Later On

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

Archive for November 3rd, 2014

Big Brother (AT&T, Verizon) is watching you—and you can’t stop it

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Unless Congress takes action, which is something Congress does its best to avoid—and in that particular area, their best is quite good—the commercial surveillance will continue. Craig Timberg reports in the Washington Post:

Verizon and AT&T have been quietly tracking the Internet activity of more than 100 million cellular customers with what critics have dubbed “supercookies” — markers so powerful that it’s difficult for even savvy users to escape them.

The technology has allowed the companies to monitor which sites their customers visit, cataloging their tastes and interests. Consumers cannot erase these supercookies or evade them by using browser settings, such as the “private” or “incognito” modes that are popular among users wary of corporate or government surveillance.

Verizon and AT&T say they have taken steps to alert their customers to the tracking and to protect customer privacy as the companies develop programs intended to help advertisers hone their pitches based on individual Internet behavior. But as word has spread about the supercookies in recent days, privacy advocates have reacted with alarm, saying the tracking could expose user Internet behavior to a wide range of outsiders — including intelligence services — and may also violate federal telecommunications and wiretapping laws.

One civil liberties group, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, says it has raised its concerns with the Federal Communications Commission and is contemplating formal legal action to block Verizon. AT&T’s program is not as advanced and, according to the company, is still in testing.

The stakes are particularly high, privacy advocates say, because Verizon’s experimentation with supercookies is almost certain to spur copycats eager to compete for a larger share of the multibillion-dollar advertising profits won by Google, Facebook and others.

Those companies track their users and sell targeted advertising based on what they learn. Supercookies could allow cellular carriers and other Internet providers to do the same, potentially encircling ordinary users in a Web of tracking far more extensive than experienced today.

“You’re making it very difficult for people who want privacy to find it on the Internet,” said Paul Ohm, a former Federal Trade Commission official who teaches at the University of Colorado Law School. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 November 2014 at 9:30 pm

This week’s revealingly silly “scandal” in US-Israel relations

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Max Fisher reports in Vox:

In the latest of what will surely be many diplomatic slights between the Israeli and US governments, National Security Advisor Susan Rice reportedly said something less than glowing about the Israeli Ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer. The leader of a major American Jewish organization reportedly asked Rice, in a private meeting, why she had not met with Dermer since he’d taken office in September 2013.

“He never asked to meet me,” she responded. “Besides, I understood that he’s too busy traveling to Sheldon Adelson’s events in Las Vegas.”

Adelson is a wealthy conservative fundraiser known for his right-wing activism on issues related to Israel. The quote is news in Israel and on right-leaning US sites, where it’s taken as further evidence that the Obama administration is hostile to the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But I’d make three points about this minor controversy and its larger significance.

1) You might be surprised to learn that Rice actually outranks the Israeli ambassador within the US government

In fact, it turns out that Rice is quite senior and that Dermer is not a member of the US government at all! It is Dermer’s job to reach out to Rice, not the other way around. The fact that he has not is, to be frank, an insult to the Obama administration. And Rice is correct to be insulted that anyone would imply that it’s her job to reach out so a much-lower-ranking official and foreign diplomat, a feeling that comes through in her sarcastic answer.

The fact that Dermer has not reached out to Rice is a reminder of how much the Netanyahu government is driving the US-Israel discord. The fact that people are blaming Rice for Dermer’s slight is a sign of how screwy our standards can be when it comes to the politics of US-Israel relations.

2) Rice is also correct to be offended that a foreign diplomat is more engaged with the opposition party than with the sitting government

Ever since Netanyahu’s May 2011 trip to Washington, when he publicly lectured Obama at a press conference and then gave a speech to Congress slamming the president, his government has been getting awfully involved in domestic US politics. Typically that has meant undermining the Obama administration while cultivating ties with Republicans and conservative donors like Adelson. That’s been seen as Netanyahu campaigning for Republicans to unseat the Democrats — an awfully provocative interference in an ally’s internal politics — or at least trying to use domestic American politics as a cudgel against Obama.

So when Rice says that Ambassador Dermer is more interested in meeting Sheldon Adelson than her, what she’s observing is that the Israeli government is more interested in undermining the Obama administration than working with it.

3) Bad news for Rice: the US does this sort of meddling in foreign politics all the time, and other countries hate it, too . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 November 2014 at 7:43 pm

An interesting take on the implications of Zuckerberg’s talk in Mandarin

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James Fallows has a very interesting analysis by a reader of what Zuckerberg’s talk portends.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 November 2014 at 6:56 pm

Alaska opens itself for voter fraud of the hacker variety

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Steve Friess reports in The Intercept:

When Alaska voters go to the polls tomorrow to help decide whether the U.S. Senate will remain in Democratic control, thousands will do so electronically, using Alaska’s first-in-the-nation internet voting system. And according to the internet security experts, including the former top cybersecurity official for the Department of Homeland Security, that system is a security nightmare that threatens to put control of the U.S. Congress in the hands of foreign or domestic hackers.

Any registered Alaska voter can obtain an electronic ballot, mark it on their computers using a web-based interface, save the ballot as a PDF, and return it to their county elections department through what the state calls “a dedicated secure data center behind a layer of redundant firewalls under constant physical and application monitoring to ensure the security of the system, voter privacy, and election integrity.”

That sounds great, but even the state acknowledges in an online disclaimer that things could go awry, warning that “when returning the ballot through the secure online voting solution, your are voluntarily waving [sic] your right to a secret ballot and are assuming the risk that a faulty transmission may occur.”

That disclaimer is a pre-emptive admission of failure, says Bruce McConnell, who served until 2013 as the top cybersecurity officer for DHS. “They admit that they are not taking responsibility for the validity of the system,” McConnell told The Intercept. “They’re saying, ‘Your vote may be counted correctly, incorrectly, or may not be counted at all, and we are not taking any responsibility for that.’ That kind of disclaimer would be unacceptable if you saw it on the wall of a polling place.”

In 2012, Alaska became the first state to permit internet balloting for all voters, and no problems were reported during the system’s first deployment. But there weren’t any high-profile races then, and Alaska wasn’t an electoral factor in the presidential race. This year, the state has two nail-biters: the Senate race between incumbent Democratic incumbent Mark Begich and Republican challenger Dan Sullivan, and the gubernatorial contest between GOP incumbent Gov. Sean Parnell and independent Bill Walker. The Begich-Sullivan contest is particularly noteworthy, since it could be the deciding factor in the GOP attempt to retake the Senate. Right now, Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight is giving Sullivan a narrow two-point edge, but polling in Alaska is notoriously difficult—which means that any online tampering might be hard to detect because there’s little reliable data on what election outcome to expect.

Add to that the fact that cybercrime experts from across the nation say the system, created by a Spanish-based company called Scytl, can potentially be duped from anywhere in the world. Malware that already resides on many personal computers could be activated to alter votes, PDFs could be altered as they travel from the voter’s computer to that of the elections department, servers could be hacked, and insiders could change vote tallies — all without anyone ever knowing.

Computer scientists have already done some of these things in controlled laboratory experiments, in some cases attacking the same systems that Scytl has deployed in other jurisdictions around the world. In fact just this week . . .

Continue reading. Later in the article:

“It’s a scary threat because the way we’ve done it, no one will ever know the ballot got changed,” Kiniry said. “The ballot isn’t changed on the voter’s computer. We haven’t done anything to attack the election department’s computers. We just changed the ballot while it goes over the internet.”

Written by LeisureGuy

3 November 2014 at 4:39 pm

Problems with starving the FDA: Bad spinal surgery hardware implanted in people—for two years after problem was known

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Christina Jewett and Will Evans write at the Center for Investigative Reporting:

With a metallic clatter, evidence of an elaborate scheme to enrich a few landed in the receiving room of Richard Walker’s surgical supply firm in South Africa.

Although the true extent of the caper remains buried in the necks and backs of people scattered around the U.S., it began to unravel that day in 2009.

Ortho Sol makes precision screws for the most delicate of construction projects: spinal fusion. Doctors around the world drive them into the vertebrae of patients with devastating back injuries.

The company had repossessed some of its screws after one U.S. distributor – Spinal Solutions LLC – stopped paying its bills. But now, nestled with the returns, the brighter yellow luster of a few screws caught Walker’s eye.

Testing confirmed his fears. Some were not made of his firm’s medical-grade titanium. Their uneven threads showed potential for backing out or breaking, he said. He feared the laser-etched markings intended to make them look authentic could be toxic to patients.

Walker’s conclusion: The Southern California firm was knocking off his products.

Yet it would be two more years before an employee of Spinal Solutions alerted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to the counterfeiting, and even then, the agency didn’t shut down the company.

By the time Spinal Solutions went broke in 2013, the company had sold millions of dollars in implants to a nationwide network of surgeons, The Center for Investigative Reporting has found.

Now patients are left with more questions than answers.

“What do they do if they find out there are these bogus parts that can come unscrewed?” said Susan Reynolds, a Riverside County, California, woman whose doctor used Spinal Solutions screws on her in 2009, following years of intractable pain. “I’m a walking time bomb.”

The man at the center of the scandal is a company president who indulged in luxury – private planes, strip club spending sprees, courtside seats at L.A. Lakers games – as the company collapsed into debt. Attorneys lined up to serve him with legal documents now say they can’t find him.

The company sold its wares to doctors who received consulting deals from Spinal Solutions worth thousands per month, rides on company planes, even bundles of $100 bills, company insiders allege. In turn, the physicians ordered the company’s implants for their surgeries at hospitals in California, Nevada, Texas, Wisconsin and Maryland.

Surgeons insist they never used subpar implants, and CIR has no evidence the doctors were involved in the scheme. But one former company insider says knockoff screws were mixed in with real ones.

An elderly machinist finds himself unexpectedly wrapped up in the scandal. In an interview with CIR, he admitted to making scores of copies of surgical screws for Spinal Solutions. The company bargained him down to $65 a screw – less than half of what they usually cost.

The screws, real or fake, all funneled into what lawsuits claim was a larger scheme to bilk California’s workers’ compensation system, an employer-funded program designed to help those injured on the job. Some hospitals billed insurance carriers as much as $12,500 a screw before a 2012 change in state law shut down the astronomical markups. From that, Spinal Solutions stood to reap several thousand dollars from the sale of a single screw.

Patients, though, may end up paying the steepest price. . .

Continue reading.

It may be that underfunding the FDA comes with some costs. The government is failing in its job to protect the people.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 November 2014 at 1:56 pm

Bernie Sanders on Breaking Big Money’s Grip on Elections

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Very good program on BillMoyers.com. The blurb:

Bernie Sanders, Vermont’s independent senator, is angry about what he sees as big money’s wholesale purchase of political power. It’s a grave threat, he believes, not only to our electoral process but to democracy itself.

Two weeks ago, Sanders visited a town hall meeting in Richmond, California, to fire up supporters of Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and a slate of progressive city council candidates. They’re running against a ticket backed by the energy giant Chevron, the third largest corporation in the United States. Chevron owns an enormous refinery in Richmond and is spending $3 million to defeat the progressives, who have charged the oil company with damaging the city’s economy and environment.

Chevron’s Richmond money – they’re spending more than $100 per voter – is just a fraction of the billions being spent this year on the most expensive midterm elections in history, money unleashed by Citizens United, McCutcheonand other court decisions that have turned voting into what feels more like an auction than ‘one person, one vote.’ Because the Supreme Court says money is speech and big business can buy all it wants, corporations are trying to drown out the voice of anyone trying to speak out against them, whether in Congress or a state legislature, on a judge’s bench or in city hall.

“Apparently for these guys, owning and controlling our economy is not enough,” Sanders told the rally. “They now want to own and control the government. And we are not going to allow them to do that. Not in Richmond, not anywhere.”

Here’s the transcript, and here’s the video from which the transcript was made:

Written by LeisureGuy

3 November 2014 at 12:53 pm

Posted in Business, Election, Video

Gaza: The Murderous Melodrama

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An interesting review by David Shulman in the NY Review of Books of three books on Gaza:

Gaza: A History
by Jean-Pierre Filiu, translated from the French by John King
Oxford University Press, 422 pp., $29.95

Palestine Speaks: Narratives of Life Under Occupation
compiled and edited by Cate Malek and Mateo Hoke<
Voice of Witness/McSweeney’s, 346 pp., $16.00 (paper)

Gaza and Israel: New Obstacles, New Solutions
a report by the International Crisis Group
Middle East Briefing No. 39, 11 pp., July 14, 2014; available at www.crisisgroup.org

In 332 BC Alexander the Great conquered Gaza. It was not easy going. The siege lasted for one hundred days, and the Gazans, led by Batis, the “king of Gaza,” defended themselves skillfully, notably by extensive use of tunnels. Alexander himself was wounded in the fighting. He revenged himself by killing almost all the city’s young men, including Batis, who was tied to Alexander’s chariot and dragged to death beneath the ramparts (shades of Achilles’ humiliation of the dead Hector). The story seems all too familiar; for us, too, Gaza calls up violent images. It’s relatively easy to dig tunnels in its sandy subsoil, as we know from the brutal war that broke out this summer.I’m not sure “broke out” is the right phrase. Human agency was very much at work on both sides. Hamas, battered, isolated, and impoverished, had little to lose and, as things turned out, much to gain in popular support by launching missiles and mortars at Israel and inviting another round of severe Israeli punishment. Benjamin Netanyahu, by ordering a large-scale attack on Hamas activists and institutions on the West Bank in response to the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers on June 12, gladly accepted the invitation.

One of the most striking elements in the murderous melodrama that ensued was the utter confusion in the Israeli leadership about what might constitute a credible war aim. Stopping the renewed missile fire from Gaza proved to be impossible, though Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system worked for the most part effectively. Only after Israel’s land operation in the inner periphery of Gaza got underway was the army able to seize upon the extensive tunnels, many crossing under the fence around the Strip and opening into Israeli territory, as a possible raison d’être for the whole campaign.

Without minimizing the real threat posed by these tunnels—which the army apparently had known about for years—one might note the evident relief the government felt at having finally found a military target they could handle. The citizens of Israel, who will usually believe anything the army says, seemed entirely persuaded. Some thirty tunnels were blown up. I assume that by now many new ones are being dug.

Clearly, this was the summer of Israeli discontent. Nothing was able to put an end to the rain of missiles and mortar shells from Gaza. Israeli settlements near the Gaza border were evacuated; and when the army announced that it was safe to return, renewed attacks killed residents and soldiers stationed nearby. (In Gaza and Israel combined, sixty-seven Israeli soldiers and six civilians were killed.) For weeks the most common word on the TV and radio news and talk shows, with their familiar line-up of dusted-off former generals, was “deterrence.”

More specifically, the question was how to restore or reinvent this somewhat nebulous, almost metaphysical objective. The campaign—named “Protective Edge” in English (tsuk eitan, “Steadfast Boulder,” in Hebrew)—aside from dealing with the tunnels, was supposed to deter the enemy from launching more missiles and from any other such acts in the future. The Hamas leadership repeatedly refused to play the part they had been assigned. Despite the immense destruction they absorbed and the deaths of some 2,200 Palestinians, the vast majority of them innocent civilians (including some five hundred children), Hamas was, to put it simply, undeterred.

It’s not unlikely that the Israeli army and, in particular, those responsible for strategic intelligence and long-term planning are now struggling with the implications of this stubborn fact. I think most Israelis are well aware that the war did not end with anything like an Israeli victory, and that the next round is likely to be similarly inconclusive, or worse—much worse, if Hezbollah in Lebanon joins in the fighting. In his press conference following the cease-fire, Netanyahu himself uncharacteristically confessed that sometimes force cannot achieve all goals. He also, at an earlier press conference on July 20, callously blamed Hamas for using “telegenically dead Palestinians” to win sympathy, as if he himself had nothing to do with either the number or the identity of those telegenic dead.

One has to bear in mind that Israelis live in a largely mythic world, a somewhat modified and vastly simplified version of the Iliad. In this starkly polarized vision of reality, in which Israelis are by definition innocent victims of dark, irrational forces operating against them, heroic death in war always makes sense, and violent coercion is the option both of necessity and of choice. The Hebrew proverb says: “If force doesn’t work, use more force.” But this summer the proverb failed to deliver.

In theory, this moment might generate in both ordinary Israelis and their elected leadership the kind of insight that has been so lacking for the last few decades. Are we going to go on fighting these futile wars every couple of years, killing large numbers of innocents in the process, with mounting casualties among Israeli soldiers and civilians as well? There is, after all, another, rather attractive option, as Assaf Sharon has recently, and eloquently, said in these pages.1 . . .

Continue reading. That little footnote includes a link to this article by Ariel Sharon, also well worth reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 November 2014 at 12:35 pm

Posted in Books, Mideast Conflict

Ranked-choice voting seems like a terrific idea

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I hope the movement expands. Susie Cagle writes (and illustrates) an article in Pacific Standard:

In most contexts, we take two-party voting for granted. As voters head to the polls on Tuesday, many are planning how best to choose between two candidates— in some cases, the lesser of two evils. But some will have a few extra choices on their ballots—even a few dozen.

In Oakland, California, Democrats won’t face up against Republicans at the polls. In fact, voters won’t chose between two candidates at all—they’ll have 15 choices (plus a write-in, if they’re still unsatisfied).

Ranked choice or instant runoff voting was first created by an American architect in the late 1800s. Though it’s been adopted in countries around the world, ranked choice only somewhat recently landed back stateside. A handful of cities across the country have adopted ranked choice for local elections in recent years, but the San Francisco Bay Area has emerged as a true testing ground for this civic innovation—non-partisan voting reform seems like a natural fit for a region dominated by Democrats. San Francisco held its first ranked-choice election in 2004. Across the Bay, Oakland, Berkeley, and San Leandro held their first ranked-choice elections in 2010.

The Oakland ballot describes ranked choice as “voting made easy,” but the system is far from universally popular. When California Governor Jerry Brown voted in Oakland’s election last week, he told reporters that he found “this ranked-choice system very complexifying.”

It’s not that the act of voting in a ranked-choice election is particularly or exceptionally difficult: Instead of one column for one vote, the ballot features three columns, for a first, second, and third choice vote. If no candidate emerges with a majority after the first place votes are tallied, the second and third choices come into play.Cagle-RCV-howitworks

 

This allows for the election of candidates who might not get a majority of votes—a dynamic that makes some voters feel the system is anything but “fair.” When Oakland mayor Jean Quan won in 2010 after multiple rounds of vote counts, many claimed her win was illegitimate and that she did not have the peoples’ mandate.

Ranked choice’s biggest proponent is the non-profit Fair Vote, which aims to create a more representative democracy “in which most Americans can elect representatives and hold them accountable, in which city voters are as important as suburban voters, in which people of color and women are as likely to win representation as white men and in which campaigns provide opportunities for substantive debate about a full range of policy ideas.” Ranked-choice boosters say the system yields a host of social and political benefits, but the system’s detractors are just as passionate. Many claims on both sides are disputed or under-researched. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 November 2014 at 11:44 am

Posted in Election, Science

Police created Ferguson no-fly zone simply so media could not show what the police were doing

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In police states there is always suppression of the media: the police do NOT want the public to know what the police are doing because what the police are doing is very bad and they know it.

Similarly in Ferguson: the police did not want media helicopters showing what the police were doing, so they created a no-fly zoe specifically to hide police actions. (Where are drones when you need them, eh?)

The Associated Press reports:

The U.S. government agreed to a police request to restrict more than 37 square miles of airspace surrounding Ferguson, Missouri, for 12 days in August for safety, but audio recordings show that local authorities privately acknowledged the purpose was to keep away news helicopters during violent street protests.

On Aug. 12, the morning after the Federal Aviation Administration imposed the first flight restriction, FAA air traffic managers struggled to redefine the flight ban to let commercial flights operate at nearby Lambert-St. Louis International Airport and police helicopters fly through the area — but ban others.

“They finally admitted it really was to keep the media out,” said one FAA manager about the St. Louis County Police in a series of recorded telephone conversations obtained by The Associated Press. “But they were a little concerned of, obviously, anything else that could be going on.

At another point, a manager at the FAA’s Kansas City center said police “did not care if you ran commercial traffic through this TFR (temporary flight restriction) all day long. They didn’t want media in there.”

FAA procedures for defining a no-fly area did not have an option that would accommodate that.

“There is really … no option for a TFR that says, you know, ‘OK, everybody but the media is OK,'” he said. The managers then worked out wording they felt would keep news helicopters out of the controlled zone but not impede other air traffic.

The conversations contradict claims by the St. Louis County Police Department, which responded to demonstrations following the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, that the restriction was solely for safety and had nothing to do with preventing media from witnessing the violence or the police response.

Police said at the time, and again as recently as late Friday to the AP, that they requested the flight restriction in response to shots fired at a police helicopter.

But police officials confirmed there was no damage to their helicopter and were unable to provide an incident report on the shooting. On the tapes, an FAA manager described the helicopter shooting as unconfirmed “rumors.” . . .

Continue reading. There’s quite a bit more to the article.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 November 2014 at 11:02 am

The New York Fed Has Contracted JPMorgan to Hold Over $1.7 Trillion of its QE Bonds Despite Two Felony Counts and Serial Charges of Crimes

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The NY Fed is the Fed that fired their examiner who had the audacity to expect Goldman Sachs to follow the law. The NY Fed is deep, deep in the pocket of Wall Street—as, indeed, is the SEC, with three solid votes for Wall Street (out of 5 members). BofA was held to account only because Mary Jo White, SEC chairman, had to recuse herself because she has acted as a lawyer for BofA earlier, so she could not vote—and the tie meant that BofA did not get its waiver from penalties as it had expected and as normally happens with the Wall Street SEC we have. (The chairman was formerly a lawyer working on behalf of the banking industry, just as the chairman of the FCC was formerly a lobbyist for telecoms. That Obama!)

Pam Martens and Russ Martens write:

The Federal Reserve Board of Governors in Washington, D.C., which functions as the central bank of the United States, has farmed out much of its Quantitative Easing (QE) programs to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York since the financial crisis of 2008. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York has, in turn, contractually farmed out a hefty chunk of the logistics of that work to JPMorgan Chase in the last six years.

Sitting quietly on the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s web site is a vendor agreement and other documents indicating that JPMorgan Chase holds all of the Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS) that the New York Fed has purchased under its various Quantitative Easing programs. As of last Wednesday, that figure was $1.7 trillion dollars. (The New York Fed has confirmed that JPMorgan is custodian for these assets.)

In addition to holding the MBS, JPMorgan also has a contractual agreement to exercise discretion (its own judgment) in trading the surplus cash that sits in the New York Fed’s cash account. While JPMorgan is restricted to holding collateral backed by U.S. government securities for these cash trades in Repurchase Agreements, its approved list of counter parties include global banks variously charged with rigging the international interest rate benchmark known as Libor, money laundering, aiding and abetting tax evasion, and defrauding clients.

During the period in which JPMorgan has been the trusted custodian of a major part of the assets of the U.S. central bank, it has been repeatedly charged with serial crimes. In January of this year, JPMorgan paid $2.6 billion and made history in being the first Wall Street mega bank to be charged with two felony counts and receive a deferred prosecution agreement. The crime was aiding and abetting the Madoff fraud – the largest Ponzi scheme in the history of modern finance. In September of last year, JPMorgan settled its London Whale scandal for $920 million in penalties. That case involved its use of depositors’ savings to gamble in exotic derivatives in London, lose at least $6.2 billion of those deposits, and initially misstate the amount of losses to its regulators.

There has also been a stream of other charges and settlements by JPMorgan for rigging electric rates, abusing credit card customers, and rigging Libor. According to press reports, another charge and settlement is ahead involving the rigging of foreign currency exchange trading – potentially as soon as this month.

The contract between the New York Fed and JPMorgan (located here under “Vendor Agreements – Agency Mortgage Backed Securities Purchase Program”) is a textbook study in the mushrooming conflicts evolving from the New York Fed being a regulator of Wall Street banks while simultaneously needing their help to conduct open market operations to carry out monetary policy for the nation.

In the case of the QE assets, the contract designates the New York Fed as JPMorgan’s “customer,” adding another incestuous twist to the relationship Wall Street banks have with their regulator. The conflicts which the New York Fed must tolerate, as a customer handing over $1.7 trillion of its assets to JPMorgan, are breathtaking. Here’s a partial list: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 November 2014 at 9:12 am

BBS with #102—and good success with Stirling soap

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STOD 3 Nov 2014

Things are progressing well: I think I really have learned how to lather thirsty soaps, and I believe soap-thirst was at the root of my difficulties with several soaps—Barrister & Mann, Dapper Dan, Green Mountain, Mystic Water, and Stirling being examples. My usual method (using a sopping wet brush) delivered a lot of water, but most of that spills away in the first two seconds of loading. By starting with a damp brush and adding water as I load the brush, I do get a great lather and can at last fully appreciate these soaps.

Of course, many have never experienced a problem with these soaps—indeed, the enthusiasm with which the soaps listed are acclaimed indicates that most have no problem. It’s always a little awkward being the laggard in learning, having difficulties in doing something that others can seemingly do without effort: singing, perhaps (I still can’t sing), or dancing. But at least in this lather department, I feel I have caught up with the rest of the world.

I deliberately chose a soft brush and after loading had a perfect lather for three passes, with much left over. One great thing about Stirling soaps—which I’m looking forward to with great anticipation—is that the fragrances are both good and robust. Napoleon has a terrific fragrance, which really enhanced the shave experience. And having a fine lather was another pleasure. (Did I mention that my lather was really good? 🙂 ).

The #102 did a super job—mostly BBS after the second pass (the XTG pass), with a bit of clean-up for the third pass: no nicks, just smoothness. The blade was the same Lab Blue that I used when I first got the razor.

HMNbean pointed out this morning something worth keeping in mind: both beard and skin vary a lot from man to man, and so it is small wonder that a razor that works well for one (with his beard and skin) may not work so well for another (with a different beard and different skin). This clearly is the source of much YMMV, and perhaps explains why some prefer the 37C slant to the Stealth (and vice versa). I, of course, report my own experience, but I do want to point out that you, with perhaps a different type of beard and/or skin, may find that the same razor performs differently for you.

Thus for me the 37C feels more aggressive (i.e., not quite so comfortable), but in terms of efficiency, I think the #102 and Stealth beat it. But cpacamper tried a Stealth and found that for him the 37C did a better job. So it goes.

A good splash of Pinaud Coachman, and another week unfolds.

Vote. Please. Thanks.

 

Written by LeisureGuy

3 November 2014 at 7:44 am

Posted in Shaving

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