Later On

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

Archive for March 20th, 2019

An observation on the bottles used by local spirits

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For a reason I don’t yet know, local spirits here in BC are sold in magnum-weight bottles—”magnum” referring not to the volume of the contents but to the thickness of the glass. I would really like to know why. I will say the heavyweight bottles are quite satisfactory to handle: they don’t feel the least bit fragile.

Perhaps it’s because shipping is not really an issue for these local spirits, whereas national brands have the squeeze out every penny and cutting bottle weight reduces shipping costs. That’s not a big deal if you’re bottling just a small run sold locally, but it is if your shipping tens of thousands of bottles across the country. Take Char Gin #3, for example:

Char #3 didn’t make it for Xmas, but it’s here now, and my little bottle is on the way. Only 200 bottles available, and now (as you see) sold out. And it will be a heavyweight bottle.

I noticed the weight thing when I made a Manhattan using Goodridge & Williams Northern Grains whisky:

Northern Grains is an artisanal whisky distilled from a mash of winter wheat and malted barley from Northern British Columbia. It’s aged in American oak bourbon barrels for a minimum of three years and finished in French oak wine casks from BC’s Okanagan Valley. This exceptionally smooth whisky is non-chill filtered with notes of dried stone fruit, toasted wood and cherry.

It is indeed exceptional. I must say using a peeler to cut a strip of zest to twist over the drink is worlds better than using a paring knife. Try it.

And I am back Nordic walking on a regular basis. Progress to date:

My goal is currently 5000 steps/day. My usual goal is 8000 steps per day. I see I’m already over 6000, so I’ll set that as daioy goal for a while.

 

 

 

Written by LeisureGuy

20 March 2019 at 5:50 pm

Americans Are Seeing Threats in the Wrong Places

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Janet Napolitano with Karen Breslau, authors of How Safe Are We?: Homeland Security Since 9/11, write in the Atlantic (and let me mention that it was Janet Napolitano who retracted the DHS report on the dangers of right-wing domestic terrorism—the GOP in Congress pushed her, and she caved):

At 8:07 a.m. on January 13, 2018, every smartphone screen in Hawaii lit up with a single message, in all caps: “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” In fact, it was a false alarm triggered by a Hawaii Emergency Management Agency worker who mistook instructions he had received during an unscheduled emergency drill for a real attack. Nevertheless, motorists drove erratically as they raced to park their car inside a freeway tunnel. Spectators fled sporting events, and college students ran to campus tsunami shelters. Some people called or texted their loved ones to say goodbye.

It was not until 8:38 a.m. that the State of Hawaii issued a correction on its emergency-alert system. It took nearly half an hour, the governor later confessed, because he could not remember the login for his official Twitter account. The White House issued no communication until later in the day, when a deputy press secretary said in a statement that the president had been briefed on the incident and that “this was purely a state exercise.”

From the safety of my apartment in Oakland, California, I had two thoughts: First, I was glad to be headed to the farmers’ market that Saturday morning—and glad not to be serving as secretary of homeland security anymore. Second, it was clear that the incident, however bizarre it appeared on the surface, revealed systemic failures far more serious than any being discussed in the media. What if this had been not an accident, but a hack by a hostile actor intended to cause chaos not only in one American city or state but in many? What if the goal had been to distract Americans and provide cover for another type of attack? What if public panic caused traffic accidents or heart attacks? A breakdown in public order?

In the four years I led the Department of Homeland Security, I learned from the inside that the greatest threats to our safety play out differently from how political speeches and news reports might have us believe. True security means educating the public about which dangers are real and likely and which are not. Hours after a man killed more than four dozen people in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, President Donald Trump downplayed the threat of violence by white-supremacist groups—and went on to contend that the United States is under “invasion” from the south. In fact, mass shootings are genuine security problems. Natural disasters and cyberattacks are genuine security problems. Undocumented immigrants supposedly running over an open border by the millions and attacking Americans on the streets are not.

In a huge and open nation, there will never be enough money, gates, guns, or guards to run down every potential threat. Homeland security works when we adhere to proven principles of law enforcement, national security, and disaster management, and when we integrate those principles with the best data science and other technological innovations available and update them constantly. We get into trouble when political ideology is thrown into the mix. A stubborn or willful misreading of the threat environment leads to poor management of resources and results in failure. And in this regard, I regret to say, we are backsliding terribly.

Border protection is one such area. Vetting travelers primarily by nation of origin, as President Trump’s ban on travelers from certain predominantly Muslim countries does, is not a very effective way of catching terrorists. While offering the illusion of toughness, the ban misdirects our efforts. Rather than directing Customs and Border Protection to fend off every traveler from, say, Syria or Yemen, the agency’s resources are better spent when focused on people who, regardless of which passport they use, have suspicious connections and a pattern of traveling to suspicious places.

Meanwhile, meat-ax policies such as Trump’s ban provide propaganda points to adversaries and antagonize our allies in the Islamic world—governments whose cooperation has, in the past, helped us immensely. They become, as a result, less reliable partners in endeavoring to mitigate threats to the United States on their soil before those threats mature on ours. We become a go-it-alone nation in protecting our own security rather than working with partners. Similarly, the border wall between the United States and Mexico threatens to waste money, attention, and political capital and antagonize Mexico, our neighbor and ally. In 2013, Mexican intelligence helped the United States foil a plot by an Iranian American who tried to recruit a Mexican drug cartel to bomb a Washington, D.C., restaurant where the Saudi ambassador to the United States dined. We would like Mexico to continue helping us in this way.

Read: Why Trump keeps creating crises

The choice is not between an open border and a wall. To promote security and the rule of law, we should focus on smart, cost-effective solutions to securing the border. There are far more effective measures involving technology and hybrid approaches combining physical barriers, surveillance, and the presence of agents that can secure the border.

We are also moving backwards on immigration enforcement. . .

Continue reading. There’s more, and it’s important.

I have a strong sense that the US is facing a defining crisis. It could go very bad very quickly, and based on what we see, that is increasingly likely. Do any others sense this?

Written by LeisureGuy

20 March 2019 at 5:11 pm

Trump Shut Down Programs That Could Help Stop the Next White Nationalist Attack

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Tess Owen writes in Vice:

Last week, after the deadly mosque attacks in New Zealand, President Trump was asked whether he believed white nationalism was a growing threat. “I don’t, really,” he replied. “I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems.”

Terrorism experts firmly disagree, pointing to data that says far-right extremist violence in the U.S. and Europe is becoming more frequent and potentially more deadly.

But while other countries have taken significant steps to identify the threat and counter it through dedicated intelligence programs, the Trump administration has cut or cancelled initiatives that were designed to combat domestic extremism.

Shortly after taking office, the administration defunded the Obama-era Countering Violent Extremism Program, which launched in 2016 and had allocated $10 million toward organizations fighting domestic extremism. In addition, the administration froze funds that had already been allocated, including a $400,000 grant for Hope Not Hate, a Chicago-based organization that deradicalizes neo-Nazis.

“In the U.S., we lack any political will to deal with it appropriately. That’s due in part to the nationalist politics that define the right-wing extremist movement at home,” said Ali Soufan, a former FBI special agent who was involved in numerous high-profile counterterrorism operations, and is now executive director of the Soufan Center, an organization dedicated to researching global security issues. “We’re not doing much to counter it.”

Terrorism experts say the New Zealand attack is further evidence that far-right extremism is now a global terror threat, often originating and spreading in the online world. The New Zealand attacker, who left 50 dead, published a lengthy manifesto online that revealed his deep entrenchment in the modern white supremacist movement, which is connected internationally via forums like 8chan and 4chan and gaming chat rooms, and amplified through social media.

“After 50 people were murdered, the president never called it terrorism. That makes that blind spot even more glaring,” said Soufan. “Unfortunately we see some sort of compliance when it comes to dealing with the ideology and actions of right-wing extremism.”

FUNDING CUTS

The Department of Homeland Security’s “Office of Community Partnerships,” which oversaw the extremism program, had a budget of $21 million and a staff of 16 full-time employees and 25 contractors under Obama. The Trump administration rebranded it “The Office of Terrorism Prevention Partnerships” soon after taking office, cut its staff to eight full-time employees, and reduced its budget to less than $3 million.

Former Director George Selim resigned in June 2017, saying that the environment had become “too polarized” and he felt he could no longer do his job effectively.

That was months before hundreds of white supremacists descended on Charlottesville, Virginia, for the violent “Unite the Right” in August 2017.

The data shows far-right extremism is a bigger problem than Islamic extremism in the U.S. There have been more than 70 deadly attacks by the far right in the U.S. in the last 17 years, compared to 26 carried out by radicalized Muslims, according to an analysis by NPR last October, citing research from private organizations and federal data.

A recent report by the Southern Poverty Law Center found that the number of active hate groups in the U.S. reached a record high of 1,020 in 2018, driven largely by a surge in white nationalist groups.

In 2018, far-right extremists carried out a mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, killed two black people who were grocery shopping in Kentucky, and waged a weeklong package-bombing campaign targeting the president’s biggest critics.

Days after the New Zealand attacks, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen acknowledged the dangers of domestic terrorism but stopped short of calling it far-right extremism. “We, too, have seen the face of such evil with attacks in places such as Charlottesville, Pittsburgh, and Charleston,” she said as part of her “state of national security” speech Monday.

“My department assesses that the primary terrorist threat to the United States continues to be from Islamist militants and those they inspire,” Nielsen said, “but we should not—and cannot—ignore the real and serious danger posed by domestic terrorists.”

In an email to VICE news, DHS spokesperson Tyler Q. Houlton wrote that the “Department of Homeland Security was committed to combating all forms of violent extremism, especially movements that espouse racial supremacy or bigotry.”

“DHS takes all threats to the homeland, both foreign and domestic, very seriously,” Houlton wrote. “To suggest otherwise is an affront to the men and women of DHS that work tirelessly every day to ensure the safety of the American people.”

At the Department of Justice, efforts to contain domestic right-wing extremism have been confined largely to prosecuting celebrated hate crimes and launching a website. In response to a question from VICE News, a spokesperson sent examples of prosecutions for hate crimes under the Trump administration, including the prosecution of the young neo-Nazi who rammed his car into a crowd of protesters during the Charlottesville rally in 2017.

They also noted that two days after the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting last October, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein allocated nearly $900,000 to the University of New Hampshire to conduct “a national survey of hate crime incidents and victimization.”

Rosenstein also said that the Justice Department was directing some funds to improving hate crime prosecution and data collection, including launching a new hate crimes website.

EUROPE’S APPROACH

These efforts contrast with other Western countries, which have taken a much more aggressive stance toward far-right extremism. “Our allies recognize how dangerous this threat is,” Soufan said.

Both Germany and the United Kingdom, which have also seen recent resurgences in far-right extremist activity, have dedicated significant resources to the problem. Last year, MI5 — the U.K.’s domestic counterintelligence agency — was given additional authority to gather intelligence and monitor far-right extremist groups for possible threats to national security. The decision signaled that the British intelligence community were treating far-right extremism with the same level of seriousness as they do Islamist and Northern Ireland-related terrorism.

Meanwhile, Germany is planning to grow “Department Two” of its federal domestic intelligence agency, which monitors far-right extremism, by 50 percent in 2019. “On numbers, I won’t comment. They are secret,” said Thomas Haldenwang, the president of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, in December. “But my goal for the department on right-wing extremism is that it approach the size of our largest department that works on Islamist terrorism.”

In January, Germany’s domestic spy agency announced it was investigatingthe far-right, anti-immigrant political party AfD for possible violations of the constitutional safeguards against extremism.

IGNORED WARNINGS

But experts say that the Obama administration also failed to heed warnings about the threat posed by the far right.

In 2009, Daryl Johnson, an analyst at the Department of Homeland Security, issued a report warning about a potential resurgence of right-wing extremism, driven by the financial crisis, and by the election of America’s first black president. His report warned that returning military veterans, in particular, might be targeted for recruitment by far-right extremists.

Republicans demanded DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano retract his report, and called for him to be fired. The American Legion, an organization representing veterans, also blasted the report and demanded an apology. Eventually, Napolitano issued an apology, and withdrew the report. Johnson left DHS in 2010 after his team was disbanded.

Today, he runs DT Analytics, a private security consulting firm for state and local law enforcement, and is considered a national expert in domestic extremism. Johnson said he expected the far-right threat to peter out after Obama’s presidency and when Republicans took back control of the White House.

Now, he says, he was wrong.

“The fact that it’s still operating at a heightened level, despite Republicans being in power, is very concerning, and goes against the trending I’ve seen in 40 years,” said Johnson. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 March 2019 at 2:55 pm

Here’s Every Defense of the Electoral College — and Why They’re All Wrong

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Eric Levitz writes in New York:

Human beings evolved to deceive themselves, so as to better deceive each other. This is because we are social animals who spent our formative years living in tight-knit, tribal communities in which our prospects for survival were maximized by maintaining the approval of the collective — whileadvancing our own individual (and/or factional) interests. And one handy way to reconcile those competing objectives was to develop a talent for inventing ostensibly neutral rules that would, in practice, give you or your crew some distinct advantage in intragroup conflicts — along with arguments for why said rules were ethically necessary, irrespective of their substantive implications.

Over time, however, natural selection weeded out our most gullible ancestors. The surviving homo sapiens had a gift for recognizing the telltale signs of deceit. Soon, they could see that Short Gary’s left eyebrow twitched every time he explained that fairness required giving the tribe’s shortest member the largest slice of fish (as this was what the Founding Fishers had intended). Thus, the Short Garys of the world were killed and eaten. And eventually, their successors developed a more optimal means of camouflaging their own interests in arguments about procedural fairness: They became adept at convincing themselves that justice required whatever arbitrary principle would get them the biggest slice of fish — and thus, betrayed no signs of deceit when trying to convince others.

And this is how a bunch of supernaturally self-deluded apes came to inherit the Earth.

Or so my foggy memory of evolutionary psychology would suggest. And after sifting through a variety of conservative defenses of the Electoral College, it’s hard not to conclude that this account is basically right.

At a CNN town hall Monday night, Elizabeth Warren argued that America should elect presidents by a national popular vote. “We need to make sure that every vote counts. And you know, I want to push that right here in Mississippi. Because I think this is an important point,” the Democratic presidential candidate told a crowd in Jackson. “My view is that every vote matters. And the way we can make that happen is that we can have national voting and that means get rid of the Electoral College.”

An overwhelming majority of the American public agree. And yet, an overwhelming majority of GOP operatives, public intellectuals, and politicians do not.

The simplest explanation for this discrepancy is that professional Republicans believe (consciously or otherwise) that the existing election rules benefit their party. After all, the GOP has lost the popular vote in six of the last seven presidential elections. And since the Electoral College gives disproportionate influence to whiter, more rural states — and the GOP is becoming increasingly reliant on white, rural voters — the existing conservative coalition is poised to continue deriving a benefit from the status quo rules for cycles to come.

This puts conservative pontificators in the unenviable position of having to defend an archaic, undemocratic system that does not work as its authors intended, or as the American public desires, on the grounds that it is a uniquely fair and rational way of electing the nation’s most powerful officeholder.

Terrible arguments ensue. And these awful products of motivated reasoning are joined by the awful products of status quo bias (which leads some small number of liberals to defend the Electoral College) in a noxious stew of nonsensical arguments against allowing popular democracy to determine control of at least one branch of our government.

Fortunately, I (and everyone who agrees with me on this subject) have escaped the shackles of subjectivity, and know the objective truth about the Electoral College. And so, I can provide you, dear reader, with a rundown of some of the most prominent arguments for preserving that vile institution — and why all of them are wrong. Defenses of the Electoral College tend to fall into one of three broad categories, and so we’ll examine each genre in turn.

1. The Electoral College currently exists, therefore it is good.

(A) The founders thought superhard about this, and so we should defer to their judgement.

From Allen Guelzo and James Hulme’s Washington Post op-ed, “In Defense of the Electoral College”:

The Founders who sat in the 1787 Constitutional Convention lavished an extraordinary amount of argument on the electoral college, and it was by no means one-sided … The Founders also designed the operation of the electoral college with unusual care. The portion of Article 2, Section 1, describing the electoral college is longer and descends to more detail than any other single issue the Constitution addresses. More than the federal judiciary — more than the war powers — more than taxation and representation.

This isn’t the op-ed’s only argument. But the authors devote a solid 350 words of their short column to saying, essentially, “Look, our finest slaveholders already debated all this only a couple decades before the advent of the steam engine, so why reopen this can of worms?” And they are hardly alone in presenting “the founders said so” as a trump card.

The trouble with this argument is twofold. First, the founders were (mostly) a collection of land speculators who built their fortunes by ethnically cleansing Native Americans, and slavers who built theirs by participating in one of the greatest atrocities in world history. Most did not believe in popular democracy (as the vast majority of Americans do today). As political theorists, these dudes were so foresighted, they assumed that America would never have political parties.

None of this means that some of them weren’t brilliant, or that they didn’t build some institutions that are worth preserving. But it does mean we’re talking about incredibly flawed, extremely dead human beings, not philosopher kings appointed by God. Thus, there is no reason to reflexively defer to their judgement — which was itself the product of compromise between disparate interests, not Socratic dialogue on the ideal form of the state. Some founders favored the popular vote; others wanted to leverage their chattel into disproportionate political power.

Understandably, Hulme and Guelzo are eager to deny these grubby origins, writing:

Above all, the electoral college had nothing to do with slavery. Some historians have branded the electoral college this way because each state’s electoral votes are based on that “whole Number of Senators and Representatives” from each State, and in 1787 the number of those representatives was calculated on the basis of the infamous 3/5ths clause. But the electoral college merely reflected the numbers, not any bias about slavery (and in any case, the 3/5ths clause was not quite as proslavery a compromise as it seems, since Southern slaveholders wanted their slaves counted as 5/5ths for determining representation in Congress, and had to settle for a whittled-down fraction). [Emphasis mine.]

There are multiple issues with this defense. For one thing, some southern framers were quite forthright about the nature of their concerns. As Jamelle Bouie notes:

Hugh Williamson of North Carolina made this point explicit in his objection: Because there won’t always be “distinguished characters” with national recognition who could win a majority of votes, “the people will be sure to vote for some man in their own State, and the largest State will be sure to succeed.” But this will not be Virginia, “since her slaves will have no suffrage.”

And even if this hadn’t been the case, Hulme and Guelzo’s argument would be nonsensical. If the framers had adopted a popular-vote system, then only the enfranchised would have influenced presidential elections — and thus, slavers wouldn’t have been able to leverage their human property into outsized political influence. This is not complicated. Furthermore, what, precisely, is “in any case, the 3/5ths compromise wasn’t that pro-slavery since the plantation owners wanted it to be 5/5ths” supposed to prove?

But the most fundamental problem with the idea that we should defer to framer’s judgement is this: Almost immediately after writing the rules for presidential elections into the Constitution, the leaders of our republic realized they’d made a mistake (which is why the 12th Amendment exists). Among other things, making the Electoral College runner-up the vice-president proved to be deeply problematic the moment political parties took hold. If we were actually committed to honoring the founders’ intentions, then Hillary Clinton would be Donald Trump’s vice-president today. This would surely make for a fine sitcom premise, but few would describe it as a rational way to run a White House.

(B) It would put us on a slippery slope to abolishing the Senate.

From Red Jahncke’s column in The Hill, “Think We Should Do Away With the Electoral College? Think Again.”

We are both a democracy and a federation of states. The Electoral College was designed specifically to prevent the tyranny of big states over small states, as was the U.S. Senate, which affords all states, large and small, equal representation. If we do away with the Electoral College, we might as well do away with the Senate.

Guelzo offers similar sentiments in another pro–Electoral College piece for National Affairs:

Abolishing the Electoral College now might satisfy an irritated yearning for direct democracy, but it would also mean dismantling federalism. After that, there would be no sense in having a Senate (which, after all, represents the interests of the states), and eventually, no sense in even having states, except as administrative departments of the central government.

The biggest problem with this slippery-slope argument is that it’s implausible: There is strong majoritarian support for abolishing the Electoral College, and a way to effectively nullify it without changing the Constitution (the National Popular Vote interstate compact). This is not the case for abolishing the Senate. .

But the more basic problem with this species of Electoral College defense is that it boils down to “federalism exists, therefore it ought to.” Why states shouldn’t exist as mere administrative departments of a central government (with some measure of local autonomy) goes largely unexamined. It is not as though our state lines were drawn for the purpose of giving centuries-old, indigenous ethnic groups the opportunity to exercise a modicum of self-determination. Rather, most state lines don’t even have a geological basis, and merely reflect the political interests of those in power when they were drawn. It is not as though Wyoming’s white majority has an ancient connection to its land, and a distinct culture that fundamentally divides them from the other peoples of the Mountain West. There is no reason to treat it as a semi-sovereign entity that must be indulged, lest it break from the union. We are not an infant republic anymore. A secession crisis is very low on our list of tail risks.

There may be some virtue in decentralizing power and creating opportunities for policy experimentation on the subnational level. But that does not require inflating Wyoming’s influence over presidential elections or congressional legislation.

By contrast, the case for not requiring all legislation to pass through an upper chamber that is wildly malapportioned — such that Wyoming residents get 66 times more say in the Senate than Californians do — is quite simple: In a democracy, individual citizens should have roughly equal representation in their governing institutions. Achieving perfect equality in this respect is impossible; but designing a more representative legislature than the U.S. Senate is not. In fact, every U.S. state has already done so. If abolishing the Electoral College will eventually destroy the Senate, that only makes the case for Warren’s proposal more compelling.

2. Abolishing the Electoral College would definitely have this bad effect, for reasons so logically sound I don’t need to provide evidence for them (even though other defenders of the Electoral College insist it would have the opposite effect, which would also be bad).

(A) It would give too little political power to white people. . .

Continue reading.

There’s much more and it’s worth reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 March 2019 at 2:31 pm

Posted in Election, Government, Law

“But I’m not a lawyer. I’m an agent.”

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David Simon, a former reporter on the Baltimore Sun and the creative force behind the series “The Wire,” writes on his blog:

Just over a quarter century ago, when I was a young scribbler traipsing around the metro desk of the Baltimore Sun, I had an early opportunity to learn a lesson about money, about ethics, about capitalism and, in particular, about the American entertainment industry. And Dorothy Simon, she raised no fools. I only needed to learn it once.

I learned about something called “packaging.”

And now, finally, my apostasy from newspapering having delivered me from Baltimore realities to film-set make-believe, I am suprised and delighted that many of the fellow scribblers with whom I share a labor union have at last acquired the same hard, ugly lesson:

Packaging is a lie. It is theft. It is fraud. In the hands of the right U.S. Attorney, it might even be prima facie evidence of decades of racketeering. It’s that fucking ugly.

For those of you not in the film and television world, there is no shame in tuning out right now because at its core, the argument over packaging now ongoing between film and television writers and their agents is effectively an argument over an embarrassment of riches. The American entertainment industry is seemingly recession-proof and television writing, specifically, is such a growth industry nowadays that even good and great novelists must be ordered back to their prose manuscripts by book editors for whom the term “showrunner” has become an affront. A lot of people are making good money writing television drama. And so, this fresh argument is about who is making more of that money, and above all, where the greatest benefits accrue.  If you have no skin in the game, I think it reasonable, even prudent, to deliver a no-fucks-to-give exhale and proceed elsewhere.

If, on the other hand, you are my brother or sister in the Writers Guild of America — East or West, it matters not when we stand in solitarity — or conversely, if you are a grasping, fuckfailing greedhead with the Association of Talent Agents, then you might wanna hang around for this:

Here is the story of how as a novice to this industry, I was grifted by my agents and how I learned everything I ever needed to know about packaging.  And here is why I am a solid yes-vote on anything my union puts before me that attacks the incredible ethical affront of this paradigm. Packaging is a racket. It’s corrupt. It is without any basis in either integrity or honor. This little narrative will make that clear. And because I still have a reportorial soul and a journalistic God resides in the details, I will name a name wherever I can.

*           *           *

To begin, I wrote a book. It was a non-fiction account of a year I spent with a shift of homicide detectives in Baltimore, a city ripe with violence and miscalculation. Published in 1991, “Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets” was repped by my literary agent at the time, an independent attorney who I found because his other clients included some other ink-stained newspaper reporters. Late in 1987, the Baltimore Police Department agreed to let me into its homicide unit for a year beginning that January, so I needed to quickly acquire an agent to sell the project to a publishing house and secure an advance on which to live while I took a leave-of-absence from my newspaper. This agent — and damn, I wish I could name the goniff, but I later signed a cash settlement that said I wouldn’t — was the first name that came to me. I did not shop around; I was in a hurry.  My bad.

Three years later, with the book ready to publish, this shyster suggested to me that he was entirely capable of going to Hollywood with it for a sale of the dramatic rights. And knowing less than a bag of taters about Hollywood, I was ready to agree until my book editor, the worthy John Sterling, then helming the Houghton Mifflin publishing house, told me in no uncertain terms that this was a mistake.

It was customary, John explained, for even the best literary agents to pair with a colleague at one of the bigger entertainment agencies and split the commission.  My literary agent would give up half of his 15 percent to the other agency, but he would gain the expertise of an organization with the connections to move the property around and find the right eyeballs in the film and television industry. So I called my agent back and insisted.

With some initial reluctance, he eventually chose to go with Creative Artists Agency — one of the Big Four, as they call the largest entertainment entities repping talent, and an agent in CAA’s literary division by the name of Matt Snyder.  After making the deal with CAA, my literary agent called me back and said it was customary for me to give up a larger percentage commission as I now had two agents working on my behalf.  How much more? He suggested that he should keep his 15 percent and I should pay CAA an additional 10 percent. So a quarter of the profits from the sale of book would now be siphoned to agency commissions.

I called back John Sterling and asked:  Is this right?

John nearly dropped the phone. No, that is not how it works. Again, he explained that my literary agent was supposed to split the existing 15 percent commission on the book with CAA. The literary agent was supposed to keep 7.5 percent and give the other half to CAA, which in no way was entitled to any cash above and beyond that split.

I called my agent back. No, you split the existing 15 points, I told him. He threw a few chunks of pouty guilt at me, but I shrugged him off. This first attempt at a grift should have warned me, but hey, I was young.

Advance the story a couple months later:

CAA has sent the book to about a dozen A-list film directors, where it lays in their offices like a stale bagel, unloved and unsold. No one can figure out how to transform a year in the professional lives of a half dozen Baltimore death investigators into a feature film. Matt Snyder is bereft of a next idea. He does have one small-option offer from a small indy company. I get on the phone with a producer there and ask for his credits and it’s pretty clear, even to me, that it’s short money for a project that probably goes nowhere.

I call Snyder back.

Hey, I wonder aloud, how about Barry Levinson? He’s from Baltimore. He makes movies. Maybe he’ll like it. Did I mention he’s from Baltimore? Have you seen DinerTin Men?  I sure do love me some Diner. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 March 2019 at 7:30 am

Buttercream and Savory Rose, with the iKon open comb

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Again a wondrous lather from a Mama Bear soap, though I caution that hard water would present a challenge. Our water here is quite soft, and with the Phoenix Artisan Starcraft shaving brush, the lather was everything that one could want. The iKon open-comb, which now I believe is sold only with their B1 coating, is a wonderful razor: very comfortable, very efficient. At the end of the thoroughly enjoyable (and effective) shave, a splash of Saint Charles Shave’s Savory Rose set me up for the day.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 March 2019 at 7:03 am

Posted in Shaving

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