Daily Archives: March 26, 2010

Dumb move

Arizona arrests illegal aliens working at McDonalds. Good lord, these people are working – why not come to New York and pinch Sulzberger, instead?

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The Times fires reporters but finds money for Pinch

Pinch Sulzberger - 6 million dollar man

It’s nice to own Grandpapa’s business, no?


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Adding to that picture of blacked-out North Korea …

Transportation Secretary Ray La Hood: “This is the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of nonmotorized.”

These guys are not kidding – when Obama vowed to shut down all coal-fired power plants and return us to the 16th Century, he meant it. And he’s appointed people to run our country who agree with him.

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Walter Noel gives me dating advice

Make some small talk. Chat about something that won’t set you off on one of your lunatic rants. What could that be? Hmmmmm…. That is a hard one. Let me think. What doesn’t piss you off? I gotta admit, I may be stumped, Dude.
I got it. Poetry. You are ok with that, right? And I am not talking “There once was a man from Nantuckett”. Read up on it and talk about Whitman.

hee hee hee.

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Light up Saturday Night!

The two Koreas

The Bovina Bloviator has come up with a picture that nicely illustrates the difference between what our public skool educators envision as our future and what some of the last free men on earth are doing.

8:30 tomorrow night: let freedom shine!

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And on this day in history, 1970

Peter Yarrow pled guilty to taking “sexual liberties” with the 14-year-old president of his D.C. fan club. Three months in jail, followed by a Jimmy Carter pardon in 1980.

Puff this magic dragon, honey!

Mr. Yarrow is a semi-retired singer, appearing these days only on Channel 21 fund-raisers, and advocates for peace and children’s issues. How nice.

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Plainfield Hedge Fund

Hedge Fund Plainfield forced out of Lux Downtown Greenwich Office- Will Holmes survive?

By Teri Buhl

It looks like Max Holmes Greenwich-based Plainfield Asset Management is heading into ruins. Today, Kaja Whitehouse at the New York Post broke news that Plainfield is packing up and moving out of the premier hedge fund building at 100 West Putnam in downtown Greenwich. According to commercial real estate brokers we spoke with their new digs will be at 333 Ludow in Stamford.  The NY Post says the hedge fund plans to take what’s left of their 70 person team into the smaller space. Plainfield is winding down their main funds and trying to return most of the 3.3 billion in assets.

What the NY Post didn’t tell you is that Plainfield has yet to find a cash rich financial service firm to take over their seven year lease, on 60,654 sq ft of space, with Antares Asset Management. Fortune Magazine reported the fund pays around $7.3 million a year for the space.  We have confirmed with multiple real estate brokers in Greenwich that no sublease is signed to take over their space on the 3rd and 4th floor at 100 West Putnam. In this market, there are very few interested buyers willing to pay anywhere near the $122 sq ft price Plainfield is locked into.  But here is the interesting part, according to people involved in the deal a local private real estate firm has bought up a bunch of Antares class B debt at a discount on the $160 million loan they hold on 100 West Putnam. The discounted debt buy was made with the expectation that Plainfield wouldn’t be able to afford their rent in the Antares building, would be forced to move out and sublease at a discount, thus setting up this firm with a sweet spot to negotiate. Stay tuned for more details on who’s pulling the strings in this commercial real estate move next week.

Now that Plainfield has been forced out of Greenwich, the NY Post reported that Holmes plans to start anew after Plainfield returns investors money, with the $500 million of non-gated money remaining in the firm. But according their own balance sheet they don’t even have that much money left. A copy of Plainfield’s end of 2009 financials, reviewed by this reporter, says the two non-gated funds only had $388 million in assets.  The New York Post reported that Plainfield lost its CFO, Robert DeSantis, last week so maybe he decided to bail before investors filed lawsuits that could uncover the assets are not exactly the value Plainfield says they have.

On top of all that, two days ago this reporter was first to report that Plainfield’s co-founder, Niv Harizman, had left the hedge fund to start one of his own called Tyto Capital Partners. A move that leaves Holmes without his right hand tough guy negotiator. According to Harizman’s blog, he served as a First Lieutenant in military intelligence in the Israel Defense Force. A few of Plainfield’s borrowers told this reporter, he’s been the strong man who dealt with those that couldn’t pay on their hard money, high-interest loans.  It’s this type of lending that has the attention of the Manhattan D.A. who is investigating the fund.

With the fund is being investigated for criminal violations involving possible lending fraud, which was first reported by Fortune in late January, and is suffering an apparent drain on cash flow — the question investors are asking is will Plainfield be forced into bankruptcy before they get their money back.

UPDATE: Fortune picks up story here.


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A short sale, but who’ll buy it even at this price?

63 Indian field road

This house didn’t sell at $2.4 million (duh) and now it’s going via short sale, but still listed at $1.7 million. It may be nicely finished inside, but Indian field Road is one of our busiest streets and I don’t see a house on this street commanding anything close to this price.

Of course, the bank might realize that, sooner or later, so a bargain might be found here.

UPDATE: A reader who’s seen this house tells me I’m way under-selling it and I very well might be. Open house is Thursday, so look for a follow-up then.


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No activity, but lots of new listings

33 Highland Farm Road, bought for $6.9 million in 2005, is back, unchanged, for $7.750. Assessment is $4.8 million, but you never know. 

605 North Street


605 North Street has been kicking around since 2004 – it didn’t sell then for $12 million, it’s back today for $10 and change. Assessment is $6.78 million. 12,800 square feet, it’s a lot of house.


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Dim Sum – who knew?

An incredibly complex art of cooking for what seemed (to this idiot) a simple bit of food. Fascinating article in today’s WSJ.

Yet few are aware that making dim sum is a serious art that can take decades–some say a lifetime–to master. The tapas-size dishes are often dismissed as casual fare, minor-league items that pale beside the more elaborate Chinese dishes that come from the main kitchen. And dim-sum chefs go largely unacknowledged. That is, until recently.

Last October, Chef Pui received a Michelin star–his first and the first ever awarded to a restaurant that serves only dim sum. His 28-seat Tim Ho Wun (Cantonese for “add good luck”) sits in a discreet alley in Kowloon’s Mongkok District and is ultramodest. Service is brisk and casual; tables are set with paper placemats and plastic tea cups. By all appearances, it seems Chef Pui won solely on the merits of his dishes. It was a triumph for dim-sum chefs everywhere. Chef Pui, 46 years old, and three other dim-sum masters hold court in their kitchens in Hong Kong, where the world’s best dim sum is served.


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Not everyone hates ObummerKare

Castro applauds Obama’s triumph. I’m shocked.


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Recycling does work

Bronfman idiot spawn spawn lose $100 million to scam artist. It’s all good.

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Courtesy of Teri Buhl

And thank you, Dave McCucumber, for freeing up this fine reporter and providing her as a free resource to this blog – no wonder you drove the Seattle “Dumb as a Post” Intelligencer into the grave!

[report from Mark Henson]

Just got off a call with Treasury and a big, detailed announcement is coming tomorrow am re: HAMP, HAFA, Principal balance reductions, Obama’s 60-day late/HAMP proposal, FHA short-refi’s and a much more. The press is going to have a field day mis-reporting this, so I will do a client conference call either tomorrow or Monday on the topic.

Bottom line – as I have relayed to you already, Treasury’s goal is absolutely to define and streamline the default and foreclosure process, get all the servicers the same page, have a solution for everybody including those that can’t be helped, which basically is an expedient foreclosure or HAFA liquidation.

Servicers will be required to do things according to timelines and undertake aggressive borrower outreach initiatives, which will be good for investors and the borrower experience, and significantly speed up the process. Servicers are not staffed to do this, so unlike HAMP where they played defense, they are contracting large Real Estate and outsourced loss mitigation firms to get in front of borrowers and get them to make decision quickly. This is in sharp contrast to the perma-default and foreclosure process we have now.


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Turn on the lights Saturday night!

Hong Kong

The Eco nuts are asking everyone to shut off lights this Saturday at 8:30. I will be turning them on in celebration of human achievement. Idiots love simple, easy symbolism, like flicking off lights for a few moments and pretending that they’re saving the earth. It’s like residential recycling – totally worthless, but a feel-good activity.

F**k’em, is my philosophy. Humans are God’s gift to the world, and we should celebrate that fact, rather than moan and pluck out our hair. So lights on at my house tomorrow night: all of them.

UPDATE: seems I’m not alone in my sentiments.


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Is Obama a traitor?

Well, I do believe he has sworn to destroy our country. Whether that’s traitorous depends on how much you hate the United States.

After stocking the Justice Department with Gitmo defense lawyers, he’s now moving in the lawyer who helped the New York Times execute the grossest, and most grievous breach of national security, ever. General Counsel for the Army? This isn’t coincidental – you may applaud what the man is doing, but there’s no question that Obama has a plan to transform our country. Did you see, by the way, that Chavez has arrested his last critic? Sean Penn applauds.

Most Americans haven’t focused on this breach of security because it was deservedly treated as a nonstory in this country.  The inattention is a mistake on our part.  In fact this may be one of the most damaging national security breaches the Times has ever committed, since the European overreaction to the story has crippled a valuable program. For context, I’ve pasted below as an explanation of the matter a longish excerpt from Skating on Stilts, my book on technology and terrorism, due out in June:

It worked. Treasury later credited the program with allowing it to track and capture the mastermind behind the Bali bombings that killed two hundred people. The program was also said to have allowed Treasury to identify and convict a Brooklyn man who had laundered $200,000 for al Qaeda.

Alas, the program was soon to lose much of its value. In June 2006, The New York Times evidently decided that the program must be scandalous; over the vehement objections of the Treasury, it published a lengthy expose about it. The Public Editor of The New York Times would later conclude that the paper had been wrong to compromise the secret program…. But by then it was too late. The New York Times had managed to create a storm over the program in Europe.

SWIFT’s American CEO, who had defended the program as necessary to combat terrorism, retired in 2007. He was replaced by a Spaniard. Shortly thereafter, SWIFT announced that it would restructure its data systems to store data on European transactions only in Switzerland.

European privacy bureaucrats crowed that they had crippled the American program, at least as far as European terror finance was concerned: “the creation of a new operation centre in Switzerland … means personal data in intra-European transactions will no longer be processed in the US.” The Belgian data protection authority also cited the new Swiss center favorably when it announced in early 2008 that SWIFT actually hadn’t broken Belgian law.

Coincidence? Nope. SWIFT admitted that pressure from the privacy bureaucrats was one of the reasons it adopted the new architecture: “Distributed architecture will improve resilience, add capacity, control long-term average message costs, and alleviate European data protection concerns.”  In short, it’s pretty clear that SWIFT was forced to withhold European terrorist financing information from Treasury by European government officials.

…Having made a mess of an effective U.S. terrorism program without substantially serving privacy, some in Brussels tried to minimize the damage. The European Commission negotiated an agreement to give the United States access to intra-European bank transfer data even after the Swiss operations center is set up–but only if Treasury continued to live up to European standards.

Remarkably, even this was too much for the privacy campaigners of Europe. In the first exercise of new authorities granted to it by the Lisbon treaty, the European Parliament rejected the agreement, essentially creating a European safe haven for terrorist finance.


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Good dining in Port Chester

From a friend of mine who, as evidence of a misspent youth, never found the rock concerts at the Capital Theatre:

On Tuesday, my good friend Bill Burns and I were walking around Port Chester in the rain, waiting for my car to be inspected.  We were just walking & talking, reminiscing about the good old days at The Capital Theater, which of course neither of us ever went to. When we were nice and wet, we decided to walk back to the gas station. As we were walking past the Port Chester train station, there on the corner opposite the station, was the nicest looking little restaurant.  Really cute, kind of like something you’d find in Tucson, AZ, or Austin, TX, or maybe in South America. It was called Aqui es Santa Fe Cafe.

We were pretty wet by that point and we just wanted some coffee. And maybe a dessert or two. Inside, the place was warm, cozy, charming. A spiritual wonderland, with tributes to all kinds of spiritual heroes all over the walls, great music playing.  And Olga, the owner, manager and hostess was the most sensational, welcoming person we could find on this rainy day. She put us in two big comfortable velvet armchairs up by the window. The rain danced outside and we danced inside. Olga told us stories of her native Columbia, how overjoyed she was to come to this country and to be a part of our society. And the differences between Colombian Arepas and Venezuelan Arepas. Who knew?  We left promising to be back soon.

I got home and couldn’t wait to tell Lynn all about this place.  What a find! What an experience! But, so the adage goes, all good things are worth waiting for.  I had to wait three excruciatingly long days until Lynn and I had dinner at Aqui es Santa Fe Cafe. Last night was that night. Soft lighting, a welcome smile on Olga’s face, and the perfect mood music were waiting for us. We were casual, in flip flops, but men getting off the train would be just as comfortable.  Lynn chose the tilapia with sweet plaintain, avocado, rice and tomatoes.  I had the chicken in a mushroom sauce, green plaintain, salad and guacamole. And, of course, Colombian Arepas to start, with a melted cheese that was out of this world.  Both were delicious and generously portioned.  It looked like a smorgasbord was in front of each of us. And each entree was under $13!  By the end of the dinner, Lynn and Olga were sitting, hugging and crying in each other’s arms like they had been friends all their lives. Now that’s the first time I’ve ever experienced that in a restaurant. I have a feeling that it won’t be my last.  In fact, I think we are meeting friends there tonight.


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All the news that’s fit to print

The Wall Street Journal thinks that the collapse of demand for U.S. debt, especially among foreign buyers, is front page news. The NY Times, so far as I can tell from using its search feature, doesn’t even deem it worthy of inclusion on its business pages. If, as the Journal asserts, this portends a jump in home mortgage rates, I think it’s noteworthy, but there are those who like to live a blissful life, undisturbed by bad news.



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Assessment to sales ratio

Here, thanks to reader Pete the appraiser, are the latest figures. They’re a bit higher than I would have expected but if you want a real laugh, check out how many houses currently “for sale” are asking two and even three times their assessed value. When I get into the office shortly, I’ll see what I can do about providing those numbers.

Here’s a breakdown of the assessment ratio by price: Under $500,000 – 0.96; $500,000 to $750,000 – 1.18; $750,000 to 1M – 1.21, 1M TO 2M – 1.27; 2M TO 3M – 1.30; 3M TO 4M – 1.43; 4M TO 5M – 1.36; over 5M – 1.56.
As I expected, the ratio increases as price increases.


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Even the gloomiest of days allows a little sunshine

Al Sharpton’s ACORN-like scam, NAM, teeters on the edge of bankruptcy.

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