Daily Archives: July 3, 2009

Mark Shields is a big fat liar

With his Washington Post “Meet the Politicans, pay us $250,000” dinner cancelled, WaPo columnist appeared on Public Television tonight, where , in a desperate bid for cash, he opined on Minnesota’s new senator, Al Frankin. Defending his man, Shields claimed that Frankin was “no ruder than Limbaugh” and then said, “the most difficult job in Washington is going to Frankin’s press secretary who’s going to have to field calls asking his man to appear on Limbaugh’s show. He’s going to have to learn to just say no.”

Now I don’t listen to Limbaugh all that much but I know two things about him: he is never rude to callers and he doesn’t have guests on his show – ever. For Shields to say that he does is to reveal that he has never listened to the show. I’m quite used to hearing liberals attack Limbaugh when they’ve obviously never heard him but Shields poses as a legitimate journalist who bases his opinions on facts. Clearly, he doesn’t. Why am I not shocked?

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Hmm – isn’t South Carolina where that governor went missing?

S.C. serial killer has residents on edge.

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Quelle surprise!

I said "someday"

I said "someday"

Pelosi’s promise to put House of Representative member’s expenses online delayed . They’re claiming that security concerns will delay reporting before third quarter expenses are compiled and I’m sure that’s it. I am positive, in fact, that this couldn’t be the explanation:

As a result of the delay, the first claims to be posted online will cover a period in which lawmakers were aware that their expenses would be made public in this way.

The Senate, proving again that Pelosi is as dumb as a sack of hammers, has made no such promise of disclosure and you can bet Chris Dodd’s Irish cottage that it never will.

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WSJ update on Congressional travel – they understate the cost – who knew?

Wanna spend a week in Europe for just $465? You can, but you have to be a member of Congress, work for one or, worst fate of all, be married to one. The Journal follows up yesterday’s expose of these pirates by revealing today how, using their own rules, the hide what they’re stealing.

WASHINGTON — On Christmas Day, Sen. Arlen Specter flew to Europe and the Middle East for 11 days of meetings with government officials.

The travel-disclosure form the Pennsylvania Democrat filed for the trip reported the seven-country tour with his wife, an aide and two military officials on a private military jet cost $571 a person, or a total of about $2,800.

The real cost was far higher, in excess of $70,000, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis.

Mr. Specter’s travel report is one of scores of examples of the gap between the expenditures congressional delegations are required to report and what the trips actually cost taxpayers.

A Journal analysis of 60,000 travel records shows that lawmakers disclosed spending about $13 million in 2008 on overseas congressional delegations, or codels. That is nearly a tenfold increase since 1995, the analysis shows.

But the total tab disclosed by Congress is only a fraction of the true cost to taxpayers, according to the Journal’s analysis.

Under a 1970s law that authorizes taxpayer-funded codels, lawmakers only must disclose how much they spent on lodging, meals, ground transportation and other incidental expenses. Members of Congress also must make public their spending on commercial airfare, though most lawmakers fly on military planes, which don’t have to be disclosed.

Mr. Specter’s disclosure form reports that he spent $1,103 for food and accommodations. The aide that accompanied him spent $1,750, according to the disclosure form. The cost of food, hotels and transportation for the two military officials was not disclosed.

Kate Kelly, a spokeswoman for Mr. Specter, said her boss “meticulously complies with Senate reporting requirements, reimburses the Treasury with unused per diem, and customarily files an extensive trip report describing the substance of his meetings with foreign officials.” She added that the cost of codels is a “good investment considering the insights gained on billions of dollars of foreign aid.”

Mr. Specter pays for his wife’s share of accommodations out of his own pocket, Ms. Kelly said.

In February, Rep. Ike Skelton (D., Mo.) and 10 other lawmakers reported that their four-day trip to Hawaii, Guam, Japan and South Korea cost taxpayers $465 a person. Later that month, Rep. Stephen Lynch (D., Mass.) and a delegation of lawmakers went to Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan and Hungry for five days, according to congressional records. The disclosed cost was $254 a person. A spokeswoman for Mr. Skelton said he couldn’t be reached for comment. A spokeswoman for Mr. Lynch declined to comment.

In early 2008, Sen. Jon Kyl (R., Ariz.) and an aide went to Israel, Dubai and Prague and reported total expenses of $529 per person, according to a public report the senator filed. Sen. Kyl couldn’t be reached for comment, according to a spokesman.

Another big unknown expense is the salaries and overhead of the nearly two-dozen government employees who organize codels. The State Department alone has eight employees working full-time on travel from offices on Capitol Hill. The State Department has not responded to requests for comment on its involvement with congressional travel.

The Department of Defense doesn’t disclose the cost of maintaining a fleet of 16 passenger planes that are primarily used by lawmakers and other government officials. Documents obtained by the Journal show the costs of flying those planes runs between $3,000 and $12,000 an hour depending on the type of aircraft, according to a Department of Defense reimbursement schedule.

The cost to fly a small military jet from Washington to the Middle East is about $150,000, according to documents obtained from a Freedom of Information Act request.

The Defense Department, in a statement, said that codels are “not a burden for the military, but while we are transparent about the support, it is difficult to ascertain costs…Congress dictates where we take members and we try to carry out that tasking in the most economical manner possible.

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Mum’s the word!

Connecticut teenager hears mother screaming during sex, she and friends beat boyfriend with bat and fists.

(H/T, Dog Walker)

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Palin resigning as Alaska’s Governor

Breaking news. I’d suggest that she was stepping down in order to serve as a United States Ambassador but under Obama, those spots are reserved exclusively to large campaign contributors. 

This tension can be traced back to Mr. Obama’s claim during last year’s campaign that President George W. Bush engaged in an “extraordinary politicization of foreign policy.” Mr. Obama said he instead would ensure that hires are based on merit, rather than party or ideology. The American Academy of Diplomacy, an association of former diplomats, seized on the comments in lobbying him to lower the portion of ambassadors drawn from outside the foreign-service establishment to as little as 10% from the 30% average since President John F. Kennedy’s tenure. (Mr. Bush’s score was 33%.) Of the Obama administration’s 55 ambassadorial nominees so far, 33 — or 60% — have gone to people outside the foreign-service ranks, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

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Picture show in the NYT

Photo essay on abandoned luxury housing in tomorrow’s magazine. Your favorite blogger is mentioned and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the Greenwich Association of Realtors for recommending me to the writer, Chuck Wilson. I’m truly honored, and touched.

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And while we’re discussing rich white liberals

Bovina Bloviator has a charming tidbit on the Episcopal Church’s decision to eliminate the word “missionary” from their outreach program and substitute “you have as much to teach us as we have to teach you so tell me about animism, please” workers.

“Who are we to impose our views on savages?” asks the Very Reverend Eileen Spiegleman-Dwitsdorph. “I mean, Dude, once we got over that whole Christ thing, we’ve opened ourselves up to the world’ wonderful panoply of religion – we’re all Gods sheeple, sitting at the same table, nibbling off our neighbor’s plate. It’s unsanitary, but way cool.”

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Shocker – rich white liberal church owners dump negro minister

(New York City’s) Riverside Church experiences discord when whites fire new minister after two months. “Too uppity”, they claim, “too conservative!” The real problem, as limned by the Bovina Bloviator, is that the whites who attend for social purposes have been outnumbered by local black parishioners who take their religion and their Bible seriously. “They may have the Bible,” snorts Egbert Techumsah III, Chief Warden, “but it’s our money, so screw them.” Thus spaketh the Lord.

Learn to read, will ya?

Learn to read, will ya?

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Greenwich Time as litterpan liner – can it do the job?

I hope so, because otherwise there’s really no use for this paper. A reader points out that in today’s edition there is a story on a proposed replacement of the 43′ Tokeneke Bridge, stalled due to the $700,000,000 cost. Seven hundred million dollars to span less than fifty feet? The reader observes that major league stadiums are built for less. I assume that the reporter is so callow that a sum like 700 million just flowed past him unnoticed, and who can blame him? If he just got out of high school this year, he’s heard nothing but numbers like billions and trillions, so what’s a few million? But does he have an editor? Did no one question whether this was a typo (repeated twice) or an actual figure? And if the number is real, doesn’t that call for at least a follow-up question, like, “are you people out of your friggin’ minds?”.

I’ll be in that area tomorrow and I’ll try to come back with a photograph of the bridge – after all, if newspapers are reduced to offering $250,000 “meet the politician” dinners to raise money, it’s up to bloggers to bring home the news.

UPDATE: Microsoft’s maps show the place. Forty-three feet wide may be an overstatement (subject bridge is the upper of the two shown)

UPDATE II – Courtesy of the NYT, here’s a picture of the new Colorado River Bridge, 1,900 feet long, $114 million, so either Rowayton is showing off again (and they like to do that) or the Greenwich Time seriously misstated the cost of a 43-foot span.

http://www.bing.com/maps/#JndoZXJlMT1SYXltb25kK1N0JTJjK0RhcmllbiUyYytDVCswNjgyMCZzcz15cC50b2tlbmVrZStyb2FkJTdlc3N0LjAlN2VwZy4xJmJiPTQxLjA4Mjg3NjQyNDQzMTclN2UtNzMuNDMwOTQ1NjE1NjgyNCU3ZTQxLjA2MzU2MjgzNjUwMTUlN2UtNzMuNDY1MDk5NTgwNzAzMQ==

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Madoff feeder funds subject to criminal investigation

With Bernie put away for good and Ruthie out on the street (without her fur coat) prosecutors are turning their attention to the feeder funds that made so much off of Bernie while their clients earned so little. Today it’s former penny-stock fraudster Sonja Kohn and her Austrian operation with the deceiving name of Bank Medici (Kohn is no Medici and barely a banker), but the allegations: $20 million payments for “research” and still more payments for funneling investors into the Madoff maw  sounds like what might turn up during an investigation of Fairfield Greenwich Group. I have every hope that that investigation is proceeding as I write this.

As for the remnants of the Madoff family, a source tells me that he spoke with one of the boys and the two of them are convinced their lives are over and they’re facing a life of destitution. For what it’s worth, this source believes the boys were just doofs who play acted at running Daddy’s business and never learned or even questioned how it was that they could get so rich when their company turned no profits. Oh well, that’s too bad, but I’ll reserve my sympathy for more deserving victims.

Here’s what prosecutors are looking at in Austria:

U.S., U.K. and Austrian prosecutors are investigating a former Austrian fund manager they believe was paid more than $40 million in kickbacks to funnel billions of dollars of investments to Bernard Madoff.

Prosecutors from all three investigations believe Mr. Madoff paid kickbacks to Sonja Kohn while she was chairwoman of Austria’s Bank Medici AG via separate companies she controlled, according to affidavits detailing the investigations and hundreds of documents collected by Austrian prosecutors that were reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

In exchange for the kickbacks, prosecutors allege, Ms. Kohn turned three Bank Medici funds into “feeder funds” that supplied Mr. Madoff with an estimated $3.5 billion from European investors
The three investigations, which are separate and at an early stage, offer a picture of how Mr. Madoff may have persuaded fund managers abroad to find investors for Mr. Madoff. The investigations don’t claim that Ms. Kohn knew the nature of Mr. Madoff’s $65 billion Ponzi scheme.

“I am actually the greatest Madoff victim. It is a tragedy for my family, my company and for me personally,” Ms. Kohn said by phone on Wednesday. She declined to discuss details of the allegations against her.

Ms. Kohn, a 60-year-old Viennese former Wall Street penny-stock broker, has repeatedly denied prior knowledge of Mr. Madoff’s $65 billion fraud or any wrongdoing. A judge sentenced Mr. Madoff to 150 years in prison on Monday.

According to an April affidavit from the Justice Department filed with Vienna prosecutors, Ms. Kohn is under investigation in the U.S. for potential criminal charges of conspiracy, fraud and wire fraud in connection with the alleged kickbacks.

Regulators have filed civil, but not criminal, charges against several fund managers who steered their clients’ money to the Madoff firm.

Two streams of alleged payments are under investigation. Early this year, U.S. investigators noticed a flow of payments totaling about $32 million over 10 years from Mr. Madoff’s advisory firm, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC, to Infovaleur Inc., a New York company that was “owned by Sonja Kohn personally,” according to a U.S. affidavit filed on April 6.

The U.S. affidavit said U.S. prosecutors were unable to locate a registration for Infovaleur Inc.

“It does not appear that Kohn, or Bank Medici, ever disclosed to investors in the feeder fund that Kohn was personally receiving payments from Madoff at the same time as she was investing the feeder funds with [Mr. Madoff’s fund],” the affidavit says. Mr. Madoff was “actually in full control” of Bank Medici’s investments, according to the affidavit.

Prospectuses for the Bank Medici funds that Ms. Kohn oversaw claimed they were investing in a basket of 35 to 50 Standard & Poor’s 100-stock index shares, as well as in U.S. Treasurys, the affidavit says.

The prospectuses didn’t mention Mr. Madoff or his company, when in fact all of the funds’ money was being forwarded to Mr. Madoff, the affidavits say.

Meanwhile, Grant Thornton U.K. LLP, the accounting firm liquidating Mr. Madoff’s London-based unit, Madoff Securities International Ltd., discovered a bank receipt that triggered a U.K. investigation, according to a March 24 affidavit filed with Austrian prosecutors by the Serious Fraud Office, a U.K. government agency responsible for prosecuting complex fraud cases.

The bank receipt referenced a check that Madoff International paid to a company called Erko Inc. and which was deposited in a Vienna bank account, according to the U.K. affidavit.

The affidavit said the Serious Fraud Office had determined that both Erko and the bank account were controlled by Ms. Kohn. The fraud office also said in the affidavit it was unable to locate a registration for Erko.

The U.K. affidavit alleges that Mr. Madoff’s London subsidiary paid about £7 million ($11.5 million) over five years to Erko. A British prosecutor alleges in the document that Mr. Madoff attempted to hide payments to Ms. Kohn by “falsely” declaring them in his company accounts as payment for research reports.

“It is suspected that the research papers were completely worthless and that the reports were never in fact used by [Madoff Securities International] for business decisions,” the affidavit said.

The Serious Fraud Office is investigating Ms. Kohn in connection with potential criminal charges of money laundering and falsifying documents to receive kickbacks, according to the affidavit.

U.S. prosecutors say Mr. Madoff depended on feeder funds run by investment advisers such as Ms. Kohn to recruit the large numbers of new investors needed to sustain the fraud.

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Well I was too busy anyway

From Calculated Risk via BusinessInsider comes this colorful chart. You say it’s “depressing”, I say, bring on the comfy chairs! Time to write my Noel book.

Not since the Great Depression...

Not since the Great Depression...

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Breaking news from 2004

Young man, there's a plcae you can't go ...
Young man, there’s a place you can’t go …

Greenwich YMCA suspends renovation project. This inanity was pushed through by a YMCA head from California who, having bankrupted a Y out there, was recruited to do the same thing here. He’s gone now, but his legacy remains.

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But it’s mine, and I want it!

tigersRuth Madoff, Federal Marshals fight over fur coat during eviction. Ruth lost.

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