Later On

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

Archive for June 20th, 2020

Another wrinkle in Barr’s effort to derail investigations

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Parm Martens and Russ Martens report in Wall Street on Parade:

Shortly after 9 p.m. last evening, the U.S. Attorney General, William Barr, stunned prosecutors in the Southern District of New York with the announcement that their boss, Geoffrey Berman, was stepping down as U.S. Attorney in that District and would be replaced with the sitting Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Jay Clayton, who lacks even a shred of criminal prosecution experience. What Clayton does have is a lot of experience representing Wall Street’s largest banks, like Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase, both of whom are currently under intense criminal investigations by the Justice Department. Clayton was a former partner at Wall Street’s go-to law firm, Sullivan & Cromwell, which is currently representing Goldman in the criminal case and representing JPMorgan in various matters.

The breaking news last night went downhill from there. Several hours after Barr’s announcement, Berman announced that he had not resigned from his job and had no intention of leaving his post until his replacement had been confirmed by the U.S. Senate – which could take months. There is also no assurance that Clayton would actually be confirmed, since some Republicans and Democrats believe that Clayton has been a lapdog for Wall Street in his current post.

Even more problematic, Clayton’s family has ties to an opaque company called WMB Holdings, described by David Dayen in The Nation magazine like this:

“This company and its affiliated partners (Delaware Trust Co and CSC) are conduits for creating shell corporations and other sketchy vehicles used in tax evasion and money laundering. Public Citizen found apparent links between these companies and Mossack Fonseca, the notorious Panamanian law firm at the center of the Panama Papers scandal.”

The timing of the attempted ouster of Berman is suspicious on multiple fronts. Goldman Sachs is under criminal investigation over a multi-billion-dollar money laundering and embezzlement scheme involving the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund known as 1MDB. Goldman Sachs has been fighting the Justice Department’s demand that it plead guilty in order to settle the case, according to media reports.

According to the Sullivan & Cromwell website,  . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 June 2020 at 11:55 am

The worst jazz solo of all time turns out to have some interesting jazz history

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FWIW, I love Illinois Jacquet‘s work — lyrical swing.

Here’s Illinois Jacquet — a big sound:

 

Written by LeisureGuy

20 June 2020 at 11:28 am

Posted in Jazz, Video

Modal jazz and “Kind of Blue”

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Written by LeisureGuy

20 June 2020 at 11:21 am

Posted in Jazz, Video

US police racism update: Why Are NYPD Cruisers Playing the Ice Cream Truck Jingle?

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Luke Fater writes in Gastro Obscura:

IN EARLY JUNE, AN ICE cream truck jingle rang out in Brooklyn, yet it drew no children, produced no soft serve, and evoked no nostalgia. It was midnight, and it came from an unmarked NYPD cruiser.

It was the third night of an 8 p.m. citywide curfew, issued by Mayor Bill de Blasio, ostensibly to curb looting and violence. Despite the order, peaceful protests continued well past 8 p.m. It was around 11 p.m. in the historically Black neighborhood of Crown Heights that police officers descended upon a group of protesters headed home. Sounds from the street brought Taylor, who wished to have his last name redacted, and many of his neighbors to their porches and windows.

“At least six cop cars showed up, and a few dozen cops in full riot gear popped out with their batons and started tackling and aggressively detaining the protesters,” says Taylor. “It was just sheer violence.” He says neighbors broke out in Black Lives Matter chants while the arrests took place, such as the call-and-response “No justice! No peace!” In response, says Taylor, the police taunted the neighbors. “They were yelling back, like, ‘Is that all you got?’”

The cruisers dispersed around midnight, though one unmarked car remained in front of Peter Chinman’s apartment. “They couldn’t start their car, and all the people in the surrounding buildings started really jeering at them,” he says. When they finally got the engine running, however, they made a curious exit. “They drove off giving everyone the middle finger, while playing the ice cream truck song.” A video of their departure taken by a separate witness and posted on social media immediately garnered thousands of likes and comments.

The next night, I heard the jingle as well. At 2 a.m., the unmistakable melody emanated from an N.Y.P.D. cruiser rolling slowly down a Bedford-Stuyvesant thoroughfare framed by housing projects. I returned to the Instagram post to find an outpouring of similar testimony. “They’re playing this in Harlem every night,” read one comment. “This is not an isolated incident,” read another.

So, why are police officers blasting this jingle from their cruisers in predominantly Black neighborhoods? As of the time of publication, the NYPD has refused multiple requests to comment. But with the nation in the midst of a racial reckoning, it may be illuminating to look at the melody’s place at the intersection of ice cream and Black history.

The tune many recognize as “Do Your Ears Hang Low?” first reached American shores with an influx of Scots-Irish immigrants in the 1700s; it was originally a fiddle song called “The Rose Tree.” Early Americans took kindly to the meandering melody, and by the early 1800s it became “Turkey in the Straw,” a playful exploration of rural Appalachian life. The jingle was borrowed again later in the century for an altogether new, and uniquely American form of entertainment: traveling blackface minstrel shows.

As Theodore R. Johnson writes for NPR, the earworm lost its innocence in the 1820s when it became “Zip Coon.” The song introduced a blackface character of the same name who, after finding freedom and moving into a metropolitan setting, clumsily attempted to fit into white society with fancy clothing and big words. By the time of Andrew Jackson’s presidency, “Zip Coon” was the most popular song in the United States.

The success of the melody as a vessel for white supremacy hit a fever pitch in 1916 with Harry C. Browne’s “Nigger Love A Watermelon Ha! Ha! Ha!,” released by Columbia Records. Oddly enough, music of this ilk found a happy home in American ice-cream parlors.

To keep American families entertained while they enjoyed their soft serve with sprinkles, many parlors housed music boxes that played popular songs of the day. Unfortunately, well into the 20th century, that meant minstrel show tunes like “Camptown Races,” “Dixie,” “Jimmy Crack Corn,” and, of course, “Zip Coon.” When ice cream went mobile in the 1920s, newfangled ice cream trucks kept the parlor soundtrack, blaring instrumental versions of the aforementioned hit songs into newly constructed suburban neighborhoods. Thus, the catchiest tune of them all, “Zip Coon,” became simply known as “the ice cream truck jingle.” . . .

Continue reading. There’s more. Racism is deeply embedded in the US.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 June 2020 at 9:59 am

Made in Kerala, the “Aranmula kannadi” mirrors are marvels

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Atlas Obscura had an article a while back (April 2018, and I blogged it at the time) about these mirrors. Savera John and Susan Paul wrote:

IN ARANMULA, KERALA, A HERITAGE village on the banks of the Pamba river, a group of skilled, metal-casting artisans spend their days in hot and dusty workshops, crafting metal mirrors, a tradition that goes back 500 years.

For centuries, the craftsmen, who belong to the Vishwakarma community, have been working in the Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple. It is one of the oldest temples in South India, dedicated to Lord Krishna, an avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu. Originally, these artisans were known for creating exquisite bronze idols of deities. But around 500 years ago, they handcrafted a special mirror known as the Aranmula kannadi, which surpassed the idols as their most famous product. The mirror is made from a copper-tin alloy with trace elements. To this day, the composition remains a closely guarded secret, passed from one generation to the next.

It is believed that keeping an Aranmula kannadi in the house brings prosperity and luck to the owner. For this reason, it is given as a gift during weddings and housewarming ceremonies. People are typically intrigued that a mirror made of alloy has reflective properties like a plane glass mirror, and also surprised that the alloy is brittle.

As historical information related to the origins of the mirror are sketchy and unreliable, the legends have become the story told about these unique artifacts.

According to the main legend, centuries ago, the high priest of the temple noticed a crack on the crown of the deity. The King ordered the craftsmen to make a new crown in three days. The craftsmen were worried, as they didn’t have the requisite raw material. The head craftsman’s wife prayed and had a dream, in which the deity appeared and gave her the secret proportion for creating an alloy that would shine like a mirror. The next day, the women of the community surrendered their gold ornaments. The men sold them to buy the raw material and a crown was made. It shone bright, and when polished, showed reflective properties like a mirror. The crown was called the kannadi bhimbom (mirror image).

The King was pleased. The artisans then created a vaal kannadi (hand-held mirror) using a similar composition, which was popular with Kerala’s royalty and aristocracy. The King decreed that the mirror be part of the ashtamangalyam set, a brass plate featuring eight auspicious items that is used in religious rites.

The uniqueness of the Aranmula kannadi is that it is front-reflecting, unlike plane glass mirrors where reflection takes place on the back surface of the glass, where the reflective coating is applied. In plane mirrors, light  . . .

Continue reading.

This came to mind because I just learned that an on-line store is now selling these mirrors directly from the village, so far as I can tell. Note that 3500 Indian rupees = US$46.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 June 2020 at 9:51 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

A Friday-night dump for the history books

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Heather Cox Richardson writes:

Tonight saw a Friday night news dump that will go into the history books.

Trump tried to fire the US Attorney from the Southern District of New York, Geoffrey S. Berman, who has managed a series of cases against Trump and his allies, including Trump fixer Michael Cohen, Trump lawyer Rudolph Giuliani, and Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who were indicted for funneling Russian money to Republican candidates for office. Berman is reported to be investigating Trump’s finances, among many other things.

It happened like this: Attorney General William Barr issued a statement announcing that Berman would be stepping down and that Trump would nominate Jay Clayton to replace him. Clayton has never been a prosecutor. He is currently the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, but before he took that position he was a lawyer who, among other things, represented Deutsche Bank. Deutsche Bank is the only bank that would work with Trump after his bankruptcies. It might have given him loans he did not repay, and the Russian money-laundering that landed the bank in legal trouble might have helped Trump.

Legal analyst and Congressional staffer Daniel Goldman noted that this whole scenario was unusual. Normally, when a US Attorney leaves, that person’s deputy takes over. Bringing in a replacement from elsewhere meant that “Trump/Barr did not want anyone at SDNY running the office—likely because there was a serious disagreement.”

But then things got crazier. Berman issued his own statement, saying “I learned in a press release from the Attorney General tonight that I was ‘stepping down’ as United States Attorney. I have not resigned, and have no intention of resigning, my position to which I was appointed by the Judges of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. I will step down when a presidentially appointed nominee is confirmed by the Senate. Until then, our investigations will move forward without delay or interruption. I cherish every day that I work with the men and women of this Office to pursue justice without fear or favor—and intend to ensure that this Office’s important cases continue unimpeded.”

What’s Berman saying? Well, it might be that Trump’s preference for “acting,” rather than Senate-confirmed, officials has come back to bite him. Berman was not Senate-confirmed; he is an interim U.S. Attorney. By law, the Attorney General can appoint an interim U.S. Attorney for 120 days. At the end of that time, the court can appoint that person indefinitely.

Berman was one of those interim appointees, put in place by Trump’s first Attorney General, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions.

Berman’s appointment raised an outcry because he was handpicked by Trump. The U.S. Attorney for the SDNY oversees Manhattan and thus the president’s businesses and at least nine Trump properties. Trump went out of his way to take the unusual step of personally interviewing Berman, who donated $2,700 to the Trump campaign, served on the presidential transition team, and was a partner at the law firm where Trump’s lawyer Rudolph Giuliani is a member. Democrats vowed to block Berman’s nomination, but never got the chance because Sessions used the workaround so Berman would not come before the Senate.

Now, this means that because Berman was appointed by the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, not the president, he apparently cannot be removed except by the court, or, possibly, by the president… but not by Barr. Lawyers are fighting over who, exactly, can remove Berman, but that itself says that any challenge he files will land in the courts for months… likely until after the election.

And that’s another notable thing about Berman’s statement. He suggests he is being fired because the administration wants to delay or interrupt an investigation, and his language suggests that both he and the administration know exactly what that investigation is. There are a number of reasons the SDNY might be examining the finances of the president or his family, but former National Security Advisor John Bolton suggested another reason in his forthcoming book: he apparently claims Trump assured Turkey’s autocratic leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan he would fill the SDNY with his own loyalists, which would enable him to do Erdogan a political favor.

As Berman’s predecessor in the job, Preet Bharara tweeted, “Why does a president get rid of his own hand-picked US Attorney in SDNY on a Friday night, less than 5 months before the election?” President of the Center for American Progress Neera Tanden noted: “To attempt a Friday night massacre 5 months before an election means there’s a pretty big investigation they are trying to kill.”

It seems worth noting that the Supreme Court is about to hand down a decision on whether Deutsche Bank and Trump’s accountants have to hand Trump’s financial records over to Congress and to the Manhattan district attorney, which might well spark legal trouble for the president in New York.

Law professor Stephen Vladeck also asked us to keep in mind that Barr “out-and-out * lied * in a written statement—and in a context in which there could have been little question to him that Berman would publicly call him out for doing so… And he did it anyway.” “Something * really * stinks,” Vladeck concluded.

Something else stinks about this crisis, too, and that is the Tulsa rally the president originally scheduled for tonight. Widespread objection to holding a Trump rally on Juneteenth—the historic celebration of Black freedom– in Tulsa, where a race massacre destroyed the Black community of Greenwood in 1921, forced him to reschedule for tomorrow. But had the rally been held, with media focus on disturbances at it and on the spread of coronavirus there, it seems likely that Berman’s firing would not have gotten much attention.

Indeed, it has seemed all day as if Trump was deliberately stoking trouble in Tulsa. He began today by tweeting a threat: “Any protesters, anarchists, agitators, looters or lowlifes who are going to Oklahoma please understand, you will not be treated like you have been in New York, Seattle, or Minneapolis. It will be a much different scene!” (Americans have a constitutional right to protest.)

Then he made sure his supporters would be in the streets. In consultation with the Secret Service, the Tulsa police chief had asked Tulsa’s mayor to declare a curfew around the BOK Center where the rally will be held. He did so. But Trump pressured the mayor to rescind the curfew, which the mayor did. Trump tweeted “I just spoke to the highly respected Mayor of Tulsa, G.T. Bynum, who informed me there will be no curfew tonight or tomorrow for our many supporters attending the # MAGA Rally…. Enjoy yourselves – thank you to Mayor Bynum!”

This crisis feels big. Trump and Barr know an investigation is out there barreling toward the president, and they are willing to take extraordinary steps, steps that undermine our democracy and threaten our citizenry, to stop it.

—-

Notes:

https://www.politico.com/news/2020/06/19/trump-nominate-sec-chair-clayton-us-attorney-southern-district-330039

Goldman: . . .

Continue reading. At the link are footnotes with links to the news reports and other sources.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 June 2020 at 9:42 am

Meißner Tremonia Exotic Elemi and the redoubtable RiMei

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Continuing my Meißner Tremonia tour, today’s stop is at Exotic Elemi, which has an extremely nice (and unusual) fragrance. The Wet Shaving Products Prince is a sturdy little brush, not fluffy in the least, and I enjoyed the firm pressure, which led me to spend more time lathering than I normally do (though I admit the fragrance of the lather was a strong assist).

The Rimei razor I use has been upgraded somewhat. This is a three-piece design — well, four-piece since the bottom of the handle unscrews. It’s a $2 razor that is actually quite good in feel (on the face) and performance: comfortable and efficient. I would have included it in my article but didn’t have a current source. Rimei also makes a TTO razor, which I have not tried but am skeptical of, given the Weishi’s well-known drawbacks. (The Weishi (aka Micro One Touch and Van Der Hagen) is terribly inefficient.) Moreover, TTO razors in general are not easy to clean, particularly if you live where the water is hard — a complexity somewhat finessed by Rockwell’s Model T, which was designed for easy disassembly and cleaning).

Final result: extremely smooth — really an excellent shave: first-rate. And the Exotic Elemi did produce the soft and supple post-shave skin feel.

A good splash of Alt-Innsbruck, which also has a modest amount of menthol — a whisper, not a shout — and the weekend begins.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 June 2020 at 9:15 am

Posted in Shaving

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