Daily Archives: May 18, 2010

Ya think? Goldman Sachs clients discover that their banker is also their competitor

And doing its best to ruin them. Again, as per my previous post, what the hell are you guys doing down there? This is not the Wall Street my father, or even I worked on (and no, lest that sound like Blumenthal, let me say I never worked on Wall Street – I just trotted down there now and then to retrieve money the worst of you bad boys had taken from my clients).

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Two down

Arlen Specter tossed out on his ass. Good riddance.

From Politco. With friends like these ….

At one point, the race seemed Specter’s to lose, with sky-high name recognition in a state where he served for three decades. But he was a fixture in Washington politics at a time when that was toxic. And as primary day approached, Obama and Vice President Joe Biden — both of whom had boasted of luring the longtime Republican into the Democratic ranks last year — steered well clear of the state and Specter himself.

The White House rebuffed an 11th-hour plea from Specter for a presidential visit on his behalf. Biden was in Philadelphia Monday night to give a commencement speech but did not make a campaign appearance for his longtime friend in the Senate

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A fearful symmetry

Fake veteran stands behind Blumenthal

Harvard swim team captain and decorated Viet Nam War veteran Richard Blumenthal stacked his press conference today with other fake and phony veterans. Maybe they all went swimming afterwards? Swapped lies about their heroic deeds in ‘Nam? Tugged on each other’s puds?

And who the hell is running this man’s campaign that he would round-up discredited, exposed frauds to appear on stage with his candidate today, of all days?

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Good God – I hope we don’t need banks, because we may soon have none left

Nationwide conspiracy to defraud states. I’m a lawyer and, from that experience, a cynic, but I’ve still retained a faith that most of our bankers are honorable types. What a chump I am. But I still fear the populist backlash this kind of malfeasance is going to ignite.

West Virginia was just one stop in a nationwide conspiracy in which financial advisers to municipalities colluded with Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., Wachovia Corp. and 11 other banks.

They rigged bids on auctions for so-called guaranteed investment contracts, known as GICs, according to a Justice Department list that was filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan on March 24 and then put under seal. Those contracts hold tens of billions of taxpayer money.

California to Pennsylvania

The workings of the conspiracy — which stretched from California to Pennsylvania and included more than 200 deals involving about 160 state agencies, local governments and non- profits — can be pieced together from the Justice Department’s indictment of CDR, civil lawsuits by governments around the country, e-mails obtained by Bloomberg News and interviews with current and former bankers and public officials.

“The whole investment process was rigged across the board,” said Charlie Anderson, who retired in 2007 as head of field operations for the Internal Revenue Service’s tax-exempt bond division. “It was so commonplace that people talked about it on the phones of their employers and ignored the fact that they were being recorded.”

Anderson said he referred scores of cases to the Justice Department when he was with the IRS. He estimates that bid rigging cost taxpayers billions of dollars. Anderson said prosecutors are lining up conspirators to plead guilty and name names.

“This will go on for a long time and a lot of people will be indicted,” he said in a telephone interview.

And there’s this: what the hell is wrong with Wall Street? I really don’t understand it.

This isn’t the first time Wall Street has faced accusations of reaping excessive fees on investment deals with public officials. Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Lehman Brothers, which filed for bankruptcy in 2008, Merrill Lynch & Co. and other securities firms agreed by 2000 to pay more than $170 million to settle SEC charges that they had sold overpriced Treasury bonds to municipalities.

The so-called yield burning drove down the returns that local governments earned and trimmed required payments to the IRS. The firms neither admitted nor denied wrongdoing.

Even as the banks were settling with regulators, they devised another way to burn yield, this time by skimming money from GICs, according to the indictment, which said the conspiracy went from 1998 to at least 2006.

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One down

Rand Paul, tea party candidate, wins in a landslide.

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Jan Ivarsson, Guest cartoonist

Jan Ivarsson

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Chris Shays on his friend Blumenthal

Damning with faint praise.

HARTFORD — Former Representative Christopher Shays of Connecticut, a Republican who says he is a good friend of Richard Blumenthal’s, said in an interview Tuesday that he had watched with worry as Mr. Blumenthal gradually embellished his military record over the years.

Mr. Shays, a 10-term incumbent who lost a re-election bid in November 2008, was a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War. He said he and Mr. Blumenthal began their careers in politics at roughly the same time and frequently addressed the same groups. He recalled that early on, Mr. Blumenthal spoke humbly about his military record, rarely discussing it and always making clear that he had held only desk jobs and had not been in the line of fire, though he remained proud of having been a Marine.

“But as time went on, he would mention it more often, and Vietnam would show up,” even when Mr. Blumenthal was not speaking to veterans, Mr. Shays said.

Eventually, Mr. Shays said, he began hearing Mr. Blumenthal refer to having served in Vietnam. Mr. Shays said he assumed, wrongly, that Mr. Blumenthal had perhaps been a military lawyer there. That alone, he said, was enough for him to have had the impulse to advise Blumenthal to be careful, that people could interpret his remarks as a claim to have seen action there.

“I felt inclined to go to him and say, ‘Dick, in your service in Vietnam, you weren’t on the firing line, you don’t want to overstate that,’ ” Mr. Shays said. “I just felt like he was raising the stakes in a way that was inconsistent with what he’d said in the past. I was actually going to go up and speak to him. And I wish I had.”

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When new is old

29 Lockwood Avenue

We have a couple of retreads sneaking back onto the MLS as new listings (an entirely appropriate procedure, done to avoid the stigma of being a stale listing). This one in Old Greenwich sold for $3.1 million in 2005 and was relisted for a cool $4.1 million just a year later. Now, four years on, it’s asking $3. 595. I don’t see why it should be worth more than was paid for it in 2005 – no mention of any improvements. Assessment? $2.

154 North street asked $3.5 million in 2007. It’s back today at $2.650. Wise move.

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Hey, Marines!

Blumenthal claims he spent six months on Paris Parris Island as a trainee reservist. I’m under the impression that boot camp lasts far less than that, and he wasn’t an officer, so OCS wouldn’t account for the extra time. Anyone know if it’s possible to spend six months down there?

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How to lose your shirt

54 Rock maple

 

Some idiot priced this house, assessed at $4 million, at $12.450 million back in 2007. Three years later, having missed the peak of the market, it’s still unsold and today its third broker dropped its price, again, to $5.495. 

How the hell do you miss a house’s value by more than half? At this point it’s unlikely that buyer will even pay the new price, because it carries the stigma of having been for sale for so long. “If no one else wants it, why should I?” is the thinking. 

I’m betting it sells for close to its assessed value – too bad, too, because it’s a nice house, and could have fetched a good price back in 2007 had it been priced properly.

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And some contracts

11 Mountain Wood

Three years of futility. This teardown was originally priced at $6.250 in 2007. Three years later, after it dropped to $3.3, it’s found a contract. My guess? $2.75. You can’t fight the market.

 
9 Roberta Lane came on with an improbable price of $3.595 in May 2009 but only dropped to $3.290. Still it too has a contract, so somebody disagreed with my assessment.
 
36 Lake Drive South, in Riverside, is a great house, on the other hand. It started at $3.995, lost one deal when the buyer turned out to be an asshole, dropped to $3.750 and is under contract again. I like this house.

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Sales

65 Buckfield: Listed for $3.995 in February, 2008, sold yesterday for $2.450.

63 Burning Tree: Listed for $3.695 in January, 2008, sold yesterday for $2.475.

Is there a pattern here?

14 Dialstone, in Riverside, did better. Last sold for $2 million in May, 2007, sold yesterday for just $200,000 less. Bad negotiation or pent-up demand? I don’t know, but the seller may have gotten lucky.

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From a guest blogger at InstaPundit

BIG BROTHER COMES TO AMERICA WISE GOVERNMENT TEACHES PARKING ATTENDANTS TO WATCH FOR SIGNS OF TERRORISM:

Here’s something new:

A new government program aims to train thousands of parking industry employees nationwide to watch for and report anything suspicious — abandoned cars, for example, or people hanging around garages, taking photographs or asking unusual questions.

What’s new isn’t the program, but the perfectly straight coverage from an outlet like MSNBC.  When a similar program, TIPS, was proposed right after the 9/11 attacks, it was the second coming of Stasi, and was opposed by a left-right coalition of civil libertarians.  Here’s how it was coveredin 2002:

Attorney General John Ashcroft tried to assure dubious Senate Democrats yesterday that a new citizens watchdog program isn’t a Big Brother snooping operation.The attorney general said TIPS is aimed at reporting suspicious activity in public areas and isn’t targeted at people’s homes – a central complaint of libertarians who say the plan encourages neighbors to spy on one another.

TIPS was unveiled in President Bush’s State of the Union speech but has generated little enthusiasm. One of its primary recruiting targets – the Postal Service – has said it won’t encourage mail carriers to participate.

The plan has united liberals and conservatives in opposition. The American Civil Liberties Union contends TIPS would turn many workers into “government-sanctioned Peeping Toms.”

Of course, that was then, and this is now.  Apparently we only need a left-right coalition that raises privacy objections to government policies under Republican administrations.

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We’d better repeal the 13th Amendment, in a hurry

Texas: doctors fleeing Medicare in droves.

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Blumenthal and his lies

His “I served in Viet Nam” video has gone viral. Here’s how I see it: he has for decades claimed credit for the achievement of others. Too much effort to try out for and make the Harvard swim team? Just lie, and say you were its captain. Too lazy or scared to sue large corporations? Let other states’ attorneys general do it, then jump in just as settlements are reached and post your kisser all over Connecticut media.

But to dodge the draft and then, decades later, claim to have been a warrior, one of the men who put their lives on the line, is the worst of all. It’s all the same pattern, though, which is why he doesn’t deserve to serve in the United States Senate.

UPDATE: A reader points out that Blumenthal clearly knows nothing about this country’s treatment of WW II vets, who, in fact, were very well treated – GI Bill, veteran housing, etc. My great-grandfather John Caldwell, wounded in the Battle of the Wilderness during the Civil War and sent back to Washington for medical treatment, was billed for his care. We did better than that for our WWII soldiers but then, how would Blumenthal know? If his prevarication and cowardice is genetic, his father was probably a draft dodger too. As he himself says, this is “unforgivable”.

UPDATE II – cool! Link here, and credit for, the Harvard swim team scam from “Just One Minute”, one of my favorite blogs. Thank you!

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Market illiterates

Germany wants to ban naked short selling . Bring on King Canute.

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Hotmail? Who remembers Hotmail?

Apparently MicroSoft, its owner does, because they’re revamping it. I had an account with them maybe ten years ago, but when Gmail came out, I was gone and have never looked back. I am completely satisfied with Gmail and wouldn’t switch anyway, but (at least)one memory keeps me away from HotMail: I was purchasing something at Abercrombie & Fitch for one of my girls, years ago  and the sales clerk requested my email address. I saw that she wrote down “Hot Male.com” and, although I corrected it, I’ve always wondered what records I’ve ended up in as the result of having had an account with these people.

By the way, when I did have a hotmail account, it lacked any kind of spam filter – with Gmail, 99.9% of my messages are genuine while with hotmail, it was quite the other way around. It was the first free email service, which is why I joined it, but ultimately it was rendered useless by the spam. I suppose they have fixed that for this reworking, but if it took ten years for Microsoft to address the needs of its customers, I’m not interested.

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