Archive for October, 2006

 

Daylight Savings

Friday, October 27th, 2006

Don’t forget, it’s this weekend. You gain an extra hour of sleep.

Enjoy.

 
 

Strange Dream

Wednesday, October 25th, 2006

I had a strange dream about Chuck Schumer last night. Perhaps you could provide an interpretation.

In my dream, I’m standing outside the Capitol building. It’s like a weekend or something, so there’s no traffic. And I’m walking around to the side of the building, and there’s Chuck Schumer, wearing a grey suit, and some strange shoes. The shoes, it turns out, were giant fake footprints. In other words, Senator Chuck Shumer was leaving bigfoot tracks in the bushes and flower beds besides the capitol!

In the dream, I had no direct interaction with Schumer. I simply observed him from behind, and took my leave, without him noticing me. There really wasn’t much else to the dream other than that.

Now obviously, upon reflection, this dream makes no sense. Why would any United States Senator, let alone Chuck Schumer, be leaving fake bigfoot tracks? Why would he do this just outside the Capitol? Who in the hell would believe that a sasquatch was lurking outside the Capitol building anyway? And why wouldn’t he at least change out of his suit before traipsing around in the mud, leaving fake footprints as a hoax?

Anyways, I can’t really figure out what this dream is supposed to be all about. Got any ideas?

 
 

Star Wars Spoiler

Thursday, October 19th, 2006

 
 

Limbaugh POST Mortem

Thursday, October 19th, 2006

I thought I’d follow up yesterday’s post, which spawned quite a few negative comments.

I think there are two issues we’re dealing with here. The first is whether the country in general and conservatives in particular would be better of with Republicans losing this election cycle. On this matter, I think reasonable people disagree, though I happen to agree with Rush on that point, and said so here. And I’ve been spending my spare time working for a local Republican trying to unseat a liberal in the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

The point I was making, and do stand by, is that Rush belittles the blogosphere while relying heavily on it for content, to put it mildly. When Rush claims, as he did yesterday (via Instapundit) to have NRO, Hugh Hewett, Captain’s Quarters, LGF, Red State, and Strata-Sphere in his RSS reader, and not to know who Instapundit, the most-read and grandaddy of them all, is (“But I’m talking about one blog, and it’s not even Insta-Pundit. Whoever Insta-Pundit is, is letting somebody else reply to whatever it was I’m saying on the program, and it’s a little one-page post that I responded to this morning in the first hour”) he’s being disingenuous at best, and downright dishonest at worst.

When Rush claims, as he did on his radio show yesterday, that it was the MSM and the liberal media who brought down Trent Lott, and that the blogosphere needs to learn some humility, he’s being naive at best, and dishonest at worst. And when he follows that up by referring to bloggers as “rank amateurs” while professing to being the “professional” at political analysis, he’s just being obnoxious, whether he means it tongue in cheek or not.

I understand that Rush is concerned with competitive threats from other conservatives, who may try and steal mindshare from his show, especially after Tony Snow, a former guest-host on his show sandbagged him by launching his own show in Rush’s time slot while Rush was out on rehab. But belittling intellectual allies, stealing material from them without accreditation, is absolutely not the way to do it. The way to do it is to just be the best radio host you can be, and best competitors directly. Rush already does that, so why he feels the need to diss conservatives, to pretend he’s never heard of Instapundit before, is beyond me.

Frankly, I just think Rush needs to get with the program.

 
 

Rush Limbaugh Again

Wednesday, October 18th, 2006

Limbaugh is absolutely losing it again. He’s flipped out over the blogosphere suggesting that conservatives may be better off with dems in control of congress for two years. In particular, this article seems to have set him off.

Rush has, in essence, declared war on the blogosphere, going to far as to declare that it was not the blogosphere that did in Trent Lott, but the MSM and the left. Today’s broadcast may mark a formal break between the Internet and talk radio. yesterday he derisively referred to “that Instapundit guy”…

The ultimate irony here is that Limbaugh has been stealing from the blogosphere for some time, rarely if ever giving credit. I’ve been documenting this for some time (start here and follow the links). I wonder how much Rush’s show would suffer if he didn’t have the blogosphere to lean on as such a crutch.

UPDATE: More here.

 
 

Ring OF Fire

Wednesday, October 18th, 2006

 
 

Irresponsible Jerk

Thursday, October 12th, 2006

And now a missive from guest blogger, David Ruben:

Am I the only one on the planet who thinks this guy was an irresponsible jerk?

I’m seriously amazed that no one has said anything about it. If some Joe Sixpack had been flying the plane instead of a Yankee, it wouldn’t have been a tragedy – there would have been outrage.

Don’t get me wrong – Lidle apparently had the right to be flying the plane where he was flying it (don’t get me started on why they still allow private light aircraft to fly over The City post 9/11). And perhaps there was equipment failure, or whatever. Still, it’s legal for me to sit in the balcony of a theatre while I’m nauseated, but that implies that I have the self-control to keep from throwing up on the people with floor seats.

In other words, if you are a recreational flier piloting a light aircraft over a heavily populated area for kicks, you can’t crash the plane without people calling you an irresponsible jerk – unless you’re covered by the “professional athlete / actor / sons of Kennedy waiver,” apparently.

My heart goes out to his family and his child. But I have a kid also, and there’s lots of high-risk activities that I enjoy which I don’t engage in any longer because I have a responsibility to my family… If I die hang gliding over Rio, my wife has a right to be pissed at me. The tragedy is what I’m doing to my kid, not the fact that I bought the farm having fun engaging in a high risk activity.

That said, it was pure miracle that this jackass didn’t end up killing scores of people… and that really would have been tragic.

Can’t say I disagree any.

 
 

Told You So

Wednesday, October 11th, 2006

More on the local real estate crash:

The United States woke up last week to the first year-on-year nationwide fall in the average price of a house – something that has not happened since 1993.

The trouble is, for those in the country’s north-east, prices have been falling since the spring and were down 6.1% in the year to August, according to the Massachusetts Association of Realtors, compared to a more modest 1.7% for the US as a whole.

Home sales in the state have slumped by a fifth in the past year, for new and existing houses, single-family homes, apartments and condominiums. Those falls are even worse than elsewhere in the country. “It is really a buyer’s market right now, particularly outside Boston. We had someone who wanted $348,000 [£185,000] for an apartment but she had to cut it to $300,000 to sell it,” said Tasha Ramnarine of Jacob Realty in Boston. “We are going into the quiet winter months right now but we hope it will all pick up next spring.”[...]

The speed of the downturn has probably not yet been picked up in price indices, especially as sales incentives are difficult to pick up.

Massachusetts saw the strongest house price rises of any US state between 2000 and 2003. Prices carried on rising into this year, to record highs, pushing them beyond the pockets of many people. But now, according to the Warren Group, a local real estate firm, the prices of single-family houses are down 8% and condos are already down 5% from a year ago.

The article also says the suburbs are getting hit worse than properties in Boston proper.

Read the whole thing here.

 
 

Treating Foreign Policy Like A Game

Tuesday, October 10th, 2006

YouTube will pull this within a day, so watch it now.

 
 

Piggishness

Sunday, October 8th, 2006

I read this article in the Real Estate section of the Boston Globe today. The piggishness of homeowners, demanding unreal rates of return on their homes, is astounding to me. Relevant portion:

Though in a different price zone, Stephen and Dianne Greenstein can relate to Reagan’s deflated spirits. The couple’s four-story waterfront home, on Nahant’s craggy coast, has been on the market for nearly a year. It boasts sweeping views of the Atlantic, several seaside decks, and three fireplaces. But for all of its amenities, the three-bedroom contemporary home has yet to sell — despite a drop of $326,000 in the asking price.

So in August the couple elected to sell the home at auction. They hired AllynAuction Co. Inc. of Nahant and paid roughly $8,000 in marketing costs for multiple newspaper ads, 5,000 postcards, and the postage needed to mail them to corporate big wigs, doctors, and lawyers in the area.

Three bidders submitted bank-certified checks of $25,000 and registered for the Sept. 24 auction. With hopes high, the Greensteins said a silent prayer as auctioneer Richard D. Allyn started the bidding at $1 million. No takers.

In the end, a single bid of $830,000 was offered, which the Greensteins rejected as too low.

The current list price for their home: $899,000, down from $1.25 million.

“I want to sell, but I’m not going to give the house away,” said Stephen Greenstein, noting that another Nahant home, a three-bedroom, sold through AllynAuction in July for $1,050,000. “I’d rather wait for the right offer.”

GIVE THE HOUSE AWAY, EH???

Well, let’s just see how much the Greenstein’s are “giving away”. It took all of two seconds to find the Greenstein’s house on Switchboard.com. You can view the listing on Coldwell Banker’s website here. And you can view the Zillow estimated price here.

The relevant facts are as follows: On September 24, 1997, barely over 9 years ago, the Greensteins closed on their waterfront home in Nahant for $449,000. Now Nahant is a nice community, but hasn’t changed appreciably in the past 9 years. In other words, it isn’t as if it was a run down neighborhood that had a renaissance or something. It’s basically the same seaside community that it was 9 years ago.

As a result, a home in Nahant should be expected to receive, over the long term, the same rate of return as a typical home receives over the long term, namely about 2% over the rate of inflation, which for the sake of expediency we’ll estimate at 5%. Actually, on a national basis, this is extremely generous:

Between 1975 and 1995, the authors note, real house prices in the United States increased an average of 0.5 percent per year. By contrast, from 1995 to 2004, national real house prices grew 3.6 percent per year, or nearly 40 percent in one decade. In some individual cities, such as Boston and San Francisco, real home prices grew about 75 percent from 1995 to 2004.

I heard a couple of analysts on CNN saying that historical national averages for real-estate appreciation was 5%, which seems reasonable given the risk involved: greater than zero, but still pretty low during the course of a lifetime. So let’s go with 5%.

If you compound the Greenstein’s house monthly (I’m being generous here) at an annual rate of 5%, then their house would be worth $703,514, well below the $899,000 they’re currently asking, well below the $1.25 million they were asking nearly one year ago, and most importantly, well below the $830,000 they were offered and turned down over the summer! Because that would be giving the house away, right?

Can you say “Oink” boys and girls?

So let’s take the Mythbuster’s approach here, and not just ask what the house should be priced at today, but what implied rate of return the house would have achieved had the house been sold at the various prices mentioned in the article. Were the house to be sold at the $899k price the Greenstein’s are asking today, the house would return an annual 7.739%, an extremely healthy showing. Even if the house sold for the $830,000 already offered, the Greensteins would have earned a respectable 6.846%. On the other hand, if the house sold today for the $1.25 million the Greensteins were originally asking, they would have earned an amazing 11.430%. And had the Greensteins sold their house for their original asking price when they had originally put it on the market one year ago (10/05), the Greensteins would have earned a whopping 12.867% annual rate of return (compounded monthly).

But apparently, anything less than 7.739% would constitute “giving the house away”.

To be fair to the Greensteins, we’ve had a bit of a bubble. And to be sure, they’re not the worst offenders out there. There are houses on the market for which the current owners are expecting to receive a 20% annual return. By contrast, a venture capital fund, designed to invest in the most risky of companies, expects a 20% annual return for its portfolio. For someone to expect that in their house, a relatively safe investment, is beyond absurd.

I’ve written before that I expected housing prices to drop by about 30%. The analyst I saw on CNN mirrored my estimate. I just wish that when journalists talk about the real estate market, they’d make at least a passing reference to the math. When people like the Greensteins make statements such as they did, they deserve to be rebuffed. Historically speaking, the Greensteins are making out like bandits, even if they sell their house for $830k. Certainly someone ought to call them on that.