Later On

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

Archive for September 13th, 2017

A chapter closes on our life together

leave a comment »

Two chapters, perhaps. Tonight we had a small celebratory champagne supper (lox, capers, water crackers, etc.) because tonight was the final drive home from her twice a week commute between Pacific Grove and Palo Alto: a long commute. But it’s over and next week we move to BC and start a new life, with new identities…. wait, no, not that. I’ve been watching some thrillers. It will be the same old identities, which is just as well since we’ve learned those pretty thoroughly.

The immediate effort is to eat all the food on hand—at least, all we can devour. I bought lamb steaks for tomorrow, and I told The Wife that we’d have with it a big bowl of chopped celery.

It’s not quite that bad, but throwing out food is extremely difficult to me. OTOH, I don’t particularly want to move 1/3 jar of Pommery mustard.

Whatever problems arise, they will be surmounted and a week from tomorrow we will walk into our new Canadian apartment.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 September 2017 at 8:04 pm

Posted in Daily life

RT, Sputnik and Russia’s New Theory of War

leave a comment »

Also read “Will America finally wise up to the Russian media war on our democracy?“, by Sarah Posner in the Washington Post.

Jim Rutenberg writes in the NY Times:

Martin Steltner showed up at his office in the state courthouse building in western Berlin. Steltner, who has served for more than a dozen years as the spokesman for the Berlin state prosecutor, resembles a detective out of classic crime fiction: crisp suit, wavy gray hair and a gallows humor that comes with having seen it all. There was the 2009 case of the therapist who mistakenly killed two patients in an Ecstasy-infused session gone wrong. The Great Poker Heist of 2010, in which masked men stormed a celebrity-studded poker tournament with machetes and made off with a quarter-million dollars. The 2012 episode involving the Canadian porn star who killed and ate his boyfriend and then sent the leftovers home in the mail. Steltner embraced the oddball aspect of his job; he kept a picture of Elvis Presley on the wall of his office.

But even Steltner found the phone calls he received that morning confounding. They came from police officers from towns far outside Berlin, who reported that protests were erupting, seemingly out of nowhere, on their streets. “They are demonstrating — ‘Save our children,’ ‘No attacks from immigrants on our children’ and some things like that,” Steltner told me when I met him in Berlin recently.

The police were calling Steltner because this was ostensibly his office’s fault. The protesters were angry over the Berlin prosecutor’s supposed refusal to indict three Arab migrants who, they said, raped a 13-year-old girl from Berlin’s tight-knit Russian-German community.

Steltner, who would certainly have been informed if such a case had come up for prosecution, had heard nothing of it. He called the Berlin Police Department, which informed him that a 13-year-old Russian-German girl had indeed gone missing a week before. When she resurfaced a day later, she told her parents that three “Southern-looking men” — by which she meant Arab migrants — had yanked her off the street and taken her to a rundown apartment, where they beat and raped her.

But when the police interviewed the girl, whose name was Lisa, she changed her story. She had left home, it turned out, because she had gotten in trouble at school. Afraid of how her parents would react, she went to stay with a 19-year-old male friend. The kidnapping and gang rape, she admitted, never happened.

By then, however, the girl’s initial story was taking on a life of its own within the Russian-German community through word of mouth and Facebook — enough so that the police felt compelled to put out a statement debunking it. Then, over the weekend, Channel One, a Russian state-controlled news station with a large following among Russian-Germans, who watch it on YouTube and its website, ran a report presenting Lisa’s story as an example of the unchecked dangers Middle Eastern refugees posed to German citizens. Angela Merkel, it strongly implied, was refusing to address these threats, even as she opened German borders to hundreds of thousands of migrants. “According to Lisa’s parents,” the Channel One reporter said, “the police simply refuse to look for criminals.”

The following day in Berlin, Germany’s far-right National Democratic Party held a protest at a plaza in Marzahn, a heavily Russian neighborhood. The featured speaker was an adult cousin of Lisa’s, who repeated the original allegations while standing in front of signs reading “Stop Foreign Infiltration!” and “Secure Borders!” The crowd was tiny, not much more than a dozen people. But it was big enough to attract the attention of RT, Russia’s state-financed international cable network, which presents local-language newscasts in numerous countries, including Germany and the United States. A crew from the network’s video service, Ruptly, arrived with a camera. The footage was on YouTube that afternoon.

That same day, Sputnik, a brash Russian-government-run news and commentary site that models itself on BuzzFeed, ran a story raising allegations of a police cover-up. Lisa’s case was not isolated, Sputnik argued; other refugee rapists, it warned, might be running free. By the start of the following week, protests were breaking out in neighborhoods with large Russian-German populations, which is why the local police were calling Steltner. In multiple interviews, including with RT and Sputnik, Steltner reiterated that the girl had recanted the original story about the kidnapping and the gang rape. In one interview with the German media, he said that in the course of the investigation, authorities had found evidence that the girl had sex with a 23-year-old man months earlier, which would later lead to a sexual-abuse conviction for the man, whose sentence was suspended. But the original, unrelated and debunked story continued circulating, drawing the interest of the German mainstream media, which pointed out inconsistencies in the Russian reports. None of that stopped the protests, which culminated in a demonstration the following Saturday, Jan. 23, by 700 people outside the Chancellery, Merkel’s office. Ruptly covered that, too.

An official in the Merkel government told me that the administration was completely perplexed, at first. Then, a few days later, Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, held a news conference in Moscow. Bringing up Lisa’s story, he cast doubt on the official version of events. There was no way, he argued, that Lisa left home voluntarily. Germany, he suggested, was “covering up reality in a politically correct manner for the sake of domestic politics.” Two days later, RT ran a segment reporting that despite all the official denials, the case was “not so simple.” The Russian Embassy called Steltner and asked to meet, he told me. The German foreign ministry informed him that this was now a diplomatic issue.

The whole affair suddenly appeared a lot less mystifying. A realization took hold in the foreign ministry, the intelligence services and the Chancellery: Germany had been hit.

Officials in Germany and at NATO headquarters in Brussels view the Lisa case, as it is now known, as an early strike in a new information war Russia is waging against the West. In the months that followed, politicians perceived by the Russian government as hostile to its interests would find themselves caught up in media storms that, in their broad contours, resembled the one that gathered around Merkel. They often involved conspiracy theories and outright falsehoods — sometimes with a tenuous connection to fact, as in the Lisa case, sometimes with no connection at all — amplified until they broke through into domestic politics. In other cases, they simply helped promote nationalist, far-left or far-right views that put pressure on the political center. What the efforts had in common was their agents: a loose network of Russian-government-run or -financed media outlets and apparently coordinated social-media accounts.

After RT and Sputnik gave platforms to politicians behind the British vote to leave the European Union, like Nigel Farage, a committee of the British Parliament released a report warning that foreign governments may have tried to interfere with the referendum. Russia and China, the report argued, had an “understanding of mass psychology and of how to exploit individuals” and practiced a kind of cyberwarfare “reaching beyond the digital to influence public opinion.” When President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia visited the new French president, Emmanuel Macron, at the palace of Versailles in May, Macron spoke out about such influence campaigns at a news conference. Having prevailed weeks earlier in the election over Marine Le Pen — a far-right politician who had backed Putin’s annexation of Crimea and met with him in the Kremlin a month before the election — Macron complainedthat “Russia Today and Sputnik were agents of influence which on several occasions spread fake news about me personally and my campaign.” . . .

Continue reading.

I will point out that protecting us from such things is exactly the job of the government, and specifically the Executive Branch of the Federal government (now under President Donald Trump), and more specifically yet it’s the job of the FBI and the US military. Can they do their jobs? Apparently not, at least no so far, and of course the President is not going to push them to take on Russia—quite the contrary, as we have seen. So the Russians are getting an enormous payoff from their modest investment in tinkering with our election through propaganda. Of course, as the article observes, they’ve invested heavily in that area over several years and now are reaping the benefits of that experience and investment.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 September 2017 at 2:35 pm

A set of articles on the heroin crisis. Read about it. It’s worse than you think.

leave a comment »

From David Pell’s newsletter NextDraft:

“Once a bustling industrial town, Huntington, West Virginia has become the epicenter of America’s modern opioid epidemic, with an overdose rate 10 times the national average. This flood of heroin now threatens this Appalachian city with a cycle of generational addiction, lawlessness, and poverty.” The new Netflix documentary Heroin(e) (produced in collaboration with my friends at the excellent Center for Investigative Journalism) tells the story of three women on the front lines of the battle to save small towns from the perfect storm of America’s opioid/heroin disaster. It’s only thirty minutes. Take the time to watch it. Below, I’ve shared a collection of articles to frame this pressing story.

+ Cincinnati Enquirer: Seven days of heroin: This is what an epidemic looks like.

+ “Often omitted from the conversation about the epidemic is the fact that it is also inflicting harm on the American economy, and on a scale not seen in any previous drug crisis.” Even if politicians are not moved by the moral issue, they should be moved by the economic factors. The New Yorker on the cost of the opioid crisis.

+ “Distributors have fed their greed on human frailties and to criminal effect. There is no excuse and should be no forgiveness.” From the Charleston Gazette-Mail: Drug firms poured 780M painkillers into WV amid rise of overdoses.

+ What can a company like Purdue Pharma do to make ends meet when the domestic market finally gets hit with regulations? The family behind the company decided to follow in the deadly footsteps of big tobacco. From the LA Times: OxyContin goes global.

+ Bloomberg: Big Pharma’s Tobacco Moment as Star Lawyers Push Opioid Suits.

+ When American states started to legalize marijuana, drug cartels saw the writing on the wall. They knew they’d need a new source of income, and the opioid crisis provided them with a market of addicts suddenly facing a legal crackdown on pain pill mills. From the great Don Winslow: El Chapo and The Secret History of the Heroin Crisis.

+ And for a look at the rise of pill mills (a hurricane that hit Florida long before Irma), check out the book American Pain, by John Temple.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 September 2017 at 2:00 pm

Trump says his tax break will get companies to hire more workers. Companies say it won’t.

leave a comment »

So who would you trust? (Hint: check out the NY Times list of lies Trump has told since becoming president.) For those who read the news, Trump has negative credibility.

Heather Long reports in the Washington Post:

 

American companies such as Apple and Microsoft have huge cash reserves sitting overseas. President Trump keeps saying it’s as much as $5 trillion. But no one else seems to think it’s that high. Most on Wall Street say those overseas reserves total more like $2 trillion to $3 trillion. Whatever the exact figure is, it’s substantial.

Trump wants to bring that money back to the United States to spur jobs and growth, and he’s been aggressively pitching a plan to offer companies a large tax break if they bring all those dollars back to America soon. Under Trump’s proposal, companies would only have to pay a 10 percent tax on money they bring back — a process often called “repatriation” — rather than the usual 35 percent. (Trump offered that 10 percent figure during his campaign. More recent White House documents don’t specify an exact tax rate.)

“We must bring back trillions of dollars in wealth that’s parked overseas and just can’t come back,” Trump said last week in North Dakota during a speech intended to rally support for tax cuts. “We’re going to get it done.”

Trump says middle-class Americans should not fret about giant corporations getting a steep discount on their tax bills. Once that money is on U.S. soil, Trump argues, companies will use it to build new factories and research centers and create more American jobs.

But there are a lot of reasons to be highly skeptical of Trump’s repatriation plan. Chief among them is that U.S. companies have already told the world what they would do if they were granted a cheaper way to bring back trillions from overseas — and it wouldn’t be hiring workers or making more investments in America.

When Bank of America Merrill Lynch surveyed more than 300 top U.S. companies this summer about their plans for Trump’s “tax holiday” on overseas cash, 65 percent said they would bring the money back to the United States and use it to pay down debt. The next most popular plan was to spend the money on stock buybacks — when companies purchase their own stock, driving up the price.

“Companies want to get their money back to buy stock and goose the stock price because their senior executives derive so much of their compensation from the stock prices,” said Edward Kleinbard, a tax law professor at the University of Southern California and former chief of staff for Congress’s nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation. “Their motives are completely suspect.”

These actions would make rich executives and shareholders wealthier by boosting the company stock price. They would not deliver a boon to workers — or the economy as a whole — as Trump is promising.

The White House tried this once before, and the results were grim. Trump frequently bashes former president George W. Bush, but this tax holiday for foreign profits is straight out of the Bush playbook. In 2004, Congress and Bush dropped the tax rate on foreign earnings to 5.25 percent for a short window in 2004-05. It resulted in a great payday for CEOs and Wall Street shareholders but did almost nothing to help workers.

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 September 2017 at 10:17 am

Sake: Drink Guide to the Whole Wellness

leave a comment »

H has an interesting post at Patternz.jp on sake. I am somewhat doubtful of the full range of health benefits, but he’s spot-on about how tasty good sake can be. Take a look. And he has some interesting recipes (e.g., Pineapple Yogurt Sake).

Written by LeisureGuy

13 September 2017 at 9:50 am

Posted in Drinks, Food, Recipes

How Trump is ending the American Era

leave a comment »

Eliot A. Cohen has a good article in the Atlantic. From the article:

\. . . Trump seems incapable of restraining himself from insulting foreign leaders. His slogan “America First” harks back to the isolationists of 1940, and foreign leaders know it. He can read speeches written for him by others, as he did in Warsaw on July 6, but he cannot himself articulate a worldview that goes beyond a teenager’s bluster. He lays out his resentments, insecurities, and obsessions on Twitter for all to see, opening up a gold mine to foreign governments seeking to understand and manipulate the American president.Foreign governments have adapted. They flatter Trump outrageously. Their emissaries stay at his hotels and offer the Trump Organization abundant concessions (39 trademarks approved by China alone since Trump took office, including one for an escort service). They take him to military parades; they talk tough-guy-to-tough-guy; they show him the kind of deference that only someone without a center can crave. And so he flip-flops: Paris was no longer “so, so out of control, so dangerous” once he’d had dinner in the Eiffel Tower; Xi Jinping, during an April visit to Mar-a-Lago, went from being the leader of a parasitic country intent on ripping off American workers to being “a gentleman” who “wants to do the right thing.” (By July, Trump was back to bashing China, for doing “NOTHING” to help us.)

In short, foreign leaders may consider Trump alarming, but they do not consider him serious. They may think they can use him, but they know they cannot rely on him. They look at his plans to slash the State Department’s ranks and its budget—the latter by about 30 percent—and draw conclusions about his interest in traditional diplomacy. And so, already, they have begun to reshape alliances and reconfigure the networks that make up the global economy, bypassing the United States and diminishing its standing. In January, at the World Economic Forum, in Davos, Switzerland, Xi made a case for Chinese global leadership that was startlingly well received by the rich and powerful officials, businesspeople, and experts in attendance. In March, Canada formally joined a Chinese-led regional development bank that the Obama administration had opposed as an instrument of broadened Chinese influence; Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany, and France were among the founding members. In July, Japan and Europe agreed on a free-trade deal as an alternative to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Trump had unceremoniously discarded.

In almost every region of the world, the administration has already left a mark, by blunder, inattention, miscomprehension, or willfulness. Trump’s first official visit abroad began in Saudi Arabia—a bizarre choice, when compared with established democratic allies—where he and his senior advisers offered unreserved praise for a kingdom that has close relations with the United States but has also been the heartland of Islamist fanaticism since well before 9/11. The president full-throatedly took its side in a dispute with Qatar, apparently ignorant of the vast American air base in the latter country. He has seemed unaware that he is feeding an inchoate but violent conflict between the Gulf kingdoms and a countervailing coalition of Iran, Russia, Syria, Hezbollah, and even Turkey—which now plans to deploy as many as 3,000 troops to Qatar, at its first base in the Arab world since the collapse of the Ottoman empire at the end of World War I.. .

Read the whole thing.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 September 2017 at 8:25 am

Rooney Emilion, QED Vanilla shave stick, Fatip Testina Gentile, and Floïd

leave a comment »

I really liked QED’s old shave sticks—haven’t tried the newer ones—and this Vanilla shave stick is very nice indeed. I couldn’t really see any soap on my stubble after rubbing the stick against the grain all over my beard: the soap is a brownish color and when rubbed off it’s about the color of my skin. But then once I wet the Rooney’s knot and began brushing, the lather came forth, and a very nice lather it was, too. I had to add a bit more water and work it in, but then the consistency was perfect.

I continue to praise Fatip’s Testina Gentile as a really excellent razor. Three passes produced a perfectly smooth finish, and a splash of Floïd aftershave finished the job.

Today I’m packing the aftershaves so less variety the remainder of the week.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 September 2017 at 8:22 am

Posted in Shaving

%d bloggers like this: