Blogs

Boring Mortgages Are Too Boring For Wall Street—Again

| Tue Feb. 2, 2016 10:56 AM EST

Liar loans are back!

These mortgages, which are given to borrowers that can’t fully document their income, helped fuel a tidal wave of defaults during the housing crisis and subsequently fell out of favor.

Now, big money managers including Neuberger Berman, Pacific Investment Management Co. and an affiliate of Blackstone Group LP are lobbying lenders to make more of these “Alt-A” loans....Many of these loans come with interest rates as high as 8%, compared with an average of about 3.8% for a typical 30-year fixed-rate mortgage.

....There has also been a rebranding effort: Most lenders prefer to call these products “nonqualified mortgages” due to the stigma attached to the Alt-A category. By backing these loans, money managers said they would reach an underserved corner of the housing market: Borrowers who have good credit but might be self-employed or report income sporadically.

Naturally, everything is different this time around. Everyone is being careful. It's just a small piece of the market. Borrowers have to produce some documentation. So don't worry: things are going to be fine. Wall Street knows what it's doing. No need to concern your pretty little heads about this.

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Ted! Ted! Ted!

| Mon Feb. 1, 2016 11:45 PM EST

Here are tonight's big messages as we all fondly say "Goodbye, Iowa":

  • Ted Cruz: I will have the shortest name of any president in history.
  • Marco Rubio: Benghazi!
  • Donald Trump: Finishing in the top ten is a great victory.
  • Jeb Bush: I have a short name too. And hey, I beat Carly.
  • Republican Party: We count votes a lot more efficiently than those loser Democrats.
  • Hillary Clinton: A win is a win. Let's get out of here.
  • Bernie Sanders: Hmmm. Maybe we're not that tired of Hillary's emails after all.
  • Democratic Party: We may be slow, but we make up for it with a stereotypically cumbersome and complex voting process.

Iowa is historically so unpredictive of anything that I honestly didn't have a lot of interest in tonight's results. I was mainly curious about how Donald Trump would somehow spin his second place finish as a victory. The answer, it turned out, was to drone on about how "they" told him to skip Iowa because he wouldn't even break the top ten. I assume this is the same "they" who repeatedly told Marco Rubio that he was too much of a schmuck to win. Whoever "they" are, they've been busy.

And now on to New Hampshire, a state inexplicably in love with Donald Trump. What's that all about, anyway?

UPDATE: The photo above is from season 4 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The name of the episode is "Goodbye, Iowa."

Meet the Only Jeb Bush Supporter at His Caucus

| Mon Feb. 1, 2016 11:24 PM EST
Jeb Bush supporter Kramer Howell, left, and John Kasich supporter Collin Stephens. After voting for Bush and Kasich at a caucus at Drake University in Des Moines, the two headed over to Hillary Clinton's rally on the campus.

Kramer Howell was the only voter in his precinct to caucus for Jeb Bush Monday night.  

"I'm the lone Jeb supporter," said Howell, a senior at Drake University who voted in Republican precinct caucus 45, located on his campus in Des Moines, Iowa. "I was the only one."

That means the woman who spoke on Jeb's behalf did not even vote for him. "Her pitch was basically, 'He's a good guy,'" Howell said. "It was like the least rousing speech I've ever heard." No one even spoke on behalf of Trump or Kasich.

In all, 47 voters showed up at this caucus, with Marco Rubio dominating and Ted Cruz coming in second.

Oddly, the person who spoke on behalf of Ben Carson kept referring to him as Bernie Sanders. "He went on this really incoherent tangent about gay marriage," said Howell. "He didn't seem like the brightest guy."

 

Watch Donald Trump's Concession Speech After Losing the GOP Iowa Caucus to Ted Cruz

| Mon Feb. 1, 2016 11:21 PM EST

Ted Cruz defeated Donald Trump in the Republican Iowa caucus tonight. Cruz's victory comes as a major surprise, as the final two polls preceding Monday's caucus projected a clear win for Trump.

Below is Trump's unusually humble concession speech, which even included a rare congratulatory message for the Texas senator.

It Turns Out That Millennials Like Hillary Clinton Just Fine

| Mon Feb. 1, 2016 3:37 PM EST

It's the first election day of the cycle, so I might as well go with the flow. Langer Research recently asked millennials how they'd feel if various candidates won the presidency. Here were the choices:

  • like declaring a national holiday
  • like there's a light at the end of the tunnel
  • like shrugging
  • like going back to bed
  • like fleeing the country

And here are the results:

Needless to say, Donald Trump elicited the most extreme reaction. More interesting, I think, is that even among millennials there's really no enthusiasm gap between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. This has decidedly not been the conventional wisdom, and most poll results seem to confirm that Sanders has more support among the young. But this one, which explicitly measures enthusiasm, shows no difference. Apparently young liberals are just as excited about a Clinton presidency as a Sanders one.

Let These Legos Explain How the Iowa Democratic Caucus Works

| Mon Feb. 1, 2016 3:21 PM EST

Today, the state of Iowa reasserts its outsize importance in American politics with the official start of the presidential primary season, the Iowa caucus. For the huge amount of attention the Iowa caucus draws, there's also a ton of confusion about what exactly happens during it. Republicans gather and cast secret ballots, but Democrats get together and do...what? Whether you're in need of a quick refresher or new to the game, let this brilliant video produced by the folks at Vermont Public Radio outline what's taking place today when the Democratic Party holds their caucuses.

For more of an in-depth look at Iowa and beyond, check out our up-to-the-minute political coverage here.

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The Political Generation Gap Has Become a Generation Chasm

| Mon Feb. 1, 2016 2:37 PM EST

This is nothing new, but I continue to find it sort of fascinating. Here's Pew's breakdown of the voting generation gap over the past 40 years:

At the turn of the century, there was no partisan difference in the votes of young and old. But in recent elections, there has been a huge generation gap at the polls. Today 92% of Republicans are to the right of the median Democrat in their core social, economic and political views, while 94% of Democrats are to the left of the median Republican, up from 64% and 70% respectively in 1994.

There's more at the link. Approval ratings of presidents are now based almost entirely on party affiliation. Liberals and conservatives get their news from entirely different places. And they just flatly disapprove of each other more than ever.

And it apparently all started with George Bush. Even during the Clinton wars of the 90s, the gaps weren't that big. Only after Bush was elected—and the Republican Party became thoroughly Rove-ized—did all these trends really pick up steam. Thanks Karl!

Adele: Donald Trump Has "No Permission" to Use My Songs

| Mon Feb. 1, 2016 1:40 PM EST

After several accounts surfaced of Donald Trump playing Adele's music at campaign events around the country, the pop megastar has finally stepped in to tell the world she never gave the GOP frontunner permission.

"Adele has not given permission for her music to be used for any political campaigning," her spokesman told the Independent on Monday, effectively asking the presidential hopeful to stop blasting her smash hits "Rolling in the Deep" and "Skyfall" to fire up crowds. 

This isn't the first time musicians have expressed disapproval of Trump for using their music. Back in June, when Trump first told the world he was running for president, Neil Young slammed him for playing "Rockin' in the Free World" for the announcement. Trump responded with characteristic Trumpiness:

(For the record, Neil Young "feels the Bern.")

But Trump might be a bit more disappointed by Adele's brush-off. The real estate mogul is a noted fan of the British singer: he even paused campaigning last November to attend the singer's one-night-only show in New York. According to several reports, Trump reportedly cut the line to get into the exclusive show.

As for Adele, this isn't the first time she has found herself tangled up in Republican politics. Just last week, Mike Huckabee released a head-scratching parody of "Hello." (Due to a copyright claim, the audio for the post was muted on YouTube, then un-muted.) She also credits former GOP vice presidential nominee and governor of Alaska Sarah Palin with launching her career in America, back in 2008.

Trump's Iowa Campaign Gets Hit With a Sex Discrimination Complaint

| Mon Feb. 1, 2016 1:35 PM EST

A Donald Trump field organizer who was fired in January has filed a sex discrimination complaint against Trump's campaign.

The New York Times reported on Sunday that Elizabeth Mae Davidson, a 26-year-old field organizer for the Trump campaign in Davenport, Iowa, filed  the complaint last Thursday with the Davenport Civil Rights Commission alleging that men who were doing the same work earned more money, were given more responsibility, and were treated more leniently in the campaign. 

Davidson recruited organizers for most of her region's 63 precincts and also opened the Trump campaign's second field office in Iowa. She was fired on January 14, the day after she was quoted in a different New York Times article about problems with the campaign in Iowa. The quotes attributed to her were about the process of recruiting volunteers and said nothing disparaging about the campaign. Davidson told the Times in an interview for Sunday's story that she was paid $2,000 a month, while several men with her same title—district representative—were paid between $3,500 and $4,000 per month. 

In her complaint, Davidson alleges that male district representatives have been quoted in the media without getting fired, and that her male peers were given the opportunity to organize and speak at rallies while her requests to do this work were ignored. Her complaint also alleges that when she and another female volunteer met Trump at a rally last summer, the presidential hopeful said, in reference to their appearance, "You guys could do a lot of damage."

In an interview with the Times, Trump denied making this comment and did not address the other allegations. He also explained that his staff had told him that Davidson "did a terrible job," and he criticized the paper for publishing this story the day before the Iowa caucuses. "A story like this," he said, "could damage my chances."

Health Update—So Far Filed Under "Huh?"

| Mon Feb. 1, 2016 1:19 PM EST

So what was the dexamethasone thing about last night? Here's the story.

During my first round of chemotherapy I took a three-med cocktail. One of the meds was dexamethasone, a corticosteroid. It helps the other drugs work better, and also seems to program cancerous myeloma cells to die on their own, which is a handy attribute. But one of the side effects is sleep disruption. For the first few weeks, it had no effect. But then it started disrupting my sleep on the day I took it. Then for a couple of days. Then all the time. Then even more. It was a pain in the ass, but for the most part kept under control with sleeping meds that varied over time.

Now I'm on a second round of chemo, and it's not working as well as we'd like. So a couple of weeks ago we added dex to the mix. It was half the dose I was taking last year, so I was hopeful the sleep disruption would take a long time to show up and would be milder than before. No such luck. Perhaps the first round created a heightened sensitivity to it? In any case, on the very first day I was up until 2 am. Hmmph. But maybe that was just a placebo effect I had talked myself into.

Again, no such luck. It's a weekly dose, and I took the second one on Saturday morning. I didn't sleep at all that night. Nor was I tired at all. In fact, kind of buzzed. I stayed awake all day Sunday, too. But last night I fell asleep normally and slept for nearly nine hours.

So how will this play out going forward? No telling. I'm in terra incognita. If it stays like this, it's not really a big deal. I'll just have a sleepless but otherwise pleasant night once a week. If it gets worse, though, I'll have lots of sleepless nights and start to feel like crap. We'll see! I'd just as soon not get back on the sleep meds, so hopefully it doesn't get worse. Unfortunately, I suspect that's a forlorn hope.