Saturday, March 29, 2008

Ananova - Mayor wants to ban death

Ananova - Mayor wants to ban death: "The mayor of a Brazilian town is trying to bring in a law making it illegal for residents to die.

Mayor Roberto Pereira da Silva, of Biritiba-Mirim, came up with the idea because the town's only cemetery is full.

He wants to bring in a law that would see relatives of people who die before their time face fines or even jail.

The law would make it an offence for the town's 28,000 citizens to not look after their health properly."

Hey, it's about time somebody outlawed death. Let's all move to Brazil and live forever.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Spy drones in demand by U.S. police departments, but approval pending - International Herald Tribune: "MIAMI: The Miami police could soon use cutting-edge flying drones to help fight crime. A small pilotless vehicle manufactured by Honeywell International, capable of hovering and 'staring' using electro-optic or infrared sensors, is expected to be introduced soon in the skies over the Florida Everglades. If use of the drone wins U.S. Federal Aviation Administration approval after tests, the Miami-Dade Police Department will start flying the 14 pound, or 6.35 kilogram, drone over urban areas with an eye toward full-fledged employment in crime fighting."
Sometimes I wonder if the US is becoming one big gated community. I am a big advocate of police protection and aggressive crime fighting, but I prefer to see policing efforts focused on crooks rather than everybody who happens to be walking or driving down the street. You know, kind of like the 4th Amendment says? Probable cause, reasonable suspicion, and all that antiquated 18th century stuff about being innocent until proven guilty? Now the argument seems to be that if you object to being searched or spied on you must have something to hide. Of course, in a sense a flying drone is somewhat like a strolling police officer who walks around surveying the public realm, which in principle isn't anything new or bad at all. But the potential for abuse using electronic surveillance from above--where you can see into places no police officer on the beat ever could--is pretty substantial.

For Sale: 36 Acres Of Land, Buried Bodies - News - NBC 17

For Sale: 36 Acres Of Land, Buried Bodies - News - NBC 17
CHATHAM COUNTY, N.C. -- Just off U.S. Highway 64 in Chatham County is a sign advertising 36 acres of land for sale. The land is undeveloped and zoned residential and agricultural. Land owner and realtor, Colin MacNair said its closeness to Highway 64 makes it a prime location to develop housing. It also is currently home to a graveyard.
I saw this movie. It didn't turn out well for the homeowners, and I'm not talking about the HOA telling them to buy a different color mailbox. Maybe they should name the place Poltergeist Acres.

Woman crashes into water, saves coffee - Yahoo! News

Woman crashes into water, saves coffee - Yahoo! News: "OAKLAND, Calif. - A woman is safe after losing control of her car and accidently driving into the waters of the Oakland Estuary. But on the upside, she saved her morning coffee. Authorities say the car went into the water a little after 6 a.m. Thursday after its 22-year-old driver apparently lost control of her car while reaching for a cell phone."
And she waded ashore "still cradling her coffee cup." One hopes that the cell phone is permanently impacted somewhere inside her otherwise empty skull.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Equity Loans as Next Round in Credit Crisis - New York Times

Equity Loans as Next Round in Credit Crisis - New York Times: "As the housing market spirals downward, home equity loans, which turn home sweet home into cash sweet cash, are becoming the next flash point in the mortgage crisis. Americans owe a staggering $1.1 trillion on home equity loans — and banks are increasingly worried they may not get some of that money back. To get it, many lenders are taking the extraordinary step of preventing some people from selling their homes or refinancing their mortgages unless they pay off all or part of their home equity loans first. In the past, when home prices were not falling, lenders did not resort to these measures."
So basically it is just one thing after another. I guess that's about the size of it.

Obama’s Former Pastor Getting $1.6M Home in Retirement - America’s Election HQ

Obama’s Former Pastor Getting $1.6M Home in Retirement - America’s Election HQ: "FOX News has uncovered documents that indicate Wright is about to move to a 10,340-square-foot, four-bedroom home in suburban Chicago, currently under construction in a gated community."
It is in Tinley Park, which is in the southwest suburbs. Kind of far from the south side of Chicago. How does living in opulence in a gated community square with all that flamethrower anti-American rhetoric and the church's Black Value System that says you have to disavow middle classness (whatever that is)?

Jon Travolta: "A lot of neighborhoods don't allow the owners to park Boeing 707s outside
their homes, which is why actor John Travolta moved to Jumbolair, near Ocala ."

Talk about your special interest HOAs...

Eastwood's termination: 'Somebody got a bee under their bonnet' - Los Angeles Times: "The actor says he was surprised at his removal from the state parks board in the wake of his opposition to a toll road. But he says he holds no hard feelings toward Schwarzenegger."
Yah. So the privatization issue causes Der Terminator to terminate Dirty Harry from his parks board position in Kalifornia.
Based on their classic film lines, I think in the photo with this story, the dialogue goes like this:

Clint: Go ahead, make my day.
Arnie: I'll be back (and you won't).
Clint: Do you feel lucky?
Arnie: You are one ugly m**********r!
Clint: A good man always knows his limitations.

1suck.jpg (JPEG Image, 430x135 pixels)

1suck.jpg (JPEG Image, 430x135 pixels)
This may be easier said than done.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Chicago Business News, Analysis & Articles | Got an opinion? Park District has rules | Crain's

Chicago Business News, Analysis & Articles | Got an opinion? Park District has rules | Crain's: "Crain’s) — So, your little community group wants to put its two cents in at the local park? You and each of your buddies will have to submit to a criminal background check — and fill out a detailed application that includes work and evening phone numbers for three non-family personal references. Any money you raise for that new swing set must be approved in advance by the Chicago Park District, which retains the right to spend the money on something besides swings. And forget about publicity. All interviews with TV, newspaper or radio reporters are strictly prohibited."
These are proposed Chicago Park District rules for citizen advisory councils at city parks. Proves once again that cities can be just as oppressive as HOAs when they put their mind to it. But this is Chicago, where there is a corrupt one-party system, complete with a Mayor-for-life, that controls all aspects of local government and does whatever it wants (at least until the US Attorney starts sending grand jury subpoenas around).

ROLLY: Homeowner finds he's not free to post a gripe - Salt Lake Tribune

ROLLY: Homeowner finds he's not free to post a gripe - Salt Lake Tribune: "After James Royle bought a house from Ivory Homes in the Valley Fields Subdivision, he says he was frustrated when trying to get the builder to correct some problems.
So he put a sign in his window that said, 'I would not buy an Ivory Home again,' and learned firsthand that freedom of expression has its limits.
Royle got a letter from Benson Hathaway, an attorney representing Ivory Homes, ordering him to 'cease and desist' displaying the sign.
Such a display, Hathaway wrote, violates Section 17 (i) of the subdivision's 'Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions [CC&Rs],' which forbids displaying signs, billboards or ads, except to sell or rent the house."

Well, I think he has publicized his gripe more effectively because of the "cease and desist" letter from the developer's lawyer than he would have if they had just let him display the sign. Nothing like getting the local press involved when you go into conflict with an HOA.

L.A. Land : Los Angeles Times : California freefall: Home prices fell 26% in February

L.A. Land : Los Angeles Times : California freefall: Home prices fell 26% in February
Signs of distress are piling up in the California housing market, where prices are falling at three times the national rate of decline.

--Statewide, median sales prices fell by a stunning 26% from year-ago levels in February, with home prices dropping at a rate of nearly $3,000 a week, the California Association of Realtors reports. Further, the CAR says the Fed's interest rate-cutting campaign "will have little near-term direct effect on the housing market."

--In the San Fernando Valley, losing a home to foreclosure is now almost as common for families as buying a home. The L.A. Daily News: "During January and February, there were 1,084 foreclosures and 1,335 sales of houses and condos in Valley communities from Glendale to Calabasas, according to the San Fernando Valley Economic Research Center at California State University, Northridge."

"It's bad. It's really bad," market analyst Nima Nattagh told the Daily News.

No kidding. And it seems that the California market isn't at the bottom yet.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Stubborn homeowners live by oozing volcano - "KALAPANA, Hawaii (AP) -- As fiery lava pours down Kilauea volcano toward Jean Olson's lonely wooden house, incinerating everything in its path, there's no place she'd rather be."
Maybe that's because she doesn't have an HOA.

US home prices slide 10.7 percent in major markets

US home prices slide 10.7 percent in major markets: "Home prices slumped 10.7 percent from a year ago in major US cities as more air came out of the housing bubble, according to a survey released Tuesday."
There hasn't been much good news on the housing front for quite a while. Remember when we were all so happy that the housing boom was sustaining the domestic economy? Those were the good old days.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Woes in Condo Market Build As New Supply Floods Cities -

Woes in Condo Market Build As New Supply Floods Cities - "The condominium market is about to get worse as many cities brace for a flood of new supply this year -- the result of construction started at the height of the housing boom. More than 4,000 new units will be completed in both Atlanta and Phoenix by the end of the year. Developers in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., are readying nearly 10,000 total new units in a market already struggling with canyons of unsold condos. San Diego, another hard-hit region, will add 2,500 units, according to estimates provided by Reis Inc., a New York-based real-estate-research firm...Lenders of all sizes have $42 billion of condominium debt on their books, according to Foresight Analytics. In just three months -- between the third and fourth quarters of last year -- the delinquency rate rose to 10% from 5.9%, says the Oakland, Calif., research firm."
The condominium debt they are speaking of is construction loans to developers to build condos. A 10% delinquency rate? Not good.

Houses stolen in mortgage fraud, indictments allege - Los Angeles Times

Houses stolen in mortgage fraud, indictments allege - Los Angeles Times: "SACRAMENTO -- Federal prosecutors today charged 19 individuals mainly from Southern California in an alleged nationwide mortgage scam that stole $12.6 million and fraudulently obtained the titles to more than 100 homes.

Two related criminal indictments accused Charles Head, 33, of La Habra, and others with targeting homeowners in financial trouble. The suspects allegedly utilized two real estate scams: the first involving a 'foreclosure rescue' pitch and the second using an 'equity stripping' technique that distributed e-mails and 'fax blasts' to brokers who sought help in finding potential victims having trouble meeting mortgage payments."

Complete with mug shots.

Frisco homeowners association, residents in free speech fight | Dallas Morning News | News for Dallas, Texas | Frisco News

Frisco homeowners association, residents in free speech fight | Dallas Morning News | News for Dallas, Texas | Frisco News: "FRISCO – It started as a typical neighborhood tussle, a disagreement over screening bushes and air-conditioning units. But now, the arguing between the Frisco Fairways Homeowners Association and three of its residents has erupted into a full-blown legal battle over free speech that may have ramifications for members of homeowner associations across Texas... The suit alleges that in their online postings, Mr. Snell, Mr. Doumani and Mr. Macari stated or implied that the board lied to association members, engaged in questionable financial dealings and acted unethically. It also claims they posted private information about board members. Charles W. Branham III, an attorney for the defendants, said the board is trying to stifle free speech and must prove that the messages were false, defamed reputations and were posted with malice – the ingredients for a successful libel suit. "
This type of lawsuit could become more common. It will be interesting to see how the courts treat these claims.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Environment: Water: In a turf war over lawn care

Environment: Water: In a turf war over lawn care: "TAMPA — James Lyle watered his yard once a week, and got fined $1,000 by his homeowners association because the lawn was still too brown.

He began watering the lawn twice a week and got fined $100 by the Hillsborough County water department."

So which of his two local governments--private or public--should he obey? I like the part where the past president of the association says, "While we're sympathetic and certainly respect the county's once-a-week watering restriction, it's an excuse for somebody to just let their yards go." Some people don't get this whole idea that they have a limited function to perform. And maybe that sort of person is attracted to community association boards.
Hillary's Balkan Adventures, Part II - Fact Checker
The Washington Post confirms that Hillary Clinton is full of it. They give her four Pinocchios. The story is by a reporter who was there at about the same time. There is an 8 year old girl reading her poetry to Clinton on the runway. Game, set, match.

The Pinocchio Test:

Clinton's tale of landing at Tuzla airport "under sniper fire" and then running for cover is simply not credible. Photographs and video of the arrival ceremony, combined with contemporaneous news reports, tell a very different story. Four Pinocchios.