Later On

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

Archive for November 2019

7 Ways Animal Protein is Damaging Your Health

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Sofia Pineda Ochoa, MD, writes at Forks Over Knives:

Today, of course, we know that most proteins from both plants and animals are “complete proteins” (meaning they contain all of the essential amino acids we need).1 However, people sometimes use the term “low quality” to refer to plant proteins because they typically have a lower proportion of these essential amino acids as compared to animal proteins.

But it’s important to understand that having a higher proportion of essential amino acids, as animal protein does, is actually damaging (not advantageous) for our health. We outline seven ways that animal protein damages your health.

1. Animal Protein and Fiber (or total lack thereof)

Unlike plant protein, which comes packaged with fiber, antioxidants, and phytonutrients, animal protein comes with exactly none of the foregoing. To this point, meat, eggs, poultry, dairy, fish and other animal foods have absolutely no fiber whatsoever.

Many people, in their effort to “get enough” protein, tend to eat large amounts of animal foods, which displaces plant foods that have these important nutrients. Fiber deficiencies, in particular, are far more common than not.

For example, The Institute of Medicine recommends that men consume 38 grams of fiber, but the average adult only eats about 15 grams per day—less than half the recommended amount. In fact, according to the USDA, almost all Americans (~95%) do not get an adequate amount of dietary fiber.38,39

High fiber intake is associated with decreased cancer risk, specifically colon and breast cancers, as well as lower risk of ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, constipation and diverticulitis. It may also reduce the risk of stroke, high cholesterol, and heart disease.40,41

2. Animal Protein and IGF-1 (increased cancer risk)

When we ingest proteins that have a higher proportion of the essential amino acids (which is a characteristic of animal protein), it results in our bodies producing higher levels of the hormone insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1).2-8

This hormone stimulates cell division and growth in both healthy and cancer cells and, for this reason, having higher circulating levels of IGF-1 has been consistently associated with increased cancer risk, proliferation, and malignancy.2-8

3. Animal Protein and TMAO

Consuming animal protein also results in us having higher circulating levels of trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO).

TMAO is a substance that injures the lining of our vessels, creates inflammation, and facilitates the formation of cholesterol plaques in our blood vessels. And that, of course, is highly problematic for cardiovascular health.9,10

TMAO is created by complex interactions involving our gut flora and the nutrients in the food we eat. And when we eat animal foods, it alters our gut flora in such a way that facilitates the creation of TMAO.9,10

So, consuming animal foods result in higher TMAO levels, which is damaging to our vessels. Even without all of the other problematic aspects of animal foods, this one issue involving TMAO is, according to the recent president of the American College of Cardiology Dr. Kim A. Williams, sufficient by itself for people to vigorously avoid animal foods.11

4. Animal Protein and Phosphorus . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 November 2019 at 4:33 pm

The wonderful Robertson screw

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I noticed Robertson screws (though I didn’t know that they were called that) after we moved up here. I don’t recall having seen them before, but they are terrific. And totally run of the mill here. No excitement. If you express amazement, the response is, “What?”
FWIW, I like them a LOT better than Phillips: much more secure grip. Phillips screwdrivers have a tendency to twist out of the head and require pressure to stay in place (unlike, say, the Torx screwdrivers). Robertson screwdrivers seem to lock in. Much better.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 November 2019 at 4:15 pm

Pump-action archery

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Written by LeisureGuy

30 November 2019 at 3:49 pm

Posted in Techie toys, Technology

The last heart attack

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Very interesting documentary program, with Bill Clinton playing a bit part.

See also these brief videos.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 November 2019 at 3:09 pm

Panorama explorations in Photoshop

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Kevin Drum has an interesting post on using Photoshop to create good panoramic images.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 November 2019 at 11:43 am

Posted in Daily life, Software

Best Healthcare System in the World®: This Doctors Group Is Owned by a Private Equity Firm and Repeatedly Sued the Poor Until We Called Them

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More and more it seems to me that the US has become a system to strip-mine money from the public and funnel it to the ultra-wealthy — see, for example, these earlier posts:

  • The strong resistance to raising the minimum wage based on the false claim it would cause loss of jobs. What it causes is reduction in profits that flow upward in the wealth pyramid, and that is why it is so strongly resisted.
  • How the real annual income from 1979 to 2019 for the top 0.1% has increased 343.2% and for the bottom 90% has increased 22.2%.
  • West Virginia prison inmates are charged 5¢ a minute to read books on etablets (books that are free from Project Gutenberg). Rereading a book is also 5¢ per minute. Inmates wages in West Virginia prisons range between $0.04 and $0.58 an hour. Reading a book costs $3 per hour. And note: “There’s been a troubling trend in other parts of the country of prisons restricting book donations and forcing inmates to purchase books through pre-approved vendors or to use electronic tablets provided by private contractors like GTL and JPay.”
  • Prison inmates (and their families) are also squeezed to extract money by charging excessively for phone calls: “the $1.2bn prison phone industry, an industry that prison reform advocates have been trying – and failing – to fix for years and that the Federal Communications Commission head, Mignon Clyburne, called “the greatest, most distressing, type of injustice I have ever seen in the communications sector”.”
  • Your work life and daily time structure are designed to encourage spending. “The ultimate tool for corporations to sustain a culture of this sort is to develop the 40-hour workweek as the normal lifestyle. Under these working conditions people have to build a life in the evenings and on weekends. This arrangement makes us naturally more inclined to spend heavily on entertainment and conveniences because our free time is so scarce.” The money squeezed from you becomes part of the river flowing to the top 0.1%.

The book Goliath describes some of the mechanisms set up to facilitate this strip-mining of money from the populace. Once you realize it’s happening, you can see examples all over the place. The machinery is most obvious when it’s working on people who have the fewest choices: prison inmates, for example, or the poor, or the sick and infirm. Those are exploited ruthlessly, and if they have have a spare nickel, the ultra-wealthy want that nickel sent to them. Those of more means — the bulk of the 90% — are manipulated more indirectly, but steadily, with the money moving always upward.

Wendi C. ThomasMLK50, with Maya Miller, Beena Raghavendran, and Doris Burke, ProPublica, report:

After nine visits to the emergency room at Baptist Memorial Hospital in 2016 and 2017, Jennifer Brooks began receiving bills from an entity she’d never heard of, Southeastern Emergency Physicians.
Unsure what the bills were for, Brooks, a stay-at-home mother, said she ignored them until they were sent to collections. She made payment arrangements, but when she was late, she said the collection agency demanded $500, which she didn’t have.
In December, Southeastern sued her for more than $8,500 in unpaid bills — a third of what her husband makes per year as a cook.
The case against Brooks is one of more than 4,800 lawsuits Southeastern has filed against patients in Shelby County General Sessions Court since 2017. In the first six months of this year, Southeastern filed more lawsuits than local hospitals Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, Baptist and Regional One combined.
Lawsuits against poor patients over unpaid medical debts have received widespread media attention over the past few years. In almost all cases, the plaintiff has been a hospital system, often a nonprofit.
What sets the practices of Southeastern, and its parent, TeamHealth, apart is that it is a physician staffing firm that contracts with the doctors who treat patients in four of Baptist’s emergency rooms around the region. Physicians historically have avoided suing patients en masse, instead choosing to send unpaid bills to collections or writing them off as bad debt.
TeamHealth is owned by the Blackstone Group, a private equity firm. In 2017, Blackstone acquired TeamHealth and its subsidiary Southeastern in a $6.1 billion deal. It was just one in a growing number of large private equity investments in health care in the last decade.
“There is this tension between being a health care provider and doing what’s best for their care … and being a profit-maximizing firm that aggressively goes after patients,” said Brian Shearer, legal director for Justice Catalyst Law, a New York-based social justice nonprofit, though he added that he wasn’t aware of any lawsuits by providers like Southeastern.
TeamHealth initially defended the lawsuits in an interview with MLK50 and ProPublica, saying they reserved legal action only for patients who’d made no attempt to pay.
But late last week, faced with additional questions by the news organizations, the company reversed course, issuing a statement saying it would no longer sue patients and wouldn’t pursue the lawsuits it has already filed. “It’s difficult to ensure that only patients with a strong ability to pay are ultimately impacted, so we’ve decided to eliminate it,” a TeamHealth spokesman said.
TeamHealth also had policies in place that made it difficult for patients to access charity care, a form of financial assistance for low-income patients. Two former TeamHealth employees told MLK50 and ProPublica that they were instructed not to mention the term charity care when patients called with questions about their bills.
After the company was asked about this, TeamHealth president and chief executive officer Leif Murphy announced a new discount policy for patients without insurance.
“Effective December 1, 2019, we are implementing discount policies for our uninsured population to reduce the cost of care by as much 90%, and up to 100[%] when necessary. We will proactively include eligibility criteria in our invoices to help promote participation rather than force patients to seek assistance,” Murphy wrote in a letter to employees.
TeamHealth’s abandonment of its lawsuits, as well as the implementation of a new financial assistance policy, marks the second time in five months that a major health care entity in Memphis has overhauled its practices amid questions from MLK50 and ProPublica. In July, Methodist, a nonprofit faith-based hospital system, announced it would curtail its lawsuits over unpaid debt against poor patients. It has since zeroed out the balances owed by more than 5,100 patients and reduced bills for more than 2,200 others, according to a hospital spokesperson.
TeamHealth declined to talk about the suits involving patients interviewed for this story, even though the patients gave the company permission to do so.
Mark Rukavina, business development manager at Community Catalyst’s Center for Consumer Engagement in Health Innovation, a national advocacy organization, said nonprofit hospitals shouldn’t work with physicians groups that aggressively pursue patients for medical debts.
“They could say, ‘If you’re going to provide services in our hospital, you’re going to comply with our financial assistance policy,’” Rukavina said.
The lawsuit from Southeastern was just a small part of Brooks’ debt, but learning that TeamHealth won’t pursue her case was good news, she said. Plus, she now has TennCare, the state’s version of Medicaid, which she hopes will spare her from other large medical bills. . .

Continue reading.

I now live in Canada, where healthcare is provided to everyone without charging them directly. Taxes cover the cost, so if you’re ill, you do not have to worry — and no surprise bills from going to an emergency room.  (It’s worth noting that private equity firms are going to great lengths to keep those surprise medical bills as high as possible.)

I do have to pay for the one medication I continue to take: $0.60 for a 3-month supply. (That’s Canadian dollars. In US dollars its $0.45 for a 3-month supply.)

Written by LeisureGuy

30 November 2019 at 11:24 am

Plisson European Grey Badger with Grog and the iKon 101

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This brush dwells on the WSP shelf and so I came upon in the series. Thee knot is certainly a natural bristle, and a very nice one, too: very full without being dense, with a coarse, pebbly feel on the face as though the hairs were rounded on the end. The handle seems natural as well, at least as compared to the manufactured resin handles generally used for shaving brushes today. This is nickel-coated brass with substantial heft.

I do love the feel of this brush. The Wife brought it back from Paris as a gift, and she bought it from the last Master Barber in Paris on his personal recommendation. He specifically recommended it over a silvertip badger, and as I lathered this morning I got an inkling of why: it feels like a knot that will last and last and do an excellent job the whole time. The lather from Tallow + Steel’s take on Bay Rum, their Grog, was extremely nice.

The iKon Shavecraft 101 continues to remain in the very top tier of my razors, a totally wonderful design that feels good on the face, never nicks, and removes every trace of roughness from stubble quite easily. You’ll note that the handle is designed for a firm grip at the base for the against-the-grain pass, in sharp contrast the Gillette Heritage’s handle design.

A splash of Grog finished the job and this holiday Saturday morning is clear and sunny.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 November 2019 at 9:33 am

Posted in Shaving

Job loss predictions over rising minimum wages have not come true

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Stef W. Kight and Dion Rabouin report in Axios:

Eighteen states rang in 2019 with minimum wage increases — some that will ultimately rise as high as $15 an hour — and so far, opponents’ dire predictions of job losses have not come true.

What it means: The data paint a clear picture: Higher minimum wage requirements haven’t reduced hiring in low-wage industries or overall.

State of play: Opponents have long argued that raising the minimum wage will cause workers to lose their jobs and prompt fast food chains (and other stores) to raise prices.

But job losses and price hikes haven’t been pronounced in the aftermath of a recent wave of city and state wage-boost laws.

  • And more economists are arguing that the link between minimum wage hikes and job losses was more hype than science.

What we’re hearing: “The minimum wage increase is not showing the detrimental effects people once would’ve predicted,” Diane Swonk, chief economist at international accounting firm Grant Thornton, tells Axios.

  • “A lot of what we’re seeing in politics is old economic ideology, not what economics is telling us today.”

The doom-and-gloom that opponents have predicted, “are part of the political policy debate,” Jeffrey Clemens, an economics professor at UC San Diego, tells Axios.

  • His research for the conservative American Enterprise Institute is often quoted in arguments against minimum wage increases.
  • But Clemens told Axios: “People will tend to make the most extreme argument that suits their policy preferences, and it’s not surprising if that ends up being out of whack with the way things unfold on the ground.”

Where it stands: Cities and states around the country are taking action as the federal minimum wage — $7.25 an hour — “has remained unchanged for the longest stretch of time since its 1938 inception under the Fair Labor Standards Act,” according to a recent paper by the New York Fed.

  • Cities like New York, Seattle, Chicago and San Francisco have raised local minimum wages, and individual companies have done so as well: Amazon set its minimum at $15 an hour last year.

As of July: “14 states plus the District of Columbia—home to 35% of Americans—have minimum wages above $10 per hour, as do numerous localities scattered across other states,” according to the N.Y. Fed.

  • Laws in New York, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New Jersey will eventually increase minimum wages to $15 per hour.

Axios used Bureau of Labor Statistics data to compare job growth rates in four states with low minimum wages vs. eight states with high minimum wages:

  • Since 2016, when California became the first state to pass the $15 minimum wage law, all 12 states have seen growth in restaurant, bar and hotel jobs.
  • Three of the four states with job growth higher than the U.S. median have passed laws that will raise the state minimum wage to at least $13.50.
  • Three of the five states with the slowest job growth rates did not have a state minimum wage above the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour.
  • An outlier was Massachusetts, which had the slowest job growth in the sector and currently has the highest state minimum wage: $12 an hour.

The big picture: A number of peer-reviewed academic studies have found little to no impact on hiring as states and municipalities have raised the minimum wage.

  • Rather, such increases are likely to have increased hiring in the strong U.S. economy, Bill Spriggs, chief economist at labor union AFL-CIO, tells Axios.

Yes, but:  . . .

Continue reading.

Their conclusion:

The bottom line: Opposition to higher minimum wage laws is increasingly based in ideology and orthodoxy rather than real-world evidence, economists say.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 November 2019 at 6:12 pm

Cryptoqueen: How this woman scammed the world, then vanished

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A very long read about a very big scam. Jamie Bartlett reports for BBC News.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 November 2019 at 4:59 pm

The Real Class War

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Julius Krein writes in American Affairs:

Since at least 2016, the divide between the “working class” and the “elite” has been considered a defining issue in American (and Western) politics. This divide has been defined in occupational terms (“blue collar” versus “information workers”), geographic terms (rural and exurban regions versus major urban cores), and meritocratic terms (non-college-educated versus those with elite credentials). Oc­casionally, it is given an explicitly moral connotation (“somewheres” versus “anywheres,” “deplorables” versus “cosmopolitans”). All of these glosses effectively track basic economic categories: those who are seen to have enjoyed success in recent decades and those who have been “left behind.”

Like most clichés, this one contains elements of truth. The work­ing class has experienced economic stagnation and precarity, and even declining life expectancy in the United States, as well as lower family stability and civic engagement. Social mobility has declined, while inequality has widened.

But it is precisely for these reasons that the working class is unlikely to be decisive in shaping politics for the foreseeable future. However one defines the working class, it has scarcely any political agency in the current system and no apparent means for acquiring any. At most, working-class voters can cast their ballots for an “un­acceptable” candidate, but they can exercise no influence on policy formation or agency personnel, much less on governance areas that have been transferred to technocratic bodies. In countries like France, the working class might still be able to veto certain policies through public demonstrations, but such actions seem unlikely in the United States, and even the most heroic efforts of this kind show little prospect of achieving systemic reforms.

For regimes that style themselves liberal democracies, this situation might be disconcerting, yet it has persisted for some time. The policy agenda that brought about the political and economic marginalization of the working class was adopted between the 1970s and the early 2000s. A more organized working class was unable to stop it then; it is difficult to imagine a weakened working class reversing it now.

While a restive working class might provide fertile ground for po­litical upheavals, any fundamental transformation of Western politics will necessarily be led by increasing numbers of the “elite” who defect from the dominant policy consensus and rethink their allegiance to establishment paradigms. Conventional narratives, including many that are critical of the status quo, paint the elite as a unified block aligned with neoliberalism. But the neoliberal economy has created a profound fracture within the elite, the significance of which is just beginning to be felt.

The socioeconomic divide that will determine the future of poli­tics, particularly in the United States, is not between the top 30 per­cent or 10 percent and the rest, nor even between the 1 percent and the 99 percent. The real class war is between the 0.1 percent and (at most) the 10 percent—or, more precisely, between elites primarily dependent on capital gains and those primarily dependent on profes­sional labor.

The last few years have brought about a new “discovery” of working-class immiseration—a media phenomenon arguably pro­voked by renewed elite anxieties. As a result, the story of a declining working class is now broadly understood. It is, after all, decades old, and it was entirely predictable if not exactly intended. Much less understood, however, is the more recent reshaping and radicalization of the professional managerial class. While the top 5 or 10 percent may not deserve public sympathy, their underperformance relative to the top 0.1 percent will be more politically significant than the hol­lowing out of the working or lower-middle classes. Unlike the work­ing class, the professional managerial class is still capable of, and re­quired for, wielding political power.

At bottom, the economy that has been constructed over the last few decades is nothing more than a capital accumulation economy. As long as returns on capital exceed returns on labor, then the largest capital holders benefit the most, inequality rises, and wealth becomes more and more narrowly concentrated.1 Labor—including elite la­bor—is inevitably left behind. Marxian thinkers have been analyzing these dynamics for almost two centuries, but they have often misread the political effects of these developments, which play out primarily among the elite managerial class, rather than within the binary of capitalists and proletarians.

The Forgotten Managers

Discussions of stagnant wage growth for nonmanagerial workers since the 1970s have become commonplace over the last few years, along with the story of hardening socioeconomic divides.2 “The 9.9 percent is the new American aristocracy,” as one Atlantic headline put it.3 Yet what is happening within the 9.9 percent has received little scrutiny. In fact, the fortunes of the members of this new “aristocra­cy” have diverged considerably. The performance gap between the top 1 or 0.1 percent versus the top 10 percent is actually larger than the gap between those right at 10 percent and any part of the bottom 90 percent.

Members of the top 5 or 10 percent have done better than the middle and working classes in recent decades, but this masks their dramatic underperformance relative to the top 1 percent (and espe­cially the top 0.1 percent). Since 1979, the real annual earnings growth of the top 1 percent has more than tripled that of earners at 10 percent, while growth for the 0.1 percent is, in turn, more than twice that of the 1 percent.

The picture is even darker when the elite category is expanded. Senator Ben Sasse, for example, drawing on Robert Putnam, has defined the “mobile educated elite” as the top 31 percent.4 But the top 1 percent has left the rest of this group far behind. According to the Congressional Budget Office, income grew 226 percent after taxes and transfers from 1979 to 2016 for the top 1 percent, but only 79 percent for the next 19 percent of Americans, and significantly less—47 percent—for the middle 60 percent.5 Whatever their cultural aspi­rations, the economic trajectory of someone at 31 percent is closer to that of the 61 percent than the 1 percent.

In addition, the year 2000 represented something of an inflection point for high earners—just as Chinese accession to the WTO around that time was a tipping point for manufacturing workers. After 2000, growth began to slow for all income groups, though massive inequality persisted. By contrast, from 1980 to 2000, incomes were growing at a healthy pace throughout the top 10 percent. Whatever the benefits of neoliberalism might have been, they were exhausted for all but the largest capital holders by 2000.

Lost amid the celebrations of the “information economy” in recent decades is the fact that elite career trajectories are no longer what they used to be. The performance gap of elites versus the working and middle classes has widened, but professionals outside the very top are unlikely to match the wealth accumulation of their parents.

Big Law, for example, has recovered from the immediate aftermath of the financial crisis, when articles proclaiming the death of that business model were being written every week.6 But the sector has still undergone some lasting structural austerity, particularly at the associate level, and remains far from its “golden age.”7 Associate salaries at white-shoe firms, for example, remained flat from 2007 to 2016.8 They began rising during the last two years, but analysts are already seeing industry demand slowing again.9

Finance is another sector that no longer delivers for the top 5 percent like it once did, even though firm profits are high. At Gold­man Sachs, according to Bloomberg, “Compensation per employee is down 61% . . . when adjusted for nominal wage growth in the period [since 2007].”10 Some of this decline is related to Goldman’s move into retail banking, but not all of it: “Traders have been the worst hit as trading isn’t what it used to be,” noted an analyst quoted in the Bloomberg report. Average compensation for mid-level employees in sales and trading has fallen by about half while investment banker salaries have been reduced by about one-third.11

Outside of the banks, hedge fund returns have been disappointing for decades. Of the thousands of funds that exist today, no more than a handful have any reason to exist. Accordingly, fees have been falling across the industry for several years.12 Typical employees can enjoy a comfortable lifestyle, to be sure, but they are unlikely to accumulate substantial capital themselves—certainly nothing equivalent to what their counterparts in the 1980s and ’90s achieved. Even at the very top, the latest generation of celebrity managers, such as Bill Ackman, Da­vid Einhorn, and Dan Loeb, have mostly fallen flat. They will never match the records of the older generation of stars who got their start in the Reagan era—though many of these managers have also sput­tered. Private equity is comparatively healthier, but it has become highly competitive and increasingly reliant on financial engineering gimmicks, such as selling companies between funds managed by the same firm.13 In short, the effects of financialization on the real econ­omy are being replicated within the industry itself—the upward redistribution of rents within a context of overall deceleration.

Silicon Valley, meanwhile, continues to be seen as the brightest star in the new economy universe. For founders and venture capitalists, it would be difficult to imagine a better system for minting billionaires—even if today’s most celebrated start-ups, like Uber and WeWork, increasingly look like attempts to subsidize revenue growth at a loss in order to pursue monopoly rents, although with dubious prospects.14 But the Valley has never been particularly fertile for the salaried professionals and “engineers” hired by these companies, who even now generally make less than their counterparts on Wall Street or in Big Law. Kindergarten playroom office spaces and other exag­gerated perks often serve to distract employees from this harsh reali­ty.15 The median salary for U.S. IT workers, who frequently must live in high-priced urban areas, is only $81,000.16 Moreover, increasing numbers of engineers, even at the most prestigious companies, are hired on temporary contracts. When the artificial growth model stalls, employees can expect mass layoffs, “anti-hierarchy” propaganda not­withstanding. Companies like Uber and WeWork are the most prominent cases recently, but employees at many oft-hyped tech companies report surprisingly high anxiety about job security: more than 70 percent of Tesla, eBay, and Snapchat employees said they were afraid of being laid off, according to one survey released this year.17

Other professionals often fare worse. Many positions that require advanced degrees, large student loans, and living in expensive cities barely pay $100,000 a year. The streets of Cambridge, Massachusetts, are filled with large numbers of scientists with doctorates from pres­tigious universities working at top biotech firms or research institutes, but living seven to a house with little hope of accumulating savings. The career prospects of journalists and academics—ironic casualties of the “information economy”—are declining even more relentlessly. When members of these professions write about embittered working-class Trump supporters in declining industries, they may as well be writing about themselves. Indeed the conspicuous embrace of “elite values” by journalists and academics is often little more than an aspi­rational attempt to remain connected to an economically distant elite—just as educated millennials’ conspicuous consumption of “ex­periences” often serves as a necessary distraction from the grim reality that most will never be able to own a home.

The Rising Costs of Elite Membership

Meanwhile, the costs of maintaining elite status—and passing it on to one’s children—have risen disproportionately for the top 5 or 10 percent. The ongoing decline of the middle and working classes may have reinforced the top 10 percent’s sense of elite status, but it also means that any backsliding would be catastrophic. These pressures have converged in two key areas in particular: real estate and education.

The narrowing of economic opportunity into a smaller number of sectors and geographies (partly due to deindustrialization) has result­ed in a clustering of elites into a handful of “superzips.” Even among those who have managed to do well in the heartland, their children will most likely leave for New York, San Francisco, or a handful of other cities. They often have to in order to achieve the same earning potential as their parents. Real estate prices in these areas have risen accordingly. A study by the Brookings Institution showed that the median income rose by 26 percent in San Francisco from 2008 to 2016, but rents more than doubled during the same period.18 Because of rising real estate costs, households earning in the top 25 percent nationally are actually classified as “low income” in San Francisco. The household “low income” threshold in the Golden Gate City is now approximately $117,000.19 By comparison, a household needs to earn about $100,000 to make it into the top 31 percent nationally; the national top 10 percent household income threshold is approximately $178,000.20

In addition to deindustrialization and sectoral clustering, financialization and rising intra-elite inequality added further pressure. The immediate effect of global oligarchs buying investment properties and pieds-à-terre in prime urban areas was to price out professional elites. These displaced elites then began gentrifying working-class and mid­dle-class neighborhoods. An entire “creative class” ideology was constructed to explain this phenomenon, but its intensity simply concealed the desperation of second-tier elites to assuage their status anxiety. In reality, they simply could not afford to live in the areas where people of their status used to live, just like the working-class people whom they were, in turn, pushing out even further. On the other hand, in areas that were casualties of deindustrialization, many elite neighborhoods steadily declined.

At the same time, the costs of passing elite status onto one’s children—elite education—rose rapidly. Between 1973 and 2013, tui­tion costs rose faster than even the 1 percent’s income growth—and more than twice the rate of the top 5 or 10 percent’s income growth.21

The 2019 “Varsity Blues” college admissions scandal offers a unique window into the pressures that educational credentialing is creating even at the top levels of the elite. The scandal involved a number of wealthy parents bribing college coaches to get their chil­dren into prestigious universities through athletic recruiting, along with fraudulent test scores. The orchestrator of the scheme described the process as a “side door”—in contrast to the “front door” (students getting in on their own) and the “back door” (families making large donations to the university).22 It should surprise no one, of course, that elites are using their wealth to allow their children to cut to the front of the line. American meritocracy has been a sham for a long time. Rather, what is new about this scandal is the fact that a former CEO of pimco, a managing partner and founder of TPG Capital, and the cochairman of Willkie Farr and Gallagher felt compelled to use the “side door,” presumably because they could not afford the “back door.” Whatever else the scandal says about elite universities circa 2019, it reveals the seedy depths of intra-elite inequality and competition.

Moreover, while the costs of education have risen, since 2000 the rewards have been declining. During the 1990s, the wage premium for college education grew significantly. From 2000 to 2014, however, wages for young college graduates actually fell.23 In recent quarters, wages for lower-income workers are growing faster.24 These trends, combined with real estate trends, have led to more college graduates—28 percent—living with their parents than ever before.25 (The numbers are around 40 percent in New York and Los Angeles.)

Upper-Middle-Class American Radicals

Since 2000, the combination of stagnation, widening inequality, and the increasing cost of maintaining elite status has arguably had a more pronounced impact on the professional elite than on the working class, which was already largely marginalized by that point. Elites outside of the very top found themselves falling further behind their supposed cultural peers, without being able to look forward to rapid­ly rising incomes for themselves.

This underappreciated reality at least partially explains one of the apparent puzzles of American politics in recent years: namely . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Optimism seems increasingly out of touch.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 November 2019 at 4:44 pm

Morality and beliefs

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A recent Quora question I encountered was “Is it immoral to not believe in God’s existence?” I think it’s clear that the “existence” to which they refer is an objective existence independent of human culture — the existence of (say) the sun and birds rather than the existence of (for example) chess, jazz, and the German language. The sun and birds exist independently of human culture, and thus all human cultures include recognition of those. Chess, jazz, and the German language do exist (I play chess, enjoy listening to jazz, and know a little German), but their existence is only within human culture and most human cultures don’t know those. (In my view, the existence of God(s) is the latter sort of existence: within human culture.)

So to the question: “Is it immoral to believe that God has no existence outside human culture?”

I think it obviously is not, because morality is about behavior, not beliefs. You can believe anything you want, but whether you are moral or not depends on how you treat other people. Indeed, some people have morally admirable beliefs but immoral behavior. Chris Argyris wrote (very interesting) books about this in the context of business. He discussed how CEOs, lacking honest feedback, often find that their expressed code of behavior (their beliefs in how one should behave) drifts from their actual code of behavior (how they actually behave). For example, they may believe that open discussion of ideas is valued, but when they present plans they shut down any disagreement. Morality is concerned with their behavior, not with their beliefs and ideas.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 November 2019 at 9:17 am

Posted in Daily life

A better EJ clone, with LA Shaving Soap’s synergistic Vanilla/Eucalyptus/Mint

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Today’s natural-bristle brush begins the Wet Shaving Products shelf. I have several of their brushes, which I find to be excellent. Certainly this one, a Monarch, did a super job with LA Shaving Soap’s excellent Vanilla/Eucalyptus/Mint shaving soap. The lather is fragrant — and refreshing on the skin.

The RazoRock MJ-90A puts the Gillette Heritage in the shade: it shaves better, it’s much higher quality and has better materials and workmanship, and it costs less (presumably because “RazoRock” has not achieved the market recognition and appeal that “Gillette” has — but to be fair, “Gillette” has a head start of more than a century).

Three passes, lovely shave, perfectly smooth action, perfectly smooth result, and a tiny dab of Esbjerg Aftershave Gel to finish the job nicely.

A wonderful start to a sunny day.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 November 2019 at 8:17 am

Posted in Shaving

Great recipe web site: 101 Cookbooks

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Just to point out three:

Beet Caviar

Nikki’s Sweet Potatoes (and I recommend using Jewel yams (which are sweet potatoes))

Ribolitta – a Tuscan stew

Written by LeisureGuy

28 November 2019 at 7:04 pm

Who Is Doing the Pointing When Communication Is Facilitated?

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A very interesting article from the McGill Office for Science and Society by Jonathan Jarry. It reminded of of Clever Hans, the horse, except….

ddressing the topic of facilitated communication in a public arena feels like walking into a military academy with a target on your back. It requires disentangling the emotions from the science, because these emotions run high. This is akin to criticizing religion.

At the core of facilitated communication—a technique that claims to allow people with disabilities to communicate eloquently by providing a facilitator to hold their hand, arm, and/or shoulder—lies a significant question, one to which scientists have an answer but which believers in the technique routinely dodge: who is doing the pointing?

A brief history of facilitation

The seed for facilitated communication (FC) grew in the 1960s but it didn’t fully germinate until the 1970s in Australia, when special educator Rosemary Crossley used it on 12 children with physical and mental handicaps. Right from the get-go, her findings were disputed by the hospital and the Health Commission of Victoria. Undeterred, Crossley founded the DEAL Communication Centre (now the Anne McDonald Centre) to offer this therapy and, in 1989, educator Douglas Biklen saw Crossley in Australia and transplanted FC into the United States, specifically Syracuse University.

Facilitated communication targets “disabled communication partners”. They may have cerebral palsy or a head injury; they may have Down syndrome or some other intellectual disability; or they may be at the severe end of the autism spectrum. For one reason or another, they are often unable to speak, write or type unassisted. A facilitator comes along and holds the communication partner’s limb to get them to type on a keyboard or to point at a letter board. Through this facilitation, individuals who had been thought of as unable to communicate or even as intellectually disabled are revealed, very quickly after the start of FC, to have rich inner lives. To people who believe in the miracle of FC, the facilitation demonstrates that what was first thought of as a mental disability is in fact purely a motor problem. It’s the equivalent of using a cane to compensate for a wobbly ankle. People whose communication has seemingly been facilitated in this way have gone on to write poetry books, deliver TEDx talks, and even write a short documentary film.

I visited the websites of some autistic people who believe that FC genuinely works. There are even self-advocacy autism associations that endorse FC. To its advocates, FC seems more than just a therapy; it’s a tool for empowerment. It’s about giving a voice to the voiceless, hearing their stories, emancipating them from their bodies to turn them into outspoken decision makers.

If this all sounds too good to be true, then we have to ask ourselves a very important question: how would we test for this? What kind of test could we devise that would assure us that the person doing the typing is indeed the partner with the disability and not the facilitator?

The scientific debate ended two decades ago

The answer to the question is to separate the facilitator from the communication partner. Imagine asking the facilitator to leave the room, showing an object to their partner then hiding it, and bringing the facilitator back in the room. Can the two of them type out the name of the object? The answer is no. Several trials were conducted in this way (also by using pairs of headphones that played back different words to the facilitator), and these studies revealed that it was the facilitator who was doing the pointing. Systematic reviews of the evidence up until 2018 have summarized the state of our scientific knowledge: there is no evidence that FC is a valid form of communication for people with severe communication disabilities. The American Psychological Association even issued a resolution in 1994 to this effect.

Even without the knowledge of these scientific trials, we can watch videos of FC and often see for ourselves that the people being assisted are frequently not even looking at the keyboard while the facilitator is moving their hand.

So what’s the harm? I was recently told on Twitter that the mere fact that it can’t be replicated under laboratory conditions is no reason to dismiss it. As long as it makes people happy, I was told, let them indulge.

It first bears mentioning that putting words into the mouth of an individual with a severe communication impairment is, at the very least, highly problematic and has been called “an abuse of human rights” by some. If we value the self-expression of these individuals, we cannot endorse trickery. But the harmful aspect of FC is not limited to this mirage of communication.

It turns out that several people have been accused of sexual abuse through FC. A child with a communication disability starts behaving aggressively with their facilitator—possibly because of lack of sleep, depression, illness, mood fluctuations—and the facilitator, who has been told to expect physical and sexual abuse with some of their clients, gets the child to type out that they were abused. The child is taken away from their parents, an investigation takes place, but the parents are eventually found to be innocent.

This famously happened to Janyce Boynton, who was a facilitator in Maine in 1992 dealing with a 16-year-old nonspeaking autistic girl, Betsy. It was through FC that Betsy seemingly accused both her brother and father of sexually abusing her. But a speech pathologist tested Betsy and Boynton, showing them different pictures. And it was the names of the pictures shown to Boynton, the facilitator, and not Betsy that Betsy would type out.

Janyce Boynton has since renounced FC and has become a vocal critic of this discredited technique. But a number of relatives of children with a disability have been accused in this way of molestation, and at least one facilitator has been convicted of rape after getting “consent” from her non-communicative partner through FC. There’s also the truly grim tale of a mother who was found guilty of manslaughter for the death of her eight-year-old autistic son, justifying it by claiming he had told her, through FC, that he wanted to die.

The “I love you, mommy” delusion

I have seen the following argument being made: Stephen Hawking had a communication disorder but no one questioned the words coming out of his machine, which “facilitated” his self-expression. Isn’t this a shining example of facilitated communication that works?

The difference is . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 November 2019 at 6:32 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science

Quite an amazing — and therapeutic — Twitter thread

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Written by LeisureGuy

28 November 2019 at 11:39 am

Bovine milk, type 1 diabetes, and the Icelandic exception

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Michael Greger MD blogs at NutritionFacts.org:

The tight correlation among countries between the incidence of type 1 diabetes in children and cow’s milk consumption didn’t account for Iceland. Indeed, studies correlating dairy intake in children and adolescents with the incidence of type 1 diabetes deliberately excluded the Icelandic data. Why? Is it because of genetics? Perhaps, yes and no. The people of Iceland are similar genetically to other Nordic countries, but their cows are not. As I discuss in my video Does Bovine Insulin in Milk Trigger Type 1 Diabetes?, there are two main types of the cow milk protein casein: A1 and A2. Icelandic cattle, who “have been isolated from interbreeding with other cattle breeds for over 1,100 years,” are unusual in that they produce mostly A2 milk, which may explain the lower incidence of type 1 diabetes in Iceland.

Unlike A2 casein, A1 casein breaks down into casomorphin, which has opioid properties that may alter immune function, perhaps increasing susceptibility to infections that may themselves trigger type 1 diabetes. That’s what’s in the milk from the classic black-and-white patterned Holstein cows, who make up about 95 percent of the U.S. dairy herd and much of the global herd—A1 casein. This issue has even caused dairy boards to begin taking out patents on methods for selecting “nondiabetogenic” milk to avoid triggering of Type 1 diabetes. Indeed, looking only at A1 casein consumption certainly restores that tight linear relationship between milk intake and type 1 diabetes and you can see at 1:47 in the video.

These so-called ecological, or country-by-country, studies, however, primarily serve to suggest possibilities that then need to be put to the test. For example, a study was designed where hundreds of siblings of type 1 diabetics were followed for about ten years and found that those who drank a lot of milk did have about five times the risk of coming down with the disease, too. By the mid-1990s, more than a dozen such studies were done.

Overall, researchers found that early cow’s milk exposure appears to increase the risk of type 1 diabetes by about 50 percent. Those data were enough for the American Academy of Pediatrics to decide that “cow’s milk protein may be an important factor” in the initiation of the process that destroys our insulin-producing cells. The organization went on to say that the avoidance of cow’s milk protein may reduce or delay the onset of type 1 diabetes. As such, the American Academy of Pediatrics emphasizes that breast milk is best and, for those at higher risk of the disease, strongly encourages the avoidance of products containing cow’s milk protein that is intact, as opposed to hydrolyzed formula where the milk proteins are broken up into tiny pieces.

Typically, hydrolyzed formula is given to children with dairy allergies and could potentially make it less risky, but we don’t know until we put it to the test. Based on the population studies and meta-analyses of antibody studies, which suggested that “cow’s milk may serve as a trigger of Type 1 diabetes,” a pilot study was initiated the following year. Researchers wanted to see if babies at high genetic risk for the disease would be less likely to develop antibodies that would then attack their own pancreas if they drank hydrolyzed casein—that is, casein that was chopped up. The hydrolyzed formula did seem to reduce the appearance of at least one autoimmune antibody, but not two or more, which is much more predictive of the development of the disease.

Nevertheless, that was enough for the investigators to embark on the ambitious Trial to Reduce Incidence of Diabetes in Genetically at Risk, also known as the TRIGR study. This multinational, randomized prospective trial involved randomizing thousands of newborns across 15 countries. In 2010, preliminary data suggested the hydrolyzed formula may have helped, but they didn’t quite reach statistical significance, approximately meaning there was greater than a 1 in 20 chance the findings could have just been a fluke. Indeed, when the final autoimmune antibody results were published, the special hydrolyzed formula didn’t seem to help at all.

The researchers only looked at a special group of children, though—ones who were at high genetic risk with diabetes running in the family—whereas the great majority of children who get type 1 diabetes do not have any afflicted close relative. Perhaps most importantly, however, as the researchers themselves emphasized, their study wasn’t designed to test whether cow’s milk is or is not a trigger for the disease. Instead, it aimed to analyze the potential effects of the hydrolyzed casein formula. Maybe it’s not the casein, though. Maybe it’s the bovine insulin.

Insulin autoantibodies—antibodies our body produces to attack our own insulin—often appear as the first sign in prediabetic children. “Because cow’s milk contains bovine insulin,” around the same time researchers were looking into casein, another team “followed the development of insulin-binding antibodies in children fed with cow’s milk formula.” They found significantly more antibodies to bovine insulin in the cow’s milk formula group compared to the exclusively breastfed group, who may have only been exposed to cow proteins through their mom’s breast milk (if their mothers consumed dairy). Furthermore, the bovine antibodies cross-reacted with human insulin, potentially being that caught-in-the-crossfire cause triggering at least some cases of type 1 diabetes.

Of course, we can’t know for sure until we put it to the test. Researchers ran another randomized, double-blind trial, but, this time, tried a cow’s milk formula from which the bovine insulin had been removed. And, indeed, without the bovine insulin exposure, the children built up significantly fewer autoimmune antibodies. What we don’t know yet is whether this will translate into fewer cases of diabetes.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 November 2019 at 11:13 am

Giant Spaghetti-Stuffed Meatball

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Amazing, eh? Recipe here.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 November 2019 at 11:06 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

Lavender’s Blue, Dilly Dilly

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Damned if I could find a clip from the original Disney Cinderella (1950). Still, it was a great shave.

Mr Pomp created the wonderful D.R. Harris lather in lavender, and then my new blue Baby Smooth slicked away lather and stubble leaving a perfectly smooth result, which enjoyed the splash of D.R. Harris Old English Lavender Water.

Happy Thanksgiving to all. And I start the day with a shave for which I’m thankful.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 November 2019 at 8:54 am

Posted in Daily life, Shaving

Yet another: Multiple Women Recall Sexual Misconduct and Retaliation by Gordon Sondland

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Julia Silverman, Kelly Clarke, and Fiona McCann, Portland Monthly, with Maryam Jameel and Doris Burke report in ProPublica:

Three women say they faced sexual misconduct by Gordon Sondland before he was the U.S. ambassador to the European Union and at the center of the presidential impeachment inquiry. They say he retaliated against them professionally after they rejected his advances.

In one case, a potential business partner recalls that Sondland took her to tour a room in a hotel he owns, only to then grab her face and try to kiss her. After she rejected him, Sondland backtracked on investing in her business.

Another woman, a work associate at the time, says Sondland exposed himself to her during a business interaction. She also recalls falling over the back of a couch trying to get away from him. After she made her lack of interest clear, she says Sondland called her, screaming about her job performance.

A third woman, 27 years Sondland’s junior, met him to discuss a potential job. She says he pushed himself against her and kissed her. She shoved him away. She says his job help stopped.

All three women have agreed to be named in this story. In all the cases, friends, family members or colleagues of the women recall being told about the encounters at the time. The cases span a seven-year period, ending less than a decade ago. Sondland denies the allegations.

“In decades of my career in business and civic affairs, my conduct can be affirmed by hundreds of employees and colleagues with whom I have worked in countless circumstances,” Sondland said in a statement. “These untrue claims of unwanted touching and kissing are concocted and, I believe, coordinated for political purposes. They have no basis in fact, and I categorically deny them.” (Read his statement.)

Sondland’s lawyer added in a letter: “Notably, what each of these three women share in common is that they pursued Ambassador Sondland for financial and personal gain — an investment, a job, and insurance brokerage work — and he declined their proposals.”

The lawyer, Jim McDermott, also wrote that the three women are trying to undermine Sondland’s latest testimony. “Given the timing of your intended story, a reasonable conclusion to be drawn is that you are attempting to affect Ambassador Sondland’s credibility as a fact witness in the pending impeachment inquiry,” McDermott wrote. “Given the politically charged climate in which current events are unfolding, some might consider this to be veiled witness tampering.”

Reporting on this story began in October, around the time of Sondland’s initial impeachment testimony, in which he backed the president’s assertion that there was no quid pro quo involving Ukraine.

The day after Sondland gave that testimony, Nicole Vogel spoke at the Day of the Girl Luncheon in Seattle, an event hosted by a regional nonprofit, Girls Inc., whose mission is to inspire “all girls to be strong, smart, and bold.” Vogel decided to recount her Sondland story and name him.

Vogel also mentioned it to an editor at Portland Monthly, the co-publisher of this story, and she later spoke about it again at a breakfast event in Portland.

[Editor’s note: Vogel is the owner of Portland Monthly. Vogel cooperated with the story as a source. She was not involved in editorial decisions. The magazine’s editorial team decided to partner with ProPublica to independently report her story.]

“There were a lot of indecent proposals when I was raising capital, but none as brazen as his,” Vogel recalls. She encountered Sondland 16 years ago when she was trying to raise money to start her magazine. “I have nothing to say about what he did or didn’t do [involving Ukraine]. But if people are asking what his moral character is, I have one more piece of evidence for them.”

The women had kept their stories to their own circles, even after Sondland was nominated and vetted for an ambassadorship by a president who himself has been accused of sexual misconduct by more than 20 women. The women say they were not contacted by the government for any background checks.

In 2003, Vogel had an idea to start a magazine with her journalist brother that would chronicle Portland’s exploding art, culture and food scenes. She was 34 years old and fresh off a job at Move.com. Armed with full mock-ups of the magazine and detailed financial projections, the search for investors led her to Sondland.

Sondland has long been a power player in Portland, where he is one of the region’s most prominent business figures. He owns five hotels in Portland under the umbrella of the company he founded, Provenance Hotel Group. He was once asked at a panel why he got into the business. “It combines all the elements that give me a reason to get up in the morning,” Sondland said. “You have food, you have wine, you have design, you have art, you have intrigue, you have sex. You have everything you can think of.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 November 2019 at 3:16 pm

New batch of tempeh chili

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And a pretty good-sized batch: at least 5 quarts, which will last me a while. I used (cooked) kamut for the grain. Roughly this list of ingredients:

1/4 extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped scallions
1 large red  onion, chopped
1/2 cup garlic (chopped small)
2 jalapeños, chopped small
4 Anaheim peppers, seeded and chopped
2 poblano peppers, seeded and chopped
12-14 oz mushrooms, quartered — use crimini mushrooms, not domestic white
4 ancho chiles, cut into small pieces
1 small can chipotles in adobo
3 Tbsp Mexican oregano
3 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp ground ancho chili
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
1 Tbsp dried marjoram
1 Tbsp dried thyme
2 Tbsp liquid smoke
1 can Aylmer’s Chili tomatoes (540ml ≈ 18 oz)
1 14.5-oz canned diced tomatoes
6 canned tomatillos, chopped
1 small can no-salt-added tomato paste
3 small squares baking chocolate (these seemed small than other squares I’ve seen)
10 oz tempeh, diced — soybean tempeh this time
1.5 cup cooked kamut
2 Tbsp brown-rice vinegar
1/4 cup water
3 lemons, blended after peel removed (I cut it off)

1 bunch cilantro, chopped — when served (added after cooking)

Never twice the same recipe…

Written by LeisureGuy

27 November 2019 at 3:12 pm

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