Daily Archives: June 18, 2009

Walt Noel may not be available for that bartender’s gig at BJ O’Rourke’s

I’ve been pretty excited about Walt Noel’s plan to open BJ’s Pub, especially since he’s promised me a job busing tables. But now I see that the Geneva (that would be in Switzerland, not upstate New York) public prosecutor has opened a criminal investigation into Banco Santander’s role as a Madoff feeder fund. The areas of investigation: failure to conduct due diligence and turning a blind eye to Bernie’s evil ways, sound exactly like what Walter’s Fairfield Greenwich Group is accused of. It’s possible that what is criminal in the land of chocolate is not illegal in the US – mere negligence, for instance, is not – but if that lovable son-in-law Andres sold FGG “investments” over there,and I believe he did, then this could be a worrisome development.

Of course, the prosecutor says it will take “at least two years” to complete his investigation and, at 78, Walter may very well not be around to hear the results. I don’t wish you ill, Walt, but you might be more comfortable in a 2X8 box than a 6X12 room. Just saying ….

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Mark and Andy Madoff – fishing fools or dad’s willing accomplices?

The general supposition among Madoff scandal fans has been that Mark and Andy, Bernie Madoff’s sons, were too busy fishing and playing kissy kissy with beautiful women to trouble their dura matter with deep questions like the meaning of life or the source of dad’s money. Now two ex-Madoff traders have sued the kids, alleging that they were in on the scam. Truth or fiction? We don’t know, but the fact that they’ve signed up Ric Bourke and Walter Noel as character witnesses suggests that their homes on Tomac and Cherry Valley may soon be on the market.

Andy Madoff, Catherine Hooper (Cat in the hat)

Andy Madoff, Catherine Hooper (Cat in the hat)

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$135 billion in bonds counterfeit

Okay, that was fairly easy to predict, (particularly since there isn’t that much issued, in the entire world) nor was it too hard to guess, since the smugglers of said bonds were caught at the Italian/Swiss border, that the Mafia was probably behind it. Unanswered so far, though, is why the Italian police have let the two Japanese smugglers go and have now lost track of their whereabouts. It’s almost as if they wanted them to get lost, or something.

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That old idiot, Reagan

War Secretary Gates has positioned anti-missile ships and equipment around Hawaii in preparation for North Korea. I may have missed it, but so far as I can tell not one of the critics of “Star Wars’, the folks who called the plan, it’s proponent and supporters like me fools and morons, has expressed any relief that we have such a system to employ, nor have they admitted they were wrong or apologized for denigrating the intelligence of people who thought the idea sound. I’ll just hold my breath until they do.

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Don’t call me Liz!

From Best of the Web come these two delicious illustrations of what happens when deeply insecure obtain even limited power. They become jerks, naturally.

Stop Calling Me Shirley!
Some of the ladies on Capitol Hill turn out to be awfully prickly about what you call them, as Politico’s Anne Mullins reports:

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) didn’t like a Brigadier General calling her “ma’am” at an EPW hearing yesterday.

“Do me a favor,” she said, “could say ‘senator’ instead of ‘ma’am?’ It’s just a thing, I worked so hard to get that title, so I’d appreciate it, yes, thank you.”

In the accompanying video, the general meekly complies: “Yes, Senator. Yes, Senator.” Had he failed to do so, we suppose the snappish senatrix could have taken revenge by addressing him as “sir.”

Another Mullins story concerns a lower-ranking but more persistently peevish Hill denizen: Elizabeth “Liz” Becton, a staffer to Rep. Jim McDermott of Washington. A lobbyist, unnamed by Mullins, had written to Becton to request a meeting on behalf of a client:

Days later, the assistant checked back in and unfortunately began the e-mail with “Hi Liz.” 

Becton curtly replied, “Who is Liz?”

When the assistant wrote back with an apology, Becton turned up the heat. “I do not go by Liz. Where did you get your information?” she asked. 

The back-and-forth went on for 19 e-mails, with the assistant apologizing six times if she had “offended” Becton, while Becton lectured about name-calling.

Becton told the assistant that if someone said using “Liz” was acceptable, then “they are [sic] not your friend,” and “If I wanted you to call me by any other name, I would have offered that to you.” Plus, it’s “rude when people don’t even ask permission and take all sorts of liberties with your name,” she said, adding: “Please do not ever call me by a nickname again.”

But the tirade didn’t end there. Becton continued her riff–responding that the assistant “got played” by someone who was trying to “tick” Becton off. Becton’s final, searing missive stated: “In the future, you should be VERY careful about such things. People like to brag about their connections in D.C. It’s a pastime for some. It’s also dangerous to eavesdrop, as you have just found out. Quit apologizing and never call me anything but Elizabeth again. Also, make sure you correct anyone who attempts to call me by any other name but Elizabeth. Are we clear on this?  Like I said, it’s a hot button for me. And please don’t call the office and not leave a message. My colleague told me you called while I was away. . . . I do sometimes leave my desk.”

UPDATE: Not that yopu’d want to or anything, but if you were thinking of writing Liz Becton and congratulating her for her firmly-shut sphincter, here’s how:

Anyway, in the event you want to meet with Jim McDermott, you would e-mail Liz Becton at meetingwithmcdermott@mail.house.gov. If you’d just like to drop her a line, you would use: Elizabeth.becton@mail.house.gov.

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A significant contract

99 Husted

99 Husted

Just reported as under contract, this house, last improved in 1997, started out a year ago at $5.250 million, dropped down eventually to $4.150 and now has a buyer, presumably for somewhere around that figure. We’re still not breaking the $5 million barrier, but my 70% rule is hopelessly inapplicable here, as that number is just $2.013 million. I hope I never said the thing worked every time, just on most houses. But this is a really nice one, on a good street, and obviously appealed to the buyer. I like it too.

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Hope and Shame

U.S. Civil Rights Commission demands answers to why Obama Justice Dept. squashed voter rights intimidation case.  Well of course, we know the answer: the convicted intimidators were Black Panthers, pillars of the community, and the victims were just fellow blacks (with a scattering of elderly white folks, wh don’t count), but couldn’t they send one of those Inspector Generals they’ve fired over to the White House to get some answer better than, “because”? Just asking.

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Mystery of the disappearing price histories

Fade to pink

Fade to pink

Unit 801 of this Riverdale condominium had its price cut today from $899 to $799. Nothing wrong with that but when I attempted to retrieve its history it, like so many price histories these days, had gone missing. I understand why a listing broker wouldn’t want this information available – the unit sold for $899 in April, 2007 and, with no other units under contract and a bunch, all originally sold for $865 to $899, now asking in the 7′s, a buyer might get the impression that prices have dropped.

But that’s happening in all areas of our market, from single families in Riverside to these condos in Byram. There’s nothing particularly shameful in the phenomenon and buyers need this information if they are to make an informed decision. Pretending prices aren’t dropping fools no one except, perhaps, reader HunkeredDown, who keeps insisting that the Greenwich market remains untouched by our national woes. To me, a price below what a unit was just bought for should be appealing to a buyer, signifying that a bargain is to be had.

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Pilot dies, co-captain lands plane safely

I speak jive

I speak jive

“I picked a hell of a day to quit drugs”

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I see London but can’t see France

Orlando revises city dress code to require deodorant and underwear. Jerry Lewis and cheese eating surrender monkeys everywhere object.

The city council approved the dress code 4-1. Mayor Jean de la Bastille opposed the revision, saying the underwear edict “takes away freedom of choice.”

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Single family home sales

A real estate columnist today sees a brighter market than I do. While conceding that prices “have dropped to 2003 levels” (I’d suggest an earlier year, but what the heck), she reports sales almost doubled between February and March and increased 150% between March and April. The columnist is using all types of properties for her statistics but I like to focus on single family homes. and they aren’t doing so well.

In January of this year, 9 houses went to contract, compared to 40 in 2007.

February ’09, 14 houses, Feb. ’07, 52

March ’09, 12 houses, March ’07, 92

April ’09, 25 houses, April ’07, 74

May ’09, 33 houses, May ’07, 58

June 1-17, ’09, 16 houses, June 1-17 ’07, 23.

If we had any spring market at all this year, it started in May and might still be going on (one sale, under $1 million, reported so far today). The only reason we’re even at 70% of June 2007′s volume is that, historically, the spring market takes off in late January, zooms in March and tapers off in May. By June, the party’s over. Regardless, I see these numbers as discouraging, but I’m not a half-full kind of guy, usually.

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Finally, a bright side for the Noel girls

Shakespeare in lard

Shakespeare in lard

In view of their pending foreclosures, the Fabulous Five can take comfort in this study’s finding: home ownership makes women fat and sad.

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Meet Prestige Marketing’s new salesforce

Coming soon to your neighborhood, the best darn little magazine saleswomen in the world!

Ain't they sweet, see 'em walking down your street

Ain't they sweet, see 'em walking down your street

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Chris Dodd, dodo?

Turns out that on Chris Dodd’s mortgage applications with Countrywide, someone has scrawled on both apps, “FOA” which is Friend of Angelo’s. Angelo, of course, is the former head of Countrywide (indicted, I think), who Dodd insists he never knew. Of course,when you’re chairman of the Senate Banking Committee there are no strangers in the banking world, just friends you haven’t met yet.

What might concern Dodd more, because it’s impossible to deny, is his “Presidential Campaign”, conducted to extract as much money as he could from those same banking friends. The word is out that voter focu groups in Connecticut keep revealing this excursion to Iowa, during which Dodd pulled his kids from school  in D.C. and enrolled them in Iowan schools, is the biggest reason why voters don’t like the man. It might seem parochial – the guy lives in Washington, after all, so who cares if he shuffles off to the corn fields? but I suspect the issue resonates because it so clearly reveals Dodd for the egomaniacal opportunist that he is. Don’t dis the Nutmeg State, dummy – not if you want its votes. Rickard Blumenfeld must be licking his chops.

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Pricing in tough markets

7 Stag Lane

7 Stag Lane

I like this house on Stag Lane. Four acres, nice yard, on the north side of Stag, away from much of the Merritt noise. But Stag Lane has never been an easy sell, as evidenced by this one’s history. It was listed for $2.895 in July 2005 and didn’t sell for a year even in that active market, and when it did, it sold for $2.525. It was listed again this year, for $3.150 despite not much if anything having been done to it during the sellers’ ownership and has now been reduced to that 2005 asking price, $2.895. I wouldn’t expect it to accomplish now what didn’t happen four years ago, but time will tell.

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Scammed!

This is embarrassing. I came into my mother’s house yesterday evening and found her speaking with a nice-looking young man who had wormed his way into her living room under the pretense that he was a local high school student, selling books as part of a school fund raiser. “Oh, where do you live?” I asked. “”27 Indian Head”. It would turn out there’s no such address but I asked if it were north or south of Willow Road and he got a deer in the headlights look, and said he was just staying there for the summer. I should have shot him then and there but to my regret I left him with my mother while I started preparing dinner. When I heard “$110? Cash” I intervened to say, no, buy one book, and pay by check. Which she did.

Dummy! (Me, not my kind-hearted mother). You hate to chase a neighbor’s kid out of your house or be rude to him but after he escaped I looked at the receipt he’d given my mother and saw the name “Prestige Marketing” but no mention of a high school or anything indicating that it was anything but a door-to-door scam, which proliferate this time of year when young college kids eager to learn how to lie, cheat and steal are set loose on local neighborhoods.

I Googled “Prestige Marketing, Scam, complaints, fraud” and, too late, saw they have a full listing. I then called the police and went out myself to see if I could find the little worm and save the cops the trouble of dealing with him but no luck.

Anyway, no huge harm – the check’s been stopped, and other than a bank fee, that should be that. But my mother tells me that he showed her checks from other residents so if you know of anyone who bought books from this kid or any of his team, you might warn them. The cops are now on the lookout, but if someone shows up at your door, don’t let him or her in and call 911. Or call me – I’d like an opportunity to speak with this kid and persuade him of the error of his ways.

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Return to the Dark Ages

Over at Greenwich Round Up there’s a post about “God’s pharmacy”, with all sorts of amazing proof that God has sent us plants in nature to cure our ills. Tomatoes have four chambers, just like our heart, so tomatoes are good for our heart; a sliced carrot looks like the iris of the human eye, so carrots must be intended by God to cure our eyes. And so on. This is exactly the quackery that passed for medicine 1,000 years ago and it’s alarming, to me, to see an otherwise semi-educated public so eager to return there. Well, perhaps we’ll bring back the bubonic plague and Darwinism can set things right.

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Looks like the phone may ring at 3:00 AM, July 4th

Report: North Korea may be planning to shoot a missile over Japan and towards Hawaii on the Fourth of July – happy birthday, America. The estimated range of this thing is 4,000 miles and Hawaii is a full 4,500 miles away but I don’t find much comfort in that.

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Walter, better get divorced right now

You wait too long, the Feds will getcha. Poor old Cendant executive Walter Forbes was sentenced, in effect, to life in prison and the forefiture of all his wealth. Now, still free but with jail drawing close, he tried a sham divorce with his wife to get some asssets to her. The Govenment’s having none of it.

Cendant was the former owner of Sotheby’s and Coldwell Banker – I wonder if either will get the listing for the Forbe’s New Canaan home?

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