Monthly Archives: November 2009

Mr. Borrower, your colostomy is irreversible

False hope, rather than hearing the truth and getting on with one’s life, leaves patients unhappier. There are so many houses out there now worth, say, $1.6 million but owing $2.1 and the borrowers are stuck. You call their broker to see if you can get permission to cut a deal with the bank and are told, “well, they’re still hoping to figure out a way to keep the house.” They can’t, and won’t, but the house will sit for another year or more while the bank foreclosure process wends its slow way to conclusion. This is not necessarily the best approach, as these medical researchers learned:

Study shows that colostomy patients who believed their condition was
irreversible reported better quality of life than those with faith that they
would be cured

ANN ARBOR, Mich., Nov. 2 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Holding on to hope may not
make patients happier as they deal with chronic illness or diseases, according
to a new study by University of Michigan Health System researchers.

"Hope is an important part of happiness," said Peter A. Ubel, M.D., director
of the U-M Center for Behavioral and Decision Sciences in Medicine and one of
the authors of the happily hopeless study, "but there's a dark side of hope.
Sometimes, if hope makes people put off getting on with their life, it can get
in the way of happiness."

The results showed that people do not adapt well to situations if they are
believed to be short-term. Ubel and his co-authors -- both from U-M and
Carnegie Mellon University -- studied patients who had new colostomies: their
colons were removed and they had to have bowel movements in a pouch that lies
outside their body.

At the time they received their colostomy, some patients were told that the
colostomy was reversible -- that they would undergo a second operation to
reconnect their bowels after several months.  Others were told that the
colostomy was permanent and that they would never have normal bowel function
again. The second group -- the one without hope -- reported being happier over
the next six months than those with reversible colostomies.

"We think they were happier because they got on with their lives. They
realized the cards they were dealt, and recognized that they had no choice but
to play with those cards," says Ubel, who is also a professor in the
Department of Internal Medicine.


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What recession?

Not in this household (NYT photo)


Or here






On the other hand, if this is really where Santa does his shopping, it’s another good reason to move to Texas. If they only had snow and mountains ….

"Bobby needs new roller skates, Suszy needs a gun, please continue Dear Saint Nick I'll tell you when you're done" (WSJ photo)











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When golf clubs are outlawed, only angry wives will have clubs

A time to run, a time to hide, a time to slice, a time to fade, a time to hop in your Escalade, I swear it's not too late

This makes more sense than the earlier stories: Tiger’s facial injuries were caused by a three wood swung by the mother of his children. “Fore” play jokes may now begin.

UPDATE: Pulled up in OG sends along this Aussie lede showing that they know how to cover a story down under.

TWO days after a lurid story broke about Tiger Woods having an affair with a New York nightclub hostess, the golfing superstar was found by police lying on his back outside his Florida mansion, incoherent and bleeding – with his distressed wife standing over him with a golf club in her hands.



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More statistics

In the history of the world (well, Greenwich MLS records going back ten years), 17 condominiums priced at $3,500,000 and above have sold, total. There are presently 12 condos for sale in that price range, and that number does not include the many failures that have gone over to the rental market (like those two on Milbank Avenue below the Whole Foods retaining wall). Exactly two condos in that range sold in all of 2008 (suckers) and zero this year. Builders with expensive downtown condos to move (Sound View? Manero’s?) are in for a long wait.

In the single family market, we have 103 houses for sale priced at $5,995,000 and up. Three sold or went to contract in the past month, 12 in the past 90 days and 40 in the past 12 months. That’s a 2 1/2 – year inventory, which isn’t all that bad for this price range, but not good news if, like Raj, Walt, Ric or Gary, you want to get away in a hurry.


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Pending contracts and assessments

On a lark, I pulled the 9 lowest and 9 highest properties of the 50 Greenwich single family homes currently under contract (leaving 603 still for sale and more, presumably, coming on in January). It seems to me that many of the higher end houses are selling for a huge premium to their assessed value (which, I remind you, is supposed to be 70% of their 2005 market value). Either of two explanations come to mind to explain this phenomenon: either higher end homes are really holding their value better or the assessments were skewed to their advantage back in 2005. I don’t have the answer, but here are the statistics:

Address                  First price                       Last asking price         Assessment (70%)

10 Lyon Ave.          $695,000                             $489,000                          $444,000

36 Hartford            $650,000                             $550,000                          $442,000

9 Miltiades              $985,000                             $695,000                           $667,000

7 Mill Pond              $925,000                             $739,000                           $705,000

11 Somerset            $940,000                             $895,ooo                            $1,008,000

 4 Janet Ct               $799,000                              $779,000                          $533,000

73 Halsey                $920,000                              $799,500                          $570,000

1 Fairfield                $1,199,000                            $899,000                         $668,000

14 Windy Knoll       $1,239,000                           $987,000                          $498,000 (renovated ’08)


51 Mooreland            $9,500,000                        $5,995,000                      $3,535,000

74 Lower Cross       $6,995,000                           $6,450,000                     $4,000,000

21 Willowmere Cir  $7,400,000                           $6,850,000                     $4,300,000

10 Cornelia               $9,750,000                           $6,950,000                     $4,757,000

15 N. Crossway        $7,195,000                           $7,195,000                       $3,148,000

205 Clapboard          $12,500,000                        $7,975,000                      $6,120,000

21   Guinea                $8,950,000                           $8,950,000                    $5,171,000

67 Harbor Drive       $11,950,000                          $11,950,000                  $8,366,000

54 Byram Drive       $23,000,000                          $17,950,000                  $5,644,000


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Old Media is dying because it won’t report news

Which at one time was its reason for being. Now, not so much.

What Story? [Mark Steyn]

Michael Gerson has lousy timing. In The Washington Post, in one of those now familiar elegies for old media, he writes:

And the whole system is based on a kind of intellectual theft. Internet aggregators (who link to news they don’t produce) and bloggers would have little to collect or comment upon without the costly enterprise of newsgathering and investigative reporting. The old-media dinosaurs remain the basis for the entire media food chain.

That’s laughably untrue in the Warmergate story. If you rely on the lavishly remunerated “climate correspondents” of the big newspapers and networks, you’ll know nothing about the Climate Research Unit scandals – just the business-as-usual drivel aboutBoston being underwater by 2011. Indeed, even when a prominent media warm-monger addresses the issue, the newspaper prefers to reprint a month-old column predating the scandal. If you follow online analysis from obscure websites on the fringes of the map, you’ll know what’s going on. If you go to the convenience store and buy today’s newspaper, you won’t. That’s the problem.

If anyone needs newspapers, it ought to be for stories like this. If there were no impending epocalypse, then “climate science” would be a relatively obscure field, as it was up to a generation ago. Now it produces celebrity scientists living high off the hog of billions in grants. They thus have a vested interest in maintaining the planet’s-gonna-fry line. So what do the media do? Instead of exposing the thesis to rigorous journalistic examination, they stage fluffy green stunts, run soft-focus “living green” features with Hollywood “activists”, and at a time of massive staff cutbacks in every other department create the positions of specialist “climate correspondent” and “environmental reporter” and fill them with sycophantic promoters of the Big Scare to the point that, as Dr Manncoos approvingly to The New York Times, “you’ve taken the words out of my mouth”.

What Gerson writes ought to be true. Warmergate demonstrates why it isn’t.


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I hope that I will never see, a MacMansion stopped because of trees

Alas, poor Yorick...

The NYT reports that Greenwich tree huggers are back at work, trying to regulate homeowners’ unregulated right to whack down trees.

“In the past, you would hear people talking about losing their rights as homeowners, but with all the clear-cutting we’ve had in recent years, and with people caring more about the environment, I think they realize that trees are a precious resource,” Ms. [JoAnn]  Messina said. “I keep telling people, ‘You have to get a permit to build, a permit for your dog, so it’s just a way to establish a sensible procedure.’ ”

I say, give it a break. The Fountain boys were all taught how to fell trees on our property by our father – sure, we hung a few up in other trees’ branches, where they created a wonderfully fearsome danger until the next windstorm brought them down, but we learned from all that, and as the result we’re ready to stop by your neighbor’s house at midnight and drop that tree that’s been blocking your view – call us.

On a slightly more serious note, I think this is a solution in search of a problem. While there are indeed a few builders who knock down trees with abandon, anyone who has any knowledge of the value mature trees add to a property and what they cost to replace usually takes great care to preserve what’s there. Furthermore, Ms. Mesina’s concern about clear-cutting overlooks the fact that the stuff being removed is fourth-growth scrub – Greenwich was cleared pasture land no so long ago and if it returns to that look again, no harm – it would help the deer tick problem, too. As a reminder, next time you are walking with Ms. Masina through virgin forest and encounter the stone walls littering our Greenwich woods, reflect on the idea that farmers didn’t build walls in woods.


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Oysterman’s kid makes it big: Greenwich Time columnist!


Bob Horton in his donut days

Greenwich Time has hired my friend Bob Horton to write a weekly column on town issues, and it’s about time. I adore Bernie Yudain and enjoy his tales of Greenwich of ninety years ago, but the paper can use a voice on current issues as well, and I do not mean sightings of poor Cody Gifford at his dentist’s.

The inaugural column is here. Something about demanding higher test scores for our high school football players which doesn’t seem fair to better students but if it helps keep Cos Cob kids in school, I suppose that’s alright.

Regardless, it’s the best move Greenwich Time has made since they got rid of that Fudrucker fellow’s blog.



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Ah, it’s the day after Thanksgiving and the airwaves are filled with tales of disfunctional families.

Four relatives shot dead at Thanksgiving celebration. Some party.


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Tiger Woods seriously injured

Hit a fire hydrant and then a tree outside his home “early this morning”. I hate to say it, but early morning car accidents this time of year more often involve alcohol than turkey stuffing. I hope he’s okay – he’s the only reason thin non-golfer watches on TV.


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Real estate board closed today

No exciting news forthcoming so I’m off to buy a huge plasma TV and a half-price Nintendo at Stamford Bloomingdale’s. Back by noon.


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Will the last one out turn off the lights in the MacMansion?

Cos Cobber sends along this delightful link to a story about hedge funders contemplating decamping England for Switzerland or Asia to escape pending regulations and punitive taxes. It is precisely this possibility that has Pelosi et als caling for a new world order where regulations (and taxes) extend globally. I don’t know if Asia will go along with that but Switerzland has been cowed into deconstructing its banking industry, so I ‘m not hopeful.

From the NYT:

Wall Street Tax Must Be International, Pelosi Says

November 20, 2009, 6:01 am

<!– — Updated: 4:00 pm –>

Any tax imposed on financial transactions would have to take effect internationally to prevent Wall Street jobs and related business from moving overseas, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday.

“It would have to be an international rule, not just a U.S. rule,” Ms. Pelosi said at a news conference, Reuters reported. “We couldn’t do it alone, we’d have to do it as an international initiative.”

Her comments seemed to spell longer odds for the Wall Street tax, which would see a tax imposed on stock trades worth more than $100,000 and which some Democrats in the House of Representatives are proposing as a way to pay for job-creating legislation.

The tax, which could raise $150 billion a year, would tap into widespread public outrage at Wall Street in the wake of the financial crisis, but support is lackluster among key legislators, Reuters said.

“This is just something that is on the table, it hasn’t been developed to a high priority. But it has substantial currency in our caucus,” Ms. Pelosi said.


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Canadian Loonies

They’re camping out to buy (and flip) condo units up north and, I’m told, it’s cold up north of the border, eh?

BusinessInsider sums it up perfectly: “Mortimer, we’re back!”

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And speaking of fools and money, did the Hamilton Avenue crew build the new courthouse?

The Stamford Superior Court House, completed in 2002, is leaking and falling apart. Turns out that the state hired a Mafia-controlled contractor, long since out of business, to do the work. No surprise there – Connecticut is an Italian state and half its legislature has friends in the family – but blaming the contractor for all of the problems and all of the cost overruns is disingenuous. I remember how long the site for the building sat as an empty hole while the Legislature delayed funding the project. The hole filled with water, cattails grew and ducks inhabited the place – I feared that completion would be further delayed because we’d need a wetland permit to proceed. What happened was that, after authorizing the new building, our legislature funded it piecemeal as spending on their own pet projects allowed. So first we had a hole dug, then, after several years, enough money was allocated to erect the frame, then it was delayed again, etc. As it ended up, we now do have a court house, but there was no money spent on modern computers so the place is as inefficient as the old one.

So yes, I’m sure somewhere in Sicily the peasant are living high on Connecticut taxpayers’ money, but our crooks and incompetents in Hartford enjoyed the feast too.


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Fools and their money

The post-Thanksgiving shopping frenzy is apparently still on this year despite the recession. Fine; God bless them, and may their consumer dollars enrich state tax coffers. But the idiocy of these people is astonishing. From the article linked to comes this vignette:

Robin Fryman, 47, of Mount Orab, Ohio, said she and her daughter, a friend and her husband got out at 6:30 a.m. for deals at Best Buy. Her hours as a food worker were recently cut from 40 to 25 per week.

“I’ve definitely cut down. You have to cut down, because you have to eat,” Fryman said. “It’s definitely made a difference in the way I’m shopping.”

Uh huh. I can’t think of anything Best Buy sells that could be called essential – nothing at all. So I’d think that if my income had just been slashed almost in half, I might hunker down this Christmas. More than think, my family had some rough economic spots in the mid-90s and that’s exactly what we did. Somehow, our children survived. But these mobs of screaming shoppers are going full throttle. at least for today – I suppose they believe, like that famous voter of a year ago, that Obama is going to pay their rent bill.

There’s increasing talk of the inevitability of a VAT tax coming to our fair land to raise some of the revenue Washington has committed to spending on our behalf. The tax is considered regressive because it falls on poor dumb morons more than people who save their money but if these people are just going to waste their money on a bigger flat screen TV, why not send it to Pelosi to distribute to her friends? If Nancy’s happy, perhaps she won’t punish the rest of us so much.



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Expired in Havemeyer

4 Nimitz Place

This Havemeyer modular on Nimitz Place nicely illustrates the rise and fall of prices there over the past five years. It was built on a quarter-acre that was listed for $799,000 in 2004 and sold in four days for $875,000. I don’t know what caused the delay that made this house miss the bubble but something must have happened because it didn’t show up for sale until May,2009, long after the music had stopped. The builder priced it at $1.875 and only dropped it $100,000 before its listing expired yesterday. I’m sure it will come back, either as a rental or a sale property, but at what price? More important, what price will a buyer pay for this? Those two new houses on Havemeyer Lane, admittedly a much busier location but still just a block away, started at $2.1 each and are selling for $1.2 or $1.1 and I believe the market is still falling. Whatever happens here, I don’t think we’ll see bidding wars on Havemeyer tear-downs for a while, and the days when a building lot could fetch almost $900,000 are gone – you should have sold two years ago.

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Will Gary Rosenbach be moving to Round Hill Road?


Gary and Susan Rosenbach, tax cheats photo

Mr. Rosenbach, a founder of Galleon Group with Raj Rajaratnam, is seemingly implicated in the insider trading case brought against Raj. There had been speculation that Rosenbach had avoided Raj’s fate by becoming a cooperating witness but now wire taps seem to tell a different tale. All very interesting. The Rosenbach manor at 217 Taconic Road is for sale but it’s been so for years, long before the present scandal (but around the time he and Rajaratnam paid $33 million for engaging in tax fraud). It started around $23 million, is down to about $14, and Zillow says it’s worth $7. I think Zillow’s estimate is too low – this is a very nice house, on good land, but in this market, who knows? And, if Rosenbach wants to make the move to Round Hill to join Raj, Walt, Ric and all the other felons and accused felons on that street, he might take a low offer just to get there ahead of the FBI. As an aside, Rosenbach and his wife are big contributors to Hillary Cliton and Obama. Odd how often people like this who know how to take my money and spend it pay no income tax themselves. Some people get exactly what they deserve.



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Starve the poor, feed the fevered

Yeah, but I'm Mayor!

Soup kitchens forced to toss out food violating Mayor Mike’s no trans fat rule.

When a small church comes to the Bowery Mission bearing fried chicken with trans fat, unwittingly breaking the law, they’re told “thank you.” Then workers quietly chuck the food, mission director Tom Bastile said.

“It’s always hard for us to do,” Basile said. “We know we have to do it.”

A Manhattan deli going out of business delivered a pickup truck’s worth of lettuce, sundried tomatoes, hamburgers, sausages and other food to the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen last week.

With 1,400 meals to serve daily, Operations Manager Michael Ottley was extremely grateful. He didn’t check the trans fat content of the food.

Lines at soup kitchens are up by 21 percent this year, according to a NYC Coalition Against Hunger report released yesterday.


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Iran nuke inquiry at a “dead-end”

U.N. inspector is disappointed. No doubt our own president, if this is brought to his attention while he travels to Oslo, will express his concern. And so it goes.


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Taken out of context

Merrill Lynch: Henry Blodget’s emails were” taken out of context.” Result: Henry Blodget banned from securities industry for life, Merrill settled.

UBS: Those emails were taken out of context. Result: settlement.

Enron: Emails were taken out of context. Result: I don’t know – whatever did become of Enron?

Global Warming fraudsters:”Emails were taken out of context.”

“What they’ve done is search through stolen personal emails—confidential between colleagues who often speak in a language they understand and is often foreign to the outside world. Suddenly, all these are subject to cherry picking. They’ve turned “something innocent into something nefarious,” Mann [said].

Uh huh.

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