October 11th, 2010

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New Media Spin=foreclosures are good?

I am always impressed at the way our media pivots to tell us anything we might think is good is really bad, and vice versa.

Consider the current screw up over mortgage paperwork. From a public policy perspective, this is a fantastic opportunity to get positive changes for everyone. Why? Because the financial industry now has something it desperately needs -- clear rules for settlement of titles. Furthermore, for quite some time now people have been pointing to the glut of foreclosures as a problem depressing the industry because it creates vacant neighborhoods, increases inventory on the market, and constitutes dead weight on bank balances (the "toxic assets") we were all so worried about.

But instead of an opportunity, or simply a relief from the press of foreclosure for hard hit families, the press is busy explaining to us why a foreclosure moratorium is bad.

Mind you, the utter failure of any leaders in public policy to seize the instant opportunity is equally depressing. But consider legislation which provided for a uniform system of title settlement, coupled with reform of the bankruptcy code to permit "cram down" as part of personal bankruptcy (i.e., restructuring residential mortgage terms as we do commercial debt to create a payment plan rather than simple seizure) and a general revaluation of foreclosed and distressed properties to reset the real estate market back to something sensible. Such a bill would give banks what they want and need in exchange for concessions on a key policy point that benefits consumers, the economy as a whole, and even lending institutions as a whole.

But no such initiative is likely to emerge any time soon in light of the current dysfunction on our political and public policy system.
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Columbus Day And The Problem of Simple Narratives

As is become traditional Columbus Day is now a good day to remember all the nasty bad stuff in European colonial history. But Columbus Day really resists simplistic narratives.

For starters, some Europeans somewhere were eventually going to "discover" the Americas. Russian explorers eventually poked around Alaska and would have come from the other direction. Even if Columbus hadn't wandered over in 1492 convinced that he had a short cut to the Indies because the world was smaller (not rounder, smaller) than everyone else thought, ship building technology was approaching the point where such voyages were possible. Make it possible and _someone_ will do it.

Bad luck for sure it was the Spanish, right in the middle of their most arrogant conquest period. (IMO as descendant from victims of the Inquisition, the Spanish don't get nearly enough bad press in this.) There is nothing like feeling that God and History are at your back to push you into high gear on stomping all over everyone else. In the time that Columbus was discovering America, the Spanish were also attacking North Africa (having finished taking Iberia), waging war in the Mediterranean, exiling Jews and Moslems, and torturing people suspected of being secret Jews and Moslems after the fact. Not the ideal selection for First Contact.

Most of what actually pisses off North American tribes really has nothing to do with Columbus and everything to do with U.S. conduct post-Revolution. For a considerable period of time, settlers in North America and in Canada got on reasonably well with Native Americans. There was, after all, a great deal of room (especially after the mass plagues generated by contact with Europeans in South and Central America migrated up to NA via the trade routes) and settlers had lots of interesting things to trade and learn.

What really killed Native American tribes in the U.S. was our open immigration policy. More people, more pressure to expand. What few efforts made to actually limit and control westerward expansion were pretty useless. So the federal government would inevitably go back on its treaties, rationalizing along the way, helped by those segments of the population and in government that were all about the Manifest Destiny thing. As noted above, the belief that God and History are at your back do not make for tremendously good first contact, or even continuing contact.

So I guess what I'm saying is, the history between 1492 and now is complicated, and resists simplistic narratives. It's not enough to know people suffered or profited. The who and why matter a great deal -- if only to avoid repeating the same patterns over and over. Hardly a momentous insight, perhaps.
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Link Harvest: Comcast Intruiging WiFi Move

Comcast is now offering "Xfinity wifi." It appears to be an offer to subscribers to get access to a lot of wifi hotspots.

It is interesting because Comcast is now the second major cable op to use wifi as a "wireless strategy." Expect to see more of this as Verizon deploys its 4G network. Also noteworthy is Comcast's decision to extend the Xfinity brand, which until now has been primarily about TV Everywhere.

Hopefully, I will get to blog on this more later.
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Wherein I defend Mr. Iott

I really hate it when people make an issue out of a total non-Issue.

Mr. Iott, the Republican candidate for a Congressional seat in Ohio, does military recreation. As a WWII enthusiast, he has played the part of both German and US soldiers.

The fact that someone does military recreation does not make them a Nazi, or sympathetic to Nazis. Really. I am not a Jew from 14th Century Cairo, despite the fact that I have played one in the SCA for 20 years. The fact that I used to get dressed up in armor and whack people up the side of the head as part of the East Kingdom army does not mean I am a monarchist.

I am inclined to agree with Mr. Iott that "this is why people do not trust professional politicians." Because people jump all over stupid stuff like this. I wish Mr. Iott's opponent, Ms. Kaptur, had the decency to say: "So my opponent has a hobby of historical recreation. Big deal. The fact that someone plays a Nazi in historic recreation does not mean he is a Nazi. Now lets get back to the actual issues, thank you very much." Sadly, she didn't.