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Archive for July 27th, 2018

Immigrant Youth Shelters: “If You’re a Predator, It’s a Gold Mine”

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The Trump administration has much to answer for. Michael Grabell and Topher Sanders report in ProPublica:

Just five days after he reached the United States, the 15-year-old Honduran boy awoke in his Tucson, Arizona, immigrant shelter one morning in 2015 to find a youth care worker in his room, tickling his chest and stomach.

When he asked the man, who was 46, what he was doing, the man left. But he returned two more times, rubbing the teen’s penis through his clothing and then trying to reach under his boxers. “I know what you want, I can give you anything you need,” said the worker, who was later convicted of molestation.

In 2017, a 17-year-old from Honduras was recovering from surgery at the shelter when he woke up to find a male staff member standing by his bed. “You have it very big,” the man said, referring to the teen’s penis. Days later, that same employee brushed the teen with his hand while he was playing video games. When the staff member approached him again, the boy locked himself in a bathroom.

And in January of this year, a security guard at the shelter found notes in a minor’s jacket that suggested an inappropriate relationship with a staff member.

Pulled from police reports, incidents like these at Southwest Key’s Tucson shelter provide a snapshot of what has largely been kept from the public as well as members of Congress — a view, uncolored by politics, of troubling incidents inside the facilities housing immigrant children.

Using state public records laws, ProPublica has obtained police reports and call logs concerning more than 70 of the approximately 100 immigrant youth shelters run by the U.S. Health and Human Services department’s Office of Refugee Resettlement. While not a comprehensive assessment of the conditions at these shelters, the records challenge the Trump administration’s assertion that the shelters are safe havens for children. The reports document hundreds of allegations of sexual offenses, fights and missing children.

The recently discontinued practice of separating children from their parents has thrust the youth shelters into the national spotlight. But, with little public scrutiny, they have long cared for thousands of immigrant children, most of them teenagers, although last year 17 percent were under 13. On any given day, the shelters in 17 states across the country house around 10,000 adolescents.

The more than 1,000 pages of police reports and logs detail incidents dating back to the surge of unaccompanied minors from Central America in 2014 during the Obama administration. But immigrant advocates, psychologists and officials who formerly oversaw the shelters say the Trump administration’s harsh new policies have only increased pressures on the facilities, which often are hard-pressed to provide adequate staffing for kids who suffer from untold traumas and who now exist in a legal limbo that could shape the rest of their lives.

“If you’re a predator, it’s a gold mine,” said Lisa Fortuna, director of child and adolescent psychiatry at Boston Medical Center. “You have full access and then you have kids that have already had this history of being victimized.”

Southwest Key wouldn’t discuss specific incidents, but said in a statement that the company has a strict policy on abuse and neglect and takes every allegation seriously. HHS declined ProPublica’s requests to interview the refugee resettlement program’s director, Scott Lloyd. The agency released a statement saying it “treats its responsibility for each child with the utmost care” and has a “zero-tolerance policy for all forms of sexual abuse or inappropriate behavior” at the shelters.

But the reports collected by ProPublica so far show that in the past five years, police have responded to at least 125 calls reporting sex offenses at shelters that primarily serve immigrant children. That number doesn’t include another 200 such calls from more than a dozen shelters that also care for at-risk youth residing in the U.S. Call records for those facilities don’t distinguish which reports related to unaccompanied immigrants and which to other youth housed on the property.

Psychologists who’ve worked with immigrant youth said the records likely undercount the problems because many kids might not report abuse for fear of affecting their immigration cases.

It’s unclear whether any of the children mentioned as victims in the reports were separated from their parents at the border, but the reports include several children as young as 6 years old. The government faced a court deadline Thursday to reunite the nearly 3,000 children who were separated from their parents. But the administration told the court that more than 700 of those children remain in shelters or foster care because their parents have already been deported or have been deemed ineligible for reunification for various reasons.

Not all the reports reveal abuse. The shelters are required to report any sexual allegation to the police and many reports detail minor incidents and horseplay not uncommon in American schools. For example, the BCFS International Children’s Shelter in Harlingen, Texas, called the police in February after one minor entered another’s room and rubbed a small styrofoam ball on the juvenile’s buttocks.

And, once secure in the shelters, some immigrant children report assaults that occurred not at the shelters, but in their home countries. Last November, a 14-year-old girl staying in a shelter in Irvington, New York, told staff she had been raped in Honduras by a man who was now in immigration custody.

But the reports show that the allegations of staff abuse and inappropriate relationships that occurred in Tucson aren’t isolated. In February, a 24-year-old youth care worker at KidsPeace in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, was placed on administrative leave after kissing a teenage boy in the laundry room. Just over a year earlier, a 21-year-old staff member there was accused of kissing a 16-year-old girl in the hallway. The BCFS shelter in Harlingen was written up by state regulators in 2017 after a staff member flew to New York to visit a former resident. And at a Southwest Key shelter outside San Diego, reports show, a female employee who had been accused of kissing a juvenile quit after being confronted with information that the teenager had the woman’s Snapchat account written on a piece of paper.

KidsPeace wouldn’t discuss personnel matters but said “the safety and well-being of our young clients are our top priority.”

BCFS said the staff member was terminated for violating agency policy and that it has “very strict and clear boundaries for our staff.”

The reports also reveal dozens of incidents of unwanted groping and indecent exposure among children and teenagers at the facilities. Some kids fleeing threats and violence in their home countries arrived in the United States only to be placed in shelters where they faced similar dangers. In March, a 15-year-old boy at the Southwest Key shelter in Tucson reported that his roommate lifted up his legs as he was trying to go to sleep, made thrusting motions and said, “I’m going rape you.” And in late 2016, a 15-year-old at KidsPeace told police that another boy there had been forcing him to have oral sex. After an investigation, one teen was transferred to a more secure facility. (KidsPeace said it wouldn’t discuss specific information about kids in its care.)

While it’s difficult to get a complete count, the police reports show that children go missing or run away from the shelters roughly once a week. Several shelters, including Southwest Key’s Tucson facility, have seen a significant increase in missing person and runaway calls since the start of 2018. St. PJ’s Children’s Home in San Antonio, which primarily cares for immigrant children, has had 26 such calls in the first half of the year, records show, compared to 14 for all of last year and nine for 2016.

St. PJ’s Children’s Home responded after publication and said its spike in runaways involves U.S. children, not immigrant youth.

The police reports also raise questions about how Southwest Key, the largest operator of immigrant shelters, handles such incidents. In the molestation case involving the 46-year-old staffer, police had obtained edited surveillance footage but later sought a complete, unedited version. Southwest Key, however, had taped over the footage. And in another case, police noted that Southwest Key refused to give officers records from an internal investigation.

Southwest Key CEO Juan Sánchez declined an interview. The Texas-based nonprofit has received more than $1.3 billion in federal grants and contracts in the past five years for the shelters and other services. Jeff Eller, a spokesman, said, “We cooperate with all investigations.”

Government officials and advocates say most immigrant youth shelters were never intended to house children long-term. But in recent weeks, the average length of stay has climbed to 57 days from 34 days just two years ago. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by Leisureguy

27 July 2018 at 1:09 pm

Portrait of the President As a Con Man

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Andrew Sullivan, a conservative, writes in New York:

The leaked tape recording of Michael Cohen and Donald Trump discussing how to handle the payoff to silence yet another extracurricular paramour, Karen McDougal, is more important, it seems to me, than has been generally acknowledged.

It’s only a shade under three minutes long. But unlike the Billy Bush tape, Trump is not performing or bragging or trying to charm someone he doesn’t know that well. He’s at work, with an intimate, trusted wingman, every single guard down. It really feels like the actual Trump, the man behind the curtain. And this Trump is quite clearly in charge. He’s not some addled 70-something, delegating large swathes of responsibility for day-to-day operations to underlings. He’s clearly aware of everything that’s going on: “Let me know what’s happening, okay?” he says to someone — Pam (Bondi)? — on the phone at first. He talks about how some issue will blow over: “I think this goes away quickly … in two weeks; it’s fine.” He then asks Cohen, “Can we use him anymore?” referring to an Evangelical pastor, and Cohen says absolutely.

Then they briefly discuss “the financing” for the National Enquirer’s capture and withholding of the McDougal story. “So, what do we got to pay for this? $150?” Trump asks at one point, meaning $150,000. The question of “cash” is raised by Trump (the precise wording is hard to make out from the audio), and Cohen strongly rules it out: “No, no, no.”

What this tiny glimpse into reality reveals is something quite simple. It’s not that it’s a shock that Trump has been lying about this incident from the very beginning. That has long been clear. But there’s something about listening to his voice acknowledging this in such a breezy, matter-of-fact tone that exposes the purity of the cynicism behind the lies. “We have no knowledge of any of this,” Trump spokesperson Hope Hicks, had, after all, originally told The Wall Street Journal when it broke the story days before the 2016 election. The idea that Trump had had an affair at all, let alone organized hush money to the National Enquirer, was “totally untrue.” And yet here, as the curtain is pulled back, we hear Trump himself figuring out how to finance its cover-up.

This is not a man embarrassed by something unusual in his private life, lying defensively in a panic. It’s a world-weary operator in sleaze and outright deception, dealing with an item of everyday business. The euphemisms — “info,” “financing,” “our friend David,” etc. — are those of people who know they’re doing something shady. He even talks of “using” a religious-right figure. It’s the tape of a con man, discussing the con with an underling in a kind of consigliere code. And this revelation is therefore dangerous. It demonstrates that Trump is, in fact, just another crooked pol — and does so in his own voice.

I suspect that this was what was worrying even Franklin Graham this week, as he tweeted: “Everyone in the media is talking about the just-released tape & what the President said or didn’t say, what he meant or didn’t mean. It is a good moment to point out that everyone should realize that every word that is spoken or thought is recorded by God … We won’t be judged by media spin masters or forensic audio analysts, but you will be judged by truth & righteousness — by God Himself.” Is Graham telling his followers simply to banish the evidence of the tape from their minds and stop gossiping? Or is he actually condemning Trump for his secret shadiness? Neither is good news for the White House.

Con men usually know that a con has a life span, and not a long one. At some point, it will collapse because it is, in fact, bullshit. By then, the best con men have made the sale — think of “Trump University” — and moved on. They also know that keeping the suckers sealed off from other sources of contrary information is essential until the deal is done. You have to maintain a fiction relentlessly, dismiss or delegitimize external information that might get your marks to think differently, and constantly make the sale. You have to humor and flatter and bullshit all the time, until you’ve sealed the deal.

And Trump is really, really good at this. In fact, it’s his chief skill, along with his instinct for the easy mark and another human being’s vulnerable spot. It has worked many times before. It’s at the root of his entire shady business career. His problem now, however, is that this is the biggest of all cons, if you’re playing at a presidential level, and is also the longest. It has to be sustainable for at least four years. And that’s an extremely long time to keep it alive.

This is why, it seems to me, Trump tweets so often and so aggressively. It’s his chief mechanism for keeping his dupes under his spell, for sustaining the narrative of the con while reality tugs at it. He’s making the sale every news cycle of every day because the alternative is the whole thing crashing to the ground. It’s also why he keeps holding rallies. You need that kind of mass crowd hysteria to sustain a con — “America Is Great Again!” — that might otherwise be fraying at the edges. It’s why he lambastes the media. Their role in undercutting the con — in presenting the arguments against it, in raising suspicions about the con man himself — is deeply destabilizing to the project. And it’s why he has to lie, and lie with greater and greater intensity and frequency.

And sure enough, the rate of Trump’s lies is accelerating, as the con ages. All six of the last six weeks rank in the top ten most dishonest of his presidency, as the indefatigable Daniel Dale has noted. Last Tuesday, Trump actually made the subtext text, in a speech to a Veterans of Foreign Wars national convention: “Just remember, what you are seeing and what you are reading is not what’s happening … Just stick with us, don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news.” Some have analogized this to Orwell’s vision of totalitarianism. But it is not as sophisticated as that. It’s just a con man getting a little rattled, as his trade war is beginning to wreak havoc in the Midwest.

When you have brazenly declared that such wars are easy to win, and agriculture in the heartland is nonetheless reeling, and manufacturing is increasingly jittery about the cost of imported steel, what else are you going to do? Well, you can bribe the farmers with some $12 billion. Or ask companies and their workers to be patient. But some in the middle of the country will still start doubting — and his polling in three Midwest swing states that gave him the presidency is now slipping. He’s at 36 percent approval in Wisconsin and Michigan in the latest NBC poll, and 38 percent in Minnesota. That VFW appeal — and his visit to Illinois and Dubuque, Iowa, yesterday — is a sign, it seems to me, of a little desperation.

Desperate is insisting that what is clearly the word would — from the tape and the tone and the sentence structure of his Helsinki press conference — is actually the word wouldn’t. Desperate is responding to the Carter Page FISA documents by insisting that they say the opposite of what they actually say. Desperate is insisting that when the president said no directly to a reporter asking whether he believed that the Russians were still meddling in American democracy, he was actually not answering the question, even as he was looking at the journalist when he said it.

Desperate is banning a CNN reporter from a press conference because she had previously asked difficult reality-based questions about Michael Cohen — and then quibbling over the term ban. Desperate is a sudden Obama-like truce with the E.U. on trade. Desperate is the attempt by some House Republicans to impeach Rod Rosenstein, a move that has not even been cheered by the far-right media, and that is swiftly deflating. Desperate is doubling down on the “witch-hunt hoax,” while the chief money guy for the Trump Organization, Allen Weisselberg, gets a subpoena, and Michael Cohen’s lawyer says of his client, who knows far too much, “He has hit the reset button; he’s made a turn — to be on his own, speaking the truth.” More desperate still is Rudy Giuliani saying of Michael Cohen last night, after Cohen told CNN that Trump did indeed know in advance of the meeting in Trump Tower with an agent of the Russian government: “He’s been lying all week; he’s been lying for years.”

No, this is not an unraveling. But  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

27 July 2018 at 12:13 pm

Sen. Elizabeth Warren answers policy questions from Jennifer Rubin

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A fascinating exchange in Jennifer Rubin’s Right Turn column this morning. (Rubin is a conservative Republican and formerly a lawyer specializing in labor issues.) The column begins:

On Wednesday, I put to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) policy questions about the economy, free markets and regulation. Unprompted, she composed and sent to me detailed responses. “Thanks for raising these questions — they’re good ones and go to the heart of some of the biggest economic problems facing our country,” she wrote back. ” I took a stab at answering them below.”

Cynics will say, “She’s running!” If so, we should welcome some serious discussion of major issues. At the onset, I will make three observations.

First, it’s refreshing to get substantive, thoughtful answers from someone who may have presidential aspirations. It is easy to forget what serious public servants should sound like.

Second, Warren is clearly on the progressive end of the scale, championing tariffs if needed, an increase in the minimum wage and more financial regulations. What is intriguing, however, is that she presents these as correctives to market failure. We can debate whether her prescriptions are appropriate. But she’s not attacking capitalism per se, nor the importance of functioning markets.

And third, her emphasis on market concentration and monopolies has been echoed by conservatives and moderates. (“In recent years, large technology companies have been investigated for colluding with a secret agreement not to hire one another’s best workers; fined billions of dollars for unfairly favoring certain services on their platforms over other rivals; and been accused of mishandling sensitive consumer information or of obtaining new customers under false pretenses,” wrote Bill Kristol and Bill Galston in their New Center policy proposals. “Government can’t be expected to sit idly by if the size and power of certain companies begin threatening the vigorous competition and innovation upon which any healthy economy depends.”)

Here are her answers in full. Below I then discuss her responses in greater detail.

Question 1: What constitutes “theft’ and “cheating”? Are we talking about insider trading or something more endemic to markets?

Sure, it includes insider trading — but it’s a lot more than that. In a well-functioning market, companies compete by providing better products, better service, or better prices. That kind of competition benefits customers and rewards businesses that out-innovate or out-work their competitors.

But when companies can deceive their customers about the quality or price of their products, that’s cheating — and the market stops working. Companies that are willing to deceive their customers are rewarded with more business, while honest companies struggle to keep up. That’s bad for customers and bad for the companies that just want to do the right thing.

In order to reap the benefits of competitive markets it is critical to crack down on cheating. That was the idea behind the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Before the financial crisis, the market for financial products was broken. To take just one of many examples, lenders could sell teaser-rate mortgages deliberately designed to obscure both the risks and the costs for borrowers. The CFPB created new rules for mortgages that forced companies to compete more visibly on products and service, instead of competing on which company could mislead customers most effectively. Consumers could make more informed choices and the market began to work better, which benefited both the customers and the businesses that were willing to compete straight up.

Question 2: If markets produce wealth, shouldn’t we be opening markets internationally, increasing free trade and creating new opportunities?

I’m all for trade deals that work for the American people. But for decades, our system for negotiating and enforcing trade deals has been rigged in favor of massive corporations. Our negotiators hear about what giant companies want, while advocates for workers, for the environment, and for the health of the American people are drowned out. A rigged process produces a rigged outcome, and that’s what’s happened.

Consider one example: Because CEOs and giant corporations have outsized influence crafting trade agreements, most of our trade deals include provisions that give giant multinational corporations special rights to challenge new foreign laws that they don’t like. When a country like Canada decides to ban a chemical that it doesn’t want in its rivers and streams, our trade deals give a multinational corporation the right to sue Canada and get a quick hearing in an arbitration proceeding run by friendly corporate lawyers — with no appeals process. Canada is stuck: either pay a huge fine with taxpayer money or change the law to suit the giant corporation. That process gives big multinationals massive leverage to fight against any new public-health or safety regulation that could possibly hurt their bottom line.

Meanwhile, the same agreements make fancy promises to American workers that they will never have to compete with low-paid foreign labor. But when foreign governments don’t follow through and giant multinational corporations move jobs overseas precisely to pay those impossibly low wages, workers have no friendly arbitration board to help them out – no speedy resolution, no ability to bring their own lawsuits. Instead, they must go through the political system to beg the U.S. government to bring actions in trade courts, which rarely works.  In 2014, my staff reviewed America’s record of enforcing labor standards and found that “the United States repeatedly fails to enforce or adopts unenforceable labor standards in free trade agreements.” The same problem undercuts enforcement of environmental protection promises and human rights promises.

This doesn’t mean we should indiscriminately raise tariffs without a coherent strategy. But it also doesn’t mean we should be afraid to use all of our tools, including tariffs, to advance America’s goals through trade. We should be smart and systematic. We should work with our allies to magnify the pressure on our targets. We should sequence our fights with a coherent strategy in mind. We should work harder to protect American IT and to prevent American-developed innovations from being stolen. We should consider when start-up industries here in America need extra protection so they can take root. We should focus on problems that are specific to particular countries or groups of countries, such as the non-monetary restrictions China uses to keep its markets closed to outside businesses. There is so much more we could do to make trade work for American workers and businesses right here in America.

Most of the world wants access to American markets. That’s an enormous advantage for us, and with a smart trade policy, we could help American workers, grow jobs here in America, boost the American economy, and advance our foreign policy interests around the world.

Question 3: What new market rules are needed? (She’s talked sensibly about excess concentration in certain markets but we’d be curious to hear what other systemic problems she sees.)

Too big to fail is hiding in plain sight all over our economy. In market after market, competition is dying: financial services, airlines, health insurance, drug stores, telecommunications, beef and poultry. A century ago, our leaders understood that competition was the lifeblood of functioning markets. As competition has withered in one market after another, giant corporations increasingly call the shots, resulting in less consumer choice, less innovation, depressed wages, the destruction of small businesses, the capture of government, and the decline of the middle class.

Competition should be a central goal of federal policy again – starting with strong new antitrust rules and tougher enforcement to break the grip that a handful of giant companies have over markets.  For example, along with Senators McCain, Cantwell, and King, I’ve introduced a bipartisan 21st Century Glass Steagall Act, which would separate commercial banking and investment banking, breaking up the biggest banks and reducing the risk of another financial crisis and taxpayer bailout while also giving community banks and credit unions a better competitive environment and a chance to attract more customers and grow.

Another market problem is the disconnect between worker productivity and wages. From 1948 to 1973, American worker productivity went up 97 percent and wages went up 91 percent — roughly equal.  But from 1973 to 2016, productivity went up 74 percent and wages went up only 12 percent. Workers aren’t getting what they’ve earned. Workers will get more of what they deserve if anti-competitive practices like non-compete and no-poach agreements that artificially restrict the labor market are eliminated. A higher minimum wage, stronger labor unions, restrictions on stock buybacks, and a host of other changes would also help reverse this trend and let workers once again capture the economic growth they help create.

Then there are many other examples of market failure — environmental pollution and climate change, for example — where new rules would better internalize costs and make markets work better. And there are more systemic problems we need to fix.

Question 4: At what point do new market rules undo the benefits of capitalism?

Rules undermine the benefits of capitalism when they insulate big companies from competition. There are a lot of rules that do that! Big business lobbyists swear up and down that they hate rules — but they spend half their time trying to layer on rules to protect their clients from competition, and they fight tooth-and-nail if anyone tries to take those protections away.

Here’s one example: About 48 million Americans have hearing loss, but only a very small share — about one in seven — uses hearing aids, in large part because of the cost. Hearing aids are expensive because FDA regulations let a few large companies control the market and put up artificial barriers that keep consumers from accessing products that can be safely used over the counter — or, to put it in your terms, there are market rules that are undermining the benefits of capitalism.

So I worked with Republican Senator [Charles E.] Grassley to get rid of those rules. We passed a law that eliminates the regulatory thicket and will allow safe hearing aids to be sold directly to most consumers. Over-the-counter sales will open up the market to innovation, giving consumers a lot more choice and bringing down prices.

But here’s the part to remember: The big hearing aid companies waged a huge campaign against our bill because they didn’t want competition from companies that could make better, cheaper products. They wanted to keep controlling the market and charging thousands of dollars per hearing aid, even if they only served a tiny share of the people who needed one. Competition was something they believed in wholeheartedly — for other industries.

Question 5: What’s the right balance of taxes, expenditures and debt?

It depends on the economic circumstances. In 2008, President Obama and the Democratic Congress did the right thing by increasing government spending and increasing the debt in response to a devastating financial crisis and recession. That’s what governments should do: try to stimulate the economy with new spending to help avoid or minimize the impact of a recession. In that case, given the depth of the problem, with millions of people out of work and millions losing their homes, Congress should have had an even stronger and faster response to help struggling families and get the economy back on track more quickly.

By contrast, the Trump administration and the Republican Congress have done exactly the wrong thing since gaining control. With a growing economy and record corporate profits, they slashed taxes for millionaires and big corporations — and then used the skyrocketing national debt as an excuse to push for deep cuts to Medicare and Social Security for working people.


Right Turn’s response to Warren: Again, full credit is due to Warren for choosing to respond (without prompting) to important questions about the role of government, markets and fiscal policy. Coming from a center-right perspective, I am surprised that several of her points would, I think, find some resonance among thoughtful moderates and conservatives. Her emphasis on resisting market concentration (i.e., ensuring we have functioning, competitive markets), her recognition that crony capitalism harms consumers and her criticism of a tax plan that exacerbated income inequality and piled on more debt are all well taken.

However, I have some significant substantive differences — as, I suspect, will moderate Democrats and thoughtful independents and Republicans looking for an alternative to the GOP’s current policy incoherence.

First, it’s not just crony capitalistic regulations that can impair growth, distort markets and produce unintended consequences. Well-meaning but excessive regulations can impair innovation, keep small competitors out of the market and add unnecessary cost to consumers. The question becomes how much regulation is too much, and that is best tested by examining the cost and the utility of government interference. The Trump team likely has swung too far, for example, in attacking fuel efficiency standards or basic consumer protections, but progressives will rightly be accused of trying to micromanage the economy to the detriment of consumers and workers if they seek to centralize economic decision-making in the federal government (like Trump’s tariffs!).

Second, we find her willingness to consider tariffs to be troubling. There are a raft of remedies to address specific issues like intellectual property under the existing World Trade Organization. Like protectionists on the right, progressives who cry wolf about job losses due to trade deals will lose credibility. Rather than block trade deals or impose provisions that make them untenable to trading partners, we’d suggest dealing with the downsides separately as a matter of domestic legislation (e.g., use of the earned-income tax credit — EITC — to supplement wages, policies to encourage geographic mobility, promotion of higher education alternatives to four-year college). In short, eschewing major, multilateral trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership is self-defeating; instead of inhibiting them, we should deal with the downside effects.

Third, there is a large body of data showing that increases in the minimum wage impair job growth. As my colleague Charles Lane has suggested, at the very least, regional minimum wage rates and waivers from localities should be kept in mind. Rather than burden employers with higher costs, we should, I would suggest, be making it cheaper to hire workers and encouraging full-time work by, for example, expansion of the EITC and payroll tax relief. The real solution to low, stagnant wages is increased investment in workers and technology to increase productivity.

Fourth, while I deplored the nonsensical Trump tax plan (and would support real 1986-style reform and reworking it to provide real middle-class relief, via the payroll tax, for example), there has to be some reckoning with the explosion in health-care and retirement costs. Proposals such as the Simpson-Bowles plan recommended slowing the rate of benefit increases, gradually raising the retirement age and increasing the cap on salary. Without attention to entitlement spending (which benefits the elderly and higher-income Americans), we will shortchange younger, poorer Americans who need assistance. What we shouldn’t do is cut entitlements in order to make up for lost revenue from a foolish, unnecessary and ineffective tax cut for the wealthy and for corporations.

Finally, I’d recommend the 12 proposals set forth by the Third Way, a center-left group, which address some of these issues, and the New Center proposals that address a bevy of issues from intellectual property theft to immigration to income inequality to taxes. These avoid some of the pitfalls I discuss above while attempting to address wages, income inequality and innovation.

In sum, if Democratic contenders for 2020 and Republicans think they can paint Warren as a wide-eyed socialist and write her off, they should pay more attention to what she’s saying. There are critiques to be made, most certainly, but it behooves centrists and conservatives to respond with serious, substantive arguments — and their own policy ideas. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

27 July 2018 at 9:38 am

Beef tendon for breakfast

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Dang! I should have included before and after photos of the tendons. Beef tendon requires long slow cooking, but then it is wonderful: firm and smooth and a tiny bit chewy, and very sticky as it dries. Beef tendon is pure protein—no fat, no carb—so I had an exceptionally high-protein breakfast today.

I used this recipe, cooking the tendon in a 200ºF oven overnight (12 hours) in a covered sauté pan. (I cooked only two pieces, about 4 oz, so I adjusted the recipe just a bit.) I removed and ate the tendon while it was hot from the oven and very soft—easily cut with the side of the fork—rather than chilling it and serving it with a sauce as the recipe suggests. I tried that, but when you chill the tendon, it becomes too chewy and almost tough.

OTOH, the stock in which the tendon was cooked, once chilled, makes the firmest aspic you ever saw, and it is extremely tasty. So I strained the liquid left in the pan into a storage container and that’s now in the fridge for snacks—and it also will be very high in protein.

Wish I had taken photos, but then there’s a reason to have it again. 🙂

Written by Leisureguy

27 July 2018 at 8:57 am

Posted in Food, Low carb, Religion

Vie-Long horsehair, Strop Shoppe Russian Tea, iKon open-comb, and Saint Charles Shave Woods

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Russian Tea is a spicy fragrance rather than the smoky fragrance I associate with Russian tea (the drink)—along the lines of Lapsang Souchong. But it’s a very pleasant fragrance (Strop Shoppe’s Russian Tea soap), and the lather I made with the Vie-Long horsehair brush was quite nice.

I’m using my iKon open-comb razor today. iKon razors differ from iKon Shavecraft razors in that the heads of the former are stainless steel and the heads of the latter are cast aluminum alloy. I believe that the head of the razor I used today is the same as the head of the current iKon open-comb head except the current head has a B1 coating.

I don’t have any razors with the B1 coating, but from all I’ve read, it’s an excellent coating: tough (doesn’t chip), durable (doesn’t wear), and looks good. I believe the reason for the coating is to avoid the “tea stains” that the regular iKon razors (and other stainless razors) sometimes experience with some brands of blades: small rust stains due to the blade’s interaction with the metal of the razor. It is pretty clear the fault of the blade and not the razor because the tea stains don’t occur with all brands of blades, and some brands are much worse than others. (I’m looking at you, Gillette Rubie.)

Customers naturally were dismayed to see rust stains on a stainless razor and tended to blame the razor rather than the blade (probably because the razor cost a lot more than the blade and so had to accept the responsibility). By using the B1 coating, the problem is finessed and everyone is happy.

I’m happy anyway. The brands of blades I use (goodbye, Gillette Rubie) seldom cause a problem, and the tea stains (if they occur) are easily removed by a little scrubbing and perhaps a pencil eraser.

And the iKon open-comb shaves extremely well. It is one of those razors that excel in both comfort and efficiency. Three passes, and a face totally smooth and nick-free.

A splash of Saint Charles Shave’s Woods aftershave, and I’m ready for my walk.

Written by Leisureguy

27 July 2018 at 8:46 am

Posted in Shaving

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