Just how real is the story behind the movie “American Hustle”?

I thought the movie, loosely related to the Abscam scandal of the seventies, was outstanding. That said, I found myself wondering: just how real was the plot?

Many of the names were changed, but some of the key threads were accurate:

1. A con artist was used by the FBI to entrap politicians:

In 1978 the FBI launched a major investigation into federal corruption. In an effort to weasel out the less than ethical politicians working in Washington, the FBI hired convicted con artist Melvin Weinberg, named Irving Rosenfeld and played by Christian Bale in the film, to come up with the ultimate scam.

2. A fake Arab Sheikh’s money was used as bait:

The FBI launched a fake corporation called Abdul Enterprises, Ltd. to serve as a front for the investigation, with a number of agents posing as Karim Abdul Rahman, the fictional sheik who owned the company. The agents then held a series of meetings with prominent Senators and Representatives at a Georgetown townhouse located at the 4400 block of W Street. The FBI rented the home from Lee Lescaze, a Washington Post editor. During the filmed meetings, the agent posing as Rahman would offer the politicians money in exchange for political asylum and help in illegally transferring money.

3. Six House Representatives and one U.S. Senator were convicted of bribery and conspiracy:

Of the 31 members of Congress targeted by ABSCAM, one Senator and six Representatives were convicted of bribery and conspiracy in 1981. Senator Harrison Williams of New Jersey received three years in federal prison for agreeing on tape to take a share of stock in the FBI’s fake company and to use his position in the Senate to steer contracts to the company. He was the first U.S. Senator to be imprisoned in over 80 years. Representatives John Jenrette of South Carolina, Richard Kelly of Florida, Raymond Lederer of Pennsylvania, Michael Myers of Pennsylvania, Frank Thompson of New Jersey and John Murphy of New York were also all found guilty and each served less than three years in jail.

4. A popular mayor really was implicated in the plot:

[Jeremy] Renner’s Carmine Polito is Hollywood’s version of Angelo Errichetti, the longtime New Jersey pol who died this past spring. Like Polito, Errichetti was the well-liked mayor of Camden, N.J., who got taken down by Abscam. In the movie, Bale’s character finagles an 18-month sentence for Polito; in real life, Errichetti was slammed with a six-year stint. (He served two and a half years, per an Associated Press look at Errichetti.)

5. As for the women in the con artist’s life?

In the movie, everything mostly works out for Irving Rosenfeld. Irving and Sydney marry, while Irving and Rosalyn come to terms, and she moves on with a mobster friend.

In real life, Marie Weinberg was found hanged to death just weeks after she went to the press claiming Mel Weinberg had profited from Abscam. The 1982 incident was ruled a suicide; she was 50.

And while Mel Weinberg and Evelyn Knight did indeed go on to marry, Weinberg told the Telegraph they subsequently divorced, and that while they still live near each other, “she won’t talk to me anymore.”

Rotten Tomatoes has American Hustle at 94 percent (critics) and 82 percent (audience). I thought it was excellent, FWIW.

Hat tip: BadBlue Entertainment News.

Doug Ross @ Journal

HILARIOUSLY APPROPOS: Videotape of Burning Log Beats CBS Morning Show in Nielsen Ratings

If this doesn’t prove that vintage media is dying, I don’t know what will.

But how’d it do in the demo?

Dallas-Fort Worth local CBS affiliate TXA 21 played a loop of burning yule log on Christmas Eve into the morning of the 25th, accompanied by a holiday selection from a local radio station, and it was a (comparative) ratings hit.

According to Nielsen breakdowns, the “roaring fire” beat a Friends rerun and tied an episode of The Office.

Most surprisingly, however, from 8:45 to 9:00 a.m., as the log was “burning out,” it averaged almost 30,000 viewers, enough to tie that morning’s edition of CBS This Morning on Dallas’ CBS 11 in ratings.

No word on how badly MSNBC got pasted in the ratings, although I believe the all-night laundromat on 34th Street may have doubled ‘em.

Hat tip: BadBlue News

Doug Ross @ Journal

Suicide bombers hit Russia, kill 31, wound over 100.

(photo credit: CNN)

(photo credit: CNN)

(Washington, D.C.) —  ”Two suicide bombings in as many days have killed 31 people and raised concerns that Islamic militants have begun a terrorist campaign in Russia that could stretch into the Sochi Olympics in February,” reports the Associated Press. “Russian and international Olympic officials insisted the site of the games, protected by layers of security, is completely safe.”

The AP noted that “suicide bombings have rocked Russia for years, but the insurgents seeking to create an Islamic state have largely confined their attacks to the North Caucasus region in recent years. The blasts in Volgograd signaled that militants want to show their reach outside their native region. Matthew Clements, an analyst at Jane’s, said Caucasus militants could be targeting major transportation hubs like Volgograd to embarrass the Kremlin and discourage attendance at the Feb. 7-23 Olympics.”

“The attack demonstrates the militants’ capability to strike at soft targets such as transport infrastructure outside of their usual area of operations in the North Caucasus,” he said in a note. “Although the very strict security measures which will be in place at the Sochi Games will make it difficult to undertake a successful attack against the main Olympic venues, public transport infrastructure in Sochi and the surrounding Krasnodar territory will face an elevated risk of attack.”

“Suicide bombers at a train station and on a trolleybus killed more than 30 people within 24 hours in the southern city of Volgograd, raising the security threat less than six weeks before Russia hosts the Winter Olympics,” reports Bloomberg news service.

“At least 14 people died and 27 others were injured when a man detonated a bomb in the trolleybus during rush hour after 8:10 a.m. local time, the Health Ministry said on its website,” Bloomberg noted. “The blast yesterday near a metal detector at the entrance to the city’s train station killed 17 people and injured 45 others, according to the ministry. The twin bombings come as Russia prepares to stage the Olympics in February in Sochi, a Black Sea resort close to the violence-wracked North Caucasus region. Volgograd, which suffered another suicide bombing on a bus in October, is about 700 kilometers (435 miles) northeast of Sochi.”

“If another attack happens closer to Sochi, it will be a catastrophe for the Olympics,” Alexei Malashenko, an analyst on the North Caucasus at the Moscow Carnegie Center, said by phone, Bloomberg reported. “Three bombings in the space of three months means that terrorist activity is becoming systematic.”

The article added that “President Vladimir Putin’s government, which will seal off Sochi, a city of 345,000 people, had planned to beef up security starting on Jan. 7, a month before the games start, according to the state-run news service RIA Novosti.”

OTHER HEADLINES:

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Joel C. Rosenberg’s Blog

Market Crash In the Works: “A Canary May Have Just Keeled Over”

canary-keeled-over

As holiday shoppers raided Black Friday sales and internet retailers ahead of Christmas, the establishment media heralded a new era of economic boom for the 2013 shopping season.

But things are not at all as they may seem if all you do is follow official government statistics and propagandized mainstream news report.

In the week leading up to Christmas, for example, retail analysis firm ShopperTalk advised that brick & mortar retail traffic was down over 20% this year.

…In-store retail sales decreased by 3.1 percent from the same week last year. Retail brick-and-mortar shopper traffic decreased by 21.2 percent compared to the same time period in 2012.

Some would argue that much of this foot traffic jumped to the internet to make their holiday purchases, but according to the National Retail Federation sales online were only slated to rise 3.9% this year, which is nothing to write home about considering annual retail sales for the last 10 years rose an average of 3.3%.

Consumers, it seems, are starting to feel the pinch of widespread job losses, wage reductions, cuts to government assistance and termination of unemployment benefits for millions.

But the cuts in consumer spending don’t just stop with traditional American holiday staples like electronics, brand name clothing and furniture.

It is affecting all consumer markets.

The National Association of Realtors reported that the month of September saw its single largest drop in signed home sales in 40 months. And that wasn’t just a one-off event. This month mortgage applications collapsed a shocking 66%, hitting a 13-year low.

Something is amiss, and despite claims of economic recovery emanating from pundits far and wide, the numbers on Main Street, where they really matter, suggest that we are in for a rough ride.

Eric Peters Autos, which analyzes political and economic trends, notes that trouble is brewing all over and it may soon have an overt impact on what many consider to be the only measure of economic health in America: rising stock markets.

A canary may have just keeled over. Not in the coal mine – but in the stock market.

Shares of Ford – healthiest of the Big Three automakers – are down 8 percent, according to Bloomberg. And it’s not just Ford, either. GM, Honda and Toyota stocks are down, too.

Could it be related to the gloomy news that the number of new mortgage applications has just hit a 13 year low? That the yield on 10-year U.S. Treasuries is a barely break-even-with-inflation 3 percent? That there are almost1.5 million fewer Americans employed full-time today than there were in 2006, even as the population has increased by 16 million since then?

The buying power of the average American – not just his ability but his inclination – is the decisive factor. And the buying power of the average American is going down – not up. Lower household income; higher cost of necessaries (food especially). Higher – and new – taxes (in particular, the ObamaTax). The very real specter of Zimbabwean inflation at any moment. It is enough to give a sensible person pause.

Interest rates? Forget about it. When they begin their inevitable uptick – expect this to happen by summer – it will be impossible to sweep under the rug.

And it will probably do to the car industry’s fortunes what Bernie Madoff did to his “investors.”

Grab onto something. It’s going to get bumpy.

(Read the full commentary)

Any way you slice it, whether it’s car sales, home sales, retail sales, employment, or monetary stimulus, the warnings are everywhere. The canary in the coal mine is going into cardiac arrest.

Back in 2007 trend forecaster Gerald Celente warned the world of the “Crash of 2008.” He based his analysis on many of the aforementioned data points. We’re seeing a similar pattern develop in late 2013, suggesting that 2014 could be the year it all goes critical:

There’s fear and hysteria running through the entire global financial community, because as everybody knows all they did was postpone the inevitable.

I’m saying to everybody out there, If you don’t have your money in your pocket it’s not yours.

And as for the international scene… the whole thing is collapsing.

That’s our forecast.

We are saying that by the second quarter of 2014, we expect the bottom to fall out… or something to divert our attention as it falls out.

Moreover, if you were to compare stock market charts from 1929 to present day, you’d note that they are eerily similar:

major-stock-market-crash-in-january
Chart by McClellan Financial Publications via Modern Survival Blog

Our economy as it exists today is wholly unsustainable. The government and Federal Reserve will soon run out of bullets and their efforts to stabilize the system will be revealed for the abject failures they really are.

Is 2014 the year?

We’ll soon find out.


SHTF Plan – When It Hits The Fan, Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You

70 Israeli Parliament Members will visit Auschwitz in January to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Main entrance to Auschwitz (photo credit: CC BY-SA Tulio Bertorini/Times of Israel.)

Main entrance to Auschwitz (photo credit: CC BY-SA Tulio Bertorini/Times of Israel.)

“The largest delegation of Israeli lawmakers ever to visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp is set to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day at the Polish site next month,” reports the Times of Israel. “In 2005, the United Nations General Assembly set the International Holocaust Remembrance Day as January 27, the day in 1945 on which Soviet troops liberated the camp….”

“The MKs will be accompanied by other dignitaries, including State Comptroller Yosef Shapira, Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev, scholar Dina Porat and former MKs — and Holocaust survivors — Shevah Weiss and Colette Avital, in addition to some 400 Jewish and other dignitaries from Poland and Russia,” noted the Times, incorporating the report of another Israeli newspaper, Yediot Aharonoth. “The Israeli delegation itself, including security personnel, is expected to number some 300 people in total. There will also be 30 Holocaust survivors joining the mission. Edelstein reportedly decided to conduct the historic visit in 2014 instead of waiting for the 70th anniversary of the liberation in 2015 due to the fact that with each passing year the number of Holocaust survivors dwindles.”

“The Israeli delegation will only be in Poland for one day, taking off from Israel in two charter planes in the morning and returning at night,” the Times added.


Joel C. Rosenberg’s Blog