Category Archives: Gimme a Break

The Madoff/Kohn Doppleganger

Bernie Madoff (left) and Sonja Kohn (right)

Bernie Madoff (left) and Sonja Kohn (right)

Irving L. Picard, the trustee seeking redress for victims of the Madoff financial collapse has just filed suit seeking over $19 billion from Sonja Kohn, an Austrian banker he accuses of conspiring with Madoff in the whole house of cards.  Looking at their photos, Pawn posits that this is an understatement.  I believe they are, in fact, either fraternal twins or clones!

“In Sonja Kohn, Madoff found a criminal soul mate, whose greed and dishonest inventiveness equaled his own,” the trustee, Irving L. Picard, said.  Soul mate indeed!  Have they ever been seen in the same place at once?

“In Sonja Kohn, Madoff found a criminal soul mate, whose greed and dishonest inventiveness equaled his own,” the trustee, Irving L. Picard, said.

Literary Ambassadors

This from the Times today makes one proud of our Foreign Service.  An excerpt:

Cables about Kazakhstan’s high-living leaders are written in a satirical tone worthy of Borat, the fictional (and wild) Kazakh played in the movie by Sacha Baron Cohen.

One described Kazakhstan’s defense minister turning up drunk for a meeting with an American official, “slouching back in his chair and slurring all kinds of Russian participles.” He explained that he had just been at a cadet graduation reception, “toasting Kazakhstan’s newly-commissioned officers.”

The memo concluded: “Who was toasted more — the defense minister or the cadets — is a matter of pure speculation.”

From WikiLemons, Clinton Tries to Make Lemonade | The New York Times

Pawn compliments Secretary Of State Clinton on her so far masterful handling of the whole leak situation.

Far less palatable is the performance of Sen. Joseph “Useful Idiot” Lieberman, whose harassment of Internet and other businesses has led to the eviction of WikiLeaks from Amazon’s servers, PayPal’s payment processing, and a host of other services.  These firms seem suddenly to have decided that reporting from purloined documents is now against their terms of service, although they gladly provide the same services for their media partners, such as the Times, the Washington Post, and others, whose content they host, payment they process, or electronic editions are provided on their Kindles.

Shame of these big businesses of the Internet for revealing how unfree it really is.


How Fair Is That?

The New York Times is reporting:

The Oklahoma Legislature voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to override vetoes of two highly restrictive abortion measures, one making it a law that women undergo an ultrasound and listen to a detailed description of the fetus before having an abortion.

Strict Abortion Measures Enacted in Oklahoma | New York TImes

In the interest of fairness, Pawn feels we should have similar requirements for prescribing certain erectile dysfunction treatments.  Perhaps mandate that all men be required to listen to tapes of crying babies and change a few diapers before getting those little blue pills…

London 2009 – Day 16 – In Other News

Today was a work day, but I started out with a delightful breakfast from yesterday’s marketplace acquisitions. Yum yum! After work I settled in for dinner and then to catch up on some news you may not have heard about.

First off, as I mentioned a few days ago, England is gripped with the Exes Scandal. This refers not to ex-spouses, but to expenses. In particular MPs allowance expenses. Members of Parliament are supposed to domicile in the constituencies, but really need to keep an abode in London in order to attend Parliament. Back in the 1970s, MPs earned a relative pittance, and so adopted an expense reimbursement system which would pay rent or mortgage offsets against a secondary residence, as well as allow for maintenance and upkeep of those.

The idea was that if you hail from Bath, and needed to pay for an expensive London flat so as to attend Parliament, the taxpayers should help pay for that. Over the years, however, this privilege has evolved into a massive slush fund.

Well, the scandal has dragged on for 9 days now. The Telegraph, a reliably Tory paper have been serving up little bits of the story in daily doses for over a week now. So far there have been at least three MPs, cabinet ministers or aides who have resigned, and several are under investigation by one or another law enforcement group.

We haven’t heard the last of this, yet. Elections loom just three weeks from now…

Next up in the news is a little scandal of large proportions. I’m speaking, of course, of what is locally dubbed the “Tempest in a D cup,” the Marks and Spenser Bra pricing debacle. A while back, Marks and Sparks decided that since bras larger than D cup require more material and more expensive architecture they should carry a £2 premium. The ensuing outcry was just too much for M&S to ignore, and last week they finally caved. “We Boobed” declared the full page ads which ran in all the papers, in front of an amply filled bra.

In order to make amends, M&S, who celebrate their 150th anniversary next week, will for three days sell 20 products ranging from ties to bags, scarves, make up and others for pennies (reflecting their start as a penny retailer). I plan to be there, at the Oxford Street flagship store, when it all starts on Wednesday morning, with celebrities and big bras in attendance.

Lastly, tonight is the Eurovision Song contest final. England is more hopeful than ever as this year’s entry is Jade, a protégée of Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber. She has been all over the press these past weeks, and the best thing to come from tonight’s show is that this phenomenon will hopefully end quickly in the wake of a final decision.

If you’re not familiar with Eurovision, it is a contest to find the best of the banal. The songs which compete are almost all of the monumental anthem class, at which Lord Webber so excels. You would think that this would make Jade, whom Lord Webber will accompany on piano for tonight’s performance, a shoo-in. Not so fast. Eurovision has complex rules, entirely new this year after last year’s winners, Russia, were chose with huge advantage from almost all former Soviet bloc countries. Up till this year the voting was entirely by the public, with each country’s citizens intelligible to vote for their entrant. Now, given last year’s scandal, half the weighted vote will come from industry insiders.

The Russians, as last year’s winners, are hosting tonight’s event. They have spared no expense, reportedly spending upwards of $30 million to stage the event in the 30,000 seat stadium built for the 1980 Olympics. They claim that fully 30% of all LED screens in existence are being used in this production. From what I have seen so far, they’re right about that. The staging is lavishly over the top.

I cannot watch this at my local, as I hate this type of music, and could be counted on to say the wrong thing at the wrong time in a public house. So, I will suffer at home, and silently root for Jade, and her ilk, to fail in favour of some more palatable sounds from some other country. The French entry is singing now, and I like her. Sounds like Marianne Faithful might if she were French… of course, “everyone hates the French,” as the morning papers reminded us all. This audience, from the sound of the applause, didn’t read those stories.


You Can Kiss My Toxic Asset Goodbye!

Is it just me, or is anyone else getting just a little tired of hearing “Toxic Asset” as though the term were something we should all just accept, like “Home Improvement” or “Nightly News”?  I mean, come on, “Toxic Asset”?!?  What is that, a pseudo-ironic rock band name, like Iron Butterfly, Led Zeppelin, Grateful Dead or Velvet Revolver?

Who coined this phrase?  Toxic Assets… How about “The Scattered Shards of Countless Shattered American Dreams”  At least that would reflect the actual basis of these stakes.

What is the flip side to a Toxic Asset; Healthful Liability?  Invigorating Death?  Happy Foreclosure?  Gleeful Depression?

Count me out.  I want to call these what they are — Bad Bets.

Wise (and funny) Words on a National Calamity

Your money

There are wiser folk than Pawn commenting on the current Calamity on Wall Street, and here are some of the gems:

“After 7 1/2 years of drift, President Bush has finally returned to his compassionate conservative roots with a heartfelt plea to Congress to help a needy and deserving group: those Wall Street CEOs who, for all their hard work, have been unable to lift themselves up by their wingtips,”

Dana Milbank writes in his Washington Post column.

And this from Rick Klein over at The Note at Mickey Mouse dot com:

And maybe we should feel bad for the bailout bill.

After all, it was born morbidly obese in a town that likes to pretend it’s all about being lean. Its parents never really wanted one like it — and we know they’ll be out of the picture in a few months anyway.

The men who would be president sure aren’t eager to adopt it.

And conservative commentator George WIll, over at Real Clear Politics had this to say:

“The queen had only one way of settling all difficulties, great or small. ‘Off with his head!’ she said without even looking around.”

— “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”

Under the pressure of the financial crisis, one presidential candidate is behaving like a flustered rookie playing in a league too high. It is not Barack Obama. Channeling his inner Queen of Hearts, John McCain furiously, and apparently without even looking around at facts, said Chris Cox, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, should be decapitated.

Perhaps the most succinct commentary comes from Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif.:

“Cash for trash.”

Nothing makes for tasty bon mots like a certifiable calamity.  Keep it coming…