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April 22nd, 2008

FLDS and genetic problems

Anyone who has checked out the FLDS on wikipedia knows that the main group in Colorado City (Hildale, Short Creek, WTF) is The Hot Spot On the Planet for fumarase deficiency. So I was more than a little surprised to see that abc news had just put out an article about how surprising it was that the group was so closely intermarried but without obvious signs of inbreeding, then listing off things like cleft palate.

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/ReproductiveHealth/story?id=4698181&page=1

To be fair, their headline has a question mark in it (literally).

Meanwhile, over at Time Magazine, someone had apparently read the wikipedia article and followed up:

http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1732498,00.html

to the degree that they found a doc who'd discussed the issue with the group, which is/was worried about the problem, but does not believe it is genetic in nature.

To sum up: they kick out the boys, use corporal punishment to a degree considered unacceptable in the broader US community (even in the South), "marry" the girls off around puberty to men substantially older than them, definitely before the age of consent (which they may or may not even know about) and quite possibly even without whatever consent a teenager who has never seen anyone outside their small group could muster. And in some cases, overriding violent protest. As a result of this, they are suffering at a high and increasing rate of severe retardation in the resulting children who need constant care (which to their credit, they are doing a relatively good job providing). While they recognize _that_ is a problem, they've rejected all the generally accepted strategies for mitigating the problem (testing, avoiding reproduction between couples who share the gene, selective abortion, etc.).

I get that the ACLU is worried about constitutional rights being respected (altho this is really the last straw; they are so never getting any of my money). I get that a lot of parents immediately think, what if they took my kid? What if they court ordered me and my family to be DNA tested? and think slippery slope. But come on. The cases aren't exactly related.

a childhood trip to California. . .

On one of our infrequent migrations to visit the Mouse, Knott's Berry Farm, Universal Studios, etc., gold was really running away with it. My dad would drag his heels whenever we stopped for gas, a meal, pee break etc., reading headlines in the newspaper boxes to see where gold was currently. He talked a lot about buying Krugerrands, altho I don't think he ever did. Years later, of course, I didn't buy Krugerrands either (my college years having been spent admiring the folk in the apartheid protest shack in Red Square at the University of Washington), but I did buy gold and a safe to keep it in. At the time, it was considerably cheaper in nominal dollars than on that trip to SoCal, and even cheaper in real dollars.

Around the same time I was squirreling away some of the bright and shiny, I was also tracking AMZN on yahoo finance with deep fascination, particularly in conjunction with ongoing research on the Northwest MLS site, searching for a Condo to Call My Very Own. With a great kitchen and enough wall space for my book cases.

It is with this deep personal history that I write about my current, morbid fascination with West Texas Intermediate. Like my father decades ago, I have no particular vested interest in what WTI does. Equally, like my father, a lot of my life and the lives of the people around me are kinda sucking because WTI is rocketing to the stars. And yet. Such fascination.

119.85 right now.

Join with me at:

http://www.bloomberg.com/energy/

Or not. This might be one of those things that doesn't really do it for just anyone.
A little back story:

A lot of people know they can't afford their housing situation. Some of these people have been evicted from their homes after the bank took possession (Real Estate Owned [by the bank]) is the term for this kind of property when put up for sale. Some of these people are in the process of foreclosure, which is what banks do when mortgage holders default (miss a payment). And some of these people are trying to make a deal with their mortgage holder to sell the house for less than the outstanding debt, so they can get out of their situation, hopefully with less damage to their credit.

In general, banks lose some money on a short sale, more money if they go through the foreclosure/auction process. Typically, when properties are sold for substantially less than "market value", appraisers and lenders note that and do not include those properties in comps. However, currently in several regions, and increasingly nationally, such properties are the _only_ comps, which has the effect of reducing the "market value" of _everyone's_ houses, with cascading effects (anyone relying on a home equity line of credit is goatfucked, basically, but those people have mostly had their lines of credit taken away anyway and therefore this is less and less relevant. That is, they've already been goatfucked.).

In markets like Seattle, which typically lag the national real estate market (and did so quite strongly this time, with a whole lot of people pretending there was no bubble in Seattle), everyone is basically set to resist accepting a turn in the market. As a result, there have been a number of stories (cited in Seattle Housing Bubble, an amusing blog, and elsewhere) of banks refusing short sales, then a year later selling that property for less in a foreclosure auction. Pretty stupid. Talking to a friend recently who is a real estate geek and was for a while a mortgage broker and who himself is upside down on a condo he can't afford, I heard that at least his bank, when asked about short sales, just wanted to know where to mail the package. This article suggests there's a whole lot of variability in willingness to do short sales nationwide (we knew this) but this time, it's the _realtors_ complaining. Usually they're too busy pretending There's No Such Thing. Ha.

http://www.reuters.com/article/fundsFundsNews/idUSN2231576420080422

Edited: Further argument in the article is that short sales would help by reducing inventory and allowing prices to rise. Locally, in the relatively limited area and price range we're tracking, we're seeing 2-3 new properties a day show up on the MLS; R. is noticing signs springing up like weeds. Some of this, of course, is the time of year. But it's a little out of hand for that.

Toddler Fun: twinkle twinkle

Child care was playing with T. in the driveway with sidewalk chalk. She drew a star. T. sang Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. Like the whole first verse.

Last night, we heard him say, "Which story will you be talking about tomorrow?" which is the intro to Countdown.

the shape of the bottom

No, not my toddler's (cute) butt, when thrown on the floor in full on tantrum. Nor my husband's muscular, cycling-trim derriere.

I refer, instead, to what our upcoming real estate bottom might look like.

I was reading this:

http://www.csmonitor.com/2008/0423/p03s03-usec.html

which talk about a shadow inventory of houses that the owners want to sell, but they can't get the price they want so they are waiting and renting instead. Which is pretty much what R. and I anticipate having to do with our current home, should we successfully relocate to Acton or Concord. I think we can expect to see a continuing, precipitous decline in price along with an increase in inventory of short-sale/foreclosed/bank-owned properties. This will clear out the I-bought-too-high group from the last couple years, particularly everyone who financed too large a percentage with an ARM that is (going to) reset(ting) and/or those people who lose their jobs or get too squeezed by fuel (transport and heating/cooling) and food costs to afford what they might have otherwise squeaked by on.

Once that group is cleared out, I expect we'll see a long, drawn out bumping along the bottom. Every step up in price will drag out more of the shadow inventory that is currently rented.

The whole thing will be further complicated by the commute-shuffle, assuming commute costs remain high/go higher. We'll see people who are able to switching to smaller residences closer in (especially multi-family near public transportation hubs) to reduce their commute cost, which may further muddy the valuation waters. The AOL Real Estate/Zogby poll suggests more than a third of people would highly value a shorter commute. The effect should be that real estate near hubs recovers faster/doesn't go as low as real estate with longer commutes.

There you go. Recorded for the future reader to cackle at hysterically if I call it completely wrong. I still don't have either a time frame or a percentage drop in value. Both of which would be extremely useful.

Edited to add: A chunk of the boom included people buying properties to flip and/or vacation properties, which if it happened with enough properties, would imply that that also created shadow inventory, which is to say, people were not living in them because they were planning on selling them or only living in them part of the time. It seems to me that as these become available to rent/buy but definitely to live in, this also would tend to keep prices low.