Daily Archives: June 24, 2010

Europe to U.S. : you defend us – we’re out of here

Bullies on bicycles, two by two - the French surrender

European budget cuts slash defense spending. Not that they were doing much up to now, but gee …

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Save the Bluefin

Harpooned tuna

The NYT has an article out  on the impending extinction of the Bluefin Tuna. This subject is just pure tragedy, a tale of greed, shortsightedness and pure stupidity. The fishing nations of the world, notably Japan, are killing off a magnificent fish and won’t stop the slaughter to give the species a chance to rebuild.

I’ve always been a fisherman and I love the sport and the quarry. For years, (undoubtedly at the suggestion of another of my brilliant cousins, Ed) I subscribed to Commercial Fishman, now called National Fisherman and read the arguments, pro and con, on limiting the harvest of cod. While the fishermen argued, the cod declined, and now there are none left and the cod fishermen are on the dole. Such a victory.

The same thing is happening to all our fish stock, and those who want to make the last buck out of it block every effort to save the fishery. It’s crazy and it’s appalling. I’m very careful what I buy at the fish monger’s these days but I think the only hope fish have is for their numbers to collapse to such low levels that commercial fishing will no longer be profitable and the industry will fail. Only then, perhaps, will the fish have a chance to replenish, but it may well be too late.

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Is this a bad thing?

Congress fails to pass another extension of unemployment benefits. I’ve been self-employed for most of my adult life and thus ineligible for unemployment benefits. That status has certainly caused me great consternation from time to time over the years but it also kept me employed or looking for employment all that time.

On the other hand, I knew folks who built their lives around unemployment. Construction workers, for example, who worked nine months a year and vacation in Florida on unemployment checks during the winter when they were “laid off”. Some of these folks were my friends, but I resented their laziness, even if it was paid for by their employer and, through reduced wages, themselves.

But why do we have such a bifurcated system? Why do we self-employed pay full freight on social security, Medicaid, etc. and have no unemployment insurance while salaried employees don’t? If we can make do without those benefits, why can’t they, and vice versa?

It seems to me that this is a good time to revisit the whole employment benefit package and eliminate a number of programs that serve only to encourage slothfulness and greed. We should be prodding people back to work, not prolonging their idleness.

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Nothing we haven’t been predicting here for the past two years, but …

UPDATE: Retired IB’r sent me the link to this interview several days ago, when I was under the weather, and I missed it. My apologies.

Meredith Whitney says of housing, we ain’t seen nothing yet.

Adding to her skepticism of a recovery, said Whitney, is that more and more, people are choosing to not pay their mortgages, which is something she would not have predicted a year ago.

“What has happened in the last year,” she said, “has been the government and banks have provided a lot of mortgage modification programs, and a lot of consumers have been smart enough to say, ‘I can get a better deal on a modification program if I wait two, three, six months. So I will pay the things I need to pay the most — my credit card bill, auto bill, even home equity.’ And they’ve been not paying their mortgage.”

This has created, she said, “a massive, rotting pool of assets on bank balance sheets that have provided the consumer excess cash.”

That cash has allowed people to spend more freely in stores and restaurants, creating the feeling that the economy is, while not completely recovered, moving forward.

Just the opposite, said Whitney, who expects a double dip in housing to be inevitable. Those delinquent payers will soon have to answer for their actions, she said. In the second quarter, banks were becoming more aggressive about foreclosing on delinquent borrowers, she said. More houses on the market means still-low home prices.

“How can house prices grow?” she asked. “There’s no other way to look at it, they are going down again.”

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No wonder soccer is popular south of the border – they have Spanish announcers!

Here’s how to call “Gooooool!” Way cool.

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I claim first dibs on Crete!

Samaria Gorge

Greece putting its islands up for sale.

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Who knew?

Huge thunderstorms, maybe a tornado hit Bridgeport two hours ago. Here in Greenwich, twenty-five miles away, nothing. Weather is certainly fickle.

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Some solid sales activity

398 Stanwich Rd

A bunch of contracts reported today, most at good prices:

This house sold for $5.550 in 2004, has been listed for quite some time at $5.850 and now has a buyer.

222 Riverside Avenue

Tim Armstrong (AOL) bought this house a few years ago for $3.699 million, while he built a waterfront mansion. That house now nearing completion, he put this up for sale just a month or so ago at $3.999 and already has a contract.

15 Rockview Drive

15 Rockview Drive (lower Lake Avenue, near the rotary), $1.550 million.

329 Sound Beach Avenue

329 Sound Beach Avenue, asked $1.695 originally, dropped to $1.520 and bingo.

57 Sundance, purchased for $1.1 million in 2005, has gone quickly this time with an asking price of $1.195.

33 Keofferam

33 Keofferam has a contract, asking price, $3.150 million. Old Greenwich remains solid.

76 Bush Avenue

By way of price changes, this grand old Belle Haven house was never worth its first asking price, back in 2006, of $6.950. Today it’s been marked down to $4.975. If you hurry, you can be in it and eligible to attend the Dave Matthews concert on  Saturday.

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Murderer: I was duped by a Greenwich Mason!

I thought you was my Home Boy!

Goon confesses to a Mason, now regrets it.

Corbett’s lawyers state that Corbett told police he would not speak to them without a lawyer, but then changed his mind after he noticed a Masonic ring on one of the detective’s fingers.

After noticing the ring, which indicated the officer was a member of the exclusive fraternity, Corbett told detectives he was “familiar with and respected the Masonic Fraternity.”

Corbett also told Detective Charles Brown that his grandfather had the same ring, and asked for permission to speak with him by phone.

“At this juncture, Detective Brown got on the telephone with Mr. Corbett’s grandfather and mentor and assured him that his grandson would be treated as a brother Mason and he related that he had told Corbett to fully cooperate,” states the motion.

My own great-grandfather, John Caldwell, was saved twice in the Civil War, once by the arrival of George Custer and his cavalry just as Caldwell and his fellow prisoners were being shipped off to Andersonville and a second time when he flashed a secret sign of the Masonic brotherhood to a Confederate guarding him, who then let him slip the net.

So there are indeed advantages to belonging to the Masons, but those favors apparently don’t extend to murderers.

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If McChrystal doesn’t go to work for BP’s PR department, maybe he can work for Holland

The young Dutch don’t seem to share their parents’ enthusiasm for raw herring. I love the marinated version, but I’m not a young Dutchman.

The answer may seem self-evident, but not to the Dutch, who are trying to manage the same marketing feat with Hollandse Nieuwe(pronounced HO-land-suh NYEW-uh), or new herring, which arrives in local waters in the month of June. Traditions surrounding its appearance are as venerable as those of the French. Throughout the Netherlands, people throw new-herring parties, sharing the fish with neighbors and friends.

For as long as anyone in this seaside resort, now a district of The Hague, can remember, the first barrel of new herring has been sold at public auction. This year the barrel, with 45 filleted herring, went for $70,000, or $1,555 for each herring, to Makro, a chain of discount retailers, which sent them to a local restaurant. The money goes to charity, said Makro’s managing director, Jean-Pierre Bienfait, every bit a Dutchman despite his French name, adding, “Obviously, it’s very symbolic for the new harvest.”

So important are herring to Scheveningen that the town’s coat of arms features three herring, each wearing a golden crown. In the old days the herring boats went out for the first catch decorated with flags, so now in mid-June the town decks itself out around the fishing harbor for Flag Day, with old Dutch games like stilt-walking and can-throwing, townsfolk dressed in traditional dress and puppet shows in the old local dialect.

The fish is eaten raw and slightly salted, in a bow to a tradition that long predates refrigeration. At booths around the harbor the herring fillets, first dipped in chopped onion, are lifted high while the diners snap their heads back like sword swallowers, then slip the herring down their throats, flushing it all down with shot glasses of ice-coldKorenwijn, a Dutch spirit distilled from malt and beer.

Though prized at home, the new herring is increasingly shipped abroad, mostly to Germany, where herring is consumed in immense amounts, but about five tons goes to the United States every year, to restaurants around New York, like the Oyster Bar at Grand Central Terminal.

But if the world is being urged to try Dutch new herring, some here in the Netherlands itself, particularly among the younger generation, are demurring.

Explaining why he did not share in the new-herring euphoria, Bart Kalshoven, 34, a shoe company executive, said, “First, it’s fish: smelly and raw.”

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Henry Fountain on “Fresh Air” today

Henry Fountain

My brilliant cousin Henry will be interviewed today on NPR’s Fresh Air program (maybe at noon?) about the BP disaster. Henry and I disagree about all things political, but as a fellow versed in science, there is none better. And he’s a very funny guy, although I don’t know whether that will be allowed to be revealed in this format. Anyway, I don’t know when exactly the interview will air, but Henry is certainly worth the effort of tracking down.

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Our desperate poor

Welfare scum can use their taxpayer-paid debit cards at casinos, and they do!

Reporting from Sacramento — California welfare recipients are able to use state-issued debit cards to withdraw cash on gaming floors in more than half of the casinos in the state, a Los Angeles Times review of records found.

The cards, provided by the Department of Social Services to help recipients feed and clothe their families, work in automated teller machines at 32 of 58 tribal casinos and 47 of 90 state-licensed poker rooms, the review found.

Schwarzenegger had already threatened to eliminate the state welfare program in his May budget proposal, and that was before he and his Republican allies in the Legislature knew that the cash could be accessed by people strolling from poker games to blackjack tables.

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German muslims attack Jewish dance group

Nothing to see here, move along, move along.

BERLIN – A Jewish dance group was attacked with stones by a group of children and teenagers during a performance at a street festival in the Germany city of Hannover, police said Thursday. One dancer suffered a leg injury and the group then canceled their performance.

The teenagers also used a megaphone to shout anti-Semitic slurs during the Saturday afternoon attack, Hannover police spokesman Thorsten Schiewe said.

Police said the incident is under investigation and that they do not have an exact number of attackers yet. Schiewe said there were several Muslim immigrant youths among the attackers.

Two suspects, a 14-year-old and a 19-year-old, were being questioned, he said.

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Sell Microsoft?

Interesting story here from BusinessInsider.com.

“I talked to one CIO who said, ‘look, my biggest competitor is Google,’” Whitehurst said.

The unnamed CIO works for what Whitehurst described as a “big industrial logistics company.” A few months ago the CIO was asked by the chief marketing officer to provide a way for marketing employees around the world to share and build documents together, and perform other collaborative tasks.

The CIO discussed the project with his application development group, then went back to the CMO and said “we can do this, in nine months at a cost of $14 million,” according to Whitehurst.

“The CMO says ‘what are you talking about? I was describing my daughter’s high school science project.’ And they were on Google Documents, sharing information, jointly editing documents, and they’re doing it for free. This is a true story. I may have been slightly off on the numbers, but a true story.”

I seem to remember Bill Gates saying years ago that the future lay in cloud computing but apparently Google’s done it while Microsoft has not.

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Can we charge Greenwich Time with assault on the English language?

Man charged with assault after argument ensues.

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He’d have never made it in time for the concert

Florida man on swim float found one mile offshore.

BELLEAIR BEACH, Fla. (AP) — A man who apparently passed out on a pool float at a Tampa area beach ended up drifting about a mile from Florida’s shore in the Gulf of Mexico.

The U.S. Coast Guard rescued the man, identified as Jerry Whipple, on Wednesday afternoon.

Coast Guard Petty Officer First Class Mariana O’Leary says they suspect the man was very drunk.

The Coast Guard says a boater reported seeing an unconscious man floating well offshore. The Coast Guard and a Clearwater Fire Rescue unit responded and found the man, still unconscious and wearing a life jacket.

He eventually woke up and was checked by paramedics at a Coast Guard station.

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Someone should film this

Dave Matthews to play at Belle Haven Saturday night and the police expect a waterborne zoo.

At least one-third of the entire 148-officer Greenwich police force is expected to be part of the private security detail for an invitation-only outdoor charity concert featuring the Dave Matthews Band.

“Fifty officers is a lot of officers,” said Lt. Kraig Gray, a police spokesman. “We’re not there for buzz kill. We’ll do what we have to do to keep it safe.”

To put that in perspective, the town mustered roughly half its police force to protect President George W. Bushwhen he visited for a fundraiser in 2004.

Not nearly as many officers were assigned to Vice President Joe Biden‘s entourage last fall when he helped raise cash for U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn.

The going rate for hiring an off-duty cop is $60 an hour, a tab that police brass assured will be picked up by the concert’s organizers, not taxpayers.

The $3,000-a-head concert is being put on by the China Care Foundation, a charity established by Brunswick School and Harvard graduate Matt Dalio to provide medical care and nurture Chinese orphans. The 26-year-old is the son of Ray Dalio, manager of the Westport-based hedge fund Bridgewater Associates and the 212th richest person in the world on Forbes.com list of billionaires.

The annual event has drawn A-listers such as Eric ClaptonB.B. KingSheryl Crow and the Allman Brothers to the Belle Haven Club.

But the only public access to the club is by water, forcing those diehards without connections onto boats, rafts, kayaks or anything that floats.

“It’s not that big a deal if they’re trying to listen,” Gray said. “By the same token we can’t have 10,000 people getting drunk sloshing around in scuba gear and dinghies.”

I think this is all great – rich people get (voluntarily) soaked to help the poor, cops get a pile of overtime pay but not at our expense, and the water rat crowd (that would be me, but I’ll skip this one) gets a free concert. I particularly like Lt. Gray’s perspective.

But really – it would make a fun movie.

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