Daily Archives: May 17, 2013

Scandals throwing dark clouds over the White House? Sequester blues? I know, let’s throw a party!


But the White House tours are still closed? No comprendo.

But the White House tours are still closed? No comprendo.

Obama and Michelle will be hosting a White House soiree for all their bestest friends. You’re paying for it, but you’re not invited. Carole King is.

The event will be held in the East Room of the White House and honor singer and songwriter Carole King, who will be awarded the 2013 Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. King will be the first woman to receive the award, the White House noted in their announcement.

The program — to be streamed on the White House website and broadcast on PBS stations the evening of May 28 — will also feature performances by Gloria Estefan, Billy Joel, Jesse McCartney, Emeli Sandé, James Taylor, Trisha Yearwood and King herself.

In 2002, Carole King sang “You’ve Got a Friend” for Cuban dictator Fidel Castro at a warming-relations dinner in Havana.


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Is there some other kind?


I foresee that you will lose all your money

I foresee that you will lose all your money

Cops hunt for three fake psychics. 


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As deadline for indictment draws near, SAC stops playing innocent victim of rogue traders

"Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully."

“Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.”

There’s certainly no moral or legal obligation to help the government draw up a case against you, but it’s still notable that Steven Cohen has announced that his firm will “no longer cooperate unconditionally” with the prosecutors. Someone getting nervous?

The firm’s new stance marks a departure from its stated practice in the recent past, when SAC said it was cooperating with the government. SAC also made several accommodations to investors amid the scrutiny, repeatedly giving them more time to decide whether or not they wanted to withdraw their money from the firm, which manages about $15 billion.

“While we have in the past told you of our cooperation with the government’s investigation, our cooperation is no longer unconditional, and we do not intend to give updates in this area going forward,” the letter said.

Mr. Cohen hasn’t been accused of any wrongdoing.


In March, SAC agreed to pay a record $616 million penalty to settle two civil insider-trading suits brought by regulators. The firm didn’t admit or deny wrongdoing. But it still faces the possibility of other charges.

A five-year deadline is approaching in July for prosecutors to file the most serious criminal charges and for regulators to file civil charges, related to trading at issue in one case that touches Mr. Cohen.


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Start the clock: fifty acres in Mead Point, waterfront, $190 million

Mead PointComes with a house. Back in 2010 I predicted that this same broker’s Helmsley property’s ask price vs actual selling price, $125 million to $35 million, or a $90 million difference, would be a record long unbroken. I may have been wrong.


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$4,695,000, sold in two days

11 Knoll Street11 Knoll Street, new construction on an entire half-acre, already has been spoken for. I’d say that was a sign that the end days are near but there was a $5 million on Pinecrest last year as well as a $4+ on Riverside Avenue, so maybe this is the new normal, to cadge a name from a reader. On the other hand, this month is Mental Health month.


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Where’s Malloy on this one?

Careful, men, this stuff's deadly!

Careful, men, this stuff’s deadly!

In view of our Governor’s tearful performance yesterday mourning children lost to firearms, I thought it would be interesting to look up what’s really killing our kids. Here we go, from the CDC:

100 deaths by firearms vs. 3,207 drownings, mostly in home swimming pools. Will we see calls for draining pools this summer?

Screen Shot 2013-05-17 at 11.13.10 AM



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Hey, New Normal: this is what I’m talking about


7 Loughlin Avenue

7 Loughlin Avenue

7 Loughlin Avenue reports an accepted offer eight days after dropping its price to $1.195 million. A pretty little house right on the park, renovated in recent years and all in all, a fine building. But it started at $1.750 million in late January, and by the time the owners tossed in the towel May 9th and slashed its price from $1.495 to $1.195, it drew no buyers. Waiting four months achieved little here except inconvenience and, perhaps, a lower price than had it started at a more reasonable price to begin with.


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This probably isn’t good news

Coming attractions

Coming our way

EU poised to ruin British financial system and the Brits are helpless to stop it.

Of all the nonsense to have come out of Brussels over the years, there is little quite so self-defeating, politically driven, and generally threatening to economic wellbeing as the proposed new Financial Transaction Tax (FTT), which, as the name suggests, imposes a levy on every transaction between financial institutions. As this week’s dismal GDP figures demonstrate, Europe desperately needs some kind of deregulatory growth agenda, and yet it seems determined only on the reverse. To be pushing ahead with such a stifling and invasive initiative at a time of deepening recession fair takes the breath away.

There is not a central banker in Europe who thinks the FTT is a good idea, and even among those who publicly support the tax there are grave reservations in private. Yet the proposal seems to have developed a momentum all of its own, which even the British Government’s legal challenge through the European courts will struggle to halt. And they wonder why so many in Britain want to leave the European Union.

Not that exit would in this case do any good, for being out doesn’t enable the UK to avoid the destructive impact of the tax.

In any case, the City is only just beginning to wake up to the existential threat posed by the new tax, due for implementation at the start of next year. Even the European Commission, which naturally tends to play down the destructive impact of its directives, concedes that the proposal could result in a 75 per cent drop in derivative transactions and a 15 per cent reduction in cash volumes.

Others think the impact will be greater still. Since much of this business goes through London, the tax has become a real and present danger to the British economy. Analysis by Goldman Sachs finds that the FTT in its proposed form would render some business lines, including large areas of the swaps and repo market, completely unviable.

The cost to profits among Europe’s major banks is estimated at around 170 billion euros, or 16 per cent of their capital – this at a time when regulators are demanding that banks hold much more capital to bolster solvency.

Five years of mayhem and scandal have largely stripped finance of any defence it may once have deserved; and it is indeed hard to feel much sympathy over bankers’ bonuses. Yet the damage outside the seemingly worthless rent-seeking characteristics of finance looks set to be equally catastrophic, significantly raising the cost of capital, adding to consumer prices and further undermining pension savings. German industrialists have warned that the tax will seriously impair their ability to hedge risk, and therefore be yet another negative for competitiveness.

In a global economy, the economic suicide of one continent will wreak havoc on the rest. Smoot Hawley comes to mind. In the meantime, Wall Street traders will keep whistling: “who, me?”


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It’s happening here

Obama and his Department of Homeland Security: Tea Party and conservatives a threat, musslime terrorists not.

In a checklist obtained by The Daily Caller entitled “Countering Violent Extremism Dos and Don’ts” the DHS’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties notifies local and national law enforcement officials that it is Obama administration policy to consider specifically Islamic criticism of the American system of government legitimate.

This policy stands in stark contrast to the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis’s 2009 memo “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment” [pdf], which warned of the dangers posed by pro-life advocates, critics of same-sex marriage and groups concerned with abiding by the U.S. Constitution, among others.

The advice of the Dos and Don’ts list is far more conciliatory. “Don’t use training that equates radical thought, religious expression, freedom to protest, or other constitutionally-protected activity, including disliking the U.S. government without being violent,” the manual’s authors write in a section on training being “sensitive to constitutional values.”

The manual, which was produced by an inter-agency working group from DHS and the National Counterterrorism Center, advises, “Trainers who equate the desire for Sharia law with criminal activity violate basic tenets of the First Amendment.”

The checklist also advised against using moderate Muslim “trainers who are self-professed ‘Muslim reformers’” because they “may further an interest group agenda instead of delivering generally accepted, unbiased information.”

The 2009 report also defined “rightwing extremism in the United States” as including not just racist or hate groups, but also those who reject federal authority in favor of state or local authority and who “are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration.”

Here’s the DHS chart:


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