Archive for February 22nd, 2009

SEC probed Stanford companies; red flags abounded

‘Washington-As with the Bernard Madoff case, the scandal surrounding billionaire R. Allen Stanford now seems clear and obvious in hindsight. Yet Stanford managed to run his alleged scheme even while the Securities and Exchange Commission and other regulators had him on their radar screens and investigated his businesses. Stanford wasn’t charged until last week’.
No one could have missed out the  signs. Of course the man on the street was not asked to follow the leads as SEC was. Sure enough the Commission missed the red flags.
‘Among them:

_A finding by regulators in June 2007 that Stanford’s company lacked enough capital to function properly as a securities brokerage firm. The company paid $20,000 to settle charges by the National Association of Securities Dealers without admitting or denying them.
_A board of directors that included Stanford’s father, his college roommate and a family friend who remained on the board years after suffering a debilitating stroke.

_The Antigua-based accounting firm that audited the offshore bank was tiny and little known.

_A 1999 Treasury Department advisory that warned U.S. banks to scrutinize transactions involving Antigua. It said a new regulator in Antigua was essentially a captive of offshore banks it was meant to supervise. (The advisory was lifted in 2001.)

Last week, the SEC accused Stanford in a civil lawsuit of a “massive” fraud. It said he peddled sham promises and funneled investors’ money into real estate and other assets not easily turned into cash. FBI agents in Houston are running a parallel investigation.

Stanford, who was served legal papers by FBI agents last week, hasn’t been charged with any crime.

The SEC began investigating Stanford’s businesses in October 2006 but was asked by another, unidentified federal agency to suspend its inquiry, an SEC official in Texas told news organizations last week’.
(Ack: by Marcy Gordon, AP Business Writer )
In this context Obama’s choice to head the new Recovery Act Transparency and Accountability Board takes a vital role. Paper Democracy is where agencies are set in place to serve the interests of the citizens without fear or favor. Working democracies are yet another kettle of  fish. Where SEC has failed the new Chairman might succeed. Who knows?


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After the groundbreaking, experimental work of Un Chien Andalou (1928) Buñuel and Dali were expressly commissioned by Marie-Laurie and Charles de Noailles to provide a follow-up. The first was a surrealistic poem, where images in place of words loaded with symbolism. If Un Chien Andalou was the untrammeled folly of two creative minds whose youth was their licence, L’Age D’Or was the laying of ground rules for the kind of film-making Buñuel would do in his long career. He cut his teeth on Surrealism and all his movies beginning with this set out to examine the social mores,- moribund and nascent attitudes of a society in flux, with the eye of a satirist. After its initial screening it was banned in Spain and also in France. In Un Chien Andalou film operated more as subconscious mind given expression: it is chaos, unrelated to the conscious mind or will. ‘Surrealism ‘as rape of the conscious mind.’ Surrealism strictly speaking does not espouse a visual image as watching a beautiful sunset that puts reverence of God in the viewer’s mind; nor is it a shot of watch, placed in a succession of images to celebrate the union of technology and art. In short surrealism places the stolid virtue of visual images as we perceive them in our mind, cultivated by culture or art, on its head. (note: A Chinese may examine both the background and foreground in a painting with equal care while a Western mind shows more attention to detail in the foreground. Culture helps in understanding a work of art.) Visual ‘imagery’ in L’Age D’Or is to be understood in that context. If In a clear-cut narrative of a man and a woman being continuously thwarted in their attempts to make love by interruptions what significance can a man walking through a park with a loaf of bread on his head hold? ( Remember the nimbus that always is foisted on the icon of a saint in Catholic churches? His saintliness radiates heavenly light, so it would indicate. A loaf of bread he could provide to his worshipers  would be more practical and to the point. Would it not?’)

Man’s basic right to think or speak in the 30s was being curtailed by the fascist and totalitarian regimes in Spain, Italy, USSR and elsewhere. If the conscious life is repressed how our subconscious cope with it may lie in travesty of sense. Nonsense rhymes of Lear or Lewis Carroll tale are a case in point. If Alice has the misfortune to follow a rabbit through the hole she should not consider a Cheshire cat grinning as out of place. L’Age D’Or is sexed up but not pornograhic to titillate. The erotic aspects merely make the satire most ludicrous as in the scene where ragged children lap up the throes of the amorous couple, a man (Gaston Modot) and a girl (Lya Lys) rolling around in the mud. They are first spotted by the children. As soon as the crowd (the crowd of on-lookers is organized in accordance with the established social hierarchy.) frown on the indecency of it, children also quickly join in the general condemnation. The lower order if it will suit them, is all for propriety and morality of the bourgeoisie. The man (Gaston Modot) in his anger could crush a beetle, or kick a poodle out of the way. Beggars fare no better. In Buñuel’s vitriolic view of society it is such sort of a cad that is deputed as “Ambassador of Good Will.” L’Age d’Or is one of the cinema’s great “shock” films. At the time, it was accompanied by a manifesto.


The Story is episodic in form. The opening segment has a title card explaining the image. A poisonous scorpion is“not at all sociable, it ejects the intruder who comes to disturb its solitude.” Then the creature sets out to dine on a large rat. The next segment follows some hours afterwards when four bishops are shown deep in prayers. For a place in the sun we toil from sunup till sundown. But the well-fed prelates who make a show of their devotion as we see them rot away under the blazing Spanish Sun. Next segment develops the theme of Imperial Rome. A group of armed peasants gravitate towards the cliffs that line the rocky shoreline to resist the arrival of invading Mojorcans, but the peasants collapse in exhaustion along the way. The peasants are too weak to be of any threat to the invaders who come by ancient ships,-the invaders are however dressed nattily in modern dress. The Mojorcan dignitaries disembark uncontested, and launch a ceremony to mark the founding of a new city – Imperial Rome. The Church, the middle class and the lower class are all under attack by Buñuel. In his eyes they are all busybodies who keep butting in while the man and the daughter of the Marquis merely want to satisfy their lust. A hilarious scene is where two drunken oafs on a rickety horse and cart pass through the lounge room where an upper-class party is taking place. We will see it repeated in Viridiana where the beggar’s drunken orgy is a savage spoof on Da Vinci’s last supper. The film concludes with a segment derived from the novel The 120 Days of Sodom by the Marquis de Sade. Portrayal of an orgy and making the ringleader very much like the Christ figure was shocking. Perhaps Buñuel wished to poke fun at the sham reverence for a Jesus (whose features and build as painted by El Greco or Michalangelo are different) that is arbitrarily made a sacred image, the preserve of the Church from the pale of criticism. How closer to truth is the image of Jesus as promoted by the Church?) The film concludes with a cross as controversial as anything else in his arsenal of ridiculing the Roman Church. Tufts of hair (possibly beards or pubic patches) are nailed to it. Even to the modern movie goers L’Age D’Or seems fresh and shocking as ever. (ack: senses of cinema- Bill Mousoulis, epinions-metalluk)


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A Glorious Sunday morning.
Half-Half lay still in bed. He knew he had to get up. “It can wait!” He dug still deeper into his bed. He did not want to sleep. But just the same.
Half-Half was a toad. Same as his wife Half-Half. On Sunday mornings he loved to lay in bed just as every other.
On that morning he was alone. Buried in the midst of clothes untidily thrown about everywhere. Plates on the dining table lay piled up. Just as the girls had left the supper the night before. He remembered hazily his missus was the President of Service with a Smile Club. Under her direction much wine flowed the night before. How girls poured and he downed the glasses. Well they had left him alone, on that glorious Sunday morning, to clean up. ‘It wasn’t fair,’ he thought.
A glorious Sunday morning. He scanned the room and found nothing to worry about. “A bed is made up only when I have no need for it.” But on a Sunday morning it was different. “I shall think of nothing.”Half-Half was decidedly for it. “Nothing! On a Nothing- day as today I shall think of nothing!”
The front bell rang. After a pause the door bell went as if an imp was hell bent for some attention. “Oh my ears!” he sat up with a start. The door bell went off again.
“Coming!”he shrieked as he searched for his slippers. Having put them on he peeped.
There stood his aunt and the end of her parasol was poised to jab at the bell. He just went limp.
“Coming coming!”he shouted from the crack of his window. Aunt Tipple obviously was intent on being immediately attended to.
Half-Half was unusual even by standards of a toad. He dressed himself up while his aunt grunted down below. It sounded nasty. Meanwhile he arranged his house in some order without turning a hair; he had his breakfast fixed even as he checked himself especially behind his ears and his nails. Clean,clean clean!
He dusted the plates with his sleeve while his teeth pulled the curtains to let the light in; while he searched for matching socks under the bed he had balanced himself on his free hand to set the edge of valance straight. Before he landed on his feet he had cleared a cobweb which had somehow escaped his eye for long. All that he did in a wink of moment under extreme provocation.
His Aunt Tipple stood outside grimacing and her bony hands gripping the parasol handle harder. She did not like her nephew wasting her time.
One would say Half-Half was dexterous but he did not think so. He was all speed and efficiency while he bounded in a few steps to open the front door. He thought he had failed that exacting standard. “Uncle Bert would be turning in his grave!” Toad Bertie could do hundred things while shooting his cuff; in comparison he was a slowpoke. He did as best as he could but it was not what Uncle Bert could have considered as passable. ‘What Aunt Tipple shall think of me now? She shall judge me by the measure of Uncle Bert’. He knew he had fallen short already in her eyes.
“Uncle, I did my best!” Half-Half murmured as he faced her. “You took your sweet time,”his aunt remarked while she let him kiss her and take her baggage. He wanted to say something pleasant but the look of her face shut him up. “This is going to be most trying,”he sighed. He wished his wife Half-Half was back home.
As he led to show her to her room he was particular to let her know how welcome she was under his roof. She announced she came down especially to visit the grave of his uncle.”I must place some roses on his grave. Poor Bertie!”she sniffled,”Roses were his passion.” Hastily he led her to her room.
He put the kettle to boil and while he served tea she had taken her place and said,”Your wife must indeed be clever.”
Half-Half gave a start and asked,”What makes you say that Aunt Tipple?” “That color scheme. So lighthearted unlike what Bert insisted on! You must come up and see our manor. Brown, brown, Brown!”she said with some vehemence.
Half-Half exclaimed,”That cannot be!” He was all in a lather,” This color-scheme was suggested by none other than Uncle Bertie! We did the colors he was very particular about. Remember the time you were laid up with congested lungs?”
“It was he who taught us to lay out colors with abandon; He was especially fond of red, yellow and orange. It reminded him as ever of a magical fireplace.” “Oh he said that!” said Aunt Tipple, ”Did he?”
“He said, around such a fireplace my wife and I could weave dreams and they would come true.” He added, “Don’t you have a magical fireplace?”
“No!,”the aunt was emphatic,”he was afraid of accident by fire. So never the fireplace was lit as long as I can remember.”
After she had drunk her second cup of tea her attention was drawn to the sketch hanging on the wall. “Who did that sketch?”she asked,”obviously not a view from your place?”
“Uncle Bert,” replied Half-Half truthfully,” I am good at drawing. Whatever I know I learnt from him. Didn’t you know he could draw?”
“Speaking of Bert I did not know he could even drawn the blinds.”Aunt Tipple was becoming angrier,”I did the drawing for him. I drew blinds for him every morning and drew his chestnuts from fire because he loved roasted chestnuts hugely. I drew his bath every week and speaking of your Uncle Bert he made me even draw money for him.”
“You are speaking of some one else I think,” Half-Half did not like his uncle being spoken so ill. He added, “As far as I know he was a fun person. Really! Didn’t you know? Speaking of Bert..”
“Said enough, nephew,”Aunt Tipple looked menacing,”on second thoughts instead of roses get me some nettles, real stinging sort.” She got up and went to her room, ”I have had a trying day!”and she shut her door.

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