Okay, I’m back

John’s as well as can be expected, I spent a while in the woods (futilely) chasing turkeys , and I’ve returned to find that nothing’s changed. I’ll catch up on real estate new shortly, but here’s news that should surprise no one: Congress claims exemption from insider stock trading laws. Who says Republicans and Democrats can’t unite when thievery is on the agenda?

In a little-noticed brief filed last summer, lawyers for the House of Representatives claimed that an SEC investigation of congressional insider trading should be blocked on principle, because lawmakers and their staff are constitutionally protected from such inquiries given the nature of their work.

The legal team led by Kerry W. Kircher, who was appointed House General Counsel by Speaker John Boehner in 2011, claimed that the insider trading probe violated the separation of powers between the legislative and executive branch.

In 2012, members of Congress patted themselves on the back for passing the STOCK Act, a bill meant to curb insider trading for lawmakers and their staff. “We all know that Washington is broken and today members of both parties took a big step forward to fix it,” said Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, upon passage of the law.

But as the Securities and Exchange Commission made news with the first major investigation of political insider trading, Congress moved to block the inquiry.

The SEC investigation focused on how Brian Sutter, then a staffer for the House Ways and Means Committee, allegedly passed along information about an upcoming Medicare decision to a lobbyist, who then shared the tip with other firms. Leading hedge funds used the insider tip to trade on health insurance stocks that were affected by the soon-to-be announced Medicare decision.

Calling the SEC’s inquiry a “remarkable fishing expedition for congressional records,” Kircher and his team claimed that the SEC had no business issuing a subpoena to Sutter. “Communications with lobbyists, of course, are a normal and routine part of Committee information-gathering,” the brief continued, arguing that there “is no room for the SEC to inquire into the Committee’s or Mr. Sutter’s purpose or motives.”

Wall Street investors routinely hire specialized “political intelligence” lobbyists in Washington to get insider knowledge of major government decisions so that they may make trades using the information. But little is known about the mechanics of political intelligence lobbying, which falls outside the scope of traditional lobbying law, and therefore does not show up in mandatory lobbying disclosure reports.

There are occasional hints, though.

Personal finance forms reveal that from July of 2011 through May of 2013, David Berteau served as a consultant to Height Analytics, the political intelligence firm at the center of the SEC’s current probe. At the time of his work for Height Analytics, Berteau simultaneously worked as a vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a prominent think tank in Washington. Berteau is now the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Logistics and Materiel Readiness.

Congressional travel forms show that on December 12, 2012, Emily Porter, at the time an employee of Boehner’s office, traveled to New York on a sponsored trip to meet with JNK Securities for a group lunch with business clients. According to the Wall Street Journal, JNK “has emerged as one of the most aggressive” political intelligence firms on Capitol Hill.

This is hardly the first time Congress has moved to undermine its own ethics rules. In 2011, congressional Republicans quickly abandoned their promise to post the text of bills online “for at least three days” before

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And here’s an old nugget, finally shuffling off the stage

14 Martin Dale14 Martin Dale, a pretty-much-vanilla spec house when it failed to sell for $5.995 in 2008, dropped its price, eventually, to $4.350 and has a buyer. At the new price, given the street and location, I suppose it makes sense; if the buyer can avoid dying of boredom inside.

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Quick sale on Parsonage

145 Parsonage145 Parsonage Road, $5.495, reports a pending deal just a week after hitting the market. The sellers paid $4.995 for it a couple of years ago, added a generator (what, $20,000?) and otherwise added a few years of wear to it, so they’re making out well.But a grand old house, on a fabulous street, so I’m not surprised.

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At long last, love

30 Sherwood Avenue

30 Sherwood Avenue

30 Sherwood Avenue, $2.495, listed as both land and residence, has a buyer. The sellers bought this  house and guest cottage on 7.5-acres from Elie Weisel in 2004 for $2.5 million, totally renovated it, added 1,000 square feet to it, and placed it back up for sale in 2010 for $3.850 million. Five years and a lot of price cuts later, it’s on its way to being sold. I wasn’t wildly happy about the renovations:they kind of destroyed the writer’s feel of it, and it has some Merritt exposure, but the house was much more livable after its changes, and it does have a separate building lot, so $2.5 would seem like a bargain on almost any other street. Unfortunately, Sherwood Avenue is one of our “fringe areas”, and it seems that everyone who’s bought here in the pst couple of decades has lost money. The current buyers will probably do okay – the sellers, obviously, lost their shirts.

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Say goodbye to Smith College, I hope

Transgender freak

Transgender freak

Will now admit boys who identify themselves as girls (but not the other way).

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (AP) — Smith College, the largest of the all-female Seven Sisters schools, is changing its policy to accept transgender women.

The new policy, which takes effect for those applying this fall, followed a year of study. The women’s college had previously asked undergraduates to have consistently identified as female since birth.

Smith President Kathleen McCartney and board Chair Elizabeth Mugar Eveillard said in announcing the change on Saturday since Smith’s founding, “concepts of female identity have evolved.

Smith will not admit students who were born female but identify as male.

Other women’s colleges, including Mount Holyoke and Wellesley, also have changed their policies to admit transgender women.

The advocacy group GLAAD said it worked with Smith alumnae for the change. GLAAD President and CEO Kate Ellis said Smith joins a growing number of colleges that “respect and afford equal opportunity to all women.”

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And thank you, Walt

I’m only sorry that you chose to dress as a waitress- I’m sure that none of the FWIW crowd recognized the fat lady in the cheap red wig passing around pigs in a blanket as the seer of this blog and, although I know that that was the way you wanted it, I’m sure that they’ll regret not meeting you.

Nonetheless, I do thank you for making the effort to appear. Hope the club paid you for your service.

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Party is today: 1-3:30, Riverside Yact Club. Breton reds, Topsiders and silly caps optional

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