Daily Archives: August 20, 2014

I wasn’t going to write anything about James Foley’s beheading, but this is sad

WSJ: U.S. special forces attempted to rescue Foley and other prisoners this summer, but the intelligence was faulty and the men weren’t there. I’ll give Obama this much: he authorized the raid.

U.S. Special Operations forces mounted an unsuccessful operation inside Syria earlier this summer to try to rescue several Americans held by Islamic extremists, including the American journalist who was beheaded this week, senior Obama administration officials said.

President Barack Obama ordered the operation, the first by the U.S. inside Syrian territory since the start of the civil war, after the U.S. received intelligence that the Americans were being held by the extremist group known as Islamic State at a specific facility in a sparsely populated area inside Syria. Among the group was James Foley, the U.S. journalist who was beheaded in a grisly video released yesterday.

Several dozen Special Operations forces took part in the helicopter-borne operation as drones and fighter aircraft circled overhead.

After landing near the site and approaching the facility by foot, the special-operations force came under small-arms fire, which they responded to, the officials said. Several Islamic State fighters were killed in the exchange of fire on the ground, the officials said. One member of the special-operations forces team was slightly injured in the exchange of fire, the officials said.

But the U.S. forces didn’t find any of the Americans in the facility and pulled out of the area, the officials said.

 

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For so long as our leaders and the media believe this, we are in danger

Kerry: the beheading of James Foley is “an ugly insult to the peaceful religion” of Islam.

Islam is a “religion of peace” only in that it claims that is its ultimate goal. There will be peace only when all the world’s inhabitants are muslim and Sharia law governs the globe. Until then, Jihad.

We don’t have to particularly fear the vile creatures who cut off heads and bury tens of thousands of women and children alive; that’s mostly local conflict, and isn’t really much of a threat to us. But those same people are coming for us here, first with germs and dirty bombs and sooner, rather than later, nuclear missiles.

That Kerry and his boss don’t see this is the really scary thing about the monsters of Islam.

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I’d be more impressed if they were going after Dodd

I got mine, Jack, and I'm keeping it

I got mine, Jack, and I’m keeping it

A year after letting the criminal statute of limitations expire, the DOJ is said to be preparing to sue Angelo Mozilo for his role in the Countrywide mortgage debacle.

More than 12 months after a deadline passed to file criminal charges, the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles is preparing a civil lawsuit against Mozilo and as many as 10 other former Countrywide employees, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.

The government is making a last ditch-effort to hold him accountable for the excesses of the past decade’s subprime-mortgage boom, using a 25-year-old law that has helped the Justice Department win billions of dollars from Wall Street banks, said the people, who weren’t authorized to discuss the case publicly.

Since it’s unlikely that the DOJ “forgot” that the criminal statute of limitations was running, it’s safe to assume that it deliberately chose not to bring charges against Mozilo. A civil suit is probably easier to win, so that’s fine, but they could have brought such a suit at any time in the past six years – why now? In any event, I’d like to see suit filed against Chris Dodd, who, as Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee ran through the laws that permitted the sub-prime disaster and, as a special “Friend of Angelo” received sweetheart deals from the man in return, as detailed by the WSJ all the way back in 2008.

That’s not going to happen.

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One promise we can count on him to keep

 

The NYT:

Screen Shot 2014-08-20 at 3.05.54 PM

Determination

Determination

 

 

 

 

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Dual agency

 

One ring to bind them all

One ring to bind them all

Publius sends along this interesting law suit going on in California. A lower court has ruled that a brokerage firm representing both the buyer and the seller of a property owes a fiduciary duty to both. If upheld, and if the legal principle spreads east, it could screw up the business model of the ever-growing real estate firms like Sotheby’s and Coldwell Banker, who have been expanding in order, it appears, to keep all transactions entirely in-house, rather than split commissions with other firms and agents.

As the law stands now here in Connecticut, both the agent and her supervising broker – Sotheby’s, William Raveis, etc. – owe their absolute loyalty to the owner who lists her property with them. Anything that owner tells the agent must be held in confidence and not divulged to a potential buyer. A buyer who is unrepresented by an agent and who deals solely with the listing agent is considered a “customer”, not a “client”, and is owed very little beyond the disclosure of hidden defects the agent is aware of.

An agent who represents a buyer, however, owes no duty to the seller, and is free to do all the digging he wants to find out weaknesses in the seller’s position: scour the judicial dockets for pending divorces and foreclosures, Google the seller for news of pending indictments, bankruptcies, layoffs at his employer, etc. All is fair game and indeed, a buyer should expect no less from her agent, which is why I’ll never understand why so many buyers choose to forego such an advantage and work blindly with the other party’s representative.

If a buyer chooses to use a Sotheby’s or Ogilvy’s or Raveis agent to buy a house listed by that same firm, but by another agent, the law says that a Chinese Wall must be erected, so that what the listing agent knows cannot be passed on to the buyer’s agent, and vice versa. I’ve always been skeptical about the imperviousness of that wall in practice, but the law has always been good at creating legal fictions, so there you go.

What happened in California is that a court’s ruled that there can be no Chinese Wall, because the brokerage firm employing both agents owes the same fiduciary duty to the buyer as it does to the seller. If the seller tells her agent, confidentially, that her husband has been hit with an IRS claim of $5 million and the neighbors are about to sue her for molesting their 12-year-old son, the agent’s broker has a duty to disclose that to its buyer/client, and won’t that be fun?

So what will happen? As a seller, you’d be crazy to permit an agent affiliated with your own agent’s firm to represent a potential buyer, because anything you tell your agent will be passed on to the buyer, and can and will be used against you. Are you willing to take substantially less than your asking price? Do you want the buyer to know that? If so, tell your agent so, but I think you’d be a fool to do so.

The mergers going on in our local market seem, to me, to be designed to create a critical mass of agents, so large that a listing will no longer have to be placed on the Multiple Listing Service because a buyer can always be found among the client pool of the brokers own two hundred agents. From a seller’s perspective, that’s not so good – eliminating 80% of the agents in town, any one of whom may have a buyer for your property, is not a good way of assuring that you get the highest price. From the broker’s perspective, however, 5% is much juicier than a mere 2.5%, so I’ve been expecting the consolidation trend to continue.

But if California’s interpretation of agency law stands, that consolidation should slow, because the attractiveness of listing a home with a broker who must pass along your confidences to its buyer will be, er, …dubious.

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Back country trend?

Two new listings today in the back country and it’s impossible to know whether their relatively “low” price tags are due to their owners’ desire to just move on, or a reflection of what’s been happening to back country values. Guess we’ll see.

 

170 Old Mill Road

170 Old Mill Road

170 Old Mill Road is one of those early 2000’s Jordan Saper maxi-pads (13,500 square feet) that have proved so popular (which is why he’s kept building them), and is presented to us today at the price of $6.9 million, a substantial discount from the $8.9 million paid for it new in 2004. Immediately adjacent to the Round Hill fire station, which should keep insurance premiums down, and a stone’s throw from the gas station/general store.

 

15 Mountain Laurel Drive

15 Mountain Laurel Drive

15 Mountain Laurel Drive, $4.5 million and 9,000 sq.ft., , is even farther north, just brushing the Banksville border. It last sold in 2004 for $3.7 million and was renovated-expanded in 2008. It spent much of last year looking for a buyer at $4.595, without success. Look for it to move somewhere closer to that 2004  price, rather than last’s.

Of relevance to absolutely nothing, a client of mine told me that he grew up on Mountain Laurel back when lovable talk show host Jack Paar was a neighbor. On Halloween, Mr. Paar would decorate his grounds and gate with fierce “No Trespassing” signs, and threaten trick-or-treaters with immediate arrest.

Ha.

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Aw shucks, how could I have missed this?*

Gary and Susan Rosenbach  in more stressful days

Gary and Susan Rosenbach in more stressful days

Readers have alerted me that it was Gary Rosenbach, the pigeon in the Raj Rajaratnam trial who owned 217 Taconic Road, which sold yesterday for $13 million.

After ratting out his business partner in exchange for a get out of jail card, Rosenbach fled town and was last seen in Texas, winning $5,000 purses at rodeos – guess he put that riding ring to good use up on Taconic.

* Turns out, I didn’t miss it, I just forgot. Here’s a post from 2009 entitled, “Will Gary Rosenbach be moving to Round Hill?”.  He never did move to Rogues’ Hill; he didn’t have to – the feds let him off the hook, and he skedaddled to Colorado, pahdna.

And look at him now! What do hemorrhoids and cowboy hats have in common? Sooner or later, ever a-hole gets one

But look at him now! What do hemorrhoids and cowboy hats have in common? Sooner or later, every a-hole gets one

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And here’s the price cut we’ve all been waiting for

 

42 Ridge Street, Cos Cob

42 Ridge Street, Cos Cob

42 Ridge Street, Cos Cob, has been asking $1.099 million since January and the price wouldn’t budge. Until today, when it was slashed to $1.080 million.

Don’t get crushed by the stampede.

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Two big ticket sales

 

77 Maple Avenue

77 Maple Avenue

77 Maple Avenue, $5.4 million. Asked $5.495 and had a contract in just a few days, so close-to-town living must obviously remain a strong market. Gorgeous home, busy street, to my taste.

 

247 Byram Shore Rd

247 Byram Shore Rd

247 Byram Shore Rd, $7.1 million.

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Scraping the bottom of the news for real estate activity to report, here’s this

92 Wesskum Wood Rd

92 Wesskum Wood Rd

Nothing doing in town while the summer winds down, but 92 Wesskum Wood Road, Old Greenwich, $2.395 million, which is still “pending” so far as the MLS shows, has apparently been sold to a local agent or her son and put back on the rental market for $11,500 per. That seems like a steep rent, but I’m pretty much out of step with the rental market these days, so maybe not.

Nice house and location, though.

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Stay off the streets this afternoon

 

 

Just a quick trip back to town and then I'll be back, I promise.

Just a quick trip back to Greenwich and then I’ll be back, I promise.

Joe Biden’s coming to Greenwich today, to the home of one of the 1%ers to beg for cash. This probably explains why Peter Tesei chose this week to vacation on Fire Island, but his travel companion, our Third Selectman, will doubtless be sorry to miss him. Or perhaps he’ll sneak home for just a glimpse of the man, who knows?

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I thought he was merely bleached, not albino

What ya bet they'll be  wrongful death suit filed by his greedy family?

What ya bet they’ll be wrongful death suit filed by his greedy family?

On the other hand, I also thought he was already dead.

Michael Jackson, albino, shot dead after eating  man in Australia.

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Girls (and a gay) go wild

Their first time: Buzzfeed takes liberals to a gun range. Hopeless cause, but funny. It’s sort of reassuring, in  way: come the revolution, we’re gold.

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Maybe “Republican obstructionism” is something else

 

We think we are bored with you

We think we are bored with you – now go

Democrat congressmen: Obama is disengaged, uninterested in working with us. (The link is to a summary in the Daily Mail of a NYT article – feel free to go directly to the Liberal’s Bible, if that’s your preference).

Democratic lawmakers amped up their criticisms of President Barack Obama this week, openly expressing irritation with the president’s leadership style and his tendency to hold members of his own political party at arm’s length.

Multiple Democratic senators told the New York Times that they not only lack a personal relationship with the president, who was once a senator himself, they’ve rarely had the opportunity to talk to him one on one throughout the course of his presidency.

Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, now in her second term, summed up the president’s attitude toward his former colleagues this way: ‘For him, eating his spinach is schmoozing with elected officials.

‘This is not something that he loves. He wasn’t that kind of senator.’

Republicans inside and outside of Congress have expressed annoyance with Obama throughout his second term over what they perceive as a disinterest in governing and the politicking that goes with it.

But the president’s political allies have also begun coming forward with their own lists of grievances toward Obama, some of which sound similar to their counterparts across the aisle.

‘Talented guy but no leader,’ a former member of Congress who is now a lobbyist told the National Journal’s Ron Fournier a couple month’s ago.

‘If he could govern half as well as he campaigns, he’d be a good-to-great president,’ the former lawmaker said.

‘He’s bored and tired of being president,’ a current Democratic lawmaker told Fournier.

He won’t work with Republicans, he won’t work with the leadership of his own party, and yet he complains that his plan to save the nation and the world is being frustrated by his enemies on Capital Hill. If I believed in conspiracies, I’d wonder whether he was appealing to the public’s disdain for the legislative branch and preparing to bypass Congress and go directly to “the People”.

But I don’t believe in conspiracies, so until he starts acting on his own – by unilateral, executive edicts, say, overturning the laws Congress has passed – I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he’s just a bored, arrogant failure who, having achieved the narcissistic goal of being president, now just waits for his next step,getting rich by cashing in on his grand accomplishments.

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