Later On

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

Archive for February 8th, 2019

Nancy Wilson’s NPR Jazz Profiles series is the greatest

leave a comment »

Read this article and listen at least to this program.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 February 2019 at 6:10 pm

Posted in Jazz

n an Historic First, Denver Will Vote on Decriminalizing Magic Mushrooms

leave a comment »

Philip Smith writes for Drug War Chronicles:

Its official: Voters in Denver will go to the polls in May to decide whether to allow residents to use and possess magic mushrooms and psilocybin, the hallucinogenic substance that makes those mushrooms so magic, without fear of criminal penalty. The city’s Election Division confirmed last Friday that an initiative petition to decriminalize the mushrooms had received enough signatures to qualify for the May 7 municipal ballot.

That will mark the first time any jurisdiction in the United States has taken up the issue. A California statewide initiative campaign last year failed to achieve any traction and never made it to the ballot. An Oregon statewide initiative is aiming at the 2020 ballot, but if it makes it, that vote will take place a year and a half after the Denver vote.

Denver is building a reputation as a leader in progressive drug policy. Colorado and Washington were the first states to legalize marijuana in 2012, and in 2016 Denver became the first city in the country to allow for the consumption of marijuana at retail establishments, including bars.

The group behind the initiative, Decriminalize Denver, wants to make the use and possession of psilocybin mushrooms by people 21 and over the city’s “lowest law enforcement priority.” The initiative would also prevent the city from using its resources to punish adults who are caught using or possessing the mushrooms.

What the proposed ordinance would not do is legalize the sale of the drug in retail shops. One step at a time is the apparent plan.

“We’re a pretty progressive city when it comes to drug policy,” Decriminalize Denver director Kevin Matthews told NBC News. Still, he said he didn’t foresee magic mushroom retail stores similar to pot shops “in the near future.”

The initiative has won the approval of the Drug Policy Alliance, which is pushing more broadly for drug decriminalization.

“Under current Colorado law, with the exception of marijuana, simple drug possession can carry felony charges leading to devastating consequences including incarceration and a lifelong criminal record. People across the state want to do things differently,” said Art Way, the group’s Colorado state director. “While psilocybin is behind a relatively small portion of these arrests, it’s terrific that Denver voters will have the opportunity to chip away at the drug war through this initiative.”

Even if the initiative were to pass, magic mushrooms would remain illegal under both state and federal law, which considers them a Schedule I controlled substance — the most dangerous, with no approved medical use and high potential for abuse–a designation shared with heroin, ecstasy, and, bizarrely enough, marijuana.

But are magic mushrooms really so dangerous? The Global Drug Survey, with more than 120,000 participants in more than 50 countries, doesn’t think so. Of the more than 12,000 people who reported taking the drug in the 2016 survey, only 0.2 percent required emergency medical treatment, a rate dramatically lower than for ecstasy, LSD, or cocaine.

“Magic mushrooms are one of the safest drugs in the world,” addiction psychiatrist and Global Drug Survey founder Adam Winstock told The Guardian, adding that the biggest risk was that people could pick and eat the wrong mushrooms. “Death from toxicity is almost unheard of with poisoning with more dangerous fungi being a much greater risk in terms of serious harms.”

Still, magic mushrooms aren’t completely harmless, Winstock said. “Combined  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 February 2019 at 6:08 pm

Posted in Daily life, Drug laws

We’ve just had a lot of snow, so I’m using it as an excuse to have pork belly

leave a comment »

Really, a stupendous amount of snow, compared to what we got in Pacific Grove (none). But perhaps 10cm accumulated, and I have a leftover piece of pork belly I got from Farm & Field. They braise it (this time in “Saigon sauce”), so you just have to heat it up. I put it on a piece of parchment paper in my little carbon-steel skillet and leave it in a 300ºF for an hour or a little more (fairly big cuts, this time). I’ll add photo if I think of it.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 February 2019 at 4:27 pm

Posted in Food, Low carb, Recipes

How Trump skimmed his inauguration

leave a comment »

Written by LeisureGuy

8 February 2019 at 3:15 pm

Interesting example of cultural speciation in progress

leave a comment »

I had thought of cultural speciation as inadvertant—distance then mean slow communications, allowing cultural divergence and ultimately (as we see) totally different languages (cf. the Romance languages). Thus a cultural mutation in one of the isolated communities has space to grow and enter (and change) the culture.

With the internet, as I noted in an earlier post today, distance no long has affects communication. Not only are communications faster, they’re also fuller: color video and audio, CGI, whatever. And real-time reporting all over. Plus citizen videographers…

Things have indeed changed. So how does cultural speciation occur when all cultures are so closely interacting? Close interaction means (gradual) reshaping both cultures as memes from one culture find niches in the other. This would bring cultures to be more alike (“the Americanization of” this or that), the opposite direction from speciation.

Well, I spotted a mechanism in a news letter about movie awards in Canada. It’s from the Globe & Mail:

It would be easy for the awards body, administered by the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television (ACCT) and designed to honour film, television and digital media, to revel in commercial fare like, say, Little Italy – a movie that comes equipped with somewhat ratings-friendly faces but is otherwise indistinguishable from disposable American product. If the CSAs do not exist to spotlight uniquely Canadian work that would otherwise be lost in the shuffle, then why exist at all? Judging from the 2019 nominees announced Thursday morning, I like to think that the CSAs took my praise to heart – especially for those who live outside Quebec.

So that’s how its done. It’s almost like selective breeding: you detect the small differences (cultural mutations or even just cultural drift), and then you make an enviornment that encourages their growth and greater recognition: forced meme growth, to some extent, but in any event some memes will take off and then been seen as “typical” or “defining.” Speciation has begun, especially since the cultural environment is an enviornment of memes, which react to one another and form networks and clusters. So as these forced (to a degree) memes emerge, they affect other memes in the environment, and so son: a ripple effect. The flap of a meme-buttterfly’s wings, etc.

Still, what’s interesting is the seemingly innate drive to speciate: a desire to belong to a group that’s different from another group. Group identity in motion, I suppose. A cluster of memes that (roughly) identify their hosts (the humans) as belonging to the same group. The meme equivalent of multicellular life.

And this relates to what I’m reading in From Bacteria to Bach and Back.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 February 2019 at 1:54 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life, Memes

John Dingell: My last words for America

leave a comment »

From the Washington Post:

John D. Dingell, a Michigan Democrat who served in the U.S. House from 1955 to 2015, was the longest-serving member of Congress in American history. He dictated these reflections to his wife, Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), at their home in Dearborn, on Feb. 7, the day he died.

One of the advantages to knowing that your demise is imminent, and that reports of it will not be greatly exaggerated, is that you have a few moments to compose some parting thoughts.

In our modern political age, the presidential bully pulpit seems dedicated to sowing division and denigrating, often in the most irrelevant and infantile personal terms, the political opposition.

And much as I have found Twitter to be a useful means of expression, some occasions merit more than 280 characters.

My personal and political character was formed in a different era that was kinder, if not necessarily gentler. We observed modicums of respect even as we fought, often bitterly and savagely, over issues that were literally life and death to a degree that — fortunately – we see much less of today.

Think about it:

Impoverishment of the elderly because of medical expenses was a common and often accepted occurrence. Opponents of the Medicare program that saved the elderly from that cruel fate called it “socialized medicine.” Remember that slander if there’s a sustained revival of silly red-baiting today.

Not five decades ago, much of the largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth — our own Great Lakes — were closed to swimming and fishing and other recreational pursuits because of chemical and bacteriological contamination from untreated industrial and wastewater disposal. Today the Great Lakes are so hospitable to marine life that one of our biggest challenges is controlling the invasive species that have made them their new home.

We regularly used and consumed foods, drugs, chemicals and other things (cigarettes) that were legal, promoted and actively harmful. Hazardous wastes were dumped on empty plots in the dead of night. There were few if any restrictions on industrial emissions. We had only the barest scientific knowledge of the long-term consequences of any of this.

And there was a great stain on America, in the form of our legacy of racial discrimination. There were good people of all colors who banded together, risking and even losing their lives to erase the legal and other barriers that held Americans down. In their time they were often demonized and targeted, much like other vulnerable men and women today.

Please note: All of these challenges were addressed by Congress. Maybe not as fast as we wanted, or as perfectly as hoped. The work is certainly not finished. But we’ve made progress — and in every case, from the passage of Medicare through the passage of civil rights, we did it with the support of Democrats and Republicans who considered themselves first and foremost to be Americans.

I’m immensely proud, and eternally grateful, for having had the opportunity to play a part in all of these efforts during my service in Congress. And it’s simply not possible for me to adequately repay the love that my friends, neighbors and family have given me and shown me during my public service and retirement.

But I would be remiss in not acknowledging the forgiveness and sweetness of the woman who has essentially supported me for almost 40 years: my wife, Deborah. And it is a source of great satisfaction to know that she is among the largest group of women to have ever served in the Congress (as she busily recruits more).

In my life and career I have often heard it said that so-and-so has real power — as in, “the powerful Wile E. Coyote, chairman of the Capture the Road Runner Committee.”

It’s an expression that has always grated on me. In democratic government, elected officials do not have power. They holdpower — in trust for the people who elected them. If they misuse or abuse that public trust, it is quite properly revoked (the quicker the better).

I never forgot the people who gave me the privilege of representing them. It was a lesson learned at home from my father and mother, and one I have tried to impart to the people I’ve served with and employed over the years.

As I prepare to leave this all behind, I now leave you in control of the greatest nation of mankind and pray God gives you the wisdom to understand the responsibility you hold in your hands.

May God bless you all, and may God bless America.

 

Written by LeisureGuy

8 February 2019 at 1:14 pm

Why the National Enquirer’s Attempt to Extort Jeff Bezos Backfired

leave a comment »

John Cassidy has a very interesting column in the New Yorker:

Memo to the honchos at the National Enquirer: if you are going to threaten one of the richest men in the world by saying that you have sexually explicit selfies of him and his girlfriend, don’t have your lawyer and top editor put the threats in writing. The rich guy might decide he can ride out a stolen dick pic or two, especially if he’s already announced that he’s getting divorced.

“Something unusual happened to me yesterday,” Jeff Bezos, the founder and C.E.O. of Amazon, writes in a piece that appeared on Medium on Thursday evening. “I was made an offer I couldn’t refuse. Or at least that’s what the top people at the National Enquirer thought.” Evidently, Bezos thought different. “Any personal embarrassment AMI could cause me takes a back seat because there’s a much more important matter involved here,” he writes, referring to American Media, Inc., which is the National Enquirer’s parent company. “If in my position I can’t stand up to this kind of extortion, how many people can?”

At some length, his article relates the recent dealings that his representatives have had with the National Enquirer, which in early January published intimate text messages that he had exchanged with his girlfriend, Lauren Sánchez, a former television anchor. Bezos also published three threatening e-mails sent, on Wednesday, by the supermarket tabloid’s top editor, Dylan Howard, and by Jon Fine, the deputy general counsel of A.M.I.

In Howard’s e-mail, he describes in graphic terms some of the “photos obtained during our newsgathering,” which he says include “a below the belt selfie” and a shot of “Ms. Sanchez wearing a plunging red neckline dress revealing her cleavage and a glimpse of her nether region.” He concludes, “It would give no editor pleasure to send this email. I hope common sense can prevail — and quickly.” One of Fine’s e-mails lays out the National Enquirer’s “proposed terms” for reaching an agreement between the two sides, which included Bezos publicly acknowledging that he and his representatives didn’t have any basis for their suggestion that the original story about him was politically motivated. In a statement released on Friday morning, the company said, “American Media believes fervently that it acted lawfully in the reporting of the story of Mr. Bezos. . . . Nonetheless, in light of the nature of the allegations published by Mr. Bezos, the Board has convened and determined that it should promptly and thoroughly investigate the claims.”

All credit to Bezos for refusing to submit to these intimidation tactics. He’s a ruthless plutocrat whose online behemoth crushes retailers big and small. He has run his company with all the transparency of the Politburo. And he has exploited his great riches to buy one of the most important and influential newspapers in the country, the Washington Post. But he’s just as entitled as the next person to a private life—and he has just performed an important public service, or maybe two.

Bezos has made transparent the bullying tactics employed by the National Enquirer and raised the question of how often they are directed at targets who are less well able to defend themselves. “On that point, numerous people have contacted our investigation team about their similar experiences with AMI, and how they needed to capitulate because, for example, their livelihoods were at stake,” Bezos writes. In addition, he has raised the intriguing question of how and why the tabloid went after him in the first place.

“Simply put, this was and is a news story,” Fine, the A.M.I. attorney, says in one of the e-mails. But there are grounds for wondering whether that was really all there was to it. As practically everybody now knows, David Pecker, the chief executive of A.M.I., is an old friend of Donald Trump. Late last year, A.M.I. entered a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, in which the company admitted that, in 2016, it bought and suppressed the story of Karen McDougal, an ex-Playboy model who claimed to have had an affair with Trump, “so as to prevent it from influencing the election.” At first glance, the Bezos story doesn’t seem to have anything to do with Trump, but first glances can sometimes be deceiving.

On January 9th, two days after the National Enquirer informed him it had obtained intimate text messages he had exchanged with Sánchez, Bezos announced that he and his wife of twenty-five years, MacKenzie, were divorcing. After the National Enquirer published some of the texts, Bezos writes, “I engaged investigators to learn how those texts were obtained, and to determine the motives for the many unusual actions taken by the Enquirer.” The principal investigator he hired was Gavin de Becker, a well-known security expert who runs his own consulting firm. “I asked him to prioritize protecting my time since I have other things I prefer to work on and to proceed with whatever budget he needed to pursue the facts in this matter,” Bezos adds.

According to a Washington Post story that was published on Tuesday, de Becker and his team “concluded that the billionaire was not hacked. Rather, de Becker said in an interview, the Enquirer’s scoop . . . began with a ‘politically motivated’ leak meant to embarrass the owner of The Post—an effort potentially involving several important figures in Trump’s 2016 campaign.” More specifically, de Becker came to focus his attention on Sánchez’s brother, Michael, a Hollywood talent agent who has ties to Roger Stone and Carter Page, two Trump associates who have been caught up in the Russia investigation. “Michael Sanchez has been among the people we’ve been speaking with and looking at,” de Becker told the Daily Beast.

Michael Sánchez is vigorously denying any involvement. In e-mails and texts that the Post obtained, he made the extraordinary claim to de Becker that he suspected the texts between Bezos and his sister may have been obtained by the National Security Agency, British intelligence, or the Mossad. The Post also reported that Michael Sánchez issued a statement in which he “said he believed de Becker, Bezos’s security chief for two decades, was involved in the leaks to the Enquirer ’to sabotage Mr. Bezos and Ms. Sanchez’s love affair.’ ” . . .

Continue reading.

It seems obvious that Stone, at least, got the material from Michael Sanchez—it’s typical of his “ratfucking,” as he calls it. And Stone and Trump are very close—no one was fooled by the very very public parting of ways while continuing their private friendship and dealings. And Trump hates the Post because it repeatedly reports exactly what he says and does, including publishing leaked information that Trump spends 80% of his time watching cable TV, tweeting, and talking to friends. That must have made his blood boil, particularly if it were true, and I totally believe it is: look at Trump’s reaction, for starters.

And this kind of mean, cowardly, arm’s-length aggression seems totally Trump-like, just as a salacious leak seems very Stone-like.

And take careful note: Republicans go along with it. They enable it and support it and defend it and stay silent about it. But They Do Not Speak Out. They stand by, fearful, and watch institutions crumble.

UPDATES

First, see next post on Dingell’s deathbed letter to the US public.

Second, Max Boot has a very interesting column in the Washington Post. From the column:

. . . Much remains mysterious about the Enquirer’s actions, and in particular its connections, if any, with President Trump and the government of Saudi Arabia — a possibility that Bezos alluded to in his blog post. Both the Saudis and Trump are aggrieved at The Post, and Trump wrongly blames Bezos for the newspaper’s accurate but unflattering coverage of him. When the Enquirer’s initial article about Bezos’s extramarital relationship was published, the president gloated in a tweet: “So sorry to hear the news about Jeff Bozo being taken down by a competitor whose reporting, I understand, is far more accurate than the reporting in his lobbyist newspaper, the Amazon Washington Post. Hopefully the paper will soon be placed in better & more responsible hands!”

The president would obviously love to see a sale of The Post to a friendlier owner — perhaps Trump pal David Pecker, the chairman and chief executive of AMI. (One is reminded of autocrats such as Hungary’s Viktor Orban, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who have benefited from bullying media organizations into submission in their own countries.) The Enquirer was threatening Bezos in order to get him to affirm that its coverage was not “politically motivated or influenced by political forces.” Might the Enquirer have, at a minimum, pursued the story to curry favor with Trump?

This is the second significant revelation in the past two months concerning the National Enquirer. In December, AMI struck a deal with federal prosecutors, acknowledging that it had circumvented campaign finance laws by paying $150,000 to Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who claims to have had an affair with Trump. The aim was to keep McDougal’s story secret. “Catch and kill” appears to be a long-standing practice at the Enquirer, but it is only coming to light because of the tabloid’s close association with Trump, whom it relentlessly boosted during the 2016 presidential campaign. In turn, Pecker was able to take a close adviser of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to meet Trump at the White House, thereby facilitating AMI’s attempts to seek deals with Saudi investors. AMI subsequently published and distributed a glossy propaganda magazine featuring the crown prince on its cover. These are the kinds of dubious practices that people such as Trump and Pecker have long engaged in behind closed doors. Now their doings are out in the open.

I suspect David Pecker will rue the day that his friend Donald Trump became president — if he does not already. And he is not alone. Paul Manafort had a flourishing business as an international influence-peddler before he became Trump’s campaign chairman. He now faces a long stretch in prison after having been convicted of felony financial charges. . .

Read the whole thing. Great column.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 February 2019 at 1:07 pm

%d bloggers like this: