October 1, 2008

They Can’t Win Unless They Cheat, Ohio Edition

Filed under: Scams,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 4:41 pm

I was a perfectly mild-mannered, relatively happy-go-lucky guy for most of today.

That has changed. Read these:

Special thanks goes to the allegedly GOP-led Ohio General Assembly that whooped through this utter nonsense a couple of years ago.

To avoid further bloviation, I will simply recompile nine reasons from previous posts about two years ago (here and here, with other links to other individual reasons) that identified why allowing unrestricted “early voting” is foolish and dangerous — at least if you want fairly and honestly conducted elections.

Oh. and to say “I told you so.”

***************************

The reasons:

  1. The political landscape can change after you’ve voted.
  2. Candidates reveal their rude, deceptive, or self-righteous or other less-than-desirable sides (for the politician cited, there was still about a week to go).
  3. Unpleasant or pleasant truths about candidates that should legitimately affect voter opinion can come in the final days. (Do you really want to tell me you wouldn’t care if a candidate’s previously unknown violent crime history was discovered after you voted for him or her, but before Election Day?)
  4. Politicans can abuse it if they get into disputes over their own residency or voter registration situations (the link is to a mythical conversation between two Ohio politicians who did just that in 2006).
  5. Poll workers can assist the political parties in their Get Out The Vote strategies by letting party officials know how the absentee and early ballots are falling. The more of them there are, the more significant ths problem is.
  6. Letting the counting of ballots and finalization of results go past Election Day in all but the closest of races because of large pile-ups of absentee and early ballots (which shouldn’t be counted until the polls close on Election Day, and not a moment sooner) is inexcusable in the 21st century.
  7. There is no way to ensure that coercion will not take place.
  8. There is no way to ensure voting when not eligible, or ghost voting (voting using someone else’s ballot) will not take place.
  9. There is no way to ensure that losing or altering ballots will not take place.

The Fire Inside the Smoking Gun at Fan and Fred That Ruined Mortgage Lending

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:03 am

Here’s the smoke (HT my guardian angel), from the September 30, 1999 New York Times (click on “more” if you’re on the home page to see the smoke), AND, in the rest of this post, the fire:

Fannie Mae Eases Credit To Aid Mortgage Lending
(more…)

Dave Ramsey’s Bailout Alternative: ‘The Common Sense Fix’

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 7:50 am

This is presented in its entirety, on the safe assumption that the talk-show host doesn’t mind, and wants his suggestions widely known.

I don’t agree with his proposal 100%, but I can surely live with it. It beats the daylights out of the nationalizing, corrupt group-subsidizing, blackmailing proposals being worked up in Washington (blackmail evidence is here and here).

Ramsey also has a text file of what follows and a 3-step action plan, so that those who wish to contact their representatives can use part or all of the language as a basis for contacting their representatives.

THE COMMON SENSE FIX

Years of bad decisions and stupid mistakes have created an economic nightmare in this country, but $700 billion in new debt is not the answer. As a tax-paying American citizen, I will not support any congressperson who votes to implement such a policy. Instead, I submit the following three-step Common Sense Plan.

I. INSURANCE

A. Insure the subprime bonds/mortgages with an underlying FHA-type insurance. Government-insured and backed loans would have an instant market all over the world, creating immediate and needed liquidity.

B. In order for a company to accept the government-backed insurance, they must do two things:

1. Rewrite any mortgage that is more than three months delinquent to a 6% fixed-rate mortgage.
a. Roll all back payments with no late fees or legal costs into the balance. This brings homeowners current and allows them a chance to keep their homes.
b. Cancel all prepayment penalties to encourage refinancing or the sale of the property to pay off the bad loan. In the event of foreclosure or short sale, the borrower will not be held liable
for any deficit balance. FHA does this now, and that encourages mortgage companies to go the extra mile while working with the borrower—again limiting foreclosures and ruined lives.

2. Cancel ALL golden parachutes of EXISTING and FUTURE CEOs and executive team members as long as the company holds these government-insured bonds/mortgages. This keeps underperforming executives from being paid when they don’t do their jobs.

C. This backstop will cost less than $50 billion—a small fraction of the current proposal.

II. MARK TO MARKET

A. Remove mark to market accounting rules for two years on only subprime Tier III bonds/mortgages. This keeps companies from being forced to artificially mark down bonds/mortgages below the value of the underlying mortgages and real estate.

B. This move creates patience in the market and has an immediate stabilizing effect on failing and ailing banks—and it costs the taxpayer nothing.

III. CAPITAL GAINS TAX

A. Remove the capital gains tax completely. Investors will flood the real estate and stock market in search of tax-free profits, creating tremendous—and immediate—liquidity in the markets. Again, this costs the taxpayer nothing.

B. This move will be seen as a lightning rod politically because many will say it is helping the rich. The truth is the rich will benefit, but it will be their money that stimulates the economy. This will enable all Americans to have more stable jobs and retirement investments that go up instead of down.

*************

This is not a time for envy, and it’s not a time for politics. It’s time for all of us, as Americans, to stand up, speak out, and fix this mess.

Hank Paulson, Ben Bernanke, and President Bush should be asked why Ramsey’s proposal isn’t acceptable.

Positivity: VOIP Vanquishes Card for Military Phone Calls from Iraq

Filed under: Positivity,US & Allied Military — Tom @ 5:58 am

From StrategyPage:

September 27, 2008: The U.S. of phone cards (to pay for telephone calls home) in Iraq has fallen from 12 million minutes (at about 20 cents a minute) a month last Fall, to about half that now. The main reason for this has been the introduction of high-speed internet at military bases. This was made possible by the construction of high speed internet links into Iraq, where the there was very little access until Saddam was overthrown in 2003. With high speed connections, troops can make voice, or even video, calls to back home, at no (or very little, like a penny or two a minute) additional cost. This has proved to be a big boost to morale.

In 2004, AT&T was asked to set up pay phones throughout American bases in Iraq and Afghanistan. AT&T set up 64 calling centers, with nearly 2,000 pay phones. The phones were connected, via a satellite link, to AT&T’s international fiber optic network. The fiber optic part of the system is cheap to operate, costing a penny or two per minute for phone calls. The satellite part is more expensive, as was the cost of building the call centers and installing the phones. To cover the costs, AT&T was given an exclusive deal. You could only use AT&T calling cards on the AT&T phones. It cost about 21 cents a minute to call someone back in the United States on this system. When first installed, this was a good deal, because the phone systems in Iraq and Afghanistan were still in a shambles, with many people using satellite phones (which cost 50 cents to a dollar a minute.)

By 2005, the telephone systems, particularly in Iraq, were largely rebuilt, and international calls were a lot cheaper. But even as the Iraqi phone system was being rebuilt, the U.S. Navy got a contract to build several hundred Internet Cafes in Iraq and Afghanistan. These would have fast enough Internet connections to allow the use of VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) phone calls. These cost 4-5 cents a minute. But the PCs at the Internet Cafes were in heavy use, and many troops were stuck with the AT&T phones. There was much agitation in the ranks for change. …..

Go here for the rest of the story.