In the Heart of the Heart of the Country

A fraud trial opened Tuesday for a Utah businessman … charged with running a $100 million Ponzi scheme that prosecutors say drained people’s home equity, life savings and retirement funds.

Self-proclaimed “Latter-day Capitalist” Rick Koerber is charged with 18 federal counts including money laundering and securities fraud…

Koerber was once a larger-than-life figure in a cowboy hat offering $2,000 real estate seminars and hosting a radio show about American principles.

He spent lavishly on a mansion and luxury cars, once telling a story on his program about buying a Ferrari so he didn’t have to wait for service on his Maserati. When a radio caller questioned whether that was in accord with Christian teachings, he answered: “God is a capitalist, my friend.”

… [Koerber’s] lawyer … was wrestled to the ground in an Oregon courtroom after successfully representing Ammon Bundy in the occupation of a national wildlife refuge.

“The court heard of the building and refurbishing of luxury villas, the acquisition of expensive cars such as a Ferrari, holidays on exotic locations and so on – paid from university funds.”

When it comes to university presidents looting their schools, America lags well behind Greece, where the chancellor of Pandio University set the standard by leading (he was only found guilty of failing to note the illegal removal of ten million dollars of university funds, but he seems to have personally benefited from said removal) an extensive conspiracy of robber-administrators. The Greek state gave the school money; the school’s leadership took the money – that seems to have been the straightforward approach – and bought the stuff listed in this post’s headline.

Here in the States, the business of leaders draining millions and billions of university funds is more subtle, more complicated. President Lawrence Summers’ mad insane interest rate speculation cost Harvard one billion dollars but I mean … you know … he meant well. Yeshiva University’s trustees no doubt thought they were enriching the school as much as themselves by their extensive conflicts of interest coupled with avid investments in pieces of work like fellow trustee Bernie Madoff. In the event, they cost the school $1.3 billion.

Not that we don’t boast a few Greek-style university presidents. Karen Pletz, while president of Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences, allegedly paid for her Lexus convertible and a series of amazing foreign trips by the simple expedient of removing what these things cost from the university’s reserves and placing those sums in her private account.

*********

James Ramsey, now routinely described as the disgraced ex-president of the University of Louisville, stands somewhere between high-minded removalists like Summers and flat-out Ferrari larcenists. UL let him, over the years, grow to a big strapping tyrant with his fingers all over every money source available at this public institution in one of America’s poorest states.

I say let him, but as Pandio and other examples suggest, it takes a village to pillage. Ramsey surrounded himself with what one retired UL professor, reviewing the school’s sordid history, calls fellow pirates – people who took as much pleasure in pillaging as he, and who of course had no cause to expose his piratical deeds.

Dennis Menezes, who spent almost forty years at the U of Smell, takes a sentimental journey through some highlights:

Robert Felner, the former education who ended up doing jail time for misappropriating millions of dollars; Alisha Ward siphoning of hundreds of thousands of dollars from U of L’s Equine Industry Program; “Sweetheart contracts” at the College of Business, where administrators continued to receive their significantly higher salaries even after stepping down from their administrative positions, a practice rarely seen at other universities; the disappearance of hundreds of thousands of dollars stolen by Perry Chadwyck Vaughn at the School of Medicine…

At some point the leadership of a university gets so notoriously filthy that career criminals like Felner make a point of applying to work there, thus amplifying the pirate-load. I mean to say that when Menezes tries to puzzle out what makes a university a criminal enterprise, he fails to land on the obvious: Once your university is known to tolerate – nay, encourage – piracy, pirates from all over the world get on board.

The journey to just awful is smoothed by other campus assets, in particular — natch — sports. Let me suggest how this probably works at places like U of L, where, you recall, an entire sports dorm was transformed into a whorehouse for the use of recruits and their fathers. The pattern at sex-crime-crazed places like Penn State, Baylor, and Louisville is for the president to be invisible while the AD, the actual president of the school, does whatever the fuck he and his massive program like. At criminal enterprises like U of L, a president like Ramsey actively takes advantage, let’s say, of all the big scandalous sports noise in the foreground to quietly do his removalist thing.

More than that, enormous sports programs tend to bring quite a few truly scummy and twisted people to a campus and reward those people with enormous salaries and enormous respect (if they win games). Over time the powerful and often scummy sports contingent defines the ethos of the whole university, as in: Jerry Sandusky was EMERITUS PROFESSOR Sandusky at Penn State, I’ll have you know. UD attended a Knight Commission meeting in DC where a coach at a local university stood up and insisted that athletic staff at American universities should have professor status. “They’re educators as much as anyone else. It’s elitist to think otherwise.” So athletics, at many universities including Louisville, certainly does its bit to vulgarize and corrupt everyone, making it much easier for already sketchy people like Ramsey to assume they’re living in a sleaze-friendly world.

UD ain’t saying you must have a big sports program for endemic corruption, but it sure doesn’t hurt.

Anyway. This post is long enough. We’ll be following U of L as they try to decide whether it’s worth suing Ramsey and his pirate crew to get back some of the many millions they removed. We’ll also follow U of L’s difficult effort to find a new president. Would you want to preside over a school suing your predecessor for millions of dollars? Hell, the thing could even end up in criminal court.

Louise

Sing it.

Louise said Louise was not half bad
It was written in her self-published screed
And she would act in tv shows
And sometimes she would show a little greed

Louise flashed her Valentinos
Bragged about her big Hermes scarf
Taxpayers read her many postings
They said Louise, you make me barf

Well everybody thought it kind of sad
When Louise closed down her Instagram
Marie Antoinette where did you go?
All America’s become your biggest fan.

Louise flew off on the fed’s plane
Somewhere to the south I heard them say
Too bad it ended so ugly,
Too bad it had to be this way
But the wind is blowing cold tonight
Good night Louise, good night

UD is old enough to miss…

… Martha Mitchell.

And now….

She’s BAAAACK!

Headline of the Day

COLLEGE FINDS COMPROMISE TO KEEP
RAPIST ON FOOTBALL TEAM

Is It Real, Or Is It DeLillo?

SMALLER FOOTPRINTS GAIN
POPULARITY IN THE HAMPTONS

… Hamptons architect and historian Anne Surchin is starting to see more pared-down builds.

“There’s a trend now for design for smaller houses,” the principal of Anne Surchin Architect said during a discussion Saturday in Montauk. “People are starting to think twice about being wasteful …”

… Southampton has long-standing size limitations for houses, she said, with 20,000 square feet being the cap. These restrictions were part of a 1925 code that was updated in 2003, according to the East Hampton Star. Towns looked seriously at these codes after Ira Rennert’s controversial 62,000-square-foot mansion was built in the 1990s in Sagaponack, rankling neighbors with its size.

… “The new modernism is really all about formalism,” she said. “It’s about making an aesthetic statement.”

That includes “sumptuous details,” like “exotic woods, polished concretes, all kinds of honed marbles,” she said. “There isn’t a place in those houses where you’d find a piece of Formica.”

Even those who don’t have the budget for luxe materials in every room are creating areas “that are absolutely lavish,” she said. For example, “what they do with their kitchens is really important.”

… Some design is being driven by “people interested in being off the grid and treading lightly on the land and not spending an arm and a leg to heat an 18,000-square-foot house.”

When your president is a football coach…

… expect the very best!

*************

The player’s father just tried to kill a judge (thanks for the tip, dmf).

Though not the judge who convicted his son of rape. Maybe that judge had better personal security. The targeted judge is a hunter who always carries a weapon, and he shot back. He apparently will survive. The father was killed.

And they brought it in at under…

eighty million!

Best was when the thin scudding clouds turned the eclipse into a little crescent sail…

… drifting across the sky.

UCLA Quarterback Josh Rosen. Oy.

Look, football and school don’t go together. They just don’t. Trying to do both is like trying to do two full-time jobs. There are guys who have no business being in school, but they’re here because this is the path to the NFL. There’s no other way. Then there’s the other side that says raise the SAT eligibility requirements. OK, raise the SAT requirement at Alabama and see what kind of team they have. You lose athletes and then the product on the field suffers.

… If I wanted to graduate in three years, I’d just get a sociology degree.

“[University of North Carolina leaders are] more eager to defend the school’s athletic reputation than its academic stature. Yes, we had hollow course credits, they seem to be saying, but that was done for its own sake, not to benefit athletes.”

Ok. It’s late August. Soon we’re back to a daily consideration of the current state of the American university. Look sharp.

In memory of…

Jerry Lewis, behold my colleague Faye Moskowitz’s niece, Sandra Bernhard, holding a gun to his head.

The night after UD returns to ‘thesda …

… an amazing storm approaches

the Soltan upstate NY house.

The row of evergreens marks
our driveway.

Photo by Joanna Soltan.

“Women are no longer chattels who can be taken and any part of their body be cut to curb their sexuality.”

The brave and tragic Bohra women who fight at least to protect the next generation.

Consider signing the petition.

On the Anniversary of Woodstock.

UD and her sister (at the wheel) driving into Woodstock NY two days ago.

Camera: Frances Eby.

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