Weekend Open Thread (2012-01-06)

Here is your open thread for the weekend beginning Friday January 6th, 2012. You may post random links and off-topic discussions here. Also, if you have an idea or a topic you’d like to see covered in an article, please make it known.

Be sure to also check out the forums, and get your word in the user-driven discussions there!

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About 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. Tim also hosts the weekly improv comedy sci-fi podcast Dispatches from the Multiverse.

60 comments:

  1. 1
    Pegasus says:

    Quadrant homeowners’ kids can take ‘toxic soup’ claim to jury

    Issuing its decision Thursday, the high court found that an arbitration clause written into purchase and sale agreements signed by Quadrant homebuyers mandates their claims go before a private arbitrator, not a pubic court. The justices did not weigh in on the homebuyers’ claims that shoddy construction left the homes with a number of problems, including hazardous mold described by a plaintiff’s expert as “toxic soup.”

    Five of the court’s nine justices did, however, agree the homeowners’ children are not bound by the arbitration clause. That finding essentially cleared the way for the children’s claims that they were sickened by their parents’ homes to go to a jury if a settlement is not reached.

    Read more: http://www.seattlepi.com/local/article/Quadrant-homeowners-kids-cleared-to-take-2444377.php#ixzz1igtNYN2F

  2. 2
  3. 3
    Pegasus says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 2 – I was surprised that the court separated the children’s claims from the parents who had signed the arbitration agreements. I wonder if the attorney for the children will also now sue the parents?

  4. 4

    I think the intent was to allow the children’s suit against the builder to continue, but they might have a claim against the parents. Those claims are usually only brought if there’s insurance, and I think most insurance policies now exclude such claims.

    You don’t have an arbitration agreement if you don’t have an agreement. The children were not parties to the contract, so not bound to arbitration.

    I haven’t read the decision, however. I was just pointing out that there is a federal arbitration act, and that it’s rather old. So the result of the decision is not surprising. My only interest in reading the decision is finding out why that would make it up to the Supreme Court.

  5. 5
    Pegasus says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 4 – I would think it was over the facts that the minor children may or should have been covered by their parents signing the agreement. Will Quadrant now be forced to get an arbitration agreement signed by every child or their agent that will live in their homes? I think not. If a minor signed an arbitration agreement I don’t think Quadrant would even be able to enforce it even if they wanted to.

  6. 6

    RE: Pegasus @ 5 – It would only be relevant to where there is injury to the child. If it’s just a normal construction defect, requiring repairs, or resulting in a loss in value, the parents signatures should cover it.

    Again though, I haven’t read the case. Reporting of legal issues is often very deficient.

  7. 7

    RE: Pegasus @ 1

    Read the Article Pegasus

    Sounds like the small kids [“Z” Generation?] have no rights to toxic exposure in homes, since they didn’t sign the contract.

    I’m smiling, because about 15 years ago the FDA recommended that pregnant women limit tuna to one can per week because of mercury contamination [like its possibly OK for the rest of us to scoop up lots of tuna fish]…..Hades, after reading that I stopped eating tuna too.

  8. 8

    By softwarengineer @ 7:

    RE: Pegasus @ 1

    Read the Article Pegasus

    Sounds like the small kids [”Z” Generation?] have no rights to toxic exposure in homes, since they didn’t sign the contract.

    That’s not what the article is saying. The article is saying a majority of the court held the jury can decide the children’s claims. They are not required to go to arbitration, because they didn’t sign the contract.

    If I were to read the decision in this case I’d be more interested in the appellate court decision and what they did with the children’s claims. The result that the parents are bound by the arbitration clause seems pretty clear, so I don’t know how the Superior Court could reach a contrary decision. But I would be interested in knowing what the appellate court said.

  9. 9

    Wow, 8 posts and not a single vote.

  10. 10
    Pegasus says:

    RE: softwarengineer @ 7 – Speaking of mercury I had another CFL bulb go out yesterday. It started to flicker and I got the power off before it exploded. I got nine months usage out of it with it being on about 10 hours per day. I would send it to pfft but I don’t think it is legal to use the US Mail for toxic deliveries. I wonder how many more years of household mercury contamination before a seller has to reveal that the house contains a toxic and hazardous material when selling? I imagine inspections, toxic waste clean-up, etc. will get quite expensive.

  11. 11

    I read the appellate court case, and apparently they felt the children were barred because all 8 claims referred to the plaintiffs jointly, and some of those claims were contract warranty claims. Pretty weak reasoning, IMHO. Just because you make a claim, doesn’t mean you have a claim.

  12. 12

    Is there something to vote on that I’m missing out on? I thought this was the open thread.
    As far as my vote goes, to quote Groucho Marx, ” Whatever it is, I’m against it.”

  13. 13

    RE: Pegasus @ 10 – Mercury contamination. You might have hit on the one valid reason to buy a brand new house. That assumes though that the brand new house doesn’t have other toxic issues from its building materials, such as happened with Chinese drywall or allegedly in the case we’re discussing.

  14. 14

    By Ira Sacharoff @ 12:

    Is there something to vote on that I’m missing out on? I thought this was the open thread.

    I think voting simply means you like or dislike the post, for whatever reason.

  15. 15
    Scotsman says:

    New unemployment numbers are out, rate is down to 8.5%. Re-election looking good! Except:

    “Here’s the problem with this report — the non-institutional working-age population went from 240.441 million to 240.584, a gain of 143,000 people of working age. But the number of employed people went down from 141.070 million to 140.681 — a loss of 389,000. Adding the two, which is the correct way to look at it, the economy on a population-adjusted basis lost 532,000 jobs.”

    Fun with government statistics- if you believe them. Looks like the market has figured out the con- it’s down too.

    http://market-ticker.org/cgi-ticker/akcs-www?post=200174

  16. 16
    Chris says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 8
    Agreed Kary. Businesses try to put customer in arbitration because if favors the business. In fact it turned out one hedge fund had bought a collection agency and bought part of the arbitration firm handling its cases:

    The civil suit filed against the National Arbitration Forum in state District Court in Minneapolis alleges that far from being an impartial venue for resolving such disputes, the NAF has conflicting ties to major collection law firms that represent credit-card companies. Indeed, the case claims that New York hedge fund Accretive LLC—in which Seagram heir Edgar Bronfman Jr. is a general partner—has cross ownership of such major collection law firms and the NAF, sending collection cases between the two. The suit also alleges Accretive is involved in the arbitration firm’s business development. Accretive isn’t named as a defendant in the suit. There is no allegation of wrongdoing by Bronfman.

    http://www.businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnflash/content/jul2009/db20090714_952766.htm

    However, most businesses avoid arbitration of matters between them. If it’s so good for customers to lose a right to a jury why not businesses? It seems there’s two separate “justice” systems emerging in the country.

  17. 17

    RE: Chris @ 16 – I don’t know if it favors the business that much, if you have to go up to the Supreme Court to get a decent decision! ;-)

    At some point you have to take legal fees into account.

    I think there are some arbitration entities which are worse than others, and I doubt the average consumer would know anything about that. Business to business arbitration probably makes more sense, because they’re more likely to notice and negotiate the terms.

  18. 18
    Pegasus says:

    RE: Chris @ 16 – Costs are the key. Arbitration is normally cheaper, faster and a good chance that the arbiter will actually know something about the arena of the dispute. That is a plus for all sides of the dispute. Going to court gives the little guy the chance for a home run if the jury wants to punish the “evil corporation”. There also is a chance of more media coverage that can force a settlement from a liable party before trial. Corporations don’t like negative press coverage. In the case that I posted Quadrant is probably not real happy about all the additional press coverage about them alleged to be building toxic homes damaging childrens health.

  19. 19

    RE: Pegasus @ 10

    Good Gosh Pegasus, Exploded?

    I’ve dropped the da_n things a couple times unscrewing them from odd angles [their tubular shape is sometimes slippery to hold on to I suppose]…never had one explode yet. I’ve bought mine from expensive name brands though at cheap eBay bulk lot prices, the cheap “off brands” may explode as you say, article:

    “…
    Good quality CFLs are tested in the factory for correct power draw and light output before being boxed to ship and should then give a long life of at least 5 years before they just “die” without exploding.

    If a good quality CFL explodes then it could have been damaged sometime after it was manufactured, like it was dropped on the floor before it was installed. Even though it worked for a while, it may have been taking too much power or something similar which caused it to explode.

    However there are also some very cheap CFLs on the market – even some with good “brand” names that are actually fakes – that may have been badly made or badly handled even in the factory. Such cheap ones may never have been tested before being put in the box to ship.

    For that reason it is worth paying the proper price for the genuine article because:

    •it will give good light output throughout its life

    •it will take no more than the proper rated power consumption

    •it will last a long time without exploding!

    Read more: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_is_it_possible_for_a_CFL_compact_fluorescent_light_bulb_to_explode_I_know_that_it_wasn't_the_capacitor_because_it_is_still_in_tact#ixzz1ii8pF2MO

  20. 20

    By softwarengineer @ 19:

    �it will give good light output throughout its life

    I seldom return anything, but I did return some Costco CFLs about 4 years ago because the light output was horrible even when new. Not worth getting an off brand.

  21. 21
    David S says:

    RE: softwarengineer @ 19 – Solid SWE there man.

    On another note, I’m noticing more and more higher end fixtures, table lamp, chandeliers, sconces, etc. are now being redesigned to fit and properly filter the new CFL’s. I have even bought and installed a few. They look good too. I guess it has taken the artists (lighting fixture designers) a little bit longer to catch up to the scientists (CFL technology) on this front.

    As houses start getting built at a decent clip again, and when people start actually remodeling properly, we will see more and more of these perfectly safe and efficient lighting technologies enter our homes. There are also the LED systems which I think will be coming into their own sometime later this decade.

  22. 22
    The Tim says:

    Hilarious line from an Inman News article:

    If mortgage credit began to flow on reasonable terms, and somebody running for office told the American people that modestly rising home prices are in the national interest, and we got a 5 percent or 10 percent rise in prices, we would unlock the entire economy.

    All we need to “unlock the entire economy” is for politicians to tell everybody that rising home prices is a good thing! Come on, why don’t they get on that, already!

  23. 23
    Pegasus says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 20 – The problem in the light output, lumens, is the labs when they test and do comparisons to incandescents are using different spectrums which is not the same as in home testing. I have never had a CFL bulb rated as comparable to a 60 watt incandescent burn as brightly no matter what manufacturer produced it. They also take some time to warm up especially if it is cold. CFLs are not expected to reach their peak lumens until after 100 hours of use. The lighting industry is now even disputing what the labs contend on their testing.

  24. 24
    Pegasus says:

    RE: softwarengineer @ 19 – Every one of those supposed facts about CFL’s is in dispute by credible sources.

  25. 25
    redmondjp says:

    Ahhh, yes, CFLs again!

    I just replaced another one in my kitchen – this one was much better than the previous ones, and actually lasted THREE whole years (on about 4 hours per day). The earlier batch of the same brand (Feit Electric, from Costco, heavily subsidized by Puget Sound Energy) were only lasting me about 1.5 years. Progress! I’ve never had one explode, however. They usually start turning funny colors during startup, which lets me know that the end is near, and then one day they just don’t turn on.

    And I paid my utility bill last night, and Obama is a genius! His prediction about electricity rates is coming true! PSE is putting in a request for an 8.3% (IIRC) residential rate increase. Whoopee! Time to throw some more blankets on the bed . . .

  26. 26
    Pegasus says:

    RE: redmondjp @ 25 – Ah yes “Feit Electric” the worst of the worst. I gave up on those years ago. Got some GE’s now. Problem is they are all manufactured in the same country…..China.

    “PSE is putting in a request for an 8.3% (IIRC) residential rate increase”. Just what we need….more non-efficient wind turbines clogging up the scenery.

  27. 27
    David S says:

    By Pegasus @ 24:

    RE: softwarengineer @ 19 – Every one of those supposed facts about CFL’s is in dispute by credible sources.

    ,,,and the housing market, and the economy, and global warming are also in dispute.

    Why don’t you tell us how you really feel about CFL’s? Not some expert’s disputes. :)

  28. 28

    RE: David S @ 27

    I Only Buy the 100 Watt Equivalent CFLs

    If you’re gonna be green, might as well get the most light too….BTW, many stores don’t stock ’em….then comes eBay [in lots of 12 I get ’em for about a buck a piece, with shipping].

    Reading lamps or at work, I buy energy pig incadescents….or work by daylight….flourescent lights flicker and give me eye strain [ask your eye doctor, they agree with me too].

  29. 29

    By Pegasus @ 26:

    “PSE is putting in a request for an 8.3% (IIRC) residential rate increase”. Just what we need….more non-efficient wind turbines clogging up the scenery.

    What I’m not understanding is why they’re requesting a small increase in natural gas rates. I thought they were plummeting. I could see they might have a lot of expensive pipe to replace, and that could drive up charges, but other than that I would have thought the prices would be going down.

  30. 30

    By softwarengineer @ 28:

    I Only Buy the 100 Watt Equivalent CFLs;.

    The ones I returned to Costco were 100 watt equivalent, but they weren’t as bright as the 60 watt equivalent name brand CFLs. Also, the color wasn’t as good.

  31. 31
    ChrisM says:

    http://www.oregonlive.com/front-porch/index.ssf/2012/01/freddie_mac_to_offer_up_to_a_y.html

    Starting next month, Freddie Mac will allow mortgage servicers to provide a year of relief to borrowers who lose their jobs.

    The government-controlled loan giant will allow lenders to grant six months of suspended or reduced payments to unemployed borrowers with a Freddie Mac-backed loan. With prior approval, the forbearance period can be extended by another six months.

  32. 32

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 30

    Maybe They Were the Fakes My Thread 19 Referenced

    Good you returned ’em….they also might be the exploding variety too :-)

  33. 33
    Blurtman says:

    RE: Chris @ 16 – Your attack on NAF smacks of socialism! Leave business unregulated, and it will take care of itself! Yesiree!

  34. 34
    Chris says:

    RE: Blurtman @ 33

    Ha ha. The Supreme Court seems to love arbitration. I wonder why the Founding Fathers never thought of it? They should have just asked George III for an arbitrator from England. And why businesses go out of their way to avoid the arbitration they impose on their customers is a mystery. Don’t they know how fair it is?

  35. 35
    Natalia Orinko says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 30

  36. 36
    Natalia Orinko says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 30

    I have an Ukrainian brother, Yakov Orinko who has access to a 100 year supply of incandescent lamps from a source in Nevada. He is available to give you the best prices on the Internets! Forget about the girly little mercury lamps that slowly kill you.

  37. 37
    Scotsman says:

    RE: Natalia Orinko @ 36

    Hey- no “girly” lamps for Scotsman! Nope- not gonna even think about them.

    Some of the new LEDs are pretty good, but very pricy.

  38. 38

    By Chris @ 34:

    RE: Blurtman @ 33

    Ha ha. The Supreme Court seems to love arbitration.

    I think that’s largely a result of the federal and state legislation regarding arbitration. That type of legislation makes arbitration a favored option.

  39. 39

    By Natalia Orinko @ 36:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 30

    I have an Ukrainian brother, Yakov Orinko who has access to a 100 year supply of incandescent lamps from a source in Nevada. He is available to give you the best prices on the Internets! Forget about the girly little mercury lamps that slowly kill you.

    Thanks, but I’ve already been moving on to LED.

    The problem with them is that they use so little power you leave them on a lot more. My stairway lights take something like 3 watts, and I’ll typically leave them on 4-5 hours a day. If they were incandescent they’d probably be on for less than 10 minutes. So there’s little or no energy savings. Most the energy savings would come from not accidentally leaving 120 watts on for an hour or more.

  40. 40
    karl says:

    OC sensors are used now in most commercial buildings, also ambient light dimmers.
    http://www.smarthome.com/2520W/Leviton-ODS10-IDW-Commercial-Grade-Wall-Mounted-Occupancy-Sensor-White/p.aspx

  41. 41

    RE: karl @ 40 – I put a sensor in our closet, so that those lights wouldn’t be left on accidentally. Sometimes though that wastes energy because you might just be going to grab something that you know right where it is, and wouldn’t have turned on the lights at all.

  42. 42
    Blurtman says:

    From Bizarro World: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/01/obama-should-call-rumsfeld-to-work-on-defense-strategy-and-cuts/251028/

    “China Vice President Xi Jingping, widely estimated to be the successor later this year to Hu Jintao as China’s next generation President, will visit Washington, DC in February — and the message, communicated by new China handler-in-chief Joe Biden, …”

    – Puzzled Xi Jingping to aide: “Are you certain that you are translating accurately.”

    “Maybe it’s time to invite Donald Rumsfeld to be invited to join the respective advisory boards tasked with thinking through new blueprints for a reformed and rewired military strategy. Controversial, of course — but also a smart thing to do, even in an election year.”

    – We’ll need his expert planning skills for the Iran invasion.

  43. 43
    Blurtman says:

    Rise up, Blah People, And Take BackThe Government

    In a video clip on CBS News’ website, Santorum appears to say: “I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money. I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money and provide for themselves and their families.”
    Santorum vigorously denies using the phrase “black people.”

    “I looked at that, and I didn’t say that,” he told Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly. “If you look at it, what I started to say is a word and then sort of changed and it sort of — blah — came out. And people said I said ‘black.” I didn’t.”

    Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2012/01/06/135073/gingrich-santorum-accused-of-racially.html#storylink=cpy

  44. 44
    pfft says:

    no recession in the rail data.

    AAR: Rail Traffic increased 7.3 percent YoY in December
    http://www.calculatedriskblog.com/2012/01/aar-rail-traffic-increased-73-percent.html

  45. 45
    pfft says:

    By Kary L. Krismer @ 29:

    By Pegasus @ 26:

    “PSE is putting in a request for an 8.3% (IIRC) residential rate increase”. Just what we need….more non-efficient wind turbines clogging up the scenery.

    What I’m not understanding is why they’re requesting a small increase in natural gas rates. I thought they were plummeting. I could see they might have a lot of expensive pipe to replace, and that could drive up charges, but other than that I would have thought the prices would be going down.

    hey we finally found something that a corporation could do that you don’t agree with! progress.

  46. 46
    pfft says:

    By Blurtman @ 33:

    RE: Chris @ 16 – Your attack on NAF smacks of socialism! Leave business unregulated, and it will take care of itself! Yesiree!

    businesses do nothing but god’s work. blurtman wants to punish success.

  47. 47
    pfft says:

    people they are just lightbulbs. this isn’t really that hard unless you are pro-pollution or you hate hippies.

  48. 48
    pfft says:

    By Scotsman @ 15:

    New unemployment numbers are out, rate is down to 8.5%. Re-election looking good! Except:

    “Here’s the problem with this report — the non-institutional working-age population went from 240.441 million to 240.584, a gain of 143,000 people of working age. But the number of employed people went down from 141.070 million to 140.681 — a loss of 389,000. Adding the two, which is the correct way to look at it, the economy on a population-adjusted basis lost 532,000 jobs.”

    Fun with government statistics- if you believe them. Looks like the market has figured out the con- it’s down too.

    http://market-ticker.org/cgi-ticker/akcs-www?post=200174

    hey what is a scotsman post without more funny numbers.

    funny how you didn’t post the ADP report. why didn’t you post the ADP? you always post the ADP report and some snide comment about how you can’t trust the government employment numbers.

    oh I see, the ADP report was much better than the government report so you didn’t inform us all.

    Companies Add 325,000 to Payrolls in December
    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-01-05/u-s-company-payrolls-expanded-by-a-more-than-estimated-325-000-adp-says.html

  49. 49
    karl says:

    From the BLS. Looks like much of the unemployment reduction came from 1) A change to the way they calculate the numbers (see table “A”) and 2) gains in employment ages 16-19, seasonal jobs I would guess. The gains made from men over 20 are offset by the losses for women over 20..more or less

    http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm

    Bloomberg spins stuff up

  50. 50
    Blurtman says:

    RE: pfft @ 44 – It’s been going up for a while. A SeaTac Alaska agent told me air traffic is up, too. Say tuned.

  51. 51
    pfft says:

    1.6 million jobs were created in 2011…

  52. 52
    pfft says:

    oh willard you won’t get elected with this record.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IIUNtHm22-Q&feature=player_embedded

  53. 53
    pfft says:

    By Blurtman @ 50:

    RE: pfft @ 44 – It’s been going up for a while. A SeaTac Alaska agent told me air traffic is up, too. Say tuned.

    will all those people who said in the spring of 2010 we were going into recession finally admit they were wrong? we forget wrong predictions so easily.

  54. 54
    pfft says:

    and we also have record exports even though we supposedly don’t make anything.

    via calculated risk.

    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-4Hse7KxTI_4/TuIO6z8QnBI/AAAAAAAALj8/pwSwjQbzGyE/s1600/TradeBalanceOct2011.jpg

  55. 55

    RE: pfft @ 54 – Do you have any details on that? My guess would be the increase are largely due to airplanes and refined fuel.

  56. 56
    Blurtman says:

    RE: pfft @ 53 – A sustained increasing standard of living may be the most meaningful metric and a low unemployment rate in a large labor force.

    What is the point of increasing GDP if the standard of living continues to deteriorate and the labor force shrinks due to discouraged and part time workers?

  57. 57
    Blurtman says:

    “Conceptually the unemployment rate seems simple – it is just the number of unemployed divided by the number of people in the labor force. However, deciding whom to include in the labor force is a complicated task. In the official unemployment rate, the Bureau of Labor Statistics measures the labor force as those who are employed or who have actively looked for work within the last four weeks. As a consequence, the official rate excludes workers who have decided to drop out of the labor market altogether because economic conditions have discouraged them, or for other reasons. The official rate also ignores those who settle for part-time work since they are unable to find a full-time job.”

    “So, the way in which we calculate unemployment might mask the actual weakness of our economy. Paradoxically, if pessimism about the economy drives workers to stop looking for work or to settle for a part time job, it could actually cause the official unemployment rate to fall because of a bad outlook.”

    http://www.realclearmarkets.com/articles/2012/01/04/tracking_the_unreported_156_unemployed_99440.html

  58. 58
    Blurtman says:

    “To compensate for this problem, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has published an alternative measure of the unemployment rate based on an analysis of the Current Population Survey, a household survey. This measure, referred to as the “U-6 rate”, includes those that would still like a job and have looked for work in the last twelve months, not just the last four weeks. It also includes people who opted to work part-time even though they would like full-time jobs. Unfortunately, this measure is not cited nearly enough.

    The U-6 rate offers a clearer picture of how precarious a situation we are in. It has moved from 8.8 percent in December 2007 to 17.4 percent in October 2009 and 15.6 percent in November 2011. Today the gap between the U-6 rate and the official rate is 7 percentage points, meaning that the number damaged by the weak job market is almost twice what the official number would suggest. At the start of the recession, there was only a 3.8 percentage point difference. By comparison, during the 2001 recession, which lasted only a few months, the difference grew by a meager 0.9 points from 3 percent to 3.9 percent.”

    http://www.realclearmarkets.com/articles/2012/01/04/tracking_the_unreported_156_unemployed_99440.html

  59. 59

    RE: Blurtman @ 57 – You have to throw in that the seasonally adjust these things too. I would suspect the number of people looking for work spikes during December too, and that they adjust that too.

    So in a sense it makes the number whatever they want! Look how little time we spend discussing the seasonally adjusted C-S numbers.

    Do they even release non-seasonally adjusted employment numbers?

  60. 60
    Blurtman says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 59 – Sure. Compare apples to apples. If analyzing a specific quarterly interval, for example, compare it to the same interval over other time periods. And if comparing one quarterly interval to another, be attentive to seasonal trends.

    Glen! Unger! For President!

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