Daily Archives: November 19, 2009

Here’s how ObamaKare is going to eliminate waste, cut costs and pay for itself

$100 million paid to Senator for her vote for health care. Yeah okay, that was wasteful, but now we’re really going to get serious abut this. We mean it!

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Global warming – is there anything it can’t do?

Global warming forces women into prostitution. The world’s oldest profession is actually caused by rising temperatures.

Effects of climate change have driven women in communities in coastal areas in poor countries like the Philippines to risk dangerous jobs, and sometimes even into the flesh trade.

Suneeta Mukherjee, country representative of the United Nations Food Population Fund (UNFPA), said women in the Philippines are the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change in the country.

“Climate change could reduce income from farming and fishing possibly driving some women into sex work and thereby increase HIV infection,” Mukherjee said during the Wednesday launch of the UNFPA annual State of World Population Report in Pasay City.

In the Philippines, small brothels usually pop out near the coastal areas where many women do sexual services to transient seafarers. Often, these prostitutes are ferried to bigger ships by their pimps.

Based on the UNFPA report, there are 92 million Filipinos in the country as of 2009 and that number is expected to balloon to more than 146 million in the next 40 years.

Of the 92 million Filipinos, about 60 percent are living in coastal areas and depend on the seas for livelihood, said former Environment secretary Dr. Angel Alcala.

Alcala said that “we have already exceeded the carrying capacity of our marine environment.”

But as the sea’s resources are depleted due to overpopulation and overfishing, fishermen start losing their livelihood and women are forced to share the traditional role of the man in providing for the family.

Alacala, who also heads the Angelo King Center for Research and Environmental Management in Siliman University, said some women often pick out shellfish by the coastlines, exposed to storm surges.

Women who could no longer endure this work often go out to find other jobs, while some are tempted into prostitution, Alcala added.

In an interview with the Inter Press News Agency, Marita Rodriguez of the Centre for Empowerment and Resource Development, Inc. said women are taking the brunt of climate change.

“Aside from their household chores and participation in fishing activity, they have to find additional sources of income like working as domestic helpers in affluent families,” she said.

The UNFPA noted that the temperature in the earth’s surface has risen 0.74 degrees Celsius in the past 100 years. The 10 warmest years globally since 1880 have also been recorded in the last 13 years.

“Slower population growth, for example, would help build social resilience to climate change’s impacts and would contribute to a reduction of greenhouse gas-emissions in the future,” the UNFPA report said.

Those are your tax dollars supporting these brilliant United Nations scientists, in case you’ve forgotten.

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The debate is over

Scientists baffled by global temperature ‘time out”. Hasn’t increased in the past ten years and the models didn’t predict that.

The planet’s temperature curve rose sharply for almost 30 years, as global temperatures increased by an average of 0.7 degrees Celsius (1.25 degrees Fahrenheit) from the 1970s to the late 1990s. “At present, however, the warming is taking a break,” confirms meteorologist Mojib Latif of the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences in the northern German city of Kiel. Latif, one of Germany’s best-known climatologists, says that the temperature curve has reached a plateau. “There can be no argument about that,” he says. “We have to face that fact.”

Even though the temperature standstill probably has no effect on the long-term warming trend, it does raise doubts about the predictive value of climate models, and it is also a political issue. For months, climate change skeptics have been gloating over the findings on their Internet forums. This has prompted many a climatologist to treat the temperature data in public with a sense of shame, thereby damaging their own credibility.

“It cannot be denied that this is one of the hottest issues in the scientific community,” says Jochem Marotzke, director of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg. “We don’t really know why this stagnation is taking place at this point.”

Just a few weeks ago, Britain’s Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research added more fuel to the fire with its latest calculations of global average temperatures. According to the Hadley figures, the world grew warmer by 0.07 degrees Celsius from 1999 to 2008 and not by the 0.2 degrees Celsius assumed by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. And, say the British experts, when their figure is adjusted for two naturally occurring climate phenomena, El Niño and La Niña, the resulting temperature trend is reduced to 0.0 degrees Celsius — in other words, a standstill.

The differences among individual regions of the world are considerable. In the Arctic, for example, temperatures rose by almost three degrees Celsius, which led to a dramatic melting of sea ice. At the same time, temperatures declined in large areas of North America, the western Pacific and the Arabian Peninsula. Europe, including Germany, remains slightly in positive warming territory.

[snip] Marotzke and Leibniz Institute meteorologist Mojib Latif are even convinced that the fuzzy computing done by Rahmstorf is counterproductive. “We have to explain to the public that greenhouse gases will not cause temperatures to keep rising from one record temperature to the next, but that they are still subject to natural fluctuations,” says Latif. For this reason, he adds, it is dangerous to cite individual weather-related occurrences, such as a drought in Mali or a hurricane, as proof positive that climate change is already fully underway.

“Perhaps we suggested too strongly in the past that the development will continue going up along a simple, straight line. In reality, phases of stagnation or even cooling are completely normal,” says Latif.

Oh yeah everybody knows that, we just didn’t mention it before!

These people are liars with an agenda and that agenda has nothing to do with saving the world. Wake up.

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National Association of Home Builder’s Dream Home is an unfinished bust

What could be more appropriate and timely? The model dream home being constructed for the NAHB is an empty hulk, done in by lack of funding.

Domanico Custom Homes, the small private builder selected for the project, had to halt construction this month after a private investor pulled out. Now, Domanico says, the home has a “fire sale” price tag of $1.8 million, and the company warns that a big loss could put it out of business.

Banks nationwide are saddled with so many nonperforming construction loans to real-estate developers and builders that most have pulled away from the industry, especially in such markets as Las Vegas that have lots of troubled loans and plummeting home prices.

Domanico lost its private investor in February, and at least six banks have turned down the roughly $1.7 million request to complete construction on the remaining 25% of the home, according to Adam Knecht, Domanico’s general manager. The home had been priced at $3.39 million in August.

Domanico is pursuing private funding, but nothing has come through. “The market is dead for construction loans,” said Mr. Knecht.

The latest turn of events means the nation’s biggest gathering of home builders, which takes place in January, could be without a showcase home for the first time since 1984, when the concept premiered.

Jerry Howard, the NAHB’s chief executive, said the group is coming up with contingency plans in the event that the home isn’t available for tours by conference attendees. Topping the list: a computerized virtual tour of the home.

“There’s nothing like walking through the finished New American home, but we’re going to have to come up with the next best thing to satisfy the expectations,” said Mr. Howard, who said the NAHB tried without success to tap its contacts to help Domanico.

In some years, as many as 120,000 people attend the convention — one of the nation’s largest. And tens of thousands tour the home — it is usually the site of several invitation-only soirees — and it receives global press, ranging from industry Web sites to glossy fashion magazines.

The lack of access to capital is forcing private builders out of business at a “phenomenal” rate, said Ara Hovnanian, chief executive of the public Hovnanian Enterprises Inc., at an industry conference this week. “It’s scary, the number of home builders that are closing their doors,” he said.

Domanico has spent $800,000 out of its own pocket on construction, Mr. Knecht said. With no additional capital, the previous goal of finishing by October has long passed. The current $1.8 million sale price would finish construction and pay off lien holders. Domanico owes subcontractors, ranging from electricians to stonemasons, $400,000.

“There’s nothing else I can do,” Mr. Knecht said. “I feel bad for how things have gone, and I’m not especially positive about how things are going to turn out.”

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We are heading into the abyss

FHA now lending on no-money down million dollars homes and everybody wants one. What could possibly go wrong?

SAN FRANCISCO — In January, Mike Rowland was so broke that he had to raid his retirement savings to move here from Boston.

A week ago, he and a couple of buddies bought a two-unit apartment building for nearly a million dollars. They had only a little cash to bring to the table but, with the federal government insuring the transaction, a large down payment was not necessary.

“It was kind of crazy we could get this big a loan,” said Mr. Rowland, 27. “If a government official came out here, I would slap him a high-five.”

In its efforts to prop up a shattered housing market, the government is greatly extending its traditional support of real estate, including guaranteeing the mortgages of middle-class and even upper-class buyers against default.

In 2007, the government did not insure a single mortgage in this city, one of the most expensive in the country. Buyers here, as well as in Manhattan, Santa Monica and every other wealthy area, were presumed to be able to handle the steep prices. They were correspondingly expected to hefty down payments on their own.

[snip]

While the F.H.A. is certainly strengthening the high-end market in the Bay Area by prompting more sales, there are growing concerns that it might become a destabilizing force.

Kenneth Donohue, inspector general for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the parent agency of the F.H.A., said the higher loan limits were increasing the potential risk to the F.H.A. Last week, the agency said its cash reserves had fallen below their Congressionally mandated minimum because of the large volume of foreclosures.

“If one of these higher-limit loans fail, that’s equivalent to two or three cheaper loans,” Mr. Donohue said. “You have to ask yourself, was the F.H.A. ever intended to address these markets?”

He sees another risk: larger loans will be a greater draw for those who want to commit fraud. That would exacerbate a problem already besetting the agency.

Even some San Francisco agents who are doing F.H.A. deals worry about the long-term consequences. Real estate commissions are 6 percent. If the value of a property were to hold steady, a seller who put down the F.H.A. minimum would suffer a loss after fees. And while the Bay Area has traditionally been an excellent investment, the last few years have proved a big exception.

“Is this going to be the next wave of the housing downturn?” asked Eileen Bermingham, an agent with Pacific Union. “With such a minimal down payment, how do we make sure people don’t get in over their heads?”

The F.H.A. commissioner, David H. Stevens, said recently that its loans were relatively safe because the buyer was required to live in the property. They “are for shelter. They aren’t speculative-type investments,” Mr. Stevens said.

But the idea of a house as an investment dies hard. Mr. Bedar, Mr. Rowland and the third partner in their property, Jordan Kurland, are all in the technology field, but their dreams of wealth do not feature stock options.

“We’re banking on real estate,” said Mr. Kurland, 24. “Everyone expects prices to keep going up.”

Mr. Kurland and Mr. Bedar, who are employed full time, are the buyers of record. Mr. Rowland, a freelancer, will have his interests protected by a legal agreement.

Their building, for which they paid $963,000, is on a quiet street in the up-and-coming Hayes Valley neighborhood, close to fashionable restaurants they have already been trying out. The friends plan to live in the bottom unit and rent out the top. Thanks to rock-bottom interest rates, none of them will pay much more than a thousand dollars a month. “Everyone should have the chance to do this,” Mr. Kurland said.

Everyone may get a chance.

A few weeks ago, Congress extended the higher lending limits for another year. Representative Barney Frank, the Massachusetts Democrat who is chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, said in an interview that he planned to introduce legislation next year raising the maximum F.H.A. loan by $100,000, to $839,750.

His bill would make the new limits permanent.

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Greenwich Time busts a story wide open

Amazing but true: manhole cover exposed by shifting sands! Woxtra, woxtra, read all about it! For a buck – what a deal. Even more telling about the state of our local paper, this front page story is labelled “most viewed”.

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This can’t be good news

Treasuries turn negative. From ZeroHedge:

The last time Bill yields turned negative (in essence investors paying the Government to hold their money for them) was in the days after the Lehman bankruptcy, when the entire world was about to blow up. So why did Bill yield for January maturity just turn negative once again? In other words, why are investors suddenly running for the hills? As Dow Jones reports, January and February bills hit a yield of -0.03% earlier. Some explanations have to do with Bill scarcity, as nobody wants to be exposed to anything beyond 3 months down the curve, let alone 1 year. However, the fact that bond investors may not be buying into the whole recovery BS (or just realize that there is nobody willing to roll near-dated treasurys into longer-tenor pieces of paper) and are once again running scared and willing to pay Ben Bernanke to hold their money for them should be very, very troubling. Additionally, could there be something more pressing and/or catalytic? We have not heard peep from any of the big banks in a while…

I wouldn’t know a Treasury trading strategy if it bit me so I’m just tossing this out here – maybe it’s great news, for reasons I couldn’t possibly understand. It just seems on its face to be a sign of …trouble.

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Just saying …

Actually, I’m not saying it but Best of the Web is:

Accountability Journalism
An Associated Press dispatch, written by Erica Werner and Richard Alonso-Zaldivar, compares the House and Senate ObamaCare bills. We’d like to compare this dispatch to the AP’s dispatch earlier this week “fact checking” Sarah Palin’s new book. Here goes:

Number of AP reporters assigned to story:
• ObamaCare bills: 2
• Palin book: 11

Number of pages in document being covered:
• ObamaCare bills: 4,064
• Palin book: 432

Number of pages per AP reporter:
• ObamaCare bill: 2,032
• Palin book: 39.3

On a per-page basis, that is, the AP devoted 52 times as much manpower to the memoir of a former Republican officeholder as to a piece of legislation that will cost trillions of dollars and an untold number of lives. That’s what they call accountability journalism.

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I see a bad moon rising

WSJ: Mortgage delinquencies soar.  One in 7 of all mortgages, from 1 in 10 last year, and last year was not so hot.

About one in seven American households with mortgages is behind on payments or in foreclosure, according to new data from the Mortgage Bankers Association. That is up from about one in 10 a year ago.

The trade group reported Thursday that 14.4% of first-lien mortgages on one- to four-family homes in the third quarter were 30 days or more overdue or in the foreclosure process. That is the highest since the MBA began reporting such data in 1972 and works out to about 7.5 million households at risk of losing their homes. The percentage is up from 10% a year earlier and 7.3% two years ago.

Loan defaults have been rising swiftly for more than three years. At first, the problem largely reflected loose lending practices during the housing boom that allowed millions of people to buy homes they couldn’t afford. Now the problem is compounded by rising unemployment, which hit 10.2% in October, the highest since 1982.

About 7.8% of prime fixed-rate loans were overdue or in foreclosure in the latest quarter. For prime adjustable-rate loans—including “pay-option” loans that let borrowers start out with very low payments and face much higher ones later—the rate was 23%. The rate was 53% for subprime adjustable-rate loans and 18% for loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration.

Separately, First American CoreLogic, a research firm, said its national home-price index in September was down 9.8% from a year earlier. The index nearly doubled between January 2000 and April 2006 and has since dropped about 30%.

UPDATE: A friend sends this link to Calculated Risk which is gloomier, if possible. With color charts to liven things up!

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All that work done for you, for free!

Whoever purchased 606 W. Lyon Farm in 2007 paid $1.150 million for it, installed new windows, doors, moldings, a new kitchen and new baths, then landscaped it and returned it to the market in 2008 asking $2.250. It sold today for $1.383, which is better than losing everything, but still represents an awful lot of energy and money expended for no return. Assessment was $1.234.

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Riverside contract

39 Hidden Brook

Not my favorite house but Hidden Brook’s a nice street and 29 is now under contract. Asking price was $2.795, which should reassure other owners on the street.

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Rentals in Greenwich

27 Hill Road

For reasons unrelated to this particular house, I pulled its rental history and lo, found a pretty good illustration of what’s been going on with our rental market. This is a nondescript, 1954 house in a good neighborhood and when it was listed for rent at $7,500 in 2004 it quickly went for $7,200. In 2008, the place rented again but, after asking $7,800, got just $4,200. If you have a house purchased more recently than this one was, and are thinking of renting it out “until the market comes back”, you might want to consider this one’s fate.

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Some houses I’m skipping on the open house tour today

12 Byfield Lane

For $12 million bucks, I want an address other than 12 Byfield Lane (how come builders keep confusing the street address with the price?) and, not for nothing, a better picture than the cheap digital snapshot posted here. I’m sure tis a grand house but at an asking price of over $1,000 per square foot, I think I can afford to wait to see this – I don’t think it will be going anywhere soon.

13 Circle Drive

And although I am aware that another house actually sold for $2 million on Circle Drive earlier this year, I’m not sure that amazing feat can be duplicated, so I’ll pass up the opportunity to see 13 Circle again. It didn’t sell for $2.430 in 2007 and its new price of $2.150 doesn’t impress me. A new house at 45 Circle Drive couldn’t fetch $1.7 million and has now dropped to $1.45. Fairness suggests that I visit both and compare, but whoever said I was fair?

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15 Lia Fail under contract

I’m a little surprised this lasted seventy-two days. Despite readers’ comments on its Tony Soprano look, this is a very nice house inside, well laid out and in excellent condition. Add to that a close-to-town location with both privacy and neighbors in a great little neighborhood, a pool and a separate guest house/office, with a price tag around $2 million, and it was, as I averred here awhile ago, the best value on the market.

In my opinion, naturally, but I’m glad to see someone else agreed.

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The boys are back in town

Barney takes a bite out of crime

Our Greenwich boys in blue are back on the Post Road with another seatbelt roadblock this morning and it frosts my rear end. I wear a seatbelt – it’s the smart thing to do, but what possible business is it of anyone, particularly the state, whether I choose to wear one or not? This intrusive interference with citizens is the nanny state at its worst and shame on our police for engaging in it.

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We’re in the best of hands

Hairy, ugly and wants to die - let's do it!

Attorney General Eric Holder was on Capitol Hill yesterday trying to defend his decision to bring Kahlid Mohammed back to New York for trial

. It didn’t go well. Asked what we’d do with the son of a bitch if he were acquitted, Holder replied, “I’ve told my staff that failure is not an option.” Oh, okay then, that solves that  – how reassuring that our country’s safety has been entrusted to a man who sounds like and spouts the aphorisms of a high school football coach.Pressed again on why the guy was coming here after he’d already confessed to a military tribunal, Holder replied, “The determination I make on where I think we can best try these cases is not dependent on the whims or the desires of a terrorist” [add dripping scorn here].

While ordinarily I’d agree that a terrorist shouldn’t be heard on his desires, in this case Chief Dish Rag has said he wants to plead guilty to a military commission, be executed and go join the virgins waiting and reserved for him. I say, let’s give him what he wants. Just this once.

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Screams from the forgotten and irrelevant Jesse Jackson

Trying on a new role as Pope, Jackson excommunicates conservative blacks: “You can’t be against ObamaKare and call yourself a black man”.

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This isn’t about an ice cream treat

WSJ: Fear of Double Dip in Housing.

The U.S. housing market is sputtering again, adding to doubts about the vigor of the economic recovery.

Just a few months after housing showed signs of leveling off, bad weather and uncertainty over the extension of a home-buyer tax credit sent new-home starts in October tumbling 10.6% from the previous month. They fell to the lowest level since April, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. Starts of single-family houses fell 6.8%.

Earlier this month, Congress expanded the tax credit and extended it through April, so building should improve. Still, the latest data portend poorly for the economy overall, and for fourth-quarter growth.

On Wednesday Pulte Homes Inc., the nation’s largest home builder, warned investors of a grim outlook. “As we look out to 2010, we are expecting difficult conditions to continue,” said chief executive Richard Dugas.

Meanwhile, more Americans who bought homes during the boom are falling into mortgage limbo. About 3.4% of U.S. households — or about 1.9 million homeowners — are 120 days or more overdue on their payments, but not yet in foreclosure, according to LPS Applied Analytics, a research firm in Denver. That is up from 1.5% a year earlier.

Many of these people are likely to lose their homes over the next few years. That means more bank-owned homes will hit a market already suffering from oversupply.

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