Daily Archives: February 1, 2010

Greenwich High to encourage intellectual curiosity?

Fresh on the paws of the police dogs GHS administrators want to unleash on their students comes news that – duh – grade pressure is keeping students away from subjects that interest them. So now the school is considering “unweighting” the grades accorded to some classes, in the hope that those students surviving police surveillance will study subjects that challenge and interest them. That’s a good idea, but is probably a non-starter in today’s hyper-atmosphere of Ivy League-or-bust mentality.

Today’s NY Times reports that A-type personalities at Princeton are freaking out over grade deflation. I’d bet that these kids, with their parent’s money, will prevail and all “As” will return to campus. Too bad for them: I always enjoyed taking chances in getting educated, and deliberately sought out the difficult courses: hard rock mineralogy, Shakespeare from a political science perspective, etc. The grade I am most proud of is the B+ I received  from B.U.’s Dr. John Silber, who taught me Plato in 1976,  the summer I graduated from the school up the street, Boston College. It didn’t help me get into law school (although Dr. Silber’s letter of recommendation did) but I would still trade my wait-list letter from Yale for the experience of tackling a difficult subject under a demanding professor like John Silber, every time. If Greenwich High will unleash its students’s imaginations  while, I hope, keeping the police dogs leashed, I think our children will be well served.


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Fieldpoint Private Bank and Trust

So here’s a Greenwich mortgage player being trashed by its competitors back in 2007:

Some in the industry think the concept of a tight-knit titan-owned private bank is shrewd. Others dismiss it as little more than a group of elite financiers acting like a teenage Mickey Rooney exclaiming to his pals, “Hey, kids, let’s put on a show.”

“These are a bunch of guys who’ve got time on their hands,” said one competitor, who asked not to be identified. “Just because you ran a big business doesn’t mean you can play in this world.”

Another competitor asked: “What’s the end game? Is it a men’s club or a real venture with an exit strategy?”

And here’s a quote from a client and friend of mine, who just did a deal with them:

Just wanted to let you know that I just finished my closing for the permanent mortgage on the house. I ended up doing the mortgage withMarcus Zavattaro at Fieldpoint Private Bank and Trust.

If any of your clients are looking for a mortgage, they are great. I wasted so much time and effort with Hudson City and they were so inflexible it was ridiculous. Fieldpoint keeps all their mortgages and are willing to work with you. I have a colleague doing a 2nd on his house with the same experience.

Thought that I would pass it along.

I’ll go with actual experience over competitors’ sniping, every time.


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Useful idiots

Brunswick uniform

I’ve enjoyed – sort of – poking fun of the privileged class of Brunswick Boyz who sport Che T-shirts and spout nonsense. What’s the point of being 16 if you can’t be an idiot? Lord knows, I was. But here’s a nice posting from someone who takes the measure of an older idiot, Johnny Depp, and finds him deficient.

In a famous speech in 1961, Che Guevara denounced the very “spirit of rebellion” as “reprehensible.” “Youth must refrain from ungrateful questioning of governmental mandates” commanded Guevara. “Instead they must dedicate themselves to study, work and military service.”

And woe to those youths “who stayed up late at night and thus reported to work (government forced-labor) tardily.” Youth, wrote Guevara, “should learn to think and act as a mass.” Those who “chose their own path” (as in growing long hair and listening to Yankee-Imperialist Rock & Roll) were denounced as worthless “lumpen” and “delinquents.” In his famous speech Che Guevara even vowed, “to make individualism disappear from Cuba!  It is criminal to think of individuals!” he raved.

As luck would have it, this very month GQ magazine modestly crowned itself the crowner of the “25 Most Stylish Men in the World.”  Based on their cover, the top contender for the top spot seems like Johnny Depp, who appears shirtless–all the better to display his Che Guevara pendant.

In the mid 60’s tens of thousands of Cuban youths learned (as in 2010 thousands of Venezuelan youths are learning from one of his most dutiful disciples) that Che Guevara’s admonitions were more than idle bombast. In Che Guevara the hundreds of Soviet KGB and East German secret police STASI “consultants” who flooded Cuba in the early 60’s, found an extremely eager acolyte.  By the mid 60’s the crime of a “rocker” lifestyle or effeminate behavior got thousands of youths yanked off Cuba’s streets and parks by secret police and dumped in prison camps with “Work Will Make Men Out of You” in bold letters above the gate (the one at Auschwitz’ gate read: “Work Will Set You Free) and with machine gunners posted on the watchtowers. The initials for these camps were UMAP, not GULAG, but the conditions were much the same.

Today the world’s largest Che Guevara image adorns Cuba’s headquarters and torture chambers for its KGB-trained secret police. And Johnny Depp seems delighted to flaunt this emblem from his pendants, shirts and kerchiefs.

“I bet you were expecting a Hollywood putz,” boasted Depp to his obsequious Vibe magazine interviewer who seemed dazzled by Depp’s penetrating sagacity. “Bet you expected  some f**cking commodity without a brain in his head!”

Nothing of the sort, Mr Depp. In Hollywood, you tower as an exceptional intellectual commodity.


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World peace postponed

Muslim celebrating 9/11

So a lady suicide bomber blows up 50 of her fellow muslims today. I guess she was a Sunni and the folks she killed were Shiites, as though I could care. Point being, the religion of peace claims that, once they kill or convert all infidels, a muslim caliphate will bring peace, joy and happiness to the world. Good luck with that: turns out, after knocking all of us off, either the Sunnis or the Shiites will have to wipe out the other and then we’ll have peace. I can hardly wait, although I guess I’ll have to.

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TARP Report

I don’t have the time (the inclination, really) to read all 200+ pages of Inspector Tarp’s report to Congress, but this doesn’t sound particularly encouraging – not after we’ve dumped $700 billion down this rathole.

Many of TARP’s stated goals, however, have simply not been met. Despite the fact that the explicit goal of the Capital Purchase Program (“CPP”) was to increase financing to U.S. businesses and consumers, lending continues to decrease, month after month, and the TARP program designed specifically to address small-business lending — announced in March 2009 — has still not been implemented by Treasury. Notwithstanding the fact that preserving homeownership and promoting jobs were explicit purposes of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (“EESA”), the statute that created TARP, nearly 16 months later, home foreclosures remain at record levels, the TARP foreclosure prevention program has only permanently modified a small fraction of eligible mortgages, and unemployment is the highest it has been in a generation. Whether these goals can effectively be met through existing TARP programs is very much an open question at this time. And to the extent that the Government had leverage through its status as a significant preferred shareholder to influence the largest TARP recipients to carry out such policy goals, it was lost with their exit from TARP.


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Why use a scalpel when a meat axe will do?

Just hand me that listing, sonny and I'll take care of it

98 Glenwood Drive (Belle Haven) lopped $1.250 off its price today, leaving it at $11.250 million. And that’s nice – the owners must feel they’re getting closer to its value because their last price drop was a full $2 million, from $14.5 to $12.5.

Any lower price is better than the first price of three years ago when another broker put this on for $16.5 million. I thought that was laughable at the time but the owner, who missed selling at the top of the market and is now riding out  its bottom probably doesn’t find it amusing.

This is a nice old house, redone, with water views. Which is good as far as that goes, but the views are of the association beach across the street. Who doesn’t love screaming little towheads, scions all, but do you want to love them all summer?

What will this house eventually sell for? Beats me – I’ve never quite figured out the premium to add to Belle Haven properties so as to cash in on the desperate need of some people to live there, but the assessment is around $4.5 million.


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I think the high end market is due for a fall

Last year I worked with some clients who were looking for something special in the $5 million range. We gave up, finally, and now they’re building what they want. Notwithstanding that experience, I was quite hopeful when I met with another new client this weekend to discuss what they were looking for: absolute top quality construction, good land, and a location somewhere, if possible, south of the Parkway. Range – somewhere in the $6s or $7s.

I thought of four houses off the top of my head that I believe meet those criteria and we’ll go see them soon. But just to make certain I wasn’t missing anything I pulled a search today for all listings beginning at $5.25 million and climbing north from there. There are 120 houses available in that range and while some are quite nice, I couldn’t find one that I considered to offer value. Not bottom-feeding value, mind you, just a sensible price for a good house.

Most of the new construction can be dismissed out of hand because it was thrown up on lousy land. The few that aren’t are either nasty construction with novelty items like two dishwashers stuck in the kitchen to make the buyer overlook the lack of quality or, in a few instances, beautifully built but asking millions more than I, at least, would recommend paying.

I’m certainly not infallible and some of these houses may find buyers , especially some of the older ones that have been renovated, but there sure are a lot of houses out there that offer a good building but no (decent) land or a bad building and bad land. I don’t think those will sell very soon.


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Funny, she doesn’t look Arabian!

Obama bows to Mayor of Tampa


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A contract on Mead Point Drive

5 Mead Point

I liked this house when I first saw it in 2003, when it asked $4.195 mllion. It’s on an acre of land, on a private, quiet street and if it suffers a bit from highway noise I, at least, didn’t find it objectionable. It didn’t sell back then so the owners pulled it off and made some smart modernizations to it and put it back up for sale a year ago for $4.425. That wasn’t a crazy price, I don’t think, for this house and this location, but the market being what it is, the sellers had to reduce it to $3.950 and today it’s under contract.

I don’t know what its final selling price will be – assessment is just $2.670, but I think that’s way too low – but I’m guessing it’s selling for somewhere in the mid-to-high threes. Very nice house, if you’re a fan of older homes, as I am.


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The party of the little people

Politico reports that 12 Democrat senators spent the weekend in Miami Beach partying with and soliciting funds from lobbyists for tobacco, big oil , banking and drug companies. They’re back in D.C. today, no doubt spewing populist siund-bites for their voters back home.

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Queen Pelosi Airlines story gains traction

The congresswoman’s use of military jets to ferry her family around is beginning to be picked up by the press but not, of course, the New York Times. I did find this “debunking” of the original 2007 story amusing. The refutation consisted of a “well everyone does that” claim, rather than a denial. Since then, of course, the Speaker has demanded funding for an entire fleet of new jets for her and her pals’ use, and FOIA requests have produced receipts for $100,000 in booze, emails demanding service for her children and grandchildren, etc. This one will not die, I hope. Even the New York Times might finally be forced to take notice.

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21 Desiree sells

Sales price for this 2005 would-be spec house was reported today as $3.715. That’s a far cry from its original asking price of $5.950 million, but probably closer to where it should have started in the first place.


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Does Google tilt search results leftwards?

This guy says they do. My own experience with the “Do no evil” company was that they blocked my blog site after I posted some libertarian musings. Not blocked for one day – months. I switched to WordPress after three days and never looked back but when I did check to see whether any of my appeals to unblock my site had been heeded, months later, they had not. So far as I know, I’m still blocked over there. Which is kind of scary, when Google controls Internet search. God bless WordPress.


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Queen Pelosi Airlines, cont.

The 2,000 documents wrenched from the secret bowels of the Air Force by Judical Watch’s FOI request continue to provide fun details of how our Speaker of the House uses our money. Last week it was the $101,000 spent on booze for her flights, today it’s private trips for her son and grandch8ildren  to get back to private school.

As her leader says, “tomorrow we cut; today we spend!”


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Changing of the guard

The first of February brings five expired listings. Some, probably, will come back with the same brokers – others won’t.

31 Quail Rd

Sellers paid $3.8 million for this Quail Road property in 2003, dumped a ton of money into renovations and put it back up for sale last year at $5.095. No go – assessment (70% of estimated 2005 market value) is $3. 4 million.

24 Khakum Wood was listed by Ogilvy at $14. 5 million in May, 2008 and expired today unsold. Assessment is $5.944.

521 Round Hill, Leona Helmsley’s spread, is another Ogilvy listing expiring unsold. He started at $125,000,000, dropped it $60,000,000, the largest price cut in Greenwich and possibly the world’s real estate listings and still couldn’t sell it. Assessment is $22,809,000 , which seems closer to the mark to me.

11 Wilmot, in Riverside next to the train station sold for $775,000 in 2002, had some renovations, was put back up for sale last year at $1.595  and only budged $150,00 before expiring. Assessment is $916,000.

4 Rainbow sold for $423,000 in 1998, was renovated and put back on for sale, also asking $1.595. Assessment is $959,000.

So if there is a lesson to be learned here, it’s that buyers should continue to be patient – plenty of room for prices to continue to fall.


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The 51st state, continued

My bad: Cos Cob resident (take that, FF) Phil Maymin turns out to have been on to this idea for years. Here he is writing in 2007:

It would be hard for Connecticut as a whole to secede. Last year, an attempt to put an initiative on the Alaskan ballot to secede was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Alaska. And of course, we still remember the bloodshed that resulted the last time a state actually tried to leave the Union.

But perhaps it is possible for towns and cities in Fairfield County to form a political entity and disassociate from the rest of Connecticut. After all, for this, precedent is on our side: West Virginia seceded from Virginia during the Civil War.

Our county has about one-quarter of the total population of the state and includes five of the nine most populous cities, including Bridgeport, the largest. Yet we pay, by a variety of measures, for about half of Connecticut’s budget. For some of our wealthier towns the disparity is even greater: Greenwich, Stamford, Fairfield, New Canaan, and Westport combine to pay for 25 percent of the whole state budget despite having about 8 percent of the population.

Fairfield County is only about 10 percent of the total land area of Connecticut but even as a separate state it wouldn’t be too small: It would be about half the size of Rhode Island or about ten times the size of Washington, D.C.

Just imagine what we could do without the burdens of the entire state of Connecticut, and much of the rest of the United States, on our shoulders. We could reject the federal “grants” that come with so many strings and handcuffs attached. We could constitutionally prevent an income tax from ever being levied. We could educate our children, build our roads, and care for our elderly in any way we choose, not how distant politicians think we should. Cities like Stamford and Bridgeport would prosper and we would be known as the Fairfield Miracle—all for merely getting out before it was too late.

And what of the many state politicians we leave behind to try to finally fix their budget woes now that their golden egg has hatched? They, like the fabled captain, would have to go down with the ship.

What are we waiting for? Let’s get it on.


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Oh, this will be fun

Obama, still blaming Bush for his own record deficit spending, is going to release his budget proposal today. Award friends, punish enemies – something new in Washington.

“We increase investments in things we need, like job creation and middle class tax cuts,” he said. “We cut spending on those we don’t, like tax cuts for oil companies and investment fund managers, and programs that are redundant, obsolete, or simply ineffective.”

This will shock the man from Malaysia but, when oil companies pay higher taxes, the middle class pay more for oil, thus negating their own tax cuts – it’s all one pocket, fella.

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