Saturday, October 25, 2008

BioPet Vet Lab Announces PooPrints(TM) - MarketWatchKNOXVILLE, Tenn., Oct 24, 2008 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- BioPet Vet Lab, a Knoxville, Tennessee DNA laboratory, announced today the introduction of PooPrints(TM), a program designed to encourage dog owners to pick up their dog's "droppings." The program is targeted initially to neighborhoods, but could be applied to any municipality that wants to clean up its public areas. The PooPrints(TM) program recommends that a home owner association (HOA) pass an amendment to its existing covenant that requires all dog owners in the community to have their dogs' DNA analyzed and filed with Bio-Pet's "DNA World Pet Registry. Once the DNA is on file, any dropping found in the public areas of the neighborhood can be sent to BioPet to be analyzed and matched up with the DNA already on file. Once the dog is identified, an email report is sent to the HOA, which then can identify the offending owner. The matching process takes three to four days after receipt to process. With positive proof through the DNA matchup, the association may elect to impose fines on the offenders, which will defray the cost of the program to the HOA."
This super dooper pooper scooper idea looks like a new profit center for HOAs. Charge the whole thing to the owner and make a tidy profit. Thanks to Shu Bartholomew for getting the scoop. » Editing Their Way to Oblivion: Journalism Sacrificed For Power and Pensions » Editing Their Way to Oblivion: Journalism Sacrificed For Power and Pensions: "But nothing, nothing I’ve seen has matched the media bias on display in the current Presidential campaign. Republicans are justifiably foaming at the mouth over the sheer one-sidedness of the press coverage of the two candidates and their running mates. But in the last few days, even Democrats, who have been gloating over the pass - no, make that shameless support - they’ve gotten from the press, are starting to get uncomfortable as they realize that no one wins in the long run when we don’t have a free and fair press"
From a journalist.

Blame game: GOP forms circular firing squad - Jonathan Martin and Mike Allen and John F. Harris - "With despair rising even among many of John McCain’s own advisers, influential Republicans inside and outside his campaign are engaged in an intense round of blame-casting and rear-covering — much of it virtually conceding that an Election Day rout is likely."
Fred Pilot sent this link, and it is worth reading.

My own view of things is that George W. Bush has absolutely wrecked the Republican Party, and probably for many years to come. When he took office the party was perceived as trustworthy on foreign policy and responsible on taxing and spending. In short order, Bush blew their advantage on foreign policy with the war and his arrogant attitude toward other nations. He blew their advantage on economic affairs by going along with massive deficit spending and finally doing absolutely nothing to even warn people about the impending financial meltdown. He split the Republican base over immigration. What's left? A lot of retrograde social policies that young voters find totally unacceptable?

The Republicans are going to be in a complete shambles after this election. They won't have to worry about governing, though, so they will have plenty of time to rethink their entire program. When I say "plenty of time," I mean years, not months.

Friday, October 24, 2008

RealClearPolitics - HorseRaceBlog - A Note on the Polls

RealClearPolitics - HorseRaceBlog - A Note on the Polls: "So, we have made three observations: (a) relative to 2004, the standard deviation for Obama and McCain's polls are high, indicating more disagreement among pollsters at a similar point in this cycle; (b) the shape of the distribution of each candidate's poll position is not what we might expect; (c) multiple polls are separated from the RCP average by statistically significant differences.

Combined, these considerations suggest that this variation cannot be chalked up to typical statistical 'noise.' Instead, it is more likely that pollsters are disagreeing with each other in their sampling methodologies. In other words, different pollsters have different 'visions' of what the electorate will look like on November 4th, and these visions are affecting their results."

Detailed explanation of the strange inconsistency in polling this year. I wonder who has the best sampling methods. This reminds me of 1992, when Perot was the wild card. The predictions of his support were all over the place because nobody knew how to predict who would actually turn out and pull the lever for him. He did much better than most of the polls predicted. The guy who had it right on the money was Frank Luntz. He had worked for Perot early on and had a handle on who supported him and how intense they were. What's the lesson for 2008? I don't know and nobody is really sure at this point. - Chicago Beats New York, Los Angeles In Murders - Chicago Beats New York, Los Angeles In Murders: "Chicago is the Second City in nickname and the third in population, but when it comes to murder, the city has the dubious distinction of being second to no city in America.

As CBS 2's Mike Puccinelli reports, the Chicago Sun-Times pointed out on Friday that Chicago has seen 426 homicides this year through Tuesday, compared with 417 in New York and 302 in Los Angeles."

Chicago's gun ban is still producing after 25 years. I'm sure Obama will get to work extending it to the nation. U.S. U.S.: "Oct. 24 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Treasury is considering taking stakes in insurers as well as regional banks in the next round of capital injections to thaw a freeze-up of the financial system, a person briefed on the plan said. A final decision hasn't been made on firms to be included, said the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. An initial $125 billion out of $700 billion approved by Congress was allocated last week to buy preferred shares of nine of the largest U.S. banks."
Sure, why not. Bail them all out. It's other people's money, right?
Thanks to Fred Pilot for this link.


KCTribune: Circuit City's problems lead to city problems: "Now that Circuit City may not become the anchor tenant, the City of Merriam may be left with a TIF developed shopping center with no tenants and no revenue. In 2007, the City of Merriam budgeted for over $600,000 in revenue from this project and another TIF incentive development, Merriam Pointe, across I-35, which is owned by David Block and David Christie. Neither property has produced any revenue to date, according to Leap.

“The current City Council put a lot of eggs in that basket – giving a TIF incentive for 30 acres, and they now want another tax incentive, a TDD, and they don’t even have an anchor tenant. The City of Merriam just had to raise the property tax for residents 6 mils, which is unheard of.” said Leap.

A TDD is similar to a CID (Community Improvement District) sales tax in Kansas City, which adds an additional percentage to the sales tax collected in a designated area, and is usually reserved for underdeveloped or blighted areas. In Kansas City, a CID must be approved by 51% of the stakeholders in the requested area, whereas a TDD can be requested by a single developer."

The article says that Circuit City is likely to file for bankruptcy.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Obama and McCain in denial about deficits, economists say - Los Angeles Times

Obama and McCain in denial about deficits, economists say - Los Angeles Times: "Despite harsh scrutiny from economic analysts, Barack Obama and John McCain remain reluctant to admit what is becoming obvious -- that the nation's economic crisis will take a heavy toll on their ambitious tax and spending plans."
How unfortunate for them. / In depth - ‘I made a mistake,’ admits Greenspan / In depth - ‘I made a mistake,’ admits Greenspan: "Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman, said on Thursday the credit crisis had exceeded anything he had imagined and admitted he was wrong to think that banks would protect themselves from financial market chaos.

“I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interest of organisations, specifically banks and others, was such that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders,” he said."

For almost 30 years neoclassical economics has steered public policy, on the assumption that "free markets" run better with the least possible oversight and regulation by government. We may be at the end of that paradigm. For the foreseeable future it seems that government will have the stronger hand. It will be hard to sell the idea of deregulating anything in these times, after what happened to the financial markets.

Which brings me to common interest communities. If ever there were a creature that epitomized the neoclassical economics approach to governance, it is these things. And I think the libertarian argument that we should just leave them alone and they will not only succeed, but replace municipalities, will now be falling on deaf ears.

If there isn't more oversight and regulation of CIDs, there will one day be a massive sectoral collapse or a rolling disintegration. And that day may not be too far in the future.

US foreclosure filings up 71 percent in 3Q: Financial News - Yahoo! Finance

US foreclosure filings up 71 percent in 3Q: Financial News - Yahoo! Finance: "Nationwide, nearly 766,000 homes received at least one foreclosure-related notice from July through September, up 71 percent from a year earlier, said foreclosure listing service RealtyTrac Inc.

By the end of the year, RealtyTrac expects more than a million bank-owned properties to have piled up on the market, representing around a third of all properties for sale in the U.S.

That's bad news for anyone who lives nearby and wants to sell their home. While foreclosure sales are booming in many areas, those properties are commanding deep discounts and pulling down neighboring property values."

Good time to hunker down in the old crib, save your money, and hold onto your job.
America's Most Overrated Product: the Bachelor's Degree - "Today, amazingly, a majority of the students whom colleges admit are grossly underprepared. Only 23 percent of the 1.3 million high-school graduates of 2007 who took the ACT examination were ready for college-level work in the core subjects of English, math, reading, and science.

Perhaps more surprising, even those high-school students who are fully qualified to attend college are increasingly unlikely to derive enough benefit to justify the often six-figure cost and four to six years (or more) it takes to graduate."

OK, but a great deal depends on how you spend your years in college. The escalator theory doesn't work anymore. You don't end up four years later on a higher floor in the building of life. And the humanities' claim that you are getting some mystical "learning how to think" experience that will translate into being incredibly valuable to any employer? Pure BS.

But lots of students set themselves up very nicely for jobs, careers, and graduate education. You need a goal and a plan, and you need to understand that you are in the real world already, not getting prepared for it.

And don't forget the other option.

Republican HQ Manager's Home Shot Up Over McCain Signs - Politics News Story - WKMG Orlando

Republican HQ Manager's Home Shot Up Over McCain Signs - Politics News Story - WKMG Orlando: "LONGWOOD, Fla. -- The home of a Central Florida Republican headquarters manager was shot up and damaged over his support of Sen. John McCain, the man told police."
Will Obama supporters continue their efforts at intimidation of his opponents throughout his administration?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Moneybox: The more Starbucks a country has, the bigger its financial problems. - By Daniel Gross - Slate Magazine

Moneybox: The more Starbucks a country has, the bigger its financial problems. - By Daniel Gross - Slate Magazine: "The higher the concentration of expensive, nautically themed, faux-Italian-branded Frappuccino joints in a country's financial capital, the more likely the country is to have suffered catastrophic financial losses."
This theory has yet to be fully tested in empirical studies.

Do five simple things a day to stay sane, say scientists - Times Online

Do five simple things a day to stay sane, say scientists - Times Online: "People should try to connect with others, to be active, to take notice of their surroundings, to keep learning and to give to their neighbours and communities, the document says."
Good advice. They seem to have overlooked surfing the web, though.

Illinois budget cuts to close historic sites and parks - Wikinews, the free news source

Illinois budget cuts to close historic sites and parks - Wikinews, the free news source
Our governor is closing 25 parks and historic sites to save money. Among them is a park with 90 miles of bike trails. This will hit a number of small communities hard, because they are losing their only tourist attractions.

Meridian Magazine:: Ideas and Society: Would the Last Honest Reporter Please Turn On the Lights?

Meridian Magazine:: Ideas and Society: Would the Last Honest Reporter Please Turn On the Lights?: "If you who produce our local daily paper had any personal honor, you would find it unbearable to let the American people believe that somehow Republicans were to blame for this crisis."
Orson Scott Card send an open letter to American journalists.

PHD Comics: The Economic Meltdown

PHD Comics: The Economic Meltdown
A flow chart that lets you know whether or not you need to be concerned.

Natalie Portman Solves The Financial Crisis

Natalie Portman Solves The Financial Crisis
Why didn't Bush and Paulson think of this? - Current Article Page

Gated community annexed by municipality: "With little debate, the council voted 7-3 to annex the gated community and its 600 homes, golf course and country club.

The action, barring a legal challenge, caps an effort that began five years ago, when the city proposed annexing some 40,000 residents in western Cumberland County. All the neighborhoods except Gates Four were part of the “Big Bang” annexation in 2005.

Gates Four fought the city. Residents were vociferously opposed to what they viewed as a land grab. Their community, they said, needs no additional public services."

Libertarians say HOAs will become the new form of local governance and replace cities, but I think many of the large ones will incorporate as municipalities in order to avoid being annexed by the closest city that has an appetite. It's called "defensive incorporation," and it is just about the only way for an affluent neighborhood to protect itself against being gobbled up for its tax base. Worldwide

Foreclosure sales drive SoCal home prices way down, sales numbers way up: "Oct. 20 (Bloomberg) -- Southern California home sales rose 65 percent in September, the biggest year-over-year increase in at least two decades, as buyers took advantage of foreclosures to purchase properties at discounted prices, MDA DataQuick said...Sales increased the most in areas where rising foreclosures drove down prices, MDA DataQuick said. Half of all the homes sold in Southern California last month had been foreclosed upon in the previous 12 months, up from 13 percent a year earlier...The surge in foreclosure sales, which tend to be discounted, pushed the median price down 33 percent from a year earlier to $308,500."
Is this good or bad?

20 Questions A Journalist Should Ask About Poll Results | NCPP - National Council on Public Polls

20 Questions A Journalist Should Ask About Poll Results | NCPP - National Council on Public Polls
I found this link on Instapundit. It is worth reading, given the influence of polling on media coverage and political discourse, and of course the reflexive way the polls influence the opinions they are polling about.

Republican HQ's Vandalized, Workers Threatened - Politics News Story - WSMV Nashville

Republican HQ's Vandalized, Workers Threatened - Politics News Story - WSMV Nashville

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

An All-in-One Security, Utilities Monitoring System -

An All-in-One Security, Utilities Monitoring System - "Earlier this year, U.K-based AlertMe launched its AlertMe home security product that lets users monitor home security from a computer or cell phone. The service, which will be rolled out in the U.S., alerts a homeowner via text, email or phone call, if someone enters the home, opens a window or if the fire alarm goes off. The technology enabling AlertMe to provide that service will also be used to control heating and electricity costs."
But can you catch your dog drinking out of the toilet?

Owner Believes Lexus Vandalized Due To McCain Sticker

Owner Believes Lexus Vandalized Due To McCain Sticker: "Clearwater - Frank Armstrong was preparing to go for a jog this morning when he noticed his Lexus – adorned with a McCain-Palin sticker - had been vandalized with obscenities and a burned American flag.

Armstrong discovered the damage to his 2006 Lexus about 8:30 a.m. at his Sand Key condominium at 1400 Gulf Blvd. Clearwater police and Armstrong said someone etched obscenities and 'KKK' into the paint, burned several areas of the car with cigarettes, set the flag on fire on his hood and may have urinated on the vehicle. Officers and Armstrong think the car was singled out because of its political stickers, including one reading 'Nobama.'"

The people who did this are the same ones who claim Republicans are fascists.

Homeless numbers 'alarming' -

Homeless numbers 'alarming' - "More families with children are becoming homeless as they face mounting economic pressures, including mortgage foreclosures, according to a USA TODAY survey of a dozen of the largest cities in the nation. Local authorities say the number of families seeking help has risen in Atlanta, Boston, Denver, Minneapolis, New York, Phoenix, Portland, Seattle and Washington."
Where do these folks stand in the bailout line? Are they ahead of or behind the shopping malls?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Ten Cars To Live In: Ten Cars You Can Live In After Your Home Is Repossessed

Ten Cars To Live In: Ten Cars You Can Live In After Your Home Is Repossessed
Here's one to file for future reference. And they coin a term for our times: "financiapocalypse."
Mark Williams » EXCLUSIVE: .22 Gunshot, paint balls fired at McCain / Palin Straight Talk Express: "(Sunday, October 19 - Filed by Mark Williams in Raton, New Mexico with the Stop Obama Tour) We learned at this morning’s Stop Obama Rally here that the McCain/Palin Straight Talk Express came through town yesterday. It arrived with a window shattered by a .22 caliber weapon. It had also been hit by an unknown number of paint balls from a paint ball gun or guns. There were reportedly no injuries and neither candidate was on board."
This Sacramento Union blog may be the only mention of this, given the way the press is behaving this year. Imagine the coverage if it had been Obama's bus. It would be the front page story, and it would be attributed to the "tone" of the McCain/Palin campaign that is somehow driving susceptible rednecks into acts of insane rage.

What Happens When City Hall Goes Bankrupt? : NPR: "Are we likely to see more towns and cities declare bankruptcy in the future?

That's difficult to say, but some experts believe the warning signs are clear: unfunded pension liabilities, an anemic economy, costly infrastructure repairs and falling property values. 'All of the ingredients are there,' Spiotta says. 'I wouldn't be surprised if we start to see more bankruptcies.'"

From February, 2008, an NPR story focusing on Vallejo, CA but dealing with the history of municipal bankruptcy...and its possible future. The view from 8 months down the road isn't a whole lot cheerier.

A grim verdict awaits law grads

A grim verdict awaits law grads: "Nearly 44,000 law students nationwide will graduate next year with an average of about $73,000 in loan debt, according to numbers from the American Bar Association.

And while most would-be lawyers already have accepted that only a small fraction will start their careers with a big-firm salary of $160,000, the past few weeks of economic chaos have caused many to wonder if any kind of attorney work is in their near future."

Law firms are cutting back on hiring because they anticipate a slow economy, which translates into fewer clients.

Sunday, October 19, 2008 / In depth - US faces worst recession in 26 years / In depth - US faces worst recession in 26 years: "Senior officials at the Treasury and Federal Reserve are confident that the rescue plan for US banks will succeed in preventing a financial system meltdown and ensure there will not be a repeat of the Great Depression. But they know that a sharp economic downturn is already baked in the cake. They do not,however, know how deep or protracted it will be."
After listening to Bush and Paulson, I thought we were looking at bread lines, selling pencils on street corners, and strangling pigeons in the park to feed the family. If all we get is a 1982-size recession, the country can deal with it. Recessions are inevitable. The ones we had in 1991-02 and 2001-02 were painful for many people but still manageable for most of us. The 1982 recession was worse, but we got through it.

I am much more concerned about the baby boom retiring (that includes me) and what will happen to public and private pension funds and the social security system. If Obama spends in accordance with his promises, on top of the gazillion dollar bailout orgy, the Treasury will be printing money until the presses seize up and we will be carrying our cash in suitcases instead of wallets.

8th grade textbook has Obama chapter :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Metro & Tri-State

8th grade textbook has Obama chapter :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Metro & Tri-State: "MADISON, Wis. — The Racine school district’s use of an eighth grade textbook that includes a chapter on Democrat Barack Obama but nothing on his opponent John McCain is unfair and troubling, the Wisconsin Republican Party argued Thursday. A parent complained on an Internet blog about the textbook that includes a chapter on Obama called ‘‘Dreams from My Father.’’"
That McCain chapter must have been omitted by accident.

Homeowner Association Management - home ownership, HOA, homeowner association, HOA members, assessments, housing associaitons, organization fees, HOA fees

Homeowner Association Management - 5 excuses owners give for not paying assessments
The article concludes that (ready for the surprise?) the HOA shouldn't accept any of these excuses.

Carrollton homeowners group sues resident over dues payments | News for Dallas, Texas | Dallas Morning News | Breaking News for Dallas-Fort Worth | Dallas Morning News

Carrollton homeowners group sues resident over dues payments | News for Dallas, Texas: "A Carrollton man says his homeowners association is trying to take his home for what originally amounted to a jar's worth of change – $266.82 in what he calls inadvertently missed dues payments. James Alderman says the original amount he owed his homeowners group would have filled his change jar. [He] said the sum grew to $558.97 with lawyer fees and other charges and has now swollen to nearly $2,000...If Mr. Alderman loses his house over delinquent dues, he won't be the first. Dallas resident Linda Jones lost hers in 2004 because she was late paying $500 in association dues for 2002. "
I expect to see more aggressive collection procedures as the economy worsens, unless state legislatures step in to protect owners.

Mall's demise could doom community
Sharp jump in store vacancies and a frozen credit market could force closures, resulting in loss of vital revenue and jobs
: "NEW YORK ( -- With thousands of stores closing in the economic downturn, the increase in empty space at the nation's shopping malls is leaving a hole in the hearts of once-vibrant communities.

In some cases, one-quarter or more of shopping centers are now empty, and the decline - or even the demise - of a mall can have a devastating economic and social impact"

Maybe the malls should stand in the bailout line, too. The line is about a trillion dollars long already, and as we all know the federal budget was wildly out of balance before all this. What is a few thousand shopping malls? I hope the HOAs and condo associations are in line ahead of the malls, and right behind the cities, who are right behind the states, who are right behind the insurance companies, car companies, and the banks. The pension funds haven't showed up yet, but just wait a couple of years.

And we have more big-ticket items coming, according to campaign promises. What will the FY 2010 budget look like if Obama and the Democratic Congress set up the universal pre-school system, the universal health insurance plan, extend unemployment benefits until hell freezes over, and give billions in free money to people who didn't pay any federal taxes (fancifully labelled a "tax credit," but more properly called "welfare")?

At some point federal taxation would have to be radically increased to pay for all this, but increasing taxes during a recession is supposed to be disastrous. Radical cutbacks in military spending would provide savings (assuming our geopolitical situation permits that), but most of the procurement and enlistment numbers are already committed for several years into the future, so new cuts wouldn't take effect right away.

I wonder how all this will play out after the anticipated coronation in January.

A financial new world order? |

A financial new world order? | "When President Bush hosts a world financial summit in the coming weeks, one of the least multilateral American presidents in decades will set in motion what could result in a full reordering of the global financial system.

The series of summits that Mr. Bush announced over the weekend at Camp David with European leaders at his side suggests a broad understanding among them: that the current crisis requires the kind of global regulatory reforms that have eluded major powers in the past."

It would have been nice if these folks had seen "the current crisis" coming a few months ago.