Later On

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

Archive for June 21st, 2017

Why the GOP can pass a plan 2/3 of the country opposes

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Read this tweetstorm. Good insight.

And also this Slate article by Jordan Weissmann:

Mitch McConnell is winning, yet again.

Senate Republicans are reportedly close to voting on a bill that would repeal Obamacare and potentially strip insurance from millions of Americans. Under normal circumstances, this sort of momentous legislation would have been dominating the news cycle for weeks. Instead, it’s been virtually absent from broadcast news and become a C-level subplot on cable, thanks to McConnell’s tactically ingenious decision to skip the normal committee process and craft his party’s bill behind closed doors, before rushing it to a floor vote, likely next week. Without a public process, journalists just haven’t had much to cover—and voters haven’t been able to grok what’s at stake.

Of course, the mere fact that Republicans have decided to produce a health care bill largely in secret is itself a scandal. But unfortunately, it’s also a political process story involving arcane-sounding concepts like reconciliation and conference committees. And if there’s one thing most Americans and CNN producers are evidently indifferent to, it’s political process.

That, more than anything, is the secret to McConnell’s success as a congressional leader. Over the years he has masterfully twisted the rules of Senate procedure to the GOP’s advantage by breaking Washington norms that voters fundamentally don’t think or care much about, in part because they make for dry copy and soporific television. Our national aversion to process stories helped the Kentuckian gum up President Obama’s political agenda and deny him a Supreme Court appointment. And now it may allow him to pass a health care bill by stealth.

Before he ascended to the Senate’s upper rungs, Mitch McConnell’s political biography as a rigidly partisan fundraising obsessive did not mark him as a man who’d change history. But as minority leader, he proved himself a brilliant political strategist and tactician by waging an all-out war of resistance against President Obama, largely by using a record number of Senate filibusters in order to slow down business on Capitol Hill and jam up the administration’s nominees. As Norm Ornstein wrote for National Journal, “The rule had not changed, but the norms were blown up. Filibusters were used not simply to block legislation or occasional nominations, but routinely, even on matters and nominations that were entirely uncontroversial and ultimately passed unanimously or near-unanimously.”

Weaponizing the filibuster and denying the president bipartisan cover turned out to be extremely savvy, because relatively few Americans care much about the nuances of congressional procedure, and the public is generally apt to blame the president’s party for its frustrations (as Obama’s approval ratings at the time showed). During the heat of the health care debate in 2010, for instance, Pew found that only 26 percent of Americans knew it took 60 votes to end debate in the Senate. And insofar as people were frustrated by Congress, they may not have understood which party to be angry at; in the run-up to the 2014 midterms, for instance, Rasmussen found that more than one-third of likely voters were in the dark about which party controlled the House and Senate. (Among all Americans, just 38 percent knew who was in power on the Hill, according to the Annenberg Public Policy center.)

Suffice to say, it’s a bit easier to grind a chamber of Congress to a halt or frustrate a president when a sizable portion of the voting public has no idea what you’re doing—or how. You just have to be willing to do it.

Take the Republican Party’s obstruction of Merrick Garland, another terribly boring but important episode in which McConnell, finally majority leader, shattered congressional norms in service of his political ends. Never before had the Senate refused to even grant a hearing to a president’s high court pick. But while most Americans thought the judge at least deservedan up-or-down vote—Senate Republicans could have easily rejected him—his unfortunate fate eventually just faded from the news, since there just wasn’t much to talk about. There are only so many ways for reporters to write about how someone is not going to sit on the Supreme Court and that Republicans are shredding the old, brittle rule book that underpins our political institutions. And without public hearings, there was rarely much of a news hook to hang the story back up on. By standing firm until the initial outrage dissipated and everyday citizens either didn’t care or didn’t know that the Republicans planned to rob the president of a Supreme Court seat, McConnell won, his methods as devious as they were boring.

With his health care push, McConnell is once again getting a free pass after smashing Senate precedent. He has chosen to abandon the typical committee process in order to hash out a bill in private with a select group of Republican senators before rushing it to the floor. We won’t likely see a draft until Thursday, with a vote expected next Tuesday. Republican senators are dodging questions about the bill by claiming they still haven’t seen any text. Again, this is an anti-democratic scandal in its own right. The Senate is writing legislation that could strip health care from millions and trying to pass it with little if any meaningful debate.

And it’s barely been covered. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 June 2017 at 2:01 pm

The new levers of power are in the hands of the public

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Very interesting power shift. Farhad Manjoo writes in the NY Times:

Until last week, Travis Kalanick, a founder of Uber and its chief executive, ruled his company absolutely. That was the Silicon Valley way; ever since Steve Jobs was ousted from Apple in the 1980s, tech founders have demanded, and been awarded, enormous deference by investors and corporate boards. So even as successive waves of scandal have hit Uber, Mr. Kalanick’s position looked safe.

Then, all of a sudden, it wasn’t. Amid many reforms, Mr. Kalanick announced a leave of absence last week and late Tuesday said he was resigning as Uber C.E.O.

It is the swiftness of the fall that’s interesting here. In another time, Mr. Kalanick might have been able to hang on. But we live in an era dominated by the unyielding influence of social feeds. Every new Uber revelation ignited a massive campaign against the company on Twitter and Facebook. A swirl of negative branding took on a life of its own — and ultimately could not be ignored.

The story is bigger than Uber. Online campaigns against brands have become one of the most powerful forces in business, giving customers a huge megaphone with which to shape corporate ethics and practices, and imperiling some of the most towering figures of media and industry. Look at how quickly Bill O’Reilly, the former Fox News host, was dispatched from the network after The New York Times dug into his history of sexual harassment settlements. The investigation inspired an online boycott against his advertisers, who, despite Mr. O’Reilly’s soaring ratings, began to drop him faster than day-old beef tartare.

But the effects of these campaigns go beyond business. In a nation where politics have grown pitched and sclerotic, fighting brands online suddenly feels like the most effective political action many of us can take. Posting a hashtag — #deleteUber, for instance, or #grabyourwallet — and threatening to back it up by withholding dollars can bring about a much quicker, more visible change in the world than, say, calling your representative.

Brand-focused online activism can work for every political side, too: Don’t like a New York theater company’s Trump-tinged production of Shakespeare in the Park? There’s a boycott for you, and Delta and Bank of America will give in.

Yet the mechanics of social media suggest it will be the cultural and political left, more than the right, that might win the upper hand with this tactic — especially when harnessing the power of brands to fight larger battles for racial and gender equality, as in the Uber and Fox News cases.

“Women and people of color have gravitated to social media and were early adopters of it,” said Shannon Coulter, a marketing consultant who co-founded Grab Your Wallet, a campaign aimed at urging retailers to stop selling Trump-branded products. “Social media is actually a lever for social justice. It’s a way of leveling the playing field.”

To see why, we must first understand why brands are suddenly more vulnerable to consumer sentiment than they once were. It all comes down to one thing: Social media is the new TV.

In the era when television shaped mainstream consumer sentiment, companies enjoyed enormous power to alter their image through advertising. Then came the internet, which didn’t kill advertising, but did dilute its power. Brands now have little say over how their messages get chewed up through our social feeds.

Yes, they can run ads on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and everyplace else. But social media elevates consumers over corporate marketing; suddenly what matters isn’t what an ad says about a company, but what your friends think about that company.

It’s no coincidence that the only ads that get talked about these days are those that ignite some kind of social-media outrage — Pepsi’s strange Kendall Jenner commercial, for example, or the Budweiser Super Bowl ad that some viewers took to be a pro-immigration political statement. Just about every cultural sentiment — even what to think about a piece of corporate messaging — comes to you filtered through a social feed.

It’s this loss of power that explains why brands have become so jumpy and reactive. Take the . . .

Continue reading.

One consideration: look at the kind of information bubbles encouraged by people’s natural desire to find agreeable hangouts and created or at least abetted by the algorithms of Facebook and the link. The new social media power is hard to channel, and even very small groups can tap that power and aim it at chosen targets, augmenting their influence and impact, and that’s not always good—cf. gamergate.

Yet, oddly, Congress is able to proceed in directions that almost 2/3 of the American public does not want. Somehow, this social media pressure that works so well on brands does not work so well on Congress. Why is that?

Answer.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 June 2017 at 1:51 pm

$15 Minimum Wage in Seattle Working Fine So Far

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And for some good news, Kevin Drum points out an interesting study on how we know the $15 minimum wage is working.

I think it’s tell that so many businesses in the US simply don’t want to pay their full-time employees enough money to live on. Shouldn’t that be against the law?

Well, it is: that’s the idea behind the minimum wage. And, to be honest, $15/hour really is minimum, if that. A person should earn enough in a full-time job to support themselves, even if they have a child. This is supposed to be civilization, not some dystopian science-fiction fantasy. (I’m watching Aeon Flux right now.)

Written by LeisureGuy

21 June 2017 at 1:38 pm

Clearing up the “All lives matter” thing…

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Written by LeisureGuy

21 June 2017 at 12:17 pm

Posted in Daily life

Starting to sell off pen collection and the difficult first step is the inventory

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The problem is that I don’t recall all the model names. From L to R, Yard-O-Led Grand Viceroy Victorian, Yard-O-Led Imperial Dragon, Waterman (model?), S.T. Dupont Montparnasse (but which of that line?), Montegrappa (model?), S.T. Dupont (model?), Montegrappa (model?), Yard-O-Led Viceroy Victorian.

That’s just one drawer’s worth, 16 drawers in all, plus a dozen or so not in the cabinet….

Collections turn out to be a burden in the long run.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 June 2017 at 11:13 am

Posted in Daily life

Looking back: Mitch McConnell on Senate deliberations on the Affordable Care Act

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“This massive piece of legislation that seeks to restructure one sixth of our economy is being written behind closed doors, without input from anyone, in an effort to jam it past not only the Senate but the American people.”

—  Mitch McConnell in 2009 accusing Democrats of writing their health proposal secretively and without input from outside their circle.

Of course, Mitch is not only a rank hypocrite, he’s also a liar: the ACA was developed over 9 months of deliberations, with plenty of hearings, open debate, input from the public and health professionals, amendments by the GOP. And that wasn’t good enough for old Mitch.

But his process: It’s okay if you’re a Republican, apparently.

The US Congress is a cesspit of shameless dishonesty and corruption. This is bad for the public and bad for the country. The big puzzle: why don’t people vote?

Written by LeisureGuy

21 June 2017 at 9:14 am

Posted in Congress

Low-carb homemade ketchup

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We never have ketchup around any more because it is all made with high-fructose corn syrup. However, there are a few dishes on which ketchup without be nice: chili, for one—growing up, I always put ketchup on chili—and a hamburger patty works well with ketchup

Voilà! Low-carb ketchup recipe. Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 grated or finely chopped yellow onion
1 pressed garlic clove
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon paprika powder
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 pinch cayenne pepper
14 oz. canned whole tomatoes

Muir Glen has San Marzano style tomatoes (same variety, but grown in California) in 14 oz cans. Those are diced, but I don’t see that it makes any difference.

The advantage of making one’s own is tinkering with the ingredients—for example, I’ll use 2 cloves of garlic at least, maybe 3.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 June 2017 at 8:53 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

Truckers too often are in a rigged game, living a life of indentured servitude

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Brett Murphy reports in USA Today:

Samuel Talavera Jr. did everything his bosses asked.

Most days, the trucker would drive more than 16 hours straight hauling LG dishwashers and Kumho tires to warehouses around Los Angeles, on their way to retail stores nationwide.

He rarely went home to his family. At night, he crawled into the back of his cab and slept in the company parking lot.

For all of that, he took home as little as 67 cents a week.

Then, in October 2013, the truck he leased from his employer, QTS, broke down.

When Talavera could not afford repairs, the company fired him and seized the truck — along with $78,000 he had paid towards owning it.

Talavera was a modern-day indentured servant. And there are hundreds, likely thousands more, still on the road, hauling containers for trucking companies that move goods for America’s most beloved retailers, from Costco to Target to Home Depot.

These port truckers — many of them poor immigrants who speak little English — are responsible for moving almost half of the nation’s container imports out of Los Angeles’ ports. They don’t deliver goods to stores. Instead they drive them short distances to warehouses and rail yards, one small step on their journey to a store near you.

A yearlong investigation by the USA TODAY Network found that port trucking companies in southern California have spent the past decade forcing drivers to finance their own trucks by taking on debt they could not afford. Companies then used that debt as leverage to extract forced labor and trap drivers in jobs that left them destitute.

If a driver quit, the company seized his truck and kept everything he had paid towards owning it.

If drivers missed payments, or if they got sick or became too exhausted to go on, their companies fired them and kept everything. Then they turned around and leased the trucks to someone else.

Drivers who manage to hang on to their jobs sometimes end up owing money to their employers – essentially working for free. Reporters identified seven different companies that have told their employees they owe money at week’s end.

The USA TODAY Network pieced together accounts from more than 300 drivers, listened to hundreds of hours of sworn labor dispute testimony and reviewed contracts that have never been seen by the public.

Using the contracts, submitted as evidence in labor complaints, and shipping manifests, reporters matched the trucking companies with the most labor violations to dozens of retail brands, including Target, Hewlett-Packard, Home Depot, Hasbro, J.Crew, UPS, Goodyear, Costco, Ralph Lauren and more.

Among the findings:

  • Trucking companies force drivers to work against their will – up to 20 hours a day – by threatening to take their trucks and keep the money they paid toward buying them. Bosses create a culture of fear by firing drivers, suspending them without pay or reassigning them the lowest-paying routes.
  • To keep drivers working, managers at a few companies have physically barred them from going home. More than once, Marvin Figueroa returned from a full day’s work to find the gate to the parking lot locked and a manager ordering drivers back to work. “That was how they forced me to continue working,” he testified in a 2015 labor case. Truckers at two other companies have made similar claims.
  • Employers charge not just for truck leases but for a host of other expenses, including hundreds of dollars a month for insurance and diesel fuel. Some charge truckers a parking fee to use the company lot. One company, Fargo Trucking, charged $2 per week for the office toilet paper and other supplies.
  • Drivers at many companies say they had no choice but to break federal safety laws that limit truckers to 11 hours on the road each day. Drivers at Pacific 9 Transportation testified that their managers dispatched truckers up to 20 hours a day, then wouldn’t pay them until drivers falsified inspection reports that track hours. Hundreds of California port truckers have gotten into accidents, leading to more than 20 fatalities from 2013 to 2015, according to the USA TODAY Network’s analysis of federal crash and port trade data.
  • Many drivers thought they were paying into their truck like a mortgage. Instead, when they lost their job, they discovered they also lost their truck, along with everything they’d paid toward it. Eddy Gonzalez took seven days off to care for his dying mother and then bury her. When he came back, his company fired him and kept the truck. For two years, Ho Lee was charged more than $1,600 a month for a truck lease. When he got ill and missed a week of work, he lost the truck and everything he’d paid.
  • Retailers could refuse to allow companies with labor violations to truck their goods. Instead they’ve let shipping and logistics contractors hire the lowest bidder, while lobbying on behalf of trucking companies in Sacramento and Washington D.C. Walmart, Target and dozens of other Fortune 500 companies have paid lobbyists up to $12.6 million to fight bills that would have held companies liable or given drivers a minimum wage and other protections that most U.S. workers already enjoy.

This isn’t a case of a few bad trucking companies accused of mistreating a handful of workers.

Since 2010, at least 1,150 port truck drivers have filed claims in civil court or with the California Department of Industrial Relations’ enforcement arm, known as the labor commission.

Judges have sided with drivers in more than 97% of the cases heard, ruling time after time that port truckers in California can’t legally be classified as independent contractors. Instead, they are employees who, by law, must be paid minimum wage and can’t be charged for the equipment they use at work.

The rulings stop there. They do not address specific allegations of abuse by drivers, including whether trucking companies physically barred them from leaving work or ordered them to work past federal fatigue limits.

But allegations like those have been made in sworn testimony in hundreds of the cases, virtually all of which ended with trucking companies ordered to repay drivers for truck expenses and lost wages. The USA TODAY Network found that at least 140 trucking companies have been accused by at least one driver of shorting them of fair pay or using threats to squeeze them to work longer hours. . .

Continue reading.

And it’s important to note that within a decade most of these jobs, bad as they are, will be gone, the work done by autonomous vehicles.

Something is seriously wrong with capitalism. Although capitalism does perhaps foster innovation (including, unfortunately, meaningless innovation and superficial variation), it lacks any sort of moral concern for employees or the public or the environment: its sole focus—maximizing profits—turns out to be insufficient to create a good life for too many (even though that is its primary claim to fame). The “good life” created by the hypercompetitive capitalism common today requires that one ignore many of the effects and products of capitalism.

Do read the rest of the article. It describes the dark underside of the American Way of Life. Put yourself in Sam Talavera’s shoes. What would you do? Work smarter not harder? Think outside the box? Do more with less?

Written by LeisureGuy

21 June 2017 at 8:34 am

Whipped Dog silvertip, Phoenix Artisan Solstice, iKon 102, and K.C. Atwood aftershave

with 4 comments

I like this little silvertip from Whipped Dog a lot: a good size, a good resiliency, and a comfortable handle. Solstice was the obvious choice for today’s shaving soap, and it produced an extremely good lather. Phoenix Artisan and Crown King shaving soaps always leave my skin feeling very soft and nice, and they all lather well. I like the fragrance quite a bit as well: “Sage, Sweetgrass, Cedar, Rose Absolute, and Benzoin Resin.” The ingredients:

Saponified Stearic Acid, Aqua (Water), Saponified Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil, Saponified Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Saponified Garcinia Indica (Kokum) Seed Butter, Saponified Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), Saponified Persea Americana (Avocado) Oil, Sodium Lactate, Glycerin, Fragrance

Well-prepped, I picked up the 102 and set to work. I got one odd little nick on the first pass—bad angle, I’m sure—but the rest of the shave went very well, and My Nik Is Sealed totally closed it off with no problem when I finished the shave.

A good splash of Prospector Co.’s K.C. Atwood aftershave, and I’m ready for a long day. Its ingredients:

Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Distillate, Organic Aloe (Barbadensis), Distilled Water, PolySorbate 20, Vegetable Glycerin, Citrus Sinensis (Grapefruit), Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree), Citrus Sinensis (Sweet Orange), Coriandrum Sativum (Coriander Seed) Oil, Juniperus Communis (Juniper Berry), Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavendar), Vitis Vinifera (Grapefruit Seed Extract), Phenoxyethanol.

 

Written by LeisureGuy

21 June 2017 at 8:02 am

Posted in Shaving

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