Daily Archives: October 9, 2008

A Great Wailing and Gnashing of Teeth
Joe Pisani, former editor of Greenwich Time and now an occasional blogger at OurGreenwich.com has posted a very sad story about his daughter, McDonalds, Big Mac’s and Haiti. At least I think it’s sad; I couldn’t really understand much of it except for the part that liberal guilt is a good thing. But this passage puzzles me:

A few minutes later, she came out, paper bag in hand, and got into the car, stinking of fast food, with a troubled look on her face.

What stunk of bad food? The daughter, the car or the paper sack?
I only ask because, like, he was an editor, you know?

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Hey, Dickie – can I get an advance on my allowance?
UBS’s general Counsel, David Aufhauser, agrees to disgorge $6.5 million in profits from illegal insider trading. Aufhauser, who presumably counseled UBS that its sales of mortgage rated securities was entirely ethical and legal (advice that cost it a whole bunch of billions of dollars in restitution earlier this year), turns out to have been trading on inside information. You may find that disturbing but rest assured; according to his bio, he’s a recipient of the Treasury Department’s highest honor, the “Alexander Hamilton Award”. Phew! For a moment there, I was worried that we might have crooks on Wall Street.

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And more local politics
The Hamilton Avenue School construction project continues to fall apart, with every day bringing a new announcement of further delays and more money required for completion. Meanwhile, school test scores drop, the students are being ill-served and no one will take responsibility.

The First Selectman and his branch of our local government pretty much get a pass on this because, under our town’s charter, the School Board is a separate fiefdom. It owns and pretends to maintain our schools, initiates and oversees disasters like the Hamilton Ave. project and selects all our school administrators and teachers. To suggest that the Board has completely failed to execute any of its responsibilities is to understate the problem badly. And for that failure, we can look to the two governing political parties running Greenwich.

Under the charter they created, Democrats and Republicans control the School Board by holding the exclusive power to nominate candidates. They could, if they wished, each nominate four candidates and give the town’s voters a choice – a limited choice because, again under the system they set up, each party is guaranteed two seats on the four-person board. But they won’t. Two candidates from each party are “nominated” – appointed would be a more accurate term – and on Election Day, you’re free to pull the lever for those four or not – it makes no difference in to the result.

The same machinations are used to fill the BET but, usually, the BET runs efficiently and competently and there’s not much of an outcry for change. The School Board is clearly an institution in serious need of reform; we could start by demanding that the Democrats and Republicans give us a choice of who serves; then we should perhaps consider why it is we’ve allowed these two parties to run our town.

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Taxes
There’s a letter printed in today’s Greenwich Time (no link because that paper’s pathetic website can’t be bothered to put it up) from a reader who not only wants higher taxes imposed on all of us but implies that the Founding Fathers would, too. I wasn’t particularly surprised at the writer’s historical and economic ignorance – those qualities are prerequisites to breaking out in print at GT – but I was a little dismayed when I turned to the paper’s coverage of the debate between our two vying candidates for State Rep, Ed Krumich and Fred Camillo. Krumeich’s answer to all our problems, at least according to the article, was for more state spending.

Now either Krumich was being disingenuous – which I don’t believe; Ed’s a lawyer, for heaven’s sake! – or he truly doesn’t know that Greenwich already sends $600 million a year to Hartford and gets $5 million back. A call for additional state spending, therefore, is actually a demand that Greenwich be taxed even more harshly. Bridgeport certainly isn’t going to ante up, that’s for sure.

Krumich’s other argument for being sent to Hartford is that, as a Democrat, he’ll be listened to. That seems to me to be a very bad thing. I think he should stick to writing stupid letters to the Editor of Greenwich Time under his pen name.

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Did you think we’d forgotten the Black Knight? Hah!
The Somali pirates are close to negotiating a deal with Ukraine. they’ll get $8 million in U.S. $100 dollar bills and go away. The U.S. Navy says its only concern is that the tanks the ship is carrying not fall into the wrong hands [Ed.: are there any right hands for tanks in Africa?] and the pirates don’t care about tanks:”we only want money”, says their leader, the Black Knight himself.
That may work for the Navy but I think it’s a lousy idea to fund pirates with loot so they can buy better pirate ships and better arms with which to continue their pirate days. But I’m just an uninformed civilian, so I’ll shut up.

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Why are we doing this?
Fed to give AIG an additional $37.8 billion. That’s over and above the $85 billion we’ve already dished out. Why stop at AIG or, better question, why did we start down this road at all?

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Rent vs. Buy Calculator
Somewhere buried in the comments a reader asked if there were an easy way to figure the comparative advantages of renting vs. buying. I can’t vouch for it because I just Googled the term and am posting what came up (yes, I’m lazy this time of evening) but here’s Yahoo’s answer to that question. Continuing my theme of laziness, please try it and let me know if it works. Thanks.

Update: Okay, I’m not as tired as I thought I was, so I tossed some numbers into the calculator and looked at renting for $6,000 per month vs buying for $2.1 million assuming a 30 year mtg with a 15 year ownership or rental span. The result (you can see the other assumptions I plugged in at the link) is that, absent any appreciation over the years, you save (a lot of) money renting instead of buying

The kicker here is no appreciation. I’d have felt confident in years past tossing in a 5% per year figure and that would swing things in the buyer’s favor, but now? Who knows?

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