Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Wall St attempts to re open the Mortgaged Backed Security Casino

From the Wall St Journal, print version, Tuesday March 30, Page B1. "Securities Debate is All About Trust". Mortgage backed securities are paper IOU's issued by banks. The banks claim the IOU's are "backed" by home mortgages, implying that the buyer of the IOU is buying something as sound as a home mortgage. In 2007 the marks discovered that the mortgages "backing" their IOU's were in default. They wised up and few to no mortgaged backed securities have been sold since.
The banks obtained the mortgages used for "backing" by purchasing them from the likes of Country Wide (home of Angelo) and other mortgage dealers. The mortgage dealers started to give mortgages to anyone who walked (or was dragged) in the door. "Ninja, No Income,No Job or Assets" mortgages became common. The dealer's sold these fraudulent mortgages to the banks for real cash. The banks "backed" their IOU's and sold them to "investors" or in ordinary language, suckers. The vast number of Ninja mortgages caused the crash in housing prices that triggered off Great Depression II.
Currently, the Administration and Congress want to require banks playing the IOU game, tohold onto 5% of the IOU's created, skin in the game, to give a small incentive for the banks to deal honestly. The banks are whining that 5% is too much and will ruin the market.
What ought to be done is to prevent the sale and trading of mortgages at any level. Banks issuing mortgages retain 100% of the mortgage on their books. None of this wimpy 5% stuff. This way the loan officer granting the mortgage, the only individual who actually understands the risks, who has interviewed the borrowers, checked with their employer[s], and inspected the property, has some incentive to do it right. If the bank owns the mortgage for it's full life, then it will be diligent and grant mortgages only to those who will pay them back.
Decent home mortgages are very sound investments. The homeowners are strongly motivated to keep up on their payments. Assuming a proper evaluation of the property, the mortgage is secured by valuable real estate. "Safe as houses" is the old cliche. Ninja mortgages are a scam.
The mortgaged backed security business caused Great Depression II and we need regulations to prevent it from happening again. Nearly two years have gone by and nothing has been done, AND the things proposed to be done are too wimpy to do any good.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Judge reforms patent law

Story here. A New York federal judge has ruled that patents on genes are invalid. Up until now, discoverers of genes could patent the gene and deny other scientists or companies the right to use it. The genes in the suit are natually occurring human genes, not artificial ones. The judge ruled that naturally occuring genes are not patentable, because they are not invented or created, they are merely discovered.

Hallelujah. This might be the beginning of the end of ridiculous patents. This will be appealed of course, but there is a chance the Supremes will see the light when this gets up to them.

Monday, March 29, 2010

National vehicle of the People's Republic of Cambridge

The Volvo. The height of Cambridge coolness, a muddy 240 Volvo wagon, with about ten Cambridge parking permits in the rear window. In 1999 Ford bought Volvo for $6.4 billion. Today Ford announced the sale of Volvo to the Chinese for $1.8 billion.
Credit Ford's new CEO, Mulally, for having the smarts to recognize a loser and dump it. Taking a $4.6 billion dollar loss, was better than taking the day-to-day losses of operating Volvo.
And boos to previous Ford management for wasting so much money on a doomed acquisition. Volvo was loosing money when Ford bought them. They didn't have enough volume to get the cost of production down far enough to make money. The only way to lower Volvo's production cost is/was to use a lot of high volume Ford parts or, simply put the Volvo badge on a Ford.
Doing this kills the sales. Volvo buyers buy the car 'cause it isn't Detroit iron. They want to own something different. Once they find the Volvo is just a Ford with a new grill and a Volvo badge, they leave the showroom, in droves. Volvo was asking BMW money. Nobody is going pay BMW money for a gussied up Ford, they will buy a real BMW instead. This was obvious to everybody in the car business in 1999, but the old Ford management went right ahead and wasted $6.4 billion buying Volvo.
They had company. GM bought up a number of European loser mobiles and they still haven't sold any of them.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Electronic Medical Records follow up

Cato institute has concerns about the security of electronic medical records too.
Come to think of it, Uncle Sam can check your electronic medical record in disputed cases of disability.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Corporate America, Profiles in Courage

After Obamacare is signed into law, we have Caterpillar, AT&T, and some other corporations complaining about the amount of money it's gonna cost them.
Where were all these corporations BEFORE Obamacare was passed? Could it be that they feared Obama administration retaliation if they spoke out against Obamacare?
Where were Harry and Loise when we needed them?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Electronic Medical Records

I'm listening to a long discussion on TV about the downsides to electronic medical records. Only at the very end of the discussion do the debaters touch on the real problem. Hackers.
Seems like every week I hear another case of credit card records getting hacked and card holders getting ripped off with phony charges. The credit card people are mostly banks with a good tradition of data security, and yet they get hacked on a regular basis. Don't expect hospitals to be any better.
Once your medical records are on a computer, they might as well be posted on a bulletin board in the center of town. They will become public, especially for a snooper willing to spend a little money.
Imagine a hiring manager who, after the job interview, downloads the candidate's medical history to see if he will burden the company medical plan. Or, how would you like your spouse or potential spouse checking up on your health? And God help people with mental health problems or drug and alcohol treatment on their records.
This didn't happen in "1984"

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Let's hear a real threat

The democrats are complaining of "threats" conveyed by phone, mail, and email. How real is this? There is a difference between chewing out a congressman and threatening one. The only "threat" that has made it to the media was ambiguous. "There are lots of people who wish you harm".

Do any of these bold congressman have anything worse than this? Or is this just a smear the tea party tactic?