There’s always something to howl about

Archive for September, 2012

“Americans will downsize and live multigenerationally, in order to offset the fraud they know exists in real estate. Until there is wage growth, and that could be years or decades away, people will not trust any upward movement in real estate values.”

A searing indictment of The Bernanking System in Business Insider:

Once people start to come out of negative equity, even more of them will sell and try to get out from under the cloud they are under. So, the housing bubble orchestrated by the Fed and by the hedge funds and by the wealthy could free up massive inventory. The average person fears negative equity. The Fed will not erase that memory.

The only way people will risk negative equity is if their house prices are cheaper than rent. But the artificial inflation of housing prices will do nothing but push the average Joe away from housing.

Keep in mind that about 4.4 million houses were sold in 2011 and only 2.4 million mortgages were taken out for purchase. That is a mortgage depression and the rise in house prices has not changed that mortgage depression.

People are learning that the uptick in prices is a scam, both by banks withholding massive inventory, and by the Fed making more easy money available to the rich. Once they own most of the inventory, they will be forced to initiate a housing bubble or they will be stuck with the properties.


I had a come to Jesus moment

I had a come to Jesus moment a couple of weeks ago. I had a bout of pneumonia earlier this summer and seemed to have gotten rid of it with some powerful antibiotics. It seemed to creep back a little while we were on a camping trip over Labor Day weekend. I felt winded and tired after doing the simplest tasks. It rained the whole time and was a real pain in the ass to pack out.

I was kind of exhausted when we got back and unpacked and didn’t do much the first day. That night my wife woke me up telling me my breathing was weird. The next day I had some real estate stuff and was trying to dry out the gear. I was ready to hit the sack early. Discovered it was hard to breath normally while lying flat. This had happened during the pneumonia, so I figured it was back and I would go back to the doctor in the morning. Did not really sleep much because I had to be almost sitting up to breath normally.

When I got to the doctor she told me I was in heart failure. …congestive heart failure. They wheeled me straight into the ER where I spent 6 days. My otherwise healthy heart had been infected by a virus. I had a cat scan in March and was told that I had 0% calcium in my heart and would very likely never have a heart attack. Even in the hospital they told me no clogged arteries, no damaged valves, none of the typical leading indicators. I don’t drink (for 13 years) I have never smoked, no drug abuse, no fast food, healthy diet, no diabetic tendencies, not a lot of stress….just a fucking virus. My heart is pumping about 25% of what a normal heart of someone my age pumps.  Now I am wearing an external defibrillator which is a harness and a battery pack designed to give me a shock if I have an abnormal racing heart that knocks me out.  I have to wear it for 90 days at which time the generous insurance company will allow me to have another echocardiogram to see how I am doing.  In the meantime I have to just cross my fingers and hope that it gets better. I have been told not to drive for now. Can’t eat anything with salt/sodium, I get about 1000mgs per day which eliminates pretty much everything at the supermarket or in restaurants. I can only drink 64oz of fluid a day in any form.

People keep asking how I feel or if I am feeling better. I don’t really feel sick. Except for one day when I had to get up early to see a doctor, I haven’t felt really that bad at all. I don’t actually feel tired. I just don’t give a crap about anything. I let my voice mail fill up for almost two weeks and have not really cared about that. I suppose it is my mind taking control of my senses so I won’t work or stress, but it is a really strange feeling. There are things I really should do and my first thought is “whatever…I will get to it when I get to it”. I suppose I could say I am improving every day, but from my point of view it is almost impossible to measure any progress. I tell my well-wishers that I am feeling better so they won’t worry. I think it will take quite a bit of time to heal.

So what’s the point? My major point is that it could be a lot worse. I could have actually had a heart attack. It could have required surgery.  I could have clogged arteries and other factors that would make recovery much more difficult. I could have died. So when you look at things in your life or your business that piss you off, or bring you down, or make you crazy remember this …even from my damaged perspective I know that it really could have been or it could be a lot worse.

If you have your health you have everything, or at least you have a chance of having everything. Do yourself a favor. Take some steps to get healthy. Don’t think that you have unlimited time on that task. They tell me if I were a smoker or a drinker my prognosis would be considerably more dire.  If my arteries were clogged from bad eating, I might never regain full strength in my heart.  Thank God for that.

Now I have to see how to go forward with the biz. I am really not ready to retire.


Movie of the week: A Sunday sermon on religion.

When Man Alive! was first published, a number of people were distressed that I didn’t take a harder line on religion. My reason for doing as I did was pretty simple: Although I am a very strident atheist, and although I have nothing but contempt for theology and for all religious apocrypha, I like, respect and admire many people who say they are religious — including my own Best Beloved, my wife, Cathleen Collins.

I care a lot less about what you say you believe than I do about how you actually behave. If you are capable of leaving me alone to live my life as I choose, I don’t care what you say are your reasons for behaving as you do. By contrast, if you claim you are in agreement with my own ideas about the nature and structure of reality, and yet you cannot manage to keep your nose out of my business, then I care a great deal your actual behavior, regardless of your putative agreement with my philosophy.

This topic is of moment this week because our friends in the lands infested with Islam have put on another display of the impotent irrationality that is represented to be the substance of their religion. I don’t make fine distinctions about anegoistic doctrines: Whether your claims are based in religion, in politics or in some absurd academic dogma, if your behavior is atrocious, you are engaged in self-destruction in spite of your self.

We go through all this in the video, but the solution to every problem posed by anti-human dogmas is four-words simple: Fuck you. I quit. When the sane believers of every sort of doctrine work up the nerve to say those four words to their would-be masters, the world will be a better place overnight.

You can find an audio-only version of this video at the podcast on iTunes.


Life after foreclosure: Cultivate indifference and press on regardless.

We just lost our house to foreclosure. Negotiations with the bank fell apart and we spent the last seven days bugging out. This was our third Notice of Trustee’s Sale. We had managed to redeem the note twice before, and we thought for sure we could thread the needle a third time. No joy. We didn’t know until yesterday morning that the bank had actually foreclosed, but we had to operate on the assumption that we could lose our pets and our personal property without notice.

That’s bad, but it’s not the end of the world. We are solvent even if we are not terribly liquid just now. We have business assets, art and artifacts and intellectual property, all of which we were able to conserve by acting quickly. Was I the bank, I would have hung in there for another month or two, taking account that we live on a cash-flow roller coaster and that we had managed to cling to the home twice before.

Over the past three months, we have cut our monthly nut by two-thirds, so we are well-situated to weather the economy we are living in. Had we done this seven years ago, things might be different, but we live with the consequences of our choices. We loved our home and we are sorry to have lost it, and sorry, too, to have defaulted on our promise to the bank, but life is suddenly a lot more joyous without that anchor around our necks.

Our real estate business is secure and solvent. All of the rental properties we manage are leased to solid, performing tenants, and our corporate bank accounts are all in good order. Our personal finances might be chaotic — this for many years, alas — but this has had no impact on the funds we hold in trust for our landlords and tenants.

And our marriage is stronger than it has ever been — literally as the consequence of these events. Cathleen had some teary moments, because we loved the El Caminito house, and because we spent many happy, loving years there, minus a few rough spots. But I’m happy with everything, so far, most especially with our marriage. It is the shared commitment to overcoming adversity that makes families, and we have lived through a lot of commitment in the past week.

All of this is offered up as news: This is what is going on with us. We are living out of boxes in our new abode, but the office is up and running, with me keeping the paperwork flowing while Cathleen stages and lists a home for sale today. We’re running behind, obviously, but we are catching up with alacrity. In a week’s time, all of these events won’t amount to a speed-bump on a sleepy side-street.

We are hale, well and happy — and so should you be. FannieMae is taking another hit, but that seems to be what they’re good at. Meanwhile, we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off — and press on regardless. We have each other, and everything else is just so much stuff.


Greg Swann
September 13, 2012


My commencement speech.

This is me from

What I’m doing here is a sort of commencement speech, a celebration of my moving on to a different state of excitation — even if everyone else stays exactly the same.

But I’m using extended arguments about the idea of preferring the subjunctive to the existential to defend my way of thinking in a comprehensive way.

I’ve spent my whole life thinking about how to talk to you — I say that in the movie — and this little clip may be the most comprehensive job I have done so far of communicating at least this small idea: We are not talking about the same things.

I don’t trade in your currency — I say that in the film also — but I am trying to convey to you why my currency is so much better for you than the stuff you’ve been trading with until now.

This stuff ain’t easy, I know, and it is plausible to me that my take-no-prisoners approach makes things harder for you, not easier. Oh, well…

This is me at my most me, the meest of the mes I have presented in these videos — all of which are intended to acquaint you with my style of being as the result of your having spent time with me being me.

I love this movie. I hope you do, too.

The video is in this YouTube clip. Fair warning, it’s 40 minutes long.