Later On

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

Archive for December 18th, 2015

The whistleblower who exposed U.S.’s flawed security clearance system finally gets his reward

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Quite a story. In the end, the whistleblower gets a (much-delayed) reward.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 December 2015 at 9:01 pm

Special Report: Toxic Firefighting Foam Has Contaminated U.S. Drinking Water

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Bad news reported by Sharon Lerner in The Intercept:

Lori Cervera had always been an active person. She liked camping, playing outdoors with her kids, and practically lived in her running shoes. She didn’t have much patience for illness. So when she developed a dull ache on her right side in May 2014, Cervera took a few Tylenol and did her best to ignore it. But after a few days in which the pain grew sharper and more intense, she went to the hospital, where a CT scan revealed a mass. To her complete surprise, Cervera, a mother of four and grandmother of two who was 46 at the time, was diagnosed with stage 2 kidney cancer. That July she underwent surgery to remove both the tumor and almost half her right kidney.

Cervera returned to her home in Warrington, Pennsylvania, relieved to be alive but also perplexed. She had no family history of kidney cancer, and the diagnosis felt like it came out of left field. So with 22 staples still in her belly and a drainage tube coming out of her wound, Cervera propped herself up in bed and took to Google, intent on learning more about what might have caused her illness.

Her research quickly led her to a recent report on PFOA, or perfluorooctanoic acid, also known as C8, a chemical that for six decades was used by DuPont in the production of Teflon and other products. Research on people in West Virginia and Ohio who had consumed water contaminated by leaks from a nearby DuPont factory showed probable links between the chemical and six diseases, including kidney cancer.

Cervera soon discovered that the very same chemical, as well as a related one, PFOS, had been found in drinking water in her area. Both were part of a larger class known as perfluorinated chemicals, or PFCs, “emerging contaminants” that were still being studied — and had yet to be regulated. And, according to public notices from the local water and sewer authorities, both had come from foam that was used to put out airplane fires and train soldiers at two nearby military bases — the Naval Air Warfare Center in Warminster and a former naval air station at Willow Grove, now owned by the Pennsylvania Air National Guard.

Cervera knew the bases well. One of her daughters works across the street from the Naval Air Warfare Center, which everyone calls Johnsville. Willow Grove is only about a mile south of her house; she drives by it practically every day. The Wawa convenience store where she buys milk and gas is directly across the street from Willow Grove, which the Navy shut down in 2011. It wasn’t hard to imagine how water from that former base would make its way to her home. The road that runs between the two parallels a creek that floods practically every time it rains.

When they moved 25 miles north to Warrington from Philadelphia in 2000, the Cerveras had found the well at their new home charming. Now, after reading about the contamination, she regarded it with suspicion. Had the water she drank and used to make coffee, brush her teeth, fill kiddie pools, and mix infant formula for her grandchildren over the years contained chemicals from the military bases?

In August 2014, she decided to find out and requested a free test of the well water, which the local EPA office was offering to families living close to the bases. Three months later, an agency staffer rang her bell to hand-deliver the results: Though the chemicals were present in their well, they weren’t at levels of concern, he assured her. “We were so relieved,” said Cervera, who went on drinking and cooking with the water.

However, EPA monitoring done around the time of Cervera’s surgery showed that the Warminster municipal water authority, which provides water to the township adjacent to Warrington, had the third-highest level of PFOS of all public drinking water systems tested in the entire country — 1.09 parts per billion — as well as a very high rate of PFOA, .349 ppb. The Warminster water authority stopped using two of its public wells last year because of the contamination. Warrington Township, where the Cerveras lived, found PFCs at elevated levels in three of its public supply wells and also shut them down. The chemicals had spread into some private wells, too. By June 2015, 45 had been identified with either a PFOA or PFOS level above the safety threshold set by the EPA. The chemicals were also present at lower levels in more than 100 other wells.

In late January 2015, a second test of the Cerveras’ well showed higher levels of contamination, but they were given no indication that they should stop drinking the water. Then, in August, a few weeks after a third test of their well water, a worker from the lab that processed their sample called to tell them to stop drinking it immediately. A few days later, several 5-gallon jugs of water arrived at their home. Cervera noticed the same plastic jugs began to appear outside many of her neighbors’ homes as well.

A small sea of fire retardant foam was unintentionally released in an aircraft hangar, temporarily covering a small portion of the flight line at Travis Air Force Base in California, Sept. 24, 2013. . .

Continue reading. There’s a lot more.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 December 2015 at 6:14 pm

The seasonal beef: Whole roasted NY Strip loin

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Although I’m using this recipe, I’m cooking the roast with this method (though still on a bed of parsley). And I already have the creme fraîche and a short length of horseradish root: freshly grated is best, just as you would think.

As always, I hasten to add that I am referring to the beef that is part of this festive (and feastive) season, not to any complaints about the season itself.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 December 2015 at 4:54 pm

Posted in Beef, Daily life, Food, Recipes

Read just the preface, please: Quixote: The Novel and the World

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You can read it by using the Look Inside feature. If you have a Kindle, you can download a free sample. I did, and now I “own” the  book.

Since I have it in Kindle format, I was going to copy and paste some paragraphs from the Preface, but then I found I’d want to copy the whole thing. So do take a look at it.

Long-time readers will know of my Quixote mania, and a search of the blog on Quixote would, I imagine, have a lot of hits.

Amazing book.

UPDATE: It’s only fair to show the passages I highlighted before I decided the entire Preface was to be highlighted.

As a young man, I admired Don Quixote because of his idealism. But as I’ve returned to the book time and again, I have found other sources of inspiration. Maybe the plot isn’t really about an idealist but instead a fool. After all, one doesn’t reach fifty and find nothing else to do but rectify all wrongs if insanity isn’t a part of it. As I myself have reached the age of Cervantes’s protagonist, I realize that this is the story of a middle-aged quest, as the body deteriorates, to retrieve the dreams we nurtured earlier in life.
The novel argues that reality is a concoction, that what we see isn’t there but is what we want to see. Therefore, it is said that Cervantes legitimized subjectivity, that he endorsed a world where truth is no longer absolute. It has also been argued that Cervantes’s magnum opus gave traction to the Enlightenment, that it begat modernity, teaching us the meaning of anxiety, the sense of being adrift in the world, without direction, trapped in the prison of our own individual loneliness. Jorge Luis Borges argued that Cervantes raises his character to the status of “a demigod in our consciousness.” He added, “Don Quixote is the only solitude that occurs in world literature.”
Trilling’s view that “all prose fiction is a variation on the theme of Don Quixote” revolves around the fact that the novel as a genre makes an attempt at verisimilitude—the likeness or semblance of a narrative to reality—and that, in El Quijote, that verisimilitude is at once a triumph and a defeat because Cervantes delivers the adventures of a madman who thinks he isn’t actually mad. Indeed, everyone has a theory about what makes Cervantes’s book tick. Some argue that the novel is a psychiatric treatise in disguise. Others suggest it is a celebration of reason. Arguments have even been made that the novel is a cautionary tale against the excesses of religion and that Don Quixote is a doppelgänger of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, there are commentators who describe Cervantes’s approach to his characters as bullying, not to say condescending, whereas an army of defenders portray his approach as utterly humane. Such is the magic El Quijote exerts on people
Throughout the narrative, the tension between what is real and what is imagined, what the actual world presents and what Don Quixote sees, is the engine moving the action forward. In his desire to bring justice to a society marked by inequality, immorality, and corruption, the knight-errant is convinced that the world, his as well as ours, is controlled by enchanters, especially Friston the Magician, the most sneaky of them all. These magicians mean to undermine Don Quixote’s quest for justice. As the storyline progresses, various supporting characters, in order to subdue Don Quixote and appease his desire to subvert the status quo, pretend they too exist in his imaginary universe, being knights themselves, as well as princesses and other mythical types. In the end, Alonso Quijano surrenders his identity as Don Quixote and, on his deathbed, apologizes for the endless sequence of mishaps he put others through.

Regarding that last, look around at our own daily lives, and enchanters who fight against the realization of Quixote’s ideals: look around for the enchanters who undermine our own efforts toward realization of our own ideal lives: unseen figures who destroy countless lives.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 December 2015 at 4:44 pm

Posted in Books

Star Wars Is God’s Gift to Content Farms

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Carlez.Buzz (I kid you not) at Motherboard has some interesting points, particularly through a meme lens:

Star Wars arrived in theatres yesterday, creating a massive demand for internet content that reaffirms the movie as a cornerstone of global culture. When a ‘phenomenon’ occurs, content farms must provide the content that supplements the phenomenon and offers a meaningful buildup. This arc is present in entertainment, news, media, and mass niche internet culture, providing a bountiful harvest for every content farm. Every content farm can write a positive review, but is your farm willing to curate diversified content to fully satiate the reader’s Star Wars content desires?

A blockbuster movie like “Star Wars pt 7” give us hope that there’s something connecting all of us, with the magic of space, science fiction, the Force, and other stuff that might be important to people who don’t want to read about ISIS. Instead, we can feel like ‘the entire world is watching’ and participating in ‘something real.’ Generations can connect with other generations over this cross-generational film franchise.

But Star Wars somehow united AND defeated content farms.

Star Wars and ‘big box scifi film’ content might be the perfect realm of content, some how making it ‘okay’ that all content farms are the same. It is based in a fictional world, thereby releasing it from the moral pressures of covering real life events. You can just be excited about everything Star Wars, and take it all in as fun. Plus, it falls into the geek content realm, which makes it way more shareable by geeks who think they are on the bleeding edge of science, indulging with sound, rational consumerism. Regular schlubs who want to participate in the demand pull of a consumer phenomenon just want to know that there is content that justifies their unexplained desire to be part of the initial rush.

If you’ve got a content farm, it’s your job to create content that resonates with the widest possible audiences. Star Wars content is the perfect way to keep the clicks coming. Here are some of the great content types that we’re seeing on today’s internet: . . .

Continue reading.

And definitely click to see the sceengrabs at the link.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 December 2015 at 4:29 pm

NY Times Public Editor has strong words for a pattern of egregious errors from same reporters

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Pretty strong column. But, unfortunately, probably not strong enough. The editors of the Times have shown a remarkable ability to shrug off any error or problem, insisting (in general) that what they did was exactly the right thing to do, and doing anything else would have been impossible and undesirable.

I don’t expect any great improvement.

UPDATE: And read the comments. For example:

is a trusted commenter – Seattle – 2 hours agoThe article says, “Mr. Baquet rejected the idea that the sources had a political agenda that caused them to plant falsehoods. “There’s no reason to think that’s the case,” he said.” I absolutely disagree. The fear, anger, hate mongers – and their supporters – will do anything to cause more chaos, fear, anger and hate. The reporters cover law enforcement and many in law enforcement are treating muslims like they treated blacks during the civil rights demonstrations and like Hitler’s police treated jewish people in the run-up to nazi power. WE must never forget and must question everything that reeks of fear, hate and anger.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 December 2015 at 3:19 pm

Posted in Business, NY Times

Uh-oh: Kill Your Airbnb’s Hidden WiFi Cameras With This Script

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Go back to “Airbnb’s hidden Wi-Fi camera.”

Joshua Kopstein reports in Motherboard:

The Internet of Things is here, and in many ways it’s already catapulting us into thenightmarish future that dystopian science fiction writers predicted.

But while always-connected home devices may be en vogue, most sane people still believe that visiting someone’s house or staying at an AirBnB shouldn’t mean tacitly consenting to, say, having your every move recorded and broadcast over the internet by a WiFi camera.

Enter, a script by countersurveillance artist Julian Oliver that finds any Dropcam or similar WiFi-connected camera on a local network and disconnects it.

“I was pretty horrified to read of so many (women in particular) having their privacy strategically abused, enabled by this new family of devices,” Oliver told Motherboard in a Twitter DM, referring to several stories that have come out in the past year about people discovering Dropcams and other internet-connected devices secretly spying on them. “I thought now’s the time to sit down for an hour and push out a script.” is a slight tweak of, another of Oliver’s scripts which gives the boot to Google Glass users by blacklisting a range of hardware MAC addresses unique to those devices. Neither require you to know the WiFi network’s password. As long as you know or can guess the wireless access point’s name, the script will be able to de-authenticate the devices using aircrack-ng, an open-source network monitoring suite.

Oliver was prompted to write the script after mine and artist Adam Harvey’s insistence on Twitter, but the need for something like it has been more pressing lately.

Earlier this week, a German woman sued her AirBnb host, as well as AirBnb itself, after she and her partner discovered they had been secretly recorded by a security Dropcam during their month-long stay in California two years prior. . .

Continue reading. And do keep reading: he lays it out as it is, if you look around.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 December 2015 at 12:23 pm

Posted in Business, Law, Technology

Tagged with

Just exactly how did Martin Shkreli get busted?

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trosen76 asks that question on DailyKos and has an interesting post to answer it. Basically, the victims who motivated the arrest of Shkreli are rich and powerful: you don’t mess with them…  His post:

The images this morning of uber post-modern mega-bro/libertarian Frankenstein’s monster Martin Shkreli being carted away in cuffs elicited reactions running the gamut from childlike bliss to sexual excitement. These reactions are understandable, and I admit I felt those same sort of visceral emotions when I saw these images. However, as I’m wont to do, my always underlying sense realism and cynicism led me to ask how exactly this came about. And the answer, while unsurprising, is every bit as depressing and infuriating as the climate that allowed Shkreli to flourish in his hedge fund-cum-life saving drug price gouging racket in the first place.

First, what exactly did boy wonder get busted for? To make a long wonky story short, he lied to investors about the value of a company (one which employed the drug price gouging business “model” he’s (in)famous for). He did this in order to pay off investors from another failed investment scheme, all the while skimming off the top for good measure. A lovely trifecta of white-collar fraud that might make Gordon Gecko blush just a bit. And sure, the house of cards has now come crashing down indirectly from the soulless price-gouging that has made Shkreli this decade’s mustache-twirling poster boy for financial greed. But in the grand scheme of things, his business model might as well have been restoring rusty train cabooses. That’s not what did him in.

To be sure, Congress recently got in the act to say ‘hey, this life-saving drug price gouging thing doesn’t seem kosher.’ To which Shkreli basically gave them the finger and went on his merry price-gouging way. The fallout from this being a collective “geez, this is bad,” and not much else. Do we actually believe that the GOP-controlled Congress would have intervened to supersede “free market forces?” If you think so, I have real estate that connects land masses in the northeast to sell you.

No. To be sure, all the hand-wringing in the world over Shkreli’s despicable but totally legal free-market really, really sick-person screwing would have gone on pretty much unabated, if not for the worst screw up of all. While he was busy profiting off hastening the demise of desperately sick people in our proud American Pharma-as-Lord “healthcare” system, he was also playing fast and loose with ostensibly healthy and very rich peoples’ money. That, fellow Americans, we can NOT stand for.

This comes as even less of a surprise when we look at the recent falls of other detestable figures. How about Donald Sterling for instance? Everyone was aghast and taken aback when Sterling was caught on tape having a jealous, racist hissy-fit over his girlfriend palling around with Magic Johnson, who, to Sterling’s chagrin, is black. The NBA (David Stern and other team owners specifically) could not stand for this. Curiously though, when the DOJ charged him with racial discrimination over housing discrimination practices in L.A. (for which he eventually settled for $2.7 million), Stern and the other owners felt no similar sudden need to jettison him from their ranks. Ho hum. Business as usual. But now you’ve gone and insulted Magic Johnson. Basketball royalty. Part owner of the Lakers, having some interest in the Clippers, and CEO of a major life insurance company. No sir… we might look the other way when you illegally evict, discriminate against, insult, and generally make life miserable for “common” folk. But not Magic Johnson. He’s too important. He’s too rich.

Then of course there are the criminals still free to carry on business as usual. Anyone seen any Jamie Dimon mugshots lately? Don’t hold your breath. How about the CEOs or high-level managers who engaged in rampant fraud from AIG, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, etc? Still free to walk the streets and bilk the public. And why? Well, I’m sure some similarly very rich folks felt some pain from their dirty dealings. But by in large, the victims were us common folk. Teachers, plumbers, clerks, cops, nurses…. you know the type. Plenty of fellow mega-rich people made out ok. Therefore, don’t count on any pics of a hoodie-clad Jamie Dimon getting carted off to the hoosegow to gleefully post on your Facebook page. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 December 2015 at 12:17 pm

Last-Minute Budget Bill Allows New Privacy-Invading Surveillance in the Name of Cybersecurity

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Sometimes it seems very much as though Congress and the Obama Administration actively work against the public interest. In The Intercept Jenna McLaughlin reviews one awful part of the budget bill:

In the wake of a series of humiliating cyberattacks, the imperative in Congress and the White House to do something — anything — in the name of improving cybersecurity was powerful.

But only the most cynical observers thought the results would be this bad.

The legislation the House passed on Friday morning is a thinly disguised surveillance bill that would give companies pathways they don’t need to share user data related to cyberthreats with the government — while allowing the government to use that information for any purpose, with almost no privacy protections.

Because Speaker of the House Paul Ryan slipped the provision into the massive government omnibus spending bill that had to pass — or else the entire government would have shut down — it was doomed to become law. (This post has been updated to reflect the vote, which was 316 to 113.)

The text of the bill — now known as the Cybersecurity Act of 2015, formerly known as CISA — wasn’t released until shortly after midnight Wednesday morning, giving members of Congress essentially no time to do anything about it.

The bill removes a restriction on direct information sharing with the National Security Agency and the Pentagon; eliminates a restriction on the government’s use of that information for surveillance activities; allows law enforcement to use the information to prosecute any and all crimes; and leaves it up to the individual agencies to scrub personally identifying information when they feel like it.

“If someone hacks a health insurance company like Blue Cross/Blue Shield, and they get scared and hand over all the medical records that were exposed in the hack, the NSA could share those records with the DEA, who could use them in ongoing investigations that have nothing to do with cybersecurity or terrorism,” wrote Evan Greer, campaign director for Fight for the Future, a digital rights advocacy group.

The House Homeland Security Committee chaired by Rep. McCaul, R-Texas, had proposed a series of privacy protections from a previous House version of the cyber bill, but they were stricken from the new version that emerged from the Speaker’s office.

“The bill is all the worst parts” of the different cybersecurity bills negotiated in recent months, Nathan White, senior legislative manager for Access Now, told The Intercept. “It was negotiated in secret. … It’s a sneaky process they’ve used.”

Because of the last-minute timing, members of Congress “are not even going to know what they’re passing,” White said. “We don’t have time to get an informed vote, they’re pulling a fast one on the Senate.”

And the White House is reportedly on board. According to a leaked document published by Dustin Volz of Reuters, titled “Summary administration priorities for CISA”, the White House’s priorities line up with the new version of the bill — despite the fact that the administration threatened a veto over very similar legislation in 2013.

According to several technologists, information sharing isn’t a real solution to preventing cyberattacks. The best defense is better cyber hygiene. “When you’ve got an epidemic, the answer is you should be washing your hands every time you use the bathroom. It’s just not a sexy thing to say,” Lee Tien, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told The Intercept last January following President Obama’s State of the Union address, which focused heavily on cybersecurity.

Some opposition to the new bill has emerged among digital rights-supporting lawmakers and organizations, both Democratic and Republican. But they face off against the immensely powerful intelligence committees in the House and the Senate, congressional leadership, and the White House.

“Members of Congress are intentionally kept in dark so we don’t have time to rally opposition to particular measures,” Libertarian-leaning Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., wrote on Twitter.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., warned that the bill would “accomplish little more than increased unwarranted surveillance of U.S. persons, sharing private information with prosecutors and feeding the NSA dragnet.”

“This ‘cybersecurity’ bill was a bad bill when it passed the Senate and it is an even worse bill today,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. “Americans deserve policies that protect both their security and their liberty. This bill fails on both counts. Cybersecurity experts say CISA will do little to prevent major hacks and privacy advocates know that this bill lacks real, meaningful privacy protections,” Wyden wrote in a press release. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 December 2015 at 9:49 am

Posted in Daily life

Tea Party Republican Decides to Wreck His Own Klamath River Agreement Just For the Hell of It

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Kevin Drum posts at Mother Jones:

Here’s a depressing story for you. After years of acrimony and negotiations, the various factions who get water from the Klamath River basin finally hammered out a water-sharing agreement in 2008 that was lavishly praised by Rep. Greg Walden, who represents the area. In 2014, the last of the holdouts signed on and it looked like a war that had lasted over a decade might finally be over. But the Republican Party has gone nuts since 2008, and Greg Walden apparently went nuts right along with them:

As it turns out, Walden, a tea party favorite, is now chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, which makes him the House’s third-most powerful member. Given Republicans’ views on federal power, you’d think he’d continue to support a bottom-up agreement like this, particularly since the majority of his constituents decided they needed it. But conservative orthodoxy holds that dam removal is never good — apparently even when, as in this case, the dams are antiquated, environmentally disastrous and privately owned, and when nearly every constituency in the community would benefit.

So here is what the basin got for doing everything right. After five years of struggle for congressional approval of the Klamath agreement, the four Democratic senators of California and Oregon introduced authorizing legislation in January. But this month, just ahead of a Dec. 31 deadline dissolving the agreement if it hasn’t gained Congress’ approval by then, Walden unveiled a draft House bill that will almost surely kill the deal. It omits dam removal — the agreement’s centerpiece — and includes an unrelated provision to turn over 200,000 acres of federal timberland to two counties on the California-Oregon border. Given the new provision’s controversial content and the timing of the House bill, Walden must have known it had no chance of passage. In essence, his move consigned the Klamath’s “best and longest-lasting solution” to Washington’s black hole.

It’s just obstruction for the sake of obstruction. Or because Walden hates the Obama administration, which OKed the deal. Or, perhaps he did it for the sake of some particular interest group that’s donated money to him. Who knows? It’s insanity.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 December 2015 at 9:41 am

‘The Big Short,’ Housing Bubbles and Retold Lies

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Paul Krugman has an interesting column today:

In May 2009 Congress created a special commission to examine the causes of the financial crisis. The idea was to emulate the celebrated Pecora Commission of the 1930s, which used careful historical analysis to help craft regulations that gave America two generations of financial stability.

But some members of the new commission had a different goal. George Santayana famously remarked that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” What he didn’t point out was that some people want to repeat the past — and that such people have an interest in making sure that we don’t remember what happened, or that we remember it wrong.

Sure enough, some commission members sought to block consideration of any historical account that might support efforts to rein in runaway bankers. As one of those members, Peter Wallison of the American Enterprise Institute, wrote to a fellow Republican on the commission, it was important that what they said “not undermine the ability of the new House G.O.P. to modify or repeal Dodd-Frank,” the financial regulations introduced in 2010. Never mind what really happened; the party line, literally, required telling stories that would help Wall Street do it all over again.

Which brings me to a new movie the enemies of financial regulation really, really don’t want you to see.

The Big Short” is based on the Michael Lewis book of the same name, one of the few real best-sellers to emerge from the financial crisis. I saw an early screening, and I think it does a terrific job of making Wall Street skulduggery entertaining, of exploiting the inherent black humor of how it went down.

The film achieves this feat mainly by personalizing the tale, focusing not on abstractions but on colorful individuals who saw the rot in the system and tried to make money off that realization. Of course, this still requires explaining what it was all about. Yet even the necessary expository set pieces work amazingly well. For example, we learn how dubious loans were repackaged into supposedly safe “collateralized debt obligations” via a segment in which the chef Anthony Bourdain explains how last week’s fish can be disguised as seafood stew.

But you don’t want me to play film critic; you want to know whether the movie got the underlying economic, financial and political story right. And the answer is yes, in all the ways that matter.

I could quibble over a few points: The group of people who recognized that we were experiencing the mother of all housing bubbles, and that this posed big dangers to the real economy, was bigger than the film might lead you to believe. It even included a few (cough) mainstream economists. But it is true that many influential, seemingly authoritative players, from Alan Greenspan on down, insisted not only that there was no bubble but that no bubble was even possible.

And the bubble whose existence they denied really was inflated largely via opaque financial schemes that in many cases amounted to outright fraud — and it is an outrage that basically nobody ended up being punished for those sins aside from innocent bystanders, namely the millions of workers who lost their jobs and the millions of families that lost their homes.

While the movie gets the essentials of the financial crisis right, the true story of what happened is deeply inconvenient to some very rich and powerful people. They and their intellectual hired guns have therefore spent years disseminating an alternative view that the money manager and blogger Barry Ritholtz calls the Big Lie. It’s a view that places all the blame for the financial crisis on — you guessed it — too much government, especially government-sponsored agencies supposedly pushing too many loans on the poor.

Never mind that the supposed evidence for this view has been thoroughly debunked, or that before the crisis some of these same hired guns attacked those agencies not for lending too much to the poor, but for not lending enough. If the historical record runs counter to what powerful interests want you to believe, well, history will just have to be rewritten. And constant repetition, especially in captive media, keeps this imaginary history in circulation no matter how often it is shown to be false.

Sure enough, “The Big Short” has already been the subject of vitriolic attacks in Murdoch-controlled newspapers; if the movie is a commercial success and/or wins awards, expect to see much more. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 December 2015 at 8:37 am

Posted in Books, Business, Movies & TV

A Christmas-tree shave: QED’s Special 218 and Anthony Gold Red Cedar aftershave

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18 Dec 2015

Chuck Falzone has a review of Christmas-tree fragranced shaving supplies, mostly soaps, in Sharpologist, and in the spirit of that article, here’s my own entry. has long offered shaving soaps, but there was a hiatus when their previous soapmaker retired and a new one was established. The previous soapmaker made truly superb glycerin-based shaving soaps, and despite the current popularity of other types of shaving soaps, glycerin soaps can be excellent.

Special 218 is, as you see, a very dark-colored soap, I assume from the presence of pine tar in the ingredients, for it has a strong and distinctive cedar and pine fragrance, a wonderful fragrance, IMO. And it makes a dynamite lather, this morning with the black Satin Tip shaving brush.

And in keeping with the theme of past glories no longer available, I used my white bakelite slant, which remains one of the best slants I’ve ever used. When they were available—Italian Barber located a stash of them—I regularly recommended that my readers get one, and some did. Unfortunately, bakelite is somewhat brittle, but I have been careful with mine and this morning it delivered another superb shave.

Three passes to a flawless BBS result, and then a good splash of Anthony Gold’s Red Cedar aftershave, in keeping with the Christmas-tree theme: a fine beginning to the week before Christmas.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 December 2015 at 8:30 am

Posted in Shaving

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