Later On

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

Archive for September 12th, 2017

Josh Marshall: “The Growing Backlash Against Big Tech”

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Worth reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 September 2017 at 4:50 pm

Jennifer Rubin asks an important question: “What about the Russia lies?”

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Jennifer Rubin writes in the Washington Post:

Jack Goldsmith’s assessment in the Atlantic of President Trump’s damage to our democratic institutions includes this:

Donald Trump is a norm-busting president without parallel in American history. He has told scores of easily disprovable public lies; he has shifted back and forth and back again on his policies, often contradicting Cabinet officials along the way; he has attacked the courts, the press, his predecessor, his former electoral opponent, members of his party, the intelligence community, and even his own attorney general; he has failed to release his tax returns or to fill senior political positions in many agencies; he has shown indifference to ethics concerns; he has regularly interjected a self-regarding political element into apolitical events; he has monetized the presidency by linking it to his personal business interests; and he has engaged in cruel public behavior. The list goes on and on.

He has also lied. A lot. The sheer volume of the lies — 1,145, by Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler’s count — has been breathtaking. But it is the gravity of some of them — the self-serving lies on which he ran and on which he governs — that should not go unnoticed by the public or by Congress.

The biggest lie of the campaign, one on which some would say he turned his campaign into a fraud, was his declaration that he had “nothing to do with Russia.” He repeated that line during the campaign and continued to tweet and tell the same lie during his presidency. “I have had dealings over the years where I sold a house to a very wealthy Russian many years ago. I had the Miss Universe pageant — which I owned for quite a while — I had it in Moscow a long time ago,” he told NBC’s Lester Holt in May. “But other than that, I have nothing to do with Russia.” We now know that Trump was pursuing a gigantic deal for Trump Tower as he ran for president, refusing to criticize Russian President Vladimir Putin.

And he helped his son lie about the June meeting with Russian officials, according to news reports. The Post reported:

The extent of the president’s personal intervention in his son’s response, the details of which have not previously been reported, adds to a series of actions that Trump has taken that some advisers fear could place him and some members of his inner circle in legal jeopardy.

As special counsel Robert S. Mueller III looks into potential obstruction of justice as part of his broader investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, these advisers worry that the president’s direct involvement leaves him needlessly vulnerable to allegations of a coverup.

“This was … unnecessary,” said one of the president’s advisers, who like most other people interviewed for this article spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal deliberations. “Now someone can claim he’s the one who attempted to mislead. Somebody can argue the president is saying he doesn’t want you to say the whole truth.”

During the campaign, Trump denied he had pursued a moneymaking venture with America’s most formidable international foe. When evidence of contact with his son emerged, during an investigation into his Russian connections, he helped draft a false cover story. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 September 2017 at 4:36 pm

The media gets the opioid crisis wrong. Here is the truth.

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Anne Case, the Alexander Stewart 1886 professor of economics and public affairs emeritus at Princeton University, and Angus Deaton, the Dwight D. Eisenhower professor of economics and international affairs emeritus at Princeton University and the 2015 Nobel laureate in economics, write in the Washington Post:

Lawmakers and the media have devoted much of their attention recently to deaths from opioid overdoses, as well as to the broader “deaths of despair” that include suicides and deaths from alcoholic liver disease and cirrhosis. But despite the intense focus on the topic, misinformation about the epidemic runs rampant.

By conventional wisdom, tackling this crisis would require extending Medicaid and improving how it functions, cracking down on prescription painkillers and getting more health-care resources into rural communities.

But that’s not exactly right. To correct the record, here are four points to bear in mind:

Medicaid isn’t the problem (and isn’t the solution). Critics of Medicaid argue that the program enables the epidemic by paying for prescription opioids. In fact, Princeton University researchers Janet Currie and Molly Schnell calculate that only 8 percent of all opioid prescriptions from January 2006 to March 2015 were paid for by Medicaid, based on data from QuintilesIMS, a leading health-care information company.

Medicaid can help addicts by providing a range of evidence-based therapies. This is correct and, like many others, we think treatment is a good idea. As such, we are also concerned about the effects that reductions in Medicaid could have on the epidemic. But Medicaid proponents often greatly overstate what can be expected from treatment in general, and Medicaid in particular. Many addicts deny their addiction and either do not seek or do not adhere to treatment once started. “Evidence-based” typically means there has been a randomized, controlled trial that has demonstrated effectiveness. But trials include only those who seek treatment — and say nothing about those who avoid it. A trial is deemed successful when the treatment is proved better than nothing (or at least a placebo) — even if only a few people end up benefiting from it.

It is not all about opioids. Policymakers often speak as if the epidemic will be over as soon as we tackle both legal and illegal opioids. Better control of opioids is essential, but, even without opioid deaths, there would still be as many or more deaths from suicide and liver diseases. Opioids are like guns handed out in a suicide ward; they have certainly made the total epidemic much worse, but they are not the cause of the underlying depression. We suspect that deaths of despair among those without a university degree are primarily the result of a 40-year stagnation of median real wages and a long-term decline in the number of well-paying jobs for those without a bachelor’s degree. Falling labor force participation, sluggish wage growth, and associated dysfunctional marriage and child-rearing patterns have undermined the meaning of working people’s lives as well.

The crisis has hit men and women about equally.  . .

Continue reading.

Also note: “Here’s How Big Pharma Helped Set New Pain Guidelines,” by Kevin Drum, on the origins of the crisis we now face.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 September 2017 at 3:44 pm

Grim news: Global Ocean Circulation Appears To Be Collapsing Due To A Warming Planet

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Trevor Nace writes in Forbes:

Scientists have long known about the anomalous “warming hole” in the North Atlantic Ocean, an area immune to warming of Earth’s oceans. This cool zone in the North Atlantic Ocean appears to be associated with a slowdown in the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), one of the key drivers in global ocean circulation.

A recent study published in Nature outlines research by a team of Yale University and University of Southhampton scientists. The team found evidence that Arctic ice loss is potentially negatively impacting the planet’s largest ocean circulation system. While scientists do have some analogs as to how this may impact the world, we will be largely in uncharted territory.

AMOC is one of the largest current systems in the Atlantic Ocean and the world. Generally speaking, it transports warm and salty water northward from the tropics to South and East of Greenland. This warm water cools to ambient water temperature then sinks as it is saltier and thus denser than the relatively more fresh surrounding water. The dense mass of water sinks to the base of the North Atlantic Ocean and is pushed south along the abyss of the Atlantic Ocean.

This process whereby water is transported into the Northern Atlantic Ocean acts to distribute ocean water globally. What’s more important, and the basis for concern of many scientists is this mechanism is one of the most efficient ways Earth transports heat from the tropics to the northern latitudes. The warm water transported from the tropics to the North Atlantic releases heat to the atmosphere, playing a key role in warming of western Europe. You likely have heard of one of the more popular components of the AMOC, the Gulf Stream which brings warm tropical water to the western coasts of Europe.

Evidence is growing that the comparatively cold zone within the Northern Atlantic could be due to a slowdown of this global ocean water circulation. Hence, a slowdown in the planet’s ability to transfer heat from the tropics to the northern latitudes. The cold zone could be due to melting of ice in the Arctic and Greenland. This would cause a cold fresh water cap over the North Atlantic, inhibiting sinking of salty tropical waters. This would in effect slow down the global circulation and hinder the transport of warm tropical waters north. . .

Continue reading.

World-class “Oops.”

Written by LeisureGuy

12 September 2017 at 11:40 am

Old obsession continued: knives and knife-sharpening

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For some reason I’ve always been interested in knives. I am struck that you could take, say, a Randall knife and put it into the paw of a very early member of genus Homo, and she or he would immediately know what it was for and would doubtless prize it as the best sharp rock they’ve ever found and even better than the sharp rocks they are just learning how to make.

I like pocket knives, and I have a large collection of those, but I think I like fixed-blade knives even more: no moving parts.

The first thing you learn once you’re fond of knives and paying attention to them is that they will require sharpening, and sharpening is definitely a skill that must be learned. I’ve always liked the shortcut of sharpening systems that use some device to allow even a novice to keep a constant angle. There is still skill to be learned and experience to be gained, but a good sharpening system makes an enormous difference.

I started with a Lansky system, as many do, and in packing I found I still have it along with a GATCO sharpening system that I forgot I had: it’s been storage for quite a while.

I got an EdgePro Apex, but in that system the knife is not clamped but just held in place. After you get a certain amount of experience, this seems to work well, but I wanted the knife to be clamped securely.

After the EdgePro Apex, I got a KME system, which I liked a lot. It can do a very fine job, and my oldest grandson has it now. Still, it has some drawbacks. Changing the stones on the KME is a bit of a pain because it interrupts the workflow (and the same is true of the EdgePro Apex and the Lansky), and for me I could never get a secure clamp on a knife with a distal taper (in which the thickness of the blade tapers from relatively thick near the handle to a thin foible). This is a chronic problem and the best solution is to use two clamps rather than one. If you use one clamp, the blade is clamped mostly on the side where it’s thickest, so the blade tends to swivel under pressure: a line through a point can rotate about the point.

With two clamps, though, even though the clamps may be holding only on the thicker side, the blade is still secured: two points fix a line, so no rotation. And the TSProf sharpening system does indeed have two clamps for the blade. However, you still face the fuss of changing the sharpening stones. I learned about this sharpening system before they were really doing US sales, and I got no reply to a a query, but I did like the two-clamp solution to the problem of a distal taper.

But then I saw this video of the Wicked Edge sharpening system:

Did you notice the ease of changing sharpening stones? I was won over at once, but what with one thing and another was not moved to take action until recently—and I’m glad I waited. In the intervening years, Allison and his colleagues have continued to improve the device and now we have the Wicked Edge Gen 3 Pro 2017 Edition. It has many nice features, but one important one for me is that it has a two-pronged clamp that, according to reports, is enough to vanquish the distal-taper problem.

It comes fairly complete, but if you’re going to sharpen knives of small width (e.g., pocket knives), you’re going to need the Low-Angle Adapter, and with those the longer guide rods are desirable.

I haven’t really used it yet—waiting on getting settled for that—but I wanted to summarize my obsession status. And I have to say that the customer service at Wicked Edge (it’s in Santa Fe NM) is exemplary. They are very accommodating, answer their email, and are good to talk to on the phone.

In furtherance of the obsession, I have joined Edge Snobs™, and they often post good tips. (Wicked Edge also has its own forum on the company website.)

Stay keen, and stay tuned.

BTW, you search YouTube and find videos on all of these.

UPDATE: I realize that I did not include the two Chef’s Choice electric sharpeners I tried. Avoid at all costs. Bad for knives. There are also some manual sharpeners, not very costly, with stones or rods mounted at an angle and you draw the knife down the rod/stone while keeping the blade vertical, which defines the cutting angle (which is thus fixed). Nah.

Basically, the only sharpening systems I recommend are those listed in the original post above. The others I did not think of because I have blocked them from my memory.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 September 2017 at 11:26 am

A New Way to Learn Economics

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John Maynard Keynes famously wrote:

Practical men who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority [not referring specifically to Donald Trump – LG], who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back.

Thus it behooves us all to learn the rudiments of economics. John Cassidy writes in the New Yorker:

With the new school year starting, there is good news for incoming students of economics—and anybody else who wants to learn about issues like inequality, globalization, and the most efficient ways to tackle climate change. A group of economists from both sides of the Atlantic, part of a project called core Econ, has put together a new introductory economics curriculum, one that is modern, comprehensive, and freely available online.

In this country, many colleges encourage Econ 101 students to buy (or rent) expensive textbooks, which can cost up to three hundred dollars, or even more for some hardcover editions. The core curriculum includes a lengthy e-book titled “The Economy,” lecture slides, and quizzes to test understanding. Some of the material has already been used successfully at colleges like University College London and Sciences Po, in Paris.

The project is a collaborative effort that emerged after the world financial crisis of 2008–9, and the ensuing Great Recession, when many students (and teachers) complained that existing textbooks didn’t do a good job of explaining what was happening. In many countries, groups of students demanded an overhaul in how economics was taught, with less emphasis on free-market doctrines and more emphasis on real-world problems.

Traditional, wallet-busting introductory textbooks do cover topics like pollution, rising inequality, and speculative busts. But in many cases this material comes after lengthy explanations of more traditional topics: supply-and-demand curves, consumer preferences, the theory of the firm, gains from trade, and the efficiency properties of atomized, competitive markets. In his highly popular “Principles of Economics,” Harvard’s N. Gregory Mankiw begins by listing a set of ten basic principles, which include “Rational people think at the margin,” “Trade can make everybody better off,” and “Markets are usually a good way to organize economic activity.”

The core approach isn’t particularly radical. (Students looking for expositions of Marxian economics or Modern Monetary Theory will have to look elsewhere.) But it treats perfectly competitive markets as special cases rather than the norm, trying to incorporate from the very beginning the progress economists have made during the past forty years or so in analyzing more complex situations: when firms have some monopoly power; people aren’t fully rational; a lot of key information is privately held; and the gains generated by trade, innovation, and finance are distributed very unevenly. The corecurriculum also takes economic history seriously.

The e-book begins with a discussion of inequality. One of first things students learn is that, in 2014, the “90/10 ratio”—the average income of the richest ten per cent of households divided by the average income of the poorest ten per cent—was 5.4 in Norway, sixteen in the United States, and a hundred and forty-five in Botswana. Then comes a discussion of how to measure standards of living, and a section on the famous “hockey stick” graph, which shows how these standards have risen exponentially since the industrial revolution.

The text stresses that technical progress is the primary force driving economic growth. Citing the Yale economist William Nordhaus’s famous study of the development of electric lighting, it illustrates how standard economic statistics, such as the gross domestic product, sometimes fail to fully account for this progress. Befitting a twenty-first-century text, sections devoted to the causes and consequences of technological innovation recur throughout the e-book, and the information economy receives its own chapter. So do globalization, the environment, and economic cataclysms, such as the Depression and the global financial crisis.

Given the breadth of its coverage, the core curriculum may be challenging to some students, but it takes advantage of being a native online product. . .

Continue reading.

Later in the column:

Unlike most textbooks, the core e-book was produced by a large team of collaborators. More than twenty economists from both sides of the Atlantic and from India, Colombia, Chile, and Turkey contributed to it. (Two of them, Suresh Naidu and Rajiv Sethi, teach at Columbia and Barnard, respectively.) The coördinators of the project were Wendy Carlin, of University College London, Sam Bowles, of the Santa Fe Institute, and Margaret Stevens, of Oxford University. The Institute for New Economic Thinking provided some funding to help get things off the ground.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 September 2017 at 10:39 am

Omega Mixed Midget, AOS Sandalwood, the iKon X3, and Spring-Heeled Jack for a coffee kick

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I soak the Mixed Midget—wet it well under the hot-water tap and then let it stand while I shower—because of the boar content, and it did a good job make a lather from Art of Shaving Sandalwood shaving soap, a very nice soap indeed.

I haven’t used the X3 for a while, and its minimal blade feel was a delight. This is an excellent twisted-blade slant. Three passes to a BBS result.

Spring-Heeled Jack is a novelty aftershave, and a very pleasant one: you get a good whiff of fresh coffee when you apply it, and then it gradually calms down to a sort of woody fragrance. Quite nice.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 September 2017 at 8:38 am

Posted in Shaving

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