Saturday, May 23, 2009

Hippie Stonehenge?

American Stonehenge: Monumental Instructions for the Post-Apocalypse: "Called the Georgia Guidestones, the monument is a mystery—nobody knows exactly who commissioned it or why. The only clues to its origin are on a nearby plaque on the ground—which gives the dimensions and explains a series of intricate notches and holes that correspond to the movements of the sun and stars—and the 'guides' themselves, directives carved into the rocks. These instructions appear in eight languages ranging from English to Swahili and reflect a peculiar New Age ideology. Some are vaguely eugenic (guide reproduction wisely—improving fitness and diversity); others prescribe standard-issue hippie mysticism (prize truth—beauty—love—seeking harmony with the infinite)."
Judging by the words of wisdom, I think it should be called Stoned-henge.

Stimulus funds to repair Texas Governor's Mansion - Yahoo! News

Stimulus funds to repair Texas Governor's Mansion - Yahoo! News: "AUSTIN, Texas – While Gov. Rick Perry is criticizing Washington bailouts, state lawmakers are planning to use $11 million in federal stimulus money to help rebuild the badly burned Texas Governor's Mansion."
Question for state's rights Governor Perry: How is contributing to rebuilding the governor's mansion a federal responsibility?

California budget crisis could bring lasting economic harm - Los Angeles Times

California budget crisis could bring lasting economic harm - Los Angeles Times: "The spectacle that played out in the national media this week of a state unable to get its fiscal act together is reinforcing the notion that the Golden State is a rotten place to do business, experts say."
Hard to see how California can rehab itself, much less its image, anytime soon.

In Depth: Where U.S. Homeowners Are Most In Debt -

In Depth: Where U.S. Homeowners Are Most In Debt -
Modesto, CA: 81% of all loans from the last five years are upside down.

Lovable misunderstood pit bull attacks 2 year old

Son Of Steelers' Harrison Attacked By Family Dog - Sports News Story - WPXI Pittsburgh: "FRANKLIN PARK, Pa. -- Channel 11 News learned that a pit bull owned by Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison attacked the player's 2-year-old son, James III.

The attack happened at Harrison's Franklin Park home along Matterhorn Drive on Thursday.

Officials said the attack allegedly happened after the boy's mother let the dog out of its pen. She, and the family's massage therapist, were also injured by the dog as they tried to protect the boy."

A two-year old and a pit bull. What could possibly go wrong?

Harrison is the jerk who refused to go to the White House with his team. It wasn't political. He just "didn't want to go." Why? Because President Obama didn't really want to see the Steelers--he would have invited whoever won the Super Bowl.

What the fork?

Unusual utensil upsets neighborhood | Latest News | "STONE OAK – Damien Watel sees nothing wrong with the 18 foot silver fork outside his business off Stone Oak Parkway, but then again he paid more than $20,000 to have it built.

Watel calls the oddly shaped sculpture “art”, while the Stone Oak Homeowners Association calls it an “eyesore” and is demanding he either take it down or cover it up."

Seems Mr. Watel didn't get the HOAs permission before forking up the neighborhood. But a compromise is in the works: build a knife and spoon to go with the fork. Not really.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Washington declines to help California, at least for now - Los Angeles Times

Washington declines to help California, at least for now - Los Angeles Times: "California needs to solve its financial crisis by itself and should not expect an emergency bailout from the White House, an array of Obama administration officials said Thursday, making clear they had no appetite to step in and provide financial assistance or loan guarantees.

'Look, we're going to examine what we can do. What we need to do, however, is to treat states fairly and that means uniformly,' David Axelrod, senior advisor to the president, said in an interview. 'Whatever we do for one state, there will be other states who also will want to do that. And there's a limit to what the government can do.'"

I agree with Axelrod. If they bail out California, how can they say "no" to Illinois, New Jersey, New York, and a number of other states? What would be the principle underlying a decision to help one state but not the others? And if the national government goes down that road, what about federalism? States are supposed to have, and pay for, their own policy agenda, and a state government elected by the residents of that state. They make their own decisions and they have to pay for them. If the national government is going to underwrite all the states' economic risks, federalism is gone and we are a unitary nation like France or Japan.

What is going on with the auto industry is bad enough. Let's not compound it.

Obama cuts out press, produces own "news" coverage of...himself!

Do You Want Your OTV? - Political Punch
So now Obama is producing his own "news." I tell Obama lovers about how aggressively he and Axelrod control his press coverage and they all swear it can't be true. The press conferences are stage-managed, with reporters being told in advance who will be called on. The pressers are so scripted that Obama has been using a teleprompter. The cover of Newsweek has essentially been dedicated to Obama, Inc., MSNBC's legs are quivering, and you have to go to YouTube to find any of Obama or Biden's gaffes.

Reagan's people were very good at managing his press coverage for at least his first term, but the Obama team has them beaten easily. Axelrod and the others are very, very good at their jobs. There is a lot of spin, schmoozing, manipulation, and intimidation going on behind the scenes. And now they have decided to cut out the middle men--the actual news organizations--and produce their own "coverage."

Green Building Red-Lighted by Homeowners’ Associations

Green Building Red-Lighted by Homeowners’ Associations: "With environmentalism en vogue, many homeowners are finding economic solutions within the green building movement. However, restrictive covenants established by homeowners’ associations (HOA) have made it extremely difficult for many Americans to make their homes more energy efficient."
Thanks to Mark Pike, recent grad of William and Mary School of Law, for this post and his law review note.

Trickle-down austerity

California Cities Irked by Borrowing Plan - "California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, in his efforts to find funds to balance the state budget, has proposed borrowing $2 billion from municipal governments over the next fiscal year, a tactic that is rankling local officials up and down the state.

Mr. Schwarzenegger is invoking a 2004 law that lets the state demand loans of 8% of property-tax revenue from cities, counties and special districts. Under the law, the state must repay the municipalities with interest within three years."

And then what? The cities cut services and ask more from the few remaining real estate developers?

Will the Urban Renaissance Outlast the Bubble? - Megan McArdle

Will the Urban Renaissance Outlast the Bubble? - Megan McArdle: "There's a lot of angst out there over whether products like Starbucks that seem somehow emblematic of an era of wasteful spending will outlast the current downturn. The other day it occurred to me to wonder if the same isn't true of US cities."
Good question. Chicago's urban renaissance relied on TIFs, CIDs, federal HOPE VI money, the real estate bubble mentality, and a few other features of the 1990-2008 bygone era.

Recession Turns Malls Into Ghost Towns -

Recession Turns Malls Into Ghost Towns - "Some analysts estimate that the number of so-called 'dead malls' -- centers debilitated by anemic sales and high vacancy rates -- will swell to more than 100 by the end of this year."
Macy's, J.C. Penney, Sears...all suffering, according to the article. If the anchor tenants are in trouble, so is the landlord.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Pa. middle school expels teen with eyebrow shaver

Pa. middle school expels teen with eyebrow shaver: "PENN HILLS, Pa. (AP) - A Pittsburgh-area teenager has been suspended from middle school when a random search turned up an eyebrow shaver in her handbag. Officials at Linton Middle School in Penn Hills recommended at a Wednesday disciplinary hearing that 15-year-old be expelled for the rest of this year and 45 days next year."
Six more years and all three of my kids will have graduated from high school and will be forever out of the clutches of the idiots who run them.

Nick Gillespie to fellow Libertarians: "You fools!"

Hit & Run > Obama on Taxes and Traffic: Ever Get the Feeling You've Been Cheated? Or, can we start talking about Obama's vision deficit? - Reason Magazine: "Question to the folks, including some of the libertarian persuasion (you fools!), who were bullish on Obama back when the alternative was John McCain, the Terri Schiavo of presidential candidates: When are you going to admit that Barry O stinks on ice?"
I always find libertarians interesting folks to talk politics with because they have a core set of values and they try to stick to them, but they end up taking some strange positions. For example, the idea of a libertarian voting for Obama seems absurd because anybody could see he was a big-government liberal if not a crypto-socialist. Apparently, some libertarians voted for him, presumably because McCain was so bad and Obama is liberal on social issues. But now Nick Gillespie takes Obama voters to task--all from a libertarian perspective.

The worst example of libertarianism leading people to strange beliefs is their support for HOAs, where they actually end up defending tyranny in the name of freedom.

Trinidad: Gated communities not so safe?

Trinidad News, Trinidad Newspaper, Trinidad Sports, Trinidad politics, Trinidad and Tobago, Tobago News, Trinidad classifieds, Trinidad TV, Sports, Business: "THE PERCEPTION that gated communities are safer than living out in the open was shattered on Tuesday afternoon by three young gunmen, who walked to the front gate of a house, called out to their target and then shot her several times, killing her on the spot."

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Legislature Debates HOA Bill - Las Vegas Now |

Legislature Debates HOA Bill - Las Vegas Now |: "The FBI continues its investigation into HOA political corruption, trying to tie posh developers to boards scattered throughout the valley. SB 182 would make influence peddling and kickbacks a crime.

The bill has faced little opposition to this point and the end of session deadline is looming. The bill's supporters and those in the HOA community say now is the time to strike.

'They have all the powers of a government, okay. And there is no one watching all this money,' said State Senator Mike Schneider."

The bill has to be voted out of committee by next Wednesday or it will die there. Thanks to Fred Pilot for the link.

Budget crisis could push O.C., other localities into bankruptcy - Total Buzz -

Budget crisis could push O.C., other localities into bankruptcy - Total Buzz - "Could Orange County go bankrupt again?

That’s the talk at the county Hall of Administration a day after voters resoundingly rejected a series of ballot proposals. As officials grapple with filling a $100 million hole in their general fund budget for the fiscal year 2009-2010, they are deeply worried that Gov. Schwarzenegger’s threat to borrow property taxes from local governments could tip them over the edge.

County CEO Tom Mauk said that if the governor goes through with his pledge, that could mean an additional $43 million taken away from the county government. And that produces a $143 million hole in the general fund, which is tough to fill without cutting local government’s main cost: public safety."

Fred Pilot sent this, noting that it could lead to even more government privatization and/or reducing services to minimal levels--even policing?

"California is hosed!" - Megan McArdle

Is California Too Big to Fail? - Megan McArdle: "You can blame Republicans who won't pass a budget, or Democrats who spend every single cent of tax money that comes in during the booms, borrow some more, and then act all surprised when revenues, in a totally unprecedented, inexplicable, and unforeseable chain of events, fall during a recession. You can blame the initiative process, and the uneducated voters who try to vote themselves rich by picking their own pockets. Whoever is to blame, the state was bound to go broke one day, and hey, today's that day!"
And that is the way it looks. So what is to be done? Federal bailout? Bankruptcy and receivership?

California voters kill budget measures - Los Angeles Times

California voters kill budget measures - Los Angeles Times: "Schwarzenegger has called for cuts that would hit every corner of the state. He announced plans to lay off 5,000 of the state's 235,000 workers and has proposed slashing education by up to $5 billion, selling state properties, borrowing $2 billion from local governments and potentially reducing eligibility for healthcare programs.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa predicted that the city's budget could take a hit -- but he vowed a fight: 'I'm going to do everything I can to protect the city coffers.'"

I guess the voters of California aren't quite as fond of paying taxes as they are of government services. There is a close relationship between the two, but you'd never know it if you look at election returns.

A gated community with excitment

Detectives shot 25 times at Harvell | | The Des Moines Register: "Three West Des Moines police detectives fired 25 shots at a serial rapist last week after he pointed a blank-firing gun and threatened to kill them, according to a search warrant unsealed this morning.

Adam Harvell, 36, was shot and killed after the detectives took a different search warrant to his townhouse in the Village at Glen Oaks, a gated community southeast of Jordan Creek Town Center."

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Columbus Dispatch : No hat, no hood, no shades? Come on in

The Columbus Dispatch : No hat, no hood, no shades? Come on in: "Westerville police have asked the city's 21 banks and credit unions to post window signs that direct customers to put away cell phones and remove sunglasses, hoods and hats.

The idea is to weed out those who want to conceal their identities from security cameras to rob the bank or credit union."

Thanks to Mystery Reader for this interesting link. It is strange how private property ownership leads to the ability to make strange rules and exclude everybody who won't go along.

Of course, public schools are notorious for this sort of thing. My son's high school principal is rabid about hats. He has "No Hat Zone" posted on all the doors and the staff are instructed to holler at anybody who sets one toe inside the building while wearing a hat. Why? Who knows. The school has no gangs.

Condo board backs down

The BIG One - WTAM 1100: "(Perry Township) - An Ohio condo board that told a military mother to take a Blue Star Flag emblem out of her window will now allow it to stay.

The head of the condominium management company says the board won't penalize Marlene Gano of Perry Township, though it earlier said that her display violated condo rules.

Rem Commercial Association Management President Gary Duvall says the dispute with Gano and her 76-year-old husband, Richard, brought his company dozens of calls and e-mails, including some death threats."

Too bad it takes death threats to make a condo board see the light of reason.

Aldermen: City 'gypped' in privatization of parking meters :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: City Hall

Aldermen: City 'gypped' in privatization of parking meters :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: City Hall: "Five months after privatizing Chicago parking meters with only five dissenting votes, the City Council took the contractor to the woodshed today amid accusations that it botched the transition, concealed problems and 'stole' money from motorists who parked at improperly calibrated downtown meters.

The outrage was so great about a 75-year deal tied to a steep schedule of rate hikes that several aldermen believe there may be grounds to cancel the $1.15 billion lease with Chicago Parking Meters LLC."

When they approved this, the word from the aldermen was that they didn't need to read it. Now I guess they want a Mulligan.

Homeowners Associations:The Enemy of Solar? - Green Inc. Blog -

Homeowners Associations:The Enemy of Solar? - Green Inc. Blog - "Lawmakers in Texas are considering a bill that would prevent homeowner associations from banning solar panels, and similar laws are already in place in a dozen or more states, according to the Database of State Initiatives for Renewable Energy — including Arizona, Colorado, Florida and California, among others."

Coyote Gulch lawsuit dismissed > About Town > Stories > Lakewood >

Coyote Gulch lawsuit dismissed > About Town > Stories > Lakewood > "A lawsuit filed by a homeowner's association against the city of Lakewood and Jefferson County over the Coyote Gulch baseball field has been dismissed.

The Coyote Gulch Homeowner's Association filed the lawsuit in February on the grounds that the baseball field, now under construction, is contrary to the Coyote Gulch conceptual master plan approved in 1995."

Blog: Condo association throws taste out window - The News-Herald News : Breaking news coverage for Northern Ohio

Blog: Condo association throws taste out window - The News-Herald News : Breaking news coverage for Northern Ohio: "In a move that seems to defy all logic, common sense and good taste, a condo association in the Canton area has ordered a couple living in one of its homes to take down from their window a Blue Star Flag honoring their son’s more than 30 years of service to the U.S. Army.

Having a flag of any kind hanging from a window apparently violates a rule set up by the condo association to ensure uniformity within the development, and if the couple don’t remove the Blue Star Flag, they face being charged a fine of $50 per day, according to the Canton Repository."

Urban Hunting Gaining Ground

Urban Hunting Gaining Ground: "Government agencies searching for a solution to control booming deer numbers are turning to hunters in greater numbers. Suburban and urban hunting opportunities continue to grow in Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan, Pennsylvania and other states, and a state Supreme Court recently upheld a lower-court ruling in a case that pitted a homeowner's association against bowhunters. The Archery Trade Association took legal action against the Reston, Virginia, Homeowner's Association after it tried to stop two men from hunting on their own land."

Former Anaheim city manager hits jackpot with pension - OC Watchdog -

Former Anaheim city manager hits jackpot with pension - OC Watchdog - "Few have profited from California’s government retirement system as former Anaheim city manager Jim Ruth — who is one of the highest-paid retirees at $219,045 a year.

Ruth, 73, continues working, earning another $225,000 annually from another local agency.

Even he says government retirements need to be reformed."

Nice gig. Orange County is supposed to be the land of conservative Republicans, tax revolts, and private government. But it seems that Mr. Ruth has found a way to triumph over all those forces. Should we applaud or throw up?

Recession over?

Housing Starts, Permits Both Unexpectedly Lower - Economy * US * News * Story - "The Commerce Department said housing starts fell 12.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 458,000 units, the lowest on records dating back to January 1959, from March's upwardly revised 525,000 units."
The folks who look at the stock market seem to be more optimistic than those of us who think more in terms of housing as the engine that drives the economy. I think there will be no turnaround in unemployment and consumer spending until the housing industry recovers.

Jon Talton | What if Starbucks is an artifact of an economy that's not coming back? | Seattle Times Newspaper

Jon Talton | What if Starbucks is an artifact of an economy that's not coming back? | Seattle Times Newspaper: "What if Starbucks is an artifact of an economy that's not coming back? A time of rising, if fleeting, American affluence as we moved from dot-coms and telecoms, to day trading and house flipping, all based on the biggest run-up of debt in the history of the world. For this venti, triple-shot America, it might have been the quintessential bubble drink."
And the symbol of that era would be a self-employed real estate salesperson sitting in Starbucks all day with a laptop and a cell phone. But Starbucks changed some things, and I hope they make a comeback. Americans won't settle for bad coffee anymore, and lots of people want a place to sit that has some atmosphere and you don't get rushed to hit the street. Plus, where else are all the people with English degrees supposed to work?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Biden Reveals Location of Secret VP Bunker - Presidential Politics | Political News -

Biden Reveals Location of Secret VP Bunker - Presidential Politics | Political News -
Imagine him as President. And guess who's behind Biden in the succession line? Nancy Pelosi--at least, as long as she is Speaker of the House. That could change, given her bizarre antics regarding the "torture" crisis.

Distressed property sales hit upscale condos - Los Angeles Times

Distressed property sales hit upscale condos - Los Angeles Times: "Across Southern California, projects conceived during the housing boom, but completed after the bust, are sitting largely vacant. Developers are desperate to unload these units, but they face some particular challenges. Banks often won't provide mortgages to buyers in buildings that are less than 50% occupied, reducing the pool of eligible purchasers. Converting the projects to rentals means even steeper losses because the cash flow often won't cover a developer's construction costs.

Condo developers are now hosting their own auctions to attract a critical mass of buyers fast. It's a practice that Irvine real estate consultant John Burns projects will become more widespread this year."

This one comes from Fred Pilot. There is so much bad news in real estate these days that it is hard to reconcile with the claims that the recession either is, or soon will be, in the past.

Flu--free, or three free! / Americas / Society - Deserted Mexican hotels offer flu-free guarantees to lure visitors: "Visitors to one hotel, The Royal, are being offered a “flu-free guarantee”: anyone who contracts the flu virus within 14 days of checking out gets three free annual holidays."
Sounds like a deal.

UPDATED: NY Times' Maureen Dowd Plagiarizes TPM's Josh Marshall | thejoshuablog's Blog

UPDATED: NY Times' Maureen Dowd Plagiarizes TPM's Josh Marshall | thejoshuablog's Blog
This is interesting because it shows that major media journalists not only read the lefty blogs, but they let themselves be spun by them.

Dispute over mortgage payoff leads to trouble

BBCW: Dawn Welsh of Hillsboro, MO Arrested for Trespassing in Her Own Home After Supposed Mortgage Scam
This is all over the web and YouTube, and I don't know the truth of it. One of my students alerted me about it. Seems like a strange story--but she is becoming a cause celebre in some circles.

Condo associations dying as fees dry up - St. Petersburg Times

Condo associations dying as fees dry up - St. Petersburg Times: "Homeowner associations, the de facto local government in much of Florida, are getting desperate.

Assessment payments are as low as 50 percent in some communities, causing some board members to consider measures that might include publicly shaming those who are delinquent.

'When I tell you it is an unadulterated nightmare out there, I mean it,' said Harry Burnard, who owns Qualified Property Management in New Port Richey, plus a side business that fronts the dues and collects the debts."

Public shaming? Now there's an idea. How about the stocks? Pillory?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Acclaimed Economist Says Recession Is Over at

Acclaimed Economist Says Recession Is Over at "The source is Robert J. Gordon, an acclaimed macroeconomist and professor at Northwestern University. It’s surprising to learn he thinks the recession is over, because he is one of seven members of the elite Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Analysis . These are the people who decide officially, for the record books, when recessions begin and end—usually many months after the fact, when the decision is really obvious. I’m unaware of any previous case in which a member of this Committee has ever stepped forward and declared the end of a recession in real time.

Gordon bases his gutsy call on an indicator that he says the Committee never even looks at: claims for unemployment benefits."

Sure hope he's right.