Daily Archives: July 1, 2009

Here’s a neat link

Find newspapers in (almost) any country, any town. This Taos police blotter item is intriguing. Makes you want a follow up.

1:10 a.m., Welfare check, Paseo del Cañon East — Caller reported that saw the Devil in the wall.

1:42 a.m., Miscellaneous, Paseo del Pueblo Sur — Caller reported that he saw some kids trying to get into the fireworks tent.

4:32 a.m., Welfare check, Paseo del Cañon East — Caller reported that he needed an officer because the Devil was back in his house.


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Mandatory energy audits in Austin

Every ointment has its fly and Texas has Austin. That liberal city has passed a mandatory energy audit requirement for all sales of homes more than ten years old. Too soon to tell the effects but a description is here. Of course, we won’t have to wait to see how this works out because our federal government is bringing it all back home to all of us, courtesy of the carbon tax bill and Jim Himes.


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Someone finally told him what was in that carbon tax bill he drafted?

Waxman hospitalized after fainting.

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Good story

Construction worker saves woman from drowning. Neat pictures, modest sounding rescuer: “what you gonna do, a woman in that situation?”

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Armed with a machete, no doubt

Britain: homeowner ordered to remove trampoline because burglars might use it.

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I might just do this

Email I received from Obama’s camp. I have just started a Jimhimes blog but that’s got to grow a bit before i can properly annoy him. So a phone call now might be an appropriate filler. Any out of state readers who wish to also thank Jim, his number’s below.

chris —

We know that historic change is always tough, and enacting clean energy legislation is no exception.

But, with your help, on Friday the House passed a historic energy bill — a critical first step toward rebuilding our economy with good green jobs, reducing harmful pollution, and breaking our dependence on foreign oil.

Will you take a moment to thank Rep. Jim Himes for voting ‘yes’ on the energy bill, and ask for continuing support when the bill comes up for a final vote?

Rep. Himes’s number is 202-225-5541.

 If Jim Himes is not your representative, please click here to find your representative’s number.

This fight isn’t over. As the bill goes to the Senate in the coming weeks, you’ll play a critical role in showing our elected officials that their constituents are demanding a clean energy economy to build a strong future for our country. After decades of talk, now is our moment to make the change we fought so hard for a reality.

After you make your call, let us know how it went:


Thank you,


Addisu Demissie


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They’re coming to take you away ha ha

Reader Cobra asked about the Jim Himes Memorial Carbon Tax bill’s requirement for energy audits of residential homes so I looked into it and by golly, it’s a doozy. So far, the best I could come up with is a copy of the Henry Waxman draft dated May 19, 2009 but I’m pretty sure this was what was enacted. The bill is here, all 926 pages of it, which doesn’t include the extra 300 pages slapped ontop at the last minute.

Energy audits begin in Section 204 (page 264) but the fun begins with Section 201 (p. 214), which establishes a new National Energy Efficiency Code. As of January 1, 2014 new homes must be 50% more energy efficient than today’s, with a 5% iincrease every three years thereafter until 2029, for a total reduction improvement of 75%. The law is mandatory on states and towns and here’s a chilling provision: it shall be a violation of this Act for any home owner or builder to occupy, permit occupancy or convey a building that does not meet this code. So much for the hippie who wants to build a dome or log cabin in the woods. For that matter, a tepee isn’t going to cut it, either. You fans of big government might want to consider the implications of a government large and powerful enough to reach out to the local building department of Lowell, Vermont and tell it to toss people out of their homes. Or perhaps you might not – it’s ugly.

Section 204 Mandatory energy audits and ratings. Applies to any home that undergoes a renovation or addition but in practice, will reach all existing homes that are offered for sale (banks and/or buyers have started demanding it in those few states who already have such programs). The state, acting through your building department, sends Elmer Fudd to your home to conduct an energy audit and develops an energy use label similar to that found on an automobile or icebox. It’s recorded in the land records. No mention of who wil pay Elmer to conduct this audit but you can bet it will be your property taxes. Now imagine what happens to the value of your house when you fail the energy audit. At the very least, it will give the buyer another means to knock down your price, and count on it, he’ll use it.

Implications. My immediate problem with this legislation is that it extends the reach of the federal government even further into our lives but for those who don’t share my Libertarian concerns, there are practical issues as well. Right now, foam insulation is at least 15% more expensive than fiberglass, “green” windows at least that much more than regular double-pained, and so on. But 15% more to insulate a house is just the beginning because Waxman et als want more than is even available now. If your 1969 house, renovated through the years, isn’t a teardwon now, it sure will be by 2014. Hope you like yur land’s value, because that’s what you’ll be left with.

I just browsed 70 pages or so of this 926 page bill which, as noted, swelled to over 1,200 pages in the wee hours of the night. Every page is filled with mischief, every page has new, expensive obligations for citizens of this country and only the lobbyists know what those obilgations are. I believe Mr. Himes owes his constituents the duty to take the entire bill home with him during the upcoming holiday break and read it, digest it and report back to us. There’s some startling stuff in here – did I mention new lighting standards? That starts at around page 271.


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Riverside Sale

28 Welwyn Rd

28 Welwyn Rd

This was reported under contract in March but didn’t sell until yesterday, when we learned its price: $2.850, down quite a bit from its ask of $3.650 but still respectable, I think. Assessed value (70%) is $2.068 so this street, at least, is keeping ahead of that measure. Built in 2003, about a 1/2 acre of land off Indian Head.


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First step to getting rich: don’t buy this book

Here’s a winner: The Ivy Portfolio will teach you to invest just like Yale and Harvard do with every bit as much success as they’ve enjoyed.

Product Description
A do-it-yourself guide to investing like the renowned Harvard and Yale endowments.

The Ivy Portfolio shows step-by-step how to track and mimic the investment strategies of the highly successful Harvard and Yale endowments. Using the endowment Policy Portfolios as a guide, the authors illustrate how an investor can develop a strategic asset allocation using an ETF-based investment approach.

The Ivy Portfolio also reveals a novel method for investors to reduce their risk through a tactical asset allocation strategy to protect them from bear markets. The book will also showcase a method to follow the smart money and piggyback the top hedge funds and their stock-picking abilities. With readable, straightforward advice, The Ivy Portfolio will show investors exactly how this can be accomplished—and allow them to achieve an unparalleled level of investment success in the process.

With all of the uncertainty in the markets today, The Ivy Portfolio helps the reader answer the most often asked question in investing today – “What do I do”?


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A culture of corruption

George Bush  Democrat Senator Inouye invests fortune in bank, demands and receives federal bailout money when bank is threatened.

Sen. Daniel K. Inouye‘s staff contacted federal regulators last fall to ask about the bailout application of an ailing Hawaii bank that he had helped to establish and where he has invested the bulk of his personal wealth.

The bank, Central Pacific Financial, was an unlikely candidate for a program designed by the Treasury Department to bolster healthy banks. The firm’s losses were depleting its capital reserves. Its primary regulator, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., already had decided that it didn’t meet the criteria for receiving a favorable recommendation and had forwarded the application to a council that reviewed marginal cases, according to agency documents.

Two weeks after the inquiry from Inouye’s office, Central Pacific announced that the Treasury would inject $135 million.

Inouye reported ownership of Central Pacific shares worth $350,000 to $700,000, some held by his wife, at the end of 2007. The shares represented at least two-thirds of Inouye’s total reported assets. Inouye has requested a delay in filing his annual financial disclosure for 2008, which was due this spring, and he declined to provide the current value of his investment. Since the end of 2007, the bank’s stock has lost 79 percent of its value.

Both the FDIC and the Treasury said the decision was not affected by the involvement of Inouye’s office.

Well that’s a relief. Never mind!



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Democrats breath sigh of relief they don’t live in Rwanda

Al Frankin decides against making African nation  first stop in victory prance.


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The future of CNBC looks bleak

They’re using the same wardrobe for their anchors, switching clothes during breaks. Tough times indeed.

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Lyon Farms residents – check your wills

If you drafted your will to leave one child a pile of cash and another your condo here, thinking they were roughly equal, you might want to recalculate. Prices have been dropping here even faster than the rest of the town and they’re still going down. Case in point is 36 East Lyon Farm, bought for $1.377,500 in February, 2006, relisted in January the following year for $1.425,000 and yesterday, after 860 days on the market, sold for $857,500. Ouch. Tax assessment is $954,000, so ouch again.


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Mel Gibson ain’t selling

But he’d like to. HookedonHouses.com has a great photospread of the unwanted mansion of the movie star (or the unwanted movie star’s mansion). Last time the poor lady dared post pictures of a Greenwich house, she got a cease and desist letter from Brendon J. O’Rourke, terror of the New Canaan intellectual property bar and I got a grievance from its sad and angry owner, Steven Braverman, the proud owner of 1038 Lake Avenue, 44 Close Road, and who knows what else? Anyway, follow the links to photo’s of Mel’s place but for heaven’s sake don’t post negative comments or Braverman may confuse himself for Braveheart and grieve you, too.


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Mary Crist has a good day

Two of her listings were reported sold or under contract this morning. 51 Glen Street was listed by another broker in 2007 for $1.499, a testament to the power of a dream, but Mary finally got hold of it, in May of this year, listed it for $989 and now has a contract. The assessed value is $931,000.

14 Stepping Stone was bought for $1.740 million in 2006, completely renovated and placed back up for sale in March, 2008 for $2.350 million. Again Mary succeeded into the listing and priced it lower, albeit still higher than the falling market would support. Price dropped to $1.999 and the house sold yesterday for $1.850. That’s probably not enough to cover the cost of the renovation but these days, I think that’s a given and just something sellers have to accept.


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Maybe Jim Himes will have time to read this

Here’s what I’ve bee squawking about, but this fellow says it better. From Hot Air.

We’re not simply looking at an increase in income taxes under Obama. The cap-and-trade monstrosity passed by the House amounts to a titanic tax increase on both consumers and virtually every sector of the economy, since almost all economic activity consumes energy. (If you like the idea of $6 per gallon gasoline, you’ll love paying $7 per gallon for milk at your local grocery store.) A value-added tax is being considered, which would pour another layer of concrete on top of a nearly paralyzed retail sector, and likely put an end to the Internet shopping boom, at least for American companies. I doubt it would take long for the government to institute a surcharge in the VAT tax for Internet purchases, since they are currently escaping state taxes, and that’s not “fair.” Like all other tax increases, a Value Added Tax will produce less revenue than anticipated, because it will depress the very economic activity it was designed to feed from. New taxes always produce less revenue than the government predicts, spawning further tax increases to make up the difference.

In a way, the notion of “tax and spend” is becoming obsolete, because Obama’s plan is to complete the re-definition of the relationship between citizens and their State. Prior to the 20th century, the American government was run something like a business, gaining its income by selling land, and services such as protection from piracy, through taxation on trade. When the direct taxation of income was made legal through the Sixteenth Amendment, the idea was to treat government as a necessary expense, borne by the wealthiest caste of Americans, to ensure the welfare of the most desperately poor. As tax rates increased, more working people were added to the tax rolls, and ever-larger benefits were paid out by the government, the relationship between citizen and state changed from welfare to socialism – which begins when the people paying for the benefits no longer control them. The modern liberal’s belief that anyone who desires lower tax rates is guilty of “greed” is a deliberate expression of this altered relationship. The people paying taxes have no moral right, and increasingly no practical means, to determine how much money will be assessed or paid out. The only legitimate factor is how much money the government thinks it needs, and can get away with appropriating.

Under Obama, a final transformation is taking place: the government no longer sees itself as an expense borne by its citizens. Instead, the citizens are now seen as components of the State. If the State decides to follow the religion of global warming, the citizens will be made to pay tithe, no matter what their personal beliefs are. If the State thinks only its wise stewardship can “save” the financial industry, banks will be forced to accept government money and controls. If the State believes private health insurance is not inexpensive or comprehensive enough, it will create its own insurance program… and force everyone who does not participate to subsidize it. If the State decides an auto company must be kept in business, for the benefit of a union that has essentially become a component of the State, then all other Americans will be compelled to finance that auto company. People joke bitterly about being forced to buy cars from Government Motors someday, but the situation is far more outrageous: we all work for Government Motors already, through hundreds of dollars in subsidies extracted from our tax payments. Depending on how much you earn per hour, you’ve spent ten or twenty hours working for GM this year, and they’ll probably conscript you again before the year is through.

We are passing through the outer boundary of the era when your contributions to the government can be described as a mere “tax.” Taxes, mandates, and state-run industries all add up to one thing: control. Our destination that was made inevitable when the government was allowed to begin seizing portions of Americans’ income, instead of collecting fees for essential services it provides. It’s a course that was locked in when the recipients of welfare were allowed to retain the right to vote, creating the vicious cycle of an ever-expanding dependency class that accrues more political power as it demands more benefits. Now we’ve reached the point where simply paying “welfare,” as it has traditionally been understood, is a small fraction of bloated state and federal governments. The Obama government does not even pretend to limit itself to assisting the destitute with the bare necessities of survival. It believes it has the right, and responsibility, to provide prosperity… and to trade away however much of our prosperity it thinks is necessary, to achieve other ends.

Conservatives have often taunted liberals with the infamous slogan of Marxism: “From each according to his means, to each according to his needs.” The Obama concept of government is better understood through a different quote: “Everything inside the State, nothing outside the State.” The author was Benito Mussolini. He meant what he said. So did the people who voted for the cap-and-trade bill.


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Hope springs eternal

127 Shore Rd

127 Shore Rd

Three properties that have spent a long time on the market are back today, still asking for prices that didn’t work before. 228 Stanwich, purchased for $1.7 million in August ’07 , ws put back up for sale 11 months later for $1.895. It’s a land sale, if it’s anything at all, and over-paying for it in 2007 didn’t justify a bonus for the purchaser’s irrational exuberance in 2008. It’s been priced at $1.499 since March 3, 2009 with no luck, so I’m perplexed why it’s still at that level. Last year, I thought $1.2 might do for this place but that was last year.

What makes the mystery of 228 Stanwich even more puzzling is that the same owners have an unsold spec house at 127 Shore Road that is also going nowhere, slowly. They priced it at $4.2 million in May, 2008, which wasn’t wise, dropped it to $3.595 months ago and relisted it today at that price. There comes a time when it’s better to cut your losses and run and, while I wouldn’t presume to advise these people on financial matters, I’d think that that point is approaching.

And 30 Nearwater is back today too, also asking what it has since March: $2.695 million. Another spec house, this one was listed for $3.195 back in April, 2008 and sits empty today, even at its March price. I would have thought that 6 Loading Rock’s sale yesterday for $2.3 would have affected a pricing decision on this one (I like Loading Rock better, frankly) but obviously not. We live in curious times.


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Here’s someone to share Bernie’s cell for the next 150 years

A New Jersey man plead guilty to drunk driving for the 15th time. His license has been suspended 78 times in 24 years and the prosecutor is asking he be sent away for  the maximum: three years. New Jersey has strange laws, but I’m sure they’ll crack down on this guy when he finally manages to kill someone.


MORRISTOWN, N.J. (AP) – A New Jersey man whose driver’s license has been suspended 78 times has pleaded guilty to his 15th drunken-driving offense.

Shaun Campbell of East Rutherford told a judge Tuesday that he had been drinking “quite a bit” of beer when he crashed his SUV head-on into a pickup in April. The truck’s occupants, a man and his 4-year-old daughter, were not seriously hurt.

The 40-year-old Campbell’s blood-alcohol level was .288 percent, more than triple the state’s legal limit.

Authorities say Campbell’s license has been suspended 78 times in 22 years. He still faces drunken-driving charges in two other New Jersey cities.

Prosecutors are seeking a maximum prison term of nearly three years at Campbell’s sentencing in August. He will lose his license for at least 10 more years.


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Ruth Madoff to skate

Sad news from the New York Post which reports today that prosecutors have no present intention of trying to put Ruth Madoff behind bars. Well, if there isn’t enough evidence to tie her to the Ponzi then there isn’t, but I’m disappointed. I like this part, though:

Ruth will be left with just $2.5 million in cash by federal authorities under that deal.

“In the deal, she lost everything. She’s lost everything she holds dear,” said one source. “She’s lost her husband. She has no friends.”

“She’s persona non grata in Palm Beach, everywhere she cared about. She’s a beaten woman. There’s nothing left on the carcass to take,” the source said.

“They’ve squeezed her dry.”

Anyone who wants to squeeze me dry and leave me with $2.5 million, cash, is welcome to do so. For even less – say, a cool million, I’ll stay away from  Palm Beach; no problem.


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Case Shiller Index

Business Insider takes the same dim view of housing prospects I do. Blodget:

Barry Ritholtz’s reader Steve Barry has updated the New York Times chart of Case Shiller housing prices to account for the latest data (April)

We can quibble about about precision, but here’s the bottom line: Prices still have a bit further to fall just to get back to fair value.  And “fair value” is fair value because prices have spent about half the time below that level.  So, if anything, Steve’s projection is probably optimistic.

Nationwide, prices are now down 33% from the peak.  They’ll likely be down 40%-50% before we’re through.  And they’ll probably stay there for a while.

0 case shiller

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