Saturday, October 11, 2008

Pair arrested after large McCain sign torched in Sellwood yard | - Portland, Oregon | News

Pair arrested after large McCain sign torched in Sellwood yard : "PORTLAND, Ore. - Authorities have arrested two men after a Molotov cocktail was thrown at a 4-foot by 8-foot campaign sign for Republican presidential candidate John McCain in a southeast Portland yard."
If you are tossing Molotov cocktails while your candidate is up by 7 in the polls, what do you do if he loses? Or if he wins, for that matter.

Crime: Buy Or Be Stabbed: "The global economy is crashing, credit markets are playing ice age, and you consumers have a simple choice: buy things now or prepare to be stabbed next year."
The facts are in, courtesy of Mystery Reader.

Brown lawn means jail time - St. Petersburg Times

Brown lawn means jail time - St. Petersburg Times: "His crime? He had disobeyed a court order that he sod the lawn at his Beacon Woods home.

His bail? Zero.

Prudente, 66, must stay in the Pasco County jail in Land O'Lakes until the required sod work is completed, under a September court order signed by Circuit Judge W. Lowell Bray.

'He's in prison for God knows how long because we can't afford to sod the lawn,' said his sobbing daughter, Jennifer Lehr."

Thanks to Beth Young for this sad tale. The Beacon Woods Civic Association is serious about that green lawn thing. And so is the judge.

Behind McCain’s Fall « The State of the Union: "In this election, as in nearly all before, a black swan has shaped the race’s trajectory: one of those unforeseeable external events that pops up in the last month or so, bearing an impact far greater than any of the daily fluctuations dissected by the punditry."
The line chart that accompanies the blog post tells a dramatic story. The black swan is honking louder than anything else. Unless another rara avis shows up before November 3, McCain's goose is cooked, so to speak.

Las Vegas Now | I-Team: Ombudsman Talks About HOA Investigation

Las Vegas Now | I-Team: Ombudsman Talks About HOA Investigation: "No other state has an office like Nevada's HOA Ombudsman, which has assisted thousands of homeowners over the past few years. However, it's up to the state's HOA Commission to handle more serious matters.

The I-Team found the commission has picked up the pace in the last year, but still processes a small trickle of cases, each of which takes about two years to be processed."

No other state? What about Florida? In any event, the verdict seems to be that the Nevada ombudsman office and the state commission haven't made much of a difference.
My Way News - Obama fundraiser, convicted of fraud, spills beans: "CHICAGO (AP) - Jailed political fundraiser Antoin 'Tony' Rezko, the Chicago real estate developer who helped launch Barack Obama on his political career, is whispering secrets to federal prosecutors about corruption in Illinois and the political fallout could be explosive."
Our slimy governor, Rod "Testicular Fortitude" Blagojevich, has a lot to fear. He seems to be the top target of the investigation. But I don't think Obama is a real target at all. Maybe Rezko could say things that make him look bad, but unless Obama was involved in criminal conduct, which I doubt, we probably won't hear about it. Fitzgerald won't smear a likely future president unless he has a slam dunk case against him.

ps: I forgot to mention the obvious wild card. If Obama is elected, he can fire Patrick Fitzgerald, the US attorney for the northern district of Illinois (Chicago), and appoint some stooge who will make sure nothing bad happens to Blago or The One. Some people think Obama wouldn't do that because it would look so bad, given that everybody knows Rezko is already singing and Blago is the target. I wonder if those are the same people who said Obama would never go back on his promise to use public campaign financing. In other words, with this much at stake, I'm sure Obama can find a way to talk his way around looking bad. On the other hand, maybe Blago at long last has no friends left and Obama will let him swing. And I'm still unconvinced that Obama ever did anything criminal. However, just for the record there is one long opinion to the contrary, so we will just have to wait and see what Rezko has to say.

Friday, October 10, 2008 Editorials, Political Cartoons, and Polls from Investor's Business Daily -- Investors' Real Fear: A Socialist Tsunami Editorials, Political Cartoons, and Polls from Investor's Business Daily -- Investors' Real Fear: A Socialist Tsunami: "It isn't only that the most anti-capitalist politician ever nominated by a major party is favored to take the White House. It's that he'll also have a filibuster-proof Congress led by politicians who are almost as liberal.

Throw in a media establishment dedicated to the implementation of a liberal agenda, and the smothering of dissent wherever it arises, and it's no wonder panic has set in."

The argument is that the continued selloff is the result of the public's reaction to the crash. They are moving to Obama. And that, the author says, is causing a secondary panic.

Contra Costa sues major Wall Street institutions over alleged bid-rigging scam - Inside Bay Area

Contra Costa sues major Wall Street institutions over alleged bid-rigging scam - Inside Bay Area: "Contra Costa sued nearly every major Wall Street financial institution Wednesday, arguing they conspired to fix bidding on its municipal bond investments, costing the county perhaps millions of dollars in higher interest payments, fees and credit risks.

The lawsuit contends the conspiracy involved more than 50 investment firms, banks and brokers — including many bankrupt companies rescued or bought out in the recent Wall Street collapse — conspiring to get more lucrative interest payments and fees from public entities, including Contra Costa."

And it is bigger than that. Much bigger. Many counties are involved, the money involved is huge, and this is not just a private civil suit. The FBI is involved.

kakistocracy: Definition from

kakistocracy: Definition from Answers.comn., pl. -cies.

Government by the least qualified or most unprincipled citizens.

[Greek kakistos, worst, superlative of kakos, bad; see caco– + –CRACY.]

This may be where we are headed.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Narcissistic People Most Likely To Emerge As Leaders

Narcissistic People Most Likely To Emerge As Leaders: "COLUMBUS, Ohio – When a group is without a leader, you can often count on a narcissist to take charge, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that people who score high in narcissism tend to take control of leaderless groups. Narcissism is a trait in which people are self-centered, exaggerate their talents and abilities, and lack empathy for others.

“Not only did narcissists rate themselves as leaders, which you would expect, but other group members also saw them as the people who really run the group,” said Amy Brunell, lead author of the study and assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State University at Newark."

Food for thought, not just for people who live in CIDs, but for the nation as a whole.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Panama Guide - Home Invasion Robberies, Safety, and Security in Panama

Panama Guide - Home Invasion Robberies, Safety, and Security in Panama: "Gated Communities: Many foreigners who talk about moving to Panama often eschew gated communities. They say they would prefer to mix and mingle with their Panamanian counterparts and don't want to live behind a wall or a fence. That's fine, but there's no doubt that gated communities exist for a reason, and the reason is that the people living in those communities are the most likely to be targeted for an armed home invasion robbery. As a foreigner you have a big, fat target painted on your back the minute you get off of the plane at Tocumen airport. Most of the real estate projects and developments have taken the safety and security of their residents into consideration in their planning, so be sure to look for and to ask about those elements when making your choice. You don't have to live like a scared cat but at the same time you don't want to invite trouble either."
If the crime is that bad, I see the appeal of a gated community. The strange thing is that you see them even where the crime is practically nonexistent.

Housing Pain Gauge: Nearly 1 in 6 Owners 'Under Water' -

Housing Pain Gauge: Nearly 1 in 6 Owners 'Under Water' - "About 75.5 million U.S. households own the homes they live in. After a housing slump that has pushed values down 30% in some areas, roughly 12 million households, or 16%, owe more than their homes are worth, according to Moody's

The comparable figures were roughly 4% under water in 2006 and 6% last year, says the firm's chief economist, Mark Zandi, who adds that 'it is very possible that there will ultimately be more homeowners under water in this period than any time in our history.'

Among people who bought within the past five years, it's worse: 29% are under water on their mortgages, according to an estimate by real-estate Web site"

Take a look at the map that accompanies the story. The red states have the highest concentrations of CID housing.

How Much Oil is Actually Left On This Planet? Should We Care? : Gas 2.0

How Much Oil is Actually Left On This Planet? Should We Care? : Gas 2.0: "The way he sees it, the world has plenty of remaining and untapped fossil fuel resources to keep up with demand for at least the next 30 years. From squeezing oil out of unconventional sources such as oil shales, to using new technologies to re-exploit old oil fields that had since been left as dead, to undiscovered conventional oil sources, Dr. McCabe’s opinion is that there is no impending peak oil crisis - and the same thing goes for natural gas and coal."
Check it out, complete with charts. 30 years doesn't seem like a long time, though. I think somebody had better come up with an alternative to burning all these dead dinosaurs.

Las Vegas Now | I-Team: HOA Insider Breaks Silence

Las Vegas Now | I-Team: HOA Insider Breaks Silence: "A former property manager is now coming forward saying she saw problems with the person at the center of the HOA investigations, Leon Benzer. New video and phone calls show some violent hired muscle willing to cross the line.

Allegations are flying back and forth in this case. Now there's proof it could get a lot worse.

From rigged elections and cushy contracts, to junkets to Cabo San Lucas and six tough guys acting as enforcers who would rough up anyone that would get in the way. The tale is the videotape, and it's one tale Diane Wild wishes she could forget."

Thanks to Monica Caruso for this link, which includes scary video of the hired thugs. I haven't hear CAI's take on this whole deplorable saga yet. I expect something along these lines: this is just another isolated incident that is in no way representative of the hard working professionals who serve the hundreds of thousands of volunteer-run community associations across this great land of ours.
My Way News - Sheriff in Ill. county won't evict in foreclosures: "CHICAGO (AP) - Residents of foreclosed properties in Chicago and other parts of Cook County don't have to worry about deputies forcing them out. Sheriff Tom Dart says that starting Thursday his office won't take part in evictions."
This is the first time I've seen this.

Homeowner associations want state protections from legislators -- South Florida

Homeowners want state protections from legislators -- South Florida "Homeowners responding to two recent surveys said they want a state agency to oversee their associations, training requirements for board directors and an ombudsman's office to act as a neutral resource and liaison for unit owners and board members. Condo associations have these protections in place, but HOAs have never had them in Florida.

Part of the reason is that historically the perception has been there are fewer HOAs, said state Rep. Julio Robaina, R-Miami, who championed condo reform over the past few years. As of June, there were 1,441,284 condo units in Florida governed by a total of 21,737 associations, but no state agency contacted could provide the number of HOAs."

From Fred Pilot comes this piece signaling the start of a campaign to regulate HOAs in Florida in much the same way that condo associations are regulated.

Riley asks for help on city's sewer debt | | Montgomery Advertiser

Alabama Governor Riley asks for help on city's sewer debt | | Montgomery Advertiser: "The governor's meeting with legislators came after only two of the five members of the Jeffer­son County Commission voted Monday in favor of a bankrupt­cy filing. Others hope that a deal can be reached, but commis­sioners did vote to ask the coun­ty attorney to look into the pos­sibility of bankruptcy. One plan would use excess education sales tax money to pay part of the sewer debt, a move that would have to be ap­proved by the Legislature. Riley also has asked the in­terim head of the Treasury De­partment's $700 billion bailout to help Alabama's most popu­lous county avoid filing the larg­est municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history."
Mr. Cash and Carry is going to have a long line outside his door. Jefferson County has a $3 billion sewer bill it can't pay.

Garbage crews 'paid to do nothing' city surveillance finds :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Politics

Garbage crews 'paid to do nothing' city surveillance finds :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Politics: "Chicago's household garbage is being picked up by crews that work less than six hours a day -- and get 'paid to do nothing' for 25 percent of their time on the clock -- costing taxpayers at least $14.3 million a year, the city's inspector general has found."
I love the way President-in-waiting Obama reformed this city, county, and state before he went off to reform America.

Deployed Soldiered Getting Sued For Not Land Scaping His Home | North Dakota News

Deployed Soldier Getting Sued For Not Land Scaping His Home | North Dakota News: "Is there anything in the world more vile than a Homeowner’s Association?"
I think that was intended as a rhetorical question.

My Way News - McCain would buy bad homeowner mortgages

My Way News - McCain would buy bad homeowner mortgages: "WASHINGTON (AP) - Republican presidential candidate John McCain is proposing a $300 billion program for the federal government to buy up bad home mortgages and allow homeowners to keep their houses.

McCain said: 'Until we stabilize home values in America, we're never going to start turning around and creating jobs and fixing our economy and we've got to get some trust and confidence back to America.'"

This might actually work. The problem is it comes on top of the bailout of institutions. Maybe McCain should have said no to the bailout bill and proposed this instead. Why not bail out the consumers and stabilize the value of the underlying asset? This was suggested by others early on.

Good Morning Yahoo!

Condo board goes to war against Segway rider
So this 83 year old WWII vet cruises around the seniors condo development on his Segway and the BOD bans it, even though they are fine with golf carts, those little personal mobility scooter thingys, bikes, and even motorized lawnmowers. He is a spunky old guy who has a girlfriend he needs to visit, so he won't back down.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

New Details Emerge in Las Vegas HOA Corruption Probe | HOA Nut House

New Details Emerge in Las Vegas HOA Corruption Probe | HOA Nut House: "So how was it done? For one thing, at Park Avenue, more than half the owners live elsewhere. The condos are investments, so they take little interest in board meetings. The most recent election had twice as many ballots cast as ever before, and most were mailed from one place. 'Funny part is, in California, all the different cities, they were all mailed form Long Beach at the same time on the same date,' said Dennis Noto.'They looked like real ballots that came in. Someone duplicated ballots, duplicated envelopes and then mailed them en masse. Even in Las Vegas, they were mailed all the same day from the same place,' said Lahargoue."
I am interested to see whether this sort of thing is ultimately found to be criminal or just civil. If the former, homeowners' rights advocates have an opportunity big enough to drive a truck through. If the latter, we are back to the "6 years in court" drawing board.

Frank says GOP housing attacks racially motivated

Frank says GOP housing attacks racially motivated: "BOSTON (AP) - Rep. Barney Frank said Monday that Republican criticism of Democrats over the nation's housing crisis is a veiled attack on the poor that's racially motivated. The Massachusetts Democrat, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, said the GOP is appealing to its base by blaming the country's mortgage foreclosure problem on efforts to expand affordable housing through the Community Reinvestment Act. He said that blame is misplaced, because those loans are issued by regulated institutions, while far more foreclosures were triggered by high-cost loans made by unregulated entities."
Frank is probably right on the issue of regulated CRA loans (a point made by a knowledgeable commenter on this blog yesterday). But this claim that criticism of housing programs is racially motivated is exactly the same thing Democrats said to silence Republican criticism of Fannie Mae (to the enormous detriment of the nation); it is the same thing the Obama campaign says whenever The One is criticized; and I hope the rest of the nation is as sick of hearing it as I am.

AFP: US author of anti-Obama book detained in Kenya

AFP: US author of anti-Obama book detained in Kenya: "In a press release distributed earlier this week, Corsi announced he would 'expose deep secret ties between between US Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama and a section of the Kenyan government leaders.' He was also to detail Kenyan leaders' 'connections to certain sectoral groups in Kenya and a subsequent plot to be executed in Kenya should Sen. Obama win the American presidency,' the release said."
If he's not careful, HE will be the one "executed in Kenya."

A move to secede on California-Oregon border

A move to secede on California-Oregon border: "Guess the time is ripe to create a whole new state. That's the thinking up here along the border between California and Oregon, where 12 sparsely populated, thickly forested counties in both states want to break away and generate the 51st star on the nation's flag - the state of Jefferson. You can see the signs of discontent from Klamath Falls to Dunsmuir, where green double-X 'Jefferson State' flags hang in scores of businesses."
These folks think the governments of Oregon and California are too liberal for them, so they want their own little Conservastan called "Jefferson."

Monday, October 06, 2008

Leading geneticist Steve Jones says human evolution is over - Times Online
That is obvious. Exhibit A: daytime television. I rest my case. / In depth - Markets routed in global sell-off / In depth - Markets routed in global sell-off: "Stock prices collapsed around the world on Monday amid growing fears that the credit crisis would trigger a global recession. The wave of selling swept through markets despite a scramble by governments to tackle the crisis, leading to rampant speculation that co-ordinated emergency rate cuts by the Federal Reserve and other central banks might be in the offing."
Slow news day.

Indian American to oversee $700bn bailout

Indian American to oversee $700bn bailout: "Kashkari, who was one of the originator of the bailout plan, was part of the Treasury team that negotiated the asset-repurchase programme with Congress. Now, he would oversee some key decisions on how the rescue programme would operate."
He is an engineer whose first career was with the space program. He also has an MBA in Finance.Sure hope he knows what he's doing.

Cramer to the Market: Now Is the Time to Panic

Cramer to the Market: Now Is the Time to Panic: "Whatever you may need for the next five years, please take it out of the stock market. Right now. This week. I do not believe that you should risk those assets in the stock market."
Well. That is helpful.

6 Family Members Dead In Murder-Suicide In Porter Ranch - News Story - KNBC | Los Angeles

6 Family Members Dead In Murder-Suicide In Porter Ranch - News Story - KNBC | Los Angeles: "LOS ANGELES -- All six people found dead in a home in the Porter Ranch area of the San Fernando Valley were members of the same family and were shot to death in a murder-suicide. Deputy Chief Michel Moore said the unemployed father of the family, 45, left two suicide letters claiming responsibility for his suicide and the murders of his family members, identified as his wife, three children and his mother-in-law."
The article says he had no evident history of mental illness.

Pakistan facing bankruptcy - Telegraph

Pakistan facing bankruptcy - Telegraph: "Pakistan's foreign exchange reserves are so low that the country can only afford one month of imports and faces possible bankruptcy."
At some point you have to give up worrying about all this. How can the whole world go bankrupt? There have to be some creditors somewhere. We can't all be debtors...can we?

September Condo Sales Plummet 30 Percent In Chicago | Best Chicago Condos

September Condo Sales Plummet 30 Percent In Chicago | Best Chicago Condos

Dewey Cheatham apparently not availableTreasury Secretary Henry Paulson is expected to name Neel Kashkari to oversee the U.S. government's $700 billion financial stabilization program, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.
With a name like that, what else could he do except become an economist? He is 35 years old, by the way, and has $800 billion to spend. When I was 35 I had 800, but without the "billion."

Germany takes hot seat as Europe falls into the abyss - Telegraph: "We face extreme danger. Unless there is immediate intervention on every front by all the major powers acting in concert, we risk a disintegration of global finance within days. Nobody will be spared, unless they own gold bars."
Reading between the lines, I think the writer is a bit anxious about the state of the European economy. Worldwide

At what point do we start calling this "socialism"?: "Oct. 6 (Bloomberg) -- Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke may find the next fronts of the financial crisis to be just as chilling as last month's downfall of Wall Street titans: its spread to corporate America and state and local governments.

Companies from Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. and Duke Energy Corp. to Gannett Co. and Caterpillar Inc. are being forced to tap emergency credit lines or pay more to borrow as investors flee even firms with few links to the subprime-mortgage debacle. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger says his and other states may need emergency federal loans as funding dries up."

$700 billion is a lot of money, but that is just for the banks. How can a government that is $14 trillion in debt even begin to think of bailing out the states and the rest of the failing corporations?

Dogs being abandoned at state park ( | Courier Times

Scenes from the Philadelphia suburbs: Dogs being abandoned at state park: "In the last six months, seven domestic dogs have been discovered abandoned in Nockamixon State Park, the most recent last week. Park officials and animal rescue agencies believe people are abandoning their pets there because they can no longer afford to care for them. “People think 'Oh someone will find him, take care of him. The park has leftover food. There's garbage there.' But these dogs can't fend for themselves,” said Lori McCutcheon, founder and president of Last Chance Ranch, a Richland animal rescue group, which since July, has taken in four dogs found at the park. But the 5,283-acre park, says McCutcheon and park officials, is not the place to dump animals. It's wooded, home to wild animals such as coyotes, and the pets will find little food or water."

Sunday, October 05, 2008 - Mass. Asks About Federal Loan Amid Market Worries : "BOSTON — The treasurer of Massachusetts has asked the federal government about lending Massachusetts money under the same favorable terms it has given banks and firms during the financial crisis.

Treasurer Timothy Cahill's requests to the U.S. Treasury and Federal Reserve Bank of Boston this week were prompted by the state's inability to borrow from the short-term debt markets, The Boston Globe reported Saturday. The financial turmoil has caused credit markets to stop lending, or to charge prohibitive rates."

First California, now Massachusetts. Two down, 48 to go. Then there are 88,000 local governments, followed by 300,000 or so community associations. Who comes after that?

Political Punch

Put on your muck boots: Into the mire we go: "With the news that the McCain campaign is launching a full assault on Obama's associates, preparedness, and judgment in a TV ad campaign to start Wednesday -- as detailed in this morning's Washington Post -- the Obama campaign is planning a pre-emptive assault on the TV airwaves to start Monday."
Enough about the economy and foreign policy. Time to get into mud-slinging!

As a political scientist I have been expecting this.