The World Is A Safer Place Today

The City of Dallas conducted a gun buyback and 147 hardened criminals turned in their guns. Hardened criminals like Gary Reed who exchanged his guns because he was tired of killing people “of his Christian faith.” His church had been asking him to do more so he turned his guns in. Though it looks to me like he really did it to get $150 worth of grocery cards that he could give away to strangers. Which is admirable. If he doesn’t need the guns, might as well get the taxpayers of Dallas to give him $150 he can donate.

Of course, the real reason for things this stupid is for self-serving politicians to make it seem like they are doing something.

Although many of the guns turned in were generations-old rifles and shotguns, a few of the guns more typically used in crimes — handguns, specifically — were among those collected.

“This shows that people will be behind a positive activity,” said Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway, who spearheaded the event at Reunion Arena. “Some of those guns are ones our officers are up against.”

Certainly, this was a positive activity but not the one Mr. Caraway thinks it was. Giving away money in exchange for items people don’t need is positive. Thinking a gun buyback is going to target the types of guns in the hands of people who use them for crime is dumb. None of the guns “are ones our officers are up against.” Images of guns marching down the street to attack officers notwithstanding, these may have been guns of a certain category that get used in crimes but they certainly weren’t turned in by people looking to commit crimes.

Of course, Caraway knows that and throws up the usual tripe about guns getting stolen and/or the terror of kids being around guns:

Caraway said that although the guns collected might not have been used in crimes, that wasn’t the point of the buyback. Some of the weapons could have been stolen later and used in crimes, he said. Others might have laid around homes, where children could have played with them.

“Some of these guns are very dangerous,” Caraway said. “It takes only one gun, one shot to destroy a family.”

All guns are dangerous when handled by idiots. So are knives and rat poison and cars. But we’d never do a car buyback.

All this in a time when cities are in financial trouble. The city of Dallas spent $7350 worth of taxpayer money on a misguided attempt to get some politicians name in the paper. Glad it wasn’t any of my money.

On Writing

Sometimes this writing thing doesn’t come particularly easy. Lots of times I’ll feel this almost painful ache to write something but nothing comes out. I’ll wait while you make constipation jokes. Done? Great. But seriously, the inner creative voice always is in some sort of minor skirmish with the inner critic and while the great deal of blathering I do here at the Experiment would probably lead you to believe that I killed my inner critic with some sort of blunt force trauma and a 9MM enema, the critic usually wins the battle. I just spent 45 minutes trying to write something about code as inventory and nothing came out. I need a literary suppository.

I’m three fingers into a bottle of Balvenie and still, nothing. Writing is hard even to people that find writing easy. For every essay or idea that comes bursting forth from our heads fully formed and in battle armor all Athena-like, there are 20 more that decidedly more normal in birth and wonder or that get aborted before ever seeing the light of day. Like any talent, writing still requires work and sometimes the result of that work is a big pile of crap that sits in our Drafts folder if it’s lucky or gets deleted outright if it’s not.

I don’t have any amazing insights to share from this. After all, I’ve already said that I’m stuck tonight. I recently had a discussion with a friend about the relative merits and demerits of the ease of publishing on the web. His argument was that quality suffered when anyone with internet access and a blog could publish crap on the web and apparently, I’m trying to add data points to his argument tonight. To mitigate my crappy data point, go read about keeping your identity small. I’ve got an entire post about it but it’s crap too so you’re better off reading the good stuff.

A New Tax Deduction

Quote of the Week

Now that those of us who have been making steady, on-time payments on our mortgages for years will be paying off others’ mortgages through our taxes, can we claim a tax-deduction for our neighbors’ mortgage interest too?

Love it. People are angry over this and they are only getting angrier. This is not going to end happily for our ruling class I don’t think. Remember Newt’s Contract With America? It’s gonna happen again in 2010. Just wait and see.

Maybe America Will Be OK After All

There are some reasonably serious rumblings about people getting sick of our new President spending all their money. And some of the rumblings are getting loud. If a modern day Boston Tea Party happened to get organized in Chicago, I’d be on the first plane to Chicago I could find. Here’s hoping we still have some heart when it comes to our government and who exactly it is they serve.

UPDATE: Link was broken, fixed now. Sorry!

Advice We Don’t Need

There’s nothing like having the Europeans tell us how to handle our housing crisis. “But as the housing bubble deflates, it also drags innocent victims into a wave of foreclosures” they crow! Please. What innocent victims are being dragged into a wave of foreclosures? Either you can afford the house you live in or you can’t. If you have a house payment that’s more than 28% or so of your monthly income, you’re probably not so innocent. You bought a house you can’t afford. Just because you now lost your job doesn’t make you any less innocent.

If you don’t have a rainy day fund of around 6 months expenses, you probably aren’t so innocent. You probably spend more than you save. That article makes it seem like thousands of people who are the epitome of financial purity are about to be foreclosed upon and I find that ridiculous. Sure there are some out there who played by the rules and just have had a string of bad luck. But $275 billion worth of mortgages in that category? I seriously doubt it.

This bill plunges $200 billion back into Freddie and Fannie who have already proven to be poor stewards of the public’s trust. They are allowed now to finance up to 105 percent of a home’s value. That sounds like a fantastic idea. Really it does.

“But the plan is well targeted: the administration aims to contain the fallout, not to keep everyone in their home. The plan helps only those with a reasonable chance to retain their house.” How can people who have a debt-to-income ratio of more than 38% realistically have a chance of keeping their house? That’s a full 10% over the accepted norms and doesn’t even begin to take into account the overall debt ratio that includes other debt payments like cars and credit cards. These people don’t have a reasonable chance.

Most crucially, fighting foreclosures is a political imperative. The administration needs a lot more money to save the US banking system – money that will be forthcoming only from voters who feel they, and not just Wall Street, are being rescued. This plan may help win them over. At $275bn, that seems like a bargain.

Finally we get the real meat. Like all government handouts, it’s a way to slip future ones by us without us noticing. For that, the Europeans probably are the ones that ought to be giving us advice.

When A Billion Isn’t Big Anymore

Not so long ago, a billion dollars was a lot of money. Now? Not so much. This morning, news on the wire says Obama is setting aside $75 billion to slow foreclosures. First of all, where did that $75 billion come from that he’s setting aside? Oh yeah: “committing $75 billion of taxpayer money to back the initiative.” Tax payer money. Right. Yours and mine. Helping slow down foreclosures.

Second, what’s the plan gonna look like?

“The plan I’m announcing focuses on rescuing families who have played by the rules and acted responsibly: by refinancing loans for millions of families in traditional mortgages who are underwater or close to it; by modifying loans for families stuck in sub-prime mortgages they can’t afford as a result of skyrocketing interest rates or personal misfortune; and by taking broader steps to keep mortgage rates low so that families can secure loans with affordable monthly payments,” President Barack Obama said in prepared remarks.

That sounds awesome. It’s a plan for people who played by the rules and acted responsibly. Anyone could support that, right? Oh wait a minute. “Refinancing loans for millions of families in traditional mortgages who are underwater or close to it”? Why would we do that? If they are in traditional mortgages, their payments aren’t going up and they aren’t at risk for foreclosure. They just happen to have an asset that is worth less than they paid for it. Why in God’s name would we try to artificially support the price of those assets? All that part of the plan will do is tempt normal people to try and get in on the government teat for a little milky goodnesss.

What about this part? “by modifying loans for families stuck in sub-prime mortgages they can’t afford as a result of skyrocketing interest rates or personal misfortune;” Hold it right there. Those people didn’t play by the damn rules. They bought too much house and they should be foreclosed on. They didn’t act responsibly. They acted irresponsibly. We’re rewarding people for being stupid which will only serve to encourage people to act stupidly in the future. Our government is like anti-evolution.

And that last sentence? “and by taking broader steps to keep mortgage rates low so that families can secure loans with affordable monthly payments,” In the name of all that is holy, that is the dumbest thing I have ever seen written in public. A) Mortgage rates are at AN ALL TIME LOW! Is the man so empty that he doesn’t know that? Or is he just counting on the fact that the American populace has become so numb and stupid to the entire fiasco that nothing will happen when he says something so stupid? On top of that, we don’t need broad steps to secure loans with affordable monthly payments. Throughout time immemorial, people had affordable monthly payments without 75 bill-ya-fucking-dollars worth of taxpayer money. They did that by BUYING HOMES THEY COULD AFFORD.

Here’s what we’re doing. We have a damn crisis that was caused by greed, stupidity and a whole wad of cheap money courtesy of Alan Greenspan. We’re fixing the crisis by giving stupid people more money instead of looking at them in the eye and saying, you are a stupid fool and you need to learn from this mistake. I cannot believe that people aren’t rioting in the streets over things like this. What scares me is that some day they will be. But it will be because the government has finally turned off the spigot and people, who by that time will have become surgically attached to the government largesse, will riot because they think they deserve a free ride.

I hope I live in Belize by then.