Saturday, November 15, 2008

CEO Summit on Saving an Industry in Crisis - American Press Institute: "The daily newspaper industry stands at a precipice. Rocked by declining print circulation and advertising, disruptive Internet technologies and competition from a variety of new players and industries, the traditional bedrock of American journalism faces a classic change-or-die scenario. Whole swaths of the American populace have abandoned newspapers or are growing up without the habit of reading them. And while the Web sites of news organizations are attracting more readers than ever, the online advertising business is nowhere close to making up for the steep slide in print.

None of this is news, yet the industry's response to date continues to be fitful, ranging from simple cost-cutting in some companies to paralysis and denial in others, to commitment to change and innovation in still others.

To help newspaper companies find strategies and ideas for re-invention, 50 top executives gathered at the American Press Institute for a day-long summit guided by two corporate turnaround experts."

This is interesting reading. More interesting than newspapers, now that I think about it.

The Hartford: The Hartford : Investor Relations : The Hartford Announces Agreement To Acquire Federal Trust Bank And Application To U.S. Treasury Capital Purchase Program

The Hartford: The Hartford : Investor Relations : The Hartford Announces Agreement To Acquire Federal Trust Bank And Application To U.S. Treasury Capital Purchase Program: "HARTFORD, Conn., Nov 14, 2008 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc. (NYSE: HIG) today announced that it has applied to the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS) to become a savings and loan holding company and has applied to participate in the U.S. Treasury Department's Capital Purchase Program (CPP).

In conjunction with these applications, The Hartford has signed a merger agreement to acquire the parent company of Federal Trust Bank for approximately $10 million and will also provide an additional amount to recapitalize the bank. Federal Trust Bank, a federally chartered, FDIC-insured savings bank is owned by Federal Trust Corporation, a unitary thrift holding company headquartered in Sanford, Fla. The completion of this acquisition will satisfy a key eligibility requirement for participation in CPP."

Hartford, a $26 billion company, is buying a little bank for $10 million so it can call itself a "savings and loan holding company" and get its snout in the bailout trough.

Spam Turns Serious and Hormel Turns Out More - "AUSTIN, Minn. — The economy is in tatters and, for millions of people, the future is uncertain. But for some employees at the Hormel Foods Corporation plant here, times have never been better. They are working at a furious pace and piling up all the overtime they want.

The workers make Spam, perhaps the emblematic hard-times food in the American pantry."

Spam, spam, and more spam, plus an occasional zoo animal. Recession vittles.

Um, it's a rooster, not a chicken :: Porter County :: Post-Tribune

Um, it's a rooster, not a chicken, or "When election boards go bad": "Several readers wondered whether there was a political bias implicit on their ballots in Porter County.

On the ballot, toward the top, were small designs associated with the political party labels. Republicans had an elephant. Libertarians had the Statue of Liberty. But next to Democrats? A chicken?"

They defend this by saying it was a "rooster." A rooster is still a chicken.

Print Version

Washington state landowner draws Secret Service attention for bonehead political sign: "The U.S. Secret Service is being asked to review a sign a Bonner County landowner put up which suggests a 'free public hanging' of President-elect Barack Obama and several other political figures.

The handmade cardboard sign also features a noose fashioned from a length of nylon rope.

'That's a political statement. They can call it whatever they want, a threat or whatever,' said Ken Germana, who installed the sign on his property off Golden Gate Road in southwestern Bonner County.

Obama's name is the most prominent on the sign, although it also bears the names of former Democrat presidential nominee John Kerry, current U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and civil rights activist and former presidential candidate Al Sharpton."

It is a political statement, but it is also evidence of a room temperature IQ.

A Depression-Style California State Budget - California Progress Report: "A recent story on the Depression in the Washington Post discussed how the Depression first entered American households, such as the day people switched from electric lighting to cheaper kerosene lamps, the day beans replaced beef on the dinner table, and the day extended family members moved in. The most grisly story in the article was in 1932 in Detroit, when the city shut down its zoo and slaughtered its animals to provide food for a starving population."
Let's hope it doesn't come to that.

Record Loss Forces Freddie Mac to Tap $100 Billion Fund - Financials * US * News * Story -

Record Loss Forces Freddie Mac to Tap $100 Billion Fund - Financials * US * News * Story - "Freddie Mac reported a $25.3 billion quarterly loss on Friday as the housing slump worsened, forcing the second-largest provider of U.S. home loan funding to draw on a $100 billion Treasury Department lifeline.

The company attributed much of the record loss to a write down of tax-related assets, essentially conceding it will not return to profitability soon. Writing down the assets left the company with a negative net worth, in which liabilities exceed its assets, requiring it to tap the Treasury backstop.

Freddie Mac said after tentative signs that the housing market was stabilizing in the second quarter, conditions worsened 'dramatically' during July through September.

'The percentage decline in home prices was particularly large in California, Florida, Arizona and Nevada, where Freddie Mac has significant concentrations of mortgage loans,' the company said in a securities filing. Freddie Mac said the rising unemployment rate was the main culprit for the worsening housing market."

Let's see...California, Florida, Arizona, and Nevada. What do those four states have in common?

Oh, yes. Almost all their new housing is in CIDs. Does this mean that the prices have fallen more for CID housing than for new conventional neighborhoods?

Pledge of Allegiance divides Vermont town

Pledge of Allegiance divides Vermont town: "The brouhaha in the Vermont school began in September, when parent Ted Tedesco began circulating petitions calling for the return of pledge recitation as a daily practice in the 19th-century schoolhouse, which has 55 children in kindergarten through sixth grade.

School officials agreed to resume it as a daily exercise, but not in the classroom.

'We don't want to isolate children every day in their own classroom or make them feel they're different,' said Principal Michaela Martin.

Instead, starting last week, a sixth grade student was assigned to go around to the four classrooms before classes started, gathering anyone who wanted to say it and then walking them up creaky wooden steps to a second-floor gymnasium, where he led them in the pledge.

About half the students chose to participate, Martin said."

Maybe the citizens of Woodbury, Vermont, would be more comfortable pledging allegiance to the United Nations flag.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Malaysia Property News - Real Estate, Property, Residential, Office, Condominium: Be resilient to face slowdown, builders told

Malaysia Property News - Real Estate, Property, Residential, Office, Condominium: Be resilient to face slowdown, builders told: "PETALING JAYA: Developers must be optimistic and resilient in facing the current slowdown in the property market, says Country Heights Holdings Bhd founder and vice-chairman Tan Sri Lee Kim Yew.

“The sector is facing a slowdown as the result of the current economic conditions. Though we do feel cautious, we must not be pessimists,” he said during the CEO roundtable session at the summit."

Town of Batman suing Batman over use of Batman (Wizbang Pop!): "The mayor of Batman, Turkey, is suing Warner Bros. and The Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan for using the Cape Crusader's name without the city's permission."
Maybe Hooker, California, should file some lawsuits too.

ILLINOIZE: State and city budgets falling fast

ILLINOIZE: State and city budgets falling fast
The map that accompanies this post shows 41 states facing budget shortfalls. | Colorado's Online News Leader | Golden decides lights on trees are OK: "GOLDEN - The Golden City Council voted unanimously on Thursday night to only allow secular items on city property for the holidays this year. The city made the decision because the lights on Washington Street stirred up controversy. A local rabbi asked that a Hanukkah menorah be added to the decorations on the main street, but the city resisted, saying it didn't want religious symbols. Current decorations in the city include lights on trees, garland, snowflakes and snowballs. The rabbi countered that Christmas lights are religious in nature. The city disagreed and Thursday night's resolution allows the lights to stay up. There is one exception. A Santa Claus that is traditionally on the arch over Washington Street will stay because of its historical nature. The figure has been there as a tradition for many years."
Christmas lights: OK
Santa: OK
Garland, snowflakes, and snowballs: OK
Menorah: NOT OK

I think I get the distinction they are trying to make here, but the end result is a secularized celebration of the Christian holiday called Christmas, but no public celebration of Hanukkah. In my ideal world there would be all sorts of religious symbols along with the secular ones. Given that the stores will all be going broke this Christmas and corporations will be doing mass end-of-year layoffs, we could all do with a little prayer anyway. It's free, after all. So I'll put one up here.

Mayor to town folk: You're too stupid to work with - Yahoo! News: "ST. ANTHONY, Idaho – You can't call Bill Beck the mayor of 'stupid' town anymore. The former St. Anthony mayor resigned from his post at a city council meeting Wednesday night, but not before telling off the townspeople and his fellow city council members.

Councilman Bryan Fullmer told the Standard Journal that Beck walked into the start of the meeting and announced his surprise resignation to the audience. Fullmer said Beck then told the audience that he was tired of people who were too stupid to understand, and turned and told council members that they were too stupid to work with, too.

Fullmer said Beck continued by telling the town to go to hell."

I give him 10 out of 10 for sincerity, but I think there was a certain lack of tact. Fred Pilot found this saga. » Illinois 8th Grader’s T-Shirt Experiment Documents Anti-McCain Bias
After living in Oak Park for 8 years, I am not surprised at all by this. It is the most intolerant place I've ever seen. The kids are brainwashed from birth ("Democrat good. Republican bad. Liberal good. Conservative bad. Unitarian Church good. Born again Christian bad. Oak Parkers good and tolerant. All other white suburbanites bad and intolerant.") and the groupthink in the public schools is astounding. This girl has tremendous courage to have retained her capacity for independent thought, let alone taking a risk like this.
Here is the John Kass column that broke the story.
Here is Kass' follow-up story.

That $300 Billion Hope For Homeowners Isn’t Working - Realty Check with Diana Olick -

That $300 Billion Hope For Homeowners Isn’t Working - Realty Check with Diana Olick - "Here’s the reality: In the last two weeks, FHA received exactly 69 applications to the H4H program. Since the start of the program, a little over a month ago, it has received 111. Now I’m no mathematician, but that doesn’t exactly extrapolate out to 400,000 over three years or even 19,000 over one year or even over a few months."
OK--so can we have the money put back in the Treasury?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

CNN Political Ticker: All politics, all the time Blog Archive - Poll: Obama facing high expectations « - Blogs from
And who set those high expectations, pray tell?

Post office $2.8 billion in the red: "WASHINGTON (AP) - The Postal Service ended its fiscal year $2.8 billion in the red, battered by a faltering economy that cut the amount of mail being sent."
What the heck, bail them out too.

Cities panic as consumers stop spending and home values fall - San Jose Mercury News

Cities panic as consumers stop spending and home values fall - San Jose Mercury News: "Sales tax revenues are plunging as frightened consumers stop spending and car dealerships go out of business. Property tax revenues are drooping as home prices fall. The fees local governments get from builders are disappearing as housing construction grinds to a halt.

The collapse of financial foundations has many Northern California cities scared to death — and for good reason. They're facing a future of unrepaired potholes, reduced library hours, less-manicured parks and a drop in the number of cops and firefighters."

Public and private local governments are in trouble, at the same time. Not good news for anybody. Thanks to Fred Pilot for this link.

City Council: Detroit needs $10-billion bailout | | Detroit Free Press

City Council: Detroit needs $10-billion bailout | | Detroit Free Press: "The Detroit City Council passed a resolution today calling for a $10-billion bailout for the city of Detroit."
They just got $47 million from HUD to deal with the foreclosure crisis. Back for a lot more.

Michael Jackson gives Neverland to corporation - Yahoo! News

Michael Jackson gives Neverland to corporation - Yahoo! News: "LOS ANGELES – Michael Jackson has given up title to his Neverland ranch, transferring the deed to a company he partly controls.

The singer filed a grant deed on the ranch Monday that makes the new owner an entity called the Sycamore Valley Ranch Co. LLC, Tom Pearson of the Santa Barbara County clerk-recorder's office said Wednesday.

Sycamore Valley Ranch Co. is a joint venture between Jackson and an affiliate of Colony Capital LLC, according to a person with knowledge of the transaction who was not authorized to speak on the record and requested anonymity.

The person could not say what would become of the 2,500-acre property in the bucolic, oak-studded hills of Santa Barbara County's wine country, 120 miles northwest of Los Angeles."

If they sell it build a subdivision, it could turn out like in the movie Poltergeist. Who knows what is buried down there?

Neighbors keep up appearances in struggling Tampa suburbs - St. Petersburg Times

Neighbors keep up appearances in struggling Tampa suburbs - St. Petersburg Times: "As the stock of foreclosed and abandoned homes rises, Glass and many of his neighbors in deed-restricted suburbs from Hillsborough to Pasco are taking matters into their own hands, organizing Saturday mowing excursions. Their homeowners groups are adopting and amending policies that allow them to cut down waist-high grass and bill the owners for the expense."
From Fred Pilot comes yet another example of how HOAs are getting hit by the foreclosure epidemic. I heard somebody on the radio yesterday--a California economist--saying that the bottom for real estate is a year away in some parts of the country, especially where the prices were the highest before the bottom fell out.

Man's house blows up, companies responsible won't help - Boing Boing

Man's house blows up, companies responsible won't help - Boing Boing: "Ian Silvestein's house was destroyed three years when the Buncefield Depot in England blew up. The companies that operated the depot -- Total and Chevron -- won't help him."
Mystery Reader sent this link, and it includes truly pathetic photos of this poor fellow sitting in the ruins of his house. Corporate oxymoron?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

We Blew It

P.J. O'Rourke: We Blew It: "What will destroy our country and us is not the financial crisis but the fact that liberals think the free market is some kind of sect or cult, which conservatives have asked Americans to take on faith. That's not what the free market is. The free market is just a measurement, a device to tell us what people are willing to pay for any given thing at any given moment. The free market is a bathroom scale. You may hate what you see when you step on the scale. 'Jeeze, 230 pounds!' But you can't pass a law making yourself weigh 185. Liberals think you can. And voters--all the voters, right up to the tippy-top corner office of Goldman Sachs--think so too.

We, the conservatives, who do understand the free market, had the responsibility to--as it were--foreclose upon this mess. The market is a measurement, but that measuring does not work to the advantage of a nation or its citizens unless the assessments of volume, circumference, and weight are conducted with transparency and under the rule of law. We've had the rule of law largely in our hands since 1980. Where is the transparency? It's one more job we botched.

Although I must say we're doing good work on our final task--attaching the garden hose to our car's exhaust pipe and running it in through a vent window. Barack and Michelle will be by in a moment with some subsidized ethanol to top up our gas tank. And then we can turn the key."

This is a bitterly funny and eloquent screed.

William Bell to join Jefferson County Commission today - Breaking News from The Birmingham News -

William Bell to join Jefferson County Commission today - Breaking News from The Birmingham News - "Bell joins a group of politicians bitterly divided over the financial fate of the county. His vote could determine whether Jefferson County files for the largest municipal bankruptcy in the nation's history or works to pay in full Wall Street creditors who are owed more than $4.7 billion."
Southwest News-Herald Suburban: Cook County Clerk Blasts TIF Expansion: "Cook County Clerk David Orr recently produced a report in which he blamed the proliferation of tax-increment financing districts in the county for siphoning too much revenue away from taxing bodies such as schools and libraries. Tax increment financing districts, usually set up for 23 years, are an economic development tool designed to attract business development to blighted areas. They do not raise taxes but for the life of the TIF, any property taxes generated within them above a certain level are returned to the district for redevelopment. According to the report. TIFs are the fastest growing part of property tax bills, although the revenue they take in is not listed on bills. Orr pointed out in the report that nearly $900 million in property tax money was diverted into TIFs in Cook County in 2007."
David Orr is one of the good guys in Cook County politics. This TIF situation is becoming a major problem for school districts and libraries and all the other special taxing districts. They are not getting their share of the revenue from growth, but they end up with a share of the costs. The schools get the kids from the new subdivision, but they don't get the increased property tax revenue from their parents.

Now imagine that the new subdivision is an HOA. The municipality doesn't even supply them with a full set of services but takes a full share of property tax. The parents end up paying all their property tax, all their HOA assessments (for the services not covered by property tax), and then they have to pony up a tax increase to fund the schools because the schools have all these new students to serve, but the TIF is getting the additional property tax revenues their development generated. No wonder the housing market crashed--it is amazing more people haven't walked away from their homes. When you add the tax situation to the mortgage situation many of them must feel like cows being milked.

Detroit Is Tanking, But Toyota's in Trouble, Too | Autopia from

Detroit Is Tanking, But Toyota's in Trouble, Too | Autopia from "Toyota's stock nosedived 17 percent last week -- its greatest decline in 18 years -- after the company announced it will see an operating profit of just $6.9 billion, a 73.6 percent decline over last year. That's far worse than expected, and it underscores not only the dismal state of the domestic auto market but some strategic mistakes Toyota made on its way to becoming the biggest automaker in the world."
What the heck. Let's bail them out too. The article says auto sales dropped 32% in October. Not their fault. Shovel the money at them.
The Great TARP Bait and Switch: "This morning Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson addressed a skeptical press about the latest plans for those 700 billion dollars that were appropriated for the 'TARP' -- or Troubled Asset Recovery Program. Now Paulson says Treasury won't buy those 'Trouble Assets' -- one of the many metamorphoses this program has had in its young life.

In the meantime, care to apply for some TARP money? Turns out there's a five-page, downloadable document to fill in -- if you're's the link.

And here's ABC's Dan Arnall on whether there has been, as he puts it, a 'Great TARP Bait & Switch'."

All you troubled condos and HOAs, better get to work on that 5 page form. Pretty soon you will be standing behind Iceland. Editorials, Political Cartoons, and Polls from Investor's Business Daily -- Another Brick In 'The Wall'? Editorials, Political Cartoons, and Polls from Investor's Business Daily -- Another Brick In 'The Wall'?: "Transition: Jamie Gorelick may be back, this time as attorney general. It was her 'wall of separation' that that left us blind pre-9/11. And let's not forget her admirable service at Fannie Mae."
I hope this rumor is groundless.

MotherJones Blog: Was Obama Economic Envoy Part of the Problem?

MotherJones Blog: Was Obama Economic Envoy Part of the Problem?
Obama is sending former Congressman Jim Leach to the G-20 summit. When he was in Congress he chaired the House Banking Committee and was one of the major proponents of passage of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley legislation (see that "Leach" in the title?). That's the bill that ended the separation of commercial and investment banking. You know--the law that Obama said was passed because of evil "special interests" and caused the collapse of the credit markets? Republicans blamed in on government forcing banks to lend to unqualified people, but Democrats pointed to deregulation of the financial markets. They also demonized Phil Gramm on that score, and here is Leach on the same bill.
Ahead of the Bell: American Express seeks $3.5B: Financial News - Yahoo! Finance: "Earlier this week, American Express received approval from the Federal Reserve to become a bank holding company, which is a similar structure to traditional commercial banks. The credit card company now has access to financing from the Fed and the ability to grow a large deposit base. The increased funding opportunities through government programs, including the potential $3.5 billion investment, could be a huge boost to American Express as one of its primary sources of funding has nearly disappeared amid the ongoing credit crisis. American Express relied on packaging pools of credit card debt and selling them to investors in the securitization market. As investors have shied away from purchasing all but the safest forms of debt, the market for credit card-backed securities has dwindled. American Express is also facing a slowdown in the broader economy, which has led to more customers missing payments and cutting back on spending, hurting the company's profitability."
Well, of course. Why shouldn't the federal taxpayers "invest" in American Express? Their venture into peddling securitized credit card debt has proven to be a mistake, and we taxpayers are supposed to insure them against business risks. Along with the auto industry. And the banks. And the insurance companies. And the states. And the cities.

US May Lose Its 'AAA' Rating - General * Europe * News * Story -

US May Lose Its 'AAA' Rating - General * Europe * News * Story - "'The U.S. might really have to look at a default on the bankruptcy reorganization of the present financial system' and the bankruptcy of the government is not out of the realm of possibility, Hennecke said."
Maybe the federal government should get in its own bailout line. That would turn it into a circle, and people can just walk around and around.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Voting Machines Elect One Of Their Own As President | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

Voting Machines Elect One Of Their Own As President | The Onion - America's Finest News Source
Given the problems that both major party candidates had, this comes as no surprise.

FHA Issues New Guidelines to Curb the Practice of ‘Buy and Bail’ | RISMedia

FHA Issues New Guidelines to Curb the Practice of ‘Buy and Bail’ | RISMedia: "The practice of “buy and bail” is where the home buyer purchases (the “buy”), for example, a more affordable dwelling with the intention to cease making payments on the previous home’s mortgage (the “bail”). Among the various reasons for a home buyer to engage in this practice may be they owe the bank more money than the house is worth, they could no longer afford their monthly mortgage payments, or they simply have found a more affordable or nicer home and can’t sell the home they are vacating.

But how can homeowners get a loan for a new home if they are barely able to make their current payments? In many cases, they tell the underwriters they plan to rent out the first house and seek to use that income to qualify for a new mortgage on their new principal residence. In essence, they are trying to qualify and secure the mortgage on the new home before the severely negative consequences the “pending” foreclosure on the first home will have on their credit rating. According to FHA, the practice of “buy and bail” poses a risk to FHA, FHA-approved lenders, and consequently to FHA’s ability to help new homeowners.

On September 19, 2008, FHA released Mortgagee Letter 2008-25, which addresses underwriting instructions for converting existing owner-occupied homes to rentals. The purpose of these news guidelines is to prevent FHA loans from being used in “buy and bail” situations."
Where do people learn about all these devious little strategies? All I know how to do is buy a house, make the payment, sell the house, buy another house, make the payments...repeat until hit by taxi while crossing street in downtown Chicago.

Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Feds to Speed Up Home Loan Modifications -

Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Feds to Speed Up Home Loan Modifications - "Sources told FOX Business Network that Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and U.S. government officials will announce later Tuesday that they will hasten efforts to modify hundreds of thousands of loans that are past due. The goal is to bring the ratio of household debt to income for the borrowers down to 38%. U.S. government officials also plan to encourage large banks that hold loans to take similar steps.

The program will be an extension of HOPE NOW alliance, which was announced last year and is designed to prevent foreclosures by reworking the terms of mortgages."

Council ranks term 'British' with 'negroes' and bans it in case it upsets Scots, Welsh and minorities | Mail Online

Council ranks term 'British' with 'negroes' and bans it in case it upsets Scots, Welsh and minorities | Mail Online: "The word ‘British’ can be as offensive as ‘negro’ and ‘half-caste’, according to a race relations body.

The publicly-funded organisation’s views have been adopted by Caerphilly council in South Wales for a leaflet advising staff on how to deal with the public.

In a section on what words or phrases not to use to avoid causing offence, the leaflet solemnly informs the council’s 9,000 workers: ‘The idea of “British” implies a false sense of unity – many Scots, Welsh and Irish resist being called British and the land denoted by the term contains a wide variety of cultures, languages and religions.’"
The nation's official name is "The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland," so whaat do you call people from that nation, if not British? Do we call them "Uniteds"? "Kingdomites"? How about "UKs"?

I hope this madness doesn't spread across the pond. If the PC police start saying we can't call ourselves Americans there will be a revolution.

Sacramento Bee -- Capitol Alert

Sacramento Bee -- Capitol Alert: "Assembly Speaker Karen Bass said today that the nation's most populous state deserves the same bailout consideration given to financial and other industries teetering on the verge of disaster.

'We can't let one of the world's largest economies go over the cliff,' she told reporters.

Bass, D-Los Angeles, made the comments shortly after the Legislative Analyst's Office released a report projecting that the state faces a $27.8 billion shortfall over the next 20 months.

Bass said she is aware that California's congressional delegation and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are 'working on an economic stimulus plan (and) talking about assistance to states.'"
Bass says all they want is a measly 5 or 6 billion. That would still leave another 20 billion or so to cover, but maybe they they sell the freeway system to the Chinese.

Obama asks Bush to provide help for automakers - International Herald Tribune

Obama asks Bush to provide help for automakers - International Herald Tribune: "The struggling auto industry was thrust into the middle of a political standoff between the White House and Democrats on Monday as President-elect Barack Obama urged President George W. Bush to support immediate emergency aid."
I think "help for autoWORKERS" would be a more accurate characterization of this proposal.

WHO TV - Des Moines: Citigroup imposing foreclosure moratorium

WHO TV - Des Moines: Citigroup imposing foreclosure moratorium: "NEW YORK (AP) - Citigroup is the latest big bank to announce a moratorium on foreclosures to trim its losses from bad mortgages.

Citigroup says if a borrower is in his principal residence, is working with the bank in good faith, and has enough income for affordable mortgage payments, it won't initiate a foreclosure or complete a foreclosure sale."

Where Homes Are Worth Less Than the Mortgage - Interactive Graphic -

Where Homes Are Worth Less Than the Mortgage - Interactive Graphic -
Check out this map.

A Town Drowns in Debt as Home Values Plunge -

A Town Drowns in Debt as Home Values Plunge - "Because of plunging home values, almost 90 percent of homeowners here owe more on their mortgages than their houses are worth, according to figures released Monday. That is the highest percentage in the country. The average homeowner in Mountain House is “underwater,” as it is known, by $122,000."
Submitted for your consideration: Mountain House, California, where 90% of the population is upside down on the mortgage. Fred Pilot found this one.

Poll shows lukewarm support for federal auto bailout -

Poll shows lukewarm support for federal auto bailout - USATODAY.comGM stock went from $90 per share 8 years ago to a princely $2.80 today. How can people not be lukewarm about seeing their tax dollars blown on a company that so obviously is doomed?

Mayors want part of auto bailout | The Detroit News |

Mayors want part of auto bailout | The Detroit News | "STERLING HEIGHTS -- The mayors of four large Metro Detroit communities on Monday called for a share of the federal bailout sought by Detroit's Big Three automakers to help redevelop shuttered facilities and factories.

The mayors of Warren, Sterling Heights, Livonia and Dearborn met at the Sterling Heights Public Library for about an hour to discuss the proposal. The mayors were joined by representatives from Gov. Jennifer Granholm's office, Michigan's congressional delegation, the Michigan Economic Development Corp., the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments and the Michigan Municipal League.

The four city leaders -- Warren Mayor James Fouts, Sterling Heights Mayor Richard Notte, Dearborn Mayor Jack O'Reilly and Livonia Mayor Jack Kirksey -- are calling for the proposed federal bailout of the auto industry to include a provision that would give their communities and others like them 20 percent of the assessed value of properties owned by car companies or auto parts makers within their borders for redevelopment."

Cities in the bailout line--just as I predicted. This $700 billion isn't going to go far at this rate.

Final salary pension schemes facing 'extinction' after credit crunch drives them £100bn into red | Mail Online

Final salary pension schemes facing 'extinction' after credit crunch drives them £100bn into red | Mail Online: "In a sign of the growing pensions apartheid, they say it is only private sector workers who will lose out.

Public sector workers have nothing to worry about. Around 90 per cent have a protected pension, and the Government is controversially ignoring the demands for these generous schemes to be cut back."

This is Britain, but the same dynamic is at work here. Public employees often have their pension benefit levels guaranteed by their state constitution.

Circuit City files for bankruptcy protection: Financial News - Yahoo! Finance

Circuit City files for bankruptcy protection: Financial News - Yahoo! FinanceThe company also said it cut 700 more jobs at its Richmond, Va., headquarters, after announcing a week ago that it would close 20 percent of its stores and lay off thousands of workers.

In court documents, Chief Financial Officer Bruce H. Besanko cited three factors: erosion of vendor confidence, decreased liquidity and the global economic crisis.

Monday, November 10, 2008

ABC News: Meet America's First Transgender Mayor

ABC News: Meet America's First Transgender Mayor: "The first time Stu Rasmussen was elected mayor of Silverton, Ore., he wore shirts and pants. This time around, after a landslide victory, he will be stepping into office donning a dress and makeup."
The mayor says this is a conservative town, and "The community was very receptive and accepting, with a few exceptions."

Architecture: A City That's Built at the Bottom of a Lake

Architecture: A City That's Built at the Bottom of a Lake: "Here's something you don't see every day: a town built in the middle of a lake. Not on an island, but actually below water level. It's the ancient city of Seuthopolis, in Bulgaria, which was discovered in 1948. Six years later, a dam was destroyed and it was covered in water, ending up at the bottom of a huge lake. Now, the city is being unearthed via the most insane architectural project ever."
This is cool.
Belief that country heading in right direction is at all-time low - "Only 16 percent of those questioned in a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Monday say things are going well in the country today. That's an all-time low. Eighty-three percent say things are going badly, which is an all-time high."
You could say Bush is not a hard warm-up act to follow, except that when he leaves the stage will be on fire.

Daily Express | UK News :: TV chefs send sales of liver, kidneys and tripe soaring: "SALES of offal are on the up thanks in part to TV celebrity chefs.
Figures yesterday revealed that sales of liver, kidneys and tripe have shot up by nearly 70 per cent since 2003. Such cuts are often cheaper for families on a budget."

Seems that Gordon Ramsay favors the odd pile of guts, so the fans are following suit. Next up: how to cook what you found in a dumpster.

Auto Makers Force Bailout Issue - "The auto-industry crisis is forcing a broader debate over how far the government should go to prop up ailing industries, as the Bush administration resists Democrats' request to use part of the $700 billion financial-rescue fund to aid Detroit's three struggling car makers."
I see a big difference between bailing out financial institutions and auto makers. The former were basically solvent until recently when the housing market crashed and a series of unusual events occurred. Yes, they made mistakes, but they were functioning in their market. The auto makers have been in trouble for at least 35 years due to their high labor costs (that they contracted for with the UAW), consumer dissatisfaction with their product, and other things that won't change if they get money from the taxpayers. I can see the financial sector making a comeback. I can't see the automakers doing that. So it seems like just giving money to these companies so they can keep paying their workers for a while longer, so they can build some more cars that don't sell particularly well (to the people who bailed them out), and then in a few more years they will be back for another bailout. Maybe instead of the taxpayers bailing them out, Americans could just buy their cars. I drive a Ford Freestyle myself, and I consider that my contribution to the bailout.

HOA bans rain barrels in woman's front yard | | Local News for Charlotte, North Carolina | Local News

HOA bans rain barrels in woman's front yard | | Local News for Charlotte, North Carolina | Local News: "While rain barrels conserve water, not everyone at St. Ives is happy about them. The St. Ives Homeowners Association newsletter says it all. 'The installation of these barrels will not be permitted in front of any property.' That's right. The HOA says rain barrels are not allowed in front of homes, even though Von Hedrich uses shrubbery to camouflage them."
At this rate, pretty soon HOAs will find themselves getting crossways with the hippies who are headed for Washington to run the country for the next four years. Thanks to Fred Pilot for this link.

CTV British Columbia- Condo owners may lose homes over repair bill - CTV News, Shows and Sports -- Canadian Television

CTV British Columbia- Condo owners may lose homes over repair bill - CTV News, Shows and Sports -- Canadian Television
Construction defects, roof leaks, and major expenses.

Pol Who Peed on Crowd Swears Off Booze | NBC New York

Jersey City Councilman Who Peed on Crowd Swears Off Booze | NBC New York: "The New Jersey councilman who allegedly urinated on a crowd of concertgoers from the balcony of a Washington, D.C. nightclub swore off booze on Sunday -- two days after he was busted for the embarrassing stunt."
Let's see if any HOA directors can top that. Worldwide Worldwide: "Nov. 10 (Bloomberg) -- The Federal Reserve is refusing to identify the recipients of almost $2 trillion of emergency loans from American taxpayers or the troubled assets the central bank is accepting as collateral. Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said in September they would comply with congressional demands for transparency in a $700 billion bailout of the banking system. Two months later, as the Fed lends far more than that in separate rescue programs that didn't require approval by Congress, Americans have no idea where their money is going or what securities the banks are pledging in return."
I wonder what would have happened in the election if McCain had come out in opposition to the bailout. It would have passed anyway, but I have yet to meet anybody who thinks it was a great idea.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

As US churches mark election, Obama skips services -

As US churches mark election, Obama skips services - "CHICAGO—His name was invoked at church services nationwide on Sunday, but President-elect Obama didn't attend any of them. He went to the gym instead."
Definitely a safer bet than listening to Jeremiah Wright. The article reminds us that he has been saying since he ditched his toxic pastor in May that he was looking for a new church. I assume he was waiting to see whether it would be in Chicago or DC, not to mention that he has been done more flying around the country than a UPS pilot. Now he needs a church in the district. I wonder if he will choose Foundry United Methodist. That's the power church the Clintons attended.

Foreclosures Pick Pockets of Homeowners Associations - "If you live in a neighborhood that has a homeowners association, brace yourself. Neighbors losing their homes to foreclosure and short sales not only are dragging down your property values but also are setting you up for higher fees. There's even a threat that your entire neighborhood could grow shabby over time, if cash runs short for upkeep."
Oh, and did we neglect to mention that there is even a threat that you will get socked with a five-figure special assessment?

My Way News - Regulators shut banks in Texas, California

My Way News - Regulators shut banks in Texas, California: "WASHINGTON (AP) - Regulators shut down Houston-based Franklin Bank and Security Pacific Bank in Los Angeles on Friday, bringing the number of failures of federally insured banks this year to 19."
I banked at Security Pacific for many years. It was everywhere in Southern California. What a strange feeling to read that they are shut down.

Obama's Heightened Security Turns Neighborhood Into Virtual Fortress - Elections

Obama's Heightened Security Turns Neighborhood Into Virtual Fortress - Elections: "President-elect Barack Obama's Chicago neighborhood has become a very different place to live now that Secret Service agents have turned the once easy-going area into a virtual fortress to protect the next president, The Times of London reported."
Hyde Park...a gated community.

Big-box stores closing across West Valley

Big-box stores closing across West Valley: by Erin Zlomek - Nov. 7, 2008 07:36 AM
The Arizona Republic

"Big-box retailers that once aggressively expanded across the West Valley while home construction was on the rise are closing en masse as the difficult economy continues to hurt business."

This is turning into suburbanization in reverse.