Saturday, September 20, 2008

Killer's ex-girlfriend may lose house - "CLOVIS, Calif., Sept. 19 (UPI) -- The California woman who became notorious as the girlfriend of convicted wife-killer Scott Peterson may lose her house to foreclosure.

Amber Frey, who testified against Peterson during his 2004 trial, bought a house in Clovis in 2005, taking out a $431,000 mortgage, the Fresno Bee reports. Court records show that in May she owed $16,000 in overdue payments."

This makes me wonder how Kato Kaelin is doing these days.

Condo owners fear big losses from theft | | Southwest Florida's Information Leader

Condo owners fear big losses from theft | | Southwest Florida's Information Leader: "The condo association's maintenance and savings accounts were allegedly depleted recently by a property manager. Some residents estimate losses total close to $1 million."
400 owners lost close to $1 million thanks to what looks like yet another instance of property manager embezzlement.

Condo owners fear big losses from theft | | Southwest Florida's Information Leader

Condo owners fear big losses from theft | | Southwest Florida's Information Leader: "The condo association's maintenance and savings accounts were allegedly depleted recently by a property manager. Some residents estimate losses total close to $1 million."
400 owners lost close to $1 million thanks to what looks like yet another instance of property manager embezzlement.

Friday, September 19, 2008 - Explosive Real Estate: Florida Homes Built Atop WWII Bombing Range - Local News | News Articles | National News | US News - Explosive Real Estate: Florida Homes Built Atop WWII Bombing Range : "ORLANDO, Fla. — When residents of several neighborhoods near Orlando International Airport go to bed, they wonder what most homeowners don't: Is there a bomb under my house?

They recently learned their 8-year-old developments were built on a World War II bombing range that wasn't thoroughly cleared. Now they're scared for their lives and investments and angry with developers and local government officials who residents claim shouldn't have allowed the homes in the first place."

Looks like real estate is booming in Orlando again.

Thursday, September 18, 2008 - Metro State Professor Investigated For Palin Essay Assignment - Metro State Professor Investigated For Palin Essay Assignment: "DENVER (CBS4) ― Metro State College is investigating a professor who asked students to write an essay critical of Republican vice presidential candidate Gov. Sarah Palin. One student said the instructor singled out Republican students in the class and allowed others to ridicule them."
I read this and think, dog bites man. This sort of thing happens every day at most colleges and universities. Don't people know that by now? One in a thousand incidents hits the press and then the administrators fuss over it for public consumption and the next day the faculty is back to business as usual.

California home sales surge as prices plummet

California home sales surge as prices plummet: "LOS ANGELES (AP) - Home sales in California surged 13.6 percent in August as a flood of foreclosures drove down prices. The figures released Thursday by MDA DataQuick showed 37,988 new and preowned homes were sold statewide last month, up 13.6 percent from August 2007 but down 3.8 percent from July. The firm said 46.9 percent of all homes sold last month were foreclosed properties. That helped send the statewide median home price plunging 35.3 percent to $301,000 during the year ended in August. Most of the foreclosed homes were located in inland regions that have taken the worst hits during the housing crisis."
Maybe this is what the bottom looks like. If so, we have nowhere to go but up.

Biden: Paying higher taxes patriotic for wealthy - Yahoo! News

Biden: Paying higher taxes patriotic for wealthy - Yahoo! News: "WASHINGTON - Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden said Thursday that paying more in taxes is the patriotic thing to do for wealthier Americans. In a new TV ad that repeats widely debunked claims about the Democratic tax plan, the Republican campaign calls Obama's tax increases 'painful.'"
Meantime, Obama runs around saying that he isn't going to raise taxes. To wit, yesterday: "If they tell you, 'Well, he's going to raise your taxes,' you say, 'No, he's not, he's going to lower them.'"

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Lehman Brothers: The 10 Biggest Chapter 11 Bankruptcies In US History

Lehman Brothers: The 10 Biggest Chapter 11 Bankruptcies In US History: "CNBC has put together a quick slideshow list of the top 10 largest Chapter 11 bankruptcy filings in US history based on the pre-bankruptcy assets of the companies in question. It really gives you a sense of the incredible scale of the Lehman Brothers filing — the next closest bankruptcy was Worldcom, which had $103.9 billion in assets before the filing — 535.1 BILLION DOLLARS less than Lehman Brothers. Damn."
Damn, indeed. The $639 million bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers is SIX TIMES the size of the largest previous bankruptcy ever.

City uses DNA to fight dog poop | Lifestyle | Reuters

City uses DNA to fight dog poop | Lifestyle | Reuters: "PETAH TIKVA, Israel (Reuters) - An Israeli city is using DNA analysis of dog droppings to reward and punish pet owners. Under a six-month trial programme launched this week, the city of Petah Tikva, a suburb of Tel Aviv, is asking dog owners to take their animal to a municipal veterinarian, who then swabs its mouth and collects DNA. The city will use the DNA database it is building to match faeces to a registered dog and identify its owner. Owners who scoop up their dogs' droppings and place them in specially marked bins on Petah Tikva's streets will be eligible for rewards of pet food coupons and dog toys."
I was under the impression that the nation of Israel had problems more pressing than unidentified dog poop, but apparently I was misinformed. I would think, though, that many an American gated community will adopt this policy.
Stupid banks making stupid loans - : "The key thing to remember here is that the emphasis belongs on the word financial. The economy is not the problem; lousy lending standards and the excessive use of leverage are the problem. Gales of punitive destruction are knocking down one investment bank after another, while gales of creative destruction continue to move the economy forward. In fact, real gross domestic product (GDP) has grown 2.2 percent in the past year and accelerated to a 3.3 percent growth rate in the second quarter."
I agree with that. I'm no economist, but it looks to me as though we have a reasonably OK economy. The problem is in the twisted relationship among government, mortgage banking, and the housing industry. Since the mid 1990s government has been pressuring banks large and small to lend money to people, especially so they can buy houses they otherwise would not be able to afford. Low interest rates, weird mortgage arrangements, subsidies, mortgage insurance, relaxed government oversight, mortgage securities, REITs, you name it. Money was flowing everywhere and government was totally supportive of that. They did this to prop up the economy and because the Clinton administration was adamant that poor people should own their own homes, which is a crazy idea in my book (but that is another story). We ended up with this widespread notion that money was cheap and real estate prices were going to go up forever, so buy above your means and cash in before you go broke, and you couldn't lose. You could sell anytime you wanted. Rich and poor alike were doing it. That bubble popped, as it had to eventually, and the trouble started with those borrowers, then spread to the banks who made the loans, and now to whoever has an interest in the banks.

All that is bad, but it isn't the end of the world, and it doesn't mean we need a socialist revolution.


FEDS TRY TO FIND A BUYER FOR WAMU - New York Post: "The fate of Washington Mutual remained in question yesterday as federal regulators recently called a number of banks asking if they would consider buying the nation's largest savings and loan should it eventually falter, sources told The Post. In recent days, federal banking regulators have reached out to Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, HSBC and several other financial institutions to gauge their interest in a possible acquisition of WaMu, but no merger discussions are currently under way between the Seattle-based bank and anyone else, sources said. The move comes as investors worry that WaMu's customers could begin pulling their money, which totals about $143 billion, out of the bank should its stock fall further."
Remember when WAMU was all over the place extending credit to anybody who wanted it? I never saw such aggressive marketing of loans in my life. Now it is, "Hey, does anybody want to buy this company? Hello?? Anybody???"

Oh, sure. Just put a big federal guarantee on it first, why don't you?

Coppell resident locks horns with homeowners association over Obama yard signs 7:48 AM CT | News for Dallas, Texas | Dallas Morning News | Latest News

Coppell resident locks horns with homeowners association over Obama yard signs: Texas: "Surely, he figured, his Coppell homeowners association couldn’t force him to pull up his small yard signs supporting Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama.

He didn’t know it at the time, but a 3-year-old state law prohibits associations from enforcing outright bans on reasonably sized political signs.

Still, less than a month later, Mr. Graupner was told that his signs violated a homeowners association rule. He got a letter threatening at least $200 in fines if the two signs in his flower bed didn’t come up."

First, you shouldn't need a law to keep associations from banning political signs. That should be your right and associations should never have this power anyway. But now you see them banning the signs, notwithstanding the law, and that highlights the second major problem with associations: when they don't follow the law, which is commonplace, it is incredibly hard to do anything about it.

Watch all these housing industry related financial meltdowns, and then tell me our state and national legislators have the slightest idea what they are doing. They turned the whole thing over to the industry long ago. It is privatization of the policy making process itself.

Thanks to Chris Casey for this link.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

AIG: Too big to fail: "Sept. 16 (Bloomberg) -- American International Group Inc., the biggest U.S. insurer by assets, has been offered an $85 billion U.S. loan in return for an 80 percent stake in the company, according to a person familiar with the situation.

The Federal Reserve was persuaded to offer the loan because of the risk that an AIG failure would threaten the stability of world financial markets, according to the person, who declined to be identified because negotiations were confidential. Efforts to find a private-sector solution failed because the company is too big and a long-term fix was needed, the person said.

The agreement keeps New York-based AIG in business, averting a collapse that could have threatened more financial companies and cost them $180 billion in losses, according to RBC Capital Markets. AIG needed the rescue to stave off a collapse after its credit ratings were cut and shares plunged 79 percent since Sept. 11.

``There's a systemic risk if AIG isn't saved,'' Benoit de Broissia, an equity analyst at Richelieu Finance in Paris, said in a Bloomberg Television interview. Richelieu has about $6.2 billion under management."

AIG is enormous, and I understand with $180 billion at stake "the stability of world financial markets" can be on the table if it fails. But how do you top this? Is the sun going to go out? Will the galactic core collapse on itself?

HOA Q&A: 'Private' areas must obey law

HOA Q&A: 'Private' areas must obey law: "Question: I live in a gated community. Recently, the board sent a letter to all homeowners saying city and county ordinances do not apply to our neighborhood because we are a 'private' community. I don't believe this is true. Who is right?"
Ah, yes. Gilbert, AZ, where an HOA director can really get expansive and throw his/her weight around.

Jamie Gorelick, Mistress of Disaster

Jamie Gorelick, Mistress of Disaster: "It's not often that one person plays key roles in two -- count 'em, two -- trillion-dollar disasters. Welcome, my friends, to the world of well-connected Democrat Jamie Gorelick."
Worth reading. She was the power behind the scenes in the Janet Reno Justice Department and created the "wall" that kept intelligence and law enforcement from cooperating pre-9/11. Then she sat as a member of the 9/11 Commission that investigated why 9/11 wasn't foreseen. Conflict of interest? Not for her. She just sat there and brazened it out.

Then she resurfaced as vice chairman of Fannie Mae, and presided over its meltdown while saying everything was fine and making over $26 million.

What do you bet she ends up on the commission investigating the collapse of Fannie Mae?

To complete the trifecta, I could envision her being Obama's Attorney General. Then after that she could investigate how they lost the case of US v. Osama Bin Laden.

'Global warming' Gore attracts heat | | The Tennessean

'Global warming' Gore attracts heat | | The Tennessean: "His large Nashville home, utility bills and jet travels have drawn flamethrowers over the last year and a half. Now, it's a houseboat he bought this summer."
Come on. It's only 100 feet long. Nobel laureates need giant boats to save the planet and stuff, sort of like Dr. Xavier and X-Men.

Suburban mums taking ecstasy | The Courier-Mail

Suburban mums taking ecstasy | The Courier-Mail
Didn't the Stones do a song about this? "Here it it it comes your 19th nervous breakdown."

D052402.PDF (application/pdf Object)

California Appellate Court finds CC&R provision unconscionable
CAI stalwart Jon Epsten wins on appeal by arguing on behalf of an HOA that the waiver of jury trial against the developer contained in the CC&Rs was unconscionable.

Does that mean owners will win using the same arguments of unconscionability when the CC&Rs take away their rights? Don't count on it. There is so much judicial protection of associations going on now that it is like watching the Chicago Tribune cover for Barack Obama.

Thanks to Fred Pilot for this alert.

Monday, September 15, 2008 - Condo buyout notice is sudden shock - Condo buyout notice is sudden shock: "'Please be advised that I represent 665 Foxon Road, LLC, the owner of over 80 percent of the units at Parker Place Condominiums. It is probably not a secret that my client would like to and intends to acquire all of the remaining units, including the unit owned by you. ... (A)s an owner of 80 percent of the units, my client can accomplish this without your cooperation or that of any other unit owner. The Common Interest Ownership Act, as adopted by the State of Connecticut allows the condominium to be terminated and all units purchased at fair market value, by a vote of 80 percent of the unit owners, which my client already has.'"
How would you like to get that letter in the mail? It is like a sort of private eminent domain, authorized by Connecticut law.

Sunday, September 14, 2008 Worldwide Worldwide: "Sept. 14 (Bloomberg) -- Wall Street readied for a potential Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. bankruptcy after Bank of America Corp. and Barclays Plc pulled out of talks to buy it and the government indicated it wouldn't provide funds to prevent a collapse."
I realize this isn't as important as the fact that Sarah Palin didn't know which Bush Doctrine Charlie Gibson was referring to (neither did I until he said it was the one about anticipatory self defense) but it seems that we are about to see another major financial firm collapse in a smoldering heap.

Eating veggies shrinks the brain-Health/Sci-The Times of India: "MELBOURNE: Scientists have discovered that going veggie could be bad for your brain-with those on a meat-free diet six times more likely to suffer brain shrinkage."
I think this explains a lot about American politics from the 1960s to the present, but I will let you fill in the blanks. That's a self-test, because if you can't fill in the blanks you are probably not eating enough meat.