Later On

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

Archive for March 16th, 2020

Backstage at a top-notch restaurant

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Written by LeisureGuy

16 March 2020 at 9:23 pm

Posted in Business, Food, Video

Alcoholics Anonymous vs. Other Approaches: The Evidence Is Now In

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I have been quite skeptical of the efficacy of Alcoholics Anonymous because of the lack of evidence, but it seems that my skepticism was unwarranted. Austin Frakt and  write in the NY Times:

For a long time, medical researchers were unsure whether Alcoholics Anonymous worked better than other approaches to treating people with alcohol use disorder. In 2006, a review of the evidence concluded we didn’t have enough evidence to judge.

That has changed.

An updated systematic review published Wednesday by the Cochrane Collaboration found that A.A. leads to increased rates and lengths of abstinence compared with other common treatments. On other measures, like drinks per day, it performs as well as approaches provided by individual therapists or doctors who don’t rely on A.A.’s peer connections.

What changed? In short, the latest review incorporates more and better evidence. The research is based on an analysis of 27 studies involving 10,565 participants.

The 2006 Cochrane Collaboration review was based on just eight studies, and ended with a call for more research to assess the program’s efficacy. In the intervening years, researchers answered the call. The newer review also applied standards that weeded out some weaker studies that drove earlier findings.

In the last decade or so, researchers have published a number of very high-quality randomized trials and quasi-experiments. Of the 27 studies in the new review, 21 have randomized designs. Together, these flip the conclusion.

“These results demonstrate A.A.’s effectiveness in helping people not only initiate but sustain abstinence and remission over the long term,” said the review’s lead author, John F. Kelly, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and director of the Recovery Research Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital. “The fact that A.A. is free and so widely available is also good news.

“It’s the closest thing in public health we have to a free lunch.”

Studies generally show that other treatments might result in about 15 percent to 25 percent of people who remain abstinent. With A.A., it’s somewhere between 22 percent and 37 percent (specific findings vary by study). Although A.A. may be better for many people, other approaches can work, too. And, as with any treatment, it doesn’t work perfectly all the time.

Rigorous study of programs like Alcoholics Anonymous is challenging because people self-select into them. Those who do so may be more motivated to abstain from drinking than those who don’t.

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 March 2020 at 6:37 pm

Social Distancing Is Not Enough to Stop the Coronavirus

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Especially when so many people refuse to do it. Read this sobering column by Jonathan Chait in New York. From the column:

The national response that has taken shape over the last couple of days has been a patchwork of state, local, and private action. Some governors and mayors are shutting down schools or other public spaces. Others are not. The primary tool being used to contain the virus is advice to maintain “social distancing.” We should avoid large gatherings, maintain physical space from other people, wash our hands thoroughly and frequently.

For the most part, it is not working. A new NBC poll finds only 47 percent of Americans plan to avoid large gatherings, and just 36 percent say they will reschedule travel. The latter number may be misleading, as not everybody has travel plans to begin with. But social media has confirmed a broad picture of a public that has greeted the coming crisis with something close to indifference. Bars remain packed.

The task has been made far more difficult by a backlash from Republican officials, many of whom have either overtly or covertly undermined pleas from public officials. President Trump’s Friday news conference was an ill-advised display of handshaking and overconfidence. Republicans like Devin Nunes are urging people to hit the bars, feeding the misimpression they have spent weeks stoking that the virus is an overhyped plot to undermine the president. “In your more politically conservative regions, closing is not interpreted as caring for you. It’s interpreted as liberalism, or buying into the hype,” one pastor tells the Washington Post.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 March 2020 at 3:37 pm

How to structure the coronoavirus bailout

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Matt Stoller has another excellent column, which begins:

How to Do Anti-Bailout Bailouts

Wall Street and the Federal Reserve are getting ready for massive bailouts of the corporate sector. In some industries, like airlines, the aid will be direct. But in other areas, policymakers are using a code that is a bit obscure to normal people in an attempt to disguise what they are doing. So let me try to decipher how policymakers are talking about the coming bailouts.

Over the weekend, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin mentioned resurrecting the Federal Reserve’s crisis-era authority. “Certain tools were taken away that I’m going to go back to Congress and ask for,” he said. He wasn’t specific, but the tool he means is Section 13(3) of the Federal Reserve Act, which is the provision that lets the Fed do emergency lending to anyone for any reason. The Fed used this in 2008 to buy AIG, and through its ownership of AIG, send money to all of Wall Street. This was totally illegal; Congress is the only body that can authorize spending of taxpayer money, and the AIG deal took place before Congress passed the actual formal $700 billion bailout in October of 2008.

Technically the Fed isn’t supposed to be buying corporations, but short of being to unilaterally declare war, the Fed makes up the rules in a crisis. In 2016, a judge actually ruled that the Fed’s emergency lending was illegal, but also that there was nothing anyone could do about it.

During the negotiations over Dodd-Frank in 2010, Congress put limits on 13(3) which involved disclosures and other annoying constraints. These are probably what Mnuchin wants removed, so the Fed can go about its apolitical business of giving cash to powerful financiers and corporations. And then what’ll likely happen is that the Fed and Treasury will go to Congress later to ask them to authorize what they already did, and say that there will be a financial crisis if Congress doesn’t.

Is a Coronavirus Bailout Necessary?

Yes.

I’m in favor of bailing out the corporate sector, just as I think it’s critical to make sure that small businesses are made whole for something that is far beyond any of our control. But the bailout cannot and should not simply flow into the sticky hands of financiers so they can buy more private jets after the crisis has passed. Right now, the American corporate apparatus is designed as a sort of pass through entity for financiers. For instance, Toys R’ Us became a mechanism for a private equity company to grab cash, and only incidentally a toy retailer. Any bailouts – particularly to large businesses – must be conditioned to stop these kinds of transfers.

It’s unlikely most corporations could handle a shock like what they are experiencing, but our big businesses are particularly unsuited to do so now. For the last forty years, Wall Street thinned out the ability of our corporations to handle risk by loading them up with debt and encouraging mergers and offshoring. American corporations used to have little debt, as well as localized production facilities and responsible executives who understood production. It was a resilient system, able to handle swings in the economy. That is no longer the case.

Since William Simon and Michael Milken in the 1980s organized junk bond fueled takeovers, American finance has been organized around smashing our industrial systems for cash, and injecting hidden risk into American society. The lack of capacity to make our own medicine or masks is precisely a result of this hidden risk. As I wrote last July:

The goal is to eliminate production in favor of scalable profitable things like brands, patents, and tax loopholes, because producers – engineers, artists, workers – are cost centers. Production can also be eliminated by fissuring the workplace, such as the mass move to offshore production to lower cost countries in the 1980s onward. When I reported on the problem of financialization destroying our national security capacity, one of the manufacturers I talked to told me about how the “LBO boys” – or Leveraged Buy Out Boys – took apart factories in the midwest and shipped them to China.

American corporations are run not to make things, but to enable financiers and CEOs to grab cash and hide risk. They do this through four different techniques. They use:

  • Stock buybacks and dividend payouts, which means they use the corporation’s cash and credit lines to transfer money to shareholders.
  • Mergers and acquisitions to structure monopolies and/or fees for investment banks (‘payoffs for layoffs’).
  • Excessive executive compensation.
  • Lobbying and public relations to organize political control.

Fundamentally, mergers, buybacks, and excessive executive compensation are about stripping out resiliency in return for cash, and the lobbying is the political machine to protect the ability to do that.

So what to do? The answer is pretty simple.

Stop Hidden Risk Pooling

Financialization and private equity is about loading up corporations with hidden risk. We cannot afford that anymore. So here are the conditions to put on large corporations who need cash from the government.

  • No bailouts for shareholders. Shareholders took the risk and upside, they should get the downside too. A bailout means the stock value goes to zero.
  • No more buybacks ever, and no more dividends for five years. It’s time to stop asset-stripping, and restore the cushion inside corporations so they can invest in production.
  • Strict executive compensation limits. No more get rich quick schemes and golden parachutes. We need long-term leaders focused on building institutional strength.
  • No more lobbying and put limits on public relations spending. The Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 killed the ability of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to lobby, and that killed their political power. By contrast, Wall Street got bailouts with no strings attached, so they largely wrote the Dodd-Frank bill. (I was there, I saw it). Don’t repeat this.
  • No more mergers and acquisitions for five years. If you get bailouts, you have to run your business as a business, not as an acquisition target. I can imagine an exception if the business fails as a stand-alone, but exceptions need to be very narrow.

There are many details . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 March 2020 at 2:29 pm

Parker Semi-Slant and Nancy Boy

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I didn’t want to shave a two-day stubble as shave six on the OneBlade, so decided to do the usual and use a slant. Since J.M. Fraser’s shaving cream worked so well, I was drawn to my other favorite shaving cream, Nancy Boy Signature. With the Kent Infinity, I got an excellent lather, and the Parker Semi-Slant (here mounted on a Yaqi handle) did a wonderful job, which I topped off with Phoenix Artisan’s Alt-Eleven Star Jelly aftershave balm.

That particular fragrance is not currently available — a shame — and the Star Jelly balms now are mostly packaged in pump bottles, but I believe the formulation remains the same, and it’s a balm worth trying. Planet Java Hive Star Jelly lists ts ingredients as:

Deionized Water, Alcohol, Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides, Glycerin, Butylene Glycol, Caprylyl Methicone, Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP Copolymer, Cetearyl Alcohol, Allantoin, Menthol, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Hexylene Glycol, Prickly Pear Oil, Ethylhexylglycerin

Just as I’m mostly a shaving soap guy, I’m also an aftershave splash guy, but this is a balm I do like: doesn’t have a greasy feeling and leaves my face feeling very nice indeed. The catalog entry describes why:

If an aftershave balm and alcohol based splash were to have a baby, our Star Jelly Aftershave Formula would be their love child. Not to be confused with an alcohol free balm, meaning; this stuff still contains alcohol and a kiss of menthol to give you that classic splash feel at first. Then there is that familiar cool down we all know and love…but something more is going on, something cosmic!

Unlike traditional balms, our Star Jelly absorbs rapidly into freshly shaven skin without any greasy, heavy feeling build up! Star Jelly leaves your skin moisturized and silky.  A refreshing, alternative that you instantly will fall in love with! 

What’s Inside?

Allantoin: a naturally ocurring nitrogenous compound used as a skin conditioning agent. It can be derived from animals, however the allantoin we use is derived from plants.

Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides: from coconut oil and glycerin, it’s considered an excellent emollient. It’s included in cosmetics due to its mix of fatty acids that skin can use to resist moisture loss. This ingredient’s value for skin is made greater by the fact that it’s considered gentle.

Vegetable Glycerine: is derived from soy and is used in cosmetics and body care products to assist in retaining moisture. It is invaluable as a natural source ingredient with emollient like properties which can soften the skin.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 March 2020 at 8:46 am

Posted in Shaving

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