Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Old Coots - Aging Gracefully

Cartoons Will Raise Your Kids

...Dragon Tales and Clifford will teach your kids important social and emotional skills...

What's truly sad is how many parents believe this crap.

It's Thuggish Pathology - Not Mere Hypocrisy

From Drudge this week:


As if the New York Times doesn't advance any agenda!

Their own mission statement admits it tries to "enhance society".

About The New York Times

The New York Times Company (NYSE: NYT), a leading media company with 2005 revenues of $3.4 billion, includes The New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, The Boston Globe, 15 other daily newspapers, nine network-affiliated television stations, two New York City radio stations and 35 Web sites, including NYTimes.com, Boston.com and About.com. The Company’s core purpose is to enhance society by creating, collecting and distributing high-quality news, information and entertainment.

How can you enhance society without advancing a political agenda of your own?

Devil's Advocate - Well, maybe the point they are making is that it isn't good for one individual to have such power to shape public and political opinion?

Yeah, only when it strays from their worldview. Rupert Murdoch has countless anti-capitalists on his payrool, while Sulzberger Jr. hasn't a single reporter ideologically unaligned from him. And I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for the Times to decry the political power of multi-billionaire George Soros either. Their issue is really with content - not methodology.

Actually, Murdoch isn't so out of line with the Times, at root he's a boundary-pushing smut merchant whom they'd probably embrace if he hadn't started Fox News. (But then again, he is a successful capitalist...)

Drudge briefly had another headline up on this same NYT "investigation":

**EXCLUSIVE** Late Monday, NEW YORK TIMES Executive Editor Bill Keller upped the ante and set a Tuesday Page One placement for a controversial examination of Rupert Murdoch's ties to Communist China, newsroom sources tell the DRUDGE REPORT....MORE...

Apparently the Times strongly believes in supporting domestic communists over foreign ones.

To think all these decades critics have been unfairly carping about the Times' lack of patriotism...

Monday, June 25, 2007

Agitprop Dissection

A friend of mine sent me this YouTube clip. It captures a legal seminar discussing how to take out fake ads in newspapers and thread the H-1b loophole. Here's the description posted on YouTube, followed by the clip:

Immigration attorneys from Cohen & Grigsby explains how they assist employers in running classified ads with the goal of NOT finding any qualified applicants, and the steps they go through to disqualify even the most qualified Americans in order to secure green cards for H-1b workers. See what Bush and Congress really mean by a "shortage of skilled U.S. workers." Microsoft, Oracle, Hewlett-Packard, and thousands of other companies are running fake ads in Sunday newspapers across the country each week.

Is this total BS? Does it make you angry? If so, at whom?

At lawyers? At "businesses"? At Congress? At George Bush?

It would have riled up a younger C-Nut, but seeing it now I am unmoved.

For sure, the lawyer is a parasitic weed. But the profession proliferates because politicians are always complicating, rather than streamlining, the law. The only thing that will defang the tort lobby is a shrinkage of government.

Get mad at "businesses"?

Well, corporations are rational profit-seeking entities. They will operate within whatever legal climate prevails. Getting mad at "businesses" makes as much sense as scorning a rock for obeying the laws of gravitation.

Small minds everywhere try to personify lifeless business - usually by conflating it with "management". Tireless CEO bashing, Sarbanes-Oxley, the assault on stock option accounting, etc., altogether it's nothing more than today's version of age-old class war.

If you look at this clip on YouTube you'll see that the "links" to this video all come from letterless, junior-Commi websites. These clowns' position is decidedly under-nuanced - they are around-the-clock business bashers.

The clip has little to do with the current immigration debate. If anything, as opposed to unskilled aspiring gardeners wading the Rio Grande, the government is TOO RESTRICTIVE on H-1b visas; we simply need more highly skilled immigrants. Most of these H-1b applicants are PhD scientists whose jobs will be outsourced to Asia or India with a click of the mouse.

So essentially, to argue for tightening America's H-1b visa policy is to not only miss the boat, but to miss the ocean. These are the most productive immigrants coming here and the most unfairly stymied applicants. This one section is THE ONLY part of our immigration policy that needs liberalizing. Read about my "cover charge" suggestion in the comment thread of this post.

Our immigration (and enforcement) policy really is bass-ackwards in terms of whom it favors and whom it keeps out.

Blame is ubiquitous in Moronic illegal immigration debate. Anytime you hear someone blame businesses, your Commi-dar should beep and remind you of their larger agenda.

On such a multi-layered issue as immigration, too many people boil it all down to one bogeyman. It never ceases to amaze me how many people truly believe that free market capitalism is the source of all their woe.

Too bad we can't throw them to the back of a wintertime Soviet bread line where they can ponder their prejudice.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Real Estate - From Gold Mine to Ghost Town

If you live in Florida or the Midwest then the "Gold Mine" may already be a distant memory. But here in the Northeast (New York Metro area to Boston) the housing market meltdown is only an incipient pain.

Over the last six months of my intensive house search I have met countless distraught sellers, many of whom have been trying to sell their homes for over a year. They are always a step behind - belatedly dropping their price in $10,000 or $20,000 increments as if those slight discounts are going to titillate buyers. Most of these clowns need to drop their price by 50k today (just to start out with).

Real estate price erosion is of course a slow motion train wreck. It first manifests itself in the weakest sectors: the Midwest, the subprime borrowers, speculative markets (FL and Las Vegas), etc.

In that same vein, I've noticed that almost every single languishing house on my local market has something fundamentally "wrong" with it. It is either on a very busy street, has no backyard, needs too much work, has a bad master bedroom or inferior kitchen, etc.

The latest apple of my eye is on a busy street AND abuts a commuter railroad line. How's that for a non-ideal location? It's been for sale for two years now.

As I already mentioned, these delusional sellers haven't been dropping their prices fast enough. For many, it may be too late.

A seller not only has to have their house spic-and-span, uncluttered, lawn mown, and beautified for its first open house, it has to be priced-to-move from inception as well. That's because they might only get one chance at otherwise would-be buyers who may quickly move on to other properties or just not even looked because of the high sticker price. It is for this reason that the real professional house stagers (just watch HGTV) INSIST that you're better off not even listing the house than putting it out at an unrealistic price. (Of course a cheap price gets real estate facilitators paid more rapidly as well!)

On a side note - If you are going to be house hunting these days, there are two extremely annoying expressions you'll have to bear from the know-nothing agents.

1) - "The market has flattened out, it is stabilizing". Of course they have been saying this since the market's apex two years ago and they will continue to bleat it for years to come.

2) - "The homes priced correctly are selling". This borders on the tautological. By definition, assets that aren't trading are overpriced.

Here's the latest Moronic house selling stratagem - "I can't get what I want for the house now, so I'll rent it out."

Then they proceed to pick such an astronomic rent price that they are now overpriced and not moving in both halves of the real estate market. I looked at one such property. Even though the house wouldn't move for 545k, the delusional owner listed it for rent at $2,850 per month.

The national rental costs are roughly, at best, 70% of ownership costs. If you can't get 545k for you house, it's probably only worth 500k (at best). So based on current mortgage rates, this house's rental value is only around $2,200 per month.

The above bold-faced sentence tells you, make that it SCREAMS, that almost under no circumstances does it make sense to turn your mispriced, languishing house into a rental property. Even if housing flatlined at today's prices it'd be a losing proposition because continuous 4% annual appreciation is needed JUST TO COVER THE CAPITAL COSTS OF HOMEOWNERSHIP.

Now I am usually no fount of compassion when it comes to excusing people's elective financial missteps, but I really do feel horribly for almost everyone that's struggling to sell their home. A couple weeks ago I met a beautiful family. They had seven kids and were homeschooling them - a rarity up here in Beantown. They paid $650,000 for their house just two years ago; they can't sell it (down to 580k now); and if indeed the market is already back to 2004 prices, they may only be able to get $500,000 for the place now. That would represent a loss of 150k plus sales commissions, moving costs, title insurance, etc. all in two year's time. Let's not forget or underestimate the mental anguish either.

The poor woman asked me why I wasn't interested in her house, i.e. what she could do in the way of enhancements. I broke the disheartening news to her that there was nothing she could do except drop the price drastically. Though solicited, I apologized for the gratuity of my response. She actually thanked me for "telling her what she needed to hear" and besought further advice. She lamented that she and her husband were not "business savvy".

Therein lies the tragedy.

This next year will be a painful one for stubborn home sellers. And as the knife twists in Boston and Manhattan, expect the media coverage to get extremely negative.

Remember, Big Media is nothing but a sad collection of like-minded projectionists. There's no real housing meltdown, until their condos depreciate.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Women Can't Wrap

Is it me, or are women biologically incapable of properly wrapping food?

My wife plays Dr. Kevorkian to cheese - she always ziplocks it. I am no old coot, so I can't just trim the mold off and nibble away as if I was none the wiser.

The other women in my family have major problems with this as well. It's got to be genetic. Can anyone corroborate this stereotype?

Of course, it's well documented that women can't grill or make eggs (too impatient, use too much heat).

I know, I know, I know...and men don't close cabinets, even think of changing bed sheets, or ask for directions when they're lost.

Haha. In the not to distant future, young'uns will be saying, "What do you mean you had to ask for directions? Why wouldn't you just use Google Maps or GPS?"

For the record, C-Nut may not have been so aggressive changing sheets, but he always asked for directions.

Anyway, this post reminds me of a quote I recently read. It went something like this, "The emancipation of women doesn't mean they should be made indistinguishable from men..."


I was at a wedding this weekend and a lesbian caught the bridal bouquet. A collective loud groan was heard from the more hidebound wedding guests.

Should she have even been in there in the first place? My wife thinks she should have been declared an ineligible receiver. My wife was yelling "DO OVER!!! DO OVER!!!" and I had to muzzle her.

The scramble for the bouquet is mad enough when the crowd is just desperate thirty-something old maids - they don't need more athletic, Amazonians in their midst.

I love watching and studying the bouquet toss. You can learn everything you need to know about the bachelorettes by noting where they position themselves in the group and how aggressively they angle for the prize.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Gatto - Teaching Confusion

John Taylor Gatto actually wrote another book back in 1992 (republished in 2002). Here's an excerpt that I pilfered from Google Books.

1. Confusion

A lady named Kathy wrote this to me from Dubois, Indiana, the other day:

What big ideas are important to little kids? Well, the biggest idea I think they need is that what they are learning isn’t idiosyncratic – that there is some system to it all and it’s not just raining down on them as they helplessly absorb. That’s the task, to understand, to make coherent.

Kathy has it wrong. The first lesson I teach is confusion. Everything I teach is out of context. I teach the un-relating of everything. I teach disconnections. I teach too much: the orbiting of planets, the law of large numbers, slavery, adjectives, architectural drawing, dance, gymnasium, choral singing, assemblies, surprise guests, fire drills, computer languages, parents’ nights, staff-development days, pull-out programs, guidance with strangers my students may never see again, standardized tests, age-segregation unlike anything seen in the outside world... What do any of these things have to do with each other?

Even in the best schools a close examination of curriculum and its sequences turns up a lack of coherence, a host of internal contradictions. Fortunately the children have no words to define the panic and anger they feel at constant violations of natural order and sequence fobbed off on them as quality in education. The logic of the school-mind is that it is better to leave school with a tool kit of superficial jargon derived from economics, sociology, natural science, and so on than with one genuine enthusiasm. But quality in education entails learning about something in depth. Confusion is thrust upon kids by too many strange adults, each working alone with only the thinnest relationship with each other, pretending, for the most part, to an expertise they do not possess.

Meaning, not disconnected facts, is what sane human beings seek, and education is a set of codes for processing raw data into meaning. Behind the patchwork quilt of school sequences and the school obsession with facts and theories, the age-old human search for meaning lies well concealed. This is harder to see in elementary school where the hierarchy of school experience seems to make better sense because the good-natured simple relationship between “let’s do this” and “let’s do that” is just assumed to mean something and the clientele has not yet consciously discerned how little substance is behind the play and pretense.

Think of the great natural sequences – like learning to walk and learning to talk; the progression of light from sunrise to sunset; the ancient procedures of a farmer, a smithy, or a shoemaker; of the preparation of a Thanksgiving feast. All of the parts are in perfect harmony with each other, each action justifying and illuminating the past and the future. School sequences aren’t like that, not inside a single class and not among the total menu of daily classes. School sequences are crazy. There is no particular reason for any of them, nothing that bears close scrutiny. Few teachers would dare to teach the tools whereby dogmas of a school or a teacher could be criticized, since everything must be accepted. School subjects are learned, if they can be learned, like children learn the catechism or memorize the Thirty-nine Articles of Anglicanism.

I teach the un-relating of every, an infinite fragmentation the opposite of cohesion; what I do is more related to television programming that to making a scheme of order. In a world where home is only a ghost because both parents work, or because of too many moves or too many job changes or too much ambition, of because something else has left everybody too confused to maintain a family relation, I teach students how to accept confusion as their destiny. That’s the first lesson I teach.

And of course a confused horde is puddy in the hands of misanthropic propagandists.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Global Warming Hysteric

This is John Doerr, perhaps the greatest venture capitalist of our day, demonstating that he is no polymath.

Without question, this man is bonkers.

Seeing that such an idiot can amass a billion dollars, I am increasingly optimistic that I'll be rich one day.

There's some good comments (esp. by yours truly) on this clip on Rich Karlgaard's blog.

Google/YouTube was limiting videos to 5 or 10 minutes but apparently when it comes to trumpeting the green religion, they make an exception.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Aborting Morons and Thugs

A few months ago I read Aborting America by Dr. Bernard Nathanson. Chances are you, like me, have no idea who this guy is - and there's a reason for that. The press won't be talking about this guy anytime sooner than they'll be mentioning the success of homeschooled children. That's because Dr. Nathanson has morphed from being the Henry Ford of abortions to now a staunch anti-abortionist. Hence he's no longer an "expert".

Back in the early 1970s, Dr. Nathanson, et al, pioneered the legalized abortion movement. He not only performed and oversaw them (60,000?), he helped lead the political movements that liberalized and popularized the procedure.

There's hardly a person around that doesn't have a strong opinion on the subject of abortion, but how many of us have actually intensely researched the subject? Why not heed what this protagonist has concluded?

In 1979, Dr. Nathanson stopped performing abortions and wrote "Aborting America". Here are some disjointed excerpts that I jotted down.

(Note - Lawrence Lader was another pioneer in the abortion legalization movement, "alpha" is the term Dr. Nathanson used to describe a fetus in the womb, and also pay attention to the insidious propaganda tactics whose employment he testifies to.)

"If we’re going to move abortion out of the books and into the streets, we’re going to have to recruit the feminists. Friedan [NOW] has got to put her troops into this thing – while she still has control of them." (Lawrence Lader)

"...and the other thing we’ve got to do is bring the Catholic hierarchy out where we can fight them. That’s the real enemy. The biggest single obstacle to peace and decency throughout all of history." (Lawrence Lader)

"Well, Larry, what do you think? Is the Catholic hierarchy identical with the anti-abortion forces? Aren’t there any others opposed to abortion?" As I nosed the car into the Lincoln Tunnel traffic, he set the intellectual tone for the next eight years with a single word.

"Historically," he said after the usual throat-clearing ceremony, "every revolution has to have its villain. It doesn’t really matter whether it’s a king, a dictator, or a tsar, but it has to be someone, a person to rebel against. It’s easier for the people we want to persuade to perceive it this way." I conceded that. It was good tactical strategy. "Now, in our case, it makes little sense to lead a campaign only against unjust laws, even though that’s what we are really doing. We have to narrow the focus, identify those unjust laws with a person or a group of people. A single person isn’t quite what we want, since that might excite sympathy for him. Rather, a small group of shadowy, powerful people. Too large a group would diffuse the focus, don’t you see?"
          I nodded. Where was he going?
"There’s always been one group of people in this country associated with reactionary politics, behind-the-scenes manipulation, socially backward ideas. You know who I mean, Bernie."
          Not the Catholics again?

"Well, yes and no." Throat-clearing again. A heavy thought coming. And I wasn’t wrong. It was his devil theory.
          "Not just all Catholics. First of all, that’s too large a group, and for us to vilify them all would diffuse our focus. Secondly, we have to convince liberal Catholics to join us, a popular front as it were, and if we tar them all with the same brush, we’ll just antagonize a few who might otherwise have joined us. No, it’s got to be the Catholic hierarchy. That’s a small enough group to cone down on, and anonymous enough so that no names ever have to be mentioned, but everybody will have a fairly good idea whom we are talking about."
          His syntax was as careful and surgical as his daily shave. It was irrefutable. The only thing that was a little jarring, even to my untutored mind, was that the original nineteenth-century laws in New York and elsewhere had been placed on the books mostly by doctors when there were few Catholics around. I raised that question, hesitantly.
          "Bernie, we’re talking politics, no? Watch and see how respectful of the facts the opposition will be once our campaign gets going. Just listen to the opposition."
          The opposition. Now I remembered. That was how Trotsky and his followers habitually referred to the Stalinists. Was this a purposeful designation, or was it coincidental? Larry thought everything – everything within his control – out very carefully. The opposition, though he did not say so, was the right wing, the Falange, the Tories, not to mention the Catholic hierarchy. And especially the Ruth Proskauer Smith axis.

"We’ve got to keep the women out in front," he asserted. "You know what I mean."..."And some blacks. Black women especially. Why are they so damn slow to see the importance of this whole movement to themselves?"

...A June 15th, 1972 dispatch from London to the New York Post reported on Karman’s claims to have invented the “two-minute abortion” and predicting that "the method is likely to find widespread use in Britain before the U.S." Quoth Karman, his technique "would eventually be recognized as the only way to tackle the world’s population."
          One thing in Karman’s favor: He had the come right out and advocate abortion as a primary means of birth control while the rest of us altruists were dodging the issue.

[after a legal victory, i.e. a Nelson Rockefeller veto that overrode a NY state legislative measure to re-ban abortions]

Our law – our crusade- was safe for one more year! The next day Larry and I had an excited exchange of phone calls, chortling in particular over the way in which our trusted ally, the New York Times, had phrased its editorial on the veto. The fourth paragraph hooked the Catholic Church in for us again, keeping intact the carefully orchestrated image of the opposition forces. That reliable old strawman with the turned-around collar was still an irresistible target for the Times.

...There was a time when various Protestant denominations united to put through blue laws or Prohibition, so "legislating morality" is not simply a "Catholic issue". As for abortion, opposition is not, in fact, as idiosyncratic or "Catholic" a concern as pro-abortionists would have us believe.

Anyone who is not innocent of history would realize that abortion has not been a "Catholic issue," not even an exclusively Jewish or Christian issue. The Hippocratic Oath, the standard for Western medical ethics (though rarely read in U.S. medical schools in the past generation) is an expression of what might be called high paganism. The oath denies abortifacient relief to pregnant women. So do Judaism’s traditional rulings, and authorities in Islam, except for strict medical reasons.

James Mohr’s historical book points out that the original nineteenth century feminists were universally opposed to abortion, even after antisepsis had made it a safer procedure. They considered it yet another outrage that had been inflicted upon women by men who forced them to have abortions.

Daniel Callahan objects to the argument about "men legislating for women" because abortion, child-bearing, and child-rearing have consequences for everyone in our society, of both sexes. For that matter, as a "women’s issue," abortion works against the pro-choicers in that virtually every U.S. poll over the past decade has shown that women are significantly more anti-abortion than men are.

How many deaths were we talking about when abortion was illegal? In N.A.R.A.L. we generally emphasized the drama of the individual case, not the mass statistics, but when we spoke of the latter it was always "5,000 to 10,000 deaths a year." I confess that I knew the figures were totally false, and I suppose the others did too if they stopped to think about it. But in the "morality" of our revolution, it was a useful figure, widely accepted, so why go out of our way to correct it with honest statistics? The overriding concern was to get the laws eliminated, and anything that was within reason that had to be done was permissible. Statistics on abortion deaths were fairly reliable, since bodies are difficult to hide, but not all these deaths were reported as such if the attending doctor wanted to protect a family by listing another cause of death. In 1967, with moderate A.L.I.-type laws in three states, the federal government listed only 160 deaths from illegal abortion. In the last year before the Blackmun era began, 1972, the total was only 39 deaths. Christopher Tietze estimated 1,000 maternal deaths as the outside possibility in an average year before legalization; the actual total was probably closer to 500.

While the Supreme Court, altering historic protections, defines the concept of "person" in order to permit the elimination of alpha, we in science are continually widening the concept of life. In the far reaches of our past history, paleontology is looking for the line that marks the human community off from non-humanity by studying primordial remains, the true-to-life equivalent of novelist Vercors and his "tropis." ...Meanwhile, in the far reaches of space, radioastronomy is listening for bleeps from beyond in an anxious search for other humanoid beings "out there" that may be transmitting their codes to us.
          If "back then" and "out there," why not listen "in here," inside the human womb? We must expand our definition, our search for humanity, and technology and science are forcing us to do this. As yet the general public is incompletely informed, but eventually the research wing of medicine will pull society along with it. With alpha it is just as if an intelligent race of beings is transmitting massive electrical impulses from a distant star, and we are not receiving them...or we are refusing to receive them.

From Roe,

First trimester – For the first twelve weeks or so, the state is forbidden to control abortion in any way. The "woman and her physician" are granted full power. The argument is that abortion is safer during this period than normal childbirth (true), so that the state has no reason to regulate abortion in order to protect the mother’s health (false). The state regulates other medical procedures and facilities that involve even lower mortality rates, so how can it wash its hands of abortion? Even barber shops are licensed, and nobody ever died of a haircut. Abortion clinics need approval from the fire department and the housing inspector. It seems we should regulate everything in an abortion clinic except abortion.

Until birth, alpha is invisible, except to obstetricians, who are the people who generally see (and diagnostically perceive) alpha before birth. If the abdominal wall of the pregnant woman were transparent, what kind of abortion laws might we have?

There is a strange bit of illogic here, too. The feminists have waged a salutary drive to bring the father into the birth process, from prenatal exams through the delivery room. At the same time they would exclude the man from the abortion decision and claim that sector of pregnancy for themselves.

...Since the father has been stripped of all rights under the Planned Parenthood ruling, I do not see how the law can continue to hold him responsible for child support either before of after birth.

...Poverty justifications are cited in a society with more wealth than any other society has ever enjoyed.

...If we say that we must destroy alpha "for its own good" (so that it will not live in poverty when born), we accept the moral reasoning that social problems could be erased by eliminating people.

One does not morally discard the legitimacy of a law because of the bad consequences for those who disobey it. Taking the worst case, even if a certain number of women die because they circumvent an anti-abortion law (which, as I have stated, need no longer happen), this is not sufficient reason to rule out the law...People may die robbing banks, but we do not legalize bankrobbing. (Nor do good consequences justify an illegitimate law...)

...It had always seemed clear to me that the object of abortion was only to rid the unwilling woman of the burden of pregnancy. If a living child resulted, it was perfectly obvious that it was to be cared for like any other premature baby. There was no conflict of medical purpose or ethics in that policy, but when I presented that there were so many furrowed brows that the place looked like a recently plowed field of foreheads.
          A committeewoman from Iowa, hawk-faced with prosecutorial mien, piped up: "What about hysterotomy, doctor? Isn’t that surer than salting out?" She meant surer to kill. The pro-abortion women seemed disturbed by the thought that a stray alpha or two might manage to live. I replied that hysterotomy would not "guarantee" death and, on the contrary always produces a live birth because it is nothing but a miniature Caesarian section. It also has an unacceptably high "complication" rate for the mother. The Iowan sat there puzzled as if I had spoken in Esperanto. What were these people thinking? Were we to take living fetuses fresh from the uterine wound and wring their necks?

It is also curious that many hospitals do not use prostaglandins even though they are safer for the mother, and probably for exactly the reason that they are safer for alpha, too. They do not want to cope with the live births. It seems clear to me that prostaglandins ought to be used in preference to saline because the method is healthier for alpha, and is no worse and in some instance better for the mother.

I want to relay another of Dr. Nathanson's points that I don't see in my notes.

How many times have you heard the cry that banning abortions will result in back-alley, coat hanger-induced deaths? Dr. Nathanson calls this the most specious of arguments. Even if abortion was banned today, illegal abortionists would use the "safe" (for the mother) technology that doctors currently use. So dead pregnant women in back alleys is a propagandistic ruse of the highest order - yet multitudes swallow it whole.

Also, that Lawrence Lader was portrayed as quite a scumbag. The guy was independently wealthy and used all of his idle time to facilitate the destruction of other people's unborn children. Note Lader's deft use of propaganda and the media to achieve his ends. He manipulated the New York Times like puddy in his hands and chortled with glee. Also note his naked condescension towards blacks and women, those ungrateful recipients of his paternalism. According to Nathanson, Lawrence Lader was the consummate male chauvinist. Lader wouldn't so much as let his own wife hold an opinion or speak among mixed company. When the Nathansons would go over to the Lader apartment, it was customary for Larry to offer and get Bernard a drink without even saying hello to Nathanson's wife, never mind offer her a beverage. Lawrence Lader was the prototypical trust funded, elitist, misanthropic hypocrite.

He was a staunch socialist to boot!

Though you'd never know any of this from reading whitewashed eulogies like this.

In 2001, Dr. Nathanson wrote another book, The Hand of God which I read after "Aborting America". Below find a few more excerpts I jotted down.

We live in an age of defining personhood upward so that fewer and fewer of us make the cut, an age of virtual abjuring of moral values, so that we can treat people like objects – and, yes, abortion has helped us learn to do that; and an age of cracking pillars of certainty – churches, schools, and political institutions – so that everything, including your life, my friend, is up for discussion… the methodical suffocation of authority and the hopeless balkanization of normative ethics...It is as Alisdair McIntyre so aptly put it: the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have been governing us for some time.

Lader (Lawrence) was a fascinating farrago of paradox. He was economically secure, having been left a considerable trust fund upon the death of his father many years before. Yet he had worked for Vito Marcantonio, the only card-carrying communist ever to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Our favorite tack was to blame the church for the death of every woman from a botched abortion. There were perhaps three hundred or so deaths from criminal abortions annually in the United States in the 1960s, but NARAL in its press releases claimed to have data that supported a figure of five thousand. Fortunately, the respected biostatistician Dr. Christopher Tietze was our ally. Though he never actually staked himself to a specific number, he never denied the authenticity of the claims.

One of Lader’s greatest assets in this lightening campaign was also the most striking of the paradoxes in his personality. Though posing as a champion of the poor and powerless, he led a life of conspicuous affluence. Playing champion of the little people, a paradigmatic populist, he nursed a fine disdain for the common man. He often quoted to me the passage from Machiavelli that appeared to be his homing star:

          The people resemble a wild beast which, naturally fierce and accustomed to living in the woods, has been brought up - as it were – in a prison and in servitude; and having by accident got its liberty, not being accustomed to search for its food and not knowing where to conceal itself, becomes the prey of the first who seeks to incarcerate it again.

At this writing, there are at least fifteen thousand abortions after the twenty-first week every year. Today, at twenty-one weeks, the baby is considered viable. These are not even abortions, they are murdering premature babies. In the mid-seventies, I would be up on one floor, putting the hypotonic saline into a woman twenty-three weeks pregnant, and on another floor down, I would have someone in labor at twenty-three weeks, and I would be trying to salvage this baby.

After my exposure to ultrasound, I began to rethink the prenatal phase of life. Gradually, I began to understand that two hundred or three hundred years ago, childhood had not been understood as a special time in our lives and that in the seventeenth century, children as young as five years old were made to work in factories. There was no recognition of the phenomenon of childhood or of their needs until the last hundred or so years. Adolescence, adulthood, senescence – they are all bands in the continuing spectrum of life. When I began to study fetology, it dawned on me, finally, that the prenatal nine months are just another band in the spectrum of life.

An America capable of passing a pro-life amendment would not need one; an America that needs one cannot possibly pass it.

The networks have also refused to allow pro-life groups to buy time to air even the most innocuous pro-life ads, i.e., ads that do not even mention abortion but simply celebrate the choice of life.

Koppel queried her as to whether Reno believed there was a conspiracy afoot to systematically kill off all the abortion providers in the United States.

Nobody could read these books and not be impressed by Dr. Nathanson's intellect. In fact, I saw a few comments on Amazon complaining about his use of "arcane words". God forbid someone force them to open a dictionary and learn a new word!

His family had a very severe heritage - his father particularly so. Life was hard, women were Marginalized, and paternalism reined. Nathanson ends up blaming his father for many of his shortcomings. In fact, he claims that he couldn't be frank about his feelings in "Aborting America" because he father was still alive. Nathanson was born an orthodox Jew, spent much of his adult life in a religious vacuum, and will die a converted, devout Catholic.

Nathanson's books have value beyond their intellectual and scientific treatment of abortion. They provide a window into Americana, a glimpse into the Jewish-American culture of yesteryear, an exposition on the workings of an ascendant Big Media, and an illustration of how special interest politics can rupture the moral fiber of our nation.

If it's not terminated before birth, perhaps the baby will be "pro-choice". Stupidity is an apple that doesn't fall too far from the tree. However, note that the baby's grandmother wasn't quite as enthusiastic about abortion.

Abortion, infertility, and infanticide have been, throughout history, not only hallmarks of every wealthy civilization - they've also been harbingers of decadence and decline.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Perma-Optimism Dementia

You needn't enlarge the pic. Here's what Steve Forbes said about housing in the June 18th, 2007 issue.

Thanks to Fed-created inflation, housing prices in most of the country will firm and then rise. This won't save overextended subprime lenders and most come-lately speculators. But it will give much of the industry something of a second - albeit brief - wind.

Housing will "firm" and then "rise"?

Say what?!?!?!

The recent demise of 30-year Treasuries just shaved more than 5% off the value of every piece of real estate in the nation.

So much for a bounce!

Steve Forbes is a formidable intellectual but his puerile analysis on housing shows that an unshakable optimistic bias can be just as distortionary as its opposite.

(Steve's been bearish, and very wrong, on oil prices for a few years now as well.)

Believe me, since I have been watching every tick of the housing market these last few months - THERE IS NO UPTICK ANYWHERE IN SIGHT FOR HOME PRICES. We are still in the early innings of the real estate crash.

First, housing dropped due to the momentum of its own weight - due to gravity, if you will. That is what has happened over the past 2 years.

Next, negative leverage starts to pummel housing further, i.e. adjustable mortgages. (Feb 2007)

Then, interest rates start to rise - as they have been doing so sharply since December 2006. At that nadir, the long bond was yielding 4.52%. As I type this, it's yielding 5.35%.

As rates tighten the vice on a weak market, foreclosures proliferate and start to put a hurting on so-called Alt-A mortgages. (That will be this summer/fall)

The next leg down may be catalyzed by one of the following: a hurricane battering in the Southeast, a cold winter's heating bills in New England, or something like a massive municipal crisis (NJ?) that will decimate the real estate of an entire region. Or dare I say a terrorist attack in Manhattan?

The final nail in the coffin for home prices will be an economic recession. If you can't sell your house today, with low rates and the backdrop of a very strong economy, you are going to be totally screwed if you still have the "for sale" sign up when a recession eventually comes.

Remember "short the bond" is a key component of the End-of-the-World Trade. In fact, I just covered my bond short yesterday and will look to put it back on. The bulk of my trading profits this year have come from this position.

And of course, as the bond has dumped, I have been a double winner - since my "first house" drops in price along with it.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Really Dumb

"Rafael Delarosa of Lawrence testified yesterday that he could wind up losing his three-decker house on Stearns Avenue because of some false and misleading advice he got two years ago. ‘She told us the minimum we’d be paying (a month) would be $2,500, including taxes and insurance,’ Delarosa said of his mortgage broker."

"But Delarosa wound up with mortgage payments of $3,700, with the insurance and taxes included. And the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage he expected turned out to be two loans, one for two years and the other for 15 years."

"He and his wife earn a combined $2,400-a-month in Medford. They were counting on rent money from the triple-decker to help pay off the mortgage. But one of the apartments is vacant and new tenants are unlikely after he put a ‘for sale’ sign in his yard three months ago."

Apparently in Massachusetts you can sue your mortgage broker if you don't know the difference between "minimum" and "maximum"...

Totally Screwed - An Adjustable Mortgage Pre-Mortem

Allow me to describe the plight of one of my wife's co-workers.

Two years ago, at the euphoric peak of the market, he bought a house for 500k.

Unfortunately he utilized an adjustable mortgage.

Today, his lender is charging him 7.75% while 30-year fixed rates are around 6.25% or 6.375%.

Remember, not only is he paying over a point more than market rates, he's still not locked in. So his rate could conceivably go to the moon (10%, 12%, 15%,...) as the mortgage market gyrates.

Recently he tried to switch to a fixed rate mortgage. The bank's assessors came and said his house "had structural issues" and they valued the house at 420k. That was a half-hearted ruse - really, the market had just deflated some.

Do you see the problem?

He owes probably 480k on the property; and no bank will loan him 480k to pay off his debt and facilitate a new mortgage; no bank will loan anyone 480k on a house that's only worth 420k.


He's stuck with the adjustable that could explode. At 7.75% he's paying over $4,000 per month. And that's just right now. The 30-year bond is still only yielding 5.05% - still not far from an historic low. Every tick up in long term Treasury rates will increase his payments, almost dollar for dollar. (I actually believe that at this point, housing will depreciate by MORE than corresponding increases in the cost of capital. Financial assets get over-sold with the same fury that they get over-bought.)

Even if he was fortunate enough to secure a 30-year fixed rate loan at 6.375%, his payments would still be around $3,000 per month ($2,994 to be precise). But alas, as I already pointed out, no bank will lend him the funds needed to refinance. You can't even say this guy is "stuck between a rock and a hard place" - there's really no dilemma, he's totally screwed.

In order for him to get a fixed rate, he'd have to write a check for $60,000 just for the privilege of locking in today's fixed rates. In other words, he just got hit with a $60,000 tab. Even if he musters up the dough, he's still going to have zero equity in his house and a 420k mortgage on it. Effectively, he'll have paid $560,000 for a house that's worth $140,000 less, just two years later. As I illustrated in a recent post, he'll still have all sorts of housing market risk even after sending 60k to the lender AND after locking in a fixed rate.

Most likely, this guy won't lock in at today's rates BECAUSE people like him, who put little money down and opt for the enticing low payments of variable mortgages, just don't have that kind of money lying around. He'll try to ride out his $4,000+ mortgage payments and hope that rates come in. Of course they won't; they are going much, much higher.

Even if he's not going to bite the bullet and ward off the disaster of higher rates, I'd like you to consider that scenario. Say rates tick up 2 full percentage points. His payments will rise to over $5,000 per month AND the value of his house will drop precipitously. In fact, a house worth 420k at today's rates will only be worth 341k with the 30-year yield two points higher, at say 8.375%. So instead of having to dig up a lump sum of $60,000 JUST FOR THE PRIVILEGE OF LOCKING IN A FIXED RATE AT THE SUBSTANTIALLY HIGHER RATE OF 8.00% or 8.25%, this idiot will now have to muster up $119,000!!!

Again, that's because no bank will loan him more than 341k on a house valued at that price. In fact, it's likely that mortgage lenders will be so ravaged at that point that they'll be wholly averse to lending 100% of market value. In other words, they might be so beat up by defaults that they are only willing to lend, say $320,000 or less on a house presently valued at 341k. That's not merely conjecture but an empirical fact. Just ask anyone who tried to take out a mortgage in the early 1990s. For example, my brother-in-law tried to pay 230k for his first house back then BUT the banks wouldn't loan him the money. They valued his target house at closer to 200k. So, even though he was willing to pay a higher price for his home, he, fortunately, had to tell the seller that no bank would write a loan for that price on that house. The seller, grappling with the market/banking realities of a real estate bust, had to sell at a price much lower than the buyer wanted to pay because any other prospective buyer would be similarly stymied in the mortgage approval process.

This co-worker of my wife's is effectively bankrupt. He might not realize it, but that's the truth. Real Estate Morons have long bleated that a stock price may go to zero but property values will never evaporate. That's a canard. Home equity can actually go below zero and render you insolvent. In fact, even if you own 10% of your house, a mere 4% decline in its market value will effectively wipe out your equity because any sale of the home would require a 6% real estate commission.

In California cities, over 40% of mortgages written in 2005 were of the variable or adjustable variety.

So this isn't just a tale of one guy in Boston; it the unfortunate case for swaths of people all across the country.

Prediction - In the next 3 months, after another disappointing "spring selling season", Alt-A defaults will be filling the headlines and roiling the stock market.

(Alt-A loans are the first notch above "sub-prime" mortgages in terms of bond ratings.)

Note that real estate would be in trouble EVEN WITHOUT all this embedded negative leverage from variable mortgages.

Don't forget, this guy stuck in adjustable hell can't even move. If he were to sell his house, it wouldn't pay off his debt, and he'd still owe 60k plus a $20,000+ real estate commission. He better pray to God that he doesn't lose his job or have to move to find a new one.

Recently I read (on an even more apocalyptic housing bubble blog) the point that for all the fear of Bin Laden, terrorism, or "climate change", no entity or person has more control over your entire life than your mortgage lender.

Ain't that the truth.

Rent as long as you possibly can.