An interesting story in the Wall Street Journal today, about the tough decisions communities are making with their paltry share of the $4 billion Neighborhood Stabilization Program, a congressional grant to help mitigate the disastrous fallout of the foreclosure crisis. “Help” and “mitigate” are pretty ridiculous words, when you consider the extent of the damage and the fact $4 billion doesn’t go very far these days, not when it’s spread across the entire country.
The story focused on Avondale, Ariz., a suburb of Phoenix, where workers and activists are trying to determine which buildings are worth saving and which are bulldozer bait. One passage jumped out at me:
One house the officials would love to tear down is located in an area of the city that housed migrant farm hands. It’s a blue, wooden, 576-square-foot shack on a bare dirt lot. The owner, according to the city officials, was an unemployed woman with a history of drug abuse. In February 2007, at a time when the house was assessed at $50,100, a finance company gave her a $103,000 second mortgage on the house.
If someone with a keener business sense than mine — that would be, roughly, all of you — can explain why everyone connected with this transaction shouldn’t go to jail, please do so. There’s a picture of the place in the accompanying slide show, although the description does it pretty well — roughly a 20-by-30 shack sitting on bare dirt. This is why the top of my head threatens to pop off when I hear someone say the fix we’re in is the result of irresponsible borrowers getting in over their heads. Irresponsible lenders milking fees out of housing stock that ran dry a generation ago? Healthy profit-seekers getting their piece of the American dream!
In Detroit these guys went house-to-house, ringing doorbells, stuffing brochures in mailboxes, buying billboards, advertising endlessly on local radio and TV. Today there are entire neighborhoods that were hanging in there just a few years ago, poor but stable, now dotted with boarded-up homes and flapping tarps, scrappers circling like jackals. People say there should be consequences. Well, there they are — the consequences. Meanwhile, Angelo Mozilo still has his tanning bed. It’s things like this that make me consider becoming an anarchist.
Elsewhere, Editor & Publisher reports the speculation of a credit-rating firm that says, “several cities could go without a daily print newspaper by 2010.” Among the media firms in trouble are McClatchy and Tribune Co. McClatchy bought Knight Ridder, the chain we used to work for. I sold all my KR stock to buy our house, and Alan sold a little not long after we moved in to buy his boat. What remains is so worthless now that the last time we talked about it, Alan said, “At least I have my boat.”
My sister had a friend who went bust in the dot-com crash in 2001. He told her, “When the stock was high, I sold some and bought a BMW. People told me I was crazy, that I should have hung on and not spent it on such a frivolous purchase. Well, at least I have a BMW now!”
We’ll probably be living on that boat by the end of things. Look for the Mad Max couple with the sulky daughter and elderly dog, washing their clothes on the rocks.
Welcome to Surly Friday! Tapping the deep vein of rage in us all, since roughly an hour ago.
So let’s! Get! Surrrrrrly!
If your kid came to you and said, “Mom, when I grow up I want to be a makeup artist,” what would you say? “No, no, kitten — go to college so you’ll have some real earning power. There’s no money in makeup.” Well, you would be wrong, at least if the makeup artist in question works for Sarah Palin.
Hey, lawyers in the house: What was Clarence Thomas thinking when he cleared the way for the Obama-citizenship dispute to go to a conference of the entire SCOTUS? I’m aware there could be a back story that explains it better than, “because he’s jealous, bitter and crazy, duh,” so let’s hear it. Before we get any surlier.
Unemployment at 6.7 percent! Buy krugerrands! Dump your stock! Get surly!
Or just take to your bed with a sick headache, once you read about the guy who took his fiance out to the romantic Pacific promontory to pop the question, only to watch her get hit by a wave and swept out to sea. Presumably drowned. No kidding.
Actually, I remember reading once about a similar case. There’s a famous news photo of a man being carried into a hospital ER, impaled on a sizable length of wood. We’re talking landscaping-timber size, and it hit him a bullseye, right through the sternum. Only in the picture he’s awake and conscious, seemingly unsurprised that he has a huge chunk of wood sticking out of his chest. The story is, the impalement was a one-in-a-million shot, the timber effectively shoving his vital organs to the side. The stake was removed in a lengthy surgery, and the guy spent most of a year in the hospital recovering. Not long after his release, he was walking along a jetty on Long Island when a wave hit him and took him out to sea, never to be seen again. One is reminded of Faust. While it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that the guy in Oregon is lying and he really dumped his girlfriend off a cliff somewhere — that’s just the mood I’m in today — let’s take him at his word and reach the inevitable conclusion: THE WORLD HATES US, AND WE ARE BUT PLAYTHINGS FOR THE GODS. Although I have a dirty house at the moment, and bright sunshine outside, so I’m going to take advantage of actually being able to see the dust bunnies, and go clean them up.
Have a nice day!