Later On

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

Archive for April 13th, 2022

Bad-faith Republican politicians

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I’m sure that not every Republican politician operates in bad faith — for example, holding up Obama’s Supreme Court nominee for 9 months because the election was “too close,” and then rushing through Trump’s nominee Amy Coney Barrett’s immediately before another election. But many do show tremendously bad faith and also seem determined to make the US fail. Heather Cox Richardson points out a prime example:

“Democrats need to make more noise,” Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) told Greg Sargent of the Washington Post. “We have to scream from the rooftops, because this is a battle for the free world now.”

Sargent interviewed Schatz after the senator called out Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) on the floor of the Senate on April 7 for the profound disconnect between the Republican senator’s speeches and his actions. Hawley has placed a hold on President Joe Biden’s uncontroversial nominee for an assistant secretary of defense, saying that Biden’s support for Ukraine was “wavering” and that he wasn’t doing enough.

Of course, the Biden administration has been central to world efforts to support Ukraine in its attempt to hold off Russia’s invasion. Just today, Biden announced an additional $800 million in weapons, ammunition, and other security assistance to Ukraine. In contrast, Hawley voted to acquit former president Trump of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress when he withheld $391 million of congressionally approved aid to Ukraine in order to pressure Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky to cook up a story about Hunter Biden.

Hawley’s bad-faith argument goes beyond misleading statements about aid to Ukraine. Hawley has vowed that he will use his senatorial prerogative to hold up “every single civilian nominee” for the Defense Department unless Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin resigns. He has vowed the same for the State Department, demanding the resignation of Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Hawley says his demands are because of the withdrawal from Afghanistan; he also said that Biden should resign. This is a highly unusual interference of the legislative branch of government with the executive branch. It also means that key positions in the departments responsible for managing our national security are not being filled, since Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer must use up valuable floor time to get nominations around Hawley’s holds.

In February, for example, Hawley blocked the confirmation of the uncontroversial head of the Pentagon’s international security team, Celeste Wallander, a Russia expert and staunch advocate for fighting Russian aggression, even while Russian troops were massing on the Ukraine border. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) noted in frustration: “He’s complaining about the problems we have in Russia and Ukraine and he’s making it worse because he’s not willing to allow those nominees who can help with that problem to go forward.” (The Senate eventually voted 83–13 to confirm Wallander.)

Hawley is not the only Republican to be complaining about the administration even as he gums up the works.

Texas governor Greg Abbott has ordered Texas state troops to inspect all commercial trucks coming from Mexico after the federal government has already inspected them. Normally, Mexican authorities inspect a commercial driver’s paperwork and then officers from U.S. Customs and Border Protection thoroughly inspect the vehicle on the U.S. side of the international bridge, using dogs, X-ray machines, and personal inspections. At large crossings, officials from the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Transportation will make sure that products and trucks meet U.S. standards. Sometimes after that, the state will spot-check a few trucks for roadworthiness. Never before has Texas inspected the contents of each commercial vehicle.

Abbott instituted the new rule after the Biden administration announced it would end the pandemic emergency health order known as Title 42. This is a public health authority used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to protect against the spread of disease. It was put in place by the Trump administration in March 2020. Title 42 allows the U.S. government to turn migrants from war-torn countries away at the border rather than permitting them to seek asylum as international law requires.

Abbott said the new rule would enable troopers to search for drugs and smuggled immigrants, which he claims the administration is not doing. But journalists Mitchell Ferman, Uriel J. García, and Ivan Pierre Aguirre of the Texas Tribune report that officers from the Texas Department of Public Safety do not appear to be examining the trucks and have not announced any captured drugs or undocumented immigrants.

Wait times at border crossings have jumped from minutes to many hours, with Mexican truckers so frustrated they blocked the roads from the southern side, as well. Truckers report being stuck in their trucks for as much as 30 hours without food or water. About $440 billion worth of goods cross our southern border annually, and Abbot’s stunt has shut down as much as 60% of that trade. The shutdown will hammer those businesses that depend on Mexican products. It will also create higher prices and shortages across the entire country, especially as perishable foods rot in transit.

On Twitter, Democratic candidate for Texas governor Beto O’Rourke showed a long line of trucks behind him in Laredo and said: “What you see behind me is inflation.” White House press secretary Jen Psaki issued a statement today saying: “Governor Abbott’s unnecessary and redundant inspections of trucks transiting ports of entry between Texas and Mexico are causing significant disruptions to the food and automobile supply chains, delaying manufacturing, impacting jobs, and raising prices for families in Texas and across the country. Local businesses and trade associations are calling on Governor Abbott to reverse this decision…. Abbott’s actions are impacting people’s jobs, and the livelihoods of hardworking American families.”

Tonight, Abbott backed down on his rule, and normal traffic seems to be resuming over one of the key bridges between Mexico and the U.S., but his stunt indicates that Republicans plan to use inflation and immigration as key issues to turn out their base for the 2022 midterm elections. Today, pro-Trump Representative Elise Stefanik (R-NY), who replaced Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) as the House Republican Conference Chair, the third-highest Republican in the House, tweeted: “We must SECURE our southern border.”

Abbott has also ordered the Texas National Guard to the U.S. border with Mexico to conduct “migration drills” in preparation for an influx of migrants. But Abbott’s use of the 10,000 National Guard personnel last fall for a border operation to prevent an influx of migrants seemed to be a political stunt: it led to complaints from National Guard personnel of lack of planning, lack of pay, lack of housing, and lack of reason to be there.

Abbott has deployed troops in the past while he was under fire for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the February 2021 winter storm that left millions of Texans without heat or electricity for days and killed 246. This deflection seemed to be at work last February, too, when Abbott issued a letter saying that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

13 April 2022 at 10:58 pm

The Significance of Sniffing: A Reading List on Smell

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Genevieve Fullan writes at Longreads:

Every spring there is a moment when I am overcome by the scent of the new season. Sometimes I’m outside, sometimes it floats in on a breeze through windows thrown wide open; but wherever I am, I stop, shut my eyes, and inhale. Spring smells the same every year, and that scent is sharpest when the season is new — before the smell grows familiar and is relegated to background noise. This kind of experience isn’t unique to spring. Every season has its own scent. The musty wet decay of fall. The ozonic crispness of the first snowfall. The sharp green of freshly cut grass.

Sometimes I’ll catch a scent that evokes something I can’t quite grasp. I only know that it is familiar. Whatever experience attached to it lodged too deeply in my memory bank to be accessible. In these instances, I find myself chasing after the smell like Proust with his tea-drenched madeleine, trying to both identify the scent and hold on to the sensation it inspired. Our sense of smell has such a powerful link to memory that it will recall even these incomplete moments, in which we’re sure of nothing except that we’ve smelled that aroma before.

Despite its power, smell remains the least understood of our senses. Dismissed by Enlightenment-era philosophers like Kant as our least intellectual, by virtue of being the one that ties us most closely with animals, our sense of smell wasn’t considered worthy of study in the past. Now, that appears to be changing. We have a renewed interest in this most mysterious of our five senses. Books like Avery Gilbert’s What the Nose Knows: The Science of Scent in Everyday Life and Harold McGee’s Nose Dive: A Field Guide to the World’s Smells explore the science of smell in depth. A developing frontier in virtual reality technology is to make the experience more immersive by adding scent. With COVID causing anosmia (the loss of smell) in many people, sometimes for months at a time — for some maybe even permanently — it’s no wonder we’ve gained a new appreciation for this forgotten sense. (Having contracted COVID while writing this, I find myself taking deep inhales of anything heavily scented, even more obsessively than usual, to reassure myself that I haven’t been affected by this particular symptom.)

Last January, after our first pandemic Christmas, I purchased a sample set of perfumes from niche perfumery Imaginary Authors, quaintly named for the fictional personalities that inspire each fragrance. (Their sample set is aptly named the Short Story Collection.) What began as mere curiosity spiraled into an obsession, and I have since accumulated a shelf of books on the topic of smell alongside an ever-growing collection of perfume samples. This reading list explores the many facets of scent, from the science of how we smell to the link between scent and attraction, but consistent among them all is an enamored fascination with how we perceive the world through our noses.

How to Make Sense of Scents (Rachel Syme, The New Yorker, February 2021)

If you’re a Twitter fraghead (a term for a perfume aficionado), you might be familiar with Rachel Syme and her perfume genie. She gives her followers a prompt, such as relating a specific memory where you felt truly happy, and she responds with a perfume to match. It’s probably my favorite thing on the internet, not just for the discovery of new perfumes, but for the surprisingly beautiful writing that these prompts inspire.

In this article, Syme invites you into . . .

Continue reading.

To her list I must add The Emperor of Scent: A Story of Perfume, Obsession, and the Last Mystery of the Senses, by Chandler Burr.

Written by Leisureguy

13 April 2022 at 7:55 pm

Posted in Daily life

It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)

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Written by Leisureguy

13 April 2022 at 6:49 pm

Posted in Jazz, Music, Video

Good batch of Other Vegetables: Beet-Carrot Supreme

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After a serving has been removed.

Just had a small bowl. They’re great. I used my 4-qt sauté pan.

• 5 medium beets, diced
• 1 Nantes carrot (humongous), diced
• generous pinch grey sea salt
• about 1 tablespoon olive oil
• about 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
• about 1/2 cup no-salt-added vegetable broth
• good sprinkling garlic powder or granulated garlic
• good sprinkling onion powder
• about 1-2 teaspoons smoked paprika
• about 1 teaspoon ground chipotle
• good shaking of crushed red pepper
• generous dash tamari
• generous dash Louisiana Hot Sauce
• 1 – 1.5 tablespoons white sesame seeds

I halved the beets, then placed each half on the flat side and cut down through it in one direction and then down through it at right angles to the first cut, to make strips. I cut the Nantes carrot into slabs, then into strips, the across those to dice it.

I salted the beets and onions and sautéed them in olive oil for a few minutes, then added the remaining ingredients, covered the pan, and simmered for 30 minutes, stirring once or twice.

I just had a bowl, which I sprinkled with unsalted pumpkin seeds. Extremely tasty.

Written by Leisureguy

13 April 2022 at 6:25 pm

Why NFTs are a mug’s game

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The chart is from a post by Kevin Drum, one that’s worth reading. And so far as I’m concerned, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are birds in the same flock.

Written by Leisureguy

13 April 2022 at 5:46 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

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A walk in the nick of time

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I have maintained a daily PAI > 100 ever since February 18 and my goal is to continue the streak so that I have 90 days with PAI > 100, so at least through May 18.

This morning my PAI was 78. 😦 And sometimes the Amazfit doesn’t seem to pick up heart rate — bad, since VO2 Max is heavy with PAI. So I set out, hoping for the best. I managed only a short walk, but at the end of the walk my PAI was safely at 119. Today’s walk was worth 43 PAI. (The disp in the heart rate were when I paused to rest.)

Written by Leisureguy

13 April 2022 at 4:04 pm

Critical Race Theory Panic: What’s REALLY Behind It?

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Written by Leisureguy

13 April 2022 at 11:47 am

Blocking the Cancer Metastasis Enzyme MMP-9 with Beans and Chickpeas

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The findings presented in this video are striking.

Written by Leisureguy

13 April 2022 at 10:27 am

After the Rain (hopefully), with the Henson AL13 Medium and Klar Seifen Classic

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My Phoenix Artisan Solar Flare brush got a great lather from Declaration Grooming’s After the Rain (and since I must walk today to maintain my streak of days with PAI ≥ 100, I chose the soap as an incantation). The Henson razor design is both good and interesting, and the Medium version pictured here did a bang-up job. A splash of Klar Seifen Klassik aftershave with a squirt of Grooming Dept Hydrating Gel finished the shave on a high note.

BTW, I continue to use Grooming Dept Moisturizing Pre-Shave before every shave except on those relatively rare occasions when I use a shave stick. So I use it six days a week, and I’ve been doing that since February 16, 2021 — 60 weeks plus 1 day. I estimate that I have enough left for another month or two. So it’s not only good, it’s a bargain. FWIW, when I was using it as a pre-shave, a bar of MR GLO would last 12 week. 

The tea this morning is Murchie’s Baker Street Blend: “Baker Street Blend features Lapsang Souchong, smooth Keemun, rich Ceylon, Gunpowder and floral Jasmine.”

Written by Leisureguy

13 April 2022 at 9:27 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

Whose Story (and Country) Is This? — On the myth of a “real” America

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Rebecca Solnit writes at Literary Hub:

Watching the film Phantom Thread, I kept wondering why I was supposed to be interested in a control freak who is consistently unpleasant to all the people around him. I kept looking at the other characters—his sister who manages his couture business, his seamstresses, eventually the furniture (as a child, I read a very nice story about the romance between two chairs)—wondering why we couldn’t have a story about one of them instead.

Who gets to be the subject of the story is an immensely political question, and feminism has given us a host of books that shift the focus from the original protagonist—from Jane Eyre to Mr. Rochester’s Caribbean first wife, from Dorothy to the Wicked Witch, and so forth. But in the news and political life, we’re still struggling over whose story it is, who matters, and who our compassion and interest should be directed at.

The common denominator of so many of the strange and troubling cultural narratives coming our way is a set of assumptions about who matters, whose story it is, who deserves the pity and the treats and the presumptions of innocence, the kid gloves and the red carpet, and ultimately the kingdom, the power, and the glory. You already know who. It’s white people in general and white men in particular, and especially white Protestant men, some of whom are apparently dismayed to find out that there is going to be, as your mom might have put it, sharing. The history of this country has been written as their story, and the news sometimes still tells it this way—one of the battles of our time is about who the story is about, who matters and who decides.

It is this population we are constantly asked to pay more attention to and forgive even when they hate us or seek to harm us. It is toward them we are all supposed to direct our empathy. The exhortations are everywhere. PBS News Hour featured a quiz by Charles Murray in March that asked “Do You Live in a Bubble?” The questions assumed that if you didn’t know people who drank cheap beer and drove pick-up trucks and worked in factories you lived in an elitist bubble. Among the questions: “Have you ever lived for at least a year in an American community with a population under 50,000 that is not part of a metropolitan area and is not where you went to college? Have you ever walked on a factory floor? Have you ever had a close friend who was an evangelical Christian?”

The quiz is essentially about whether you are in touch with working-class small-town white Christian America, as though everyone who’s not Joe the Plumber is Maurice the Elitist. We should know them, the logic goes; they do not need to know us. Less than 20 percent of Americans are white evangelicals, only slightly more than are Latino. Most Americans are urban. The quiz delivers, yet again, the message that the 80 percent of us who live in urban areas are not America, treats non-Protestant (including the quarter of this country that is Catholic) and non-white people as not America, treats many kinds of underpaid working people (salespeople, service workers, farmworkers) who are not male industrial workers as not America. More Americans work in museums than work in coal, but coalminers are treated as sacred beings owed huge subsidies and the sacrifice of the climate, and museum workers—well, no one is talking about their jobs as a totem of our national identity.

PBS added a little note at the end of the bubble quiz, “The introduction has been edited to clarify Charles Murray’s expertise, which focuses on white American culture.” They don’t mention that he’s the author of the notorious Bell Curve or explain why someone widely considered racist was welcomed onto a publicly funded program. Perhaps the actual problem is that white Christian suburban, small-town, and rural America includes too many people who want to live in a bubble and think they’re entitled to, and that all of us who are not like them are menaces and intrusions who needs to be cleared out of the way.

After all, there was a march in Charlottesville, Virginia, last year full of white men with tiki torches chanting “You will not replace us.” Which translates as get the fuck out of my bubble, a bubble that is a state of mind and a sentimental attachment to a largely fictional former America. It’s not everyone in this America; for example, Syed Ahmed Jamal’s neighbors in Lawrence, Kansas, rallied to defend him when ICE arrested and tried to deport the chemistry teacher and father who had lived in the area for 30 years. It’s not all white men; perpetration of the narrative centered on them is something too many women buy into and some admirable men are trying to break out of.

And the meanest voices aren’t necessarily those of the actual rural and small-town. In a story about a Pennsylvania coal town named Hazelton, Fox’s Tucker Carlson recently declared that immigration brings “more change than human beings are designed to digest,” the human beings in this scenario being the white Hazeltonians who are not immigrants, with perhaps an intimation that immigrants are not human beings, let alone human beings who have already had to digest a lot of change. Once again a small-town white American narrative is being treated as though it’s about all of us or all of us who count, as though the gentrification of immigrant neighborhoods is not also a story that matters, as though Los Angeles and New York City, both of which have larger populations than many American states, are not America. In New York City, the immigrant population alone exceeds the total population of Kansas (or Nebraska or Idaho or West Virginia, where all those coal miners are).

In the aftermath of the 2016 election, we were told that we needed to  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

13 April 2022 at 7:25 am

Jared Kushner’s Big Payback

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White House senior adviser Jared Kushner stands among Saudi officials as President Donald Trump talks with Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman on March 20, 2018 (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

In Popular Information Judd Legum has a report well worth reading. It shows how for some the purpose of politics is profit. In the article, Legum asks the question, “Who would be willing to provide billions to someone with no experience in private equity?” — and, more important, why? And he provides answers.

The article begins:

“I saved his ass. I was able to get Congress to leave him alone. I was able to get them to stop.”

That was Donald Trump bragging to Bob Woodward about the lengths he went to prevent Congress from holding Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) accountable for the brutal murder and dismemberment of US-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Although Trump is prone to exaggeration, in this case his account is completely accurate. 

On October 2, 2018, Khashoggi, a columnist for the Washington Post who was critical of the Saudi regime, was assassinated at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. Khashoggi was at the consulate to obtain papers for an upcoming wedding. While there, he was forcibly restrained by Saudi agents and injected with a fatal dose of a drug. Following his death, Khashoggi’s body was dismembered with a bonesaw. 

The Saudi role in the assassination was apparent from the outset since the incident occurred inside the Saudi consulate. In November 2018, the CIA concluded that MBS ordered the operation . The conclusions were supported by “intercepts of the crown prince’s calls in the days before the killing, and calls by the kill team to a senior aide to the crown prince.” The Biden administration formally released a declassified version of the intelligence in February 2021.

Nevertheless, Trump was clear that he was uninterested in holding MBS or the Saudi government accountable for Khashoggi’s brutal murder. On November 20, 2018, Trump issued a lengthy statement saying that the United States’ priority was maintaining good relations with the Saudi government:

[I]t could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event — maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!…That being said, we may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi. In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia…The United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia to ensure the interests of our country

Trump was serious. In May 2019, the Trump administration announced it would bypass Congress and send $8 billion in weapons to Saudi Arabia and its close ally, the UAE. A bipartisan majority in Congress passed legislation to block the sale but Trump vetoed it.

This was all quite a change for Trump, who spent years criticizing his predecessors for being too solicitous to the Saudis. . . 

Continue reading. There’s much more.

And BTW, Popular Information is always worth reading. Take a look at the most recent article “How the Koch Machine Works.”

Written by Leisureguy

13 April 2022 at 6:51 am

Living arrangements in the US

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From Exponential View:

Written by Leisureguy

13 April 2022 at 6:42 am

Posted in Daily life

The ruble and its decline

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From Exponential View, the recent story of the ruble (or “rouble,” in the British spelling):

Written by Leisureguy

13 April 2022 at 6:21 am

Posted in Daily life, Government, War

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