Stupidity Should Be Painful


Dodd: Sinking under his smelly deals.
Dodd: Sinking under his smelly deals.

IT’S been a rotten year for Chris Dodd. Time and again, the Connecticut senator has been caught both doing favors for heavy hitters and receiving them — and then lying about it.

Sometimes the mess involves a firm like AIG or Countrywide, enmeshed in the abuses that have so damaged the US economy. Sometimes Dodd’s pal is just a felon in need of a presidential pardon. But the cavalcade of scandal clearly puts the five-term senator in danger of losing his next re-election bid.

Dodd’s collapse began last June, when Conde Nast Portfolio revealed that he had gotten two cut-rate mortgages of nearly $800,000 from subprime giant Countrywide Financial in 2003. As the magazine reported, Dodd was a "Friend of Angelo" — one of several notables marked for special treatment by Countrywide co-founder Angelo Mozilo.

That triggered a dizzying carnival of misleading Dodd statements. First, he issued an angry written statement denying any favorable treatment.

A few days later, he told some reporters that he knew he’d been treated as a VIP by Countrywide, while the same day assuring other reporters that he hadn’t.

He also promised he would release documents related to his mortgages. It took more than seven months for him to produce anything, and he still hasn’t disclosed all the paperwork. On Feb. 2, he let some Connecticut reporters look at some papers — but allowed no copies to be made and refused to list the documents provided.

Dodd has promised to refinance the Countrywide deals, which would save him at least $70,000 over the life of the mortgages. But this is plainly damage control, not remorse.

There’s no question why Countrywide wanted Dodd’s friendship. Dodd has long been a senior member of the Senate Banking Committee, which oversees the industry. In 2003, at the time of the first sweetheart loan, he was close to becoming chairman — and a big catch for a company that depended on government policies that encouraged lending over prudence.

Nor is this the only sweetheart deal to surface:

* He bought a Washington, DC, condo in 1986 with New York bon vivant Edward Downe Jr. Dodd lived in the unit; Downe paid half the mortgage, fees and taxes — but rarely used the apartment. The subsidy ended in 1990 as federal authorities closed in on Downe’s lucrative off-shore insider-trading scheme.

* In 1994, Dodd bought a waterfront home on 10 acres in County Galway, Ireland. Actually, he got a 1/3 interest: Buying the rest was William "Bucky" Kessinger, Kansas City, Mo. real-estate developer (and also a college classmate and longtime business partner of Downe, who by then had been convicted.

The total purchase price was $160,000; eight years later, Dodd bought out Kessinger for only $122,351. He says he also paid the balance of the outstanding mortgage — but other records suggest that couldn’t have been much, so Dodd still realized a substantial profit on the deal.

Dodd claims that price was based on an independent appraisal. If so, he owned the only piece of property in Ireland that was nearly untouched by the biggest boom in Europe.

Dodd’s Irish real-estate bonanza, likely worth a couple of hundred thousand dollars in 2002, came the year after he obtained a full presidential pardon for his and Kessinger’s pal Downe. Circumventing the usual vetting process for pardons, Dodd had made his plea directly to President Bill Clinton. Downe still owed millions to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The latest Dodd disaster, of course, involves those AIG bonuses. In February, Dodd inserted an amendment into the stimulus bill ensuring that executives of firms bailed out by the government could still collect already-contracted bonuses. When that became so controversial this month, Dodd at first denied doing the dirty work — then admitted it, but tried to blame the Obama administration.

Even voters who might believe that story will also note that AIG had donated more to Dodd than to any other American politician. And now it turns out that his wife served for three years (2001-2004) on the board of a Bermuda-based company in the AIG constellation.

Polls show Dodd, long unassailable as a Democrat in Connecticut, in a close race with ex-Rep. Rob Simmons (R-Stonington). But his real danger comes from outside Connecticut. Jay Leno no longer needs much setup to skewer Dodd in his monologue. The California audience gets it, and the Connecticut one does, too.

EL PASO — The body of a man found in a Juárez canal Wednesday has been identified as a deputy U.S. Marshal. Jeff Carter, a spokesman with the U.S. Marshals Service, said Deputy Vincent Paul Bustamante, 48, was found Wednesday after he had been missing for a week.

A spokeswoman for the Chihuahua state police said Bustamante died from a gunshot wound to the head.

Bustamante had been placed on modified duty status after he was accused of pawning a government shotgun, said Fernando Karl, Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal for the Western District of Texas. "He had some financial problems," Karl said about the accusations against Bustamante.

A warrant for Bustamante’s arrest had been issued March 17 after he failed to show up to a court hearing, federal court records show.

That night, Bustamante was last seen walking over to Juárez by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents.

Karl said Bustamante’s body was positively identified by his wife Thursday.

By Richard Littlejohn

Butch and Sundance headed for Bolivia. Gordon Brown has opted for Brazil, favoured refuge of Nazi war criminals and Ronnie Biggs. Perhaps he’s planning to apply for asylum.

Gordon’s reckless economic policies have done more damage to Britain than the Luftwaffe’s bombs inflicted on the City of London.

And the Great Train Robbers got away with a lot less than his raid on private pension funds.

What the hell is he doing in Rio de Janeiro?

Gordon Brown meets Socrates

Having a nice time? Mr Brown is given a Brazil shirt by football legend Socrates

According to the official version: ‘The Prime Minister will hold talks with President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and football legend Pele.’

While Britain goes to hell in a handcart, the Prime Minister is thousands of miles away, indulging in a little light autograph-hunting.

I’m sure this is purely coincidence, but since retiring from the Beautiful Game, Pele has embarked on a second career as the worldwide ambassador for Viagra.

Maybe Gordon is hoping some of the magic will rub off.

His package could certainly do with all the stimulus it can get right now.

It’s been given the thumbs- down by both the financial markets and the Governor of the Bank of England.

While Gordon was gallivanting around the world in a political reprise of Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday, stubbornly oblivious to the devastation he’s left in his wake, what remains of his credibility was shattered by the Treasury’s failure to convince anyone to lend it money.

The refusal of any investor to take up £120 million of government debt, offered in the form of ‘gilts’, is a damning indictment of the Prime Minister’s mismanagement of the economy.

Britain is in serious danger of being downgraded from copper-bottomed investment to international basket case.

So he can’t do the sensible thing and cut taxes, even if he wanted.

Brown is still banging on about spending his way out of recession, but simply doesn’t have the money.

That’s why he’s been reduced to printing it, further devaluing a currency which has already collapsed to historic lows on the foreign exchanges.

If this was a casino, Brown would have been escorted from the tables and thrown into the street, his line of credit long since exhausted.

Yet still he has the brazen audacity to pose as the saviour of the world, a fantasy kept afloat by the fawning coverage of the boys in the bubble, who have long since abandoned objective reporting and are now reduced to taking dictation at the back of the bus.

He flits at breakneck speed from boasting in Brussels to breakfast in Manhattan, fuelled by bombast and hubris, on a 17,500-mile odyssey of self-regard.

If this is Friday, it must be Santiago.

What he doesn’t get is that nobody’s listening.

Wall Street bankers may give him a polite hearing, but they’re not taking any notice. Well, would you accept investment advice from a man who’d just bet the farm on the 4.45 at Fontwell, only to see his horse fall at the first fence?

All those ‘Obama backs Brown stimulus plans’ headlines are pure garbage.

When the Prime Minister was granted five minutes with the Messiah in Washington, it may have made the papers here but in America he didn’t trouble the scorers.

Same in Europe. Colleagues who read the foreign press say coverage of Gordon Brown is conspicuous by its absence.

Still, he can rely on the faithful BBC to perpetuate the myth of global colossus.

Great play was made of Gordon’s address to the European Parliament this week. What you didn’t see was the demolition of the Prime Minister in the subsequent debate.

Tory MEP Daniel Hannan utterly dismembered Brown’s selfproclaimed reputation and his ‘pathological’ refusal to accept any responsibility, accusing him correctly of leaving Britain worstprepared of any developed nation to deal with the crisis.

Hannan said that thanks to Brown the whole country was in negative equity and every British child was now born owing around £20,000.

‘When you repeat, in that wooden and perfunctory way, that our situation is better than others, that we are well placed to weather the storm, you sound like a Brezhnev era apparatchik giving the party line. You know and we know and you know that we know that it’s nonsense.’

Gordon sat there grinning, uncomfortably and unconvincingly, like a little boy at the back of the class caught cheating at his homework.

The BBC may not have carried it, but you can check it out on YouTube. More than 750,000 people already have.

Next week’s G20 summit in London is an expensive waste of time and £50million we can ill-afford.

It will achieve nothing and has been convened largely as another chance for Gordon to have his photo taken with Barack Obama, before the President’s political Viagra wears off.

Platitudes will be uttered, communiqués will be signed and then everyone will go home and do whatever the hell they want, in the best interests of their own country.

Yet while other leaders put their own people first, Gordon concentrates on what he does best — putting Gordon first. It’s always all about him.

This farcical Superman act is designed purely to distract us from the complete pig’s ear Brown has made of the economy and his lack of any sensible idea how to get us out of this mess.

The man who bragged about ending boom and bust has bankrupted Britain. He has no one to blame but himself.

That’s why instead of attending to the crisis of his own making on the domestic front, he’s on the other side of the world, posing for pictures with Pele.

It’s over, Gordon. The game’s up. No one is buying it. Not since Butch and Sundance has there been such a spectacular leap off a cliff.

If I were you, I wouldn’t bother coming back.

And if Rio won’t have you, I hear Bolivia is very nice at this time of year.

By Arthur Weinreb

imageOn a segment of the relatively unknown Fox News show “Red Eye with Greg Gutfeld” that airs daily at 3 am, Gutfeld and his three guests took shots at Canada; specifically our military that is currently engaged in Afghanistan. Gutfeld commented on the testimony that Lt.-Gen Andrew Leslie gave before a Canadian Senate committee wherein the general advised that the troops will need to take a break from operations after the current mission ends in 2011 in order to build up manpower and repair equipment. Gutfeld then sneered, “The Canadian military wants to take a breather to do some yoga, paint landscapes, run on the beach with gorgeous white Capri pants”.

When he finished that, one of his guests remarked, “I didn’t even know they were in the war. I thought’s that’s where you go if you don’t want to fight – you go chill in Canada.”  Well, at least the latter part is right. This country does have a lot of people who voluntarily signed up for military service and then deserted. Of course they’re Americans, those who fled to Canada to avoid George W. Bush’s wars. Of course George Bush is gone, the United States has turned into a near-bankrupt autoworkers’ paradise but they’re still here. As for the first part of the comment, he appeared to be telling the truth too; he probably didn’t know that Canada has troops in Afghanistan.
After the clip was aired on YouTube, the anger in Canada began. Defense Minister Peter MacKay was outraged and demanded an apology. Some critics opined that in demanding an apology, MacKay might have been giving the Fox News host more attention than he deserved. This is probably true but MacKay can be forgiven. He was pressed for time because he was leaving Ottawa for Trenton, Ontario where the bodies of the latest four Canadian soldiers to die in Afghanistan were being repatriated from Kandahar.
Gutfeld did issue a statement that purported to be an apology. Gutless Gutfeld, aptly named by Sun Media’s Joe Warmington, said, “I realize that my words have been misunderstood. It was not my intent to disrespect the brave men, women and families of the Canadian military”. Some apology. It is clearly the fault of any Canadian who was offended that they somehow were not bright enough to really understand what he said. Most of us will never be intelligent enough to understand how saying that the men and women in Canada’s military would like to leave their jobs so that they can do yoga or walk on a beach in Capri pants is not being disrespectful to the soldiers.
Gutfeld explained that his show is “a satirical take on the news”. Well, if you have to explain that something is satire, it isn’t. As Canadian political satirist Rick Mercer pointed out in the Globe and Mail, one of the components of successful satire is telling the truth. And none of the panel members on Red Eye appeared to know enough to know what the truth was. The comment about not knowing that Canadian troops were even in Afghanistan appeared to be a statement of fact, not humour. There was also no context to the statements, probably because they didn’t know enough about Canada to put it in any sort of context.  For example, there are things in Canada that the Obama administration and Americans are not too happy about; the oil sands in Alberta come to mind. If they would have mentioned something like this as a pretext for invading Canada, there might have been some humour to the statement. But to simply state that “this ridiculous country” should be invaded was, at the risk of offending the younger set, extremely juvenile.
          It will be interesting to see if Fox News ever issues an apology for Gutfeld’s loathsome attack on the men and women serving in Afghanistan. Probably not. Gutfeld has certainly been a boon to the anti-Fox News forces in this country who, with the exception of the YouTube video have probably never watched it. Canadians should forget Gutfeld; he’s a nothing. But an apology should be demanded from Fox News for airing such insulting and appalling drivel.

This column is dedicated to Master Cpl. Scott Vernelli, Cpl. Tyler Crooks — both of November Company, 3rd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment battle group — Trooper Jack Bouthillier and Trooper Corey Joseph Hayes, both with the Royal Canadian Dragoons. killed March 20, 2009 in Afghanistan

By Steve Schmidt Union-Tribune Staff Writer

Mike Polley flew his 1946 North American Navion (right), and Jim Munn piloted his 1943 SNJ-4 (far right) as part of yesterday’s formation-flying clinic. Photo taken from a T-6 Texan flown by Pete Hunt.

— A gaggle of World War II-era aircraft thundered over Ramona’s dusty airfield yesterday. To Don Tomlinson, there’s no sweeter music.

Tomlinson, now 82 years old and living in Carmel Valley, led a U.S. Army Air Corps ground crew in the war. He stopped by Ramona Airport to hear the old roar again.

“When I used to start the engine, I would almost wet my pants,” he recalled. “It just sounded beautiful.”

Nearly a dozen classic war birds – all dolled up to look their best – are in Ramona this weekend as part of a clinic on how to fly in formation. A small group of veteran pilots, most from Southern California, are upgrading or renewing licenses required to fly in air shows and other events around the country.

For many of them, taking the cockpit of a P-51 Mustang or a Corsair is not just about playing with an expensive toy. It’s a chance to do right by history.

After all, these are the same breed of planes that helped bring down Hitler and Tojo. Letting the aircraft sit in a museum somewhere doesn’t seem right, the pilots say.

“This is American history,” said Mark Matye, a clinic instructor. “These planes literally stopped darkness and evil from descending on the planet.”

Classic Fighters of America, the organization leading the clinic, invited the public to watch the free event, which concludes at 1 p.m. today. The Florida-based group hopes to stage the event in Ramona at least twice a year.

“It’s the most beautiful airport we have found,” said Julie Clevenger, the organization’s air racing manager. “We love this area.”

Ramona pilot and flight-school operator Chuck Hall is a sponsor of the formation clinic. The retired commercial airline pilot owns a P-51, a silver beauty that saw action in World War II.

John O’Connor piloted his silver-and-red P-51 from his home in Illinois to take part in the event. The 60-year-old Chicagoan flew in 12 air shows last year.

O’Connor’s war bird downed 21 Nazi aircraft during the war. The name of the original pilot – “Captain Voll” – is painted on the fuselage.

O’Connor believes Americans can still learn lessons from World War II, when the nation mobilized and rallied around a cause. He said the country today seems fragmented in the face of daunting economic challenges.

“What we need is the same spirit we had in World War II,” he said. “We’re in a war of economics, a true war and we’ve got it on so many fronts.”

Other planes working the Ramona airstrip this weekend include T-6 Texans, a single-engine training aircraft, and bent-winged Corsairs, from World War II and the Korean War.

Former San Diegan Doug Matthews, a sponsor of the Classic Fighters group and a one-time Navy pilot, brought his Corsair.

He said only 19 of the iconic airplanes still fly worldwide. “To see one actually fly, it’s amazing,” he said.

Tomlinson stopped by the airport to spot the plane he said he fell in love with decades ago – the P-51.

If only to hear that blast of the engine.

“It’s marvelous,” he said. 


Pete Hunt is shown in the cockpit of his T-6 Texan during the Classic Fighters of America clinic yesterday at Ramona Airport. The event provides proficiency training, upgrades and practice for formation pilots as required by the FAA. 

By KOMO Staff

YUMA, Ariz. — An 88-year-old Arlington grandfather who has been held in a Mexican jail for the past two months is finally free.

Ed Chrisman was released from the Mexicali jail early Sunday morning and was back in Arizona Sunday evening. His family says Ed was checked at a local hospital and that he had lost some weight. One of the first things he wanted was a hamburger and apple pie.

Family members said that soon after he was arrested, Ed had contracted pneumonia, couldn’t walk, and that his hearing aids had failed. They were concerned he’d never make it out of the jail alive.

His son, Don, who is still in Arlington, says they are "on cloud 9." However, Ed’s grandson, Gary Chrisman, Jr., still remains in the jail.

Family members claim the two were wrongfully arrested and jailed on a bogus charge by Mexican police who were after a payoff.

Ed had been spending his winter in Yuma, Ariz., when his grandson invited him along on a trip to get inexpensive dental treatment in Mexico, the family said.

The two were arrested after a woman accused them of asking her daughters to pose nude for photographs.

"It’s ridiculous," said Tammy. "It’s just, if you were to know Ed, you would know this is something he would not do."

According to a Mexican police news Web site that focuses on crimes in the Mexicali area, police said the men offered young girls 200 pesos to take nude photos.

The site reported that a 47-year-old mother complained to police that the Americans asked her 13-year-old to pose naked. The agents confiscated a camera and took the case to the Public Ministry on charges of child pornography, according to the site.

"There’s no way he would be the person they’re trying to make him out to be," Don Chrisman said in late January.

The family maintains the men were innocent and that Mexican authorities wanted to shake them down for cash. They say the pair were arrested after Chrisman Jr. took a photo of two fully clothed young women in a convenience store in Algodones, Mexico, and that Ed wasn’t even in the store at the time.

Mexican authorities have released some of the pictures taken by Ed’s grandson, and family members said nothing about them appears pornographic or even inappropriate.

The Chrismans continue to work on getting Don Jr. freed.

Meanwhile, Ed said he was thankful to be back on American soil and wanted to go back home.

'Swiss gigolo' gets 6 for defrauding Germany's richest woman

German billionaire Susanne Klatten photographed in Munich, June 6, 2005 and Swiss Helg S. right, during his trial on Monday, March 9, 2009 in Munich.

MUNICH (AP) – A man dubbed "the Swiss gigolo" by the German media was sentenced to six years in prison Monday for defrauding Germany’s richest woman of euro7 million ($9 million) and attempting to blackmail her for tens of millions more.

Helg Sgarbi (S’Gar-bee) had admitted to the Munich court that he threatened to release secretly recorded videotapes of trysts with BMW heiress Susanne Klatten, 46, unless the married woman gave him millions of euros (dollars) to keep quiet

The 44-year-old also admitted convincing Klatten to give him euro7 million ($9 million) by saying it was for the treatment of a girl left paraplegic after a car crash with Sgarbi.

The Munich state court found Sgarbi guilty of fraud and attempted blackmail.

Klatten did not attend the four-hour trial, and her attorney made no statement to the court. Her spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

Sgarbi told to the court he met Klatten at a spa near Innsbruck, Austria, in July 2007 and started an affair. Using what prosecutors called a well-practiced scam, he told Klatten that he was involved in a car accident in the United States that left the girl paralyzed, and convinced Klatten to give him the cash for her treatment.

Sgarbi then demanded Klatten leave her family and invest euro290 million ($367 million) in a trust for him, according to the indictment. When she refused, he threatened to release secretly filmed videos of their affair.

Sgarbi demanded euro49 million ($62 million) not to tell her family, the heads of her companies and the media. He lowered the demand to euro14 million ($17.72 million) but Klatten instead went to the police in January 2007. Sgarbi was arrested shortly in Austria’s Tyrolean Alps and has been held in detention since.

Prosecutor Thomas Steinkraus-Koch praised Klatten for her bravery in stepping forward.

"The only victim who came to us and gave a witness statement is Mrs. Klatten. We had to find the others, with great difficulty," Steinkraus-Koch said.

Klatten is the daughter of the late BMW magnate Herbert Quandt and holds a 46 percent stake in the company along with her mother and brother. She also owns a 88.3 percent share of chemical company Altana.

Forbes magazine listed her as the 68th richest person in the world last year, with a personal fortune of around $9.6 billion (euro7.58 billion). The story has attracted vast media attention in Germany, where the Quandt family is regarded as quasi-royalty.

Sgarbi was also convicted of taking euro2.4 million ($3 million) from three other women in similar scams. Prosecutors did not release the names of the three other victims.

"I deeply regret what has happened and apologize to the aggrieved ladies in this public hearing," Sgarbi told the court. Sgarbi’s lawyer, Egon Gries, said his client would not answer any questions about where the money had gone or whether anyone had helped him.

Sgarbi had faced a possible 10-year sentence.


TIJUANA, Mexico — Mexican authorities say a U.S. man was among three decapitated victims found this week in the northern border city of Tijuana.

State prosecutors say the body of 38-year-old Jorge Norman Harrison was found by joggers Tuesday along with two other bodies near Tijuana’s bullring.

Police say the three bodies also were missing their hands and one its feet.

Prosecutors said in a statement Friday that Norman Harrison had been convicted for drug trafficking in the United States. They said investigators searched a pizzeria he owned in Tijuana and found four handguns and more than 100 Valium pills.

An official with the U.S. Consulate in Tijuana confirmed Norman Harrison’s death but declined to give any other details.


In an interview with Maggie Rodriguez, Vice President Joe Biden forgot the government Web site address for tracking stimulus spending.

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