Monthly Archives: March 2014

Why Borrowers Pay Mortgage Insurance

The first search result for “why do borrowers pay pmi” on DuckDuckGo (fifth on Google) is this helpful page, which explains in as basic English as possible, why borrowers pay personal mortgage insurance and not the lender.

The reason I searched for this is because 1) I have a mortgage, 2) I pay for PMI, and 3) I wondered why I was paying for something that benefits someone else. It is basically to skirt the results of laws that were passed to fix a previous law to fix a previous law, an so forth. It’s shocking—utterly shocking—to me that a nonsensical situation is the end result of a paper trail of bureaucratic decrees.

It is all unnecessary.

If lenders paid for mortgage insurance, they would decide when to terminate it, based on whether or not they felt the insurance was still needed. Some lenders would probably reward borrowers after terminating the insurance. Borrowers could choose between two-tier rate plans and single-rate plans. The rules would be set in the market rather than by government.

It’s all unnecessary, yes, and vastly more confusing than if lenders and borrowers were only involved in the transaction, and not a third party that has no vested interest.

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Funerals in America are Expensive and Weird

From an old old article in The Atlantic: “The Undertaker’s Racket“:

Cemetery salesmen are also prone to confuse fact with fiction to their own advantage in discussing the law. Cemeteries derive a substantial income from the sale of vaults. The vault, a cement enclosure for the casket, is not only a money-maker; it facilitates upkeep of the cemetery by preventing the eventual subsidence of the grave as the casket disintegrates. In response to my inquiry, a cemetery salesman (identified on his card as a “memorial counsellor”) called at my house to sell me what he was pleased to call a “pre-need memorial estate”—in other words, a grave. After he had quoted the prices of the various graves, the salesman explained that a minimum of $120 must be added for a vault, which, he said, is “required by law.” Why is it required by law? To prevent the ground from caving in. But suppose I should be buried in one of those eternal caskets made of solid bronze? Those things are not as solid as they look; you’d be surprised how soon they fall apart. Are you sure it is required by law? I’ve been in this business fifteen years, I should know. Then would you be willing to sign this! I had been writing on a sheet of paper, “California State Law requires a vault for ground burial.”) The memorial counsellor swept up his colored photographs of memorial estates, backed out the door, and fled down the street.

Keep in mind this article is from 1963, so you’d have to multiply any dollar amounts you read there by around 7 to get accurate metrics.

Mitford mentions the interesting idea that the industry, particularly the actual funeral service, is designed to remove most indicators of death possible. This was not the case in past times.

Here’s another, much more recent article, focusing more on the practice of embalming.

Up until the Civil War, losing friends and family members was more frequent but no less painful than today. The main difference was that we cared for our dead at home. We bathed them, dressed them and placed them in the coldest room of the house — also known as the parlor — so that relatives and friends could pay their respects before burial. The Civil War interrupted this cycle. The dead didn’t always come home. “After the funeral journey of Abraham Lincoln’s embalmed body from Washington D.C. to Springfield, (embalming) slowly gained legitimacy,” Laderman writes. “Lincoln’s body served as son to those who lost children to anonymous graves.” Yet, at the beginning of the 20th century, embalming was still a procedure regarded with skepticism and repulsion by many. Embalming “had been employed in medical schools usually in secret to preserve cadavers for instruction in the middle of the 19th century,” writes Laderman.

It reads okay up until the end, where it takes a bizarre editorial bent. Everyone needs to be an damned activist these days.

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Invasion of the Moral Busybodies

I don’t know much about Cody but I found him engaging, though I didn’t listen to any of the other parts of his presentation yet. Take note of the social contract as the “big other” theory he brings up. It’s a tool of what C.S. Lewis called “moral busybodies“—bureaucrats, activists, and other state-as-religion believers use to encourage (browbeat) citizens to a collective national goal above all other goals.

Ed posted similar thoughts here recently. Being a disruptive force in itself isn’t terrible, but only in the proper context, though I’d think most of the situation is read incorrectly and you’re just acting up for a response. If you’ve ever been “offended” (and said as such) by words on a screen, or use the phrases “advocate for” or “bring awareness to,” or employing “trigger warnings” (the latest craze), you might be a moral busybody. These words are the engine bells that inform us down the tracks that the moral busybody train is barreling down, aiming to butt up against the activist’s version of “sin,” which in reality things that are categorized as bad thoughts—racism, sexism, bigotry, “hate.” The language manipulation of 1984 comes to mind here.

Sure, one could present a case that holding to any of those is a destabilizing force but it reality, bad beliefs affect the believer only and maybe a few close associates. They don’t incur a “social cost” inasmuch as it the phrase implies. People just basically want to control other people, and doing so toward a perceived good—the “big other” mentioned—can give the moral busybody a goal. Modifying others’ conscious mental though life is not as verboten as modifying others’ behaviors. We see former as an infringement on material liberties but the latter as accomplishing an Enlightenment duty. That’s all fine if that’s what gets your jimmies in a rustle, but things have consequences, always. There’s an inevitable blowback to mass social conditioning schemes once the subjects awaken to the experiment.

EDIT :: Part 2 of Cody’s presentation is here.

EDIT 2 :: Another coincidence…Captain Capitalism recently published a post on key words of moral busybodies, though they are for a specific context.

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American Government is a Failed Enlightenment Experiment

Watch from 11:27 – 15:26. My takeaway is that 1) Enlightenment philosophical ideals aren’t as great as we dress them up to be, and 2) an abstraction (in this case, the state) with people as its primary engine cannot be trusted with the exclusive use of force. Bear in mind that Molyneux is very much an Enlightenment-based philosophizer, too.

To be sure, “failed” is very subjective here—if you are a fan of large, expensive, obtrusive, destructive governments, then American government is a magnificent success.

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Non-Sickness Update

As promised in a post almost a month ago, I’m happy to report back that I’ve remained flu-free.

There were a few days, a few weekends ago, where I thought I was coming down with a bug, but nothing came of it. Sorry, Virus Men. Go pound sand and come back next year.

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Katie McGinty’s Video Selfie

This is the level of political campaigning and discourse in Pennsylvania: video selfies, genuine or faux (probably the latter).

Not that I care much since modern politics is really just like two guys with different tribal banners telling each other they are terrible people. And they’re both right but for the wrong reasons.

It is a little enjoyable to come across things like this, because it’s folly to strap on a commoner’s mask when the very definition of politician embodies a form of elitism. The bottom line: don’t take anything they say seriously.

I don’t even want to know what the Republican dork here is doing.

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Millennium Actress – Full Movie

Yeah, you can depict things how you like in books or film, particularly animated ones, but the main motivation behind Millennium Actress illustrates a realistic bit of attraction psychology.

Chiyoko spends her entire life chasing down a man with whom she spent only about a half a day, whose face she never fully saw, because of the dangerous excitement he embodied. He teased her with a brooding artistic vision that, to Chiyoko, was the antidote to the looming homemaker life her mother had planned for her.

All the while Chiyoko ignores Tachibana’s endless worship and white knighting, sometimes getting irritated or even angry at his professions of love and protection. The dope gets friendzoned in the worst way for decades while she risks her life for Mysterious Foreign Artist Guy.

I saw this again the other day and I think I realized the full brunt of the storytelling. You can watch the dubbed version here in its entirety.


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Waiting It Out

A few nights ago I Skyped with a good friend of many years who is struggling with severe under- and non-employment. He doesn’t have a steady job but does odd, mostly web-based projects that come along.

I’ve been in that dodge, too, earlier in life. Sometimes it springs out of mistakes you’ve made in the past, big or small, or it’s just a matter of circumstance. Thankfully I never entertained the toxic idea that I was owed anything because, say, I went to college or was never incarcerated. There are people who harbor these ideas and sometimes it comes into the light of day in nightmarish form.

It never filled my mind to file for unemployment, though it may have been morally justifiable, because accepting charity where there is no personal attachment between the giver and receiver has some ethical uncertainty with me. Besides the money issue, I would be opening my personal life for grumpy-faced bureaucrats to inventory, which also didn’t seem appealing. And this was before I entered into the “the government sucks” phase I’m in now.

My friend has a similar attitude, but there’s not much one can do, if one is doing everything “right” and circumstances just don’t want to straighten out, except wait. I had to wait much in the same way, financially, and part of having a healthy adult mind is recognizing the need to wait.

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Unnecessary Blog Design Update

I decided to take out the jQuery I mentioned in my last design post and just the plain Okay theme with a few small UI changes in an external CSS file.

I installed a plugin that will automatically add the Creative Commons footer to every blog post. I noticed that plenty of colophons on personal websites that aren’t blogs have outdated copyright years. It’s probably hardcoded when the site gets first designed and it’s just forgotten from that point on.

After clicking around and reading for ten minutes on how copyright law apply to non-corporate/personal websites (I’m more confused now than before the research), this probably isn’t a huge issue.

If you have a WordPress install, check here on how to insert the current year into your footer. If you’re doing normal HTML, this stackoverflow thread is a good, albeit more technical, place to start.

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Utterly Shocking: First Episode of Cosmos Reboot Contains Unscientific Propositions

I was going to do an original post on this but Wintery Knight did it sooner and better. Quoting J.W. Wartick:

The depiction of the multiverse with little-to-no qualification was alarming, for there is much debate over whether there even is such a multiverse, and if there is, to what extent it may be called a multiverse. The portrayal within this episode was essentially a fictitious account being passed off without qualification as something a lot of people believe. The wording used was that “many… suspect” there is such a universe. Well yes, that may be true, but to what extent can we test for these other universes? What models predict them and why? I am uninterested in how many people hold to a belief; I am interested in whether that belief is true.

I personally don’t care if it’s true or not. I’d care, if we’re talking about a material sciences program, whether a proposition is actually scientific in nature. Or, if not, if it is properly presented as non-scientific.

There are other errors besides scientific ones, and more in keeping with the tradition of Sagan’s wishful-thinking hagiography of Hypatia*. Quoting Casey Luskin:

During the first episode, Tyson devotes lengthy segments to promoting the old tale that religion is at war science, and strongly promotes the idea that religion opposes intellectual advancement.

One sec…going to ram my head through my Macbook screen here, then go buy a new one.

Okay, back.

I’ve punched this horse in the teeth many times before. I get the idea of needing a bad guy—I really do. It enhances your narrative and rallies people to your new idea. It’s the elephant gun for the modern marketing arsenal and we come to expect it from anything on TV. But the science vs. religion conflict is an Enlightenment myth and it’s the most egregious bit of misinformation that persists over the heads of general American media consumers like a dusty, crusty, un-touched-up halo from Masaccio’s Tribute Money.

From the Wikipedia entry on Draper-White’s conflict thesis (see also this essay on the subject from Alvin Plantinga):

Research on perceptions of science among the American public concludes that most religious groups see no general epistemological conflict with science, and that they have no differences with nonreligious groups in propensity to seek out scientific knowledge, although there may be epistemic or moral conflicts when scientists make counterclaims to religious tenets.[28][29] The Pew Center made similar findings and also noted that the majority of Americans (80–90%) strongly support scientific research, agree that science makes society and individual’s lives better, and 8 in 10 Americans would be happy if their children were to become scientists.[30] Even strict creationists tend to express very favorable views towards science.[31] A study of US college students concluded that the majority of undergraduates in both the natural and social sciences do not see conflict between science and religion. Another finding in the study was that it is more likely for students to move from a conflict perspective to an independence or collaboration perspective than vice versa.[32]

* I can’t entirely hate on Sagan. I read Pale Blue Dot and mostly loved it—loved it enough to use its title as a phrasal template for my new book’s title. I just don’t want to intellectually make out with the guy like some people do.

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