Later On

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

Archive for August 13th, 2022

87 years of Social Security

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Heather Cox Richardson:

Since it seems clear we will be deciding whether we want to preserve the Social Security Act by our choice of leaders in the next few elections, I thought it not unreasonable to reprint this piece from last year about why people in the 1930s thought the measure was imperative. There is more news about the classified material at Mar-a-Lago, but nothing that can’t wait another day so I can catch this anniversary.

By the time most of you will read this, it will be August 14, and on this day in 1935, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law. While FDR’s New Deal had put in place new measures to regulate business and banking and had provided temporary work relief to combat the Depression, this law permanently changed the nature of the American government.

The Social Security Act is known for its payments to older Americans, but it did far more than that. It established unemployment insurance; aid to homeless, dependent, and neglected children; funds to promote maternal and child welfare; and public health services. It was a sweeping reworking of the relationship between the government and its citizens, using the power of taxation to pool funds to provide a basic social safety net.

The driving force behind the law was FDR’s Secretary of Labor, Frances Perkins. She was the first woman to hold a position in the U.S. Cabinet and still holds the record for having the longest tenure in that job: she lasted from 1933 to 1945.

She brought to the position a vision of government very different from that of the Republicans who had run it in the 1920s. While men like President Herbert Hoover had harped on the idea of a “rugged individualism” in which men worked their way up, providing for their families on their own, Perkins recognized that people in communities had always supported each other. The vision of a hardworking man supporting his wife and children was more myth than reality: her own husband suffered from bipolar disorder, making her the family’s primary support.

As a child, Perkins spent summers with her grandmother, with whom she was very close, in the small town of Newcastle, Maine, where the old-fashioned, close-knit community supported those in need. In college, at Mount Holyoke, she majored in chemistry and physics, but after a professor required students to tour a factory to observe working conditions, Perkins became committed to improving the lives of those trapped in industrial jobs. After college, Perkins became a social worker and, in 1910, earned a masters degree in economics and sociology from Columbia University. She became the head of the New York office of the National Consumers League, urging consumers to use their buying power to demand better conditions and wages for the workers who made the products they were buying.

The next year, in 1911, she witnessed the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in which 146 workers, mostly women and girls, died. They were trapped in the building when the fire broke out because the factory owner had ordered the doors to the stairwells and exits locked to make sure no one slipped outside for a break. Unable to escape the smoke and fire in the factory, the workers—some of them on fire—leaped from the 8th, 9th, and 10th floors of the building, dying on the pavement.

The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire turned Perkins away from voluntary organizations to improve workers’ lives and toward using the government to adjust the harsh conditions of industrialization. She began to work with the Democratic politicians at Tammany Hall, who presided over communities in the city that mirrored rural towns and who exercised a form of social welfare for their voters, making sure they had jobs, food, and shelter and that wives and children had a support network if a husband and father died. In that system, the voices of women like Perkins were valuable, for their work in the immigrant wards of the city meant that they were the ones who knew what working families needed to survive.

The overwhelming unemployment, hunger, and suffering caused by the Great Depression made Perkins realize that state governments alone could not adjust the conditions of the modern world to create a safe, supportive community for ordinary people. She came to believe, as she said: “The people are what matter to government, and a government should aim to give all the people under its jurisdiction the best possible life.”

Through her Tammany connections, Perkins met FDR, and when he asked her to be his Secretary of Labor, she told him that she wanted the federal government to provide unemployment insurance, health insurance, and old-age insurance. She later recalled: “I remember he looked so startled, and he said, ‘Well, do you think it can be done?’”

Creating federal unemployment insurance became her primary concern. Congressmen had little interest in passing such legislation. They said they worried that unemployment insurance and federal aid to dependent families would undermine a man’s willingness to work. But Perkins recognized that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2022 at 10:18 pm

Insightful comment on China’s current economic crisis

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I commented on a video on China’s on-going economic crisis, and I received an illuminating reply.

Michael Ham

The real estate dealings reminded me very much of what happened in the US in 2008: the same sort of over-leveraged commitment to purchase second, third, fourth homes as “investments” because real estate prices could only go up, and thus the proliferation os sub-prime lending through collateralized debt instruments — see the movie “The Big Short.”

Tall Troll

No, it is much, much worse than that. At least the 2008 US mortgages were secured against properties that actually existed, and had people living in them. Most of the problems in 2008 stemmed from the securitisation and packaging of those mortgages, mixing high and low quality loans together, then assigning them value as if they were all high quality, and lack of clarity on who actually owned what. After it all got worked out, it turned out that on the whole, even the suspect packages were mostly profitable.

The Chinese situation is fundamentally different. A LOT of people have been sinking a LOT of money into real estate, because it is the only asset class that most Chinese either trust, or have access to, and far, far too many of the building that people own on paper just don’t exist, or would be better if they didn’t exist, because then whoever buys them wouldn’t have to pay to demolish the worthless structures occupying the land. When that all gets worked out, it’s going to turn out that a lot of people have lost everything. That includes the banks too, who are also suffering from other bad debt problems, and will be suffering even more so when the badly run industries that real estate was propping up go to the wall (the Chinese steel industry is in real trouble right now, because their main customers were, yes, the real estate developers. The Chinese steel industry was already suffering from overcapacity problems, and the collapse of domestic demand is going to ruin a lot of them, which will make things even worse for the banks that have been financing them).

So, you’re going to have an industry worth about ~30% of Chinas’ GDP collapsing, with knockon effects in several other major industrial sectors (steel, cement and furniture/decor, all also fairly large contributors to Chinas overall economy), with the resulting bad debts all hitting the banking sector which has other massive problems right now (decades of corruption and poor management/investment decisions catching up with them), massive destruction of savings coupled with what will probably turn out to be pretty big job losses, and they are just about to hit their demographic peak, so all of this will have to be dealt with by a shrinking, aging population. Oh, did I mention that the governments chip development fund has just started arresting and investigating it’s top officials and the CEOs of major chip manufacturers? They seem to have managed to have collectively pissed about $100bn down the drain, so yeah, they are all getting executed, but wouldn’t that $100bn have come in real handy right about now?

Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2022 at 4:40 pm

Walkies today

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I walked yesterday, starting again after the pacemaker. (I did take one short walk as soon as the six weeks’ wait was up, but did not persist.) Yesterday’s walk was 1.48 miles, but today I started not at the front of the building but beside the building at the back of the lot, after I tossed the trash into the dumpster. And yesterday’s walk was slower — 3.35 mph instead of 3.50 mph.

Despite a brisk pack and the uphill start, my heart rate stayed almost completely in the aerobic zone. I didn’t even get close to VO2 Max range. BP (Before Pcemaker) I routinely did most of my walk in that range (and I was, of course, using Nordic walking poles).

I don’t know whether the pacemaker caps my heart rate, or whether having the pacemaker makes my heart more efficient so that it doesn’t have to pump so much. In any event, I think the VO2 Max days are over, and with them the 35 or so PAI days. Yesterday I got 5 PAI, today 6. I don’t really see getting to a cumulative 100 in a week anytime soon.

OTOH, I got 27 minutes of exercise, almost all of it at an aerobic heart rate, and according to Dr. Kenneth Cooper, the training effect kicks in after 15 minutes of aerobic exercise — increasing lung capacity, strengthening the heart to pump more blood on demand, expanding the capillary network to deliver more oxygen to muscles, increasing the volume of blood in the body, strengthening muscles in the legs and back and (for Nordic walkers) arms and shoulders, etc. That’s good enough for me.

Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2022 at 2:32 pm

Reflection of Molly

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The photo, taken by The Wife, is a reflection from a framed image, with the reflected lamp closer to the glass than Miss Molly, lying in the sun on a table.

Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2022 at 2:11 pm

Posted in Cats, Daily life, Molly

Chayote Plus

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I just had a tasty meal. I improvised a recipe from foods I have on hand (and in the light of Greger’s Daily Dozen).

I realized as I was eating it that, were I to serve it to a guest, they would ask, “What is this?” (And I would of course pay careful attention to the tone in which the question was asked. 🙂 ) People like to have a name for what they eat.

I could just rattle off the list of ingredients, and while they might want to know that as well, that’s not what they asked. I think that, even knowing the ingredients, they would still want the name of the dish. Even though a name is often arbitrary, it does provide a mental handle, as it were. (Some names are indeed just a list of the ingredients — example: a Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato Sandwich — but some names are just names — example: a Reuben Sandwich.) 

So I decided on the name “Chayote Plus.” It’s completely made up, but then so is the dish. “Chayote” because the chayote was (in my mind) the new thing in the dish — everything else is more or less bog standard chez Leisureguy.

Chayote Plus

I used my 12″ MSMK skillet with lid. I gave the skillet about 6 Evo sprays of EVOO, so a total of about 1 1/2 teaspoons oil. Then I added to the skillet:

• 1 good-sized fresh turmeric root, chopped quite small
• about 1 1/2″ fresh ginger root, chopped quite small
• 4 good-sized garlic scapes, chopped small
• 1 San Marzano tomato, diced
• 1/4 lage red onion, chopped
• 2 spring onions, chopped including leaves
• 3 good-sized white (or crimini if you want) mushrooms, chopped
• 1/2 chayote squash, diced fairly small (the other half is for tomorrow)
• 2 fairly large baby Shanghai bok choy, chopped — these were more toddler size
• about 8 ounces Kamut & chana dal tempeh, diced 
• about 1/3 cup frozen peas
• 1 red and 2 yellow cayenne peppers, chopped fairly small
• 2-3 tablespoons walnuts
• pinch of MSG
• freshly ground black pepper (for the turmeric)
• splash of Bragg’s apple-cider vinegar
• [forgot, but wish I had included: 1/2 tablespoon chipotle-garlic paste]

Once everything was in the skillet, I used a silicone flexible spatula to stir and mix it, then turned my induction burner to “3” and to 5 minutes and put the lid on the skillet. When the beeper sounded, I removed lid, stirred well to mix again, replaced lid, and cooked it for 8 minutes more at “3.”

I wanted a sauce, so I made up the following. Modify to your own taste. 

Genmai-Tahini Sauce

Put into the beaker for an immersion blender (or use a regular blender):

• 1/2 large lemon, peeled — South African lemon: quite large, with thin skin
• 2 tablespoons Amano Genmai miso
• 2-3 tablespoons Soom tahini
• ~1 tablespoon Maille Dijon Mustard with Horseradish (see photo)
• about 2-3 tablespoons water

Blend with immersion blender. Add water as needed for the consistency you want.

Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2022 at 2:08 pm

Dulci Tobacco and Cavendish

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My wonderful Plisson European Grey badger brush seemed to enjoy Wholly Kaw’s La Supérieure Dulci Tobacco Shave Cream and certainly found it easy to make a superior lather with a lovely fragrance — “Tobacco, Vanilla, Nutmeg, Cacao, Tonka Bean, Plum, Sandalwood, Cashmeran.”

The Merkur Progress, direct descendent of the Apollo Mikron (with a fair amount of cost engineering to simplify the design) is a very comfortable and efficient razor. My after-market adjustment knob has a true zero and enhances the razor’s appearance (at least in my eyes).

Three passes left my face totally smooth with no damage, and the last splash of Phoenix Artisan’s Cavendish from that bottle (augmented with a couple of squirts of Grooming Dept Hydrating Gel) finished the job. Having a reasonable amount of foresight, I have a spare bottle of Cavendish.

The tea this morning is Murchie’s Balmoral Blend: “a strong, traditional, rich blend of bright Ceylon and malty Assam teas.”

Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2022 at 9:11 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

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