Is President Obama Responsible?

I read that David Siegel wrote a letter to his employees telling them if Obama is elected, there will be layoffs. At first I was a bit shocked — I mean here is someone with wealth (and by extension power) who is shamelessly attempting to sway an election. I know a little about him — in large part from the documentary, The Queen of Versailles which outlines the rise of his timeshare empire (Westgate) and its near-collapse after the industry-orchestrated real-estate disaster in the late 00's.

His argument is that higher taxes under Obama will cripple big business and force a loss of jobs. But scratching a little deeper, and you'll see that his fortunes were through his hard work and diligence in exploiting the absurdly under regulated real-estate market. The concept of fractionally selling a luxury apartment in a major city — timeshares — was a novel and lucrative endeavor. I applaud his resourcefulness in doing so and have no issue with money he earned that way. But his largest gains were achieved by borrowed money against inadequate collateral.

He was able to mortgage over-valued properties and take that money to build more properties. For instance, in the film, he has mortgaged his partially-built second-home "Versailles". How was that even possible? The place has no value until it's built, yet he was able to mortgage it anyway?

It was slack regulations from (at least as far back as) Clinton's presidency that allowed this all to happen. And who gets stuck with the bill? Well, a foreclosure goes to the mortgaging bank, and then into this nebulous network of sold, bundled, overvalued mortgages, and ultimately right to people who are paying mortgages on jeir primary properties — their first and only homes.

So while building an empire — and creating jobs — based on creating value by offering a desirable service at a price that affords a window of substantial profit is a noble one, building an empire on the backs of hardworking Americans is a fraud.

And the bulk of Siegel's wealth is just that: fraud. Even the seemingly legitimate sales of timeshares is based on a foundation of fraudulent lending. Now, to his credit, Siegel is playing the game well and is legally in the clear. Nonetheless, this is how the rich get rich: not through hard work in the sense of producing a desirable, quality product, but through exploiting legal loopholes.

So these are the 1%ers who are so hell bent on getting rid of Obama. Why? Apparently Obama's policies have forced them to actually create a desirable, quality product. The loopholes are being closed, and the gravy-train of free money for the rich is no longer stopping in their towns.

Maybe Obama has actually done some progressive good in the world. As someone who makes a desirable, quality product myself, I've seen no change in my own financial burdens. But if the rich slackers are crying out in financial pain, good!

Now if only we can get pro-life people to realize that even the lackluster "Obamacare" will reduce the number of unborn babies killed by 75% (with non-abortion contraception, preventing unwanted pregnancies), maybe we can make everyone happy.

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The Rochester Genealogical Society meeting

I arrived a little late for the The Rochester Genealogical Society meeting at The Asbury First United Methodist Church (1050 East Ave.) and Robert Coomber was talking about his Research trip to LDS Library in Salt Lake City. It was too much a tourist slide show but an informative overview of the library. I was also kind of annoyed that the guy running the laptop slide show didn't know how to operate the software, and neither of them really understood feedback and microphones. But hey, it didn't cost me anything.

In the break for refreshments, I had some instant coffee and cookies and briefly chatted with Rick Porter — the keynote speaker for the night and operator of Finger Lakes House Histories.

His lecture was titled If Your House Could Talk, What Story Would it Tell? It was quite informative. He gave case-study examples describing the kind of information you can find and how that manifests in a house history. He said it's not too hard find the hard history of a structure — its architecture and land history — and it's not too hard to find genealogical information about families, but he's interested in finding the "soft history" of a house … who lived there, when, and why.

Some obvious tools include deeds, census information, and tax records. It might seem straightforward to use deeds, but there's some unexpected challenges: like they were not transfered to newly formed counties so you need to search based on the old county's records. And before 1840, deeds were not often recorded at all. Records of mortgages, deeds, and "discharge mortgages" are available on the county clerk's office — the last being for second mortgages for improvements that were successfully paid in full.

There are other avenues of research as well. Legal notices are another interesting source of house history as they include wills and auctions of households. There are also "Sanborn maps" which were used for fire insurance and include materials, building changes, and power sources and are often available on microfilm at the library. Also, in this area, a house sale included an abstract that itemized the full land history, but usually all that is provided to a new buyer in recent years is evidence of a clean title. Apparently Monroe county is one of a few counties that still requires abstracts, so you can locate that information from the abstract company.

I had always wanted to stop by one of these meetings as the topics discussed often seemed quite interesting. Perhaps I'll make a bigger effort to do so in the future …

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