Daily Archives: November 10, 2009

Europe how has a lower unemployment rate than the US, without Stimulus Fraud

As long as I can remember (yes, Walt, that’s about five years), Europe has always had an unemployment rate about double the U.S. rate, and phenomenon explained by economists as the result of Europe’s generous welfare system, unlimited unemployment benefits, etc. So now we’re beating them at that, without all those hinderances. I wonder what else we’ve done to accomplish this?


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Gee, why would they want to do that?

Fnnie Mae, Freddie Mac fire their own Inspector General. Nobody in here but us chickens!

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Al Gore and profiteering

Wall Street Journal suspects his motives!

In retrospect, a significant moment was the falling apart or debunking of two key attempts seemingly well-suited to clinch matters for a scientifically literate public. One, the famous hockey stick graph, which suggested the temperature rise of the past 100 years was unprecedentedly steep, was convincingly challenged. The other, a mining of the geological record to show past episodes of warming were sharply coupled with rising CO2 levels, fell victim to a closer look that revealed that past warmings had preceded rather than followed higher CO2 levels.

These episodes from a decade ago testified to one important thing: Even climate activists recognized a need for evidence from the real world. The endless invocation of computer models wasn’t cutting it. Yet today the same circles are more dependent than ever on predictions made by models, whose forecasts lie far enough in the future that those who rely on them to make policy prescriptions are in no danger of being held accountable for their reliability.

For a while the media could patch over the scientific shortfall by reporting evidence of warming as if it were evidence of what causes warming. Inconveniently, however, just as temperature-measuring has become more standardized and disciplined and less reliant on flaky records from the past (massaged to the Nth degree), the warming trend seems to have faded from the recent record.

We could go on. But from our first column on this subject, we have been convinced that the scientific questions are interesting and irrelevant, since it was never in the cards that Western societies (or Brazil or India or China) would sacrifice economic growth for the uncertain benefits of fighting climate change. Unable to do anything meaningful about climate change, policy would therefore default to satisfying the demand of organized interests for climate pork.

Isn’t that, however much he may be distracted by feelings of sincerity, exactly the economic function of Mr. Gore today?

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Bernie Madoff: I told you so!

Madoff’s homes in Palm Beach and Manhattan aren’t selling and are being discounted 7 and 10% respectively.

While Bernard L. Madoff’s beach house in Montauk, N.Y., sold quickly for more than the $8.75 million asking price, his other properties are not doing as well. After nearly 60 days on the market, the United States Marshals in charge of the sale of Mr. Madoff’s home in Palm Beach, Fla., and his Manhattan penthouse have needed to discount their prices.

Mr. Madoff’s Palm Beach home, which went on the market for $8.5 million in September, is now listed at $7.9 million, a 7 percent drop. And the price of his sumptuous Upper East Side duplex apartment has been cut to $8.9 million, a 10 percent decline from the original listing of $9.9 million.

Yes, even Mr. Madoff, a convicted swindler, is seeing the real estate slump erode the value of his properties. But he won’t see any of the money when the homes are sold, since it will go to help pay off victims of his enormous Ponzi scheme.

Mr. Madoff estimated that his Manhattan apartment was worth $7 million and his Palm Beach home was worth $11 million in a federal declaration last year. But the marshals instead listed the Manhattan apartment well above the estimated price while putting the Palm Beach home for sale at a significant discount.

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Uh oh, where’s Tina now?

Art work stolen from car in Greenwich


A car burglary was reported following the Greenwich Antiques Show the weekend of October 17–18. Stolen from a dealer’s van were items that had been purchased by a collector at a Pennsylvania auction and given to the dealer to be framed.

A silhouette and watercolor portrait were left in a plain brown paper bag on the front seat of the dealer’s vehicle. In the bag were inventory records and a register from the show as well.



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Don’t forget to set your clock

Two hours and fifteen minutes left to send get well cards to John Muhammed.

UPDATE: You missed your chance.


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That’s old fashioned

Live free or die? Nah, today it’s about bailouts, and New Hampshire is bailing out a local newspaper. Doesn’t sound like a good idea to me.

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Putin is quaking in his Valenki



Wun away!

Obama displays his tough, vicious side: vows that Ft. Hood gunman will be pay for his crimes. As opposed to all those weak sisters calling for him to be nursed back to health and set free.


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Realtors whooped with joy

A Brooklyn jury found two Bear Stearns fund managers not guilty today on all charges. The prosecution’s theory was that these guys had put such a spin on dismal results that it amounted to fraud. Good Lord, if that were a viable theory there wouldn’t be a real estate agent left outside of prison, and wouldn’t that be a crying shame? Besides, someone has to sell the warden’s house. Gotta go – the market’s zooming, and there are deals available right now that just won’t last.

UPDATE from Bloomberg: How badly did the government blow this case (or how innocent were these two scapegoats)? This much:

“Nov. 10 (Bloomberg) — Prosecutors missed the mark so widely in the fraud trial of Bear Stearns Cos. hedge fund managers Ralph Cioffi and Matthew Tannin that a juror said after their acquittal she would invest with them if she had the money.”


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Ric Bourke can stay on Rogue’s Alley

The prosecution wanted ten years, the Probation Department recommended two years but the judge sentenced Bourke to a year and a day today (the extra day makes qualified him for early release). And a measly million dollar fine – chump change for a guy like Ric and if he’s short, he can wander across the street and hit up Walt for a loan. Figure with time off for good behavior, that’s eight or nine months of time out – not even long enough to justify a long-term rental of his home on Round Hill. But maybe for next summer ….


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Have we awakened from the American Dream?

This WSJ blogger wonders whether the housing collapse has ended the notion of home ownership as the American Dream and if so, what comes next. My own guess is that Congress (both parties) is too wed to the housing and banking industries to ever present Americans with a tax-neutral choice between buying and renting. Certainly they’ve shown no inclination to do so before and they aren’t now – in fact, they’re still out their subsidizing people who can’t afford an outhouse, let alone a real house and encouraging them to buy with no money down.

But it’s possible that people with skin in the game – real taxpayers, with their own assets at risk, may look at the losses they’ve sustained as home owners and decide to rent next time. We’ll see.

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Death, diapers and divorce (and nowadays, downsizing)


Not with my wife, you don't!

The three -or four Ds of real estate. We realtors love them all, because they spur people into moving. Here’s a story that must have sent hundreds of us scrambling to the Assessor’s site to get a feel for what’s coming on ($3.3 million market value, it says): Two couples, one affair, one good brawl at The Gingerman.

Lt. Daniel Allen said two couples had come together for dinner when things became heated and escalated to a physical altercation.

“Apparently at that dinner there was reference to discovering an affair,” said Allen. “During that conversation, it escalated with Jeff throwing a glass of wine at Robert. It ended up as a physical altercation between the two individuals.”

I went to high school with Danny and surely he learned his gift for dry, under-stated wit from me. Who knew?


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This sounds serious – what should we do?

DEC514-04Governor warns NY that state will be bankrupt by Christmas.

Governor wants gay marriage vote first on legislature’s agenda


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Well, Natasha Pray has this to be thankful for, at least

Greenwich’s official curmudgeon, Bill Clark, weighs in on Natasha “Tina” Pray. I don’t know, Bill, but I’d say she dodged a bullet here.

When your scribe first knew Tina back in her younger days, when she and her mother were running Amfit, he and she always hit it off well together. She was fun to be around, easy on the eyes, and seemed to be a reasonably squared-away young lady. But things never “clicked” between us. Looking back, your scribe is unsure whether to be sad or glad of that fact. Perhaps, let’s say, a little of both. Sad, because both our lives might have moved in different directions from the ones they took instead, and perhaps Tina would not be in such a pickle right now. Glad, because if these are her true colors shining through in today’s headlines, it would not have been a happy relationship.


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The word from on high


No facts, please, I'm a Mets fan!

After he said such nice things to me earlier this morning I was considering sparing reader XYOUNT’s blood pressure by refraining from posting any nutty right-wing rants for an hour or two, but this article caught my eye and I can’t resist. Perhaps since it comes from the New york Times and quotes Demmerkrats, I’ll be forgiven.

Democrats, health economists express grave doubts over medical costs under ObamaKare.

WASHINGTON — As health care legislation moves toward a crucial airing in the Senate, the White House is facing a growing revolt from some Democrats and analysts who say the bills Congress is considering do not fulfill President Obama’s promise to slow the runaway rise in health care spending.


Mr. Obama has made cost containment a centerpiece of his health reform agenda, and in May he stood up at the White House with industry groups who pledged voluntary efforts to trim the growth of health care spending by 1.5 percent, or $2 trillion, over the next decade.

But health economists say it is impossible to know whether the bills, including one passed by the House on Saturday night, would meet that goal, and many are skeptical that they even come close.

Experts — including some who have consulted closely with the White House, like Dr. Denis A. Cortese, chief executive of the Mayo Clinic — say the measures take only baby steps toward revamping the current fee-for-service system, which drives up costs by paying health providers for each visit or procedure performed. Some senators are also dissatisfied.


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Maybe those bonuses will save the season after all

A couple of significant contracts already reported today. 21 Guinea Road, listed for $8.950 in September, has found a buyer and, judging from the short length of time it spent on the market, I assume it’s a close-to-asking offer.

The same can’t be said for 188 Otter Rock in Belle Haven, which has been sitting around unwanted since 2007, but its asking price of $6.750 probably had something to do with that. The seller finally knocked a couple of million off his price, down to $4.7, and went to contract November 3rd (but reported today). See how that works? Try it.


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No open houses of note

This is getting a tad depressing. Open house tour days are a great time for trading gossip with other agents, hearing what’s selling and what’s not, what might be coming on, what might have a sale, etc.  It’s useful, in other words. But the dead market means there is no point going out most days, today being just such an example. A bunch of tired old listings with prices still lodged uncomfortably high up the seller’s er, …, a few new listings priced at unrealistic levels and that’s it. I have other things to keep me occupied today, fortunately, but I’m beginning to miss these twice-weekly outings. Off for coffee.


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Beating the assessment

347 Sound Beach

347 Sound Beach

This house was new in 2002, sold for $3.075 in ’03, sold again for $4.160 in ’05 and sold yet again yesterday for $3.7 million. So that’s not too bad, and the assessment (70% of 2005 value) is just $2.509.

Sound Beach Avenue is a little busy for my taste but this is a very nice house and for ease of getting to the beach, the train, Old Greenwich Village and the school, it can’t be beat.


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Executive severance packages running out

The WSJ has a sad story about the woes of executives who, fired and given comfortable severance packages of months or even a year, maintained their old life style and are now facing economic ruin. Judging from the number of fathers I see escorting their kids to school around town, this is a story playing out in Greenwich, too.


SILVER SPRING, Md. — Paul Joegriner hasn’t worked since March 2008, when he was laid off from his $200,000-a-year job as chief executive officer of a small bank. But you wouldn’t know it by appearances.

His wife, Marzena, shuttles their two young children to private school every morning. The family recently vacationed in Virginia Beach, Va., and likes to dine on Porterhouse steaks. Since losing his job, Mr. Joegriner, 44 years old, has had several offers. He’s turned each down in hopes of landing a position comparable to what he held before.

The family’s lifestyle over the past year and a half has been propped up by a $200,000 severance package and another $100,000 in savings — funds the family has burned through rapidly. By Mr. Joegriner’s own calculations, the family will be out of money in six months if he doesn’t find work.

“It will be D-Day,” he says. “But on the outside, no one has any idea that we’re in trouble.”

Mr. Joegriner is a member of what might be called the severance economy — unemployed Americans who use severance pay and savings to maintain their lifestyles. Many lost their jobs in 2007 and 2008, and thought they’d soon find work. Now, they’re getting desperate. Last week, lawmakers passed a bill extending unemployment benefits up to 20 weeks. Unemployment benefits, which typically last about 26 weeks, were expected to run out for 1.3 million people by the end of the year, according to the National Employment Law Project.

All of that is unfortunate, but here’s the truly sad part of this tale:

Originally committed to staying in the Washington, D.C., area, Mr. Joegriner expanded his search. In September, the family flew to tiny Gillette, Wyo., where Mr. Joegriner was in the final interview stages for a CEO position at a credit union. The salary was $60,000 less than what he earned before, and uprooting his family from Maryland would be difficult. But they all seemed excited about a possible move.

A few days later, Mr. Joegriner received an offer and a contract. Despite the earlier enthusiasm, doubts began to surface. “What if we went all the way out there and they laid me off?” After fruitless negotiations, he turned down the job. The reason: The position didn’t include a guarantee of severance pay. Says Mr. Joegriner: “I just couldn’t take the risk.”

At 56, I’ve had to remake a career several times. Each time, after some rough going, things turned out to be better than before. But you can’t allow yourself to be paralyzed by fear. When, after being passed over for partnership at a law firm I struck out on my own and prospered, I’d get calls from friends who were laid-off corporate attorneys who wanted to know how I’d done it, how I survived. I’d take them to lunch, encourage them, assure them they could do just fine, but when I got to the part about no benefits and no guaranteed paycheck they’d get a sad look in their eyes and say, “I hate what I’m doing, and ‘d love to go out on my own, but I can’t take the risk.”

And there is a risk. When I quit law to try to make a living as a writer I failed. Book sales of 20,000 are gratifying but won’t put three kids through college. So after a couple of years I reluctantly got into real estate, where I discovered that I could make an excellent income from writing – I just had to sell houses to people who came in through my real estate column. It wasn’t how I envisioned making a living from writing, but okay. And when I was fired by Greenwich Post for offending an advertiser I lost that venue and, I feared, my source of clients, so I started this blog, from a combination of pique at the Post and an attempt to continue my visibility among the 1000 real estate agents in town. I ‘ve never made a better decision.

So here’s this poor schnook in Washington D.C. who could start a new life in Wyoming but won’t take the risk. He wants a guarantee of a successful outcome even though his present state of unemployment is telling him that there are no guarantees. I’m no Dr. Pangloss, but if any of you are facing the same situation as  banker Joegriner, I urge you to toss away your fear and move forward. At least it will be different than your current dilemma and the odds are pretty good that the same talent that helped you succeed once will do it again. As the sneaker company says, “just do it”.

So endeth the morning sermon.


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