Sunday, May 31, 2009

Where is Bill Clinton?

Bill ClintonWith the run away spending, the bail-outs, Chris Dodd scandals, economic crisis, Tea Parties, Nancy Pelosie clarifications, the war, North Korea nuclear program, and the nomination of liberal jurist Sotomayor, I have had so much to think about that I just forgot all about Bill Clinton. It just dawned on me that I had not heard him mentioned in some time. I kind miss ole Bill. I always thought of him as a kind of rascally, likable, charismatic phony. He was personable and he was entertaining. Despite not liking his politics, I kind of liked Bill. He reminded me of a Pentecostal Televangelist or maybe a used car salesman. I thought he had loads of personality but was a little sleazy. He had that quality that attracts stupid girls. I thought he actually governed quite well, thanks to his malleability and a Republican congress that set the parameters.

By this time, I was sure he would have been in the news. I expected he would make some statement that was at slight variance with the official position of the administration and he would have caused Hillary all kinds of embarrassment. Or, I thought he would have been engaged in accepting some sort of honorarium or establishing some sort of business relationship with some faction interested in gaining government favor. Or, I thought we would hear reports of some bimbo fraternization or sexual scandal.

We have heard nothing! We really need some Bill Clinton for comic relieve. I know we have Joe Biden to occasionally say stupid and embarrassing things, but Joe Biden is no Bill Clinton. We need Bill! While I miss him, I want to commend him for being on his best behavior, keeping his mouth shut, keeping his pecker in his pants and his face off the evening news.

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Please don't tell Obama

Please don't tell Obama what comes after a trillion

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Friday, May 29, 2009

Your bill: $546,668 government debt per household

According to an analysis by USA Today, American taxpayers “are on the hook for an extra $55,000 a household to cover rising federal commitments made just in the past year for retirement benefits, the national debt and other government promises.” Federal obligations now stand at a record $546,668 per household, quadruple what the average U.S. household owes for all mortgages, car loans, credit cards and other debt combined.

This debt is composed of medicare obligations, social security, Federal borrowing, civil service retirement obligations, military pensions, and miscellaneous other debts. And, we are not through adding to this debt load. With national health care in the works and continueing massive government spending, the debt burden will only grow. More and more tax receipts will have to go just to pay the interest on the debt.

Does anyone really think that we can grow the economy sufficiently to pay off this debt? Government borrowing will freeze out private investment and with anti-growth policies like cap and trade being anticipated and with greater government involvement in the economy, I do not look for vigorous economic growth to pull us out of this hole. We are much like a household that is borrowing on the credit card to pay the electric bill and each month we must borrow more just to keep the lights on. The difference is that in a household, eventually the credit card will max out. Unlike a household, government can print money. The only way we can pay our debts is with cheaper dollars. Does anyone doubt that massive inflation is not in our future?

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Is Obama following the George W Bush foreign policy?

While I have been extremely disappointed in Obama's economic policies, I have, so far, been pleased by much of his management of foreign affairs. Candidate Obama never presented himself as the most pacifist and isolationist of the Democratic field of candidates. He was much more centrist than Dennis Kucinich or Bill Richardson, yet he was very critical of the Bush administration’s foreign policy and promised a change. We have seen some real change and some superficial change and much of the same.

Some Republicans have criticized Obama’s recent making nice with Hugo Chavez. I don't. Reagan made nice with Gorbachev. Nixon made nice with Mao. FDR made nice with Joseph Stalin. There is nothing wrong with being diplomatic and friendly with your enemies. It may be beneficial to be on a first name basis with the bastards. Sometimes if is even necessary to ally ourselves with the most ruthless and despicable of people, as was the case in World War II. I am not so sure that Hitler was a lot worse than Joseph Stalin, but Germany was a threat and Russia was our ally and FDR had to make nice with Joseph Stalin. While Chavez may be irritating tin-horn dictator, he is hardly a Mao or Stalin.

Obama has also been criticized for changing our policy toward Cuba. Again, I think he is pursuing the correct policy and that our isolation of Cuba has been a mistake. I am glad to see us move toward normalization with that nation.

I am pleased that we are escalating the war in Afghanistan. I think Bush made a big mistake in going to go to war in Iraq and failing to pursue victory in Afghanistan. We cannot allow the Taliban to reestablish their rule in that country. I am pleased that we are pressuring and prevailing in persuading Pakistan to take a more aggressive role in suppressing the Taliban in that country. I am pleased that Obama has only tweaked the timetable for withdrawal from Iraq and seems committed to exiting that conflict in an orderly fashion that will preserve the peace and stability and leave behind a sizable American presence. .

In the war on terror, which we no long call the “War on Terror,” Obama is essentially continuing the Bush policies. While Obama uses less bellicose language and does not have the cowboy swagger that irritated so many, there is very little to distinguish Obama from Bush. He sounds more moderate but his policies are the same. It was Teddy Roosevelt who said “talk softly and carry a big stick.” I am not displeased with the more moderate tone. I have mixed feelings about the continuation of some of Bush policies.

When Bush was president and prominent national conservatives formed the American Freedom Agenda, I cheered. I was concerned that the Federal Government was amassing unchecked power. I did not approve of the government claiming the authority for warrantless searches of Internet communications. I do not approve of torture. I did not approve of special rendition. I thought George W. Bush was exceeding his constitutional authority.

Many of the same policies that were continued or initiated by Bush are being continued under Obama. Special rendition is a policy that started in peace time under Bill Clinton. It is the practice of kidnapping suspected enemies and turning them over to other countries where they can be tortured. We are speaking of real torture not a gray area that may or may not constitute torture. By letting a third country do the dirty work we can claim to have clean hands and not have engaged in torture ourselves. George Bush expanded the rendition policy and Obama has not ended the practice.
One Obama proposal that should concern all civil libertarians is the Cyber-security Act of 2009, which is essentially the same as Bush’s Total Information Awareness but under a new name. It would grant the government authority to monitor and mine Internet traffic for patterns that indicate links to terrorist activity. My concern is that such authority will be misused. This seems to violate the constitutions prohibition against an unreasonalble search. The same people that were outraged about Total Awareness are very quite about Cyber Security.

Obama was very critical of the bush administration policy regarding prisoners held at Guantanamo. I do not think the issue of what to do with irregular forces captured on the field of battle is an easy riddle to solve, however I do not think that we should hold indefinitely people who may be innocent. Recently, when the United States District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that non-Afghan detainees at the US Bagram Prison in Afghanistan, captured outside Afghanistan, had the same due process rights that the Supreme Court last year gave to prisoners at Guantánamo, the Obama administration argued they did not. Bagram is a less high profile prison than Guantanamo but the issue regarding Bagram is exactly the same as Guantanamo and the position of the Obama administration is exactly the same as the position of the Bush administration.

In a recent article in the Washington Post, columnist Charles Krathamer pointed out that on policy after policy the Obama administration is continuing the policy of the Bush administration. “The latest flip-flop,” writes Krathamer. “is the restoration of military tribunals. During the 2008 campaign, Obama denounced them repeatedly, calling them an ‘enormous failure.’ Obama suspended them upon his swearing in. Now they're back.”

I admit I am conflicted. On the one hand, Obama’s policies seem to vindicate the policies of George W. Bush. I could conclude that George W. Bush was right all along and when faced with the enormous responsibility of keeping this country safe, that Obama came to a realization that the only prudent course to follow was that that was set by his predecessor. When one does not have the responsibility for our country’s security it is easy to snipe from the sidelines. Obama put aside partisanship and campaign promises and did the right thing.

On the other hand, I could conclude that Obama is an opportunist who did a complete flip-flop. He would say anything to get elected but he is a power hungry opportunist who cannot turn down the occasion to amass more power. I don’t know which view is correct.

What I cannot understand is how civil libertarians and pacifist of the left, who loathed George W. Bush, are letting Obama get by with continuing the same policies they professed to hate. If these policies were wrong when enacted by George W. Bush, are they still not wrong?

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Obama in Bush Clothing

By Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post, Friday, May 22, 2009

[Excerpt] Within 125 days, Obama has adopted with only minor modifications huge swaths of the entire, allegedly lawless Bush program.

The latest flip-flop is the restoration of military tribunals.

[Excerpt] Observers of all political stripes are stunned by how much of the Bush national security agenda is being adopted by this new Democratic government. Victor Davis Hanson (National Review) offers a partial list: "The Patriot Act, wiretaps, e-mail intercepts, military tribunals, Predator drone attacks, Iraq (i.e., slowing the withdrawal), Afghanistan (i.e., the surge) -- and now Guantanamo." [Full Article]


While I have been extreamly disappointed in Obama's economic policy I have been pleasantly surprised so far by his management of foreign affairs. Some Republicans have criticised his making nice with Hugo Chavez. I don't. Reagan made nice with Gorbachav. Nixon made nice with Mao. FDR made nice with the world's number one tyrant Joseph Stalin. There is nothing wrong with being diplomatic and friendly with your enemies. Sometimes nations even have to have dispicable allies as was the case of FDR and Joseph Stalin. Obama has also been criticized for changing our policy toward Cuba. Again, I think he is pursueing the correct policy and that our isolation of Cuba has been a mistake.

Where I am most pleased with what Obama is doing in the field of foreigh affaris is in the War on Terror, although we no longer use that term "War on Terror." While Obama uses less and does not have the comboy swagger that iratated so many of the effete liberal intellegencia he is essentially continuing all of the Bush policies. Since Obama is pursueing so many other policies that please the left, such as the destruction of the

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Obama Man Can

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

Memorial Day
Pause to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice so we can be free.

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

More fuel efficient cars may increase global warming.

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 required new car fleets to average 35 mpg by 2020; President Obama’s new rules tightens that standard by just a little and requires fleets to average 35.5 mpg by 2016.
While the federal government is pushing for more fuel efficient cars they are assuming that this will reduce fuel use and reduce auto emissions. There is an assumption that an X% increase in fuel efficiency will result in a corresponding X% reduction in auto emissions and fuel consumption. That is simply faulty logic. It does not take into account the way people really behave. From 1977 to 2001, the number of miles driven every year by Americans rose by 151%. More fuel efficient cars make driving cheaper, so people will do more of it. We can expect an increase in the rate of increase with stable gas prices and increases fuel efficiency.

More fuel efficient cars may mean we become even more mobile. Extended families can be scattered and still see each other frequently. More fuel efficient cars may mean that people who live in the country won’t think twice about jumping in the car go to the store ten miles away to rent a movie or buy a carton of drinks. There will be less need for thoughtful planning to combine trips With driving costing less you can take a Sunday afternoon drive just for pleasure. With greater fuel efficiency people may find that moving further away from urban centers is more attractive than moving closer in. College students away from home my go home more often with more fuel efficient cars. The family can take that summer vacation to the beach or even a further away beach with more fuel efficient cars. With more fuel efficient cars people will be less likely to use mass transit.

Fuel efficient cars, in the absence of higher fuel prices, will make consumption of fuel and driving more miles, more attractive. More fuel efficient cars will put more cars on the road driven more miles contributing to road wear and tear, urban sprawl, and more auto emissions.

Driving more miles needs to be made less desirable not more desirable. There must be an economic incentive to drive less. Greater fuel efficiency without an increase in the price of fuel provides an incentive to drive more.

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Greed's Saving Graces

When in a provocative mood I have proclaimed to liberals that greed is a virtue. When I make such a statement, you can see their face turn red with anger and almost see the steam come out of their ears. How can one say such a thing? How can greed be a virtue? Greed is one of the seven deadly sins. Greed is a desire for excessive wealth. Greed is the inappropriate desire for excessive wealth. Greed is an excessive desire to acquire or possess more wealth than what one needs or deserves. Greedy people commit immoral acts to take advantage of others. Greedy people raise the price of gas in the summer. Greedy people price gouge. The payday lender is greedy. Big corporations are greedy. The ticket scalper is greedy.

Maybe “greed” is an unnecessarily provocative word. But “self-interest” or the “profit-motive” is a virtue. I accept that we need morality to moderate “greed”, but even without morality in a free market, greed is moderated. I would contend that the profit motive or self-interest or “greed” feeds, clothes, houses, and heals more people than generosity and sharing and caring could ever do. While we should condemn unfair practices, failure to honor contracts, deception, and cheating, the desire to obtain excessive wealth is a not to be condemned. If all of the greedy sold all of their worldly processions and gave the money to the poor, we would have a lot more poor and the poor would starve.

In this article George Will examines greed and argues that when markets are allowed to operate, greed generates its own punishment.

George Will: Greed's Saving Graces - [excerpt] Greed, we are agreed, is bad. It also is strange. It has long been included among the Seven Deadly Sins, which suggests that it is a universal and perennial facet of the human fabric. But the quantity of it, at least in America, responds to political cycles.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Bobbie Patray, the stary-eyed high priestess of the Christian Right

Bobbie Patray

In today’s issue of the Nashville Scene, columnist Jeff Woods reported on a bill that just passed the state legislature, which would allow parents to have access to their child’s medical records. Predictably, he thought it was a terrible development. (link)

What got my attention was this passage from his article: “As Bobbie Patray, the glassy eyed high priestess of the state's Christian Right, watched with approval from the front row.”

I know Bobbie Patray. I do not know her well but have been to several meetings and functions with her and have a speaking acquaintance. I think Ms Patray is an attractive women. I don't know what makes her a "high priestist" instead of just a lobbyist. I have never noticed her to be “glassy eyed.” I am not even sure what Woods means by that. Anyway, should that not be hyphenated as “glassy-eyed?”

Bobbie Patray is the Tennessee lobbyist for Eagle Forum. I generally agree with the positions taken by Eagle Forum. I especially find myself in agreement on economic and constitutional issue. I generally support Eagle Forum on their social agenda. I oppose gay marriage and abortion but admit that I don’t have a lot of passion around those issues. Some of Eagle Forum’s moral positions make me a little uncomfortable however. They sometime come across as a little too narrow-minded and moralistic for my taste. I am afraid they would want to stamp out strip clubs, ban smut, and close bars.
I very much parted ways with Eagle Forum over the issue of selling wine in grocery stores. I am 100% in favor and think our liquor, wine, and beer laws are an embarrassment and often make Tennessee look like a state of backwoods hicks the way we are often portrayed. Basically however, I just want the convenience of being able to buy a bottle of wine when I grocery shop. I do not appreciate the religious right and liquor industry from not allowing that to happen.
Anyhow, I thought it was unnecessary to refer to Ms Patray as “glassy eyed.” I remember how the libs were outraged that Limbaugh talked about Hillary’s fat ankles. I also think it was out of line. It was not Hillary’s ankles that turned me off but her ideas. I generally think it is in poor taste to start attacking your opponent’s physical attributes in political discourse. In this case it simply leaves me baffled to understand what it is about Ms Patray’s eyes that make them “glassy.” They look normal to me, but maybe I missed something. Jeff, could you explain that?

I wanted to find a picture of Jeff Woods so I could see if he was perhaps “bug-eyed” or maybe “doe-eyed” or maybe “four-eyed” or maybe he is also "glassy-eyed." I could not find a picture, and it is just as well; I would not want to sink to his juvenile level to retaliate.

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More Pelosi 'toons.

Nancy Pelosi

Nancy Pelosi cartoon
Nancy Pelosi cartoon
Nancy Pelosi cartoon

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The Nancy Pelosi Cartoons

Nancy Pelosi cartoon

Nancy Pelosi cartoon

Nancy Pelosi cartoon

Nancy Pelosi cartoon

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The Obama Card

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Cap and Trade: The Maxman-Markey Pay to Play

The Heritage Foundation, Wednesday, May 20, 2009

When Congress passed its last major energy legislation in 2005, a minor provision was added late in the legislative process that created a $1-per-gallon tax credit for “renewable diesel” fuel created through “thermal depolymerization.” The measure was included to benefit a single firm that produced boiler fuel from turkey waste, but in 2007 the Internal Revenue Service ruled that the tax credit also applied to other livestock waste. This led corporate giants ConocoPhillips and Tyson Foods to form a joint venture that turned chicken, cow, and pig fat into diesel fuel.
But just as ethanol mandates drove up the price of food, diverting Tyson’s animal fat into the energy market drove up the costs of manufacturing soap. So the soap lobby fought back and earlier this year Congress cut the thermal depolymerization tax credit in half. This made the Conoco/Tyson venture unprofitable, which they have since discontinued.

What does this have to do with the Waxman-Markey cap and trade legislation currently being debated in Congress? Everything. In order to win enough votes to pass cap and trade, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) has given the corporate members of the United States Climate Action Partnership (which includes both private and government-controlled firms like General Electric, Duke energy, Chrysler, and General Motors) a front-row seat in writing the legislation. The motives of these major corporations are simple: if they cooperate with big government in drafting the legislation, they can cut deals to protect their bottom line. If they don’t play ball, then big government will just tilt the regulatory scheme in their competitors favor.

As the New York Times reports, this is exactly what is happening in the House now:

Cap and trade, by contrast, is almost perfectly designed for the buying and
selling of political support through the granting of valuable emissions permits
to favor specific industries and even specific Congressional districts. That is
precisely what is taking place now in the House Energy and Commerce Committee,
which has used such concessions to patch together a Democratic majority to pass
a far-reaching bill to regulate carbon emissions through a cap-and-trade

The Center for Public Integrity released a study today showing that lobbying on the Waxman-Markey bill has been dominated by just 10 major lobbying firms. And yesterday the United States Climate Action Partnership released a statement in support of Waxman-Markey explaining:

As USCAP has indicated, there are several key linked issues that must fit
together to ensure a climate protection program is environmentally effective,
economically sustainable and fair. In some instances, that does not occur in
this legislation. … Individual USCAP members will continue to work with Congress
to address these matters in a satisfactory manner.

Oh, we’re sure they will.

Comment: Unless all credits are sold, cap and trade is an ineffective sham and is nothing but a bazaar for buying and selling of political favors where congress picks winners and losers. I think we need to address global warming, but the proposed cap and trade bill will not achieve its objectives and will institutionalize the worse of government corruption.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Stop Spending Our Future - The Crisis

Our economy is in crisis, and our government says that bold action is required. So we're diving in head first to get things back on track. But... what are we diving into exactly? Take a closer look...

It is hard for me to fathom the reckless disregard with which the US is going into debt and hard to fathom the size of the debt. Our nation has never been this deep in debt. In real constant dollars adjusted for inflation, the debt is much greater than any time in our history. Expressed as a percent of GNP, the debt is just a little shy of the debt of World War II. The difference, of course, is that when the war ended there was large pent up demand. In World War II a large segment of the population was serving in the Armed Forces and not available to be consumers and the US was under rationing and many products, includig cars, were simply not produced. All it took for people to start spending money was the end of the war. We could grow ourselves out of our debt. That is not now the case.

Another factor is that in World War II much of the debt was owned by Americans; now much of the debt is owned by foreign governments. If is highly unlikely that we will experience sufficient growth to grow ourselves out of this hole we are daily digging deeper. We will have to borrow more and more to pay the interest on our debt. I see no way we can ever pay it. The debt will have to me monetized. In essence we will print money. I fear that massive run away inflation is in our future.

I think I know a little about economics but I am not a professional economist; but to me, it seems we are rolling the dice and the odds are not in our favor. If I am wrong to be so concerned, I am open to being enlightened. Please feel free to leave a comment that explains why I am wrong to be so gloomy about our future. Actually, I hope I am wrong.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Barack Obama's Risky Deficit Spending

What? me worry?
Barack Obama's Risky Deficit Spending
By Robert Samuelson, Real Clear Markets, May 18, 2009
[excerpt] Just how much government debt does a president have to endorse before he's labeled
[excerpt] From 2010 to 2019, Obama projects annual deficits totaling $7.1 trillion; that's atop the $1.8 trillion deficit for 2009. By 2019, the ratio of publicly held federal debt to gross domestic product (GDP, or the economy) would reach 70 percent, up from 41 percent in 2008. That would be the highest since 1950 (80 percent). The Congressional Budget Office, using less optimistic economic forecasts, raises these estimates. The 2010-19 deficits would total $9.3 trillion; the debt-to-GDP ratio in 2019 would be 82 percent.
But wait: Even these totals may be understated. [Full article]
Comment: Please read this article. We should be worried, very worried.

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President Obama slashes Budget $17 billion dollars

President Obama has taken a fine-tooth comb and a magnifying glass to the Federal Budget and has examined the proposed budget item by item and has cut a whopping $17 billion dollars.

This from CNN Money:

"There is a lot of money being spent inefficiently, ineffectively, and -- in some cases -- in ways that are actually pretty stunning," Obama said.

The $17 billion in savings amounts to roughly 0.5% of the more than $3.5 trillion in spending approved for next year, or 1.2% of the projected $1.4 trillion deficit next year if the president's overall budget is adopted.

Obama said it nevertheless is real money -- even by Washington standards.

"To put this in perspective, this is more than enough savings to pay for a $2,500 tuition tax credit for millions of students as well as a larger Pell Grant -- with enough money left over to pay for everything we do to protect the National Parks," he
said. (link)

Seventeen Billion dollars is a lot of money. Why am I not impressed?

To put this in perspective, let us assume I have a household budget of $60,000. My anticipated income is only $36,000. I take a hard look at where I can cut and I discover $300 of wasteful spending. Maybe I find I can give up my twice a week trip to Starbucks for my Grande latte.

Impressed? But wait, I don’t actually reduce spending by $300. I find that that $300 can be better spend elsewhere, so I reallocate the $300 and use my credit cards to fund the missing $24000. Impressed?

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Classical Music Rocks!

London Covent Garden Classical Music

On my recent vacation to London, one day near the end of our vacation when we had seen all of the sites we wanted to see, we just aimlessly wandered the streets near our hotel. We were in the Covent Garden area, which is a lively area that includes a lot of restaurants and shops and we came upon the Covent Garden Piazza. This is a site which was a flower, fruit and vegetable market from the 1500s until 1974. Since about 1980 it has been a retail center. The area has lots of old historical building and the main feature of the area is an arcade. We watched street performers and wandered the shops in the area including a large flea market.

In the arcade, there was a basement level courtyard surrounded by shops. Musicians were playing in the courtyard and we entered it and got some wine from the wine bar that adjoins the courtyard and set and listened to the music. It was a somewhat cool day drizzling rain on and off, but in the arcade in the sunken courtyard, it was not unpleasant.

The music was great! A six-piece chamber orchestra consisting of four violins, a viola, and a bass were playing classical music. I don’t thank I have ever enjoyed classical music so much. The orchestra played for about 30 to 45 minutes, then a young man came out and sang opera accompanied by music on a CD player. He belted out songs for about 20 to 30 minutes and was remarkable. After the opera, the band played again and they rotated sets and we set through about three sets each. We splurged and drank the good wine. Louella had Madeira and I had a good port. In the cool air of the courtyard the wine was warming. We ordered a cheeze plate and ate various cheezes and read newspapers. During breaks between sets we had pleasant conversation with a couple who sat at our table for a while. We stayed in the courtyard listening to music and drinking wine for most of the day.

My favorite kind of music is country music. I especially like the music that is now called “Americana” and I love hard core honky tonk and classic country. I can appreciate all most all kinds of music however. I usually end up going to hear the Nashville Symphony a couple times a year play in our new beautiful Schermerhorn Symphony Hall and will go listen to other classical music at other venues from time to time. The Blair School of Music offers a lot of free music and I occasionally attend concerts there. Belmont University has a series of chamber orchestra performances in the Belmont Mansion every year and I usually attend a couple of those performances.

While I enjoy classical music it is a different kind of enjoyment than going to the bars of lower Broadway and listening to Country. When one goes to listen to classical music, no one talks and everyone must be very quite. Don’t cough! At a classical performance, one can not spontaneously applaud to show you appreciate the music. It is not correct to applaud at the end of a movement, but only at the conclusion of the piece. I always have to wait to see if it is the correct time to applaud. Classical music is for serious listening. It is much like going to church. It can be enjoyable but it is not a time to let your hair down and enjoy yourself. It has to be approached with quite reverence.

I can understand people wanting to engage in serious listening and not being distracted. Serious music listening is different than partying. I don’t know why, however, classical music has to be for serious listening only. If classical music could loosen up a little and let people enjoy themselves while enjoying the music the genre might win more fans.

I don’t think classical music will ever go away but I doubt it will ever be popular music. Classical music is never played on a commercial radio station. If you go to a classical concert and observe the audience it is overwhelming an older audience. Also, I have noticed that even a sold-out performance has about a quarter of the seats empty. A lot of people buy season tickets but don’t attend. I suspect that many of the wealthy support the symphony more out of a sense of obligations to be good citizens and to support the arts rather than because they really love the music. Classical music is also heavily subsidized by corporate contributions.

Classical music does not have to be so serious. It can be fun! At this performance at Covent Garden, the band played some songs I recognized such as Revel’s Bolero and The William Tell Overture. They played a lot of other songs that were recognizable tunes but I did not know the name of them. It was like the Top 40 of Classical Music. The musicians actually looked like they were having fun! Instead of sitting stiffly in tux’s they were dressed is regular street clothes. They played with expression and body movement and enthusiasm. They got down. They entertained! Between songs the leader cut-up and hammed for applause and he hawked the bands CD’s. I wish we had chamber orchestras playing for regular folks in sitting where you could enjoy a beer or glass of wine in Nashville. Classical music can be fun and approachable. It doesn’t have to always be so serious.

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Energy deal clubs Obama tax hopes

Most carbon permits to be free

By Tom LoBianco, The Washington Times, Saturday, May 16, 2009

House Democrats touted a weakened global-warming package Friday, releasing a compromise plan that undercuts President Obama's hopes to raise nearly $650 billion from the climate bill to pay for middle-class tax cuts.

Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, who have been locked in debate over how to tax carbon-dioxide emissions while protecting American industries, said Friday that their revised plan would give away 85 percent of the plan's carbon permits for free. [full article]


This is bill is worse than no bill
I depart from many of my conservative brethren in that I accept the majority opinion of the scientific community that global warming is a reality. This is not a position I came to easily. I started out a skeptic. (If you are interested you can read this post: My Conversion on Global Warming.)

The overwhelming consensus of the scientific community is that global warming is real and is caused by human activity. If I accept that global warming is real then I must also conclude that we must try to do something about it. While I opposed Obama’s candidacy and did not support him for president, I was nevertheless hopeful that he would address the issue of global warming. I was disappointed that George W. Bush and a Republican Congress had ignored it.

If President Obama allows this proposed bill to pass, he will be just as irresponsible as was the previous administration. A revenue-neutral carbon tax would be a much more efficient way to reduce green house gases. Unfortunately, a carbon tax has not gaining traction. In theory, a cap and trade system could have the same effect as a carbon tax, although less efficient and covering less sectors of the economy than a carbon tax. The reason cap and trade could have the same affect as a carbon tax is that it is in effect a hidden tax on carbon. Cap and Trade can only be effective if, like a carbon tax, it imposes a penalty on those who emit carbon and by comparison makes non-carbon-emitting energy less costly.

If credits are given away instead of sold, there is no cost to emitting carbon and no incentive to stop emitting carbon until some distant point in the future if ever. Giving away the credits completely destroys the purpose of having a system of cap and trade in the first place. If we don’t do it right we might as well not do it. If Congress passes this bill then the environmentalist will be off their back and everyone can be happy and can congratulate each other for addressing global warming and then ignore the issue. Passage of this bill will take the issue off the table and lull the public into complacency.

Even where cap and trade was structured with fewer give-away credits, it has been a failure. Countries with caps have failed to meet their carbon cap goals and the carbon credit system has been tainted by scandal. (See: The Great Carbon Bazaar) Even when on paper cap and trade has appeared to reduce carbon output, in reality it has often simply shifted emissions from European countries to Asian countries and the total carbon emissions have not really decreased.

This bill is not a bad bill because it does not raise revenue; it is a bad bill because it will not reduce carbon emissions. I hope Obama rejects this bill and tells Congress to present him with a bill that will actually do something.

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

White House calls End to War on Drugs

When you have been fighting and losing a war for over 40 years and it still looks like you are no closer to winning, it might be time to sue for peace. That is what the Obama Administration is doing. Below is a report from the Wall Street Journal:

White House Czar Calls for End to 'War on Drugs'
WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration's new drug czar says he wants to banish the idea that the U.S. is fighting "a war on drugs," a move that would underscore a shift favoring treatment over incarceration in trying to reduce illicit drug use.

In his first interview since being confirmed to head the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, Gil Kerlikowske said Wednesday the bellicose analogy was a barrier to dealing with the nation's drug issues.

"Regardless of how you try to explain to people it's a war on drugs' or a 'war on a product,' people see a war as a war on them," he said. "We're not at war with people in this country." [
full article]

The article goes on to say that the Obama administration has called for a change in policy that would end the discrepancy between how powder cocaine and crack cocaine are handled and also says that the federal government will no longer raid medical marijuana facilities in those 13 states where medical marijuana had been made legal.

The new Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske said that he does not support efforts to legalize drugs but favors a change in policy that would emphasize treatment rather than arrest and punishment of users. This is an encouraging development and is a good first step. I hope the administration goes much further.

The governments policy toward marijuana in particular makes absolutely no sense. For far too long many people have had their lives damaged, not by marijuana but by a policy that criminalizes a harmless activity. People lose their right to parental visitation or custody of their children, they lose their job, they lose their college scholarships, and they go to jail for simply smoking a little dope.

Casual use of marijuana is much less damaging to society than alcohol. I think marijuana may actually be good for society. If some of the people who drink alcohol switched to pot, we would probably see fewer violent brawls, less domestic violence and fewer fatal car wrecks. Some uptight people might be less uptight and more pleasant if they occasionally got stoned. I suspect the world might actually be a better place if more people got high every once in a while.

I think we should have an immediately end to federal pot prohibition and let each state decide the issue. I would hope that the several states would then end state prohibitions. Using pot should not be a crime and neither should pot users be considered to have a “drug problem.” While I would much rather see people forced into drug treatment rather than sent to jail, requiring treatment is also hypocrisy. Casual users of marijuana do not have a “drug problem.” They just have a preference for a recreational drug that is less dangerous than the society-approved recreational drug alcohol.

I think procession of small quantities or growing small quantities of marijuana for your own use should be legal much like brewing your own beer is legal. I think dealers should be licensed and taxed. The government at all levels loses a lot of money because this large segment of the economy is not taxed. If marijuana was distributed much the way alcohol and tobacco are distributed the criminal element would be driven out of business, much the same way that ending alcohol prohibition drives out bootleggers. Also, with commercial distribution of marijuana the consumer would benefit by having quality control. The consumer could expect honest weights and measures and proper labeling. I can see the day when shopping for pot could be like shopping for wine. I can imagine a weekly pot review article in the Tennessean. It should happen.

While I would not want to see an immediate legalization of all dangerous drugs, I think we should deemphasize prosecution of users of these hard drugs. For the more dangerous drugs, I think we primarily need to educate people to the dangers and then realize that sometimes free people make poor choices. Just the way that some people now abuse alcohol or people make poor financial decisions, we must accept that some people will get strung out on drugs. Help should be available for those with a drug problem who want help, but putting people in prison is not the help they need. Drug treatment would be less costly and more humane than imprisonment.

I suspect that if we end the crack down on the supply of drugs, the price would fall. Those with a real addiction would not commit armed robbery to feed their habit if drugs were less costly and less profitable and we would not enrich Mexican and Colombian drug lords. We might even deny the Taliban a major source of funding

While I have been a critic of the Obama Administration on many issues, I applaud them for this change in policy. It is past time to end the “War on Drugs.”

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Socialism, a definition

Since socialism, by definition, is the control of production by the government, and since government, by definition, is that institution in a society which enjoys a legal monopoly on the initiation of force and violence, it follows that socialism, by definition, is the control of production by that institution in a society which enjoys a legal monopoly on the initiation of force and violence.

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Bill Clinton’s rendition to torture

Rendition is the practice of turning terrorist suspects over to countries, such as Egypt or Saudi Arabia, where they can be tortured. We are not talking about enhanced interrogation techniques with well-defined limits that might cross a fine line and be considered torture; we are talking about real, no-limits, brutal torture. By using rendition, the U.S. can have suspects tortured without having to worry about violating Constitutional due process.

Many people find this practice abhorrent. So do I. The U.S. should not be in the business of shipping people off to where torture is practiced. President George W. Bush has been criticized for allowing rendition. But, where were the Bush critics of rendition when it started? President Clinton began the practice, during peacetime. A February 2005, New Yorker article, Out Sourcing Torture, confirms this:

Not long ago, [former CIA counter-terrorism expert Michael] Scheuer, who lives in northern Virginia, spoke openly for the first time about how he and several other top C.I.A. officials set up the program [rendition], in the mid-nineties. “It was begun in desperation, ” he told me. At the time, he was the head of the C.I.A.’s Islamic-militant unit, whose job was to “detect, disrupt, and dismantle” terrorist operations. His unit spent much of 1996 studying how Al Qaeda operated; by the next year, Scheuer said, its mission was to try to capture bin Laden and his associates. He recalled, “We went to the White House” – which was then occupied by the Clinton Administration – “and they said, ‘Do it.’ ” He added that Richard Clarke, who was in charge of counter-terrorism for the National Security Council, offered no advice. “He told me, ‘Figure it out by yourselves,’ ” Scheuer said. [full article]

Liberals activist organizations are pressuring the Obama administration and Congress to investigate the Bush administrations use of torture and other aspects of the War on Terror. They would like nothing better than to indict Bush for war crimes. If Bush is guilty of war crimes; Clinton is guilty and Clinton’s war crimes occurred in a time of peace. If we are going to start investigating America’s past sins, don’t stop at Bush.

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Saturday, May 9, 2009

Pelosie shocked to discover waterboarding

Nancy Pelosi What??
You mean the CIA was waterbording people??
I can’t believe it!!!
Why did not someone tell me??

CIA Says Pelosi Was Briefed on Use of 'Enhanced Interrogations'

By Paul Kane, Washington Post, May 7, 2009; 7:29 PM ET

Intelligence officials released documents this evening saying that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was briefed in September 2002 about the use of harsh interrogation tactics against al-Qaeda prisoners, seemingly contradicting her repeated statements over the past 18 months that she was never told that these techniques were actually being used.

In a 10-page memo outlining an almost seven-year history of classified briefings, intelligence officials said that Pelosi and then-Rep. Porter Goss (R-Fla.) were the first two members of Congress ever briefed on the interrogation tactics. Then the ranking member and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, respectively, Pelosi and Goss were briefed Sept. 4, 2002, one week before the first anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. [full article]

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Friday, May 8, 2009

More remembrances of Jack Kemp

Conservative hero

May 7th 2009 WASHINGTON, DC.From The Economist print edition

A liberal Republican in the best sense

WINSTON CHURCHILL once said that he “preferred the past to the present and the present to the future”. Jack Kemp had exactly the opposite point of view. For him the future always promised to be better than both the present and the past—provided that the government would just get out of the way.[full article]

The Importance of Jack Kemp

By Jeffrey Lord on 1.9.09, American Spectator

"When you tax something you get less of it, and when you reward something you get more of it."
With that simple exhortation -- and this is a man born to exhort -- Jack Kemp changed his party, changed his country and, ultimately, changed the world.
[full article]

What Jack Kemp Accomplished: The congressman from Buffalo changed his party and the country for the better.

by Fred Barnes, The Weekly Standard, 05/03/2009 7:20:00 PM

Jack Kemp was a speaker in search of an audience. But unlike most of Washington, including the city's journalists, Kemp had something important to say. He may have been embarrassed about his academic background--he was a physical education major at Occidental College in California--but the truth was he knew more about economics and what worked in the real world to create growth and jobs than almost anyone else in town.

[Excerpt] Here are the four things I give Kemp credit for:

1) Popularizing tax cuts as the best and most reliable way to spur economic growth and create jobs.

2) Persuading Ronald Reagan to adopt a 30 percent reduction in individual income tax rates initially as the main domestic message of his campaign in 1980 and then as the top priority of his presidency.

3) Transforming Republicans from an effete country-club party into a broad-based party with appeal to middle and working class voters.

4) Making, along with Reagan, Republicans the optimistic, positive party of ideas. [Full Article]

Heritage Foundation Mourns Loss of Jack Kemp, Fighter and Leader

Posted By Rory Cooper On May 2, 2009, The Heritage Foundation

Heritage Foundation President Edwin Feulner tonight issued the following statement on the death of Jack Kemp, former secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and longtime Heritage Foundation Distinguished Fellow:

“Jack Kemp was a leader – whether it was in a football huddle, a national political campaign or a policy discussion about the Austrian school of economics.

“I first met Jack nearly 40 years ago, during his freshman year in Congress. When he introduced the Jobs Creation Act – a major legislative advance of supply-side economics – I knew I had found an ally. That ally soon became my friend

“Jack was a ‘bleeding-heart conservative.’ He wanted to make it possible for every American to succeed and eagerly worked with people of all races, colors and creeds toward that end.

“Across-the-board tax cuts and ‘enterprise zones’ for blighted neighborhoods are now common economic prescriptions – especially during these hard times. But to make these ideas respectable, Jack had to fight for them constantly during his years in Congress, as Housing and Urban Development secretary, as chairman of a national tax reform commission, and during his presidential and vice presidential campaigns.

“He won those fights, and millions benefited. The tax cuts that Jack helped engineer in the 1980s gave Americans unprecedented prosperity for decades. His commission also boldly proposed a national flat tax. Those policies also helped spread freedom around the world.

“I remember standing with him in Moscow’s Red Square in 1990. The Cold War was starting to thaw, but few even suspected that the Soviet Union’s days were numbered. Jack knew. As we stood on the square, in view of the Kremlin, he pointed out an astonishing sign: The line for the new McDonald’s restaurant was longer than the line for Lenin’s tomb.

“Many people will remember Jack as a great football player – and rightly so. But he was also a great player in the world of ideas, with a mind as strong as his arm. I will miss his strength and friendship greatly.”

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Remembering Jack Kemp

Jack KempI have been out of town on vacation and was in London when I read in the Financial Times that Jack Kemp had died. It saddened me. Jack Kemp along with William F. Buckley, Ronald Reagan, Barry Goldwater, Jean Kirkpatrick, Milton Friedman, Margaret Thatcher and a couple others, was on my short list of people whom I think had vision and passion and who I greatly admire and respect.

When he ran for President against George H. Bush and then later against Bob Dole, I was pulling for Kemp. I was much more enthusiastic about Bob Dole’s 1996 presidential campaign after he chose Jack Kemp as his running mate. For many years I kept hoping that Jack Kemp would become President.

Jack Kemp had a brilliant intellect and was a passionate and articulate defender of free markets. He was a strong proponent of supply side economics and tax cuts and smaller government. One thing I especially liked about Kemp was that he advocated a Republican urban policy and was concerned about Black poverty. As Secretary of Housing and Urban Development he advocated programs designed to spur intercity investment and programs to reduce but improve public housing and increase homeownership opportunities among the poor.

While Kemp was a solid conservative, I am not so sure that he would be welcome in some conservative circles today where being conservative often means being vitriolic and angry. Jack Kemp was not an angry man; he did not ridicule his political opponents or make personal attacks. Jack Kemp always seemed reasonable. He genuinely seemed to want to understand the views of those with whom he disagreed and then try to find common ground and then convert them.
He described himself as a "bleeding-heart conservative" and had compassion for the poor, which I think seems to be missing from many in the Republican Party today. While he opposed abortion and supported school prayer, he also advocated immigration reform and a system of worker permits for those illegal immigrants already here. That alone would disqualify him as a “real” conservative in the minds of many contemporary conservatives. If that did not disqualify him, then advocacy of homeownership opportunities for the poor would do it.

Jack Kemp was comfortable around black people and worked to try to make Republican inroads among Blacks. As a former professional football player, he had played sports with Black men and once remarked that he had showered with more Blacks than most Republicans even knew. He once remarked that he would have gladly spoken at Farrakhan’s Million Man March if he had been invited.

As one who works in a field were most of my clients and many of my peers are Black, I believe the right salesman could bring the conservative message to Blacks and win converts. While few Blacks would describe themselves as conservative, on both economic and social issues many Blacks hold surprisingly conservative views but still vote Democratic. Demographers tell us that at some not-too-distant point in the future that America will be a majority minority nation. If the Party cannot make inroads among minorities we are doomed to be a permanent minority party. Jack Kemp was on the right track but we have abandoned that quest.

Kemp could appeal to people who are not normally Republicans. Kemp was elected and served nine terms as a Congressman from upstate New York. Can anyone imagine a conservative Republican winning that seat today? As the Republican Party continues to spiral downward into insignificance, there is much talk about finding a new face and voice of the Party. I wish there was another Jack Kemp to be that voice and face. A Jack Kemp is what today’s Republican Party needs. I will miss Jack Kemp.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Facing Mortgage Default? Don’t be Scammed!

It is an outrage the number of people who are being scammed by phony mortgage default counseling services. I see it almost every day. Just today, another counselor in my office came to me with a case where the lady had paid a company $2800. She was behind on her mortgage and received a solicitation in the mail. The solicitation contained a form which looked like a government document. The form was a “009-S” and was called a “Payment Reduction Notification,” and said, “RE: HR5140 Economic Stimulus Act of 2008.”

This was totally phony. This company is not associated with the government and they are providing no service of any value. The lady responded to the solicitation and she was told that they could help her save her home. They also offered her legal services to save her house if such services were needed.

One often does need the assistance and guidance of a housing counselor in order to get a workout from one’s mortgage company. There are various factors involved in determining what workout may be available and the homeowner is often ill equipped to negotiate with the mortgage company. You do not need to pay for this service however; it is free. Secondly, Tennessee is a non-judicial foreclosure state and an attorney cannot help you save your home, except in the most extreme and rare of cases.

This lady ended up sending the mortgage company $2800. She has just lost that money and will not get it back. That $2800 could have went a long way toward a workout that would have helped save her home. This lady may or may not be able to file a chapter 13 bankruptcy and keep her house. It is too early to know what options might be available, but she was just ripped off of $2800 and without that money the prospect for avoiding loosing the home is a lot slimmer.

This is not an isolated case. I had one 89-year-old Black widow women who paid a company $800. We got her story on the local news and the “counseling agency” refunded her money. The reason she got her money back is that she had given the firm her bank account number and they took the money out of her bank account. Given the fact that the victim made such a good victim (elderly, Black, widow) and she claimed they took the money from her account without her permission, and that we got the story on TV, I assume the company thought it best to simply refund her money. Most people are not that lucky.

Last week, I served a client who had already filled out an information packet from one of these phony counseling agencies and already made out a check for $1600 to send to a company but luckily, on the advice of a friend, she called me first. We were able to negotiate a workout for her and she saved her home. If she would have sent the company the $1600 she would not have been able to afford a workout and would have most likely lost her home.

These phony mortgage default counseling companies solicit people by phone, by mail, by email, late-night TV infomercials and by knocking on a person’s door. There are several ways they can get the name of potential victims. They can get the names from the websites of the attorneys who handle the foreclosure or once a foreclosure notice is published they can get the information out of the newspaper. Another way is that they can purchase names from the credit bureaus. They establish certain parameters and then purchase the name of everyone who meets that profile. They may, for instance, purchase the name of everyone who is 60 days behind on their mortgage, or everyone who has been 30 behind for the last four months or so.

These companies are preying on desperate people. In addition to these scams there are also other more sophisticated scams, but the most popular scam is the phony counseling agency. Often the victim is the less educated or sophisticated but many intelligent, educated people also end up being victims. No one knows how widespread this is, but it is very widespread. Untold thousands of people are losing their homes when they could have saved them if they had gone to a legitimate housing counseling agency rather than a scam artist.

Legitimate housing counseling agencies are listed at this link: . If you are in the Nashville area and need help call me, Rod Williams 850-3453. If elsewhere, use the above link and get help from a legitimate housing counselor. Please, help spread the word that legitimate free help is available. Please don’t let your friends or family fall victim to one of these cruel scams.

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Monday, May 4, 2009

Obama Hopeover, Hopesick, and Hopebreak

A Lexicon of Disappointment

By Noami Klein, The Nation, May 4, 2009

[Excerpt] All is not well in Obamafanland. Whatever the last straw, a growing number of Obama enthusiasts are starting to entertain the possibility that their man is not, in fact, going to save the world if we all just hope really hard. [Full Article]

I wondered when it would start, but I am not surprised that some Obamist are beginning to lose their religion. Some Obama cultist are leaving the cult. Some are realizing that Obama is a just a man and a politician after all. They are beginning to think that maybe he really is not the messiah.

It looks like he can never be far left enough for the very far left. His failure to condemn the Israel's Gaza attack, the fact that he cannot stop all layoffs and foreclosures, his hypocrisy of advocating due process rights for Guantanamo detainees and opposing them for Bagram detainees, his escalation of the war in Afghanistan, and his failure to totally remake society are causing some of his most enthusiastic disciples to lose hope.

This is good news. If the most enthusiastic lose their evangelical zeal, maybe Obama can be vulnerable in 2012. Without his army of Obamaheads to pressure Congress every time the Perpetual Obama Campaign sends out an email, maybe Congress will start actually reading bills before they vote on them. Maybe without a loud chorus to back him up, Obama will be unable to walk on water.

Read this article to learn the new vocabulary of those who are losing Hope.

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Friday, May 1, 2009

The Homebuyers Club

While many people want to blame the current housing crisis on programs that helped low income people become homeowners, they usually have no clue what a person has to do in order to become eligible for these programs. For the last fifteen years I have administered and taught a program called “Homebuyers Club.”
This program has helped over 550 families become homeownwers. I know it has changed lives. It has taken people out of ghettos and placed them in neighborhoods. It has made people change the way they think and the way they deal with money. It has made irresponsible people become responsible. It has given low-income people the skills that middle-income people take for granted. Most of the people in this program came from a background of generational poverty. It gave them the American Dream.

Below is a condensed version of an except from my annual HUD grant application. If you are with a non-profit agency or just someone that wants to create a program that helps lift people out of poverty, maybe this will help you design a program. If you want to be better informed of how low-income people become homeowners, I hope this helps.

Homebuyers Club
Homebuyers Club is an in-depth year-long program that combines one-on-one housing counseling and group sessions. It is in serving the Homebuyers Club clients where we use a lot of volunteers. Below are the important elements of this program.

The time element: The curriculum is one-year long but many clients stay in a Homebuyers Club for two to three years. Clients may enroll, drop out and reenroll several times. One can learn what one needs to learn about buying a house in an 8-hour workshop. However, if one has serious obstacles to buying a house, one cannot overcome those obstacles in a short time period. Spotty work history, poor credit, excessive debt, and changing bad habits, and changing attitudes take time. Learning money management skills and establishing savings takes time.

Combined one-on-one and group sessions. HBC members get both group sessions and one-on-one sessions. All HBC members get an initial one-on-one session called a “Front Door” at which time we evaluate the clients potential for homeownership and help the client develop an “Action Plan” designed to get the client from where they are at to homeownership. Most clients also get a follow up one-on-one session where we work on cleaning up credit, and another one-on-one where we help the client develop a written budget, and another session where we reevaluate the progress the client has made and develop a second Action Plan. Also one-on-one phone sessions occur with clients to discuss specific problems or to answer questions. Once a month, the client attends a one- and-half-hour group session.

Peer counseling and support. In a Homebuyers Club a group of 12 to 15 people bond and mutually encourage each other. The atmosphere of a Homebuyers Club more closely resembles that of an AA meeting or other self-help group rather than a typical home buying education workshop. Clients advise and encourage each other. They openly discuss their trials and battles and celebrate each others successes and triumphs. Sometimes the class may go off on a tangent and members may discuss how to deal with relatives that ask to borrow money or friends that belittle them for trying to improve their lives. If the class wonders off-topic, we allow it. The group counseling, peer support, and group bonding are important elements of what makes the Homebuyers Club a success. While the Homebuyers Club is a series of twelve workshops, it is much more. It is also a dynamic support group.

Expanded Curriculum. The curriculum covers all of the normal topics of a pre-purchase workshop, but due to the fact that our customers are from the lower end of the economic scale and many of them are moving from public or subsidized housing to homeownership and most of them are single mothers, we tailor our curriculum to address the special needs of our clients. Topics which may be covered in our class but that may not be covered in the curriculum of other housing counseling agencies are classes on getting child support, life insurance, basic banking, and being a wise consumer.

Relationship building. We become friends and mentors to our clients helping them with other issues they may face which affect their ability to become homeowners. We become a resource to help them with a wide variety of issues. Even after they become homeowners, many of them still call us for advice and referrals with both housing related issues such as refinance and home repair as well as referrals and advice on other issues such as taxes, insurance, child support, and employment and education. This post-homeownership relationship has kept some of our clients from defaulting on a loan or helped them avoid refinancing and getting a predatory loan.

Layered financing and grant assistance: In the WCO Homebuyers Club, we not only educate the client and help them get mortgage-ready but we work with the client to get the grants and loans and assistance they need to buy a home. One of the tools we sometimes use is we help the client accumulate funds in a matched savings program called Individual Development Account (IDA). Other programs may be products for people that qualify for specific programs such as Section 8-to-Homeownership. Another tool is partnering with another non-profits such as a church that will build a house for the client and the clients provides sweat equity. We search for the product that will help the individual client and get creative in developing the package of products to move someone into homeownership.

Staff Support: Much effort is expended on client retention. Prior to each club meeting or counseling session the client gets both a reminder card and phone call. The clients in this program often move and often change phone numbers. A constant effort is made to keep addresses and phone numbers current. A lot of rescheduling of sessions occurs. Also, many clients get discouraged and may start skipping class. When that happens we call the client and try to determine the problem and give them a pep talk. Another service we must provide to our Homebuyers Club members that would not have to be provided to clients in a typical homebuyer education program is child care. Most of our clients have minor children. Without child care, they could not attend the classes. This is an additional expense that most other pre-purchase counseling programs would not incur.

Holistic Approach/Other Services. While our clients are striving to get mortgage ready and achieve homeownership they may have other obstacles or needs that are either more immediate or are larger obstacles than can be addresses in our Homebuyers Club. We provide a broad range of services that are available to our Homebuyers Club members as well as other low to moderate income people. These services are provided here at the Woodbine Center. These services are not exclusive to HBC members and are not included in the budget of Housing Counseling Department, but many of our clients use these services. These services include the following:

o Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA). Prior to membership in our HBC, our clients may have been accustomed to going to a commercial income tax preparations firm that charged them a high fee for a relatively simple income tax preparation, convinced them to get a “rapid refund” at a interest rate that may equal 500%, and then charged them for cashing the refund check. Not only are we providing them with a valuable service, but discussing income tax preparation in class gives us a change to discuss attitudes about delayed gratification, being a wise consumer, and interest rates.

o Child support advocacy. We discuss child support issues with our clients who are single mothers and will refer them to someone who can provide them with assistance in getting child support if they desire to pursue it.

o Job Resource Office. This is a partnership with Goodwill Industries and last year 290 people were placed in jobs, including some of our HBC members.

o GED. We have several students in this class. This is provided at our center in partnership with Metro Schools.

o Referral. In addition to services here at our center we routinely provide referrals to other social service providers.

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