26 November 2007

Pandering Ends; Minorities Hardest Hit

From my reading of this article "Many factors fed housing breakdown", about the causes of the mortgage sub-prime market hysteria, it basically boils down to two factors: greed and social engineering.

If you're like me, you're not shocked by the first, but amazed by the second.

Greed

Market speculators wanted a higher return. Who doesn't? So, this pressured lenders into accepting more risk.

A smart lender would examine this equation and say "more risk for me might not be a good trade, even with higher loan revenues". Other lenders might say "Screw risk! Higher returns, baby!"

Huge losses and hilarity ensue.

Social Engineering. Or, the World As We Wish It Were, Instead of As It Is

The Federal Reserve wanted to increase rates of home ownership among minorities, which are apparently historically lower.

But hold on, you might say. Why were they historically lower? Is it because the mortgages were deemed too risky? If so, then does it make sense to just ignore that risk in hopes that somehow they won't be risky any more? And wouldn't that just be plain old "wishing and hoping"? And aren't lenders of other people's money are supposed to be a bit more rigorous than that?

Apparently, being a loan officer is a little more whimsical than I'd previously thought.

I also hadn't realized that the Fed was now in the business of fine-tuning home ownership rates by race instead of by creditworthiness. Who knew?

So there you have it.

Old Fashioned Greed, united in common cause with Helping a Brotha Out. Making folks feel good *and* returning higher cash flow!

Until that ugly risk kicks in the door. Ugh. Bummer.

So this would explain then, at least in part, why minorities are "hardest hit". They were also being pandered to, and over-qualified by their lenders. Set up for failure, in other words.

As past credit checks had apparently predicted, if reality counts for anything these days.

07 November 2007

Thank God, the hugging nightmare is over!

Maybe schools could focus on educating our children instead of ... oh, I don't know ... making up stupid rules like "no hugging"? And then invoking said rule to suspend a 13 year old girl for hugging a friend goodbye on a Friday afternoon?

Maybe it's just me, but I don't see much good that can come from rules like :
"Displays of affection should not occur on the school campus at any time. It is in poor taste, reflects poor judgment, and brings discredit to the school and to the persons involved."
Let's talk about poor taste, and poor judgment, for a minute.

For the purposes of discussion only, we'll go way, way out on a limb and stipulate that school boards have any business at all making rules, for other people's children, about a perfectly legal, moral, innocent, personal behavior like hugging. Let's go even further out on that limb and assume that school boards have attained such educational heights with their student populations, and have so few issues on campus left to solve, that they have valuable time to spend looking into the "hugging problem", and to formulate policy on it.

So if school boards are now in the business of taste, and judgment, why haven't they done anything about 13 year old girls dressing like sluts, and 13 year old boys dressing like prison thugs with their pants pulled halfway off?

05 November 2007

Scumbags like this ...

(link) ... are why lynch mobs were invented.

Michael Rebecca is "one of the most narcissistic, manipulative and perverted individuals we have ever seen," Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran said Monday.

Rebecca, 50, of 750 Court of Birch, Apt. 1, Vernon Hills, faces four charges of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child, State's Attorney Michael Waller said, and will likely face many more.

Each charge carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. Because two victims were 11 years old, Waller said, Rebecca is eligible for life in prison.

Authorities say Rebecca told police he met his initial victim, a boy who was then 11 years old, in 2003 while working with a relative of the child.

That boy introduced him to others, police said Rebecca told them, and soon there were at least nine members of Rebecca's sex club.

Police said the boys were 11 to 13 years old when they first connected with Rebecca. They live in Buffalo Grove, Wheeling, Arlington Heights, Prospect Heights and Elk Grove Village.

They spent weekends and longer with Rebecca because he was able to gain the trust of their families, Waller said.

"People who do this are very good at picking their victims and picking their victims' parents," Waller said. "When presented the opportunity to leave your child for the weekend with a 50-year-old man, most of us would say no, but these parents did not."

Boys were initiated into the club when Rebecca would strike them lightly with a gavel that police found during a search of his home, police said.

There were hundreds of sex acts between Rebecca and the boys over the years, police said, and at least two of the nine victims known to police said they had sex with Rebecca more than 50 times.

Police said he designed games around sex acts for the boys to play, such as "black light," in which Rebecca would turn on a black light outside his bedroom when he wanted to have sex.

The boys were ranked inside the club at various levels, police said, and those at the highest levels were allowed to spend more time with Rebecca than those at lower levels.

Rebecca, a computer programmer, plied his victims with money and electronic gifts, such as iPods, iPhones and computer games, police said, and allowed them to watch pornography at his home.

Investigators became involved when a 16-year-old boy who was feeling suicidal went to the sheriff's office and detailed his relationship with Rebecca.

Rebecca was taken into custody in Chicago late Friday afternoon and spent the weekend giving police the names of eight additional victims and details of his activities, police said.

In the search of Rebecca's home, police seized seven computers, nine independent hard drives and dozens of compact discs that are undergoing analysis.

Curran said police are concerned there may be additional victims and encouraged anyone with information about Rebecca to contact the sheriff's office, Vernon Hills police or the state's attorney's office.

Congressional Medal of Honor Awarded to Lt. Michael Murphy

I'll wager that most folks, unless they explicitly follow military matters in the news, are not even aware that a U.S. Navy SEAL named Lieutenant Michael Patrick Murphy was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor on Oct. 22.

The Navy has erected an entire website in Lt. Murphy's honor. Please, go read about him, and about his life, and about his sacrifice.

Basically, he completely ignored any risk to himself in order to do his duty, to save the lives of his team.

If you're like me, you didn't notice the front page news stories, or the tributes on the evening news. Maybe they had some, I don't know. But if they did, it didn't cause much of a ripple in the public consciousness.

This is stunning. The lack of public acknowledgement and regard for his heroism, and his valor, in the cause of freedom. It doesn't reflect well on us as a people, I'm sad to say.

The Congressional Medal of Honor is the "highest award for valor in action against an enemy force which can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the Armed Services of the United States". It's a big deal, a very, very big deal.

Yet out here in the real world, nobody seems to talk about it, or read about it, or even know about it. We as Americans should know about it, and we should care about it, because part of the reason that brave and admirable young men and women like Lt. Murphy sometimes give their lives is because of who we are, and what we stand for.

They wouldn't bother joining the service in the first place if we didn't have something worth fighting for, here.

Recently, Ken Burns' "The War" was on PBS, amid great fanfare, and I'm sure it got great ratings. I watched much of it myself. Burns did a fine job of showing the horror of war, and the sacrifices made by so many brave young men and women. Over and over, we heard about both civilians and military folk bearing great personal burdens, and sometimes giving their lives, in order to advance the larger cause.

And yet I have to wonder, how many of those watching it realized that 61 years after D-Day, we have other young people making the same sacrifices today? Does Burns himself even realize it? Does PBS? If so, why the hagiography only for heroes from 60 years ago? Where are the stories about today's heroes?

But enough about that. Now is the time to read this fine account of Lt. Murphy's story, and then take a few seconds to thank God that others do our fighting for us. It's hearing stories like his that give me hope for our future as a culture.

Godspeed, Lt. Murphy. My sincere condolences to all his family and friends.