Later On

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

Archive for January 22nd, 2021

Excellent questions from Jill Psaki, President Biden’s press secretary

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Written by Leisureguy

22 January 2021 at 11:36 pm

Trump and Justice Dept. Lawyer Plotted to Oust Acting Attorney General

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Trump really was working toward a coup — to ignore election results and install himself as President despite his loss. Katie Benner reports in the NY Times:

The Justice Department’s top leaders listened in stunned silence this month: One of their peers, they were told, had devised a plan with President Donald J. Trump to oust Jeffrey A. Rosen as acting attorney general and wield the department’s power to force Georgia state lawmakers to overturn its presidential election results.

The unassuming lawyer who worked on the plan, Jeffrey Clark, had been devising ways to cast doubt on the election results and to bolster Mr. Trump’s continuing legal battles and the pressure on Georgia politicians. Because Mr. Rosen had refused the president’s entreaties to carry out those plans, Mr. Trump was about to decide whether to fire Mr. Rosen and replace him with Mr. Clark.

The department officials, convened on a conference call, then asked each other: What will you do if Mr. Rosen is dismissed?

The answer was unanimous. They would resign.

Their informal pact ultimately helped persuade Mr. Trump to keep Mr. Rosen in place, calculating that a furor over mass resignations at the top of the Justice Department would eclipse any attention on his baseless accusations of voter fraud. Mr. Trump’s decision came only after Mr. Rosen and Mr. Clark made their competing cases to him in a bizarre White House meeting that two officials compared with an episode of Mr. Trump’s reality show “The Apprentice,” albeit one that could prompt a constitutional crisis.

 

The previously unknown chapter was the culmination of the president’s long-running effort to batter the Justice Department into advancing his personal agenda. He also pressed Mr. Rosen to appoint special counsels, including one who would look into Dominion Voting Systems, a maker of election equipment that Mr. Trump’s allies had falsely said was working with Venezuela to flip votes from Mr. Trump to Joseph R. Biden Jr.

This account of the department’s final days under Mr. Trump’s leadership is based on interviews with four former Trump administration officials who asked not to be named because of fear of retaliation.

Mr. Clark said that this account contained inaccuracies but did not specify, adding that he could not discuss any conversations with Mr. Trump or Justice Department lawyers because of “the strictures of legal privilege.” “Senior Justice Department lawyers, not uncommonly, provide legal advice to the White House as part of our duties,” he said. “All my official communications were consistent with law.”

Mr. Clark categorically denied that he devised any plan to oust Mr. Rosen, or to formulate recommendations for action based on factual inaccuracies gleaned from the internet. “My practice is to rely on sworn testimony to assess disputed factual claims,” Mr. Clark said. “There was a candid discussion of options and pros and cons with the president. It is unfortunate that those who were part of a privileged legal conversation would comment in public about such internal deliberations, while also distorting any discussions.”

Mr. Clark also noted that he was the lead signatory on a Justice Department request last month asking a federal judge to reject a lawsuit that sought to pressure Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the results of the election.

Mr. Trump declined to comment . . .

Continue reading.

I predict that the GOP will continue to protect Trump. The GOP is the party of bad faith.

Written by Leisureguy

22 January 2021 at 8:20 pm

The Healthiest Food Sources of Vitamin B12

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A while back I blogged a video on which type of B12 supplement is better, cyanocobalamin or methylcobalamin. (It’s the former — see video.) But what about food sources fortified with B12? The following video covers that. Note that everyone over 50 should be getting supplemental B12, regardless of their diet — see this brief video on the optimal vitamin B12 dosage for adults.

Written by Leisureguy

22 January 2021 at 7:57 pm

Electric car batteries with five-minute charging times produced

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Damian Carrington reports in the Guardian:

Batteries capable of fully charging in five minutes have been produced in a factory for the first time, marking a significant step towards electric cars becoming as fast to charge as filling up petrol or diesel vehicles.

Electric vehicles are a vital part of action to tackle the climate crisis but running out of charge during a journey is a worry for drivers. The new lithium-ion batteries were developed by the Israeli company StoreDot and manufactured by Eve Energy in China on standard production lines.

StoreDot has already demonstrated its “extreme fast-charging” battery in phones, drones and scooters and the 1,000 batteries it has now produced are to showcase its technology to carmakers and other companies. Daimler, BP, Samsung and TDK have all invested in StoreDot, which has raised $130m to date and was named a Bloomberg New Energy Finance Pioneer in 2020.

The batteries can be fully charged in five minutes but this would require much higher-powered chargers than used today. Using available charging infrastructure, StoreDot is aiming to deliver 100 miles of charge to a car battery in five minutes in 2025.

“The number one barrier to the adoption of electric vehicles is no longer cost, it is range anxiety,” said Doron Myersdorf, CEO of StoreDot. “You’re either afraid that you’re going to get stuck on the highway or you’re going to need to sit in a charging station for two hours. But if the experience of the driver is exactly like fuelling [a petrol car], this whole anxiety goes away.”

“A five-minute charging lithium-ion battery was considered to be impossible,” he said. “But we are not releasing a lab prototype, we are releasing engineering samples from a mass production line. This demonstrates it is feasible and it’s commercially ready.”

Existing Li-ion batteries use graphite as one electrode, into which the lithium ions are pushed to store charge. But when these are rapidly charged, the ions get congested and can turn into metal and short circuit the battery.

The StoreDot battery replaces graphite with semiconductor nanoparticles into which ions can pass more quickly and easily. These nanoparticles are currently based on germanium, which is water soluble and easier to handle in manufacturing. But StoreDot’s plan is to use silicon, which is much cheaper, and it expects these prototypes later this year. Myersdorf said the cost would be the same as existing Li-ion batteries.

“The bottleneck to extra-fast charging is no longer the battery,” he said. Now the charging stations and grids that supply them need to be upgraded, he said, which is why they are working with BP. “BP has 18,200 forecourts and they understand that, 10 years from now, all these stations will be obsolete, if they don’t repurpose them for charging – batteries are the new oil.”

Dozens of companies around the world are developing fast-charging batteries, with TeslaEnevate and Sila Nanotechnologies all working on silicon electrodes. Others are looking at different compounds, such as Echion which uses niobium oxide nanoparticles.

Tesla boss Elon Musk tweeted on Monday: “Battery cell production is the fundamental rate-limiter slowing down a sustainable energy future. Very important problem.”

“I think such fast-charging batteries will be available to the mass market in three years,” said Prof Chao-Yang Wang, at the Battery and Energy Storage Technology Center at Pennsylvania State University in the US. “They will not be more expensive; in fact, they allow automakers to downsize the onboard battery while still eliminating range anxiety, thereby dramatically cutting down the vehicle battery cost.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

22 January 2021 at 1:14 pm

Debussy’s Clair de Lune performed as dance

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Written by Leisureguy

22 January 2021 at 12:29 pm

Posted in Art, Music, Video

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How the world embraced consumerism

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A consumerist society is just one of many possible cultural outcomes, and the evolution of the consumerist society in which we now live and struggle was the result of choices and deliberate initiatives. Some of those I’ve blogged about in times past, referring to this article (listed on the Useful Posts page). Now Kerryn Higgs has a lengthy article in The MIT Press Reader that provides details of how our consumerist society was created, which shows that the primary goal was by no means to benefit the public. The article is an extract adapted from Higgs’ book Collision Course: Endless Growth on a Finite Planet. (You can also get a Kindle edition of the book. The BBC has a version of this article with more plentiful illustrations.)

Over the course of the 20th century, capitalism preserved its momentum by molding the ordinary person into a consumer with an unquenchable thirst for more stuff.

The notion of human beings as consumers first took shape before World War I, but became commonplace in America in the 1920s. Consumption is now frequently seen as our principal role in the world.

People, of course, have always “consumed” the necessities of life — food, shelter, clothing — and have always had to work to get them or have others work for them, but there was little economic motive for increased consumption among the mass of people before the 20th century.

Quite the reverse: Frugality and thrift were more appropriate to situations where survival rations were not guaranteed. Attempts to promote new fashions, harness the “propulsive power of envy,” and boost sales multiplied in Britain in the late 18th century. Here began the “slow unleashing of the acquisitive instincts,” write historians Neil McKendrick, John Brewer, and J.H. Plumb in their influential book on the commercialization of 18th-century England, when the pursuit of opulence and display first extended beyond the very rich.

But, while poorer people might have acquired a very few useful household items — a skillet, perhaps, or an iron pot — the sumptuous clothing, furniture, and pottery of the era were still confined to a very small population. In late 19th-century Britain a variety of foods became accessible to the average person, who would previously have lived on bread and potatoes — consumption beyond mere subsistence. This improvement in food variety did not extend durable items to the mass of people, however. The proliferating shops and department stores of that period served only a restricted population of urban middle-class people in Europe, but the display of tempting products in shops in daily public view was greatly extended — and display was a key element in the fostering of fashion and envy.

Although the period after World War II is often identified as the beginning of the immense eruption of consumption across the industrialized world, the historian William Leach locates its roots in the United States around the turn of the century.

In the United States, existing shops were rapidly extended through the 1890s, mail-order shopping surged, and the new century saw massive multistory department stores covering millions of acres of selling space. Retailing was already passing decisively from small shopkeepers to corporate giants who had access to investment bankers and drew on assembly-line production of commodities, powered by fossil fuels; the traditional objective of making products for their self-evident usefulness was displaced by the goal of profit and the need for a machinery of enticement.

“The cardinal features of this culture were acquisition and consumption as the means of achieving happiness; the cult of the new; the democratization of desire; and money value as the predominant measure of all value in society,” Leach writes in his 1993 book “Land of Desire: Merchants, Power, and the Rise of a New American Culture.” Significantly, it was individual desire that was democratized, rather than wealth or political and economic power.

The 1920s: “The New Economic Gospel of Consumption”

Release from the perils of famine and premature starvation was in place for most people in the industrialized world soon after the Great War ended. U.S. production was more than 12 times greater in 1920 than in 1860, while the population over the same period had increased by only a factor of three, suggesting just how much additional wealth was theoretically available. The labor struggles of the 19th century had, without jeopardizing the burgeoning productivity, gradually eroded the seven-day week of 14- and 16-hour days that was worked at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in England. In the United States in particular, economic growth had succeeded in providing basic security to the great majority of an entire population.

In these circumstances, there was a social choice to be made. A steady-state economy capable of meeting the basic needs of all, foreshadowed by philosopher and political economist John Stuart Mill as the stationary state, seemed well within reach and, in Mill’s words, likely to be an improvement on “the trampling, crushing, elbowing and treading on each other’s heels … the disagreeable symptoms of one of the phases of industrial progress.” It would be feasible to reduce hours of work further and release workers for the spiritual and pleasurable activities of free time with families and communities, and creative or educational pursuits. But business did not support such a trajectory, and it was not until the Great Depression that hours were reduced, in response to overwhelming levels of unemployment.

In 1930 the U.S. cereal manufacturer Kellogg adopted a six-hour shift to help accommodate unemployed workers, and other forms of work-sharing became more widespread. Although the shorter workweek appealed to Kellogg’s workers, the company, after reverting to longer hours during World War II, was reluctant to renew the six-hour shift in 1945. Workers voted for it by three-to-one in both 1945 and 1946, suggesting that, at the time, they still found life in their communities more attractive than consumer goods. This was particularly true of women. Kellogg, however, gradually overcame the resistance of its workers and whittled away at the short shifts until the last of them were abolished in 1985.

Even if a shorter working day became an acceptable strategy during the Great Depression, the economic system’s orientation toward profit and its bias toward growth made such a trajectory unpalatable to most captains of industry and the economists who theorized their successes. If profit and growth were lagging, the system needed new impetus. The short depression of 1921–1922 led businessmen and economists in the United States to fear that the immense productive powers created over the previous century had grown sufficiently to meet the basic needs of the entire population and had probably triggered a permanent crisis of overproduction; prospects for further economic expansion were thought to look bleak.

The historian Benjamin Hunnicutt, who examined the mainstream press of the 1920s, along with the publications of corporations, business organizations, and government inquiries, found extensive evidence that such fears were widespread in business circles during the 1920s. Victor Cutter, president of the United Fruit Company, exemplified the concern when he wrote in 1927 that the greatest economic problem of the day was the lack of “consuming power” in relation to the prodigious powers of production. . .

Continue reading. There’s much, much more.

Later in the article:

Bernays’s views, like those of several other analysts of the “crowd” and the “herd instinct,” were a product of the panic created among the elite classes by the early 20th-century transition from the limited franchise of propertied men to universal suffrage. “On every side of American life, whether political, industrial, social, religious or scientific, the increasing pressure of public judgment has made itself felt,” Bernays wrote. “The great corporation which is in danger of having its profits taxed away or its sales fall off or its freedom impeded by legislative action must have recourse to the public to combat successfully these menaces.”

The opening page of “Propaganda” discloses his solution:

The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.… It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind, who harness old social forces and contrive new ways to bind and guide the world.

The front-line thinkers of the emerging advertising and public relations industries turned to the key insights of Sigmund Freud, Bernays’s uncle. As Bernays noted: . . .

Written by Leisureguy

22 January 2021 at 11:27 am

Fine shave and a list of best shave soaps of 2021

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The Plisson brush is extremely nice to use. In comparison to the Rooney Finest I used yesterday, it has a slight more granular feel on the face and is not quite so resilient, but (like the Rooney) provides a quite distinctive and pleasant feel as I lather. Both brushes load easily (assuming a good soap and reasonably soft water) and both brushes have enormous capacity. The heft of the plated brass handle is also quite nice, and the pedestal food provides a secure grip when (for example) shaking the brush dry (before the shave (after thoroughly wetting the knot) and after the shave (having rinsed the knot well, first under running hot water until the water runs clear and then under cold water).

And the lather was excellent from Phoenix Artisan’s Crown King formula. (CK-6 is the 6th iteration of that formula: “CK” = “Crown King,” something I only this morning realized.) Alt-Eleven has a green tobacco fragrance, near as I can tell — certainly a pleasant fragrance.

The razor head is Charcoal’s Edwin Jagger clone, which I believe Charcoal no longer offers (though others do, and you can also buy the authentic Edwin Jagger head by itself. The handle is one made by Wolfman Razors at one time, a handle I like for both look and feel. [updated to add link to the EJ head.]

An excellent result — the EJ head really is quite good — and a small dab of the Alt-Eleven Star-Jelly balm finished the job, leaving my very smooth skin extremely soft.

Sharpologist has a “best of” article regarding currently available shaving soaps. I concur with his judgments for the soaps I’ve tried, and (of course) am curious to try some from the list that are new to me. Valentine’s Day is coming up, and perhaps a subtle hint will garner you a new soap or two. (A “subtle hint” can go so far as a completed order form put on the fridge door with a magnet, so far as I am concerned.)

Written by Leisureguy

22 January 2021 at 9:05 am

Posted in Shaving

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