Saturday, April 30, 2011

High Resolution Imagery of storm paths now available

The high resolution satellite imagery of the storm paths through Tuscaloosa and Jefferson Counties is now available. Click here for the Tuscaloosa County KMZ file (for Google Earth). Click here for the Jefferson County imagery.

Click the image below to view the Tuscaloosa imagery in Google Maps (but the full resolution version in Google Earth is much better).

Ttown-tornado

Rough order of magnitude distance estimates are eight miles for the Tuscaloosa path and about nine miles for Jefferson. Pretty much everything about a quarter to a half-mile on either side of the centerline would have been severely damaged or destroyed.

Even well built structures were obliterated.

Damage assessments continue, but these storms will almost certainly be rated EF-5, the worst possible. EF-5 storms are exceedingly rare. The last one to touch down in the US was the Iowa storm of 2008. The storm that laid waste to Smithfield, Mississippi has already been given an EF-5 classification.

Update to add: Since the Google Earth imagery is stored in KML format, these are viewable in resource and CPU hogging ArcGIS and compatible applications.

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Friday, April 29, 2011

Incredible Aerial Footage of Alabama Tornado Damage

ABC 33/40’s Bill Castle spent most of yesterday flying around the Alabama damage centers of Wednesday’s deadly tornado outbreak, and returned with some truly incredible footage. In some of these videos, you will see a swath of destruction as much as three-quarters of a mile wide, and stretching for miles on end.

 

The paths of destruction are mind-boggling. I haven’t seen any of this firsthand, but watching some of this footage brings back memories of Hurricanes Andrew, Ivan, Katrina and Rita. Entire towns are obliterated. Even well built structures are damaged or destroyed.

My day job company is one of many FEMA and US Army Corps of Engineers advance contractors for various Emergency Support Functions (ESF’s). We are typically one of the first private sector contractors on the scene, handling everything from temporary housing to debris removal to infrastructure damage assessments. However, we aren’t mobilized until the search and rescue missions have been completed.  Those are obviously still ongoing, and they might be for some time to come.

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

NASA GOES Animation of the 4/27/11 Storm System

Watch how this thing explodes as sunlight hits the atmosphere, heating the moisture and adding energy to it as it sweeps east and north.  Use the fullscreen mode for best results.

UPDATE: Grunged video fixed (I hope).

The devastation across the southeast is EPIC. There are hundreds dead and the death toll is expected to rise sharply. There are hundreds more injured, many still missing, and thousands likely homeless.

There are many ways you can help.

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A STATE OF MOURNING – YOU CAN HELP!

image

Mother nature dealt the State of Alabama a cruel hand on Wednesday, April 27, 2011. It may be the worst known outbreak of tornadoes in recorded history. As emergency personnel search the rubble in counties across the northern part of the state, the death toll continues to rise. At least 145 are confirmed dead. Hundreds more are injured and an unknown number are still missing.

Entire neighborhoods have been reduced to tangled masses of debris.

The needs are great—many people have lost everything.

You can help.

Text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation, or visit this site.

Go to your nearest Red Cross and donate blood.

Volunteers are needed. They’re needed in Birmingham, too.

Donations of nonperishable goods are being accepted (1530 McFarland Blvd N).

Please help find missing people.

If you’d like to help with the cleanup in Tuscaloosa, please contact Nancy Green at 205-561-4169.

DeKalb County is in need of 8kw to 10kw Generators. Contact the county EMA if you can provide one or more.

Stay off the streets! I know—The damage is incredible and you’re curious. But emergency and response personnel don’t need to be navigating around gaggles of sightseers.

ATPB has a page of resources up.

Kids Kottage is heading to Tuscaloosa and needs help from Mobile. accepting diapers, formula, baby food, and childrens clothing; bottled water and enerygy bars for rescue workers.

They are at 1781 Dawes Road and their number is (251) 633-0000.

If you know of any other ways people are reaching out, email me, drop me a comment, or catch me on Twitter and Facebook.

 

As you can see from the map below, more than half the state has been affected.

 

image

Video: Stormchasers catch deadly tornado near Tuscaloosa


WKRG.com News

In what will surely be one of the deadliest days in modern Alabama history, storms tore through the state yesterday, reducing homes and businesses to rubble and killing at least 128 people in 16 counties in Alabama and at least 173 across the southeast.

This video was captured in Tuscaloosa County as the storm ripped through.

Please pray for the lost and their loved ones.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

AUBurgeddon: Will Bobby Lowder be the first AU Trustee to be a trusty?

JailAubie In a Letter to the Editor of the Auburn-Opelika Daily News, the Tuskegee News’ Owner/Publisher, Paul Davis nails it. Davis has been a frequent and vocal critic of Bobby Lowder’s interminable micromanagement of the affairs at Auburn University, and was the author of this seminal piece exploring the connections between Bobby Lowder, indicted super-lobbyist Robert Geddie, and the Tigers Unlimited Foundation, once headed by current Auburn Athletic Director, Jay Jacobs.

Every serious legal observer of the Taylor Bean & Whitaker and Colonial cases believe that the federal government is slowly but surely closing in on their biggest target. Sometime this summer, the last remaining assets of Colonial are likely to be liquidated in federal bankruptcy court, and the once mighty Colonial will be no more.

When that happens, all of the documents and evidence relating to Colonial’s final, nefarious dealings will finally see the light of day. They will no longer enjoy the shield of attorney-client privilege that has kept them from the public view since August 2009.

Several people have written and asked why I Bleed Crimson Red hasn’t weighed in on the recent appointment of Lowder to yet another term on the Auburn University Board of Trustees. The reason: I have no position one way or the other. As I see it, this is a matter that teh fambly needs to resolve.

If they want such a Shakespearean figure to remain on the governing board of their university, so be it. Maybe they deserve each other, or maybe they’re ready for some new blood.

I don’t care one way or the other.

I do however, think Davis’ question in the OA News bears repeating: Will Lowder be our first trustee to become a trusty?

Exit Question: Does Lowder’s nomination even reach the Senate floor and if so, does he survive a straight up-or-down vote? It’s really up to my barner friends to decide.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

NFL Draft Craft: Don’t believe a word you hear or see

image Mock drafts, like NCAA tournament brackets, are made to be busted. There’s Mel Kiper’s Big Board. Todd McShay. Clark Judge. Put all of these forecasts together and they’ll look like a first year stat students scatterplot. They’re all over the place.

Via the Daily Caller (yes, that site has a sports section and I was surprised, too), Joe Theismann doesn’t even think Cam Newton is worthy of a first round pick, much less the first overall pick of the Carolina Panthers. Nick Fairley? The Cowboys want nothing to do with him, according to at least one prominent draft analyst. Mark Ingram has a bad knee. Julio Jones is injury prone. Patrick Peterson has character issues. A.J. Green’s Wonderlic score is too low.

It’s all bullshit.

In the weeks leading up to any NFL Draft, the children who write and say stuff like the above all have an agenda. The Washington Redskins would absolutely love it if Cam Newton fell in their lap. So too would the New Orleans Saints found Mark Ingram still hanging around at pick #24. So their “sources” float stories about players they aren’t gonna pick.

Trust me—the more crap you hear about a player’s lack of potential in the NFL, the more teams there are looking at him and going, “Hmmmm.”

In about 48 hours, the Carolina Panthers will be put on the spot. I fully expect them to take Cam Newton. Nick Fairley. Marcell Dareus. Patrick Peterson. Julio Jones. Whichever player is expected by that organization to fulfill what the organization believes to be its greatest need.

The NFL Draft is all about filling needs and taking the best player available who fits the bill. The only team that always takes the best available athlete—regardless of position and regardless of need—is always and everywhere the completely dysfunctional Oakland Raiders.

But subterfuge is part of the game we call the Draft Craft. It’s crafting a message that makes your competitors doubt—ever so slightly—the capabilities of a player they really want. Generate enough negative buzz, and you’re the Green Bay Packers selecting Aaron Rogers.  The Seahawks and Shaun Alexander as the 19th pick. Or, the New England Patriots waiting patiently until the seventh round until Tom Brady is just there for them.

There is an inverse correlation between the amount of ink spilled about a player’s lack of ability and the interest teams have in him.

Making the right selection in the NFL Draft is a lot like picking players during college recruiting. You know you’ve got some good raw material. You know there’s a lot of potential there. But how much can you dissuade your competitors from pursuing him?

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Monday, April 25, 2011

BingoGate: McGilley draws a bead on McGregor

image There are many targets of opportunity in the unfolding Alabama bingo corruption case set to go to trial on June 6. But none were bigger than Milton McGregor and Ronald Gilley, the two casino owners and developers who are alleged to have assembled a network of lobbyists and set out to bribe legislators in order to get a constitutional amendment on the 2010 ballot that would have allowed electronic gambling in establishments owned, operated and/or planned by the two.

Now one of the two, Ronald Gilley, has elected to plead guilty to 11 charges in connection with the case and in the “factual basis” for his plea agreement, it’s clear that the two allies are now enemies.

A key statement in that factual basis is the following: “[This factual basis] is a summary, made for the purpose of providing the Court with a factual basis for the defendant's guilty plea to the charges against him. It does not include all of the facts known to the defendant concerning activity in which he engaged.”

In other words, when he takes the stand, Gilley will provide testimony not laid out in public court filings. The defense will have access to his proffers [information he provides to investigators and which the prosecution intends to present at trial], but a great deal of the documentation in this case has gone onto the docket under seal, preventing public access and publication by this site and the news media.

There will be high drama in the courtroom in June.

Milton McGregor is man with a long reputation for influence-peddling when it comes to gambling in the state of Alabama. In fact, he’s known for peddling influence in a host of other money-making opportunities in the state.

He once sat on the board of directors for Colonial BancGroup and served on that board’s Compensation Committee. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. A man who will stand trial about a month from now—on charges of money laundering, conspiracy and bribery—deliberated on how the employees and executives of the sixth largest bank to fail in American history would be paid. He is also known as a big time contributor to one of the two largest athletic programs in the state—Auburn University.

Gambling. Mortgage and bank fraud. College athletics. If there was money to be made in this state, Milton McGregor probably had a finger in the pie, and all three are currently under investigation. McGregor has been a busy fellow, hasn’t he?

But now, his one-time protégé has apparently turned against him, and the protégé appears to be aiming his testimony squarely at the man who helped finance his Casino Crossings “entertainment extravaganza” and put him on the map of power players in the state. But in an ancillary development, Gilley’s testimony also puts a great deal of pressure on those who worked the “McGregor side” of the two-legged conspiracy. Mssrs. Coker and Geddie are now on the clock. Do they roll on the big guy too, or do they go down with him under the blazing testimony of Gilley, Jarrod Massey and Jennifer Pouncy?

Exit question: Mr. McGregor surely has knowledge of a case or cases unrelated to the bingo case. Perhaps one or more of these represent a bigger prize for a highly politicized Department of Justice, eager to gain convictions on the banking crisis’ old white guys that nearly wrecked our economy from Fall 2007 through Summer 2009.

Wonder who that could be.

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Heartache: No “fat redneck” in the White House

image Via the Daily Caller, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour has decided against a run for the White House in 2012. Those of us who have worked with him in several different capacities are disappointed, but not surprised. As an organizer, manager and politician with keen instincts and a strongly conservative philosophy, Barbour’s “fat redneck” frankness and in the White House would have been a welcome and refreshing change to the deflecting incompetence we’ve witnessed over the last 25 months.

You don’t always agree with Haley Barbour, but you never fail to understand where he’s coming from, nor do you ever believe that he’s made a bad decision even under the most uncertain and trying circumstances.

Lord knows, he’s seen decision-making situations under each and both conditions.

Now that he’s officially out, his influence, his organizing skills and his fundraising capability will be some of the most sought-after commodities in the months to come. Barbour was seriously considering a run as far back as June 2010 and I wrote about those prospects here.

Barbour is credited by many observers on both sides of the aisle as being one of the chief architects of the 1994 Republican Revolution that swept Democrat majorities from both houses of Congress.  Barbour sensed blood in the water 16 years ago, and is credited with organizing a party-wide feeding frenzy that nationalized Congressional elections for the first time in the post-war era. 

In his 2003 campaign for Governor of Mississippi, Barbour beat a conservative blue dog Democrat in a campaign that the Jackson Clarion-Ledger called "relentlessly well organized."  The incumbent, Ronny Musgrove, was pro-life, anti-gay rights and wrote a letter in praise of the Alabama "Ten Commandments Judge," Roy Moore.  Musgrove would have made conservative Republicans in other states blush, but he was beaten by a machine he simply couldn't compete with in, terms of fundraising, organization or message management.

Barbour also has reputation for not launching battles he doesn’t think he can win. If he thought he had a legitimate shot at the Republican nomination for 2012, his machine would have cranked up and been running at peak RPM by the time Labor Day 2012 rolled around.

I am personally dismayed by his assessment of his chances and his ensuing decision. Yes, he is a Republican “insider.” Yes, he has an extensive network of lobbyists and other backroom dealers. But he has those assets because those are the assets you need to get business done.

I can’t wait to see who he throws the weight of the “fat redneck” network behind. It probably won’t be a loser.

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Ohio State receives Notice of Allegations – That was quick…

image From BuckeyeExtra.com.

Apparently, the school has not yet released the document, but from from the Dispatch story linked above, it looks like the two most serious lines of jeopardy have been avoided. The Buckeyes were not cited for either “failure to monitor” or “lack of institutional control,” which can bring highly punitive sanctions.

The NCAA alleges that:

Tressel was guilty of unethical behavior by knowingly providing false information to NCAA  staff in in certifying that he knew of no violations by his players and failed to inform school officials.

Ohio State knowingly fielded ineligible players in the 2010 season when starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor and others competed, and Tressel had direct knowledge of their misconduct.

However, It appears to be a near certainty that Ohio State will be forced to vacate every win involving the players who were alleged to have received improper benefits.

Exit Question: How is the fact that Tressel’s superiors were unaware of his knowledge of improper benefits received by four top players not at least a failure to monitor? Did they “know, or should have known” that he was was hiding something?

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Friday, April 22, 2011

BingoGate: Nice Try, Mr. Espy

image You may have seen this news report from earlier today, where Milton McGregor’s lead attorney claims that the government took advantage of defendant Ronald Gilley’s financial status in order to coax a guilty plea out of him.

Clearly, McGregor himself is digging in and preparing for the long haul. He’s got one of the best defense teams in the Southeastern US and to date, they’ve fought tooth and nail at every turn. In fact, most of the other defense attorneys in the case have followed the McGregor team’s lead in filing motions, requesting hearings and making the government’s life difficult.

But this has the scent of desperation on it.


MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -

An attorney for Milton McGregor, Joe Espy, says he believes the federal government took advantage of Country Crossing developer Ronnie Gilley because he was out of money, in jail and dealing with a sick family member. Espy says McGregor is innocent and looks forward to demonstrating that in a trial beginning June 6.


While defense counsel’s comments might play well to the press, they don’t hold much water in the real world of the Federal Judiciary, and certainly not in the Middle District of Alabama.

When an attorney agrees to represent a client before that Court and files the documentation of his role as a defense attorney, he is promptly notified by the Court in language that is crystal clear:

Retained criminal defense attorneys are expected to make financial arrangements satisfactory to themselves and sufficient to provide for representation of each defendant until the conclusion of the defendant’s case. Unless this court, within fourteen (14) days after arraignment, is notified in writing of counsel’s withdrawal because of the defendant’s failure to make satisfactory financial arrangements, this court will expect counsel to represent the defendant until the conclusion of the case. Failure of a defendant to pay sums owed for attorney’s fees or failure of counsel to collect a sum sufficient to compensate for all the services usually required of defense counsel will not constitute good cause for withdrawal after said ten-day period has expired.

Every defendant has a right to appeal from any conviction; a convicted defendant’s case is therefore not concluded until his direct appeal is decided. Thus, the further expectation of this court and the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit is that retained counsel, in making satisfactory financial arrangements, will contemplate services to be rendered upon appeal.

If a defendant moves the court to proceed on appeal in forma pauperis and/or for appointment of Criminal Justice Act appellate counsel, retained counsel will be required to disclose in camera (1) the total amount of fees and costs paid, (2) by whom fees and costs were paid, and (3) the costs actually incurred and services actually rendered. Note that matters involving the receipt of fees from a client are not generally privileged, United States v. Sims, 845 F.2d 1564 (11th Cir. 1988); In Re Slaughter, 694 F.2d 1258 (11th Cir. 1982); In Re Grand Jury Proceedings: United States  v. Jones, 517 F.2d 666 (5th Cir. 1975). All information submitted will, of course, be viewed in camera by the court for the purpose of deciding the defendant’s in forma pauperis motion. 

Except in extraordinary, unforeseen circumstances, this policy will be strictly adhered to; such circumstances may be brought to the court’s attention by motion to be relieved of the duty to represent the defendant upon appeal.

Gilley may well be out of money. He may also be under emotional and mental duress, and perhaps those circumstances did indeed lead to him to consider caving and entering a guilty plea. But his attorneys were, have been and still will be duty bound to represent him to the fullest extent of their abilities, and God help any lawyer who shirks that responsibility in business before this Court.

Gilley’s pleading guilty because he doesn’t think he stands a chance of acquittal, he has knowledge of the other defendants’ alleged crimes and the government offered him a deal for his testimony.

It’s not good for McGregor, and his lawyers know it.

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BingoGate: Gilley cops a plea, rolling up one side of the conspiracy

image News broke late yesterday afternoon that Country Crossings owner and developer Ronnie Gilley has decided to flip on the remaining defendants in USA vs. McGregor et al. He will appear in a rare, dramatic Good Friday hearing this morning before US Magistrate Judge Wallace Capel and formally enter his guilty plea.

With the agreement, the Department of Justice swiftly moved to have Gilley released from jail and into the custody of the FBI. Gilley is expected to provide Agents with evidence against the remaining defendants and will remain in their custody up to the scheduled trial date of June 6, 2011.

It is a major development in the case and it represents a potentially devastating blow to the nine defendants still remaining.

 

image

Gilley, along with fellow casino owner Milton McGregor, several lobbyists and lawmakers, had been charged in a multicount indictment last October, alleging fraud, bribery and conspiracy in connection with a gambling bill making its way through the 2010 Alabama legislative session.

In the original indictment and accompanying court filings, the Department of Justice alleged that Gilley, working in close concert with McGregor, conspired to bribe legislators to secure their votes on the bill. Two lobbyists working for Gilley—Jennifer Pouncey and Jarrod Massey—have already pled guilty to their roles in the conspiracy. Gilley’s flip effectively rolls up the Gilley leg of the two-sided conspiracy.

This leaves McGregor and his lobbyists—Tom Coker and Robert Geddie—at the top of the food chain in the case.

With the Court prepared to make its final ruling dismissing the motions to suppress the wiretap evidence, and with Gilley reportedly suffering miserable conditions in the local lockup, a plea deal from him isn’t shocking. In fact, the Court is most likely to dismiss every pretrial motion made by defendants, and it is becoming clear that the prosecution—which nearly bungled this case beyond repair—has seen its greatest moment of peril pass.

This is typically the point where the white flag of surrender goes up.

Exit Question:  The only side of the conspiracy holding fast is the McGregor side. Do we see one or the other of McGregor’s lobbyists blink now? One whole side of the conspiracy has been rolled up and the wiretap evidence will be heard by a jury. If there’s a deal to be had—assuming one has even been offered—who’s the first to take it?

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

BingoGate: Gilley to plead guilty?

image Via a Tweet from Valorie Lawson, Anchor and reporter for WSFA 12 News in Montgomery, Country Crossings owner Ronald Gilley has decided to plead guilty to charges of bribery and conspiracy.

On air news reports from other media outlets have confirmed that Gilley’s attorneys filed court documents late this afternoon, stating that he will plead guilty and cooperate with federal prosecutors.

Gilley, along with fellow casino owner Milton McGregor, several lobbyists and lawmakers, had been charged in a multicount indictment last October, alleging fraud, bribery and conspiracy in connection with a gambling bill making its way through the 2010 Alabama legislative session.

I’ll have the court documents and more details in a later post.

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Harvey Updyke alleges assault. Has the rivalry gone too far?

IronBowl Yesterday, after a scheduled court appearance in a Lee County Courthouse, Harvey Updyke—the man accused of attempted herbicide in the infamous Toomer’s Corner Tree Massacre—claimed that he had been assaulted at a gas station. Updyke says he stopped to get gas and a drink and suddenly “went black” as he stepped out of his vehicle, possibly losing consciousness. He was later treated and released from the East Alabama Medical Center for minor cuts and bruises on his face.

No suspects have been identified but the smart money is on a perp that wears orange and blue.

The story first came to light when Updyke’s court appointed lawyer, Glennon Threatt, spoke on the air to Paul Finebaum during the regularly scheduled broadcast of the Paul Finebaum Radio Network.

Twitter and teh innerwebs promptly blew up.

The next step was completely predictable—indie bloggers and network sportswriters from everywhere outside the state of Alabama wagged their heads, shook their fingers and tsk’ed tsk’ed over the “shocking” new development and the ferocity of the Iron Bowl Rivalry.

Ladies and gentlemen, please get over yourselves.

The latest freak turn in the Iron Bowl rivalry is just the most recent installment in a Hatfield-McCoy squabble that’s been going on in this state for decades. Do you honestly think this is the first time an avowed Alabama fan was assaulted while in “enemy territory?” Do you honestly think the reverse hasn’t happened? Trust me, it has. It happens a lot.

Here’s the real shocker—it’s not unique to the state of Alabama, and it’s not even unique to sports rivalries in the United States. The savagery in the Giants-Dodgers rivalry isn’t new, either. Giants fan Marc Antenorcruz was shot and killed by Dodger fan Pete Marron on September 19, 2003, and in 2009, a man stabbed his friend in the Dodger Stadium parking lot. In fact, none of what’s transpired here over the last few months even comes close to what’s happened out west and across the pond. The Celtic – Rangers rivalry even includes a religious sectarian twist. Good luck ever getting rid of the bad blood there.

Remember Malice in the Palace, when a Detroit Pistons fan threw a half-full beer at Ron Artest, who promptly led a charge of players into the stands for a brawl against the fans? Remember Dodger Reggie Smith charging into the stands to beat a fan that had thrown something at him? At least the Iron Bowl keeps the players on the field.

There are other intense rivalries in college sports, and I’m sure if you were willing to do the research, you’d find instances of vandalism and violence in long-running rivalries like Michigan – Ohio State, West Virginia – Pitt, Florida – Florida State, Duke – North Carolina and so forth and so on.

Alabama is a small state. The vast majority of Alabama and Auburn fans live, work, play and worship together and for most Alabamians, the Iron Bowl really is just a football game, albeit a very big and very important one for bragging rights and the next season’s wardrobe selection.

Very small fringe elements on both sides of the rivalry are guilty of excesses, but the fact remains that it is a miniscule proportion of the state’s population and the two schools’ fanbases. The proliferation of loosely moderated internet message boards (i.e, the ones not named TideFans.com), Twitter, Facebook and talk radio has put those fringe groups closer together than ever before, and this allows the whole world to give witness to their antics.

These two football programs have accounted for the last two BCS National Championships and the last two Heisman Trophy winners. The last three Iron Bowls have had national championship implications and the 2011 installment probably will, too.

Most Alabamians are proud of those accomplishments.

Y’all jealous, much? With a few notable exceptions, not many of the programs mentioned in the paragraphs above have won anything of significance in years. Florida and Duke have won recent national championships in football and basketball, but when was the last time West Virginia or Michigan mattered in anything?

The attempted herbicide at Toomer’s Corner and the alleged assault of the Dr. Treevorkian in the case are examples of fringe element behavior. The vast majority of both fanbases condemn this kind of activity.

It’s not war. It’s just a big football game in a place where football is a big deal.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

And you thought the Iron Bowl rivalry was fierce

At least Alabama and Auburn fans haven’t started sending mail bombs.

Two potentially lethal parcel bombs were sent to Neil Lennon -- the manager of Scottish soccer giant Celtic -- in the latest attacks on the club, its players and supporters, police said Wednesday.The bombs -- which contained liquid explosives and nails -- were intercepted before they reached the offices of the soccer coach.
The first bomb was discovered March 4 -- a day after a Celtic and Rangers match ended in violence both on and off the field, with three players sent off and 34 people arrested.
The second bomb was intercepted by mail staff in a sorting office March 26. Two days later, a parcel addressed to Godman was delivered to her constituency office.
Three weeks later, on April 15, a fourth package was intercepted before it was delivered to McBride.
The crude, homemade devices appeared to be designed to detonate when the liquid came into contact with oxygen or sunlight, Sky News reported. Mitchell refused to confirm any details about the packages but agreed that they were able of causing serious harm.

SEC sports fans take their teams and themselves seriously, but soccer fans in the UK make the Iron Bowl rivalry look like your garden variety kindergarten kerfuffle.  Auburn and Alabama fans poison trees, make up stories about recruiting improprieties, call each other silly names and generally thank God that they aren’t anything like those other guys.
Soccer fans in the UK? Jihad!
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A Somber Anniversary: The Deepwater Horizon Explosion and Gulf Oil Spill

One year ago, at about 10:00 pm CDT, The Deepwater Horizon suffered a blowout as natural gas erupted through a riser and drill pipe extending one mile to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, just about 50 miles off the Louisiana coast. The rig exploded, burned and two days later, she sank. The tragic event was the result of a series of bad decisions beginning months earlier and leading right up to the fateful moment. Eleven men were lost in the tragedy, and 17 others were seriously injured. What followed the loss of those men aboard one of the world’s most advanced drill rigs was an environmental disaster like none other the country has ever seen.

An estimated 200 million gallons of oil spewed from the damaged well until it was finally capped on September 19. The world saw images of oiled birds, fouled marshes and stained beaches. But it also witnessed one of the most colossal failures of federal disaster response in the history of federal disaster responses.

image As this blog’s Deepwater Horizon Incident Timeline shows, the series of bad decisions that cascaded into the explosion and fire was followed by an equally bad series of decisions by the federal government, until the Grown Up—Retired USCG Admiral Thad Allen—took over from the politicos.

The President’s “WTF Moment” didn’t come until nine days after the rig sank and a full week after news that the well was indeed spewing oil into the Gulf. Twelve days after the incident began, he suddenly changed an earlier decision not to visit the area and hauled ass South to give a speech. He returned a month later, where this photo was taken. It’s come to symbolize a cluelessly detached “executive” facing his first real crisis, and going off by himself to pick up a few tarballs.

Responsibility for the tragic explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon lies squarely on the shoulders of senior leadership of the companies drilling the well. They cut corners “down the hole,” something that chills the blood of every experienced oil man. But responsibility for failure to contain the spill and prevent environment disaster lies squarely in the Oval Office. The response was driven by politics and politics alone, and it wasn’t until the burly, gruff Admiral Allen told the White House to go screw themselves; that he was in charge and they could leave a message at the tone.

And if anyone thinks that the pain of the adminstration’s clusterfark was going to be made better by a $20 billion slush fund, administered by a White House appointed czar and funded by a contrite BP, Google “Gulf Coast Claims Facility.”

Go explore the Timeline. Most of the entries are linked to news stories and other online resources. It remains the single-most visited page at IBCR and has been used by journalists, researchers and interested members of the public world-wide.

And tonight, around 10:00 pm, say a small prayer for the men who lost their lives, their families, and the families and businesses along the Gulf Coast who are still struggling to put their lives back together again. We’ve come a long way, but we’ve still got miles ahead of us.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

ColonialPalooza: Farkas GUILTY on all counts; what it means going forward

Breaking news by Suevon Lee, the Ocala Star-Banner reporter who has been covering this story from Day One:


image According to Peter Carr, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virgina, the verdict was returned 5 p.m. Tuesday, after a full day and a half of deliberations that began Monday afternoon at the conclusion of a 10-day trial at the federal courthouse here.

A sentencing date is also being set for Farkas, 58, who faces up to 30 years in prison on each count when he appears before U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema on a future date.

In what prosecutors have described as the “largest and longest running fraud scheme in the country,” Farkas, with the help of several co-conspirators, was accused of selling fake loan assets to Colonial Bank, once one of the country's largest, and diverting funds from a company-owned financing vehicle to help cover Taylor Bean's operating expenses.

 


In response to comments, emails and tweets:

Farkas’ conviction may or may not have any impact on whether the feds decide to pursue senior officials at Taylor Bean’s partner, Colonial Bank. Colonial officials have already acknowledged that they are the target of an ongoing federal probe into potential banking and securities irregularities.

Also, both Colonial and Taylor Bean are in Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, a process that should result in final liquidation of those two companies’ remaining assets sometime this summer. A great deal of evidence is behind the shield of attorney-client privilege in those cases. In fact, Farkas’ own defense team sought to compel the release of those documents before the trial began, claiming that they could contain information needed for his defense. It’s a fair assumption that these materials will no longer enjoy that privilege once the bankruptcy proceedings have run their course.

Could they be used to advance the ongoing federal probe and result in criminal indictments? Perhaps. There’s also a chance that the evidence could be exculpatory for Farkas, giving him ammunition as his case winds through the appeals process.

There’s still a lot of intrigue left.

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Post Spring SEC Overview

I did this last year, but I’ll be damned if I can find the post. After spring drills were concluded last April, I picked a coin flip between LSU and Auburn to win the SEC West, and a coin flip between Florida and South Carolina to win the SEC East. I didn’t see Alabama with the maturity to repeat as SEC West champions, nor did I see Georgia with the weapons to compete with Florida in the SEC East while identifying Stephen Garcia as the best QB in that division. I did change the SEC West prediction somewhat after August practices, mainly on Auburn’s development of Cam Newton. I seriously thought the Iron Bowl winner was on its way to Atlanta and Glendale.

For the 2011 season, here’s the spring run down of the top three programs in each SEC Division.

SEC West

Alabama. Last year, I didn’t think Alabama would be the dominating force it was in 2009. This year, I’m convinced on the opposite side—not only does this the Alabama Crimson Tide have the defense to contend, the combination of a massive, talented offensive line and the best running back corps in the country makes this team deadly. Add to that an absolutely ferocious defense and there’s a championship contender at the Capstone. There are still some questions at Quarterback to be resolved, but that is a much less important position in college football than it is in the pros. In college ball, if you have the beef and talent up front, you win football games. If you have the talent and depth at at Tailback, you win even more. If you have talent, depth and experience at key linebacker positions to go with all that, you have the makings of a serious run at all of the marbles. Bama’s got’em all.

Louisiana State University. Early on, I gave this team a coin flip’s chance of contending with Auburn for the SEC West title in 2010, and I was not disappointed. Les Miles has been absolutely cleaning up the state in recruiting, and the 2011 installment of the Bayou Bengals is nothing short of stellar. Like Bama, they also have questions at Quarterback, but LSU’s questions are much less significant than Bama’s. It’s the other key positions that LSU may (or may not) have issues that gives Bama the slight edge. Losing Peterson’s talent and leadership in the backfield is probably the key to an oh-so-close season. Replacing it could propel them straight to the title.

Whichever team survives the slobber-knocker in November in Tuscaloosa will probably play for the SEC Title, and if either team wins, it will likely be in the BCS Championship game in January 2012.

Mississippi State. Look, whatever you think of the talent pool Dan Mullen has to work with, you can’t discount the man’s ability to get the most out of it. I and many others think it’s quite obvious that Mullen’s tenure at Florida under Urban Meyer demonstrated an offensive mind that is equaled by few others.  MSU had some recruiting failures in-state against Ole Miss, but I really thing their in-state rival is a grease fire and that Houston Nutt is slowly losing control.

SEC East

Florida. Loaded with talent. Coached by a disciple of Nick Saban. Muschamp’s first year will surely show the effects of a first-year Head Coach and staff, but the talent level is just sick. If the offensive line can stay healthy and Brantley can grow some at Quarterback, Florida is set for another run at the SEC East.

Tennessee. They disappointed Vol fans last year, but Derek Dooley seems to be doing things the right way and, while the schedule presents some serious obstacles, the Vols could catch a few breaks along the way and do some real damage in the SEC East. Do I think this is the year they make a run at the SEC East title? Not yet.  We’ll see after the first few games of the year. Do I think Dooley is on his way to creamy orange goodness at Knoxville?  Yeah, if Vol fans give him the time…

Georgia. I really think this is Richt’s last shot at keeping his job. As such I see the Bulldogs making as hard a run at the title as they ever have. I should probably put them at least at a coin flip with Tennessee, as the Bulldogs probably have a slight edge in talent. But some of the off-the-field issues at Georgia have to be troubling. I know that stuff doesn’t necessarily translate to performance on the field. I also know that Georgia recruited exceptionally well for the 2011 class and that the incoming freshmen might be the difference makers.

Misfit Toys

Auburn has simply lost too much talent to be a contender in the West, especially late in the season. Malzahn is an offensive genius, but Tracy Rocker developed that devastating defensive line. I don’t see them simply outscoring teams like LSU and Arkansas with that talent and experience. Ole Miss is—as described above—a grease fire under Houston Nutt. South Carolina may have had a shot at a second straight trip to the Georgia Dome if Garcia managed to stay sober.  Vandy’s Vandy. Kentucky looks forward to basketball season in early October. Losing Ryan Mallet sets Arkansas back a year, but if Petrino can keep the state talent coming into Fayetteville, look for them to be a serious threat in 2012.

Picks

SEC West: Alabama or LSU.

SEC East: Florida.

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It’s Official: 2009 Heisman Trophy Winner Mark Ingram on NCAA 2012 Cover

What a thing of beauty. That is all.

image

 

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BingoGate: Busy week on the docket; much more to come

image It’s no real surprise, but darned near every defendant in the upcoming bingo corruption trial are filing objections to Magistrate Judge Wallace Capel’s recommendations that their various pretrial motions be denied, along with appeals to US District Judge Myron Thompson to set aside Capel’s recommendation and rule their way.

The chief target of those motions is of course the wiretaps evidence, which form the foundation of the government’s case against Milton McGregor, Ronnie Gilley, their lobbyists and a handful of legislators they are accused of bribing to support a 2010 constitutional amendment legalizing electronic gambling in the state of Alabama.

This is going to be a long and complex trial. There are ten remaining defendants. Assuming Thompson allows the wiretap evidence to be presented, there are nearly 13,000 recorded conversations. There will be mountains of documentary evidence as well, including emails, tax and bank records, campaign disclosure forms, ad infinitum.

A great number of documents have been filed with the Court under seal, meaning no one but the attorneys and the Court knows their contents. But at some point, most—if not all—of this information will become part of the public record.

And boy, will there be an army of lawyers in the courtroom.

It is by far the biggest trial in the modern history of the state, likely overshadowing the Richard Scrushy trials of a couple of years ago. With November’s historic Republican sweep of the Legislature and every important statewide office, combined with equally historic passage of tougher ethics laws in last year’s legislative special session, this trial will close an ugly chapter in the state’s history.

Alabama residents have long suffered the ill effects of a legislative process so toxically ridden with corruption that it would make a billy goat puke. Those cheering for the prosecution in this case are cheering for some of the highest profile players in that chapter to pay the price for their alleged crimes. Those cheering for the defendants are cheering for a return to days gone by, in which powerful individuals with no accountability unduly influence legislation benefitting them and only them. Whether the verdicts come back guilty or not guilty, that door is closed forever.

There are still some viper pits in Montgomery that are in serious need of cleaning out, and those battles are certainly going to be waged in the months and years ahead. But for now, getcha some popcorn and settle in.  This trial is gonna be doozy.

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Monday, April 18, 2011

Pro Football Weekly: Character Counts

Keen analysis from PFW’s Nolan Nawrocki, in which he describes how NFL teams assess character and decide whether to take a chance on a talented prospect with less-than-stellar intangibles. Notable in the story is the first published report that former Arkansas Quarterback Ryan Mallett admitted to having a drug problem during team interviews at the NFL Combine last February. Also notable in the story is that of the six prospects assessed with the greatest risk, three are from SEC schools.

Mallett joins former Auburn Quarterback Cam Newton and Defensive Tackle Nick Fairley. Of those three, Fairley is probably the one teams would be most willing to roll the dice on, because as Nawrocki explains, you can get away with a lot more at that position than others.

Without the character issues, both Mallett and Newton are solid locks for first round selections in the NFL Draft that begins April 28. Nawrocki notes Mallett’s substance problem, but goes out of his way to finger Newton as an immature egomaniac who is ill-suited to fill a leadership role at the position that requires it most.

Newton is a freakishly good athlete and his college coaches have said he is as capable as any they’ve coached at that position. And let’s be honest—in two years as a starting Quarterback, Newton has won two national titles. The question is, did he excel at Auburn because he worked in a system designed for him by evil offensive genius Gus Malzahn? Check out the first few minutes of this conversation with Chuckie Jon Gruden:

 

Both Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick are cut from a similar physical fabric as Newton. Both have proven their worth on the field. It remains to be seen if Newton can do it, or if he becomes a spectacular bust like JaMarcus Russell (in Russell’s defense, he was drafted by an absolute dumpster fire of an NFL program). Ironically, it would probably be better for Newton’s long-term success in the league if he was not one of the earliest picks in the draft. It would mean he “falls” to a better team with more room to let him develop his football IQ.

Mallett is a loaded dice roll. His physical skills are unquestionable, but the “big time party guy” will be tempted sorely by big time NFL money, even if he slips to a late second round pick as many draft gurus project. Last month, former Tennessee and current NY Jets Quarterback Erik Ainge opened up about his long-term struggle with drug addiction. Ainge wasn’t expected to make a major impact when he was drafted in the fifth round in 2008. Mallett, given his resume at Arkansas and his work under gifted Quarterback/Offensive Guru Bobby Petrino, will be. That is, if he can shed the monkey on his back and get his life straightened out.

To put it mildly, this is one of the riskiest NFL Drafts in recent memory. There are a host of unanswered questions about the biggest names available. Teams that take chances will either win big by gambling on the question marks or, like the Raiders did with Russell, lose big.

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Dude, it’s like these totally organic harmonic natural frequencies.

Puff. Puff. Hold IN! Pass.

Let me caveat this post by saying that the recovery of Zac Etheridge—who years ago may have died on the field after suffering a horrendous neck injury—is nothing short of miraculous. Bama fans like to tease Auburn fans about the whole God thing, but Etheridge is legitimately the only barner who can truthfully say that God was on his side.

But this stuff sounds like 100% pure, virgin snake oil.


They are called "chips" -- tiny holographic patches worn on the skin at Chinese acupuncture points that, according to the company that supplied them to Etheridge, Sports With Alternatives To Steroids (S.W.A.T.S.), help the body maintain and replenish its energy supply.

Ross and his partners say they figured out a way to identify the frequency of any nutrient and embed it into their own patches. In theory, the human energy field can recognize the frequencies and cause the same chemical reaction inside the body as if those nutrients had been eaten.

This means that instead of an athlete having to eat a banana to get potassium to prevent cramping in the middle of a game, Ross says, an athlete could have the frequency for potassium on his or her skin in the chip and the body would respond as if it had been ingested.


Like, I’m totally in harmony, dude. Gnarly. Maybe these awesomely awesome guys have figured out the fountain of youth, or something.

It’s quite telling that the NFL and college football’s most NFL-like program have sent letters to the snake oil salesman SWATS pitchman and told him to stay the hell away from their people.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Happy Birthday, I Bleed Crimson Red

BirthdayBoy One year ago today, the domain www.ibleedcrimsonred.com was registered. The blog was actually begun on April 1st and the very first post was on the growing number of publicly traded companies announcing charges against earnings due to the newly passed ObamaCare law. I am a grizzled veteran of sports and political boards and blogging, but I wanted my own platform to air my points of view on current affairs.

I originally intended IBCR to be a political blog with a strongly conservative message, but three days after I registered the domain, the Deepwater Horizon MODU platform suffered a blowout, caught fire and sank. Eleven men were lost, and the well she was drilling eventually poured more than 200 million gallons of crude into my beloved Gulf of Mexico. That spill dominated the news and dominated this blog from late April until the well was plugged in September.

The message then shifted to the November midterm elections, where readers got a steady diet of news and commentary about how a true, grassroots movement of ordinary Americans were rising up to spank the liberal establishment in Washington, DC.

Blog traffic was slow at first. I spent many days in May reloading the stats pages, skeptical about the notion that if I built it, you would come. You did, and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the many wonderful comments from readers all over the world.

There hasn’t been a down month yet. Every month has seen an increase in traffic over the previous one, and April 2011 has already exceeded March 2011. In fact, the year to date traffic figures have already exceeded the entire year of 2010, and the trend is straight up.

I have to extend a great big “Thank You” to Auburn University and Cameron Newton. You have been providing me with easy, free blog content for the last five months. I also need to give props to Milton McGregor, Robert Geddie, Ronnie Gilley and the whole BingoGate crowd. Oh, and thank you too, Uncle Bobby.

You’ve let me explore topics like NCAA compliance, agents’ influence in college football, political corruption, bank and securities fraud, common street thuggery, the FBI’s interest in college football and the intensely competitive nature of sports in the Southeastern Conference.  By all means, ladies and gentlemen, please keep it coming.

I’ve been accused of being obsessed and a hater. I’m neither. I’m a blogger, and I’m going to cover the material that people want to read about. Last summer, it was the oil spill. Last fall, it was the election. Since November 4, it’s been about the NCAA, the FBI, the SEC, trials indictments and wiretaps. This time next year, who knows what the topic du jour will be. Auburn is not special. They’re just in the news and people are starving for information. I’m happy to oblige and the fact that Bama’s rival is the one getting the full-fisted rectal exam is just gravy. Lagniappe. Icing on the cake.

I’m planning some big things in the next 12 months. I am still working on the details and putting together the evil “Master Plan,” [muhahahaha!] but when it all comes together it’s going to be an exciting experience for you and I, both.

But today, I just wanted to note the one year anniversary of this blog and tell you all how much I appreciate your visits. 

Y’all rock.

If you’d like to extend some well-wishing, how about clicking on one of those ads over there in the right side panel, or how about buying a brand new Bama hat?  I have this HUGE PACER bill coming due next month…

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AUBurgeddon: An East Alabama Policy of Deflection

JailAubie Robert DeWitt, a Senior Columnist covering politics for the Tuscaloosa Daily News, has penned a column on the “poisonous” nature of the Iron Bowl rivalry. Not so much the rivalry between the teams—the game itself is played by players and coached by coaches that have a mutual respect for each other. That’s the way it should be.

DeWitt is writing about the unhealthy nature of the animus between the two fanbases, and has publicly called for an end to the annual showdown between the the state’s two college football programs. Whether you agree or disagree with him, you can’t fault DeWitt for not making some very valid points in support of his argument.

He doesn’t explore this in detail but in making his case, DeWitt touches on the notion that when legitimate, national media outlets publish stories regarding alleged NCAA recruiting and/or improper benefits at Auburn, the program’s fanbase—led by a handful of supposed internet insiders—floats a rumor or story that Alabama’s program is cheating. It’s a policy of deflection torn right out of former White House mouthpiece Robert Gibbs’ favorite playbook: Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals.


Let’s face facts. Auburn has likely gotten itself into some serious trouble. It’s football program is being assailed by accusations from numerous directions. The answer from the Auburn fan base and pro-Auburn state media has been “look what Alabama’s doing.” Twice since January, pro Auburn media has released unsubstantiated stories impugning Alabama. The first instance occurred when word first leaked out that HBO was interviewing Auburn players about pay for play. An Auburn web site broke a story saying an Alabama player admitted to HBO being paid by Alabama or its boosters. It wasn’t true. And I question whether the person who released that information ever believed it was true. There also appears to have been little effort by Jeffrey Lee of the Auburn Rivals site to do much more than regurgitate internet message board rumors about Calloway. Is it far fetched to believe that the release of what appears to be bogus information was done for little other purpose than deflect attention away from the pay for play allegations at Auburn?

Alabama fans who think this will change  are delusional. And knowledgeable Alabama fans should realize that  their program is not benefitting from it’s association with Auburn. Auburn should be cut adrift to fend for itself and hopefully find some kind of identity that isn’t defined by it’s hatred for Alabama.


Both the Chuck Oliver/Ingram Smith-authored rumors of Chris Keys’ alleged bombshell and the Jeffrey Lee-authored story regarding cash payments, a car and a mortgage payoff for Brent Calloway’s signature were proven false.

But DeWitt is right—Alabama fans who think this policy of deflection will stop have not been paying attention. It’s been going on since a bunch of Auburn boosters paid former Alabama player Gene Jelks to lie about improper payments during his career in Tuscaloosa.

In the very near future, more bad news is coming Auburn’s way. Chaz Ramsey, one of the four former Auburn football players who went on the record claiming to have been paid to play, is slated to be interviewed by NCAA investigators early this week. But there is other news on the horizon that isn’t ripe for publication yet. When it comes, I fully expect the same cast of usual suspects to attempt to deflect attention by channeling their inner Pee Wee Herman, pointing to Alabama and saying, “I know I am, but what are you?”

Absolutely none of the investigative journalism pieces by ESPN, FoxSports.com or the New York Times were instigated by Alabama people. Bama did not make a Sociology professor suggest academic fraud. Bama did not cause the Cam Newton investigation. Bama did not point NCAA investigators to Thibodaux. Bama did not interview Stanley McClover, Raven Gray, Chaz Ramsey or Troy Reddick. Bama did not cause, instigate or encourage Dakota Mosley, Mike McNeil, Antonio Goodwin and Shaun Kitchens to go “hit a lick” at a Lee County trailer park. Let me spell this out very clearly for the folks that think Heaven must look a lot like the 334 area code: We are not the cause of your problems, Tiger fans. The multiple predicaments you find yourselves in are of your own making.

Conversely, every single story since January about wrongdoing at Alabama was a product of Auburn’s obsessive imagination. Not one of them had any merit, whatsoever.  See the difference?

Make up your own mind about whether DeWitt is right about ending the association, but there are two other points on which no one can disagree with him: The fanbase’s identity is defined by its hatred of Alabama, and the policy of deflection will continue.

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Saturday, April 16, 2011

ColonialPalooza: Lee Farkas’ testimony concludes with no smoking gun

image Lee Farkas spent nearly five hours on the stand Friday, defending himself against federal charges that he directed a $1.9 billion scheme to sell phony loans to Colonial Bank, diverted funds out of short-term financing arm Ocala Funding LLC, and defraud the US TARP program.

To our dismay, he did not deliver any smoking gun, directly linking any of the senior managers or directors of Colonial BancGroup to the massive fraud scheme that toppled both the bank and Taylor Bean & Whitaker, the mortgage giant Farkas grew into the largest non-depository lender in the country.

As noted here yesterday, Farkas did testify that the check kiting scheme was authorized by the Montgomery-based bank.


So far, Farkas has claimed that "Plan B", which prosecutors allege was a way to sell Colonial hundreds of millions of dollars in "fake" loans, was the brainchild of Cathie Kissick, the head of Colonial's Orlando-based Mortgage Warehouse Lending Division, whom he first met in the mid-1990s before Taylor Bean exploded into the mortgage lender it became.

"She was very creative in ways to come up with ways for us to fund more loans," he said.

As for the overnight sweeping, which prosecutors claim was funneling money from Taylor Bean's investor funding account into its master account at Colonial, allegedly to help cover operating expenses at the company, Farkas said this all happened under someone else's direction.

"It was someone at Colonial who had authority to make those transactions at the time," he said, adding he sent an internal team from Taylor Bean to "investigate" these overdrafts but never received an explanation that met his level of satisfaction.


He also clearly believed that federal investigators were examining Colonial’s activities during the failed attempt to secure TARP funding, and the prosecution appeared to stipulate that belief by providing jurors with an August 2009 recording of a conversation:


[Sean] Ragland's testimony followed statements from Desiree Brown, Taylor Bean's former treasurer. The jury heard a tape recorded conversation between Brown and Farkas on Aug. 4, 2009, a day after FBI agents raided Taylor Bean's Ocala headquarters and Colonial Bank's Mortgage Warehouse Lending Division in Orlando.

"The only thing they're looking at is Colonial and nothing else," Farkas tells Brown on the recorded call, in reference to the bank's failed efforts to receive TARP funding.


There are about 732 different lines of speculation as to why the prosecution didn’t delve deeper into this relationship and entangle the highest levels of senior management at Colonial, especially after noting that Farkas was allegedly conspiring with a “Senior BancGroup Officer” until nearly the last day before the raids on offices in Florida.

Here’s one line of speculation: Doing so would have provided the Farkas defense an avenue towards establishing reasonable doubt and risking an acquittal.

As to why the defense didn’t take that path on its own… It’s anybody’s guess as to why, on the stand, Farkas didn’t point to Montgomery, Alabama and exclaim “he did it! I’m innocent!” Why not enter testimony and documentary evidence showing the intense and excrutiatingly detailed control the Micromanager exercised over his empire? It appears to be a missed opportunity, and it may result in Farkas’ conviction. Does that mean Bobby Lowder escapes with his skin intact?

Hardly.

In its bankruptcy filings,  Colonial has acknowledged that it is the subject of Dept of Justice criminal probe into to its mortgage warehouse lending division and alleged accounting irregularities. At the minimum, Colonial executives face jeopardy under the Sarbanes – Oxley Act. Colonial’s assets are set to be liquidated in Chapter 11 proceedings in the following months. When that’s done, a ton of documents and other evidence will emerge from behind the shield of attorney-client privilege and the picture will  become much clearer.

Farkas’ defense team sought to speed that emergence process in pre-trial motions to compel access to those documents, but the motion was denied. Perhaps that’s why the Farkas team opted not to raise the matter during trial. It could be fodder for appeal should Farkas be convicted.

Stay tuned. There is still a long way to go.

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Friday, April 15, 2011

ColonialPalooza: Yes, Farkas is on the stand today

Update to an earlier post. Scroll down for updates.

image "It is always the defendant's choice," says his attorney, William Cummings.

It’s usually a train wreck when the accused takes the stand in his own defense because it opens him up to cross-examination by the prosecution. But in this case, Farkas may have no choice. The prosecution has paraded a slew of his former employees and business associates, who’ve outlined an extravagant lifestyle and inner circle fringe benefit spending that would make Fiesta Bowl executives envious.

The prosecution rested Thursday. The defense began its case Thursday with three witnesses: two former Taylor Bean employees and an Atlanta-based Accountant who testified that Colonial received as much as $20 million more than was withdrawn in the allegedly fraudulent transfers.


In her testimony later Thursday afternoon, Karen Fortune, the defense expert witness, said according to her analysis, Colonial, as the result of all these transfers, received back more than $20 million in cash than it advanced to Taylor Bean.

She acknowledged on cross-examination, however, that her job was not to make any evaluation as to the validity of the transactions, just assess the amounts Colonial had advanced and ultimately received back.

"It's not your testimony here that, as long as Colonial makes money, crime pays, is it?" Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Connolly posed to the witness.


Developments throughout the day. Suevon Lee, the Ocala Star-Banner reporter covering the trial should have an update on whether he takes the stand.

Getcha some popcorn, because there's another big fish swimming around out there that the government would like to get the straight skinny on, and Farkas almost certainly has the goods.

UPDATE: As expected, Mr. Farkas is indeed on the stand.


So far, Farkas has claimed that "Plan B", which prosecutors allege was a way to sell Colonial hundreds of millions of dollars in "fake" loans, was the brainchild of Cathie Kissick, the head of Colonial's Orlando-based Mortgage Warehouse Lending Division, whom he first met in the mid-1990s before Taylor Bean exploded into the mortgage lender it became.

"She was very creative in ways to come up with ways for us to fund more loans," he said.

As for the overnight sweeping, which prosecutors claim was funneling money from Taylor Bean's investor funding account into its master account at Colonial, allegedly to help cover operating expenses at the company, Farkas said this all happened under someone else's direction.

"It was someone at Colonial who had authority to make those transactions at the time," he said, adding he sent an internal team from Taylor Bean to "investigate" these overdrafts but never received an explanation that met his level of satisfaction.


Who within the Colonial inner circle would have had sufficient authority to ok a check kiting scheme that rose into the ten-figure range, generating gobs of cash in overnight interest fees?

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Professionals know a professional when they see one

image Izzy Gould, the Alabama beat writer for al.com affiliated newspapers, has an enlightening report in this morning’s print editions of the Mobile Press-Register, Birmingham News and Hunstville Times.

In his story, Gould describes how Alabama Head Football Coach Nick Saban has garnered such respect and admiration from current or former NFL coaches and players that they have either seriously considered sending their sons to play football in Tuscaloosa, or have already made up their minds to do so.

Duron Carter, the 6-5, 210-lb son of current NFL Analyst Cris Carter, has committed to transfer to Alabama and play for Saban’s 2011 Crimson Tide squad. The Carter family joins a growing list of impressive NFL figures considering the Tide and Saban’s program as one of the best training grounds for developing their NFL-caliber sons.

Gould ticks off a list of family names that NFL and Bama fans easily recognize.  New York Jets Coach Rex Ryan. Hall of Fame RB Barry Sanders. Hall of Fame and Superbowl MVP Joe Montana. All either have seriously considered having the most important people in their lives—their children—play for Alabama or are currently doing so. Or, in the case of the Carter family, they’ve already made the commitment.

Gould has quotes from key figures to demonstrate why.


"We're grown men," Cris Carter said. "I don't think we're intimidated by Nick Saban. We understand the value of a great coach, great discipline and great team unity. That's probably the No. 1 thing, if that makes sense."

"I think everybody that comes from Alabama is just mentally and physically prepared for the next level, just because of the type of system he runs and how he runs his program," Ingram said. "... Just going up against guys like Marcell (Dareus) and Dont'a (Hightower) and then Terrence Cody and (Courtney) Upshaw and Rolando (McClain), just going up against them, day in and day out, taught me how to practice, and practice hard. It definitely helped me be a better player."

"You know they're going to play a pro system whether you're on offense or defense," Cris Carter said. "... Every aspect of their football is all pro from the way they install plays to the way they review the tape to the way they go through practice. It's professional-like, so the training is as good as you're going to get at the college level."


Great discipline. Cultivating team unity. Mental and physical preparation. A top-to-bottom, all professional approach to the game. Professionals know professionalism when they see it, because as successful NFL professionals, they’ve lived it.

This, dear reader, is the reason why the allegations made last week by Auburn homer Jeffrey Lee are laughable. Alabama doesn’t have to bribe or coerce great players to sign with and play for Nick Saban. Those great players hope to have an NFL career, and Nick Saban’s program is one of only a handful of schools that provide the opportunity to grow, learn and play at the highest level. Along the way, they want to play for and win a college football National Championship.

Saban and the Alabama football program give them the opportunity for both, and that is the only "enticement” they’ll ever need.

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