Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Awards and Acknowledgements

The Spitting Vessel thanks Sher of Ur Resident Chef for having been named one of the recipients of "The Brilliante Blog Awards". This is the second time this site has been merited with this specific citation, and coming from Sher makes it even more meaningful. The genuinely trusting and wonderfully cheerful attitude of this courageous, determined and adventurous young woman from Singapore; and her rich and varied experience of seeking her niche and her happiness in Europe all by her lonesome - is an example of the resilience of the Asian character, as well as the balance provided by the Asians' grasp of their values. This soon to be globally recognized baker and chef will enrich and enliven your culinary experience with her simple yet exquisite concoctions that are healthy in both content and attitude. She includes food conservation in her recipes in recognition of the food scarcity and shortage gripping countries in Asia and Africa. Thank you very much Sher.

The Spitting Vessel is equally grateful and privileged to receive this "I Love Your Blog" citation from Jenaisle of "Working Abroad" blog. Having been named by Jenaisle as one of the sites she likes is a proud development for the Spitting Vessel who remains one of her most ardent fans. Jenaisle has published her short stories, poems and a novel. She is an awesomely creative and talented writer, whose stories are woven seamlessly in the historical context of its thematic settings - describing the social fabric of the period accurately. The very credible plot and its realistic twists and turns sustains the interest and excitement of the reader. She has all the potentials of becoming an internationally famous writer. Thank you Jenaisle.

The Spitting Vessel expresses its apologies for the delay in accepting and acknowledging both these awards. Schedules and work activities have been tight and difficulties in accessing the internet have reduced opportunities for blog visits and posting time. Sometimes situations can be distressing.


Sunday, September 28, 2008

China's "Containted" Cows

A non-objective view of China may readily conclude that Communism as a system of government does not satisfy anyone in the country, not even its cows. The failure to produce "contented cows" that would enhance its dairy industry has produced only "containted" cows - those that possess melamine whose milk would poison the human body and eventually kill consumers with prolonged, continuous use. But the problem here is that any calamity in China would always be measured in gigantic proportions because of the sheer volume of its 1.3 billion people who would eventually bear the brunt of its disastrous effects. The blame is not on the four legged mammals that support the people, but on the two-legged monsters who breed on chicancery and whose castration would be the most humane punishment for their misdeed. These are the Chinese COWS - Corporate Operators Without Souls.

These are Chinese businessmen tainted by greed and subterfuge, who would lace their products with poisonous chemicals to project high protein content for their insidious output. It's bad enough that this tainted milk was sold to producers of candies, biscuits, buns and chocolate - but to put in on infant milk is the most thoughtless and sinister act of all. Children and infants need to take several glasses or bottles of milk daily where the resulting effect is deadly for their young bodies. The awesome panic and fear it has brought to parents who are compelled to follow a one-child policy is immeasurable, and the cruel and inhuman blow it has dealt to at least 54,000 households is beyond criminal.

Furthermore, the tainted product was sold worldwide where its lower price would naturally attract the less fortunate and underprivileged citizens of those countries, adding more misery to the already deplorable condition of their existence. Global reaction has been swift, with countries in Europe, Asia, and the Americans removing the milk and allied products from China that contain milk from the shelves. This calamity has placed China's ability to monitor and regulate its food industries in serious doubt, and rightly so. Contamination of toothpaste, seafood and even pet food resulting in death to a considerable number of animals in the US have transpired in recent years up to last year. This no longer appears accidental, but a deliberate and manipulative attempt to gain advantage at the expense of the ultimate consumer, in China and the rest of the world.

China's grand march to the level of the elite countries of the world has been stymied by the pea brained actions of some of its officials and favored citizen-businessmen. All the efforts and sacrifice of its brilliantly industrious and wholesomely generous citizens will be ruined by these men without souls who cannot be expected to burn in hell. Unfortunately for China, it had wanted to follow up its successful hosting of the Olympics with its scheduled space walk that would set it apart from, and ahead of, other emerging powers. But even the glory of its Olympic preparation was somehow diminished by protests linked to Tibet, and nearly overshadowed by the massive earthquake that ripped the country. The manned space flight and momentous space walk had also been reduced in stature because of the tainted milk caper. A disappointment for the people who took part, and for those who loved to see their country's astonishing development.

China's space ventures could project its capabilities in advanced technologies, achieving what no other Chinese government has ever done - which may legitimize their regime in the eyes of its population. There is also the military component which shows their capability to launch several warheads on a single rocket, and the precision capabilities which could be used for commercial purposes. Diplomacy too could be greatly improved as it signals China's entry into the powerful elite nations club. But its human tragedies have to find closure. The earthquake initiated investigations on the total collapse of school buildings as against other structures, that killed more children than adults. Now, milk that affects children.

China can project all its wealth in terms of having the largest capital reserves, its enviable economic growth, and its arrival on the elite club through space exploration; but it cannot rest easy for as long as it is haunted by skeletons of mistreatment and/or neglect of its people, and the protection of the clandestine criminals lurking within its corridors of power. They will not get the respect they deserve for their accomplishments, but the sneer of disdain when their backs are turned. And as always, their people will end up the losers as their efforts will be for naught in the perception of the international community.


Friday, September 26, 2008

Betting Billions on a Bailout Bullet

A gnawing sense of frustration and seething anger sweeps America. The realization that they will have to risk their future and those of their children to rescue the very people who robbed them of this future runs counter to their instincts. Yet it is presented as a bullet they would have to bite, by a President they are unsure they can trust, for a purpose they had no part in deciding, to save the American economy from collapse. The lameduck President who lured them into two wars, whose main target is still loose, and whose lies, cover-ups, and constitutional maneuvers have wrecked the nation's image internationally; is telling its citizens to rally behind this "patriotic" call once again - a call that will lead them to financial ruin, penury, and impoverishment - more than they already are.

Even a degenerate gambler would realize that betting his present and future existence on a bailout plan where feasibility is in doubt, where the amount of $700 billion cannot be ascertained as sufficient, and where its return and profitable gain is based on their highest hopes, must be insane. And sanity is exceedingly becoming a rare commodity in financial and political circles globally. This prompted Congress to invoke principles that would include provisions on home ownership preservation, oversight functions, limits on executive compensation, and taxpayer protection - the only sane thing they could possibly come up with in an already wildly crazy situation.

America's national debt stands at $ 53 trillion, including the cost of benefits to retiring baby boomers beginning 2010, which translates to roughly $ 38,000 for every man, woman and child in the country today. This excludes the bailout costs for Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae and AIG, plus the bailout plan for the banks asked by Mr. Bush. Even if the economy recovers in the years ahead, all the revenues would be pre-allocated to service these debts. With the economy in dire straits and recovery uncertain, regardless of a bailout plan in place; the US economy is hard pressed to provide any alleviation to its citizens in the next 3 years at least; at worst, in the next 5 years. The opposition expressed by Republicans to the principles behind the bailout plan could further delay the uncertain solution to the crisis, which could exacerbate the already dire straits that the country has dug itself into. This is a no win situation for America, and perhaps, the rest of the world.

Bourses in the US, in Europe and Asia, have been swinging wildly into degrees of confidence and doubt, based on the implementation or non-passage of the bailout plan. The prospects of its success or failure are not even at play. This is the most tragic element of this situation. The bailout is a temporary relief that is accompanied by overwhelming hope to succeed. Its failure will have to be faced by the leaders who will emerge from this catastrophe and the generations that will suffer its consequences. What the world is witnessing may be the beginnings of the end of the American Empire. What will follow in its stead is too mind boggling to contemplate. It may even spark a second American Revolution. Whatever form it takes is too scary to speculate. But it is in the process of fruition if Americans don't come together to save their nation and its future.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

UPDATE: Puttar Punctures Potter Power

A New Delhi Court has rejected the lawsuit filed by Warner Bros. against Mirchi Movies of Bollywood, makers of the film Hari Puttar And the Comedy of Terrors. This is clearly a triumph for the underdog who was taken to court by the international giant Warner Bros. The film, originally due for release last September 12 will now be shown in India on September 28.

The power of the Potter franchise has been pricked.


Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Pointless Potter vs. Puttar Polemics

There's a basic difference between the names Puttar and Potter that the west cannot reconcile nor would seem to want to. Puttar means son in Hindi and Punjabi, while Potter is one who makes pots or a heavy user of cannabis. Warner Bros is concerned that the "Hari Puttar" film will confuse the viewing public and shortchange the "Harry Potter" franchise. But anyone who is a fan of Potter will certainly know the difference, even if they suspect that it is cashing in on the J.K. Rowling series. The position of Warner here is to claim a franchise on names or titles that sounds close to their fictitious hero. Even if Mirchi Movies of Bollywood retitled their film "Hairy Porter" or "Hurry Poser", Warner would likely take the same legal action. Either they want to cast a spell on all potential film titles of this type or they don't know how to spell.

"Hari" is another name of the Hindu God Vishnu, and this is a religion that's indigenous to India, while "Harry" is a derivative of Henry, like the philanderer Henry VIII; or Harold, which is of Scandinavian origin, not Anglo-Saxon; which means army ruler. This is not a special kind of measuring stick used for military purposes, but an Army commander. But between a God and a bed wetter King or an army commander, "Hari" has more centuries of being than "Harry". It might be wiser for Hari to have been a golf prodigy with a mean swing of the irons like Tiger Woods, and the title would be "Hari's Putter". However, this sounds a little X-rated and would not be patronized by parents for their children.

Moreover, the storylines are different. Hari Puttar is a 10 year old lad who goes to England and gets involved in a plan to save the world. Harry Potter is a wizard in the netherworld defending himself against his parents' killer Lord Voldemort, who wants to control their world and subjugate the real world. But Harry's too late, the real world has been conquered by the witches, wizards and beasts of Voldemort; especially if you consider the usurpers that made billions out of ordinary people's hard earned money - like the witches of Wall Street, the wizards of Washington, and the beasts of the Banking community. Hari Puttar then takes off where Harry Potter failed, and we should be cheering him on. The savior of the world will come from the East, not the West, and Warner doesn't take too kindly to the degrading of their hero. But whoever heard of a good witch or wizard? Potter doesn't want to stop their ilk from their craft, he merely wants to continue clandestinely, much like the creepy beings that inhabit government.

But the uncanny similarity between Dhaval Dave and Daniel Radcliffe could be the main issue although Warner doesn't openly admit it. Dave cannot change his face, it's the only one he's got. Radcliffe has made millions, why wouldn't he change his? It's unrealistic to have a wizard with spectacles, can't he fix his own vision? No wonder Voldemort wants to eliminate him, he's an embarrassment to the profession, considering how popular he has become. Furthermore, in this technological age, these wizards still use those silly brooms to ride on, perhaps believing that people could still be literally swept off their feet when a spell is cast. But can the 10 year old Puttar save the world? Warner would not want anyone to know. They want the world to focus on this dreadful scenario where witches and wizards kill each other. If only they did the same on Wall Street, the Banking community, and Washington.

Hari Puttar has been put on hold by a judge in India right before its debut last September 12. The last film in the Harry Potter franchise has been moved for release in July 2009, a safe distance in case Puttar gets to be shown in 2008. Warner wants to maximize its profits on the last film and they have manacled Hari Puttar as an insurance against competition. They obviously have no confidence in AIG, nor are they inclined to partcipate in the Lehman Brothers fire sale. If that judge in India suddenly owns a Ferrari, it would tell us where Warner placed its bets. It would show the world that justice has been served, or the judge has been serviced, or both.

Hari Puttar must be able to extricate from this legal entanglement, otherwise the film will have no credibility whatsoever. For how can he save the world when he cannot even overcome a pathetic near sighted wimp with a broomstick for a ride. This whole thing is really pointless.


Friday, September 19, 2008

Grumblings of the Gallant Gurkhas

Never in the history of the British military have the Gurkhas ever abandoned their comrades in battle, nor ever retreat despite superior enemy numbers and arms. Gurkhas continue to attack up to the last man. But after dedicating the best years of their fighting lives for the glory of the British Crown, the Gurkhas are faced with deprivation and deportation. These gallant fighters, considered one of the best warrior races in the world - who offered their loyalty, skills, and lives fighting England's wars - are being discarded, disposed of, and left to rot in the streets of the Kingdom they were always willing to die for. Of their countless wounds from many battles, this disgraceful treatment from the British government is the unkindest and most painful of all.

For the thousands who gathered outside Parliament many of whom are in their 70's and 80's, this may perhaps be the biggest and last battle of their lives. Among these old warriors are many who are in desperate need of medical attention; and over the last 2 years of their legal struggle, 8 have fallen dead on the streets. Known for their bravery and endurance, the men demonstrating have seen combat all over the world, including Afghanistan and Iraq, with 200,000 serving in World Wars l and ll. This current struggle tests their endurance. They have tried all avenues, even returned their medals; yet the camaraderie seen at the protest lines among their comrades should not be mistaken for lack of intensity. Beneath the gentle smile lies a cold and steely determination, inflamed by years of injustice, and forged by their natural fighting tenacity - to secure equal rights for the Gurkhas, who have pledged their lives to the Queen.

The Gurkha's solicitor Martin Howe represents 1,500 more men wanting to come to the UK, but the government is doing everything to keep them out. The Gurkhas want equal pensions as their British counterparts, like those recruited from other countries. Discrimination was also discovered in terms of salaries even when they were still in the active service. Many were made to believe that a "long period of service would entitle them to citizenship", and most Ghurkas served an average of 25 years. But the government announced in March 2008 that only those Ghurkas who signed up after July 1, 1997 will be entitled to equal pay and retirement pay with that of their British counterpart; and would be allowed to settle in England. Those who were with the British Military before this date , still in active service, and who may retire in 2017 are still not granted equal pay nor equal retirement pay, much less given the right to settle in England.

Gurkhas are from Nepal, who derived their name from a Hindu warrior-saint Guru Gorakhnath, whose descendants founded the House of Gurkha. The British were the first to use the Gurkhas after noting their physical strength, endurance, discipline, and tenacity in conflict. The Gurkhas were described as a martial race or warrior race, who inflicted heavy casualties against the British in Nepal in the 1800s. The British sued for peace with the provision that they could recruit Ghurkas to fight for the crown. From 1816 to date, Gurkhas fought for England and died for England. Prince Harry's stint with the military in Afghanistan was with the Gurkha regiment to ensure his safety.

Every year Ghurka applicants seek acceptance in the British military, with 28,000 young and robust men vying for 200 slots. It is described as one of the toughest selection procedures in the world, aside from the fact that it is fiercely contested, often resulting in death among many applicants. These soldiers still carry their traditional weapon into battle, an 18 inch knife called "kukri". It is believed that once drawn, the kukri needs to taste blood, otherwise, it's spirit will work against its owner. This is the reason why Gurkhas cut themselves when no opportunity to take the fight to the enemy arises, after the knife has been drawn from its sheath.

Today, the old warriors who have served in various wars have come to England at great cost to themselves. They are being ignored by the citizens who do not understand their cause; they are being barred by officials who have been told to keep them away; they are being computed by members of parliament as a line item and are being certified as "unaffordable".The Gurkhas are not being valued but demeaned, tagged with a price that reduces their contributions and prepares them to receive a pittance that's next to nothing. The scandalous manner in which these warriors are received and treated does not speak well of a civilized country, whose declarartions of a noble history are overshadowed by this barbaric display of unmitigated incivility and outright crudeness.

Perhaps the Parliamentarians are looking at the willingness of the old Ghurkas to die for the Kingdom, from disease, organ failure, and fatigue. This is a substantial underestimation of the patience and resolve of these warriors. With their honor mortally injured, the Gurkhas may yet unleash what remains of their tenacity at the frivolity of these Parliamentarians, where the lawmakers' shoulders become lonesome for their heads.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Campaigns Concentrate on Collapse Concerns

The messy meltdown at the New York Stock Exchange that rocked bourses in Europe and Asia, has not only made the economic situation the most critical issue in the campaign; but has also unmasked how the Republicans wrecked the economy. The chilling impact of the collapse of Lehman Brothers also removed much of the glitter in the skin deep appeal of Sarah Palin, as Americans have been awakened from a spell by the reality of very hard times in the immediate future. The generally accepted perception that the US is taking the wrong route has been reinforced, and John McCain will have greater difficulty extricating from the failures of this administration.

McCain sunk deeper earlier when he echoed the White House line that the economy was fundamentally sound, and praised the government for not wasting taxpayer's money on another bailout; but reversed himself later in the day saying the economy was in crisis. Perhaps he was fundamentally sound asleep in the earlier statement, but it reflected how fundamentally out of touch he was. He passed the task to Palin to blame Washington and Wall Street's liability for the financial carnage, with undertones of retribution for those responsible. However, Palin's empty bravado was gigantic in words but lilliputian in substance.

Senator Barack Obama described the Lehman debacle's impact on consumers contrasted against the profits to the top management of such companies which sacrificed the middle class Americans. However, he did not endorse any solution or new policy, nor oppose the actions of the US Treasury and the Federal Reserve. Either he failed to seize the momentum or he may be ill-equipped to understand how to untangle such a financial mess. While polls show that Democrats are more trusted with the economy, Obama has to present a concrete and substantive vision that will take America out of this predicament, to establish his advantage. As things stand, the American public remains disadvantaged as always, while Obama plays safe.

On Tuesday, the Federal Reserve announced the bailout of AIG fully supported by the US Treasury, who said it was done to protect taxpayers. This appears to be the reason for McCain's reversal - foreknowledge of the AIG bailout to support the Administration's decision, and to make him appear like he knows the means by which to restore stability in the economy. But this reverses the Republican position of less government and allowing free market forces to take its course. The administration spin on the bailout purports to alleviate the burden to taxpayers by saving the economy, without clearly stating why or how. The argument that AIG's collapse would have more disastrous consequences because of its varied investment activities globally than Lehman's may have some validity, but why the situation reached this point has not been answered nor has anyone been charged for anything. Who will Sarah Palin prosecute in Washington for this tragedy? Her tragedy is that she barked and growled for nothing. Like a mad pitt bull.....with lipstick.

The shift from individual buyers losing their homes and crushing their dreams to the biggest institutions like Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, and now AIG (being taken over 80% and given $85 billion over a 2 year period) elevates the problem to a worldwide concern. They can now be forgotten because the focus is on a larger scale - plus they should be thankful they are still being saved - from heavier taxes should these monoliths be allowed to crash. It would be so unpatriotic to complain when they are being rescued from potentially bigger tax burdens. But these bailouts will cost them nonetheless, as it will increase the national debt which will be paid through taxes, together with inflation and dollar decline that will further erode their purchasing power.

Analysts in Washington and on Wall Street contend that the economy will recover strongly by next year which would reduce substantially the country's budget deficit. These are statements meant to restore confidence in the financial markets. It comes with the hope that these announcements, attributable to their equally worthless reputations, would be forgotten should it remain unchanged or gets worse. More realistic assessments indicate that the crisis will continue well into 3 years since no one can predict how deep the effects on the economy are, as well as how much the cost of the bailouts will actually be.

With all the global problems facing the next President, why anyone would seek the office and bludgeon himself further with this winless economic mess for several years defies comprehension. It would be idealistically immature to think that the winner will work as nobly as he would profess considering the nature of politicians and their ilk. But the need for a leader to inspire, protect, and restore America remains, and it falls on the shoulders of two men; one of whom is being positioned as a lameduck on his first term. Is it power and prestige? Or, our turn to be filthy rich and obnoxiously wealthy? These two go together well and are logically founded reasons.

Could it be messianic complex? Or pure altruism? Would it not be insanely unrealistic to seek the position solely for these reasons? If whoever wins does half of what he promised, or accomplishes a fourth of what is required, then the voters would have been only half as crazy or a quarter foolhardy electing him. Idealism is not dead, it is only gasping for breath.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Palin and the Prophecy of the Pig

The incoming US President, faced with very serious problems on the national and international levels - including a possible collapse of the country's banking system by the first week of November- remains a toss-up between two candidates undergoing a rigorous election campaign, debating the critical issue of lipstick on a pig. Barack Obama's quote of this old adage has been connected by the John McCain camp as a slur on Sarah Palin, and the Republicans have prophesied this incident to be the cause of the GOP victory and the demise of the Democrat's candidacy. The prophecy may be fulfilled when pigs fly.

John McCain has been enjoying an enormous piggy back ride on the popularity of Sarah Palin, whose own stretching of the truth about her refusal to accept congressional earmarked funds; the "Bridge to nowhere" story; and the pipeline for natural gas; are subtle fairy tales meant for a wolf to lure the 3 little pigs. Truth is, she accepted $27 million in congressional funds while mayor of Wasilla; the natural gas pipeline was just signed two weeks ago which is viewed as unfeasible and will cost $40 billion, not $27 billion; and the infamous bridge she fully supported, then opposed when the earmarked funds were already removed . But the funds were given to Alaska which they used for other projects. To date, she has requested $167 million in earmarked funds from Congress.

The elasticity of the truth seems to be limitless as far as these politicians are concerned. Like the Obama campaign's statement that a technologically challenged President is not suitable for the office - referring to McCain's inability to operate a computer or send e-mails, when he is obviously a disabled veteran. All innuendoes, half truths, and stretches must be categorized for what these are: LIES! But the swine herd mentality of the campaign continues to pursue the heaping of mud on one another, thereby muddling the issues that matter most in the lives of the people. It's as plain as a pig on a sofa, the campaign by both parties is shallow and senseless, supported by sound bytes that` are in a pig's eye.

Both candidates are sweating like pigs trying to outdo one another, and are conducting their campaigns as clumsily as hogs on ice. They both seem to be packaging themselves with heavily over extended storylines to create a persona with the oratorical and inspirational skills of Kennedy or Reagan, a protector from America's enemies like Eisenhower and Roosevelt, a geo-political master like Nixon, a tough go-getter who can manuever Congress to pass important legislation like Johnson, the star quality of a decent man like Carter, and the economic savvy of a Clinton. These elements are being lumped in a single package - to attract the voters - minus these men's achilles heels of course. But this packaging is slicker than a greased pig, because such a person with all these qualities does not exist.

America is $9.3 trillion in debt, it is involved in wars on practically 3 fronts, it's banks are teetering from the mortgage crisis, its obligations in health and social security amounting to trillions of dollars more are forthcoming, and its economy is staring at a recession so deep it will give the incoming President a nightmare worse than working knee deep in mud, inside a sealed pig sty. And the campaigns by both parties choose to make a pig's ear of the debating process. Voters should heed the biblical proverb "Do not cast your pearls before swine" before deciding to vote. This election and its ghastly conduct may leave them squealing like a stuck pig after.

American voters must be perceived as ignorant by the candidates should this trend continue. Voters must refuse to be a party to this charade of silly attacks and demand a focus on issues that affect their future as a people and as a nation. It was Churchill who said " Dogs look up to man, cats look down on man, and pigs look at man in the eye and see an equal". If Americans allow themselves to be seen as simpletons, then they can expect their country to be mired worse than a pig pen - together with the hogs they elected into office. That is the only real prophecy that has any possibility of fulfillment in this election.


Pig Image with lipstick from Mick Coulas

Friday, September 12, 2008

Buttressed By Brillante Blog Award

There exists an uncommon connection between The Spitting Vessel and the author of My First Glob who goes by the name of "r". He has bestowed upon this site the Brillante Weblog Award which this site would have given to him had the Spitting Vessel received it first. "R" is very passionate about keeping his true identity secret but very vocal about his opinions, and does not publish his own photos on his site - much like the Spitting Vessel. His avatar on the right is a familiar face of an actor. There have been intermittent and extensive comment exchanges with him in the past, but the Spitting Vessel is a lurker on his site. "R" writes in elegant literary style that's intoxicatingly entertaining and intellectually stimulating. For bestowing this award upon the Spitting Vessel, this site expresses its gratitude with a big Thank You!

Like all other awards, this particular one has its own set of rules meant to promote as many blogs as possible. The award is given to blogs that are smart and brilliant in both design and content. The rules consist of the following:

1. Upon receiving the award, write a post showing it, together with the name of the blogger who gave it to you. Provide a link to the site that gave you the award.

2.Choose a minimum of 7 blogs that you find brilliant in content and/or design.

3.Show their names and links and leave them a comment informing them of their receipt of the Brillante Weblog Award.

4. Show a picture of those who awarded you and those you give the prize to (optional).

Here are the Spitting Vessel's selections:

El Correr Es Mi Destino - The author is a French woman who calls herself Zhu, who traveled halfway around the globe and decided to settle in Canada. She writes on a variety of subjects that include tips on getting a job in Canada, what Canadians are like, Citizenship issues, her travels and recent trip to Beijing, and various other topics that involve tweaking your website, evaluating templates and plug-ins, and about food. Often, she provides these in a series of posts and explains it with applicable clarity like a conscientious teacher intent on helping her students understand, learn and apply the subject. Her tone is friendly and accommodating, her persona generous and kind. It's a site where insights on people, culture, and humanity can be obtained in a gentle and patient manner.

Crete delights - This is an evolving blog of an internet marketer whose evident success has brought her closer to her dream relocation paradise - Crete. Originally based in the UK, Layne writes in crisp, and at times, irreverent tones, that is spiced with all types of British jargon and topped by that unmistakable English charm and humor. A blogger known for her passionate endorsement of Entrecard and its proper use, Layne is such an unselfish Marketer who would openly and unconditionally provide assistance, seek support for other bloggers' difficulties, and even empty all her marketing resources to anyone who asks or needs it for free. Her writing is insightful, funny, and witty, yet full of warmth and enthusiasm - like an 18 year old experiencing her first summer vacation alone with a friend. Crete Delights is a delightful read.

inspiredartbeat - Here is an artist who uses one of the most difficult materials to paint with - water color. But, she is possessed with the talent and precision to skillfully manage any medium, to create works of art that are reminiscent of times we fondly recall; times when life was simpler and truth was abundant. Her creations remind us of what we are losing and what we should regain. Though her subjects involve wildlife and life in earlier periods; the colors, strokes, and images evoke a nostalgic desire that inspires and enlightens - and shows what remains exquisitely beautiful in a world that is dominated by ugly images of war and deprivation. Her roots are in Ireland but she has resided in South Africa. She now stays with her child and grandchildren in New Zealand. Aside from the excellent paintings, her posts include stories and experiences that are poignant and engaging. Her daughter Debbie, is also an accomplished artist whose two creations recently posted show immense talent and an inimitable eye for detail.

The Fitness Diva - This blog is about remaining healthy and fit in a country that has a reputation for obesity from overeating among its citizens. But it does provide a variety of well written posts and bone crunching opinions and/or recommendations on such subjects as politics, sports, movies, music, exercise videos and food - all inclined towards health of course. The Fitness Diva does not believe in starving people to be fit, nor to eat inedible concoctions to reduce fat and weight. She believes in the constancy and regularity of simple routines and to enjoy life by asking readers to treat themselves with their favorite ice cream, or dish or pizza - and even includes the calorie measurements. Her posts are always interesting, written in that typical New York go-getter style. This site is always a pleasant exercise.

A Girl For All Status - This is an extremely engaging young woman with two kids who loves life despite the many unexpected, and at times, rather unfortunate, turn of events in her existence. Yet she remains buoyant and thankful for all the lessons learned, and those she considers the blessings she has received. Starting out as one who wanted the simple things in life and a blissful love life, her journey, ironically, encountered complications she had no preparation for. She has a gift for writing and expresses herself confidently as a woman with a lot of grit, energy and talent, coupled with a well developed analytical ability , and an intelligent and perceptive mind. Her posts are always a great read.

Manilenya - This blog mirrors the aspirations of many Filipinos who seek a better life and a better future for their families abroad, removed physically from their loved ones. Manilenya's struggle with the guilt of being away from her young child finds solace in connecting with many other Filipinos in like situations as well as finding new friends based in Manila who offer encouragement and moral support. Her posts are at times witty, sometimes funny with lots of self-deprecating humor, yet always poignant and hopeful. Her intelligence and capabilities come to the fore despite the perceived limitations she has of herself, which she doesn't realize she has already transcended. She epitomizes this robust and pliable race whose humor is its best coping mechanism. It makes Filipinos proud to belong to this race.

My First Glob - This is the last, but certainly not the least among these selections. "R" is an enigma who is just a shade shy of creating a totally anonymous blog. But he writes with the kind of humor you might find in Hugh Grant or Pierce Brosnan. His comments are insightful, yet, as mentioned in the first paragraph, read like a literary piece or a series of notes written by an English professor on Classical Literature. His series of posts on a trip to Australia is worth reading as it provides a window to his spicy personality and charming character. The Spitting Vessel returns the honor to "r" for a well deserved award.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Fannie, Freddie, Foreclosures, and the Federal Funds

Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae are largely invisible entities to the general public. They could even be mistaken as a Mom and Pop grocery store or male and female dolls sold as a couple. But these two highly influential institutions own or guarantee about half of the US mortgage market, with combined holdings amounting to $5.3 trillion. The sub-prime mortgage crisis that wreaks havoc on the US economy and affects the global financial system, hastened the decline of the prevailing economic structure, and exposed the malady of unscrupulous practices and malignancy of loosely organized models and methods. The untold misery and ruined lives of millions of Americans as a result of this crisis, rooted in the deception and greed that accompanied the rise of sub-prime mortgage lending, is the tragedy that will see no alleviation nor bailout.

Traditionally, banks financed their own mortgage lending and dealt directly with the home buyer, using their deposit funds for the purpose. The concern of the bank in safeguarding depositor funds was evident in its meticulous home evaluation and income capacity checks on the borrower. This process limited the amount of funds for home mortgage lending and was considered a slow process that would not meet demand. A new model was adopted where banks sold mortgages to bond markets and used the funds generated to grant mortgage loans without taking from their customer deposits. This increased the volume of homes sold that required the creation of 3 layers independent of the banks; the home appraisers, mortgage brokers (both dealing with the bank and the home buyer), and the rating agencies ( those who evaluate a bank's operations and provide reports to the mortgage bond market).

Freddie Mac (a nickname for the acronym FHLMC or Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation) and Fannie Mae (a nickname for for the acronym FNMA or Federal National Mortgage Association) are both GSE's (Government sponsored enterprises) but both privately owned and run entities authorized to make loans and loan guarantees on behalf of the Federal Government. Freddie and Fannie buy and pool these mortgages from the bond markets and sells them in the open market worldwide, as mortgage backed securities. Because of the millions of homes involved, the possibility of defaults from a home buyer or a bank can easily be covered by the discounted rate at which Freddie and Fannie pay for the mortgages and the spread they add when sold in the open market. All these layers above the home buyer are profit centers which are added on to the cost of the mortgage the home buyer will pay for the duration of the loan.

Fannie and Freddie thus protected banks from default losses by guaranteeing the mortgages they sold to the bond markets which they possessed, provided, the mortgages followed their guidelines. But many of these loans, a little more than half of $12 trillion were outside these guidelines due to the fast and fat profit potential of selling more in the shortest possible time. Connivance between the home appraiser, mortgage brokers, bank personnel and other parties enticed unsuspecting home buyers with deceptive schemes to sign up for a home - taking advantage of their desire for a better life, and pounding in their heads the fulfillment of the American Dream - owning a home. It would provide quality living and show them to be upwardly mobile, without stating that they will suffer the fate of Icarus.

Home buyers were offered a low fixed interest rate for two years, to lure them into accepting the mortgage offered. They were told that after 2 years, interest will be on market rates which may be lower or a little higher, but that they had the first 2 years to increase their incomes. These were actually "balloon" mortgages where the interest rates were deliberately lowered at the outset and the difference added to prevailing rates plus additional interest on year 3. The interest rates after 2 years were at times more than double while incomes remained flat and cost of living rose. Last year, 1.7 million families lost their homes and up to 2 million more are expected to be foreclosed in 2008. While some home buyers may be part of the conspiracy to defraud, these are minimal at best. Misrepresentation and deception, in the type of mortgage offered, the re-financing promise before the 2 years expire, value of the property, and even the reporting of the buyers income to the bank, were the standard practice to sell more and pocket huge commissions.

There is a glut of 4 million properties on top of continuing foreclosures that brought home prices down. This has resulted in losses to the banks for loans without the GSE guarantee; losses to Freddie and Fannie, who hold mortgages whose values have crashed; and pension funds, foreign banks, and many other small investors worldwide who included these mortgages in their portfolios. The crisis has affected the global financial markets and has created a credit crunch that suffocates the flow of funds.

On September 7, The Federal government announced a conservatorship of Freddie and Fannie, a huge takeover of both financial institutions with the Treasury department contracting billions of shares paying at the rate of 10% a year. The total amount could go into hundreds of billions of dollars. Analysts praised the move after the stock market rose the next day which is a profitable event for stock brokers. But this is a knee jerk market reaction as evidenced by the sudden tapering and decline later in the same day. It is possible that bond markets holding these mortgages rushed in to buy, hoping others would follow - then resold when the prices were up.

The takeover and bailout of Freddie and Fannie will save their stockholders and some of their investors who purchased their repackaged mortgages. Federal funds from taxpayers have been used to rescue the big corporations, but it will not be used to save the homes of these same taxpayers. The ambiguity of the Federal government's relationship with GSE's raises many ethical questions which are dismissed as mere conspiracy theories. Yet the taxpayers will be required to shoulder the cost of this bailout without clear indications of how much and how long - just like the balloon interest rates of the mortgages.

The automotive and Airline industries also suffered heavy losses, shouldn't they be entitled to a bailout too being big taxpayers? Has the United States become the bailout capital of the world for its decrepit business models, loosely structured operating systems, cross-eyed management vision, and unscrupulous business practices? Not if you are a home owner, a mere citizen who doesn't have the ear of the powers that be. One who cannot make significant contributions to their political coffers, and who cannot influence a bloc of voters whether these are bought, coerced, or convinced. Home owners, or former home owners, who need to wake up from this worst nightmare of their lives after being led to a mirage of their American Dream, will be voiceless, powerless individuals who have to bear the consequence of being duped for their ignorance.

Their loss is beyond money. It encompasses self-respect, dignity, self-worth, and crushes their spirit with a devastating blow to their belief in America and what it stands for. Their thoughts will be joined by billions of people all over the world, where no one understands what America really stands for.