Monday, March 31, 2008

There She Goes Again

Apparently Words Sort of Matter Sometimes
Latest Press Release From:
Just Embellished Words: Senator Obama’s Record of Exaggerations & Misstatements
Once again, the Obama campaign is getting caught saying one thing while doing another. They are personally attacking Hillary even though Sen. Obama has been found mispeaking and embellishing facts about himself more than ten times in recent months. Senator Obama’s campaign is based on words –not a record of deeds – and if those words aren’t backed up by facts, there’s not much else left.
"Senator Obama has called himself a constitutional professor, claimed credit for passing legislation that never left committee, and apparently inflated his role as a community organizer among other issues. When it comes to his record, just words won't do. Senator Obama will have to use facts as well," Clinton spokesman Phil Singer said.
Sen. Obama consistently and falsely claims that he was a law professor.
The Sun-Times reported that, "Several direct-mail pieces issued for Obama's primary [Senate] campaign said he was a law professor at the University of Chicago. He is not. He is a senior lecturer (now on leave) at the school. In academia, there is a vast difference between the two titles. Details matter." In academia, there's a significant difference: professors have tenure while lecturers do not.

And a responsive Press Release from the University of Chicago:

Statement Regarding Barack Obama

The Law School has received many media requests about Barack Obama, especially about his status as "Senior Lecturer."
From 1992 until his election to the U.S. Senate in 2004, Barack Obama served as a professor in the Law School. He was a Lecturer from 1992 to 1996. He was a Senior Lecturer from 1996 to 2004, during which time he taught three courses per year. Senior Lecturers are considered to be members of the Law School faculty and are regarded as professors, although not full-time or tenure-track. The title of Senior Lecturer is distinct from the title of Lecturer, which signifies adjunct status. Like Obama, each of the Law School's Senior Lecturers have high-demand careers in politics or public service, which prevent full-time teaching. Several times during his 12 years as a professor in the Law School, Obama was invited to join the faculty in a full-time tenure-track position, but he declined.

The bolding was added by me.

Res Ipsa Loquitur, y'all.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Swinger's Update

Woo Hoo!
More tidbits of data on the secret Swinger network here in the north Atlanta suburbs.
We've learned of two more ways that Swingers signal each other. Secret Swinger signals include flamingos, not real ones, either plastic ones or pictures of them. No word on color requirements. This disclosure recalled for us that a mid-50ish couple who moved last summer from down the street had a bunch of Flamingos at their moving away yard sale. Hmm.
Why flamingos? Beats me. But I'm studying them for clues.

So far, I've learned that Flamingos are not all necessarily pink, and apparently they come from Las Vegas, the Swinger capital of the world. So, having the Flamingo as the Swinger mascot makes some good sense.

Swinger HQ

Another secret Swinger signal is to decorate the ground around your mailbox post with rocks. This makes sense around here, where rocks are not generally used in decorative landscaping. Typically the small area around your mailbox post will be just grass, or pine straw, or flowers. But not rocks. So, this should leave less room for potential misunderstandings, which could be very awkward given the subject matter.

Well, gee, I'm really sorry dude, but when I saw the rocks around your mailbox I figured it would be cool to sleep with your wife.

Yeah, we've all been there.

One can also decorate the mailbox with additional hints about oneself!

Not-so-subliminal Bragging

So, flamingos and mailbox rocks. Swinger magnets.

One more piece of news. But first to set the scene, we live in a pretty big development of 1,100 homes, broken up into smaller neighborhoods. The neighborhoods are conveniently sorted more or less by "price points," so we all know pretty much how much everyone else's house cost. This is a big point of interest in suburbs generally. Our neighborhood is about the smallest, with 70 houses.

But . . . word is that the Swingers are shunning us. And by "us" I mean our whole little neighborhood. Which is shocking when you consider how incredibly attractive and interesting we are as a group. I feel oddly insulted and hurt, like I've been turned down by a prostitute.

So, why the Swinger snub? Well, it's Bunko's fault. The ladies on our street play Bunko. Bunko, I'm told, is a game that requires only slightly more skill than Deal or No Deal. It is played by suburban women who are looking for a good excuse to get out of the house and drink heavily with their friends. Why they think they need an excuse for that escapes me. And Bunko is not just an activity, it's a league. There are prizes. There's a waiting list to get in. There aren't any playoffs or anything, but there is a lot of gossip. And there's the rub.

The Swingers are afraid of the Bunko gossip. Or at least one is.

As the story goes, from a local Realtor, a woman was looking at a house on our street, but shied away after hearing how the Bunko league worked. Apparently she was "swinging" with a guy on the street, and didn't want his wife to find out. Well! This raises all kinds of questions! I thought that to be a Swinger that you had to do it as a team. Otherwise you're just some horny guy, or chick, trying to get laid. If you're just sleeping with another woman behind your wife's back, that's not swinging, that's cheating, fooling around, getting some on the side, etc.

I am really disappointed in the integrity of our local Swingers. You'd think there would be standards.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Like A Good Neighbor

I'm in the recently "finished" basement of my neighbor Lance on Friday night, drinking cold Sam Adams from a pint glass, freshly poured for the tap of his granite countered bar. It is a sweet set up. The kids are playing Wii bowling on his 50 inch flat screen, and we've just ordered pizza. And I can walk home later when I'm slightly drunk. Another guy neighbor and our wives are also hanging out.

So far, a typical suburban scene. But, tonight, there is big news.

Swingers. In our midst.


I've heard whispers in the past, but now the story is fleshing itself out, if you will. Like a slowly spreading urban myth. And, just like an urban myth, you just want to believe it's all true. Because it makes life a little more exciting just to know about it.

So, apparently the Swingers are embedded in little groups throughout our neighborhood, as well as other neighborhoods around our north metro area. Word is that they primarily stick with their own group, or cell, of three or four couples. A kind of Swinger fidelity. But, they can communicate with other Swinger cells by using secret Swinger signals, and possibly websites. There is a whole secret Swinger society out there, and it's active. If you know what I mean.

Tommy Dorsey - The King of Swing

And, we've learned that one of their signals is to walk through Publix with an upside-down pineapple in the grocery cart. So, naturally, my wife and I looked up "upside-down pineapple" and "swingers" on Google when we got home. But all we found were a bunch of recipes for cake. We would obviously not make good Swingers.

But just knowing there are Swingers around kind of feels like being in a night club when I was younger, and knowing there were criminals around. It made the whole scene seem more exciting. But even then I knew that, really, I really just wanted to be in the know, and not directly involved. And while there is still something left of the young doofus inside of me, who thinks it would be great if my wife let me have a bunch of women around who wanted to have sex with me, I know that logistically and hygenically (not to mention ethically), that it's just not for me.

So, my wife and her friends are discussing having one of them go through Publix (Publix!) with an upside-down pineapple, while another surreptitiously videotapes what happens. Just like on 20-20. They're kidding, of course, but I know that my wife would love to really do it. The word is that the Publix near Laurel Springs is a promising Swinger site.

Stay tuned for updates. And be discreet.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Congrats To Snake On Her Engagement

Congratulations to Snake Nation, who's blog is accessible here, on her recent engagement!

A rare and unauthorized photo of Snake.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Gerry Studds and the Librarian

"Everybody does that," my wife tells me in a warmly dismissive tone, that lets me know that I needn't worry. The warmth is for me. The dismissal is for my needless worry.

I don't use bookmarks, you see. And being a true child of the sixties, in the days before Barnes & Noble, when we got our books from the library, I know deep down inside that good people use bookmarks. We used to get them as gifts. But that might just be a New England thing.

Our house has not a single built-in book shelf. For me, this is even worse than not having a basement, which is the feature of our house that I usually complain about. But in truth, I don't care so much about the absent basement, because I know that it would just be a place to hide all of the junk that presently accumulates in the garage, where I am at least occasionally forced to clear it out. Who knows how long I could go ignoring a messy basement? Years, no doubt.

But bookshelves are a comfort, and I crave them. Filled with an odd variety of old textbooks and well worn paperbacks and unread mysteries of uncertain origin, they provide a feeling of refuge and personal history, with a promise of quiet and cozy companionship on a cold winter day. My Mom's old house even had them in the bathrooms.

The house I grew up in had built in bookshelves, and my parents had hopefully filled them with three sets of encyclopedias, each very different from the other. Britannica, the fanciest and largest, The Book of Knowledge, simpler to read, and People and Places, full of vivid and beautiful color pictures of the wildly different cultures that still existed in much of the world back then. As a boy I would use them to make my school reports, basically just rewording the encyclopedia's article into my own scrawlish handwriting. I always used Britannica. The others seemed too simple and I loved complexity. Later, after being shamed into using multiple sources, I would use them all. Sometimes I would just randomly read articles in Britannica, imagining that this is what Abraham Lincoln would have done.

The thing about encyclopedias is that they tend to be really well written. They're not hard to read at all. They look imposing, but they are really just like a giant newspaper or magazine, except that you can always find an article about something that interests you.

So, I'm in the kitchen of my shelfless house with the mail this past weekend, and there is a book box in the mail. Someone sent us a book. I like getting books in the mail. They were the first things I use to order from e-bay, before I moved onto sailboat paintings, ski equipment, and timeshares. But I digress. As I open the bookbox, ignoring my wife's urgent announcement that it's for her, I realize that we have received volume "A" of an encyclopedia! It's The Book of Knowledge! Well, well. My wife, who sternly advises unauthorized callers to our home that WE ARE ON THE DO-NOT-CALL-LIST AND YOU ARE BREAKING THE LAW, is red-faced as she hurries to interrupt my brain's simmering stew of mockery with a rapid-fire explanation of "what happened" on the phone that resulted in us getting one encyclopedic volume a month for the rest of our lives, no doubt at a very reasonable cost, automatically billed to our credit card for our convenience. And we can cancel anytime.

But I'm not really concerned about that. I'm just looking at the book and thinking, "I can't believe they still publish these things." Then I think, stupidly, "Who buys these things?"

"Where would we keep it?" I ask as the conversation has turned onto whether we send volume "A" back or not. She's clearly deep into buyer's remorse by now, but I'm thinking this may be just the catalyst we need to get some bookshelves installed. We have a local guy who does great carpentry for us. His name is Hiro. Like the old Emporer of Japan. Only not a genocidal maniac, as far as we know.

I've been scoping out spots for bookshelves since we moved in, and I have five good ones selected. So now I'm sort of onboard with the encyclopedia idea. But even though I never actually got to ridicule her for being seduced by an encyclopedia salesman over the phone, my wife is so embarrassed by having been caught red-handed that she's insisting she'll send it back. We'll see.

What has this to do with Gerry Studds? Not a lot.

Gerry Studds was my congressman when I was a teenager. He represented the 10th district in Massachusetts, where I grew up. He was an odd man, smart, reserved, dorky and cross-eyed. Everybody I knew in the 10th district loved him. We were proud that he was so smart and that he really cared about us. He dove into fishing and marine issues, which were very important to the district, that included Cape Cod and the Islands. He had a sex scandal with a male Congressional Page that revealed that he was gay. Even though he was a 40 something single man who lived in Provincetown, the Gay Mecca, this surprised some people, but not a lot. But we all rallied around him because he was our dorky gay Congressman, and people who you would not expect it from, like fishermen and carpenters, seemed to be relieved that he was not leading the lonely, ascetic life that he seemed destined for. So this led to a now old, and still bad, joke about the use of bookmarks and Gerry Studds getting in trouble with the Congressional librarian for not using them. He kept bending over the pages. Ho ho ho. Massachusetts people may love you, but that doesn't mean they'll be nice to you.

So we are back to bookmarks, which are really just an example of my need to find something to worry about at all times. My wife knows that my mind will feel guilty for bending over the pages, so she tells me it's ok. Oddly, this works and I stop worrying for a while. I'm thinking that maybe having the encyclopedia would be good for the kids. There's something about reading a book that's qualitatively different than reading the same stuff from a computer. Of course, I could say the same thing about cave drawings. I wonder if I'm just being nostalgic.

I still want to get some bookshelves, though.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Home Sweet Home Mortgage - Opportunity Awaits

Where The Economy and Politics Collide

Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home;
A charm from the sky seems to hallow us there,
Which, seek through the world, is ne'er met with elsewhere.
Home, home, sweet, sweet home!
There's no place like home, oh, there's no place like home!

Last Saturday I forecasted a bifurcated (hah!) fix for the mortgage mess and got an interesting comment on the micro piece. (I love a good comment - Thanks, Anonymous!) The micro piece was designed to alleviate the suffering of individual homeowners / mortgage borrowers. Upon re-reading what I wrote, it appears to make little if any sense, even if I know what I meant. So, let's have more mortgage fun and elaborate here.

"But why?" you may ask. Isn't repeating political gossip more fun? Well, yes. But I don't really know anything right now, and I have figured something out, I think. Everybody has been complaining that the three remaining Presidential Candidates haven't said anything really meaningful to address the current economic problems, especially as they affect homeowners.

Note to self - new reality tv show: The Candid Date. Check availability of Tori Spelling.

So, remembering that stupid old platitude, "There are no problems, only opportunities!" I've spotted an opportunity. The candidate who comes up with a workable solution for underwater homeowners while also benefiting our friends in finance will win lots of political brownie points. So, I'll elaborate on this part of the proposal.

The way a mortgagor/homeowner gets out of a bad mortgage that he cannot afford is to refinance into a better one, meaning one with lower monthly payments. But he can't, because (check all that apply):
  1. He's already late with payments, so his credit score is in the toilet.
  2. He skipped paying other bills to pay the mortgage, so his credit score is in the toilet.
  3. He never really had the income he claimed when he got his "no doc" loan, and can't qualify for a new one because nobody gives "no doc" loans anymore.
  4. The market value on his house has gone down, and he owes more than it's worth.
  5. Other: _________________________

This means that his mortgage loan, which the originator may have sold for 98 to 102 cents on the dollar when it was first made, may only fetch 65 cents on the dollar in the secondary mortgage market today. And that's if it's current on payments. So, basically whoever is holding the loan is sitting on a big loss. The holder is the person or company who bought the loan and is owed the money.

So this knucklehead who bought a house that he couldn't afford, with a mortgage loan that he lied to get, with a payment that he can't make, is in big trouble. I know what you're thinking, "Boo fucking hoo." Well, yes, there is that element. It's what us laymen call, "That's what you get for being a dumbass" but bankers and such are calling "moral hazard," a term that usually comes up in the context of risk management and insurance.

Eureka! A clue. This is an issue of risk management, which is resolved through insurance. That's not complicated! Right. This was figured out years ago when the mbs business first started, and bond insurors stepped in to insure the mortgage backed securities. The two biggest are MBIA and Ambac. They are called "mono-line insurors" for reasons that escape me now, but you won't see All-State or Liberty Mutual doing this stuff. Surprise, now MBIA and Ambac appear to be having financial soundness issues, which is death for an insurance company. But for now we don't care, because they added no direct benefit to the homeowner / borrower anyway.

The government will have to step in and bail out homeowners. Why? Because it is an election year. The problem is that if you are bailing out a debtor, you are really bailing out his creditor, because the creditor will end up with the money in the end. But, while we may have some sympathy for a dumbass who borrowed too much or took out a bad mortgage, we have none for the supposedly sophisticated bankers who lent him the money.

So the challenge becomes finding a way to help the homeowner without bailing out the lenders and investment houses. Here's how:

  1. Set up a temporary program - The 2008 Emergency Mortgage Program (TEMP)

  2. Any homeowner automatically qualifies.

  3. Only owner occupied homeloans qualify.

  4. The government program provides mortgage insurance on 60% of the value of the home.

  5. A new appraisal is required.

  6. The interest rate will be about 1% higher than market rate. Let's say 7% 30 year fixed. This is so the TEMP program will not compete with market mortgage providers.

  7. Participating lenders must accept all qualifying loans. Maybe they are even assigned through a pooled application process.

  8. Participating lenders give an 80% LTV mortgage, meaning the 20% of the home value that is uninsured is true lender's risk capital.

  9. The prior holder is required to provide a loan for the remainder of the balance owed on it's prior loan, either through a second mortgage loan on identical terms as the first, or through an unsecured personal loan at 2% higher interest rate with the same maturity as the new mortgage loan.

  10. The TEMP program can provide a standard set of terms and forms for use in the program.

  11. The key is that the homeowner can participate without any approvals from either the new lender or the current holder of the mortgage.

What is great about this plan is not just that it allows troubled homeowners to refinance. But it forces servicers of troubled loans to rewrite delinquent loans that they may otherwise be contractually required to foreclose on by the terms of their servicing agreements. They are off the hook.

And it is chock-full of new lending opportunities. Most of the actual work here can be done through private (as in non-government) companies.

Barack? Are you listening? It's a plan that people will love! Do you hear me Barack?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Secrets & Wives

I had an interesting conversation about "man talk" over the weekend. And it revealed a significant divergence of views. Should a man keep confidences of others from his wife?

My friend thinks so. He's dismayed that others do not. He's not alone. The "you can't tell your wife this" is an introduction to confession and self-gossip that I have heard many times. Many men, indiscreet men, either presume or feel free to impose a condition of confidence keeping on the audiences to their ill advised blabbing.

I've learned to waive them off quickly when I sense this coming. Or, in some circumstances I'll just let it be known that I do, in fact, tell my wife everything. I really don't know if I am in the majority or the minority on this. But I definitely feel that it has alienated more than a few fellows.

Oh well. For me, one of the longer lasting joys of marriage is having someone, one person in the world, who knows everything about me, but still loves me anyway. Of course, she is legally required to. But still. This is what real intimacy with your wife is all about in the long run. Or with your husband, as the case may be.

I personally went the wife route, so that's how I think of these things. So, please indulge any gender specific references.

Many men crave a brotherly type of closeness with their friends, including the sharing of secrets and confidences. This is completely understandable. We all enjoy close friendships. But part of close friendship is respecting the marriage of your friends.

When I tell a friend something personal, I expect him to use discretion in not repeating it as idle gossip. But I always assume that his wife will know. And I know that my friends know the same thing about me. We respect each other's marriages, and each other's wives, enough to do this.

So, I find it annoying and somewhat offensive when someone, not a very close friend, presumes that I will keep some dirty little secret, especially from my wife. They are, in a very real way, asking me to lie for them. Forget it. Their fear is, of course, that once their secret is leaked to the "girl world" it will spread to their detriment. In practice this is almost always true. And, frankly, amusing.

As my dear grandmother used to say, "Fuck you and the horse you rode in on." I didn't ask for your dirty little secrets, I don't want them, and I'm not going to keep them. If I'm going to lie about something, it's not going to be for you.

So, watch your mouth.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Rescue Plan in the Works - What the Hell is a Mortgaged Backed Security?

And Why Should I Care?

The economy is in big trouble! Right? Everyone says so. But mortgage interests rates are low, and you can probably still sell your house for more than you paid for it just five, or even three, years ago. My friends who lost their jobs at mortgage companies have all found new ones, and even my friends in construction seem to be keeping busy. I keep hearing about people who will lose their homes because their adjustable rate mortgage payments went sky high. But I've never actually met anyone that has happened to.

Why is everyone so worried? It's obviously serious, but what's going on?
As a blogger my job is to pretend that I know more about things than I really do, form strong opinions on limited and half correct information, and from this foundation make firm pronouncements and predictions. It really is loads of fun. So, here goes.

The real question here is the broad one. What is going on and why is everyone worried?

Counterintuitively, let's start our off-the-cuff explanation with what's happening today, and then work backwards, with room for random tangential discussions or miscellaneous ponderings. I've been listening to various radio talk show hosts try to tell this story from the beginning, but they never seem to get to the end. So, by listening to these audio pundits, we may end up knowing a few more facts than we did before, but are still left wondering, "So what?"

Well, the news as of today is that a solution appears to be in the works. The world's central banks are going to set up various markets to purchase mortgaged-backed securities, known as mbs. These "securities" are usually like bonds, because they are considered a form of debt. But there are very few standards, so our MBA and CFA friends like t0 make up new kinds of securities, with variances on particular deals, that make this market fairly complex.

Because these securities are complex, it was hard to know what to pay for them. The answer to this was easy. Get a credt rating agency to rate them, and then sell them at an auction where , people are willing to pay for them based on the rating. Investment banks conduct these auctions. Everything was going great for several years, and the risks seemed low, because the securities were ultimately secured by real estate, a hard asset.
Not anymore, though, For months now, NOBODY wants to buy this stuff. At least the new stuff. There hasn't been a successful sale of new mbs paper since I think last October. Or maybe it was August. The mbs market did, indeed, crash.
But there was already a lot of this mbs crap out there, being held by the same institutions that want to sell more of it. The problem is that nobody believes they know what it is worth anymore. So nobody has any trust in the creditworthiness in these institutions that own a ton of it because a lot of their corporate value is based on the mbs securities that they own, but cannot sell. Uh oh. So the problem is not just that the mbs paper is difficult to value, but that the solvency and liquidity of the big investment firms that own it is therefore cast into doubt. SO, none of the financial players will lend each other any money, and they need to borrow money to operate.
That's the problem. And by identifying the problem, we can start to identify the solution. Securities backed by poorly underwritten mortages are undermining the financial institutions and markets. If the questionable securities can be exorcised, then the system will recover. So the way to get things going again is to find a way to flush out all of the tainted batches of mbs bonds that are stopping up the pipes. We need a plumber.

Bringing us to the question that one of my favorite professors used to ask, "So what?" I'm just a guy with a mortgage, what do I care?
Well, we care because if the mortgage securities are unsalable that means that there is a lot less money available for borrowing if you want to get a mortgage. BECAUSE, when these auctions sell the securities, the buyers pay the sellers cash. The sellers are the people who make mortgage loans to homeowners like you and me. So, after the auction they now have another pile of money to lend out, and they do the whole process again.
It's really a fairly simple model if you take out the fancy language. The money keeps circulating, which is what makes for a strong economy. Remember, the cash doesn't disappear, someone has it. The houses don't disappear, they are still standing. It's only when money stops circulating that we have a financial crisis. This is why President Bush wants to give us all $1,000 this summer. He hopes we'll all stupidly spend it and get the money circulating.

Now, if we were talking sales of commodities (stuff), this lack of available mortgage money would fall under the law of supply and demand, and the price would simply go up. But we are talking about lending here, so the rules are different. The price is the interest rate, and it has stayed about the same. SO, what has changed is credit qualifying requirements. That means that it is harder to qualify for a loan. This is called tight money. So a lot of people wake up to find that they cannot refinance their own mortgages, even for their own house. It's the same people, with the same house, for the same loan amount, calling the same lender, but in a different year . . . no loan. Sucks to be you.

But wait! That's not how it worked in It's A Wonderful Life! Jimmy Stewart took all of the money deposited in the bank by the good working people and lent it back to them as mortgages. There weren't any securitizations or investment banks or MBS or CDO's or rating agencies.

Well, yes, that's right. The old model was that banks took in deposits and used them to make loans. That model is still around, which is largely why you can still get a mortgage. If you can qualify. But most mortgage money now comes through the newer securitization model.

The alternative to the traditional depository bank model is the mbs model, as has been relentlessly and poorly explained in the media, which is a securitization model.
People say "ization" when they mean they want to turn something into something else. It's an annoying affectation people use to make their work sound more complicated than it is. For example "monetization of assets" means that someone's out of money and needs to sell some of their stuff, thus turning the stuff (assets) into money. "Monetization." "Securitization" just means that you want to turn mortgage loans into securities, specifically something that is basically a bond.

Securitization is actually a little more complicated than that, in how it is done, but the idea and the goal are the same. An important point to keep in mind is that securitization has replaced the typical depository bank model for about 2/3 of the mortgage market. This was OK until securitization collapsed, which has caused a serious reduction in the consumer purchasing ability in the housing market, which makes the housing market problems even worse than they would be anyway.

Just for fun let's walk through it. A bunch of guys say, "Hey, let's get rich in the mortgage business!" So they form Team Alpha. Team Alpha gets a hedge fund to give a line of credit, say $100 million, to lend people mortgage loans. This is called the aggregation funding. Team Alpha gets a licensed mortgage banker to make the loans with an agreement to buy them once they are made. They hire another company (or maybe the same one) to service the loans. They form a special company that will buy the mortgages until they have a few thousand loans, then sell the rights to the cash flow generated by the mortgage payments. These rights to the cash flow payments are the securities. But they sell these cash flow rights securities in a variety of pieces, called tranches. Tranche A may get all of the principal payments until they get all of their money back, plus a certain amount of interest, called a preferred return. Since this is the safest tranche, it can get a Triple A rating from a rating agency, and therefore Team Alpha can sell Tranche A at a high price, which translates into a very low interest rate. Tranche B may be cash flow only from interest payments made by the mortgage borrowers. Tranche C may be a seconday flow of principal payments. Tranche D may be any payments that are received from borrowers after the other tranches are paid off, and is called the residual.
If there is no cash flow, then the buyers of these securities don't get any money. That's the risk. Risk is supposd to be reflected in the credit rating the securities receive from rating agencies like Standard & Poors or Moodys. But people now realize that they seriously misunderstood the risk.

These deals are usually structured as private offerings to avoid a lot of the legal regulations that regular mortgages and securities exchanges have to comply with.

The result is that the securitization business is effectively an alternative banking system that has avoided the normal rules that provide checks and balances on our traditional banking system. And now it is in a shambles and this is causing our economy to falter. The economy is our social structure, so this disruption is our business and thus our government has the right and responsibility to get involved, diagnose the problems, and find and execute solutions. This is what makes this problem our business and the business of our government. We do not have to sit by while these greedy knuckleheads ruin our nation's economy.

In case you missed it, the last paragraph was a political statement advocating a change in government policy. I'm just saying.

Here is the solution to the immediate problem. It is two-fold.

On the macro scale, the Fed or Treasury will form a special guaranty agency that will provide secondary insurance to buyers of pools of mbs bonds for half of their aggregate face value. This will provide a floor on mbs value at 50% of face value. This will at least stabilize the secondary market, albeit with a lot of pain, but not allow securities holders to avoid the moral hazard of their risky investments. The good news is that there are hundreds of hedge funds out there with billions and billions of dollars who see this whole mess as an opportunity to buy these mortgage backed securities, or even the mortgages themselves, as vastly undervalued assets. This is what hedge funds are best at. So there are willing buyers. The big problem is that there is currently a dearth of financially healthy companies available to service these performing or semi-performing mortgages on a third party basis. (Mortgage servicers are in financial trouble because of what is called "servicing advances." Don't ask.) "So what?" you ask? Well, a servicer is required for our willing buyers to also be able buyers. So we do have potential investors who will buy these mbs pools at fire sale prices, if they can find someone to manage the loans for them.

On the micro side, a new program is needed that will provide new mortgage insurance on otherwise undoable refinances, up to 80% current loan to value of primary residences. As a condition for this insurance, the current holder of the mortgage will be required to provide the homeowner a loan for the balance of the amounts owed, on the same interest rate and term as the new mortgage. This will proved homeowner relief, without paying off the lenders who made irresponsible loans.

The solution is in sight. We have to shove this crap through the system or face the financial cesspool that Japan has been stuck in for 20 years. Let's take our lumps now and move on.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Random Rumors for a Good Friday Night

Still no word on what the bunny has to do with Easter.

And are Easter eggs supposed to be bunny eggs?

Obama has a perception problem that he is not patriotic. Some serious pandering will be required to correct this.

New conspiracy theory making the rounds - Pro Bush factions within the FBI pushed the Spitzer investigation because of Spitzer public statements blaming the MBS fiasco on the Bush administration's malfeasance. It is a political prosecution.

Nothing will change in Iraq. Ever.

Those PKK Kurds that Turkey keeps trying to kill really are bad guys. We can still like the Kurds in general, though. The Kurds like us, but so do the Turks. But they hate each other. So, where we stand on making northern Iraq a free Kurdistan is tricky. (They share a border.)

If the price of gold keeps falling, that's a good sign. It means you can buy stock again.

Goldman Sachs credit rating downgraded? Say it ain't so. I thought they had avoided the whole suprime mess. What happened?

If oil does go to $200 a barrel, we'll open ANWR and invade Venezuela. Don't forget Panama. Only the Venezuelans really will welcome us, as long as we don't stay too long. Venezuela's upper and middle classes view Chavez as the new Castro, and are leaving the country as fast as they can.

Treasury will form some sort of new RTC and take some of the pressure off the Fed. The resulting fire sale will beget new fortunes and avoid a Japan style long term stagnation.

BP will get kicked out of Russia and it's interests bought out by Gazprom.

David Shuster will cheer up, lose weight, and get his own tv show on MSNBC by Labor Day. He's way more interesting than Tucker Carlson or Dan Abrams. Or even John McLaughlin and George Stephanopoulas for that matter. But maybe not Tom Laughlin. (Implied trivia question - no fair using Google.)

In most of the world, Easter is called "Great Day" or "Great Night." Easter is an ancient German goddess of dawn. The irony is that it was those crazy German Goths who destroyed the city of Rome after it turned Christian. And now we name the most important Christian holiday after a German pagan goddess.

When is Easter? Beats me. I have studied it and still cannot explain how to calculate which Sunday Easter will fall on. Any explanations will be appreciated.

And Snake Nation is engaged. To a man.

Geezer Talk Express

McCain and Ferraro Verbally Wander Off

Showing off their 150 years of combined "experience," John McCain and Geraldine Ferraro showed that words do matter this week, separately letting their tongues wag away until they were each blue in the hair.

Ms. Ferraro shared her latest insight about racial issues in America, after the Obama speech, which is that she doesn't like being "lumped in" with Pastor Jeremiah Wright as an example of oldsters who say embarrassing things. I thought I could actually see a thought bubble appear over Hillary's head saying, "Please, please, please, just shut your stupid pie hole."

Famous White Woman Gerry Ferraro
(Notice the Feminist Eagle pin symbolizing Mother America sitting on an egg.)
Obviously Gerry doesn't get either Obama's message of coming together, or the political reality of the damage her ramblings continue to do. Come on Gerry! The fact that you don't like it is a big part of the point! Having a national discussion on race is going to be uncomfortable, and we are all going to have to deal with people we may not like or hardly know. But the point of this is that if we want to do something good for America we have an opportunity to muster the will and self discipline to do it now. It's like going to visit your relatives over the holidays. You dread it on the drive over because your cousing will bring her junkie boyfriend, Aunt Sybil will cry, and Uncle Fred will get drunk and cut a stinky one. But after forcing yourself and your immediate family to spend the weekend in close proximity with these people, you feel a little better for reconnecting and keeping the family going. You're a liberal feminist Icon. Show some leadership. Force yourself to reach out. It will be good for the country.
Meanwhile, the venerable John McCain continued to incorrectly claim that Iran was training Al Quaida terrorists, which is so ass backwards that even President Bush doesn't claim it to be true. Despite the fact that Senator McCain repeated this statement multiple times over several days, the press is pretty much giving him a pass on it, calling it a slip of the tongue. He didn't cath his own mistake, though. Joe Lieberman had to whisper it to him. But whether he said it on purpose or by mistake, it is very troubling that he has it so wrong, either way.

McCain & Lieberman - Dream Ticket?
(Their Mom likes to dress them like twins.)

John McCain is a great American, but that doesn't mean he deserves to be President. If he's having trouble keeping Al Qaida and Iran straight, I think that may be a symptom of a real problem.

It's often said that the Sixth Commandment is the most difficult to keep. (Honor thy mother and father - just so you don't have to guess.) These are good examples of why that is.

Best wishes for Good Friday.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Barack's Big Play

Football is America's pastime. The money that professional football, with a 16 game regular season, generates from tv is double the combined money made by baseball (162 game season), basketball (82 games) and hockey (who knows). Here in the South, college football may be the single most powerful social activity.

And do you know what makes a player a star in football? The ability to make "the big play" in "crunch time." That is, the ability to recapture lost momentum. The player who can force the ball into the end zone when all the opposing players know he's coming. The player who somehow comes down with an airborne ball in an endzone melee. The player who gathers his teammates in the huddle and leads them out of looming defeat to victory.

These are the rare individuals that teams, coaches, players, and fans want on their team. These are the players who inspire us with the results of applying years of hard work to improve a talent that God gave them.

Yesterday Barack Obama made a big play.

For weeks he has been mired in the muck of political mud thrown at him. Is he a Muslim? Will he end the war? Is he unpatriotic? Is he naive? Is he qualified to be Commander in Chief? Does he refuse to pledge allegience to the flag? Is his pastor an America hating, anti-white racist?

Barack had been bogged down trying to explain away or refute these so called issues. That, of course, is the plan of his opponents. When he is talking about being a Christian or answering the phone at 3:00 am, that means that he is not articulating his vision for America's future. His time is tied up chasing red herrings, instead of inspiring crowds of Americans hungry for hope and vision and a plan for a better future.

The press is complicit. In their laziness and gossip mongering, reporters and interviewers allow any random mud thrown to become the story. Rush Limbaugh has a very good point when he talks about "drive-by journalism." All many reporters feel the need to do is report that another news source is reporting something, and repeat the story without independently checking it for truth. This is what happened to John Kerry with the swift boat story. All the President's Men it is not.

But with yesterday's speech, Barack made the big play, shook off much of the muck of guilt by association being heaped upon him, and regained his own momentum and his own direction. That's the kind of player we want leading our team. He is back on track. He not only gave a great speach, but he showed that he is the real deal. No whines, no fake apologies. Just a deep understanding of the facts and an intelligible and true explanation of those facts with a perspective on how to deal with them.

He reminded me of an oft-quoted Kipling poem that I will repeat here.

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream -- and not make dreams your master;
If you can think -- and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings -- nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And -- which is more -- you'll be a Man, my son!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Paging Mr. Robert Blake

The Former Mrs. Paul McCartney
(Complaining about her $50 Million Divorce Settlement)

Nobody deserves this.

Oh Nooooooo!


It looks like something really crazy could happen in the stock markets today. And it won't be good. The investment bank Bear Stearns is selling itself to JP Morgan Chase for about $250 million, which is soooo cheap I am wondering if it's a typo. Bear, as those in the know like to call it ( but not for long), was/is big into the MBS, or mortgage backed securities, business, which has totally tanked. And now Bear has too.

Stock Market
But what a great deal for JP Morgan Chase, a multi-dimensional financial institution whose name is too long, and is led by rising star Jamie Dimon. About the name, word is that they are going with "Chase" for their regular banking and "JP Morgan" for their investment banking. I like the name JP Morgan, who was a legendary wall street banker, a real historical fugure, and one tough nut.

I don't know if bloggers have any disclosure requirements, but I bought some JP Morgan stock last month. Just a little. But I'm feeling pretty smart about it today.

So anyway, it looks like the financial markets could have a total meltdown today, which, while exciting, could really suck for everybody. Our intrepid Fed Chairman Ben Benanke, who I am liking more and more, is acting quickly and with a great deal of inventiveness. Banker Ben is an academic at heart, and is a poor public speaker. His voice shakes and he frequently seems as though he is about to fall into stuttering. But Hats Off to Banker Ben! He has been coming up with new programs so fast to keep our whole credit economy house of cards from crashing down that it really is amazing. He came up with a new credit facility for investment banks, to stop any more from failing, a la Bear, over the weekend! I for one didn't do squat this weekend, but Ben saved our economy. AND, nobody even realized he was doing it.

Ben "Financial Superman" Bernanke

Amazing. I am very very impressed.

He did something similar for regular banks in the mortgage lending business a few weeks ago. I'm fuzzy on the details, because I really don't know that much about banking. But it seems clear that Ben is doing everything he can to bring order to an otherwise chaotic situation.

Listening to the business pundits in this era is rather surreal. Their consensus is that the market has to take a huge price drop, not necessarily to get prices in line with actual values, but rather as some sort of psychological acceptance of the fact that investors and/or investment houses have let the market become irrational, and they need to show (someone) that they have resigned themselves to getting things back to some semblance of reality.

The other thing that the pundits are hoping for is that some folks with actual money might come in and buy up all of this wreckage at bargain prices so that we can get this mess behind us. The key is people with actual money, not other people's money (OPM). People with actual money are relatively free of the restrictions on what they can buy, and so can buy stuff that temporarily looks like garbage, but really has intrinsic value, like mortgages. This is actually what will most likely happen. The real question is whether it will happen quickly enough to save us all from further economic decline. Doubt it!

The real underlying weakness here is that we have evolved into a consumer based economy. Since almost every American can afford basic necessities (do you know anyone without a car, cell phone, and air conditioning?), this means that our economy is based on each of us buying a bunch of junk, on a continuing basis. This weekend I spent most of my money on fast food, gas to drive around for no real reason at $3.79 at gallon, movie tickets, and some Nikes (made in Vietnam.) None of my money went for, say, a solar powered passenger train to get me around the Atlanta metro area. But it sure would be cool if we, as the Greatest Nation In History, could build something like that. Very ironically, Michael Dukakis sort of predicted this in 1988 when he challenged George Bush the Elder on what kind of jobs a republican economy would produce. Duke said that under a Bush economy having jobs would mean that we would all end up making each other lunch.

Hah! Prescience.

Ben cannot solve that. How do we change our economy so it builds lasting value and a great civilization? Not through consumerism. It is an underlying problem that would require a national will to greatness. But I just don't see that we have any such will. We have a pretend will to greatness where we wage little wars to feel macho, but refuse to balance our country's checkbook, or clean up our own water and air. That is not a great nation. That is a nation of spoiled children.

Well, off to work. Maybe I'll pick up a croissanwich on the way in.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Punting to David Brooks

TGIF. NYT columnist David Brooks has put out a classic today. Check it out by clicking this link:

After you read it, remember why it's important to have some regular old normal fun this weekend .
Example of Person Having Fun

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Nah Nah Hey Hey to Eliot and other random items

The tv people all say that Eliot Spitzer is going to quit the governorship of NY today, apparently meaning that he has cut a deal with the feds to avoid jail time. This is shocking stuff. A real life soap opera. The alleged gruesome details that are being bandied about are 1) didn't use a condom, and 2) liked to slap the girls around a little. Of course, I have no idea if this is true, but I was freaked out by #2. If true, that tells me that something sinister lies inside this person, as opposed to just having some kinky predeliction for some otherwise ridiculous fun stuff.

Mrs. Spitzer, who has been called both "Silka" and "Silda" on my tv (which of course means that I do indeed need a new 1080p flatscreen tv), is getting all of the sympathy, while Eliot gets none. My money says that the "no condom" piece of the story is the straw that breaks her back, and she divorces freaky Eliot by Christmas. Silda (her actual name) doesn't need this crap. She's an incredibly accomplished attorney in her own right. As an added bonus, she's very photogenic. Maybe she could replace Tucker Carlson on MSNBC? I'd tune in to see what she has to say.

Silda Wall Spitzer

The other big news today involves 2 big surprises about Geraldine Ferraro. First, she's still alive! Second, people remember who she is. Apparently who she is is a bitter, old, ranting racist. So natch she's on Hillary Clinton's campaign team. Gerry (she prefers men's nicknames and haircuts) is a former mafia wife who was elected to 3 terms in the House of Representatives from Queens, Archie Bunker's old neighborhood. FYI, Archie Bunker was not a real person, but is dead. But Gerry is famous for being Walter Mondale's token woman running mate in 1984, and helping the Democrats lose 49 of 50 states that year. She then proceeded to lose elections for the US Senate, twice. So now she hates Barack Obama for being "who he is."

Gerry, Back in The Day
Despite rantings from Gerry and other bitter Golden Girls, Barack seems to have the nomination just about sewn up. It's time for Hillary to decide whether she still has time to be gracious about losing, in order to gain goodwill with hopes of winning the nomination next time around. Otherwise, she can go down swinging, so everybody will hate her for hurting the party's chances in November. I'm guessing she chooses the latter. For all her cleverness, she seems to have poor big picture vision.

In a somewhat premature retrospect, I think the early and long primary election cycle has been good for the country. It has given us time to see the candidates a lot, to questions their stories without unduly short news cycles that allow big and small lies to go unchallenged until after the voting is over. We've had time to sniff out the baloney and see who bears up well in the long term.

McCain mostly stuck to his guns throughout, even for the months that the conventional wisdom said that he was out of touch and his campaign was toast. But people respected him for it and in many ways time proved him right. Obama has maintained his dignity through a near constant barrage of Clinton garbage being thrown his way. Hillary has appeared to be schizophrenic as time goes on, most recently by claiming that her tea party solved Northern Ireland's Troubles. Must have been a realy good tea party.

Oddly enough, I had my tastiest cup of tea in the Middle East (which used to be the Near East), where the people really like tea. So maybe Hillary should have a tea party there and see what good things come of it. My tea was served to me in a tent, in the southern Jordanian desert, by Jordanian army officers. The soldiers lived in the tents, while tending to what appeared to be several hundred tanks, all in a line facing west. They triple brewed the tea, first boiling the water, then adding the tea and boiling some more, then adding sugar and boiling again. They served it in small glasses, not ceramic cups. Usually I don't like sugar, but the tea was delicious. I had this meeting in 1986. Using the new but widely respected Hillary Credit Criteria on Foreign Relations, I'd have to say that I am clearly reponsible for America's good relations with Jordan since then.

Now I mainly drink coffee. Milk, no sugar. Though if I'm at Starbucks I'll have a soy latte.

Also some more good news, Crazy Jim Cramer of and Mad Money thinks Fed Chairman Bernanke has figured out how to lube up the capital markets with his government MBS insurance plan (call it a "wrap" if you want to impress your MBA friends), which I haven't looked at yet, but which appears to be in place already. Crazy Jim acts like an idiot, but he's really super-smart, so I'm feeling good about that. Basically this means that mortgage rates should actually go down again (though they are still pretty low by historical standards), and loan criteria possibly loosen, so that someone will be able to buy your overpriced house. That's good news!

Thanks for reading. I'm off for coffee.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Answer to Quiz

No guesses. Is anybody at all reading this thing?

The pretty young lady pictured (unfairly, I know) in the Eliot post below is:

Stephany Hohnjec
Stephany is a top Croation Rythmic Gymnast, and was voted the 3rd most beautiful Croation woman in 2005.

So Stephany is the real deal with a lot going for her. From what I can tell, she has a thriving modeling career and may also have an album out. She's not some trashy girl you'd find with the likes of Eliot Spitzer. She's the type of girl you'd take home to meet Mom.

I used Stephany's picture because I don't have one of "Kristin" (yet), and let's face it, New York girls aren't the best looking bunch. And I'm trying to increase my readership, not scare people away.

Sample NY Girl

Senator Hillary R. Clinton (Used w/o permission)

This begs the question of why Eliot is flying New York girls into DC for a two hour rendezvous.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Dancing on Wall Street

Spitzer Is Linked to Prostitution Ring

(Copied from NYT)

Holy Cow! At last some good news for our friends in the financial markets.

I absolutely cannot believe how cool this is. And I'm actually kind of a Spitzer fan. At last something fun to read about in the news. For some reason this headline has me picturing a group women of easy virtue holding hands in a circle singing, "Ring around the Rosie . . . "

Eliot, Eliot, Eliot. Didn't ET teach you that when you're feeling lonely, the best thing to do is just phone home?

I personally have always been frightened by prostitutes. Primarily because I'm a germophobe. But I also have this feeling that they have to be crazy, actually insane, to be in that line of work, and so might just inexplicably hurt me if I got too close to them. Let alone . . . you know.

But I do have a little prostitute story. I was in Vegas (natch) a few years ago when the Four Seasons was still in Manadalay Bay. So, there were only 2 floors to the Four Seasons, and I get in the elevator at 7:00 in the morning to go down one floor to a breakfast meeting at the hotel restaurant. A young lady, about 20 years old gets in with me. She's running down the hall barefoot to catch the elevator, chatting gleefully with her cellphone in one hand and holding her shoes in the other. A pair of clear, acrylic, backless, and very tall, stilettos. The stilettos were a big clue. In the time it takes to travel one floor by elevator, she looked me over while talking on her phone, wrapped up the conversation, introduced herself, whipped out a business card, and told me that if I was interested to give her a call later. She was a marvel of marketing efficiency.

This woman is not a prostitute. 10 points if you know who she is.

I told my wife about it when I got home because I thought the whole thing was so funny, and gave her the card. My wife then called the, well, "call girl," and gave her a lecture for propositioning her husband.

This is what passes for a wild story in my world. So thank you, Eliot, for spicing up my day.

He's supposed to have a press conference soon to discuss it. That just sounds like about the worst idea in the world. Or maybe the second worst at this point. Let's see what happens next.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

More random thoughts for a Saturday

I've got nothing too interesting today, so if you get bored click over to Snake Nation, which is prety funny.

Well, I've realized that it's kind of ridiculous for a blogger to be using the Unabomber police sketch as a portrait de plum. For those of you too young to remember when it seemed to matter, the Unabomber was (is) a crazy-genius guy named Ted Kacynski who became a sort of anti-technology neo-Luddite, and went to live in the woods, a la David Thoreau. Or is it Henry Thoreau? Anyway, Ted failed to garner the same respect that Thoreau got for living in the woods, and everyone just thought that going without a proper toilet was further proof of Ted's craziness. Did I mention that he kept mailing bombs to people? That's what really got him in trouble. FBI 10 most wanted list, etc. But Ted had one thing that Thoreau did not . . . a super-dashing portrait done by an FBI sketch artist. He was the best looking terrorist since Che Guevera.

Hah! I'm way handsomer than Castro!
(Actual quote)

But, in the spirit of looking for humor under the dark clouds of domestic terrorism, we all got a big hoot when Ted was finally caught, and it turned out that he did not look anything at all like the dashing rogue in the sketch. Ted is a real dork, and looks it. So, the picture here is just an old joke, admittedly in bad taste. I know it's wrong to make fun of people, but making fun of bad people doesn't really seem that bad.

Onto other news.

As predicted here, we are, in fact, in a recession. I don't care what anyone else says, it's true.

Conversely, things have really turned around for me personally since I blogged a couple of months ago that my business was circling the bowl on the way to oblivion. I have no idea why, but things are much better. Of course, as a serious businessperson, I'll pretend I know exactly why and take full credit for it, while none too subtly implying that no other mortal could have pulled off such a stunning turn-around.

Hey, that's two toilet references in one blog! I usually try to avoid the bathroom talk because my wife finds it in poor taste. And she knows that this blog is me. Personally, what I worry more about is using too many or too few commas in my sentences. I also fret a lot about what to capitalize.

Onto yet another random Saturday topic, Gail Collins of the NYT is my new favorite columnist. Check her out. She is fun to read.

On the downside of columnism, why the Times felt compelled to hire a knuckleheaded douchebag like William Kristol is still beyond my comprehension. But when you're sitting way out here in the cheap seats, like I am, sometimes it's hard to see what all is going on up in the big city. But given the Times recent non-story on John McCain's maybe-it-might-be-true-if-you-believe-unattributed-gossip "inappropriate relationship" (i.e. we are too chickenshit to say he was having an affair), and the rest of it's recent trashy history, maybe the view from NYC isn't any better.

Which reminds me, I got to go to the other big city last week. Washington DC our nation's capital! Or is it capitol? Do you capitalize capital? What about capitol? The principle here is that the capitol is the principal building in the principal capital city. Hah, hah . . . you're a dork if you are still reading this paragraph.

George Washington, who discovered Washington DC in 1776

So anyway there I am in Washington DC our nation's capital and guess where I got to go? The Capitol! Hah! I finally learned what a "blue dog Democrat" is. It's a Republican! Just kidding. They are about 50 Senators and Representatives, all Democrats, who are all about maintaining fiscal responsibility in government, and keeping the budget balanced. Judging by results, these are the most incompetent and ineffective people in our governement. Hah again! Just kidding. Nobody gets judged by results in Washington DC our nation's capital. Blue Dogs is a cool name though.

So the actual Blue Dog Congressperson who I was talking to thinks that Obama is like a train coming down the tracks and is unstoppable. For what it's worth. Talk to me when the budget is balanced.

Then on Day 2 of our visit we got to go to "the hill" to see various House Reps, all Republicans, who were in a dither over something Barney Frank was proposing on "the floor" to bail out mortgagors. The Republicans did not like it one bit. They kept making a point of saying that it was Barney Frank behind it all, so I guessed that "Barney Frank" was part of their "talking points." For Republicans, "Barney Frank" is code for "fairy Massachusetts liberal" because the Republicans don't believe in evolution and therefore hate purple dinosaurs.

My two Senators were off voting on something else that I never quite caught, so instead of seeing them we all got to talk with their staffers, who did a dandy job of listening with earnest expressions and pretending to care. They even took notes.

Then I got to go see the Bloomberg news office, or at least I got to see the lobby, where they have free snacks. I like Bloomberg because my super-secret news contact works there. I also like Bloomberg because it is the home of super-sexy pundit in training Janine Zacharia. Aside from her infectious and spontaneous laugh, you have to dig Janine's "just rolled out of bed" hairstyle and the smokey voiced authority of her delivery. Plus, I bet she knows which brand of tequila is the best for doing shots. Didn't get to speak with Janine though, or even any of her staffers. But I still think she's a unique presence and we could use more of her.

Janine Zacharia - News Hotty

Then it was back home to the Atlanta exurbs where life is sweet. It snowed today, which is very unusual here, so we have the heat turned way up and have cancelled all sports practices. AND we get to sit inside and watch tv without feeling guilty. So guess who's back on the big tube? David Shuster!! Possibly the hardest working journalist on tv. I swear he's everywhere on MSNBC, pimping himself out for any show that will have him. (Sorry, I know you're sick of those jokes.) Shuster's great. His reports are tough and pointed. But the best part of David's schtick is that he has this crazy delivery, where his mouth moves in exagerated enunciations, like a slow explosion, while the rest of his face remains perfectly placid. Just like Clutch Cargo.

Welcome Back, David!
Possible TV Co-Anchor Dream Team - David Shuster, sitting perfectly still a la William Hurt in Broadcast News, and Janine Zacharia, who moves around so much while speaking that the camera has to pan back and she's at risk of falling out of her chair.
Boy, I'm starting to realize that I watch way to much tv. Maybe I'll take the kids to the McDonald's playground tomorrow and read the paper.

Friday, March 7, 2008

She's our girl and other random thoughts

Poor, poor pitiful me
Poor, poor pitiful me
These old boys won't let me be
Lord have mercy on me
Woe is me

(Apologies to Warren Zevon, wherever he is.)
Yeah, those black orphans and tortured POW's get all the breaks.
The Presidential election season continues to drag on and on and on. And boy, am I getting tired of it. For all of the tv channels that have the various "best political teams in the business," all I hear is the same old tired rehash day in and day out. The only place I see actual issues discussed is here on this internet.

Speaking of the internet, remember when everyone made fun of corrupt old fogey Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska for saying the internet was like a bunch of tubes? Sounded pretty stupid. But the IT guys where I work all keep referring to our internet access as pipes. It sounds kind of snappy and esoteric when they say it, though.

But this internet is definitely where things are at these days. Getting the details behind the headlines is pretty cool. On the downside though, not very good for workplace productivity. Here at my office, at any given moment, half of my employees are looking at, youtube, or laughing at some joke email their friend sent them. But of course, after these little mental health breaks, they all then buckle down to call their friends on their cell phones or go outside to smoke. I wonder if work is like this in China?

So anyway, I'm watching the news on tv telling me that Hillary "won" Texas and Ohio, even though she may or may not have won more actual delegates. Apparently Texans count very slowly, so we don't know who won what yet. Several reporters actually have said that the number delegates that the candidates won doesn't even matter, because Hillary's "win" has dominated this week's news cycle. What? Welcome to flabbergastoria.

We are back in Bushworld where we create our own reality. Or maybe we never left.

But, back on planet Earth, Hillary is behind in delegates, states, and the overall popular vote. Yet she has "proven she can win the big ones." Huh? She's losing! Late game rally? Sure, but there's not enough time for her to win in regulation. She needs this game to go into overtime to have any chance to win.
But then, if any of the candidates can do it, I'd say it was her. Her relentless drive and utter selfishness may carry the day over her more scruple burdened opponent. Does this character trait make her better qualified to lead us in this dangerous world? Some may say yes, but I say no.

At the end of the day, I really need Obama to win. If Hillary wins I won't feel like anything has changed. It will be more of the same old, same old. And I am tired of that. We need change badly, and I don't think Hillary can deliver it. She is hateful and hated. She promises to fight for us, but I for one am tired of fighting. Let's vote against all of the fighters. Sometimes you have to be tough to thrive in a tough world without fighting all the time. For us to thrive we need to stop fighting and start building. Friendships, schools, peace, and the future. There's a short building list to get started on.

Frankly, I don't think Hillary has the guts to end the war. Obama can do it because if he wins he will have the people's mandate to pull out now. McCain can end the war because he has the warrior cred to declare that it makes sense to end it now. You know, that Nixon - China thing.

Hillary is not known for her courage. Political, convictions, or personal. She is a woman who averted her eyes for years while her husband groped and poked any desperate female who would have him. What kind of courage is that? She keeps voting for the war but kind of, sort of wants to end it. If she's elected I fear that the country will just keep on dragging on aimlessly for 4 more years until we elect another republican.

Onto more interesting things. I'd love to see a quote from Michael Vick about that video of the Marines throwing the puppy on the cliff. At least Mike's dogs had a fighting chance.

Thanks goodness Mike is in federal prison. Soon to be possibly joined by Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. Our tax dollars are hard at work. Maybe if Osama Bin Laden had been better at sports we would have caught him by now.