Later On

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

Archive for May 17th, 2018

A true must-see: Join MHzChoice.com just to see the series “Spring Tide”

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It’s truly that good, though I didn’t fully grasp the style until the 5th episode, so now I have to go back and rewatch the first four, the style is that impactful. “Spring Tide” on MhZChoice.com.

Seriously, spring for the 50% off first month and watch that 11-episode series. And see whether you’re not captured by the cinematography style within five episodes.

It’s really wonderful—a kind of graphic-novel frame composition. You can literally see the movie as a sequence of graphic-novel panels. Odd, but intriguing.

I’ve always provided good direction—or at least that is always my intent. So watch the series, and let me know whether you don’t agree it was worth it.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 May 2018 at 8:27 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

Sure seems serious to me: Jennifer Rubin on what we KNOW from the public record

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Her column today is quite interesting:

Surely among the worst attorneys ever to represent the president of the United States, Rudolph W. Giuliani asserted that there is nothing wrong with looking for dirt on political rivals, “Even if it comes from a Russian, a German, an American, doesn’t matter.” Wrong!

Let’s be clear. Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III does not need to prove “collusion.” There is an array of crimes that might result from trying to get valuable information from a foreign entity or official. For instance, it violates federal law for “a foreign national, directly or indirectly, to make . . . a contribution or donation of money or other thing of value, or to make an express or implied promise to make a contribution or donation, in connection with a Federal, State, or local election.” Likewise, it is illegal to “solicit, accept or receive” such help from a foreign national. That doesn’t require an ongoing, coordinated plot to tip the election. It would be sufficient if Donald Trump Jr., George Papadopoulos or anyone else asked, say Russian officials, to provide opposition research. We know how valuable that stuff is; after all, a lawyer for Hillary Clinton’s campaign and, before that, the conservative Free Beacon paid money to get “dirt,” if you will, on then-candidate Donald Trump.

“Giuliani is apparently as unfamiliar with this part of campaign-finance law as he is with the section that prohibits candidates from accepting undisclosed loans,” said Matthew Miller, a former Justice Department spokesman. “The bottom line is that it is illegal to accept a thing of value from a foreign government, and though there could be debates about whether information qualifies as a thing of value, the Trump campaign’s eagerness to accept foreign help shows just why this matter is under investigation.”

Former White House ethics counsel Norm Eisen agreed: “As seems to be the case almost every time [Giuliani] opens his mouth, he is wrong.  It has long been recognized that providing opposition research is an in-kind contribution.”

In short, there is a case, based solely upon the Trump Tower meeting, that federal campaign law may have been violated. (Whether that applies to Trump Jr. only, or to his father as well, may depend on whom Trump Jr. called on that blocked phone number.) Of course, if bribery — such as money or assistance in exchange for a change in a party’s platform or a promise to relax sanctions — can be shown, that is a crime as well.

And anyone who insists Mueller must find evidence of “collusion” (a noncrime of uncertain definition) is misguided or intentionally misleading the public.

Last October, a white paper produced for the Brookings Institution by Eisen, Noah Bookbinder and Barry Berke laid out the kind of problematic conduct that can arise out of election chicanery:

Attempts to stop an investigation represent a common form of obstruction. Demanding the loyalty of an individual involved in an investigation, requesting that individual’s help to end the investigation, and then ultimately firing that person to accomplish that goal are the type of acts that have frequently resulted in obstruction convictions, as we detail. In addition, to the extent conduct could be characterized as threatening, intimidating, or corruptly persuading witnesses, that too may provide additional grounds for obstruction charges. . . .

Here, such actions may include fabricating an initial justification for firing [FBI director James B.] Comey, directing Donald Trump Jr.’s inaccurate statements about the purpose of his meeting with a Russian lawyer during the president’s campaign, tweeting that Comey “better hope there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations,” despite having “no idea” whether such tapes existed, and repeatedly denouncing the validity of the investigations.

These are not minor or subsidiary matters. It bears repeating that  President Richard Nixon was never shown to have plotted or known in real time about the Watergate break-in. Trump’s “no collusion” defense is as silly as a “no conspiracy to commit burglary” defense would have been during Watergate.

We haven’t even touched on  . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more—and not even touching the mysterious disappearance of Michael Cohen’s case files from a supposedly secure government database, leading a law enforcement officer to deliberately lead the remaining case file before it, too, could vanish… I mean, is this a Marvel comic series, or what?

Written by LeisureGuy

17 May 2018 at 7:42 pm

Absolutely fascinating, so far: “Understanding Ignorance: The Surprising Impact of What We Don’t Know” (MIT Press)

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Just the idea thaat ignorance is like the banks of the river, which constrain and guide the flow of water, only what ignorance guides in the channel are knowledge, decisions, consequences. Those flow in directions determined by our banks of ignorance.

Just read the first few pages using the “Look inside” feature.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 May 2018 at 7:31 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life

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A “life-changing” day for severe migraine​ ​sufferers: The F.D.A. just approved the first drug ​designed to prevent ​this chronic misery

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Gina Kolata reports in the NY Times:

The first medicine designed to prevent migraines was approved by the Food and Drug Administration on Thursday, ushering in what many experts believe will be a new era in treatment for people who suffer the most severe form of these headaches.

The drug, Aimovig, made by Amgen and Novartis, is a monthly injection with a device similar to an insulin pen. The list price will be $6,900 a year, and Amgen said the drug will be available to patients within a week.

Aimovig blocks a protein fragment, CGRP, that instigates and perpetuates migraines. Three other companies — Lilly, Teva and Alder — have similar medicines in the final stages of study or awaiting F.D.A. approval.

“The drugs will have a huge impact,” said Dr. Amaal Starling, a neurologist and migraine specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix. “This is really an amazing time for my patient population and for general neurologists treating patients with migraine.”

Millions of people experience severe migraines so often that they are disabled and in despair. These drugs do not prevent all migraine attacks, but can make them less severe and can reduce their frequency by 50 percent or more.

As a recent editorial in the journal JAMA put it, they are “progress, but not a panacea.”

Until now, drugs used to prevent migraines were designed to treat other diseases, like high blood pressure. They are not very effective, may work only temporarily, and often are laden with intolerable side effects.

In clinical trials, people taking the new drugs reported no more side effects than those taking a placebo. The side effects over the long term and among people with chronic diseases remain to be determined.

“For now, they look fantastic,” said Dr. Stewart J. Tepper, a professor of neurology at Dartmouth College, said of the new drugs. “They shake the ground under our feet. They will change the way we treat migraine.”

Dr. Tepper and Dr. Starling, like most leading migraine specialists, have consulted with the drug companies and enrolled patients in their clinical trials.

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 May 2018 at 4:19 pm

Posted in Daily life, Medical

Politicians who took NRA money ought to give it back

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Jennifer Rubin writes in the Washington Post:

One of the extraordinary findings in the Senate Judiciary Committee’s preliminary report released on Wednesday concerns the National Rifle Association. The report states:

The Committee has obtained a number of documents that suggest the Kremlin used the National Rifle Association as a means of accessing and assisting Mr. Trump and his campaign. Two individuals involved in this effort appear to be Russian nationals Alexander Torshin and Maria Butina. Mr. Torshin is a Putin ally and the Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Russia, and Ms. Butina served as his assistant. She also founded Right to Bear Arms, the Russian equivalent of the NRA, and started a business with former Trump supporter and adviser Paul Erickson. Both Mr. Torshin and Ms. Butina have longstanding ties to ex-NRA president, David Keene, and in 2013, hosted him in Russia for a pro-gun conference.
During the campaign, Mr. Torshin, Ms. Butina, and their intermediaries repeatedly offered the campaign back channels to Russia and relayed requests from President Putin to meet with Mr. Trump. The Kremlin may also have used the NRA to secretly fund Mr. Trump’s campaign. The extent of Russia’s use of the NRA as an avenue for connecting with and potentially supporting the Trump campaign needs examination. Requests for documents and staff interviews have been sent to Ms. Butina, Mr. Erickson, and Mr. Keene, but they have refused to cooperate.

Russia’s alleged use of the NRA as a kind of front group raises serious questions, according to Russia experts. “We’ve focused a lot on the Russian outreach on social media, but we’ve missed the entirety of Russian influence efforts,” says former FBI special agent Clinton Watts. “Active Measures seek to engage on three levels, State-to-state, State-to-people (social media) and state-to-party. The NRA outreach represents their ground game where they seek to engage sympathetic parties and organizations in the target audience by aligning along common interests.” He reminds us, “During [the] Cold War, this was via communist parties and socialist groups, now with Russian Active Measures it’s through groups like the NRA or religious connections.”
There are numerous questions yet to be answered — the extent of the NRA’s knowledge of Russian meddling, whether the NRA participated in a conspiracy to break campaign finance laws barring foreigners from making campaign donations and where the Russian money funneled through the NRA wound up. Nevertheless, Max Bergmann of the Moscow Project observes: “It looks increasingly clear the Russians were looking to infiltrate the American right. What’s shocking was how little resistance the Russians seemed to face.”
Congressional hearings into the possible use of of right-wing front groups by the Kremlin would certainly be appropriate. Meanwhile, the NRA revelation raises a serious problem for politicians who have received money and/or support from the NRA. No one is suggesting that any candidates who benefited from the NRA’s largesse knew of Russia’s alleged infiltration; however, now that significant questions have been raised about the origin of campaign money, any candidate who received NRA support, I would argue, has at least a moral obligation to give the money back. Those who have gotten the coveted “A” rating from the NRA should think twice about touting the stamp of approval from a group that wittingly or unwittingly allegedly helped in essence launder Russian money. Opponents of the NRA-backed candidates would be foolish not to demand that they give their NRA money back — perhaps in rubles.
Finally, one has to ask . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 May 2018 at 4:00 pm

How Baby Boomers Broke America

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Steven Brill writes in TIME:

ONE

Lately, most Americans, regardless of their political leanings, have been asking themselves some version of the same question: How did we get here? How did the world’s greatest democracy and economy become a land of crumbling roads, galloping income inequality, bitter polarization and dysfunctional government?

As I tried to find the answer over the past two years, I discovered a recurring irony. About five decades ago, the core values that make America great began to bring America down. The First Amendment became a tool for the wealthy to put a thumb on the scales of democracy. America’s rightly celebrated dedication to due process was used as an instrument to block government from enforcing job-safety rules, holding corporate criminals accountable and otherwise protecting the unprotected. Election reforms meant to enhance democracy wound up undercutting democracy. Ingenious financial and legal engineering turned our economy from an engine of long-term growth and shared prosperity into a casino with only a few big winners.

These distinctly American ideas became the often unintended instruments for splitting the country into two classes: the protected and the unprotected. The protected overmatched, overran and paralyzed the government. The unprotected were left even further behind. And in many cases, the work was done by a generation of smart, hungry strivers who benefited from one of the most American values of all: meritocracy.

This is not to say that all is rotten in the United States. There are more opportunities available today for women, nonwhites and other minorities than ever. There are miracles happening daily in the nation’s laboratories, on the campuses of its world-class colleges and universities, in the offices of companies creating software for robots and medical diagnostics, in concert halls and on Broadway stages, and at joyous ceremonies swearing in proud new citizens.

Yet key measures of the nation’s public engagement, satisfaction and confidence – voter turnout, knowledge of public-policy issues, faith that the next generation will fare better than the current one, and respect for basic institutions, especially the government – are far below what they were 50 years ago, and in many cases have reached near historic lows.

It is difficult to argue that the cynicism is misplaced. From matters small – there are an average of 657 water-main breaks a day, for example – to large, it is clear that the country has gone into a tailspin over the last half-century, when John F. Kennedy’s New Frontier was about seizing the future, not trying to survive the present.

For too many, the present is hard enough. Income inequality has soared: inflation-adjusted middle-class wages have been nearly frozen for the last four decades, while earnings of the top 1% have nearly tripled. The recovery from the crash of 2008 – which saw banks and bankers bailed out while millions lost their homes, savings and jobs – was reserved almost exclusively for the wealthiest. Their incomes in the three years following the crash went up by nearly a third, while the bottom 99% saw an uptick of less than half of 1%. Only a democracy and an economy that has discarded its basic mission of holding the community together, or failed at it, would produce those results.

Meanwhile, the celebrated American economic-mobility engine is sputtering. For adults in their 30s, the chance of earning more than their parents dropped to 50% from 90% just two generations earlier. The American middle class, once an aspirational model for the world, is no longer the world’s richest.

Most Americans with average incomes have been left to fend for themselves, often at jobs where automation, outsourcing, the decline of union protection and the boss’s obsession with squeezing out every penny of short-term profit have eroded any sense of security. In 2017, household debt had grown higher than the peak reached in 2008 before the crash, with student and automobile loans staking growing claims on family paychecks.

Although the U.S. remains the world’s richest country, it has the third-highest poverty rate among the 35 nations in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), behind only Turkey and Israel. Nearly 1 in 5 American children lives in a household that the government classifies as “food insecure,” meaning they are without “access to enough food for active, healthy living.”

Beyond that, too few basic services seem to work as they should. America’s airports are an embarrassment, and a modern air-traffic control system is more than 25 years behind its original schedule. The power grid, roads and rails are crumbling, pushing the U.S. far down international rankings for infrastructure quality. Despite spending more on health care and K-12 education per capita than most other developed countries, health care outcomes and student achievement also rank in the middle or worse globally. Among the 35 OECD countries, American children rank 30th in math proficiency and 19th in science.

American politicians talk about “American exceptionalism” so habitually that it should have its own key on their speechwriters’ laptops. Is this the exceptionalism they have in mind?

Perhaps they should look at their own performance, which is best described as pathetic. Congress has not passed a comprehensive budget on time without omnibus bills since 1994. There are more than 20 registered lobbyists for every member of Congress. Most are deployed to block anything that would tax, regulate or otherwise threaten a deep-pocketed client.

Indeed, money has come to dominate everything so completely that the people we send to D.C. to represent us have been reduced to begging on the phone for campaign cash up to five hours a day and spending their evenings taking checks at fundraisers organized by those swarming lobbyists. A gerrymandering process has rigged easy wins for most of them, as long as they fend off primary challengers–which ensures that they will gravitate toward the special-interest positions of their donors and their party’s base, while racking up mounting deficits to pay for goods and services that cost more than budgeted, rarely work as promised and are seldom delivered on time.

TWO

The story of how all this came to be is like a movie in which everything seems clear only if it is played back from the start in slow motion. Beginning about 50 years ago, each scene unfolded slowly, usually without any sign of its ultimate impact. The story of America’s tailspin is not about villains, though there are some. It is not about a conspiracy to bring the country down, nor did it spring from one single source.

But there is a theme that threads through and ties together all the strands: many of  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 May 2018 at 3:20 pm

The Lesson of Eric Greitens, and the Navy SEALs Who Tried to Warn Us

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Phil Klay reports in the New Yorker:

The Missouri legislature is scheduled to begin a special session, on Friday, to discuss whether to impeach Eric Greitens, the state’s embattled governor. A former Navy seal who was once a rising star in the Republican Party, Greitens is now fighting allegations of sexual coercion, blackmail, invasion of privacy, and misuse of charity resources to fund his campaign. The charges stunned many in Missouri, but, in the tight-knit seal community, Greitens has been a divisive figure for years. In 2016, before Greitens was elected, a group of mostly anonymous current and former seals tried to sound the alarm about why they thought he was unfit for office. “What we were afraid of is that, eighteen months from now, you’ve got candidate Greitens, former Navy seal, running for President,” Paul Holzer, a former seal who worked on the campaign for one of Greitens’s gubernatorial-primary opponents, John Brunner, told me. But Greitens, who used his military background to create a public image of honor, courage, and leadership, was largely able to deflect their criticism.

After the killing of Osama bin Laden by seal Team Six in a 2011 raid, Navy SEALs became full-blown celebrities, and Greitens rode that fame to speaking tours, a spot on Time magazine’s 2013 “100 Most Influential People” list, and, eventually, the governor’s mansion. The success of the raid also intensified a growing division in the seal community.

SEALs have traditionally embraced a culture of quiet professionalism. Part of the SEAL credo reads, “I do not advertise the nature of my work, nor seek recognition for my actions.” In the last two weeks, I spoke to more than half a dozen current and former SEALs about the spectacular implosion of Greitens’s public image. Most chose not go on the record, but all expressed frustration that a peripheral and contentious figure in their community, one who served overseas but never served with SEALs in combat, became a public face of the SEAL community. Many complained to me that it tends to be those who are least representative of SEAL core values, such as Greitens, who end up trading on the group’s reputation and representing it in public, earning respect from American citizens but contempt from other SEALs.

In 2015, Lieutenant Forrest S. Crowell, a Navy SEAL, wrote a thesis for Naval Postgraduate School titled “SEALs Gone Wild.” In it, he argued that the SEALs’ celebrity status had diverted their culture “away from the traditional SEAL Ethos of quiet professionalism to a Market Ethos of commercialization and self-promotion.” Crowell warned that the new approach incentivized “narcissistic and profit-oriented behavior” and undermined healthy civil-military relations by using “the credibility of special operations to push partisan politics.”

Greitens, who has been in office for a year and a half, is accused of coercing his former hairdresser into a sexual encounter in 2015 and threatening her to keep her quiet. According to her testimony, he led her into his basement, bound her hands, blindfolded her, ripped off her clothes, took her photograph, and coerced her into performing oral sex. He told her that if she made details of the encounter public, he would release the photograph. Greitens also faces felony charges for tampering with a computer to gain access to a donor list associated with the charity organization he founded in 2007. The allegations, which Greitens has denied, will be considered in the Missouri General Assembly special session. The revelations have provoked bipartisan condemnation, with several Missouri Republican state lawmakers sending a letter to Donald Trump, asking him to demand that Greitens step down. The President has not responded.

Greitens’s controversial reputation among the SEALs began, oddly, when he performed what could arguably be considered an act of integrity. In 2004, he was a junior officer in the Navy SEALs, taking part in a large military exercise in Thailand. While there, he suspected that the ranking SEAL officer in his squadron, a highly respected combat veteran named Scott Hobbs, might have been abusing and distributing drugs.

Greitens was new to the command and had yet to prove himself. “Culturally, you’re not viewed as a SEAL until you’ve deployed in a SEAL platoon,” one former operator told me. In Thailand, Greitens served in a unit that supported one of the deployed platoons, the “team guys,” who were considered the force’s rock stars. The exercise was a chance for Greitens to get command time and learn how the SEALs worked before getting assigned to a platoon and heading to Iraq or Afghanistan. For a few of the SEALs in Thailand, though, the exercise was a chance to unwind between combat tours with binge drinking, drugs, and prostitutes.

The easiest course of action for Greitens would have been to look the other way, or report the problem to the senior enlisted officer in the unit, who likely would have addressed the issue in-house. But Greitens worried that some of his sailors were taking part in the drug use and reached up to senior leadership outside Thailand. Drug tests were ordered. “We have a rat,” Hobbs told his men. Hobbs tested positive, along with four other SEALs, and three special-boats crewmen. Courts-martial were scheduled, and two SEAL platoons that had been preparing to deploy in Iraq or Afghanistan were sent home. SEAL platoons in Baghdad that had been expecting to be relieved had their tours extended. Other stateside platoons were deployed early and kept overseas for eight or more months. They were told that one individual was responsible for their extension—Eric Greitens.

Senior leadership approved of Greitens’s decision to report the drug use, but others in the community believed he should have handled the issue within his local chain of command. (Greitens would later claim that the incident was an example of SEAL values winning out.) Greitens’s time in Thailand would be his last significant deployment as a SEAL. When he came home, he was offered an assistant-platoon-commander billet, but he declined, a SEAL working in his unit at the time told me. It wasn’t a command position in the SEALs, and Greitens had other opportunities lined up, including a prestigious White House Fellowship. He would instead deploy with a unit training and assisting Kenyan forces in Manda Bay, and then leave active duty.

“Greitens is extremely smart, and he had a timeline,” one of his fellow-officers told me. “Everything he has done, he’s done thinking ten moves in advance.” Greitens later deployed to Iraq as a reservist, in 2006, and suffered chlorine inhalation and other injuries after a suicide truck bombing, but he ended his time on active duty never having led SEALs in combat.

Greitens’s political rise coincided with a period when the Navy itself sanctioned, in a few well-known cases, the commercialization and politicization of special operations. In 2007, Marcus Luttrell’s best-selling memoir, “Lone Survivor,” an account of a disastrous operation in Afghanistan, was published with the blessing of Naval Special Warfare Command, despite containing contentious factual claims regarding Saddam Hussein’s connection to Al Qaeda, as well as overt political speech that criticized “liberals” and the “liberal media.” A year later, the N.S.W.C. endorsed the film “Act of Valor,” which starred active-duty Navy SEALs and grossed eighty-one million dollars. It was in this environment that Greitens wrote his own memoir, “The Heart and the Fist.”

Greitens’s book opens with the story of the chlorine-gas attack in Iraq. “It felt as if someone had shoved an open-flame lighter inside my mouth,” he wrote. He detailed his education as a Rhodes scholar and his humanitarian work. Mother Teresa makes an appearance. In the epilogue, Greitens described a trip to visit wounded service members, where he realized that many of them didn’t want charity so much as a chance to continue to serve their country. This inspired him to create his own highly regarded veterans’ organization, The Mission Continues, which offers fellowships to help veterans do service work back in their communities.

“The Heart and the Fist” is a unique, often compelling book that was also blessed with good timing. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 May 2018 at 2:16 pm

Posted in Books, GOP, Politics

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