Saturday, August 25, 2007

Wall St. Worries About Year-End Bonuses
How about we take up a collection for these folks?
Police losing fight against blade culture as stabbings escalate - Australia

Someone in New South Wales is threatened or attacked with a knife, sword, machete, pair of scissors or other sharpened weapon every two hours and nine minutes.

And he must be getting pretty tired of it, too.

Seriously--another result of gun control?
Las Vegas SUN: Chicago Suburbs Fight Flooding Threat
We had so much rain over the last couple of weeks that the Fox River looks like the Mississippi. The Des Plaines River, likewise. Our house is on high ground, so we are just dealing with a saturated lawn, but when I drove to Geneva for a court appearance last week I was next to the Fox River and it was looking pretty grim for people with waterfront homes. Then we had three more days of heavy rain...
Brits ban handguns, gun crimes double - Times Online
Another government intervention in human conduct goes awry...

Despite a ban on handguns introduced in 1997 after 16 children and their teacher were shot dead in the Dunblane massacre the previous year, their use in crimes has almost doubled to reach 4,671 in 2005-06. Official figures show that although Britain has some of the toughest anti-gun laws in the world, firearm use in crime has risen steadily.
Mesa HOA vote to build $8.5M luxury center tossed out by judge | ®
Wow. Why not build a pyramid while you're at it?

A Superior Court judge has ruled against a homeowners association in east Mesa, halting its plans to force residents to pay for the construction of an $8.5 million luxury community center.
Many residents said the project was rammed down their throats and that they couldn't afford the mandatory fees.

Friday, August 24, 2007

S.African mayor wants embarrassing municipality name neutered - Yahoo! News
Here's another advantage of HOA living: no developer will name your subdivision "Bull Testicle Villas." But a city? Well, a city can end up being named "Ethikwini."

Red-faced at explaining the name to visitors, a South African mayor is now pushing for a fresh title for one of country's main municipalities which translates as a pair of bull's testicles.
Careful, developers - Treasures may be hiding in sheltered bays - 24/08/2007
I guess "treasure" is in the eye of the beholder. When I saw the headline I was thinking more along the lines of a pirate flotilla full of Spanish doubloons.

Underwater caves in sheltered bays could house a wealth of untapped pre-European archaeological treasures, say Australian researchers. And people involved in coastal developments need to be more aware of the potential for disturbing this underwater heritage, they say.
Growing Associations, Growing Controversy - The County Line - Connection Newspapers
Shu Bartholomew sent me this link:

As the investigation of Koger Management Group, Inc. continues, there is a growing question among home and condominium owners if there isn’t a better way to get action on problems with homeowners and condominium associations or real estate management companies.
Condo association president arrested
Fred Pilot pointed me to this story at the Cyber Citizens for Justice website.
Beat The Press | The American Prospect
Mystery Reader sent along this piece by Dean Baker on "The Unreported Wall Street Bailout." Well worth reading.
The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio - 4 years, 3 months sentence for property manager
Fred Pilot found this link about the Multivest scandal.

Kathleen DeSalvo, co-owner of the firm that once managed Mariner’s Point Condominium Association in Saybrook Township, was sentenced Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Cleveland to 51 months in prison for mail fraud...DeSalvo, who co-owned Willoughby-based MultiVest Management Inc. with her husband, James DeSalvo, pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud back in April. She admitted to having transferred funds from clients’ bank accounts and depositing the funds into MultiVest’s accounts since 2000. She also admitted to having created false bank statements, which reflected inflated balances in client accounts and providing the false statements to the accounting department, which unknowingly created false financial statements, which then were mailed to MultiVest’s clients every month.

Home Sales Rise, Factory Orders Up: Financial News - Yahoo! Finance
At last, a bit of good news about the housing market.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Proposed amendment would pull up sagging pants in Atlanta
I guess the whole baggy and saggy pants thing has sort of bottomed out in Atlanta.
'Thought police' to target drinkers |
Great example of officials who don't understand that we have a 400 year Anglo-American tradition of limited government.

People who even think about going for a drink face being banned from their town centre for up to two days under wideranging new police powers. Potential trouble-makers can be asked to move on and stay away – even if they have not touched a drop of alcohol.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Top Story: Surprise homeowner battles HOA over backyard Tiki hut - Daily News-Sun
A tiki hut? Aren't those things connected with evil spirits or something? I realize this is Phoenix, AZ, but I assume Hawaiian evil spirits can get around.

Chuck Harman built a Tiki hut in his back yard to enjoy the relaxing mountain vistas and live a Hakuna Matata kind of life. But the Surprise resident says his experience with the Greer Ranch South Homeowners Association, which has sued him to remove the hut, have been just the opposite. Harman built the 8-foot-tall hut on a raised platform in January 2006. He concedes he made a mistake in not getting a permit or permission to do so first, but he said he has tried to work with his HOA, only to be threatened and sued.
Mold problems can be aggravated by slow-moving condo associations -- South Florida

There is a fungus among us.

For 30 years, Ron McDonald, 67, has owned a townhouse in Tamarac's Woodglen community. Four years ago, he said, a contractor covered a hole in the roof with plastic. It blew off during a storm and "inundated" his unit with water. It took eight months for his association to respond to the water damage and when he discovered mold, it took three months to have it checked. By then, he had developed symptoms of asthma.
NASA - Pioneering NASA Spacecraft Mark Thirty Years of Flight
Find me a cooler story than this.

In December 2004, Voyager 1 began crossing the solar system's final frontier. Called the heliosheath, this turbulent area, approximately 8.7 billion miles from the sun, is where the solar wind slows as it crashes into the thin gas that fills the space between stars. Voyager 2 could reach this boundary later this year, putting both Voyagers on their final leg toward interstellar space. Each spacecraft carries five fully functioning science instruments that study the solar wind, energetic particles, magnetic fields and radio waves as they cruise through this unexplored region of deep space. The spacecraft are too far from the sun to use solar power. They run on less than 300 watts, the amount of power needed to light up a bright light bulb. Their long-lived radioisotope thermoelectric generators provide the power.
Blue Chip Law Firm Hourly Rates Hit the "Vomit Point" -
One thousand dollars per hour? Here's the best line in the article: "We have viewed $1,000 an hour as a possible vomit point for clients," says a partner at a New York firm.

A few attorneys crossed into $1,000-per-hour billing before this year, but recent moves to the four-figure mark in New York, which sets trends for legal markets around the country, are seen as a significant turning point.
Accredited Shuts Down Much of Company: Financial News - Yahoo! Finance
SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Accredited Home Lenders Holding Co. plans to shut down most of its business to survive the troubles in the home lending industry, the company said Wednesday. Accredited Home Lenders said it will cut its work force to 1,000 people -- from 2,600 at the end of June -- and close 65 branches. The company will immediately stop accepting applications for home loans in the U.S., though it will honor the loans it has already committed to finance.
My Way News - Pit Bulls Break Into Home, Maul Woman
There have been so many stories like this. Why do we have to live with the risk of being attacked by some idiot's pit bull? Maybe HOAs should ban pit bulls, along with all these other nightmare breeds (Presa Canario, Fila Brasiliero, etc.) that were created to kill. I recently drafted a document amendment to do that. In Illinois, municipalities can't ban any breed because the state legislature caved to the pit bull breeders while claiming to be passing a new and improved dangerous dog law. But HOAs could do it. Or maybe we should have a state law requiring all of these dangerous breeds to be neutered before they reach reproductive age, and ban importation of new ones, and just let the breed die out. I know it isn't the dogs' fault, but we don't need more of these incidents. And the absurd argument by pit bull lovers that it isn't instinct but the way they are raised has been disproved so many times that it isn't worth responding to.
Global Warming Fears: Norway's Moose Population in Trouble for Belching - International - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News
And not only that, but they are driving SUVs. They claim it's because they need more headroom for those antlers.

The poor old Scandinavian moose is now being blamed for climate change, with researchers in Norway claiming that a grown moose can produce 2,100 kilos of methane a year -- equivalent to the CO2 output resulting from a 13,000 kilometer car journey.
Three charged with thefts from Aberdeen condo assoc.
Another property manager alleged embezzlement case, this one from New Jersey.
LA Daily News - Lakers radio broadcaster sues condominium association over plumbing problems
He lives in Plaza Towers, which his attorney says is known locally as "Plaza Showers."

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

U.S. Foreclosures Rise Sharply in July: Financial News - Yahoo! Finance
Notice that we get all kinds of data about mortgage foreclosures, but nothing from any public source about common interest community foreclosures, or the state of their reserves, or assessment delinquency rates. That's one of the main problems with private governance. Nobody has a good picture on what is going on, except in their own neighborhood--and sometimes not even there.

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Foreclosure filings rose 9 percent from June to July and surged 93 percent over the same period last year, with Nevada, Georgia and Michigan accounting for the highest foreclosure rates nationwide, a research firm said Tuesday.

Monday, August 20, 2007 Subprime Infects $300 Billion of Money Market Funds, Hikes Risk
More good news.

Unlike bank accounts, money market funds aren't insured by the federal government. They almost never fail. Unbeknownst to most investors, some of the largest money market funds today are putting part of their cash into one of the riskiest debt investments in the world: collateralized debt obligations backed by subprime mortgage loans. CDOs are packages of bonds and loans, and almost half of all CDOs sold in the U.S. in 2006 contained subprime debt, according to a March report by Moody's Investors Service.
City asked to take over retention pond
Ridge Meadows residents seek lower subdivision fee

Fred Pilot sent this. Look for a lot more of these efforts at de-privatization as the years go by and more associations decide they'd like to unload facilities rather than raise assessments to maintain them. Then the issue becomes whether the local government sees it as a public responsibility.

Residents of Pacific's Ridge Meadows subdivision, hoping to reduce their annual fee, want the city to take over their development's retention pond.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Boing Boing: Insanely crowded pool
Now, that's high density. Thanks to Mystery Reader for the link.
Condo growth slowing down | The San Diego Union-Tribune
Gee... do you think maybe it's about time?
Thanks to Fred Pilot for the pointer.
Saudis plan Iraq border fence: 560-mile barricade designed to keep out extremists
So Saudi Arabia is becoming a gated community. Can't say I blame them, given their neighbors. But isn't there something ironic about Saudi Arabia trying to keep extremists out? I mean, you could make a good argument that the fence is keeping them in.
Federal ID plan raises privacy concerns -
I think we should have national ID cards, because the current system of proving ID using 50 different state-issued driver's licenses and social security cards is ridiculous. Driving? Social Security? How about a card that is designed for the right purpose for a change? But the details of this proposal are a little Orwellian, what with the data banks and all.

Americans may need passports to board domestic flights or to picnic in a national park next year if they live in one of the states defying the federal Real ID Act.