Archive for March 2nd, 2010

by Pete Talbot

It came back to me in a torrent of emotions: why I seldom visit the right-wing blogs.

It was the comments over at Missoulapolis this time, on this post, about resurrecting the Hiawatha train route — a pretty innocuous subject.

It wasn’t “Max Bucks” calling our site “4 & 20 Black Girls.” I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that he really isn’t a racist. He’s just making a feeble attempt at humor by melding blackbirds with jhwygirl — this site’s longtime contributor. I hope that’s all it is.

Nor was it Mr. Bucks calling European rail passengers “stinking euro-socialists.”

No, it was the entire tone of the comments. From the reasons as to why this guy won’t take the train:

“I can drive 156 miles in Montana in two hours for about $75.00. I can ride in extreme comfort and privacy, leave when I like, stop when I like, and return when I like. There will be no government record of my travel.”

I mean, where do you start with a comment like that: the selfishness, wastefulness and extreme paranoia of it all.

There are the ever popular government is bad/free market is good metaphors.

There’s a swipe at Ward 2 Councilwoman Pam Walzer’s unfortunate DUI, for who knows what reason.

Then it devolved into a rage against food stamp users:

“Ever wonder how many folks that are on welfare, then either purchase their intoxicant “de jour” (sic) with cash from food stamps or cash from a welfare check?”

Now I’m not saying the left-wing blogosphere is made up of saints. I do believe, though, at least at this site, we try to moderate the really malicious comments — no matter what the political persuasion. I, for one, take offense at the misuse of the word Nazi when applied to conservatives, and will call out the commenter.

I just don’t see this happening at the right-wing sites, and the nasty rhetoric makes me sad. It gives me less-and-less faith in humanity, and our ability to solve the myriad problems facing our nation and world.

If you’ve the stomach, take a quick look at the site. Read it and weep.


UPDATE: A 30 day extension to the Highway Trust Fund has been passed.  Pioneering legislation people… wonder what will happen in 30 days?

As we’ve become so accustomed to hearing from D.C… the game of politics is getting nothing done and now the United States Department of Transportation is facing a temporary shutdown. A “Jobs Bill” meant to extend unemployment benefits has been blocked by a single U.S. Senator, Jim Bunning (R., Ky.).  According to the Wall Street Journal the bill included a funding extension for Highway Trust Fund which has now expired, causing 2,000 USDOT employees to be furloughed and potentially $768 million in infrastructure projects to be halted.

This is causing many strains, including on state governments which are faced with losing approximately $150 million per day in federal reimbursement payments. At a time when many states are already on the edge of financial insolvency this is just one more headache to deal with.  Trickle Down Theory is even hard at work as local Public Works type agencies that are relying upon federal funding and cost sharing for projects are now facing lost funding.

This shouldn’t be much of a surprise since the Federal Government’s continued failing to pass a new transportation bill has had a similar effect and has forced states and municipalities to make hard choices about what projects to try to fund (in stark contrast to the effect of the Stimulus where many projects went ahead with little oversight).

Missoula makes great use of the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ) which is part of Federal transportation funding. CMAQ funding helps pay for pedestrian and bicycle facilities as well as the purchase of buses for both Mountain Line and ASUM Transportation, the student funded bus service to the UM campus. Lack of CMAQ funding has meant that ASUM Transportation cant replace marginally safe buses that are over 20 years old rather than being able to purchase new buses that meet the strictest federal safety regulations. Because of the Federal Government’s flaccid ability to actually get anything done ASUM Transportation is facing a hard choice between continuing to run old buses that pollute heavily (compared to a new bus) and breakdown constantly, or cut the budget by about 15%, consequently eliminating 4 or 5 student positions, to be able to attempt to purchase new buses using only ASUM funds.

Some people will undoubtedly rejoice in the gridlock in Washington, but when people and local governments have no idea what direction the Federal Government will take… it makes it just a little hard to plan for the long term or to invest in equipment or infrastructure.

by jhwygirl

While poking around for elections information for yesterday’s post I came across a list of foreclosures here in Missoula County that runs from late November 2005 to its last update, February 9 of this year. There’s a total of 1505, with 914 of them occurring since July of 2008 (when the banking and finance industry took a big crap on the U.S.)

Now, I didn’t break it down to how many actually foreclosed – these numbers and the information on the County Clerk & Recorder’s website is for informational purposes only – but you can see the development of actual foreclosed homes increasing.

Hasn’t all the realtor talk been that there aren’t any more foreclosures than usual? That everything here in Missoula has been normal? Seems that if nearly 2/3 of all of the county’s foreclosures since November 2005 occurred in the last year and half, well – that’s a pretty steep increase in proceedings, no?

In my ‘hood there are scores of homes for sale. Some brand spanking new, and quite a few that have been lived in (you know these are foreclosures) for just about a year or so. You can’t drive a block without seeing one. I made the comment to a neighbor recently that a whole bunch of them are foreclosures, and she didn’t believe that could be true.

Few homes show the signs of foreclosure. There’s one down the street that actually has (or had) a foreclosure sign – and I’ve run across a handful that have a notice from the bank posted on the door, some saying that heat and water has been disconnected, “to protect bank interests” or something like that.

But if you look at that informational list, that’s quite a chunk of Missoula County hanging out there in foreclosure nether near land.

Thinking of buying? Wanting to get at what is almost certainly the last of first-time-homebuyers tax credit (which will expire April 31st?) I’d say take some time finding out who’s foreclosing on some of this stuff – in some case, you might have to go directly to the bank – and make yourself a deal. Realtors will say that the asking price is what is based on the last few sales – but take a moment to ask when those sales occurred. In some cases, those last few sales could be nearly a year ago. Regardless, with the kind of inventory that is listed on MLS – and a whole bunch of stuff that isn’t – there’s plenty of room to negotiate your way into a home.

I don’t think that tax credit is going to be renewed – I don’t really think it should. It’s artificially kept the housing industry propped up, keeping it from hitting the bottom it needs to hit. There may be a time when it should come back (like when the housing sector is truly on a rebound), but until then, I don’t think any politician of any persuasion is going to even bring forth a bill extending it, yet alone move the thing to an appropriations round.

I say that being a person that might benefit greatly by that tax credit. I don’t know the point in rushing to purchase anyways.
In my thinking, given that I don’t believe the market’s yet hit bottom, and given that just the mere act of purchasing a home give’s one a significant tax deduction, purchasing to take advantage of the credit seems foolhardy. It’s not like that money is given up front (like it was for cars a year ago.) Frankly, pushing to buy a house now under the tax credit might simply have the effect of softening the loss in value of the house as the market continues to tamp down to bottom after the April 31st tax credit expires.

It’s all a gamble, but that’s what I’m thinking. That is unless I find something interesting on that foreclosure list.

Remember that house I mentioned a while back? It’s still there, and last I heard (3 weeks ago) the price has come down by 10 grand…and the Christmas decorations just came down. The “For Sale” sign is still out front, but I can’t seem to find it on Missoula Organization of Realtors MLS website.

Another addendum: I try and check out the Billings Housing Blog regularly, and as I was finishing this post out, up came its most recent, reporting that Billings housing prices (weren’t they the healthiest in the state?) just dropped for the first time year after year since 1989

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