Thursday, May 10, 2007

Will They Shoo Fitz?

I have never been prejudiced against the Blacks, so I follow their case closely and reserve judgment. It’s not every day that a TAS contributor goes on trial, so arguably I have a collegial duty to devour every tidbit of collateral gossip. Well, duty or not, it’s fun for sure. If one of the major networks had the brains to preempt regular programming to show the proceedings, they would sweep the sweeps. The cast of characters here makes Ocean’s Eleven look like the 4-H Club.

First there is – here I rise to point a quivering forefinger – the defendant, Conrad Black. Or Lord Black, of the House of Lords; Baron Black of Crossharbour is the technical title. His sesquipedalian prepotency is a synecdoche among scriveners; he knows a lot of big words. In fact, his friends knew in 1992 he was besotted with Barbara Amiel when he told them she was “quite pulchritudinous”. His media empire included the Telegraph of London, the Jerusalem Post and most of Canada’s newspapers.

He is being prosecuted by Patrick Fitzgerald, fresh from jailing Scooter Libby. The accusation is he defrauded stockholders by writing personal bonuses into deeds of sale and disguising them as non-compete payments.

Need help? Okay. Say I create the Miami Scroll to compete with the Herald and quickly gain a million readers. Murdoch offers fifty million to buy it from my company. My fifty-one percent share of the stock would be worth 25.5 million. So we rewrite the deal for 40M and add a 10M personal payment for my promise not to start another paper. My take now: 30.4 million.

Barbara Amiel is the loyal second wife, since he became her fourth husband in ’92. She was the Ann Coulter of Canada, the right-wing bomb-throwing columnist who thrived on being out of step with the liberal media. She played a very important role for high society men, that of the beautiful-woman-smart-enough-to-be-squired-around-by-a-billionaire-without-looking-like-a-dope-who-fell-for-a-Las-Vegas-showgirl. Black was the final feather in her cap and to her credit she is sticking.

The word on the street is that her spending habits put the financial pressure on Black to accelerate his earning. Angry at a delay in a British Airways flight, she prodded her husband to buy a Gulfstream that could cross the Atlantic. There was only one bathroom on the plane for passengers and crew, so a new one was installed to the tune of a quarter-mil. As for her attitude to staff, the following anecdote gives a clue. When each new third butler was given a tour of the house by senior butler Andrew Lightwood, he would take them to the roof and remind them to keep the “landing lights” on at all times: “Madame takes off from here on her broomstick looking for cats.” She grew up poor, you see.

Still, we love her for her prose. In defending soccer players accused of pushing a girl around, she wrote: “Female groupies in see-through tops and micro-minis, trawling spots where footballers hang out, are tinsel-wrapped bait. One can hardly blame footballers for their inability to resist what middle-aged Presidents of the United States cannot.”

The defense attorney, by a special dispensation, is the Canadian superstar “Fast Eddie” Greenspan. To get the court to accept the foreign attorney, Black had to sign a waiver ceding his right to appeal based on inadequate representation. Fast Eddie started slow in the early going, but came on strong last week, humiliating economist-socialite Marie-Josee Kravitz and former Illinois Governor “Big Jim” Thompson on the witness stand. The two of them, members of the auditor board of Black’s company, were testifying for the prosecution to the effect they were gulled by his shenanigans.

Greenspan identified eleven separate reports that each of them had signed which openly included the non-compete payments. Their only response was they had failed to notice them. Greenspan ran them through the wringer, document by document, making them testify again and again they had missed the key entries. Thompson tried to use some bravado by saying he had “skimmed” rather than read. Fast Eddie lighted on that word and asked him one by one whether he had skimmed it; a man has very little credibility with a jury after saying eleven times he had skimmed over multi-million dollar transactions.

Perhaps the best line came when Greenspan asked Thompson if his role as head of the auditing committee gave him extra responsibility. “No, it was a very democratic committee,” said Jim.

“Even in a democracy someone has to be the governor,” was Fast Eddie’s fast rejoinder.

This week, Black’s partner and supposed co-conspirator David Radler, not so affectionately nicknamed “the Rat” by their journalist employees, has taken the stand. He cut a deal with the government to talk in return for getting only 29 months in a Canadian jail and paying back umpteen millions. He began Monday with the early history of their partnership in the 1970s and continued Tuesday and Wednesday painting himself as a dupe, guilty only of not asking enough questions about all the millions he was getting. Cross-examination began yesterday with Greenspan establishing Radler had lied to at least 24 different investigators. Stay tuned.

Put a Fork in Him...

He's done. According to the NYT, Giuliani plans on being much more forthright about his support of abortion rights and press his campaign in states where he thinks it will be more well-received. In a way, it's a relief. His half-way talk of "I hate abortion" (which I always took to mean "I hate that abortion matters in Republican politics because it means I'll never get to be President unless we can find some way around it"...) wasn't ever going to get the job done for him. But here's the clear truth of the matter: Giuliani wants to be President and is firmly in favor of a constitutionalized right to kill unborn children *and* thinks that the Congress should spend tax dollars to assist those procedures. He's a consistent supporter of Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Death America.

Make him CIA director and sic him on the bad guys. But not President, no way.

More Foolishness from Academia, Part XVXII

So Inside Higher Ed asks if it is "Inclusivity or Tokenism?" that the American Historical Association *requires* that panels include a woman in order to be accepted. Is that even a serious question? What would tokenism be otherwise? For the panel in question, all the folks did was to add in a female scholar to be the chair of the panel, which if you've been to these sorts of meetings you must realize that a chair hardly does anything, except to pass little silly notes trying (usually in vain) to get the loquacious profs to cut short their presentations on the transsexual warrior in 4th century pottery work. It's nice to know that we've made such progress.

The Worst US President in the History of the World

Well, my friends on the left---although the friendship is unrequited---universally agree: Bush is toejam. The Iraq war, the deficits, the...well, the list sort of stops there, but that's enough.

The Iraq thing sucks. The deficits suck.

---But the economy goes ticking along, even though it should have slid into recession after the dotcom bust and the CEO scandal/robberies ala Enron.

---After 9-11, there hasn't been another major Islamicismist attack on American soil.

---And Bush appointed a critical mass to the Supreme Court which finally ruled that piercing viable babies' skulls and sucking their brains out is barbaric, and must end.

He could have done a whole helluva lot of things better, but I don't know a president who couldn't have done things a lot better. As for the money, well, every family goes into debt when an emergency arises. And though we've lost over 3000 brave American lives in Iraq over 4 years, now 4 to 5000 innocent babies might not get their brains sucked out each and every year.

Mebbe we should have left Saddam in place. Mebbe we could have saved the money. Mebbe there was some clever way to handle the threat, like sitting home and inspecting cargo containers. But balancing the scales, I'm OK with Dubya. No attacks, the end of partial birth abortions. It's about our babies, stupid. They're why we do what we do, why we get up in the morning and go off to work and then come right home to bounce them on our knees. I don't even have any children, but they're why I vote like I do.

Which is why I might have to wait on Rudy Giuliani, and look for somebody---anybody---else. I think he'll be great on national security and good on the economy too. But there's that other thing. The babies.

I don't think he would've lifted a finger to save them.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Poverty On Wall Street

So John Edwards, Democratic Presidential wannabe and fabulously wealthy trial lawyer, worked part-time at a NY hedge fund because, he says, he wanted to "learn" about markets. And, no, he won't say how much he was paid, though we'll all learn that in May (when he has to file his financial disclosure forms or somesuch). Just wanted to learn about markets. Righty-o, Mr. "Two-Americas," Mr. "we gotta end poverty now", yep, that's entirely believable. Because I'm just sure that there's no-one, not a soul at that fine institution, the University of North Carolina, who could spend, oh, a few days with Mr. Edwards to get him up to speed on markets. Not a soul. Heck, there's no where in the world where you could get such information. You can only learn that sort of stuff while getting some big bucks on the side.

Well, in case you're not entirely convinced by former Sen. Edwards' Richie-rich sorta-faux populism, let me suggest another reason for his working for a NEW YORK hedge fund...donations, donations, donations. The article notes that the employees at his former fund constitute now his single biggest group of contributors. What better way to cut into the Wall Street crowd and lure some campaign contributions than to be shoulder to shoulder with them?

Not So Thankful...

Inside Higher Ed reports that a professor at Glendale Community College is likely going to lose his job because he sent around an email to all the rest of the faculty with a Thanksgiving message by George Washington. But, apparently, that's not quite the problem. The real problem is the he acknowledged where he saw that message, Pat Buchanan's blog, and there were anti-immigration messages on the website - five employees complained that such messages constituted harrassment.

That's just ridiculous.

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Monday, May 07, 2007

I Fear (Pt. II)

A nation unglued, continued---via Philosoraptor, a Scripps poll supports Rasmussen:

Thirty-six percent of respondents overall said it is "very likely" or "somewhat likely" that federal officials either participated in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon or took no action to stop them "because they wanted the United States to go to war in the Middle East."



36% of the public would correlate with Rasmussen's 61% of Democrats, and is even more alarming than Rasmussen's total of 22% of all Americans. This is bad.

Philosoraptor makes a rational defense of such irrationality, that Bush drove 'em crazy, what with stealing the 2000 election and lying us into war and all. Still, it can no longer be denied that Bush Derangement Syndrome indeed exists, and is far more virulent than first suspected.

On the other hand, the lefty "netroots" must be ecstatic. They apparently got their message out, and how. They must be very proud of how they've changed the country.


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