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Monday, July 31, 2006

Is This A Dream, Or A Nightmare?

I figure that by the time Haq of Seattle gets to jury selection, he'll be a revolutionary hero to the folks at DU. Maybe you think I'm being rude. Oh, no. Betsy Newmark linked to Mary Katherine Ham who has been listening to Airheads America, and DU is much, much worse.

For your horrified perusal, DU's response to the news that Hugo Chavez received Iran's highest honor:
Iran awarded Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez its highest state medal on Sunday for supporting Tehran in its nuclear standoff with the international community, while Chavez urged the world to rise up and defeat the U.S., state-run media in both countries reported.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad presented Chavez with the Islamic Republic Medal in a ceremony at Tehran University. The award was to show Iran's gratitude for his "support for Iran's stance on the international scene, especially its opposition to a resolution by the International Atomic Energy Agency," Iranian state-run television said.
Chavez wants to put an end to the "US empire", as explained here:
48. Quote
Spanish quote - "Si el imperio estadounidense tiene éxito en consolidar su dominio, entonces no habrá futuro para la Humanidad. Por lo tanto, debemos salvar a la Humanidad y poner fin al Imperio Americano", dijo Chávez a una multitud concentrada en la Universidad de Teherán."

That would be - "If the American empire succeeds in consolidating its power, then there is no future for humanity. Therefore, we must save humanity and put a stop to the American Empire." said Chavez to a crowd at the Univ. of Tehran."
Some hapless DU denizens took slight umbrage at that statement:
21. How long until Chavez calls us the Great Satan? :shrug:
Naturally that called forth a brilliantly intellectual barrage of progressive fervor:
44. He could call a faction here great assholes. n/t
86. A critical post of Chavez
I don't think he's advancing the socialist revolution fast enough, he should be even more radical in his policies. Venezuelan governement should invest more in renewables and mass transit rather than talk about nuclear power, and gas prices should increase gradually to favour the transition.

There is a difference in constructive criticism given in solidarity, and ignorant and fearmongering bourgeois hate mail.

85. God bless Hugo Chavez. He gets smeared everyday, but he still carries on.
You might also take a look at DU supporting the troops in response to this article:
At 17 he enlisted in the Marine Corps, spurred by the memory of 9/11.

Now, 21-year-old Galen Wilson has 20 confirmed kills in four months in Iraq - and another 40 shots that probably killed insurgents. One afternoon the lance corporal downed a man hauling a grenade launcher five-and-a-half football fields away.

Wilson is the designated marksman in a company of Marines based in downtown Ramadi, watching over what Marines call the most dangerous neighborhood in the most dangerous city in the world.
DU predicts a bright future for him:
8. And God help the citizens of Bradenton Florida, when the demons from his Iraq service haunts him, yet the local VA was shut down, he couldn't get his treatment, and all of the sudden, any Cuban, Puerto Rican, African American or other dark skiinned citizen becomes the "Haji"
20. He's actually to be pitied.
Locked up so he can't harm another living soul first, but pitied nonetheless.

This guy's been steeped in the culture of killing since he was five, apparently. IMHO, that kind of upbringing is child-abuse, and maybe even criminal negligence - culpability in creating a killing machine.

I feel sorry for what this kid might have been, and wonder how many more of him will be created before humanity realizes this isn't the way to live in peace.
14. What is the saying on DU
"we don't support the war but we support the troops". At least in this thread there are no hippocrates. If you don't support the war you can't support the troops. This marine is doing his job. At least it sounds like he isn't killing any unarmed civilians.
30. I don't support thugs like this or the system that glorifies them
This guy will continue to kill one he is removed from Iraq-Nam
39. Sadly, I think that's a definite possibility
And, even more sadly, by the time it's over, there will be scores of thousands of souless killbots just like him trying to "find their niche" in a society that has very limited uses for souless killbots.
44. They will use truncheons to beat the black man to death On the streets of amerika
That's some impressive level of support for the troops there. I think we should all be honest about this and admit that we have a genuine, all-out, no-holds-barred culture war going on ourselves. The consensus seemed to be that this marine is a much greater danger to America than Hezbollah, and should be locked up the moment he gets home. Meanwhile, in a thread right above this one about the Gitmo detainees attacking the guards, their sympathy is entirely with the detainees:
5. dehumanize much?
12. Right...
They are supposed to just sit there while they are held with no charges for decades, right?
Those evil terrorists! They don't even deserve a fair trial or due process, after all they are not regular human beings like all of us, huh?
8. Well, that is certainly well reasoned.
I'm impressed to be so quickly elevated in my understanding. I had NO IDEA that all "enemy combatants were such filthy and uncultured THEMS.

And I'm impressed you would not only be satisfied to be left a Bible and a rosary in the place of habeus corpus, the right to a speedy trial, and subject to violations of international law BUT also that you'd be able dropped into the elements and still have the strength to attack.

Wow. Just WOW! I sure as hell hope you aren't a pet owner.
Seriously, the consensus on DU seems to be that the Marines should be locked up without trial and the jihadis should be released with an apology for human rights violations.

PS: DU is still
better than France:
Iran is a significant, respected player in the Middle East which is playing a stabilising role, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said on Monday.
"In the region there is of course a country such as Iran -- a great country, a great people and a great civilisation which is respected and which plays a stabilising role in the region," he told a news conference.
I think the "great civilization" just executed a few more young'uns, didn't it? You've got to admire the progressive way in which they take care of their teeny boppers over there. Bury them up to the chest and then stone them to death.

No wonder France is banning nude sunbathing! They're aspiring to the values of the great and stabilizing civilization. Just wait until they remove all those feeelthy pictures from the Louvre. When I think of my great-grandfather painting nudes over there, I'm awed at how far they've come. I can only imagine of how far they have yet to go.... No one, no one, will be able to cut and wear burqas with the sheer elegance and style of the French.

You must admit, Frenchmen carry off this eunuch schtick with a joi de vive that's an awesome sight to us here down in the benighted south. I don't know even one southern man who would smile, bow, and say thank you in response to the gift of his own severed family jewels on a platter. We're just too uncivilized to carry it off.

I think I'm going off to read MEMRI. Sweet dreams!.

Good Morning!

Weird Monday.

1) All the articles about these Catholic women who decided to ordain themselves priests seem to frame women priests as an inevitability within the Catholic priesthood. We get this type of language:
"We need to claim for women their equal right with men to be ordained. And we need to do this 'contra legem,' to break an unjust law and yet to remain firmly within the church," Patricia Fresen said last year at a Philadelphia conference on women in the church.
But they fail to note that at least one of the participants is married, and wouldn't be able to be a priest if she were a man:
Houk decided to pursue priesthood after listening to a speech by Fresen. Houk said she realizes she will face rejection for her choice, but she said she's prepared for that.

"I do not intend to start a church of my own," said Houk, a 66-year-old, married mother of six and grandmother of five. "I will not lead people away from the Catholic church but rather I hope to lead people to the church."
Now I know personally of no absolute reason why a women shouldn't be a minister, and there are plenty of congregations who ordain them. If that's what she wants to do, then why not convert to one of those congregations? But what's going on here is obviously not this "equal rights for women" thing, because they appear to believe they have special rights. And who has a "right" to be a priest, anyway?

And another thing - it was after women started to be ordained as ministers within the Episcopalian church that it drove right off the rails. I predict that the next generation of Catholics are going to be a lot more conservative in their opinions. I laughed in the early 80's when Episcopalian women started holding conferences and talking about the "godess Sophia". But I cried when the diocese of Pennsylvania had "alternate liturgies" posted on its website that were clearly Wiccan in 2004, and conflicted ministers who could not decide whether they wanted to be Druids or Episcopalians most in 2005. And I wasn't even surprised when the Episcopalian conference refused a resolution suggesting the road to salvation lay through Jesus this year. They're now quite proud to claim that they cannot offer a "definitive road to salvation". A continuous line of Popes had expressed that exact same view, so now at least they have, in a way, reconciled to the Roman Catholic church.

Once you start making up all the rules all over again, things get rough quickly. Patricia Fresen has many more issues with the Catholic church than just women in the priesthood, and she has a habit of making decisions without consulting others. It all seems vaguely familiar to me, and my guess is it will end in the same way, because they're already talking about the "patriarchy". Abortion will be something of a sacrament, Mary will be an example of patriarchal abuse of a woman who hasn't had her consciousness properly raised, and no one will be rude enough to speak about sins other than the offensive sin of talking about sin, 'cause that's really not inclusive at all.

2) In the meantime, the French are banning public nudity on beaches, and cute, squeezable Michael Moore claims he's besieged by Republicans wanting to hug him. Blame it on the dog days of summer?

Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Weasel-Watchers Are Timely

We live in weaselly times, so the Weasel-Watchers have a great deal to watch. They're always good, but unfortunately this week they were exceptionally so. First place for council member went to Shrinkwrapped's post on tribalism and anti-Semitism. First place for non-council member went to Solomonia, for a rather devastating post on what happens when you go to a "peace" demonstration these days and you're not on the right side:
More people joined the melee, shouting and threatening me. Unfortunately, by this point my camera was off, so I did not capture what had transpired then. One man told me that the police would not help me, as they were going to hunt me down and kill me (he can be heard on the video repeatedly commanding me not to take pictures)
'Cause, you know, peace is a wonderful thing when it allows you to kill anyone who argues with you. That kind of peace is just popping up everywhere.

On the brighter side, Ali Eteraz will make you laugh, and prove to you that both idiocy and wisdom are elements widely distributed among the human race:
Assalamoalaykum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuhu (Only For the Muslims - specifically those who agree with me; curses upon the rest; along with curses for the non-Muslims; except those non-Muslims who do things that I would indirectly agree with or that indirectly assist me)
I told you once that whenever my apostate cousin Eteraz could be disposed of, I would come upon this heathen blog, hosted by a heathen server, byproduct of the technology of the kafir, and speak about Eteraz with all the disrepute and anger that he deserves.
Today my apostate cousin Eteraz is further expressing his idiocy by arguing that attacking Jews is a bad thing. This, after he argued that Jews aren’t apes and swine! He clearly does not want to be part of Hizbollah.
Laughter is divine, and the last two posts encapsulate a good point. Some of those violent people in the "peace" march chronicled by Solomonia were Jewish, and many of the people being threatened by the "peace" crowd are Muslims. The law's the thing, not the label.

Haq Of Seattle and Hezbollah

Chron.com on the Seattle shootings:
The man suspected in a fatal shooting rampage hid behind a potted plant in a Jewish charity's foyer and forced his way through a security door by holding a gun to a 13-year-old girl's head, the police chief said Saturday.

Once inside, police say, Naveed Afzal Haq opened fire with two semiautomatic pistols. One woman, Pam Waechter, 58, of Seattle was killed at the scene. Five more women were wounded.
According to a statement of probable cause, Haq told a 911 dispatcher: "These are Jews and I'm tired of getting pushed around and our people getting pushed around by the situation in the Middle East."

Muhammad Ullah, a close family friend and a senior member of a mosque founded in part by Haq's father, described Haq as a quiet loner with few friends.

In a statement, the Islamic Center of the Tri-Cities offered condolences to the shooting victims and said "we disassociate this act from our Islamic teachings and beliefs."
The man is 30 years old. Dayna Klein was one of the women he shot. She was wounded in the arm because she was pregnant and she used her arm to protect the child in her belly. Three of the other women were shot in the abdomen. Dayna Klein crawled into her office, called 911, and convinced Haq to talk to the dispatchers. He eventually surrendered.

Over at Volokh's, the commenters want to call this a hate crime. The FBI calls it a hate crime. It's a peculiar sort of hate crime that targets Jewish women's wombs, isn't it? Kind of a genocidal hate crime, isn't it? If he's complaining about American political support for Israel, you'd think he would at least be shooting voters.

We need to keep this in our minds as we watch the Israel-Hezbollah war. Despite the disassociation above, Hezbollah has made a habit of targeting Israeli civilians (but not Arabs! only Jews!) and killing children. One of the prisoners they were trying to free by kidnapping the Israeli soldiers on the raid is Samir Qintar. I'll let Nasrallah speak for himself on this one, in an interview he gave to Al-Jazeera (which is posted on globalresearch.ca, a Canadian site which bills itself as being about "globalization"):
[Nasrallah] Under all circumstances, what I heard is that the foreign minister of the enemy asked the German mediator to intervene with us to return the two prisoners without swapping along with some sweet. This cannot take place. At any rate, regarding the negotiations issue, even regarding the two prisoners, I want to relieve myself and Hezbollah from this issue. Anyone who wants to talk about this then let him talk with the state, and the state then talks with us....

[Bin-Jiddu] Do you still insist on the principle of swapping?

[Nasrallah] Certainly, this is an issue that we cannot tolerate. In fact, if the civilians who were martyred, the displaced who are suffering now the effects of displacement, and the steadfast people know that it is possible for me to extradite or return these two soldiers without closing this file they will accuse me of treason. I will also accuse myself of treason. This is completely out of question. In the first day, I said that if the entire universe comes, it will not be able to take back the two Israeli soldiers except through indirect negotiation and exchange of prisoners. ...

[Bin-Jiddu] Regarding the exchange [of prisoners], who will you exchange the two Israeli soldiers with? Are you going to exchange them with Lebanese prisoners or Palestinian prisoners?

[Nasrallah] This is an open process, and I will leave it to negotiations.

[Bin-Jiddu] You still believe that Samir al-Qintar will be in Lebanon?

[Nasrallah] God willing. In this exchange, Samir al-Qintar will be the first one. What is the use of this exchange if Samir al-Qintar is not included in the exchange and if all the Lebanese prisoners are not included in this exchange - of course, I am talking about an open process?

[Bin-Jiddu] Your Eminence, let's put the other parties aside. You have a memorandum of understanding with General Awn. Has what is currently taking place shaken the pillars of the memorandum of understanding and your cooperation with the Free Patriotic Movement?

[Nasrallah] No, not at all. First, the memorandum of understanding talked clearly about first releasing the prisoners and liberating the rest of the [occupied] Lebanese territories, and afterward discussing a strategy for national defence. This is what we began to discuss. Hezbollah has neither taken advantage of Lebanon to liberate Palestine, nor worked towards restoring the seven villages, which are Lebanese territories. It carried out an operation to capture [Israeli soldiers], because the government's policy statement stipulates the release of prisoners and the liberation of Lebanese territories. So, what we did is a national Lebanese action, even in the regional sense of the word. This [operation] was carried out within, not outside, the context of the memorandum of understanding signed between us and the Free Patriotic Movement.
Here's another Nasrallah statement from July 12th, right after the raid. Samir Qintar's name comes up again, along with this:
Praise and thanks to God first and foremost for granting us this victory, jihad, and might, and for the results. First of all, I have to address the heroic mujahidin, who fulfilled the promise today. This is why their qualitative operation is called "Operation true promise." I thank them and kiss their foreheads and hands. With the blessing of these lofty foreheads and hands, the foreheads of us all will remain high and no shackle will remain in the hands of people in the occupation prisons. Today is the day of loyalty to Samir al-Qintar, Yahya Skaf, Nasim Nisr, and all brothers, detainees, and prisoners in the occupation jails.
The second point is that I do not want to get into an argument about what happened today and say if this is our legal right and option or not. In plain terms, this is our natural right. This is the only and logical way that is available. Neither the international community, international organizations, regional organizations, governments, regimes – with due respect to them – nor political negotiations with empty hands will release the detainees.
The resistance said its priority in 2006 would be capturing Israeli soldiers in order to close the file of prisoners for good. This is the priority. We have observed calm throughout that time in spite of all circumstances. I told some political leaders of the country in closed sessions that taking prisoners would be the only exception.
At the age of 16, Samir Al-Qintar went on a raid six miles into Israeli territory in 1979 by water from Lebanon. They landed on the Nahariya beach, and I'll let an Israeli survivor tell that story:
Around midnight, we were asleep in our apartment when four terrorists, sent by Abu Abbas from Lebanon, landed in a rubber boat on the beach two blocks away. Gunfire and exploding grenades awakened us as the terrorists burst into our building. They had already killed a police officer. As they charged up to the floor above ours, I opened the door to our apartment. In the moment before the hall light went off, they turned and saw me. As they moved on, our neighbor from the upper floor came running down the stairs. I grabbed her and pushed her inside our apartment and slammed the door.

Outside, we could hear the men storming about. Desperately, we sought to hide. Danny helped our neighbor climb into a crawl space above our bedroom; I went in behind her with Yael in my arms. Then Danny grabbed Einat and was dashing out the front door to take refuge in an underground shelter when the terrorists came crashing into our flat. They held Danny and Einat while they searched for me and Yael, knowing there were more people in the apartment. I will never forget the joy and the hatred in their voices as they swaggered about hunting for us, firing their guns and throwing grenades. I knew that if Yael cried out, the terrorists would toss a grenade into the crawl space and we would be killed. So I kept my hand over her mouth, hoping she could breathe. As I lay there, I remembered my mother telling me how she had hidden from the Nazis during the Holocaust. "This is just like what happened to my mother," I thought.

As police began to arrive, the terrorists took Danny and Einat down to the beach. There, according to eyewitnesses, one of them shot Danny in front of Einat so that his death would be the last sight she would ever see. Then he smashed my little girl's skull in against a rock with his rifle butt. That terrorist was Samir Kuntar.
The next day, Abu Abbas announced from Beirut that the terrorist attack in Nahariya had been carried out "to protest the signing of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty" at Camp David the previous year.
So - here's my question to those who want Israel to give up. Are you willing to let Haq, the Muslim shooter of Seattle go? Because Haq is a hero in some quarters. Suppose they start taking prisoners and demanding Haq's release? It's happened before. The FBI was taking special precautions when the blind sheik who masterminded the first WTC bombing was sentenced. What Israel is fighting for is the proposition that rules of law still exist. They're fighting for the proposition that a peace treaty with another country is no reason that four-year old children should be beaten to death. If you're not willing to let Haq off, what gives you the right to demand that Israel release Samir Al Qintar?

I'm sorry for posting this on Sunday, but I have been praying for peace. And this the answer I have received in prayer - there can be no peace until peace treaties are not the cause of murders of children! The government of Lebanon is not guiltless. The army of Lebanon is not guiltless. The people of Lebanon must choose. I got up this morning, and started to search, and found the above. And now I hand them on to you. The truth is that the direct causation behind Israel's current war with Hezbollah leads back to murders of civilians and children in 1979, and the purpose of those killings was to protest a peace treaty between Israel and Lebanon. Hezbollah will never close any treaty with Israel - it cannot, because treaties with Israel are not possible in its worldview. Israel is being asked to unilaterally declare peace, and there is no such thing as a unilateral peace treaty.

I have been told that I can pray for the protection of the innocent, the endangered, and the defense of the vulnerable. I have been told that I can pray for grace to comprehend truth and the courage to speak truth to be provided to the world's leaders. I have been told that I can pray for the law of life to be understood and followed by all the world's nations. I have also been told that That Which Is cannot intervene to save the children of people who adhere to principles of destruction, and that That Which Is will not intervene to save those children's lives, because it would be mockery of the law of life. He will receive them after death, and I have been asked if I really believe that surving to be raised to be a sixteen year-old killer of four year-olds is a mercy?

But I have also been told to keep praying for grace, because it will take a tremendous outpouring of grace to heal the long train of cause and effect which has produced the current circumstances. And I have been promised that That Which Is will intervene to save those that can be truly saved, and that He will receive those who cannot and once again offer grace. I have prayed for forgiveness, and I have forgiven. Let that which cannot be mended on earth be mended in heaven.

Update: Via Dr. Melissa Clouthier, Instapundit links to photographs of how the civilian casualties in Lebanon are being produced by Hezbollah. Who are the murders of civilians in Lebanon? Hezbollah. Don't lie. Don't go along with lies. Hezbollah is deliberately trying to get civilians killed in order to build world pressure on Israel. They are directly responsible for the deaths of these civilians. And here is a post on www.Ouwet.com, which is a Lebanese Armed Forces blog, saying the same thing about a different area:
The situation in Ain Ebel is unbearable. Thousands of civilians have fled to the village from nearby villages and more than 1000 rockets have hit the village, there is no more food neither clean water and diseases r spreading.

Now here comes the most sickening part:
Hezbollah has been firing rockets from the village since Day 1 hiding behind innocent people’s places and even CHURCHES. No one is allowed to argue with the Hezbollah gunmen who wont hesitate to shoot you and i ve heard about more than one shooting incident including young men from the village and Hezbollah.
Urgent appeals have been done through phone calls from terrified people who wouldnt give out their name fearing Hezbollah might harm or even eliminate them.

This is the true image of our brave Islamic Resistance, putting the civilians and their homes as body shields to the Israeli bombardements.

Let the message spread and let those criminals move out of the village once and for all.
Free Ain Ebel from the terrorists !
Here is another about Hezbollah's tactics. I urge everyone to read this site and post about this site, because it gives a true picture of what is happening in Lebanon, the desperation, the pain, and the sorrow. This is what terrorism produces.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Shooting At Jewish Center In Seattle

One person is reported dead:
Six people were shot - one fatally - this afternoon at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle by a man who told a witness he was upset about "what was going on in Israel."
One witness, who declined to give her name, said a man walked into the Jewish Federation building with a gun, said he was upset about what was going on in Israel, then opened fire. After the shootings, the man said to call 911, the witness said. The witness said the man identified himself as an American Muslim.
Metz said police officers throughout the city were being asked to step up patrols of Jewish synagogues and Jewish organizations.
LGF had linked to a strange poem by a Berkeley graduate student about her reluctant purple passion for Hezbollah ("I don't want you inside me, you are too male"), which Iowahawk promptly riffed. I wonder what she's thinking now? At least four of the victims were women. One line of epic poetry did hit a dubious note ("Maybe it is the naivety, of one whose life has never been directly threatened"). But after all, her charismatic Beirut sheik wouldn't hurt her, now would he? Gah. I wish some divine court could sentence her to walk the streets of Paris for two weeks wearing a Star of David. I wonder how long she would last at Berkeley if she were writing and publishing love poems for the nightriders of the Klan? She got star billing at Common Dreams (which I have mentally pegged as Uncommon Nightmares), of course.

I have known several extremely devout and deeply decent Muslims. I know that they are as disgusted and shocked as I am at this news.

Like the engineering student at the university who tried to run over random people in a crowd, this one wants publicity for what he did. He's proud of it. He thinks shooting unarmed Jewish women down is some sort of brave statement. I am afraid that there will be fighting in the streets of America before this is over.


Do you ever have a week in which you reel into Friday feeling like it will be a miracle if you stay on your feet all day? I did, and I did.

Sigmund, Carl and Alfred took pity on us and shared some jokes.

I'm really too tired to be even coherent - heck, I'm so tired I feel drunk - but I added Dr. Melissa Clouthier to the links. She makes me laugh with her common sense. The magic never fails - it even worked today:
Do you assume, like I do, that most Hollywood types have the self-esteem and standards of your local prostitute or lawyer or used car salesman and do what feels good with whomever fells good whenever feels right? Maybe I overgeneralize.
Well, I don't think Tinseltown is a good place to grow up, but I agree. Lance Bass sleeping with a man is hardly news, dang it.

The Anchoress has some words of publicity wisdom about bustlines on busts, and Jimmy Carter. If you don't bust out laughing you're officially dead:
For some reason, Hillary - who is an attractive woman - here looks like the love child of Jimmy Carter and Eleanor Roosevelt, but wearing the breastplate usually associated with Brunnhilda in Die Walkure!
I'm hopelessly behind the times, because I even find other people's children fascinating:
To be honest, I spent much of the early years of my children's lives in a workaholic frenzy because the thought of spending time with them was more stressful than any journalistic assignment I could imagine.

Kids are supposed to be fulfilling, life-changing, life-enhancing fun: why was my attitude towards them so different?
Because, Honey, you never dropped out of your workaholic frenzy long enough to clear your mind of your own affairs so that you could see your children for what they are. Watching a baby figuring out even the early stages of life is a wild adventure! There's that moment when you realize that they've figured out that all these big guys moving around are people, and that they can make them do things... You watch them realize "I can control my voice!" "I can hit this and make it move!" "I'm gonna get her back!" Children are an (often-fatiguing) drama that remind us that we're human, and what being human is all about. To watch a mind and a personality form in front of your eyes is infinitely more intriguing than any mystery ever written. And dealing with a toddler gives you more exercise than a stint at the gym!

This is a woman who needs to spend some time with a rosary. Honestly, she's gonna have a heart attack at a young age. Contemplative prayer would help her a lot, and I don't think she's going to figure this out on her own. She's all stuck on I, talking in her own brain a mile a minute, and she's a dead zero on observation. I agree with some of what she says - parents shouldn't obsess over their children. But that's different than not even experiencing them.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

For Ilona

Ilona, you might find this post at The Housing Bubble blog about your greater area helpful. There are also excellent comments on the post. I have found, by the way, that discussions on these housing blogs and forums, while anecdotal, have been predictive of later compiled statistics.

I think what is really going on in some of these markets is that for years, real incomes having been decreasing.

Second-level factors are the increase in mortgage rates and the increase in fuel costs. These factors are too small to have a great impact on inflated areas, but in areas that haven't seen the big run ups in pricing they do exert an effect. As one commenter on the linked post wrote:
Maybe it wasn’t a bubble in the Cincinnati, but that doesn’t mean that the drying up of credit won’t impact prices there too. Mortgage markets, moreso than the houses themselves, are national. The credit markets will tend to have more effect in markets that that had housing bubbles. But nearly every house transaction is, at least in part, financed by credit, and so, therefore, every house price has at least in part been affected by the mortgage finance bubble. Even in markets far removed from the insanity of the coasts there will be ripples in pricing as the credit markets adjust to the new market conditions.
And then there are the demographics of some areas, in which there are just more retirement-aged people ready to sell out than there are young people who can afford to buy in. In any case, once everyone gets nervous appraisals become more cautious and underwriting standards tighten. The qualifying loan sizes for the buyers in the market drop, and all of these factors combine to slow real estate sales.

I cannot even see any one of these factors shifting direction in the near future, so I would expect the sellers' market in your area to continue to slow over the next year and a half.

New Home Sales For June

The Census bureau has released the revised May and preliminary June new home sales figures. I don't place much reliance on these because of the extremely high uncertainty factors in most of these numbers. I do look at the quarterly splits, and I look to see how the previous month's numbers were revised.

Last month the months of supply for all new homes in May was given as 5.5, and that has been revised to 5.9. This month's is given as 6.1, and I expect that to be revised upward in next month's release. This matches what I have been hearing and reading anecdotally, which is that the major constraint on new home sales in quite a few areas is not price but a combination of inability to get financing by first-time buyers and an inability to sell the first home, followed by a cancelled sale and a forfeited deposit. NAR's pending home sales index will be released August 1st, and I think that will be a better leading indicator.

If these supply figures are even close to correct, there has been a major withdrawal of homes from the market. I remain extremely dubious about the months of supply given.

The quarterly figures are more reliable, because they have larger totals. See page 6 of the quarterly sales release. For the US as a whole, in a rising market the second quarter median should be higher than the first quarter, and instead it is lower. In a falling market incentives aren't deducted from the sales price, so comparing sales prices in declining market to ones in tip-over or rising market understates the drop. The average sales price shows less of a drop, which is significant because it reflects the mix of properties being sold.

I would say, and this is preliminary, that these figures reflect financing constraints based primarily on lower appraised values, which affect Loan To Value ratios and prevent prospective buyers from getting financing. (Somebody, somewhere is going to end up with the paper for the loan, and investors want to buy portfolios in which the underlying value of the property exceeds the total of the debt.) We may be seeing a pretty drastic tip over, because the developers have been pulling out all the stops to get borrowers qualified.

See, for example, Beazer's fine offer advertised on July 15th of mortgages with monthly payments of $750 or $1,000 in a development. Then look at the disclaimer:
*Must use Beazer Mortgage (Broker number 01223451). Available only on inventory homes that close on or before August 31, 2006 or at completion of home, whichever comes first. Must be owner occupied. Offer does not apply to all communities. Check with sales representative for further details. Offer subject to change or cancellation without notice. Example: Purchase price $288,601.00 First Mortgage Loan Amount $230,880.00 payment for year one $824.00 subsidized by seller $ 76.00, year two $886.66, year three $953.16, year four $1,024.65, year five $1,101.50 at 7.593 % adjustable interest rate APR 8.10%. Second mortgage $ 57,721.00 payment for first twelve months of $529.11 at 11.00 % Interest Only paid by Seller, remaining term fourteen years, interest only at prime plus 4.5 margin current APR 11.143%, maximum rate 11.143%, payments of $529.11. Estimated closing costs $ 8,658.03. Above total payments are loan payments only and do not include taxes ($ 288.60), insurance ($45.00) monthly assessment ($110.00). Example amounts based on home at Riverdale North Discovery Collection Lot # 3016. Minimum middle FICO scores 650, stated income underwriting, three months reserve required in bank at time of close of $7,805.34 in example above. Income limits apply. Negative Amortization of loan required to achieve advertised payment, required loan payments and other fees may vary by home sales price and community.

**Must use Beazer Mortgage (Broker number 01223451). Available only on inventory homes that close on or before August 31, 2006 or at completion of home, whichever comes first. Must be owner occupied. Offer does not apply to all communities. Check with sales representative for further details. Offer subject to change or cancellation without notice. Example: Purchase price $506,349.00, First Mortgage Loan Amount $405,079.00 payment for year one $1,447.12 subsidized by seller $447.12, year two $1,555.65, year three $1,672.33, year four $1,797.75, year five $1,932.58 at 7.593 % adjustable interest rate APR 8.10%. Second mortgage $101,270.00 payment for first twelve months of $928.31 at 11.00 % Interest Only paid by Seller, remaining term fourteen years, interest only at prime plus 4.5 margin current APR 11.143%, maximum rate 11.143%, payments of $928.31. Estimated closing costs $15,190.47. Above total payments are loan payments only and do not include taxes ($506.35), insurance ($70.00) monthly assessment ($73.00). Example amounts based on home at Fieldstone Meadows Lot # 30. Minimum middle FICO scores 650, stated income underwriting, three months reserve required in bank at time of close of $13,307.61 in example above. Income limits apply. Negative Amortization of loan required to achieve advertised payment, required loan payments and other fees may vary by home sales price and community.
See what I mean about funny money loans? The borrower's payments in the first example go:
Year 1: $824 - 76 (second paid by Beazer) = $748
Year 2: $886 + $529 = $1,415
Year 3: $953 + $529 = $1,482
Year 4: $1,024 + $529 = $1,553
Plus, to achieve the low initial down payment the borrower is signing up for negative amortization, which means that their loan balance rises for a while instead of dropping. The first mortgage is adjustable too, so the payments could go even higher. Very few people who take this deal would be able to keep the house, because unless they brought money to the table they would almost certainly be unable to refi out of it (without double digit price inflation, which is no longer in the cards). The second example is no better.

This should not be legal. This is misleading and deceptive advertising, and the FTC should go after all these funny money loan sharks. People will go into the sales office and write them a deposit check and sign a contract on the basis of the large number in the advertisement. If they come to their senses they'll walk away and lose their deposit. That's the best possible outcome, and note that they will be using Beazer as their mortgage broker, so they may never get independent advice.

When you look at new home sales figures and prices keep the above example in mind, because it is certainly not unique. I hope this helps you to understand why the downside to this market is so huge. In many cases, "homeowners" will never be able to make even their first reset payment. There are cases of people unable to make their very first mortgage payment.

If you think this is funny, consider the impact on your home value. Sure, you may have signed up for a 30 year fixed-rate last year when you bought. But your home's value will be depressed when the forced sales from this type of maneuver start rolling back onto the market en masse. When you find your home worth less four years from now in nominal dollars than it is today, you'll understand what a brutal racket this has been.

I never thought I would become a wild-eyed consumer activist, but at this point all I want to do is find some public interest law firm and give them the ammo to sue the britches right off these and similar people. You see, I calculate loans and consumer disclosures, and I can usually find some sort of error in about 50% of RESPA loan document packages (although that isn't true for my banks). And Hillary? Hillary with her proposal to offer downpayment assistance? Hillary is looking after the Beazers of the world, and not the people she claims to want to help. Watch her campaign finance contributions - you'll see. Because a $5,000 taxpayer-funded downpayment gives a lot of room to roam for crooked outfits like this, and only abuses the "buyer".

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Howard Dean's Cosmology

Down with divisiveness was the message Wednesday delivered by Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean as he told a group of Florida business leaders that Republican policies of deceit and finger-pointing are tearing American apart.

Dean called President Bush "the most divisive president probably in our history."

"He's always talking about those people. It's always somebody else's fault. It's the gays' fault. It's the immigrants' fault. It's the liberals' fault. It's the Democrats' fault. It's Hollywood people," Dean said. "Americans are sick of that. Even if you win elections doing that, you drag down our country."
The Republican agenda "is flag-burning and same-sex marriage and God knows what else," Dean said. "We need real change in this country. We're in trouble."
The most hilarious thing is that no one on the left is going to see the humor in this. It appears to be projection on a grand scale. I've never seen Bush quoted as talking about "those people". Wasn't it Kerry who said Bush's position on same-sex marriage was exactly the same as Kerry's? Go right through Bush's speeches, and it's clear that Bush actively avoids name-calling and finger-pointing. Bush exemplifies the southern trait of being polite to a person right up until the moment when the southerner decides the person needs to be killed. I think that's what everyone missed about Bush's "sh_t" remark in reference to the situation in Lebanon.

Dean, on the other hand, tends to get personal, and holds grudges with a vengenance. MensNewsDaily:
"Dean himself moved from Episcopalian to Congregationalist "because I had a big fight with a local Episcopal church about 25 years ago over the bike path." He does not hesitate to reveal this information or to declare that he seldom goes to church." -- Robert Novak
"I think a library trustee is pretty important," Dean said, during "an administration that likes book burning more than reading books." -- Howard Dean as quoted by USA Today
"The truth is the President of the United States used the same device that Slobodan Milosevic used in Serbia. When you appeal to homophobia, when you appeal to sexism, when you appeal to racism, that is extraordinarily damaging to the country."
And don't forget:
John Ashcroft is not a patriot, John Ashcroft is a descendant of Joseph McCarthy.
I don't hate Republicans as individuals. But I hate what the Republicans are doing to this country. I really do.
I hate Republicans and everything they stand for.
This is a struggle of good and evil. And we're the good.
But let's not be divisive, okay?
"You think people can work all day and then pick up their kids at child care or wherever and get home and still manage to sandwich in an eight-hour vote? Well Republicans, I guess can do that. Because a lot of them have never made an honest living in their lives."
Another aspect of Howard Dean's personality is that he's willing to withhold judgment on some people, but willing to assume the guilt of others:
"I've resisted pronouncing a sentence before guilt is found. I will have this old-fashioned notion that even with people like Osama, who is very likely to be found guilty, we should do our best not to, in positions of executive power, not to prejudge jury trials."
"I don’t know. There are many theories about (9/11). The most interesting theory that I’ve heard so far—which is nothing more than a theory, it can’t be proved—is that he was warned ahead of time by the Saudis. Now who knows what the real situation is? But the trouble is, by suppressing that kind of information, you lead to those kind of theories, whether they have any truth to them or not, and eventually, they get repeated as fact. So I think the president is taking a great risk by suppressing the key information that needs to go to the Kean Commission."
Tom DeLay ought to go back to Houston where he can serve his jail sentence.
That LIHOP quote is breathtaking. In one paragraph, Dean moves from saying that LIHOP is an unprovable but interesting theory to maintaining that Bush is hiding information from the Kean Commission.

Dean admits he's a bit of a waffler, but not, you know, on the important things, such as rights issues. Free speech for those who don't agree with him is bad:
I've waffled before. I'll waffle again.
I will use whatever position I have in order to root out hypocrisy. Democrats have strong moral values. Frankly, my moral values are offended by some of the things I hear on programs like "Rush Limbaugh," and we don't have to put up with that.
Unless, of course, they're Democrats:
"I believe that the flag of the Confederate States of America is a painful symbol and reminder of racial injustice and slavery which (Abraham) Lincoln denounced from here over 150 years ago"
I still want to be the candidate for guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks. We can't beat George Bush unless we appeal to a broad cross-section of Democrats.
Wasn't Abraham Lincoln the first president of the Republican party? Whatever you say, sir:
"You know, the Republicans are not very friendly to different kinds of people. They're a pretty monolithic party. Pretty much, they all behave the same, and they all look the same. ... It's pretty much a white Christian party.''
But you're a committed Christian, right? Yup:
I'm a committed Christian. I worship in my own way. That's my business. That's not the business of the pharisees who are going to preach to me about what I do and then do something else.
Oh, well, at least Dean's not white. Er, at least he's not Republican. Howard Dean has his own Bible, and he sticks by it. There is no such thing as original sin - all of God's creation was and remains good (except perhaps for Republicans):
"From a religious point of view, if God had thought homosexuality is a sin, he would not have created gay people."
We await the word from the DLC pulpit on child molesters, and I think Dr. Dean needs to have a talk with the March of Dimes people. Darn it, God wants those kids born handicapped and they shouldn't be obstructing God's will. (Note, this is a theological point, not a slap at people with birth defects or homosexuals.) Dr. Dean's Bible has a slightly different, but admirably pluralistic, New Testament:
"If you know much about the Bible—which I do—to see and be in the place where Christ was and understand the intimate history of what was going on 2,000 years ago is an exceptional experience," he said.

Responding to this comment, along with earlier statements that Dean has read the Bible cover to cover, a reporter asked the candidate what his favorite book from the New Testament is. He answered by citing Job, a book from the Old Testament.

"But I don't like the way it ends," he said. "Some would argue, you know, in some of the books of the New Testament, the ending of the Book of Job is different. … I think, if I'm not mistaken, there's one book where there's a more optimistic ending, which we believe was tacked on later. … Many people believe that the original version of Job is the version where there is not a change, Job ends up completely destitute and ruined. It's been a long time since I looked at this, but it's believed that was added much, much later. Many people believe that the original ending was about the power of God and the power of God was almighty and all knowing and it wasn't necessary that everybody was going to be redeemed."
Howard Dean's quibble with the ending of Job is that because of Job's refusal to blame God for Satan's work, Job regains his health and wealth, and acquires a new family. Howard Dean strongly suspects that Job leaned Republican from then on, and he does not consider that a happy ending. Howard Dean prefers the variant of Job in Dean's New Testament in which Job discovers that Satan is the head of the Republican party, and vows to vote Democratic forevermore. And yeah, yeah, Job is still on the dungheap, but that's a position of moral leadership:
This country was the moral leader of the world until George Bush became president.
The reason that the Democratic party isn't winning elections any more is that it has embraced the holy ideology of victimology so deeply. People simply don't want to end up destitute on a dungheap in a position of moral leadership - but this is what happens when you toss out the Torah and enshrine a few select portions of a carefully edited Old Testament as your New Testament. You have dumped the law of Moses (we inherit the conditions of our lives from the decisions of our ancestors, therefore you have the obligation to act in society's interests, not your own, even in your bedroom) and now can no longer even understand the teachings of the New Testament. What remains is not very successful in practice, and the American people are a practical people.

WA Same-Sex Marriage Case Fails

I'm busy, but Volokh has a post here. You can find the decision, concurrences and dissents on this page. It's Anderson V King County. The opinion itself is here in pdf. These are zesty reads. There must have been bitter fighting within the court.

One exceedingly interesting aspect of the opinion is that it directly attacks the logic of the Goodridge decision:
Plaintiffs also rely on Goodridge, where the Massachusetts court rejected the argument that procreation justified limitation of marriage to opposite-sex couples. The court said that “[t]he ‘marriage is procreation’ argument singles out the one unbridgeable difference between same-sex and opposite-sex couples, and transforms that difference into the essence of legal marriage.” Goodridge, 440 Mass. at 333. The court held that “it is the exclusive and permanent commitment of the marriage partners to one another, not the begetting of children, that is the sine qua non of civil marriage.” Goodridge, 440 Mass. at 332.

But as Skinner, Loving, and Zablocki indicate, marriage is traditionally linked to procreation and survival of the human race. Heterosexual couples are the only couples who can produce biological offspring of the couple. And the link between opposite-sex marriage and procreation is not defeated by the fact that the law allows opposite-sex marriage regardless of a couple’s willingness or ability to procreate.
The truth is, if marriage to most people weren't about children, there would be little incentive for singles to subsidize marriage through state recognition. Why, after all, should a private comitment be of such interest to the state? What business is it of the states? Why should a single person pay for it? Sooner or later some rights group is going to file a case on the unfairness of allowing those benefits at all. Wait and see - that will be the next initiative.

It's also interesting that in Goodridge the fact that same-sex couples could have children by adoption, artificial insemination, etc, was used as part of the justification for the decision, whereas in NY and WA it has now been held to be a side issue using the "stability" argument: since opposite sex couples can produce children while trying to avoid it even as a result of a one-night stand, the WA and NY SCs found that the legislature might have a rational basis for the legislative exclusion of same sex couples from marriage.Yes, they have children who are legally theirs, but not on impulse and without even trying.

The squabbling is quite something:
Perhaps because of the nature of the issue in this case and the strong feelings it brings to the front, some members of the court have uncharacteristically been led to depart significantly from the court’s limited role when deciding constitutional challenges. For example, Justice Fairhurst’s dissent declines to apply settled principles for reviewing the legislature’s acts and instead decides for itself what the public policy of this state should be. Justice Bridge’s dissent claims that gay marriage will ultimately be on the books and that this court will be criticized for having failed to overturn DOMA. But, while same-sex marriage may be the law at a future time, it will be because the people declare it to be, not because five members of this court have dictated it.1 Justice J.M. Johnson’s concurrence, like Justice Fairhurst’s dissent, also ignores the proper standards for reviewing legislation. And readers unfamiliar with appellate court review may not realize the extent to which this concurrence departs from customary procedures because, among other things, it merely repeats the result and much of the reasoning of the court’s decision on most issues, thus adding unnecessarily to the length of the opinions.
When you take out after those who agree with you.... There are three dissents.

If you're keeping count of the SSM court cases, NY & WA rejected the state-constitution challenges. GA rejected the claim that GA's constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages was invalid, and the US Appeals court for the Eighth District reinstated the Nebraska constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages. That was the silly "bill of attainder" and First Amendment right to associate one. A lower court in CT dismissed a lawsuit alleging that having civil unions for same sex couples was discriminatory.

The Eighth District appellate decision (pdf) was the really interesting one; I thought part of it was none-too-subtle request and challenge to the US SC to clarify some of its reasoning in related cases. I think it was the Eighth that had that nasty incest case; they may be getting provoked with the results of Romer and Lawrence.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

FDIC Summer Outlook

The FDIC Summer Outlook is here in pdf format. You may not consider it significant that this is the introduction to this issue focusing on the credit cycle, but I do:
Since ancient times, credit markets have undergone periodic booms and busts. In 594 BC, for example, the Greek state of Attica found itself under severe economic stress because of the massive debt incurred by many of its citizens. The ensuing civil disorder resulted in a handover of power to Solon, one of the “seven wise men” of Greece. Solon took radical steps to restore balance to the economy, such as canceling debts, freeing those enslaved for failing to repay their loans, and devaluing the currency by 25 percent.
I mean, "canceling debts" and "devaluing currency" are not the words a banker likes to encounter when settling down for a spot of afternoon reading. But apparently the FDIC thinks we're stupid, because they go on to 'splain things:
Simply put, credit cycles are fluctuations in loan quality and quantity. They are often correlated with, but not always identical to, business cycles, which are based on fluctuations in the overall output of goods and services.
So, is the credit cycle merely a reflection of the general business cycle, or is it a phenomenon unto itself? Clearly, looking at quantity and ex-post quality measures, such as charge-offs, the credit cycle in recent decades has tracked the economic cycle fairly closely. However, many observers of the credit cycle throughout history believed that credit extension and contraction drive business activity, rather than the other way around.
The article seems to be suggesting a somewhat less than rosy future:
The economics profession has recently begun to reconsider the role of psychology and expectations in investment decisions. Recent research has found that underwriting standards, as measured by the Federal Reserve Board Senior Loan Officer Opinion Survey on Bank Lending Practices, are a better determinant of future business lending than either GDP or the federal funds rate.23 Similarly, analysis of a Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation survey of underwriting standards finds that underwriting standards are an important determinant of future loan losses.24 A modern theoretical response to this finding might be that credit markets are efficient and that loan officers, having just as good access to GDP and interest rate numbers as anyone else, should make decisions that incorporate all available information in a rational, profit-maximizing way. Another interpretation from a 19th-century perspective might describe the easing and tightening of standards as the reflection of alternate swings between “greed and fear.”25
I think they are suggesting that the next recession is in the bag, and that creditors did it to themselves. Of course, we know George Bush is going to get the blame for it, but the Fed is independent of the President and Bush certainly wasn't out on the street telling people to get option-ARM mortgages. Greenspan, now.... did.

The implication of the article is that the 19th-century theories make more sense than later theories when applied to current economic conditions. Writing bad loans has produced a loan quality problem; this will force a tightening of underwriting standards which will amount to a credit contraction, which will constrain the market for goods and services, which will further reduce credit quality.... biff, boom, bang. Recession.

As for the market in goods and services, see this thread up at Professor Piggington's:
Was reading a link from someone elses post about some secondary markets to profit from in the housing bust. It got me thinking about some of my own experience with different suppliers to the housing market and the numbers do strongly support the end of the housing ATM.

I work with an Advertising Agency as a search engine marketer for several major national home improvement franchises (among several other companies). They span from driveway paving, to window coverings, to kitchen remodling, to floor coverings. Basically everything people have been sucking cash out of their homes to buy over the past 5 years with reckless abandon.

I've had the ability to track exactly how much demand there is for these types of products and how often this traffic converts into actual business for the client. Without much exageration, I can report that the level of both interest and sales are crashing quickly. While the level of interest is a slower decline, sales conversions have declined quite quickly in the last 5-6 months.

From speaking directly with some of the clients, they have admitted that other online efforts have been declining just as quickly. It would seem that the pain of the slow reduction in "easy" credit along with flattening/dropping equity levels is already hitting these secondary home improvement companies.
The fall in retail employment over the last couple of months and the weak sales figures for WalMart and Target amount to a red flag. There is major weakness in the auto industry, and I think the US government has already had almost all the stimulative impact it will have on the defense industry. Consumer spending is a very large factor in GDP, although there are different schools of thought on its net effect. Without a significant rise in real wages, it's hard to see what would increase consumer spending in the next few years.

Shilling hasn't been that shy about what he thinks will happen:
SHILLING: The economy is slowing, and I suspect that by the end of the year it could very well be in recession. The basic reason is that housing activity is weakening, and that has been the mainstay of consumer spending, which in turn has been propelling the economy. During the past 17 quarters of expansion, spending growth has exceeded income growth by 2.5 percentage points on average, on an annualized basis. And housing is what has been supporting that, with people pulling money out of housing by home equity loans or refinancing.
Once consumers see that housing price appreciation is no longer the order of the day, then they are going to curb their spending, as they basically have no alternative. Construction and mortgage brokerage and all of what is related to it has accounted for about a third of the job creation so far in this expansion.
One is that business investment [in software and hardware] has already been quite strong. If you look at the last couple of years, it has been growing at about a 10.5-percent annual rate. That's not markedly different than the 12.5-percent growth rate back in the late 1990s, during what was clearly an overblown capital-spending boom. So the first point is that in investment spending, the growth hasn't been all that weak.

The second point is, what do you do for an encore? You still have a lot of excess capacity left over from the late 1990s boom. My favorite example is fiber optic capacity. At the bottom, 3 percent of the existing capacity that was put in place in the late 1990s was being used, and now the figure is only about 5 percent of capacity. This is admittedly an extreme case, but there's a lot of capacity left over. So how much can you expect investment to grow from here to really spur the economy? Moreover, to make up for the consumer spending component I cited earlier, investment would have to grow at a 30-percent annual rate, and that is just not in the cards. So this idea of capital spending rescuing the consumer is not realistic.
When you look at capital spending, you have got to see the motivation for it. Profit growth is one motivator, no question about it.
We need a new area of production or new markets, which is why I think opening up the domestic energy sector is so important. Companies aren't going to take risks unless they see strong rewards for those risks. They're not going to spend money just because they have it. We have a lot of mature markets that aren't going to reward
large investments with large returns. Generally that happens more in investment in industrial capacity, but with the US making so little of what we consume, business investment is not that strong a fundamental stimulator for our domestic economy. We do consume energy. We can produce energy at cheaper prices than at which we are currently importing it. If we just removed the regulatory barriers to producing energy or even establishing old-fashioned production plants, we'd have a more balanced economy, with better jobs and less speculation. Right now we push industrial investment overseas, which is one reason why our job market is hurting so.

This latest round of speculation was exceedingly broad-based. There were $10-an-hour workers banding together to flip houses in some of these markets. One of the reasons why they are doing it is because they cannot profit in the old-fashioned but less risky ways. Part of that is due to illegal immigration, which has driven down real wages. The sum of US economic policy has been deeply irrational, and it has produced irrational markets. We really cannot continue lurching from bubble to bubble, so it is time to get our house in order.

Existing Home Sales Out For June

I'm only following this so closely because I have developed a mesmerized fascination with the rhetoric surrounding a rapidly declining market. The NAR Existing Home Sales release for June is here (pdf). US months of supply are now at 6.8 months (May supply was revised to 6.4). US year-over-year price appreciation is at 0.9%, well below inflation. US total sales of existing homes are down 8.9% compared to a year ago. These are the seasonally adjusted figures.

By region:
Northeast - 7.2% gain over the last year, and compared to June, 2005, sales are only down 9.8%.
Midwest - 1.7% loss over the last year, and compared to June, 2005, sales are only down 6.2%.
South - 0.5% loss over the last year, and compared to June, 2005, sales are only down 5.5%.
West - 0.0% no change over the last year, and compared to last year sales are down 17.1%.

Next month the west should go negative. One hates to think what it will look like later in the year. The problem with funny-money loans is that when the market turns and heads down, they go bad. On the way down the medians are overstated on the high side. For one thing, these numbers don't show various sales incentives but only the contract sales price. With many sellers contributing cash to pay the buyer's closing costs, for example, the contract sales price overstates the real sales price the buyer pays. Also, as always, the existing home sales indicator is a lagging indicator, reflecting the market conditions of a couple of months ago.

Condos are worse. You can see the breakout between detached and condos here (pdf). Single family prices were up 1.1% compared to June, 2005. Condo prices were down 2.1%. Nationally, condo inventory has risen to 8 months of supply compared to 6.6 months of supply for single family, and I think there is something wrong with that split - condo inventory should be higher than that, unless this figure represents a sudden and substantial conversion of condominium developments to apartment buildings.

The regional breakout for condos can be found here (pdf). The telling statistic is that condo sales in the west are down 20.5% compared to June, 2005, and median sales price in the west went down 10.8% compared to last June. It's a nightmare, an absolute nightmare.

But on to the good part- the press release! Watching the change in NARRISH rhetoric has its grim fascinations:
Existing-home sales were down modestly in June, and home prices were up slightly from a year ago, according to the National Association of Realtors®.
David Lereah, NAR’s chief economist, said the housing market is flattening-out. “Over the last three months home sales have held in a narrow range, easing to a level that is near our annual projection, which tells us the market is stabilizing,” he said. “At the same time, sellers have recognized that they need to be more competitive in their pricing given the rise in housing inventories. Home prices are only a little higher than a year ago.”
(But, as always at NAR):
NAR President Thomas M. Stevens from Vienna, Va., said opportunities have opened for home buyers. “People who were discouraged by the bidding wars that were so common over the last few years are finding more choices now,” said Stevens, senior vice president of NRT Inc. “Relative to the five-year housing boom, this year is a buyer’s market in much of the country with plentiful supply, along with interest rates which remain historically favorable, so it’s a good time to buy a home.
Especially the 20 houses or so your realTOR is unloading, which are priced to sell! Just wait till the banks are unloading REO. This is going to be ugly.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Roe V Wade For Men Suit Dismissed

The judge threw the Roe V Wade for Men suit out. DU only racked up a few hundred posts about it. Even though some of the participants are childish in the extreme, some of them are making excellent points. It's genuinely true that in many cases "fathers" are basically picked at random, especially in CA:
If I sound bitter, its because I was on the receiving end of some of this...Some year ago I was named as the father of a child. I was the wrong race, I had gotten a vasectomy 10 years before and had the medical records to prove it. None of that mattered and a child support order was entered against me. I spoke the to social worker and showed her I could not have been the father. She said it was not her problem, even though she was setting up wage garnishment and had helped the mother file the court papers for child support. I got a lawyer and went to court. I was told I had to pay until it was decided. I refused and the garnishment was blocked (I was in the military at the time). I was refused access to "my child" even supervised visitation (we considered challenging the mother for custody). I was told if I did not pay I would be going to jail, so I paid. Finally got to court and the judge seemed unwilling to believe the evidence, including a fertility test from a local independent lab. He kept asking me if I had reconciled with the mother, a teenager I have never seen before, and was willing to do my social duty. My lawyer got a bit heated and all the state kept saying was they had the mother's word (who never showed up) that I was the father. 30 days later the order was vacated. I was out lawyer fees, was unable to recover the child support I paid, my name is still on the birth certificate, I am/was listed as a deadbeat dad, and it was on my credit report. Yes, I am bitter but with damn good cause.
So the thing cuts both ways, and I do support Georgia's law protecting "fake fathers". If we want there to be any genuine fathers left, we'd better make sure that responsible men aren't victimized in this way.

I'm amazed at how many people believe that that two adults should be able to have sex without the worry of having to deal with any potential pregnancy. I'd like to get to work without having to drive. I think the state should rent a helicopter and airlift me over. It's only fair.

Here's a brilliant idea:

132. My suggestion to make the system more fair
When a woman finds out she is pregnant, she must make a reasonable attempt to notify the potential father (father's) within a specific amount of time.

The potential father must then file a form with the local courthouse either accepting responsibilities and rights of fatherhood or declining them.

The potential mother is then given a copy of the potential father's form and then makes her decision as to whether the baby is birthed or not, knowing whether she will have a father participating in parenthood with her or not.

The reasons I like this plan are ...

The woman has absolute decision making authority on whether she births the baby or not.
The woman is not forced into parenthood without her permission.
The man is not forced into parenthood without his permission either.


But what about the baby?

All participating parents should put a fixed percentage of their income into a state child support pool and each eligible child should recieve the exact same check each month from the pool. To me it's ridiculous that one child gets 200 times more support than another child just because one woman bedded a rich guy and the other a poor guy. Each child is equally valuable.

What if there's not enough in the pool?

Then general state funds should make up the difference because a hungry child is the responsibility of all of us, whether our condoms broke or not.
That last provision is added because there would be even less incentive for "potential fathers" to decide to "accept" the rights and responsibilities of fatherhood if they were going to be paying for everyone else's children as well as their own. There would be very, very few men who would take that deal, and many of them would often be institutionalized, so I doubt they would be contributing much financially overall.

What a brilliant plan to make every child everyone's responsibility. We'll never change. The problem really is that some one has to be responsible, and so those who want irresponsibility plan to make everyone responsible. I really don't see how that's an improvement. Obviously marriage wouldn't last long under this scheme. Given voting coalitions, the funding for the "fatherless" kids would keep outstripping the funding that the average married man could provide to his own children, especially given the high taxation rates he'd be paying for the children of irresponsible losers such as this poster.

Marxism has reached its summit. The first post (which I do believe) is a female sort of marxist paradise, and the second is a male sort of marxist wonderland. However they show ominous signs of meeting at the pass and joining forces, so I think all the sane people had better be alert and ready.

Both plans are, of course, injurious to the child. But hey, this entire debate has never, ever, been about the children, has it? Not in the least. It's always about avoiding responsibility rather than taking it. Whether you pick a father at random out of the phone book, or whether you decide to hand out cigars to the entire population, the people advocating these schemes are always, always, always trying to avoid basic human responsibility - their own.

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