Saturday, February 28, 2009

Quip for the Day

Yesterday Buffet confessed to having done "dumb things" last year. One has to suppose that chief among them was his support of Barack Obama.

The Audacity and the Fact

I’ve been mulling over a post on the arrogance of those who pontificate on Cuba- people like Peter Coyote and even our esteemed senator- on the basis of information and disinformation they’ve been fed by the regime’s propaganda machine even via some think tank or operating group. It takes a certain amount of arrogance to sample but a small portion of an incredibly complex and nuanced situation and then presume to know more than those who have crafted foreign policy for more than half a decade or who have experienced it first hand and just might have more knowledge of the situation. Ah, the famous American arrogance.

So it was refreshing to stumble across this well-informed, well-reasoned piece on the embargo by Christopher Sabatini at America’s Quarterly. Sabatini points out not only the reprehensible human rights record of Cuba, but also the regime policies which siphon any foreign investment directly into the pockets of its khaki uniforms. I may not agree with his conclusions.... But, wait.... Strike that, since his conclusions are that we should not lift the embargo wholesale, we should not forget human rights…. I’ve got it. We should talk nicer. That’s something I’ve been saying for a while, by the way. We need to be as shamefully disingenuous with them as they are with us and the rest of the world. In the end after all his careful parsing of the situation, Sabatini is stuck on the horns of improving relations and condoning a Stalinist regime. At least he knows what he’s discussing.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

What Have They Done? Part Three

I can't be the only one horrified by the "change" upon us. I am not rich; I will never be; nor do I want to be. I am one of those who will ostensibly be untouched by the financial maelstrom being unleashed by the present administration. Having established my lack of financial interest in the matter, I cannot help but think that there is something intrinsically wrong with what is being done to fellow citizens.

The scuttlebutt is that the Bush tax cuts will be allowed to expire. Fair enough. That, however, does not take into account other changes being proposed. No cap on social security contributions, ditto medicare, no mortgage interest deductions, increased capital gains tax, etc...

The truly rich, we all know, can afford to hire experts to work around the law. The brunt of these draconian policies will fall on doctors, lawyers, small business owners, middle tier business executives. These are people who have spent years in schools, have devoted much of their lives to working their way up the ladder, often deferring gratification and sacrificing family. And now, we are apparently turning them into workhorses for the rest of us. There is something very ugly and fundamentally unAmerican about all of this. The founding fathers must be doing cartwheels in their graves.

Heads up: Let's watch the market tomorrow.

Quote for the Day

comes from Anne Coulter's column-

But as long as the nation is obsessed with historic milestones, is no one going to remark on what a great country it is where a mentally retarded woman can become speaker of the house?

Despite the politically incorrect and insensitive reference, Anne's onto something. I found Pelosi terribly distracting as I tried to watch the speech the other night. The woman looked like she was going to pee herself. Query: who votes for this woman as his or her representative and what hold does she have on Democrats that they made her speaker?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

It's the Market, Stupid!

Since Clinton, unfairly but to great effect, used a variation of the phrase on Bush I, it is only fair to turn it on the great gullible masses out there. Last night, Obama the eloquent made a moving speech to general acclaim. I was watching Fox where the pundits then proceeded to belittle Bobby Jindal. True, there was something of the marionette in the awkward progress to the mike, but the folksy stories the talking heads disliked appealed to me, none better than the bureaucrat who demanded the registration and insurance of the ragtag flotilla which massed to rescue people in New Orleans after Katrina.

Although I could see some of Obama's spending, as in the technology money is essence an investment for the future. At least the grandkids who will pay for this will get something out of the deal. Not so for the culture funds, the reseeding of the lawn, etc. But then el presidente- with a straight face, no less- insisted there was no pork. What? I've had less at Noche Buena.

All his glibness, however, was not enough to reassure people who actually have two brain cells and think for themselves. Apparently that doesn't reflect many people I know. This morning, they're carrying on about how wonderful he was and how stupid the Republicans. I'm standing around getting offended. First, because it just doesn't occur to them that anyone could conceivably have a different opinion. Second, they who have brought this upon us have not a clue about things financial. So I'm thinking that we'll see later on. But then I realize that they are so entrenched in their conception of themselves that they will never see.

So to my friends, I offer the market which has done almost nothing but tank since the great one took office. Why? Because financial types, some of whom-granted- got us into this mess, have no confidence in an administration which seeks to regulate everything, yet shows no restraint of its own. If the performance of this congress and president were so wonderful, there should be some semblance of bounce, however short-lived. There is none, because the market is not reassured by the Great Society II. Just my two cents.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Days Gone By

Central Vertientes, Cuba, circa 1950's. (Just an excuse to try out my scanner.)

Monday, Monday

Garden Party. There are signs of an incipient taxpayer revolt in the air. Townhall has a pretty fair summary of the situation. Also on Townhall, Lawrence Kudlow elaborates the pitfalls as he, not surprisingly, champions the market alternatives in this column.

Tropical Revue. Over at Lew Rockwell, the indomitable Humberto Fontova takes on TJ English's How the Mob Owned Cuba, and Lost it to the Revolution, a book that has done irreparable damage to the truth. I once found myself in a near shout down in a book store with a gentleman who loved the tome and swore by it's accuracy on the basis of having read it. Read it here.

Lost Worlds. How 'bout some lighter topics? At long last, Atlantis may have been found off the Canary Islands. Sorry, Bimini Road, but this location would make more sense if we go by Plato. And Homer seems to have had a point about Troy. Is it possible? Of course. Will they able to prove it? Take a look for yourself.

Inner Space. I forgot this one earlier. NASA is offering free 0 gravity flights on the vomit comet to budding inventors et al. Deadline for application is March 20, so hurry. Read all about it.

The Voice of First Hand Experience

In this week's mix, you'll find some items about the Obama housing plan. There is the whole moral hazard argument, as in you will be rewarding deadbeats and penalizing responsible homeowners. Then there is the thousand dollar incentive, which doesn't seem to be much of one. What raised my hackles however was the provision that judges will be able to lower not only the interest but also the principal. Wait right there! If I've got this right, these people entered into a legally binding contract for, say, 200 thou. Now because the property in question in worth 100 thou, the lender will potentially lose part of the principal dependant on which testicle itched on some judge? Now, that does not seem right. What happened to the assumption of risk? Do we demand car loans reflect the diminished value of the vehicle the minute you drive off the lot?

That's a stimulus too far. I'm just a naif about these things, although I did come close to losing a home once, but it seems to me that there are other, fairer ways to handle the mortgage problems. What kills you as the distressed homeowner is the punitive nature of late fees and interest charges. I mean here you are, you can't make your payments, so they add on extortionate amounts. In the end, there ain't no way you're ever gonna pay. Despite having plunked down about 100 thou, by the time we sold the house for roughly what we paid for it, we were left with 400 dollars. At least thirty thousand went to my friends at Citibank, a substantial part of which where late fees, etc.... They were horrible.

So here's a thought. Since it's pretty obvious that the situation is causing grief in the economy, how about the novel notion that we set back the clock? Interest rates are now low, so the adjustables should be back to acceptable levels. In the common interest, forgo the late fees and assorted schemes and tack the missed payments on to the back end of the mortgage, extend the term by the missing payments. For those teaser rate mortgages, extend the teaser rate period for a longer terms, so the adjustments do not come all at once. The lenders will still have to take a bite, but it is infinitely preferable to some judge giving away their stockholder's money, not to mention that they made a bad business decision.

Obviously, people whose life circumstances have brought them to foreclosure would not fall under these provisions. I'm also no expert, but there is something inherently wrong in the way we are approaching the situation at present.