Property Grunt

Sunday, August 31, 2008

This week in politics

Greetings good people. I apologize for the long wait. I have been still recovering from my trip from the left coast. Boy howdy as a lot happened since then.

As we all know Obama has selected Biden for his VP. The Clintons made their presence known at the convention, albeit not at the cost of Obama's reputation.

Hilary's failed attempt at becoming the Democratic Candidate is something that I find quite fascinating since the nomination should have been in the bag for her. However the whole thing imploded in her face.

There have been many opinions of why Hilary got served by Obama, but honestly I think it comes down to three basic tenets which Hilary Clinton lacked which are grace, humility and charm.

In Chinese strategy there is a concept called Patching up the Wok.

The story is that a craftsman is hired is fix a crack in a wok, when the owner is not looking, the craftsman taps crack to make it bigger, when the owner comes back the craftsman show how badly damaged the wok really was and comforts the owner that with his skill he will be able to fix it. The message is that sometimes if you want the full appreciation of others for your efforts, you might need to make the situation worse.

Now, I am not saying Hilary Clinton is responsible for the current state of affairs of our country, but I do know in the last two elections, she wasn’t throwing her support behind any of the democratic candidates at the at time. Of course you could argue that Gores and Clintons weren’t exactly on speaking terms and that she was busy with her own campaign, but did you see her throwing her support for Kerry and Edwards? I am not saying she wanted them to fail but I wouldn’t be surprised if she all she did was wish them well.

When President George W. Bush announced that he wanted to invade Iraq, she actually supported him. When she was confronted by that vote now, she played pass the buck, saying that the information that she was given inaccurate.

Did you see where I am going with this? I am not saying that Hilary manipulated these events to her advantage; however, she did not make a concerted effort to correct them. It was to her advantage to have President George W. Bush to stay in office because his actions would have such negative implications. By not supporting Kerry and Edwards, she would be in the position to play White Knight or White Queen.

Hilary is a brilliant and focused woman; you don’t get to her level of success by being lazy. However she does not have the attributes that made her husband such an iconic figure in American politics. So she has done the next thing and positioned herself so that she becomes the default choice for commander in chief. By not fully backing certain parties and not taking certain actions, in effect she began tapping the crack to make it bigger.

Now there is one key problem with this strategy, the craftsman has to be careful not to make the crack to big that he can’t fix it. Another problem if people know what you are doing, they are going to be pretty pissed at you especially if they are not benefiting from your actions.

Did the Kennedys simply withdraw their support for Hilary due to the comments about Obama’s race? My opinion is that that was probably the straw that broke the camel’s back. Some serious s**t must have been brewing between the two camps for the Kennedys to do a complete about face.

My theory is that Hilary did not show enough grace to her colleagues. She did not show appreciation for what she was given. She also did not show humility to those that mattered to her.

Whether it was deliberate or not, there was a definitely an appearance of entitlement to the White house on her part. And for awhile it looked like we had no choice but to choose her because she was only one qualified to deal with the douchebaggery left by the current administration.

In any political situation, the wise ones in power never take their position for granted. They make every effort to cultivate it and hold onto to the reins of their positions. You keep your ear to the ground at all times for the footfalls of those behind you. You show your deference for those ahead of you, especially those who were once former scions of your cause. Even if their status has been diminished, they still wield a tremendous amount of power.

Another key asset that Hilary does not have that her husband posses in spades is charm. How else can you explain him getting away oral sex with a White House intern? Hilary doesn’t have that gift. As one person I know who has seen her in person, there was only one word to describe the experience. Ice.

What I really find ironic about Hilary’s failed campaign for the Democratic nomination is that it looked as if she was working the system, but what actually happened is that she was the one that got worked and worked bad. And with the amount of debt has complied and the fact that the Obama campaign is pretty much dragging their feet to assist, says to me that in terms of the campaign, this was not just about preventing her from getting nomination, but ensure that the consequences for not getting the nomination would cripple her and her husband. It is no wonder that Bill is pissed off because if Hilary became President he would have made money hand over fist because he had access to Hilary’s back door. Back door to the White House that is, not Hilary’s back door, none of my business what the do at night.

The Devil you don’t know.

Now McCain has selected a VP by the name of Sarah Palin who is the Governor of Alaska. I fist heard of her a couple of months ago when I believe it was either 60 minutes and Dateline did a piece on corruption in the Alaskan legislature. They showed a quick spot on her and that was pretty much it. At that point all I thought was that she was easy on the eyes.

I was just as surprised as everyone else when it was announced by the McCain camp that she was to be his Vice President. However after looking at her background and the situation he is dealing with right now, I realize this is a gamble he had to take.

First of all by selecting Palin as his Vice President, it is a sign that McCain is willing to take the risks necessary to lead America. It also knocks the Obama/Biden camp for a loop because I am sure that camp had accumulated a several cargo planes worth of strategies to deal with the more known VP candidates like Mitt Romney and the other former Republican nominees. Now they literally have to start from scratch in developing a counter attack against her and they have to be extremely careful with Palin because they do not want to pull a Rick Lazio. In fact when Palin was first Ann cued, Obama made no immediate mention of her until very recently. A response that takes that long in this presidential election is considered to be nearly an eternity.

Palin is a real salt of the earth type of person who had to elope with her husband because they could not afford a wedding. When she was initially elected as the Governor of Alaska she fired the personal chefs and got rid of the personal airplane, stating that she did not need those things. In fact, she made every effort to stay true to her own principles. In fact she is a hard core pro-lifer and ignored the option to terminate her pregnancy when prenatal testing results indicated her child would be developmentally challenged.

If the McCain and Palin ticket go the White House, one thing is for sure, Hilary Clinton will never set foot in the White House unless she is invited in.

This is going to be one interesting election year. I can’t wait for the debates.

Friday, August 22, 2008

A broken rule

Mea culpa good people for the lack of entries. I am a bit frazzled right now. Tomorrow I am taking a flight to the left coast at 10:45 AM. So I have to be at the airport by at least 8AM.

When it comes to preparations for this trip, I violated a key rule which was to prepare at least two weeks in advance. When I first moved to my apartment , I knew myself enough that I was quite a procrastinator, so I would start packing at least a month in advance. Which I did and made the move a lot easier.

I am only going to be away for the weekend, hence the violation of the rule. I did not take this even seriously enough.

The late Reverend Kensho Furuya, once told a story about studying under a Zen master in Japan. The master made an interesting observation about people and obstacles. It is not one obstacle that stops people, but it is minor ones that begin to compound when they are not addressed.

Right now I can relate to that. I am taking Jet Blue and as everyone knows they do not serve meals. Now I have known this for quite awhile, yet I have waited till the last minute to prepare my meals for the flight.

I was debating whether to take my razor and decided to buy some disposal ones. When did I buy these razors? Just an hour ago from the Walgreens.

What I should have done was set up a collection point in advance for these items. Even though I would not be packing until the night before I left, I should have had at least these items ready to go. Right now I am 90% done and it is now 11pm. I would have been done earlier but a personal emergency came up that I had to address which has eaten into my prep time.

This is one truth that I forgot about which is s**t happens. Even if you have all your ducks in a row, Murphy's Law is hiding in the water ready to shoot them all. Therefore, it doesn't hurt wrap your ducks in Kevlar and flak jackets.

I am a little behind schedule, but I will be alright for now. But I am not putting myself in this position again. So I will remember to at least take care of the little things first.

I will see you all next week.

Monday, August 18, 2008

In Memoriam: Robbie Greenberger

Robbie Greenberger, 1988-2008

Robbie Greenberger the son of DC and Marvel Alumnus, Robert Greenberger, passed away on August 15 2008 after a hard fought with leukemia. He is survived by his father Bob, his mother Deb and his sister Kate.

The family has requested the following.

In lieu of flowers contributions in Robbie’s memory may be made to The Tommy Fund for Childhood Cancer, Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital, 20 York Street, New Haven, CT 06511-3202 ( For information or to offer an online condolence please visit

Bob has been chronicling his son's struggle with the disease and has written the final week.

Godspeed Robbie

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Regarding Julia

The Undercover Cook.

A friend was making a big deal about this article about Julia Child was a spy. First of all this is old news. It was a well known fact that Julia Child worked for OSS during WWII as it is indicated in this interview she you can see on this link. In fact she became enamored with the idea of being a cook when she was stationed in China and experienced Chinese Cuisine for the first time. This interview will provide further details.

The fact she was a spy during World War II doesn't surprise me. America had to use every resource at their disposal and besides the Navy, who would turn down Julia Child to fight for God and Country? What will probably surprise a lot of you was that Julia was probably on the job for Langley using her culinary credentials as a NOC, well after World War II and into the Cold War.

The following is a fascinating story about Julia Child that I heard from of all places at a showing for a townhouse.

Not long ago I was showing an exclusive listing on the upper east side which was a mixed use building with a restaurant on the ground floor and rental apartments. For some unknown reason, the owner decided to decided to gut renovate all the apartments and turn it into a home for a family.

It proved to be a challenge to show the building due to all the construction. What also did not help was the fact that the owner had an asking price that was exorbitant even at the standards at the height of the bubble.

I was waiting with the contractor who was to give me access to the building who happened to be a large friendly fellow. Although was well into his years could easily hold his own in a bar brawl. I noticed he wore a cap with the Marine insignia which I asked about. With great pride he acknowledged he had served in the corps and told me a captivating tale about one of his missions.

Back in the 60's he was stationed in Berlin where he worked as an asset for the American Embassy. This was the height of the Cold War so I have no doubt he was probably put in some very stressful situations. He told me that one of his missions in Berlin was to serve as a bodyguard for Julia Child. He conducted this mission from a surreptitious distance to ensure she was not in harm's way while preserving her cover. After all, having a large Marine strapped to your side is going to bring a lot of unneeded attention to yourself.

On that particular mission he spotted a hostile party that was approaching Julia Child. I assume this individual was not interested in sharing recipes with her but had other sinister intentions for the great gourmet. This of course was something the contractor could not allow.

I'll spare you the details but let's just say the contractor put a very sudden and permanent end to the hostile party's career in Wet Work.

A couple of years before Ms. Child's passing, he saw her at a bar at a well known restaurant, dining with another party. He had a drink sent to her with a vague message about Berlin. Upon receiving the drink and his message, she got up from her table, walked over to him and hugged him. According to the contractor, she remembered what had occurred and thanked him for acting as her protector.

Is this story true? Well first of all I would never doubt the word of a Marine, former or otherwise. And it was a well known fact that she worked with the OSS and we now have evidence that she was more than just a file clerk during her tenure. It is possible that the DCI at the time saw an opportunity in furthering Julia Child's career in espionage.

Unfortunately, the Company is not in the habit of opening up their employment records for past, present and future employees. On a side note, this is something that Steven Seagal exploited by strongly alluding to ties with the Company, most likely imaginary, which could neither be confirmed nor denied.

So there is no discernible proof that she was still working as a NOC in some capacity. However under the scope of circumstance, it would actually make perfect sense for her to be under a NOC even after becoming famous.

Her occupation required her to do an extensive amount of traveling around the world. She could get into places no other clandestine operative could because of her occupation and also because of her fame. Beside being the most respected figure in the culinary arts, she was a very endearing and charming woman which I am sure were useful skills in bringing the guard down of the most hardened adversary. In the eye of the general public, she would never have given a cause for suspicion. As the cliche goes, often the best hiding place is the one out in the open.

And even if they did know who she was, I am sure that parties with hostile intentions probably decided against sanctioning her because of the massive s**tstorm that would ensue. I mean what sane person would want to whack Julia Child? Also it would be pointless to even try as demonstrated by that contractor.

Perhaps if we wait another 60 years, more files will be declassified to shed light on this matter.

I'd buy that for a dollar!

Seen this one?

Yes. This house was sold for one dollar.

DETROIT -- One dollar can get you a large soda at McDonald's, a used VHS movie at 7-Eleven or a house in Detroit.

The fact that a home on the city's east side was listed for $1 recently shows how depressed the real estate market has become in one of America's poorest big cities.

And it still took 19 days to find a buyer.

However it is not as much as a bargain as you think it is.

The buyer, a local woman, considers the home to be an investment property and will not live there, Colpaert said, though exactly how soon the buyer can expect to recoup her four-quarter investment is questionable. Replacing the guts of the house will costs tens of thousands of dollars, and the owner will have trouble keeping scrappers from stealing the improvements as quickly as they're installed. Home demolition costs about $5,000, Colpaert said.

Meanwhile, the new owner will owe $3,900 in property taxes in 2009 on her dollar purchase unless she challenges the tax assessment.

Apparently this particular article has caused some tenison for Barry Ritholtz due to a reference to Love Canal.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Could this be the answer to student housing at NYU?

For more pictures, go to this link.

Yale Student To Bring Her Own Little House To Campus.

Estimating her expenses to live for two years in New Haven while a graduate student at Yale University, Elizabeth Turnbull arrived at about $14,000, even if she shared an apartment.

"Well, if I have roughly $14,000 I am going to spend on living space anyway, is there something more creative I can do with it?" she asked.

There was. An incoming student at Yale's School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, where students fret as much about their carbon footprint as they do about grades, Turnbull decided to build her own living space.

It would be tiny, transportable and ever so environmentally friendly; green as grass. She would arrive at Yale with her own house.

This is awesome. Elizabeth has created a sustainable home that is so environmentally friendly that it pretty much eradicates her carbon footprint. What I really love is this.

So far, she has spent about $8,000 on the house and expects it to cost about $11,000 when finished and furnished.

Unlike a car, this bad boy will either appreciate in some way. Even if it doesn't, it cost her 11 grand which is a bargain compared to the 14K that it would have cost her to live in an apartment. She is already in the black just by living there. As for her career prospects, once she graduates all she needs to do is give a tour and companies will come in droves to hire her.

I am a frugal freak. How frugal am I? I did not buy a stick of furniture in my apartment. Mind you, I am no freegan. I do believe in paying a premium for services and products that provide a substantial added value added to my cost of living.

When I read stories like this, I get really jazzed because it shows that the sustainable approach is not only good for the environment but also good for the pocket book.

Student housing at NYU is insanely expensive. However if NYU had some large tracts of land or even empty lots, this could probably be feasible. But in a town like Manhattan that would be considered a waste of development space.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Flipping out

I got this press release regarding Flipping out.

Flipping Out Reunion Special” which will air tomorrow Tuesday, August 12th at 9pm ET/PT (just click on the link below and select which clips you’d like to download). These clips will provide your readers a sneak peak of the special before it airs. This season of “Flipping Out ,” Jeff Lewis has spied on his staff, gone through two house assistants, and seen his two employees' marriage fall apart – and it's not over yet. Lewis and his crew will reminisce about the breakups and flip outs that made this season the most successful yet. Lewis will also surprise his devoted caretaker Zoila by auctioning off her notorious birthday painting on with sales going directly to her. The painting will be available for auction online from August 12 to August 19.

Of all the reality shows about real estate I think Flipping Out is the best since it portrays it in its most dysfunctional form whether it is intentional or not. I hopefully will have more news about this show.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Queens or Scarsdale Part 2: The Answer

If you guessed Scarsdale you are correct.

This lovely home has excellent views of the Bronx River Parkway. So if you don't feel like turning on the morning news, just look out your window to see what the traffic is like.

For those of you wondering, yes, someone does live there.

Remember this folks. Just because something is in Scarsdale does not mean it is good.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Another great moment in real estate marketing

Yesterday I was in Flatbush, Brooklyn which can be a pretty scary place. While I was there I saw a young Latino man handing out these fliers. At first I thought it was for some store but after getting one I realized it was for an open house.

There are two obvious things wrong with this flier. First, there is no mention of the address of the condos in question. It is kind of difficult to go to an open house if you don't know where it is. The second thing is that there is also no mention of price. How do buyers know if they can afford it?

The fact that the phone number has a 917 area code leads me to believe that the sales person is either someone without an office or a developer trying to cut corners without hiring an exclusive broker.

As for it being luxury. Well, if this is what passes for luxury in East Flatbush, I think I will pass.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Praise the Lord and the Pass the Malox

I guess this what the is what Hudson must have felt. NSFW for language and violence.

I got the new Propertyshark Foreclosure and it is not pretty.
The charts alone will make you want to vomit. Queens is really getting its ass kicked in. And I have no idea how LA is going out of $2 billion of foreclosures. and even though New York City is getting hammered pretty badly, Los Angeles is getting owned.

Pass the tequila

Monday, August 04, 2008

Queens or Scarsdale Part 2

I am back with another edition of Queens or Scarsdale. And boy I do I have a doozy. I have a lovely McMansion in a prime location. A prime location for a gas station.

I bet during the morning rush hour the views are spectacular.

I am sure the question that everyone who takes the highway asks themselves the following question: What the hell were they thinking?

So which is it folks?