Daily Archives: April 3, 2010

Scusie’s Dish

Arrested for shop lifting at Costco: Al Sharpton, Regis Philben, Cathy Gifford and Donald Trumpet

Hey – Scusie doesn’t make this shit up – she just steals it from the Greenwich paper of record. (Bernie, former editor of that once proud paper, may you rest in peace).

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Bernie Yudain dead at 91

I adored Bernie and was so honored by his friendship – he thought I was a good writer, and told me so and I considered that the highest praise I would ever receive or ask for. What a great guy , and what a loss, but how blessed we all were to have this fine man for so long. Go with God, Bernie, and with my love and gratitude.

UPDATE: Bernie and I had a caustic relationship (in print) which I always trusted was actually based on a deep friendship but last Christmas Eve,  worried that I might have overstepped my boundaries, I sent him an email greeting. He responded graciously and, as I think you’ll see, entirely as the man he was. I loved this man, and I am so glad that we had this last communication.

Bernie – it’s that time of year – Jimmy Carter’s making nice to the Jews with one of those “if I offended anyone” non-apologies, so it seems only fair that I send a real one to you. I hope you know how much I like, respect and admire you, and really: if anything I wrote this past year offended you or hurt your feelings, I regret it deeply – that was never my intention, nor will it ever be.

So Merry Christmas, and may only all good things come your way next year.

Affectionately,

Chris

bernardct6@aol.com to me

show details 12/24/09

Bless you, Christopher.It never occurred to me you would intentionally or even unintentionally do me ill,.I take your stuff in good spirit and hope you do mine. Yours is the BEST READING IN GREENWICH, BAR NONE.I click in several times a day. I not only love it I have directed any number of my friends to your site.In this tight-assed town, you’re a fresh free spirit. Keep it up or I’ll stamp my foot petulantly!!!–and a merry to you too.And a great New Year!

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New York State: back to dark caves!

Shut down Indian Point nuclear plant by 2013!

The decision could force the plant’s owner to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade its cooling system, and it raises the threat that the two operating reactors at Indian Point, which supply 30 percent of the electricity used by New York City and Westchester County, could be forced to shut down when their federal operating licenses expire, beginning in 2013.

You must understand, these are people determined to destroy what the rest of us consider to be civilization. And they are succeeding, step by step, inch by inch.

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Heh – Easter cooks panic

Say hello (and good bye) to your Easter Bunny!

I thought I’d log onto Cook’s Illustrated to find a recipe for a reader looking for a pork roast glaze, but it won’t load, indicating, I think, that anxious cooks have overloaded the server. Plan ahead, people – plan ahead.

UPDATE: just went to Food Mart to check whether they’d cut their prices on lamb and they haven’t! Still $3.69 a pound. They’re closed tomorrow and by Monday, ain’t no one who’ll want lamb,  so dumb dumb dumb. (Food Mart’s owner seems to have the same philosophy on his real estate offerings, so this isn’t all that surprising).

The first case I encountered in contract law in law school involved a box car of watermelons that arrived the day after Memorial Day, 1939 or, perhaps, the 4th of July. [UPDATE: now that I think of it, and remember that school started it late August, it was probably Labor Day]. The shipper said he’d sent what was ordered, who cared when it arrived, while  the store owner said that watermelons that arrived after the holiday weren’t worth squat.

I forget who won – the case turned on notice to the shipper as to timing being imperative – but the lesson: there’s a window to sell specialty items – wasn’t lost on me. I guess Jerry Porecelli never attended law school.

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Splurge on Dirt

Henry and his flowers (Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th Edition, to his left - he rarely needs it to prove his point)

So here’s a poor photograph of a beautiful gift from Splurge, with flowers from Dirt, two different stores in Greenwich. Splurge is a gift store (hostess, wedding, you get it) near Greenwich Avenue next to Threads and Treads, Dirt is a floral design shop, just opened in Cos Cob, near Chicken Joe’s and across from Plum. Don’t blame either for my own and my iPod’s lousy photography – in fact, the two stores produced a beautiful combination (Henry doesn’t particularly care what you think of him).

I’m so ashamed of this lousy photo that I’m going to do it again outside, with better light – don’t tell Henry.

UPDATE: Okay, this is better. Mail basket from Splurge, flowers by Dirt.

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So why am I inside on this beautiful sunny day?

Bob Edwards is interviewing George Friedman – the Strat For founder, analyst and possessor of one of the intriguing views of world politics I’ve heard. Fascinating.

Okay – 45 minute interview over, I’m heading outside. But what an amazing mind! I’ve ordered his latest book, “The Next Hundred years” from Amazon, and dug very shallowly into his bio on Wickipedia. I know I’ve read occasional articles of this man in my web prowling, but hadn’t focused on him. Listening to him, I think he’s the brightest guy I’ve heard from in a long time. And I don’t think, by the way, that this is a political slant sort of thing – I would expect that any smart person, looking for intelligent commentary, will find this man way ahead of their own thinking and yet confirming their own hunches. I’ll be back soon with more links (so outdoors is delayed a few minutes).

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Where’s Sean Penn now?

Chavez imprisoning opponents

LOS TEQUES, Venezuela — When Judge María Lourdes Afiuni issued a ruling in December that irked President Hugo Chávez, he did little to contain his outrage. The president, contending on national television that she would have been put before a firing squad in earlier times, sent his secret intelligence police to arrest her.

Then the agents took her to the overcrowded women’s prison in this city of slums near Caracas. They put her in a cell near more than 20 inmates whom Judge Afiuni had sentenced on charges like murder and drug smuggling.

“I’ve received threats from inmates telling me they will burn me alive because they see me as a symbol of the system that put them in prison,” said Judge Afiuni, 46, in her prison cell. “I’m in this hell because I had the temerity to do my job as a judge in a way that didn’t please Chávez.”

Since Judge Afiuni’s imprisonment, a dizzying sequence of other high-profile arrests has taken place, pointing to Mr. Chávez’s recent use of his security and intelligence apparatus to quash challenges to his grip on the country’s political institutions. The arrests come at a time of spreading public ire over an economy hobbled by electricity shortages and soaring inflation.

Senior officials in Mr. Chávez’s government here, including Attorney General Luisa Ortega, say the most recent arrests were necessary to suppress conspiracies or to prosecute people whose comments were deemed offensive to Mr. Chávez. In Judge Afiuni’s case, Attorney General Ortega said the judge had illegally freed another high-profile prisoner, the businessman Eligio Cedeño.

In March, intelligence agents arrested Oswaldo Álvarez Paz, a former presidential candidate, charging him with conspiracy after he said in televised remarks that Venezuela had become a haven for drug trafficking; he also supported a Spanish indictment asserting that officials here had helped Basque separatists train on Venezuelan soil.

Only days later, agents arrested Guillermo Zuloaga, the owner of the opposition television network Globovisión, after he criticized the government’s efforts to shut down media outlets that challenged the president. After an outcry by rights groups, Mr. Zuloaga was released on the condition that he could not travel outside the country.

Etc., etc. etc. The crushing of liberty in Venezuela is increasing, every day, yet Jimmy Carter and Sean Penn and their ilk remain silent. I wonder why?

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So who really owns that mortgage?

The company that’s been providing documentation to foreclosing banks is under investigation for fraud.

A subsidiary of a company that is a top provider of the documentation used by banks in the foreclosure process is under investigation by federal prosecutors.

The prosecutors are “reviewing the business processes” of the subsidiary of Lender Processing Services Inc., based in Jacksonville, Fla., according to the company’s annual securities filing released in February. People familiar with the matter say the probe is criminal in nature.

Michelle Kersch, an LPS spokeswoman, said the subsidiary being investigated is Docx LLC. Docx processes and sometimes produces documents needed by banks to prove they own the mortgages. LPS’s annual report said that the processes under review have been “terminated,” and that the company has expressed its willingness to cooperate. Ms. Kersch declined to comment further on the probe.

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office for the middle district of Florida, which the annual report says is handling the matter, declined to comment.

The case follows on the dismissal of numerous foreclosure cases in which judges across the U.S. have found that the materials banks had submitted to support their claims were wrong. Faulty bank paperwork has been an issue in foreclosure proceedings since the housing crisis took hold a few years ago. It is often difficult to pin down who the real owner of a mortgage is, thanks to the complexity of the mortgage market.

During the housing boom, mortgages were originated by lenders, quickly sold to Wall Street firms that bundled them into debt pools and then sold to investors as securities. The loans were supposed to change hands but the documents and contracts between borrowers and lenders often weren’t altered to show changes in ownership, judges have ruled.

[snip]

LPS has acknowledged problems in its paperwork. In its annual securities filing, in which it disclosed the federal probe, the company said it had found “an error” in how Docx handled notarization of some documents. Docx also has processed documents used in courts that incorrectly claimed an entity called “Bogus Assignee” was the owner of the loan, according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

Ms. Kersch said the “bogus” phrase was used as a placeholder. “Unfortunately, on a few occasions, the document was inadvertently recorded before the field was updated,” she said.

If I were being sued in a foreclosure action, I would fight to make the lender prove that it actually held my mortgage – there’s a very decent chance that it does not.

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Laughable hubris

The NY Times intends to charge online users $20 a month to read such luminaries as Frank Rich and Paul Krugman. I don’t intend to subscribe.

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Sellers: stop what you’re doing and read this article

Hanging on – houses lingering on the market. Excerpts:

Joseph Mottola, chief executive of the 22,000-member Long Island Board of Realtors and its Multiple Listing Service, said he refused to include the number of days on the market on listings because “it’s so inaccurate.”

Mr. Mottola said that there was no reason for it to take a year to sell a house if it was “priced where the market is” but that homeowners aren’t always ready or willing to do that. “There is a psychological connection to what you want to price your home for,” he said. “The market doesn’t care about that psychological connection.”

And:

A year ago, Papi Simonetti, a broker with Coldwell Banker Beach West, listed a bayfront three-bedroom- three-bath ranch in Atlantic Beach for $2.15 million. It came on the market two years ago at about $2.5 million, Ms. Simonetti said. She has dropped the price twice; it is now $1.99 million.

“It’s not like three years ago, and it is still going down,” she said. Homeowners need to “either adjust the price or take it off the market and wait five, six, seven years to get the price it was five years ago.”

Some owners give her a hard time. She said that she had received a good offer on one property but that the owner rejected it. Her advice: “If you wait you are going to get less.”

But some brokers say that sellers needn’t fret, because some buyers are looking for homes that have languished. “Older listings used to be absolutely poison,” said Nina Mulé, an agent with Charles Rutenberg Realty in Plainview. Now they may signify that the seller is desperate enough to negotiate harder.

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Jumbo mortgages stirring back to life

So says the NY Times. Couldn’t hurt, if true. Right now, the availability of Jumbo mortgages (roughly, $750,000 + ) is pretty limited. And I suspect that’s what’s kept the market above $1.5  and below $6 million so dormant. At the top level – Mel Gibson’s place at $29 million, say, buyers don’t need financing,  and at the bottom level, especially when buyers have sales proceeds from their previous house, financing isn’t much of a problem. But if you need a $1.5 million mortgage to buy a $3 million house, it’s been tough to find it, and that’s hurt sales.

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The (new) Road to Serfdom

Greenpeace attacks iPad and cloud computing for using too much energy and diverting battery materials that should be used to power electric cars. It’s the latter claim that caught my eye (the first one being so stupid and easily refuted that it’s a MEGO event).

The Road to Serfdom, written by Friedrich von Hayek, the Austrian philosopher and economist who chose to become a British citizen when Nazi socialists took over his country in 1938, was one of the first books I read as a young college student (Atlas Shrugged was the very first) that moved me away from my feel-good, liberal days of my teens and toward a more skeptical view of central planning.

In his work, Hayek discusses the crux of the problem of a planner: so many good things to do, so limited resources with which to accomplish them. He uses steel as an example – how many toy wagons should be made from it, and how many farm tractors? In a free market, price will allocate the resource: if more toys are desired by consumers, then steel will flow there. If not, here come more tractors.
But this drives central planners to distraction! They know better, damn it, whether it’s the thousands of needy children who need wagons or farmers who need to till their fields – just give them control of the factories and they will produce the perfect world order.

Hayek did a pretty good job demolishing this conceit but the idea still persists, as evidenced by Greenpeace. They know best how battery materials should be allocated, and there ought to be a law ….

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