Later On

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

Archive for January 23rd, 2013

It’s not so simple as two contrasting positions

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Written by LeisureGuy

23 January 2013 at 3:28 pm

Food musings and soup idea

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First, I do love the Asian Market I found in Marina. I got some Corn Silk Tea, which is new to me. It’s unsweetened and it has a very interesting taste—at first like popcorn, but then more like corn-nuts: a dry-roasted kind of corn tasty. Very nice and odd when chilled.

Second, I’m having a little snack of pickled garlic stems (very tasty), pickled garlic cloves (different package), and some olives. The garlic stems are terrific—and also new to me.

The pork GOPM with barley was so good, it made me think up this recipe:

In the 4-qt pot, brown a package of beef shank cross-sections, then add:

a handful of Crimini mushroom
1/2 onion, chopped
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Splash of red wine (not much)

Cover and roast overnight in 200ºF oven.

Remove contents of pot to a bowl, add a little olive oil if needed, and sauté 1 large onion chopped or sliced thinly until it is browning, then add:

1/2 c chopped celery
2 c mixed mushrooms (domestic white, Shiitake, oyster, and whatever else is available)

Sauté until the mushrooms give up their liquid, then add the contents of the bow, but chop the beef. (Bones should go in also, I think, along with any uneaten marrow.)

Add 1.5 c barley (either pearled barley or hulled barley) and fill pot with water. Add 1-2 Tbs Penzeys Beef Soup Base.

Simmer until barley is tender, add 2 Tbsp Amontillado sherry, serve.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 January 2013 at 3:04 pm

Posted in Food, Recipes

Banks: Too big to jail?

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David Sirota has an interesting review of the PBS Frontline show that points out the way the Obama Administration has undermined the law:

PBS Frontline’s stunning report last night on why the Obama administration has refused to prosecute any Wall Streeter involved in the financial meltdown doesn’t just implicitly indict a political and financial press that utterly abdicated its responsibility to cover such questions. It also — and as importantly — exposes the genuinely radical jurisprudential ideology that Wall Street campaign contributors have baked into America’s “justice” system. Indeed, after watching the piece, you will understand that the word “justice” belongs in quotes thanks to an Obama administration that has made a mockery of the name of a once hallowed executive department.

The Frontline report is titled “The Untouchables,” a tongue-in-cheek salute to how that term once referred to those heroes who fought organized crime and yet now appropriately describes those doing the criminal organizing. Rooted in historical comparison, it contrasts how the Reagan administration prosecuted thousands of bankers after the now-quaint-looking S&L scandal with how the Obama administration betrayed the president’s explicit promise to “hold Wall Street accountable” and refused to prosecute a single banker connected to 2008′s apocalyptic financial meltdown.

The piece by PBS reporter Martin Smith looks at how Obama has driven federal prosecutions of financial crimes down to a two-decade low. It also documents the rampant and calculated mortgage securities fraud perpetrated by the major Wall Street banks, who, not coincidentally, were using some of the profits they made to become among President Obama’s biggest campaign donors.

As we see, that campaign money didn’t just buy massive government bailouts of the banks, a pathetically weak Wall Street “reform” bill or explicit reassurances from Obama’s campaign that the president would refrain from criticizing bankers. Frontline shows it also bought a Too Big to Jail ideology publicly championed by the white-collar defense lawyer turned Obama prosecutor Lanny Breuer.

In the single most damning part of the PBS report, we learn that

Breuer, fresh off a lucrative stint defending Moody’s and Halliburton, was appointed by President Obama to head the Justice Department’s criminal enforcement division and was soon sculpting this unprecedented ideology and embedding it into the department’s mission. As Frontline shows, he bragged to his colleagues in the legal profession that as the United States government’s chief criminal prosecutor, he is not primarily worried about lawbreaking in the financial world, but about whether prosecuting financial crime will harm the criminals, their accomplices and their industry.

As this excerpt from Breuer’s 2012 speech to the New York City Bar Association shows, that characterization of Breuer’s declarations is not an overstatement (emphasis added):

To be clear, the decision of whether to indict a corporation, defer prosecution, or decline altogether is not one that I, or anyone in the Criminal Division, take lightly.We are frequently on the receiving end of presentations from defense counsel, CEOs, and economists who argue that the collateral consequences of an indictment would be devastating for their client. In my conference room, over the years, I have heard sober predictions that a company or bank might fail if we indict, that innocent employees could lose their jobs, that entire industries may be affected, and even that global markets will feel the effects.

In reaching every charging decision, we must take into account the effect of an indictment on innocent employees and shareholders, just as we must take into account the nature of the crimes committed and the pervasiveness of the misconduct.

I personally feel that it’s my duty to consider whether individual employees with no responsibility for, or knowledge of, misconduct committed by others in the same company are going to lose their livelihood if we indict the corporation. In large multi-national companies, the jobs of tens of thousands of employees can be at stake. And, in some cases, the health of an industry or the markets are a real factor. Those are the kinds of considerations in white collar crime cases thatliterally keep me up at night, and which must play a role in responsible enforcement.

Save for the intrepid Marcy Wheeler and now Frontline, this speech received almost no news media attention despite being arguably one of the most important statements to come from a top law enforcement official in recent history. . .

Continue reading.

UPDATE: Wow! That was fast. Pam Martens at Wall Street on Parade has this post:

The Washington Post is reporting this afternoon that Lanny Breuer, head of the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice and the focus of a damaging report by producer Martin Smith for the PBS program, Frontline, that aired last evening, is stepping down from his post.

The portion of the program that likely garvanized the White House was the startling report by prosecutors that had worked under Breuer in the criminal division of the DOJ that there wasn’t even a pretense of a real investigation against the major Wall Street firms: no subpoenas, no document reviews, no wiretaps.

Following is the verbatim transcript of that portion of the program:

NARRATOR:Frontline spoke to two former high-level Justice Department prosecutors who served in the Criminal Division under Lanny Breuer. In their opinion, Breuer was overly fearful of losing.

MARTIN SMITH: We spoke to a couple of sources from within the Criminal Division, and they reported that when it came to Wall Street, there were no investigations going on. There were no subpoenas, no document reviews, no wiretaps.

LANNY BREUER: Well, I don’t know who you spoke with because we have looked hard at the very types of matters that you’re talking about.

MARTIN SMITH: These sources said that at the weekly indictment approval meetings that there was no case ever mentioned that was even close to indicting Wall Street for financial crimes.

Read our morning coverage of the Frontline program here, which looks at the scandalous past of the law firm, Covington & Burling, whose former partners, including Breuer and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, hold three top posts at the U.S. Department of Justice.

Also see this post by Pam Martens.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 January 2013 at 2:17 pm

Virginia bill would remove abortion funding for women with totally incapacitated fetuses

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Reilly Moore of The American Independent reports:

A proposal in the Virginia General Assembly to eliminate state funding for certain abortions could force some low-income women to carry to term a fetus with a low likelihood of survival.

Sen. Tom Garrett’s (R-Lynchburg) bill would repeal aprovision of Virginia law that authorizes the Board of Health to pay for abortions for women who meet Medicaid eligibility requirements after a physician certifies that he or she believes “the fetus will be born with a gross and totally incapacitating physical deformity or with a gross and totally incapacitating mental deficiency.”

Opponents of Garrett’s bill, including some Senate Democrats, argue that it would unduly burden low-income women economically, physically, and emotionally.

The number of abortions at issue is relatively small.

A total of 58 applications for state-funded abortions due to gross fetal abnormality were submitted between July 1, 2009, and Jan. 3, 2013, according to Virginia Department of Health statistics provided by deputy director of Family Health Services Lauri Kalanges.

Department of Health physicians review each application. The department approved 46 of those procedures — nearly 80 percent. . .

Continue reading.

I continue to find it strange that the GOP wants to government involved in private medical decisions—but of course the GOP also wants the government monitoring what we do in our bedrooms.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 January 2013 at 12:08 pm

A tiny hint of what our DoJ has allowed banks to get away with

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Jesse Eisinger of ProPublica reports in the NY Times:

On March 16, 2007, Morgan Stanley employees working on one of the toxic assets that helped blow up the world economy discussed what to name it. Among the team members’ suggestions: “Subprime Meltdown,” “Hitman,” “Nuclear Holocaust” and “Mike Tyson’s Punchout,” as well a simple yet direct reference to a bag of excrement.

Ha ha. Those hilarious investment bankers.

Then they gave it its real name and sold it to a Chinese bank.

We are never going to have a full understanding of what bad behavior bankers conducted in the years leading up to the financial crisis. The Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission have failed to hold big wrongdoers to account.

We are left with what scraps we can get from those private lawsuits lucky enough to get over the high hurdles for document discovery. A case brought against Morgan Stanley by a Taiwanese bank in a New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan has cleared that bar.

The results are explosive. Hundreds of pages of internal Morgan Stanley documents, released publicly last week, shed much new light on what bankers knew at the height of the housing bubble and what they did with that secret knowledge.

The lawsuit concerns a $500 million collateralized debt obligation called Stack 2006-1, created in the first half of 2006. Collections of mortgage-backed securities, C.D.O.’s were at the heart of the financial crisis.

But the documents suggest a pattern of behavior larger than this one deal: people across the bank understood that the American housing market was in trouble. They took advantage of that knowledge to create and then bet against securities and then also to unload garbage investments on unsuspecting buyers.

Morgan Stanley doesn’t see the narrative as the plaintiffs do. The firm is fighting the lawsuit, contending that the buyers were sophisticated clients and could have known what was going on in the subprime market. The C.D.O. documents disclosed, albeit obliquely, that Morgan Stanley might bet against the securities, a strategy known as shorting. The firm did not pick the assets going into the deal (though it was able to veto any assets). And any shorting of the deal was part of a larger array of trades, both long and short. Indeed, Morgan Stanley owned a big piece of Stack, in addition to its short bet.

Regarding the profane naming contest, Morgan Stanley said in a statement, . . .

Continue reading.

Obama’s DoJ seems to see its job as being to protect the banks and the financial industry. Would have have anything to do with the millions they gave the Obama campaigns?

Written by LeisureGuy

23 January 2013 at 12:02 pm

Federal court denies rescheduling marijuana

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Interesting report by Steven Wisnia at Alternet:

Preserving the main legal barrier to medical marijuana, a federal appeals court on Jan. 22 rejected a lawsuit intended to force the Drug Enforcement Administration to move marijuana out of Schedule I, the federal law that classifies marijuana as a dangerous drug with no valid medical use.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled 2-1 that the medical-marijuana advocates who filed the suit—Americans for Safe Access, a California-based patient-advocacy group; the Coalition to Reschedule Cannabis, Patients Out of Time, and four individual medical users, including Air Force veteran Michael Krawitz—had not proved that the DEA’s decision to keep marijuana in Schedule I was “arbitrary and capricious.” The court held that marijuana had failed to meet the five standards the DEA sets for drugs to qualify as having a valid medical use.

The court “seemed to defer to the DEA,” by focusing on whether adequate scientific studies had been done to show marijuana’s medical efficacy, says ASA spokesperson Kris Hermes. The plaintiffs’ lawyer, Joe Elford of San Francisco, says the court didn’t close off the possibility that future studies will show its efficacy more conclusively. They plan to appeal the decision, first to the full 13 judges of the D.C. Circuit, and then to the Supreme Court if they lose.

The dissenting judge said the court should not consider the case because none of the plaintiffs had legal standing to file a suit. The majority held that Krawitz did, because he had been forced to pay for an outside doctor after the Veterans Health Administration refused to prescribe him painkillers unless he signed a contract agreeing not to use marijuana. Krawitz, who has had surgery 13 times since he was seriously injured in a car accident in 1984, says the best relief for his chronic pain is a combination of cannabis and opioid painkillers.

“What would be ‘arbitrary and capricious,’ if this isn’t?” he asks rhetorically. “You talk to the DEA about medical marijuana, and they go ‘la-la-la’ with their fingers in their ears.”

The DEA referred discussion of the ruling to the Department of Justice, which did not respond to an e-mailed list of questions by press time.

Under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, which placed marijuana in Schedule I, the DEA has the power to decide which drugs belong in which schedules. For more than 40 years—since 1972, when the federal Shafer Commission recommended decriminalization—it has resisted moving marijuana out of Schedule I, the category for drugs with “a high potential for abuse,” “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States,” and no “accepted level of safety for use under medical supervision.”

Heroin, LSD and PCP are also in Schedule I, and thus completely illegal for medical use. Cocaine, methamphetamine, morphine, and OxyContin are in Schedule II, drugs that are legal for medical use but have enough abuse potential to warrant maximum restrictions. Marinol, synthetic THC, is in Schedule III—moved from Schedule II in 1999, after several states voted to legalize medical marijuana.

To be recognized as having a valid medical use, drugs have to meet the DEA’s “five-prong test,” which was developed in a 1991 court ruling on the first challenger to marijuana’s Schedule I status. They have to have “a known and reproducible drug chemistry, adequate safety studies, adequate and well-controlled studies demonstrating efficacy, acceptance of the drug by qualified experts, and widely available scientific evidence.”

In denying this for marijuana, the D.C. Circuit cited findings submitted to the DEA by the federal Department of Health and Human Services. The department said that marijuana did not have a “known and reproducible” chemistry, because it contains more than 480 known compounds, including 66 cannabinoids, which are not known to exist in any other plant, and there has never been “a complete scientific analysis” of its components. It said there were no studies of sufficient quality to assess “the efficacy and full safety profile of marijuana for any medical condition”; a “material conflict of opinion among experts” about its safety and efficacy, and that the raw research data typically were not available in a format that would allow “adequate scientific scrutiny of whether the data demonstrate safety or efficacy.”

Specifically, the court held, peer-reviewed studies were too small-scale to prove that marijuana was a safe and effective medicine, and there have been no Phase II or Phase III clinical trials conducted on it—the large-scale studies needed for a drug to be approved by the FDA.

The federal government, contends Hermes, is saying that marijuana would have to go through the FDA’s new-drug process before they’ll even consider whether it has a valid medical use. As no herbal drug is a single, identifiable, patentable molecule, he says, that’s “applying a standard that’s impossible to meet.”

The new-drug procedures cost around $180 million for three-phase trials, and it’s extremely unlikely that any pharmaceutical company would spend that kind of money on a drug it can’t patent. “No one’s going to do that for a plant,” New York State Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, the main sponsor of medical-marijuana legislation there, told BQ Brew magazine earlier this month.

In contrast, herbal supplements are largely unregulated — although federal law would still have to change for medical marijuana to be legal. “Marijuana should be considered a botanical medicine,” Hermes says. ASA is working with the American Herbal Products Association, he adds, which has a committee developing standards for medical-cannabis production and testing.

Meanwhile, he says, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 January 2013 at 11:54 am

Dirty Wars: Jeremy Scahill and Rick Rowley’s New Film Exposes Hidden Truths of Covert U.S. Warfare

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Democracy Now has an interesting interview and transcript:

Premiering this week at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah, the new documentary “Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield” follows investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill to Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen as he chases down the hidden truths behind America’s expanding covert wars. We’re joined by Scahill and the film’s director, Rick Rowley, an independent journalist with Big Noise Films. “We’re looking right now at a reality that President Obama has essentially extended the very policies that many of his supporters once opposed under President Bush,” says Scahill, author of the bestseller “Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army” and a forthcoming book named after his film. “One of the things that humbles both of us is that when you arrive in a village in Afghanistan and knock on someone’s door, you’re the first American they’ve seen since the Americans that kicked that door in and killed half their family,” Rowley says. “We promised them that we would do everything we could to make their stories be heard in the U.S. … Finally we’re able to keep those promises.” [includes rush transcript]

[The interview is with:]

Jeremy Scahill, producer and writer of the documentary film Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield, which just premiered here at the Sundance Film Festival. He is national security correspondent for The Nation, author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army.

Richard Rowley, director of the documentary film Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield, which just premiered here at the Sundance Film Festival. He is an independent journalist with Big Noise Films.

You must scroll down at the link to get to the transcript, which begins:

AMY GOODMAN: We have flown from Washington, D.C., from the inauguration, to Park City, Utah, to cover the Sundance Film Festival. It’s the 10th anniversary of the documentary track. And we’re going to start off by getting response to President Obama’s inaugural address. On Monday, President Obama declared a decade of war is now ending and that lasting peace does not require perpetual war. But he never mentioned the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan by name.

There was also no mention about the secret drone war that’s vastly expanded under President Obama. On the same day he gave his inaugural address, a U.S. drone strike killed three people in Yemen east of the capital, Sana’a. Also Monday, President Obama officially nominated John Brennan to be director of the CIA, succeeding retired Army General David Petraeus, who resigned. Nicknamed the “assassination czar” by some, Brennan was the first Obama administration official to publicly confirm drone attacks overseas and to defend their legality. Four years ago, John Brennan was a rumored pick for the CIA job when Obama was first elected but was forced to withdraw from consideration amidst protests over his role at the CIAunder the Bush administration. Obama also officially nominated Chuck Hagel to head defense and John Kerry to become secretary of state on Monday.

Well, joining us here in Park City, Utah, is Jeremy Scahill, national security correspondent for The Nation magazine. He is featured in and co-wrote the new documentary Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield. Jeremy’s latest book, with the same title, is due out in April.

We’re also joined by Dirty Wars director Richard Rowley, independent journalist with Big Noise Films. The film premiered here at the Sundance Film Festival in the U.S. documentary competition section. And when we flew into Salt Lake City last night, we went directly to the Salt Lake City Library, where there was a packed, sold-out crowd to see the—a showing of Dirty Wars. We want to congratulate you, Jeremy and Rick, on this absolutely remarkable film.

RICK ROWLEY: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: And I think it’s very appropriate to begin our four days of broadcasting here at Park City, on this day after the inauguration of President Obama, to begin with Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield.

Jeremy, talk about President Obama’s first four years and where we’re going now. You got a chance to hear his inaugural address; what you thought of it?

JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, you know, I think if we look back at the—at the first term of the Obama administration, what we saw was you had this very popular Democratic president that had—who had campaigned, in terms of his broader rhetoric during the presidential campaign against John McCain, on the notion that he was going to transform the way that the U.S. conducted its foreign policy around the world. And, you know, he then proceeded to double down on some of the greatest excesses of the Bush administration. If you look at the use of the state secrets privilege; if you look at the way the Obama administration has expanded the drone wars; has empowered special operations forces, including from JSOC, the Joint Special Operations Command, to operate in countries where the United States is not at war; if you look at the way in which the Obama administration has essentially boxed Congress out of any effective oversight role of the covert aspects of U.S. foreign policy, what we really have is a president who has normalized, for many, many liberals in the United States, the policies that they once opposed under the Bush administration. And, you know, this really has been a war presidency.

And, you know, yesterday, as the—as President Obama’s talking about how we don’t need a state of perpetual war, multiple U.S. drone strikes in Yemen, a country that we’re not at war with, where the U.S. has killed a tremendous number of civilians. Rick and I have spent a lot of time on the ground in Yemen. And, you know, to me, most disturbing about this is John Brennan, who really was the architect of this drone program and the expansion of the drone program—these guys are sitting around on Tuesdays at the White House in “Terror Tuesday” meetings, discussing who’s going to live and who’s going to die across the world. These guys have decided—

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean, “Terror Tuesday” meetings? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 January 2013 at 11:47 am

Carmen Ortiz, Over-Zealous Prosecutor

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Christian Stork writes in (a blog of forensic journalism):

The suicide last Friday of information activist, computer hacker and technical wunderkindAaron Swartz has focused attention on Carmen Ortiz, the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts, whose overzealous prosecution may have led to his death. Swartz, co-founder of a website later acquired by Reddit as well as a prime developer of the online publishing infrastructure known as Rich Site Summary (RSS), was under federal indictment for logging into JSTOR—a database of scholarly articles accessible from universities across the country—and downloading its content with the intent to distribute the articles online free of charge.

Despite JSTOR’s subsequent securing of the “stolen” content and refusal to press charges, Swartz was arrested by the feds and charged originally with four felony counts under the 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. On those charges alone, Swartz was facing a possible 35-year sentence and over $1,000,000 in fines. Just three months ago, a “Superseding Indictment” filed in the case by the U.S. attorney’s office upped the felony count from four to 13. If convicted, Swartz was looking at possibly over 50 years in prison: a conceivable life sentence.

Ortiz, the politically ambitious U.S. attorney for Massachusetts, spearheaded the prosecution against Swartz. “Stealing is stealing whether you use a computer command or a crowbar,” Ortiz proclaimed in a 2011 press release. Her point man in the case was Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Heymann, a specialist in computer crime and son of Philip Heymann, the United States Deputy Attorney General during the Clinton administration. Stephen Heymann led the 2010 investigation into Albert Gonzalez, theTJX hacker, in the largest identity fraud case in history. Heymann’s office suspected that one of the unindicted co-conspirators named in that criminal complaint—“JJ”—was Jonathan James, a juvenile hacker who also killed himself two weeks after his house was raided.

The details of the Swartz case are so suggestive of  prosecutorial abuse that they have already led to widespread condemnation of Carmen Ortiz and Stephen Heymann. However, what’s missing from much of the expressed outrage is recognition that the “bullying” tactics employed by Ms. Ortiz are standard operating procedure for federal prosecutors when pursuing criminal cases.

The Great Heist of Tewksbury

With a population just under 30,000, the town of Tewksbury, Massachusetts, is hardly considered ground zero for federal drug trafficking crimes. Just off Route 38, the town’s only major thoroughfare, sits the modest Motel Caswell. With just six reviews on—one “Poor” and five “Terrible”—even defenders of the $57 per night operation admit its shabby digs: “The Motel Caswell isn’t the Ritz,” its lawyer told a federal courtroom in November 2012. But that didn’t stop the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Ms. Ortiz’s office from trying to seize its assets .

In 2009, the 69-year-old owner, Russ Caswell, received a letter from the DOJ indicating the government was pursuing a civil forfeiture case against him with the intention of seizing his family’s motel—it was built in 1955 by Russ’s father—and the surrounding property. Ms. Ortiz’s office asserted that the motel had been the site of multiple crimes by its occupants over the years: 15 low-level drug offenses between 1994 and 2008 (out of an estimated 125,000 room rentals). Of those who stayed in the motel from 2001 to 2008, .05% were arrested for drug crimes on the property. Local and state officials in charge of those investigations never accused the Caswells of any wrongdoing.

Nor is the U.S. attorney charging Russ Caswell with a crime. The feds are using a vague but increasingly common procedure known as civil asset forfeiture. In criminalforfeiture, after a person is convicted of a crime the state must prove that the perpetrator’s property had a sufficiently strong relationship to the crime to warrant seizure by the government. In civil forfeiture proceedings, the state asserts the propertycommitted the crime, and—under civil law—the burden of proof is on the defense to demonstrate their property is innocent.

“I’ve found…I’m responsible for the action of people I don’t even know, I’ve never even met, and for the most part I have no control over them,” Mr. Caswell told WBUR Boston. “And when they do something wrong, the government wants to steal my property for the actions of those people, which to me makes absolutely no sense. It’s more like we’re in Russia or Venezuela or something.”

According to the sworn testimony of a DEA agent operating out of Boston, it was his job to comb through news stories for properties that might be subject to forfeiture. When he finds a likely candidate, he goes to the Registry of Deeds, determines the value of the property in question, and refers it to the U.S. attorney for seizure. It is DEA policy to reject anything with less than $50,000 equity.

In other cases, that DEA agent testified, . . .

Continue reading.

I don’t believe that we want our government doing this sort of thing. “Jack-booted thugs” is the phrase that comes to mind. Either the Department of Justice is out of control, or this is the way Obama and Eric Holder want it to operate.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 January 2013 at 11:44 am

The benefits of tiny houses

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The NY Times has a section on small-footprint living, and I found the article on tiny houses of particular interest. It’s one of the sidebar links in this article on the winning design in New York’s tiny-apartment competition. One overwhelming benefit of tiny living spaces in the current economy is that they are much less expensive than large spaces—to build, to furnish, and to maintain.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 January 2013 at 11:07 am

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Counterfeiting foods

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After reading Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil, I realized why I was able to buy a liter of extra virgin olive oil, the Whole Foods 365 brand, for less than $10: it wasn’t extra virgin olive oil. I now buy strictly California producer-bottled extra virgin olive oil—which costs more in line with production costs.

But olive oil isn’t the only counterfeit food, and I was dismayed to read that pomegranate juice was among the most counterfeited today, because of its popularity and the shortage of supply. (Pomegranates don’t yield much juice.)  Now I understand why I can buy a quart of pomegranate juice, the Whole Foods brand, for $4.50: it’s probably not pomegranate juice.

Read the ABC News report. (Warning: a video clip starts when you click the link.)

Businesses will do anything—anything—to increase profits.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 January 2013 at 10:51 am

Posted in Business, Food

Horsefly claw

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Above a delicate tarsal pad, the menacing tarsal claws and fine, hooked hairs allow the horsefly (Tabanus sulcifrons) to grip and hold onto animal fur. Photo from The Scientist is by Valerie A. Tornini, Duke University.

Horsefly claw

Written by LeisureGuy

23 January 2013 at 10:35 am

Posted in Science

BBS in 5 min 19 sec

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SOTD 23 Jan 2013

I wanted to time loading the brush, and it seemed the most legible way was simply to start the stopwatch: that is, with my watch in stop-watch function, the seconds are displayed in large (easy-to-read) numerals. So I ended up timing the shave.

Time to wash my beard with MR GLO: 19 seconds.
Time to load the Ecotools with soap: 11 seconds

This was interesting, because some had commented on Wicked_Edge that it took minutes to work up a lather because the brush was so soft. Of course, I do have relatively soft water and Mystic Water soaps lather well and easily.

I then took my time working the lather up and into the stubble. (I am a face latherer.) When I was done, I saw that I had spent 50 seconds doing that. So at 1 minute 20 second elapsed time into the shave, I picked up the Silvertone with a Kai blade and began the shave. I stopped timing at that point because I didn’t think I would remember the per-pass time, plus I was enjoying the shave. The Kai is a sharp blade, and I seemed to have learned the Silvertone because it felt quite comfortable.

I do a three-pass shave: with, across, and against the grain, lathering prior to each pass. I end with a rinse but no alum block and, in this case, no need to seal a nick: nick-free and irritation free result.

When I applied the aftershave, I checked the total elapsed time: 5 min 19 seconds. The last time I timed myself it was 8 minutes, so I guess improvement continues.

This was not a rushed shave, by any means. OTOH, I didn’t tarry: no peering at my hairline in the mirror, no getting lost in thought. But also no sense of haste or hurry.

By the time I replaced the cap on the aftershave, sponged around the sink, washed out brush, etc., I was at 5 min 50 seconds, comfortably under 6 minutes. And the shave truly is a perfect BBS. I attribute that to the lather and the good fit of Kai blade and Silvertone razor—plus, of course, a certain amount of daily practice. I should note that my beard is average: not light and not heavy.

Important addendum: Woods aftershave is again available at Saint Charles Shave (scroll down at the link).

Written by LeisureGuy

23 January 2013 at 7:51 am

Posted in Shaving

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