Later On

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

Archive for July 21st, 2018

Good movie, also good line

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Good movie (on Netflix): “Last Rampage” (putatively a true story, but with suspiciously good editing)

Good line: “Well, hindsight’s 50-50, isn’t it?” (I swear that’s what he said)

Worth watching, I would say. With Robert Patrick and Heather Graham, of all people.

Also, on Amazon: “Con Men,” a Scottish grifter movie, first rate.

Written by Leisureguy

21 July 2018 at 2:40 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

Sharp knives and what they say

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I just sharpened a couple of my kitchen knives: the Bob Kramer/Zwilling 8″ carbon-steel chef’s knife and the Bulat Damascus stainless paring knife (olive-wood handle).

It is very helpful when the knife listings include the sharpening angle: 17º for the Bulat, 15º (!) for the Bob Kramer. I have an angle gauges, so I was able to set my Wicked Edge Gen 3 to the exact angle (to 1/100ths of a degree). Thus I totally just touched up the existing edge. I did a few passes with these stones: 400, 600, 800, 1000, 1200, 1600.

I was just cutting up a couple of shallots, and the knife cut through the shallot so smoothly, it was as if it was saying, “Could just as easy have been you.”

I’m very careful with my sharp knives, so I very seldom get cut. When I do, it bleeds like nobody’s business. But no cuts this time.

Written by Leisureguy

21 July 2018 at 1:57 pm

Posted in Daily life

How the Right Wing Convinces Itself That Liberals Are Evil

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David Walsh has an interesting article in the Washington Monthly:

If you spend any time consuming right-wing media in America, you quickly learn the following: Liberals are responsible for racism, slavery, and the Ku Klux Klan. They admire Mussolini and Hitler, and modern liberalism is little different from fascism or, even worse, communism. The mainstream media and academia cannot be trusted because of the pervasive, totalitarian nature of liberal culture. 

This belief in a broad liberal conspiracy is standard in the highest echelons of the conservative establishment and right-wing media. The Russia investigation is dismissed, from the president on down, as a politicized witch hunt. George Soros supposedly paid $300 to each participant in the “March for Our Lives” in March. (Disclosure: I marched that day, and I’m still awaiting my check.) What is less well appreciated by liberals is that the language of conspiracy is often used to justify similar behavior on the right. The Russia investigation is not just a witch hunt, it’s the product of the real scandal, which is Hillary-Russia-Obama-FBI collusion, so we must investigate that. Soros funds paid campus protestors, so Turning Point USA needs millions of dollars from Republican donors to win university elections. The liberal academic establishment prevents conservative voices from getting plum faculty jobs, so the Koch Foundation needs to give millions of dollars to universities with strings very much attached.

This did not begin with Donald Trump. The modern Republican Party may be particularly apt to push conspiracy theories to rationalize its complicity with a staggeringly corrupt administration, but this is an extension of, not a break from, a much longer history. Since its very beginning, in the 1950s, members of the modern conservative movement have justified bad behavior by convincing themselves that the other side is worse. One of the binding agents holding the conservative coalition together over the course of the past half century has been an opposition to liberalism, socialism, and global communism built on the suspicion, sometimes made explicit, that there’s no real difference among them. 

In 1961, the American Medical Association produced an LP in which an actor opened a broadside against the proposed Medicare program by attributing to Norman Thomas, a six-time Socialist Party candidate for president, a made-up quote that “under the name of liberalism the American people will adopt every fragment of the socialist program.” Because these ideologies were so interchangeable in the imaginations of many conservatives—and were covertly collaborating to enact their nefarious agenda—this meant that it was both important and necessary to fight back through equally underhanded means. 

The title of that LP? Ronald Reagan Speaks Out Against Socialized Medicine. The American left is used to waiting for liberals to finally get ruthless. Through the eyes of the right, they always have been. 

Long before Fox News, conservatives began forming their own explicitly right-wing media landscape. Supporters of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal dominated the “mainstream” press, which meant that conservative dissidents needed a home. The conservative magazine Human Events was launched in 1944 as an alternative to what its cofounder, Felix Morley, believed was a stifling conformity in the American press. The same was true of the American Mercury in 1950, when under the ownership of William Bradford Huie the formerly social-democratic magazine moved to the right. “There is now far too much ‘tolerance’ in America,” Huie declared in the first issue of the new Mercury. “We shall cry a new crusade of intolerance . . . the intolerance of bores, morons, world-savers, and damn fools.”

Both Morley and Huie felt victimized by a liberal press establishment that stifled alternative voices—and, after all, liberals had the New Republic and leftists the Nation as journals of opinion—but their charge of mainstream “bias” was more complicated. One of the largest newspapers in the United States, the Chicago Tribune, owned by conservative businessman Robert McCormick, had militantly opposed the New Deal and American entry into World War II. Fulton Lewis Jr., a Washington, D.C.–based political journalist who was, by 1950, one of Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy’s biggest supporters, had one of the most listened-to radio programs in the country. And both Morley and Huie had had illustrious careers before launching their magazines. Morley won a Pulitzer Prize when he edited the Washington Post in the 1930s; Huie had a solid reputation as a freelance journalist. But they clung to the belief that dissenters from the liberal orthodoxy were being hounded out of media, which more than justified questionable acts, particularly on Huie’s part. Desperate to keep his magazine afloat, Huie sold the American Mercury in 1952 to far-right businessman Russell Maguire, who was closely tied to prominent anti-Semites and was one himself. Huie told a reporter at Time that he knew all about Maguire’s unsavory views, but believed his financial backing was necessary in order to ensure a conservative voice in American letters. “If I suddenly heard Adolf Hitler was alive in South America and wanted to give a million dollars to the American Mercury, I would go down and get it.”

Even more alarming to conservatives than the bias of the mainstream press was  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

21 July 2018 at 1:07 pm

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Media, Memes

Good for the GOP: The Justice Department won’t return seized cash to hundreds of taxpayers. Now House Republicans are stepping in.

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Christopher Ingraham reports in the Washington Post:

Twenty-one Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee have penned a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions to demand the Justice Department return millions in seized funds to several hundred U.S. taxpayers.
The money had been seized by the Internal Revenue Service in prior years under suspicion of structuring, an obscure provision in the federal code preventing repeated bank deposits of less than $10,000 for the purpose of evading federal reporting requirements. Ostensibly, the purpose of the law is to make it harder for individuals to launder money obtained through crimes like drug trafficking. But a 2017 report by the Treasury’s Inspector Generalanalyzed 278 of these cases and found that, in 91 percent of them, the people who had had their money seized had obtained the funds legally.
In part due to public outrage, in late 2014 the IRS announced that it would no longer pursue forfeiture cases when structuring was the primary offense. Earlier this year, the IRS told the House Ways and Means Committee that it had received 464 petitions for relief from people who had previously had their cash seized under suspicion of structuring. The cases in question are a small subset of the billions of dollars seized and forfeited annually by state and federal authorities.
The IRS reviewed 208 of those petitions and granted 84 percent of them. It referred the remaining 256 cases to the Department of Justice because of how the forfeitures had initially been processed, recommending that the DOJ grant 76 percent of them.
However, today’s letter alleges that the DOJ largely ignored the IRS’ recommendations and granted only 16 percent of the petitions it received, refusing to return over $22 million in seized funds.
“The Members of this Committee are profoundly troubled by the significant discrepancy between the IRS’s recommended outcomes and DOJ’s final decisions,” the letter states. “What was done was not fair, just or right in most cases. The IRS’s actions led to the destruction of many lives and small businesses, some of which will never fully recover.”
One case generating national attention was that of Lyndon McLellan, a convenience store owner in North Carolina who had his entire life savings of over $100,000 seized by the IRS solely because of how he deposited money is his bank account. He was never charged with any crime. After McLellan’s case went public, a U.S. attorney offered to settle by returning half of the money. McLellan refused, and with pro-bono legal representation from the Institute for Justice he eventually got all of his money back.
The letter praises the IRS for recognizing past “mistakes” such as the McLellan case and for “taking appropriate steps well beyond what was legally required to provide relief to taxpayers whose funds were seized.” But the lawmakers have accused the Department of Justice of being “unwilling to admit faults” on the issue. “DOJ time and time again has affirmed a position that the Committee believes is wholly indefensible.”
At a hearing in June, for instance, Acting Assistant Attorney General John Cronan testified that petitions for relief were denied due to various reasons, including “evidence that the petitioners were convicted in criminal cases; committed other crimes, including money laundering, fraud, tax, and drug crimes; continued to violate the structuring laws even after the forfeitures; and evaded other financial reporting requirements.”
However, Committee members did not find those arguments convincing, noting that some of the “convictions” involved defendants pleading guilty to structuring in the hopes of getting their money back.
“Individuals were often not made fully aware of their rights during these seizures,” the letter states. “They felt pressured, scared, and alone. And most importantly, many were simply trying to salvage what little they could through whatever means necessary. Those circumstances led law abiding individuals to take actions or make statements that the DOJ may feel gives it the right to deny those petitions.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been an outspoken proponent of civil asset forfeiture, calling it “a key tool that helps law enforcement defund organized crime, take back ill-gotten gains, and prevent new crimes from being committed, and it weakens the criminals and the cartels. But reformers worry the practice is an invitation to abuse because it allows authorities to seize property from individuals never convicted or even charged with a crime.
Nevertheless, it remains widespread: according to  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

21 July 2018 at 12:42 pm

Interesting development: Ecuador Will Imminently Withdraw Asylum for Julian Assange and Hand Him Over to the UK. What Comes Next?

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Glenn Greenwald reports in the Intercept:

ECUADOR’S PRESIDENT Lenin Moreno traveled to London on Friday for the ostensible purpose of speaking at the 2018 Global Disabilities Summit (Moreno has been confined to a wheelchair since being shot in a 1998 robbery attempt). The concealed, actual purpose of the President’s trip is to meet with British officials to finalize an agreement under which Ecuador will withdraw its asylum protection of Julian Assange, in place since 2012, eject him from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, and then hand over the WikiLeaks founder to British authorities.

Moreno’s itinerary also notably includes a trip to Madrid, where he will meet with Spanish officials still seething over Assange’s denunciation of human rights abuses perpetrated by Spain’s central government against protesters marching for Catalonia independence. Almost three months ago, Ecuador blocked Assange from accessing the internet, and Assange has not been able to communicate with the outside world ever since. The primary factor in Ecuador’s decision to silence him was Spanish anger over Assange’s tweets about Catalonia.

A source close to the Ecuadorian Foreign Ministry and the President’s office, unauthorized to speak publicly, has confirmed to the Intercept that Moreno is close to finalizing, if he has not already finalized, an agreement to hand over Assange to the UK within the next several weeks. The withdrawal of asylum and physical ejection of Assange could come as early as this week. On Friday, RT reported that Ecuador was preparing to enter into such an agreement.

The consequences of such an agreement depend in part on the concessions Ecuador extracts in exchange for withdrawing Assange’s asylum. But as former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa told the Intercept in an interview in May, Moreno’s government has returned Ecuador to a highly “subservient” and “submissive” posture toward western governments.

It is thus highly unlikely that Moreno – who has shown himself willing to submit to threats and coercion from the UK, Spain and the U.S. – will obtain a guarantee that the U.K. not extradite Assange to the U.S., where top Trump officials have vowed to prosecute Assange and destroy WikiLeaks.

The central oddity of Assange’s case – that he has been effectively imprisoned for eight years despite never having been charged with, let alone convicted of, any crime – is virtually certain to be prolonged once Ecuador hands him over to the U.K. Even under the best-case scenario, it appears highly likely that Assange will continue to be imprisoned by British authorities.

The only known criminal proceeding Assange currently faces is a pending 2012 arrest warrant for “failure to surrender” – basically a minor bail violation charge that arose when he obtained asylum from Ecuador rather than complying with bail conditions by returning to court for a hearing on his attempt to resist extradition to Sweden.

That charge carries a prison term of three months and a fine, though it is possible that the time Assange has already spent in prison in the UK could be counted against that sentence. In 2010, Assange was imprisoned in Wandsworth Prison, kept in isolation, for 10 days until he was released on bail; he was then under house arrest for 550 days at the home of a supporter.

Assange’s lawyer, Jen Robinson, told the Intercept that he would argue that all of that prison time already served should count toward (and thus completely fulfill) any prison term imposed on the “failure to surrender” charge, though British prosecutors would almost certainly contest that claim. Assange would also argue that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

21 July 2018 at 12:11 pm

Pomegranate juice for arterial health

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Pure pomegranate juice (and I prefer pomegranate juice not made from concentrate) has positive effects on arterial health, including reducing plaque, if you drink 1/4 cup (2 oz) daily, which I do, as described in my current diet advice, you get enough for it to be effective.

You can search on “pomegranate juice arterial health” and find many references. Here’s an article from LifeExtension.com by Tiesha D. Johnson, BSN, RN:

Every year, more than a million Americans are struck down by a heart attack or stroke. For many, sudden death will be their first—and last—symptom of undetected vascular disease. Those lucky enough to survive often face invasive procedures like angioplasty and coronary bypass surgery, followed by a lifetime of curtailed physical activity and costly heart medications.

If you trust your vascular health to mainstream doctors, you may be gambling with your life. Although cardiovascular disease remains the nation’s number-one killer, American medicine prioritizes heart disease treatment rather than prevention. Sadly, it has become far more profitable to treat heart disease than to prevent it.

Fortunately, natural strategies that can help avert life-threatening heart attacks and strokes are readily available today. One of the most promising heart-protective agents to emerge in recent years is pomegranate. Packed with unique antioxidants that guard the body’s endothelial cells against free-radical assault, pomegranate has been shown to prevent—and even reverse—cardiovascular disease.

Research also shows that pomegranate can stop the progression of deadly prostate cancer. And scientists are now exploring pomegranate’s potential in averting ailments ranging from diabetes to Alzheimer’s disease, as well as its role in supporting skin, joint, dental, and liver health.

In this article, we examine the growing volume of research that attests to pomegranate’s myriad health-promoting properties—particularly its role in safeguarding the delicate endothelial cells that line blood vessels and are so critical to preserving optimal vascular function in aging adults.

Pomegranate: Powerful Support for Cardiovascular Health

Approximately 71 million Americans suffer from cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension (high blood pressure), coronary artery disease, a history of stroke, or peripheral vascular disease (impaired blood flow to the extremities). Atherosclerosis—a disease of the blood vessels, characterized by inflammation, vascular endothelial cell dysfunction, and impaired nitric oxide production—is a major component of cardiovascular disease.

In both laboratory and clinical studies, pomegranate shows great promise in averting the numerous pathological changes associated with cardiovascular disease. Scientists believe pomegranate works through several mechanisms to fight cardiovascular disease by:

  • reducing oxidative stress
  • supporting the synthesis and activity of nitric oxide
  • inhibiting the oxidation of potentially harmful LDL (low-density lipoprotein).

Reducing oxidative stress and inflammatory damage in blood vessels is a well-documented way to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, both known and undetected.1 Mounting evidence suggests that compounds in pomegranate known as punicalagins are cardioprotective by virtue of their powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.

In one study, for example, pomegranate juice outperformed numerous other potent antioxidants—grape juice, blueberry juice, red wine, vitamin C, and vitamin E, among others—in “quenching” the damaging effects of free radicals on cell membranes.2 While all the antioxidant nutrients tested effectively prevented the overgrowth of undesirable muscle cells in blood vessel walls—a factor contributing to elevated blood pressure—pomegranate juice was by far the most effective of all.

Supporting the action of nitric oxide is another way to protect the cardiovascular system. Nitric oxide exerts many essential antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects in the body, including scavenging certain reactive oxygen species, preventing LDL oxidation, deterring the adhesion and aggregation of blood cells and platelets along the endothelial cell lining, and inhibiting the proliferation of vascular smooth muscle cells.3 Together, these effects help retard the progression of atherosclerosis. When scientists tested pomegranate against other antioxidants, they found that it helped enhance the biological actions of nitric oxide, thus conferring significant cardioprotection.

Preventing dangerous LDL oxidation is also crucial to protecting the blood vessels of the heart. Oxidized LDL can severely damage cardiovascular health by injuring cells that line the coronary arteries, leading to inflammation and narrowing that can precipitate a heart attack. LDL oxidation also reduces the activity of enzymes that produce nitric oxide in those blood vessels, thus preventing them from responding normally to changing demands for blood flow. When scientists treated human coronary artery cells with pomegranate juice, they discovered a dramatic correction in levels of nitric oxide production.4 This correction is likely to be beneficial in preventing complications of blood vessel disease, including heart attacks.

Just as water flowing rapidly down a canyon gradually erodes the canyon walls and stirs up residues, blood flowing under high pressure or disturbed by narrowed arteries can damage blood vessel walls, increasing oxidative damage and worsening atherosclerosis.5 A recent Italian study found that pomegranate juice concentrate reduced oxidant-related cellular changes in blood vessel cells exposed to high shear stresses, such as those produced by disturbed blood flow.6 The juice also increased nitric oxide production, further protecting the cells. After demonstrating these effects in cell cultures, the scientists administered pomegranate juice to mice with elevated cholesterol levels, and found that they could markedly impede the progression of atherosclerosis. These exciting findings suggest that the dangerous effects induced by perturbed shear stress can be reversed by chronic administration of pomegranate juice.

Pomegranate May Reverse Atherosclerosis

Human studies of pomegranate juice have demonstrated even more dramatic effects, showing that pomegranate may actually reverse atherosclerosis. Israeli scientists studied patients with narrowing of their carotid arteries as a result of atherosclerosis.7The carotid arteries in the neck are responsible for more than 80% of blood flow to the brain, and narrowing of these major vessels is a major risk factor for stroke. Among patients given daily pomegranate juice supplements (providing 78 mg of punicalagins) for one year, atherosclerotic lesions in the common carotid artery decreased by 35% in size, while actually growing by 9% in a control group. Thus, pomegranate reversed existing atherosclerosis, which continued to worsen in those who did not consume pomegranate. Blood analysis showed that total antioxidant activity increased 130% in the pomegranate juice group, compared to before-treatment values. Finally, the participants’ systolic blood pressure fell by an impressive 21% after one year of pomegranate juice supplementation.

The same Israeli scientists showed that this blood pressure reduction from drinking as little as 2 ounces of pomegranate juice daily (providing 78 mg of punicalagins) was due to decreased activity of angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE).8 This is a tremendously important finding, since drugs that inhibit ACE activity are commonly used to treat hypertension. Further, the study raises the possibility that pomegranate juice may help patients avoid having to take such drugs.

A study from the California-based Preventive Medicine Research Institute examined the effects of pomegranate juice in human patients with established coronary heart disease.9 Forty-five patients with coronary heart disease and cardiac ischemia (insufficient blood flow to the heart muscle) were randomly assigned to drink 8 ounces of pomegranate juice or a placebo beverage daily. At the onset and conclusion

Continue reading.

Be sure you get pure pomegranate juice, not some juice/drink with some pomegranate juice added.

I would say that 8 oz is a lot of pomegranate juice. I’m sticking with 2 oz because pomegranate juice is somewhat expensive, in terms of both dollars and WW points: 2 oz is 2 points, 8 oz is 9 points. (I get just 23 points a day—thank heavens for all the zero-point foods!)

Written by Leisureguy

21 July 2018 at 11:41 am

Progress note on Nordic walking

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I have my route, which is a two-block circuit with a walk into Rutledge Park and around the giant willow. That’s 55 minutes. But I’m feeling more energy and less fatigue, so today I added another lap just around my block but also including around the willow: 1 hr 10 min (7400 steps, 3.8 miles). It helps that the day is beautiful: clear skies, temperature 60ºF, light breeze.

I sure am glad The Eldest told me about Nordic walking, and I have to say that these Komperdell Spirit Vario poles (two-section) seem quite good. I still sort of hanker to get a pair of the Exel fixed-length poles, but that’s probably just my collecting instinct, though also Exel is the company that started Nordic walking, so there’s the history/honor aspect. (I’m eyeing the Exel Pro Curve.)

Update: I just came across this research study, so I’ve added it to the Nordic walking post.

Written by Leisureguy

21 July 2018 at 10:13 am

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