Later On

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

Archive for March 16th, 2012

Maybe marijuana legalization is at hand: Pat Robertson supports it

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Amazing. Jesse McKinley reports in the NY Times:

Of the many roles Pat Robertson has assumed over his five-decade-long career as an evangelical leader — including presidential candidate and provocative voice of the right wing — his newest guise may perhaps surprise his followers the most: marijuana legalization advocate.

“I really believe we should treat marijuana the way we treat beverage alcohol,” Mr. Robertson said in an interview on Wednesday. “I’ve never used marijuana and I don’t intend to, but it’s just one of those things that I think: this war on drugs just hasn’t succeeded.”

Mr. Robertson’s remarks echoed statements he made last week on “The 700 Club,” the signature program of his Christian Broadcasting Network, and other comments he made in 2010. While those earlier remarks were largely dismissed by his followers, Mr. Robertson has now apparently fully embraced the idea of legalizing marijuana, arguing that it is a way to bring down soaring rates of incarceration and reduce the social and financial costs.

“I believe in working with the hearts of people, and not locking them up,” he said.

Mr. Robertson’s remarks were hailed by pro-legalization groups, who called them a potentially important endorsement in their efforts to roll back marijuana penalties and prohibitions, which residents of Colorado and Washington will vote on this fall.

“I love him, man, I really do,” said Neill Franklin, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a group of current and former law enforcement officials who oppose the drug war. “He’s singing my song.”

For his part, Mr. Robertson said that he “absolutely” supported the ballot measures, though he would not campaign for them. “I’m not a crusader,” he said. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 March 2012 at 3:23 pm

Posted in Drug laws

Big banks are a big evil

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Cora Currier reports in Pro Publica:

Buried in the sweeping mortgage settlement with banks, for which final documents were filed this week, are five whistleblower cases that shed light on the litany of foreclosure abuses by the banks.

According to one suit, Bank of America allegedly passed bad loans on to the Federal Housing Administration. According to another, the bank allegedly denied qualified homeowners access to HAMP, the government’s loan modification program.

The suits were all settled as part of the overall $25 billion mortgage deal. They were filed under the False Claims Act, which provides incentives for whistleblowers to come forward in cases in which someone has defrauded the government. Whistleblowers can net up to 25 percent of the total settlement from False Claims suits, and in some of these cases, the reward is in the millions.

Details are available for four of the cases; documents in a fifth, against JPMorgan Chase, have not yet been filed in Massachusetts. While the cases were settled as part of the overarching agreement, they still have to be accepted by the courts in which they were originally filed. In reaching the settlements, none of the banks admits or denies the lawsuits’ allegations.

We’ve laid out the details of each case.

Countrywide Defrauded the FHA

Kyle Lagow worked at LandSafe, a contractor of Countrywide, which Bank of America bought in 2008. He brought a suit in 2009 alleging that the company systematically undermined the appraisal process for home loans in order to approve as many as possible: . . .

Continue reading. What’s odd is that loans for minority applicants seems to have nothing to do with it. Could that just be a smokescreen from the racist Republican Right? (Yes.)

Written by LeisureGuy

16 March 2012 at 1:20 pm

Posted in Business, Government

The Senate goes to bat for Big Business again—and uses the bat on the consumer

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I’m getting a little—well, total honesty here, MORE than a little—tired of how Congress sees its mission nowadays to help Big Business fleece and exploit the American consumer and worker: pay the workers less, and charge for everything. I assume the next step is a US National Company Store, to which you can be indebted for life. Are floggings far behind?

Latest story, reported at Pro Publica by Lena Groeger:

This summer, health insurance companies may have to pay more than a billion dollars back to their own customers. The rebate requirements were introduced as part of the 2010 health-care reform law and are meant to benefit consumers. But now an insurer-supported Senate bill aims to roll back the rebate requirements.

Known as the medical loss ratio rule, it’s actually pretty simple. Under the health-care law provision, 80 to 85 cents of every dollar insurers collect in premiums must be spent on medical care or activities that improve the quality of that care. If not, they must send their customers a rebate for the difference. The goal, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, is tolimit the money insurers spend on administrative costs and profit.

“It essentially ensures that consumers receive value for every dollar they spend on health care,” HHS spokesman Brian Chiglinsky told ProPublica.

Last month, Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., introduced a bill that would change what costs companies can include in the 15 to 20 percent they are allotted for overhead, salaries and marketing. The bill, similar to a House bill introduced in March 2011 that has yet to come up for a vote, focuses on payments to insurance agents and brokers. Traditionally, these commissions are bundled into the administrative costs when making the final calculation. But insurance regulators have argued that fees paid to insurance agents and brokers shouldn’t count.

Such a change could mean big savings for insurance companies — and much smaller rebates for consumers.

This is the first year that companies are required to send out rebates. According to a report by state insurance commissioners, if rebates had been handed out last year,insurers would have had to pay consumers almost $2 billion. If they had carved out the broker fees, as proposed in the two current bills, consumers would have gotten only about $800 million.

Landrieu’s office did not immediately respond to our call for comment. . .

I can imagine.Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 March 2012 at 1:17 pm

Back from doctor, and also sushi

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Just went to my retina surgeon. All is well. The bubble he uses has a life of 6-10 weeks, with 8 being the average. I’m hoping for 6, since so long as the bubble’s present, my vision in that eye is… odd. OTOH, I can level pictures by eye.

The Wife went with me. One oddity: my eye pressure was entered without being measured. Quite weird. But we insisted on a measure that we could observe, which was 16. (The unmeasured pressure was recorded as 15.)

I still must favor the right side for sleeping, but normal position (rather than with head at 45º angle to mattress) is fine. Driving, with care. Reading (but still with one eye, not really satisfactory).

Then we went to a sushi place I like and I had my regular order (nigori sake, large assorted sashimi, small assorted nirigi sushi, seaweed) and The Wife had a tempura dish. That was a great celebration. And tomorrow at an early (low-traffic) hour I’m going to Whole Foods and restock…

Written by LeisureGuy

16 March 2012 at 1:11 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Medical

Spider-silk violin strings

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The Eldest passes along this intriguing note.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 March 2012 at 10:59 am

Posted in Music, Science, Technology

Make your own teabag from the tea you like

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I have a particular Lapsang Souchong I like a lot, but I seldom drink a complete pot of tea—I use a one-pint mug, which is plenty. With these open paper bags for tea, I in effect make my own tea bag—plus these are easier to use and to remove once the first cup is made. (I generally get at least two cups from a single bag.)

Written by LeisureGuy

16 March 2012 at 9:53 am

Posted in Caffeine

The man who broke Atlantic City

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Very interesting article. I don’t find gambling of interest, but God knows many people love it. (I do like contract bridge, but played for points rather than money.)

Written by LeisureGuy

16 March 2012 at 9:38 am

Posted in Business

Government allows school districts to opt out of “pink slime”

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Schools have been feeding pink slime combined with beef fat to children. Strangely, people don’t like the idea, and the government is reluctantly allowing districts to opt out. Here’s the story.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 March 2012 at 9:21 am

Fastest optical chip

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Yet another chip, but this one uses light (photons) rather than electrons: 1 terabyte per second transmission rate, which they hope to double relatively easily. Amazing.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 March 2012 at 9:11 am

Posted in Technology

Close encounter with a big kitty

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It’s odd how much cats love looking at things upside down:

.

Thanks to The Wife for the link.

UPDATE: Another way to get up-close photos (and some of those very photos).

Written by LeisureGuy

16 March 2012 at 8:01 am

Posted in Cats, Video

Razor baseplate, clarified

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A three-piece safety razor comprises a handle, a baseplate, and a cap. The orientation of two is obvious: the cap has a threaded stud and the handle as a tapped receptacle for the stud: the handle and cap are screwed together, with the baseplate (holding a double-edged razor blade) squeezed between.

So the baseplate is the only piece with a possibly ambiguous orientation, and a few beginners find that they’ve attempted their first shave with the baseplate upside down (which doesn’t work). In the next edition, I’m going to include this photo and explanation:

The two baseplates are both from Edwin Jagger/Mühle razors of recent manufacture: this is the new head. The baseplate at the bottom is upside down: the blade goes on the other side; the baseplate at the top is rightside up: you just put the blade atop the side with the scalloped edges and the cap goes on top of that. (The actual process is to put the blade on the cap, then place the baseplate on top of that, with the scalloped edge facing the cap: it’s easier to load the cap since the cap has the two blade-alignment studs. Some razors have those two studs on the baseplate, in which case you load the baseplate and then put the cap on that.)

Written by LeisureGuy

16 March 2012 at 7:52 am

Posted in Shaving

Terrific shave

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A really enjoyable shave today—not the super-smooth amazing-feel type of great shave, but one in which each step was totally enjoyable, with a nice hit at the end.

First the Omega 20107, a boar brush, soaked while I showered. This is an excellent brush, just slightly smaller than the Omega Pro 48 (or Pro 49) and thus better for face lathering. I’m indebted to NoHelmet of wicked_edge for the recommendation; it’s now a favorite boar.

The first lather from Mama Bear’s Cedarwood and Lemon shaving soap was wonderfully fragrant but did not last in the brush until the second pass: I had to return to the puck for another go, but this second lather was super good. I think I just stopped loading the brush too soon on that first pass.

My Weber with a used Feather blade did three very nice passes with no problems at all, and the splash of Geo. F. Trumper’s Spanish Leather aftershave was terrific. This is what shaving should be.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 March 2012 at 7:46 am

Posted in Daily life, Shaving

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