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Archive for February, 2011

Coming to the silver screen Atlas Shrugged.

Could this be a movie for Bloodhounds everywhere?

I know that just about everyone who reads here at BHB has read Ayn Rand and has their opinions on whether she was a brilliant author. I personally find her works Anthem, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged to be some of the most enjoyable reading that I get to partake of.  I seem to always be reading one of these at any given time.

For many years there have been discussions of how to best bring Atlas Shrugged to the big screen. On April 15th. 2011 the first installment of the book will be released for all of us to watch. Could this be a movie that will inspire everyone? I know that it is a very tall order to bring a work of such magnitude to the masses.  I for one will be watching it on opening night. Right after I have mailed my annual documentation to the looters who are taking more and more from me and always wanting more. I love the fact that the movie is opening on Tax Day. The only other day I can think that might have been more fitting was Independence Day.

Here is the trailer to the movie. I am interested in hearing what you think. Will this be something you will be going to see in the theater in April?

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A new bumper sticker: Lend Locally

So this is a brilliant point from the comments section. Brian Brady says local lending is a possible solution to our present problems. Greg’s reproduced it.

Now, the problem with secondary mortgage market is that, as currently constituted, it hasn’t been a true market for generations. It’s a political game to the extent that people on Wall Street knew they could socialize the risk, but capture the upside. How else to explain such risky behavior?

Defenders of big banks will point to efficiencies of large scale movements of capital. But certainly those efficiencies are overshadowed by the significant social and economic costs of politicized subsidies.

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Obama’s “plan” for Fannie and Freddie? It’s FHA, as it turns out.

That’s not what they’re actually saying. But the law of unintended consequences will win out in the end. From the Wall Street Journal:

All of the administration’s proposals envision a scaled-back role for the government. One includes a new government backstop of certain mortgages under a federal “reinsurance” model, while another would propose a more limited backstop that would scale up primarily during times of economic crisis. The third option proposes no such government backstop beyond existing federal agencies such as the Federal Housing Administration.

Owner-occupied transactions are already overwhelmingly FHA — with the result that HUD is well on its way to becoming the biggest player in the lender-owned market. Getting rid of Fannie and Freddie won’t matter at all if their role in underwriting bad mortgages for unqualified buyers is supplanted by FHA.

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Good news, bad news, good news and more good news…

Here’s some good news: Time magazine has discovered the Singularity. It’s a fan-boy article, but it covers a lot of interesting ground, anyway. What’s missing? Sim, massively large databases, signal processing, lots of cool stuff. The article devotes a lot of attention to Ray Kurzweil’s research on exponential curves in individual disciplines, but misses the big picture: The overall rate of change is not exponential but logarithmic. I say all the time, “They can’t enslave us if they can’t catch us.” We are fast approaching the day when it will no longer be possible even to attempt to enslave human intelligence.

Here’s some bad news: The current president of the National Association of Realtors is either a clueless dupe or a knowing villain — just like all the other grand poobahs of the NAR. I’ve invited him to come talk to us. Don’t hold your breath waiting for him to show up.

Here’s some good news from my house: I resumed lifting weights on Monday, two months after I cracked up my elbow. I could tell from other activity that I hadn’t lost much in strength, so I left the plates where I had had them. On Monday, I did ten repetitions of ten exercises. Fifteen reps on Tuesday, 20 on Wednesday, then 30 today. Not much pain in my elbow, and less every day. I’m at full extension, and maybe 98% of full compression. The only real pain is in the tendons of my left thumb — the guitar tendons. In a week, I’ll be back to 50 reps of each exercise, which is where I was before I fell.

And here’s the best news I saw today: The iPad 2 is coming soon, and the iPad 3 may not be far behind. I’m annoyed that the Verizon deal wasn’t for Verizon’s pretend 4g network, and I’m annoyed that there is no true 4g wireless service in Phoenix yet. But, as soon as I can afford to, I’m going to move all of my email to an iPad. I simply cannot be away from my email for hours at a time, and I’m not happy with either my laptop or my iPhone as full-time email machines. For all the wannabe iPad cloners out there, what will get me to look your way? All the connectivity, one-fourth the price. You will not compete with Apple at Apple’s price point.

Here’s my take, today and always:

Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are,–
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
      –Alfred Lord Tennyson, Ulysses

Bad news is just so much noise. It’s good — moral goodness — that moves the earth.

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Farewell to Fannie and Freddie? Hold your breath…

The Obamanation plans to offer up three proposals to eliminate FannieMae and FreddieMac from the secondary mortgage marketplace. Expect to hear much mournful keening, in coming weeks, from the country’s best enemy of private property, the National Association of Realtors.

From the Wall Street Journal:

More than two years after the government seized Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the Obama administration will recommend phasing out the housing-finance giants and gradually reducing the government’s footprint in the mortgage market, according to people familiar with the matter.

The administration is expected to include three options for a post-Fannie and Freddie world when it releases a long-awaited proposal for the future of the nation’s $10.6 trillion mortgage market, which could come as soon as Friday. Together with federal agencies, Fannie and Freddie have accounted for nine of 10 new loan originations in the past year.

The White House’s “white paper” will begin what promises to be a prolonged and fiery debate about the future of how homes are financed across the U.S. Any wind-down of Fannie and Freddie would happen gradually to avoid roiling markets, and the central, unanswered question is what kind of federal function, if any, the administration and Congress will invent to take their place.

Steps to reduce the government role in the mortgage market likely would raise borrowing costs for home buyers, adding pressure on the still-fragile U.S. housing markets. Consequently, analysts believe any transition could take years and would be driven by the pace of the housing market’s recovery.

The fight over how to restructure the housing-finance system has roiled Washington, and yet both parties have been hesitant to propose detailed legislation.

For conservatives, Fannie and Freddie played a starring role in the financial crisis, and any solution that is viewed as replicating their function could face fierce opposition from some Republicans. But more moderate Republicans may resist such an approach and could join Democrats who have said a federal role is necessary to ensure broad access to home ownership.

While advancing one detailed plan risks providing fodder for partisan battles, offering multiple proposals may help the administration force those views into the open, said Michael Barr, a former assistant Treasury secretary in the Obama administration.

Brian Brady told us yesterday what actually should be done, to return rationality to the residential mortgage market:

I really believe the best approach to lending, on an asset which defines its price performance to be subject to local economic factors, is localized lending, without any government intervention.

The problem with “welfare-lite” is that it focuses on “national standards” for securitization: capital retention, standardized guidelines and fees, and useless oversight. Risk analysis is best done by those who intend to hold and service mortgages (the ultimate investor).

Here’s the trick: the American homeowner is still a good bet…sort of. Local market performance is influencing default rates now. Steep declines in California are causing what we usually considered to be gibraltars to be skaters while marginal borrowers in Kansas, with generational ties to the heartland, become safe bets.

There is something to be said about the Bailey Building & Loan approach to lending. An egoist can see that a borrower might see it in his best interest, to avoid default at all costs, to salvage his reputation in the community. Recent immigrants might want to establish a reputation in a community by appearing to be committed and stable. Both borrowers present unique risks, opportunities, and motivations to loan performance.

How then might we deal with the secondary mortgage market? We don’t. Investors will find ways to quantify geographical risk, communicate the paper they want to buy, and establish channels of distribution to purchase the paper.

The path to a robust mortgage market lies in complete deregulation.

Brian offers this as a peroration:

Unfortunately, the National Association of Realtors, keeps lobbying for welfare-lite to the peril of its members and customers.

Too true, alas. The nature of a parasite is that it will continue to devour its host even when doing so will assure not just the death of that host but also its own destruction. There is no better way of understanding the rapacious Rotarian Socialism of the NAR: They don’t care how many lives they ruin — including their own.

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Pope Obama and the Synod of Commerce

President Obama ventured into the enemy’s lair today, channeling his inner Reagan.  The message, designed to be benign towards industry, still included his sarcastic finger-wagging at the tycoons:

“I’m here in the interest of being more neighborly,” Obama said. “Maybe if we’d brought over a fruitcake when I first moved in, maybe we would have gotten off to a better start.”

The President just doesn’t get it, though.  He still thinks the fascist model works:

Obama alternated between pledging help for business from the federal government and asking big business to do its part to help “win the future,” a theme he first introduced two weeks ago in the State of the Union address.

“Ultimately, winning the future is not just about what the government can do to help you to succeed,” said Obama. “It’s also about what you can do to help America succeed.”

Obama claims that he is open to suggestions:

If businesses lack confidence in the economy, Obama said they should let him know about it.

“If there is a reason you don’t share my confidence, if there is a reason you don’t believe that this is the time to get off the sidelines – to hire and invest – I want to know about it,” Obama said. “I want to fix it.”

Cool.  Let’s tell him to roll back the federal register to 1990.  Uh, oh !  Maybe not.

Obama has launched a review of regulations to eliminate burdensome rules, but he gave a nod to their importance in Monday’s speech.

“Even as we work to eliminate burdensome regulations, America’s businesses have a responsibility to recognize that there are some safeguards and standards that are necessary to protect the American people from harm or exploitation,” Obama said.

“Moreover, the perils of too much regulation are matched by the dangers of too little. We saw that in the financial crisis, where the absence of sound rules of the road was hardly good for business.”

Sean Purcell is right.  Obama isn’t a pragmatist, looking for solutions.  The President is a religious zealot, forced to mix among the heathen,  seeking cooperation.    His open-minded solicitation however is tempered by his abiding faith in the State.  This is like the Pope saying he is open to any and all ideas about salvation as long as they recognize that Christ is the only path.  I hate to be pessimistic but I don’t see an Obama transfiguration happening.

The President of the United States just doesn’t like free enterprise.  Until we get past that, we’re in for more musical deck chairs on the Titanic.

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“If government doesn’t steer capital into housing, the capital doesn’t disappear; it could fund other job-creating businesses.”

The Washington Post:

Advertised as a way to stabilize the housing market, government-backed mortgage securitization ended up distorting and destabilizing it. The resulting misallocation of resources – evident not only in today’s massive bailout of Fannie and Freddie but also in the vast quantities of land, water and energy wasted on suburban sprawl from Las Vegas to Fort Lauderdale – is a true American tragedy. Today’s housing crisis is an opportunity to make sure nothing like it ever happens again.

Damn straight. This is the Post, so the solution proposed is still WelfareLite, but any movement away from Rotarian Socialism is a move in the right direction.

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10 Ways To Get UnFollowed On Twitter

I try to spend 30 minutes a week doing a little housekeeping with my various blogs and social media accounts.

Whether it’s simply tightening up profile bios, updating links or completely deleting accounts, maintaining an online presence for business purposes is mostly tedious boring work.

Well, until today….

Quick background – I’ve started to spend a little more time on my personal Twitter acct actually paying attention to people vs only sharing my favorite links of the day.

Generally, I’ll spend most of my time in Google Reader browsing about 50 or so articles a day and simply clicking “share” to have a few relevant links syndicated out through Dlvr.it to targeted Twitter or FB Business Pages.

However, now that I’m physically logging in to Twitter direct or through Hootsuite, I decided it was time to cut the list of people I follow down to a more manageable number.

While there are probably more efficient ways of reducing the noise by using an “UnFollow” Twitter application, I figured I’d spend a quick 30 min. scrolling through everyone I follow to see if there were any obvious profiles that I could delete based on name, photo or bio.

Not sure exactly what I was looking for, but I thought it would at least give me an opportunity to see some old faces as I scrolled through a few years of Twitter memories.

So, here are the top 10 reasons I deleted someone from my “follow” list on Twitter:

1. No Photo

Unless I knew who they were, it didn’t make sense to follow someone who was too lazy to upload some sort of profile photo.

2. No Bio

Really? I think that mastering the art of the one sentence bio should be the first thing people focus on before they worry about trying to “dominate the web” with all of the new secret magic bullet SEO strategies that are being taught by the Gurus.

Of course, I made a couple of exceptions.

I’m sure I’ve got some hidden bios online that suck, but I think I’ve always tried to at least mention my city, industry and intentions.

3. Quote For A Bio

I get it, Twitter is a form of self-expression for some people. Cool.

However, I was searching for “Real Estate” or “Mortgage” terms in bios from people that I didn’t recognize for my first run so that I could at least follow industry related tweets.

So, since a nifty quote didn’t tell me much about the person at quick glance, I unfollowed them. Sorry.

4. “Guru” In Bio

That’s just funny.

5. “I Help People Make Money With Social Networking” In Bio

Trying to avoid the spam as much as possible.

6. Multiple Websites In Bio

Call me crazy, but I’d rather know who someone is before I click their link.

7. “I Tweet For ___, ___ and ___” In Bio

There is a difference between multiple people tweeting for a brand or company, but I don’t understand how one person can jump in and out of other personalities.

8. Locked Accounts –

I guess, if someone’s hiding their tweets…. I don’t know.

9.  Obvious Bots / Re-Tweeters

I’m sure there are some good exceptions to this rule, but I’ll save the auto-tweet engines for a list or Google Reader feed.

10.  Brands / Companies

I took a second look at all brands and companies to make sure there was a real person managing their Twitter feeds.

I actually kept most of them, but the few industry names that simply follow every agent or loan officer are probably better for a list or something… if I ever get to that point.

_________________

My next step will be to casually monitor the actual updates as they start to flow through and just start unfollowing people that show a pattern of posting things that are useless to me.

I’m sure I’ll have another “Top 10” list once I get in and start examining people’s activity, links and number of followers / following ratios. But, we’ll save that for another post.

Maybe one day I can figure out how to apply Twitter more effectively to my listings on a separate feed for our new Las Vegas Real Estate company, or even use some of the tools to make my time more efficient.

But for now, I’m content approaching each connection on Twitter one at a time as thought there are real people who have something to say that might benefit me in 140 characters or less.

Photo Credit

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Unchained melody: Dueling cellos doing “Smooth Criminal”

Sheer virtuosity:

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This would seem to be the ideal time to remind people that there are places in this country where there is no snow on the ground…

…with Phoenix being the most beautiful and the most affordable, of course.

If you’re stuck at home with nothing to do but surf the internet, the movie linked below will show you a better way of living…

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Virginia Legislature Wants The Commonwealth To Be The Golden State. California Accedes.

Worried about a dollar collapse?   Virginians may worry less because their legislature  is proactively investigating solutions:

WHEREAS, various systems of alternative currency employing gold or silver, or both, in the form of coin or its equivalent in bullion have already proved themselves in the free market, and could either be employed by the Commonwealth directly or be used as models for a new system created by the Commonwealth to meet Virginia’s unique needs; and

WHEREAS, the adoption of an alternative currency consisting of gold or silver, or both, would not destabilize the present monetary and banking systems, the Commonwealth’s governmental finances, or Virginia’s private economy, because it would not compel or commit the Commonwealth or her citizens to employ such alternative currency to the exclusion of the Federal Reserve System’s currency immediately, but would merely make the alternative currency available, and enable it to be used in competition with and preference to the Federal Reserve System’s currency, to the degree that the need for such use became apparent; and

Governor McDonnell (R-VA) claims the resolution would be unconstitutional, that the powers to coin money rest with the federal branch of government.  I don’t think that matters.  The Virginia Resolution simply recognizes that a competing currency might be needed should the US currency collapses.  That resolution could very well be the “shot heard ’round the world”.

Americans of all walks of life, from the CEO in the corner office to the cop walking the corner beat are following the price of gold and silver daily.  Some are actually buying the precious metals, too.    Wall Street, in its typical fashion, developed a derivative product to sell to its customers.  The bankers and brokers claim GLD and SLV are a more simple approach to hedging portfolios with an exposure to precious metals.  Guess what?  It may be harder to find the actual metals, held by the Wall Street mutual funds, than the mortgages packaged in the collateralized debt obligations.  GLD and SLV may be empty vaults; perhaps a scam.

I started moving money into silver about a year ago.  It just seemed safer to buy the metal from dealers, and take delivery, rather than to rely on a statement or stock certificate.

What does the economy look like if the dollar collapses?  How will it affect real estate?  How will it affect the way you live your life?

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Got goals? Prove it…

Setting attainable goals and tracking them daily works wonders. The new month presents you with the opportunity to prove that to yourself. Here’s a calendar for February.

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