Daily Archives: January 12, 2010

No John, I can’t.

Email just received:

chris —

I’m John Spears, OFA’s state director here in Massachusetts. I don’t normally write to you, but I’m reaching out today because we urgently need help from folks like you, who live in neighboring states.

In just 7 days, folks here will vote in a special election to pick their next senator. The race is coming down to the wire, and we have to do everything we can to ensure that progressive champion Martha Coakley wins.

Unless we all join together in this moment, Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat could fall into the hands of Scott Brown, Martha’s opponent and a right-wing reactionary who has sworn to defeat health insurance reform — the late Senator’s life’s work.

But with this special election happening at an unusual time, many voters don’t know where or when to vote, and some don’t yet realize an election is happening at all.

OFA Massachusetts volunteers are going door to door, talking to voters and making sure they know how critical the outcome of their decision will be next Tuesday. But with so little time remaining, we need folks like you from neighboring states to come to Massachusetts and join the campaign.

We’ve set up canvasses across the state. Can you join us in the final days to help elect Martha Coakley?

I guess even they don’t believe their phony polls.

UPDATE: They are desperate – just bought $570,000 in ads

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Caribbean earthquakes

Hello, Pirate!

I was surprised to read of the earthquake in Hati today because I usually associate that blighted island with hurricanes and miserable poverty. But a little digging around taught me that the whole area is subject to earthquakes as it sits on the Caribbean Plate which is colliding with North America. And then, of course, I was reminded of the great earthquake that leveled Port Royal in Jamaica in 1692.

On June 7, the great Port Royal earthquake occurred. Port Royal was then the chief city in Jamaica, famous for its riches. The House of Assembly met there. The buccaneers took their prizes there. The houses were substantially built of stone. The inhabitants lived a wild, reckless life, and Port Royal was described as one of the wickedest places on earth.

At about 20 minutes to 12, on the forenoon of June, the 7, the inhabitants of the town were startled by a noise like thunder, which seemed to come from the north. Immediately the earth began to shake, and then the walls of the houses fell on every side. There were three shocks. The first was not very severe; the last was the worst. A considerable portion of the city sank beneath the sea. The sea receded, then rushed back with terrible force, sweeping over the land and drowning hundreds of persons. Thousands perished. Minor shocks occurred all that day and for several days afterwards. The earthquake was felt all over the island; great landslides occurred and some springs disappeared. The dead bodies of the people floated in harbour and rotted on the land. Port Royal was almost completely ruined. Its surviving inhabitants endeavored to restore what was left of it to its former importance, but in 1704, a fire broke out in one of its warehouses and destroyed every building except the forts.
From Geography & History of Jamaica published by Gleaner.

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Scott Brown posed naked for Cosmo

I think that’s great. If you don’t know who Scott Brown is, you’re not alone (hint: he’s running for Senator in Massachusetts next week). But check out his studly pictures from 1982, when he was a law student, and tell me it won’t help him dispel the notion that Republicans are all tired, wizened dweebs. You go, Boy!

A vote would be great in 28 (years)

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Cool: Google, the “do no evil company”, decides that doing business in China is evil

Good for them. They were infiltrated by hackers, discovered that the purpose of the invasion was to discover the identities of Chinese protestors and they’re pissed. Plus, they’re tired of Chinese censorship and won’t play that game any more.

UPDATE: A reader reasonably protests that the geniuses at Google should have figured out who and what they were dealing with long before this. But I believe Google is the first major company to forego the profits available in China, so I still give them great credit. After all, that great philosopher, Thomas Friedman, thinks the Chinese are just great.

From Friedman’s famous Sept. 8 op-ed:

One-party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks. But when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today, it can also have great advantages. That one party can just impose the politically difficult but critically important policies needed to move a society forward in the 21st century.

A reader of the above post commented: Ah, the sublime wisdom of the Pulitzer Prize winner. Yes, those reasonably
enlightened Chinese and their reasonably enlightened genocide in Tibet, killing,
torturing, maiming and raping millions and destroying one of the great cultures
on earth. The reasonably enlightened organ selling, slave labor, the untold
numbers tortured, imprisoned and murdered for daring to question the government
(or even being suspected of same. Let’s give them all a pass on that, because
wouldn’t it be just swell if our system could simply dictate the policies of the
great wise among us. Like Friedman, of course. But, for goodness sake, let’s
close Gitmo immediately. It’s the worst human rights violation ever. Let us
praise the Chinese butchers and vilify the Sarah Palins of the world. And call
Dick Cheney Satan because he waterboarded two mass murderers. And call ourselves
moral giants.

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Coakley: “There are no more terrorists in Afghanistan”

Tell it to the Marines. The would-be senator from Massachusetts didn’t exactly cover herself with glory with that argument in last night’s debate but her opponent Scott Brown was eloquent. According to the Atlantic, he put that old airbag David Gergen down beautifully.

Host David Gergen asks if Brown really wants to sit in the late Sen. Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat and block health care reform, knowing it probably won’t happen for quite a while if it doesn’t happen now; Brown respectfully corrects him on whose seat it is.

“Are you willing, under those circumstances, to say I’m gonna be the person, I’m gonna sit in Teddy Kennedy’s seat, and I’m gonna be the person that’s gonna block it for another 15 years,” Gergen asks.

Brown responds: “Well, with all due respect, it’s not the Kennedys’ seat, and it’s not the Democrats’ seat, it’s the people’s seat…”

I’m surprised Gergen didn’t choke on his necktie.

Maybe we should apply Oliver Wendell Holmes’ famous statement in Buck v. Bell to all the “hereditary seats” reserved for the spawn and friends of politicians (like Joe Biden’s): “Three generations of imbeciles are enough”.

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The disconnect continues

Sure man, we price that house for you!

For every house that is priced reasonably these days, there must be ten that are still being flogged by dreamers. Almost every house that’s come back on the market this week has done so at close to or at the exact price it didn’t sell for last fall – in some cases, the same price it hasn’t sold for since 2006. I don’t know where these sellers are getting the information they’re basing their prices on but I suspect it’s from their drug dealer.

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Sale price reported

1 Winterset

A November contract, closed today for $1.475 million. Asked $1.940, bought for $1.2645 in 2000, some improvements, assessment $1.4 million. 2.5 acres off Burning Tree.

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The circus comes to town (again)

Congressional hearings on banks begin tomorrow. Similar hearings in 1933 ended up with a midget plopped on J.P. Morgan’s lap. We can only hope for such high entertainment this time.

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A Senate vote to overturn the EPA’s CO2 ruling?

The Republicans may try next week. It will be interesting to see if the Democrats can beat this back – some of their constituents still work for a living and would probably like to keep their jobs.

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Shadow inventory

Yesterday, a client asked me to send him the addresses of some of the pending foreclosures in town so I dug up seven I thought might be of interest to him. Of those seven, five aren’t actively listed – they were bought, the buyers defaulted and they aren’t even trying to sell them. That was just a random sample but if it’s anything close to the situation on all our foreclosures, there’s a lot of inventory out there that you (and I) don’t even know about. Yet.

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Are prices dropping?

Well of course they are, but a salutary effect of new houses coming on that are priced intelligently is that they’re forcing owners of old, stale listings to do a reality check. Some owners are stubborn, of course and sit in their unsold homes scowling, “nobody’s gonna steal my house!”

Other owners are getting the drift. Just to cite two examples, 11 Mountain Wood, priced at $6.250 million three brokers and three years ago, is currently asking $3.3 million. It still hasn’t sold, but an agent won’t feel like a complete fool showing the place now.

34 Sheffield Way

The sellers of 34 Sheffield Way, off Round Hill, paid $3,475,750 for the place in 2004, paid Hobbs what must have been a fortune to renovate it and put it back up for sale in 2005 for $5.395 million, where it didn’t sell. Five years later it’s down to what they paid for it: $3.495, so all of that renovation is tossed in free. The house may or may not be to your liking, but the price is certainly reasonable.

And so it goes. If this keeps up, we’ll have a vibrant market again, I hope.

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Steve Cohen’s wife drops lawsuit

Lost her first lawyer and her second, after reviewing her claims, declined to file an appearance on her behalf. Smart move on the lawyer’s part who did, after all, take an oath to only sign pleadings in good faith. All is not lost for the ex-Mrs. Cohen, however: New Mexico lawyer Lindsay Lovejoy Jr. has no such quibbles. He’ll probably add a count for tortious emission of Zamboni fumes, too.

Sue me, will ya bitch?

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Jumbo mortgages in default

Make of this what you will but the jumbo mortgage (that’s us, Greenwich) is now leading the pack in default rates.

Overall,  prime  RMBS  60+  days delinquencies rose to 9.2% for December
  2009,  up almost three times compared to the same period last year (3.2%
  in  December  2008).  The 2006/2007 vintages combined rose to 12.7% from
  4.3%.

  The five states with the highest volume of prime jumbo loans outstanding
  (California,  New  York,  Florida,  Virginia,  and  New Jersey) comprise
  approximately  two-thirds of the loans in question. Prime jumbo RMBS 60+
  days  delinquencies  for  these  states  at  December  2009  compared to
  December  2008,  and their approximate share of the $388 billion market,
  are as follows:

  –California: 10.8%, up from 3.5% (44% share)
  –New York: 5.8%, up from 1.8% (7% share)
  –Florida: 16%, up from 7.3% (6% share)
  –Virginia: 5.4%, up from 2.3% (5% share)
  –New Jersey: 7.1%, up from 2.3% (4% share)

  Prime  jumbo  borrowers that were current on their mortgage the previous
  month  but  missed  a  payment the following month (roll rates) averaged
  about  1%  a  month  for the last 12 months, reaching a seasonal high of
  1.3%  in  December  2009. ‘While some of these borrowers caught up, many
  either  remained  a  payment  late  or  became  more  delinquent  in the
  succeeding months,’ said Managing Director Vincent Barberio.

  Despite  some  improvement  in  home prices and a slowdown in employment
  loss,  roll rates have not improved primarily due to the number of prime
  jumbo  borrowers  who  owe  more  on  their mortgages than their home is
  worth.  ‘Over  one-third  of  prime  jumbo borrowers that are current on
  their   mortgages  also  are  ‘underwater’  on  their  mortgages,’  said
  Barberio.

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8 Dewart: how to price a house in this market

Just back from Dewart Road’s open house and I’m impressed. It’s not a house for everyone; no house is, but I think enough people will like it that it will sell quickly. The “issues” I spotted that will keep some buyers away: it’s not grand, in the sense that some of the Georgian brick mansions are. That’s a plus to me, but surely not to others. The front yard’s a swamp, but the back is high, dry and large (total acreage is 2.7). Less lawn to maintain, is my theory. No basement (see “swamp”, above) but a huge third floor playroom.

The merits: it’s very much not a cookie-cutter home. The house is sort of stretched out, in a good way: the layout makes perfect sense, to me. There’s a beautiful, expensive eat-in kitchen with family room off it, high ceilings, tons of bedrooms (and a seven bedroom septic, should you care to add more) privacy, a pool, etc. As noted in the previous post, the owners paid $3.4 for this in 2000, renovated it and have priced it at $3.825. The assessment is $3.7 , so you’re at 70% of 2005 value. Not bad at all.

I have a number of clients who would like this house but I fear they’re all waiting for a foreclosure bargain. Fair enough, but remember that most homes in foreclosure got there because no one wanted to buy them. They’re on marginal lots or in marginal locations or both. And/or the house itself is rotten. This is a solid house on an excellent street and priced very well. If you’re more interested in buying a house you’d love living in than paying the absolute rock bottom price for a house in Greenwich, I’d  check this out, immediately. I don’t think it will linger. There really are other buyers out there and at least one of them will want to buy this. And if you have your own house on the market for $5 million (or more) and it’s not selling, you might want to ask your agent to arrange a tour so you can see what you’re competing with.

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Nice house on Dewart?

8 Dewart Road

It’s been five years or so but I remember this  as a good house. The owners paid $3.4 million for it in 2000, did a bunch of renovating in 2002 and put it up for sale in 2003 at $4.825. They didn’t get it, so they pulled it from the market. It’s back today at $3.825 and I’m off to see if it’s as nice as I remember it. If so, that’s a pretty good price.

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Sometimes patience must be its own reward

404 Round Hill Road

Yet another broker open house scheduled for this home today. I won’t be attending because I’ve seen it several times before. The house was listed in September, 2005 for $8.5 million, dropped eventually to $6.750 in June, 2006 and has stuck there ever since. There’s nothing wrong with an owner sticking to his price and refusing to sell for less than he wants but clearly this house, having sat unsold through the highest peak of Greenwich sales prices, is unlikely to sell now at its price (the assessment is something like $3.5 million). I admire the seller’s fortitude – I myself couldn’t stand having my privacy invaded by lookers for five solid years – but I’m guessing that a deeply developed sense of patience will be all he gets from this strategy.

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But the invitation list will be restricted to light-skinned coloreds

Reid- sponsored “African-Americans for Harry Reid” luncheon will proceed as planned.

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Faced with $8 billion deficit, New Jersey legislature makes hard choices

Passes medical marijuana law. Oh, and they defeated a gay marriage proposal as well. I can’t say they make Connecticut’s yahoos look good, but we don’t suffer by comparison.

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North Mianus cellphone tower opponent has moved west

Santa Fe man sues neighbor for refusing to turn off her iPhone. And her dimmer switches and, presumably, her toaster. Seeks $530,000 in damages. Here’s the best part:

The lawsuit was filed Jan. 4 at the First Judicial District Court in Santa Fe. Firstenberg’s attorney, Lindsay Lovejoy, Jr, is a graduate of Harvard and Yale, as well as a former Assistant New Mexico Assistant Attorney General who has argued cases alongside now-US Sen. Tom Udall, D-NM.

There was a Lindsay Lovejoy who lived in Greenwich not so long ago. Is this his son? Here’s his picture – see iif you recognize him:

Lindsay Lovejoy, Esq.

UPDATE: By God, it is his son! Those  radiowaves in North Mianus must have gotten to him early.

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When lawyers go bad

Conan O’Brien’s lawyers didn’t specify the time slot for his “Tonight Show” contract so NBC is free to move him to 4:00 AM if that’s what it wants to do, so long as his show is still called the “Tonight Show”. This demonstrates why you shouldn’t necessarily use Uncle Joe for your contract negotiations, even if he does give you a  family discount.

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