Daily Archives: August 1, 2009

iPhone battery sucks, overheats

So,  I like my new iPhone a lot, despite its awful battery life (a couple of hours, max). But yesterday I felt a burning sensation in my shirt pocket and by god, the phone was hot! Really hot. I turned it off and it eventually cooled down but I don’t think I’m happy. There were reports earlier last month about iPhone batteries catching fire but Apple poo poohed it, saying that the phones had been left in hot car trunks. My shirt pocket is not a car trunk, so what gives? Nothing good, I shouldn’t think.

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British libel law continues to astound

Have you been following the case of British scientist Simon Singh, who described chiropractic “medicine”, accurately, as bogus, and was promptly sued for libel by the British Chiropractic Organization? It’s early days, as the Brits like to say, but the judge hearing the case has already ruled that Singh’s use of the word bogus meant he was accusing chiropractors of deliberate fraud and thus libeled them. I say, good for Singh, but Singh says the judge misinterpreted the phrase. Canada uses its Human Rights Commission to shut down conservatives, now Britain is letting its libel laws shut off scientific debate. It’s a good thing we tossed those bastards off our shores, eh?

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If even the Democrats acknowledge economic reality, can liberal Greenwichites still deny it?

This just in: Democrats and the New York Times admit that there aren’t enough millionaires to pay for everything liberals want and the middle class is going to get whacked. D’oh.

“Democrats are more worried about the deficits,” Mr. Burman added, but “they put the burden on a tiny fraction of the population that they figure doesn’t vote for them anyway.”

Mr. Burman and others recall that in the creation of Social Security and Medicare, Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson insisted that beneficiaries contribute through payroll taxes, both to finance the programs and to give all Americans a vested interest. The same philosophy should apply to seeking universal health coverage, they say.

“This idea that everything new that government provides ought to be paid for by the top 5 percent, that’s a basically unstable way of governing,” Mr. Burman said.

You don’t have to be an economic illiterate to be a liberal, I suppose, but it helps.

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Antares hits the Greenwich Time – it won’t be pretty

Watch for Sunday’s Greenwich Time. Front page story on the rise and fall of the Antares boys. [UPDATE – Not online as of 6: AM Sunday – Hmmm – did BJ O’Rourke, Terror of the New Canaan Bar, get the story spiked? Fascinating times at the Time – we’ll have to dig around and see what’s up on this]

 Neil Vigoda (?) has spent weeks, even months on this one and somehow I don’t think it will be the puff pieces the boys generated when they were strutting around town telling whoppers about their genius. Turns out, that remedial year at Choate didn’t do them much good after all.

UPDATE: And while you’re waiting for that story, GT has already posted the latest investigative reporting by its top intern, Susie Plate Lip :

Scene … Greenwich resident Judge Judy Sheindlin was seen dressed elegantly in her summer whites on Wednesday morning outside of the CVS on Greenwich Avenue.

Can this girl write, or what?

Scusie gets ready for her CVS stakeout

Scusie gets ready for her CVS stakeout

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In America man is born free yet everwhere yearns to be in chains

With apologies to Rousseau, what is one to think about this letter writer to The New York Times. Google reveals him to be (but of course) a college professor, possessor of advanced degrees, the author of several books  and owner of a house that Zillow says is worth $740,000, yet the man is so terrified of having to provide medical care for himself that he would willingly turn over the care of his life and decisions on that care to a bureaucrat, hoping only that that government official will be “devoted and well trained”. Professor Washburn has either never visited a motor vehicle department (in fact, he probably rides an adult tricycle or a Segue, with helmet on), or has really drunk that California Kool-Ade. Either way, if the educated class is so pathetically fearful and eager to relinquish personal responsibility for their own lives, it seems likely that the disadvantaged are even more so. How very sad.

Why We Must Ration Health Care (July 19, 2009)

ALAN WASHBURN
Monterey, Calif.

Peter Singer is right when he says that we must ration health care. If we are going to develop an equitable and effective national health care system in the United States, then we must face the fact that, while modern medicine can do amazing things, its price is sometimes so large that it should not be paid. Bureaucrats have got to be involved, and here’s hoping that they are devoted and well trained. If President Obama wants to do the nation a service, he should emphasize these ultimate necessities, rather than advising governors to avoid using the “ration” word.

Alan Washburn, loser

Alan Washburn, loser

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Who’d a thunk it? Walt Noel suspected Madoff was a crook!

A September 9th hearing up in Boston will be devoted to what Walter Noel and his boys knew and when they knew it. I’m going to check – if the hearing is open to the public, I smell road trip. How cool to live-blog from there! Walt, if you’re going (and I assume that you are since you’ve been subpoenaed) maybe we can ride up together. I’ll borrow a trailer and the filly(ie)’s can come too.

Boston Globe, Beth Healy

The Massachusetts memo portrays Fairfield Greenwich as growing more aware over the course of 2008 of gaps in its knowledge of Madoff’s operations. Executives acknowledged to state regulators and to each other in internal e-mails that they couldn’t answer the increasingly probing questions of some clients. They didn’t know Madoff’s trading strategy, they knew only a handful of Madoff’s employees, and had never been allowed to see the trading floor where Madoff was allegedly buying and selling securities for their customers.

[snip]

By last year, Fairfield was feeling far more pressure. In May 2008, a large European investment client, Unigestion, asked if Madoffreally made the trades he claimed, the state said. Dissatisfied with Fairfield’s assurances, Unigestion withdrew $75 million by August.

In one e-mail to his colleagues on Aug. 20, 2008, [FGG employee] Vijayvergiyasaid he had reassured a customer that after two decades of dealing with Madoff’s firm, “we have good knowledge of BLM’s business,’’ according to text of the e-mail cited in Galvin’s memo.

Yet just the day before, Vijayvergiya wrote in another internal e-mail that “unfortunately there are certain aspects of BLM’s operations that remain unclear and although we are attempting to obtain responses from Bernie Madoff . . . this process could take some time.’’

[snip]
That same month, another big customer, JPMorgan, asked about the trading counterparties in Madoff’s options-investment strategy; when Fairfield couldn’t answer, the Wall Street giant withdrew its money.

Though they could not answer clients’ specific questions, Fairfield Greenwich executives drummed up a stock reply to respond to them. According to the memorandum, a Nov. 14 e-mail by a Fairfield analyst laid out a “standard response’’ for clients, “setting forth the basis on which Fairfield was satisfied that adequate controls existed to ensure that the Madoff assets were properly supervised.’’

While FWIW was unable to reach FGG spokesman Seth Faison for comment (not that we tried) Edgar Martins, as usual, spoke for him: “It’s all a bunch of horrible lies,” Martins insisted on behalf of Faison. “Horrible! My clients were busy as little beavers, keeping track of their profits and Andres’ whereabouts – do you have any idea how hard it is to keep track of a drunken skipper on a boat that goes 39 knots and has the seven seas to get lost in? – that they couldn’t possibly be expected to watch their old friend Bernie. The man was the fucking head of the fucking NASD, for Crissake! You think Walter’s gonna call him a crook? Lose a zillion bucks in fees? Go pound sand.”

Here’s the original complaint brought against FGG

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Here’s a new consideration – how solvent is your agent?

I ran into my old law partner (actually, he was the partner, I was a lowly associate) real estate attorney Dean Montgomery today and he told me of a new development that neither of us had heard of before: the Coldwell Banker agent with whom he has listed his Dolphin Cove residence is expected to pay for all advertising out of her pocket! It has always been customary for the brokerage house to pay for this stuff – after all, they take anywhere from 10% -50% of an agent’s commission and presumably that money goes for something – so I don’t know if this departure from practice is peculiar to one Stamford branch of Coldwell Banker or if it’s a new industry model, but before listing my house with someone I would want to know who was going to pay to advertise it and, if it was the responsibility of the agent, I’d demand to see her financial statement. (Hiram, if you’re really bored, feel free to diagram that sentence).

It would be a real bummer to have your house out on the market with just a few hand-written cardboard signs posted at the local deli to advertise it.

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Zillow “Zestimates”

How accurate is Zillow? Sometimes right on, sometimes not. Here are ten recent sales with their selling price, assessed value and Zillow estimate. Zillow’s right some of the time, the assessed value is closer on others. The one that is almost always wrong is the original estimate of value by the agent.

Address                     Orig, $              Sale $                   Assessed $                          Zillow

113 Cat Rock     $3176 mill.        $2.850                  $2772                             $4077

38 Quail               $2925                 $2.560                  $2.505                            $3325

100 Pemberwick $490,000       $515,000           $327                                  $583

34 Bowman     $2195                   $1980                      $1090                             $1975

99 Husted     $5250                     $3.900                    $2.013                             $3.873

156 Stanwich $3685                   $2.450                     $1.788                            $2351

58 Fairfield    $ 1695                    $1550                      $1254                              $1695

12 Ledge          $3795                    $2.640                     $2.30                              $2.595

16 Edgewater $1795                    $1.678                     $1.127                             $1.527

45 Byram        $12.250               $8.500                      $8.434                            $6.368

UPDATE: yes, as several readers have commented “assessed value” is 70% of 2005 market value – that’s why I’ve been mentioning the figure so often in the past months: in many instances, selling price is now close to assessed value, representing a 30% drop from 2005. In fact, since houses were selling for an average of a 2.2 X the assessment back then, the drop is larger, but it gets complicated, so I stick to the 30% figure. In some instances the assessment was way off and the sales price reflects that, up and down.

Zillow does seem to be getting better than it was, but it would certainly be foolish to buy or sell solely on their numbers. For instance, while the reader would “throw out” Zillow’s estimate of $3.325 million for 38 Quail Road, I represented the buyers on that deal and I believe Zillow’s estimate would have been accurate in 2007. It’s a pure land sale, by the way – the reader is right that the house wasin serious need of renovation and will be replaced.

As for the reader who claims he’d rather use Zillow and do without an agent, (a) if he’s a buyer, he’ll save nothing – the seller’s agent will just pocket the full 5% commission rather than splitting it and (b) buyer or seller, relying solely on Zillow could cost you a lot of money, as Quail Road demonstrates on the buyers side and 45 Byram Shore demonstrates on the seller’s. Again, there are lots of factors to consider in deciding what to pay for a house or where to price it. Zillow is one tool, assessed value is another and the advice of an agent who knows what’s happening in the market is another.

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