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etc. - a little of this, a little of that - by Oliver Del Signore

Archive for the ‘Business’ Category


All things must pass…even your favorite restaurant

Monday, August 6th, 2012

Those who know me can tell you stories about my memory, or lack thereof. So you will understand how big a deal it is that, thirty-odd years later, I still remember the day my wife and I, as we drove from our apartment to visit my parents, noticed a new restaurant occupying a space that had sat empty for quite some time. As soon as we walked through the door, it was clear the place was not open yet, but a nice woman let us know opening day was but a few days away. Unfortunately, circumstances prevented us being there for day one, but on day two, we sat in a booth eagerly perusing a menu filled with dishes we’d never encountered before.

The restaurant was named Panda Palace and they specialized in Szechuan, Hunan, and Mandarin dishes rather than the Polynesian- and American-influenced stuff that passed for Chinese in greater Boston back then. Best of all, they cooked without using the flavor enhancer MSG, instead relying on fresh produce and meats to provide satisfying flavors. And satisfying they were.

As we learned that first day, the owners names were Sarah and Fred Lin. She was American, he Chinese. She ran the front of the house, he ran the kitchen.

The food was amazing. Seriously. The dish that stood out for me that day was Moo Shu Pork, a mixture of shredded vegetables, meat, and sauce served with four flour “pancakes.” Sarah brought the dish to our table and showed us how to wrap the filling in the pancakes. By the end of the meal, we were hooked. For the next two decades, we must have eaten there or ordered takeout from there at least once a week.

At some point, they opened a second location south of Boston. Sarah ran that one and Fred moved from the kitchen to the front of the house in “our” place. Thanks to the pictures on the front desk, we watched their three children grow from babies to teens to adults.

After my bypass operation a decade ago, our visits to the restaurant slowed, but never stopped. Chinese became a once-a-month treat instead of weekly fare. Still, every time we entered, Fred would greet us by name.

About a year ago, we stopped in and Fred was not there. Neither was he there the next time, nor, I realized, was Sonny, a waiter who’d been with the restaurant since day one. When we asked about him, we were told Fred was in Florida managing a new restaurant. Then we noticed the food was changing. The recipes seemed to be the same, but they didn’t taste quite the same. Sometimes the food was great, sometimes it was just, well, Chinese food you could get anywhere.

We eventually realized Fred was never going to return, and we felt a loss at not being able to say goodbye to him and Sarah. Still, even with the unevenness, we stuck with the place, though we noticed each time we went that it was never crowded anymore. Then, last month, our delivery was accompanied by a notice they were closing for a month to remodel and add a sushi bar.

We anticipated the reopening, which kept getting delayed thanks to the area’s famously we’ll-get-there-when-we-feel-like-it building and health inspectors. But it finally did re-open last week and last Friday, Martha and I stopped by for dinner and found some remodeling but, more important, all new faces. Clearly, the place had changed hands again.

It was Martha who thought to ask about MSG and it was a good thing she did. As we’ve aged, our intolerance for the stuff has increased to the point where eating MSG-laced food results in severe headaches. The waiter told us that, yes, all the food was cooked using MSG. To me, that meant they were using a lower quality of ingredients and relying on the MSG to boost the flavor. After being assured there was no MSG used in the sushi, we opted for that. It was okay, but these days, really good sushi is available in dozens of locations around here. What is no longer available is really good Szechuan, Hunan, and Mandarin food prepared without flavor enhancers.

It is a basic truth of life, perhaps the basic truth, that all things must pass. In our lives, we’ve lost family and friends, lovers, jobs, cars, clients — so many people and things. And now, Panda Palace.

I suppose we can console ourselves with the knowledge that somewhere out there must be another place that cooks great food without needing to resort to flavor enhancers. Now, we just have to find it.

Do you have a favorite restaurant or take-out place? If so, tell us about it.

And have you ever lost a favored place?


Skype makes chats and user data more available to police

Saturday, July 28th, 2012

So, you thought that by using Skype, the Internet-based communication service, you could talk or text without having to worry about Big Brother listening or watching?

Skype makes chats and user data more available to police

Skype, the online phone service long favored by political dissidents, criminals and others eager to communicate beyond the reach of governments, has expanded its cooperation with law enforcement authorities to make online chats and other user information available to police, said industry and government officials familiar with the changes.

Surveillance of the audio and video feeds remains impractical — even when courts issue warrants, say industry officials with direct knowledge of the matter. But that barrier could eventually vanish as Skype becomes one of the world’s most popular forms of telecommunication.

The changes to online chats, which are written messages conveyed almost instantaneously between users, result in part from technical upgrades to Skype that were instituted to address outages and other stability issues since Microsoft bought the company last year. Officials of the United States and other countries have long pushed to expand their access to newer forms of communications to resolve an issue that the FBI calls the “going dark” problem.

Microsoft has approached the issue with “tremendous sensitivity and a canny awareness of what the issues would be,” said an industry official familiar with Microsoft’s plans, who like several people interviewed for this story spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the issue publicly. The company has “a long track record of working successfully with law enforcement here and internationally,” he added.

The changes, which give the authorities access to addresses and credit card numbers, have drawn quiet applause in law enforcement circles but hostility from many activists and analysts.

Authorities had for years complained that Skype’s encryption and other features made tracking drug lords, pedophiles and terrorists more difficult. Jihadis recommended the service on online forums. Police listening to traditional wiretaps occasionally would hear wary suspects say to one another, “Hey, let’s talk on Skype.”

Hacker groups and privacy experts have been speculating for months that Skype had changed its architecture to make it easier for governments to monitor, and many blamed Microsoft, which has an elaborate operation for complying with legal government requests in countries around the world.

“The issue is, to what extent are our communications being purpose-built to make surveillance easy?” said Lauren Weinstein, co-founder of People for Internet Responsibility, a digital privacy group. “When you make it easy to do, law enforcement is going to want to use it more and more. If you build it, they will come.’’

Two days ago, Microsoft-owned Skype, denied its architecture restructuring was done to allow for future government access, but did not deny that it might be so used in the future.

The idea of the Internet being a place safe and free from government intrusion has always been more dream and fantasy than reality. Yes, you can still use TOR to mask your Internet travels, but my guess is that it will not be too long before the NSA or some other government concern figures out a way to beat it, or its use is made illegal.

Now, more than any time in history, Big Brother is watching and the surveillance will only continue to intensify as long as most Americans pay more attention to what’s on TV tonight than to what their government is doing.

IMHO, of course.

What’s your opinion on the matter?


Does This Sound Like “Standing Behind Small Business” To You?

Friday, July 27th, 2012

Today’s offering is a guest post, of sorts. It was borrowed, it toto, from the blog of my favorite talk-show host, Michael Graham. My comments follow.


Does This Sound Like “Standing Behind Small Business” To You?

So says President Obama in his new ad, attempting to undo the damage of his previous “You didn’t build that” comments.

“Those ads taking my words about small business out of context, they’re flat out wrong,” Obama says. “Of course Americans build their own business. Everyday hardworking people sacrifice to meet a payroll, create jobs and make our economy run. And what I said was that we need to stand behind them as America always has.”

So here is President Obama “standing behind [small business]” in his previous speech that, he says, was “taken out of context.” Does this sound like he’s pro-business to you?

“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”

If this is what Obama sounds like when he’s PRO-business, I’d hate to hear what he sounds like when he’s not “standing behind” them.

I think the President’s problem is that he said what he meant and he meant what he said. He’s an economically-idiotic, far-Left, envy-spreading, class-warfare hack who’s so far out of his depth he’s suffering a case of electoral bends. He may be a nice guy and a loving dad, but as a president, Barack Obama’s record absolutely, positively sucks.

But please—don’t take me out of context.


Does Obama really believe more of the same, failed policies will somehow magically turn things around in America?

I love it when politicians forget themselves and mistakenly say what they really think, then have to spend days and lots of campaign money trying to make it seem like they said something else.

Obama has always been a collectivist. Because he was glad-handed up the ladder his whole life, rather than advancing through hard work and accomplishment, he apparently really believes that everyone else must have relied on other people to make them successful.

He really believes the individual “owes” the collective, that successful people owe their success to everyone else and so should be happy to have government take and redistribute what they earned.

He is so blinded by his ideology, he cannot see the damage his utopian dreams have done to America and like, all such folks who live in a state of self-delusion, he’s sure the problem is not his policies but that we just need more of them.

Even a child understands that if you hit a board with a hammer and it cracks, hitting it harder, again and again, is not going to fix it.

I guess it’s a good thing Obama never appeared on the TV game show “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader.”

Obviously, he’s not.


Mayor demonstrates dedication to inclusion by discriminating

Saturday, July 21st, 2012

Boston’s mayor, Thomas Menino, is a perfect example of the contention that one does not need to be particularly bright to become a politician and rise to high office.

Last year, WalMart wanted to open a grocery store in a poorer, under-served part of “his” city, bringing with it lower food costs and desperately needed jobs, but Menino refused to allow it because, he said, he was concerned about the impact on neighborhood businesses and lower-paid workers. Apparently, he was not at all concerned about the neighborhood residents and the unemployed. What was it really about? Who knows? Logic and reason have never been associated with Boston’s current mayor.

Now, he’s at it again.

Mayor Menino on Chick-fil-A: Stuff it
Vows to block eatery over anti-gay attitude

Boston's Mayor Thomas "Mumbles" Menino

Boston’s Mayor Thomas “Mumbles” Menino

“Chick-fil-A doesn’t belong in Boston. You can’t have a business in the city of Boston that discriminates against a population. We’re an open city, we’re a city that’s at the forefront of inclusion,” Menino told the Herald yesterday.

“That’s the Freedom Trail. That’s where it all started right here. And we’re not going to have a company, Chick-fil-A or whatever the hell the name is, on our Freedom Trail.”

Chick-fil-A has been swept up in a growing national controversy over company president Dan Cathy’s remarks questioning gay marriage and lauding the traditional family.

Chick-fil-A did not respond to multiple requests for comment. But the company released a statement yesterday saying it has a history of applying “biblically-based principles” to managing its business, such as closing on Sundays, and it insisted it does not discriminate.

“The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect — regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender,” the statement read. “Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.”

But that isn’t cutting the mustard with Menino. He said he plans to fire off a letter to the company’s Atlanta headquarters “telling them my feelings on the matter.”

“If they need licenses in the city, it will be very difficult — unless they open up their policies,” he warned.

Click Here to read the rest of the story.

Menino’s quote in the second paragraph really says it all.

“Chick-fil-A doesn’t belong in Boston. You can’t have a business in the city of Boston that discriminates against a population. We’re an open city, we’re a city that’s at the forefront of inclusion.”

Let’s think about what he’s really saying.

“Chick-fil-A doesn’t belong in Boston.”

You see, Boston is not a city where the residents get to decide which businesses they want there by supporting them, or not. It’s a city where one man decides whether or not a business meets with his personal approval. This is what he calls, with a straight face, freedom, when he says “That’s the Freedom Trail. That’s where it all started right here. And we’re not going to have a company, Chick-fil-A or whatever the hell the name is, on our Freedom Trail.”

“You can’t have a business in the city of Boston that discriminates against a population.”

One turkey eats the leg of another.

Apparently all those high-end restaurants, which insidiously discriminate against Boston’s poor with their sky-high prices, do not count. And, of course, Chick-fil-A doesn’t discriminate. They serve everyone who has the money to buy what they sell. But that’s a bit too subtle a point for Menino’s thinking power.

“We’re an open city, we’re a city that’s at the forefront of inclusion.”

The most laughable of the three quotes, since, by his words and actions, Menino clearly demonstrates everyone is, indeed, welcome except those who do not think like him and believe what he believes.

He proves how inclusive he and “his” town are by discriminating against businesses that do not meet his person standards.

Sadly, this is just business as usual for the left, who claim the moral high ground even as they violate the very principles they espouse.

Even more sadly, we see this kind of thing every day here in The People’s Republic.

How are things where you live?

Do you think Menino should be using his political power to keep out businesses he doesn’t like?

If you were Boston’s mayor, what would you do?


Uncle Sam subverts organic farming

Monday, July 16th, 2012

I’ve long held the opinion that very little government does actually makes our lives better. Quite the opposite. Whenever government sticks its nose into anything, quality goes down, cost goes up, and we have to deal with a whole passel of unintended consequences.

You might think something as basic and simple as organic food would be immune to government meddling. You might think organic food is food that is 100% as nature intended, with nothing added or subtracted. You might think that, but you’d be wrong, as John Sununu demonstrates in his column today, which is based on a New York Times article, also below.

Uncle Sam subverts organic farming

Once upon a time, all you needed to be an organic farmer in America was a pair of Birkenstocks and a commitment to keep your products chemical-free. Those idealistic days of the 1990s are long gone. Today, organic farming is a $30 billion industry dominated by Big Agriculture, backed up by Uncle Sam and a federal rulebook that gets longer every day.

In the halls of Congress, the rhetoric never changes: Vote against new regulations and you side with big business; support tough rules and side with the little guy. But history tells us that, far from restraining the power of big companies, an overbearing regulatory bureaucracy benefits them just about every time. Last month, the White House released e-mails detailing the deal it cut with PhRMA — the drug industry’s lobbying arm — to win support for Obamacare. And the size and market share of America’s biggest banks have only grown since the passage of Dodd-Frank banking regulations.

But if those examples hold too much partisan history for you, how about organic farming? As The New York Times reported recently, “the industry’s image — contented cows grazing on the green hills of family-owned farms — is mostly pure fantasy.”

In 1997 the US Department of Agriculture first proposed a set of national standards for the industry. They became the law of the land in 2002. Today, the National Organic Standards Board keeps a list of 250 non-organic food additives that can be used under the “certified organic” label. That’s three times the number listed just 10 years ago. As the Soviets proved time and again, a good central committee can kill just about anything.

Click Here to read the rest of the story.

Did you catch that in the last paragraph above? The National Organic Standards Board allows “certified organic” food to contain one or more of 250 non-organic food additives! One wonders what they allow in non-certified organic food.

I had no idea there ever was a National Organic Standards Board, much less that it allows my “organic” food to be adulterated with who-knows-what?

Once again, government sticks it’s nose into something and royally messes it up. Is anyone surprised?

Here is the New York Times story Sununu references. You’ll want to read it all. It’s an eye-opener.

Has ‘Organic’ Been Oversized?

Michael J. Potter is one of the last little big men left in organic food.

More than 40 years ago, Mr. Potter bought into a hippie cafe and “whole earth” grocery here that has since morphed into a major organic foods producer and wholesaler, Eden Foods.

But one morning last May, he hopped on his motorcycle and took off across the Plains to challenge what organic food — or as he might have it, so-called organic food — has become since his tie-dye days in the Haight district of San Francisco.

The fact is, organic food has become a wildly lucrative business for Big Food and a premium-price-means-premium-profit section of the grocery store. The industry’s image — contented cows grazing on the green hills of family-owned farms — is mostly pure fantasy. Or rather, pure marketing. Big Food, it turns out, has spawned what might be called Big Organic.

Bear Naked, Wholesome & Hearty, Kashi: all three and more actually belong to the cereals giant Kellogg. Naked Juice? That would be PepsiCo of Pepsi and Fritos fame. And behind the pastoral-sounding Walnut Acres, Health Valley and Spectrum Organics is none other than Hain Celestial, once affiliated with Heinz, the grand old name in ketchup.

Over the last decade, since federal organic standards have come to the fore, giant agri-food corporations like these and others — Coca-Cola, Cargill, ConAgra, General Mills, Kraft and M&M Mars among them — have gobbled up most of the nation’s organic food industry. Pure, locally produced ingredients from small family farms? Not so much anymore.

All of which riles Mr. Potter, 62. Which is why he took off in late May from here for Albuquerque, where the cardinals of the $30-billion-a-year organic food industry were meeting to decide which ingredients that didn’t exactly sound fresh from the farm should be blessed as allowed ingredients in “organic” products. Ingredients like carrageenan, a seaweed-derived thickener with a somewhat controversial health record. Or synthetic inositol, which is manufactured using chemical processes.

Mr. Potter was allowed to voice his objections to carrageenan for three minutes before the group, the National Organic Standards Board.

“Someone said, ‘Thank you,’ ” Mr. Potter recalls.

And that was that.

Two days later, the board voted 10 to 5 to keep carrageenan on the growing list of nonorganic ingredients that can be used in products with the coveted “certified organic” label. To organic purists like Mr. Potter, it was just another sign that Big Food has co-opted — or perhaps corrupted — the organic food business.

Click Here to read the rest of the story.

Has any of the above changed your mind about spending more for “organic” food?

I know I’ll be looking for Eden Foods products as well ss those from the few other still-really-organic producers mentioned. And Whole Foods or not, I’ll be taking a much closer look at package labels from now on.

How about you?


Truth in Toons: That’s Business Edition

Sunday, July 1st, 2012

Comments welcome.
Which are your favorites?









Sorry, but life isn’t fair, so get over it.

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

I had to check the date at the top of the newspaper this morning to make sure I hadn’t slipped into a time warp and landed on April Fools Day.

US judge rules Netflix subject to disability act

A federal judge in Springfield has ruled that Netflix and other online providers that serve the public are subject to federal disabilities laws, a decision that could require TV shows and movies streamed over the Internet to include captions for the deaf or other accommodations.

On Tuesday, US District Judge Michael Ponsor rejected Netflix’s argument that it is exempt from the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA. He declined to dismiss an ADA lawsuit against Netflix for failing to provide captions on much of the content it streams to subscribers.

Web-based businesses did not exist when the disabilities act was enacted in 1990, the judge wrote, but the US Congress intended the law to adapt to changes in technology, and it should apply to websites.

The complaint was filed by the National Association of the Deaf, the Western Massachusetts Association of the Deaf and Hearing Impaired, and Lee Nettles, a staffer at the Stavros Center for Independent Living in Springfield.

Nettles said Netflix discriminates against the hearing-impaired, forcing them to to avoid its streaming service and pay for more expensive DVD rentals to ensure the movies and TV shows they rent are equipped with captions. “It has to be equal accessibility to all people using it,” he said. “It has to be 100 percent equality.”

Click Here to read the rest of the story.

100 percent equality. Think about that for a minute.

If everything in life has to be made 100 percent equal for everyone…

— Professional sports should be forced to change their rules and practices to accommodate overweight couch potatoes who want to play pro basketball, or baseball, etc. Instead of choosing players based on ability, we should have random drawings from a pool that includes everyone who wants to play.

— All bathrooms, locker rooms, and showers should be unisex.

— Movie producers should be forced to provide “descriptive service” (essentially, a verbal description of what is happening onscreen from moment to moment) for every movie. And all old movies on DVD should be recalled so both subtitles and descriptive service can be added to accommodate those who are blind as well as those who are deaf. For that matter, they’ll also have to figure out something to accommodate those who are both deaf and blind.

— Comedians should be forced to take time to explain each joke after they deliver it for those humorously challenged, or too slow, to get it.

— Websites should be forced to provide descriptive service for each of their web pages. No matter that it would effectively bankrupt many of the companies behind the sites.

— We should eliminate elections entirely, since the ability to smile and raise money and lie come easier to some people than to others, which makes the election process inherently unfair. As with sports, each position should be chosen at random from a pool of people who want the job. The same with judges and all other public positions. It should not matter that a person has no experience with electricity. If he or she wants to be an electrical inspector, he or she should have a fair shot at the job. And there’s even precedent for that since that’s the standard we applied in the last presidential election.

The only thing I think would have to be exempt from the 100 percent equality rule is reproduction…unless scientists can figure out way for women to impregnate men and for men to carry and deliver babies. But everything else should be fair game for it.

Yes, I know how stupid all that sounded, but it is no more stupid than forcing Netflix to do things it determines will not be profitable just to accommodate a small number of subscribers.

The plain, simple fact is that life is not fair. If it was, I’d have a voice like Frank Sinatra’s, looks like Matt Damon, a physique like David Beckham, a bank account like Bill gates, and be hung like a porn star.

But life is not fair. It never was and never will be. And these efforts to force fairness are absurd and destructive as well as being unreasonably costly in many cases.

I’m sorry that some folks are deaf or blind or have mobility issues or are intellectually challenged or anything else that hold holds them back. But my disability should not create an obligation on you or anyone else to do anything. I believe we should help in any way we can if we are so inclined, and I believe the vast majority of Americans would do so willingly, but forcing everyone to pay for other people’s problems is what lay at the root of the decline of America and most other nations in the civilized world.

Life is not fair. It’s time we all accept it and get over it.

What do you think? Am I being unreasonable again?

What other things would have to be “fixed” to accommodate 100% equality?


Why are Sunkist, Welch’s, California’s Wine Institute, and many other businesses using your tax dollars to advertise overseas?

Saturday, June 16th, 2012

By the time you finished reading the headline, you probably already guessed the answer. They’re spending the money because the dopes you elected to Congress, and the myriad bureaucracies they’re created, think it’s just fine that you have to work a little harder, pay a little more, do without a little more often, so private companies, corporations, and associates won’t have to spend their own profits to promote their businesses.

Along with those mentioned in the title, oodles of companies like Blue Diamond Growers, Tyson Foods, Purina, Del Monte, and the Cotton Council International receive millions of taxpayer dollars every year to spend overseas promoting their businesses. That last one, the Cotton Council, received $20 million to create a game show that’s supposed to promote cotton use, in India, a country that produces so much cotton, they are a net exporter of the stuff.

Below is a link to the report published this month by Senator Tom Coburn titled Treasure Map: The Market Access Program’s Bounty of Waste, Loot and Spoils Plundered from Taxpayer.

In the report, Coburn writes:

Dear Taxpayer,

At the request of Congress, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has spent more than two billion dollars on the Market Access Program (MAP), a government program that uses your tax dollars to subsidize the advertising costs of profitable agriculture companies and trade associations doing business overseas.

Many Americans might respond with disbelief that we are paying for private companies to market their products in the first place. That we are doing so overseas is even more troubling.

With a host of other agricultural priorities, it is time to reduce funding for this program. At a time when we are cutting funding for our troops, taxpayers cannot continue to subsidize the filming of Reality-TV shows in India, wine tastings for foreign journalists, pet food advertising, and even to advertise pet shampoo anymore. We need to make tough choices.

As the federal government has amassed more than $15.6 trillion in debt, or nearly $50,000 per American, and as Congress borrows more than 40 cents of every dollar it spends, it is now time to scrutinize every federal program, no matter its size, shape or beneficiary. Congress has a duty to root out duplicative and inefficient programs. It must also learn to set priorities as budgets inevitably constrict and determine whether programs are consistent with a proper constitutional role for the federal government.

The time has come to debate whether the federal government should be in the business of promoting private market goods to foreign buyers.

While I agree with Coburn that Congress should be eliminating duplicate programs, I’d go one further and eliminate ALL programs that use taxpayer dollars to benefit businesses and individuals. And I strongly disagree that it’s time to debate anything. It’s time to act.

America can no long afford to waste tax dollars, 40% of which are being borrowed.  It is time to eliminate programs and the bureaucracies that administer them and not just those which relate to agriculture or food. The Federal government has grown into a bloated behemoth and the time has come for emergency bariatric surgery.

What do you think?

Click Here to read Senator Colburn’s report.



Truth in Toons: Signs of the Times Edition

Sunday, June 10th, 2012

Comments welcome.
Which are your favorites?








How to straighten out the housing market

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

I’m not one who lives in the past. However, when it comes to the housing market and mortgages, I do long for the old days.

Back in the 70’s and early 80s, I was a real estate broker. In those days, we didn’t need banks to “pre-approve” buyers. We did our own calculations to determine if buyers were likely to be able to qualify for a mortgage and, unless someone lied to us, it was rare that a deal fell apart because the buyers could not get financing.

In those days, most lenders required mortgage payments, which included property tax and insurance escrows, at or below 28% of the combined household income. And they wanted to see all debt, including credit cards, auto loans, and whatever, no higher than 35%. They did this, I believe, because they wanted to make sure they’d get their monthly payments on time, to help insure against buyers’ temporary financial setbacks due to illness or loss of a job, and because foreclosing was an expensive business that created nothing but ill-will.

Of course, in those days, there were a whole lot more local banks instead of national megabanks on every corner. And government mostly kept its nose out of the business. Little did brokers then know what was coming.

Fast forward to today, when government interference has tortured and distorted the mortgage market and banking business, and we have ever more regulations being promulgated by various busybodies in agencies hell-bent on justifying their existence. It’s gotten so bad, even critics of the banking business are starting to complain about all the regulations.

Bank Critic Goodman Sees Lending Chill in Regulations: Mortgages

Laurie Goodman, who says no analysts have been more critical of bank mortgage practices than her team at Amherst Securities Group LP, is siding with lenders when it comes to a flurry of new rules intended to protect homebuyers.

“We’re piling tighter standards on top of already tight credit standards, and because you have so many different entities responsible for making these rules no one is really looking at the interaction,” said Goodman, who’s based in New York and is a member of the Fixed Income Analysts Society’s Hall of Fame. “The combined effects could be devastating.”

The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Securities and Exchange Commission and Department of Housing and Urban Development are among regulators trying to reshape mortgage lending after poor underwriting contributed to a housing crash that triggered the worst financial crisis in seven decades. The proposals include new tests on borrowers’ ability to repay, guidelines for servicers and rules on origination fees.

Lenders already have been tightening credit standards even as borrowing costs fall to record lows. With the housing market showing signs of stabilizing, after home prices plunged more than 35 percent from a 2006 peak, banks are opposing some of the proposals on the grounds that it will make it harder for them to extend loans.

The concerns raised by Goodman should be taken seriously because she’s not overly sympathetic to the banks, said Representative Brad Miller, a North Carolina Democrat who’s on the Financial Services Committee. Regulators should make sure that requirements intending to protect consumers against abuses don’t make credit unavailable to people who ought to get a mortgage and could afford a home, Miller said.

Click Here to read the rest of the article.

The simple fact is that as long as government, which can’t even run itself with any degree of efficiency, continues to distort the mortgage and banking markets with regulations designed to achieve social goals, we will never recover to the point of the market equilibrium we lived with when I was a broker.

Yes, back then, there were very nice people who could not afford to buy their dream house. There were folks who could not afford to buy any house. But those who did buy a house did so with the knowledge that only extreme adversity was likely to jeopardize their home.

If we really want to straighten out the housing market as quickly as possible, we’ll get government completely out of the business and let lenders return to setting qualifications and terms they know will ensure the greatest return on their investments, which will translate into the greatest number of people qualifying for and obtaining mortgages they can well-afford to live with.

That’s how I see it. What are your thoughts?



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