WC Varones

Don't lend your hand to raise no flag atop no ship of fools

Touch of Black: a housing bubble song parody

Here's a little song I wrote. It will only appeal to that small slice of people who are both Housing Doomers and Deadheads.

Must be getting ugly, the Fed keeps cutting rates
Make my love a morning coffee, milk's six dollars
Global shortage of wheat and rice, buy a bread loaf, curse the price
Mortgage brokers' wrists are sliced, but its all right
I will get by, I will get by, I will get by, I will survive

You own two condos, don't pout, cut your price and get out
Once you get the gist of it, its all right
Farewell McMansion, hello shack, Bernanke must be smoking crack
Every Greenspan's bubble's got a touch of black
I will get by, I will get by, I will get by, I will survive

Its a lesson to me, the flippers and Mozilos and the thieves
The orange midget we all think of, I hope he gets some prison love

I know the mortgage is in arrears, Grandma eats her Alpo in tears
It's even worse than it appears, but it's all right

Corn is used for gasoline, inflation's running in the teens
The Bear Stearns bailout was obscene, but it's all right
I will get by, I will get by, I will get by, I will survive

The tan is on the man it fits, dumped his stock 'fore the shit hit
Whistle through your teeth and spit, but it's all right

Oh well a touch of black, lets you know the dollar's whacked,
Bernanke must be smoking crack, but it's all right
I will get by, I will get by, I will get by, I will survive

Its a lesson to me, the Conrads and the Dodds and Barney
The FOAs do what they're told, the Congressmen are bought and sold

Unity

Bill Clinton says Barack Obama must 'kiss my ass' for his support
It has long been known that Mr Clinton is angry at the way his own reputation was tarnished during the primary battle when several of his comments were interpreted as racist.

But his lingering fury has shocked his friends. The Democrat told the Telegraph: "He's been angry for a while. But everyone thought he would get over it. He hasn't. I've spoken to a couple of people who he's been in contact with and he is mad as hell.

"He's saying he's not going to reach out, that Obama has to come to him. One person told me that Bill said Obama would have to quote kiss my ass close quote, if he wants his support.


Has Clinton been seen in Orlando lately?
Racial slurs targeting Barack Obama were discovered spray painted tonight on dozens of city vehicles in Orlando. The vandalism happened in a City of Orlando parking lot on the corner of south and orange. Phrases including “Obmama smokes crack” and others phrases with racial slurs were written in blue spray paint on the white city cars and trucks. Other vehicles appeared to have had their gas tanks tampered with.

Along with the paint, hundreds of business cards were left on windshields. The cards contain criticism of Obama on one side, and support for Hillary Clinton and her family on the other side.

The number of calls is astrological

From a suicide hotline counselor getting lots of calls from housing bubble victims:
“We're seeing people from all stratospheres calling in,” Penrod said.

Mmmm... movies

Looks like a good start to the summer season. I want to see Dark Knight and Gonzo.

Bummer about Hancock.

Don't fall for the "Second Amendment" scam!

Taranto:
"The [Supreme] Court would have us believe that over 200 years ago, the Framers made a choice to limit the tools available to elected officials wishing to regulate civilian uses of weapons," Justice John Paul Stevens writes in a brave dissent in District of Columbia v. Heller, the just-decided case striking down the federal district's near-total ban on firearms.

Stevens is right. Who are they trying to kid? And yet a razor-thin majority of the deeply divided justices expect the American people to swallow this hoax. Supporters of this so-called right to keep and bear arms claim that it dates to 1791. (That faux precision is a nice touch--not 1790 or 1795 but 1791.) A bunch of dead white males are supposed to have gotten together and assembled something called a "bill of rights." The more extreme exponents of this view claim that the so-called bill limits the tools available to elected officials not just with regard to firearms but a whole host of other things: "freedom of religion," "freedom of speech," "cruel and unusual punishment," etc., etc.

If you don't read Scalia's opinion in its entirety, at least read Taranto's summary/skewering of the idiot Stevens.

That tone is strangely familiar

Did Alec Baldwin become a realtor?

Use headphones if you're going to play this at work.



HT: HousingPANIC.

Glimmer of hope

For the real victims of the mortgage fiasco, those who were responsible with their money and lived within their means, there may be a glimmer of hope. Check out this link from Craigslist which searches the East Bay area for real estate for sale with the word foreclosure in the description. You get a pretty healthy return. And if you drill it down to Antioch or Pittsburg then you start to see downright bargains. Now no one who commutes to SF for work would ever consider those 2 places but the point is that it used to be far out Sacramento, Fairfield and Vacaville “suffering” huge housing price declines. It appears the wave of value loss is moving west and starting to penetrate even the traditionally impregnable Bay Area.

Are we recommending buying a home? Probably not, but the tunnel is no longer pitch black.

Ben Bernanke hates old people

Despite skyrocketing food and energy costs, Ben Bernanke insists on destroying the dollar to help out his Wall Street buddies.

Meanwhile, Grandma gets a 2% Social Security increase as her food and utility bills increase by double digits. Alpo, anyone?



Negative real interest rates. Very negative real interest rates for a very long time. Any questions?

He's got a point there

Pornographer says "orgy" is a more popular Google search than "apple pie."

And if the community is searching for orgies, then orgies obviously don't violate "community standards."

Name that tune

More from Reuters:
Hillary Clinton's fellow Senate Democrats embraced her on Tuesday with a pair of standing ovations, tears and cheers as she returned to the U.S. Capitol from her historic yet unsuccessful presidential bid.
Players, you have thirty seconds. Please name the Elton John song they played over the Senate loudspeaker.

How's that for precision

Reuters reports:
One threat to babies is cytomegalovirus, which infects 27,002 newborn annually, causing deafness and mental retardation.

Less jobs, more eBay!

McCain: America doesn't need a President who understands economics; people can just trade junk on eBay for a living!
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee regularly asserts that 1.3 million people worldwide "make a living off EBay." He holds up the figure as evidence the world's largest Internet auctioneer is a model for job and economic growth.

McCain, seeking to address voter anxiety about the economy, uses EBay to signal that he is "fundamentally optimistic about the capacity of the U.S. economy to innovate, for that innovation to give new opportunities for jobs," said Doug Holtz-Eakin, the candidate's senior economic adviser. "We shouldn't be obsessed with looking backwards all the time, and saying, `Gee, where did those jobs go?'"

This affection for EBay as an engine for job creation, however, confounds economists such as Betsey Stevenson, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business in Philadelphia.

"In terms of jobs, there's no net increase in GDP that comes from trading stuff that's already made," said Stevenson, author of a study on the Internet and employment levels. "New people selling stuff out of their closet on EBay isn't growing the economy."
Hat tip to DV.

Ya think?

Somebody is waking up to the fact that no-money down home purchases with fake down payments might pose a risk to the taxpayers who are guaranteeing them.

So that's why they make the big bucks

Those Harvard boys are pretty quick: Harvard U Says Housing Crisis Worst In 50 Years.

Thanks for the news, guys! I suppose that next you're going to tell us that gasoline is getting expensive?

George Carlin, RIP



George Carlin was an angry left libertarian. I'm an angry right libertarian. But the left/right distinction is miniscule. It's really the path you take to libertarianism. Once you get to libertarianism, the scales fall from your eyes and the old left and right are equally distasteful.

"Did you take out the garbage?" and "We really need a new kitchen"

'Don't ask, don't tell' hits women hardest

Failed product launches from 2004



President Brie.

Kanye West: the video

A couple years ago, we linked to one of the greatest song parodies of all time, George Bush Don't Like Black People.

Now, someone has put together a video:

B of A wrote the Dodd-Shelby bill

Our friend T-Dub alerts us:
Not only did Dodd get bribed with special mortgage rates from the orange midget, he drafted BofA’s recommendations almost verbatim at the taxpayer’s expense:

National Review Online has obtained an internal Bank of America "discussion document" (pdf here) on the subject of the FHA Housing Stabilization and Homeownership Retention Act of 2008, a.k.a. the Dodd-Shelby mortgage-lender bailout bill.

Yesterday, Tim Carney reported that the prevailing sentiment on Capitol Hill is that the Dodd-Shelby bill "is exactly what Bank of America and Countrywide wanted." BofA is in the process of acquiring Countrywide. Countrywide is currently embroiled in a scandal over its V.I.P. program, under which several powerful politicians, including Sen. Chris Dodd, got preferential loan rates.

This discussion document (dated March 11, 2008) would appear to support the contention that BofA essentially wrote the bailout section of the bill. Almost all of BofA's preferences are mirrored in the Dodd-Shelby legislation. The BofA document even offers PR tips, such as "We believe that any intervention by the federal government will be acceptable only if it is not perceived as a bail-out of the bond market."
This is really starting to stink. Hopefully it takes Dodd and Conrad down.

Bill Miller: a monkey and his typewriter

Legendary investor Bill Miller of the Legg Mason Value Trust beat the S&P 500 for 15 years in a row, through 2005.

Genius, or monkey on a typewriter? If we assume that performance is completely random and half of all portfolio managers beat the index in any given year, the laws of probability say that in any given 15 years, one in 32,768 portfolios will have a perfect streak.

Are there that many mutual funds out there? No, perhaps 9000 or so. But the 32,768 figure is in any given 15 years. Bill Miller started managing the fund in 1982, meaning he's had 11 different possible 15-year streaks of full calendar years (1983-1997, 1984-1998, ... 1993-2007). Divide the 32,768 by Miller's 11 chances, and one in 2979 portfolio managers should accomplish the feat with that many opportunities.

Further, Miller likely benefited from growth in assets under management. As his fund put up strong performance, more investors bought his fund, pushing it from a small fund in 1990 to a behemoth in 2005. This meant he constantly had more money to invest in the stocks he already owned, pushing them ever higher.

But even if several portfolio managers could be expected to beat the S&P 500 over that time frame, Bill Miller could still be a genius, right? Performance like that could be due to brilliance rather than randomness. Let's see how we'd be doing if we bought Miller's fund at the end of 2005 (Miller in blue):



Ouch! That's gotta hurt! Miller's fund is down almost 40% while the S&P 500, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, and the Vanguard Value Index are flat to up 10%. Miller's recent performance is so bad that he now lags the S&P 500 for the trailing 1-, 3-, 5-, and 10-year periods.

What brought Miller to this point? Let's see what he held as of 12/31/2007. A Who's Who of disasters:
Countrywide Financial
Washington Mutual
Bear Stearns
KB Home
General Motors
UPDATE 7/12: I forgot to mention Freddie Mac!
Verdict: monkey. LMVTX LMVRX LM


How old is John McCain?

He's so old that his young-enough-to-be-his-daughter trophy wife, for whom he dumped the woman who loyally waited for him while he was a POW, is old.

Groundskeeper Willie does Reverend Wright

Royal Bank of Scotland:
"A very nasty period is soon to be upon us - be prepared," said Bob Janjuah, the bank's credit strategist.

A report by the bank's research team warns that the S&P 500 index of Wall Street equities is likely to fall by more than 300 points to around 1050 by September as "all the chickens come home to roost" from the excesses of the global boom, with contagion spreading across Europe and emerging markets.


Speaking of Short Opportunities - WB

And I don't mean Warner Brothers because the chances that the Coyote catches the Road Runner are far greater than Wachovia's business model ultimately succeeding.

So Bloomberg today reports that Wachovia made a statement regarding their Option ARM loans:
"Wachovia is contacting applicants through independent mortgage brokers to ensure ``the customer understands the key features of the Pick-A-Payment loan product,''"

Now the goto response here is - well you better be sure it's a verbal communication because I would imagine the majority of these people are illiterate, don't speak English or are blind.

So what happens when the individual who signed up for the truly amoral loan is made aware of their predicament? Before you answer that question look at this stellar piece of business practice:
"Once option-ARM borrowers' loan balances reach a predetermined limit of 125 percent of the mortgage amount, Wachovia requires higher payment rates."

Ok so say the part time DJ who spends his days working as a bus driver and makes $30,000/year is contacted regarding his $500,000 loan. (How did he get that loan? His heart was confirmed to be beating at the time of the closing.) Now he paid the minimum for 2 years and added to the principle so that he hit the magic 125% mark and now owes $625,000. Now imagine that DJ SelfDestruction lives in Sacramento, California and housing prices in his neighborhood have fallen 40%. So now the house he "purchased" for $500,000 is worth $300,000. And finally he is told that he no longer can pay the $400/month he's been paying and must come up with $5,000/month to pay off the mortgage.

So again I state the obvious which is the Coyote is much more likely to catch the Road Runner than Wachovia recover their money.

Who knew?

L.A. Times Blog:
"PFF Chief Executive Kevin McCarthy said in an interview that his bank started pulling back on land loans two years ago, anticipating a downturn like "the normal economic cycles we've always had out here."

"But nobody foresaw what would happen to the housing market, or that sub-prime mortgages would collapse so completely," he said.
Nobody foresaw? W.C. Varones readers did.

Timing is everything

Will the Friends of Angelo scandal derail the Dodd/Frank bailout of the bad lenders in the mortgage industry? The media and Congressional Republicans are starting to run with the story.

Al Gore burns the midnight oil

If global warming is true, it must be getting pretty hot in Tennessee right now:
In the year since Al Gore took steps to make his home more energy-efficient, the former Vice President’s home energy use surged more than 10%, according to the Tennessee Center for Policy Research.

“A man’s commitment to his beliefs is best measured by what he does behind the closed doors of his own home,” said Drew Johnson, President of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research. “Al Gore is a hypocrite and a fraud when it comes to his commitment to the environment, judging by his home energy consumption.”

In the past year, Gore’s home burned through 213,210 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity, enough to power 232 average American households for a month.

No words of contempt are strong enough to describe the arrogant hypocrite Al Gore. If he believes the global warming hysteria he's pushing, he should give up his private jets and mansion and get his fat ass on a bicycle. Actor Ed Begley Jr. does it. Hell, I ride a bike to work and I don't even believe in global warmism.

That's me in the corner

tiger woods ties Rocco Mediate 18th hole U.S. Open Torrey Pines June 15, 2008

Sharp-eyed readers may spot W.C. Varones in the crowd at the 18th hole yesterday. Also present: Mr. and Mrs. I.P. Freely and Travis-T.

Beggar nation


A surge of drivers from the United States eager to escape record high gasoline prices flooded gas stations near the border crossing Saturday.

Motorists with California plates moved steadily through service stations. [...]

Lopez estimated that demand was up 30 percent from an ordinary weekend.

Workers at the stations surveyed attributed the increase to motorists from the United States.

Mexican gasoline comes from Pemex, the national oil company, and is subsidized by the federal government.

Regular unleaded (87 octane) gasoline sells for $2.54 per gallon in the city, premium (91 octane) for $3.20 per gallon and diesel for $2.20 per gallon.

WSJ: Investigate the "Friends of Angelo"

Harsh:
So after calling the CEO of a company with various matters before the Senate, asking for a loan and then receiving at least two sweetheart deals, Mr. Conrad now says: "I did not think for one moment – and no one ever suggested to me – that I was getting preferential treatment." Lawyers will immediately wonder if this isn't a version of the "ostrich defense," which judges describe during jury instruction as willful blindness or deliberate ignorance. For what other reason, besides preferential treatment, would one call the CEO of the mortgage company? Does Mr. Conrad call August Busch IV when he wants to buy a six-pack? [...]

The same goes for Senator Christopher Dodd (D., Conn.), who chairs the very Banking Committee responsible for drafting the laws that govern Countrywide's market. Mr. Dodd is still in denial mode, but so far no one has knocked down the Portfolio.com story that he received discounted loans as part of Countrywide's "Friends of Angelo" program. [...]

Democrats in Congress are trying to pass a bailout for mortgage borrowers and lenders like Countrywide, and they have been holding reform of Fannie Mae and its cousin Freddie Mac hostage to get President Bush to agree. Mr. Dodd is one of the main hostage-takers. It is time he and Mr. Frank dropped this political ransom-taking and finally subjected Fannie and Freddie to tough oversight. This means giving a regulator the power to set their capital ratios and portfolio securities limits, so that taxpayers have some protection against their potential losses.

Meanwhile, until it is clear how much Countrywide will benefit from Senator Dodd's proposed $300 billion mortgage rescue – and exactly how Mr. Dodd came to do business with Countrywide – Congress should call a halt to legislating bailouts. Taxpayers deserve no less.

The housing crash: a Democratic scandal?

As the old man's Presidential campaign mutters along, and John Ensign would be thrilled to only lose a handful of Senate seats, and Republican hopes look generally bleak, Republicans should mine the rich material of the housing bubble.

As housing prices continue to plummet through the summer and fall, the housing bubble and crash and ensuing economic fallout is sure to rank high on the list of issues in voters' minds. And so far, it appears to be an overwhelmingly Democratic scandal:

* Fannie Mae is at the heart of the problem for using its government-sponsored status to guarantee billions of dollars in bad loans that never should have been made. Fannie Mae's guarantees helped kick off the easy-credit lending spree that created the bubble. Fannie Mae is essentially a personal enrichment vehicle for Democratic functionaries like Franklin Raines and Jim Johnson, who became obscenely wealthy by being appointed to lead the government-sponsored enterprise. Fannie Mae will likely require a massive taxpayer bailout as more loans continue to go bad.

* Housing bubble poster boy Angelo Mozilo of Countrywide had a "Friends of Angelo" program where he gave mortgage discounts to legislators and policymakers, the overwhelming majority of whom are Democrats, including Senator Chris Dodd, Senator Kent Conrad, and the aforementioned Jim Johnson. The highest-profile Republican named in the scandal so far is already-disgraced ex-HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson. These special loans appear to be a clear violation at least of Congressional ethics rules, if not of laws.

* Foreclosure Queen Laura Richardson, Democratic Congresswoman from Long Beach, defaulted eight times on three houses, and is now being sued over a very fishy rescinding of a foreclosure. Special treatment, anyone?

From a policy substance perspective, it's clear that liberal (i.e. expansionist goverment) policies contributed to the bubble. "Affordable ownership" programs threw credit standards out the window and had the perverse effect of driving housing prices to levels that were far from affordable. The solution is a return to a private market where the lenders bear the risks of the loans they make (yes, securitization and sale of loans to foolish third parties was also a huge problem, but the buyers have wised up to that!). Over time, houses will return to prices where average families can afford them with a 20% down payment and a 30-year, fixed-rate loan.

To be fair, Bush's "ownership society" push and related actions at HUD contributed to the bubble. But Bush is on his way out. It would be nice to send the corrupt Fannie Mae and some Congressional Democrats with him.

Greenspan's Body Count: the one that got away

Alan Greenspan almost claimed the life of Kim Holloway of Florida. Fortunately, she survived, though her story is far from happy:
Kim Holloway's efforts to avoid foreclosure ended up costing her ownership of her home - and, she says, nearly her life.

She says Brandon-based Home Savers Plus of Tampa Bay Inc. promised to rescue her from foreclosure, but instead stole her Bradenton home, which sits on land that's been in her family for more than a century. She says the company conned her and her daughters into signing away the deed, then sold the house to a Georgia woman who's now suing to evict them.

Holloway is fighting in court to regain possession of her home, but says the ordeal has been so stressful that she attempted suicide.

"After I found out what was going on, I really didn't want to live," Holloway said. "I almost killed myself in October - OD'd (on prescription drugs). I just wanted to die."

Serial killer Alan Greenspan was sloppy on this one. Greenspan's Body Count remains at thirty-four:

Scott M. Coles
Dawn E. Armstrong
Thomas Lizotte
Jonathon Calvin "40-Cal" Jacques
Salvador X
Lupe X
Jade X
Little Boy X
Little Girl X
Kashmir Billon
Bill McMurtry

Lisa McMurtry
James Hahn
Raymond Donaca
Deanna Donaca
[redacted]
[redacted]
Michel Veillette
Nadya Ferrari-Veillette
Marguerite Veillette
Vincent Veillette
Mia Veillette
Jacob Veillette
Maurice Pereira
Natasha Pereira
Mark Achilli
Raed Al-Farah
Andrew Kissel
Rufus Shaw Jr.
Lynn Flint Shaw
Mr. Pierce
Walter Buczynksi
Marci Buczynski
Jason Washington

I was at a golf tournament yesterday, and a hockey match broke out

I thought my air horn would be the most excitement at the US Open, but I couldn't compete with this:
Australian golfer Adam Scott's caddie was involved in a physical altercation that ended with two spectators being arrested during the second round at the US Open.

Caddie Tony Navarro went outside the ropes on the final hole of the day to confront the two apparently unruly spectators.

According to a police spokesman, a physical scuffle ensued, after which two male spectators were arrested and charged with being "drunk in public".

They were escorted to a local jail to sober up.

And you thought golf was boring.

Greenspan's Body Count: from anecdotes to data

I know there are still some unbelievers out there. Despite all of the anecdotal evidence I've presented, you still don't think people commit suicide over Greenspan's housing crash. Well, here's a little data from one epicenter of the housing bubble. Suicide calls up 87% in Palm Beach County:
The 24-hour crisis line, 211, has received 87% more calls this year from Palm Beach County residents considering suicide than in the same time period last year.

One reason for this, said Susan Buza, 211 Palm Beach/Treasure Coast Executive Director, is the sagging economy. “We’ve gotten almost three times as many calls this year from people who are thinking about suicide because of financial problems,” Buza said.

The time periods compared were January 1 through June 10, 2007 and the same period in 2008. 211 received 137 Palm Beach County suicide calls in 2007 and 256 calls in 2008. In 2007, 15 callers said they were considering suicide because they were homeless, had a home in foreclosure, had lost their job or didn’t have enough money to pay their bills. In 2008, 44 suicidal callers gave one of those reasons as the main cause of their distress.


As we've said before, we are dramatically understating Greenspan's Body Count, as many suicides are not reported in the media. Nevertheless, Greenspan's Body Count remains at thirty-four:

Scott M. Coles
Dawn E. Armstrong
Thomas Lizotte
Jonathon Calvin "40-Cal" Jacques
Salvador X
Lupe X
Jade X
Little Boy X
Little Girl X
Kashmir Billon
Bill McMurtry

Lisa McMurtry
James Hahn
Raymond Donaca
Deanna Donaca
[redacted]
[redacted]
Michel Veillette
Nadya Ferrari-Veillette
Marguerite Veillette
Vincent Veillette
Mia Veillette
Jacob Veillette
Maurice Pereira
Natasha Pereira
Mark Achilli
Raed Al-Farah
Andrew Kissel
Rufus Shaw Jr.
Lynn Flint Shaw
Mr. Pierce
Walter Buczynksi
Marci Buczynski
Jason Washington

A fairy tale

Laura Rowley has an allegory for the housing bubble.

You'll recognize the ending.

Dirtier and dirtier

Orange midget gave special deals on mortgages to Senators.
Sen. Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat, said in an interview Friday that he became a customer of Countrywide in 2002 after telling Mr. Johnson, a longstanding friend, that he was in the market for a loan for a vacation home in Bethany Beach, Del. Mr. Johnson recommended calling directly to Angelo Mozilo, Countrywide's chairman and chief executive officer.

Sen. Conrad, along with fellow Democrat Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, whose name has also surfaced as possibly receiving special treatment on a home loan with Countrywide, denies that he sought special rates on loans. Still, the revelations began to trigger political fallout Friday. "It would be outrageous if we don't [hold] hearings with an allegation like this," Rep. Mark Souder (R., Ind.) said on the Fox Business Network.

The "Friends of Angelo" loans to prominent people have become a growing embarrassment both to the borrowers and Bank of America Corp., which plans to acquire Countrywide. Wednesday, Mr. Johnson resigned as an adviser to Democratic presidential contender Sen. Barack Obama in the wake of Wall Street Journal reports about more than $7 million of loans he received from Countrywide.

Greenspan's human toll

Sometimes we may be too flippant about Greenspan's Body Count. This post is not in that category. You may want to cry if you read what Greenspan has done here. Don't click unless you are braced to be outraged and depressed.

No they're not; they're priced in Bernanke Bucks

Marc Faber: Stocks, real estate, and oil are overvalued.

No, they're not. Stocks are real businesses. Real estate is a roof over your head. Oil makes things go. Bernanke Bucks, however, are not worth the paper they're printed on, as they are backed by nothing other than the Fed, Congress, and Bushie, all of whom are doing everything in their power to devalue them.

Well, OK, I'll admit real estate is still overvalued.

Jingle mail, jingle mail, jingle all the way

The WSJ:
Next month, Michelle Augustine plans to walk away from her four-bedroom house in a Sacramento, Calif., subdivision and let the property fall into foreclosure. But before doing so, she hopes to lock in the purchase of another home nearby.

"I can find the same exact house as what I live in right now for half the price," says Ms. Augustine, 44 years old, who runs a child-care service out of her home. She says she soon will be unable to afford her monthly payments, which will jump to $4,000 from $3,300 in August, and she doesn't want to continue to own a home that is now worth $200,000 less than what she paid for it two years ago.

If you're significantly underwater on your house, do what Michelle is doing. Is protecting your FICA score really worth losing hundreds of thousands of dollars? Once you buy a new house for half the price of your current house, who gives a shit about your FICA score anyway?

Overheard in Del Mar

Someone who had changed careers, catching up with an old colleague:
"I'll be the first to admit that I wasn't the smartest engineer around. But the smartest real estate agent? By orders of magnitude."

Occam's razor

If you're a smelly hippie with eight kinds of drugs in your system and you crap your pants when the police confront you at a protest, it must be a top secret anti-hippie weapon:
Political activists planning protest rallies at the upcoming Democratic Convention in Denver have their stomachs in knots over a rumor about a crowd control weapon - known as the “crap cannon” - that might be unleashed against them.

Also called “Brown Note,” it is believed to be an infrasound frequency that debilitates a person by making them defecate involuntarily.

Mark Cohen, co-founder of Re-create 68, an alliance of local activists working for the protection of first amendment rights, said he believes this could be deployed at the convention in August to subdue crowds.

“We know this weapon and weapons like it have been used at other large protests before,” he said.

Cohen, who described Brown Note as a “sonic weapon used to disrupt people’s equilibrium,” cited eyewitness accounts of its use during free-trade agreement protests in Miami in 2003.

I do believe in fairies! I do!

Mike Shedlock: there's a big difference between saying you want a strong dollar and having the resources or the will to actually do something about it.

Ouch

I liked M. Night Shamalamadingdong longer than most people did. I actually liked Signs, and didn't hate The Village. Then Lady in the Water came along, and it was just about the worst movie in the history of cinema. Does Shamalamadingdong redeem himself with The Happening? Not according to this reviewer:
"The Happening" is a terrible, terrible movie. I mean, it's bad on an epic scale. It's so bad that I can't possibly tell you how bad it is without understating the point or making it sound like I'm picking on the film. But let me stress: this is not pent-up Shyamalan aggression or a desire to see him fail. This is bad in a jaw-dropping "they can't really be serious, can they?" kind of way. The closest comparison I can draw is to Neil LaBute's "Wicker Man" and, like that film, the only consolation I can offer potential theater-goers is that you might want to see it just to be in on the ground floor when the film gets its ass handed back to it.

A fool and his money

This morning brought news that LandSource, a joint venture involving CalPERS, is filing bankruptcy.

The geniuses at CalPERS put almost a billion dollars into this California land deal right as it was becoming obvious to everyone else that the housing bubble was bursting.

This was just months before the brilliant Toxic Waste CDO deal they bought right before the summer mortgage meltdown.

Nice going, guys! What's your next trade?

So did he!

Washington Post: She touched a lot of people

Soft landing?

Not according to realtor Mike Morgan from the Sunshine State. He's been dead-on right so far, and his outlook is scary.

Confessions from De Cock

The World Health Organization admits its heterosexual AIDS panic was a fraud:
In the first official admission that the universal prevention strategy promoted by the major Aids organisations may have been misdirected, Kevin de Cock, the head of the WHO's department of HIV/Aids said there will be no generalised epidemic of Aids in the heterosexual population outside Africa.

So-called "experts" are just now admitting what has been obvious to everyone else for years. Female-to-male sexual transmission of AIDS is extremely difficult and rare. Without female-to-male transmission, you're not going to have a heterosexual epidemic.

Why would the WHO only now admit the obvious? Perhaps it is because their funding is dependent on terrorizing the public.

The brighter side of the Global Warming scam

I don't know about man-made global warming. I'm inclined to believe it's somewhere between an exageration and a complete fraud.

If you're persuaded by Fat Albert's PowerPoint, please at least watch this well-documented rebuttal.

Al Gore is a big fat liar, and a hypocrite (have you seen his carbon footprint?). But even if Global Warming is a hoax, might it lead to better public policy?

The easiest way way to cut greenhouse gas emissions would be the mass extermination of humans in order to prevent their exhalation of carbon dioxide. But Adolf Hitler's measures don't seem to sell well in the 21st century.

Barring the Final Solution, Global Warmists are likely to focus on taxing energy use. And that's not a bad thing. The U.S. tax system currently taxes income, production, and investment, rather than consumption. That which you tax, you discourage. Hence the negative savings rate we currently experience. Tax consumption, rather than income, and people will produce more and consume less. Further, energy taxes would encourage more efficiency, more alternative energy, and less dependence on foreign oil.

Of course, Democrats will want to put energy taxes on top of, and not in place of, income taxes. A principled stand from Republicans would be required to make this a trade-off rather than an add-on. I'm not holding my breath.

Clint Eastwood, libertarian

From the Guardian:
Eastwood still likes to let his views be known, often forcefully. In 2005, he vowed he'd kill Michael Moore if the documentarian ever showed up at his house, the way he had doorstepped Charlton Heston in Bowling for Columbine. This March he was sacked from Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's California state parks commission for objecting to the building of a toll road through a national forest. But though he has been associated in the public mind with Republican viewpoints, he's something of an individualist. "I don't pay attention to either side," he claims. "I mean, I've always been a libertarian. Leave everybody alone. Let everybody else do what they want. Just stay out of everybody else's hair. So I believe in that value of smaller government. Give politicians power and all of a sudden they'll misuse it on ya."

What a shame that we have the popularity-seeking doofus Schwarzenegger as governor rather than the quiet, confident, principled Eastwood.

At his age, that could happen any day

McCain would like to see a man on Mars

Easy lending = difficult collecting

Daily Business Review:
As home foreclosure cases piled up in his court, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge David C. Miller began to notice more affidavits from mortgage lenders stating they couldn’t locate the borrowers.

“The ones that caught my attention very early on were the ones that said they didn’t have driver’s license information or they didn’t have employment information for the borrower,” the judge said in an interview.

“Did someone just walk in off the street and say, ‘Gimme money?’ ” the judge asked sarcastically. “I don’t think that’s possible.”

In the words of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, "The chickens are coming home to roost!"

Golden Oldies: Consumer Nation

This post, from November 2006, merits repeating as the consequences of America's consumer spending binge become apparent:
As the holidays roll around again, and we hear about "Black Friday," the busiest shopping day of the year, and we hear radio ads for furniture and electronics with easy credit and no payments until next year, I am again amazed at the magnitude and breadth of America's consumer culture.

America now has a zero or even negative savings rate. The average American spends as much or more than he makes, hoping that home prices will keep rising so rapidly that he'll never actually have to work to pay off the debt.

In the 1700's, people sold themselves into indentured servitude to make a new life in the New World. Now people sell themselves into indentured servitude for a new stereo. Every gadget you buy today means hours, days, weeks, or months more that you'll be working for the man instead of enjoying retirement.

As a rabid capitalist, I believe that free markets are by far the most efficient, most rational, and most moral way for people to organize their economic behavior. But watching people sell themselves into debt for the fleeting high of buying the latest hot car, plasma TV, or clothing seriously challenges those beliefs. I think I know how God feels when he gives people free will and then watches them choose to use it having their colons perforated by horses.

Intellectually, I'm a capitalist and free-marketer. But my heart lies with the smelly hippies at Adbusters. Free markets would work better if people used them responsibly.

So go ahead and run up your credit cards buying what they tell you to buy on TV. Make no payments until June 2007!!! I have stock in Amazon and Wal-Mart and other retailers, manufacturers, and credit card providers, so you're putting money in my pocket. But I don't respect you for it.

New White House leak: McClellan memo

Don't blame me; I didn't write it.

That's pretty likely

Clinton unlikely as No. 2

Number 2 happens.

Senator Response to Bear Bailout

Back when the Fed used $29,000,000,000 US Taxpayer dollars to finance JPMorgan's purchase of Bear Stearns, many expressed their concern that it really isn't the Fed's job to do that nor does the Fed, or anyone, have the right to commit tax dollars without Congress's approval. So I voiced my concern to my Senators and got a response that indicates that the Fed is allowed to commit tax dollars to whatever they like. Senator Feinstein stated:
"I strongly believe that its monetary decisions should be made independent of political influence or motives"

They are destroying the US dollar and spending taxpayer money to bailout fraudulent Wall Street firms. Glad no one in Congress is going to act on that.

So who do I write to get them to stop bankrupting the United States of America? Does this at all sound a little like how it worked in the USSR? I mean the comrades over there had no say over their government's "monetary decisions" either. Premier Bernanke, the ghosts of Marx, Lenin and Stalin applaud your efforts.

Here's Senator Feinstein's full response to my email:

Dear Mr. Negocios Loucos:

Thank you for writing to me regarding the Federal Reserve's decision to guarantee JPMorgan's $30 billion purchase of Bear Stearns. I appreciate your taking the time to express your concerns.

I understand your concerns about the Federal Reserve's recent action to prevent the collapse of the investment bank Bear Stearns. The Federal Reserve was originally established as an independent central bank to manage U.S. monetary policy, so this action represents an unprecedented shift in Federal Reserve intervention. Over the past 30 years, the U.S. financial system has moved beyond traditional banking roles to an intricate network of institutions on which credit is increasingly extended, securitized, and actively traded in a variety of centralized and decentralized markets. This evolution and has drastically altered the nature of financial stability.

Please know that while I recognize the importance of accountability and responsiveness in the operations of the Federal Reserve, I strongly believe that its monetary decisions should be made independent of political influence or motives. Be assured that I will keep your thoughts in mind as I work with my colleagues in the Senate to address the current economic downturn to provide relief to struggling American families and businesses.

Once again, thank you for writing. I hope that you will continue to share your views with me. If I can be of any further assistance, please contact my Washington, D.C. office at (202) 224-3841. Best regards.


Sincerely yours, Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

Once in a blue moon

It's rarer and rarer these days, but the Republicans still occasionally do something that makes me smile:
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made good on his promise of retribution against Democrats for their slow pace in confirming judicial nominees by bringing the Senate to a halt Wednesday.

He forced a clerk to read every word of the 491-page global warming bill.

If the Republicans did nothing in the next Congress except force clerks to read every word of every bill, I'd vote a straight party-line ballot for them.

Day at the movies

I recently watched an old Costner/Hackman thriller called "No Way Out." It wasn't that thrilling, but it did have a funny line. Costner, playing a naval commander freshly returned from a deployment, catches up with an old friend.

Friend: "The kids loved the ashtray. They didn't know a donkey could do that."

Yahoo is doomed

Search engine hits bringing traffic to the W.C. Varones blog in the past month:

1 google 1,360
2 yahoo 79
3 aol 26
4 netscape 6
5 search 5
6 msn 3
7 altavista 1
8 ask 1
9 cnn 1
10 live 1


I have no reason to believe that Varones searchers are more google-centric than others. Nobody uses Yahoo for search anymore.

Sure, Yahoo has some good niches like Yahoo Finance, fantasy football, and a few others. But those ain't worth $40 billion. Jerry Yang is a Major League A-hole for not letting his shareholders take the Microsoft cash.

Greenspan's Body Count: Tuesday Double Feature

The first part of today's double feature of Greenspan's Body Count was caught by the sharp eyes and steel-trap mind of Negocios Loucos: Phoenix area mortgage executive Scott M. Coles appears to have offed himself. He was young and apparently healthy, with a wife and three children.

Scott M. Coles, the Chairman and CEO of Mortgages Ltd., was found dead Monday in his Phoenix home. Coles was 48 years old.

Coles died after an apparent suicide, but the autopsy will determine the full cause of death.

Mortgages Ltd. will hold a conference call on June 10 at 11am to determine where they move forward with the company after Coles' death.

What a tragedy. And all because Alan Greenspan thought he could prevent business cycles with no consequences. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Coles family, and may God have mercy on Greenspan's soul.

The second part of today's double feature is a murder-suicide from the not-so-great state of Massachusetts:
The bodies of Dawn E. Armstrong, 37, and Thomas Lizotte, 42, were found yesterday morning by police after one of Ms. Armstrong’s co-workers at McIntyre Loam in Hopkinton called them to request a well-being check when Ms. Armstrong did not report for work Saturday and again yesterday morning. [...]

"While the investigation is in the preliminary stages, this appears to be the result of a murder-suicide with Thomas Lizotte acting as the aggressor," Mr. Early said, adding that the community should not worry about an unknown attacker. [...]

"She told me she was working three jobs just to pay the mortgage," [neighbor Dave] Mackin said, while sitting in his yard last night with his family.


It's well-documented that financial problems are some of the biggest stresses in relationships. And trying to keep up with a Greenspan-bubble-sized mortgage on a sinking house is about the worst financial problem most folks will ever have. Sure, it's possible that the argument was over infidelity or excessive flatulence, but it's a pretty safe bet that the financial stresses were what pushed it to the point of stabbing.

Greenspan's Body Count now stands at thirty-four:

Scott M. Coles
Dawn E. Armstrong
Thomas Lizotte
Jonathon Calvin "40-Cal" Jacques
Salvador X
Lupe X
Jade X
Little Boy X
Little Girl X
Kashmir Billon
Bill McMurtry

Lisa McMurtry
James Hahn
Raymond Donaca
Deanna Donaca
[redacted]
[redacted]
Michel Veillette
Nadya Ferrari-Veillette
Marguerite Veillette
Vincent Veillette
Mia Veillette
Jacob Veillette
Maurice Pereira
Natasha Pereira
Mark Achilli
Raed Al-Farah
Andrew Kissel
Rufus Shaw Jr.
Lynn Flint Shaw
Mr. Pierce
Walter Buczynksi
Marci Buczynski
Jason Washington

It's hazardous just to be born

Scientists reveal dangers of having an older father:
A mass study found that deaths of children fathered by over-45s occurred at almost twice the rate of those fathered by men aged between 25 and 30.

To say nothing of the dangers of having an older brother.
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