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Monday, March 31, 2008

Zimbabwe On the Brink

Tensions are mounting in Zimbabwe as the election results still haven't been taliied.

Riot police in armored carriers were deployed in two of Harare's restive townships on Monday night amid long delays in issuing Zimbabwe's election results which have raised tensions.

A resident of one of the townships, opposition strongholds, said a convoy of riot police in about 20 vehicles moved through the area.

"There are a lot of patrols here," said the resident, adding people had been told to stay off the streets.

Concern grew that long delays in issuing the election results hid attempts by President Robert Mugabe to cling to power by rigging.

More than 48 hours after polls closed, only 66 of 210 parliamentary constituencies had been declared, showing Mugabe's ZANU-PF party one seat ahead of the main opposition MDC. Two of his ministers lost their seats.


Zimbabwe is on the brink of being the second African nation in less than six months to face chaos following elections. In December, riots broke out in Kenya following what many thought were rigged elections. That crisis was averted when the two opponents in the election agreed to a powersharing arrangement. More than one thousand people died in the fighting that broke out prior to the agreement.

The Regulator Regulates Health Care

One of the things that have come out in the last couple weeks when each candidate has put forward plans on everything from stimulating the economy, creating jobs, and fixing the mortgage mess is that Barack Obama hasn't met too many regulations that he hasn't fallen in love with. Here is what he said in relation to our economy recently...



To renew our economy — and to ensure that we are not doomed to repeat a cycle of bubble and bust again and again — we need to address not only the immediate crisis in the housing market; we also need to create a 21st century regulatory framework, and pursue a bold opportunity agenda for the American people



Now, by creating a "21st century regulatory framework", what that is code for is lots and lots of new regulations. Most of the nations domestic policy ills, have a regulatory solution, at least in part, in the mind of Obama. Here is what he wants to do on climate change.



Implement an economy-wide cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the level recommended by top scientists to avoid calamitous impacts. [Obama will require carbon emissions to be “80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050” through cap & trade (with 100% allowance auction!) starting with a mandate “of reducing emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.


Of course, the mortgage mess is where he really finds lots of new places for regulations. Here are some things that Obama said.


"If you borrow from the government," he said, "you should be subject to government oversight and supervision." This echoed comments Wednesday from the
treasury secretary.

At the very least, Obama argued, "These new regulations should include liquidity and capital requirements."

He also called for "general reform of the requirements to which all regulated financial institutions are subjected. Capital requirements should be strengthened."


Specifically to mortgages, here are some of the regulations Obama has proposed.



Obama’s STOP FRAUD Act provides the first federal definition of mortgage
fraud, increases funding for federal and state law enforcement programs, creates
new criminal penalties for mortgage professionals found guilty of fraud, and
requires industry insiders to report suspicious activity.

...

a Home Score system that would create a simplified,standardised metric for
home mortgages – rather like the annual percentage rate(APR), the effective
interest rate a borrower ends up paying on a loan – allowing prospective home buyers easily to compare various mortgage
products so they can find out whether they can afford to make the
payments.


Here is the what Obama wants to do to regulate financial institutions.



Mr. Obama said the housing crisis was a result of the popping of yet another large bubble that has distorted the economy during the past decade. And in each case, he said, there was a failure to pass meaningful reforms. No one doubted, he noted, the need to change the Depression-era law that separated commercial banks and investment banks. But, as Mr. Obama’s aides noted in handouts supporting the speech, the banking and insurance industries spent more than $300 million on a successful campaign to repeal the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act in 1999.


So, it's clear that Obama would introduce new regulations into every part of our economy. Free market libertarians are of course weary of a regulation friendly President because new regulations create new bureaucracies, bloated government, and ultimately slow our economy down. Of course, nowhere is regulation heavier than from a universal health care proposal. In light of all of the new regulations that Obama has proposed, it is time to look at what sort of regulatory forces he wants to unleash on our health care system. Here is a sampling of some of the new regulations Obama wants to institute in health care...

Obama will establish an independent institute to guide reviews and research on comparative effectiveness, so that Americans and their doctors will have the accurate and objective information they need to make the best decisions for their health and well-being.

...

The Obama plan will create a National Health Insurance Exchange to help individuals who wish to purchase a private insurance plan. The Exchange will act as a watchdog group and help reform the private insurance market by creating rules and standards for participating insurance plans to ensure fairness and to make individual coverage more affordable and accessible. Insurers would have to issue every applicant a policy, and charge fair and stable premiums that will not depend upon health status. The Exchange will require that all the plans offered are at least as generous as the new public plan and have the same standards for quality and efficiency. The Exchange would evaluate plans and make the differences among the plans, including cost of services, public.

...

Obama will require hospitals and providers to collect and publicly report measures of health care costs and quality, including data on preventable medical errors, nurse staffing ratios, hospital-acquired infections, and disparities in care. Health plans will also be required to disclose the percentage of premiums that go to patient care as opposed to administrative costs.

...

Obama will strengthen antitrust laws to prevent insurers from overcharging physicians for their malpractice insurance and will promote new models for addressing errors that improve patient safety, strengthen the doctor-patient relationship and reduce the need for malpractice suits.

...

Barack Obama will prevent companies from abusing their monopoly power through unjustified price increases. His plan will force insurers to pay out a reasonable share of their premiums for patient care instead of keeping exorbitant amounts for profits and administration. His new National Health Exchange will help increase competition by insurers.

What gets lost in the promise of health care to all is the exponential increase in size and scope of government. Obama wants to create multiple new agencies: the National Health Exchange and the institute to guide research on comparative effectiveness to name two. These two new agencies will not only come with their own built in bureaucracy but their own regulatory powers.

He wants everything from anti trust, to quality care data, to the "fairness of insurance premiums" monitored and regulated. In other words, he wants to massively expand the size of government, the bureaucracy, and its powers. That, predictably, is the one effect that you can count on with any economic plan that Obama puts forward.

The New Global Warming Paradigm

On global warming, the 2008 election will have a paradigm that is quite a bit different than most years. That's because John McCain agrees with the Democrats that global warming is a serious issue. Whereas previous campaigns were about the Democrats painting the Republicans as money hungry capitalist who were willing to sacrifice the economy for the sake of profits, and Republicans would paint the Democrats as eco alarmists. This campaign the issue of the existence of global warming won't be an issue. As such, I believe this campaign will likely come down to a re hash of the debate between John Kerry and Newt Gingrich on global warming.

In that debate, Newt argued that the way to resolve global warming is through a series of tax breaks to encourage private entrepeneurs to develop technologies that effectively deals with global warming. The Democrats want to create a plethora of new regulations to force business into being more eco friendly.

Last summer, I went to see John Rowe, CEO of Exelon, speak about global warming. Even then, Rowe made mention of a few studies and concluded that the existence of global warming is beyond debate, but rather a reality. Rowe then spent the better part of a half hour enumerating a plethora of regulations that must be installed in order to combat global warming. He even himself pushed a plan to create nuclear power which would cost half a trillion dollars. (paid for by the government of course)

The crux of the global warming debate will come down to this, and this debate will also be a part of a larger debate about how we see our economy and the government's role in it. If you are John McCain, you recognize a serious looming problem and you think the best way to deal with it is by encouraging private industry to innovate eco friendly products. If you are the Democrats, you don't believe there is enough time to wait for the free market to innovate new products, and so you mandate them through a series of regulations.

The global warming debate will frankly come down to a microcosm of a more general economic debate. On the one side, you have John McCain who believes that by limiting government, waste, and taxes, the free markets will find the best solution to any problem. On the other side, we have the Democrats who believe every problem can be solved with more government action and regulation.

That is exactly what we have seen with the debate in dealing with the real estate crisis. McCain believes that we had a speculative market and the market must correct itself. The Democrats, on the other hand, believe the free market won't help enough struggling families and they want to mandate government action. This action involves more taxes, more regulation, and larger government role (leading of course to more bureaucracy).

The exact same thing is in play in the debate over health care. The Democrats see 40 million uninsured, and they want significant government action. All their universal health care ideas involve three commonalities: more taxes, more regulation, and larger bureaucracies. McCain, on the other hand, wants to give tax breaks and create personal health savings account. McCain believes that less governmentinvolvement and more free market options for each individual is the best way to fix our health care system.

We largely have the same principles in play in the global warming debate. Just like most domestic policy debates, it is a choice between large nanny state solutions, and free market solutions, combined with tax cuts, and decreasing the size of government.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Trading Places - The Exposed Bet

Zimbabwe the Next Kenya?

Election results still haven't been announced in Zimbabwe's election from yesterday

Tension has been mounting in Zimbabwe's capital as the country's election commission refused to announce the results of Saturday's poll, fuelling rumours that President Robert Mugabe had lost despite widespread vote-rigging, and was planning to declare victory regardless.

...

Security forces were deployed in Harare on Sunday, hours after the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) announced that it had won the presidential and parliamentary elections despite widespread vote-rigging.

George Charamba, Mr Mugabe's spokesman, warned Morgan Tsvangirai, the MDC leader: "He announces results, declares himself and the MDC winner and then what? Declare himself president of Zimbabwe? It is called a coup d'├ętat and we all know how coups are handled."

Mughabe has ruled Zimbabwe since the early 1980's. The economy is in such dire straits that it's inflation rate reached 100,000%. He was facing a stiff challenge in this campaign and delays in the results immediately raise the suspicion of funny business. When Kenya faced similar conditions it nearly lead to genocide. The situation remains fluid.

The Politics of the Real Estate Crisis

Their views of what happened to cause this mortgage crisis are as divergent as their policies to fix it. The Democrats believe that brokers, banks, and even Wall Street took advantage of borrowers and that in order to fix it the government needs to step in and bailout those borrowers. McCain believes that this was a speculative market (much like myself) and that not only should the market should correct itself without any government interference, but that most bailouts of any sort would only be bailing out those that were irresponsible.

By viewing the world through those prisms the two sides, the Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama (who's plans were remarkably similar) came up with solutions that couldn't diverge more from their Republican counterpart, John McCain.

The Democrats want a bailout, lot's of new regulations, rate freezes, moratoriums on foreclosures,and with it the creation of lot's of new bureaucracy to administer all the new regulations. They've already promised a plethora of new tax increases to go along with this and other spending.

McCain said there will be no bailouts for anyone that was irresponsible on any level of the crisis. He believes the free market is the best mechanism to deal with the crisis.

Now, the conventional wisdom says that the public wants the Feds to act and act decisively. Is this really so? After all, if you think about it 90% or more of all loans are being paid back on time. That means any bailout will be financed by that 90%. I think the Democrats have overstated how much the public will go for a bailout.

Their bailout is more big government, higher taxes, more regulation, and more bureaucracy that is familiar of many of their tried and frankly failed policies. The Democrats are betting that McCain will look as though he doesn't care and has no plan.

It is, on the other hand, McCain's job to sell his free market vision against the Democrat's regulated, bloated, and more bureaucratic vision. It seems like it would be easy to sell free markets when given the choice that way. What McCain needs to do is make that appeal to the 90% that have made their payments on time. If he does that he will actually gain the edge on the real estate crisis.

The Dem House Leadership Vs the SAVE Act

Hat tip to Human Events

Why would the House leadership block the one bi partisan sensible piece of legislation they have? That answer I don't know, however that appears to be exactly what the House leadership is doing to the SAVE Act (Secure America through Verification and Enforcement) Here is the key element of the SAVE Act.

SAVE would eventually require every employee in America to go through the E-Verify system. This internet system provides employers with an inexpensive, quick, and accurate way to verify that employees are not illegal aliens. The rules for use are such that no employee or employer suffers if there is a mistake in the system because there is ample time to correct errors on the employee's side and on the government's side.

The SAVE Act happens to be an enforcement only bill and that is likely the source of the opposition from the House. There are several ironic twists of fate in the tale of the SAVE Act and not the least of which is that this bill is being sponsored by a Democrat. (Heath Shuler (D)NC) It had so much support from both sides that I once referred to it as the rock star bill. Everyone from Tom Tancredo to John Murtha had gotten behind the bill. Yet, in a blatant play to her open borders allies, Nancy Pelosi has decided to bury the bill and not allow it a vote in front of the full House. (which most backers believe would result in overwhelming approval)

Now, Shuler has teamed up with Congressmen Brian Bilbray (R-California) to bring what is called a "discharge petition." Under House rules, if a simple majority, 218 Members, sign this discharge petition, the SAVE Act of 2007 will be forced to the floor of the House for an up-or-down vote! Ironically enough while 181 members have signed the petition, there are 38 co sponsors of the bill that still haven't signed the petition. If they did, the petition would have enough votes to go through.

Here is all the sponsors who still haven't signed the petition.

The Hon. Jason Altmire, The Hon. Michael A. Arcuri, The Hon. Brian Baird, The Hon. Melissa L. Bean, The Hon. Marion Berry, The Hon. Sanford Bishop, The Hon. Dan Boren, The Hon. Leonard L. Boswell, The Hon. Rick Boucher, The Hon. Allen Boyd, The Hon. Shelley Moore Capito, The Hon. Steve Cohen, The Hon. Jim Cooper, The Hon. Robert E. (Bud), Cramer Jr., The Hon. Artur Davis, The Hon. Lincoln Davis, The Hon. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, The Hon. Bart Gordon, The Hon. Brian Higgins, The Hon. Baron P. Hill, The Hon. Paul W. Hodes, The Hon. Tim Holden, The Hon. Steve Kagen, The Hon. Paul E. Kanjorski, The Hon. Ron Klein, The Hon. Jim Marshall, The Hon. Jim Matheson, The Hon. Jerry McNerney, The Hon. Charlie Melancon, The Hon. Patrick J. Murphy, The Hon. John P. Murtha, The Hon. Ed Perlmutter, The Hon. Ciro D. Rodriguez, The Hon. Mike Ross, The Hon. Tim Ryan, The Hon. Joe Sestak, The Hon. Zachary T. Space, The Hon. Bart Stupak, The Hon. John S. Tanner, The Hon. Mark Udall, The Hon. Don Young, The Hon. Peter J. Visclosky


Many of these are of course Dems that are currently being strong armed by Pelosi and the rest of the apparatus. It appears the House leadership is determined to torpedo the one good piece of legislation we have all year.

Human Events has nefarious intentions for Pelosi's behavior...

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and a handful of her far-left cronies in Congress are plotting to put amnesty for 12-20 million illegal aliens back on the table!

And their first order of business is BLOCKING legislation that
would finally beef up our nation's border security and crack down on employers that hire illegal aliens.


I will leave it up to the reader to decide, however a piece of legislation with a lot of potential to put a dent in illegal immigration (Here is my criticism of the SAVE Act) will die in committee unless something happens soon.

If you want to make a difference, here is a good place to start.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Fun With Numbers and Hillary's Mortgage Proposal

Let's look at three numbers and analyze them in the context of the mortgage crisis and Hillary's solutions to them. The first number is 30 billion. That is how much Hillary Clinton has pledged to help struggling families during the credit crunch.




That’s why I’m calling for the creation of a one-time emergency $30 billion fund that would go directly to cities and states to address the housing crisis.


That also just happens to be the same number that the Fed pledged to guarantee in order to facilitate the Bear Stearns buyout by JP Morgan.




The Fed extended a $30 billion lifeline to prevent Bear Stearns from imploding and took unprecedented action to provide tens of billions of dollars in credit for other struggling investment banks as well

Now, clearly Clinton is trying to make a point with this thirty billion dollar number. If you we examine some other numbers. Let's look at 521 billion. That is how many ARM's will be adjusting just in the first half of this year




January 2008 $80 billion

February 2008 $88 billion

March 2008 $110 billion

April 2008 $92 billion

May 2008 $76 billion

June 2008 $75 billion

July 2008 $50 billion

August 2008 $35 billion

September 2008 $26 billion

October 2008 $20 billion

November 2008 $15 billion

December 2008 $17 billion




This is how many ARM's will expire just in the first half of this year. Now, Hillary has promised to freeze all rates, but that is only if and when she becomes President. That means everyone in one of these ARM's will be hit up to 30% increases in their mortgage payments. That $30 billion doesn't seem that large when you consider it won't help most of these folks. Of course, that is up from her previous proposal.




Hillary Clinton today is rolling out a series of housing proposals, including a crackdown on unscrupulous mortgage brokers and a $1 billion fund to help homeowners avoid foreclosure

Hillary was proposing only setting up a one billion dollar fund and then bumped that up to $30 billion once she heard about the Bear Stearns/JP Morgan. Meanwhile $500 billion dollars of ARM's will expire and adjust up just in the first half of the year and she isn't proposing any relief for those folks.



Finally, there is this number 1.5 trillion dollars. That is how about how much we still expect ARM's to expire in the future. Over the next couple years. (This is an estimate but either way the number is in the trillions)

That is how many ARM's will be eligible for having their rates frozen. Hillary, like most politicians, has been very vague as to exactly which folks will have their ARM's expire. Someone within the government will have to determine that. That to me sounds like an awfully large bureaucracy necessary to facilitate that plan. This to me sounds like a plan to increase the size of our government exponentially.


So, if you examine the numbers, you have a plan with an element of political calculation, that totally ignores the magnitude of the crisis, and plans on expanding the size of government exponentially.

624787 - TV Ad

Race: The Pandora's Box

I guess I didn't understand just how gutsy Barack Obama's speech was until I saw the firestorm erupt afterwards. I remember Karl Rove being asked in his new analyst role what advice he would give Obama. He pointed out that he would not have advised him to make the speech about race. By bringing race into it, it is now there and it isn't going away. Race is one of those things you don't talk about as a politician because it never leads anywhere but bad places for you. It's like talking about previous relationships on a date. That is the albatross that the race speech has created for Obama, the pandora's box it just opened.

One of the biggest problems with the issue of race is once the pandora's box is opened everyone wants to give their opinion. Once everyone is embodened then who knows what will be said. For instance, Mary Mitchell of the Sun Times said that

Black people get it, White people don't, now let's move on

Charles Coulter said that

Enough! Attacks on Obama and Jeremiah Wright are ludicrous...

So the Rev. Jeremiah Wright made comments that some portray as hate-filled and anti-American.

So what? I think that's covered by something called the First Amendment.And some want Barack Obama to distance himself even further from his spiritual mentor. Why?Rev. Wright has not said anything that has not been said or is not being said in bars, poolrooms, barber shops, hair salons or anywhere more than three black people gather.

Let's face it, in the discussion of race, these are the voices that will likely come to the front. Frankly, whether or not the race baiters and flat out racists are the majority, they certainly yell the loudest. Whatever calm voices will be drowned out by the extremists. Don't forget that for every African American race baiter like Mary Mitchell there are dozens more at every water cooler that would never get paid for what they said but spout off as the White equivalent.

If Obama wanted to lead a national discussion on race, then he has gottent exactly what he wished for. I don't know who he thought was mostly going to follow him, but it really could never lead anywhere all that good politically. Now, he is stuck in the middle of a national conversaition on race and trying to do it as a candidate that was post racial. The likes of Mitchell and Coulter now feel empowered to say what they want as often as they want. I don't see how this scenario will define him by anything but race though.

In my response to Obama's speech, I pointed out that trying to be the post racial candidate and speaking so candidly about race would be a difficult needle to thread. That continues to be quite the understatement. For the indefinite future, I don't see him moving away or beyond it.

McCain's Political Jujutsu

Sometimes, political jutusu is quite difficult. For instance, Bill Clinton was a master at political jujitsu. He used to win huge political battles. For instance, he used it int the budget battle with Newt Gingrich and Newt blinked first. Of course, he made political jujutsu history when he was able to maneuver the Monica Lewinsky story so that in the aftermath his approval ratings were at near all time highs. Political jujutsu is essentially using the opponent's strengths and weaknesses against them.



Now in the case of John McCain, the situation he must navigate is actually ripe for political jujitsu. Right now, Barack Obama is embroiled in the Reverend Wright fiasco. That doesn't look like it will go away anytime soon. Meanwhile, Hillary has been caught lying or exaggerating about a trip to Bosnia she had when she was the first lady. McCain's dilemma, if you can call it that, was trying to simultaneously stay out of the fray but remain relevant.



First, McCain goes on a cross country tour of the Middle East and Europe. (minus one gaffe the trip was a success) Then, he comes home and receives the endorsement of Nancy Reagan . Now, he has new ad campaign out that includes some of his courageous biography. He's already made an important speech on GWOT policy at the World Affairs Council in Los Angeles, California, and he plans on giving several more policy speeches on a whole range of issues shortly.



Now that is staying out of the fray, and keeping yourself relevant enough. Frankly, in this situation he probabaly doesn't want too much media attention on himself anyway. Politically for McCain, there must continue to be a delicate balance of media coverage of this campaign. So far, things could probably have only gone better if he didn't slip up about Iran and Al Qaeda. Still, right now, the dynamics of the race all favor McCain. That is accomplishing political jujutsu.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Hillary's Scorched Earth Nightmare Scenario

So, everyone is trying to figure out how Hillary can win this nomination, and most of the conventional wisdom has it at being impossible. Well, I have a scenario that gives her a fighting chance at the nomination however if she employs it there will be nothing but mad chaos in the Democratic Party.

Let's suppose that she wins rather handily in Pennsylvania. Let's further suppose that the momentum carries her to a close victory in North Carolina. Now, let's suppose she wins all or most of the remaining states. Now, let's once again suppose that after all the primaries are over, Hillary will be trailing Obama in both delegates and total votes but not by much.

While Obama is making the case that he deserves the nomination because he has more delegates and total votes, Hillary will make an equally compelling case that if Michigan and Florida were counted that she would have more delegates and total votes. Florida and Michigan may or may not still seat their delegates, however it looks almost totally hopeless that they will seat them according to any vote. Without the delegates of Florida and Michigan fairly decided, Hillary will make the equally compelling arguement that the will of the voters wasn't spoken in choosing Obama. The two candidates will spend the time in between the end of the primaries and the convention convincing the super delegates that their position is more legitimate.

At that point, there will be plenty of people who will see neither candidate as a the legitimate winner, and take any result as stolen. Chaos will be unleashed, and at that point the winner is unimportant because ultimately the whole party loses.

Down Payment Assistance...Legalized Money Laundering

Do you want to know how complicated the loan business? Well, the concept of charitable down payment assistance programs provides a glimpse. First, on a purchase transaction, banks will allow sellers to pay for the borrower's closing costs but not any part of their down payments. This creates an interesting dilemma and opportunity for loans where the down payment is fairly minimal like with FHA (3% down payment).

Now, let's bring in charitable down payment assistance programs. What these programs allow is for seller's to contribute toward the down payment by first laundering it through this non profit. Because the seller gives the money to the non profit, and then the same non profit provided the final payment (minus their fee of course) then suddenly a transaction that wasn't kosher becomes totally legitimate.


Lending regulations generally prohibit a seller from directly providing a buyer with a down payment, however. At the same time, there have long been government and charitable programs which provide down payment money to struggling first-time buyers that lenders can accept.

During the past decade, organizations that mirror the sanctioned charitable down payment giving have increased, but with a twist: Home sellers are able to make a contribution to the non-profit, which in turn provides down payment money to the buyer of the seller's home.

This is wink wink nod nod at its most extreme. The banks have essentially created a rule and then created another one to subvert it. Of course, the irony is that the only reason this is legal and some drug dealer doing much the same thing isn't is because the fees collected by these down payment assistance places winds up going to worthwhile causes.

The worst part about this is that all of these stunts to make things appear to be something they are not also turns the purchase price into something it isn't. For instance, if a seller agrees to sell their property for 175k and contribute up to 3k for closing costs, then in reality the seller agreed to sell the place for 172k. Of course, the purchase price will be listed at 175k for comparison to other properties.When we are dealing with small amounts like closing cost contributions the manipulation is not very tangible. What if a seller agrees to contribute three percent for down payment though by laundering the money through a charitable program? Then, the true value of the property has been inflated by 3%. If enough transactions happen this way in an area, you would have a manipulated increase in property value.

Obama's Tactical Error Vis a Vis Wright

I have heard several analysts assign the drip label to the Wright fiasco. I think that this story will have elements of the drip factor for Obama. The drip factor is of course when a story continues to leak out more and more negative details so that the culmination of all the details destroys the candidate. At this point, the shock of what Reverend Wright said has done its initial damage. What the campaign desperately needs is to move away from this story.

That is why I think that Obama has made two critical errors with regards to this story. First, the campaign continues to insist that the media took a few isolated comments and turned them into a thirty second loop. Reverend Wright has been preaching regularly for more than thirty years the campaign likes to say. By framing things this way, it makes every newly discovered incendiary statement news. That's because the more comments that surface the worse that makes the campaign's position. Furthermore, he continues to insist that he knew nothing about Wright's most extreme comments. Of course, this opens the door for video and other footage that shows that Obama was at one of these sermons. Furthermore, if enough incendiary comments surface it will also make that arguement hard to believe.

So, for instance, the relatively obscure web site, CNS News, broker a story about some more incendiary comments by Pastor Wright in the magazine his church publishes, The Trumpet.

He refused to be defined by others and Dr. Asa Hilliard also refused to be defined by others. The government runs everything from the White House to the schoolhouse, from the Capitol to the Klan, white supremacy is clearly in charge, but Asa, like Jesus, refused to be defined by an oppressive government because Asa got his identity from an Omnipotent God."

Every issue of the magazine published last year included Wright's column, "The Message," in which he covered a range of subjects, including his views on other African-American churches as expressed in his April 2007 commentary "Facing the Rising Sun."

"In a world that is controlled by white supremacy, in a country that is on its way to hell in a hand basket because of lying politicians, in a culture that still thinks 'white is right' and with young people who do not have a clue as to our story, our history, our legacy or our destiny, we still have African-American Christians who are more concerned about 'bling bling' than about freeing our minds," Wright wrote.

This story would have much less relevance if not for Obama's insistence that Wright's words were taken out of context and that he hadn't heard his most incendiary language until just recently. Now, every controversial comment by Wright will be dissected somewhere in the media. (even if most of it will be dissected in the conservative media) This puts the Obama campaign in the position of walking on eggshells.

Meanwhile, his political opponents will begin scouring for more incendiary comments from Wright. It apparently isn't going to be too difficult to find them. The initial sermons were found on a DVD the church itself put out. These latest comments were from the church's own magazine. On the church's web site, they once posted a manifesto from Hamas. The evidence of Wright's anti Americanism and incendiary language is frankly everywhere. By framing the debate as his campaign has, it will open the door for all of it being news.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The "Disciplined" Candidate

When last we left Dennis Lennox, the school administration at Central Michigan University had formally disciplinedthe Junior in a meeting that was held in secret without his participation. He had been involved with a nearly year long confrontation with his administration over Gary Peters. Peters was simultaneously holding the distinguished Griffin Chair and running for U.S. Congress in a district hundreds of miles away. As the confrontation got more intense over time, it lead to more extreme actions. Eventually, was charged with all sorts of charges that I consider dubious at best, and now just recently the administration finally, after scheduling and postponing multiple hearings, formally disciplined Lennox in secret without allowing him to attend. At the time, no one, including Lennox himself, thought that his next move would be to announce his intention to run for state office. Yet, that is exactly what he has done. Here is a portion of the press release I received...


Topinabee resident Dennis Lennox announced his candidacy for the 105th state House seat currently held by retiring Rep. Kevin Elsenheimer on Wednesday.

"With Representative Elsenheimer's decision not to run again, it's important to ensure a conservative voice continues to represent us," said Lennox. "The people of northern Michigan want someone willing to cut taxes, improve the economy and vote their values."

Lennox, 23, is active in Republican politics and has worked for President
George W. Bush, Congressman David Camp and Senate Republicans in Lansing under
then-Majority Leader Ken Sikkema. He has also represented the GOP abroad – building important relationships with center-right political parties and leaders. Earlier this year, he was elected as an alternate delegate to the 2008 Republican National Convention.

Events unraveled as they normally do in such cases. First, Lennox told me that he had been eyeing a run at this seat in 2010. In the Michigan state legislature, state reps are term limited to three terms. The Representative in his home district, Kevin Elsenheimer, was finishing his second term. Just recently, Elsenheimer announced that instead of seeking another re election, he was going to retire.

The whole the situation was ripe for Lennox to take advantage. First, the 105th District is pretty solid Republican. Second, the primary is scheduled for August. If he were to win the primary, that means that he would be near assured of winning the general election. If he were to lose in the primaries, he could take the newly gained experience back to school or to whatever opportunity happened to come up. It still remains unclear how the Peters saga will fit in within the election. It certainly has no direct relevance and could only be used tangentially.

Lennox told me that he is leaving behind a functioning apparatus to continue the fight against Peters dually holding the Griffin Chair and running for U.S. Congress. While this is so, it is obviously unclear how the group will function without its leader. My first question was a rather cynical one...why shouldn't we see this as you using these events to further your own ambitions?

Lennox' answer was both political and statesman like depending on your perspective. He told me that he always believed that public service was a noble endeavor, and that he saw this as an opportunity to serve the people.

The issues he will be dealing with are in most ways totally different from the ordeal that has consumed his life over the previous ten months. Michigan has the highest unemployment rate in the country. The state government recently passed record tax increases. Furthermore, Michigan has been far more dependent on manufacturing than the average states. The automobile industry is in decline, and Lennox believes that Michigan sets out far too many regulations.

He believes the solutions to Michigan's economic malaise is getting back to good old fashioned traditional conservative, libertarian, and free market principles. He believes the way out of this malaise is with lower taxes, less government intrusion, and less regulations. He has already signed Grover Norquist's no new taxes pledge. He mentioned that he was also going to look to aggressively eliminate those bureaucracies that he felt weren't performing. He also mentioned that deregulation was another goal of his. By removing government and lowering the tax burden, he believes the free market will work to revolutionize Michigan's economy.

Lennox mentioned that of course since the campaign is only days old that his entire platform hadn't yet been developed. With that caveat, I took away that he would try and run as a consistent, reliable, conservative that was going to work to get the Republicans back to their roots.

So far he is leading and that's because he is the first to announce. Ironically enough, Jon Benet Ramsey's dad could possibly be one of his opponents. Jon Ramsey ran for office here a few years back. It is far too early to determine his prospects, but we will keep an eye out.

Case Exposes Many Failings in the Mortgage Industry

According to the Sun Times, the Attorney General of Illinois is aggressively moving foward with legal action in this case of purported mortgage fraud.


The McBees received a call from Advantage Mortgage Consulting offering to lower their $700 monthly payments by $100 a month. The couple decided to refinance
through Advantage. According to the lawsuit, the McBees were told that to get the lower payment, they would first need to be refinanced into a monthly mortgage with payments of roughly $1,400 for two months, and then they'd be refinanced into a mortgage with a payment of roughly $600 a month, about $100 less than they paid under their original monthly mortgage. The suit says the couple informed the company they wouldn't be able to afford a $1,400 monthly payment for long.

The couple said they had to use money from their credit cards to make the two payments on their 4½-bedroom, two-bath home, where they had lived since 1999. After they made the two $1,400 mortgage payments, Advantage refused to refinance them into the lower mortgage, the suit alleges. Ozell, 86, a retired nurse's assistant, and J.W., 67, a retired janitor, couldn't meet the increased payments, fell behind, the house was foreclosed and they were evicted. The lawsuit states Advantage misrepresented the McBees' monthly income in order to secure the loan.

Now, this case exposes many of the failings of the industry. First, the main reason that everyone signs so much paperwork is because it ultimately doesn't matter what you say, but rather what is said in writing and what you signed. There is going to be no loan document that is going to say that you are doing a loan temporarily in order to then obtain a better loan. In other words, they likely didn't understand what they were signing.

Now, I have long pointed out that the ridiculous amount of paperwork becomes a practical counter productive endeavor. I would be willing to bet that one of the main reasons the couple didn't know what they were signing was because they had signed so much that it was totally overwhelming. Here is a revealing part of the case...


The couple said they had to use money from their credit cards to make the two payments on their 4½-bedroom, two-bath home, where they had lived since 1999. After they made the two $1,400 mortgage payments, Advantage refused to refinance them into the lower mortgage, the suit alleges. Ozell, 86, a retired nurse's assistant, and J.W., 67, a retired janitor, couldn't meet the increased payments, fell behind, the house was foreclosed and they were evicted. The lawsuit states Advantage misrepresented the McBees' monthly income in order to secure the loan.

You will notice that the only fraud the government thinks they can prove is misrepresented income. In other words, the promise of lowering their rate later is much more difficult to prosecute because the couple never signed paperwork guaranteeing this. Proving the misrepresentation of income is easier because the amount put down on the application can be measured against what they really made. Still, this sort of situation could have happened without necessarily needing to misrepresent income.

I call it a situation rather than a scam because it is possible that this was mere incompetence or even more, market forces at work. I have myself structured loans in similar fashion. Sometimes, borrowers need to wrap up a bunch of bills and pay them off in order to get their credit score higher in order to qualify for a good loan. I don't know if that happened here. Loan programs can disappear or change guidelines at any time. It is possible that the mortgage company thought they had a final home for the loan, and then that program was removed or changed.

Given the enormous increase in the size of their temporary payment, I doubt that is true. I believe that this was much more likely a flat out scam. That said, this lawsuit reveals many of thd difficulties and contradictions of the mortgage market.

For instance, in Illinois there is something called the net tangible benefit disclosure. Each loan done is supposed the have a benefit to the borrower, and the disclosure clarifies what that benefit is (consolidating debt, lowering the interest rate, getting a fixed rate, getting a lower payment, etc) Keep in mind that their payment doubled, and yet somehow there was still a "net tangible benefit", and that's because the disclosure should have been signed as part of the loan process. What was that benefit, and what good is the rule or the disclosure if it is met and such a loan is still allowed to move forward.

The mortgage industry is wraught with paperwork that is meant to protect folks against fraud by spelling out exactly what the terms of their mortgage will be. Yet, the paperwork is so overwhelming that it contrbutes to many borrowers only being confused about what their terms are. Thus, it allows for unscrupulous mortgage brokers to say one thing and have borrowers sign something totally different. Since, in real estate, it all comes down to what you signed and not what was said, unscrupulous mortgage brokers actually use the system to their advantage.

All of this is very important because most new legislation involves new regulations which will mostly also create new paperwork. Until the powers that be understand that the plethora of paperwork that their regulations are creating is only contributing to the problem, they are not going to do anything that will tangibly resolve it.

Obama's Economic Solutions: More Taxes, More Regulation, and More Spending...

Don't try and pigeonhole Barack Obama. You see he is the new kind of politician that can build bridges by offering the standard boiler plate classic liberal solutions. Just today, he offered an economic plan that was highlighted major new regulations initiatives.

To renew our economy — and to ensure that we are not doomed to repeat a cycle of bubble and bust again and again — we need to address not only the immediate crisis in the housing market; we also need to create a 21st century regulatory framework, and pursue a bold opportunity agenda for the American people,” Obama
said.

“We do American business — and the American people — no favors when we turn a blind eye to excessive leverage and dangerous risks,” he added.


A regulatory framework sounds nice, but what it likely means is a massive new bureaucracy that will make business transactions even more difficult to procure. This latest proposal comes mere weeks after he said this about jobs.

Democrat Barack Obama said Wednesday that as president he would spend $210 billion to create jobs in construction and environmental industries, as he tried to win over economically struggling voters. Obama's investment would be over 10 years as part of two programs. The larger is $150 billion to create 5 million so-called "green collar" jobs to develop more environmentally friendly energy sources...

Sixty billion would go to a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank to rebuild highways, bridges, airports and other public projects. Obama estimated that could generate nearly 2 million jobs, many of them in the construction industry that's been hit by the housing crisis.

This agenda is paid for," Obama said as the Republican National Committeepromoted an "Obama Spend-O-Meter" online to track his proposals and portray him as a tax-and-spend liberal. Obama explained that the money for his spending proposals will come from ending the Iraq war, cutting tax breaks for corporations, taxing carbon
pollution and raising taxes on high income earners.

in other words, Barack Obama wants to achieve job growth through government spending, and he will pay for this increased spending by increasing taxes on the wealthy, capital gains, and corporations. So, between the two plans, what we have is boiler plate old school tax, spend and regulate classic liberal policies.

Now, Obama has promised a one thousand dollar tax break for "working families" (his term without any sort of definition beyond that), however he refuses to make the tax cuts permanent. If the tax cuts expire, then these same "working families" will have one tax cut be replaced by a tax increase. He has already promised to re institute the death tax, raise the capital gains tax and the corporate tax.

He has promised two hundred billion in new spending on jobs. He wants another $30 billion dollar "stimulus". We haven't even talked about his behemouth of a spending plan for health care.

Now, we find out that he also wants to call on a plethora of new regulation. Apparently, Barack Obama thinks we can stimulate the economy by increasing a bunch of taxes, increasing the size of government, and adding all sorts of new regulations. Now, I am just curious when the last time those cures actually stimulated the economy.

The Fed Plays Investment Banker

According to blackhedd over at Red State, calling the Bear Stearns transaction a "bail out" is crude and lacks proper context in order to understand what is going on.

Bear Stearns quickly unraveled on Thursday the 13th and Friday the 14th. The Fed
determined that they couldn't let trading open on Monday with Bear Stearns still sitting in the wind. The essentially brokered a deal between the JP Morgan and Bear Stearns and acted at times as a pseudo guarantor. The thirty billion dollar figure is actually a significantly complicated financial transaction that gives the Fed plenty of potential return on its money...

What they appear to have done is to establish a limited-liability entity to take control over $30 billion worth of securities (no word yet on what the securities actually are). According to statements by the New York Fed, Morgan is responsible for $1 billion in potential losses on the $30 billion portfolio. If there are profits on the portfolio, the Fed will receive about 97% of them, and Morgan will get the rest.

It is important to again point out that the Fed routinely loans banks money. What is different here is the level of activity and involvement that the Fed chose in this situation. Keep in mind that the Fed ultimately has responsibility over the entire banking system. Clearly, in the transaction involving Bear Stearns they used that power liberally.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Platoon Clip

Depraved Indifference

That was the term that came to my mind when I finally heard the full details behind the murder of Jamiel Shaw by Pedro Espinoza.

Her son, Jamiel Shaw Jr., 17, was killed last Sunday when two men in a car pulled up next to him, asked if he belonged to a gang, then shot him when he didn't answer. He was three houses from home in the Mid-City area of Los Angeles.Police said Jamiel was not affiliated with a gang. He was a high school football star who hoped to earn a college scholarship and become a sports agent, family members said.


Espinoza was released from jail on March 1st. Two days later he killed Jamiel Shaw in a senseless drive by shooting. He was held at LA County jai for four months after brandishing a firearm and resisting arrest just prior to the shooting. He is also an illegal alien. This is something the authorities of LA would have known if they had asked. Unfortunately, LA, under the direction of Antonio R. Villaraigosa is a sanctuary city. In L.A., police don't ask criminals their legal status, even though criminal illegals can then be removed from their vicinity. Instead, these criminal illegal aliens are put back into their societies so they can commit more crimes there.

The most important responsibility for an elected official is to protect the citizens they represent. By letting Espinoza out on the streets rather than checking his legal status to determine if he can be deported, Espinoza failed in this duty. Keep in mind that this just the latest example of the tragic results of sanctuary policies on the safety of the citizens where they are practiced. In Virginia Beach, a chronic drunk driver that was also an illegal killed two teens.


Suspect in accident that killed two teens convicted of DUI two months ago
An illegal alien charged in connection with an acdcident that claimed the lives of two teenage girls was convicted of DUI two months ago in Chesapeake.

The accident occurred late Friday night when Alfredo Ramos crashed into the back of a vehicle at a red light. The rear-ending killed teenagers Allison Kuhnhardt and Tessa Tranchant


In Newark, a criminal illegal alien with a history of violent offenses killed three college students execution style.


An illegal immigrant in the execution-style killings of three students was to be arraigned on Friday morning after surrendering the day before to New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker…FOX News has learned Carranza, who has a fake Social Security number, had been arrested on charges of raping a 5-year-old and then threatening the child and parents. In that case he faced a 31-count indictment…

In another, he was arrested on assault charges stemming from a bar fight.


There is a very simple logic here. If police check the legal status of all the criminals they arrest, they will be able to remove those that are here illegally. This will increase the safety of the community they serve. Any community that insists on not doing this basic step they are putting their citizens in jeopardy.

I know that depraved indifference is a legal term and it has a meaning quite different than the one that I am assigning it however that is what sanctuary policies that lead to tragedy remind me of. It is to me, beyond debate, that allowing criminal illegals to continue in your neighborhood will eventually lead to tragedy in your neighborhood. Thus, when this sort of tragedy happens I see the city officials as showing depraved indifference to the crime.

In the case of Jamiel Shaw, I see the mayor's sanctuary city policy as showing a depraved indifference to that crime.

Obama's Revealing and Faulty Debate Logic

Anyone that has debated or argued in the past has probably come up against a comment just like this, "you know I'm right". This is the most debased arguement that anyone can have in any sophisticated debate. It is nothing more than third grade logic. Of course, I assume that anyone I debate thinks they are right. They are taking the position they are taking because they think it is right. Saying what is implicitly obvious doesn't in any way shape or form move the debate forward.

This brings me to this article discussing Obama's prospects as a uniter...

In the interview, for example, he argued that his proposals on health care and the economy, which call for a stronger government role and more regulation, were really about what works.

“I’m interested in solving problems as opposed to imposing doctrine,” he said. “I see a lot of convergence of interests among people who in traditional terms are considered to be divided politically.”

Now, what Obama is essentially doing here is employing the "you know I'm right" debating point. He is acting as though it is a given that more regulation and bigger government is good for our economy. That is by no means a settled matter. In fact, I would argue vigorously with him that it isn't right. Classic liberals think that what works is more regulation and more government. That is a piece of what makes them classic liberals.

The reason of course he thinks he is right, at least in my opinion, is because he is a classic liberal. He is acting like his straight down the line classic liberal solutions should be seen different because he thinks he is right. This is frankly the line of arguement taken usually by those that have no legitimate point to make. Of course, a classic liberal would believe that more government and more regulation would be right. Tell me something I don't know.

If in fact, more regulation and more government were the right thing to do, what Obama would do is point out what specifically about those proposals would benefit the country. Instead the only thing he can say about his proposals is he thinks they are right.

Its a rather revealing statement by Obama. It means he really doesn't understand the merits of the debate, but rather only assumes that if it is classic liberal it is right. Think about how tortured his logic is. He is convinced he can unite the country behind classic tax and spend policies, policies that have always been divisive in the past. He thinks he can do this because he is convinced he is right. This, I suppose is the new kind of politics he is talking about.

The Democrats are Falling Apart at the Seams

I have already referred to the Democrats' race as delicious and on the brink of political civil war. I want to review what has happened since I pointed out that they were on the brink of political civil war. James Carville, a Hillary surrogate, referred to Bill Richardson as Judah. Tony McPeak, an Obama surrogate, referred to Bill Clinton as Joe McCarthy. It became even more hopeless to have Michigan and Florida have their votes count in any fair manner toward deciding this nominee. Hillary was caught in an embellishment or even a lie that insulted our military.

Right now, most of the Democrats that try and put a happy face on this point out that it is only March. That's true, however does anyone see in reason why this will do anything but get worse, much worse, before it gets better. The worst part for the Democrats is that it appears the only thing that is working is when each candidate attacks one of the other's scandals. Here is an example from Hillary.

Sen. Obama knows that if he focused on his experience, he’d get questions
about the shortcomings in his record and the efforts he has made to embellish
it.

He’d have to deal with the fallout from this week’s Washington Post report
on his gross exaggeration of his role on immigration reform and housing
policy.

Sen. Obama would have to explain why the New York Times reported that he
claims credit for passing nuclear leak legislation that never got out of
committee.

He’d have to confront reports from FactCheck.org and other independent
organizations that say his claims of providing a universal health care plan are
based on selective, embellished and out-of-context quotes from
newspapers.

He’d have to discuss the LA Times story that reported on how his fellow
organizers say he took too much credit for his community organizing
efforts.

He’d have to explain why he regularly claims he was a law professor when in
fact he held no such title




and

would not have been my pastor...You don't choose your family, but you choose what church you want to attend...You know, I spoke out against Don Imus, saying that hate speech was unacceptable in any setting, and I believe that... think you have to speak out against that. You certainly have to do that, if not explicitly, then implicitly by getting up and moving

Here is what the Obama campaign put out about Hillary's gaffe...

The American people are simply not going to elect someone they think is not being honest and trustworthy...She would be a deeply flawed nominee

The reality is that they are now both deeply flawed candidates and the Democrats are stuck with them. The worst part is that some Democrats even think that the right move to make is to put them together. The campaign is now fixated on each of their flaws. The dynamic is such that the best thing each can do is deflect attention from their own failings by pointing out the other's failings. It is the political campaign version of the best defense is a good offense.

On top of this, there is now a better chance that Florida and Michigan won't be seated at all, then there is that a fair election will decide how their delegates will be split up. This means that in those two states the Democrats will likely get crushed on a local, regional, state and national level.

On the legislative front, the Democrats have made an enormous tactical error in trying to govern from the extreme left. As such, the only bills they pass have no hope of overriding a veto, and they actually block bi partisan legislation like the SAVE Act. The Democrats continue to insist on holding up the passage of warrantless wiretapping legislation. There are few issues better that poll better for the Republicans than this one. The longer they drag it out the more it will become an issue in the campaign. Furthermore, the Democratic House leadership is holding up the one sensible and bi partisan piece of legislation that has come out of there the whole time they have been in control. The House just passed a massive tax increase. (an increase that has absolutely no hope of coming anywhere near an override of a veto that everyone knows is coming. )

What is happening is an unprecedented perfect storm of political incompetence and negativity from the Democrats. While there is plenty of time to right the ship, the problem is that all of the momentum is building towards their ugliness. This primary fight looks to have no end. Everyday that goes by without a resolution for Michigan and Florida only makes the situation worse. The leadership on both sides of the legislature is totally atrocious.

Colonel Hunt Adds Context to Tuzla

Last night on the factor, Bill had Colonel David Hunt on to debate Lanny Davis about the Tuzla fiasco. Colonel Hunt was in charge of security operations for Hillary Clinton's visit to Tuzla that day. He made the point that claiming that she was shot at when it didn't happen is an insult to every one of the nearly 4000 soldiers who's job it was to protect her. O'Reilly countered that it wasn't Hillary's intention to insult the soldiers, but that is really beside the point.

The reality is that the story is insulting to those soldiers that were given the assignment of protecting her. What Clinton was essentially claiming was that Hunt is an incompetent. If a first lady is shot at during a scheduled visit, the person in charge of security is an incompetent. Of course, I actually agree that Hillary wasn't trying to insult the soldiers, but in some ways that is even worse. That's because she is so oblivious to what is going on around her that she doesn't even realize what her stories conclude.

It takes a great deal of narcissism to tell a story and not realize that telling it would insult the very security detail that was set up to protect you. Hunt's genuine outrage really put some perpective on this for me.

This gaffe may turn out to be quite damaging. I have already heard other military folks say the same thing. Here is how Maj. Gen. Walter Stewart put it...
She has no sense of what a statement like that does to soldiers...She is insulting the command in its entirety,"

Insulting the military is quite possibly the worst thing you can do in a campaign. Here is the irony. If Obama wasn't dealing with the Wright issue, this could likely end her campaign. Only compared to sitting by while your pastor spews anti American hate for twenty years and doing nothing, this is actually rather mild. This sort of gaffe would prove fatal however when matched up against the record of John McCain.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Obama, McCain, Wright, and My Favorite Latin Phrase

Back when I was a stock broker, I worked alongside a legendary stock broker named Wil Rondini. One morning I asked Wil just how hard he worked when he first got into the business. In a matter of fact tone, he told me that he worked from six in the morning till nine in the evening Monday through Friday and 9-1 on Saturday and he did that for two years straight.

I believe there are two types of people in this world. There are those that are in love with the idea of success, and then there are those, like Wil, that will actually do anything and everything necessary to be successful. Most people fit into the first category and a select few are like Wil.

While there is actually a strain of American society that hates America, I believe patriotism works much like the idea of success. Most Americans are patriotic in the sense that they love their country, but they aren't necessarily willing to make a real sacrifice for the country. On the other hand, there are the select few that are willing to actually sacrifice everything for their patriotism. Those are the Wil Rondini's of patriotism.

This brings me to Barack Obama and John McCain. There was recently a bruhaha over the perception by some that Bill Clinton implied that Barack Obama wasn't a patriot. I don't think that is at all accurate and frankly slanderous. Obama is not only charitable but has served the nation as an elected official for more than a decade. His credentials as a patriot are not in doubt.

That said, the Presidential campaign is not merely about passing some sort of a threshold. It is about a choice. Ultimately, the President is the head patriot, and thus each candidate's credentials as a patriot become very relevant. Here is where things get dicey for Obama, and that's because McCain's credentials as a patriot challenge and surpass Rondini's credentials as an individual willing to sacrifice for success. McCain has served his country since he was eighteen years old and entered the Naval academy. He went to war. He wound up a POW and he was even tortured for six years of his life in defense of his nation. After he came back he has spent the rest of his adult life in public service...continuing to serve into his seventies.

Barack Obama, on the other hand, stood by for twenty years while his country was attacked by his own pastor and did nothing. Many people have hypothesized as to why, but to me that is totally irrelevant. As my favorite Latin phrase goes, Res Ipsa Loquitur (the facts speak for themselves). When the chips were down, Obama stood by and did nothing while his country was attacked for twenty years.

The facts can be a very revealing thing, and in this case I believe they show a clear picture of who would make the better President. When he was old enough, McCain signed up to serve in the Navy. He went to war and spent six years as a POW. He even refused to leave early unless and until the rest of his comrades left with him. When he returned from being a POW, he dedicated the rest of his life to public service. Res Ipsa Loquitur.

For twenty years, Obama's pastor attacked his country and Barack Obama stood by and did nothing. Res Ipsa Loquitur.

Which of those two makes a better President?

Bill Clinton = Calvin Coolidge With a Twist


Calvin Coolidge was President of the United States during a period where the U.S. economy performed at a remarkable rate. It has become to be called the "Roaring Twenties". His Presidency was marked by a remarkable lack of action. He instead relied on the concept of "laissez faire" and stood out of the way while the economy thundered along. Coolidge's record is remarkably light besides the economy that he presided over. Yet, at the time, the economy was doing so well that he was considered a very popular President. These days the economy is described in sophisticated and nuanced terms...
The Roaring Twenties are traditionally viewed as an era of great economic prosperity driven by the introduction of a wide array of new consumer goods. The NorthAmerican economy, particularly the economy of the US, transitioned from a wartime economy to a peacetime economy; the economy subsequently boomed. The United States augmented its standing as the richest country in the world, its industry aligned to mass production and its society acculturated into consumerism. In Europe, the economy did not start to flourish until 1924.In spite of the social, economic and technological advances, African Americans, recent immigrants and farmers—along with a large part of the working class population—were not much affected by this period. In fact, millions of people lived below the poverty line of US$2,000 per year per family.
Except to understand the economy of the 1920's, one only needs to understand the rules of stock trading then and what those rules allowed speculators to do. At the time, rules allowed folks to buy on margin only putting down 10% of the stock's value. In other words, if an individual bought $3000 worth of stock they only needed to come up with $300. More than that, most of the folks that bought on margin never actually had the full amount of the investment they were buying. In other words, for all the sophisticated talk, the roaring twenties were propped up by a boiler plate speculative market.
That speculative market came crashing down on October 24th, 1929. The same forces that had pushed the economy forward throughout the twenties had caused the market to crash. All of those margined investments, began to be called by the investment house when the market turned. Since no one actually had the full amount, all of these investments were sold off and the market crashed. The stock market crash of 1929 showed to twenties to be nothing more than a mirage built on the excesses of irresponsible speculators and on that day Coolidge's legacy as a President was sealed.
Bill Clinton also presided over a period of incredible economic growth. His Presidency coincided with advances in the internet and other technologies like cell phones. During the 1990's, what we saw in the stock markets was movement away from traditional valuations like earnings and moves towards finding companies that explored revolutionary technologies. Microsoft had gone several years with not only positive earnings but growing earnings before they were allowed to go public. Those sorts of paradigms were no longer in play in the 1990's. Instead, companies went public with not only negative earnings but frankly with little or no revenues. The speculative market that drove the economy in the 1990's also came crashing down when the Fed raised rates unexpectedly. Suddenly, all those companies that had no earnings were exposed as paper thin, and within months most of them went out of business. Three trillion dollars were lost in the stock market in paper profits in the last nine months of 2000. That crash lead directly to the recession of 2001.
Whatever differences there were in the 1920's and 1990's, the similarities were that the economies were built on the excesses of irresponsible speculative markets. History has not been kind to Coolidge's legacy which was built on excess that was on discovered after he left office.
So, here we have Bill Clinton and his legacy. Obviously, I will let history and historians judge his Presidency, however I am always amused by the deference that Democrats give Clinton. Besides the superior performance of the economy, they are at a loss for pointing to any tangible accomplishments of the Presidency. Besides raising taxes, which frankly, did absolutely nothing to create growth, Clinton merely presided over an economy built on the excesses of speculators. Furthermore, it was exacerbated by several high profile companies cooking their books. If Coolidge's legacy is not very kind, and his economic record is similar to Clinton's, well that is a good indicator of Clinton's legacy.
Of course, Clinton has one more significant negative that Coolidge didn't have. He has the stain of impeachment and other scandals. Whatever Coolidge was, one thing he was not was a man of questionable character. If Clinton's economic legacy will go by way of Coolidge's, then all he will have left is the legacy of impeachment. If that is the case, then Clinton's legacy will be quite unkind.

Barack Obama's Faulty Foreign Policy Doctrine

Introduction: Please note that this is based on an article by Spencer Ackerman of the American Prospect, and so this may in fact not be Obama's doctrine but rather the faulty interpretation by Ackerman of it.

Ackerman describes Obama's doctrine as not only merely ending the Iraq War but moving beyond the mindset that got us into Iraq. Throughout, Ackerman points out that Obama wants to move beyond the politics of fear.

The Obama foreign-policy team describes it as "the politics of fear," a phrase most advisers used unprompted in our conversations. "For a long time we've not seen much creative thinking from Dems on national security, because, out of fear, we want to be a little different from the Republicans but not too
different, out of fear of being labeled weak or indecisive,"another top adviser says. Identifying that fear as the accelerant of theIraq War mind-set is the first step to a new and innovative foreign policy. John Kerry was not able to argue for fundamental change in foreign policy because he was consumed by that very political fear. Obama's admonition to Democrats is much like Pope John Paul II's to the Gdansk shipyard strikers -- first, be not afraid.


Ackerman then goes on to point out that in order to see how a potential Presidential candidate will conduct foreign policy one needs to examine their foreign policy team. This is a good point, however Ackerman follows this up with a naive point about how Obama's team is full of folks with world experience. This is of course nonsensical. Every foreign policy team will have folks with intimate knowledge of the rest of the world. Ackerman foolishly assigns this extra meaning as he describes a foreign policy that moves from democracy promotion to so called dignity promotion...

What's typically neglected in these arguments is the simple insight that democracy does not fill stomachs, alleviate malaria, or protect neighborhoods from marauding bands of militiamen. Democracy, in other words, is valuable to people insofar as it allows them first to meet their basic needs. It is much harder to provide that sense of dignity than to hold an election in Baghdad or Gaza and declare oneself shocked when illiberal forces triumph. "Look at why the baddies win these elections," Power says. "It's because [populations are] living in climates of fear." U.S. policy, she continues, should be "about meeting people where they're at. Their fears of going hungry, or of the thug on the street. That's the swamp that needs draining. If we're to compete with extremism, we have to be able to provide these things that we're not
[providing]."

This is why, Obama's advisers argue, national security depends in large part on dignity promotion. Without it, the U.S. will never be able to destroy al-Qaeda. Extremists will forever be able to demagogue conditions of misery, making continued U.S. involvement in asymmetric warfare an increasingly counterproductive exercise -- because killing one terrorist creates five more in his place. "It's about attacking pools of potential terrorism around the globe," Gration says. "Look at Africa, with 900 million people, half of whom are under 18. I'm concerned that unless you start creating jobs and livelihoods we will have real big problems on our hands in ten to fifteen years."

This is not only patently ridiculous but frankly totally disingenuous. What is bringing hunger, disease, and lack of civil rights than the despotic regimes that Bush is trying to replace with democracies. If we are to take Ackerman seriously then we are supposed to believe that Obama will be able to work with despots in Syria, Iran, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Palestine, and everywhere else where despots rule to end the despair that these very despots created. Furthermore, Obama wants to forward a protectionist free trade policy that will cut off the single biggest market to economic expansion for many of these countries. After all, it is economic destitude that is the single biggest factor for this so called lack of dignity.

While Obama is going on about bringing dignity to the world, he is against free trade with most of our neighbors. Colombia, for instance, is counting heavily on its free trade pact with the U.S. in order to continue economic expansion. Yet, Obama wants to renegotiate most free trade pacts, and is against completing most that are on the table. How does Obama expect people to move out of destitude if he blocks industry in those countries from having access to the U.S. market?

The article continues by linking this policy with the GWOT...

This is why, Obama's advisers argue, national security depends in large part on dignity promotion. Without it, the U.S. will never be able to destroy al-Qaeda. Extremists will forever be able to demagogue conditions of misery, making continued U.S. involvement in asymmetric warfare an increasingly counterproductive exercise -- because killing one terrorist creates five more in his place. "It's about attacking pools of potential terrorism around the globe," Gration says. "Look at Africa, with 900 million people, half of whom are under 18. I'm concerned that unless you start creating jobs and livelihoods we will have real big problems on our hands in ten to fifteen years."

First, extremists can always find anything to demagogue, but more than that, it is silly and naive to think that he, Barack Obama, can transform their economic societies without transforming their societies in general. One of the main reasonse that extremists are able to demagogue is because there is no free press to counter them. Not so in democracies. In Iraq, for instance, there are several hundred television stations now and many times that many newspapers. Furthermore, blogging has become all the rage in Iraq, and Iraqis now have full access to the internet. The same sort of revolution has gone on in Afghanistan. Even if Obama was somehow able to succeed in this so called dignity tour, the press, controlled by the governments of our enemies, would no doubt spin things for their citizens against us.

The article tries to present Obama's foreign policy vision as something bold and new, but in reality it is as naive as the candidate himself. The foreign policy vision is the ultimate bumper sticker solution that Obama and his ilk have spent so much time railing against. While they talk about the politics of fear they don't explain what that is and how they will change it. While they talk about the policy of dignity it is one of those things that you are only going to put on paper.

Barack Obama would have us believe that he can produce jobs, economic opportunity, and better health care in a country like Somalia while holding in place the anarchy the country has had since 1992. He would have us believe that we can work with Robert Mughabe to end poverty in Zimbabwe even though it was his policies that brought famine there in the first place. We are to believe that the Iranian mullahs will work with us to end famine and poverty in that country even though it is the tyranical government that created those conditions.

This so called foreign policy vision is yet another example of Obama's naive and disastrous vision of the world. We are to bring dignity to the rest of the world while

Monday, March 24, 2008

Soros and Campaign Finance Reform

This election season may involve one piece of irony that will be lost on most folks with only rudimentary knowledge of politics. That irony will involve George Soros and the attacks he is about to orchestrated on John McCain. Soros is a murky figure and it is always difficult to pin point exactly what is real and what is perception with him, however it appears that Soros was a puppetmaster behind Campaign Finance Reform championed by McCain and now he will use that very law to launch a full frontal assault on McCain himself. Here is how Bill O'Reilly put it...

Enter radical left-wing billionaire George Soros, who quickly drilled a number of loopholes into the law. Realizing organizations could pour unlimited amounts of cash into the political process if they didn't "endorse" a certain candidate, Soros and his far left guys set up MoveOn.org and other so-called "527 organizations" to wreak havoc during voting season.

Under Section 527 of the Internal Revenue Code, a political organization can get tax-exempt status and spend unlimited money if it champions causes rather than specific candidates. You can't use money to promote a "Vote for Hillary" theme; however, you can buy TV time saying Hillary is a bad woman, you can opine that McCain and the Iraq war are evil, and you can put forth that Obama hangs out with a nasty preacher.

Get the ruse? The money cannot be used to tell the folks whom to vote for, but it can be spent to demonize a candidate on the "issues."

The problem with tracking Soros is he always keeps himself three degrees away from whatever he is actually doing. That said, from what I have been able to gather, groups that he funds and supports were behind the scenes power players in making CFR a reality. Here is how AIM put it...

Soros has always exercised influence over so-called campaign finance reform groups. Those groups were behind the McCain-Feingold bill to reform campaign spending that also put limits on the ability of independent groups to influence political races. The law included a loophole that allowed Soros to spend more than $20 million to defeat Bush.

Now, Senator John McCain's Reform Institute has been exposed for taking $150,000 from Soros' Open Society Institute. Journalist and author Richard Poe says the McCain group "has long served as a nerve center for the so-called 'campaign finance reform' movement-a movement which has done nothing to clean up campaign finance, but has done a great deal to empower federal judges and government bureaucrats to regulate political speech, in defiance of the Bill of Rights."

Evidence of Soros' fingerprints on CFR can be found. In fact, you don't have to look very far. Here is how the Soros funded Open Society Institute viewed CFR right after it was passed.

Along with several other foundations, OSI supports organizations that helped develop the case for reform through research, public education, collection of campaign finance data, and testing of reform options at both the state and federal level. These organizations pursued a wide range of reform options, including restrictions on large donations such as those enacted in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002; public financing of campaigns such as the program now in effect in Arizona; free television time for candidates; fuller disclosure of contributions; and improvements to the presidential campaign system to deal with the problems caused by some candidates' refusal to participate.

Among the organizations OSI has funded are Public Campaign, Common Cause Education Fund, Democracy 21, the Campaign Finance Institute, and the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University; a large number of state and regional organizations; and research groups such as the National Institute on Money in State Politics. Grants have also been awarded to academic researchers, constitutional scholarship, bipartisan roundtables, and other efforts.

In the specific case of the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act, OSI funded factual research to support the legal defense of the act against a constitutional challenge raised by Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell (R), the National Rifle Association, and others—a challenge that is currently pending before the Supreme Court.

This is the M.O. of Soros. He finds several front groups and creates all sorts of distance between himself and the groups, and then he starts dropping endless amounts of money into causes like: euthanasia, drug legalization, one world government, gun control, etc. CFR would give him the opportunity to influence our elections and once again keep his finger prints as far away as possible. It is of course still up for debate whether or not these 527's popped up on their own, or if in fact that was his master plan. What is clear is that CFR as it works now works well for Soros. He can drop millions, and billions if necessary, into shadowy groups that can go after pols and causes he sees fit, and his fingerprints are difficult to trace. Of course, the ultimate irony is that in campaign 2008 the target is his old partner John McCain.

Here is how Reuters put it...

Democratic grass roots organizations on Monday launched a $20 million campaign to defeat Republican John McCain in the 2008 U.S. presidential election by focusing their attention on rising costs of the Iraq war.

The campaign, supported by former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, aims to link war spending with the ailing U.S. economy.

...

Groups taking part in the new campaign are the Center for American Progress, USAction, MoveOn.org, VoteVets.org, Service Employees International Union and Americans United for Change.

What Reuters couldn't connect is that every group mentioned is linked to Soros. Some estimates have Soros planning on spending nine digits on so called issue advertisements. Of course, those numbers are difficult to track. Soros never spends any money directly. Rather, what he does is drop many millions into groups like OSI (Open Society Institute). OSI then funnels money to several other groups and many times those groups funnel money to other groups. The group that ends up spending the money is usually three and four links away from Soros himself. Because these groups aren't covered under CFR, Soros can drop whatever he feels like. Soros, whose wealth is estimated at 7 billion dollars, can drop just about anything he wants. Of course, it appears that he has decided to use the CFR that he likely helped craft to attack his own partner in CFR, John McCain.

Full Metal Jacket clip #1

Judge Moses, Jessica's Law, an Updated on Secular Progressivism in Massachusetts

A few months back I wrote this provocative piece on Massachusetts. I pointed out the absurdity of Massachusetts considering an anti spanking law while disregarding Jessica's Law. A reader objected to my characterization. They pointed out that the anti spanking law wasn't going to get anymore than a passing hearing, and they further pointed out that Jessica's Law was on the agenda with a realistic chance of being passed. While I agree that I twisted the reality of the situation of the two laws in my first piece, it is not twisting reality to say that Massachusetts remains one of the few states that hasn't passed Jessica's Law and it won't be passed in that state anytime in the near future.



Meanwhile, the state has become a magnet for what Jessica's Law tries to avoid.





Judge Richard Moses may wind up being the poster child in the fight to bring Jessica's Law to all remaining states that don't have it. Moses has commuted the sentences of three sex offenders who went on to offend again. Here is how it was reported...





Corey Saunders, 26, was arrested Jan. 30 after allegedly assaulting the boy in a second-floor magazine room, police said.

Saunders, who had recently moved to New Bedford, is charged with rape of a child by force, indecent assault and battery on a child under 14. Saunders was convicted in 2001 of child rape and assault and battery on a child.

Last week another so-called "Level 3" sex offender - considered the most likely to re-offend - was arrested for allegedly peeping at a woman under a restroom stall at a retail store in Quincy.David Flavell had been released from a treatment center in February 2006 after Superior Court Judge Richard Moses found he was not sexually dangerous...


and...





Judge Richard Moses did it again. Another Level 3 sex offender he let loose was accused of committing yet another sex crime.

Before the ink was dry on the story, the apologists lined up. "It isn't Judge Moses' fault - he was just following the law." Blah, blah, blah. Not really.

Kenneth Stone had a long rap sheet and he'd been charged or convicted at least four times for sex crimes between 1989 and 1995, already far too many bites at the apple. Moses should have known better no matter what the so-called "experts" said.


A few things have become clear to me since I wrote that piece linking the anti spanking law to Jessica's Law in Massachusetts. Massachusetts has absolutely no intention of passing this anti spanking law, but they currently also have no intention of passing Jessica's Law either. In the meantime, judges all to often in that state show the kind of judgement that makes Jessica's Law necessary. Jessica's Law would put a mandatory 25 year sentence on any sexual assault of a minor under 13. Jessica's Law would take the discretion out of the judge's hands in cases of predators like Sanders, Flavell, and Stone.



It is also clear that Massachusetts is among the most secular progressive states in the union. It is the only one that allows gay marriage. The anti spanking law would take secular progressivism to its most extreme, however there are few if any states that would allow such a bill to get as far as it did in Massachusetts. It is of course no surprise that Massachusetts remains a handful of states where Jessica's Law is still not law.

Here is what one Massachusetts prisoner is asking of Massachusetts.

Now in Massachusetts, this guy, who's murdered his wife. He's in jail forever. Robert Cuselack, 58-years old, wants to be Michelle Cuselack. And he wants to the taxpayers -- there, there's Michelle. To pay for it.

...

Now back to Robert AKA Michele, so far he has cost the taxpayers of Massachusetts over 56,000 dollars in sex therapies {Hormone therapies and laser hair removal

Examples of Massachusetts libertine attitude is everywhere. While some of these other issues have a debateable effect on society, what is clear is that Massachusetts refusal to enact Jessica's Law continues to harm the kids of that state. What is clear since I wrote that piece is that the state has no motivation to pass Jessica's Law and all the while kids are being abused as a result there.