There’s always something to howl about

Archive for March, 2010

The sad story of how my wife, my family and my own life were devastated by the the unhappy effects of… sad stories…

At a certain age, you come to feel you’ve got a pretty tight bead on things. Wife, home, kids, job — everything just seems to come together. But then you find out that you’ve built your life on solid quicksand.

I’ll tell you my story. I don’t expect you to believe it, but it’s as true as last night’s TV news. You see, my whole world came crashing down around my ears because of a peril I had never thought to fear — until it was too late.

That peril? Anecdote addiction.

There I was, Joe Normal, watching re-runs and waiting for the game to come on, when my wife would relate some juicy bit of gossip she’d heard at the beauty parlor. Only to her it was more than that. Not just a story — a symptom, a syndrome.

First it was just an anecdote now and then. Always blown way out of proportion, but, hey, it’s just small-talk, right?

But then the stories started coming thick and fast. And they always seemed to be connected, somehow, in my loving wife’s fertile mind. And before you knew it, she started coming up with solutions, prescriptions, Rube Goldberg contraptions that, she thought, would ameliorate these imaginary syndromes.

Well, kitchen-table schemes are one thing, but, before long, she had graduated to movements, slogans, web sites, bogus academic studies buttressed by bogus academic conferences — the works.

And through all this turmoil, our mariage was going straight down the tubes. We went from home-cooked meals to frozen food, thus to leave her time for picketing and activism. The children learned to dress themselves from the dirty clothes hamper, their mother was so distracted. And as for our sex life — well, you do the math.

And yet through all this, I was in denial. “Where’s the harm?” I would ask myself. After all, the entire country is addicted to anecdotes. We’ll stare cold, hard facts right in the face, denying them utterly in preference to a carefully-crafted sob-story. If it weren’t for treacly anecdotes, there would be no news business, no entertainment industry, no politics in America.

And, of course, it was in the seamy world of politics that my wife — my beautiful high-school sweetheart, the only woman I’ve ever loved — finally hit rock-bottom. The only conceivable remedy for a ludicrous anecdote is legislation, it turns out, and the more unbelievable the anecdote, the more draconian the legislation. In a short span of months, my wife had gone from an ordinary middle-American housewife to an angry harridan, ferociously forcing her bizarre policy prescriptions down the throats of innocent people everywhere.

Anecdote addiction is the unheralded killer of American civilization. Once we took pride in minding our own business. Now we not only bare our breasts unbidden, but vast hordes of idle voyeurs — anecdote addicts all — hang upon our every word.

But don’t go looking for anecdote addiction in the forthcoming DSM-V, the diagnostic manual of psychology. The so-called “helping” professions couldn’t exist without the elaborate pretense that an accumulation of dubious shaggy-dog stories somehow constitutes evidence.

And we have so successfully destroyed education in America that no one, it seems, is capable of standing up and declaiming the obvious: “Your self-diagnosis of your unhappy life is shamelessly self-serving and is very probably entirely in error.”

Why am I telling you all this? Just to get it off my chest, I guess. It’s funny, really. Americans are finally waking up to the fact that the greatest threat to their health, wealth and happiness is government. And yet anecdote addicts are all but certain to destroy this golden moment, convincing the gullible that their only possible hope for safety from the awful perils of freedom and self-reliance is more and more legislation.

It’s sad but true: Right now, the only thing that can make the conservatives look even more abusively intrusive than the liberals is anecdote addiction. We have a chance to be free, but we’ll fritter it away on a sob-story. And doesn’t that make for a tragic anecdote?


Sequim Real Estate Blogger Dumbs Down America

I am a serial blogger and an Internet aficionado, but I had to read a book in print (yes they still make them) to learn that I am a member of an evil clan of bloggers who are dumbing down America.  In fact, according to this book, all who blog on this site are guilty of dumbing down American.  More than that, after reading only the Preface to the book, I began to realize that bloggers (that would be me) are responsible for the destruction of America, since America’s great structure of freedom is built upon the foundation of a free press of objective and independent journalists.  Since learning this from on high via the great journalists Robert W. McChesney and John Nichols in their authoritative work, The Death and Life of American Journalism, I commenced a concerted effort to reconcile myself to the sacred truths of journalism.

While prostrated in prayer on my knees encircled by burning candles late one evening, I fell asleep during my meditation and managed to bruise my elbow in the fall.  Fortunately, my elbow didn’t hurt, since I had also burned myself on the open flames of several candles and that hurt worse than the elbow.  The burns from the flames, however, were relatively minor in comparison to the greater discomfort from the hot wax that splashed all over my neck and face.  Since then, I have begun to consider the possibility that McChesney and Nichols may be incorrect.

I went back to their book.  Here are two true professional journalists with resumes longer than my life, writers for major newspapers, professors of the world, and experience that made my head spin, so who am I to question their wisdom and penultimate conclusions.  (Sorry, I just like to use the word “penultimate.”)  Here is how these objective journalists started their book.

In each of the first three paragraphs of the first page of the Preface, they praise President Obama for various things.  One gets the idea that they believe he is not only the savior of the world (little “s”) but the savior of journalism.  Yet was it not Obama who used the Internet to raise a billion dollars and to rally millions of voters around the country through Internet cells created in Facebook with the founder of Facebook?  In the context of a book which purports to argue that the Internet and bloggers are dumbing down Americans and that we are the cause of destroying true journalism, their praise of Obama  in the cause of saving journalism seems oddly out of sync with their arguments against Internet users.  You’ve got to love it when those claiming to think clearly make such fuzzy and inarticulate arguments.

The book is a must read for anyone who either has trouble sleeping, or is a masochist.  I do not have trouble sleeping, and pain makes me uncomfortable. Frankly, I find many bloggers to be more accurate in their writing, more articulate, and more honest than McChesney and Nichols.  The Internet has unleashed an entirely new and more powerful form of journalism that gets news to the world almost instantly.  Tweeters in Haiti reported the tragedies and the needs when newspapers could not, unless they got their news from bloggers.  Now that’s an interesting twist:  Professional journalists relying upon bloggers like us.  Oh wait, perhaps we are dumbing down Americans.

Dumb and Dumber was one of my favorite movies, so I think I will continue to write on this dumb blog and on my dumber blog at Sequim Real Estate.


Ten million iPads to be sold in 2010? It could happen…

You heard that right. Morgan Stanley is predicting that as many as ten million iPads could be sold in 2010. A boatload of them have already been sold, and the iPad doesn’t even ship until April 3rd.

iPad news abounds, of course, and no one needs to be reminded about pudding and eating, all those caveats. But, as with the iPhone, nothing draws a crowd like a crowd. We’re going to see a paradigm shift in computing even if the iPad “bombs” by selling only five million units. My 88-year-old mother-in-law is texting on her iPhone, and, no-doubt, will soon be trolling Facebook for friends and grandchildren. A whole new population of punters is about to join the online world.

Not convinced? I can but smile. We haven’t even gotten to the good stuff yet, because the insanely great iPad ideas will require a few months of hands-on time. Meanwhile, Apple has posted some guided tours to the iPad so you can see what you’re missing.

My posts on the iPad (so far):

Of all the things I’ve written about the iPad, this is the most important:

ATTN: ZipForms, DocuSign, FlexMLS: Get on this NOW!

As transformative as the iPad is likely to be for every business, it’s going to be a paper-killer and a tedium-killer and a huge time-saver for working Realtors. Real estate vendors who want to stay alive will have caught a clue months ago.


I Bet Many of the Cool Kids Are On the Verge of Greatness

I’ve always loved the Cool Kids (CKs). I’ve never been a cool kid, but the kinda sorta quasi-cool guy who seemed to think differently, while simultaneously remaining under most folks’ radar. I’ve been the poster boy for Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours principle, which says we don’t become excellent at something ’till we’ve logged that many hours doing it. The CKs in the ethereal world of 2.0 real estate come and go, but the ones who’ve remained, some hangin’ by their fingernails, are the ones still puttin’ in those first 10,000 hours in the fields. That’s hopefully a diplomatic way of sayin’ they’re still mostly theoretically based and not so much empirically experienced — but gettin’ there.

A few of these CKs are gonna rise one morning realizing they’ve figured out where that last piece to their particular puzzle goes. When that happens we’ll all benefit wildly. ‘Till then? Let’s stop fallin’ in love with all the ‘can’t miss’ marketing ideas tossed at us as if they’re just as reliable as gravity and Grandma’s raisin-bran muffins. It just ain’t the case. If so, most of these kids would be livin’ the life of Steve Jobs, a CK himself, who actually put in the 10,000 hours and leveraged it to the max. Then he kept adding more 10,000 hour blocks to ensure the excellence of results.

What I’m tryin’ to say, and poorly at that, is that the CKs need to keep plowin’ their fields without ceasing. It’s like gettin’ in shape. You begin with a jelly belly and become discouraged after a week cuz you don’t look like Adonis yet. Rely on the universal principles at work — the most important of which is putting in your time. There’s simply no substitute for that part of the process. When working out consistently for a year, our jelly bellied friend is now slim ‘n trim, and wearin’ tank tops whenever possible. 🙂 Meanwhile, the others who haven’t unambiguously logged the hours, day in and day out, failed — but they’re still CKs, right? Maybe. Maybe not.

I’m about to complete my eighth 10,000 hour block in real estate related practice. This last one has been brutally humbling. Thank the Lord for the previous 70,000 hours. 🙂 It’s been the one requiring me to combine my OldSchool experience with the current economically changing times and the online facts of life. OldSchool Training + Monster Economic Changes + Learning Online Principles X 10,000 hours = We’re about to see.

Here are some personal examples of the principle in action, followed by some predictions of what we might be seeing in real time soon by some folks some of you may know.

  • Started workin’ out just before I turned 16, trained by a very experienced guy. About a gazillion gym hours later I’m able to credibly compete in major regional contest.
  • RE license at 18 — was sick of it about 10,000 hours later.
  • Moved into investments — 10,000 hours acquired by 1981. BAD timing. 🙂
  • However, when first real recovery year hit, 1986, after yet another 10,000 hours, I had my first ever $100,000 year — the fruit of all those hours.
  • Decided I like umpiring. The umpiring equivalent of 10,000 hours later I’m recruited by NCAA group to try out. Was selected after summer long tryout. Post season first year. Did all those hours have somethin’ to do with that? Of course they did.
  • In the writing of this post I’ve spoken to a couple other contributors, Tom Vanderwell and Brian Brady, both of whom seem to relate to this principle. I’ll let them speak for themselves, but their histories, especially Brian’s, show clear benefits from hours spent in the fields.

    I can also point to Greg Swann. He’s been doing houses since roughly 2003 or so, after first spending time in rentals. He works inhuman hours a week, so I’m guessing conservatively he’s already logged well over 15,000 hours listing, selling, marketing and the like in those seven or so years. He’s been doin’ the whole Edison thing, experimenting with every possible aspect of the business. He’s been brutally honest with his failures, learned from them, applied his experience — basically a field plowin’ fool. He reminds me a bit of Jay Leno who was acclaimed as an overnight success after spending almost 20 years of over 300 shows a year. Yet, in these worst of times Greg’s breakin’ out BigTime. Imagine what he’ll do in a kinda sorta normal market when it finally arrives. A staggering thought.

    So, to Cool Kids I say — keep doin’ what you’re doin’, cuz we can see how some of you are gonna change how we do things. Log the hours and keep the faith.


    It’s not about leads. It’s not about conversations. It’s not about showings or listing appointments. It’s about closings.

    Hard-working dogs get fed.

    (Thank Teri Lussier, a hard-working Bloodhound, for this clip.)


    SplendorQuest: Redemption is egoism in action

    This is clipped from a book I wrote in 1988 — a book I really need to write anew. It’s an epistolary novel, so the writing is kind of affected. I expect you can worry your way through it. “Madness,” as the term is used here, is an attempt to claim, as knowledge, a proposition the proponent knows in advance is invalid. –GSS

    Redemption Is A Being Aware.

    Redemption is finding Splendor in Rectitude. But much more importantly, Redemption Is Egoism In Action.

    Egoism is the worship of the self by the self, all the time, for all time. Egoism Is A Being Aware of who he is and what he is doing and why — all the time. It is the pursuit always of values and never of disvalues, always of pleasure and never of pain, always of Truth and never of Madness. Egoism is the recognition that the fullest value of the self is realized through the fullest knowledge of the self.

    Egoism is knowing and doing the good through time. It is a set of ideas, but ideas devoid of meaning if they are not put into practice. One can know Splendor by taking those actions one thinks are right. But one cannot know it by merely thinking about what is right, without acting upon it.

    Redemption Is Egoism In Action, in the real deeds of your real life. By your self-loving actions, you redeem the errors of your past and make of them the achievements of your present and future.

    It is not impossible to avoid doing this. Most people waste their whole lives trying to pretend that past errors need not be corrected. But neither is it possible to avoid the consequences of failing at redemption.

    The future is open to change, but only by choice. Any person can take what he has and make of it what he would. If he is willing to make the effort. But he will not have his desires without fighting for them, without mothering them into being. The soul he creates for himself is the one he acts to create. If he fails to act for his values, he cannot know them whole in his spirit.

    This is fact. The very highest values of life cannot be provided by other people. To know Splendor, the enduring joy that is the acknowledgement by the self of its own glory, power and beauty, one must know it alone. There is no one who can cause that emotion in a man’s mind, no one but himself. Not even he can cause it if he has not earned it. But if he has, then he has gloried himself in a way no other person could cause — or prevent. To Know Splendor Whole is the highest man can reach, but he can only reach it by himself.

    Alone, by his own effort, in pursuit of his own reward. And never otherwise.

    Choice is the sword on which Sleepwalkers impale themselves. It is hard to choose, to change, to grow. It doesn’t seem so to us, because we never forgot the habits all of us learn in childhood. “But Children Are Apt To Forget To Remember”. And for those who do, it is agony to choose, to decide, to create, to take a stand, to change in any way at all the life they have made for themselves.

    They know they should change. They don’t ever feel right about their acts of Madness. And yet they know the effort growth requires, and the risk it entails, so they reject it as “unrealistic”. As compared to what? Some make feeble attempts at change, but they recoil from it after the first and hardest days. Think of all the fad dieters and two-day health fanatics you have known.

    In the pursuit of Redemption, you pay now and soar later, and many people won’t let themselves wait for that payment. They make the same mistakes again and again, and fail to correct them by the same invalid methods, again and again. Unless you take your phone off the hook, you will hear the same sad stories over and over, from the same people, with only the names and dates changed.

    Madness, truly. Because It Need Not Be So.

    Redemption is possible. But only by choice.

    No one sets out to become a Sleepwalker. Because of what we are none of us is forevermore free from the threat of Madness. Each of us — present company included — can wander into the Sleepwalker’s Dead-End. How? Simple: by making a mistake and not acknowledging it.

    We are born ignorant, and everything we know we know by discovery. But discovery is a process. It takes place through time. At any particular point in time, we may have to decide about something when our knowledge is incomplete. We make our choice and follow through on it, but we have not by that means proved the truth of our action. We can seek the truth, but if we do not, we cannot truthfully claim to have found it.

    When we are faced with that situation again, we can act as we did before. We can say, “Well, it can’t have been too wrong. Nothing disastrous happened.” And in doing that, we compound our error. And much worse, we act to habituate it. We did not seek proof, and now we can try to claim that we need not.

    But nature is just. It will not accept that claim in tender for the values our souls require. In that one situation, we have cheated ourselves of our full awareness, and acted to damage our future awareness. We have induced a Madness in our minds, a way of “knowing” without having discovered the truth.

    Now if you would understand Sleepwalkers, you must multiply that one case times dozens of Madnesses, each delicately crafted to acknowledge ignorance by attempting to deny it. In preference to being what they are, they frantically scamper around trying to be what they are not. They know the true frenzy of exigent futility as they race around trying to brace their illusions, cover their deceits, portray their misrepresentations and hide from their doubts.

    Why, why, why, why? To make things easier? Better? Faster and cheaper in cost? Yes, at first. But not at the end.

    Because the Madnesses that begin as time-savers and effort-savers become life-wasters, infinitely draining sinkholes into which Sleepwalkers pour their time in support of their errors. Whether or not they commit any crimes, they are doing injustice. Injustice to themselves.

    For each of us has only one life. Every day we let pass without pursuing our full desires is a day lost forever. The past may be lovely or hideous, but it is gone. The future can be wonderful, but only if we make it so.

    How can we do it? By redeeming our errors, by admitting we have made them and doing what we can to make them good. By recovering any values we have lost to Madness, as many as we can. And by learning how we first erred, to learn how not to make that same mistake again.

    Redemption. It is possible. And it is necessary, if one chooses to know and love oneself whole. It is avoidable, but only at the price of the fullest value of human life, self-adoration.

    People ought to redeem their errors, but few do. They can, and they can reap the fullest value of what remains of their time alive, no matter how much they have lost to pain. But most do not.

    They fear failing their values, but they fear much worse achieving them. Choice is demanding, challenging but risk-filled. Inertia is pointless and wasteful, but it is “safe”.

    For a while, if looked at from a certain point of view, and allowing a Macro-Utilitarian Calculus Of Dollars Per Mental Increment.

    No, truly, inertia is not ever useful, but it can seem so at first, compared to the immediately available alternative. And in the long run, it is devastating. Not just to men, but to cultures, to worlds.

    Have you ever seen a man on his way down? From drink or gambling or idleness or just plain boredom. It’s not a pretty thing, and it is not without consequences. For every organism, life is profit. The plants and insects and fishes and birds and beasts must produce more energy than that production cost them, or they will die. This is so, too, of man. If he is not making a profit he is taking a loss. If he is not glorying his values he is degrading them. No matter how much he may resent it, life is motion. If he is not moving forward, then he is moving backward.

    Nature does not force any oughts upon man. But neither will it let a man do as he ought not and escape the consequences. Thus are we made.

    And thus are our cultures made.

    We live in a world for which Madness has nearly always been the dominant means of “knowing”. Twice have the errors of our forebears been fully redeemed, in ancient Greece and in The Age Of Reason. We have descended back to Madness from those pinnacles of human achievement.

    And we are headed for a collapse.

    No man can sustain a loss indefinitely, and neither can any culture. Our nation states and the mental attitudes they inculcate are killing us. Not quickly, and not obviously, but just as surely as a drunk will hit the skids, if he does not change his course.

    A collapse, a deluge of death and flames and destruction. We have spit at every value our spirits must have to thrive, and we will be made to pay for that error. All of us, whether we ourselves have erred or not. Many, many millions will die, perhaps even billions. And no one will survive unaffected.

    Comments are off for this post

    Stay Hungry Stay Foolish

    This appeared in my browser. I am not really sure how it found me, but I am very happy that Steve Jobs is one of the people that live in my PC. Just 15 minutes, I hope you enjoy.


    SplendorQuest: My plan to stage a graceful exit from life when the pursuit of Splendor has become impossible to me

    Under the wide and starry sky,
    Dig the grave and let me lie.
    Glad did I live and gladly die,
    And I laid me down with a will.

    This be the verse you grave for me:
    ‘Here he lies where he longed to be;
    Home is the sailor, home from sea,
    And the hunter home from the hill.’

          –Robert Louis Stevenson

    This is important: Everything that matters in human life is to be found to the right of the zero on the number line. Zero is never greater than one, so concentrating on the zero or on negative values is necessarily anegoic — contrary to the true interests of the ego.

    Can it sometimes be needful to attend to negative values? Yes. I speak of eradicating bugs all the time, since this is a useful metaphor for understanding the actual meaning and importance of disvalues. If my food is being devoured by ants, I need to to exterminate them. If there is a scorpion in my home (it happens here), I have to crush it — grind it to a gooey pulp. If a two-legged predator attempts to confiscate my wealth, I must be prepared to defend myself.

    But this is not what human life is for. Some days are cloudy, but if I focus on the clouds rather than on the illimitable sunlight I can produce by using my mind to its fullest, I am throwing away the only life I will ever have in pursuit of nothing.

    But: Even so: I can foresee that there will come a time in my life when the pursuit of Splendor will no longer be possible to me. Until lately, I thought the most likely scenario would be that the accumulated effects of aging would render me incompetent to continue to thrive at a fully-human state of being. Given the resurgence of Marxism under President Obama, it seems plausible to me, of late, that I might be imprisoned for my philosophical positions. And there is also the possibility that I might someday find myself unable to produce more wealth that I consume. The most likely cause of this would be the government’s progressive destruction of the free economy, but I refuse to live at anyone else’s expense no matter what the cause of my poverty might be.

    In any of those circumstances, and others I can conceive of, I do not plan to remain alive. This is not a worship of the zero, but, rather, an acknowledgement that, when all future outcomes come out to zero or less, a free and rational man will have a plan to avoid descending into the squalor of indecision and inaction, the kind of undignified clinging to life that I already see much too much of. When every beauty and grace of human life is gone from my life, I have a plan to make my exit from life as beautifully and as gracefully as I can. I won’t bore you with the details. It is sufficient to say that I have a plan in place, and I have worked out how I plan to accomplish my voluntary demise in any circumstance I might face.

    Why talk about it? Because I think it’s a good idea, that’s why. You were born through no design of your own, and you were born into both the squalor of your own filth and the squalor of an unchosen dependency. You have no reason to die that way — and if reason means anything at all, you should not die that way. For each of us, there will come a time when the only act of Splendor left to us will be to die as we have lived — fully-conscious, fully-engaged, fully-human.

    I suppose this post might seem very far from real estate, but I do not share that view. A cultivated human life has integrity: Every seemingly disparate thing is in fact the expression of the same one idea. I’ve lived my entire life hewing to my own standards and values, and I do not intend to die any other way. If you live the thoughtful life, the contemplative life, the examined life, then this is something you need to think about.


    Adorn that russet Bloodhound in Redfin red: Today we make common cause against stupidity, cupidity, stolidity and inertia in the real estate industry in behalf of the consumer’s right to a fully-informed, financially-sound and fun real estate experience. is coming to Phoenix today — 6 am PDT, to be precise. And they’re coming as a VOW, which strikes me as being a potent marketing advantage, at least in the short run. And the news that might be most of interest here: is coming along with them.

    As I wrote in February of 2009, Redfin is entering new markets with referral agents as well as its own employees. Cathleen Collins, my wife and business partner, and I will be handling one quadrant of the referred territories.

    From’s press release:

    Redfin today expanded to the Phoenix metropolitan area, increasing the number of listings available on Redfin’s website by 8%. Phoenix is the third market Redfin has opened since December 2009, and the twelfth overall. Separately today, Redfin is announcing upgrades to its listing service, and new support for short sales.

    With this launch, Redfin’s site offers customers the photos and marketing materials used to list properties that recently sold, information previously limited to real estate agents. No other website offers this data, known in the industry as Virtual Office Website (VOW) data, to Phoenix consumers. The new data, which consumers can use to develop their own market analyses, became available last year as a result of an agreement between the U.S. Department of Justice and the National Association of Realtors.

    Redfin has access to the real-time database used by brokers to list homes because Redfin is a broker that represents customers buying and selling homes. In Cave Creek, Fountain Hills, Scottsdale, Tempe, Chandler and Gilbert, the company provides direct service, employing its own real estate agents. In the East Valley and the West Valley, Redfin relies on partners. Redfin’s search site covers all of Maricopa and Pinal counties.

    Cathleen wants the business. We’re growing fast, and she wants to grow still faster.

    Greg wants to be an even-more-disruptive disruptor.

    But among many other things I might talk about, there is this: Redfin’s internal praxis actually does impose a performance bar on practitioners. It’s the kind of corporate pencil-pushing I’ve always been lousy at, but Redfin tracks and measures everything. Not for pencil-pushing reasons, but in order to improve the product in every measurable way. That’s beyond impressive to me. I haven’t even had a chance to play with their toys yet, but I’ve learned a ton just hearing them described.

    And this is a real Bloodhound experience, which is very funny to me, considering how much grief I’ve given and its CEO, Glenn Kelman, over the years. But the path to Splendor necessarily originates in error, and the Bloodhound way is to learn from your mistakes and do better in the future. So: I am deeply impressed by Redfin’s focus on the consumer’s complete real estate experience and by how much effort the entire company devotes to improving that experience over time. That is raising the frolicking bar, and I am very proud to be a part of that — even if just an ancillary part.

    I hate, hate, hate every aspect of the real estate business that deserves to be called predatory. We are doing a beautiful and noble thing — making and keeping promises in order to help honest, hard-working people realize the fundamentally human dreams of hearth and home, kith and kin. And yet everywhere I turn, I see yet another huckster trying to sucker a consumer — presumed to be clueless — into making a poor choice just so the huckster can get paid. I am doing everything I can think of to push those bums out of this business, and I anticipate that Redfin’s presence in the Phoenix market will be a potent force for the good.

    Oh, good grief! Who doesn’t paint himself on the side of the angels? Here’s what matters right away: Consumers in Phoenix will have a lot more real estate information available to them, all on-line, all anonymously if they like. If they undertake a transaction, they’ll learn a lot, have some fun and save a little money. But even if all they do is window shop, they’ll know more tomorrow than they could have learned today. If some huckster tries to tell you that’s a bad thing — run.

    Meanwhile: Welcome to Phoenix, Redfin. I’m looking forward to learning more of the art of doing a better job, and Cathleen and I are eager to show off the regal, indomitable arrogance of a healthy, normal Bloodhound.

    This is my kind of fun…


    My kind of doctor: “I am responding to the situation created by this new law by exercising my right not to participate in any health insurance program.”

    A letter from a sane doctor, posted at The Corner on

    March 23, 2010

    My Dear Patient,

    As you must know, Congress has just passed extensive legislation governing health care delivery and insurance systems. Whether you agree with what it does or not, we are all now subject to this law and its sweeping changes.

    I have always conducted my medical practice with my patient’s best interests as my first priority. Although not legally obliged to do so, I have routinely provided you with a receipt that has all the codes necessary to bill your own health insurance company for any reimbursement to which you are entitled. Until now, that insurance company was a free enterprise despite the fact that it was heavily regulated by state and federal laws. Now the situation is quite different. Through the new law’s mandates, regulatory powers and reform, health insurance is and will be largely a government activity which will have an ever larger jurisdiction over how doctors practice, make clinical judgments and are paid.

    The new law provides for about 150 new government agencies, many of which are designed to be ‘oversight’ bureaucracies which will have the right to decide what medical care is legal to provide through insurance. Among other things, they will have the right to review my medical care of you and read your medical record. Now, as soon as you submit our economic transaction to your insurance company for reimbursement, you have involved me in these regulations and put me in the jurisdiction of government for my activities, decisions and behavior as your doctor.

    No one can have two masters. Either I can serve you as my patient or I can serve the government. Either I can continue to make your welfare and health my only concern, including the protection of your privacy and medical records, or I can abide by ever-increasing amounts of government regulations and dictates to my decisions. I can’t do both. I choose to continue to follow my conscience and practice medicine to serve you.

    For this reason, I am responding to the situation created by this new law by exercising my right not to participate in any health insurance program. I will still provide you with the same medical services that I always have, but the interaction will be exclusively and privately between you and me. This means that I will provide you only with a receipt for the services you have paid for, but without the additional information that is required to submit your receipt for reimbursement to your health insurance company. That is the only way I can make sure there will be no conflict between following the law and serving you. Because the law is now in effect, so must these changes be to my practice.


    Linda Johnston, MD

    My own personal physician, Dr. John Madden in Glendale, Arizona, operates as Dr. Johnson describes her past practice: Cash on delivery of services, with a detailed receipt for insurance reimbursement billing — which you can undertake on you own if you like. We never bother with this, since our deductible is far in excess of any charge we ever have to pay. But I wonder is this is what he will do now. I hope so, frankly, because my quiet fear, all through this health-care “debate,” has been that he would retire.

    7 comments’s Greg Swann and Canadian real estate investor Bill Chipman featured today on an NPR Radio story on Phoenix rental-home investing for buyers from Canada.

    Click on the embedded audio player below or read the story on-line. Reporter Peter O’Dowd — a genuine born-here Phoenician and a Brophy Prep alum — spent about four hours, total, with Bill Chipman and me, an amazing commitment of effort. And that photo above? That’s what paradise looks like. We have plenty to go around…

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    Cultivate your garden

    There’s a lot of caterwauling these days. I used to be a libertarian, and still have many friends who hew to that line of thinking. In recent days, my Facebook page has been awash in complaints and claims that the country has turned a corner, that the best years are behind us, and on and on. I had to chuckle.

    This is all nonsense. First, it’s a narrative awash in nostalgia for a period when, presumably, peoples’ individual liberty was more or less respected, when the free market more or less reigned, and when the government was small and limited.

    Let’s be clear. This country has never had a truly limited government, and if you think so, you should tell it to the victims of chattel slavery, to the men conscripted into armies to fight wars, to those who lived in the Jim Crow south, to those interned at places like Manzanar.

    And before you start on about how universal health care is a diabolical plot to destroy your liberties, please take a moment to think about the hundreds of thousands of human souls confined to American prisons for the crime of selling, transporting, or using what politicians have defined as “controlled substances.”

    Or the couple hundred thousand held in detention this very day because the U.S. government says they crossed a political border to earn a better living for them and theirs.

    There are a lot of injustices in the world. Universal health care, however corrupt and ultimately ill-fated a project that may be, falls pretty far down my list of crimes. Your mileage may vary.

    I got out of libertarian politics because, it seemed, a lot of it was built around a commitment to protect a set of institutions that privileged a certain middle class, bourgeois status. Libertarians would go on and on about the horrors of the capital gains tax, or the injustice of Social Security, or stupid regulatory rules.

    But while many of them would give lip service to the idea of ending deep injustices – like the war on drugs – so few actually do that hard work. There’s no money in it.


    Unchained melody: “Personal Jesus” covered by Johnny Cash

    Reach out and touch slavery, y’all.

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    Historian Robert Higgs: “Citizen, be careful what you wish for; the government just might give it to you good and hard.”

    Nothing Outside the State

    by Robert Higgs

    A popular slogan of the Italian Fascists under Mussolini was, “Tutto nello Stato, niente al di fuori dello Stato, nulla contro lo Stato” (everything for the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state). I recall this expression frequently as I observe the state’s far-reaching penetration of my own society.

    What of any consequence remains beyond the state’s reach in the United States today? Not wages, working conditions, or labor-management relations; not health care; not money, banking, or financial services; not personal privacy; not transportation or communication; not education or scientific research; not farming or food supply; not nutrition or food quality; not marriage or divorce; not child care; not provision for retirement; not recreation; not insurance of any kind; not smoking or drinking; not gambling; not political campaign funding or publicity; not real estate development, house construction, or housing finance; not international travel, trade, or finance; not a thousand other areas and aspects of social life.

    One might affirm that the state still keeps its hands off religion, but it actually does not. It certifies certain religious organizations as legitimate and condemns others, as many young men discovered to their sorrow when they attempted to claim the status of conscientious objector during the Vietnam War. It assigns members of certain religions, but not members of others, as chaplains in its armed services.

    Besides, isn’t statism itself a religion for most Americans? Do they not honor the state above all else, above even the commandments of a conventional religion they may embrace? If their religion tells them “thou shalt not murder,” but the state orders them to murder, then they murder. If the state tells them to rob, to destroy property, and to imprison innocent people, then, notwithstanding any religious strictures, they rob, destroy property, and imprison innocent people, as millions of victims of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and millions of victims of the so-called Drug War in this country will attest. Moreover, in every form of adversity, Americans look to the state for their personal salvation, just as before the twentieth century their ancestors looked to Divine Providence.

    When the state produces unworkable or unsatisfactory conditions in any area of life, and therefore elicits complaints and protests, as it has for example in every area related to health care, it responds to these complaints and protests by making “reforms” that heap new laws, regulations, and government bureaus atop the existing mountain of counterproductive interventions. Thus, each new “reform” makes the government more monstrous and destructive than it was before. Citizen, be careful what you wish for; the government just might give it to you good and hard.

    The areas of life that remain outside the government’s participation, taxation, subsidization, regulation, surveillance, and other intrusion or control have become so few and so trivial that they scarcely merit mention. We verge ever closer upon the condition in which everything that is not prohibited is required. Yet, the average American will declare loudly that he is a free man and that his country is the freest in the world. Thus, in a country where more and more is for the state, where virtually nothing is outside the State, and where, aside from pointless complaints, nothing against the State is permitted, Americans have become ideal fascist citizens. Like the average German during the years that Hitler ruled Germany, most Americans today, inhabiting one of the most pervasively controlled countries in the history of the world, think they are free.


    Originator Compensation Overhaul to Cost Consumers

    I said new legislation would benefit mortgage brokers to the detriment of direct lenders.  In the comments, I feared something insidious might happen (responding to Wayne Long):

    WAYNE: “It is interesting that the new rules benefit the broker vs. the direct lender”

    BRIAN: It wasn’t by design (which is why I expect legislation that “forbids” my expert opinion on whether a borrower can be approved)

    The government-banking complex doesn’t want negotiated rates for any consumer loans.  The government wants to “set” the rates, according to its whim.  That’s price fixing . 

    Don’t believe me?  Look at the prestidigitation that just happened in the health care bill.  While you were arguing about the hijack of the health care industry, the Federal government quietly nationalized the student loan industry.

    “Good.  Lenders are all thieves anyway!” you snort. 

    Think again.  San Diego had a thriving student loan industry until last year.  Thousands of jobs were eliminated with this bill.  Moreover, Grandma can’t buy securities now, collateralized by those student loans, in order to juice up the yield on a portion of her portfolio.  The student loan industry nationalization is just one more way to buy party loyalty from young voters; the base of this Adminstration’s voters.  Loan “grants” will be the “new moniker”, designed to portray the Federal Government as the “kinder, gentler” nanny.

    Shall I continue?  When rates fall again (sometime way in the future), the hordes of private companies, wanted to offer graduates a chance to save money, by refinancing or restructuring their student loan debt, won’t be there.  Graduates will be stuck paying above market interest rates, to retire debt.  Forget that the federally-guaranteed student loans inflated college tuitions, this provision raises the overall cost of a college education (the value of which is debatable anyway)

    But I digress.

    As quickly as you could say “expansion of the size and scope of Government“, did the left hand start new projects, to get you to stop thinking about the right hand’s health care hijack.  Immigration reform is the larger scaled sleight-of-hand but, hidden in the bowels of the Fannie/Freddie takeover, is the anti-consumer price fixing that is being proposed.  Read this:

    Geithner called for aligning incentives for mortgage issuers, loan originators, brokers, ratings agencies and insurers so that mortgages are originated and securitized with the goal of long-term viability rather than short-term gains. If government guarantees are provided, appropriate returns should be earned for taxpayers with the assurance that “private sector gains and profits do not come at the expense of public losses.”

    Mortgage products need to be standardized and transparency improved as well, he said, and government support needs to continue for multifamily housing to ensure affordable rental options.

    Sounds innocent enough.  No originator should be paid more than another, for a consumer mortgage loan, right?  All borrowers should be treated equally, right?   The failure is (like always) in the unintended consequences.

    Mortgage brokers deal with those borrowers who don’t fit the banks’ onerous lending policies.  We are compensated to help fit slightly oval pegs into round holes.  We originate good loans, for good borrowers, who need special attention.  Sometimes, it’s counseling how a credit score can be raised so that the lower down payment option is available.  Other times, we go the extra yard, to document a file more completely, so that the underwriter’s job is easier. 

    Make no mistake about it, we are compensated MORE than our direct lending salespeople counterparts for that “extra touch”.  Borrowers either pay us higher upfront fees or finance those costs, through the disclosed yield spread premium we earn, by electing a higher interest rate.  Mostly, mortgage brokers can offer that great service at loan terms that are less than what they might get at a direct lender because we have access to wholesale lending rates.

    All parties win, too.  Mortgage brokers originate loans at a lower cost to the lender than it would pay its internal employees.  In short, the bankers want their employees to work on the easy loans while they pay us to spend the time on the harder ones.   Most of my business , these past two years, has been getting difficult loans approved, with the very same bank that declined my borrowers a month earlier.  That’s not fraud; that’s expertise.

    It is proposed that ALL originators shall be compensated equally.  Brokerage originators will be paid the same way as their banking cousins, regardless of our value or expertise.  Forget consumer-negotiated rates, the mortgage market will become a rigged game.  A rigged against against the consumer and for the industry’s benefit…once again.

    PS:  Watch how this one passes like the student loan takeover did.  The Administration wants you to attend tea parties, and scream “No Mas“, while it picks your pockets through rigged mortgage rates.  Who the hell cares about “liberty” when they control all the money?  If it weren’t so damned evil, I’d consider it brilliant.


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