Should the government bail out the mortgage industry?

Over at Express, they have a poll asking if the mortgage industry deserves a federal bailout. Actually, they don’t word it like that – the industry clearly does NOT deserve any help. They’ve brought this on themselves by extending too many loans to risky borrowers, banking on a strong market to counteract the risks. Having worked at Fannie Mae, I can promise you that some very smart economists told management that this was a bad, bad idea.

But should we bail out the industry for the sake of the rest of the country? I don’t think we should. However, it’s easy for me to say that, as the wife and I make enough money to support ourselves comfortably, and aren’t really feeling the effects of the economic downturn. I would probably feel differently if I were one of the tens of thousands in the mortgage industry who have lost their jobs (While former Fannie CEO Frank Raines rolls around in his golden parachute – I bet a good chunk of this is his fault).

The problem is that the mortgage market must be a huge factor in the economy.  For how many people is the home the most money they have ever or will ever spend on anything?  It follows that the mortgage market must be important to a lot of people.  So what do we do with that?  Do we allow it to move up and down with minimal oversight?  Or do we regulate it strictly to make sure that the people at the bottom don’t lose their homes?

I know the issue isn’t so black and white.  There’s a huge gray area.  But I think things are better when we’re at the less regulatory end of the spectrum, and I’d like to see us stay there.  I know this means that people are going to lose their homes when the market is bad.  But you really can’t save everyone.

In any event, I’ve totally lost my train of thought.  So far, 87% of Express readers agree with me.  I expect 75% of those are no more than the minimally informed that I am.  But that’s the nature of online polls.

Legislating fairness

Techdirt: Senator Really Does Want A Return Of The Fairness Doctrine

Senator Dianne Feinstein said this weekend that a legislative remedy may be needed to counter the influence of right-wing talk radio, which she blamed for stymieing attempts to bring about immigration reform.

Ask any parent – it’s impossible to make a rule that’s fair for everyone. If all parties involved aren’t interested in being fair about things, you’ll never get anywhere.

Of course, this isn’t really about fairness at all. This is about unfairness in the opposite direction. And, actually, Techdirt is either reporting stuff from elsewhere, or is maybe inferring a little extra malice in what Feinstein is saying. She doesn’t seem to be making this as black and white as is suggested.

My view here is that the proper way to combat excessive right-wing bias in talk radio is to get more excessive left-wing bias on talk radio. I mean, that seems pretty simple, right? I don’t think anyone is barring anyone from getting a radio show based on their political leanings. And if they are, there are probably already laws in place to take care of that.

When you have two sides competing, and one is dominating a space, and the other suggests legislating fairness, you have to wonder if things are really unfair as they are. I honestly can’t think of how radio stations could be legally keeping liberal views off the air. They can’t get together and make deals to make sure only conservatives have jobs. Maybe they can just refuse to hire liberals? I don’t know that liberals are a protected group under EEO laws. I would suspect that they aren’t.

_NB:  The wife says, “There is no historical evidence of discrimination on the basis of one’s party affiliation, so they don’t qualify as a discrete and insular minority.”  Hence, no EEO protection. _

However, that doesn’t mean that a group of concerned liberals (With backing from, say, concerned Senators) couldn’t start a radio station and be as left-wing as they want to be.

The other issue here, and I may be completely wrong, but isn’t Bush being uncharacteristically reasonable on the immigration debate? Aside from the ridiculous wall, hasn’t he been pushing a pretty moderate plan?

My thoughts on the Democratic debate

Mike Gravel is an angry, angry man. I like that he’s passionate about what he believes in, but he needs to take a look at what happened to Howard Dean and tone it down a bit. He doesn’t have even Dean’s charisma – people aren’t going to forget his little outbursts. And he maybe needs to learn that not every issue is so black and white. There are subtleties to issues that he didn’t acknowledge. Not that it matters. He has no chance of winning, as evidenced by his seating position. He was off-camera in even most of the wide shots.

Also not going to win is Dennis Kucinich. His repeated insistence that his fellow debators could stop the Iraq war right now if they’d change political tactics was annoying. I am adamantly opposed to cutting off war funding. I know that something politically drastic has to be done to get Bush to listen to reason on the war, but cutting off funding is a really good way to get a lot of people, both American and Iraqi, killed. Like it or not, we stirred things up over there pretty badly, and I think we have a responsibility to the Iraqi people to stick around until it’s cleaned up.

Hillary Clinton was not as bad as I expected. She did spend too much time bashing Bush, though. We already know she doesn’t agree with Bush. It’s not like she was one of his advisors and needs to distance herself. Instead of rallying support, her bashing is going to look like cheap shots. I’m pretty tired of Bush-bashing. It’s not getting us anywhere. I mean, he’s a terrible President. He’s done some really awful things to the country. But I’m not really interested in hearing about it anymore. I want to hear how you’re going to fix it.

And that’s where Barack Obama comes in. Man, that guy sounded good up there. I keep saying that I need to do some research on him, because a friend insists he’s basically a socialist. I really want to support Obama, and I really need to find out if I can. He said all the right things. He’s got a really nice talent for complimenting someone at the same time he’s disagreeing with them.

I agreed with a lot of the things that were said on the debate. But then a few of them started talking about how we need to crack down on insurance company profits and oil company profits, and then they lost me. What better way to lose the socially-liberal, fiscally-conservative voters who really want to vote for a Democrat in 2008?

I also really hated the format of the debate. If Wolf Blitzer had asked them to raise their hands if they agreed with point X one more time, I would have lost it. I think the number of issues and the number of people were both much too high for a two hour debate. There were a few times where the question was specifically about semantics rather than real discussion of the issues.

Right now, I’d like to see Obama/Edwards for ’08. I think the two of them were passing notes behind Hillary’s back, so maybe that’s what they’re planning on. I may change my mind as I learn more, but if the election were today, that’s who I would want on my ballot.

More housing?

CJUF/Lowe Acquire Dupont Hilton for $290M

The company is also set to announce another DC deal in the coming weeks, CJUF managing partner Bobby Turner reveals: a $70-million mixed-use project in the Columbia Heights neighborhood. The residential component will have a significant affordable housing component and there will be retail on the ground floor.

Unfortunately, that’s all the information the article has about what’s going on in Columbia Heights. The rest of it is about the Dupont Hilton, which is of less interest to me.

Anyway, just what Columbia Heights needs – more housing! I like that they’re including affordable housing, although they probably had to, so it’s unlikely that we should give them credit for caring about the community. But as far as I know, the unfinished projects at the Metro – Kenyon Square and whatever the other one is called – are having trouble selling all the units, and it’s the same with Allegro further north. And I know some of the row-house-to-condo conversions that we looked at before we bought back in January are still on the market.

All of this suggests that a new housing development is not in anyone’s best interests. Now, CJUF undoubtedly knows something that I don’t, because they didn’t get to be a large investment fund by making dumb decisions. But I can’t imagine what they could know that goes against the indications that housing in Columbia Heights either is outpacing demand, or is stubbornly overpriced. Neither of these options make for a really profitable new housing development.

Oh, look, torture works

Transcript: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed confesses 9/11 role –

“If now we were living in the Revolutionary War and George Washington he being arrested through Britain,” [the transcript] reads. “For sure he, they would consider him enemy combatant.”

I haven’t seen anyone say it yet, although I’m sure it’s all over Fox News, but I hope that this doesn’t lead people to think, “Oh, hey, I know they say bad stuff about Gitmo, but now we know who planned 9/11, so the horrible human rights violations must be okay!”.

I’m not sure I believe the confession.  NPR mentioned that this guy likes to present himself as a “super terrorist” (That may not be the exact phrase they used, but you get the idea), so it makes sense that he would take credit for all these high-profile attacks.  And how long has he been in custody?  He had no legal representation, he’s probably been treated abominably, and he likes to make himself out as a big shot.  Big shocker that he confessed.  I probably would have, too.

That doesn’t mean he wasn’t responsible.  But it means we have to be careful what we take away from this.  If this was an American citizen confessing to killing JFK after a similar experience in jail, any judge in the country would laugh this confession out of court.  And the American people would probably agree with him.  But because he’s a terrorist, and terrorists are bad, we can do whatever we want as long as we find someone to blame for 9/11.

I hate elevators

I have an irrational hatred for elevators.  I hate riding in them.  I hate looking at them.  I hate walking past people waiting for them.  In my office, we have six elevators and eleven floors.  Usually, that means you don’t wait long for an elevator.  I almost always take the stairs down, but you can’t take the stairs up because they lock the doors.  Only the lobby and basement doors open from the outside.

For the last two weeks, they’ve been taking one elevator out of service at a time to replace the doors.  Yes, I’m serious.  Currently, the elevator doors are a golden color, with a column of the same material that runs from the top of the door all the way to the ceiling.  These doors are being replaced in the lobby with silver colored mirrored doors that have stupid square patterns etched into them.  The first time I saw one, I thought it had been scratched as it opened.  They are not, however, replacing the panels above the doors.

So, now our lobby not only has marble walls with patterns that could only be described as six foot tall female genitalia, but it also has silver doors with gold trim.  Awesome.

And the elevators are slow.  I don’t see how taking one out of service quadruples the wait time, but it does.  Let’s do the math here.  Let’s say that the time I wait for an elevator is (# of people)/(# of elevators)(# of trips per elevator), or t=p/er.  Let’s call the time it normally takes t0, and the time it takes with one elevator out of service as tf (Where ‘f’ stands for you know what).  We can reasonably assume that p and r remain constant.  If tf=4t0, we do some algebra, and we determine that 4/e = (6/5)/e, or 4=6/5.  This is false.  Therefore, we have to assume that the elevators defy the laws of physics.

Actually, we should probably assume that t=p/er is incorrect.  Since taking 84% of e causes t to increase four fold, there must be something more sinister afoot here than that innocuous equation.  I suspect that natural logs are involved.

What have we done?

In the House, Suddenly Righteous Republicans

Anne Kornblut of the New York Times asked McHenry if his complaint might come across as whining.

“I’m not whining,” he whined.

So, when the Republicans were in power, Nancy Pelosi submitted a bill asking for fair treatment of the Democratic minority. The Republicans ignored it. Now, the Republicans are submitting the same bill with the roles reversed, and are mad that the Democrats aren’t jumping to do what they ask. The Republicans even had it delivered by a new member who could argue with something resembling a straight face that he had nothing to do with the Republicans actions a few years ago.

This is a pretty crappy thing to do on both sides, especially the Republicans. But the Washington Post has to go and ruin the article by the above quote. “Ooh, let’s call the Republicans ‘whiners’. That’ll show them.” On a related note – Cindy Sheehan is not helping anything. Defunding the Iraq war is the worst idea I’ve heard since someone thought, “Hey, it would be cool if George W. Bush was the President!”

I think my point here is that, when we “cleaned house” and got rid of some of the biggest problem Republicans in office, we seem to have replaced them with equally bad (though in different ways) Democrats. My mom doesn’t like Nancy Pelosi. And my mom has an incredible gift for finding the good in anyone, so if she can’t see anything positive in Nancy Pelosi, it’s probably not there.  And yes, I know my mom doesn’t know her personally, nor is she a professional political analyst. Actually, I don’t think I have a point. I’m just terribly frustrated that there doesn’t seem to be a single person anywhere in American politics who seems to represent my views. There’s no one I can get behind and say, “Hey, this person speaks for me”.  Am I asking too much?  Should the leaders I helped elect occasionally say things I agree with?  There are things I believe in on both sides of the political spectrum (Although not on the strange third axis of political thought where George W. Bush lives).

Is this my least coherent post ever?  Vote in the comments.  It’s not even 8:30AM. I swear I’m not drunk.

More on Googles purchase of YouTube

The Jeff Pulver Blog: Some thoughts on the Google Purchase of YouTube:

Some interesting speculation here.  Jeff Pulver thinks (hopes?) that this could mean a real step forward towards internet TV.  The combination of YouTube’s community with Google’s developers and resources could be the start of a real alternative to cable/satellite TV.

That could be really cool.  An entirely new model for distributing mainstream video entertainment.  Maybe we’d finally stop being stuck with this antiquated “this show is on at this time” system.  You’d think that the popularity of Tivo and DVR would suggest that maybe people don’t like being forced to watch a show at a specific time, but the networks don’t seem to want to deliver what people want.

Oh, you mean this wasnt just an unsubstantiated rumor?

Google to buy YouTube for $1.65 billion – Yahoo! News Link via Gizmodo

Hmm. I’m not sure what Google’s intention is here. For a while, I trusted their judgement and figured they knew what they were doing. But their sea of perpetual betas is starting to get old. Yes, I love Gmail. Yes, I love Google maps. Yes, I use writely and calendar and spreadsheets and translate. But they have a million more things that are in a constant state of upheaval. I guess it’s good that YouTube is pretty stable.

I wonder if they’re going to make a lot of changes. Google is much more of a target for the lawsuits that YouTube has been getting over the copyrighted content that people put up. And Google has been much more willing to remove things under pressure from copyright holders (Probably why no one I know uses Google video). YouTube has never really made any money, so I think people hesitated to sue them. Google, on the other hand, has gobs of money. Will Comedy Central stop thinking it’s cute that you can find about a million Daily Show clips on YouTube now that YouTube is Google?

You know what I’d like to see come out of this?  A standardized video format.  Something I can view embedded in a browser, or streaming, or on my desktop, or wherever, nicely compressed, in stereo, and all that.  I don’t want Real Player and QuickTime and WMV and Divx and whatever the heck else you need to watch video.  I want one little app that plays one little open source format that EVERYONE uses.  Can you do that, YouTube and Google?  Please?

Time again for the flu shot controversy

I was listening to NPR this morning, and they were talking about the difficulty we’ve had in distributing flu shots.  The CDC says that 75% of the country should have a flu shot.  Surveys say that 50% are planning to.  But how about the vaccines?  The NPR story didn’t give all the details, but they did say that doctors give out 70% of the vaccines.  But often big companies like WalMart get more of the vaccines.  NPR didn’t come out and say it, but I suspect this is because the drug companies make more money when they sell to big pharmacies.  I doubt that WalMart pays more than the doctors do, but Walmart is also in the position to buy millions of dollars worth, and pledge to buy millions more of other drugs on the condition that they get the flu vaccines.

Anyway, my point here is that these drug companies are, in effect, deciding who gets a flu vaccine.  Never mind that we should have enough for every human being in the country, if not the planet, just because it’s the right thing to do.  Let’s pretend for a minute that there’s a legitimate reason we can’t produce enough that doesn’t involve profitability.  Who, then, should decide where those vaccines should go?  And now we’re back into the argument over health care.  Can we assign responsibility to the government to ensure that the country is as healthy as possible?  Does every American deserve health care?  The answers are “I hope so” and “yes”.

When it comes to health, no one should ever be denied because it’s not profitable.  I don’t know how to overcome the problems with “free” health care.  I don’t know how to minimize abuse of the system.  But we have to figure it out.