Later On

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

Archive for March 1st, 2019

How the 4-year-old cask-aged soy sauce is made—and where to get it

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Where to get it. How it’s made:

Written by Leisureguy

1 March 2019 at 1:51 pm

Posted in Food

Are Foreign Countries Benefiting From Jared Kushner’s Security Clearance?

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New York interviews Frank Rich, its writer-at-large:

According to a report in the New York TimesJared Kushner received his top-secret security clearance because of an “order” by Donald Trump, spurring the White House counsel and chief of staff to compose memos at the time outlining their concerns. In previous interviews with the press where they had been asked about this directly, Trump and Ivanka both seem to have lied. Should Kushner be forced to resign?

Surely you are not suggesting that Jared resign before he unveils his Middle East peace plan! In any case, there may be no way to force any of these grifters out of the White House short of handcuffs. It has long been my contention that Jared’s subconscious ambition is to follow his father, Charles, into prison. Every revelation brings him closer to his goal, starting as far back as his attempt to set up a secret communications back channel between the Trump transition and the Russians to circumvent America’s intelligence agencies. His and the Kushner family’s international dealings to secure financing for their struggling real-estate ventures since Inauguration Day have repeatedly raised the question of which country he is actually serving from his perch in the White House. RussiaSaudi ArabiaQatarChina? Certainly there is nothing in Kushner’s record to suggest that he is loyal to the United States of America.

This latest bombshell raises a whole bunch of ancillary questions. Indeed, why did Ivanka and Jared’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, appear to lie about his devious path to his security clearance? And what about John Kelly, that good soldier who was widely praised in Washington as the “adult” in the Trump circle? We’ve already learned that he is a racist and a nativist from various incidents during his craven tenure in the administration, but now we have to wonder if he, Michael Flynn–style, betrayed his country by facilitating Jared’s access to intelligence at Trump’s insistence. He could have protested more forcibly at the time, and even now, in disgrace and retirement, he still remains silent. If Jared is a mole for a foreign power who damaged American interests, Kelly will bear partial responsibility for activating him. A plea that he was just following the boss’s orders will not get him off the hook.

But let’s not let this episode distract from the bigger picture of what Jared has been doing while armed with classified secrets and his White House role as de facto chief of staff. The three most bizarre and mysterious man-crushes in American history may be his for Mohammed bin Salman, and his father-in-law’s for Kim Jong-un and Vladimir Putin. We don’t know if MBS has written Jared love letters as Kim has Trump (or vice versa), but this week he had another furtive assignation with the Saudi prince, as if the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi never happened. Exactly what business — whether Kushner’s or America’s — is on the table when they canoodle? In a similar vein, the president, despite being embarrassed by the collapse of the Hanoi nuclear talks that were supposed to secure his Nobel Peace Prizestill went weirdly out his way to clear Kim of any responsibility for the brutal murder of the American student Otto Warmbier, who had been imprisoned and tortured in North Korea. Along with the other ways that the Trump operation resembles a gangster enterprise, we must always include the reality that its criminal allies are piling up corpses as surely as associates of the Gotti family once did.

Michael Cohen’s hearing before the House Oversight Committee this week provided new details on Donald Trump’s involvement in what might be a criminal conspiracy, while also changing the way we understand some things that have already been reported. Will his testimony be a turning point for the Trump investigations?

Perhaps because the hearings blanketed television — broadcast networks as well as cable — the Cohen show moved the needle a bit in terms of reengaging the public in a saga that has numbed out many over two exhausting years. There is zero chance, though, that it or anything else will ease Trump’s grip on his base. Now, as always, it must be Republicans in Congress who determine when the turning point comes. They will do so not out of conscience — it’s not clear that more than a half dozen of them have one — but out of fear of losing their own races in purple districts or states. You’ll notice that the likes of Susan Collins of Maine and Cory Gardner of Colorado are stepping up their “concern” about Trump in direct proportion to the proximity of November 3, 2020, when both are up for reelection.

As many have noted, what may have been most striking about the hearings (aside from that incriminating 2017 Trump-signed check reimbursing Cohen for porn-star hush money) was that not a single GOP inquisitor would be caught on camera praising or defending Trump, as opposed to trashing Cohen. They may have moved into a mode where they want to protect themselves on camera more than their dear leader. Also notable was Cohen’s name-checking of other witnesses (in part thanks to the stiletto questioning of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) to Trump Organization wrongdoing who may soon be brought before Congress in so public a setting: Allen Weisselberg, Alan Garten, Ron Lieberman, and the evocatively named Matthew Calamari. This drama was needing some fresh characters, so bring them on. Also nailed by Cohen of course was Donald Jr., whom Cohen said signed one of the hush-money reimbursements — an act of stupidity that again reminds those of us who likened him to Fredo that we were way too kind. While Cohen’s testimony wasn’t high on laughs, let’s be grateful for this line, which he delivered with exquisite deadpan: “Mr. Trump had frequently told me and others that his son Donald Jr. had the worst judgment of anyone in the world.”

Within a day of Representative Mark Meadows sidetracking the end of the Cohen hearing to argue that he was not a racist, at least three videos have surfaced of him pushing birtherism on the campaign trail, promising to send President Obama “back home, to Kenya or wherever it is.” Will there be a political price for those comments now? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

1 March 2019 at 12:35 pm

How rehab recruiters are luring recovering opioid addicts into a deadly cycle.

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Julia Lurie writes in Mother Jones:

The offer was too good to resist: Go to rehab for a week, get $1,000 in cash. It was early 2017, and Brianne, a 20-year-old from a woody Atlanta suburb, had come to South Florida to leave her heroin addiction behind. At a residential facility called Recovery Villas of the Treasure Coast, she was approached by a charismatic guy I’ll call Daniel, a Pennsylvania native six years her elder. He could relate to her troubles—he’d struggled with addiction himself—and he could get her into another rehab after Recovery Villas. He would even pay her: $1,000 for the first week of her stay and $500 each week thereafter. That money could buy Brianne a whole lot of heroin.

Brianne, whose full name has been withheld to protect her privacy, could be a poster child for the opioid crisis: a blond, green-eyed former softball star who experimented with pills from the medicine cabinet with her high school boyfriend and within a few years was plunging needles into her veins. In 2016, she broke down and admitted to her mom, a software executive named Jen, that she needed help. They made a plan: Brianne would go to treatment for a few months, sober up, and then return home to study at Chattahoochee Technical College.

That never happened. Brianne took Daniel up on his offer and, over the next 18 months, did more than a dozen stints at Florida rehab centers from Palm Beach to Miami. She mainly flitted between Recovery Villas—which in addition to group therapy and 12-step meetings offered apartment housing and a pool—and Compass Detox, which felt like somewhere between a hospital and a hotel.

Sometimes, between stays, Daniel rented a room for Brianne and a few other “clients” at a Super 8 or Comfort Inn and supplied them with heroin and the overdose reversal medication Narcan, just in case. When the drugs ran out, Brianne would head into a detox program with dirty urine, an admission requirement for some facilities. Other times, she coordinated directly with rehab staffers who called her “honey” and “sweetie” and arranged free transportation—Ubers, flights if need be—to their centers. Daniel encouraged Brianne to try her hand at recruiting: For every patient she steered his way, he would pay her $400. After she started dating a recovering user who lacked health insurance, Daniel found rehabs that would take her boyfriend for free as long as Brianne attended with her Aetna insurance card, a practice known as “piggybacking.”

The addiction community has a name for what happened to Brianne. It’s called the “Florida shuffle,” a cycle wherein recovering users are wooed aggressively by rehabs and freelance “patient brokers” in an effort to fill beds and collect insurance money. The brokers, often current or former drug users, troll for customers on social media, at Narcotics Anonymous meetings, and on the streets of treatment hubs such as the Florida coast and Southern California’s “Rehab Riviera.” The rehabs themselves exist in a quasi-medical realm where evidence-based care is rare, licensed medical staffers are optional, conflicts of interest are rampant, and regulation is stunningly lax.

While experts say the practices described in this story are widespread, it is important to note that there are plenty of responsible treatment providers, and not all the facilities named engage in all the practices described. Recovery Villas, which was raided by Florida authorities last summer on suspicion of insurance fraud and is now under investigation by the state, did not respond to my questions. A Compass Detox spokesman said that paying clients for treatment and giving them drugs between rehab stints “is illegal and we don’t do that.” Compass obeys all relevant laws and regulations, he emphasized.

Drug addiction rates have skyrocketed over the past decade: If every American addicted to opioids lived in one city, it would be nearly the size of Houston(pop. 2.3 million). The demand for treatment, the increasingly white face of addiction, and recent laws requiring insurers to cover substance use services have all resulted in a surge in rehab spending and private investment. But as the Braff Group, which tracks health care trends, warned investors in a 2014 brief, “It’s not all kittens and rainbows. As we have seen countless times in other frenzied health care sectors, when the money flows in, so do the ne’er-do-wells, which can bring the sector the kind of attention it doesn’t want.”

It’s a given in the world of addiction treatment that relapses are likelyobstacles on the road to recovery. But for rehab owners and brokers who make money each time a patient is admitted, relapses can be a profit center. Dozens of drug users and parents I spoke with had tales like Brianne’s, and “there are probably thousands” of others, according to Karen Hardy, a Maine addiction counselor whose own son shuffled among dozens of rehabs. “Some end in death. Some don’t,” she says. “It’s Russian roulette.”

For Jen, Brianne’s recovery saga has been a nightmarish roller-coaster ride. At work one morning in June 2017, she received a text from an unrecognized number that made her blood run cold: “I OVERDOSED CALL ME NOW.” Over the phone, Brianne frantically explained she was at a hospital near Palm Beach after overdosing for the first time—in a motel room, with heroin provided by Daniel. There were more panicked calls that summer: Brianne at a gas station, without shoes, money, or transportation. Brianne bawling after yet another friend overdosed. (She lost 15 friends in a single year, Jen says.) The sounds of sickening shrieks and thumps as her boyfriend flew into a violent rage. Brianne overdosing again. Back home, her 13-year-old sister filled an Ugg shoebox with prayers jotted on slips of paper, begging God not to let Brianne die.

The amounts billed to Jen’s insurance company seemed outlandish: $3,000 for a routine drug test and, in one case, $22,000 in rehab charges in a single day. (Residential rehabs often charge private insurers $50,000 to $100,000 per month of treatment.) . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

The US seems increasingly dysfunctional.

Written by Leisureguy

1 March 2019 at 9:29 am

Socialism and the Self-Made Woman

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Paul Krugman writes in the NY Times:

If you’re like me, you could use at least a brief break from talking about Donald Trump. So why don’t we talk about Ivanka Trump instead? You see, recently she said something that would have been remarkable coming from any Republican, but was truly awesome coming from the Daughter in Chief.

The subject under discussion was the proposal, part of the Green New Deal, that the government offer a jobs guarantee. Ms. Trump trashed the notion, claiming that Americans “want to work for what they get,” that they want to live in a country “where there is the potential for upward mobility.”

O.K., this was world-class lack of self-awareness: It doesn’t get much better than being lectured on self-reliance by an heiress whose business strategy involves trading on her father’s name. But let’s go beyond the personal here. We know a lot about upward mobility in different countries, and the facts are not what Republicans want to hear.

The key observation, based on a growing body of research, is that when it comes to upward social mobility, the U.S. is truly exceptional — that is, it performs exceptionally badly. Americans whose parents have low incomes are more likely to have low incomes themselves, and less likely to make it into the middle or upper class, than their counterparts in other advanced countries. And those who are born affluent are, correspondingly, more likely to keep their status.

Now, this isn’t the way we like to see ourselves. In fact, there’s a curious disconnect between reality and perception: Americans are much more likely than Europeans to imagine that their society is marked by high social mobility, when the reality is that we have considerably less of it than they do.

Much of this appears to reflect systematic misinformation. In some places hereditary members of the elite boast about their lineage, but in America they pretend that they pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps. For example, large numbers of Americans apparently believe that Donald Trump is a self-made man.

In any case, America’s exceptionally low social mobility is distinct from its exceptionally high income inequality, although these are almost surely related. Among advanced countries, there is a strong negative correlation between inequality and mobility, sometimes referred to as the “Great Gatsby curve.” This makes sense. After all, huge disparities in parents’ income tend to translate into large disparities in children’s opportunities.

And people do, by the way, seem to understand this point. Many Americans don’t realize how unequal our society really is; when given facts about income inequality, they become more likely to believe that coming from a wealthy family plays a big role in personal success.

Back to the “potential for upward mobility”: Where do people from poor or modest backgrounds have the best chance of getting ahead? The answer is that Scandinavia leads the rankings, although Canada also does well. And here’s the thing: The Nordic countries don’t just have low inequality, they also have much bigger governments, much more extensive social safety nets, than we do. In other words, they have what Republicans denounce as “socialism” (it really isn’t, but never mind).

And the association between “socialism” and social mobility isn’t an accident. On the contrary, it’s exactly what you would expect.

To see why, put it in a U.S. context, and ask what would happen to social mobility if either the right wing of the G.O.P. or progressive Democrats got to implement their policy agendas in full.

If Tea Party types got their way, we’d see drastic cuts in Medicaid, food stamps and other programs that aid Americans with low income — which would in many cases leave low-income children with inadequate medical care and nutrition. We’d also see cuts in funding for public education. And on the other end of the scale, we’d see tax cuts that raise the incomes of the wealthy, and the elimination of the estate tax, allowing them to pass all of that money on to their heirs.

By contrast, progressive Democrats are  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

1 March 2019 at 7:37 am

The Leaks That Trump’s Justice Department Prosecutes Are Mostly About Trump, His Cronies, and Russia

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In the Intercept James Risen notes an interesting pattern:

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP has put unrelenting pressure on the Justice Department over the past two years in an effort to derail the Trump-Russia investigation. He has failed to stop the inquiry by special counsel Robert Mueller, who may soon release a report on his findings.

Yet Trump’s constant pressure has clearly had an impact in a way that few have recognized. Two of Trump’s most frequent public complaints — that the Russia investigation is a hoax ginned up by Democrats and the so-called deep state, and that leakers are feeding the “fake news” media negative stories about him — have clearly seeped into the mindset at the Justice Department and influenced its process for investigating leaks.

Since Trump took office, six people have been charged in cases related to unauthorized disclosures of sensitive or classified information. Of those six, four have been charged in cases connected to disclosures related to Trump, the circle of people around him, and the Trump-Russia inquiry.

The latest case came last week, when John Fry, an analyst with the Internal Revenue Service in San Francisco, was charged with disclosing confidential financial information related to Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, including information about how a company owned by Cohen received $500,000 from a company with ties to a Russian oligarch. Fry allegedly shared the information with Michael Avenatti, the blustery lawyer who represented Stormy Daniels, the porn star who had an affair with Trump and then was paid by Cohen to keep quiet about it during the 2016 presidential campaign.

After allegedly getting the financial information from Fry, Avenatti subsequently posted much of it on Twitter. The Washington Post and the New Yorker then followed up with related stories. The government alleges that Fry communicated with “Reporter 1,” who wrote the New Yorker story. That story was written by Ronan Farrow.

Last October, another official was arrested and charged with leaking financial information related to the Trump-Russia case. Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards, who was a senior adviser at the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, was charged with disclosing reports about financial transactions related to people under scrutiny in the Trump-Russia inquiry, including former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort. She allegedly leaked the information to BuzzFeed News. She has pleaded not guilty in the case.

A former Senate intelligence committee staffer, James Wolfe, was also ensnared in a leak investigation related to the Trump-Russia probe. Court documents show that the investigation was launched in response to an April 2017 story in the Washington Post revealing that in 2016, the government had obtained a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant to monitor Carter Page, a former foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign. Wolfe pleaded guilty in 2018 to lying to federal investigators about his contacts with reporters.

Reality Winner, a former National Security Agency contractor, was the first person charged under the Trump administration in a leak prosecution. She was arrested in 2017 and accused of anonymously leaking an NSA document disclosing that Russian intelligence was seeking to hack into U.S. election systems. That document was allegedly leaked to The Intercept, which had no knowledge of the identity of its source. (The Intercept’s parent company, First Look Media, supported Winner’s legal defense through the Press Freedom Defense Fund, which I direct.) She pleaded guilty in the case in 2018 and was sentenced to more than five years in prison.

Even before Trump, the Justice Department’s handling of leak investigations was both draconian and arbitrary. Low-level officials bore the brunt of the investigations under the Bush and Obama administrations, while powerful, high-level officials were let off with almost no punishment. Disclosures of classified information happen daily in Washington, and so the Justice Department’s process for deciding which leaks to target has always reeked of politics and favoritism.

The Obama administration prosecuted  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

1 March 2019 at 7:32 am

I love the smell of Iso-E Super in the morning.

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This morning I am finally able to try Dr. Jon’s new formulation, which he calls “Vol. 2” and of which he writes:

We wanted to transition from making a high quality vegan shaving soap to making the absolute best vegan shaving soap available and after months of testing we finally settled on a new ingredient list and method of production that we felt was worth making the transition. The addition of slippery elm bark, aloe, soy wax, jojoba oil and sunflower oil allows us to make an amazingly slick soap that leaves your face feeling soft and so moisturized you don’t need any post shave treatment.

The ingredients of his Vol. 2 formulation:

Stearic Acid, Water, Castor Oil, Potassium Hydroxide, Shea Butter, Mango Butter, Babassu Oil, Essential/Fragrance Oils, Sodium Hydroxide, Sunflower Oil, Avocado Oil, Evening Primrose Oil, Meadowfoam Oil, Aloe Vera, Soy Wax, Slippery Elm Bark, Citric Acid.

I imagine the citric acid is included to give the lather an assist when the water is hard. (A small pinch of citric acid in a sink half-filled with hard water will noticeably soften the water.)

Of the fragrance of this soap, 13, Dr. Jon writes:

Made with Oud, Hedione, Musk and Iso-E Super this fragrance is dark, musky and floral all at the same time. This fragrance smells how Steve McQueen looked: smooth and manly!

I was naturally curious about Iso-E Super, but easily found this description and history.

The soap lathered quite well, and the fragrance is quite pleasant and intriguing. The iKon Open Comb produced an awesomely smooth result in three passes, and then I finished with a small splash of Dark Rose EDT from Saint Charles Shave. Altogether, a very fine shave.


Written by Leisureguy

1 March 2019 at 7:19 am

Posted in Daily life, Shaving

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