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Archive for November 19th, 2021

Wisconsin wants to put Republicans in total control of elections

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I am so tired of Republicans’ insane lust for absolute power. They didn’t used to be this way. In fact, in times past I have voted for a Republican (Robert Ray, for Iowa Governor). Kevin Drum posts:

I’ve been paying attention to election events in Wisconsin with only half an eye, but today the New York Times caught me up on the whole sordid affair. In a nutshell, Republicans want to abolish a bipartisan election commission and instead put all voting decisions in the hands of Republicans. Remarkably, there’s not even a made-up excuse for this. They just want to do it:

The onslaught picked up late last month after a long-awaited report on the 2020 results that was ordered by Republican state legislators found no evidence of fraud but made dozens of suggestions for the election commission and the G.O.P.-led Legislature, fueling Republican demands for more control of elections.

….And last week, Senator Ron Johnson, a Republican, said that G.O.P. state lawmakers should unilaterally assert control of federal elections….Republican control of Wisconsin elections is necessary, Mr. Johnson said in an interview on Wednesday, because he believes Democrats cheat.

That’s basically it. Democrats are cheaters—even though their own report said otherwise—so Republicans should unilaterally control all election decisions.

Welcome to the modern Republican Party. This is what Democrats should be fighting: not early voting or mail voting or photo IDs or any of that stuff. They should instead introduce a voting bill that focuses solely on the oversight of elections, making it clear that oversight should be nonpartisan and entirely out of the hands of legislatures. Even hard core Republicans are largely taken aback when they hear about this stuff, and it would cost Republicans dearly to fight a common sense bill like this.

Written by Leisureguy

19 November 2021 at 3:06 pm

Oedipus Rex, endlessly rewarding

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Elżbieta Wesołowska, Professor of Latin and Ancient Literature at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland, where she was previously Director of the Institute of Classical Philology, has an interesting essay on Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex in Antigone. From the essay:

the mystery of Oedipus’ life can be explained by the fact that Oedipus hoped to avoid his future without knowing his past. His symbolic death as a blind man seems to mirror his life of blindly following the paths of fate. It is also worth considering two adverbs of place and time in ancient Greek: opisthen (denoting that which takes place in the future and is situated “behind” something) and prosthen (that which takes place in the past and is situated “in front of” something). The Greeks believed that since the past had already happened, we can see it “in front of us”, while we can’t see the future, so it is “behind our back”.

In Oedipus’ life the reverse, however, is true: he doesn’t know his past, which is in front of him, but he knows the future, once revealed to him by the oracle. Oedipus lives in the illusion of his future life without having access to his past, in which his present life is rooted. Unable to make sense of his life out of the incoherent scraps of knowledge about his past, he is doomed to fail. In Sophocles’ play, Oedipus blinds himself at the end. Before that he mocks Tiresias, a blind prophet, for his physical blindness, without realizing that he is the one who doesn’t know the truth about himself and his past.[8]

An experiment carried out in the early 2000s and involving blindfolded participants  . . .

Written by Leisureguy

19 November 2021 at 2:53 pm

Situation Report: How to pop the crypto bubble

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Dave Troy has a very interesting report on Medium, with three podcasts (included below). He writes:

For my part, I’ve decided to start cranking out various kinds of content, on my own schedule and terms, that help wobble the universe to accelerate a reckoning. This week, I produced over five hours of audio content in three live Twitter Spaces shows, which I’ve recorded for folks to listen to later. Here are links to those three programs, which are great on-ramps for understanding the current landscape.

We recorded three programs this week. End Times for Oil: Crypto, Gold, Radicalization, and January 6th, about the relationship between oil, monetary theory, gold, radicalization, and the January 6th insurrection. This is a good overall atlas for understanding what’s happened in the big picture. The Wizard of Oz, The Gold Standard, and Crypto is a fun discussion of how the famous book and movie can be read as a parable about monetary policy, and how those deeper themes map into the current landscape. And The Libertarian Roots of January 6th with Dr. James Scaminaci III is a terrific, deep dive into Austrian Economics, American libertarianism, and the rise of the Koch-backed Ron Paul campaign, and its many offshoots, several of which led to the insurrection on January 6th. Seriously, if you listen to these shows you will have a very good situational awareness of what’s happening right now, which is what we aim to provide. Please listen, and share.

Time to pop the crypto bubble. I’m convinced the crypto bubble is on the verge of popping and as I’ve said, my aim is to accelerate that. There is a pretty clear strategy that can bring that about, namely to spark divisions between the incoherent factions that have gravitated to the space for a variety of reasons, some good-faith, some less so.

Speaking broadly, there are three distinct schisms to exploit in the crypto-cult church.

  1. Bitcoin vs. so-called ‘sh*tcoins.’ The former tends to attract “serious” investors who believe in the scarcity premise and the robust “sound money” proposition Bitcoin offers. Those investing in, well, everything else in the space represent a long-tail of get-rich-quick-schemers, kids, and innovators. This is a “big tent” filled with all kinds of people who can be sorted into more distinct audiences.
  2. Progressives vs. fascists. There are “progressive” and “liberal” people involved in the crypto space, many of whom are not aware of the history that informed its birth. They don’t know about Austrian Economics or goldbuggery or the John Birch Society. By contrast, there are people who are super devoted to that ideology. They would likely not call themselves “fascists” usually, but I will, namely because this is the tradition and networks upon which they are drawing support.
  3. Innovators vs. grifters. I have repeatedly stressed that there are good, well-intentioned people working on interesting ideas in the so-called ‘web3’ space that aren’t trying to overthrow governments or oppress anyone with hierarchical money. Unfortunately, these folks are lost in the cacophany of get-rich-quick Ponzi-chatter (see Winklevii, squawking about hyperinflation) that floods the space. The real innovators, all eleven of them (joking), should be afforded an audience. To do that, grifters and schemers need to be banished and silenced, sent back to their before-times jobs, or to find new ones.

Any of you are invited to use the Socratic method (i.e. ask questions) with your crypto-fan friends and family about their politics—especially over Thanksgiving. If they identify as progressive, ask them about Austrian Economics and Ayn Rand. If they’re fascists, make them own up to it. If they’re innovators, help them differentiate their views from the fascists. If they’re BTC fans, make them say why, and denounce the sh*tcoin grifters. More men are into crypto (and help code it) than women, so ask about how crypto helps ensure gender equality. We can all ask the questions that will turn this mania, which is predicated on viral transmission at Rt > 1.0, back to a Rt ≤1.0 value, which will keep it as the side innovation that it is instead of blowing up into a cultish Ponzi scheme that distracts and harms.

Rhetorically tying the entire crypto world to societal pariah freakshows (Austrian Economics, the John Birch Society, Ayn Rand, objectivism, Barry Goldwater, the gold standard, Koch Industries, the Council for National Policy, Mike Flynn, Steve Bannon, and January 6th) will force people who want to distance themselves to speak up loudly.

The resulting schisms will  . . .

Continue reading. There’s quite a bit more, including this video:

Here are the three podcasts:

Written by Leisureguy

19 November 2021 at 12:22 pm

An ancient exploding comet could explain why glass litters part of Chile

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A 75-kilometer-long stretch of the Atacama Desert is home to twisted chunks of glass (dark chunks in this image). The glass formed when a comet, or its remnants, exploded over the area 12,000 years ago, researchers say. P.H. SCHULTZ/BROWN UNIV.

Freda Kreier writes in Science News:

Scattered across a swath of the Atacama Desert in Chile lie twisted chunks of black and green glass. How the glass ended up there, sprinkled along a 75-kilometer-long corridor, has been a mystery.

Now, analyses of space dust in the glass show that the glass probably formed when a comet, or its remnants, exploded over the desert 12,000 years ago, researchers report November 2 in Geology.

This corridor is the best evidence yet of a comet impact site on Earth, says Peter Schultz, a planetary geologist at Brown University in Providence, R.I.

There are only about 190 known impact craters on Earth (SN: 12/18/18). Falling space rocks carved out these sites, but none are known to have been created by a comet. That’s because comets, which are made of mostly ice and some rock, tend to explode before reaching the ground, a fate they share with some small asteroids. These fiery events — known as airbursts — are dramatic, generating massive amounts of heat and strong winds. But the effects are temporary and often fail to leave lasting imprints, like craters, behind.

That’s especially true in wet environments. In 1908, an airburst from an asteroid or comet over a remote part of Russia flattened trees and generated a shock wave that knocked people off their feet hundreds of kilometers away. The trees have since grown back over the site of what’s now known as the Tunguska blast, leaving just a marsh (SN: 6/5/08). “If it hadn’t been observed, no one would know it happened,” says Mark Boslough, a physicist at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque who wasn’t involved in the new research.

The Atacama, the world’s driest desert, is better suited to preserving impact sites. And it’s full of sand — the raw material for making glass, which forms when sand is heated to high temperatures. Heat from volcanic activity is responsible for almost all of the naturally derived glass on Earth.

The desert’s glass corridor, however, is kilometers away from the closest volcano, suggesting the glass formed in a different type of heating event, such as an airburst. But radiocarbon dating of ancient plants in the soil around the glass seemed to indicate that the pieces didn’t all form at the same time. Because airbursts rarely occur in the same place twice, the evidence led some researchers to suggest that the glass formed during several massive grass fires.

That idea, Schultz says, “seemed really weird to us because there just wasn’t enough grass for fires,” even long ago when the area probably had more greenery than it does today. After examining some of the glass, he and colleagues determined that it had formed at temperatures exceeding 1700° Celsius — much hotter than grass fires.

What’s more, the team discovered embedded within the glass . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

19 November 2021 at 11:30 am

Posted in History, Science

Why Do We Think Mary Lincoln Was Crazy?

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Alexis Cole writes at Study Marry Kill:

Mary Lincoln was crazy. At least, that’s what we’ve heard. But why? Next week, I’ll send out a long essay on the long forgotten origin of that misnomer: Mary’s sensational 1875 insanity trial, a kangaroo court orchestrated by Robert Lincoln, her only surviving adult child, who hoped, like so many of men his time, to rid himself of a woman who embarrassed him. Robert’s plan backfired, but Mary’s legacy withstood the most damage. Mary was declared sane by the court and the press was sympathetic towards her situation—but in America’s collective memory, she’s still crazy. Next week’s essay will focus on the insanity trial, but it’s important to preface that narrative with some background. Mary was branded as“crazy” long before the trial began, and scholars have done little to correct the record.

We still live in a world full of armchair diagnosticians who call women crazy. But they’re not hoping these women get treatment; they want the women to control displays of emotions they deem unacceptable. Men receive comparatively mellow labels, even the most severe cases. A man who stalks a woman is called a “spurned suitor;” sexual harassment is often described as a “romantic overture.” A recent headline: “The body of Miya Marcano, a Florida college student who vanished after repeatedly rejecting romantic overtures from a maintenance worker in her apartment complex, has been found.” The fixation doesn’t have to be romantic. “Demon-Obsessed Teen Gets 35 Years in Slaying of Sisters.”

It’s well known that Mary witnessed Lincoln’s assasination, but less well known is that four out of five of Mary’s children predeceased her. “After my son died, I got really afraid that people would maybe judge me or think about me in the way that history has remembered Mary Lincoln,” Callie Hawkins, the interim executive director and the director of programming at President Lincoln’s cottage, told Gillian Brockell of the  Washington Post, in an article about a recent exhibition on Mary Lincoln’s experience of motherhood and bereavement “Which is to say, she was afraid they would think she was ‘crazy,’” Brockell added.

Death was a part of God’s plan. In the 19th century, struggling with it displayed a lack of piety. Mary’s conspicuous, prolonged mourning was an affront to society. “When [her second son] Eddy died, she tore out her hair; when [her third son] Willie died she was so overcome she couldn’t leave her bed for weeks and missed his funeral. She would cry loudly and wore black mourning clothes much longer than was socially acceptable,” Brockell wrote. Mary displayed a lack of submissiveness her era demanded. Women could faint on occasion, perhaps even weep at a moving scene, but sustained, barefaced emotion was to be controlled in front of others.

It doesn’t help that there are only a few books on the subject of her alleged insanity from small academic presses: The Insanity File: The Case of Mary Todd Lincoln (1986) by Pulitzer-prize winning historian Mark E. Neely, Jr., and the late R. Gerald McMurty, and The Madness of Mary Lincoln (2007) by Jason Emerson, a former U.S. National Parks Service interpreter who discovered a trunk of Mary Lincoln’s letters in a historic home (and apparently withheld access to others before publication).

Neither book gives much consideration to scholarship on women and medicine. Instead the authors grounded their conclusions in the reports of medical “experts” from the trial, some of whom had never met Mary, and then they got contemporary doctors to do the same thing. Emerson is particularly sympathetic to  . . .

Continue reading. There’s more, and it shows how we today have been looking at Mary Lincoln through a lens heavily distorted by old assumptions, prejudices, and cultural biases.

Written by Leisureguy

19 November 2021 at 11:22 am

Big Salt: Getting to the Meat of the Matter

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Written by Leisureguy

19 November 2021 at 11:14 am

An Italian-ish shave with Grooming Dept Mallard formula Almond Vanilla

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My Grooming Dept soaps arrived yesterday. I notice that the soaps are again sold out (though some Grooming Dept soaps are still available from vendors who stock the soaps). In this viral age of the internet, when the attention of thousands, even tens or hundreds of thousands — and sometimes millions — can be drawn to a specific person, event, or product in just a day or two, it’s easy to overwhelm the source. Demand can abruptly skyrocket beyond the capabilities of the performer or producer, something that generally did not happen in slower and simpler times, when word of mouth moved at a caterpillar’s crawl compared to the hypervelocity of communication today.

The result is that products made by small producers with limited throughput are often hard to find. Examples abound: knives from makers like Bob Kramer or Ken Avery; razors from Wolfman; guitars from the likes of Dana Bourgeois, Roger Bucknall, Isaac Jang, Kevin Ryan, and Kathy Wingert; and violins and violas from Stradivarius. 

That means those who want something from them must have patience and, when there’s an opportunity to buy one, must act quickly. I ordered my soaps the day they became available.

And I’m glad I did. I call this shave “Italian-ish” because Almond is a fragrance favored in Italian shaving soaps, and given that I brought out my Italian-flag synthetic brush from Italian Barber and Italian Stallion aftershave milk from Mickey Lee Soapworks (now gone). 

This soap, however, has a fragrance considerably richer than simple almond. Its fragrance includes Bergamot, Heliotrope, Cumin, Almond, Lavender, Jasmine, Vanilla, Sandalwood, and Amber. Almond is certainly detectable, but there’s much depth beyond that. 

The soap is moderately thirsty: I did have to add a little water once as I loaded the brush. The thirst does not come from clay, however:

Water, Stearic Acid, Duck Fat, Kukui Nut Oil, Goat Milk, Castor Oil, Potassium Hydroxide, Cupuaçu Butter, Kokum Butter, Glycerin, Jojoba Oil, Myristic Acid, Shea Butter, Sodium Hydroxide, Fragrance, Coconut Milk, Tamanu Oil, Lauryl Laurate, Carnauba Wax, Beeswax, Allantoin, Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate, Betaine, Sodium Lactate, Silk Amino Acids, Oat Amino Acids, Sesame Oil, Macadamia Oil, Caprylyl Glycol, Sodium Gluconate, Ethylhexylglycerin, Tetrasodium Glutamate Diacetate, Tocopherols, Silk Peptides.

The lather was particularly thick, creamy, and luxurious and provided excellent prep and glide, though the latter was also helped by my using Grooming Dept Moisturizing Pre-Shave. I used again the method I stumbled onto yesterday — a good rinse after massagingp the pre-shave well into the stubble — and that worked well.

Maggard Razors’ V2OC, a clone of Parker’s 24C or 26C razor, has a comb guard and a gentle head but is also extremely efficient. And I must say that I like the Maggard Razors MR7 handle a lot.

Three passes left my face completely smooth, and a small splash of Italian Stallion aftershave milk set me up for the day, fresh and fragrant.

Written by Leisureguy

19 November 2021 at 10:35 am

Posted in Shaving

Republican Representatives increasingly off track, led by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy

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Heather Cox Richardson offers an interesting snapshot of the situation in the House:

Today began with Republican leadership doubling down on its support for Representative Paul Gosar (R-AZ), whom the House censured yesterday for tweeting a cartoon video of himself killing a Democratic colleague, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), and attacking the president, Joe Biden. Only two Republicans voted with the Democrats in favor of the censure.

Former president Donald Trump issued a statement praising Gosar and saying the congressman “has my Complete and Total Endorsement!” In addition to the censure, the House stripped Gosar of his committee assignments, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said today that if the Republicans take the majority and he is elected Speaker, he will likely throw Democrats off committees and give Gosar and Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), who was stripped of her committee assignments in February after violent threats against Democratic colleagues, better committee assignments.

This morning, on the podcast of Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows went after McCarthy, suggesting that Trump should replace him. Then, on Trump loyalist Steve Bannon’s podcast, Meadows suggested that if the Republicans win control of the House of Representatives in next year’s elections, Trump should become Speaker of the House, which would drive Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “crazy.” Bannon suggested he could hold the position for 100 days and “sort things out” before running for president in 2024.

While the Trump loyalists were putting the screws to McCarthy, the economic news continued to be good. A report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development on Thursday showed that the United States is the only G7 country to surpass its pre-pandemic economic growth. That growth has been so strong it has buoyed other countries.

Meanwhile, the administration’s work with ports and supply chains to handle the increase in demand for goods appears to be having an effect. Imports through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are up 16% from 2018, and in the first two weeks of November, those two ports cleared about a third of the containers sitting on their docks.

Then the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its score for the Democrats’ $1.85 trillion Build Back Better Act. The CBO is a nonpartisan agency within the legislative branch that provides budget and economic information to Congress. The CBO’s estimate of the costs of the Build Back Better Act will affect who will vote for it.

The CBO’s projection was good news for the Democrats; it was in line with what the Democrats had said the bill would cost. The CBO estimates that the bill will increase the deficit by $367 billion over ten years. But the CBO also estimates that the government will raise about $207 billion over those same ten years by enforcing tax rules on those currently cheating on them. These numbers were good in themselves—in comparison, the CBO said the 2017 Republican tax cuts would cost $1.4 trillion over ten years—but they might get even better. Many economists, including Larry Summers, who has been critical of the Biden administration, think that the CBO estimates badly underplay the benefits of the bill.

The CBO score also predicted that the savings from prescription drug reforms in the bill would come in $50 billion higher than the House had predicted.

As soon as the score was released, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the House would vote on the bill tonight, suggesting that she had the votes to pass the bill.

And then something interesting happened. Kevin McCarthy took . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

19 November 2021 at 2:53 am

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