November 24, 2006

A Hater from the Side That Claims a Monopoly on ‘Compassion’ Tells Us What He Prays for

Filed under: MSM Biz/Other Bias — Tom @ 4:04 pm

I would rather not link it, but exposing this excrement demands it (HT to Dr. Helen; and no, there is no indication in any part of the piece that this is intended as humor):

I give thanks O Lord for Dick Cheney’s Heart, that brave organ which has done its darn-tootin’ best on four separate occasions to do what we can only dream about.

O Lord, give Dick Cheney’s Heart, Our Sacred Secret Weapon, the strength to try one more time! For greater love hath no heart than that it lay down its life to rid the planet of its Number One Human Tumor.

This is especially over the top in its appeal to the divine for help. If anyone has an example of something asking for divine help in engineering a liberal opponent’s death from a mainstream publishing pundit on the right (the author’s bio indicates his association with several mainstream film and publishing efforts), I want to see it.

Arianna Huffington appears to have sunk to the level of allowing the kind of bilge at her blogger collection that the commenters at even the Democratic Underground would probably see pulled by moderators.

Cleveland’s Got Big Problems — And It’s Not a Joke

USA Today noted on Tuesday that a lot of mistakes have been made in “The Forest City” by the lake (believe it or not, that IS the city’s nickname):

Ohio’s foreclosure rate — the highest in the nation — is weighing on Cleveland’s real estate market. In a one-two punch, manufacturing job losses and predatory lenders have hurt homeowners.

The state legislature has passed an anti-predatory-lending law that takes effect Jan. 1. It requires appraisers to be licensed and quadruples the required hours of continuing education for mortgage brokers, to 24 a year. It also aims to promote financial literacy in the poorest communities, which sometimes fall prey to salespeople pushing complex adjustable-rate mortgages with higher-than-average fees.

In Ohio, one in every 10 subprime loans — high-interest mortgages for those with impaired credit — is in foreclosure. The number of homes for sale in Cleveland has risen to 49,000, a two-year supply. Nationally, by comparison, there’s only about a seven-month inventory of homes for sale.

Giving free rein to predatory lending has had serious consequences for the economy of an entire region. The article goes on to blame the jobs situation for a lot of the problems, but I’m not buying it. The fact is that uninformed people got roped into bad deals by people who knew they were bad deals, and didn’t care.

Though the education may help a bit, the legislation described in the excerpt is not a substitute for scruples.

Excerpt of the Day: On the Latest Wave of M&A (Mergers and Acquisitions) Activity

From a subscription-only editorial in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal:

A closer look at who’s buying and selling also reveals some notable trends in the capital markets. For example, yesterday’s deals included the biggest private-equity buyout in history, with the Blackstone Group announcing its agreement to take private Equity Office Partners, a commercial-real-estate trust, for $36 billion, including assumed debt. This adds yet another exclamation point to the rising tide of companies going — or being taken — private.

We’ve argued that the Occam’s razor explanation for this trend is that overregulation and lawsuits have tipped the balance in favor of private management for many investors. Managers who want to spend more time taking risks, and less time talking to lawyers, are increasingly turning to private equity to reduce their hassles and improve their returns. Money will flow to where the returns are, and these days more and more investors seem to think that more money can be made outside the hyper-regulated public equity markets.

As a political matter, this should worry anyone who believes that the development of a broad investor class is good for the preservation of capitalism.

It absolutely should. People who have a visible stake in the system are less likely to support misguided legislation and regulation that would compromise it.

Promises, Promises

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:05 am

I’ll believe it when I see it:

IRS to simplify Form 1040 by 2009 tax filing season

The IRS announced changes planned for Form 1040 that could be available as soon as the 2009 tax filing season.

The major changes include simplifying the current 77-line form, freeing up space for any future tax reporting changes. Simplifying the form means removing a number of less-frequently used lines dealing with adjustments to income, credits, taxes and payments from the cover page. The lines would be relocated to a new Schedule O.

If you really want simple, this is the answer.

But I Thought…. Well, Never Mind (Bankruptcies to Return to Pre-’Reform’ Level?)

Filed under: Bankruptcy & Reform,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:00 am

From a subscription-only article at CardForum.com (para breaks added by me):

….. executives at two large issuers predicted recently a decline in consumer credit quality. “In 2007, we would expect bankruptcy filings to return to more normal levels, and potentially, a worsening in the credit environments,” David Sidwell, executive vice president and chief financial officer at Morgan Stanley, said of its Discover card business.

Fifth Third Bancorp President Kevin T. Kabat said the overall credit environment in 2007 “won’t be as favorable” as it has been. “We would expect some mild deterioration going forward.”

A recent report from Bernstein Research forecasts the net loss ratio on credit card portfolios–estimated at 3.5% for 2006–will rise to 5.2% in 2007 and 5.95% in 2008.

“Normal” levels of bankruptcies would be the pre-”reform” 1.5 million per-year average of 2001-2004, as opposed to the (somewhat educated) guess of 700,000 to 800,000 I predicted in late August. The level of losses indicated above could be enough to slow down the economy, even if everything else is going right. If the research turns out to have foreseen events accurately, lenders will to an extent be paying the price for deliberately throwing money at people who they knew probably couldn’t repay, or who would they knew would run into problems if there were even a minor financial disruption. That will be little consolation to borrowers who theoretically should have known better, but thanks to more factors than I can cover here, didn’t.

SHAMELESS PLUG: People who are concerned about becoming part of an unfortunate financial statistic should go here, figure out where they stand, and, if necessary, take action to prevent it.

China Admits the Painfully Obvious

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 7:55 am

From ABC’s The Blotter (HT Eye Hacker):

For the first time, the Chinese government has admitted selling the organs of executed prisoners for profit, a gruesome business it had denied for years.

Speaking at a national conference of transplant surgeons in Guangzhou last week, Vice-Minister of Health Huang Jiefu admitted, “Apart from a small portion of traffic victims, most of the organs from cadavers are from executed prisoners,” according to the China Daily, a state-run English-language newspaper published in Beijing.

Now let’s see them do something to put a stop to it.

And though this admission has received some coverage from the WORMs (Worn-Out Reactionary Media, formerly known as the Mainstream Media), it has been pretty muted, considering the enormity of what the country has just admitted to.

Futurist Makes Startling Predictions. You Be the Judge.

Filed under: Business Moves,Marvels — Tom @ 7:50 am

From Information Week, what may happen as Moore’s Law continues its relentless progression:

Nov 21, 2006 10:36 AM

In just 15 years, we’ll begin to see the merger of human and computer intelligence that ultimately will enable people to live forever. At least that’s the prediction of author and futurist Ray Kurzweil.

Kurzweil told a keynote audience at last week’s SCO6 supercomputing conference that nanobots will roam our blood streams fixing diseased or aging organs, while computers will back up our human memories and rejuvenate our bodies by keeping us young in appearance and health.

The author of the book The Singularity Is Near, Kurzweil says within a quarter of a century, non-biological intelligence will match the range and subtlety of human intelligence. He predicts that it will then soar past human ability because of the continuing acceleration of information-based technologies, as well as the ability of machines to instantly share their knowledge.

So when do they turn on us?

Positivity: An Interesting Take on What Thanksgiving Really Celebrates

Filed under: Economy,Positivity,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:03 am

(Re-posted, with minor revisions, from last year)
_______________________________

Though I believe the author misstates the role of religion in what we celebrated a couple of days ago, and is a bit over-the-top on American exceptionalism (therefore I did not excerpt those segments), he is definitely on to something when he makes the following points about this unique American holiday:

Thanksgiving celebrates man’s ability to produce. The cornucopia filled with exotic flowers and delicious fruits, the savory turkey with aromatic trimmings, the mouth-watering pies, the colorful decorations — it’s all a testament to the creation of wealth.

Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday ….. It is America that has been the beacon for anyone wanting to escape from poverty and misery. It is America that generated the unprecedented flood of goods that washed away centuries of privation. It is America, by establishing the precondition of production — political freedom — that was able to unleash the dynamic, productive energy of its citizens.

This should be a source of pride to every self-supporting individual. It is what Thanksgiving is designed to commemorate. But there are those, motivated by hatred for human comfort and happiness, who want to make Thanksgiving into a day of national guilt. We should be ashamed, they say, for consuming a disproportionate share of the world’s food supply. Our affluence, they say, constitutes a depletion of the “planet’s resources.” The building of dams, the use of fossil fuels, the driving of sports utility vehicles — they insist — are cause, not for celebration, but for atonement. What if, they all wail, the rest of the world consumed the way Americans do?

If only that were to happen — we would have an Atlantis. For it would mean that the production of wealth would have multiplied. Man can consume only what he first produces. All production is an act of creation. It is the creation of wealth where nothing before existed — nothing useful to man. America transformed a once-desolate wilderness into farms, supermarkets and air-conditioned houses, not by taking those goods away from some have-nots, nor by “consuming” the “world’s resources” — but by reshaping valueless elements of nature into a form beneficial to human beings.

Since human survival is not automatic, man’s life depends on successful production. From food and clothing to science and art, every act of production requires thought. And the greater the creation, the greater is the required thinking.

This virtue of productiveness is what Thanksgiving is supposed to recognize.

….. The liberal tells us that the food on our Thanksgiving plate is the result of mindless, meaningless labor. The conservative tells us that it is the result of supernatural grace. Neither believes that it represents an individual’s achievement.

But wealth is not generated by sheer muscle; India, for example, has far more manual laborers than does the United States.

….. Wealth is the result of individual thought and effort. And each individual is morally entitled to keep, and enjoy, the consequences of such thought and effort. He should not feel guilty for his own success, or for the failures of others.

There is a spiritual need fed by the elaborate meal, fine china and crystal, and the presence of cherished guests. It is the self-esteem that a productive person feels at the realization that his thinking and energy have made consumption possible.