Friday, July 11, 2008

U.S. Weighs Takeover of Two Mortgage Giants: Financial News - Yahoo! Finance

U.S. Weighs Takeover of Two Mortgage Giants: Financial News - Yahoo! Finance"WASHINGTON — Alarmed by the growing financial stress at the nation’s two largest mortgage finance companies, senior Bush administration officials are considering a plan to have the government take over one or both of the companies and place them in a conservatorship if their problems worsen, people briefed about the plan said on Thursday. The companies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, have been hit hard by the mortgage foreclosure crisis. Their shares are plummeting and their borrowing costs are rising as investors worry that the companies will suffer losses far larger than the $11 billion they have already lost in recent months. Now, as housing prices decline further and foreclosures grow, the markets are worried that Fannie and Freddie themselves may default on their debt. Under a conservatorship, the shares of Fannie and Freddie would be worth little or nothing, and any losses on mortgages they own or guarantee — which could be staggering — would be paid by taxpayers."
That $11 billion figure is nothing. These two companies are responsible for $5 trillion in debt. The public costs, if they have to be taken over, could end up making the S&L industry collapse look like a minor inconvenience.
U.S. officials rush to reassure markets about loan agencies - International Herald Tribune: "Senior U.S. officials on Thursday sought to reassure the markets about the financial health of the nation's two largest mortgage finance companies as their stock prices plunged to their lowest level in 17 years on fears that they could face the possibility of a government bailout...The two companies play a central role in the marketplace by buying hundreds of billions of dollars in mortgages from lenders, repackaging them as securities and then either holding them in their portfolios or selling them to investors. While their stocks trade on the New York Stock Exchange, they were created by Congress to promote housing and the marketplace has long come to believe that they would be bailed out should they become insolvent. They hold a far lower level of capital than banks."
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are in major trouble. If you don't think this is a big deal, read a little more about it.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

BBC NEWS | UK | England | Staffordshire | Pirate birthday sunk by council

AAARRGGG! Shiver me timbers! No Jolly Roger?
A family who wanted to fly a Jolly Roger pirate flag at their house for their son's birthday party have been told they need planning permission. Richard Smith and Sharon Cooper from Stone in Staffordshire have postponed Morgan's sixth birthday while they await the outcome of their application. Permission is required to fly anything other than national flags, a Stafford Borough Council spokesman said.
This is a municipality in the People's Republic of Great Britain, where I think you need permission from the government to draw a deep breath. We associate laws like this with private governments, but in Britain this is the way municipalities operate. Sometimes we don't know how good we have it here...

Council bans goldfish bowls. 24/07/2004. ABC News Online

Council bans goldfish bowls. 24/07/2004. ABC News Online: "A fish kept in a bowl has a distorted view of reality...and suffers because of this,' Mr Mosca said."
I need to get a contest started for most ridiculous local ordinance, either from a municipality or an HOA. Any contributions? | 07/09/2008 | Summer camps find a new trend: Kidsick parents, not homesick kids | 07/09/2008 | Summer camps find a new trend: Kidsick parents, not homesick kids: "These days, camp leaders and family counselors say it is an increasingly common dynamic. It used to be the homesick kid begging to come home from camp. While that still happens, they have noticed that it is often parents who have more trouble letting go. They call it “kidsickness,” a condition attributed in large part to today’s more involved style of parenting. Observers also say it is only being exacerbated by our ability to be in constant contact by cell phone and computer, as well as many parents’ perception that the world is a more dangerous place."
Maybe this is the kind of person who sincerely wants to live in a gated community, surrounded by people exactly like themselves and protected from that nasty old world out there.

Our Towns - Build a Wiffle Ball Field and Lawyers Will Come -

Our Towns - Build a Wiffle Ball Field and Lawyers Will Come - "After three weeks of clearing brush and poison ivy, scrounging up plywood and green paint, digging holes and pouring concrete, Vincent, Justin and about a dozen friends did manage to build it — a tree-shaded Wiffle ball version of Fenway Park complete with a 12-foot-tall green monster in center field, American flag by the left-field foul pole and colorful signs for Taco Bell Frutista Freezes.

But, alas, they had no idea just who would come — youthful Wiffle ball players, yes, but also angry neighbors and their lawyer, the police, the town nuisance officer and tree warden and other officials in all shapes and sizes."

Did you ever think that maybe HOAs and condo associations are reflections of some larger cultural and institutional opposition to the individuals being creative with property?

Reason Magazine - Hit & Run > Flint, Michigan Battles Crack Epidemic
Now here's a local ordinance that should be adopted across the country.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

California town creates parking havens for homeless

California town creates parking havens for homeless: "In Santa Barbara, the traditional middle-class has all but disappeared as property prices have soared, according to Gary Linker, executive director of New Beginnings. New Beginnings has sought to help people who are living out of their vehicles, like Harvey, by organizing a network of safe overnight parking havens, mostly in church and public carparks."
Living in your does kill two birds with one stone: it makes housing and gas prices affordable.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

G8 summit: Gordon Brown has eight-course dinner before food crisis talks - Telegraph

G8 summit: Gordon Brown has eight-course dinner before food crisis talks - Telegraph: "The Prime Minister was served 24 different dishes during his first day at the summit – just hours after urging the world to reduce the 'unnecessary demand' for food and calling on British families to cut back on their wasteful use of food."
Nice to see that our European betters are still showing us the way.

Property Owner Retaliates With Pink, Purple House - Local News Story - WCAU | Philadelphia

Property Owner Retaliates With Pink, Purple House - Local News Story - WCAU | Philadelphia: "BUCKS COUNTY, Pa. -- A couple of businessmen made a colorful statement after they were blocked from developing their property their way. Perkasie Borough, Bucks County is quiet and sedate for the most part until you get to a newly painted home at 208 Ridge Ave. that stands out.cThe house is painted purple and pink."
And they chose especially ugly shades, too.

My Way News - Fed plans new rules to protect future homebuyers

My Way News - Fed plans new rules to protect future homebuyers: "WASHINGTON (AP) - In an effort to prevent a repeat of the current mortgage mess, Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke says the Fed next week will issue new rules aimed at protecting future homebuyers from dubious lending practices. Bernanke also says the Fed may give squeezed Wall Street firms more time to tap the central bank's emergency loan program. The mortgage rules will crack down on a range of shady lending practices that has burned many of the nation's riskiest 'subprime' borrowers - those with spotty credit or low incomes - who were hardest hit by the housing and credit debacles. The plan would apply to new loans made by thousands of lenders of all types, including banks and brokers. It would restrict lenders from penalizing risky borrowers who pay loans off early, require lenders to make sure these borrowers set aside money to pay for taxes and insurance and bar lenders from making loans without proof of a borrower's income. It also would prohibit lenders from engaging in a pattern or practice of lending without considering a borrower's ability to repay a home loan from sources other than the home's value."
How could lenders have been doing such dumb things in the first place?

Gov. Crist vetoes bill dealing with HOA operations | | The News-Press

Gov. Crist vetoes bill dealing with HOA operations : "By way of late breaking news, one of the major pieces of legislation adopted during the 2008 session of the Florida Legislature was recently vetoed by Gov. Charlie Crist. House Bill 679 primarily dealt with homeowners' association operations, including areas such as HOA election procedures and reserves. According to the governor's veto message, he killed the bill because he did not support a provision which would have de-regulated swimming pool water quality monitoring requirements for smaller HOAs."
Say what? Worldwide

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac stock falling: "Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have declined more than 60 percent this year, with declines accelerating in the past two weeks, on concern the companies' capital raisings since December may not be enough to overcome writedowns. Washington-based Fannie Mae so far has raised $6 billion in capital to offset writedowns on mortgages it owns or guarantees. Freddie Mac, based in McLean, Virginia, raised $13.5 billion since December and said last week plans to add $5.5 billion probably won't be fulfilled until late next month. Freddie Mac fell $2.59 to $11.91 after earlier dropping as low as $10.28. Fannie Mae declined $3.04 to $15.74 and earlier fell to $14.65. The new FAS 140 rule that seeks to stop companies keeping assets in off-balance sheet entities may force Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to bring mortgages back onto their books, requiring them to put up capital, Lehman analysts led by Bruce Harting wrote in a note to clients today. Fannie Mae would need to add $46 billion of capital and Freddie Mac would need about $29 billion, the Lehman analysts wrote. The companies will probably get an exemption from the rule because it would be ``very difficult'' for them to raise that amount of capital, the analysts said."
So their stock is falling because they are undercapitalized, and their stock is falling because new rules require them to show their delinquencies...and the solution is probably going to be what? Giving them an exception from the disclosure rule. Wonderful. That will certainly fix the problem that they are undercapitalized. Not.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Gulf Times – Gated communities in Egypt: "PALM HILLS, Egypt: The four-wheel-drives outside the terracotta villas include a Lexus and a Porsche, and under the shade of the palms and the bright red poinciana trees men in liveried overalls are buffing them to a shine.
Across the road, concealed behind a wall and down a path littered with rubble, Sabri Ali and his fellow gardeners are living five to a small room, earning 18 Egyptian pounds ($3.35) a day for seven hours work tending lawns and pruning trees."

Some folks sure do know how to live the high life.

New Haven Register - Historic block in Clinton may soon have 1st new house ince 1850​

New Haven Register - Historic block in Clinton may soon have 1st new house since 1850​: "CLINTON - The Historic District Commission has approved a major revision of design plans that would meet the special criteria for construction of a new house in the tiny Liberty Green Historic District...No construction can take place within the block-long confines of the Liberty Green Historic District, where just six houses built between 1725 and 1850 exist, without first being approved by the HDC."
Now that is one tough association.

My Way News - 'Public' online spaces don't carry speech, rights

My Way News - 'Public' online spaces don't carry speech, rights: "Companies in charge of seemingly public spaces online wipe out content that's controversial but otherwise legal. Service providers write their own rules for users worldwide and set foreign policy when they cooperate with regimes like China. They serve as prosecutor, judge and jury in handling disputes behind closed doors.

The governmental role that companies play online is taking on greater importance as their services - from online hangouts to virtual repositories of photos and video - become more central to public discourse around the world. It's a fallout of the Internet's market-driven growth, but possible remedies, including government regulation, can be worse than the symptoms."

This is similar to the argument I and others have been making about CIDs for a long time now. What happens to civil liberties when a public function gets privatized?

Schoolboys punished with detention for refusing to kneel down and pray to Allah | Mail Online

Schoolboys punished with detention for refusing to kneel down and pray to Allah | Mail Online: "Two schoolboys were given detention after refusing to kneel down and 'pray to Allah' during a religious education lesson. Parents were outraged that the two boys from year seven (11 to 12-year-olds) were punished for not wanting to take part in the practical demonstration of how Allah is worshipped. They said forcing their children to take part in the exercise at Alsager High School, near Stoke-on-Trent - which included wearing Muslim headgear - was a breach of their human rights."
This happened in what was once Great Britain.

Pagan symbols can stay if permit bought | | The Des Moines Register

Pagan symbols can stay if permit bought The Des Moines Register: "A decision that allows hand-painted religious symbols on a Des Moines couple's privacy fence has opened a debate at City Hall over the definition of graffiti. Inspectors in May ordered Ryle and Rachel MacPebbles to remove pagan and Celtic symbols from the fence after a neighbor complained. The couple appealed on religious freedom grounds, and city officials this week decided the handiwork can stay if the couple buys a $35 sign permit."
The issue is whether this is graffiti, which is prohibited, or a religious sign, which is protected by the First Amendment and allowed as long as you get a sign permit. The city is going at this case-by-case. Seems like a good approach. I like it when people use common sense instead of acting like petty dictators.

Down and out in Las Vegas - Americas, World - The Independent

Down and out in Las Vegas - Americas, World - The Independent: "America's most outrageous city is facing a growing multitude of problems, and they all boil down to a single, unavoidable point: right now, far too little happens in Vegas, because not enough people are actually staying there. The onset of global slowdown, high petrol prices, and a nation-wide housing slump is spelling disaster for a town that owes every aspect of its wealth – from that gaudy replica of the Eiffel Tower to those scale models of Venetian canals and the Pyramids of Egypt – to its ability to inspire free-spending hedonism."
Disaster might be too strong a word. There will always be a market for a place that offers the ultimate in distraction. I get why people visit there and work there. I just don't see why so many people retire and move there. I would have thought retirees would want a more congenial climate. I mean, if Chicago is too cold, why move to a place that is too hot?