Daily Archives: October 14, 2014

And the fun continues

How can we miss him when he won't go away? Marc Abrams goes pubbing.

How can we miss him when he won’t go away? Marc Abrams goes pubbing.

Abrams is reconsidering his withdrawal, may continue as a candidate.

“It’s true I had no chance of election before those emails got out,” Abrams told FWIW, “but my new campaign manager Bill Gaston tells me that now I have a shot, there’s a huge men’s vote out there for guys who get blow jobs in their offices – worked for Bill Clinton, that’s for sure.

“Besides, I’m Alpha-Man, a BSD from Wall Street, and it’s just not in my nature to pull out until I’m satisfied, know whatahmean, know whatahmean,nudge nudge, blink blink?”

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We’d better hope that the administration’s right about Ebola not reaching our shores because otherwise…

We'll be ready, just don't get sick and ruin everything

We’ll be ready, just don’t get sick and ruin everything

“One Ebola case will wipe out my hospital.”

[Dr.] McCaughey’s answer is stunning.

According to her, after the CDC outlined its preparation strategy, one hospital administrator responded, “What you’re telling us would bankrupt my hospital!” She said that that administrator represents a Southern California hospital.

McCaughey noted that there was no word on the call of who would pay for hospitals to get themselves ready for Ebola patients.

And then she added: “Treating one Ebola patient requires, full time, 20 medical staff. Mostly ICU (intensive care unit) people. So that would wipe out an ICU in an average-sized hospital.”

In the case of Texas Presbyterian, McCaughey says that the hospital cordoned off its ICU to care for Thomas Eric Duncan and sent the rest of its ICU patients to other area hospitals. She added that many communities will not have multiple hospitals to choose from, so one Ebola case could cripple ICUs in small towns.

“But the most important thing,” McCaughey said, “is that doctors and nurses are not ready for the challenge of using this personal protective equipment even if you see them with the helmet, the respirator, the full suits, as the CDC said on the call today, even all that equipment is not enough to guarantee the safety of health care workers because it is so perilous to put it on and particularly to remove it once it’s become contaminated.”

McCaughey said many of those on the call were “daunted by the expectations, the separate laboratory next to the isolated patients, all kinds of — all kinds of adjustments, where to put the waste. Many states won’t even let you dispose of this waste from such a toxic disease.”

Not that more government is necessarily any kind of answer to this dilemma, but we actually do have an “Ebola Czar” on the government payroll, and she’s been there, getting paid, for years. Dr. Nicole Laurie is her name, and the reason no one has heard of her apparently is that she was caught up in a HHS scandal passing out no-bid contracts to Obama contributor Ron Perelman. Obama threw a drape over the lady and she hasn’t said boo since.

Here’s what we’ve been paying her to do:

[A] s National Journal rather glowingly puts it, “Lurie’s job is to plan for the unthinkable. A global flu pandemic? She has a plan. A bioterror attack? She’s on it. Massive earthquake? Yep. Her responsibilities as assistant secretary span public health, global health, and homeland security.” A profile of Lurie quoted her as saying, “I have responsibility for getting the nation prepared for public health emergencies—whether naturally occurring disasters or man-made, as well as for helping it respond and recover. It’s a pretty significant undertaking.” Still anotherrefers to her as “the highest-ranking federal official in charge of preparing the nation to face such health crises as earthquakes, hurricanes, terrorist attacks, and pandemic influenza.”

We’d better hope Dr. Laurie’s been hard at work all this time, cooking up ideas and strategies which, surely, we’ll learn about, any day now.

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Wisdom from a quant

A friend of mine sent me this as an email and, lacking a link, the best I can do is reprint it here. It’s a nice summary of the feelings, I’m sure, of many of us.

People think it must be fun to be a super genius, but they don’t realize how hard it is to put up with all the idiots in the world.   Bill Watterson, “Calvin and Hobbes”

 

Here is the most fundamental idea behind game theory, the one concept you MUST understand to be an effective game player. Ready?

You are not a super genius, and we are not idiots.  The people you are playing with and against are just as smart as you are. Not smarter. But just as smart.  If you think that you are seeing more deeply into a repeated-play strategic interaction (a game!) than we are, you are wrong. And ultimately it will cost you dearly.  But if there is a mutually acceptable decision point – one that both you and we can agree upon, full in the knowledge that you know that we know that you know what’s going on – that’s an equilibrium. And that’s a decision or outcome or policy that’s built to last.

Fair warning, this is an “Angry Ben” email, brought on by the US government’s “communication policy” on Ebola, which is a mirror image of the US government’s “communication policy” on markets and monetary policy, which is a mirror image of the US government’s “communication policy” on ISIS and foreign policy.We are being told what to think about Ebola and QE and ISIS. Not by some heavy-handed pronouncement as you might find in North Korea or some Soviet-era Ministry, but in the kinder gentler modern way, by a Wise Man or Woman of Science who delivers words carefully chosen for their effect in constructing social expectations and behaviors.

The words are not lies. But they’re only not-lies because if they were found to be lies that would be counterproductive to the social policy goals, not because there’s any fundamental objection to lying. The words are chosen for their  truthiness, to use Stephen Colbert’s wonderful term, not their truthfulness. The words are chosen in order to influence us as manipulable objects, not to inform us as autonomous subjects.

It’s always for the best of intentions. It’s always to prevent a panic or to maintain confidence or to maintain social stability. All good and noble ends. But it’s never a stable equilibrium. It’s never a lasting legislative or regulatory peace. The policy always crumbles in Emperor’s New Clothes fashion because we-the-people or we-the-market have not been brought along to make a self-interested, committed decision. Instead the Powers That Be – whether that’s the Fed or the CDC or the White House – take the quick and easy path of selling us a strategy as if they were selling us a bar of soap.

This is what very smart people do when they are, as the Brits would say, too clever by half. This is why very smart people are, as often as not, poor game players. It’s why there aren’t many academics on the pro poker tour. It’s why there haven’t been many law professors in the Oval Office. This isn’t a Democrat vs. Republican thing. This isn’t a US vs. Europe thing. It’s a mass society + technology thing. It’s a class thing. And it’s very much the defining characteristic of the Golden Age of the Central Banker.

Am I personally worried about an Ebola outbreak in the US? On balance … no, not at all. But don’t tell me that I’m an idiot if I have questions about the sufficiency of the  social policies being implemented to prevent that outbreak. And make no mistake, that’s EXACTLY what I have been told by CDC Directors and Dr. Gupta and the White House and all the rest of the super genius, supercilious, remain-calm crew.

I am calm. I understand that a victim must be symptomatic to be contagious. But I also understand that one man’s symptomatic is another man’s “I’m fine”, and questioning a self-reporting immigration and quarantine regime does not make me a know-nothing isolationist.

I am calm. I understand that the virus is not airborne but is transmitted by “bodily fluids”. But I also understand why Rule #1 for journalists in West Africa is pretty simple: Touch No One, and questioning the wisdom of sitting next to a sick stranger on a flight originating from, say, Brussels does not make me a Howard Hughes-esque nutjob.

I am calm. I understand that the US public health and acute care infrastructure is light years ahead of what’s available in Liberia or Nigeria. I understand that Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas is not just one of the best health care facilities in Texas, but one of the best hospitals in the world. But I also understand that we are all creatures of our standard operating procedures, and what’s second nature in a hot zone will be slow to catch on in the Birmingham, Alabama ER where my father worked for 30 years.

The mistake made by our modern leaders – in every public sphere! – is to believe that they are operating on a deeper, smarter, more far-seeing level of game-playing than we are. I’ve got a long example of the levels of decision-making in the Epsilon Theory note “A Game of Sentiment”, so I won’t repeat all that here. The basic idea, though, is that by announcing a consensus based on the Narrative authority of Science our leaders believe they are stacking the deck for each of us to buy into that consensus as our individual first-level decision. This can be quite effective when you’re promoting a brand of toothpaste, where it is impossible to be proven wrong in your consensus claims, much less so when you’re promoting a social policy, where all it takes is one sick nurse to make the entire linguistic effort seem staged and for effect … which of course it was. The fact that we go along with a game – that we act AS IF we believe in the Common Knowledge of an announced consensus – does NOT mean that we have accepted the party line in our heart of hearts. It does NOT mean that we are myopic game-players, unerringly led this way or that by the oh-so-clever words of the Missionaries. But that’s how it’s been taken, to terrible effect.

I am calm. But I am angry, too. It doesn’t have to be this way … this consensus-by-fiat style of policy leadership where we are always only one counter-factual reveal – the sick nurse or the sick economy – away from a breakdown in market or governmental confidence. I am angry that we have been consistently misjudged and underestimated, treated as children to be “educated” rather than as citizens to be trusted. I am angry that our most important political institutions have sacrificed their most important asset – not their credibility, but their authenticity – on the altar of political expediency, all in a misconceived notion of what it means to lead.

And yet here we are. On the precipice of that breakdown in confidence. A cold wind of change is starting to blow. Can you feel it?

 

  1. Ben Hunt, Ph.D.
    Chief Risk Officer

SALIENT

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Two sales prices reported

43 Stag Lane

43 Stag Lane

43 Stag Lane, $1.525 million. Zillow says it’s worth $2 million, so if you were one of those smart buyers who chooses not to use a buyer’s rep, you would probably have thought its 2012 asking price of $1.850 was a bargain, and snapped it up. The clients I showed it to did not bid for it at that price and, though they didn’t get this one, they did find other homes, and didn’t overpay.

Just saying.

7 Highgate

7 Highgate

7 Highgate, Riverside, sold for $2.430 million, Zillow estimate was $2.857.  The house has some issues, but the sellers paid $2.840 for it in 2005, so it was a relative bargain.

 

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Another Havemeyer sale

21 Macarthur Drive

21 Macarthur Drive

21 Macarthur Drive, $1.595 million, reports a contingent contract. Havemeyer prices have come a long way in just a few years.

Helpful staging tip: take out half the furniture and ditch the tube TV to at least make it look as though there's space. Though the house sold anyway, so what the heck

Helpful staging tip: take out half the furniture and ditch the tube TV to at least make it look as though there’s space. Though the house sold anyway, so what the heck

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Well that’s a low hurdle

She's going to disband this, her Democrat friends keep this up

She’s going to disband this, her Democrat friends keep this up

Former Greenwich Democrat Town Party Chairman: Greenwich Democrats have never looked worse. Alma Rutgers, the former chairman in question, is appalled that her party nominated a candidate like Marc Abrams even while knowing that he had a history of emails waiting to be discovered in which he described, in lascivious detail, the blow jobs administered him by the email recipient’s girlfriend.

Well okay, Alma, that must be upsetting to a former League of Lady Voters president, but your party also nominated Stephanie Paulmeno, she of “there’s rapey-rape and there’s date rape” fame for First Selectman, Shamadama Ramadamadindong, the ex-cult member, for a seat on the Board of Education, and Ed Krumeich for any slot that they could squeeze him into (a difficult search, but never mind). Hell, you guys even put Roger Pearson into office once.

So yes, Mr. Abrams may mark a low point in the Greenwich Democrat candidate selection process, but it’s not much of a drop, and surely there’s still more room to fall.

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Coalition of the unwilling

But you said you would, you did, you did!

But you said you would, you did, you did!

Is there anybody here who knows how to play this game? Turkey denies that it will let U.S. attack ISIS from its airbase.

Kerry keeps announcing that he’s found new allies to help in the fight against ISIS, but they keep denying they’ve agreed to any such thing.Turkey is just the latest embarrassment, joining the various stans Kerry has previously claimed were on our side.

If he and his boss weren’t Harvard men, I’d suspect that they were completely over their heads in this matter.

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About time

PCN-headerSupreme Court to hear occupational licensing abuse case today.

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral argument today in the case of North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners v. Federal Trade Commission. At issue is whether that state board engaged in illegal anticompetitive practices when it used its powers to drive non-dentists from the teeth-whitening market.

The matter arose in 2006 when the state board, purportedly acting in a public health capacity, started cracking down on non-dentists who offered teeth-whitening services. But on closer examination, this action turned out to be the opposite of a legitimate government regulation. In fact, the board had a clear conflict of interests. Six of its eight members are licensed practicing dentists (elected to the board by other practicing dentists), meaning that the board’s controlling majority had a direct financial stake in preventing outsiders from entering the teeth-whitening market and competing for customers. “At the end of the day,” declared the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, which ruled against the state board in March 2014, “this case is about a state board run by private actors in the marketplace taking action outside of the procedures mandated by state law to expel a competitor from the market.”

With the U.S. rapidly dropping in the ranks of economic freedom, a ruling opening the way for competition can only help. Here in CT, we restrict entry into all sorts of low-skilled professions (new real estate agents just saw the mandatory classroom time double, for instance), from taxi-driving to nail waxing to interior decorating. These rules have nothing to do with public safety and everything to do with keeping competition down.

 

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And a trickle more activity

9 Le Jeune Court

9 Le Jeune Court

9 LeJeune Court, $1.095 million, under contract. I can’t say I was impressed with this one when I saw it, but that’s hard to achieve at this price range.

255 Round Hill Road

255 Round Hill Road

255 Round Hill Road has cut its price to $4.995 million; it started off two years and three brokers ago (Ogilvy was first) at $8.250, so things are looking up; or down. Grand old house, and maybe at this price it can be modernized at a price that makes sense. I hope so, though if I were looking for comparable sales to base my bid on, I’d look to 18 Porchuck, which just sold for $3.650 (Zillow reports it as a foreclosure auction, which I’m sure the owner, the former head of Pepsico, would find as insulting as it is inaccurate). Ogilvy started that one off at $9.5 the same year: 2012, he launched 255, so there’s precedent.

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Pending sale in OG, again

1 Ferris Drive

1 Ferris Drive

1 Ferris Drive, $498,000 with “motivated seller” reports a deal. I reported on the strange doings of this house this past July, when it was also reported as pending. Looks like a situation where relatives did some financing without the knowledge of an elderly owner, and various lawsuits, foreclosures and the like followed thereon.

In any event, this latest report may mean that the court has approved a sale, or not: we’ll find out soon, I suppose.

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Bet they don’t get it

39 Bedford Road

39 Bedford Road

Auctioneers Sheldon Goode are conducting an auction for 39 Bedford Road with a “suggested” opening bid of $2.5 million. That’s lower than its current price of $3.550, but not sufficiently low to attract any real enthusiasm, I’ll wager. It did fail to sell, after all, back in 2012 when it was asking $2.995, and nothing seems to have been done to it since to increase its appeal. You can see the current listing here, but the listing broker/agent, one James Martin, has his own financial difficulties with his soon-to-be-former residence on 212 Old Mill Road, so you’ll have to excuse the fuzzy, Instamatic quality of his photos.

The place was built in 2006, but apparently landscaping was an afterthought. I should think this house, and its opportunity for decorating the grounds from scratch, might appeal to a Westchester landscaper, but the price will probably have to drop another million before such a man of the soil’s dream can come true.

 

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Until they come up with a remote “explode” button for iPhones, this will have to do

Thieves take pictures of themselves with victim’s iPhone, caught because phone was programmed to automatically upload new photos to iCloud.

Police have identified the man on the left as Darious Anderson, 20, and are now seeking him and the other man in connection with an armed robbery on the streets of  New Orleans

Police have identified the man on the left as Darious Anderson, 20, and are now seeking him and the other man in connection with an armed robbery on the streets of New Orleans

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