B12 Solipsism

Spreading confusion over the internet since 1994

Bruce Springsteen is Boring

There are certain critically acclaimed and successful musicians that I just don’t care much about. U2 is one such band, and so is Bruce Springsteen. His politics I can usually agree with, his heart seems to be in the right place, his working man schtick is admirable, but his music does not resonate in my brain. His voice irritates me to be honest. I have musical completist tendencies, and thus keep trying to like Bruce Springsteen, as he is so often reviewed favorably by critics and friends whose musical tastes I usually agree with. Coupled with the fact that I have no problem purchasing used CDs, especially easily discovered albums by artists like Springsteen, I have a surprising large collection of Springsteen albums accumulated over the years. Here is a thumbnail review of the ones still in my iTunes library.

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Springsteen Review 1.PNG

Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. – Debut album, from 1972. Blinded by the Light is ok. 

The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle – second album. Rosalita (Come Out Tonight) is ok, but drags on too long. The entire album suffers from the same problem.

Born To Run – the album that made The Boss’ career. If I was stuck in a car on a road trip with a Springsteen fan who maintained total control of the stereo, this is the album I’d choose. There are four songs worth listening to: Thunder Road, Tenth Avenue Freeze Out, She’s the One, and Jungleland. Jungleland does have a soft jazz section that grates on my nerves, but the rest of the song is ok, albeit ponderously long. The title track is ok too, I guess, but everyone1 has heard it way too many times and thus the song has lost its lustre. Tramps like us! They really like us!

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Darkness on the Edge of Town – not horrible. Badlands, Adam Raised a Cain, Streets of Fire are ok. 

The River – meh. Cadillac Ranch is ok, maybe, occasionally. The track, Hungry Heart, is silly, and tedious, and I usually skip it, or else replace the chorus with the theme from Hungry Hungry Hippos.

Nebraska – meh. Conceptually, the idea of releasing demos instead of the studio version with a full band is interesting, but many of these songs don’t hold my interest for long. In a pinch, I’d say Atlantic City, Highway Patrolman, State Trooper are ok. Atlantic City is the best of the bunch, despite having its lyrics copped from a million early-70s heist films. Maybe the so-called Electric Nebraska (The Nebraska demos were recorded in a studio with the full E Street Band, but never released) would make the songs have more punch? Btw, Johnny Cash did a more powerful version of Highway Patrolman.

Born in the U.S.A. – Not a bad album, but over-hyped and over-played. Springsteen’s lyrics are the very definition of bombast. The kind of album that Ronald Reagan and his cult latched onto (despite not being able to read the lyrics, the chorus was simple enough for Republicans to chant at their rallies) Not to mention there was that music video with Courtney Cox being pulled out the audience. So lame. Glory Days, Born in the USA, I’m On Fire are decent songs, despite it all. 

Tunnel of Love – meh. I can’t pick a single song off of this album that I want to voluntarily listen to. The ‘80s drum machines don’t help.

Human Touch – meh. So boring. So generic. I hope the studio musicians got paid big bucks.

Lucky Touch – slightly better than Human Touch, but still boring. 

The Rising – yeah, yeah, about 9/11, and yadda yadda. Still long winded arena rock, and not fun to listen to. If pressed, maybe 3 decent songs: Into the Fire, Empty Sky, The Fuse, but my life would not be empty if I never heard them again. Candidate Barack Obama (and Hillary Clinton, and John Edwards) used The Rising as a campaign theme song, but still, snooooooooooze…

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Springsteen LPs

We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions  – I actually like this album, none of the songs are written by Springsteen, nor by Pete Seeger for that matter, and Springsteen and company seem like they are having a good time singing and playing these folk standards. However, I don’t disagree with Robert Christgau’s review:

We shall overkill, he means. Never have his Howard Keel tendencies, or maybe now they’re Paul Robeson tendencies, tripped him up so bad. The idea is to big up the music and play the jokes you don’t ignore like you’re working a Roman amphitheater. I’m glad to have met the anti-war lament “Mrs. McGrath” and Sis Cunningham’s “My Oklahoma Home,” and sort of hope young people deprived of music appreciation funding will now hear “Erie Canal,” “Froggie Went A-Courtin’,” “John Henry,” and “Jesse James.” Only are young people really ignorant of these songs? And how many of them buy Springsteen albums anyway? Amping up his strange bluegrass-Dixieland hybrid like E Street is just around the corner, he sings his lungs out. But in folk music, lightness is all–and only newbies and John Hammond Jr. lean so hard on the cornpone drawl.

(click here to continue reading Robert Christgau: Consumer Guide May. 30, 2006: Radicals of the Moment.)

Pete Seeger’s versions are all much better, of course, but you probably already guessed I would think that.

MagicYou’ll Be Coming Down, Gypsy Biker are ok. Nothing memorable about either, nor on the rest of the LP, but at least Fox News and Clear Channel hated it.

Working on a Dream – more boring arena rock, released in 2009. I think when I purchased this album, after reading yet another positive review about it, I decided that I will never like Springsteen enough to purchase another of his albums, at least without hearing it first. 

Summing up: there’s about 15-20 decent Springsteen songs over a long career, which to be fair is a higher number than a lot of artists, but for all the incessant hype and adulation surrounding Springsteen, there should be more genuinely awesome songs. The Clash have at least 40 great songs to their name, maybe more, and their career lasted from 1977-1982.2 If I went through my music library, I could easily find 20 songs from dozens of my favorite artists, 20 songs all better than the best Springsteen has to offer. 

You may like Springsteen, that is your right, de gustibus non est disputandum, but I think he’s just boring.

Footnotes:
  1. especially me []
  2. Obviously, Cut The Crap doesn’t count []

Written by Seth Anderson

September 23rd, 2017 at 11:35 am

Posted in Music,Reviews

Tagged with

Passing Goldstar (Explored)

A recent photograph made it into Flickr’s Explore (double click to embiggen).

Passing Goldstar

About the photograph: I was standing near Gold Star on Division St., admiring how afternoon light illuminated this long time resident of Wicker Park, waiting for the first person to enter my shot. However, when I entered my digital darkroom, I noticed the women was partially blurred. Often converting to black and white hides these flaws, I used a Tri-X 400 emulation filter (from Alien Skin), but then was sad about losing the golden hour light. I stopped working on the photo, however in the morning when I woke up, I had a new idea. I could use Photoshop to merge some of the color back in to the photo.

I processed the image again from the original Camera RAW file, using the same settings, except, obviously leaving the afternoon sunlight. With both images open, I used the Clone Stamp tool in Photoshop, and with my mouse, dragged over areas that looked like they needed color.

I started with just the neon Goldstar sign, then added the more of the building, then the doorway, then as a last touch, the woman’s feet and the shadow on the sidewalk. I’m not 100% certain if I like that, but I think so. I also could have re-colorized her purse, but it had reds and blues in addition to the golden palette of the rest of the image, so I left it black and white.

I goofed, slightly, when initially using the Clone Stamp tool by not exactly lining up the origin, but this gives the color aspects a subtle three dimensional look, so I left it as it ended up.

All in all, I’m happy with how this image turned out.

Written by Seth Anderson

September 22nd, 2017 at 7:41 am

The Houston Stadium Grift

Fire hydrant Flood on Randolph

Speaking of corporate welfare and taxpayer money, professional sports owners are worse than college sports organizations, if that is even possible. We’ve long fulminated at this infuriating trend of billionaire team owners stealing tax dollars from cities, usually with a wink-and-nod from the local politicians.

Dave Zirin of The Nation notes that the City of Houston shoveled money to Lamar Alexander, money that could be spent on more practical matters, like cleaning up after a flood, or purchasing homes in flood plains and reverting them back to flood plains…

Taxpayer-subsidized stadiums have long become a substitute for anything resembling urban policy in the 21st century. And now as roads, bridges, and humanitarian shelters decay, they stand exposed as neoliberal Trojan horses that take public dollars and magically transform them into private profit for billionaire sports owners. They are a scam, a con, and, not surprisingly, a grifter like Osteen has long had his hand in this honey pot.

[Money-changer-in-the-temple Joel] Osteen’s church was once a hoops hallowed ground called The Summit, home of the Houston Rockets and the site of the magic made by Hakeem Olajuwon and his 1994 and 1995 teams that won back-to-back NBA titles. In 1995, flush with this success, Rockets owner Les Alexander demanded a new sports arena from the city. These negotiations eventually resulted in the Toyota Center, which opened in 2003, even though the city voted down this plan in a 1999 referendum. In the end, the people of Houston paid $182 million of the $235 million in construction costs. Toyota paid $100 million in naming rights, all of which went to Les Alexander.

That was just the beginning. Texas taxpayers have continuously paid for upgrades in the subsequent years. In 2013, the public even paid for a new $8 million scoreboard to help prepare Houston for the NBA All-Star Game. (Imagine what that $8 million could be used for right now.)

I spoke to Neal DeMause who runs the stadium news site Field of Schemes. He said, “In a sane world, the city of Houston would still own The Summit, rather than have replaced it at public expense so the Rockets owner could have a shinier plaything, and could make its own decisions about how to use it in emergencies. I suppose it’s a small silver lining that the scads of redundant sports facilities littering the landscape make for a surplus of good disaster shelters now—though if cities would spend billions of dollars a year on flood proofing and reducing carbon emissions instead of subsidizing sports venues, they’d probably get better bang for their buck.”

The Rockets-Osteen connection is tragically just a microcosm in Houston of what tax-funded stadium priorities have produced. The Houston Texans were handed $289 million of public financing for their stadium, with minimal debate. They even took $50 million in public funding just for 2017 Super Bowl renovations. That money went into “installing Wi-Fi in the stadium and upgrad[ing] the club and suite areas of the building.”

As for Les Alexander, he just announced that he was selling the Rockets for a staggering $2 billion. Alexander bought the team in 1993 for $85 million. There is no way Alexander would be able to command that asking price without the public subsidies and new arenas underwritten by the city of Houston.

(click here to continue reading The Houston Stadium Grift Comes Home to Roost | The Nation.)

Vinyl Bird - Townes Van Zandt - Live at the Old Quarter, Houston, TX
Vinyl Bird – Townes Van Zandt – Live at the Old Quarter, Houston, TX

I am of the opinion that billionaire sports team owners should be embarrassed to ask for handouts from municipalities, and should be able to pay for their own damn stadiums. Or else, sell their team to the city, like the Green Bay Packers.

Hoop Dream
Hoop Dream

Oh, and what about sports stadiums automatically being used as shelters, as was once proposed

Written by Seth Anderson

September 2nd, 2017 at 9:01 am

Another College Sports Boondoggle

The Twelfth Player in Every Football Game
The Twelfth Player in Every Football Game

In addition to the elimination of property tax exemptions for rich nonprofits that we’ve mentioned previously, here’s another piece of tax reform I support – the repeal of the tax payer subsidy to college sports…

Eric Zorn writes:

College sports is a big-time business, tickets are in high demand at major universities and charging what the market will bear is the American way. In fact, judging by the secondary market on StubHub, where single seats to the Ohio State game are going for more than $2,000, tickets to Michigan football games are still vastly underpriced.

What I don’t understand, however, is the law that allows ticket buyers to write off 80 percent of their “preferred seating donation” as a charitable contribution for federal tax purposes.

That’s right. High rollers in the swankiest suites can subtract $4,500 from their taxable income, a benefit worth up to $1,782 off their tax bill, as though they had given that money to a soup kitchen or hurricane relief.

Put another way, for each such privileged fan, the federal government effectively provides a $1,782 ticket subsidy.

And, in the mid-1980s, when these preferred-seating donation scams first arose, the Internal Revenue Service issued a common-sense ruling that a mandatory donation linked to the purchase of seasons tickets was a quid pro quo and so not deductible for tax purposes.

Legislators representing schools in the powerful Southeastern Conference “went crazy,” said University of Illinois emeritus law professor John D. Colombo, a specialist in tax laws governing charitable organizations. And in 1988, Congress added subsection 170(l) to the IRS code that specifically allowed for an 80 percent deduction on donations to “institutions of higher education” that granted “the right to purchase tickets for seating at an athletic event.”

In 2015, the Obama administration asked Congress to repeal subsection 170(l), claiming it will drain at least $2.5 billion from public coffers over the next decade. Duke University law professor Richard Schmalbeck estimated the 10-year tax receipts loss at $20 billion.

Congress ignored the suggestion.

(click here to continue reading If Congress can’t eliminate the college football ‘charity’ scam, what hope is there for a tax overhaul? – Chicago Tribune.)

Ain’t that a bitch? Our tax dollars hard at work, inflating college coaches salaries, fancy high-tech training facilities, inflating player salaries, oh, wait, the colleges don’t even pay their athletes a stipend, the players work for basically, “exposure”.  Hmmm, maybe there are deeper issues that need to be solved with Division 1 teams. 

Oklahoma vs Texas
Oklahoma vs Texas

Written by Seth Anderson

September 2nd, 2017 at 7:58 am

Mitch Ivey, Painter

Magnolia Cafe South - Sorry We’re Open

For no real reason that I can ascertain, I dreamt about Mitch Ivey, a friend and a talented painter that I knew from back in the pre-digital age; when I was an employee and fellow-traveller at Magnolia Cafe South. Not even one dream, but two nights in row. I lost touch with Mitch when I moved away, and I don’t know that he has any online presence, at least that I could locate. 

I hope he’s ok, and is just having a gallery show soon or something.

Written by Seth Anderson

August 18th, 2017 at 11:10 am

Posted in Arts,Personal

Tagged with , ,

Emolument Man was uploaded to Flickr

Actual title / artist unknown.

And this photo was taken before Cheeto Hitler took office, before most people had even heard of the word, “Emolument”…

Google it yourself, but here’s a thumbnail version:
What, exactly, is the Emoluments Clause?

It is 49 words in Article I of the Constitution.

“No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”
via http://ift.tt/2wl0xV8…

embiggen by clicking
http://ift.tt/2wf5uzn

I took Emolument Man on August 06, 2011 at 02:07PM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on August 17, 2017 at 07:48PM

Written by eggplant

August 17th, 2017 at 7:34 pm

Probable Cause

I took this photo sideways, but liked how it looks with angles and over-exposed clouds, especially once I converted it to black and white (in emulation)

Probable Cause

Click a window to embiggen the photo…

Written by Seth Anderson

August 14th, 2017 at 4:07 pm

Posted in Photography

Tagged with

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert uses my photo called Wieners Circle Rages At The Dying Of the Light

The title says it all. And I even got compensated!

Wieners Circle Rages at the Dying of the Light

Here’s the clip from the opening of last night’s show:

I should have asked how LSSC found my photo out of the gazillion images of Wieners Circle. Maybe they liked the title (partially nicked from Dylan Thomas)?

Written by Seth Anderson

August 9th, 2017 at 8:45 am

Books You Should Read – Miles The Autobiography by Miles Davis

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Miles The Autobiography

I’m too lazy of a blogger to properly write a book review for books I read that you should read too, but at least I can point you in an interesting direction. Today’s drive-by review: Miles, The Autobiography by Miles Davis (with the assistance of Quincy Troupe)

Reading this is how I’d imagine sitting down and chatting with Miles Davis would be like, mostly because the text reads as if it is conversational. Many times a musician “plays his ass off”, or Miles Davis learns some “chords and shit”, or someone is referred to as “cleaner than a motherfucker”, etc. The version I read doesn’t say much about how the book was created, I’m guessing Mr. Davis and Mr. Troupe sat down at a kitchen table, perhaps with a calendar with dates of tours, marriages, deaths, studio sessions, album releases, and the like, and then talked about and around it.

Fascinating, compelling conversation-as-text, and I wanted to hear the “extended” version with even more details about growing up middle class in East St. Louis, about the jazz scene in Manhattan as World War 2 ended, about musicians and their drug habits, about Paris in the 1950s, about Prince, and Jimi Hendrix, and Charlie Parker, and Louis Armstrong, and so on.

Miles Davis mentions Louis Armstrong, talks about how influential a musician he was, but then has a reoccurring riff about black musicians who smile and “mug” for the audience. Even Dizzy Gillespie, one of Miles Davis’ long time friends and mentors, is criticized for being too genial with the audience. Miles Davis didn’t want liner notes on his albums, wanted the music to speak for itself. And since I’ve listening to it for years, and non-stop this last week, I agree!

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Seth Anderson

August 6th, 2017 at 9:37 am

Posted in Books,Music

Tagged with ,

There Was A Time That Time Is Gone

Written by Seth Anderson

August 3rd, 2017 at 2:25 pm

Posted in Photography

Tagged with ,

Three Dollars A Verse – Afternoon Stroll was uploaded to Flickr

A sequel of sorts to another photo, taken on another day.

Division and Damen.

embiggen by clicking
http://ift.tt/2w4hHDI

I took Three Dollars A Verse – Afternoon Stroll on July 30, 2017 at 12:17PM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on August 01, 2017 at 08:18PM

Written by eggplant

August 1st, 2017 at 7:31 pm

Join Together – A New-To-Me App to Recreate Spinning Vinyl Sides

The Replacements - Tim
The Replacements – Tim, on vinyl.

Yesterday I realized that iTunes 12.x doesn’t have an option to merge two or more music tracks into one. I thought iTunes used to have this functionality, but perhaps I was mistaken. I could have dug out my original CD, and merged the songs that way, but after briefly Googling, I discovered that Applescript master and long-time iTunes expert Doug Adams has built a (Mac only) app that performs this very task. Cool!

Join Together will create and export a single AAC or ALAC audio file from the audio data of tracks dragged from iTunes or files dragged from the Finder, leaving the original source tracks and files intact.

(click here to continue reading Doug’s Apps for iTunes – Join Together – v7.7.3 – Official Download Site.)

Or as Doug added on Twitter: 

Quality LP sides have their own internal logic & mood, as sequenced by the artist/producers. Each LP side can even have its own character. Breaking up albums into single songs in iTunes defeats the artist’s intent. I realized there were many albums that I owned that would benefit from being joined together like this. Mostly albums from before CDs became the default medium, I’m guessing in the early 1990s.1

An LP that has been played many, many times embeds itself in your brain as it is sequenced. Of course, thinking back, I often did skip a particular track on some albums if I wasn’t otherwise occupied, but usually I would play an entire LP side, and then maybe not even flip it over, but move on to the next LP. 

Wu-Tang Clan’s debut LP
Wu-Tang Clan’s debut LP

Albums that I loved on vinyl enough to replace on CD, aka Desert Island Discs; LPs like Highway 61 Revisited, or London Calling, or Kind of Blue, Electric Ladyland, individual songs that should be heard together in sequence like the Grateful Dead’s China Cat Sunflower and I Know You Rider, or even the short songs that make up the second side of Abbey Road; these are ideal candidates for Join Together.

Whenever I played the Meat Puppets 2, I always played the second side first, as I thought the first song on the first side2 was too jarring, and unlike the rest of the LP. When I use Join Together, I’m going to recreate that playing experience. I don’t need to hear Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” more than once or twice a year, so I’ll make a version of Led Zeppelin IV -Side 1 without Stairway3. Same with the Velvet Underground & Nico: how many times a year do I want to hear “European Son”? 

Big Star - first album
Big Star – first album

Footnotes:
  1. I was a late hold-out, and didn’t purchase my first CD until I couldn’t find a vinyl version of Sonic Youth’s Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star []
  2.  “Split Myself in Two” []
  3. I often would pick the needle up after hearing the first few notes []

Written by Seth Anderson

August 1st, 2017 at 9:44 am

Posted in Apple,Music

Tagged with , ,

Federal Savings Bank and Paul Manafort

one comment

The Federal Savings Bank
The Federal Savings Bank – FSB

There is a small brick building on the corner of Fulton and Elizabeth; on the third floor is the Federal Savings Bank. Unless you follow the news closely, you’ve probably never heard of this bank – it doesn’t advertise that I know of, nor does it maintain a high profile.

Federal Savings was born out of Generations Bank, a Kansas thrift bought by Calk and his brother John Calk in 2011. That bank, which had about $40 million in assets, was undercapitalized, facing regulatory restrictions and posting losses for five straight years, according to a 2012 story in ABA Banking Journal, an American Bankers Association publication.

Now headquartered on Chicago’s Near West Side, successor institution Federal Savings in 2012 said it was getting $18 million in tax breaks over 10 years from the state through the Economic Development for a Growing Economy, or EDGE, program as well as up to $4 million in training money from the city of Chicago.

The bank had 842 full-time workers as of the end of March. Steve Calk has said about 10 percent of the bank’s employees are veterans like him.

Federal Savings has three branches or loan production offices in Illinois: at its headquarters and in Lake Forest and Naperville, according to its website.

(click here to continue reading Report: Prosecutors demand records on Chicago bank’s loans to Paul Manafort – Chicago Tribune.)

Does that seem like a lot of employees for such a small bank? I wonder what they all do, and where they all fit? Who knows, I’m not a banking expert. Maybe many employees work remotely, or in Lubyanka Square?

Entrance to The Federal Savings Bank

Entrance to The Federal Savings Bank

Federal Savings Bank (FSB, not to be confused with the Russian FSB which is the successor organization to the KGB) is1 tight with the Donald Trump 2016 campaign, and with Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort. Tight enough that this small bank loaned 1/4 of its assets to Manafort to cover the payments on two of Manafort’s properties, despite his seemingly shaky credit (one property was in foreclosure after a loan default, the other property was not yet in foreclosure, but was also in default).

The Wall Street Journal reports:

New York prosecutors have demanded records relating to up to $16 million in loans that a bank run by a former campaign adviser for President Donald Trump made to former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The subpoena by the Manhattan district attorney’s office to the Federal Savings Bank, a small Chicago bank run by Steve Calk, sought information on loans the bank issued in November and January to Mr. Manafort and his wife, the person said. The loans were secured by two properties in New York and a condominium in Virginia, real-estate records show.

The Wall Street Journal reported in May that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman had begun examining real-estate transactions by Mr. Manafort, who has spent and borrowed tens of millions of dollars in connection with property across the U.S. over the past decade. Investigators at both offices are examining the transactions for indications of money-laundering and fraud, people familiar with the matters have said.

The Journal reported that at the time of the loans from Federal Savings Bank, Mr. Manafort was at risk of losing a Brooklyn, N.Y., townhouse and his family’s investments in California properties being developed by his son-in-law, real-estate and court records show.

Mr. Calk was a member of Mr. Trump’s economic advisory panel who overlapped with Mr. Manafort on the Trump campaign. Messrs. Manafort and Calk knew each other before the campaign, a person familiar with the relationship has said.

The bank’s loans to Mr. Manafort equaled almost 24% of the bank’s reported $67 million of equity capital, according to a federal report. Around the time they were issued, Mr. Calk had expressed interest in becoming Mr. Trump’s Army Secretary.

(click here to continue reading New York Seeks Bank Records of Former Trump Associate Paul Manafort – WSJ.)

I walked over to this bank a few weeks ago, and it is sort of strange, at least to me. FSB is an odd kind of bank, only on the third floor of 300 N. Elizabeth, with a building security employee that won’t let you go up unless you are a member of the bank, plus they won’t allow photography in the lobby. Reading through FSB’s Yelp reviews, they seem a little sketchy, sending out loan application letters to veterans almost to the degree of spam and many other complaints of incompetence and worse. Of course, Yelp reviews aren’t the most reliable, but still, this bank has a lot of unhappy (civilian) clients.

For instance:

Horrible experience. They send letters every week to advertise being part of the VA IRRRL program. If you look, you’ll notice the phone number is different in every letter. So, you can’t trace if there’s been any complaints about the number. The representative got very defensive when he couldn’t answer why the number is different and after I asked to speak with a manager, he said he’d take me off the mailing list and hung up on me. After I tried calling back with no answer, I received a call from someone who apologized, and though he was very nice and informative, I still believe this company is very deceptive. The first guy told me they are VA owned and operated when I asked if they are from the VA. He then said its because 95% of their loans are to veterans. THAT DOES NOT MAKE THEM VA OWNED! I just learned they used to operate under the name Chicago Bancorp and they have a lawsuit against them from 2014, and the owners’ names are the same as now.

(click here to continue reading The Federal Savings Bank – 27 Reviews – Banks & Credit Unions – 300 N Elizabeth St, West Loop, Chicago, IL – Phone Number – Services – Yelp.)

Makes one wonder how FSB is making a profit, suddenly, after years of not making profits. Maybe there are other sources of income besides veterans and tax dollars from the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago?

The property in Brooklyn seems to be in distress:

Reference to home values in the area suggests that the outstanding principal on the loan secured by the townhouse at 377 Union Street may exceed the market value of the property. Reports suggest that the property has been empty for the last 4 years and is currently in disrepair (link). The mortgage secured by the Bridgehampton property indicates that the borrower was required to deposit $630,000 as additional collateral.  The mortgage secured by 377 Union Street indicates that the borrower was required to deposit $2.5 million as additional collateral.

(click here to continue reading 377 Union | Paul Manafort | Who is Steve Calk, and What Does He Have to Gain From Helping Paul Manafort?.)

Caviar Russian
Caviar Russian

One final weird thought: the modus operandi for Russian money laundering schemes frequently use real estate as the anchor. What better way to wash one’s dirty money than paying more than a property is worth? The seller is happy, and now the money is in the banking system. Especially if the purchaser is an LLC company, with limited public information available as to the source of the money.

A former senior official said Mr. Mueller’s investigation was looking at money laundering by Trump associates. The suspicion is that any cooperation with Russian officials would most likely have been in exchange for some kind of financial payoff, and that there would have been an effort to hide the payments, probably by routing them through offshore banking centers.

(click here to continue reading Mueller Seeks to Talk to Intelligence Officials, Hinting at Inquiry of Trump – The New York Times.)

From USA Today we read:

Since President Trump won the Republican nomination, the majority of his companies’ real estate sales are to secretive shell companies that obscure the buyers’ identities, a USA TODAY investigation has found.

Over the last 12 months, about 70% of buyers of Trump properties were limited liability companies – corporate entities that allow people to purchase property without revealing all of the owners’ names. That compares with about 4% of buyers in the two years before.

USA TODAY journalists have spent six months cataloging every condo, penthouse or other property that Trump and his companies own – and tracking the buyers behind every transaction. The investigation found Trump’s companies owned more than 430 individual properties worth well over $250 million.

Since Election Day, Trump’s businesses have sold 28 of those U.S. properties for $33 million. The sales include luxury condos and penthouses in Las Vegas and New York and oceanfront lots near Los Angeles. The value of his companies’ inventory of available real estate remains above a quarter-billion dollars.

Profits from sales of those properties flow through a trust run by Trump’s sons. The president is the sole beneficiary of the trust and can withdraw cash any time.

(click here to continue reading Trump property buyers make clear shift to secretive shell companies.)

and from Bloomberg:

But the Justice Department inquiry led by Mueller now has added flavors. The Post noted that the investigation also includes “suspicious financial activity” involving “Russian operatives.” The New York Times was more specific in its account, saying that Mueller is looking at whether Trump associates laundered financial payoffs from Russian officials by channeling them through offshore accounts.

In that context, a troubling history of Trump’s dealings with Russians exists outside of Russia: in a dormant real-estate development firm, the Bayrock Group, which once operated just two floors beneath the president’s own office in Trump Tower.

One of Bayrock’s principals was a career criminal named Felix Sater who had ties to Russian and American organized crime groups. Before linking up with the company and with Trump, he had worked as a mob informant for the U.S. government, fled to Moscow to avoid criminal charges while boasting of his KGB and Kremlin contacts there, and had gone to prison for slashing apart another man’s face with a broken cocktail glass.

In a series of interviews and a lawsuit, a former Bayrock insider, Jody Kriss, claims that he eventually departed from the firm because he became convinced that Bayrock was actually a front for money laundering.

Kriss has sued Bayrock, alleging that in addition to laundering money, the Bayrock team also skimmed cash from the operation, dodged taxes and cheated him out of millions of dollars.

(click here to continue reading Trump, Russia, and Those Shadowy Sater Deals at Bayrock – Bloomberg.)

which makes this real estate transaction, a few blocks away2 from FSB’s West Loop HQ so eye-catching:

The record purchase price for a West Loop condo is set to more than quadruple, with a buyer agreeing to pay more than $5 million for a not-yet-built penthouse on Washington Street.

The asking price is about $5.6 million for the home, which is under contract. The listing agents declined to provide any details on the buyer, whom they referred to only as “he.”

Construction is scheduled to start next month, with the building ready for occupancy by summer 2018.

The penthouse prices astonished Baird & Warner agent Nicholas Colagiovanni, who sold the previous record-setter, a 2,400-square-foot loft at 1000 W. Washington, which closed this week at $1.2 million. It’s one of four condos sold in the neighborhood that have sold for $1 million or more so far this year.

(click here to continue reading West Loop contract under contract at over $5 million – Residential News – Crain’s Chicago Business.)

So a condo, in a building not even under construction yet, is worth 4 times more than the previously record holder for most expensive, one on the same block? One wonders what sort of business the purchaser is in. Do they speak Russian? Hmm.

If I was an investigator working for Robert Mueller, I’d take a closer look at this, and similar property transactions.

Footnotes:
  1. or was []
  2. a ten minute walk, 15 via Google Maps []

Written by Seth Anderson

July 21st, 2017 at 1:53 pm

The Federal Savings Bank was uploaded to Flickr

A strange little bank in Fulton Market, tied in closely to Donald Trump, Paul Manafort, and maybe Russian money laundering.

New York prosecutors have demanded records relating to up to $16 million in loans that a bank run by a former campaign adviser for President Donald Trump made to former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The subpoena by the Manhattan district attorney’s office to the Federal Savings Bank, a small Chicago bank run by Steve Calk, sought information on loans the bank issued in November and January to Mr. Manafort and his wife, the person said. The loans were secured by two properties in New York and a condominium in Virginia, real-estate records show.
More
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I took The Federal Savings Bank on May 18, 2017 at 10:03AM

and processed it in my digital darkroom on July 17, 2017 at 10:39PM

Written by eggplant

July 17th, 2017 at 10:43 pm

Strange New Requests From Strangers

one comment

Strange Things Are Happening
Strange Things Are Happening

For the last year or even longer, I’ve periodically received email from strangers purporting to be fellow bloggers asking me to update old posts with a fresh link to their content. I’ve maintained a blog for a long time,1 thus I have lots and lots of posts and pages of posts by date and by category. I’ve always gotten “spam” comments, Akismet has protected your site from 1,571,626 spam comments but these new requests baffle me. Before the blog format was commodified, and commercialized2, I received lots of daily traffic, but I haven’t been a high traffic blog for a while now. I’m confused by this new, frequent request to update links – it isn’t as if Google ranks links from me highly these days.

This new category is labor intensive, so doesn’t seem as if it created by a bot. 

Emails such as this one:

Hi,

You’ve had a couple of emails from me recently, but I’ve not heard back.

I wondered if the resource was of interest, or is there someone else I should contact instead?

I’ve included my email below for reference.

On Mon, Jul 10, 2017 at 8:36 AM, Paul Turnbull <paul@aob-mail.com> wrote:
Hi,

I appreciate you’re busy but I wondered if you had a chance to check out my earlier email.

I’ve included a copy here –

On Tue, Jul 4, 2017 at 8:48 AM, Paul Turnbull <paul@aob-mail.com> wrote:
Hi,

I noticed you have a link to the Rebecca Blood post on the history of weblogs here – http://www.b12partners.net/mt/archives/2006/04/.

That post was published way back in 2000 so is missing everything that has happened in the blogosphere since.

We’ve got an updated history of (we)blogging here – artofblog.com/history/

Perhaps you’d consider adding a link to our piece as well to serve as additional reading?

Thank you for your time.

Paul

Or another one I’ve also gotten today:

Just making sure you saw this. Hope you are well! 

P.O. Box 135, Whitianga 3510, New Zealand | To unsubscribe please reply with ‘Unsubscribe’ in the header

On Sunday, July 9, 2017 at 9:04 PM, Jesse Miller <jesse@jenreviews.com> wrote:
Dear Editor,

I was searching the web for information on how to choose a bike and saw your great post here: http://www.b12partners.net/mt/archives/2005/05/

I noticed you mentioned http://www.bikethedrive.org/ in your post, and just wanted to give you a heads up that I recently wrote a blog post you might like. It’s a detailed, up-to-date 7,000 word guide on how to choose a bike according to science, that details 10 factors to consider and is packed with tips and advice.

If this is something you’d be interested in, here is the link to the blog post: jenreviews.com/bike/

This is completely free and if you like it, all I ask is for you to link to or share the article on your site. In return, would love to share your post with my newsletter subscribers and followers on social media.

Either way, keep up the great work!

Cheers
Jesse

Here are some of the raw email headers for reference:

From: Jesse Miller <jesse@jenreviews.com>
In-Reply-To: <CAFrQzFYz8cX6jx=o047FxoSK1Lq7ELRVhLZAVW5hZoN-f6BTrA@mail.gmail.com>
References: <CAFrQzFYz8cX6jx=o047FxoSK1Lq7ELRVhLZAVW5hZoN-f6BTrA@mail.gmail.com>
Date: Sun, 16 Jul 2017 00:12:37 -0400
Message-ID: <CAFrQzFa52QJeHTZ0rVkQz0HcGzLdhcdDjty-WMuuLfVbZ29UfA@mail.gmail.com>

Strange News From Another Star
Strange News From Another Star

I’m skeptical of the motives of these requests. Why would someone request an update to a page which is a month’s worth of blog posts back in 2005 (or 2006)? Why not the specific individual post? In a moment of weakness, I responded to one earlier this year requesting money to make these links. That particular emailer didn’t reply again. 

As I mentioned before, I do still frequently get automatically generated “spam” comments, ones like:

“Howdy! This is kind of off topic but I need some guidance from an established blog. Is it difficult to set up your own blog? I’m not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty fast. I’m thinking about making my own but I’m not sure where to start. Do you have any points or suggestions? Appreciate it”

which links to  proxieslive (dot) com/free-proxy/ etc   

Those kinds of spams are irritating, and clutter up my blog’s databases, but they are obviously generated by bots, and not hand-crafted emails. 

These new super-targeted requests are strange. Did some SEO eBook suggest reaching out in this way as a means to increase traffic? Or are these Spambots 2.0?

Footnotes:
  1. longer if you include even earlier years when I hand wrote crap on my webpage without a CMS []
  2. by organizations like Huffington Post and the Gawker enterprise, for instance []

Written by Seth Anderson

July 16th, 2017 at 9:28 am

Posted in blog

Tagged with