Later On

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

Archive for September 8th, 2020

A look at the (Republican) Senate’s findings on Russia’s meddling in the election

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Heather Cox Richardson has an important column about what the Senate discovered about Russia’s meddling in and influence on the 2016 election. She writes:

I have been holding off for a calm news day to examine exactly what the fifth volume of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s bipartisan report on Russia’s attempts to influence the 2016 election said, and why it is important. The report came out on August 18 and, in the storm of other news, has gotten less attention than it should have.

While Special Counsel Robert Mueller marshaled a team to look into potential crimes committed by members of the Trump campaign and by Russian actors in the 2016 election, the Senate Intelligence Committee also conducted an investigation. The Senate committee was not limited, as Mueller was, by a directive from the acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. It looked more widely at the contacts between members of the 2016 Trump campaign and Russian operatives. Because Republicans control the Senate, the Senate Intelligence Committee is chaired by a Republican, first by Richard Burr (R-NC) and then, after Burr stepped down under allegations of insider trading, by Marco Rubio (R-FL).

The first volume of the committee’s report established that Russians successfully breached U.S. election systems in 2016. According to the Intelligence Community, “Russian intelligence obtained and maintained access to elements of multiple U.S. state or local electoral boards,” but the Department of Homeland Security “assesses that the types of systems Russian actors targeted or compromised were not involved in vote tallying.” Interestingly, the section on Russian attacks on voting machines is almost entirely redacted.

The second volume explained that Russian operatives “sought to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election by harming Hillary Clinton’s chances of success and supporting Donald Trump at the direction of the Kremlin.” It concluded that “in 2016, Russian operatives… used social media to conduct an information warfare campaign designed to spread disinformation and societal division in the United States. Masquerading as Americans, these operatives used targeted advertisements, intentionally falsified news articles, self-generated content, and social media platform tools to interact with and attempt to deceive tens of millions of social media users in the United States. This campaign sought to polarize Americans on the basis of societal, ideological, and racial differences, provoked real world events, and was part of a foreign government’s covert support of Russia’s favored candidate in the U.S. presidential election.”

The third volume examined how the U.S. government responded to the Russian attacks. The fourth reviewed and defended the methods and findings of the Intelligence Community.

And, on August 18, the committee released the fifth volume. The committee reviewed about a million documents and interviewed more than 200 witnesses. Its 966 pages establish extensive connections between Russian operatives and Trump campaign officials in 2016.

They established that Trump’s campaign chairman Paul Manafort worked closely during the campaign with his longtime business associate in Ukraine, Konstantin Kilimnik, whom the report identifies as a “Russian intelligence officer.”

This means that, according to Republicans—as well as the Democrats on the committee—in 2016, Trump’s campaign manager was actively working with a Russian intelligence officer.

Paul Manafort’s backstory matters.

Manafort cut his political teeth in Richard Nixon’s 1972 campaign, along with his friend Roger Stone, whom he had met in the Young Republicans organization, a social and political network of young professionals. Manafort worked for  . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by Leisureguy

8 September 2020 at 3:18 pm

Those without healthcare insurance: The US vs. other nations

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That’s from a brief post by Kevin Drum.  I suppose conservatives will brag that here, as in so many cases, the US is No. !.

Written by Leisureguy

8 September 2020 at 12:46 pm

Posted in Daily life, Healthcare

How philanthropy benefits the super-rich

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The subheading of this Guardian article by Paul Vallely asks a provocative question:

There are more philanthropists than ever before. Each year they give tens of billions to charitable causes. So how come inequality keeps rising?

The article begins:

hilanthropy, it is popularly supposed, transfers money from the rich to the poor. This is not the case. In the US, which statistics show to be the most philanthropic of nations, barely a fifth of the money donated by big givers goes to the poor. A lot goes to the arts, sports teams and other cultural pursuits, and half goes to education and healthcare. At first glance that seems to fit the popular profile of “giving to good causes”. But dig down a little.

The biggest donations in education in 2019 went to the elite universities and schools that the rich themselves had attended. In the UK, in the 10-year period to 2017, more than two-thirds of all millionaire donations – £4.79bn – went to higher education, and half of these went to just two universities: Oxford and Cambridge. When the rich and the middle classes give to schools, they give more to those attended by their own children than to those of the poor. British millionaires in that same decade gave £1.04bn to the arts, and just £222m to alleviating poverty.

The common assumption that philanthropy automatically results in a redistribution of money is wrong. A lot of elite philanthropy is about elite causes. Rather than making the world a better place, it largely reinforces the world as it is. Philanthropy very often favours the rich – and no one holds philanthropists to account for it.

The role of private philanthropy in international life has increased dramatically in the past two decades. Nearly three-quarters of the world’s 260,000 philanthropy foundations have been established in that time, and between them they control more than $1.5tn. The biggest givers are in the US, and the UK comes second. The scale of this giving is enormous. The Gates Foundation alone gave £5bn in 2018 – more than the foreign aid budget of the vast majority of countries.

Philanthropy is always an expression of power. Giving often depends on the personal whims of super-rich individuals. Sometimes these coincide with the priorities of society, but at other times they contradict or undermine them. Increasingly, questions have begun to be raised about the impact these mega-donations are having upon the priorities of society.

There are a number of tensions inherent in the relationship between philanthropy and democracy. For all the huge benefits modern philanthropy can bring, the sheer scale of contemporary giving can skew spending in areas such as education and healthcare, to the extent that it can overwhelm the priorities of democratically elected governments and local authorities.

Some of this influence is indirect. The philanthropy of Bill and Melinda Gates has brought huge benefits for humankind. When the foundation made its first big grant for malaria research, it nearly doubled the amount of money spent on the disease worldwide. It did the same with polio. Thanks in part to Gates (and others), some 2.5 billion children have been vaccinated against the disease, and global cases of polio have been cut by 99.9%. Polio has been virtually eradicated. Philanthropy has made good the failures of both the pharmaceutical industry and governments across the world. The Gates Foundation, since it began in 2000, has given away more than $45bn and saved millions of lives.

Yet this approach can be problematic. Bill Gates can become fixed on addressing a problem which is not seen as a priority by local people, in an area, for example, where polio is far from the biggest problem. He did something similar in his education philanthropy in the US where his fixation on class size diverted public spending away from the actual priorities of the local community.

Other philanthropists are more wilfully interventionist. Individuals such as Charles Koch on the right, or George Soros on the left, have succeeded in altering public policy. More than $10bn a year is devoted to such ideological persuasion in the US alone.

The result has been what the late German billionaire shipping magnate and philanthropist Peter Kramer called “a bad transfer of power”, from democratically elected politicians to billionaires, so that it is no longer “the state that determines what is good for the people, but rather the rich who decide”. The UN general assembly has warned governments and international organisations that, before taking money from rich donors, they should “assess the growing influence of major philanthropic foundations, and especially the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation … and analyse the intended and unintended risks and side-effects of their activities”. Elected politicians, the UN warned in 2015, should be particularly concerned about “the unpredictable and insufficient financing of public goods, the lack of monitoring and accountability mechanisms, and the prevailing practice of applying business logic to the provision of public goods”.

Some kinds of philanthropy may have become not just non-democratic, but anti-democratic. Charles Koch and his late brother, David, are undoubtedly the most prominent example of rightwing philanthropy at work. But there are scores of others, most particularly in the US, who embrace causes which many find controversial and even distasteful. Art Pope has used the fortune he has amassed from his discount-store chain to push for a tightening of the law to prevent fraud in elections, even though such fraud is negligible in the US. Pope’s move, which would require voters to show ID at the polls, effectively disenfranchises the 10% of the electorate who lack photo ID because they are too poor to own a car and are unlikely to go to the expense of getting a driving licence simply to vote. Such voters – many of them black – are statistically unlikely to vote for the arch-conservatives that Art Pope smiles upon.

But do such philanthropic activities manipulate the democratic process any more than do the campaigns of the billionaire financier George Soros to promote accountable government and social reform around the world? Or hedge-fund billionaire Tom Steyer’s funding of a movement to encourage more young people to vote on climate change? Or the attacks by the internet billionaire Craig Newmark on fake news? In each case these rich individuals are motivated to intervene by something arising from their own lived experience. By what yardstick can we suggest that some are more legitimate than others?

David Callahan, the editor of the Inside Philanthropy website, puts it this way: “When donors hold views we detest, we tend to see them as unfairly tilting policy debates with their money. Yet when we like their causes, we often view them as heroically stepping forward to level the playing field against powerful special interests or backward public majorities … These sort of à la carte reactions don’t make a lot of sense. Really, the question should be whether we think it’s OK overall for any philanthropists to have so much power to advance their own vision of a better society.”

he idea that a philanthropist’s money is their own to do with as they please is deep-rooted. Some philosophers argue that each individual has full ownership rights over their resources – and that a rich person’s only responsibility is to use their resources wisely. John Rawls, one of the most influential philosophers of the 20th century, saw justice as a matter of fairness. He argued that citizens discharge their moral responsibility when they contribute their fair share of the taxes which governments use to take care of the poor and vulnerable. The better-off are then free to dispose of the rest of their income as they like.

But what the rich are giving away in their philanthropy is not entirely their own money. Tax relief adds the money of ordinary citizens to the causes chosen by rich individuals.

Most western governments offer generous tax incentives to encourage charitable giving. In England and Wales in 2019, . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by Leisureguy

8 September 2020 at 10:22 am

The real scandal isn’t what Trump said about veterans. It’s what he did to them.

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Judd Legum writes at Popular Information:

For the past several days, coverage of the presidential campaign has focused on comments Trump allegedly made during a 2018 trip to Paris, when he was scheduled to visit a military cemetery where U.S. troops are buried. According to The Atlantic, which cites several anonymous sources, Trump said, “Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.” The magazine reports that, during the same trip, Trump referred to Americans who died in World War 1 as “suckers.” The visit to the cemetery was canceled.

Trump, of course, denies he made either remark. The Atlantic’s reporting was confirmed by the APThe New York TimesFox News, and The Washington Post. But what, exactly, are we trying to figure out about Trump with this story?

Trump’s alleged remarks about veterans are substantively identical to things he has said publicly. In 2015, Trump said the late Senator John McCain (R-AZ) was “not a war hero” because “he was captured” and held as a prisoner of war. “I like people that weren’t captured,” Trump said. He referred to McCain more than once as a “loser.”

But The Atlantic story has received extensive coverage because it contains several elements that are irresistible to the political media — anonymous sources, angry denials, and a private comment that supposedly reveals a hidden aspect of the candidate’s character. The political media has given huge play to similar stories about Clinton in 2016 (“basket of deplorables“), Romney in 2012 (“47 percent“), and Obama in 2008 (“cling to guns or religion.”)

After more than three years in office, however, Trump’s actions related to veterans and more important than his words. While the political media obsesses about what Trump privately said about veterans two years ago, the story of what Trump and his administration are doing to veterans during a pandemic is largely ignored.

This year, Trump and his administration have used veterans as “guinea pigs” to test an unproven and potentially dangerous drug, hydroxychloroquine, as a treatment for coronavirus. Trump insisted the drug would be a “game-changer” that would bring the pandemic under control. The Department of Veteran’s Affairs continued to use hydroxychloroquine even after multiple studies showed it was not only ineffective but hazardous, and the FDA revoked emergency authorization.

Overall, more than 3,000 veterans have died of COVID-19 under the care of the VA. Many others have died of COVID-19 in facilities not under the control of the VA. It’s unknown how many of those veterans received hydroxychloroquine because the Trump administration won’t release the data.

6,339,700 tablets

In late May, the VA Secretary Robert Wilkie revealed in a letter to Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) that, between February 1 and April 23, the VA purchased “approximately 6,339,700 tablets of hydroxychloroquine” for about $2 million. (Hydroxychloroquine is an effective treatment for lupus and some other conditions.) Wilkie said that, during that time period, 1,300 veterans with COVID-19 were treated with the drug. At the time, that represented about 13% of veterans with COVID-19 under VA care.

What were the outcomes for those 1,300 veterans?  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

8 September 2020 at 9:35 am

Honeysuckle haze

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The Honeysuckle comes from soap and aftershave, both quite pleasant with the Rooney Style 3 Size 1 making a fine lather. The Game Changer .84-P did a very nice job and I start the day with a very smooth and fragrant face.

The haze is a contribution of the wildfires raging in eastern Washington. Here’s the air-quality index this morning:

The local newspaper notes, “People who are young, old, pregnant, or have respiratory issues should remain indoors today.”

Written by Leisureguy

8 September 2020 at 8:53 am

Posted in Daily life, Shaving

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