Daily Archives: July 27, 2012


We really f’ked up, little buddy!


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Oh, that Mitt, ruining our special relationship!

At least he didn’t try pawning off a bunch of used campaign CDs on the Queen that were incompatible with British technology.


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Why not just deport them and restore the purpose of the Olympic Games?

Back to the sand box

Lebanese refuse to practice next to Israelis.

Iranian judo chump withdraws from competition rather than face Israeli.

Last month, Iran’s official IRNA news agency quoted Sports Minister Mohammad Abbasi as saying Iranian athletes would definitely refuse to compete against Israelis if they were drawn to do so.

“Not competing with the Zionist athletes is one of the values and prides of the Iranian athletes and nation,” he said.

Seriously: load them onto camels, head to those white cliffs of Dover and push ’em off – they can swim home.


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This looks like a good idea

(Not the same)

A reader mentioned a company called Plan O Matic which provides photos and floor plans for listings. Since I specialize in cardboard boxes and tipis I haven’t had occasion to use this firm’s services but judging from their website, you could probably benefit from what they do.

At $500 for a photo shoot, 3D floor plan map and lots of Internet support, the fee seems reasonable (that’s for houses priced between $3-$4 million, less for tipis).

Depending on the quality of their photographers, you’ll be farther ahead of the game than if you rely on your agent and her iPhone camera. Given what you’re paying in commissions, you should insist on this.

And then write and tell me how it works – I’m curious.


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The low end of the market continues to perc along

31 Grove Street in Cos Cob went to contract July 19th and closed today for $625,000. While it did start at $695,000, the selling price is just right – it has to be, because that’s what I suggested it would sell for back when asked. Didn’t get the listing but isn’t the thrill of being right worth far more? Er, no.

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What the heck, how much does digital “film” cost?

I’ve just been looking through our MLS system for a sampling of house listings to send along to some new clients and was frustrated to find three houses that, while they might be of interest to them, offer just a single exterior shot, even months after being first listed. It’s hard to gin up enthusiasm for a house that can’t be seen and I wonder who’s responsible for this failure in marketing, the agent or the owner?

Here’s the deal: if you want to sell your house, you have to be willing to post some pictures of it on the web – that’s just how houses are sold these days, so if you want to play Greta Garbo and be alone, that’s fine, but plan on doing it in situ, because you aren’t going to be moving anytime soon.

And what’s with no photos of the interior? If the house is in such bad shape that a photo will only drive people away then describe it as “as is” and price it for its land value – don’t pretend the house brings something to the deal.

So get out there and take some photographs.


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All your base are belong to us

The Long March

Massive Chinese computer hacking stealing European, US proprietary trade secrets.

“What the general public hears about — stolen credit card numbers, somebody hacked LinkedIn — that’s the tip of the iceberg, the unclassified stuff,” said Shawn Henry, former executive assistant director of the FBI in charge of the agency’s cyber division until leaving earlier this year. “I’ve been circling the iceberg in a submarine. This is the biggest vacuuming up of U.S. proprietary data that we’ve ever seen. It’s a machine.”

What started as assaults on military and defense contractors has widened into a rash of attacks from which no corporate entity is safe, say U.S. intelligence officials, who are raising the alarm in increasingly dire terms.

The networks of major oil companies have been harvested for seismic maps charting oil reserves; patent law firms for their clients’ trade secrets; and investment banks for market analysis that might impact the global ventures of state-owned companies, according to computer security experts who asked not to be named and declined to give more details.


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Enron Advisor Paul Krugman has some advice for you

Here’s what he said in 2003, when George Bush was in the White House:

With war looming, it’s time to be prepared. So last week I switched to a fixed-rate mortgage. It means higher monthly payments, but I’m terrified about what will happen to interest rates once financial markets wake up to the implications of skyrocketing budget deficits.

From a fiscal point of view the impending war is a lose-lose proposition. If it goes badly, the resulting mess will be a disaster for the budget. If it goes well, administration officials have made it clear that they will use any bump in the polls to ram through more big tax cuts, which will also be a disaster for the budget. Either way, the tide of red ink will keep on rising.

Last week the Congressional Budget Office marked down its estimates yet again. Just two years ago, you may remember, the C.B.O. was projecting a 10-year surplus of $5.6 trillion. Now it projects a 10-year deficit of $1.8 trillion.

And that’s way too optimistic. The Congressional Budget Office operates under ground rules that force it to wear rose-colored lenses. If you take into account — as the C.B.O. cannot — the effects of likely changes in the alternative minimum tax, include realistic estimates of future spending and allow for the cost of war and reconstruction, it’s clear that the 10-year deficit will be at least $3 trillion.

In fact, the deficit at the end of the Bush administration was $438 billion and even today it’s “only” $1.3 trillion, but now that a Democrat’s in the White House, why worry about deficits at all?

People who worry about deficits are fools.

For years, allegedly serious people have been issuing dire warnings about the consequences of large budget deficits — deficits that are overwhelmingly the result of our ongoing economic crisis. In May 2009, Niall Ferguson of Harvard declared that the “tidal wave of debt issuance” would cause U.S. interest rates to soar. In March 2011, Erskine Bowles, the co-chairman of President Obama’s ill-fated deficit commission, warned that unless action was taken on the deficit soon, “the markets will devastate us,” probably within two years. And so on.


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Havemeyer seems to have stabilized

11 McArthur just sold for $750,000. My memory suggests that this is lower than similar houses were selling for at the peak but maybe this is a 2004 – level price? I think so, anyway – feel free to correct me.


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16 Brookside Park

16 Brookside Park has an accepted offer. I thought this was a wonderful house back when it came on in 2011 but at $5.3 million it seemed awfully steep. The price eventually dropped to $3.695 and assuming the ultimate selling price is even less than that, someone’s getting a bargain. Owners paid $4.300 for it in 1999 and stuffed a ton of money into it while renovating.

A bit of a different layout, perhaps, but beautiful grounds (2 acres), a really convenient close-to-town location and a house that was very much to my taste. I said this back in March, when the owners took what’s proved to be their last price cut (well, penultimate, actually)- my opinion hasn’t changed.

Comments Off on Finally!

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Obama: we’ve tried my policies, and they don’t work

Economic growth heads for the toilet.

Russia plans new naval bases in Cuba, Viet Nam and Seychelles 

US despised, laughed at and ignored by the world

Conversely, Europeans have never cared less about what the United States thinks. Germany, traditionally among the most Atlanticist of European countries, has led the pack. Many German foreign-policy makers think it was simply a tactical error for Berlin to line up with Moscow and Beijing against Washington on Libya. But there is nothing accidental about the way Berlin has systematically refused even to engage with American concerns over German policy on the euro. During the Bush years, Europeans who were unable to influence the strategy of the White House would give a running commentary on American actions in lieu of a substantive policy. They had no influence in Washington, so they complained. But now, the tables are turned, with Obama passing continual judgment on German policy while Chancellor Angela Merkel stoically refuses to heed his advice. Europeans who for many years were infantilized by the transatlantic alliance, either using sycophancy and self-delusion about a “special relationship” to advance their goals or, in the case of Jacques Chirac’s France, pursuing the even more futile goal of balancing American power, have finally come to realize that they can no longer outsource their security or their prosperity to Uncle Sam.


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“Green” houses – if features are free, buyers will accept them

A good idea going nowhere, slowly

While it seems obvious that a new home with lower energy costs should be more attractive than a traditionally-built one, builders have long since noticed that, really, buyers don’t care. So now they’re offering energy savings for “free”, and that seems to be working. Even then, however, it’s features that save money that have some appeal – those that are supposed to save the world don’t do anything to stir the eco-consciousness of anyone without a Barbara Streisand-sized budget to indulge their sensibilities.

To be sure, most buyers will always pick their new homes based on location and price and they still don’t seem willing to cough up much extra money for the green homes. Meanwhile, some builders aren’t overly focused on the eco-friendly movement, saying they’d rather stick with the traditional homes buyers have always wanted. …

Still, buyers are unlikely to pony up for unfamiliar products that don’t impact their bottom line. Robert Younkin says it was a “no brainer” to spend $4,600 to upgrade the solar-panel system on the KB Home he purchased in Valencia, Calif., late last year for $567,000. But when it came to smog-eating tiles, a rooftop feature that works with sunlight to eliminate the smog, he passed, in favor of pouring money into a backyard entertaining area and upgrading his kitchen.

“I don’t understand what those [smog-eating tiles] do. I had no idea what my 2,000 square feet of tile would have done for the carbon footprint or whatever,” said the 33-year-old father of two. “I care more about making the economics make sense.”


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