Saturday, April 07, 2007

Urban Dictionary: Gore Effect
I found this link on Instapundit. Now I understand why it is so cold.

Gore Effect

The phenomenon that leads to unseasonably cold temperatures, driving rain, hail, or snow whenever Al Gore visits an area to discuss global warming. Hence, the Gore Effect.

- Australia, November 2006: Al Gore is visiting two weeks before summer begins. The Gore Effect strikes: "Ski resort operators gazed at the snow in amazement. Parents took children out of school and headed for the mountains. Cricketers scurried amid bullets of hail as Melburnians traded lunchtime tales of the incredible cold." (The Age)

- New York, March 2004: "Gore chose January 15, 2004, one of the coldest days in New York City's history, to rail against the Bush administration and global warming skeptics... Global warming, Gore told a startled audience, is causing record cold temperatures." (NY Environment News)
Hillsborough: There goes the neighborhood
This is the nightmare that some Tampa Palms homeowners have been dealing with for four months: Cows. Lots of them. Trampling all over their nice lawns and destroying plants in their gated townhouse community called Palma Vista, where homes run from $300,000 to $450,000. The cattle belong to Abram Cuesta, 52, who rents space on the neighboring 640 acres belonging to the widely known Tampa developer, Giunta Group. No one seems to know exactly how or why the cows are getting into the 80-home Palma Vista complex, but people there want it to stop - so much that the homeowners' association recently filed for an injunction to stop the cows and a lawsuit against Cuesta.
The News-Herald - MultiVest VP admits guilt
Nancy Levy sent this follow-up on one of the property manager embezzlements currently moving through the criminal justice system:

Woman pleads guilty to mail fraud for role in bilking homeowners associations out of more than $3.5 million: A Mentor woman admitted Friday
to playing a role in defrauding more than 70 condominium and homeowners associations throughout Northeast Ohio. Kathleen DeSalvo, 52, stood in a Cleveland federal courtroom filled with attorneys, former employees, victims and U.S. District Court Judge Christopher A. Boyko, and pleaded guilty to a federal charge of mail fraud Friday morning.

Condos Feel the Mortgage Crunch -
Nancy Levy sent this piece that documents what I've been concerned about with the housing market headed south. People who find themselves short of cash are shorting the condo association. This will mean more foreclosures.

In a sign that the turmoil in the subprime mortgage industry is affecting entire communities and not just individual homeowners, condominium association officers, property managers and real estate lawyers throughout the region say they are noticing more delinquencies in monthly fees. "If someone is not paying their mortgage, they're not paying their condo fee, and the condos need money to pay bills," said Jeffrey van Grack, a community association lawyer with Lerch, Early & Brewer in Bethesda. - Record-Shattering Cold Threatens Crops
I got your global warming right here:

A brutally cold surge of arctic air into the eastern half of the United States will easily bring record-low temperatures on Easter morning and could cause significant losses in some of the nation's most prolific agricultural areas.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Florida attorney general orders Lauderdale condo to allow Jewish mezuzahs on doors: South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Here is another isolated anecdote that is totally unrepresentative of the Nirvana that is community association living. This time it's another chapter in the utterly brainless condo association war on mezuzahs, with the Florida AG weighing in heavily on the side of religious liberty. Apparently the association responded to the bad press by allowing the original complainant to have his mezuzah. The Florida AG says, no, everybody should have the same right.

Just in time for Passover, Laurie Richter won the right to keep her mezuzah on the doorpost of her rented Fort Lauderdale condominium. But that's not good enough for Attorney General Bill McCollum. He gave the association at The Port Condominium, in the 1800 block of Southeast 17th Street, until 5 p.m. today to change its rules so all its Jewish residents can hang mezuzahs...Neither condo board president Ronni L. Rosenberg nor association attorney Henry Howell Fox could be reached for comment. The association's rule prohibits anyone from attaching, hanging, affixing or displaying anything on the exterior walls, doors, balconies and windows, which are considered common property controlled by the association.
Times Community Newspapers - Homeowner dream turned nightmare
This is a detailed account of how a middle class couple in Virginia went from relative riches to rags, starting with buying a condo using two interest-only mortgages. Things were going fine until life didn't go as planned...

They are a fairly typical Loudoun family. He is a 35-year-old engineer for a technology company in Fairfax, pulling in $80,000 a year. His wife teaches yoga. College-educated, they have two daughters: a 5-year-old and a newborn. In August 2005, the housing market in Northern Virginia is piping hot. The couple buys an 1,100-square-foot condo in a brand-new Ashburn community for $336,000, using two interest-only mortgages. The plan? To live there for a few years, build equity, then move to a bigger house where the family can grow. But that's not what happened to this family, who would not allow their names to be used because of the sensitive nature of the situation. After a year of spiraling financial problems, the man said, the bank foreclosed on their condo, and now banks, collections agencies, hospitals and homeowners associations are after him for tens of thousands of dollars.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Ailing Margate widow, 85, fights condo board to preserve her independence: South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Here is another one of those isolated anecdotal-type things that are so unrepresentative of the blissful life millions of people are enjoying in condomiminums:

Rose Normoyle worked as a real-life Rosie the Riveter in an aircraft factory during World War II, building the planes that helped America preserve freedom. Now, she's fighting her condo board so she can maintain her own freedom.At 85, her memory is failing, she is confined to a wheelchair and she must have 24-hour care. But Normoyle, a widow, doesn't want to move into a nursing home. Instead, she wants to remain in the apartment at Lakewood on the Green I, in Margate, that she bought in 1988 after moving from Long Island. With no children and living only on Social Security -- she gets no pension from her jobs assembling aircraft between 1941 and 1982 -- she can't afford caretakers. Her closest friend, retired New York City firefighter Louis D'Agostino, 69, of Coconut Creek, is paying two people to watch over her around the clock. He is half owner of the apartment. But the board considers the caretakers to be "unauthorized and-or transient occupants" and on Feb. 8 filed a lawsuit alleging their presence in the apartment violates association rules.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

AlterNet: Will Vermont Secede from the Union?
I have written from time to time about the idea of suburban secession, which is usually associated with middle class or wealthy suburbanites seeking isolation from the starving urban masses (many of whom are struggling with obesity as we speak, but that's another subject). Now we discover that the folks who want to secede are the hippies who fled to Vermont after Nixon beat McGovern in 1972. Who knew?

he winds of secession are blowing in the Green Mountain State.

Vermont was once an independent republic, and it can be one again. We think the time to make that happen is now. Over the past 50 years, the U.S. government has grown too big, too corrupt and too aggressive toward the world, toward its own citizens and toward local democratic institutions. It has abandoned the democratic vision of its founders and eroded Americans' fundamental freedoms. Vermont did not join the Union to become part of an empire. Some of us therefore seek permission to leave.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Foolish Forum: Homebuilder Havoc [] April 03, 2007
Don't know if you can access this without a subscription, but it is worth a read, from The Motley Fool. Here's a snippet:

The housing situation in the U.S. seems to be unraveling. Homebuilders have reported nothing but cancellations and asset writedowns, and even the staunch bulls aren't seeing a bottom. Here to discuss the housing situation is homebuilder analyst David Lee Smith...[Smith]...many of the mortgage industry's lending practices clearly had become absurd. Imagine furnishing the funds for someone to buy something as expensive as a house and not even requiring proof of employment or income! In a very real sense, the builders' cavalier approach to land and inventories, coupled with that sort of mortgage-lending foolishness, has resulted in a perfect storm that's now battering the housing industry.
Man, 102, takes out 25-year mortgage
This is the triumph of optimism over reality if I've ever seen it.

A pensioner aged 102 has been granted a 25-year mortgage despite the fact he would have to live until 127 to pay the loan back. The property investor from East Sussex has taken out an interest-only £200,000 mortgage and hopes to meet the £958 monthly repayments with income from rent as he joins a growing army of retired people hoping to cash in on buy-to-let schemes. Most lenders set a limit at 75 years for mortgage applicants but a handful, including Woolwich, and Bristol & West, have no such restrictions. This has led to a rush of applications from older investors.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | 'Zombies' bear down on Brisbane
Here is a new social movement that bears watching. Draft some anti-zombie covenants and ordinances before they parade through the streets of your neighborhood.

Horror film fans dressed up to look like an army of the undead have been stomping the streets of Brisbane, Australia, in an annual Zombie Walk. Spattered with fake blood and their faces painted a deathly white, the "Zombies" staggered across the city to the botanical gardens. The event originated in North America and is in its second year in Brisbane. Its website explains that it is not an April Fool's joke "but serious, in a flippant sort of manner". Zombie Walks in Canada and the US have attracted hundreds of revellers. An event in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, drew nearly 900 "Zombies" in October 2006.