Daily Archives: January 18, 2010

The ultimate cutting board

I read a rave review of this board and logged onto Amazon to check it out and I wanted one badly. But it was Christmas (and, in my small kitchen, where could I put this monster?) so I bought one for Gideon’s – and my – Pal Susie instead. She loves it and I’m envious. Those three bowls aren’t fixed, so you chop your onions, garlic, peppers, whathaveyou on the huge board, sweep the diced product into a bowl and bring up the next victim. Then bring the bowls, rather than the board, over to the pan and dump. Neato. Retail’s $100 +, Amazon has it for $60. Good deal.


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Pelosi: what election? We’re gonna have ObamaKare!

That’s what she says, but the politicians I’ve studied seem more interested in their own re-election than anything so dull as taking orders from the Queen, and if Coakley loses tomorrow, there’s bound to be some very nervous self-reflection. The Democrat party is sure to argue that survival depends on a united front but if ObamaKare loses the Kennedy seat for their peer, some otherwise-principled pols (I jest) may jettison the whole idea. I guess we’ll see.

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End foreign aid, especially to Haiti?

It’s obvious that it does more harm than good but, like Head Start’s wasted $100 billion or the job training programs that don’t train, no one wants to hear it and those that profit from it are loath to see it stop.

All this works to salve the consciences of people whose dimly benign intention is to “do something.” It’s a potential bonanza for the misery professionals of aid agencies and NGOs, never mind that their livelihoods depend on the very poverty whose end they claim to seek. And it allows the Jeff Sachses of the world to preen as latter-day saints.

For actual Haitians, however, just about every conceivable aid scheme beyond immediate humanitarian relief will lead to more poverty, more corruption and less institutional capacity. It will benefit the well-connected at the expense of the truly needy, divert resources from where they are needed most, and crowd out local enterprise. And it will foster the very culture of dependence the country so desperately needs to break.

How do I know this? It helps to read a 2006 report from the National Academy of Public Administration, usefully titled “Why Foreign Aid to Haiti Failed.” The report summarizes a mass of documents from various aid agencies describing their lengthy records of non-accomplishment in the country.

Here, for example, is the World Bank—now about to throw another $100 million at Haiti—on what it achieved in the country between 1986 and 2002: “The outcome of World Bank assistance programs is rated unsatisfactory (if not highly so), the institutional development impact, negligible, and the sustainability of the few benefits that have accrued, unlikely.”

Why was that? The Bank noted that “Haiti has dysfunctional budgetary, financial or procurement systems, making financial and aid management impossible.” It observed that “the government did not exhibit ownership by taking the initiative for formulating and implementing [its] assistance program.” Tellingly, it also acknowledged the “total mismatch between levels of foreign aid and government capacity to absorb it,” another way of saying that the more foreign donors spent on Haiti, the more the funds went astray.

But this still fails to get at the real problem of aid to Haiti, which has less to do with Haiti than it does with the effects of aid itself. “The countries that have collected the most development aid are also the ones that are in the worst shape,” James Shikwati, a Kenyan economist, told Der Spiegel in 2005. “For God’s sake, please just stop.”

Take something as seemingly straightforward as food aid. “At some point,” Mr. Shikwati explains, “this corn ends up in the harbor of Mombasa. A portion of the corn often goes directly into the hands of unscrupulous politicians who then pass it on to their own tribe to boost their next election campaign. Another portion of the shipment ends up on the black market where the corn is dumped at extremely low prices. Local farmers may as well put down their hoes right away; no one can compete with the U.N.’s World Food Program.”

Mr. Sachs has blasted these arguments as “shockingly misguided.” Then again, Mr. Shikwati and others like Kenya’s John Githongo and Zambia’s Dambisa Moyo have had the benefit of seeing first hand how the aid industry wrecked their countries. That the industry typically does so in connivance with the same local governments that have led their people to ruin only serves to help keep those elites in power, perpetuating the toxic circle of dependence and misrule that’s been the bane of countries like Haiti for generations.

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I realize this is capitalism at work, but I still find it sad

Kraft will take over Cadbury at a 5% premium over stock price.

A deal would unite Cadbury, which focuses solely on candy and traces its roots to 1824, with its larger and more diversified U.S. counterpart.

Cadbury has repeatedly rebuffed Kraft since the Northfield, Ill., company first publicly announced its offer in early September, which was then valued at about $16.5 billion.Kraft and Cadbury are discussing a deal that would value Cadbury at 850 pence ($14) a share, with about 500 pence worth coming in cash and the rest in Kraft shares, said people familiar with the matter. That would represent about a 5% premium over where Cadbury shares closed in London Monday.

Many Cadbury shareholders in recent days have been vocal in their opposition to Kraft’s cash-and-stock offer, which until the weekend was valued at about 770 pence a share.They might now be won over by the new offer, since many of the holders are hedge funds that bought Cadbury stock after Kraft put the company in play, and are only looking for a relatively small return.

A recommendation from Cadbury’s board is also likely to make a big difference in convincing long-term Cadbury shareholders, many of them big U.K. institutional investors, that selling to Kraft now is the right thing to do.

The concept of a corporation run for the benefit of its shareholders, while possibly never accurate, has really taken a beating these past decades, when the officers are all in it for the gelt and the shareholders are hedge fund traders looking for a quick profit. I’m not sure this is a bad thing, but it sure is different.


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I assume this is all my fault

2009 worst year ever for Greenwich real estate

While it has been common knowledge for months that 2009 was a year of historic lows for Greenwich real estate, the numbers are in, showing that sales of single-family homes slipped 20 percent and the median price slipped almost as much.

Russell Pruner, owner and partner of Riverside-based Shore & Country Properties, which released the data Monday, admitted that 2009 was the worst year in 20 years for Greenwich home sales.

Last year there were 370 home sales, down from 460 in 2008. That’s also more than half of the 726 sales recorded in 2007.

Perhaps more telling of where things are headed, the median sale price fell last year to $1.6 million from $1.95 million in 2008. The median price was $2.1 million two years earlier.

The figures show that the upper end of the market didn’t fare well last year, with 52 homes selling between $2 million and $3 million, versus 94 home sales in that price range in 2008.

Sales below $1 million actually saw growth, with one of the lowest ends of the market — homes selling for $400,000 to $600,000 — faring best. There were 37 sales in that price range, up from 24 in 2008.

Actually, I haven’t heard many complaints lately that my blog is driving down the market – sometime earlier this year my fellow agents seem to have discovered what I was describing – the market was in the tank – and accepted reality rather than blaming the messenger. I can’t say my reception at open houses is any less frosty, but there’s always that possibility, too.


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Chutzpa from, who else? The French

French accuse U.S. military  of occupying Haiti. I once studied the Caribbean sugar trade and the slavery on Haiti, as run by the French, was the most brutal and savage of all the islands. After the slaves threw out the French the cheese eaters forced the island to pay them ruinous sums to “compensate” the former tyrants. If there was ever a case for slavery reparations, it could be demanded of the French for their treatment of Haitians. Merde.

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Sore loser

Imagine what we'd be like without any money!

I hear that Antares partner Jimmy Cabreras tossed Greenwich Time reporter Teri Buhl out of 100 West Putnam Avenue when she stopped by to see how he’s doing. When things were going well for the Boys, you could barely keep your email in-box clear of their invitations and self-congratulatory press releases. Guess that’s changed.

I had occasion to drop Pal Nancy off at Pitney Bowes headquarters in South Stamford last week and saw for the first time the development going on down there. It’s amazing, and I almost – almost – felt sorry for the Boys because they did a heck of a job assembling all that real estate before losing it due to their inexperience and incompetence.


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Oh, I hope I hope

4:18  – New poll shows Coakley “in free fall”. This was after the One came to Boston to support her.

According to the survey conducted Sunday evening, Brown leads the Democratic attorney general 52 percent to 43 percent.

“I actually think the bottom is falling out,” said InsiderAdvantage CEO Matt Towery, referring to Coakley’s fall in the polls over the last ten days. “I think that this candidate is in freefall. Clearly this race is imploding for her.”

The numbers show males and independents overwhelmingly breaking for Brown, who has married his GQ looks with a populist tone in a pick-up truck on the campaign trail.

Brown holds a 15-point lead among males and crushes Coakley by 41 points among self-described independents, a group that’s been steadily inching away from the Democratic party over the last year due to growing apprehension with government spending, bailouts and health care reform.

“Men are not going to vote for Coakley at all. You have a very angry male voter who’s repudiating whatever is being said in Washington and they’re taking it out on this woman. And independents are clearly going to the Republican in droves. What’s left are the Democratic voters,” said Towery, who is a former aide to Newt Gingrich.

And the survey shows almost a quarter of Democratic voters lining up with Brown.

A DailyKos/Research 2000 poll released Monday painted a much tighter campaign, showing the race knotted at 48 percent each.

“We’re about to learn whether Obama can deliver electoral votes,” wrote DailyKos founder Markos Moulitsas on his Twitter page.

But that three-day survey was conducted between Friday and Sunday, whereas the entire InsiderAdvantage phone survey of 804 likely registered voters was completed Sunday night.


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But Eden had a stable, ideal climate!

That's just not so!

Giant crystals formed by climate swings over past 200,000 years.

Gypsum crystals up to 11 metres long were found a decade ago in caves next to the Naica mine near Chihuahua, Mexico. Over the past 200,000 years the regional climate has swung from wet to dry, suggests water trapped in the crystal. Ground level evaporation during the dry period concentrated calcium in salty surface water flowing into the caves. The evaporation repeated as the climate switched back and forth, providing enough calcium to build such big crystals, say Paolo Garofalo of the University of Bologna, Italy, and colleagues (Earth and Planetary Science Lettersvol 289, p 560).

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Mohammed comes to London

It's a boy!

A reader disputes my assertion that the Mohammedans are taking over Europe – just Google the phrase and see what you get: here’s what I see:

Muhammad is now second only to Jack as the most popular name for baby boys in Britain and is likely to rise to No 1 by next year, a study by The Times has found. The name, if all 14 different spellings are included, was shared by 5,991 newborn boys last year, beating Thomas into third place, followed by Joshua and Oliver.

Scholars said that the name’s rise up the league table was driven partly by the growing number of young Muslims having families, coupled with the desire to name their child in honour of the Prophet.

Muhammad Anwar, Professor of Ethnic Relations at Warwick University, said: “Muslim parents like to have something that shows a link with their religion or with the Prophet.”

Although the official names register places the spelling Mohammed at No 23, an analysis of the top 3,000 names provided by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) puts Muhammad at No 2 once the 14 spellings are taken into account. If its popularity continues – it rose by 12 per cent last year – the name will take the top spot by the end of this year. It first entered the Top 30 in 2000.

The spelling Muhammad, like all transliterations, comes from replacing the Arabic script with what is deemed its closest Latin equivalent. There are many versions in Britain, depending on where the family are from and variations in pronounciation.

Muhammad, which means “one who is praiseworthy”, is often given to boys as an honorary prefix and is followed by the name by which they are commonly known. It is regularly cited as the most common name in the world, though there is no concrete evidence.

Mufti Abdul Barkatullah, a former imam at the Finchley mosque in northwest London, said: “Parents who name their son Muhammad believe that the name has an effect on their personality and future characteristics. They are saying that this boy will be of good character.

“Some people may not really understand the history of the Prophet Muhammad and the name but they still want the association so they can be recognised as one of his followers.

“In Arab countries, the name Muhammad is said when you don’t know the name of someone. On the sub-continent, it is different: Muhammad can be used either before or after another name.

“When you get to the UK, it is essentially about translating the sound of the Arabic into English. A nonArab Muslim would have the name ending in -ed while an Arab Muslim would adopt the -ad ending.”

Overall, Muslims account for 3 per cent of the British population, about 1.5 million people. However, the Muslim birthrate is roughly three times higher than the nonMuslim one.

Statistics from the ONS show that Muslim households are larger than those headed by someone of another religion. In 2001, the average size of a Muslim household was 3.8 people while a third contained more than five people.

Muhammed most popular name in Oslo

Mohammed most popular name in London, Amsterdam, Oslo, Copenhagen


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Hope is springing out all over

Constitutionally gloomy pessimists like myself are being hammered by reality these days and the good news just keeps on coming. First, the public awakens to the global warming hoax, then Massachusetts – Massachusetts! – bestirs itself to throw out the entrenched power-mongers and now, miracle of miracles, the Left is going to stop procreating and thus spawning another generation of automatons. Admittedly a West Coast phenomenon for now, but the NY Times reports that eco-nuts are squabbling and in general, just not getting along due to the female side going completely absolutely nuts. May this problem hurry east, quickly.


He bikes 12 1/2 miles to and from his job at a software company outside Santa Barbara, Calif. He recycles as much as possible and takes reusable bags to the grocery store.

Still, his girlfriend, Shelly Cobb, feels he has not gone far enough.

Ms. Cobb chides him for running the water too long while he shaves or showers. And she finds it “depressing,” she tells him, that he continues to buy a steady stream of items online when her aim is for them to lead a less materialistic life.

Mr. Fleming, who says he became committed to Ms. Cobb “before her high-priestess phase,” describes their conflicts as good-natured — mostly.

But he refuses to go out to eat sushi with her anymore, he said, because he cannot stand to hear her quiz the waiters.

“None of it is sustainable or local,” he said, “and I am not eating cod or rockfish.”

The wonderful part of the article is that it finds, and quotes, psychologists who actually claim to specialize in “ecological issues”. Like this:

Women, Ms. Birkhahn said, often see men as not paying sufficient attention to the home. Men, for their part, “really want to make a large impact and aren’t interested in a small impact,” she said.

That is certainly the case in her own marriage, she said. Her husband, Kurt, an engineer and federal employee, sometimes seems to be baiting her by placing plastic yogurt cups in the garbage or leaving the reusable shopping bags in the car and coming home with disposable bags instead.

In the ensuing discussions, Ms. Birkhahn said, her husband argues that the changes she is making may have a large effect on their lives but have little or no effect on the planet. He fought every step of the way against the gray-water system she installed in their bathroom to recycle water to flush the toilet, calling it a waste of time and money, she said. The system cost $1,200 to install.

Ms. Birkhahn said she found it hard to dispute his point but thought it was irrelevant. “I am trying to be a role model for my son,” she said.

With mental health practitioners like this Birkhahn guiding them, the Birkenstock ladies of Marin County will soon be extinct and won’t the world be a better place for that?


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There won’t always be an England

In fact, I give the place fifty years, max. Terrorists win suit against government. “Mohammed” is already the most popular name among newborns in Great Britain, make of that what you will.

LONDON–Two terror suspects won the right Monday to seek compensation from the British government over the restrictions imposed upon their activities since 2006.

The High Court ruling delivers another blow to Britain’s system of so-called “control orders,” which officials say is necessary to keep tabs on terror suspects who can’t be brought to trial without revealing sensitive intelligence information.

The system allows Britain’s Home Office to ask a court to curtail suspects’ movements, ban them from foreign travel, restrict their Internet access and forbid them from associating with certain people. At least 45 people have been subjected to such orders, according to the latest count. Twelve people, including nine Britons, remain under the regime.

The two suspects whose case was decided Monday can’t be named for legally reasons. One of the two, a Libyan-British dual national identified only as A.F., was subjected to a control order because of alleged links with Islamic terrorists. He had to wear an electronic tag, stay in his house for 18 hours a day, and couldn’t work without express permission from the government.

The other man, identified only as A.E., has been described in previous rulings as an imam to the Iraqi community in an unnamed town in northern England. Britain’s security service said there was evidence he had taken part in terrorist activities.

Both had their control orders lifted in September after Britain’s highest court ruled that the government could no longer withhold evidence from the pair. Britain’s government said it lifted the restrictions rather than expose the sources of its intelligence.

Justice Stephen Silber said Monday that while the men were free to seek redress for their time spent under the control orders, he warned them that they wouldn’t necessarily succeed in their quest for compensation, adding that it was unlikely to be very substantial in any case.

A.E.’s lawyer Mohammed Ayub called the ruling was “a victory for common sense and decency.” The government said it would appeal.


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I can’t resist

Five more Massachuettes [as spelled by Obama folks] voters to call. I’ll do it and report back. Hey, it’s a holiday, no MLS data to report today, so why not?


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Obama disillusionment?

NPR’s having a field day today on great stories, none of which have yet hit the Internet that I can link to. But in France, they’re discontinuing a bunch of the high speed trains, touted by our own government as a model for what we need here, due to high costs and low ridership. And on this MLK day, they’ve lined up a bunch of black “leaders” who, while denouncing conservative blacks like Clarence Thomas, praise Obama along simple racist lines. I wonder if Peggy Joseph, who was counting on the Messiah to pay her mortgage and gasoline bills, is still as enthusiastic?

UPDATE: Try tuning into NPR, right now, if you want to be discouraged: the country elected a black president, yet every black voice NPR could find is whining about our racist society that’s holding the black man down. These people are going to lead their race into irrelevancy as every other ethnicity moves on to assimilation and the blacks sit by the side of the road, crying about racism.

By the way: according to the Greenwich Association of Realtors’s recent disciplinary decision against me, I have a special duty as a member  to refrain from comments like this and, accordingly, I suspect I am now subject to their imposition of a $1,000 fine suspended upon my on-going good behavior. Bring it on.


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Morons at work

Twitter poster apprehended and we’re all safer for it. Fed up with British snow storms delaying posts, a Twitterer gave the authorities a week to get their act together or he’d “blow this airport sky-high” The police descended, questioned the man for seven hours, have now arrested him, banned him for life from the airport in question, confiscated his computer, etc., etc.

So we got that guy who is obviously harmless. In the meantime, affording them all applicable civil rights, Britain acquitted almost every Muslim terrorist plotter who was planning to blow up seven planes. For some bizarre reason, this state of affairs pleases liberals and their state of denial. I am not so reassured.

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Short memory – we own this company, Bubba

Hope and change!

Obama attacks Brown for owning a Government Motors pick up. “Anybody can buy a truck”, claims he. Two great ripostes: Brown:

Mr. President, unfortunately in this economy, not everybody can buy a truck,” Brown said in a statement. “My goal is to change that by cutting spending, lowering taxes and letting people keep more of their own money.”

And from the comments, “It’s not about the truck; it’s about the man in the truck.”

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Beware of Google

Guinea pig a la Fonda la Paloma

If you look to the right, one of the most popular posts on this blog is my entry on guinea pigs. As I recall, my post was a light hearted jibe at my least favorite Mexican restaurant in town, Fondle My Paloma, in which I deliberately confused pseudo-Mexican cuisine with genuine Peruvian street stands that sell roasted guinea pigs on sticks. I was having fun, but I’m guessing that lots of school children with reports on guinea pigs due go onto Google and come up with a hit on my site. Poor little kids.


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The brutal European winter

Afghanistan’s bad weather has lost its cachet among the anti-American doomsayers like the New York Times back in 2001, but now comes Europe, where climate “experts” are warning of decades of “arctic winters” to come. Al Gore, call your office.

Dr Mojib Latif, a climate physicist at the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences at the University of Kiel in Germany thinks that the North Atlantic area follows climate fluctuations that operate over periods of 20 to 30 years known as multi-decadal oscillations or MDOs. He believes that between 10-50% of the warming we’ve seen since 1980 has been part of a natural cycle that is now set to change. Latif is no foaming at the mouth climate change denier. At the IPCC conference last September he warmed scientists that this cooling would be seized on by skeptics to disprove man made global warming.

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Ah, how persuasive is this?

Obama went up to the Cod State to push for Martha Coakley yesterday (best moment was probably Joe Kennedy repeatedly referring to the candidate as “Maria”), and said this:

“We’ve begun to deliver on the change you voted for,” Obama told a crowd of about 1,500 people yesterday at Northeastern University in Boston. “I can’t do it alone. I need leaders like Martha by my side so we can kick it into high gear, so we can finish what we started.”

No one I am aware of has ever accused this dreadful person of being a leader – her sole qualification for inheriting the “Kennedy seat” is that she will follow orders from her superiors and vote as her Democratic bosses dictate. I suspect that isn’t a plus today, and Obama’s transparent attempt to call her a leader isn’t going to work.


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They asked Gore to campaign for Coakley? Idiots!

“Republican weather” coming to Massachusetts: snow, rain predicted for Tuesday’s election.

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