Daily Archives: April 5, 2009

House Ethics Committee goes after lawmaker!

No, not Chris Dodd, he’s a senator, silly and nobody goes after senators. And not Charles Rangel, he’s head of the House Ways and Means Committee – can’t do that. No, what’s caught the eagle eye of our legislator/guardians in Washington is the egregious case of someone named Zach Space, an Ohioan rep that I certainly have never heard of and you probably haven’t either, which is the point. Mr. Space’s crime? Not tax evasion, not sweetheart mortgage deals, not illicit real estate deals in Ireland, but speeding! Yes, he was caught traveling 65-miles -per-hour in a 50 – mile zone. The American public is sick of the corruption oozing out of that cesspool in Washington and Congress must take strong, decisive action to show the voters that it’s a new Congress now, where the likes of criminals like Cheney won’t be tolerated. You speed, you get chastised, buster, no ifs, ands or buts.

Now will you people please shut the fuck up and let us go about rewarding our friends and punishing our enemies?

Here’s the Washington Post’s story on this advance in Congressional ethics:

Posted at 12:46 PM ET, 04/ 3/2009

House Ethics Committee Takes Tough Action (Against Nothing)

Just when you naysayers thought the House ethics committee was a complete and total sham of an outfit comes the panel’s swift and forceful action. Against what, you ask?

Against – drum roll, please – a lawmaker’s minor speeding infraction.

That’s right, the ethics panel has taken its most expeditious action in years on the case of Rep. Zach Space (D-Ohio), who was ticketed last weekend for speeding (driving 65 mph in a 50 mph zone) and given a warning for driving with an expired license.

While both the House and Senate ethics committees have taken months on end to investigate – and we use that term loosely – Rep. Charles Rangel‘s (D-N.Y.) questionable financial dealings and Sen. Chris Dodd‘s (D-Conn.) alleged sweetheart mortgage deal, the case of a misdemeanor speeding ticket got prompt attention.

Never before (in recent history, at least) has the ethics committee acted so quickly. The panel immediately took up the matter, reviewed it, and decided not to punish Space.

To prove its hard work on the case, the House ethics committee this week put out a press release on the very serious matter of Space’s driving infraction. An investigation won’t be necessary, the release noted. (Really tough call on that one, huh?)

Is this supposed to trick people into thinking the ethics panel actually investigates ethics cases against members of Congress?

Well, we doubt it.

For one, the committee doesn’t even have a permanent staff director. And secondly, as Politico’s John Bresnahan reports, the new outside Office of Congressional Ethics has yet to refer a single case to the House ethics committee and remains “encumbered by layers of secrecy.”

As the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington said last week: “Remember all the talk about the new Office of Congressional Ethics and how it was going to change the way ethics issues were handled in the House? We do. We’re still waiting. We had very low expectations in the first place.”

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Tax this rich bastard now! 95%!

Designs iPhone game, makes $450,000. How dare he? He’s using the internet, which was invented by Al Gore and is sustained by the government so he owes it all back for the greater good. Creep.

Last August, Ethan Nicholas and his wife, Nicole, were having trouble making their mortgage payments. Medical bills from the birth of their younger son were piling up. After learning that his employer, Sun Microsystems, was suspending employee bonuses for the year, Mr. Nicholas considered looking for a new job and putting their house in Wake Forest, N.C., on the market.

Then he remembered reading about the guy who had made a quarter-million dollars in a hurry by writing a video game called Trism for the iPhone. “I figured if I could even make a fraction of that, we’d be able to make ends meet,” he said.

Although he had years of programming experience, Mr. Nicholas, who is 30, had never built a game in Objective-C, the coding language of the iPhone. So he searched the Internet for tips and informal guides, and used them to figure out the iPhone software development kit that Apple puts out.

Because he grew up playing shoot-em-up computer games, he decided to write an artillery game. He sketched out some graphics and bought inexpensive stock photos and audio files.

For six weeks, he worked “morning, noon and night” — by day at his job on the Java development team at Sun, and after-hours on his side project. In the evenings he would relieve his wife by caring for their two sons, sometimes coding feverishly at his computer with one hand, while the other rocked baby Gavin to sleep or held his toddler, Spencer, on his lap.

After the project was finished, Mr. Nicholas sent it to Apple for approval, quickly granted, and iShoot was released into the online Apple store on Oct. 19.

When he checked his account with Apple to see how many copies the game had sold, Mr. Nicholas’s jaw dropped: On its first day, iShoot sold enough copies at $4.99 each to net him $1,000. He and Nicole were practically “dancing in the street,” he said.

The second day, his portion of the day’s sales was about $2,000.

On the third day, the figure slid down to $50, where it hovered for the next several weeks. “That’s nothing to sneeze at, but I wondered if we could do better,” Mr. Nicholas said.

In January, he released a free version of the game with fewer features, hoping to spark sales of the paid version. It worked: iShoot Lite has been downloaded more than 2 million times, and many people have upgraded to the paid version, which now costs $2.99. On its peak day — Jan. 11 — iShoot sold nearly 17,000 copies, which meant a $35,000 day’s take for Mr. Nicholas.

“That’s when I called my boss and said, ‘We need to talk,’ ” Mr. Nicholas said. “And I quit my job.”


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Porn comes to Greenwich

A reader points out that unsold mansion in California are rented out to pornographers, and laments that Connecticut has no film industry. Not so, my friend, not so! I forget how much of our taxpayer dollars are devoted to it but we do indeed have a program to encourage film making in the Nutmeg State and it was just reinstated over the Governor’s objection – no budget crisis in this state. So now we have three great ideas on how to deal with our unwanted inventory: Walter suggests time sharing the big ol’ things, I’ve suggested turning them into elder communes for downsizing Greenwich couples who don’t mind sharing and want to relive the 60s and now, porn films. It seems to me that if one were to combine all three, he’d do box office business, so to speak.


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Thank God we got rid of Bush and his crooked pals and gave the Democrats a chance at the trough

White House advisors on TARP received millions from TARP recipients.

Lawrence Summers, a top economic adviser to President Barack Obama, pulled in more than $2.7 million in speaking fees paid by firms at the heart of the financial crisis, including Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Merrill Lynch, Bank of America Corp. and the now-defunct Lehman Brothers.

He pulled in another $5.2 million last year from D.E. Shaw, a hedge fund for which he served as managing director from October 2006 until joining the administration. 

Thomas E. Donilon, Obama’s deputy national security adviser, was paid $3.9 million last year by the power law firm O’Melveny & Myers to represent clients, including two firms that received federal bailout funds: Citigroup and Goldman Sachs. He also disclosed that he’s a member of the Trilateral Commission and sits on the steering committee of the supersecret Bilderberg group. Both groups are favorite targets of conspiracy theorists

And White House Counsel Greg Craig last year earned $1.7 million in private practice representing an exiled Bolivian president, a Panamanian lawmaker wanted by the U.S. government for allegedly murdering a U.S. soldier and a tech billionaire accused of securities fraud and various sensational drug and sex crimes. 

Oh my gosh – did you see that bit about Donilon? He’s a member of the Trilateral Commission!! Call Lyndon LaRouche! Call John Birch! The UN’s black helicopters have landed on the White House lawn!


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Who says the Italians have given up religion?

Mass protest in Rome over financial crisis.

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Tell me again why we don’t have licensing laws for parenthood.

Missouri mom arrested for daring 12 year olds to chug vodka at house party. I hope the winer got his ten bucks before the cops arrived.


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Well if nobody else wants them, what’s the big deal?

Greenwich Lexus clerk charged with renting out unsold cars to her friends for $100 a day. She shows a little initiative getting cars off the lot and the cops come down on her like a ton of bricks. Sheesh! I guess I’ll put my own plan of renting out unsold spec houses on hold, at least until this blows over.


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Call him crazy?

I received the following email from a regular reader who strikes me as one of the saner people on this board (well, compared to Walt and me). But I don’t watch TV and I never watch Obama so I haven’t witnessed what he’s reporting. Have you? Is our leader aiming to include all the world as his subjects?

Maybe I am being overly sensitive but I have noted a subtle change in lexicon over the past couple of months.

On more than a few occasions since the new Administration has been in place, I have heard Obama, Romer, Podesta and others use the term “citizen” or “citizens” in speeches or TV interviews. The usage was in reference to what were heretofore referred to as “people” or a Bushy “folks”. Obama used “citizen” repeatedly yesterday in London.

Now, this may be a sign of many things, including a more literate resident of 1600. However, I find the usage to be more than a bit coincidental. Given all the talk at the G20 of “global” this and “international” that, I see a means to an end. “Global citizen(s)” works, “global person/people” doesn’t. And “global folks” is an abomination.

Now, don’t start accusing me of being paranoid or spending too much time reading blogs emanating from bunkers in Utah. This may be nothing. However, “citizen”, or the title “Citizen”, is a fixture in history (ie French Revolution) and certainly in fiction (ie “1984” and many other stories with authoritarian regimes). I will remain sensitive to it but expect a follow up email when I hear the term “global citizens” repeatedly from the powers that be.

See, if your leaders are going to cede certain aspects of American sovereignty to a global collective, you have to convince the sheep, sorry, citizens, that it is in their best interests.

Sure, I sound like Glenn Beck, but what will you say when the new global combine that will now set financial regulations starts dictating what employees of American “systemically important” can earn?  The French, Russian or Chinese dictating what middle managers at hedge funds, banks, exchanges or insurance companies can earn? Nah, that’s not possible…..


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Henry Blodget, call your office – all is forgiven!

The Merrill crooks are back and BOA’s got ’em.

Ah, those crafty Merrill analysts – change an “underperform” rating to “buy” just hours before your employer puts out a new issue.

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How large is the current housing inventory?

The Greenwich MLS reports that it’s run out of key boxes. Ordinarily, houses keep selling so keyboxes come off and are returned to the Board. Ordinarily.

We’ve ordered more keyboxes and they should be here next week.  Please call first before coming to the office to make sure they have arrived.
By the way, if you have any keyboxes sitting around, please bring those in as well.
Thank you for your patience.

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George Lindemann Jr. may have found a new friend

At least George had his killed quickly. This guy just starved them to death. Prominent New York horseman accused of neglect.

Four undernourished and neglected former racehorses belonging to Ernie Paragallo, a prominent New York thoroughbred breeder and owner, were rescued from a New York kill pen last month, one step from being slaughtered. They were among more than 20 horses from Paragallo’s Center Brook Farm in Climax, N.Y., that were sold to slaughter for $680.

Finely Decorated, who had lice, was one of four rescued mares.

The four mares were “hundreds of pounds” underweight, infested with lice and parasites and in “horrible condition,” according to Dr. James Holt, a Pennsylvania veterinarian who examined them.


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Salvation for Greenwich Avenue

Fire up the bentley, Adolpho, Dickie's out from underfoot and I'm going back to work! Things to buy, people to snub.

Fire up the bentley, Adolpho, Dickie's out from underfoot and I'm going back to work! Things to buy, people to snub.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Dickie Fuld has landed a new job! Why anyone would hire the man who brought down Lehman Brothers is beyond me but that’s why I never got rich on Wall Street. Regardless, a steady paycheck should set Kathy Fuld loose on the Ave again, buying $30,000 worth of bedsheets each month from Lynnens and new watches at Betteridges. I don’t think Dick needs anything new in the watch department – rumor has it that he’s bought Bernie’s collection.

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I remained silent when they took away cigarettes because I’m not a smoker

Well that’s not true, actually, but those of you who applauded the recent tax hike on cigarettes might not like this latest extension of the concept: raise taxes on alcohol to make it unaffordable. The New Scientist thinks it’s a fine idea. I understand the thinking behind taxing cigarettes out of existence: it’s a cash cow milked from older smokers who can’t quit while simultaneously discouraging kids from starting the filthy habit. Write off one generation, collect more loot, and snuff out smoking (you should pardon the expression) in the next. Of course, states get hooked on revenue just as badly as people get hooked on nicotine so we’ll probably see “start smoking” campaigns in the future, just as we now see adds for the state lottery.

But do the politicos really want to take on drinkers? Everyone seems to despise smoking, even smokers, but most drinkers I know don’t consider themselves social pariahs and probably won’t go along with a movement that characterizes them as such. Personally, I’m all for this kind of punitive taxation because, like the coming ban on incandescent light bulbs, it will bring home to people how oppressive their government has become.


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Why I’m not a Republican

Our Greenwich reps oppose the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana. The entire “war on drugs” has caused us to spend billions of dollars uselessly, eroded our freedom (ask any boater who’s been the subject of a U.S. Coast Guard search) and funded the entire third world’s terrorist and criminal population. Dropping possession of marijuana down to an infraction is a small step towards sanity, I think, but Republicans can’t get past the morality of the issue. I fail to see a huge moral difference between vodka and Northern California’s cash crop but even if there is a difference, spending millions on an ineffective prohibition policy makes no economic sense.


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Not good news if we’re hoping they’ll move here

Luxury apartment sales in New York freeze. Down 87%, according to the Times.

On the other hand, common charges are soaring and the wicked rich are being dragged up to the sacrificial alter of taxation yet again, so who knows? My conclusion? It sucks to own Manhattan real estate.

Buildings that in a stronger market relied on income from flip taxes — a sort of transfer fee for each sales transaction — may also struggle now that sales volume throughout the city has been reduced to a trickle.

Robert Berliner’s 277-unit building on Sutton Place has a 2 percent flip tax for outside buyers, which he said “was a pretty significant source of revenue in 2006 and 2007.” The building had used that income to meet operating costs, but because there are now so few apartments changing hands in the building, the board has shifted its flip tax revenue into its reserve fund. “We’re trying to be more realistic and more conservative in dealing with our budget,” he said.

Mr. Berliner said that because real estate taxes are so high for the building, the board may consider raising the flip tax to 3 percent. Property taxes were just under $3 million last year and represented the single largest expense in the building’s $7 million budget.

Mr. Berliner, who is the co-op’s board treasurer, said that the city raised the building’s assessment by 25 percent in 2008, but the building challenged the increase and got it reduced to 10 percent.

“But when you consider the state of the economy and what’s happening in real estate values,” he said, “how the city could have come up with any increase in assessed valuation is beyond me.”


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Public vs. private schools – New Yorkers discover the (cost) difference

Anecdotal or real, confined to the City or coming our way, I don’t know, but it says here that NYC parents are flooding public schools with applications for their kids.


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Stop, or we’ll say stop again!

North Korea defies world, fires rocket over Japan toward U.S. Obama is “really, really cheesed!”, vows unilateral disarmament .


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Greedy capitalists try to squash unions – demand end to lifetime employment promises

In a stunning display of corporate callousness towards those least able to survive these desperate economic times, the New York Times threatens to close the Boston Globe if its unions don’t give up their bargained-for rights. Oh, the humanity! Just wait until the  Times’ editorial board discovers this example of corporate greed and oppression!

(hat tip, reader RF)

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