Wednesday, December 30, 2009

SSRN-Terms of Use by Mark Lemley

SSRN-Terms of Use by Mark Lemley: "Ten years ago, courts required affirmative evidence of agreement to form a contract. No court had enforced a shrinkwrap license, much less treated a unilateral statement of preferences as a binding agreement. Today, by contrast, it seems widely (though not universally) accepted that if you write a document and call it a contract, courts will enforce it as a contract even if no one agrees to it."
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New law review article that talks about the increasing use of standardized adhesion "contracts."

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Home prices are flat for second month in a row -- latimes.com

Home prices are flat for second month in a row -- latimes.com: "Home prices were flat for the second month in a row, according to a closely watched national index, indicating that the nascent housing recovery may be losing some steam. Brisk sales fueled by low interest rates, inexpensive properties and a popular tax credit for first-time buyers helped bolster home prices this summer. Now many experts expect some of that activity to slow down."
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In other words, the "nascent housing recovery" never existed. Banks have been dumping their foreclosed properties and the feds are keeping interest rates very low and handing out borrowed money. That isn't a recovery.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

New Restrictions Quickly Added for Air Passengers - NYTimes.com

New Restrictions Quickly Added for Air Passengers - NYTimes.com: "The government was vague about the steps it was taking, saying that it wanted the security experience to be “unpredictable” and that passengers would not find the same measures at every airport — a prospect that may upset airlines and travelers alike."
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The man who did this was so obviously dangerous that his own father had warned the US Embassy about him. He was on a list of people known to have terrorist connections. He had been going to places like Yemen, where the bomb was built by some Al Qaeda maniac (so the stories say at this point). But he had a US visa and hopped on a plane that was to land in Detroit--except that he tried to blow it up with explosives in his underwear.

So--what does the government learn from this huge security failure? Don't let anybody get out of their seat or hold anything in their lap for the last hour of the flight.

This nation is being run by idiots. No other conclusion is possible.

biggest-losers-where-americans-are-not-moving: Personal Finance News from Yahoo! Finance

biggest-losers-where-americans-are-not-moving: Personal Finance News from Yahoo! Finance
Biggest population loser: California, followed by New York, Michigan, Illinois, and Ohio.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The War Over California - Ross Douthat Blog - NYTimes.com

The War Over California - Ross Douthat Blog - NYTimes.com: "The argument about what went wrong with California is really an argument about the future of America. To the right, the Golden State’s ongoing crisis is a case study in liberal failure: A big-spending state that lived far beyond its means, and let its public-policy priorities be dictated by the appetites of liberal interest groups instead of the common good. To the left, it’s a case study in how a malign nexus of conservative intransigence and institutional sclerosis can thwart good governance. The problem in California isn’t the spending, liberals argue: It’s the supermajority requirements that prevent a liberal majority from raising the taxes necessary to pay for it."
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Why do people think California is the only state going under? Illinois isn't far behind California. Neither are New Jersey, New York, Michigan, Ohio, and a few others. If you take them all together, I think some common factors are obvious:

1. Federal unfunded mandates in education, health, and other social services can be devastating to state and local governments that have to serve a large low-income population.
2. States with powerful public employee unions have been forced into assuming crippling pension and health care burdens.
3. The major sources of revenue relied upon by state and local governments are political dynamite. Property taxation has been a source of voter revolt for 30 years. Sales tax increases drive business elsewhere and in any event these revenues decline in recession. And just begin the conversation about increasing state income tax and watch the fireworks.
4. And the neat little privatization and special district gimmicks that state and local governments have been using--CIDs, TIFs, SIDS, SADS, BIDs, etc.--are proving to be short term wonders and long term problems.

The recession made things worse, but a whole lot of states were already in big, big structural trouble.

Recession Slows Growth of Population in Sun Belt - NYTimes.com

Recession Slows Growth of Population in Sun Belt - NYTimes.com: "States in the South and the West that grew by exceptional leaps and bounds during the real estate boom of just a few years ago are now experiencing sharply slower growth in population, the Census Bureau said Wednesday."
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May as well stay put here in the snow belt, says I.

Seven-year-old caught ploughing in Germany - Yahoo! News

Seven-year-old caught ploughing in Germany - Yahoo! News: "BERLIN (AFP) – A seven-year-old boy was stopped by police in northern Germany while trying to plough snow with a front loader he borrowed from his parents' business, authorities said."
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See what happens when you try to take a little initiative?

Ancient Homeowner Association Rules | Arts & Culture | Smithsonian Magazine

Ancient Homeowner Association Rules | Arts & Culture | Smithsonian Magazine: "In the interests of achieving a pleasing harmony and a clene appearance for the community, the colour of the exterior of each abode shall not be changed without leve. If leve be granted, the abode may then be peynted only with one of the following colours: riverbed clay grey, cow dung brown or farm field burnt umber."
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Thanks to Shu for locating this fascinating piece of ancient urban archaeology.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

State can no longer leave colleges in 'crisis mode' :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Commentary

State can no longer leave colleges in 'crisis mode' :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Commentary: "Here are some of the numbers: The state is in arrears $445 million to the University of Illinois system, $125 million to Southern Illinois University, $37 million to Northern Illinois University and $28 million to Western Illinois University. The state's other universities are in similar straits.

As a short-term solution, the universities have imposed hiring freezes, used up reserves and delayed paying vendors. They are considering furloughs and layoffs. At WIU, President Al Goldfarb said the school has even postponed repairing an elevator in the university's library to help save enough money to meet the payroll.

'All of the state's universities are in crisis mode right now,' said SIU President Glenn Poshard."

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I keep hearing all this Obama/Democratic Party rhetoric about how the recession is over and the recovery is under way. This is just one example of many institutions in this society that are in an untenable position. It isn't a temporary thing. It is a structural thing. And the same can be said of many, many cities and counties and even states.

School Board sues lawmaker over rent :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Education

School Board sues lawmaker over rent :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Education: "State Rep. Monique Davis (D-Chicago) has been occupying a rent-free Chicago Board of Education building for seven years and owes more than $500,000 in rent, leaseholder taxes and penalties on it, a new report by the schools inspector general indicated Monday."
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What a surprise to see that "(D-Chicago)" thing after her name.

Small-business bankruptcies rise 81% in California -- latimes.com

Small-business bankruptcies rise 81% in California -- latimes.com: "As credit lines have shrunk and consumers have cut back on spending, thousands of small businesses have closed their doors over the last year. The plight of struggling firms has been aggravated by the reluctance of banks to lend money, said Brian Headd, an economist at the Small Business Administration's office of advocacy.

'While bankruptcies are up, overall, small-business closures are up even more,' Headd said."

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But this article starts off with the party line about how the rest of the economy is "stabilizing." I just don't see it. Government budgets at all levels are in terrible shape. The stimulus created a small improvement in unemployment, but when that wears off, what then? You can't get the economy going by borrowing money from the Chinese to fix potholes.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Left To Die: Did Off-Duty NYC EMTs Refuse To Help? - wcbstv.com

Left To Die: Did Off-Duty NYC EMTs Refuse To Help? - wcbstv.com: "Dead is 25-year-old Eutisha Rennix, who was six months pregnant. She was a cashier at a bakery in downtown Brooklyn, near the fire department's headquarters. The victim's family said Eutisha Rennix suffered shortness of breath and collapsed with two off-duty EMTs in the store buying breakfast. 'After she collapsed they asked for help. They were told, call it in … because they were on a break. They got their bagels and coffee and left,' Cynthia Rennix said."
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Your stimulus package dollars at work.

Las Vegas Woman Victim of Foreclosure Mistake - Las Vegas Now

Las Vegas Woman Victim of Foreclosure Mistake - Las Vegas Now: "As Mauck walks around her now empty condo, she can't help but remember how things used to look. Every room in the home is empty and Mauck says the reason is a mistake of address numbers. Her address is 1157, which is close to 1156, a condo that is in foreclosure."
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They "trashed out" the wrong condo--meaning "the Brenkus Team of Keller and Williams Realty" threw away every single thing she owned. And now of course they are disputing her claim concerning how much they owe her, and won't talk to the press about it.

10 Housing Markets Where Prices Have Gone Up - Yahoo! Real Estate

10 Housing Markets Where Prices Have Gone Up - Yahoo! Real Estate: "The ten metro areas that enjoyed the greatest home-price increases over the past year (through June 30, 2009) largely missed the housing boom and didn't indulge in subprime-lending excesses.

With no boom, these cities had no need to bust. Instead, their housing markets have plugged along at 4% annual price appreciation, below the national average of 6% annually between 1968 and 2008, according to the National Association of Realtors. Most of these areas are relatively small, with populations less than 200,000."

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Texarkana, here I come. Not.

Sacramento's fast-tracking of projects hits snag - Sacramento News - Local and Breaking Sacramento News | Sacramento Bee

Sacramento's fast-tracking of projects hits snag - Sacramento News - Local and Breaking Sacramento News | Sacramento Bee: "Underfunded cities and counties have struggled to keep up with demand for residential and commercial inspections and plan reviews. And owners of large projects have long chafed at too much oversight and burdensome delays.

That conflict helped produce the city's fast-track program. And while the idea of green-lighting some makeovers with only verbal authority alarmed some people, the plan's backers said the program did not compromise public safety or work quality."

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Oh, no. Of course not. Perish the thought.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A power struggle in Carson -- latimes.com

A power struggle in Carson -- latimes.com: "Southern California churns with homeowner association disputes, but the one that has consumed a sprawling complex of town homes in Carson is in a whole different stratosphere -- disputed elections, a city official threatened with arrest and armed guards stationed at the association headquarters. Even the Boys and Girls Club got caught in the middle."
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Thanks to Fred Pilot for this link to another example of HOA dysfunction.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Top 7 insane homeowners association rules - THE WEEK

Top 7 insane homeowners association rules - THE WEEK
You know HOA madness has made the big time when you start getting lists like this. Thanks to Fred Pilot for the link.

And once again--has the industry begun to get the picture yet? Let me spell it out: you have lost the public relations war.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Jack Lalanne recovering after surgery

WBBM 780 - Chicago's #1 source for local news, traffic and weather - Jack Lalanne recovering after surgery: "Fitness pioneer Jack LaLanne is recovering from heart valve surgery at his home in Morro Bay.

LaLanne's publicist, Ariel Hankin, said Tuesday that the 95-year-old underwent the procedure at a Los Angeles hospital on Dec. 8.

Hankin says that before the surgery LaLanne told his family, 'I can't die, it would wreck my image.'

The weightlifting guru is doing fine and expected to make a full recovery."

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Go, Jack. You're good for another 95 years now.

10 Real Houses Inspired by Cartoons - Oddee.com


10 Real Houses Inspired by Cartoons - Oddee.com
I want the hobbit house. And note that none of these could have been built with an HOA around.

Man accused of choking neighbor over Christmas lights - NBC-2.com WBBH News for Fort Myers, Cape Coral & Naples, Florida

Man accused of choking neighbor over Christmas lights - NBC-2.com WBBH News for Fort Myers, Cape Coral & Naples, Florida: "BOKEELIA: The president of a local homeowners association says he was choked by one of his neighbors after a disagreement over Christmas lights Monday. Lee County sheriff's deputies responded to 16958 Captains Drive after 67-year-old Robert Dale Burkett reported that he'd been assaulted. Burkett says he told the neighbor, who has not been named, that he and his wife weren't following the rules regarding Christmas lights."
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As Bing Crosby sang, "I'm dreaming of...CHOKING MY HOA PRESIDENT!!"

Thanks to Fred Pilot. Ho ho ho.

Old race restrictive covenant surfaces

NAACP: Homeowners group discriminatory - UPI.com: "The state and local NAACP filed a complaint in 2007 with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Relations Committee for posting a sample deed that contained an almost-100-year-old clause stating that 'people of the Caucasian race only' could own or live in a Myers Park house, the Charlotte Observer reported Tuesday."
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These old covenants are still around. From the 1880s to the 1940s they were commonplace, so plenty of old associations have them, even though they have been unenforceable since 1948. Thanks to Fred Pilot for the link.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

FOXNews.com - Not So Private Property?: Clean Water Restoration Act Raises Fears of Land Grab

FOXNews.com - Not So Private Property?: Clean Water Restoration Act Raises Fears of Land Grab: "The Clean Water Restoration Act currently pending in the U.S. Senate could reach to control even a 'seasonal puddle' on private property.

Eleven senators and 17 representatives in the U.S. House have sent a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker Nancy Pelosi blasting the measure as one of the boldest property grab attempts of all time.

This bill is described by opponents as a sweeping overhaul of the Clean Water Act that could threaten both physical land and jobs by wiping out some farmers entirely."

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The EPA has jurisdiction over "navigable" waters. This bill removes the word "navigable." You know that puddle in your back yard?

D.C. vouchers on life support - washingtonpost.com

D.C. vouchers on life support - washingtonpost.com: "IT IS DISTRESSINGLY clear that congressional leaders never really meant it when they said there would be a fair hearing to determine the future of the District's federally funded school voucher program. How else to explain language tucked away in the mammoth omnibus spending bill that would effectively kill the Washington Opportunity Scholarship Program?"
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The teachers unions are the only critics of this program. And Dick Durbin (Ambulance Chaser-IL) is probably the Senator who let this happen.

Canada freezes as snow storm strands thousands - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Canada freezes as snow storm strands thousands - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation): "People in the north-central part of the Canadian province of Ontario are digging out after one of the worst snow storms on record.

Some areas north of Toronto received as much as 100 centimetres of snow over the past three days."

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Global warming strikes again.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Dan Walters: A two-tier California is now reality - Sacramento Politics - California Politics | Sacramento Bee

Dan Walters: A two-tier California is now reality - Sacramento Politics - California Politics | Sacramento Bee: "The most graphic statistical evidence of California's two-tier economy, however, is found in a new study released by the United Ways of California. It found that 30 percent of California households lack enough income to cover 'bare-bones living expenses.'"
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Fred Pilot sent this along. I am one of the people who talked about a two-tier society, way back in the mid 1980s. But I always figured the top tier would include the people living in private communities. Now it looks as though it isn't that simple--many of the casualties in the current recession are living in CIDs.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Dems to lift debt ceiling by $1.8 trillion, fear 2010 backlash - - POLITICO.com

Dems to lift debt ceiling by $1.8 trillion, fear 2010 backlash - - POLITICO.com
The federal government is broke and going broker. At least a dozen states are insolvent--probably more. There are cities filing for bankruptcy. Can you imagine what the Republican Party could do with the issue of lunatic government borrowing and spending if they had some cohesion and leadership? But instead we have people talking about a Palin-Beck ticket in 2012 and yammering about gay marriage and every other social issue under the sun. Unbelievable.

Public Policy Polling: Obama's December Standing

Public Policy Polling: Obama's December Standing: "Perhaps the greatest measure of Obama's declining support is that just 50% of voters now say they prefer having him as President to George W. Bush, with 44% saying they'd rather have his predecessor. Given the horrendous approval ratings Bush showed during his final term that's somewhat of a surprise and an indication that voters are increasingly placing the blame on Obama for the country's difficulties instead of giving him space because of the tough situation he inherited."
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Now, that has to hurt.

Glocester farmer, evicted in foreclosure, seeks to compel care for animals | Rhode Island news | projo.com | The Providence Journal

Glocester farmer, evicted in foreclosure, seeks to compel care for animals | Rhode Island news | projo.com | The Providence Journal: "The evicted owner of Bonniedale Farms, upset with the way 136 animals on his farm have been treated since he was forced off the property Monday by Wells Fargo Bank, plans to go before a Superior Court judge Wednesday to get a restraining order to force the bank or its agents to provide food, water and care for the animals left behind."
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What an awful situation. Thanks to Mystery Reader for bringing it to our attention.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Cantor Introduces Flag Resolution Into U.S. House - wtvr

Cantor Introduces Flag Resolution Into U.S. House - wtvr: "WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. House of Representatives is reviewing a resolution that would allow all Congressional Medal of Honor recipients to properly display the flag on their property at all times."
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Courtesy of Republican Eric Cantor, the latest salvo in the Barfoot affair. Thanks to Fred Pilot for this update.

Homeowner Explains 'Hitler' Graffiti - Orlando News Story - WKMG Orlando

Homeowner Explains 'Hitler' Graffiti - Orlando News Story - WKMG Orlando: "The messages she spray-painted in large red letters on her home, located at 430 Emerald Drive, said, 'Hitler would be a welcome neighbor here. Stop the harassment to my family.' Another message said 'Merry Xmas.'

Jones told Local 6 News partner Florida Today on Tuesday afternoon that she had been mocked by her neighbors and humiliated at meetings, all because she failed to pay the $120 monthly homeowners association fee."

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You would think that by now the lawyers and property managers who advise these associations would have the big picture, but it seems that some people still don't get it. Let me spell it out: your Titanic seems to have hit the iceberg of public opinion. I don't think rearranging the deck chairs will help at this point.

Much Of Upper Midwest Gets Slammed In Snowstorm - cbs2chicago.com

Much Of Upper Midwest Gets Slammed In Snowstorm - cbs2chicago.com: "The first major winter snowstorm of the season made life miserable throughout much of the Upper Midwest and the governor of Wisconsin has already declared a state of emergency."
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Last night I was driving the twins to indoor soccer and piano lessons in a snowstorm, and this morning I spent an hour and a half shoveling. It is still snowing. I hope the weather is nice in Copenhagen.

Federal Officials From HUD Accuse Condo Association Of Discriminating Against Kids - wbztv.com

Federal Officials From HUD Accuse Condo Association Of Discriminating Against Kids - wbztv.com: "The kids are no longer allowed in common areas at the Stonecleave Condos, only a small area on the edge of the complex. It's unfair and kids say its a bad rule.

'We go from house to house or stay in one house. So you gotta stay in one house and watch a movie,' says Tyler, Tracey's 15-year-old son.

Now the US department of Housing is stepping in saying its discrimination against families with kids to charge them a ten dollar fine every time they use the common grassy areas or ride their bikes. A judge will hear the case and could award damages."

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It's bad for the grass, you see. The people who make rules like this must be hatching out of pods.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Homeowners association drops legal action against Colonel - NBC12 News, Weather Sports, Traffic, and Programming Guide for Richmond, VA |

Homeowners association drops legal action against Colonel -
This is a great day for everybody who has spoken out against violations of civil liberties by homeowners associations. This went all the way to the White House. Finally, at long last, the HOA bullies went up against the wrong guy--Col. Van T. Barfoot--and lost. Let's hope that the message went out to all the baskethead control freaks and file-churning lawyers who are tyrannizing home owners all over the nation that the country and its policy-makers finally, at long last, see the big picture.

Col. Barfoot gets White House support | Richmond Times-Dispatch

Col. Barfoot gets White House support | Richmond Times-Dispatch: "I think its silly to think that somebody that's done that couldn't have a flagpole,' said Gibbs, the White House press secretary, referring to Barfoot's service in three wars."
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This HOA is taking a ferocious beating in the national press. Latest shot comes from President Obama's press secretary. Anybody with an ounce of common sense would make a public announcement that in view of this man's service to his country, they are letting him keep the flagpole. But if they had an ounce of common sense they never would have gone after him in the first place.

Thanks to George Staropoli for this follow-up link.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Why Won't They Serve?

Why Won't They Serve?: "It seems that I am increasingly a prophet of doom. But really, if owners are unwilling to govern themselves then condominiums are merely apartments, and if they are unwilling to make the contributions that must be made for a community association to survive, then they must be willing to surrender their ownership interests and be renters. This is a housing crisis as serious as the present economic one, and it may be worse, because the crisis in community association government is not likely to end in a year or two."
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A missive from attorney Tyler Berding--thanks to Fred Pilot for flagging it.

Man arrested for trespassing on his own land | Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota

Man arrested for trespassing on his own land | Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota
Including being threatened with a taser and handcuffed. All over a disputed utility easement.

NJ woman who dodged foreclosure locked out of home

NJ woman who dodged foreclosure locked out of home: "A New Jersey woman returned home from Thanksgiving with family to find the locks changed days after she avoided foreclosure.

Bank of America says it made a mistake."

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Happy Thanksgiving from B of A!

7 Insane True Stories Behind the World's Most WTF Houses | Cracked.com

7 Insane True Stories Behind the World's Most WTF Houses | Cracked.com
As they say--"a house says a lot about a person...maybe that they just forgot to take their medication."

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Another flag incident draws conservative ire

HHenrico Medal of Honor winner, 90, ordered to remove flagpole


"I hate these people!"

"These people would be great in the concentration camps, wouldn't they?"

"These cowards on the board of directors--I wonder where they fought?"

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Thus spake conservative radio fire-breather Mark Levin, tonight, regarding a Medal of Honor winner whose HOA board won't let him have a flagpole.

"Col. Van T. Barfoot, a local Medal of Honor winner, is under the gun from his Henrico County community's homeowner association.

In a five-paragraph letter to Barfoot that he received yesterday, Barfoot is being ordered to remove a flagpole from his yard. The decorated veteran of three wars, now 90 years old, raises the American flag every morning on the pole, then lowers and folds the flag at dusk each day in a three-corner military fashion."

Elizabeth Warren: America Without a Middle Class

Elizabeth Warren: America Without a Middle Class: "While the middle class has been caught in an economic vise, the financial industry that was supposed to serve them has prospered at their expense. Consumer banking -- selling debt to middle class families -- has been a gold mine. Boring banking has given way to creative banking, and the industry has generated tens of billions of dollars annually in fees made possible by deceptive and dangerous terms buried in the fine print of opaque, incomprehensible, and largely unregulated contracts."
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Yes. We know about contracts like that, don't we?

Florida condo owners fear continued foreclosure crisis, want banks to step up - Condos and HOAs – Living with rules

Florida condo owners fear continued foreclosure crisis, want banks to step up - Condos and HOAs – Living with rules: "About 68 percent of owners polled said they have seen an increase in units and homes falling into delinquency of 60 days or more. And 63 percent apparently fear more financial pain caused by Florida requirements for safety upgrades and retrofits, including fire alarm installations."

Another one of those isolated instances...

Condo management company loses BBB accreditation while being sued for theft, mismanagement: "The Better Business Bureau has cancelled the accreditation of Cincinnati’s ORP Realty Management Company today after the company failed to respond to a contract dispute complaint. This is only the latest problem for the beleaguered company as tenants of an East Walnut Hills condominium filed a civil suit last week against ORP, its President Steven Sykes Valentino and Vice President Michelle Banks alleging the firm stole $215,000 from the condominium association’s bank account."

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The first web page: August 1991

The World Wide Web project
Did you ever see the first web page ever posted? This is it. It was made by Tim Berners-Lee.

Report Cites Shortfall in Key A.I.G. Business - NYTimes.com

Report Cites Shortfall in Key A.I.G. Business - NYTimes.com: "An independent analysis of whether the insurance industry has been setting aside enough money to pay its claims estimates that the American International Group has a shortfall of $11.9 billion in its property and casualty business."
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And we, the taxpayers, now have a substantial interest in AIGs solvency because we bailed them out and want our money back...don't we? But the word was that the company was fine except for that crazy derivatives/credit default swap business. And now they say, "Well, and except for the property and casualty business." Say what? Is that supposed to be just a sideline or something? Sounds like insurance to me.

So that's why "the debate is over"!

Investors.com - The CRU's Criminal Conspiracy: "Jones and his ilk even went so far as to seek suppression of contrarian evidence in those much beloved 'peer-reviewed' journals. When Climate Research published a skeptic's paper, Jones demanded the journal 'rid itself of this troublesome editor.'

Regarding another set of Gore disbelievers, Jones assured Dr. Mann, 'I can't see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow — even if we have to redefine what the peer-reviewed literature is!'"

Monday, November 30, 2009

NCOC: Civic Health Index Finds America in the Midst of Civic Foreclosure

NCOC: Civic Health Index Finds America in the Midst of Civic Foreclosure: "The survey’s results reflect the hard choices Americans have made during the downturn, with 72 percent of respondents saying they have cut back on time engaged in civic participation, which includes time spent volunteering, participating in groups or performing other civic activities in their communities."
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Thanks to Fred Pilot for this link to a study that suggests even more bad news for the nation's HOAs and condo associations. They have a hard time finding volunteers even when the economy is good.

Climategate: The dog ate my data

Climate change data dumped - Times Online: "The data were gathered from weather stations around the world and then adjusted to take account of variables in the way they were collected. The revised figures were kept, but the originals — stored on paper and magnetic tape — were dumped to save space when the CRU moved to a new building"
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Right. And all those emails about not letting anybody outside their little closed circle see the data?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Experts have beef with Daley on TIF :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Metro & Tri-State

Experts have beef with Daley on TIF :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Metro & Tri-State: "According to the city's own figures, nearly $500 million a year is diverted from the regular pool of property tax money heading toward Chicago schools, libraries parks, police, etc., into the obscure TIF funds, which are designed to promote development in “blighted” areas.

Daley’s TIF program is controversial because in addition to “blighted” areas on the West Side and other economically challenged areas, the mayor has used a novel definition of “blighted” to include parts of booming downtown."

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Yes--Daley uses TIF districts to divert tax money from the schools and other general government expenditures into the places where his crooked friends are building things. Then he lies about it to the local press. Then he gets re-elected. That's been the pattern so far.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Norman Radow, Hired to Clean Up Real Estate Messes - NYTimes.com

Norman Radow, Hired to Clean Up Real Estate Messes - NYTimes.com: "As founder of Radco Development Solutions, Mr. Radow is on the firing line in the continuing battle over failed residential real estate deals. Banks hire him to resurrect developments gone awry, particularly those half-empty condominium towers and gated communities that sprang up like weeds during the boom and are now in foreclosure."
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Maybe a TV series? "WORKOUT ARTIST!"

The battle at Bridgewater

The battle at Bridgewater: "WESLEY CHAPEL - As he tries to rehabilitate his struggling neighborhood, Mark Spector, president of the Bridgewater homeowners association, has taken a 'zero tolerance' approach toward people who break his community's rules."
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They even hired a PR firm. But how do you sell that zero tolerance policy to prospective buyers? That's an unpleasant prospect for most people.

HOA foreclosures high in Myrtle Beach area as dues fall behind - Local - TheSunNews.com

HOA foreclosures high in Myrtle Beach area as dues fall behind - Local - TheSunNews.com: "John Fritzsch knew he was behind on his payments to his homeowners association, but he was still floored when he learned those late payments had led the association to foreclose on his condominium in Myrtle Beach.

'It wasn't something that I expected,' he said, adding that he didn't know the association had the power to foreclose on him.

Fritzsch, of Brick, N.J., was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis after buying the condo in 2005, a setback that forced him to stop working and that brought mounds of medical bills - which made him fallbehind on his HOA payments."

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The foreclosures are mounting, and we are not at the peak yet.

$300 dues hike too much, say Twin Lakes Golf & Country Club residents | Federal Way - The News Tribune | Seattle-Tacoma News, Weather, Sports, Jobs, Homes and Cars | South Pu

$300 dues hike too much, say Twin Lakes Golf & Country Club residents | Federal Way - The News Tribune | Seattle-Tacoma News, Weather, Sports, Jobs, Homes and Cars | South Pu: "“If something doesn’t change at the golf club, we won’t be in operation a year from now,” said Jimme Schneider, president of Twin Lakes Golf & Country Club’s board of trustees."
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Yes, and this is the choice that is facing thousands of condos and hoas across the nation. It will get much, much worse in the years to come.

Menifee extends traffic enforcement to private roads in gated community | Inland News | PE.com | Southern California News | News for Inland Southern California

Menifee extends traffic enforcement to private roads in gated community : "Enforcing traffic laws for the 2 miles of roadway inside the Tierra Shores tract should not take a substantial toll on the city's law enforcement resources, McElvain said.

'There's probably thousands of miles of road in the city of Menifee. It probably won't be much of an impact,' he said.

But if city officials were to extend traffic enforcement to all the private communities in Menifee, that could start to affect the Sheriff's Department's ability to effectively cover the 48-square-mile city."

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Thanks to Fred Pilot for yet another example of the HOA getting built into the structure of local government.

Allowing contractors' signs in their yards can save homeowners money - The Denver Post

Allowing contractors' signs in their yards can save homeowners money - The Denver Post: "Ever wondered how much of a discount your neighbor is getting from his roofer by allowing him to put a sign advertising the company on the front lawn for months on end?

Turns out it can be significant. Then again, sometimes there's nothing in it for the owner except a fight with the homeowners association."

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Why yes, of course. The entire neighborhood would turn into Tobacco Road if home owners were allowed to have signs showing who they hired to improve their property.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

U.S. Mortgage Delinquencies Reach a Record High - NYTimes.com

U.S. Mortgage Delinquencies Reach a Record High - NYTimes.com: "The combined percentage of those in foreclosure as well as delinquent homeowners is 14.41 percent, or about one in seven mortgage holders. Mortgages with problems are concentrated in four states: California, Florida, Arizona and Nevada. One in four people with mortgages in Florida is behind in payments.

Some of the delinquent homeowners are scrambling and will eventually catch up on their payments. But many others will slide into foreclosure. The percentage of loans in foreclosure on Sept. 30 was 4.47 percent, up from 2.97 percent last year."

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Let's see. What do CA, FL, AZ, and NV have in common? Lots of sun. What else? Oh, yes. These are states where CIDs have been the predominant form of new housing in recent years. So that means the foreclosures to come will place even heavier burdens on the remaining owners in all those condo associations and HOAs.

Unemployment rates by county

Hit the play button and watch the recession unfold

UIC News - University prepares for cuts in state funds

UIC News - University prepares for cuts in state funds: "As of Nov. 2, the university has billed the state for $317 million of its appropriation, but has only received about $400,000."
---------
And that's why we are now about to get hit with a budget rescission to the tune of $45 million. That's coming out of the budget we had for this year, which is well underway.

The state of Illinois is a fiscal basket case, and so are at least nine other states. I am not aware of any other time in memory when government budgets at all levels--federal, state, and local--have been so far out of balance. There is no pocket to get the money from. Governments are insolvent and the taxpayers are already economically stressed to the max.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

YouTube - Lindsey Graham Destroys Eric Holder

YouTube - Lindsey Graham Destroys Eric Holder
How can Holder be unable to answer these simple questions? It seems that the Administration has not thought through any aspect of their decision to try enemy combatants in civilian court.

City Room™ - Business - Condo Owners Struggle to Salvage an Almost-Empty Building

City Room™ - Business - Condo Owners Struggle to Salvage an Almost-Empty Building This is the story that accompanies the WBEZ radio broadcast I just did with attorney Mark Pearlstein and Illinois State Representative Harry Osterman. There is also a link to the full story by Ashley Gross of this disastrous situation at the condo in question.

It is good to see that at least somebody is paying attention to this situation. I think the whole program was excellent, including the call from Brian White of the Lakeside Community Development Corporation, where they are trying to help out these associations and their owners. Listen to the whole thing and please comment.

WBEZ, 91.5 fm, chicago

I'll be on at 9am today, on the 8/48 show, talking about how the recession has hit condos and HOAs. Attorney Mark Pearlstein is scheduled to be there as well. It will be archived as a podcast and I'll link to it.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Fines for too-tall grass could rise to $1,000 a day in Jupiter

Fines for too-tall grass could rise to $1,000 a day in Jupiter: "JUPITER — An overgrown lawn could cost a homeowner $1,000 a day.

A plan to quadruple the penalty from the current maximum of $250 per day for a first violation is scheduled for consideration at Tuesday night's town council meeting.

A repeat violation by the same person would be boosted to $5,000 a day maximum from $500 per day."

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This is so outrageous even the HOAs are objecting to it.

The worst is yet to come: Unemployed Americans should hunker down for more job losses

The worst is yet to come: Unemployed Americans should hunker down for more job losses: "As a result of these terribly weak labor markets, we can expect weak recovery of consumption and economic growth; larger budget deficits; greater delinquencies in residential and commercial real estate and greater fall in home and commercial real estate prices; greater losses for banks and financial institutions on residential and commercial real estate mortgages, and in credit cards, auto loans and student loans and thus a greater rate of failures of banks; and greater protectionist pressures."
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Thus spake Nouriel Roubini, aka Dr. Doom.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Administration to Propose Federal Oversight of Subways, Report Says - FOXNews.com

Administration to Propose Federal Oversight of Subways, Report Says - FOXNews.com: "In the wake of last summer's deadly Metro crash in Washington, D.C., the Obama administration reportedly plans to propose that subway and light-rail systems across the country fall under federal oversight.

The pitch comes as the administration moves to increase regulation over the financial, auto, health care and industrial sectors."

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I keep hearing from leftists that the Obama administration is disappointing because they aren't going far enough to the left. How's this?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Barrick shuts hedge book as world gold supply runs out - Telegraph

Barrick shuts hedge book as world gold supply runs out - Telegraph: "Global gold production is in terminal decline despite record prices and Herculean efforts by mining companies to discover fresh sources of ore in remote spots, according to the world's top producer Barrick Gold."
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Why don't we all just decide that quartz is the new gold?

Association suits, claims prevalent -- chicagotribune.com

Association suits, claims prevalent -- chicagotribune.com: "Community associations have a big legal headache these days. They, or their representatives, are spending increasing amounts of time on lawsuits and liability claims. Some of the action is initiated by boards, and some by residents. The disputes vary, but many are prompted by the economy."
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They are prompted by the economy, and in some cases by lawyers who make a living doing covenant enforcement and assessment collection.

F.H.A., Cash Dwindling, Tightens Home Loan Rules - NYTimes.com

F.H.A., Cash Dwindling, Tightens Home Loan Rules - NYTimes.com: "The Federal Housing Administration, the government agency whose loan-insurance programs have become a crucial source of support for the housing market, said on Thursday that its cash reserves had dwindled significantly in the last year as more borrowers defaulted on their mortgages."
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So they are tightening loan requirements and making noises about so far not yet needing a bailout that wouldn't really be a bailout.

Ex-soldier faces jail for handing in gun

Ex-soldier faces jail for handing in gun: "A former soldier who handed a discarded shotgun in to police faces at least five years imprisonment for 'doing his duty'.

Paul Clarke, 27, was found guilty of possessing a firearm at Guildford Crown Court on Tuesday – after finding the gun and handing it personally to police officers on March 20 this year."
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Jolly old England. As it circles the drain.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Griffin Lake residents continue to argue over weed assessment | davisonindex.mihomepaper.com | The Davison Index

Griffin Lake residents continue to argue over weed assessment | davisonindex.mihomepaper.com | The Davison Index: "At issue is a $379.86 special assessment per parcel on 14 parcels around Griffin Lake, a private lake off M-15, just south of I-69.

A majority of residents got together more than a year ago and petitioned the township to handle the collection of the special assessment so all parcels paid their fair share of weed control treatments on the lake. Before the township took over collection of the assessment, some residents said they were footing the bill for the entire lake and not every homeowner there was paying.

But some residents object, saying they are being represented by a mysterious home owners association they are not a part of, who has made all the decisions regarding who is contracted to do the weed control on the 15 acre lake."

-------
So the township is collecting the private HOA special assessment. How nice. And now the township wishes they had never gotten involved.
Thanks to Fred Pilot for this.

Police Defend, Lie About Devices That Extract Money From and Cause Bodily Harm to Citizens - Hit & Run : Reason Magazine

Police Defend, Lie About Devices That Extract Money From and Cause Bodily Harm to Citizens - Hit & Run : Reason Magazine: "We looked at every accident at every red light camera intersection for six months of data before the cameras were installed and six months after.

The final figures? Twenty of the 32 intersections show accidents up after the cameras were installed! Three remained the same and only nine intersections showed accidents decreasing.

The problem? Motorists see the cameras flash, slam on their brakes, and get rear-ended."

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I am pretty much convinced that red light cameras are simply a revenue-raising scheme hatched by the companies that make the equipment and sold to cities with budget problems. The safety rationale seems to be fictitious. It is just about money.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Guess who's running for office?

Lou Dobbs: Going, going...gone: "Unfortunately, these issues are now defined in the public arena by partisanship and ideology rather than by rigorous empirical thought and
forthright analysis and discussion. I will be working diligently to change that as best I can. And, as for the important work of restoring inspiration to our great free society and our market economy, I will strive as well to be a leader in that national conversation."

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This should be interesting. What is Lou Dobbs going to run for? Will he stoop so low as the House of Representatives? I doubt it. Maybe Senator. Or maybe he will skip all the intermediary steps and go for the big brass ring. President Lou Dobbs?

Capitol Alert: California crisis cited as warning for other states

Capitol Alert: California crisis cited as warning for other states: "California's state budget crisis is so severe that the Pew Center on the States, a Washington-based policy think tank, is using it as an example of conditions that imperil other states.

Nine other states, the Pew report says, are facing 'some of the same pressures that have pushed California toward economic disaster,' adding that they also could see furloughs of public employees, severe cuts in education and reductions in the social welfare safety net."

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That would be Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin. That adds up to 1/3 of the nation's population. So says the article, citing the Pew Center study.

Thanks to Fred Pilot for this depressing story. Looks like some states aren't even going to wait for the 2012 destruction of the planet.

Fannie and Freddie Fire Their Own Inspector General

Fannie and Freddie Fire Their Own Inspector General: "There is no independent auditor overseeing the federal agency responsible for some $6 trillion in home mortgages, because the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel ruled that the agency's inspector general didn't have authority to operate, according to internal memos obtained by the Huffington Post.

The ruling came in response to a request from the Federal Housing Finance Agency itself -- which means that a federal agency essentially succeeded in getting rid of its own inspector general."

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No need to overreact to this news. After all, it's only $6 trillion dollars.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Dunn to Step Down as White House Communications Chief - FOXNews.com

Dunn to Step Down as White House Communications Chief - FOXNews.com: "White House Communications Director Anita Dunn will step down by the end of November and be replaced by her deputy Dan Pfeiffer, Fox News has learned."
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This is the one who was telling students how much she admired the brilliant philosophical insights of Mao.

L.V. housing program hasn't led to purchases | NevadaAppeal.com

L.V. housing program hasn't led to purchases | NevadaAppeal.com: "LAS VEGAS (AP) — An 8-month-old program aimed at stabilizing Las Vegas Valley neighborhoods by allowing local governments to buy, renovate and then sell homes to low-income families hasn't resulted in any families moving into homes yet.

The U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department gave Las Vegas Valley municipalities $64.3 million this year to buy homes. The Las Vegas Sun reported Sunday that only five homes been purchased by local governments."

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Awesome stimulus, dude.

Castle Coalition: Citizens Fighting Eminent Domain Abuse

Castle Coalition: Citizens Fighting Eminent Domain Abuse: "Pfizer, Inc., announced today that the company will be closing its former research and development headquarters in New London, Conn. This was a project that involved massive corporate welfare and led to the abuse of eminent domain that ultimately bulldozed the home of Susette Kelo and her neighbors in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Kelo v. City of New London."
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Thanks for your houses and neighborhood, but we won't be needing it after all. Bye, now.

And thanks to Shu Bartholomew for this link.

Monday, November 09, 2009

The search for the elusive motive continues...

Fort Hood shooting suspect conscious, talking, hospital says - CNN.com: "Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the suspect in last week's mass shooting at the Fort Hood Army Post, is conscious and talking, according to a spokesman for the Army hospital where he is being treated.

Authorities have not identified a motive in Thursday's attack that left 13 dead and 42 others wounded."

----------------
Yes, it must be a daunting task to find the motive. You just have all these unrelated facts. Calls himself Palestinian, sympathizes with killing Americans, doesn't want to go to Afghanistan, screams about Allah before he shoots, tried to connect with radical Islamic groups on the internet...it is all so confusing. Maybe if you put a supercomputer on the job for a few years it could crank out some sort of common thread here.

The bigger question is how the US military can pussyfoot around with somebody like this for so long. Apparently they are more concerned with not hurting people's ethnic and religious sensibilities than with protecting their own people.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

New Study Says American Cities Are on the Verge of a Rat Invasion - ABC News


New Study Says American Cities Are on the Verge of a Rat Invasion - ABC News: "'The problem of rats is just a symptom of a declining and weakening infrastructure, and it's one of the more visible symptoms of depressed cities struggling to face their problems,' says Mr. Kaukeinen in an interview.

Partly to blame are politicians' budgetary choices, the economy, and, yes, even greenie environmentalists who propose wide-open green spaces that, it turns out, usually evolve into urban versions of a Sandals resort for rats."

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Foreclosures + recession + environmentalists = rats? There's an equation I had never thought about. There are plenty of rats in Chicago. I was walking to the Halsted station on the Blue Line and a rat the size of a loaf of bread scurried into the station and down the ramp ahead of me. They have no manners whatsoever, believe me. They are almost as bad as bike messengers.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

ConsumerMan: Chinese drywall a big threat - ConsumerMan- msnbc.com

ConsumerMan: Chinese drywall a big threat - ConsumerMan- msnbc.com: "The problem is enormous. It’s estimated that as many as 100,000 homes across the country, built between 2004 and 2008, could have defective and potentially dangerous Chinese drywall.

The bad wallboard has excessively high levels of sulfur. Homeowners complain the fumes given off make them sick and corrode the copper in home wiring, fixtures and appliances, including computers, televisions and air conditioners."

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What percentage of these homes--new, built between 2004 and 2008--are in CIDs? I would say nearly all, but I wonder what others have to say. Needless to say, the lawyers are all over this.

Drive-bys in the Poconos

Update: Police search for suspect in drive-by shooting of 17-year-old in Emerald Lakes Monday | PoconoRecord.com: "LONG POND -- Police are seeking the public's help with an apparent drive-by shooting of a 17-year-old teen as he rode a motorized scooter on Glade Drive South in the Emerald Lakes private community Monday night...The Emerald Lakes development was the scene of another shooting over the weekend in which four people were wounded outside a private party around 12:45 a.m. Sunday."
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Hmmmmm. Private parties, private community...drive by shootings?
Thanks to Cynthia Stephens for this link.

Daily Herald | Utility tax moves forward in Antioch, IL

Daily Herald | Utility tax moves forward in Antioch: "The village has cut the equivalent of 20 full-time positions in the last two years, Keim said. Officials have also cut nearly $500,000 in spending this year.

With the failure of Neumann Homes, the stalled Antioch Market Place shopping center project and a decline in revenue from building permits, Keim said the village is on target to finish their fiscal year nearly $500,000 in the red. The total operating budget is just over $10.5 million.

'We can't close that gap,' he said."

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So Antioch is raising taxes. In a recession. In a working class/middle class community where people are struggling to survive as it is. And note the story I posted below: corporate developer/bad citizen Neumann Homes is partly to blame for Antioch's dire straits, but Neumann is suing Antioch for return of its impact fees. Nerve? Oh, yes.

Daily Herald | Communities try to help as suburban foreclosure crisis grows

Daily Herald | Communities try to help as suburban foreclosure crisis grows: "Elgin is using federal money to help rehab foreclosed homes. Lake County intends to use stimulus funds to acquire, fix up and resell abandoned or foreclosed properties. Prosperous towns like Geneva, Schaumburg, Wheaton and Naperville are looking for ways to direct desperate homeowners to community resources."
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Foreclosures are up 18% in the third quarter. Of 2009. Tell me more about this so-called "recovery" we are enjoying?

Daily Herald | Bankrupt Neumann Homes sues towns to return impact fees


Daily Herald | Bankrupt Neumann Homes sues towns to return impact fees: "Neumann Homes Inc., which had been one of the 10 largest homebuilders in the Chicago area before filing bankruptcy last year, has sued more than two dozen municipal governments on a theory that, if valid, could be another hit in already-depressed local budgets.

Neumann, based in Warrenville, sued towns including Antioch; Naperville; Kenosha, Wis.; and Aurora, Colo., to get back impact fees, according to documents filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Chicago."

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This photo shows what they left behind in the subdivision close to my house. They wrecked a huge natural landscape and left it looking like the moon. Then they went bankrupt. Antioch had to fix bad drainage problems, plow snow, etc., and they are in huge budget trouble (see my post above). Now Neumann is suing for their impact fees. From where I sit, Antioch should be suing Neumann for the "impact" they made.

And here is the supreme irony: Antioch tried to stop this development from the outset, refusing to permit it. Neumann Homes sued Antioch and won, with some judge cramming the development down the village's throat. So, this corporate bad citizen sued to impose the development on everybody, then went bankrupt, leaving a devastated landscape, bereft owners, and a village in trouble. And now...they sue Antioch again to get their impact fees back.

This is why people don't like real estate developers. Or their lawyers.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Illinois budget

Just got a message from the President of the University of Illinois system. Good news: no furloughs before the end of 2009. Bad news: the state owes the U of I system $317 million that has been billed but not paid.

They haven't paid our dental plan, either, which is why the dental plan won't pay my kids' dentist.

But look at the up side. The state legislature just guaranteed all seniors free rides on public transportation, no matter how rich they are.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

The Golden State isn't worth it -- latimes.com

The Golden State isn't worth it -- latimes.com: "Joel Kotkin of NewGeography.com and Chapman University told the Los Angeles Times in March: 'Twenty years ago, you could go to Texas, where they had very low taxes, and you would see the difference between there and California. Today, you go to Texas, the roads are no worse, the public schools are not great but are better than or equal to ours, and their universities are good. The bargain between California's government and the middle class is constantly being renegotiated to the disadvantage of the middle class.'"
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Blockbuster article that shows why California's entire model of political economy has failed.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Should I Stay or Should Furlough Now? | NBC Chicago

Should I Stay or Should Furlough Now? | NBC Chicago: "One of the more controversial pieces of Mayor Daley’s 2010 budget is the requirement for all city workers to take 24 unpaid furlough days.

The only city workers who have been spared from what amounts to an entire month off without pay are the city’s police and firefighters. But that could change.

A representative for the city budget office says the city is in negotiations with police and fire unions to accept furlough days."

----------------
Daley was counting heavily on the Olympics to provide the an influx of private and public revenues that he could distribute to his connected friends. Now he has to face the city budget debacle.

H1N1 Vaccinations To Be Offered To Guantanamo Bay Detainees

H1N1 Vaccinations To Be Offered To Guantanamo Bay Detainees
How nice. The Lake County Health Department canceled the vaccinations they were going to hold this weekend because they can't get enough vaccine. People had to stand in line at 3am on Thursday for the 8am clinic openings. Then they gave people wristbands. Then they ran out of vaccine.

Same thing all over this area, and across the nation.

Do you know what the press and the congressional Democrats would be saying about this situation if Bush were still President?

Dollar Homes Lack Buyers | NBC Chicago

Dollar Homes Lack Buyers | NBC Chicago: "Officials in suburban Barrington put three homes up for a sale at just a dollar a piece - a dollar! - and didn't get a single bidder."
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But there is a catch. All you get is the house, not the land, and you have to move the house out of the "historic" downtown area. The houses are going to be demolished for new development.

Lindenhurst goes HOA

Home Owners Associations
I live in this little exurb. Now I see that the Village of Lindenhurst has added a link to its home page for "Home Owners Associations." So far only two HOAs have appeared on the links page. I imagine the list will grow. The connections between cities and HOAs continue to grow.

Dix Hills condo complex agrees to allow mezuzahs

Dix Hills condo complex agrees to allow mezuzahs: "A Jewish woman from Dix Hills who says her condominium complex discriminated against her by stopping her from displaying a 4-inch mezuzah on her front door has won a settlement after an investigation by state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo."
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The mere fact that people even have to file cases like this tells you how screwed up things are.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Guess What: The Next Housing Bubble Is Already Underway

Guess What: The Next Housing Bubble Is Already Underway: "...the housing bubble is back. Sure, prices aren't at their old levels, but everything else is in place.

Generous government involvement is back. Fear of missing out on good deals is back, and yes, even no-money-down is back."

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And just in time for the crash of the commercial real estate market.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Judge eats his words -- chicagotribune.com

Judge eats his words -- chicagotribune.com: "A Will County judge says he's eating his words after accepting a tray of jerk chicken as a substitute for a man's sentence of 100 community service hours.

The local legal community has been abuzz since associate Judge Robert Livas accepted the Jamaican-style chicken from Darrius Logan this month over an objection from a prosecutor."

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Maybe this is what I've been doing wrong all these years. I didn't bring food for the judge.

Law.com - Price to PepsiCo for Not Being in Court: $1.26 Billion

Law.com - Price to PepsiCo for Not Being in Court: $1.26 Billion: "What's the cost of not showing up to court? For PepsiCo Inc., it's a $1.26 billion default judgment. A Wisconsin state court socked the company with the monster award in a case alleging that PepsiCo stole the idea to bottle and sell purified water from two Wisconsin men.

Now the company is scrambling to salvage the situation. The damages award was handed down on Sept. 30. PepsiCo filed motions to vacate the order and dismiss the claims on Oct. 13, saying it wasn't even aware of the lawsuit until Oct. 6."

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Hey--this is better than winning the lottery. There was a case in Los Angeles years ago where the owner of an apartment building got sued by a tenant for letting it turn into a decaying slum. The landlord ignored the lawsuit...right up until the day the court gave the building to the tenant in satisfaction of the default judgment. Then it was too late. Mr. Slumlord lost the building, and it was worth over a million.

Council bans parents from play areas - Boing Boing

Council bans parents from play areas - Boing Boing: "Score one for Britain in its contest with the United States to create the stupidest fear-based society. The Watford Borough Council took the lead by banning parents from supervising their own kids in public playgrounds, 'because they have not undergone criminal record checks.'

The only adults allowed to monitor the kids are idiocracy-vetted 'play rangers.' The children's parents must 'watch from outside a perimeter fence.'"

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Well, we will catch up with them soon. We already have government officials scolding us for not coughing the right way. Our local, state, and national government already think they own our kids. How much longer can it be before I need a background check to pick up my kids at school?

Thanks to Mystery Reader for this fascinating example of a real nanny state. Literally.

Restaurant owner declares victory in 'Flamingogate' -- baltimoresun.com

Restaurant owner declares victory in 'Flamingogate' -- baltimoresun.com: "The owner of Cafe Hon is proclaiming a victory for small business after the city agreed to cut in half the cost of a permit to erect a pink flamingo sculpture outside her restaurant and promised to promote the Hampden neighborhood with new signs on the Jones Falls Expressway.

After a rally Tuesday outside City Hall where supporters erected scores of plastic pink flamingos, Cafe Hon owner Denise Whiting praised Mayor Sheila Dixon for the decision."

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That's quite a flock of flamingos.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Rats! City to Pay for Informing on Tax Cheats | NBC Chicago

Rats! City to Pay for Informing on Tax Cheats | NBC Chicago: "The folks at city hall will pay cash bounties to informants who turn in business tax cheats around the city. The reward would amount to some sort of percentage of the tax money that the city recovers."
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They anticipate that businesses will turn in their competitors. Daley and his Machine cronies are desperate to find sources for graft.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Newspapers Across the Country Show Steep Declines in Circulation, in New FAS-FAX

Newspapers Across the Country Show Steep Declines in Circulation, in New FAS-FAX: "Circulation at many of the country's largest newspapers continued a steep slide as the Audit Bureau of Circulations Monday morning released the latest figures for the six months ending September 2009 -- proving yet again that the industry can't shake the dramatic declines that have taken hold over the past several years."
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Of course there are many reasons for this. But even with all the technological challenges they face from TV, radio, and the internet, I think they would be doing better if they acted more like professional news organizations that gather and report and analyze news. There is way too much flacking for the Obama administration. People aren't stupid. They remember how these same newspapers treated Bush.

CARPE DIEM: Profit Margin: Health Insurance Industry Ranks #86

CARPE DIEM: Profit Margin: Health Insurance Industry Ranks #86: "As the table above of Profit Margins by Industry shows (click to enlarge, data here for the most recent quarter), the industry 'Health Care Plans' ranks #86 by profit margin (profits/revenue) at 3.3%. Measured by profit margin, there are 85 industries more profitable than Health Care Plans (includes Cigna, Aetna, WellPoint, HealthSpring, etc.)."
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But that won't stop Obama Inc. from continuing to demonize these evil, profiteering, corporate insects.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Brit's view of America

Arrested just for looking weird | Jeremy Clarkson - Times Online: "Step out of the loop, do something unusual and you’ll encounter a wall of low-paid, low-intellect workers whose sole job is to prevent their bosses from being sued. As a result, you never hear anyone say: “Oh I’m sure it’ll be all right.”"
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I have this experience about a dozen times a day.

Mayor Daley May Be Considering A Sale Of Chicago's Water System - cbs2chicago.com

Mayor Daley May Be Considering A Sale Of Chicago's Water System - cbs2chicago.com: "CHICAGO (CBS) ―If the parking meter deal put a bad taste in your mouth, try swallowing this: Chicago is considering leasing its water system to help fix the budget.

The new boss could charge whatever they want for water, CBS 2's Roseanne Tellez reports.

Could it happen here in Chicago? It already has nearby. Homer Glen in Will County relies on Lake Michigan water, but the supply comes from a German-owned firm. Locals say there's a lot more than water going down the drain."

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Here we go again. This is another scheme to get money from a private firm that then passes on that cost to the taxpayers (who become customers). Net effect: a disguised tax increase.

Sort of like HOAs and condos.

Chicago, like many cities, simply refuses to reduce its spending to match a level of taxation that will keep people and businesses from fleeing the city in droves.

Homer Glen is a city that was made out of several HOAs that decided to incorporate so they wouldn't get swallowed up (annexed) by nearby Orland Park. So the picture is complete: Chicago is doing what a huge HOA-turned-city did.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Soupy Sales dies at 83; slapstick comic had hit TV show in 1960s -- latimes.com


Soupy Sales dies at 83; slapstick comic had hit TV show in 1960s -- latimes.com Sad day--he was funny, a good person, and a very creative and original comedian.

Behind the War Between White House and Fox - NYTimes.com

Behind the War Between White House and Fox - NYTimes.com: "...officials at the White House had decided that if anything, it was time to take the relationship to an even more confrontational level. The spur: Executives at other news organizations, including The New York Times, had publicly said that their newsrooms had not been fast enough in following stories that Fox News, to the administration’s chagrin, had been heavily covering through the summer and early fall..."
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The New York Times says that the White House decided to go after Fox News because Fox was doing too good a job of covering the White House. Fox broke stories that the other major media outlets initially ignored, and then when the stories proved to be true and big, were forced to cover. So, when Fox started leading the way for the rest of the herd, the White House decided to try to demonize and isolate Fox, in the hope that stories broken there will stay there and will not be picked up by the New York Times, et al.

How do you like that, Obama lovers? Is this the new tone you were looking for?

Interactive map: where are the foreclosures?

AP news - knoxnews.comCalifornia, Florida, Arizona, Nevada, and Florida account for well more than half the total

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Shadow Budget | Feature | Chicago Reader

The Shadow Budget | Feature | Chicago Reader: "We recently came into possession of hard evidence of what we've long argued: that the city produces two annual budgets, one released to the public, covered by the media, and debated by the City Council, and the other forged behind closed doors by the Daley administration, shared only in pieces with certain aldermen, and never fully disclosed to citizens. Both budgets are funded by taxpayers.

For the last few years, we've been trying to force the city to open up that shadow budget, which is funded by property taxes diverted into Chicago's tax increment financing program."

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And another part of the secret budget is the zillions of condo and townhome associations around the loop.

55-and-over community wants to evict family with 6-year-old - St. Petersburg Times

55-and-over community wants to evict family with 6-year-old - St. Petersburg Times: "With her mother gone, her father a mystery and no other relatives to speak of, Kimberly's living arrangement seemed simple. Except for this: She was breaking the law. And now her case has drawn national attention.

The Stottlers' home, under the management of the Lakes Homeowners Association, was designated 55-and-over. Children could live there for no more than 60 days a year.

The association, which said its bylaws worked to preserve the age-restricted community, wanted Kimberly gone. But the Stottlers' attempts to sell their house stalled. Kimberly had no place else to go."

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Thanks to Beth for this updated story, which is full of heartbreaking detail. There is a line in the Cormac McCarthy novel No Country for Old Men that goes something like this: "If the rule that you follow has led you to this, of what use is the rule?"

And that about sums up my feeling on these 55 and over age restrictions. I have always believed that seniors' communities should not have been granted exemption from age discrimination laws. But legislators responded to their voting power and industry lobbying. The irony is that seniors are constantly filing complaints about discrimination against them. You can find people 80 years old bagging groceries. But seniors in these retirement communities are the first to use the law to go after kids, no matter what their circumstances or how badly it will hurt people.

Well, enjoy your freedom from the laughter of children, you bunch of creeps.

Obama Quarterly Approval Average Slips Nine Points to 53%

Obama Quarterly Approval Average Slips Nine Points to 53%: "In fact, the 9-point drop in the most recent quarter is the largest Gallup has ever measured for an elected president between the second and third quarters of his term, dating back to 1953."
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After reading this comment, I think he deserves it:

President Barack Obama says his family is like a lot of others — in which the men "need to be knocked across the head every once in a while" in order to see imbalances between the time moms and dads put into raising children. "There's no doubt that our family, like a lot of families out there, were ones in which the men are still a little obtuse about this stuff," Obama said Wednesday in an interview with NBC.

This sort of man-bashing just drives me up a tree. Speak for yourself, pal. So he is a loving but lazy father whose narcissism has driven him to obsess about climbing the greased pole of politics, and to dump the child raising responsibilities on his busy wife? Live with it. But don't pretend that this is the way men act toward their family responsibilities. It is the way you act.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Can't beat those tangible assets

Deserted shopping mall bleak symbol of Fed bailout | Reuters: "The Fed finds itself in the unusual situation of being an Oklahoma City landlord after it lent JPMorgan Chase $29 billion to buy Bear Stearns last year.

That money was secured by a portfolio of Bear assets. Crossroads Mall is the only bricks and mortar acquired through bailout. The remaining billions are tied up in invisible securities spread across hundreds, if not thousands, of properties.

It is hard to be precise because the Fed has not published specifics on what it now owns. The only reason that Crossroads Mall has surfaced is that it went into foreclosure in April."

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There is an oil well in the parking lot, but the Fed doesn't own the mineral rights. Other than the fact that the property seems to be worthless, we taxpayers got a heck of a deal.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Simi shuts family's haunted house attraction : Local News : Ventura County Star

Simi shuts family's haunted house attraction : Local News : Ventura County Star: "A popular haunted house in Simi Valley that attracts thousands of children each Halloween has been shut down because the city deemed it an unsafe structure.

Haunted Halls has been operated by Cindy Fike and her family outside their Sebring Street home for the past eight years. But what makes it popular — a covered wooden maze with steel poles, dark and spooky scenes, and volunteers that startle visitors — is the reason it was given a 72-hour notice Friday to be taken down.

Responding to an anonymous complaint, the city said the 1,200-square-foot “amusement building” didn’t have a permit."

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What kind of person would complain about this?

In Hawaii, school's out for recession

In Hawaii, school's out for recession: "HONOLULU (AP) - At a time when President Barack Obama is pushing for more time in the classroom, his home state has created the nation's shortest school year under a new union contract that closes schools on most Fridays for the remainder of the academic calendar.

The deal whacks 17 days from the school year for budget-cutting reasons and has education advocates incensed that Hawaii is drastically cutting the academic calendar at a time when it already ranks near the bottom in national educational achievement."

Monday, October 19, 2009

Daley Unveils Some Budget Plans - cbs2chicago.com

Daley Unveils Some Budget Plans - cbs2chicago.com: "Faced with a $550 million budget deficit, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley on Monday said that all non-union city workers would take nearly five working weeks of unpaid leave next year to save the city money.

Daley announced plans Monday to save $114 million by requiring 3,600 non-union city workers to take 24 unpaid days off, eliminating 220 vacant jobs and cutting expenses like travel and supplies by $20 million."

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That's the equivalent of a 9% pay cut. Note that union employees are exempt. Daley's hail Mary strategy was that failed Olympic bid. Now the bitter reality of the city's financial picture has to be faced.

Seeking Legal Representation - RFP - HOA Class Action Lawsuits | Deer Ridge Owners - Deer Ridge Mountain Resort - Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Seeking Legal Representation - RFP - HOA Class Action Lawsuits | Deer Ridge Owners - Deer Ridge Mountain Resort - Gatlinburg, Tennessee: "The following is a standard, automated email that I plan on sending to 200-400 law firms in Knox, Blount and Sevier Counties with the goal of soliciting the best legal representation in our upcoming class action lawsuits concerning Deer Ridge Mountain Resort."
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Any takers?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Mass. town uses goats to clear meadow, save a buck | SeacoastOnline.com

Mass. town uses goats to clear meadow, save a buck | SeacoastOnline.com: "Under a pilot program in Andover, Lucy McKain's dairy goats will rotate their grazing around the meadow for an all-you-can-eat buffet of grass, brush and other growth. The goats can clear as much as a half acre every three days at no cost."
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The story of the Gömböc

The story of the Gömböc
Fascinating little shape.

Homeowners group seizes control of Scottsdale Estates clubhouse - The Daily Breeze


Homeowners group seizes control of Scottsdale Estates clubhouse - The Daily Breeze: "In the latest twist in a long-running power struggle, a dissident homeowners group has seized control of the clubhouse at Carson's Scottsdale Estates town house complex.

The group has been trying to wrest control of the homeowners' association from board President Cyd Balque for the past year, after she orchestrated a $40 increase in condo dues.

Armed with 349 signatures - and accompanied by a locksmith and private security guards - the group seized control of the Scottsdale Townhouses Association office on Thursday night."

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Looks like somebody stormed the Bastille. Thank to Fred Pilot for this link.

Five statues + HOA = big trouble

Neighbor against neighbor: "When she and her husband, Glenn, decided to buy a house in Willamette Landing, a planned development in South Corvallis, the statues went up on the porch and in the yard before the furniture was even unloaded.

'I wasn't going to move anywhere without my statues,' Wolf said.

Now those statues have become the focal point of a long-simmering dispute that has pitted the Wolfs against their homeowners' association board, stirred up ill will among the neighbors and prompted an effort to recall three of the five board members."

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Thanks to Beth for the link to this story about a home with five statues on the lawn ranging from 6 inches to 3 feet. The folks thought they were OK bringing these in, but the BOD doesn't like them. And they are off to HOA Conflict Land. As Mr. Wolf aptly put it, ""There's a sociological thing that happens when people are put in charge," Glenn Wolf said. "But when it's a homeowners' association, they're really not answerable to anybody. There's no one you can complain to except them."

And that about sums it up.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Joe Biden: the worrying rise of Barack Obama’s Mr Wrong - Telegraph

Joe Biden: the worrying rise of Barack Obama’s Mr Wrong - Telegraph: "On all the big questions, he has been – to put it politely – on the wrong side of history. In 1990, he voted against American forces expelling Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. He voted for the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and advocated splitting it into three states along ethnic lines. He opposed the Iraq troop surge of 2007 that pacified the country and rescued the US from the jaws of defeat.

Now, Mr Biden is pushing a policy of what he terms 'counter-terrorism plus' – a scheme which involves a much smaller military presence in Afghanistan, with al-Qaeda elements being targeted at long range by military drones and smart missiles.

This runs entirely against the counter-insurgency doctrine convincingly outlined by Gen Stanley McChrystal, who wants an extra 40,000 troops to enable Nato forces to protect and influence the people while mentoring the Afghan army and police, and gathering intelligence on the ground.

The problem is that Mr Obama may now be listening to Mr Biden."

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That's General Biden, please.

Harvard’s Bet on Interest Rate Rise Cost $500 Million to Exit - Bloomberg.com

Harvard’s Bet on Interest Rate Rise Cost $500 Million to Exit - Bloomberg.com: "Oct. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Harvard University’s failed bet that interest rates would rise cost the world’s richest school at least $500 million in payments to escape derivatives that backfired."
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You'd think with all those brilliant economists on the faculty that they could do better than this.

My Way News - Calif. bank becomes 99th in US to be shut in 2009

My Way News - Calif. bank becomes 99th in US to be shut in 2009: "NEW YORK (AP) - Regulators shut down San Joaquin Bank in California on Friday, marking the 99th failure this year of a federally insured bank.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. was appointed receiver of San Joaquin Bank, based in Bakersfield, Calif. It had $775 million in assets and $631 million in deposits as of Sept. 29."

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Cost to the FDIC (i.e., the taxpayers): an estimated $103 million.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Scientists create 'sexual tsunami' - Telegraph

Scientists create 'sexual tsunami' - Telegraph: "They discovered that when the pheromone was removed, it created a 'sexual tsunami' where the bugs proved attractive to one another, regardless of sex. The research found that male fruit flies with no history of homosexuality attempted to mate with their pheromone-free males, according to the research published in journal Nature."
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Wait until the Pentagon gets their hands on this one.

School Chief Sticks By 'Zero Tolerance' Ruling for Eagle Scout - Local News | News Articles | National News | US News - FOXNews.com

School Chief Sticks By 'Zero Tolerance' Ruling for Eagle Scout - Local News | News Articles | National News | US News - FOXNews.com: "The upstate New York school superintendent who suspended an Eagle Scout for 20 days for keeping a 2-inch utility knife locked in his car is unwilling to speak to the teen's family or bend in his ruling."
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It is no wonder that so many parents have taken their children out of public schools. They are often run by people like this.

The Geography of Jobs - TIP Strategies

The Geography of Jobs - TIP Strategies

Posted using ShareThis

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Texas man faces execution after jurors consult Bible to decide fate - Telegraph

Texas man faces execution after jurors consult Bible to decide fate - Telegraph: "At one point, a juror reportedly read aloud from a copy, including the passage: 'And if he smite him with an instrument of iron, so that he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death.'"
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And the defendant not only shot the victim--he beat him with the rifle, which is an instrument of iron. His execution date is November 5. If he is expecting any relief from Governor Rick Perry, I would not hold my breath on that one.

Foreclosures hit record in third quarter 2009 - Oct. 15, 2009

Foreclosures hit record in third quarter 2009 - Oct. 15, 2009: "NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Despite concerted government-led and lender-supported efforts to prevent foreclosures, the number of filings hit a record high in the third quarter, according to a report issued Thursday."
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The map looks like it could just as easily be ranking the percentage of CID housing in the state's housing stock.

Majority of Nobel jury 'objected to Obama prize'

Majority of Nobel jury 'objected to Obama prize': "'The committee was unanimous,' its influential secretary Geir Lundestad told AFP on Friday.

But Inger-Marie Ytterhorn, who represented the right-wing populist Progress Party on the committee, led the way in objecting to the choice of Obama because she questioned his ability to keep his promises, the newspaper said.

It also said the representative of the Conservative Party, Kaci Kullmann Five, and Aagot Valle, the representative of the Socialist Left, had objections.

The choice for Obama was however strongly supported by committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland and Sissel Roenbeck, both representatives of the Labour Party."
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Maybe they should rename it the "Nobel Political Prize."

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Invading giant snakes threaten U.S wilderness areas | Lifestyle | Reuters


Invading giant snakes threaten U.S wilderness areas | Lifestyle | Reuters: "MIAMI (Reuters) - Burmese pythons and other giant snakes imported as pets could endanger some of America's most important parks and wilderness areas if they are allowed to multiply, according to a report released on Tuesday.

Wildlife experts say the Burmese python is distributed across thousands of square miles (kilometers) in south Florida. There could be tens of thousands in the Everglades, a wildlife refuge that is home to the Florida panther and other endangered species."

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And a whole bunch of other species too. They are breeding. It seems that Floridians buy themselves a nice python or boa, feed it the occasional mouse, and enjoy showing their friends their cool pet. But then it gets big enough to eat their kids, so they haul it off to the Everglades and leave it there. Problem solved. For them.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tidbits: Jamie Foxx has no sympathy for Polanski - Tabloid Tidbits- msnbc.com

Tidbits: Jamie Foxx has no sympathy for Polanski - Tabloid Tidbits- msnbc.com: "“If it had been my daughter who was barely a teenager — my daughter is 15 — Roman Polanski would be missing ... period,” Foxx stated in an interview with Parade magazine. “"
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Well said, Mr. Foxx.

Apartment residents told to take down U.S. flags | KATU.com - News, Weather and Sports - Portland, Oregon | Local & Regional

Apartment residents told to take down U.S. flags | KATU.com - News, Weather and Sports - Portland, Oregon | Local & Regional: "Resident we talked to who had been approached to take down their flags all told us the same thing: that management told them the flags could be offensive because they live in a diverse community."
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And this really is a ban on flags, in all forms, all places, all manners of display. It seems that for this apartment building owner, any trace of patriotism might cause a conflict.

Obama fails to win Nobel prize in economics - MarketWatch

MarketWatch First Take: Obama fails to win Nobel prize in economics - MarketWatch: "While few observers think Obama has done anything for world peace in the nearly nine months he's been in office, the same clearly can't be said for economics.

The president has worked tirelessly since even before his inauguration to wrest control of the U.S. economy from failed free markets, and the evil CEOs who profit from them, and to turn it over to wise, fair and benevolent bureaucrats."

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Dang. Well, maybe next year.

HOA Fights Back Against Delinquent Members - Money News Story - WPBF West Palm Beach

HOA Fights Back Against Delinquent Members - Money News Story - WPBF West Palm Beach: "...with so many foreclosures, about 33 percent of homeowners are delinquent in their homeowner's association dues.

'(It's a) pretty high amount, substantial -- especially when you try to budget that,' said Prince.

Now, the community is trying something new. Liens are only marginally working, so the HOA board has invested in new security software and a car transponder system that will cut conveniences, like entry into the community -- until they pay up."

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The rule seems to be, the association gets all kinds of breaks and leniency from the law and the courts, but the owners have to live up to all their obligations, or else.