.”

In many of these cases, the perpetrators justify their violence as a restoration of their manhood. In that sense, notes Kimmel, many mass shooters are not crazed deviants or mentally ill, but rather over-conformists “to certain ideas about what it means to be a self-described ‘alpha male,’ what men are entitled to, and what they deserve. It may be necessary to disarm those over-conformists, yes, but we have to first see them. And often they are hiding in plain sight.”

Bridges and Leigh point out that mass shootings “can be understood as an extremely violent example of a more general issue regarding changes in relations between men and women and historical transformations in gender, race, and class inequality. … Mass shootings are also enactments of masculinity. And they will continue to occur when this fact is combined with a sense among some men that male privilege is a birthright — and one that many feel unjustly denied.”

It’s important that our young boys growing up into men learn they aren’t owed anything by society that is not also guaranteed to women and people of color. Our children, male or female, should have the opportunity to blossom into unique people, free of the roles that have suffocated their personalities and forced them into small boxes that are easily categorized but crush souls. . .

Continue reading.

I’ve put in boldface a comment that I guarantee will enrage some white men, who believe that their sex and race entitle them to second helpings at life’s bounty regardless of what they do.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 June 2017 at 10:23 am

Posted in Daily life

Sen. Leahy writes about Putin’s stake in President Trump’s decision On Cuba policy

leave a comment »

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) writes in The Hill:

This week, President Trump is expected to announce his new policy toward Cuba.  If his decision is to roll back the policy of engagement begun by President Obama – as press reports indicate is likely – it would not only harm U.S. businesses and the Cuban people, it would leave a gaping vacuum just 90 miles offshore, for our adversaries to fill.

The Cold War is long over and Cuba is no longer a threat to the United States. But Cuba, a former Soviet satellite, remains within arm’s reach of President Putin. As the economic and political crisis deepens in Venezuela – Cuba’s post-Soviet patron – Russia is eager to regain its once diminished sphere of influence over our island neighbor.

Recent events indicate that the Kremlin may be seeking to return in full force. Last month Russia resumed oil shipments to Cuba for the first time in more than a decade. The Kremlin has again become the island’s savior amid a Cuban energy crisis caused by the chaos in Venezuela, its largest supplier of subsidized petroleum. This alone should set off alarm bells in the White House.

Equally troubling, Putin has agreed to forgive 90 percent of Cuba’s $32 billion debt to the Soviet Union and has signed multiple agreements to invest in infrastructure developments and oil exploration. There are also reports that Russia is in conversations with Cuba to reopen a military base near Havana, which would result in a fully equipped signals intelligence station. A close military alliance between Russia and Cuba could have grave security consequences for the United States.

One obvious way to mitigate Russian influence in our hemisphere is through enhanced engagement with Cuba. Over the past two and a half years, the United States has charted a new course with Cuba, restoring diplomatic relations and allowing for expanded travel and trade. As two retired U.S. military generals wrote in an op-ed in Politico last month, cooperation with Cuba has been a game changer for regional security. Since the thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations, our two governments have signed nine formal bilateral agreements on issues related to matters of national security, including human trafficking, counter-narcotics, and cybersecurity. Why cast aside this opportunity to coordinate on cross-border and maritime law enforcement, a top priority for President Trump, and instead cede the playing field to Putin?

History has taught us that positive economic relationships can produce far more dividends than punitive, unilateral sanctions. Cuba is a classic example, where our 55-year embargo has achieved none of its objectives – in fact, it has been used by the Cuban authorities to justify their repressive policies. We and the Cuban government continue to have big differences over human rights, as we do with many countries, including several that President Trump recently visited. But there is no better way to drive Putin out of the Caribbean than to remove President Castro’s incentive to expand trade with Russia in exchange for security. If the Cuban people have access to affordable, high-quality American goods and the benefits of U.S. infrastructure investments, if American travelers can support Cuba’s growing private sector and share our values with the Cuban people, the Kremlin will be pushed to the fringes. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 June 2017 at 9:59 am

Using public office for private gain: With shift on Cuba, Trump could undercut his company’s hotel-industry rivals

leave a comment »

In the Washington Post Drew Harwell and Jonathan O’Connell report a pretty obvious example of Trump making a decision that hurts his business rivals:

By rolling back Obama-era policies that allowed more private business investment in Cuba, President Trump would be leveraging the power of his office, like others who came before him, to shift Washington’s approach to the communist island.

But as the owner of a real estate company with a big stake in hotels and resorts, Trump brings an added element to an issue that is unique to his presidency — the ability, through his official actions, to undermine a growth area for his industry rivals who have raced in recent years to establish a foothold in a lucrative new market.

Starwood Hotels and Resorts, which merged with Marriott International to form the world’s largest hotel chain, last year debuted the first Cuban hotel managed by a U.S. company in nearly 60 years, taking advantage of President Barack Obama’s 2014 move to normalize relations with Cuba and lighten regulations enforcing the U.S. embargo on the island.

Trump is expected to announce in Miami on Friday his intention to ban certain financial transactions between U.S. businesses and the Cuban military, whose companies control much of the island’s economy and a significant share of the tourism and hotel sector.

That directive could undercut efforts by the U.S. hotel industry, which hopes to use the Starwood deal as a template as it continues to push Congress to lift the ongoing U.S. embargo completely.

The issue offers a reminder of Trump’s dual roles, public and private, as a result of his decision to retain his sizable ownership stake in his company.

Although Obama’s policies were popular with some Cuban Americans who have welcomed the chance to travel to the island and send more money to family, Trump’s new directive is likely to satisfy others in the community who argued that Obama went too far in appeasing the Castro regime without securing human rights concessions. Trump has criticized the Obama normalization with Cuba as a “bad deal.”

Nonetheless, as a businessman whose properties include golf resorts and luxury hotels from Florida to Scotland to Dubai, Trump in the past has signaled his interest in the potential financial opportunities in Cuba.

He told CNN last year that he would like to open a hotel in Cuba “at the right time, when we’re allowed to do it.”

As part of an ethics pledge, Trump’s company has vowed to pursue no new foreign deals during his presidency, making a potential foray into Cuba off limits for now. Yet, according to one industry expert, a presidential directive restricting efforts there by Starwood or other hotel chains would, in effect, neutralize a chief rival’s ability to gain an early advantage.

“What’s the president going to say? That the largest hotel company in the world, a competitor, is not allowed to renew its license” to operate in the country? asked Julia Sweig, a longtime Cuba scholar and former adviser to Starwood who has called for normalizing relations with the island. “That could be interpreted as the president is going to hold things up for the competition until the Trump Organization is ready to go down there.” . . .

Continue reading.


Written by LeisureGuy

16 June 2017 at 9:07 am

President Trump chooses inexperienced woman who planned his son Eric’s wedding to run N.Y. federal housing programs

leave a comment »

And given Trump’s deep involvement with NYC housing, the potential for conflicts of interest is high. Greg Smith reports in the NY Daily News:

She’s arranged tournaments at Trump golf courses, served as the liaison to the Trump family during his presidential campaign, and even arranged Eric Trump’s wedding.

Now President Trump has appointed longtime loyalist Lynne Patton — who has zero housing experience and claims a law degree the school says she never earned — to run the office that oversees federal housing programs in New York.

Patton was appointed Wednesday to head up the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Region II, which includes New York and New Jersey, where she’ll oversee distribution of billions of taxpayer dollars.

Patton’s tight relationship with the Trump clan dates back to 2009, when she began serving as the family’s “event planner.”

“Responsible for organizing, executing and assisting with upscale events and celebrity golf tournaments,” her LinkedIn profile says. “Handle celebrity talent acquisition for various marketing projects, philanthropic events and golf tournaments.”

From 2011 through January, she also helped run the Eric Trump Foundation, a charity that’s now under investigation by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

She also claims on her LinkedIn page to have obtained a juris doctorate degree in 2000 from Quinnipiac University School of Law in Connecticut. Next to the J.D. notation is written (N/A) without explanation.

On Thursday school registrar Jim Benson said Patton attended for two semesters but did not graduate.

She also listed Yale University but HUD officials couldn’t explain why that was there. Patton, who begins her Region II job July 5, did not return calls seeking comment.

As head of the biggest HUD regional office in the U.S., Patton will oversee distribution of billions in cash to public housing authorities — including NYCHA — as well as tens of thousands of rental vouchers and block grants that fund housing inspections and senior citizen programs. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 June 2017 at 8:55 am

Wee Scot and Martin de Candre support Merkur Progress, with a certain Classic Reserve

leave a comment »

The Wee Scot is being very pleasant, and it did a super job with Martin de Candre’s classic shaving soap. Note that, per the instructions on their website, the soap is stored without the lid.

With such a good lather, the shave went very well. The redoubtable Merkur Progress, an excellent razor and IMO the best razor Merkur makes (a cost-engineered clone of the Apollo Mikron), gave its usual superb shave.

A splash of Barrister & Mann’s Reserve Classic, which indeed has a classic fragrance, and the day begins quite well.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 June 2017 at 8:49 am

Posted in Shaving

%d bloggers like this: