Assorted Links 7/3/09

It’s Just Cool: Tractor Square Dance

  • Advanced Federal Budget Process, August 3-4, 2998
  • How To Choose the Best Rewards Credit Card – “But for general all-purpose points earning, I still favor the Starwood American Express card for the flexibility of its points and the large number of points transfer partners the Starwood Preferred Guest program has.”
  • A Bank Run Teaches the ‘Plain People’ About the Risks of Modernity: Some Amish Lived It Up Until Hard Times Hit; Dinners Out and LED-Appointed Carriages – “In Amish country, a bank run is about as familiar as a Hummer or a flat-screen TV.”
  • Watching Government Opacity Melt Away, “Right before our Eyes!”
  • Deadbeat: Not Just A Circumstance, A State of Mind – “But one pattern emerges when you add up all the redefaults per quarter and compare them to the total number of loan modifications: When you take deadbeats and give them a free opportunity to get out of contractual obligations they willingly signed before God and country, a fairly reliable majority of them — and often a fillibuster-proof 60+ percent — end up deadbeating again.
    . . .
    So if these borrowers really are honest citizens who just need help getting back on their feet, the percentage of redefaulting loans should be going down, not up. That’s not the case, because they are not honest citizens. They’re deadbeats, and it’s time to stop pretending they can be anything else.”
  • Got 60? Who Cares? – “Al Franken’s victory brings Democrats’ number in the Senate to 60, and has everyone thinking about how they can now defeat potential Republican filibusters against cap-and-trade and health reform. But why go through all the trouble of getting 60 when you can do just as much with 50?

    The process of budget reconciliation is extremely complicated. The part that most Washington-watchers understand is that bills passed under it cannot be filibustered in the Senate — they require only a simple majority. The purpose of reconciliation, supposedly, is to adjust federal spending and revenue levels. But this is nearly always a pretext.

    The original idea behind reconciliation in the 1970s was to use it as a tool for balancing the budget. As the process has evolved and been corrupted, budget reconciliation has instead become a tool for making substantive policy changes under the guise of revenue and spending changes, so as to avoid having to get 60 votes in the Senate.”

  • A Conversation with Robert D. Kaplan – “We discussed Colombo’s brutal counterinsurgency campaign there against the Tamil Tigers, what China has been up to while no one was looking, Russia’s revived imperial project in its ‘near abroad,’ the geopolitcal ramifications of a more liberal Iran, Israel’s difficulty in fighting effective counterinsurgency warfare, and our new man-hunting General Stanley McChrystal in Afghanistan.”
  • The Krugman Blues
  • Personal Bankruptcy Filings increase 40% in June (YoY) – “The American Bankruptcy Institute is predicting over 1.4 million new bankruptcies by year end – I’ll definitely take the over!”
  • New Evidence on the Foreclosure Crisis: Zero money down, not subprime loans, led to the mortgage meltdown. – “What is really behind the mushrooming rate of mortgage foreclosures since 2007? The evidence from a huge national database containing millions of individual loans strongly suggests that the single most important factor is whether the homeowner has negative equity in a house — that is, the balance of the mortgage is greater than the value of the house. This means that most government policies being discussed to remedy woes in the housing market are misdirected.

    Many policy makers and ordinary people blame the rise of foreclosures squarely on subprime mortgage lenders who presumably misled borrowers into taking out complex loans at low initial interest rates. Those hapless individuals were then supposedly unable to make the higher monthly payments when their mortgage rates reset upwards.

    But the focus on subprimes ignores the widely available industry facts (reported by the Mortgage Bankers Association) that 51% of all foreclosed homes had prime loans, not subprime, and that the foreclosure rate for prime loans grew by 488% compared to a growth rate of 200% for subprime foreclosures.”

  • Diesels grab 81% of Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen sales in June – “Among the 8,431 Jetta sedans sold in June, 40 percent were also diesel powered.”
  • Was the Declaration of Independence an Example of Secession, Revolution, or Both? – [T]he Declaration of Independence was both a revolution and a secession.”
  • How to get Comcast Deals for your Cable Bill – “A couple of the price drops are only for a few months, so I’ll be closer to 50% in about 6 months, but I may call in again and see if there are any other specials. Bottom line here is Comcast will offer you deals on service, but only if you take the time to call and ask.”

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