Friday, September 13, 2019

I don't know if I can survive sharpie gate 2.0.

The frustrating thing about that news cycle was - all anyone had to do was go over to weather underground and read through the old posts and comments. Instead it stayed in the news cycle for nine days after the hurricane had passed. And then to see all the people saying Trump was being a dictator because NOAA backed him up just shows how irrational people are being. People cared more about Trump saying it was going to a place it didn't than the actual devastation!


  1. Trump=bad.
    For the most part what "it" is doesn't matter. Very sad to watch.

  2. Actually the really shitty part of watching stuff about Dorian was watching National Weather Sluts going on about "this storm 110 miles east of West Palm Beach" that happened to be parked over Freeport for an entire day.

    It's as if these vapid fucking idiots didn't know there were people living on those islands in the Bahamas until someone reminded them, and that the only people who were important were the people on the Florida coast.

    Should anyone expect anything different when a cyclone blows through Abaco and Grand Bahama again?

    Call it what you will, I call it "Political Peter Pan Syndrome": these people just won't grow the fuck up and accept that they're not going to be in power because they act in very juvenile ways.

    I don't care about what pathetic temper tantrums these people happen to manifest this week, it's just another micro-tempest in a mini-teapot.

    Instead, I'm going to continue to give a fuck about what happens to the Bahamas, and maybe Broward up to Duval counties will be able to pull through despite whatever ignorance national weather forecasters tend to manifest.

    As for any property damage, I'm insured, I'm still out of town, I'm trying to get rid of some vehicles anyway, and I'm already looking at moving, so in every meaningful way: fuck it.

    Laissez les temps du mal rouler.

  3. Can we rewind a second and talk about your last comment re: rent control. Can you tell me any stories or examples? I am still in complete shock that you said that. I thought this was something that happened from time to time. Now it seems more common than I ever expected. Thanks.

  4. It's very common, especially in places with a regulatory and tax regime where you don't really know where things stand and where your effective tax rate is absurdly high relative to what you could do elsewhere.

    California is like that: there are certain sets of conditions where you can never know for sure whether your company is genuinely 100% ERISA compliant, for instance, and so you're always subject to some kind of fine or judgment even if you're doing everything right. There's also a flat-rate levy on business incorporation taxes in California that means you're always paying something like $800 every year regardless of whether your business makes any money in California.

    But think of the problem from a regulatory and tax farmer's perspective: poor people are people you want to leave trapped in the system so they'll provide their labor at "market competitive rates" that are far from competitive, just for starters. That provides a net advantage to businesses in a way that's not just subtly sinister and anti-competitive for reasons I'll get to.

    Cost of compliance for the rentier classes is more expensive than openly disregarding regulations, especially since it requires court actions for any challenges. Even then, the cost of court-mandated minimal compliance isn't as high as you might think, and there are legal constructions you can use to minimize risk.

    For instance, you can stick every building your rental company "manages" into its own LLC that files its own taxes and manages its own receipts, although they conveniently sub-contract that out to another one of your companies. Then if the legal actions against that building are so high that you can't still manage to make some kind of profit, you invoke the owner's privilege of taking the property off the market to be renovated as condominiums.

    Step one in this involves knocking down the old building so that the replacement building is no longer subject to the original rental regulations, of course.

    That's essentially what the Ellis Act in California allows, and if you keep your properties indpendently managed, the blowback from one implosion doesn't put the rest at risk of imploding as well.

    The only people who can game this system are the people with enough leftover income and assets that they're not trapped by the regulatory and tax regime, but these are also the people who are the biggest tax payers, even more so than the businesses that are part of these arrangements of convenience.

    And so the solution is to put in a short-term fix: a certain number of properties become rent-controlled not so the poor can take up residence, but so the people who used to be just poor enough who have figured out how to game the system and become better tax payers can continue to stay there.

    The problem is that once the fix is in, the people who are benefiting from it become so attractive to the regulatory and tax regime that the regulatory and tax people want to expand the operation.

    Stockholm in the late 1990s to early 2000s was like this before a bunch of primarily Russian buyers started buying up buildings so they could renovate them. After renovations, they were put back on the market as "holiday rentals" and "corporate apartments" with full furnishings, anything to keep them from being subject to Stockholm's standard rental regulations.

    Before the Russians showed up, I had a place only a little way outside Stockholm for about 550 USD per month, and I had an easy walk to Stockholm's public transit system. There was very little demand for such a place. I had to let the water run for a while because the place had been disused for so long that the water pipes were full of brown crud that had to be purged, and I had to give the water heater several flush-outs before I felt good about getting a shower.

  5. But back to California and the Bay Area in particular: the reason that there's such a clustering of IT companies and "big tech" in the area isn't so much a factor of legacy and culture as much as it is economics and subsidy.

    Your labor markets in the Bay Area are rigged in such a way that poor people are created out of people who would otherwise be well off, and most if not all of their net worth is trapped in real estate, vehicles, and tangible property, if they happen to have any at all.

    People who are naturally poor or turned into poor people by the local economic situation are ripe for being exploited, and that's how the "Slaves of Silicon Valley" (à la Tama Janowitz's infamous New Yorkers) happen to be made.

    The only way to "win" in a limited fashion is for there to be some kind of fix that makes it possible for desired groups of people to continue the status quo, and that's why rent controls always benefit the rentier classes, the larger businesses, and certain protected groups of beloved tax payers first.

    In yet another of life's interesting reversals, poor people love rent controls because they can continue the myth of a "steady state existence" despite all indicators leading otherwise to a realization that they're the targets of a long-running economic war that they are losing, and that the net effect of economic controls in general is to create a captive population of "previously poor people" who are still effectively poor yet believe they've actually won.

    Without these controls, the property values in the greater metro area and the regions around them would eventually become moderated according to several economic bands, and there would eventually be some non-subsidized "ghetto suburbs" that would fill up with people who need to be near some kind of transit yet can't afford to live in the major cities themselves.

    And yes, this all creates a bigger housing problem ...

    But you're already trapped within that bigger housing problem unless you can figure out a way where you can extricate yourself from it, because even with your one rental, you're not quite within the classes of people that the state intends to benefit from their regulatory and tax fixes.

    Indeed, that's quite the opposite.