Who is the Fed helping?

A week ago the US Federal Reserve Bank of New York was directed by the Federal Open Market Committee to begin purchasing mortgage backed securities (MBSs) at the rate of $40 Billion per month. A pointer to one article on this is here.

I marvel at the American way of bailing out its people, or more accurately, bailing out its people who head large financial institutions.

When there was a crisis, based largely on MBSs and their derivatives, there was no consideration of simply telling mortgage lenders to keep the teaser interest rates, and that the Fed would make up the difference. This would have forestalled the foreclosures and kept the economy running. Instead, the large financial institutions were bailed out as rising interest rates drove record foreclosure rates which made the properties under these mortgages “underwater”, that is, worth less than their mortgaged value.

Note that the homeowners involved got nothing but eviction notices.

Fast forward to 2012. The Fed is in effect covering the backsides of those institutions holding mortgage backed securities. This is required because the underlying mortgages are in increasing default.

So, now for the dumb question: Who, by this course of action, is the Fed helping? Could it be the same group that benefited in 2008? And went back to their large bonuses in 2010 and 2011?

For a second dumb question: if the homeowners were supported instead, would the value of those mortgages recover?

Third and last dumb question. If the home values canNot recover, were the homes grossly overvalued, and thus grossly over-mortgaged, when they were financed?

Who is the Fed helping, and why?

When Life Begins

There is a push to give a fetus full rights as a human being from the instant of conception. This sounds simple and logical. I submit that a little discussion will show that it is not simple at all.

There is an experiment whereby a fish egg, in the early stages of division, is cut by a fine thread into two eggs. If done correctly, two normal fish result.

Now suppose that were a human being (instead of a fish), and it were possible to change one potential person into two potential persons. At what point would it be murder to stop the experiment? Just before the division was complete? Knowing how, would it be murder not to start?

This can be made even more complicated. For those interested in the sin of Onan, I have attached a pointer to the Wikipedia article here. I believe interpreting this Biblical passage as being anti-masturbation is incorrect. Onan committed coitus interruptus, when he was supposed to be impregnating his (deceased) brother’s wife.

Supposing this copulation had been (somehow) known as certain to result in pregnancy, did Onan commit a form of murder-in-the-future?

Does this make all forms of contraception potential murder? (The Catholics might be nodding their heads here, but my next two questions are going to stop them, perhaps.)

Suppose instead Onan had been committing a rape. Was it murder to stop as he did?

Suppose a rapist is interrupted by a bystander, resulting in coitus interruptus. Is that murder, done by the bystander?

I submit that these are only the easy hard questions to ask. The subject is treacherous. I submit that any politician wading into these waters had better have a very strong lobby behind him, able to create monstrous publicity in favour of its position, and monstrous attack ads against any opponents. It does not matter what position is taken, the ground under one’s feet turns to quicksand at the first question like those above.

Anyone brave enough to venture an opinion here?

What do Telephones and Handguns have in common?

This is a fun dumb question. The easy answers are, both are highly regulated by federal governments, both are overpriced for the technology involved, and both can waste a lot of someone’s time. Both can be used to commit crimes.

Both have the same effect of numbers on their perceived value. If nobody had a telephone, it would be hard to sell the first one. When you think everyone has a gun, you consider buying one.

What’s different is, volume of telephones increases their value to society as a whole. Volume of handguns does the reverse.

Ontario Power: Is Capacity Planned?

The answer has to be, “no.” Hydro power capacity is not planned in Ontario. It is pretty easy to prove this with a few recent developments.

  • A gas generating plant is planned for Oakville. This is stopped. (The locals hired a person from the US who has a record of stopping projects, a professional broomhandle-in-the-spokes sort of person.)
  • A (smaller) generating plant is planned for Mississauga. This is stopped. (The locals, who are not local to the site at all (could not see it from their homes, any of them) managed to convince a trembling provincial government that four seats could be lost.
  • A generating plant comes online in Bruce. This has been in the works for years, and is much over budget and late. In today’s paper we are told that this extra power source, which one starts and then runs without stopping, will create extra power surpluses.
  • Wind and Solar power is being sold as the Great Green Solution. Catch is, the feed-in tariff is far to high – we can’t afford to buy that power. And, it is not all that schedulable. (While nuclear is always-on, wind and solar are never-certain.)
  • We are trying to get to the point where surplus power is simply given away, rather than paying for it to be taken. Meanwhile one of those global charges on your bill reflects in part the cost of paying outside jurisdictions to take excess power. Those outside jurisdictions don’t pay that surcharge on their regular power, however. We do.
  • It is known that excess power can be used and turned back into electricity later. Efficiencies don’t look that good – 60% seems to be about tops – but that’s a lot better than zero percent, and even that is better than taking a loss to rid oneself of excess power. (Gravity and water, heat sinks, chemical reactions, charging batteries are some of the possibilities.)

Taken together, I submit that the above observations lead to some interesting conclusions.

  • The McGuinty government really believed that Samsung and wind turbines would create jobs and green power.
  • The pushback from citizens (and nut cases) was underestimated. The backlash of turbines on bird kills and noise was underestimated.
  • The difficulty of connecting solar panels to the existing grid was underestimated.
  • The economics of a high feed-in tariff must have been done on a wet napkin. Nobody could possibly believe that such a high rate (over ten times wholesale) could continue at high volume.
  • Power plants were planned, and partly paid for, when a surplus should have been in the forecast.
  • The strategic nature of energy capture and regeneration was never considered.

The last point is perhaps the biggest evidence of failure to understand the simple facts of power generation.

So, the dumb question can be restated as, does anybody still believe that power capacity is planned in Ontario?

NoScript: am I the only user?

NoScript is an add-on for the FireFox browser. It denies JavaScript execution and allows the user to decide to temporarily or permanently allow scripts on the current web page, based on the script’s source.

I use this and recommend it. I accidentally mis-spelled the website for Blacks Photography and ended up in a pornographic site. A similar mishap could land a user in a black site that immediately attempts to hijack the browser.

With JavaScript running (and Java disabled, eh?) I was protected.

Some web sites legitimately (or lazily) allow JavaScript. This website, powered by WordPress, uses JavaScript. If you can trust me and/or WordPress, it’s perfectly safe to allow scripts that run from here.

One thing my site does not do is, pull in additional, outside pages that also use JavaScript.

But this is what some major sites do do, and I find it a peeve. I will tell NoScript, ‘temporarily allow all this page.’ The site will then pull in further pages which also require permission. I sometimes have to allow ‘all this page’ four times before the cascading of outside material inclusions is complete.

Now for the dumb question: Am I the only user of NoScript? Am I the only one who does not give every site full permission? Am I the only user annoyed by having to give ‘all this page’ permission repeatedly?

It’s a dumb question. I would be interested in replies from users of NoScript as to how they manage this annoyance.

Gmail, and Cell Phone Number

This is a bit of a peeve.

I have a GMail account. I use GMail all the time. It works very well.I generally use ThunderBird to read mail.

From time to time I log on to the GMail web site and check for things like spam. Once the broadcast from Secrecy News (at www.fas.org) got marked as spam. Once a friend’s email, in which he quoted an amazingly illiterate but historically correct letter, was marked as spam, presumably because of the atrocious grammar and spelling.

So I check, maybe once a week, places like GMail and yahoo, to verify that stuff isn’t being marked as spam when it should be, and conversely.

Gmail now asks me for a cell phone number. I don’t give it one. It insists.

This is a bit of a peeve.

There should be an option to “don’t ask this again” and to “add other contact information” on the main GMail page. But don’t force me into a dialogue where I must say, no, no, twice, that I don’t intend to give them a cell phone number.

Anyone else been annoyed by this? It’s a very small blemish on a terrific service.

Does mail work differently for Sun Life Trust than it does for you and me?

A little background on this, a personal incident which still baffles me.

I had a large-ish dental repair done on June 26.

The insurance asked for more information, sent me a letter saying they’d contacted my dentist. I checked and the dental office was indeed sending yet another set of information re my claim.

I have two sets of insurance, from working at two companies. They were originally covered by different insurers, but over time Sun Life Trust has taken over both of them. SLT responds separately to each claim in two responses, one for each benefit plan.

Eventually my second insurance paid their part of half of the claim. This was on July 19. On September 10 the first insurance paid their part of the same half of the claim, and said by letter that they wanted more information including a description of the tooth damage and an X-ray. My dentist’s office assured me they would send it one more time, and suggested that some insurers know that 44% of all claims contested are simply dropped by the insured, who do not believe they can move a large, multimillion dollar company to provide the coverage to which they are legally entitled. My dentist hinted that legal action might  actually be required, and said he’d send the information yet one more time. He suggested I contact the insurer myself as well.

After being passed about in the usual way of business phone systems, and being told I needed to know my account number, unless by chance I knew my full name and birth date and address, I eventually was forwarded to a senior claims analyst who listened carefully.

I said that my dentist believed they were doing this (requesting the same information over and over) to several clients, and that I had had a lawyer recommended. There was a pause and at one point I was assured that in four business days something would indeed get done.

Later that same day I got a phone call from my dentist’s office. Apparently Sun Life Trust had contacted them and explained the following:

  • Two years ago they changed their address for claims information.
  • Mail was automatically forwarded for two years.
  • Now mail is not being automatically forwarded.

The dental office retrieved my information, put it in a new envelope, and sent it to the new Sun Life Trust claims information address.

Now for the dumb questions, in fact several of them:

Have you ever mis-addressed a piece of mail? Did it come back to you with a sticker over the address you put on it, and marked Return to Sender?

Once a piece of mail has an address on it, is it not a federal offence not to deliver it? If it cannot be delivered, does it not Return to Sender automatically?

Do you believe my dental office was having mail returned marked, incorrect address, and was unaware of this? Or do you think they were unaware of the incorrect address because the mail simply went out and never came back?

Does mail work differently for Sun Life Trust than it does for you and me? Or does this only apply to claims and claim-supporting mail?

Am I nuts to ask any of these questions?

Countdown to Walk

Many intersections (and crosswalks) now have the do-not-walk flashing warning along with a countdown, in seconds, before the solid don’t-even-start-crossing signal.

I use this when driving to predict time to orange. It is very useful. However, in many intersections the signal will occasionally count down to zero, then go to solid Walk, and the light will stay green.

In today’s Star (newspaper) there was a complaint about this behaviour of a specific signal, and an explanation that sometimes the light was going to change, but decided not to because an approaching car had turned and not needed the light change.

I think this is nonsense. I have watched several signals, including one in Nobleton quite late at night, do this countdown to zero, no, Green/Walk, when there was no other traffic in sight.

I think the countdown should always lead to a light change. If you’re going to change your mind about the signal switch, do it at ten, or even fifteen, seconds left, not at zero.

Comments, anyone?