Daily Archives: February 9, 2009

Kill a baby, ground a flight, it’s all the same in Global Warming Wonderland

Last week it was a call to kill a baby for mother earth. This week, Britain’s chief global warming dictator wants to ration vacations. For some odd reason, the Brits seem to go along with this nonsense – no defending yourself against burglars breaking into your home, surveillance cameras everywhere, no free speech except for muslim terrorists and on and on. Is this spinelessness contagious and can it cross the Atlantic?

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Obama lied, people died!

Just days after announcing that henceforth the new administration was going to outsource torture, the Obamas were in court today invoking the State Secrets Privilege to bar disclosure about CIA activities.  Fascist pigs! I can feel my civil liberties shrinking as I write this! I blame Cheney.

UPDATE: Patrick Leahy, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee outraged at latest acts – demands the establishment of a “Truth Commission” to uncover Obama administrations ill treatment of terrorists.

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Okay, scratch that idea, what’ll we do now?

A reader reports, “Saw Walter at Round Hill tonight. No Alzheimer’s evident. Mrs. is in Palm Beach. Not being very well received I am told. Selling the house in South Hampton. Not homesteading the PB house which is under renovation. Wouldn’t look good.”

So what’s he going to do now? Bernie’s already used the “I’m weally, weally sick” defense, and it looks as though the “I forgot” excuse was exhausted by all those Obama nominees. This intrepid reporter has found the answer.

I understand from a confidential memorandum intercepted and published for the first time here that the new Noel legal defense will be based on a theory that Walt was force fed alcohol, dropped on his head from a hotel staircase and then forced to invest with Bernie by Joaquin Taveres , the Noel’s mad Brazilian gardener. Where is that gardener now? Captured and deported single-handedly by Monica herself. What a fabulous girl!

 

It's my fault! It's aaaallllll my fault! Hahahhahhahaha!

It's my fault! It's aaaallllll my fault! Hahahhahhahaha!

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Seems it never rains in Southern California

But Girl, did they warn you? It pours, man it pours.

Collapsing real estate market finally hits high-end houses in LA.

LOS ANGELES – The Southern California real estate crash has finally reached the high-end areas of Los Angeles’ west side.

Home prices in Beverly Hills, Santa Monica and Malibu – which continued to soar well into 2008 – finally tanked at the end of the year, losing between 26 percent and 30 percent of their value in just a few months, the latest data show.

The sudden drop came as a surprise to Shelley Conn, who remained a believer that the wealthier parts of the area were immune until she put her Santa Monica house on the market last spring.

She and her husband had been offered $2.4 million for the three-bedroom just months before, so she listed the house for $2.3 million. But it didn’t sell until November, after the couple dropped the price to $1.9 million.

The median price of a single-family home in Beverly Hills was $2.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2008, down from $3 million in the second quarter, according to data by research firm MDA DataQuick. The Pacific Palisades neighborhood closed the year with a median price of $2.2 million, down from a high of $2.6 million during the second quarter, and Santa Monica’s median was $1.6 million, down from $2.1 million last winter.

The downward trend is no surprise to economist Christopher Thornberg, principal of the Los Angeles consulting firm Beacon Economics.

“It was never a function of if,” Thornberg said. “It was always when.”

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Posted without comment

From Overlawyered.com: Alcoholic falls off staircase, sues hotel for making him drunk.

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Why we should streamline foreclosures and get a move on

Several readers have informed me that the owner of 23 West End Avenue and that crazy Victorian on S. Park Avenue, both in Old Greenwich, is stripping them of everything he can before title passes irrevocably to his lender. Stealing appliances from a spec house in foreclosure is a time-honored tradition in the building trade, although usually it’s the unpaid sub-contractors who do the stripping in an attempt to recover something for their labor. But this builder has announced that he intends to take toilets, sinks, baths, window treatments (good riddance to those) and whatever else he thinks may have value. I suppose he’ll get away with this, things being what they are and banks so busy with thousands of other foreclosures but it seems like theft to me: he gave title to the house to the bank when he obtained a mortgage and it’s the bank, not he, who owns those things.

But more germane to the subject: getting inventory off the market, this kind of behavior just mucks up the work. I was going to show that house on Park Avenue, odd design notwithstanding, because at its new price of $1.495, there might be some value there. Now I won’t. I don’t want to get even peripherally involved with some nut case who thinks that the value of a used toilet is worth risking arrest and, even if we were to strike a deal, who knows what would be left in the house at closing? I’ll wait for him to be removed, thank you, and see what happens at the auction, if that ever happens and my client’s still interested.

I also find it telling that the listing broker can’t provide assurance that a bid of the full asking price would be acceptable to whoever holds the loan because, apparently, no one from whatever institution that is will communicate with her. So you’ve got a whack job in possession of the house, threatening to strip it (having already demonstrated a willingness and ability to do just that at 23 West End Avenue), a lender who’s pulling a Garbo, and an uncertain real estate market. Repeat this strange scenario several hundred thousand times across the country and you’ll have some idea of why our current housing market’s in the mess it is. Those areas that were hit hardest earliest – California and Florida, for instance – seem to have streamlined the process of foreclosure and sales in those states are recovering. We need more of that and not a new federal taxpayer-paid program to keep defaulting borrowers in homes they can’t afford. Tomorrow’s TARP announcement, with its promise to spend billions of our money on people like the builder described here, won’t help.

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Pushing the envelope

Looking through the nine new listings announced today I’m impressed with the resilient optimism shown by so many sellers. We’ve got one house, two-years-old, in western Greenwich and asking almost $3.5 million. I’m sure it’s a great house but I would have thought this was not the right time to try for that sales level in that neighborhood. Shows what I know.

Some of the other listings might actually have been considered bargains a year or two ago but I don’t think they will now.

And reviewing the open house list for tomorrow, I continue to see houses that are, at least in my opinion, laughably overpriced and were so even in a stronger market. But these things used to sell, despite my own flawed judgment so again, what do I know? I went through last year’s sales book, distributed last week, from the cheapest sale to the most expensive and, while there were a number of houses that only sold after millions of dollars had been cut off their price, there were many that sold at or close to their listing price and even a few that went in price wars, even after the market had crumbled. One of these I wrote about last week – the new owner, winner of a bidding war, has put it back on the market for less than he paid for it and will be lucky to even approach his desired price.

Since none of the houses sold last year are worth that much now, I wonder what agents told their clients that convinced them to enter bidding wars? I mean, everyone knew that the market was plunging as early as January, 2008, didn’t they?

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I said I was sorry, now can I come out of my room?

Bernie Madoff  says he won’t violate securities laws again. Another victory for the SEC Compliance Division. No word whether the “biggest victim”, Walter Noel, feels better now. I’m sure he does.

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The Power of Cash

114 Overlook Drive

114 Overlook Drive

I wrote about this house just two weeks ago when its price dropped. It sold for $1.695 million in 2004, $1.896 in August, 2007 and was listed last December for $1.990. It sold last Friday to a cash buyer for $1.550 million. Other sellers in Milbrook will disagree, but their house values just dropped, I think – yes, I know, this house is not officially in Milbrook proper, which begins on the opposite side of the street, but you’re still affected. In my opinion.

4 Waterfall Lane, a Cos Cob cottage that I also wrote about recently, also sold Friday for $900,000. It last sold, almost 5 years ago, for $879. Before that, it sold in 2002 for $730,000. That seller had purchased it for $430,000 in 1998, thrown a little money into fixing it up and then cleared out. I’d say he made out best of all the recent owners. But that was then and ….

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For your Investment Banker who used to have everything

Hey, Valentine’s Day is approaching and that big loveable hunk who used to take you to the Hamptons on weekends while telling the Little Woman that he was busy with an IPO is moping around, feeling sorry for himself feeling guilty about his family and doing nothing to brighten your day. Well here’s a way to cheer the guy up and get him clubbing at Greenhouse again: The Catholic Church is back in the indulgence business. That’s right, you can pick up one of these for the fellow, he says a few Hail Mary’s and presto, he’s ready for more sinning! Such a deal and if you order before February 14th you can get a personal “Fuggaddaboutit” card signed by the Pope’s own facsimile machine. Conditions? Just a few, and the NYT explains them:

There are partial indulgences, which reduce purgatorial time by a certain number of days or years, and plenary indulgences, which eliminate all of it. You can get one for yourself, or for someone else, living or dead. You cannot buy one — the church outlawed the sale of indulgences in 1857 — but charitable contributions, combined with other acts, can help you earn one. There is a limit of one plenary indulgence per sinner per day.

The scope of that one-a-day indulgence depends on the size of your contribution, naturally, so be sure to order an extra-large. This is not the place to go cheap – not on Valantine’s Day, girl!

 

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Morons along the Potomac

It’s too depressing to link readers to Bloomberg’s calculation that the TARP money, pledged, guaranteed and already passed out, is sufficient to pay off 90% of all outstanding mortgages in the United States or $1,500 or so to every single man, woman and child in the world. Now the latter idea might actually improve our standing in world opinion for at least a week, but I’ll leave that to those who care.

What I will link you to is this common sense observation from Clusterstock: the $15,000 tax credit for home buyers, a bit of largess that will itself cost us billions, will be absolutely useless in advancing home sales. Why? because houses are all overpriced much more than $15,000. I’ve read several stories in the main stream media about happy would-be homeowners saying that, “by golly, with an extra $15 grand, I’m gonna go find myself wonna dem houses I been hearing ’bout” but aside from wondering where the media finds these people, I’m not impressed. If you want a $15,000 cushion to protect yourself from a further decline of prices, demand it! In this market, if you can’t squeeze a piddly sum like that from a seller, you’re not qualified to own a bicycle, let alone a house.

Of course, if people could accomplish this for themselves, what good would the government be? Precisely.

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It is a religion of peace. See? We roast marshmallows!

Islamic terrorists urge forest fire jihad. Obama to send stern letter.

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Bruce Mark’s cell phone number

Bruce Marks, head of NACA and a man especially fond of destroying the personal privacy of the children of bankers, is rather cagey himself about revealing his home address. His office is in Jamaica Plains but where does he live?

Does someone want to call him on his cell phone and ask him?

Bruce Marks,
CEO, Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America

Neighborhood Assistance
Corporation of America
3607 Washington St
Jamaica Plain, MA  02130-2604
Work: (617) 250-6222
Cell: (607 617) 835-4477
e-mail: bmarks@naca.com

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Need a new job? How are you at cards?

I knew she’d come through. Here’s the scoop on how you can make millions playing bridge all while stuffing envelopes in your home. From Minnesota Peg:

Well.  WHERE to start with $$$ and the bridge world?!
 
First – I do not know that much about Ms. Melanie.  She travels constantly (or at least, she DID) to middle sized tournaments all around the country.  As I am attempting to sell real estate… although I USED to travel more, I don’t do it anymore.  So – we rarely run into one another.
 
That being said – she hires a young man who used to live here in Minneapolis…. he is extremely talented – so much so, that many think one day he will be #1 in the world.  Name is “Joe Grue” – and he gets other younger players (twenties) to play on Melanie’s teams.  Not sure what they all get; I think it is somewhat modest. 
 
Joe just played on a team with Carolyn Lynch, of Peter Lynch, Fidelity’s “Magellan” fame – and won, at our last tournament in Boston.  I got photos if you want ‘em :)
 
There are some VERY wealthy people who play this game – and they spend a ton to do it.  The ultra-top pro players get a pile of money.  I have heard in the vicinity of $50 grand per 10 day tournament – and there are 3 of them a year (plus a “team trials”, which selects representatives from the U.S. in international competition).  So – since you have five players PLUS yourself, simply in salaries, these guys are paying about $250K PER tournament, plus expenses, travel, etc.  BUT – we are talking about arbitragers, Jimmy Cayne types (he has been one of the top purchasers of elite teams for years), etc., who can afford this easily.
 
I HAVE heard of several customers who have told their teams that they are either cutting back – or getting out, altogether.  While I am not sure who they are specifically, I have heard that a few direct Madoff hits might out some people – only gossip; dunno for certain.  Of course, market losses for EVERYONE can potentially have an impact.
 
I should caution that there aren’t tons of pros who make this much.  It is a very much a “free market” – the pros and the clients negotiate everything – terms, amounts, time limits and so forth for what they are going to do.  Lots of intrigue back and forth, as I’m sure you can imagine.
 
Hope that helps!
 

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Protesters to appear at 23 East Lyon Farm

Acting in response to former Greenwich resident and self-described “bank terrorist” Bruce Mark’s demonstration outside the Riversville Road residence of  a financial firm’s CEO yesterday, the National Association Against Poverty Pimps called today for a counter-demonstration in front of Mr. Mark’s mother’s home in Lyon Farm.

“We hate to involve someone who obviously isn’t responsible for her son’s hateful acts,” said Al Sharpton, President of NAAPP, “but in view of Bruce’s tactics, we have no choice. Besides, he’s cutting into my territory here. Me and Jessie, we pioneered this gig, so what’s some white boy doing, getting rich off our sweat?”

Marks has boasted of his pursuit of the children of bankers, as described in the Boston Globe :

Over the years, as part of his permanent campaign to browbeat banks into giving fair loans to low- and moderate-income people, Marks and his yellow-T-shirted followers have swarmed shareholders’ meetings with enough force to shut them down. They have picketed outside the schools attended by the children of bank CEOs, pressing the youngsters in signs and chants to answer for the actions of their daddies. And they even once distributed scandal sheets to every house in one CEO’s neighborhood, detailing the affair he was allegedly having with a subordinate. In time, that CEO, like most of the others that NACA targeted, sat down with Marks and signed a deal.

To those who found his tactics an outrageous invasion of bank executives’ personal lives, Marks refused to acknowledge any line between home and work. “What you do is who you are,” he says. “It’s all personal.”

Marks, who pays himself a salary of $150,000 per year, his wife Marissa another salary and probably his 13-year-old daughter Gabriela yet another one, has come a long way from his poverty-stricken childhood, where he was forced to take piano lessons, attend tennis camp and otherwise associate himself with the rich of Greenwich. A 1974 graduate of Greenwich High, he now complains, “you don’t know what Hell is until you’ve been brought up in Greenwich.”

No exact date for the demonstration has been set by Mr. Sharpton but we’re all looking forward to it.

UPDATE: We’re having trouble finding Mr. Mark’s personal residence (but he did give money to the Boston Ballet, you’ll be glad to know). In the meantime, here’s the name, phone number and a map to the house of another NACA founder,Mary Prussan. If you’re in Hyannis visiting Ted Kennedy (she gave money to him – no evidence of any fondness for ballet) stop by and greet his neighbor.

Another Update: Bruce may still resent the tennis lessons forced on him by Greenwich societal pressure but he’s put his poverty wages to good use on tennis lessons for his 6th grader, Gabriela Marks. She’s a top recruiting prospect, and isn’t that nice?

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One woman, one economy

At lehman, an edukated konsumer is our best customer. Great deals on slightly-used bedding, call Kathy.

At lehman, an edukated konsumer is our best customer. Great deals on slightly-used bedding, call Kathy.

From a reader:

I’m told that Lynnens, the fancy bedding store on the Avenue, is being walloped. Why?

Because Kathy Fuld went in every 1-2 months and spent $20,000 – $40,000 on sheets & towels. She’d get a bunch, try them out in Greenwich, then “triple up” and get the same for all their homes. 

 
Now, apparently, Kathy has “gone to 0” in local shopping. So Lynnens, whose rent is $30,000/month, is  really hurting. There surely are other Greenwich stores hurting too. I notice that the place that used to be Mead’s – that entire block is >50% “For Lease”.

Jesus weeps.

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A bridge too far?

Thanks to my (only?) Vermont reader, I found this article in today’s NY Post describing the sorry plight of Walt Noel and his partner in nonfeasance, Jeffry Tucker. Tucker’s preparing to sell his horse farm and the two of them have sold their interest in a private jet.

Even Tucker’s wife Melanie, an avid bridge player, has had to tighten her belt.

Sources told The Post that as a member of the Midtown bridge club Honors, Melanie Tucker was accustomed to using her husband’s jet to fly herself, and the bridge pros hired to play on her team, to bridge tournaments across the country.

She recently told some of the professional players she employs that she’s had to postpone attending tournaments that would have required air travel, though she continues to play bridge at Honors six days a week, sources said.

Ignorant fool that I am, I was unaware that one could hire professional bridge players. I couldda been a contenda! But what does my favorite bridge-playing blogger, Peg from Minnesota think about all this? Peg, as someone who’s whupped Warren Buffet’s behind, how about Miss Melanie? Ever have to bitch-slap her? Take away her martinis? We’re dying to know and of course, any secrets you may choose to divulge will be kept in strictest confidence.

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To market to market and there to just sit

13 single family houses have gone to contract this year, compared to 66 in 2006 and 66 in 2005 during the same period (January 1-February 9).  If it’s any consolation to home owners, over-pricing before taking a bath is not a phenomenon new this year. 707 Lake Avenue went to contract in January 2005 and sold for its full asking price of $9,995,000, but that was only after being reduced from its November ’02 price of  $15,000,000. The builder, Aberdeen, probably still made money, but imagining that Greenwich buyers will pay any price to live among us swells is obviously a delusion that’s been around for awhile.

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Coming to a town near you?

The Wall Street Journal today reports on what happened to the luxury goods market when Saks slashed its prices in November. Nothing good.

Perhaps the biggest consequence is that customers are now questioning the entire premise of luxury goods: Why pay top dollar today if big markdowns could be coming tomorrow?

“Shopping has changed as an experience for me” because of all the discounting, says Mad Monkey, a home owner in Greenwich, Connecticut. Over the holidays he bought, among other things, a $1,000 Badgley Mischka gown for $290.

“But if this can happen to handbags, what about the effect of brand new custom spec houses selling for fifty cents on the dollar?” Previously, the 59-year-old communications executive had sold houses for  full price  (although he did once throw a $2,500 Jimmy Choo handbag into a deal). “I am so shocked that anyone  ever did pay full price,” he says. “They’ll never do that again.”

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For Realtors and stock analysts, this is always the right time to buy

The New York Times points out that analysts have been bullish on stocks through this entire decline –  if these fellas will just come out to Greenwich, I’ve got some houses to sell them.

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