Housing Enactment Provides up to 400,000 Government-Insured Loans

From today’s newspaper, a recent piece of completed legislation, bill H.R. 3221: Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2008 is described as

the most aggressive intervention by the government into the housing market in more than a generation, perhaps since the New Deal….

The enactment of the legislation comes in the same week that the administration announced that Mr. Bush would leave behind a record $482 billion deficit, which will probably grow substantially if home values continue to decline and if there are further reductions in corporate and personal income as many economists are forecasting for the rest of the year. Because of the growing deficit, Democrats said, the debt ceiling had to be lifted regardless of the housing bill.

The new housing law includes a plan aimed at helping as many as 400,000 homeowners pay off their troubled mortgages and replace them with more affordable, government-insured loans. The program is voluntary and the lenders must agree to take a sizable loss, reducing the principal of each loan, before they can be refinanced.

David M. Walker, the former comptroller general of the United States and head of the Government Accountability Office who is now president of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, said that Mr. Bush might have been unwise to sign the measure.

“Providing authority to the secretary of the Treasury to extend credit or to buy stock is one that will end up costing the taxpayers tens of billions of dollars.” …

Mr. Walker noted that other government interventions in the private market, including a rescue of the Chrysler automobile company had provided an opportunity for taxpayers to profit. But when it comes to the mortgage giants, he said, there is no upside.

“The way this is structured,” he said. “It’s only a matter of how much the taxpayers are going to lose.”

Source: Sweeping Housing Bill Signed by Bush, from NYTimes.com, emphasis and links added.

I agree with Mr. Walker: this bill is financially unwise.  Do we really expect the Government to save us from our own foolish mistakes?  We are the government. We, the people.

A word on the time that the U.S. Government saved Chrysler:

The Chrysler Corporation on 7 September 1979 petitioned the United States government for US$1.5 billion in loan guarantees to avoid bankruptcy. …

The United States Congress reluctantly passed the “Chrysler Corporation Loan Guarantee Act of 1979” on 20 December 1979, prodded by Chrysler workers and dealers in every congressional district who feared the loss of their livelihoods. The military then bought thousands of Dodge pickup trucks which entered military service as the Commercial Utility Cargo Vehicle M-880 Series. With such help and a few innovative cars, especially the invention of the minivan concept, Chrysler avoided bankruptcy and slowly recovered.

By the early 1980s, the loans were being repaid at a brisk pace and new models … were selling well.

Source: “Government loan guarantees“, section from “Chrysler” article, Wikipedia, removed parenthetical statements.

So, what is the proper role of government?

Social Networks and Internet Safety

I wish to respond to “What Are Social Networks?” from LDSMediaTalk.com, which begins

Online social networks are communities of people who share common interests and activities. Social networking sites provide the ability to create a personal profile and various ways to interact with other people, such as messaging, e-mail, video, text or voice chat, file sharing, blogging, and discussion groups. Social networking has revolutionized the way many people communicate and share information with each another. Social networking Web sites are used by millions of people everyday on a regular basis. For many people, online social networking has become a part of everyday life.

Most social networking services contain directories of categories (such as former classmates) and methods for connecting with people (usually based on some system of referral and trust).

Three very popular social networks [… Descriptions of MySpace, Facebook, and LinkedIn]

Source: What Are Social Networks? | LDS Media Talk, by Larry Richman, Posted July 29th, 2008

Thank you, Larry, for a great article; too many people still think that the top two uses of the Internet are genealogy and pornography; in truth, Social Networking is the number one activity online today.  Your article is well written and the embedded video is perfectly applicable.  The descriptions for each of the three sites are clear and concise.  However, your article is incomplete.

As you explain the basics of social networks, will you please add a word on safety?  If I were a parent learning about social networking and I read your article, I would be inclined to open an account on MySpace for my children.  However, MySpace is notoriously unsafe because your profile is publicly visible to the world.  It is a dark alley where child pornographers harvest victims. In a recent church meeting I attended, the bishop made it clear when he said, “My children are not allowed to have a MySpace account.”

Facebook is slightly better, because your profile is (by default) private to your contacts.  However, now that Facebook has adopted an open registration policy, villains can masquerade as your “friend” and similarly trap and abuse children. In contrast to MySpace, that bishop said, “My children are allowed to have a Facebook account, and we [the parents] regularly look at it.”  He strongly urged the parents to be aware and involved in the Internet activities of their children.  He also encouraged us to embrace the Internet as a good tool to share the Gospel.

President Hinckley, with prophetic vision, told the youth of the Church in 2000:

And don’t try to create associations through the Internet and chat rooms. They can lead you down into the very abyss of sorrow and bitterness.

Source: A Prophet’s Counsel and Prayer for Youth, by President Gordon B. Hinckley, from lds.org

In other words, use online social network tools to build and enhance the good relationships you already have: family, friends, and business associates.  Do not meet people online.  Again, the prophet counseled, “Don’t try to create associations through the Internet.”

Remember, the Internet is very much like streets of your city.  And just as you would never allow your child, whom you love, to wander down certain dark corners of your city, you would never let them wander through dangerous websites.  Out of love, we must be clear as we teach and guide our children and loved ones through this increasingly complex world.

Update: 13 Feb 2009: Corrected spelling of “Facebook” (previously “FaceBook”).

Update: 17 Jun 2011: Fixed link to talk by President Hinckley.

AMD Sells 8% to UAE

Buried near the end of an article on an over-hyped topic, the following caught my attention:

In November [2007], the company [AMD] sold an 8.1 percent stake to the Abu Dhabi government‘s investment arm.

Source: AMD changes CEO as turnaround pressure intensifies” from AP, Via Google

I giggle when I find the true news buried beneath the diluted headline.

What is the Internet?

What is the Internet? Are there more than one Internets? I saw the following brief description on my church’s website:

The Internet can be a wonderful tool and resource for information, but caution must be exercised in order to protect families and individuals from the potential dangers that are present online. Church leaders repeatedly counsel members to avoid Internet pornography, gambling, and other evils that are available on the Web. The Church also provides links to many resources to help individuals and families use the Internet safely and wisely.

Source: “Internet”, LDS.org Gospel Library (emphasis mine)

Yesterday, I saw the following article on About.com, which made an observation I had never considered before:

The headlines and statistics about Internet predators can be unnerving. It’s difficult enough being a parent without worrying about Internet safety as well. Luckily, parenting a child online is not so different from parenting a child in the “real world.” The key is to remember that the Internet is a lot more like the real world than like television, to which it is so often compared.

Source: “Parent’s Guide to Internet Safety: Going Beyond Filter Software to Remain Safe Online”, About.com Family Computing (emphasis mine)

What is the Internet for you? For me, the Internet is many things:

  • Source of periodical news
  • Essential tool for my career
  • Educational authority for many topics
  • Means to communicate with family and friends
  • A platform for creativity, much like an easel or drawing pad

I hope that we can all learn to use the Internet wisely, avoiding the dark corners and staying in the light.

Open Letter on Congressional Intercession

Until now, I have avoided engaging the topic of the economy, which includes the currently-hot-topic of rising fuel prices.  However, I wish to say a piece on this very important issue.

Dear Reader,

Many are petitioning the United States government, especially Congress, to “do something (immediately) about gas prices.” [1] However, before we legislate against hurling frozen fowl, let’s take a minute to re-evaluate the situation.

Should we ask the government to bail us out of our problems?  Please forgive my bluntness; I feel that we should first do everything we can do to provide for ourselves.  As I consider the situation and resources of my close relations, I feel that we can all reduce our spending on some areas so as to increase spending on fuel.  And, if that is not an option, I feel strongly that we should turn first to our family, not the government.

What can Congress do?  Impose or reduce tariffs?  Subsidize gas at the pump?  Perhaps the better question is, What should they do?  or, What is the proper role of government.  These are issues that I ask myself frequently.  However, as I am young and rather ignorant of the doctrine as well as national and international current events, I feel that I am not in a position to answer these questions.

I am anxious to find solutions to our problems; often, such solutions require hard decisions, determination, and discipline.  For me, the solution is to ride my bicycle to work, saving me $4.50 every day on the gas I would spend simply commuting the 10 miles to and from work.  For others, the solution may be reducing their spending on unnecessary entertainment in order to afford fuel.  For others, the best solution may be financial help from family.  I cannot prescribe a solution for all.

So, in all sincerity, I ask you, What can we do to solve this problem?

Respectfully yours,

James

Preserving Traditional Marriage and Strengthening Families

The church I belong to recently released the following statement:

In March 2000 California voters overwhelmingly approved a state law providing that “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” The California Supreme Court recently reversed this vote of the people. On November 4, 2008, Californians will vote on a proposed amendment to the California state constitution that will now restore the March 2000 definition of marriage approved by the voters.

The Church’s teachings and position on this moral issue are unequivocal. Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God, and the formation of families is central to the Creator’s plan for His children. Children are entitled to be born within this bond of marriage.

A broad-based coalition of churches and other organizations placed the proposed amendment on the ballot. The Church will participate with this coalition in seeking its passage. Local Church leaders will provide information about how you may become involved in this important cause.

We ask that you do all you can to support the proposed constitutional amendment by donating of your means and time to assure that marriage in California is legally defined as being between a man and a woman. Our best efforts are required to preserve the sacred institution of marriage.

Source: LDS Newsroom, California and Same-Sex Marriage

I would like to publicly state my support for this amendment.  I feel strongly that responsible citizens should establish and protect the family as the basic unit of society.  I know that strong families lead to a strong nation.  I know that weak families preceed moral decline.  If this amendment passes, it will strengthen all members of society, regardless of religious views.

If you live in California, I urge you to register to vote today and then to vote on Tuesday, 4 Nov 2008.  Your voter registration form must be postmarked no later than Monday, 20 October 2008.  I promise you that as you act to support the family in your community, you will feel in your heart that your choice is right.

Links

  • ProtectMarriage.com: Official website for “the broad-based coalition of churches and other organizations placed the proposed amendment on the ballot”