Friday, November 30, 2007
The one thing we all need to remember as we get down to true valuations in the NEO region is that all these properties just sitting and being ruined by the lenders' inattention sit adjacent to much of the world's fresh water supply. We need to take them back so that still more of our heritage assets are not wasted by those who just finished their unregulated feeding frenzy. Maybe it's even time to turn the tables.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
For me, philanthropy is not about giving back. It is about sharing a part of who you are, whether it is your wealth or your wisdom, experience, knowledge, talent, skill or something as simple as a smile.
Friday, November 16, 2007
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Further down in the post, note Callahan's mention of the Mortgage Servicing Fraud blog. Things are coming around fast. Be ready to react sensibly to save your community. Look to yourselves for the solutions, first of all. You don't have to look to others for help.
This is huge news, now that Boyko has entered the fray. We stand to make history here in Northeast Ohio, first with Jim Rokakis standing up, now with Chris Boyko jamming the cogs of the machine. The tide is turning. We can all benefit. Stay closely attuned, pay attention. Reporters from NYC, Washington, Great Britain, and France have been covering this way better than our local PD.
The eye of the foreclosure maelstrom may in fact be right here--we host many of the causes, and many of the solutions. Because we host so many of the causative factors--the perps--we may get no press coverage that is critical of them. Think about it. Connect the dots. Use the Cleveland+ technique, as in things like Latourette+DC lobbyist wife+GCP+Clinic+PD advertising = Blogging Jeff and Blogging Jill on the street, or Bruce Akers+Keybank+GCP+local Republican party = the current sad state of affairs.
Having fun yet? I am. It's not so much a blame game as it is a realistic assessment of linkages, and cause and effect, the stuff Valdis Krebs charts. You can use big charts, or, for mini-drills, just use the Cleveland+ technique, a sort of shorthand to insight and understanding. I like the campaign more and more. It was inspired, perhaps even more than the perps realized.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Anyway, back to Mailer. My friend Dan Cody from Wrentham, Massachusetts, had been hanging around Provincetown for a while, being introduced around to the arts colony there initially when he was hooked up with Ken Kesey, Neal Cassady, and the Merry Pranksters with the Magic Bus, so he knew Mailer well enough to get drunk with him, which everybody did back then. We were there to gawk at a new phenomenon of the late '60s, the Drag Queen's Ball (and Parade), and we spent the late morning and all afternoon getting fortified. This was not the sort of thing we felt we could view straight or sober. Somehow, as the day wore on, Mailer and I engaged and squared off across a small table. We proceeded to argue, speaking in tongues, it seems, like weird twins inventing their own language. Nobody else knew what we were talking about, but it was heated, from what I was told. I suppose it was about American literature, and the novel; I was still passionate about those things back then.
Over the years, I've followed his career; I first felt a kinship with him when I devoured The Naked and the Dead early in my college readings. I really liked his subsequent alpha-male idea about being in training to become "a sexual athlete." His later feuds-in-full with Tom Wolfe were hilarious, as in this piece from a Guardian article stemming from Wolfe's essay about The Three Stooges:
The Wolfe-Mailer feud is by far the oldest and cattiest of the three. As far back as 1989, Mailer remarked: "In my mind, there is something silly about a man who wears a white suit all the time, especially in New York."
Wolfe brushed off the sartorial attack, simply pointing out that "the lead dog is the one they always try to bite in the ass". To which Mailer quickly responded: "It doesn't mean you're the top dog just because your ass is bleeding."
Deep below the multiple layers of bitchiness, it is possible to pick out a substantive battle over the future of American novel.
Also over the years, it's been comforting to know he was around, still pugnacious, fighting the good fight, keeping things stirred up to the best of his ability, making his transitions just ahead of me, hanging out around Provincetown. Looking back on it all, he was one of his own better creations.
Now here comes that same old ritual and pageantry back at us with the pope's giving blanket permission to revive the Latin Mass locally, on an ad hoc basis. I wonder if we sixty-somethings will be pressed into service as altar boys again until the younger generations get up to speed? Et introibo ad altare Dei. Ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam.
As I skimmed over the NYT article, a name from the past popped up, and I had to go to my alumni directory to validate the fact that Father Baldovin and I were contemporaries at the College of the Holy Cross in the '60s, and we were. The fact that we had to attend mandatory daily Mass with sign-in cards for our first few years there may account for the fact that he seems less than enthusiastic about the promise of this Latin-Mass revival. Personally, I'm really looking forward to it, but I wasn't permanently emotionally scarred by the daily sign-in experience; I never took it too seriously and got a lot of napping and/or homework done.
If you need to brush up, or check it out for the first time, you can do so here.
Friday, November 09, 2007
again, they're getting set to talk the talk, to sing the sad foreclosure song; they know some of the words, but not the tune
Foreclosure Crisis: Shaping the Consumer Response
Learn more about one of this region's hottest topics at this informative conference, held Fri 11/9 starting at 8:30AM at Trinity Cathedral, 2230 Euclid Ave. The conference will feature national and regional experts, presenting strategies to combat predatory lending and payday lending. Among the speakers will include Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann. An overview of Governor Strickland’s Foreclosure Task Force will be also presented. Free parking is available off the E. 22nd St and Prospect Ave. entrance to the church. The conference agenda and registration form can be found at http://www.organizeohio.org. For more information call 431-6070.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
The one thing I haven't seen yet is talk of why lenders are negotiating more with foreclosed borrowers on either coast than they are the people of Cleveland and Pittsburgh. One of our friends on the West Coast tells us that the people who oversee the foreclosed-mortgage portfolios, the blocks of foreclosed housing, want to hang onto the properties of the Midwest, because they have fallen--relatively--less than the properties on the coasts and have therefore retained a greater percentage of their original, or book, value. Our properties in Cleveland bolster the sick portfolios of the lenders, who want our properties for themselves, to make their handiwork look not as serious as it really is, outside the Midwest.
These are not nice people. They deserve few breaks and little compassion.
Finally, here is the description of the crux of the foreclosure problem: predatory loan servicing. Gretchen Morgensen delivers just in time. The pacing and timing on this couldn't be better. Everything is coming into alignment. The problem is near solution. The true causes are beginning to be revealed.
The question is now, who will be the one who begins, and presides over, the Spitzerization of the lending/foreclosing industries, and the attorneys who serve them?
I have lots of other questions:
- Could this be the reason why the majority of foreclosures happened?
- Could it be the reason that so many could not escape the endless loop, even though they tried?
- Are these fees able to take the same position as the primary mortgage, and do they take priority over other, junior liens that were already in place at the time the servicer, the lender, and the attorneys who run the mills initiated foreclosure proceedings?
- What are the rules for handling the money?
- What are the fiduciary responsibilities?
- How can we get our money back?
- How can we begin to quantify the damages, as well?
- How can we recover damages?
- Who gets paid back first?
- How can we prevent this happening again, and who was asleep at the switch?
If you thought asbestos was big for the plaintiffs' bar, just stay tuned on this one.
Here are a few excerpts from Gretchen's article, but read the whole thing. This is huge. Seminal. Long overdue. Invigorating.
. . . Because there is little oversight of foreclosure practices and the fees that are charged, bankruptcy specialists fear that some consumers may be losing their homes unnecessarily or that mortgage servicers, who collect loan payments, are profiting from foreclosures. . . .
. . . On Oct. 9, the Chapter 13 trustee in Pittsburgh asked the court to sanction Countrywide, the nation’s largest loan servicer, saying that the company had lost or destroyed more than $500,000 in checks paid by homeowners in foreclosure from December 2005 to April 2007. The trustee, Ronda J. Winnecour, said in court filings that she was concerned that even as Countrywide misplaced or destroyed the checks, it levied charges on the borrowers, including late fees and legal costs. . . .
Add to the Brookings material the facts that we are close to large amounts of water, have a temperate climate, are a great place to raise a family, and happen to be very affordable, and you can see why people commute to work in NYC from here.
I'm going to copy her article in it's entirety, since the PD content disappears after a while. It says there's a Permalink, but I still don't know what their definition of "perma" is:
Brookings Institution report shows Cleveland still a big economic force
Posted by Elizabeth Auster November 06, 2007 00:01AM
• Click to download a Plain Dealer graphic about the study. (PDF)•
Find out more on the Brookings Web site.
Cleveland might rank as one of the nation's poorest big cities. It might be bleeding people as well as jobs. But don't despair. The big picture isn't quite so dreary.
Greater Cleveland still plays an outsized role in the economy of Ohio, the nation and the world, says a report being released Tuesday by the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.
The Cleveland metropolitan area, which stretches from Elyria to Mentor, ranked 23rd nationally in employment in 2005, with 1.1 million jobs - more than any other metro area in Ohio. And Cleveland was the only metropolitan area in Ohio to make it onto a 2006 list of the world's 25 most competitive cities compiled by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Development.
In Ohio, the Cleveland metro area accounts for a disproportionate share of economic activity, generating 22.5 percent of the state's gross domestic product even though it has only 18.5 percent of the state's population, the study says.
The numbers reflect the continuing potency not only of Cleveland, but also of large metropolitan areas nationwide, says Bruce Katz, director of Brookings' Metropolitan Policy Program. The nation's 100 largest metro areas claim only 12 percent of the land mass in the United States, but account for 65 percent of its population, 68 percent of its jobs, and 75 percent of U.S. gross domestic product.
Metropolitan areas are showing surprising economic resilience, Katz says, despite predictions in recent decades that Americans increasingly would move from urban centers to "the hinterlands" as manufacturing declined, technology exploded and telecommuting became more of an option.
"The opposite has really occurred," says Katz. "The most sophisticated and wealth-generating firms in our country, as in Europe, as in Asia, crave proximity."
Metropolitan areas, which can include suburban and rural areas that surround cities, continue to be powerful forces, he says, because the knowledge-based economy thrives on access to large pools of educated workers, specialized legal and financial firms and institutions of higher learning. Innovative companies prefer being near clusters of similar firms, he says, because the closeness allows ideas to be shared rapidly.
The Brookings report is part of a multi-year project that aims to assess the strengths and weaknesses of metropolitan areas and recommend steps government can take to help them compete more effectively in the global economy.
The report contends that the federal government too often overlooks the changing needs of U.S. metropolitan areas and spends money in a scattershot way that undermines their growth.
Despite the strength of Cleveland and other U.S. metropolitan areas, the report says, there are signs of slippage. Between 1975 and 2005, for example, other nations increased their patenting activity faster than the United States. As a result, the share of U.S. patents that originated in the United States fell from 65 to 52 percent, the report says.
During the same 30-year period, Cleveland's share of Ohio's patents fell from 27 to 22 percent, says Alan Berube, research director of Brookings' Metropolitan Policy Program.
Monday, November 05, 2007
Sunday, November 04, 2007
Personally, I'm not comfortable with what I see as conflicts of interest, with John Carney, a real-estate developer, being on a public board that decides land use and has dealings in the capital markets. There is the perception that the Port Authority is out of control and overstepping its bounds, and I can't see why we should assist them in their self-dealing efforts any further. The public-private money distinction is just getting too blurry, and it's time to begin to cut off their funds. A vote against this renewal is just a start.
Also, I think the Port Authority needs to come up with a Conflict of Interest Policy and lay it all out on the table, so far as what is ethical conduct, and what isn't.
The latest Disney opus, Ratatouille, about a young rat-chef living within the walls of a famous Paris bistro, is rumored to have a successor film already in the can: Ratvioli!
This next production is also about a rat-chef, Ratatouille's maternal great-great-great grandfather, and he is a Cleveland rat from Murray Hill who tells Ettore Boiardi the secret to killer rat-violi meat filling, back during the Depression, and saves the East Side from vegetarianism.
All in all, I'm very proud of our arts and professional communities for the effort they are putting behind appreciation of our intrinsic wealth, our legacy in architecture, at this point focusing on Breuer and sustainability. Waste not, want not.
Here's a small sample of the massive synergy Susan is bringing together.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007 6:00pm -- Green building and modernism; are they antithetical?
· Guest lecturer, Carl Stein, FAIA, Principal of elemental architecture, llc, of New York City and his late father, Richard Stein, FAIA, have completed numerous historic rehabilitation projects based on their innovative and pioneering research in the analysis of energy use and conservation in buildings and design. He served his architectural internship with Marcel Breuer from 1968-1971.
At Judson at University Circle (free parking available)
Brought to you by Doty & Miller Architects, D.H. Ellison Co., Peter Lawson Jones, Recent Past Preservation Network, Richard Fleischman Architects, Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage, Robert Maschke Architects, Inc., Process Creative Studios Inc., Jim Rokakis, Schmidt Copeland Parker Stevens with assistance from Cleveland Cinematheque, Cleveland Institute of Art, Judson Manor, The Sculpture Center, Intermuseum Conservation Association, AIA Cleveland, Kent State University Art History, Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative, Cleveland Artists Foundation, GreenCityBlueLake, Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs, Studio Techne Architects
The op-ed contributor, Michael Pollan, is a very good writer who skewers with wit and garnishes with wisdom. As the NYT briefly points out, Michael Pollan, a contributing writer at The Times Magazine and a professor of journalism at the University of California at Berkeley, is the author of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and the forthcoming “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto.” Here are some samples, but read the whole piece:
Americans have begun to ask why the farm bill is subsidizing high-fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils at a time when rates of diabetes and obesity among children are soaring, or why the farm bill is underwriting factory farming (with subsidized grain) when feedlot wastes are polluting the countryside and, all too often, the meat supply. For the first time, the public health community has raised its voice in support of overturning farm policies that subsidize precisely the wrong kind of calories (added fat and added sugar), helping to make Twinkies cheaper than carrots and Coca-Cola competitive with water. Also for the first time, the international development community has weighed in on the debate, arguing that subsidized American exports are hobbling cotton farmers in Nigeria and corn farmers in Mexico. . . .
. . . . But as important as these programs are, they are just programs — mere fleas on the elephant in the room. The name of that elephant is the commodity title, the all-important subsidy section of the bill. It dictates the rules of the entire food system. As long as the commodity title remains untouched, the way we eat will remain unchanged.
The explanation for this is straightforward. We would not need all these nutrition programs if the commodity title didn’t do such a good job making junk food and fast food so ubiquitous and cheap. Food stamps are crucial, surely, but they will be spent on processed rather than real food as long as the commodity title makes calories of fat and sugar the best deal in the supermarket. We would not need all these conservation programs if the commodity title, by paying farmers by the bushel, didn’t encourage them to maximize production with agrochemicals and plant their farms with just one crop fence row to fence row.
And the government would not need to pay feedlots to clean up the water or upgrade their manure pits if subsidized grain didn’t make rearing animals on feedlots more economical than keeping them on farms. Why does the farm bill pay feedlots to install waste treatment systems rather than simply pay ranchers to keep their animals on grass, where the soil would be only too happy to treat their waste at no cost?
However many worthwhile programs get tacked onto the farm bill to buy off its critics, they won’t bring meaningful reform to the American food system until the subsidies are addressed — until the underlying rules of the food game are rewritten. This is a conversation that the Old Guard on the agriculture committees simply does not want to have, at least not with us.
Saturday, November 03, 2007
This past November 1st, I found myself at the end of the day needing to find a Mass, so I bused on over to the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist, where I found this printed program awaiting me. These past few years, it seems that the rich pageantry and traditions of the Roman Catholic Church are undergoing a revival in Cleveland; the music programs have been excellent, and the supporting graphics enhance the effort. I'm beginning to understand what my dad said attracted him to become a convert in the first place: the elegance and the ceremony. If you want to see art at work in the world, look no further than 1007 Superior Avenue East.
Friday, November 02, 2007
Daylight saving time is set to end Sunday at 2 a.m., a week later than usual, as new federal rules that shorten the period for standard time take full effect.
For most folks, that means setting the clocks back an hour. But there are those who may already have sprung ahead of the official time change, as some alarm clocks across the country jumped the gun last weekend, automatically setting back to standard time a week ahead of schedule. Computer operating systems that hadn't been updated did the same.
The problem: Their internal calendars weren't adjusted for the new rules.
Congress changed the daylight savings law in 2005, but didn't put it into effect immediately so potential software problems could be worked out, said David Prerau, author of "Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Saving Time." Prerau also was a consultant to Congress on the law extending daylight saving time.
After the law passed, manufacturers began programming the new dates into electronics.
But for those who own electronics with internal clocks that predate 2005 -- and have no way to change the daylight saving time settings -- the changing of the clocks could be a biannual annoyance, Prerau said. Those people might have to disable the feature altogether.
"It is annoying for people who have equipment that can't be changed," he said. "I'm hoping that anything new has new dates but (also) a relatively easy way to change the dates," just in case the daylight saving time rules change again in the future, he said.
That said, most products will likely be unaffected by the schedule change, according to the Consumer Electronics Association. That's because most time-dependent products such as cell phones and computers get their time and date from a network.
It's devices that aren't connected to a wired or wireless network -- including many wrist watches, alarm clocks and VCRs -- that need extra attention. These often are the devices that need to be reset after a power outage, said Jenny Pareti, spokeswoman for the group.
"Anything that isn't connected to a network or a broadcast source will need to be manually reset," she said. If the product was made before August 2005 and it uses an internal calendar, owners should disable the daylight saving time feature and/or change the time manually, according to the group.
Older computer operating systems may also be affected, but there are often easy fixes that can be made to update them, she said. Microsoft, for example, has a page devoted to helping consumers get the correct updates.
Our daughter in Knoxville reports a scant 4 trick-or-treaters; the Savannah contingent, that gave out ramen last year, about 30; our UPS lady Joanne from Berea reports 17, and further notes that they were too meek, or not as raucous as they ought to be. Our kids were more polite than ever. Some asked if it was OK to pick what they really wanted, even if it was three of one kind. Others picked three and made a point of showing us they had adhered to the limit.
If we get $25 worth next year, that should do it. Then, as a contingency plan on the back end, if we run out, we can give away dollars, and shut down by 8:00 PM, before the word spreads.