July 2005 Archives

Utterly cool but I had forgotten about it while the shuttle fleet was grounded: A Real Time Track of the shuttle and a few other major satellites.



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Libertarian politics: Bach Talk, yet another libertarian who gets it.



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HT to Dean's World for finding a link to

NASA-Funded Scientists Discover Tenth Planet
. I always expected a tenth planet to be named Charon, and I hope they keep the Roman theme, but that's kind of up to the discoverers and IAU. For all the control I have, they could name it Instapundit.



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Armies of Liberation has more on the kleptocracy and the control that the Saleh government has on pretty much every sector, even the NGOs.



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On the other side of the Air America scandal:



Atypical Joe found a very worthwhile potential debunking of the whole scandal at The American Street. I should make it clear. This whole set of allegations is something that needs to be investigated. If, like Karl Rove and Valerie Plame, there's nothing there, let it lie.



On the other hand, Michelle Malkin sends us to Macho Nachos, who notes that the Boys and Girls Club that gave the money to Air America went under. Perhaps there is an innocent explanation, but it sure doesn't pass the smell test from here.



When I actually went to Hugh Hewitt's site, he referenced relevant lines and the information derived from them on form 990 that American Street admitted he had up. He reminded me of things I learned studying Accounting. I still want to see a competent auditor go through this, but it smells worse and worse. The IRS prosecutes on inurement every time they find it.



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John Roberts Supreme Court



Beldar debunks Senator Leahy's claim about no attorney-client privilege for Roberts.



Catscape

had an article back on the 25th that I didn't get to until now about Barbara Boxer's reaction. I can't be the only one in the whole country completely fed up with hidden agendas, can I? Some of them aren't really even hidden, we just pretend we don't notice the forty ton Donkey in the room.



The Buck Stops Here has a worthwhile article on the Supreme Court, precedent, and heaps of sand.



The Moderate Voice has a great article on John Roberts talking about things wrong with the Supreme Court.



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Belmont Club has a worthwhile article on the failed states, and how the debate has become whether we should do anything.



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Big Cat Chronicles went numbers diving and found out that, predictably, the oil companies are making more, although inspecting his numbers, it appears that margins (profit as a percentage of total sales) are down. I'm not saying the oil companies should be singing "Poor Poor Pitiful Me", but although their profits are up, they appear to be a lower percentage of revenue, so they're not gouging us as much as some people say.



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Liberty and Regulation



Catallarchy has a wonderful article on the effectiveness - or lack thereof - of car seats. Seeing as California has a law requiring kids to be in these seats until age 6 or 60 pounds, I read it with interest. I wonder how many children have been killed by car-seat regulations?



HT to Classical Values for pointing me at a great quote from Samizdata





Freedom has no natural place in a "hierarchy of rights". Freedom used to be what was left over when other people's rights to their choices were taken into account. But the priesthood seems keen to ensure that there are "rights" everywhere, with no space for anything else, and that "rights" are not options, they are compulsions. Lenin would be proud.




As I Please has a nice post on the limits of the fourth amendment. I'm a civil liberties type myself. But I think that as long as we have cameras watching the watchers, surveillance in public places is a good thing.



Coyote Blog has another great post on environmentalists doing things right! They didn't want the rancher's cattle eating and trampling all the native plants. So instead of trying to get him regulated out of business, they bought his grazing rights.



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Iraq and War on Terror



Counterterrorism Blog tells us about a vulnerability that has now become obvious in the wake of London. British, Canadian, and residents of many other countries have no visa requirement to visit the United States.



Done With Mirrors has a good post on day to day operations in Iraq.



Villainous Company executes another excellent takedown of that twit alleged Stanford professor in the NY Times.



Captain's Quarters has the best explanation of why we're losing our Uzbak base that I've seen. When the US helps you against Islamist crazies, you like them. When they encourage actual democracy, you get rid of them.





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HT to Dr. Sanity for pointing me at this article on how poorly history is taught in our schools. Read the part about degrees in education rather than history. Remember it. Seems I was talking about it just yesterday



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Dr. Sanity has a post in which she analyses a compare and contrast between our our Exempt Media and the chinese government.



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HT to Incite for pointing me to China stocks nukes as anti-U.S. tactic



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This is cool. Pave-zyme



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Illegal Immigration



Drink This has an article on Anchor Babies. I already knew about this, as do most San Diegans, I suspect. But if you don't know what an anchor baby is, please read this. HT: Anti Idiotarian Rottweiler





Still a Little Nervous

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Why am I blogging at 12:30 Saturday morning, you ask? Just got in from the emergency vet. Thing, one of our (my) two dachshunds, gave us a bit of a scare. Threw up and didn't eat this morning. Stool a little loose. Didn't even eat a dog treat. When I got home, he was running a fever and didn't want to move. This is definitely not Thing, for whom Newton's laws have been modified (A Thing at rest normally does not remain at rest). Gave him the leftover rice, which normally is excellent for calming stomach, except he didn't touch it, even after I put him down right by it. As anyone who's ever had a dog knows, they are normally four-legged self-propelled apetites. Heart rate fast, breathing fast, a couple degrees of fever. More worrisome because he's recently developed a heart murmur. Ramona finally told me to take him to the emergency vet. I took him and spent five hours waiting for our turn, then test results. First hypothesis at this point is still he managed to eat something he shouldn't have. Really hope that's what it is because second hypothesis is cancer. Not totally out of the blue because he's almost thirteen and we had a mass removed from his back last month. Spent several hours holding him and petting him while waiting for vets and techs to do this and that. He was very quiet, calm, subdued - especially for Thing. Decided it was best to leave him there for the night, and finally came home. Really hoping he's OK. I will be a wreck when I lose this dog, guaranteed. He got me through a very rough time in my life. Mellon (the female) helped, but he did the lion's share, just by being Thing. He's a major part of the reason why I wasn't too far gone in cynicism when I met my wife, and why I have a family now. Just having the two of them to come home to, and watching his antics, has always been enough to cheer anybody up. How anybody can abuse, abandon, or ignore their dogs amazes me - and is a sure sign of someone who is not worth anyone's friendship. Sure hope he's alright.

Sorry about no Daily Links yesterday. I ended up helping my brother get ready to move to Washington state.



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There is an actual RPG Carnival starting up! They are accepting submissions now, the first one will appear Monday. Go here for details. I really need to game more often.



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John Roberts Supreme Court stuff:



William Kristol has a good column worth reading in The Weekly Standard on the creation of a Constitutionalist Court.



Terry Eastland has another column on Robert's application of judicial restraint. I keep learning more about this guy, and I like what I keep learning. He seems to be a moderate conservative.



Scrappleface certainly has the correct answer to those senators requesting private documents on Roberts.



Powerline reports on a press conference that may put Hillary on the horns of a dilemma. Captain's Quarters has more depth on the subject.



Eugene Volokh debunks a hit piece.



Tim Blair has a suggestion for the Democratic Senators.



SCT Nomination Blog has more on Robert's writings.



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I keep doing search engine stuff for more China/Taiwan news and not getting anything new and significant. At least two possibilities exist. The 'nuclear weapons' theme was a bluff, or it was deadly serious, is now flying under he radar, and we'll get a rude surprise when the Chinese government is ready.



Here is one article. Consider the source is Taiwanese, of course. It's still a few lines worth reading. Taiwan has had transfers of power due to democratic elections.



Here's something of a basic background to those not familiar, and here's a pdf summary of the strategic situation in terms that are about as neutral as I can find. I don't agree with everything there, but I'm forced to concede the author probably has a better understanding than I do. And here's something of political interest.







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This guy seems to be a real-life counterpart to Tommy, except that fictional Tommy had more clues to go by. Wow.



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Iraq and War on Terror



Little Green Footballs tells us the American Islamic Leaders fatwa against terrorism is bogus, and those promoting this pravda have been linked to terrorist organizations themselves. (heavy sigh) And I was so happy to see it, too (see my article here.) HT to LGF also for The Muslim mind is on fire, which shows that some Muslims "get it".



Victor Davis Hanson has more.



Mohammed at Iraq the Model has his own take worth reading.



Indepundit has one heck of a round-up of stuff. Go read it. I'll wait.



Dean's World pokes holes in Juan Cole. Not that that's difficult, or anything, but Dean does a good job.



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Powerline also takes us to President Bush's improvement on Kyoto, which Clinton didn't submit to the senate but somehow the blame ended up with George Bush who didn't take office until almost four years later, the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate (use Bug Me Not to log in).



Let me get this straight. So the environmentalists blame Bush for Clinton failing ratify Kyoto, then Bush goes out and negotiates something better. To quote Powerline, however, I don't suppose President Bush is holding his breath, waiting for the crowd to start applauding.



Captain's Quarters has more on Bush's second term successes.



Chrenkoff has more.



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Michelle Malkin has wonderful roundup of the Air America financial scandal. The level of hypocrisy is amazing. Can you imagine the fallout if any other corporation took money tagged for Boys and Girls clubs, they'd be under indictment and out of business because no one would do business with them. "But we're liberals, not like that awful Halliburton. Don't blame us." Give me a break. Go rent a clue. The fact is that your organization got the money. When you purchased it, you should either have 1) paid the money out of sale proceeds, 2) required it be paid back as a condition of the transaction, or 3) paid it back yourself. See the Eeevil McDonalds Corporation you so despise for an example of how to do it right.



Captain's Quarters has more.



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For all I publish against uncontrolled or illegal immigration, I want to draw a sharp line between that and legal, controlled immigration. Indepundit directs me to a Michael Yon article on some very welcome new citizens. Welcome aboard - you've more than earned it!



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Mike's Noise has a worthwhile article on the shuttle foam which has caused so much difficulty. If it were corporations making a profit, this would be grounds for a wrongful death suit on behalf of the Columbia's crew families. Seven people are dead, but the ozone layer is a couple of litres bigger!



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Yemen Stuff:



Politburo Diktat has a link to an Amnesty International petition. I think the possibility of it helping is worth two minutes of your time. A 14 year old boy in prison being denied a doctor?



While I was thinking of it, I went over to Armies of Liberation and more stuff on the unrest there.





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aTypical Joe makes a point that cannot be made too often. Watchful Investor makes a slightly different one.



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Fearless Philosophy has a worthwhile series of posts, What Rights Do Children Have?of which Part III pertains to education. I want to highlight one section:



While I would say the most important skills for an individual to learn is literacy and mathematics and would agree that schools are not doing a very good job teaching these vital subjects, education must not end with literacy and mathematics. Education must adapt to the new challenges of the 21st Century world in which we live. Behind literacy and mathematics, every student should learn how to reason and think for themselves (critical thinking). Once a child has a basis for these three very basic skills, he or she can then learn about health, science, history, technology, etc.





I have to say that there is a fallacy here. Mathematics and Literature, properly taught, do teach reasoning skills far better than anything else. I'm not necessarily talking about x+y=z, x-y=2z type of problems here. I'm talking about word problems, which teach one more about real world reasoning than all the arithmetic problems in all the textbooks of the world. They're the litmus test of whether you "get it". Speaking as someone with a fair amount of mathematical background, the number of times I saw mathematics taught right, from kindergarten to dozens of college level courses, I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I had a teacher who consistently taught mathematics well. These skills extend the sciences where you learn how to design experiments for what you need to know based upon what you can measure, and I can only name two teachers (both in high school - one physics, one electronics. None of the undergrad physics courses I took, which included an honors level starting sequence) who made a habit of teaching in this manner. Furthermore, it extends to literacy as well. If you make a habit of requiring essays on the issues, and grade upon how rationally and globally you deal with the issues, whether you address evidence for the other side, use examples, avoid logical fallacies, and so on, and not whether the conclusion you reach agrees with your instructor, you have further extended this into the real world. Despite Honors level courses in high school and several more in college, I cannot remember one instructor who came anywhere close to this ideal, or even pretended to. I'm probably lucky I had those few in mathematics and the sciences, but that's how all the teachers should be. I had one teacher in high school who was named National Teacher of The Year for designing a "politically correct" US History of Minorities course that didn't pretend to be balanced. Political Indoctrination has become so much a part of the game that the teachers expect to be able to do it, now even more so then was the case in the 70's when I went to high school. They expect to be praised, paid, and promoted because of it. The heresy, of course, is for someone else to be able to do it, or for people who get degrees in "education" not to be able to.



(Is it just me, or does it seem like every university education department in the country exists to politically indoctrinate young people while they've still got an effective threat "Parrot my line or you'll never get a job teaching!")



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Louisiana Libertarian has a wonderful article on the Senate locking the barn door while the horse runs out the back. Seems people want to ban pseudoephedrine, which can be and is used to make methamphetamine in street labs. But "Under pressure from law enforcement agencies and state governments, drug companies have begun reformulating popular cold medicines to prevent criminals from converting them into methamphetamine." This may happen as early as next year! But you know our Senate - instead of encouraging or even requiring the reformulation, they're going to pass a law requiring all purchasers to admit to their purchases of cold medicines.







david M. Kennedy, a Stanford professor who's nose is so elevated he evidently cannot read a dictionary, has a piece in the NY Slimes on our 'mercenary' army.



From American Spirit Political Dictionary:



mercenary - a person who offers his services for pay, and does not have any personal adherence to the cause he represents. Usually used of a mercenary soldier, but can apply in other fields as well.



I saw this and was trying to think of how to answer this person, who is allegedly so well educated that Stanford hired him as a professor. Indepundit (language advisory on the comments) and Mudville Gazetter and (languange advisory) Blackfive saved me the trouble. Not to mention that I'm not certain Afghanistan or Iraq are military adventurism by the definition of the founders. As opposed to military action in the westward expansion of our frontiers, our interventions in Latin America in the 1930's, or even Thomas Jefferson's own use of the Navy and Marine Corps to fight the Barbary Pirates in the early 19th century, either Afghanistan or Iraq certainly seem less adventuristic.



As a final bit of strategic thinking, I observe that the proponents of a draft all seem to be left of center politically. If I were to form a preliminary hypothesis of desired action from these observations, they seem to have a goal of getting more liberals into the military. I can see several possible reasons for this: They believe a military with more liberals in it won't support the right as much. They believe a military with more liberals in it will have more children of liberals, thus enhancing war protests when it is used. They believe a military with more liberals in it will be less oriented towards the career military, as draftees are less likely to re-enlist. They believe that placing more liberals in the military will influence it's culture leftwards (about as much as a Chihuahua influencing a Great Dane). Or, one final hypothesis to consider: They want those on the left politically to be forced to acquire the sorts of skills one acquires in the military, because they're certainly not going to join on their own.



Oh, and Stanford? Next time you're looking for professors, I can point you at several hundred thousand who will embarrass you less than this guy.



(HT: Instapundit for the links)



USA Today uses a Kennedy Space Center byline to bash the War in Iraq.



This really ticks me off. It happens that I agree with them that space is the better long term investment. I think a permanent presence in orbit and in the Asteroid Belt is likely to be one of the best things we can do for ourselves technologically and industrially (Kuiper Belt/Oort Cloud can come later). Colonies on other planets in this solar system is a cute idea, but until Mars and Venus are terraformed, we're already sitting on the one worthwhile chunk of real estate in the solar system.



This has nothing to do with Iraq. Nor is Iraq the only thing our government is doing that we could cut in a trade to find the money for space exploration. Just cutting the number of Robert C. Byrd Projects in half would fund space exploration for the next century.



This is a false choice. The two items have nothing to do with each other except as they are competing (with many thousands of other projects!) for the same resources. It would be equally valid to run an editorial "Welfare or Space? Which is the smartest investment?". Then we could compare "Welfare or Iraq, which is the smartest investment?" (the latter, in case you are wondering).



Just because one investment is smarter than another doesn't mean the other one doesn't deserve - or require - funding.



Scott Kirwin of Dean's World directs us to Harry Stein column in City Journal, and then amplifies on one aspect, saying that he, too has a mixed marriage, and that it works very well and helps make him and his wife better people. He quotes Gerald Ford, "We can disagree without being disagreeable."



First off, I want to corroborate his story. My wife's family are all democrats, she marched with Cesar Chavez as a young girl. Mind you, they've pretty much stayed in the same place politically while the Donkeys drifted further to the left, to the point where she has actually considered registering Republican in the last year or so. Furthermore, most of the people I tend to hang out with are either Libertarian or Democratic, and they keep me from going to far towards the right.



Second, when exactly did we lose the ability to disagree without being disagreeable? When and where did people start automatically assuming that the opposition is evil? Particularly if they don't convert to your point of view upon a first exposure to what you regard as pertinent facts?



Out of personal experience, I can trace the phenomenon back to 1976 on the left. Some members of my family are what we today call die-hard moonbats. I remember when Ronald Reagan was challenging Gerald Ford for the Elephant nomination back then them using some significantly over the top rhetoric on their part, "crazy attack dog who needs to go back to the B movies," "He'd have us in a nuclear war in twenty minutes", etcetera. I seem to remember him serving as president for eight years, correct me if I'm wrong but I don't recall any nuclear wars during that period.



On the right the first I encountered it was Rush Limbaugh. I can remember the first time I listened to him, thinking, "Okay, he's funny, he's willing to call it like he sees it, he is a breath of something pointed vaguely in my direction politically, but he's dangerous." I haven't listened to Rush in quite some time. I stopped years ago because even when he and I agree, I could detect no pretenses towards what I see as rational thought process on his part.



People are entitled to hold to different viewpoints than my own. Some of these people are rational, thinking human beings. The universe knows my own views on many subjects have evolved over time. Why can't somebody with a different starting place be different now? Why can't they have gone further, or not as far, or off in a completely different direction? Some of the smartest people I know think differently than I do. My father, who was beyond doubt the best man I've ever had the privilege of knowing, was a Democratic New Deal man to the core. He voted the straight Democratic ticket every election his entire life. You could have run a Democratic slate pulled from their KKK wing and their Communist wing, and he'd have voted for them all. I loved him anyway.



Why do people believe differently than I do? First off, they have different value systems. Somebody who legitimately believes that surrender is preferable to war is not going to agree with me on much having to do with national defense. I take solace in the thought that there are a lot more people whose values coincide with my own on this point than there are of them.



Second, we've had different life experiences. Someone who's family comes from Central America, for example, is going to have a completely different viewpoint on the CIA and our national defense structure, as for a large part of the 20th century the US didn't exactly treat those countries with a whole lot of respect.



Third, we may even see different facts differently. I am completely convinced that Lee Harvey Oswald was solely responsible for the murder of John F. Kennedy, but we have major films from people who aren't. These people have regular conventions, periodicals, etecetera. I think they're in denial and even if they're right, it wouldn't make a difference today. They think I am the one in denial, and that by so believing, make myself into a Tool. Maybe one of these days I'll come across a fact, verified and vetted, that causes me to change my mind (not likely, I'll admit. But the possibility is there.)



Fourth, we have different competencies. I've got a fairly broad spectrum of general stuff that I'm pretty good at, with areas of specialization here and there. Some of these are because of college coursework, some due to vocational concerns, and a whole lot of them because I find them fascinating (For instance, the intertwining of military, political, and technological history). On the other hand, aside from marvelling at the skill involved in a masterwork painting, I have no clue about painting. I can sometimes spot that "This looks like a Van Gogh" before somebody tells me, but that's about it. I have no idea of the artistic heritage that led to Van Gogh, who his influences were, or anything else that crowd finds fascinating. Similar situations apply in other fields. It's not that I despise these people, it's just that I'm interested in other things. When I talk about Napoleon's influence on Clausewitz and through him on the Prussian (later German) army, or influences on tactics derived from the advent of rapid fire weapons, and how the American Civil War was a prelude tactically to World War I, I see the same blank stares back as I give them when they're talking about Rembrandt or Picasso. That's okay. But it means I see things through a different prism of learning than I do. Through the things I have studied, I am going to understand background facts without needing them explicitly covered, sometimes they are. And sometimes even after we have them explained, we're not going to change our minds. It may not be rational, but it is human. It doesn't make us evil.



Now, how do we disagree with someone without being disagreeable? First off, to the extent practical, we can aim our opposition at the issue, not the individual. It is not the same to say that "2 plus 2 equals four" as it is to say, "only an idiot wouldn't realize two plus two equals four." Second, spend some time listening to them. Try to understand what they're saying. It doesn't cause cancer. Maybe there's a fact in there that one or the other of you has wrong. Maybe there's a misunderstanding that you can clear up. Maybe you have a misunderstanding that they can clear up. And maybe the metaphorical temples that both of us listen to for our daily wisdom are both in the habit of ignoring inconvenient facts, and the real truth lies somewhere in the middle.



Once upon a time not too long ago we could disagree without automatically hating each other's guts. Back in the 1950s it was a national joke about the wife's vote cancelling out the husband's (or vice versa). If two people who agree about nothing political can nonetheless be and stay happily married for life then, why can't we be civil to those who disagree with us in public discourse today?



For Sale By Owner

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I've been taking a long look at the world of For Sale By Owner and similar concepts lately. With the digital revolution, you always want to be watching the tide to figure out if you're in a business that's about to go the way of milk delivery and diaper service - a few left, but only a tiny fraction of the size they were. Since blogs and online magazines replacing or at least greatly supplementing mainstream journalism is one thing I'm constantly reading about, it might be good information to know if my real career is about to go the way of journalism.



At this point, I'm not worried about needing to change professions. The world of For Sale By Owner (FSBO) does seem to be figuring out the legal ramifications fairly well. There are resources available to get most, if not all, of the legally required disclosures for sellers to avoid future liability to the buyers. I'm going to go on record as believing from the things that I have read that they are not as assiduously practiced as they are by people with real estate agents working for them. Reading the groups, I am seeing all kinds of whining about "Do I have to disclose X?" "Do I really have to disclose Y?" Sometimes, the stuff is minor and inconsequential (leaky toilet, drippy faucet), but a lot of times it's pretty major as well (water leak in/under slab, lead based paint, asbestos, "minor" cracks in the slab). Mind you, I've heard similar whining from real estate agents, particularly new ones. But the real estate agents at least want to be in business (and not sued) for a long professional career with many transactions every year, and so have motivation to disclose everything they find out about, lest one transaction cost them their license. Many individual owners, it seems, even the ones who have been made aware of the legal requirement to disclose, are hoping to get through the one transaction unscathed. After all, they hope they're going to be long gone when the problem crops up. To this, I say, don't count on it, and failure to disclose can often make your legal liability worse than it needs to be.



Needless to say, this is a big "let the buyer beware," when dealing with FSBO properties. You're standing across the table from someone with an immediate motivation to not tell you about whatever metaphorical bodies are buried in the property because once told you may not still want to buy, and most particularly you may wish to reduce your offering price. They have only a hazy motivation to tell you - the indefinite threat of perhaps some legal action sometime in the future. If it doesn't make you uneasy, something is wrong.



One area FSBO is falling short in is picking an appropriate asking price. By the evidence, this is not only lack of information but also homeowner ego speaking here. Some people are not aware of what their home is really worth, or if they are aware then they are ignoring the evidence. Speaking from personal experience in the current market, persuading people to put an appropriate asking price on their property is one of the most difficult parts of the listing interview. They are still mentally in the seller's market we had last year, where they could automatically expect to get more than their neighbor got a couple of months ago. Also significantly, in the long seller's market just concluded, many real estate professionals were making a lot of money buying "For Sale By Owner" properties that were under-priced, and immediately "flipping" them for $30,000 to $50,000 profit, often more. Here's the math for a property that sells for $460,000 but should have sold for $500,000: In the latter case, assuming you pay a standard 5%, you paid a $25,000 commission, split between the buying and selling brokers. But you come away with a net that's $15,000 higher. I personally know of several sales where an agent purchasing a FSBO property then sold it again before escrow was even completed for profit of $75,000 or more.



There is still some of that going on, but the problem right now with most FSBO properties seems to be over-pricing the market, rather than under. Their neighbors house sold for $500,000, and by god they are going to get $525,000. Never mind that the neighbor house has an extra bedroom, an extra bathroom, 800 more square feet, sits on a corner lot that's twice the size, and most importantly, sold when demand was high and supply was low. They are going to get that price, come hell or high water. So they put that out as the asking price, and they wonder why the one or two people to express an interest vanish as soon as they've seen it. The reason is simple: They've priced themselves out of the market. There are better homes to be had for less money. In the past few years, this was a survivable defect. When prices are rising as fast as they were, the market would catch up to anything that was vaguely reasonable. That has changed now. It's bad enough with people who have a real estate agent for their listing. Two of the hardest fights with listing clients in this market are keeping the property priced to the market, and getting them to accept what in today's market is a good offer rather than hoping for last year's "bigger fool." Seems that most people who don't have an agent are just in denial. There's a FSBO two doors down the block from a corner listing we had where I held an open house. Even with me drawing the traffic to him, he didn't get a single offer because his asking price was too high. That's fine if you would be happy and able to stay if the property doesn't sell. If you're not in that situation, it's not.



Another area where FSBO properties are falling short is in marketing. They've got an internet advertisement and a sign in the yard. Maybe they've got an advertisement in the paper (usually the wrong one), and maybe they are holding open houses. All of these are nice. None of these are optimal. First thing is that internet advertisement you have is often on one site where even internet savvy buyers don't necessarily see it. Even if that is free, it's probably worth money to list on a co-operating network of sites. For Sale By Owner signs in the yard are more bait for agents than a prospective buyer. I'll put a sign out there when I get a listing also - it does catch a few people, and a sign with an agent or broker's name on it keeps other agents from bothering you. But it's a long shot at actually selling the property.



There are places to advertise your property to actually sell it, and there are places where agents advertise their business to attract new clients. Most of the FSBO ads I see seem to be in the latter sort of place. I don't think I recall a "For Sale By Owner" ad in the places where I'd expect it to generate significant actual interest in buying that particular property. There are reasons for this. The ones that are likely to generate interest require more lead time. I don't mind spending the money (especially amalgamating my listing with other listings in the office). Even if it sells before then, it helps the office generate more clients we're going to go out and show similar properties with, and I get a certain proportion of those. But For Sale By Owners tend to balk, as they are thinking one transaction. There are also resources that make an Open House effective, but are not cost effective for somebody looking to sell one house.



Number one resource for actually selling the property is the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). Put it out there where the agents who the buyers come to will see it. My primary specialty is buyer's agent. I know they are ready, willing and able to buy a property. Do I even take them to look at "For Sale By Owner" properties? Not unless I know ahead of time that the seller will pay my commission. Nor does any other buyer's agent I know of. Before you "For Sale By Owner" types start cursing us, remember first, we've got to make a living so we'll be there for the next buyer. Second, we're actually living up to our fiduciary responsibility when we do this, as I've got their signature on a piece of paper that says they'll pay me if you don't. So unless your property is priced far enough under the market to justify the expense on my client's part, your property is not a contender, and I'd better be prepared to justify the expense on my client's part in court, so your under-pricing the market has got to be by more than my commission. Furthermore, going back to legal requirements, I've got to figure that there is a higher than usual chance that the seller will not make all the necessary disclosures, or perhaps won't tell the complete truth and nothing but the truth on them. This puts my clients, and through them, me in a bind: Sure my clients can and will sue you, but if you don't have the money my insurance is likely going to end up paying out, because even though I've done everything I reasonably could have done, you didn't have an agent.



Given that the Multiple Listing Service is far and away the best tool for selling any given property, if you're not on it, you're missing out on buyers. If you don't have a selling agent's commission listed on Multiple Listing Service that is at least what is specified in the default Buyer's Agent Agreement in your area, you are missing out on buyers. If you don't have an agent at all, you are missing more buyers. Because I, like other buyer's agents, want to be certain we're not wasting our time. I've done a real pre-qualification or even a preapproval on my buyers (if the transaction doesn't actually go through, I don't get paid by anyone). Compare that with Mr. P, whom I sent away the night before I finished this essay. He's out there looking at houses he wants to buy, but the fact is that given the situation he should continue renting. A competent loan officer such as myself who was less ethical could maybe get him the loan anyway, or maybe not. It would certainly be an uphill fight. So he's out low-balling "For Sale By Owner" properties on his own today. The one who's desperate enough to sell at that price needs the transaction done with the first buyer who comes along, and is going to spend at least a month finding out there's only a small chance of the transaction actually going through, a month that they likely don't have to spare. The other For Sale By Owners are likely to get mightily annoyed with him, but he's the customer they're most likely to get.



Caveat Emptor (and Vendor)




UPDATED here

I got 100% on this test. See how you do.



I Received this History Test, See how you do



Please pause a moment, reflect back, and take the following multiple choice test. The events are actual cuts from past history. They actually happened!!!Do you remember?

1. 1968 Bobby Kennedy was shot and killed by:

a. Superman

b. Jay Leno

c. Harry Potter

d. Muslim male extremist between the ages of 17 and 40



2. In 1972 at the Munich Olympics, athletes were kidnapped and massacred by:

a. Olga Corbett

b. Sitting Bull

c. Arnold Schwarzenegger

d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40



3. In 1979, the US embassy in Iran was taken over by:

a. Lost Norwegians

b. Elvis

c. A tour bus full of 80-year-old women

d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40



4. During the 1980's a number of Americans were kidnapped in Lebanon by:

a. John Dillinger

b. The King of Sweden

c. The Boy Scouts

d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40



5. In 1983, the US Marine barracks in Beirut was blown up by:

a. A pizza delivery boy

b. Pee Wee Herman

c. Geraldo Rivera

d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40



6. In 1985 the cruise ship Achille Lauro was hijacked and a 70 year old American passengerwas murdered and thrown overboard in his wheelchair by:

a. The Smurfs

b. Davy Jones

c. The Little Mermaid

d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40



7. In 1985 TWA flight 847 was hijacked at Athens, and a US Navy diver trying to rescuepassengers was murdered by:

a. Captain Kidd

b. Charles Lindberg

c. Mother Teresa

d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40



8. In 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 was bombed by:

a. Scooby Doo

b. The Tooth Fairy

c. Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid

d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40



9. In 1993 the World Trade Center was bombed the first time by:

a. Richard Simmons

b. Grandma Moses

c. Michael Jordan

d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40



10. In 1998, the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed by:

a. Mr. Rogers

b. Hillary Clinton, to distract attention from Wild Bill' s women problems

c. The World Wrestling Federation

d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40



11. On 9/11/01, four airliners were hijacked; two were used as missiles to take out theWorld Trade Centers and of the remaining two, one crashed into the US Pentagon andthe other was diverted and crashed by the passengers. Thousands of people were killed by:

a. Bugs Bunny, Wiley E. Coyote, Daffy Duck and Elmer Fudd

b. The Supreme Court of Florida

c. Mr. Bean

d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40



12. In 2002 the United States fought a war in Afghanistan against:

a. Enron

b. The Lutheran Church

c. The NFL

d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40



13. In 2002 reporter Daniel Pearl was kidnapped and murdered by:

a. Bonnie and Clyde

b. Captain Kangaroo

c. Billy Graham

d. Muslim male extremists mostly between the ages of 17 and 40



Nope.....I really don't see a pattern here to justify profiling, do you? So, to ensure we Americans never offend anyone, particularly fanatics intent on killing us, airport security screeners will no longer be allowed to profile certain people. They must conduct random searches of 80-year-old women, little kids, airline pilots with proper identification, secret agents who are members of the President's security detail, 85-year old Congressmen with metal hips, and Medal of Honor winners and former Governor Joe Foss, but leave Muslim Males between the ages 17 and 40 alone because of profiling. Gloria Aldreds and other dunder-headed attorneys along with Federal Justices that want to thwart common sense, feel doubly ashamed of themselves - if they have any such sense.



Found on King Ryan's Blog

Carnival of the Vanities is up! Especially good Open Challenge to the Detractors of Rep. Tom Tancredo (I disagree, but it's a good article), Top Secret Democrat Party Strategy Meeting - Exposed! (I think it was intended as satire), Physics, Wealth Creation, and Zero Sum Economics, and History and Fantasy



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John Roberts Supreme Court news



Alberto Gonzalez needs to shut up. He's not the nominee. He doesn't speak for the nominee. Don't give the wing-nuts bait. Okay, he didn't really speak for the nominee. But statements like "A Supreme Court Justice is not bound by precedent if he considers it wrong," while by definition correct (otherwise, for instance, Roe vs. Wade would never have been granted cert), is nonetheless fanning the political flames in this contest. This is not really in anybody's best interest. Captain's Quarters has more.



Captain's Quarters has more on requests for confidential documents. Exactly how many of Ginsberg's confidential documents did they request?



A Legal Affairs Debate Club on legitimate questions to ask. (HT: Instapundit)



Powerline has more on precedents set by the last set of hearings.



Volokh Conspiracy debunks a lower federal judge disputing Robert's Appeals decisions on Hedgepeth. They also cite an Amusing coincidence.



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The Elephant in the Room: Notice how there's nothing on the causes of the violence in the article. Two words twice. Illegal Drugs. Illegal aliens. Both go away if we actually control our border. Being a civil libertarian, I think there would be less damage done if the drugs were legal than with the greatest degree of practical law enforcement, but if we're going to control this, let's control it.



The Immigration Blog has more on costs of illegal immigration, and advances fines on employers as the best way to solve the problem for the 500 millionth time. Question: If all Republicans are tools of corporate interests, why are Republicans the ones advocating this? Question: If (mostly) Republican rank and file and centrist voters are overwhelmingly advocating this, why the heck aren't the Republican leaders doing it? The first question is rhetorical, but the obvious answer to the second is that Republican politicians are afraid it will create single issue voters out of our largest minority. Why aren't the Democrats going after the issue and all the centrist voters? Because they're giving the Republicans rope to hang themselves, and they need hispanics and illegal hispanics to stay competitive. Ladies and gentlemen, I married into a hispanic family that's been here since 1916, and if you pin them down, they are opposed to illegal immigration also, and they're still registered Democrats. Keep it focused on the illegal aspect and disassociate yourself quickly from any racists remarks, and the issue is a winner. Pete Wilson figured this out ten years ago. Why can't anybody else?



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Iraq and War on Terror:



Gateway Pundit has a round up on unrest in Iran. HT: Instapundit



Iraq the Model has some great comments on the most recent draft of the Iraqi constitution. Since clerics are the only power structure that remain, independent of the Baathist party, from the old regime, I strongly suspect a quid pro quo for their support thus far.



Interesting bit from CQ. About time somebody called the Syrians on their support of the insurgency, but I wonder how much of it is "act tough because the americans are here"?



A Redleg's Perspective tells us of "The 1 weapon necessary for victory" (HT: Mudville Gazette)





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Michelle Malkin notes that Air America seems to be siphoning public funds out of New York City. Not that anyone's ever accused the left of having ethics or anything, but this is disgusting.



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HT to Austin Bay for some extra development off this Interesting report on the Chinese Economy



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Reason Online has a nice balanced post on the Violence Against Women Act. (HT: Dean's World)



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Arguing with Signposts has an article about consumer slowdown ahead. I've been saying, "When it hits, hold on to your hats!" for some time now. The average consumer is overleveraged, including with mortgage debt. When home values are no longer there to rescue the economy, watch out! This is one reason why I've been critical of recent raises to the overnight funds rate.



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Nailed! Why Hillary Will Never be President







This isn't what I'd call a hopeful sign yet. But it is the first step towards a helpful sign when the people who have been giving Mugabe a pass all this time are no longer willing to write a blank check.



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I can't believe this is any way, shape or form worthy of printing in a newspaper. The writer is the lawyer that is representing Wilson and Plame. They're not even accused of anything criminal, just stupidity and dishonesty. So obviously USA Today is going to give everyone else's lawyer an equal amount of column space? (crickets chirping). Didn't think so.



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Yay! Shuttle Discovery Blasts Into Orbit



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HT to Justus for all for pointing to The Failed States Index. A heck of a good page. I'm sorry for Columbia, whose modern politicians seem to be trying to dig themselves out of a hole that was dug quite some time ago, and other states on the list as well.



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Angry in the Great White North has a post on realpolitik and Canada's frontiers. I'd like to see them return to some of the ideals of Red Ensign days. Doesn't look likely to happen.



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"(Americans) don't want to rule the world -- we want to be able to ignore it. Hilarious and true! I don't know how often I've thought that rational foreign policy sounds like mom telling her squabbling children, "Don't make me come up there!"



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I am sorry that this is so late and so minimal for the second day in a row. I hate it when real life interferes with my internet use. On the plus side, I've got my consumer pieces done through Thursday. Tomorrow will be a re-edited piece on "The Good Faith Estimate (part I)", and Thursday will be a real life look at "For Sale By Owner".



Housing Bubble

| | Comments (0)

Gay Orbit: "Besides once in California, which completely recovered in a short period of time, by the way, can someone please show me an example of a "Housing Bubble" that burst that did not completely recover within a few (i.e., 3-10) years?



"Housing Bubbles" were invented by stock brokers, and real estate remains, and will almost assuredly remain, your absolute best investment."



(me again)



Actually, California pricing has reliably gone through cycles within my lifetime. We have hit the peak of the fifth one I remember (1991 was the last peak, which makes this the longest period between peaks ever. Previous peaks were mid 80s, about 1978, about 1970, and one when I was very young), and started a downslide. Right now it is primarily the higher end properties which have been hit, but it's starting to push the middle down as well. It is important to note that with the exception of the slide of 1929 to 1932 (when real estate prices fell, as well, and didn't come back to 1929 levels in most of the country until after the war), the stock market has not had a slump which it didn't come back from within ten years, either. Furthermore, when you consider returns uncorrected for leverage, the stock market reliably outperforms real estate over the long term.



In fact, nobody that I'm aware of has said that anyone who intends to buy and hold for years cannot make money - a lot of it - in the current market, even if prices do fall for a while. The problem is in the formerly large number of people looking to buy a property with the intent of "flipping" it for a quick profit. As the ability to buy your average property with the goal of selling it in six months for a substantial profit even after paying transaction costs is just about dead, so too are those deals that would have been made by those buyers. This has the effect of reducing marginal demand, and voila!, the prices are starting to slip. I (and every other bubble proponent out there that I have read) am confident that the prices will come back eventually. The question now, as in the stock market bubble that ended in 2000, will be how long it will take to come back and how far down it's going to go. Right now, lots of people are still down more than 50% from the stock market peak in March 2000. If they need to retire, or need the money for some other reason now, they are stuck. The same goes with housing, which due to the increased leverage of the investment can be much better when it's good to much worse when it's bad. There are at least three "short sales" (where proceeds will not cover obligations) in process in my office right now. If you can't hang on, it does not help you that prices will come back eventually. There's an awful lot of "Negative Amortization" loans out there that will be coming up on recast in the next 18 months, as well as "interest only" loans where the people just cannot afford the amortized payment. Be prepared for problems when they do, as this is going to significantly enlarge the supply (Inventory in many markets is over 200 percent of last years levels already, and mean time on market is even higher as number of transactions slips). The fact that prices have slipped will place many people temporarily upside down, and so unable to make their payments and unable to refinance when their loan adjusts or starts amortizing. Expect foreclosures to further increase the supply of available units.



If you are heavily leveraged on a short term loan (total loans against property total over 70% of current value, and most especially over 80%), I seriously suggest refinancing it into a longer term fixed rate loan now, while appraisers can still find justifiable comparables that use peak real estate values. It is entirely likely that any property which has changed hands in the last couple of years, at least here in urban or urban fringe California (and many other markets, as well), is going to end up upside down for an unknowable period of time.



I am a Loan Officer and Real Estate Agent, and still have current financial licenses which I have not yet abandoned. Real Estate Bubbles are not "invented" by stock brokers; the just ended bull market run in housing was the longest in recent memory partially due to peripheral psychological factors on behalf of investors "chasing returns" in what many will tell them is a "safe market", as well as things having to do with the financial aftermath of 9/11 as well as overcompetitiveness on the part of many pieces of the financial market, most particularly the subprime and Alt-A market. As a particular prediction, when the fall off from the current market is over and done with, I wouldn't expect there to be any lenders willing to go 100 percent on the value of a property for quite some time. There are many people out there too young to remember previous housing cycles, and partially for this reason and partially because the housing markets are more heavily leveraged than at any point since the Depression, I expect to be in for a couple of UGLY years.



I would be delighted to be wrong. Nobody will be happier than me if you can crow at me in a few years time "Told ya!" But I see what I see, and I won't lie about it to anyone (especially not clients) simply because it makes it easier to earn a commission. If you happen to be in the real estate business, be very careful what you tell your clients, or, at least in California, you'll likely wish you had.



Both real estate and the stock market go through periodic downturns. The question is not if, but "when" and "how much" and "how long." You always need a place to live, and you can make money if you invest prudently in any market, and the permitted leverage upon real estate together with favorable tax treatment gives it an advantage that's hard to beat. I had clients make double digit positive returns in each of 2000, 2001, and 2002 in the stock market, too. They were the ones who didn't get greedy (2003 was a rising tide that lifted all boats. It isn't genius when everybody makes 25%). Even in this market, you can make money on real estate, just like you could in the stock market when it was sliding.



In both cases, "time in" counts for more than "timing", but that's not the mentality you encounter in the average client. See my post Getting Rich Quick In Real Estate and Cold Hard Numbers for more information, but although real estate can be the best possible investment if you handle it correctly, it is not liquid. In fact, it is just about the least liquid investment you can make. You cannot go to your real estate person, as you can to a financial person, and say "liquidate it for cash" and expect to have a check for market value within a few days. You have to find a willing buyer. This is one reason for the existence of the "bigger fool theory," and sometimes that bigger fool doesn't come along when you need him to.



Caveat Emptor

UPDATED here

Carnival of the Capitalists is up! Especially worthwhile: When Does The War Stop?, Wanting Our Cake and Eating It Too, How Many People Should Be Working In America?



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Carnival of Liberty is up as well. Favorites: Natural Rights Doctrine, The Politics of Liberty, Quotational Therapy, and On Nuance and the Constitution



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RINO Sightings is also up! I especially recommend: Protecting the World from Poor Journalism, The Death of Unions,



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Jackson's Junction has a wonderful post on identity theft, the 21st century tragedy of the commons. (HT: Instapundit)



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Publius Pundit has an excellent column on Amnesty International bending over way too far in its attempts to be evenhanded, and also its institutional amnesia. I don't remember any of this sort of equivocation or tracing of US constraints on their infamous Guantanamo Bay declaration, nor could I find any on a quick skim (HT: LGF)



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Hugh Hewitt covers the Democratic senators on the Judiciary committee.



Powerline gets a tip of the hat for pointing me to a CBS news editorial that either doesn't want us to steal judge's legitimate power (their opinion) or wants judges to continue to abrogate more power to themselves (my opinion). When any number of decisions are made, X declared a constitutional right or Y being declared an unconstitutional law, based upon no wording actually found in the Constitution, something is wrong. I certainly don't want to go back to "John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it," but preventing the judges from arrogating to themselves the powers that properly belong to the Legislative, or even occasionally the Executive branch, needs to become more of a national project. Either judges need to face regular elections, or they have to stop doing the Congress' (and parts of the Executive's) job. I'd rather it be the latter, but I'm open to the former. Alas, the only scenario I see for constraining the judiciary is a House of Representatives committee that actually does its job and impeaches some activist judges on both ends of the spectrum (although it may be hard to find conservative candidates), as opposed to twiddling it's thumbs.



Sorry, but I was busy today!







National Review Online has a good article on the influence muslims who migrate to the west have on their homelands. It's good to know that some influence goes the other way.



Samizdata makes some good points as well. The two things that immigrants must assimilate are tolerance and the right to make individual choices. (HT: Instapundit)



Victor Davis Hanson has more



Little Green Footballs has more on the lengths they will go to to spread their lies.



Captain's Quarters further with further reductio ad absurdem: WHat has Egypt to do with troops in Afghanistan and Iraq?



Forward Biased makes a point about an effective response to a need to profile, and also tells about an incident near his small town with an Islamic person that could have turned out very badly



Catallarchy has a list of questions for the appeasers.



Some people are objecting to having backpacks searched on the subway. I suspect that their T-shirts are going to cause them to be singled out. Catscape has a better idea.



Protein Wisdom has a wonderful article saying what I've been saying for some time. Most nations over the vast history of the world, what Galloway, Teddy, etcetera have been doing would be defined as treason. In the US and the UK, it is only not treason because treason has been intentionally defined as narrowly as possible to facilitate freedom of speech, among other things. They should be down on their knees thanking their lucky stars that the US and UK are not morally equivalent to Al-Qaeda. (HT: Environmental Republican)



State of Flux has an article elucidating personal experiences as to why the Iraqis won't help more. This is exactly what I was talking about here, although I got sidetracked from mentioning Iraq in 1991 directly.



Wizbang: If it walks, talks, and quacks like a duck during duck season, it's gonna get shot.



Clarity and Resolve has more along the lines of my piece here Whatsakyer has a piece on the Taliban recruiting children. (HT: Jawa Report)



Castle Argghhh! has a post elaborating the reasons I think we shouldn't nuke Mecca, even if the terrorists set one off here. I have no problem with it if Saudi Arabia initiates that kind of attack (or nuking Tehran if Iran does), but you do have have a definite point to the responsible entity before you use nukes. Nukes are overkill, and they would damn us to the rest of the world. "What did the people of Mecca do to you?", the world would ask, and the answer would be "nothing." This kind of response will lose the war on terror more certainly than anything else except giving up.



Stop the ACLU on "no racial profiling allowed."



Ace of Spades nails the whole profiling issue. (HT: Daily Pundit)



Dr. Sanity (who else) nails the left on their attitude on terrorism and their denial about why they lost the election.

(HT: Roger L. Simon)



Finally, Scrappleface gives us the only way to get the UN involved







Captain's Quarters takes on the Anita Hill Column. My $.02 worth: The forty-ton Donkey in the room is, of course, that Ms. Hill in the first place wanted not just a black nominee, but a black nominee that spewed and would adhere to what her notions of what a black nominee should be. Her opposition to Mr. Thomas, who I believe deserves to be Chief Justice, does not serve her well. If I knew nothing about John Roberts, Ms. Hill's oppostiion would be a good reason to support him. As things are, it is one more confirmation that he is worthy of that to which he has been nominated.



Some people will go to any lengths for a radical agenda. Volokh Conspiracy has more on why it's a slimy tactic and something we wouldn't want to see Republicans use on a Democratic nominee, either. The forty ton Donkey in this room is that these people want to find out how a judge would vote on their pet issues - questions that legal ethics prevent the nominee from answering. A nominee's legal and public writings are fair game. Memos for internal use are not.



Louisiana Libertarian shows us the Democratic Underground effectively fisking itself.



Powerline makes the point that Souter was unlikely to have been a conservative to start with.



Weekly Standard debunks Souterphobia as regards Roberts.



Volokh Conspiracy has an article on the precedent for the O'Connor situation regarding the precedent of Warren Burger replacing Earl Warren.



Althouse discusses Arlen Specter making up a term and expecting to get away with it. She directs us to Beldar's take down.



Mark Steyn debunks a liberal meme again for the 945th time.



This should be a joke department: Right Thoughts notes that John Kerry, of all the hypocrites in the world, is demanding the White House release all of Robert's documents and memos. "We cannot do our duty if either Judge Roberts or the Bush administration hides elements of his professional record," said the Massachusetts senator who was his party's presidential candidate last year." Hey John! Guess what?



Scrappleface has the correct take on this.







Looks like they've identified something to fight one component of Alzheimer's Cool!



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Common Sense and Wonder notes the real reason we can't post the Ten Commandments in courthouses: harrassment regulations. "TEN COMMANDMENTS The real reason that we can't have the Ten

Commandments in a Courthouse? You cannot post "Thou

Shalt Not Steal," "Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery" and

"Thou Shall Not Lie" in a building full of lawyers,

judges and politicians! It creates a hostile work

environment!"



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Bad news for those who want to pull California off a straight into the toilet course: Redistricting Initiative removed from ballot.



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Old Pot, New Kettle: Partisan Politics In Kentucky



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For those still following Kelo, Mr. Completely directs us to Eminent Domain Watch. I'm sorry to say that I have given up on instituting rational, realpolitik ways to stop eminent domain abuse. All of the interest is in stopping it cold, so it theoretically can't happen. Ladies and Gentlemen, not only are there times when it needs to happen, when it should happen, when society needs it to happen, trying to flatly prohibit it won't work. The powerful will figure out a way, no matter what is enacted in that wise. I can easily poke holes you can push entire Townships through in every single "stop it completely" proposal I've seen, and they are not repairable holes. Furthermore, it is a long standing problem with eminent domain that people who are victims of it are rarely compensated enough for the property that is taken, let alone legal expenses, time away from gainful work, etcetera. The approach of flat prohibition is obvious, and it certainly feels good, but is fundamentally flawed. Approach instead, from the idea of taking away the incentive for abuses, making abuses unprofitable, and abuses will stop. See this article and the preceding articles in that chain if you want to see an approach that at least has a chance.



INCITE has more on the Texas response. Let's see how well it actually works.



MuD and PHuD has another piece on Kelo. I don't like to see someone get slimed any more than the next person, but if she is claiming it as her primery residence in order to be able to get insurance, get better rates, or whatever, and she is not actually living there, she is committing FRAUD. Serious, felony level FRAUD. Just because she was the victim on some other issue does not entitle her to commit FRAUD. Or should we award Rodney King a free pass for life (even assuming he was a victim, a fact of which I am not sure)?







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Libercontrarian has a worthwhile fisking of the traditional libertarian response to illegal immigration.



Rhymes With Right shows us some tentative steps in the right direction.



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Poetic Justice Department: Combs Spouts Off has an article about how a feminist newsletter is ceasing publication due to the possibility a child might see it. Combs is upset; I'm sorry he's upset but I'm laughing. I think the pornographers and people who want to buy from them should (mostly) be allowed to go their own way. But the feminists decry the "objectification of women" and "exploitation" and want it banned. A realistic analysis yields the parties that are being exploited are the purchasers. But I digress.



Now the feminists (among others), being able to hire some smart lawyers, know that the first amendment stands in the way of direct banning, so their primary tactic has been to set an impossibly high bar towards proving that nobody less than the age of 18 participates, and nobody less than the age of 18 can possibly view it - as these are worthwhile causes that unless closely examined everybody will sign off on. Everybody wants to protect the children from porn. Problem is, new standards are setting the recordkeeping on willing participants down to the individual copy level, and that's ridiculous. Nobody can comply with that. There will be a legal challenge, of course, and if it's overturned we're going to hear all about how the Supreme Court wants children to view porn. Balderdash. The recordkeeping requirements are odious past all reason, and I'm glad to see this nonsense burning some of the perpetrators. Assuming the regulations are overturned, as I think likely, porn will come right back but these twits are likely to have been really hurt. (Cue Evil Laughter Here).



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Antigravitas , among others, doesn't like the Patriot Act extension. I don't find it so objectionable. Unlike the First and Second Amendments, the Fourth Amendment was never written or intended as absolute. The Patriot Act itself actually does comparatively little upon a quick reading. I would like to be educated in precisely what you folks find to be objectionable. Or is it just "No! Not the library clause!"



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Oh, that liberal media bias part 153,498,222: Angry in The Great White North has a great article. Look for the quote "When I see Steven Harper, I see the enemy." I am not certain if it is a good sign or a bad sign that he admitted that.



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State of Flux has a really worthwhile article on Prime Minister Singh and tangentially on our warming relations with India. Keep on eye on these guys - both Singh and State of Flux, who seems to have something wonderful every time I stop by.



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Just when I thought I could finally ignore this topic, a new wrinkle: Politburo Diktat is talking about Rove being under fire for perjury now. I'm not worried because he had no reason to lie, and was cooperating with the probes from the very first in ways that the journalists have not, having got their panties in a bunch about a federal shield law that I doubt they should have. The standard to prove perjury is kind of tough, too. Clinton lied about something that was a fact. What, he's had oral sex given him so many times he doesn't remember one more. If Rove merely inverted the sequence of a couple of events in one testimony, or something similar to that, then it's not likely to be perjury - as a matter of fact it happens all the time with people trying their very best to remember exactly the way everything happened. Bill Clinton was stupid enough to lie on an "it happened or it didn't" question. He deserved to get thrown out of office for gross stupidity on that grounds that among about a trillion other reasons. This is politics, I know, and the media isn't exactly neutral. But still, unless it can be shown that Rove lied and intended to lie, it's not perjury. Kos and the DU and the NY Slimes may howl, but if it isn't intentional, it's not perjury. They may even get Rove fired if they howl enough (I see both sides on whether he should step down just to get it over with). It's still not perjury to do your best recollection, which happens to differ in details from the last time you told the story. If these kinds of differences didn't exist, it would be suspicious. And the reason I'm not interested in defending Rove is it appears that there is no there there, anywhere in this whole circus. I could be wrong and he'll be convicted of something, in which case I wouldn't be interested in defending him anyway (Unlike, say, Ted Kennedy, or any of however many senators voted for Clinton's acquittal. If there is anybody reading this that believes those voting to acquit William Jefferson Clinton voted the law and the facts rather than the party line, please call me. I own a large amount of beachfront property in Florida I'd like to sell cheap).



Now will somebody please find us wooden stake so we can put this topic out of our misery once and for all?



Classical Values has some circumstantial evidence pointing to what I indicated was a partial explanation a while ago: Bush and Negroponte are starting to clean house at the CIA. The entrenched bureaucrats don't like it, and are trying to ensure that the political will, or capital, to do so are lacking.



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Armies of Liberation has several updates to the situation in Yemen, which I have arranged here in chronoglogical order here so you can tell the order they were posted in. Phew! I need a shower after all that slime. Here's hoping all the blood goes for something worth having.



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I'm a Gryffindor. HT: Respectful Insolence



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Pigilito Says has a post on the research reinvestment gap. Me, I'm not happy that Japan reinvests about 25% more than the US.



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Classical Values seems to have a more in depth story on the two young men the Iranian Mullahs hung. Think Catholic Priest molestation scandal. Then consider if the priest had the power to have them hung because they complained. And the charge was the sodomy he committed upon them.



I hope Iran comes up on our military "to do" list in the War on Terror sometime soon. Although the Iranians may save us the trouble.



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World According to Nick has good reflections and research on the DDT ban.



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What she said: La Shawn Barber takes on affirmative action as only she can.



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Captain's Quarters finds an article telling us that even when the left gets it right, they get it wrong.



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Reading and considering other ideas doesn't cause cancer. The Moderate Voice talks of true moderation. (HT: Indepundit)



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Stop the ACLU has an article on Bill Frist getting one right, and introducing a bill to help the Boy Scouts. I just hope the ACLU doesn't have his bill declared unconstitutional.















Well, I finally got off my rear end and opened a 529 plan for my younger daughter's college. Hilda, the older one, I opened on the day we got her social, but I had a little bit of cash flow difficulty when Ramona, the younger one, was born last September, so I didn't get around to it until yesterday. At least I put two years worth of my normal contributions in, so both daughters are fully funded now for 2005. I've been putting in $2000 per child per year. I don't anticipate it covering 4 years at Harvard, but if they're careful they should be able to get through a state school here in California without loans. And if they do go to Harvard it'll still be a big help. If you've got kids, folks, start that account now. Most people have the option of putting retirement off. If they don't have money for college when it's time, they're probably not going.



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I'm looking for some feedback if you've got a minute, either via email or comments. Are these Links and Minifeatures articles something that makes the site more or less attractive to you? Would you stop by more or less often if I altered them? If you have your own website, would you link more often if the articles were split up, or less often?



I want to have at least a certain number of the articles on the front page be consumer education related, and I've been cheating to achieve this by amalgamating my daily miscellany and looking around at other blogs in the alliances I've joined. I feel I should give links to good content whenever I have time, and I want to write on other topics myself, yet do not want to have fewer than about 5 articles on the front page be consumer related. The solution of writing more articles on my focus subjects leads in short order to burnout (some I can do in an hour or so, but most take much longer), and the solution of fewer articles relating to it on the front page seems to be losing my desired focus. Starting next week, I'm going to have to start reposting previous articles anyway, but I would appreciate any constructive ideas you want to share.



(I was also hoping when I started this to have more people sharing cautionary tales of bad experiences than I have received thus far.)



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Iraq the Model makes a point I wasn't aware of. The very first constitution for a state that happend to be mostly Islamic evidently did not make Islam the state religion. I gather that he's irritated with the clerics who insist it be the state religion of Iraq and that said constitution discriminate against Israelis. I wonder how many ordinary Iraqis feel the same? There's also a more general article on the Constitution. Use the link on the blogroll if you want to read about Saddam's trial. The Iraqi constitution is important.



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Mudville Gazette has the goods on a kinder gentler area denial weapon. Some liberals are going off on it with questions like "How do you ensure that the dose doesn't cross the threshold for permanent damage? Does the weapon cut out to prevent overexposure?" Greyhawk asks if hurling pillows would be acceptable. Having a certain bent of mind, I simply ask these people: If you had a choice of this weapon or a machine gun, which would you rather we use? Because if it's the machine gun, we can save a lot of R&D money, and I'm certain that Eeevvil Halliburton won't be making anything from the sales of this weapon then! Okay, it can likely be improved. The question remains: microwave or machine gun?



He also has a post about a Commemorative Marine Corps dollar that I wonder why they don't just put it in general circulation? It's certainly a lot more attractive than that Sacajawea nonsense or the ugly Susan before it. If the other services want in on the act, hey, so much the better for Proof Sets!



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Politechnicalpoints us to the fact that War Criminals are being paid here. I agree with him. Publicise smaller bounties for their heads, attached or not, and watch them turn themselves in. Is there any organizations except the UN bankrupt enough to say, "Mount a massacre, Make a $Million?" (Okay, I can see MoveOn advocating "Conservative Cleansing", but we're the ones with all the guns.)



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Carnival of the Vanities #148 is up. Haven't had a chance to go through it for favorites yet. UPDATE: Marshall vs. Marshall and the liberal view of intel, La Cosa Nostra in Washington State, In a battle of Ideas, it's best to have one,



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Cutting Edge of Ecstasy has an article on the National Sex Offender Public Registry, making a point that measures for accuracy are likely to be lax. I have a requirement to tell every househunting client I work with to the sex offender registry list here in California, and document it lest I be liable. Truthfully, though, I imagine anybody who can show they were on the list erroneously is looking at instant million$, so I'm not too horriby worried for them. I am concerned for our taxpayers.



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Recovering Democrat makes a point that cannot be made too often about Anti-Semitism and the Holocaust. There quite simply is no other group anywhere in the world with anything approaching the history of persecution that Jews have. It wasn't just Germany and Arab lands, but Russia, Poland, Austria-Hungary and the Holy Roman Empire, Spain, France and even England, just in Europe. I'm no expert on the Diaspora, but I imagine they went elsewhere as well as Europe, and despite the difficulties they faced in those places, there aren't a whole lot of jews left outisde of Europe, the United States and Israel. You do the math. They need a place where they can escape to if the need arises. Because it seems to arise on a regular basis. And it's not like the vast majority of the Arab world gave a rats backside about the area, or the Arab inhabitants of the area, at any point prior to the establishment of Israel, and most still don't care about the former inhabitants and are unwilling to grant citizenship in their country to those muslims who stayed, or those muslims who left, or their descendants.



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I must again apologize to my fellow RINOs and LLP members. I'm trying to check out everyone's website at least once a week, preferably two or three times, and link to good stuff. My Minifeatures essays have been getting out of hand and becoming full-blown articles of late. I do welcome emails about posts you're proud of.






Patterico and Pejmanesque double team the LA Times for thinking Roberts agreed with the law in the Hedgepeth case, which I referred to in this article. I approve of judges who refuse to do the job of elected officials, and I say so again.



SCT Nomination Blog has stuff on Robert's Concurring and Dissenting opinions as well as a Thursday Round Up. I may have missed something, but the more I read the more I like.



Vodkapundit points us to a New York Times editorial from a New Republic writer who doesn't think Roberts is bad. (Registration required: here's Bug Me Not to log in with)



Wizbang discusses the echo chamber the left evidently wants As he notes, the redefinition of cloture fight is coming, but it likely won't be during Robert's confirmation.



Looks like the folks at DU have quite a "honey do" list against Roberts, working on distorting the political process. Of course, the Supreme Court is important to them, because they haven't got a prayer of actually electing anybody that passes all of thier tests. Of course, you do have to elect candidates to be able to choose somebody for the Supreme Court, and electing enough candidates means you're going to have to accept compromises... (This whole list of "honey dos" does appear to be a short term attempt to distort the political process, making them appear more numerous than they are. Of course, when they can't elect anyone, it falls apart).



I went to their sites to check them out (use the links off DU). Alliance for Justice says they had "laid out standards" but those standards are not to be found on their website. I suspect their request for a "thorough examination" translates to "let's bring back the Inquisitision, just for him." AAUW actually says the cases they are trying to protect on their website, if not on the petition. Democracy for America offers no specifics except to "join Senator Leahy" on the petition, but elsewhere on their site they do own up to their agenda. Move On owns up to their agenda, however much out of context they choose to take situations. NARAL takes one quote out of context and bases its opposition on that. Save the Court doesn't want a "rush to judgement" (i.e. the Inquisition again), but they do go into their agenda elsewhere on the site. Planned Parenthood Action wants him examined on "women's health, safety, and privacy" as if he wants to remove breast cancer treatment from HMOs, force women to cross the road blindfolded, and publish their sexual history publicly on the net. What do you mean it's all about abortion? True Majority is actually hilarious, in a pitiful oversimplify amd don't mention dozens of critically important facts kind of way. They all do their best to make themselves appear rational so somebody raised isolated in the wilderness might agree, but for somebody who realizes context, it's a much tougher sell.



(Sorry, out of time!)







Eric's Grumbles makes a post with the excellent point: If you want corporate money out of politics, take away their incentive to spend it there. In other words, remove the power of the politicians to regulate market behavior. When politics has less influence over corporations, corporations will exert less influence over politicians. I love this in theory. Practicality, however, is different. Let us say that Embalming Rivers Detergent Company discharges effluent into the rivers, but through a series of shell companies its marketed under a diverse number of brand names that change whenever the public catches onto one. Because it's cheaper than Ethical Wash Detergent's product, the buyers of major consumer distributors will buy it no matter the name. It is much cheaper to change the name of the product when consumers "catch on" than it is to actually be a good citizen. Furthermore, in today's society there is an information overload. I don't know who makes that brand of soap and chances are slim that I will find out it's one of Embalming Rivers' shell companies, all I know is that it's cheap. It is less expensive to society, and more effective, to directly regulate their pollutants in the first place. I wish it were not so, but my wishing doesn't change the universe, much as I would like it to.



Reasons like this are why I won't shop Wal-Mart and similar operations - they don't care about the environmental provenance or their soap, or costs to the community, or anything that a responsible citizen does. All they care about is margin and volume, which is fine and what they should do up to a point, but they go well beyond that point. I don't care that they put mom and pop stores out of business. I do care that they put corporate competitors who are better citizens and pay a living wage to their employees out of business, while we the taxpayers pick up the tab in higher taxes and other costs. I've always thought that the best way to protest Walmart effectively, inform Wal-Mart's shoppers how much every $100 they save at Walmart costs their community as opposed to shopping their competitors. "Congratulations! Your $12.38 in savings just cost our town $197.38 of your tax money! Doesn't that make you feel great!" Of course, it's a tragedy of the commons situation, and government employees, public health care workers, and such might might then feel even more obliged to shop Wal Mart, and (sarcasm on) we can all see how effective this whole boycott Wal Mart thing has been, can't we? Looks like they're going out of business any time now, right? (sarcasm off) Being devoted to individual liberty means I must allow you to make and act upon your choices no matter how wrong I believe them to be (as long as you don't hurt anyone else). I can inform people of what the costs are, but many, if not the vast majority, see only the $12.38 they save, and the $197.38 is not important to them as it is spread out among many times more than the breakeven amount of population. They see only that they are paying for everyone else's $197.38 anyway, so they might as well save their $12.38 and make everyone else pay their $197.38, and, as I cannot show any direct victims, I must permit them to do so. I don't like it, and I certainly don't have to participate, but I am not morally justified in preventing them.



I think Eric as well as most people would agree with me on this, but due to the corporations looking at things from a "tragedy of the commons" angle as well as individuals, every path away from the current environmental regulation laws leads directly to ecological catastrophe. Every path away from securities and banking regulation leads to economic collapse. Every path away from limiting the supply of unskilled labor (i.e. unlimited legal immigration) leads to unbelievable social costs.



I would really like to take these awful equations out of politics, but It Ain't Going To Happen. Might as well wish for the ability to travel faster than light by flapping your arms. Just because we don't have complete quantifications for the laws of society and politics doesn't mean they are less real, and the basis in society means that the social safety net, corporate regulations, and the like are not going away in a democracy until and unless the political will shifts and stays shifted and focused for at least a full generation. Furthermore, the politicians we elect aren't so stupid as to not realize that their power, their importance to their constituents, and everything else flows from their ability to regulate. Even the most radical reformer automatically becomes a politician - part of the power structure - as soon as they are elected. They will work to sabotage any such change they are actually forced to make to the maximum extent possible, which is quite a lot. The most we can do is work to lessen their influence while working to change society's direction. We can work to keep it as small and as rational as possible, and this is kind of like fighting entropy or shoveling water, but enough of us doing it will make a difference and every little bit helps, but there are people out there who are Damned Clever and/or Damned Intelligent working to subvert or avoid the system to their own benefit, and every one who succeeds makes the position I take and the work I and those on my side want to do that much More Damned Difficult.



It would be easier in a lot of senses to just set up a dictatorship. I remember back in my college days the idiots who went around telling us to "Question Authority" would always get upset when I immediately asked them "Why?", and even more upset when I had to explain to them that they were trying to set themselves up as part of the authority structure and thus were therefore fair game for their own question, and to get used to it now because it was only going to get worse the closer they got to office, and much worse still if they ever got into office. They didn't want to be the power structure in a democracy, of course. They wanted to be named Benevolent Dictator™ but if you've noticed all of the Benevolent Dictators™ in the world lately, their regimes have one heck of a strong tendency to turn into the worst damned hellholes on the planet.



Alleged humans like that are the reason we need the First Amendment, and in case it fails, the Second.



The point to all of this is that dictatorship is an easy trap to fall into, and sometimes the paths to avoiding a dictorship lead us into some pretty bizarre territory, and places we really would rather not be. But given the choice between taking corporate regulation out of politics so that they have no incentive to invest in politicians, and the status quo, I will take the status quo and work to keep the regulations reasonable, rational, supportive of competition and individual choices, and effective. Yes, it's harder than the alternatives of allowing the companies to do what they want, or of capricious enforcement by a dictatorship. The benefits to be gained, however, are much larger and market forces are clearly insufficient to the task by themselves. It is easy to granstand about the value of liberty and how regulation is choking the country and individuals will make rational choices and Let's Just Do Away With The Whole Thing, but as G.K. Chesterton points out:





In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from

deforming them, there is one plain and simple

principle; a principle which will probably be called a

paradox. There exists in such a case a certain

institution or law; let us say, for the sake of

simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The

more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and

says, "I don't see the use of this; let us clear it

away." To which the more intelligent type of reformer

will do well to answer: "If you don't see the use of

it, I certainly won't let you clear it away. Go away

and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me

that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to

destroy it."



This paradox rests on the most elementary common

sense. The gate or fence did not grow there. It was

not set up by somnambulists who built it in their

sleep. It is highly improbable that it was put there

by escaped lunatics who were for some reason loose in

the street. Some person had some reason for thinking

it would be a good thing for somebody. And until we

know what the reason was, we really cannot judge

whether the reason was reasonable. It is extremely

probable that we have overlooked some whole aspect of

the question, if something set up by human beings like

ourselves seems to be entirely meaningless and

mysterious. There are reformers who get over this

difficulty by assuming that all their fathers were

fools; but if that be so, we can only say that folly

appears to be a hereditary disease. But the truth is

that nobody has any business to destroy a social

institution until he has really seen it as an

historical institution. If he knows how it arose, and

what purposes it was supposed to serve, he may really

be able to say that they were bad purposes, that they

have since become bad purposes, or that they are

purposes which are no longer served. But if he simply

stares at the thing as a senseless monstrosity that

has somehow sprung up in his path, it is he and not

the traditionalist who is suffering from an illusion.





(HT to Asymmetrical Information for bringing this passage to my attention some time ago)



To make a long point short, each and every law and regulation that we have has a historical reason why it was enacted. Many of them are stupid, redundant, pointless, or foolish, but we will do far better to glean through them with an eye to repealing such laws, or to prevent such laws from being passed in the first place than to advocate a clean sweep of all regulation. It's hard work, thankless, and unpopular, because every one of them has a constituency. Remember, they weren't enacted without a reason. Nobody proposes laws and regulations without an agenda and a constituency. That constituency may not survive the harsh light of public scrutiny, but that constituency is there, and they will do their best to stop scrutiny before it gets to a level they cannot defend against. It is far easier, and more popular, for a politician to propose a new law to "Solve The Problem". After all, you Look Busy, and if you didn't think the new law's constituency was larger and more powerful than its opposition, you probably wouldn't have proposed it.



With all this going on in the background, being a rational proponent of individual liberty and limiting the authority of the state is about the most difficult, unpopular, and overwhelming work possible. Most people who call themselves advocates of liberty are in point of fact, advocates of license (as in John Stuart Mill's "License they mean when they bawl Liberty!"). This among other reasons, is why I'm not welcome at most Libertarian meetings, any more than I'm welcome over at Idiots In Search of a Benevolent Dictatorship™. There's certainly no money in it, and chances are dim of finding your way into the history books. But it remains the right place to be.





Afterward: This started as part of a Daily Links and Minifeatures, and got out of hand.



I've long thought Robert Heinlein's most intelligent proposal was a bicameral legislature where one house can make laws by a two-thirds majority, and the other house can repeal them with a one-third minorty. To this, I ask the obvious questions: Which house would be more powerful? Which house would be more influential? Which house would be more heavily scrutinized, and thus accountable? What are the points on which each house (or both) would most likely fail to correctly discharge its assigned duty to the populace at large?



This causes me to want to add provisos that legislation concerning each house and its members responsibilities shall be made by the other house with a one-third vote, repealed by a two thirds vote, and regarding their pay and entitlements shall be enacted with a two thirds vote and repealed with a one third vote. Of course, unless such a system is set up in the aftermath of a revolution, it's not likely to happen.



The State-run 529 Plan

| | Comments (0)

Of all the investments out there available to be made, the 529 is neither best or second-best, but it is right up there near the top.



Back when I was actively working in the financial planning business, it was one of the easiest to sell, as well. It holds one of the best sets of tax advantages, and is surprisingly flexible for something designed to fund a college education.



The 529 works in relation to the IRS's gifting rules, and is subject to those and other limitations. There is a limit, that varies from year to year, on the maximum total contributions. However, it has a couple of powerful benefits that most investments do not have.



First off, you can front loan it with up to five years worth of gifting contributions. With this currently at $11,000 per year, this means that an individual can give up to $55,000 and a married couple up to $110,000 all at once.



Second, any investment income earned by the 529 is tax deferred until you take it out. So you're earning interest on any money you might otherwise have paid as taxes until you actually make a withdrawal.



Third, you, the donor, retain control over the investment, and can transfer it to another donee if your initial pick decides to skip college or wants to buy a motorcycle with the money. With most account forms, such as the Coverdell, that money is theirs, totally and irrevocable, on their 18th birthday, and they can sue you for it. The 529 is the only account I'm aware of with this reservation. You can even recapture it for yourself in many circumstances, if you decide to.



With estate tax gone, the fact that investments in a 529 are no longer part of your estate is less important, but 529s pass with full tax deferral, immediately and outside of probate to named successor owners or beneficiaries, as applicable, and they have the option to keep them going rather than taking the money. Most other investments do not afford anyone except a spouse this opportunity to keep the account going as it was.



Finally, if you use the money for college or college related expenses, the withdrawals are tax free. Even if you don't, the penalty is only ten percent of earnings, which is much smaller than, for instance, the Traditional IRA. Other neat facts: No matter where you live, you may use any state's 529 program, and go to college in any state you like, and still enjoy the full benefits.



Let us consider, hypothetically, the case of a 60 year old with a 40 year old child. Not too many children go to school, but the 529 can be useful even so. Suppose the 60 year old has $50,000 they don't think they'll ever need, and they want to make certain the 40 year old gets it when they die, but wants to keep control of the money in the meantime, and wants a lot of bang for their buck.. Consider the hypothetical of a 9% yearly return, every year. The 9% return is likely to be slightly low on the average, and the stock market never returns a consistent figure from year to year, but let us consider it. Suppose the parent lives 20 years. That $50,000 has turned into $280,000, same as a traditional IRA. But now the child has the option of keeping it going, which they do not have if it's in a traditional IRA, and they only have to pay tax on $230,000 if they withdraw it all at once. Put into a taxable account, even if it earned the same 9%, and assuming a 28 percent tax rate, it would only be $175,500. Assuming the same 28% tax rate, withdrawing all of it at once leaves them with $215,600. Or they can withdraw it a little bit at a time, to pay for, say, their own grandchild's college, during which time the remainder continues to earn income tax deferred.




China revalues currency. Well, sort of. China is at least forty percent low, and they revalued by about two percent. Malasia pulls the same nonsense. This is the rough equivalent of placing a small bandaid on a severed leg that they are making sure will remain bleeding. This is the economic warfare, on Western society and their own people, that the author was talking about in yesterday's Links and Minifeatures. If they attack Taiwan, I hope that we are ready to respond to overwhelming force. Including some serious bunker busters at Communist Party hide-outs.



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Armies of Liberation has an update to yesterday's post. The situation in Yemen is either deteriorating further or improving depending upon one's point of view. Saleh has already agreed not to stand for re-election next year, but it appears that is not enough. (It is to be noted that I'm not certain how much Saleh leaving office means in de facto terms - it could be anything from a public illusion to a true transfer of power.)



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Rhymes with Right has a story that the Border Patrol may be considering a civilian auxiliary. The speedy bureaucratic response time of a rock and all the momentum of frozen molasses.



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Joe Lieberman (one of the more reasonable Donkeys) says that Roberts isn't an extremist. Yesterday, Harry Reid said he probably wasn't filibuster material, which translates to plain english as "We're trying to find something to derail him on, but haven't been able to." Even Patrick Leahy and Dianne Feinstein seem to be saying they haven't got anything. Barbara 'Blinders' Boxer appears ready to try anyway. (Amazing and disturbing what she said. She's obviously trying to featherbed herself with her Moonbat constituents, because she's not going on to governor or president with that kind of attitude).



Let's see, I've chided both Boxer and Ann Coulter on this, while supporting the candidate. I must be a RINO or something.



Hugh Hewitt has more on Robert's unusual level of qualification, and directs us to a Michael Barone article that seems to confirm my above and prior writings. Since Barone is likely to be the one person with a better overall grasp of U. S. politics than anyone else, it's unlikely I'm too far off base.



Powerline has more illuminating articles on this topic. Volokh Conspiracy notes that "John" is the most common name in Supreme Court history, which I think might be telling us something.



Michelle Malkin has the best and most concise take on the mindset of those opposing the nomination that I've seen.



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Great Michael Yon piece on Iraq. (HT: Instapundit)



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Normblog has a longer, better version of his Guardian article debunking the approach of most "root cause" apologists. (HT to Instapundit again for the latter).



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Referencing my article Monday comparing and contrasting the behavior of Islam and Christianity, here's a tempest in a teapot when someone tried to put an article in Wikipedia about Jizyah, the infidel tax. (HT: LGF)

Jizya



LGF shows us another reason Wikipedia is always of questionable accuracy: Motivations of the contributors may not be purely scientific. Ya think?



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Am I the only one disgusted at the ACLU Jihad against Boy Scouts? (HT: LGF again).



Check out Stop the ACLU for more on their activities.



I used to respect the ACLU. Heck, I used to give them money. Sometime in the last twenty years, they've allowed themselves to be hijacked, and to become Useful Idiots. These days, F.I.R.E. is a better place to support.



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Commom Sense and Wonder shows us a worthwhile Charles Krauthammer article comparing three major schools of thought. Pay close attention, there will be a test for the rest of your life.





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LGF also has articles on Sudanese blatantly ignoring international protocols by assaulting american staff of Secretary Rice. They also ejected any journalists who asked questions about Darfur. Shades of East Germany in the 1960s.



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What he said: Captain's Quarters has an entry on the New York Times advocacy of a shield law. A particular shield law. A law meant to give the New York Slimes not only more leverage towards a journalistic monopoly, but unlimited discretion over who they do and do not protect, so they can choose to protect someone who advances the publisher's point of view, and leave another source on the opposite side high and dry. I don't think so. I am unable to find any significant public interest that would be served by a shield law. All it does is make lazy journalists jobs easier. Are journalists in the United States not supposed to be citizens or legal residents, and as such, supposed to be loyal to the interests of society?



The demands of the age mean that society is becoming and needs to become more transparent, not less. The point is to get from the point where everybody thinks they've got something to hide, to where nobody has anything to hide because they can't. We're already a large portion of the way there. We can be spoiled children about our "lost privacy", in which case get ready for more OJ and MJ shenanigans among far worse abuses, or we can be rational adults and deal with the fact that not only are we are all under surveillance but that this is a good thing because it gives us the leverage to commit our own acts of surveillance.



I recommend this book as one worth examining on the subject.



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More later if I get the chance.



This number seems consistent with personal experience. I disagree that one agency should be responsible, however - just what we need, a new federal agency. What are they going to do, hire a whole agency full of people to watch, one, two or five in every air traffic facility just sitting there observing? That's brain damaged. That's part of what Air Traffic Control does. If ATC isn't in radio contact with that aircraft, what are they going to do about it anyway? If it hasn't been done yet, I would suggest dedicated hard lines from NORAD to every air traffic facility (including flight service stations), or at least put NORAD on every Air Traffic Control Interphone line so the involved controller can communicated directly with NORAD rather than through sometimes three lairs of intermediaries, but a whole new agency? Wasted money.



We could close down all of our general aviation in the country, but that would be a major wrong for not much gain. We can do nothing, in which case numbers like these will continue, and eventually somebody will fly a Gulfstream or KingAir full of explosives into something important before NORAD can react (Montgomery Field here in San Diego is within five miles of several major military bases, so a KingAir could get there within about 75 seconds from takeoff, a Gulfstream about 45. Even in the old days where the Air Force had fighters on constant standby, they had two minutes to get airborne. In case you're not aware, the 9/11 hijackers did some of their training here in San Diego, and if that doesn't give your backside a pucker...). Or we can maybe close a few general aviation airports that are the cause of vast majority of the problems and get serious about enforcement actions (I'm only aware of two sustained enforcement actions against all of the pilots that violated FARs at my various facilities handled during my twelve years working for them, and both of those were truly egregious and in our faces about the violations. But there's a lot of true bozos out there who won't do their homework, scraping by with their heads you-know-where by grace of a lax enforcement system. We never wanted to write anyone up - preferring education instead - and when we did it was because we were convinced they were a true danger to the flying public and there wasn't anything we further we could reasonably do that would help them. However, the general aviation lobby has made it impossible to successfully take action against someone's license for anything less than, well, 9/11).



UPDATE: It appears as if the original article has been updated since I wrote this post based on it this morning. This was an article on how clueless Congress and the Federal Bureaucracy is, but now it appears as if something constructive may come of it. It's like they read what I wrote. Either that or Congress is getting tired of being interrupted all the time. You decide.






It shouldn't surprise anyone that there are things you should do before you make your first investment. The SEC, NASD and all of the various other financial planning organizations all explicitly list three things that should be in place in most cases prior to making your first investment in anything.



The first of these is an operating reserve. This is a fund of ready cash outside of any investment account, that you can use for emergencies. The minimum is three months of your normal expenditures, but six months is better. People lose jobs, have accidents, have health problems, things come up - you get the idea. Unless your job is rock steady, your cash flow predictable, and you can live on less than fifty percent of your take home pay, you really want to have living expenses for six months saved up, and for some self employed situations where your cash flow is uneven (like say, financial planner or real estate), twelve months is better. Having this much cash on hand gives you a certain security, and you likely won't have to cash in your investment for some minor emergency.



The second of these is a life insurance policy. This isn't from any deep-seated desire to sell you a life insurance policy. Investment professionals have only been getting insurance licenses since about 1980, and this recommendation is far older than that. Almost everyone is going to need a life insurance policy at some point in their life, and it is cheaper and more effective to purchase while you are young. As I've found out, sometimes things happen to you that prevent you from obtaining life insurance (as in no company will issue you a policy, or will only do so on prohibitive terms), and if you want a family eventually, it is wise to take care of this now. Furthermore, certain life insurance policies are among the very best investments you can make, and more effective the sooner you start them. This is not to say that life insurance is for everyone. I have a client who's older, has no dependents and never will, has plenty of assets to cover final expenses, and those assets are titled so that they will pass immediately and correctly to his heirs. A life insurance policy would still be of benefit if he had certain goals, but he doesn't. So we've decided it's not for him.



The third of these is estate planning. This is actually in the requirements as a will, but there are other elements such as durable power of attorney for health care, living trusts, and so on. These do cost a certain amount of money, but it's money well spent. If something happens to you without doing this planning, every state in the US has a different law as to what happens to your assets, your minor children, your pets, etcetera. These are all cookie cutter approaches, and that cookie cutter was likely enacted a long time ago, to where the assumptions that the legislature made at that time are no longer valid for large numbers of people. The majority of your assets should not be transferred by a will, anyway - wills can be and are challenged successfully every day. Trusts are far better.



If the person you work with is any kind of financial planner, they should add two additional concerns to the list. They are disability income insurance and long term care insurance. The need for both goes away as you become more affluent. Remember, that insurance companies exist to make a profit and if you can afford the risk of losing what they insure, you shouldn't buy a policy. So if you've got a couple million somewhere, and if you never made another penny you would be comfortable, there is no need. The same applies to Long Term Care, albeit probably requiring more affluence. Average per diem billing in California is $180, with another $60 or so in supplemental charges. So when you can afford $240 per day (between $85,000 and $90,000 per year) for a period of several years in addition to what ever else you may need for your family to live, you are not a good candidate for this. On the other hand, long term care facility prices keep rising, and as medical capabilities for keeping you alive get better, you can expect to spend longer in such a facility.



(For all the money and research we throw at prolonging lives, you'd think we could spend more on making it a robust life, or allocate more of what we already spend towards that end. More and more, we are statistically tending towards living longer in an increasingly frail, helpless and joyless condition. As long as people are enjoying life, more power to them. When it becomes a miserable painful existence, as I have seen too much of, I just don't see the point. When I see what so many people put themselves or their loved ones through, I'm making certain I'll always have a "check out" option under my own control, and if I don't have control to exercise, my wife and I are agreed that neither one of us wants to hang around).




Now I know I've arrived. Just got spam offering a link exchange for an online pharmacy. No thanks. I'm trying to avoid advertising here, because it would damage the business model I'm trying for.



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A sad day for Trekkies like me: James Doohan is gone. I only saw him once from a distance, but have many friends who have told me what a wonderful person he was. The obituary says he was a D-Day veteran, which I did not know. Fare thee well, sir. The world is a poorer place for your absence.



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Greenspan suffers inertia. I'm looking at the financial markets and am starting to see the same sorts of signs that pushed the economy down back in 1999 and 2000, except that this time the economic fundamentals are actually good. It was Greenspan's fault then, and it will be Greenspan's fault if it happens again. I loved the refi boom, but could seriously do without everything else that happened. One of those mistakes is all we should permit anybody. Alan's had his. Maybe he doesn't care because he's already said that this will be his last term. But somebody on the Federal Reserve needs to get guts to say that rates have been raised enough.



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More on China. Right now this stuff is flying under the public's radar, but the time is coming when we're all going to wonder why we didn't do something sooner.



Vaguely in line with the above topic, Victor Davis Hanson has a column up about Western military advantages. This second half is extrmely persuasive.



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LGF Directs us to riots in Yemen



Armies of Liberation has more



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Political business as usual in Chicago.



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Michelle Malkin has more on why the FBI is watching the left



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La Shawn Barber points us to this Business Week Article on chasing the dollars of illegal aliens.



In this case, I cannot blame the businesses. There's only a limited amount they can do by law; indeed, if they failed to provide service I think that at least here in California they would be legally liable. If you've got to serve the market anyway, you might as well serve the market.



The blame, as usual, attaches squarely to the politicians who have failed to deal with the problem for fear of alienating a constituency. How were these people allowed to come here and settle? How were they able to go into business? How were these people allowed to get and keep a business license? More blame attaches to the companies that hire (or contract with) illegal aliens despite clear laws against it. But the only problem I have with the enterpreneurial family given in the example is that they happen to be here illegally - mind you, I still want them deported, but I'd specifically want them moved to the top of any legal immigrant list. Unfortunately, not all - not even most - of the illegal immigrants in this country are so beneficial as these enterpreneurs. Most of them are nothing more than excess cheap labor requiring state subsidies to live here.






More on Roberts

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Ann Coulter doesn't like out latest Supreme Court Nominee. "He's not conservative enough, and makes comparisons with Souter.



Carol Platt Liebau disagrees. So do I. Conservatives don't want to spend huge amounts of political capital without need on a confirmation fight. Roberts seems to be solidly right of center, bullet proof as far as allegations of competence or excessive ideology goes. He is clearly a brilliant legal mind, nor does he seem to be an extreme conservative. I consider it likely that having another brilliant legal mind on the center right may actually help Scalia stay away from excessively ideological positions, and give Thomas more room and ammunition to broker compromise decisions that nonetheless come down on the right side of the legal spectrum. This is a reason for conservatives to like him, and liberals to fear his influence. On the other hand, if liberals bite the president's outstretched hand on this one, the next nominee is likely to be someone they like a lot less. (HT: Captain's Quarters



Hugh Hewitt likes him as much as Powerline, and makes the point that nominees have refused to answer questions before



Iowahawk makes an effective point on the nature of the left wing opposition to Roberts. (HT: LGF)



On the left, Debate Link notes it could have been worse from that point of view and wonders about the minority/woman angle. I think it's fairly obvious that the President is expecting a pass on that issue here, not only because a 'racial spoils system' doesn't sit well with voters, but also because he has consistently named minority and woman nominees to various offices, even important posts, unlike his predecessors, and has included them in his innermost councils. This may be Bush saying "Nobody here is an affirmative action candidate."



Law, Life, Libido also writes a fairminded assessment from the left.



Beldar notes about Roberts' trial experience "if his only credential were the extraordinary number of cases he's personally argued and won in the Supreme Court as an advocate, that alone would probably be enough to qualify him for a seat on that bench!", aka the Thurgood Marshall Qualification.






Roberts for Supreme Court

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SCOTUS blog profile of Roberts here. NARAL doesn't like him based upon an argument he made while Deputy Solicitor General. This may or may not reflect his own views, but it definitely does not label him an activist to work in accordance with his employer's wishes. NARAL is sabotaging its own position by being extrmist. Daily Kos and his cronies are also going ballistic. I know what they want, but it should be plain to them they are not going to get it, and Roberts appears to be far more moderate than they probably should have hoped for. This is about as rational as me hoping Bill Clinton would nominate a Scalia-clone, and getting upset if I only got an O'Connor, who would actually be far closer to what I want than many choices he might have made. Roberts appears at first blush to be a moderate conservative, confirmed unanimously by the senate on the DC Court of Appeals in 2003, when the Donkeys were filibustering everything in sight.



Instapundit has a great round-up. You'd think he was a law professor or something.



Several Conspirators over at Volokh Conspiracy have posted on the nomination. I'm leaving the Tradesports stuff out of it.



Powerline has more, and notes on attacks going out before the telecast was over. It appears his decision in Hedgepeth is going to be one of the liberal talking points - me, I like the idea of a justice willing to say "The things that are wrong with this situation are beyond the scope of what judges are for." He's not a legislator, not an executive, he's a judge, and he seems to know it! Of course, given predilections on the left for wanting judges to enact by fiat what they can't get through the legislature or ballot box, this thought is poison to them.



Roger Simon has a nice turn of rational thought on the whole matter, and the more I think about it, the more I agree. Barring some truly damaging revelation, our president has done the best job of consultation prior to the naming of the candidate I can remember, and appears to have nominated a qualified jurist at least vaguely in line with his own philosophies (which is expected - I certainly didn't slam Clinton for his choices' philosophy, much as I could have wished for better, because he was the elected president, not me. I didn't and don't like him, but you had to give him the discretion to do his job, and the same applies to Bush).



By making this choice in this manner, President Bush is also testing the waters, I believe. Barring any new revelation, Roberts seems bulletproof. Again, barring new revelations, Roberts should expect a quick, easy confirmation. Nonetheless, his treatment will serve as a bellwether for the next choice (I anticipate at least one more vacancy in Bush's term, probably two, and possibly three, and I'm far from the most informed person watching this). If Roberts wins a quick easy confirmation, as he should if the Democrats are vaguely reasonable, then they can perhaps expect the President to continue this process of consultation and naming strongly qualified candidates that, if not necessarily the opposition's dream candidate, at least are not partisans in the other camp. If, on the other hand, opposition treatment of this nominee becomes shrill and partisan, I expect that Bush's next choice will be a suitably "In your face" candidate.



(I'm going to go on the record here as predicting that come hell or high water and even if his health deteriorates Rehnquist is going to do all he can to hang on long enough to serve a full court term with his former clerk.)



The Pre-qualification

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One of the most overworked items in the real estate industry today is the pre-qualification for a loan. Sellers want buyers to be "pre-qualified", and buyers are seeking "pre-qualification" to convince buyers they are serious.



The level of work done for a pre-qualification varies. In some rare instances, the loan officer doing the work not only runs the credit, but verifies the income as consisting of the proper income documentation paperwork (w-2s and/or taxes, plus pay stubs and/or testimonial letter) for the loan, and determines how much of a payment you can qualify for based upon known income and known indebtedness, and actually includes the assumed property tax due to purchase price in the payment calculations, and gives you an answer in how much you can qualify for based upon current rates at the time. This is a fair amount of work, consuming hours of time. A loan officer at a direct lender who goes through this whole procedure might be done in two or three hours. A loan officer working for a broker can actually take a full day, or even two, making calls to various lenders and shopping the loan around after the primary calculations are done. On real transactions, I've gone over two days on multiple occasions, trying to find a better loan.



The pitfalls and caveats are many. If the loan officer doesn't run your credit, which costs money, they really have no idea what your credit is like. If they don't verify your income, they are making a giant assumption that what you told them is accurate for purposes of a real estate loan (you get to use gross pay, but there are a multitude of potential adjustments). The payment you qualify for when you actually go to buy a house and get a real loan is a so-called PITI payment, which stands for principal, interest, taxes and insurance. Insurance is always an educated guess, unless and until you have a quote from a prospective insurer on a particular property for an adequate amount of coverage. Taxes here in California will be initially based upon sales price, and unless you live within one of the high property tax areas, is pretty much a set rate for the whole state, but there are many special assessment districts, scattered all over the state. I've seen properties with as many as four of these, although many if not most properties have none. It's much harder in some other states to even come up with a meaningful rule of thumb figure. All of these factors throw the taxes figure off.



Principal and interest - the actual loan payment - is what's left over from your allowed payment. From this, you can compute a principal loan amount based upon known interest rates.



Here's where the games really start. The first question is "What type of loan are they basing it on?" The thirty year fixed rate loan always has the highest rate, which means that if they use that as their starting assumption, they are going to be able to "pre-qualify" you for less than somebody else can. What's the lowest rate? A month-to-month variable or even a negative amortization loan (see link at the bottom of the article). Somebody assuming they are going to qualify you for a negative amortization loan is going to "pre-qualify" you for a larger loan - more than you can really afford. Which is more attractive to someone who doesn't know any better? That's right, the latter. Which one does someone who is educated want to drag into the sunlight and stake through the heart? That's right, the latter. Amazing coincidence? Not really. From personal experience, many people do not want to become educated, even to the level of a competent layperson, and they will get taken for a ride as a consequence. What they want is to look at houses, pick out one they like, sign a couple sheets of paper, and move in. What these people are likely to get is a disaster. Many people in my industry make a very high class living ripping off people like this while setting them up with a gotcha that's going to bite, and bite hard, but not until after they've got their commissions and depart the scene. "How many houses are they going to buy from me, anyway?" is the typical thinking.



One more concern is the fact that while sub-prime loan rates are higher, and in most cases they will have a pre-payment penalty, where A paper loan rates are lower and in most cases do not have a pre-payment penalty. However, the highest payment A paper loans will allow is less than the highest payment sub-prime loans will allow. So the loan officer can typically qualify you for a bigger loan based upon a sub-prime loan. See my article on "Mortgage Markets and Providers" linked below for more information.



Additionally, the rates on loans change from day to day, week to week, and month to month. It takes only a calculator to show that even an honest and complete "pre-qualification" done on a rate that's valid today may or may not be accurate by the time you actually find a home.



Another game loan officers play is with the rate versus cost and points tradeoff. It is counter-intuitive but true that it is actually easier to qualify someone for a lower rate. If you qualify for a given loan program at 5.5 percent, you will qualify for the same program at 5.25 percent, but you might not qualify at 5.75 percent. The reason is that the payment is (or should be) lower if the rate is lower, and payment is what qualification is based upon. The cost to you is that most people refinance or sell before they have recovered the additional costs of these lower rate loans. (See my essay on Mortgage Rate and Points, which is linked at the bottom of this article for details and sample computations.) So they're going choose a loan that sticks you with costs you're not likely to recover, all in the name of qualifying you for a larger dollar amount.



THERE IS NO WIDELY-ACCEPTED STANDARD FOR "PRE-QUALIFICATION." Let me say that again. There is no widely accepted standard for prequalification. Consequently, everywhere in the nation, but particularly in California and other high cost areas, the pressures on providers to "pre-qualify" you for inflated numbers is intense. If you don't qualify for enough to buy any home, they obviously don't have a transaction. If they pre-qualify you for less than someone else, most people are more likely to go somewhere else, and they don't have a transaction. The competition is qualifying them based upon month-to-month variable loans or even negative amortization, and so if they don't as well, they don't have a transaction. Few people qualify clients based upon how things really are, and the easy transactions where everything fits and the people qualify based upon traditional measures are mostly long gone. If they don't have a transaction, they don't make any money. The don't make any money, they don't stay in business, they can't make the payments on the Porsche, their house gets repossessed, their wife has to sell her jewelry to keep them off the streets, etcetera. It's not a pretty picture for them, and it often leads to them putting clients into situations they cannot really afford. Finally, of course, the size of commissions is based upon the size of the transaction, so if they "pre-qualify" you for more, they have the prospect of making more when you buy the bigger house that you cannot really afford.



This doesn't even go into the issues of a stated income loan. (See article on Types and Levels of Mortgage Documentation linked at bottom of this article). This is where you cannot prove income according to industry standards via taxes, w-2s, pay stubs, or perhaps bank statements for sub-prime loans, so you state your income and in return for a higher interest rate, the bank agrees not to verify the actual income level. Please note that it's still got to make sense for someone in your profession. For example, if you are a school teacher they are not going to believe you $250,000 per year. But people do make up numbers much larger than the real amount they make. It is not for nothing that stated income is often called a "liar's loan". That is fine and good, as long as you actually can make the payment. When you can't it's a real issue. Not necessarily for the loan officer, who's going to get their money and depart the scene, and as long as you make the first payment or two they're off the hook, but for you, the client. Keep in mind that as soon as the loan is funded, that loan officer is out of the picture whether you went through a direct lender or not, and they know it. That real estate agent is also out of the picture as soon as you have your house, and they know it. You've got to live with the situation they created, and they kind of know it, but in many cases it just isn't important to them. So watch out, and shop around. The person who "pre-qualifies" you for the lowest amount may be the one you should do business with, because they are using assumptions you can actually live with. Go over their numbers with a calculator in hand.



The stated income loan leads into our next issue, which is that few people will expend the necessary effort to do a "pre-qualification" correctly. It takes several hours to do an accurate "pre-qualification" correctly, but a Wildly Assumptive Guess takes just a few minutes. You may imagine which is done more often. This especially applies if the agent does not run credit or does not get income documentation. Due to the availability of the stated income loan, they really don't have a need to be accurate, and due to pressures to come up with high numbers, their assumptions are going to range from pretty optimistic to wildly optimistic. This is wonderful if you just want to be able to say you were a homeowner for a few months while the bank forecloses on you. It's not so great if you're trying to get into a survivable financial situation.



You may get the idea that when it comes right down to it, most "pre-qualifications" are convenient fiction, worth an approximately equal size of toilet paper, if not quite so soft. You'd be correct. So "Why are they so ubiquitous?" becomes the obvious question.



The answer is sellers and seller's agents. Sellers are going to go through a significant amount of trouble and expense going through the motions of selling their homes. Furthermore, they can only have one proposed sale in process at a time and they may have a deadline. They understandably want some kind of reassurance that this buyer can actually qualify for the loan. For their part, seller's agents can be some of the laziest people I've ever met when you come right down to it. They've paid the money for the advertising that draws people or joining the big well-known National Brokerage With Television Advertising! Once they get the signature on a listing agreement, many think they're entitled to sit around with thumb you-know-where and wait for the commission to roll in. They don't want to go over the buyer's pre-qualification with the seller, and some of them have no idea as to how to do it. But they certainly don't want to carry out their part for more than one proposed transaction, hence their desire for this Magical thing called the "pre-qualification."



The correct way to respond to this concern, for a seller, is simple and yet many people think it's hard-nosed. Require a deposit. Require it be remitted to you on the last day of escrow as part of the initial contract, whether or not the loan funds. Now the standard form in California, as a default, makes the sale conditional upon the loan for seventeen days, but this can be changed by specific negotiation. True, you might scare away some buyers who aren't certain that they're qualified, and in buyer's markets this may scare them away entirely. But you won't enter into escrow with anyone who's unsure. You shouldn't rely on a "pre-qualification", which is basically just a piece of paper that's now been filled up with useless markings and so can't be used again.



Furthermore, many buyer's agents, knowing how useless a "pre-qualification" is, don't want to take the time to do them themselves and so tell their clients to go get one somewhere else, but that when the time comes they have someone who will do the actual loan. It didn't take very long for the word on this practice to get out, and so loan officers and agents with a very short time in the business learn not to do them unless they are going to get something out of it. Which basically means control of the transaction or an upfront payment. I certainly can't name anybody with more than a few months in the business who will do a "pre-qualification" unless a client either signs a Buyer's Agent Agreement or pays them a fee or does something that assures them they will get a transaction. And if your agent says go get a "pre-qualification" on your own, go and get another agent. If they or the loan agent they recommend can't be bothered, then obviously they are too busy to give you the necessary attention to get your transaction done properly and on time. It's very hard to fight the system that requires a "pre-qualification," no matter how useless it is, but it's part of the work they signed on for. They should do it themselves.



Caveat Emptor






UPDATE here

Well, this marks one month since official launch!



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I got an email back from Senator Boxer's Office. If you'll remember a couple of days ago, I said I'd emailed my senators and representative on the status (In Limbo) of an Iraqi blogger. I got back a form email today on why we need to set a timetable to get out of Iraq. A) I don't expect a personal reply, but an irrelevant form letter is worse than being ignored. B) Setting a timetable to get out is slitting our own throats, as any number of real experts have pointed out C) I was hoping the senator or her staffer might actually have the courage of her alleged political convictions, rather than just trying to tear down the opposition. No such luck.



All in all, rather a metaphor for the Donkeys.



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Speaking of stupid Donkey tricks, I got a call today on my Do-Not-Call cell number. I know that political organizations are exempt from do not call, but an automated call without someone on the line is illegal in California. So State Treasurer Phil Angelides, how does it feel to be committing crimes statewide? Even if I were minded to help small minded twits like you continue to sabotage the state government, this call would not make me any more likely to help.



(I learned the telecom regs a couple years ago when I was considering telemarketing my business. Despite the obvious economic incentive, I decided against it. I don't like people who do it to me - so decided not to do it to anyone else, despite the fact it's far and away more effective, and more quickly effective, than other forms of marketing. If you want to figure out a way to do away with telemarketing or spam, make them cost more than other alternatives).



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Dean's World has the newest Carnival of the Liberated up, which includes news about Khalid Jarrar, who was the reason I sent the above referenced email to Senator Boxer.



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13 Riskiest real estate markets according to PMI Group. I can think of markets that are at least as precariously balanced.



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More PC run amok. The Washington Post on the strains illegal immigration brings to one community. Only they're "immigrants", there is only one reference to the fact that one of them is the country illegally (Pretty much all of them are, but it's not clear from the article).



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Volokh Conspiracy has more on the FBI collecting data on the ACLU. So far, it seems to confirm what I wrote yesterday.



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Chrenkoff has codeified the UN Alert System. But these guys still want to take over the internet. Maybe so they'll be in a position to replace their Oil For Food Revenues with bribe revenue from a much bigger business: internet porn!



(I used to think the UN was a good idea, really I did. The UN changed my mind)



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What has this got to do with being a librarian? Now suppose some largely conservative group, like financial planners, accountants, or bankers, came out with the opposite opinion? They would expect to be crucified in the court of public opinon. Dissenting members would claim coercion and hijacking by Evil Republican Theocratic Forces. It has nothing to do with their reason for existing. Why do similar left wing groups expect and receive a pass on this?



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Captain's Quarters has a must read on the assassination of a Sunni delegate to the Iraqi constitutional committee. Two of the 15 Sunni delegates have quit under threats and now a third is dead. Could it be that Zarqawi and his terrorist organization want a large minority to feel disenfranchised by cutting them out of the constitutional process?



Dean's World hits a home run on the erosion of excessive tolerance! Comparing terrorists to pirates is good, but piracy is still far more prevalent than I'm comfortable with. See here and also here and here as well as here



We need to eradicate terrorists. Pirates aren't nearly rare enough. On the other hand, nobody romanticizes them any more. They are murdering, plundering gangster thugs. Which is a start.



Mark Steyn with more.



I signed the Iraqi Freedom Petition. Have you? (HT: Jawa Report)



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Ann Althouse demolishes a NY Times Editorial that tried to cut the ground out from under originalism.



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Indepundit has an article on San Diego politics I just can't ignore anymore. I wish any one of a number of people was running. But the choice of front runners seems to be between Frye, a Certified Moonbat™ and Saunders, Yet Another Machine Candidate®. The election is one week away and I have yet to find anyone with rational concrete proposals to deal with the problems in America's Finest Banana Republic. Everybody seems to be speaking in generalities as vague as they can make them and really saying nothing. If you don't tell us what you intend to do if elected, how can we believe you'll have the political capital to make it happen? I forsee another short period of business as usual, then municipal bankruptcy so that the courts rather than the politicians will have to do all the dirty work.



(Who, me? Disgusted?)



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Finally, Hat tip to Vodkapundit for finding and discussing this: Rove Plame possibly about bureaucratic warfare (at least on the part of the CIA). Much as I find conspiracy theories farcical for the most part, this account does mesh with a) known facts, b) my memory of events and the sequence they happened in c) my experiences with government bureaucracies. I don't think that this one hasn't gotten over the bar into credibility yet, but it's clearly something to bear in mind as a potential hypothesis for later events.



At this point I still think the most likely explanation for the overblown nature of the whole Rove/Plame thing is overzealous partisanry. There is no there there, and there never was. If Karl Rove sucessfully rope-a-doped the Donkeys, they have only their own blindness to blame.



I have mentioned this form several times in the past as the only form in the entire mortgage process which is actually required to be accurate. Whoever your provider is, this is the one form they cannot play games with. This article is goes over the form line by line, referencing previous entries.



The top section has to do with identifying information on your transaction. Your name, the name of the other party to the transaction, escrow numbers, name and address of lender, date of settlement.



The meat starts with line 100, the Summary of Borrower's Transaction, and line 100 the section on Gross amount due from borrower.



101 Contract Sales Price: Should be the same as on your purchase contract.



102. Personal property: Say you agree to pay $500 extra if they leave the sofa. Here's where that goes.



103. Settlement charges to borrower (line 1400) adds the costs of the transaction to the total.



106 and 107 are repayments for any taxes the seller may already have paid as of the date of settlement, but are not their responsibility as the time period covered includes some time after the effective date of sale.



120. Adds all the lines up to this together. The rest are simply blank lines that may or may not be a factor in your particular transaction. If they are a factor, it should be because you specifically agreed to pay them!



The 200 section is about stuff that is paid for, or on behalf of the borrower, or you have simply already paid.



201. Deposit or earnest money: The deposit you made, either with escrow (purchase) or the bank (on a refinance) to persuade them that this was a good transaction.



202. Principal amount of new loan(s): Check and make sure this matches your new Note. In some states, they may be able to combine the amounts of two loans here, but they shouldn't.



203. Existing loans taken subject to: If you're assuming a loan or something similar, it goes here.



204. Second mortgage loan: Compare against your new second mortgage amount.



205 and 206 are blank lines for things that may not be a factor in every transaction.



210 and 211 are for city and county taxes that have not yet been paid by the seller, but the cost has been incurred. Let's say today is September 1, and we're in California, where the property taxes run July 1 to June 30. On September 1, the seller owes two months of property taxes, but those taxes haven't been paid, and won't be due until November 1. So there will be a credit here from the seller to the buyer for two months of property taxes, which the seller is responsible for until the effective date of sale, but the buyer will have to pay on November 1. 212 to 219 are blank lines unless something special is relevant to your transaction.



220 is total paid by/for borrower: This is a total of everything paid by you or on your behalf.



300 Section tells if you are due money at settlement or have to come up with some. 301 is transferred from line 120, 302 from line 220. If 302 is larger, you get cash back. If 301 is larger, you have to provide the check in otder to close.



The second column is a summary of the seller's transaction, if there is a seller and it's not just a refinance.



Section 400 is about what's due to the seller, starting with 401 Contract Sales Price, then 402 which is a mirror or 102, then 403, Impound Credit, which is rarely used, as it is pretty much applicable to loans being assumed.



406 and 407 are mirrors for 106 and 107, as are 408 to 418 mirrors of the 108 to 118 section. 420, Gross amount due to seller, is a summation of all of these.



The 500 section has to do with stuff the seller is paying other people.



501 is excess deposit, 502 is settlement charges to seller, 503 is loans that are bing assumed.



504 and 505 are mortgage payoffs being made, 507 through 509 are blank spaces for things not applicable to every transaction.



510 and 511 are mirrors of 210 and 211, as 512 through 519 mirror 212 through 219, blank lines not applicable to every transaction.



Section 600 is analogous to but not mirroring section 300. Line 601 is line 420 brought down. Line 602 is line 520 brought down. The difference is line 603 cash to seller (This can be line 603 cash from seller in the case of a so-called "short sale")



All of this is good and necessary information, but The Really Good Stuff™ is all on page 2. The lines at the right list who is paying it (buyer or seller)



Section 700: division of commission



Line 701 is compensation to the listing broker, line 702 is to the selling broker (i.e. the buyer's broker, the people who "sold" the property), and line 703 total commission paid at settlement. I've never seen this paid by buyer, it's always been paid by seller.



Section 800 is items payable in connection with the loan itself. This doesn't mean that these are all the loan-related charges - far from it.



Line 801 and 802 are dollar amounts of points. If these aren't zero, divide them by the loan amount to make certain they are the numbers agreed upon.



Lines 800 through 1317 are linked on a 1:1 basis with the appropriate lines on the Good Faith Estimate (Mortgage Loan Disclosure Statement in California) (see articles on Good Faith Estimate linked below for explanations) In an ideal world, the total of these should be exactly what was indicated on the Good Faith Estimate/Mortgage Loan Disclosure. There are some few items that are not under the loan officer's control (again, see Good Faith Estimate for which are and are not). A good rule is that if it isn't on the Good Faith Estimate/Mortgage Loan Disclosure in one form or another, it shouldn't be here. Compare it to the Good Faith Estimate/Mortgage Loan Disclosure to find discrepancies. Other than things like prepaid interest, which the loan officer does not control but should have a pretty accurate estimate of, the most difference there should be between the two documents is one big fee gets broken down into little fees. But if you're told, for example, that the $795 amalgamation of lenders fees was broken up into A, B, and C, make sure that A+B+C=$795, and do not allow additional fees to be lumped in. Grab a piece of scrap paper and take notes. Make certain these numbers jibe. It is easy to hide thousands of dollars in unsuspecting fees to clients in this page if you, the client, are not careful.



Line 1400 is a summation of these lines.



Once again, look hard at the numbers on these two pieces of paper. It is the only honest accounting many people get of the transaction, and the fact that it comes at the end of the transaction makes hiding all kinds of things easy. You, the client, are tired of the whole process and want it to be over, a fact which many loan officers and loan providers rely upon. Put your guard up for a few more minutes, long enough to be certain what you sign for here matches what you signed up for back at the start of the process.



Caveat Emptor.









UPDATED here

Slight title change today, because these aren't just links.



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UPDATE: Pursuant to the China situation, went out hunting on the internet and found:



Asia Times 2006 is year to beware

China Taiwan military balance

Taiwan Security

Some political background for novices

Front Page Magazine



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RINO Sightings is up!

Favorites: Armies of Liberation Environmental Republican Pigilito Says



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Carnival Of Liberty III is up!

Especially Good:

Angry in the Great White North Stop the ACLU Resistance is futile Willisms



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Carnival of Personal Finance is also up today.



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Carnival of Capitalists is also up!

Especially worthy: Social Security Choice Different River Wizbang



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Remember the car bomb last week that killed one soldier and twenty-odd children? Chrenkoff finds us a story about their funeral. Which the terrorists tried to bomb also.



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Politburo Diktat directs us to people who don't want the FBI to read their website. Seems to me that both United for Peace and Justice and the ACLU are unclear on the whole concept of law enforcement.



Volokh Conspiracy has more.



The point is made in comments that historically FBI surveillance has included the desire to criminally charge leftists. My reaction: So what? I see nothing wrong with visiting web sites, which are publicly available information, monitoring comments, etcetera. I see nothing wrong with using far broader powers of surveillance, so long as they do not manufacture wrongdoing or the appearance of wrongdoing in their targets. We pay them to find bad guys, preferably before they do their damage. As long as they do not manufacture bad guys, they are doing their job. If I found complaints that they were manufacturing evidence or something similar, I would worry. But accusations of (gasp!) surfing the web to find information on potential lawbreakers I find worthy of a hearty "Good job!"



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Rhymes with Right makes the point very effectively: The left does not support our troops.



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Q and O makes a good point about the London Bombers in that Timothy McVeigh makes a much better comparison than 9/11. They were homegrown, like McVeigh.



I think Q and O is right. Unfortunately, there is a class of folks in the west who hate their own civilization, and can be counted upon to stand up and howl at any possible bias in its favor. This includes large sections of the press and Academia, particularly in the soft disciplines. McVeigh was a white supremacist. His crime, in the eyes of these people was in believing that there are positive things to say about white people of european descent. The murder of 144 people was subsidiary to this in their minds. Had a minority chauvinist or feminist been responsible for Oklahoma City, they would have instantly joined the pantheon of saints of this movement. Instead, he was a white male, and therefore deserving of nothing but scorn.



Barcepundit has an article explicitly linking the 3/11 bombings to spanish elections (HT:Instapundit



Speaking of Terrorists, We need an apology from one of our congresscritters. The only time we should consider nuking Mecca is under assault from Saudi Arabia. Period.



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Eric's Grumbles has an article urging libertarian and libertarian sympathizers to band together rather than calling one another heretics and trying to ostracize people that may disagree with you on one subject but are much closer in political philosophy than either (for example) Socialist Democrats or Corporate Statist Republicans. If the libertarians in this country were as effective at building a big tent as the Elephants, they would be a serious force rather than a voice in the wilderness. I'm not certain that libertarians would be big party size, but they'd be big enough so that both of the majors would try a lot harder to win their votes. I've long thought that the best possible solution would be to disband the Libertarian party in favor of a national libertarian advocacy organization. When Libertarians are on their own, they're maybe 10% of the population - not a threat to either of the majors. Were they a mixed bag of folks in the middle that can go either way, candidates in the primary will want libertarian backers, and they will run on libertarian platforms.



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What she said. Mary at Dean's World on Venezuela's Chavez and Left Wing Death Squads. Although I think the reason you have to specify "Right Wing" Death Squads is because "Left Wing" Death Squads are so much more common that it is the default value.



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Common Sense and Wonder has an article making a worthwhile point about the Donkeys. I want to see the Donkeys based somewhere closer to reality and more competitive in national elections. It would be good on all kinds of levels. Until they take this advice from somebody, it's not going to happen, unfortunately.



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Speaking of wanting people to be competitive, I can't believe this 'ebonics' sabotage of young children is coming back again. Study after study after study finds that even for foreign language speakers, moving to traditional american english as soon as possible is beneficial in school and in later life. To move english speakers towards separatism is stupid. What's really going on, is that certain leaders and power groups want to control the intereaction between these people and the rest of society. (HT: Michelle Malkin)



More on multicultural fallacies: La Shawn Barber links to a piece in the Prague Monitor (certainly no mass media in this country will say this)



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The Immigration Blog has the scoop on the shootout that left a 19 month old girl dead. Illegal alien abducts daughter, abuses step-daughter, fires at police using daughter as shield. Police aid step-daughter in leaving line of fire, and attempt to negotiate out of the situation. One of them is shot. Police shoot perpetrator, unfortunately also hitting daughter. The community is blaming the police for the whole thing. Suppose the police did nothing. In accordance with precedent the Supreme Court then holds them not liable for protecting the other people the twit would have shot? "Sorry about that, folks, but we're not allowed to protect you against members of a special interest group?"



What's it going to take to return sanity to these immigration debate, a Kool Aid embargo?



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Speaking of voices of sanity, Radioblogger gives us a transcript of Hugh Hewitt interviewing Victor Davis Hanson. This fits in very well with my own piece on Islam today. (HT: Inoperable Terran)



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Mudville Gazatte on military pay and retention rates and bonuses. I agree with him that military pay isn't as bad as many people make it out to be. Heck, the free housing part around here is equal to a $10 to $12 an hour job (tax free!) all by itself. I still think they should make more.












I've said upon more than one occasion that the factors at closing are all in the loan provider's favor. The typical consumer has no leverage to get the loan provider to play it straight at closing, and actually deliver what they said they would back when you signed the application. Many people never notice that their lender has taken advantage of them until they get the first payment notice, which is far too late to do anything about it. Furthermore, others never notice at all, and of the ones who do notice something is wrong in a timely fashion, eight to nine out of ten are so fed up with the loan process that they sign the documents anyway. I keep hearing sworn oaths from people who signed up with my competitors that they won't sign the documents at closing if they're not what they were promised, yet when I follow up the vast majority of them did. I can only conclude that these people actually enjoy being lead on like the rats by Pied Piper of Hamlin.



Assuming that you are not one of those people who enjoys being treated like a disposable rat by someone who's making a goodly sum of money from your business, what can you do? The first thing is apply for a back up loan. As I say elsewhere, if you've got a back up loan lined up, you've got leverage. Your options are not limited to sign these documents or don't. You can sign the other provider's set of documents, and the person who lied makes zero. Or you can use the existence of an alternative to get both companies, if need be, to give you the loan you were promised in the first place.



But how can you tell if you've been treated right by the loan officer? There are dozens of pieces of paper that get pushed in front of you at signing. Disclosures for this and disclosures for that. Truth in lending statements. Yet more disclosures. Certificates good for a discount here and a discount there. This is partially legal requirement, partially intentional on the part of loan providers. There really is a legal requirement for most of these disclosure documents, but the loan provider likes that they are there because they all distract your attention from where it needs to be focused.



There are three documents at the heart of every loan closing. They are the Trust Deed, Note, and Department of Housing and Urban Development form 1 (HUD 1). I advise reading everything, especially any title transferring documents, so the lender cannot easily throw a curve in amongst the auxiliary documents. But most don't bother trying. The three main documents are where you should be focusing your attention.



Sometimes, the Note is included in the Trust Deed, but most of the time they are stand-alone documents. The Trust Deed gets recorded with the county, while the Note usually does not. Some states that I haven't worked in may use other systems (A Mortgage Note, for instance, which needs an actual court action in order to foreclose, and which California along with most other states have gotten away from because it is more costly).



The Deed of Trust is simple enough. Look over the Deed of Trust enough to see that it properly references and does not contradict the Note.



The Note requires more attention, and cross referencing between it and the HUD-1. Is the amount borrowed consistent with what you were lead to believe? Is the rate correct? Is it fixed for the correct amount of time? Is there a prepayment penalty, and if so, for how long? Check out the repayment terms, and make certain there are the payments are what you were lead to believe. The Note is what you are agreeing to by signing all of this paperwork. Make certain it reads the way it is supposed to. Take your time, read it over, do not allow yourself to be rushed. Do not think to yourself, "I've got three days to call it off" because once you are done signing the odds are long that you will not think about your loan further until your first payment becomes due, and that is too late. Read it now. If there is anything that you do not understand, ask for a clarification. Good clarifications start from a point of the wording that's on the paper, and make easy sense in English. Do not accept a clarification that you do not understand. Do not sign hoping to get a better clarification later. Do not sign period if you aren't certain you understand.



Check out the HUD-1. I'm working on a separate post to cover all of the issues there, but make certain the costs are what you were led to believe, and that it all adds up correctly. The numbers should start with the Old Loan (if Refinance) or purchase price, plus costs, plus reserves if you're doing an impound account, plus prepaid interest, minus any money you're bringing in (down payment, etcetera) or the seller or your broker is crediting you, and that should be the balance of the new loan. Take your time with the HUD-1 and the Note, and do not allow yourself to be rushed. Do not sign until you are certain that you understand and agree. If this takes a little longer than the signing agent planned for, tough. Many loan providers are adept at distracting you with this disclosure or that disclosure. Some companies actually provide them with training in how to distract you, and how to gloss over thousands of dollars that you didn't agree to. Stick to your guns. The Note is what you are agreeing to, the Trust Deed is there to enforce it, and the HUD-1 is the only form accounting for your money that is actually required to be accurate. The Note, Deed of Trust and HUD 1 are what the lender is going to force you to comply with in a court of law. Make certain that they are what you agreed to before you sign them. If they're not, well that's why you applied for a back up loan, right?



Caveat emptor






UPDATE here

Done With Mirrors had a post that gave me the idea for this, and alerted me to an excellent article illuminating the subject at Donklephant



I want to compare and contrast the history of Islam with that of Christianity.



Christianity was founded in a time of a strong civilization and empire. At the time of Christianity's birth, Rome was not merely the strongest polity in sight - her might was unchallengeable. By the time of the actual Roman conquest in 63BC, Rome had already been the power broker for the whole eastern Mediterreanean for a century. After Actium and the Egyptian conquest, there was no power capable of challenging Rome anywhere around. Military conquest wasn't just out of the question; it was so far fetched as to be ridiculous. If it was a dream (and it was, a fact of which the Romans were well aware, which made the area completely unremarkable as far as the Romans were concerned), it was a dream clearly beyond reach for now.



It was into this situation that Christianity came into being. Certainly, given a chance, worldly power has always been one of the aims of any priesthood. However, military solutions were out of the question, and so the holy writings of Christianity, while certainly conducive to forceful conquest, emphasized individual faith, individual missionary work, and the powers of persuasion rather than of forcible conversion. In its early years, Christianity's story was a story of persecution, of hiding in the shadows, at first from the entrenched Jews, later and more importantly from the Romans. Now, the degree to which they were persecuted by the Romans is frequently exaggerated by the Christians. But if they didn't have to worship quite in secrecy, they were unable to worship publicly, much less forcibly convert others.



When Christianity became the official religion of the empire in Constantine's reign (the preceding persecution by Diocletian being one reason the meme is so entrenched in the religion), it certainly had no problem with conversions by means other than persuasion (followers requiring conversion for advancement, among other motivations). But the roman empire was soon on the wane. First invasion ended the western empire, then Christianity found itself under attack from the north (Viking raiders), east (the Byzantines were in a war of survival from the eighth century onwards), and west (the Iberian peninsula was conquered), as well as riven by internal conflicts between church and state (beyond the scope of this essay, but consider the conflicts between the Fredericks of the Holy Roman Empire and the papacy.) These conflicts became the hothouse that bred the Renaissance and technological advances, and as soon as the Europeans figured out that there was a whole world out there a lot easier to conquer than their fellow Europeans were, they took advantage of it. Nonetheless, by this time the groundwork had been laid for some tolerance of religious differences, and by the time of the Peace of Westphalia this had been solidly grounded, at least in regards to religion not being used as a justification to invade other states.



So by the time of the colonial period, the rights of the various Christian sects to coexist had been basically accepted. If some were not encouraged or accepted so much as others by a given state, at least there was a level of tolerance between sects won on the battlefields of Europe. Later, even non-Christian religions became more accepted in Europe, and even the predominantly European colonies such as the United States and Canada. There are limits, strong limits with strong historical precedent, to the imposition of Christian faiths. Conquering the heathens and bringing the faith to them were regarded as two separate items upon the agenda, and if they were often prosecuted at the same time and one often used as an excuse for the other, the part about bringing the word of god was regarded as an opportunity for the natives, not as a mandatory "convert or suffer the consequences" sort of thing.



Islam was born in a region and era when the city state dominated. There was no overarching, overwhelming worldly power that could not be challenged. As a result, Mohammed was able to build in a large component of "spread the word upon the point of a sword." Mohammed drew a much starker line between believer and non-believer than the early Christians would have been able to consider. Whereas in the Christian worldview, there are those that believe and those who have a chance to convert and be saved. God and the church are not one in the christian worldview. There is very little of this distinction in Islamic thinking.



The very name Islam translates as submission - submission to the will of god as dictated by his priests. Islamic priests. The concept of the person completely outside the faith does not enter into their thinking, as it does with Christianity as evidenced in Dante's Inferno, among other classical references to "virtuous pagans," who may have been good men and so are not punished, but are not admitted into what Christians see as god's grace in the afterlife. The Islamic worldview divides starkly into those who have submitted to the will of god, and those who have not. Those who follow the word of god through his priests must follow the teachings or be damned unto the realm of Iblis. Islamic rulers are in many ways puppets of the priesthood. If the priesthood says that a certain act is against the teachings of Islam, then it will not be allowed.



The concept of the missionary - a preacher who converts the unbelievers by persuasion, rather than at the point of a sword, was present in Mohammed himself, but at no subsequent time in Islam until the modern era. Whether westward from the Arabic peninsula into the (then Christian) north coast of Africa and thence into the Iberian peninsula, north into what was Christian territory in modern day Turkey and thence into central Asia, India, and into present day Indonesia, Islam was brought and enforced at the point of a sword. Existing religions in conquered areas that qualified as "peoples of the book" (Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians) were not quite forcibly converted, and dealt with fairly up to a point, but were still (and are still) subjected to extra taxations as well as limitations upon their right to practice their religion, ability to advance outside their narrow community (The famous Alfred Dreyfuss would never have been permitted to serve an Islamic power, nor Benjamin Disraeli to hold his office. Israel, hated and vilified as the enemy of all Islam that in their media, has Islamic parties in the Knesset and Muslims throughout the government, including upon their Supreme Court), and flatly prohibited from making converts (As witness the Saudi treatment of Christians). It is to be noted that unlike Christianity, Islam has nothing analogous to excommunication or walking away from the faith. It is simple to become a Muslim - their simple profession takes less than ten seconds, and can be stated anywhere, anytime. But at least within the eyes of Islam, it is impossible to sever yourself from it. Once you take the pledge, you are bound forever in their eyes. Christianity, at least in theory, has always had the ability to leave the faith. In Islam, it is not even a theory. Once you make the profession of faith, you are Islamic forever, and the priests will always have dominion over you. You may be a heretic or apostate, but you are never beyond the reach of the priests, who understandably consider the cessation of practice as a matter to be urgently addressed. As an outgrowth of this, once an area is Islamic, it must forever more be considered Islamic in their eyes.



Islam, in short, does not have the historical limitations of proselytization placed upon it that Christianity does. Whereas Christian doctrine requires a good Christian to treat with all persons in good faith so long as they act in good faith, Islam does not. It has only the concept of a grudging truce between believers and non-believers, and this must only be done when there is something to be gained thereby (for instance, the Israelis do not conquer Damascus, Cairo or Baghdad within the next few weeks). In such instances, Islam permits its practitioners to make truce, and even to pretend it is permanent, but not for it actually to be permanent. As spoken by Islamic leaders from the very beginning to the religion and continuing today with every notable modern leader, the only permanent "peace" countenanced by Islam is when all the non-believers have been converted. Check out the translations provided by MEMRI for all of the evidence as to this which you should need. But the truce is exactly that - a breathing space meant to allow the Islamic soldiers time to force a more favorable situation, which they will then use to resolve the conflict in their favor. They are not giving up. Their religion does not permit them to give up. It's only one more way to continue with the conquest of the dar-al-Harb.



Indeed, this situation is written into the Koran itself in ways which put the Old Testament to shame. Whereas the Israelites conquered themselves a homeland and proceeded to defend it, the Koran writes conquest and conversion into the very fabric of the religion, as from Mohammed's days forward they were a religion of conquest. It is not clear to me that there is an available mechanism to change this. Unlike Christianity, it is the explicit injunction of the Koran that Islam value the pronouncements of living priests over that of dead ones, but this does not extend to the pronouncements of Mohammed, whence all of the Koran flows. Since it is with the pronouncements of Mohammed that we, the civilized west, have issue, we must accept that there may not be a way short of the extermination of Islam to permanently resolve the issue.



There are, to be certain, what we would call moderate Islamics. There is even, in modern Turkey, a secular state dominated by Islam. However, the continued existence of Turkey as a secular nation has been anything except easy since it's creation after World War I. It has several times required the Turkish army to support governmental change or even to take over and run the country itself. I do not know how the meme that "Turkey is a secular nation" became engrained in their army and officer corps to the extent it has, but would be fascinated to learn it, if someone can point me at a good source or six. The process whereby it occurred could bear serious examination with an eye to adapting it elsewhere.



But despite the singular example of Turkey, the rest of the Islamic world remains locked in a jihad mindset, which if somewhat analogous to the Christian crusades on medieval times, both predates it and is much stronger in both religious and cultural senses of the term (Christians have always believed that a crusader who is evil will be banished to realms of punishment in the afterlife. Muslims do not and never have; the act of jihad is, in itself, a redemption). If individuals do not wish to join the jihad themselves, they are nonetheless required to admire and support those who do. Jihadists are to be allowed to preach, to convert, and to recruit. To do otherwise is contrary to the teachings of Mohammed, and woe betide the secular leader who wishes to hinder it, as the Saudis are discovering right now.



For us to win the war on terror without necessarily exterminating all Muslims, this has to change. And this reform can only come from within Islam. I have seen a few encouraging signs, but not nearly enough.



For those of Islam reading this, I do not wish a war of extermination between us. Despite all of the problems I see with Islam, it has aspects of tolerance and moral teaching lacking in many other faiths, including Christianity. I would like to see a broader understanding of your faith worldwide. But it must be done by the peaceable exchange of ideas, and those of other mind must have equal opportunity to convert you to their point of view. Your co-religionists cannot be permitted to continue jihad, and if you conspire with and support them, I must consider you their ally. It is not enough that you remain silent. You must remove the doubt that silence allows, and stand with the forces of civilization and tolerance for all, or with the forces that wish to bring the world back under the dominion of a priesthood that still has not left the dark ages behind. If you stand on one side, you will be among our most valued citizens. If you stand on the other, giving us a choice between submission and a life lived according to precepts that hardened in the eighth century, or death, then you must be stopped. All we ask is that you forswear the idea of conquest in the name of your religion. This is something that every other major religion has managed. It is now your turn.








Notes from here and there, having now read every new entry in the RINO and LLP community, as well as my regular blogreading.



BTW, I have what I think is a good article comparing Christian history to Islamic history going to post here Monday morning, as well as the previously mentioned consumer post on what you need to do at a mortgage closing. You might want to stop back then.



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Argghhh! has a very worthwhile essay on force building and the donkey proponents of a build up. They make a point obliquely that needs to be looked at foursquare. Forcebuilding requires the NCOs and officers to lead it. If we build these forces, we need to give those people who become the leaders to have the opportunity for a career - not "force reductions". Their leadership skills and other things around the margins are in demand outside the armed forces, but the military skills they invest the time learning are not. To induce these young folks to invest that time out of their lives learning the skills, and then cut them loose, would be unconscionable.



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Politburo Diktat tells us that Egypt is not going to hand over the chemist they arrested in connection with the London attacks.



Pole Dancing In the Dark has an article on the london bombings and the political echo chambers on both sides. I hope ethne comes back soon.



Jihad Watch has more



Tinkerty Tonk has an article telling us about an infiltration of the british media. One wonders why the terrorists bothered.



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The LLP's own AnarchAngel has had a real life fatwa issued against him by a terrorist group. Later stuff here. He explains why he did what he did



I don't care why these idiots are doing what they are doing. It is just one copy of a book that has billions more copies available. I can understand firing him if he works for you, although even that is actionable in this country. However, if you are so scared by this that you have to mark him for death, you'd better read my post coming out Monday morning comparing the history of Islam with that of Christianity. If you're threatened by shooting a few rounds at a copy of your holy book, you're going to die of a heart attack when I discuss coldly and rationally what Islam better do to survive as a religion.



Anarchangel: I don't know what, if anything, I can do for you. But you've got the email to ask.



Commissar also tells us of the arithmetic of the Iraqi suicide bombers. "8 bombers kill 22 soldiers and civilians."



If the terrorists had 8 bombers for every 22 soldiers and civilians, they could throw us out of Iraq tomorrow. Since they don't, they're running though their seed corn in the manner of a losing battle. This has been my feeling for some time. But if they stop, they stop getting recruits, and the resistance dries up altogether.



Hurl's Blog (currently serving in Iraq) has personal experiences worth reading.

HT: Dean's World



Checking in with Iraq the Model, they have some thoughts as well. more here on moving backwards.



Belmont Club adds another example of intolerant behavior to the pile-on.



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Classical Values tells us about a private enterprise space conference!



It is one of the things that I am bitter about that the space program for my generation was thrown out the airlock before I was even of voting age. I'll support everything I can so my children have at least the conceivable opportunity.



NASA keeps thinking tactically: "How can we get more money for X?" "How can we make our money go further?" It is difficult to argue with the fact that unmanned missions are more efficient, and consume fewer resources. But if they want the public 100 percent behind them, what the public cares about is "humans can do it." Question: How much popular science fiction is about robotic probes of our own solar system? The over-riding goal should to make a trip into space within the reach of middle class tourists. When that happens, you'll be able to do all the space science you want.



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In The Agora points me to an old but completely worthwhile Asymmetrical Information post on the distortions of certain consumer groups.



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Per request from Dean's World, I'm linking this Armies of Liberation post on the totalitarian instincts of the Yemeni government.



Dean also calls our attention to something we may want to shine more Searchlight on in Iraq: An Iraqi blogger has been arrested, his hard drive stolen, and no charges have yet been forthcoming. As Dean notes, Iraq is not yet the United States, but it's too damned easy to let this stuff get a foothold. I've emailed my representative and both senators. Boxer and Feinstein being democrats and wishing to get mileage from opposition misteps, the senators staffs in particular may be good bets to actually call some attention to this.



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Constitution Death Pool has an article about illegal immigration.



Sunday morning, LGFpoints us to an article with more on terrorists crossing our borders as well as CBS won't sell ad time to an anti-terror conference because they're afraid it might emotionally affect us.



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Hat tip to De Doc for pointing me to the design work for a LEGO Turing machine

here



New LLP member Forward Biased takes us to the Art of Science Competition.



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I am absolutely amazed at how many people weren't aware of all these precedencts. Even among people who obsess on the Second Amendment much stronger than I do. I've known about them for twenty-odd years, but they've been dropped down the memory hole by the legacy media.



Yet another argument for citizen journalists. Question: How far past the "piling on" stage are we?



Althouse adds another body to the pile!



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Snugg Harbor has an article correctly addressing another aspect of the China situation.



Resistance is futile has more. Having thought about it for a couple of days now, I think we ought to Officially Ignore the chinese threat to use nukes, doing everything public in all ways exactly the same as we would without said threat (i.e. defend Taiwan per our obligations), while making sure we're ready to respond with overwhelming force if they do carry through. This way we aren't upping the ante and making it more likely that they will use nukes, but we are ready in case they do. As far as I can tell, if the US Official Policy is not Ignore the threat, I can't see an operational difference. And I'm certain that our fine military folks have taken note, and are ready to go if need be. Bless you all.



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Target Centermass takes the University of California dropping the National Merit Scholarships and runs with it. This is truly PC affirmative action run amok (Yeah, I know, this is the UC system, which fought Bakke and proposition 187 to the Supreme Court, and is still thinking up dodges such as this to avoid compliance with the spirit of anti-affirmative action programs).



More on multiculturalism in Australia (HT: Tim Blair)



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Cool! Ogre directs me to an Electronic Frontier's Foundation Legal Guide for Bloggers. I've known about EFF for quite some time, and they are by and large wonderful people doing yeoman's work. This is one more example.





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Dean's World agrees with me on Rove/Plame.



If anyone wants any additional proof the Donkeys are unhinged, here is Paul Begala claiming that the elephants want to kill him so they can keep estate tax gone. Estate tax, as anyone who is familiar with it knows, is a voluntary tax on willful stupidity. And since "trust funders" are a democratic demographic, who benefits from the abolition of estate tax?



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Jeff Jarvis has a post on the end of multiculturalism in europe.



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Mrs. Greyhawk and Mudville Gazette has more perspective on Pfc. Stephen Tschiderer (the hero who medically treated the Iraqi who ambushed him) and the legacy media treatment thereof.



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Roger L. Simon has a great article out of personal experience on Hollywood egos. I must admit, I've always been mystified as to why the endorsement of someone who gets paid to mouth the words other people write in order to pretend they are somebody special for a few minutes at a time should be noteworthy. If one of them can convince us through real world means that they're worth paying attention to on a given subject, fine. But paying attention to movie stars because they're actors is a little like paying attention to the opinions of a high school sophomore because the in crowd think she's pretty.



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Big Topic of The Day:



Watch out! Far as I can determine, Vodkapundit saw this trend first, but this morning there is a new scary article Chinese General threatens US over Taiwan. More here. Similar story with one more detail here.



I really hope that there is no there there. I'm starting to believe I'm going to be disappointed. Now would be an excellent time for China to attack Taiwan, for the same reasons France invaded Mexico during our Civil War (like France, I suspect China's military is less than it appears, and like Mexico, I think Taiwan's a bigger bite than it appears to be. On the other hand, the logistical situation isn't as bad). We'd either have to win quick and big, or we wouldn't win, which means China would be silly to actually use nukes on us. We use them first, it would be surgical, and China wins world support. China uses them first, we respond with overwhelming force, and China ceases to exist.



So do we wait for China or do we use them first? We probably should wait, despite increased upfront toll. We use them first, and despite their threats we are immediately the bad guys, still the one and only country in the world to ever actually Drop The Bomb. We cannot take on the whole world. Much as I hate to say it (especially living in a West Coast Target City!), the costs to the US from using nukes first would be higher than if we waited until after they did.



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Politics:



Looks like the big move today in Rove/Plame is endgame. Looks like the Donkeys have bought all the rope they need. The only question remaining is are they going to buy more rope anyway, or decide they've lived up to the terms of the Parallel Idiocy in Political Parties Act regarding Terri Schiavo? Is it just me, or does anybody else hear demonic laughter emanating from Elephant political strategists? "Muwahahaha!".



On a related note, Hugh Hewitt directs us to Dean Barnett at the Weekly Standard for a bit of perspective.



For more National Review lays it out.



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London bombings:



All sorts of interesting happenings regarding the London bombings. Egyptian chemist arrested. He studied in North Carolina. He's denying a role, of course. Now the next step is for some useful idiot to publicly step forward and ask "Why is this poor innocent being tormented?"



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3 parasites' shared genes yield clues to solving three nasty diseases of the developing world. Cool!



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UN wants to Destroy Take Over Internet



Just what we want: The perpetrators of this in charge of global information.

(HT to Instapundit for the latter)



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Attacking the Messenger

Hat tip: Indepundit



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TIMEWASTER: 7 per cent idiot. I think we can safely accept that's a lower bound to the range.

While I was there: 10% Hippie

Hat tip: Llama Butchers



Another Timewaster Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?. According to them, I'm Spock.

HT: Powerline

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War on Terror stuff:



Victor Davis Hanson in NRO has more on the strategic situation.

HT: LGF



Captain's Quarters has information on a Court of Appeals panel saying that the prisoners at Guantanamo are not prisoners of war Well, duh. But I suppose we had to comply with the Trial Lawyers Full Employment Act.



One of an Army of Heroes (and Marine Corps of Heroes)

HT: Michelle Malkin (P.S. You've got to love her article headline "TSA: TRAINING SUICIDAL ARABS")



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Common Sense and Wonder has a great Cuban history post, and another on the Evolution in our Judiciary



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It may not come as a shock to you, but loan officers, along with many other salesfolk, speak a different language than the rest of the population. What will probably annoy you, however, is the number of times they'll say something that sounds like a phrase out of English, but really is from Salesgoodspeakian, a bizarre tongue in which the true meanings must be learned by osmosis from the particular subculture's dialect, while intending to communicate something entirely different to the poor schmuck who, after all, doesn't understand salesgoodspeakian.



This post is intended partially as humor, partially as education. I'm going to start it with a few of the most common ones, and update it by adding more and reposting from time to time. If you've got a good one, either with or without translation (and whether from one of my fields or not), please send it to me along with the context, if appropriate (dm at). Even if you don't have a translation, I'm pretty good at major dialects of salesgoodspeakian. It is to be noted that these phrases are not red flags, but more in the nature of yellow flags. If they just occur on a stand-alone basis, it's something that's likely to proceed from yellow to a red flag, particularly with repeated yellows. On the other hand, if the person uttering them proceeds to issue a clarification in plain English, issues an amplification rendering the translation void, or translates and explains the salesgoodspeakian, it's possible you've just been given a real world green flag that this is an ethical person. For instance, my absolute favorite loan to do is a true zero cost to the consumer A paper loan (and no prepayment penalty!), which I usually explain as "Nothing added to your mortgage. You've just got to do the paperwork with me, and come up with the money for the appraisal, which will be returned to you when the loan funds". And it's also possible you've been given a reinforced red because they lied.



And yes, I've had clients who came to me report every one of these. Some of the translations are a little exaggerated to make the point, but the spirit remains the same.



The salesgoodspeakian to English phrasebook:



Mortgage dialect:



"Stress free loans" two percent higher than you'd qualify for with better documentation and a little more work and less greed on the loan officer's behalf.



"Won't cost you anything out of your pocket" - Six points and $5000 in well-padded closing costs added to your mortgage loan balance, though.



"Thirty Year Loan" fixed for the first two, if they're feeling generous that day, but it does have a thirty year amortization. With five year prepayment penalty of course!



"How does a 1% rate sound?" Like you're a misleading weasel trying to get me to do a loan that digs me in deeper every month with a three year prepayment penalty that keeps me trapped even after I figure it out (See Negative Amortization Loans when I get that finished)



"Industry standard" - Everybody else at this company does it that way, too, because the boss says to, and I don't know any better. (This is very much the "G" rated translation. Please note that there are industry standards - things that pretty much every company in the industry does. Some of these standards need to change, some just are, and some are actually beneficial).



"Everybody knows there's 2% origination fee." Actually, everybody knows no such thing. But if I told you about it in the first place, you might have gone with somebody honest.





Found on the same billboard:

"Rates as low as 4%!" on an "adjusts every month" loan that's going to 6% next month and who knows what thereafter. With five points. While I have you on the phone, let's sign you up for it.

"No Points!" we've got no points loans. Not on the loan we quoted above. I'm really so terribly sorry you misunderstood. Now, about that 4% loan, what's your name?

"Low Fees!" compared to the multimillion dollar Oil For Food bribes, $23,000 is low. Now about that 4% loan, what's your social?

"Easy paperwork" but the start rate goes to 6% for the first month, adjusting to 8% next month. Still five points. Not for the rate we quoted above. I'm really so terribly sorry you misunderstood. Now, about that 4% loan, when can you come in to sign?



Caveat Emptor


UPDATE here

How many Evil Infidel Points is insisting that terrorists act like civilized human beings? Oh. Right. I guess I'm a target. Big target for now or little target for later, doesn't really matter. I'm still a target. I can do something about it, or wait to my turn to get hit. If you have to guess which, then you're a new reader.

Hat tip: Tim Blair



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Edward Lazarus in the Capital Times has some worthwhile thoughts for those left of center on the Supreme Court vacancies.



Professor Althouse adds her thoughts. Read the comments, also. They're worth it.



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Mudville Gazette has more on recent terrorist attacks in Iraq. Is it just me, or does it seem like even the vermin's helpers are starting to have second thoughts? Last week in London they were likely not expecting to be suicide bombers, and in Baghdad the splodeydope human camel tried to walk away.



Blackfive has some picures of ordinary Iraqis marching against terror.



Belmont Club has more.



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Misha takes on the Times's editorial in favor of the IFC at the WTC. He does know how to make his point. Harsh language advisory in effect.



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Vodkapundit makes a good point about the Chinese economy and military intentions. If the chinese economy has tanked, watch out for military action, almost certainly against Taiwan, for the same reasons Argentina attacked the Falklands.



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Vodkapundit also has An Explanation into his position on Rove and Plame. It has to do with protecting our covert intelligence operatives. I see his point, and yet I do not agree. Plame and Wilson came forward and got political on their own. This whole thing is roughly James Bond retires from field service and gets a desk job, gets his anti-government hack spouse a job that said spouse proceeds to botch. Said anti-government hack spouse then goes public with accusations of malfeasance, and it's somehow a crime that the circumstances are disclosed? I don't think so. One right anybody - person, corporation, political group - has in our system is the right to have public illumination shine upon any attack upon them. How else are we to judge the case on its merits? If Plame had been intending to return to covert operations, one cardinal rule of which is "don't get noticed", she shouldn't have gotten her opposition political hack husband the job if he couldn't keep his mouth shut. Here's a conundrum for the other side: Suppose we had had a Republican CIA man's spouse go public about how stupid and poorly thought out Clinton's foreign policy efforts really were? Would you think Billy boy would have been entitled to respond? Suppose Hillary gets elected in '08 and starts moving the War on Terror towards "consultation" with terrorist states, and those who have been fighting it correctly under GWB take public exception? Is she entitled to answer them and illuminate the circumstances? My answer is yes. Is yours? Then why is the Bush administration different?



Q and O has an article dissecting whether Mr. Rove could have committed a crime, examining the relevant law. The short answer: No. The only reason it's even an issue they're moonbats and he's Eeeevil Karl Rove™!



Just One Minute has much more.

Hat tip: Instapundit



Finally, Scrappleface comes up with a way that the left might believe Karl Rove is innocent. Bwahahaha!



UPDATE: Townhall.com has coverage of a total meltdown on the part of the Donkeys, trying to pass an amendment that would remove Mr. Rove's security clearance, among other things. I realize removal of a security clearance isn't prosecution of a crime, but ex post facto procedings have a really bad odor even when it's not criminal, and there is a reason for it (He didn't break the law, so we'll pass a new one and get him with that). Whereas I have to admit that Sen. Frist's amendment is a rather elegant response parliamentarily, it's still ex post facto. The Donkeys have Officially Lost It (Again), and the Elephants fail to convert the fumble.

Hat tip: Wizbang



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Jane Galt makes a good point on Aid to Africa



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Austin Bay has the best coverage of the Van Gogh murder trial and the overall situation in the Netherlands that I've seen.



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I'm saddened to read that La Shawn Barber is taking a break from her blog. On her way out, she says a few things that cannot really be said too often.



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Both La Shawn Barber and Michelle Malkin point us to Jihad Watch, where we learn that the same british taxpayers who were killed were funding the center where the bombers were recruited.



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Dean's World has more on "Defining "Democracy" and The Democratic Peace Theory"



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Eric's Grumbles and Anarchangel both have worthwhile thoughts on the space program.



I have never liked or favored the estate tax, and yet I was very much of two minds about actually abolishing it. Now that it's done, I'm glad of the benefits to the individuals involved, and yet it is only one of the issues involved in planning for what happen.



The benefit of abolishing the estate tax is obvious: people don't get taxed, so their heirs get what they earned rather than the government. This is a good thing, and I favor it for that reason.



On the other hand, there were so many mechanisms varying from outright gifting to 529 accounts to life insurance to trusts, each of which except the first can be used to retain control and benefits of assets while avoiding estate tax liability, that estate tax was basically voluntary. You had to just not plan in order to pay estate tax, and some of the mechanisms available actually increase your available estate over what would have been its original gross value otherwise. Since we know that death is something each of us is going to have to face, there can be no reason except stupidity for not undertaking to plan for it. Estate tax was a voluntarily paid tax on stupidity.



Furthermore, there are other estate and contingency planning options that people need to take care of, and fewer people are doing so as estate tax was one of the primary levers that moved people to do it. All of this planning is just as necessary as estate tax planning, and usually taken care of at the same time.



Here are just a few of the other issues:



Will: The will probably should not be used for financial purposes, but resolves other functions such as who gets custody of minor children. Please note that a will is not necessarily binding upon the states where your will is probated, and can be challenged. Many wills are challenged, a large portion of them successfully, and even if your estate wins the battle it will be diminished in the process.



Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care: if you can't make health care decisions, this tells who you delegate that power to. If there's a court case brought, it's going to be very short and abrupt. Case closed.



Trusts, revocable and irrevocable. I'm not certain it's possible to successfully challenge a well-constructed trust where the assets that are actually transferred to it are concerned. You didn't own them. The trust does, and the trust didn't die. The instructions live on, like a corporation. The named successor trustee also usually gets the ability to manage the trust's assets if you are alive but incapable. Assets in a trust can avoid not only estate tax, but probate as well. If you want to be certain of the disposition of what you leave, particularly in a speedy manner, this is probably the way to go. Many estates are not finished with probates for years, and until they are, your heirs don't get control of the assets. Probate is also expensive, time consuming, and lucrative for attorneys. Seven percent of probated assets seems to be about the minimum cost, and it can easily top thirty percent. I haven't investigated, but I suspect the trial lawyers would be solidly behind banishing estate tax for this reason.



Business operations: many small to medium sized businesses have no plan to keep them going in the event the owner-operator dies or becomes disabled. Certainly nobody else working there has the knowledge, the experience, and often the necessary licenses. If the business closes because the proprietor isn't there, it's worthless. If there's a plan of succession to keep it open and operating, however, you or your family can likely sell it as a going concern with consistent profit.



Retirement plans: If you have certain types of tax deferred retirement plans, they can be expensive to convert to assets in your heirs' possession, even without estate tax. Better to draw these down and keep other accounts available.



Life Insurance: There are going to be expenses when you go. These vary from taking care of the body you leave behind to probate to keeping your business running if you have one. The people doing these things want cash. Life insurance is usually the cheapest way to pay them. Your family is also likely to need something to replace your income. Life insurance is about the only choice.



One hopes you begin to get the idea. Consult an attorney and financial professional in your area to find out how it works, but all of this needs to be taken care of, or your family will wish you had.



Caveat Emptor.





UPDATED here

I've evolved! Most likely due to the Carnival of Liberty and I'll drop back down in a few days, but it feels good to be a Large Mammal for a while. On the other hand, I'm hoping that starting to play with Technorati tags will help my traffic (The link is here, for those who may not know about them). And I just spotted one of my articles in the "latest posts" section of the community for the very first time, so TTLB must have done something to cause them to catch! Thank you, NZ Bear!



Also, my consumer education post scheduled for tomorrow will actually NOT be real estate related, but rather a piece on the demise of the estate tax. I'll probably re-run one of my "list" posts on Friday, then Monday I have in mind a piece I just finished about what consumers really need to pay attention to when they are signing final loan documents. Tomorrow's piece and the Monday piece are both worth reading. Please check back.



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Done with Mirrors has a great article Pack Of Lies on the Islamic Mindset



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This is a switch. Armies of Liberation picked up on the fact that Abbas has asked Arab nations to grant Palestinian refugees citizenship. This is contrary to over 40 years of precedent. The existence of refugees and refugee camps serves a useful public relations purpose for the Palestinians. I wonder how many Arab governments will go along? (Israel has been granting them citizenship since 1948)



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Respectful Insolence has a well thought out article on the Catholic Church and Intelligent Design.



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Mark Steyn has a revelation for the Europeans: They're being Israelified!



Hat tip: The Owner's Manual



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Feces Flinging Monkey makes an effective point and I think he's making sense: The London suicide bombers were tricked, and used like camels to carry the bombs to where they were going, expecting to walk away. However, the bombs were remotely detonated...



Hat tip: Say Uncle



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Beautiful Atrocities has a funny story that probably even has elements of truth, although they'll never admit it.



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To Fistful of Fortnights: I think you've got the wrong Tom Cruise movie. I think he's been copying Dustin Hoffman from Rain Man. It is and will remain his only brush with Oscar material...



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Politburo Diktat catches a CNN report I missed that the bombers were British nationals!



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Classical Values has a worthwhile article on the embrionic stem cell debate. I'm inclined to agree. I note that there are worthwhile arguments on both sides of this issue, however.



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The Jawa Report has an excellent couple of round up on the London Bombers



Vince, guest blogging, has a worthwhile screed against Islam. May I add a couple more: We'll never know exactly how much your "Religion of Peace" destroyed of the Classical World's knowledge, which even after the disintegration of the Western Empire was still well preserved in most of the Mediterreanean. The amount of knowledge the Caliphate contributed to the world even at its height is negligible. Preserving Greek and Roman knowledge? That's rich, kind of like a library arsonist claiming credit for saving some of the books.



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Dean's World talks about the left and Karl Rove and all of the energy they are expending upon it. I think they just observed how well the whole Terri Schiavo thing worked for the right...



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Captain's Quarters shows an NEA self parody. Not news, but amusing.



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Powerline dispels the New York Times' BS.















Mortgage Loan Rate Locks

| | Comments (0)

One of the most common true sayings in the mortgage business is, "If you can't lock it right now, it's not real."



But many mortgage providers will play a game of wait and hope. They tell you they have a certain loan when they in fact do not, hoping the rates go down to where they do. Or they'll tell you about a rate they actually have, but wait to lock it hoping the rates will go down so they can make more money because when the rates go down, the rebate for a given rate goes up.



Sometimes the rates do go down, and they can deliver. But sometimes the rates go up, too. When this happens, the mortgage provider playing the "wait and hope" game has two choices. They can make less money, or charge more for the loan. I hope I don't have to draw you a picture as to which is more likely.



Many times one side effect is a delayed loan. This is probably the number one reason for delayed loans, and one of the strongest reasons I keep telling you that if a provider can't do it in thirty days, they probably can't do it on the terms indicated. Many times they bet on rates going down, when rates actually go up, so they end up with a loan that they can't make any money by doing, so they delay it day by day, week by week hoping the market will move. Note, please, that they usually have zero intention of finishing your loan if the market doesn't move downwards enough. Whether it's National Megabank with a million offices, or Joe Anonymous working out of their home, their motivation is to do what it takes so they make money, and they will keep sweet talking you as long as they possibly can. They're certainly not going to work for free, and many of them will not do it at all rather than compromise their usual loan margin. If you allow them to play this game, when you finally give up in disgust, they still have several weeks after you apply with someone else where they're the only ones that can possibly have the loan done, and if the market moves down during those weeks, they're covered. If you could have gotten a better loan during that period, you likely would. But because you were quoted a price that didn't exist and believed it, they've got what looks to a consumer to be a competitive advantage. And if they call after you've cancelled their loan and say that they can close the loan now when the new provider you just contracted with isn't ready yet, most people will go ahead and sign the papers because This Loan Is Ready now.



There are honest mortgage providers who lock every loan at the time you tell them you want it. But there is no way for a consumer to verify that any given loan provider is among them. All of the paper I can put in front of you could be easily faked. Which brings us back to one of the standard refrains of the site: Apply for a back up loan.



There is another issue with regard to rate locks. They are all for a certain set period in calendar (not working!) days, usually measured from the time you say you want it to the time the loan actually funds (not until you sign documents). Assuming your loan is actually locked when you say you want it, this means that there is a DEADLINE.



This means that once you tell someone you want the loan, give the loan provider every scrap of documentation they ask for right away, not a week later. The loan provider is not going to pay for the delay, you are. Many banks will not even look at an incomplete loan package, so it is crucial to have the paperwork organized quickly. If that loan goes beyond the initial lock period, you can pretty much count on paying an extension. Some banks charge one tenth of a point for up to five days, some a quarter of a point for up to fifteen days of extension, some even more, but it's always charged in full from the first day of an extension. Sometimes the lender will give an extension for free if it was obviously their fault, but not very often. More likely, whether it was your fault, their fault or nobody's fault, the extension will be charged. Lenders have no sympathy for going over the lock period, and neither do most brokers. The lenders have set a large sum of money aside for your use, and they aren't earning interest on it. They want some kind of compensation, and when you think about it, this is not unreasonable.



Common rate locks are done for 15, 30, or 45 days, but they are available in 15 day increments for almost any length of time out to about nine months. However, there is a cost. The longer the lock period, the costlier the loan. Par becomes higher with a longer lock period. You pay more in points, or get less in rebate for the same type of loan at the same rate. The reason for this is simple. The bank is setting all of this money aside for your use, and not getting any interest in compensation. They are doing you the favor, and they will charge you extension fees if you go past the lock period. I'm looking at a rate sheet right now that was valid a couple of days ago from a medium size lender. For a thirty year fixed rate loan, the discount points go up one eighth of a point between the fifteen and the thirty day lock, and another quarter of a point for a forty-five day lock.



The problem with 15-day locks is that they are useless as an "upfront" lock. Especially with refinancing, where you lose a week by law between signing documents and funding the loan, there just is no way to reliably get it done within this time frame. Even purchases are chancy with the best of cooperation from everybody involved. 15-day locks are primarily a tool of those providers who play the "wait and hope" game mentioned above, and they lock just before printing final loan documents. The fact that they are planning a shorter lock period allows them the illusion of quoting something lower, but even if they tell you what the rates are today, they are quoting you a rate that may or may not exist when the loan is actually ready.



A 30-day lock is most common lock period for those who lock the loan immediately. If both you and the provider are organized, it's enough to reliably do all the paperwork and miscellaneous other projects, get final approval, and get the loan funded. It sounds like a lot of time, but it isn't. On refinances, you lose a week due to legal and system requirements. Let's say you sign the final paperwork on a Monday. By federal law, you have three days to change your mind, and they're not going to fund the loan before that period expires. Monday doesn't count, so Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday go by before anything can be done. Good escrow officers don't usually request funds on Friday, because when they request funding is when the new loan starts accruing interest. Monday they fund the loan, and the bank has up to two days to provide the funds, then the escrow officer has up to two days to pay off the old loan before the documents record and the transaction is essentially complete. This takes us to potentially to Thursday or Friday of the following week.



On purchases, there is no three day Right of Rescission, but if the escrow officer begins funding a loan on Tuesday you are still talking about potentially hanging over until Monday of the next week. Funding doesn't necessarily take this long, but it does happen.



45 day and longer locks are primarily useful for purchases where there is something external holding the loan back. Only rarely do the market conditions become such that longer locks than 30 day become necessary on refinances. Otherwise, they are most often used only when the actual purchase contract says that the purchase can't close until 45 or 60 days from now. There is a tradeoff here, and I may occasionally counsel people to wait if the construction on the house isn't scheduled to be complete for ninety days or longer. This makes for a risk that rates may move in the meantime, but rates generally don't go up in huge jumps, but rather incrementally higher from day to day, and past ninety days you may be risking less by waiting than by locking. There's no reason to pay more for a lock than you have to.



Usually, though, I want to lock it now. As a broker, I can always take it to a different lender if I get a better deal, or if we made the wrong choice and locked when we should have waited. I've seen too many folks burned by lenders or brokers waiting to lock, and all of the rates go up and stay high. If it's not locked, it's not real. Even a legitimate and complete quote is fairy gold until it is actually locked. A bank can withdraw its loan pricing at any time. Sometimes this happens right when I'm in the middle of the locking process, and when this happens, the client gets the new pricing. Period. End of story (some banks will give you 30 minutes to complete locks already in process, but this is subject to limitations). Some lenders and loan providers attempt to hide this (and they call it "Consumer transparency." You may hoot in derision if you so desire. A better name would be something like their "Consumer Ignorance is Bliss" policy. "Don't you go worrying your poor little head about that, ma'am!"). Until the lock process is complete, you don't have a right to those rates.



Caveat Emptor



UPDATED here

Since this is amalgamation of two days worth of links, may be a bit longer than usual. Some of the stuff linked to may also be a little older than usual



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RINO Sightings III is up at Inside Larry's Head

my favorites:

Technography with Price of Freedom

Respectful Insolence with The Hitler Zombie Smells Thimerosol



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Speaking of Misha like I did in the most recent post I finished, he gets a hat tip for pointing me to DUmmie FUnnies.



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This is a joke, right?



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Minh-Duc at State of Flux has a good speculative piece on how the bomber's operation may have gone. The only thing I can add is the likelihood one person placed more than one of the bombs. I'm not familiar with the area, but the fewer people in on an operation, the better.



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The Jawa Report notes that Al-Qaeda may be about to sign the death warrant of Islam with Al Qaeda Has Nukes in U.S.. If that happens, the kid gloves will come off worldwide, and I predict a run on Cross-Of-David symbols all over what was the formerly Islamic World. If they thought the global political climate was bad after 9/11...



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Dean's World notes that no democracy has ever experienced a famine. One more reason to like democracy. Although it's kind of gotten to the "piling on" stage, it just seems that no matter how much data there is, some people just won't get it. Call them proles, call them slaves, call them useful idiots. Same person, same status, different nomenclature.



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Cops Find Abandoned 44-Car Train In San Diego

Hat tip: Mover Mike



Okay, so it can't go 400 mph. But it masses a lot more than an airliner. And it may be limited to the tracks, but if somebody takes it and and runs it along the tracks, well, those tracks go right past some pretty large buildings and densely inhabited areas, and there are some curves with definite speed limits to prevent derailment. Also,what happens if it meets something else massive coming the other way? The railroads have been behind the power curve for more than 50 years, and they're not getting smarter.



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Interesting. The tribes of the Pacific Northwest have tales of tsunamis. Of course, this is hardly news. Live near open ocean. check. Earthquakes common in region. check. Not news, but definitely interesting.



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Kook Test. I got a 16 which is described as "Well, you've heard the call of the strange out there, roaming the plains of life. You haven't answered, but at least you didn't assume it was indigestion. This level of score indicates a person who is probably more normal. to be fair, than someone who got 0. If you only got 1 or 2, be *very* careful - its all downhill from here!"



On the other hand, perhaps we've just fashioned a sanity shield. "What? Cthulu is rising again? But I just sank R'lyeh yesterday! And for the third time this year I might add! Can't you just get Howard Dean to deal with it? Oh. Right. On my way. "



Hat tip: Anarchangel





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Vic at Constitution Death Pool has a piece on how McCain is now getting together with Teddy to legalize illegal aliens. Didn't we do this in 1986, and didn't it failed miserably? It is time to take the gloves off, particularly with regards to those who employ illegal aliens. It is time to get control of our border before we lose a city or six.



UPDATE: Forgot about this, which I marked as kernel for an article ten days ago and never got back to.



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Cool new ship stuff at Mr. Completely



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Q and O with a great article on Intellectual honesty



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As I Please takes a Belmont Club post and makes a broken field run for the score!



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Environmental Republican with an article about the Israeli Wall. I thought the Israelis were being more reasonable than anyone had a right to expect. Given the war they've been fighting for almost 40 years now, they would be within their rights to just clear the area of enemies.



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My elder daughter starts kindergarten in the fall. I'm glad it's not in Kansas.



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Strata-Sphere reports that the Iraqi handover is beginning! They may not be ready to be completely on their own, but our baby is taking it's first steps!



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Tinkerty Tonk notes that Palestinians prefer linfe in Israel.



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Sorry RINOs, could only work my way a third of the way up the list today! I'll try to catch the rest tomorrow!

In The Washington Post

Hat tip: Volokh COnspiracy



Money quote:



"Bloggers want it both ways," said Carol Darr, head of the Institute for Politics, Democracy and the Internet at George Washington University. "They want to preserve their rights as political activists, donors and even fundraisers — activities regulated by campaign finance laws — yet, at the same time, enjoy the broad exemptions from the campaign finance laws afforded to traditional journalists."





As opposed to traditional media people, who are never activist, never donate to partisan causes, and never, ever encourage others to do so?



Stating one's opinion is, or should be, protected under the First Amendment (or at least it was until McCain-Feingold)



All Americans are free to donate to political campaigns to the limits of the law. If this changes and those in the media are prohibited from donating, we're going to see a lot more reporters in jail.



If positively slanted stories in the media do not encourage donations to a candidate or cause, and negatively slanted ones do not encourage donation to the opposition, it's news to me, as well as to every person over the age of 6 who has paid any attention to the legacy media. How many studies have been done on media influence of public opinion again? If our local paper at at 440,000 papers sold per day, is not many magnitudes more influential than me with my perhaps 150 or so free page views per day, then I should be getting rich charging for my content. Quickly, because I'm more influential than the product of a multi-million dollar publishing empire. Checking the Ecotraffic, that puts them at nearly three times the unique page visitors to Instapundit. To further reductio this ad absurdem Wall Street Journal sells 2 million papers per day, and USA today sells 2.6 million, and if any online magazine or blogger is in that league of influence, they should be a billionaire by this time next year.



I realize it's not truly a size issue. My point is that if you are looking for ability and intent to influence the political process, reporters and editors at the local rag have more ability to influence local opinion by the truly accidental misplacement of a comma, than I or most online individuals do exerting our utmost strength. And the fact that they do intend to wield that influence, and they do spend more time than I possibly can sharpening and polishing the influence each particular story will have, has been extensively documented. Furthermore, even openly partisan media outlets share the media exemption. Me, I ducked the issue by converting to an online magazine from a blog. Only the label has changed, after all, and I'd just rather not have the fight over the label. But I have huge respect for bloggers such as Captain's Quarters, who have vowed not to convert, and I'll be behind him all the way and donate money to the extent of my ability. He's volunteered to fight so that hopefully I and others won't have to. The least I can do is stand with him to the limits of my ability. If I ever read he needs money in defense of this, I will donate as much as I can afford, and do anything else he asks in support, regardless of the fact that I don't think he has any knowledge that I or Searchlight Crusade even exist.



Most people tend to shop for a mortgage based upon the payment. They figure the lowest payment will be the cheapest loan.



This is the way most people make banks rich. Because they are looking for the loan with the lowest rate and the lowest payment, they choose the loan with two or three points that's going to take twelve years to pay for its costs, and then after they've sunk all those costs into the front end of the loan, refinance within two years and sink a whole new set of costs into the loan. The bank gets all this lovely money, and then the consumer lets them off the hook by refinancing, and the bank doesn't have to carry through on the full amount of their end of the bargain.



In point of fact, when shopping for a mortgage loan, there are at least four factors the consumer should consider. The best loan for a given consumer in a given situation at a given time is based upon all of these factors. Each varies in importance from loan to loan.



These factors are:



The monthly payment

The monthly interest charges

The costs that are sunk into the loan in order to get it

How long you're likely to keep the loan.



This is not to say that only these factors are of importance. For example, the possibility of "back end" costs when you refinance is likely to be a critical factor when considering a loan that has a prepayment penalty. If you know there's a good chance you're going to get hit with an $8000 charge for paying it off too early, that needs to be added into the likely costs of the loan.



The monthly payment is important for obvious reasons. If this is not something you're comfortable paying every month for month after month and year after year, then getting this loan is probably not something you should do. The costs of getting behind in your mortgage are significant, and the costs of going into default are enormous, and both may likely continue even after you have dealt with them. I talk with people all of the time who say, "We've got to buy something now, before it gets even worse!" Many agents and loan officers will happily put someone who says this into a home, with a loan payment that looks affordable on the surface, but isn't. If you don't examine the situation carefully, you're likely to be getting into something you cannot afford, and is likely to have huge costs and ramifications for years down the line. Neither of these people is your friend. They are each making thousands, often tens of thousands of dollars, by putting you into a situation that is not stable, and that you're going to have to deal with down the line, while they're long gone and putting some other trusting person who doesn't know any better into the same situation as you. If the situation is not both stable and affordable, pass it by.



With that said, the monthly payment is usually the LEAST important of these four factors. As long as it's something you can afford, do not charge straight ahead, distracted by the Big Red Cape of "Low Payment" while you are being bled to death by other things. Many of these Matadors (which means killers in Spanish) will bleed you to death while acting like your friend by distracting you with the "affordable low payment". Due to lack of a real financial education in the licensing process, a disturbingly large number do not realize they are bleeding people, but that doesn't help their victims. A loan payment that is higher but still affordable may be a better loan for you - and in fact this is more likely true than not.



The three other factors are each far more important than payment. Payment is important. People who are unable to make their payments are called insolvent. Many of them file bankruptcy, have liens placed upon them, wage garnishments, suffer for years because of bad credit ratings, etcetera. But just because the cash flow is better right now does not mean the situation is better - that way lies the Ponzi scheme, Enron, and many other famous wrecks in the financial graveyard.



There is no universal ranking of which of the remaining three is the most important. They must be compared as a group in the light of a given situation: YOUR situation.



The monthly interest charges are simple. Principle balance times interest rate. This starts at the amount of the new loan contract (with all the costs added in, of course) times the interest rate.



The costs sunk into the loan shouldn't be any more difficult to compute, but they are. As I have gone over elsewhere, it is an unfortunate fact that rarely does a mortgage provider tell the entire truth about the costs of the loan until it's too late to do anything about it. If you have an ethical loan provider, the amount on the Good Faith Estimate (or Mortgage Loan Disclosure Statement here in California) should match what shows on your HUD 1 at the end of the process. Please remember to note any prepayment penalty or other back end charges as a separate dollar amount.



The thing that is most difficult to determine is how long you intend to keep the loan. Most people have no reliable crystal ball to gaze into the future.



The obvious answer to this dilemma is to compute a break even point. This completely falls short with regards to higher costs incurred after disposing of the loan as a result of having a higher balance, but it's a start. If one loan has lower costs and a lower interest rate, there's no need to go through the computations. But if as is common, one loan has a higher sunk cost and the other has a higher monthly interest charge, divide the difference in sunk costs by the difference in interest charges per month. This gives a figure in months that is a break even point. Don't forget to add in any possibility of a prepayment penalty.



With this breakeven figure in months, you can calculate which is likely to be the better loan for you, using your own situation as a guide. If the breakeven is 54 months and you're being transferred in 36, the answer is obvious. If you've refinanced at intervals of twenty-four months your whole life, a 54 month breakeven is not likely to be beneficial. If you're going to need to sell in two and a half years when mom retires, that's a clue, too. And if you're a first time homebuyer starting out, remember that 50% of all homes are sold or refinanced within two years, so unless you have some reason to suspect that you are likely to be different, take that into account.

Caveat Emptor

UPDATED here

Victor Davis Hanson put a great essay on his website a few days ago. I only just got to it now, on the lessons of Vietnam. towards the end, he makes a point that I want to quote again:



Sacrifices are judged senseless by factors beyond sheer carnage. While we are, of course, tortured over the American dead of the Civil War, World War I and World War II, we nevertheless find solace that those lost ended slavery, restored the Union, stopped the kaiser, eliminated Adolf Hitler and Hideki Tojo, and made possible present-day South Korea.



On the other hand, we agonize as often over the much smaller losses of Vietnam, Beirut or Somalia precisely because we are not sure whether they led to any permanent improvement.



Those who evoke Vietnam should think carefully of the entire lesson of that tragedy. We hear daily how we once foolishly got into that chaos but rarely the lessons on how we got out.



To put this in context: The US lost about 126,000 killed, 234,000 wounded and 4500 MIA in nineteen months in WWI. It was horrible, it was awful, and Wilson et al pissed the victory away, but the threat was defeated.

(Source here)



The US lost 300,000 killed or MIA and 300,000 wounded in three and a half years of WWII. It was horrible, it was awful, and we should have confronted Stalin at the end, but we won, and made the world safe from Hitler and Naziism, Tojo and his Greater East Asia Co-prosperity sphere, and Mussolini and his fevered dreams of ressurecting to Roman Empire.

(Source here, Additional Source)



The US lost 36,516 killed and 92,134 wounded and 8176 unaccounted for thirty-seven months in Korea. It was horrible, it was awful, and and we didn't kill the Kim regime. But we won the independence of South Korea, and it's still there today.

(Source here)



The US lost 58,226 killed in Vietnam in about eight years of major operations (Source), and it was for NOTHING. We wasted their sacrifice, we wasted the sacrifices of those who were maimed or wounded. We wasted the sacrifices of those held prisoner. We wasted all those resources that could have been used for other things. Why did we waste them? Well, first off we didn't stop Johnson from escalating the war. But more importantly, we wasted them because we didn't have the political vision to finish a job that was mostly done. We wouldn't - didn't - support our allies who had staked their lives on our word with the material support we promised them in order to salve our consciences when we cut and ran. We allowed ourselves to be manipulated by those with agendas other than our national interest. We cut and ran on our allies and left them to death and disaster.



Prospective allies and enemies took note. Things didn't improve when we similarly cut and ran from Lebanon in 1983 or Somalia in 1991, didn't do anything about the Iranian embassy in 1979, and were so wussy-footed about getting our hands dirty in Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Rwanda. I have liberal acquaintances that brag "we suffered no combat deaths!" there - but how many died in ethnic cleansing as a result? I value the lives of American soldiers. I may even value an American soldier's life more than that of some Bosnian thug who certainly wasn't blameless for what happened there. But we had thousands - hundreds of thousands - of mostly innocent human killed at least twice because nobody was willing to put their foot down forcefully enough to stop it. It was plain to even casual students of the situation in the former Yugoslavia about what was going to happen. If we didn't have the will to get involved to the degree necessary, we should have ignored the situation altogether. That way, at least the perpetrators of systematic slaughter would have had uncertainty of our intentions to deal with, which would have been much more help than we gave the victims with what we did. And it's not even like our forces were being used elsewhere at the time. Had we intervened forcefully from the first, the overall casualty list would have been a fraction of what it was. I love our American soldiers and sailors and marines as much as anybody. But their job, willingly accepted, is to go in harm's way when ordered. Compare this to Bosnian or Rwandan children.



To date, we have lost some 1700 killed and about 13,200 wounded in Iraq (Source). It is horrible, it is awful, and I wish the situation was otherwise. It isn't, and wishing will not make it so. Our immediate goal is a democratic Iraq, which may not sound like a lot until you consider that it is surrounded by Islamic and Ba'athist dictatorships of a repressive nature, and Wahhabist Saudi Arabia (and for all the stuff similar to this and this and this I heard before during and after the Gulf War, you might think this was more important to the left than it seems to be today). Iraq is the strategic linchpin of the whole area, as anyone with a modicum of history knows, and anybody who's bothered to haul out a map can plainly see. If Iraq becomes a stable democracy, it is a dagger pointed at the heart of many of our worst other enemies in the war on terror - the Assads in Syria, the mullahs in Iran, and the Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, as has been more than adequately documented in many places, Iraq and al-Qaeda had extensive links and mutual support, and even if we cannot conclusively prove significant co-operation between them on the 9/11 attacks, 9/11 was only one shot in this war, which had been going on for a long time whether or not the majority of the American public realized it. If you take nothing else away from this essay, take this and engrave it upon your soul: The War on Terror is not about 9/11 any more than WWII was about Pearl Harbor. It is much broader than that. We cannot prevent another 9/11, many more 9/11s, things much worse than 9/11, without eradicating terrorism worldwide, all of the regimes that shelter or countenance it, the sick idealisms behind it, and the very thought that terrorism is a legitimate means of making war. It isn't, in case you were unclear on the concept. (Aiming at military targets through asymmetric warfare is not terrorism.) There is no shelter for civilization short of this goal. It is going to take a long time, and we're going to have to fight and bleed and die and kill and spend and build in more places and the world is going to have to pitch in and help if they like the idea of living in a civilized, technological society rather than scrabbling upon the ruins in a real life game of Aftermath. A state from which the human race will never recover because all of the easily gotten resources of the planet have already been used. The means of mass destruction are becoming sufficiently available - smaller, more deadly, cheaper, easier to make, conceal and use with readily available tools - that if we do not fight this war and win it now, in a generation it will be orders of magnitude more expensive, in all senses of the term (civil rights, lives, treasure, standard of living, state of mind). If we wait to fight this war, the terrorists will acquire weapons beyond their wildest current dreams, and many of us will awake one otherwise unremarkable morning not too far in the future to discover that they have used them to devastating effect. The only ones who don't awake to this discovery will be dead.



Getting back to the point: So far we've lost 1700 plus killed and about 13,200 wounded, and $300 billion dollars. We cut and run, and it will all be for nothing.. Worse than nothing, because the mullahs in Iran and Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia will make certain Iraq becomes a terrorist state of the same sort as Iran, if not worse because Iran at least pretends Hezbollah et al are not following its orders and not under its pay, and doesn't want Hezbollah able to actually get too strong. The terrorists will have more time - their most precious resource - to find funds, reorganize, recruit and come back stronger, with more devastating weapons and more dire consequences to the rest of the world. The meme of the lazy stupid americans who won't follow through on foreign wars and won't stand by our allies will get more reinforcement, and every little bit of reinforcement it gets makes it three times as hard to destroy. We are in need of every ally we can get, and this makes it harder for us to get them every time it happens. We have to fight this fight now, whether with every civilization and country in this world as our ally or all on our own (We're not on our own. We actually have more committed allies than I thought we would on 9/11, and I'll bet we get more now).



The alternative is to poke our heads back into the sand and pretend we're comfortable like these useful idiots would have us do for a few more years, until one fine day a generation from now the toll for a day is four major metropolitan areas and forty million dead instead of four airliners and a couple of buildings. All of our sacrifices and hard choices that we have to make now in order to confront this evil will pale beside what we have to do then.



For the sake of our old age, for the sake of our children, for the sake of the future of civilization and Earth and humanity, we cannot quit now, close up shop in Iraq and the War on Terror and go home. The price is simply too high.







UPDATE: After I finished this, but prior to publication, Mr Hanson puts up another article: Jihad Is Knocking: Another Episode in the War between Christendom and Islam, supporting some of what I write.



Additional update: I'm informed that one of the three sites (daily Kos) has now taken action to disavow a certain brand of conspiracy theorist.

Carnival of Liberty #2

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Here it is! The one, the only, the second Carnival of Liberty! We've got a good variety of various topics here. I tried to vaguely categorize them by main topic.



Law and Regulation:



Eric's Grumbles before the Grave sends us an article entitled Another Assault on Free Speech. It may be just me, but I can't see a way for someone who believes in a free citizenry to argue with this.



Resistance is futile checks in by telling us how counter-productive Oregon's proposal to require prescriptions for Sudafed is. I don't want to spoil the surprise. I feel like I'm looking at an old fashioned map with the legend "Here be Boneheads"



Mover Mike notes that U.S. Court of Appeals is Not Listening!



Trigger Finger sends in his piece entitled The Incumbent Protection Act is in full swing.... Alas, the Incumbent Protection Act seems to be one of the chief activities of any legislature!



Shamalama at Common Folk Using Common Sense talks about The Federal Election Commission and The Blogs. The FEC does seem to have focused it's energies on repealing the First Amendment of late, doesn't it?



Rhymes with Right fleshes out an issue with Kelo in Another Kelo Problem



Ogre's Politics and Views talks about Mooresville Zoning



Your host falls into line with Updated Parameters for Solving Kelo which includes a proposed real world solution to eminent domain abuse.



Policy:



Mark Nicodemo forwards a letter on High Morale Wins Wars



Politics:



I got a third party submission via email suggesting ar article from Catallarchy, telling libertarians to start Thinking Outside the Fringe. I really would like libertarians to have more influence, and this is one proposed way.



News, The Universe, and Everything sends An Open Letter to President Bush urging us to refocus upon what should be the Court's main priority.



Pamela at Atlas Shrugs honors us with a roundup type post on Too Lurid for Fiction: Tales of Horror from the Women Of Islam. If you happen to believe that women are human beings, reading this should give you all the reasons you need to support civilization against the terrorists, and then some.



Critical Mastiff brings in a post talking about Enlightened Self-Interest vs. Communal Responsibility, addressing the spirit of communal responsibility, as in "I've got a stake in this. I shouldn't let other people do my work."



Mr. Completely chimes in with Today's History Lesson



Theory:



Combs Spouts Off sends us a submission in determinism with Why the left blames us, with an attempted explanation of why some people feel the need to react to the threat with therapy.



Eric's Grumbles From The Grave has a worthwhile submission pondering our differences from the mainstream of political thought in I Feel Like I'm Stuck



The Chainik Hocker chimes in with a post on How the Supreme Court has gotten too powerful.



Unrepentant Individual discusses the idea of Peak Liberty, noting that we are less free than we once were.



Patriotism:



Mr. Completely chimes in with God Bless The U.S.A.



I got an email recommending State of Flux for his excellent post on I (Heart) America I don't think Minh Duc will mind me linking to it again! Examples like him are a demonstration of the reasons I support any reasonable level of legal, controlled immigration.



Next week's host: Eric's Grumbles Before the Grave Submissions to carnivalofliberty@gmail.com, use the carnival's submission form here




"Carnival Of Liberty can also be found at The Truth Laid Bear's ÃœberCarnival."



UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers!. This was a pleasant surprise! While you're here, please take a look around! This new blog is devoted primarily to consumer issues, on which there are about twenty-odd good pieces up so far, primarily in the "Real Estate" Category in the left sidebar. Also, please check out my fellow Life, Liberty, Property bloggers under the LLP tag to your left, and if YOU have a submission for next week send it to carnivalofliberty@gmail.com!

On Fisking

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Say Uncle asks Where did all the fisking go?



Fisking can be funny. Fisking is easy. Fisking is good for poking holes, whether actual or illusory. But if you're looking for a cohesive rational argument for a position other than your target's position, fisking does not lend itself easily to building such an argument, making it ultimately a weak tool. Especially if you're looking to build such argument in such a way as to ultimately convince those in the audience on the other side.



In short, if you're looking for laughs from those already on your side, fisking works. If you're looking to make converts, it doesn't. I'm usually looking to make converts, and even when I'm just after a laugh, a single fisking on a subject can easily poison the audience you might have convinced with all of your other posts. Fisking is an ego-based attack. I prefer intelligence-based attacks.



This is not to say I don't enjoy a good fisking. But if I wanted to turn a potential terrorist into a convert to the cause of civilization, I would send them to Powerline or Volokh Conspiracy, where the discourse is always reasoned and issue oriented, not Misha or IMAO.

Come back for the Carnival of Liberty tomorrow! 6 AM Eastern time! In honor of the Carnival of Liberty, I'll be skipping my Daily Links post and also my regular weekday consumer education post tomorrow, but both are planned to resume Tuesday. Later on in the morning there will, however, be an article on Iraq, The War on Terror, and the Lessons of Vietnam inspired by Victor Davis Hanson that many may want to read.



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Scrappleface is covering the desecration of another religious icon



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USS Neverdock is reporting one hopeful sign for the british: Tony Blair's Approval jumps 17%

Hat tip: Powerline



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Tail wags Dog Again or still. Disgusting.



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Michelle Malkin has an important article about danger to the first amendment



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Superbly Cool! Yahoo launches Advanced Web Search Feature! (useful for blog type searches)

Hat tip: micropersuasion via Jeff Jarvis



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Worthy thoughts on Patriotism

Hat tip: Pejmanesque



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Daily Kos has a rational thought about Judith Miller



That and I'm told he's banning comment accounts from the conspiracy theorists who are playing a meme of Blair and Bush being responsible for the London bombs. I believe in keeping a watch on dangerous idiots ("keep your friends close, but your enemies closer"), so I probably wouldn't go so far as to ban them, but it's good that he is disavowing them.



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Tempus Fugit has an even-handed article: Profiling: It's just Good Police Work.

Hat tip:Wizbang



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Dean's World points out some more inconsistencies in the "deserved terrorism" line of thought. He also has other posts up linking to Muslims condemning the terror





I was going to do more, but I'm out of time. See you with more links on Tuesday!

Back on July first, I posted Solving Kelo - Seeking Parameters for a Solution.



As I wrote then:



When you're in my current profession, you can't help but learn that public condemnation of private property for private use has a long and not entirely dishonorable history in this country. Yes, it goes back to 19th centruy crony deals of the sort Tammany Hall was famous for, but it has also been used to condemn farmer's land for factories near cities where poor to middle class workers could get to them, clear blighted areas, and many other uses. It is sometimes necessary to avoid many times the cost, both to the beneficiaries and to society at large.



The clear and obvious problem with condemnation is that it is involuntary. Not much can be done about that. It's one of those "by definition" things. But we can keep it in mind. On the other hand, most development by its very nature also requires ownership of a complete footprint, and designing around one or a few who are unwilling to sell at any price is usually prohibitive. In other words, if 499 out of 500 people in an area are willing to sell and the 500th is not, the 500th is imposing his will on the other 499, and the entity that is in the minds of that 499 their benefactor, to no less degree than the landholders in Kelo were imposed upon. The way to keep involuntary nature foremost is to make certain that the victim of eminent domain can come out no worse by objective measure than when the process started, and should be handsomely compensated for the involuntary nature of the condemnation, instead of being paid fifty to seventy-five cents on the dollar



the bullet points version of the parameters:



-overcompensate victims out of beneficiaries pockets

-the proposed beneficiary liable for victim's legal costs

-victim must receive the clear price of a replacement

-victim deserves compensation for effort of defending

-moral issue - observer's should not feel sorry for victim

-difficulty of amendment versus relative ease of law.



Additionally, I've seen one further issue since then, namely that New London wants to compensate Kelo et al based upon property value at the completion of the initial suit, rather than at the termination of appeals, and charge them rent to boot. Somehow I doubt New London is offering to refund property taxes or mortgage expenses incurred during that time. Furthermore, with property values so much higher now than then, the defendants in Kelo clearly will not have resources to purchase a replacement, in violation of bullet point three above.



I had originally posted a proposed solution Fixing Kelo - a proposal.



I must now conclude this falls short in two areas. First, the owner - the victim of involuntary condemnation - is not explicitly compensated for their time.



Second, it does not explicitly disallow New London's tactics.



Therefore, I would like to amend my proposed solution to Kelo thus:



proposed new public law:



The Congress of the United States, wishing to discourage abuse of eminent domain, henceforth enacts into law:



1. In the event of public condemnation of private property, the public entity bringing suit shall pay all expenses of the defending party in said suit, including but not limited to legal expenses, and any expenses incurred in evaluation of the property or documentation of this value. This compensation shall be immediately due and payable upon presentation of reasonable proof, and it shall accrue interest at a rate not less than double the prevailing customary rate, or additional charges incurred by the property owner as a result of tardy payment, whichever is greater. This compensation shall be paid regardless of the said suit's resolution.



2. The public entity bringing suit for condemnation shall compensate the defendents for time spend defending against the suit in the amount of their customary or normal professional compensation as determined by the higher of either normal compensation from an employer or proration based upon a 2000 hour work year and their gross income from their profession in the preceding year as filed with their federal income taxes. This compensation shall also be paid regardless of the outcome of the suit.



3. In the event of a successful condemnation, the property owner shall be additionally compensated no less than the greater of either factor A of the fair value of the property determined in accordance with usual practices or factor B of the cost of replacement property. This evaluation shall be determined at the most favorable to the defendant of the following times: The time that the entity bringing suit takes possession of the property as determined by accomplishment of both transfer of title and vacation of the property by current tenants, or the time of purchase of replacement property. Additionally, the beneficiary shall pay all transaction expenses involved in the transfer of the condemned property and shall also pay all transaction costs of the defendant of a successful condemnation in acquiring a replacement property.



4. In the event of a successful condemnation, neither rent nor property taxes shall be required of the defendants for any period at issue until 30 days after the conclusion of the final appeal.



Factor A and factor B in 3 above need to be set by societal concensus. I'd like to see factor A around 150 percent and factor B around 125 percent, but as long as factor A is at least 120 percent and factor B is at least 110 percent, I'll be satisfied enough.






Light blogging for the weekend, as I do some work and also prepare to host for the Carnival of Liberty here Monday morning at 6AM. Also check back later on Monday for some important thougts on Iraq. Just a little bit now while waiting on a prospect who is probably not going to show at this point.



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If anyone doesn't read this and think the end of this froth in the housing price market is near, please be certain to let your legal guardian know.



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Looks like it's The National Zoo's turn for a baby Panda! We in San Diego are hoping for panda baby number three a little later on in summer. Hey, if even a curmudgeon like me can agree they're cute and interesting, what's your problem?



Hua Mei back in 1999 was kind of our baby, in a way. We had just by coincidence spent the entire day of her birth through about 10 PM at the San Diego Zoo doing our at least once per year pilgrimage to their night time zoo. We had just found out my wife was pregnant, and my dad was with us in what turned out to be his last really enjoyable trip to a place he loved. Some of my fondest and earliest memories are there. Of course they didn't announce it to the visitors (Panda exhibit would have been mobbed), but we found out in the paper next morning and followed her development closely. Hua Mei herself had twins this year!



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Birthweight of children tied to parents cardiac risk. I must be one of the exceptions.



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Why no one except John Kerry trusts the Boston Globe. I've linked stories here factually contradicting two of their major claims in this editorial belittling the G8 conference and US participation in Kyoto. You'd think someone paid to do it professionally would do better. Would they have the G8 leaders repudiate the aid they agreed to send so The Boston Globe's editorial can be correct? Would they have the US put another empty signature on Kyoto? (those who have already signed have no more intention of compliance than we do).

Repeat visitors may notice a bit of a new look to the site today. I've moved the categories around a bit, and renamed a few, to emphasize some things and de-emphasize others, but everything is still here.



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The excellent Wikipedia entry on the London Bombings has gotten better. This is an example of one of the things Wikipedia and Wikinews do so very right.



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Saddam Hussein's Chief Lawyer has resigned. Seems he thinks the Americans on the team which include Ramsey Clark (pay close attention to the last paragraph), want to soft peddle the American occupation of Iraq.



Hat tip: LGF



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Why I'm in no danger of joining the donkeys, exhibit 50,000,001: A comment thread on Democratic Underground. Pay close attention, especially a couple of screens down. Good thing for some of these people that the first amendment is so strong, while treason and especially sedition are so narrowly defined. I can point to places in the world that these very people think are wonderful, where they'd be in jail, in "internal exile", or in the ground.



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Daniel Taranto has a wonderful piece covering London, protest stupidity and vandalism at the G8 conference, and the fact that Congress spent the day trying to keep Terror Investigators from accessing library records.



Make sure you keep reading for the links to Saved by the Cole, Jail for Judy, and Whoops



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See also Cox and Forkum for a particularly good drawing commenting upon a sad situation. Somebody (like say, most of us) concerned about these issues could probably work themselves into tears thinking about it without too much trouble. Good thing that it appears that world leaders managed to put the events aside and deal with African Aid anyway. Consider summits of past eras where the agenda would have been totally off. Doesn't quite make me want to break out into the finale of "Les Miserables" but it does illustrate that the world is a better place than it once was. Similar story from AP here.



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One more reason to vote for anybody but Boxer



hat tip: Common Sense and Wonder



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Good News in Afghanistan from Captain's Quarters



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Misha makes a point those who are familiar with the British (and their Gurkha regiments) already know. The Gurkhas have been with the British since about 1720 (even through the Mutiny, they kept faith), and for over 220 of those years, the Gurkhas helped keep peace on India's North West Frontier. Warning for non-family language applies.



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Another non family language warning for Ace of Spade's modern James Bond



hat tip: Inoperable Terran



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It's linked on Instapundit, but I think that this Thomas L. Friedman column

needs to be read by everyone.



As noted in comment at Instapundit, a Spanish Islamic Group did issue a fatwa, but it's got to become the same sort of unanimous condemnation (and cooperation with authority) that happens with serial killers everywhere else in the world. As long as they expect 72 virgins in the afterlife, they're going to be a problem. When they're treated to scorn, anger, and community condemnation in the life and expect a good long stay with Iblis in the next, then we're on the way to dealing with the problem.



Instapundit also directs us to The Blood Feud, a worthy explanation of a cultural point that predates Islam.



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Reasoned Audacity has more than yesterday.



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Looking for positive steps to take, La Shawn Barber has a discussion started. This is an example of why she is always worth paying attention to.



This is an example of what I'm trying to encourage here on this site. The reason comment accounts are required is purely anti-spam. It would defeat my purpose here if I shared your information with anybody, so I don't and won't. Right now, all comment accounts are allowed pending review and all comments are approved pending review. I may have to change this later if spam gets bad, but I'm intentionally setting the bar to participate as low as I can.



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Michelle Malkin has a great article of G8 protestor antics



She also has an article on Why Bush shouldn't name Gonzales.



The War on Terror is more important than any other issue. We need a strong reliable justice on the court in favor of prosecuting the war, as several members of the court have never met an anti-American, or more precisely, anti-Western Civilization person or cause they didn't like. Gonzalez would be wonderful for this, but he'd have to recuse himself. Kind of defeats the point, doesn't it?



UPDATE: I'm trying to stay quiet on the Supreme Court until Bush actually names a candidate. But no matter how much those further to the right dislike Gonzalez, his work in the War on Terror has made him into a candidate I might support. There's something to be said for any judge the extremists on both sides dislike this much.



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Online Sun has a map and accompanying list of terror attacks since 1993



hat tip: Powerline



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Lileks Screed isn't as certain as I am about british character, but he may be right and makes a good point:



They did not bomb London because there is insufficient transparency in Congress about the Gitmo detainees; they bombed London because it is part of the Zionist-Crusader Conspiracy run by the sons of monkeys and pigs, who must submit or die







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Dean's World has not less than three posts worth reading: A hopeful sign, worthwhile people, and A message from your favorite uncle



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One Fine Jay makes a good point on silencing the arab media. Harder to convince the arab and islamic media to fight on the side of civilization, but more effective.



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Argghhh! has some important information on one of several casualties

This is going to be one of those occasional posts that gets expanded and reposted from time to time. This list is not exhaustive, although over time it is intended to become closer. If you have one, send it to me (dm at)



Any of these is sufficient reason, all by itself, not to do business with that company or person, to cancel your loan if in progress, or to go get another backup loan.







Any actual lie



Up front application fees, or sign up fees.



Up front lock fees.



Up front appraisal fees, as opposed to at the point of appraisal.



Any up front fee beyond credit report.



Requiring the originals of your documents.



Trying to sell you a Negative amortization loan, under any of its names, without explaining in detail all of the gotchas and limitations and why you need it (and you've got to be in pretty sorry shape to need it!)



Not locking your rate, or letting it float



On stated income or NINA loans, not giving a real idea of what the payment is going to be, and making sure you can afford it.



On full documentation or EZ documentation loans, needing to document more money than you make.



Requiring you to pay an "in house" appraiser (Who is receiving a salary)



Not allowing you to choose an appraiser if you want to (you should want to).



Not allowing you to order the appraisal if you want to (you should want to).



Consistently using the same phrase in response to a question. "Nothing out of your pocket" ($30,000 added to your mortgage) and "Thirty Year Loan" (note the absence of the words "fixed rate") are two that are sufficiently pervasive as to merit independent mention.



An answer to a question that is somehow similar, instead of to the question you asked. Especially if said obviously intended to distract and mollify you, or is a pat phrase you've heard them use before.



You check their calculations on a couple of calculators and the numbers are both consistent and different from what you were quoted as a payment. (Some web calculators lie, but they usually lie in slightly different ways, although note that an auto payment calculator uses different first payment assumptions).




UPDATED: here

First off, Glenn Reynolds has an excellent round up at the obvious place.



Project Nothing has another round up here



Arthur Chrenkoff has a series of good posts.



Powerline debunks a myth before it gets started, and later reported on the activities of Charlotte Yoest, whose site is down.



I must admit I was a little surprised at some of the quotes. On the other hand, this was a Muslim neighborhood.



Twenty-four years ago, Margaret Thatcher rallied the british people. Sixty-five years ago Winston Churchill provided a greater precedent. If necessary, Sir Winston would have provided "A majority of one", but it wasn't. As the world discovered, it was only the rulers who suffered from a crisis of will. The vast majority of the british people had no such weakness. Ms. Thatcher would have been unable to stir them if they were not fundamentally the same people.



Looking at the situation today, I am struck by odd parallels to the situation of December 1941, only this time it is we who have been fully engaged, and they who Mr. Blair has had to drag kicking and screaming into the world of reality, as Mr. Roosevelt had to contend with our isolationists prior to Pearl Harbor. Go look up US politics through the newspaper stories of late 1939 to December 1941. There was a large, vocal, powerful minority, particularly in the upper crust, who didn't want the US to go to war. Nonetheless, the US military was performing convoy operations and sub hunting out of Iceland, among other places, there were US Volunteers in the RAF, and there were many levels of cooperation with british and allied forces everywhere. Not perhaps, the level of cooperation the british have already shown us, but significant nonetheless (Had the Axis won the war, you can bet there would have been war crimes trials).



On December 7, 1941, that changed. Having read several military memoirs of the period, among both militaries there seemed to be a feeling of inevitabilty to America's entry to the war which was only given specific impetus by Pearl Harbor. But suddenly the whole weight and conviction of the United States entered the war.



The situation is no different here. The british appeasers and opponents of the war on terror (from what I can tell, much louder there than here), have just been handed their wake up call. Many - too many - thought Mr. Blair was just buying trouble. Perhaps, as a few tried briefly here in 1941, it will be portrayed as just desserts. I don't think the british public will buy it now any more than they did during the Irish troubles. I believe that the vast majority of the britons will shift solidly towards support for the war.



The English Lion no longer bestrides the world like the colossus it once was. But it is still capable not only of roaring defiance, but biting back hard. And I firmly believe that the british are still fundamentally the same great people who stood alone and toe to toe with Hitler's Wehrmacht. They're not going to run from a little thing like a few thousand islamic terrorists who are afraid to come out and fight soldier to soldier.



UPDATE: Dean Esmay has a post urging us all to not link Daily Kos due to a particularly rancid post. Yes, I agree that they are crazy barking moonbats with no clue as to reality, political, military, economic or otherwise. I've done at least one takedown of his idiocy in my short three weeks of blogging. Furthermore, I do see hatred on the site, and definite trollish behavior.



Nonetheless, I must reluctantly refuse Dean's request. It is important to know these people, to keep track of them, and to be able to illustrate with examples off of their own keyboards lest some unwitting stranger believe they are rational. Furthermore, although there is hate, the various left wing websites are for the most part, not conscious, intentional traitors. I can point to several posts I've made here and here and especially here that indicate I am not exactly of moderate mind in the War on Terror. Nonetheless, I believe we must not cut them out of the discussion in the War on Terror. First, to do so of necessity limits our comprehension of the opposition. This is one mistake the right wing in this country attempted in the 1950s and 1960s. I decline to repeat it. Second, to use an old saying, even a stopped watch is correct twice a day. There may be issues where we can learn from him, provided we do not blind ourselves by pretending he can teach us nothing. Third, I do not believe that the site is so far gone that there is nothing which can penetrate.



So the link stays up. I'm sorry, Dean, and if you choose to de-link me I will understand, but this is more important than a place in the ecosystem.



A moment, please, in respect of those who lost their lives or were hurt today in London. A moment in sorrow for their families. A moment to reflect upon life.



Yahoo News AP feed



Every man's death diminishes me, for I am involved in Mankind -John Dunne



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Scrappleface, as always, has the correct idea. For anyone who's never been there before, it's satire.



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Not that this is really news, but Europe isn't complying with Kyoto either. Nor is Canada. Or anyone else who signed it for that matter. The US was just honest enough to not ratify it in the first place. I don't know about anybody else, but I'd rather hear an honest no than a dishonest yes.



Hat tip: Inoperable Terran



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Blackfive has a post dealing with recruiting difficulties

TacJammer has a post further debunking the "Yellow Elephant Meme"

Vince Aut Morire uses non family safe language on on the same subject



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Powerline has a great post about John Ashcroft defending Dennis Kucinich. There's another about Misrepresentations of fact in the media in the Plame/Wilson affair.



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Powerline also gets a hat tip for directing me to a further debunking of Mao by a former admirer.



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Russia is up to Soviet era tricks in the Baltic

hat tip: Instapundit, and another for a pointer to this excellent article on nomination hearings.



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UPDATE: DON'T FORGET! Carnival of Liberty #2 deadline is tomorrow night. Send to me here dm (at) Searchlight Crusade (dot) com, or Carnival of Liberty (at) gmail (dot) com, or you can fill out the meta carnival form.

I am not exactly certain how to start this essay. I'm kind of in a position analogous to writing Hitler's biography in late 1940. We know at this point he's a miserable excuse for a human being, but we don't have the evidence discovered in the last four and a half years of the war as to how sick he truly was.



The negative amortization loan is something very similar. With Chairman Greenspan and even the heads of many building companies talking about locally frothy real estate prices, we are pretty certain that there's going to be a drastic re-evaluation of the home market soon. We are missing the data of exactly how bad it's going to be.



The negative amortization loan, with all its friendly sounding synonyms (Option ARM, Pick Your Payment, 1% loan, and variations and combinations thereof), is an idea that comes around periodically, and right now happens to be one of those times. Last time was the mid 1980s, and we had people driving their cars through the lobbies of savings and loan buildings in protest after they got hit with this loan's GOTCHA! If you see ads on the Internet or elsewhere advertising "$200,000 loan for $650 per month!" (or something similar) one of these abominations is what they're trying to hook you with.



These loans look, at first glance, to be wonderful - too good to be true. That is because they aren't true. Furthermore, given the fact that loan officers and real estate agents want to get paid, and the damage isn't apparent to the average consumer until well down the line, the unscrupulous ones sell a lot of these. I can point to loan and real estate offices where they do no other kinds of loans. Why? Because given the fact that most people shop for a loan or a home based upon the monthly payment, these are the easiest loans in the world to sell, and how many homes do you usually buy from a given real estate agent anyway? Cash flow is important, but watching only cash flow ends up in Ponzi schemes, Enron, and negative amortization loans.



I want to make very clear that yield spread is not a reason not to do a given loan. If a loan officer shops around and does the work to qualify you for a better loan on the same terms while increasing their compensation, they deserve to be paid that money. But you need to make certain that it IS a better loan by making an apples to apples comparison based upon what you, the client, are actually getting. For example, if one provider is getting you a loan at 5.5%, that looks to be better than 6.5% at first glance, correct? But if the first loan is only fixed for two years, and has two points on it as well as $4000 of closing costs and a five year prepayment penalty, while the second loan is fixed for thirty years and the lender is paying all of your closing costs with no prepayment penalty, I submit that the second loan is the better loan in most circumstances. The negative amortization loan, piece of garbage that it is, compares favorably with no other loan available today. The yield spread varies between three and four points on these things, with most of the lenders tending towards the higher end of that spectrum in order to compete. To give you a comparison, in order to get four points of yield spread on any other type of loan, I have to give people an interest rate at least two full percent higher than the going rate!



Basically, what this loan does is give you three or four options for your payment every month. The lowest of these is the bank allowing you to make a payment as if your interest rate was somewhere between one and two percent, with most of them now congregating towards the lower end of the spectrum in order to compete with one another. This low rate of 1% or so IS NOT YOUR REAL RATE. IT IS NOT WHAT YOU ARE ACTUALLY BEING CHARGED! I don't know how many people I've talked to that were being taken for a ride and asked me, "Isn't there any way this is the real rate?" THE ANSWER IS NO. Let's pretend you are a bank officer. Remember, you're one sharp person, and you have another whole group of very sharp people watching what you do. If for an equivalent amount of risk, you can get about 7 percent somewhere else with a different investment, are you going to give some poor sap I mean someone you don't know a 1% loan that messes the heck out of your quarterly usage of capital bonus? Not on planet Earth.



The second payment option will be to make a payment based upon an interest only loan at the real rate you are being charged. I've seen the piranha that sell these loans trying to prey on each other extolling the virtues of COFI or MTA loans, depending upon which they have. The fact is that they've each got their limitations, and their upsides and downsides as opposed to the other. The problem with each and every one of these is that they are month to month variable from the beginning. There is no fixed period. You will never know next month's rate until it happens. Thus far in my career, I've always had loans that are fixed for three to five years, at rates lower than this rate that the loan is really charging you. In other words, this second payment option is based upon a rate that changes every month, based upon the movement of an underlying index plus a margin.



The third payment option is to make a fully amortized payment based upon that same month-to-month rate. This is roughly analogous to a standard thirty-year loan, except that it is not fixed, and unless you make a payment of at least this much, next month's payment options are going to be worse. The fourth and final payment option given by most lenders who do these is for the client to make a fifteen-year payment. Before we move on, the point needs to be made that almost nobody actually makes the payment for either of these options, much less makes these payments habitually as opposed to the other options. These payments are higher, and are not good selling points for this loan. If the client could afford to make these payments, there are better loans to be had. This is a metaphorical fig leaf to cover their naked taking advantage of you. "Well, he could make (or could have made) this payment but didn't. It's not my fault." The reason they didn't make the payment, Mr. Unscrupulous Realtor, is because YOU told them they didn't have to. You SOLD them the house based upon the nominal payment, not the real cost.



Now, what happens if you make each of these payments? Obviously, if you make the payment for either the third or fourth option, you are paying your loan down. If you make the payment for the second option, that is basically a break-even, except that next months payments will be computed based upon one fewer month with which to pay the loan off.



What happens for 95 percent of the people who do these loans 95 percent of the time is they make payment option one. What happens in this case, where the client is making a payment that is less than the amount of interest on the loan for that month? The bank isn't going to just eat the difference. That interest has to go somewhere.



Where it goes is into the balance of the loan. This means the balance for your loan - the amount you owe the bank - goes up every month that you make this payment option. Furthermore, next month it earns interest also. Next month the difference between what you pay and what you are charged gets higher, and even more money is applied to your loan. You're being bit by compound interest. This is the first reason why the lenders will pay loan officers who do these loans so much. The lender knows that in the vast majority of all cases, the clients will end up owing them more money than they originally borrowed.



Furthermore, every single one of these loans that I know of has a three-year prepayment penalty. This means that even after you figure out that you've been taken for a ride, you're either still stuck with them for the rest of three years or you're going to pay a penalty amounting to thousands of dollars. Not a bad position for a lender to be in for leading you down the primrose path, is it?



I haven't even gone over recast provisions (the 1% rate, even though it's nominal, not real, doesn't last forever), and various other lurking GOTCHA!s. I hear a lot of arguments from the various lazy lowlifes who make a habit of doing these loans rationalizing what they're doing. "Those old loans had no cap. Now there's a nine percent cap" If the client could afford six percent, there are other better loans to be doing. "They'll more than make up for it in increased equity as prices rise." A) Maybe, IF the market continues to rise, which is doubtful at the current time and never something you should bet other people's financial health upon. It's a crapshoot, at best, and the prevalence of these loans is one reason why the market is so overheated. In any event, the client is going to end up owing more money. Unless they're going to sell and not be a homeowner any more, they're going to have to pay the loan sometime, and in the meantime the longer they keep it, the worse it gets. What happens in three years if home prices are lower and the loan gets recast and now they cannot refinance out of it? "It's the only way to get them into a home!" They still end up owing more money, and it'll keep getting worse the longer they keep the loan. They're still going to need to pay it back, unless they sell, and sell at a sizable profit. Furthermore, if they couldn't afford a reasonable loan in the first place when they needed to borrow $X, what makes you thing they're going to be able to afford a reasonable loan three years down the line when they owe $Y more. This is not a stable, sustainable situation! Maybe in a case like this, they should continue renting. Of course, that doesn't get you a commission, does it, Mr. Unscrupulous Realtor? It certainly doesn't encourage the client to stretch beyond their means and get you a bigger commission, either, does it?



For any loan officer who does these reading this, face it: These things are a way to mess up your client who is putting money into your pocket. These put the clients into worse situations than when they started. You are betting upon factors beyond your control to save you. One of these days, probably very soon, these are going to come back and bite you hard. Violation of fiduciary duty. All it takes is one of your clients getting into a bad situation who gets a good lawyer, and your career is toast along with your pocketbook.



For those of the general public reading this, I hope I've opened your eyes to some of the pitfalls of this loan. I'm perfectly happy to answer questions if you have them. But this loan is one that is designed for a narrow set of circumstances tailored around cash flow for a limited amount of time (and the one time I actually had a client who was the target market and who could actually benefit from this, none of the companies I submitted it to would approve it). It is abused by being misapplied because it's such an easy loan to sell to those who do not understand the way they work, and all because people shop for a loan based upon payment. So don't shop for a loan based upon payment. And if anyone offers you one of these loans, drag them into the sunlight, drive a wooden stake through their heart, and RUN AWAY! Somebody who offers you one of these is not your friend.



Caveat Emptor



UPDATED here

Protest Warrior Hacked!

| | Comments (0)

The Protest Warrior site has been hacked. They've fixed it now and the FBI is investigating someone they believe to be the culprit. The alleged culprit has a website up here.



(Hat tip:Michelle Malkin)



According to Protest Warrior, they collected information on this problem child's plans, information I find generally credible. The alleged plans were



-charge stolen card numbers with donations to leftists

-send database to hostile groups

-upload credit card info to web as .zip file

-anonymously send press releases and material to thousands of media contacts to boast of the malicious hack and the millions of dollars defrauded, and to publish any and all sensitive information regarding the ProtestWarrior organization

-erase the entire Protest Warrior server

-launch simultaneous attacks on other conservative sites



The alleged culprit was raided by the FBI and is now soliciting donations to "fight these ridiculous charges" as he hadn't actually defaced the site or billed the credit cards! And he calls it intimidation! Ladies and gentlemen and idiots of all ages: If I steal something that doesn't belong to me, I have committed a crime whether or not I've actually spent the money! If I haul out a gun and point it at you, you are justified in defending yourself whether or not I actually intend to pull the trigger, and whether or not the gun is actually loaded, something that you have no way of knowing, and so as far as you are concerned, the gun is loaded even if there are no bullets within 100 miles. Conspicuously absent in the FAQ's is the answer to the questions: "Did you violate site security?" "Did you steal the credit card information?" and "Did you or did you not have a plan to commit further acts, and if so, what acts?"



I am forced to concede that there are legitimate hacking operations out there, albeit few and far between. When they penetrate security, they tell the operator immediately, and disclose how they did it so the hole can be repaired. They don't take any information from the site. They don't have a plan to come back and do damage later. Given the nature of the testimony, I'd say that the FBI has a reasonable basis to accuse him of serious theft and vandalism, at a minimum. He gets no sympathy from me.



More good stuff:



From his website FAQ on Protest Warrior:





Who is ProtestWarrior?

ProtestWarrior.com is an ultra right-wing group that tries to provoke and disrupt constitutionally protected protests and actions of progressive organizations. They foster such conservative and intolerant dogma which borders on abusive hate-speech. Their most recent national action was their attempt to cause trouble at the counter-inauguration protests in Washington DC where they failed miserably in being effective or generating any decent numbers of supporters.



Although no damage had been done to their system, the ProtestWarriors have been known to falsely report information to the police on an intempt to incriminate and demonize leftists. This particular case is similar: while no damage has been done to the website or credit cards, ProtestWarrior is trying to demonize and incriminate hackers and activists. What is ironic is that ProtestWarrior has worked with groups like RightWingExtremist.net and the g00ns to hack IndyMedia and other leftist sites in the past. Read an in-depth discussion of ProtestWarrior, what they stand for, and how to expose them.







If Protest Warrior has hacked anyone, let them be investigated and charged. Given their modus operandi, I find this allegation unlikely, to say the least.



Protest Warrior organizes counter-protests to leftist propaganda protests, to let those who protect and defend this country and are doing their best to make good decisions know that there are people on their side as well as people against. This is constitutionally protected the same as the other kind. But certain kinds of lefties cannot stand disagreement any more than counterparts on the extreme right, as neither is equipped to deal with alternative points of view. Protest Warrior airs their dissenting point of view in plain sight of these lefties, and this is an unforgivable sin. Protest Warrior goes prepared and equipped to discuss the points at issue. It is not their problem that their opposition is neither prepared nor able to deal with opposing points of view. Protest Warrior does not disrupt their opponents demonstrations; that is not their way. At most they take the ball they are handed and run with it (Often, the lefties mistakenly hand the microphone to Protest Warriors). They do provide an articulate alternative. unforgivable sin! They do make the lefties look foolish - another unforgivable sin. They do expose the fallacies of the lefties argument - yet another unforgivable sin. This leads the lefties to attempt irregular verb tactics. To wit: "When we do it to them, it's stopping hate speech. When they do it to us, it's censorship. When we do it to them, it's busting their fascist heads. When they do it to us, it's fascist intimidation." From there it's not very far to: "When we do it to them, it is promoting the glorious revolution! When they do it to us, it's stormtrooper death squads!"



This outrages me no matter who the culprit is. The best test of a sentence or statement in this regard is to turn it around 180 degrees. For instance, a Republican says "all Democrats are racists" should be no different that a Democrat saying "all Republicans are racists." If it bothers you in one version, it should bother you in both. In any case, as long as both sides stay within the same legal limits, both should have their say.



I may think the leftists are stupid. I may think they're jerks. I may think they've lost contact with reality. (Some who really are on the far right also have these faults.) But I and anybody who wants my respect will agree that they've got the right to make their case without censorship, without intimidation, and without violence.



Show me somebody who is opposed to allowing their political opponents freedom of expression, and I'll show you someone who knows their political views are weak and untested, or sadly wanting. Show me someone who wants to vandalize the oppostion, and I'll show you a wannabe dictator. Show me someone who thinks they're justified and should receive support for conducting such attacks on those who present opposing points of view, and I'll show you a more serious threat to all of our freedoms than any terrorist.




Don't forget to send me your submissions for the next Carnival of Liberty!



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Unrepentant Individual has a post on another Kelo problem. This seems punitive to me. Were it a criminal activity to opposed the city through the courts, this might be reasonable. But instead of holing up with their assault rifles, Kelo et al fought the city in a court of law. Whether the taking was legal was the issue under discussion, not whether the city had the armament to make it happen.



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Resistance Is Futile has a good piece on who you trust: the naysayers or the Troops who are there.



Hat tip: Target Centermass



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Eric's Grumbles has a piece on how individual rights may not be dead.



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Angry In The Great White North has a piece on a foolish politician (now there's a phrase out the Department of Redundancy Department) who manages to be surprised that in order to maintain membership in the church he's got to actually act in accordance with the church's beliefs.



Ya Think?



Ladies and Gentlemen: It is a religion. The leaders and other members have the right not to include people who cannot abide the tenets. The religion may be weaker or stronger as a result, but that is their choice. It's not as if you've got to be a Catholic or a Lutheran or a Muslim to succeed in life. Religious affiliation can provide a lot of secular benefits - a politician who is a member of a certain religion finds it easier to garner votes from fellow believers, for example. But it is quite reasonable for the religion to require you to live the life in order to reap the benefits.



This is one of the reasons I've never been a member of an organized religion. It'd be a great place to network, socialize, etcetera. But there's that not so little catch in there that you must actually believe as they do and act in accordance with their tenets, and I cannot in good conscience join a religion where I do not share their beliefs. I have a lot of respect, even admiration, for those that actually practice religion in a way that benefits the world. But all I have for the fakers and takers is contempt.



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Jacqueline Mackie Paisley Passey has a short Ode to the Scantron, with which I agree.



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Q and O has a worthwhile fisking of the Plame situation.



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Ann Althouse has a worthwhile debunking of an affirmative action meme, as well as talking about How to defeat Borking



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Roger L. Simon has great commentary on a New York Times piece about problems in Africa.





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Chrenkoff chimes in with Insurgents do the darndest things! (aka exercises in creative stupidity)



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Dean's World has a piece on The Swedish Situation. I honestly don't see this turning around, partly because few have the will or even publicly recognize it as a problem to be dealt with, and those who do have to the will and ability to recognize facts are shackled.



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Dante's Inferno Test puts me in Limbo according to Christian doctrine.



Hat tip: Evolution



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Carnival of Vanities is up at Conservative Friends

Especially recommended:

Problems at the Nature Conservancy

The Truth-In-Lending is a form that can or does provide some useful information, but the useful information it provides is both smaller than most people think, and not in the numbers everybody looks at.



The first thing to be aware of is right below the title. "This is neither a contract nor a commitment to lend." They are telling you right there that this is an estimate. It may or may not be a good estimate. That depends upon the loan officer and the provider they work for. Again, the relationship between this form at the beginning when you apply for the loan and the loan that is actually delivered with the final documents can be extremely tenuous.



The APR in the very first box is the result of an attempt by Congress to compress what is fundamentally at least a two-dimensional number into one linear measurement. It is intended to help give you a direct, one number measurement of the effective interest rate, given the expenses. But, in order to this it has to make some assumptions



The first of these is that you're never going to sell. Back in the early 1970s with stable secure jobs for a large portion of the populace not only in government but in private industry as well, and people living their whole lives in their first house, this was a reasonable assumption. No longer. The median time for ownership duration is about nine and a half years.



The second of those is that you're not going to refinance. This also was not an unreasonable assumption back in the early 1970's. Our habits as a society have changed since then. The fact is that the median age of mortgages (half older, half younger) is currently about two years. Only something like 4 percent of all mortgages are older than 5 years. I'll have other implications of these facts later, in other essays.



But by making this assumption, that you're never going to sell and never going to refinance (again, for the fifth time) and just make that minimum payment every month for thirty years, it allows the illusion that you're going to spread those costs out over thirty years, when the appropriate time frame is much shorter. This is a dangerous illusion. To give a specific example, because it means that, when measured by APR, a 5.5% loan with closing costs plus two points looks like a better loan than a 6 % loan with closing costs but no points. In fact, it is quite likely that the 6% loan is a better idea, and a 6.5% loan where the lender pays your all of your closing costs for you may be better yet.



Let's go through the calculation involved. Assume they're both thirty-year fixed rate loans, so you'll actually keep getting benefits as long as you keep the loan. Assume the base loan we're looking at is $270,000, the same figure I've used elsewhere. This can be either an existing loan, or a purchase where you need $270,000 beyond your down payment to cover purchase price and costs of buying.



As we computed in looking at the Good Faith Estimate, the closing costs of doing this loan are somewhere in the neighborhood of $3400 or so. But "third party" costs, such as escrow and title, are excluded from APR calculation, so we're going to deduct about half of that, or $1700, from them when we calculate APR. I'm also going to assume that you actually pay all of your "prepaid" and "reserve" items out of pocket, which keeps things simple. Your actual loan amount in the case of the 5.5% loan with two points is $278,980, and your monthly payment is $1584.02. Your actual loan amount in the case of the 6% loan is $273,400, and your monthly payment $1639.17. The third loan has a payment of $1706.58 on a balance of $27000 even. The APRs (a complex calculation) work out to 5.742, 6.059, and 6.500 percent, respectively. Looks like the first is a better bargain, right?



Your actual interest expense the first month is $1278.66 the first month for the first loan, $1367.00 for the second. This is a difference of $88.34, and this number is actually going to increase for the first several years of the loan. The rest of the money is a principal payment. Equity. Money you don't owe anymore. The principal paid the first month on the first loan is $305.36; on the second is $272.17, a difference of 33.19 the first month in the first loans favor. For the third loan $1462.50 represents interest and only $244.08 is principal. This is really looking like you make the right choice with 5.5%, correct?



But let's look at two years from now - about the age of the median mortgage. I'm going to use the loan in the middle as baseline.



Loan 1 Loan 2 Loan 3



Interest paid $30,288.21 $32,418.26 $34,720.18



Principal paid $7,728.21 $6,921.84 $6,237.83



Remaining balance $271,251.79 $266,478.16 $263,762.17



Diff in interest paid: $-2130.05 $0 $2301.92



Diff in balance: $+4773.36 $0 $-2715.99



Net $ to you $-2643.31 $0 $+414.07



Loan 1 has paid $2130.05 less in interest, and $806.37 more in principal than Loan 2. Looks great, right? But they also paid $5580 more for the loan, or which $4773.36 remains on their balance. Remember, fifty percent of the people have sold or refinanced at this point. When you sell or refinance, The Benefits Stop. But the cost is sunk. You paid it in full two years ago. And at this point if you sell this home, you will actually get $4773.36 less in your pocket than in if you had taken the 6% loan. This is somewhat compensated for by the fact that you spent $2130.05 less in interest expense. But you're still $2643.31 down as compared to the 6%, and there's no way around that. Meanwhile, the 6% loan itself lags the 6.5% loan by $414.07 at this point in time.



And if you refinance, it gets even worse. You're now paying interest on the $4773.36 in higher balance for the rest of the time you're got your home. Let's say the rate is 5% now because you got an even better deal. This means $238.67 per year, $19.89 per month extra that you're going to pay for as long as you have that loan, all for benefits that you don't get anymore and never paid for their costs in the first place. This is truly the gift that keeps on giving, isn't it?



Now let's look 5 years out, when over 95% of the people will have sold or refinanced.



Loan 1 Loan 2 Loan 3



Interest paid $74,007.65 $79,360.88 $85,144.66



Principal paid $21,033.41 $18,989.39 $17,250.36



Remaining balance $257,946.59 $254,410.61 $252,749.63



Diff in balance: $+3535.98 $0 $-1660.98



Net $ to you $+1817.25 $0 $-4122.80





At this point for loan 1, you have saved $5353.23 in interest and paid down $2044.02 more in principal, right? Yes, but you paid $5580 more for the first loan than you would have for the second, and you still owe $3535.98 of this difference. If you sell, you will get $3535.98 less to put in your pocket, although that will be more than balanced out by the interest you saved. Net profit to you of choosing the first loan: $1817.25, neglecting tax treatment. Boy did you make the right choice, right? But remember that over ninety five percent of everyone who made the same choice you did never made it to this point. Furthermore, if you're like most people and you intend to buy some other property where the transaction includes a loan, that loan will have a starting balance $3535.98 higher to start with than if you'd chosen loan number 2 in the first place. Assume you got a great rate on your new home: 5% even. This means you're now paying $176.80 per year in interest that you wouldn't be paying if you'd simply chosen Loan 2 in the first place. Assuming you intend to own property for the rest of your life, in a little over ten years your gain is gone.



On the other hand, you are doing safely doing better with loan 2 than 3 at this point. The difference in interest you've paid has more than made up for the difference in starting balance. Whether you refinance or sell, it's going to be difficult to make up $4122.80 with the interest based upon 1660.98. Assuming 5%, this is $83.05 per year it amounts to 50 years to recover. Loan 3 shows up pretty well against loan 1, though. $5196.96 difference in balance times 5% per year is $259.85. Divide the $1479.49 by this number and get that in 5.69 years, your benefits from loan 1 as opposed to loan 3 will be gone.



Now, if you get a great deal and refinance instead of selling, that extra $3535.98 that you still owe on that mortgage is still there, and will be for as long as you own that home. Assume you got a really great deal of 5%. This means $176.80 per year of extra interest expense - just from the fact that your balance is higher because of sunk costs to pay for benefits that have stopped. Assume you keep your home another five years, so altogether you've had it ten years since the initial loan. This has cut your gain to $933.25.



This happens all the time. It is not uncommon for me to talk with people who bought their homes in the 1970s, have refinanced ten or twelve times, and now owe more than ten times their original purchase price, a good portion of which is directly attributable to unrecovered closing costs of the refinances. Here's the point: closing costs and points stick around, sometimes a long time after the benefits you got from them are gone, and people refinance or more often than most people admit. The only loan that CAN be ahead from day one is the true zero cost to the consumer. Everything else will pay for itself eventually, and more than pay for itself if you hang onto it long enough, but you're sinking a significant amount of money in the bet upfront, money which is going to be around in your balance a long time. Furthermore, people don't hang onto these loans as long as they think they will, and very few people hang onto them long enough to see profits from high closing cost loans. Finally, the rate at which a zero cost loan can be done varies from day to day, and by quite a lot over time. Let's say six months from now I can do a 6% loan no cost. It costs you zero, and now if you're loan 3, you've got the same loan at a lower balance than the guy who chose the 6% loan 2 above, whom I can't necessarily help right now.



Then three years down the line, rates really drop, and I can do 5.5% for no cost. A call to both loan 2 and loan 3 nets borrowers who are eager to cut their rate for zero cost, but I still may not have anything that helps 1 in the sense of being worth the cost of doing it. Now loan 1, loan 2, and loan 3 all have the same rate, but loan 3 owes the least amount of money, therefore has the lowest payment, and has the most equity in their home.



Here's another dirty little not very secret, but rarely publicly acknowledged, fact: People don't always refinance into a lower rate when they refinance. If you've been a homeowner 15 years or so, chances are reasonable that you've done it - possibly more than once. Don't worry, I'm not going to pillory you in public over it, but if you won't admit it to yourself then there's not a lot that can be done for you. People have various reasons for refinancing into higher rates, some of them reasonable, some of them relating to necessity, and some quite frivolous. But you'd be amazed at how often people looking to refinance expect me to believe stories that numbers show to be obvious fiction about how often they've refinanced a property. This is math, and if the numbers tell me you've been making payments on this loan for two years when you tell me five, I'll bet millions to milliamps that if I go check the public records that are maintained on every piece of real property in the country I'll find that Trust Deed recorded two years ago. Now, it's okay to tell some lies of certain kinds to your loan officer, and assuming that any prepayment penalty has expired, this is probably one of them. No harm, no foul. What a typical loan officer cares about is getting paid, and if you're withholding or correct information doesn't make a difference to that, there's been no harm done. A good loan officer will add, "Putting the client into a better position" to that first, paramount concern, and if the information you withheld would have resulted in a different answer to this question, you have only yourself to blame. (Looking for altruists in business is both pointless and hazardous to your financial health. Businesspersons donate huge amounts of time and money and energy to charities or other works for the public good. But we're at work to Make Money. I am very good at what I do and getting better because I want to Make More Money, and mistakes do the opposite of Make More Money). But you need to be completely honest with that wonderful person you see in the mirror every day who follows you around twenty-four hours every day, shares in all of your triumphs and joys, and has to deal with all of your mistakes for the rest of your life. Otherwise you're going to waste a lot of money on mortgages making the same mistakes over and over again.



Getting back to the actual Truth-In-Lending form, finance charge assumes you keep the loan the full term, as I have explained. Amount financed is subject to the same limitations as the Good Faith Estimate, and in fact assumes that the Good Faith Estimate is honest and accurate. So is the Finance charge. Neither of these, nor the Total of Payments, which is simply the sum of these two, is any more valid than the Good Faith Estimate this form is based upon. Do NOT use the Truth-In-Lending as a way to compare loans, numbers-wise. Many people do precisely this because it's such a simple looking, easy to understand form. But if it's based upon a Good Faith Estimate that's not valid, it means nothing. Zip. Nada. Garbage In, Garbage Out.



Nope, the minimal information provided by this form is in the details that start about halfway down.



Demand Feature: If checked, this means the lender can require that you repay the loan in full, with a certain number of days (usually 30) notice. It can also mean there's a balloon on the loan.



Variable Rate Feature: if checked, this means that at some point, if you keep the loan long enough, become a variable rate loan. I've seen loans that went as long as ten years before a variable rate kicked in.



Credit Life and Credit Disability are two products that I would generally recommend against unless it's the only life or disability insurance you can get. Some states do not permit them to be a requirement of the loan - and in those cases where the lender would otherwise require one or both, you won't get the loan as a result. (On the other hand, without these state prohibitions, many lenders would require them much more often, costing consumers in the aggregate billions. Just like everything else in mortgages, it's a tradeoff with winners and losers no matter what you choose.) Both of these products typically pay any benefits directly to the lender, when you want them to come to you or your family. Buying your own life insurance or disability insurance is typically a much better idea.



Property and Flood Insurance The lender can and will require you to maintain proper insurance on the property as a condition of your loan. In California, they cannot require this be for the full amount of the loan, but they can and will require you to maintain coverage for the amount of full replacement costs - what it would take to rebuild your property as it is from the ground up. Many lenders delegate the responsibility for making sure this is done on their behalf to big administrative operations that cover the whole country, and they are ignorant of individual state law even for such major states as California. Be polite, but firm, when they tell you they are looking for coverage in the full amount of the loan. Flood insurance is a separate policy that can also be required if the property is on a flood map. The lender can either demand your loan in full immediately or purchase insurance on your behalf and force you to pay the bill if you fail to show them continuing proof of adequate coverage.



SECURITY: The first box should be checked for purchases, the second for refinances. In rare cases I do see somebody taking out a loan on a home that is free and clear to get a better rate than they would on a new property they're buying, because they'll get a better rate that way. In this case, the second box should be checked.



Filing Fees are for filing the papers with the county recorder, and should be the same as listed on the Good Faith Estimate



Late Charge basically discloses what your penalty for any late payments will be. It is expressed as a percentage of your normal monthly payment.



Prepayment penalty: Should tell you honestly whether there will be a prepayment penalty on the loan, but often doesn't. Says nothing about the duration of it. Forget the second line. All of the costs to get you the loan are sunk and nonrefundable from the time you sign the papers. All of the interest that you pay as it is due is gone forever. You'll never see it again. They earned it. They're not going to give it back. I've never heard of a loan where in the initial contract the borrower was promised a rebate of part of those costs if they paid off early. Banks did make a lot of offers to discount loans if you paid them off in the late seventies and early eighties, but these were offers made at a later time, long after loan papers were signed, by the banks because they were losing their shirts buying money at 14% or so when it was already loaned several years earlier to customers at 6%. It wasn't a part of the contract in the first place.



Assumption: This means that if you sell the property, the buyer can keep your loan in effect. The VA loan is the only one out there that is generally assumable by the buyer if you sell, but there are some other loans that are assumable as well. It's not usually a good idea to let them, but there may be no alternative. The reason: You can still be liable for these if you do allow them to be assumed.



Then there's a line where there are two final square boxes to check, where "* means an estimate" and "all dates and numerical disclosures except the late payment disclosures are estimates. Expect the second box to be checked. It's all based upon the Good Faith Estimate. If they're stretching the truth there, the numbers here are going to be similarly distorted. And if it's not checked, that's "an inadvertent oversight" and unlikely to be prosecuted. Which is as it should be - unless there's a pattern of it, which is the case with all too many loan providers.



Caveat Emptor


UPDATED here

Powerline has a brief article here and reference to John Hinderaker's Weekly Standard column Second Thoughts on Kelo, walking the rhetoric back a bit. Okay, walking it back a lot. However, there are still fundamental problems in eminent domain as highlighted by Kelo vs. New London, as I and many others have addressed before. If you have another problem a proposed solution must deal with, please get back to me as I'm also looking to do a round up of proposed solutions to problems with eminent domain, either here or as part of Carnival of Liberty #2, which I'm hosting. So please email me links to proposed solutions you have either written or run across. If we all look for ways to improve a solution, and then get behind it, it has a better chance of being adopted!



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The Jawa Report plays compare and contrast. Inspired by Daily Kos and also here (note: this link gave me a message of " DailyKos is undergoing some maintenance right now. It'll be back up just as soon as possible. Thanks for your patience." so methinks it's about to go into deep denial as other areas of the site were available)



Charles Johnson at Little Green Footbals provides a partial shot.



Jawa Report also has a post on the sick pervert accused of the Groene murder kidnap etcetera. He happens to be a blogger. Warning: I read below the click and now I need a shower. Eeeewwww!



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Tom at Tom Rants has notes that China and Russia want US out of Central Asia



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Pennywit at Wizbang asks When are you guys going to leave the Republicans?



The short answer is when the Donkeys are based somewhere closer to reality...



Donkey policy in War on Terrorism consists of inserting head into ground and loudly chanting "la-la-la-la I don't see anything! La-la-la-la I don't hear anything!"



Donkey policy on Social Security is to blatantly deny reality in hopes the blue hair set will stick with you a little longer. Denial on this score is worse than any deficit spending GWB or the "hard line" Republicans have been accused of. We've known since the mid 1970's that this was a problem.



Donkey policy on Homeland security is "Borders? We don't need no steenkin borders! We don't got to show you no steenking borders!"



Donkey policy on economic development and enterpreneurship amounts to CABIN - Communist All But In Name. Punish the innovators, discourage competition, make it impossible to succeed, protect the fiefs of the donkey party.



I am severely not happy with many things the elephants have done. But on every single issue that really makes a major difference to the future of this country, the elephants are at least somewhere within plain sight of rational. The last sensor contact with the donkeys from rationality was 1994. Joe Lieberman keeps trying to drag them back, but the gap appears to be continually widening.



Hat tip: Politburo Diktat



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World According to Nick has a justifiable allergic reaction to "nice healthy SPAM."



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Dean's World has an excellent articulation of a point I've been making for a long time now. Citizen Smash at Indepundit also. The idea that there exists a constitutional right to abortion is a non-starter for anyone with a reasonable reading level. It is not to be found in the text. The Supremes have given Congress and the state legislatures a thirty year get-out-of-doing-your-job-free pass on this issue. I believe that if Roe is overturned, the donkeys will benefit from the sudden absence of one of their most committed adversary groups, and that the elephants will be suddenly free to take different, more centrist, positions on many issues. It would be an interesting couple of cycles to see how the political chips fell. Speaking as someone who wants abortion to be legal and available (although discouraged), I want Roe overturned so we can come to some kind of consensus as a society, instead of judgement twisting litmus tests in order to preserve (or overturn) a decision that was wrong then, and is wrong now.



Hat tip: Strange Fictions



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Sorry about the late posting time of this. Spent most of the day trying to find a little bit better loan pricing for a prospective client.

The Appraisal

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Of all the issues having to do with a mortgage, the appraisal generates more overblown problems than any other part of the process. It’s also one of the most critical areas to handle correctly. There are reasons for this: It (along with perhaps the relatively cheap credit report) is the only thing a consumer has to pay for, as in money out of their pocket, before the mortgage is complete. Everything else is (or should be) done “on spec” by the mortgage provider. It is also a weapon used against the consumer by many mortgage providers.



In order to understand appraisals, you need to understand where everybody is coming from. An appraisal is a necessity for lenders. It tells the market valuation of the property in neutral terms. It is one of the essential anti-fraud steps of the process, as well as telling the lender how much the property might sell for in ideal conditions (which a foreclosure most certainly is not). It is the “market” part of the “lower of cost or market” valuation, which is driven into accountants and bankers starting with their first classes on the subject. Think about it. Just because you might be willing to pay $700,000 for the house next door to your parents (or for your parents old house itself) does not mean someone else will if you fail to make the payments. I have encountered at least two instances where a prospective borrower was definitely attempting to defraud a lender – and an appraisal caught it. There have been others where a reasonable person would have been less certain, but some of those instances were likely attempted fraud. Because of these, anytime somebody wants me to press for a drive-by or computer appraisal, a little blip goes off in my little bank of warning signal detectors. The lenders aren’t stupid. They know that lesser appraisals are cheaper, and employing the more expensive alternative requiring the consumer to write a check for several hundred dollars is going to cause some people to go elsewhere. It is the judgment of these highly experienced people who have been trusted to loan hundreds of thousands of dollars at a blow that an appraisal costs them less than an increased probability of the things it is designed to prevent. And when a loan officer like me presses them for a lesser appraisal, a little blip goes off on their radar screen, also. I can’t read minds, but I’ve had more success in getting lesser appraisals by keeping my mouth shut and letting the lender decide it’s safe enough on their own, then I have by asking for one.



You should not expect a mortgage provider to pay for an appraisal, like many will for a credit report. Unlike a credit report, an appraisal is several hundred dollars, and they don’t it get back if the loan doesn’t fund. My attitude, born of experience, is “If this customer is not sold enough on the benefits of the loan to front the money for the appraisal when I’m putting in a much larger investment of my time and administrative and support costs, then this isn’t a good investment.” Other people you may never meet such as the title company, escrow company, underwriters, processors, etcetera are also working in the background – and nobody gets paid if you change your mind, aren’t qualified, find a better deal, whatever. If they are hourly or salaried employees that do get paid, somebody else is investing the money to pay them. I may not have a fiduciary responsibility to all of them, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have any moral responsibility to see that their work is rewarded.



Furthermore, some lenders actually do prohibit brokers from paying the appraiser directly as an anti-fraud measure – and that’s one pointless piece of information I can ignore by having the necessary attitude to succeed in business. This does not mean that your mortgage provider isn’t doing their best to balance the competing interests – that of an appraiser’s right to get paid for what they do, versus a consumer’s desire not to pay for something that doesn’t help them. And twice in my career I have refunded appraisal fees out of my own pocket to customers who told me the truth as they knew it, but didn’t know to tell me something else (both fairly obscure points) that prevented the loan from going through. Because I didn’t ask, I felt morally obligated to compensate their loss. (This is not a legal requirement, and is not common – I’ve asked literally dozens of loan officers from all kinds of loan providers whether they’ve ever rebated an appraisal fee for any reason when a loan didn’t go through. So far, two others have said yes. Most look at me and answer “no” as if I’m some kind of alien from another planet. So go into the appraisal with a clear idea that if the loan fails, you’re not getting the money back. Period. That way you may be pleasantly surprised, but you won’t be expecting something unrealistic)



You should not expect an appraiser to work for free. It may not be rocket science, but it is an exacting field where in order to become licensed you must spend at least two years of your life as an apprentice, with an income of basically nothing. As a result, there is usually a shortage of appraisers. I’m often amazed that appraisals aren’t more expensive. On the other hand, many of them want to get paid for work that sabotages the loan it’s supposed to support. There is a Big Thing in appraiser’s association circles about how they hate loans with a minimum appraisal required, and explicit minimum appraisals actually are illegal. The appraisers, being normal humans, ideally want to be able to run their appraisal off the easiest comparable property values and let the chips fall where they may. On the other hand, there have been literally dozens of cases in my experience where choosing different but still comparable properties for comparison and doing a little more work netted the value necessary to make the loan work – the appraiser just didn’t want to be bothered, something that is against the grain of good business practice – and they are supposedly businesspeople. I have also seen this abused by a broker who wanted to make more on loans – if the appraisal came in for $40,000 more, this broker got a bigger rebate from the bank, and thus, made another $1200 on the loan. Lenders for their part do not want appraisals ordered where the appraisal is going to come in at a certain minimum no matter what the property is worth. But it isn’t a sign of good business practice to expect to be paid where your work is going to sabotage a substantial investment that others have already made in a project, as a below value appraisal does. It is naïve to expect that loan provider to continue to supply you with business, when you’ve just cost their former prospect several hundred dollars and kept that prospect from getting their loan, as a result of which the loan provider’s investment is lost, and furthermore you have left the loan provider to face all of the negative ramifications of an unhappy consumer. So some sort of compromise needs to be worked out among the competing interests of a consumer that doesn’t want to pay for something he doesn’t have to or that does no good, an appraiser that wants to get paid for the work, a lender that wants an honest appraisal, and a loan provider that wants an investment to pay off.



The one that I have found that works best is not a minimum appraisal. Besides being illegal, asking for a minimum appraisal is a violation of my fiduciary duty to the lender. Instead, what I’ll do is write something along the lines of “If comparables do not support a value of $X, please re-confirm the order prior to performing the appraisal.” It isn’t bulletproof, by any means. But it gives everybody the best shot at a fair shake without giving anybody carte blanche, and it prevents the vast majority of the problems. The appraiser does most of his or her work before going out to the house in question, checking sales of comparable properties in the Multiple Listing Service that they subscribe to. If the “comps” don’t support $X, and the loan collapses, he’s lost some work time. For a businessperson, this should be no big deal, and what they’ve lost is a small fraction of what other people working on this loan have lost. Furthermore, I’m going to keep sending business to that appraiser. If the comps support $Y, which is less than $X, and I can re-work the loan or find another loan and get the consumer to sign off on it based upon $Y (something that is far easier to do before the consumer gets angry at writing a $400 check and not being able to get the loan on the terms promised), the loan proceeds and the appraiser gets paid, and everybody is happy. If the comps support $X and the appraiser gets paid, everybody is happy – unless the actual appraisal comes in lower, and this does happen where a property is not as well cared for as most, doesn’t have standard features, etcetera. There’s nothing that can be done. You thought your home was worth $X, and it isn’t. End of story. The loan provider took every precaution they legally could. The appraiser took every precaution to protect you that they legally could, and now they’re entitled to be paid. It’s no fun for anybody – consumer, loan provider, or appraiser. I will put up with this a few times for an appraiser who makes a habit of calling me when the comps are low. I’ll keep sending them business. Chances are it’s not their fault. On the other hand, every so often I’ll get a call from some appraiser who gave me three “hop, pop and drops” (as in “hop on over, pop the consumer for the bill, and drop a uselessly low appraisal on them”) in quick succession, and wonders why his phone isn’t ringing. And of course, the various appraisers organizations are trying to pass legislation or regulations that basically give them the right to come back with any old appraisal they want to, and make it even more difficult to ask them to perform in accordance with good business practice.



An appraisal is not what your house will sell for. There are any number of subjective factors an appraiser cannot take into consideration, or cannot account for fully. The types of things they look at are objective. Size of the lot. Square feet of the house. Number of bedrooms. Number of bathrooms, and so on. These have all got measurable, objective answers. Cleanliness of rooms and condition of paint are hard to measure objectively. Nonetheless, potential buyers take them into consideration to a much greater degree than an appraiser.



One fact you should know about the appraisal: They’re good for a maximum of three to six months, measured from the date of the appraisal to the date the loan funds, which is likely to be thirty days or more after you apply. Usually three months is the limit if no loan was actually funded based upon that appraisal. If it’s older than the lender’s underwriting guidelines allow, every lender in the known universe is going to require a new one, unless your loan is one of the fortunate few that doesn’t require an appraisal.



The most important fact every homeowner or homebuyer needs to know about an appraisal: The entity that orders the appraisal, controls the appraisal. If you pay for it, you’re entitled to a copy. That doesn’t mean you’re going to be able to take it to another loan provider and use it. The appraiser will require both a release from the previous loan provider (who after all, is responsible for giving them business), and a retype fee of about $100, possibly more. Whether the loan provider will release it is problematical. They are not required to. Some won’t, no matter how good the reason. Some want to be paid, first. Even the most liberal and ethical aren’t going to release it if you’ve simply found a better deal. Remember, they’ve invested some serious resources in making this loan happen based upon your representation that you wanted it.



In another essay, I advise you to apply for a back up loan every time you buy a property or intend to refinance. Now I’m going to tell you the second smartest thing that you can do: Make certain you’re the one who orders the appraisal and owns it. Now some loan providers use only their own “in house” appraisers and require the appraisal to be paid for up front, when you fill out the loan application. They do this to make certain they keep control of the appraisal, so no other loan provider can use it, obliging you to pay a second appraisal fee if you want to go somewhere else. Unless you can get them to agree in writing to release the appraisal (they won’t), this is a giant red flag not to do business with that provider. The appraiser should be someone you have the option of choosing, and should be paid at point of service when the appraiser comes out to the home. (Don’t choose an appraiser who’s a family member, however. Lenders frown on this. Expect some pointed questions or having to get another appraisal if your name and the appraisers names are similar.)



Even other loan providers will try to slip in and assume ownership of an appraisal. If you want to control the appraisal, you must order it direct from the appraiser yourself, and if your loan provider provided the recommendation, the appraiser still might consider themselves bound if they get a significant amount of business there. On the other hand, as I also state in another essay, time is always a critical factor in every loan. The appraisal holds the whole process up if it’s not done promptly, and a reasonable appraiser is going to put his priorities on getting the appraisals done from the people he gets business from on a consistent basis. So if you’re going to order it yourself, order it immediately, or even on your own before you start the loan process if you know the parameters. This is difficult in the case of purchases, but very possible in the case of refinances. On the other hand, purchases are less time critical. Warning!: There are different kinds of appraisals, and different qualification levels of appraisers. There isn’t space here to cover them all. If you order the wrong kind of appraisal or order it from the wrong kind of appraiser, it’s useless. Just because 90% plus of all appraisals are the same kind from the same grade of appraiser or better doesn’t mean yours is one of them. The best way to handle this situation is to give the loan provider no more than two business days to give you the parameters for the appraisal, and be preparing the ground ahead of time by telephoning appraisers. Somebody that will charge $450 and do it within two days is almost certainly a better value than someone who will charge $350 and take two weeks. Immediately upon receipt of parameters from your loan provider, order your appraisal. That exact second. Don’t even put the phone down. As I said, time is critical. Some loan providers will not allow you to do this, insisting upon being the one to order the appraisal. This is a red flag. You probably want to take your business elsewhere. Handling the appraisal correctly is not trivial for a consumer, who after all is not usually a real estate professional, but if you handle it correctly, you put yourself in a position of much greater leverage.





Caveat Emptor


I do wish to announce to the world that Searchlight Crusade is no longer a blog. It is now an online magazine. Blog posts are now articles. Comments are now effectively letters to the publisher. Trackbacks are lists of publicisers. You get the idea. Please forgive any inadvertent references to the former activity of blogging on behalf of the staff, which has been retained en masse from the previous regime.



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Mossback Culture has an Open Letter To Arundhati Roy proving that the United States isn't the only place where we have people thinking agricultural produce (among other things) falls from the sky as mana.



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I say to Minh Duc at State of Flux that we're glad he decided to join us



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aTypical Joe has an article on Automated driving that's worth reading.



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MUSC Tiger has a stirring article on July 4th



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Respectful Insolence has another Great July 4th article



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Say Uncle notes that we still have room for improvement



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RINO Sightings II is up at Decision '08



Especially worthwhile submissions:

Technography



Politburo Diktat on intelligent design versus evolution.



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Chris Cam with another July 4 article.



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Libercontrarian

has a post in aggreement with my recent one on Illegal Immigration. It seems to be a political maxim that politicians never act until there are bodies on the ground.



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Combs Spouts Off has a post worth reading on a potential nominee for O'Connor's post



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Mr. Completely on the Stella Award for stupidest plaintiff victories in lawsuits this year



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And I'm going to brag a bit on myself for going through all blogs in both the Raging RINO and the Life Liberty Property group for worthwhile posts in one day!



*********




Glenn Reynolds has a great Independence Day column



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Lots of good stuff at Little Green Footballs today



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UPDATE: And of course, as soon as I actually post, Dean's World posts a great MP3 that brings tears to my eyes. Read the post before clicking the MP3.



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Carnival of Liberty #1 is up at Unrepentant Individual and crosslinked on the LLP Group blog



favorites:

Anarchangel on inherent versus constructed rights.

No Angst Zone makes me wonder why we bother having a constitution if judges can decide to ignore it.



I'm hosting number 2 (mirrored at the group blog), so if you prefer you can send me your entries direct at dm (at) searchlight crusade dot com. Deadline is probably going to be enforced more strictly on this one!



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Q and O has a great article on Strategies Bush could use to get his first choice onto the court

Light activity until Tuesday. Next major post will hit Tuesday morning, discussing the appraisal. It's important. I'm also actually working on some of non-real estate topics. One is a discussion of the demise of the estate tax, one a discussion of long term care, and a third a discussion of general requirements for financial planning. So stay tuned.



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Scott Ott at Scrappleface skewers those who will attack any nominee put forward to succeed O'Connor. Scott has my deepest sympathy for trying to write satire in a world with the Donkeys in it. Too often, life imitates Scrappleface.



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I'm not a member of an organized religion. But there are two subclauses of the first amendment, the second stating explicitly no retrictions on the free exercise of your religion. A community college teacher in Victorville, California asked a student to write her term paper on "Religion and its place Within Government" without reference to the word "God". There is nothing else for it. Release the Cluebats, Misha! (As always with Misha, non-family safe language here)

Hat tip: Inoperable Terran



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Tim Blair has an post about Michael Moore producing fiction and gets a hat tip for directing me to a post on Right Wing Death Beast about Austrian Greens who want an arrest warrant issued for the arrest of the President. Not Bush. Ahmadinejihad of Iran.



The age of miracles is not yet past.



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Thomas Sowell has a good piece on jurisprudence, well worth reading. Hat tip: Powerline



Powerline itself also has a worthwhile article on the history of cooperation on judicial nominations within each party. Can you imagine any prominent Democrat (other than perhaps Lieberman), able to fill in the blanks of the sentence they suggest.



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Victor Davis Hanson with an exercise in perspective.



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This is a bizarre enough concept for inclusion especially on a three day weekend: The University of Wisconsin Madison Book Cart Drill Team

Hat tip: Ann Althouse



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Some thoughts upon deployment from a soldier at The Makaha Surf Report My best wishes for all of you who stand watch over us and our future to return safely. Hat tip: Mudville Gazette



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Mark Steyn on the Supreme Court.





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Interview with an Interrogator at Security Watchtower. Hat tip: Dean's World


Recent SF Reading take 3

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Recommended:



Blood Rites by Jim Butcher. Sixth in the Harry Dresden series. I truly love these books. A modern day wizard has to deal with the problems of day to day life and make a living as a private investigator. A few too many coincidences, but he even manages to make porn actors who aren't integral to the plot seem human.



The Sundering by Walter Jon Williams. Second in a series. Humanity, among other races, was conquered long ago and co-opted into the Praxis. But now the Shaa, who ran the empire, have become extinct and the Naxids want to take their place at the top of the pyramid. One of the best parts about this series is how a military which has had no combat for millenia has to relearn it's trade.



Shadow Puppets by Orson Scott Card. Third in a series about Bean, who in turn was originally a character in Ender's Game. Beautifully plotted, the characters are real, and he writes well. What more can I say?



Jaws of Darkness by Harry Turtledove. Fifth in a series roughly mirroring World War II in a universe where magic is the technology. He examines things we dealt with in our history from a different viewpoint.



Mixed:



The Adventures of the Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison, a blast from the past, three novellas from 1961 to 1972. The first three books with Slippery Jim DiGriz. Think of Gomez Addams as instead a high-tech thief and con-man in a future galaxy. The first two were thoroughly enjoyable, the final went downhill enough that I'm not curious about the rest of the series.



The Ethos Effect by L. E. Modesitt. I enjoyed the writing, but for this author, this was more brand new same old thing.



A Forest of Stars by Kevin J. Anderson. Second in a series. Nice plot elements, but I couldn't get into the characters, and the writing just didn't draw me in. I have a mild amount of curiosity as to what happens next in this universe, but none in the characters.



King Of Foxes by Raymond Feist. Second in one of Raymond Feists Midkemia series. Like Modesitt's Ethos Effect, more of the brand new same old thing we've come to expect from Feist. Unlike Modesitt, Feist seems to be coasting on his reputation.



Naked Empire by Terry Goodkind. Eighth in a series that I truthfully don't know why I've stuck with this long. It just keeps seeming like he's going to get to Something New, but he hasn't. Goodbye. I'm done.

I've decided to go back and explain my thoughts with which I arrived at my post Fixing Kelo - a proposal



Assuming that after you read this post and that one you do not agree that my my proposal works (and I'd email it to my congresscritters except that both senators and my elected representative are Certified Moonbats™), then at that point we can start the debate on what problems a solution can and should solve, and which ones we're stuck with. At that point designing a solution becomes much less a matter for ego. I'm afraid that nothing I've seen out there on the web approaches the problem of Kelo from a politically viable starting point.



When you're in my current profession, you can't help but learn that public condemnation of private property for private use has a long and not entirely dishonorable history in this country. Yes, it goes back to 19th centruy crony deals of the sort Tammany Hall was famous for, but it has also been used to condemn farmer's land for factories near cities where poor to middle class workers could get to them, clear blighted areas, and many other uses. It is sometimes necessary to avoid many times the cost, both to the beneficiaries and to society at large.



The clear and obvious problem with condemnation is that it is involuntary. Not much can be done about that. It's one of those "by definition" things. But we can keep it in mind. On the other hand, most development by its very nature also requires ownership of a complete footprint, and designing around one or a few who are unwilling to sell at any price is usually prohibitive. In other words, if 499 out of 500 people in an area are willing to sell and the 500th is not, the 500th is imposing his will on the other 499, and the entity that is in the minds of that 499 their benefactor, to no less degree than the landholders in Kelo were imposed upon. The way to keep involuntary nature foremost is to make certain that the victim of eminent domain can come out no worse by objective measure than when the process started, and should be handsomely compensated for the involuntary nature of the condemnation, instead of being paid fifty to seventy-five cents on the dollar.



The first problem we can design around is that usually, the person fighting condemnation doesn't have the resources such that it gets to the Supreme Court, or realizes they don't have the resources to fight at all and it doesn't get anywhere. Doesn't matter how strongly the law is on your side if you don't have the resources to feed a lawyer the equal of your opponents lawyer, in order to fight the fight. We need to design a fix to the usual David sans sling versus Goliath nature of these things.



The second problem we can design around is that the person whose property is involved doesn't get correctly compensated. Actually, I'm not worried about them being overcompensated, only undercompensated. They don't have the resources or savvy for a correct evaluation, or they don't realize how important this is soon enough. This person needs to come out of the fight with a true replacement for the condemned property or the clear resources to purchase one.



The third problem we can to design around is whether this taking is the minimal interference in the rights of a property holder, and figuratively speaking, whether the game is worth the carrot at all. I believe that intentionally and expressly overcompensating the victims of condemnation, and requiring this come out of the beneficiary's pocket, is the necessary and sufficient condition for this. If the land is not worth more than actual value to the intended beneficiary by a goodly factor, it should not be involuntarily condemned, no matter who the beneficiary.



The fourth problem that we can design around is that having one's property condemned necessarily causes a great deal of work, inconvenience, and frustration on behalf of the owner. They deserve to be compensated for this.



The fifth problem we need to design around is a moral one of the society around them. We need to be able to say that if someone's property did need to be taken from them involuntarily, they at least came out better for the experience and those not involved should be able to say, "You know, it's a shame they took the ancestral property. But they came out of it pretty well. That wouldn't be so bad if that happened to me." This is largely going to be a factor of how much overcompensation the victim of condemnation is due, and coming up with a process for computing it.



The sixth problem we need to design around is that a constitutional amendment is difficult, and takes years during which more problem condemnations are going to happen, even assuming 2/3 majority can be had in house, senate, and 3/4 of the legislatures. I do not support a constitutional convention; I believe the probability we'll come out with something equal to or better than the current document to be negligible. A public law can be enacted in hours to days, at which point we can work on following up with a constitutional amendment if still necessary.



I've been looking for over a week now, and I have arrived at no further requirements that have not been touched upon. Please respond with further input.

Soliciting Consumer Horror Stories



As much as I am aware of common problems in the fields in which I intend to work (or enable others to work), I can’t know everything that goes on. To that end, I’m soliciting the aid of the public. Email me your own horror stories. The ones that are common, I will likely post amalgams (in other words, nobody’s individual story, but rather a put together one made up of parts of many basically consistent individual ones). The ones that are outstanding, I’ll likely post after redacting individually identifying information.



Send these to "issues" at the domain name, searchlightcrusade.com (I try to frustrate web crawlers looking for spam recipients to the maximum extent possible, so keep standard email rules in mind when compressing the above. No spaces. @symbol. Ignore stuff that needs to be ignored).



Please include:



Your relationship to those it happened to, if not obvious.



Contact e-mail for you and for the victim (My intent is to ask that the person it happened to verify I’ve removed the individual information sufficiently BEFORE I post the story, if I do intend to post)



All information as in-line text. Attachments will not be opened!



A simple statement saying that I have your permission to remove personal information and post, or that I do not have your permission to post, as you are sending me this information for background purposes only (i.e. so I know it goes on, and can research and write my own thing from there – still a quite useful bit of illumination).



Please do not get upset if I don’t use your individual story immediately. Certain ones I’ve already encountered many times over. Others may be worthy of attention, but are subject to the limitation that I only get the same twenty-four hours of the day that anyone else does, and in that time, I’ve got to earn a living for my family at my profession, as well as live up to my other responsibilities to the people most important in the world to me, as well as have a bit of fun lest I go insane.



I am primarily interested in horror stories in the fields of mortgage, buying and selling of real estate, the sales of insurance of all kinds, and of things relating to financial planning and investment advice. I know I said I’m interested in insurance, but don’t send me stories of how your insurance won’t cover this or that, UNLESS it was specifically represented to you that it was at the time of sale. I’m also interested in expanding this to cover various fields of the law and consulting, but I do not possess professional qualifications there, and until someone steps forward who does, my ability to deal with them is limited. I hope to eventually expand this blog to cover all consumer and small business services, so I am interested in almost any story. At a minimum, I can post it in Horror Stories as a warning to the readers of this site not to make the same mistakes.



I do intend to add value to these stories, suggesting red flags for this sort of behavior and strategies to avoid or deal with problems. The idea is not to laugh at people for making mistakes that anyone can make, but to look at what happened with an eye to keep it from happening to other people.



One last word: This is not revenge.com, and it most certainly is not libel.com If you DON’T want me to remove all individually identifying information, including of the low down good-for-nothing dirty rat that did this to you, you’re going to have to furnish me with identifying details, documentation, and everything else that you’d expect a fraud investigator to ask for. Basically what you’d need to convict the culprits in a criminal court, and maybe a lot more. Don’t send it until I ask for it, however. The point of this site is to educate consumers and provide a better environment in which everyone does business, not to punish alleged malefactors. Other people get paid for that, so it’s not my priority, and if I get to it at all, it will be in my own time. I am personally aware of many companies that Cannot Be Dealt With On A Reasonable Basis, but I am not legally charged with punishing their misdeeds, and must be careful in what I publish about them, lest someone punish me for my misdeeds.

The Searchlight Mission

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This blog is intended to accomplish three things. Most importantly, it is intended as a consumer education site. I have written and will continue to write essays of information, intended to aid consumers in pursuit of the best bargain available. The point of these is not to bring consumers up to a professional level of competence or knowledge about a field, but to inform them of the general pitfalls and bad business practices that end up causing consumers in the real world to have bad experiences, and information and strategies to prevent this from happening.



I hope you'll agree that what you're going to find here are not puff pieces by any stretch of the imagination. I'm going to point out things that most writers in a field won't tell you about. I'm going to identify myths, pitfalls, mistakes, omissions, and misleading statements commonly made not only by practicing alleged professionals, but also by the journalists who write about them (and incidentally, whose qualifications on these subjects are generally - although not always - limited to "I work for a publication that told me to write an article.") I am going to identify motives of those involved to the degree I reasonably can. I am going to try to cover all involved points of view. And I'm going to try to tell you the limitations of what I write. (And I'm always interested if someone wants to write one of these essays, particularly in areas I am not qualified in).



Almost as important to me, I want this blog to be a place to enjoy yourself. I'm going to start it with posts in categories of my personal interests. I'm always interested in the other point of view, as long as it is respectful. Even If I disagree with it, I'll likely post (or link to) things people send me as long as it is respectful, worthwhile, and intellectually honest. If someone has a real continuing contribution they want to make, I'll give them posting authority as cobloggers. If there is sufficient interest, I'll create new categories and subcategories.



Third, I do expect to make money at this eventually. I actually want to avoid advertising, so no BlogAds, at least for now. I have a business plan in place as to how I intend to make money, about which more as soon as the supporting elements are ready. For now, I’m going to put up a tip jar so that those who think what they find here is worth something can make a voluntary contribution. Think of it as a consultant who does the work, then lets you decide how much, if anything, the contents were worth to you. And I'm not doing this to advertise myself, although I wouldn't mind at all if someone wants me to contact me on their own hook for professional purposes (Agent within San Diego County, mortgages anywhere in California). But that is not the reason I'm doing this. The site is here because I happen to believe that the conditions have reached the point where the means of communication are sufficiently democratized, making it possible for an individual or small group with the right amount of knowledge and dedication to change things in these fields for the better.



I do hope to be paying essay authors and others who make large contributions eventually, but the site has to get to certain levels before I can do that. For now, bandwidth is sufficiently inexpensive that I want to start building the community. I believe that when the time comes when phase II goes operational as a sister site, those who go there will actually thank me while putting money in my wallet. The plan is for that to be something you've got to intentionally click the sister site link, while this stays here and anybody is welcome to come learn what they need to know for the cost of a few hours on the internet.


O'Connor Retires From Supreme Court

Text of the letter Here



Interesting. I had run across references to her intending to retire at the end of next year's term. Given that her resignation is effective upon the confirmation of her successor, this seems likely to be a tool to give the president all the time needed to get a successor confirmed. There is no vacancy. It could well be that she has told the president she'll serve as long as there is no confirmation. On the flip side, it also gives the opposition strong enough motivation to fight, as O'Connor is not the conservative Rehnquist is, and also room enough to hang themselves in the court of public opinion. My guess is that assuming the Mules delay everything long enough, there's a whole nunc dimittis stunt already lined up. Depending upon how the fight goes, this could be the issue for next year's midterms.



UPDATE: Todd Zywicki at the Volokh Conspiracy says "So if there is going to be a fight (which there undoubtedly will be), they may as well at least make it someone worth fighting for."



I agree.



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Common Sense and Wonder has a great post up about parallels with the Revolutionary War



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Pennywit at Wizbang has two amusing posts on the confirmation process. I had thought I'd blogrolled Wizbang some time ago, only to see I hadn't. That is now corrected.



UPDATE: Corrected name of poster at Wizbang



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Bill Quick at Daily Pundit on the new Irani president and MSM trying to say it's been too long.



Heh.

If we've now set the memory horizon at 25 years, then that means no one on the left gets to mention Viet Nam any more.

Steven Den Beste in Comments. Heh again.



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Divinity School at

Richard Lawrence Cohen

Hat Tip: Ann Althouse



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The Endgame from 365 and a Wake-up"

Hat tip: Mudville Gazette



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All sorts of good stuff over at Dean's World today



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How Nerdy Are you?



Hat tip: Libercontrarian



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Daffyd Ab Hugh guest blogging on the new Irani President at Captain's Quarters



Hat tip: Politechnical

For all of the rants I post about bad business practices, there are a lot of things the mortgage industry gets right. One of these looks like a red flag not to do business with them, and may seem like a cruel trick, but it is neither.



With every single loan that is done, you, the client, will get a package in the mail from the actual lender. It looks very official, and in fact it is.



Depending upon lender policy, it usually contains intentional mistakes on things such as the loan type, rate of the loan, or the points involved.



And every so often, I get a panicked phone call because I forgot to warn the client the package was coming.



The point of this particular package is not what it appears to be.



You see, every so often, somebody comes into the office and applies for a loan on a property they don't own. Sometimes loan brokers actually go out and meet the client in their home, but other sorts of loan providers sit in their office and business comes to them. So the bank has really no way of knowing if this is the actually the person who owns or even lives in the property. So they mail a loan package to the property.



The idea is that if you haven't applied for a loan, you're going to speak up. You're going to call the bank, the broker, and everyone else asking, "What the heck is going on? Is somebody else trying to get a loan on my property?"



This is the point of the particular package. It's an anti-fraud measure. And it has just worked.





UPDATE: Republished here

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C'mon! I need to pay for this website! If you want to buy or sell Real Estate in San Diego County, or get a loan anywhere in California, contact me! I cover San Diego County in person and all of California via internet, phone, fax, and overnight mail. If you want a loan or need a real estate agent
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