Later On

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

Archive for March 21st, 2020

Butchering a 250-lb bluefin tuna, step by step

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In case you want to try it at home.

Written by Leisureguy

21 March 2020 at 6:22 pm

Posted in Food, Video

Max Boot, a Republican: “This wouldn’t have happened if Hillary Clinton had won”

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Max Boot writes in the Washington Post:

The coronavirus is the most foreseeable disaster in history — and so is President Trump’s inability to rise to the occasion.

There were scattered warnings before Pearl Harbor and 9/11 of what was to come. But nothing like this. My Post colleagues report that throughout January and February, the U.S. intelligence community was warning Trump that the pandemic was going to hit America. “The system was blinking red,” one official said.

But Trump wasn’t paying attention. “It will all work out well,” he blithely tweeted on Jan. 24 while credulously thanking Chinese President Xi Jinping for “working very hard to contain the Coronavirus.” (A British study suggests China could have eliminated 95 percent of its cases if it had acted three weeks earlier, when a doctor first called attention to the epidemic in Wuhan.)

Because of Trump’s negligence, the United States lost two months of response time — precious days that should have been used to test the population, produce more N95 masks and ventilators, and build new hospital beds. This past week, the Pentagon finally announced that a Navy hospital ship would be heading to New York — but it will take at least two weeks to get ready. Why wasn’t the deployment order given sooner? Even now, with the crisis upon us, Trump hesitates to use his full authority to order wartime production of ventilators needed to keep thousands of patients alive.

Utterly lacking in empathy, Trump is incapable of rallying a shell-shocked nation. When asked on Friday, “What do you say to Americans who are watching you right now who are scared?,” Trump launched into a tirade against the reporter who asked the question. Like the snake-oil salesman that he is, his version of reassurance is to tout miracle cures that have not been verified by medical science.

I weep in anger and frustration imagining what might have been if Hillary Clinton — a sane, sensible adult — had won. We couldn’t have avoided the coronavirus, but we could have ameliorated its effects. We could be South Korea (102 deaths) rather than Italy (4,825 deaths and counting).

It was precisely because we were afraid of how Trump would mishandle his weighty responsibilities that some “Never Trump” conservatives supported Clinton in 2016. On May 8, 2016, I wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “There has never been a major party nominee in U.S. history as unqualified for the presidency. The risk of Trump winning, however remote, represents the biggest national security threat that the United States faces today.”

I do not cite my earlier article — one of dozens I wrote in 2015 and 2016 warning in ever-more-urgent tones of the danger of electing Trump — as a way of patting myself on the back for prescience. It took no foresight to predict that Trump would be a catastrophe in a crisis. It was close to the conventional wisdom. Yet nearly 63 million voters chose to disregard such warnings.

There were many reasons Trump won. Ironically, one of the most oft-cited was the desire to blow everything up, because Trump voters were convinced that things couldn’t get any worse than they were in 2016. As they shelter in their homes and the economy grinds to a halt, I wonder if perhaps they now realize how good they had it under President Barack Obama?

For the past three years, Trump supporters have scoffed at critics, claiming we are out-of-touch, pointy-headed, coastal elitists too focused on Trump’s unconventional way of speaking while ignoring his historic policy achievements — meaning an expanding economy that he inherited from Obama. Perhaps they would like to rethink that argument now that the stock market has given up all of the gains it made under Trump and the unemployment numbers are heading for Great Depression levels?

One of the biggest, if unstated, reasons so many voters opted for Trump is simply because he is an entertaining showman. His unscripted rallies were so mesmerizing that he earned billions of dollars in free airtime. The underlying assumption was that the federal government is so unimportant that it could be handed over safely to a reality TV star who revels in “unpresidented” behavior.

This was the result of post-Cold War, post-9/11 complacency, with voters imagining . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

21 March 2020 at 5:34 pm

“Republicans like me built this moment. Then we looked the other way.”

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At least one Republican is accepting responsibility — not Donald Trump, of course. In fact, Donald Trump explicitly refuses to accept responsibility. But Stuart Stevens, a writer and Republican political consultant who has advised a pro-Bill Weld super PAC in the 2020 election, does. He writes in the Washington Post:

Don’t just blame President Trump. Blame me — and all the other Republicans who aided and abetted and, yes, benefited from protecting a political party that has become dangerous to America. Some of us knew better.

But we built this moment. And then we looked the other way.

Many of us heard a warning sound we chose to ignore, like that rattle in your car you hear but figure will go away. Now we’re broken down, with plenty of time to think about what should have been done.

The failures of the government’s response to the coronavirus crisis can be traced directly to some of the toxic fantasies now dear to the Republican Party. Here are a few: Government is bad. Establishment experts are overrated or just plain wrong. Science is suspect. And we can go it alone, the world be damned.

[More coverage of the coronavirus pandemic]

All of these are wrong, of course. But we didn’t get here overnight. It took practice.

Long before Trump, the Republican Party adopted as a key article of faith that more government was bad. We worked overtime to squeeze it and shrink it, to drown it in the bathtub, as anti-tax activist Grover Norquist liked to say. But somewhere along the way, it became, “all government is bad.” Now we are in a crisis that can be solved only by massive government intervention. That’s awkward.

Next, somehow, the party of idealistic Teddy Roosevelt, pragmatic Bob Dole and heroic John McCain became anti-intellectual, by which I mean, almost reflexively opposed to knowledge and expertise. We began to distrust the experts and put faith in, well, quackery. It was 2013 when former Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal said the Republican Party “must stop being the stupid party.” By 2016, the party had embraced as its nominee a reality-TV host who later suggested that perhaps the noise from windmills causes cancer.

The Republican Party has gone from admiring William F. Buckley Jr., an Ivy League intellectual, to viewing higher education as a left-wing conspiracy to indoctrinate the young. In retribution, we started defunding education. Never mind that Republican leaders are among the most highly educated on the planet; it’s just that they now feel compelled to embrace ignorance as a cost of doing business. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, as an example, denounces “coastal elites” while holding degrees from Princeton University and Harvard Law School and having served as a Supreme Court clerk.

The GOP’s relationship with science has resembled some kind of Frankenstein experiment: Let’s see what happens when we play with the chemistry set! Conservatives have spent years trying to cut funds for basic science and research, lamenting government seed money for nearly every budding technology and then hoping for the best. In the weeks ahead, it’s not some fiery, anti-Washington populist with an XM radio gig who is going to save folks’ lives; it is more likely to be someone who has been studying this stuff for decades, almost certainly at some point with federal help or outright patronage.

Finally, there is the populist GOP distrust and dislike of the other, the foreign. Yes, it is annoying that the Chinese didn’t come clean and explain everything to us from the start. But it appears that a Swiss company is helping to jump-start us in testing; and it is a German company that American officials reportedly tried to lure to the United States recently to help develop a vaccine for the virus. We talk about how we need to be independent even as we do all kinds of things that prove we aren’t.

What is happening now is . . .

Continue reading.

His book about the Republican Party, It Was All A Lie, will be published next month.

Written by Leisureguy

21 March 2020 at 11:45 am

Banks Pressure Healthcare Firms to Raise Prices on Critical Drugs, Medical Supplies for Coronavirus

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We are now seeing the drawbacks of the go-it-alone look-out-for-number-one devil-take-the-hindmost John-Gault style of capitalism: gouge ’em while they’re down, use all the leverage you can, and show no mercy, compassion, or sense of community.

It occurs to me that the US has been hollowed out (gutted through looting) in  infrastructure (lack of maintenance and oversight of dams, bridges, buildings, highways, water and sewage systems, electrical grid maintenance and extenions, and so on) and in personnel and expertise government agencies (cutting taxes by cutting public health services (pandemic response, for one), education, inspection services (food, drugs, airlines, etc.), the IRS, and so on) and in the sense of unity and common purpose, as shown by this report in the Intercept by Lee Fang:

IN RECENT WEEKS, investment bankers have pressed health care companies on the front lines of fighting the novel coronavirus, including drug firms developing experimental treatments and medical supply firms, to consider ways that they can profit from the crisis.

The media has mostly focused on individuals who have taken advantage of the market for now-scarce medical and hygiene supplies to hoard masks and hand sanitizer and resell them at higher prices. But the largest voices in the health care industry stand to gain from billions of dollars in emergency spending on the pandemic, as do the bankers and investors who invest in health care companies.

Over the past few weeks, investment bankers have been candid on investor calls and during health care conferences about the opportunity to raise drug prices. In some cases, bankers received sharp rebukes from health care executives; in others, executives joked about using the attention on Covid-19 to dodge public pressure on the opioid crisis.

Gilead Sciences, the company producing remdesivir, the most promising drug to treat Covid-19 symptoms, is one such firm facing investor pressure.

Remdesivir is an antiviral that began development as a treatment for dengue, West Nile virus, and Zika, as well as MERS and SARS. The World Health Organization has said there is “only one drug right now that we think may have real efficacy in treating coronavirus symptoms” — namely, remdesivir.

The drug, though developed in partnership with the University of Alabama through a grant from the federal government’s National Institutes of Health, is patented by Gilead Sciences, a major pharmaceutical company based in California. The firm has faced sharp criticism in the past for its pricing practices. It previously charged $84,000 for a yearlong supply of its hepatitis C treatment, which was also developed with government research support. Remdesivir is estimated to produce a one-time revenue of $2.5 billion.

During an investor conference earlier this month, Phil Nadeau, managing director at investment bank Cowen & Co., quizzed Gilead Science executives over whether the firm had planned for a “commercial strategy for remdesivir” or could “create a business out of remdesivir.”

Johanna Mercier, executive vice president of Gilead, noted that the company is currently donating products and “manufacturing at risk and increasing our capacity” to do its best to find a solution to the pandemic. The company at the moment is focused, she said, primarily on “patient access” and “government access” for remdesivir.

“Commercial opportunity,” Mercier added, “might come if this becomes a seasonal disease or stockpiling comes into play, but that’s much later down the line.”

Steven Valiquette, a managing director at Barclays Investment Bank, last week peppered executives from Cardinal Health, a health care distributor of N95 masks, ventilators and pharmaceuticals, on whether the company would raise prices on a range of supplies.

Valiquette asked repeatedly about potential price increases on a variety of products. Could the company, he asked, “offset some of the risk of volume shortages” on the “pricing side”?

Michael Kaufmann, the chief executive of Cardinal Health, said that “so far, we’ve not seen any material price increases that I would say are related to the coronavirus yet.” Cardinal Health, Kaufman said, would weigh a variety of factors when making these decisions, and added that the company is “always going to fight aggressively to make sure that we’re getting after the lowest cost.”

“Are you able to raise the price on some of this to . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

To a certain mindset, the word “profiteering” has a nice ring.

Written by Leisureguy

21 March 2020 at 10:39 am

J.M. Fraser returns, with the Baby Smooth

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I realized this morning the fragrance memory that J.M. Fraser evokes: the tapioca pudding a neighbor made when I was a child. For me, that’s a very fine fragrance — and certainly the lather itself and the job that it does are first-rate.

Three passes with the Baby Smooth and then a small dollop — dillop? dollopette? — of D.R. Harris After Shaving Milk, and I’m ready for a day of packing. The move is the day after tomorrow, and my consolation is that by next Saturday all this will be over.

Written by Leisureguy

21 March 2020 at 8:35 am

Posted in Shaving

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