Daily Archives: January 13, 2010

Al Qaeda Airlines?

That’s what Reuters is reporting. Drugs from Venezuela to Africa and terrorists and weapons on the return trip. Scary.

The document warned that a growing fleet of rogue jet aircraft was regularly crisscrossing the Atlantic Ocean. On one end of the air route, it said, are cocaine-producing areas in the Andes controlled by the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. On the other are some of West Africa’s most unstable countries.

The report, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, was ignored, and the problem has since escalated into what security officials in several countries describe as a global security threat.

The clandestine fleet has grown to include twin-engine turboprops, executive jets and retired Boeing 727s that are flying multi-ton loads of cocaine and possibly weapons to an area in Africa where factions of al Qaeda are believed to be facilitating the smuggling of drugs to Europe, the officials say.

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has been held responsible for car and suicide bombings in Algeria and Mauritania.

Gunmen and bandits with links to AQIM have also stepped up kidnappings of Europeans for ransom, who are then passed on to AQIM factions seeking ransom payments.

The aircraft hopscotch across South American countries, picking up tons of cocaine and jet fuel, officials say. They then soar across the Atlantic to West Africa and the Sahel, where the drugs are funneled across the Sahara Desert and into Europe.

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Okay, forget the bankers, where are the hedgies?

Bank of America cutting bonuses to just 15% cash. One of the readers who alerted me to this also expressed doubt that even a banker would be dumb enough to borrow against his stock to buy real estate in this market. On the other hand, I agree with the reader who said that, while bankers are toast, the hedge funders are awash in cash. I noticed a guy I know from that business has a new Rolls Royce since the last time I saw him a few months ago – he’s not hurting.

Question is, how many hedge funders are there and who’s left to buy our more moderately priced hovels in the $3-$5 million range?

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Here’s a contract

44 Sumner Road (nose bleed altitude off Round Hill) listed for $2.4, dropped to $2.195 and now has a contract. Four acres, okay house, assessment is $2 million, so that seems about right.

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Mixed market signals

10 Stillman Lane, which I think has been built (listinghistory shows various dates for construction) once (2007) asked for $6.450 million, dropped down to $5.6 before disappearing and is re-listed today at $4.999. And paying a 5% seller’s agent fee, which is interesting.

75 Connecticut Ave

75 Connecticut Avenue, on the other hand, started at $3.850 million in 2007, dropped as low as $3.195 before expiring unsold last March, but has come back on today for $3.295.

So there you have it: one seller believs the market is still falling, another thinks it’s improved.

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2: 26 pm Grand central being evacuated – or not

Swat teams in, subway trains  out. Let’s hope it’s just an out-of-tune group of buskers or a lovelorn Chinaman. May be just a Twitter hoax, apparently – a new form of pestilance.

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More on 42 Midwood

I forgot to mention that this house, reported under contract today, is going to have a 17,000 sq. ft. neighbor soon. I’d say the owner is getting out just in time, while the buyer …?

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Bidding war!

10 Circle Drive Ext., a liitle hut asking $499,999, sold for $510,000. Assessment was $582,000 but in this case, sometimes a bargain isn’t.

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So what? The reverse happens all the time.

Sheep gives birth to lamb with human face.

Woman gives birth to sheepish son:

Baaaaa

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Quiet before the lull

Not counting the month-old contract reported today, there is no local real estate action so far this morning and really nothing much going on yesterday. Either the buyers are all hiding under their desks at work waiting for the Bonus Bunny to arrive or – there’s nothing happening. I’ll be back later to see if that’s changed.

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Martha Coakley: “I don’t see nuttin’ “

Coakley to campaign worker after he throws reporter to ground: “Let’s move on”

Story here.

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Ugly charts from a pessimist

BusinessInsider has posted a dozen charts prepared by a mortgage lender who seems to be fishing for short sales but regardless of the motive, his charts are colorful.

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At long last, love

42 Midwood

This Deer Park property was first listed two years ago in February, 2008, for the princely sum of $11,950,000. After a series of price cuts it reached an asking price of $7.425 and today it is reported as under contract (actual date of contract was December 10, 2009 but it was just reported today, for some reason). How’s that Shaker hymn go? “Come down where we ought to be”.

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He said it

The Professor has it exactly right:

ERIC SCHEIE: Where’s the Brave Art World That Stood Up to John Ashcroft? First, they’re wimps. Second, they regard the people who terrorize and silence them as their moral superiors.

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Here we go again

38 Grahampton Lane

This 1965 house was completely redone in the early 2000s and sold, in just 14 days, for its full asking price of $4.385 in September 2006 (contract date). It’s back for sale today asking $4.995. The listing says it was renovated again in 2008 but the assessment remains unchanged so I suspect, but don’t know – I haven’t seen it – that the second “renovation” was more cosmetic than substantive.

So has the market risen enough to allow a $600,000 increase in value in the past three years? Not that I’ve noticed, but I’m probably missing something here.

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Wall Street bonuses

They’re coming and the ramoras are drooling. Big bonuses mean lots of money to buy houses and some realtors are predicting a hot spring market. Maybe. But how much of those bonuses willl be in stock? To me, that’s a problem; to David Ogilvy, it is not.

There are also firms like Goldman Sachs, which said last year that its top executives will be paid in stock, which could hinder sales. But Greenwich Realtor David Ogilvy said they can borrow against that.

I’m a remora, but I’m a scum-sucking bottom feeder too and the idea of a bunch of Wall Streeters financing huge homes with loans against their employer’s stock excites me as much as a short seller viewing a flock long on the Euro – happy days will come again, soon.

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Stop underwriting fat cat bankers

So says this WSJ commentary.

People say that shareholders have no control over executive compensation. In fact, it appears that a clear rule of thumb about executive compensation has emerged on Wall Street. When banks make profits, the managers keep 40%-50% of the take, and the rest goes to the shareholders, either by being re-invested in the company or paid as dividends.

Politicians are frustrated because they are virtually powerless to stop the flow of bonus payments to bankers. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D., Ohio) thinks that the U.S. should follow the lead of Britain, France and Germany and levy heavy taxes on bonuses. While such action might placate some people, it is the shareholders, not the banks, who will end up paying this tax. Worse, this sort of tax will not affect banker behavior, because it will not reduce (and probably will increase) the government’s proclivity to bail out banks that have made bad bets.

There is only one way to resolve the bonus problem. We should continue to let shareholders pay their managers whatever and however they want. But we must get out of the business of guaranteeing against failure. The bankers and the shareholders who enjoy the rewards of risk-taking should be made to act like real capitalists: They should be required to assume the risks that go along with the banks’ business activities.

Banks that are considered too big to fail should be dismantled into smaller pieces that the economy can digest. And the government should make it clear that it will allow these institutions to fail. When this happens, the shareholder-owners of these banks will pay their managers much more sensibly—and Mr. Obama will be able to wash his hands of the business of helping out the fat cat bankers on Wall Street.

Mr. Macey is a professor at Yale Law School and a member of the Hoover Institution Task Force on Property Rights.

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How’d that work with Mongolian Idiots?

Seems to me that despite the name change, we still have Down’s Syndrome kids. But never daunted, a Washington State legislator has come up with a solution to poor kids. They haven’t been called “poor kids” for decades of course; they morphed into “disadvantaged” and then “at risk”, but, as predicted 2,000 years ago, they are still with us. So this lady wants all references in state laws and regulations to substitute “Children of Hope” for “at risk”.

That should do it but if not, why not pull out all the guns and call them “beautiful, splendid children who are all above average”? In fact, I kind of like that.

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God help us if we have another success like this

Administration says Stimulus was a success. Sure, unemployment is 2% higher than was predicted if the Stimulus were not enacted and sure, the economy is diving again, but “[t] he council estimated that the stimulus provisions boosted economic growth in the fourth quarter by less than in the second and third quarters. But the council chairman, Christina Romer, has said that such a leveling off is typical of stimulus measures, which have their biggest economic bang at the outset.”

I have to get to work and don’t have the time to dig up the contrary right now but surely I’m not the only one who remembers that, when the economy continued to flounder, hearing from the administration that stimulus programs took awhile to kick in. Now that this one hasn’t, they’re claiming its good effects were limited to its first few months? Pshaw.

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