Saturday, January 10, 2009

Unanticipated relief for anxious homeowners - The Boston Globe

Unanticipated relief for anxious homeowners - The Boston Globe: "Homeowners in fear that payments on their adjustable-rate mortgages will shoot up this year can relax. Their monthly costs will probably be the about the same, or even less, because interest rates have fallen to historic lows."
"Relax" might be too strong a word. Perhaps "take the pistol barrel out of their mouths" might be closer to the truth. / Weekend columnists / Tim Harford - Dear Economist: What should I charge China for Michigan? / Weekend columnists / Tim Harford - Dear Economist: What should I charge China for Michigan?: "Here in Michigan we have a problem: the automobile industry. Thanks to foreign competition and the doubtful management of the Big Three, the state’s economy is in serious trouble. Should we just sell the state to the Chinese? There is a history of this in Michigan – we once traded the city of Toledo to Ohio in exchange for the upper peninsula. So perhaps it would be a good idea. But what would be a good price?
Mrs J, Michigan"

That's one down, 49 to go.

Munibond racketeering rife - Feds have multi-agency investigation | Toll Roads News

Munibond racketeering rife - Feds have multi-agency investigation | Toll Roads News: "Bid rigging, tax evasion and other forms of racketeering are rife in the municipal bond business and a huge multijurisdiction criminal investigation has been underway for several years now, the New York Times reports in its business pages. Public toll agencies base almost all their longterm financing on the municipal bond markets so it is of great interest within the US toll industry.

The criminal investigation started as an IRS affair but has ballooned to involve FBI, USDOJ, SEC, and several state law enforcement agencies.

'“It’s rare to sell a Senate seat, but it’s not rare to sell a bond deal. Pay-to-play in the municipal bond market is epidemic. It looks as if there has been price-fixing and bid-rigging on a major scale,' a recently retired IRS manager Charles Anderson told the Times. Anderson was manager of tax-exempt bond operations at the IRS.

The Times report also quotes Michael Hausfeld an anti-trust lawyer in Washington who represents some of the state and municipal governments caught up in the federal dragnet as saying the munibond investigation is 'one of the longest-running, most economically pervasive antitrust conspiracies ever to be uncovered in the US.'"
Well--when this turns from an investigation into an indictment, it will cause another huge disruption in the fiscal environment of state and local governments, and probably universities as well.

Politics in Northeast Pennsylvania: Dunmore Bankrupt?

Politics in Northeast Pennsylvania: Dunmore Bankrupt?: "The Borough of Dunmore is considering going bankrupt. According to the Scranton Times, Dunmore’s sadistic 36% tax increase simply will not be enough to cover the financial mismanagement of the Borough.

While not entirely ruling out Act 47 (Distressed Municipality) protection, Democrat Melanie Naro seems to be favoring the idea of bankruptcy. It is her opinion that Dunmore might find a more favorable position in bankruptcy instead of Distressed City Status.

Sine inception of Act 47 in 1987, no municipality has filed for bankruptcy. Neighboring municipality Scranton, has been operating under Act 47 protection. Democrat Mayor Chris Doherty has not been able to escape Act 47 during his tenure.

Regardless of the decision council makes, the situation looks bleak in Dunmore."

This is another blogspot post from a blog called "Politics in Northeast Pennsylvania" that tells of a possible municipal bankruptcy.

Unpaid fees put Florida condo owners in foreclosure - St. Petersburg Times

Unpaid fees put Florida condo owners in foreclosure - St. Petersburg Times: "Sitting in her small condo in one of Tampa Bay's biggest retirement communities as her hands tremble, a 75-year-old woman reads a letter threatening to put her out of her home. Like so many other Floridians, Ann Studen is facing foreclosure. But in her case, it has nothing to do with her mortgage. She's four months behind on her $280 monthly maintenance fees, and her condo board has put a lien on her $70,000 unit.

It happens more often than you might think. While no one tracks foreclosures prompted by homeowner boards and associations, there are a rising number of people in Studen's situation, according to civil court judges and condominium officials."

It happens a lot, and not more than I think.

Rust Never Sleeps | Anthony Bourdain

Rust Never Sleeps | Anthony Bourdain: "I don't know what the Chamber of Commerce will think of the Baltimore segment—or the city fathers of the other cities we're visiting on what we're referring to privately as the 'Rust Belt' show, but I can tell you that I am already a big fan of pit beef, the wonders of 'lake trout' (neither trout—nor from a lake as it turns out), and the heavy but wonderful, vodka soaked charms of Detroit Polish food and Macedonian pastries. And I wonder what my Russian friend and sidekick, Zamir is making of all this, the bombed out, half deserted inner cities, the abandoned Ford plant, the funny, tough-as-nails hard working people we're meeting whose jobs are either gone or under threat. I told Zamir I'd show him America and that's what I'm doing."
Food of the Rust Belt Cities? Sounds enticing.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon indicted on perjury, theft charges -- "Baltimore Mayor Sheila A. Dixon was charged today by the state prosecutor in a 12-count indictment.

Dixon was charged with four counts of perjury and two counts of theft over $500, as well as theft under $500, fraudulent misappropriation by a fiduciary and misconduct in office. The charges stem in part from gifts she received from former boyfriend and developer Ronald H. Lipscomb, who was also charged earlier this week.

A grand jury indicted Dixon on 12 counts, including four counts of perjury and two counts of theft over $500. She was also charged with theft under $500, fraudulent misappropriation by a fiduciary and misconduct in office.

Dixon, a Democrat, has been the target of a nearly three-year probe by State Prosecutor Robert A. Rohrbaugh into corruption at City Hall, an investigation that has centered on allegations that Dixon has used her office to award lucrative contracts to various people including her sister, her then-boyfriend and her former campaign chairman."

This non-Illinois public official indictment interlude is brought to you by a vigorous local prosecutor.

Microsoft's Ballmer: Windows 7 is nearly final

Microsoft's Ballmer: Windows 7 is nearly final: "The new operating system—which could be available for purchase on PCs within a year—uses much of the same underlying technology as its predecessor, the much-maligned Vista. But Windows 7 aims to resolve many problems PC users had with Vista. For instance, Microsoft pledges to make it easier to install peripheral devices and to have the software pump out fewer annoying warnings and notifications.

Ballmer also pledged that Windows 7 will boot faster and drain laptop batteries more slowly.

'I believe Windows will remain at the center of people's technological solar system,' Ballmer said. 'We're putting in all the right ingredients: simplicity, reliability and speed, and we're working hard to get it right and to get it ready.'"

To me, Windows is the life-destroying, energy-sucking black hole at the center of our technological galaxy, and I am trying to get my little Millenium Falcon moving at light speed in the opposite direction. Unfortunately Microsoft has successfully metastasized this monstrosity--and the even more execrable Microsoft Word--throughout the institutions of higher education, law, and government. That makes a full blown escape impossible.

Mosquitoes match wing beats before mating - Yahoo! News: "Researchers at Cornell University have discovered that Aedes aegypti mosquitoes — the ones that spread diseases like yellow and dengue fever — alter their wing vibrations in a mating signal.

The good news is that the finding could lead to better ways to control mosquitoes, according to Ronald R. Hoy, an author of the report published Thursday in the online edition of the journal Science."

So it appears that the way to prevent diseases release sterile male mosquitoes who are terrific dancers. Call it the disco strategy.

Thanks to Fred Pilot for this fascinating story.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Yard Junk Prompts Indictment -

Yard Junk Prompts Indictment - "For a decade, Mount Rainier officials tried to get Wade Dunston Jr. to clean up the tires, TV sets and other debris that littered his yard. Cited dozens of times for code violations, Dunston usually cleaned up on days he was due in court, only to fall back to his old ways, authorities said.

Yesterday, prosecutors in Prince George's County announced that Dunston and his mother, Lillie M. Dunston, who owns the property, have been indicted on misdemeanor charges of illegal dumping. The offense carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $30,000 fine."

Tom Skiba sent this link along. What a mess. I am surprised the place hasn't burned down already.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Extinct animals could be brought back to life thanks to advances in DNA technology - Telegraph: "The idea of resurrecting extinct animals moved a step closer to reality last year when scientists announced that they had decoded almost all of the genome of the woolly mammoth, from 60,000-year-old remains found frozen in Siberia.

Now New Scientist magazine has named the 10 other beasts most likely to rise again, including the Irish elk deer whose antlers measured 12 feet across, the dodo and Neanderthal man."

Seems to me we have plenty of Neanderthals. Try to watch a movie in a theater sometime.

I think we'd be better off trying to decode the genome of James Madison or Abraham Lincoln so we can get some decent politicians.

U.S. companies face $409 billion pension deficit: study - Yahoo! Finance

U.S. companies face $409 billion pension deficit: study - Yahoo! Finance: "NEW YORK (Reuters) - Volatile markets have saddled U.S. companies with a $409 billion deficit on pension plans, reversing a $60 billion surplus a year earlier, and will cut into earnings in 2009, consulting firm Mercer said."
The scariest thing about the economy is not the indices--the Dow, the NASDAQ, etc.--because they go up and down all the time. They will go up again. It is the shockingly precarious financial situation of so many institutions, and at a time when the big daddy bank, the US government, is massively in debt with no end in sight. We have states hovering near insolvency, cities and counties bleeding money, major corporations going belly up, and on and on. This means that many people will be hit hard when particular companies or governments...or hoas and condo associations...go under.

Top Scams of 2008

Top Scams of 2008: "10. Mortgage Foreclosure Rescue Scams
Mortgage foreclosures in Wisconsin are on the rise – up 18 percent from August to September 2008, and up 13 percent from September 2007. And, since troubled properties are public record and easily accessible to the public, mortgage “rescue” scams are on the rise, too. These scams play out in one of two ways: the homeowner pays a large, upfront fee to the rescue company to work with his lender to renegotiate the mortgage, but the rescue company takes the money and is never seen again. Or, the rescue company takes advantage of the homeowner by buying the house below market value, and rents the property back to the homeowner at the same price (or higher) as the homeowner’s original mortgage. In either scenario, the homeowner has not only lost his house, but also loses the money he paid upfront – money which would have been better spent if he’d applied it to his mortgage."

Nasty. But a person would have to be a bit gullible to fall for either of these, it seems to me.

Lawmakers dream up a condo and homeowner law wish list -- South Florida

Lawmakers dream up a condo and homeowner law wish list -- South Florida "As president of Cyber Citizens for Justice, a statewide group that represents condo unit and home owners, Jan Bergemann says he hears lots of complaints about the precarious situation those who pay their cable and utility bills are left in when others in the association do not.

'We have to stop these bulk contracts,' said Bergemann. 'If some people don't pay their bills, that often means other owners have to pay more' to avoid being cut off. 'I talked to a guy last week who says he is paying [the equivalent] of four cable bills because about one in four of his neighbors are not paying their bill.'

Bergemann favors a law that would allow unit owners to pay individually for their TV, electricity, garbage and water bills."

Check out the various proposals. The article says HOA/condo law reform will be a major issue in Florida this year.

Homeowner's priority: Cut crime, not grass --

Homeowner's priority: Cut crime, not grass -- "In 2008, the association budgeted $116,000 on its contract for landscape maintenance. The budget for security patrols was $43,680. The figures in 2009 will be approximately $120,000 on landscape maintenance and $50,000 for security, according to the association."
With 9 break-ins in a 6-week period, I think the complaining owner has a good point here.

Pa. man opens neighbor's door with chain saw - Yahoo! News: "SCRANTON, Pa. – An eastern Pennsylvania man may face up to 37 years in prison for tearing open a neighbor's door with a chain saw. Police say 34-year-old Robert Kane began sawing through the front door of Jamie Zaleski's apartment in Scranton while Zaleski and several friends ran out the back.

Kane was angry because a friend of Zaleski's parked in front of his house across the street."

I think this takes the defense of property a bit far, especially considering that Kane didn't own the street. He actually took this all the way to a jury trial. I wonder what his defense was. "Hey, I knocked, I rang the bell...What is a chainsaw wielding maniac to do?"

Thanks to Fred Pilot for this insight into Joe Biden's home town.

Democrats misstepped in handling Burris matter

Democrats misstepped in handling Burris matter: "WASHINGTON (AP) - Senate Democrats who thought they could push away Roland Burris misjudged the racial fallout, underestimated public reaction and wound up on shaky legal ground.

The blunders began when the Democrats, including President-elect Barack Obama, insisted they would not seat Burris as the Senate's only black member because the appointment came from a governor accused of trying to sell Obama' former seat.

On Wednesday, they all but admitted being outflanked by Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, praising Burris and suggesting he soon will be a senator.

Eight days ago, Obama and Senate Democratic leaders saw Blagojevich as so politically damaged that they announced they would reject anyone he appointed to finish Obama's term. Every Democratic senator signed a letter to the same effect.

Privately, key Democrats now admit they miscalculated from the start. They spent this week trying to backtrack and save face."

This is the first article I have seen that states clearly what happened, and puts the President-elect right in the middle of it, where he really was. Now the Democrats are scurrying in all directions. The senators are trying to blame Jesse White, as though we are all so stupid that we don't remember what they said a week ago. Obama is pretending he never got involved, never took a position, and didn't see nuttin--which is so typical of his behavior as an Illinois politician that I am sure it is hard-wired into his brain. And no doubt Jesse White will come up with a different excuse in a day or so when he signs the certification of Burris' appointment.

Firedoglake » I Want to Play Poker with Harry Reid: "A seventy-one year old dude who hasn't held office for 14 years, appointed by a crook, takes the Senate Majority Leader to the cleaners."
Pithy analysis of the way Blago and Burris easily managed to pants Harry Reid.

French TV claims photos from 2005 showed damage from Israel's Gaza operation - Haaretz - Israel News

French TV claims photos from 2005 showed damage from Israel's Gaza operation - Haaretz - Israel News: "French public television network France 2 on Tuesday revealed they had aired photographs that allegedly showed destruction caused by the Israel Air Force during Operation Cast Lead, which were in fact taken during a different incident in 2005, one in which Gaza civilians were killed by an explosion caused by militants in the Strip."
Other than being 4 years out of date and showing the other side's handiwork, I'm sure it made for great journalism.

Real-Estate Executive Found Dead in Apparent Suicide -

Real-Estate Executive Found Dead in Apparent Suicide - "CHICAGO -- Real-estate executive Steven L. Good was found dead of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound Monday in his Jaguar in a forest preserve outside Chicago, said the Kane County Sheriff's Department." / Companies / Pharmaceuticals - Billionaire Merckle commits suicide / Companies / Pharmaceuticals - Billionaire Merckle commits suicide: "Adolf Merckle, one of Germany’s wealthiest men, committed suicide after weeks of talks with creditors designed to save his businesses from being consumed by disastrous investments and the global financial crisis.

The billionaire, 74, was said by his family to have been “broken” by the sight of his business empire, which ranged from pharmaceuticals to cement, crumbling. He died on Monday evening, apparently hit by a train a few hundred metres from his home in southern Germany."

Porn Bailout: Larry Flynt, Joe Francis Seeking Government Money

Porn Bailout: Larry Flynt, Joe Francis Seeking Government Money: "An article in next month's Atlantic asks, 'Is porn recession proof?' According to porn magnate Larry Flynt and 'Girls Gone Wild' king Joe Francis, the answer is no.

TMZ reports that the pornographer pair is heading to Washington to ask for a $5 billion porn bailout:

'With all this economic misery and people losing all that money, sex is the farthest thing from their mind,' Flynt says. 'It's time for Congress to rejuvenate the sexual appetite of America.'"

This gives the term "economic stimulus package" new meaning.
Obama refuses to take stand on seating Burris

See? Nobody will ever pin The One down on anything that smells bad. Not ever.

Senate Democrats Plan To Accept Burris For Obama's Vacant Seat -

Senate Democrats Plan To Accept Burris For Obama's Vacant Seat -
What did I tell you last week?

I was listening to Dick Durbin as he followed the pathetic Harry Reid, who made an ass of himself at the mike and then shambled off as he turned it over to the former ambulance chaser. Durbin then began to lay a vast slime trail as he attempted to rewrite history and provide some sort of cover for the Democrat's disgraceful and illegal behavior, culminating in their sudden reversal of position and full-blown capitulation.

Now they claim they are waiting for Jesse White, the Democrat Illinois Secretary of State, to be ordered to do his job by the Illinois Supreme Court. I once had great respect for White, but his role in this travesty is so inexcusable, so blatantly illegal, that if there were any semblance of justice in this thoroughly corrupt state, White would be impeached even before Blagojevich.

Make no mistake--these morons have lost to Blagojevich, just as I predicted last week. Chump that he is, Blago nonetheless made complete fools of all of them.

Senate Majority Leader? Assistant Majority Leader? These are two of the most powerful legislators in the greatest nation on earth, buffaloed and embarrassed by the likes of Blagojevich. And of course The One, as usual, is nowhere to be found. Get used to that, because he is a genius at avoiding responsibility, having practiced the art for his entire adult life.

This country is badly led at a time when it is in desperate need of wise and responsible guidance.

California may delay tax refunds amid budget impasse - Los Angeles Times

California in deep, deep trouble : "Reporting from Sacramento -- State officials on Tuesday braced for the possibility of delaying tax refunds to millions of Californians, along with student grants and payments to vendors, as the latest round of budget negotiations between Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democratic legislators collapsed.

With little more than a month's worth of cash left in the state treasury, the governor and lawmakers have been unable to agree on how to erase a budget gap projected to reach $41.6 billion by the middle of next year. Democrats announced Tuesday that two weeks of discussions had ended in an impasse and sent Schwarzenegger the $18-billion fiscal package they passed last month. The governor vetoed it, as he had promised to do."

Fred Pilot sent this along. At $42 billion, California is deeper in the hole than any other state, but this isn't just an economic problem. I think the state may well go bankrupt because they are unable to manage their own economic affairs. Underlying the deficit is a breakdown of the political system, and underlying that are some demographic issues that may make it impossible to solve either the political or economic problems.

The middle class has been fleeing the state for some time now, headed for parts east where they get a better deal on taxes, schools, public safety, traffic, home prices, and the other things that matter to them. And the state is the preferred destination for poor people from other nations, for whom it remains a great place to live when compared with where they came from.

The demographic shifts in the state have pushed politics to the far left, except The Governator. But he won't be there forever. LA has a socialist mayor who will likely become the socialist governor pretty soon. And look at the policies that emanate from the People's Republic of San Francisco these days, where there are a million dogs but no children, unless I take mine to visit my sister.

The farmers can't leave because the land is still in that state, but if I were a landowner in the Inland Empire I'd be pushing to cut the state up into three parts and try to salvage one third. That would leave an economy that leads the world in producing movies, music, and litigation, and not much else.

Carnegie Corporation - News

Leading Public Educators Issue Open Letter to President-Elect Obama Urging Investment in Public Higher Education to Rebuild America's Economy: "The higher education leaders who signed the open letter applauded President-elect Obama's commitment to make college more affordable and accessible and to sustain equal opportunity for students to obtain a college education by increasing Pell grants, increasing access to student loans, and extending the grace period for their repayment. In addition, they urged the next administration to make a direct investment in the range of $40 to $50 billion that would support both higher education teaching and research facilities, in partnership with the states."
Public universities hop into the bailout line.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

L.A. water cops get muscle to fight drought - Weather-

L.A. water cops get muscle to fight drought - Weather- "The green thumbs who keep lawns lush and flora flourishing in the city have found a new foe among the aphids, white flies and other yard pests — the water police.

Just as some scofflaws keep an eye out for black-and-white patrol cars, gardeners have learned to spot the white Toyota Priuses driven by Los Angeles water cops out to fight waste as California struggles with an extended drought."

Here's a plot for a movie. The LA Water Police go to war with the HOA boards that are fining people for not watering their lawns. SWAT teams, shootouts, drownings...kind of a Chinatown meets Snowcrash. What do you think?

Empty homes create new challenges: "A number of challenges face neighborhoods with the higher concentrations of foreclosures. Homeowner associations could find themselves having to raise fees as they struggle to stay on top of maintenance of common areas. Traditional neighborhoods face similar problems as they struggle to stay attractive to potential buyers without a mechanism in place to keep properties well maintained."
The Arizona Republic study cited in the article says the "traditional neighborhoods" were hit harder by foreclosures in Chandler than the newer ones, where the CIDs were. But I would point out that "traditional neighborhoods" are full of individual property owners who don't get hit with a a special assessment followed by a lien. In other words, they are not chained to each other like galley slaves who have to go down with the ship. Remember that scene from Ben Hur?

Brookside Square now has both neighborhood and homeowners' associations - Columbia Missourian

Brookside Square now has both neighborhood and homeowners' associations - Columbia Missourian: "Cantin said that for the past few months, the council has been looking at its policy on neighborhood associations to update it from the 1977 version. The council will decide whether neighborhood associations will have more of a role in city government and will receive funding from the city.

The council is also considering how homeowners’ associations fit into city government. Currently, only neighborhood associations are recognized, meaning the council and staff contact these entities with questions and city planning issues. The situation with the Brookside Square Neighborhood Association has caused the council to start looking at whether homeowners' associations should receive more recognition from the city and whether neighborhood associations are needed in areas where homeowners’ associations are already in place, Cantin said."

So they have a mandatory membership HOA and a voluntary neighborhood association, and the city is trying to figure out how to relate to either/both of them.

Canyon Courier News, Sports, Entertainment and information for Evergreen, Colorado: "A homeowner and experienced hunter on Bergen View Trail woke up New Year’s Eve morning about 7 a.m. and spotted three, never-before-tagged young mountain lions on his property.

One was trapped in the chicken coop behind his house, and another one was stalking around the front of the house. A third lion was keeping track of the one in the cage."

We are on yur lonn, eatin yur chikenz.

Fayette schools to teachers: Please donate your raises |

Fayette schools to teachers: Please donate your raises | "School board members say if the county’s teachers would return their 2.5 percent raises, it could keep the 24,000-student system afloat. Should they all return the raises, it would add roughly $4 million to the system’s coffers.

In Monday night’s meeting, board members decided they had nothing to lose by writing a letter to Fayette’s roughly 1,800 contracted teachers asking them to voluntarily “make a donation” to the system’s financial well-being."

Prediction: this tree will fail to bear much fruit.

Residents plan to create gated community in Chester village - Chester Chronicle

Residents plan to create gated community in Chester village - Chester Chronicle: "THE prospect of a gated community has led to objections from parish councillors.

Their opposition involves a planning application made by Beth Dudley at 2 Wilbraham Close off the A56 Warrington Road in Mickle Trafford.

Mrs Dudley has told planning officers at Chester City Council she is seeking permission to install automatic 2m high gates at the entrance to the cul de sac of five modern detached homes.

They would be set back over 7m from the road.

Mickle Trafford and District Parish Council insists the entrance would result in a gated community."

I love these English town names. Mickle Trafford.

Monday, January 05, 2009

New Vision Online : Akright ventures into condominium flats

Uganda : Akright ventures into condominium flats: "Kamugisha, who doubles as the chairman of the Uganda Property Developers Association, said setting up of condominiums was the way to go because land was becoming scarce, mainly in urban areas."
I have been saying for about 25 years that rising land costs led developers to build CIDs so they could cram more people on less land. Nice to see one developer, even in Uganda, who admits it instead of spouting some drivel about New England town meetings.

Dr Rupert Till: Stonehenge a venue for partying | The Sun |News: "STONEHENGE was built as a dance arena for prehistoric raves, a university professor believes.

Dr Rupert Till, who is also a part-time DJ, carried out experiments that he says showed the 5,000-year-old stone circle is ideal for listening to “trance” music.

Archaeologists have argued for decades over the Wiltshire Neolithic monument’s purpose.

But Dr Till, an expert in sound technology at Huddersfield University, West Yorks, believes the stones have perfect acoustics for repetitive rhythms like those used in some dance music."

I guess that settles it. DJ Stonehenge has spoken.
New Poll
I posted a poll at left. Let's see what the verdict of the people is on the future of common interest housing.

DailyTech - Sea Ice Ends Year at Same Level as 1979

DailyTech - Sea Ice Ends Year at Same Level as 1979: "Thanks to a rapid rebound in recent months, global sea ice levels now equal those seen 29 years ago, when the year 1979 also drew to a close."
Remember all the environmentalists saying the ice was melting and the polar bears were drowning? Well, this comes from the University of Illinois, not a right wing think tank. I wonder what Al Gore has to say about this.

Senate Dems in tough spot on Burris - Jonathan Martin and Martin Kady II -

Senate Dems in tough spot on Burris - Jonathan Martin and Martin Kady II - "Reid’s office isn’t backing down on its plan to not seat Burris — and top advisers to Burris are suggesting that Reid doesn’t want an African-American to succeed Obama.

“It’s interesting that all those who are viable are white women and the ones who are unacceptable are black men,” Prince Riley, a senior consultant to Burris, told Politico.

Riley was alluding to a Chicago Sun-Times story Saturday indicating that Reid called Blagojevich on Dec. 3, shortly before the governor was arrested on corruption charges, including the allegation that he'd tried to sell Obama's Senate seat to the highest bidder.

In the call — which was presumably taped by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who'd tapped the governor's phones in the course of the investigation — Reid reportedly argued against appointing Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., Rep. Danny Davis or state Senate President Emil Jones, all of whom are black, in favor of either state Veterans Affairs Director Tammy Duckworth, who is Thai-American, or Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who is white."

It is bad enough that Reid won't seat the only black Senator. Now it turns out that he also decided all three of the black candidates Blagojevich was considering were unacceptable to him, too. But the two white women? Perfectly OK. Even Tammy Duckworth, who is so unqualified for this job that it isn't even funny.

This story is hiding on blogs. If a Rebublican did what Reid has done, it would have been front page news and he would have been forced to resign. Remember Trent Lott?

Sunday, January 04, 2009

89-year-old arrested for keeping ball sues family: "BLUE ASH, Ohio (AP) - An 89-year-old Cincinnati-area woman arrested for confiscating the neighbor kid's football is now suing the boy's parents."
Kids play in yard. Balls keep going in neighbor lady's yard. Lady keeps ball in retaliation. Parents call cops. Cops arrest lady and charge her with petty theft. Prosecutor dismisses case. Lady sues parents.

This would be a perfect situation for an HOA to resolve. Just fine both parties, put liens on their homes, and foreclose. But I am wondering how when I was a kid, back in prehistorical times, my friends and I were able to land approximately 1,000,000 baseballs, footballs, basketballs, and soccer balls in the neighbors' yards and retrieved all of them without a single arrest.

Clint Eastwood Is The Man - Figuratively And Literally - Screen Rant: "“My father had a couple of kids at the beginning of the Depression. There was not much employment. Not much welfare. People barely got by. People were tougher then.”

“We live in more of a pussy generation now, where everybody’s become used to saying, “Well, how do we handle it psychologically?” In those days, you just punched the bully back and duked it out. Even if the guy was older and could push you around, at least you were respected for fighting back, and you’d be left alone from then on.”

“I don’t know if I can tell you exactly when the pussy generation started. Maybe when people started asking about the meaning of life.”"

This is an interesting observation. Eastwood is right that, on the whole, Americans were psychologically tougher and more resilient in the past. I wouldn't go so far as to say we have become a nation of whiners, as Phil Gramm says, but we certainly obsess about our hurties a lot, where in the past people laughed at other people's weakness. I see Oprah Winfrey on the TVs in the gym (I try not to look) and I can hardly restrain myself from chucking a weight through the screen. What a hideous display of weakness and shameless dysfunction. However, while Eastwood is right true about the culture as a whole, the strange thing is that we have some extremely tough subcultures. Take a look at the UFC sometime. They make boxers look like ballet dancers. I trained in mixed martial arts for many years and I didn't see any shortage of tough people, including some women. There are other subcultures like that. Maybe we are turning into Eloi and Morlocks.

Google Hopes to Open a Trove of Little-Seen Books -

Google Hopes to Open a Trove of Little-Seen Books - "A settlement in October with authors and publishers who had brought two copyright lawsuits against Google will make it possible for users to read a far greater collection of books, including many still under copyright protection."
Google Books will be expanding to include zillions of out-of-print but copyrighted books, and this is a great thing for those of us who do research.
Matusalem Gran ReservaI had a shot of this on New Year's Eve at The Matchbox in Chicago, and it is easily the best rum I have ever tasted. Just a random thought for the New Year.

Political Punch

Obama wants to create 600,000 new government jobs
He's got your libertarianism, right there.

Beat the New Boss: D.C. libertarians plot their Obama administration strategies. - Reason Magazine: "With the Bush administration ending in a frenzy of disappointment, most libertarians don't expect much more luck with Obama, outside of a few issues involving drug policy and executive power. The debate in Washington now is on how much effort to spend trying to remake the Republican Party. 'We're fighting for the soul of the GOP,' says Tanner, who adds that libertarians need to look beyond the party, at other reformers, other populists, people who won over Americans as much as Bush has lost them. 'We need to seize that Ross Perot mantle of fighting against these guys.'"
The article doesn't acknowledge one other fact: the neoliberal economic paradigm has been put through a meat grinder by the collapse of the housing and financial markets and the massive bailout and quasi-socialization strategy that has been put in place. I don't buy the argument that lack of regulation caused the problems, and in fact I think over-regulation has a bigger share of the blame. But the media and policy elites have created a dominant rhetoric that says the federal government must ride to the rescue with vast, expensive, aggressive initiatives. Bush enthusiastically signed on to that agenda and Obama has already said he wants to extend it. And the same thing is happening in Europe. In fact, I don't see any nation that is even remotely interested in laissez-faire economics now.

So as far as I can see, the Thatcher-Reagan era is now over. All this libertarian macho talk about "fighting against these guys" and "winning over Americans" is laughable.

If Libertarians were living in Mom's basement under President Bush, they will be sharing the backyard with the family dog when the new crowd takes over in a couple of weeks.

WBBM 780 - Chicago's #1 source for local news, traffic and weather - AP Digital

Illinois state workers to attend ethics seminar: "CHICAGO (AP) -- Think of a state that could use a little refresher course on ethics in government. There's a good chance a certain state whose governor allegedly tried to sell a U.S. Senate seat comes to mind.

And as it turns out, Illinois is set to hold just such an ethics course for state workers this Wednesday.

More than 200 state employees are expected to take part in the ethics seminar at University of Illinois-Chicago. Featured speakers include agency heads, as well as speakers from Gov. Rod Blagojevich's own office."

Not from The Onion. At my university, this charade takes place. We peons have been required to take ethics training on-line annually for several years now, while the bouffant crook who ran the state was busy peddling influence, facilitated by the rest of the gang in Chicago and Springfield.

Residents on outdated dirt trail hit dead-end - The Connecticut Post Online

Residents on outdated dirt trail hit dead-end - The Connecticut Post Online The local government won't fix the private road, which seems to be a dangerous one.

Charity homes built by Hollywood start to crumble - Times Online

Habitat for Insanity? Charity homes built by Hollywood start to crumble - Times Online: "Residents of a model housing estate bankrolled by Hollywood celebrities and hand-built by Jimmy Carter, the former US president, are complaining that it is falling apart.

Fairway Oaks was built on northern Florida wasteland by 10,000 volunteers, including Carter, in a record 17-day “blitz” organised by the charity Habitat for Humanity.

Eight years later it is better known for cockroaches, mildew and mysterious skin rashes."

The place was built by volunteers, including Hollywood types and of course former peanut farmer and former (horrible) President Jimmy Carter. Now it is a dump.

Democratic Underground - On one hand, we have Dems threatening not to seat an African American - Democratic Underground

Democratic Underground - On one hand, we have Dems threatening not to seat an African American - Democratic Underground: "On one hand, we have Dems threatening not to seat an African American duly appointed to serve in the US Senate by a sitting governor; an African American who has worked his way up from local office through statewide office before this appointment.

On the other hand, we have Dems cheering the naming of a wealthy white woman who has never held public office, interviews badly, but has an important surname and the 'right' pedigree.

No further comment needed."

This Democratic Underground post was linked on Instapundit. I knew the issue would go in this direction. Blagojevich is crafty, isn't he? If Harry Reid follows through on his threat to physically block Burris from entering the chamber, he is an even bigger fool than he appears, which is saying something.

We are at a historic low point in the quality of American public policy makers. Even the ones at the top of the heap are abysmal. Not just in Illinois--in Washington, and I mean both parties and all three branches of government.

Legislature expected to get several HOA-related bills

Arizona Legislature expected to get several HOA-related bills
No kidding. That's like saying, "Sun expected to rise tomorrow morning." Why so many single-issue bills every year, instead of the big, complex ones you see in Florida, Arizona, New Jersey, etc.? Pat Haruff tells me it is because the AZ legislators are part-timers, and this piecemeal approach is typical of the way things are done there. I wonder if that is a good or bad thing. I can see arguments for and against it.

What's ahead in 2009 for Coto and the canyons? | coto, caza, canyons, county, fire - News -

What's ahead in 2009 for Coto and the canyons? - "CITYHOOD FOR COTO?

Coto de Caza may be a gated community, but it's not a part of any city. So, it gets it government services from the county of Orange. In the last Local Agency Formation Commission annexation study done of the region there were several options detailed for Coto de Caza and surrounding areas ranging from forming its own city to becoming part of a new bigger city to being annexed by neighboring Rancho Santa Margarita.

Residents of Coto de Caza, including members of some of its homeowners' association boards, have been discussing what to do about the future of Coto de Caza's governance. Whether or not that includes the nearby communities of Wagon Wheel, Las Flores and Ladera Ranch remains to be seen."

I think in the near future a lot of private communities will be thinking about cityhood or annexation or dedication of private roads, etc., to the public.

Foreclosure crisis hits Virginia | Waynesboro News Virginian

Foreclosure crisis hits Virginia | Waynesboro News Virginian: "The number of foreclosures in Virginia more than doubled during the first 11 months of 2008, compared with all of 2007.

Data analyzed by the Richmond Times-Dispatch show 27,938 foreclosures statewide in the 2008 period for all property types, including single-family homes, businesses, condominiums and lots. In 2007 in Virginia, the total was 10,718, an increase of 161 percent.

The Richmond area was hit with 2,248 foreclosures last year through November, nearly four times — 287 percent — the total for all of 2007."

This is a detailed article based on a good deal of research. The author notes that "Residential foreclosures cut across all income levels and house styles and prices..."