Daily Archives: April 28, 2010

Good Lord, why was he wearing a microphone?

Prime Minister caught blasting meddlesome old woman. Funny, but it may cost him the election. People, don’t don microphones!

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Demmerkrats found on Mars!

NASA says evidence of pond scum found on red planet.

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So what’s wrong with that?

Alabama candidate vows to issue drivers’ exams only in English, and is attacked. What the hey? I’ve lived in Europe – they certainly didn’t put up traffic signs for English speakers.

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When the tide goes out …

Blaine Rollins, chump

Denver Ponzi scheme exposed

One such prominent investor was former Janus Capital money manager Blaine Rollins who once oversaw $11 billion in the Janus Fund. Mr. Rollins not only invested in Mr. Mueller’s fund, but he also worked for the business, becoming the director of research last year, according to his attorney, Dan Shea of Hogan & Hartson LLP.

Mr. Shea said that Mr. Rollins had no knowledge of the alleged fraud, adding that his client also lost money. “Blaine invested a substantial amount of money and never made a withdrawal,” Mr. Shea said. “He still to this day does not know what Mueller did.”

The scandal reached a bizarre climax last Thursday, when Denver police talked Mr. Mueller down after he threatened to jump to his death from his office building. Earlier in the day, he had emailed apologies to several of his clients. In his emails, he admitted that documents were falsified and he claimed stress and frustration had overcome him.

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On-line title insurance?

A reader sends along this link to a company claiming to save you 35% on title insurance. I’m fifteen years away from real estate law, so I don’t know what to tell you. It might be a deal, or perhaps not. Back in the day, guys like me would go to Town Hall, dig around the land records, check out open building permits and, in general, make a nuisance of ourselves ensuring that our clients were getting what they paid for. That may have changed, but I still see Joel and Jeremy Kaye in the vaults, so someone still does it the old fashioned way. I don’t know – the problem is, you don’t know you have a problem until there’s a problem.

But the system could certainly use some modernization, so this might be a good deal. Your choice.

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Ego reigns supreme

Charlie Crist to run as an independent. Worked for Liberman, once, but I don’t see it happening again. But these guys do love their offices!

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Money down the rat hole

HP to buy Palm for $1.2 billion. Why?

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Is there no justice?

Pole dancing does not rise to level of “artistic expression” and qualify for sales tax exemption. I’m leaving the country!

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A couple of contracts, but not enough to keep us busy

Mostly I hear these days of busted contracts, which is good news for buyers who missed out the first time, but here are two that might work out.

9 Roberta Lane sat around for a year or so but is now reported as “pending” at $3.290 million.

And 63 Burning Tree, on in January, ’08 at $3.695, finally dropped to $2.695 (new broker) and is under contract.

And that’s about it.

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$139 billion to bail out Greece? I don’t think so

Germans aren’t happy, and who can blame them?

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I know the feeling

From InstaPundit: Law student dies from over-studying.

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The hope for high-end Greenwich real estate

Communists and lawlessness. You’re rich one day, imprisoned the next. We’ve already seen at least one sale here in town that fell apart when the buyer travelled back to Russia and found himself shipped off to Siberia. But there are many tales like this, for instance, this Chinese billionaire, jailed since November, 2008. The smart ones are looking for property here.

The son of poor devout Christian peasant farmers from southern China, Mr Huang built his nationwide chain of several hundred stores from a single street stall selling radios and watches in Beijing in the 1980s when the Communist Party allowed private entrepreneurs to do business.

He became known as the “Price Butcher” for his cut-price merchandise.

However, his high profile left him vulnerable in a system where the system continues to favour state-owned firms and the status of entrepreneurs remains uncertain.

A string of newly rich real estate developers and private businessmen have been snared in corruption cases after making their fortune in a country where bribing officials is often necessary to get ahead.

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Here today, gone tomorrow

The Hamptons, Nantucket, wherever you build on the edge of the sea, you take your chances.

Real-estate brokers say that oceanfront property remains as desirable as ever, however, buyers will seek a discount if a home doesn’t have a bulkhead along its shoreline to prevent erosion. The barriers are often made from large boulders stacked to form a wall. Environmental regulations ban new bulkheads, increasing their desirability.

“Any oceanfront customer who does not have a real deep dune or a bulkhead for their property is taking a risk,” says Jay Flagg, manager of Prudential Douglas Elliman’s Southampton office. “But buyers self-insure themselves. They have enough money, and they take measures to protect their property.”

You’re probably better off renting.

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Rolling in his (oversized) grave

Wind farm off Chappaquiddick to be approved today.

An Indian tribe that uses the area for sacred rituals that require an unobstructed view of the sunrise has vowed to sue if Mr. Salazar approves the project.

Caedite eos! Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius

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We’re ruled by morons

The Senate displays, yet again, its ignorance of the financial world. Who are these people, and where did they come from?

3) Today’s inquisition was a sideshow. Here is what really happened: there was a bubble in housing prices. The bubble was mostly the result of government policy–loose money, combined with pressure on banks to make bad loans to unqualified home buyers. It all worked for a while because Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac, under the leadership of Congressman Barney Frank and others, created a secondary market for shaky mortgages. Goldman Sachs participated in this market, downstream, along with many other players. But the whole thing wasn’t an accident or a conspiracy, it was government policy. The home price bubble could have only one possible result. All bubbles burst–there is nothing else they can do–and the bursting of a bubble is always painful. The whole disaster that began in 2008 was the inevitable result of government policy, which is why Senators are so anxious to pass the buck to Goldman Sachs.

4) The Senators, seemingly without exception, are embarrassingly ignorant of modern risk management techniques. They really don’t seem to understand how and why firms like Goldman Sachs hedge their exposure to various economic trends. The most coherent explanation of what Goldman did came from the firm’s Chief Financial Officer, David Viniar:

I’d like to give you a sense for how we managed our risk during the period leading up to the crisis.

Through the end of 2006, we were generally long in exposure to residential mortgages and mortgage-related products. In that December, however, we began to experience a pattern of daily losses in our mortgage-related P&L. P&L can itself be a very valuable risk metric, and I personally read it every day.

I called a meeting to discuss the situation with the key people involved in running the mortgage business. We went through our positions and debated views on the mortgage market in considerable detail.

While we came to no definitive conclusion about how the overall market would develop in the future, we became collectively concerned about the higher volatility and recent price declines in our subprime mortgage-related positions. As a result, we decided to attempt to reduce our exposure to these positions. We wanted to get “closer to home.”

We proceeded to sell certain positions outright and hedge our long positions in an attempt to achieve these results. As always, the clients who bought our long positions or other similar positions had a view that they were attractive positions to purchase at the price they were offered. As with our own views, their views sometimes proved to be correct and sometimes incorrect.

We continued to reduce our positions in these products over the course of 2007. We were generally successful in reducing this exposure to the extent that on occasion our portfolio traded short. When that happened, even if these short positions were profitable, given the ongoing high volatility and uncertainty in the market, we tended to attempt to then reduce these short positions to again get closer to home.

This situation reversed itself in 2008, however, when the portfolio tended to trade long. And as a result, despite the fact that our franchise enabled the firm to be profitable overall, we lost money on residential mortgage-related products in that year.

While the tremendous volatility in the mortgage market caused periodic large losses on long positions and large gains on offsetting short positions, the net of which could have appeared to be a substantial gain or loss on any day, in aggregate, these positions had a comparatively small effect on our net revenues.

In 2007, total net revenues from residential mortgage-related products, both longs and shorts together, were less than $500 million, approximately 1 percent of Goldman Sachs’ overall net revenues. And in 2007 and 2008 combined, our net revenues in this area were actually negative.

For Goldman Sachs, weathering the mortgage market meltdown had nothing to do with prescience or betting on or against anything. More mundanely, it had everything to do with systematically marking our positions to market, paying attention to what those marks were telling us, and maintaining a disciplined approach to risk management.

This explanation is actually pretty clear, but it is doubtful that any of the Senators understood it.

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Hit the road, Jack

California county bans Happy Meals. The faith in government these morons hold is endearing.

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