Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Wolf of Wall Street: The True Story

Jordan Belfort with Trophy Wife


Jordan Belfort, "The Wolf of Wall Street"


G.K. Chesterton Reviews Martin Scorsese's Movie, "The Wolf of Wall Street"


  1. 'Wolf of Wall Street' Jordan Belfort tells you how to persuade people ...

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    JORDAN Belfort knows the secret of persuading people.

  2. Jordan Belfort - The Wolf of Wall Street on Vimeo

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We sort out what’s fact and what’s fiction in Martin Scorsese's glitzy new film about a real-life scammer

    Drugs, prostitutes, crashed helicopters — the debauchery in The Wolf of Wall Street is so outlandish that audiences might leave the theater thinking director Martin Scorsese took plenty of creative license in telling the story of Jordan Belfort, a New York stock broker who conned his way to earning hundreds of millions in the 1990s. But Scorsese’s film closely follows Belfort’s own memoir, also titled The Wolf of Wall Street.
That said, Belfort glorifies his vulgar antics in his book, so how much of his account is truly real is up for debate. After all, Belfort was a scam artist — he made a living by lying. Scorsese, knowing this, portrays Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) as an unreliable narrator in the film (see: the changing color of the car in the first scene and the driving while high on Quaaludes episode).
TIME fact-checks the movie against Belfort’s books (he also wrote a sequel entitled Catching the Wolf of Wall Street) and a series of Forbes articles that have followed Belfort’s scheming.
Belfort’s first boss told him the keys to success were masturbation, cocaine and hookers.
Ruling: Fact
According to the book, a broker named Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey) gave him this advice early on in his career.
Belfort and his partner owned shares of a risky stock and had their brokers at Stratton Oakmont brokerage aggressively sell the stock to inflate the price. They then sold the stock themselves to turn a profit.
Ruling: Fact
Belfort and Danny Porush (called Donnie Azoff in the film and portrayed by Jonah Hill) utilized this age-old pump-and-dump scheme to get rich quick after graduating from scamming middle-class people into buying worthless penny stocks at a 50 percent commission.
Forbes magazine exposed Belfort, calling him a “twisted Robin Hood.”
Ruling: Fact
Though Belfort wasn’t on the cover, Forbes did run a profile of him in which they called him “a twisted version of Robin Hood, who robs from the rich and gives to himself and his merry band of brokers.” Though it was a scathing portrait, the promise of quick $100,000 commissions brought job applicants to Stratton Oakmont in droves.
Stratton Oakmont took Steve Madden public.
Ruling: Fact
Steve Madden did give a speech the day of the IPO, to which the Stratton Oakmont brokers responded with jeers. Madden, Belfort and Porush owned most of the stock and drove up the price. Belfort, Porush and Madden all went to jail for their scheme.
Belfort laundered his money into Swiss banks using his in-laws.
Ruling: Fact
His wife’s mother and aunt both helped smuggle the money into Switzerland.

Now for the really ridiculous stuff…

Danny Porush (Donnie Azoff) was married to his cousin.
Ruling: Fact
They’re now divorced.
The driving on Quaaludes scene.
Ruling: Mostly fact
It was a Mercedes, not a Lamborghini. But the rest is true to Belfort’s memoir.
The office parties included a “midget-tossing competition.”
Ruling: Fact
…According to Belfort.
The company billed prostitutes to the corporate card.
Ruling: Fact
…And wrote them off in their taxes.
He crashed a helicopter in his front yard while high.
Ruling: Fact
On a related note, he also did at least attempt to sober up in real life.
He sunk a yacht in Italy.
Ruling: Fact
And the yacht used to belong to Coco Chanel.
He called his trophy wife “duchess.”
Ruling: Fact
Though her name was Nadine, not Naomi.
He served a reduced prison sentence after ratting on his friends.
Ruling: Fact
Turns out Belfort was even more of a jerk than they show in the movie. In the film version, Belfort tries to save his partner from incriminating himself. In reality, Belfort ratted out his partner Porush, among others, for a reduced sentence (the two reportedly no longer speak). Belfort spent only two years in prison and had Tommy Chong (of Cheech and Chong) as his cellmate. Chong convinced Belfort to write a memoir.
He scammed only the rich.
Ruling: Fiction
Some writers have criticized Scorsese for portraying Belfort’s lifestyle as glamorous without showing the victims of his scam. Though Belfort claims in his book and in the film that he only took from the wealthy, the New York Times reports that many small business owners are still trying to recover financially from Belfort’s scheme. (The government claims Belfort has failed to pay his restitution, and reports suggest that Porush is still running get-rich-quick schemes.)

The Borowitz Report: Mayor Bloomberg's Seldom Mentioned Greatest Achievement

NEW YORK — As the curtain comes down on the Michael Bloomberg era, the three-term mayor of New York received fulsome praise last night from his most appreciative constituency: the people who can still afford to live there.
Harland Dorrinson, principal owner of the hedge fund Garrote Capital, hosted a black-tie dinner in the vault of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to pay tribute to a mayor who, in Mr. Dorrinson’s words, “put living in New York out of the reach of everyone except the deserving few.”
“To a lot of people, Mike Bloomberg will be remembered for reducing smoking and improving people’s diets,” said Mr. Dorrinson. “But that shouldn’t overshadow his greatest accomplishment, creating unaffordable housing throughout New York.”
“When Mike took office, this city was teeming with regular working people,” Mr. Dorrinson said, shuddering at the memory. “Today, it’s a magnificent tapestry of investment bankers, real-estate developers, and Russian oligarchs.”
The hedge-fund owner is such a fan of Mr. Bloomberg’s, in fact, that he has only one bone to pick with him: that he left office too soon “to finish the job.”
“There are still a few pockets in the city where, regrettably, the middle class seems to be hanging on,” he said. “The rent is too damn low.”
As for Mr. Bloomberg’s critics, Mr. Dorrinson was philosophical: “I know there are some people who think Mike was terrible for New York, that he took a city rich with diversity and ruined it. But fortunately, they all live somewhere else now.”

New Yorker Cartoon: Real Wine Tasters

Alan: I have always marveled that wine reviews make comparisons to every fruit but grapes.

New Yorker Cartoon: How The Rich Deal WIth The Spiritual Catastrophe Of "Too Much"

New Yorker Cartoon: We're All Up Against The Wall Of Convenience

Science Jokes

Global Warming, Carbon And Mangrove Expansion


How nature is responding to climate change. "Much of the Florida shoreline was once too cold for the tropical trees called mangroves, but the plants are now spreading northward at a rapid clip, scientists reported Monday. That finding is the latest indication that global warming, though still in its early stages, is already leading to ecological changes so large they can be seen from space...In both the beetle and mangrove cases, scientists have found that it is not the small rise in average temperatures that matters, nor the increase in heat waves. Rather, it is the disappearance of bitter winter nights that once controlled the growth of cold-sensitive organisms." Justin Gillis in The New York Times.

The social cost of carbon is a real thing, the Department of Energy says. "The Obama administration says it will not reconsider a new carbon emissions formula for federal regulations. The conservative group Landmark Legal Foundation filed a petition in August calling on the Department of Energy (DOE) to strike the provision on the "social cost of carbon" from a microwave efficiency rule...Reconsidering the rule would not change the standard adopted for microwave ovens, the department said in an early copy of its response that will be published Tuesday. The social cost of carbon directive, which was updated in June by the Office of Management and Budget, bumped the cost of carbon to $35 per metric ton from $21. The new formula will dramatically increase the projected benefits of regulations that clamp down on air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions." Laura Barron-Lopez in The Hill.

Bring Back The Real History Channel

Wall Street Journal: Feds' HARP Program For Underwater Home Owners Is Working


"The government's Home Affordable Refinance Program stands out among the alphabet soup of initiatives rolled out to stem a wave of foreclosures: It is one that is finally living up to its ambitions. Nearly 3 million homeowners, including at least 900,000 who owe more than their mortgages are worth, have been able to refinance their loans under the crisis-era program designed to reach borrowers with little or no equity in their homes. The majority of those loans were refinanced in 2012 and 2013, after the government revamped the program following a disappointing start." Nick Timiraos in The Wall Street Journal.

In Financial Regulation, The Good Guys Are Winning

"JPMorgan's failure also gave new energy to, and a clear target for, the stalled Volcker Rule, which was designed to split hedge funds from banks. Financial reform benefitted as well from engaged activism that proposed tougher reforms, which pressured regulators to hit the mark and kept the financial industry on the defensive. This is clearest in the case of capital requirements, which require banks to hold a set percentage of their assets and which the finance industry fights consistently." Mike Konczal in The New Republic.

"Nanny State" Tobacco Bans Do Reduce Smoking

"Nope. Don't Need No Nanny State Here"


Smoking Bans Linked to Lessened Tobacco Use

Smoking Bans Linked to Improvement in Tobacco Use
Smoking Bans Linked to Improvement in Tobacco Use
(HealthDay News) – Smoking bans in the home and city/town are significantly associated with smoking reduction and making a quit attempt, according to a study published online Nov. 26 in Preventive Medicine.
Rong W. Zablocki, from the University of California San Diego in La Jolla, and colleagues used data from follow-up telephone interviews conducted in 2011 for 1,718 current California smokers to examine whether smoking ban policies (home, work, and town) are associated with changes in tobacco use (reduction in smoking rate and quit attempts). The correlations were adjusted for demographic and other variables.
The researchers found that, compared with living in a home with no home ban, living in a home with a total ban correlated significantly with smoking reduction and making a quit attempt (adjusted odds ratios, 2.4 and 2.3, respectively). The odds of smoking reduction and making a quit attempt were also increased with self-reported perception of an outdoor ban in one's city/town (adjusted odds ratios, 1.7 and 1.8, respectively).
"These results provide quantitative evidence that smoking bans encourage quitting behaviors that positively impact smokers and nonsmokers, underscoring the public health importance of smoking bans inside and outside the home," the authors write.

Gringos Are Nuts

Alzheimer’s Affected By Cholesterol Level

Alzheimer'sAlzheimer’s is affected by the level of bad and good cholesterol in the body, according to a research study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Neurology, (JAMA Neurology.) The higher the level of bad cholesterol, or LDL’s, and the lower the level of good cholesterol, or HDL’s, the more beta amyloid plaque that develops in the brain. Beta Amyloid plaque affects a patient’s cognitive abilities and memory by “tangling” up the brain cells. 
LDL stands for low density lipoprotein, and HDL stands for high density lipoprotein. Cholesterol is an essential steroid in the body that keeps cells permeable, as well as aids cell membrane function. The majority of cholesterol in the body is manufactured by the liver.
However, when cholesterol levels exceed the normal range, that is when beta amyloid plaque builds up.
Although patients with high cholesterol benefit from drugs like Simvastatin, it has not yet been proven that these drugs will prevent dementia or Alzheimer’s. Researchers are excited about the possibilities of preventing Alzheimer’s through proper diet and exercise. It is also expected that more studies will show that statins will reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.
Now a doctor whose patient has a high LDL cholesterol number can counsel his patient on proper nutrition and exercise routines to fit their lifestyle. Statins may be prescribed as well, depending on the patient’s medical history. The future of dementia looks pretty bleak under these circumstances.
The study is the first of its kind because no other study has found beta-amyloid proteins accumulating steadily and corresponding with high cholesterol and dementia symptoms. The treatment of elevated cholesterol involves not only diet but also weight loss, regular exercise and medications. After the age of 20, level testing is recommended every five years.
HDL’s are produced by foods such as olive oil, nuts and seeds. LDL levels increase with the intake of saturated fats and can be lowered by cutting out animal fats and instead eating fruits, vegetables and whole grains and fish. A diet with fish in it will help increase HDL levels and prevent plaque from building up in the brain.  It is also best to eat more beans instead of starchy potatoes.
Thirty minutes of exercise, five days a week, can go a long way to prevent cholesterol levels from increasing. Exercise lowers LDL and increases good HDL cholesterol.
Professor Bruce Reed, a neurologist at the University of California-Davis who led the study, said: “Unhealthy patterns of cholesterol could be directly causing the higher levels of amyloid known to contribute to Alzheimer’s, in the same way that such patterns promote heart disease.”
Alzheimer’s disease is affected by cholesterol levels, which cause beta amyloid plaque to develop in the brain. More studies will show the effect of statin drugs on this disease. As always, healthy eating is preferable to a dependence on prescription medicines. Genetics may also play a part, and in those cases pills may be the only preventative.
By: Lisa M Pickering

Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 Is The Year That Proved Your "Paranoid" Friend Right About Data Surveillance

** DO NOT REUSE. DO NOT DISTRIBUTE, NO WIRES, NO SHARING, NO SALES, NO TRADES. WASHINGTON POST NEWS SERVICE OK ** Edward Snowden photographed in Moscow, Russia December, 2013. (Photo by Barton Gellman for The Washington Post)
Alan: My hunch is that intelligence agencies will drown in Data Overload and that what seems invasiveness will generally be a paradoxical boon to privacy. That said, I do not feel anywhere near as confident about this "Death-by-Data-Overload" hunch as I do about my conviction that 1.) The Tea Party will destroy the GOP, 2.) Pope Francis will effectively purge the church of Pharisaic finger-waggers, and 3.) Obamacare will become a robust success no later than 2013.

Most people involved in the tech scene have at least one friend who has been warning everyone they know about protecting their digital trail for years — and have watched that friend get accused of being being a tinfoil-hat-wearing conspiracy theorist. But 2013 is the year that proved your "paranoid" friend right.
It's now a matter of public record that the NSA collects and stores the calling records of domestic phone calls, tracks the location of millions of mobile devices worldwide,infiltrates the data links between the data centers of tech companies used by millions of Americans, piggybacks onto commercial tracking mechanisms, collected potentially sensitive online metadata for years and actively worked to undermine the privacy and security measures that underpin the Internet. And considering the purported size of the Snowden cache, that could be the tip of the metaphorical iceberg.
And while the NSA story alone undoubtedly gives the "paranoid" plenty of reasons to say "I told you so," a slew of other reports from this year gave them even more reasons to retreat into the wilderness and start subsistence farming.
For instance, the ACLU released a cache of documents showing that police around the country are collecting license plate scanner information that could be used to track physical locations of many Americans without consistent retention policies. "Because of the way the technology works – these devices snap photos of every passing car, not just those registered to people suspected of crimes – virtually all of the data license plate readers gather is about people who are completely innocent," explained the ACLU, noting that the hit rates for the data collected by these types of programs was often far below 1 percent. And while one snapshot might seem innocuous, when you pool together huge databases of this type of location information, it can create incredibly intimate portraits of the how an individual lives their life – including where they work, which friends the visit and what doctors they see. The associated report was aptly titled "You Are Being Tracked."
Speaking of being tracked, an enterprising hacker discovered that the E-Z Pass he used to make paying tolls simpler was being read all around New York City. Turns out, the city had been tracking E-Z Passes for years as a way to measure traffic patterns. The city wasn't very willing to reveal how long that data is being retained or just how much information was being collected by these clandestine readers. But the company that provides the RFID readers for the city said it scrambles the tag IDs to make them anonymous and only held it for a few minutes to compare against other traffic. Still, even if there are significant safeguards in place, it's ample evidence that the technology you let into your life that's capable of tracking you might not always be used in the ways you expect.
Speaking of technology with obviously exploitable surveillance capabilities:  Someone might be watching you through your laptop's webcam – without even activating the warning light. Reports say the FBI has had this capability for several years, and researchers at John's Hopkins were able to demonstrate how to covertly spy via webcams in MacBooks. Good thing you can cover up your webcam. Too bad there's not a similarly easy solution for stopping hackers from listening in on your laptop's built-in microphone.
Oh, and to top it all off: There was suspicious aerial activity going on at Area 51. Although no admissions of alien activity have emerged, much to John Podesta's dismay, recently released documents reveal that the CIA tested its first drones at the Nevada military base.
None of this means that we should all give up on modern technology or that we now live in a surveillance-state dystopia. But it just might mean that we live in a world where things that were once considered far-fetched science fiction fantasy are increasingly being revealed as reality.
And that you owe your paranoid friend a beer.