Thursday, June 12, 2014

On Iraq

Peon did not support the war in Iraq.  She was clear on that.  She attended demonstrations against it.  She had read books on Iraq during the First Iraq War and knew that Iraq was very complicated.  She did not like Saddam, who delighted in knocking off members of the Iraqi Communist Party and other leftists, as well as, so far as she could see, anyone else he didn't like.  In the run-up to the Second Iraq War, she also read up and found that it was unlikely that the Iraqis had any weapons of mass destruction.  In particular, the nuclear weapons program was dead. Why?  Because nuclear weapons require a lot of money and the Iraqis didn't have any money.  See, so easy.  Doesn't require any "inside" information--just a little bit of thinking.

And Peon was more than a little irritated when, after killing lots of people and spending lots of money, VSPs decided that the war had been A Bad Idea.  How about illegal?  How about immoral?

But now that the government we left in Iraq appears to be collapsing, the VSPs want to drop some more bombs.  More shock and awe?  More precision-guided weaponry?  They've got to be kidding.  C'mon guys (and they are almost all guys), you screwed up. You made a hash of it.  You made Saddam look good, and that took some doing.  No amount of bombing is going to fix this mess.  Instead go off to one of those fancy resorts and do a goodly amount of soul-searching.  Think about the mess you made and resolve, over lobster and fois gras, not to do it again.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Summer Reading

This year I'll be participating in the local library's summer reading program.  Once upon a time this was a program to keep kids reading over the school break, but adults expressed interest and so it came to be that adults were allowed to participate.  There are prizes, but I'm really more interested in tracking my reading and forcing myself to read some serious books.  It's okay to have a lot of trashy mysteries on the list, but I should read some books that require more attention than watching TV.  I'm not counting garden books, as those are mostly pictures and it's okay to do picture books if you're five, but not if your less than a year from sixty.

In figuring out what to read, I'm going to look at some classics that I've somehow never gotten round to reading.  First up will be Jack Kerouac's On the Road, which I should have read as a young person, but never did.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Roger Dickinson Just Lost Two Votes

Our local State Senate race has two major candidates, both presently serving in the State Assembly.  I had planned to vote for Roger Dickinson over Richard Pan, simply because Dickinson was one of 13 to vote for a bill that would have protected tenants against nefarious lenders who were trying to evict tenants in foreclosed properties.  But by voting for AB 1513 he's lost all his tenants' rights' cred and then some.

AB 1513 takes away the tenant protections of the Homeowners' Bill of Rights.  It allows a landlord to evict tenants who are allegedly "squatting" without benefit of court hearing, simply on the declaration of the landlord. The tenant has no way to show that she is a legitimate tenant except by obtaining a statement from the landlord who is trying to evict her.  Huh?

The five of you who actually read my blog (three of whom are relatives) will recall that I have been dealing with tenants in foreclosed properties for a long time (since the end of 2007) and have heard from legions of tenants who suffered abuse at the hands of of lenders, as well as abuse by those who purchased foreclosed properties.  Many of them had not done their due diligence--and didn't know that the former owner had rented out the property.  Some of them were just ill-behaved, and thought they could frighten the tenants out of the house.

Worse than just general bad behavior, a tenant with a signed lease has no recourse unless the landlord agrees that the resident is a tenant.  So a foreclosing lender or the purchaser of a foreclosed property can claim that the resident is not a legal tenant, evicting the tenant within 48 hours. Tenants with oral leases are in even more trouble, although in other circumstances, they could prove they were legal tenants.  (Evidence might include utility bills addressed to the tenant, a driver's license showing the address as the tenant's residence and so on.)  But the local constabularies didn't want to have to take on what is essentially a judicial function (examining and verifying documents), so they did the quick and dirty, and assumed that landlords were upstanding citizens and tenants are a bunch of low-lifes who deserve what we get.

And of course, there are no consequences for landlords who evict tenants wrongfully. Judges in California are loath to give tenants damages in disputes with their landlords, and the Legislature has not seen fit (of course) to compensate tenants who might be harmed by, say, requiring that a landlord who was found to have evicted tenants pay them a substantial sum in compensation--I'm thinking in six figures to the left of the decimal point.

There's sure to be Green running.  Vote Green.

Addendum 5/18/14:  Oh, my dear comrades, it gets worse.  Here's how and why. Deutsche Bank lost a case.  In the case at hand the tenant was unceremoniously evicted by Deutsche Bank's loan servicer, Ocwen, with no notice and with the co-operation of the local constabulary.  (The horror of a marriage between Ocwen and Deutsche Bank is a subject for another day, but suffice it to say that the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau has gone after Ocwen for its dirty dealing.  Should you want to read up on their bad behavior toward homeowners, go here.)  Would anything stop a foreclosing lender from simply signing the statement that there were no tenants at the property?  That's right--help the banks continue their bad behavior.  Maybe we should just call it the Deutche Bank bill.

In addition, now that property values are moving up, lenders are looking to take back properties, many of them investor-owned, that weren't worth the trouble when the market collapsed.  But they don't want to have to deal with, you know, tenants who live at the property.

Oh, there's no Green running.  Just Vote No.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Happy Birthday to Me

I'll be 59 tomorrow.

Thomas Friedman is Always an Idiot

And he demonstrates this again here, where he interviews someone who says that people who major in English don't have the analytic thinking skills of those who major in computer science.  But we know from actual studies--you know, the kind that require analysis--that the only college students who gain in critical thinking skills (analysis being one of those) are those who major in fields like literature, history and philosophy.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Spring Plants

Spring started springing a month ago, but I haven't been posting lately, so I am behind. I've discovered that my plant palette has changed since we moved to Sacramento from Oakland.  I'm not sure if it's the greater difficulty of getting things to live here or that my plant interests have changed.  My garden is much more deciduous, both because some plants that had leaves year round in Oakland die back here, and because I've developed a weird interest in trees.  I have five Japanese maples and a redbud in pots.  And I took up lilac and mock orange, both of which are deciduous.  (In fact, someone recommended against lilac, which looks like a bunch of dead sticks when it loses its leaves.  I think of him all winter--every time I look at the bunch of dead sticks that is my lilac.)  I've also developed a thing for deciduous azaleas and have two of them.

This means that Spring springs more than it did in Oakland.  My yard goes from a sad, sorry, neglected space to a leafy, green hodgepodge in less than a month.  

This is my Apple Blossom kurume azalea.  It bloomed all at once and then lost its flowers just as quickly.

I meant to cut back this pelargonium before it bloomed, but didn't get around to it, and it started blooming on the leggy bits, of course, so I live with a leggy plant.

And my baby redbud had some redbuds this year.

And one of the laceleaf Japanese maples.  This one is about three years old.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Rent Control and Boston

Having control of the press is a good thing for those who control the press.  It means that you get to write whatever silliness you want over and over, and no one ever contradicts you.  One of my personal favorites is that eliminating rent control will fix the housing market.  Yes, when tenants are at the mercy of the not-so-free market and the rentier class can maximize its profits, all will be well.  Builders will build, landlords will improve their properties etc. etc.

One wonders then why the industry doesn't point to the example of Boston, where rent control was ended by state initiative in the mid-1990s.  Rents increased by 75% over the course of the next decade.  But little rental housing was constructed.  The industry had an answer for that one.  It was the housing bubble, and developers prioritized condos.  Then the housing bubble popped and nothing was built.  But now we have a resurgence in rental construction, yes, for the luxury market.  Developers are hoping to push rents to the next level.  In fact, they've built so much luxury housing that there's a glut of stainless steel appliances and granite countertops.

Now I suppose we should await the trickle-down.  Don't hold your breath.