Archive for March 14th, 2006

Happy Pi Day

Today, 3.14, is Pi Day. I hope yours is a good one.

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Isaac Hayes, the voice of Chef in the popular animated satire South Park, has quit in protest of the show’s lampooning of religion. This seems a tad curious, since the series has been merciless toward religion since it started in 1997, but it never touched Scientology until this past Autumn. Hayes is a Scientologist.

"There is a place in this world for satire, but there is a time when satire ends and intolerance and bigotry towards religious beliefs of others begins," the 63-year-old soul singer and outspoken Scientologist said.

"Religious beliefs are sacred to people, and at all times should be respected and honored," he continued. "As a civil rights activist of the past 40 years, I cannot support a show that disrespects those beliefs and practices."

"South Park" co-creator Matt Stone responded sharply in an interview with The Associated Press Monday, saying, "This is 100 percent having to do with his faith of Scientology… He has no problem – and he’s cashed plenty of checks – with our show making fun of Christians."

I have a different take, and it has more to do with timing. Hayes had plenty of time to be offended since the Scientology episode this past Autumn and we haven’t heard a peep from him. He was most likely pressured to make a statement from his intolerant fellow Scientologists, who would never stand for his continued participation on a show that was less than devoutly reverent toward their "faith."


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The definition of a real estate broker is as follows:
Any person, partnership, association or corporation that sells (or offers to sell), buys (or offers to buy) or negotiates the purchase, sale or exchange of real estate, or that leases (or offers to lease) or rents (or offers to rent) any real estate…for others and for a compensation or valuable consideration. 
In short, anyone who collects a fee for the sale or rental of real estate is acting as a broker. If you collect a fee and you aren’t licensed, you are breaking the law. Nobody said you had to be good at it, so you don’t even need to make a sale. You just have to offer to sell real estate for a fee. What constitutes the offer or attempt to sell real estate then? A reader questioned my previous post on eBay’s selling of real estate with the folowing question and observation:
I don’t see what the problem is.  eBay appears to be simply an
advertising medium facilitating an FSBO transaction.

Should the newspaper be required to do due diligence if someone wants
to place an ad?

Not quite. You have to be more than a medium to advertise, especially since state law in New York requires brokers to disclose their name in all ads so the public can differentiate between property offered by a broker and the owner. The newspaper, Craigslist, and your pennysaver are not brokering real estate.
What about eBay? In light of my criticism of their indifference to fraud on some of their real estate entries, how can I accuse them of brokering real estate, and therefore be held to a standard that is more protective of the consumer? They are just an advertising medium, right? Wrong. Look at the screenshots below, or better yet, go to the site. They are fielding bids, enabling people to commit to buy via the "buy it now" option, and even facilitating the exchange of money through Paypal. Not only are they practicing transactional brokerage, they are the escrowee! EBay cannot look you in the eye, shrug their shoulder like the gal who takes your call at the Pennysaver, and claim that they are just a place to advertise.
Here are two partial screen shots of properties offered for sale on Ebay. Two things jump out at me, especially on the 2nd one in Rochester, where I own 14 units. One is the very low feedback score of the sellers, and in the case of the Rochester property, the price is astoundingly inflated. This isn’t a benign advertisement. This is the offer of a sale on the spot, with the capability of of executing the transaction. In New York, which is an agency law state and doesn’t have transaction brokerage, you are supposed to disclose whether you are representing buyer or seller. EBay does not do this. It is an utter waste that there are slobs running around town trying to earn a living in this business who are beholden to a standard that eBay is immune to while they earn millions, most likely because it isn’t a sexy enough problem for the whores in Albany to address.
I am a capitalist, very pro caveat emptor, and in general I favor as little government interference as possible. But if the government is going to make rules, then we should ALL have to play by the same rules, not just those of us who are percieved to be making more money per transaction.

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