Sunday, August 27, 2006

These folks are hoping you forgot what they said

The Basics
The next hot housing markets
Average prices nationwide are soaring, but for every San Diego, there’s a Tucson – sunny, relatively cheap and growing fast.

By Liz Pulliam Weston

Hot housing markets
The latest numbers: Double-digit gains in 62 markets; Florida steps into the limelight.
February 15, 2005: 11:40 AM EST
By Sarah Max, CNN/Money senior writer
Hot housing markets
These markets saw the greatest gains between the fourth quarter of 2003 and fourth quarter of 2004.

Market Percent increase
Las Vegas, NV 47.3
Riverside/San Bernardino, CA 34.7
West Palm Beach/Boca Raton, FL 34.0
Bradenton, FL 32.0
Sacramento, CA 31.5
Melbourne/Titusvile/Palm Bay, FL 30.5
Washington, DC 26.9
Ocala, FL 26.8
Ft. Myers/Cape Coral/Punta Gorda, FL 26.5
Sarasota, FL 25.8

Source: National Association of Realtors

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) – Anyone looking for signs of weakness in the real estate market will be disappointed, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Housing market stays hot
Valley sales boom to another record
Catherine Reagor Burrough
The Arizona Republic
Apr. 21, 2005 12:00 AM
Home buyers waited in line for a chance purchase in new communities. Sellers were
bombarded with multiple offers on their homes. Real estate agents had more clients
than houses to show.
Metropolitan Phoenix's housing market broke records again in March.
Existing-home sales shot up nearly 39 percent from a year ago to hit 12,911 last
month, according to R.L. Brown's Phoenix Housing Market Letter. Single-family
building permits jumped almost 19 percent, to reach 6,203. New-home sales climbed
17 percent to 4,913.
"Why shouldn't the Valley's housing market be this strong?" Brown said. "Population
growth is strong. The job market is not far from being called good. And obviously
people can still afford homes in the Valley.

By JEFF HARRINGTON, Times Staff Writer
Published March 24, 2005

Need further evidence that Florida is defying what appears to be a national cool-down in the housing market?

Consider this milestone of sorts from an industry report Wednesday: The median sales price of an existing home in Florida topped the $200,000 mark in February for the second month in a row.

"We are hotter than a firecracker right now," said Nancy Riley, a longtime real estate agent in Pinellas County. "It is not unusual at all to see multiple offers and multiple back-up offers after one has been accepted."

She recalled one recent listing in Feather Sound for a $350,000 home that drew three offers in a week: two for full price and one for $5,000 above listing. Then there was the condominium that drew five offers within four hours of going on the market.
ousing Market Still
Hot in Los Angeles

By Maura Webber Sadovi
Special to The Wall Street Journal Online

Still near the top of the pile in a nation of soaring housing values, Los Angeles' red-hot rate of home-price appreciation dropped into the single-digit range last quarter. Median home values rose 8.3% to $474,800 in the metropolitan area during the second quarter from the year-earlier period, after rising 25.9% to $446,400 in 2004.
[Los Angeles]

This three-bedroom home in Covina, east of downtown Los Angeles, has an asking price of $635,000.

Residents looking to catch a break by renting are also out of luck. They face average monthly payments that are among the nation's highest thanks to a steady influx of new immigrants priced out of the home market, and a high proportion of young adults in the population, according to Property & Portfolio Research Inc. (PPR), a Boston-based real-estate research firm.
I would be interested to see if all the people who have been predicted that there was no end in sight to the rise in housing prices will now be admitting it. I've seen a lot of ominous silence from the ranks of those who were such vociferous opponents of the idea that there was a bubble. Their words are memorialized throughout the net.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Dear Employee Mr. Pluto-

We thank you for your services over the eons. As you know, the solar system has decided to go in a different direction, and as a result, your services will no longer be necessary. We do, however, have an alternate position available in the non-planet sector which may properly accomodate your new situation. In light of these new realities, many solar systems throughout the galaxy have been downsizing as well as outsourcing planetary positions to other solar systems where the economic realities make it easier for us to compete. As your skills as an iceball floating in the nether-regions of space become more commonplace, the need for such skills decrease. We understand the hardship that this may pose for you, and as a result are offering retraining at no cost to you for an asteroid-related position. Please accept our sincerest regrets.


Planetary Resources

Friday, August 25, 2006

Cooking the books at the NAR?

After reading the following story my bullshit detector rang...the reason? Read this:
"With mortgages rising and home prices at such a high level, people who might have considered purchasing a home a few years ago may now be turning to the rental market, particularly in big cities like New York," says Richard Levy, a senior research analyst at the National Multi Housing Council, an industry association based in Washington, D.C.

But much to renters' chagrin -- and landlords' delight -- greater demand has led to higher rents. In fact, NAR expects rents will rise an average of 4.1 percent this year, compared to a 2.9 percent increase last year.
The key phrase here is "turning" to the rental market. The question this all begs is what exactly people who are "considering" purchasing a home are doing if they aren't renting. If they are already renting, then how could there be an increase in rentals? It's not just counterintuitive, it's completely illogical. When you realize it is the housing industry who is generating this study or the statistic, it all begins to make sense. The recent argument presented by the real estate industry is that the "psychology" of the situation is what is causing people to flee. Note that it wasn't the psychology of the situation that created what I call the bubble, according to these same folks. That means that when the market is increasing, it's due to sound economics, and when it is decreasing, it's because people just don't understand that the only place to go in the housing market is up.

All I can say is that these are really grievous people.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Remember me?

Now suddenly everyone says "bubble"

Flash back to over a year ago when we were watching the hottest housing market ever seen in the US and you will find people like myself trying to point out that it was a lot of hot air. My prediction which I had actually made years earlier was based upon the similarities between the tech stock bubble (which I also predicted)and the housing bubble. The same vapid illogical and inane arguments presented then were presented again. The formula for me seemed pretty simple: in order for these housing prices to be sustained, there needed to be more income available. Instead what we had were lenders loosening up the requirements and buyers depending upon the market continuing to rise. It seemed obvious to me that eventually the prices would rise so high and enough people would have already bought that it would reach equilibrium so that the demand would lessen and the supply would lower prices. Prices have in effect been articially kept high.

The real estate industry, having created this mess with their hucksterism, continues to sell the snake oil, and it is shameful. The one thing I did not predict was higher gas prices adding to the mess. The feds need to raise interest rates in order to combat inflation, but are refusing to do so because they don't want to cause massive foreclosures caused by those who were suckered into buying a home under the impression that there was only one way to go and that was up. I predict that they will be forced to raise interest rates.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The first time I voted as a Republican...

WASHINGTON - Republicans have lost their way when it comes to many core GOP principles and may be in jeopardy heading into the fall elections, Sen. Chuck Hagel (news, bio, voting record), R-Neb. says. Hagel, a possible presidential candidate in 2008, said Sunday that the GOP today is very different party from the one when he first voted Republican.

"First time I voted was in 1968 on top of a tank in the Mekong Delta," said Hagel, a Vietnam veteran. "I voted a straight Republican ticket. The reason I did is because I believe in the Republican philosophy of governance. It's not what it used to be. I don't think it's the same today."
-Yahoo news

What a clown.

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Bullocks conspiracy

I removed Eugene Bullock's (excuse me, Volokh's) blog from my blogroll the other day because I couldn't get out of my mind all of the idiotic apologists for gun-violence exhibiting their embarrassingly absurd arguments on the topic. The blog itself is replete with various ass-kissing quislings and other "conservative intellectuals" posing as, well, intellectuals when really what is being exhibited is nothing of the sort. I was pleased to read a brief segment in Crooked Timber, which is usually a boring and tedious blog, taking him on regarding another topic. It seems that my first impressions of him and his entourage was probably correct; a reasonably smart guy blinded by his prejudices able to formulate cogent enough arguments that people accept uncritically.

Um, this is the guy who once emitted a “thought experiment” in the form of “What if the theocrats are right, and gays really do ‘recruit’?” Correct? And I’m supposed to be surprised that he’s coughed up another gob of ugliness in the service of contrarianism, or of boldly going where no thinker has dared to go before, or something?

What’s really depressing/infuriating is that this is what passes for courageous thinking for so many people these days: What if the shared values that we take for granted are just so many P.C. liberal pieties that have rammed down our throats willy-nilly? Is torture really such a bad thing if the people being tortured are super-mega-evil? Was slavery really so bad? Do gay people really deserve equality under the law? What if straight white guys tend to own and run most of the world because they deserve to? Follow that path long enough and look where we end up: Face it honey, the only thing you’ve got against “sexual harassment” is that you might—God forbid—actually enjoy it!

“Stupid” is one word for it, Belle, but I don’t think it does it justice.

Crooked Timber

This is funny

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The hardest bar exam

After reading the numerous debates about which state has the hardest bar exam, and of course, wanting to believe that I have taken, if not passed, the hardest one, I googled it. (ahhhh....a new verb) To my surprise, I discovered the hardest bar exam is in fact the JAPANESE bar exam. Only three per cent of all applicants pass.

A society that prizes harmony over all almost anything it would seem does not appreciate the need for lawyers. In fact, there is reportedly a SHORTAGE of lawyers in Japan. Estimates range, for a nation of about a hundred million people (roughly, I'm going by memory) that there are only 20,000 attorneys. American has one million.

I have read observations that state that Japan has historically maintained social order by denying recourse to most people. This would portray American society as a society in which the common people have greater freedom in their ability to use the government to protect themselves. The other side of that is obviously the abuse of the system so commonly the subject of newspaper articles ridiculing the legal profession and the process itself; that Americans think too much of their rights and not enough of their obligations to others.

Friday, August 04, 2006

This is what

the bar exam feels like...


Thursday, August 03, 2006

My life begins part two

Now that I have time to exercise and sit in the sun, I'm even cracking a book or two. I have always loved reading, and the greatest tragedy for a law student is how, at least in my case, I began to dislike it. Or at least avoid it. My eyes had a tough time reading the hundreds of pages each week. I managed to read newspapers, or internet news, or an occasional article, but I avoided recreational reading.

Something happens to you when you actually enjoy reading and lose it. YOu lose your inspiration. There used to be this world that was open to you, a world of adventure, of far away places, of intrigue. It has been said that the greatest tragedy in the life is not death itself, but what dies within while one lives. I sat there down at the newstand cafe and perused the economist and then the New Yorker. The economist held my interest, and I briefly read an article about Hollywood's top lawyer, who I concluded was probably a crook and an asshole, but who really liked Shakespeare. Anyone who has written books on Shakespeare can't be all bad.

Then I went across the street to the bookstore. There was some time in my life when I eagerly went through the titles and imagined having enough money to buy them; sometimes I spent my paltry teacher pay on them. But as I went through the titles, avoiding the fiction and focusing on the current events and politics, a feeling of disappointment came over me. There was, in short, nothing I wanted to read.

I came across a book about the rise of the religious right. Yawn....a book about depression...depressing....a book about a guy who had five careers...that might have been funny, but glib humor seems passe to me now. I opened a book by an NPR commentator and got through a passage about a cop getting his testicles shot off, then an ugly hooker. I wonder how far I would get with a passage about a female police officer being shot in the vagina.

There was the usual smattering of what I refer to as "female fiction". The rise of affluent, literate housewives has given birth to a whole generation of really awful writing, the reviews of which read something like "a story of a mother and a daughter in a northern New England Town, a deep, dark secret..." blah blah blah....Good writing transcends the audience divisions. So much of east coast writing is targeted at that audience that I fear really fantastic writers have gone the way of really fantastic musicians. They get the Janis Joplin and we get Brittany Spears. They get Edward Abbey and we get....Arundutie Roy or whatever the generic Indian Chick's name is.

There was a story about a man in Australia who managed to get himself published by impersonating a female aborigine. That was telling; it proved in no uncertain terms that the identity of the author now rules the day. The story isn't chosen by it's own power; it's chosen by who is connected to it.

I know now what at least one of my new goals in life is; it's to find a book that speaks to me.

Any suggestions?

My life begins...again...

It's pretty hard to power down after a marathon like this one. The initial exhaustion lasted a few days, and then I began to revisit my health. I now seriously question the health effects of this profession, and the life choices people make. There is no profession, and no amount of money, that is worth being fat and unhealthy over. A short and glorious existence or a long and unremarkable one...that is an easy choice to make. At least for me. It amazes me the physical condition I was once in. I could jog in one hundred degree heat...hike for hours in death valley, alone and unafraid. Hike into the Sierras for days at a time. Now I'm fearful to be away from my sleep apnea machine, and even jogging around the track makes me cautious. That is no way to live.

I continue to do an autopsy on the test; a bad idea, with no upside. is a very unhappy place, filled with a lot of really tiny, insecure people. I belong there. In any case, a few issues seem to have arisen as of late. The first one was DRR on the wills and trusts test, which I missed but agree was pretty clearly there. I discussed it in a sentence without really mentioning it by name, so I might get some points. Another was the Professional Responsibility issues on Pt B. There was a disproportionate fee splitting agreement which may have created an unreasonable fee. I was fortunate to speak with several people who remembered their bar review course mentioning the fact that these PR issues pop in PT's. I found it written in barbri, barpassers, and even the Bar itself that you are supposed to do that. Remarkably, even in the face of these experts, there are those who still argue it wasn't there. We will find out sometime. I don't expect to eat crow.
There was another group who continue to argue that the con law essay had a zoning regulation. Of course, in order to have a zoning regulation, you have to have a zone where certain speech is allowed, and another place where it isn't. The ordinance prohibited it in the whole county, so the line of cases these folks relied upon didn't apply. One fellow even cited, RAV, then backtracked, and then cited Renton, and stated the facts of renton incorrectly. It is absolutely stunning how people continue to defend positions that have disintegrated underneath them for the sake of their foolish pride. I feel better all the time about the level of competition I face in the legal field.
Of course, the bar probably doesn't really care that much about whether you got the law wrong. If you line up the law with the facts, they will probably pass you. I'm stunned by the number of applicants who honestly believe their conclusions matter.

In any case, doing an autopsy is foolish, and anyone who took that test and says it was 'easy' when they haven't got their scores (The California essays are reportedly the hardest in the nation, or at least graded the hardest) is whistling in the dark. When you have very intelligent people who go to top schools failing at a ratio of one in ten (at least) this test isn't a mere formality. Failure for anyone is a real possibility.