Later On

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

Archive for March 16th, 2023

Brain-healthy foods to fight aging

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I naturally looked up the foods highest in lutein. The top 5 in order: cooked spinach, cooked Swiss chard, cooked mustard greens (cannot find it up here), cooked turnip greens (ditto), and cooked collards. Spinach is high in oxalic acid, though, so I wouldn’t eat it every day. I can get collards reading, and chard as well.

Greger also has a blog post worth reading: “Can Lutein Supplements Benefit Our Brain Function?

Written by Leisureguy

16 March 2023 at 7:17 pm

Posted in Food, Health, Science, Video

Fire the Fed

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Matt Stoller has a strong column in BIG, one with which I have considerable sympathy:

In 1969, then-Citibank CEO Walter Wriston tried to radically upend more than a hundred years of banking law by offering to buy the large insurance company, the Chubb Corporation. He did so by using a loophole in banking law that allowed banks to form a holding company and diversify into non-banking industries. Such a purchase would entangle banking and commerce in a manner traditionally prohibited by the rules establishing the national banking system in the 1960s, and reinforced by the Glass-Steagall Act in the 1930s. And it was utterly shocking to the political establishment, from bank regulators all the way up to President Richard Nixon.

Citibank’s move was part of a wave of big banks and conglomerates, which were an early type of private equity fund, trying to break this barrier, and use the special government guarantees for cheap credit as a competitive advantage over industrial firms in the real economy. Smaller banks were unhappy, as were many businesses, about what Wriston was doing. Still, the banks had an immensely powerful lobby. Yet over the course of the next two years, populist Banking Committee Chair Democrat Wright Patman, and his allies in business, at Federal regulatory agencies and in the Nixon administration, fought back.

Patman held hearings to expose the problems, hearings that today show what it means when core infrastructural platforms – in this case banks – could exploit their market position. A Pennsylvania entrepreneur testified about pressure put on him by banks to buy alternative services when he needed financing. An Indianapolis travel agent, Othmar Grueninger, talked about how bank-owned travel agencies were driving independent agencies out of business because of their unparalleled access to data about who traveled and who was creditworthy. “Any time I deposited checks from my customers,” he said, “I was providing the banks with the names of my best clients.”

But the big banks were powerful, and controlled a majority of votes on the House Banking Committee, despite Patman’s Chairman position. So the committee passed a version of the bill that legalized what Wriston and various conglomerates were doing. Executives at the American Bankers Association, the lobbying group based in New York, celebrated. Then, lobbyists for insurance and travel agencies, data processors, and industry groups mobilized. On the floor of the House, Patman and his staff completely re-wrote the bill that had come out of committee, and passed it out of the House. Lobbyists at the American Bankers Association had stopped paying attention, and didn’t even learn what happened until the next day.

The fight went over to the Senate, where it became even more brutal, involving bribery, threats to campaign contributors, and shouting matches. The progressive National Farmers Union, in hock to a Denver bank that had been acquired by a conglomerate, persuaded liberals like Senator George McGovern to back a big bank-friendly amendment. The negotiations for the final bill between the House and Senate were, according to American Banker magazine, among “the most contentious ever held on banking legislation.”

In that conference committee, Patman pulled perhaps the pettiest yet most impactful political maneuver I’ve ever seen. Attached to the bill was a noncontroversial provision to coin 150 million commemorative Eisenhower dollars with 40% silver content. A major contractor for the silver jacketing material for the coins was a company owned by a contributor to a key Senator on the conference committee, New Jersey’s Harrison Williams, who had previously backed the banks and conglomerates. Patman threatened to strip the commemorative coin provision, and Williams quickly caved and dropped his support for the bank-friendly version of the bill. And thus a key protection of the middle class from financiers was preserved for another thirty years.

Ultimately, the 1970 Amendments to the Bank Holding Company Act empowered the Federal Reserve to prohibit banks from co-mingling with commerce through holding companies. In the next two years, the Fed broke up 89 conglomerates, and stopped big banks from buying their way into insurance, land development, data processing, and management consulting. Everyone who had formed a bank holding company starting in 1968, when the rush began, had to divest their non-bank assets. I went into more details of this episode in my book Goliath; suffice to say it was one of the most important political fights of the 1960s that most of us know nothing about.

What Is Federal Reserve Independence?

What was most striking to me about this episode, having worked on the financial crisis of 2008 as a Congressional staffer, was not the fights within Congress. That made sense, the pettiness, corruption, good faith and big decisions all in one wrapper. It was the behavior of . . .

Continue reading. This is an important column — but unfortunately, the House is in the grip of the GOP now.

Written by Leisureguy

16 March 2023 at 5:42 pm

The myth of “liberal” news: How the media does the work of fascists

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Chauncey Devega writes in Salon:

There is no such thing as the so-called liberal news media. In reality, there is a corporate news media that polices the limits of approved public discourse and privileges the voices and agenda of the powerful over those of everyday Americans. And in a time of ascendant neofascism, that is a great betrayal of the American people and the sacred responsibility that the Fourth Estate has in a democracy.

“The liberal media” (and its conjoined twin “liberal media bias”) is language that was invented by the American right-wing in the 1980s and 1990s as a way of training and bullying the American news media into serving its agenda – or at a minimum a much more friendly and uncritical space through which to distribute right-wing talking points, dogma, and misinformation.

The myth of the liberal news media is disproved by other evidence as well.

The media in the “news media” means business and profit – this is especially true of the few large corporations that dominate the market. Those corporations are inherently conservative. The so-called liberal news media also values access to the powerful – because they are members of the same social class – above all else.

Take, for instance, the recent example of an Axios reported fired this week after dismissing what he described as “propaganda” fed to him by the office of Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. “This is propaganda, not a press release,” Ben Montgomery wrote in response to a DeSantis press release attacking diversity and inclusion efforts in the state. Hours later, the Pulitzer Prize finalist was questioned about the email and ultimately let go from his position as a local reporter for the national media outlet.

“This sort of thing has a chilling effect,” Montgomery told Talking Points Memos’ Hunter Walker. “I’m sad, honestly, for the profession.” He continued: “In a difficult news environment, you need that sort of support. So, at a minimum, don’t fire your reporters in a knee-jerk fashion.”

“We can’t be sheepish right now.”

Media critic and scholar Eric Boehlert summarized the myth of the liberal media in this way: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

16 March 2023 at 4:10 pm

Posted in Daily life, Media, Politics

A refresher on how the press failed the people in the run-up to the US invasion of Iraq

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The US invasion of Iraq was, like the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a war of choice, justified by falsehoods and pretense. And the US press — like the Russian press — for the most part cooperated. Dan Froomkin wrote at Nieman Watchdog in 2008:

The blistering critique of an overly credulous press corps by former White House press secretary Scott McClellan in his new book has reignited a debate over the performance of mainstream journalists during the run-up to war in Iraq. But it’s really not a debate at all.

Here’s what McClellan wrote, in excerpts from his new book:

In the fall of 2002, Bush and his White house were engaging in a carefully-orchestrated campaign to shape and manipulate sources of public approval to our advantage. We’d done much the same on other issues–tax cuts and education–to great success. But war with Iraq was different. Beyond the irreversible human costs and substantial financial price, the decision to go to war and the way we went about selling it would ultimately lead to increased polarization and intensified partisan warfare…

And through it all, the media would serve as complicit enablers. Their primary focus would be on covering the campaign to sell the war, rather than aggressively questioning the rationale for war or pursuing the truth behind it… the media would neglect their watchdog role, focusing less on truth and accuracy and more on whether the campaign was succeeding. Was the president winning or losing the argument? How were Democrats responding? What were the electoral implications? What did the polls say? And the truth–about the actual nature of the threat posed by Saddam, the right way to confront it, and the possible risks of military conflict–would get largely left behind…

If anything, the national press corps was probably too deferential to the White House and to the administration in regard to the most important decision facing the nation during my years in Washington, the choice over whether to go to war in Iraq. The collapse of the administration’s rationales for war, which became apparent months after our invasion, should have never come as such a surprise. The public should have been made much more aware, before the fact, of the uncertainties, doubts, and caveats that underlay the intelligence about the regime of Saddam hussein. The administration did little to convey those nuances to the people, the press should have picked up the slack but largely failed to do so because their focus was elsewhere–on covering the march to war, instead of the necessity of war.

In this case, the “liberal media” didn’t live up to its reputation. If it had, the country would have been better served.

That’s actually only one part of McClellan’s media critique. There’s more in these excerpts:

The permanent campaign … ensnares the media, who become complicit enablers of its polarizing effects. They emphasize conflict, controversy and negativity, focusing not on the real-world impact of policies and their larger, underlying truths but on the horse race aspects of politics – who’s winning, who’s losing, and why…

The press amplifies the talking points of one or both parties in its coverage, thereby spreading distortions, half-truths, and occasionally outright lies in an effort to seize the limelight and have something or someone to pick on. And by overemphasizing conflict and controversy and by reducing complex and important issues to convenient, black-and-white story lines and seven-second sound bites the media exacerbate the problem, thereby making it incredibly hard even for well-intentioned leaders to clarify and correct the misunderstandings and oversimplifications that dominate the political conversation. Finally, it becomes much more difficult for the general public to decipher the more important truths amid all the conflict, controversy and negativity. For some partisans, that is fine because they believe they can maneuver better in such a highly politicized environment to accomplish their objectives. But the destructive potential of such excessively partisan warfare would later crystallize my thinking.

This second part of McClellan’s critique is at least somewhat controversial. The first part, by now, certainly shouldn’t be. A flurry of self-examinations by the media have all reached pretty much the same conclusion McClellan did.

Yet because many of the cable-TV pundits talking about McClellan’s book were themselves members of the White House press corps during the time in question, some of them have been responding with unseemly defensiveness.

Consider this exchange on MSNBC’s Hardball on Wednesday evening, when host Chris Matthews asked his colleague David Gregory, who previously covered the White House for NBC, and Mike Allen, a Politico reporter who previously covered the White House for The Washington Post, to respond to McClellan’s critique:

Gregory: I think he is wrong.

He makes the same kind of argument  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

16 March 2023 at 10:20 am

Tallow + Steel Cognac and the superb Stealth slant

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A shaving brush with a wooden handle dyed black with the grain showing lighter and a white knot with gray tips.  It stands next to a tub of shaving soap with a green label showing an image of green grapes grown on vines in front of a cask. The label reads "Cognac." Next is a narrow cylindrical bottle of dark amber with a black cap and the same label. In fraont is a black slant razor with a ribbed handle.

Tallow + Steel’s Cognac is a good soap with a satisfying fragrance: “Cognac (38%) | Oakwood (21%) | Vanilla (18%) | Orange (8%) | Tobacco (7%) | Cocoa (6%) | Jasmine (2%).” I easily got a very nice lather with this brush from Chiseled Face purchased some years back.

The Stealth is a wonderful slant that Italian Barber made — and experimented with, coming out with several versions — some years back. It is machined aluminum, and it is one of the best slants I have: very comfortable and non-threatening, and also incredibly efficient — three passes as my face is totally smooth with no trace of roughness. The design — based (or at least inspired by) the vintage Merkur white bakelite slant — is unusual in that it has one hold the handle close to the face, as one does for a cartridge razor. 

A splash of Cognac aftershave and the job is done. Tallow + Steel does very interesting work. I’ve commented before on this aftershave, but it bears repeating: 

Aftershave.Water-based splashes that soothe and invigorate the skin from irritation, dryness and razor burn. They are full of nutrient rich organic ingredients that will leave your skin feeling soft, and can be used as a daily moisturizer. Highly concentrated – apply to a wet face for best results.

Organic Witch Hazel + Organic Aloe Vera + Water + Organic Glycerin + Organic Quillaja Extract + Organic Rose Hydrosol + Organic Calendula Hydrosol + Alcohol + Organic Willow Bark Extract + Organic Cucumber Extract + Organic Licorice Root Extract + Organic Rosemary Extract + Leuconostoc / Radish Root Ferment Filtrate + Lactobacillus + Coconut Fruit Extract + Natural Fragrance (Botanical Extracts)

The caffeine this morning is Murchie’s Queen Victoria, a favorite: “rich Darjeeling and Ceylon, smoky Lapsang Souchong, and sweet Jasmine.”

Written by Leisureguy

16 March 2023 at 9:43 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

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