June 2009 Archives

June 30th, 2009

The guidelines for this carnival.

As always, I arranged the entries that met guidelines into three levels, based upon originality, usefulness to the consumer, and how much thought and effort and research went into an entry.

STRONGLY RECOMMENDED

We have an editor's choice award! What If The Real Estate INDUSTRY Didn't Control The Real Estate Market? I have some disagreements with Brian about the demand side of the market and its disclosure, but he's got a valid point. Actually, the NAR controls the market for the benefit of the major chain brokerages, not sellers.

You host presents They Told Me Not To Make My Loan Payment

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RECOMMENDED

11 things to ASK about when buying a new home in Colorado Springs The whole thing is worth reading no matter where you're thinking about buying, but 4, 6 10, and 11 need to be greatly expanded upon. You wouldn't believe the problems that come in those areas - unless you've dealt with aftermath a time or two.

Eight reasons why you should invest in residential real estate makes a couple of errors but is a good recap for those who came in on this reel.

Living In A Small Home: Pros and Cons of Downsizing Our House talks about living in a smaller home. Even her smaller 1600 foot square home is twice the size our grandparents raised large families in.

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MET GUIDELINES

Save Money On Property Taxes With Appeal Very vague, but met guidelines

A Buyer's Guide to Home Security Camera Systems begs the question of why you would buy a home where you need them.

The One Main Reason Why This Bear Market In Stocks Is Not Over actually meets guidelines by talking about real estate and mortgages. Nonetheless, there are a lot of misunderstandings and omissions in his article.

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SPAM AND OTHER RIDICULOUS SUBMISSIONS

Gold Investing Info submitted an article that barely mentioned real estate. I dug for gold in his article and only came up with Iron Pyrite.

A site named Apply for Credit submitted an article called, "Your Monthly Credit Card Statements Are Not Junk Mail" Well, no. However, the article did not so much as mention real estate. If he wants credit for being correct, denied.

A site named Online Spyware Removal submitted something about online spyware removal that did not so much as mention real estate. His online spyware has been purged.

For those who might object to the treatment their submission received, the relevant information has been in the guidelines since before submissions were being accepted for this carnival. Having been told to read the guidelines, you willingly submitted these posts. Live with it.

Consumer Focused Carnival of Real Estate will return in one month on July 30, 2009, here at Searchlight Crusade, unless someone else wants to host. Deadline for submissions will be Midnight July 28th.

I've heard this story, in all of its variations, at least hundreds of times.

Someone will send me an email and say "They told me not to make my loan payment because I was going to skip one. So I spent the money on something else. Now they're telling me they can't fund my loan and I can't come up with the cash to make this month's payment!"

First off, engrave this into your soul: You will never skip a mortgage payment. The interest accrues every month and it must be paid every month. What many loan providers do is plan to add an amount equal to your monthly interest charges to your loan balance. This gives the illusion of skipping that payment, but you not only made the payment, you're now paying interest on the extra amount you borrowed.

I never tell people not to make their loan payment. At most I will tell them to wait a few days to give the loan a chance to fund. This lets them know it is still a concern, still an item they need to stay on top of. This way, if there's a funding issue they still have the ability to make their payment. I'm pretty certain I've never had a funding issue like that, but I'm also certain if I said anything different, the universe would bite both me and my next client. The universe is hostile and you always want a Plan B (and Plan C if practical).

Here's how it works: At the end of every month, you've got a fifteen day grace period to make your payment (i.e. by the 15th of the following month) before any penalties begin. So if your new loan was funded any time prior to the 16th, everything is at least under control. If you pretend you're skipping a month's payment, you've just added an amount equal to the principle you pay in six months back into your loan (on top of all the other closing costs if you didn't pay them in with cash out of your bank account)

So quite predictably what happens is at the end of every month there is a massive wave of loan fundings to take advantage of this as unscrupulous loan officers pretend this month is free. Escrow gets so busy at that time of month that things get lost in the shuffle quite often. It's for this reason that I prefer to avoid funding loans in the last two or three business days of a month. If you're not trying to pretend your client is skipping a payment that they aren't skipping, things become much easier.

Let's say we fund your loan on the 28th of the month. Actually, this works anytime between the first of the month and the 15th of the next month, but the last few days of the month is typical. You can pay for the interest due in cash or by rolling it into your new mortgage. Either way will get the job done. It depends upon which is more important to you: having the cash from pretending you didn't need to make a payment, or not losing about six months worth of principle payments. By paying this interest, in either case you are covering the payment that would be due for that month.

Here's where it gets a little tricky, but not much. If you fund on the first of a new month or before, the interest paid is for the ending month, and the new loan starts accruing interest immediately. There will be a payment due at the end of that month. If you fund from the second to the fifteenth of the new month, the new loan needs to cover the interest for two months (either by rolling it into your balance, paying it cash, or some combination). In this case, the new loan (or cash you put into the deal) covers the ending month and the new month just beginning. It's also for twice as much money, by the way. This is why some very unscrupulous loan officers can advertise "Skip two payments!" even though there is never a single second on any loan when it is not accruing interest.

As long as everything goes well enough for the new loan to fund by the 15th of the new month, everything is at least under control. Yeah, you might have chosen to roll all the costs into the new loan but that's okay as long as you go into it with your eyes open having made a conscious choice.

But what happens if they tell you "Don't worry about your loan payment!" and then it doesn't fund? (or doesn't fund in time!)

Well, problems. If you're fifteen days late on your mortgage, expect to get hit with a penalty of at least 4% and more likely 6%. Work out the interest rate, and you'll see the interest rate on payments late that sixteenth of the month is 96 to 144 percent!

If that were all there were, that would be bad enough but livable. Usually it puts people a full month behind on their old mortgage. That noise you just heard was your credit score being nuked. I have seen a single 30 day late make a difference of 150 points on the Fair-Issacsson (FICO) model. Plus if you think you had difficulty qualifying for a prime mortgage before, wait until you see what happens after you've got a thirty day late! This usually ends up becoming what subprime calls a "rolling thirty" for several months until you get the extra money from some other source, but A paper doesn't have a "rolling thirty" category - every single one of those late payments hits you again as yet another late payment within the past 24 months.

Then there's the problem of where you've going to get the money to replace what you've spent because you were told you didn't have to make a payment this month. It's not coming out of some hyperspatial vortex. My clients would have to get it from somewhere. What if they really don't have it?

This sorry little charade that many loan providers play even has an ultimate downside. There is no need to skip a month's payment. You, the client, will get full and complete credit for any cash you put into the transaction or your loan. It may take a little while to get back to you, but you will get it. In the meantime, however, it may spell difficulty for your cash flow. You made that payment but your old lender hasn't yet credited it (or it cannot be confirmed that you made the payment)? You will get the money back when the accounting all finalizes. The reason we tell people they might want to hold off is that quite often it takes a few days between mailing the check off and the time that the old lender admits that they got it. You can't close the old loan off unless you pay the full amount the old lender is asking for right now. If you can't close the old loan off, you can't fund the new loan. Escrow has to pay the loan off in full by the old lender's payoff demand. If more money comes in later, the old lender needs to send it back to you when it does.

So if someone ever tells you not to make your loan payment, ask them if what they really mean is to wait. Because if they really mean "Don't make your loan payment this month": they are risking an awful lot of potentially bad consequences to you, the borrower, if they can't actually fund your new loan. And judging by the amount of email I've had on this subject, it really does happen pretty much every day to someone.

Caveat Emptor

Article UPDATED here


I just got off the phone with an agent who claims to have three offers on the property, but he doesn't want to counter the offer. He just wants my client to voluntarily throw more money (or more something) onto the table.

We're going to decline to do that.

The offer we made was good. The other agent, if they knew what they were doing, would just be fishing - or rather, hoping to get us to go fishing voluntarily, adding more and more bait until they finally decide they had better hit it. Not really a horrible strategy, but wickedly vulnerable to agents who understand negotiation. The only reasonable way to respond is to ask the other side to take it, leave it, or tell you what they really want. Someone who understands negotiation is going to tell them exactly what I did - which is "You can take it, leave it, or counter. But we're not going to go on a fishing expedition. Tell us what you want and we'll talk about it."

However this particular agent either didn't know what they were doing or were pretending not to know. As a rationalization for his actions, he said, "I've had multiple offers and lost them all when I countered."

So?

Every listing agent gets desperation checks. Sometimes they're flippers looking to turn a quick buck. Sometimes they're serious investors. Sometimes they are even people who intend to live there forever and ever. What all three of these (and many other situations) have in common is that they say to themselves, "Let's see if we can get it for that."

The intelligent way to respond is usually to counter offer. Below a certain point, of course, you want to respond with, "Offer rejected - do better!". But if they're in the right general ballpark, the way to get what you want is to tell them what you want. You won't get everything. That's what negotiation is all about. But you would be amazed at how often terms that are quite important to one party are something the other party can meet without any downside.

Furthermore, you don't want to sell to a "Let's see if we can get it for that" offer. Yeah, some folks will walk away if you counter. Those are the folks that you don't want to sell to anyway. Even if every single one of ten offers walks away, you haven't lost anything - because those people weren't willing to offer a reasonable price. If you price the property correctly, it will get offers, and you will be able to sell to one of them for right around the market price. If you over-priced your property, desperation checks are all that you're likely to get. If you underprice the property, you will get hordes of offers, but it's unlikely to be bid up as far as where it should have been in the first place.

(How can a consumer tell if their property is over-priced or under-priced or priced just right? By the offers you get and their timing, of course! It's one of those zen things like the chicken and the egg. It's also why the discussion of list price should not be easy for anyone - because by the time it becomes apparent you went with the wrong answer, fixing it will only repair some of the damage)

You never know which offer is and isn't going to come back with something better. So you give them a reason to offer you something better by telling them what you really want. Yeah, number one on the list is usually money. But sometimes it isn't. And sometimes subsidiary concerns can make all the difference, even getting the property for fewer dollars than another offer.

Being unwilling or unable to counter without losing good offers is the mark of a very weak agent. Unfortunately, by the time you find out they're a weak agent in this fashion, it's probably too late. When I'm the buyer's agent, I don't really want the first offer accepted, and those few of my clients who've had it happen can testify that I really am mortified when it happens. I want to talk about what my client wants, and how we can go from the first offer to something both sides are happy with. Whatever happened to "never take the first offer"? Don't they teach that anymore? The first offer is just an opening, like opening a conversation with a member of the opposite sex you're interested in.

One legitimate fear is that an unqualified buyer may sign a counter exactly as it is, creating a purchase contract that ties the property up for months while you find out they can't really qualify. That is the only situation where I delay the actual counter until I am certain the buyer can qualify. But I do call the offering agent and ask for more evidence the buyer will be able to qualify. This is in line with the precept of "ask for what you want, and explain why they should give it to you" precept. After they provide information that persuades me these folks will qualify for the necessary loan, they'll get a counter.

If a qualified buyer signs one of several counters I make, that's not a disaster. That's exactly what I want. Every counter I put out there is something that would make my client happy. Do I care which offer gets signed? Well, sometimes when something about their situation (like having a known problem agent representing them) makes me hope it isn't them. But that doesn't stop me from putting the offer back out there. It's my clients needs that are important, and if my client needs me to deal with these issues, that's part of why I'm getting paid.

Not being willing to counter is like hoping the fish is going to jump right into the boat. Yes, you know they're out there in the lake, but you haven't hooked them and you definitely haven't landed them yet. The counter is the hook - it lets them know exactly what you want, and why they should give it to you. You're more likely to get what you want by telling a buyer what that is.

Caveat Emptor

Article UPDATED here


Sorry, I've been really busy but I have to at least link the carnival for the week!

Carnival of Personal Finance


The stock market has a phenomenon where a company's stock is "Priced for perfection." It may sound nice, but "priced for perfection" is emphatically not a good thing. It's where the stock price of a company has been bid up so much that only if absolutely everything goes the company's way is it going to be a good investment. If anything doesn't fall the company's way, their stock will prove to have been overpriced because the income stream will then not support the stock price at current market levels. In a nutshell, an analyst who tells you a stock is "priced for perfection" is telling you that it's very likely you'll lose money in the short term, and even if it's a good solid company the time to buy is not now.

Real estate has a similar phenomenon. Real estate agents aren't stock analysts, so I've never heard someone else use the phrase in this context, but it's very similar to the stock market phenomenon of the same name. I saw a property a few days ago that brought the concept to mind more strongly than any other I've seen recently.

The first thing that leaped out at you was that this property was a work of art. Someone had put a huge amount of money and labor into this property. The kitchen was almost brand new, well laid out, and had pretty much every amenity or convenience I can think of. The floors were all beautiful. The back yard pool needed to be resurfaced, but the entire thing was laid out beautifully for entertaining. The front bedroom had been converted to a very functional and attractive office. Both bathrooms were gorgeous and modern. The electrical was wonderful. Even the garage had been done up with a dozen or so tall cedar(!) storage cabinets.

But the more I thought about it, the less I liked the property. First off, it was a tiny house with tiny rooms on a tiny lot - it was only the fact it was vacant that prevented it from driving this point home on the level of a ball-peen hammer between the eyes. My clients were talking about moving walls to make it more livable, and with everything they thought of, I immediately had a reason why they didn't want to do that, relating to either eventual sale value or severely impacted livability in the meantime. You literally could not do anything to improve the house without adversely impacting something else. My clients were hung up on how gorgeous the whole thing was "But this room is small and we want it bigger" and I had to explain that you could get the room by taking it from the kitchen or garage. If you take it from the kitchen, there goes that beautiful kitchen you love and the family area goes away. If you take it from the garage, you lost half those storage cabinets you love. Want to expand the master? Same trouble. The Second bedroom? There goes a third of that yard you love, and all that's left is a small ring around the pool. There simply was no room. The current owners had done literally everything that could be done.

Then there was the matter that the neighborhood was in such a condition as led me to believe it had seen better days, and this was the smallest house on the smallest lot. The investment potential in such circumstances is limited, to say the least. The house was priced with a premium for how beautiful it was now - but new appliances get old, beautiful surfaces do age, and entropy will take its toll. The more I thought about it, the more strongly I was against my clients buying it. The only thing in favor of buying it is the same thing in favor of buying any residential property right now - the generally low price condition of the market in general.

The entire effect was a property that just oozed the "I'm beautiful! Buy me!" vibe that works so very well on the majority of middle class buyers. And if it was a "forever and ever" house where you just wanted to live there exactly as it was, and didn't care about how much your heirs get after you die, there would be no reason not to buy it. But such buyers are exceedingly rare. I can think of one such set I've had in the last three years, and the people I was with weren't them, so as I explained the property's shortcomings to them, I kept going back to what their Plan was, which included likely moving again in a few years.

Lest you misunderstand, it was neither a Misplaced Improvement nor a Vampire Property. It was in excellent shape; the only repair bill I could see coming was resurfacing the pool. And the neighborhood supported its value just fine, thank you. No, the neighborhood wasn't beautiful, but it was decent, and everywhere you looked were bigger properties on bigger lots. If they weren't so exquisitely cared for, they still supported the value of this property just fine. The problem with this property was precisely how beautiful it was, which made it attractive to Mr. and Ms. Middle class, and therefore quite likely to bid the sales price up and considerably over the real value of the property. Future value appreciation would be limited to general market increases, less the effects of time on all of the beautiful surfaces that are freshly installed now, less the effects of what looks like a neighborhood that is on a gradual downslope relative to the general market.

Would I have pointed any of this out if I were the listing agent? Are you out of your mind? When listing, my responsibility is to get the highest price for the quickest sale and the fewest issues. If I were the listing agent, I would have pointed out all of the beautiful areas and exquisite craftsmanship, and kept my mouth shut about how small it was and how their plans to move this wall or that would adversely impact everything else. That's the listing agent's legal duty, it's good business and it's even fair, honest and ethical dealing.

In this case however, I was acting on behalf of the buyers, so I had an obligation to talk to my clients and save them from being seduced by the property, or at least enter into the relationship with their eyes open. If on sober reflection they had wanted to make an offer anyway, I certainly would have done so, but it's the buyer's agent's legal duty to point out and explain any downsides they see to a property. That many alleged buyer's agents fail in this is not an excuse for me to do so. It's also a crucial difference between a discount agent who rebates a percentage of their commission and a real buyer's agent. I saved my clients a lot more than the entire agency commission by talking them out of this property; something a discounter would never do. Not to mention that they would have been miserable the entire time they were in the property. Which means I may not get paid for my work that day, but when I do get paid, I will have earned every penny before they even see the property they eventually do buy, by keeping them out of this financial disaster waiting to happen. It will happen to someone - but not my clients.

This is one more illustration of why you want a good buyer's agent, and why you want to sign a non-exclusive buyer's agency agreement. A bad or discount agent will never spot this problem, and if you don't give them the security of knowing you're willing to keep working with them as long as they do a good job, there's no incentive for even the good agent to mention it. I would have told them anyhow - what's right for my clients is right for me, period. But it shouldn't be news to anyone that there are agents who will keep quiet about such things if you're only asking them to show you one property. Find a Good Buyer's Agent and be willing to sign the standard non-exclusive agency contract. It really does protect you.

Caveat Emptor

Article UPDATED here

Four Years and Counting

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By the way, I almost forgot, but today marks four years since I started this site.

Since then, we've had roughly 3.3 million visits and over 13 million page views.

Thank you all for stopping by

Really.

I know that most people who read this are replying "no kidding" but it's amazing how many of those people do not understand it.

I got an email yesterday that said, basically, "Help me! I bought with a prepayment penalty and my payment is too high. I've got a 100% loan at 7.125% and a three year prepayment penalty, and I need to drop my payment by at least $500 per month!" As I explained, the only honest responses that really solve this problem have to do with increasing the income, decreasing the other outgo, or, as a last resort, getting rid of the property, because he's not going to get a loan like that. They don't exist. They never did, really, but negative amortization loans allowed people to fool themselves into believing they existed.

Things are better now than they usually are. There is a temporary set of loan programs in effect right now to help you if your only problem is the fact that values are down. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have a set of programs that allow up to 105% financing with no PMI, providing you meed the other criteria - chief among which is your debt to income ratio falls within acceptable bounds. In other words, you can afford the loan, you just can't afford adjustable interest rates. But the guy referenced above is stuck in a negative amortization loan because it was the only way to afford the property he wanted. He treated it like a fairy godmother waving her wand, and didn't ask what happens on the 12th stroke of midnight when the loan recasts.

Anytime you are signing up for anything other than a fully amortized loan at a fixed rate of interest, you should ask "What happens next?" What happens when the initial period of lowered payments ends? Because each and every one of these loans has a boosted payment when that happens, and many, like negative amortization loans, are adding thousands of dollars onto the balance of your loan whenever you make that special low payment they're so proud of! So in three years, when the loan recasts, you owe about 10% more than you did to start with, and a shorter amortization period means your payments go up even more to reflect that. If you couldn't afford the loan originally, how are you going to afford it later?

Real Estate Mortgage Loans are something you've got to get right in the first place. Lenders often allow a higher loan to value ratio for purchase money loans than anything else. Put into plain english, if you bought with a loan for ninety percent of the value of the property, I might not be able to refinance it at all, anymore. If Fannie or Freddie own your current loan, then we can likely refinance you under restrictions noted above, but most of the rotten loans were with Alt A or subprime lenders, not Fannie or Freddie. Second, there are closing costs in every loan. Closing costs are around $3000 or so, not counting origination and any discount you may decide to pay to get a lower rate. You can pay these costs out of pocket, you can pay them through yield spread (and equivalent things) by accepting a higher rate - making it harder for a refinance to get you a lower rate - or you can roll those costs into your balance, meaning that the loan to value ratio gets worse. Even a few dollars over a given level's cut off goes to the next higher level, getting worse pricing. If you were at 86.2 percent loan to value and you go to 87.2 percent, we've still got a ninety percent loan. But if you were at 89.1 and you go to 90.1 (or even 90.001), that puts you into the 95% loan to value bracket, with higher pricing and I've only got one or two lenders who will of do it at all, even purchase money. Unless your current loan is with Fannie or Freddie, I can't think of anyone right now who'll do a 95% bracket refinance loan at all. Not to mention that the appraisal may not come in and there's nothing your loan officer can do about it. So if you start with a bad loan, the practical result may be that you cannot fix it by refinancing because lenders won't do it.

So before you sign on the dotted line, make sure you understand all the nuts and bolts of your loan. Keep asking the question "What happens later?" If you don't understand it, or it is too complex, get some disinterested professional advice. Chances are that something is going on that's going to be bad for you later on. Lenders don't want to compete on price, and they know most people choose loans based upon payment, and they know how to play all of the games with payment and interest rate to make their loan appear good to the casual public

Ask the hard questions before you sign up. Unfortunately, with new lending environment the best realistically possible answers aren't as good as I'd like, but the answers that prospective loan providers give are still instructive if you pay attention.

Caveat Emptor

Article UPDATED here


Carnival of Personal Finance

Carnival of Real Estate

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Baseless Bias and the New Second Sex

The unfortunate news is that this temperate, well-reasoned, and objective new NAS study has come after the Shalala/Bias and Barriers report has already accomplished its purpose. Many members of Congress from both parties (especially Republican Congressman Vernon Ehlers and Democratic Senators Ron Wyden and Barbara Boxer) were electrified by the Bias and Barriers report--as well as by the volumes of highly tendentious advocacy research that preceded it (see my "Why Can't A Woman Be More Like a Man?"). Congress has already authorized NSF to spend millions of dollars on anti-bias programs, and instructed federal agencies such as NASA and the Department of Education to begin stringent Title IX gender equity reviews of science programs in the nation's universities. These expensive and aggressive policies and programs were put in place without any genuine evidence that sexist bias against women in academic science is actually a problem.

Powerful interest group twists reality to benefit its own agenda. It doesn't just happen with one side of the political spectrum.

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1984: Sixty years later

Yet "1984" does have lessons beyond the totalitarian experience. Take the book's definition of "doublethink," the ideal mental state of the citizen of Orwell's dystopia: it is "the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them," the ability "to tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies."

It is not just governments - democratic or not - that engage in a less extreme version of such mental gymnastics. It's activists of all stripes; talk show hosts and pundits across the political spectrum; and, finally, ordinary people. The same is true of "newspeak," terminology invented to shade the real meaning of certain beliefs or acts and make them more appealing. (Even such popular terms as "pro-choice" for "pro-abortion rights" and "pro-life" for "anti-abortion" have overtones of newspeak.)

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Sheila Bair is On Your Side

The most glaring example of this conflict has been the battle over the management of Citigroup, the "too big to fail" banking conglomerate that became the largest in the world thanks to changes in the law advocated by Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin. Rubin then left the government to become chairman of the executive committee at Citigroup, a post he occupied as it made risky bets on derivatives and incurred record losses. Citigroup was saved from oblivion by a plan engineered by Geithner, whom Rubin had successfully pushed for the top job at the New York Fed.

That plan, endorsed by the Bush administration, left the US government pumping $50 billion into Citigroup and guaranteeing an additional $300 billion of its "toxic" holdings. In return, we taxpayers were to receive preferred stock with the promise of significant interest payments, but now the terms have been changed. Thanks to Geithner's intervention, Citigroup will be allowed to convert half of the government's preferred stock into almost worthless common stock.

Enter Bair, who has been insisting, over Geithner's objection, that major changes occur in the leadership of Citigroup to give the taxpayers a better chance to get some of that money back. She has an obligation to make that demand because the FDIC is a part guarantor not only of Citigroup banking deposits but also of the $300 billion toxic assets package.

Read the whole thing.

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Did David Letterman get a free pass?

Examine the symptoms of this infection, beginning with David Letterman's comments (widely noted but insufficiently analyzed) about Sarah Palin "buying makeup at Bloomingdale's to update her slutty flight attendant look," as well as his joke about Palin's teenage daughter: "Sarah Palin went to a Yankees Game yesterday ... during the seventh inning stretch, her daughter was knocked up by Alex Rodriguez." (Letterman insists he was talking about her 18-year-old daughter, Bristol, who actually had been, well, knocked up, not her 14-year-old, Willow, the daughter who attended the game.)

According to the feminists, it's okay because Sarah Palin is One of Those Horrible Republicans. Worse, she's likely to be elected president in 4 to 8 years if they don't get busy destroying her now. It won't work, by the way. They gave Ronald Reagan exactly the same treatment from the time he started running for President, and possibly before (I was too young to remember his campaigns for California Governor).

Hope the feminists enjoy the plantation the Democrats are keeping them down on. Of course, one of these days they'll figure it out.

Imagine if, say, Michelle Obama, or Rachel Maddow, or Nancy Pelosi became the target of similar invective. The outcry from the left would be deafening. Shouldn't liberals exhibit the same sort of decorous treatment we demand for ourselves? Sexist comments like Letterman's and Cimbalo's also evoke a troublingly insular, clubhouse atmosphere in lieu of an inclusive political party. What's more, the gender-based stereotypes they conjure are as stale and ignorant as any voiced by the old Neanderthal right: Pretty women are de facto stupid, sexually promiscuous and low-class. Indeed, it's the latter slight that has been least remarked upon and is, perhaps, the most disturbing. "Slutty flight attendant" is not just a sexual put-down; it's a socioeconomic one.

And a clear double standard. If Rush Limbaugh (to name an equivalent figure on the right) had said anything remotely like that about a woman on the Democratic side of the aisle, the demands for his career scalp would be immediate and deafening. Don Imus, a Democrat but less consistently left wing than others lost his job over much less.


Victor Davis Hanson: David Letterman, Rev. Wright, and Thoughts on a Creepy Culture

The metrosexual, hip David Letterman offered an apology I think that essentially was something along the following lines. Here's my paraphrase: 'Sorry, I confused the 14-year-old Willow Palin with the 18-year-old Bristol Palin, so I was wrong for suggesting the younger Palin girl would be "knocked up" during a baseball game by Alex Rodriguez, or draw in Eliot Spitzer for sex, when I really meant that Bristol certainly would." (Note the silence about calling Governor Palin "slutty" looking. So if some right-wing nut says that Michelle Obama is "slutty" looking, are we to expect no consequences?)

No, Mr. Letterman would never joke about a 14 year old girl being (at least statutorially) raped by an athlete in his thirties. But it's okay to joke about an 18 year old? I think Mr. Letterman sabotaged his own claim.

What it is about Sarah Palin that drives the Left insane? Her charisma? Her authentic blue-collar roots? The accent? Todd? The pregnancies? The ability to galvanize crowds. Joe Biden tried to fake his working class origins, but Palin seems to live, not romanticize, the life of the middle strata, so would not the Left appreciate someone from the non-elite?

I suggest two reasons for the fury of the aristocratic Left. One was Palin's stance on abortion. In the elite feminist mind, the perfect storm would be for a 40ish career woman, on the upswing of her cursus honorum, getting pregnant and, then, heaven forbid, delivering the child with full fore-knowledge of chromosomal abnormality. Or having her 17-year old come to full term with a child, unmarried, and without money?

All types of diversity are welcome on the left. Except of course, for ideological diversity, the most important one. Indeed, I could argue it's the only important one, and I will if you really need me to.

The Democratic press and media, who wanted Obama to win, painted Palin as a right wing reactionary promoting abstinence only sex education. But that doesn't make it true

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Left Cries 'Racist' in Crowded Country

While Mr. von Brunn is currently being made out to be the poster child of the Republican Party, even a cursory look at his professed views shows he is the avowed enemy of the GOP in its current incarnation. Among many others, Mr. von Brunn hates Rupert Murdoch, Fox News (that means you, too, Shep!), George W. Bush and John McCain. And according to the FBI, Mr. von Brunn even had in his vehicle the address of the Weekly Standard, home base of the dreaded "neo-cons."

Seems Mr. von Brunn wasn't a big fan of the Iraq War and also believed that 9/11 was an "inside job." Given this political sketch, Mr. von Brunn would feel at home at Camp Casey, Cindy Sheehan's antiwar outpost in Crawford, Texas, and at the Daily Kos convention, rather than partaking in a National Review cruise with pro-Israeli war hawks Mark Steyn and Victor Davis Hanson.

It's not Charles Lindbergh's Republican Party any more. And it hasn't been for more than a half-century. But don't tell that to the facile minds at the DHS and CNN.

The inconvenient truth is that David Duke and James von Brunn currently share more in common with Markos Moulitsas and Arianna Huffington than with Bill Kristol and Charles Krauthammer. But the right wouldn't be so crass or foolish to try to blame the political left for the existence of - or motivation behind - haters like Mr. von Brunn.

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Many instances of Obama being Inept at History

Actually, inept is charitable, in that it assumes he did not deliberately distort the record.

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The curious firing of Gerald Walpin gets ... curiouser

Senator Charles Grassley has demanded records from the Obama administration over the dismissal of the Inspector General for Americorps and raises the possibility that Barack Obama broke a law he co-sponsored in the Senate that protects the independence of the IGs. The firing comes as the Obama administration cut a sweetheart deal with a major Obama backer that allows him to receive federal funding as mayor of Sacramento, and fails to repay taxpayers for the money Kevin Johnson admittedly took illegally:

This is real, and an actual violation of the law, as opposed to all of the manufactured claims that Bush did this or that. Where are the calls to impeach Obama?

Via Instapundit: Gerald Walpin speaks: The inside story of the AmeriCorps firing

"Culture of Corruption" anyone?

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Video: Five reasons why Class-warfare economics won't work

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UPDATE: Almost forgot. I have a problem with shaving. Specifically, the fact that I have extremely tough facial whiskers, combined with facial skin that's the classic easily cut baby face. Put it all together, and not only do I hate shaving, I quite often emerge from shaving looking like I've lost a war with my razor. I've spent a lot of time and effort trying different solutions to the problem, which only got worse when my doctor put me on blood thinners after my heart attack.

So when my wife wanted me to try Mary Kay's Shaving Cream for men, I was understandably skeptical, but I understood this was Something Spouses Do For Each Other. She's certainly done equivalent things for me in the past.

I was very pleasantly shocked at how much better of a job it did. I've been using it now for almost two weeks, and the incidence of cuts is drastically reduced over the product that formerly did the best job.

So in penance for my skepticism, I'm posting this here. I highly recommend Mary Kay's Shaving Cream. I'm going to keep using it.

Disclosure for the clue challenged: Yes, my wife makes money every time she sells a can of this stuff. But she still did a good thing by making me try this. And she's the World's Only Perfect Woman too. I'll even send you the link to her Mary Kay website if you ask, but this stuff is available from every Mary Kay person.


I have just about had it with Cox Cable. I pay them close to $2000 per year for internet, phone and basic cable TV. For the last three months, I've been having connectivity issues. For no apparent reason, at random times I suddenly have trouble reaching the internet. I have replaced literally everything from the wall out except the computer itself - and that works fine according to my repair shop. At Cox's request to deal with this problem, I have first replaced, then removed the router altogether. I replaced the cable splitter. They finally sent a technician out - who was there for a whole thirty seconds - just long enough to tell me to replace a modem that was completely functional, if older. So I replaced the cable modem, despite the fact that repair shop (which could have sold me a new one had they told me it was bad) had told me the modem was fine. So I replaced the modem anyway, which gave me a whole two days grace before I woke up this morning with connectivity so limited that 2400 baud dial up would be better. Spent a half hour on the phone trying again to fix the problem, with no help. Cox apparently wants to blame everything except their service. Well now I have replaced literally everything, and according to them, I'm still getting 30-50% packet loss. Completely unacceptable.

I have tried to remain silent about the reasons for my somewhat limited online presence of late, but this is just beyond human endurance. I used to be one of their biggest boosters, and sent them a significant number of clients. I take it all back. I'm considering going over to AT&T for internet and phone, and if my wife absolutely has to have cable, getting a dish.

It's 11:00. I should have been looking at properties two hours ago. So what I have to do is use the library's wireless internet, and hope that my portable printer is quiet enough that nobody objects (it is pretty darned quiet - the only noise I hear is the paper feed). But it's still a bloody pain, and ten times more expensive that the laser printer I have sitting useless on my desk. Not to mention way slower than what I'm paying for - and not getting - from Cox Cable.

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Correcting the record on the Chrysler and GM loans

1. The Obama team declined to respond to the Bush team's offer to work together to create a joint process that would have resulted in a resolution by March 1st or April 1st, rather than by June 1st for Chrysler and maybe September 1st for GM.

2. We then worked with the Democratic majority to enact legislation that would have limited funds to be available only to firms that would become viable.

3. After Congress left town for the holidays without having addressed the issue, President Bush was faced with a choice between providing loans and allowing these firms to liquidate in early January, which would have further exacerbated the economic situation for the incoming President. President Bush chose to provide the loans.

4. We provided GM and Chrysler with sufficient funds to get to March 31st, not January 20th, and in those loans we gave the incoming Administration the ability to extend them for 30 more days.

5. The loans were conditioned on restructuring to become viable, with a precise definition of viability, specific restructuring goals, and quantitative targets.

6. The Obama Administration followed the restructuring process laid out in the Bush-era loans. They are now measuring that deal against the targets established in the Bush-era loans. The only changes the Obama team made were that they extended GM for 60 days rather than 30, and the Obama Administration directly inserted themselves into the negotiations as the pre-packager.

HT: Megan McArdle

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Victor Davis Hanson (himself an academic) contrasts what academia teaches with the real world:

Here was his final compliment, one that apparently connected my once elite disdain for his grubby world of the muscular classes with my inevitable failure and bankruptcy to come. It went something like this, though after three decades I have forgotten his exact phraseology: "Victor, I used to drive by your grandfather's house, and see you up there on the scaffold, scraping off the old paint. I'd say to my friends -- look at that young fool, he's painting my house. You see, I knew you'd go broke, and I'd buy your place. Always wanted it, and knew you were getting it ready for me. Why not let you finish before I took it?" (I didn't tell him, that in fact he used to say that not just to friends, but to me as I was chipping away.)

Read the whole thing. I suspect most of the people who need to won't, because it calls into question a key assumption of theirs about the world. The rest of you already know the point, but are likely to enjoy Mr. Hanson's means of illustrating it anyway.

On the same tack: The Dowd Conundrum

also: It's all so obvious (except to Obama)

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economic reporting: then and now

AP kinda sorta admits: The stimulus isn't working

Maybe the reporters ought to throw away their pom-poms and do their jobs before any hope of regaining credibility is lost.

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Arizona Judge Throws Out Political Arrest Based on Photo Ticket

Arrowhead Justice Court Judge John C. Keegan last week dismissed the photo radar-based reckless driving charges filed against the Executive Director of the Arizona Republican Party. On May 6, officers from the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS), which is headed by Democrat Roger Vanderpool, showed up at the state GOP headquarters with a speed camera ticket in hand to arrest Brett Mecum, 30

How long until they trump up charges against this judge?

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Holy Mackerel! It's Yahoo, and therefore likely impermanent but look into the eye of a tornado

What the heck - here's the embed of the video

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Gingrich: Obama has already failed

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said President Barack Obama's plan to fix the economy through stimulus spending and government intervention to boost companies like General Motors Corp. has "already failed."

Well, duh

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Obama to banks: You can repay TARP, but Treasury keeps warrants

Yes, we can trust them not to exercise the warrants, because after all, when has this administration ever used power it didn't have? Never mind the fact that it extorted concessions from Chrysler and GM bondholders in order to benefit Obama's political allies in the unions, stomping all over contract law. The White House would never in a million years use the warrants to extort concessions on business operations from the bankers ... right?

Some fathers, sad to say, are not involved in their children's life beyond conception. Maybe it was just a one night stand and they have no idea they even have a child, maybe they were involved with the mother on some longer term basis and left, never to return. I've seen the term "sperm donor" applied to such fathers many times. I think it's equally applicable to the common concept of the buyer's agent.

The real estate business is set up around the listing of property for sale. NAR and all of its subsidiary associations are built upon the listing agent and being responsible to sellers, if that. One of the big reasons why most agents center all of their efforts upon listings is because they will pick up buyers who don't know any better simply by virtue of listing property. Many of the best listing agents I know think of the buyer's agent as an afterthought. The usual come-on is to rebate part of the "Cooperating Buyer's Broker" percentage to the buyer client in order to drum up business, with predictable results. The "Cooperating Buyer's Broker" percentage set up in MLS was an afterthought to encourage listing agents who picked up the confidence of one set of buyers during an open house to show their property, and for many years (until the courts started hammering on it) a buyer's agent was required to accept subagency for the seller, giving the seller their primary allegiance. Even today, that's the way a lot of agents think because they (or their trainer) learned the business when that was the case, and they think that buyer's agency is just a little bit of paperwork. But that is not the case; indeed representing a buyer's agent's job thusly is a recipe for disaster. There's a lot more to being a good buyer's agent than filling out a little bit of paperwork.

The fact is that choosing someone who's trying to sell you one particular house is a rotten way to pick a buyer's agent, almost guaranteed to get you someone who's just trying to turn a transaction. Fact is, they should be focusing all of their effort on getting you to buy the house they showed you, that they have a listing agreement for, that they have agreed to carry a fiduciary responsibilty towards the owner of. This means trying to sell that property, not trying to pick up buyer clients by dangling your listed property out there as a lure for buyers to make contact. Tina Teaser is a horrible listing agent, and probably a worse buyer's agent.

I do not know how the urban legend about an agent being a disinterested party got started. It serves the interest of the huge chains that control the National Association of Realtors (and subsidiary associations) or it would have been firmly squashed by now, but it is completely false. An listing agent owes a fiduciary duty to the seller, a relationship which legally requires them to place that seller's interests above their own. They theoretically owe a duty of fair and honest dealing to all, but that is much harder to enforce legally, and not nearly so honored. As evidence, all of the listing agents who say they've got multiple offers when that is not the case.

A buyer's agent is precisely the opposite, owing a fiduciary duty to the buyer, but "only" fair and honest dealing to a seller. As for dual agency (representing both), would anyone like to tell me how anyone is supposed to serve two masters with diametrically opposed interests while preserving fiduciary duty to both? It'd be like trying to serve in the Union and Confederate armies simultaneously, shooting bullets back and forth with the aim of hitting targets that include yourself. It can't be done. Every agent needs to pick a side and stay on it for at least the duration of the transaction.

Too many people only pick their buyer's agent after they've already settled on a property, with the result being that said buyer's agent is all too often the listing agent, or someone with an economic motivation NOT to speak up and tell you you shouldn't buy that property, or that you should buy it only under such terms as require major negotiation and a significant probability of a seller who is unwilling to be rational. "Sperm donor" agents is a charitable description of such activity. Yeah, you can probably get the property by giving the seller everything they want, but do you want the property that badly that you're willing to potentially deal with years of problems costing thousands to tens of thousands of dollars, until you find out that you can't sell it because of something your buyer's agent should have told you before you bought?

The fact is that a buyer's agent is more important than a listing agent. You're going to be living with the results of what the buyer's agent does for as long as you own the property at an absolute minimum. Most likely for the rest of your life. It isn't just a matter of "you paid too much" or "You paid more than you needed to," although those are huge factors. All of the negative issues that should have been brought up before you made an offer? Blame your buyer's agent. Crummy resale value due to floorplan, location, etcetera? Blame your buyer's agent. Nobody wants it due to some unfixable negative factor? Blame your buyer's agent. Houses with large and recurring repair bills? Blame your buyer's agent. Possibly in conjunction with other professionals such as inspectors and engineers, but your buyer's agent should get a share of any blame. At minimum, for not pursuing the issue if an inspector, etcetera raised a red flag. The Buyer's Agent is far more important than a listing agent to your future happiness. Do you want to trust someone with a fiduciary duty to the seller to point this all out? Especially given that if they do point it out, they are violating that fiduciary duty? "Known violator of fiduciary duty" seems like it would be a slam-dunk reason not to use them for your agent to me. This isn't a court of law and you don't need the verdict of a jury - you were a witness to the violation. You're not trying to send them to jail - only to determine whether or not they're a worthy guardian of your hard earned (or yet to be earned) money.

Many buyer's agents don't want to say negative things about the property they show. That's like a pilot who doesn't want to take off or fly the airplane; they only want to land. It's part of the job they take on with buyer's agency. I know how much harder it makes it to sell property, believe me. It's still part of the job. If they're not doing it, they're not buyer's agent's no matter what they call themselves. They're the agency equivalent of sperm donors.

It is dead simple to find a good buyer's agent. You (the consumer) only have to know one thing in advance: Sign only nonexclusive agency agreements. This lets you work with all the agents you want to until you find one that really does the job. You can have dozens of non-exclusive agreements in effect, allowing you to shop effectively for a buyer's agent by giving them all a chance - you simply stop working with the ones that don't measure up.

You should have at least one buyer's agent before you look at property. One of your buyer's agents should accompany you every time you visit a property you might like to buy, especially developer new construction. If you visit a property without your agent, you may be waiving your right to have a buyer's agent. I've heard from a couple dozen people in the last few months that were completely hosed by developers, but there's nothing I or any other agent can do after the transaction has already closed.

There are major rewards for sellers who make a property appear just a little bit better than it is. On a $500,000 property, it's pretty easy to make it look like it's worth another $50,000. Misplaced Improvements, Vampire Properties, unpermitted additions, just plain old money pits and properties with less obvious defects are out there. Just last week I had someone tell me via email "I just realized what a snakepit the property market is!" like it was some kind of revelation he'd just had. Once you buy, you are on the hook and it is very difficult (if not impossible) to undo the transaction. You might get lucky on your own, or with a "sperm donor" buyer's agent, but is that something you're willing to bet hundreds of thousands of dollars upon? Remember, it is very possible to lose this bet - people find out they lost it after the fact every day. Admittedly, you can still lose the bet with the best buyer's agent in the world - but it's a lot less common.

A good buyer's agent does a lot of work. This work saves their client a lot of money hassle and work way more often than not and people who don't want a buyer's agent find out why they really needed one after the fact.

Find a buyer's agent first, before you start looking at property. Get comfortable with them, expect them to say things that shoot holes in most property. That's their job, and there really is no such thing as a perfect property. It may be harder to persuade yourself to put in an offer on a property with known defects, but would you rather know ahead of time or not know? The defects are still there, either way. A good buyer's agent will tell you about them. A sperm donor agent will not. Avoid the sperm donor agents, and fire them as soon as you identify them. Knowing enough to only sign non-exclusive agency agreements allows you to fire them pretty much at will, by just not working with them any more.

Caveat Emptor

Article UPDATED here


Megan McArdle is blogging up a storm with lots of really good points about abortion and the murder of George Tiller.

This debate is not going away. Those who believe abortion is murder are not going to mysteriously vanish, or stop believing thus one special day. The fact that the Supreme Court has short-circuited the political process on this makes it more problematical, not less. Just because you happen to agree with the result does not make the Supreme Court's ruling on Roe v. Wade a good thing. Indeed, those who subvert the political process to shelter Roe v Wade are making things worse - the way that gets done every time a Republican president has nominated a potential justice ever since.

The Supreme Court should not be the final word on this subject. There is nothing in the constitution about the subject of mothers killing babies. Indeed, all of the background legal tradition until the moment Roe v. Wade was handed down supported the other side. Which means we need to deal with this question the hard way - have a national argument discussion, vote and have our elected representatives vote, and come to a compromise that, if perfect for no one, has at least the virtue that everyone has had their input, their chance to convince others, their vote at appropriate spots, and therefore everybody feels they're had their due influence upon an honest political process.

I suspect that the end result would vary from state to state. That is fine and as it should be. It isn't the end of the world for fourteen year olds to need parental permission for an abortion or even for eighteen year olds to have to hop a bus to another state. And if a legal adult wants to make the decision, as a parent as well as the person carrying the child, that abortion is the best thing to do, I do not believe the state is justified in using the brute force of the law to prevent it. However, neither do I believe that the decision to abort should be easy or convenient. In fact, it should be both difficult and inconvenient so long as these obstacles do not rise to effective prohibition. Abortion is murdering babies, at least once they have passed the point of viability. Even before that point, you are killing a living thing that will be human one day if not killed. When you consider that, it's a pretty massive bad deal to put any current or future human being through with no input from them, and a certain number and height of obstacles are pretty much obligatory to balance that out. Compared to what happens to that baby, I think temporary inconvenience or embarrassment to the mother is pretty much a nonstarter as an argument. I think that abortion should remain legal with obstacles, the strength of which should increase as the pregnancy advances, but that is the result of a long drawn out careful consideration and considering both sides of the question with their advantages and drawbacks. Furthermore, my position has evolved over time, and may evolve some more in the future.

I do not find those who disagree with me to be evil, especially the ones who acknowledge the strengths of the other side's arguments as well as the weaknesses of their own; I do find those on both sides who insist it's a simple question on which no moral person could possibly disagree with them to be incredibly dishonest as well as moral monsters who should never be allowed any sort of control over another human being (or potential human being). I don't insist that the final decision mirror my own conclusions; only that the ordinary voters have a voice and that their elected representatives be forced to take a stand for what they believe is the right course. Let the elected representatives lead for once; that is the responsibility they campaigned so hard for, spent so much of their contributor's money for. Let them convince us they have the right of it - that is what we elected them for. And if some of them lose elections because their stance disagrees with the vast majority of their constituency whom they fail to convince, that is right and proper and as things should be. The Supreme Court should not be used to allow elected representatives to duck responsibility; that is not its intended function.

Nor does the action of a single lunatic, or a group of lunatics, on either side of the question alter my judgment on the base matter, which is the morality of abortion. It merely earns my contempt for their attempted distortions of the political process, taking the law into their own hands, and killing human beings. My attitude on these twits is the same whichever side of the question they are on.

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Actually, I would claim that it is not reasonable: It's Not Fair To Casually Call People Racist

Sen. Feinstein is right as far she went. She avoided one undeniable fact though. If a white male nominee had been discovered to have said something similar -- that he was better situated to judge due to his background and life experiences than a Latina woman -- he would be cashiered so fast as to induce whiplash. Those are the unwritten rules that Limbaugh and Gingrich are attempting, one suspects, to expose for their one-sidedness. Nevertheless, the instant labeling of the woman, based on one unwise remark, is hardly fair. If Democrats are learning this now, that's excellent news. One hopes they will remember this discovery when the wheel turns and a Republican nominee is before the Senate. Certainly they didn't seem to get it as recently as 2002, when President Bush nominated Judge Charles Pickering to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The article uses Judge Pickering's media lynching as an example of Democratic tactics. Democrats have been using the racism brush to tar any Republican judicial nominee they could for at least two decades. They've been trying on the flimsiest of evidence even when it wasn't applicable, simply because they didn't want people on the bench with philosophies they didn't agree with - especially highly competent, highly articulate ones. Now we see how the Democrats react when that same exact standard is applied to one of their own nominees. Calling someone racist has developed into one of their favorite forms of blackmail, far more often than not, to the point where the accusation should no longer have power over anyone.

I think we should apply exactly the same standard to Sotomayor as was used on Pickering, Gonzales, Alito, Bork, etcetera. And then in the aftermath, before Obama tries another nomination, maybe the leading senators of both parties can come to some mutual understanding on what does and does not constitute grounds for denying a judicial nomination, an understanding that's going to outlast the current occupant of the White House. The current circus atmosphere for judicial appointments is only one undesirable consequence of using the courts as a shield so the legislature doesn't have to do its job.

(See previous entry)

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Show us the money

The government will do health care cheaper and better, the president said.

OK, show us the money.

Let our president show the American people that the federal government can save money by saving money in the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

He's got Medicaid and Medicare backwards, but otherwise he's right on the money.

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The best and brightest?

Imagine you had to pick someone to shepherd a gigantic multinational corporation through a bankruptcy in order to salvage it. Would you look for someone with extensive experience in the firm's industry, or would you prefer someone with demonstrated savvy on Wall Street in turning around troubled firms? If the firm made cars, perhaps you could think of it as a choice between a Lee Iacocca or a Mitt Romney.

Or, maybe, you'd just pick someone from the mail room, as Barack Obama apparently has in the GM bankruptcy:

A 31 year old law student whose entire resume is in campaign work. Does that sound like the ideal candidate to steer GM out of bankruptcy in a healthy direction? Or does it sound more like he was picked for backing the right horse politically?

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Thomas Sowell

Looked at in the context of Judge Sotomayor's voting to dismiss the appeal of white firefighters who were denied the promotions they had earned by passing an exam, because not enough minorities passed that exam to create "diversity," her words in Berkeley seem to match her actions on the judicial bench in the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals all too well.

The Supreme Court of the United States thought that case was important enough to hear it, even though the three-judge panel on which Judge Sotomayor served gave it short shrift in less than a page. Apparently the famous "empathy" that President Obama says a judge should have does not apply to white males in Judge Sotomayor's court.

Without this decision, I would be a lot more charitably inclined towards her racist remarks. People can say whatever they like. But a judge's job is to apply the law equally to everyone, and considering the way she and most of her panel tried to sweep this decision under the rug judicially is also troubling. They were acting as if they were ashamed of it, and for good reason. Suppose the firefighters in question had all been minority instead of white, and their promotions had been pulled because no whites came in the top 18. Is there any question in your mind the decision would have been different? The issue almost certainly would never have come up, as New Haven would not have failed to promote the top 18 candidates just because none of them were white.

This is one standard applying to one group, and a different, more difficult standard applying to another group because of nothing they did, but rather the way they were born. Wasn't ending that what the Civil Rights movement was all about? I seem to remember someone very revered asking the American people to judge people not by the color of their skin, but by the contents of their character.

I don't like what Ms. Sotomayor's actions say about the content of her character.

Defining oneself shouldn't define court decisions

Sotomayor's claim that ''a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life'' wasn't some blundering parenthetical reference. It was part of a full-scale repudiation of the idea that the law, or the judges who interpret it, should be color-blind. It even questions whether judicial objectivity is a desirable goal.

The more I discover about Ms. Sotomayor, the less I like the thought of someone with those views and with a history of undertaking those actions sitting upon the Supreme Court, likely for thirty years or more.

Victor Davis Hanson: The Diversity Mess

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has scolded Americans for being "cowards" and not talking more about race. Now, Holder is getting that "dialogue" with the recent controversy surrounding President Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor.

Most of the furor surrounds statements on race by Sotomayor herself: "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."

Sotomayor was clear enough. In a broad discussion about sex/race discrimination cases and their history, she stated that judges' ethnicity and gender make them better or worse at what they do.

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Disgusting: Banks trying for taxpayer ok and guarantees on sub-prime loans (video)

(more video) Bush and Obama's "Help for Homeowners" plan: $500 million for precisely fifty-one loans - fifty of which are under investigation for fraud My that $500 million worked so well, the Obama administration decided to throw tens of billions at the same program!

I seem to recall predicting this mess on both occasions. All it took was elementary economics and an unwillingness to lie to myself.

(The second video also has some Timothy Geithner schadenfreude, although HVCC is primarily Andrew Cuomo's fault)

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People like this give you an understanding of how much further you can go: Oldest serving cop in US dies at age 84

The oldest active duty police officer in the United States, who battled the Nazis on the beaches of Normandy and the chaos which ravaged New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, has died at the age of 84.

1 day shy of the 65th anniversary of him going ashore on D-Day at Omaha Beach. May flocks of angels guide thee to thy rest, sir.

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A more honest headline would be "Obama reassures World Tyrants They Have Nothing To Fear From US": Obama proclaims an end to Bush's regime-change doctrine

His message? America recognizes a universal yearning for the right to self-government, but regime change in democracy's name is over.

"No system of government can or should be imposed by one nation on any other," Mr. Obama said

Democracy is not a panacea, much less the appearance or outward form of democracy. Germany in 1933 was a democracy. Many of the world's worst hellholes are democracies or republics in name, even today. North Korea, Iran, China, Yemen, Zimbabwe, Russia, Cuba, Venezuela - the list goes on and on. Nor did President Bush impose democracy upon Afghanistan or Iraq - the governments there found sufficient native support to begin with. All he did was remove the tyrants who prevented democracy from having a chance, and both regimes had given us more than enough in the way of reason in terms of US interests. Also, Bush helped persuade Musharraf to leave power in Pakistan without civil war or even invasion.

But President Obama is telling those dictators that no matter what they do, the United States will do nothing to make them accountable to their people. Not necessarily that he'll directly help the regime hold the people down (although how do you think China has kept the lid on this long? Our leaders of the last fifteen to twenty years are as guilty in the repression of the Chinese people as any accomplice of a crime) but that he won't do anything active to bring them down. If I were named Kim Jong Il or Bashar Al-Assad (not to mention Khameini), I'd be feeling a lot happier right now. Especially as the Obama Administration has already shown itself very amenable to actions that indirectly help tyrants hold their people in thrall.

We can't go practicing regime change everywhere, of course. But reserving the ability to cut a particularly bad example out of the herd furnishes a marvelous incentive for these tyrants not to be that particularly bad example. Witness the behavior of of Qaddafi in Libya since the Iraqi invasion.

Of course, with Obama he's quite likely to do something else entirely than what he talks about. In this case, however, that would only exacerbate the feelings of betrayal of any Arabs who believed him today.

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Death by Deficit

Not only does continued, increased government borrowing ever more sap our economy but also, as the baby boomers retire, we will move from the recent statistic of four workers for each retiree to two workers for each retiree. That means a weaker economy, as this smaller work force will not produce enough to support all of government's costs -- even with massive and persistent tax increases. And if, as seems possible, sometime in the next decade the world resists lending our government sufficient money (because our economy will be too small to produce enough to pay the ever-growing interest on the debt), then we finally will be forced to make choices of what to buy and what to forgo

I think it's much later than Mr. Blankley evidently believes. What happens when the interest rates we need to pay to borrow start rising? The answer is that we need to borrow even more, resulting in still higher interest rates, etcetera. This is what engineers call a positive feedback effect - the more out of balance things are, the greater the forces that make it worse will get.

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I don't often agree with Bill Reilly, but he's got it right here: LEFT EXPLOITS DOC'S SLAY TO SILENCE FOES LIKE ME (sic)

But the bigger picture here is the glorification of Tiller.

The uber-liberal New York Times led the way, editorializing: "For his principled devotion to women's health and constitutionally protected rights, Dr. Tiller was the target of protests at his clinic, his house and his church."

The Times made Tiller out to be a hero. The paper's editorial never mentioned that he aborted fetuses after 21 weeks, when they could live outside the mother's womb.

The Times opinion also did not mention that Tiller became a millionaire doing this, or that only three late-term abortion clinics exist in the entire country. Nor did the editorial writer put forth that 36 states restrict late-term abortions without violating the Constitution.

As usual, The New York Times editorial page failed to tell its readers the whole story.

I also agree with "No matter what you think about abortion, it is a sad day for the country when vigilantism takes a life."

Nobody deserves to be murdered. But that doesn't make Tiller a saint. He was, in fact, apparently quite the opposite. And using his death to hijack the discussion and make it appear as if nobody opposed to abortion can have a valid point because one supporter agreed with his cause would be precisely the same logic as saying that environmentalism is evil and/or indefensible because Adolf Hitler was an environmentalist. Neither of these arguments is valid, but if one is, they both are, because they both use precisely the same argument of contagion. Identical logic cannot be valid in one case and not valid in another. Adolf Hitler was an environmentalist, but that doesn't taint environmentalism. Neither does the murder of an abortionist by an anti-abortion activist taint the cause of working against abortion.

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If Obama Had Carter's Courage

That fortitude is exactly what's missing today, as it was missing from Mr. Obama's statement on Monday, which attributed GM's failure to sins by everyone but Washington.

We're still waiting for the brave, original thinking that we were told Mr. Obama represented. Like Washington circa 1978, he has landed for once in a situation where something more than symbolism is required of him. He has finally glided into the land of the real, where the key measurable outcome is no longer whether an audience is glowing with self-approval when he leaves the room.

I'm no admirer of Mr. Carter in general, but this is one of those things he demonstrably got very right. Obama is failing a similar test badly.

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(begin sarcasm)

Boy it's a good thing we passed that "stimulus" Obama wanted

(end sarcasm)

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Reporters with pom-poms

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Banks retreating from partnership with Obama administration

Not that the banks had much choice on the TARP funds anyway, as Judicial Watch has already reported. Hank Paulson threatened them with regulatory action if the banks didn't willingly take government money and along with it further government control. However, as the Post explains, the government doesn't have the regulatory power to compel them into the public/private partnership on toxic assets (at least not directly), and therefore they have chosen not to willingly yoke themselves yet again to Treasury and the Obama administration. In fact, many of them are trying to find ways to give back the TARP funds to end the forced partnerships they already endure


I've been saying that the San Diego area real estate market has suddenly gone white hot. Multiple offers are the order of the day with most properties. I really need to make a distinction here: That's not the way the whole market is. In fact, there is a huge amount of market segmentation going on.

Market segmentation is what happens when certain things are much more in demand than others. Right now, the central area of San Diego is in high demand, simply because it's so close to everything. That's where the jobs are, all the cool nightclubs and restaurants, places to go and things to do. The Eastlake area is in very high demand, because you can get an almost new highly upgraded 3000 square foot house for half what the developers were selling them for five years ago. The North County Coastal region is probably hotter than anything else, because of the common belief of being where all of the really wealthy people live - the strip between Del Mar and Carlsbad has long been some of the most desired real estate in the world, and Rancho Santa Fe is the most expensive Zip Code in the country.

Once you get away from those areas, however, things are a lot more friendly to buyers. Some clients put in an offer on a property in Escondido, and some others on a property in Ramona, and instead of competing against a dozen or more offers, I'm pretty sure we're the only offer despite what one of the agents is telling me. La Mesa is seeing movement, but it's not anything like what's happening in North Park despite being maybe 6 miles further east and usually being able to get to Mission Valley and points north quicker from my house than from most of North Park, simply because it's such a pain to get out of North Park. Downtown might be five minutes longer from La Mesa. South Bay is usually quicker from La Mesa. The houses are similar construction built at comparable times, and on average the La Mesa houses are larger and situated on bigger lots. Yes, gas is headed back to $5 per gallon because our current government isn't going to follow up on what President Bush did last summer to drive the price down, but don't confuse "lesser distance" with "use less gas getting where you need to go." North Park is a horrible place to drive.

Pretty much every area is seeing more movement in the market than just a few months ago, but some areas are seeing a normal market with give and take, while others are seeing a white hot seller's market with ten or more offers on everything. Those extremely hot markets are seeing a lot of movement and if it weren't for HVCC preventing honest evaluations, we would have seen an even stronger recovery.

Some offers are more equal than others, and the new appraisal standards make them even more so. An "all cash" offer beats everything else for the same number of dollars. Offers under 70% loan to value offers beat everything except "all cash". Offers with twenty to thirty percent cash down come next in line. Exactly what beats what gets complicated and varies from property to property, but absolute bottom of the barrel is minimum down payment FHA loans. If you've got something near the top of this ladder, competing in the white hot areas may be something you can profitably do, particularly if you're willing and able to waive the appraisal contingency. Those areas are going to see rapid price appreciation in this environment, particularly if the industry forces lined up against it (NAR and NAMB, among others) manage to get those new appraisal standards repealed.

If, on the other hand, you're one of those trying to buy with minimum down FHA loan (or something else way down the preference ladder), you're not going to be able to compete with the offers at the top of the ladder. It's not really completely reasonable, because FHA standards aren't nearly so obnoxious as they to be, but they still take longer, have more opportunity to fall apart, and require more from sellers, even if you're not asking for seller paid closing costs. If you are asking for a seller paid contribution, then the sellers are understandably going to want an even higher offer from you to offset those costs, as well as a premium to convince them to sell to you rather than the people coming in with a conventional loan with 25% down. This raises the specter of whether or not the property will appraise for the necessary value to consummate the transaction, with it being increasingly unlikely. Lenders in particular are unwilling to consider these sorts of offers for lender owned property because they often require the lender to spend money fixing up the property and can then fall apart anyway, the ultimate bad trip for them.

So what buyers in this situation need to do is zig when everybody is zagging. Look in the less trendy areas where the competition isn't so severe. Consider properties that are solid, but not necessarily so visually appealing. In such a situation as yours and a market such as this, you want to offer on properties where you may be the only offer, or only need to compete against people in similar situations. It isn't forever and you don't have to stay there the rest of your life. It may take longer for property appreciation to hit these sorts of properties, but it will hit when people start to realize that San Diego is never going to be this affordable again. Remember 2002 and 2003, when people were glad to get a rotten little tiny property in bad shape (and way out in the boonies) even though there was no way their family was going to fit into it? Those days are coming again. Proportionally, those properties will see even more appreciation from this point than those that are already highly sought after. I'm advising people with lots of ready cash to buy as many condos as they can, as condos have been hit especially hard in the downturn. And as I've said a time or two, buying such a property makes it likely you'll get what you really want sooner. The ability to harness leverage in your favor is more powerful than any other investment you can make, if it succeeds. The current environment makes carefully structured plays on leverage very likely to succeed. Not guaranteed, as
There is No Such Thing as a Risk Free Investment, but very likely to succeed. .

There is always some segmentation in the real estate market, but we're seeing a higher level of segmentation now than I have ever seen in the past. Some types of property are more attractive to the aggregate market than others, and command a higher price as well as higher demand for them, and people are fighting like
gingham dog and calico cat over them right now. But those properties few people are considering now because people are still used to the buyer's market we had can be obtained more easily and for a bigger discount now simply because everybody is competing for the big beautiful properties in trendy areas will show a larger percentage gain later, when the big beautiful properties in trendy areas are completely out of reach, and large amounts of people start looking for substitutes because that's all they can have. The big beautiful properties in trendy areas are doing very well right now, thank you. They are quickly returning to nearly their peak price levels and the time to get a real bargain on them was a year or so ago. But the substitute properties, while severely lagging now, will catch most of the way up later, meaning that money invested in them will earn a higher return and quite likely enable those who do so invest to afford the big beautiful property in a trendy area once it does.

Caveat Emptor

Article UPDATED here


Carnival of Personal Finance

Carnival of Real Estate

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Did Obama Target GOP Donors In Chrysler Dealer Closings?

every single dealer he checked out except one were either GOP donors or donated to Obama's rivals in the democratic primary.

and

Unreal. This is the kind of thing they do in Marxist regimes and Chicago. Could this really be happening in America?

How many laws does this violate, if true? There's a better chance of flying to the moon by flapping your arms than this kind of thing happening by chance. If verified, the statistical probability of it happening is more than enough to constitute a smoking gun worthy of impeachment and removal from office for anyone who understands mathematics.

Of course, the Democrats are a majority in both houses of Congress, so that may be an obstacle to Congressional understanding of basic mathematical fact.

Things are not looking good for the "just a coincidence" explanation

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Ralph Peters: Instant justice for terrorists

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The hidden costs of presidential empathy.

Here is one straw in the wind that does not bode well for a Sotomayor appointment. Justice Stevens of the current court came in for a fair share of criticism (all justified in my view) for his expansive reading in Kelo v. City of New London (2005) of the "public use language." Of course, the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment is as complex as it is short: "Nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." But he was surely done one better in the Summary Order in Didden v. Village of Port Chester issued by the Second Circuit in 2006. Judge Sotomayor was on the panel that issued the unsigned opinion--one that makes Justice Stevens look like a paradigmatic defender of strong property rights.

It seems that the more I learn about Ms. Sotomayon, the less I like. A direct quote: "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."

Suppose it had been Samuel Alito or John Roberts who said that, 180 degrees reversed? He would have been lucky to keep his previous position, much less be confirmed to the Supreme Court.

Judge Sotomayor's Identity Problem

The essence of the rule of law is that identity doesn't matter. The law means the same thing regardless of the identity of people applying the law or subject to it. We don't have one law for Jews and another for Catholics, one for Italian-Americans and another for Hispanic-Americans. We don't need to know who the judge is to know what the law is.

Judge Sotomayor's nomination is predicated on almost exactly the opposite understanding of what law is and should be, of what matters in our judges and their

**********

The Need For Failure

First, the very notion of "too big to fail" is dangerous. It suggests that there is an insurance policy that says, no matter how risky your behavior, we will make sure you stay in business. It encourages banks to get bigger (or more interconnected), and it subsidizes risky behavior.

I have long thought that if a company is too big to fail, it needs to be broken up.

**********

Obama, Incorporated

The interlocking directorate is anathema to trustbusters and corporate watchdogs. It occurs when a board member or top executive of one company sits on the board of another company, accumulating undue power over a given industry. When it reduces competition, the arrangement is forbidden by the Clayton Antitrust Act of 1914.

If Henry De Lamar Clayton, the Alabama congressman who introduced the aforementioned act, were still with us, he'd presumably be shocked at the creation of the most far-reaching interlocking directorate in U.S. history. Obama Inc. has effectively won a seat on the board of companies at the heart of the nation's industrial production and its financial system. The robber barons of old would marvel at the tentacles of influence of Barack Obama, a CEO whose power would overawe J. P. Morgan (the famous industrialist, not the bailed-out bank)

Taking control of all the major capital corporations. Taking control of the banks. Taking direct political control of the census (putting it under White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, whose job it is to be partisan and who performs that part of it splendidly). Threatening dissenters with severe government harrassment. Spending trillions to subsidize supporters at taxpayer expense. Apparently favoring political supporters by closing auto dealerships belonging to those who supported others.

Is anyone else starting to see a pattern here? I can name some really horrible totalitarian hellholes that started their transition from democracy with less power concentrated in the strongman and cronies. Heck I've been liberally linking Armies of Liberation for four years who has documented the control over the country of Yemen wielded by the Saleh government with much less complete control of the country's power centers. I can't name any countries that became more free and more prosperous rather than less once they had ceded that much power to a given individual and his cronies.

Think it can't happen here? That's what they said about China, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Syria, and Cuba. More recently, they said it about Venezuela.

**********

You call this an amusement park? Depends upon whose amusement it's for

**********

Want to figure out how biased your news source is? Compare the coverage of these two events:

Military recruiter killed in Ark shooting

Suspect jailed in Kansas abortion doctor's killing

While the second was was unmistakeably vile, the first one is worse. I disagree vehemently with the alleged person who shot Tiller, but at least he did target his victim because that victim engaged of his own free will in a specific activity, to wit, the killing of late term babies (I may agree that it should be legal, but I refuse to shrink from the full consequences thereof by using euphemisms that deny the humanity of those babies). The second dominated news yesterday; I couldn't get away from it every time I opened my homepage. The first is receiving only a fraction of the attention. To be fair, the second is a day older than the first. But, as Michelle Malkin notes every pro-life organization has condemned the actions of the twit that killed Mr. Tiller in no uncertain terms. Let's see how many organizations like Code Pink condemn the killing of two soldiers who were simply assigned to sit in a recruiting office for two weeks straight out of training before being assigned to their units. Let's see if the media gives the two stories equal play.

I'd like to see both of these perpetrators fried. But the person who assassinated two soldiers willing to stand between the rest of us and people who want to kill us, simply because they happened to be in a recruiting office, deserves to fry slowly.

**********

Why is the Obama Justice Department protecting people who intimidate voters? (video included!)


Political appointees at Justice pressured career prosecutors into giving up on the case of voter intimidation by the New Black Panthers group in Philadelphia, who attempted to frighten voters away from the polls in the presidential election:

Q and O:

A default judgment. A done deal. Guilty.

But they were ordered to drop the charges and case and settle for this:

A Justice Department spokesman on Thursday confirmed that the agency had dropped the case, dismissing two of the men from the lawsuit with no penalty and winning an order against the third man that simply prohibits him from bringing a weapon to a polling place in future elections.

Witness affidavit in NBPP voter bullying case It's damning.

So why is the Obama administration dropping charges after conviction?

Related: Obama administration: It's OK When We Politicize the Justice Department

The "politicization" of the Justice Department was one of many aspects of the Bush administration which the Obama administration was going to cure. But it appears that while the party of the administration has changed, we are seeing a level of political meddling at the Justice Department which the Bush administration never remotely approached
**********

Advice to College Grads

HT Instapundit

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