Monthly Archives: August 2009

They must be getting ready to declare it a suicide

25 years after 13-year-old Matthew Margolies’ murder, police are hopeful of solving case. Detroit may have us beat on number of bodies but Greenwich is surely the unsolved murder capital of the country.

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Why I worry when we buy Greenwich cops new toys

I'm shocked to discover that you've been speeding!

I'm shocked to discover that you've been speeding!

Bad people will use their toys badly. Here’s a Syracuse cop tasering a mother who was driving her two kids around. His first explanation for pulling her over? She was on her cellphone. When she demanded to see his car’s video tape because she wasn’t on her phone, he said he’d clocked her going 50 mph in a 45 mph zone. When she wasn’t duly respectful of him or his amended claim, he tasered the bitch, just to teach her a lesson. Today he’s in the news, explaining that, while “the video doesn’t look good” he really had to do what he did to save the citizens of Syracuse from this dangerous felon. Uh huh.

I know lots of Greenwich cops who are great individuals – I have also encountered a few who seem to hate their job and the citizens they police. I worry that some of the latter will end up with the cool new gear we’re passing out like candy over at headquarters and will succumb to their itch to try it out. I say, arm our men and women with peashooters. Until that happens, if a cop stops you, stay in your car and don’t even think of arguing with him. There are some seriously deranged bullies dressed in blue and out on our streets and they’re armed and dangerous.

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Earthquake!

 (Minor) earthquakes struck in both South Carolina and Okalahoma today, serving as a reminder that we still don’t know what causes them. Plate tectonics can explain the San Andreas Fault, with the Pacific plate burrowing under the continental plate (or maybe the continental plate’s moving north, or both – it’s been a long time since I studied geology at BC), but today’s quakes occurred along intraplate faults. This is nothing new; the New Madrid Missouri earthquakes in 1811-1812were tremendous – far more powerful than the 1964 Alaska quake, and the earthquake of 1886 wracked Charleston, South Carolina. Still, it’s all kind of cool, especially if you’re not living above one of these when it goes. But don’t beat yourself up with remorse and guilt if it does: it’s not your fault, so to speak.

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Why we mustn’t remind 78-year-olds of youthful frolics

I mentioned earlier today that we boys used to jump from the catwalk on the I-95 Mianus bridge and have received this picture just now from Monica Noel. Such a shame (but quick work on the stone mason’s part).

tombstone

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It’s the politics, dummy

Ann Althouse points out that “womens groups” overlooked Chappequidick, the Palm Beach Rape, the molestation of waitresses etc. by the late and unlamented Teddy Kennedy because they aren’t really about womens issues, they’re about liberal politics. And abortion. Just ask Bill Clinton, who knew how to keep these dumb broads in line.

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Go, and sin no more

In an amazing display of brotherhood and good feelings, the Democrats are going to overlook House Ways and Means Chariman Charlie Rangel’s long history of tax fraud, tax evasion and general lawlessness that is being slowly exposed, so long as he doesn’t do it again. Nancy Pelosi, having “drained the swamp” and rid the capital of its “culture of corruption” now sees no further need for ethics. We got rid of Bush, now it’s back to the business of running this country.

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Houses for sale

Connecticut is considering selling off some residences along Route 7 it aquired when it planned to expand that route a few years ago. You can’t say this is a hurried decision: in 1973, I used to visit one of these homes when it was rented by a friend of mine. It was a beautiful old house whose owner had been told would soon be condemned. He moved out, rented to my friend and now, just 36 years later, it seems the property won’t be needed after all.

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Help Wanted

“Mianus Bridge jumpers sought“. Back in the 60’s, this was a rite of passage for all idiot 13-year-old boys. Once was enough for me, and in those days we jumped from the catwalk running under the old bridge and not from the deck itself, but nice to see that some traditions (and jumpers) still survive.

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Bonds vs. the stock market

As IB’R pointed out earlier this week, the bond market and the stock market are at odds over where the economy is headed. Bond rates are dropping; a sign of pessimism, while the stock market’s surging; buyers expect the economy to keep improving.

Only one group can be right but while waiting to see who is, the Wall Street Journal reports that mortgage rates have followed bonds down and 5% loans are available again. “The difference between 5 1/2% and 5%,” the article quotes one mortgage expert, “is shopping around.”  I have no insight on whether the economy is truly on the mend or, rather, my guess is based on conservative fiscal thinking and could be wrong as likely as being correct, but a 5% fixed mortgage sounds attractive enough that would-be buyers hesitating on buying now might want to consider it. If they find a good value on a house, that is.

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Here’s a change for the better

The WSJ reports that one of the changes Obama is seeking to impose on Wall Street is increasing the standard of care stock brokers owe their customers from the “suitability” standard to a “fiduciary” one. Right now, a broker’s only obligation when giving you investment advice is to refrain from making recommendations unsuitable for you given your age, income, net worth and financial sophistication. In practice, that means  brokers can sell you anything they like because, in Wall Street’s morality, if you were smart enough to accumulate something worth stealing, you’re financially sophisticated enough to have realized that your broker was pitching dog doo.

A fiduciary or trustee relationship would require the broker to only consider your best interests and bar him (or her – some of the worst crooks I hunted in the canyons were woman – ask me about Linda Schwartz some day) from pitching the latest Merrill Lynch -“Guaranteed to lose but it sure pays huge commissions” fund.

This change would have a huge effect on brokers’ earnings and liability so naturally, the firms are fighting back. It seems likely that Obama will lose this fight or the bill will be so watered down as to be worthless, but I give him credit for trying.

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Wall Street as an indicator of value

Lehman Brothers, bankrupt and worthless, has seen its stock price soar 200% recently, giving it an imaginary capitalization of $103 million. I haven’t checked General Motors (old) stock recently but last time I did it too had a make-believe value of hundreds of millions. I understand why someone would sell this worthless paper: the question is, who’s buying?

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Middle class subsidies for the rich? But of course!

Pelosi International Airport

Pelosi International Airport

InstaPundit reports on Stimulus funds paying for an expansion of Aspen’s Pitkin County jetport, a strip of tarmac used by the uberrich to land their private jets. I imagine Frederick Bourke won’t be using it for 18-28 months, depending on good behavior, but Pelosi and her gang will no doubt find it useful for attending Global Warming ski conferences in the coming winters.

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It’s raining on Florida

Oh boo hoo, the New York Times has discovered that Florida’s in a slump. This may be news to young reporters, but have the Times’ editors have no sense of history too? Railroad magnate Fielder built the Breakers in Palm Beach and then went bust (I think – in any event, the people who followed him down there certainly did). Florida was the home of swampland scams that would have made Bernie Madoff paint his rooms black in envy (oh, he already did that). I forget which Marx Brothers movie immortalized an earlier boom-bust cycle in Florida – “Dumb Coconuts”? – but regardless, this is Florida’s history and destiny. The state will do fine so long as it has sunshine and retirees grow tired of the cold.

Besides, Florida could use some downsizing – it’s entirely dependent on a rapidly depleting aquifer system, developers have been building in hurricane alleys and traffic is awful. I myself can’t stand the state, with the exception of Marathon Key, but even its biggest boosters would have to concede it could do with slower growth and fewer people.

The Times, of course, worries that with fewer people the state will suffer diminished tax revenues. It wouldn’t occur to the Times that few people could also mean lower spending because that sort of thing doesn’t happen in the Times’ world. Maybe they’ll learn something here.

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Connecticut campaign finance law ruled unconstitutional

So ruled Federal Judge Stefan Underhill, in a suit brought by the Libertarian party. I haven’t read the decision yet -I’m going to go find it now – but I think advocates of the law would spend their time more wisely redrafting it than appealing Judge Underhill’s decision. I know the judge only slightly but he’s my best friend’s close friend (they were partners together at Day, Berry & Howard 15 years ago) and he’s always told me that Stefan was a genius. From my few meetings and discussions with the man, I was as impressed as my friend. Underhill is not of my own political persuasion, by the way. Nominated by Chris Dodd, the only thing Dodd’s ever done that I admired him for, he’s just a brilliant jurist with no axe to grind. He’s also the only published poet I know – which would be irrelevant except that to find a commercial publisher willing to publish poetry in this market is exceptional.

All of which is to say that I doubt the ruling will be over-ruled on a matter of error in interpreting the law. So if you want to restrict campaign contributions, fix the law.

UPDATE: Decision is here. I’ve just dipped into it (it’s long) but I’m amused that the case makes bedfellows of two of my least favorite entities: the ACLU and the Green Party, with my favorite band of whackos, the Libertarians. That’s the fun part about free speech arguments, of course, because by protecting it for your enemies you’re also preserving it for yourself. It’s too bad the ACLU has turned so anti-American because, as cases like this illustrate, they could still serve a valuable purpose.

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Stories we missed, until now

Hurry! Ribbon cutting's in two minutes!
Hurry! Ribbon cutting’s in two minutes!

New $100 million Greenwich police station opens.

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I blame Turbo Tax

Charles Rangel, the writer of your tax laws, forgot to mention $1.3 million in income. It’s racism, they’re out to destroy any politician who looks like our President.

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Remember the “Axis of Evil”?

North Korean ship carrying arms to Iran seized by U.A.E.

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But when everyone works for the government, who will pay the salaries?

Business Insider closes off a depressing week with this chart – the future beckons.

Public sector vs. private

Public sector vs. private

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Sale price reported

32 Ferncliff

32 Ferncliff

32 Ferncliff (off Cat Rock) is a very nice house which I’ve recommended since it first came on asking $1.495. An older contemporary that I found very pleasant and a beautiful 1.25 acre yard. The yard is undersized for its 2 acre zoning but this one is entirely usable, unlike many of the lots on this street which are mostly rocky woodland. In any event, it sold toady for $1,092,500, close to the $1.05 paid for it in 2003. Assessed value is $1.0280. There is another nice house for sale on Ferncliff, #18, but even though it’s newer (1984?), and a Deck House (great modul;ar builders, now defunct) and has a new kitchen, its owners must be looking at their asking price of $1.995 today and wondering how far and deep they should cut. Or if they aren’t doing that, they should be. Assessed value: $1.412.

From the Slow Death Department, 25 Mooreland, listed for $6.2 million back in May, 2008, is down today to $4.395. Assessed value is $3.617.

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Here are some statistics from a reliable source

From Reader Pete the Appraiser, comes this summary he’s prepared of single family sales in Greenwich, calculating the sales price to the assessed value:

1st Qtr. 2008
Average Ratio: 1.48
Volume: 105

2nd Qtr. 2008
Average Ratio: 1.53
Volume: 140

% Price Change from 1st Qtr.: + 3.38%
3rd Qtr. 2008
Average Ratio: 1.52
Volume: 132
% Price Change from 2nd Qtr.: -0.65%

4th Qtr. 2008
Average Ratio: 1.37
Volume: 30
% Price Change from 3rd Qtr.: -9.87%

1st Half 2009
Average Ratio: 1.22
Volume: 95
% Price Change from 4th Qtr.: -10.95%

July 2009
Average Ratio: 1.36
Volume: 37
% Price Change from 1st Half: +11.48%

So Pete’s figures show that we’ve stopped falling precipitously and have climbed back to last quarter 2008 prices. That’s actually very encouraging, if it holds up. Question I have is whether this improvement is due to the normal spring market fervor, delayed until summer, or the start of something better. I don’t think we’ll know that until the end of November but I’ll certainly be watching September’s sales closely.

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