Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Obama, the nation's CEO

By: Mike Allen and Jim Vande Hei , Politico, March 31, 2009 04:32 AM EST

President Obama, with seven days of unprecedented market intervention capped by Monday’s ultimatum to U.S. automakers, has made one thing emphatically clear: He is the most powerful player in American business today. [full article]

The President has always been Commander in Chief of the nation's armed forces; now President Obama is grabing power to become Commander in Chief of the nation's economy. This is scary stuff. What's next?

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March 30, 2009 WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), a member of the Senate Banking Committee and lead Republican during Senate negotiations of legislation to aid the domestic auto industry in December, made the following comments today in reaction to President Obama’s announcement on the auto industry.

“Firing Rick Wagoner is a sideshow to distract us from the fact that the administration has no progress to announce today,” said Corker. “The administration is hoping the media and the public will stay focused on Wagoner and fail to notice that negotiations have not progressed since December.

“The administration is pursuing much of what we pushed for in December, but the delay of several months has increased the severity and sent billions of taxpayer dollars down the drain. Now any investment is likely unrecoverable and we are putting more and more jobs at the OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) and the supply chain at risk in a politically charged environment.

“With sweeping new power the White House will be deciding which plants will survive and which won't, so in essence, this administration has decided they know better than our courts and our free market process how to deal with these companies.

“It’s been a long time since Washington has seen the kind of kowtowing that’s about to occur among members of Congress trying to curry favor with the administration to keep plants in their states open, and it will be interesting to see if the administration makes these decisions based on a red state and blue state strategy or based on efficiency and capable, skilled workers at each plant. If they use the latter, our GM plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee should do very well.

“This is a major power grab by the White House on the heels of another power grab from Secretary Geithner who asked last week for the freedom to decide on his own which companies are ‘systemically’ important to our country and worthy of taxpayer investment and which are not.

“This is a marked departure from the past, truly breathtaking, and should send a chill through all Americans who believe in free enterprise. I worry that in one fell swoop we’ve lost our moral high ground throughout the global community as it relates to chastising other countries that use strong arm tactics to invade on private property rights.”

This is an excellent analysis from Corkers office. I have little to add. If you look at the politicalization and the difficulty encountered when trying to close obsolete military bases, you are probably looking at the future of the management of auto production. One major difference however is that Congress has a roll to play in closing of military bases; managing GM will be in the hands of the White House Auto Task Force. The CEO answers to this task force. Do we really want the President deciding which auto plants stay open and which ones close? Do we want the President picking winners and losers? This is a frighting transfer of power from the private sector to the President of the United States. Is this the kind of change people were voting for when they elected Obama? This is unbelievable!

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Jay Leno's Chris Dodd joke

"Hey, you hear about this? Very strange incident at JFK Airport in New York City today. An AIG executive going through security had to empty out all his pockets. You know what fell out? Senator Chris Dodd." --Jay Leno,

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Bill seeks to criminalize saggy pants in Tennessee

LUCAS L. JOHNSON II • Associated Press Writer • The Tennessean, March 26, 2009

She’s no fan of saggy pants, but state Rep. Karen Camper says she questions the constitutionality of a colleague’s bill making the low-slung legwear a misdemeanor.

Camper, a Memphis Democrat, said Thursday she opposes the bill sponsored by Rep. Joe Towns, also of Memphis, that passed the House Criminal Practice and Procedure Subcommittee one day before. [full article]


While this bill will not pass this year, since it has no companion bill in the Senate, I am amazed that it passed a House Committee.

It only takes one legislature to introduce a bill, so when I first read of this I dismissed it as one legislator probably introducing a bill at the behest of a influential supporter. A lot of bills get introduced that never see the light of day. I figured this bill would die in committee and that would be in the end of it. But, this thing may have legs. It passed a committee. It will probably be back next year.

I am no fan of saggy pants. They look ridiculous. I have watched kids, usually early-teen black kids, have to constantly pull at their pants to keep them form falling off. I have seen the pants down around the widest part of the hips. They are offensive to my sense of taste, but I have never witnessed any obscene body parts as a result of this fashion. Most of the time the kid with the saggy pants down around their hips are wearing boxer shorts that are at the waist where they ought to be.

The reason for banning these clothing cannot be due to a concern with indecency. If you go to any outdoor event in the summer you will see young girls exposing a lot more skin than is exposed by baggy pants. Also, if the law bans showing underwear, some of the silky tops girls wear as outerwear looks like lingerie. I wouldn’t want to ban those. We do not need to be in the business of defining when underwear is underwear.

The only reason for banning saggy pants it that they are ugly and people find them offensive. There are a lot of things I find offensive, such as clothing featuring the peace sign or images of Che Guevara, but because I find this offensive they should not be illegal. I don’t even want to ban the swastika if some nut wants to wear it.

As far as fashion, I find it offensive that people would pay $300 for a pair of new jeans that are paint spattered, frayed and stained to look dirty and look like Goodwill rejects, but I don’t want to ban them. There is a certain look that I find more ugly and more offensive than saggy pants. The look I am speaking of features tattoos, black clothing, hair either spiked or dyed weird colors, and multiple piercing of lips, eyebrows, the tongue, and ears. That is a very ugly look, yet I don't want to pass a law against it.

We need to get over the idea that because something offends us it should be illegal. People in a free society need a large degree of toleration for being offended. I think a lot of what is behind the war on tobacco is not a health concern but a desire to ban a habit that others find offensive. Part of the reason we can’t get wine in the grocery stores is because a segment of the community would be offended by its presence.

I find this effort to ban saggy pants more offensive than the saggy pants. We don’t need to make the police the fashion police.

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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Bible Verse of the Day: Proverbs 31: 6-7

Proverbs 31:6-7
6 Give beer to those who are perishing,
wine to those who are in anguish;
7 let them drink and forget their poverty
and remember their misery no more.

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Water to Wine

An Irish priest is driving down to New York and gets stopped for speeding in Connecticut. The state trooper smells alcohol on the priest's breath and then sees an empty wine bottle on the floor of the car.

He says, "Sir, have you been drinking?"

"Just water," says the priest.

The trooper says, "Then why do I smell wine?"

The priest looks at the bottle and says, "Good Lord! He's done it again!"

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Friday, March 27, 2009

A Box of Dirt

Tonight I attended an art opening at Watkins Institute here in Nashville. Going to art openings is one of my favorite things to do. Nashville has quite a number of galleries and has a thriving arts community. There are art openings almost every week. Art openings usually offer free wine and hor’derves and an art opening is usually a festive atmosphere. I have been going to art openings for years. I run into some of the same people at openings and while I have not developed any close relationships, I have developed a chit-chat acquaintance with several people. Art openings are fun! In the same room you have everyone from hippy-looking creative types to well-dressed Belle Meade art patrons to Nashville-cowboy-songwriter-types to students to obviously gay guys. It is fun people-watching.

I like art. I appreciate art. I have visited many of the best galleries of the world. I appreciate a range of art from classical Greek to the old masters to the impressionist. However, there is a lot of art that I just do not understand. What makes something art? Tonight at Watkins, there was a piece of art that was a box of dirt. The title of the piece was “A Box of Dirt.” The box was about the dimension of a shoebox but about twice the size. The box was a crude, industrial box of unfinished lumber. It had once held some sort of industrial fittings. Stenciled on the side was the nomenclature of what the box had once contained. The “artist” did not make the box. The box was placed upright on a pedestal. The surface was dirt that had probably been put in the box damp and allowed to dry. The surface was somewhat concave.

I have been going through a career crisis of sorts recently and I have been contemplating “retiring.” I probably will not, but have been unhappy and have been weighing my options. I would not want to call myself “retired.” I am too young for that. Due to the collapse of the stock market I can not afford to retire and really do need an income, but equally important, I would want something to do. I would not be happy not being productive and I need the self-esteem that comes with a title. Plus, I really like the work I do. I find the work rewarding. Nevertheless, the crisis I have been experiencing has made me think a lot about my future and various options.
As I looked at “A Box of Dirt” I thought, I could become an artist! If you are an artist there is no objective standard of weather you are a good artist are not. You never have to sell any art and you can still call yourself an artist. I could be a “found object artist” or an “outsider” artist. No one can tell you that you are not really an artist. As my wife and I stood and contemplated the piece, I turned to her and said, “I think I could do that.”

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Today's Bible Verse

Psalm 104: 15&16
He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth; and wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man's heart.

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Jesus Turns the Water into Grape Fruit Juice

I was brought up in a very religious household and regularly attended church and we also had nightly prayer and Bible-reading in our home. I was taught that consuming alcohol was a terrible sin and that real Christians did not drink wine or any kind of alcohol. It was scandalous if anyone drank. A lot of what I was taught didn’t stick.

Since the Baptist have aligned themselves with the liquor industry to keep wine out of grocery stores I thought it was time for a little sermon to my Baptist brethren. I would like to examine the first recorded miracle of Jesus Christ, the turning of water into wine at the feast of Cana. Please turn with me to the second chapter of the Gospel of John, verse 1-11:

And on the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; and Jesus also was invited, and His disciples, to the wedding.And when the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what do I have to do with you? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.”

Now there were six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each. Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And He said to them, “Draw some out now, and take it to the headwaiter.” And they took it to him. And when the headwaiter tasted the water which had become wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom, and said to him, “Every man serves the good wine first, and when men have drunk freely, then that which is poorer; you have kept the good wine until now.”

This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.(John 2:1-11, NASB).

Let us look at the above text again. “Every man serves the good wine first, and when men have drunk freely, then that which is poorer; you have kept the good wine until now.” I am not a theologian, but the only way I can read that is that most people serve the good wine early in the party, and then when people are getting a little drunk, they don’t notice when the host switches to the cheaper stuff. What else could that mean?

Well, the Baptist teach that Jesus turned the water into grape fruit juice. Ye of other faiths may find that hard to believe, but that it is the truth. Given the historical context, that is as about as silly as you can get. (Can I get an Amen?) The guest at this wedding feast would have probably really been disappointed if not down right pissed off, it the host would have switched from wine to grape fruit juice. If all of the “wine” being served were really grape fruit juice, it wouldn’t have been much of a party. I no longer attend a Baptist church so maybe Baptist just skip that part of the Bible now, rather than embarrass themselves with this teaching. I don’t know.

Some time when I was an early teenager and started thinking for myself, I began having doubts that Jesus really turned the water into grape fruit juice. It is hard to believe that Baptist really believe that, but of course, many Baptist also believe that the earth is only 6000 years old and they profess to believe the story of Jonah and the Whale is a fact and they take a lot of other Biblical stories as literally true.

I am sure there must be many Baptist who have been exposed to the wider world and who enjoy a glass of wine with dinner. I am sure there must be Baptist who have been educated and who doubt the age of the earth is only 6000 years old. Surely there are some Baptist who when out of town on vacation, even dance with their wife. Surely there are many Baptist who are BINO’s (Baptist in name only). At least, I hope there are.

I thought times were changing. That attempt to boycott Disney World fizzled, didn’t it? I thought that was a good sign. Someone told me that Baptist would now even speak to each other in the liquor store. Of course, they still won’t have sex standing up: someone might think they are dancing.

I should probably lay off the Baptist. I don’t want to pick a fight with my devout relatives and the Baptist I know. Just let me have wine in the grocery store and I promise I won’t force you to drink any of it and you can go on believing that Jesus turned the water into grape fruit juice.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Arguments against wine in grocery stores fall short

by Gail Kerr, The Tennessean, March 21

Opposition to selling wine in grocery stores comes down to two arguments. And neither of them holds water. [full article]

Comment: Good article by Gail Kerr.

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Red White and Food

wine, red, white, and food

Here is the link to the website of "Red White and Food." This site is designed to give the public access to the latest information on the current efforts to bring wine to grocery stores in Tennessee. At this site you can join the Red White and Food cause and be listed as a supporter of wine sales in grocery stores, you can learn more about the issue, and learn how to get involved.

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Dear Representatvie Pruitt, Please vote to allow wine sales ...

March 25, 2009

Dear Representative Pruitt,

I noticed in an article in Tennessean published on March 20th that you are listed as one of the legislators who are undecided as to how you will vote on the bill to allow the sale of wine in grocery stores. As one of your constituents, I am disappointed and am writing you to urge you to vote in favor of this bill.

Thirty-three other states allow the sale of wine in grocery stores, but not Tennessee. Frankly, I find this embarrassing. There is no logic in denying us this right that is enjoyed by the citizens of most other states. I want the convenience of being able to pick up a bottle of wine when I shop for dinner. As a consumer I would like to benefit from the lower prices that would result from the increased competition.

I know that the argument against it is that it would increase the likelihood of alcohol use by underage drinkers. This is bogus argument. We already have a mandatory proof of age law for anyone purchasing alcoholic beverages. There is no evidence that selling wine in retail food outlets would increase underage drinking.

Another argument against it is that some of the “ma and pa” liquor stores would be driven out of business. Businesses come and go all the time as new products develop and new ways of marketing emerge. A few years ago there were lots of video stores. As, new methods of distribution of movies developed many video stores disappeared. Should we have banned NetFics? It should not be the job of government to protect businesses from competition. In any event, it is not necessarily proven that sale of wine in grocery stores would undermine liquor stores. As more people experienced the pleasure of wine, a more sophisticated and knowledgably wine drinking public may emerge. People would probably still go to liquor stores to buy fine wine. Making wine more available my actually increase the market for wine.

Allowing the sale of wine in grocery a store is estimated in bring in an additional $16 million dollars in state revenue and $11 million for local governments. At a time of budget shortfalls, it makes sense to tap this source of additional revenue.

I am writing this as an open letter and am posting it on my blog and other social networking sites and am copying friends and family. I will also post your replay.

Thank you for your consideration and your service to our community.

Rod Williams

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Wine in Grocery Stores: Influence your legislator now!

There is a real chance this year that Tennessee may allow the sale of wine in grocery stores. When people move here from other states they are often dismayed to discover that you can't pick up a bottle of wine at the grocery store. The powerful liquor lobby and the influence of a segment of the religious community, primarily the Southern Baptist, have been able to keep wine out of grocery stores. If you would like the convenience of being able to pick out that bottle of red wine at the same place you pick out your steak, please contact your legislature. It is time that Tennessee stopped being a rural backwater and joined the modern world.

On March 20th the Tennessean listed the stance of each member of the state legislature on this issue. To see how your legislator stands on the issue please follow this link: Wine in grocery stores: Tennessee lawmakers' stances. The list includes the phone number and email address of each legislator. If you are not sure who your Senator and Representative is, follow this link to find out: Tennessee General Assembly.

It is hard to categorize who takes which position on this issue. It is not a liberal or conservative division nor a Republican/Democratic division. I had thought it was a rural vs urban and suburban division but I notice that that is not necessarily so. Most of the Knoxville delegation is in the "anti" column and several of the Memphis delegation are either anti or undecided. I am proud or my own Senator Douglas Henry for being in the "for" column and disappointed that my Representative, Mary Pruit, is listed as undecided. This issue is being decided right now. Please contact your legislators and tell them to vote in favor of letting us buy wine in grocery stores.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Petition for a full ethics investigation of Chis Dodd

Dear Rod,
Last week we told you about the big-spending liberals' latest mishap with their so-called stimulus, bailout, and pork-filled spending bills agenda. As we have learned more one liberal Senator's name keeps rising to the top: Senator Chris Dodd.

Senator Chris Dodd - the liberal former Chairman of the Democrat National Committee and Senate Banking Committee Chairman - has been in our headlines month after month supporting ACORN, protecting subprime mortgage policies that led to our financial crisis, taking sweetheart mortgage deals for his own home and now shielding those who bankrupted companies in their efforts to receive federal taxpayer funds.

Chris Dodd is in the headlines again, not for working to fix the problems he helped create, but for making them worse. With new revelations coming into the news, we are calling for a full investigation of all of his activities.

ACU is launching a new, expanded effort today to call for a full ethics investigation of Chris Dodd. We need your help today. Please sign the petition and support ACU's efforts here, now.

As we noted, at the heart of the AIG bonus controversy, taking money after accepting billions in taxpayer bailouts is not the bonuses themselves, but the liberal policy of bailing out private companies in the first place. We can see what happens when the government gets their hands into private industry. It is not pretty. It is not enough that the liberals and their bureaucratic policies cause mismanagement in our government, now they want to take over and mismanage our economy as well.

As many have pointed out, it is just one more step toward socialism. And when it came to solving their latest media problem they helped create, liberals tried to pass a new massive tax to fix. Going to that tax code was their idea of fixing the problem. One more big brother solution for the problems created by the liberals' big brother government actions. It is vicious cycle.

But again, we really need to get to the root of the problem. One cheerleader for the liberal policies that got us here is Senator Chris Dodd.

He is at the heart of this issue and others from the funding of ACORN, to the support of subprime mortgage buying at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to other recent scandals regarding sweetheart personal mortgage deals.

ACU is launching a new, expanded effort today to call for a full ethics investigation of Chris Dodd. We need your help today. Please sign the petition and support ACU's efforts here, now.

New information has been uncovered on Dodd's amendment that created the AIG bonus ruckus and its connection to the big government spending stimulus bill.On Saturday the Attorney General of Connecticut reported that $218 million was paid by AIG in bonuses, not $165 million as we had been told - a difference of more than 50 million dollars.Then we learned that some of our previous ACU efforts are taking effect.

On Sunday, after running stories under headlines screaming "Dodd Draws Voters' Ire Over Wall Street Pay," the NEW YORK TIMES wrote, "On a 48-hour swing through Connecticut last weekend, Senator Christopher J. Dodd began acting like a candidate for re-election, staging press events and commandeering a Sunday news show. A newly aggressive Mr. Dodd was reacting to a spate of bad press and poor polling..."

Reuters news service wrote under the headline, "Veteran senator Dodd in the eye of AIG bonus storm," that, "In a capital always looking for someone to blame, a powerful U.S. Democratic senator has a big bull's-eye on him in the firefight over taxpayer-funded bonuses for executives at insurance giant AIG. Christopher Dodd, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee and one of the more prominent faces of the Democratic Party, is scrambling to explain how a loophole ended up in legislation that allowed the roundly condemned bonuses to go forward."

Why is Chris Dodd ducking for cover? We are beginning to peel back the onion of the Chris Dodd story and it is enough to make you cry with anger.

In fact the latest revelation may explain why Dodd was involved in the AIG bonus story in the first place.

The American people deserve the truth. That is why ACU is launching a new, expanded petition effort today, to call for a full ethics investigation of Chris Dodd. We need your help today to make this happen. Please sign the petition and support ACU's efforts here, now.

CNN reported that, "Dodd initially denied he had anything to do with adding the provision." Later... "Dodd, Connecticut's Democratic senior senator, said Treasury Department officials misled him on the issue of bonuses for AIG executives." Dodd (then) "told CNN ... he was responsible for language added to the stimulus bill."

Why would Chris Dodd dodge the issue, tap dance and try to mislead the American people? Maybe it is because of a personal family connection.

REAL CLEAR POLITICS, the respected online news media source, reported just yesterday that Dodd's wife was a former Director of an AIG controlled company.

Their story states, "Senator Christopher Dodd (D-Conn) went wobbly last week when asked about his February amendment ratifying hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses to executives at insurance giant AIG. Dodd has been one of the company's favorite recipients of campaign contributions. But it turns out that Senator Dodd's wife has also benefited from past connections to AIG as well."

Real Clear Politics noted, "From 2001-2004, Jackie Clegg Dodd served as an "outside" director of IPC Holdings, Ltd., a Bermuda-based company controlled by AIG. Clegg was compensated for her duties to the company, which was managed by a subsidiary of AIG."

Mr. Dodd has found himself sleeping with the AIG controversy.

The American people deserve the truth. That is why ACU is launching a new, expanded petition effort today, to call for a full ethics investigation of Chris Dodd. We need your help today to make this happen. Please sign the petition and support ACU's efforts here, now.

Even if this work Mrs. Dodd did for a previous AIG connected company had nothing to do with Senator Dodd's secretive bonus amendment it is important the American people get the truth. It is important for us to know if Obama and the Treasury Secretary were covering for Mr. Dodd.

If Dodd did not place the amendment for that reason, the potential other reasons are even worse.

The WALL STREET JOURNAL reported, Dodd "is the top all-time beneficiary of AIG contributions, with a total of $280,000 in donations from the company's employees."

His actions with the bonus amendment remind us of other actions he has taken.

Senator Chris Dodd aggressively and publicly attacked those who claimed the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's subprime mortgages policies could endanger the economy. Many questioned his actions. Then we learned from OpenSecrets.org that Dodd received more big money PAC campaign contributions than any other politician on Capitol Hill from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for over 10 years.

Chris Dodd supported the efforts that led to our financial crisis and now he is using our own taxpayer funds to bail the companies involved.

The American people deserve the truth. That is why ACU is launching a new, expanded petition effort today, to call for a full ethics investigation of Chris Dodd. We need your help today to make this happen. Please sign the petition and support ACU's efforts here, now.

For these reasons, when you sign the petition and support ACU's efforts, we encourage you to access our ACU Chris Dodd Media Page. This is a special page we have created so that you can contact members of the Connecticut news media and ask them - and the voters of Connecticut - why they have Chris Dodd representing them in U.S. Senate. We encourage you and others to use this resource which you will see after you sign the new petition and support ACU.

Multiple news reports have surfaced nothing that Chris Dodd's early Senate challenger in the race next year has already tied him in the polls.

Now it is time to keep the pressure on and for the American people to get to the truth.

Please support this effort here and now.


Dennis Whitfield
Executive Vice President

P.S. Many times I add a PS to make sure I summarize the issues ACU is working on. Unfortunately you know all too well about Chris Dodd, his support of ACORN and subprime mortgage policies, his personal sweetheart mortgage deal and now his support for taxpayer funded bonuses in the big government spending "stimulus bill." Help us start to bring the

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Monday, March 23, 2009



The definition: "Liquidity is when you look at your retirement funds and you wet
your pants "

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Congressional Report: Countrywide Bent Loan Rules For Dodd

By MATTHEW KAUFFMAN The Hartford Courant, March 20, 2009

An executive at mortgage giant Countrywide Financial overrode the company's loan-writing policies to give a discount to Sen. Christopher Dodd,the powerful chairman of the Senate banking committee, according to an internal Countrywide document turned over to congressional investigators and obtained by The Courant. [full article]

The article does not reveal any quid pro quo. The evidence proves Dodd received preferential treatment but does not prove that Dodd was aware of it. Dodd as Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee is one of the nations most powerful banking overseers. Countrywide is one of the nations largest subprime lenders.

What is revealed by this investigation is that Countrywide routinely gave preferential treatment to important people whom they called "Friends of Angelo." They frankly discussed in documents and emails who was worthy of getting special deals and who was not. Some staffers and lesser influential politicians such as mayors were classified as "moderate VIP".

After months of Dodd's and Countrywide's stonewalling, the issue can now be put to rest. Probably all that can be proven is proven. Weather Dodd knew about it or not, Dodd should return the ill gotten gains from his Countrywide refinance deals. Dodd's roll in the AIG bonuses scandal, his sweetheart loans from Countrywide, and the large campaign contributions he has received from AIG should make him unworthy of chairing the senate banking committee. He should step down.

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

Presidential Briefing

When the Department Of Defense briefed the President this morning, they told President Obama that two Brazilian soldiers were killed in Iraq.

To everyone's surprise, all the color drained from Obama's face. Then he collapsed onto his desk, head in his hands, visibly shaken, almost in tears.

Finally, he composed himself and asked, "Ah...in round numbers, ah...just how many is a brazilian?"

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Jay Leno Gets It! We should all be scared.

Earlier this week, President Obama was on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Leno made the following remarks to the President:

Well, here’s something that kind of scared me. Today they passed this thing that
says we’re going to tax 90 percent of these bonuses. And the part that scares me
is, I mean, you’re a good guy — if the government decides they don’t like a guy,
all of a sudden, hey, we’re going to tax you and then, boom, and it passes. I
mean, that seems a little scary as a taxpayer.

President Obama completly ignored these comments and began talking about general tax policy.

Comment: Leno gets it! We should all be scared.

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Selective Taxation is Tyranny

by David Boaz, Cato Institute

Everybody’s angry. But anger doesn’t make good law. And there are real questions about both the wisdom and the legality of such legislation. Bloggers like Conor Clarke, Megan McArdle, and Eugene Volokh have asked if the bonus tax is legal or constitutional. And thank goodness for bloggers who ask the questions that members of Congress and print journalists seem to ignore! [full article]

This article points out that the confiscatory taxation of the AIG bonuses likely violates the constitutional ban on bills of attainder and ex post facto laws. Even if the bill to confiscate the AIG bonuses could be drafted to pass constitutional muster however, it is a tyrannical abuse of power.

We should not let our populist anger at AIG and the Obama-Dodd conspiracy that engineered this outrage rush us into violating basic principles of American governance. As this article states: "The rule of law requires that like people be treated alike and that people know what the law is so that they can plan their lives in accord with the law." The rule of law is more important than getting even.

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Taxing Away Those Bonuses

As outraged as I am that AIG paid out millions in bonuses with taxpayer dollars and as outraged as I am that it apparently happened with the complicity of the Obama administration, I am not in support of the effort to tax away those bonuses. We need to take a deep breath before we do something else stupid.

On Thursday the House of Representatives overwhelmingly adopted a bill that would impose a 90 percent tax on bonuses paid since Jan. 1 by companies that received significant bailout funds. That seems dangerous. It is using taxing authority in a vindictive manner. I am not sure what part of the constitution it violates, but surely it must be unconstitutional. Tax authority should not be used in a way that is arbitrary and punitive and just targets certain groups. If we are going to use taxing authority in this manner then who else can we go after? How about companies that pollute the environment? Instead of suing them and proving they did wrong, congress can simply tax their profits at 90%. How about gun manufactures? How about tobacco companies? How about pornographers? How about gangster rappers? How about doctors who perform abortions?

Democracy has been described as two wolves and a lamb deciding what to have for dinner. That looks like what is happening. Democracy has got to be about more than simple majority rule. It is also about rule of law and fairness and protecting the unpopular. Do we really want to go down that road of just taxing away the earnings of people we don’t like?

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Dodd, Obama and Geithner need to come clean. Sign this Petition.

Dear Rod,

Our nation has been in turmoil this week over the bonuses paid at AIG. After taxpayers infused nearly $200 Billion into the private firm, AIG paid out nearly $165 million of that in bonuses to their executives. The New York Times reported that these bonuses included $33.6 million for 52 people who have already left the failed insurance company and more than $1 million each to 73 people.

If it was not bad enough, we are beginning to hear that many of our nation's elected officials might have known about these bonuses. Worse, it appears that Democrat Senate Banking Chairman Chris Dodd actually sponsored an amendment in the so-called stimulus bill to protect these bonuses. The question is, why did he do that? Did Obama and his Treasury Secretary not only know about these bonuses in advance, but actually work to support them?

Senator Chris Dodd slipped into the Obama stimulus bill a secretive provision to protect these specific AIG bonuses. That much we do know.

It is shocking. We need to find out why he did it and hold him accountable. He and others are trying to run and hide from the criticism. We cannot let them.


We are going to press them in the news media and on Capitol Hill to tell the American people the truth. And, we are launching a special effort right in U.S. Senator Chris Dodd's home state of Connecticut to hold him accountable for his actions.

As the days of the week have passed, we waited to see if they would truly admit to their involvement in the AIG bonus scandal and come clean. However, for days all they have done is point fingers at each other, at previous administration officials, at current administration officials and then at anyone and everyone else to deflect attention from themselves.

As more information leaked out about their involvement they then changed their story and all at once tried to claim responsibility. It was a purposeful shift to try and throw us off the trail, to deflect media criticism, create confusion, and stop the search for answers. We cannot allow them to succeed. What has become clear is that we, the American people, must stand up and demand the truth.


At the center of this controversy are three people.

One is Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, who admitted to not paying his own personal taxes even prior to taking the job as Treasury Secretary, a job where he will oversee the IRS. Geithner said they were "careless mistakes" that he failed to pay tens of thousands of dollars in taxes. (We have heard that from a number of Obama appointees.) Then in February testimony before Congress he used the word mistake again in reference to his banking plan saying, "we will make mistakes," and the market instantly fell 380+ points. He has been careless with his money and ours, now we cannot allow him to pass off the AIG bonuses as just another "careless mistake."

Geithner has been a central figure in the government's push for bailouts and the spending of our hard-earned taxpayer money on the so-called stimulus and on failed company bailouts. As President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, prior to becoming Treasury Secretary, he has been a principle architect of the bailout strategy. The Washington Post noted, "When the government rescued AIG in mid-September (2008), no one was more central to the decision than Geithner." Obama actually promoted his bailout experience in selecting him as Treasury Secretary.

Now, in just the last few hours we have learned that Geithner knew about the bonuses for days, but the truth may be that he knew about them for weeks as far back as the time when we first pushed their bailout. What is he hiding?


Even worse than Geithner's involvement and that of the President, however, may be the involvement of Senator Chris Dodd, the former Chairman of the Democrat National Committee and Democrat candidate for President, who is now the Chairman of the U.S. Senate Banking Committee.

Over the last year the ACU has pointed out some of Chris Dodd's most troubling actions:
SPECIAL MORTGAGE PERKS FOR HIMSELF AND HIS DEMOCRAT BUDDIES - last July ACU disclosed media reports that Chris Dodd was part of the FoA, or Friends of Angelo program, named for Countrywide Mortgage Chief Executive Angelo Mozilo which provided special Countrywide loan rates for politically connected officials. The individuals who got special mortgages? Bill Clinton's former budget director, the man chosen by Obama to pick Joe Biden as his running mate, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Democrat Kent Conrad and, yes, Chris Dodd.

HELPING CREATE THE FINANCIAL CRISIS - our financial crisis was started by the subprime mortgage mess. Dodd helped support Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's purchase of subprime loans. The WALL STREET JOURNAL wrote in their editorial last summer on Dodd, "You'll love this one. In the strange accountability of Washington, the same folks who put taxpayers on the hook for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are now demanding ransom to let taxpayers bail them out." The Journal reported Dodd publicly attacked critics who were "repeatedly raising alarm bells about the risks Fannie and Freddie pose to the financial system." He promoted and protected them and in return he received more PAC money from them than any other politician. A Journal editorial said, "In any other business, Mr. Dodd would be begging forgiveness."

SUPPORTING ACORN - Not only has ACORN been raided by the FBI for falsifying voter registration records, ACORN directly promoted Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's involvement in subprime loans. In return Chris Dodd attended meetings at ACORN offices and promoted their efforts "to stop foreclosures." More shocking, as we have repeatedly pointed out, the stimulus bill a contained a provision to provide taxpayer funding for ACORN. This is the same stimulus bill that apparently became the vehicle for Dodd's support of AIG.

With this track record the American people should not be surprised that it was Senator Chris Dodd who slipped in the secret provision to specifically protect the now infamous bonuses at AIG. The question is why and what is he hiding?


While conservative members of Congress were fighting against the pork-filled stimulus bill, Dodd was working for the AIG bonuses - meeting behind closed doors with Treasury officials and the Obama administration writing his amendment that specifically allowed for the multi-million dollar bonuses. As CNN pointed out, "final language in Dodd's amendment specifically excluded bonuses from contracts signed - before the stimulus bill's passage - a fact which allowed for the AIG bonus payout."

If you received a bonus at AIG you might say, "thank you,"... just as Fannie Mae did with their PAC donations to Dodd when he supported them ...just like ACORN who has showered him with praise. But the taxpayers of the United States are left thankless for the havoc he continues to wreak on our nation. So, the question is, how does Dodd remain in the Senate after all of this? The simple answer is that the people of Connecticut elected him.


We have created a special CHRIS DODD CONNECTICUT MEDIA PAGE. When you sign the petition, support ACU and hit "submit" you will be taken to a page where you can find this special, new ACU Chris Dodd media site. On our Dodd Media Site, you can find contact information for media all over Connecticut; both newspapers for letters to the editor and talk radio shows. You can contact them and express your outrage to the people of Connecticut who sent Dodd to the U.S. Senate. Why did they do it? Are they still proud to have him representing them in Washington? Will they try to send him back to Washington? Let them know what you think.

Please sign the petition below, support ACU's effort, and then click submit to be taken to this special Dodd Media page.


The third person at the center of this scandal is President Barack Obama. The ACU has repeatedly warned about government infusions of taxpayer money into private companies. We have opposed these bailouts and stimulus packages. Barack Obama's agenda to grow the size of government has enabled these activities.As our Chairman David Keene said this week, "the bonuses are a political issue because the money comes from you and me. We shouldn't have been asked to put it up in the first place and if we hadn't, it would simply be an issue between the management and stockholders. And, if I was a stockholder, I would have been outraged that a bunch of managers who managed to ruin my investment were getting a bonus. But the real mistake was putting the money into AIG in the first place."

The ACU opposed the stimulus package from the start. We delivered petitions from you and others against this bill. Every Republican in the House opposed it and almost every Republican in the Senate did too, and at least they cut hundreds of millions from it. But now in addition to the billions and billions of dollars in wasteful spending we now have the AIG crisis too.

ACU will continue to fight these efforts with your help. Please sign the petition here, now and we will do so.

Don't let Chris Dodd escape accountability. Sign the petition, support ACU and visit the Chris Dodd media page now to express your opinion.


Dennis Whitfield
Executive Vice President

P.S. Don't let Chris Dodd hide from his actions. Help us get to the truth. Send the message to his own voters, right in Connecticut. Ask them why he is in the Senate. Do so after you sign the petition here, now, to make Obama, his Treasury Secretary and Chris Dodd come clean on their actions, now.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Spare me the Phony Shock and Outrage

I share the outrage being expressed by members of the Congress, the press and the public over the $165 million AIG paid in retention bonuses to employees with our tax money. However, I am more outraged that Congress passed a stimulus bill that permitted these bonuses. This did not just happen by accident. Language in the stimulus bill originally prohibited paying of bonuses to recipients of bailout money. That language was changed in the Conference Committee to allow this to occur.

According to the Huffington Post, it was at the urging of the Treasury Department that Senator Chis Dodd changed the language of the stimulus bill to allow recipients of bailouts to receive bonuses. Then, the Democrats in Congress passed the 1100 page, trillion-dollar bill without ever reading it.

This really stinks! Chris Dodd, the number two recipient of AIG campaign contributions, should be indicted or resign. We should know what the President, who as Senator was the number one recipient of AIG campaign contributions, knew and when he knew it. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner should resign in disgrace. Everyone who received campaign contributions from AIG should return them. Legislators should pledge to know what they are voting on before they vote in the future.

Please spare me the phony shock and outrage from Obama and the Democrats who engineered and allowed this to occur. Obama and Chris Dodd are deep in AIG's pocket. This is old-fashioned corruption on an unprecedented and grand scale. How the public can still believe Obama represents transparency and change is beyond me. If these first few weeks are any indication, this may be shaping up to be one of the most corrupt administrations in history. When will some of the dirt start sticking to Obama? The foxes really are guarding the chicken house, the lunatics are running the asylum, and most Americans still think Obama is the messiah.

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ALG Demands President Obama and Members of Congress Return AIG Campaign Kickbacks

March 19th, 2009, Fairfax, VA—Americans for Limited Government President Bill Wilson today in a letter urged President Barack Obama and members of Congress to “return the $4.37 million they received in campaign contributions from AIG since 1989, including the $644,218 they received in 2008.”

“If the American people are to believe all the angry words and threats coming from the White House, President Obama must return the $104,332 he received from AIG during the 2008 campaign cycle,” declared Wilson in a statement.

According to OpenSecrets.org, AIG gave some $644,218 to candidates for federal office in 2008. According to Wilson's letter, “[I]n return, it received from the Federal Reserve some $173 billion in taxpayer-guaranteed loans. That represents nearly a 27 million percent return on their 2008 'investment' into politicians' loyalty.”

“The 2008 money received by the President and members of Congress should clearly be returned, but more than that, the honorable thing would be for any politician who has ever received a penny from AIG to return it to the American taxpayers who are now paying to keep the company afloat,” Wilson said.

“These campaign kickbacks must be returned,” Wilson added.

President Obama received $104,332 from AIG in 2008 of the $110,332 in contributions he has ever received from the company. “President Obama received 94.56 percent of the money he has ever gotten from AIG, and yet he has not returned it since the bailouts began in September,” said Wilson.

Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) in 2008 received $103,900 of the $281,038 he has ever received from AIG. According to the letter, “in the 2009 'stimulus' legislation, [Dodd] inserted the amendment that guaranteed that bonuses would be paid by adding language to a spending cap that specifically excluded executive bonuses included in contracts.”

“Only 11 of the 314 members of the Democratic Congressional majority voted against the 'stimulus' and protecting the AIG bonuses, and now they act shocked as they pretend to have never read the 1100-page bill that they are responsible for that cost $787 billion,” Wilson said.

Wilson believes that campaign contributions from AIG and other bailout firms represent “a clear case of pay-to-play corruption.”

“The corrupt cesspool in Washington needs to be drained where 'too big to fail' firms get taxpayer-guaranteed bailouts from 'too compromised to resist' politicians,” Wilson concluded.

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Good morning Sunshine!

economic crisis, sunshine,Obama cartoon

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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Michael, Hang in there. I support you.

When the Republicans were going through the process of selecting a new chairman, I watched the debates between the candidates and was impressed by Michael Steele. I was hoping he would be selected, but actually thought he was a long shot.

I was very pleased when he won. I think that after eight years of George W. Bush, we needed new leadership not tied to the Bush Administration. I also thought we needed a new face of the party to show that we are not just the party of angry old white men. I also thought we needed someone with a practical business-like approach to administering and growing the party.

With the party is such disarray, Steele does not have an easy job. The party has always had its factions. Trying to keep the economic conservatives, the social conservatives, the main street Republicans, the neo-con Republicans, and the libertarian-leaning Republicans all headed in the same direction must be much like trying to herd cats. Trying to unite the party has got to be daunting task. I sometimes have the feeling that the animosity within the party and between the factions is deep and bitter, but I hope I am wrong.

I call my blog “A Disgruntled Republican” and I find there are a lot of disgruntled Republicans, but they are disgruntled for different reasons. Face it; a lot of the real activists in the party were less than enthused with the Party’s nominee for president. I thought John McCain was a good candidate and represented the party well. Given the Bush legacy and the economic meltdown, I think McCain did as good a job as anyone could have done under the circumstances. I respect, like, and admire John McCain. I get the feeling however, that a lot of Republicans feel that the nominee was forced on the party by alien forces. Sometimes I feel like the lone ranger, in saying I actually was a McCain supporter. Many feel that McCain was a “RINO.”

One of the favorite epitaphs Republicans throw at each other is RINO for “Republican in name only.” Despite thinking of myself as a Republican and a conservative, I have been called a “RINO” myself on more than one occasion by those who disagreed with my position on this or that issue. Castigating each other for being less than ideologically pure and trying to push others out of the party is not conducive to party growth and harmony. It seems that at any one time that half the party is trying to purge the other half. We don’t need to be the party of the little tent.

Many of the disgruntled are now turning on Michael Steele. Michael Steele is taking a lot heat for his mild criticism of Rush Limbaugh and for a comment he made about abortion. Both issue are being taken out of context and blown way out of proportion.

Below is an excerpt from the GQ interview where Michael made his abortions comments that caused such controversy.

How much of your pro-life stance, for you, is informed not just by your Catholic faith but by the fact that you were adopted?

Oh, a lot. Absolutely. I see the power of life in that—I mean, and the power of choice! The thing to keep in mind about it… Uh, you know, I think as a country we get off on these misguided conversations that throw around terms that really misrepresent truth.

Explain that.

The choice issue cuts two ways. You can choose life, or you can choose abortion. You know, my mother chose life. So, you know, I think the power of the argument of choice boils down to stating a case for one or the other.

Are you saying you think women have the right to choose abortion?

Yeah. I mean, again, I think that’s an individual choice.

You do?

Yeah. Absolutely.

Are you saying you don’t want to overturn Roe v. Wade?

I think Roe v. Wade—as a legal matter, Roe v. Wade was a wrongly decided matter.

Okay, but if you overturn Roe v. Wade, how do women have the choice you just said they should have?

The states should make that choice. That’s what the choice is. The individual choice rests in the states. Let them decide.

This simply does not seem that offensive to me. It is a little confusing and a little inarticulate. An interview is not like writing an essay where one can carefully construct their arguments. If you yourself have ever been interviewed, you are probably a little more understanding than if you have never been in that position. People should take his comments in context of the interview. He is not advocating abortion. He is clearly pro-life.

Here is what Steele had to say about Limbaugh that got him in such hot water: “Rush Limbaugh is an entertainer. Rush Limbaugh, his whole thing is entertainment. Yes it’s incendiary, yes it’s ugly.”

Of course Rush will magnify any criticism. With hours a day of radio time to fill and ratings to maintain, Rush loves a good fight.

To see Steele’s comments in context, please follow this link to Politico. Be sure and see the video clip next to the article where, in a heated exchange, Steele makes those comments about Rush. What he said should not be that big of a deal. Steele has wisely, I thought, tried to put the Limbaugh controversy behind him, yet some are calling for his head.

On various blogs and chat groups, I am seeing a growing call for Michael Steele to resign. The last thing we as Republicans need at this time is for a change in leadership at the top of the party. We do not need a party blood bath. I, for one, am well pleased with Michael Steele and his leadership of the party. I am going to send the RNC another contribution and attach a note of support for Michael Steele. Let us cut the guy some slack and support him.

Michael: Hang in there. I support you.

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Obama Easy Payment Plan for Irresponsible Homebuyers

The Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan

On February 18, President Obama announced a $75 million comprehensive plan to help homeowners avoid foreclosure by providing affordable and sustainable mortgage loans. The Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan has two parts major parts but also contains other minor provisions. One part of this program one may have heard about, the judicial modification as part of a bankruptcy, is not achieved by this act but is simply proposed. Here is what is in the plan.

The first major part of the program provides for a sweeping loan modification program targeted at borrowers who are at risk of foreclosure because their incomes are not sufficient to make their mortgage payments. Some 3 to 4 million homeowners will be helped under this program.

The second part of the program provides refinance opportunities for borrowers who are current on their mortgage payments but have been unable to refinance because their homes have decreased in value. They may now have the opportunity to refinance into a 30 year, fixed rate loans. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will allow the refinance of mortgage loans that they hold in their portfolios or that they guarantee in their own mortgage-backed securities. Four to five million people will be helped under this program.

Here are the major components of the Loan modification provision of this program.

  • A Shared Effort: If the lender will lower the payment so that the mortgage payment does not exceed 38% or the borrower’s income, then the treasury will match the reductions dollar for dollar down to 31% of the borrower’s income. The interest rate reduction necessary to reach this lower ratio would stay in place for five years then would be stepped back up to the conforming loan rate in place at the time of the modification. Subsidies could bring the interest rate as low as 2%.
  • Incentive to servicers: For each loan so modified the servicer will be paid $1000 up front and up to $1000 a each year in “pay for success” fees.
  • Incentives for Borrowers: As long as the borrower stays current the borrower will get $1000 a year for up to five years.
  • Reach Borrower early: To encourage servicers to help at-risk borrowers before they go into default, an additional fee will be paid servicers and mortgage holders for loans they modify.
  • Home Price Decline Reserve Payments: This is an insurance fund to grantee loans so that lenders will be willing to modify more loans in areas where house values are declining.

Here are the major components of the refinance provision of the program.

  • Conforming loans. The loans had to be good loans to start with.
  • Standard underwriting. The borrower must meet standard credit standards
  • Higher Loan to value. The new loan can be up to 105% of the homes value.


I do not like this plan. It may work. It may stabilize housing, but it is wrong. We could have done better. I do not have much of a problem with the refinance provision of this act but do not like the loan modification provision. Something had to be done however to slow the rate of foreclosures.

If the house next door to you goes into foreclosures your home value can drop. If several houses on your street go into foreclosure your homes value can drop considerably. Your wealth can be eaten up through no fault of your own. If you need to sell your home, you may have to sell it for considerably less than what you think it is worth. There is a social cost to other people’s foreclosures and we must do something. As long as existing homes are dropping in value lenders are going to be reluctant to ease up on credit and allow even deserving borrower to finance homes. This crisis stated in the housing sector and I do not think we can pull out of the economic crisis until we stabilize the housing market. Nevertheless, I don’t like this plan. We needed to so something else other than what we have been doing, but I think this is the wrong thing to do.

Rather than just give the money away, I would have preferred a plan that placed a second or third mortgage on the home of the borrower that got the assistance. We could have designed a program that made a loan to the borrower in order to “buy-down” the first mortgage. This loan could be a “due on sale” loan so the borrower would not have to pay the loan back as long as they lived in the house. If the home value never increases then the tax payers would still be out, but if home values stabilize and then increase the taxpayer subsidy would be paid back and the irresponsible lender and borrower would not realize a profit due to the government rescue.

Another possible way the bailout of irresponsible lenders and borrowers could have occurred is a “shared equity” loan designed so that if and when property values again accelerate the government recoups any subsidy but in a way that is proportional to the increase in equity. We needed to so something and I could have designed better ways to do it.

Perhaps the simplest way to achieve the desired effect of slowing the foreclosure rate but not enriching the irresponsible is to simply encourage mortgage companies to modify the loans by changing the amortization period to forty years or fifty years or however long it takes to make the payments affordable. The loans could still be 30 years loans but with a balloon at the end of 30 years. The homeowners who benefited by buying housing they cannot afford would still get to live in the houses they should never have purchased in the first place, they simply would not benefit by pocketing the equity and sticking it to the taxpayers.

One thing I do not like about the loan modification provision of this program is that it only helps the irresponsible. I see responsible people who are losing their home every day due to the loss of a job. I would have preferred that some of those people to whom bad things happen be helped and fewer of those who simply bought more house than they can afford. The economic impact would be the same weather we help a person who is facing foreclosure because a spouse died or because they bought too much house. This package does nothing to help the deserving borrower.

One of the most objectionable aspects of this program is paying people $1000 a year for simply making their new lower mortgage payments on time. This is an outrage. All of those people who didn’t buy more house than they should have bought, and who were smart cautious borrowers and who got good loans are not going to be rewarded for paying their house payment on time; the irresponsible will be. If you are a responsible person in today’s world you are a fool. I guess rewarding the irresponsible is the kind of change people voted for in November.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Does Rush Define What Conservatives Stand For?

Reason Online – In attacking Rush Limbaugh, American Enterprise Institute Fellow David Frum risked incurring the ire of the conservative movement. But in doing so, did Frum open up the door to questions about the soul of the conservative movement, and what it now stands for after two electoral failures? [read article here]

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Is Rush Limbaugh Good for the Conservative Movement?

I was conflicted as I watched Rush Limbaugh address the CPAC convention. There were times when he got my adrenalin pumping and I wanted to stand and cheer. There was much in his speech with which I agreed. Then, his attack on John McCain and, without naming them by name, George Will, David Brooks and Charles Krauthammer brought me back to reality.

I suspect that if William F. Buckley, Jr. were alive today that Rush would denounce him and read him out of the conservative movement also. Buckley was the person most responsible for defining post World War II conservatism until Rush Limbaugh redefined it. Buckley and those around him like Russell Kirk. James Burnham, Frank Meyer, Willmoore Kendall, L. Brent Bozell, and Whittaker Chambers were educated men and political theorist. They not only opposed something; they also stood for something. They made reasoned arguments. They challenged people to think.

Today we have Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage and Ann Coulter as leaders of the movement and their stock in trade is to insult, belittle, and rant. They don’t appeal to people’s reason but to their emotions. You don’t have to exercise your intellect to enjoy Rush Limbaugh. Much of the Limbaugh appeal is an appeal to class envy. He excels at pitting the beer and pretzel crowd against the wine and brie crowd. That is not ideology but class warfare. It should be beneath us. Limbaugh and Hannity even brag about the fact they do not have a college education as if too much education will corrupt you.

If we accept Limbaugh as the leader of the conservative movement, I fear we will become the movement of the peasants with pitchforks. We will become the movement of the stupid. We will have an angry and motivated but shirking base. I do not want to overstate my case against Limbaugh. I was once a fan. He made people unashamed to be conservative. He poked fun at liberal pretensions and I enjoyed it. He can be cleaver and entertaining. However, enough is enough already. He is the conservative’s equivalent of the liberal’s Michael Moore or Al Franken. He is preaching to the choir. He is rousing the rabble. The conservative movement does not need more Limbaugh; we need another William F. Buckley.

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Monday, March 9, 2009

Are CRA, Clinton and Carter Really to Blame?

by Harold Black

I am fed up with the conservative talk show hosts putting the blame of the current economic crisis on the Community Reinvestment Act. I’ve heard them say that the CRA was signed into law by Jimmy Carter and aggressively expanded under Bill Clinton forcing banks to make loans to people who could not afford them. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were also forced to buy these loans. Since people could not afford them, they defaulted causing the failure of Fannnie and Freddie and precipitating the crisis.

As my father used to tell me, “Harold, that sounds good if you are interested in sounds”. But what is the truth? The truth is that republican presidents rather than democrats were ultimately responsible. When I was Deputy Director of Economic Research at the Comptroller of the Currency, the Congress passed the Equal Credit Opportunity Act in 1974 and the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act in 1975. I was charged with determining if national banks (those who received their charter from the federal government) were guilty of discrimination and of redlining. Discrimination is the act of denying a person a loan based on a prohibited basis such as race. Redlining is the denying a loan to anyone regardless of race who is applying for a loan in a specific geographical area.

My study (published in the American Economic Review, "Discrimination in Mortgage Lending," (with R. L. Schweitzer and L. Mandell), May 1978, v. 68, n. 2, pp. 186-192) showed weak statistical evidence of racial discrimination in the accept/reject decision but no evidence of redlining. These acts and our research at the OCC laid the foundation for other research on discrimination and to the passage of the CRA in 1977.

Although the CRA was signed into law by Jimmy Carter, two other important acts the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) and the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) were signed by a republican, Gerald Ford. The talk show hosts also state that Bill Clinton was responsive for the expansion of CRA and forcing the banks to make bad loans. However, the two major changes in the CRA occurred in 1989 with the passage of the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act (FIRREA) and the Federal Housing Enterprises Financial Safety and Soundness Act of 1992. Both were signed into law by George H. W. Bush. Under FIRREA, the reporting requirements of CRA compliance were expanded. The latter act required Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to support affordable housing by purchasing CRA-qualifying loans. Even though the talk show hosts have said that up to one half of Fannie and Freddie loans were CRA loans, the act suggests that by the year 2010, that one-third of their purchases be affordable housing loans.

If there were pressures to expand CRA lending, it came in part from the banks themselves. As a result of the Riegel-Neal Interstate Banking and Branching Act of 1994, signed into law by George W. Bush, CRA ratings became an important factor in determining if banks could merge or acquire across state lines. Because advocacy groups would use CRA ratings as a protest against the banks in order to get additional CRA lending, the banks greatly expanded these types of loans. I recall going to a Fed Atlanta conference on CRA lending, compliance and enforcement. A banker told me that the Feds never pressured him into making a bad loan. However, because they wanted to expand into other states, they had instituted a more liberal CRA lending policy. So the truth is that if there is blame to be handed out for a misguided CRA policy, it has to be laid at the feet of the republicans and the banks. Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton are convenient whipping boys and are well deserving of other blame but CRA lending is not one of them.

As to the banks making loans to people who could not pay them back? We in Finance have a technical term for such lenders – it is a fool. This makes no sense at all. Some people will say that the bankers could make bad loans because they would be sold to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Well most CRA mortgages and subprime mortgages were sold to private investors. If these loans defaulted within 90 days, then the purchasers would put them back to the originator, If they defaulted later and more bad loans were made by the originator, then the investors would either not buy them or would offer low prices on mortgage pools of the originator. Either way, the originator would lose and would quit making bad loans.

Lastly, there are too few subprime mortgage to have caused the financial crisis. At year end 2008, there were $1.3 trillion in subprime mortgages. The default rate on subprimes had increased from 8 percent to around 20 percent. If you assume 100 percent loss on the defaulted mortgages, then this totals $260 billion. Well in 2008 the total loss in mortgage backed securities was $435 billion. If subprime defaults were at fault, then there would have been no need for the $800 TARP package. So like Carter and Clinton, subprime is just a convenient whipping boy. As my readers know, I am a laissez-faire free market conservative. But that does not blind me to the truth.

Harold A. Black is the James F. Smith, Jr. Professor of Finance, University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He has served on the faculties of American University, Howard University, the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill and the University of Florida. His government service includes the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and as a Board Member of the National Credit Union Administration. Dr. Black blogs at Caveat Emptor where he originally published this article. It is reprinted on this blog with his permission.

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Sunday, March 8, 2009

My Life Without Me

My Life without me, movie It takes an illness with a bleak prognosis to break open 23-year-old Anne's (Sarah Polley) longing for a better life. A mother of two stuck in a dead-end job, Anne has received nothing but grief from her troubled parents and her slacker husband (Scott Speedman). But when she finds out she's dying, she makes a list of things she wants to accomplish: get acrylic nails, sleep with another man and, best of all, realize her true potential.

Starring: Sarah Polley, Scott Speedman
Director: Isabel Coixet
Genre: Drama
Format: Widescreen ...
Language: English
Rated R: For language

My Review
I watched this movie this weekend and loved it. I know people like the girl in this movie; people whose life is a mess. She is so typical of many of the clients I serve in my job; people who have made a lot of mistakes and have very little future but muddle through life and are doing the best they can given their circumstances.

If you are feeling a little depressed don't watch this movie. This movie is so sad. It will make a grown man choke back a tear. It will make you get introspective. About the time it gets so sad you think you can't stand it, something funny will happen that relieves the tension and makes you laugh out loud. A great movie!

If you have Comcast it is now showing as a free movie.

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Mercedes Benz

Obama, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?
My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends.
Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends,
Obama, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?

Obama, won’t you buy me a color TV?
Dialing For Dollars is trying to find me.
I wait for delivery each day until three,
Obama, won’t you buy me a color TV?

Obama, won’t you buy me a night on the town?
I’m counting on you, man, please don’t let me down.
Prove that you love me and buy the next round,
Obama won’t you buy me a night on the town ?

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A Tobacco Prohibition???

by Adam R. Bitely, Director of New Media, Americans for Limited Government

In the near future, a dangerous piece of legislation is coming to the floor of the House of Representatives. This bill would restrict your rights as never before. Simply put, this would legislate that the Government could take an industry and slaughter it! And that is the least of the powers that they will gain if this is allowed to pass. The House Committee on Energy and Commerce is set to vote tomorrow on legislation that would place tobacco products under the authority of the FDA. The bill could be on the President’s desk as soon as this Summer.

You do not have to agree with smoking to see that this bill only serves to further centralize government authority over our daily lives. Through classifying tobacco as a drug under the authority of the FDA, the Government then can force people to do as they say, and as a result, put thousands of people out of work and block new proven smokeless products from entering the market. Instead of helping to fix the problem, the government will use force and coercion to influence the change that they want. They are gaining power to influence your daily life, and do not think for one second that they will not exploit this for their own benefit.

Congressman Gordon, please do not support legislation that would restrict liberty and freedom. As long as people are not restricting the liberties of their neighbor, there exists no need to punish them. It is not the job of the Government to tell people how to live their lives, rather, it is the job of the government to defend us from those who would restrict liberty.

You must do your job Congressman Gordon in protecting these liberties. We are watching!

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$200,000 for tattoo removal in Mission Hills, California

You, as an American taxpayer, may have to limit your personal spending this year but, Congress is still on an unlimited spending spree with your money. This week the Senate will vote on yet another spending bill filled with huge budget increases and wasteful pork.

Last year Congress failed to pass 9 of the 12 appropriations bills to keep the government running, so they passed a Continuing Resolution for 2009, which kept spending to 2008 levels. Now, liberated from a presidential veto threat, they have rolled up those 9 bills into one massive Omnibus Appropriations bill that carries a $410 billion price tag. This is the second year in a row the budget bill has called for an 8% increase in spending, more than twice the rate of inflation. If you combine this spending with the just passed 'stimulus' bill, some agencies will receive an 80% increase for Fiscal Year 2009.

President Obama has promised to eliminate 'earmarks' in these spending bills, but he says this bill doesn't count because "it's last year's business". The result is a porkfest of 9,000 earmarks that continue to use your pocketbook to fund some ridiculous project some friend of a congressman or senator from back home thinks is cool. To name just a few:
  • $1.8 million for swine odor and manure management in Iowa

  • $1.9 million for the Pleasure Beach Water Taxi Service in Connecticut

  • $238,000 for organizing Hawaiian sea voyages in ancient canoes

  • $200,000 for tattoo removal in Mission Hills, California

You get the picture. If you are looking for change in Washington, you will not find it in this bill. It is business as usual for the special interests.

Here is what one senator had to say about this bill: "The bloated omnibus requires sacrifice from no one, least of all the government. It only exacerbates the problem and hastens the day of reckoning. Voters rightly demanded change in November's election, but this approach to spending represents business as usual in Washington, not the voters' mandate."

No, this was not a floor speech by a leading conservative, but a column by Democrat Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana published in the Wall Street Journal. The fact that a veteran Democrat in the Senate felt the need to go public with this criticism shows just how embarrassingly bad this bill is.


We at the American Conservative Union thank you for all you do to advance conservative free-market principles.
Larry Hart
Director of Government Relations
American Conservative Union

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Monday, March 2, 2009

Obama's Homeless Women

Is Henrietta Hughes homeless by choice?
Fox 4, Fort Myers Florida

Ever since she asked President Obama for help during his visit to Fort Myers 2 days ago, Henrietta Hughes has been on every TV network in the country.
She says she's been living in her car for months and couldn't find work. Now a local agency tells Four in Your Corner, yes Ms. Hughes has been homeless, but only because she chose to be. (link)

Obama’s Homeless Woman Is Actually Real Estate Investor
March 2, 2009, The Lie Politic

During Obama’s campaign to promote his stimulus package, he staged an event with a woman, Henrietta Hughes, who, as it turns out, appears to be anything but truly needy. Henrietta was given an audience with Obama to beg for a home. When aid was provided via the offer of free rent by an opportunistic politician, the liberal press spouted that Henrietta was actually given a free home and implied it came from Obama. The lie has propagated through the liberal media and, quite honestly, it nauseated us because it was so obviously staged and such a distorted lie. Well, as it turns out, the lie didn’t end there. (link)


I know there really are newly homeless people as a result of the housing crisis. Could the Obama administration not find a real one? The mainstream press has been awfully quite about this deception. Is this deception not newsworthy? Remember Joe the Plumber and how the press dug deep for dirt? It seems Joe the Plumber was not yet a licensed plumber and his name was not Joe and the press reported it widely. The mainstream press has been awfully quite about Henrietta the Homeless Fraud. Maybe I wasn't paying attention and the press has also been nationalized and they now all report to the new Propaganda Czar.

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