Saturday, May 31, 2008

Scott McClellan and the Bush Legacy


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McClellan: I Never Said the War Was a Mistake...


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Friday, May 30, 2008

Scott McClellan owes us more

Scott McClellan on Countdown with Keith Olberman, Part 1

I urge you to watch this clip of Scott McClellan being interviewed by Keith Olberman to discuss his new book, What Happened Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception.

Here are some quotes from the interview:

“I got caught up in the Washington game in terms of spinning and obfuscation, secrecy, and stonewalling and things like that”.

The intelligence was packaged together in such a way as to make it sound more ominous and grave and urgent than it really was.”

“What I get to in this book is so important to understand, so we can learn from this and not make these mistakes again where we are rushing into a war that now is very clearly one that was unnecessary.”

I appreciate Scott McClellan for writing this book. It is important that the truth be told. However, for McClellan to bear his soul and feel cleansed and make a handsome profit off of the book in the process is not very satisfying. Over 4000 American service men have been killed, approximately 85,000 Iraqi are dead, the war has cost of over $2 trillion, and it has left the mid-east destabilized and the world less safe. McClellan should not only tell the truth, he should apologize for his role in this unnecessary war, donate all profits from the book to a worthy cause and commit the rest of his life to the cause of good government. He should atone for his sins.

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New Dunkin' Donut Campaign

Since Dunkin' Donut caved to the right wing xenophobic fringe over a little neck scarf with some fringe, I thought they may need a new ad campaign to replace the Rachel Ray campaign they pulled, so I thought I would try to help them out. Below are my suggestions for some ad campaign slogans around which to build an ad campaign. Now, I am not an advertising professional, so I don't know how good these are, but they are my contribution.

Dunkin’ Donuts: Glazed and confused
Dunkin’ Donuts: We have holes in our head
Dunkin’ Donuts: Too sweet for terrorist
Dunkin’ Donuts: We will blow you away but won’t blow you up.
Dunkin’ Donuts: We cater your party and your prejudices.

Dunkin' Donuts: The choice of baseball-cap-wearing Americans; not Arabic-headscarf-wearing Jihadist.


Ok, if I need to leave this to the professionals just tell me. If you have a better campaign ideal for Dunkin' Donuts, lets hear it.

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Hillary: We all remember Bobby Kennedy ....


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I Love Country Music

Yes, this is in poor taste. I wouldn't wear it myself but it does bring a smile to my face.

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Is Rachel Ray a Muslim Terrorist?


Are These People Nuts!

It seems that the cute little Rachel Ray of daytime TV and the Food Channel has caused an uproar by appearing in a Dunkin' Donut commercial wearing a scarf around her neck that resembles an Arabic headscarf.

Michelle Malkin, a commentator for Fox News, apparently started the uproar when she pointed out in her syndicated column that the paisley scarf worn by Ray in the ad resembles a traditional keffiyeh headscarf . “The keffiyeh, for the clueless”, said Malkin, “is the traditional scarf of Arab men that has come to symbolize murderous Palestinian jihad. Popularized by Yasser Arafat and a regular adornment of Muslim terrorists appearing in beheading and hostage-taking videos, the apparel has been mainstreamed by both ignorant (and not-so-ignorant) fashion designers, celebrities, and left-wing icons.” (link)

Following that, if that was where it started, the news spread throughout the blogesphere and apparently complaints poured into Dunkin Donut and bowing to pressure, Dunkin' Donut immediately pulled the commercial.

WHAT? This is Nuts! Remember when fanatical Asian Communist regimes considered people who wore glasses or owned western classical music to be “enemies of the people” and they were killed or sent to reeducation camps? Remember the Salem Witch trials?

We on the right mock the conformity imposed by the left and call it “political correctness.” This is worse than the political correctness of the left. If your loyalty is suspect because you wear a paisley black and white scarf we are in big trouble. What next? Do I need to hide my oriental Rugs? I think I have a copy of a book by Khalil Gibran in my house; maybe I ought to burn it. I have some ceramic tiles I brought back from a vacation to Turkey and they have Arabic calligraphy on them. Is it time to bury them in the basement? What about Turkish tobacco? What about building build in the Moorish style; are they going to be torched? These people are crazy!



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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

EX-Bush Aide McClellan Says Public was Misled on Iraq

By Edwin Chen and Holly Rosenkrantz

May 28 (Bloomberg) -- Former White House press secretary Scott McClellan says in a memoir that President George W. Bush manipulated public opinion through a ``political propaganda campaign'' to justify going to war in Iraq.

McClellan, a longtime Bush loyalist from his Texas days, also writes that the news media largely failed to critically examine the administration's justifications for invading Iraq, according to a copy of the book obtained by Bloomberg News. The book is scheduled to be sold in bookstores next week.

The memoir, ``What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception,'' adds to the record of critical examinations of Bush and his administration as the president nears the end of his term. It also will bolster Democratic and Republican opponents of the war. ( link)

Comment: If anyone still doubts that we were lied to and manipulated into an unnecessary war with Iraq, here is more evidence. This is not from some leftist wacko or partisan Democrat but from a former Bush loyalist. By pointing out the mistakes and lies that led us into Iraq, I am not now suggesting we should cut and run. To prematurely get out would be as foolish and dangerous as the initial invation, but the turth is important.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Dear Senator Alexander, Hang tough.

Dear Senator Alexander,

I read in today’s Tennessean that TV ads would start airing today to pressure you to vote to scuttle the Lieberman-Warner Cap and Trade bill (Climate bill foes press senator). According to the article you, along with Republican Senator Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina and Democratic Senators Robert Byrd and Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia and Max Baucas and Jon Tester of Montana were being targeted. The Club for Growth is spending a quarter of a million dollars for this ad campaign.

I admit, I myself have strong reservations about Cap and Trade legislation. In theory it should work but it is costly and hard to get right. The European Union did not get it right, and emission actually increased under the European Cap and Trade. Nevertheless, we should work on it and try to get it right. We should not give up until we see the final product.

I would much prefer we had a carbon tax but I guess we have no leader willing to advocate any “tax.” I think a carbon tax bill could be sold to the American people, if it was revenue neutral. The pitch could be that we are going to tax carbon emissions which we want less of, and that for every dollar generated by the carbon tax we will reduce the tax on income, which we want more of. Unfortunately, a Carbon Tax is not on the table and a Cap and Trade is.

In the Club for Growth ads they are going to allege that a Cap and Trade bill will impose massive new taxes, regulations, and wealth redistribution. Unfortunately, this is hard to deny. While it is not a tax per se, it mandates new cost to greenhouse-emitting industries and the cost will be passed on to consumers. The effect is the same as a tax. A new regulatory mechanism will have to be created to allocate and sell carbon credits and monitor compliance. The bill will drive up energy cost, just as would a carbon tax, so to help the poor deal with this higher cost, the bill contains a provision to lower taxes for the lower income. They also allege that it will harm the economy. As a conservative myself, I don’t like any of that.

Unfortunately, the things they say about a Cap and Trade bill are all true. Whether it is a Cap and Trade approach, a Carbon Tax, or a hodgepodge of Command and Control and Subsidize, solving the problem of global warming is going to be costly and painful. But, we must ask ourselves what is the alternative. If the science is to be believed, we are talking about more than some drowned Polar Bears. We are talking about the submersion of all low-lying coastal areas, increased refugees from low-lying areas and arid regions of the world, famine, wars, and massive mortality and economic losses. By the time the worst effects occur, it will be too late to reverse them. We cannot afford to do nothing. The real inconvenient truth is that we cannot solve the problem of global warming without considerable pain and cost.

Senator, it is going to take courage to stand firm and seek a solution to this most serious problem. I do not expect you to pledge to support the current bill. It needs a lot of work. Please, however, do not take it off the table. We must find a solution to this problem. Global warming may be as important of a challenge as World War II or the Cold War.

When the alternative is horrible to contemplate, we must do what needs to be done. To counter the Club of Growth and others who will come after you, you must be bold in addressing the seriousness of the problem we are facing and convince the public that there is no easy solution. There are no “ten easy things you can do to stop global warming”. To solve this problem is going to require real statesmen who are willing to risk their own political future in order to avert a worldwide crisis of terrible proportions.

Please be strong. Do the right thing. Don’t buckle. May God bless you and give you strength.

Sincerely,
Rod Williams

CC: A Disgruntled Republican

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Corker: Cap-and-Trade Substitute Amendment is Far From Ready For Prime Time

Press Release from Tennessee Senator Bob Corker , May 22, 2008 , WASHINGTON, D.C.

U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said today that the latest version of the Lieberman-Warner cap-and-trade bill (Climate Security Act, S.2191) introduced this week is not ready for prime time.

“If a cap-and-trade bill becomes law, every single American will pay more for gasoline, more for electricity, more for food, more for everything they buy as a result,” said Corker. We believe that any money generated from a cap-and-trade system should be returned to the American citizens burdened with these additional costs, and while we appreciate the step the bill sponsors have taken in this latest version–the bill is far from ready for prime time.

“This is a massive spending bill that uses non-discretionary spending—funded in essence by a tax on the American people—to spend trillions of dollars on new and existing government programs. Rather than using the revenue generated from this cap-and-trade system to fund new and existing government programs, would it not make more sense to return the revenue generated directly to the citizens who will be bearing the brunt of the costs associated with implementing this program?

Under the bill, credits would be freely allocated to entities, such as states, that don’t have to reduce emissions but are able to sell those credits and use that money to assist consumers through rebates or public programs.

“I believe we need to increase the amount of allowances that are auctioned, rather than giving them away for free to other entities who are supposed to use the value of those allowances to benefit the public. In my view, American citizens would be better served receiving relief directly rather than relying on middlemen to provide that relief through government programs.

“I also believe we should eliminate all international offsets as a way for emitters to comply with the U.S. carbon cap. There are serious questions about the integrity of many of these projects, and it is difficult to determine whether these projects would have occurred anyway. In addition, these offsets would have a distorting affect on the U.S. cap-and-trade market and would lead to even more American dollars being spent overseas in countries like China, instead of in America.

“If cap-and-trade legislation is done properly, we see an opportunity to marry the tremendous passion for the environment with the need to have energy security in our country, and we look forward to the debate on the floor and continuing to work constructively with the bill sponsors.”

Noting that climate change and cap-and-trade would be significant issues facing Congress, Corker has spent his first 16 months in office delving into the complexity of the policy. Last May 2007, he traveled to Europe with Energy Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) to meet with European Union officials, carbon traders, representatives from the utility industry, and cement manufacturers. In July, Corker went to Greenland with Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) to view the effects of climate change. He has also spent countless hours with Tennessee-based industry, conservation groups, and experts discussing the impacts of climate change legislation.

In April, Corker began making presentations to his colleagues outlining his concerns with the bill.

Commentary

Bob Corker is quickly emerging as one of the best informed U.S. Senators on the complex issue of energy policy and global warming. I am proud of the work he is doing in this regard. I wish however that Corker, or someone, would introduce a revenue-neutral Carbon Tax instead of relying on Cap and Trade. A Carbon Tax is much less subject to manipulation, and is more immediate and direct. While many pundits and economist have expressed support for a Carbon Tax as the best way to combat global warming, no elected official has stepped forward to propose it.

Cap and Trade is the next-best approach for addressing the issue of carbon emission and is much preferred to the approach of subsidizing favored technologies and attempts to regulate emission by mandating reductions. Both a Carbon Tax and a Cap and Trade rely on market forces to achieve results. Since a Cap and Trade Bill is what is before us and a Carbon Tax is not, I am reluctantly supporting Cap and Trade.


Cap and Trade can be very complex. If it is done wrong, it can put distortions in the economy and be ineffective. If done wrong, then it will take a while to discover it is not achieving the desired results and increased greenhouse emissions will, in the meantime, continue. Congress will probably be very reluctant to revisit a Cap and Trade bill once one is adopted so it is very important that they get it right the first time.

A workable, effective Cap and Trade policy is going to have two groups of enemies: Those who don't want to do anything, and those who are so passionate about the issue they will support anything, even if it is a poorly designed program. Those of us who believe the issue of combating global warming is important, must hope that Congress gets it right and passes a good Cap and Trade bill. Making sure Congress passes a good Cap and Trade bill must be the the goal; not just passing a Cap and Trade Bill.

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Friday, May 23, 2008

Pigs at the Trough

How true. I lifted this from Vulcan's Hammer.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

How They Voted on The Farm Bill

After a wink and a nod from the President, letting Republicans know it was OK to vote for the Farm Bill, it passed by a veto- proof margin in both houses of Congress. President Bush who was reluctant to veto any spending bill passed by a Republican Congress, apparently feels he needs to go though the motions of vetoing at least some excessive spending bill passed by a Democratic Congress. However, it is all a game and the President did not intend for his veto to be sustained. Apparently, he thinks we are so stupid, we will not see how the game is really played.

The farm bill was an absolutely terrible bill. It increased spending by 44% above last year’s level. It contains millions in non-farm pork spending, it subsidizes multimillionaire farmers, it increases food prices to the consumer, it makes corn syrup so cheap that it is added to products that don’t need corn syrup, it undermines American leadership on trade and puts farmers in undeveloped countries at a competitive disadvantage which keeps poor countries from developing a modern agricultural sector.

I have below a list of how each Senator voted. I have also listed the vote of the Tennessee Congressmen. To see how congressmen in your state voted, click here.

I did not expect better from the Democrats but I am deeply disappointed in a good many Republicans. You will note that some prominent Republicans, many who will brag about their conservative credentials and blast their opponents as "liberal", voted for this bill. I have highlighted a few of their names. While I am not going to turn against someone over one single vote, anyone who voted for this bill should not be taken very seriously if they rail against wasteful government spending.

In looking at the list below, I am very disappointed in my own two Senators, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker. I have admired and respected both of these men. I have thought they were rational, moderate, responsible, fiscally conservative public servants. I have voted for them and made modest contributions to their campaigns. They disappoint me.

Pleased to see voting against the bill in defiance of his own party is my own representative, Congressman Jim Cooper. Representative Cooper is a Democrat. If the next time we have a senatorial election in Tennessee, Democrat Jim Cooper should challenge either of our Republican senators, I might just vote for Cooper. This disgruntled Republican might just become a conservative Democrat.

How the Senate Voted:

Alabama

Aye Sessions, Jefferson[R]
Aye Shelby, Richard [R]
Alaska
Aye Murkowski, Lisa [R]
Aye Stevens, Ted [R]
Arizona
Nay Kyl, Jon [R]
No Vote McCain, John [R]
Arkansas
Aye Lincoln, Blanche [D]
Aye Pryor, Mark [D]
California
Aye Feinstein, Dianne [D]
No Vote Boxer, Barbara [D]
Colorado
Aye Allard, Wayne [R]
Aye Salazar, Ken [D]
Connecticut
Aye Lieberman, Joseph [I]
No Vote Dodd, Christopher [D]
Delaware
Aye Carper, Thomas [D]
No Vote Biden, Joseph [D]
Florida
Aye Martinez, Mel [R]
No Vote Nelson, Bill [D]
Georgia
Aye Chambliss, C. [R]
Aye Isakson, John [R]
Hawaii
Aye Akaka, Daniel [D]
Aye Inouye, Daniel [D]
Idaho
Aye Craig, Larry [R]
Aye Crapo, Michael [R]
Illinois
Aye Durbin, Richard [D]
No Vote Obama, Barack [D]
Indiana
Aye Bayh, B. [D]
Nay Lugar, Richard [R]
Iowa
Aye Grassley, Charles [R]
Aye Harkin, Thomas [D]
Kansas
Aye Brownback, Samuel [R]
Aye Roberts, Pat [R]
Kentucky
Aye Bunning, Jim [R]
Aye McConnell, Mitch [R]
Louisiana
Aye Landrieu, Mary [D]
Aye Vitter, David [R]
Maine
Aye Snowe, Olympia [R]
Nay Collins, Susan [R]
Maryland
Aye Cardin, Benjamin [D]
Aye Mikulski, Barbara [D]
Massachusetts
Aye Kennedy, Edward [D]
Aye Kerry, John [D]
Michigan
Aye Levin, Carl [D]
Aye Stabenow, Debbie Ann [D]
Minnesota
Aye Coleman, Norm [R]
Aye Klobuchar, Amy [D]
Mississippi
Aye Cochran, Thad [R]
Aye Lott, Trent [R]
Missouri
Aye Bond, Christopher [R]
Aye McCaskill, Claire [D]
Montana
Aye Baucus, Max [D]
Aye Tester, Jon [D]
Nebraska
Aye Nelson, Ben [D]
Nay Hagel, Charles [R]
Nevada
Aye Reid, Harry [D]
Nay Ensign, John [R]

New Hampshire
Nay Gregg, Judd [R]
Nay Sununu, John [R]
New Jersey
Aye Menendez, Robert [D]
Nay Lautenberg, Frank [D]
New Mexico
Aye Bingaman, Jeff [D]
Aye Domenici, Pete [R]
New York
Aye Schumer, Charles [D]
No Vote Clinton, Hillary [D]
North Carolina
Aye Dole, Elizabeth [R]
Nay Burr, Richard [R]
North Dakota
Aye Conrad, Kent [D]
Aye Dorgan, Byron [D]
Ohio
Aye Brown, Sherrod [D]
Nay Voinovich, George [R]
Oklahoma
Aye Coburn, Thomas [R]
Aye Inhofe, James [R]
Oregon
Aye Smith, Gordon [R]
Aye Wyden, Ron [D]
Pennsylvania
Aye Casey, Robert [D]
Aye Specter, Arlen [R]
Rhode Island
Nay Reed, John [D]
Nay Whitehouse, Sheldon [D]
South Carolina
Aye Graham, Lindsey [R]
Nay DeMint, Jim [R]
South Dakota
Aye Johnson, Tim [D]
Aye Thune, John [R]
Tennessee
Aye Alexander, Lamar [R]
Aye Corker, Bob [R]
Texas
Aye Cornyn, John [R]
Aye Hutchison, Kay [R]
Utah
Aye Hatch, Orrin [R]
Nay Bennett, Robert [R]
Vermont
Aye Leahy, Patrick [D]
Aye Sanders, Bernard [I]
Virginia
Aye Warner, John [R]
Aye Webb, Jim [D]
Washington
Aye Cantwell, Maria [D]
Aye Murray, Patty [D]
West Virginia
Aye Byrd, Robert [D]
Aye Rockefeller, John [D]
Wisconsin
Aye Feingold, Russell [D]
Aye Kohl, Herbert [D]
Wyoming
Aye Barrasso, John [R]
Aye Enzi, Michael [R

How Tennessee’s Representatives Voted.
Aye TN-1
Davis, David [R]
Nay TN-2 Duncan, John [R]
Nay TN-3 Wamp, Zach [R]
Aye TN-4 Davis, Lincoln [D]
Nay TN-5 Cooper, Jim [D]
Aye TN-6 Gordon, Barton [D]
Nay TN-7 Blackburn, Marsha [R]
Aye TN-8 Tanner, John [D]
Aye TN-9 Cohen, Steve [D

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

All Republican leaders must resign

by Richard Viguerie

Republicans are doomed to wander in the political wilderness until this generation of weak-kneed, no-vision, inarticulate, afraid-of-the-liberal-media politicians are replaced mostly with principled conservatives in the mold of Bill Buckley, Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan.

The result is that the party’s “brand” has become a negative, to an extent greater than in the Watergate era, perhaps worse than in the days of Herbert Hoover. The number of new Republican voters is flat while Democratic voter registration is skyrocketing. Contributions to GOP candidates and Republican parties are way off, while donations to Democrats are setting records.

In primaries, votes for Republican candidates at all levels are running far behind the Democrats. And in recent special elections, the party lost longheld congressional seats in Illinois, in Louisiana, and, yesterday, in Mississippi – all in districts carried overwhelmingly by President Bush. A single election can be a fluke, but when Republicans lose three seemingly safe seats in a row, disaster is looming.

The hard work of the last 50 years by millions of conservative campaign workers, donors, candidates, writers, intellectuals, and activists has been trashed. The conservative movement has been set back 10-20 years – possibly even permanently – by politicians consumed by power, including but certainly not limited to Denny Hastert, Tom DeLay, John Boehner, Roy Blunt, Mitch McConnell, Trent Lott, George W. Bush, Karl Rove, party chairman Mike Duncan, and their friends. Some deserve more of the blame than others, but they are all part of a party Establishment that has brought the party down.

For things to change, for conservatives to be justified in giving our contributions, our volunteer efforts, our energy, and votes to the GOP, the party must clean house. The party leadership should resign immediately. We must replace the Big Government/Big Business/Establishment Republicans with principled conservatives, most of them young. By “principled conservatives,” I mean leaders who will stand up to the liberals and fight for freedom and traditional values. Republicans are doomed to wander in the political wilderness until this generation of weak-kneed, no-vision, inarticulate, afraid-of-the-liberal-media politicians are replaced mostly with principled conservations in the mold of Bill Buckley, Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan.

Voters almost always reject a pale imitation in favor of the real thing. The Democrats have firm principled beliefs. What motivates most Republican leaders? Nothing except a craving for power. What do Republicans offer voters? Nothing except “Elect us because we’re not Democrats.”

To Republican leaders, I say: You turned against the principles you once espoused – conservative principles – and, in turn, conservatives and the American people have turned against you. Things will not get better until you accept responsibility, and resign. You have stayed too long. For the future of the Republican Party, for America and the cause of freedom: Go!

Commentary:
I most certainly agree. The complicity and lack of leadership on the Farm bill was the most recent and most glaring example of what is wrong with the Republican party. The Republican Party is the Democrat Lite party. Republicans have proven they can pander and spend with the best of Democrats.

Richard Viguerie, for those who may not know him, has been a powerhouse in the Republican Party since the days of Goldwater. He has been called the "funding father" of the modern conservative movement. He is the man behind the mail order fund raising effort of most conservative causes for the last fifty years. He sounds like a disgruntled Republican.

I am posting a link to his web site on my blogroll. Visit Conservative hq to learn more of the views of this principled conservative.

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How Black is Obama? Let the Hillary campaign show you.

Isn't the Hillary-Obama contest fun? I don't know the truth of this matter obviously, but it is alleged by the leftist kooks at Daily Kos that the Hillary campaign has doctored pictures of Obama to show him with a wider nose and darker complexion than he really has. Would Hillary really stoop that low to win the vote of "hard working white Americans?" Follow this link to see how they did it and read all about the controversy.



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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Obama Blames Fox News For Losing White Voters





Obama, maybe there are other reasons you lost the white vote in some recent primaries. Maybe your comment about frustrated people clinging to guns and religion offended some religious gun owners. Maybe your wife's comment about being proud of America for the first time in her life had something to do with turning off patriotic middle Americans who love their country. Maybe that picture that shows you as the lone candidate on the stage who does not have his hand over his heart during the playing of the National Anthem made some middle Americans think that you do not share their values. Despite your eventual disavowal of Reverend Wright, do you think that perhaps your former pastor, who referred to America as the U.S.K.K.K.A. and said AIDS was a government created illness designed to kill Black Americans and who said "God damn America" could have turned some people off? After all, prior to disavowing him, you did call him your spiritual advisor and you did sit in the pews of his church for 20 years and contributed over $27,000 to that church.

Maybe some white Americans would simply prefer to vote for a white American just as some Blacks prefer to vote for a Black American and some females would prefer to vote for a female. Maybe they are just not that into you. You have the Blacks and the college educated elites but maybe the white middle class are just not ready to vote for a Black man who is also rated as the most liberal person in the U. S. Senate. Maybe it is because you don't have as much testosterone as Hillary Clinton. You can't put back shots of liquor and mingle in the pool hall as good as Hillary. You don't love guns and you are not a hunter. You are just not the "good ole boy" that Hillary is. Hillary is just better at playing the redneck. Maybe Hillary just knows how to pander better than you do.

When Bill Clinton got caught in a scandal, Hillary blamed his problems on a "vast right-wing conspiracy". Back when there were a lot fewer media outlets and less diversity in News reporting, Republicans used to blame a lot of their losses on the "liberal media." Fox is only one network. You still have the fawning MSNBC, NBC, CBS, ABC, and CNN plus the quasi-news comedy shows that love you. Surely you can do better than blame your recent losses on little old Fox news network.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

The GOP at the Trough

By Robert D. Novak Monday, May 19, 2008; The Washington Post

Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, 38 and having served less than five terms, did not leap over a dozen of his seniors to become the ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee by bashing GOP leaders. But an angry Ryan delivered unscripted remarks on the House floor last Wednesday as the farm bill neared passage: "This bill is an absence of leadership. This bill shows we are not leading." (link)

Commentary: The story of Republican complicity and lack of leadership on the farm bill is reason for any conservative to be disgruntled and disgusted. The Farm bill is a bad bill. It raises spending by 44% above last year’s level. It contains non-farm pork spending, it subsidizing multimillionaire farmers, it increases food prices to the consumer, it undermines American leadership on trade, and puts farmers in undeveloped countries at a competitive disadvantage and keeps poor countries poor.

The Republican leadership has shown no leadership on this bill. According to Novak, President Bush has promised to veto the bill but let it be known that it would be OK if Republicans “voted their districts.” Apparently Republicans are not going to be pushed hard to sustain the veto.

In the Senate, Republican leader Mitch McConnell is not only supporting the bill but got a provision added to the bill giving special tax breaks to horse farms in his state of Kentucky. In the House, Minority Whip Roy Blunt voted for the bill. In the House, Republicans voted for the bill 100 to 91 and in the Senate, 35 Republicans voted for it and only 13 opposed it.

When Republicans vote like Democrats, why should one care if Republicans lose elections? Maybe it is time for Republicans to take a major beating, do some major soul searching, regroup, and rediscover why they are Republicans.

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

On Climate, Symbols Can Overshadow Substance

Lights-Out Event More Showy Than Practical
By Shankar Vedantam Washington Post Staff Writer Saturday, May 17, 2008

In March of last year, the World Wildlife Fund in Australia teamed up with Leo Burnett, the multinational advertising agency that created the Marlboro Man, to come up with a new environmental campaign called Earth Hour. The idea was to get 2 million residents in Sydney to turn off all the lights in their homes for one hour. The campaign generated wide publicity, but the energy saved was small -- the equivalent of taking about five cars off the city's roads for a year.

Tension between substance and symbolism runs through the modern environmental movement. After years of conflict with climate-change deniers and a White House that has resisted mandatory efforts to address global warming, the movement has become a crusade that is partly moral statement and partly fashion statement. Earth Hour, Earth Day and the Miss Earth beauty pageant -- "saving the planet, one pageant at a time" -- generate lots of publicity, but they also tend to prompt people and companies to choose what looks good over what works. (link)

Comment: I could not have said it better. Modern environmentalism is about making a statement, not about making a difference. Consciousness has already been raised. We don’t need another Al Gore Earth Aid concert. We don’t need another self-indulgent celebrity showing us how much they care by flying their “green” car around the world so they can be seen driving “green.” We don’t need another company selling phony carbon offsets. Enough already of the “green washing.” Feel-good environmentalism and symbolism over substance brought us the ethanol mistake and the Energy Independence and Security Act 0f 2007. When are environmentalists going to get serious about supporting policies that really work instead of silly symbolic gestures?

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Obama Speaks the Truth about Gas Prices

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Paul McCartney’s Feel-good Environmentalism

From the Symbolism over Substance Department:

Former Beatle Paul McCartney has long been an outspoken advocate of environmental causes. He owns a high-end luxury, V-8 engine, top-speed-155MPH, “green” vehicle. The Lexus LS 600H is a hybrid vehicle that uses an electric motor at low speeds. McCartney recently had his environmentally friendly car flown to England from Japan on a cargo plane.
To read more click here.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Tell Congress to Stop Subsidizing Multimillionaires with Your Money

from the American Conservative Union

Vote "NO" on the Farm Bill

In 2002, when Congress passed the last farm bill, wheat was at $2.84 a bushel. The price of wheat has risen 256% since then to $10.10. What is Congress' response in the Farm Bill of 2008? Increase subsidies for wheat! Other commodities like rice, corn, and soybeans that have seen similar price increases will see their subsidies increase or stay at the same level as 2002. At a time of rising grocery bills and runaway government spending, H.R. 2419, dubbed the Food and Energy Security Act of 2007, will increase spending by $20 billion over 10 years, continue to give subsidies to multi-millionaire farmers, and include special interest earmarks for powerful committee chairmen.

TAKE ACTION NOW. ­FILL OUT THE FORM BELOW TO CONTACT YOUR MEMBER OF CONGRESS AND URGE A "NO" VOTE ON THE FARM BILL!
WELFARE FOR MILLIONAIRES

Supporters of the Farm Bill claim they have "reformed" the subsidy program. But this bill will still allow married couples who farm and have adjusted gross income of $1.5 million to get taxpayer subsidies. Individuals who do not even farm but own the land and have incomes of $500,000 will also qualify.

H.R. 2419 also fails to reform the sugar program and actually increases government intervention to drive up sugar prices and, of course, the price of goods with sugar ingredients. To make this program even worse than it is, any excess supply of sugar, which could be available for food production, would be owned by the government and auctioned to ethanol facilities at a huge loss.

TELL YOUR LOCAL MEMBER OF CONGRESS YOU ARE FED UP WITH OUR ANTI-CONSUMER FARM POLICY AND TO VOTE "NO" ON THE FARM BILL!
A BIPARTISAN OUTRAGE

The failure to fix our nation's outdated and bloated farm policy is bipartisan. Although the Bush administration has threatened to veto this bill, leading Republicans as well as Democrats have vowed to work hard to override the expected veto. Only if they hear from their constituents will it be possible to stop this special interest steamroller.

Not only is this bill terrible policy, it is once again being used as a slush fund for special interests through earmarks. One of the worst examples is a secret provision inserted by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT). It will allow the scandal-tarnished environmental group, the Nature Conservancy, to get $250 million in taxpayer money to purchase a track of land from the Plum Cree Timber Company in Montana. As is often the case with secret earmarks, this provision has nothing to do with farm policy but a way for some politicians to help some friends with your money.

YOU CAN TAKE ACTION NOW! LET CONGRESS KNOW YOU ARE WATCHING. TELL YOUR MEMBER OF CONGRESS TO VOTE"NO" ON THE FARM BILL!

Comment: I have posted on this before. I share the outrage of the American Conservative Union. Our agriculture policy is just crazy. We subsidize millionaire farmers, drive up food prices, and undermine agriculture in developing countries. Please click here . This will take you to the ACU site. Fill out the form to let your views be known, or better yet write your congressman a letter.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Hooray for High Gas Prices


What exhortations to love Mother Nature and change your evil ways couldn’t do, what feel-good environmentalist legislation couldn’t do, higher prices are doing. I know it is surprising to some folks but markets and prices really do work. Americans are conserving and substituting, new technologies are becoming more affordable, people are changing their energy habits, and smaller homes and smaller cars are becoming more desirable.

Just listen to what people around you are saying about rising gas prices or read your local paper and it is hard to escape the fact that high prices are causing beneficial results. Here is a sampling of recent news stories:

· Gas cost deflates prices on used SUVs, USA Today 5/9/08. The price of big used SUVs has dropped 17% from a year ago.

· Planes Fly more, emit less greenhouse gas, USA Today 5/9/2008. Airlines have taken many steps to curb fuel use, such as adding better navigational equipment, modifying wings for improved aerodynamics. From 2000 to 2006 fuel efficiency increased 22%.

· Gas cost squeezes daily life, USA Today 5/9/2008. People are changing their habits. They are combining errands. “February was the forth consecutive month in which miles driven in the USA declined, the first time since 1979 that that has occurred.”

· Developer bets that home buyers trade space for energy efficiency, The Tennessean 5/12/2008. Developer Randy Chastain has been a developer in the Nashville market for 30 years. Cheep materials, cheep land, and cheep gas led to bigger and bigger houses with little thought to energy efficiency, says Mr. Chastain. He believes higher energy costs are changing the market. Now, he is building homes that are 10% smaller than what he was building and considerably more energy efficient. He is building LEED certified homes.

· Demand for gas eases slightly as more carpool. The Tennessean 5/1/2008. This article notes that carpooling is increasing. It interviews several people who have started carpooling.

This is not to suggest that we are wining the war for energy independence or reducing global warming. We are not. But, for the first time, we are headed in the right direction. For a while, it seemed that the demand for energy was inelastic. However, it seems that just shy of the $4.00 per gallon mark is proving to be the price point at which people will conserve and change behavior.
Perhaps more important than the price of gas is the expectation that gas prices will stay high. According to the Gallup poll, in August 2003 only 33% of the public believed high fuel prices would last. The latest Gallup poll shows 78% believe high gas prices are here to stay. If people expect prices to stay high, it will influence where they live, how they work, and the car they drive.

Unfortunately, pandering politicians of both parties are promising the public they will do something about high gas prices. Both Hillary Clinton and John McCain have advocated removing the federal gas tax for the summer. Some smooth talking, lying politicians, such as Nancy Pelosi, have to gall to advocate lower gas prices and combating global warming in the same sentence.

We do not need to reverse the progress that is being made on the energy and global warming front. What needs to happen in order to break the American oil addiction is for there to be still higher gas prices and a reinforcement of the idea that high prices are here to stay. To expedite what the market is already doing, a revenue-neutral carbon tax could put us on the right track to begin winning the war for energy independence and reversing global warming.

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Saturday, May 10, 2008

Mortgage Loan Executives Charged with Fraud

Two former executives of a large mortgage company were arrested this week and charged with fraud.

Lieb Printer, a former officer of Olympia Mortgage Corporation is charged with scheming to defraud Fannie Mae of more than $44 million. Here is how it worked: Normally when a loan is refinanced the existing mortgage is paid off. Printer was refinancing loans but instead of paying off the existing loan he was pocketing the money. To hide his actions he did a variety of things such as altering the credit report of the borrower so the old loan which was supposed to show a zero balance, simply did not appear on the customers credit report. He did this on 257 loans! The new loans were backed by Fannie Mae and sold to Credit Suisse First Boston.

Barry Goldstein, also formerly of Olympia, is charged with creating dummy loan histories for the borrowers so they looked much less risky on paper than they really were. Mr. Goldstein is also accused of directing his employees to create dummy loan histories for borrowers. If convicted they could each get 30-year prison sentences.

If found guilty I hope they both get the book thrown at them. They deserve to sit in prison for the next 30 years. There are a lot of factors contributing to the mortgage crisis we are facing and one of those factors is fraud and corruption. Unfortunately this story is not getting very much attention. The above story I read on page 15 of the Financial Times, a publication that I only rarely read. I was traveling this past week and picked up a copy at the hotel at which I was staying.

I often wonder why some stories get very little coverage and other things that I think are much less important get massive coverage. In my opinion this story should be front-page news in bold headlines, and the trial should be followed on the evening news. Unfortunately, those who do not read the financial press will probably never know this story.

I would like to see fear stuck in the heart of every crooked loan officer in America. While it takes an FBI investigation or a large commitment on the part of an attorney general to uncover fraud of this magnitude, as a Loss Mitigation and Mortgage Default Housing Counselor, I see incidents of fraud on a routine bases.

Some of the fraud that occurs is admittedly hard to prove but anyone who works in this field knows that it occurs. It is not uncommon that loan officers falsify income or employment history to make the borrower more attractive to a lender than they are in reality. I have had several clients tell me that they thought they were getting one loan and then on the day of closing were switched to a different product. I have had clients tell me that they were urged to sign blank loan application documents and never realized their income had been massively inflated. I have seen very suspicious, apparently inflated, appraisals. Document forgery is not uncommon.

I am not so sure we need new laws. The laws already on the books simply need to be enforced. I would like to see Congress appropriate funding to Legal Aid organizations to provide legal assistance to those low-income clients who have been victims of fraud. Our local Legal Aid does a great job but they are so overworked that they can only take the most egregious of cases.

I would like to see more FBI investigation and federal Justice Department prosecution of mortgage fraud and I would like to see more funding of state Attorney General's offices to prosecute these types of cases. And, I wish we had a press that considered the stories of mortgage fraud and abuse to be newsworthy. The message should be load and clear that if you commit mortgage fraud, you go to jail.

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Show Your Support for Your Candidate!

Get involved in this presidential campaign! Let your voice be heard! Show the world how you feel. If you support the policies and character of John McCain, please drive with your headlights on during the day. If you support Obama or Hillary, please drive with your headlights off at night.

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Monday, May 5, 2008

How to be Poor.

There are some people who are born with handicaps and disadvantages and must struggle to overcome their disadvantages, but for most people they have to do really stupid things to stay poor. It is hard to stay poor in America. Having worked with poor people most of my life, I have observed some of the things that people do to achieve poverty. Here is a list. If you want to be poor, these are some of the things you can do.

Become a single mom. This is almost guaranteed to make you poor. A single mother with one child earning $22,000 year is poor. A father, mother and child with a family income of $44,000 are not so poor.

Have children early. Have your children before you finish school or before you are established in a career.

Father children and don’t marry the mother. If you do this then you will have child support payments. If you are determined to avoid child support, you can work in the underground economy and constantly change jobs.

Drop out of high school.

Enroll in college, take out lots of student loans, but don’t graduate. This way, you will have big loans to repay, but won’t have the benefit of the earning power of a college graduate.

Become a criminal. Most criminals are poor. Most drug dealers with their momma. Once you become a criminal it will be very difficult to ever get a good job.

Become a drug addict or an alcoholic.

Take this job and shove it. If your boss is unappreciative, a customer is rude, or you get tired of working the third shift, just walk off the job. It is important to do this without having another job lined up and don’t give a two-weeks notice.

Become satisfied in your dead-end job, stop looking for new opportunities, stop leaning new skills, and stop growing.

Smoke cigarettes, drink beer, smoke dope and play the lottery. If you do this in moderation, it may not make you poor. You may need to do a lot of it.

Don’t learn delayed gratification. Live for today. You want it, you deserve it, get it now.

If you are short of money, use payday lenders. With a payday lender you can borrow $200 and on payday pay back $230. If you don’t have the $230, you can pay $30 and borrow the money for two more weeks, this is only 780% interest. Worrying about the interest rate is something middle class and rich people do.

Don’t take advantage of your employer’s matched retirement plan. If your employer will match up to 3% of your income in a retirement saving plan, don’t fall for it. If he matches your 3% that is a 100% return, and since that is money you do not pay taxes on, that is another 25% return, and if your money and your employers money earns 5% that is a 10% return for you for a total of 135% return. If you do this you will find you are becoming middle class.

Don’t put money in an IRA every year. If you do, that is money you won’t get to pay taxes on. Anyway tell yourself you need it now. You can’t afford to save.

Use the Rent-a-center. If you need a washer and dryer, don’t buy a reconditioned used set for $150; pay $25 a week to rent a new set from the rent-a-center. Also, you can rent nice furniture and a TV and VCR and stereo.

When you do your taxes, get a “rapid refund”. Sure you have waited all year for your money, but you look forward to your refund. Why wait another two weeks when you can have it now? If your refund is $2000 and if cost you $100 to get the rapid refund, since you are only borrowing the money for two weeks that is a 130% interest rate. Don’t worry about the interest rate and don’t wait two more weeks for your money. That is the way middle class and rich people think. You want it now; get it.

Buy a new car. Did you know that most millionaires have never bought a new car? A new car is a rapidly depreciating asset, but a new car smells so good. You deserve it. It will make you happy. Do it!

Always rent; never buy a home. A home is an appreciating asset and the biggest wealth builder for most people.

Value your government handout. Don’t earn too much money or you may lose your section 8 or public housing, food stamps, and Medicaid.

Think like a poor person. Be envious and jealous of people who have more than you do. Keep telling your self that life is unfair and that if other people did not have so much you would have more.

Don’t get “above your raising.” If you are black, don’t let yourself ever be accused of “acting white”. Don’t let anyone ever accuse you of acting like you are better than they are.

Have lots of poor friends. They will make sure you do the things and have the attitudes that keep you poor.

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Saturday, May 3, 2008

Shame on John McCain…

For shameless pandering on the gas tax.

Both Hillary Clinton and John McCain are proposing to suspend the federal gas tax as a response to rising gas prices; despite the fact that most economist and energy experts think that this is a counterproductive proposal. Obama deserves credit for not joining in the pandering. He has rightly called it a “silly idea.”

I am more disappointed in McCain than Clinton; I didn’t expect better from Hillary. It is not that I think Hillary Clinton is so dumb that she really thinks suspending the gas tax is a good Idea; I think she is so unprincipled and ambitions that she will do whatever it takes to be elected. I expected more from McCain. In the past he talked sense about energy independence, ethanol, and global warming. McCain has to know this is a stupid idea and I thought he had more integrity than to pander with the best of them.

The federal tax on gas is 18.4 cents per gallon. What happens if we cut the tax? For one thing, the price will fall temporarily, which will increase demand for gasoline and result in another increase in price, then when the 18.4 cents is added back, the resulting price will be higher than it otherwise would have been. Another thing that will happen is that not all of the 18.4 cents will be passed on to the consumer. The oil companies will keep part of it.

The reason prices are so high is neither due to an Arab oil embargo nor greedy oil companies. It is primarily due to the increase in demand. The people of India and China are beginning to drive private automobiles. It is basic Economics 101. Demand is exceeding supply and prices are increasing. Another reason is the slide of the dollar. It takes more dollars to trade for the same amount of other currencies and therefore anything we import cost more.

Every administration since the late seventies has talked about energy independence and instead we have steadily moved toward greater dependence. Americans continue to drive more and consume more gasoline every year than they did the year before. Urban sprawl continues and people move further from urban centers. Instead of choosing energy efficient vehicles, people choose to drive gas-guzzling SUVs.

What are the negative effects of increased gas consumption?

(1) We finance our enemies. It is an unfortunate accident of geology that the countries with the most oil are ruled by fanatics and despots. Saudi Arabia is officially an ally, but it has a Muslim population that takes seriously the mandate of their faith to give alms. So, American dollars flow to Saudi Arabia, some of which ends up the pockets of devout Muslims and they give to the clerics who build Wahhabi Muslim schools throughout the world where people are taught the most violent and radical strain of the Muslim religion. Every time you fill up your SUV you are contributing to the radical Muslim cause and the training of terrorist. Also we are financing the anti-Americanism of the Venezuelan dictatorship.

(2) We are increasing the rate of Global Warming. Despite all of the concern about global warming and all the talk about combating it, we have not yet decreased the rate of increase in CO2 emissions. Feel-good environmental measures and exhortations to properly inflate your tires and change light bulbs and wear a sweater are not going to be sufficient to curtail global warming. It is going to take some pain and sacrifice.

In today’s newspaper there was an article, Small-car sales help Nissan end April with gain. The article said that while U. S. auto sales were declining that the sale of the Nissan Altima and subcompact Versa was showing gains. Honda, Toyota and Volkswagen are also posting increased sales. Americans are starting to fall out of love with their gas-guzzlers and to prefer small fuel-efficient cars.

In yesterday’s newspaper there was an article that said "Demand for gas eases slightly as more carpool.” Markets work. Supply and demand is not right-wing dogma. it is as true as gravity. People cannot change their behavior overnight however but we are starting to see a decrease in demand. If gas prices were high and people thought they would stay high we would see greater reductions in consumption. Overtime, the American vehicle fleet would shift to more fuel-efficient cars. and we would start to see a lessening of urban sprawl. The cost of gas would enter into the equation in many decisions consumers make. Conservation would be cost effective is prices were expected to stay high. Investment in alternative fuels and alternative technologies would be worth the investment if there were not an expectation that gas would stay high. If we want to continue the trend of reducing gasoline consumption then we do not want to lower gasoline prices.

It is best if we do nothing about high gas prices and let the demand for gas fall.

Hillary, I didn’t expect better from you. John McCain, shame on you.

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Thursday, May 1, 2008

Bible Park USA

Nashville is the buckle of the Bible belt. Other places may claim to be, but I think Nashville wins the title hands down. With over 900 churches, it seems there is a church on every street corner. Nashville also has a twice-life-size statue of Billy Graham on a prominent downtown street corner.

The largest protestant denomination in the United States, The Southern Baptist Convention, has its headquarters in Nashville and employs approximately 2500 people and takes up three block of prime downtown real estate. The United Methodist Publishing House is also located in Nashville as well as several smaller religious publishers and Church denomination headquarters.

Nashville is home to Thomas Nelson Publishers, the nations largest publishers of Bibles and religious books. Nashville is the headquarters of Gideon International, the folks who put Bibles in hotel rooms all across America and distribute Bibles throughout the world.

Nashville is also home to the Gospel Music Industry. The 4000-member Gospel Music Association are the people who bring you the all genre gospel/Christian Dove Award show. In addition Nashville is home to many recording studios and music publishing houses, record labels and booking agencies that support Gospel music.

Many of the universities and colleges of which we are so proud are religious affiliated institutions including Trevecca Nazarene University, Lipscomb University (Church of Christ), Aquinas College (Catholic), American Baptist College, and Free Will Baptist Bible College. Belmont University used to be Belmont Baptist College a long time ago and still had a Southern Baptist affiliation until quite recently, but when the university wanted to put some non-Baptist Christians on the board, the Southern Baptist convention and Belmont had a disharmonious parting of the ways.

Despite all of this official religiosity, Nashville is a pretty tolerant laid back city and a great place to live. When it seems the only way we could have a greater religious presence in our fine city was if the Vatican relocated, we are about to get what may be the crowning jewel of our claim to religious fame. Get ready for Bible Park USA! (link)

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Six Flags Over Jesus

Bible Park USA is coming to Nashville. This is no joke. The developers have already spent a lot of money on design and options on the property. The remaining hurdle is to get the County Industrial Board to authorize the use of tax increment financing. The Park would cost $150 million to $200 million and would be located in adjoining Rutherford County. The developers are SafeHarbor Holding and apparently a company with deep pockets who are currently developing a $400 million theme park in South Carolina.

Bible Park USA would be on a 75 acre site and developers estimate that it will draw 1.3 million visitors a year. It will feature a Disney-like “Bible Fly-Through Ride” using an IMAX screen and seats suspended in mid air to give visitors an overview of the Holy lands. It will feature a recreated working Galilean village. There will be a walk-through “Exodus Experience” featuring 25-foot high walls of water which will serve as screen to depict the Exodus story.

Pardon me, but I just don’t think this will fly. Far be it from me to tell the investors not to risk their money, but I do not see how this can succeed. Quite frankly it sounds kind of boring. I don’t see many families buying season tickets.

The developer has been quoted as saying, "It's not a crazy amusement park, It's not Six Flags over Jesus." To succeed I think it will have to be “Six Flags over Jesus.”

We used to have a great amusement park in Nashville called Opryland, but it couldn’t make it and eventually folded. An amusement park has to offer bigger and better every year. Can you imagine Mom and Dad saying, “Kids, we are going to take a vacations. Would your rather go to Disney World, Dollywood, or Bible Park USA?”

Not everyone is happy with the idea of Bible Park USA coming to our community. Some are unhappy for the same reason people are always opposed to development: traffic, quality of life, water runoff, etc. Other do not like the image it creates for our city. They do not want to give the Lettermans and Lenos more reason to ridicule us.

The Apostolic Ark of the Covenant Choir, a group opposed to the project put out this hymn to the tune of Bringing in the Sheaves. This is good. You can hear it here (link). Below are the lyrics.

Lyrics
To add to the “Walk-on-Waterslide”, I suggest they have a “Holy Roller Coaster”.

I guess it could be worse; we could have gotten the Creation Museum (link)

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