May 31, 2011

Case-Shiller Report Means We Have a Baskin-Robbins Housing Market: A Double Dip

Filed under: Economy,General,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 3:01 pm

IceCreamConeAmericans for Limited Government says it perfectly, with bolds added by me:

Double Dip in Housing, ALG Declares Failure of Obama ‘Stimulus’

May 31, 2011, Fairfax, VA—Americans for Limited Government President Bill Wilson today issued the following statement on the 4.2 percent decline in home values in the first quarter as measured by the S&P/Case Shiller home price index:

“We are now officially in a double dip in housing. The Obama Administration promised that if trillions of dollars in fiscal and monetary ‘stimulus’ were injected into the economy, that it would turn the housing market around. Yet, despite the tremendous run up in government debt and money printing to prop up the economy, home values are now at their lowest point in this recession — lower than even April 2009.

“That means 3.3 million people who used the $22 billion homebuyer’s tax credit, which temporarily juiced the market, are now likely already in negative equity on their new homes. What sort of ‘recovery’ is this? It’s a failure. We should have just let prices hit the bottom in the first place. Instead of bailing out banks, it would have been better to let investors that bet poorly on housing to fail. If government had just gotten out of the way, we would already be in recovery.

Obama has prolonged the recession he swore to pull us out of, wasting over $2 trillion on a lie. Obama has been given everything he wanted — everything he said would turn the economy around. The ‘stimulus’ has failed. Now is the time for a new direction for America, and that will only come with new leadership on the economy, before we go bankrupt trying to ‘stimulate’ it.”

I’m not the biggest fan of Case Shiller, as I think it generally overestimates value fluctuations. That said, as long as it’s applying its methodology consistently, its core contention at the moment — that housing prices are worse than they were in April 2009 — is pretty sharp slap in the face at U.S. housing policy, and more broadly, the Obama administration’s fiscal policies.

While there’s a double-dip in existing home prices, there’s pretty much been a continuous dip in new-home sales, with the exception of the final three months before the aforementioned homebuyers’ credit expired:

Trailing12MosHomeSales1208to0411

The POR (Pelosi-Obama-Reid) Economy strikes again.

Herman Cain: Barack Obama Is Not a Patriot

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:55 am

herman-cain_052111ObamaPledgeCain’s reasonable, evidence-based assertion.

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Note: This column went up at Pajamas Media and was teased here at BizzyBlog on Sunday.

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Presidential candidate Herman Cain is unafraid to speak his mind, and did so on May 23:

Throughout a Monday interview with Hotline On Call, Cain bashed Obama and his policies. When asked about Obama as a man, he complimented his family life. But when asked whether the president was a patriot, Cain hesitated. After asking for a definition (a man who is working to do what he sees as right for his country), he simply said “no.”

Cain is a reasonable man, and made a reasonable assertion based on the available evidence.

Rush Limbaugh didn’t intend to do so, but that same day, he essentially recited a nearly comprehensive list of the ways Barack Obama has not acted as a patriot during his two-plus years in office:

So where are we? Bottom line. Obama chose Palestinians over Israelis. Obama is essentially demanding that Israel commit suicide. Netanyahu says I’m not gonna commit suicide. People say Netanyahu was rude when he refuses to commit suicide. Obama chose Palestinians over Israelis. He did it after learning that Hamas became a part of the Palestinian ruling class, the terrorist group.

Obama chose the Muslim Brotherhood over freedom when he invited them to his Cairo speech and when he endorsed the misnamed Arab Spring without reservations or conditions. We know now what’s happening in Egypt.

Obama chose lawlessness and open borders over protecting innocent citizens when he sued Arizona.

My friends, there’s a pattern here. Obama chose voter intimidation over civil rights when he chose not to prosecute the New Black Panthers in Philadelphia.

Obama chose the public sector over the private sector with his stimulus slush fund.

Obama chose socialism over the private sector when he took over two US car companies.

Obama chose a path to socialized medicine over free market solutions to health care when he signed Obamacare into law.

Obama chose true cowboyism over Congress when fighting a war on Khadafy and Libya, ignoring the War Powers Act by saying, well, we’re not really all in.

Obama chose czars over cabinet members.

He chose class warfare over prosperity when he demagogued taxing the rich over cutting out-of-control spending.

He chose politics over solutions when he failed to produce a budget or demand one from Congress.

It’s clear who Obama is. He’s the sum of his choices. We all are.

Let’s now run through exactly why Herman Cain’s claim is on such solid ground.

When you catch someone lying for the first time, the proper evaluation of the situation is to say, “That person is lying.” You do not say, “That person is a liar.” You would be wrong to do so, as that person has from all appearances engaged in atypical behavior.

However, if the person repeatedly lies, is repeatedly advised that they are lying and doesn’t change their behavior, you ultimately and reluctantly have to conclude that the person doesn’t merely lie a lot. You’re forced to conclude that the person actually is a liar. The person, as a liar, is the sum of his or her choices to serially lie. Why that person is a liar is irrelevant to accurately identifying them as one.

Similarly, when you catch someone stealing for the first time, the proper evaluation of the situation is to say, “That person has just stolen something.” You do not say, “That person is a thief.” You would again be wrong to say so.

However, if the person is repeatedly caught stealing, you ultimately and reluctantly have to conclude that the person doesn’t merely steal a lot. You must instead conclude that the person is a thief — the sum of his or her choices to steal. As with identifying liars, determining why a person is a thief is not important.

Finally, when you see a president take an action that is clearly against the best interests of his country and its people for the first time, the proper response is to say, “He is not acting patriotically.” You do not say, “He is not a patriot.” You would be wrong make that assertion, as he is from all appearances engaging in atypical behavior.

But Rush recited eleven instances in just the past two years and four months (the first one is conceivably subject to some debate, but the other ten really aren’t) where Barack Obama has acted against the best interests of his country, the best interests of its people, and/or its founding principles (which in essence comprise what the Founders saw as the country’s best interests). What’s more, Rush didn’t even get to the Obama administration’s clear determination — by their actions, not their words — to increase this country’s dependence on foreign energy, or its EPA-driven economic war on the state of Texas.

What do you say about a person who repeatedly commits acts that are against the best interests of his country and its people, is repeatedly told that he is doing so (e.g., in the November 2009 and November 2010 elections, as scores of those who largely agree with his actions were cast aside in favor of those who do not), and doesn’t change his behavior? A reasonable person can conclude that the person involved doesn’t merely commit a lot of unpatriotic acts. A reasonable person can conclude that the person is not a patriot. As with lying and stealing, determining why that person is not a patriot (e.g., antagonism, profound ignorance, being controlled by other forces, etc.) doesn’t matter.

As Rush said, Barack Obama is the sum of his choices, and there have been enough of them for reasonable people to arrive at the belief that Barack Obama is not a patriot.

Therefore, Herman Cain, when asked whether the President is a patriot, acted as a reasonable person when he said “No.”

Where’s the comparable mountain (or even molehill) of evidence which would demonstrate that Herman Cain is even remotely wrong, and that the sum of President Barack Obama’s actions would instead demonstrate that he is a patriot?

This Is Just Great, Mike DeWine; Also, Why Fiduciaries Can’t Defend Their Fan and Fred Investments

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:43 am

Today, a Wall Street Journal editorial harshly criticizes Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine for continuing a horrid bipartisan Buckeye State tradition:

Republicans for Lawsuits
Ohio’s AG employs a dubious lawyer to soak taxpayers.

It hasn’t received much attention, but the securities lawsuit racket is flourishing again. And it’s a bipartisan business, as the remarkable partnership between Ohio’s Republican attorney general and a scandal-ridden trial lawyer shows.

Ohio has led the lawsuit revival, as a series of AGs have used shareholder suits against companies to help fill the state’s underfunded pension funds. A 2010 Wall Street Journal analysis found that Ohio pension funds had filed at least 21 shareholder lawsuits since 2002—against Time Warner, United Health, Standard & Poor’s, Bank of America and anything else with a deep pocket.

Ohio has also become a mecca for legal pay-to-play: Out-of-state plaintiffs attorneys contributed $1.65 billion over 10 years to Ohio politicians, hoping to land a piece of this booming legal action.

In 2004 then-Ohio AG Jim Petro, a Republican, launched a class action against Fannie Mae, alleging that the mortgage giant had “deceived investors about [its] true financial state.” Mr. Petro and his three successors have dragged out this litigation for six years, retaining Stanley Chesley along the way. …

The Journal then details Chesley’s myriad problems. Let’s resume after that:

… As part of Ohio’s Fannie Mae litigation, Mr. Chesley was obliged to disclose the states where he is licensed to practice. Yet in his 2004 filing, he omitted Kentucky, where he was already under investigation. Only last month did he inform the court that he might lose his law license from the fen-phen probe.

In spite of all this, Ohio’s new Republican AG, former U.S. Senator Mike DeWine, has dropped neither Mr. Chesley nor the Fannie Mae suit. In February Mr. DeWine even defended the suit in a Washington Post op-ed and testified before Congress. Hoping to pressure Fannie to settle, Mr. DeWine claimed the housing giant was “lawyering” the case to death while already “swindling” U.S. taxpayers out of $132 million in legal costs.

He failed to note that Fannie is paying those costs to defend itself against Mr. DeWine’s lawsuit. And he didn’t mention that if Fannie did settle, a huge chunk of the winnings would go not to the state pension fund but to Mr. Chesley.

Nobody has been more critical of Fannie Mae than we have, yet Ohio’s pension funds were only too happy to invest in the politically favored company when we were raising doubts about its accounting and business practices. Only after Fannie’s abuses became undeniable did Ohio sue and claim to be shocked that gambling was going on in the saloon.

… Before he lost his Senate seat in 2006, Mr. DeWine was a reluctant vote for tort reform and helped keep the plaintiffs bar in yacht money. He’s doing it again at the state level, and other Republicans in the state and honorable members of the Ohio bar ought to blow the whistle.

Whether DeWine should have dropped Chesley by now is a no-brainer. (While we’re in the neighborhood, several other Republican politicians — I’m talking to you, Rob Portman and Jean Schmidt, should be seriously questioning their relationships via campaign contributions and who knows what else with Mr. Chesley. We expect corrupt Democrats like Chuck Schumer, Harry Reid, and Patrick Leahy to have no qualms about taking money from Chesley’s PAC. We expect better of people who claim to be conservatives.)

As to the Fannie Mae lawsuit, there at least three problems:

  • Problem 1 is that if laws have been broken, those who broke them should be pursued criminally. Shareholder suits do nothing to prevent future malfeasance, as those who perpetrate the crimes just say “IBG, YBG” — “I’ll Be Gone, You’ll Be Gone.” They get to skate with their stash and their status (e.g., Franklin Raines). The litigation ends up being over the wreckage they leave behind.
  • Problem 2 with Fannie Mae (and Freddie Mac) specifically is that they are de facto wards of the state, which, thanks to a Christmas Eve 2009 maneuver by Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, can be provided relief without limit. This means that Fan and Fred effectively have unlimited taxpayer-provided resources to throw at their defenses. If you beat ‘em, it will more than likely be a pyrrhic victory after enormous legal fees are extracted.
  • Problem 3, which overwhelms the first two and should totally undercut Ohio’s action, is that  both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac failed to release audited financial statements for several years. Repeat, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac failed to release audited financial statements for several years. Yet the pension funds apparently continued their investments in either the stock of Fan and Fred and/or its mortgage-backed securities. How can pension fund managers with a fiduciary duty to its shareholders possibly defend their decisions to invest in these entities during that time frame? They can’t. The people who breached their fiduciary duty on behalf of the state workers they were supposed to represent should be looking at jail time for deciding to invest or continue their investments in entities on which they could not possibly perform due diligence. (Perhaps that has happened, but I doubt it.). As I see it, there really are no grounds for recovery by the state.

If anything, state workers whose pension funds were seriously compromised are the ones who have cause for action — with the proceeds going directly to them. I guess that’s not how Mike “Pay to Play” DeWine sees it.

___________________________________________

UPDATE: Let’s go further with Problem 3 above. The more fundamental problem is that Fan and Fred were exempt from SEC reporting requirements from day one, meaning, from a fiduciary standpoint, that any investment ever made in them by someone with a fiduciary duty was indefensible. Individuals and other entities controlling their own funds wanting to gamble on Fan and Fred stock (and that’s all it ever was) is one thing. Investing someone else’s money in such enterprises should have been off-limits from the get-go — and yes, this is a problem that was not limited to Ohio’s pension funds.

As to their mortgaged-backed securities, the argument isn’t as clear, but I still think it comes down on the side of staying away. When deciding to invest in them, you have to be able to evaluate the entity issuing them, and there was no way to do that.

Don Boudreaux’s Bet: Any Takers?

Filed under: Environment,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:42 am

The globaloney crowd, lacking any scientific proof that there is a meaningful “global warming” trend going on, is attempting to latch on to the wave of tornadoes in recent months as “proof” that manmade “climate change” (they don’t even have the guts to use the term they really mean any more) is somehow responsible for them.

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece, Don Boudreaux runs down the stats, and has a related bet:

Since 1950 there have been 57 confirmed F5 tornadoes, with winds between 261–318 miles per hour, in the U.S. Of those, five struck in 1953; six in 1974. So far this year there have been four F5 tornadoes in the U.S., including the devastating storm that killed more than 130 people in Joplin on May 22. F5 tornadoes are massive, terrifying and deadly. But they generally touch down in unpopulated areas, thus going unnoticed. The tragedy of Joplin and other tornadoes this year is that they touched down in populated areas, causing great loss of life. Yet if these storms had struck even 20 years ago there would have been far more deaths.

So confident am I that the number of deaths from violent storms will continue to decline that I challenge Mr. McKibben—or Al Gore, Paul Krugman, or any other climate-change doomsayer—to put his wealth where his words are. I’ll bet $10,000 that the average annual number of Americans killed by tornadoes, floods and hurricanes will fall over the next 20 years. Specifically, I’ll bet that the average annual number of Americans killed by these violent weather events from 2011 through 2030 will be lower than it was from 1991 through 2010.

If environmentalists really are convinced that climate change inevitably makes life on Earth more lethal, this bet for them is a no-brainer. They can position themselves to earn a cool 10 grand while demonstrating to a still-skeptical American public the seriousness of their convictions.

But if no one accepts my bet, what would that fact say about how seriously Americans should treat climate-change doomsaying?

Do I have any takers?

Does he? I doubt it.

Positivity: Mother of Aerosmith Singer Steven Tyler’s Aborted Baby Now Pro-Life

Filed under: Life-Based News,Positivity — Tom @ 5:57 am

From Kevin Burke at LifeNews.com (links were in original):

Introductory note: On May 4, 2011 National Review Online published my article entitled “Post Abortion Trauma – Jesus What Have I Done” on Aerosmith front man and American Idol judge Steven Tyler’s abortion experience.  Shortly after this I was contacted by Julia Holcomb.  Julia is the mother of Steven’s Tyler’s aborted son referenced in my article.

Julia and her husband Joseph expressed a desire to entrust to me a more detailed account of Julia’s relationship with Steven Tyler, her abortion and post-abortion life journey.  Julia has read for many years Steven’s Tyler’s recollection and reconstruction of events from the years of their relationship and more recently shared in his autobiography, Does the Noise in My Head Bother You? She would like the opportunity after all these years to present her version of the events.

But ultimately the reason Julia shares her story at this time is because of the inspiration, healing and faith that are reflected in her personal journey.  Julia believes that my NRO article and the high visibility of Steven Tyler at this time provide a providential opportunity to present her story.

– Kevin Burke, LSW

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Julia’s Story

My maiden name is Julia Holcomb and I am writing in response to Kevin Burke’s article Post Abortion Trauma from the National Review.  I found the article he wrote about Steven Tyler remarkably compassionate while outlining the trauma of abortion. My name was mentioned in this article, as it has been in several other articles that have been written lately, and in several books. I decided it was time to tell my story honestly, to the best of my memory, hoping to bring closure and peace to this period of my life.

In November of 1973, shortly after my 16th birthday, I met Steven Tyler at a concert in Portland, Oregon. …

A few months before I met Steven, while I was still 15, I became friends with a girl who had access to backstage parties at concerts.  She was 24 years old, and although our acquaintance was brief, she was a pivotal change in the course of my life, and ours was one of the most dangerous friendships I ever formed.

She quickly taught me to dress in revealing clothes to get noticed and use sex as a hook to try to catch a rock star. I still remember dressing to go to the Aerosmith concert, intending to get backstage with her. I had listened to the song Dream On and seen Steven’s photo on the album cover. I went to the concert hoping to meet Steven and after the concert we met for the first time. At that time, I thought he was the best thing in my life. My sad, vulnerable story, as well as my youth and personal attractiveness captured his interest.

My mother signed over guardianship of me to Steven after I had moved to Boston. I remember my surprise when Steven told me she had signed the papers and trying to take this in mentally. A sense of vulnerability came over me, knowing that I was his ward, but we were not married. He had not expressed his intentions of a long-term relationship with me. He had mentioned that he wanted guardianship papers so I could travel across state lines when he was on tour. I had told him my mother would not sign me over to him. I asked him how he had got her to do it. He said, “I told her I needed them for you to enroll in school.” I felt abandoned by my mother as well as my father and stepfather. Steven was really my only hope at that point.

I became lost in a rock and roll culture.  In Steven’s world it was sex, drugs, and rock and roll, but it seemed no less chaotic than the world I left behind.  I didn’t know it yet, but I would barely make it out alive.

The Pregnancy

When we first lived together I took the birth control pill.  It is not true that my pregnancy with Steven was unplanned, as has been written.  After some months together, Steven spoke to me of his desire to have a child. He had grown up in the New Hampshire countryside and at times he behaved like a down-to-earth farm boy.  He wanted a family and he asked me if I was willing to have a child with him.  I was touched by his sincerity and said yes. I wanted children, and began to believe he must truly love me since he had made himself my guardian and was asking to have children with me. He threw my birth control pills off the balcony of the hotel where we were staying, into the street far below.

Within a year I became pregnant.  I had never been pregnant before, contrary to what Steven has written.  At first Steven and I were both happy about the baby. I remember telling him, “I’m pregnant” and from his reaction I believed he was truly excited.  He asked me to marry him a few months later and I said, “yes.”  He took me to New Hampshire to tell his parents about the baby and the marriage. He asked his grandmother if he could give me her wedding ring.  His parents were conflicted about the idea of Steven and I marrying.  His mother was supportive of everything Steven wanted and I remember truly loving her.  She was such a kindhearted lady, with a wonderful sense of humor.  His father had grave reservations because of my youth and immaturity.

His grandmother declined to give us the ring.  She loved Steven but expressed concerns that if we divorced, the ring would leave the family.  Things went quickly downhill from there for the two of us.  When we left that night, Steven and I had a heated argument: I felt he should buy me a ring at a jeweler and we should get married anyway.  He did not. …

(Go the LifeNews.com link for descriptions of the fire Julia survived and the abortion Tyler pressured her to have — Ed.)

Setting the Record Straight

To set the record straight: I was never pregnant before I met Steven Tyler, nor did I ever have a previous abortion and Steven knows this to be true.  I do not believe I started the fire that burned his apartment, but I am thankful to God for the brave firemen who pulled me out of that burning building.  I never asked him for any money after I returned home.  I came to him with nothing and I left him with nothing, except regrets.  Although I presented myself to him in a highly sexualized way, we did not have sex in public places as he wrote in his new book.  His continued gross exaggeration of our relationship is puzzling to me. He has talked of me as a sex object without any human dignity.  I have made a point over these long years never to speak of him, yet he has repeatedly humiliated me in print with distortions of our time together. I do not understand why he has done this. It has been very painful.

Love Survives

In spite of everything, I do not hate Steven Tyler, nor am I personally bitter.  I pray for his sincere conversion of heart and hope he can find God’s grace. I know that I am also responsible for what happened that day. Someone may say that my abortion was justified because of my age, the drugs, and the fire. I do not believe anything can justify taking my baby’s life. The action is wrong. I pray that our nation will change its laws so that the lives of innocent unborn babies are protected.

I pray that all those who have had abortions, or have participated in any way in an abortion procedure, may find in my story, not judgment or condemnation, but a renewed hope in God’s steadfast love, forgiveness and peace.

Our nation’s young girls, especially those like me, who have experienced trauma and abuse, and are vulnerable to exploitation should not be used as sexual playthings, scarred by abortions to free their male partners from financial responsibility, and then like their unborn children, tossed aside as an unwanted object.

Marriage and the family are the building blocks of all virtuous societies.  I learned this lesson in a trial by fire that taught me to trust God’s plan no matter what occurs.  I pray that our nation may also find its way back to God by respecting the life of unborn children and strengthening the sanctity of marriage.

Go here for the full story.