Monthly Archives: June 2012

Two Chancellors in one!

Reuters: Merkel big loser in Euro crisis

Raul Meijer, The Automatic Earth: Angela Merkel is playing you for fools.

Meijer insists that Merkel gave away nothing and anyone who thinks she has is just plain dumb. No one ever lost money betting against the stupidity of the people of Reuters, so I’m going with Meijer.

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Old news hits England

Britain medical authorities warn against high doses of Celexia anti-depressant because of its deleterious affect on the heart.

Thought I remembered reading this before and sure enough, the FDA issued the same warning April 24, 2011.

This is what’s wrong with merely tossing information into a bottle and waiting for the Gulf Stream to deliver it.

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The best and the brightest aren’t, sometimes

My friend Mario a crook? I find this troubling

Bank of America’s purchase of Countrywide Mortgage has cost $40 billion so far and is still climbing. Oh – it also cost 30,000 people their jobs.

Bank of America Corp. thought it had a bargain four years ago when it paid $2.5 billion for tottering mortgage lender Countrywide Financial Corp. But the ill-fated decision has already cost the Charlotte, N.C., lender more than $40 billion in real-estate losses, legal expenses and settlements with state and federal agencies, according to people close to the bank.

“It is the worst deal in the history of American finance,” said Tony Plath, a banking and finance professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. “Hands down.”

If you remember John Sculley, the man who almost ruined Apple in 1983-1993, you may also remember that after Apple fired him he joined Applied Spectrum Technologies as its head, only to discover that the company was a nest of penny stock fraudsters. This was described as “the worst business decision of his life”, adding a neat bookend to Apple’s decision to hire him in 1983.

But here’s the point: if BOA had asked around the real estate community they would have heard enough alarming news about Countrywide’s lending practices to offset the corporate world’s view of Countrywide and its friend-of-Dodd Chairman Mario Mozili as a legitimate business. Had Sculley, instead of hiring a hugely expensive white shoe law firm to vet Spectrum, as he insisted he did, and asked a low brow securities fraud lawyer what the significance was of the Spectrum crowd’s NASDAQ disciplinary history, he’d have spared his reputation and a lot of cash.

You don’t need a thief to catch a thief, but asking someone who’s chased thieves their opinion of a particular individual or institution might yield information that will surprise you.

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Never trust a guy who lies on his resume

Bad guy

Jason Bohn, the lawyer who brutally beat to death his girlfriend last week, was previously described in a New York Times article as a Columbia Law School grad working a legal temp job for $33 an hour. Not the paper’s fault (although their fact checking staff could have done better, if the Times still had a fact checking staff), Bohn lied to them. The article was corrected after Columbia informed the paper that, while it was true that Bohn had attended classes at Columbia, his actual degree came from University of Florida. And see what happened.

Not too dissimilar to that lawyer who lied about being a member of the Harvard varsity swim team and, later, a Viet Nam combat veteran. Of course, he went on to the U.S. Senate, not Riker’s Island, but I wouldn’t go out on a date with the guy.

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Sounds more like parent abuse, to me

 

Women’s Studies graduates, 1890

Does luring students into taking degrees in “Sports Administration” and “Pop Culture Studies” constitute a form a child abuse?

How about college tuition, adjusted for inflation, soaring 72% since 2002?

Students are paying less and less of direct college costs, relying more on government grants and loans. That has encouraged universities to jack up tuition expenses, fueling a vicious circle reminiscent of the housing bubble.

U.S. universities charged students $190 billion in 2001-02 for tuition, fees, room and board and more, according to data from Sallie Mae. By 2010-11 that had more than doubled to $410 billion. Even after adjusting for inflation, student charges shot up 72%.

Of course, not every college student wastes her time on gaining useless knowledge. Here’s a Glenville girl who’s learning the one sure career out there, lobbying on Capitol Hill. Best of all, she’s cutting her teeth on what’s sure to be the governmental response to out of control college costs, subsidized housing for sororities. Then it’s on to lobbying for universal health care, no doubt, and the kid will be set for life.

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We can’t have election fraud, we’re Democrats!

Charlie at Disney World, awaiting Eric Holder’s arrival with the mai tais

Did Charlie Rangel steal his Democrat primary? Seems likely, and all without a single Republican involved. To hear Dollar Bill tell it, only Republicans steal votes (Bush/Gore! Bush/Gore! Cheney!). So okay, all together now, “We blame Bush!”

Before things went off the rails, Tuesday night had been an evening of celebration and vindication for Rangel, who seemed to have survived the most serious reelection threat of his 42-year career in the House. After initial tallies showed the congressional titan jumping to a 20-point lead over Espaillat, Rangel took to the stage at Sylvia’s, the famed soul food institution located on Harlem’s Lenox Avenue, to declare victory and then party late into the evening with boisterous supporters.

But as Tuesday turned to Wednesday and more votes trickled in, something strange happened: Rangel’s margin of victory began to shrink, first to five points and then, by midday Wednesday, to two points.

 

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Have you ever heard of Accelerated Reader?

I hadn’t until today and now that I have, I’m horrified. It’s apparently a computer-driven reading program used in schools to enable teachers to check up on whether or not a child has read an assigned book.

Educators have argued that the use of Accelerated Reader does not teach reading for comprehension; it only teaches reading for recall

Renaissance Learning, the product’s developer, has stated that its intended purpose is to assess whether or not a student has read a book,[4] not to assess higher order thinking skills, to teach or otherwise replace curriculum, to supersede the role of the teacher, or to provide extrinsic reward.

Concerns exist that in classrooms using Accelerated Reader that student reading choices are restricted to the quiz titles available in the software. …  Close to 150,000 book titles exist in the Accelerated Reader quiz database according to Renaissance Learning, Inc, to date (according to Google Books) over 168,000,000 book titles have been published,[23] over 7,000,000 of which have been fully scanned and cataloged by Google.[24]Thus, the ability for a student to explore books which are neither currently commercially popular nor part of major book lists is severely restricted in reality by the Accelerated Reader program. There are many reasons why a program like Accelerated Reader may choose to exclude certain titles. Books that don’t lend themselves to being read all the way through and quizzed on may be excluded. This includes books primarily used as a reference and books of songs, poetry, and jokes. Very old or outdated material, literature of very low quality, and books no longer in print may be excluded.

I can’t think of anything better designed to destroy a love of reading than a program that restricts kids to a committee – approved reading list made up of 150,000 titles out of 168,000,000 published! The joy of serendipitously discovering a book, or better yet an author, is something a reader of any age can experience, so long as he isn’t force fed and restricted to what the central committee has decreed he should read. This sounds awful and because it sounds so modern and “technological”, it’s probably in Greenwich schools. Anyone know?

UPDATE: It’s not. Good for Greenwich.

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A little R&R for our Fund Raiser in Chief

Surely there’s someone from Hollywood here we can beg from

Fund raising and golf all week, a flyover photo opportunity for him to pretend to care about the Colorado wildfires he’s ignored for the past two weeks as they raged out of control, and our boy is pooped, burned out and wrung out. He’s officially on vacation until Tuesday, and who can blame him?

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Watch out below!

(Photo supplied by Greenwich Association of Realtors)

I’ve been tracking the downward course of prices at Old Greenwich Gables, the 1990 (late 80′s?) condominium project Arthur Collins built on the old Electrolux site. I had thought that the decline was attributable to the slumping condo market as a whole but a visit there this morning with clients revealed another, more ominous cause: the place is falling down.

An entire brick facade on the top floor of one of the buildings is bulging and sagging; I have no idea why there’s no protective scaffolding shield to keep those bricks from landing on the heads of residents when the bricks fall, which seems likely to occur any day now. Regardless, as it’s the first sight to greet prospective buyers when they park, it’s no help in selling.

Then there are the steel exterior stairways, all weeping rust and staining what was once white paint. Again, not a confidence booster. Rotting trim and fascia boards add to the overall effect of entropy, and when the buyers discover that the complex is heated with electricity, it’s game over.

Which is a real shame. The Gables has all the pieces for a great complex: nice exterior layout, incredibly convenient location and a nifty community pool, as well as beautiful plantings and quiet walkways. All the pieces, but they’re falling to pieces, and homeowners equity is following that ruin down the drain.

Your opinion may differ, but my clients and I took it all in and left after sticking our noses in one of the two units we were planning on viewing. Next.

I blame the late Arthur Collins for this. He took some premium land and a decent architectural plan and then built as cheaply and as shoddily as he could. He did the same thing on his other projects in town: the Commons on the Post Road, Palmer Point and, I believe, Lyons Farm. Shabby buildings that lasted long enough for him to pocket his money and get out. Now he’s dead and the owners of the buildings he built are paying a whole new cost.

Isn’t it a pity.

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Next time someone like Dollar Bill tells you that there’s no place to cut the federal budget …

 

Companion dog

ADA regulations for miniature golf courses released.

Miniature golf is a much more accessible sport than the real thing. Almost anyone can play. You don’t need to drive the ball 200 yards to get a decent score; 200 inches is more than enough. In fact, many players don’t much care what their score is at all. They’re just playing for fun, and trying to dodge the obstacles.

Course owners aren’t too happy about the new Americans with Disabilities Act requirements that came into effect on March 15, though construction firms must be delighted at the windfall Washington just sent them.

The federal government regulates the slopes of miniature golf courses. The new standard “permits a slope of 1:4 maximum for a 4 inch rise where the accessible route is located on the playing surface of a hole.”

If a course uses artificial turf instead of grass, it also regulates length for the fibers. The height of the “grass” shall not exceed half an inch.

The so-called “start of play” areas must be at least 48” x 60”, and shall not have a slope steeper than 1:48.

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Say, here’s a surprise!

CO2 emissions plunging, no thanks to the eco-terrorists.

THE PROBLEM IS, THE WAY WE DID IT PROVIDED INSUFFICIENT OPPORTUNITIES FOR GRAFT: US Carbon Output Forecasts Shrink Again.

 

Much to the surprise (and, one suspects, the chagrin) of the deranged doomsaying wing of the environmental movement, new forecasts of US CO2 emission are out and they point to an even steeper drop than the last set of predictions.

No cap and trade, no huge new taxes on oil, no draconian driver restrictions, no air conditioning bans, no rationing — and the US is on track to cut its CO2 emissions 17 percent below the 2005 levels by 2020 — and to keep cutting our emissions levels beyond that.

And this news doesn’t come from embattled climate skeptics banished to the fringes of the scientific community; these numbers come from the Obama administration and are sitting right up on Don Lashof’s well respected blog at the National Resource Defense Council website. Take a look for yourselves.

So, to summarize, the United States of America basically blew the global greens off completely, trampling all over their carbon tax and cap and trade agendas, and earning wails and shrieks of hatred at the Rio+20 Summit — while making huge strides toward reducing CO2 emission levels.

It’s almost as if there is no connection between the green policy agenda and environmental progress.

 

Next you’ll be telling me that Solyndra was a scam.

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If you feel you’re having a long day tomorrow, you’re not imagining things

Extra second added.

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Calling Paul Krugman

In the People’s Republic we rely on solidarity, not capitalist anesthesia

Back in 2009, Paul Krugman insisted we adopt socialized medicine as the British have:

In Britain, the government itself runs the hospitals and employs the doctors. We’ve all heard scare stories about how that works in practice; these stories are false.

This morning Michael Moore (accurately, I fear) proclaimed that ObamaCare was just the beginning and universal health care is now inevitable.

So in honor of both men and to give us all a glimpse if what awaits us, I offer this story from Britain:

Hospital closings, medical care rationing inevitable, think tank warns,

John Appleby, chief economist at The King’s Fund, also warned services in some hospitals could seriously deteriorate due to the impact of the economic crisis.

He said it was highly unlikely the NHS budget would be significantly increased in the foreseeable future.

Against this grim financial background managers are being asked to get 5p more value from every £1 they spend, every year, partially to keep up with the increasing demands of an ageing population.

Patients have already experienced the effect of this. For example, nine in 10 trusts have introduced tighter criteria to qualify for a range of procedures deemed to be of ‘low clinical value’ – including hip and knee replacements, cataract removals and weight-loss surgery.

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There won’t always be an England; in fact, it’s almost gone now.

 

Last men standing

Britain cuts its army to 82,000.

Smaller than Poland’s, the Congo’s and Nepal’s, one third the size of the Italian’s and less than a quarter of Iran’s. It will remain larger than the Cape Verdes Island’s, however, so vacationing Brits can relax.

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I don’t play an accountant on TV

Coming after YOU, sucker!

But you might want to consult (a real) one if you’re a Greenwich homeowner trying to decide whether to sell this year or next. Apparently one of those details in the Pelosi “you have to pass it to know what’s in it” Obamacare bill is a 3.8% hike on capital gains. That’s not a tax on the middle class, of course, because only the rich pay capital gains, but if you aren’t feeling as generous as the Democrats want you to feel, maybe sell this year?

WSJ:

It really is happening.

Until this week, investors were waiting to see what the Supreme Court would do about the 3.8 percentage-point surtax on investment income, part of President Obama’s health-care overhaul. The Internal Revenue Service hasn’t yet released guidance on the new tax.

So when the court affirmed the law on Thursday, investors—and tax advisers—started scrambling.

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Jimbo Himes hearts Holder

So the guy told a few itsy, bitsy lies, so what? He’s a Democrat!

Our representative to Congress thinks Eric Holder is perfectly within his rights to lie to Congress and then stonewall them.  “This is a nakedly political moment,” Himes said. “Never in the 240-year history of the United States has the Congress done this. Not during Watergate. Not during FDR. Frankly, it’s trading the remaining honor of this institution to score some political points.”
Well Jim, that’s just not true. Not even close to true. It is so false, in fact, that you’re either a complete bald faced liar or completely, completely ignorant of US history. There are those might think that either of those possibilities should be enough to bar you from political office, but not me: I think it proves that you are superbly qualified to be a politician.

A sample:

If he won’t resign, he should be impeached: NYT, 5/03/07 (AG Gonzales)

Former Attorney General says Bush should be impeached.

Here’s a list of every high ranking cabinet officer and elected officer against whom impeachment proceedings were initiated and/or accomplished. Everyone who’s anyone is there, from Buchanan to Bush, from War Department Secretaries to – ahem, Attorney Generals.

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Well this is good news for those Idahoans who fear the new world order

Maybe not so good for those of us living within flying distance of US drones on patrol. What a Texas redneck can do, a rag head illiterate can also do, no? I blame Bush.

 

Coming our way?

Texas students hijack USAF predator drone.

The U.S. government, understandably, doesn’t want its drone technology to fall out of the sky and into other peoples’ laps. But being able to hijack a drone and control it? That’s even worse. And a team of researchers has done it for 1,000 bucks.

The University of Texas at Austin team successfully nabbed the drone on a dare from the Department of Homeland Security. They managed to do it through spoofing, a technique where a signal from hackers pretends to be the same as one sent to the drone’s GPS.

We’ve seen spoofing before; it was reportedly used to bring down the drone that crashed in Iran last year. As the researchers point out, we’ll be seeing (or maybe not seeing) more and more drones in the skies as the technology becomes more widely used, so making this technique ineffective will be high on Homeland Security’s priority list.

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Finishing the week with a whimper and a sigh

Accepted offers reported today were four (cheap) condos and a rental. Sooeee.

30 Husted via Trulia

From the limbo “how low can you go?” contest files, 30 Husted Lane has been cut another million and can now be yours for just $11.8 million, down quite a bit from its original price, oh so long ago, of $18,000,000. Who suggested that price, for God’s sake? This one stays in limbo, is my guess.

8 Baldwin Farms North, spec house asking $7.9 million since September, sold for $6.5. Not bad, for the seller.

53 Cross Lane, Cos Cob, asked $1.195, got $1.151. Good house, good street, good price, yet for some odd reason, it sold quickly – don’t tell other Greenwich (would-be) home sellers that, they might fry their brains trying to figure out if there’s a connection.

The two Kali-Naagy spec houses on Mark Road in Riverside that were originally priced at $4 million each have been reduced again and are now down to $3.495. There were some of us who thought that might have been a better staring point but there you have it.

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You’d think a Democrat would cringe at this one

Passed out drunk

New York legalizes gambling in bars. I understand the reasoning: why lose a customer base of drunken fools to the casinos where a band of faux-indians grabs the loot and keeps it,  when you can milk ‘em right in their hometown? And I personally am all for lotteries, gasoline taxes diverted to general purposes (a Connecticut specialty) and any tax on any activity, preferably as stupid as possible, because it’s the only way to get cretins to pay something for the government services they’re getting. But taxing the stupid and the drunk seems to run a bit against what Democrats at least profess to believe is the goal of governance.

But not me, so go at it, boys.

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I don’t think this guy gets it, yet

Slow learner

Two years ago the builder of a spec house at 18 Perryridge Road priced it at $4.650 million (about $3 million higher than any previous sale on that street) and set it out upon the waters to see what happened. Nothing happened, is what (didn’t) happen, despite a series of price cuts totaling $755,000 to $3.895. The listing died a whimpering death in August, 2011.

Today it’s back, asking $4,275,000. Rush rush rush.

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