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Archive for June 22nd, 2020

Coincidence? Every Federal Reserve Board Member Is an Old Millionaire

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The subtitle to this post by Matt Stoller hits hard:

Why it’s a problem that a central bank whose job is to organize credit only has creditors in charge.

Stoller writes:

I tried to make this issue a bit shorter than normal, though still packed with peanuts. Here’s what I wrote up:

  • Every Single Member of the Fed Board Is a Millionaire
  • The Federal Trade Commission just did something… good?
  • Trump DOJ Intervening in Foreign Antitrust Cases
  • Apple Relents, Slightly
  • Supermarket Consolidation and Black America
  • Facebook Buys a Mapping Company
  • Big Tech and Trade Agreements

Whom Does the Federal Reserve Notice?

There are five Senate-confirmed members of the Federal Reserve. It won’t surprise you to know that all five of them are millionaires. Here’s a list, with links to their financial disclosure forms. (If you have some time to poke around and find anything interesting, let me know or put it in the comments.)

  • The Chair, Jay Powell, 67, is worth between $20 million and $55 million, the richest Fed Chair in history.
  • Randal Quarles, 62, is worth between $24.7 million and $125 million.
  • Richard H. Clarida, 63, is worth between $9 million and $39 million.
  • Michelle Bowman, 49, is worth between $2 million and $11 million.
  • Lael Brainaird, 58, is worth between $3 million and $11 million.

I’ve gone over the financial disclosure forms of all five of these members, and they are all invested in various forms of indexes. Some are invested in private equity funds, Blackrock iShares, or various other assets referencing financial corporations. These strike me as a violation of Section 10, part 5 of the Federal Reserve Act, which says:

No member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System shall be an officer or director of any bank, banking institution, trust company, or Federal Reserve bank or hold stock in any bank, banking institution, or trust company;

It’s been decades since anyone took conflicts of interest seriously, and I suspect that the Fed has lawyers who can weasel their way into ensuring that Fed board members get to invest in the financial services industry without violating this law. But the statute is there for a reason, which is that the Fed was created in 1913 to take power from Wall Street banks, not to place them on a publicly sanctioned monetary throne. (The original House passed version of the Federal Reserve Act had the Secretary of Agriculture as a Fed Governor, because farmers were the main labor force and borrowing group in the economy back then.)

There’s a more fundamental problem with the arrangement of having an all-millionaire Fed board, aside from any pecuniary gain that might result from all members of the Fed having public positions in which their policy decisions affect their portfolios in similar ways. The Fed is supposed to manage lending and borrowing conditions, but the only people represented among decision-makers are lenders, as opposed to a balance of lenders and borrowers.

America is full of people with credit card debt, student debt, auto debt and medical debt, people who have had trouble getting jobs, or people with bad credit, or entrepreneurs who can’t get loans to build their businesses. Young people. Old people. Middle-aged people, of different races. Yet the Fed board is composed of those with graduate degrees and high net worths, most of whom are in their late 50s or early 60s in terms of age.

In other words, based on their asset ownership and educational credentials alone, no one on the Fed is in touch with the world in which most Americans live. My analysis actually understates the problem, because there are members of the key policy committee at the Fed, known as the Federal Open Markets Committee, that aren’t even appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, but are hired by regional bankers to run Fed branches. (I’m not kidding. It was actually a brief flashpoint during the debate over post-financial crisis legislation, whether bankers could continue to hire their own regulators. Barney Frank’s compromise was that they could.)

This lack of representation has serious consequences. In 2017, I reported on how key Fed policymakers mocked unemployed Americans behind closed doors, laughing at and making jokes about them as lazy drug addicts. People didn’t want jobs, according to several officials, one of whom based his commentary on what his wife had told him about her charity work.

These rigid members had to debate Fed board member Sarah Bloom Raskin, who had gone, undercover, to a job fair, to see how employment conditions were on the ground. She was shocked at the poor quality of job offerings, despite what appeared to be a solid economy. Raskin’s undercover attendance at a job fair caused a bit of a stir, because it was a violation of decorum; Fed members simply don’t do such things. Her view, unsurprisingly, was that the Fed should see unemployment as a function of the bad economy, not poor work ethic. I don’t know if anyone on the FOMC has gone to a job fair since Raskin did. But the stack of old millionaires on the board suggests there’s a serious imbalance in terms of representation; there are more private equity barons on the Fed board than people with student debt.

One of the main policy problems in America is that  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 June 2020 at 4:41 pm

The Hard Truth Of Poker — And Life: You’re Never ‘Due’ For Good Cards

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Five Thirty Eight has posted an excerpt from Maria Konnikova’s book:

Maria Konnikova is a New York Times bestselling author and contributor to The New Yorker with a doctorate in psychology. She decided to learn how to play poker to better understand the role of luck in our lives, examining the game through the lens of psychology and human behavior. This excerpt is adapted from her new book, “The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win,” which is available June 23.

For many years, my life centered around studying the biases of human decision-making: I was a graduate student in psychology at Columbia, working with that marshmallow-tinted legend, Walter Mischel, to document the foibles of the human mind as people found themselves in situations where risk abounded and uncertainty ran high. Dissertation defended, I thought to myself, that’s that. I’ve got those sorted out. And in the years that followed, I would pride myself on knowing so much about the tools of self-control that would help me distinguish myself from my poor experimental subjects. Placed in a stochastic environment, faced with stress and pressure, I knew how I’d go wrong — and I knew precisely what to do when that happened.

Fast-forward to 2016. I have embarked on my latest book project, which has taken me into foreign territory: the world of No Limit Texas Hold ’em. And here I am, at my first-ever tournament. It’s a charity event. I’ve been practicing for weeks, playing online, running through hands, learning the contours of basic tournament poker strategy.

I get off to a rocky start, almost folding pocket aces, the absolute best hand you can be dealt, because I’m so nervous about messing up and disappointing my coach, Erik Seidel — a feared crusher considered one of the best poker players in the world. He’s the one who finagled this invitation for me in the first place, and I feel certain that I’m going to let him down. But somehow, I’ve managed to survive out of the starting gate, and a few hours in, I’m surprised to find myself starting to experience a new kind of feeling. This isn’t that hard. This is fun. I’m not half-bad.

This moment, this I’m not half-bad making its fleeting way through my brain, is the first time I notice a funny thing start to happen. It’s as if I’ve been cleaved in two. The psychologist part of my brain looks dispassionately on, noting everything the poker part of me is doing wrong. And the poker player doesn’t seem to be able to listen. Here, for instance, the psychologist is screaming a single word: overconfidence. I know that the term “novice” doesn’t even begin to describe me and that my current success is due mostly to luck. But then there’s the other part of me, the part that is most certainly thinking that maybe, just maybe, I have a knack for this. Maybe I’m born to play poker and conquer the world.

The biases I know all about in theory, it turns out, are much tougher to fight in practice. Before, I was working so hard on grasping the fundamentals of basic strategy that I didn’t have the chance to notice. Now that I have some of the more basic concepts down, the shortcomings of my reasoning hit me in the face. After an incredibly lucky straight draw on a hand I had no business playing — the dealer helpfully tells me as much with a “You’ve got to be kidding me” as I turn over my hand and win the pot — I find myself thinking maybe there’s something to the hot hand, the notion that a player is “hot,” or on a roll. Originally, it was taken from professional basketball, from the popular perception that a player with a hot hand, who’d made a few shots, would continue to play better and make more baskets. But does it actually exist — and does believing it exists, even if it doesn’t, somehow make it more real? In basketball, the psychologists Thomas Gilovich, Amos Tversky, and Robert Vallone argued it was a fallacy of reasoning — when they looked at the Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers, they found no evidence that the hot hand was anything but illusion. But in other contexts, mightn’t it play out differently? I’ve had the conventional thinking drilled into me, yet now I think I’m on a roll. I should bet big. Definitely bet big.

That idea suffers a debilitating blow after a loss with a pair of jacks — a hand that’s actually halfway decent. After a flop that has an ace and a queen on it — both cards that could potentially make any of my multiple opponents a pair higher than mine — I refuse to back down. I’ve had bad cards for the last half an hour. I deserve to win here! I lose over half my chips by refusing to fold — hello, sunk cost fallacy! We’ll be seeing you again, many times. And then, instead of reevaluating, I start to chase the loss: Doesn’t this mean I’m due for a break? I can’t possibly keep losing. It simply isn’t fair. Gambler’s fallacy — the faulty idea that probability has a memory. If you are on a bad streak, you are “due” for a win. And so I continue to bet when I should sit a few hands out.

It’s fascinating how that works, isn’t it? Runs make the human mind uncomfortable. In our heads, probabilities should be normally distributed — that is, play out as described. If a coin is tossed ten times, about five of those should be heads. Of course, that’s not how probability actually works — and even though a hundred heads in a row should rightly make us wonder if we’re playing with a fair coin or stuck in a Stoppardian alternate reality, a run of ten or twenty may well happen. Our discomfort stems from the law of small numbers: We think small samples should mirror large ones, but they don’t, really. The funny thing isn’t our discomfort. That’s understandable. It’s the different flavors that discomfort takes when the runs are in our favor versus not. The hot hand and the gambler’s fallacy are actually opposite sides of the exact same coin: positive recency and negative recency. We overreact to chance events, but the exact nature of the event affects our perception in a way it rightly shouldn’t.

We have a mental image of the silly gamblers who think they’re due to hit the magic score, and it’s comforting to think that won’t be us, that we’ll recognize runs for what they are: statistical probabilities. But when it starts happening in reality, we get a bit jittery. “All these squalls to which we have been subjected are signs the weather will soon improve and things will go well for us,” Don Quixote tells his squire, Sancho Panza, in Miguel de Cervantes’s 1605 novel, “because it is not possible for the bad or the good to endure forever, from which it follows that since the bad has lasted so long a time, the good is close at hand.” We humans have wanted chance to be equitable for quite some time. Indeed, when we play a game in which chance doesn’t look like our intuitive view of it, we balk.

Frank Lantz has spent over twenty years designing games. When we meet at his office at NYU, where he currently runs the Game Center, he lets me in on an idiosyncrasy of game design. “In video games where there are random events — things like dice rolls — they often skew the randomness so that it corresponds more closely to people’s incorrect intuition,” he says. “If you flip heads twice in a row, you’re less likely to flip heads the third time. We know this isn’t actually true, but it feels like it should be true, because we have this weird intuition about large numbers and how randomness works.” The resulting games actually accommodate that wrongness so that people don’t feel like the setup is “rigged” or “unfair.” “So they actually make it so that you’re less likely to flip heads the third time,” he says. “They jigger the probabilities.”

For a long time, Lantz was a serious poker player. And one of the reasons he loves the game is that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 June 2020 at 2:16 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life, Math, Science

People Don’t Trust Public-Health Experts Because Public-Health Experts Don’t Trust People

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David Wallace-Wells has an interesting take on the public-health issue in New York:

Almost as soon as the first marches to protest the killing of George Floyd began, in Minneapolis on May 26, conservatives and COVID contrarians seized on the rallies as a case study of liberal coronavirus hypocrisy. If the disease spread rapidly through the assembled protesters, they felt, it would show that those who’d spent the spring scolding Americans for resisting lockdowns didn’t care as much about public health as they did about advancing their own set of political values. (Liberals, of course, would put it differently: that the cause was worth the risk.) If there were relatively few new cases, the thinking went, it would demonstrate that the lockdowns themselves were unnecessary.

Three weeks later, we have the first results from the natural experiment: Across the country, from Minneapolis to California and New York City to Albany, the protests produced, at most, very few additional cases of COVID-19. The same, more or less, was observed in the aftermath of the much-derided Lake of the Ozarks Memorial Day party (where one sick partygoer may have infected as many as … one other). Does this mean we’re out of the COVID-19 woods, all clear for mass gatherings and the end of social distancing, and that the intrusive and intensely burdensome lockdowns of the spring were excessive? Well, no. The same week, a major study led by Berkeley’s Solomon Hsiang exploring the effect of lockdowns across the world found that, in the U.S., social distancing and shelter-in-place guidelines prevented as many as 60 million additional cases (since, at least in the early days of the epidemic, many more are believed to have been infected than were tested for the disease). And if those measures had been implemented sooner and more effectively, one review suggests, between 70% and 99% of American deaths could have been avoided. Instead of 120,000 deaths, we might have had fewer than 2,000.

These two findings would seem to contradict each other, but only if you are proceeding from the reductive assumption that either lockdowns were absolutely necessary or that no precautions at all were. But whatever your impression as a lay consumer of public-health guidance, scientists have known for months that “all or nothing” was a misleading way to approach the question of how to combat the spread of the disease — which could be substantially mitigated by warm weather, mask-wearing, and better hygienic practices (and whose lethality would be reduced significantly if those who were infected in environments like rallies were mostly young and healthy). Indeed, one recent analysis of more than 1,000 “super-spreader” events around the world, for instance, found that more than 97 percent of them took place indoors (most of them also during local flu seasons and in settings that put people into close contact with one another for long periods of time). As Emily Atkin, among others, has pointed out, this is what makes the president’s Tulsa rally tonight so much more dangerous than any of the protests he’s been trolling and threatening from the bunker of the White House over the last few weeks.

But all the way up through the beginning of the protests, and even after, America’s jury-rigged, Rube Goldberg health-messaging apparatus (epidemiologists, local public-health officials, civic-minded journalists, improvising and coordinating guidance in the total absence of any federal leadership) failed to communicate most of these nuances — suggesting, for instance, that Georgia’s reopening was a “death sentence,” and that its governor, Brian Kemp, had “blood on his hands,” rather than emphasizing relative risks and the precautions that might be taken to avoid them. The Atlantic ran a piece calling the state’s reopening “an experiment in human sacrifice.” Groups of scientists who would weeks later defend the marches on public-health grounds vociferously attacked Wisconsin’s in-person election. Even the same scientist who called reopening the economy “extraordinarily dangerous” in late May “wholeheartedly” defended and embraced the protests in early June.

And while there has been plenty of crowing among conservatives, recently, about what these reversals say about liberals’ true concerns, the failure on the right has been considerably larger — because while it is indeed the case that reopenings can be relatively safe if the right precautions are taken, conservative leaders in the states reopening first have done basically nothing to ensure that they are. In Arizona, where the pandemic is growing rapidly, the governor has even tried to prohibit local officials from offering mask-wearing advisories.

This erratic pattern of advisories wasn’t just about mass gatherings, in other words. And it wasn’t a sign that the underlying science had changed; it hadn’t. Instead, it reflects an unfortunate pattern from the first months of the pandemic, in which public-health messaging has had a considerably less stellar and considerably less reliable record than you might hope for — not just for those worrying about the coronavirus threat but anyone who is concerned about the status of scientific expertise and technocratic policy more generally.

In January, as the earliest scary research into the outbreak in Wuhan began arriving from China, public-health officials downplayed the threat and systematically advised coronavirus panic be channeled into vigilance about the flu, which they considered a bigger problem. In February, as initial data arrived from China showing a dramatic age skew in mortality, with the older at far greater risk than the young, and the very old at greater risk still, political leaders and public-health officials did practically nothing to protect the most vulnerable. Indeed, in New York, where now 6,000 have died in nursing homes, totaling roughly 6 percent of the nursing-home population, Governor Cuomo granted legal immunity to the executives who run those facilities; in California, where no such immunity was given, the toll was just 2,000, meaning less than one percent of its assisted-living population (though, to be fair, the total death toll outside nursing homes was much lower as well). In March, as evidence about the imperfect-but-still-significant efficacy of masks began rolling in, the WHO continued to advise against them. As recently as March 8, Anthony Fauci was advising the same thing on 60 Minutes, presumably to try and head off a possible mask run that would leave health workers undersupplied. In April, as it became clearer that outdoor transmission was significantly harder than indoor transmission, public officials across the country nevertheless continued closing parks and beaches.

All of this guidance was issued in something of the fog of war, of course, and each piece, taken on its own, might seem sensible — the science being new, and imperfect, and often contradictory, it’s reasonable to try and guide the public toward more caution rather than less. But taken together they suggest a perhaps concerning pattern, one familiar to me now from years of writing about climate change and its long-understated risks: Instead of simply presenting the facts — what they knew, how certain they were about it, and what they didn’t know — experts massaged their messaging in the hope of producing a particular response from the public (and with the faith that they can expertly enough massage it to produce that outcome).

This has been a global pattern, or at least was in the early days of the epidemic. But almost everywhere but America, the experts learned their lesson quickly. At first, . . .

Continue reading.

It should be noted that in fact wearing a mask makes an enormous difference. See this post by Kevin Drum. One chart from that post:

Written by LeisureGuy

22 June 2020 at 2:10 pm

What Fiona Hill Learned in the White House

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An interesting profile and summary of experience of Fiona Hill, by Adam Entous in the New Yorker:

The Brookings Institution is one of many think tanks in Washington, D.C., where scholars and bureaucrats sit in quiet offices and wait by the phone. They write op-eds and books, give talks and convene seminars, hoping that, when reputations falter or Administrations shift, they will be rescued from the life of opining and contemplation and return to the adrenaline rush and consequence of government. Nearly always, the yearning is to be inside. Strobe Talbott, who became the president of Brookings in 2002, served in Bill Clinton’s Administration as his leading Russia expert, and he was rumored to be on the shortlist for Hillary Clinton’s Secretary of State. Others, too, may have expected a call. But, after Donald Trump was elected, only one prominent Brookings stalwart was summoned, and her story became emblematic of all those in Washington who entered the Administration full of trepidation but hoping to be a “normalizing” influence on a distinctly abnormal President.

Fiona Hill, a leading expert on Russia and its modern leadership, had a reputation as a blunt speaker and an independent thinker and analyst. The daughter of a miner and a midwife, she grew up in Bishop Auckland, in northern England, and has a strong northern accent. She described herself to me as “politically engaged but antipartisan.” She has a distaste for the kind of ideological standoff that she observed in the eighties between Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and the president of the National Union of Mineworkers, Arthur Scargill, which was, as she put it, “a clash of titans with regular people smashed in between.”

Hill, who was born in 1965, is a senior fellow at Brookings, and a denizen of the Eurasia Foundation, the Council on Foreign Relations, and Harvard University, where she got her doctorate in history. She was a national intelligence officer in the Administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama. In 2013, she and Clifford Gaddy, an economic specialist at Brookings, published “Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin,” which traces Vladimir Putin’s path from his hardscrabble upbringing in Leningrad to his years in the government. She was wary of Obama’s efforts to downplay Russia’s importance in the world—he called the country a “regional power”—convinced that doing so only provoked Putin to assert himself more forcefully. In an updated edition of the book, published in 2015, Hill and Gaddy described Putin as “arguably the most powerful individual in the world.” Hill’s friend Nina Khrushcheva, the granddaughter of the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, said that Putin was “secretly flattered” by the portrayal.

In June, 2016, it emerged that Russia’s military intelligence agency, the G.R.U., had penetrated the Democratic National Committee’s computer servers and begun spreading derogatory information about Hillary Clinton and the Democrats. Many of Hill’s colleagues were disturbed that Trump had praised Putin as a “strong leader” and took seriously the growing speculation that the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians to sway the election. Hill was skeptical of this theory, thinking it more likely that the campaign and Russia were working in parallel to discredit Clinton. She was less certain than her colleagues that Clinton would win the election, especially after the outcome of the Brexit referendum, that same month. Several of her family members had voted to leave the E.U., and in Bishop Auckland sixty-one per cent were in favor. She saw why Trump appealed to voters who felt that their concerns had long been ignored.

After Trump’s victory, the mood at Brookings was funereal. But, as Hill told K. T. McFarland, a former speechwriter in the Reagan Administration, on her show, on November 15th, the President-elect’s overtures to Putin presented an opportunity: “Trump has certainly laid the ground for saying, ‘O.K., I’m going to give you a chance to explain yourself.’ ” After the interview, Hill joked that Trump might appoint McFarland to be his national-security adviser. Two days later, Trump named Michael Flynn to that post, and, the following week, chose McFarland to be his deputy.

In one of more than two dozen conversations that I had with Hill this spring, she told me that she had not been seeking a position in the new Administration, but that she was “open to advising whoever came along and offering my two cents’ worth.” McFarland called Hill on the afternoon of December 29, 2016, asking what she thought about the sanctions that the Obama Administration had just imposed on Russia in retaliation for Putin’s election interference. Hill urged McFarland to avoid thinking about them as a “political issue”; they were, she said, simply “the appropriate action.”

Earlier that month, Trump had rejected the C.I.A.’s assessment that Russia had sought to help his campaign. “They have no idea if it’s Russia or China or somebody,” he told Fox News. “It could be somebody sitting in bed someplace. I mean, they have no idea.” Hill respected the analysts who evaluated Russia’s activities, and she was alarmed by Trump’s denigration of their work. She was also troubled when, in January, 2017, she learned about a dossier, compiled by the former British spy Christopher Steele, that was circulating among journalists and experts in D.C. Hill had known Steele since 2006, when she was an intelligence officer and he worked for M.I.6, Britain’s foreign-intelligence service. Steele had been hired by Fusion G.P.S., a small American investigative firm that initially worked on behalf of a conservative client and later the Clinton campaign, to gather reports about Trump’s ties to Russia. One of Steele’s more salacious findings alleged that the Russians had a sex tape that would compromise Trump. The level of detail made Hill suspect that Steele’s sources had slipped him bits of misinformation to discredit the rest of his research. The dossier, she felt, would “pour gasoline on a raging fire.” BuzzFeed published the documents, and Trump denounced them as a fabrication by “sick people.”

Hill told McFarland about her relationship with Steele, and conveyed her doubts about the dossier. On January 25th, David Cattler, the deputy assistant to the President for regional affairs, called Hill to tell her that Flynn was offering her the position of senior director for European and Russian affairs on the National Security Council. Unsure whether to take the job, she sought Strobe Talbott’s advice. Talbott was a tough Trump critic, but he told her she should do it—she would be “one of the adults in the room.” Graham Allison, Hill’s mentor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, also approved. “You’ve spent your whole life on this, and if things go very badly with the U.S.-Russia relationship, it could be catastrophic for everybody,” he said. The next day, she accepted the job offer, telling Cattler, with whom she had worked on the National Intelligence Council, in the two-thousands, that she felt “more comfortable” knowing that he would be at the White House.

Two weeks later, Trump dismissed Flynn, after it was reported that, in January, he had lied to Mike Pence, the incoming Vice-President, about a phone call he’d had with the Russian Ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak. Obama Administration officials believed that the call had undermined their efforts to hold Russia accountable and to deter future election meddling, but McFarland assured Hill that nothing improper had occurred. (Transcripts of several calls between Flynn and Kislyak that were released in May made it clear that Hill’s advice to show a united front with Obama’s Administration had been ignored.)

In February, 2017, Hill attended a dinner hosted by Eliot Cohen, a professor of strategic studies at Johns Hopkins University and an early leader of the conservative “Never Trump” movement. On January 29th, Cohen had published a piece in The Atlantic warning “friends still thinking of serving as political appointees in this administration” that, as he put it, “when you sell your soul to the Devil, he prefers to collect his purchase on the installment plan.” Working for a xenophobic and divisive government, he argued, gave that government legitimacy. At the dinner, he told Hill that she was putting her reputation in jeopardy by working for Trump. Hill had read Cohen’s article, and she told me that she considered it a “powerful warning.” Still, she said, “because of strange quirks of fate, I was the one they asked to step into the fray. What was I going to do? Walk away?”

There were early signs that it might have been wise to do so. On February 28th, Cattler called Hill to tell her that his job had been eliminated. Hill said he warned her, “ ‘Look, you could come in and do the job as you see fit, and succeed. You could come in and be miserable but still feel like you’re making a difference. But you could also come in and be fired. You could be fired capriciously.’ ”

Old acquaintances also pressured Hill to change her mind. On March 8th, before Hill was scheduled to meet with her staff for the first time, she had breakfast with  . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more. Insider accounts are always interesting.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 June 2020 at 11:31 am

A large number of Americans are opposed to health

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Or at least are opposed to doing what is required to ensure health. Protecting public health is a vital and central function of government, but in the US that effort is condemned by many. Rachel Weiner and Ariana Eunjung Cha report in the Washington Post:

For Lauri Jones, the trouble began in early May. The director of a small public health department in western Washington State was working with a family under quarantine because of coronavirus exposure. When she heard one family member had been out in the community, Jones decided to check in.

“Someone posted on social media that we had violated their civil liberties [and] named me by name,” Jones recalled. “They said, ‘Let’s post her address . . . Let’s start shooting.’ ”

People from across the country began calling her personal phone with similar threats.

“We’ve been doing the same thing in public health on a daily basis forever. But we are now the villains,” said Jones, 64, who called the police and set up surveillance cameras at her home.

Public health workers, already underfunded and understaffed, are confronting waves of protest at their homes and offices in addition to pressure from politicians who favor a faster reopening. Lori Tremmel Freeman, chief executive of the National Association of County and City Health Officials, said more than 20 health officials have been fired, resigned or have retired in recent weeks “due to conditions related to having to enforce and stand up for strong public health tactics during this pandemic.”

Although shutdown measures are broadly popular, a vocal minority opposes them vociferously. There have been attacks on officials’ race, gender, sexual orientation and appearance. Freeman said some of the criticisms “seem to be harsher for women.”

Marcus Plescia, chief medical officer of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, said attacks on health officials have been particularly awful in California, Colorado, Georgia, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

This month in California, Nichole Quick, Orange County’s chief health officer, stepped down after she faced threats and protests at her home for requiring face coverings in many businesses as cases rose. The mandate, issued May 23, was softened to a recommendation a week later.

Andrew Noymer, a professor of public health at the University of California at Irvine who is part of a county task force, said it was not the first time Quick had been undermined.

On March 17, Quick issued a strict lockdown order; a day later it was amended to add exceptions.

“It was couched as a clarification, but it was a walk back,” Noymer said, because of pressure from business leaders.

Quick’s departure is part of an exodus of public health officials across the country who have been blamed by both citizens and politicians for the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody resign for the kinds of reasons we’ve seen recently,” Plescia said. “We are very concerned that if it continues to get worse it’s going to have major implications for who will be willing to have these jobs.”

Ohio’s public health director, Amy Acton, shifted to an advisory role after enduring months of anger against the state’s preventive measures, including armed protesters at her home bearing messages including anti-Semitic and sexist slurs. One Republican lawmaker linked Acton, who is Jewish, to Nazi Germany; another called her a dictator.

Georgia’s public health director said last month that she receives threats daily and now has an armed escort.

Pennsylvania’s secretary of health, who is transgender, has come under fire for the state’s handling of the pandemic, including from a county official who resigned after saying at a recent meeting that he was “tired of listening to a guy dressed up as a woman.”

Four public health officials in Colorado have left their jobs recently.

A day after telling political leaders in Weld County, Colo. that their insistence on a speedy reopening despite a high case rate and widespread transmission was giving him “serious heartburn,” Public Health Director Mark Wallace got a 7:30 p.m. email: He had until 9 a.m., it said, to weigh in on guidelines for reopening businesses — “churches, salons, restaurants, etc.” They would go public an hour later.

Wallace, who declined to comment for this article, retired soon after.

Theresa Anselmo, executive director of the Colorado Association of Local Public Health Officials, said 80 percent of members had reported being threatened and more than that were at risk of termination or lost funding.

“It’s exhausting to be contradicted and argued with and devalued and demoralized all the time, and I think that’s what you’re seeing around the country,” Anselmo said. “We’ve seen from the top down the federal government is pitting public health against freedom, and to set up that false dichotomy is really a disservice to the men and women who have dedicated their lives . . . to helping people.”

Not everyone has left willingly. In Colorado’s Rio Grande County, Emily Brown was fired, she says, after advocating a more cautious response to the virus.

“I think I just finally pushed too hard,” she said. “There was resistance to taking steps as quickly as I felt they needed to be taken or move in directions I thought we needed to.” . . .

Continue reading.

Many people with no education, training, or experience in public health are attacking public health officials for doing their job. Those who attack seem to assume that they are have more expertise than those with a strong background in public health.

It really seems as though the social fabric of the US is starting to disintegrate.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 June 2020 at 10:23 am

Meißner Tremonia Moroccan Rhassoul and Pashana, with the German 37

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Rhassoul, as the label states, is a type of clay. The soap is fragrant and effective, and I’m using my other WSP Monarch to wrangle the lather. RazoRock’s German 37 is an effective clone of the Merkur 37 head in a three-piece design (which allows easy cleaning and handle swapping). Three passes produced perfect soothness, and a splash of Pashana finished the job. The week begins auspiciously.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 June 2020 at 8:35 am

Posted in Shaving

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