Daily Archives: July 11, 2012
Everyone says we’ve hit bottom and are started back up. Hmm. Even Calculated Risk shows substantial improvement in some of the hardest-hit areas of the country, but if, say, 54% of all Sacramento house sales are still distressed sales, should we really be so cheerful that that number has dropped from 64%? If 25% of all homes are still worth less than is owed on them? If there’s an unmeasured shadow inventory lurking that, released on the market, will drive prices to the floor again?
The experts sound reassuring, but then they usually do, right or wrong.
WASHINGTON — The Navy is rushing dozens of unmanned underwater craft to the Persian Gulf to help detect and destroy mines in a major military buildup aimed at preventing Iran from closing the strategic Strait of Hormuz in the event of a crisis, U.S. officials said.
The tiny SeaFox submersibles each carry an underwater television camera, homing sonar and an explosive charge. The Navy bought them in May after an urgent request by Marine Gen. James Mattis, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East.
Each submersible is about 4 feet long and weighs less than 100 pounds. The craft are intended to boost U.S. military capabilities as negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program appear to have stalled. Three rounds of talks since April between Iran and the five countries in the United Nations Security Council plus Germany have made little progress.
The first of the SeaFox submersibles arrived in the Gulf in recent weeks, officials said, along with four MH-53 Sea Dragon helicopters and four minesweeping ships, part of a larger buildup of U.S. naval, air and ground forces in the region aimed at Iran.
The U.S. already has sent two aircraft carriers and a squadron of F-22 fighters to the Persian Gulf, and is keeping two U.S. army brigades in Kuwait.
[Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy] also announced new indirect taxes on energy, plans to privatize ports, airports and rail assets, and a reversal of property tax breaks that his party had restored last December.
However, he did not touch pensions — keeping one election promise — and said the tax burden was being shifted from direct taxes on labor and income to taxation on consumption.
Outside in the streets of Madrid, hundreds of coal miners who had staged a march from northern Spain protested against cuts in mining subsidies they say will put them out of work, as public discontent over austerity measures grows.
With five years of economic stagnation and recession, unemployment at 24.4 percent and tax revenue falling, Spain is struggling to meet tough deficit cutting targets agreed with the European Union.
Now you know why Coldwell Banker, Sotheby’s and Carl’s Cheap Campers only give you one set of pictures for your fee
Leon Black, owner of all three, just paid $120 million for “The Scream”. Hey, between outfitting your favorite broker in a nice new yellow polyester blazer and buying a wall accessory, you think Leon should also cough up for new photographs after just 18 months? You ungrateful philistine, you.
In a related matter, turns out that unions’ political spending is 4X what was previously reported. Somehow, I bet Malloy already knew this.
Organized labor spends about four times as much on politics and lobbying as generally thought, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis, a finding that shines a light on an aspect of labor’s political activity that has often been overlooked.
Previous estimates have focused on labor unions’ filings with federal election officials, which chronicle contributions made directly to federal candidates and union spending in support of candidates for Congress and the White House.
But unions spend far more money on a wider range of political activities, including supporting state and local candidates and deploying what has long been seen as the unions’ most potent political weapon: persuading members to vote as unions want them to.
The new figures come from a little-known set of annual reports to the Labor Department in which local unions, their national parents and labor federations have been required to detail their spending on politics and lobbying since 2005.
This kind of spending, which is on the rise, has enabled the largest unions to maintain and in some cases increase their clout in Washington and state capitals, even though unionized workers make up a declining share of the workforce. The result is that labor could be a stronger counterweight than commonly realized to “super PACs” that today raise millions from wealthy donors, in many cases to support Republican candidates and causes.
It turns out there’s a book for Democrats that teaches them how to be intentionally stupid. I realize that’s a low bar for someone like 3DB but it does explain why he can’t directly rebut an argument: his masters have told him not to.
“Don’t repeat conservative language or ideas, even when arguing against them.”
That bit of advice, No. 1 on a list titled “The 10 Most Important Things Democrats Should Know,” comes from the promotional material for “The Little Blue Book: The Essential Guide to Thinking and Talking Democratic” by George Lakoff and Elisabeth Wehling. (You may remember them from our June 12 column.) In a PJMedia.com essay, the anonymous blogger whose pen name is Zombie draws out the implications:
Many politicians, pundits and talking heads have taken Lakoff’s recommendation to heart. This is why conservatives and liberals can’t seem to have the simplest conversation: liberals intentionally refuse to address or even acknowledge what conservatives say. Since (as Lakoff notes) conservatives invariably frame their own statements within their own conservative “moral frames,” every time a conservative speaks, his liberal opponent will seemingly ignore what was said and instead come back with a reply literally [sic] out of left field.
Thus, he is the progenitor of and primary advocate for the main reason why liberalism fails to win the public debate: Because it never directly confronts, disproves or negates conservative notions–it simply ignores them. . . .
By intentionally refusing to challenge, disprove, understand or even acknowledge the existence of the other side’s argument, you allow that argument to grow in strength and win converts.
This is an important insight, not only into the way the left debates and otherwise communicates, but into the way the left thinks–or fails to think. The book’s subtitle, after all, promises an instruction in “Thinking and Talking Democratic.” Lakoff and Wehling command their readers not only to act as if opposing arguments are without merit, but to close their minds to those arguments. What comes across to conservatives as a maddening arrogance is actually willed ignorance.
Zombie cites the abortion debate as an example of the hazards of willed ignorance:
According to Lakoff, liberals should in no way challenge the claim that abortion is murder; in fact, they shouldn’t even acknowledge that such a claim is being made. (True to form, Lakoff himself never mentions this position in his discussion of abortion.) But here’s the problem for Lakoff: It’s a really really convincing argument. And it’s also a concept that every woman on some gut-instinct level knows is at a minimum somewhat true, if not entirely true. Of course a fetus is human or a near-human; the only valid question (one which Lakoff forbids even asking) is when does it acquire individual human rights? Conception; birth; or somewhere in the middle?
So the Lakoffites can yap about “freedom of choice” and “women’s independence” and “reproductive rights” all day long, yet the listener will think: But you aren’t addressing the fundamental question. Is it murder? “Stop thinking in those terms,” cries Lakoff. But the public can’t stop, because the idea of abortion as murder has already been stated, and the idea of fetus as human existed even long before the modern political debates. Even if there were no Republican party, no conservative movement, a great many people would still have moral compunctions about abortion, because the controversy is rooted in biological realities, and was not fabricated out of thin air by reactionary rabble-rousers.
17 Tomac Avenue is back, now priced at $2.975 million, a hefty hike from the $2.655 it was asking back in December, when it expired unsold. But I think the owners may not be wrong, in this instance – Old Greenwich prices have recovered nicely since last winter and this is a good house. $3 million doesn’t seem crazy – I’m not saying I’d recommend it at that price, but I’d vouch for the sanity of its owners.
This house sold for $2.770 million in 2006 and has been back up for sale for an astonishingly long time: 535 days with one agent, 803 with another, as it went through ten (10!) price changes, starting at $3.449 in 2008 and ending, as noted, at $2.655 in December 2011.
So now we’ll see how the market’s improved, if it has. The house still has the same drawbacks that turned off buyers originally: a busy location and a Colonial-era graveyard (why that is considered a draw back baffles me, but it is). On the other hand, it’s a good looking house that feels solid. I like it and if you could get it for its 2006 purchase price or, better, the price the sellers were willing to take just seven months ago, you’d probably be doing well.
3 Vista in Old Greenwich cut from $3.995 to $3.495. That’s an improvement but why is it being cut now, after so many buyers have settled on something else? Buyers grow tired of bidding on unrealistically-priced houses, so they don’t.
28 Loading Rock, NoPo Riverside, sold for $2.050. That’s after 18 months, when it started at $2.895 million. This is a good house, nice location overlooking the Mianus. In fact, I think it hurts 7 Mulberry in Cos Cob, which I also liked, because unlike Mulberry, this one has no traffic noise. This one’s gone now, of course, but if I were to use it as a comparable, I might discount Mulberry for its location (although Mulberry is the finer house, in my opinion).
10 Pleasant View, adjacent to Havemeyer, sold for $820,000 ($870,000 ask). Not much of a house (not much of a price, for Greenwich) but amazingly enough – in fact, unheard of in the annals of real estate development names, it really does enjoy a pleasant view of the Ed Schongalla woods.
591 Indian Field Road (Mead Point) is as of today asking $5.995 million. I don’t know if this will finally do it but it’s a far sight better than the $8.9 million it started at in 2008. I really like this house and Mead Point’s my favorite gated neighborhood in Greenwich, so I wish these sellers only the best. In fact, I’ll email this, again, to clients who were watching this place but I’m afraid they lost interest several price levels ago.
And 47 Doubling Road is now down to $3.195 million from last November’s starting point of $4.2. Some drawbacks here, including a rear lot (which I like, because it gets you away from Doubling’s traffic), a shared driveway, a God-awful blister pack – looking thing on its front, which I’m told can be eliminated at a cost of around $100,000, and a 1990’s level and style of trim and finish work.
But all that taken into consideration, this is a good, large house with an easy layout, very nice backyard and even privacy despite that shared driveway. At $4.2 million, buyers were obviously unwilling to spend the few hundred thousand to really fix this up but at its new price, I think you could do well here. All that’s needed is cosmetics, really, and that’s not terribly disruptive – you might want to take a look.
Even untold wealth couldn’t shield these people from drug
addition addiction and death. Drugs and alcoholism are equal-opportunity scourges afflicting all ages and classes, regardless of education level, regardless of address.
In fact, drug addiction may be even worse here in Greenwich, where the money to buy expensive drugs comes so easily at hand, than in poorer towns. As one of my daughters pointed out to me a few years ago, “when parents give their kids a $500 weekly allowance, what do they think it’s being spent on?”
And of course it’s not just the children who are boozing and drugging it up.
Homeowners losing their property because of tiny tax liens. A sad story, but there are a lot of homes out there that have been abandoned by their owners and what’s a town to do with them? A friend of mine just added an extra acre of land (thus extending his own creek frontage) by paying something like a thousand bucks to his municipality. At one point the land had a house on it that sold for $67,000 (this is rural land we’re talking about) but welfare tenants turned it into a meth den and ruined it. Before the town bulldozed it the property was a complete nuisance to its neighbors, but now my friend has 59, instead of 58 acres and peace and quiet.
It’s such an inspiring tale that I’m thinking of spending a week in upstate New York looking through tax records to see if I can’t duplicate the feat. Hey, if Elizabeth Warren can do it, how hard can it be?
Romney booed at NAACP convention. The black vote has been in the Democrat’s pocket since 1964 and its members are simply incapable of seeing past a welfare check. Continued poverty, continued disintegration of the black family, 55% unemployment for black teens? The highest murder rate in the world for black children? Four more years!
CitiGroup’s Vikram Pandit’s house on Pecksland has been reduced to $3.999 million from its April price of $4.3 million. I wasn’t wild about it back then and even though he paid $4.1 for it in 2001, I think he’s still got a ways to go before he rids himself of this weekend home. 145 Parsonage Road, by the way, which I also saw that day and liked very much, even priced at $4.995, sold within days. Hmmm.
Dull morning on the MLS so I’m busy compiling and emailing suggestions of listings for several readers who I’ve neglected the past two weeks. It’s a fair assumption that if I have interested buyers then other agents do too, so sellers, don’t give up hope.
On the other hand, I’m only selecting homes to recommend whose prices have been battered down to sensibility after a few years on the market (okay, some have been on for as little as 18 months) or that were priced right to begin with (not sure I found any of those). Why waste my or my clients’ time?