Later On

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

Archive for January 24th, 2023

Paul Krugman tells us not to feed the debt scolds

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Paul Krugman writes in the NY Times:

in March 2011 Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, chairs of a White House deficit-reduction commission, issued a frightening warning about U.S. government debt. Unless America took major steps to rein in future deficits, they warned, a fiscal crisis could be expected within around two years.

Bowles described what he thought would happen: Foreigners would stop buying our debt. And then, he asked: “What happens to interest rates? What happens to the U.S. economy? The markets will absolutely devastate us.”

That was 12 years ago. At the time Bowles issued his warning, the interest rate on 10-year U.S. bonds was about 3.5 percent. Not much was done to reduce deficits, aside from a squeeze on discretionary federal spending that probably delayed economic recovery. But at the end of last week the 10-year rate, which has gone up substantially over the past year as the Fed raises rates to fight inflation, was … about 3.5 percent.

The point is that in the early 2010s, the last time we faced a potential crisis over the debt ceiling, there was an elite consensus that budget deficits were a severe, even existential threat. This consensus was, in retrospect, completely wrong. Yet it almost completely dominated the political conversation, to such an extent that, as Ezra Klein pointed out, the media abandoned the normal rules of reportorial neutrality and openly cheered proposals to cut Social Security and Medicare.

And those of us who challenged the elite consensus, mocking the peddlers of debt panic as Very Serious People (because ranting about the evils of debt sounds serious and responsible, even when the math doesn’t support the rhetoric), were treated as odd and out of touch.

Now the Very Serious People are trying to make a comeback, in effect lending cover to Republican efforts to hold America hostage by refusing to raise the debt ceiling. So it’s important to realize that the case for debt panic is, if anything, even weaker than it was in 2011.

It’s true that U.S. debt is very large — $31 trillion (said in your best Dr. Evil voice). But America is a big country, so almost every economic number is very large. A better way to think about debt is to ask whether interest payments are a major burden on the budget. In 2011 these payments were 1.47 percent of gross domestic product — half what they had been in the mid-1990s. In 2021 they were 1.51 percent. This number will rise as existing debt is rolled over at higher interest rates, but real net interest — interest payments adjusted for inflation — is likely to remain below 1 percent of G.D.P for the next decade.

This doesn’t sound like a crisis. But what about demography? America is aging, which mean

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

24 January 2023 at 4:55 pm

Who hates inclusivity? The question answers itself.

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Dan Froomkin’s column from last July is worth reading. It begins:

There is no rational, acceptable reason to run an opinion column, nine days after the  Supreme Court’s devastating repeal of reproductive rights, arguing that the “far left” is denying women their humanity as much as the “far right” – based on the fact that a handful of people are trying to use more inclusive language to acknowledge that trans men can get pregnant, too.

But that, of course, is exactly what the editors of the New York Times opinion section chose to do on Saturday, running a piece headlined “The Far Right and Far Left Agree on One Thing: Women Don’t Count,” by their newly-minted columnist Pamela Paul, the former Book Review editor who apparently was brought over to opinion primarily to troll the libs.

Both-sidesing would have been a step up for this column, which devoted only 52 words out of 1,300 to the right’s decades-long campaign to strip women of their rights. The rest was about how “the fringe left” is “jumping in with its own perhaps unintentionally but effectively misogynist agenda.”

The central thesis of Paul’s argument was an exaggerated summary of a scaremongering news article from last month by Michael Powell, one of the two star reporters the Times has assigned to the woke-panic/cancel-culture beat –the other being Anemona Hartocollis, who just a few days ago gave us this already infamous piece of soft-focus cancel porn.

Powell, Paul wrote, had concluded that “the word ‘women’ has become verboten.”

In reality, some groups, sometimes, use gender-neutral language because, as NARAL explained (in a tweet over a year ago) “it’s not just cis-gender women that can get pregnant and give birth… We’re being inclusive. It’s that simple.”

But nobody is eliminating the word woman. That is incontrovertibly bullshit.

So why write such a thing? Why publish it?

As it happens, I ask myself those questions a lot these days. Our most elite media outlets – the Times, the Washington Post, the Atlantic, among others – seem to be constantly running articles that cast wokeism and cancel culture as threats to society equal or greater than an extremist political party that is quickly and effectively eroding American human rights, free speech, and democracy.

Well, I’ve seen enough. I have answers.

What all these articles reflect is an intense, disproportionate hostility toward . . .

Continue reading.

See also Jos Truitt’s piece in Columbia Journalism Review from 9 years ago.

Written by Leisureguy

24 January 2023 at 4:45 pm

The story no one wants to touch: Why the Capitol Police enabled 1/6

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Our news organizations have become complacent and focused on profit, with the desire to rock the boat much diminished. This does the public a disservice, but large corporations are much more attentive to their own profit than to the public interest. Dan Froomkin writes at Press Watch:

The news media’s continuing failure to explore why the U.S. Capitol was so scantily defended against an angry horde of white Trump supporters on Jan. 6, 2021, has now been compounded by the House select committee’s refusal to connect the most obvious dots or ask the most vital questions.

It’s true that there were countless law enforcement failures that day — indeed, far too many to be a coincidence.

But the singular point of failure — the one thing that could have prevented all of it from happening — was that Capitol Police leaders brushed off ample warnings that an armed mob was headed their way.

They lied to everyone about their level of preparedness beforehand. Then they sent a less-than-full contingent of hapless, unarmored officers out to defend a perimeter defined by bike racks, without less-than-lethal weaponry and without a semblance of a plan.

Even the insurrectionists who actively intended to stop the vote could never have expected that breaching the Capitol would be so easy.

Exploring why Capitol Police leaders chose not to prepare for combat, despite mounds of intelligence pointing directly toward such a scenario, should have been a key goal of the Jan. 6 committee.

That Capitol Police leaders — like so many others in law enforcement — were unable to imagine white Trump supporters as a clear and present danger remains one of the most tragically under-addressed elements of that day’s legacy, leaving crucially important lessons entirely unlearned.

The committee was instead focused on one thing and one thing only: Donald Trump. To that end, its report actively made excuses for law enforcement leaders, calling their failures essentially irrelevant. The “best defense,” the report concluded — should another president ever incite an attack on his own government — “will not come from law enforcement, but from an informed and active citizenry.”

What hooey.

Yes, Trump was the instigator. But going forward, the law enforcement community’s blindness to the threat of white nationalism is a more immediate danger.

Learning the lessons of Jan. 6 requires understanding the role of racism, both conscious or unconscious, in law enforcement. It requires understanding whether individual law enforcement leaders flinched for political reasons. And it requires an adjustment in the law enforcement community’s skewed perception of the danger from white nationalists as compared to people of color.

The committee’s members and investigators, however, didn’t ask witnesses anything remotely along those lines.

Then-Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund was the single person most responsible for the failure to protect the Capitol. But no one even asked him (or anyone else) to address how and why the lackadaisical preparations for Jan. 6 compared to the overenthusiastic deployments for Black Lives Matter protests that never posed any danger to the Capitol, and that weren’t even on the Capitol grounds.

Nobody asked any law enforcement officials if they viewed the Jan. 6 insurrectionists sympathetically, or if they were under political pressure not to upset Trump, or if they feared for their jobs.

And certainly nobody asked Sund or anyone else to consider whether the white privilege they shared with the Jan. 6 mob had made it seem unthreatening to them.

It’s no secret why none of these issues were brought up. Committee vice chair Liz Cheney is why.

As multiple committee staffers have told the Washington Post, Cheney’s leadership on the committee came with strings attached. She insisted that the focus of the hearings and the committee’s final report be exclusively on Trump, rather than on any other lessons learned — especially those that might not reflect well on law enforcement.

Asked about the committee’s plans in November, a month before the report was released, Cheney made her goals very clear at a University of Chicago event: “There’s one thing we will not do, and that is we will not blame the Capitol Police,” she said. “We will not blame law enforcement for Donald Trump’s mob, armed, that he sent to the Capitol to stop the electoral count.”

And unlike the excellent media coverage of Jan. 6 overall, reporting on the failure to protect the Capitol has been uniquely lacking every step of the way. I’ve literally been begging reporters since one week after the insurrection to explore how it was allowed to happen, to no avail. (This January 13, 2021, analysis by USA Today was a rare exception.)

To the contrary, press reports. particularly by the otherwise accomplished Washington Post reporter Carol Leonnig, have repeatedly cast Sund as a martyr and truth-teller when he is neither.

The lack of any public exploration as to why these white Trump supporters got as far as they did leaves us with a statement by Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., only hours after the Jan. 6 attack, as the most insightful analysis of the day’s events.

“Had it been  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

24 January 2023 at 11:29 am

Good info on Paxlovid

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Judith Graham writes in Medscape:

A new coronavirus variant is circulating, the most transmissible one yet. Hospitalizations of infected patients are rising. And older adults represent nearly 90% of U.S. deaths from covid-19 in recent months, the largest portion since the start of the pandemic.

What does that mean for people 65 and older catching covid for the first time or those experiencing a repeat infection?

The message from infectious disease experts and geriatricians is clear: Seek treatment with antiviral therapy, which remains effective against new covid variants.

The therapy of first choice, experts said, is Paxlovid, an antiviral treatment for people with mild to moderate covid at high risk of becoming seriously ill from the virus. All adults 65 and up fall in that category. If people can’t tolerate the medication — potential complications with other drugs need to be carefully evaluated by a medical provider — two alternatives are available.

“There’s lots of evidence that Paxlovid can reduce the risk of catastrophic events that can follow infection with covid in older individuals,” said Dr. Harlan Krumholz, a professor of medicine at Yale University.

Meanwhile, develop a plan for what you’ll do if you get covid. Where will you seek care? What if you can’t get in quickly to see your doctor, a common problem? You need to act fast since Paxlovid must be started no later than five days after the onset of symptoms. Will you need to adjust your medication regimen to guard against potentially dangerous drug interactions?

“The time to be figuring all this out is before you get covid,” said Dr. Allison Weinmann, an infectious-disease expert at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

Being prepared proved essential when I caught covid in mid-December and went to urgent care for a prescription. Because I’m 67, with blood cancer and autoimmune illness, I’m at elevated risk of getting severely ill from the virus. But I take a blood thinner that can have life-threatening interactions with Paxlovid.

Fortunately, the urgent care center could . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

24 January 2023 at 11:00 am

Fine shave, mystery tea

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Shaving setup: silvertip shaving brush with ebon handle stands next to a tall light-green tube of Dr. Bronner's Organic Shaving Soap, and next to that is a transparent galss bottle of aftershave with a silver cap and white label. In front is a black double-edge razor lying on its side.

The tube of Dr. Bronner’s Organic Shaving Soap, here in Lemongrass Lime fragrance, is a gift from The Eldest. It’s an interesting soap that does a good job. The ingredients are interesting:

INGREDIENTS: Organic Sucrose, Organic White Grape Juice, Organic Coconut Oil, Organic Palm Kernel Oil; Potassium Hydroxide, Organic Olive Oil, Organic Shikakai Powder, Organic Hemp Oil, Organic Jojoba Oil, Organic Lemongrass Oil, Organic Lemon Oil, Organic Lime Oil, Citric Acid, Tocopherol.

Interestingly, these are the same ingredients as in Dr. Bronner’s Organic Sugar Soap in the Lemongrass Lime fragrance, so presumably you could use that for shaving as well.

The soap, as is typical of Dr.Bronner soaps, is a liquid, in this case a dark brown liquid. I found the easiest technique is to squirt a small amount of liquid into the palm of my non-dominant hand and then use the damp brush (a Sabini silvertip with an ebony handle) to brush the soap briskly. This quickly loads and the brush and brings up the lather.

The fragrance was the first thing I noticed. I realized that lemongrass was not a familiar fragrance among my shaving soaps, and I really like its light, citrusy fragrance. This fragrance is bright and light and would be especially welcome on a dark wintry day. 

The lather was not quite so dense as from some of my shaving soaps, but this is the first shave, so I expect there will be a learning curve — perhaps a bit more soap, and/or a bit less water in the brush, will result in a thicker lather.

However, the lather was plenty good enough for a shave, and I set to work. The handle here is from an earlier razor whose head was so inefficient that it was unusable — but I do like the handle, so I mounted on it a Yaqi double-open-comb head I had on hand. Now I like the resulting razor a lot, and the Yaqi head is efficient and comfortable.

Three passes left my face perfectly smooth, and the soap seemed quite kind to my skin. I rinsed and dried my face and then applied a splash of Prospector Co’s Peary & Henson Aftershave, which is 0% alcohol:

Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Distillate, Organic Aloe (Barbadensis), Distilled Water, PolySorbate 20, Vegetable Glycerin, Pimenta Racemosa (Bay), Commiphora Myrrha (Myrrh), Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary), Eucalyptus Globules (Eucalyptus), Pinus sylvestris (Pine), Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavendar), Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree), Phenoxyethanol.

The ingredients here seem quite in keeping with those in the Dr. Bronner soap. I did add a couple of squirts of Grooming Dept’s Aion Hydrating Gel, though for this aftershave it may be superfluous.

Great shaving, and an interesting soap.

The tea this morning is a mystery tea — left from some earlier purchase in an unmarked container. It’s a spice tea, and it’s tasty and refreshing.

Written by Leisureguy

24 January 2023 at 10:53 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

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