Later On

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

Archive for March 30th, 2017

Cute animated movie on Amazon Prime: “Hoodwinked” (2005)

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Here it is, and it has quite a cast for the voices: Anne Hathaway, Glenn Close, Jim Belushi, Patrick Warburton, Chazz Palminteri, and others.

Written by Leisureguy

30 March 2017 at 7:54 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

Larry Summers Had the Power to Punish Wall Street. Now He’s Slamming Obama’s Gentle Treatment.

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David Dayen reports in The Intercept:

AS HEAD OF BARACK OBAMA’S National Economic Council during 2009 and 2010 at the height of the foreclosure crisis, Larry Summers broke many promises to help homeowners while simultaneously dismissing Wall Street’s criminality. Now, after the Obama administration has left power and Summers has no ability to influence anything, he finds himself “disturbed” that settlements for mortgage misconduct are full of lies. Those of us who screamed exactly this for years, when Summers might have been able to do something about it, are less than amused.

In Wednesday’s Washington Post, Summers writes about a “large systematic overstatement” of the burden actually felt by banks in various mortgage settlements. Typically with these settlements, the Justice Department announces a headline dollar amount that the media uncritically prints in their headlines. But that number bears no relation to reality.

Indeed, large amounts of the settlements are directed for “consumer relief,” which banks have been from the beginning adept at gaming. Financial writer Yves Smith coined the phrase “bullshit to cash ratio” to describe the relationship between actual hard-dollar fines for banks and these noncash consumer relief measures.

Summers highlights an agreement last April, where Goldman Sachs needed to supply $1.8 billion in consumer relief to homeowners to settle claims that they swindled investors with mortgage-backed securities. But Goldman Sachs didn’t own any mortgages. So it bought distressed mortgages in bulk on the open market, for as low as 50 cents on the dollar. Then it modified the balance to, say, 60 cents on the dollar, satisfying the consumer relief while earning profit.

In other words, Obama’s Justice Department sentenced Goldman Sachs to make money. A more recent Deutsche Bank settlement allowed the bank to invest in hedge funds that do the same purchase-and-modify loan scheme, getting credit for $4.1 billion in consumer relief simply from the investment. Deutsche Bank is even looking to earn credit for consumer relief by indirectly funding new subprime loans, also a moneymaking activity. This is like sentencing a bank robber to open a lemonade stand.

“While there may have been some encouragement to principle (sic) reduction through these settlements,” Summers writes, “neither the cost to banks nor the incremental benefit to consumers is remotely comparable to the consumer relief figures advertised by both the DoJ and the banks.”

Larry Summers should be the last person expressing outrage about any of this. It was his indifference to the suffering of homeowners after the financial crash that led to this fake justice-by-settlement scheme.

The week before Obama took office in 2009, when the incoming White House wanted the second half of the TARP bailout money released, Summers wrote a letter to Congress promising that “the Obama administration will commit substantial resources of $50-100B to a sweeping effort to address the foreclosure crisis.” He added that “we will implement smart, aggressive policies to reduce the number of preventable foreclosures by helping to reduce mortgage payments for economically stressed but responsible homeowners, while also reforming our bankruptcy laws.”

None of this happened. The ballyhooed $100 billion investment in mortgage mitigation ended up spending only $21 billion, and worse, was manipulated into a predatory lending program by mortgage servicers who had financial incentives to foreclose. The reform to bankruptcy laws Summers touted in his letter, which would have allowed judges to modify home mortgages, was something he actively opposed after Obama’s inauguration. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., publicly alleged that Summers “was not supportive of this,” and that he expressed doubts in private meetings.

Summers tries to separate himself from the Justice Department’s lies by saying, . . .

Continue reading.

It seems that Larry Summers is quite an unlikable fellow.

Written by Leisureguy

30 March 2017 at 7:50 pm

Inspector General’s The Watch Opinion Report: The DEA has seized billions in cash. Owners rarely get due process.

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Radley Balko in the Washington Post:

A new report from the Justice Department’s inspector general finds that during the past 10 years, the Drug Enforcement Administration has seized more than $4 billion in cash allegedly tied to drug activity. More than 75 percent of that total never resulted in criminal charges, and 80 percent ended up in the federal forfeiture fund through administrative procedures — meaning that the owners never got a day in court.

There’s no uniform standard for what constitutes a connection to drug activity. Cash can be seized if narcotics officers think it was earned from the sale of drugs or will be used to buy drugs. At airports, bus terminals and train stations, agents have seized cash from travelers coming from or going to a city known to be a hub for drug trafficking, for buying a one-way ticket or for acting “suspiciously.” From the report:

We found that different task force officers made different decisions in similar situations when deciding whether to seize all of the cash discovered. These differences demonstrate how seizure decisions can appear arbitrary, which should be a concern for the Department, both because of potentially improper conduct and because even the appearance of arbitrary decision-making in asset seizure can fuel public perception that law enforcement is not using this authority legitimately, thereby undermining public confidence in law enforcement.

In a review of 100 seizures, the report found that 85 occurred while property or the owner of the seized property was in transit (at an airport, during a traffic stop, at a shipping center, etc.), and that 79 of those were initiated based solely on a DEA agent or cooperating drug officer’s suspicions, not on preexisting intelligence.

While civil asset forfeiture is justified on the premise that it prevents criminals from ill-gotten gains, the DEA can’t say what percentage of its seizures resulted in broader investigations, or what percentage of those investigations resulted in criminal charges — because it doesn’t keep track. Given the building momentum against these seizures, one would think that if there were a clear connection between seizures of cash and investigations that nab drug dealers or result in large seizures of illicit substances, the DEA would want to track and promote those figures to tout its success. That they don’t even bother suggests that the connection between seizures and actual criminal activity is minimal.

That lack of data is why the IG’s office selected 100 cases to review itself. Its conclusion? “This review of sampled seizures provided evidence that many of the DEA’s interdiction seizures may not advance or relate to criminal investigations.”

In other words, they’re just stealing from people, albeit under the color of law. The report also found that state and local officers on federal anti-drug task forces aren’t required to get any formal training on forfeiture laws and procedures, which again results in rather arbitrary and inconsistent standards, policies and procedures.

Defenders of forfeiture often argue that . . .

Continue reading.

It’s a criminal enterprise.

Written by Leisureguy

30 March 2017 at 3:18 pm

The human cost of football: Is the game worth the destruction?

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I would say “No,” but then I’m not a sports fan. Apparently quite a few people are content to let players suffer from concussions and indeed do not think about it. Reid Forgrave has a memorable article (with video at the end) about the suicide (at age 24) of Zac Easter, a football player from a football family (Zac’s father was a coach). The article begins:

My Last Wishes

It’s taken me about 5 months to write all of this. Sorry for the bad grammar in a lot of spots.

I WANT MY BRAIN DONATED TO THE BRAIN BANK!! I WANT MY BRAIN DONATED TO THE SPORTS LEGACY INSTITUE A.K.A THE CONCUSSION FOUNDATION. If you go to the concussion foundation website you can see where there is a spot for donatation. I want my brain donated because I don’t know what happened to me and I know the concussions had something to do with it.

Please please please give me the cheapest burial possible. I don’t want anything fancy and I want to be cremated. Once cremated, I want my ashes spread in the timber on the side hill where I shot my 10 point buck. That is where I was happiest and that I where I want to lay. Feel free to spread my ashes around the timber if you’d like, but just remember on the side hill is where I would like most of my remains. I am truly sorry if I put you in a financial burden. I just cant live with this pain any more.

I don’t want anything expensive at my funeral or what ever it is. Please please please I beg you to choose the cheapest route and not even buy me a burial plot at a cemetary…. I also do not want a military funeral. If there are color guardsmen or anyone else at my funerial or whatever you have I will haunt you forever.

I want levi to keep playing clash of clans on my account. I am close to max have spent a lot of time playing that game. Though you think its stupid, I ask you keep playing it for me when you can and let my fellow clan mates know what happened. My phones passcode is 111111, so that’s six 1’s….

Levi gets my car, it will need a oil change and breaks/tires done her shortly. Please take care of old red. It will need cleaned out as well because I am a slob.

Thank you for being the best family in the world. I will watch over you all and please take my last wishes into consideration. Do not do something I do no want. Just remember, I don’t want a military funeral like grandpas. It is my last wishes and last rights.

I am with the lord now.

-Look, Im sorry every one for the choice I made. Its wrong and we all know it.

November 13, 2015

Zac Easter texted his girlfriend shortly before 10 A.M.

“Can you call me when you get out of class? I’m in hot water right now and idk what to do”

He typed as he drove, weaving Old Red, his cherry red 2008 Mazda3, down the wide suburban boulevards of West Des Moines. He’d already been awake for hours, since well before sunrise. At 5:40 A.M., he texted Ali an apology: “Sorry about last night.” Then he started drinking. By now he was shitfaced and driving around the suburbs. She called as soon as she got out of class, and he was slurring his words. Ali was scared. She wanted him off the road. She talked him down and into a gas-station parking lot, and then he hung up.

“Do not leave,” she texted back at 11:27 A.M.

Ali Epperson was nearly 700 miles away, at her contract-law class at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law in Cleveland. In football terms, Zac had outkicked his coverage: Ali was an ex-cheerleader but no vacant princess. She had a diamond stud in her left nostril and a knifing wit. They were a pair of scrappers whose jagged edges fit. Zac loved Trump; he kept a copy of Trump: The Art of the Deal in his bedroom. Ali was a budding progressive: a first-year student at a good law school who’d interned at Senator Tom Harkin’s D.C. office. They were just friends in high school; she used to cut fourth-period music class to hang with Zac. After they graduated, they became more than friends.

Sometimes he called her Winslow, her middle name, and only Winslow knew the full extent of Zac’s struggles in the five and a half years since high school: the brain tremors that felt like thunderclaps inside his skull, the sudden memory lapses in which he’d forget where he was driving or why he was walking around the hardware store, the doctors who told him his mind might be torn to pieces from all the concussions from football. She knew about the drugs and the drinking he was doing to cope. She knew about the mood swings, huge and pulverizing, the slow leaching of his hope.

“I’m not leaving,” he texted back.

“Promise?”

He pulled into a Jimmy John’s and ate something to sober up, sending Ali Snapchats every so often to prove he wasn’t driving. Then, a couple of hours later, he texted her again: . . .

Do read the whole thing, and ask whether football is worth the cost. (The NFL clearly believes the answer is “Yes,” since they make a lot of money from it and club owners are not in danger. So the NFL with fight change, just as the auto industry fought safety standards, and for the same reason: it may save lives, but it cuts into profits.)

Written by Leisureguy

30 March 2017 at 9:41 am

Rooney Style 1 Size 1, Meißner Tremonia Woody Almond, Merkur Progress, and Anthony Gold Red Cedar aftershave

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I’m really liking my three Rooney brushes. I think of this Style 1 Size 1 as a “stubby” brush, but in fact it has quite a good loft and feels great on the face. It lathers well, shares the lather generously, and has a flattish fan-shaped top. It’s a great little brush and it seemed to enjoy working with Meißner Tremonia’s wonderful Woody Almond shaving paste: bitter almond and Texas cedar fragrance that is strong in the jar and pleasant in the lather.

The Merkur Progress is an excellent adjustable—heck, it’s an excellent razor, adjustable or not (and I generally don’t do any adjusting: I’ve found the setting I like and I use it). Three passes, not even a thought of a nick, and a perfectly smooth face.

A good splash of Anthony Gold’s Red Cedar aftershave, and the day is launched on a very positive note.

Written by Leisureguy

30 March 2017 at 9:26 am

Posted in Shaving

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