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Archive for November 13th, 2020

Red state governors reject Biden on mask orders

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I imagine in Red states no one is required to wear seat belts when driving a car. Seat belts (like masks) save lives, but of course “personal choice” (aka “do whatever you like”) is the supreme directive for conservatives.

Dan Goldberg, Rachel Roubein, and Alice Miranda Ollstein report in Politico:

President-elect Joe Biden says he’ll personally call red state governors and persuade them to impose mask mandates to slow down the coronavirus pandemic. Their early response: Don’t waste your time.

Almost all of the 16 Republican governors who oppose statewide mask mandates are ready to reject Biden’s plea, they told POLITICO or declared in public statements — even as they impose new restrictions on businesses and limit the size of public gatherings to keep their health systems from getting swamped.

South Dakota’s Kristi Noem, Oklahoma’s Kevin Stitt and Nebraska’s Pete Ricketts, whose states are engulfed by new cases, say mask wearing should remain a personal choice, not a legal obligation — despite recommendations from health officials and updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control stressing that masks protect the wearer, not just people nearby, from infection.

“Governor Noem has provided her people with the full scope of the science, facts, and data regarding the virus, and then she has trusted them to exercise their personal responsibility to make the best decisions for themselves and their loved-ones,” Noem spokesperson Ian Fury wrote in an email. “She will not be changing that approach.”

The politicization of mask-wearing shows how difficult it will be for Biden to build consensus around even basic public health strategies after he’s sworn in.

Though President Donald Trump is on his way out, he’s poised to hold strong influence over GOP officials and voters who’ve largely backed his efforts to downplay the pandemic.

While some of the same governors expressed frustration earlier in the pandemic about the Trump administration’s lack of support on testing and protective gear, most side with Trump on his aversion to mask mandates. They’ve argued that neither Washington nor state capitals should dictate policies like face coverings, saying they are both onerous and unenforceable. And they’re digging in, even with the virus putting 65,000 people in hospitals and infecting more than 1.2 million people since Nov. 1.

“If President-elect Biden is indeed confirmed to be the next president, and he approaches me about a mask mandate, I would not be going along with a mask mandate,” Ricketts said during a press briefing on Tuesday.

“As far as a mandate, I’ve been very clear I don’t think this it’s the right thing to do,” Stitt, who was infected with the coronavirus earlier this year, said at a briefing on Tuesday. “This is a personal responsibility [like using seat belts and driving on the right side of the road – LG].” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

13 November 2020 at 4:39 pm

Trump, for some reason, has repeatedly asked whether he can “pre-emptively” pardon himself for, you know, things.

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Bess Levin writes in Vanity Fair:

At present, Donald Trump is embroiled in an absurd attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election because he’s physically incapable of admitting defeat and maybe also because he sees it as a possible way to collect a nice chunk of change from the easy marks that are his supporters. Eventually, though, his efforts will fail; Joe Biden will move into the White House on January 20, 2021, and Trump will revert to being just another civilian, albeit one with so much debt and bitterness that national security experts fear the possibly that he might reveal state secrets for money. Also: he’ll no longer be able to use the staff of the Justice Department as his personal legal team to fend off prosecutors, which is a very worrisome thing for a guy who’s potentially committed numerous crimes; we know this because, according to the New York Times, he’s concerned “not only about existing investigations in New York, but the potential for new federal probes as well.” And that obviously brings us to the question of whether or not he might actually try to pardon himself. And the answer to that question is: it definitely sounds like he might!

CNN reports that Trump has been asking aides since 2017 if he can self-pardon, which is just an amazing thing to behold given that he had just been inaugurated and apparently his first order of business as president was to be like, “Soooo….I was talking with some people and they were asking me, ‘Hey, Don, you’re president. You know these things, these pardons, are you allowed to do them on yourself?’ And I thought, That’s a great question. I had never thought of that but it’s a beautiful question.” According to one former White House official, Trump has also asked about pardons for his family, which makes sense given that they work together at the Trump Organization and possibly engaged in various forms of tax fraud together, among other things. Perhaps most incredibly, Trump reportedly “even asked if he could issue pardons preemptively for things people could be charged with in the future,” said the former official. Y’know, like a get-out-of-jail-free card for life just in case you decide to commit a crime at any point in the future.

Not surprisingly, because Trump has the mind of a child, the former official said that “Once he learned about it, he was obsessed with the power of pardons. I always thought he also liked it because it was a way to do a favor.” So taken was Trump by the idea of the ability to wave a wand and get rid of any legal consequences for a criminal conviction that senior officials would apparently bring it up out of nowhere if they needed to get him to shut up about something else:

One former official said Trump was so fascinated by his pardon powers that senior-level officials would sometimes bring up their research on the matter just to get Trump off another subject they wanted to steer away from.

“He asked stuff [about pardons] all the time—asking this stuff of everybody,” one person said, meaning there’s a nonzero chance Trump would bring up pardons with, like, the Secret Service, the East Wing housekeeper, and whoever was forced to dress up as the Easter Bunny after Sean Spicer was put out to pasture.

Regarding whether or not Trump would actually pardon himself, former aides who say he wouldn’t do it believe so only because “doing so would imply he’s guilty of something.” (“As has been stated by numerous legal scholars, I have the absolute right to PARDON myself, but why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong?” he tweeted in June 2018.) But others think it’s basically a given. “Of course he will,” the former White House official told CNN. And while he presumably wants to, it’s not actually clear Trump can, although apparently there is an insane scenario in which he could fake sick and temporarily make Mike Pence president just so he could do the honors:

Trump’s legal team and administration officials have downplayed the prospect [of a self-pardon]. There’s no precedent for doing so and the constitutionality of such a pardon is untested constitutionally, with legal experts split on whether it would be legitimate. The Justice Department looked at the question in the Nixon era and concluded it wasn’t within the president’s power to pardon himself. “Under the fundamental rule that no one may be a judge in his own case, the President cannot pardon himself,” the Office of Legal Counsel wrote in August 1974.

The OLC memo laid out alternate possibilities of which Trump could avail himself: he could temporarily declare himself unable to perform his presidential duties, allowing the vice president to act as president, including by issuing him a pardon, and then the president could resume his duties as president, or resign.

Even if Trump can pardon himself or have Pence do it for him, a self-pardon would only protect him from federal crimes and not a number of ongoing investigations and civil suits currently underway, including two led by Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance and New York Attorney General Letitia James, who are pursuing possible criminal charges related to the Trump Organization.

As for the other people likely to get a pardon as Trump is on his way out the door, they not surprisingly include former employees who’ve stayed on his good side and relatives’ relatives:

Among those likeliest to benefit are . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

13 November 2020 at 2:09 pm

The Next Decade Could Be Even Worse

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Graeme Wood talks with Peter Turchin and writes it up for the Atlantic:

Peter turchin, one of the world’s experts on pine beetles and possibly also on human beings, met me reluctantly this summer on the campus of the University of Connecticut at Storrs, where he teaches. Like many people during the pandemic, he preferred to limit his human contact. He also doubted whether human contact would have much value anyway, when his mathematical models could already tell me everything I needed to know.

But he had to leave his office sometime. (“One way you know I am Russian is that I cannot think sitting down,” he told me. “I have to go for a walk.”) Neither of us had seen much of anyone since the pandemic had closed the country several months before. The campus was quiet. “A week ago, it was even more like a neutron bomb hit,” Turchin said. Animals were timidly reclaiming the campus, he said: squirrels, woodchucks, deer, even an occasional red-tailed hawk. During our walk, groundskeepers and a few kids on skateboards were the only other representatives of the human population in sight.

The year 2020 has been kind to Turchin, for many of the same reasons it has been hell for the rest of us. Cities on fire, elected leaders endorsing violence, homicides surging—­­to a normal American, these are apocalyptic signs. To Turchin, they indicate that his models, which incorporate thousands of years of data about human history, are working. (“Not all of human history,” he corrected me once. “Just the last 10,000 years.”) He has been warning for a decade that a few key social and political trends portend an “age of discord,” civil unrest and carnage worse than most Americans have experienced. In 2010, he predicted that the unrest would get serious around 2020, and that it wouldn’t let up until those social and political trends reversed. Havoc at the level of the late 1960s and early ’70s is the best-case scenario; all-out civil war is the worst.

The fundamental problems, he says, are a dark triad of social maladies: a bloated elite class, with too few elite jobs to go around; declining living standards among the general population; and a government that can’t cover its financial positions. His models, which track these factors in other societies across history, are too complicated to explain in a nontechnical publication. But they’ve succeeded in impressing writers for nontechnical publications, and have won him comparisons to other authors of “megahistories,” such as Jared Diamond and Yuval Noah Harari. The New York Times columnist Ross Douthat had once found Turchin’s historical model­ing unpersuasive, but 2020 made him a believer: “At this point,” Douthat recently admitted on a podcast, “I feel like you have to pay a little more attention to him.”

Diamond and Harari aimed to describe the history of humanity. Turchin looks into a distant, science-fiction future for peers. In War and Peace and War (2006), his most accessible book, he likens himself to Hari Seldon, the “maverick mathematician” of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, who can foretell the rise and fall of empires. In those 10,000 years’ worth of data, Turchin believes he has found iron laws that dictate the fates of human societies.

The fate of our own society, he says, is not going to be pretty, at least in the near term. “It’s too late,” he told me as we passed Mirror Lake, which UConn’s website describes as a favorite place for students to “read, relax, or ride on the wooden swing.” The problems are deep and structural—not the type that the tedious process of demo­cratic change can fix in time to forestall mayhem. Turchin likens America to a huge ship headed directly for an iceberg: “If you have a discussion among the crew about which way to turn, you will not turn in time, and you hit the iceberg directly.” The past 10 years or so have been discussion. That sickening crunch you now hear—steel twisting, rivets popping—­­is the sound of the ship hitting the iceberg.

“We are almost guaranteed” five hellish years, Turchin predicts, and likely a decade or more. The problem, he says, is that there are too many people like me. “You are ruling class,” he said, with no more rancor than if he had informed me that I had brown hair, or a slightly newer iPhone than his. Of the three factors driving social violence, Turchin stresses most heavily “elite overproduction”—­the tendency of a society’s ruling classes to grow faster than the number of positions for their members to fill. One way for a ruling class to grow is biologically—think of Saudi Arabia, where princes and princesses are born faster than royal roles can be created for them. In the United States, elites over­produce themselves through economic and educational upward mobility: More and more people get rich, and more and more get educated. Neither of these sounds bad on its own. Don’t we want everyone to be rich and educated? The problems begin when money and Harvard degrees become like royal titles in Saudi Arabia. If lots of people have them, but only some have real power, the ones who don’t have power eventually turn on the ones who do.

In the United States, Turchin told me, you can see more and more aspirants fighting for a single job at, say, a prestigious law firm, or in an influential government sinecure, or (here it got personal) at a national magazine. Perhaps seeing the holes in my T-shirt, Turchin noted that a person can be part of an ideological elite rather than an economic one. (He doesn’t view himself as a member of either. A professor reaches at most a few hundred students, he told me. “You reach hundreds of thousands.”) Elite jobs do not multiply as fast as elites do. There are still only 100 Senate seats, but more people than ever have enough money or degrees to think they should be running the country. “You have a situation now where there are many more elites fighting for the same position, and some portion of them will convert to counter-elites,” Turchin said.

Donald Trump, for example, may appear elite (rich father, Wharton degree, gilded commodes), but Trumpism is a counter-elite movement. His government is packed with credentialed nobodies who were shut out of previous administrations, sometimes for good reasons and sometimes because the Groton-­Yale establishment simply didn’t have any vacancies. Trump’s former adviser and chief strategist Steve Bannon, Turchin said, is a “paradigmatic example” of a counter-elite. He grew up working-class, went to Harvard Business School, and got rich as an investment banker and by owning a small stake in the syndication rights to Seinfeld. None of that translated to political power until he allied himself with the common people. “He was a counter-elite who used Trump to break through, to put the white working males back in charge,” Turchin said.

Elite overproduction creates counter-elites, and counter-elites look for allies among the commoners. If commoners’ living standards slip—not relative to the elites, but relative to what they had before—they accept the overtures of the counter-elites and start oiling the axles of their tumbrels. Commoners’ lives grow worse, and the few who try to pull themselves onto the elite lifeboat are pushed back into the water by those already aboard. The final trigger of impending collapse, Turchin says, tends to be state insolvency. At some point rising in­security becomes expensive. The elites have to pacify unhappy citizens with handouts and freebies—and when these run out, they have to police dissent and oppress people. Eventually the state exhausts all short-term solutions, and what was heretofore a coherent civilization disintegrates.

Turchin’s prognostications would be easier to dismiss as barstool theorizing if the disintegration were not happening now, roughly as the Seer of Storrs foretold 10 years ago. If the next 10 years are as seismic as he says they will be, his insights will have to be accounted for by historians and social scientists—assuming, of course, that there are still universities left to employ such people.

Turchin was born in 1957 in Obninsk, Russia, a city built by the Soviet state as a kind of nerd heaven, where scientists could collaborate and live together. His father, Valen­tin, was a physicist and political dissident, and his mother, Tatiana, had trained as a geologist. They moved to Moscow when he was 7 and in 1978 fled to New York as political refugees. There they quickly found a community that spoke the household language, which was science. Valen­tin taught at the City University of New York, and Peter studied biology at NYU and earned a zoology doctorate from Duke.

Turchin wrote a dissertation on . . .

Continue reading. There’s more

And see also “The Wealthy and Privileged Can Revolt, Too,” by Noah Smith in Bloomberg.

Written by Leisureguy

13 November 2020 at 12:11 pm

A close-fought frame: Ronnie O’Sullivan vs. Stuart Bingham, 2016 Masters

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Twelve minutes.

Written by Leisureguy

13 November 2020 at 10:46 am

Posted in Daily life, Games, Snooker, Video

Sam Alito’s gone off the rails and demonstrates weakness and bias in the current Supreme Court

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Mark Joseph Stern reports in Slate:

On Thursday night, Justice Sam Alito delivered the keynote address at this year’s all-virtual Federalist Society National Lawyers Convention . The Federalist Society, a well-funded network of conservative attorneys, has come under unusual scrutiny after Donald Trump elevated scores of its members to the federal judiciary. Its leaders insist that it is a mere debate club, a nonpartisan forum for the exchange of legal ideas. But Alito abandoned any pretense of impartiality in his speech, a grievance-laden tirade against Democrats, the progressive movement, and the United States’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Alito’s targets included COVID-related restrictions, same-sex marriage, abortion, Plan B, the contraceptive mandate, LGBTQ nondiscrimination laws, and five sitting Democratic senators.

Ironically, Alito began his prerecorded address by condemning an effort by the U.S. Judicial Conference to forbid federal judges from being members of the Federalist Society. He then praised, by name, the four judges who spearheaded a successful effort to defeat the ban—or, as Alito put it, who “stood up to an attempt to hobble the debate that the Federalist Society fosters.” Alito warned that law school students who are members of the Federalist Society tell him they “face harassment and retaliation if they say anything that departs from the law school orthodoxy.”

These comments revealed early on that Alito would not be abiding by the usual ethics rules, which require judges to remain impartial and avoid any appearance of bias. The rest of his speech served as a burn book for many cases he has participated in, particularly those in which he dissented. Remarkably, Alito did not just grouse about the outcome of certain cases, but the political context of those decisions, and the broader cultural and political forces behind them. Although the justice accused several Democratic senators of being unprofessional, he himself defied the basic principles of judicial conduct.

For instance, the justice criticized state governors who’ve issued strict lockdown orders in response to COVID-19, referring to specific cases that came before the court. Alito said these “sweeping” and “previously unimaginable restrictions on individual liberty” have served as a “constitutional stress test,” with ominous results. The government’s response to COVID-19, Alito continued, has “highlighted disturbing trends that were already present before the virus struck.” He complained about lawmaking by an “elite group of appointed experts,” citing not just COVID rules but the entire regulatory framework of the federal government.

Alito also warned of a broader, ongoing assault on religious liberty. “In certain corners,” he alleged, “religious liberty is fast becoming a disfavored right.” Alito condemned the Obama administration’s “ protracted campaign” and “unrelenting attack” against the Little Sisters of the Poor, which refused to submit a form to the federal government opting out of the contraceptive mandate. The group alleged that submitting this notice burdened its religious exercise. Alito also disparaged Washington state for requiring pharmacies to provide emergency contraception—which, he claimed, “destroys an embryo after fertilization.” (That is false.) Finally, Alito rebuked Colorado for attempting to compel Jack Phillips to bake a cake for a same-sex couple.* He noted that the couple was given a free cake and supported by “celebrity chefs.” . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

There’s much more to that Twitter thread. Start here.

Written by Leisureguy

13 November 2020 at 10:42 am

Posted in GOP, Government, Law, Politics, Video

Parler, the far-Right equivalent to Twitter, seems to be another Russian invasion

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David Troy has a lengthy Twitter thread where he sets out what is know about Parler, a Twitter-like startup that strongly pumps out disinformation. From what he’s found, it seems clear that this is another Russian effort to weaken US social bonds.

Do read the entire thread by clicking “Show this thread” when it appears. Start here. This is the first tweet in the thread:

Written by Leisureguy

13 November 2020 at 10:30 am

Current salad checklist – updated

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I currently use enough salad ingredients that I tend to overlook one or more as I remove them from the fridge to assemble the salad. The obvious solution is a checklist, so I made one. — And the fact that I had to update the list shows how necessary it is.

Daikon radish provides good crunch. When I sauté the (extra-firm) tofu cubes in a little olive oil, I sprinkle them with curry powder or smoked paprika or cayenne pepper or herbes de Provence. Lately I’ve been cutting a couple of slabs from the end of the block and sautéing those, then once they are done, move them to the cutting board and cut them into cubes: it’s easier to turn slabs over than to try to cook cubes on all sides.,

Salad checklist

• Scallions, chopped
• Cucumber, diced (Persian or hothouse/English cucumber, including peel)
• 1/2 Yellow, orange, or red bell pepper, diced
• Jalapeño, chopped small (or not — depends on whether I have it on hand)
• Daikon radish, diced, and/or fresh fennel, cored and chopped (both give good crunch)
• Steamed broccoli from the fridge, chopped
• Beans/Lentils, 1/4 cup
• Intact whole grain, 1/4 cup (I prefer kamut)
• Walnuts (1/4 cup) or pumpkin seeds (2-3 tablespoons), unsalted
• Tofu or tempeh cubes (sautéed) — I sauté a slab and then cut into cubes; tempeh work better: crisper
• Cherry tomatoes, halved
• 1/2 avocado, diced large
• Red cabbage, shredded
• Raw mushrooms (crimini or white domestic), sliced
• Kalamata olives, pitted
• Often: 1 tablespoon flaxseeds, ground

If I have cooked vegetables (roasted carrots, cooked squash, cooked greens), I might well add some of those. I also like steamed green beans and/or wax beans that have been chilled and cut into 1″ lengths.

Dressing

I sometimes mix by shaking in a little jar (when using lemon juice), but otherwise use my immersion blender and its beaker, which allows me to easily pulp an entire peeled lemon (see below), thus using lemon pulp rather than lemon juice. If I’m using the blender, I use a clove of fresh garlic rather than garlic powder.

• Lemon pulp (see below)
• Splash of vinegar (sherry, apple cider, red wine, brown rice, or balsamic)
• Olive oil
• 2-4 cloves fresh garlic (if blending) or garlic powder (if mixing by shaking dressing in a jar)
• Smoked paprika
• Black pepper
• Dijon mustard
• 1 tablespoon dried mint
• Soy sauce or tamari or Worcestershire sauce or fish sauce or ponzu sauce (for umami)

Additional things I might add to the dressing:

• Horseradish (from refrigerated section)
• Toasted sesame oil or tahini
• Chili sesame oil or sriracha or sambal oelek or other hot sauce
• English walnuts (about 1/4 cup or a little less), if using blender (unless walnuts in salad)
• Blend 1/2 avocado in the dressing (if avocado used in the salad) for a creamy, thick dressing
• Squeeze of tomato paste from a tube (increase liquid by adding vinegar)

Lemon pulp

This post shows in photos the method: Cut the ends off a lemon, then cut it in half at its equator, place the two halves on a cutting board, and cut off the peel. Put the peeled lemon halves in the beaker of an immersion blender and blend. Use the lemon pulp instead of lemon juice — the pulp contains many more nutrients than mere juice. (If you do this, put all the dressing ingredients in the beaker and blend the dressing.)

Update – More ideas

In the NY Times Julia Moskin’s guide to making a salad (which includes many recipe links) provides more ideas and options. Take a look.

Written by Leisureguy

13 November 2020 at 10:24 am

Synthetic brush comment, and the Phoenix Ascension — plus Arko Aftershave Gel

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After a series of days using natural-bristle brushes (horsehair, badger, boar), I did not the different feel of the synthetic, which lacks a certain amount of texture. This comment comes from using a Plissoft synthetic — Mühle’s gen 2 synthetic, aimed directly at imitating badger, might offer more texture. I’ll try it tomorrow.

The Plissoft does an excellent job, but I admit that I did miss for a moment the textured feel of the other brushes. I can see why some strongly prefer natural to synthetic, despite the advantages a synthetic knot offers (price and performance, mostly, plus some do like the feel of a good synthetic).

Excellent lather from the Strop Shoppe tallow soap, but not so slick in the third pass as Declaration Grooming’s Milksteak (tallow) or Phoenix Artisan’s CK-6 (vegan). In fact, Wholly Kaw was also slicker for the third pass. Those all have been experimenting with (and advancing) their soap formulations.

The Phoenix Ascension is a wonderful little razor. I like the look of the darker baseplate, and it gives a dynamite shave. It’s on my list of very comfortable and very efficient razors.

A small squirt of Arko Aqua Aftershave Gel and the job is done. That gel is quite nice: good format for aftershave, pleasing fragrance, and nice feel. I would get another.

Written by Leisureguy

13 November 2020 at 10:12 am

Posted in Shaving

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