Daily Archives: December 2, 2014

Prosperity comes to the Windy City

City Council votes to raise minimum wage 57%. I still don’t understand why, if raising the minimum has no effect on employment, these people don’t just raise the thing to $350 an hour and be done with poverty, forever. After all, in a city where 53% of working age adults are illiterate, 35% fail to graduate high school, and 85% of those who do are not “college proficient”, these people are going to need all the help they can get.

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Congressional Republicans want you to keep a stiff upper lip, but that’s as far down as they’ll reach

Pickled pecker

Pickled pecker

Bill to help the disabled would be paid for, in part, by eliminating Medicare payments for penis pumps.

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Land sale price reported

O Meadowcroft, 2.67 acres, sold for $4.750 million.

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Wall Streeters explained

You gonna finish that?

You gonna finish that?

Why vultures love the taste of rotting flesh.

They have (very) strong stomaches, turns out.

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But, as usual, their intentions were good, and isn’t that what matters?

We lost our job thanks to Senator Dodd - and Obama

We lost our job thanks to Senator Dodd – and Obama

Walter Olson writes on the Dodd-Frank “Conflict minerals” law and the  subsequent impoverishment of African miners.

 … [T] his morning’s front-page Washington Post account of the humanitarian fiasco brought about by the 2010 Dodd-Frank law’s “conflict minerals” provisions. According to reporter Sudarsan Raghavan, these provisions “set off a chain of events that has propelled millions of [African] miners and their families deeper into poverty.” As they have lost access to their regular incomes, some of these miners have even enlisted with the warlord militias that were the law’s targets.

Congress added the provisions to Dodd-Frank in a fit of moral self-congratulation over making sure Americans had the chance to be ethical and thoughtful consumers of such products as jewelry and cellphones (as well as thousands of other products, as it turned out, from auto parts to the foil in food packaging). Publicly held companies would be required to report on their supply connections to “conflict minerals” such as tin, tungsten, and gold mined in war-torn areas of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Lawmakers assigned enforcement of the law to the Securities and Exchange Commission – a body with scant discernible expertise in either African geopolitics or metallurgy – and barbed it with stringent penalties for disclosure violations, to which are added possible liability in class-action shareholder lawsuits.

Reactions to this morning’s Post account frequently employ words like “unintended” or “tragic” to describe the effect on miners of the law, which people in the Congo soon came to call “Loi Obama” – “Obama’s law”.  Unintended and tragic? Maybe. But not unforeseen, because the signs that the law would backfire this way have been in plain sight for years now – as in this 2011 account by Prof. Laura Seay (via) of how “electronics companies now have a strong incentive to source minerals elsewhere, leaving Congolese miners unemployed.” Or this 2011 account by David Aronson in the New York Times of the “unintended and devastating consequences” that he “saw firsthand on a trip to eastern Congo.” Or this more recent paper by law professor Marcia Narine.

But although the evidence has been there for years, the will to believe in the law was too strong – a will fueled by anti-corporate campaigners who take it on faith that when brutalities in the underdeveloped world occur within two or three degrees of separation of the activities of multinational businesses, the right answer must be to blame and shame the businesses.

You might call it an expensive lesson for Americans too, if you assume that anything has been learned. A recent Tulane calculation found that the costs in business compliance have already topped $700 million, with billions more ahead should nothing change. Just this September, the U.S. government conceded that it “does not have the ability to distinguish” which refiners and smelters around the globe are tainted by a connection to militia groups. That is to say, the government has demanded of business a degree of certainty that it cannot achieve itself.  Courtesy of UCLA corporate law professor Stephen Bainbridge, here’s a flowchart of what complying might involve for a given business.

If the new Republican Congress wants to be taken seriously about fixing counterproductive regulation, it should make the repeal of this law an early priority.

These are the same people who brought us the War on Poverty 50 years and trillions of dollars ago.

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Uh oh: someone went unto the breach of a dear friend, but his English body may not have been royal

I'll do it for dear old Dad, whoever he was

I’ll do it for dear old Dad, whoever he was

DNA testing of Richard III’s bones reveal infidelity in the line, casting doubt on the legitimacy of, among others, Henry the V and Queen Elizabeth.

When the body of Richard III was discovered in a car park in Leicester in 2012 archaeologists knew it was a momentous find.

But little did they realise that it might expose the skeletons in the cupboard of the British aristocracy, and even call into question the bloodline of the Royal family.

In order to prove that the skeleton really was Richard III, scientists needed to take a DNA sample and match it to his descendants.

Genetic testing through his maternal DNA proved conclusively that the body was the King. However, when they checked the male line they discovered something odd. The DNA did not match showing that at some point in history an adulterous affair had broken the paternal chain.

Although it is impossible to say when the affair happened, if it occurred around the time of Edward III (1312- 1377) it could call into question whether kings like Henry VI, Henry VII and Henry VIII had royal blood, and therefore the right to rule.

[S] cientists were intrigued to find that the DNA did not match, suggesting a ‘non-paternity event’ somewhere between Edward III and his descendants. In other words, someone was unknowingly illegitimate.

If the illegitimate baby was Edward’s son John of Gaunt (1340 – 1399) or his son Henry IV (1366 – 1413) then the royal blood line would be lost.

Prof Schurer added: “If there is one particular link that has more significance than any other it has to be the link between Edward III and his son John of Gaunt.

“John of Gaunt was the father of Henry IV, so if John of Gaunt was not actually the child of Edward III, arguably Henry IV had no legitimate right to the throne and therefore neither did Henry V, Henry VI and indirectly, the Tudors.

 

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Maybe Obama will hold a White House conference to discuss this

Hands up!

Hands up!

Democrats bring “hands up” gesture to the House floor.

Hakeem Jeffries, (Dem. – NY) added that people are fed up with injustice, a broken criminal justice system and “continuing to see young, unarmed African-American men killed as a result of a gunshot fired by a law enforcement officer.”

Police kill 96 black males each year (at least some whom must surely be armed), and black males kill, on average, 6,500 other black males per year. In fact, murder by another black is the number one cause of death among black males between the ages of 15 and 34. It’s not true that the black community doesn’t care about this horrific statistic – churches and other groups have long strived to combat it – but the national media certainly doesn’t, and it’s the media, not local blacks, that drive perceptions in this country.

I’ll bet Dollar Bill won’t be found in a Detroit slum, waving his hands in the air pleading, “don’t shoot”, but it’s even money he’s hied himself off to some demonstration against white oppression, where he does.

Phooey.

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I blame Bush – burglaries in Greenwich

Security camera captures the culprits

Security camera captures the culprits

Burglars broke into four houses over the weekend.

Thieves made off with untold amounts of goods stolen from four Greenwich homes during a night-time holiday weekend burglary spree.

The burglars ransacked the homes after forcing their way into the homes through doors and windows, according to Greenwich Police spokesman Lt. Kraig Gray. “We believe there was only one incident in which the residents were home at the time. There was no confrontation between the suspects and the residents. In some instances, residents had alarms but did not activate them,” Gray said.

There was a fifth incident that Gray said was an attempted burglary. “We are taking this very seriously. This is definitely something where Greenwich is being targeted along with other affluent towns in Connecticut and New York. We are working those other agencies,” said Gray who would not identify the other towns or agencies.

“We’re operating on the assumption (they’re related) based upon the facts and circumstances of the incidents,” Gray said. Residents are compiling lists of stolen property and in one incident, the residents are still vacationing, Gray said.

The burglaries and attempted burglary were reported between Thanksgiving Eve and Sunday, Nov. 30 by residents on Shady Lane, North Maple Avenue, Doubling Road, Parsonage Road, Joshua Lane and Indian Chase Drive, where at least one home had been burglarized in mid-October.

In one incident, detectives discovered during a canvass of a neighborhood that a neighbor saw the burglars and suspicious activity but did not call police. Gray would not identify the neighborhood.

Sometimes, “mind your own business” can be taken too far. As an aside, the article cited above comes from Greenwich.patch.com. Greenwich Time’s on-line edition makes no mention of this, but does find space to report on a dispute between siblings up on N. Baldwin Farms – does it fear offending its real estate advertisers?

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Racism! Sexism!

Just 3% of Patterson NJ high school students scored high enough on the SATs to be deemed “college ready”.

Despite the worrying results, some education officials have insisted they are not concerned and have criticized exam boards for fielding questions that hurt minorities and female students.

So who are the enemies of the poor here, reformers or the Dollar Bill crowd who insist on maintaining the NEA and the state’s monopoly on public education?

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Canary in the coal mine

"Partially-renovated"

“Partially-renovated”

As housing recovery slows, pressure on appraisers to inflate home values grows.

Home appraisers are inflating the values of some properties they assess, often at the behest of loan officers and real-estate agents, in what industry executives say is a return to practices seen before the financial crisis.

An estimated one in seven appraisals conducted from 2011 through early 2014 inflated home values by 20% or more, according to data provided to The Wall Street Journal by Digital Risk Analytics, a subsidiary of Digital Risk LLC. The mortgage-analysis and consulting firm based in Maitland, Fla., was hired by some of the 20 largest lenders to review their loan files.

Bankers, appraisers and federal officials in interviews said inflated appraisals are becoming more widespread as the recovery in the housing market cools. While home prices are increasing generally, their appreciation is slowing, and sales have been weak despite low interest rates. The dollar amount of new mortgages issued this year is expected to be down 39% from last year, at about $1.12 trillion, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

That has put increasing pressure on loan officers, who depend on originating new mortgages for their income, as well as real-estate agents, who live on sales commissions. That in turn is raising the heat on appraisers, whose valuations can make or break a sale. Banks generally won’t agree to a mortgage if the purchase price or the refinancing amount is higher than the appraised value.

Almost 40% of appraisers surveyed from Sept. 15 through Nov. 7 reported experiencing pressure to inflate values, according to Allterra Group LLC, a for-profit appraiser-advocacy firm based in Salisbury, Md. That figure was 37% in the survey for the previous year.

“If you thought what was happening before was an embarrassment, wait until the second time around,” said Joan Trice, Allterra’s chief executive and founder of the Collateral Risk Network, which represents appraisers employed by lenders and other companies and has been meeting with regulators to discuss concerns about appraisers being pressured into inflating values.

To determine a home’s value, appraisers assess a property’s condition, size and location, among other factors. They use similar properties that have been recently sold as one key basis for comparison.

Digital Risk found that some appraised values were off the mark based on discrepancies that appeared unintentional, though, “at other times, the appraiser’s selection of [comparable properties]…is very hard to justify,” said Thomas Showalter, chief analytics officer at Digital Risk. The firm saw cases where values for decades-old homes were determined based on sales prices for newly constructed ones, and homes blocks from shorelines were compared with waterfront properties, he said.

And so on. Here in Greenwich, while I have heard some complaints of appraisals coming in too low to sustain a pending deal, the complaints sound legitimate, because the new appraisal firms are hiring out-of-town people on the cheap, and those appraisers apply Bethel prices to Old Greenwich, say, or compare Havemeyer sales to sales on Keofferam, and come in impossibly low. Then again, we’re usually the last to feel recessions in housing.

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