Daily Archives: August 19, 2013

Even in rural America, the cancer spreads


Ms Marie Gandon, Hudson Falls, NY

Ms Marie Gandron, Hudson Falls, NY (representative photo)

After Hudson Falls (it’s north of Saratoga Springs – I looked it up) boy, 9,  wins summer reading contest five years in a row library director switches to a lottery where the winner is selected by luck, rather than competitive achievement.

“Other kids quit because they can’t keep up,” Marie Gandron said, adding that she considered changing the rules of the contest so prizes are given to children whose names are pulled out of a hat instead of reading the most books.

The director has backed off that threat, for now, because of the publicity Fox News brought to the matter, but there’s no indication she thought better of it, she just couldn’t stand the heat.


Filed under Right wing nut rantings

The water level isn’t the only thing expected to rise

Come back! (Old Greenwich real estate salesman, 2015)

Come back! (Old Greenwich real estate salesman, 2015)

Task force out with recommendations on future storms and I suspect it will prove as useful as every other task force ever assembled, but there’s this interesting tidbit, which we were discussing earlier today:

On one vital issue related to insurance, the task force had no easy solution.

It noted that because of reforms to the financially distressed National Flood Insurance Program that began before the storm, many thousands of people who live in low-lying areas will likely see huge premium increases if they don’t lift their homes up on pilings. The task force said that for many homeowners, both options are unaffordable. It recommended further study of that dilemma.


Filed under Right wing nut rantings

Sending your child to public school looks more and more like child abuse. And if your child’s a boy, it IS child abuse

And there's more where that came from!

And there’s more where that came from!

The system’s out to get them

In the name of zero tolerance, our schools are becoming hostile environments for young boys

Zero tolerance was originally conceived as a way of ridding schools of violent predators, especially in the wake of horrific shootings in places like Littleton, Colo. But juvenile violence, including violence at schools, is at a historic low. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that in 2011, approximately 1% of students ages 12 to 18 reported a violent victimization at school. For serious violence, the figure is one-tenth of 1%. It does no disrespect to the victims of Columbine or Sandy Hook to note that while violence may be built into the core of a small coterie of sociopathic boys, most boys are not sociopathic.

On the other hand, millions of boys are struggling academically. A large and growing male cohort is falling behind in grades and disengaged from school. College has never been more important to a young person’s life prospects, and today boys are far less likely than girls to pursue education beyond high school. As our schools become more risk averse, the gender gap favoring girls is threatening to become a chasm.

Across the country, schools are policing and punishing the distinctive, assertive sociability of boys. Many much-loved games have vanished from school playgrounds. At some schools, tug of war has been replaced with “tug of peace.” Since the 1990s, elimination games like dodgeball, red rover and tag have been under a cloud — too damaging to self-esteem and too violent, say certain experts. Young boys, with few exceptions, love action narratives. These usually involve heroes, bad guys, rescues and shoot-ups. As boys’ play proceeds, plots become more elaborate and the boys more transfixed. When researchers ask boys why they do it, the standard reply is, “Because it’s fun.”

Play is a critical basis for learning. And boys’ heroic play is no exception. Logue and Harvey found that “bad guy” play improved children’s conversation and imaginative writing. Such play, say the authors, also builds moral imagination, social competence and imparts critical lessons about personal limits and self-restraint. Logue and Harvey worry that the growing intolerance for boys’ action-narrativeplay choices may be undermining their early language development and weakening their attachment to school. Imagine the harm done to boys like Christopher, Josh and Alex who are not merely discouraged from their choice of play, but are punished, publicly shamed and ostracized.

Professor Reynolds (father of one child, a girl) has been onto this for years, and suggests a new Title IX for boys.

…. The way boys are treated in K-12 also impacts how they do with regard to college. According to a recent study of male college enrollment, it’s not academic performance, but discipline that holds boys back. “Controlling for these non-cognitive behavioral factors can explain virtually the entire female advantage in college attendance for the high school graduating class of 1992, after adjusting for family background, test scores and high school achievement.” Boys are disciplined more because teachers — overwhelmingly female — find stereotypically male behavior objectionable. Girls are quieter, more orderly, and have better handwriting. The boys get disciplined more, suspended more and are turned off of education earlier.

Female teachers also give boys lower grades, according to research in Britain. Female teachers grade boys more harshly than girls, though, interestingly, male teachers are seen by girls as treating everyone the same regardless of gender. More and more, it’s looking like schools are a hostile environment for boys.

One solution, as William Gormley, a professor at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute, has suggested here in the past, is to hire more male teachers. As Gormley notes, Stanford University professor Thomas Dee found that “boys perform better when they have a male teacher, and girls perform better when they have a female teacher.” Yet our K-12 teachers are overwhelmingly female — only 2% of pre-K and kindergarten teachers are male and only 18% of elementary and middle-school teachers are.

As parents become more and more concerned about their children’s futures and educations — public schools that want to hold on to students or new-model schools that want to lure them away — may want to boost the number of male teachers on staff. Doing so may be crucial not only to their students’ futures, but to their own.

And if they don’t, it may be time for state and federal officials to look into this gender imbalance. If schoolteachers were overwhelmingly male and girls were suffering as a result, there would be a national outcry and Title IX-style gender equity legislation would be touted. Why should we do less when boys are the ones suffering?

That’d be a fun question to ask our BOE candidates, if they took questions.


Filed under Right wing nut rantings

Venison looks better all the time



Thomas Whittredge does the Adirondacks

Thomas Whittredge does the Adirondacks

New sickness in cattle may be caused by feed supplement.

A growing number of cattle arriving for slaughter at U.S. meatpacking plants have recently shown unusual signs of distress. Some walked stiffly, while others had trouble moving or simply lay down, their tongues hanging from their mouths. A few even sat down in strange positions, looking more like dogs than cows.

“I’ve seen cattle walking down a truck ramp tippy-toed,” said Temple Grandin, a doctor of animal science and consultant to the livestock industry. “Normally, they just run down the truck ramp and jump out. We do not want to see bad become normal.”

With few other changes to animals’ diets that could trigger such symptoms, Dr. Grandin and other scientists involved with the livestock industry began to suspect a tie to weight-gain supplements called beta-agonists that have only recently become widely used.

Growth hormones, anti-biotics, inhumane feedlots; killing the occasional free-range deer makes more sense. Scenery’s prettier than a Shop-Rite, too.


Filed under Right wing nut rantings

House sale, land contract


16 Annjim

16 Annjim

16 Annjim, $995,000, went in 13 days, sold for $970,000. Low inventory.

Kindergarten-Student-Suspended-over-Distracting-Mohawk-HaircutLand on Mohawk Lane (off Stag, borders Stanwich) once asked $1.8 million for its four acres and didn’t get it. The owner died of heartbreak and her estate lowered the price to $700,000. That’s done it.


Filed under Back Country, Buying/Selling Greenwich Real Estate

I’m more concerned with schools converting our children into little lefty libtards

ZinnNew Jersey bans psychologists from attempting to convert homo teens. Interesting what the state feels is beyond a parent’s choice when raising children: abortion and psychiatric treatment, for instance, but leaving that aside, why the silence on the public school curriculum which uses that communist Howard Zinn’s masterpiece of propaganda, “A People’s History of the United States” as the core block of learning? Three percent of the population may be gay; we worry about them, but not the 100% of all children, regardless of sexual orientation, being brainwashed daily in our schools. Why is that?


Filed under Right wing nut rantings

Real estate news reported

Some sales, an accepted offer and a new listing.

55 Lockwood Ave

55 Lockwood Ave

55 Lockwood Avenue, Old Greenwich, asked $1.695 million, got $1.275.

49 Lockwood Lane

49 Lockwood Lane

49 Lockwood Lane, Riverside, asked $1.350 and found a buyer almost immediately at $1.291 (where’d that last thousand come from?)

5 Keofferam

5 Keofferam

5 Keofferam. OG, finally has an accepted offer. It’s been asking $3.310 million these days and I really can’t understand why it’s stayed on the market so long – 382 days. Great house, recently updated, wonderful road and location. People have been paying more for far less, which just shows something about the quirky nature of real estate.

40 Winthrop Drive

40 Winthrop Drive

And 40 Winthrop Drive, Riverside, a so-so house built in 1996 on what was the Berrizzi’s property, is new to the market and asking $3.495. I don’t see the value here (the listing makes no mention of improvements made since it was constructed 18 years ago) but Winthrop’s a popular street, so who knows?


Filed under Buying/Selling Greenwich Real Estate, Contracts, current market conditions, Inventory, Neighborhoods, Old Greenwich, Riverside

Clueless: Obama knows nothing about geography, history or human nature

The First Lady does her hubby's geography homework for him

The First Lady does her hubby’s geography homework for him

Aw gee, everybody’s piling on to the poor guy. Excerpts from four essays make it clear we’re in the best of hands:

Michael Ledeen illustrates what our idiot in the White House doesn’t understand about the Middle East.

It could not be otherwise, since our government, our universities, our news organizations and our think tanks are all primarily organized to deal with countries, and our analysts, policy makers and military strategists inevitably think inside those boxes.  …

So there’s a global war, we’re the main target of the aggressors, and our leaders don’t see it and therefore have no idea how to win it.

Any serious attempt to understand what’s going on has to begin by banning the word “stability,” much beloved of diplomats and self-proclaimed strategists. If anything is fairly certain about our world, it’s that there is no stability, and there isn’t going to be any.  Right now, the driving forces are those aimed at destroying the old order, and their targets (the old regimes, very much including the United States) have until recently showed little taste to engage as if their survival depended on it.  But things are changing, as always.


War is foggy, and alliances are often very unstable, especially at moments when the whole world is up for grabs.  Look at Egypt, for example.  At one level, it’s a sectarian fight:  the “secular” military vs. the “Islamist” Muslim Brotherhood.  So nobody should be surprised when the Brothers burn churches and murder Christians.  But the top military dog, General Sisi, has some pretty impressive Islamist credentials.  Indeed, his elevation at the time of the Brothers’ purge of Mubarak’s generals was frequently attributed to his close ties to the Brotherhood.

David Hanson isn’t impressed with our Harvard grad’s grasp of geography or history:

[Geography and history] are the building blocks of learning. Without awareness of natural and human geography, we are reduced to a self-contained void without accurate awareness of the space around us. An ignorance of history creates the same sort of self-imposed exile, leaving us ignorant of both what came before us and what is likely to follow.

In the case of geography, Harvard Law School graduate Barack Obama recently lectured, “If we don’t deepen our ports all along the Gulf — places like Charleston, South Carolina; or Savannah, Georgia; or Jacksonville, Florida . . . ” The problem is that all the examples he cited are cities on the East Coast, not the Gulf of Mexico. If Obama does not know where these ports are, how can he deepen them?

Obama’s geographical confusion has become habitual. He once claimed that he had been to all “57 states.” He also assumed that Kentucky was closer to Arkansas than it was to his adjacent home state of Illinois.

In reference to the Falkland Islands, President Obama called them the Maldives — islands southwest of India — apparently in a botched effort to use the Argentine-preferred “Malvinas.” The two island groups may sound somewhat alike, but they are continents apart. Again, without basic geographical knowledge, the president’s commentary on the Falklands is rendered superficial.

When in the state of Hawaii, Obama announced that he was in “Asia.” He lamented that the U.S. Army’s Arabic-language translators assigned to Iraq could better be used in Afghanistan, failing to recognize that Arabic isn’t the language of Afghanistan. And he also apparently thought Austrians speak a language other than German.


A degree from our most prestigious American university is no guarantee a graduate holding such a credential will know the number of states or the location of Savannah. If we wonder why the Ivy League–trained Obama seems confused about where cities, countries, and continents are, we might remember that all but one Ivy League university eliminated their geography departments years ago.

As a rule now, when our leaders allude to a place or an event in the past, just assume their references are dead wrong.

Or human nature.

There are many ways to learn about the bleaker aspects of human nature. One would be to run a pizza shop or have to clean regularly a public restroom. Perhaps close attention to the text of Thucydides might give a more abstract lesson of what people are capable. The Old and New Testaments offer plenty of examples of the fallen state of man.

Obama apparently did not get the message. What is the common denominator to his failed foreign policy initiatives — reset with Russia, a new, kinder gentler Middle East, supposed breakthroughs with China, outreach to Iran, Cuba, and Venezuela — and his domestic catastrophes: Obamacare, deficits, huge debts, or chronic unemployment?

In a word, he does not seem to know much about human nature, whether in the concrete or abstract sense. Obama either never held a menial job or ran a business. In lieu of education in the school of hard knocks, he read the wrong, if any seminal, texts at all.

The problem with a thug like Vladimir Putin is not just that he does not respond to “outreach” and “reset,” but rather that he interprets such loud magnanimity as weakness. And when sermonizing and lectures are added to perceptions of America impotence, the impression of timidity leads further to contempt — and ultimately to a devilishly desire to humiliate and disabuse a naïf Obama of his moral pretensions. And what of the world watching all this? Unfortunately, it is more likely to enjoy viewing a strong rebuff of utopian idealism than a weak embrace of it.


In his Al Arabiya interview and Cairo Speech, Obama sought to reach out to the Middle East on the unlikely premise that his own affinities with Islam — a Muslim father, a Muslim middle name, Muslim relatives — his mixed racial heritage, and his multicultural sympathies for Islamic world would turn stand-offish moderates into friends, and prior enemies into moderates.

But why so? All the silly euphemisms in the world — man-caused disasters, overseas contingency operations, workplace violence — would not make jihadists suddenly like the U.S. just because the new president was not a white, Christian Texan.

Such superficial affinities are as unlikely to promote diplomatic break-throughs as they are likely to appear insulting. Does Obama have any experience with a particularly disturbing human characteristic — learned both from literature and the experience, say, of going to a dangerous public school — that forced efforts to fit in, to accommodate, to ingratiate, to seek affinities where they don’t exist are not interpreted as outreach as much as condescension?

The almost eerie hatred for Obama seen in Egypt — among the military, the Islamists, the Egyptian Street, even the secular pro-Western reformists — in part derives from a sense that Obama tried to cajole them all with cheap commonalities and mytho-histories rather than negotiate often conflicting national interests through tough transparent talks.

Or constitutional law:

The Obama administration announced last month via blog post that the president was unilaterally suspending ObamaCare’s employer mandate—notwithstanding the clear command of the law. President Obama’s comments about it on Aug. 9—claiming that “the normal thing [he] would prefer to do” is seek a “change to the law”—then added insult to constitutional injury.

…. The Constitution has a provision for suspending habeas. It has no general provision for executive suspension of laws. English kings used to suspend laws, but the Framers rejected that practice: The president “shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.

…. As for Republican congressmen who had the temerity to question his authority, Mr. Obama said only: “I’m not concerned about their opinions—very few of them, by the way, are lawyers, much less constitutional lawyers.” Mr. Obama made no mention of Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin—a Democrat, a lawyer and one of the authors of ObamaCare—who said: “This was the law. How can they change the law?”


Filed under Right wing nut rantings

Oh, this is rich

Caroline Kennedy taps her inner shelf

Caroline Kennedy taps her inner shelf

Caroline Kennedy wants to be Ambassador to Japan, so she’s been forced to reveal a bit about her financial fortune, estimated to be as much as $500 million. I don’t care about her wealth, particularly; no one in her family is poor, but I found this amusing: a good portion of her money is invested in Arctic Royalty LP, a “manufacturer and wholesaler of oil products”. Arctic drilling? The Darling of the Left? Shades of Al Gore.

Do you suppose her anti-fracking cousin Joe has his money with the same partnership? Wouldn’t surprise this cynic.


Filed under Right wing nut rantings

Half-price sale at 313 Stanwich Road

313 Stanwich Rd

313 Stanwich Rd

Asked $6.495 in 2009, fetched $3.255 million 1,423 days later. Sometimes aging on the vine improves neither homeowners nor their homes.

(Probably not helped by this room’s decorating job, a style popular among the snowmobile set in the Adirondacks but in Greenwich, not so much.

The "Flap Jacks and Bacon Room", Greenwich, CT

The “Flap Jacks and Bacon Room”, Greenwich, CT


Filed under Buying/Selling Greenwich Real Estate, Mid Country

The death of suburbs?

What will the Back Country smell like in 2019? Depends.

What will the Back Country smell like in 2019? Depends.

As boomers age, suburbs lose their appeal.

While much of this smacks of the usual liberal, “force people back into the cities where we want them to live”,  some of the author’s points do reflect what we’re witnessing here in Greenwich, as demand for the Back Country wanes and compact (or “congested”, your choice) neighborhoods like Riverside are increasingly popular.

And then there’s this whole set of demographic changes that we’re going through: an oversupply of large, single-family houses in conventional suburbia and an undersupply of what the next generation and aging baby boomers are going to want, which is more walkable communities.

What does “the end of the suburbs” mean for boomers who own homes there now?

It’s funny. The boomers even more than the Millennials are the big question mark. Everybody in the housing industry is dying to know where the boomers are going to live as they get older.

Many of them want to age in place, whether that’s because of the financial crisis or because they’ve built strong ties to their community. That’s all well and good until they ultimately vacate their home. With so many boomers, there’s not going to be as big a market of people interested in buying their houses.

In a blog post I wrote about how boomer home sellers can hook Millennial buyers, I quoted a housing analyst who warned that “the great senior sell-off” later this decade could cause the next housing crisis. Should suburban boomer homeowners be scared that the end of the suburbs is coming?

It depends on the kind of suburb they’re in. What people are looking for in single-family homes in the suburbs is changing, and if your house doesn’t meet the desires of future buyers, it might be a tougher sell.

Let’s talk about different types of suburbs. You draw a distinction between outer-ring suburbs and inner-ring suburbs. What’s the difference, and why does it matter?

Inner-ring suburbs tend to be a little bit older, with smaller lots that are closer together and where people walk more. Plus there’s some place to walk to.

But valuations in those types of communities are coming back up now. And many people think that’s where the Millennials are going to want to be, rather than outer-ring suburbs, because they’re closer to downtown, houses are a little smaller, you can walk around more, and it’s a little livelier.

So are you saying the further out someone lives in the suburbs, the more financial risk they’ll be taking when they want to sell?


Are suburban boomers who’ll want to sell their homes going have to accept bargain-basement prices due to a lack of buyers?

Look, the housing market’s coming back. But I think if you own a home in the suburbs, selling sooner rather than later is probably better. The prospects for selling to Millennials in the future aren’t good, unless you’re living in a place with a really, really good school district.

Won’t Millennials move to all types of suburbs once they have kids?

Everybody says wait till they have children; then they’ll do what their parents did and just go right back to suburbia. But there are going to be plenty of other options for them. And a lot of Millennials don’t like to drive — they’re not getting their drivers licenses as frequently as in the past.

What will the end of the suburbs mean for boomers who want to move for retirement?

It depends. If they want to go to a Sunbelt place, there are lots of bargains to be had there now.

But if not, what they’ll want is a community that offers some pedestrian activities and some sense of liveliness without a heavy reliance on a car.

That’s what you say Millennials want, too.

Right. And if you jumble those two groups up, that produces something that sociologists and urban planners say is really good.

One of the things about the suburbs people complain about is that they’re so homogenous — not racially (although they are), but in terms of age and life purpose. Everyone is in their 30s to 50s raising young children.

In the old days, what made a vibrant neighborhood was having young people and old people, rich people and poor people living together in different shapes and sizes of houses and from different walks of life. Maybe the walkable community of the future will combine the old and young.


Filed under Back Country, Buying/Selling Greenwich Real Estate, Cos Cob, Mid Country, Old Greenwich, Riverside

Bloomberg News discovers Greenwich FEMA regs

FEMA House, the "Greenwich Executive" model

FEMA House, the “Greenwich Executive” model

A reader sent along this Bloomberg Story:

Greenwich Stilt Houses Foreshadow Impact of New FEMA Maps

In the coastal areas of Greenwich, Connecticut, the latest housing craze requires hydraulic jacks, pylons and stilts. One home towers over its neighbors like a cruise ship. Others look like expensive tree houses.

“People are stopping in to ask us about it,” said Patrick Grasso, 59, a resident of the hedge fund enclave who jacked up his 1920s waterfront house about 3 feet (1 meter). “People want to know how long did it take and how much did it cost.”

Ten months after Hurricane Sandy, Greenwich is among the first U.S. municipalities to adopt revised flood maps from theFederal Emergency Management Agency that predict fiercer waves and higher storm surges. In doing so, the town has fallen in line with a federal initiative meant to thin the density of low-lying coastal populations, prepare for more damaging weather and reduce rebuilding costs borne by taxpayers.

The maps add as much as 5 feet to previous predictions of how high the waters of Long Island Sound would rise during a 100-year storm like Sandy. Starting next year, homes in surge areas across the country won’t qualify for flood-insurance rates based on the old maps. That means some homeowners will face a choice between paying as much as $150,000 to raise their houses or accepting premium increases as high as $20,000 a year.


Filed under Buying/Selling Greenwich Real Estate, Waterfront

Booking a holiday trip to some hellhole? It’s risky

Running of the bulls, Cairo style

Running of the bulls, Cairo style

British travel firms refusing to refund or allow destination changes to tourists who pre-booked trips to Egypt.

I got involved in one of these cases (there are many: travel agencies hate to give back your money) when I was lawyering in 1997, and friends wanted to cancel a cruise to Luxor after Islamic terrorists shot up a bunch of tourists and promised to kill any more of them who showed up.  As I recall, I got my friends a refund, but it took a lot of phone calls and a couple of reams of legal stationery to get it done. They were friends, so they incurred no legal fees; otherwise, it would have been cheaper to eat the cost of the cruise, which was substantial.

So be careful where you book your next overseas jaunt.

Egypt’s tourist trade, about its only source of foreign funds and 5% of its total GPD, is already getting slammed; with the high tourist season approaching, this isn’t going to help encourage future bookings.

[W]inter is the high season for visitors. Large tour operators such as Gate 1 Travel and cruise companies including Norwegian Cruise Line have canceled Egyptian stops. Tours elsewhere in the Middle East haven’t been canceled, but travel agents are getting a steady stream of inquiries about the status of planned trips.

“The ones who haven’t booked are holding off and the ones who have are trying to get out of it,” says Blake Fleetwood, owner of several Cook Travel businesses around New York.


Filed under Right wing nut rantings