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September 29, 2008

Holy Crap! House Defeats Bailout Bill!

Wow. Apparently there are politicians with backbone in the House on both side of the aisle. In a stunning move, the House defeated the bailout bill, Bailout Fails in House:

WASHINGTON -- A bipartisan group of U.S. House lawmakers defeated a $700 billion rescue plan for Wall Street on Monday, rejecting pleas from the Bush administration and congressional leaders from both parties of the potential dire consequences of policymakers not acting to help financial markets.

The 205-228 vote against the plan sent stocks plummeting, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average down around 500 points as news of the vote spread through Wall Street.

The defeat came despite House leaders holding open the vote for well beyond the 15-minute time limit, supporters were unable to convince enough members of either party to switch their votes against the proposal.

Very interesting. I'm trying to get the actual party breakdown for the votes against, but it hasn't been posted yet. Here's another article on it, however, from the Washington Post, House Narrowly Defeats Bailout Legislation. And we have this from the Politico, House rejects bailout plan. It shows that 133 Republicans voted against it, and a stunning 95 Democrats - for the total of 220 against vs. 205 for.

Now we wait for the financial Armageddon that the politicians warned us about. Something tells me that although more banks and financial institutions might (and should) fail, we're going to be fine. Something will have to get passed, but this wasn't it.

Socialism is not the way.


Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008

There are a few issues afoot and I'm writing an article, but in the meantime I'd like to point out some of the provisions of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, as compiled by Deborah Solomon of the Wall Street Journal.

I've also uploaded the bill that is being debated now in Congress for your perusal:

Download bailoutbill20080928.pdf

It's still a terrible bill, but something needs to be done. This, or something similar, should deliver the psychological boost that will loosen up the credit markets. But as a conservative, this sickens me. And it doesn't solve any of the underlying issues that got us into this mess. Words can't describe how much taking this action this saddens me. And it scares me as well, since in large part the very architects (Democrat and Republican) that got us into the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression are the same architects of this plan. But it is what it is.

The Troubled Asset Relief Fund:
The bill authorizes $700 billion for the fund in installments. Treasury will first get $250 billion, with an additional $100 billion immediately accessible. Congress would have the option of blocking the final installment of $350 billion by issuing a joint resolution within 15 days of any requests.

How it works:
Treasury plans to hire asset managers to determine how to buy bad loans and other ailing assets from financial institutions. Many of the details, including pricing and purchase procedures, will be worked out between those managers and Treasury. The legislation requires Treasury to set guidelines within 45 days for pricing methods and setting the value of troubled assets, as well as mechanisms for purchasing assets, procedures for selecting asset managers and criteria for identifying troubled assets to buy.

The legislation requires Treasury to purchase assets at the lowest price, and allows the government to buy through auction or direct from institutions.

Treasury expects to start buying the simplest assets first -- mortgage-backed securities, for example -- followed by more complex securities. Treasury likely will publish a list of the assets it is seeking to purchase. Banks and other institutions are expected to submit bids in a competition to sell bad loans and securities.

Executive compensation:
The legislation places restrictions on executive compensation for certain companies that sell assets to Treasury. If Treasury buys assets from a company directly -- something it would do if a firm were failing -- then no "golden parachute" exit payments could be made during the period when Treasury has an ownership stake in the firm. Companies that sell assets to Treasury through an auction process will be subject to some limits. Firms that sell more than $300 million of assets to Treasury won't be allowed to make any new golden-parachute payments to top executives. A tax-deduction limit on compensation above $500,000 also will apply.

Equity stakes:
The legislation requires Treasury to receive warrants in companies that participate in the program. If a company sells its assets through an auction, Treasury will get a nominal amount of nonvoting warrants. If Treasury buys assets directly, it could get a majority equity stake.

The Troubled Asset Relief Fund will be overseen by a bipartisan congressional commission that will receive reports from Treasury every 30 days. The program will also be overseen by a board comprising the heads of Treasury, the Federal Reserve, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Housing and Urban Development Department and the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

The office of accountability will have an inspector-general office within Treasury.

Treasury will have to submit a written report to Congress no later than April 30 on the overall financial regulatory system and "its effectiveness at overseeing the participants in the financial markets, including the over-the-counter swaps market and government-sponsored enterprises" and recommend improvements.

Protecting taxpayers:
If after five years the government has a net loss, the president will be required to submit a legislative proposal to seek reimbursement from the financial institutions that participated.

Help for homeowners:
Treasury will buy mortgage-backed securities, mortgages and other assets secured by residential real estate. The legislation requires Treasury to use its position as the investor in those loans and securities to "encourage the servicers of the underlying mortgages" to help minimize foreclosures.

It also calls for Treasury to "identify opportunities" to acquire "classes of troubled assets" that will improve the ability of Treasury to help modify and restructure loans. The idea is that Treasury would be more patient with homeowners who have fallen behind on their payments than commercial lenders.

The bill would require Treasury to establish, alongside the asset-purchase plan, a program to insure mortgage-backed securities. Financial institutions that want to participate would essentially pay the government a fee and, in return, the government would insure their assets against any future losses.

The legislation would require the Securities and Exchange Commission to study so-called mark-to-market accounting standards, which require that firms reflect the market value of assets on their books. Such accounting has culminated in many financial institutions writing down big losses as the value of certain assets has fallen in price. The SEC would have to study the accounting rule's effect on balance sheets and report to Congress within 90 days of its findings.

I'll post the final bill when it's available.

September 27, 2008

New York Times Predicted Current Housing and Mortgage Crisis - in 1999

The American Thinker's editor, Thomas Lifson, has a great post up today. It's concerns a New York Times article, written by Steven Holmes in 1999, that clearly laid out (and celebrated) the loosening of lending standards that have directly caused the current economic and credit mess: Must-read to understand the Fannie Mae crisis.

The Times article, Fannie Mae Eases Credit To Aid Mortgage Lending, describes exactly what the Clinton Administration was trying to do - get more minorities, regardless of income or credit-worthiness, into their own homes. It was doomed to fail from the start, and the article acknowledges it.

In fact, the most telling paragraph from the article, and the one that is the most eerily prophetic, is the following:

In moving, even tentatively, into this new area of lending, Fannie Mae is taking on significantly more risk, which may not pose any difficulties during flush economic times. But the government-subsidized corporation may run into trouble in an economic downturn, prompting a government rescue similar to that of the savings and loan industry in the 1980's.

Well, that's certainly what's happened, all right...

Sometimes I just want to scream!

What Caused the Economic Crisis, and How to Get Out of It

The following is a phenomenal letter from a leading financial executive at a non-failing bank, describing spot-on how we got into this credit freeze-up mess and how best to extract ourselves. Unfortunately, it's not what we're doing. And get a load of who is going to make out with the "Paulson Plan". Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson's former company, Goldman Sachs!

(letter courtesy South Carolina Conservative)

This one came across the desk this morning. It’s a portion of letter going out today from John Allison, President & CEO of BB&T, to every member of the US Congress.

Key Points on “Rescue” Plan From A Healthy Bank’s Perspective

  1. Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae are the primary cause of the mortgage crisis. These government supported enterprises distorted normal market risk mechanisms. While individual private financial institutions have made serious mistakes, the problems in the financial system have been caused by government policies including, affordable housing (now sub-prime), combined with the market disruptions caused by the Federal Reserve holding interest rates too low and then raising interest rates too high.
  2. There is no panic on Main Street and in sound financial institutions. The problems are in high-risk financial institutions and on Wall Street.
  3. While all financial intermediaries are being impacted by liquidity issues, this is primarily a bailout of poorly run financial institutions. It is extremely important that the bailout not damage well run companies.
  4. Corrections are not all bad. The market correction process eliminates irrational competitors. There were a number of poorly managed institutions and poorly made financial decisions during the real estate boom. It is important that any rules post “rescue” punish the poorly run institutions and not punish the well run companies.
  5. A significant and immediate tax credit for purchasing homes would be a far less expensive and more effective cure for the mortgage market and financial system than the proposed “rescue” plan.
  6. This is a housing value crisis. It does not make economic sense to purchase credit card loans, automobile loans, etc. The government should directly purchase housing assets, not real estate bonds. This would include lots and houses under construction.
  7. The guaranty of money funds by the U.S. Treasury creates enormous risk for the banking industry. Banks have been paying into the FDIC insurance fund since 1933. The fund has a limit of $100,000 per client. An arbitrary, “out of the blue” guarantee of money funds creates risk for the taxpayers and significantly distorts financial markets.
  8. Protecting the banking system, which is fundamentally controlled by the Federal Reserve, is an established government function. It is completely unclear why the government needs to or should bailout insurance companies, investment banks, hedge funds and foreign companies.
  9. It is extremely unclear how the government will price the problem real estate assets. Priced too low, the real estate markets will be worse off than if the bail out did not exist. Priced too high, the taxpayers will take huge losses. Without a market price, how can you rationally determine value?
  10. The proposed bankruptcy “cram down” will severely negatively impact mortgage markets and will damage well run institutions. This will provide an incentive for homeowners who are able to pay their mortgages, but have a loss in their house, to take bankruptcy and force losses on banks. (Banks would not have received the gains had the houses appreciated.) This will substantially increase the risk in mortgage lending and make mortgage pricing much higher in the future.
  11. Fair Value accounting should be changed immediately. It does not work when there are no market prices. If we had Fair Value accounting, as interpreted today, in the early 1990’s the United States financial system would have crashed. Accounting should not drive economic activity, it should reflect it.
  12. The proposed new merger accounting rules should be deferred for at least five years. The new merger accounting rules are creating uncertainty for high quality companies who might potentially purchase weaker companies.
  13. The primary beneficiaries of the proposed rescue are Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. The Treasury has a number of smart individuals, including Hank Paulson. However, Treasury is totally dominated by Wall Street investment bankers. They do not have knowledge of the commercial banking industry. Therefore, they can not be relied on to objectively assess all the implications of government policy on all financial intermediaries. The decision to protect the money funds is a clear example of a material lack of insight into the risk to the total financial system.
  14. Arbitrary limits on executive compensation will be self defeating. With these limits, only the failing financial institutions will participate in the “rescue,” effectively making this plan a massive subsidy for incompetence. Also, how will companies attract the leadership talent to manage their business effectively with irrational compensation limits?

I can't find anything in here that I disagree with. Especially with #8. This is a housing and bank related crisis. Insurance and other companies should not be a part of this. For example, the just-taken-over AIG needed a line of credit for one small part of its business, financial services. The rest of the company was fine. Overall, the insurance giant is a one trillion dollar company. It did not need to be nationalized. The reason why it was in trouble was because it had to raise capital quickly as its credit rating had been downgraded - due to bad sub-prime credit default swap derivatives sold over the past three years. Hank Greenberg, the company's former Chief Executive and the man who built and ran AIG for over 40 years was in a position to assist, but was rebuffed because of petty,  politically driven bull-crap.

So the Federal government stepped in with a line-of-credit of their own, and took over 80% of the shares of the company. Think about this for a second -  buying 80% of a one trillion dollar company for an $85 billion line of credit. That's obscene!

And that's what the 'rescue' bill will allow Treasury to do with other non-bank related companies, creating a situation where the entire financial services industry could be nationalized over the next few years. That's not free-market capitalism, that's socialism.

We'll see what the rescue bill finally looks like. My instinct is for the House conservatives to vote against it, no matter how much it is modified. The bill will still pass - Democrats need no GOP votes to get the 'rescue' bill to President Bush's desk for signature.

But the Dems have said that they won't pass this bill without being joined en masse by the GOP, specifically the House GOP (where the only remaining fiscal conservatives in Washington are to be found). Why? Because they know that this is a bad and very unpopular bill, and want to spread out the blame and political fallout. The Democrats shouldn't be allowed to get away with that.

September 26, 2008

Democrat Blames Democrats for Last Night's Bailout Blowup

Well this is certainly interesting. The Hill is reporting (Dem: House GOP not consulted enough on bailout) that members of the House GOP were correct in forcing a re-evaluation of the bailout bill yesterday at the White House meeting. Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.) couches his statement in the most unflattering way to the GOP as possible, but the underlying truth is laid bare - The Senate and House Democratic leadership attempted to ram through this rescue plan without any significant input from conservatives in the House - the only place where conservatives seem to exist in Washington these days.

Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.) on Friday suggested Democratic leaders did not solicit enough input from House Republicans on the financial rescue package.

During an interview on CNBC, Kanjorski pointed out that House Republicans have balked at the new compromise on the bailout.

Asked whether House GOP lawmakers are right to believe they were slighted, Kanjorski replied, “I don't know that we included them in enough, and that's always a dangerous thing in politics. Remember, you're dealing with egomaniacs. We're all egomaniacs down here.”

Kanjorski, who faces a difficult reelection race, is a key player on the bailout package. He is chairman of the House Financial Services subcommittee on Capital Markets, Insurance, and Government-Sponsored Enterprises.

Kanjorski said, “Now, what we have to do is open that door for the House Republicans, bring them on in and say, ‘Guys, you know, we can't cast your idea aside.’ Let's listen to it ... I think we have to allow them to talk their idea out. We have to be willing to listen.”

The way this whole plan is evolving is getting scarier and scarier. It's important for leaders of both parties in Congress, along with the President, to repeatedly and loudly announce to the public that the rescue plan will get done shortly. Because, of course, one will. That will satisfy the markets, at least into the beginning of next week, which should provide time for a better rescue deal to be drafted.

But purposely excluding half of one house of Congress is not the way to conduct such important business. I hope McCain points this out later today, and in tonight's debate.

The Democratic chairman of the House Financial Services subcommittee on Capital Markets, Insurance, and Government-Sponsored Enterprises has just written McCain's lines for him:

"I went to Washington to make sure that everyone's voices and concerns were heard in drafting this key legislation. As Democratic Representative Kanjorski pointed out today, half of the House membership was being intentionally excluded by House and Senate Democratic leadership, which is no way to run a country. I'm glad I accomplished my goal, and so should the American people."

Hold It - The Public Hasn't Seen Any Plan Yet

While the irony of watching the Democrats (approval level - 9%) support and force through a President Bush (approval level - 34%) crafted economic bailout bill that Gallup just announced has public approval of only 22% is wonderful, the fact of the matter is that something has to be done - and quite soon.

The only focus of this rescue should be action to restore liquidity to the credit markets. That's the problem - the economy is freezing up. Anything else should addressed in separate legislation.

The most alarming thing about the current (Friday 9/26/08 - 11:45AM) situation is that with all of this talk about a "deal in place", the public has not been allowed to see the specifics of any of it. The only thing even remotely close to a clear explanation of what Chris Dodd and Barney Frank are doing is the following set of agreed upon principles, which should scare the living daylights out of the public (and which is why conservatives in the house popped a gasket yesterday afternoon). This was released, by the way, yesterday afternoon after 4:00PM - when Dodd and Frank thought it was a done deal.

Agreement on Principles

1. Taxpayer Protection

a. Requires Treasury Secretary to set standards to prevent excessive or inappropriate executive compensation for participating companies

b. To minimize risk to the American taxpayer, requires that any transaction include equity sharing

c. Requires most profits to be used to reduce the national debt

2. Oversight and Transparency

a. Treasury Secretary is prohibited from acting in an arbitrary or capricious manner or in any way that is inconsistent with existing law

b. Establishes strong oversight board with cease and desist authority

c. Requires program transparency and public accountability through regular, detailed reports to Congress disclosing exercise of the Treasury Secretary’s authority

d. Establishes an independent Inspector General to monitor the use of the Treasury Secretary’s authority

e. Requires GAO audits to ensure proper use of funds, appropriate internal controls, and to prevent waste, fraud, and abuse

3. Homeownership Preservation

a. Maximize and coordinate efforts to modify mortgages for homeowners at risk of foreclosure

b. Requires loan modifications for mortgages owned or controlled by the Federal Government

c. Directs a percentage of future profits to the Affordable Housing Fund and the Capital Magnet Fund to meet America’s housing needs

4. Funding Authority

a. Treasury Secretary’s request for $700 billion is authorized, with $250 billion available immediately and an additional $100 billion released upon his or her certification that funds are needed

b. final $350 billion is subject to a Congressional joint resolution of disapproval

This is garbage. It nationalizes the nation's financial industry. And it rewards the individuals responsible for this crisis in the first place - the borrowers who had no business getting loans and the lenders who enabled them. I repeat - it doesn't effectively deal with the underlying issue causing this mess - bad and non-performing mortgages.

Something similar to the Paulson plan is necessary, and quickly. It admittedly only deals with the securitized assets part of the deal - the so-called toxic assets. But it is important for Treasury to establish a market where none exists right now - for the frozen mortgage-backed securities now clogging up the world's economy.

As for the financial institutions themselves, we already have in place an entity that can take over and liquidate troubled banks - the FDIC. We should throw public money into that and allow the banks that made bad decisions go out of business. As the problem with the failing banks are not deposit related, but bad loans and bad asset management, FDIC deposit insurance should be expanded to cover most, if not all cash deposits by individuals. That would prevent bank runs and panic.

What about the banks that are teetering on the brink of collapse? Well, the Wall Street Journal reminds us that under a 1991 law, the FDIC has the authority to assist struggling banks by providing them with public capital. That should be triggered at once, with conditions (no free hand outs).

Propping up failed borrowers, as Congress is attempting to legislate, is populist clap-trap and will only make any attempt to price the securitized "toxic assets" more difficult. The 94% of responsible, mortgage paying taxpayers are already on the hook for the 6% who are not. It is wrong for the taxpayers to essentially take over paying insolvent borrowers' mortgages, allowing them live in their homes tax free. That's the underlying truth behind "a. Maximize and coordinate efforts to modify mortgages for homeowners at risk of foreclosure". We're just delaying the inevitable.

Let the foreclosures proceed. If necessary, create another temporary public entity that would purchase foreclosed assets at some reasonable discount in order to re-capitalize financial institutions. Then sell the houses when the market improves. That is the only way that the housing market will truly bottom out, and economic expansion can begin. Because of aggressive sub-prime lending, the housing market (prices, etc.) became artificially inflated. We can't allow that to continue, or to happen all over again.

As for the argument that more foreclosures will only make things worse? For some individuals, of course. But as it affects the main cause of our current credit freeze, that's simply not true. The market is already assuming that the cash flow (which the mortgage-backed securities are based on) from the sub-prime market loans are zero, and the asset value is not much better. That's why the credit market is frozen. Setting a very real "mark to market" asset cost via foreclosure with eventual resale is the way to go. Cash-flow on the non-performing assets will cease, of course, but as I've said that's already been factored in.

Knowing that Treasury authorized, funded, and is standing by to be that mortgage-backed securities "buyer of last resort" should, in of itself, start credit flowing again. To support the re-stabilization of the credit market for the rest of us, the Fed should be willing to pump substantial cash into the market, as it is already doing.

More specificity about what's currently on the table and solutions to our crisis would be nice. But neither we, nor the general public, have seen it yet - which is the most frightening part of this whole entire process. We're trusting the people who created this mess in the first place - Congress - to get us out of it.

Anyone feel secure about that? Thank God for the conservatives in the House. 

Meanwhile, More Iraq Benchmarks Are Achieved

As the surge in Iraq has succeeded, the embarrassed Democrats have refocused their complaints on the fact that 'political reconciliation' has not been achieved. Putting aside the fact that we don't even have political reconciliation in the United States, any move towards 'reconciliation' was always predicated on security - why 'reconcile' with your religious and political opponent if you're about to be killed and the country is headed towards chaos, as it was last year.

Guess what? So called 'political reconciliation' has finally been achieved, due to the increased security provided by the surge! Here's the scoop, from the Wall Street Journal, Iraq Political Progress:

For some better news this week, turn the channel to Iraq. The Parliament in Baghdad just undid the biggest political knot in the country. Wednesday's deal to hold provincial elections opens the way for former insurgents and their supporters, mainly Sunni Arabs, to join the democratic process in Iraq. That in turn should help consolidate the stunning security gains of the past year.

We used to hear from Joe Biden, the Pentagon and others on both sides of the aisle in Washington that only political reconciliation and a U.S. force pullout could stem the violence. They got it backwards. The "surge" and General David Petraeus's new counterinsurgency strategy, in a matter of months, turned or neutralized Sunni and Shiite militias and all but defeated al Qaeda in Iraq. Only now that it's calmer do Iraqis feel secure enough to make political progress.

Under the compromise, elections are to be held by January in 14 provinces. Expect Sunnis to win a large chunk of seats in Anbar, Diyala and other regions; most Sunnis sat out the previous polls in 2005 and won't make that mistake again. The notable exception is Tamim, home to the oil-rich city of Kirkuk disputed by Kurds and Sunnis. Iraqi parliamentarians agreed to kick this problem down the road. Elections there will be put off into the spring once disputes over voter rolls and other questions are resolved. This was the necessary compromise to break the deadlock in Baghdad.

Less noticed but also critical is the manner of voting. In the coming provincial elections, Iraqis will choose from a slate of candidates nominated by political parties. Three years ago, they got to vote only for a "closed slate" of parties without knowing which particular politician would end up representing them in the regional or national assemblies.

The change to a so-called open slate is a step forward. It makes politicians more directly accountable to their constituents and reduces the power of party bosses. The national elections, which are expected by 2010 but were also held up by the dispute over the provincial vote, are expected to be open slate, as well.

This is far from perfect, as the article goes on to admit. But it's a huge step forward, and one that would have been impossible if the United States had taken the steps that Democrats and Barack Obama - surrender to al Qaeda and the terrorists in Iraq.

Excellent news...

Offshore Oil Drilling to Expire

Although there have been a few stories in the mainstream media over the past few weeks acknowledging the probability of the expiration of the Congressional off-shore drilling ban, it's finally become fact (well, almost).

When it became apparent that the Democrats were going to offer a sham energy bill when Congress convened after their August recess, it became vital to consider alternative. Why pass a bill just to pass a bill - and accept something that would be worse than doing nothing at all.

It was especially true in regards to the Congressional off-shore drilling ban. Luckily, ending that was easy. The ban had to be re-approved every year for it to stay in effect. So, just don't reauthorize it.

That's what happened yesterday, as Scientific American tells us (I know, I have some strange reading habits - but it's really good for the most part!), House votes to let offshore drilling ban expire.

A 26-year moratorium on offshore drilling will expire on Wednesday, after the House approved a temporary-spending package today sans a planned extension of the ban. The bill was approved by a 370-to-58 margin, hours after the Democratic majority nixed a provision that would have maintained the prohibition on drilling off the U.S. coast line.

The measure is likely to be approved by the Senate within a few days, the Associated Press reports. President Bush had threatened to veto the package if it extended the ban.

Democrats backed away from their longstanding support of the drilling limit over the summer, after fuel prices skyrocketed and consumer discontent over the surging costs became a top issue on the presidential campaign trail. Both candidates support offshore drilling; Republican John McCain wants drilling allowed on the Outer Continental Shelf, while Barack Obama backs offshore drilling if it's accompanied by development of alternative energy sources.

It's not clear whether oil companies will capitalize on the expiration — or if drilling offshore can really make the U.S. fuel independent. A separate energy package approved by the House last week would allow drilling 50 to 100 miles from the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. But much to the chagrin of the industry and Republicans, that legislation would also scrap $18 billion in tax breaks for oil companies.

Some of the above is your average left-wing claptrap, common when a scientific publication delves into politics. For example, Barack Obama was strongly against off-shore drilling until he somewhat modified his position several weeks ago. And John McCain has always strongly supported the development of alternative energy sources. Also, the energy bill passed by the House last week is a train wreck, and will not get by the Senate as written, if at all.

But the overall message of the piece is true - the off-shore oil drilling ban is dead at last. Thank God for that...

Hospital Time Out, But I'm Back

Of course, during the biggest financial and political story in the past 50 years, I had to go to the hospital - this time with a family member. Two articles I was working on Wednesday for publishing yesterday morning - dead. Posts on my site Wednesday and Thursday - dead. Posts on American Thinker Wednesday and Thursday - dead.

Family member - alive, luckily. But by the time I got back at about 3:00PM yesterday, I was brain dead. I couldn't even read anything, let alone write.

Seem to be better now. Just wanted to let you know that if something important is going on and I'm not writing about it (or anything else - I rarely write about things I now nothing about), it usually means that I'm dealing with something even more important - usually health related. Such is the life of someone who seems to be the only one around that actually takes care of family members and loved ones (just kidding - kinda).

September 23, 2008

The Godfather - The Coppola Restoration is Released

As a side note, a newly restored edition of the quintisential American film trilogy was released on DVD and Blue-Ray today: The Godfather - The Coppola Restoration Giftset.

It's a must own for anyone interested in American cinema. There's a fine new review of this specific edition posted by "Cubist" on the site here.