Showing posts from April, 2008

Greenspan's Body Count

Today's episode of Greenspan's Body Count begins in the Oregon town of West Linn:
More details are emerging in a relationship that ended with the husband killing his wife and then himself in a police department parking lot, officers said. [...]

Although neighbor Dusty Calliham said there was no indication Bill McMurtrey would turn violent, she said he was behind on his mortgage, was having trouble getting construction work and had recently begun drinking again.
Trouble paying the mortgage? No construction work? Common symptoms of the aftermath of Greenspan's housing bubble.

Alan Greenspan, these kills are yours.

And then in the Bay Area city of San Ramon, a realtor / mortgage broker fell on hard times and ended up allegedly having his business partner killed:
Reginald James Robinson had fallen on some hard times in recent years.

The 31-year-old El Sobrante man defaulted on his home three weeks ago, records show. Creditors had filed a pair of civil suits against him looking to c…

All you need to know about the housing bailout

They also prefer dim sum to dog shit

Some Chinese exporters prefer Euros to dollars

I wouldn't want to be paid in Bernankes either.

Dead man walking

Countrywide is under investigation for fraudulent loan origination in its "Fast and Easy" program: deliberately making loans to people who were obviously lying about their income. Today's WSJ:
A federal probe of Countrywide, the nation's largest mortgage lender, is turning up evidence that sales executives at the company deliberately overlooked inflated income figures for many borrowers, people with knowledge of the investigation say.

Some of the problems are surfacing in a mortgage program called "Fast and Easy," in which borrowers were asked to provide little or no documentation of their finances, according to these people and to former Countrywide employees. Both Countrywide and Fannie Mae, the government-sponsored company that bought many of the loans, classify the loans as "prime," meaning low-risk.

Fast and Easy borrowers aren't required to produce pay stubs or tax forms to substantiate their claimed earnings. In many cases, Countrywide di…

We get visitors

Three of the top 10 searches that bring people to the W.C. Varones Blog today:

3. piss wc
4. pissing wc
10. blog pissing

You people are sick.

Schwarzenegger: "Holy &^%@! Varones was right!"

Remember when we told you that California was screwed because Schwarzenegger is the biggest-spending governor in history and his budgets depended on the housing bubble continuing forever?

Schwarzenegger admits it: "Kahleeforneeyah is like totally doomed, and it's all my fault." Well, not so much the part about admitting it's his fault. Don't expect a lying weasel like Schwarzenegger to take responsibility for his actions. But he now says the budget is twice as bad as he thought.

There are no good solutions. They can't raise taxes, because they'd drive businesses out of the state and/or hammer consumers in a bad recession. They've already done a lot of accounting gimmicks and borrowing from the future, so they're running out of tricks there. Democrats are proposing anything to scare the public into accepting more taxes: mass prisoner releases, mass teacher firings, mass closures of state parks, etc.

Schwarzenegger's fiscal policy is a lot li…

Greenspan's Body Count: Golden Oldies

We missed this when it happened back in October:

[redacted at request of victims' family]

And this, also from October:
Deputies proceeded on foot to the residence and discovered a strong gas odor outside the residence. After checking further it was discovered there was a 1981 Cadillac Eldorado running inside a locked garage. Deputies breached the door and checked for any victims of the heavy Carbon Monoxide fumes and discovered the door to the tri-level home had been propped open with a rock.

The vehicle was turned off and the garage doors were opened before the deputies proceeded to another door outside the residence.

After deputies discovered the outside door from a deck on the 2nd level was locked they breached that door and discovered the body of Raymond Donaca, age 71. Along with Mr. Donaca were three Golden Retrievers that were also deceased.

The deputies continued to check the residence and found the body of Deanna Donaca, age 69 in the upstairs bedroom and another Golden Retriev…

Ali G does Shakespeare

A British satirist has translated 15 of Shakespeare's classic plays into chav speak.

Martin Bauam's updated version of Hamlet reveals: "Dere was somefing minging in de State of Denmark."

The Danish prince, who is re-named 'Amlet, asks: "To be or not to be, innit?", while Romeo pines for his "fit bitch Jools".

Mr Baum's other titles include Macbeff, Much Ado About Sod All, De 'Appy Bitches of Windsor, De Taming of de Bitch, Two Geezas Of Verona and All's Sweet That Ends Sweet, Innit.
I've never heard of "chav." Methinks it must be English for "Ali G."

36 months

Willie Mays Hayes
Hits like Mays
Runs like Hayes
Which is useful in prison
To protect his ayss

The $600 that saved the world

President Bush announces a little surprise: your $600 stimulus check is coming early:
"Starting Monday, the effects of the stimulus will begin to reach millions of households across our country," Bush said Friday in remarks on the South Lawn of the White House. [...]

"The money is going to help Americans offset the high prices we're seeing at the gas pump, the grocery store, and also give our economy a boost to help us pull out of this economic slowdown," Bush said.

Bush's emphasis on fuel and food prices differed from other comments he's made since signing the economic stimulus legislation, intended to aid the economy by boosting overall consumer spending - which accounts for roughly two-thirds of the nation's economic activity.

Bush has suggested the rebates could trigger a spending spree. "When the money reaches the American people, we expect they will use it to boost consumer spending," he said last month.
The change in language suggests th…

Congo travel advisory

Beware of penis theft:
KINSHASA, Congo -- Police in Congo have arrested 13 suspected sorcerers accused of using black magic to steal or shrink men's penises after a wave of attempted lynchings triggered by the alleged witchcraft.

Reports of so-called penis snatching are not uncommon in West Africa, where belief in traditional religions and witchcraft remains widespread, and where ritual killings to obtain blood or body parts still occur.

Rumors of penis theft began circulating last week in Kinshasa. They quickly dominated radio call-in shows, with listeners advised to beware of fellow passengers in communal taxis wearing gold rings.

Purported victims, 14 of whom were also detained by police, claimed that sorcerers simply touched them to make their genitals shrink or disappear.

Belated happy Anzac Day

We forgot to wish the Aussies a happy Anzac Day last week.

Sorry we missed all the fun!

Greenspan's Body Count: Premeditated Murder

Today's episode of Greenspan's Body Count does not contain the story of another victim. Instead, it relates to the motive and mindset of the man behind the killing spree.

In this weekend's Barron's, reporters find a rare copy of Alan Greenspan's Ph.D. thesis. The thesis discusses housing bubbles and their effect on consumer spending.

Greenspan's Body Count now appears not the result of negligence or incompetence on the part of the Maestro, but of malice. Years before he created the bubble with unprecedented easy credit, and years before he urged borrowers to buy overpriced homes with adjustable-rate mortgages, Greenspan knew what the outcome would be:
...the work's introduction includes a discussion of soaring housing prices and their effect on consumer spending; it even anticipates a bursting housing bubble. Writes Greenspan: "There is no perpetual motion machine which generates an ever-rising path for the prices of homes."
Greenspan's Body Co…

Whole Paycheck - BEER

Now call me a softy for foods and drink that are different and exotic; I like Whole Foods. It's really close to my house and I love the bread, cheese and meat selection (this is Negocios here not WC). And I love their exotic beer collection. I love trying different beers.

So I just returned from there with a hearty IPA from Petaluma and my god, what has happened to the price of beer? Anchor Steam for $9.99 a six pack!?!? (Which ends up being be $11.00 because of the bottle tax, sales tax, and we're an incompetent government tax). The brewery is 24 miles away and they are charging that!?! I saw one six pack for $14.00 and I would say the majority of them were at $9.99.

I realize how trite this sounds in light of the world food shortages that are happening. My point in mentioning this is Whole Foods might a juicy short opportunity. My family has already stopped shopping there unless there is a dire need for the malted beverage or cheese from Eindhoven. But what happens w…

You should see what he does at a Lynn & Liz Cheney event


Shark kills swimmer at Felcher Cove in Solana Beach.
Fletcher Cove
I'm trying to figure out how this is Greenspan's fault, but it's not coming to me yet.

Investing on Planet Bernanke

Keep all the food lines movin'
Don't come crying for more
The signs were there
You should have
Bought connections before

Wall Street Journal: Ditch the money markets and stock the pantry, 'cause Bernanke is destroying the dollar!
Reality: Food prices are already rising here much faster than the returns you are likely to get from keeping your money in a bank or money-market fund. And there are very good reasons to believe prices on the shelves are about to start rising a lot faster.
The only thing I'd add is that you might want some guns and gold to go along with that. You never know who you're going to have to bribe or shoot when the shit goes down.

Taxpayers to bail out bad lenders

Congress wants to use your money to buy foreclosures that bad lenders won't sell at the market price:
Democrats pushed a $15 billion housing bill through a House committee Wednesday over the objections of Republicans who called it a government bailout.

The measure would send federal loans and grants to cities and counties hit hardest by the housing crisis so they could buy and fix up foreclosed properties. It passed the Financial Services Committee 38-26, mostly along party lines.
You're a responsible, hard-working citizen. You didn't want to lie on a mortgage application or sign up for some sleazy option ARM to buy an overpriced house in the bubble. What's your reward for such prudence? The Democrats want to make you bail out the Mozilos!

If this bothers you, join the discussion and sign the petition at

Everything is Connected

Greenspan's easy credit orgy... corn fueling Hummers... global food shortages.

Some call it the Law of Unintended Consequences. Some call it the Butterfly Effect. I call it Everything is Connected.

We thought we could have an economy driven by ever-increasing consumption paid for by ever-increasing debt on ever-increasing assets. We thought negative consequences were a relic of the past in the era of The Maestro. We thought wrong.

Terrible to see those Third World food shortages and riots. But we're insulated over here, right? Wrong. Everything is Connected.

As T-Dub pointed out, Greenspan's Body Count may be turning into a genocide.

Skeptical CPA has some goodposts today about the food crisis and its causes.

Greenspan with the dish!

To the extent that Easy Al inspired fast-money practices among friendlies across the pond, we can credit him with an unofficial assist in this story, dug up by reader Russ DoGG.
A loving mother who could see "no way out" of her family's mortgage arrears drugged herself and her two children before setting fire to their home, an inquest was told.

Linda Mulvihill Nicholas Mulvihill Carly Mulvihill

Not my fault

No, I didn't inspire this fire with yesterday's arson post.
A multimillion dollar hilltop home under construction in the gated community of Cielo went up in flames Monday.

The 7,400-square-foot two-story home on Camino de Arriba near Punto Del Norte was reported ablaze just before 6 a.m., said Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District spokeswoman Julie Taber.

When firefighters arrived at the house in the private gated community it was fully engulfed, Taber said.

The home was close to being finished and was not yet occupied.
The post went up at 5:16 PM, long after the house burned.

I don't like voting for aliens anyway

Headline from Monday's Wall Street Journal:
Boycott Mars Election
I guess you'd need an absentee ballot, in any case. (Btw, this headline appears only in the print edition -- Monday, April 21, page A8 -- which includes an abbreviated version of this article.)

Underwater on your mortgage?

Mortgage payment got you down? Negative equity giving you the blues?

The LA Times discovers the ultimate antidote to negative equity:
In what appears to be the latest symptom of the nation's mortgage meltdown and credit crisis, insurers, law enforcement officials and state agencies nationwide report a jump in home and automobile fires in the last year believed to have been set by owners unable to pay their debts. The numbers are small, but they're leading the insurance industry to scrutinize more closely what seem to be accidental blazes.

"We've seen a dramatic increase in this kind of fraud," said Dan Bales, director of fraud investigations at Mercury Insurance. "People upside-down on their house with variable-interest-rate loans, or upside-down on their cars, are pretty quick to burn their property right now."

Get arson when you get the blues
Hey, get arson when you get the blues
Get a gas can full of premium
Throw a match and just get gone
Get arson when you…


He may have defecated on the First Amendment and made it illegal for citizens and private organizations to criticize politicians, but John McCain apparently didn't get the big money out of politics:
Sen. John McCain's campaign has announced that it is asking individuals to donate as much as about $70,000 to accounts that could help his campaign. The cap on donations to presidential candidates is $4,600 per election campaign.

The McCain campaign has established several fund-raising accounts that will collect large donations from wealthy individuals and parcel them out to national and state Republican parties that can spend the money to help Sen. McCain and other Republican candidates.
The message here: if you're a wealthy individual or corporation that wants to buy a politician, McCain and the Republicans will be glad to find ways to help you do it. But if you're an independent group that wants to criticize them, well, you're out of line.

Morning rush hour


You can say that again


Great moments in journalism

Greenspan's Body Count

Sometimes we're a little flippant about Greenspan's victims. Many of them don't inspire much sympathy. But we should remember that Greenspan has set in place a chain of events that causes truly horrible things to befall truly innocent victims, too.

In today's episode of Greenspan's Body Count, we learn about the Veillette family, where father Michel Veillette killed himself in jail while facing the death penalty in the murder of his wife and four children:
The investigation records do not identify a possible motive for the killings but shed light on financial troubles that investigators said the family faced. [...]

Veillette also told police that his wife had recently spent $10,000 to take their daughter Marguerite to California for modeling and that she had purchased a new car he said they couldn't afford.Blowing $10,000 you don't have on modeling lessons for your kid... not exactly something people did under Volcker's Fed, is it?
They had not made their…

The Joy of SPACs

Some people are so smart, you just want to give them a bunch of money and say, "I have no idea what you're going to do with this, but I'm sure you'll make me a fortune."

Such was the genius of Nathan Leight and Jason Weiss of Terrapin Partners. Their brilliance shone like the sun.

Fortunately, a new investment vehicle allows mere mortals to give their money to gods like Leight and Weiss. That vehicle is the Special Purpose Acquisition Company, or SPAC. In June of 2007, Leight and Weiss formed a company called Aldabra 2 Acquisition Corp, and did an IPO with no business. People bought $400 million worth of this nonexistent business, with the knowledge that one day Leight and Weiss would figure out something genius to do with the money.

They did not have to wait long. In February of 2008, Leight and Weiss decided to buy a dying paper company and infuse it with their magical awesomeness. Brilliant! Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the new Boise Corp:

I can't wait for…

Is McCain Stupid?

...or just the perfect example of what is wrong with our "representative" government?

He spoke the other day at Carnegie Mellon University. He promised pretty much the same things all candidates promise. He did leave out any mention of the bible and the mighty JC which was very refreshing.

So I was reading his text and thinking, huh, how's that work, what, when I came across 2 paragraphs that exemplified him perfectly. He first said this:

"...And we must start with the subprime mortgage crisis, with the hundreds of thousands of citizens who played by the rules, yet now fear losing their houses. Under the HOME plan I have proposed, our government will offer these Americans direct and immediate help that can make all the difference: If you can't make your payments, and you're in danger of foreclosure, you will be able to go to any Post Office and pick up a form for a new HOME loan. In place of your flawed mortgage loan, you'll be eligible for a new,…

Who says there's no such thing as progress?

Big Brother watch

So I spend a lot of time at my favorite Starbucks. It's not my fault that it's next door to a whorehouse.

Your cell phone is transmitting your every move:
...just consider the nature of mobile phones, which are continually connecting to towers. Records are kept of every tower your phone communicates with. While it may not be as precise as true GPS, this information is being recorded any time your phone is on.

Leave Obama alone!

Help wanted

Realtors and mortgage brokers need not apply:
Like a lot of mortgage industry workers, Stush, 55, tried to get work in other kinds of financial services such as insurance, but he found a huge stigma attached to the mortgage industry that disqualified him from even being considered for many jobs. "It's unjust. If you were in the mortgage industry for a long time ... employers think you're used to making so much money that you're not going to take $50,000 or $70,000 a year. ... They also think (mortgage lenders) are all money-hungry pigs, but it's not true. Employers are missing out on some really outstanding employees." It's not uncommon to see disclaimers on Internet job postings that say: "NO REAL ESTATE OR MORTGAGE CANDIDATES PLEASE."Hint: replace the "mortgage broker" time on your resume with something more respectable, like hooker or drug dealer.

HT: HousingPanic

The Black Hole of California gets a little blacker

Falling corporate profits gouge a wider hole in California budget:
California's budget problems deepened today as the state reported that tax receipts plummeted nearly $1 billion last month due to plunging corporate profits.

The news comes as the state moves closer to the July 1 deadline for lawmakers to close California's budget gap, which had earlier been estimated at $16.5 billion. There is little agreement in the Capitol about how to go about doing that.
We've only just begun. Sales taxes, property taxes, income taxes. All were enormously inflated in Greenspan's bubble, and now they are beginning to fall. Try to raise taxes to cover the gap, and you'll only drive more businesses out of this already high-tax state.

This is Governor Schwarzenegger's fault. He ran on a platform of budget reform, and then he turned his back on reform and became the biggest spender in the history of the state. He has painted California into a corner.

Let's recall Schwarzeneg…

Herbie Goes Bananas

Herb Greenberg, muckraking business journalist and frequent guest on CNBC, is hanging up his press pass and starting a research shop.

He's tried a similar trade before, selling an expensive premium tier service to hedge funds for at the same time he wrote a free or cheap column for the general public there. Nice to be working for himself though.

Do as I say, not as I do

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson says no government bailout for the housing market:
Governments "need to resist the temptation of price controls and consumption subsidies that are generally not effective and efficient methods of protecting vulnerable groups," Paulson said [...]

Paulson said price controls and subsidies "tend to create fiscal burdens and economic distortions while often providing aid to higher-income consumers or commercial interests other than the intended beneficiaries."

Oh, wait. He means that developing nations should resist the temptation to help starving people, not that the U.S. should resist the temptation to bail out lenders, realtors, and housing speculators.

At the REDC foreclosure auction

Yesterday I went down to the REDC foreclosure auction at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, just to see how these things worked.

There were more people there than I expected -- maybe 2,000 judging by a rough count of rows of chairs. The bidders at the back were so far back that runners in tuxedos had to jump up and down for them to attract the attention of the auctioneer.

They had a couple hundred San Diego area foreclosures for sale, mostly from far-flung areas like Oceanside, Chula Vista, and Alpine. A typical example was a 4-bedroom house in Oceanside with a "prior valuation" of $499,000, with a starting bid of $189,000. Like all of the properties I saw in the half hour I was there, this house attracted multiple bidders well above the starting bid. It ended up going for $335,000, plus the 5% "buyer's premium."

Jim Klinge has a professional's view of the auction.

Quote of the day

"Derivatives don't kill banks. People kill banks."
- T-Dub

Greenspan's Body Count: the Eleven

I know, I know. It's been rough going a week and a half without a Body Count update. I was jonesing as bad as you were. Fortunately, this morning's news brings us our fix. Today's victims: Maurice and Natasha Pereira of Lake County, Florida:
Deputies found a retired couple shot dead in their rented home Friday, victims of an apparent murder-suicide, a Lake County Sheriff's Office spokesman said. [...]

The Pereiras were new to the southLake County subdivision. They filed for bankruptcy in September, records show, and Circuit Judge Mark Hill was scheduled next week to hear a mortgage company's request to sell property in Tavares that the couple had defaulted on.

Court records show two other lending companies sued the couple last year, one accusing them of failing to keep up with monthly payments on a 2006 Cadillac De Ville and the other accusing them of defaulting on a property they had bought in Leesburg.
Congratulations, Alan Greenspan. These two kills are unquestionab…

Why Dick Cheney smiles

Check out the naked hottie reflected in his sunglasses:

Or maybe not.

P.S. Anybody think he looks a little like Beavis?

Do they send you to the ice cream factory if you're convicted of being fat?

Craigslist finds

Leaving the country, everything must go - $1 (Pacific Beach) Unfortunately I have be deported back to Mexico. I have only 2 weeks to sell all my things. Please call and make any offer on my things. 1992 Ford Mustang 5.0 White great condition, lowered, with rims - $2800 Low rider bike, beach cruiser ? - $80 \ Neon Corona beer sign - $50 Card ID laminate machine - $120 set 4 100 spoke dayton rims gold - $300

A Chinese perspective

So yesterday the SF torch run protest was thwarted by the SF officials by changing the route of the run. I know I was all set with my fire extinguisher. I wanted that FLAME GONE!

So protesters on both sides had to miss the stupid burning torch go by and had to find some other way to express their outrage/support of China.

This hit a little closer to home then I expected. I work at a firm that has a partnership with a Chinese firm. Folks from Beijing have been here for a few weeks; we are working on some projects together. I specifically work with a woman who headed down to the ceremony and asked me later what the big deal with Tibet was. She stated China hasn’t done anything to Tibet.

I forwarded her the Wiki page on Tibet and asked her if this information was incorrect. We were using our interoffice IM and I asked if she had seen the footage of Tienanmen Square in 1989. I asked if she knew what happened and she replied that it was against the law to TALK about Tienanmen Square. …

His bite was worse than his bark

Volcker to Bernanke: You Suck!

Paul Volcker, the greatest Fed chairman ever and the man who got us out of Jimmy Carter's stagflation 70's, tells it like it is:
"You don't have to predict it. We're in it." Thus did Paul Volcker respond to a question Tuesday about whether he still predicted a "dollar crisis" in the coming years. [...]

On the dollar, Mr. Volcker's blunt talk of crisis is a welcome tonic to the devaluationist consensus that now dominates Washington. The world has been staging a run on the greenback, with damaging results if it continues. Mr. Volcker noted that when "concerns about recession are rife," the central bank will be tempted to "subordinate the fundamental need to maintain a reliable currency" to the impulse to shore up a flagging economy. The danger is that you lose both battles, as the U.S. did in the 1970s, and wind up with stagflation.

The present climate, Mr. Volcker told his audience, reminded him of nothing so much as the early 19…

Olympic torch comes to San Francisco

W.C. Varones receives WSJ mention

Our "Greenspan's Body Count" feature was mentioned in the front-page article His Legacy Tarnished, Greenspan Goes on Defensive of the Wall Street Journal today:
Anti-Greenspan sentiment has cropped up on blogs such as The Mess That Greenspan Made and Greenspan's Body Count, the latter a tally of deaths purportedly linked to the real-estate bust. Hedge-fund manager William Fleckenstein's book "Greenspan's Bubbles: The Age of Ignorance at the Federal Reserve," released in January, is now in its fourth printing.
... and linked in this online interview:

While Alan Greenspan's memoir, "The Age of Turbulence," has sold one million copies, anti-Greenspan sentiment is also cropping up in bookstores and on blogs. See some recent examples: • "The mess that Greenspan made" by blogger Tim Iacono. With posts dated since 2005, if follows daily news about the credit crisis underlying where Mr. Greenspan's policies are…

Soon to be in foreclosure: Mortgage Bankers Association headquarters

Apparently, they even tried to fool themselves:
Critics also see irony -- and some justice -- in this predicament. "They are certainly getting what they deserve," said Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a liberal research group. "Mortgage bankers encouraged people to take out mortgages that were very risky, and the result of that was a large number of the mortgages went bad and caused mortgage interest rates to soar. Now they are the victims of high mortgage rates and chaos in the market more generally."

Tales of shame and degradation

Last week I related the story of a friend who's looking to buy a foreclosure with no money down for far less than the current loan. I wondered whether the bank would replace a loan gone bad with another high-risk, no-down loan.

Now Slate tells us that, if the bank is Countryfried, my friend is probably in luck:When it comes to its own foreclosed properties, that's most assuredly the case. Take this two-bedroom starter house in San Diego's Linda Vista subdivision: a Countrywide foreclosure that sold for $330,000 in August and was financed again with a 100 percent mortgage from the folks at Countrywide. Or the house in Palm Springs, Calif., that sold not long afterward, in September, for $275,000. Who knew you could get a house in Palm Springs for less than $300,000? Even better, according to mortgage records, the new mortgage from Countrywide was for the full $275,000.

The rub, of course, is that in the heady days of mortgage free love, all those zero-down mortgages tended t…

FASB to smack down banks on securitization?

This is a little too wonky for me, but it sounds like FASB is going to remove Qualifying Special Purpose Entities (QSPEs) from FAS 140. This could have a significant effect on securitization.

First, here's a little background from Calculated Risk.

Here are the original sources for this week's news:

Meeting Agenda.

And audio of the discussion at the meeting.

Keep all the food lines moving

Don't come crying for more
The signs were there
You should have
Bought connections before

Rice jumps as Africa joins race for supplies:
Rice prices rose more than 10 per cent on Friday to a fresh all-time high as African countries joined south-east Asian importers in the race to head off social unrest by securing supplies from the handful of exporters still selling the grain in the international market.

The rise in prices – 50 per cent in two weeks – threatens upheaval and has resulted in riots and soldiers overseeing supplies in some emerging countries, where the grain is a staple food for about 3bn people.

Kamal Nath, India’s trade minister, said the government would crack down on hoarding of essential commodities to keep a lid on food prices. "We will not hesitate to take the strongest possible measures, including using some of the legal provisions that we have against hoarding," he said on Friday.

Last year it was a corn shortage in the Americas as some pinheads in the U.S.…

And you thought crime didn't pay

Clintons: $109.2 Million in 7 Years

True, it's not illegal. But it should be. Book deals and seven-figure speaking deals are an easy way to pay politicians after they leave office for favors performed while in office. Yeah, Reagan got a couple million from Japan. But grifters like the Clintons take it to a new level.

You would too


Boycott Pizza Hut

They suspended an employee for exercising his Second Amendment rights:
A Des Moines pizza driver who was suspended from his job after he shot an armed robber said today he has been overwhelmed by support from people who cheered what happened.

“But no one had contacted me directly about a job offer,” said James William Spiers III, 38, who was sent home by Pizza Hut managers after he fired multiple shots at a man who put a gun to his head Thursday and demanded money outside the Sutton Hill Apartments, 2100 S.E. King Ave.
No more Pizza Hut at the Varones household. I like Taco Bell, but they're owned by the same company. Might boycott them too. Give 'em an earful at 1-800-948-8488.

HT: Misha.

Competitive devaluation begins

You knew it couldn't last -- Euro Currency Board resolve to defend their currency as the Fed destroyed the dollar. Airbuses just aren't competitive against Boeings when the dollar is 50% off.

So the competitive devaluation begins.

Euro falls on speculation European consumer demand faltering, ECB may cut rates.

And continues.

Singapore May Slow Currency Gains to Aid Exporters at Expense of Inflation

What to do when countries around the world get into competitive devaluation to make their exports attractive? Hmmm.... what's the one store of value that dirty central bankers can't print? That's right, GOLD! And it's 10% off its recent high -- a perfect buying opportunity for you.

As the Realtors used to say, "Buy now or be priced out forever."

Greenspan's Body Count

Two Body Count updates in one day. The pace is picking up.

Let me introduce Esequiel "Paul" Garcia, a mortgage broker and real estate agent who's just been arrested for the execution-style murder of a business associate:
Garcia, a 1996 Bellarmine graduate and a longtime coach of the school's freshman football team, earned his bachelor's in business administration from San Jose State University in 1999. While working, he went on to earn a master's degree in human resources administration from the University of San Francisco in 2003.

Soon after, Garcia, embarked on his real estate venture and friends say he talked regularly about his success "flipping" houses - buying them, improving them and then selling them for profit.

It was about this time, public records show, that Garcia began taking out big-dollar real estate loans. In the year and a half before his transactions with Achilli, and as the subprime mortgage market began its meltdown, records show Ga…

Tales of shame and degradation

I talked to a friend today who's putting a stink bid in on a foreclosed home in Fallbrook, a remote part of San Diego County.

Current bank loan: $505,000. Days on market: 100. Bid: $340,000. Down payment: $0.

Yes, zero-down was what got the banks into this mess. But I wouldn't be surprised if they hit the bid just to turn an REO into a performing (at least for now) loan.

Greenspan's Body Count

Of course, Greenspan's victims are not only those whose misfortunes in the real estate bubble drove them to suicide. There are also those who were driven to murder or attempted murder.

Today's episode of Greenspan's Body Count brings two cases from Michigan: one that got away and one that didn't. First, the one that got away:
William L. Harshman, who allegedly stabbed Lisa Heintz in her home in December, filed a suit last month alleging the Heintzes stole $90,000 from him as part of a mortgage scam, said Haley, his attorney.

Harshman, a former Mott Community College professor, is charged with first-degree home invasion and two counts of assault with intent to murder in the alleged attack on Lisa Heintz while the family was readying for a move to Florida. Heintz received non-life-threatening injuries.

Haley said Harshman's suit contends the Heintzes were assisting him in securing two mortgages for a home in Grand Blanc. When Harshman tried to refinance the mortgage, h…