Monthly Archives: December 2009

All across the land, the rich dead are nailed to perches, awaiting the New year

He's just resting, damn it!

 

The old are plugged into life-support machines until the estate tax repeal arrives January 1st. Hang in there, GranPa!

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Body scanners or bombs? Im thinking, I’m thinking

Full body scanners coming to airports near you. I enjoy public nudity as much as the next person, perhaps more, but I like to reserve that pleasure for warm sandy beaches on St. Bart’s or Nantucket. Displaying my hoo-hoo at Kennedy to some TSA goon makes me queasy. These scanner don’t stop at underwear, you know. Ugh.

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Does this mean anything? I have no idea

Someone made a fortune buying call options on 3L, a full body scanner manufacturer, 3 weeks before Detroit attack. Conspiracy fans, have at it.

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Did someone pull the plug on Greenwich Time’s new format?

I clicked to the site just now and was greeted with the old format and no working links to their stories. No loss, but interesting.

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In Greenwich, rumors about real estate are usually spot-on

614 Riversville Ave

Can’t say the same for rumors about who’s sleeping with whom, but real estate rumors usually have substance. Take 614 Riversville Road, for instance. Reader “Andrew” wrote this just a few days ago:

It is interesting to hear that there are pending listings. A friend of mine heard a rumor that 614 Riversville road has a buyer who is willing to pay around 1.9 million cash and no inspection. What is more surprising about this is that the seller wants to deal with the removal of the underground oil tank under her own terms: ESCROW!! That was a week ago but as far as I am aware, it is not pending yet!

It was just reported as under contract today, with a contract date of December 24th. This is that beautiful old antique across from the Audubon that started, long, long ago at $4.2 and over the years dropped to just $2 million (assessment is $2.126). So $1.9 certainly sounds like a plausible selling price. I’m sorry to hear about the no-inspection part because that usually – not always, but usually – means the buyer has no interest in keeping the house.

UPDATE: well the rumor was accurate but I’ve learned that the seller, after accepting that deal, jumped ship in favor of someone else’s bid and told the first buyer to buck off. That always leaves an unpleasant taste in the mouth of the first buyer, but what would expect to get when you’re buying a horse stable?

Another thought: I wonder if buyer number one was aware that there was another contract signed December 24th? If not, how long was he strung along thinking he had an accepted offer while the seller nailed down the second deal?

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Pricing in Old Greenwich

 25 Innis Lane came back on the market today, priced at $1.049 million (from an original $1.260). It has four bedrooms, one bath, and carries an assessment of $1.062. It joins on the market its neighbor, number 29, built at the same time (1966-67) and priced at $899,000, with four bedrooms but two baths, and an assessment of $1.045 million. Why is #25 worth $150,000 more than #29? I’m not sure I know.

29 Innis

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Consumers revolt over “smart meters”

One of the main tools Obama has proposed to save energy is the smart meter, a centrally controlled meter that can be read and adjusted across the entire system. They make sense, and it’s ridiculous that utilities still send meter men into each house to record usage, but consumers hate them and are slowing their introduction.

I suspect the real resistance to their use arises when consumers discover that utilities can decide how warm or cool each house should be and, by pressing a button, make it so. This kind of bureaucratic domination gives leftists the same warm glow that forcing people from their cars and into centrally scheduled mass transit does, but not all consumers are leftists. So far, that hasn’t mattered: the leftists continue to get their way, but I’m hoping that will change. Isn’t this the year that the incandescent bulb disappears? Revolution!

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“Blogs” at Greenwich Time

I’ve never been inspired before today to look at them before but with nothing happening in the real estate market a comment on the sidebar of the newspaper caught my eye: “Why don’t you ever post anything controversial on this blog?” So I clicked over there to see what was up and by golly, the reader is right:Topics range from “faulty sprinkler heads” to the poor quality of oatmeal served at Starbucks to the issue of the day, “homeless animals need our help”.

I don’t run advertisements so I suppose it’s easy for me to say this, but unless the GT editors can develop a little testosterone and risk offending an advertiser or two, their “bloggers” will continue to be restricted to the thin gruel of bad oatmeal, and that leads to a dull blog indeed. In fact, if that’s all they’re allowed to do, why bother at all?

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Waiting for a buyer

29 Grossett

The recent sale of this Riverside house for $2.7 million demonstrates that, if you want to wait, and you can sometimes get your price from a buyer who just has to live on your street or in your neighborhood. Although its selling price was a cool million less than its original asking price several years ago, there were some of us who felt it was still over-priced – the assessment of $1.8 seemed, to some of us, closer to its value.

But “some of us” were wrong and the seller was right. Had he listened to me he’d have lost a $1 million. So it shows what I know. Sometimes I’m right, sometimes wrong. I do believe that, by steering my buyers away from this house at its asking price I did them a service but clearly one buyer agreed with the seller’s opinion of value and in real estate, one buyer is all you need.

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If we can send a skier to the Alps

Why can’t we have better cellphone reception on Round Hill Road?

Can you hear me now?

But Lee Miller and his wife Clara, tower opponents who live at 420 Round Hill Road, said they haven’t seen any improvement in their Verizon Wireless service.

“It has deteriorated significantly,” said Lee Miller, 62. “I used to be able to make calls coming from my office coming up on Round Hill Road, but now I cannot make calls. It’s impossible without getting disconnected on the lower part of Round Hill Road. So explain that one,” he said with a laugh.

Clara Miller conceded that she found cell coverage had improved along the Merritt Parkway.

That wasn’t always the case, she said, and crossing the state line from New York state to Connecticut often meant dropped calls.

“When I talk to my friends in Europe I tell them I’m going to drop you because I am crossing the border,” she said with a laugh. “I never had a problem like that in Europe; I have skied all over the Alps, and I haven’t dropped calls even when on a boat when I have been in Turkey and Greece.

I’d bet that the solution has something to do with the Alps lacking Nimbys from Round Hill Road, but that’s just a guess.

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Obama: You want decisive action? Okay, mission accomplished!

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I don’t blame Obama for this – but he’d better fix it, fast

WSJ: Crotch Bomber’s father met with CIA in Nigeria to warn them about his son.

The father of terror suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab met on Nov. 19 with the Central Intelligence Agency at the U.S. embassy in Abuja, Nigeria, and told of his son’s likely radicalization, according to U.S. officials.

That led to a broader meeting the next day in which the information was shared with representatives of the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the State Department, a U.S. official said. Officials said it is unclear whether intelligence officials in Washington then effectively analyzed the information gathered in Nigeria.

NYT has more:

Two officials said the government had intelligence from Yemen before Friday that leaders of a branch of Al Qaedathere were talking about “a Nigerian” being prepared for a terrorist attack. While the information did not include a name, officials said it would have been evident had it been compared to information about Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the 23-year-old Nigerian charged with trying to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight to Detroit on Christmas Day.

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Have you seen this study on terrorism?

I was prowling the web looking for arguments, pro and con, on profiling terrorists and came across this Library of Congress study published in 1999. I’ve just skimmed it (it’s over 150 pages) but it’s unbelievable how prescient its authors were before 9/11, warning that religious fanatics were the most dangerous of terrorists, predicting that terrorists would start adopting suicide explosive belts and saying that Osama bin Laden would most assuredly seek massive revenge against the US for the bombing of his desert camp in Afghanistan. I’ll print it out for faster reading but I recommend it highly based just on what I’ve read so far.

Try this , p. 64 – remember, this study was completed in 1999 – we seem to have completely ignored it for the past ten years.

For example, a case could be made that U.S. Customs personnel should give extra scrutiny to the passports of young foreigners claiming to be “students” and meeting the following general description: physically fit males in their early twenties of Egyptian, Jordanian, Yemeni, Iraqi, Algerian, Syrian, or Sudanese nationality, or Arabs bearing valid British passports, in that order. These characteristics generally describe the core membership of Osama bin Laden’s Arab “Afghans” (see Glossary), also known as the Armed Islamic Movement(AIM), who are being trained to attack the United States with WMD.

Or this, P. 7
Al-Qaida’s expected retaliation for the U.S. cruise missile attack against al-Qaida’s training facilities in Afghanistan on August 20, 1998, could take several forms of terrorist attack in the nation’s capital. Al-Qaida could detonate a Chechen-type building-buster bomb at a federal building. Suicide bomber(s) belonging to al-Qaida’s Martyrdom Battalion could crash-land an aircraft packed with high explosives (C-4 and semtex) into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), or the White House. Ramzi Yousef had planned to do this against the CIA headquarters. In addition, both al-Qaida and Yousef were linked to a plot to assassinate President Clinton during his visit to the Philippines in early 1995. Following the August 1998 cruise missile attack, at least one Islamic religious leader called for Clinton’s assassination, and another stated that “the time is not far off” for when the White House will be destroyed by a nuclear bomb. A horrendous scenario consonant with al-Qaida’s mindset would be its use of a nuclear suitcase bomb against any number of targets in the nation’s capital. …
Whatever form an attack may take, bin Laden will most likely retaliate in a spectacular way for the cruise missile attack against his Afghan camp in August 1998.

Or even this, p.64.

To Western observers, the acts of suicide terrorism by adherents of Islam and Hinduism may be attributable to fanaticism or mental illness or both. From the perspective of the Islamic movement, however, such acts of self-destruction have a cultural and religious context, the historical origins of which can be seen in the behavior of religious sects associated with the Shi’ite movement, notably the Assassins (see Glossary). …Such attackswere suicidal because escape was not part of the attacker’s plan. According to scholars of Muslim culture, so-called suicide bombings, however, are seen by Islamists and Tamils alike as instances of martyrdom

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Never let a good scare go to waste

For those of you who can still remember “Swine Flu”, you’ll be gratified to learn that the folks who first whupped up the fervor over it haven’t given up yet.“It could still mutate, and then it really would be dangerous,” some UN  flake is warning. “We predict that will happen in Y2 -k, when all the computers around the world are suddenly going to ….”

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Rep. Himes: “You did a heck of a job, Jimbo”

Our boy wonder reflects on his first year in office and all he has accomplished.

When Jim Himes arrived in Washington as a freshman congressman from the 4th District nearly one year ago, the country was faced with the worst recession in generations, an increasingly unpopular war in Iraq and a high-decibel health care debate. But the Greenwich Democrat saw opportunity in the challenge, “because of the way a crisis aligns people and brings them together.” [He’s right – Obama’s popularity is now as low as Congress’s: everybody hates the government].

For example, he said the Affordable Health Care for America Act, recently passed by the United States House of Representatives, [which he still hasn’t read nor understood] was “endorsed by Americans representing all walks of life,” including Consumer Reports, the American Medical Association, the American College of Physicians, the AARP, the non-partisan League of Women Voters and the American Cancer Society. [In fact, anyone who wanted anything in this bill got it – we bent over lower than Obama meeting he Emperor of Japan]

Himes said that although the bill is imperfect, it is a “critical step in the right direction, which will allow us to join every other civilized nation on the planet in offering each of our citizens decent, affordable health care [the fact that we spend twice as much as those other civilized nations now and plan to spend even more is irrelevant – finally, we can get some respect in Paris salons] . I’m proud of the House for passing it.”“It will be catastrophic if it’s not passed in the Senate,” he added [and worse if it is]. “But I am optimistic that it will be passed eventually.”

His historic election removed a 21-year incumbent Republican, Christopher Shays, and sent a Democrat to the House to represent the 4th District for the first time since 1966.Himes acknowledged that his district, which ranges from Bridgeport to Greenwich, may be one of the most “economically diverse” in the country. But he describes himself as a “moderate,” who is “business-friendly and less interested in parties and ideology than in solutions that work.”He said he has brought an independent voice to Washington.

For example, he opposed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in July when he urged that the health care vote be delayed until after the August recess so “we could fully vet its implications with our constituents.” “Change involving 17 percent of our economy, life and death issues and the most complex policy challenges I’ve ever seen should not be rushed,” he said.[but I voted for it anyway and then went home and ignored my constituents’ comments]

The former Goldman Sachs investment banker and Harvard-educated Rhodes Scholar said he is “not a career politician,” [not yet, anyway, and not if we can help it]adding that he challenged Shays because of his support for the Iraq war and Bush’s economic policies.[victory in Iraq, low taxes on business]

He said he is gratified to see President Barack Obama’s “responsible plan to bring an end to the war in Iraq, returning our heroic soldiers to their families and to the gratitude of their country.”

However, he added, “We must refocus America’s military resources on defeating al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and be clear in our mission there [by which I mean cut and run just as soon as we can decently accomplish it but no later than 2011 in any event] .”The economy “is starting to turn around,” he said, “but the question is, ‘At what point do families see more jobs and how do we work out the health care problem?’

”The financial industry needs stronger regulations to protect the economy from its free fall last year, he said, adding, “We must make sure banks and investment brokers never bring down the system again.” [which is why he is bringing back the Glass Steagall Act which no reputable economist thinks had anything to do with the crash brought on by Washington and Jimbo’s  former friends on Wall Street] [which is also why he and his party have given Fannie Mae an unlimited blank check to keep subsidizing uncreditworthy borrowers and bring back no-money-down mortgages]

He has also adopted the cause of regulating the cruise industry, a position advocated by Shays. A spotlight was cast on the unregulated $38-billion-a-year industry — in which cruise lines are registered in foreign countries — after George Smith of Greenwich went missing from his honeymoon cruise in 2005. Himes was co-sponsor of the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act that passed in the House last month and is expected to be approved by the Senate.“Had the safety improvements and post-incident regulations mandated by the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act been in place in 2005, this horrible tragedy might have been prevented,” Himes said. [The proposed act will force foreign ships to report when drunks fall or are pushed off their ships, period. – how that would have prevented Smith’s death remains as much a mystery to Himes as what’s in the Health Care bill].

Himes said one politician he admired was Robert Kennedy “because of his personal journey [he took a limo through Harlem] in coming to understand the disenfranchised.[whatever the hell “disenfranchised” means – it sounds good, though, don’t it? I think it means taking more from the middle class and giving it to bureaucrats while leaving the poor poor and the rich rich – a Kennedy specialty].

He would like to see a “more thoughtful debate” on the national level than some of the acrimonious and divisive political exchanges he said he has witnessed. Alluding to 2008 vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and Fox News commentator Glenn Beck, a New Canaan resident, he said, “If you don’t agree with them, you’re a Socialist. Let’s have a debate based on ideas and thoughtful deliberation instead.” [like, if you supported the war in Iraq you were a baby-killing Zionist tool of Cheney – that kind of thoughtful debate?]

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Bad ideas never die

Just in case we need more nails in the economy’s coffin, the Democrats are bringing back the union card-check law, which they expect to enact next year.

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The importance of picking your friends carefully

Farouk (in drag): You like me, you really like me!

Choose wrong and you’ll meet guys who stuff a bomb in your underwear and send you on a one-way flight to America.

From his postings on the muslim version of FaceBook, “Death to infidels”, we learn that the crotch bomber lead a lonely life.

farouk  sought advice and friendship, often revealing a deep sense of isolation and emotional turmoil. In February 2005, he wrote that he was lonely sometimes “because I have never found a true muslim friend.”

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Does Janet Napolitano have a friend at Winchester?

If she didn’t before, she does now, because she’s ordered 200 million rounds of pistol ammo for her employees. (From Paco Blog)

The Department of Homeland Security has placed an order for 200 million rounds of pistol ammunition (.40 caliber, hollow-point) over the next five years for use by its Immigration, Customs and Enforcement division.

Let’s see now, ICE has approximately 15,000 employees. Not all of them are licensed to carry firearms, but just to keep the math simple, we’ll divide the whole shebang into 200 million. That works out to a little over 13,000 rounds per employee over five years, or approximately 2,600 per employee per year.

Now, in case the entire population of Mexico tries to cross the border over the next five years, this would be enough to shoot everybody twice; however, this event seems unlikely, and would represent a pretty harsh response, anyway.

So, what’s it all about, Janet?

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8 Alpine Road

(Artist's rendering)

A reader asked whether the humongous house at 8 Alpine is a spec project. Indeed it is and it’s actually listed on our MLS, for $12.750 million. That’s for around 11,000 sq. feet, 3000 of which is probably underground, and two acres. The builder, a guy named Schecter from Ridgefield, paid full price: $2.995 for the land in November, 2007, which may not have been the best of timing.

Not to be picky, but I find it cheesy to see “approved pool site” on listings at this price range. Even if I didn’t want a pool, I’d expect one. I’m sure there’s plenty of negotiating room to include one, but it’s irritating.

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545 banks in trouble – is yours on the list?

Probably: most of our locals are

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