Daily Archives: April 13, 2010

Morgan Stanley: “It depends on what your definition of ‘completely f**ked’ is”

Morgan Stanley’s about to write of $5.8 billion in bad real estate investments.

By ANTON TROIANOVSKI And LINGLING WEI

Morgan Stanley has told investors in its $8.8 billion real-estate fund that it may lose nearly two-thirds of its money from bum property investments, according to fund documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

That would likely make it the biggest dollar loss—$5.4 billion—in the history of private-equity real-estate investing. Over the past 20 years, Morgan Stanley’s real-estate unit was one of the biggest buyers of property around the world, doing some $174 billion in deals since 1991, mostly with money raised from pension funds, college endowments and foreign investors. The losses come from investments in properties such as the European Central Bank’s Frankfurt headquarters, a big development project in Tokyo and InterContinental hotels across Europe, among others.

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I’m sure I’m wrong on this, but I don’t see how

Teacher confesses to having sex with teens, faces ten year sentence. As the father of two girls, I’d have gone ape s**t  had a teacher touched either of them. But I remember being a 14-year-old boy, and if my (female) math teacher had bestowed sexual favors on me, for the life of me, all I can imagine is that I’d have been grateful as hell. What am I missing here?

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Duh

Fear of drug war violence keeps tourists from Mexico. Gee, with just 20,000 dead? You might as well visit Jamaica.

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No bowing here!

Obama (right) rushes to greet Uruguayan ambassador

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Cops beat student sensless

Schoolyard bullies grow up to become prison guards and cops.

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Shocker from the NY Times: rich must pay higher taxes

Yes, 47% of all Americans pay no federal income tax, but they do pay Social Security and Medicare (which this piece of drivel calls “payroll taxes”).

The answer is that tax rates almost certainly have to rise more on the affluent than on other groups. Over the last 30 years, rates have fallen more for the wealthy, and especially the very wealthy, than for any other group. At the same time, their incomes have soared, and the incomes of most workers have grown only moderately faster than inflation.

So a much greater share of income is now concentrated at the top of distribution, while each dollar there is taxed less than it once was. It’s true that raising taxes on the rich alone can’t come close to solving the long-term budget problem. The deficit is simply too big. But if taxes are not increased for the wealthy, the country will be left with two options.

It will have to raise taxes even more than it otherwise would on everybody else. Or it will have to find deep cuts in Medicare, Social Security, military spending and the other large (generally popular) federal programs.

Or, asshat, we could cut tax rates and see revenue rise. But the desperate desire of levelers to bring down everyone forbids that approach. So let’s all suffer together.

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Here’s something for Blumenthal to chew on

Reader PC sends along this link. A new study finds that, instead of the $16 billion in unfunded pension liabilities Connecticut is admitting to  (a year’s entire budget) the true figure is between $51 and $81 billion. No wonder Blumenthal is running away to Washington. He’s ignored this budget bomb for years and wants to be far, far away when it explodes.

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Nastiest restaurant review I’ve seen in a while.

Rip us off - please!

Which is good! Venom is tasty.

Nello:


Diner food at Champagne prices, one said.

Though much of his senior staff wears suits, and many of his customers dress in luxe outfits from the upscale boutiques nearby, Mr. Balan was wearing jeans and an untucked shirt. His bleached blond hair was cut close and his expression was fierce, almost predatory.

Mr. Balan spat on the sidewalk and returned to the dining room, trailing smoke. He has claimed over the years to be a direct descendant of Vlad the Impaler. It seems entirely possible.

Nello, which opened in 1992, is an ecosystem that is almost incomprehensible to those not a part of it. The food is not very good. Yet the restaurant’s customer base is built of the richest and most coddled people in the city, who love it for its elegance and, perhaps, simplicity.

It is a private club of sorts, where the dues are paid nightly. The meetings are unadvertised. Nello’s dining room can be crowded at 3 p.m. or midnight. It can also be empty at 1 p.m. or 9 p.m. Regular patrons respond to whistles mere customers cannot hear.

The table of four that night was made up of that latter group: New Yorkers relatively new to the restaurant, unknown to the management.

They ate crisp artichokes offered as carciofi alla giudia. These tasted of shirt cardboard. They ate sawdusty chicken livers lashed with balsamic. They sipped at lentil soup familiar to anyone who owns a can opener and shared too-salty saffron risotto, correctly yellow, of no particular flavor.

They gummed at cannelloni with mushrooms that from the grit on them might actually have been harvested wild, as well as at rubbery swordfish drenched in mustard sauce, then laughed about lobster ravioli so tasteless it might have been prop food for an advertisement.

Only an arugula salad with fontina and pears could have been mistaken for something good to eat.

There were waiters and captains and busboys and runners standing at the ready, servants at an 18th-century court. They sprang into action at the merest gesture, smiles blazing, and soon returned with whatever the table needed: another bottle of water, say, or a glass of middling Sancerre, a gin martini.

This began to add up. That water was $12; the glass of wine, $17; the martini, $22.

The restaurant’s best dish by far is tagliolini with butter, truffle oil, shards of black truffle and Parmesan. It costs $100. If that is no matter, the pasta is extremely buttery and delicious. Eat it and discover that Nello can be a fair place to have dinner.

The theater of the place is, in any event, magnificent. It is Stephen Sondheim’s city of strangers played for sociology and laughs: a middle-aged woman in hot-pink fur and very high heels almost wiping out at the stairway that leads from the dining room down to the bathroom. “Champagne,” she giggled in explanation, and tottered away.

During the day, the crowd is women who shop and women who dress like their daughters and men who meet them for lunch. There are air kisses and the tinkle of tennis bracelets against wine glasses. The kitchen trades mostly in salad, wine and the occasional pasta or veal. (The menu is the same as at night.)

If you desire more than a lemon-scented salad and don’t want to spare the $100 for the pasta with truffles, the best bet is a simple bowl of green and white tagliatelle served with prosciutto, green peas, Parmesan and pecorino. Not bad, if very rich. (And $38!) This is food for children raised in boarding schools.

Vitello tonnato, meanwhile, looks good enough straight from the kitchen. It tastes like sliced shoe, though, against a tuna sauce that carries a Miracle Whip tang. It’s grim, especially at $32.

Rage can overtake a person at Nello: the place is what used to be called a rip. (And the desserts are stale to boot.) But if $32 means nothing to you, if it is the equivalent of the dollar the rest of us can spend on a slice of pizza off Times Square, the restaurant is welcoming and the people-watching is nonpareil. There is nothing snobby about it at all, least of all the food.

One night at dinner, there was a very tall woman in elegant clothes, with skin stretched tight over her face in unnatural ways and glasses the size of salad plates to magnify that. She was eating with a small red-faced fellow with dark hair in a center part, who was wearing an ascot and green Tyrolean coat. A cartoonist might render them as an awkward French giraffe and a mischievous Austrian chimp.

The woman drank wine as the man devoured a plate of pasta in tomato sauce. (Decent, and, at $29, maybe a bargain.) They were a good couple. When he finished, she wiped at the corner of his mouth with a napkin.

The man signaled to a waiter. He laughed and slapped the table with his open palm. “AAAH-gain!” he cried, happily. “Once AAAH-gain!” The waiter smiled and withdrew with the empty plate. Within 10 minutes the man was eating again.

There were a great many black cars and luxury sedans out front blocking traffic that night. Across the dining room there was a long table of women in abayas, silently perusing menus. “Saudi princess,” said the maître d’hôtel. They sat on the banquette with their menus, waiting for a signal from her highness, who had the center seat.

There at that table not covered in wines, they sat in two straight lines, Middle Eastern Madelines. It was a picture-book moment in Manhattan, Nello at its finest.

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Exactly right

This girl’s nailed it.

Finger-wagging asshat

When people wag a finger in my face, I reach out and cover their hand and say some variation of “don’t say another word to me until you put that finger away.” The variations are not always courtly, but they get the point across.

Awful picture. Awful optics. But I get the impression that Obama and his crew think these sorts of pictures make him look good. He’s sticking it to the man, or something.

The look on Harper’s face, I can’t read. He’s either cowed or repressing his own anger. He appears to be looking directly at Obama’s finger. He is making a fist. Anyone want to supply a caption?

I miss the swaggering cowboy. He may have been tongue-tied; he may have screwed up with an errant backrub, but the didn’t boy to royalty, he didn’t give embarrassing gifts to allies, he didn’t show the Dalai Lama the back door. He never said to a visiting ally (paraphrased) “I’m gonna go have dinner with Laura, and if you decide to obey me, I’ll be around.”

He didn’t shove his finger in the face of another country’s prime minister.

But he was considered the boor.

Oh, puke.

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Don’t blame IBM, blame Democrats

IBM dumping Americans, shifting jobs overseas. Well of course it is, and the reason is perfectly obvious: would you build a factory in the US today? Pay “carbon taxes”? Deal with the EPA? OSHA? EEOC? Congress? If you answer yes to any of these, you’re a moron.

Democrats pump up the minimum wage for the unskilled and are then astonished to find that the youngest, least skilled workers suffer an unemployment rate of 25%. Who knew? How could that happen?

They shut off water to farmers, close off forests to loggers, visas for technical workers and stand around with their thumbs in their butts exclaiming in wonder at the loss of jobs.

They raise taxes on entrepreneurs and savers, force paid “family leaves” on small employers and pile unemployment taxes on companies that lay off workers, and wonder why no one is hiring.

A is A. A is not B, no matter how much Democrats wish it were. Cause and effect – happens every time.

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Jimbo Himes lies, again, about health care “savings”

From a Jimbo press release:

Finally, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), this reform is the largest deficit reduction measure in decades. Over the course of the next 10 years, it will reduce the federal deficit by $138 million [sic - later corrected to billion]. In the ensuing decade, that savings grows to over $1 trillion [based on an imaginary 20% cut in Medicare fees paid to doctors, a cut that has already been eliminated] . The CBO is appropriately required to be conservative, and to substantially discount uncertain savings. Because of this policy, nearly $600 billion in savings over the next decade, as estimated by leading Harvard economist David Cutler in the Wall Street Journal, doesn’t show up in CBO’s budget scores. We know—and economists agree—that these cost savings exist. [For a complete collection of Wall Street Journal editorials and op ed pieces, try this, Jimbo. Mr. Cutler bases his cost savings argument on a cost-containment panel, never to be created by Congress, that will deny benefits, new technology and treatment to old folks - you think that's gonna fly?].

Like all major change, health reform is not without risk. Some cost savings ideas will fail. The system will be subject to political pressure just as it is today. But the risks associated with maintaining the status quo far outweigh the risks of reform. Health care costs currently consume one in every six dollars we spend. We spend twice per person what the average industrialized country spends with far worse results, the very definition of inefficiency. [Newfoundland's Premier flew down here last month for heart surgery - "It's my body, my health", he proclaimed.]

Perhaps most importantly, after a century of failed attempts [defeated by Congress] by Presidents going back to Teddy Roosevelt, through Eisenhower, Nixon, and Clinton, we are finally able to offer all Americans access to life-saving medical care.[emergency room care is already provided, by law, to anyone who shows up, regardless of income or insurance]. Now, we can say without reservation that we Americans look after our own [we're just no longer allowed to look after ourselves].

What a complete load of crap. These cuts are never going to happen – Congress couldn’t pass a $10 co-pay requirement on Medicaid recipients ten years ago. Do you really think they will cut nursing care and doctors fees 20% and  force Medicare patients to lose their services? Fat friggin chance. There are morons in Congress who might truly believe what their party bosses tell them but Himes, despite coming from New jersey and now, Cos Cob, can clearly read (although he lied about reading the bill he voted for). The man is a liar, and I can hardly wait to confront him Sunday, April 25th, at the Cos Cob Library. 4 PM – come join in the fun!

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Another bidding war “winner”

1 Ernel Drive

This little cottage in NoPo is on Ernel Drive, a nice, quiet dead-end near Valbellas (quiet, that is, until Scusie gets tossed out from under the tables there on Saturday nights and ends up on your front lawn). It was last listed for $850,000 in September, 2006 and sold immediately via bidding war for $889,500. It’s back on again for that same $850,000 but this time, I doubt the sellers will be so lucky.

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There’s a bargain waiting here, but for whom?

110 Clapboard Ridge

I toured this unfinished project today on Clapboard Ridge Road and it’s amazing. Certainly some of the very best quality construction I’ve seen, from its steel construction to solid limestone to plaster moldings, top end mechanicals, and so forth. I’m told by the agent that the owner has $20 million into it (including the $3.5 he paid for its 5 1/2 acres) and I believe it.

 
But he’s run out of money, maybe 75% through, so the question is, how much is this place worth? Certainly not the $20 million he (or his bank – I believe we’re in a short sale situation here) is asking, because unfinished projects don’t price out that way. It will cost $5 million to finish this place, and what’s the size of the buying pool who can afford to buy the place, even at a discount, and then come up with $5 million more? Tiny, is my guess, and, as Patriot Bank has now learned to its sorrow, sitting on an unfinished project for a couple of years can be disastrous.
 
Plus, how many people really want 24,000 square feet of home, even if some of that space is devoted to a five car garage and a two bedroom, 3 bath pool/guest house (oh – and two pools, one inside, one out)?
 
So there’s some real negotiating room here, I’d guess, for the five people on earth who want and can afford a house this large. Where do you start? I have no idea, but assuming $14 million is the maximum you’d want to have into a house in Greenwich right now, $9 million seems like a good place to end.
(Mario L – you must know some high rollers down in Miami, no?)

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Two land sales of note

25 Flagler (off North Street). Nice land, with pond, views, etc., assessed at $4.785, asked $3.895, under contract, 100 days.

122 Old Church Road, 3 acres, plus decrepit mansion, assessed at $7.153 million, priced at $5.495, under contract, 45 days.

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$65,000 a year, place to live and two cars, who wants to work?

British mom on her eighth kid, aiming for fourteen. And why not?

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GHS math team advances to New England finals

I previously posted on our school’s math team, and my neighbor’s son, Warren Bein’s accomplishments, but here they are again. You go, boys!

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Do I have to do all the heavy lifting around here?

Here’s one for Peter Tesei as he struggles to raise revenue: Dominatrix rents city hall for video sessions. Hey – how many bondage stalls could the Post Office support?

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Breaking up is hard to do

U.S. drug dealer tracked down, nabbed in England after he sets up FaceBook account to keep in touch with his pals. Lesson seems to be, if you’re going on the lam, you have to cut off all contact with your past. Judging from stories similar to this, that isn’t easy.

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Want more unemployment? Subsidize it.

The WSJ quotes various Democrat economists who make this point. Doesn’t matter – another $10 billion jobless benefits bill is coming up, encouraging slackers to stay on the dole for up to two years now.

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