Later On

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

Steve Bannon’s Nationalism Is a Click-Scam Disguised as a Movement

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Rick Wilson writes in The Daily Beast:

Steve Bannon’s departure from the White House was marked by a sense of relief on the part official Washington for about 10 blissful seconds.

Then the realization that Bannon’s liver-spotted hands were back on the controls of Robert Mercer’s pet alt-right propaganda organ hit them, and that bliss turned to despair. Before the White House door could hit Bannon on the backside, he was gleefully capering like a crusty leprechaun that he “had his hands on his weapons” again, and that he’d soon turn his fire on the real enemies of nationalist populism—Republicans and the broadly defined Establishment.

In Bannonism, fights matter more than ideas or accomplishments. The Bannonites aren’t really looking to do anything. They’re looking to be something, and that something is the political equivalent of a surly resident of the local monkey cage, screeching, baring its teeth, and throwing its feces at passersby. The promises of nationalist populism that helped Trump win over disaffected voters are well-known—the swift construction of the wall, mass deportations, torn-up trade deals, and the re-emergence of the economy of the 1950s.

Those promises are increasingly remote, and it’s largely Trump’s fault, but it won’t stop Steve Bannon and his allies from waging a furious blamestorming war against the GOP.

The two dirty secrets of nationalist populism are increasingly obvious. First, it’s not conservative; not even a little. All the fantasies of Trump-Bannon nationalism require a vastly expanded state, with greater powers over the economy and society. Free-market capitalism doesn’t pick economic winners and losers based on the president’s economic nostalgia, and limited-government conservatism isn’t marked a top-down ideological conformity strictly enforced by state media organs.

Second, nationalist populism isn’t a political philosophy or a real governing framework. It’s a con targeting the furious and the febrile, a Facebook click scam disguised as a movement. It’s nothing more than grunting, economically ignorant revanchism against a catalog of imaginary, opera-buffa villains. It requires a constantly expanding catalog of people to blame for an economy that changed more due to technology than a sinister cabal of brown people from faraway lands.

Trump and Kelly dumped Bannon because . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 August 2017 at 9:32 am

Omega Mixed Midget, Dr. Selby, Baili 171, and Lavanda

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Dr. Selby’s 3x concentrated lavender shaving cream makes a terrific lather. It’s very much like a soap in consistency and performance, and it seems to be no longer available, a shame. The little Omega brush did a fine job, and the lavender fragrance of the lather was quite pleasant.

Three passes with the Baili BR171 left a smooth and unmarred face. This is seriously a razor worth owning, and it’s $6 at the link.

A splash of Lavanda, and we move over the hump of the week.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 August 2017 at 9:12 am

Posted in Shaving

Kale my way

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Just made this for lunch.

1.5 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1.5 Tbsp Enzo Fresno Chili Crush extra-virgin olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
salt and pepper
8-10 cloves garlic, minced
4-5 Hatch green chilies, seeded and chopped fine
1 bunch Bora red kale (i.e., not Russian red kale)
1 bunch Lacinato kale
1 lemon, diced
2 Tbsp sherry
2 Tbsp Ponzu sauce
1 Tbsp brown rice vinegar
1/4 cup water

Heat oil in 11″ sauté pan (mine is 4-qt, so you might want to use a pot). Add onion, salt, and pepper and sauté for a few minutes until the onion turns transparent.

Add garlic and peppers and sauté a few minutes more.

Then add the remaining ingredients and stir. Cover and simmer 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

For lunch I had a bowl of that topped by an over-easy egg cooked in olive oil. Very tasty.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 August 2017 at 2:25 pm

Facts or Anecdotes? Pick One and Stick With It.

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Extremely intriguing post by Kevin Drum. And I agree with his recommendation: always issue two different reports, one with statistics, charts, and measures and the other using personal anecdotes as representative examples.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 August 2017 at 2:15 pm

Is anybody home at HUD?

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Alec McGillis reports in ProPublica:

In mid-May, Steve Preston, who served as the secretary of housing and urban development in the final two years of the George W. Bush administration, organized a dinner at the Metropolitan Club in Washington, D.C., for the new chief of that department, Ben Carson, and five other former secretaries whose joint tenure stretched all the way back to Gerald Ford. It was an event with no recent precedent within the department, and it had the distinct feel of an intervention.

HUD has long been something of an overlooked stepchild within the federal government. Founded in 1965 in a burst of Great Society resolve to confront the “urban crisis,” it has seen its manpower slide by more than half since the Reagan Revolution. (The HUD headquarters is now so eerily underpopulated that it can’t even support a cafeteria; it sits vacant on the first floor.) But HUD still serves a function that millions of low-income Americans depend on — it funds 3,300 public-housing authorities with 1.2 million units and also the Section 8 rental-voucher program, which serves more than 2 million families; it has subsidized tens of millions of mortgages via the Federal Housing Administration; and, through various block grants, it funds an array of community uplift initiatives. It is the Ur-government agency, quietly seeking to address social problems in struggling areas that the private sector can’t or won’t solve, a mission that has become especially pressing amid a growing housing affordability crisis in many major cities.

Despite its Democratic roots, Republican administrations have historically assumed stewardship over HUD with varying degrees of enthusiasm — among the department’s more notable secretaries were Republicans George Romney and Jack Kemp, the idiosyncratic champion of supply-side economics and inner-city renewal.

Now, however, HUD faced an existential crisis. The new president’s then-chief strategist, Steve Bannon, had called in February for the “deconstruction of the administrative state.” It was not hard to guess that, for a White House that swept to power on a wave of racially tinged rural resentment and anti-welfare sentiment, high on the demolition list might be a department with “urban” in its name. The administration’s preliminary budget outline had already signaled deep cuts for HUD. And Donald Trump had chosen to lead the department someone with zero experience in government or social policy — the nominee whose unsuitability most mirrored Trump’s lack of preparation to run the country.

This prospect was causing alarm even among HUD’s former Republican leaders. At the Metropolitan Club, George W. Bush’s second secretary, Alphonso Jackson, warned Carson against cutting further into HUD’s manpower. (Many regional offices have shuttered in recent years.) Carla Hills, who ran the department under President Ford, put in a plug for the Community Development Block Grant program, noting that Ford had created it in 1974 precisely in order to give local governments more leeway over how to spend federal assistance.

The tone was collegial, built on the hopeful assumption that Carson wanted to do right by the department. “We were trying to be supportive,” Henry Cisneros, from the Clinton administration, told me. But it was hard for the ex-secretaries to get a read on Carson’s plans, not least because the whisper-voiced retired pediatric neurosurgeon was being overshadowed by an eighth person at the table: his wife, Candy. An energetic former real-estate agent who is an accomplished violinist and has co-authored four books with her husband, she had been spending far more time inside the department’s headquarters at L’Enfant Plaza than anyone could recall a secretary’s spouse doing in the past, only one of many oddities that HUD employees were encountering in the Trump era. She’d even taken the mic before Carson made his introductory speech to the department. “We’re really excited about working with — ” She broke off, as if detecting the puzzlement of the audience. “Well, he’s really.”

The story of the Trump administration has been dominated by the Russia investigations, the Obamacare repeal morass, and cataclysmic internecine warfare. But there is a whole other side to Trump’s takeover of Washington: What happens to the government itself, and all it is tasked with doing, when it is placed under the command of the Chaos President? HUD has emerged as the perfect distillation of the right’s antipathy to governing. If the great radical conservative dream was, in Grover Norquist’s famous words, to “drown government in a bathtub,” then this was what the final gasps of one department might look like. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 August 2017 at 12:37 pm

The Boring Little Budget Office That Trump Hates

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Trump really dislikes any ties to consensual reality. He is determined that everyone should be as ignorant as he is, since others knowing more than him is intolerable if not unthinkable. So there go measures and facts. Steve Rattner writes in the NY Times:

The Congressional Budget Office never exuded sex appeal, at least not until recently. Its bland office building, which sits unobtrusively by a freeway in southwest Washington, houses an often-overlooked assemblage of wonkish economists whose idea of professional happiness is producing 10-year fiscal forecasts.

Nevertheless, it’s an agency of indispensable importance that is now coming under attack not only from Critic-in-Chief Donald Trump but from a broad array of Republican leaders, including even Speaker Paul Ryan.

If, as Oscar Wilde said, that you can judge a man — or in this case an institution — by the quality of its enemies, then the C.B.O. has chosen very well.

The current Republican beef with the C.B.O. is that it has repeatedly (and undoubtedly correctly) concluded that conservative proposals to gut the Affordable Care Act would cost tens of millions of Americans their health insurance.

Amazingly, in July, the White House even put out a 45 second video contending that “the Congressional Budget Office’s math does not add up.” A few days later, two senior Trump aides labeled the C.B.O.’s health care scoring “fake news” in a Washington Post Op-Ed. In 40 years of observing the budgeting process, I can’t recall anything remotely like this criticism of the

Developing long-term projections — particularly for complex policies like health care — is exceptionally difficult. And by no means do C.B.O. analyses invariably prove correct.

But passing sweeping legislation without input from the budget office would be like planning a picnic without checking the weather forecast. Meteorologists are not always right either but imagine what life (and businesses such as agriculture) would be like without them.

Health insurance changes may now be on hold for the moment, but other critical policy issues — notably, tax reform and next year’s spending — are moving to the front burner.

The C.B.O. was established in 1974 to do precisely what Republicans now don’t want it to do: serve as an independent counterpoint to the Office of Management and Budget. As a creature of the executive branch, the O.M.B. is often, and appropriately, criticized for lacking that nonpartisan viewpoint.

Keith Hall, the current director of the C.B.O. was selected two years ago by the Republican leadership on Capitol Hill — some of the same individuals who are now attacking the agency’s credibility. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 August 2017 at 12:34 pm

Mathematicians Tame Rogue Waves, Illuminating Future of LED Lighting

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Kevin Hartnett writes in Quanta:

In the 1950s, Philip Anderson, a physicist at Bell Laboratories, discovered a strange phenomenon. In some situations where it seems as though waves should advance freely, they just stop — like a tsunami halting in the middle of the ocean.

Anderson won the 1977 Nobel Prize in physics for his discovery of what is now called Anderson localization, a term that refers to waves that stay in some “local” region rather than propagating the way you’d expect. He studied the phenomenon in the context of electrons moving through impure materials (electrons behave as both particles and waves), but under certain circumstances it can happen with other types of waves as well.

Even after Anderson’s discovery, much about localization remained mysterious. Although researchers were able to prove that localization does indeed occur, they had a very limited ability to predict when and where it might happen. It was as if you were standing on one side of a room, expecting a sound wave to reach your ear, but it never did. Even if, after Anderson, you knew that the reason it didn’t was that it had localized somewhere on its way, you’d still like to figure out exactly where it had gone. And for decades, that’s what mathematicians and physicists struggled to explain.

This is where Svitlana Mayboroda comes in. Mayboroda, 36, is a mathematician at the University of Minnesota. Five years ago, she began to untangle the long-standing puzzle of localization. She came up with a mathematical formula called the “landscape function” that predicts exactly where waves will localize and what form they’ll take when they do.

“You want to know how to find these areas of localization,” Mayboroda said. “The naive approach is difficult. The landscape function magically gives a way of doing it.”

Her work began in the realm of pure mathematics, but unlike most mathematical advances, which might find a practical use after decades, if ever, her work is already being applied by physicists. In particular, LED lights — or light-emitting diodes — depend on the phenomenon of localization. They light up when electrons in a semiconducting material, having started out in a position of higher energy, get trapped (or “localize”) in a position of lower energy and emit the difference as a photon of light. LEDs are still a work in progress: Engineers need to build LEDs that more efficiently convert electrons into light, if the devices are to become the future of artificial lighting, as many expect they will. If physicists can gain a better understanding of the mathematics of localization, engineers can build better LEDs — and with the help of Mayboroda’s mathematics, that effort is already under way.

Rogue Waves

Localization is not an intuitive concept. Imagine you stood on one side of a room and watched someone ring a bell, only the sound never reached your ears. Now imagine that the reason it didn’t is that the sound had fallen into an architectural trap, like the sound of the sea bottled in a shell.

Of course, in an ordinary room that never happens: Sound waves propagate freely until they hit your eardrums, or get absorbed into the walls, or dissipate in collisions with molecules in the air. But Anderson realized that when waves move through highly complex or disordered spaces, like a room with very irregular walls, the waves can trap themselves in place.

Anderson studied localization in electrons moving through a material. He realized that if the material is well-ordered, like a crystal, with its atoms evenly distributed, the electrons move freely as waves. But if the material’s atomic structure is more random — with some atoms here, and a whole bunch over there, as is the case in many industrially manufactured alloys — then the electron waves scatter and reflect in highly complicated ways that can lead the waves to disappear altogether.

“Disorder is inevitable in the way these materials are created, there’s no way to escape it,” said Marcel Filoche, a physicist at the École Polytechnique outside Paris and a close collaborator of Mayboroda’s. “The only thing to hope is that you can play with it, control it.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 August 2017 at 12:02 pm

Posted in Math, Science, Technology

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