Saturday, September 29, 2007


“For the first time in more than a decade, Palm Beach County’s taxable value is expected to drop next year by 5.4 percent, according to preliminary estimates. But Mayor Lois Frankel said she saw a silver lining.”

“‘I think that it’s better to have more realistic prices,’ she said. ‘The cost of housing has been too high. Maybe we’ll get some reality here.’” HBB

Don't Panic: It just eats your brain

Something your Tourist Development Authority will probably not be marketing:

(we don't see any Florida media carrying this story)

6 die from brain-eating amoeba in lakes

PHOENIX - It sounds like science fiction but it's true: A killer amoeba living in lakes enters the body through the nose and attacks the brain where it feeds until you die.

Even though encounters with the microscopic bug are extraordinarily rare, it's killed six boys and young men this year. The spike in cases has health officials concerned, and they are predicting more cases in the future.

"This is definitely something we need to track," said Michael Beach, a specialist in recreational waterborne illnesses for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"This is a heat-loving amoeba. As water temperatures go up, it does better," Beach said. "In future decades, as temperatures rise, we'd expect to see more cases." According to the CDC, the amoeba called Naegleria fowleri (nuh-GLEER-ee-uh FOWL'-erh-eye) killed 23 people in the United States, from 1995 to 2004. This year health officials noticed a spike with six cases — three in Florida, two in Texas and one in Arizona.

In central Florida, authorities started an amoeba phone hot line advising people to avoid warm, standing water and areas with algae blooms. via

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Never mind that, let's authorize $200 billion more for Iraq....

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -- In a sign that the housing slump is far from over, home resales slipped for the sixth month in a row in August as the credit squeeze forced many sales to fall through, the National Association of Realtors reported Tuesday.

With sales of existing homes falling 4.3% to a five-year low seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.50 million in August, inventories of unsold single-family homes rose to an 18-year high.

Prices are lower in 15 of the 20 cities compared with a year ago, according to Case-Shiller. The worst declines are the Rust Belt and in the formerly boom towns along the coasts. Prices are holding up in the Pacific Northwest and in areas of the South.

Prices are down 9.7% in Detroit, 8.8% in Tampa, 7.8% in San Diego, 7.3% in Phoenix, 7.2% in Washington and 6.4% in Miami. Prices are up 6.9% in Seattle, 6% in Charlotte and 3.8% in Portland.

There are few signs of a bottom in the market. The home builders' confidence matched its lowest level ever in September. Housing starts fell to a 12-year low in August, an indication that builders are pulling back. However, foreclosures are rising, bringing even more must-sell supply on the market.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Rocketing to 32nd

[Florida's] Eighth grade readers jumped from 41st to 32nd in national ranking. WUSF

Defying crude correlations of wealth and educational attainment, the Penile State ranks 9th nationwide in number of places with per capita incomes above the national average.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Fingering the waters

Rising Seas Likely to Flood U.S. History

Ultimately, rising seas will likely swamp the first American settlement in Jamestown, Va., as well as the Florida launch pad that sent the first American into orbit, many climate scientists are predicting.

In about a century, some of the places that make America what it is may be slowly erased.

. . .

Sea level rise is "the thing that I'm most concerned about as a scientist," says Benjamin Santer, a climate physicist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.

"We're going to get a meter and there's nothing we can do about it," said University of Victoria climatologist Andrew Weaver, a lead author of the February report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in Paris. "It's going to happen no matter what — the question is when."

. . .

The change will be a gradual process, one that is so slow it will be easy to ignore for a while.

"It's like sticking your finger in a pot of water on a burner and you turn the heat on, Williams said. "You kind of get used to it." AP

Friday, September 21, 2007

"This is Florida. . .you never know"

Web dispute rages in Sarasota

What he calls liberty, they call a breach of community rules


SARASOTA COUNTY -- Kamel Zaki has lived in nearly a dozen countries and found something to disagree with, he admits, in every one of them.

But the first place he has been officially threatened for expressing an opinion is Palmer Ranch.

Zaki is at odds with the homeowners association in his 254-home community called The Hamptons, which wants to prevent him from sponsoring a Web site he calls HamptonsNBC.

As suggested by what those initials stand for -- Neighbors for a Better Community -- Zaki, a former president of the homeowners association, has some issues with how The Hamptons is being run these days.

"Grievances and propaganda" is how the association's attorney described the Web site's content, in a certified letter Aug. 9 demanding that Zaki cease any use therein of the trademarked name The Hamptons.

Zaki is willing to gamble as much as $10,000 on hiring legal representation to contest the fine and the Web site ban, but his wife, Eugenia, is nervous, because, as she says, "this is Florida," and "you never know." SH_T

Letter to Zaki from the lawyers.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Sell risk to yourself, and pocket the savings

Bob Hunter, director of insurance for the Consumer Federation of America, had calculated in March that homeowners could save an average 24 percent on their premiums, based on special session legislation passed in January.

[Property Insurers] "made $150-billion over the last three years," he said. "That's $525 for every man, woman and child in America."

Hunter outlined several reasons why insurance companies weren't lowering their rates more than expected: some companies use affiliates that sell reinsurance essentially to themselves. . .

Not only are the actual savings closer to 12 percent, they do not include numbers from the state's biggest carriers.
St. Pete Times

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Incredible shrinking home equity

Money talks:

Many of the worst hit cities are in Sun Belt areas that experienced outsized home-price growth during the real estate bubble, according to Arnold Slesers, an associate economist at Moody's. The home price correction in many of these cities will be severe as unsold new homes and leaps in foreclosures add to already big inventories.

The Stockton, Calif., metro area, where Moody's predicts a 25 percent price drop, will be the hardest hit among the 100 most populated cities surveyed.

. . .

Just a tick or two behind Stockton in the Moody's survey were two Florida metro areas, Palm Bay/Melbourne (down 24.9 percent) and Sarasota/Bradenton (down 24.8 percent). All three markets are on almost the same peak-to-trough schedule, with Moody's forecasting that Sarasota will bottom out in the third quarter of 2008, a quarter sooner than the other two.

Florida will continue to experience Hurricane Bush for some time

Two Florida tales from NPR (click to get full stories):

Morning Edition, September 19, 2007 · Florida Democrat Bill Nelson, who chairs a subcommittee overseeing U.N. activities, wants to know why Florida's Everglades National Park was taken off a U.N. list of World Heritage sites considered "in danger." Environmental groups say the decision reflects not progress, but politics. [Buuuuuusssshhh administration fuckup, of course]

Morning Edition, September 19, 2007 · The real estate market around Miami is one of many areas where housing prices have plummeted. Realtor John Paul Rosser sells plots of land to condo developers. But even he doesn't understand why some builders are still in the Miami market.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Movin' on up

Just another day in the sinkhole economy:

New information just released about home foreclosures shows Florida is near the top of the list. More than 30,000 homeowners faced foreclosure in August.

That number moved the state from number seven to number three in the country when it comes to foreclosures. WFTV

You're a UF Student: Stop asking questions

A University of Florida student was Tasered and arrested after trying to ask U.S. Senator John Kerry about the 2004 election and other subjects during a campus forum. ABC

Friday, September 14, 2007

Found and Lost

Found Money

What is Miami-Dade getting in return for public-money incentives to private businesses? Very little, according to a report by Florida International University.

Based on data from the Office of Community and Economic Development, FIU researchers studied the “number and quality” of jobs created through incentive programs. The study found that 41% of the jobs created in Enterprise Zones paid less than $25,200 annually. What’s more, over the past 10 years, companies that received a portion of the tax rebates in Enterprise Zones were not even required to hire residents from those low-income communities.

“A lot of businesses treat these incentives like found money,” says Bruce Nissen.
Florida Trend
Lost Jobs

South Florida has slipped out of the top 10 in a ranking of the nation's hottest job markets.

The region ranked 10th in an analysis by in mid-2006, but dropped to 16th in the latest analysis of mid-year 2007 employment statistics.
South Florida Business Journal
It's not even about jobs

Getting back to those "EZ Subsidies," here's an interesting finding:

"the Targeted Jobs Incentive Fund (TJIF) is not sharply targeted on jobs, but is at least as much focused on real estate investment."
That's on p. 23 of the full FIU report here.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Funnier than the Joker

Mr. Greenspan said while he knew about the questionable subprime lending tactics, he did "had no notion of how significant they had become until very late," the show quotes him as telling Ms. Stahl. "I really didn't get it until very late in 2005 and 2006." WSJ

North Port Shocker

In August, North Port issued permits for 12 new homes -- the lowest monthly total in five years. The city issued more than that in a day back in 2005 and 2006, when North Port led the region in new home construction. SH_T

Yes. But the rumor is that North Port has seen 1,100 foreclosures during the same period. Perhaps people are simply finding free houses to live in without going through the tedium of actually building them.

Then there's this.

And this:

Lee County thinks more than 2,000 residents have filed petitions arguing their property isn’t worth what the county estimates.

They have an ally in Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp. He’s one of them.

Kottkamp filed a petition indicating his home in North Fort Myers is overvalued by 38 percent. The appraiser’s office estimated the home value at $1,382,920. News Press.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Walking Talking Spanglish down the hall

Some in Florida opposed the Spanish-language event. "This is a very, very bad precedent," said David Caulkett, vice president of Floridians for Immigration Enforcement.

"It's already difficult to keep track of politicians in English," he said, adding that English "is the official language of Florida and the de facto language of our country."

The Floridians for Immigration Enforcement. . .FLIMEN. . .The geniuses that want you to boycott Budweiser.

Politicians need to be issued GPS ankle bracelets and English Dictionaries, pronto.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Penile State gets mention in Artsy Article

Styles come and go, movements briefly coalesce (or fail to, more likely), but there has been one huge and dominant reality overshadowing Anglo-Euro-American art in the past 25 years, and The Shock of the New came out too early to take account of its full effects. This is the growing and tyrannous power of the market itself, which has its ups and downs but has so hugely distorted nearly everyone's relationship with aesthetics. That's why we decided to put Jeff Koons in the new programme: not because his work is beautiful or means anything much, but because it is such an extreme and self-satisfied manifestation of the sanctimony that attaches to big bucks. Koons really does think he's Michelangelo and is not shy to say so. The significant thing is that there are collectors, especially in America, who believe it. He has the slimy assurance, the gross patter about transcendence through art, of a blow-dried Baptist selling swamp acres in Florida. And the result is that you can't imagine America's singularly depraved culture without him.. . .Koons is the perfect product of an art system in which the market controls nearly everything, including much of what gets said about art. Robert Hughes.

In Florida: Nuttin'


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We Penilestatians are busy with our foreclosures --

From My Fox Tampa Bay in Florida. “Gone in 60 seconds. That’s how quickly homes in foreclosure sell on the auction block at Hillsborough’s Courthouse. ‘We’ve got about a 60 percent increase in mortgage foreclosures, and of course we didn’t anticipate that,’ said Clerk Pat Frank.”

if not that, then we're beating the crap out of our property appraisers.