February 21, 2009
It appears that the D.C. police are finally going to arrest somebody in the 2001 murder of Congressional aide Chandra Levy in Rock Creek Park in Washington D.C. No, it's not the Great White Defendant, former Rep. Gary Condit (D-CA), who was having an affair with her. Rep. Condit captivated the attention of the police and media in 2001 and distracted from the pursuit of the real killer. It seemed like a Law & Order episode come to life!
No, the prime suspect now turns out to be another boring, depressing usual suspect. (Actually, this guy had been on the radar screen for years.) Last year, the Washington Post's reporters Sari Horwitz, Scott Higham and Sylvia Moreno took a look at the man the police are finally saying is most likely to have done it:
While D.C. police focused most of their investigative efforts on Rep. Gary Condit and his relationship to missing intern Chandra Levy, they were slow to recognize another lead. It involved a man who was attacking women in the woods of Rock Creek Park.
The day Chandra disappeared, May 1, 2001, Ingmar A. Guandique, a 19-year-old illegal Salvadoran immigrant, did not show up for his construction job. Around that time, he went to stay with his former landlady, Sheila Phillips Cruz, the manager of an apartment building on Somerset Place NW. Cruz noticed that Guandique looked like he had been in a bad fight, his face battered and bruised. He had a fat lip, a bloody blemish in his eye and scratches around his throat.
Guandique (pronounced GWAN-dee-keh) had come from a hard-scrabble hamlet near the city of San Miguel in El Salvador. ...
Guandique wanted a better life in America. A friend of the family lent him $5,000 to pay a "coyote" to smuggle him across the Texas border with more than 50 others. The seventh-grade dropout left home in January 2000, eventually swimming across the Rio Grande, crossing the border near Piedras Negras and arriving in Houston in March 2000. From there, he made his way to Washington to join his half-brother, Huber, and other family friends.
Within a month, Guandique began picking up day jobs on construction sites and sending small amounts of money back home. He also had financial obligations to the family that paid his way. And he had another obligation: his ex-girlfriend, who was pregnant when Guandique left and later gave birth to a boy.
In fall 2000, Guandique met a new girl, Iris Portillo. ...
Guandique was having a hard time adjusting to living on the bottom rung of the American economy. He barely spoke English. He was not used to the routine: waking up at dawn, getting to the work site on time, spending the day toiling at a menial job. He struggled to pay the bills, send money home and buy the nice things Portillo wanted.
In early spring 2001, Guandique started to spend more time drinking and hanging around Rock Creek Park. He began to carry a six-inch knife wrapped in a red cloth. After finding letters from one of Portillo's old boyfriends from El Salvador, he struck her. He once bit her hard above her breast, leaving a scar, and he warned her not to stray.
He attacked at least two other joggers in Rock Creek Park in 2001:
- "Halle Shilling, 30, a tall, blond, athletic aspiring writer"
- "Christy Wiegand and her fiance were jogging in the northern section of Rock Creek Park. It had been raining on and off all day. Wiegand, 25, a former varsity rower at Princeton and a recent Cornell University Law School graduate, was an anti-trust lawyer for Arnold & Porter. Her wedding date was seven weeks away. She was tall and blond, her 5-foot-11 frame moving steadily along the trail, wearing her Walkman. Her fiance ran ahead and was soon out of sight."
It's a good article about the wildly different worlds of D.C., where Rock Creek Park serves as a border between two worlds.
The Condit connection should seem familiar to readers of Raymond Chandler detective novels, where a dead body leads to all sorts of embarrassing revelations about big shots as collateral damage. A dead body with a hole in it demands attention, and winds up shining a light on the private lives of people who didn't kill anybody, but were tangentially involved with the victim.
It shouldn't have taken until 2009 to arrest Guandique. Amy Keller wrote in Salon way back in 2002:
But while my colleagues speculated on the proximity of Condit's Adams Morgan apartment to the section of park where Levy's body was recovered on May 22, I wondered if the location of her body might point to another possibility: Perhaps Levy really was the victim of a random attack. I know the trepidation I feel each time I jog or bike along the park trails near my own neighborhood on the outskirts of Washington. The charming, leafy streets here are deceptive; Washington has its high crime areas, some just blocks from where members of Congress live in opulent brownstones.
I took a straightforward approach, and clicked through news databases, searching through stories about other crimes that might have been committed in the park. Eventually, I clicked my way to Ingmar Guandique.
Guandique is serving out a 10-year sentence in federal prison for brutally attacking two young women along the Broad Branch trail last May and July. That's the same section of Rock Creek Park where Levy was found. She had gone missing in May of 2001.
I knew I had a good story on my hands. But I had no idea that once I published it, other reporters following the Levy investigation would question my motives, or accuse me of being a pawn of Gary Condit.
February 20, 2009
Geithner and Summers probably understand that there’s not enough money in the world to bail out the Bubble in the four Sand States — Arizona, Nevada, Florida, and California. But, by choosing Arizona for his big announcement, Obama signals that he doesn’t likely understand that a plan limited to people 25k underwater will mostly help people in Red States in the middle of the country (think Affordable Family Formation). Obama seems to think his plan will convert the heavily Hispanic Purple States Arizona, Nevada, and Florida to Blue forever.
Obama going to Arizona to announce a bailout plan that's not big enough to bail out Arizonans just shows that Obama doesn't grasp the situation.
If he really comprehended that Geithner and Summers wouldn't let him propose a big bailout, then he should have made a political virtue of it: go to, say, Pittsburgh and butter up the locals for slowly rebuilding their economy while other states were living high on the Housing Bubble hog, then say your plan is aimed not at the greedy but at helping out responsible folks like the Kowalskis here, who were paying off their $87,000 mortgage until the factory shut down due to the recession that was caused by the Bush Bubble.
Instead, Obama just seems lost amidst all the big numbers. I'm reminded of Randolph Churchill's tenure as Chancellor of the Exchequer in Britain (where they use dots instead of commas in big numbers), of which he later said: "I never could make out what those damn dots meant."
Personally, I've always been sympathetic to the poor sap slave in The Parable of the Talents who buries the money his master has given him to invest, while his smarter co-slaves get rewarded for earning 100% returns on investment. The dumb slave just gives the one talent of money back to the boss with no ROI and gets in big trouble:
Then the one who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Sir, I knew that you were a hard man, harvesting where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered, ‘Evil and lazy slave! So you knew that I harvest where I didn’t sow and gather where I didn’t scatter? 27 Then you should have deposited my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received my money back with interest! 28 Therefore take the talent from him and give it to the one who has ten. 29 For the one who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough. But the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 30 And throw that worthless slave into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’”Jesus would have been a pretty demanding hedge fund client.
(Yeah, I know it's metaphorical, but still ...)
Eric Holder, the first black Attorney-General, wants us to stop being "a nation of cowards" and spend each February out of our "race-protected cocoons" having a National Dialogue on Race with each other.
So, let's talk about the Holder family's racial background, which is pretty interesting, although he forgot to mention it during his big Black History Month speech to his new charges in the Department of Justice.
I'm sure he won't mind us talking about his family's race, since he just insisted that we all talk about race all month.
Eric Holder is a Bajan-American.
His father was born in Barbados, as were his maternal grandparents. Barbados has the best educated, best behaved black population of the West Indies. Bajans generally look down upon other West Indians, much less African-Americans, as frightfully uncivilized.
Nation News of Barbados reported last summer:
A BRILLIANT LEGAL MIND who was raised in a "Barbadian home" in New York City will help United States Senator Barack Obama select his vice-presidential running mate...
[Eric] Holder, the son of Eric Sr and Miriam Holder, both Barbadians, served as the top federal prosecutor in Washington after a stint as a Superior Court judge in the nation's capital. ...
His late father, who was born in St Joseph, came to the United States when he was about 12 or 13 years old and later met and married his wife [the elderly lady on the left in the picture above] who was born in New Jersey of Bajan parents.
"I feel that I grew up partly in Barbados and partly in New York," said Holder, who was born in New York and was raised in what was essentially a West Indian enclave in Queens where Bajans, Jamaicans, St Lucians, Trinidadians, Guyanese and others were among the main homeowners.
Holder, who was recently in Barbados, has been visiting the island since the 1950s.
So, Holder grew up in one of those "race-protected cocoons," in a middle class "West Indian enclave" where he was kept away from African-American culture.
Here's is the Attorney-General's mother's description of his upbringing:
His mother traces the origins of those characteristics to his upbringing, his life growing up in Queens.
"He grew up, I guess you could say, in a West Indian home, and education was quite important," she said. "They knew they had to perform the way we wanted them to. Perhaps, I was a bit harder than I should have been. Education is always important.
"As Barbadians, you know that education has always been at the top of the list of their priorities, and that was the same in our home."
Religion was another key factor in their sons' moulding, worshipping at the Episcopal Church, a few blocks from their home in Queens. The two sons served as acolytes, attended Sunday School and were active in the church's youth group.
"The church was always very important to us," Ms Holder recalled.
In the home, the emphasis too was on the family and when it came time to sit around the table for a meal, typical West Indian dishes were on the menu.
So, how'd all that cocooning work out for Holder?
Pretty good, it appears.
Further, anybody familiar with the racial structure of the West Indies -- if you're not, Malcolm Gladwell's chapter in Outliers on his mother's family in Jamaica is a good introduction -- would recognize that Holder is from Barbado's mulatto middle class, rather than from its black agricultural masses. As Gladwell points out, West Indians who look like Holder (or Gladwell's mom) didn't get that way by accident. Generations of careful breeding requiring a fair degree of social segregation have typically have gone into keeping the mulatto elites of the West Indies from slipping into the black masses.
Mrs. Holder -- the lady on the right who looks rather like Meryl Streep -- is not a Bajan. She's a Harvard graduate obstetrician. Her older sister, Vivian Malone, was one of the two black students whom Alabama Gov. George Wallace notoriously "stood in the schoolroom door" to (unsuccessfully) prevent from integrating the U. of Alabama in 1963.
Judging from their three kids' looks, I wouldn't be surprised if careful breeding, involving "paper bag tests" and the like, went into Mrs. Holder's racial makeup as well.
New Attorney-General Eric Holder announced at a Department of Justice shindig marking Black History Month:
Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards. Though race-related issues continue to occupy a significant portion of our political discussion, and though there remain many unresolved racial issues in this nation, we, average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about race.
America's most distinguished man of science, James D. Watson, talked about race back in 2007. How'd that work out for him?
It is an issue we have never been at ease with, and given our nation’s history this is in some ways understandable. And yet, if we are to make progress in this area we must feel comfortable enough with one another, and tolerant enough of each other, to have frank conversations about the racial matters that continue to divide us....
I'm just doing my Department of Justice-mandated job here at iSteve.
To our detriment, this is typical of the way in which this nation deals with issues of race. And so I would suggest that we use February of every year to not only commemorate black history but also to foster a period of dialog among the races. This is admittedly an artificial device to generate discussion that should come more naturally, but our history is such that we must find ways to force ourselves to confront that which we have become expert at avoiding.
What a brilliant new idea! Back in 1997, Holder's old boss, Bill Clinton, started his National Conversation on Race that went on every month for a year. Granted, that was an embarrassing flop. So, in complete contrast, Holder is calling for a National Dialogue on Race that goes on every year for a month. It's totally different!
As a nation we have done a pretty good job in melding the races in the workplace. We work with one another, lunch together and, when the event is at the workplace during work hours or shortly thereafter, we socialize with one another fairly well, irrespective of race. And yet even this interaction operates within certain limitations. We know, by "American instinct" and by learned behavior, that certain subjects are off limits and that to explore them risks, at best embarrassment, and, at worst, the questioning of one’s character.
So, Dr. Watson should get a big apology from everybody, right?
... And outside the workplace the situation is even more bleak in that there is almost no significant interaction between us. On Saturdays and Sundays America in the year 2009 does not, in some ways, differ significantly from the country that existed some 50 years ago....
But we must do more, and we in this room bear a special responsibility. Through its work and through its example this Department of Justice, as long as I am here, must -- and will -- lead the nation to the "new birth of freedom" so long ago promised by our greatest president. This is our duty and our solemn obligation.
Uhhmm, you guys at the Department of Justice, you have guns and badges and prisons, right? So, maybe it's a little creepy for you to be talking about what private citizens must do in private.
... There can, for instance, be very legitimate debate about the question of affirmative action. This debate can, and should, be nuanced, principled and spirited. But the conversation that we now engage in as a nation on this and other racial subjects is too often simplistic and left to those on the extremes who are not hesitant to use these issues to advance nothing more than their own narrow self interest.
So, what I'm hearing the nation's Top Cop say is that public debate over affirmative action is only okay if it's "nuanced" -- in other words, if it stays within the parameters of a Barack Obama sentence beginning with the word "Notwithstanding ..." Wouldn't it be more convenient for everybody if instead of demanding that citizens improvise their lines without stumbling into "extremes," the Justice Department would simply issues scripts for everybody to read from? It would be like a school pageant for grown-ups! Or better yet, we could all chant together President Obama's speech about Rev. Wright.
Our history has demonstrated that the vast majority of Americans are uncomfortable with, and would like to not have to deal with, racial matters and that is why those, black or white, elected or self-appointed, who promise relief in easy, quick solutions, no matter how divisive, are embraced.
"Easy, quick solutions" -- like voting for Barack Obama? You mean electing Obama President isn't going to fix anything? Damn...
We are then free to retreat to our race-protected cocoons where much is comfortable and where progress is not really made.
If we allow this attitude to persist in the face of the most significant demographic changes that this nation has ever confronted -- and remember, there will be no majority race in America in about 50 years -- the coming diversity that could be such a powerful, positive force
DIVERSITY IS UNITY
will, instead, become a reason for stagnation and polarization. We cannot allow this to happen and one way to prevent such an unwelcome outcome is to engage one another more routinely -- and to do so now.
Self-Criticism Sessions ahoy!
As O'Brien, the Inner Party member, explained:
"We are not content with negative obedience, nor even with the most abject submission. When finally you surrender to us, it must be of your own free will. We do not destroy the heretic because he resists us; so long as he resists us we never destroy him. We convert him, we capture his inner mind, we reshape him. We burn all evil and all illusion out of him; we bring him over to our side, not in appearance, but genuinely, heart and soul. We make him one of ourselves before we kill him. It is intolerable to us that an erroneous thought should exist anywhere in the world, however secret and powerless it may be. Even in the instance of death we cannot permit any deviation . . . we make the brain perfect before we blow it out."
That said, I must strongly defend Attorney General Holder's mustache against all the snickering. Why, I ask you, shouldn't a man wear a mustache just because he is neither a homosexual, a fireman, nor a relief pitcher? Holder's is quite dapper in a William Powell gentleman-of-a-certain-age way.
I call for a national dialogue on overcoming prejudice against mustaches.
February 19, 2009
Eight years later, we can say to Mr. Bush:
So far, response to Obama's new $275 billion mortgage bailout plan has been muted since nobody seems to understand it, including the Obama Administration. From the Washington Post's article "Mortgage Rescue Eligibility Still Being Finalized," we learn that the Obama brain trust has got all the details pulled together ... except for the absolutely essential one: Who gets the money?
A day after President Obama unveiled his $75 billion foreclosure prevention program, administration officials yesterday said they were still determining which homeowners should qualify.The administration is developing a standard for lenders to use in evaluating applicants that seeks to exclude homeowners who are not in real need or are too far behind in their payments to be saved.
That is a bit of a conundrum, isn't it? If you make eligibility too restrictive, it doesn't have all the wonderful effects of saving the economy like Obama claimed it would have in his announcement yesterday. But if you make eligibility too loose, it costs all the money in the world, and more, as you sink into the quicksand of moral hazard.
So, I'll give the Obama Administration some advice on how to determine eligibility, taken from FDR's New Deal, although I don't think Obama will like how FDR thought about moral hazard. When Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) was dreamed up in 1935 as part of the Social Security Act, Harry Hopkins wanted to make it a big program. But Roosevelt thought it would be nuts to subsidize single motherhood, so it ended up being mostly just for widows, until the 1960s, when suddenly everybody knew better than prejudiced old FDR.
So, here's how Obama can make his mortgage bailout plan moral hazard-proof: You get bailed out if your spouse died between January 1, 2007 and yesterday. (We don't want a sudden surge in dead spouses tomorrow.) That's it. No disability due to back injuries, depression, fibromylagia, or your old man upped and made a run for the border. Only an official death certificate will do.
Hollywood’s Golden Age leading men tended to be disproportionately Irish-American, such as Jimmy Cagney, Spencer Tracy, and John Wayne. They were amiable tough guys from a concussion-centric culture who could throw -- and take -- a punch.
For a half decade after his stunning cameo as a professional arsonist in 1981’s “Body Heat,” Rourke looked to be their worthiest successor. The languid and cocky Rourke was the most magnetic star to emerge in the 1980s. The movie industry offered him the best and biggest parts—such as Eddie Murphy’s eventual role in “Beverly Hills Cop,” Tom Cruise’s in “Rain Man,” Kevin Costner’s in “The Untouchables,” and John Travolta’s in “Pulp Fiction”—all of which he rejected.
At first, Rourke’s determination to play sleazeballs rather than likable heroes was admired as a brave, even brilliant, artistic strategy. He was praised for his Method acting dedication that required him to stop bathing to play a Charles Bukowski-like drunken poet in 1987’s “Barfly.”
But when he didn’t resume washing his hair after shooting wrapped, suspicion grew that Rourke, who had racked up a 20-7 record as an amateur boxer in his teens, wasn’t quite right in the head. He proved it by becoming a professional boxer in the 1990s, winning six of eight bouts before his neurologist convinced him that he soon wouldn’t be able to count his winnings. His face needed at least four operations to repair the damage, including taking cartilage from behind his ear to rebuild his nose. (Combined with the muscle-building drugs he used to prepare for this new role— “When I’m a wrestler, I behave like a wrestler”—he looks only quasi-human in his comeback.)
In most artistic endeavors, a bit of madness is accepted, even encouraged. The stars of big budget movies, however, have to be approved by the firms that provide “business interruption” insurance. When producers are spending up to a million dollars per day, their insurance companies have to be sure that the main man will show up.
Nor was Rourke terribly suited for character roles, since he just might pull himself together long enough to show up the film’s stars as lightweights. Still, he kept working in dozens of trashy movies, while spending countless hours off-set with his therapist and priest, with impressive results.
From the AP:
By LIBBY QUAID – 1 day ago
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama wants to do more than save teachers' jobs or renovate classrooms with his economic recovery bill. He wants to transform the federal government's role in education.
Public schools will get an unprecedented amount of money — double the education budget under George W. Bush — from the stimulus bill in the next two years. With those dollars, Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan want schools to do better. ...
The bill includes a $5 billion fund solely for these innovations, an amount that might not seem like much, considering the bill's $787 billion price tag. But it is massive compared with the $16 million in discretionary money Duncan's predecessors got each year for their own priorities.
"It's unprecedented that a secretary would have this much money and this much latitude," said Charlie Barone, director of federal policy for the group Democrats for Education Reform.
Congress laid out broad guidelines for the fund in the stimulus bill that became law on Tuesday. But it will be up to Duncan and the team of advisers he is assembling to decide how to dole out the money. They have until Oct. 1, when the next fiscal year begins, to start distributing the dollars.
What would the fund pay for? Rewarding states and school districts that are making big progress.
For example, Tennessee recently overhauled its graduation requirements and academic standards as it works to boost student achievement. As part of that effort, officials want more rigorous state tests; Tennessee has been criticized because students pass state exams with flying colors, yet they do poorly on well-regarded national tests. Better tests cost money.
Really? Raising the passing score from X% to X + 20% requires zillions from the feds?
Or in California, school officials would like to expand the ConnectEd curricula, now in 16 high schools, that links academics to actual work in aerospace, biomedicine and other careers. The program is aimed at getting students ready for college and keeping them from dropping out.
Okay, but if your program "links academics to actual work," why is it "aimed at getting students ready for college?" Perhaps I'm misinformed, but I was always under the impression that college is not work. You have to pay to go to college, but when you go to work, they pay you, right? So college<>work. ...
To get the money, states will have to show they are making good progress in four areas:
_Boosting teacher effectiveness and getting more good teachers into high-poverty, high-minority schools;
Why does everybody always assume it's a self-evidently good idea in the public schools to send good teachers to teach bad students, when nobody thinks that way about any other form of instruction?
Nobody has ever asked Barack Obama why he taught at the U. of Chicago Law School, which is full of very bright students from the upper middle class, instead of some fourth tier law school that caters to marginal students.
For example, Tiger Woods' swing coach, Hank Haney, is often considered the best golf instructor in the country. And everybody simply finds that perfectly reasonable: of course Tiger has the top swing expert. The best student can absorb the most wisdom from the best teacher. And of course the best teacher wants to teach the best student.
Yet, if I were to apply Arne Duncan's conventional wisdom about public education to golf teachers, I'd say: "It's a national disgrace that the best golf teachers waste their time on the best golfers. Why is Hank Haney frittering away his time trying to cut Tiger Woods's average score from 68 to 67 when he could be cutting my average score to 96 from 114? [Estimate based on my one round of golf in 2008, assuming I hadn't given up keeping score on the third hole in shame.]
Granted, Haney could only cut my score by 18 strokes if I also went and practiced what he taught me. Admittedly, even though I live three blocks from a driving range, I've only hit one bucket of balls there in the last nine years. But the reason I never practice must be because of society's soft bigotry of low expectations based on what my swing looks like. (I have this feeling that other golfers at the range would say to me, "Hey, buddy, Charles Barkley called. He wants his swing back.")
_Setting up data systems to track how much a student has learned from one year to the next;
_Improving academic standards and tests;
_Supporting struggling schools.
Also, at the urging of Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, the fund sets aside $650 million for school districts or districts in partnership with nonprofit groups.
$650 million for nonprofit groups?
Paging Bill Ayers!
The number of illegal foreign residents in Japan has decreased by nearly half over a five-year period from 2004, a government report has revealed.
According to the report released by the Immigration Bureau of the Justice Ministry, about 130,000 foreigners were illegally living in Japan as of the beginning of this year, as compared with roughly 250,000 in 2004. The current figure is close to the 1990 level before a sharp increase in illegal foreign residents occurred.
"We largely succeeded in achieving our target," said an official of the immigration bureau. In 2003, the government approved a plan to halve the number of illegal foreigners from Jan. 1, 2004, to Jan. 1 this year, which calls for revisions to the immigration control system.Over the period, the number of foreigners who overstayed their visas dropped to 113,072 from 219,418, while the estimated number of those who illegally had entered Japan, including those who were smuggled by boat, has decreased from roughly 30,000 to between 15,000 and 23,000 as of Jan. 1, 2009.
February 18, 2009
Family C: Eligible for Homeowner Stability Initiative
- In 2006: Family C took out a 30-year subprime mortgage of $220,000, on a house worth $230,000 at the time (they put less than 5% down). Their mortgage broker - Mom & Pop Mortgage - sold their loan to Investment Bank. The interest rate on their mortgage is 7.5%.
- Today: Family C has $214,016 remaining on their mortgage but their home value has fallen -18% to $189,000. Also, in November, one parent in Family C was moved from full-time to part-time work, causing a significant negative shock to their income.
Yes, indeed, that's about as bad as it got in the peak of the Housing Bubble in 2006, all righty! A two parent family put down only 4.3% on their mortgage and the value of the house has dropped a gigantic 18%. And now they are $25,000 underwater. Horrors!
- Their loan is now 113% the value of their home, making them "underwater" and unable to sell their house.
- Meanwhile, their monthly mortgage payment is $1,538 and their monthly income has fallen to $3,650, meaning the ratio of their monthly mortgage debt to income is 42%.
Let's come up with a more realistic Family C. Or, perhaps we should call them "Family Si" because they said "Yes" to a zero percent downpayment mortgage with a negatively amortizing teaser rate in California in 2006.
Roughly half of all the dollars tied up in foreclosed mortgages are in California, so let's talk about the Big C.
Instead of buying the house for $230,000, Family Si bought it for $460,000, still under the peak median in California of over a half mil.
Instead of putting $10,000 down, they put zero down, as 41% of the first time buyers in California did in 2006.
Instead of having paid off $6000 of the principle since 2006, they got a teaser mortgage that negatively amortized over the first two years so that their loan has actually grown by $6000.
Instead of their house falling by 18%, it's fallen by 45%. So, they now owe $466,000 on a house that might be worth $253,000.
Instead of their Loan To Value (LTV) being 113%, it's 184%.
And instead of being $25,000 "under water," they're $213,000 under water.
And instead of one of the two parents moving from full time to part time work, there were never two parents in the first place. The buyer's supposed husband was her real estate agent's brother.
And instead of one parent having a full time job, it was a NINJA loan -- No Income, No Job, or Assets.
Instead of the family making something like $58,400 annually when both parents were working, the one parent's maximum income when she is working is $11 per hour or $22,000.
And instead of 42% of income going to mortgage payments, 183% of monthly income goes to the mortgage (in theory, of course, since Family Si stopped paying during the second month of ownership). [Note: I'm just ballparking the monthly payment figures off the proportional difference in debt from Obama's Family C, so from here on the numbers are just guesstimated.]
Oh, and I forgot to mention, Family Si had already bought another house the month before and was planning to flip this one for a big profit.
Under the Homeowner Stability Initiative: Family C can get a government sponsored modification that for five years will reduce their mortgage payment by $406 a month. After those five years, Family C's mortgage payment will adjust upward at a moderate, phased-in level.
So instead of the two year teaser loan that proved so disastrous for all concerned, Obama will give out five year teaser loans!
Quite a deal for the taxpayers -- only $4,870 per year for five years or $24,350 to save Family C's ancestral manse.
$406 per month, $4,870 per year
Of course, for Family Si, it would take something like $33,370 per year for five years or about $166,000 total in handouts.
And then Family Si would still default after five years because even with the government handing them $166,000 of the $466,000 they owe, their house still likely won't be worth the balance.
The bottom line is that there isn't enough money anywhere to bail out the Family Sis in the Sand States. Geithner and Summers probably know that, but does Obama? It's hard to tell from his rhetoric, which promises the moon in terms of saving the economy, but then also promises to not bailout anybody but the most deserving. If he's not willing to bail out the Sand States' Family Sis, why did he go to Arizona (California Jr.) to give his speech announcing his bail out? If he's really only going to give out $5k per year, he should have gone to North Dakota to make his announcement.
Granted, when a DVD player or whatever stops working after only two or three years, it doesn't seem like a big deal. The newer one is cheaper and has more features. Still, besides the down time and time wasted researching new models and looking for sales, there are hidden "systems integration" costs. When you finally get the gizmo home, you have to screw around with connecting everything up with cables, you have to learn a new remote control, and sometimes you never quite get everything working together right. When you add up all the costs, you realize it would have been worthwhile to pay more for a more reliable product in the beginning.
The shift in imports from Japan to China plays a role in this. An important point that gets forgotten sometimes is that just because people have epicanthic folds doesn't mean everything they make is Lexus-quality. The Japanese worked incredibly hard to build great brands like Toyota, Honda, and Sony that would be tremendous assets for the Japanese nation for generations to come. The Japanese have an elaborate ritual of shame that executives go through when a Japanese firm's products are scandalously bad, involving resignations and televised apologies to the nation.
In Japan, "nationalist economics" is a serious, well-thought out philosophy that entails short run sacrifices for the long run general welfare. In the West, our elites have been trained to scoff at nationalist economics as mere mindless populism, but the best minds in Japan have developed an economic culture that's perhaps too sophisticated for American economists and their fellow travelers in the punditry to understand.
The Chinese, in contrast, have followed the Taiwanese model of manufacturing anonymously under contract to Japanese and American brand names. They churn out stuff and let other countries' companies sell it as their own. For the Chinese, it's all about meeting minimum quality and cost parameters to get the next deal, not to build a reputation with the public for high quality. How many recognizable brand names have the Chinese created so far? There's Lenovo, and then there's ...
This fuels a "race to the bottom" in pricing, which comes with a cost in quality.
This has had interesting political effects. America's gigantic trade deficits with China in this decade were much less noticeable to the general public than America's trade deficits with Japan in the 1970s because Americans back then were seeing Japanese brand names everywhere, in the stores, on the street, and in TV commercials. This generated political pressure that brought about the Reagan Administration's highly successful protectionist move of imposing import quotas on Japanese car makers, which led them to build factories in the U.S.
In contrast, unless you look for the "Made in China" labels on products or read the trade statistics, you won't really notice the hollowing out of American industrial capacity.
Unless you, personally, lose your job at the factory. But, really, who cares about factory workers? For American business executives, offshoring manufacturing to China is less of a threat to their own positions than the Japanese competition of a generation ago. The big Japanese brands had their own executives and didn't need Americans except in subordinate roles. In contrast, today if you are an American executive in marketing, finance, or general management, you still get to run a seemingly big company, but you just offshore all that sweaty manufacturing to China.
So, the Chinese have fit much less threateningly into the Davos Man globalist worldview than the Japanese did.
Still, how's globalism working out for us lately?
February 17, 2009
From the WSJ, we can infer that the "virtual fence" along the border is actually failing:
C'mon, we don't need a breakthrough in string theory, we need a fence. It's not really that complicated. The Israelis built a non-virtual border fence that keeps out suicide bombers, who are, by definition, highly motivated.
A troubled $8 billion project to erect a "virtual fence" along the nation's southwestern border has received a boost, with federal officials giving the go-ahead for Boeing Co. to resume work, and the economic-stimulus package providing new funding for it [$100 million, which might be the smallest dollar amount I've typed in a couple of weeks].
But the project's government overseer said significant challenges remain. Mark Borkowski, executive director of the Department of Homeland Security's Secure Border Initiative program, said the biggest may be tamping down public expectations that technology can solve the country's illegal-immigration and border-security issues.
"We fell into a message that this technology was going to be a great, God-given gift to border security," said Mr. Borkowski, who last October became the third official to head the project in as many years. "Now we need to do a better job of marketing what it will -- and won't -- be producing." He said the technology isn't a panacea -- it is meant only to be a tool for agents on the ground.
The government awarded the virtual-fence contract to Boeing in late 2006, in a project known as SBInet. The project aims to send real-time data on illegal crossings to border agents by integrating cameras, sensors, radar and mobile communications in a virtual fence along the Mexican border.
Technical hurdles have dogged the project ever since the concept of a virtual fence, designed by Boeing, was first tested on the ground. As a result, the government put the project on hold last year.
Early testing revealed problems ranging from radars that were tripped by rainfall to an inability to connect and integrate all of the system's pieces. "It's easy to think you can go buy off-the-shelf stuff and string it all together," said Mr. Borkowski. "But the reality is there is a certain due diligence we ought to have put into that in the first place."
Although many of the integration problems have been smoothed out, new problems emerged during later testing in New Mexico, Mr. Borkowski said. Software used to run the system is prone to crashing after extended periods of operation, he said. But he also said he thinks this can be fixed.
Despite the emergence of the additional issues, earlier this month the government allowed work on the project to resume.
If the problems are resolved soon, border patrol agents could start running the system and getting feeds on a regular basis by the end of the summer, Mr. Borkowski said.
Basically, the Bush Administration didn't want a working border fence and the Obama Administration doesn't either, so they both futz around with this bogus "virtual fence" as a distraction from finishing a real fence.
David Leonhardt writes in the NY Times:
In a speech in Phoenix [on Wednesday], a signature real estate boomtown gone bust, President Obama will explain his plan to reduce foreclosures. And the key to understanding that plan will be remembering that there are two different groups of homeowners who are at risk of foreclosure.
The first group is made up of people who cannot afford their mortgages and have fallen behind on their monthly payments. Many took out loans they were never going to be able to afford, while others have since lost their jobs. About three million households — and rising — fall into this category. Without help, they will lose their homes.
The second group is far larger. It is made up of the more than 10 million households that can afford their monthly payments but whose houses are worth less than what is owed on their mortgages. In real estate parlance, they are underwater. If they want to stay in their homes, they will have no trouble doing so. But some may choose to walk away voluntarily, rather than continue to make payments on an investment that may never pay off.
Scratch beneath the details of any housing bailout proposal, and the fundamental issue is whether it tries to help the second group or just the first.Mr. Obama has evidently decided to focus on the first group, based on the previews of his speech that aides have offered.
So, let me see if I have this straight? Obama is going to throw money at the most hopeless cases, the people who never should have bought the house in the first place, many of whom are speculators and/or crooks who lied on their mortgage applications, but he won't help out the larger number of people who are doing the right thing?
And it's really not that hard to turn yourself into a hopeless case, especially if the government will pay you for doing so.
Further, a lot of deadbeats and potential deadbeats who look like hopeless cases based on their own individual incomes and assets have this thing called "relatives." Over the last couple of decades, I've twice written moderately sizable checks to get relatives through credit crunches. It's just what you do.
You would think, all else being equal, that IQ would be the lowest at the center position in basketball, since there's such a premium on height there that everything else is at a discount.
- David Robinson scored 1320 on the SAT (old style scoring, equivalent to the low 1400s today) and graduated from the Naval Academy with a degree in math.
- George Mikan, the NBA's first superstar, was a successful lawyer after his playing days were over.
- Bill Walton attended Stanford Law School while out from the NBA with injuries.
- Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell always gave the impression in interviews of being sharp-witted men. Granted, my old impressions aren't terribly trustworthy, but these two guys did a lot of interviews back in the day. Russell was frequently called upon by the media to serve as a Yoda-like hipster guru who could explain the great social changes of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Chamberlain was less popular with the press than Russell because he endorsed Nixon, but he always displayed a certain ornery independence.
For the other four in the consensus top 10 (Moses Malone, Shaq, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Patrick Ewing), I can't think of any evidence for one way or another. My vague impression from living in Houston in the 1970s was that Moses Malone wasn't considered the sharpest tool in drawer (but he could vacuum up offensive rebounds!)
As an aside, I'll toss in the story of somebody who isn't a top 10 center, but has had a long career despite playing very little basketball as a youth: Dikembe Mutumbo from the Congo. He got into Georgetown as a regular admittee to study diplomacy. Coach John Thompson just about had a heart attack when he saw this unknown 7'-2" black guy walking across campus with a stack of books in his arms. That's why Georgetown had its unwieldy Twin Towers formation with Mutumbo and Alonzo Mourning -- nobody had recruited Mutumbo. He just showed up.
At other positions, you can pick out all-time greats who clearly had something going on upstairs, like Dave Bing, who became a successful steel mill owner. But, there seem to be more above average IQ types at center. At minimum they aren't less common at center, even though you'd expect height to dominate all else most at that position.
It's possible that hard-working book-smart guys do better at center than at other positions. Playing with your back to the basket is rather unnatural, and typically requires extensive coaching and drilling, whereas you can become a star guard or forward just by scrimmaging constantly.
More generally, I have this vague hunch that athletes below 75 or 80 in IQ are much more likely to fail to make the big time than ones over 90 because the low IQ ones screw up so badly -- get hooked on drugs, go to prison, get seriously hurt in a fight or an accident, or just miss various opportunities through knuckleheadedness -- that they blow their opportunities.
You might be able to do an interesting nature-nurture study by tracking extremely tall young men in a basketball crazy society to see what happens to people given lots and lots of breaks in life. First, you'd need to know what % of young fellows of a certain height -- say two meters or taller, make it to each level up the ladder in basketball. Then look at success rates by IQ. And look at the real failures among the super tall -- those who wind up in prison -- by IQ.
I don't think we have the data to do it in the U.S., but this study might be possible in a European country with universal conscription where they measure every 19-year-old male's height and give him an IQ test. It would have to be a country that is wild about basketball, too. All my Lithuanian and Croatian readers who are looking for social science dissertation topic, get cracking!
Signing Stimulus, Obama Doesn’t Rule Out More
By SHERYL GAY STOLBERG 3:50 PM ET
As President Obama signed his recovery bill, an aide said that he had not ruled out a second stimulus package.
February 16, 2009
Watching the Keira Knightly vehicle "Duchess" about the Princess Di of the late 18th Century, the Duchess of Devonshire, it occurred to me that pretty soon a filmmaker is going to take this kind of English period porn (much of "Duchess" is filmed at Chatsworth House, which makes Castle Howard, used in the various "Brideshead Revisiteds," look like my house) and resusciate the genre by filming all that sumptuous pomp and circumstance with cheap handheld digital cameras pseudo-reality style, like an episode of "Cops."
April 27, 1987
Everything about the latest Supreme Court decision on affirmative action -- lumpily labeled Johnson v. Transportation Agency, Santa Clara County, California, et al. -- seems totally unastonishing. Possibly this is because all the principal actors have become so predictable. In the wake of Johnson , there was the American business community professing as usual to be delighted with an opinion guaranteeing still more quotas in employment. The Reagan Administration was as usual looking like a loser. The union of liberal commentators, led by the New York Times , was as usual enthusing over the court's murky reasoning. ("On Giving Women a Break" was the smarmy headline atop the Times 's editorial.) The Supremes themselves were as usual divided, but the nose count revealed still another majority in the grip of a certain idea.
The idea is this: All people are inherently equal in ability and motivation, and so inequalities in employment and income must stem from inequities in our social arrangements. The idea is never stated explicitly in the court's opinions, and its empirical foundations are rather wobbly; indeed an avalanche of research in biology and psychology has been demonstrating more and more human differences to be innate. Yet the idea continues to sustain Justice Bill Brennan and the court's other instinctive egalitarians, and it enables them to keep finding that we have a problem needing to be solved any time some ethnic group or sex is "underrepresented" in various jobs. The unstated ideal is proportional representation; The Brennanites' usual way of attaining it is via reverse discrimination.
They have long since made clear that they will not be deterred by the plain language of the law. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 unambiguously states that you cannot require preference "on account of an imbalance which may exist with respect to the total number or percentage of persons of any race . . . (or) sex . . ." In the 1979 Weber case, which is the main ancestor of Johnson , Brennan nevertheless upheld a quota plan designed to rectify long-standing imbalances. How did he do it? No sweat: He argued that, sure, the law didn't "require" any such reference, but it "permitted" Kaiser Aluminum to set up preferential plans voluntarily. (In fact, the voluntariness of the plan was a bit of a charade: Kaiser had entered into the plan because its arm was being twisted by federal regulators.) The court also labored to make Weber more palatable by saying that any such plans had to be temporary. This created a difficulty in Johnson, because Santa Clara county had labeled its goals "long range." This time Brennan got around the difficulty by arguing that they couldn't really be long range because they envisioned only that the county would "attain" a certain balance (the figure for women was 36.4% of all jobs), not "maintain" it. Pretty smooth, eh?
Not dealt with in Brennan's opinion was another logical difficulty about those goals. In moving mindlessly toward proportional representation, the county had looked around to see who was in the local labor force and then come up with the following goals for minorities: blacks, 1.6%; Hispanics, 14.8%; Asian-Americans, 2.9%, American Indians, 0.4%, handicapped individuals, 6.5%. But unlike the women, who were underrepresented in most job categories, several of these groups were over represented. Blacks, for example, were overrepresented in five out of the seven job categories for which the county was hiring. By the logic of the court's decision, whites should be given preference over blacks in these positions. The American civil rights establishment managed to ignore this awkward fact; both the Urban League and the NAACP expressed delight with Johnson .
The formal posture of business toward the decision was equally ecstatic. The National Association of Manufacturers, the Business Roundtable, and the Chamber of Commerce were all for Johnson , and the press printed encomiums to the decision by spokespersons from General Electric, Du Pont, Campbell Soup, Champion International, Eastman Kodak, Philip Morris, and many more. Also weighing in on the side of proportional representation was the American Society for Personnel Administration, a kind of trade association for the human
resources folk, which filed an amicus curiae brief that sought to help the court justify group preferences over merit. Laboring to prove that merit isn't all that important, and that it was okay for Santa Clara county to choose a woman over a man who had scored higher on the relevant exam, the ASPA came up with a doctrine that your correspondent had not previously heard of. Said the brief: "It is a standard tenet of personnel administration that there is rarely a single, 'best qualified' person for a job." Somehow one senses that, if the U.S. has a problem with "competitiveness" (see Competition), it is not going to be solved by the personnel department.
Why is American business in this posture? Partly, we assume, because all large corporations now have huge affirmative action bureaucracies representing an insistent internal pressure to support quotas. And partly, we sense, because a lot of C.E.O.s have been sold on the doctrine of corporate social responsibility and actually believe they are doing good by enforcing quotas.
The posture of the Reagan Administration is even harder to make sense of. In one case after another, we sit here watching Ron's solicitor general go before the Supreme Court and get clobbered when he tries to make a case against reverse discrimination. The suits in question typically involve large principles but, as in Johnson , only a few employees. Meanwhile, Reagan has steadily refused to lift up his fountain pen and, with a stroke thereof, rescind the executive order that now requires all federal contractors to have goals and timetables -- and that represents the major source of employment quotas in the U.S. We gather that the President is in this weird position because he just can't bring himself to resolve the dispute between Labor Secretary Bill Brock (who thinks the present system is fine) and Attorney General Ed Meese (who wants to end it). Looking back in dismay, a lot of Reaganites are now telling themselves that the time to have acted decisively against quotas was in the Administration's first few months, when Ron seemed irresistible. They had their chance, and blew it, and the logic of proportional representation is now set in concrete.
February 15, 2009
You’ve heard over and over about how the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) could not bear any blame for the mortgage meltdown that began in 2007 because the time lag was too vast. As the New York Times editorialized on October 15, 2008: “First, how could a 30-plus-year-old law be responsible for a crisis that has occurred only in recent years?”
That seems like a good question. Three decades is a long time.
Last Thursday, though, I found an eye-opening graph of cumulative Community Reinvestment Act promises by banks from 1977 through 2005. According to the September 2005 report CRA Commitments by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC), which bills itself as "the nation's economic justice trade association of 600 community associations:”
As the chart below shows, $4.2 trillion in CRA dollars was committed from 1992 through 2005. In contrast, $8.8 billion was negotiated from 1977 through 1991.
When measured in terabucks, the Community Reinvestment Act was negligible until the 1990s. And it was still small potatoes until the Clinton “reforms” of 1995 and the rise of well-organized pressure groups of the kind affiliated with the NCRC.
But the biggest flood of CRA assurances came during the presidency of George W. Bush, who repeatedly called in 2002-2004 for 5.5 million more minority homeowners by 2010. Cumulative bank pledges (typically doled out over ten years) grew from $1.85 trillion in 2002 to $4.20 trillion in 2004.
Indeed, total CRA commitments increased by $1.63 trillion in 2004 alone, the first year of the Housing Bubble.
This feature of blogging -- no minimum or maximum length per post -- helps many people overcome the writer's block associated with the feeling that you'll never be able to come up with enough words on a topic to justify a column or that you'll never be able to get your point across in few enough words to fit in a column.
More still timely Seligmania:
December 2, 1991
Confess! According to Barney Frank, the irredeemably liberal Massachusetts Democrat -- with a solid 94% rating from Americans for Democratic Action -- that is what the bankers of America must now do. They should penitently acknowledge they done wrong, and not react to the news "in a wholly defensive, negative way."
As to what the bankers should confess to, opinions vary, but politicians with high ADA ratings seem unanimous in believing that their mortgage-lending departments must now plead guilty to racial discrimination. Evidence of their bias is said to lie in the recent Federal Reserve study showing that mortgage applications are disproportionately turned down when the applicant is black or Hispanic. Even when you control for income level, these groups did far worse than whites applying for mortgages. In the highest income category examined -- one in which the applicants had incomes at least 20% above the average for their metropolitan statistical area -- 21.4% of black applications were turned down, vs. 15.8% for Hispanics and only 8.5% for whites.
Among the Congresspersons screeching loudest about these data have been Bay Stater Joseph P. Kennedy II (ADA rating: 89%) and Henry B. Gonzalez of Texas (100%). "It matters not whether the discrimination is intentional," says Gonzalez, chairman of the House Banking Committee. "Discrimination by ignorance is just as . . . destructive as discrimination by design." Gonzalez and Kennedy introduced the legislation requiring the Fed to compile mortgage-rejection data with breakouts for race and income, which is possibly why they think the figures are so compelling.
The babble over the Fed study has been bizarre on two counts. First, you need a lot more than income data to establish whether mortgage applicants are creditworthy. At a minimum, you would also want data on their credit histories, employment records, and savings. (A 1983 survey by the Fed showed that on average white families have four times the assets of black families.) One hilarious undercurrent at the marathon October 21 press conference announcing the findings was the effort of Federal Reserve Governor John LaWare and others onstage to (a) keep reminding the assembled media folk of these critical omissions while (b) still earnestly trying to represent that the final report was somehow or other quite useful.
Weirder still has been the deafening silence in the media and Congress about another matter: the data on Asian-Americans, whose mortgage applications were also studied by the Fed. It turns out that rejection rates for Asian-Americans were lower than those for whites. Taking together applications at all income levels for mortgages to buy homes, we find that whites had rejection rates of 13.8%, Asian-Americans of 12.9%.
How does that fit into a discrimination-based explanation of the different rejection rates? We called Gonzalez's office demanding (politely) an answer to this question. His office said he is still studying the data. The young lady from Kennedy's office got back to us with a formal statement incorporating the thought that "Asians are repeatedly rejected for mortgage loans at higher rates than whites." We noted that the data said otherwise, at which point she began yalking about certain metropolitan areas where Asians did worse than whites. We were on the verge of pointing out that this implied the existence of still more areas in which they did better than whites but sensed that she might not be able to sell this thought to her boss, as it could only serve to depress him, not to mention his ADA rating.
March 2, 1987
The Dream Girls
A reader has sent in a clipping from Broadcasting magazine and suggested we comment on same. We are delighted to do so as the subject affords a long-awaited opportunity to mention what we consider the single most fascinating social-science finding of the latter 20th century. Pretty big buildup, you say? Just wait and see.
The article in Broadcasting says the Canadian government has developed "voluntary guidelines" about the portrayal of women on television. The article leaves you thinking the governing classes in the U.S.'s friendly neighbor to the north have nothing better to do than brood over the pernicious effects of sex-role stereotyping, and now they are taking action against this evil.
The Broadcasting article naturally reminded the present keyboarder of a study of TV sex roles in his own country. The study, which appeared in Public Opinion last fall, contrasted "TV's Dream Girls" in three different decades (those beginning in 1955, 1965, and 1975). It concluded that women in all three decades are depicted in ways suggesting they are not truly equal to men. The femmes come across as less important than men in TV dramas; they "are less likely to be
mature adults, are less well educated, and hold lower status jobs." Furthermore, women in the dramas tended to derive their identities from their marital status. "A majority of women are identified as either married or single, compared to about one in four men."
We are edging up on the interesting part. Even though women in dramas are stuck in fairly traditional roles, the story line always takes the feminist side of any argument. ("Characters who deride women's abilities are invariably put down by the script.") This was not always true: Before 1965, say authors S. Robert Lichter, Linda S. Lichter, and Stanley Rothman, "22% of the episodes . .. rejected the feminist positions." But not today -- and here comes our fascinating fact. Of the thousands of dramas studied since 1965, "not a single episode derided notions of sexual equality." Not one. Not even to break the monotony. Can Canada top that?
Another bit from the late Daniel Seligman's Keeping Up column in Fortune:
April 13, 1987
Sell or Die
An unusually compelling statistic suddenly leaped out of the TV set the other night, lodged in the present writer's cortex, and insistently demanded to be memorialized in Keeping Up. "By the age of 18," the man on the tube was saying, "the average kid has seen businessmen on television attempt over 10,000 murders."
The man was actor Eli Wallach, and his memorable line had been supplied by Manifold Productions, creators of Hollywood's Favorite Heavy: Businessmen on Prime Time TV , a documentary that was underwritten by Mobil and other anti-anti-business institutions and is now being aired on public television. The program includes quite a few film clips from prime-time drama, so you get to see lots of managers and entrepreneurs tossing off lines like "Make him disappear," "I want this guy to have an accident," and "I'm making a final offer: Sell or die," all of which seem reasonably representative of the badinage a fellow keeps coming across while flipping over to the baseball game. Still, 10,000 attempted murders is a lot of attempted murders, even for your average highly motivated profit maximizer. Could that number possibly stand up?
Having now looked at some of Manifold's sources, we rate it unproved and yet awesomely plausible and maybe even conservative. One source was a study called Prime Time Crime, published by the Media Institute in 1983. It was prepared by Linda and S. Robert Lichter -- both are scholars at George Washington University -- and based on a sizable sample of television dramas. The study persuasively develops the following propositions:
First, crime is a far greater theme on TV than in the real world: The 263 programs reviewed by the Lichters showed 250 criminals committing 417 crimes. Second, murder is heavily overrepresented in TV crime: Homicides accounted for almost 25% of the crimes in the Lichters' sample (vs. less than 1% in FBI crime reports). Third, business is wildly overrepresented among TV criminals: It was responsible for 26% of all the murders, for example. Also upping the unreality quotient was another finding of the study: that characters who are young, poor, unemployed, or nonwhite hardly ever commit violent crimes on the tube. For those seeking reality in prime time, we continue to recommend the ball game.
Remember that one-bedroom pre-WWII house with 500 square feet of floor space on a small lot in Compton, CA that sold for $340,000 in 2007? It's now on the market for $69,900, a price that somebody who doesn't have enough money to move straight outta Compton might conceivably be able to afford.
Fortunately, the Obama Administration has promised to announce on Wednesday a comprehensive program to prevent housing prices from falling to affordable levels like this. Bubble Forever!
Tom Friedman, the Malcolm Gladwell of the New York Times, has a brainstorm in "The Open-Door Bailout:"
Leave it to a brainy Indian to come up with the cheapest and surest way to stimulate our economy: immigration.“All you need to do is grant visas to two million Indians, Chinese and Koreans,” said Shekhar Gupta, editor of The Indian Express newspaper. “We will buy up all the subprime homes. We will work 18 hours a day to pay for them. We will immediately improve your savings rate — no Indian bank today has more than 2 percent nonperforming loans because not paying your mortgage is considered shameful here. And we will start new companies to create our own jobs and jobs for more Americans.” ...
Therefore, the centerpiece of our stimulus, the core driving principle, should be to stimulate everything that makes us smarter
Hmmhmmhmm ... "Indians, Chinese, and Koreans..." What's missing from this list of would-be immigrants?
At The American Scene, Dara Lind complains:
The bigger problem is that a lot of Americans really do believe that natives of East and South Asia who come to the United States are uniquely skilled and hardworking in a way that natives of Mexico or Guatemala who come to the United States aren’t. The United States has a long history of distinguishing “good” immigrants from “bad” immigrants ... At the moment, Mexican immigrants appear to be saddled in popular culture with the assumptions that they a) have entered illegally and b) are less intelligent or hardworking than their (particularly Asian) peers. Friedman’s invocation of a “culture” that requires fiscal responsibility helps reinforce the stereotype that an immigrant family from another region wouldn’t work 18 hours a day to pay off a mortgage. His complete omission of Latin America, when Mexico alone sent twice as many legal immigrants to the U.S. as China did from 2005-07, feeds into the assumption that such a family wouldn’t be able to get the mortgage to begin with.
Of course, Friedman actually is right about Mexicans not doing high tech: Mexican immigrants don't make the Top 20 list of source countries of immigrants getting American patents, even though there are far more immigrants from Mexico than any other source.