Daily Archives: January 28, 2014

Does this remind you of our own P&Z?

Farm land au naturale

Farm land au naturale

Somerset England floods due to Environmental Agency’s decision to stop dredging rivers and let the farmland “return to its natural state”.

The root cause goes back 18 years to when responsibility for keeping the Somerset Levels — including a fifth of the county’s farmland — drained and managed was handed over to a new government body, the Environment Agency. And one of its first decisions was to abandon the regular dredging of the four main rivers that for centuries have carried the floodwater, which hits the Levels every winter, safely away to the sea.

Before the Levels — some of which are below sea level — were drained by Dutch engineers in the 17th century, they were a vast marshy swamp, with only a few little  islands standing above stagnant pools and reeds.

They were transformed into productive farmland, drained by a maze of ditches — or ‘rhynes’ — kept clean by the farmers, with the water being directed to the rivers by pumping stations operated by local drainage boards.

But since the Environment Agency abandoned dredging, these rivers have gradually silted up, so they are no longer capable of carrying away the floodwaters.

(Residents of other places hit by flooding this winter, including countless thousands along the Thames, have also complained their problems are made much worse by the failure to dredge.)

But the agency’s argument was not simply that to carry on dredging was too expensive. After a Labour peer, Baroness (Barbara) Young of Old Scone was put in to run it in 2000, she and her officials decided on a new priority.

Instead of managing the Levels as farmland, large parts of them should be allowed to return to being a swampy wilderness as nature reserves for birds and other wildlife.

As Baroness Young famously once observed: ‘I’d like to see a limpet mine put on every pumping station.’

This is the Diane Fox, Katie Blankley and Denise Savageau policy regarding areas of our town exposed to flooding and just like Baroness Young, they’re likely to get their way.


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Orchard Street in Cos Cob to return to its roots

Fly me to the moon

Fly me to the moon

Holy smoke! Robert Birnbaum, Greenwich resident and president of the Jewish Reform Synagogue, which is planning to build a synagogue on Orchard Street, wins the lottery and receives a state permit to grow pot.


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Two more sales

37 Day Road37 Day Road, up on the NY border, five acres and a house, $2.295 million. This sold for an even $2 million in 2006 and I’m a little surprised that it sold for more now.

UPDATE: The listing agent explains:

Hi Chris,
I understand the confusion on 37 Day Road. The recent seller purchased the property from the Estate for $2.325 in 02/2007 – Greenwich MLS does not show this transaction but the tax card does. The recent sellers also poured over $350k into the houses (4bedroom main house & 2 bedroom guesthouse) plus cleared the flat oversized 5 acres.

Despite this recent seller’s loss, Back Country Greenwich is seeing activity. It’s one of the best deals in Westchester /Fairfield county.

And in Riverside (of course) a two-lot parcel at 21 Winthrop Drive sold in a bidding war for $3.7 million after asking $3.450. Builders are optimistic folk and sooner or later, they end up running past the outer limits of the current market, but I’m no longer predicting an early end to this current rush to Riverside, because it just keeps going. Still, $1.850 per lot should, under the old rule of thumb, demand a $5.550 million price for the new house constructed on it. That sure seems steep to me.

21 Winthrop Drive

21 Winthrop Drive


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Heh heh heh

Celebrating diversity

Celebrating diversity

Another agent told me today that Sunday’s NYT article on this blog “took up 15 minutes of our firm’s sales meeting Monday morning.”

Can’t wait for the GAR’s annual meeting this Friday.


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Star of the open house tour (for me, at least)

31 Khakum Wood Drive

31 Khakum Wood Drive

31 Khakum Wood, $6.750. Older style (1967) home, in beautiful condition, located in a guarded community, close to town, on a site overlooking a pond, all with great privacy. The owners bought it for $7 million in a (modest – ask was $6.950) bidding war in 2006, and did some top-quality renovations.

Great entrance, nice layout, though the master is on the ground floor while the other bedrooms are up – some will prefer that arrangement, others won’t, and just, all-in-all, a very nice home. It’s certainly not the 1990-2010s huge, neo-Victorian style, but that’s a plus, in my book. It comes with a ten-bedroom septic, though, should you decide to recreate that recent, deplorable style.

Comparing it to prices of similar homes back in the boom, this seems well placed.


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Riverside sale reported


20 Marks Rd

20 Marks Rd

20 Marks Road, new construction, $3.327 million. That seems about right, these days, for this type.


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Maybe they’ll pay their interns next

"Of course, we'll be paying you jack shit" - Nancy Pelosi greets new Congressional interns at

“Of course, we’ll be paying you jack shit” – Nancy Pelosi greets new Congressional interns at “Capital Pride” celebration June, 2012

Obama will give  federal contract workers a 39% raise to $10.10 an hour despite lacking legal authority to do so. At a time when the army alone is under orders to cut 80,000 soldiers, with plans to cut still more and scrapping plans for modern weapons, Obama will require them to devote huge amounts to improving the pay of contract workers ranging from dishwashers to custodians to weed whackers.

Federal contract workers are paid $7.25 an hour, the rate for private-sector employers, White House spokesman Bobby Whithorne said today in an e-mail. He said he didn’t have a cost estimate for increasing the minimum by 39 percent.

“We believe that this action will produce good value for the federal government,” Whithorne said. “Higher wages will attract higher-quality workers who are more productive, reduce turnover, which can significantly offset the cost of providing higher wages.”

Using Mr. Whithorne’s logic, perhaps official Washington, from the White House to the staunchest Democrat supporters of a higher minimum wage, should consider paying their interns, who currently receive nothing. Even a buck an hour would “attract higher-quality workers who are more productive and reduce turnover” and thus cost nothing. Imagine how much the politicians could save were they to pay the full $10.10.


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Off to view some open houses on Rogue’s Hill

Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 10.52.52 AMIn the meantime, entertain yourself with this video by Business Insider’s William Wei on $1 homes in Detroit.

Shades of Atlas Shrugged and the Twentieth Century Motor Company.

A few houses still stood within the skeleton of what had once been an industrial town. Everything that could move, had moved away; but some human beings had remained. The empty structures were vertical rubble; they had been eaten, not by time, but by men . . . The inhabited houses were scattered at random among the ruins; the smoke of their chimneys was the only movement visible in town . . . Beyond the town, on a distant hill, stood the factory of the Twentieth Century Motor Company. Its walls, roof lines and smokestacks looked trim, impregnable like a fortress. It would have seemed intact but for a silver water tank: the water tank was tipped sidewise.


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And the logic of this is ….


Planned Parenthood logic

Planned Parenthood logic

Man sentenced to 14 years in prison for tricking girlfriend into taking abortion pill. I get the part, “a woman’s right to choose”, yadayadayada, but if aborting a seven-week fetus is murder, then that implies a life existing separately from the life of the pregnant woman – the girlfriend wasn’t murdered, her fetus was.

How can that be?


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Keep your hands off them, they’re ours!


Why don't they just use interns, save the dough?

Why don’t they just use interns, save the dough?

Pols hold federal hearings to address prostitution at the Stupor Bowl.  Former Governor Elliot Spitzer was unavailable for comment as were the following:

Compiled by the U.S. News & World Report library staff

1974: Future television host Jerry Springer, then a city councilman in Cincinnati, resigned from office after it was revealed that he met a prostitute in a health club and paid her by personal check. The incident became an issue again in 1982, when Springer ran for governor. His campaign ran television ads in which Springer explained the incident and proclaimed that he was “not afraid” of the truth.

1976: Rep. Joe Waggonner, a Louisiana Democrat, was arrested in a Washington, D.C., prostitution sting. He was re-elected that fall and retired in 1978.

1976: Rep. Allan Howe, a Utah Democrat, was arrested after he approached two undercover policewomen for sex. He did not resign but lost his bid for re-election that fall.

1978: Rep. Fred Richmond, a New York Democrat, was arrested when he solicited sex from an underage male prostitute. He avoided prosecution by going into psychiatric counseling. His district re-elected him twice more, but he resigned in 1982 after pleading guilty to drug possession.

1980: Rep. Robert Bauman, a Maryland Republican, was arrested after patronizing an underage male prostitute. He blamed his actions on addictions to alcohol and sex. A month later, Bauman lost his bid for re-election.

1990: Rep. Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat, was reprimanded for his relations with prostitute Stephen Gobie. Years earlier, Frank had paid Gobie for sex; he eventually hired him as his assistant. Gobie was later accused of running a sex business out of Frank’s home. Frank was censured by the House for writing a letter on his behalf. He has since won re-election. Frank apologized to his constituents: “I did not handle the pressures of having a public life, of being a closeted gay man, nearly as well as I should have.”

1996: Clinton political strategist Dick Morris submitted his resignation after the Star tabloid revealed that he had engaged in a yearlong affair with a Washington-area prostitute. The woman, Sherry Ann Rowlands, claimed that Morris had allowed her to listen in on a telephone call from the president.

2001: Philip Giordano, the Republican mayor of Waterbury, Conn., was arrested for sexually abusing children after he was charged with paying a prostitute to arrange encounters with her underage daughter and niece. Giordano was convicted on federal and state charges. Now in federal prison, he recently filed his fifth appeal of his conviction.

2007: Sen. David Vitter, a Lousiana Republican, issued a public apology after his name was linked to a Washington escort service run by Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the so-called D.C. Madam. Earlier in his career, Vitter had been accused of seeing a prostitute in New Orleans, a charge which he denied.

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Super Bowl cancelled – “It’s a pointless exercise now,” says Commissioner Rozelle

Doggoneit, at least they could have let us try

Doggone it, at least they could have let us try

Computer says Seahawks win, 24-21.


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After 100 years of irrelevancy, a rebound: French language is once again useful

Ma toilette est bourré de merde!

Ma toilette est bourré de merde!

Bilingual plumbers needed in London as rich cheese eaters flee across the Channel.

A London plumbing firm is advertising for French-speaking staff to cope with increasing demand from French people who have moved here to avoid France’s 75 per cent tax rate.

Pimlico Plumbers says it has noticed a huge surge in call-outs from wealthy French expats in the capital, and now needs to employ bilingual plumbers to deal with them all.

The firm’s founder, Charlie Mullins, says calls from French clients have more than doubled in the past year, since President Francois Hollande introduced his new ‘supertax’ on salaries above €1m (£825,000).

Mr Mullins, 59, said: ‘In the last three months particularly we have noticed a real increase in call-outs from French people, most of them living in Knightsbridge, Mayfair, Kensington, Chelsea and Fulham.

‘I believe it’s to do with the tax – the worse it gets in France, the better it is for our business.

‘Mostly they live in rented properties, and so when our plumbers need to ask how far they can go without speaking to the property’s managing agents, there can be a problem in communication.’

Of course, just because they relocated doesn’t mean the French have changed their personalities.

He added: ‘We can get by with our Russian clients, who are very direct and just say “Do it, do it”, but the French seem to be different and they waffle on a lot.They are very demanding customers ….”

By the way, parents of college-bound liberal arts majors, note this:

Mr Mullins has today placed an advertisement for two bilingual plumbers and says they could earn up to £150,000 a year if they are willing to work overtime.


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I shed no tear

All hail Stalin

All hail Stalin

Pete Seeger is finally dead, at 94. There were many things to dislike about Seeger most notably his unrepentant communism and support of Stalin, which he spewed to school children and their gullible parents for decades. From a former musical student of his, Ron Radosh’s review of a cinematographic hagiography: 

Nowhere does this documentary describe the Almanac Singers’ very first album, “Songs for John Doe.” As readers of this newspaper know, in August 1939 Hitler and Stalin signed a pact and became allies. Overnight the communists took a 180-degree turn and became advocates of peace, arguing that Nazi Germany, which the USSR had opposed before 1939, was a benign power, and that the only threat to the world came from imperial Britain and FDR’s America, which was on the verge of fascism. Those who wanted to intervene against Hitler were servants of Republic Steel and the oil cartels.

In the “John Doe” album, Mr. Seeger accused FDR of being a warmongering fascist working for J.P. Morgan. He sang, “I hate war, and so does Eleanor, and we won’t be safe till everybody’s dead.” Another song, to the tune of “Cripple Creek” and the sound of Mr. Seeger’s galloping banjo, said, “Franklin D., Franklin D., You ain’t a-gonna send us across the sea,” and “Wendell Willkie and Franklin D., both agree on killing me.”

The film does not tell us what happened in 1941, when — two months after “John Doe” was released — Hitler broke his pact with Stalin and invaded the Soviet Union. As good communists, Mr. Seeger and his Almanac comrades withdrew the album from circulation, and asked those who had bought copies to return them. A little later, the Almanacs released a new album, with Mr. Seeger singing “Dear Mr. President,” in which he acknowledges they didn’t always agree in the past, but now says he is going to “turn in his banjo for something that makes more noise,” i.e., a machine gun. As he says in the film, we had to put aside causes like unionism and civil rights to unite against Hitler.

For years, Mr. Seeger used to sing a song with a Yiddish group called “Hey Zhankoye,” which helped spread the fiction that Stalin’s USSR freed the Russian Jews by establishing Jewish collective farms in the Crimea. Singing such a song at the same time as Stalin was planning the obliteration of Soviet Jewry was disgraceful. It is now decades later. Why doesn’t Mr. Seeger talk about this and offer an apology?

When the blacklist came to an end — of course the film concentrates on his victimization in those dark years — Mr. Seeger finally reached millions of Americans who, during the Civil Rights movement and Vietnam, came to believe there was never any merit to anti-communism, that it was the same as McCarthyism. Mr. Seeger went to visit North Vietnam in 1972, and came away ecstatic about the beautiful country and the peace-loving people there. We hear nothing about the political prisoners, the boat people, or about Ms. Baez’s lone protest after the war’s end against political oppression on the part of those she called “aging Stalinist leaders,” a protest that Mr. Seeger, for once, took no part in. Instead we see the video of him singing his anti-war hit, “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy.”

In the film, Mr. Seeger says he slowly drifted away from the Communist Party because he didn’t like its top-down organization. He does not address the policies for which it stood. He never pauses to criticize the communist regimes he once backed, nor the few that still exist, like Castro’s prison camp in Cuba. Mr. Seeger’s cries for peace and his opposition to every American foreign and military policy (even ousting the Taliban from Afghanistan) show that he has learned little from the past. Mr. Brown’s film lionizes him, and lets viewers believe that his old causes were on target, that his

Speaking of “lionizing”, how about  ol’ Pete ripping off an impoverished African composer for the rights to “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” and claiming it as his own? Seeger needed the money to buy a hammer, you see, to strike down greedy capitalists – what would a dirt-farmer an ocean away do with cash except waste it on food?

Wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh indeed.


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