Daily Archives: January 18, 2009

Four more years

That’s all we need to delay the loonies and save the world’s economy. The world’s leading Global Warming expert (no, not Al Gore, surprisingly) says that in four years it will be too late to do anything to stop disaster. So if we hold these people off, 2013 will come and go, we’ll all still be here and we can laugh at these people and get on with life. Surely we can outlast them for such a short period.

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When bread and circuses fail to distract, jail Bush!

pelosi5Pelosi: Open to criminal investigation of Bush, aides. She’s not alone, of course:

Rep. John Conyers, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, announced Friday he wants to set up a commission to look into whether the Bush administration broke the law by taking the nation to war against Iraq and instituting aggressive anti-terror initiatives. The Michigan Democrat called for an “independent criminal probe into whether any laws were broken in connection with these activities.”

John Conyers as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee is absolutely hilarious, similar to Libya’s chairing the UN’s Human Rights Commission. This hack is best known, in fact is only known, for his unstinting introduction, year after year for 19 years, of a slavery reparations bill. You can read all about him in my book, “Greenwich Mean Time” or you can just sit back and watch the show unfold in the next few years. The reparations bill might actually pass this time and won’t that be fun?

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No wonder Walt and Monica aren’t at home

"That's about as funny as a fried horse, Monica."
“That’s about as funny as a fried horse, Monica.”

The Boys from Brazil are coming, and are they pissed.

Jan. 18 (Bloomberg) — Brazilian investors lost “tens of millions” of dollars through banks that put money into Bernard Madoff’s funds, Folha de S. Paulo reported, citing David Rosemberg, a lawyer at Orlando, Florida-based Broad and Cassel.

At least 15 individuals and financial advisers in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and other Brazilian cities contacted Rosemberg about their losses, the newspaper said. The clients invested in some Safra banks, Banco Santander SA, UBS AG and Fairfield Greenwich Group and didn’t know their money had been directed to Madoff’s funds, the newspaper said.

“Brazil, out of all the Latin American countries, was probably hardest hit,” Rosemberg said today when contacted by Bloomberg News. “Banks were putting money into Madoff without understanding Madoff’s business. There was an element of peer pressure, everyone else was doing it.”

Fairfield Greenwich Group, Walter Noel’s hedge-fund that had $7.5 billion with Madoff, was sued last week for at least the third time by investors in the U.S. over claims it failed to protect their assets. Thomas Mulligan, a New-York based spokesman for the firm, said last week that Fairfield “intends to cooperate with all regulatory procedures.”

Fairfield Greenwich spokeswoman Bianca Haegler declined to comment, Folha said.

Cat got their tongue? That may not be all.

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I like this

Courtesy of a link from InstaPundit, here’s The Boston Herald’s Michael Graham’s take on the US Air crash:

If you believe the worst about Americans, you’d expect Thursday’s crash to create a mob of greedy, selfish jerks clawing away for the first shot at an exit. Instead, passengers reported that it took just a single cry of “Women and children first!” and total strangers facing possible drowning stepped aside to let mothers and their infants pass.

And after the crash, the first responders weren’t government rescue workers, but nearby passenger ferries. One ferry worker, Cosmo Mezzina, confessed to reporters afterward that he didn’t even know what the call “man overboard” meant. But he and his co-workers headed straight to the sinking airplane.

No waiting for approval from an attorney or checking the “rope-to-rescuers” ratio in the regulations. Just Americans helping others in need.

The America we see on TV – the embezzlers, incompetents and opportunists – it’s real. So, too, are the folks who frustrate your daily life here in Boston, who cut you off on the Pike or can’t seem to do simple math at the cash register. Yes, they are a part of the American story.

But they aren’t the whole story. In fact, the same driver who cuts you off today is often the guy who would pull over tomorrow to help you out of real trouble.

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The Washing concert is going well

Looks like a huge crowd (750,000?) and everyone having a good time. My dyspeptic comments yesterday about wishing sleet to blow into Pete Seeger’s face notwithstanding, I’m glad. We need all the cheer we can get these days.

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And how’d that work out?

Iran cutting oil sales to customers per OPEC edict.

The country’s already on the verge of revolution so destroying the economy is probably no wiser than some of the government’s other bonehead moves. I like this neat summary: “Iran relies on oil for about 80 percent of its foreign income.”

And there is no domestic income. Interesting.

I wonder: is Hugo also cutting production? I mean deliberately, not just his involuntary acts of sabotage?

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Walt’s got someone to commiserate with, right across the street

Several readers have commented on the woes of another Round Hill Road resident (17 Fort Hill Lane, actually), Frederick Bourke, who, in addition to once having been half of the Greenwich builders Bourke and Matthews (bankrupt now, thanks at least in part to the firm’s bookkeeper stealing $13 million), is now scheduled to face trial in March for violating the Corrupt Foreign Practices Act by trying to bribe government officials in Azerbaijan. I know nothing of the man, but I do have fond memories of his partner in the leather purse business, Peter Dooney, who operated out of a former sail loft in Old Greenwich back in the late 60s, under the name, “The Leatherman”. Peter had hair down to his waist and made incredible leather goods, including a belt with a bull’s ring as a buckle that I wore devotedly until somehow managing to lose it (you might think there was an interesting story in how one loses his belt but in this instance, there isn’t. Lost to a move, I suspect).

In any event, Peter Dooney obviously went on to achieve his potential; who knows whether his partner Bourke did, but I do like the idea of yet another trial of yet another Greenwich resident to follow. We produce the most interesting people here.

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“We said we were sorry, now please let us resume our lives as proper Germans”

Germans okay Hamas flags, rip down Israeli ones. Here’s a hint to those Palestinians who think they’ve found new friends along the Rhine: you’ll always be untermenschen to these folks so while they humor you now, you’d better get busy with your plans of conquest before they remember that. Today, they’re distracted by this unfinished business with the Jews. Tomorrow, ….

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New Link – Zerohedge.blogspot.com

This guy’s kind of fun. Warning to bankers and New York Times lovers – he doesn’t seem to bear the same affection towards those entities that I do. But given time and lots of love, perhaps he’ll soften his heart.

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Low Bids

During the past 15 months I’ve presented some very low offers on behalf of my clients to sellers’ agents and they were all rejected. I’m not uncomfortable with presenting any offer – that’s my job – but it’s been an interesting learning experience because offers that were rejected out-of-hand last spring now seem to be too high. I’m currently working with another handful of buyers and may soon be repeating that process. Will low bids be accepted now? Probably not.

Here’s the problem, as I see it: I can tell a buyer, with a reasonable degree of certainty but with occasional huge error, what a house is worth today. In the past, that was usually enough to help a sale go thorugh because we all “knew” that the house would be worth at least as much, if not more, a year later. Not now, so while I can say that a house is worth, say, $4.5 million, give or take $250,000 today, I have no idea what its value will be six months from now. Nor can anyone else.

So my buyers, at least, aren’t willing to pay what a house is presently worth – they want a protective cushion that will shield them from a further precipitous decline. I don’t blame them and I’d want the same thing but it’s tough on sellers, especially those who have already pared their price down from an extrapolation up from 2005 prices to a figure that reflects today’s market. They feel as though they’ve done their part, and balk when more is demanded of them. Stalemate.

But for sellers, if you do receive a low-ball offer from your agent, don’t bite her head off or get angry at the offeror. Haven’t you been saying, “just bring me an offer”? Well, someone just has.

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Historical Fiction

No, not the upcoming memoirs of George Bush.

Bernard Cornwell has a new book coming out January 20, “Agincourt”. My favorite Shakespeare play is Henry V and Cornwell’s one of my favorite historical novelists, so what a great combination. I first discovered Cornwell when I spotted a huge collection of his works in someone’s bookshelves (a guilty pleasure I indulge in during broker open houses). Everything else about the house appealed to me so I took a chance that I’d like the owner’s taste in fiction, too, and I tottered off to Greenwich Library to find out. Bingo.

 I think I’ve now read almost everything he’s written so today’s notice from Amazon that a new work was ready was good, if somewhat expensive news. I’ve been sucked into Amazon Prime, a dangerous thing for an impulsive reader because with “free” shipping, it’s all too easy to click on a title and then wait impatiently for two days. But I’m looking forward to this one and will report back soon whether Cornwell’s skill remains undiminshed. I’m sure it does.

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The Whore of Babylon grows richer

A comment from GreenMtn below inspired me to repost this from Glenn Reynolds, the  InstaPundit.

WHILE AMERICA GETS POORER, Washington is getting richer. “After the 2000 Census, the richest county in America was Douglas County, Colorado. By 2007, Douglas County had fallen to sixth. The new top three are now Loudon County, Virginia; Fairfax County, Virginia; and Howard County, Maryland. All three are suburbs or exurbs of Washington, D.C. . . . All of this is fine if you happen to live in the D.C. area. It’s not so great for the country as a whole. . . . The problem is that, save for the tech corridor in D.C.’s Virginia exurbs, the Washington Metro area doesn’t actually produce anything. Washington doesn’t create wealth, it just moves it around—redistributes it. As government grows and takes control of more and more of the private economy—either through spending, regulation, or taxes—more and more wealth that’s created elsewhere comes to Washington to be devoured.”

Nope. The pattern of wealth flowing toward the capital is one that the United States avoided for nearly 200 years. Not anymore.

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New York Times bailout?

Chances estimated at slim to none.

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First thing we do, let’s hire a grammarian

From today’s Wall Street Journal: “Planning a start up? Help and advise abound”.

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Market Perceptions

7 Mill Pond Court

7 Mill Pond Court

This house, on a quiet dead end street in Cos Cob and right on Mill Pond (an odd coincidence, considering the street’s name) was listed in October at $925,000. I thought then that, given its rough condition, a number beginning with 7 would be more appropriate and on Friday the owner must have concluded the same thing because he lowered his price to $795,000. My opinion, and it’s only an opinion, is that, while $795 might have been within shouting distance of market value last fall, somewhere in the 6s is probably closer to the mark today. Catch a falling knife and put it in your pocket ….

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