Monthly Archives: March 2010

Developer Barry Montgomery sues Greenwich over Cos Cob power plant approval

I have no idea what financial  strategem of his was disturbed by the town moving forward on the power plant site but when Barry sues, follow the money.


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My argument exactly

Father of Global Warming Scam says “it’s too late to save the planet – enjoy life while you can”. And the old coot is right. NASA’s own nutcake, Jim Hansen gave us 18 months to do something about his pet scare before we passed beyond the pale, and we didn’t do it! Bonny Prince Charley, the load, gave us two years and we flunked that test too.

So we’re all doomed – fine. I happen to think the planet is not going to die, but if all these experts say it’s useless to try to save it, can we at least save the trillions of dollars our politicians are demanding for regulating the climate? Hardly likely, but let’s give it a try.


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Your money on drugs

This is an actual video of a United States Congressman questioning an Admiral of the U.S. Navy. Now I realize that Admirals have little else to do with their time, but assuring a congressman that Guam will not “capsize if there are too many people on it” is probably pretty low down on the scale of usefulness. Keep in mind that you have turned over close to fifty per cent of your income to men like this for them to spend wisely on your behalf. And you know what’s even scarier? The morons who become congressman are the cream of the crop of state politicians. Imagine, if you dare, who is in Hartford at this moment, planning your future.


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California real estate blogger

Retired IB’r sends along this link. Good! Now you can blame this guy for ruining the Greenwich real estate market! The bastard!

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Taser cops

Here's to you, Granny!

No indictment for cop who tasered 4-foot eleven, 72-year old lady during traffic stop. Tasers don’t give cops an alternative to lethal force; rather, they allow these thugs and bullies a new avenue in which to exercise their sadism. Keep brutal toys away from brutal people, is my rule.


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Interesting view of the logistics of war

Getting supplies to Afghanistan – it ain’t easy. I’m pretty sure that the general who oversaw the same operation in the first Gulf war was hired later by Sears to get their own delivery system in order. Great training, no doubt.

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They’re not only atheists, they’re know-nothings

James Taranto ( picks up on Politico’s and’s attack on U.S. Senate candidate Carly Fiorina’s mention of “breaking bread” during Passover. Here’s TalkingPoints take on the subject:

California Senate candidate Carly Fiorina (R) sent a letter to her supporters [Monday] in honor of the first night of the Jewish holiday of Passover, which she described as a time where [sic] “we break bread and spend time with our families and friends.”

Add this to the annals of unfortunate metaphors, since Passover is actually a time when most Jews abstain from eating any bread at all.

Passover marks the Jewish exodus from slavery in Egypt, when they were so rushed to escape they didn’t even have time to let their bread rise. Instead, they ate Matzoh, or unleavened bread. Typically, Jews replace all bread and bread products with Matzoh for the eight days of the Passover holiday.

As Taranto points out, Fiorina was referring to “the most famous seder in history” as anyone with any knowledge of Judeo/Christian history would know:

“Where do you want us to prepare for it?” they asked.

He replied, “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large upper room, all furnished. Make preparations there.”

They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.

When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”

After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.”


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And again

34 Split Timber, one of those ranches on slabs built in 1968 on the old pasture across from North Mianus School, came on at $1.395 last summer and finally dropped to an even million in November. As that end of the market heated up this month a (mini) bidding war erupted and it sold today for $1,000, 005. Assessment is $775,000.

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Real estate news (finally)

34 Boulder Brook

Nice house, great back yard, but it sold in 2007 for $1.750 million, which was rich, even then, and wasn’t going to get anything like that when it reappeared last year at $1.595. Assessment is $1.453, today’s price is $1.439,000. Worth looking at, if you like this neck of the woods.

Another approach to pricing may be to grossly over-price your property and let buyers think they’re getting a real bargain when they bid a fraction of its price. It worked up on Round Hill Road, where a $25 million ask was bought for something like $19 million, when $12 should have taken it.

58 Pond Place

This Cos Cob house is assessed at $560,000 but priced at $970,000, and it just sold for $855,000. Someone is convinced he got a real bargain, and good for him!

14 Augustus

Similarly, this home at 14 Augustus (I have no idea where that is) is assessed at $1.7 million, was priced at $3.850, and sold for $2.450.

So perhaps you should modify my long-standing advice and not price your house for what it’s actually worth: double that figure, then slash it in half and stand back while buyers collide on your stoop, waving fistfuls of dollars.

UPDATE: Oops! Of course I know Augustus Lane – I just didn’t recognize the picture. A very nice house on the approach to but not in, Belle Haven. $2.450 was a price that would have sold it long ago, but I’m glad for the owners’ sake they got it. Notwithstanding my somewhat tongue in cheek advice here, usually a horrendous over pricing results in a house selling for less that it’s worth, simply because it sits on the market so long that it looks distressed.


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Blogger workshop

I just heard from a friend of mine, Robin Horton, who (a) thanked me for recommending builder Ferdinand Steyer and (b) is hosting a blogging workshop. I think a good blog is essential for business these days – had blogging been available fifteen years ago, I could have established a nation-wide clientele for my securities law practice. Too late for that now, but here’s the info on Robin’s class; she’s a very sharp lady and I have no doubt you – even realtors! – could learn a lot here.

Discover the full power of your unique creative voice:
Learn to generate hot ideas and killer content so people will read your blog.

Join the experienced duo of Robin Horton (marketing communications consultant, art director, creator of and blogger at award-winning blog Urban Gardens) and James Navé (writing teacher, creativity consultant, poet, storyteller, performer, director of The Imaginative Storm Creativity Workshops, and former co-director with Julia Cameron of the famous Artist’s Way workshops) where we will:

• use writing prompts and exercises to stimulate your imagination & get ideas
• tap into concrete specifics and turn them into compelling blog posts
• practice, probe, and share ways to make your writing sizzle
• learn to promote your blog, make it “searchable” and generate buzz
• spark off with other bloggers, get feedback
• learn tactics & tech tips, learn about “pingbacks” and “link juice”
• experiment with form, harness the energy of words, electrify your writing
• launch your blog posts into the blogosphere!

Saturday, April 24

Riverside Yacht Club
Riverside, CT

$225 including lunch
and blogging tool-kit
Early-bird discount:
$200 register by April 5

My own (free) advice: if writing doesn’t come easily, either don’t bother, or go to this workshop and learn how to do it. Blogs only work well when they’re updated constantly. Second: if it’s not fun, don’t do it. Payback is so slow (I get clients who only come on board after years of reading) that if you don’t enjoy it, it’ll be just another chore in your day. Which is why I post so many non-real estate-related things here. I get bored easily, and if I couldn’t post items that strike me as funny or appeal to my nutso-Libertarian streak, I couldn’t stand it. As it is, I really love doing this blog. But keep it fun – if you aren’t being entertained, it’s most likely that your readers aren’t either, and they’ll go elsewhere.

UPDATE: another thought – allow comments, but moderate them. An incredible community of intelligent readers has come on to this blog, and I rarely edit them. But unmoderated blog comments invariably degenerate into just horrible dreck. Knowing there’s a moderator seems to keep the awful Internet trolls away and thereby allows the formation of a community of real readers, some of whom have become my friends (not you, Walt) and all of whom I treasure (see previous parenthetical, Walt).


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Catching up on email

I’ve been sort of swamped lately and if I haven’t responded to your message, please try me again. In the meantime, here’s an interesting missive from someone who wasn’t impressed by Helen Davis Chaitman a self-proclaimed Madoff victim:

Saw your article about Helen you were so right I hired Helen in 1998 she took $100,000 from me just to review my case then filed numerous litigation against Chase Manhattan Bank and a bankruptcy trustee and then in 2002 abandon me (when my money ran out) to be put into a collusive fraudulent involuntary bankruptcy by a law firm she was supposed to be suing. She left me and my 3 children homeless and destitute. She is definitely NOT A VICTIM and absolutely knew what she was doing when she invested with Madoff. Donna Sturman
Links to various law suits attached. Contact me if you need them.

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From a reader: Former Governor Pataki engaging in pump and dump penny stocks

Robert Brennan, First Jersey Securities, needs an assistant while he's in jail

The idea of penny stocks is simple: buy an existing shell company (no assets) for practically nothing, issue millions of new shares, give a bunch of them for free to yourself and other promoters and then sell the balance to the public via boiler room operations (the guys who call you during dinner). When the price goes from, say, $0.05 to $3.00, everyone who’s in on the scam dumps their shares and quits pumping, whereupon the artificially inflated price returns to its actual value: zero.

There’s absolutely nothing new about this plan; my own Dutch ancestors probably sold worthless shares of crud to Fudrucker’s relatives, newly arrived from Ireland,  so it’s doubly disappointing that Governor Pataki would choose to enrich himself this way. Al D’Amato, who abused his Senate position as Banking Czar to keep the boiler room operation, Stratton Oakmont, alive for years, was always known to be a crook. I’d thought, naively obviously, that Pataki was a better man.


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Apples to apples

29 Hearthstone

Here’s another house coming on unchanged after a 2006 purchase. It was bought then for $1.725, listed earlier this year for $1.875 and dropped today to $1.750. I’m pretty sure the most recent sale on Hearthstone was around $1.4 million, so it will be interesting to see where this sells and whether the market is going up, or down.


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Here’s a sad listing

One Finney Knoll

The house of Edd Hendee, that exceptional young man killed in a skiing accident this winter, is up for sale today, listed at $1.995 million (they paid just over $2 for it in 2006). That was an accident that made every parent so sad – young children widow, and by all accounts, a wonderful person. I believe the family has returned to Texas.

I remember this as an extraordinary house – the builder, seeking to overcome its location next door to HayDay (now Balducci’s), built a $3 million house and priced it for a million less. The market is not what it was then, of course, but the finishes and quality of this house are surely unchanged.

(Assessment is just $1 million, which shows why you can’t always use those things – this house is many things, but definitely not a million dollar house).

UPDATE: Greenwich Time article on Mr. Hendee here.


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Bet they’re sorry they picked on him now

Study: Toads can detect early signs of earthquakes.

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Don’t have one, won’t buy one

Last June, the Hartford looters imposed a $10 fee for saltwater fishing. The money goes straight into their maws because unlike inland fishing, the state maintains no hatcheries or otherwise supports fish life in the Sound. In September they increased that fee to $30 but there must have been some outcry because, as of today, the fee seems to be back to $10.

Regardless, I’m not paying this.

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Since my son reads this blog, occasionally, I thought I’d post this here

From an InstaPundit reader in Utah:

Last night an reporter from CNN travelling with the Tea Party Express showed up at our shop to talk about the Tea Party Express that was coming through Provo and Salt Lake City, Utah today. (I was the local organizer for the Provo event). I gave him a tour through our shop and then took him for a drive up the canyon in one of our cars. We talked the entire time. We ended up speaking for about 4 hours. At the end of our conversation, he dropped a bomb, “You know, I decided to come and find the facts about you guys for myself. The facts are the facts. Keith Olberman is way out in left, crazy field! You guys aren’t anything like the media has portrayed you.” I replied, “I know.” He told me he was then going to write a story on the “real” Tea Party people he met on his travels through Nevada, Utah, and Colorado.

That’s probably an article that will never see publishing daylight, but I admire the young reporter’s initiative.


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Another “unexpected” drop in employment

I keep asking myself, “unexpected by whom?”


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Yantik River floods (again)

Norwich, Connecticut (where my brother lives) is flooded again. Brother John’s house is, I believe, high and dry, but houses on the flood plain are endangered. Considering that the Yantik always floods, news that we are once again rushing in aid to homeowners on the floodplain to help them re-set their bowling pin houses doesn’t thrill me. But so it goes – I read earlier this year about a federal effort that moved all houses off the Red River flood plain (I think it was the Red River). The towns along the river, gifted with now-empty land, promptly resold it and when the newly-built houses that sprung up were flooded this year, we taxpayers were once again on the hook.

The Yantik, by the way, further north from Norwich, is a nice little trout stream at normal levels – opening day is tomorrow, I think, but you might want to wait for the waters to drop a bit before wetting a fly.

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When you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose

NYT: Lesson from the Great Depression: [very much NOT an article by Nobel Prize winner Krugman!]

As shown by a 1999 study by  Martha Olney, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, the Great Depression of the 1930s offers vivid evidence that borrowers default for strategic reasons, and make full payments even on loans that appear “unaffordable” when given the incentive to do so. (Thanks to Song Han at the Federal Reserve Board for pointing me to this study).

During the 1920s boom that preceded the Great Depression, consumer indebtedness grew twice as much as household incomes, which themselves grew significantly. From 1929 to 1933, employment and household income fell many times more than they have fallen in the current recession: If there ever was a time when households could not afford to pay their debts, the Great Depression was such a time.

Indeed, real estate mortgage defaults were common in the Great Depression, and both affordability and strategic default might be cited as reasons. But Professor Olney showed that the incentives for strategic default varied across loan types during the Great Depression, and that default on consumer installment loans made little sense from a strategic point of view.

In the 1920s, it was common for families to purchase automobiles, refrigerators, stoves, and other consumer durables with “installment debt”: that is, they made a down payment of about one-third, took the item home immediately, and promised to make regular payments until the item was fully paid. If the borrower failed to make his payments — even the last one — the item he purchased could be repossessed and he would receive no refund of his prior payments.

In other words, absent the destruction of the item purchased, it was impossible to be “underwater” on the typical installment debt contract of those days, and thus there was no incentive to strategically default.

Professor Olney found that defaults on such contracts were rare in the early 1930s: “Despite the layoffs, the wage cuts, and the unprecedented prevalence of installment credit use, families with installment debt were avoiding default” (pp. 321-2).

Later in the Great Depression, the rules for repossessing consumer durables changed, and consumers had to be given a refund of part of the payments they made prior to default. The incentive to repay installment debt fell, and Professor Olney found delinquencies and defaults on installment debt to rise.

Many people who lost their jobs in the 1930s still made their debt payments, as long as they had an incentive to do. Today homeowners with negative equity have little financial incentive to make their payments. By focusing so much on “affordability,” the Obama adminstration’s latest policies do little to prevent strategic default, and should not be expected to alleviate the foreclosure crisis.

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