Later On

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

Archive for April 2014

A destabilized China would be very bad

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But it looks as though it’s coming. Read the whole article. This is one of those things that are the result of decisions made long ago without really considering the consequences, and now the only thing to do is ride it out as best they can. Like climate change, in that way (and climate change is going to exacerbate their problems—and that’s an awful lot of people).

Written by LeisureGuy

30 April 2014 at 6:22 pm

Posted in Daily life, Government

Chili garlic paste

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I found I had a large bag of dried red New Mexican peppers—a pretty mild pepper, like a dried ancho, which I might have used had I not discovered the New Mexican. I recalled this recipe, and I pretty much followed it:

10-12 ancho chiles or red New Mexican dried chiles
6-8 dried chipotles
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
2-3 garlic cloves
soak water as needed (I used about 3 Tbsp, adding 1 Tbsp at a time)

Put in processor (my little 3.5 c KitchenAid was perfect) and process until smooth and then some more.

Extremely tasty—warmth, but no bite and no need for a drink of water.

Obviously you can dress this up—e.g., adding Parmesan cheese and/or pine nuts, using lemon juice (and the zest from the lemon) instead of the soaking water, adding ground black pepper, adding 1/2 tsp sugar, adding fresh figs, and so on.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 April 2014 at 5:41 pm

Posted in Food, Recipes

This Cop Says It’s Time to Legalize All Drugs

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Diane Goldstein in Pacific Standard:

I was a police officer for 20 years, enforcing drug laws in California and thinking I was doing my part for society. But what made me think properly about drug use for the first time was my experience with my older brother, Billy. I had watched him struggle with a lifelong problem with drugs. But I still did not understand what it meant to be Billy until my husband convinced me to open up my heart and our home to save him in 2002.

It was in this intimacy of watching Billy try, during the year he lived with us, to live up to the expectations of society and those he loved that I realized that our society’s portrayal of people with chronic drug problems was both damaging and morally flawed.

By society’s standard, my brother was a criminal. His struggles with addiction taught me many things. He had many years of sobriety, interspersed with the setbacks that addiction specialists know so often come with the condition. But because of an emphasis by the court system on abstinence-only drug programs, and an emphasis on punishment over progress, these normal and accepted setbacks in recovery were exacerbated by harsh penalties. Because of Billy’s felony convictions for drugs, he was unemployable. He lacked health care until we stepped in. Without us, my brother would have been on the streets. Yet despite our help, my brother passed away from an accidental overdose of psychotropic medications and alcohol.

After having my eyes opened to the realities of drug use, I realized we could not arrest our way out of this problem. I joined Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a group of law enforcement officials opposed to the war on drugs. Some people are surprised to find police, prosecutors, judges, and others arguing for legalizing drugs, but in many ways we are the best positioned to see the injustices and ineffectiveness of the criminal justice system up close.

We’ve seen how federal grants and civil asset forfeiture laws (whereby police can take your property and use or sell it for their own benefit, even if you’re never charged with a crime) encourage police to go after drug offenders while real criminals roam free. We’ve seen people die of overdose. We’ve seen people go to prison who had no business being there. And we’ve seen that none of this has reduced drug use or addiction. In spite of more than 40 years of the war on drugs—and the trillion dollars we’ve spent—Americans now have access to drugs that are cheaper, more potent, and just as readily available as when the drug war started. Who exactly is prohibition supposed to be helping?

But that doesn’t mean that everything we’ve tried has failed. As we work toward a world in which

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 April 2014 at 4:21 pm

Don Quixote notes

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First, after seeing some passages in both the Burton Raffel translation and the Edith Grossman translation, Raffel has superseded Grossman for me. His translations are smoother and not so clunky. The title he uses is Don Quijote.

And I want to quote a passage from the very interesting introduction by Diana de Armas Wilson. Don Quijote was first published in 1605 and proved to be very popular, with hundreds of copies crossing the Atlantic in the very year of publication.

In 1607—just as Jamestown, Virginia, was struggling to become the first permanent British settlement in the New World—a small mining town in the highlands of Peru awarded its first prize, during a festive ring joust, to impersonations of Don Quijote and Sancho.

Amazing: that anyone in the town had read the book, much less that it was well enough known for people to dress as characters in the novel—and win!

Written by LeisureGuy

30 April 2014 at 2:48 pm

Posted in Books

The other Christie scandal

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Paul Krugman blogs in the NY Times:

What is it that makes self-proclaimed centrists such easy marks for right-wing con men? Actually, it’s not that much of a mystery: the centrist creed is that the two parties are symmetrically extremist, and this means that there must, as a matter of principle, be Serious, Honest Republicans out there — so such people must be invented if they don’t actually exist. Hence the elevation of Paul Ryan despite clear evidence of his con-artist nature.

And hence, also, the love affair with Chris Christie.

That affair ended up in a breakup over Bridgegate, but the evidence of Christie’s true nature was obvious all along. I wrote two years ago about his fiscal fakery, and in particular the way he tried to silence independent critics of his budget projections via crude, vicious personal attacks.

Now Vox tells us that the critics were in fact completely right, and that Christie’s budget projections were absolutely as unrealistic as they said.

Can we say that someone who tries to browbeat anyone daring to question rosy scenarios is someone who should never, ever be allowed near higher office? And can we also say that there’s something very wrong with pundits who failed to see the obvious about this guy?

Written by LeisureGuy

30 April 2014 at 10:24 am

Posted in GOP, Government, Politics

The Rise of Corporate Impunity

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Jesse Eisinger has a good article at ProPublica about the only Wall St. executive prosecuted as a result of the financial crisis. It begins:

On the evening of Jan. 27, Kareem Serageldin walked out of his Times Square apartment with his brother and an old Yale roommate and took off on the four-hour drive to Philipsburg, a small town smack in the middle of Pennsylvania. Despite once earning nearly $7 million a year as an executive at Credit Suisse, Serageldin, who is 41, had always lived fairly modestly. A previous apartment, overlooking Victoria Station in London, struck his friends as a grown-up dorm room; Serageldin lived with bachelor-pad furniture and little of it — his central piece was a night stand overflowing with economics books, prospectuses and earnings reports. In the years since, his apartments served as places where he would log five or six hours of sleep before going back to work, creating and trading complex financial instruments. One friend called him an “investment-banking monk.”

Serageldin’s life was about to become more ascetic. Two months earlier, he sat in a Lower Manhattan courtroom adjusting and readjusting his tie as he waited for a judge to deliver his prison sentence. During the worst of the financial crisis, according to prosecutors, Serageldin had approved the concealment of hundreds of millions in losses in Credit Suisse’s mortgage-backed securities portfolio. But on that November morning, the judge seemed almost torn. Serageldin lied about the value of his bank’s securities — that was a crime, of course — but other bankers behaved far worse. Serageldin’s former employer, for one, had revised its past financial statements to account for $2.7 billion that should have been reported. Lehman Brothers, AIG, Citigroup, Countrywide and many others had also admitted that they were in much worse shape than they initially allowed. Merrill Lynch, in particular, announced a loss of nearly $8 billion three weeks after claiming it was $4.5 billion. Serageldin’s conduct was, in the judge’s words, “a small piece of an overall evil climate within the bank and with many other banks.” Nevertheless, after a brief pause, he eased down his gavel and sentenced Serageldin, an Egyptian-born trader who grew up in the barren pinelands of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, to 30 months in jail. Serageldin would begin serving his time at Moshannon Valley Correctional Center, in Philipsburg, where he would earn the distinction of being the only Wall Street executive sent to jail for his part in the financial crisis.

American financial history has generally unfolded as a series of booms followed by busts followed by crackdowns. After the crash of 1929, the Pecora Hearings seized upon public outrage, and the head of the New York Stock Exchange landed in prison. After the savings-and-loan scandals of the 1980s, 1,100 people were prosecuted, including top executives at many of the largest failed banks. In the ’90s and early aughts, when the bursting of the Nasdaq bubble revealed widespread corporate accounting scandals, top executives from WorldCom, Enron, Qwest and Tyco, among others, went to prison.

The credit crisis of 2008 dwarfed those busts, and it was only to be expected that a similar round of crackdowns would ensue. In 2009, the Obama administration appointed Lanny Breuer to lead the Justice Department’s criminal division. Breuer quickly focused on professionalizing the operation, introducing the rigor of a prestigious firm like Covington & Burling, where he had spent much of his career. He recruited elite lawyers from corporate firms and the Breu Crew, as they would later be known, were repeatedly urged by Breuer to “take it to the next level.”

But the crackdown never happened. Over the past year, I’ve interviewed Wall Street traders, bank executives, defense lawyers and dozens of current and former prosecutors to understand why the largest man-made economic catastrophe since the Depression resulted in the jailing of a single investment banker — one who happened to be several rungs from the corporate suite at a second-tier financial institution. Many assume that the federal authorities simply lacked the guts to go after powerful Wall Street bankers, but that obscures a far more complicated dynamic. During the past decade, the Justice Department suffered a series of corporate prosecutorial fiascos, which led to critical changes in how it approached white-collar crime. The department began to focus on reaching settlements rather than seeking prison sentences, which over time unintentionally deprived its ranks of the experience needed to win trials against the most formidable law firms. By the time Serageldin committed his crime, Justice Department leadership, as well as prosecutors in integral United States attorney’s offices, were de-emphasizing complicated financial cases — even neglecting clues that suggested that Lehman executives knew more than they were letting on about their bank’s liquidity problem. In the mid-’90s, white-collar prosecutions represented an average of 17.6 percent of all federal cases. In the three years ending in 2012, the share was 9.4 percent. (Read the Department of Justice’s response to ProPublica’s inquiries.)

After the evening drive to Philipsburg, Serageldin checked into a motel. He didn’t need to report to Moshannon Valley until 2 p.m. the next day, but he was advised to show up early to get a head start on his processing. Moshannon is a low-security facility, with controlled prisoner movements, a bit tougher than the one portrayed on “Orange Is the New Black.” Friends of Serageldin’s worried about the violence; he was counseled to keep his head down and never change the channel on the TV no matter who seemed to be watching. Serageldin, who is tall and thin with a regal bearing, was largely preoccupied with how, after a decade of 18-hour trading days, he would pass the time. He was planning on doing math-problem sets and studying economics. He had delayed marrying his longtime girlfriend, a private-equity executive in London, but the plan was for her to visit him frequently.

Other bankers have spoken out about feeling unfairly maligned by the financial crisis, pegged as “banksters” by politicians and commentators. But Serageldin was contrite. “I don’t feel angry,” he told me in early winter. “I made a mistake. I take responsibility. I’m ready to pay my debt to society.” Still, the fact that the only top banker to go to jail for his role in the crisis was neither a mortgage executive (who created toxic products) nor the C.E.O. of a bank (who peddled them) is something of a paradox, but it’s one that reflects the many paradoxes that got us here in the first place.

Part of the Justice Department’s futility can be traced to . . .

Continue reading.

The same report also appears in the NY Times Magazine.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 April 2014 at 9:08 am

RazorRock Stealth v. iKon Slant

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SOTD 30 Apr

 

First, a good prep. I really like Special 218 shaving soap from QEDusa.com. It’s also available as a shave stick. The Vie-Long horsehair brush worked up a very fine lather, and I set to work with the two razors, both carrying Personna Lab Blue blades.

The two razors are very close in comfort and efficiency. They do have a somewhat different cutting angle—the Stealth’s handle is carried closer to the face than the iKon’s—but today I noticed that I already “know” the angle best for the Stealth. The quotation marks are to indicate that this is not a conscious, cognitive knowledge, but rather simply by using the razor one’s adaptive unconscious will quickly figure out what to do. (For more on this, I highly recommend Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious, by Timothy Wilson.)

Really, the Stealth seems ready for market. While one might play around with handle designs, I see no real reason why this razor would not succeed well “as is.”

A BBS result with no irritation, a good splash of Very V aftershave from Saint Charles Shave, and the day begins.

 

 

Written by LeisureGuy

30 April 2014 at 8:58 am

Posted in Shaving

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