But I’ll repeat myself, at the risk of being crude

There is a lot going on in my life in real time that seems to go back to the same theme.  Make a decision and stick with it.  Pick one and stick with it.  And if you are one of the many who has been up in my grill this week, trust me, you’re one of many, this ain’t personal.  It’s a theme.

I’m working on a new marketing plan with the other agent that works for my broker.  We decided to do this last year and then got ridiculously busy.  Now we’re moving forward.  My partner in crime had been telling me about a program that they used at her previous employer and how she wanted to implement it.  We couldn’t get it together last year and I decided to just move forward for the sake of my business.  The problem was there are 8 million books out there on how to sell real estate.  It’s just like diets.  It’s a whole industry selling those books.  Because I’m a cantankerous old school type, I picked an older more proven book.  I think it’s in it’s 20th printing or something.  I’ve read through it and I’m implementing it.  My Partner in Crime called a few weeks ago and said let’s sit down and implement this.  We sat down and I had an idea of what I wanted to do.  As it turns out, her old office was using the exact same program.  It cut our ramp up time in half by being accidentally on the same page.  But the point is, out of the 8 million books out there, most of them work.  If you do them.  They don’t work if you just read them and go do what you’ve always done.  We’ve got a third gal involved who has also implemented this program before but she doesn’t want to sell, she wants to project manage.  When we start rolling, she gets a taste.  That works for me.  It’s a very exciting time, but the real lesson is to pick one.  Any one.  Just pick one.

On the subject of health and weight loss I make no bones about my preference for Body for Life.  It works.  But you have to do it.  It does work if you just read the book, you actually have to do what the book says to do and then it works.  And then you have to stick with it.  But we don’t want to.  The entire weight loss industry counts on no one having any follow through.  If we ran out and bought one book and all got healthy, what would the other 7 million authors do for a living?  Same with the real estate books.  If we all went out, bought one and became millionaires what would that do to the industry?  I picked Body for Life.

Speaking of industries relying on our lack of follow through, it’s time to tee off on my gym.  Asshats.  We all know that I have numerous Powerlifting records.  Just in case you don’t quite understand what that means, I hold over 30 records in different weight classes and age classes in different organizations.  Using a Wilkes formula, I’ve been top twenty in the country several times and top ten sometimes. I’m badass.  To be that badass you need to get your bad self to the gym.  When I moved up to The Farm I left Bally’s which was near my last house but had undergone two bankrupcies in the short seven years that I worked out there.  I tried out the gym at the end of the street.  At the time it was called Mavericks.  They guy who ran it was a train wreck in his own right.  In the year that I belonged the whirlpool never worked a single day.  The sauna occasionally worked and the steam room was largely non-functional.  About half of the toilets flushed and no one dared shower there.  But the weight room was well laid out and they played decent music.  It was also the last place where independent trainers could work.  Those guys were hard core and got their people into shape.  And there weren’t a lot of rules.  It was sort clean but not really.  You could smell the mold in the ladies locker room.  But I could lift like a big dog and that made me happy.

Last year the club was purchased by a big conglomerate.  A bunch of wankers really.  They promised us nothing but upgrades.  Well, it’s a year later and they’re almost done, but in the last year we have endured months of cement dust, drywall dust and chemical fumes.  Every morning for the last three months it has been a treasure hunt to find the equipment.  Some stuff was stored on half of the basketball court for months.  Yet, by the end of the year they pretty much finished off most of the main lifting areas and it was pretty nice.  They put in a cardio theatre upstairs and it was pretty nice too.  They built a new ladies locker room and if they’d clean it that would be nice too.  But that’s not what today’s story is about.  Of course my buddies are all the lunkheads who go heavy.  We bench big bars with big loads.  And the boys are all my pals.  One guy I found out lives around the corner and has a 5 month old Doberman puppy.  This little pointy earred devil is adorable.  How do I know where he lives?  He saw me walking by and came running out of his house to say hello.  That’s the kind of guys who lift there.

Last week, some of the ladies who are working on their New Years Resolutions, if you can’t hear the contempt in my tone, you should, it’s there, came down to the front desk and complained about one of the boys making too much noise.  He was deadlifting.  He was grunting like someone going heavy would, and it made a bunch of noise when the plates hit the ground.  Well, duh.  Lord knows I make a ton of noise deadlifting 225 for reps.  It’s noisy, but it’s a freaking gym fergodsakes.  Nope, my mistake.  It’s now a “health club”.  What this means is that the corporation doesn’t give a crap if anyone actually gets healthy or not.  What they care about is sending the newbies to “miseryville”, which is a place that their sales staff is taught to evoke for the purpose of selling memberships and nothing else.  Miseryville is a place where all your problems and lack of health are stacked up like lumber.  Then the helpful sales person offers the solution to all these problems, it’s a membership to this club.  Voila!  Just like the airlines, they oversell the space knowing that by Valentine’s Day all of the New Years Resolutioners will be gone and all that will be left is a fraction of those that they sold earlier in the year.  Their business model depends on it.  I was very clear when I re-upped.  I am a Powerlifter.  I am a world record holder.  As a matter of fact that trophy sitting over there is mine.  And I do not suffer fools lightly.  Take me to miseryville and I will cut out your heart with a dull blade and feed it to my dog.  That’s great they chirped.

It’s now a year later, and I’m hearing that the edict has come down that this is not a place to do Olympic style lifts.  I’m just wondering when the little piece of fluff comes down and tells me I can’t go heavy….what kind of medical procedure will be used to remove that 225lb barbell from her ass?

Did you really just read all of that?  Well then you deserve a dog picture.  Rita sleeps like this.  I think it’s so she can’t hear the screaming of the lambs.

1-16 Rita sleeping

I’ve stared straight into the sun

File this under “That’s going to leave a mark” in the “Reasons why the Wine Dog is a Wise Dog” file.  The PR Newswire blares “Fidelity National Financial, Inc. Issues Statement Refuting Significant Inaccuracies and the Omission of Important Facts in New York Time Article“.   What New York Times article you say?  Click here for hanky panky and shenanigans.  Stuff like this is what’s wrong with business in America.  Just a reminder, of the 20-40% cuts in wages the employees of FNF received over the last three years, no one’s salary has been restored.  No one’s commission structure has been reinstated.  And Bill posted $.62 3rd Quarter EPS to Wall Street.  His corporate gods have been satisfied on the backs of his workers once again.  Winos, this man should not be allowed in the wine business.  You are laying down with the Devil and bad things are going to happen.  Mark my words.  Boycott Foley Family Wines.  Be careful, we’re not talking about Robert Foley Vineyards.   Robert Foley is truly family owned and he may very well be the God of Cabernet.  Personally I really like his Charbono too.  Enjoy Robert Foley wines all day long, boycott Foley Family Wines.

robert foley

It’s a damned fine Charbono.  I wrote about this last year, but we had this with NY strip steaks with a bit of roquefort on top and a red wine reduction.  It was a perfect pairing.

Back to business, I ran across this youtube which was part of the Leading@Google series.  The speaker is Bill George.  He spoke on October 22, 2008.  Before the Presidential election.  It’s an hour long but I high recommend getting a cuppa joe and listening to the whole thing.  And yes, FNF is hierarchtical.

[youtube J0mXxkLWobk]

‘Cause falling in love is a pilgrim’s sport

I have some wine reviews, but it was a long weekend so it’s going to take a few days to get them reconstructed written.  I made the very critical mistake of giving the dogs fresh bones on Thursday.  I am still paying for that this morning.  Rita had a little issue Friday morning, the SpotBot took care of that.  Bubba has been having issues ever since.  Including this morning.  I knew I didn’t want to carpet this place.  I really don’t want to be changing it up this quickly, but sometimes carpet just sucks.  Or carpet combined with a sick dog.  He’s been on white rice for a day and a half now (as soon as I realized he wasn’t going to get past this on his own) and he is slowly getting better.  That dog has the touchiest tummy I’ve ever had to deal with in a dog.

So today I have the Wine Dog’s Rules for Marketing.  Read it, know it, live it.

Halloween is on October 31st.  You may start advertising and marketing for Halloween no earlier than my birthday, September 26.  Market your little hearts out after then.  Upon the completion of Halloween you may put out your turkeys, pumpkin pies and cranberry sauce.  Stack it high and sell it pilgrim, but not until the werewolves and vampires have been put away.  On the day after Thanksgiving AND NOT A GODDAMN MINUTE BEFORE you may begin your Christmas marketing.  Period.  You know I don’t even like that you assholes market Christmas, but I’ll secede Christmas marketing is a necessary evil to the retail industry.  Have your friggin’ Santa arrive before Thanksgiving and I may not be able to curb the urge the cap the fat bastard.

grinch

And you reason for the season wankers are next.  That is all.

Well there was mutiny in Lagos, aboard the mean ship Skondi

[youtube cLCSnbN1lRI]

I did a lot of work for these guys in Oakland. They made a positive difference in some very rough neighborhoods. The talking heads at Fox disgust me. I just want to grab them by the scruff of their necks and rub their noses in it. Turn off Fox. I don’t watch their news, I don’t watch their shows and I don’t watch their football games. Just because you say the same thing over and over again doesn’t make it true. It just makes you a moron.

Did you know Rachel Maddow was from Castro Valley? Yup.

billandted460

Check out this blow by blow coverage of the Bill and Ted’s Excellent Ponzi Scheme. I’ve read some very interesting stuff about how Paulson handled the distribution of the TARP money. Here’s Teddy’s letter to Paulson. Asshat. And now all that’s left is a bitter pill.  I’m shocked that anyone associated with LandAmerica would name a company BackInTheBlack.  Seriously.  It ought to be called BetterDeadThanRed.  So whoever UnitedTech is, they just got the Default Services and BackInTheBlack.  I call bullshit.

There is a lot of speculation about the shadow inventory. Some folks don’t even believe it exists. Here’s some helpful hints:

  1. You can’t modify a loan if there isn’t enough income to qualify for it
  2. The banks aren’t taking property back right now
  3. Foreclosureradar.com is wrong.

Why aren’t the banks taking property back? Simple. They can’t post a loss and keep the Federal Government off their asses. So they don’t take back the properties. If they don’t take it back they don’t have to post the loss on that asset. No loss equals no loss. Equals big bonuses can flow to executives, the Government leaves them alone and it’s business as usual. Keep in mind, Paulson forced nine banks to take TARP money. Those guys paid it back as quickly as they could because no one wanted to end up like Rick Wagoner. It has nothing to do with anything more than a bunch of spoiled brats trying to hang on to the corporate teat that they suckle from. Showing any more loss this year will send up the red flags, so these guys are leaving these assets out there. Every day I hear another story about a guy who’s been living in a house and hasn’t made a payment in a year, two years, 18 months. There’s a ton of them. In the last two days I heard about two in Alamo. One each day. Really. It’s that bad.

What’s that smell?  Dinty Moore.  Holy crap they stunk up the place.  How much longer can they bleed money like this?  $23.7 million dollar loss.  Ouch mon.  Over at the Bloodless Empire, they posted profits of $.59 per share.  Nice work if you can get it.  Poor Parker Kennedy had to deal with those pesky employee separation and lease termination costs of $4 million.  Yup.  One made money the other didn’t.

But we all live with the scars we choose

We’re all singing “Happy Days are here again” right? Everyone has had their salaries restored to pre-mortgage meltdown rates, right? Your bonuses and commissions have all been restored by Mr. Foley right? Everybody is holding hands and singing “We are the World” at the Evil Empire, right? Oh let’s just quote the earnings call. During the earnings call Al Stinson said:

Open order counts continue to accelerate in October, as we averaged nearly 10,000 open orders for the first two weeks of October. We focused on moderate head count reductions during much of the third quarter eliminating about 850 positions. Despite a 16% sequential drop in closed orders and $101 million or 7% reduction in total title revenue, we were still able to generate pretax title profits that only decline about $13 million and an 8.9% pretax margin that was only a 30 basis points or 3% sequential decline from the second quarter.

Yep, Bill lopped off another 850 heads and turned in Q3 EPS of .32 per share to the Captains of Industry. Nice job asshat.

The Evil Empire continues to balance the books and bring profits to his Wall Street lords on the backs of the employees. Splendid. Restore your staff’s salaries, commissions and bonuses and THEN post profits for Wall Street. Any question that Bill Foley is a reprehensible character? Any question about his morally bankrupt business practices? Ask one of his employees, they’ll tell you.

You see a little bit of a food fight broke out when my pals over at AWB picked up on my pounding of the drums. They get why I have called for a boycott of Foley Wine Group. But they took it on the chin because the wine consuming public, or maybe it’s just a couple of morons that commented over there, don’t get why Bill Foley must be stopped. The thing in the Wine Spectator article that just jumps out at me is how Bill never said “I bought Sebastiani because I wanted to preserve a 104 year old tradition.” Nothing like that. He bought Sebastiani so that he would have more control over distribution. He never said and doesn’t give a crap about what kind of wine they make or the people who make it. It’s about distribution. So when some little wanker says “Oh he saved Sebastiani”, I say get a clue. Sebastiani’s time had run. Businesses have a life, and maybe Sebastiani was at the end of it’s life and needed to be laid to rest. Not to be further bastardized by a corporate raider. Mark my words, if he’s not stopped by the consumers, he will irrevocably change the wine industry forever, but not for the better.

Old Repulsive released earnings last week too. Well, earnings isn’t really the right word. The loss per share after an accounting adjustment was .20. They paid a .17 cent dividend per share so essentially they’re pretty close to stopping the bleeding. More importantly, they laid off less staff and retained more long term employees than any of the other title companies. They acted as if they knew business was cyclical and they had saved for that rainy day. They continue to behave in a much more admirable manner than any of their competitors. They have their problems, that’s for sure, but they don’t seem to bow to their Wall Street gods like Bill and Parker Kennedy do and here at PBE that’s a good thing.

The Bloodless Empire and Dinty Moore will be reporting on Thursday of this week. I will guess that one posts earnings the other doesn’t. Anyone want to venture a guess? I know, that was a softball. Speaking of softballs, this guy was truly the diameter of a softball. I saw him walking across the street, couldn’t believe it so I pulled over and snapped a picture, since I was up in Round Hill Country Club checking on one of our listings anyway and had the camera.

10-26tarantula

some strange music draws me in, makes me come on like some heroin

I was talking to a client of mine yesterday. We were talking about his work. There is a direct correlation between human stupidity and his workload. I asked him how that was for him. He said “You can’t teach stupid”. No, you can’t.

From: Simpson, Sammy
Sent: Tuesday, June 30, 2009 12:26 PM
To: Kikuchi, Kenji; Bashore, Rick; Hovey, Loretta; Adams, Sandy; Martin, Stephen; Reynolds, James (Glendale); Rodriguez, Bobby L.; Burton, Carol; Kalinowski, Ellen; Simpson, Malina
Subject: RE: Reply

Hello to All,

I am hoping that you will all support our decision to not support Property ID in the future due to their widely advertised derogatory opinion of the “Large Title Company” efficiency. Remember their correspondence was generated throughout the whole of the Real Estate Professionals in the State of California.

Respectfully,

Sammy

S.A.M. (Sammy) Simpson, V.P., C.S.E.O.
Western Regional Director of Escrow & REO Operations
Senior Escrow Underwriter – Regional ABA & Joint Ventures
Fidelity National Financial, Inc.
18302 Irvine Blvd., Suite 100, Tustin, CA 92780
Cell:(714) 269-2371 Fax: (714) 289-3368
sammy.simpson@fnf.com

This electronic mail message and any attachments are intended only for the use of the addressee(s) named above and may contain information that is privileged, confidential and exempt from disclosure under applicable law. If you are not an intended recipient, or the employee or agent responsible for delivering this e-mail to the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any dissemination, distribution or copying of this communication is strictly prohibited. If you received this e-mail message in error, please immediately notify the sender by replying to this message or by telephone. Thank you.

From: Simpson, Malina
Sent: Tuesday, June 30, 2009 11:22 AM
To: John Cote; Steven Jones; MMavromatis@propertyid.com; bchampagne@propertyid.com
Cc: Simpson, Sammy; Kikuchi, Kenji; Bashore, Rick; Hovey, Loretta; Adams, Sandy; Martin, Stephen; Reynolds, James (Glendale); Rodriguez, Bobby L.; Burton, Carol; Kalinowski, Ellen
Subject: FW: Reply

We certainly take no issue as to your support or non support of AB 957 however the implication by Property ID that we large title companies provide substandard service is beyond offensive to all of us; and to realize that your company has mass mailed your distasteful opinion brings cause for our suspension of support for PID.

Sincerely,
Malina
REO Project Manager
(714) 906-8778 Cell
Malina.Simpson@fnf.com

“Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

From: Mailana Mavromatis [mailto:MMavromatis@propertyid.com]
Sent: Tuesday, June 30, 2009 10:48 AM
To: Simpson, Malina
Cc: John Cote; Steven Jones
Subject: Reply

Hello Malina,

Thank you for your email, and per your request you have been removed from future emails.

Please accept my sincere apology if you found this email offensive in any way. PID did not create, author, introduce or even know about AB 957 until several real estate agents called me personally and asked me to support it. PID has been a supporter of AB 957 because over the years thousands of real estate agents throughout the State of California have expressed frustration about not being able to offer services (including PID reports) to their clients because banks have “exercised complete control” in REO’s. AB 957 merely allows for negotiation of services – a liberty that the vast majority of California real estate agents have complained is currently being denied in REO transactions.

The practices that AB 957 has been designed to prevent have already put many local, independent, California real estate related service providers out of business. With the exception of a tiny handful of strong, independent natural hazard disclosure companies, home warranty, and independent title companies, many local, independent, California real estate related service providers have closed their doors because of the practices of bank-controlled REO’s.

Thank you for taking the time to email me your thoughts and I sincerely hope that you will continue to successfully thrive in this real estate market.
Best regards,
Mailana

Mailana G. Mavromatis-Broumand
Vice President and Legal Counsel
Property I.D.
1981 North Broadway, Suite 325
Walnut Creek, CA 94596
T (925) 256-8800 Ext. 107
F (925) 256-0169
www.propertyid.com
This message contains information that may be confidential and privileged. Unless you are the addressee (or authorized to receive for the addressee), you may not use, copy or disclose to anyone the message or any information contained in or attached to the message. If you have received the message in error, please advise the sender by reply e-mail to mailana@propertyid.com, and delete the message.

Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail

From: Simpson, Malina [mailto:malina@ticortitle.com]
Sent: Tuesday, June 30, 2009 12:16 AM
To: Mailana Mavromatis; Brad Champagne
Subject: RE: Congradulations, your support of AB 957 is being heard!

Please take me off your mailing list as we will no longer be using the services of Property ID.
Sincerely,
Malina

From: Brad Champagne [mailto:bchampagne@propertyid.com]
Sent: Friday, June 26, 2009 3:05 PM
To: Simpson, Malina
Subject: Congradulations, your support of AB 957 is being heard!

Congratulations!
Notwithstanding the strong opposition by First American Title and Fidelity Title, Property I.D. is pleased to report that AB 957 successfully passed the Senate Judiciary Committee last Tuesday, June 23. Congratulations to all of you who have taken the time to support this important bill. Your voice is being heard!
The purpose of AB 957 is to help California real estate agents regain some control over the choice of services in REO transactions. This will enable both real estate agents and consumers to get the finest local services for their transactions, not substandard service which only benefits the bottom line of banks and large title companies.
Your support sends a loud and clear message to those opposing of AB 957, the two largest title companies in the state,; First American Title and Fidelity Title, that you feel the choice of real estate services should be kept where it belongs with the real estate agent and their clients and not the banks or big title companies. Please join Property I.D., other independent service providers and real estate agents throughout California in continuing to support AB 957.

Sammy, did you just black ball Property ID? Back up the bus! Doesn’t Fidelity OWN a Natural Hazard Disclosure company? I feel a little like Keith Olbermann reenacting the Elizabeth emails. Let me help you and Malina out. Those pesky real estate agents, we hate those REO Centers in Southern California. That’s right. The staff at those big REO centers are rude and incompetent. And that’s just not me, I’ve actually had an executive with your company tell me that your operation was overloaded and not doing a very good job. Even your executive team thinks your service is substandard. I’m sorry that the truth offends you. I won’t infer it, I’ll say it outright. You treat us buyers agents like crap. You don’t return our phone calls and poo poo our requests. We hate it and we hate you. If we were standing in front of you, I dare say you would not treat us the way you do. As agents, we have to be responsive and give answers to our clients. It’s tough to do with the non-service we receive from REO centers.

And since when did a title company DIRECT the natural hazard report? I will be specifying Property ID from this point forward. You see, we’d like to do business with our local branch. We’d like to be able to call someone who knows us personally and treats us with dignity and respect. I support AB957. In many cases, those people are in branches of the very same big companies you think you’re defending. I’ve written the local branch of the very conglomerate you work for into every deal for two months now, just because I’d like to get my rep there a deal. She’s got nothing. My current escrows are split between Irvine or Rancho Cucumonga or some godforsaken hellhole where the rent and labor is cheap. So you aren’t helping the big company, you’re helping yourself while hurting our local economy. I support the Escrow Officer next door. I support the rep I see at the grocery store. In turn, they support my community. Many of my clients want to buy locally and support our local community. AB957 allows them to do that. So really, you’re embarrassing yourself. You two are not qualified to carry Ms Mavromatis’ Jimmy Choos.

So, how’s that dancing in the rain thing working for you this morning?

I’m just an animal looking for a home

Today’s post is like tapas. Little tasty plates.

[youtube 7upG01-XWbY]

I’m still following LandAmerica, for all you former employees. I’m sure a lot of you are as well. I will say it’s becoming a fascinating bankruptcy. And I’m spending a lot of time reading the Times Dispatch. This one’s kind of interesting to me. If I’ve got this right, they’re calling themselves a creditor in the 1031 case so they can get the $65 million back that they lent the exchange company when their Gordon Gecko scheme ran amok, but they don’t want any of the people who entrusted them with their money to get that back? Oh my. Really? The judge said that the 1031 agreement papers were clear that the money wasn’t going into a trust account. I’d sure like to see one of those agreements. And I wonder what the sales people were telling the clients victims.

Oh, by the way Stewart Title in Alaska is looking for a receptionist.

We’re going to start seeing a gazillion of these. A good number of people are going to prevail as well. It’s about time.

And if I were in Virginia today, I would be doing this. When I got the email, I was all hopeful they were in Napa or Sonoma, but not to be.

Last weekend I went to Artesa and posted up a crappy picture of the amazing view. Well, today, this came across my screen. Down around numero 9 is Artesa. Too bad I didn’t really like their juice. Although I now have to add Merus to the tour. Look at that! Wow! Actually the architecture is one of the things that drew me to Clos Pegase. They call it a temple among the vines. He’s also an art collector so there are some amazing pieces around the winery. $14 million worth of art in the tasting room alone.

And who ordered up yesterday’s ass weather? A high of 58 and 25 mph winds? Or you kidding me? It was May 23 dammit! Thank God I went back home and put on a windbreaker. I would have died out there. I should have put on a thermal too. Especially at the part where I went up the back side of Moraga and dropped down in the Oakland and then Berkeley. It was foggy at 2pm in May ferdogsakes. WTF? I will say, I learned that it’s not the climbing or the distance. It’s the heat. I rode strong all day yesterday. I was even strong coming up the hill to the house. Tired but strong. In a fit of delusional thinking I believe I’m ready for the Sierra Century. I know I’m probably going to get my ass handed to me because it’s going to be hot. The bike fitting made a ton of difference. It allowed me to better pull through the pedal stroke and use all of my legs, not just the quads. My feet didn’t bother me until around mile 80 which is huge and my hands didn’t spend much time being all asleep and tingly. There was a ton of climbing yestrerday. 4400 feet. There’s always this big difference between actual mileage and mapmyride.com mileage. Mapmyride.com said yesterday was going to be 94. My bike computer said 86. I was supposed to go 86 yesterday so that’s all good, but I turned the wrong way on Wildcat Canyon and had to ride about a mile back. Any road with “Canyon” or “Pass” in the title is fraught with peril, Wildcat Canyon was no exception so I was pretty pissed at myself for having to come back UP what I had just gone down. But I knew Park Hills was in Berkeley and I was supposed to be in Orinda and that just wasn’t right. I checked the map on the iPhone and there was no way out but to go back up the hill, so I did. So next week is a shorter ride and then the Sierra Century and that’s the last of the really stupid long rides, probably for this year. I want to work on getting faster and a better climber before I add distance again. I did make it to the junction without stopping yesterday. I’m very pleased about that. All and all a good strong ride.

Are immune to your consultations

It’s hard to know where to draw the line in all of this financial mess.  As citizens we all pay a portion of our income to the government for services and a safety net.  We shouldn’t expect the government to bail us out of our bad business decisions but we should hope to be caught if we’re falling.  Even the Obama Administration has added an emotional component to the housing situation, pleading for time to work this mess out so that people don’t lose their homes.  In most cases these people won’t become homeless, they’ll just no longer be homeowners.  There is a difference.  And it should be handled differently.

There will always be a sector who will try to take advantage of the situation and the government.  That’s human nature and I think those people should be tied to an electric fence for a while, but that’s another whole story.  For the most part, I think it’s in the banks best interest to work out what they can and take back the rest.  Just because someone’s underwater is no reason to take back the house or the loan.  Pay your damned note, you signed a contract, honor it.  If your financial situation hasn’t changed, you’re still making good money, no one’s lost their jobs and the payment hasn’t gone up, pay your damned note.  Business is cyclical and that includes real estate.  If you thought it was never going to adjust you’re an idiot.  Hopefully you’ve learned your lesson and will wait for the cycle to come back, because it will.  Land is the only thing in the world that is absolutely finite.  You can’t make any more land on earth without filling in the ocean.  On the other hand, those teaser rates killed people.  I saw them.  1% for the first year and then they adjusted to LIBOR plus.  I know what LIBOR is, but trust me, they didn’t.  Some asshat LO told them it was the most stable rate they could be tied to and they believed them.  London Inter Bank Offered Rate.  Here‘s a nice definition of it.  Yeah, interest rate swaps are based on it.  It’s really just more bullshit that no one understood.  Those notes are hopeless and those people are for the most part already out of their homes.  For everyone else, there’s options.  The banks need to get to the party and people need to get to the party.  If there’s some way for the people to make essentially a minimum payment on the home and keep it, negotiate it.  If they just can’t make it, they’ve got to move on.  It’s a building.  It’s a house.  Your home is where you are.  I’ll never understand falling in love with a piece of property.  Home is where my dogs are.

Notice how all of my solutions involved the parties to the transaction and none of them involved the government?  Well, that’s why I’m pissed off this morning.  General Motors got their safety net last fall and didn’t do a goddamn thing with it.  Same with AIG.  I think they both need to follow the natural course of the life of a corporation and go die.  Yep.  Let’em fail.  Be gone.  The last Detroit built automobile I ever bought sits in my garage.  It’s a 1966 Ford Mustang.  I think it’s the last decent machine that Ford built.  I used to own a 1974 Chevrolet Camero.  That was the last decent machine built by General Motors.  They did not understand where the world was going and they continued their horrendous business practices in spite of all the writing on the wall.  They deserve to die.  Let them.  They deserve to die for building and marketing the Hummer.  I’ll never understand this American obsession with bigger.  It’s a bully mentality to me.  I’m all about better.  Maybe it’s because I’m short.

In 1985 the German engineers at BMW sat down with a directive: Make the vehicles more fuel efficient.  And they did.  They can still build a ridiculous engine, like the one in the 760i or the 540i, but they also designed a hydrogen engine.  They have a luxury automobile that they’re looking to bring to market (I think it’s available at around $130k but I don’t have time to look this morning)  That’s the sort of vision that is missing from General Motors.  Can you name their hybrid?  Thought not.  Actually I know they have a $70k Cadillac Escalade that still gets crappy mileage.  There’s a total of eight.  Two pickup trucks three versions of the SUV, a Saturn SAV, a regular Saturn and a Malibu.  Bet you’ve only seen the SUV version and they get 22mpg after all of the chest thumping.  Essentially, a piece of shit.  And we’re supposed to bail these guys out.

I don’t believe we should be bailing out GM, but if we do, just like you and me, there are strings attached to government money.  One of those strings found it’s way around Rick Wagoner’s neck.  As it should be.  He hasn’t steered that company in the right direction so why on God’s green earth would be bail them out and let the same drunken sailor sail the ship?  One of the precepts of AA is that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.  If you’re going to take government money, we’re going to expect change.

Something interesting is happening out there.  Good Morning America plays at the gym while I’m doing my cardio.  Last week they had a Dave Ramsey one talking about personal finance.  Dude was a ball buster.  Here’s the video.  I know a lot of PBE readers have problems on the income side of the equation.  Later in the week I heard Michael Finney on KGO talking about the same thing.  His money guys were advising to get the income side in order and then get a 3-6 month emergency fund in order and THEN start attacking the credit cards.  I thought this was interesting, but here’s their logic.  If you get into trouble the credit card companies will lower your balances when they see something hinky.  So say if you’ve got a $10,000 limit on a Visa card with a low balance and it gets paid regularly.  Maybe you get behind on a Mastercard but keep that Visa in good shape because it’s your bailout card.  They may very well lower your credit limit on that Visa and squeeze you.  So they are advising instead of making debt elimination your priority, make the emergency fund your priority in this economy.  I can’t imagine the credit card companies like hearing that, but I should have spent less time trying to pay them and more time squirreling away nuggets.  They’ve all dropped their credit limits on me and every time I make a payment they drop the limit to the current balance.  So I have no wiggle room there.  So I’m holding off giving them what they want just in case something gets sideways on me.  My credit is demolished which is tough to take for someone who used to carry no credit card debt.  I was all cash until two years ago, with luckily a large emergency fund.  Now my European shoe size is probably a bigger number than my credit score and my emergency fund is having an emergency of it’s own.  Anyway, I thought the shift in thinking was interesting.  If that’s what the talking heads are telling the masses it’s not pretty for the credit card companies.

Onward and upward

Bubba came in the other day with a bloodied cut on his nose.  I don’t know if he cut it on something in the yard or if Rita got him.  Anyway, it seems to have scarred.  We will now call him Scarface.

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The Depression garden is coming along.  I have 50 little peat pots that are cruising along.  I’m taking them outside for a couple of hours a day now to start hardening them up.  I’ve got little tomatoes, squash, lettuce, spinach all going.  I forgot to start my peppers from the seeds I got from the house in Hayward.  Those were nasty ass peppers.

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I’ve got a training ride and then some other interesting things going on later on today.  We’ll see where it leads.

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I had to get a steam shovel just to dig my darlin’ out.

It’s the economy stupid

That little phrase was the brainchild of one of my favorite guys, James Carville. Those four defining words put an end to the first Bush Administration. They also best describe the mess he left, miniscule in comparison to the mess his idiot son left. Sometimes headlines are better than the stories, and this headline came across my desk a couple of days ago:

Wells chairman says public stress-test of banks is ‘asinine’

Now there’s a guy that knows about asinine. It could be argued, they wrote the book. After this week, it would be a tough sale. Tough, because the award for most asinine thing I’ve seen in public occurred over at AIG. Saturday Night Live got in trouble with their skit on Herb Sandler. NBC makes it very hard to find a copy of that little gem, but essentially, for those who didn’t see it or haven’t heard about it, SNL did a skit about World Savings (which really needs a PBE nickname, I’ll have to work on that) and underneath the actors playing Herb and Marion Sandler the caption read “People who should be shot”. I will not miss SNL this week, because I can think of 73 people in business who should be shot right now. Interestingly enough, they all work at AIG. The Bush Administration gave AIG $170 million in TARP money and they paid out $160 million in bonuses. They say those bonuses were contractual obligations. I say bullshit. How many PBE readers had contracts with Alliance Title Company? How many had contracts with Financial Title Company? And how many of you saw a penny of it? So I say bullshit. I say pull all 73 of them AND their board AND their attorneys who advised them that this was ok down to Wall Street this morning. Line their asses in front of the bull for all to see, because they should be shot. Their behavior is treasonist.

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They know they took money out of my pocket and your pocket and they gave it away in million dollar chunks. They are criminals and handle them appropriately. Has any body heard a single story about one of these shit stains saying “No, this is wrong, I can’t accept this bonus”? Nope. Not a one. String’em up and hang’em high. I’ve had it.

These jackholes walked away with million dollar bonuses, eleven of them were retention bonuses paid to people who don’t even work there any more. They are sitting comfortably while I’m robbing Peter to pay Paul. My internet connection is currently paid for, but my electric is dicey right now. My mortgage and the only credit card that’s still extending me credit are paid current, everything else is well into default. Two days ago I planted 50 seeds in hopes of growing a lot of my own food because I really can’t afford to buy much any more. I’ve canceled probably 3/4 of the services I used to have here and I’m hanging on to the few that are left because I don’t want to completely give up. The Feds are having their way with my checking account taking the taxes from 2007 I couldn’t afford to pay.  So this wanton waste of taxpayer money infuriates me.

I watched the Bernard Bernanke interview on 60 minutes last Sunday expecting to see a lackadaisical government wonk with a thin understanding of this mess. I found an amazingly thoughtful, intelligent man who fully understood what was happening. I remember what I said the other day about never hoping that Bush failed but rather that he dumbed into the right decision.  He did with Bernanke.  I found it interesting the underlying anger in his voice when he spoke of having to save AIG. Monday morning the top of his head must have blown completely off. As far as I’m concerned that’s it for AIG. I have a little tool that I just love this time of year. It’s called a “wood grenade”. You drive it into the heart of a log with a maul and it splits the logs perfectly.

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They need to drive one of these into AIG and be done with it. Or maybe just drive one into the hearts of each of the 73 AIG executives that took a million dollars worth of our money.

Which gets me to the actual point of today’s rant. All of us title folks are hurting. If you’re lucky enough to still have a job, you’re probably making around 50-65% of what you were three years ago. You’ve made a lot of the adjustments I have. Some of you have had to make much more severe adjustments and I know several who have lost their homes. I can think of several right now. One of our gentle readers who was fighting to save the family home took matters into his own hands and wrote a letter to the CEO of his bank. In his situation, there is a first and second on the house. They also have an unsecured note to the same bank. They skip the unsecured note because saving the house is paramount. The bank takes the money out of their son’s account because once upon a time his wife co-signed on the account. After much crying and gnashing of teeth, the bank gives the son back his money. He continues to struggle, goes through every credit counseling bullshit psuedo problem solver out there and finally has to miss a payment on the second. Praise Jesus! They’re now listening. Holy crap I can’t believe how these institutions are so good at pointing the pistol at and hitting their foot every time. As they work their way through the labyrinth of bullshit departments at this bank it becomes apparent that no one is paying attention. So being a good title guy, he finds the home address of not the CEO but the CEO’s son and sends a letter to him asking him to get it to his father and please help. Now, sons are fair game in this story because the same bank took the father’s obligation out of the son’s account. Oh! NO THEY AREN’T! Not when they’re the privileged class of the Financiers in this country. Security was called, police were called and they were paying attention. The man just wanted to save his house. I’m not going to print a copy of the letter, I have it. Our colleague has had enough bullshit in his life, but I will say, it is a business letter with no threats in it. It explains his situation and pleads for understanding and help. And the bank called the cops. This morning I hope I financial system does collapse. I hope our banks do collapse. I hope our government is fractured and I’d like to see California secede from the union and start all over because what we’re doing isn’t working.  In exchange for allowing us  to secede from the union, the Feds can keep Darrell Issa.