Later On

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

Archive for October 19th, 2022

The Wide Angle, by David Troy

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David Troy now has a regular column, “The Wide Angle,” in the Washington Spectator. His initial column begins:

In June, The Washington Spectator published my long-form investigation into the complicated history behind the January 6th insurrection, Paranoia on Parade. Covering nearly a century, the piece was the result of several years worth of collaborative research, looking into root causes and obscure movements that busy reporters at our daily papers understandably have little time to consider.

At the invitation of Hamilton Fish, editor of the Spectator, I’m now also looking forward to publishing a monthly column here, where I can share insights and analysis in something closer to real time, while also pursuing long-form, sense-making investigative work. And I’m indebted to both Ham as well as my network of research partners who make any of this work possible.

I did not arrive in the world of investigative journalism intentionally. My educational background includes a focus on both history and computer science, and I have been a professional technology entrepreneur since I was a teenager — now several decades ago. I became involved with online culture and the internet in the 1980’s. I started and successfully exited several technology businesses and have been fortunate to be able to pursue a variety of projects I find challenging and worthwhile.

Since 2007, I have been heavily involved in analyzing data from social media platforms, such as Twitter and LinkedIn. For the last five years, I’ve focused on research and journalism with the intent of countering threats to our democracy. I’ve worked with many journalists and researchers to help document and counter ongoing threats in the information environment.

I’ll be focusing on keeping you up to date on emerging stories and trends that other outlets may not have the patience or capacity to cover, with a particular focus on irregular warfare, networked insurgency, and the alternate belief systems that animate these phenomena. Many of the stories my team and I are following derive from empirical network analysis. Our practice has been to let research, data, and evidence take us to the story — rather than the other way around.

As we head into the midterms and the eighth month of Vladimir Putin’s disastrous and cruel war in Ukraine, Americans are distracted by the team sports-style of coverage that most journalism delivers around election time. While that’s understandable,  my colleagues and I mostly have our eyes elsewhere.

The anti-democracy forces we saw on display on January 6th, which included individuals connected to Putin’s regime, Falun Gong, the Moonies, and a variety of domestic anti-government (and historically anti-communist) networks have not faded away, but rather are aligning globally.

As Russia’s military continues to falter in Ukraine, Putin’s tactics have become increasingly desperate with forced mobilization, referenda held effectively at gunpoint, and illegal annexations that the international community has mostly refused to recognize.

Elon Musk has become part of Russia’s propaganda thrust, serving as a proxy voice for the Kremlin, suggesting that Ukraine simply “compromise” — or risk the eruption of nuclear war. Tensions are heightening with North Korea, and propaganda channels are also suggesting that conflict between China and Taiwan is imminent.

Putin is also focused on establishing a new global economic bloc. Their intention is to pull together . . .

Continue reading.

I thought the comment on Elon Musk as being a useful idiot was spot on. Musk commenting on international politics shows the Dunning-Kruger effect in action.

Written by Leisureguy

19 October 2022 at 4:57 pm

Covid killing more Whites than Blacks

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In the Washington Post, Akilah Johnson and Dan Keating have a stunning article (gift link, no paywall) — I rate this one as a must-read. I recently discovered that gift links expire, so you can also use a no-paywall link to the archived article, but that version lacks photos and some charts. So use the gift link if it’s still active.

From the article:

After it became clear that communities of color were being disproportionately affected, racial equity started to become the parlance of the pandemic, in words and deeds. As it did, vaccine access and acceptance within communities of color grew — and so did the belief among some White conservatives, who form the core of the Republican base, that vaccine requirements and mask mandates infringe on personal liberties.

“Getting to make this decision for themselves has primacy over what the vaccine could do for them,” said Lisa R. Pruitt, a law professor at the University of California at Davis who is an expert in social inequality and the urban-rural divide. “They’re making a different calculus.”

It’s a calculation informed by the lore around self-sufficiency, she said, a fatalistic acceptance that hardships happen in life and a sense of defiance that has come to define the modern conservative movement’s antipathy toward bureaucrats and technocrats.

“I didn’t think that that polarization would transfer over to a pandemic,” Pruitt said.

It did.

A lifesaving vaccine and droplet-blocking masks became ideological Rorschach tests.

The impulse to frame the eradication of an infectious disease as a matter of personal choice cost the lives of some who, despite taking the coronavirus seriously, were surrounded by enough people that the virus found fertile terrain to sow misery. That’s what happened in northern Illinois, where a father watched his 40-year-old son succumb to covid-19.

And later:

Researchers at the University of Georgia found that White people who assumed the pandemic had a disparate effect on communities of color — or were told that it did — had less fear of being infected with the coronavirus, were less likely to express empathy toward vulnerable populations and were less supportive of safety measures, according to an article in Social Science & Medicine.

Perhaps, the report concludes, explaining covid’s unequal burden as part of an enduring legacy of inequality “signaled these disparities were not just transitory epidemiological trends, which could potentially shift and disproportionately impact White people in the future.”

Translation: Racial health disparities are part of the status quo.

And because of that, government efforts to bring a public health threat to heel are seen by some White Americans as infringing on their rights, researchers said.

“This is reflective of politics that go back to the 19th-century anxieties about federal overreach,” said Ayah Nuriddin, a postdoctoral fellow at Princeton University who studies the history of medicine.

And later:

“We put it on Republicans and politics,” she said, “but I think we should dig deeper.”

That’s what Jonathan M. Metzl, director of Vanderbilt University’s Department of Medicine, Health, and Society, did for six years while researching his book “Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment is Killing America’s Heartland.”

Published in 2019, it is a book about the politicization of public health and mistrust of medical institutions. It is a story about how communal values take a back seat to individuality. It’s an exploration of disinformation and how the fear of improving the lives of some means worsening the lives of others.

“I didn’t know it at the time, but I was writing a prehistory of the pandemic,” Metzl said in an interview. “You’re seeing a kind of dying-of-Whiteness phenomenon in the covid data that’s very similar to what I saw in my data.”

Metzl and Griffith, a Vanderbilt professor at the time, conducted focus groups on the Affordable Care Act throughout middle Tennessee including White and Black men who were 20 to 60 years old. Some were small-business owners and security guards. Others were factory workers and retirees.

The divergent medical experiences of Black and White patients permeated Metzl’s focus groups, particularly when the conversation veered toward the politics of health and government’s role in promoting well-being.

“Black men described precisely the same medical and economic stressors as did White men and detailed the same struggles to stay healthy,” Metzl wrote. “But Black men consistently differed from White men in how they conceived of government intervention and group identity. Whereas White men jumped unthinkingly to assumptions about ‘them,’ Black men frequently answered questions about health and health systems through the language of ‘us.’ ”

Tennessee has yet to expand Medicaid under the ACA, a decision fueling rural hospital closures at a rate that eclipses nearly every other state because there isn’t enough money to keep the doors open. Not only would expanding Medicaid have saved hospitals, Metzl wrote, it would have saved thousands of lives — White and Black.

There’s much more. Read the whole thing, either through a gift link or through a no-paywall link (though that link is missing photos and some charts, so the gift link is better — but the gift link expires).

Written by Leisureguy

19 October 2022 at 11:37 am

How Ticketmaster Destroyed Live Music

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Clinton and Obama gave away the store to monopolies, and we are suffering the consequences of their lack of action. Biden seems so far much more aggressive, but there is much ground that must be regained — and of course, Republicans will defend monopolies strongly and attempt to block and undercut effective government action against monopolies. Thus neither the George W. Bush administration nor the Trump administration took any action against monopolies

How NATO Solves Its Abandonment Problem

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This video nicely explains some of the mechanisms that keep international agreements in place.

Written by Leisureguy

19 October 2022 at 10:02 am

For four days, you can watch the terrific movie “Fantastic Fungi” for free. Watch it

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Well worth watching. And it’s also available on Netflix.

Written by Leisureguy

19 October 2022 at 9:13 am

Rosy morning

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Rose is the fragrance of the day, beginning with Mystic Water Yellow Rose. When I use the LABL (load a bit longer) technique, I generally must add some water to the brush as I work up the lather on my face. This morning I accidentally added a splurge instead of a smidge of water to the brush, but the soap absorbed it gracefully and the lather came out very well. It helped that the brush really was super-loaded with soap.

Henson Shaving’s AL13M is a remarkably good razor that provides an enjoyable and highly effective shave. Three passes left my face totally smooth and in good spirits.

Geo. F. Trumper’s Coral Skin Food is an old standby, and today I added one squirt of Grooming Dept Hydrating Gel just to judge the effect — and the effect is excellent.

The tea this morning is Murchie’s Storm Watcher: “Yunnan and Ceylon — Tasting Notes: Full-bodied with low astringency, a selection of tea terroirs blended for a brisk, satisfying mug. Slightly smoky with toasted malty notes.” 

I am not so much watching a storm as the air-quality index, which is not very good this morning, doubtless due to smoke from wildfires. Probably no walk today.

Written by Leisureguy

19 October 2022 at 8:48 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

A lot rides on this coming election. It’s good that the US can choose the direction it will go.

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This coming election will be interesting, especially since some Republicans running for major office (e.g., the governorship of Nevada) have indicated that they will not accept the outcome of the election if they lose. That is, they either win the election outright or want to override the results. Since equity is important, I would imagine they would recommend the same for their opponent: do not accept a loss. That will make the post-election period intense and violence-prone, but I think that is what Republicans want (see their support for the January 6 attempt to overturn the election and reverse the electoral count).

Heather Cox Richardson writes:

In their year and a half in power, Democrats have put in place policies that are widely popular—indeed, the infrastructure projects provided for under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act are so popular that Republicans who voted against the law are nonetheless taking credit for them. Voters have long called for Medicare to be able to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies (83% in favor), now made possible by the Inflation Reduction Act, which also caps certain drug expenses, including the cost of insulin. Between 80 and 90% of Americans want basic gun control laws—the Democrats just passed the first one in decades—and a majority want funding for action against climate change (65%) and relief for educational debt (55%).

Support for supplying Ukraine against Russia stands at 73%, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll taken in early October. Support for Ukraine was a bipartisan commitment that changed only after Trump had the 2016 Republican platform, which had expressed support for Ukraine, watered down.

What has not been popular in the past year and a half, in fact, what has been quite unpopular, is the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion. About 62% of Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while only 8% believe it should be illegal in all cases, and 28% believe it should be illegal in most cases.

Since June, when the Supreme Court handed down the Dobbs decision, the news has reported multiple cases of raped children unable to obtain abortions in their home states, girls and women unable to obtain medications to treat long-term illnesses because those drugs can also induce abortion, women diagnosed with cancer who cannot get treatment, women whose fetuses have conditions incompatible with life and who cannot terminate the pregnancy, and women whose health is at risk as they are unable to obtain the healthcare they need as they are miscarrying—all of this just as abortion rights advocates warned would happen if the court overturned Roe v. Wade. Since the Dobbs decision, Democrats have outperformed expectations in four special House elections and one state referendum.

The popularity of the Democrats’ agenda and the unpopularity of their own appear to have pushed the Republicans to go for broke, courting their base by demanding the utter destruction of Democrats’ policies and the reinstatement of their own.

Since the 1980s, Republican leaders have embraced the idea that cutting taxes and concentrating wealth at the top of the economy will spark economic growth, although “supply side” economics has never produced as promised. They insist the programs Biden and the Democrats back are “socialism,” and their base agrees. Their base also hates abortion rights.

To sidestep the gulf between their base and the majority of voters, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) declined to announce any sort of an agenda before the midterm elections, telling donors that party leaders would just attack the Democrats.

There have been signs, though, of what the Republicans will do if they regain control of one or both of the houses of Congress, and top of the list was cutting the programs at the heart of our social welfare system: Social Security and Medicare. Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) called for sunsetting all laws every five years and repassing them; Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) called for making Social Security and Medicare part of the discretionary budget, meaning their funding would have to be reapproved every year.

Republicans have also said they would pass a law to make the 2017 Trump tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations permanent, a move economists say would increase inflation. “The trick is to put the president in a position of either getting defeated in 2024 or signing your stuff into law,” former House speaker Newt Gingrich told Jeff Stein of the Washington Post. “Republicans will make it a priority to continue the Trump tax cuts, because it puts the Democrats in a position of being for tax increases and against economic growth.”

Recently, though, Republicans have been much clearer, warning that they will refuse to raise the debt ceiling in order to force Biden to agree to their demands to “reform” Social Security and Medicare by raising the age of eligibility and means testing. (Democrats have said they would stabilize the programs with higher taxes on the wealthy.)

This is a huge deal. While Trump has urged MAGA Republicans in the past to use the threat of the debt ceiling to get concessions, responsible Republicans have refused to play chicken with the global financial markets and with our own financial future, for defaulting even for a matter of hours will wash away our financial might. Raising the debt ceiling is not a future blank check, it enables the U.S. to meet bills it has already incurred, and refusing to do so will throw the U.S. into a catastrophic default. Congress has raised the debt ceiling repeatedly in the past forty years, but Republicans have apparently come around to Trump’s position that playing to their base is worth taking the U.S. hostage.

Republicans are also signaling a change in U.S. support for Ukraine . . .

Continue reading. And this whole column is worth reading.

Written by Leisureguy

19 October 2022 at 3:27 am

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