Daily Archives: December 18, 2011

Scary thought: I’d prefer Nixon to Gingrich

Gingrich steps up his  appeal to yahoos approach by bashing federal judges and now says that, in addition to defying Supreme Court decisions with which he disagrees, he’ll send out federal marshals to arrest judges. Nixon bowed to the Supreme Court, released the Watergate tapes and destroyed his own presidency. Andrew Jackson told the court to piss off “how many troops does the Supreme Court deploy?”) and put the Cherokees on the Trial of Tears. I think Gingrich is as dangerous as Jackson.

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I keep saying, it’s all about control

Washington’s call for banning all cellphone use while driving is based on bogus “facts”.

Investors Business Daily:

Last Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended that all cellphone use by drivers, including texting, be outlawed. The ban would include hands-free calls.

The NTSB’s campaign comes a little more than a year after Obama administration Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said he didn’t “want people talking on phones” while driving. LaHood even admitted that he was ready to back such a ban with federal legislation.

There are a few problems here.

First, regulating cellphone use is not a federal responsibility, even on federal roads. This is not an issue that Washington has the authority to address.

Second, there’s no compelling reason for it. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that 3,092 traffic deaths last year involved distracted drivers. But using a cell phone is only one of many driver distractions. Eating and drinking while behind the wheel are two others, and they are far more dangerous than yapping on a phone.

In fact, a 2009 NHTSA study found that 80% of all car wrecks are caused by drivers eating or drinking — not cellphone use — with coffee-guzzling the top offender.

Then there’s this. According to federal data, traffic deaths have fallen from 2.1 per 100 million vehicle miles in 1990, when virtually no one had a cellphone, to 1.1 in 2009, when almost everyone does.

Frank Fleming points out that cars themselves would never be approved for private citizens’ use today; I’ve said the same thing about electricity. Hell, we can’t even choose what light bulbs to use.

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Good houses, priced well, continue to sell

I liked 55 Hillside Road – said so here and showed it to three sets of clients. The sellers paid $3 million for it in 2007, put in some renovations and then priced it at $2.875 (or thereabouts). Two sets of my clients wouldn’t do more than a drive-by and rejected it put of hand. The third came in, twice, really liked the house and its private 1 1/2 acres but,being pretty knowledgeable about what’s on the market these days, concluded that it would sell at or near its asking price and to match that, they’d have to forego the renovations they wanted to do, so they passed.

Which was a good guess – there was an accepted offer on the place before I left town last Monday, just a week or two after the house went up for sale. So a good location, a nice house, even if this one’s master bedroom could stand some improvement (moving a few walls, expanding the master bath, nothing horribly expensive) if priced 10% below 2007 prices, will sell quite speedily in this market when so few good houses are for sale. Just ten percent off 2007 levels sounds encouraging, which it is, but bear in mind that most of our inventory is stuck on inferior streets, in bad condition and grossly over-priced. These houses have at least 20% further to fall and I’m guessing even more than that.

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The people are starving

Fill 'er up!

On the way home yesterday I stopped at a gas station for coffee and noticed a large placard outside promising that food stamps were accepted “for all eligible purchases”. I assume, probably wrongly, that gasoline isn’t one of those eligible products but the only other items I noticed for sale were cigarettes, donuts and coffee. Which of those is subsidized, and why?

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Ripped off in Greenwich

Gold Coast pricing

(A story I heard last night)

A friend of mine wanted a stone wall built on his Greenwich property. The first batch of bids, all from reputable masons, came in around $35 -$45,000. He balked at this, cheapskate that he is, and found a fellow who not only promised to build for $15,000 but offered to build the first ten feet for free, leaving it to the homeowner to decide whether to continue using him.

Those first ten feet were built, my friend was extremely satisfied and signed on for the entire wall to be finished. Now a happy homeowner, he resumed occupying Wall Street and smugly calculated that he’d just saved at least $20,000.

Which he had, but a month or so later some workmen were working on the property and one of them asked (in Spanish – these days, if you want to be a successful lord of the manor, you really must speak Spanish) whether the owner liked his new wall. Assured that he did, the workman told him, “I built this wall – how much were you charged, $15,000? Because I charged $8,000. Next time you need work …”

Which is what he now does. But jeeze, exactly how much of a premium should Greenwich homeowners be gouged merely because they have a Greenwich address?

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While I was out

Open house

Cleveland, Duble & Arnold, the oldest real estate agency in Greenwich and one of the few remaining independent shops, was sold to Sotheby’s. That’s what always happens to the independents when hard times hit but CD&A has weathered so many of these disasters that I’d expected them to make it through this one. Guess not.

No word where the agents will scatter – when you buy an agency you get some used office furniture but not the independent agents themselves, who are free to go where they wish. But the choice these days is pretty illusory because almost all of the alternatives are chain shops and all are indistinguishable. Welcome to the brave new world.

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Chaos in Iraq as troops withdraw

And worse to come, doubtless. This was probably a no-win situation for our community organizer. Had he left our army there, he’d have broken a campaign promise. Not for the first time, by a long shot, but abandoning Iraq was a biggie for the man’s base.

On the other hand, with Iraq engaged in a full-bore, screaming civil war this fall, at the height of our presidential campaign, Obummer may have some ‘splaing to do as to why, exactly, he threw away Iraq and made worthless all the deaths and crippling injuries suffered by our military. I’m sure the man had hoped, as had we all, that we could just go home and leave that benighted country to peacefully resolve its problems.Doesn’t look like that’s gonna happen.

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The agony of local politics

Fletcher Christian?! But I want Cookie to be Captain! And why are you wearing a bonnet?

First Selectman Peter Tesei is reportedly livid that his choice for Harbor Master, the husband of a Republican donor, was rejected by the Democrat governor and Greenwich resident Ian MacMillan appointed instead. “It’s just not fair”, a tearful Tesei whined from under his desk when reached for comment. “This is all the work of that awful, awful man, Frankie Fudcuker, who seems determined to prevent me from fulfilling my most important duties in town.  It’s just – it’s just so mean! I don’t wike it.””

The position of Harbor Master pays $600 per year.

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