Liveblogging the Bernie Madoff Sentencing
Reuters is tweeting it live from the courthouse (victims' statements, pictures, et al) where the superlative Ponzi schemer is about to get up to 150 years.
Update: Boom! All 150. Crime doesn't pay, kids.
TARP in the 1st Degree
Larry Kudlow ponders widespread criminality lurking within the Troubled Asset Relief Program.
Is the whole TARP plan a criminal enterprise? Sounds farfetched, I suppose. But after reading about Special Inspector General Neil Barofsky’s report, it may well be that TARP is just one big criminal problem.
Listen to this: Barofsky’s investigators reported Monday that they have opened 20 criminal probes into possible securities fraud, tax-law violations, insider-trading, and mortgage-modification fraud related to TARP. Yup, those are criminal probes. Barofsky is the special IG overseeing the bailout program. And for some reason the mainstream media refuses to report this on the front pages where it belongs.
Barofsky’s report spans 247 pages. And it says that the very character of the bailout program makes it “inherently vulnerable to fraud, waste and abuse, including significant issues related to conflicts of interest facing fund managers, collusion between participants and vulnerabilities to money laundering.”
With due deference to Mr. Kudlow, who makes an important point here, it seems to me that his take is at once overly cynical and overly naive.
It's not that TARP on the whole is an inherently or conspiratorially criminal enterprise, but that government spending is always and axiomatically "inherently vulnerable to fraud, waste and abuse." Take whatever fraud leakage estimate you favor, apply it to a several hundred billion dollar program, and you're going to find fraud on a scale to blush Mr. Madoff himself. Since the complexity of government programs - and thus the per-dollar opportunity to defraud - tends to scale with the size of such programs, the absolute scale of expected fraud likely increases non-linearly as the size of government programs swell. (Take a peek at New York's $45 billion in annual Medicaid spending for an arresting example.)
Kudlow will want to make sure he's sitting down before reading any reports Barofsky may issue on the prevalence of fraud among the multi-trillion dollar stimuli.
Madoff Employee Finds Unblown Whistles To Blow
If accurate, this seems to implicate a whole lot more people.
The Man With the Golden Pajamas
Still stuffing money in your mattress? That's bush league.
In the Change Times, your sleepwear is the preferred place to stash your cash. The only problem is that it doesn't offer much security if you happen to be wearing those pajamas when the feds show up to arrest you for your involvement in government corruption.
Madoff, SEC Agree to Settle Civil Case
The assets stay frozen and Bernie agrees not to contest the facts of the complaint when the time comes to determine his civil penalty.
The SEC says the basic facts of the complaint are that Madoff committed a $50 billion fraud and told his sons his investment business was a sham. Madoff told them he had "absolutely nothing," that "it's all just one big lie," and was "basically, a giant Ponzi scheme," according to the complaint.
Madoff's next apperance in connection with the criminal case is scheduled for February 11, unless he's formally indicted in the mean time.
As Bernie Madoff heads back to court for yet another bail hearing, and following a very successful first round, PyraTwit (the Twitter-based simulated Ponzi scheme) is happy to announce it is not only taking on new "investors" but allowing previous "investors" to "reinvest". For existing participants, the maximum investment has been raised from 10 to 20 follows (increasing the maximum "guaranteed" return to 40 followers).
Background for the uninitiated:
PyraTwit is an ongoing social experiment on Twitter, designed to simulate a classic Ponzi scheme. No cash changes hands; instead, we're using Twitter "follows" as currency. New "investors" agree to follow a certain number of Twitterers and in return, are followed by twice as many.
The idea is to document the evolution of a Ponzi-style network in real time, mapping its viral growth and ultimate collapse.
Click here for more details and to join the pyramid!
Update: Below is a representation of the project's transaction history to date (49 investments, 934 follows accrued, 420 paid out). As illustrated, the payouts are becoming gradually more fractured. Among the investors that have realized the entirety of their 200% return, the average number of subsequent investors required to fulfill that return has been trending upward.
Even so, the pyramid is still clearly stable, despite the relatively onerous rate of "guaranteed" return. Excluding secondary investments, the shortfall is relatively small (just 46 in aggregate, across 10 investors). With an average investment size of 9 (and an average return of 18), that shortfall of less than 5 per first round investor represents a lag of just 5 or so investments.
One note on fungibility: while a typical Ponzi scheme benefits from the fully fungible nature of cash, Twitter follows are not quite so versatile. When a new investor already follows an investor awaiting a return, that new investor can't help contribute to the payout. This results in an incremental repayment delay, noted in the chart as "fungibility leakage". Since our Ponzi network is, by design, a highly interconnected one (drawing, as it does, upon referrals made within a social networking application), this leakage is a significant one, totaling nearly 10% of the current shortfall. The leakage is temporary, of course, but it does result in a payback delay, which will hasten the eventual collapse of the pyramid.
Click the image to view full size.
I just launched a social experiment on Twitter, designed to simulate a classic Ponzi scheme. No cash changes hands; instead, we're using Twitter "follows" as currency. New "investors" agree to follow a certain number of Twitterers and in return, are followed by twice as many.
It's the Bernie Madoff home game!
The idea is to document the evolution of a Ponzi-style network in real time, mapping its viral growth and ultimate collapse.
Click here for more details and to join the pyramid!
Blagojevich Impeached, Patterson Confused
A nearly unanimous vote (114-1) in the Illinois House today assures Blago will head to the State Senate for removal hearings.
The "1" is Democrat Milton Patterson, representing - can you guess - the south side of Chicago.
[Patterson] said after the roll call that he didn’t feel it was his job to vote to impeach the governor. He declined comment on whether he approved of the job Blagojevich is doing.
Bill Richardson Jingles His Keys For Us
... What were we talking about?
“Yesterday, I was hurting. I lost a Cabinet appointment. But I think people have to focus on what people are losing in this country. They’re losing their savings and their homes.”
Madoff Issues Mass Apology, Mounts Comeback
Just caught this clip on Special Report With Without Brit Hume. Chuckleworthy.
"The New Republic" Suddenly Super Sleuthy About Fabulism
If Bernie Madoff were to form a financial fraud investigation firm, would you hire him?
The irony of the famously hoodwinkable and thrice-disgraced New Republic patting themselves on the back for digging up this literary hoax is no less palpable.
Previously: The New Republic box set
SEC Probing Several Other Potential Madoff-Style Scams
That's according to the obligatory person familiar with the situation.
The Securities and Exchange Commission is casting a wide net as it investigates the apparent $50 billion fraud allegedly committed by Bernard Madoff, and it continues to look into whether Mr. Madoff's family had any connection to wrongdoing, according to a person familiar with the probe.
The publicity surrounding the Madoff scandal has sparked a half-dozen SEC investigations into other alleged Ponzi schemes, the person familiar with the probe said. Investors are taking closer note of red flags such as promised returns that seem too good to be true, and some are bringing their concerns to the SEC, this person said.
The Bernie Madoff Home Game
Yes, now you too can flush your money down the toilet and become part of the Madoff debacle. How? By bidding on one of the several bits of Madoff Investment Securities swag suddenly popping up on eBay.
Starting bids range as high as $250 for the authentic MADF backpack, but the most interesting item up for sale is actually the cheapest.
It's the Bernard L. Madoff "Disaster Recovery" kit, a post-9/11 survival bag for urban refugees that takes on new relevance in the post-Madoff era.
If you're going to throw your money away, you may as well get an ironic conversation piece out of it. A bargain at $9.99:
My friend's husband received this Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities Employee Emergency kit as an employee of the firm. Now the real emergency is upon them after Bernie was found to be perpetrating the biggest Ponzi Scheme in history!
This kit includes a really nice pouch, purified water, MTA transit map, a safety lightstick, a whistle (did Mark and Andy use one like this when they blew the whistle on dear old dad?), rubber gloves, mask, and an unopened pack with tweezers, bandages, advil, etc.
The logo on the pouch reads MADF Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC Employee Disaster Recovery Hotline
Madoff Investor Commits Suicide
Authorities found Rene-Thierry Magon de la Villehuchet at 7:50 a.m. with no pulse at his office of Access International Advisors, located on Madison Avenue a couple of blocks from Rockefeller Center.
A French newspaper is reporting that the 65-year-old de la Villehuchet committed suicide. The New York medical examiner spokeswoman says it has not determined the cause of death yet.
Madoff is accused of running a $50 billion Ponzi scheme that wiped out investors around the world, with big funds like de la Villehuchet's being especially hard hit.
His $1.4 billion fund specializes in managing hedged and structured investment portfolios.
Seeing a significant portion of your $1.4 billion fund evaporate and contemplating the repercussions from your own investors would be sufficient to inspire a certain amount of dismay, but (without knowing anything about de la Villehuchet's fund vis a vis Madoff's), it's also possible that authorities had come knocking on the doors of Madoff's large institutional investors to suss out whether any outside parties were in any way complicit in (rather than sloppily blind to) the fraud. If so, a whole different level of dismay may have befallen de la Villehuchet in recent days.
French business paper La Tribune obtained some relevant quotes, but it's unclear (to me, anyway) whether these are characterizations made by the police to the paper or excerpts from a note or statements made by de la Villehuchet himself, as recounted to the paper by police.
Mr. de La Villehuchet, 65, the founding partner and chief executive at Access International Advisors LLC of New York, was "unable to resist the pressures that followed the eruption of the scandal," according to the report.
He had tried "night and day" to recover funds that Access International raised in Europe through its $1.4 billion Luxalpha fund and had begun legal action in the United States against U.S. authorities, according to the report.
Ted Stevens Guilty on 7/7 Counts
He'll be sentenced on February 25th, when he could get up to five years.
Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) was convicted today on seven counts of failing to report more than $250,000 in improper gifts he received from 1999 to 2006, a stunning blow to a political career that has lasted more than 40 years and marked Alaska’s entire history as a part of the United States.
Stevens, 84, now faces a question over whether he will resign, and if he does not, whether he can win reelection Nov. 4 in an already tough race.
The heart of the government’s case against Stevens centered on the nearly total overhaul of Stevens’ home in Girdwood, Alaska, during 2000-2001. Bill Allen, a close Stevens’ friend and former CEO of VECO Corp., an Alaska oil-field services company, paid for much of the renovation work and used VECO employees to carry it out. That work cost more than $180,000, and Stevens never paid for it or reported it on his annual financial disclosure forms.
Stevens, in particular, was argumentative and crotchety when questioned by prosecutors, and his testimony failed to convince the jury that he was an innocent man.
Suddenly It All Makes Sense
Ashley Todd is a Paulnut.
In March, Ms. Todd was asked to leave a grass-roots group of Ron Paul supporters in Brazos County, Texas, group leader Dustan Costine said. He said Ms. Todd posed as a supporter of former Arkansas governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and called the local Republican committee seeking information about its campaign strategies.
“She would call the opposing campaign and pretend she was on their campaign to get information,” Mr. Costine said last night. “We had to remove her because of the tactics she displayed. After that we had nothing to do with her.”
About a month earlier, he said, Ms. Todd sent an e-mail to the Ron Paul group saying her tires were slashed and that campaign paraphernalia had been stolen from her car because she supported Mr. Paul.
Ashley Todd Made It All Up
Unbelievable. Please lock this idiot up.
Police say a campaign volunteer confessed to making up a story that a mugger attacked her and cut the letter B in her face after seeing her McCain bumper sticker.
At a news conference this afternoon, offiicals said they believe that Ashley Todd's injuries were self-inflicted.
Todd, 20, of Texas, is now facing charges for filing a false report to police.
I guess she was dumb enough to carve the letter backward in the mirror after all.
Finding the Threshold Of the Obama Campaign's Anti-Fraud Measures
If it exists at all, one has to plumb pretty deep to find it.
I went to the Obama campaign website and entered the following:
Name: John Galt
Address: 1957 Ayn Rand Lane
City: Galts Gulch
Then I checked the box next to $15 and entered my actual credit card number and expiration date (it didn't ask for the 3-didgit code on the back of the card) and it took me to the next page and... "Your donation has been processed. Thank you for your generous gift."
This simply should not, and could not, happen in any business or any campaign that is honestly trying to vet it's donors.
The same ["John Galt"] claims to have tried to donate the same way on McCain’s website and had his card rejected.
Reader “Dale in Atlanta” says he tried it with a fake name and the transaction showed up on his credit card immediately — but marked “pending.” We’ll find out later today if it clears.
Further to my post below about the Obama campaign intentionally disabling security checks for their credit card donations, several readers have wandered over to the site to test it out. One was accepted with the following details:
Name: JarackBoe BOamabiden
Address: 2345 Fak Addrss Lane
The only query he got back was to ask him if he didn't want to give more money.
You'd think a diligent New York Times reporter might want to check out this thing. After all, most of them have already been over there to make their own donations, so it's not like they don't know the URL.
[UPDATE: And another - a $15 donation from:
Name: Della Ware
Address: 12345 No Way
Far Far Away, DE 78954
Employer: Americans Against Obama
Frankly, its easier than I'd believe to do this. Courtesy of my (real) CC number and expiration date, the Obama campaign has just received a $19.45 donation from mister Adolf Hitler, whose occupation is "Dictator" at the company "National Socialist Party of Ger" (I got cut off). I captured screenshots to prove this.
No verification required. The listed address wasn't even close to my real address.
And finally, me, just now, with the following data:
Name: Nodda Realperson
Address: 1000 This Is a Bogus Street
City/State: Neighborhood of Makebelieve, CA
Employer: Barack Obama
Occupation: Cow-Eyed Disciple
The debit transaction (of $5) processed at my account within 90 seconds.
What robust security! Aren't you reassured knowing that Obama's $250 million or so in small-dollar donations that will never see the light of FEC disclosure are so painstakingly vetted?
To clarify, via an AoS commenter, this appears to be deliberate:
"Having worked for companies that process credit cards online, it is necessary to go through and manually disable the safeguards that they put in place to verify a person's address and zip code with the cardholder's bank."
Update: At 1:47 pm, Steyn posted an update:
NR reader "Borat Oblama" writes:
I tried to donate $5 in the name of "Borat Oblama" from "Madeuptown, USA", using a legit credit card number, and got a screen saying the card didn't match the address.
Apparently they've been shamed into reinstating the security checks.
Pity we didn't figure this out in August
My glaringly fake transaction went through more than 15 minutes after that update, so security is most assuredly not reinstated.
Update: Patrick Ruffini (having also just contributed $5) has more on the very standard security measures Obama had to eschew in order to make his site so porous to excessive, foreign, and otherwise fraudulent contributions.
The issue centers around the Address Verification Service (or AVS) that credit card processors use to sniff out phony transactions. I was able to contribute money using an address other than the one on file with my bank account (I used an address I control, just not the one on my account), showing that the Obama campaign deliberately disabled AVS for its online donors.
AVS is generally the first line of defense against credit card fraud online. AVS ensures that not only is your credit card number accurate, but the street address you've submitted with a transaction matches the one on file with your bank.
Authorize.net, the largest credit card gateway provider in the country, lists AVS as a "Standard Transaction Security Setting," recommends merchants use it, and turns it on by default. So, in order for AVS to be turned off, it has to be intentional, at least with Authorize.net.
Small-Dollar Campaign Finance Fraud Is So Last Quarter
Sure, it's easy enough to fraudulently fill the campaign coffers using sub-$200 credit card donations, far from the prying eyes of the pesky FEC. But after the first $30 million or so, the data entry is bound to get tedious.
There have been a smattering of incidents reported in which people have seen credit card charges surface suggesting they donated to Barack Obama when they did not.
Now comes the story of Mary T. Biskup, of Manchester, Missouri. Biskup got a call recently from the Obama campaign, which was trying to figure out why she donated $174,800 to the campaign -- well over the contribution limit of $2,300.
The answer she gave them was simple. "That's an error."
Biskup, a retired insurance manager who occasionally submits recipes to the local paper, says someone used a credit card to donate the money in her name. No charges ever showed up on her credit card statement.
Good on the Obama campaign for noticing a contribution that exceeded federal limits by 7,500% (exactly 7,500%, oddly), especially since noticing glaring irregularities hasn't been their strongest suit thus far.
Better yet, it gives us an excuse to haul this out for the second time today:
(HT: Amanda Carpenter)
Obama Turns Blind Eye To Ongoing Credit Card Fraud Lining His Pockets
Have You Contributed To Obama? Are You Sure?
New Details On RNC's FEC Complaint Over Obama's Misbegotten Millions
RNC Filing FEC Complaint Over Obama's Excessive, Secret, and Foreign Campaign Cash [Update: $34 Million In Particularly Filthy Lucre]
Good Will Funneling
ACORN, Flush With Cash From Taxpayers and Obama Campaign, Helps Raise Albuquerque's Fraudulent Vote Share To 30%
The Associated Press reported Friday that the New Mexico GOP found 28 people who voted fraudulently in Albuquerque during the June Democratic primary by absentee ballot. One of the ballots was cast from someone named "Duran-Duran"
The GOP's review was conducted in House District 13 and only included 92 ballots. That means roughly a third of the ballots examined were fraudulent.
“This is a bombshell. We now have undeniable proof that a significant number of fraudulent voters were cast in Democrat primary races for the New Mexico state legislature as a result of ACORN’s voter registration fraud,” said State Representative Justine Fox Young (R.-Albuquerque). “No longer can ACORN argue that their phony voter registration forms don’t translate into fraudulent votes. They do and today we can prove it.”
Information from House Minority Leader John Boehner's (R.-Ohio) office shows that Albuquerque's ACORN branch has received $349,253 in federal tax dollars since 1998.
Good thing the Supreme Court has just ruled that Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner doesn't need to reconcile the 200,000 mismatched registrations that she had been hiding. Obama paid $800,000 in good money for ACORN's Ohio services and even went to the trouble of concealing it from the FEC. It would be a slap in the face not to allow those tireless fraudulent registration efforts to blossom into fraudulent votes, especially now that New Mexico has shown beyond a doubt that it can work.
A glorious day for community organizing!
Debate 3: Mac's Last Stand
How many minutes into the proceedings will McCain first bring up Bill Ayers? I'm guessing 15.
In addition to hammering Obama's on his circle of terrorist buddies, McCain - as has been endlessly opined - needs to make his economic case. He's got plenty of ammunition (particularly with regard to investment income taxes and windfall profit taxes), as Obama's plans to punish capital represents the surest parth to devaluing stocks and killing jobs. If the economic theory eludes McCain, he can point to Obama's closest historical analog, our 39th President, and remind Americans how well this worked last time.
Whether McCain elects to finally fire those bullets is another story.
Reminding people that Obama and his Democratic colleagues were the ones who thwarted the attempts of McCain and other Republicans to rein in Fannie and Freddie is also important, but McCain's already proven willing to make this point (and likely will again tonight), so I don't expect this to be a source of major annoyance this evening. The expected infuriations involve 1) McCain letting Obama get away with his whopper that 95% of Americans won't be hurt by his tax increases and 2) kid gloves remaining on during the Ayers exchange.
Ideally, I'd like to see McCain ask Obama why, if he believes "spreading the wealth around" helps everybody, he hasn't simply been cutting an extra check to the IRS each year to bring his own effective tax rate up to the "fair share" he'd like to see imposed on high income earners.
It doesn't matter how bad a year this is for Republicans. A terrorist-sympathizing candidate with strong socialist leanings (and former socialist party membership) shouldn't even be polling in the double-digits. McCain can still put him away, but he needs to get in the fight tonight in a way he hasn't even approached in earlier rounds.
100 million eyeballs will tune in again tonight, but after this the election goes on auto-pilot, save a true October bombshell.
Update: Significantly better than expected. A solid B- for McCain, possibly bumped up to a B for his Herbert Hoover zinger. Not enough pushback on Obama's minimization of his Ayers relationships, nor on the 95%-of-taxpayers baloney. Not a knock-out by any means, but a pleasant surprise nonetheless.
Obama called on people to put down their video games, but as a McCain staffer e-mails: “But he advertises on them? Disingenuousness.”
What Obama actually said was that he was going to take away our video games.
Update: Joe the plumber weighs in on the debate that featured him some 20 times.
In Ohio on Sunday, Obama was approached by one man who said, "Your new tax plan's going to tax me more."
A video clip caught by Fox News shows Obama replying, "It's not that I want to punish your success. I just want to make sure that everybody who is behind you, that they've got a chance at success, too. And I think that when we spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody."
McCain referred repeatedly to that voter, Joe Wurzelbacher, a plumber from Toledo, Ohio.
Wurzelbacher watched Wednesday night's debate and said he still thinks Obama's plan would keep him from buying the small business that employs him.
About McCain: "He's got it right as far as I go."
Ayers Likely Ghost Wrote Obama's Memoir - Part II
Last Thursday, I linked Jack Cashill's extensive analysis of Barack Obama's first memoir Dreams From My Father, the glaring literary ineptitude of its ostensible author, and its striking technical and lyrical similarities to Bill Ayers' memoir Fugitive Days.
I traded e-mails with Cashill shortly thereafter and learned that he was continuing his analysis of Ayers' other written works. Among those works is Ayers' 1993 book To Teach, wherein Cashill has found additional support for his thesis that Ayers ghost wrote Obama's book.
Some of this is rehash of his earlier analysis (comparing Dreams and Fugitive Days), but the comparison between Dreams and To Teach is all new and offers yet more convincing evidence that Ayers was the true author of the work that earned Time Magazine's plaudit "the best-written memoir ever produced by an American politician."
As a reminder, Obama explicitly claims that he did not employ a ghost writer or a co-author in the composition of his memoir. The revelation that Ayers either helped write or simply wrote Dreams would not only expose Obama in a bald-faced, intellect-deflating lie; it would further refute his increasingly laughable assertion that the unrepentant terrorist is simply a "guy from the neighborhood."
Previously: Ayers Likely Ghost Wrote Obama's Memoir
Have You Contributed To Obama?
No? Are you sure?
Steve and Rachel Larman say a strange credit card charge appeared on their statement this month — a $2300 donation to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. The Larman’s say they don’t want this to be about their political affiliation, but they say they’re not about to give the Obama campaign any help from their pocketbook.
They said they notified Chase, their credit card bank, to report the fraud.
“(They) said that they had seen-they were familiar with this,” said Steve Larman. “It was fraud, they believe through telemarketing but they were going to be doing some more investigations.”
“(They) said that they had seen-they were familiar with this,” said Steve Larman. “It was fraud, they believe through telemarketing but they were going to be doing some more investigations.”
The Larman’s don’t want their politics to enter into what is essentially just a fraudulent charge. But they say that the charge involves the Obama campaign adds insult to injury for the registered Republicans.
“They (Chase) kept on asking me ‘are you sure you wouldnt have gone to a site in support of Obama’,” said Rachel Larman. “And I repeatedly said ‘Im voting for McCain - I would not be going to an Obama site’.”
Chase dropped the charge from the Larman’s card. The couple is thankful thay they caught the charge on the card, but worried that others may not see that type of fraud on their own credit cards before it’s too late.
You can check for your name here, but the Larmans' forcible contribution doesn't appear to have been reported by the Obama campaign to the FEC (at least not under their own name - it could've been processed using a fictitious name or even that of the card thief), so you're probably better off double-checking your credit card statements.
Dead people, foreigners, gibberish names, and now the unwitting. The number of asterisks following Obama's "fundraising record" continues to grow.
Obama: Election Fraudsters and Bad Mortgage Bullies Will Help Shape My Agenda
ACORN (and other "community organizing" groups) wanted him to guarantee an audience with his Oneiness within the first 100 days of his administration. He did them one better and pledged to call "every one of you in to help shape the agenda" during his
bodily ascension transition.
Obama's Chickens Coming Home To Roost
The avian metaphor Ace prefers is that of the black swan, but that's inappropriate for two reasons. 1) It wasn't all that hard to predict that Obama's web of seediness was interconnected and 2) it's patently racist to use the word "black" while deigning to criticize a post-racial candidate who happens to be half black.
Bad Judgment, Blind Ambition
John McCain's new web ad details Barack Obama's ties to the professional electoral fraud outfit known as ACORN (and ACORN's influence over risky mortgage lending).
Ayers Likely Ghost Wrote Obama's Memoir
Read this exhaustive analysis and tell me if you disagree.
I noted this briefly in the festival of speculation about McCain's
big announcement new web ad, but it warrants its own post.
The case, in brief:
- Prior to the publication of Dreams From My Father, Obama showed no discernible literary ability. Indeed, for a double Ivy, he displays an unusual literary ineptitude.
- As president of the Harvard Law Review, he contributed not a single word.
- A decade earlier, his contributions to Occidental College's literary magazine consisted of two poems (to date, Obama's only pre-Dreams writing samples publicly available). One was entitled "Underground" and went like this:
- Under water grottos, caverns
Filled with apes
That eat figs.
Stepping on the figs
That the apes
Eat, they crunch.
The apes howl, bare
Their fangs, dance...
- To this day, Obama will not allow the public to view his undergraduate thesis.
- A year after accepting a $125,000 advance for his memoir, his publisher canceled the contract, as he was unable to write it.
- A second publisher later issued him a smaller advance and Dreams was eventually published in 1995 (the same year Ayers helped Obama get appointed chairman of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge and the same year Ayers and Dohrn hosted Obama's political coming out party in their living room).
- Bill Ayers' 2001 book Fugitive Days is strikingly similar to Obama's memoir, sharing many of the same themes ("rage" against white "privilege", losing one's innocence at the age of 10 while witnessing a historic event (which is similarly chronologically inaccurate in both books)), and metaphors (mainly nautical - murky horizons, tranquil seas, oceans of despair, pockets of calm, boundless storms, currents, ships, ballast, etc.). No metaphors involving dancing apes or fig-stomping.
- Ayers apparently has a mildly paranoid fixation with the sea, having once served as a merchant seaman and recounting a mid-Atlantic nightmare about "falling overboard in the middle of the ocean and swimming as fast as I could as the ship steamed off and disappeared over the horizon." He recalls trying and failing to write a novel about "a young man at sea."
- There are strikingly similar "QSUM" scores between the two books, including sentence length, reading ease, and grade reading level.
- Based on the QSUM analysis, Dreams compares much more closely (nearly identically) to Ayers' Fugitive Days than it does to Obama's own follow-up book, The Audacity of Hope.
- "Systems designer Ed Gold--with twenty years of high-level experience in image and signal processing, pattern recognition, and classifier design and implementation--volunteered to run a QSUM scan on multiple excerpts from both memoirs. ... In assessing the signature of sample passages from Dreams, he found 'a very strong match to all of the Ayers samples that I processed.'"
Yes, that's the brief version. Read Jack Cashill's full analysis and then let me know if you disagree that Bill Ayers is, more likely than not, the ghost writer or co-author of Obama's first book.
Sadly, this is likely unprovable either way, as the only two people in a position to know definitively have a strong incentive to deny it. Still, if this is a crazy theory, Obama could go a long way toward refuting it by authorizing a disclosure he ought to authorized as a matter of course as a Presidential candidate - the release of his Columbia thesis.
It's an academic paper on Russian nuclear disarmament, so it would have been quite a different writing exercise (and one that shouldn't compare closely with a semi-fictionalized memoir on a technical basis). But (unless it's as atrociously written as the fig poem) it would - for the first time - offer some indication that Obama had at least a minimal facility with the written word.
And if it does turn out to be of "fig ape" quality, it would strongly suggest that someone ghost wrote Dreams, which in and of itself would snare Obama in an explicit lie. Which of course might be why he won't let us see it. They did after all finally authorize the release of Michelle's race-angry Princeton thesis, so it's not some hazy principle of academic privacy that's preventing us from getting a peak at his writing.
In any event, like I said, Cashill's analysis is today's required reading. And if you're schooled in the arts of literary forensics and want to run with this ball, you might want to have a look at Ayers' Teaching the Personal and the Political: Essays on Hope and Justice too.
New Details On RNC's FEC Complaint Over Obama's Misbegotten Millions
Amanda Carpenter's got 'em.
Update: Seems like a good excuse for a commemorative movie poster.
I'm delighted to see that McCain's new "gloves off" strategy involves informing people about Congressional Democrats' (including Barack Obama's) responsibility for the bad decision making at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that helped lead us into the current financial crisis (despite years of warnings by McCain and other Congressional Republicans about the government-sponsored firms' irresponsible lending practices).
Now what I'd like to see is John McCain challenging Barack Obama from tomorrow night's debate podium to finally release the contributor details of his more than $200 million in small-dollar donations, given the gross irregularities involving fictitious donors that have already been substantiated among these transactions.
Failure to oblige would be another example of Obama's consistent lack of transparency, even in the face of alleged large-scale fraud. And complying with the request would open one helluva kimono.
CBS News has learned that two donors to the Obama campaign that gave a total of $7,722 appear to have made their contributions under fake names that look like they were written by a mouse running across a keyboard: Dahsudhu Hdusahfd of Df, Hawaii with the following employer CZXVC/ZXVZXV and Uadhshgu Hduadh listed as living in Dhff, Florida listed their employer as DASADA/SAFASF.
The campaign can't chalk this up to ignorance, because they clearly noticed the irregularity. They just failed to rectify it.
Despite numerous refunds from the Obama campaign, Hdusahfd still has a record of giving a total of $7500 to Obama which is well over the legal limit for the primary and general election of $4600. Hduadh gave $14,200 but the Obama campaign returned all but $222.00.
RNC Filing FEC Complaint Over Obama's Excessive, Secret, and Foreign Campaign Cash [Update: $34 Million In Particularly Filthy Lucre]
Instapundit notes an email from the RNC that reads:
"Republican National Committee (RNC) Chief Counsel Sean Cairncross will announce today a complaint that the RNC is filing with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) against the Obama campaign. The complaint will address foreign national and excessive contributions accepted by the Obama campaign that demonstrate it is operating outside of federal campaign finance law."
The presumption is that the complaint relates to the pattern of thousands of evidently fictitious small-dollar donations Obama has accepted from donors like "Will, Good" and "Pro, Doodad" (irregularities that have already invited requests for verification from the FEC). For contributions under $200, the FEC requires significantly fewer contributor details to be published by the campaign, unless and until their aggregate contributions exceed that threshold.
"Will" and "Pro" often reported similar nonsense (e.g. "Loving" and "You") as their employers of record and sometimes resorted to simple gibberish and random strings of letters that neighbor each other on the keyboard.
The country of origin for more than 10,000 contributions has also raised eyebrows at the FEC, with 520 appearing to originate in Iran alone.
The suspicion (my suspicion, anyway) is that these thousands of apparently bogus contribution records are being used to illicitly funnel tens (if not hundreds) of thousands [or tens of millions, per update below] of dollars to the campaign on behalf of contributors who either 1) have very deep pockets, but have already maxed out their personal contributions and need a way to shovel unlimited funds under the radar, or 2) are not U.S. citizens and are therefore prohibited from contributing.
After all, the campaign's displeasure at the Americans-only restrictions of American elections is well documented.
It's hard to imagine such a large scheme being perpetrated without one of more campaign treasury staffers being complicit (or grossly, willfully thick-headed). In the past, the campaign has issued partial refunds related to these highly suspect donors, but (in another move that's marvelously idiotic in its most innocent interpretation) didn't refund enough to bring those donors anywhere near the $4,600 contribution limit.
Nor is this precisely strike 1 (or strikes 1-10,000, rather) for the Obama campaign. Long-time readers will recall that no politician outside of New York took more dirty money from Norman Hsu and his band of straw donors than Barack Obama - more than $70,000 in total. An unconfirmed account relayed to me at the time (by someone in a position to know such things) also maintained that representatives from the Obama campaign approached Hsu when they caught wind of his Clintonian largesse and began asking questions about where all of his money was coming from, agreeing to keep their mouths shut only when Hsu agreed to grease Obama's palm.
This is obviously just a distraction on the part of people who don't want to talk about socializing healthcare or imposing windfall profit taxes on select businesses, but I suppose for real law and order buffs, determining the extent of federal malfeasance perpetrated by the Obama campaign might be of at least passing interest.
Previously: Good Will Funneling
Update: Amanda Carpenter has much more info on the complaint (which will be formally filed on Monday), including this nugget.
RNC General Counsel Sean Carincross said various press reports have called into question at least 11,500 donors names. Those names donated approximately $33.8 million to Obama's campaign.
Carincross said, "There were no quality control devices," such as a method to verify a U.S. passport if a citizen was donating to Obama's campaign from overseas. He said he believed Obama had knowingly accepted foreign donations and taken no reasonable action to investigate the illegal donations.
For reference, $33.8 million represents roughly half of Obama's cash on hand, as of the most recent filing.
Obama: Too Liberal For His Crooked Cronies
This is not the poker buddy Barack thought he knew.
The FBI on Wednesday raided the county offices of a former Illinois state senator who is a poker-playing buddy of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama.
Mr. Walsh, who served in the Illinois Senate from 1997 to 2005, was endorsed by Mr. Obama in his county executive election bid. With the support of some of Mr. Obama's U.S. Senate volunteers, he easily defeated incumbent Republican Joseph Mikan.
According to sources, the Walsh investigation may be tied to lobbying firm Smith Dawson and Andrews, which was hired in 2006 for $10,000 per month to help Will County acquire federal grants.
A corn farmer from Joliet, Mr. Walsh has supported his friend's presidential bid, and campaigned for him in rural and farming areas of the state. They are seen hugging each other in photos before Mr. Obama's announcement that he was running for president.
The two men became tight friends during their tenure in the Illinois Senate and bonded over games of poker. According to a report in Time magazine, Mr. Walsh lost to Mr. Obama once with what he thought was a winning hand, and then slammed down his cards and said: "Doggone it, Barack, if you were more liberal in your card-playing and more conservative in your politics, you and I would get along much better."
It Ain't Easy Out There For a Community Organizer
The thing most people don't understand about community organizing is that it's actually a very challenging field. For instance, if you used your political office to secure a 6-figure grant to build a neighborhood garden, you'd probably see to it that the funds went to building that garden. This is a rookie mistake.
The correct answer is: Give it to your friends. Friends who may not actually intend to "build" a "garden", but who do have enough sense to launder it through their spouses' shell companies.
You know - the way Jesus and John Adams did it.
A $100,000 state grant for a botanic garden in Englewood that then-state Sen. Barack Obama awarded in 2001 to a group headed by a onetime campaign volunteer is now under investigation by the Illinois attorney general amid new questions, prompted by Chicago Sun-Times reports, about whether the money might have been misspent.
The garden was never built. And now state records obtained by the Sun-Times show $65,000 of the grant money went to the wife of Kenny B. Smith, the Obama 2000 congressional campaign volunteer who heads the Chicago Better Housing Association, which was in charge of the project for the blighted South Side neighborhood.
Smith wrote another $20,000 in grant-related checks to K.D. Contractors, a construction company that his wife, Karen D. Smith, created five months after work on the garden was supposed to have begun, records show. K.D. is no longer in business.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan — a Democrat who is supporting Obama’s presidential bid — is investigating “whether this charitable organization properly used its charitable assets, including the state funds it received,” Cara Smith, Madigan’s deputy chief of staff, said Wednesday.
In addition to the 2001 grant that Obama directed to the housing association as a “member initiative,” the not-for-profit group got a separate $20,000 state grant in 2006.
Update: Here's additional evidence of Obama's organizing acumen. If he hadn't showered Karen Smith with taxpayer dollars back then, she may have been less inclined to help finance Obama's Presidential campaign.
$1,550 may not seem like a great return on $100,000, but when you're using taxpayer money, it's all upside, baby!
Consider yourself organized, Englewood.
The Palin E-mail Hack: The Inside Story
Michelle Malkin's got it.
(What a nifty prank. I'm sure the Secret Service is going to let the scamps off with a warning.)
Okay, Nan, It's On You
Yesterday, the New York Times admirably called for Democratic Congressional leadership to forcibly remove the ethically defunct Charles Rangel (D-NY) from his hugely influential Ways and Means Committee chairmanship, assuming Rep. Rangel is unwilling to step aside on his own.
He is unwilling.
Sources told NY1 this afternoon that Congressman Charles Rangel will not step down as chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means committee.
Republicans have called for Rangel to be removed from his post as the head of the committee that writes the nation's tax laws as he deals with his own financial troubles, but NY1 has been told by sources close to Rangel that the Manhattan congressman has never considered stepping down from his leadership post because no member of the Democratic House leadership asked him to.
Rangel met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi yesterday.
Charles Rangel Must Relinquish Ways and Means Chairmanship, Says... New York Times?
The Times astutely notes that if he doesn't surrender the gavel willingly, Speaker Pelosi needs to wrest it away from him, given her purview over such things and her (increasingly farcical) claims of presiding over the "most ethical" Congress in history.
You Too Can Be a Rogue Trader
Here's an intriguing twist on the Nigerian 419 scam.
Jérôme Kerviel, the French trader whose unauthorized positions cost Société Générale more than $7 billion earlier this year, is looking for a way to recover some $32.5 million in insurance payments related to his ill-fated trades and he needs your help to facilitate the transaction.
From: Jerome Kerviel
17 Cours Valmy 92987
My name is JEROME KERVIEL, ain charge of VANILLA FUTURES HEDGING FOR EUROPEAN EQUITY MARKETS with Societe Generale Bank Paris France. I got your contact through cross border business information centre situated here in Paris and picked interest on you after going through your profile for a mutual benefit.
I don’t know if you have been conversant with invents lately as regards to my case with my bank (Societe Generale), if you are unaware, please point your cursor on the following CNN associate we-blink to be better briefed.
From the above, you will understand that I was accused of loosing 7.1 Billion Dollars while serving my bank.
The truth of the matter is that I was used as an escape goat to cover my superiors who happens to be the master minders over the deal, Our bank Societe Generale has an insurance premium worth three times the sum reported to be lost, with and they sees no other way of claiming the sum to favour the bank financially other than using me to cover the plot. The deal was successful following a reward of USD 32,500,000:00 (Thirty Two Million, Five Hundred Thousand United States Dollars) to me.
The above sum was successfully secured into a security/finance company here in France according to my superior’s directives, but I do not have an international contact to assist me in accommodating the funds until I am able to file in my resignation and contact you back to take my share.
So I write to seek your assistance to accommodate and invest the sum as stated above for me temporarily while I prepare to take my resignation in the near future. I have been warned by my superiors not to lodge the said sum into an account that will bear my name as that will jeopardize the whole transaction and possibly expose all.
If you are interested please provide me with the following in return mail:
YOUR NAME IN FULL
YOUR OFFICE OR RESIDENTIAL ADDRESS
TEL AND FAX NUMBER
As soon as I hear from you, further details regarding the transaction will be unveiled to you.
I look forward for your urgent response.
You've got to give the scammers credit. This is a bit more creative than the typical widow-of-the-embezzling-ambassador or heiress-to-the-O-Henry-candy-bar-fortune back stories that usually accompany advance fee fraud schemes.
The helpful "we-blink" takes you to a genuine Telegraph article that confirms most of the details. And the fact that Kerviel is French explains away the amusingly broken English.
"Escape goat" is a particularly enjoyable mental image.
The Ice Man Evadeth: A Frosty Encounter With "Dollar Bill" Jefferson
We're still not ready to laugh about the whole $90,000 in bribe money stuffed in the freezer thing, huh?
Intrepid Jason Mattera is back with another Hot Air/Young America’s Foundation joint production from Capitol Hill!
He asked Democrat Rep. William “Cold Cash” Jefferson, the accused freezer cash-stashing subject of a 16-count criminal indictment whose public corruption trial is scheduled for Dec. 2, for some handy storage advice and an autograph last week.
Click below to watch the encounter at Hot Air.
Scientology Slapped With Civil RICO Suit
Xenu's most perfect creation is named individually.
(Sounds like a potentially flimsy suit, despite the "religion" clearly having it coming.)
Tom Cruise is named in a $250 million federal lawsuit that is using the RICO statute against the Church of Scientology. Ex-Scientologist Peter Letterese, a longtime critic of the church, filed suit in Southern District Court in Florida on July 15 alleging, among other things, that members of the church harassed him after he left.
One of Letterese's beefs is that the church allegedly uses a business book, "Effective Sales Closing Techniques," as part of its teachings. He says this violates his intellectual property rights, since he bought the rights to the book from the widow of author Leslie Dane.
Cruise's lawyer, Bert Fields, did not respond to an e-mail requesting comment.
Karin Pouw, a spokeswoman for the Church of Scientology, told us: "This is a frivolous suit based on falsehoods."
As for the Dane book, Pouw said, "Earlier this month, the federal Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit already rejected similar claims and affirmed that the church's use of the book in question was fair use. Mr. Letterese was penalized $266,000 by a California court for refusing to provide evidence to support many of the same allegations."
If RICO applies, the damages can be tripled.
Notre Dame law professor G. Robert Blakey, one of its main drafters, insists that Congress never intended to restrict its application to the Mob. "We don't want one set of rules for people whose collars are blue or whose names end in vowels, and another set for those whose collars are white and have Ivy League diplomas," he says.
Presumably the same goes for people whose collars are red and who rule the Galactic Confederacy.
Mahmoud the Fauxtographer
May 2012 Update: Nearly four years after this post was written, it's been resurrected as a big traffic generator, thanks to Iran recycling one of the crazier photoshops created to mock their 2008 missile fail. It was traced back to the (now dormant) blog WhatTheCrap and includes not one, but dozens of cloned missiles, as well as one... Jar Jar Binks. But Iran apparently still thought it would withstand western scrutiny.
Below is the original post smacking down Iran's in-house fauxtography back in 2008.
Unless Iranian missile exhaust tends to form remarkably regular patterns, someone's been busying himself with the clone tool.
See LGF for the original hi-res image with some of the curious regions highlighted. I've taken the liberty of animating an overlay based on Johnson's apt pattern matching. As a gif, it suffers some degradation from the resolution of the original, but you get the idea.
Silly Mahmoud. We would've found you just as tough and manly with just the two missiles.
Update: This image, part of a framegrab from an Al Alam television broadcast of the launch (apparently taken at approximately the same time from a slightly higher elevation) makes it pretty clear which missile was conjured from borrowed pixels.
Update: Think it's only forged documents and still images that hornswoggle mainstream media outlets? Think again.
Update: The AFP retracts:
A handout picture released on the news website and public relations arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards … shows an image apparently digitally altered to show four missiles rising into the air instead of three during a test-firing at an undisclosed location in the Iranian desert on July 9, 2008. The 2nd Right missile has apparently been added in digital retouch to cover a grounded missile that may have failed during the test.
Update: This seems like a good excuse for a commemorative movie poster.
Rumors Of His Death Were Roughly As Exaggerated As Everyone Assumed
Samuel Israel, III, the hedge fund manager and convicted fraudster who took a detour while driving himself to prison to begin his 20-year sentence last month, in order to pitch himself off the Bear Mountain Bridge, has turned himself into authorities.
Mr. Israel, who disappearing last month shortly before he was supposed to begin serving a 20-year prison term, turned himself into the Southwick, Mass., police department at 9:15 a.m. EDT Wednesday, an assistant to Southwick Police Chief Mark J. Krynicki said Wednesday.
Mr. Israel, the former chief executive of Bayou Management LLC, is expected to be turned over to U.S. Marshals Service, which led the manhunt, later Wednesday, she said.
On June 9, Mr. Israel's sport-utility vehicle was found abandoned on a bridge in Westchester County with the words "suicide is painless" scrawled in the dust on the hood -- about 90 minutes before he was to report to prison in Massachusetts.
Authorities investigated at the time whether he may have jumped from the bridge in a suicide attempt, but they later ruled that out.
Hundreds Of Healthy Ground Zero Workers Exploiting Colleagues' Real Medical Issues To Scam NYC Out Of Money
The first detailed review of the medical records of nearly 10,000 ground zero workers who are suing New York City and its contractors suggests that many are not as sick as their lawyers have claimed, attorneys for the city say.
The city’s review, based on medical records submitted in federal court by the workers and their lawyers, found that as many as 30 percent of the workers reported nothing more than common symptoms like runny nose or cough. Their records, according to the review, did not indicate that doctors had ever diagnosed a specific disease.
In fact, more than 300 workers admitted in court documents that they were not ill at all.
Not only does this particularly lurid display of hyperlitigiousness threaten to drain resources that could be directed toward workers who are genuinely sick, but it serves to cast undue doubt on those workers' claims.
All of these folks were on the scene on 9/11 and/or during the dangerous rescue, recovery, and cleanup that followed. It's a little troubling that some of them now appear to be falsely cashing in on the suffering of others.
Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.) announced Tuesday that he will run for re-election in November despite being the target of federal bribery charges.
Previously: A Picture's Worth 90,000 Dollars
Tony Rezko Now Officially Eligible To Become Would-Be President Obama's First Pardon
Michelle Malkin's got the details.
- Guilty on 12 of 15 counts mail/wire fraud
- Not Guilty on 1 count attempted extortion
- Guilty on 2 of 6 counts corrupt solicitation
- Guilty on 2 counts money laundering
Looks like Barry's real estate buddy might be going away for a good long while. Perhaps as long as 4-8 years, depending on whether Obama gets re-elected.
Obama Lowballs Rezko Cash By 2/3
Like Mike Huckabee, it appears Barack Obama didn't major in math.
The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Rezko and his associates provided three times as much money for Obama than the presidential candidate has admitted:
During his 12 years in politics, Sen. Barack Obama has received nearly three times more campaign cash from indicted businessman Tony Rezko and his associates than he has publicly acknowledged, the Chicago Sun-Times has found.
Obama has collected at least $168,308 from Rezko and his circle. Obama also has taken in an unknown amount of money from people who attended fund-raising events hosted by Rezko since the mid-1990s.
But seven months ago, Obama told the Sun-Times his “best estimate” was that Rezko raised “between $50,000 and $60,000″ during Obama’s political career.
The results of the Sun's investigation are several months old, so it's all the more quizzical that Obama hasn't been grilled harder on this business. But outlets outside of Chicago have displayed a strong distaste for covering Obama scandals and his chief rival can't with any credibility whack him agressively on it (beyond a glancing jab about a Chicago "slumlord"), give her and heur husband's boundless web of dirty money connections.
Guilty: Another Illegal Clinton Bundler-cum-Fugitive Faces Prison Time
Pakistani immigrant Abdul Jinnah may go away for as long as five years for filling Senator Clinton's campaign coffers in a very familiar way.
LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- A Northridge businessman has pleaded guilty to funneling tens of thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions to Senators Hillary Clinton and Barbara Boxer.
Abdul Rehman Jinnah admitted reimbursing employees and others for contributions made in their names. There is a $2,000 cap on individual contributions to candidates.
Jinnah faces up to five years in federal prison and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines when he's sentenced on June 2nd.
The m.o. of Clinton campaign fraudsters is fastidiously observed.
Indicted in May of 2006 for his crimes, Jinnah promptly cheesed it back to Pakistan. After being hunted by the FBI for about year, he returned to California for a dramatic and medically complicated surrender.
[Jinnah] surrendered to the FBI on a year-old indictment Tuesday [May 29, 2007], then collapsed in Los Angeles federal court.
Looking tired and disoriented, Abdul Rehman Jinnah, 56, complained of chest pains and began shaking an hour into a contentious bond hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Patrick J. Walsh. The judge interrupted the hearing for nearly 30 minutes while paramedics attended to Jinnah.
Sounds like Jinnah and Norman Hsu are working off the same playbook.
Thanks to JustADude for the heads up.
A Hazy Roadmap Of Obama's Rezko/Auchi/Iraqi Scandalworks
Make no mistake - this is a long and dark and meandering path, which may lead to nothing but dead ends. But judging by a few of the early bread crumbs Captain Ed has sprinkled out, it might be a shadowy journey worth going on.
It's got all the prescribed components of your more compelling modern political intrigue - fishy land deals, outright fraud, vast wealth, middle eastern power brokers, assassination, revenge, two people named Hussein...
And if it turns out that Obama's involvement with and connections to this rich tapestry of malfeasance is limited to poor judgment, then so much the better. It will better equip him with some of that valuable "vetted[ness]" Hillary likes to assert.
We can rest assured the news media can't be bothered to embark on this one (at least not the American news media). Not only does their consensus candidate have an election to win, but the complexity and convolution of the situation might be enough to inspire nostalgia for Whitewater's relative simplicity.
Spam. A Lot. Again.
On January 21st, I noted that that morning, I'd gotten hit with about 2,600 similar spam messages over the course of a couple hours. They'd come in an absolute torrent, and the flood had stopped as abruptly as it started.
Well, the phenomenon has returned (and it's still happening as I type), only in fortified, weaponized, Africanized form. They started at 11:46 am (per the time stamp on the first one to hit the spam box), and in the 11 minutes since, I've received nearly 3,000 messages - mostly in the guise of "Delivery Status Notification (Failure)" or "Returned mail: see transcript for details." About 50 have slipped past the spam filter, so if this goes on for a while (and assuming it's happening to other people), it could be a real mess.
Inside, they're unremarkable as far as spam goes - casinos and male enhancement products.
Anyone know what's happening? Should I abandon that Gmail account? Push the CPU out the window? Buy the enhancement products?
Previously: Spam. A Lot.
Guess Who Hillary's Selling Her Contributor List To
On Thursday, all the Presidential candidates had to file their campaign finance disclosures for the fourth quarter of 2007. I gave the frontrunners' reports a quick scour both to get an updated read on the money race (summary statistics here) and to hunt for any fresh instances of the irregularities that have made this cycle so engaging in the past.
So far, one schedule has made a special impression: Senator Clinton's Itemized Receipts, Line 21.
Excerpted from the filing:
Line 21 is typically very boring, generally nothing more than interest income on bank deposits. But it's also where candidates report income they've generated by selling, renting, or trading their contributor lists. The practice is compliant with FEC rules - you just don't see it too often because it's liable to anger the tens of thousands of people who parted with their hard earned cash to support a candidate they probably didn't expect to (literally) sell them out.
But the problem here is not that the Clinton campaign decided (for the first time) to engage in the practice. The problem is the customer.
Alert readers will recall that the founder, chairman, CEO, and controlling shareholder of this public company is Vinod Gupta, a man with an impressive record of alleged improprieties involving funneling shareholders' money to the Clintons.
When former President Bill Clinton and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton took a family vacation in January 2002 to Acapulco, Mexico, one of their longtime supporters, Vinod Gupta, provided his company’s private jet to fly them there.
The company, infoUSA, one of the nation’s largest brokers of information on consumers, paid $146,866 to ferry the Clintons, Mr. Gupta and others to Acapulco and back, court records show. During the next four years, infoUSA paid Mr. Clinton more than $2 million for consulting services, and spent almost $900,000 to fly him around the world for his presidential foundation work and to fly Mrs. Clinton to campaign events.
Not surprisingly, infoUSA shareholders sued Gupta for squandering their money this way. And that's not all.
In addition to the shareholder accusations, The New York Times reported [in May 2007] that an investigation by the authorities in Iowa found that infoUSA sold consumer data several years ago to telemarketing criminals who used it to steal money from elderly Americans. It advertised call lists with titles like “Elderly Opportunity Seekers” or “Suffering Seniors,” a compilation of people with cancer or Alzheimer’s disease.
And yes, as is the case with so many travelers in Clintonian circles, the back-scratching has been mutual.
Before leaving office, Mr. Clinton appointed Mr. Gupta to the board of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Earlier, Mr. Clinton had nominated him for two minor ambassadorships, which Mr. Gupta declined because of business commitments.
Mr. Gupta is clearly proud of his friendship with the Clintons. He once had a personal Web site — it was taken down last year — where he posted photographs of himself socializing with them. One showed him with Mr. Clinton on a golf course, arms draped around each other and smiling; another showed Mrs. Clinton posing with the Gupta family in Aspen. Mr. Gupta even dedicated two school construction projects he financed in a rural part of his native India to the Clintons, naming one of them after him and the other after her.
As recently as April of last year, Gupta remained an active Clinton financier, making the maximum allowable direct contributions to Hillary's Presidential campaign. Gupta also donated $1 million to Bill Clinton's Presidential Library. That's the same Clinton Presidential Library which - stop me if you've heard this one - recently sold their famously secretive contributor list to infoUSA's Walter Karl, Inc.
If you can stomach one more unseemly conflict, Gupta acquired polling firm Opinion Research on behalf of infoUSA in 2006 for $134 million (a deal of questionable merit, as it sent the shares plunging 20% in the week immediately following the announcement). Five months later, the firm began conducting Presidential polling for CNN.
Despite all the legal action, the familiar pay-to-play model of the Clintons' dealings, and shareholder conflicts galore, there's nothing illegal about Clinton's decision to rent her Presidential campaign contributor list to Gupta's company. But given the history between Clinton and Gupta, what kind of judgment does it require to now sell your list of contributors to his company? A company, it bears repeating, that authorities accuse of selling such lists to criminals.
It can't have been for the money. Hillary had collected nearly $120 million dollars for her campaign war chest by the end of 2007. Is it even imaginable that she would risk reopening this dirty chapter in her and Bill's playbook for a measly $8,000? I suspect Occam might favor the simpler explanation that the well-established pattern of apparent quid pro quos between Gupta and the Clintons is still at work.
Something along the lines of...
Hey Vin, give us a million dollars for Bill's biblio-trailer and not only will we sell you access to the library's contributor list, but when the time comes, we'll throw in that most valuable asset of Hillary's bid for the White House.
And that asset is valuable indeed (especially to a professional list broker), perhaps incalculably so. Anyone can access the names (even addresses) of contributors to a federal campaign - through the FEC, the Center for Responsive Politics, and elsewhere. But it's illegal to simply download the data and use it for commercial purposes. So Gupta would be in a heckuva pickle if he'd tried to use the Clinton list on behalf of infoUSA's clients and people started asking questions about how he got it. Only the candidate committee itself is permitted to sell its list to a third party. So Hillary dangling access to these records in front of Gupta would make for a powerful bargaining chip, either as the quid or the quo.
As shady as this all is, and as nicely as it fits the Clinton m.o., there may not have been any untoward arrangements behind this strange transaction. While circumstances point that way, it's possible Clinton simply wanted to scrounge a few extra bucks and was comfortable with this mild betrayal of her supporters' privacy. But even if that's the case, it speaks volumes about Hillary's truly bizarre judgment, electing to transact with Gupta through her Presidential campaign committee, despite not only her and Bill's sordid history with this man, but their ongoing association with ethically challenged financiers in general.
While we wait for this to blow over without Senator Clinton being duly questioned about it, let's take an informal survey. What's your guess - surreptitious dealings or just astonishingly bad judgment?
Update: Just how valuable an asset (i.e. how powerful a bargaining chip) would Hillary's fundraising list be? Ask John McCain.
By last November, John McCain's presidential campaign was broke. To survive, he offered his fundraising lists as collateral for a $3 million line of credit from a local bank. But obtaining the loan required an unusual extra step: He had to take out a special life insurance policy in case he did not survive the campaign.
Ignoring the morbid afterthought, it's worth pointing out that as of last November, McCain had raised a total of roughly $37 million. Hillary's roster has produced 3x as much.
If a local bank perceived enough value in McCain's list to accept it as collateral for a $3 million line of credit, a professional list broker would presumably place a handsome premium on Hillary's far larger, more lucrative database.
He might even value it more highly than the $1 million he donated to the Clinton Library. Hmm.
Did SocGen's Rogue Trader Trigger a Trillion Dollar Sell-Off?
And now, Societe Generale has Jerome Kerviel.
The rogue trader whose bets on European equity markets cost Societe Generale $7.1 billion is reportedly 31 year-old Jerome Kerviel, according to reports in the Wall Street Journal and other news outlets. Kerviel reportedly joined Societe Generale in 2000 and spent around three years in the bank's back office before spending the last two years on its futures desk in Paris. Kerviel wasn't a star trader with SocGen and was responsible for hedging on European equity market indices.
With Kerviel racking up more than $7 billion in losses for the French bank, he easily outstrips Leeson ($1.4 billion) and Jett ($350 million). No slouches in their own right, Leeson and Jett, respectively, won four years in Changi Prison and millions of dollars in fines for their misdeeds that in both cases led to the downfall of their institutions.
Still, Kerviel's multi-billion dollar blunder seems to take rogue trading to a new plateau. What's more, given the timing of the discovery (over the weekend, according to the bank) and this week's frantic global market action, one has to wonder whether SocGen's rapid unwinding of Kerviel's enormous unauthorized positions on Monday morning may have sparked the panicked selling that quickly circled the globe and saw major stock markets shed more than a trillion dollars in market value on no particular news, not to mention (whether they admit it or not) inspiring the Fed to hold an emergency meeting and immediately implement the largest rate cut in 17 years.
Only time will tell if Societe Generale manages (despite an already fragile banking environment) to rebound where Kidder and Barings couldn't. But given the potential scale of the financial fallout from Kerviel's roguery, he can probably count himself lucky that he, unlike poor Mr. Leeson, doesn't trade from Singapore.
Update: WSJ's Deal Journal inducts Kerviel into its rogues gallery, where he will undoubtedly shortly receive his own pencil-dot rendering.
Also, according to Deal Journal, Kerviel has turned up missing. So be on the lookout for this Frenchman.
Or, if you're more comfortable with the Journal-ized version, this is how our resident forensic artist believes Kerviel might appear in pencilvision.
From the Guardian:
At the time of writing, the list has shrunk further to just four friends - providing more fodder to the Facebook refuseniks who question whether someone linked to a social networking page is really worthy of the name "friend".
I've just attempted to friend Monsieur Kerviel. We'll see if he accepts...
NYC Comptroller and Mayoral Candidate's Ongoing Hsu Problem
Yesterday, The New York Times reported that New York City Comptroller William Thompson has emerged the leader among several rivals in the money race for the 2009 mayoral election.
Alert readers may remember seeing Thompson's name in previous posts, as I included him in September on the roster of local politicians who accepted campaign contributions from convicted felon and serial fugitive Norman Hsu. Hsu was recently re-sentenced to three years in prison for defrauding investors in the early 1990s and now faces a 15-count federal indictment for allegedly swindling investors out of as much as $60 million (money he's suspected of using to grease some 80+ Democratic politicians).
Hsu directly contributed the maximum allowable $4,950 to Thompson in 2006 and according to the campaign finance disclosures released just hours ago, Thompson has failed to return any of those funds.
This, despite the fact that such funds might be used to help compensate Hsu's victims, many of whom are current constituents of Comptroller Thompson, whose duties include the management of the city's $105 billion in pension funds.
Yesterday's financial disclosures show that three of Thompson's opponents in the Democratic mayoral primary who had also received contributions directly from Norman Hsu (City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Congressman Anthony Weiner, and Councilmember John Liu) managed to find time to return the tainted funds within the week following the Hsu revelations at the end of August. Four months later, it appears Thompson has not.
In the early days of the Hsu scandal, Azi Paybarah at The New York Observer reported that an aide to Comptroller Thompson said he planned to donate his Hsu money to charity. Indeed, there are three charitable contributions from September listed on Thompson's latest financial disclosure, which collectively approximate the amount he received from Hsu. The problem is, according to the Campaign Finance Board, the use of campaign funds for charitable donations is explicitly forbidden.
A candidate is not permitted to take public funds that he has received for a specific public purpose, and re-direct them toward an entirely different and non-campaign-related purpose. Some candidates have argued that such expenditures are indirectly campaign-related because they generate good will and favorable publicity among voters in their districts. However, such benefits are too tenuous to be considered “in furtherance of” a campaign.
That might be why Thompson's counterparts chose to disgorge the money via refunds, in keeping with local election laws.
That said, Rep. Weiner and Councilmember Liu weren't able to get their hands completely clean. Weiner refunded a total of $15,750 in contributions from Hsu, three members of the Hsu-connected Paw family of California, and four other suspected members of Hsu's straw donor network. However, he received thousands more from Hsu's identified affiliates that he has yet to return. Liu made just one refund - to Mr. Hsu directly, who only accounted for $4,950 of Liu's total haul of $22,950 in Hsu-tainted contributions. Speaker Quinn's only problematic transaction was a single $4,950 contribution directly from Hsu, which she promptly returned.
Still, notwithstanding Weiner's and Liu's incomplete disgorgements, Comptroller Thompson appears to be the only mayoral candidate to decide to keep a check actually signed by Norman Hsu. If the indictment against Hsu is accurate, that money was almost certainly swindled directly from some of the very people who put Thompson in his current office and whom he will ask to elect him mayor next year.
If Thompson plans to make the case that his mayoral qualifications are validated by his performance as the city's chief money manager, he may want to consider clearing his books of this indignity.
The summary and transaction-level detail of the nationwide contributions of Hsu and his suspected affiliates are available in these Google spreadsheets. A searchable database of campaign finance disclosures is available on the NYC Campaign Finance Board's website.
Dawn Of the 1/8 Troof Movement
Egad - that didn't take long. I noted in this morning's exploration of the Wilder/Bradley/Obama/Lemon effect in New Hampshire that some Obama supporters were furious
that their candidate lost about the massive election fraud that simply must explain their candidate's loss (their fury blind to the consolation that, interestingly enough, Obama walked away with more NH delegates).
And it didn't take long for everyone's favorite mob of rabid loons to pile on. A particularly rancid 9/11 truth group (deliberately not linked) just e-mailed the shocking news that...
Ron Paul Votes Not Counted In New Hampshire District
According to a voter in Sutton, New Hampshire, three of her family members voted for Ron Paul, yet when she checked the voting map on the Politico website, the total votes for Ron Paul were zero.
You read that right. A disreputable conspiracy group says that an unnamed person said that people in her family voted for Ron Paul and their votes vanished!
Okay, let's be true patriots and start asking questions. Just remember the conspiracy nut creed.
lets start here
remember 2 breathe
Relatedly, Michelle Malkin is documenting the outbreak of Diebold Derangement Syndrome.