Posted by: Timothy Ellis (The Tim)

Tim Ellis is the founder of Seattle Bubble. His background in engineering and computer / internet technology, a fondness of data-based analysis of problems, and an addiction to spreadsheets all influence his perspective on the Seattle-area real estate market.

41 responses to “Weekend Open Thread (2012-02-17)”

  1. jp

    New American Dream is renting to get rich

    http://finance.yahoo.com/news/new-american-dream-is-renting-to-get-rich.html

    I ran the numbers for my home a few months ago, and arrived at the same conclusion.

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  2. Pegasus

    Obama’s “Robo-Settlement For Votes” Cost To Taxpayers: $40 Billion

    Obama’s foreclosure settlement with the banks over their improper seizure of tax-paying US citizens’ homes will in fact be subsidized by those very same US taxpayers. It is a hidden clause (that has not been made public yet) that allows the banks to count future loan modifications under the $30bn (taxpayer funded) HAMP initiative towards their $35bn agreement to restructure obligations under the new settlement. As the FT goes on to note, BofA will be able to use future mods made under HAMP towards the $7.6bn in borrower assistance it is committed to provide – which means, in a (as TARP inspector general Neil Barofsky describes) ‘scandalous’ turn of events the bank will receive payments for averting a borrower default and be reimbursed by the taxpayer for the principal write-down.

    http://www.zerohedge.com/news/housing-settlement-be-taxpayer-funded-confirming-big-five-banks-are-beyond-law

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  3. Pegasus

    I want whatever these guys are smoking…..Morgan Stanley predicts REO rental program will create 1.8 million jobs

    “Even if only half can be turned into rentals, which would represent only a 20% increase in the total number of single-family rental properties available today, that could result in the creation of one million one-time construction-oriented jobs plus a possible additional 800,000 in permanent jobs, mostly in some of the hardest-hit sectors and the hardest-hit economic areas of the country,” they say.

    http://www.housingwire.com/sites/default/files/editorial/MS.png

    http://www.housingwire.com/article/morgan-stanley-predicts-reo-rental-program-will-create-18-million-jobs

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  4. Blurtman

    RE: Pegasus @ 2 – The man needs to raise campaign contributions. He also is looking at post-presidential employment options. The story of how he again fooled the American public would make great water cooler chat at Goldman Sachs.

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  5. deejayoh

    By Pegasus @ 2:

    Obama’s “Robo-Settlement For Votes” Cost To Taxpayers: $40 Billion

    Obama’s foreclosure settlement with the banks over their improper seizure of tax-paying US citizens’ homes will in fact be subsidized by those very same US taxpayers. It is a hidden clause (that has not been made public yet) that allows the banks to count future loan modifications under the $30bn (taxpayer funded) HAMP initiative towards their $35bn agreement to restructure obligations under the new settlement. As the FT goes on to note, BofA will be able to use future mods made under HAMP towards the $7.6bn in borrower assistance it is committed to provide – which means, in a (as TARP inspector general Neil Barofsky describes) ‘scandalous’ turn of events the bank will receive payments for averting a borrower default and be reimbursed by the taxpayer for the principal write-down.

    http://www.zerohedge.com/news/housing-settlement-be-taxpayer-funded-confirming-big-five-banks-are-beyond-law

    So the new program spends that was already committed to be spent under HAMP. I don’t really see how this is costing $40B more. Sensationalist headline from a crackpot site by a guy who posts as “Tyler Durden”. The whole settlement is a farce anyway and won’t over time have much if any affect the banks or the housing market.

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  6. Blurtman

    RE: deejayoh @ 5 – From perhaps a more credible source:

    “The whole purpose of a settlement is that a party pays damages to rid themselves of liability, and the amount they pay (and “pay” can include the cost of reforming their conduct) is less than what they expect to suffer if they were sued and lost the case (otherwise, it would make more sense for them to fight).

    But in the topsy-turvy world of cream for the banks, crumbs for the rest of us, we have, in the words of Scott Simon, head of the mortgage business at bond fund manager Pimco, in an interview with MoneyNews, lots of victims paying for banks’ misdeeds:

    “A lot of the principal reductions would have happened on their loans anyway, and they’re using other people’s money to pay for a ton of this. Pension funds, 401(k)s and mutual funds are going to pick up a lot of the load…

    “Think about this, you tell your kid, ‘You did something bad, I’m going to fine you $10, but if you can steal $22 from your mom, you can pay me with that.’”

    So not only is the settlement designed to shift the costs of the banks’ misdeeds onto already victimized investors, but taxpayers will also be picking up some of the widely touted $25 billion tab. Shahien Nasiripour tells us in the Financial Times that banks will be able to count future mods made under HAMP towards the total:

    However, a clause in the provisional agreement – which has not been made public – allows the banks to count future loan modifications made under a 2009 foreclosure-prevention initiative towards their restructuring obligations for the new settlement, according to people familiar with the matter. The existing $30bn initiative, the Home Affordable Modification Programme (Hamp), provides taxpayer funds as an incentive to banks, third party investors and troubled borrowers to arrange loan modifications.

    Neil Barofsky, a Democrat and the former special inspector-general of the troubled asset relief programme, described this clause as “scandalous”.

    “It turns the notion that this is about justice and accountability on its head,” Mr Barofsky said.”

    http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2012/02/quelle-surprise-taxpayers-will-be-paying-for-part-of-mortgage-settlement.html

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  7. Pegasus

    RE: deejayoh @ 5 – The 40 billion may stem from more than the 5 banks possibly joining the settlement, me thinks and it is first quoted by a credible source the Financial Times…unlike your disparaging self. The real point is that the liability for payment is shifted on to the taxpayers instead of the perps. Interesting that they have already announced the settlement and yet refuse to release the agreement to the public. Did they get they cart before the horse or are they hoping the public stops looking for the truth?

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  8. Blurtman

    RE: Pegasus @ 7 – So what penalty, exactly, do they banks pay?

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  9. deejayoh

    RE: Blurtman @ 8RE: Pegasus @ 7

    you two do realize you’re the only ones that care about this, don’t you?

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  10. Blurtman

    RE: deejayoh @ 9 – Accuracy is not your strong suit, is it? Please read the comments on the Naked Capitalism website, or any website that is reporting this.

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  11. Pegasus

    RE: deejayoh @ 9 – What? Were you expecting the major media to report on this? They are busy reporting what they are told. For three days now all we hear on both national and local news is that someone predicted gasoline prices will be over $5.00 this summer. Great reporting! Especially since supply has increased, usage is down and the only thing keeping oil prices up is the manipulators with the Administration’s approval and the more than occasional talk of war shutting down the supply. Ever try to think out of the box they have built for you and ask how this can possibly be?

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  12. Pegasus

    RE: Blurtman @ 8 – We could try them as witches and see if they pass the dunk test?

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  13. Kary L. Krismer

    By Pegasus @ 11:

    Especially since supply has increased, usage is down

    So I guess people for the first time in over 50 years are not going to be driving more this spring and summer! And the refineries are not going to switch to the summer blends. And we’re going to quit exporting gasoline.

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  14. Pegasus

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 13 – I am missing your point. Gasoline prices normally peak around Memorial Day. Yes seasonal demand does increase during the summer months. For most of the last year our oil stocks have mostly been at 20 to 30 year highs and yet the price remains up. We are now able to sell the surplus gasoline overseas which is certainly not a sign of strong demand.

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  15. Kary L. Krismer

    By Pegasus @ 14:

    We are now able to sell the surplus gasoline overseas which is certainly not a sign of strong demand.

    It’s a sign of better transportation systems, and that people elsewhere are willing to pay more than us.

    But in any case I was just focusing on gasoline and the US. The broader picture is the world and oil. There I think demand is up (although Europe is possibly down because oil in Euros is very high right now). I believe China is still subsidizing gasoline prices (not to mention their currency), so their demand is likely up.

    On the supply side you have Iran, which has cut off most of Europe–a symbolic act at best. Their bigger problem is getting paid, especially after today and the news on SWIFT.

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  16. Blurtman

    RE: Pegasus @ 12 – I keep hoping for a ninja sniper type to appear.

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  17. Kary L. Krismer

    By Pegasus @ 11:

    Especially since supply has increased,

    Do me a favor, and don’t post anything about earthquakes!

    http://www.komonews.com/news/local/Huge-smoke-plume-as-fire-rages-at-Cherry-Point-refinery-139547143.html

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  18. Dirty Renter

    RE: Blurtman @ 16
    You need a check-up from the neck-up.

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  19. Blurtman

    RE: Dirty Renter @ 18 – When the government refuses to enforce the law, and is even complicit in the commission of crimes, people may take the law into their own hands. One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.

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  20. Pegasus

    RE: Blurtman @ 19 – Welcome to the “No Fly List”!

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  21. Haybaler

    COSTELLO: I want to talk about the unemployment rate in AMERICA .
    ABBOTT: Good Subject. Terrible Times. It’s 9%.

    COSTELLO: That many people are out of work?
    ABBOTT: No, that’s 16%.

    COSTELLO: But you just said 9%.

    ABBOTT: 9% Unemployed.

    COSTELLO: Right 9% out of work.

    ABBOTT: No, that’s 16%.

    COSTELLO: Okay, so it’s 16% unemployed.

    ABBOTT: No, that’s 9%…

    COSTELLO: WAIT A MINUTE! Is it 9% or 16%?

    ABBOTT: 9% are unemployed. 16% are out of work.

    COSTELLO: IF you are out of work you are unemployed.

    ABBOTT: No, you can’t count the “Out of Work” as the unemployed. You have to look for work to be unemployed.

    COSTELLO: BUT THEY ARE OUT OF WORK!!!

    ABBOTT: No, you miss my point.

    COSTELLO: What point?

    ABBOTT: Someone who doesn’t look for work, can’t be counted with those who look for work. It wouldn’t be fair.

    COSTELLO: To who?

    ABBOTT: To the unemployed.

    COSTELLO: But they are ALL out of work.

    ABBOTT: No, the unemployed are actively looking for work. Those who are out of work stopped looking. They gave up. And, if you give up, you are no longer in the ranks of the unemployed.

    COSTELLO: So, if you’re off the unemployment roles, that would count as less unemployment?

    ABBOTT: Unemployment would go down. Absolutely!
    COSTELLO: The unemployment just goes down because you don’t look for work?

    ABBOTT: Absolutely it goes down. That’s how you get to 9%. Otherwise it would be 16%. You don’t want to read about 16% unemployment, do ya?

    COSTELLO: That would be frightening.

    ABBOTT: Absolutely.

    COSTELLO: Wait, I got a question for you. That means there are two ways to bring down the unemployment number?

    ABBOTT: Two ways is correct.

    COSTELLO: Unemployment can go down if someone gets a job?

    ABBOTT: Correct.

    COSTELLO: And unemployment can also go down if you stop looking for a job?

    ABBOTT: Bingo!!!

    COSTELLO: So there are two ways to bring unemployment down, and the easier of the two is to just stop looking for work.

    ABBOTT: Now you’re thinking like an economist.

    COSTELLO: I don’t even know what the hell I just said!

    And now you know why Obama’s unemployment figures are improving!

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  22. jp

    RE: Haybaler @ 21 – Just for the record; that’s how unemployment is always measured. Not just under this administration.

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  23. jp

    RE: Pegasus @ 11

    Jim Jubak’s report (today); Why is oil stuck above $100/barrel.

    Can’t put a link since this is a subscription.

    Oil continues to hold at more than $100 barrel ($102.53 today, February 16 for West Texas Intermediate)—or in the case of Brent crude at much more than $100 a barrel ($121.43 today, February 16).

    That’s even though projections for 2012 demand for oil keep getting ratcheted downward. On February 10, the International Energy Agency cut its forecast for 2012 demand for oil to 89.9 million barrels a day. That was the sixth monthly cut to projection in a row and while the forecast is above the 89.1 million barrels a day consumed in 2011, it’s 300,000 barrels a day lower than the last forecast.

    So why hasn’t oil retreated from the $100 a barrel level back to $90 or $80 or even $75 a barrel? The explanation is on the supply side.

    OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, has set $100 as a reasonable price for oil and it is regulating production to achieve that price level. Nothing especially surprising about this: $100 a barrel oil has become a magic number for countries such as Saudi Arabia and Russia that need $100 a barrel oil to balance their national budgets after expanding social payments in the last year to reduce domestic unrest.

    But OPEC’s targets wouldn’t stick if the world weren’t worried about production or delivery disruptions from countries such as South Sudan, Yemen, Syria—and, course, Iran. Problems in the first three countries potentially affect 1 million barrels a day of production. Sanctions against Iran will take an estimated 600,000 barrels of oil off global markets and push it into storage in Iran.

    And those production worries wouldn’t weigh so heavily on the market for oil if oil producers had more excess capacity that they could call on in a shortfall. Saudi Arabia, the world’s big source of excess capacity in other tight spots is already pumping oil near 30-year highs. Oil stocks in the world’s developed economies are at their lowest levels since 2008. In January, oil inventories climbed by 11.4 million barrels, but that’s well below the five-year average January increase of 43.2 million barrels. That inventory figure has spooked the oil market because it came during warmer-than-normal weather in the United States and Western Europe.

    The latest worrying sign for global excess capacity comes from the International Energy Agency’s February report on global supply and demand. In that report the agency reduced its estimate of Saudi Arabia’s maximum output to 11.88 million barrels a day from its previous estimate of 12 million barrels a day. In other words, the agency believes that Saudi Arabia, the world’s source of excess capacity, has less excess capacity than previously thought.

    I wouldn’t regard the agency’s one-month estimate as definitive. Saudi Aramco, the Saudi national oil company, disagrees putting, the country’s maximum output at 12.5 million barrels. And the agency itself says that Saudi investment in new production technology could increase that maximum capacity.

    But the number is enough to rattle a market that’s already worried about supply. The International Energy Agency has seldom lowered its estimate of Saudi Arabia’s maximum production over the last decade.

    And the downward revision also feeds into long-term skepticism about Saudi estimates of production capacity and the health of the country’s oil fields.

    The agency’s projections use a model that puts the natural rate of decline in output from Saudi oilfields at 11% a year.

    In the past that decline has been balanced by additions of new oil fields and Saudi Aramco’s addition of new drilling and production rigs in existing fields. The last significant oil expansions were the Khurais and Khursaniyah projects that added 1.7 million barrels a day of capacity in 2010. The next major expansions aren’t scheduled to come on stream until 2013 production expansion at the Manifa field. Until then, Saudi Aramco is going to be stretched just to keep production capacity steady.

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  24. Pegasus

    RE: jp @ 23 – Garbage spewed to support a false price and believed by fools. For the past year or two many major oil company execs have stated that 60 to 70 a barrel is a fair price in this environment. Oil prices have been impacted by hedge funds and other speculators moving into a finite market while true demand is flat or falling. The market is easily cornered and the Administration knows all about it. High oil prices also help them to justify giving away money that will never be repaid in the felonious search for alternative energy sources which always turn out to be just “alternative” ways to loot the public. When the public starts screaming enough they will pretend to do some things to stop the manipulation temporarily. In the mean time the public gets looted again. The much ballyhooed miniscule break in payroll taxes will go directly into the pockets of the crooks as an offset to higher gasoline costs.

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  25. Scotsman

    http://tickerforum.org/cgi-ticker/akcs-www?post=202194

    KRUGMAN: The recession officially ended in June 2009 because that was the point when some things—industrial production, GDP, but not employment—started to go up again. But I say we’re still in a depression. I’ve taken to calling what we’re in the Lesser Depression. It’s not as bad as the Great Depression, but it’s like the Great Depression. It’s a prolonged period. We’re now four years into high unemployment and lousy economic prospects for most people. If you’ve lost your job, your chance of getting another is small. The number of people who’ve been unemployed for long periods is at a level we certainly haven’t seen since the 1930s. What we’re experiencing is an economy that probably feels in a lot of ways like the U.S. economy in 1937, when, almost everyone now agrees, policy makers were way too complacent and should have kept on pushing for more employment. It’s lousy.

    PLAYBOY: In 2002 you wrote that you were worried about the unemployment rate—and it was only 5.7 percent. You also made the point that people had been out of work for longer periods than before, that people had given up looking. Now we’re almost double that rate.

    KRUGMAN: It really is catastrophic. If you include people who aren’t actively searching for a job and people who are working part-time even though they want full-time work, we’re up to about one in seven. That means the unemployment rate is 16 percent. I live in a fairly rarefied social class now and so probably hear a lot fewer personal horror stories. But I do hear them: people my age, 58-year-old guys who’ve lost jobs and see no chance of ever getting another one; young people out of college with good qualifications who can’t find anything, who can’t get their lives started. The human damage is enormous.

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  26. pfft

    By Haybaler @ 21:

    COSTELLO: I want to talk about the unemployment rate in AMERICA .
    ABBOTT: Good Subject. Terrible Times. It’s 9%.

    COSTELLO: That many people are out of work?
    ABBOTT: No, that’s 16%.

    COSTELLO: But you just said 9%.

    ABBOTT: 9% Unemployed.

    COSTELLO: Right 9% out of work.

    ABBOTT: No, that’s 16%.

    COSTELLO: Okay, so it’s 16% unemployed.

    ABBOTT: No, that’s 9%…

    COSTELLO: WAIT A MINUTE! Is it 9% or 16%?

    ABBOTT: 9% are unemployed. 16% are out of work.

    COSTELLO: IF you are out of work you are unemployed.

    ABBOTT: No, you can’t count the “Out of Work” as the unemployed. You have to look for work to be unemployed.

    COSTELLO: BUT THEY ARE OUT OF WORK!!!

    ABBOTT: No, you miss my point.

    COSTELLO: What point?

    ABBOTT: Someone who doesn’t look for work, can’t be counted with those who look for work. It wouldn’t be fair.

    COSTELLO: To who?

    ABBOTT: To the unemployed.

    COSTELLO: But they are ALL out of work.

    ABBOTT: No, the unemployed are actively looking for work. Those who are out of work stopped looking. They gave up. And, if you give up, you are no longer in the ranks of the unemployed.

    COSTELLO: So, if you’re off the unemployment roles, that would count as less unemployment?

    ABBOTT: Unemployment would go down. Absolutely!
    COSTELLO: The unemployment just goes down because you don’t look for work?

    ABBOTT: Absolutely it goes down. That’s how you get to 9%. Otherwise it would be 16%. You don’t want to read about 16% unemployment, do ya?

    COSTELLO: That would be frightening.

    ABBOTT: Absolutely.

    COSTELLO: Wait, I got a question for you. That means there are two ways to bring down the unemployment number?

    ABBOTT: Two ways is correct.

    COSTELLO: Unemployment can go down if someone gets a job?

    ABBOTT: Correct.

    COSTELLO: And unemployment can also go down if you stop looking for a job?

    ABBOTT: Bingo!!!

    COSTELLO: So there are two ways to bring unemployment down, and the easier of the two is to just stop looking for work.

    ABBOTT: Now you’re thinking like an economist.

    COSTELLO: I don’t even know what the hell I just said!

    And now you know why Obama’s unemployment figures are improving!

    how many times do we have to go over this? the unemployment rate has always been calculated like this. by the way it’s not:

    “No, you can’t count the “Out of Work” as the unemployed. You have to look for work to be unemployed.”

    it’s are you out of work and NOT looking for employment? none of these numbers have been tweaked by the obama admin. statistics have been counted like this for years. it’s just that people don’t know that and when they read it on some economic conspiracy website they go all nutty because they don’t know anything!

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  27. pfft

    I’m married but not to the supermodel I wanted to be, therefore I’m not really married…

    I wanted to replace Joe Montana but I didn’t so I’m really unemployed when you think about it…

    I wanted a mansion but I just like in a house so I’m homeless when you really think about it.

    I wanted a Porsche but…oh wait I do have a Porsche. nevermind.

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  28. pfft

    I’m sitting here contemplating a Santorum run for the WH. and laughing. hysterically.

    oh mittens. poor little mittens.

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  29. Kary L. Krismer

    RE: jp @ 23 – For over 30 years OPEC has tried to keep prices higher, but member cheating and non-members increasing production prevent that. Production problems in a handful of countries can help them achieve that goal because at some point the cheaters run up against their own capacity limitations, and the target price can be maintained.

    Absent some restriction in supply, either artificial (OPEC restrictions) or real (actual capacity of the producers collectively), or a combination thereof, they cannot maintain high oil prices. But once they get to that point, a small change in supply can result in a huge change in price.

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  30. Kary L. Krismer

    By jp @ 22:

    RE: Haybaler @ 21 – Just for the record; that’s how unemployment is always measured. Not just under this administration.

    Beyond that, as a practical matter you need to really maintain both numbers. Otherwise you’d be basing economic policy on trying to get jobs for people not looking for work. Also, as the unemployment rate drops, that will encourage those not looking to start looking, and publishing a lower number will provide greater encouragement.

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  31. Kary L. Krismer

    By pfft @ 28:

    I’m sitting here contemplating a Santorum run for the WH. and laughing. hysterically.

    OMG! pfft is President Obama! No wonder our economy is so messed up!

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  32. pfft

    By Kary L. Krismer @ 31:

    By pfft @ 28:
    I’m sitting here contemplating a Santorum run for the WH. and laughing. hysterically.

    OMG! pfft is President Obama! No wonder our economy is so messed up!

    nope. just a regular dude surfing the internet and watching National Geographic Preppers.

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  33. Kary L. Krismer

    RE: pfft @ 32 – Well President Obama probably shares your view of Santorum.

    Liberals would love him to be nominated. Extreme conservatives would love it. And it would leave the rest of us scared to death, focusing on whether unemployment is dropping faster than gas prices are rising.

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  34. jp

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 29

    That’s how it works. There was some prince on TV last week saying that $100 was a number they felt comfortable with.

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  35. jp

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 33

    At least we all agree. If Santorum wins the nomination, the GOP will rename itself the Taliban.

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  36. Kary L. Krismer

    RE: jp @ 35 – I did wake this morning realizing I wrote that wrong. (Funny the things that pop into your head when you first wake up).

    I should have said it will scare the rest of us who want a new president.

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  37. Kary L. Krismer

    By jp @ 34:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 29

    That’s how it works. There was some prince on TV last week saying that $100 was a number they felt comfortable with.

    That’s what cartels are all about, and why they’re illegal if they’re under US law.

    The point is though, you can’t just raise prices. You have to limit supply and then raise prices.

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  38. Tatiana Kalashnikov

    I am visiting my sister in Visalia Ca, a beautiful little city in the central valley. Her house was valued at $300,000 at peak. Today it’s worth $118,000.

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  39. Kary L. Krismer

    By Kary L. Krismer @ 17:

    By Pegasus @ 11:
    Especially since supply has increased,

    Do me a favor, and don’t post anything about earthquakes!

    http://www.komonews.com/news/local/Huge-smoke-plume-as-fire-rages-at-Cherry-Point-refinery-139547143.html

    This is the first news article I’ve seen where the press has even mentioned the possibility of reduced production.

    http://www.komonews.com/news/local/State-investigates-cause-of-Cherry-Point-refinery-blaze–139577658.html

    Usually they like to scare everyone to death, so I’m surprised they didn’t tease these news stories with concerns over $6.00 gas.

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  40. Kary L. Krismer

    By Kary L. Krismer @ 39:

    This is the first news article I’ve seen where the press has even mentioned the possibility of reduced production.

    http://www.komonews.com/news/local/State-investigates-cause-of-Cherry-Point-refinery-blaze–139577658.html

    Usually they like to scare everyone to death, so I’m surprised they didn’t tease these news stories with concerns over $6.00 gas.

    This is a better story:

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/19/refinery-operations-bp-cherrypoint-idUSL2E8DI15E20120219

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  41. Tatiana Kalashnikov

    RE: Tatiana Kalashnikov @ 38

    My grandfather (a retired professor of economics) once told me that if you belief the currency will soon collapse, buy as much property that you can. Because property is real, and currency, which is based soley on confidence, is not. Tatiana Kalashnikov

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