Monday, 10 May 2010

THE SUBPRIME MORTGAGE MESS (CONT.)

Ken Berwitz

Excerpted from an article in today's Wall Street Journal:

Fannie Mae will require an additional $8.4 billion in government aid after reporting an $11.5 billion net loss for the first quarter, the latest sign that the bailout of the mortgage investor and its main rival, Freddie Mac, is likely to be the most expensive legacy of the U.S. housing market bust.

Fannie's losses reflected continuing weakness in the housing market and would have been worse without accounting changes that reduced its deficit. The quarterly loss was an improvement from the $23.5 billion loss for the first quarter of 2009 and marked the 12th consecutive quarterly loss for the Washington-based firm.

Over that time, the company has had losses totaling nearly $148 billion, or nearly double its profits for the previous 35 years. The government's tab for Fannie Mae will climb to $84 billion, and its tab for both Fannie and Freddie will reach $145 billion. The government took control of both companies in 2008 through a legal process known as conservatorship as rising losses threatened to wipe out their thin capital reserves.

While many of the nation's biggest banks have repaid their government loans and some are back to racking up big profits, red ink continues to gush from Fannie and Freddie because of their huge exposure to defaulting home loans.

But Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac are not the problem.  They're both nice and healthy, and things are fine for them going forward.

Just ask Barney Frank and his fellow Democrats.....


IF ELENA KAGAN IS A LESBIAN.......

Ken Berwitz

President Obama has named Elena Kagan as his choice to succeed John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court.  There are apparently many rumors circulating that she is a lesbian.  That being the case, I thought I'd put my two cents in on the subject.

If Elena Kagan is a lesbian.......

....I don't give a damn, unless she exports her personal views into judicial rulings.

There is a difference between saying "This is what I am and this is what the law says", and "This is what I am and it will inform my legal rulings"   If Ms. Kagan sees it the first way, her sexual orientation is irrelevant.  If she sees it the second way, her sexual orientative is relevant.

There are some very good reasons to support and to reject Elena Kagan as a supreme court justice.  I hope they aren't superseded by her personal sexual orientation, which isn't a good reason at all.

PJ well "I" care if she is a lesbian. Why is it that they can't find any women EXCEPT lesbians to fill these jobs? Why does it always have be be a woman that looks like a man in a dress, like Reno and Napolitano and now this one. Speaking as a woman, it makes me feel like they will not take us straight female women seriously. That they only accept manly gruff women named Janet or so. (05/10/10)


THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION'S "FREE SHOT" POLICY ON TERRORISM

Ken Berwitz

So help me, this is a real quote.

From www.thehill.com this morning:

Clinton: Pakistan would face 'very severe consequences' if successful attack traced back

By Bridget Johnson - 05/09/10 07:02 PM ET

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, while stressing that Islamabad was being cooperative in probing the Times Square bombing, said in an interview aired Sunday that if a successful terrorist attack was traced back to Pakistan, the country would face "very severe consequences."

When pressed about what those might be, Clinton responded, "I think Ill let that speak for itself."

Clinton's interview, taped Friday but aired Sunday evening on CBS' "60 Minutes," came after Deputy National Security Adviser John Brennan and Attorney General Eric Holder said on the morning shows that bombing suspect Faisal Shahzad acted with orchestration and support of the Pakistani Taliban.

Clinton said in the Friday interview that the depth of Shahzad's connections to Pakistan was still being investigated, but said the message to the Pakistani government was "very clear."

 

I can see someone reading this and, for a few seconds, saying "ok, good, they've been warned"......and then the realization dawns that Clinton said Pakistan won't face any consequences until a terrorist attack is successful. 

In other words, the Secretary of State of the United States is telling Pakistan, a hotbed of terroristic activity, that it is fine and dandy if attacks emanate from that country as long as the attacks fail.  The terrorists operating there get free shots until there are mutilated corpses and destroyed buildings, and then we'll implement "severe consquences". 

Just like we, and the UN, have implemented "severe consequences" against Iran?

How much more plainly can this administration show it is not protecting us from terrorism? 

Ann Coulter started her last column by saying:

It took Faisal Shahzad trying to set a car bomb in Times Square to get President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano to finally use the word "terrorism." (And not referring to Tea Party activists!)

This is a major policy shift for a president who spent a month telling Americans not to "jump to conclusions" after Army doctor Nidal Malik Hasan reportedly jumped on a desk, shouted "Allahu Akbar!" and began shooting up Fort Hood.

After last weekend, now Obama is even threatening to pronounce it "Pack-i-stan" instead of "Pock-i-stahn." We know Obama is taking terrorism seriously because he took a break from his "Hope, Change & Chuckles" tour on the comedy circuit to denounce terrorists.

In a bit of macho posturing this week, Obama declared that -- contrary to the terrorists' wishes -- Americans "will not be terrorized, we will not cower in fear, we will not be intimidated."

First of all, having the Transportation Security Administration wanding infants, taking applesauce away from 93-year-old dementia patients, and forcing all Americans to produce their shoes, computers and containers with up to 3 ounces of liquid in Ziploc bags for special screening pretty much blows that "not intimidated" look Obama wants America to adopt.

"Intimidated"? How about "absolutely terrified"?

Second, it would be a little easier for the rest of us not to live in fear if the president's entire national security strategy didn't depend on average citizens happening to notice a smoldering SUV in Times Square or smoke coming from a fellow airline passenger's crotch.

But after the car bomber, the diaper bomber and the Fort Hood shooter, it has become increasingly clear that Obama's only national defense strategy is: Let's hope their bombs don't work!

Ms. Coulter is 100% correct.  And if the hopelessly ourmatched, incompetent, dishonest Hillary Clinton is reflecting Barack Obama's view - as I assume she is - we inevitably are going to pay for those deficiencies in blood and treasure.

This administration doesn't have a clue about how to fight terrorism - or is it man-made disasters?  I forget which description they're using right now.  Maybe it's an odd-even day thing.

However, if smugness and arrogance, coupled with media adoration, equalled the war against terrorism?  We'd have won it already.


IS SPECTER A GONER?

Ken Berwitz

It is starting to look more and more as if Arlen Specter will lose the Democratic primary to the more leftward Joe Sestak.

Excerpted from an article in today's Washington Times:

One week before the May 18 primary in Pennsylvania, two new polls show Rep. Joe Sestak opening a lead on Sen. Arlen Specter in their fight for the Democratic Senate nomination.

The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone poll of likely Democratic primary voters has Mr. Sestak up 47 percent to 42 percent, with 8 percent undecided. Mr. Sestak is holding a similar margin in a Muhlenberg College/Morning Call tracking poll.

Is Mr. Specter, 80, about to join Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and Utah Sen. Bob Bennett as the latest victim of 2010's backlash against "moderate" candidates?

In February, the five-term senator held a commanding 51 percent to 36 percent lead over Mr. Sestak and seemed to hold all the keys to winning his first Democratic Party nomination since switching from the Republican Party in 2009. He'd been endorsed by President Obama and Pennsylvania's Democratic governor, Ed Rendell, and his campaign was getting cash and support from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

But Mr. Sestak, a two-term member of the U.S. Congress and a former admiral running as "the real Democrat," has steadily closed the gap on Mr. Specter, and last week edged into the lead for the first time.

It would be quite a blow to President Obama, Pennsylvania Governor Rendell and the DSCC if Sestak were to win this primary.  Not that they wouldn't immediately support Sestak, but because they all cast their lot with Specter and he lost anyway.  Politicians do not like embarrassments of that kind

And then there is the wild-card scenario:  i.e. Sestak wins the nomination and Specter decides to do a Lieberman/Crist by running as an independent. 

It certainly isn't far-fetched.  A man who admitted he changed parties last year because it gave him a better chance to retain his senate seat is a man who will dump his current party this year, for the same reason.

It will be more than a little fascinating to see how this plays out.


IS ELENA KAGAN A RACIST?

Ken Berwitz

Don't jump all over me for asking that question.  It's not me asking.  Actually it is Roland S. Martin of CNN. 

Here, excerpted from his latest column, is why he has posed the question:

(CNN) -- If a white Republican president of the United States appointed a white male as his next Supreme Court justice, and upon the inspection of his record, it was discovered that of the 29 full-time tenured or tenured track faculty he hired as dean of Harvard Law, nearly all of them were white men, this would dominate the headlines.

 

It would be reasonable to conclude that the special interest groups that vigorously fight for diversity -- civil rights organizations, feminist groups and other liberal institutions -- would be up in arms, declaring that this person's records showed him unwilling to diversify academia, and unqualified to consider diverse views as one of nine members of the U.S. Supreme Court. There would be widespread condemnations of Republicans having no concern for the nonwhite males in America.

 

But what if the choice were made by a black Democratic president, and it was a woman? A white woman? A white Democratic woman?

 

Some of you may not like the fact that I am focusing on the race of the individual, but when diversity is raised, the person's skin color, gender and background are considered germane to the discussion. And if there is silence from black and female organizations, their race and gender matter as well.

 

We may very well witness this now that President Obama has selected Solicitor General Elena Kagan to replace the retiring Justice John Paul Stevens.

 

Guy-Uriel Charles, founding director of the Duke Law Center on Law, Race and Politics, has heavily scrutinized Kagan's hiring record as head of Harvard Law School. In a scathing blog post, he has said that of the 29 positions Kagan had a chance to fill, 28 were white and one was Asian-American. And of the group, only six were women -- five white and one Asian-American.

 

These numbers on the surface are appalling, and would be ripped to shreds by those who value diversity, but my gut tells me that even though Kagan has been tapped by Obama, the normally vocal and persistent voices in this area will be tight-lipped and quiet, unwilling to oppose or heavily criticize the nomination of a woman to the court, and especially one made by an African-American Democratic president.

 

If that does happen, Republicans will rightly cry foul, saying it represented a double standard -- that the silence was a signal of partisan hacks more concerned about not offending the Obama administration, rather than the ideals they hold near and dear.

 

The real issue will be reaction from the left. It is shameful and disgusting when civil rights organizations, feminist groups and others lose their conviction and sense of purpose when a Democrat gets in the White House. They need to decide what matters: their principles or their politics; their mission or their liberal money; their convictions or chicken dinners in the White House.

 

Credibility and consistency are vital for any organization. And if the leaders of civil rights and feminist organizations do not demand strong and clear answers from the White House about Kagan and her diversity track record as dean of Harvard Law School, they are failing the people they say they represent.

 

Demanding accountability about diversity isn't a one-way street meant only for Republicans. Democrats should never get a pass either.

Very, very interesting. 

I will wait to hear Ms. Kagan's explanation  -- and to see how many in the mainstream media will join Mr. Martin in demanding one.


THINGS TO SAY DURING A COLONOSCOPY

Ken Berwitz

Our friends Myra and Bobby from Connecticut just sent us a very funny blog about a very unpleasant subject:  colonoscopies.

It is too long and maybe too graphic to post here.  But at the end, there were a number of comments a physician supposedly claims he heard from patients while the procedure was taking place.  I thought they were funny enough to post here.  See if you agree:

1. 'Take it easy, Doc. You're boldly going where no man has gone before!'

2. 'Find Amelia Earhart yet?'


3. 'Can you hear me NOW?'


4. 'Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?'


5. 'You know, in Arkansas we're now legally married.'


6. 'Any sign of the trapped miners, Chief?'


7. 'You put your left hand in, you take your left hand out...'


8.. 'Hey! Now I know how a Muppet feels!'


9. 'If your hand doesn't fit, you must quit!'


10. 'Hey Doc, let me know if you find my dignity.'


11. 'You used to be an executive at Enron, didn't you?'


12. 'God, now I know why I am not gay.'


           And the best one of all: 

 

13. 'Could you write a note for my wife saying that my head is not up there?'

 

Did people really say these things?  Who knows.  And who cares.  Funny is funny.


SUPERMOMS

Ken Berwitz

This little tribute to mothers was posted at, of all places, crooksandliars.com.   Although it is a day late, I thought some of the moms in the house (and maybe even a few dads and kids) would enjoy it.

 

 

supermom_344bc.jpeg


OBAMA & THE OIL SPILL

Ken Berwitz

It is now 2 1/2 weeks since that oil rig exploded off the Louisiana coast and sent thousands of barrels of oil a day spewing into the water - oil that is now washing onshore.

We are all pretty certain (and rightfully so) that BP is a culprit here.  But I have a few questions:

-Where in hell is the USA, as our coastline becomes disastrously contaminated with oil?

-Where in hell is the contingency plan to do something about it? 

-In what way were we prepared to deal with a major oil event like this one? 

-Who was supposed to have been in charge of our apparently nonexistent operation? 

-How much of the blame must be placed on President Obama and his administration?  Weren't they the ones warning us that this could happen?  Then how come, well over a year into the Obama administration, when it does happen, they are caught with no plan to do anything about it except point fingers?

And when do our wonderful "neutral" media start demanding answers to some of these questions, besides never?

PJ I've been wondering when they were going to get going on the solution and clean up too. This makes Katrina fiasco pale in comparison. Why aren't they DOing something? (05/10/10)

Zeke .... .... .... You're doing a Heck of a Job, Barry .... .... ... (05/10/10)


LENA HORNE R.I.P.

Ken Berwitz

The legendary Lena Horne passed away yesterday, at the age of 92.

Ms. Horne was renowned for her physical beauty and for how expressively she performed her songs. 

Lena Horne was born in my home town, Brooklyn NY, in 1917.  By the time she was 16 she was already in the Cotton Club chorus line.  Eventually she was the first Black performer to headline at the Copacabana. 

Ms. Horne's movie career was relatively extensive, but terribly exasperating.  In general-audience movies, she was almost never allowed to have a speaking role.  She could only sing -- and her singing was often edited out of movies when they were distributed to the south. 

But in the "race movies", made during the 1940's, which were able to showcase her great talents (e.g. Cabin In The Sky, Stormy Weather), she was wonderful. 

Ms. Horne was outspoken on social issues -  especially about the barriers put in the way of Black people.  She always felt (justifiably) that speaking out and participating in demonstrations and marches as she did, hurt her career.  But she did it anyway. 

Despite the rocky road created by speaking out against injustice, Ms. Horne was so talented that she remained a sought-after night club performer and something of a staple on 50's and 60's Television variety shows.

Much later, her one-woman show on Broadway. "Lena Horne:  The Lady & Her Music" ran for a year on Broadway (1981-82) and garnered a Tony and two Grammy awards.  She continued to perform, right into her 80's. 

Ms. Horne was truly one of a kind.  Few could hold a candle to her talent, to her pride in who she was, or to her dedication to her beliefs.  

May she rest in peace.


IBD EXPLAINS WHY BAILING OUT GREECE IS A HUGE MISTAKE

Ken Berwitz

This is an easy blog.  Investors Business Daily has written an editorial which explains the EU's folly in clear, concise, easily understandable terms.  Please read these excerpts and see:

The Euro Zone's $1 Trillion Mistake

Bailouts: The European Union's answer to members' profligacy has a familiar ring: Create a $1 trillion fund that can be used to prop up failing economies. Sounds a lot like TARP to us.

European officials are employing the same strategy as the U.S. to deal with their burgeoning crisis. But instead of dealing with troubled companies, the Euro-TARP is being used on nations that can no longer pay their bills.

First came Greece, which got a bailout last week worth an estimated $146 billion. That tells us that the geniuses who run the EU believe that bailouts totaling another $850 billion and perhaps even more are possible. "It's an absolute general mobilization," said French President Nicolas Sarkozy. "We have decided to give the euro zone a veritable economic government."

Bye-bye sovereignty for euro zone nations. But, you say, why not do it? After all, it's a crisis, and considering how global markets reacted Monday most were up sharply isn't this a good thing?

No, because in addition to ending nations' responsibility to deal with their problems, this is not true reform. It's a bailout. It gives money to countries that have disregarded basic economic principles. In short, it rewards bad behavior the last thing any economic policy should do.

This is robbing Peter to pay Paul except, in this case, Peter is virtuous, Paul isn't. After the bailout deal, Greece's long-term borrowing costs plunged from 12.4% to 6.5%. Germany, which provided the bulk of the bailout funding, saw its rates rise.

 

By bankrolling irresponsible governments and firms, a new generation will learn that virtuous behavior will be punished and bad behavior rewarded. This is a recipe for future meltdowns, when the next generation's failures will expect that they too will be rescued.

 

Except they won't be. They can't be. That's the real tragedy here. We are consuming our financial seed corn right now. A whole generation of baby boomers in the U.S. and Europe are now closing in on retirement. But because of the meltdown and bailouts, the security they thought was theirs is gone.

 

In Europe, low and falling fertility rates mean the long-term costs of today's bailouts will be spread over a shrinking number of workers and taxpayers. Without a huge increase in real investment, productivity growth will be slow to nonexistent. The $1 trillion bailout makes that outcome likely.

 

Is there a way out? Of course. The welfare-state model championed by Europe the much-ballyhooed "third way" is dying. It was, as economists like to say, unsustainable.

 

Well, let it die. Make countries balance their books, tighten their belts and refocus on getting their private-sector economies back on their feet by slashing taxes and hacking through the regulatory bramble. Sure, it may lead to some market disruptions. But such bitter medicine is far better than the narcotic of unending bailouts

IBD is dead-on correct.  And I suggest we all take a good hard look at what is going on in Europe right now because, unless we stop this incredibly profligate administration and its congressional majorities, from continuing to spend us into debt oblivion, it is our not-too-distant future. 

The 2010 elections cannot come fast enough.

And that goes double for 2012.


MEXICO'S OUTRAGE OVER ARIZONA

Ken Berwitz

This can't be real.  It must be some kind of comedy routine.

Excerpted from an article at Voice of America:

The Mexican government continues to react to the U.S. state of Arizona's new immigration law, issuing a travel alert and canceling an annual meeting with the state's government.

Mexico's Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a travel warning Tuesday for Mexicans going to or residing in Arizona. In a statement, the ministry urges Mexicans to "act with prudence and with respect to the local legal framework."

The statement says that once the law takes effect, every Mexican citizen may be harassed and questioned without further cause at any time.

The new law requires immigrants in Arizona to carry registration documents with them at all times, and requires police to question people if there is reason to believe they are illegal immigrants.

On Monday, the government of the Mexican state of Sonora announced it has canceled the annual Sonora-Arizona Commission meeting scheduled for June, to protest the new law.

In a statement, Sonoran State Governor William Padres stressed the cancellation is not a break in relations with Arizona, but a response to the immigration issue. The Sonoran government says the two states have been holding the meetings on cross-border cooperation for more than 50 years.

On Monday, Mexican President Felipe Calderon condemned the new immigration law, saying it opens the door to intolerance, hate and discrimination.

For pure comedy, this is hard to beat.  Jerry Seinfeld could have written it.

The government of Mexico, and specifically Sonora (which borders Arizona), are outraged!  Those dastards (and I don't mean dastards) in Arizona are actually demanding that Mexicans enter the state LEGALLY!  How dare they?

I mean, it's not like there's a problem.  What does an estimated half million illegals in Arizona alone, who overflow the schools and hospitals while taking jobs from Arizonans, have to do with anything?

For that matter, what's the problem with an estimated total of 12 - 15 million Mexican illegals in the United States (that is about 10 - 15% of the entire Mexican population)?  Why can't we all be friends?

Here are some comments that, just maybe, should be made by these Mexican officials: 

"We are terribly sorry that Mexican nationals are fleeing our country to go to yours." 

"We are embarrassed and humiliated by this, because it means that our people find living illegally, in fear of being found out and deported every day, is preferable to living legally with full citizenship rights in their own country."

"We are embarrassed and humiliated that we provide our people - other than the upper classes and government officials of course - so little opportunity and so little hope, that they are willing to scale fences, or be driven through the desert in stifling trucks, hungry, thirsty and risking death, just to get out of our country." 

"We are ashamed to admit that our country has so completely failed so many millions of its people." 

"So we humbly apologize to the USA, beg its forgiveness, and will now embark on policies that will make Mexico a place where its own people might want to stay."

When do you figure you'll hear anything like what you just read?  For reference I suggest you consider that old Johnny Mathis song, "The 12th of Never". 


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