Monthly Archives: December 2007

What’s So Bad About Mike Huckabee ?

George Will sums it up nicely:

Huckabee’s campaign actually is what Rudy Giuliani’s candidacy is misdescribed as being — a comprehensive apostasy against core Republican beliefs. Giuliani departs from recent Republican stances regarding two issues — abortion and the recognition by law of same-sex couples. Huckabee’s radical candidacy broadly repudiates core Republican policies such as free trade, low taxes, the essential legitimacy of America’s corporate entities and the market system allocating wealth and opportunity. And consider New Hampshire’s chapter of the National Education Association, the teachers union that is a crucial component of the Democratic Party’s base.


Huckabee’s role in this year’s ’70s Show is not merely to attempt to revise a few Republican beliefs. He represents wholesale repudiation of what came after the 1970s — Reaganism.

Mike Huckabee: He’s Nixon, but with a better shave.

H/T: Jason Pye

Web Sites “Fined” For Gambling Advertising

Web giants to settle gambling allegations

The U.S. attorney in St. Louis announced the settlements Wednesday with Microsoft Corp., Yahoo Inc. and Google Inc., which she accused of selling ads that steered U.S. Web surfers to offshore gambling websites. The Justice Department considers publishers of such gambling ads to be accessories to a crime.

Without admitting or denying liability, the three companies agreed to forfeit millions of dollars they took in from the suspect ads, and Microsoft and Yahoo vowed to run public service campaigns warning young people that online gambling is illegal.

All three Internet companies said they had stopped accepting gambling ads in 2004, more than six months after the government warned magazine publishers that similar ads were illegal.

So they did not participate in online gaming, they simply hosted ads (that until told otherwise, they believed to be legal). Ads for a service that allows adults to consensually engage in peaceful commerce, commerce that is legal in Vegas, California, Atlantic City, Alabama, and on countless riverboats and Indian reservations throughout this nation. Then, when told the ads were illegal, they stopped within several months and haven’t engaged in the behavior since.

And for this, they’re forced asked to pay Danegeld to the Feds, as well as run ad campaigns “informing” the public that online gambling is illegal. I guess I can’t blame them for settling. It may not be right, but I’m sure it’s a lot cheaper for them than going to bat against the feds, who have the advantage of writing all the rules in the first place. This probably shouldn’t be considered a fine, rather it’s “protection money” against the racketeers in D.C.

And it’s not going to stop:

She said her office was continuing to investigate whether other forms of promotion, such as the sponsorship of televised tournaments by a poker company affiliate, were “artifices to promote illegal gambling” and therefore illegal.

Any guess as to what her investigation will find– and whether it depends on how deep the pockets are of the subject of investigation?

Federal Reserve To Reduce Your Access To Risk

In the subprime meltdown, there were some problems on the front end, and some problems on the back end. The front end is the lender/borrower relationship, and most of the major-media attention has been placed here. The major media is torn between blaming borrowers for taking too much risk, and blaming lenders for making too much risk available. Not enough attention is being placed on the back end, regarding the reason why those lenders offered so much risk. The Federal Reserve is attempting to fix the problem, but is only focusing on that front end:

The Federal Reserve moved Tuesday to impose new restrictions intended to curb unfair and deceptive home-lending practices and prevent a recurrence of this year’s meltdown in subprime mortgages.

By a 5-to-0 vote, the Fed approved a plan that would tighten provisions meant to protect borrowers and apply them to a far larger share of home loans — whether from banks, mortgage companies or other lenders — than under current regulations.

Well, in two sentences you understand the political leanings of this writer. “Unfair and deceptive” practices, which will be curbed by provisions “meant to protect borrowers”. If you’ve read much of what I’ve written on the issue, you’ll note that I’m not the type who angrily wants to punish borrowers for their actions, but neither am I about to call them victims.

Let’s face it. Lending standards were disregarded in a wave of irrational exuberance, and while many homeowners will end up paying the price for taking on risk they couldn’t accept, it also opened the doors to borrowers who may not have had access to home ownership in the past, and who will be able to weather the storm in a home of their own.

It’s clear that the fed is lining right up behind those who believe this bubble was caused by unscrupulous lenders, who simply want to foreclose on your home and ruin your life:

“Our goal is to promote responsible mortgage lending, for the benefit of individual consumers and the economy,” the Fed’s chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, said. “We want consumers to make decisions about home mortgage options confidently, with assurances that unscrupulous home mortgage practices will not be tolerated.”

The plan includes provisions that would require more extensive disclosures, restrict advertising and make it harder to lend to borrowers with little or no documentation and a questionable ability to repay. It would also allow borrowers, in some circumstances, to sue lenders who violate the rules.

You know, maybe it’s just the way I was raised, but when someone offers me a chance that they’re not quite sure I’m ready for, it gives me motivation not to let them down. Not to sue them if I fail. But then, maybe I was just born a generation or two too late. I don’t fare well in this victicrat society, where everything you do wrong is someone else’s fault– and they should be made to pay.

All this, though, obscures the real issue. It’s a lot more complex, and thus a lot less easy to demagogue, but let’s explore why those lenders were so loose with their cash. It’s not because they wanted to foreclose. It’s because they didn’t believe their own holdings were at risk, even though they were lending to people that they knew weren’t good credit risks. Mortgage brokers were willing to bend the rules on the front end, because they knew that there were willing buyers on the back end who thought they too were insulated from risk, a portion of the problem that deserved only one mention in this article:

But those personal misfortunes — whether the result of individual misjudgment, excessive optimism, shady lending or all of those — have mushroomed into a national problem, further complicated by the packaging and reselling of mortgages in ways that are so arcane that even some bankers acknowledge they are befuddled by them.

Simply put, nobody worried about the risk of foreclosure. Buyers didn’t care, because prices were going up so quickly that they were sure they’d be able to sell at a profit if things got bad. The mortgage brokers and lenders weren’t worried, because they were selling those mortgages off their balance sheet to investors. The investors didn’t care, because those mortgages were sliced-and-diced into all sorts of packaged investment options that was meant to distribute the risk evenly.

This isn’t an issue of poor lending standards, it’s an issue of lenders getting careless because they were no longer playing with their own money. It was an issue where everyone thought someone else was carrying the risk, when in reality they all were carrying the risk.

In short, the real result of these actions by the fed will only hurt poor and mid-credit borrowers, who now won’t be able to get a loan even if they’re able to repay it. This is done in order to fix a problem caused by rich investors seeking high returns in an expanding asset bubble, and willing to invest in products they didn’t understand in order to find them.

In the days of the tech bubble, it was commonplace for investors to throw gobs of money at companies that didn’t produce anything– be it software, or widgets, or positive revenue. They forgot that they weren’t buying a product, they were buying a belief– and beliefs change fast in the investing world. In this bubble, they threw gobs of money at housing-backed assets, thinking that if there were a few isolated foreclosures, they were protected. They forgot that it was a housing bubble, and that prices only keep rising if everyone believes prices will continue to rise– and beliefs change fast in the investing world.

So thanks a lot, Federal Reserve. Your band-aid will hurt the middle class, and won’t fix the problem. But I’m sure you feel real good about yourselves right now.

Quote Of The Day — Creative Destruction Edition

The FCC is looking to relax some of their rules regarding media cross-ownership, in order to give fishwrap media a chance at survival. To do so, they need to be lean and efficient. One way to do so is to share their reporting staff with television news, to ensure the job is not needlessly duplicated. Yet a FCC Commissioner doesn’t agree:

“In this era of consolidation in so many industries, isn’t cutting jobs about the first thing a merged entity almost always does so it can show Wall Street it is really serious about cutting costs and polishing up the next quarterly report?” said Commissioner Michael J. Copps, who voted against the plan. “These job losses are the result of consolidation. And more consolidation will mean more lost jobs.”

Perhaps he’d prefer to hire on these journalists to dig holes, and then fill them up? After all, it doesn’t matter if someone’s job is useful, just so long as they have one!

The Ron Paul/Stormfront Story Makes The MSM

Frankly, I was beginning to think that I was wrong in my prediction that the story about Ron Paul’s campaign receiving a $ 500 donation from the guy who runs the Stormfront website would eventually be picked up by the mainstream media as Paul became more of a story in the race.

It appears, though, that I was right after all:

Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul has received a $500 campaign donation from a white supremacist, and the Texas congressman doesn’t plan to return it, an aide said Wednesday.

Don Black, of West Palm Beach, recently made the donation, according to campaign filings. He runs a Web site called Stormfront with the motto, “White Pride World Wide.” The site welcomes postings to the “Stormfront White Nationalist Community.”

“Dr. Paul stands for freedom, peace, prosperity and inalienable rights. If someone with small ideologies happens to contribute money to Ron, thinking he can influence Ron in any way, he’s wasted his money,” Paul spokesman Jesse Benton said. “Ron is going to take the money and try to spread the message of freedom.”

“And that’s $500 less that this guy has to do whatever it is that he does,” Benton added.

Black said he supports Paul’s stance on ending the war in Iraq, securing U.S. borders and his opposition to amnesty for illegal immigrants.

“We know that he’s not a white nationalist. He says he isn’t and we believe him, but on the issues, there’s only one choice,” Black said Wednesday.

“We like his stand on tight borders and opposition to a police state,” Black told The Palm Beach Post earlier.

On his Web site, Black says he has been involved in “the White patriot movement for 30 years.”

There really isn’t any other way to spin this. This is bad press. And it could have been avoided if they’d just return the $ 500, or even donate it to, say, the Holocaust Museum or something. Five hundred bucks doesn’t mean a whole lot in the grand scheme of things, but the damage the donation does could be worth a lot more than that.

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