Sunday, January 21, 1996


Doug Phipps on growing old and gray at the Guardian

People are crazy to live in NYC.I would much rather be in Boston. I grew up in Winchester, 8 miles north, and saw Gov John Wolpe take the commuter train to Boston every morning. It was a small town of 20k, fairly rich and we had a football feud with more plebeian Woburn that dated back to 1888, or even more.From Winchester I could take the bike to Cambridge , to shop ot the Harvard Coop, three miles to Mass Av and 5 more to harv Sq.In Cassmbridge today ypu are safe, day and night, no shops roll iron over their show windows at nigght
Going on theres Lex and Concord, 20 mi from Boston.

Out of B, NE you can get to so many seaside places - Salem, 17C seaport, with ancient bldgs now somewhat kept up, low rents. That's where the NE sea captains went out to bring the riches of the world to Boston Peabody and Essex museums, the witch trials, history on every corner. . Newburyport, Marblehead, Rockport beaches one hr North, Plum Isl nat preserve,1 1/2 hr. Ipswich, Gloucester - within one hr.

Go further N to Hampton beaches in NH, the summer resort of the working class. In 3hrs you are in Me, eating $4 lobster in a lobster shack in Kittery or Ogunquit, and an hour later shopping in the huge LLBean outlet in Newport

Going W of B Tanglewood is 30 mi.

Going SE in 1 hr your'e at the Plymouth Land, 1 1/2 h - Cape Cod canal, ready to go to the beaches .

But the most esential thing is that you have easy suburban, danger free living, where kids can be out on the street and at night within 20 miles of the city wiith easy access on the Boston and Maine.

Friday, January 12, 1996


About NYLife, Guardian Life and Met Life

Who was Pliny Freeman and what does he have to do with T&V Country? And how about Simeon Draper and Hugo Wesendonk?

Well, Pliny (rhymes with piney, a dry goods merchant who studied to be an actuary in his spare time) and 56 local businessmen founded Nautilus Insurance Co in 1841, the 3rd mutual (or policyholder-owned) insurer in the US. In 1845 it became New York Life, proprietor and inhabitant of the gold-domed xx story building at 51 Madison Avenue. Simeon Draper put together National Union Life and Limb Insurance Company, to protect Union soldiers against the risk of loss of livelihood during the Civil War. There were not enough brave investors, and he had to reorganize, and in 1868 came up with Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, then a stock company, now at One Madison Avenue. Hugo Wesendonck, a former liberal deputy in the German xx parliament and a refugee from 1848 Revolution, in 1860 founded the Germania Life, rechristened Guardian Life Insurance Company in 1918, now at 201 Park Avenue South (cor. 17th Street).

The NYL site between 26th and 27th Streets, Madison to Park, is famous as the New York and Harlem RR terminal (the railroad ran up Park Avenue); in 1871 it became P.T.Barnum's Hippodrome, eventually converted into the original Madison Square Garden, in whose roof restaurant Harry Thaw murdered the building's architect, Stanford White. Thaw's wife, Evelyn Nesbitt, had been, before her marriage, White's mistress. The limestone Renaissance style building with a pyramidal top, designed by Cass Gilbert (also the architect of the 1913 Woolworth Building and the 1936 U.S. Court House) was opened in 1928.
The company, among whose clients were General Custer and Presidents Harding, Coolidge and T. Roosevelt, was a pioneer in data processing and variable life product development. It has acquired Sanus Corp Health Systems, a national HMO company, and owns utilization review and physician practice management companies, mutual funds and insurers abroad (England and the Pacific Rim).

NYL576-7000 Jim Tolve
met578-2211 Vicki

The Met Life building on 23 Street, designed by Napoleon LeBrun (author of the French Renaissance chateau he built for Engine Co. 31 at 87 Lafayette Street) was constructed in stages, from 1893 to 1961, with the 45-story Tower dating back to 1909. The long lobby is decorated with murals by N.C. Wyatt, father of Andrew Wyatt. The board room is reputed to have a gold-painted ceiling. The North building (24th to 25th Streets), designed by Harvey Wiley Corbett and D. Everett Waid and built in 1932, has a huge, overwhelming lobby, and has been rented to First boston xxx. The Met also has a huge presence the Grand Central area -it owns the former PanAm building.

Met started in life by selling small policies in working class neighborhoods, with agents collecting the premiums weekly. It grew into a giant, became a mutual company (i.e. bought out the stockholders) in 1915, and started selling group insurance in 1917, automobile and homeowners' coverages in 1974. It now includes mutual funds, Century 21 real estate business (sold in 1995), group life and health business purchased from Allstate, casualty business purchased from J.C.Penney, and has bailed out the failing United Baldwin annuity and United Mutual life portfolios. It has companies in England, Canada, Spain and Mexico, and its joint venture MentraHealth (with The Travelers) has been sold in 1995 for $2.4 billion to United HealthCare of Minnetonka, MN, the same year that Met announced its merger with the Boston-based New England Mutual. Met Life is the largest life insurer in the Americas, with $1.2 trillion in force.

Both NYLIC and Met Life have had to contend with fines, court verdicts and restitution payments due to improper sales practices of some agents, and both companies have instituted stringent corrective measures.

The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America building , on the NE corner of 17th Street and Park Avenue South, was designed byand erected. It has the xx copper mansard roof, four stories high, currently being replaced with historically correct parts, as required by Landmarks rules. The original roof lasted 80-plus years, and the new one follows the same specifications.

Guardian became a mutual insurance company in 19xx, and added health and disability insurance to its portfolio in 1952, group health and life in 1956, mutual funds and variable annuity products in 197x. Smallest of the three neighbors, it follows conservative sales and investment practices and has been assigned the top ratings by all of the credit and claims rating agencies, a status that it shares with only one other insurer in the U.S., Northwestern Mutual, according to Money Magazine. Once upon a time a presence in Mexico City and Berlin (before 1914 its income from Germany exceeded that from the US), it is now a domestic player, except for a partnership with an equally tight-fisted Scottish international mutual funds company.

In 1960 it expanded, adding a block-wide annex building between 17th and 18th streets, designed by Skidmore ,Owings and Merrill of the Lever Building fame, designed by Gordon Bunshaft. It has been rumored that this building too may become protected, by inclusion in a proposed Historic District.

Much of the above information about NYLIC and MetLife comes from Hoover's Handbook of American Companies 1996, edited by Patrick J.Spain and James R.Talbott and published by the Reference Press (Austin, TX, $29.95), which also gives us the American Almanac 1995-1996 ($17.95), a paperback reprint of the much more expensive Statistical Abstract of the United States 1995. Hoover's has 900 pages of profiles of 450 major companies, a page of popularly yet not sensationally written narrative plus a page of financials and names/addresses. It is an excellent tool for the reader of the financial pages and even for the stock-picker who wants to supplement his charts with history. There are over 10 pages of rating tables - largest, most profitable, etc, and over 100 pages of indexes.

Thursday, January 11, 1996


Dumb ... and Dumber

LOOKING AHEAD by Wally Dobelis

This yearend brings up some gripes. I don't know who are the dumber, the politicians who think they can fool us, or we, for letting them do us in.
Herewith, for your consideration, an idea for political reform that will save the day.

Take, for instance, the Federal budget comedy. Act Two is too long. If throwing snowballs had not acquired a negative image recently, I would suggest bringing some of this wonderful flaky stuff into the White House and the halls of Congress to give the negotiators a shot of how the public feels. But that would not work anyway - the alleged perpetrators are on vacation, while the public suffers.

Meanwhile, the national parks are closed to us, during holidays, when we need them. That is cruel and dumb - the French and Germans who brought dollars to spend at Yellowstone will take them back home. Visitors who came to see the Vermeer exhibit in Washington were cheated. Certain public servants got a bonus; they are having an extra vacation during the holiday period, to be paid for when the thing is over. Other public servants have had to get food stamps to survive, while they are working without pay to service the sick in hospitals. It is sickening.
We are so clever when it comes to locking up the Israeli-Palestinian, Israeli-Syrian and Bosnian-Serb-Croatian negotiators in non-stop talks, with no relief until an agreement is reached. How about locking up our negotiators, the President and his team, Speaker Gingrich, Senators Kasich, Domenici and Dole, until they have a budget? And, most importantly, do not let them use the bathroom unless they make a positive contributions. That method worked very well in the old Werner Erhard EST assertiveness training sessions. A negotiator should not be able to get by just by sitting there and saying Nyet, the old Andrei Gromyko technique (Stalin's old UN representative, he was known to his colleagues as "Iron Pants"), until everyone had to go home and feed the kids. Of course, in Gromyko's case there was an excuse; saying Da would have shortened his career, by a head.

Our lawmakers must be made responsible for taking actions, not just positions. Maybe there is a rule of political posturing that requires that the public suffer some measure of pain or discomfort so that the politician can prove that his position is to be taken seriously ("See, I'm working so hard in your interests that it hurts you.") I have a feeling that some senior Reps and Dems get together, during the budget crisis, with their opinion pollers/makers and ask: "Have we got their attention, or should we punish them a few more days, to show that we are sincere?" Look people, that's not what we pay you for. The old EST idea is better, keep the pols locked up until some agreement is reached. And then our elected officials could act without fear of public retaliation. Speaker Gingrich could tell the freshmen and President Clinton could answer to the AARP: "Honest, fellas, I did what I could, but I could not hold the line any longer. I really, really, really had to go!" Could any voter hold a compromise made under such conditions against one's elected representative? Wouldn't this be a way of letting legislators vote their consciences, without fear of repercussions at the hustings? Look, if anyone wants to run with this thought and try to write an Amendment to the Constitution regarding budget passage rules, you can have my patent and my blessings.Something has to be done to increase the productivity and decrease the bickering among our elected officials, there is just not enough "quality time" in the legislative playpens. This is a non-partisan proposal, applicable to state legislatures also. Governor Cuomo's last budget was 69 days late, and Governor Pataki's first budget, promised tobe on time, was 68 days late. Not enough improvement.

One lawmaker I would not let into the negotiations is the naysayer Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas. Well, maybe, if the bathroom rule is enforced. This man subverts virtue to his own ends. Most pork-barrel recipients hide their gains in shame while he brags about them. To borrow a Gramm quote from the New York Times: when asked about the hypocrisy of getting Federal funds for Texas while cutting Federal budgets elsewhere: "If the Senate in its lack of wisdom voted to build a cheese factory on the Moon, I would fight to see that the company that designed it was a Texas architectural firm, I would want the milk to come from Texas cows and...propose that we build the distribution system in College Station, Tex [he taught economics there, at Texas A&M, 1867-78]." The champion of cutting waste, the author of the unsuccessful 1985 Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Balanced Budget (by 1991) and Emergency Deficit Control Act, he indicates that he would be willing to have the Senate generate a totally wasteful project, as long as he gets a share of the money for his backers. That is a lot different than fighting to get an economically justified project for Texas. No wonder the Dallas magnates gave him $4.1 million campaign contributions in one hotel fundraiser, a world record; no wonder he has a $20 million campaign fund. Sen, Gramm is clever, he has good ideas (he was the only one to offer a 1993 Health Reform proposal that incorporated tort reform, to cut legal expense waste); as to his political ethics, I leave it up to you.

It is surprising that the Congress has not implemented the old technique which all of us sitting in committees and boards have absorbed automatically, with mother's milk. When someone comes up with a unique "Why don't we" idea, he or she gets appointed to head a committee to carry the idea forth. No staff, no budget, just assemble volunteers and run with it. Periodically the group queries the committee head about progress. If it flies, we go to Step B. If the project is unworthy, there is no progress and it dies. The same evaluation technique should apply in Congress, particularly the part about no phony staff/budget/ travel expenses boondoggle. Washington, Albany, NYC, please note.

It is sad to see so many stores and restaurants closing in our neighborhood. I particularly note the departure of Penthouse Wine on 3rd Avenue and 19th Street. Lars Larsen used to treat his neighbors to wine tastings for 19 years, at street festivals and neighborhood occasions. In this atmosphere Mayor Giuliani's hints to thrifty shoppers, right after the Christmas sale fiasco appear particularly inappropriate. As reported in the Daily News, he suggested that recipients of gifts select the unsuitable ones, return them for full refund and rebuy the same items in right sizes in the post-holiday 50 percent off sales, saving the extra credit for future purchases. Sen. Phil Gramm, would you care to comment on the ethics involved?

nys budg ddue 3/31 passed 6/7

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