A millstone I call home.

Last week the roof project finally concluded with a little mop-up: A guy came out to rehang the back-side gutters and install a couple more downspouts. Now our brand-new roof will shed water efficiently. I pause to stick my finger in my cheek for a weak pop, and then I wave it in the air and say woo. Big effin’ deal.

This is new for me. In the past, I had pride of ownership in almost every repair we made, to this house and to our last house. There’s something about caring well for one’s house that’s always resonated with me, but not so much anymore. It’s true that a new roof doesn’t satisfy like a new kitchen, but it still felt virtuous, because you were adding to your home’s resale value and maintaining the property, which reflected on the neighborhood and made everyone rest a little easier at night.

But our real estate market can be explained in a headline which I swear I’ve read 400 times in the last five years in the local weekly: Has the market hit bottom? The answer is always the same: Maybe. The answer is always wrong, because the correct answer is: No. So putting a roof on my house, which used to feel like forgoing a new dress to put the money in the bank, now feels more like tearing up hundred-dollar bills and throwing them into a flushing toilet. And as long as we’re reading the Obvious News, it seems I have lots of company.

When this recession is over — if it ever is — and the historians start to sort it out, I don’t think anything will be as important, in the long run, as what it did to real estate. It’s still my main disappointment with Barack Obama, that he didn’t launch a big show trial on Jan. 21, 2009 that would have marched the Wall Street shitheads who wrecked the housing market before a tribunal of foreclosed and washed-out homeowners and a judge that was a combination of, ohhhh, Al Sharpton and Judge Judy, say. His gavel would be oversized, and he’d be welcome to use it on both his bench and the defendants’ heads. A guillotine would be right outside the courtroom, and we’d use it until the rope broke and the blade dulled.

That, at least, would show we take the damage these people did seriously. People who don’t own houses or apartments get a little impatient with this, and I guess I don’t blame them, but trust me: This crash hurts everyone, owner or not. For those of us who don’t live in the places where the middle class are shut out of owning real estate — which is to say, most of the country outside of New York City, San Francisco and much (but not all) of Los Angeles — our houses are the most expensive thing we own, and are far more than a place to lay our weary heads and store our record collections. The sale of my parents’ house provided half their retirement stake. They were of the generation that saved up for a down payment, shopped carefully, bought and stayed put. No flipping or trading up for them. Three bedrooms, 1.5 baths, bought in 1962 and sold in 1995, paid off and worth seven times what they paid for it.

My generation was different, but not Alan and me, so much. This is our second house, in our second city. I pay extra principal on our house every month, although God knows why. Optimistically, it’s worth half what we paid for it. Recovery of our purchase price might be 20 years off. The Detroit Metro has special problems, to be sure, but the whole country is sweeping up this wreckage, and I will never forget who caused it. (Hint: It wasn’t Barney Frank.)

For years, for practically ever, real estate was the safest investment you could make. My mom started bugging me to buy a condo as soon as I had a full-time job. You couldn’t lose. Everybody pays something for housing, after all, and you might as well pay yourself, plus the mortgage interest is tax-deductible. And housing always went up. It didn’t rise at the redonkulous rates of recent years, but a steady 1 to 3 percent was a given.

And while I may be overstating the virtues of ownership, I still firmly believe that a neighborhood of owners is, in the broadest terms, better than one of renters. When you have a financial stake in something, you pay more attention to it. You care if the local schools are good, even if you don’t have children in them. You don’t like it when your neighbors let their lawn go to prairie (unless everyone else’s is prairie, too). You keep the walks swept. It’s the broken-window theory on a less dramatic scale, and for generations, it worked.

But that’s only part of it. Local governments rely on property-tax revenues to provide services. When property values slide, so do tax receipts. We’re only beginning to see these problems, cities letting streets go or not replacing lighting or laying off firefighters. And how long did I say it might be before recovery?

When you think about it, pretty much everything in our economy is predicated on the idea that we’ll always be growing. (Certainly our health-care costs have done that.) A few flat years we can handle. But a full-on retreat, a crash? This is new for me. Last week our boring old city council got a little testy over some penny-ante travel for the city clerk, nothing big, but one of the members grumped that they were looking at another enormous shortfall the following year, and nickels and dimes add up. I can’t imagine what they’ll be fighting over in three years. Probably which one gets to quit first.

My house, my millstone. But with a nice new roof.

So, a little bloggage? Sure. Scott Rosenberg at Salon looks at a phenomenon I’ve been seeing in my news searching for a while now: The content farms have gamed Google. Don’t be evil!

“I think his dad’s bought them off, sometimes. He’s practically selling dope out of the trunk of his car. I have to give him one thing, though. Watching his personality disintegrate made me give up pot for good. Well, that and the fact the shit makes you so fucking retarded these days. The last time I smoked was spring last year. I was so paranoid I walked out of the house and hid in that big wall of shrubs by the sorority house. And the girls started that goddamn singing. ‘Together forever. Together forever.’ Do you have any idea how much that sounds like you’re eavesdropping on some kind of blood sacrifice?”why I added Coozledad’s blog to my RSS feed. I was missing too many of these, or discovering them days later.

Another great Tom-and-Lorenzo Mad Style entry, this one on Francine Hanson, played by the sublime Anne Dudek.

I’ve taken a casual interest in Stephanie Seymour ever since Alan and I discovered the “November Rain” video on MTV. One of us would always say to the other, “She dies in the end.” Today, the NYT did a silly-season Sunday Styles front on the disintegration of her marriage to Peter Brant, described as “a taller, more dashing version of Buddy Hackett.” Her “November Rain” role was described thusly: “she portrayed a bride who dies.” Everyone remembers her!

So have a great Monday, all. Mine will, as usual, be busy.

Posted at 1:11 am in Current events, Popculch, Same ol' same ol' |

52 responses to “A millstone I call home.”

  1. beb said on August 23, 2010 at 8:02 am

    I’m with you, Nancy on the need for criminal prosecutions of the banksters who drove this country into the ground. Of course the reason it didn’t happen was because the people at the head of the line would be Obama’s economic team — Geithner, Summers, et al., because before joining his adminstration they were the ones either in charge of the hen house, as it were, or had been cheerleading the run off the cliff.

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  2. coozledad said on August 23, 2010 at 8:58 am

    I’ve never seen that November Rain video. I love the “Nashville Pussy live at Carnegie Hall” wedding couture.

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  3. nancy said on August 23, 2010 at 9:05 am

    Isn’t it a cultural treasure? I think it’s the acting of the wedding preacher I like best. It’s hard to sell a line like “you may kiss the bride” silently. And that kiss! Tongue-wrestling at the altar! No wonder God killed her.

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  4. Sue said on August 23, 2010 at 9:22 am

    Have you noticed over the last year or two that there have been a few trial balloons sent up (by Dems too) about taking away the “entitlement” that is the mortgage interest tax credit? I predict that if our fine legislators do manage to take this away from us, within a year or two it will just make good business sense to give tax breaks to the businesses and corporations who bought up the homes that the last few people finally could no longer afford.
    Simplistic, I know. But a year ago I never thought that “reforming” social security and medicare would be seriously discussed, especially after President Bush took such a hit on it. Now we’ve got a roadmap being discussed which doesn’t balance the budget for 50 years and pits one generation against another, and everyone shrugs and says, oh well, we’ve got to look at everything.
    It’s Monday and I’m pessimistic, I guess.

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  5. Peter said on August 23, 2010 at 9:23 am

    Amen sister.

    I’d just go off on a rant if I said my peace about the housing fiasco, and there wouldn’t be anything new in it. So, on another subject, Peter Brant is a taller, more dashing version of Buddy Hackett? Isn’t that Jerry Lewis?

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  6. Julie Robinson said on August 23, 2010 at 9:39 am

    Maybe it’s just too early for brain function, but why do you make extra principal payments if you don’t think you’ll be able to get it back when you sell the house? Wouldn’t it make more sense to save that money elsewhere?
    Note that I am not a financial advisor nor do I play one on TV.

    There’s been a bit of a flap locally over the size of contracts before city council approval is required. Currently it’s 100K, and coincidentally this mayor and his predecessor have entered into many contracts for 90 or 95K. Council is deliberating reducing the amount.

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  7. del said on August 23, 2010 at 9:47 am

    The upside of the housing downturn may be preservation of neighborhoods over flight to the furthest reaches of suburban sprawl.

    I watched the November Rain video exactly once. Never again.

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  8. mark said on August 23, 2010 at 10:09 am

    Several years ago Congress gave huge tax subsidies (credits) for large vehicle purchases by businesses. It was intended to boost the economy by allowing small businesses to replace business inventory like delivery trucks, tractors, fork lifts, etc,. But the gross vehicle weight to qualify for the ridiculously large tax credits was set just a little too low, and it encompassed a handful of the very largest SUVs- Hummer, GM Suburban, Toyota Armada.

    It took the accounts about 60 seconds to see the implications and about 10 minutes longer to contact every lawyer, doctor and other professional with business income (rather than w-2 wages) to advise them that the government would help them purchase a new, tricked out behemoth for a net amount less than their secretaries pay for a bare bones Honda Accord. So who do you behead- the accountants that read the law, the wealthy who took advantage of it or the politicians who screwed up in their efforts to manipulate the economy?

    there was a huge amount of criminal activity in the mortgage lending debacle, at many levels. But why in a global recession was the housing bubble limited almost exclusively to areas governed by US lending laws? Our laws incentivized stupid lending and then removed private sector risk by having FMA, FMC, FHA and every other government or quasi-government lender buy or guaranty the liar loans and “no-look” mortgages.

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  9. Bob (Not Greene) said on August 23, 2010 at 10:38 am

    Mark, you’re right, there was greed all around. The things is anyone could see this was happening. I’m no economist, but I could see what was happening in my own neighborhood (which is now paying a steep price in foreclosures and plummeting home values). Mortgage brokers looking to make a quick buck, banks looking to bundle and sell worthless mortgages like they were actual assets, people who were either willfully stupid or complete chumps or cynical bastards or all three ($300,000 loan? sure. no money down? of course. never make a mortgage payment and walk away because you’ve got no actual investment in the damn home? you got that.)

    It was so obvious. We thought there was no way we could lose on our home. Now I wonder if we could break even. Never in my parents’ lifetime has real estate in our area lost value. (They paid $27,000 in 1967 for the house they still live in). It’s just a travesty what’s happened. But you know who gets screwed. It ain’t the ones who actually controlled the purse strings.

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  10. Randy said on August 23, 2010 at 10:51 am

    Curiously, the house next door is a rental unit. The owner passed away suddenly last summer, and her children (who lives hundreds of miles away) decided the house should stay in the family, for reasons only they can comprehend, sine they were never raised in the house, and really have no attachment to it. They hired a management company. The house was on the rental market for eight months. They got a renter who would only take it month-to-month. That renter is leaving on August 31. The rentersare nice and all, but things change when a person has no stake in a home.

    On the upside, my wife plans to steal all the hosta plants when the renters move out.

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  11. youwreckedit said on August 23, 2010 at 10:53 am

    “the Wall Street shit­heads who wrecked the hous­ing mar­ket”

    Typo there, Nancy–I think you meant “Main Street.”

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  12. Jeff Borden said on August 23, 2010 at 10:59 am

    I read a lot of history books and am always struck by the element of luck in critical events. It’s the same with our own lives.

    When we bought our house on the North Side in 1993, we thought we were overpaying slightly. My wife had read a book about buying your first home by Sylvia Porter, which included a formula for how most sellers priced their houses at about 15% more than they needed. We paid exactly $1,000 more than how the equation worked out when applied to the asking price.

    Now, of course, we see how very lucky we were. It sure as hell wasn’t skill or diligence or insight. It was dumb luck. Friends who took the plunge on a condo three years ago were not so lucky. This was no sprawling, multi-level condo with a lake view, just a simple, two-bedroom, two-bath in a modest middle-class neighborhood, but it’s now worth about half what they paid and with both owners out of work, they are likely to lose everything. Were they bad people or stupid? Nope. They were unlucky.

    I don’t feel much sympathy for the chowderheads who loaded up on debt to buy McMansions. It’s people like our friends. They played by the rules. They bought a sensible place. Now, they are getting royally screwed.

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  13. Linda said on August 23, 2010 at 11:03 am

    Mark–Nope, the housing bubble was not relegated to the U.S.. Indeed, many other places have had them, too. Somehow, when rich people screw up–or screw us–it’s never their fault, it’s always the bad laws that tempted them into evil. No, sometimes they are just crap, like everybody else, but with more resources to do wrong.

    I remember the 90s, when people laughed at me for not buying a wee McMansion on my salary. I bought on a 15 year fixed rate when rates were low, and in 2 years will own it free and clear.

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  14. Jeff Borden said on August 23, 2010 at 11:23 am

    Smart move, Linda.

    The mortgage brokers we spoke with were constantly egging us on to “get more house.” We didn’t want or need a big house. Our major requirements were, in order, two full baths, within a half-mile of an el station or express bus stop and off-street parking. We were debt free when we sought the mortgage and both of us had decent jobs so they really pushed us hard. I have always been thankful we spurned their advice. We’ve refinanced twice and plowed the money back into our home, not a Mercedes or a month in Europe. We used the vast majority of my father’s modest estate to pay down the mortgage. Now, we are two years away from paying it off completely.

    You did the smart thing.

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  15. judybusy said on August 23, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    I agree with Jeff B.–it’s got a lot to do with luck. I bought my house for $80 K in 1995. I re-fied for 15 years at a much lower rate some years back and now have 7 years to go–I am 46 now. So, some luck but also some smarts–like you and Linda. Even though you were pushed, you made a financially sound decision. Many people didn’t, and used refinancing inappropriately, and now they’re in trouble. The problem is, how do we help people who were truly victims to stop the flow of foreclosures?

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  16. Jeff Borden said on August 23, 2010 at 12:29 pm


    I wish I knew the answer. It may be that the change in our economy will work against home ownership, if we’re all going to be displaced from our jobs every few years. It’s a helluva lot easier to leave an apartment behind than a house that needs selling.

    Or maybe we will get to a place where so many of us are out of work, underemployed, uninsured, that we start sharing houses as we did back in college days. I wonder what will happen to our friends when they lose their condo. They’ll still need a place to live and they are broke enough that even finding an apartment is going to be a challenge. If they teamed up with others in similar circumstances, everyone’s share of the bill would be lower. Instead of “Animal House,” it would “Underwater House.”

    We are grateful to have a place to live in our dotage where we can reasonably extrapolate out our annual costs and not worry about rising rents, etc., just the inexorable rise in taxes. But we were just lucky.

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  17. Holly said on August 23, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    My husbands job has not been secure since December. We have gone month by month wondering when he would be let go. He is looking in Wisconsin for a job because we would like to be closer to family. I have been looking on the Internet to see what homes cost in Wisconsin. I found an old farm house. Needs some work. It is on 5 acres. The house is 2500 square feet. Has a barn and 5 outbuildings. Not bad. Then when I saw the price I figured it was an error. $139.000.00. Listed as must sell. Everyone is taking a major hit on their homes when they have to sell. If we move to Wisconsin I know we will have to list low to sell.

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  18. Moe99 said on August 23, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    Love the title of this post, Nance.

    OT but did anyone see the near mob violence yesterday at Ground Zero when the mob mistakenly thought they had a Muslim in its clutches?

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  19. Jeff Borden said on August 23, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    Yeah, Moe, I’ve seen the video. Just your average crowd of asshole bigots. The shitheads behind the ginning up of this controversy won’t be happy until someone gets killed. These people are beneath contempt. They’re not protesting the Sufi community center. They’re protesting Islam.

    To these boneheads, a black guy in a skull cap has to be Muslim, of course, even if the medallion around his neck is the Puerto Rican flag. Turns out he is a union carpenter at the Ground Zero site.

    Anyone up for moving to Belize? I hear you can live in this peaceful, tranquil nation of 350,000 English-speaking people for less than $1,500 per day. As the pace of our national devolution quickens, it’s an attractive daydream.

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  20. Rana said on August 23, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    I wonder if we will ever own a house – this year we were finally in a place where we could afford one, and the potential for employment lasting more than a year or two… and then it didn’t happen. In some ways this is a good thing, because it means we’re not saddled with the burden of dealing with an unwanted house in a depressed real-estate market, but on the other it means more moves in our future.

    I don’t mind renting – it means that someone else handles the lawn and the 2am leaking furnace and the window full of wasp nests – but boy howdy do I hate having to move every few years!

    (I think I’ve said it before on this topic, but it’s not renting or renters that make for an unstable neighborhood. It’s the reasons why people are renters instead of owners. If you have situations where renters were encouraged to stay in one place for a long time at steady employment, you’d see a lot more investment in the neighborhood. Meanwhile, home ownership did nothing to save all those neighborhoods in places like Temecula, where the crash hit particularly bad and even when everyone was solvent, they were all spending their days commuting to L.A. A few more renters in those neighborhoods would have made them much more stable.)

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  21. Dorothy said on August 23, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    Speaking of houses and mortgages and such, check this out: http://bucks.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/08/23/wells-fargos-odd-mortgage-essay-question/?hp

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  22. Bob (Not Greene) said on August 23, 2010 at 2:19 pm

    Jeff, we got that same line about how much they would have lent us — hell, they would have lent us double what we needed. My wife and I at the time just looked at each other and said, “Are these people crazy?” Little did we know that it would all become painfully clear what was happening. These brokers were telling people to take out max ARM loans because real estate never falls in value. These people were up to their eyeballs in debt. In many cases, these were people who didn’t speak English, and they just got snookered. And they got greedy. Still, the people handing out the loans could have restrained themselves. But they had dollar signs in their eyes, too. Big dollar signs. Whatever happened to the community they were saddling with these crappy loans, they couldn’t have cared less.

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  23. Jeff Borden said on August 23, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    Bob N.G.,

    I’m as swayed by flattery as the next guy and it was lovely to hear people describing our “wonderful” financial situation, but at base, this was about us finding a reasonable house for two adults. The brokers wanted us in a bigger place, of course, because their commissions would be that much larger. We were averse to living large –Christ, our 11-year-old car was the first new vehicle I’d bought in 19 years (it was 25 years for my wife)– and also didn’t want the hassle of maintaining a large home and yard. I pretty much loved being a renter for all the reasons Rana cites, but at some point, owning seemed logical.

    We’re blessed, too, because we intend to remain in Chicago after retirement. Large cities actually are pretty ideal for older citizens because of the transportation infrastructure, all the arts and museums, and, of course, plenty of high-quality health care institutions. I hope we’ll be able to get out of town once in awhile during the winter months, but we have no plans to go Sun Belting, so we won’t need to worry much about how to unload the house.

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  24. LAMary said on August 23, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    Dorothy, I love the alternative letter that woman wrote. How could Wells Fargo not know that inquiring about family planning on a loan app wasn’t illegal?

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  25. Bob (Not Greene) said on August 23, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    Jeff, B.

    When we bought our Chicago-style bungalow in 1998, we bought it for a couple of reason. It’s near my parents, and we thought we’d live there for the rest of our days.

    The real estate crash has screwed with everything. Home values have fallen precipitously. We live in a city where foreclosures are rampant due to all the predatory lending. And the economic fallout is hitting everywhere, including the schools we send our kids to. That’s the killer. The high school has actually cut back on the number of classes kids can take, planning to warehouse them one hour a day in mass study halls instead of letting them take an additional class (we will be fighting this battle later this week). They’ve laid off teachers and slashed programs. The school was adequate; now it’s not. And with the market the way it is, I feel like we’re kind of trapped. Even if we wanted to sell, what could we get? And could we even get a loan? I have no idea.

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  26. Dorothy said on August 23, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    I liked the alternate letter too, Mary. I don’t know if I could have been that light-hearted if it was me writing the letter after their insistence that they complete the required documents! Wells Fargo is our mortgage holder but we never had to write any such letter. However our son is currently trying to buy a house and I’m pretty sure WF is going to be his lender as well. I’ve shared that article with him as well.

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  27. nancy said on August 23, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    I can’t generally get a word in until mid-afternoon Monday, but I want to single out Linda for a gold star for this incisive comment earlier:

    Somehow, when rich people screw up–or screw us–it’s never their fault, it’s always the bad laws that tempted them into evil. No, sometimes they are just crap, like everybody else, but with more resources to do wrong.

    This is why I cannot ABIDE thumb-suckers from people like Rod Dreher, et al, about the lost “morality” of Americans who walk away from bad mortgages. While not approving of it outright, I can certainly see why many people choose to do so, the same way I can understand why a hungry person might steal food. I guess my question is, why is it always middle-class schmoes who have to be moral, while rich people do whatever the fuck they want and then pull the old scorpion defense?

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  28. Holly said on August 23, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    I live in a Chicago suburb. We refinanced 3 years ago. We wanted a lower rate. My house value has gone down over $100.000.00 in that time frame. My payments have gone up because of taxes and insurance cost. My property tax went up 10%.

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  29. Little Bird said on August 23, 2010 at 3:52 pm

    Wasn’t the bride in “November Rain” the girl “Sweet Child O’ Mine” was written about? At least, that was the rumor when I was a teen.

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  30. Dexter said on August 23, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    From late 1972 until the Fall recession of 1974, then again from the boom year of 1976 until the economy levelled off under Reagan, I had a hard time keeping track of some of my friends who were deep into the house-flipping game. One buddy would only live in a place long enough to put it up for sale, always sell it, always making ten to twenty grand profit, and repeat the process.
    This went on all during this time period.
    Once he bought a lot, contracted for a stick built mini-mansion, moved in when it was only partially done, and sold it before the thing was finished.
    When the house-flipping era ended, he took his cash and bought an ancient farm house way out in the country, where he has lived now for twenty years.
    He always had encouraged me house-flip, too; my mistake was in thinking I would have gotten burned.

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  31. Dexter said on August 23, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    another take on the scorpion defense:

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  32. Jeff Borden said on August 23, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    On a more uplifting note. . .

    Levi Keith Johnston, impregnator of Bristol Palin Virgin and one-time wannabe son-in-law of Mama Malaprop has filed the papers to run for Mayor of Wasilla. TMZ has copies of the document.

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  33. Dexter said on August 23, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    and today, here in Ohio, another season of school buses and kids fighting on the way home from school begins, and you better watch out because those 20 mph flashing lights really do mean 20 mph.

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  34. Holly said on August 23, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    I was standing in line at the store several days ago. A lady in front of me spent $127.00 on school supplies(no clothing). I asked how many kids she had in school. She said 1. I thought she was nuts. My son graduated 4 years ago. He was my last. Has school supplies gone up that much or am I correct in thinking this lady was nuts?

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    • nancy said on August 23, 2010 at 6:59 pm

      Holly, I have read stories this year about schools asking parents to pick up more of the bill for basic supplies, including stuff like t.p. and cleaning supplies. Budget cuts, etc. It’s the world that’s nuts, not us.

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  35. Jolene said on August 23, 2010 at 7:25 pm

    Some how, when rich peo ple screw up–or screw us–it’s never their fault, it’s always the bad laws that tempted them into evil. No, some times they are just crap, like every body else, but with more resources to do wrong.

    More and more, I share this view. I mean think of BP, Toyota, all the ethically impaired people in financial services, the people responsible for distributing contaminated eggs (and peanut butter and spinach and more). Seems like whether it;s doing the right thing or doing things right, nobody gives a damn.

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  36. Tom M said on August 23, 2010 at 7:25 pm

    The good news, if there is any in the housing market, is that Texas did not see the troubles visited on places in Florida, Arizona and most especially, Las Vegas.
    Texas real estate, speaking of cosmic fate, had been horribly burned in the late 80s and early 90s and had consumer laws that prohibited the kind of crazy mortgages so popular elsewhere like the NINJA loans. So, Roy has that going for him anyway.

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  37. Jolene said on August 23, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    Couple of things worth noting: Spike Lee’s two-part Katrina follow-up begins tonight on HBO. Comments from our favorite TV critic here.

    Jane Mayer, who did such fine work on torture, has a new article in The New Yorker on who is funding the Tea Party.

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  38. Jolene said on August 23, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    Also, how about those Chilean miners? Can you imagine knowing that you must survive there until Christmas?

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  39. beb said on August 23, 2010 at 7:53 pm

    There was an interesting note about walking away from mortgages on the internet recently. It pointed out that a mortgage was a secured loan. The bank holds your house as collateral. When one walks away from a bad investment the bank gets to keep all the payments you did make plus they have the house to sell. They haven’t exactly lost anything — unless the house was originally sold for such an inflated amount that there no way it could ever be sold for a profit. But even then, that’s the bank’s problem for agreeing to the loan in the first place. Businesses walk away from bad investments all the time, why should it be any more immoral for a person to walk away from their bad investment?

    Apparenttly, I don’t follow local news enough, because I heard today that the police chief appointed to replace the one had just quit because he was porking a subordinate, had to quit because he was porking the same subordinate. So exactly how did Dave Bing’s years as a businessman make him a judge of character?

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  40. Jean S said on August 23, 2010 at 7:59 pm

    Exactly, Jolene. I just heard that report on NPR and nearly drove off of the road. Below deck until Christmas? Oy.

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  41. prospero said on August 23, 2010 at 8:34 pm

    What do the Teabaggers and cynical neocons do now that Rand Paul’s ripped them a new one.

    And is Beck a secret Muslim sympathizer?

    And am I delusional or did Republicans write the sundown aspects into the Bush Tax Cuts in 2002 that they bullied through a-gasp-lame duck Congress? If they were concerned why’d they wait until election season to produce massive misrepresentations of the situation in relation to their manufactured deficit hysteria. Oh yeah, Dickless said “deficits don’t matter”. I bet that’s not exactly what the asshole said.

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  42. Dexter said on August 23, 2010 at 9:16 pm

    I heard they are all safe , all 33, but not until tonight’s news did I see they are trapped in a fragile environment , where their biggest threat to survival is mass psychoses, said an expert on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams.
    I can understand why someone might say “I’d rather be dead” because I know I would lose it in a stuck elevator after a half hour. These guy are best-option four months stuck down there. This is unknown territory; no one has ever been put to this test. This is Rod Serling land.

    Of course the big news morning to dusk was the LA school that , funded by a bond issue which passed, cost the good peeps of California $578 million. It is one beautiful learning environment, and also, take a good look, because its era is already long past…we’ll never ever see a high school like this one again.

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  43. Linda said on August 23, 2010 at 9:38 pm


    That sunset portion of the tax cut was important to Repubs during the W presidency: it meant that CBO projections of the deficit were smaller than they would really be, because they assumed the tax cut would go away, when we can now see the Republicans had no intention of them going away.

    Have you challenged your valuations? Gather evidence–the number of foreclosed houses around you, the sales prices of similar homes in the same neighborhood–and take it to whatever political bodies does your tax assessments.

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  44. Kim said on August 23, 2010 at 10:11 pm

    It was downright frightening how people I considered fairly smart – book and street – were utterly romanced by the banks when their modest homes were fetching assessments near $1 million. They did the refi, borrowing on the bank’s insanely inflated value of the home, and plowed every cent of their future into crazy business ventures. Now they are all gurgling underwater and coming up for air to curse Obama. I sound so conservative when I say this – and I am not – but man, what happened to personal responsibility? Sure, the banks and mortgage brokers screwed a lot of ignorant, hopeful people. But a lot of people looking to cash in on being lucky were all too happy to believe what The Man was telling them. What happened to skepticism? I think that’s a healthy trait.

    Bob NG I am so not talking about you – what the lenders did to your city is criminal – but you remember my first house. Who would pay almost $400K for that 100-year-old, 2BR 1BA with an $8,000/year tax bill? Somebody did. (And no, the windfall didn’t go to me; my husband and I just worked our asses off to tee it up for the next owner.)

    I feel for all of you out there who are caught in this.

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  45. Jeff Borden said on August 23, 2010 at 10:11 pm

    I believe Ron Paul is a very, very strange man, but Lord, that is one solid piece of commentary. He’s showing more balls than Obama and the Democrats. So did Michael Bloomberg, who by now should have erased the very essence of Ghouliani from NYC with his rafter-shaking speech a week or two ago.

    Man, when you cannot build a Sufi mosque –and, as I understand it, these are your basic hippie liberal Muslims– in a dynamic and diverse city like New York without this kind of chaos and demagoguery and ugliness, things have really reached a breaking point. How this crap got ginned up is worthy of a lengthy story. . .if any news organizations can tear their correspondents away from Dina Lohan’s house, of course.

    Paul is right. Our nation crumbles while we debate the mosque in Manhattan, Michelle Obama’s trip to Spain, gay marriage and everything BUT the vital business of the country. The cowardice of the political class –aided and greatly abetted by a media more interested in trivia than truth– is absolutely a cancer. These people are flat-out toxic. And while I reserve my greatest scorn for the heartless faux populists of the conservative Republican Party and their ongoing fellatio of the wealthiest American people and companies, the Blue Dog Democrats match them flea for flea, tick for tick, lick for lick.

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  46. Jen said on August 24, 2010 at 1:18 am

    This was a great blog entry for today, because my husband and I have been working hard to get our house cleaned and organized and we’ve started thinking about things we want to do to improve our house. We bought it just under two years ago (it will be two years on Labor Day weekend) for what I think was a pretty good price. I’m not sure what housing prices will do in the future, but we’re not planning to move for a long time (because I hate moving!), so we’ve got that going for us.

    Even two years ago, after the housing bubble burst and everything, the bank pre-approved us for an amount that was over $20,000 more than we spent on our house, and we were making a LOT less than we are now. And, the bank told us that they probably could have lent us about $20,000 more than the pre-approved amount if we wanted it. Insane. We would be fine now that my husband has a full time job and I got a promotion, but at the time the amount we’re paying now was our limit. Any more than that and we would have been eating Ramen every night. We were lucky that both sets of parents understood the realities of buying a house and helped us not buy more than we could afford and make sure that we weren’t getting a bad loan, but I can see how easy it would be to be seduced into buying a nicer, more expensive house. We were lucky that our real estate agent never showed us a more expensive house, either.

    The only thing I really miss about renting is having someone else do maintenance. It was so much nicer when something would break and I could just have the landlady get somebody to fix it and pay for it. But I do like having a house – it’s good motivation to do work around the house, if nothing else!!

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  47. Dorothy said on August 24, 2010 at 7:52 am

    Linda it looks like your gravatar and my gravatar feature the same cat!! It’s amazing how much your kitty looks like mine – the markings look nearly identical.

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  48. Bob (Not Greene) said on August 24, 2010 at 9:20 am

    A nice, tidy bookend to this discussion.

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  49. Linda said on August 24, 2010 at 11:48 am

    My gravitar is Shorty, my tuxedo kitty who looks like he is trying to suck your brains out through teh internets. I love tuxies, and have had at least one for the last 20 years. Who’s yours?

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  50. Mike said on August 27, 2010 at 11:06 pm

    No ways you’re using inflation-adjusted numbers for housing prices — a very common mistake. Without knowing where that house of your parent’s was located (local housing markets vary a lot), but there has been 500% inflation from 1962 to 1995. Which means that your parents only doubled their money, which was almost certainly wiped out by interest payments on the mortgage alone (a 30 year mortgage would generally cost 3.2x or so the actual price of the house).

    The evidence shows pretty conclusively real estate is a terrible, terrible investment. Most people lose vast amounts of money on it when you calculate interest, taxes and upkeep especially. The only reason people perceive it as a good investment is that it’s like a forced savings plan.

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