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Archive for March 14th, 2020

An interesting bit of history: Democrats and Their Media Allies Impugned Biden’s Cognitive Fitness. Now They Feign Outrage.

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Glenn Greenwald reports in the Intercept:

IT IS VIRTUALLY REQUIRED in Democratic Party politics to periodically express revulsion about the bigoted political attacks wielded for years against former President Barack Obama: images designed to emphasize his African roots, false claims he was Muslim, the campaign of de-legitimacy based in the racist allegation that he was born in Kenya.

But that mandated Party denunciation often obscures the undeniable fact that — while Republicans seized on and drove them — all of those attacks also emanated from within the Party, particularly from the 2008 Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, which employed them to try to sink Obama’s rival presidential candidacy. In February, 2008, Clinton campaign officials widely circulated a photo of Obama meeting with tribal elders while dressed in Somali garb on a trip to rural Kenya, an act which Obama’s campaign chief David Plouffe angrily denounced as “the most shameful, offensive fear-mongering we’ve seen from either party in this election.”

In December, 2007, the Clinton campaign — weeks before the Iowa caucus — was forced to “request” one of its volunteer county coordinators leave the campaign when it was revealed that the official, along with numerous other Clinton supporters, were forwarding and posting emails claiming Obama was Muslim and sent by “madrassas” to infiltrate the U.S. on behalf of radical Islam.

When Donald Trump, in 2011, began pushing the “birtherism” attacks against Obama into the mainstream, Politico’s Ben Smith and Byron Tau wrote an article entitled “Birtherism: Where it all began,” and explained: “The answer lies in Democratic, not Republican politics, and in the bitter, exhausting spring of 2008.” While the blatantly false theory that Obama was not U.S.-born first originated on fringe right-wing sites and not from Democrats, Politico documented that it was during the 2008 Democratic primary, not the General Election, when the repellent theory first gained traction as a result of Clinton supporters spreading it:

Then, as Obama marched toward the presidency, a new suggestion emerged: That he was not eligible to serve. (See:  Birther debate alive across U.S.)

That theory first emerged in the spring of 2008, as Clinton supporters circulated an anonymous email questioning Obama’s citizenship.

“Barack Obama’s mother was living in Kenya with his Arab-African father late in her pregnancy. She was not allowed to travel by plane then, so Barack Obama was born there and his mother then took him to Hawaii to register his birth,” asserted one chain email that surfaced on the urban legend site Snopes.com in April 2008.

All of that was consistent with a very deliberate and carefully crafted strategy from the Clinton campaign of depicting Obama as an exotic, foreign, non-American Other. In early 2007, the Clinton family’s long-time chief political strategist Mark Penn wrote a now-notorious memo proclaiming Obama “unelectable except perhaps against Attila the Hun,” and decreed: “I cannot imagine America electing a president during a time of war who is not at his center fundamentally American in his thinking and in his values,” and directing that Obama be targeted for his “lack of American roots.”

In other words, the very attacks that Democrats with virtual unanimity today vilify as disgusting, racist smears were ones that emanated from their own party — either from the Clinton campaign itself (maliciously spreading the photo of Obama in Kenya in traditional Somalian clothing and suggesting he is Muslim) or from various Clinton supporters (falsely claiming he was not eligible to run for office).

And now they are doing the exact same thing when it comes to plainly valid questions concerning Joe Biden’s cognitive fitness: expressing revulsion and scorn at the mere mention of these questions and declaring the topic off-limits to all decent people even though establishment Democrats were the ones who first spread insinuations and even explicit accusations about Biden’s cognitive decline when they thought doing so could help them defeat him and/or because it genuinely concerned them regarding his ability to defeat Trump.

PRIOR TO JOE BIDEN’S MASSIVE VICTORY in the South Carolina primary and his even-more impressive Super Tuesday showing, many viewed his candidacy as all but dead. A fourth-place finish in Iowa was followed up by a fifth-place finish in New Hampshire, causing the corporate donors on which he centrally relies to flee and his political obituaries to be widely written.

But since then, he has consolidated his status as Democratic front-runner and, as is customary, he is receiving far greater attention than previously, particularly on the question most on the minds of Democratic voters: his “electability” against Trump. And one of the towering questions in that regard is his cognitive fitness: it is visible to the naked eye that the 77-year-old six-term Senator and two-term Vice President is in serious cognitive decline.

That is a grave matter not just because the establishment wing of the Democratic Party wants to put him in charge of the world’s most dangerous nuclear arsenal, a large chunk of the planet’s health, and the welfare of hundreds of millions of people, but also because it directly pertains to whether he can sustain the rigors and spotlight of a General Election against the incumbent President. And multiple incidents over the past couple weeks — from Biden’s forgetting the words of the most iconic and memorized passage of the Declaration of Independence to confusing his wife for his sister to spouting sentences that make no sense — have only intensified those worries.

But, as the Democratic establishment has united with creepy speed and obedience behind Biden in order to stop the Sanders candidacy, those who now raise these concerns instantly come under a withering assault of insults and attacks from Democratic Party operatives along with their crucial media allies: thinly disguised pro-Biden reporters who continue to insist on wearing the unconvincing and fraudulent costume of neutrality. They are invoking the classic Orwellian formulation from the novel 1984: “The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.”

CNN’s Democratic Party consultant Karen Finney condemned the discussion of Biden’s cognitive capabilities as “truly a disgusting low blow,” demanding that former Democratic presidential candidates Julian Castro and Cory Booker — both of whom themselves had commented upon Biden’s cognitive failures (on camera!) — announce (falsely) that their prior comments about Biden had been distorted. Castro’s Communication’s Director, Sawyer Hackett, dutifully . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 March 2020 at 8:55 pm

The Fall of the US: One more crack in the foundations

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Dahlia Lithwick writes in Slate:

James Dannenberg is a retired Hawaii state judge. He sat on the District Court of the 1st Circuit of the state judiciary for 27 years. Before that, he served as the deputy attorney general of Hawaii. He was also an adjunct professor at the University of Hawaii Richardson School of Law, teaching federal jurisdiction for more than a decade. He has appeared on briefs and petitions as part of the most prestigious association of attorneys in the country: the Supreme Court Bar. The lawyers admitted to practice before the high court enjoy preferred seating at arguments and access to the court library, and are deemed members of the legal elite. Above all, the bar stands as a sprawling national signifier that the work of the court, the legitimacy of the institution, and the business of justice is bolstered by tens of thousands of lawyers across the nation.

On Wednesday, Dannenberg tendered a letter of resignation from the Supreme Court Bar to Chief Justice John Roberts. He has been a member of that bar since 1972. In his letter, reprinted in full below, Dannenberg compares the current Supreme Court, with its boundless solicitude for the rights of the wealthy, the privileged, and the comfortable, to the court that ushered in the Lochner era in the early 20th century, a period of profound judicial activism that put a heavy thumb on the scale for big business, banking, and insurance interests, and ruled consistently against child labor, fair wages, and labor regulations.

The Chief Justice of the United States
One First Street, N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20543

March 11, 2020

Dear Chief Justice Roberts:

I hereby resign my membership in the Supreme Court Bar.

This was not an easy decision. I have been a member of the Supreme Court Bar since 1972, far longer than you have, and appeared before the Court, both in person and on briefs, on several occasions as Deputy and First Deputy Attorney General of Hawaii before being appointed as a Hawaii District Court judge in 1986. I have a high regard for the work of the Federal Judiciary and taught the Federal Courts course at the University of Hawaii Richardson School of Law for a decade in the 1980s and 1990s. This due regard spanned the tenures of Chief Justices Warren, Burger, and Rehnquist before your appointment and confirmation in 2005. I have not always agreed with the Court’s decisions, but until recently I have generally seen them as products of mainstream legal reasoning, whether liberal or conservative. The legal conservatism I have respected– that of, for example, Justice Lewis Powell, Alexander Bickel or Paul Bator– at a minimum enshrined the idea of stare decisis and eschewed the idea of radical change in legal doctrine for political ends.

I can no longer say that with any confidence. You are doing far more— and far worse– than “calling balls and strikes.” You are allowing the Court to become an “errand boy” for an administration that has little respect for the rule of law.

The Court, under your leadership and with your votes, has wantonly flouted established precedent. Your “conservative” majority has cynically undermined basic freedoms by hypocritically weaponizing others. The ideas of free speech and religious liberty have been transmogrified to allow officially sanctioned bigotry and discrimination, as well as to elevate the grossest forms of political bribery beyond the ability of the federal government or states to rationally regulate it. More than a score of decisions during your tenure have overturned established precedents—some more than forty years old– and you voted with the majority in most. There is nothing “conservative” about this trend. This is radical “legal activism” at its worst.

Without trying to write a law review article, I believe that the Court majority, under your leadership, has become little more than a result-oriented extension of the right wing of the Republican Party, as vetted by the Federalist Society. Yes, politics has always been a factor in the Court’s history, but not to today’s extent. Even routine rules of statutory construction get subverted or ignored to achieve transparently political goals. The rationales of “textualism” and “originalism” are mere fig leaves masking right wing political goals; sheer casuistry.

Your public pronouncements suggest that you seem concerned about the legitimacy of the Court in today’s polarized environment. We all should be. Yet your actions, despite a few bromides about objectivity, say otherwise.

It is clear to me that your Court is willfully hurtling back to the cruel days of Lochner and even Plessy. The only constitutional freedoms ultimately recognized may soon be limited to those useful to wealthy, Republican, White, straight, Christian, and armed males— and the corporations they control. This is wrong. Period. This is not America.

I predict that  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 March 2020 at 5:00 pm

Posted in GOP, Government, Law

This Coronavirus Is Unlike Anything in Our Lifetime, and We Have to Stop Comparing It to the Flu

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Charles Ornstein reports in ProPublica:

As a longtime health care reporter, the unfolding coronavirus pandemic represents everything I’ve read about — from the early days of epidemiology to the staggering toll of the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic — but had not covered in my lifetime.

And still, I have been caught off guard by the pushback from top elected officials and even some friends and acquaintances who keep comparing it to the flu.

“So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu,” President Donald Trump wrote on Twitter on March 9. “It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!”

By Friday, Trump had declared coronavirus a national emergency, freeing up resources and removing hurdles for a faster response.

In the meantime, not one public health expert I trust — not one — has said this flu comparison is valid or that we’re overdoing it. Every single one, from former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb to Harvard professor Ashish Jha, has said we’re not doing enough, that this is far more serious than it is being taken.

Here’s why that is:

This is far deadlier than the flu.

As Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and others have said, COVID-19 is deadlier than the flu. It’s deadlier for young adults. It’s deadlier for older adults. In China, early data shows that it was 10 times deadlier. This chart from Business Insider compares U.S. flu deaths to deaths in China from COVID-19.

The flu kills less than 1% of infected people who are over age 65. By comparison, in China, COVID-19 killed 8% of those infected who were 70-79 and almost 15% of those infected who were age 80 or older. That’s a staggering difference.

Even for younger people, the difference was striking. Flu killed .02% of infected patients age 18-49. It’s 10 times that for COVID-19.

In other countries, such as South Korea, the death rate has been far lower.

But if 1 in 12 people age 70-79 who get the virus and 1 in 7 people age 80 or older who get the virus die, and the virus spreads to 20%, 40% or 70% of the population, we’re talking massive death tolls, the likes of which we have never seen before in our lives.

“I mean, people always say, well, the flu does this, the flu does that,” Fauci said Wednesday during congressional testimony. “The flu has a mortality of 0.1%. This has a mortality rate of 10 times that. That’s the reason I want to emphasize we have to stay ahead of the game in preventing this.”

Our health care system doesn’t have the capacity to deal with this.

Epidemiological experts keep talking about the need to “flatten the curve.” What they mean by that is that we need to slow the speed at which new cases are reported. We may not be able to stop the spread of the coronavirus, but we have to try to manage it. If 1,000 new cases happen over a month instead of a week, the health care system is more able to handle them.

Here’s why this is a worry:  . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more, along with a chance to provide information.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 March 2020 at 12:17 pm

What Does It Really Cost to Run a Restaurant?

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Erin Spencer writes in Eater:

have always thought to myself that the version of Top Chef that I would want to watch would be chef-owners plunging a toilet, cleaning an overflowing grease trap, balancing a balance sheet, and running payroll as fast as they could — a decathlon of all the administrative bullshit,” says Irene Li, the chef and owner of Mei Mei, a Chinese-American restaurant in Boston. “And obviously, people would be bored to death by that show, but that’s what it really is.”

These days, Li spends a lot of her time thinking about what it takes to keep a restaurant like hers running. In 2016, she was the recipient of an Eater Young Gun award; she’s been a Zagat 30 Under 30 winner, and a six-time James Beard Rising Star Chef semifinalist. That said, she kind of fell into the industry and comes by her genuine enthusiasm for “all the administrative bullshit” honestly.

In the early days at Mei Mei, success was measured by having enough dumplings to get through the day and confirming that the bank account wasn’t empty. Today, every single staff member, from the dishwasher to the line cook, can interpret and speak to the restaurant’s entire profit-and-loss statement because, for two years now, Mei Mei has been opening its books to its staff. This means all staff are able to see every line item associated with money coming in the door and all of the expenses the restaurant takes on — from paying its employees to keeping the lights on. Not only that, each employee actually plays a hand in working to move the bottom line, working on teams tasked with the goal of reducing costs and increasing profits for the business. If the team wants to research and vet new vendors, they have that power. If they want to change the menu prices for a fixed period of time, they’re able to do that too.

In the three years since implementing this practice, Li says she’s seen a measurable difference. The line cook who once questioned Li about the $9 price attached to the Double Awesome menu item, an oozy egg sandwich, can now speak to all of the other costs — the things beyond the eggs, the pesto, and the scallion pancake breading — that they wouldn’t have known to consider before. Because there’s a staff member who called the electric company for refunds when the power went out, one who negotiated for better alarm fees, and another who put in the work to source a cheaper linen provider, there’s an understanding of the full picture of what goes on at the restaurant. As Li puts it, “There’s buy-in because their fingerprints are there.”

Now, it’s no longer enough for Li to share the nitty-gritty financial info with her team. She wants the public to understand it, too.

“The lack of willingness to talk about finances in this industry is holding us back,” says Li. “Culturally, we don’t talk about money at all, and my experience, even with other restaurant owners who I’m really friendly with, is that we’ll talk about all kinds of stuff. HR drama, health inspections — warts and all — but we definitely don’t talk about money. I feel like that is the last barrier that we have to break down in order to really all get on the same page and all figure out how to do a better job.”

Armed with the blessing of her most trusted friends and family, and a lot of nervous “wows,” Li decided that 2020 was the year to start the conversation. So, in the middle of the restaurant, as the Friday dinner crowd was beginning to pick up, we sat down to review the full profit-and-loss statement for Mei Mei for 2019 — something that any diner will soon be able to do.

What exactly are we looking at here?

Profit-and-loss statements (P&Ls) offer a record of a business’s profits and losses over a defined period of time. Essentially, the larger formula you’re looking at is sales – expenditure = profit. When we opened up Li’s P&L, she explained that there are four larger buckets that all of the many line items can be sorted into: income, cost of goods sold (COGS), direct labor, and finally, pages and pages of overheads.

For a restaurant, there are a few goal ratios associated with the major expense categories. Ideally, most operators aim to see COGS and direct labor together at 60 percent (at Mei Mei they target 20 percent and 40 percent, accordingly) and other expenses at 30 percent, leaving you with 10 percent profit. She then explained that independently owned restaurants most often hang out in the 4 to 6 percent range for profit. Don’t worry — there won’t be a quiz.

Businesses are required by law to pull a P&L annually. Most restaurants look at theirs quarterly. At Mei Mei, the entire staff digs in every four weeks. . .

Continue reading. Lots of charts and interesting information. I’ve been working on my own budget, so this was particularly interesting to me.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 March 2020 at 11:56 am

Posted in Business, Daily life, Food

Day Five on the OneBlade, so I bring out the big gun: J.M. Fraser shaving cream

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The blade now needs all the help it can get, so it’s time to call on the curiously effective J.M. Fraser shaving cream, and the lather (thanks in part to the Copper Hat’s silvertip brush with a Delrin® handle) was extremely good. J.M. Fraser, for all its modest price (note that it’s a 1-lb tub), really does the job in a kind of professional, roll-up-your-sleeves, no-flash-or-flamboyance way.

And indeed the razor seem to cut at least as easily as yesterday, though I do admit that it took some blade buffing to get a smooth result — but I did get a smooth result, and at 5 shaves per blade, we’re talking $73/year for blades. At this point we’re beginning to dip to the cost of Fusion cartridges (say $3.50 each (pack of 12) and a cartridge lasts a month = $42/year). Still far above the $5-$10 year for DE blades…

But a good result, with renewed respect for J.M. Fraser. A splash of Diplomat, with its hint of a mysterious spice in the fragrance, and the weekend is underway.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 March 2020 at 9:50 am

Posted in Shaving

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