Later On

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

Archive for July 16th, 2012

Benny Goodman Sextet: Shivers

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The Benny Goodman Sextet is a terrific small group. Charlie Christian, the electric guitar breakthrough jazz artist, is from Oklahoma, also my original home state. I can’t play a lick, though. This via

Written by Leisureguy

16 July 2012 at 10:43 am

Posted in Jazz, Video

Corporate veterans comment on Romney’s “retroactive retirement”

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Very good comments from readers of James Fallows’s blog. For example:

A suggested question for Mitt Romney, bearing on when he was and was not responsible for the plans and decisions of Bain Capital:

If you weren’t in charge at Bain in 1999-2001, who was?  If Mitt Romney had ‘retroactively’ retired — who was ‘proactively’ managing Bain Capital? Just a simple name — or a committee would do. (Next question, why wasn’t this person listed on the SEC forms?)

I’ve worked in corporate life for >35 years and always knew who was “in charge”. I’m sure Romney knows who was in charge at Bain during the time in question. After all this is the company that he founded.

Answering this simple question would clarify matters greatly. (BTW – “the person in charge” of a company is not supposed to be a secret.  This isn’t the Sopranos you know.)

More at the link.

Written by Leisureguy

16 July 2012 at 10:40 am

Posted in Business, Election, GOP

Cool idea (literally): Giant ice cubes

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Take a look at the Tovolo King Cube Ice Tray at Cool Tools: extremely clever idea. The only improvement I can think of would be spherical ice cubes whose diameter measures the same as an edge of the cube.

Written by Leisureguy

16 July 2012 at 9:40 am

Posted in Daily life

Good column by Bill Keller on false claims about Obamacare

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Good column by Keller in theNY Times:

ON the subject of the Affordable Care Act — Obamacare, to reclaim the name critics have made into a slur — a number of fallacies seem to be congealing into accepted wisdom. Much of this is the result of unrelenting Republican propaganda and right-wing punditry, but it has gone largely unchallenged by gun-shy Democrats. The result is that voters are confronted with slogans and side issues — “It’s a tax!” “No, it’s a penalty!” — rather than a reality-based discussion. Let’s unpack a few of the most persistent myths.

OBAMACARE IS A JOB-KILLER. The House Republican majority was at it again last week, staging the 33rd theatrical vote to roll back the Affordable Care Act. And once again the cliché of the day was “job-killer.” After years of trying out various alarmist falsehoods the Republicans have found one that seems, judging from the polls, to have connected with the fears of voters.

Some of the job-killer scare stories are based on a deliberate misreading of a Congressional Budget Office report that estimated the law would “reduce the amount of labor used in the economy” by about 800,000 jobs. Sounds like a job-killer, right? Not if you read what the C.B.O. actually wrote. While some low-wage jobs might be lost, the C.B.O. number mainly refers to workers who — being no longer so dependent on employers for their health-care safety net — may choose to retire earlier or work part time. Those jobs would then be open for others who need them.

The impartial truth squad has debunked the job-killer claim so many times that in its latest update you can hear a groan of weary frustration: words like “whopper” and “bogus” and “hooey.” The job-killer claim is also discredited by the experience under the Massachusetts law on which Obamacare was modeled.

Ultimately the Affordable Care Act could be a tonic for the economy. It aims to slow the raging growth of health care costs by, among other things, using the government’s Medicare leverage to move doctors away from exorbitant fee-for-service medicine, with its incentive to pile on unnecessary procedures. Two veteran health economists, David Cutler of Harvard and Karen Davis, president of the Commonwealth Fund, have calculated that over the first decade of Obamacare total spending on health care, in part by employers, will be half a trillion dollars lower than under the status quo.

OBAMACARE IS A FEDERAL TAKEOVER OF HEALTH INSURANCE. Let’s be blunt. The word for that is “lie.” The main thing the law does is deliver 30 million new customers to the private insurance industry. Indeed, a significant portion of the unhappiness with Obamacare comes from liberals who believe it is not nearly federal enough: that the menu of insurance choices should have included a robust public option, or that Medicare should have been expanded into a form of universal coverage.

Under the law, to be sure, insurance will be governed by new regulations, and supported by new subsidies. This is not the law Ayn Rand would have written. But the share of health care spending that comes from the federal government is expected to rise only modestly, to nearly 50 percent in 2021, and much of that is due not to Obamacare but to baby boomers joining Medicare.

This is a “federal takeover” only in the crazy world where Barack Obama is a “socialist.”

THE UNFETTERED MARKETPLACE IS A BETTER SOLUTION. To the extent there is a profound difference of principle anywhere in this debate, it lies here. Conservatives contend that if you give consumers a voucher or a tax credit and set them loose in the marketplace they will do a better job than government at finding the services — schools, retirement portfolios, or in this case health insurance policies — that fit their needs.

I’m a pretty devout capitalist, and I see that in some cases individual responsibility helps contain wasteful spending on health care. If you have to share the cost of that extra M.R.I. or elective surgery, you’ll think hard about whether you really need it. But I’m deeply suspicious of the claim that a health care system dominated by powerful vested interests and mystifying in its complexity can be tamed by consumers who are strapped for time, often poor, sometimes uneducated, confused and afraid.

“Ten percent of the population accounts for 60 percent of the health outlays,” said Davis. “They are the very sick, and they are not really in a position to make cost-conscious choices.”


Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

16 July 2012 at 8:51 am

Posted in GOP, Government, Healthcare

“Great advice” from Goldman Sachs results in loss of everything for business owners

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I have a copy of Dragon NaturallySpeaking voice-recognition software on my PC and it’s truly remarkable. The same technology—the same algorithms, developed by the Bakers—is behind Siri. The couple that developed the algorithms and did what no one else had been able to do formed a company and eventually sold the company with Goldman Sachs acting as the investment banker. And “acting” is the right word, in the sense of “playacting”: it’s clear that Sachs basically did nothing—nada, bupkis—for their $5 million fee. They simply took the money and ran, leaving the Dragon owners hold the bag, which unfortunately turned out to be empty. “Vampire squid” does indeed seem to be the right term for Goldman Sachs.

Loren Feldman has a good report of the swindle in the NY Times. The dishonesty displayed by Goldman Sachs and its personnel is breathtaking, but of course the Federal government seems to actively support the company, so far as I can tell, protecting them from any accountability, while Goldman Sachs continues to fight any regulatory oversight at all.

The story is simply amazing. The couple who developed the software got nothing at all, and Goldman Sachs got $5 million for doing nothing substantive and providing disastrous advice. The conclusion of the story at the link:

. . . If the case goes to trial in Boston, as scheduled, on Nov. 6, the final argument that Goldman can be expected to make is that the bankers, as Mr. Wayner testified, gave the Bakers “great advice.”

Mr. Berzofsky, too, testified in his deposition that the Goldman Four did a “great job.”

Even though Dragon lost everything?

“Yes,” Mr. Berzofsky said. He was given several opportunities to clarify. And then he was asked one more time — the fact that the Bakers and Dragon’s shareholders lost everything doesn’t affect your opinion?

“Correct,” Mr. Berzofsky responded. “We guided them to a completed transaction.”

A transaction completed to the effect that Goldman Sachs got $5 million, and the owners lost everything. I would say that is indeed completed, but I don’t think that is what Goldman Sachs promotes as what they can do for their clients.

UPDATE. Joshua Holland has a relevant article at AlterNet, which begins:

Earlier this year, researchers at the University of Southern California published the results of a study examining whether the wealthy – the mythical “engines of our economy” – display a better character than the rest of us.

As it turned out, after conducting seven experiments they found that the narrow pursuit of self-interest at the top of the economic heap leads our elites to behave like complete dirtbags. As Bloomberg summarized, the researchers found that the richest among us “were more likely to break the law while driving, take candy from children, lie in negotiation, cheat to raise their odds of winning a prize and endorse unethical behavior at work.”

“It’s not that the rich are innately bad, but as you rise in the ranks — whether as a person or a nonhuman primate — you become more self-focused,” Paul Piff, the lead author of the study, told Bloomberg. It is their lust for wealth, paired with a lack of empathy for others – their disregard for the consequences of their actions on the “little people” – that makes them, at times, appear to simply be evil.

That research may help us understand why high-flying traders at Barclays Bank – and those at an as yet unknown number of other financial institutions – were willing to risk the credibility of the entire financial sector, as well as their cushy jobs, to rig interest rates in order to squeeze out more profits. And it certainly helps explain why they didn’t think twice about the individual and institutional investors they ripped off: millions of ordinary people with credit cards, auto and home loans and other lines of credit. . .

Continue reading. That USC study is exactly why the takeover of the American government by plutocrats is such terrible news.

Written by Leisureguy

16 July 2012 at 8:38 am

Posted in Business, Law, Software

The Monday shave: Always a treat

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A two-day stubble makes for a wonderful shave—probably a three-day stubble would be even better, but who can wait so long? The shave soap today is variously known as Dr. Ditmar, Dovo, and Rivivage, but so far as I can tell, it’s all the same soap—and quite a good soap it is. The lather with the Frank Shaving brush was a treat, and I really enjoyed using the little white Bakelite slant: a very light razor, once you know how much pressure to use, is quite pleasant, and of course the slant is always a treat. With a Swedish Gillette blade, I achieved a mostly smooth face in two passes (WTG and XTG) so the ATG pass was just to polish the few patches where slight roughness remained. A rinse, dry, and splash for Floris No. 89 (the number being their address), and I’m ready for a Monday of some cooking, some reading, and more uploading of the backup to CrashPlan.

I’ve been connected for two days and have about 1.2 days remaining, but that figure jumps around. More stable figures are the amount uploaded—8GB—and the amount remaining—6.6GB. Ah: figure just dropped to 22.6 hours. I have the usual asymmetric DSL connection: much faster inbound to my computer (video, long text articles, etc.) than outbound from my computer (mostly keystrokes but occasionally an uploaded photo—as the one above). So uploading the backup does take a lot of time—as indeed would a full restore. But if I ever do need to do a full restore, CrashPlan sells a hard-drive option (they ship a loaded hard drive to you to use locally at USB 3.0 speed) and of course I still have My Passport sitting beside the chair, which could be available for use.

Written by Leisureguy

16 July 2012 at 8:14 am

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