Later On

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

Testing the pro-size Omega S-Brush—and the Wolfman Tech once more

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SOTD 30 May 2015

Some on Wicked Edge asked about the “pro” (large) sizes of the Omega S-Series brushes—e.g., the S10049, S10083, and S10108, I got two to try. This morning was the S10108’s turn, and that’s the brush shown in the photo.

I used it with the citrus-themed Hydra shaving soap by Dr. Jon’s Handcrafted soaps—the fragrances are listed around the circumference of the label—and had no problems getting an excellent lather. The brush’s performance was fine. The feel was another matter: the greater loft made the bristles somehow feel stiffer—they were less ready to splay than with the shorter loft, a counter-intuitive result. But it was quite distinct. I definitely prefer the shorter-loft S-Series brushes such the beechwood-handled 10005 (my favorite because of the handle and shorter loft), S10018, S10019, S10065, S10077, and S10081.

Still, the lather was great, and I set to work with the Wolfman Tech show: a Gillette Tech head (holding a Feather blade) on a Wolfman Razors handle. It’s a great combination, and with the Feather blade, the Tech is for me a top-notch razor: extremely comfortable, extremely efficient, and not at all inclined to nick. I ended up with a trouble-free BBS result.

Given the soap’s citrus theme, I picked Stirling Lemon Chill as the aftershave, a mentholated witch-hazel-based aftershave that I like a lot.

The weekend begins.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 May 2015 at 11:27 am

Posted in Shaving

Recipe failure with pork chops

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I tried this recipe so that you don’t have to. It seems to be a recipe worked out at the keyboard, not the range. Probably a mustard coating with crushed black pepper and cumin sounded great.

However, it’s a great flaming pain to crush the pepper and the cumin, at least if you’re using a mortar and pestle. And then when you brush the chops with the mustard, and it takes a helluva lot more than 4 teaspoons, and rub in the cumin and pepper, then in the hot pan the mustard, pepper, and cumin immediately cooks to a crust, which comes off the chop. And the thick chops I used took 15 minutes, not twelve, but the seasonings were mostly stuck to the pan. I scraped them up, but the dish was not worth the effort.

Skip it.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 May 2015 at 8:45 pm

Posted in Recipes

Miniature Origami Robot Self-folds, Walks, Swims, and Degrades

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Via this article by Emiko Jozuka in Motherload, which explains more.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 May 2015 at 3:56 pm

Posted in Science

St. Louis County continues to exploit the poor—the county government avoids learning

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Radley Balko reports in the Washington Post:

Now that the many, many municipalities in St. Louis County face the prospect of a state law imposing a lower limit on how much revenue they can generatefrom traffic offenses (along with a credible threat of actually enforcing that law), they seem to be turning instead to non-traffic-related offenses, which aren’t covered by the new policy.

From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

Drive through this working-class suburb filled with 1950s cottages and you will see many edged and weeded lawns. You’ll also notice orange sticky notes on the doors — at least one or two per street in many parts of town.

They are warnings the city gives to residents who violate local ordinances. And in this community of 3,304 residents, the list of what earns a ticket and fine is long.

Among the things that will be “closely monitored” through the spring and summer, according to a newsletter that recently went out to residents:

Pants worn too low or grass grown too high. Children riding bikes without helmets. Barbecue pits or toys in front yards. Basketball hoops in the streets.

There’s no loitering — described in city code as “the concept of spending time idly” or “the colloquial expression ‘hanging around.’” And, despite a citywide 20 mph speed limit, there’s no playing or walking in the street.

It isn’t difficult to guess which groups of people are most likely to be affected by laws against walking in the street, wearing one’s pants too low, or “spending time idly.” It’s also probably a lot easier to avoid citations for having toys lying about (I’m still a little surprised this could be illegal) if you have a nice long drive way, or trees or fences to conceal the front yard.

According to the Post-Dispatch, Pagedale has increased non-traffic related citations by 500 percent in the last five years. Here’s how this plays out for working class people: . . .

Continue reading. As Balko later notes:

I’ve seen some reactions to this ongoing story that boil down to, “Just follow the law, and you have nothing to worry about.” But it’s a lot easier to follow the law when you can easily take a day off work to mow your grass, hire a lawn care service to trim your hedges or take an afternoon to clean up after a storm brings down some tree limbs. That isn’t as easy to do if you’re working two or more jobs, have kids to take care of and can’t afford to hire someone to fix up your property. That brings the fines. Then you have to choose between taking time off work to go to court to pay those fines, which could hurt your relationship with your employer, particularly if it becomes a pattern, or skip the court dates, after which you’re looking at an arrest.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 May 2015 at 12:15 pm

Posted in Daily life, Government, Law

How A California Gang Law Turns Spray Painting Into A Murder Charge And More in MuckReads Weekly

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Take a look at MuckReads Weekly. It’s only a little depressing.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 May 2015 at 12:13 pm

Posted in Business, Government, Law

The federal ‘structuring’ laws are smurfin’ ridiculous

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It’s a good thing we live in a free society and not a police state! Radley Balko reports in the Washington Post:

It seems appropriate that the crime of structuring is also sometimes called smurfing. Generally speaking, structuring is the act of breaking up financial transactions to get around the federal reporting requirements that kick in for transactions over a specific amount of money. The alternate term smurfing is a reference to the children’s cartoon in which a large entity (the Smurf Village) is made up of several smaller ones (the Smurfs themselves).

But if you grew up on the cartoon in the 1980s, or were unfortunate enough to have seen the 2011 movie, you’ll also know that the word smurf itself is rather ambiguous. It can mean whatever the person using the word wants it to mean. And that’s a pretty decent metaphor for how structuring laws function in the hands of federal officials.

First, a little background: Most structuring cases stem from a 1970 law calledthe Bank Secrecy Act, which requires banks to report any deposits, withdrawals, or transfers of more than $10,000. The law has since been revised several times, but generally it’s intended to make it easier for the government to track tax cheats, money launderers, illegal gambling operations and other criminal enterprises.

But the Bank Secrecy Act also requires banks to report to the federal government any activity from customers that might be construed as structuring deposits to avoid the reporting requirement. So if you have $100,000 to deposit in your bank account, and you deliberately choose to deposit that money in increments of $9,999 so your bank won’t automatically notify the federal government, you’re guilty of structuring. It’s a felony punishable by a fine and/or up to five years in prison.

Your bank is also required to report any suspicious activity by its customers. Moreover, your bank is prohibited from letting you know that it has reported you to the government. Banks that fail to sufficiently police their customers or banks that notify customers that they’ve been reported for suspicious deposits risk financial sanctions. Bank personnel found to have neglected their duties to report suspicious customer behavior can also be criminally charged and sent to prison. So there’s quite a bit of incentive for your bank to give you up, and to cast a wide net around what constitutes “suspicious activity.” There’s lots of risk in under-policing for structuring, and virtually no risk of losing customers due to a policy of over-reporting them to the government. Most customers will never know.

The problem of course is that when you force banks to cast such a wide net, they’re going to report a lot of people who have done nothing wrong.  And some of those people are going to find themselves in legal trouble. A top bartender who makes, say, $2,000-$2,500 per week in tips might make regular monthly deposits of over $9,000, but less than $10,000. It isn’t illegal to deposit $9,500 in your bank account. It’s only illegal if you’re doing so because you don’t want your bank to report the deposit to the government. That’s a pretty thin line between an innocuous activity and a felony.

There also may be some people who quite understandably don’t want to draw attention to themselves or their businesses, and so might keep their deposits under $10,000 to avoid having those transactions reported, without knowing that doing so is illegal.

In the 1994 case Ratzlaf v. U.S., the U.S. Supreme Court sensibly interpreted the word willfully in the Bank Secrecy Act to mean that in order to convict someone of structuring, the government had to show that the defendant knew that structuring was illegal. It wasn’t enough to show only that the defendant knew about the reporting requirement.

It’s an important distinction. Imagine you’re a small business owner, just getting started. The first few times you go to make deposits, they’re all under $10,000. Your business grows, and eventually you bring, say, $10,500 to the bank. The teller informs you that because you’re depositing more than $10,000, the bank will have to report you to the federal government. Even if you’ve done nothing wrong at all, it isn’t difficult to see how the phrase “report you to the government” might sound a little daunting. You might as well just hold $600 back and avoid drawing attention to yourself.

I think the structuring law itself is bad public policy. But in the scenario above, it ought to matter a great deal whether or not the small business ownerknew that withholding that $600 is illegal. Under the Supreme Court decision Ratzlaf, he’d only be guilty of structuring if the government could show that he knew holding back the $600 was illegal.

Apparently that made things too difficult on federal prosecutors. So Congress responded by dropping the word willfully from the Bank Secrecy Act. Now, prosecutors need only show that a defendant knows about the $10,000 reporting requirement, and makes deposits under that amount in order to avoid it.

Keep in mind, it doesn’t matter if you’ve earned all of your money legitimately. It doesn’t matter if you’ve dutifully reported all of that money at tax time, and paid the government every penny required of you under the law. If you knew about the reporting requirement, and you deliberately deposited less than $10,000 in order to avoid it, you’re guilty of a federal felony. And thanks to asset forfeiture, the government can then move to seize everything in your account. And possibly more.

All of this brings me to United States v. Abaira case from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals that my fellow Washington Post blogger Eugene Volokh posted about last week. . .

Continue reading. He describes some very interesting cases. He concludes:

But here’s a little secret: There is one way you can get away with structuring, even if you personally know it’s illegal, and even if you’re doing it to cover up your own clearly illegal activity. You just need to be the sitting New York Attorney General.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 May 2015 at 11:36 am

And, speaking of willful blindness: Austerity, the IMF and the real story about world economy that the media won’t tell you

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Patrick L. Smith has a good column in Salon:

Fascinating to watch the International Monetary Fund as it fronts for the U.S. Treasury and international lenders in the Greek and Ukrainian debt crises. In the former, the fund pins the Syriza government to the wall because it dares to represent its electorate. In the latter, it stands by the Poroshenko government because it has no intention of representing anybody other than banks, corporations and the global strategy set.

“Fascinating” is one word for this and it holds. “Greed in action” is three but they do a better job.

Coincidentally enough, both the Greek and Ukrainian cases now near their respective denouements. Miss this and you miss a singularly plain display of power, the way it works and what it works for in the early 21st century.

Athens has debt payments of €1.6 billion ($1.76 billion) due in June and must make them if it is to receive a further tranche of European and I.M.F. funding. This is essential if Greece is to recover—not from the 2008 financial crash and its economic fallout, which was long ago absorbed, but from the recovery program the fund and the European Union imposed in 2012. That is textbook neoliberalism, naturally, and the results are before us. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras calls it “a humanitarian crisis,” and I have heard no one dare counter him on the point.

The Kiev government owes international bondholders $35 billion, and $23 billion of it is also due in June. Slightly different situation here: Ukraine, too, needs to shake loose I.M.F. and European funds to revive an economy even worse than Greece’s, but this is not about ameliorating any kind of social crisis. It is about inducing one, in effect, so the neoliberalization process can be completed and working people in Ukraine are made properly, structurally desperate.

It is highly unlikely you will read about these two crises in the same news report—this would be asking too much of media committed to conveying disembodied data without context so that readers and viewers cannot understand what they are (not) being told. Let us, then, treat Greece and Ukraine together. It is where the fascination comes in.

The Greek case. The story starts with the first bailout, in 2010, a €110 billion deal, and the second, two years later, worth €130 billion more. The Socialists negotiated the first bailout and it cost them power within a year. The second was agreed by New Democracy, the rightist party founded in 1974, shortly after the dictatorship of the colonels collapsed.

The New Democrats accepted the extensive austerity measures the I.M.F. and its European co-lenders insisted upon. These included budget targets requiring severe cuts in public service wages, pensions, nationalized health care provisions and all else Europe’s social democracies built over a long period of time. Labor law was to be eviscerated along with (and not coincidentally) regulations governing foreign investment. Privatizations of public-sector enterprises—rails, ports, airlines and airports, the profitable and potentially profitable first—were essential stipulations.

Under Carlos Menem—remember that clownish greedhead?—Argentinians took to call this brand of economic ideology “savage capitalism,” and the phrase has ever since proved its usefulness. Same thing in post-2012 Greece, the bailout years that matter most.

We have read of the consequences often enough: a 25 percent drop in GDP, wage cuts of equal size, unemployment hovering above 25 percent, people losing their homes and finding supper in dumpsters, shuttered schools, malnourished children, on and on. Among the technocrats in Brussels and at the I.M.F. and the bankers in Frankfurt and London, this is recovery. The macroeconomic targets are being approached if not met.

By tradition the I.M.F. tends to shape country programs with two features. . .

Continue reading. The issues in play are fascinating and there are many aspects of this situation that are simply not reported in the mainstream press, which is corporatist in outlook (and ownership) and kowtows to Washington, parroting propaganda as requested (cf. the recent NY Times article on how our military is unfairly burdened by being tasked to avoid civilian casualties—a full-throated call for the type of campaign Israel launched in Gaza, aka “kill ’em all!”).

Written by LeisureGuy

29 May 2015 at 10:59 am

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