Thursday, July 24, 2008

Paralipomena: Living and learning

I mentioned a while back that I have a blog called "Paralipomena" (Greek for "Things left out") where I put up articles that interest me but which do not have an obvious or immediate home on any of my other blogs. I have never posted regularly to it and I started it primarily as an aide memoire to myself -- but I thought that I might as well mention it in case there are a few others who have similar interests to mine.

Topics covered range from food to flying saucers. Some of the articles are political and some reflect cultural and historical interests that I have. There's more to life than politics! If there weren't such a lot of nonsense going on in public life, I would be devoting myself to cultural interests. My principal contribution to the education of my son, for instance, has been to ensure that he has a good grounding in English poetry! But instead of pursuing my cultural interests, I feel that have to do my best to expose the pretensions of psychopaths like Obama and the Pelosi Democrats! Poetry is heaps more pleasant.

Recently, however, none of the posts on Paralipomena have been coming up. If you tried to log onto the blog you got an empty file. I wrote several times to the owners of the blogging service concerned seeking a fix but was ignored. I eventually got a bit peeved at that, therefore, and decided to transfer operations to a blogspot site. Good old blogspot! It too has its oddities but I know its foibles and how to deal with them by now.

So my new blogspot site for "Paralipomena" is now up. I have transferred all my more recent posts to it. Rather perversely, however, I found out at the last moment what the problem with the original site was. I was doing a bit of fiddling around with the various options on the site when I found that the template I had been using had been deleted! No wonder the blog came up as an empty file! So if you have any blog that uses Wordpress software and your blog comes up as a blank, try an alternative template! I have now chosen a different template and the old blog is perfectly accessible again. I am going to stick with the blogspot site for now, however. I expect fewer nasty surprises there.

I will add Paralipomena (2) to the buttons at the foot of each day's posts here so that people can easily check what is there once or twice a week if that interests them.


Easy-money policies created this problem

The announcements by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac really say nothing new. The ultimate backing of the federal government has always been implicit in the AAA credit rating of these agencies' obligations. What's new is that these gentlemen felt that it needed to be said at all.

By opening the government's (taxpayers') checkbook, investors in both debt and equity investments in Fannie and Freddie have been assured that a collapse will not be allowed. Perhaps that will soothe the markets and ultimately stabilize housing prices at some level.

Dangers abound when, as The Economist magazine puts it, "profits are privatized and risks are socialized." Let us not forget it was the Fed's easy-money policies and longstanding bipartisan efforts of politicians to subsidize home buying that helped create this bubble in the first place.

In addition to mortgage-interest deductions, taxpayers also get a property deduction on their income taxes. Fannie and Freddie were able to access cheap capital because of the implicit faith and credit of the U.S. government. When you subsidize anything, you are likely to get too much of it. We got a housing bubble.

We are now witnessing massive wealth destruction as the bubble bursts. The dollar is down sharply and is poised to fall further as our central bank offers a flood of liquidity while other central banks show restraint. This is fueling inflation. The median home price is down nationally 16.5 percent from its peak so far, the second-largest drop in history.

A bailout carries negative consequences. An open-ended commitment from taxpayers will be needed since private, profit-motivated capitalists won't be interested in investing. Huge federal budget deficits will be incurred not to fund public works or provide government services but to fill a big hole. The inflationary pressures that come with running a loose fiscal policy cannot, at this time, be offset by tight monetary policy.

A bailout should come with strings attached. Going forward, leverage at Fannie and Freddie should be regulated to a much lower level than in the past so as not to contribute to future bubbles. If the loan portfolio or guarantee pools need to grow, the agencies should be required to raise additional equity capital. More stringent credit standards would help assure investors that those who are buying houses can truly afford to own them.

More here



British prisons full of drugs: ""An estimated $200m worth of drugs are being traded in prisons each year, an ex-prison service worker has said.Former National Offender Management Service drug treatment head Huseyin Djemil said the Prison Service had no idea of the size of the drugs market. He told BBC Radio 4's The Investigation the service needed to 'get smarter' if it wanted to reduce drugs in prisons. The government said the number of prisoners testing positive for drugs had fallen from 25% to 9% since 1997. Mr Djemil estimated a worst case scenario of 20kg of drugs, mostly heroin, being smuggled into jails each week."

The TSA mess again: "After having begun a series of investigative stories criticizing the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in May 2008, CNN reporter Drew Griffin reports being placed with more than a million other names on TSA's swollen terrorism watch list. Although TSA insists Griffin's name is not on the list and pooh-poohs any possibility of retaliation for Griffin's negative reporting, the reporter has been hassled by various airlines on 11 flights since May. The airlines insist that Griffin's name is on the list. Congress has asked TSA to look into the tribulations of this prominent passenger. In a recent op-ed in the Washington Post, probably responding to the controversy over Griffin, Leonard Boyle, the director of the Terrorist Screening Center, defended the watch list, claiming that because terrorists have multiple aliases, the names on the list boiled down to only about 400,000 actual people. If there are 400,000 terrorists lying in wait to attack the United States, we are all in trouble."

The Leave Us Alone Coalition is alive and well: "Born in 1956 and raised in Massachusetts, Grover Norquist is the unofficial head of what he calls the "Leave Us Alone Coalition," a loose affiliation of people and groups dedicated to, as the subtitle of his new book Leave Us Alone puts it, "getting the government's hands off our money, our guns, our lives." The coalition, Norquist writes, "will triumph in the long unending struggle to define America. But there will be bad election years, disappointing candidates, bad breaks, and undeserved luck on both sides. There will be wars and recessions. There is nothing inevitable about our moving toward the city on a hill Ronald Reagan spoke of: a nation of individual liberty and economic prosperity that shares its vision of the good life through example, not empire."


List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for readers in China or for everyone when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here or here or here


The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


1 comment:

Cody said...

I just wanted to say that I enjoy the "Elsewhere" section of your daily posts. They're like a little Christmas each time I ream them.