Daily Archives: December 23, 2009

And then there’s another kind of Secret Santa

Goldman Sachs partners, who sold out their clients to enrich themselves. Hey, I suppose if you’re dumb enough to trust these shysters, you deserve to lose your fortune, but it sure isn’t Kansas anymore.


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Secret Santa

From National Public Radio,  a great story of a kind man and his legacy.

For nearly 30 years, Kansas City businessman Larry Stewart spent the holiday handing out crisp $100 bills to people in need. Stewart gave away more than $1 million dollars anonymously as “Secret Santa.” Before he died in 2006, he revealed his identity and asked his friends to carry on the tradition.


While many people are clinging to their cash this holiday season, there’s a man in Kansas City – and a few other places – doing just the opposite. Secret Santas are out in red, giving crisp hundred dollar bills to random, unsuspecting people at thrift stores, Laundromats and bus stops. It’s a tradition started by a Kansas City businessman more than 25 years ago.

Laura Spencer reports from member station KCUR.

LAURA SPENCER: Secret Santa in a bright red cap and turtleneck walks briskly through a rundown thrift store in Kansas City’s urban core. When you’re handing out hundred dollar bills, you have to move quickly before a crowd gathers. He scans the aisles. Latonya Bell and her fiance, Damon Watson, are looking for a space heater. Secret Santa asks how much money they have to spend.

Mr. DAMON WATSON: I got, like, 10 here.

Unidentified Man: Let me see, let me see. You got 110.


Mr. WATSON: Thank you. Bless you.

SPENCER: Larry Stewart was the original Secret Santa. In the early 1970s, homeless and hungry, Stewart stopped at a small-town diner, but he had no money. His replacement as Secret Santa takes the story from here.

Unidentified Man: The cook, a fellow by the name of Ted Horn, came from behind the counter, reached down on the floor, appeared to pick up $20 and handed it to Larry and said, here, son. I think you dropped this.

SPENCER: Larry Stewart decided he’d give back when he could afford it. And even before he made his fortune in telecommunications, he started handing out fives, then twenties, then hundreds. Eventually, he gave away more than a million dollars – mostly in and around the Kansas City area. And he did it anonymously, as Secret Santa.

Stewart died a few years ago, but a new fellow with, yes, white hair and twinkly blue eyes took over. The guy’s name, of course, is a secret. NPR knows Secret Santa’s identity, but if we told you, he wouldn’t be Secret Santa anymore.

Each Christmas season, he wears red and lives by what he sees as a modern day code of the West.

Unidentified Man: Honesty, integrity, patriotism, humility and anonymity for those Secret Santas.

SPENCER: Yes, he said Santas.

Unidentified Man #2: I’m Secret Santa, calling from Charlotte, North Carolina.

SPENCER: About a dozen folks, mostly CEOs, are out giving away cash across the country this year. The Charlotte Secret Santa says its charity with immediate gratification.

Unidentified Man #2: You’re really giving directly to the people and the joy that you’re able to see in the folks’ eyes is just really special.

SPENCER: When pressed to reveal the identity of Kansas City’s Secret Santa, his elf – well, PR consultant Pat O’Neill – says this:

Mr. PAT O’NEILL (PR Consultant): If I were ever to tell you who Secret Santa was, he wouldn’t be real anymore. He’s an everyman, in a sense.

SPENCER: This every man, before heading out on his eighth trip this holiday season, stands a thick stack of crisp, hundred dollar bills with the words Secret Santa in red letters. A stash is placed in Secret Santa’s pockets, and then onto Santa’s sleigh, or in this case, a fast black Dodge Charger, driven by the country sheriff.

Unidentified Man #3: Hang on back there.

SPENCER: Santa’s learned to bring some backup when walking around with thousands of dollars in cash.

And it’s off to another thrift store. In Lee Summit, an eastern suburb of Kansas City, Dennis Heinitz(ph), a retired Marine, was laid off from a job four months ago.

Mr. DENNIS HEINITZ (U.S. Marines, Retired): I have finally met Secret Santa. Never in my wildest dreams did I think somebody would just walk up to me and hand me hundred bills. This makes Christmas a lot easier.

SPENCER: How much they pass out is up to each Secret Santa, and for most, it’s in the tens of thousands of dollars each holiday season. Kansas City’s Secret Santa estimates he’ll give away about $100,000 out of his own pocket this year, and he’s already making plans to do it all over again next year.

I’m more on the scale of that cook, Ted Horn, but you never know what a simple act of charity will produce – in Mr. Horn’s case, it was huge. I doubt my own efforts will have the same result but that’s the beauty of giving, and faith: you never know. Merry Christmas.

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Either snow or rain or dark of night will prevent these public servants from ….

Snow Angel and rookie P.O. David Swift put to work at the new police headquarters

Greenwich cops reschedule DUI roadblocks. They’d planned one last weekend but when it snowed they decided to stay put at Dunkin’s. Safer that way, don’t you know.

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Fort Hood shooter demands his constitutional rights

No, not the right to a speedy trial followed immediately by a firing squad, but the right to speak mumbo jumbo Arabic with his brother. Turns out, prison authorities want to hear and understand what he’s saying. Sounds logical and legal to me.

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The Festivus Pole is up

Air your disappointments here

A reader alerted me that today, December 23rd, is Festivus Day and wondered where the pole was. It’s here, now.


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Oh my goodness! Obama’s lying about strengthening Medicare too!

That’s what the CBO says but they obviously just don’t understand Democrat math.

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Another shocker – Obama lies, lies and lies again

The Great One gave an interview to the Washington Post today and challenged anyone to review his campaign promises on health care and compare them to what he has now brought forth with bribery and Harry Reid. The arrogance of the man continues unabated – he clearly didn’t believe anyone would bother accepting that challenge but someone did, and the results are ugly. Give the man an aircraft carrier and a “Mission Accomplished” sign and you’d swear there’s been no change, and no hope. Here’s a sampling:

I’m going to have all the negotiations around a big table. We’ll have doctors and nurses and hospital administrators. Insurance companies, drug companies — they’ll get a seat at the table, they just won’t be able to buy every chair. But what we will do is, we’ll have the negotiations televised on C-SPAN, so that people can see who is making arguments on behalf of their constituents, and who are making arguments on behalf of the drug companies or the insurance companies. And so, that approach, I think is what is going to allow people to stay involved in this process.

Ya OK that didn’t happen. Next!

We’ll allow the safe re-importation of low-cost drugs from countries like Canada.

Bzzzt! Any others?

Allow Medicare to negotiate for cheaper drug prices.

Negatory, at least according to this blog post (which includes several other alleged broken promises). Still feeling lucky today, punk?

Offers a public health insurance option to provide the uninsured and those who can’t find affordable coverage with a real choice.

Note: That’s from Obama’s campaign website. It’s like he doesn’t expect us to check, or something.

To sum up: The president said he “didn’t campaign on the public option,” but it turns out he did. He said that there wasn’t any “gap” between his campaign promises and the final result, but it turns out there were several, as detectable by the most cursory Google search. He said “every single criteria for reform I put forward is in this bill,” but it turns out they’re not.


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51 Mooreland Road sells

Reader Andrew alerts me that this nine-acre parcel off Round Hill sold today for $5 million (it’s been under contract for awhile). That’s an interesting price – about half what was first asked for it but still a lot of money. It is, however, one of the most beautiful building sites in Greenwich, with rolling meadows and a high vista, so I can understand why someone would pay so much. Technically, it can be subdivided into two lots but I think that would produce two inferior lots instead of one great one.


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Isn’t this like giving Obama the Nobel Prize?

Checking up on Bernie Madoff’s status (he’s still in hospital, no other news) I learned that he’s already been scheduled for release in 2139, twenty years early! I assume that the prison system is calculating in credit for good behavior over the next 130 years but still, it seems premature.

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More on watches

Reader Horsejock writes in to say that he’s counting on his Patek watches as an emergency source of cash. Maybe so, but I’m reminded of the scene in Trading Places, when Winthorpe attempts to pawn his own timepiece.

Pawnbroker: Burnt my fingers, man.
Louis Winthorpe III: I beg your pardon?
Pawnbroker: Man, that watch is so hot, it’s smokin’.
Louis Winthorpe III: Hot? Do you mean to imply stolen?
Pawnbroker: I’ll give you 50 bucks for it.
Louis Winthorpe III: Fifty bucks? No, no, no. This is a Rouchefoucauld. The thinnest water-resistant watch in the world. Singularly unique, sculptured in design, hand-crafted in Switzerland, and water resistant to three atmospheres. This is *the* sports watch of the ’80s. Six thousand, nine hundred and fifty five dollars retail!
Pawnbroker: You got a receipt?
Louis Winthorpe III: Look, it tells time simultaneously in Monte Carlo, Beverly Hills, London, Paris, Rome, and Gstaad.
Pawnbroker: In Philadelphia, it’s worth 50 bucks.
Louis Winthorpe III: Just give me the money.
Louis Winthorpe III: [looking in display case] How much for the gun?

(And there’s also this): Louis Winthorpe III: I had the most absurd nightmare. I was poor and no one liked me. I lost my job, I lost my house, Penelope hated me and it was all because of this terrible, awful Negro.


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I didn’t know there was any public option remaining

Obama takes heat from his left over public option.

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Chavez channels Sam Walton

Opens “People’s Socialist Stores” which will cut out greedy, grasping capitalists. Chavez is, of course, an illiterate moron and so can be be excused his ignorance. But this is exactly the type of activity that makes him so wildly popular in Hollywood, where film stars turn over their mansions to the homeless and their pay checks to the needy. No word on when Sean Penn will attend a ribbon cutting ceremony for one of these stores but history suggests that he do so soon.

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Bernie Madoff is in hospital

I hope he’s not terminal. I’m not alone, I’m sure, in wishing him a long, long life.

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Post Copenhagen reverberations

Carbon-offset prices plunge.

Warmist alliances crumble

Cold kills 79 in Poland

Cold weather cause havoc from Moscow to Milan

Minnesota braces for snowiest Christmas in 30 years

They really shouldn’t hold these warm-ins during winter – people get the wrong idea.

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New home sales plummet

Why pay retail when you can get distressed homes cheap?

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Turns out there is a little real estate news after all

Which is good – this blog is supposed to be at least mostly devoted to Greenwich real estate, when there’s something happening.

717 Riversville Road

Well built house in a crappy location, when this spec job came on in 2007 at $14.7 million I wasn’t the only agent who thought it might sell for half that. Two and half tumultuous years and a number of price cuts later, it’s now under contract. Final price? Who knows, but the town pegged it at $5.8. That feels right.

62 Valleywood has sold for $740,000, down from its asking price of $925,000 but in line with its assessment of $780,000.


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Who’s watching?

I long ago gave up expensive watches in favor of Timex Indiglos – they cost twenty bucks, last three years or so and thus cost far less than the maintenance on real watches. And with the arrival of quartz-movements, the cheapest watch is as accurate as the most expensive.

If I were scuba diving, I’d want a good, waterproof watch to keep time while I was under water. Other than that, I can’t think of a good use for an expensive timepiece. But some of my friends, newly impoverished, bewail the loss of their Rolexes. They claim that, in a business meeting, the participants evaluate others by, among other things, their watches.

Is this really so? I’ve tried to console my newly-watch-shorn friends by suggesting that I assume a man’s IQ drops ten points for every dollar he spends on a flashy piece of jewelry but they remain unconvinced. And they may be right – I’m not of that world, so I really don’t know. So I ask you folks who at least wander into that wilderness: are expensive watches important? Do they add confidence to their wearers, or to those who observe them on other’s wrists? Or are they the mark of a fool? Your comments welcome (and just in time for Christmas shopping decisions!)


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40% tax hike on over-the-counter remedies, courtesy of ObamaKare

Harry Reid and his colleagues were so desperate to advance socialized medicine that they cut deals with everybody, from crooks like Chris Dodd to, as they like to call it, “Big Pharma”. You want it, you got it, per Reid, so long as you’re not a hapless taxpayer – in that case, you’re screwed. Drugs like Claritin that went OTC to save you money? No longer, under ObamaKare. But think of the cost savings the Messiah is bringing you!

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Is Obama a Republican tool?

I’d love to believe it, but Republicans aren’t this smart.

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Tea Party at home – all politics are (is?) local

So says this guy, and I agree. Tossing out the School Board will have more effect than cursing Chris Dodd. Not that there’s anything wrong with doing the latter as well – can’t hurt.

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