a fair and honest appraisal

i know i’ve been banging the same drum a lot lately, but i continue to be fascinated by this housing price “miracle”. this is an article i have been waiting for, because i have only read and heard bits and pieces about this practice:

More than half of U.S. appraisers say they have felt pressure to overstate the value or condition of a property, according to a survey released last year by October Research Corp [...] Appraisers have testified to threats from loan officers and mortgage brokers saying they won’t pay for the appraisal or won’t give them more work if the value of a home doesn’t “hit the number” that they need to make the deal.
Wayne Romain of the Appraisal Firm, based in Phoenix, said appraisers are getting the blame for high housing values, but everyone in the home-buying process is part of the problem.
“Appraisers are pressured by the home buyers, the sellers, the lenders and the real estate agents,” he said. “Now home buyers are paying well over appraised value, acting out of passion or desperation, not need. Home sellers think their homes are worth more than they are.”
He said real estate agents often avoid disclosure on houses’ problems, and mortgage lenders shop appraisers for values that make a deal work.

that is FUCKED up in so many ways. the idea that LENDERS are forcing appraisers to exaggerate the value of assets collateralizing the loans they are making is irresponsible to say the least (i have downgraded this from “FUCKING INSANE” for the sake of rational discourse). when was the last time you walked into a pawn broker and had the “loan officer” haggle to pay you MORE for your saxophone?? (ok, slight oversimplification). in the real world, this little bit of chicanery is not in the long term best interests of any of the parties involved except the agent. jesus even the homebuyer, who is going to pay higher property taxes on the basis of the inflated appraisal, is pressuring and cajoling for a higher price. we are living in an upside down world.
if this practice were occuring in a company, it would be called forcing the accountant to cook the books. only there is no single kenny lay or bernie ebbers. as wayne romain said in the quote above (and you gotta love that name) everyone in the home-buying process is part of the problem.

please, please, please don’t leave me

i rode my bike over to the bank today and was standing there being PUMMELED by all these advertisements, everywhere in the bank, prodding me to take on debt. i kid you not every single one of the banners, pamphlets, brochures, kiosks, (and they were on every visible surface) exhorted me to take out a loan. take money out of your house to travel! take money out of your house to build something else onto your house! take another loan out on your house to pay off your credit card loans! there was one poorly photocopied sheet advertising a 13 month cd interest rate.
the teller was pretty distraught when she saw that i was taking some of my hard cold cash out of there with me. she pleaded with me, could i maybe speak with one of their specialists about keeping the money in there. then she went to get the transaction approved and the manager asked me as well.
i didn’t bother spending time explaining that i was withdrawing the money to protect it from getting eaten away in an almost inevitable dollar devaluation or “credit event” precipitated by precisely the type of behavior that every ad in the place screamed for.
waking up at 5:30 this morning and watching the stock market react to katrina by going UP got me motivated to get to the bank today. there is a lot of froth or fluff or effervescence or just plain old delusion in this economy right now.
my move away from dollars is what i fear is going to happen on a far larger scale: people will begin to question how creditworthy the united states is, when it continues to borrow and borrow and borrow some more to rotate the debt. our economy right now, as paul krugman says, seems to center on buying and selling houses to each other with money loaned us by the chinese.
me take on debt? no thanks i’m just trying to keep ahead of that $145,000 that each man, woman and child in this country owes.

ichat, au naturelle

this is the time of year, in what remains of the summer, where people often get caught in a state of partial undress when accepting ichat video invitations. people, for example, like me. today, i got a work-related vid request and accepted, only to realize that i was shirtless (i’ve been lifting weights, so i’m fuckin’ ripped, nuthin to be ashamed of). it was cool, i tilted the camera up a bit and started conversatin’. but, being me, i had to let the other person know, at which point he proceeded to call everyone in the office in to show them that i was hanging out talking business with nothing covering my luscious man-titties. i think it was better than still being in my pajamas, which i was wearing from my 5:30 AM katrina / stock exchange vigil until around 2 PM. warren buffett worked out of his living room in his pajamas for a few years, why shouldn’t i?
so my friend hit me back tonight, this time he and his wife were shirtless in front of the computer. i was busting up.

the boate is for sale: 1969 coronado 25

this is gonna go on craigslist tomorrow at some point, but thought i would put it up here first for comments, suggestions, and first dibs. i feel a little sad already.

“the boate” is for sale. a 25′ 1969 coronado sailboat, a wealth of good times and good fun. berthed in the berkeley marina, slip comes with the boat. $3500 (o.b.o. she is a boat after all) is all it takes to get out on the bay right now!

has a new 5HP honda four stroke outboard. new mast tabernacle. sails beautifully.

here is her official website and captain’s blog. and here is an incomplete photo history. and more photos on flickr here. also, some videos: 1, 2, and 3

the domain name “theboate.com” is included.

Coronado 25 Sales Brochure

1971 Sailboat Directory and Guide
Brochure Page 1
Brochure Page 2
Brochure Page 3
Brochure Page 4

here she is at angel island, monday august 22, 2005.

boate  on angel island
angel island monday august 25

and click here are some photos of the cabin

eminent domain? that’s CHUMP CHANGE

a group called the gold anti-trust action committee requested clarification from the US treasury department about the government’s power to seize gold and silver during wartime and states of emergency under the trading with the enemy act. according to treasury, virtually ANYTHING can be seized without due process:

While the Trading With the Enemy Act authorizes the government to interfere with the ownership of gold and silver particularly, it also applies to all forms of currency and all securities. So the Treasury official stressed in his letter to GATA that the act could be applied not just to shares of gold and silver mining companies but to the shares of all companies in which there is a foreign ownership interest.
Further, there is no requirement in the law that the targets of the government’s interference must have some connection to the declared enemies of the United States, nor even some connection to foreign ownership. Anything that can be construed as a financial instrument, no matter how innocently it has been used, is subject to seizure under the Trading With the Enemy Act and the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.

wikipedia has a list of things that can get all your shit taken away. but remember, according to treasury’s latest reading of the law, there is no requirement in the law that the targets of the government’s interference must have some connection to the declared enemies of the United States, nor even some connection to foreign ownership. how’s that for protection under the constitution!

clarification on robertson

in my earlier post, just to be clear, the point i was making is that to pretend that pat robertson represents a marginalized viewpoint, by calling him “crazy” is to overlook the fact that his opinion is shared by a lot of people in this administration, and in this country, who are now scrambling to distance themselves. saying “oh he’s INSANE” to discount his comments really is a denial of the truth contained in them, which is that chavez represents a threat to US control of strategic oil resources, and the current administration has shown itself willing to take drastic measures in similar situations. pat mentioned oil: venezuela is sitting on top of the #7 ranked oil reserves in the world; we’ve seen what happened to #4 (iraq), and bush is threatening to attack #3 (iran). whenever you see someone called a “strongman” in the press here, you can bet there are a lot of contingency plans being made in the pentagon and at langley to get rid of that leader. that includes assassination. if the canadian prime minister, sitting on top of #2, threatened to reduce oil exports to the US, you can be certain he would be called a strongman in the press here, and operation hip check would be in the planning stages.
also to be clear, i have no points of agreement with pat robertson or the white house agenda. they are pursuing policies that are taking this country straight into the shitter, and causing a lot of misery and suffering worldwide. however, calling them “crazy” or “insane” means you are not taking them seriously. and they are very very fucking serious about what they are doing. let’s call them insane and marginalized when they are out of office. once they are voted out for the third time, we can truthfully say that their views don’t represent ours.

robertson is NOT crazy

pat robertson is just giving voice to sentiments already held in the white house. in some sense, he may have helped chavez out by shining a light on the fact that the CIA has assassination on the table as an option. it makes the actual execution of a plan much more difficult with US public attention focused on…well they’re focused on the idea that pat robertson is a fucking nutbag, and have no idea where venezuela is. probably near mexico, right? they’ll forget about the whole thing in a week. but truth is, pat robertson is just a rightwing preacher who allowed himself to speak unguardedly about something his pals now wish he had left unsaid. it really hits very close to the truth, and speaks volumes about the iraq war:

“You know, I don’t know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we’re trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it,” Robertson said. “It’s a whole lot cheaper than starting a war … and I don’t think any oil shipments will stop.”
“We don’t need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator,” he continued. “It’s a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with.”

there is no question that hugo chavez does not fit into a neocon agenda. he is pissing off all the major oil companies, he’s a socialist, he’s making petroleum deals with cuba and china, and he wants it to be known that his nation is not dependent on the united states.
we, on the other hand, are probably dependent on venezuela. they are our third largest foreign supplier of oil. so, call pat robertson a fucking kook if you like, but the reality is that there are a lot of people, and in top positions of the government, thinking and talking about the same thing.
the press is making pat robertson out to be some kind of fringe lunatic. they sure haven’t looked much at the present administration.
i posted a clarification on this post.