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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Video, Quote, and Word of the Day


to treat someone with deep respect

"I would rather die on the hill of Integrity, than live in the valley of Compromise"


Favorable Sotomayor Narrative Forming for Republicans

Here's a quick quiz. After the first two days or say following her nomination, have you heard even one political discussion anywhere about Judge Sotomayor that didn't include an allusion to her controversial comments at Berkeley? I know I haven't. Now, I am here to say that this is totally unfair. No one should be defined by one comment no matter how inflammatory. It's also exactly the narrative that Republicans want as they move forward with the nomination.

It gets even better than that for Republicans. What's the one case most often mentioned when discussing the nomination of Judge Sotomayor? Of course, it's the Ricci case in which she ruled against seventeen white firefighters, including Mr. Ricci a dislexic, who had done well enough on a test to get a promotion but were denied.

All of this actually makes perfect sense. After all, how long could the media talk about her humble roots and rags to riches story? Don't get me wrong. That's still part of the narrative and it's parts relevant, important, and something to admire. Still, her humble roots get lost in the shuffle of these comments and the case.

Both the comments and the Ricci case are inflammatory and so they are potentially quite venomous. Furthermore, short of Rush and Newt, the Republicans have mostly been measured and disciplined in their message. Rather than rushing out to call her racist, they have almost as a group stuck to the term "troubled". Senator Lindsey Graham struck the right tone this morning.

What she said is that based on her life experiences is that she thought a Latina woman, somebody with her background, would be a better judge than a guy like me -- a white guy from South Carolina. It is troubling, and it's inappropriate and I hope she'll apologize.

Senator Schumer responded on another show by downplaying the comments. Schumer said that the comments merely reflect her experience as a poor minority.

Ultimately, all of this is entirely unimportant. Dick Morris once made an astute commet. He said the media doesn't influence opinion by what they say but rather what they cover. In other words, the manner in which the media covers these comments is a lot less important than that they are spending so much time covering it.

Like I have said, we still have two more months at least until the nomination. Furthermore, because of protocol, Sotomayor is very unlikely to speak publicly until the hearings. That means we are for endless analysis of these comments for two months without the one person necessary to really be able to explain them able to speak.

Now, it's still an overwhelming possibility that Sotomayor becomes a Supreme Court Justice. Still, if Republicans are able to make the next two months a narrative over these comments and the Ricci case, they will have won an important battle. That's because with it there will be a national debate on identity politics, activist judicial philosophy, and affirmative action and other quota systems. All of these are debates that Republicans will win. The public would then be likely to reject Sotomayor even if the Senate does not, and President Obama's radical philosophy will be on display. All of this is good for Republicans even if they ultimately lose the vote.

Political Favors at the University of Illinois

The Chicago Tribune has done a major investigation indicating that politicians often use influence to help constituents and friends gain admittance into the University of Illinois in Urbana/Champaign.

The Tribune on Friday reported evidence that subpar applicants gained admission to the U. of I. with the sway of state lawmakers and university trustees. The investigation revealed that acceptance decisions at times occurred over the objections of admissions officers in deference to power brokers.

University officials issued statements saying they "mostly get it right," but welcome the opportunity to address inequities outlined in the Tribune coverage.

Further analysis of the 1,800 documents reveals how intertwined admissions decisions were with political maneuverings in Springfield. The Tribune found instances in which the school's lobbyists overrule rejections, "blow up" at admissions staff and forward veiled threats from politicians who want candidates admitted.

The report named members of both parties engaging in this practice. Furthermore, the long term and powerful speaker of the Illinois House, Michael Madigan, was found to have asked for the most favors. The students who were backed by politicians wound up on their own list,Category I. The point people from the University for this list were its two top lobbyists, Richard Schoell and Terry McLennand. More importantly, because the University of Illinois is a state school, the very same politicians asking for these favors were often also in a position to control the purse strings on the school.

On one occasion, a relative of Tony Rezko was treated with favorability on the behest of then Governor Rod Blagojevich. Furthermore, the chancellor of the University, Richard Herman, not only approved of the process but on at least one occasion approved a student personally.

She won't hurt us terribly, but she certainly won't help us," then-Dean Heidi Hurd wrote to Chancellor Richard Herman. "She will almost certainly be denied admission if the process unfolds as we predict. But she can probably do the work. If you tell me we need to do this one, we will. We'll remember it though!"

The Tribune has made a renewed effort to expose the corruption both in the city of Chicago and in the state, and this is their best work, in my opinion, so far. It also gives everyone an idea of just how much corruption there is to uncover.

A Troubling Lack of Outrage in the Derrick Rose Scandal

According to the Memphis Courant, there is a growing scandal surrounding Derrick Rose, currently of the Bulls.

In a letter to the school the NCAA says an unknown person took the SAT for a player, with his knowledge, and then the player used that test to get into Memphis. The NCAA said the athlete in question played for the Tigers in the 2007-08 season and the 2008 NCAA tournament. The only person who played just that season was Rose.


The Chicago Sun-Times reported Thursday that someone with access to Rose's academic records at Simeon High School changed a D to a C on his transcript. The newspaper reported that Rose was one of four athletes at the school whose grades were boosted for a one-month period after their June 2007 graduation and then changed back after the bogus transcripts were sent to colleges.

If the allegations are accurate not only did Rose have another student take the SAT's for him but he even had his grade changed temporarily. All of this lead Rose to being able to qualify to play for Memphis in their run to the national championship game. It means that Memphis played that entire season with an ineligible player. They cheated the entire basketball world.

Worse yet, all those directly involved are now not around to face any punishment. Rose has taken his skills to a multi million dollar contract in the NBA with the Bulls. John Calipari has moved onto Kentucky. The program was likely to sputter without Calipari and now it will be damaged in a way that will take a very prolonged time to recover.

What's more troubling is the lack of outrage by most of the media. This story has certainly gotten coverage but not nearly the coverage it deserves. If true, Rose cheated and by extension so did the entire Memphis basketball program. He didn't have the grades to qualify to play Division 1 college basketball so he cheated to be able to do it. That's absolutely no different than Manny Ramirez using performance enhancing drugs. Cheating is cheating and one reason it goes on so often is that there is a lack of moral outrage when it happens. Ramirez is currently in line to get enough fan votes to make the all star game.

In fact, those that comment on it often attempt to blame the system for this. Rick Morrissey does this very thing today in the Chicago Tribune.

Everything about the way Derrick Rose plays basketball says he cares about the concept of "team." He's unselfish. He's a wonderful passer. He's as far away from having a me-first attitude as a worker ant is.Everything about the allegations of fraudulent test-taking and grade-changing suggest he or the people around him never really cared about anything beyond his pursuit of an NBA career.


If the NBA were a realistic goal from early on, how much could Rose's state titles at Simeon and his one year at Memphis have meant to him? That's the problem with the AAU-dominated world in which we live. There's a toe-tapping impatience all around when it comes to an extremely talented basketball player. We're always talking about "the next level," with the clear implication that the current level doesn't mean squat.

Morrissey makes the point that this case points out the absurdity of not allowing those that clearly want to pursue a basketball career of not pursuing it at their own schedule. In Europe, players are allowed to enter into basketball academy in their youths. They can play for money in their teens. In the U.S. we force our NBA players to be at least one year out of high school forcing most high school prospects to spend a year in college. That's the only reason Rose even went to Memphis, because he was forced.

All of this maybe true but none of it excuses the cheating that Rose engaged in. One of the biggest problems with cheating in sports is that we often refuse to call it for what it is. Folks like Gaylord Perry spend their entire career cheating and they were rewarded with an induction into the Hall of Fame. The stigma of cheating has faded and the rewards have long outweighed the potential pitfalls. Last summer, I wrote about Eric Gagne. Here was a baseball player that was a marginal talent. He was barely making major league rosters. Then, he exploded onto the scene suddenly and he now owns an MLB record for consecutive saves and a Cy Young. We have since learned that during the time of his dominance he was also mentioned in the Mitchell Report. In other words, not only his entire career but frankly life has been manufactured. He cheated his way to fame, fortune, records, and wealth. He also took all those away from someone that didn't cheat like him. His punishment for all this is a current contract valued in the neighborhood of 10 million yearly.

Rose cheated and wound up playing Division 1 basketball when he should have played at a junior college or in Europe. As a result, the team he played for wound up going to the National Championship game when they likely would have been knocked out in the regionals. Almost everyone associated with that team is now gone and bettered professionally and financially of their association with Rose. All of it helped ultimately by cheating. So far, no one who deserves any of the punishment will get punished. So, where is the lesson?

Saturday, May 30, 2009

O''Reilly Vs. Bertha Lewis CEO of ACORN

There are several things that can be interpreted from this interview. First, there's no way that Bertha Lewis is calling the shots for this organization. She may have the title of CEO, but Lewis isn't nearly sophisticated enough to call the shots. ACORN is a sophisticated network of loosely knit organizations that number in the hundreds. Lewis is a true believer in the cause and she's been with ACORN for a while, but there's no way she runs the show.

Two insiders tell me that shots are being called by John and Steve Kest, who both run the New York branch of ACORN. (where Lewis worked until she became CEO) In fact, ACORN has been characterized as a plantation mentality. The group targets the poor and the working class mostly in African American areas. Most of the so called "foot soldiers" fit that demographic profile. The folks that go door to door registering voters, stopping foreclosures, and helping with health care fit this profile. Yet, most of the folks calling the shots are white and often from wealth.

Wade Rathke, who was the CEO until his brother's embezzlement was discovered, came from money. His wife, Beth Butler, still runs the Southern region of ACORN. Both the Kest brothers are white from fairly affluent backgrounds. Michael Shea, who runs the powerful ACORN Housing Inc., is yet another example of this phenomenon. Now, as I say this, make no mistake that everyone with ACORN is a true believer, no matter their background. That said, Bertha Lewis is presented as the face of the group because Lewis presents the image of the type of folks that ACORN works for, but ultimately two white guys from New York are pulling her strings.

On the specifics of the interview, most lies are 80% truth. For instance, Lewis claims that our tax money goes to feed the hungry, stop foreclosures, help with health care, and other good works in the community. That's true in a sense. In fact, ACORN is among the most effective grass roots organizations in history. What she doesn't say is that often ACORN funds are used for purposes that they aren't earmarked for. That's in fact what the house on Elysian Field is for. The house that O'Reilly was talking about is the headquarters of Citizens Consulting Incorporated. Any money that ACORN, or any of its hundreds of affiliates (like ACORN Housing) receives, be it from the government or a philanthropist, first goes to CCI. If everything were on the level, the very existence of CCI wouldn't be necessary. If HHS earmarked some millions of dollars to Health Care for America Now (another affiliate), then it would go there directly. Instead, it starts at CCI. That's because it often winds up for uses that it was never intended for. Furthermore, CCI is a private company

So, is the goal of ACORN to make the U.S. a more socialist country? Of course, it is. The two ladies can use all the dressed up language they want but their activities include things like a living wage, foreclosure prevention, universal health care. They were major players in enforcing the Community Reinvestment Act and work to raise minimum wage in localities and states on a regular basis. All of their causes just happen to be quasi socialist causes. My favorite Latin phrase is res ipsa loquitor. The facts speak for themselves.

Finally, Ms. Lewis, in denying O'Reilly request to see their books, mentioned that they are already audited. Here's what she didn't say. The firm that audits CCI is Duplainer, Hrapmann, Hogan and Maher, L.L.P, and they were the firm that were auditing CCI when Dale Rathke was embezzling about a million dollars from CCI. So, her assertion that this firm is to be trusted simply doesn't square with their history.

Video, Quote, and Word of the Day


Habitually silent; not inclined to talk.

Eccentricity is not, as dull people would have us believe, a form of madness. It is often a kind of innocent pride, and the man of genius and the aristocrat are frequently regarded as eccentrics because genius and aristocrat are entirely unafraid of and uninfluenced by the opinions and vagaries of the crowd.

Edith Sitwell

These Words Will Eventually Haunt President Obama

Those words are pretty clear, "I don't want to run the auto companies". That's what President Obama said on April 30th. Since then, all he has done is run the auto companies.

Right now, the government is deeply involved on facilitating both the bankruptcy of Chrysler and General Motors. As I reported, the government has funded GMAC and in so doing shut down Chrysler's financing arm and mandated to GMAC that they finance all future Chrysler vehicle purchases. (those that need financing of course) Let's put that into perspective. The government is so deeply involved in running the automakers that they are deciding which financing subsidiary should be closed down and what vehicles another financing subsidiary should finance. Furthermore, they provide billions in government money to facilitate this.

The president has already demanded that the CEO of GM step down. Then, using the power he created by loaning billions to both automakers, he orchestrated that the industry agree to new CAFE standards that would significantly increase mileage efficiencies on vehicles going forward. When both GM and Chrysler emerge from bankruptcy, the federal government will be a significant shareholder in on and the overwhelming shareholder in the other.

Let's call this for what it is. The President isn't merely running the auto companies, he's running the entire industry. It is in fact the president and his task force that makes any important decision right now going forward on how to proceed in the auto industry.

By making that statement on April 30th, the president inherently acknowledged that it is a bad idea for the president to take a too active role in the auto makers day to day operations. He has since proceeded to do exactly that.

Now, a simple question must be asked. By November of next year, does anyone really believe that the government won't be even more significantly involved in the day to day operations of running the auto makers? Furthermore, with such an active role in running the auto makers, how exactly will he be managing the economy?

This is not all just merely idle theoretical thought. This is the blue print for an effective electoral strategy in November of 2010. Nothing will more clearly demonstrate the dangers of President Obama's interventionist economics than the manner in which he has totally taken over the auto makers. Nothing will frame that debate better for the Republicans than his own words emphatically denying his intention to do exactly that. The president is allowed to usurp all this power by a rubber stamping Congress that cheerleads while he effectively becomes CEO of the entire auto industry along with being president.

His usurption of the auto makers is all part of his larger economic policy. Everything from the stimulus, to cap and trade, to his massive budget, to universal health care, are all part of a massive increase in government power and reach. This comment can be framed into the context of all Obama domestic policies. When he claims that through universal health care he doesn't want to run health care, the Republicans will point to this comment and question his credibility on such issues.

The thing about massive government activism is that ultimately it is its own worst public relations. By November of 2010, the folks will tire of massive government intervention massive government intervention is inherently a bad idea. Just ask President Obama because his comments inherently admit as much. By November 2010, the U.S. government will put well over $100 billion into both these companies and neither will be anywhere near profitable. The government will have nothing near an exit strategy for removing itself from running these companies, and if the Republicans are wise, they use those words to hang not only Obama's auto policies but his entire economic policy.

How Bernanke Uses Quantitative Easing to Control the World

A couple days back, I wrote this provocative piece about a term called quantitative easing. Quantitative easing is the process by which any central bank, like the Federal Reserve, buys major financial instruments in an attempt to keep interest rates low and to pump money into the economy. I predicted that the Federal Reserve would have to engage in some serious quantitative easing because the Treasury Bonds were tanking and this would shoot up all interest rates. While most of the piece was well done, I failed miserably in one portion. That is this.

So, it appears that the Federal Reserve is boxed in. If bond rates continue upward, it appears that Bernanke will have no choice but to announce a major investment in U.S. Treasuries soon because that's the only way to bring interest rates back down to a level that would allow a recovery. Of course, the end of the link should tell everyone the potential disaster this could lead to. Still, it appears that in the next couple weeks Bernanke will have no choice but to engage in serious "quantitative easing" and buy back somewhere in the neighborhood of a trillion dollars worth of U.S. Treasuries.

First, I should have mentioned that the Federal Reserve announced about six weeks ago that they would buy back somewhere in the neighborhood of a trillion and a half dollars worth of bonds, both U.S. Treasuries and bonds backed by mortgages. In fact, the Fed has long been engaged in quantitative easing. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Federal Reserve still maintains about $100 billion still unpledged in Treasuries and $800 billion in mortgage bonds.

As such, for the most part, the Fed will continue the process of quantitative easing. In fact, it's almost certain they have just recently. After running up from 3.15% to 3.75% in the span of a week, the 10 year U.S. Treasuries suddenly did an about face on both Thursday and Friday. They closed yesterday at 3.47% after two monster rallies. There wasn't necessarily any outside news to stimulate this recovery. There was however a bond offering on Thursday that went well by all accounts. On Thursday, the U.S. Treasury auctioned off $26 billion worth of 7 year U.S. Treasuries. Prior to that auction, the U.S. Treasuries had seen massive short term selling and a lot of market observers were waiting anxiously for this offering to see if anyone would buy them. Suddenly, and with no logical explanation, the bonds had no trouble selling. Presto, and with it, we saw the rates on treasuries go down. With them, the rates on mortgage bonds, and mortgages themselves, also went down. (though mortgage rates are still way up from when they started tanking at the end of the week previous)

This is all not merely for wonks. While the U.S. Treasuries were going up so too were mortgage bonds. As a result, in less than a week, the average 30 year Fannie/Freddie mortgage went from 4.888 to 5.44%. Given the Fed's aggressive quantitative easing stance, this had all sorts of ripple effects in the mortgage market as a result.

So what's a half a percentage point or even three quarters of a point, when mortgage interest rates are still historically low? Well, apparently a lot.

I'm told that a lot of loan applications, and refis in particular, that are currently in the pipeline were submitted without a rate lock. Mark Hanson, of the Field Check Group says, "millions of refi applications presently in the pipeline, on which lenders already spent a considerable amount of time and money processing, will never fund."

Why were these loans not locked? One reason is this.

rates have been consistently on the 'lower' side for months. The sense (moral hazard) is that the Fed had their back, so why not float the loan and wait for the lowest rates possible to come around.

By "having their backs" mortgage brokers assumed that the Fed would step in and buy aggressively to counter act any upward move on the part of the mortgage bond market. In other words, mortgage brokers assumed the Fed would engage in aggressive quantitative easing to make sure that rates didn't pop from their historically low levels.

When a loan is started, the rate is either floated or locked. If it is locked then for the next set of days, 12, 15, 30, 60, etc, the borrower gets that rate no matter what happens to interest rates in the interim. If it is floated, then the borrower is at the mercy of the market until they are locked. The longer the lock the worse the rate. Mortgage brokers had grown so accustomed to low rates over the last couple months that they just assumed they would stay low because they were aware that the Fed had announced its qunatitative easing stance. Because for four days, the Fed didn't continue in quantitative easing, hundreds of billions worth of potential mortgages are lost because rates are no longer available.

So, this is how Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke will continue to pupeteer the economy as we move forward. Make no mistake, it is Bernanke and not anyone else, Obama included, right now pulling the strings. Obama may in fact take credit for it if it works. He will continue to take credit for any signs that it is working, but his contributions to the economy are essentially non existent. The stimulus is barely spent. The loan modification program has resulted in so few actual modifications that they aren't even worth mentioning. The public private partnership set up to buy so called toxic assets has had little mention since being announced and ultimately will be as big a failure as the modification program that was supposed to save many millions of homeowners from foreclosure.

It is Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and his trillion dollar plus quantitative easing program that is not only controlling our economy but ultimately the world. With a billion dollar investment here and a ten billion dollar investment there, he quietly manipulates rates to keep borrowing costs low. With it, he even more quietly pumps billions into the economy not all at once, as I foolishly predicted, but little by little. Ben Bernanke controls the country's money supply and by extension the world. (since other central banks follow the lead of the U.S.) Right now, every single day, he decides just how much more money the world will have.

Sotomayor's Confirmation is No Lock

Yesterday, for the first, the White House acknowledged that Judge Sonia Sotoymayor's comments in 2001 in Berkeley when she remarked that she, a Latina female, would make a better judge than a white male were a political liability. Here's how Robert Gibbs characterized it.

I think she’d say that her word choice in 2001 was poor.”

“She was simply making the point that personal experiences are relevant to the process of judging, that your personal experiences . . .have a tendency to make you more aware of certain facts in certain cases, that your experiences impact your understanding.”

Here's the president speaking about it.

Yesterday, prior to the White House's trackback, I surmised that this comment could be used as part of a strategy to build a narrative of a Judge that views the world in racial terms and makes decisions from the bench as such. It still can and all Republicans need to do is pivot slightly. In fact, if the Republicans are politically savvy, they can constantly stay a step ahead of the White House on this. So far, they have in fact been winning the public relations battle. After all, the White House wouldn't even have addressed the comments at all if they didn't see them as a political liability. They did so only because Republicans were getting traction out of them.

Here's the reality. If these comments truly were a poor choice of words or taken out of context, Judge Sotomayor should have walked back from them years ago. It is rank political opportunism to eight years later now claim that they were chosen badly. If that's the case, Judge Sotomayor should have said so long ago. If I am Republicans, that is the way I characterize things now. I would continue to use the term "troubling" in characterizing the comments themselves. I would say that the White House now stepping back from them is merely a sign that they recognize that the comments are a political liability. Furthermore, it is awfully convenient that only now are they saying these comments were poorly chosen and that smells of rank opportunism.

What really helps the Republicans in this whole thing is the custom that the nominee not speak to the media until hearings. Ultimately, the best person to clarify what they meant is Judge Sotomayor herself. Yet, she isn't allowed by custom to speak until the hearings. That could be two months or more from now. Until then, the Republicans continue to have a message that they can stay on point with. Meanwhile, to rebut this narrative, the Democrats will have to send in surrogates like both Gibbs and President Obama. Surrogates are of limited value. In order for this controversy to really die down, the nominee herself must fully explain what she meant and she can't do that until the hearings.

In the meantime, the Republicans should continue to build the case that her comments raise troubling issues that question whether or not she will treat all races the same from the bench. This view is reinforced by her decision in Ricci and the White House's sudden admission that these comments were merely a poor choice of words is really nothing more than rank opportunism. If this is the case, that's something that would have been acknowledged years ago when it wasn't politically expedient.

In order to derail the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor, the Republicans need to get the public to see that these comments are no different than if they were flipped around and said by a white male. In order to do that, they need to stay on message and continue to say so over and over. It's no doubt that they White House will attempt to walk her back from them over and over. The way I see it though is that it is too late. There is no longer any walking back. Sotomayor had eight years to do that. Now, the Republicans only need to adjust their message slightly as the White House engages this to respond to anything they may say. The overriding narrative they need to build remains the same. These comments reveal a world view of a judge that doesn't treat all races equally. That world view is reinforced by Ricci (not to mention her membership in La Raza, the Race, though I wouldn't necessarily focus on that if I am a Republican) and any attempt now to walk back is pure political opportunism.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Video, Quote, and Word of the Day

This video is from their appearance in New York not last night in Chicago, but here's a taste of Rove Vs. Carville.


a person dedicated to luxury

All the president is, is a glorified public relations man who spends his time flattering, kissing, and kicking people to get them to do what they are supposed to do anyway.

Harry S. Truman

The Conservative Blogosphere Vs. Bill O'Reilly

When I initially saw the segment, I didn't think much of it, but it has set off a firestorm in a little corner of the internet known as the right blogosphere. Here's video of the segment.

At about, 1:50 of the segment, O'Reilly and Amanda Carpenter discuss a comment made on Hot Air.

unqualified, militant, and Socialist, NEXT please. The GOP needs to block any of Hussein's extremist picks.

Now, in discussing this comment, O'Reilly does several things of note. First, he misidentifies this as a blog post, which the purveyors would have written. In fact, it is a comment by a reader. Second, he alludes that Hussein is used to describe Obama. Third, his analysis of the comment is that it comes from political fantasy land. In other words, the Republicans don't have the votes to hold up any of his nominees during this cycle.

Now, I thought nothing of this however the folks at Hot Air saw this as a "smear".

Ah, there’s nothing like yanking a comment out of context and using it to smear the entire site, even though neither Ed nor I have ever referred to Obama as “Hussein.” Bonus points to O’R for referring to the comment in question as a “blog posting” even though it’s anything but. And before our lefty commenters ask, yes, I have defended
Kos from similar charges

Exit question: How guilty to hold Carpenter for not objecting more vociferously in Hot Air’s defense?

The firestorm has been set. Next came Michelle Malkin, owner of Hot Air, on Fox and Friends attacking O'Reilly for this "smear" (during a segment about something totally different no less)

Finally, O'Reilly responded last night during his reality check segmen. He corrected himself and pointed out that it was commenter and not the writers that said this. He also said that he believes that blogs should do a better job of policing such comments, and that on his own site that's often easier said than done.

This hasn't stopped the fury from the right blogosphere. They have mined for any comments that are also vile. They found this one.

NO HOMOS NO HOMOS now will the League arrest me for my right wing statement, perhaps i will be taken off the New Yuk slimes CHRISTMAS card list. what you do or dont do in your bed room is none of my business just dont tell me I am wrong if i say NO MARRIAGE FOR HOMOS NO MARRIAGE FOR HOMOS. Hay maybe you can have a vote and lose and have the courts overturn your vote. Well that cant happen in AMERICA now can it.

They've even combed The Fox, owned by O'Reilly's employer Fox News, for vile comments and found several there. So, it appears the right blogosphere is in full war mode against O'Reilly.

Well, here's my take. First, if the folks at Hot Air consider this a "smear", they are awfully sensitive. Frankly, most of his commentary is mild. He mostly calls the comment dumb, not offensive. Frankly, it is. He only alludes to Hussein referring to the president to make sure all his viewers know who is being identified. He did initially mistakenly attribute this to the writers but then corrected himself. He has long been pointing out that comments in blogs get vile and he does this on both sides.

What's really hypocritical and self serving about this though is that the ire is attracted to O'Reilly himself and not Amanda Carpenter. Only those throwing the hissy fit know why, but I have a few theories. First, O'Reilly's audience is massive and so a food fight would give them exposure they wouldn't normally get. Carpenter's audience is not only smaller but includes most of the same readers.

Yet, Carpenter ought to be the target of most of these attacks. She was brought onto the segment to share with O'Reilly the view from the blogosphere. She's almost certainly the one that chose the comment. It's unlikely that O'Reilly was the one that mined Hot Air for a comment. He doesn't read blogs. It is Carpenter that is the blogger. Carpenter could have corrected O'Reilly about this being a comment but didn't. So, if they feel smeared, they should be ticked at her. Yet, she gets a free pass on all of this venom. Why? Well, for one thing, Carpenter is a fellow conservative blogger. Picking a fight with her isn't as fruitful and many of these same bloggers are personally friends with her. Of course, her audience is also significantly smaller than O'Reilly's.

Also, the venom in the comments follow posts about this whole thing among all the blogs prove O'Reilly's point, that far too many hateful comments are allowed on the blogosphere, on both sides. O'Reilly agrees that it is very difficult to police all of these comments, and that's of course the reason given by Hot Air for allowing them. Of course, being overwhelmed doesn't change the fact that they are there. Frankly, the site staffs two full time writers and it could easily staff several interns to mine the comments if they wanted to.

From my own perspective, I am sure that if I read every single comment on my own site there would be several that would qualify as hateful and I get significantly less. There is a fine line. I don't want to be a facist and dismiss anything I find objectionable. That would mean very few people would come back. So, I try to keep my rules somewhat simple. As for O'Reilly, he isn't necessarily a big fan of the internet. He often points out much of gutter scum that is found there. Comments on blogs of both sides is just one example. He has admitted, more than once, that even his own site isn't perfect in mining these comments. The point should be to try and figure out how to keep the hate out. Reflexively getting defensive and attacking the messenger doesn't solve the problem.

Council Winners

Winning Council Submissions
First place with 3 points! - Bookworm Room - Does Brown v. Board of Education constitute the Supreme Court’s one free pass?
Second place with 1 points - (T*) - Right Truth - Home grown terrorism and the media
Second place with 1 points - (T*) - The Provacateur- Deconstructing The Criminal Enterprise ACORN
Third place with 2/3 point - (T*) - The Razor - Death To Inclusiveness!
Third place with 2/3 point - (T*) - Joshuapundit - Jerusalem Day
Third place with 2/3 point - (T*) - Soccer Dad - Mr. obama and mr. netanyahu - the alternative version
Fourth place with 1/3 point - Wolf Howling - Obama Has The Left Going Nauseous
Winning Non-Council Submissions
First place with 2 points! - Melanie Phillips - A Wary Encounter
Second place with 1 2/3 points - Spiegel Online - Hitler’s European Holocaust Helpers
Third place with 1 1/3 point - Treppenwitz - 10 Lessons Israel Should Take From The Sri Lankan Victory Over Terror
Fourth place with 1 point - PoliGazette - The Future Electoral Fortunes of the Democratic Party
Fifth place with 2/3 points - (T*) - SCOTUSBlog - The Dynamic of the Nomination of Sonia Sotomayor
Fifth place with 2/3 points - (T*) - Nial Ferguson @ NYT - Diminished Returns
Fifth place with 2/3 points - (T*) - New Ledger- Let’s Make Cars More Expensive

How Republicans Can Turn Sotomayor's Identity Politics to Their Favor

Last night's event between James Carville and Karl Rove, crystallized for me the manner in which each side will frame the debate over Judge Sotomayor. Karl Rove said he was troubled by this comment.

I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.

Rove used the term "troubled" over and over. That's the correct term because it isn't inflammatory and yet it stresses the seriousness of the comment. Rove then linked this comment to her decision in Ricci.

Carville said it was "cool that the first black president is nominating the first Hispanic judge" and that her life story is inspiring and she's well qualified.

So, it's clear that Republicans will want to paint Sotomayor as seeing the world far too often in racial terms and using that vision to make policy while Democrats will play identity politics. So, in reality, both sides are essentially trying to land in the same place and so it comes down to marketing.

The Republicans have two things to market more than anything. First, it is these comments themselves. Every Republican that I have seen has done the exact same thing. They flip the comments around to a white person and ask rhetorically what would happen. This is a powerful argument. The Republicans have a serious advantage here. First, there's no one that is defending this statement. The White House claims it was out of context but no one is defending it on its merits. Second, traditionally, the nominee isn't supposed to go in front of the media until after the hearings are done. As such, Sotomayor is in no position to define or correct the statement. That means that Republicans have at least two months to hammer at this statement with no response. Define Sotomayor with this statement and you define her as a judge that sees her role in racial terms.

The second weapon is even more powerful. That weapon is Frank Ricci. He's the white firefighter that was denied a promotion based on a ruling that Sotomayor made. Frank Ricci has a poignant life story of his own. Here's how Charles Krauthammer described it.

Ricci is a New Haven firefighter stationed seven blocks from where Sotomayor went to law school (Yale). Raised in blue-collar Wallingford, Conn., Ricci struggled as a C and D student in public schools ill-prepared to address his serious learning disabilities. Nonetheless he persevered, becoming a juniorfirefighter and Connecticut's youngest certified EMT.

After studying fire science at a community college, he became a New Haven "truckie," the guy who puts up ladders and breaks holes in burning buildings. When his department announced exams for promotions, he spent $1,000 on books, quit his second job so he could study eight to 13 hours a day, and, because of his dyslexia, hired someone to read him the material.He placed sixth on the lieutenant's exam, which qualified him for promotion. Except that the exams were thrown out by the city, and all promotions denied, because no blacks had scored high enough to be promoted.

Now, remember, President Obama voted against both Roberts and Alito because he believed they favored the big guy over the little guy. Now, in this case, it is Frank Ricci that is the little guy. It is the city of New Haven that is the big guy, and yet, Sotomayor dismissed the case without even writing an opinion against Ricci. That Ricci is dislexic mattered not. That he quit his second job to study for this test mattered not. That he hired someone to help him read through the problems mattered not. That he did well enough on this test to warrant a promotion also mattered not.

This case is very simple. The city of New Haven offered an exam to promote several of its firefighters to lieutenant. Frank Ricci saw an opportunity to advance his career. He sacrificed a second income, overcame a disability and ultimately he did well enough to get a promotion. Unfortunately for Ricci, the overall results of the test didn't fit the view of a politically correct society. That none of this is his fault matters not. In the world of Sonia Sotomayor political correctness and racial politics are more important than a sympathetic person that frankly deserves to win.

This ruling paints the picture of someone that doesn't so much see the world as the little guy versus the big buy, but rather as Blacks versus Hispanics versus Whites. By this ruling, she doesn't so much have empathy for the little guy but for the minority and her other comment lends credence to this narrative. The Republicans have an opportunity to paint Sotomayor as someone that sees the world in racial terms and will judge that way. In fact, Ricci himself should be a witness during her hearings. Furthermore, Democrats defining her as Latino only reinforces that position.

Frankly, to be successful, the Republicans need to take Rove's playbook. Unlike Newt and Rush, he never called her racist. Instead, he said he was troubled. For the next two months, the Republicans need to be a broken record. They need to bring up the remarks. They need to flip the remarks around, and then they need to announce they are troubled by them. Then, they need to recount the story of Frank Ricci. Ricci is a firefighter who overcame dislexia. He studied day and night, quit his second job, and even hired someone to read the material to him. Then, he did well enough on the test to be promoted only to be denied by Judge Sotomayor who sees political correctness as more important than fairness and achievement.

Here again, the Democrats strategy on this plays into the Republicans hands. Let the Democrats be the broken record of Sotomayor being the first Hispanic judge. Yes, she's the first Hispanic judge who also believes she should govern as a HISPANIC judge. To her, justice isn't blind but racial. That's the narrative built by her comments and this ruling, and it's the narrative reinforced by the Democrats' identity politics in this matter. This offers the Republicans an opportunity to expose it for what it is.

Carville Vs. Rove at the Chicago Theater

Last night, the Speaker Series wrapped up at the Chicago Theater with a battle of the titans between James Carville and Karl Rove moderated by Charlie Rose. Now, unfortunately, I wasn't proactive and didn't bring my camera. As such, you are all denied the fascination of the protests that took place outside. We had a group of both architects and engineers that were demanding the "truth about 9/11" be exposed. We had the usual contingent of protesters demanding that Karl Rove be put in prison, anti Iraq War and anti war in Afghanistan.

Some of these same protesters interrupted the event on more than one occasion after the speakers began. The debate was a contrast in styles. First, Rove was dressed in a full three piece suit while Carville was slacks and a tie. Rove was generally subdued in terms of his body language and his reactions to Carville. Carville, meanwhile, was constantly fidgety and couldn't seem to get comfortable in his seat. In fact, while Carville would often verbally mock Rove, Rove would mock Carville by imitating his wild hand gestures when Carville wasn't looking. The event covered the full range of topics from foreign policy to domestic issues to social issues.

The weakest portion of the debate was on foreign policy. That centered around Iraq and most of it was fought over long ago worn out debates over WMD's and its initial motivation. Carville struck the standard liberal line that the war was a mistake, costs too much, and forces us to stay there indefinitely. Meanwhile, Rove countered with the standard conservative attack that Democrats and Republicans both thought he had WMD's and that the world is safer without him. For the next ten minutes though, they got into a technical debate about intelligence in the lead up to the war with Carville fixating on some source known as curve ball while Rove insisted that we did find WMD's but not nearly as many as we thought we would.

On the issue of interrogations, Rove first pointed out that water boarding was only used on the three most hardened Al Qaeda operatives. Then, he summarized some of the plots that were discovered as a result of water boarding. Rove also pointed out that while President Obama has outlawed water boarding, he has given himself room by including a rider that allows the AG to approve it on a case by case basis. Carville countered by proclaiming that those against water boarding include President Obama, Colin Powell, John McCain and General Petraeus while those in favor include George Bush, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Bill O'Reilly. He referred to his side as the "Lebron James' of politics". This is a specious argument given how selectively he chose each side. Four previous heads of the CIA also say that water boarding works. Michael Scheuer, who headed up the UBL CIA unit, also says it works. So, Carville selectively chose both teams.

Then, we moved onto the issue of Judge Sotomayor. On this, we got a microcosm of the way the debate would go on the judge. Rove immediately attacked her comments about being a better judge because she's a Latina. Meanwhile, Carville said that he thinks it's "cool that the first black president nominated the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice". Then, Carville praised her rags to riches story and said she was well qualified. Rove, in fact, even used the standard conservative attack in which he flipped the comments and asked hypothetically what if a white man had said it.

It's clear that Sotomayor's battle will be between quesitoning this comment and how it relates to her decision in Ricci on the side of the conservatives, while liberals will point out the historic nature of her candidacy, her great life story, and call her well qualified.

The debate then moved onto the recent ruling on Prop 8. Rove gave his most succinct answer here. He said that the voters spoke, the Supreme Court upheld the will of the people, and that's how it should be. Carville didn't really answer the question. Instead, he pronounced his support for gay marriage and even said that gays live across the street from him. Then, he made a straw man argument. He says that he rejects the argument that gay marriage would threaten his own marriage. He doesn't believe that his own marriage is threatened by gay marriage. This is of course not an argument that is used by most that support traditional marriage. (here are mine)

Rover countered with the slippery slope argument and said that gay marriage would then lead to polygamists and all sorts of other relationships. Carville countered by proposing that we redefine marriage as a union of two people. Rove countered this by saying that this definition would discriminate against plural marriages. Carville eventually sidestepped this argument and never did answer whether or not he is in favor of polygamists getting married.

On judicial philosophy, the two couldn't see the world more differently. Rove used the term strict constructionist and Carville used the term living breathing constitution. Rove pointed out that policy is made in legislatures where people are elected and we have multiple houses in order to make sure that all proper debate is conducted. If we allow judges to make policy, then unelected folks serving for life will be making laws and no one will be able to stop them.

Carville countered that when there is bad policy it is the duty of a judge to correct it. He pointed to a law in Georgia that outlawed oral sex and said that it was a duty of a judge to stop such laws. He said that while a specific right to privacy isn't written in the constitution that it must be inferred.

The economy was a fairly weak portion of the debate. In my opinion, neither is necessarily qualified to offer expert opinions on the economy. The nature of how we got here is very complicated and working our way through is even more complicated. That said, Rove, in arguing against Obama's policies, read off a laundry list of frivolous programs in the stimulus including a multi billion dollar program to provide counseling for obesity and help quitting smoking. Rove's point is that while such actions maybe worthwhile they don't create jobs. Carville said that helping people quit smoking is a worthwhile effort and he found nothing wrong with it.

Carville made his most provocative observation in his analysis of why he believes that the Democrats are building a permanent majority. He said that in the last election the Democrats dominated among youth, Blacks, and Hispanics while Republicans dominated among the older folks. He pointed out that the three groups that Democrats dominated with are all growing while the Republicans sort of base of voters will soon be dead. Rove countered by pointing out that youth voters have a long history of swinging wildly in their voter preference. For instance, Reagan lost that vote in 1980 and won by nearly 20 points in 1984. It of course remains to be seen if Democrats are gaining a sustained majority.

Finally, the event ended with some great inside baseball stories. Carville had a very memorable one. His daughter's eighth grade graduation was last night. Carville said that she was devastated when he told her that he couldn't make it. As such, he called Bill Clinton and told him the situation. Clinton called Carville's daughter and congratulated her personally. Carville's wife, Mary Matalin, a Republican strategist, wouldn't be outdone. She called George HW Bush and had him call her daughter to congratulate her. As such, James Carville's daughter was congratulated by two former president's on her eighth grade graduation.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Empathy and Consensus Building

Over the next few weeks, when debating the validity of Judge Sotomayor, we are likely to hear the term consensus builder. The term consensus builder is actually a fancy term for being able to convince other justices that your position is correct. Obviously, no one knows whether or not Judge Sotomayor will in fact be a consensus builder. Let's think about Sotomayor's supposed empathy and how it will help build consensus.

Now, how will an argument built on empathy help to build consensus? First, her empathy is clearly with minorities and females only. After all, the Ricci case showed that Sotomayor's empathy ends when it comes to a majority class. Since Ruth Ginsberg is the only other woman, it's unlikely that she will sway any other judge through "empathy". Since Ginsberg would be the equivalent of preaching to th choir, Sotomayor wouldn't be building consensus with an "empathy" argument.

Anthony Kennedy, a white male, appears to be the swing vote currently. Why would a white male be swayed by an argument of "empathy" from a Latina woman? So, in fact, if it's empathy that President Obama wants from Sotomayor, it's also likely an argument that won't sway anyone. The "empathy" argument is likely one that won't build much consensus on this court and frankly on most courts. It's yet another reason why empathy is not much of a qualification for being on the Supreme Court.

Consensus building on the Supreme Court happens by strong arguments on the law and on the Constitution. That's how you sway another judge that is on the fence. You do it by making a strong argument about the Constitution and the way it is applied to the facts and the law in any particular case. It isn't built by showing empathy for one group or another.

The Burris Tapes Put Illinois Corruption Back in Spotlight

Had Nancy Pelosi not meltded down herself only weeks earlier, the meltdown by Roland Burris yesterday would have gone down as something more extraordinary. That said, there should be no doubt that Burris has not been honest, very little doubt that he at least deserves to be investigated, and certainly a strong suspicion that he only received his Senate seat through a quid pro quo. It's of course the irony of ironies that prior to all of this coming out everyone portrayed Burris as an individual of impeccable character and ethics.

I didn't know that much about Burris however I found it hard to believe that he rose as far as he did within the swamp of Illinois politics being someone of "impeccable character and ethics". The tapes have been characterized as Blagojevich's standard operating procedure. Commentators have taken to the air to proclaim that under Blago this is how business got done. I don't doubt this but Blago didn't learn this on his own.

Blago has been the consummated political insider since he married the former Patti Mell. Patti's father is powerful Chicago City Council Man, Dick Mell. It was Mell's influence that moved Blago through the political ranks in Chicago. It was Mell's influence that secured Blago's fifth Congressional seat from 1996-2002 and Mell's influence that helped land Blago the Governorship. Blago didn't learn pay to play and other forms of corruption all on his own. He learned them because pay to play and corruption is standard operating procedure for Illinois.

It is the same system that wound up spring boarding Burris to the State's Attorney General's office. So, the thought that he was an individual of impeccable ethics always seemed to be naive. Now, the corruption in Illinois is yet again in the front pages of the national media. He's now not merely an embarrassment for Illinois but for the nation. Burris, and all his Illinois corrupt baggage, are now the problem of the U.S. Senate and the Democratic leadership.

Right now, the Illinois House, lead by Michael Madigan, is debating a non binding resolution to send to the U.S. Senate to demand that Burris be removed from his seat. That's right, here in Illinois even a no brainer non binding resolution needs to be debated when it comes to taking any stand against corruption. Pat Quinn, who took over for Blago, is making his first major legislation a 50% increase in the income tax rate. That's because in this corrupt state cutting spending in order to balance the budget is simply not an option. Too many folks have been paid off with that spending.

Meanwhile, Burris is defiant and isn't planning on going anywhere. He's even making plans for a run in 2010. Why shouldn't he be? Given the environment he's from, he really hasn't done anything any different than his colleagues.

Video, Quote, and Word of the Day


weight, heaviness

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.

Helen Keller

The Great Chicago Meter Debacle

The city of Chicago has been dealing with a significant budget deficit since last summer. The deficit has been in the hundreds of millions since then. As such, the city has been scrambling to raise revenues since. Back in December, the city came up with an innovative idea, lease its parking meters to a private company.

Chicago on Tuesday said it agreed to lease its parking meter system to a fund managed by Morgan Stanley in a 75-year, $1.16 billion deal, the latest privatization deal by the city as it struggles to close a yawning budget deficit.

The deal with Chicago Parking Meter LLC, an infrastructure investment fund managed by Morgan Stanley, marks the first time a U.S. city has privatized its parking meter system. It adds to the list of infrastructure assets Chicago has cashed in on with leases of an airport, a toll road, and some downtown parking lots.

Under the deal, the company would get all revenues from payment of the meters while the city would retain the right to all revenues for unpaid parking meters. The deal was put together quickly, and now, six months later, it appears that the deal was put together too quickly. The first signs of serious trouble came when the private company, Chicago Parking Meter LLC, began raising the price on all these meters.

And at 2 p.m. around the Sheraton Hotel on Columbus Drive, a place where normally you can't crowbar your car into a space, there were at least three or four parking spaces. What's up with this?

What's up is that a month ago, when the City of Chicago privatized parking meters, rates were immediately jacked way up, and you now have to feed 28 quarters into the meter to park a car in the Loop for two hours. In exchange for a 75-year lease, the city got $1.2 billion to help plug its budget holes.

But by handing over municipal parking meters to a private company, the city has given its citizens a colossal case of sticker shock. The cost of most meters will quadruple by 2013.

This was all very predictable. By handing all the city's parking meters to a private company, the city created a monopoly on parking meters. This private company is answerable to no one and they own the rights to all the meters. So, they did what any monopoly, answerable to no one, does, they milked their power for all its worth.

Then, these meters began to malfunction on a regular basis.

Professional photographer Cica Friedman got an unintentional snapshot of Chicago's troubled parking-meter system when she went looking for justice over a ticket that she's adamant she did not deserve.

For her effort, Friedman wasted part of a day and got slapped with a $100 fine -- double the original violation. Her problems started with a broken parking meter, she said.

Many other drivers also complain they are not beating the rap caused by bad tickets since City Hall turned over the management of about 36,000 parking meters to a private company in February. Problems have soared, ranging from jammed coin slots to inaccurate parking information posted on meters, to overzealous ticketing, drivers across the city said.

Now, yesterday, things finally came to a head when hundreds of meters all malfunctioned at once.

A Chicago Parking Meters spokeswoman says it remains unclear what caused nearly 250 new parking boxes to malfunction, causing chaos for drivers.

Company spokeswoman Avis LaVelle said it took parking workers most of Wednesday to repair the malfunctioning boxes that sent Chicago residents and parking officials scrambling, the Chicago Tribune reported Thursday.

According to the Chicago Sun Times, powerful Alderman Joe Moore is now a vocal critic against this arrangement. Moore initially voted in favor of allowing the lease and now calls it the worst and most regrettable vote of his political career.

Mayor Richard Daley now admits that it would have made more sense to stagger the transfer of these meters to the private company rather than turning them over all at once. The whole thing has turned into a debacle and it is the citizens that are ultimately paying the price.

Judge Sotomayor: The 2nd Amendment Collectivist

The 2nd amendment is among the most hotly debated portion of the U.S. Constitution. Among the most basic debates is the issue of whether or not the 2nd amendment guarantees an individual's right to carry firearms or is only for an organized group. Because of the wording of the actual amendment, there is some room for interpretation.

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Here is how I analyzed the debate over this amendment.

Now, the allusion to the militia combined with the use of the words "the people" has allowed gun control advocates to make the argument that the second amendment was meant only to protect organized state militias.

In my opinion, this is a nonsensical argument made cynically and disingenuously by folks with an agenda. I think the founding fathers used wording that none thought at the time would create controversy and yet more than two hundred years later we are still embroiled in controversy.


On a practical level, none of the amendments to the Constitution are amendments that give rights to the government, but rather to the people. In order to believe that the second amendment is collectivist, you would need to believe that for unknown reasons the founding fathers wanted to enumerate rights to the government among in the second amendment, even though each and every other amendment enumerates rights to the people itself.

Evidence is coming out that Judge Sotomayor is not only a collectivist but with a history of being against the 2nd amendment. The first piece of evidence was her college thesis. The thesis entitled, Race in the American Classroom, and Undying Injustice: American "Exceptionalism" and Permanent Bigotry, and Deadly Obsession: American Gun Culture, made this assertion.

In this text, the student Sotomayor explained that the Second Amendment to the Constitution did not actually afford individual citizens the right to bear arms, but only duly conferred organizations, like the military. Instead of making guns illegal, she argues that they have been illegal for individuals to own since the passing of the Bill of Rights.

This is a standard boiler plate collectivist argument. That said, this thesis was nearly 30 years ago. Judge Sotomayor wrote an opinion significantly more recently that lends more credence to her collectivist credentials. The case is Maloney V Cuomo. This case challenged the state of New York's 30 plus year ban on numchuks. In writing her opinion, Judge Sotomayor stated this.

United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the decision of the court below, finding that U.S. Supreme Court precedent from 1886 (Presser v. Illinois) was still good law, and that the Second Amendment does not apply to the states. The Second Circuit also found that New York has a "rational basis" for prohibiting the possession of nunchaku in general.

Now, the idea that Sotomayor believes that the 2nd amendment only applies to the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT is one that raises a lot of troubling issues. For instance, if she believes that the 2nd amendment only applies to the federal government, how does she feel about the first amendment? Does she believe that a state government can engage in censorship? It wouldn't be logical to not believe this if she believes the 2nd amendment doesn't apply to states but only to the federal government.

Second, what are her views on the tenth amendment?

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people

Generally, we view the tenth amendment as a state's rights issue. In that, we believe that all that isn't enumerated in the constitution is left to the states. Yet, it is clear from the text that states have no rights to make policy in anything that is specifically prohibited in the Constitution. The 2nd amendment is one such issue. If the 2nd amendment gives every individual the right to bear arms, how can Judge Sotomayor say that it only prohibits the federal government from infringing on this right?

Such a view would effectively dilute the idea of any rights. If Judge Sotomayor sees the 2nd amendment as only a federal government issue then effectively there are no rights. That's because by her view the states can effectively infringe on any right enumerated in the Constitution. A state could pass a law in conflict with the fourth amendment and allow warrantless searches and Judge Sotomayor would say that the 4th amendment only applies to the Federal government.

If you want to know just how dangerous an activist judicial philosophy is it is embedded in the idea that a right enumerated in the Constitution only applies to the Federal government. Such a view of the Constitution could lead a judge to essentially make nearly any law anywhere Constitutional.

The Embezzlement of Dale Rathke

Starting sometime in the late 1990's and ending sometime in the early part of this decade, Dale Rathke was involved in embezzling somewhere in the neighborhood of $1 million from the ACORN accounting and financial services arm Citizen Consulting Incorporated. At the time, Dale Rathke was heading up CCI. As I have pointed out, CCI has acted as the weigh station for all financial funds for ACORN and all its affiliates. In other words, any money earmarked for any activity within the ACORN network starts out at CCI.

Now, while Rathke was running this organization, he decided to use some of its own funds for his own purposes. About $300,000 of the million that he embezzled came in the form of lavish uses of his own personal credit card. He would charge up things like expensive personal dinners and trips onto his personal credit card and then write these expenses off as business expenses. Since Rathke was running CCI, it would be he himself signing off on making these expenses business expenses.

Sometime in the early part of this decade, a business manager discovered that something was amiss, and they alerted Dale's brother, Wade Rathke. At the time, Wade Rathke was CEO of ACORN itself, and had been for nearly 30 years. Rather than reporting the embezzlement, Wade Rathke informed a small group of lieutenants. This group included John Kest, who now runs the New York office of ACORN, Zach Polett, the politcal director of ACORN, Maude Hurd, currently the head of its Executive Committee, Helene O'Brien, one of Rathke's top lieutenants in New Orleans, and Bertha Lewis currently the CEO of ACORN (then a top lieutenant of Rathke's), Michael Shea, currently head of ACORN Housing, and Beth Butler, currently Southern Regional Director of ACORN (as well as Wade Rathke's spouse).

Rather than report the embezzlement, Wade Rathke convinced all of his top deputies that covering it up would make the most sense. The embezzlement would be carried as a loan payable back to CCI as well as a couple other ACORN affiliates. Furthermore, Dale, himself, was only responsible for paying back the $300,000 he ran up in credit cards. Wade, along with their parents, would be responsible for paying back the rest. Wade Rathke explained that if the whole story came out that enemies of ACORN would use it to smear the group. So, for the next nearly seven years, this small group of individuals kept this nearly one million dollars in embezzlement quiet. Even most of the Executive Board of ACORN didn't know. Frankly, they wouldn't necessarily have to since technically Dale Rathke had embezzled from CCI and not from ACORN itself.

Meanwhile, Dale Rathke was moved to another ACORN affiliate and was removed from any financial matters. Then sometime in 2008, someone within ACORN leaked word of the embezzlement to a funder of ACORN. A funder, in this case, is a group or individual that gives the group money for any number of activities within the community: voter registration, feeding the homeless, health care, labor activities, etc. Since these funders were giving money for charitable work in the community and NOT so that Dale Rathke could live it up, many became furious.

By June of 2008, Wade Rathke was finally facing the wrath of the Executive Committee. He, along with the group of deputies he told initially, told the board the same thing that Rathke told them initially. It was important to keep this quiet or enemies of ACORN would use it to smear the group. That's why Wade Rathke did what he did he explained. The board was only mildly sympathetic. Dale Rathke was removed from the organization entirely and in June of 2008, Wade Rathke's 38 year tenure as CEO of ACORN ended. He was, however, allowed to remain head of ACORN international, the SEIU in New Orleans, as well as running a media arm of ACORN. The other folks remained in their positions of power: Hurd is now the head of the Executive Committee, Kest now runs the New York office (and two insiders tell me they believe he, along with his brother Steve are the real power behind the whole organization now) Lewis replaced Rathke as CEO, and Pollack continues to run their political operations. Finally, another funder decided to buy the so called paper in order to remove the loan from the books of CCI and all other ACORN affiliates. Beyond this, all of this conveniently came out just after the statute of limitations ended on any said crimes. Finally, the fir that audited CCI, Duplainer, Hrapmann, Hogan and Maher, L.L.P, then would have signed off not only on the credit card uses but ultimately the loans created to cover it up. The same firm continues to audit CCI today.

Meanwhile, a group of 8 board members, now known as the ACORN 8, demanded more. They wanted to see the books of ACORN itself as well as all documents related to the matter from Wade Rathke. In October, they went in front of a judge in order to get permission to see the books. The judge agreed that ANY BOARD MEMBER of ACORN is allowed to see the books by request. So, within weeks, everyone in this group was summarily removed from the board. The group is now fighting their battle from outside of ACORN. Members of the group have appeared on both Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly, however their request for transparency within ACORN continues be met with resistence.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Video, Quote, and Word of the Day


to defraud

How few there are who have courage enough to own their faults, or resolution enough to mend them.

Benjamin Franklin

Council Submissions

Here are the council submissions.

Council Submissions
Right Truth - Home grown terrorism and the media
The Razor - Death To Inclusiveness!
Joshuapundit - Jerusalem Day
The Glittering Eye - Living Within Your Means: California Edition
The Colossus of Rhodey - More Obama administration waffling on “torture”
Wolf Howling - Obama Has The Left Going Nauseous
Bookworm Room - Does Brown v. Board of Education constitute the Supreme Court’s one free pass?
Soccer Dad - Mr. obama and mr. netanyahu - the alternative version
The Provacateur- Deconstructing The Criminal Enterprise ACORN
Non-Council Submissions
Submitted By: Right Truth - Planck’s Constant - The Pursuit of Happiness and Making Blacks Happier
Submitted By: The Razor - The Other McCain - The Road to Weimar America
Submitted By: Joshuapundit - Melanie Phillips - A Wary Encounter
Submitted By: The Glittering Eye - SCOTUSBlog - The Dynamic of the Nomination of Sonia Sotomayor
Submitted By: The Colossus of Rhodey - Spiegel Online - Hitler’s European Holocaust Helpers
Submitted By: Wolf Howling - Nial Ferguson @ NYT - Diminished Returns
Submitted By: Bookworm Room - PoliGazette - The Future Electoral Fortunes of the Democratic Party
Submitted By: Soccer Dad - Treppenwitz - 10 Lessons Israel Should Take From The Sri Lankan Victory Over Terror
Submitted By: The Provacateur- New Ledger- Let’s Make Cars More Expensive

Boxed into Quantitative Easing

Since last I left off talking about the 10 year treasury, it has gone up another 35 basis points including 15 just today. Ever since the rumor last week that the U.S. debt might be downgraded, the bottom has fallen out of the Treasury. We have seen it go up from 3.15% last week to just over 3.7% today. Furthermore, over the next couple weeks we are going to several multi billion dollar new auctions as the government continues to borrow. Essentiall, over the last couple days, the market has come to realize that the federal government is going to borrow a whole lot of money and it's pricing that borrowing into the rate on the bonds.

Now, the projected recovery that some are claiming is near is in my opinion nothing more than a house of cards. It is built on several assumptions that will all relate to each other. The first assumption is that real estate is soon to bottom out, steady, and then recover. This means that the so called "toxic assets" on the books of the banks won't get any worse. It also means that we are about to peak on the number of foreclosures. This will lead to a recovery that will ultimately lead to new jobs.

The assumption that real estate will soon recover is all built on the assumption that interest rates will stay relatively low. So, what happens if rates, currently in the low 5's, go up to the low six's? That's the equivalent of something like a ten percent cut in the value of a property. That's because it would make a mortgage payment somewhere around $200 a month more expensive on a $200,000 loan amount for a 30 year loan. As borrowing costs go up, property value would go down. Credit is tight, the economy is weak, and no one has a job. The only thing attracting potential buyers to new purchases is the potential to lock in historical low interest rates. If that goes away, you are bound to continue to see the real estate market continue into free fall.

If that's the case, the domino effect on the house of cards on the so called recovery would fall as well. Now, I believe the president could relieve most of the pressure with one pronouncement. If he pronounced that universal health care was tabled until the economy recovered all the fears of borrowing too much would subside and interest rates would fall again to near record lows. That course, we all know this won't happen.

So, the only way to avoid the coming disaster is through "quantitative easing".

In practical terms, the central bank purchases financial assets, including treasuries and corporate bonds, from financial institutions (such as banks) using money it has created ex nihilo (out of nothing). This process is called open market operations. The creation of this new money is supposed to seed the increase in the overall money supply through deposit multiplication by encouraging lending by these institutions and reducing the cost of borrowing, thereby stimulating the economy.[1] However, there is a risk that banks will still refuse to lend despite the increase in their deposits, and in a worst case scenario, possibly lead to hyperinflation.[1]

Bonds rates are going up with reckless abandon and the government isn't going to stop borrowing with reckless abandon. Unless the feds get a handle on interest rates soon we are going to see whatever recovery we might have get stopped in its tracks. So, it appears that the Federal Reserve is boxed in. If bond rates continue upward, it appears that Bernanke will have no choice but to announce a major investment in U.S. Treasuries soon because that's the only way to bring interest rates back down to a level that would allow a recovery. Of course, the end of the link should tell everyone the potential disaster this could lead to. Still, it appears that in the next couple weeks Bernanke will have no choice but to engage in serious "quantitative easing" and buy back somewhere in the neighborhood of a trillion dollars worth of U.S. Treasuries.

The Legal Black Hole of the Prop 8 Ruling

As most know, yesterday the California Supreme Court ruled that California's Constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage is Constitutional.

The California Supreme Court today upheld Proposition 8’s ban on same-sex marriage but also ruled that gay couples who wed before the election will continue to be married under state law.

The decision virtually ensures another fight at the ballot box over marriage rights for gays. Gay rights activists said they may ask voters to repeal the marriage ban as early as next year, and opponents have pledged to fight any such effort. Proposition 8 passed with 52% of the vote.

Now, by upholding Prop 8 but also upholding all gay marriages prior to Prop 8, we will inevitably have a series of Constitutional arguments. The first argument is the equal protection argument under the 14th amendment.

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

By upholding a ban on gay marriage but also upholding prior gay marriages, the state of California certainly appears to have violated the 14th amendment. After all, future gay couples wouldn't be treated equally under the law as those that got married when it was allowed.

In fact, high powered attorneys wasted no time in making this argument.

Former Bush administration solicitor general Theodore Olson is part of a team that has filed suit in federal court in California seeking to overturn Proposition 8 and re-establish the right of same-sex couples to marry.

The suit argues that the state's marriage ban, upheld Tuesday by the California Supreme Court, violates the federal constitutional right for same-sex couples to marry. The complaint was filed Friday, and Olson and co-counsel David Boies -- who argued against Olson in the Bush v. Gore case -- will hold a news conference in Los Angeles Wednesday to explain the case. The conference will feature the two same-sex couples on whose behalf Olson filed suit.

The suit also asks the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to issue an injunction that would stop enforcement of Proposition 8 and allow same-sex couples to marry while the case is being decided.

"I personally think it is time that we as a nation get past distinguishing people on the basis of sexual orientation, and that a grave injustice is being done to people by making these distinctions," Olson told me Tuesday night. "I thought their cause was just."

So, clearly, this ruling will face significant Constitutional challenges. Now, one potential counter to the argument that this ruling violates the 14th amendment might be the concept of ex post facto.

An ex post facto law (from the Latin for "after the fact") or retroactive law, is a law that retroactively changes the legal consequences of acts committed or the legal status of facts and relationships that existed prior to the enactment of the law. In reference to criminal law, it may criminalize actions that were legal when committed; or it may aggravate a crime by bringing it into a more severe category than it was in at the time it was committed; or it may change or increase the punishment prescribed for a crime, such as by adding new penalties or extending terms; or it may alter the rules of evidence in order to make conviction for a crime more likely than it would have been at the time of the action for which a defendant is prosecuted. Conversely, a form of ex post facto law commonly known as an amnesty law may decriminalize certain acts or alleviate possible punishments (for example by replacing the death sentence with life-long imprisonment) retroactively.

Ex post facto laws are specifically prohibited under the Constitution. In other words, one cannot be punished for something that is now illegal but was legal at the time of the offense. Normally, ex post facto concerns criminal violations of law. So, such an argument would likely find a slightly different interpretation.

Either way, the ruling yesterday by the California Supreme Court is certain to ignite a series of significant constitutional battles.