Daily Archives: February 8, 2009

Period piece from Tom Wolfe circa 2007

I just stumbled across this article written by Tom Wolfe for Portfolio Magazine’s May 2007 issue.It’s a snapshot of hedge funders as they were less than two years ago: attaching $100,000 checks to their kid’s Country Day admissions application, being snubbed by the boards of Greenwich Hospital and the Boys and Girls Club (Bruce Museum has no such prejudice against new money so you’ll find the disconsolate dears there, trying to pretend that their money is just as good as anybody else’s) and in general being rude, obnoxious souls accompanied by wives who are even worse. I don’t think Tom Wolfe likes them.

But if they even still exist, will they still be here two years from now? And if not, who and what will take their place? Nature and high society both abhor vacuums – it will be fascinating to see what fills the void this class’s disappearance will create.

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The two most expensive letters in the English language

These New York Times Op-Ed contributors aren’t impressed with Head Start nor the Democrats’plan to shower it with still more billions.

In 1998, Congress required the Department of Health and Human Services to conduct the first rigorous national evaluation of the program. The Clinton administration took this mandate seriously and initiated a 383-site randomized experiment involving about 4,600 children. Confirming previous research, the study found that the current program had little meaningful impact.

For example, even after spending six months in Head Start, 4-year-olds on average could identify only two more letters than children from similar backgrounds not in the program; 3-year-olds could identify one and a half more letters. More important, no gains at all were detected in more vital measures like early math learning, oral comprehension (very indicative of later reading comprehension), motivation to learn or “social competencies” like the ability to interact with peers and teachers.

….

Lack of money is not the problem: to keep a child in Head Start full-time, year-round, costs about $22,600, as opposed to an average cost of $9,500 in a day care center. And that’s the big failing of the stimulus bill. In area after area, it does not require any real change in return for vast piles of money.

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Cool site

The reader who pointed out to me that Schwinn bikes are no longer made in the US turns out to have a pretty nifty-looking website with subjects ranging from mountain biking (he’s in the mountain biking hall of fame which I, at least, am willing to admit I didn’t know existed) piano moving (his current occupation, I guess) and pictures taken while he was a roadie for a band in the late 60s. As us old hippies need to stick together, I’m linking him here, then going back to dig deeper.

Update: Oh geeze, you’ve got to check this site out – vintage photos of the first, crazed, out-of-their-friggin minds mountain bike racers from the 1970s, with 30-year old Schwinns, no real protective gear and possibly a good supply of drugs (I may be maligning the guys but it was the 70’s) careening down California mountains. Neato. Here’s the mountain biking page.

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A correction

 

A commentator writes to point out, inaccurately, that John Kerry and George Bush both ride $4,000 Trek bicycles, made in the United States. In fact, our fun-loving Frenchie tools around on a custom, $8,000  bike. According to the New York Times, “Mr. Kerry reportedly pedals an $8,000 Serotta Ottrott, as high-tech and skittish as a sports car. It is made of space-age carbon tubing and comes equipped with the patented ST rear triangle, whatever that is.”

Here’s what Kerry owns:

 

Seratta Nantucket

Seratta Nantucket

 And here’s a Soviet Union- era people’s bike:

Which one do you think you’ll be waiting 10 years to buy in New Paradise?

 

The Little People's Bicycle

The Little People's Bicycle

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What took them so long?

It took a full twelve hours after the brush fires in Australia cooled before the culprit was announced: Global warming, of course! No mention of the arsonists who spread the fires because they were in the employ of Dick Cheney and thus a part of the whole scheme.

By the way, notice this bit of self-flagellation from an Aussie:

  ‘The deliberate lighting of bushfires is essentially an Australian phenomenon,’ said former justice minister Chris Ellison.

We hear the same line when California is set ablaze by our home-grown kooks but of course in that case, the phenomenon is “uniquely American”. Shoot ’em all, says I, and don’t worry about their nationality. Think of them as kangaroos, if that helps.

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Zero Hedge – setting us up for yet another bank bailout

The blogger ZeroHedge sees Monday’s bad bank announcement as affording just another opportunity to front run on the government’s dime. When, he predicts, the commercial mortgage market implodes, it will set off a new round of financial crisis, more calls for more money, and on and on. This is getting discouraging.

UPDATE: Maybe not so bad. The Bad Bank announcement is being postponed from tomorrow until later in the week as new ideas are worked on. There are lots of proposed course of action being floated in Washington right now that could probably benefit from a few more days of deep thinking, despite my wisdom of the old adage my dad taught me, “when in danger, when in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout”.

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Barney Frank – Obama will stem foreclosures

I understand the natural political reaction to trouble and sorrow is to throw money at it to cure it, but the cure for housing lies, from my very limited perspective, in streamlining foreclosures, not stemming them. As soon as we can get property out of the possession of people who can’t afford it and need a subsidy to stay in it and into the hands of people with the capability of paying for it (admittedly, at painfully reduced prices), the sooner we’ll get back on track. In Greenwich alone, I wouldn’t be surprised to see fifty new spec houses in various stages of foreclosure in the next six months. These will hang around and drag down the price of everything around them. Foreclose them, sell them off, get rid of the inventory and let’s start again. The current plan will prolong the agony but do nothing to address the cause, which is too many over-priced houses and too few buyers.

That’s just my opinion and I am more than willing to admit that maybe the economists in Washington know far more than I do. They’ve hidden that knowledge so far, but perhaps they’re jut getting ready to spring it on us, dazzling us all.

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