Monthly Archives: November 2009

Were you wondering where Scrooge lived?

"Darkness", by Ralph Lauren

According to Dealbreaker, it’s right here in Greenwich, Connecticut, home of the hedgefund, an Apple Store and a new Ralph Lauren emporium but sitting in the dark because no one will fork over the bucks necessary to string Christmas lights. Look, I understand – villa rentals on St. Barts have barely budged this year, and lift tickets at Vail? Forget it!


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So how’s that “new face of friendship” thing working out?

Just a day after Iran told the world to screw it and announced its intention to build 10 more nuclear processing plants, it has seized a British racing yacht and is holding its crew hostage. I suspect the second incident wouldn’t have happened had the Brits not let its commandos be grabbed back in 2007. Where’s Jimmy carter when we need him?

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What will those hedge funders think of next?

Over in the comment section of another post DebtVulture’s been amazing us with tales of his office that has genuwiyne flush toilets and, just to top that, lights that go on and off when you clap your hands. That’s pretty astonishing alright and I’ve sure never seen neither, but I seen something even better on my last trip to Cos Cob.

A Cos Cob Valentine gift


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NoPo goes south


17 Thornhill

There was a time, not so long ago, when Thornhill Road lots were a hot ticket – one little 1950’s cape, for instance, sold at its full asking price of $660,000 in two days, another, listed at $795, sold for $815,000. But that was then, this is now and 17 Thornhill obviously missed the market. It was listed a year-and-a-half ago for $845,000 and marked down successively until it reached $599,000 and today it’s gone to contract, probably somewhere close to its assessed price of $525,000. If it does sell there, then Thornhill, at least, is back to 1999 price levels.


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Muslims insulted by Swiss rejection? Too bad.

Peace and love to Christians and Jews!

They’ve got their head diapers in a knot over in the sandpile because of the Swiss vote against further building of minarets.

An  “insult to Muslims”, wails one Egyptian cleric,  while the Organization of the Islamic Conference, calls the vote a “recent example of growing anti-Islamic incitements in Europe by extremist, anti-immigrant, xenophobic, racist, scare-mongering ultra-right politicians who reign over common sense, wisdom and universal values.” Boo hoo.

The only Christian church I’m aware of in the land of the religion of peace and tolerance is a tiny one in Qatar, opened in 2008 and built without bells or, God forbid (so to speak) a cross. Saudi Arabia not only bars churches, it confiscates bibles and burns them when it finds them. Etcetera, etcetera. So until they show the same tolerance they demand from the west, I’ll tell them to pound sand.


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Two contracts, one reduction

10 West End

It’s probably true that the first asking price of $2.295 was too rich for this house on West End Avenue but, notwithstanding the CVS parking lot abutting it, I always liked the house itself. It has a nice sized backyard, some decent renovations inside and a very convenient location. Today it’s been marked down to $1.475, against an assessed value of $1.7 million, and it’s looking pretty good.

16 Stillman Lane, marked down $1.5 million to $4.475, has gone to contract (direct sale by owner without benefit of clergy – we agents hate when that happens), as has 25 (?) Old Wagon Road, new construction in Havemeyer. Old Wagon was asking $1.775 which seemed steep to me but either someone has driven a hard bargain or liked the house enough to pay full freight. Which it is will be revealed when it sells.

Otherwise, a dull day in real estate and, I predict, another dull week coming up. I may head back north for another shot at Bambi.


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Are you ready for a party?

Hey, where's my hairdresser got hisself off to?

All the greens are getting set for the great global warming conference coming up in Copenhagen. Al Gore’s 110′ houseboat may finally leave its lake and find some of that biodiesel that’s not sold at its home berth, Sir Paul McCrtney will once again fly over his hybrid Lexus for the occasion on its own private jet and Im sure Barbra Streisand has already started shutting down the power to her massive Malibu mansion, a process that takes weeks. And Kofi Anin is going too but with a carbon neutral footprint: he’s burning all those disappeared climate records to fuel his helicopter. Such fun!

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I’m not sure I believe this

Tiger Woods:  “I was on my way to a Black Friday Madness sale.”

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Nothing to see here, move along, move along

United Nations: “no possibility” climate data faked.” This notwithstanding the admission that the computer records of  historical temperature data have been erased so that no one can ever again check the accuracy of the data global warming “experts” base their claims on.  And why would the UN back off,  when there are hundreds of billions of dollars in transfer payments being demanded by the UN’s clientel. As the Oil for Food program demonstrated, when money is flowing, the UN boys know how to dip their beak. In fact, they just dive right in.

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Is this why Patriot Bank is still around?

WSJ: buyers lose their appetite for failed banks. Very much like some bank owned properties in Greenwich, the banks themselves are so bad that no one wants them at any price.

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No pictures?

For some reason, the blog service is screwing up picture positioning this morning. Still works with Apple’s Safari so I’ll try using a non-Windows browser and see what happens. Otherwise, you’ll just have to use your imagination.

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U speaka da English?

Bloomberg reports that fat cats intend to expand their investments in real estate.

The U.S. looks particularly attractive to foreigners, poll reveals. I should think so – the dollar’s down to toilet paper and we haven’t started the expropriation program, yet.

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Welfare and the United States


All dressed up for food stamp day



But a stigma placed on cash-like welfare (which food stamps are) remains a positive sign of a healthy work ethic. If you came across two societies–Society A, in which food stamps were stigmatized, with families reluctant to go on the dole even if they were eligible, and Society B, in which they weren’t, you would want to bet on (and live in) Society A. It’s one thing to relax the stigma on welfare in times of epic economic decline. It’s another if the stigma doesn’t return with the possibility of employment.

I read the Times article this morning and was struck by the fact that, if we really have 25% of all children in this country on food stamps, there’s something wrong with the people deciding to have children, and a system that encourages them to be so irresponsible is both cruel and doomed.


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Swiss vote to ban minarets

What would Mickey do?

Probably not enforceable, but as an expression of discomfort at seeing their tiny country taken over by muslims, it’s telling. A lot of Londoners would probably vote the same way.


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If no one will buy you another rifle this Christmas,


Maybe you can persuade Santa to upgrade your coffee maker with this one recommended by Cooks Illustrated. Seems that every other coffee maker they tested has a cheap heating element, which keeps costs down. The manufacturers skimp on that essential element, so to speak, then dress up the exterior with fancy gimmicks to catch your eye and make you forget that you’re drinking warm water with brown crayon drippings. This baby, hand-made in the Netherlands, costs $240 (!) but produces, according to CI, far and away the best coffee available.

You can get one from, if that bonus check was substantial this year. I plan on continuing to use my French Press which costs about $30 bucks and makes coffee that is “comparable” according to CI. But it’s tempting to have a machine that, plugged in a timer, could have great coffee ready when I awoke.


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Salvation Army kettles

They’re out there in force an strategically positioned outside of places like Starbucks and Walmart to collect your spare change. I know a lot of people helped by this group and so I usually make it a point to drop in some folding money. Besides, I did enjoy reading Shaw’s Major Barbara.


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If you have nothing better to offer, offer lemonade

The New York Times, taking a break from its extensive reportage on the global warming email scandal, writes of real estate agents who bake dinner for their clients, scrub their floors and reseal their driveways, all in a desperate attempt to hold onto the listings over the years it doesn’t sell. I don’t do floors, but I see no reason why these people should either. Why not price the house right and sell it? D’uh.


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The Times (of London) takes on Climategate. Our own NYT remains mum, of course

I’m beginning to suspect that the New York Times never reported things straight – witness Walter Durante’s coverage of Stalin’s glorious campaign against the Kulaks in the 1930s. But now the Internet reports the news for them.

Good discussion here:

The storm began with just four cryptic words. “A miracle has happened,” announced a contributor to Climate Audit, a website devoted to criticising the science of climate change.

“RC” said nothing more — but included a web link that took anyone who clicked on it to another site, Real Climate.

There, on the morning of November 17, they found a treasure trove: a thousand or so emails sent or received by Professor Phil Jones, director of the climatic research unit at the University of East Anglia in Norwich.

Jones is a key player in the science of climate change. His department’s databases on global temperature changes and its measurements have been crucial in building the case for global warming.

What those emails suggested, however, was that Jones and some colleagues may have become so convinced of their case that they crossed the line from objective research into active campaigning.

In one, Jones boasted of using statistical “tricks” to obliterate apparent declines in global temperature. In another he advocated deleting data rather than handing them to climate sceptics. And in a third he proposed organised boycotts of journals that had the temerity to publish papers that undermined the message.

It was a powerful and controversial mix — far too powerful for some. Real Climate is a website designed for scientists who share Jones’s belief in man-made climate change. Within hours the file had been stripped from the site.

Several hours later, however, it reappeared — this time on an obscure Russian server. Soon it had been copied to a host of other servers, first in Saudi Arabia and Turkey and then Europe and America.

What’s more, the anonymous poster was determined not to be stymied again. He or she posted comments on climate-sceptic blogs, detailing a dozen of the best emails and offering web links to the rest. Jones’s statistical tricks were now public property.

Steve McIntyre, a prominent climate sceptic, was amazed. “Words failed me,” he said. Another, Patrick Michaels, declared: “This is not a smoking gun; this is a mushroom cloud.”

Inevitably, the affair became nicknamed Climategate. For the scientists, campaigners and politicians trying to rouse the world to action on climate change the revelations could hardly have come at a worse time. Next month global leaders will assemble in Copenhagen to seek limits on carbon emissions. The last thing they need is renewed doubts about the validity of the science.

The scandal has also had a huge personal and professional impact on the scientists. “These have been the worst few days of my professional life,” said Jones. He had to call on the police for protection after receiving anonymous phone calls and personal threats.

Why should a few emails sent to and from a single research scientist at a middle-ranking university have so much impact? And most importantly, what does it tell us about the quality of the research underlying the science of climate change?

THE hacking scandal is not an isolated event. Instead it is the latest round of a long-running battle over climate science that goes back to 1990.

That was when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — the group of scientists that advises governments worldwide — published its first set of reports warning that the Earth faced deadly danger from climate change. A centrepiece of that report was a set of data showing how the temperature of the northern hemisphere was rising rapidly.

The problem was that the same figures showed that it had all happened before. The so-called medieval warm period of about 1,000 years ago saw Britain covered in vineyards and Viking farmers tending cows in Greenland. For any good scientist this raised a big question: was the recent warming linked to humans burning fossil fuels or was it part of a natural cycle?

The researchers set to work and in 1999 a group led by Professor Michael Mann, a climatologist at Pennsylvania State University, came up with new numbers showing that the medieval warm period was not so important after all.

Some bits of the Atlantic may have been warm for a while, but the records suggested that the Pacific had been rather chilly over the same period — so on average there was little change.

Plotted out, Mann’s data turned into the famous “hockey stick” graph. It showed northern hemisphere temperatures as staying flat for hundreds of years and then rising steeply from 1900 until now. The implication was that this rise would continue, with potentially deadly consequences for humanity.

That vision of continents being hit by droughts and floods while the Arctic melts away has turned a scientific debate into a highly emotional and political one. The language used by “warmists” and sceptics alike has become increasingly polarised.

George Monbiot, widely respected as a writer on green issues, has branded doubters “climate deniers”, a phrase uncomfortably close to holocaust denial. Sceptics, particularly in America, have suggested that scientists who believe in climate change are part of a global left-wing conspiracy to divert billions of dollars into green technology.

A more cogent criticism is that there has been a reluctance to acknowledge dissent on the question of climate science. Al Gore, the former US vice-president turned green campaigner, has described the climate debate as “settled”. Yet the science, say critics, has not been tested to the limit. This is why the climatic research unit at the University of East Anglia is so significant.

Its researchers have built up records of how temperatures have changed over thousands of years. Perhaps the most important is the land and sea temperature record for the world since the mid-19th century. This is the database that shows the “unequivocal” rise of 0.8C over the last 157 years on which Mann’s hockey stick and much else in climate science depend.

Some critics believe that the unit’s findings need to be treated with more caution, because all the published data have been “corrected” — meaning they have been altered to compensate for possible anomalies in the way they were taken. Such changes are normal; what’s controversial is how they are done. This is compounded by the unwillingness of the unit to release the original raw data.

David Holland, an engineer from Northampton, is one of a number of sceptics who believe the unit has got this process wrong. When he submitted a request for the figures under freedom of information laws he was refused because it was “not in the public interest”.

Others who made similar requests were turned down because they were not academics, among them McIntyre, a Canadian who runs the Climate Audit website.

A genuine academic, Ross McKitrick, professor of economics at the University of Guelph in Canada, also tried. He said: “I was rejected for an entirely different reason. The [unit] told me they had obtained the data under confidentiality agreements and so could not supply them. This was odd because they had already supplied some of them to other academics, but only those who support the idea of climate change.”

IT was against this background that the emails were leaked last week, reinforcing suspicions that scientific objectivity has been sacrificed. There is unease even among researchers who strongly support the idea that humans are changing the climate. Roger Pielke, professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder, said: “Over the last decade there has been a very political battle between the climate sceptics and activist scientists.

“It seems to me that the scientists have lost touch with what they were up to. They saw themselves as in a battle with the sceptics rather than advancing scientific knowledge.”

Professor Mike Hulme, a fellow researcher of Jones at the University of East Anglia and author of Why We Disagree About Climate Change, said: “The attitudes revealed in the emails do not look good. The tribalism that some of the leaked emails display is something more usually associated with social organisation within primitive cultures; it is not attractive when we find it at work inside science.”

There could, however, be another reason why the unit rejected requests to see its data.

This weekend it emerged that the unit has thrown away much of the data. Tucked away on its website is this statement: “Data storage availability in the 1980s meant that we were not able to keep the multiple sources for some sites … We, therefore, do not hold the original raw data but only the value-added (ie, quality controlled and homogenised) data.”

If true, it is extraordinary. It means that the data on which a large part of the world’s understanding of climate change is based can never be revisited or checked. Pielke said: “Can this be serious? It is now impossible to create a new temperature index from scratch. [The unit] is basically saying, ‘Trust us’.”

WHERE does this leave the climate debate? While the overwhelming belief of scientists is that the world is getting warmer and that humanity is responsible, sceptical voices are increasing.

Lord Lawson, the Tory former chancellor, announced last week the creation of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a think tank, to “bring reason, integrity and balance to a debate that has become seriously unbalanced, irrationally alarmist, and all too often depressingly intolerant”.

Lawson said: “Climate change is not being properly debated because all the political parties are on the same side, and there is an intolerance towards anybody who wants to debate it. It has turned climate change from being a political issue into a secular religion.”

The public are understandably confused. A recent poll showed that 41% accept as scientific fact that global warming is taking place and is largely man-made, while 32% believe the link is unproven and 15% said the world is not warming.

This weekend many of Jones’s colleagues were standing by him. Tim Lenton, professor of earth system science at UEA, said: “We wouldn’t have anything like the understanding of climate change that we do were it not for the work of Phil Jones and his colleagues. They have spent decades putting together the historical temperature record and it is good work.”

The problem is that, after the past week, both sceptics and the public will require even more convincing of that.


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YWCA ladies heading for jail

I didn't know it contained lead!

The group is planning a toy tag sale and intends to sell used, donated toys. That is forbidden by our federal watchdogs under the Consumer Safety Product Improvement Act, the same beneficent law that bans old children’s books and new motorbikes. For everything about CPSIA you had no idea about but really should know, try for a primer.

As for me, I think I’ll drop a dime on these folks with the Consumer Product Safety folks and watch the fur fly.

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The new world order

“Momentum building for global warming pact”. We’re supposed to shut down our economy and give billions to Third World beggars. Leaving aside the question of how we’re supposed to give away our wealth if we have none, any leader who comes back from Oslo with his name on a treaty like this should be denied re-entry. Maybe even sent back to Kenya.


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