August 2005 Archives

This article on Duke Cunningham illustrates what I've been saying about federal spending as a tragedy of the commons.



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To Watchful Investor, I say there are already markets (Southern California, Washington DC) seeing notable deflation of housing prices. Realtors here keep writing articles about how it's not a bubble until it pops. They are only embarrassing themselves.



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Froggy Ruminations has a great point. I disagree slightly on the constitution, but he is correct in that without the military to defend us from external enemies, it would be just a piece of paper of some interest to historians. I also disagree with the paternalism and elitism of calling the troops "children." They are all legal adults who have chosen to serve, and most of them have actually re-enlisted after seeing what's going on. If that does not indicate a situation where it is impossible to "support the troops but oppose the war", then I don't know what is. Maybe we should start a list of those who have said "I support the troops but oppose the war." It does translate to english as "I'm claiming I support the troops to make me look like a good american to credulous idiots, but I have staked my political future and credibility upon them losing, which would mean that large numbers get killed or maimed and all of their aggregate services and sacrifices will mean less than nothing. And my words encourage our adversaries."



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The aftermath of Katrina is something I am intentionally writing as little as possible about. Instapundit has a great list of where to donate, and if you want Katrina blogging, Michelle Malkin is a great place to start. The Hurricane Katrina Help Wiki is here.



I especially do not want to hear anything about blame until the emergency is over. Even then, I am certain there's more than enough to go around to everyone. This problem has been obvious since at least 1927. Walter Jon Williams did a very well researched fictional dramatization based upon the New Madrid earthquakes of 1811-2. Everybody had a chance, and Nobody did what was necessary to prevent this. Right now, let's focus on getting those people fed, watered, and sheltered. The best thing to do is donate money. Later on, we can decide how much we should rebuild based upon necessary protective measures.



The one thing I'm not finding that might be helpful is a list of requested help - non-obvious goods or services requested by the folks dealing with Katrina aftermath. I'm 2000 miles away, and other than sending money, there's not much that's obvious that I can do. I'd like to know if there's something non-obvious (and where to volunteer), and I'm sure Glenn and Michelle would appreciate the information, too.



Oh, and people looting anything but food and water should be shot. Just because you may be hungry doesn't give you the moral right to a TV. Especially with the power out until the emergency is over.



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There has been a mass de-linking of Instapundit, sponsored by Stop the ACLU. Now I'm a big non-fan of the modern ACLU, but they still do some good work. And let's keep a little perspective here. The Professor does the rest of us a lot of good. He's a real sport about linking to carnivals. He's not stingy with links, and he even links to the people and post advocating de-linking him. Furthermore, although I expect he's making a fair amount of money from Instapundit and it serves as an attention getter to get more, the bottom line is he's providing an important information nexus on the internet. None of the other big guns cover the territory in the fashion he does. At this point, he certainly doesn't have to continue and yet he does. Furthermore, I read and link all kinds of folks that I disagree with on many issues, because Groupthink is not my friend. I actually thought about linking the Instapundit once for every blog on the de-link list, just to make a point, but it wouldn't serve any useful purpose. The point is that the link to Instapundit will remain, and this is a figurative raspberry in your direction.



Restless Mania has more.



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Rhymes with Right has a post on voter fraud and asking who it benefits. Well, in this case, likely the Donkeys, but I don't care who it benefits. I want them Off. The. Rolls.



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Restless Mania has a great post on Darfur.



I don't know about everyone else. There's a sharp limit to what I can do as an individual, especially right now. But this really bothers me in how easy it would be to stop the vast majority of it while costing comparatively little in lives or treasure. The Janjaweed is nothing, militarily. Every person protesting the Iraq war, every person giving aid and comfort to our enemies with verbiage about how awful the Iraq situation is, every person accusing Bush of being a mass murderer and terrorist, makes intervention in Darfur that much more difficult. The Khartoum government is not going to stop this crap, any more than Saddam Hussein did. We can close our eyes and pretend we don't see and these suffering human beings will continue to suffer until they are driven out or extinct, or some country or alliance somewhere with a competent military is going to have to do something. The longer we take to take action the worse the total gets. If not now, when? If not US, who?



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Respectful Insolence has an excellent post on the importance of clinical trials.

I am thinking that this is not a good sign. Peace with Israel is wildly unpopular with the Egyptian population, largely due to state media blaming the Jooos™ for everything (go figure!). It was only a matter of time before Egypt had to take a harder line than before with Israel, simply as a bid to attract the votes of a certain kind of citizen. Peace between Israel and Egypt is in for a rough patch; the fact that I believe the end product of Egypt becoming a democracy will be superior doesn't mean there isn't going to be some nasty violence, perhaps even a war. Anwar Sadat was no saint; still I'd hate for his sacrifice to be wasted (he had to know he'd be assassinated for making peace with Israel).



Vicotr Davis Hanson has the Palestinian verus Israeli angle covered.



This at LGF

just makes my heart bleed purple peanut butter.



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A small ray of light for America's Finest Banana Republic City. D.A. can prosecute pension panelists. This is good news for those seeking fiduciary responsibility everywhere. It means that those responsible for administering pensions can be held responsible for trying to have their cake and eat it too. They had a certain amount of resources, which should have been used to fund future obligations, but they voted to use them to boost current goodies. If this were a corporation, the credit rating and regulators would be down on them like an avalanche, and quite likely the corporate veil would be pierced for anybody who benefitted personally from the vote. Why should it be any different because we're talking about Union heads and public officials?



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Captain's Quarters has his own commentary on the situation that I and Strata-Sphere covered yesterday. The Captain connects the dots a bit more solidly. Anaysis of intentions is always iffy and never certain, but when all of the omissions in the 9/11 commission report leave out data supporting the same conclusion, which conclusion those leaving it out had documented reasons for not wanting it to be reached, a reasonable person will believe it was intentional and likely malicious unless and until such time as proven otherwise.



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La Shawn Barber also has her head on straight on immigration and getting control of the borders. This is also another reason why my earlier article today, found here, is correct.



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Volokh Conspiracy debunks another smear attempt on Judge Roberts.



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Carnival of Liberty is up at Resistance is Futile! Recommended reads: Stop the ACLU, Individ



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Carnival of Vanities is up! Recommended: Mr. Snitch,



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Michelle Malkin is a good place to start for aftermath of Katrina blogging. I haven't said anything because I don't have anything to add to the situation except "I encourage you to donate to the emergency supplies effort." Kudos to Chevron Corporation, among others.



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Reason Online nails one. I can see concern with genetically modified crops, and want to see a bank of unmodified stuff kept somewhere, but bottom line, genetic modification it is just artificial acceleration and augmentation of a process that occurs constantly in nature. With the bad stuff confined to a laboratory, where it can be destroyed easily. Europe has fallen prey to a scare campaign sponsored largely by traditionalist farmers, which plays well to the activists but it still beyond reason. Luckily for this purpose, europe is accounting for less and less of global wealth, and becoming less important as more nations elsewhere join the first world. Unfortunately, the influence they have is still too much.



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Michael Barone makes a point about gaming affirmative action systems very eloquently. I agree with him. Countries where citizens thought of themselves as members of some sub-group first have historically, not endured as well as countries where everybody thought of themselves as citizens of the whole first, and breakups have been uglier. It's fine to be proud of your particular ancestors, as long as you're an American first.



(Besides, I've tried haggis once. Never again! And I'll discourage the girls if I can!)



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Indepundit reports on a successful "Operation Thank You"







Database Mining

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Captain's Quarters notes that Congressional investigators have noticed what I did in this article, and takes the wrong tack:



we should instead move to limit its application. For instance, the need for the Internal Revenue Service to conduct data-mining operations eludes me. The IRS already has its hands on almost every single movement of cash through the requirement of federal tax IDs and Social Security numbers for financial transactions to take place.



This is only the official stuff - and has nothing to do with under the table transactions. As a working loan officer I've acquired a good feel as to part of the size of the underground economy, and it is enormous. Personally, I've had two offers within the past month to do work for a discount if I paid in cash. I have a firm policy of refusing such offers as in my profession, the regulators finding an off the books transaction is reason to terminate my license if they want it to be. But these are underground transactions, and they cost you, me and everyone else a lot of money in taxes, in benefits that the people performing said work really don't qualify for, and other things.



The IRS is supposed to look for stuff like this. This is how they sent many of the old time gangsters to jail when the FBI and police failed.



Nor is the government supposed to be blind in gathering evidence. What they are supposed to do is have a "reasonable person's" idea that there is a problem before they perform a search. A search is basically looking for non-public data. If you are doing drugs or performing a mugging on a public street and a police officer drives by, he doesn't have to get a warrant to act. He can see it with his own eyes. What the fourth amendment is intended to prohibit is "fishing", using the law to terrorize citizens, going in to some opponent's affairs just on the chance that there is a violation. All of what they are looking for is in public databases.



Captain Ed does continue



Congress should make clear the uses and parameters of data mining to head off major abuses of the data, and it should limit the use of this technique to critical national-security functions. Do not let the privacy-at-all-costs make us fight the war without the effective tools necessary to find our enemies before they find us.



So he gets it fifty percent right. But consider: If everyone's financial data is public, who is going to be the most scrutinized? If you answered public officials, you win the prize! I can think of no better method of insuring corruption is kept to a minimum. Everybody who wants a public life will know they've got to be squeeky clean, and have no complaint coming if something comes up. I can think of no better way of insuring that trustees and directors of charities and corporations are clean, and performing their duties. And if everyone's financial stuff is public, identity thieves might as well dance naked in the street, because they're not getting away with it. Security can be provided by biometrics, by public and private encryption keys, and any number of other methods. Most of the problem and vulnerability with social security numbers and similar schemes can be traced to the fact that they are a single data item trying to fulfill functions of both identifier and password gatekeeper.



If you offer most people a choice between privacy and tranparency, they will choose privacy for themselves and transparency for everyone else. I admit that I'd like to be anonymous while I can hold everyone else accountable, but somehow I suspect that you, the readers, wouldn't like that very much. Given the state of the law, the powerful and the rich can mine your information if they want to, and likely avoid any penalties even if they are caught. On the other hand, they have all the levers they could want to protect their own information in the reverse situation. I hope I am not alone in finding that intolerable. Going further in the direction of privacy is fruitless. Only in transparency is there relief. I admit the idea makes me a little nervous, but bottom line, I've got nothing worth hiding. Especially not when everyone's coming out into the open. Any little warts on basically honest individuals will be overshadowed and ignored. It's only the crooks who have cause to worry.



The databases are there, bottom line they are available to the public, and the bad guys (identity thieves and others) are mining them. There is no turning back. The genie will not go back into the bottle. We can pretend he's still there to our detriment, or decide to stop pretending and step out into transparency.



Disability Insurance

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I have a confession to make: When I was doing financial planning, I didn't put enough emphasis on Disability Income Insurance. I was hardly alone in this; Disability Insurance is one of the two most undersold financial products there is. The other is Long Term Care Insurance, which product I at least researched properly and sold enough of (and the exact right product, also).



An article I found the other day brought Disability Insurance, or as it is technically known, Disability Income Insurance back to me. It's a good article and I really do suggest you read the whole thing, especially if you have a family or intend to. I have nothing but sympathy for the victims of this, and yet I would like to arm those reading with some information for preventing it from happening to them.



Disability Insurance isn't sexy; in fact it's damned hard to sell to the average person. Where I can sell Mutual Funds and Variable Annuities and Life Insurance all day long, it's because the basic understanding of the benefits or the needs is present in most people in society. Everybody understands that when you're making an investment, it is because you hope to Make Money. Everybody understands that Life Insurance is there for your family in case you are not. But this basic understanding is lacking for Disability Insurance. What they understand is that you Want To Sell Them An Insurance Policy. An Attacking Salesperson! Red Alert! Shields to maximum, Mr. Sulu! Fire Photon Torpedoes! Fire Phasers! Turn us around and head back to safe territory, Maximum Warp! Fire! Fire!



Disability Insurance is one of the red-headed step-children of the financial planning process. SEC and NASD guidelines don't mention it; it is only when a practitioner really digs into the nuts and bolts of financial planning that you find out how important it is. I did at least get to the point where I would discuss Disability Insurance with every one of my clients who was still working.



It's very easy to tell if you are in need of Disability Insurance. Ask yourself this question: If you couldn't work for the rest of your life, starting now, would you have enough money to live the lifestyle you want for as long as it lasts? If the answer is "Hell Yes!", you don't need it. Otherwise, you probably do.



Some basic facts about Disability Insurance: It is three times more common for a worker to go through a period of disability and need wage replacement than it is for them to die before age 65. Family finances do not tend to recover well from lack of disability insurance, whereas they do from lack of life insurance. In other words, the consequences of no Disbility Insurance on a family without it are worse and longer lived than the consequences of no Life Insurance on a family without that. Surveys of what happens to families five or ten years after the death of an uninsured breadwinner are much rosier than the equivalent ones five or ten years after the disability of an uninsured breadwinner, and the latter scenario is far more common.



The federal government does contribute something to disability insurance. But within the financial planning community, Social Security Disability is famous for three things: Denial, Difficulty, and Delay. It is far and away the most difficult Disability Income program to qualify for benefits under. A private insurer would not be permitted qualifications so strict by any state. As a percentage of from those who have some real disability, the federal government denies more claims than any private insurer. The paperwork (which I have never filled out, so I'm reporting secondhand) is supposedly awful, and it takes months for a decision, and it doesn't kick in and start paying benefits until at least five months have passed. It is my understanding that it doesn't pay back benefits if the application and approval process takes longer than five months, either.



You cannot buy, nor should you want, disability insurance which replaces your entire income. I think that there is an actual legal limit of 70% on a single policy in California. On the other hand, disability income is (typically) tax free and you're not commuting to work every day, both of which go a long way to stretch what you get. 50 to 65 percent is probably about what most folks should have.



There are two main types of disability policy: So-called "own occupation" and "any occupation," differentiated by what triggers the benefits. Both require medical certification, but the "own occupation" policy makes it easier to qualify for benefits. What you are buying here is a policy that will pay benefits when you can no longer do basically the same thing you are doing to earn your money now. It is more expensive than the "any occupation" policy, but then again, you are getting more coverage. When you get an "any occupation" policy, you will not qualify for benefits unless you are unable to perform the duties of any occupation for which you are suited by education and training. In other words, if you can still work at 7-11 or McDonalds or as a receptionist somewhere, no benefits.



Other major factors in how expensive the policy will be are: What you're doing now (an office worker gets cheaper rates than someone who works with dynamite), How much income you are looking to replace (it's less costly to replace 30% of your income than 60%), how long before benefits kick in (a policy where they kick in after one month is going to pay more benefits more often than one where they don't kick in for six months, and is therefore more expensive), and how long benefits last (a policy that pays benefits for two years is cheaper than one that pays until you're 65. Take note of this - especially if you're 63).



Disability Insurance is sold in two ways: as part of a group program, or individually. If you read the article, you may have figured out that this is a critical difference. As a general rule, Disability Insurance sold as part of a group plan through an employer is subject to ERISA, individual policies are not. This is a critical difference. If the insurance company wrongly denies your claims under a policy subject to ERISA, all you can get is the actual money you would have qualified for. No penalties, no interest, no legal fees, no court costs. I tend to look at buying insurance from a point of view of what happens if I need it. I want to make clear that most insurance companies are ethical. Nonetheless, if the most Colossal Insurance Company can lose by denying my claim is the actual money they would be on the hook for anyway, they might be going to look for any excuse to deny my claim, as they have nothing to lose and the prospective benefits to gain. If, as in most individual policies, you are the owner of a non-ERISA covered Disability Insurance policy, now there is a significant potential downside to Colossal Insurance denying your claim. If you sue and win, they're on the hook for not only the benefits they denied, but potentially also interest, penalties, and the legal costs of the fight, a much larger number of dollars. They are much more inclined to consider your claim from an unbiased viewpoint in this case.



It is to be noted that group coverage is cheaper, for precisely this reason. But why anyone would want to pay money to buy an insurance policy that's more likely to deny benefits when you need them is beyond my ability to comprehend.



Group Disability Insurance can have part of the premiums paid by an employer, group insurance can even be portable or convertible to individual policies, albeit with a higher premium. On the other hand, you can become uninsurable in the meantime, if for instance you contract any one of a number of diseases or conditions, some of which are terrible and some of which only set the stage for worse things to potentially happen. If you are uninsurable and lose you current policy through losing your employer, guess what? You literally cannot buy another policy. Individual policies offer more protection; once issued, they generally cannot be cancelled (there are exceptions!), and there are no worries with portability or conversion. If, on the other hand, you can only afford a group policy, better that than nothing. Like everything else in life, it is a set of trade-offs.



Caveat Emptor

Carnival of Capitalists is up at Casey Software. Recomended reading (in the same order they appear in the Carnival): Art of Peace, Gongol, Roth and Company, Econbrowser, The Prudent Investor, Small Business Trends



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Carnival of Personal Finance is up at All Things Financial. Recommended: Steve Pavlina. I'm not a goals fetishist but they are necessary, and he provides some worthy thoughts. (There are some duplicates from COTC)



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I guess I should say publicly what I have said privately in email on several occasions. The reason I do the recommended reading part of my Carnival links is that so many Carnival submitters seem to be intent upon telling me that their site is not worth my time or anyone else's. There is an inherent problem in submitting a trivial, poorly thought out, or poorly written article to a carnival. If you think the post is good enough to submit (which you do because you did), and it's garbage or a throwaway, that tells me your judgement isn't the best, and you're not likely to add value to future discussions. I feel that those who take the time and make the effort to do a thoughtful, original article, particularly one with with broad applicability, when so many do not should be rewarded. I may not completely and wholeheartedly endorse every bit of every article I recommend, but I am saying that they contain useful information, useful thinking, useful perspective, or they are truly amusing. They stand out from the noise. Want a recommendation from me or others? I love sharing good stuff (and this is a big part of what my Links and Minifeatures articles are about)! Give readers something worthwhile to take away from the time we spend reading your article. Information, thought process, perspective, laughter. Teach me something I can use, or amuse me. It's all about signal to noise ratio, and people are looking for signal.



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Now that that's off my chest, I should immediately eat crow because the latest RINO Sightings suffers very little from the problem described above. It was fun and interesting going through every submission, not a slog. Almost every post has something worthwhile, so if I'm going to reward those who stand out, I have to say Especially Recommended: Don Surber, Strata-Sphere, Politburo Diktat. Thank you RINOs!



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Captain's Quartershas the scoop on what caused the unraveling of talks with the Sunnis (basically they wanted to move the goalposts), and why the consitution has been submitted without concensus.



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China. Iran. Speaking of scary regimes with nuclear weapons, Michael Barone has a good point about Vladimir Putin: he appears to have dismantled all possible domestic centers of opposition to him. This being the traditional method of dictators, particularly dictators with aspirations of conquest, to follow, it bothers me. I really hope Russian nationalism doesn't turn to be the stealth threat we ingored until it was too late. Just because they are not a world spanning superpower any more doesn't mean they can't still do a lot. Unlike the jihadists, they are a true military threat. They still have their nukes - more than any country except maybe the United States. Even if they are kind-of allies in the War on Terror, some allies can be harmful. Hitler had no desire to go to war with the United States until England and the USSR were put away. His pacts with the Japanese who attacked Pearl Harbor forced his and our hands.



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Strata-Sphere has some good ideas on why intelligence warnings were ignored and compartmentalized to death.



Victor Davis Hanson articulates thoughts very similar to mine on the Gaza pullout. Politically and tactically, the pullout makes little sense; giving up something without any concessions in return at a cost of much internal strife. Strategically and Foreign relations wise, it makes a huge amount of sense. Granted, the arab states don't care how much Israel does, but many nations do. Now the Palestinians cannot pretend that Israel controls them or keeps them down any longer, and are out of excuses for failing to control their militants.



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John Fund at Opinion Journal talks about the progress of a flat tax around the world.



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Dean's World has a nice post on stereotypes and the truthfulness thereof, and how at least one has become a self-fulfilling meme. I believe there is a certain amount of truth in some stereotypes, but it is necessary to remember that these are likely to be statistical in nature and I cannot think of a single stereotype that doesn't break down in the individual case too often to be useful for any information. As Dean observes, many white american guys do look funny dancing, but there's always Fred Astaire and too many like him to enumerate.



The stereotype set Dean spends the longest on is the old "stupid conservative vs ivory tower liberal."



To this, I note that presidents are not selected on the basis of intelligence, otherwise every single one would have an IQ over 180, and I can't think of one that did. Presidents are not selected on the basis of learning, or every one would have academic degrees in multiple subjects. Looking back on history, neither is a primary attribute of our best presidents. Indeed, most of our successful presidents were more than willing to solicit and take advice of how to get where they wanted to go. But they made the choice of where they wanted to go themselves.



What elects presidents is the ability to persuade the electorate that you will better lead it in the direction it should go. What sells the deal varies from election to election, but it's always something. Note that just because one person convinces more voters doesn't mean those voters were right, only that you got elected. But we certainly haven't got any better methods of choosing a president.



Over the last week or so, I've been having problems with a certain telemarketing firm calling my "Do Not Call" listed home number. I've discovered it's trivially easy to file a complaint. Go to the same Do Not Call website you registered your phone on, https://www.donotcall.gov, and click on the "File a Complaint". Follow instructions (You need name and phone number of company to be effective) and two minutes later, you're done. This is on a par with two of my favorite emails to know, uce@ftc.gov (for domestic spam proposing illegal commercial activity) and enforcement@sec.gov (for securities related illegal spam). Action does take a while, but I've actually gotten "Thank You" notes from the SEC (not just the email autoresponse), and I know at least one ended up in jail time for the perpetrator.



All three things are examples of good things government does or can do. In the latter two cases, all it does is trigger an investigation which may be over and forgotten in two seconds, or which may involve some serious enforcement official time if they think the payoff is there. I like the thought that every time some spam-meister hits "send" he's hoping nobody forwards it to the FTC or SEC.



In the case of the Do Not Call telemarketer, they may be domestic or foreign, but if they're foreign they want to sell things in this country, which means there is a lever to fine them. And I'm just enough of a jerk to think that two minutes of my time to cost them $11,000 may give them serious reason to pay attention to the Do Not Call list, particularly if other people do it, and the reason telemarketing is so ubiquitous is that (like spam) it's otherwise so cost effective. I'm raising their cost of doing business, one hopes by enough to change their habits.

Did some Meta-work when I got back from the hospital. Checking my referral logs, I'm noting some of the unusual search engine referrals "U.S. Marines research agency" (Google), "border patrol check point" (MSN - I did do a series on the illegal alien border patrol agent who was caught smuggling other aliens - and I wish I was making that up if you missed it), and weirdest of all, "cat fisking" (MSN). Just for the surreality of it all, did a Yahoo search on "Pleasingly Random Serial Killings" hoping to find a really out there site, but this comes up as number one. I've seen the movie; it's worth watching. I guess my cognitive disjuntions need work.



Based upon data comparisons between my Powerblogs' bandwidth Reports function and Sitemeter's statistics, I'm pretty certain SiteMeter stats are FUBAR, but at least they are likely to be screwed up in a consistent manner between sites, and thus to be worthwhile data for comparison between sites. My ecosystem ranking has gone to 622 (and 535 This morning), which I would be very happy with indeed if I thought it were true. 623 (536 this morning) was Michael Barone of US News, one of my "Heavy Lifter" category sites, which is both a reason I don't believe it and a reason to be ecstatic if I thought it were true.



UPDATE: Getting ready to post, I checked email and found I am by no means the only person to have noticed how fouled up the ecosystem is.



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Argghhh! has a post on Gunfight Rules. He missed the one about three useless things: Weapons not in your possession, ammunition you left behind, and friends who aren't there. I could add a couple more, but his are funny.



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I consider this at aTypical Joe to be an encouraging sign. It is easy to demonize one's opposition; harder and more rewarding to actually try to convert them. Since the only dog I have in this fight is a desire to live in one United States, I see this as an encouraging sign.



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Boxing Alcibiades has a modest proposal for Mexico. I'm not sure if I agree, but he's got a definite point. I've always said that were it not for the fact that the Mexican government is No Damned Good (and by the evidence, unfixably so), they'd be roughly where we are. I'd consider conquest for purposes of assimilation to be on the table, and certainly Mexico's southern border is a lot shorter than ours. The only alternative I see is massive revolution, a la Russia 1917, and those have a horrible record of installing good governments. Merger is only an option if we can permanently bar every last Mexican offical from governmental participation, right down to the corrupt cops on the beat.



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We are the Knuts who say "Nay". George W. Bush and the Holy Grail at The Right Place. It's missing a John Kerry and his minstrels scene, though:





Bravely ran John Kerry, ran John Kerry, ran away

When danger reared it's ugly head

He faked some Purple Hearts and fled



...Except that Sir Robin was one of Arthur's men.



LATER: Re-reading just prior to posting, this does seem harsh. But the parallels with Robin and his minstrels are perfect. Kerry's whole political career has been built upon a self-generated legend that he was some kind of war hero, which falls apart upon investigation. I have no reason to believe he was anything worse than one not particularly competent officer while he was actually in the theater, but that's the most that can really be said for him.



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High Energy Lasers. Cool. HT to Techography



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So much for the pullout helping the Israelis or leading to peace. Israel endures suicide attack. Abbas denounces it as wrong to world press while no doubt praising them domestically and arranging payments to the family. It's fish or cut bait time, Mr. Abbas. Israel anted up more of a contribution to the peace process than anyone should ever have expected them to. Now control your people, or step down in favor of someone who can!



Captain's Quarters has more.



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Combs Spouts Off
has a post up on favorite quotations and invites trackbacks, and our favorites in email. Two of my favorites:



He either fears his fate too much,

Or his deserts are small,

That dares not put it to the touch

To gain or lose it all

-James Graham, Marquess of Montrose



and this one I've actually carried in my wallet for a long time now, not as my favorite quote, but as something to inspire me not to be lazy:



"Let George do it" is not just the slogan of a lazy man. It's the credo of the slave. If you want to be taken care of and not have to worry, that's fine; you can join the rest of the cattle. Cattle are comfortable - that's how you recognize them. Just don't complain when they ship you off to the packing plant. They bought and paid for the privelege - and you sold it to them.

-David Gerrold



A lot of my posts here deal with how not to be cattle.



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Just when I didn't think my opinion of Fred Phelps could sink any lower: I found this on Blackfive, alleging that his objective is to be able to draw violence and file lawsuits for damages. I have no idea if the families have any civilly actionable basis against these twerps, but if any lawyers reading think there is, you could do a lot to redeem your profession in my eyes by contacting the families of those fallen he has hurt with his "protests", and offering your services pro bono. This is one group that cries out for as much special treatment as they can get in that vein.



Dean's World has more.



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Captain's Quarters has a truly damning post on Able Danger, as well as this previous post worth reading. The earlier post is bad enough. The latter is a smoking gun. It's been pretty obvious for quite some time that the State Department and CIA have a bureaucratic "Whatever happens, don't rock the boat" culture. This furnishes the smoking gun. It's past time both organizations were cleaned out.



Kausfiles has more.



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LGF directs us to this story about a real hero who deserves to be lionized.



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Christopher Hitchens has an article you should read.



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Below The Beltway emailed with an article on whether the government should have the power to issue a mandatory evacuation order.



My response is only for those not competent to make their own choices (Children and other legal infants), and I think they should physically evacuate those in that category. Competent adults should be told something like "If you stay, you absolve us of all responsibility for your well-being in this matter." Not that the government should normally have a high level of said responsibility, but warnings of this nature are a basic part of the reasons to have a government - so that somebody has the power to get your attention and inform you of threats to your well being. You want to be ignore them, that's your problem. But we're going to take your kids to high ground, right now.



From my recent adventure in hospital, I cannot pass up the opportunity to say this: Just because you've got a MD degree or have been hired by some hospital somewhere doesn't mean you are some sort of omniscient, omnipotent deity. If you have a problem discussing care with patients, paying attention to that patient's chart for relevant information, giving alternatives, justifying what you think is the best course of action to the patient, and just plain paying attention and attempting to treat the patient with common courtesy, then go get a job as a mechanic. You might actually be good at that. No matter how technically competent you may be, if you can't do customer service you shouldn't be in medicine. 'Nuff said.



(For those in San Diego, my most recent bad experience with Scripps is not my only one. The last time I went there was almost as bad. This time part of the blame falls on a Kaiser physician, but only part. The fact that Kaiser works with Scripps gets number one billing on my "Reasons I may want to leave Kaiser" list. When I was selling health care, I used to recommend Kaiser to clients even though it meant I didn't get a commission. I still like Kaiser, but their contracts with Scripps are a large counterweight to that, and since I have a health problem that has caused Kaiser to refer me to Scripps twice in the last year or so, this consideration looms large in my mind).



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I wonder if this is what causes earth's magnetic field to die out and reverse polarity every so often?



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If 'Bubble' Bursts, Legacy of Greenspan May Deflate. I am not one of Greenspan's bigger fans. By and large he's done a decent job. But he's got a banker's attitude, not that of someone trying to foster sustainable economic growth. He gives way too much importance to inflation worries, and this is part of what caused the 2000 recession, and what set up the subsequent events, including the current housing bubble.



On a related topic: Greenspan: Investments Won't Soar Forever. Why not? It works for banks. Cheap shot, I know, and not entirely true. Nonetheless, I wouldn't want to be too heavy into stuff with explicit dollar values right now.



This is one reason I'm actualy recommending 30 year fixed rate loans, something I never thought I'd do.





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This is just weird.



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Here's something for discussion. The Gold double eagles in question were never legally issued, meaning that they are stolen government property. On the other hand, we certainly have the precedent of the 1913 Liberty Head nickel, which was likewise never officially issued, yet six are known to exist, and the Treasury hasn't confiscated them.



Okay, so the gold was US taxpayer property. How about if the owner reimburses the US mint for the face value plus interest. The government charges and pays 7% interest, and it's been 72 years, so it's about 130.5 times face value, or $26,101.29. Anybody got a better idea?



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This is just plain incorrect, as I explain in my article on Pre-qualification. A pre-qual or pre-approval is a waste of a piece of paper. They are feel good documents that mean nothing.



While we're dealing with free advice from journalists, there's this article. Repeat after me: Not all mortgage loans require points. Not all mortgage loans require points. Not all mortgage loans require points. Unless you've screwed your finances up to where you're in a subprime situation, most folks are better off not paying points, as I go into in this article.



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Captain's Quarters has more on a third source breaking anonymity on Able Danger. I'm still willing - eager - to hear evidence. But I'm afraid that at this point in time I'm inclined to believe these military officers, and not the 9/11 commission. Effing political hacks playing at effing political damage control. If true, we have a factual replacement for the mythical meme of Nero fiddling while Rome burned. Just when I didn't think my disgust meter could go any higher.



At least we're going to get Senate hearings on the subject.



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The Bush administration proposed higher fuel economy standards for SUVs and minivans. The Clinton Administration resisted all efforts for eight years. Explain to me again how the Bush administration is anti-environmentalist and a tool of big oil? Seems to me the evidence points the other way.



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Captain's Quarters tells us about The Mom-He-Hit-Me-Back Accusation. I've been saying the Israelis are selling the Palestinians rope. One of these days, they're likely to find themselves unsupported at the end of all the rope the Israelis are willing to sell.



The Palestinians are claiming that the occupation of Gaza still isn't over.



Palestinians tells Israel: Go away but build us hospitals



Mark Steyn delivers the knockout punch of reality.



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Micahel Barone is suggesting the President start doing "fireside chats" a la FDR. Interesting idea, but I'm not certain it wouldn't backfire. President Bush himself is too much of a gentleman, not is the media as eager to give time to the President as it once was - particularly not Republican presidents and for things that could be seen as political campaigning (remember McCain-Feingold). Mr. Barone has probably forgotten hundreds of times as much about politics as I will ever know. But my gut tells me he may be wrong on this one.



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This prank was funny. I also would like to know how he can be faulted for distracting from official services. He didn't tell them he was an escaped prisoner. Everything he did is perfectly legal. The Wal-Mart clerks jumped to conclusions (mind you, I'm glad they did, but still, they were false conclusions). HT to Opinion Journal



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La Shawn Barber has a good piece up about the collapse of the Black Family. I think it's past time to generalize Daniel Patrick Moynihan's classic report to all families. All of the metrics are worse now than what had him alarmed way back then.



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An excellent examination and debunking of the reasons given for the liberal bias in Academia. HT Volokh Conspiracy



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If you want to know just how wrongly the New York Times is spinning the news, read this and then read this. HT Powerline.



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Gonna buy five copies for my mother! Misha wants his name on a fatwa. Me, I think actual competition for a fatwa is just plain silly under the 'tempting fate' department. Misha et al are each individually worth more than a hundred 'splodeydopes. And the 'splodeydopes might accidentally do something competent and succeed.



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Armies of Liberation has an article on press intimidation in Yemen. It's even against the Yemeni constitution, but it's being ignored.



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If this is a hoax, it's a dangerous one. NOW is going to put out a fatwa for just considering it. They'll hang their cojones right next to Lawrence Summers'. HT Chrenkoff



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Dean's World compares the Iranian government to, well, democracies, and then contrasts it with proposals for Iraq. I don't see much of a similarity. Kind of like Spain 1492 versus United States 1795. One run by a religion, the other has space for a religion, but not much more.



Looks like I dropped by Iraq the Model at precisely the right time! They are reporting agreement on a proposed Irqi constitution! He also had a previous article on the political dynamics involved.



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Supposedly, Michael Moore is in a celebrity weight loss center. Iowahawk has all the details. Do not click with beverages nearby.



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Pejman Yousefzadeh has moved from his old site to A Chequer-Board of Nights & Days.



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Please go check out Michael Yon as often as you have the time. He's telling the boots on the ground and eyes in the neighborhood story of Iraq. And hit his tipjar if you can afford to do so.



atheism vs Atheism

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Many people get confused between small 'a' atheism and Atheism.



atheists (small a) do not believe in the divine. Even as a non-christian, I may have an opinion that believes they are being willfully blind, but that's okay. Turn it around 180 degrees, and they think I'm hallucinating - seeing things that don't exist. The vast majority have developed an ethos that may differ from mine, but deals with what is and is not ethical behavior in a manner consistent with civilized behavior. I have several atheist friends and acquaintances. They're willing to live and let live. We don't have religious quarrels.



Atheists with a capital A believe with all their heart and mind (no soul, by definition) in a particular religion. According to their beliefs, followers of other religions are weak minded superstitious fools, if not actively Evil and Subversive, and they are bound and determined to bring us all to See The Truth Of Their Way. In all ways, including the presence of a deity, these people are practicing a religion of intolerance. To them, those of other religions are Infidel, and must be converted, or if that fail despite best efforts, be prevented at all costs from passing our weak-minded foolishness and Evil to the next generation. Because they are often able to camouflage their agenda behind the aegis of a country and society that is constitutionally neutral on religion, capital-A Atheists do a lot of damage. In many circumstances, they can be hard to distinguish from "small a atheists" and those of other religions who have learned to live and let live. There are only a few ways to reliably reveal capital A Atheists, and you know, until they start in on how everyone has to follow their preaching, usually no need. This is a matter of faith, and if anyone could prove their faith to be the Truth it would no longer be faith; instead it would be science and the opposite would be denial. Mostly, I consider Capital A Atheists to be weak in their faith, as they seem to be incapable of following it unless everyone else does, as well. Do not mistake them for small 'a' atheists, either. A small 'a' atheist is willing to live and let live - their faith is strong. Capital A Atheists do more damage to the religiously neutral cohesion of our society than any fundamentalist bible thumper or Islamic extremist, because their religion teaches that there must be no restraint in the pursuit of removing that Evil superstition called religion from the face of the earth. That they do not realize they do it in the name of an intolerant religion of their own is one of the supreme ironies of life I have thus far encountered.

I'm Back

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Home again. Mentally soggy, though. Maaybe I'll be sharper tomorrow. Probably going to spend rest of evening petting dachshunds and watching a movie.

Fellow San Diegans: Help Smash get a new job!



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This is going to be my last post for a couple of days. I'd appreciate any good thoughts you folks feel like sending my way.

Carnival of Liberty

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Welcome to Carnival of Liberty the Eighth!



The Law:



He walks into the room,

He's got a briefcase like a bomb

A smile on both faces

And he calls it aplomb

(Al Stewart, "License to Steal")



Pubcrawler tells us about The Law



Fearless Philosophy tells us about attempts to discriminate against John Roberts in A Religious Litmus Test?. Without doing any research, there's been an anti-Catholic movement in this country since at least 1848, in the wake of the first large wave of Irish. It still disgusts me.



Below the Beltway talks about the useless The War on Sudafed



Stop the ACLU tells us about stopping the ACLU's Crusade against one religion in 'Anti-ACLU' Fights for Religion in Public Life. The religion the ACLU hates isn't the one that wants to conquer us, but then it's been a long time since I've heard the ACLU being accused of rationality.



Stop the ACLU tells us about Victory Dance For Moses



Mover Mike asks us Who is Chief Garret Chamberlain? Somehow, I don't think the ACLU is happy with him, either.



satire tells us about Pink Revolution Complements God's Rainbow Palette By Giving Muslim Sodomites Quranic Right to Marry.



Property and Taxation:



I'm working hard to pay the rent

And support my government

Built the highways and the railroad tracks

Now we're not giving up 'til they pay it all back

(The Hooters "Blood From a Stone")



Unrepentant Individual gives us a lot of information in his two part series The FairTax Plan - my response, and The FairTax Plan - the opponents.



Peakah's Provocations tells us about more ACLU funny business in Me Immigrant, You Racist. We can't have people taking the law into their own hands, but this is ridiculous.



Forward Biased tells us again about the further antics of the City of New London against Kelo et al in Sorry, but "chutzpah" doesn't quite cut it for me



Your host has helpful economic and stress reducing advice on procedures to follow in acquiring or refinancing your property in The Appraisal



Firearms and the second amendment



And the Sons of Mary smile and are blessèd---they know the Angels are on their side.

They know in them is the Grace confessèd, and for them are the Mercies multiplied.

They sit at the feet---they hear the Word---they see how truly the Promise runs.

They have cast their burden upon the Lord, and---the Lord He lays it on Martha's Sons!

(Rudyard Kipling, "The Sons of Martha")



Combs Spouts off considers where the second amendment stops in Purity versus Principles



Mr. Completely asks us Is it time to dump your AOL account? Seems they are firing employees who keep firearms locked in the cars in the parking lot.



Education:



But Johnny can't read

Summer is over and he's gone to seed

(You know that) Johnny can't read

He never learned nothin' that he'll ever need

Well, is it Teacher's fault? Oh no!

Is it Mommy's fault? oh no!

Is it Society's fault Oh no!

Well is it Johnny's fault? Oh No!

(Don Henley, "Johnny Can't Read")



Liberty Letters asks us Should Constitution Day Be Mandated?. Seems Robert Byrd wants it taught, and wants to allow the schools to decide how. If you leave it up to the NEA, I'm not certain the students won't be taught about a mandatory class size of three and all teachers must be paid at least the years smallest lottery win.



Irregular Verbs:



Three sides to every story

Yours and there's mine and the Cold Hard Truth

(Don Henley, "Long Way Home")



Pubcrawler sends us an example of irregular verbs in Morally Absolute. You know, Irregular verbs as in "I'm witty, you're stupid."



Dangerous Liberty discusses a dichotomy between things which are labelled Liberty and things which are Liberty in Diamond in the Rough



The Common Room talks of gatekeepers and not taking their word in The Free Press



Private Enterprise



Nothing Ventured, Nothing gained they said

So you played for "Winner takes all"

Tossed the dice high up and craned your head

To see how the numbers would fall

(Al Stewart, "Midas Shadow")



Eric's Grumbles talks of Robert Heinlein's treatment of spaceflight in Heinlein on Private Space Flight. This is one of the great unfulfilled dreams of my generation; the world turned its back on space before I was of voting age.



Privacy:



I was taking some comfort

I needed a break from the rain

I guess I was mistaken

And someone remembered my name

But I knew I was doin' just fine

And it was nobody's business

Nobody's business but mine

(Don Henley, "Nobody's Business")



Your host talks about the implications in Able Danger, Databases, and the Right to Privacy



Next week's host: Resistance Is Futile!



"Carnival of Liberty can also be found at The Truth Laid Bear's ÜberCarnival."



UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers and thank you Professor Reynolds!



























Advisory

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Posting is liable to be light for involuntary reasons for the rest of the week at least. I may have another post Tuesday afternoon several hours after the Carnival, but then I'm going into the hospital early Wednesday morning, and will not have access until I get home, and am likely to be under the influence of drugs (sedatives and such) for a while. So my ability to post - or post coherently - may suffer adverse effects for a while.



RINO Sightings is up! Recommended: Argghhh!, INDC Journal, Dean's World, Tinkerty-Tonk



Please check back here tomorrow for Carnival of Liberty VIII!



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Captain's Quarters has the money quote on the whole "wall" issue:



...I assert that the main point about the Wall is that it was not a memo or a directive — it was a culture. There were many walls, throughout the Intelligence Community, as well as between the Intelligence Community and Law Enforcement. Most of these were of long standing and existed for good reasons — security and protecting civil liberties. But under Clinton, all the walls got taller and new ones were added...



Not believing there were critical national security issuses for which the support the Intelligence Community was vital; acutely concerned about the potential for scandals and political embarassements [as only so scandel-plagued an Adminisrtation could be], and having a strong personal distaste for the whole business, Clinton set out to reduce the risk that the Intelligence Community could do him harm by making it as difficult as possible for the Intelligence Community to do anything. He did this thru his appointments, seeing to it that political animals and risk-adverse adminstrators got key postions; by changing the rules by which intelligence could be collected — for example, banning using people with crimnal associations or "human rights abusers" as HUMINT sources, which meant that no one in the Intelligence Community could talk to a disaffected terrorist; a huge blow that badly hurt our ability to keep tabs on terrorist organiszation after 1998 — and by building walls.



This dates back to my first (limited circulation, in a 1992 APA) assessment of Clinton's character: that he would do literally anything if he saw a way to take advantage for personal gain, there was no principle he would not sacrifice for a 3% gain in an opinion poll (or to avoid a 3% loss). We have learned the hard way many times since exactly how correct that assessment was. He has spent his whole life gaming the system, and he's done well, but what about everyone else around him? How about the system itself?



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Michelle Malkin directs us to Professor Bainbridge, who agrees that the transfer of Air America was likely a fraudulent transfer. Ms. Malkin also brings a comment up about Air America lasting until the judgement is rendered, but as I have said repeatedly, I don't think they'll last that long.



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Utterly cool! Original Einstein Manuscript Discovered



I'll do some more later if I am able.



Be sure to come back Tuesday morning for Carnival of Liberty VIII. And I'd appreciate it if you'd tell me if my blog rolls to the right are missing any members of either group.



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Armies of Liberation talks about a Yemeni sheikh convicted in the US to fund Hamas. This is damning stuff.



Armies of Liberation also tells us of a possible hopeful situation in Yemen as Saleh has said he's stepping down.



She's got a half dozen other articles all worth reading -worth linking. If you think I'm trying to say that Jane should be on the blogroll of and regularly visited by anyone interested in world freedom and democracy, you're right. I feel embarrassed that it's been a week since I got to her site. If you'll note, I've moved her up in my blogroll to the right.



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Nathan Newman makes an excellent point about using aid as a weapon: It makes people mad, rendering it useless for the PR purposes used to sell it back home. HT to aTypical Joe



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Ballon Juice provides a leftspeak to english translation of somebody who claims he was taken out of context. I am happy to see more people pointing out the contradictions in "I support the troops, but I've staked my political future upon the things that will happen if they lose."



Done With Mirrors scores with another argument dissection.



Forward Biased has more on the true level of non-support required to support the troops but not their mission.



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Big Cat Chronicles has another worthwhile article on elder care, and facilitating their decisions. It has been my experience that children obsessing about their parents being ripped off often make the opposite mistake. When I worked the Long Term Care market as part of my planning business, I used to have an inflexible rule that said I had to try to bring the next of kin in if I were at all in doubt about their mental solidity. Many children automatically assumed I was trying to rip off their parents, and I lost a lot of income over it, but every once in a while I got a child who'd actually do their due diligence before assuming I was trying to rip off their parents. And I'm sorry for the parents whose kids prevented them from buying something that would actually help them. I got several phone calls that began "Listen, you con artist, I told you to leave my dad alone, and you went and sold him this policy. I'm calling my lawyer," where I had counter with "Look, Mr. Jones. I was the one who got you involved in the first place. You told your dad not to buy from me and he didn't. So somebody else came into the picture and probably sold him something more expensive and not as good as what I had because I only sell California Partnership policies, and I offered your dad the most effective bang-for-the-buck partnership policy for someone in his situation, and that other salesperson sold a policy it by not getting you involved. I hope that makes you feel just wonderful. So don't you threaten me with a lawsuit, because I'm not involved here." Not to mention two instances that I'm aware of where they subsequently tried to buy insurance after the parent developed an actual need for long term care. Once the problem is a certainty, you can't buy insurance against it, or at least not on beneficial terms. Nobody sells two million dollars of life insurance to people on their death bed for less than two million dollars (It may sometimes be a good idea anyway, but that's another essay). Nobody sells disability insurance to someone who's already in traction. And nobody sells Long Term Care Insurance to people already in Long Term Care Facilities. Insurance is something you buy before the fact. If you fit the need profile, get it. Got it? Good.



I've got to finish my article on Long Term Care Insurance soon.



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Catallarchy has a great narrative on what they'd say if they had to sell the public on social security today. Check out the comments as well. The hard thing to get through your head is that every choice that's made is a trade-off and has good and bad. If the elderly people in Chicago that died due to lack of air conditioning had had the choice of where to invest their social security money, odds are long they wouldn't have been so poor. Scary as it may be, freedom must include the freedom to fail, or you get stuff like the current system. If retirees had had the ability to invest their social security contributions in the market, some few would still be destitute, but the vast majority wouldn't be eating dog food on $950 per month. Social Security as currently constituted is not going to last the life expectancy of anyone under 60. The train wreck is already unavoidable, and delay only makes it worse.



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Libertarian Purity Test. I got a 50, but have no desire to become a hard core libertarian. HT: Classical Values



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Combs Spouts Off has a good point in his article "Purity" vs. Principles. Unfortunately, I've found the average person avoids thinking even more than they avoid physical labor. They don't want to have to think; they want an easy answer. Unfortunately, as Combs notes, easy answers are suspect. There's the old question about "Do the ends justify the means, in general?" People with pat answers either way make me nervous.



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Decision '08 has some information that may give the Clinton Administration some partial cover here, in that at least they were working on a known problem.



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Done With Mirrors notes some campus speech codes. These are first amendment violations at state universities, but shh! don't tell the ACLU. They are not interested. So FIRE steps in.



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I am a little more libertarian on drug legalization than INDC Journal. I'd like to see FDA's role reduced to an advisory one, rather than approval, I'd like to see everything legalized, and if that means that some poor souls will march straight off a cliff into oblivion, it's not like we're really stopping them now, and it would lessen or prevent all kinds of stuff related to the fact that this stuff is illegal now. But I would be extremely happy to take his position, or anything similar, as a starting point, and we fiddle with it plus and minus until we find something that works. Heck, I'd be ecstatic with taking the current situation, and experimenting on an incremental basis, to find out what works. Yes, it'll take a long time, and we'll make mistakes. But the position of changing nothing because this is the received wisdom of the ages is both akin to being safe again in the arms of the Inquisition of the fourteenth century and feudalism, and a belief that society should be static for all time, when in fact, the best solution is likely to change. Today's ideal is certainly not the same as a century ago, and it will not be the same a century from now. Our descendants will have more information, more thinking capacity, and better ways of exchanging ideas than we have.



And on the subject he really meant to cover, yeah, many people do fly off the handle with folks they disagree with too easy. Instead of interpreting it as an ego attack, how about considering it as an opportunity to check one's assumptions?



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As I have said before, I'm trying to ignore a former Crawford Camper as much as I can. But Inside Larry's Head just uses her as a starting point for a well thought out logical post on supporting the troops. I don't agree 100%, but let him make his own case - go read it.



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Mad Mikey has an excellent article on NIMBYism and trying the repeal the laws of economics. It doesn't work; neither does allowing hatred of corporations to rule your politics. He illustrates how.



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No Angst Zone has an excellent article on the mindset of the military post Cold War. I largely agree with the proviso that the military and their civilian controllers are historically always preparing to fight the last war. I strongly suspect that we're going to need a military capable of frontal warfare again, so we cannot forget the practice.



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Pigilito says has an excellent article on geology and medicine, of all combinations of technology.



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Uncommon Insanity examines Hamas, the Palestinians, and Arab actions in dealing with Israel. What they say means nothing compared to what they do, and what they do is destructive.



As a reminder, please be certain to come back Tuesday for Carnival of Liberty VIII hosted here. I will set to auto-post at 6 AM Eastern time so you can look before work if you want. If any of you LLPer's need it earlier, email me before Monday morning!



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Had the girls Friday, so it was light activity. Ramona, the baby, is sweet and easy to take care of, even if I am "Not the Momma!" Hilda (the five year old) hasn't quite gotten over the green eyed monster regarding the baby yet, so she can be difficult at times, but she has learned that Daddy means what he says, so she gives me a lot less grief than she gives my wife. She knows if I say I'll swat her bottom, I will swat her bottom, and so... I don't have to.



Activity may be light for a while. I should be signing the contract to develop my commercial sister site this week, and I got a call from the cardiologist today saying my test was abnormal. So I'm going in for another test Monday morning. We don't think it's serious, but I'm going to set Carnival of Liberty up to auto-post before I leave the house Monday morning just in case they decide I can't come home. My apologies if I don't get to "just before the deadline" submissions on time.



I do find it pleasing that 19 days into August, my visitors and bandwidth usage are already 20% more than my entire July statistics.



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This one hits all the big political issues: Captain's Quarters has an excellent analysis of a 1985 Memo John Roberts wrote having to do with Terrorism and the 1977 Protocols.





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Victor Davis Hanson shares some perspective and some good recommendations in "More Continental Drift? I think most of our old allies in Europe are in the same economic cycle the old communist countries were, just that they didn't have the military expenses or the ideological ones, and so they haven't gone bankrupt yet. But they're getting there.



Before I had a chance to post. he put another essay up The Biteback Effect



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Terrorism Unveiled has an excellent post on the missile attacks. (HT La Shawn Barber



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Daffyd at Captain's Quarters detailing more on how the wall between intelligence and law enforcement was built, and by who (largely 9/11 commissioner Jamie Gorelick). I have previously detailed that this whole idea was not only incredibly stupid, but didn't act to protect anything except the right of foreign and terrorist agents to be free of constraints in operating against us. When will the privacy kneejerkers learn?



Debbie Schlussel has a dynamite grocery list of reasons why it probably wouldn't have mattered if the FBI had been informed. She lists many places where they did nothing, or even killed the messenger. HT to Michelle Malkin



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How far we've come from Eisenhower telling the press we were going to attack Sicily next: La Shawn Barber sends us to Accuracy in Media. Back in 1943, not a single reporter in the room told anybody. Anybody want to guess what would happen in an equivalent situation today? Does anyone have to?



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Michael Ledeen at NRO gives us a Who's Who in Iran's government and a pretty good idea of their intentions, and accomplishments.



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Air America



Radio Equalizer has the promised Part II. It does look like both the SEC and state regulators should be interested in this stuff. I'm only a financial advisor, not a lawyer and definitely not a judge, but it appears to me that there are serious violation of disclosure issues, as this went way beyond a so-called "tombstone announcement" which by my reading of the rules requires a copy of the prospectus filed with the SEC to be given out to every person who heard the pitch. Unfortunately (using a quick search), I don't see any evidence that said prospectus exists, or the required to be available Statement of Additional Information, much less that it was given out. This might be within the legal limits, but from the reported information I don't see how. They send this kind of crooks to the kind of federal prison described in "Office Space" all the time. If this is illegal, this is not an offense that the SEC or state regulators regard as a minor offense. It strikes right at one of the fundamental protections of potential investors.



Michelle Malkin has more.



The New York Sun has put together a web page with of all the stories they've run. HT to Captain's Quarters



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PressThink asked Austin Bay what he thinks about the relationship of the White House and the press, and printed the whole thing. Good, rational food for thought, including on why the White House should cultivate the press.



Dean's World has an idea on how it might all shake out. I agree. If nothing good comes of it, why bother? This would be a loss; this is our country's closest approach to question time in parliament. Nonetheless, given the attitude of the press one wonders why the White House continues to cater to them. It's not like there's any mass conversion in the works.



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Asymmetrical Information wants to ask John Kenneth Galbraith, "If you think that we should equalize the distribution of income, why do you not think that we should equalize the distribution of PhDs?" The answer to this is obvious. If everybody had a PhD, they wouldn't have anybody to look down upon. It's all about whose ox gets gored.



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Chrenkoff has a great follow up to the Jawa Report's research of yesterday, and demolishes the meme about "you have to be X to write about X".



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Wizbang has the scoop on fallout fron Willism's rating Carnival of Vanities Last Week. I'm hosting my third carnival (Liberty) on Tuesday, and let me tell you I've been tempted to do what he did. I am somebody that tries to read every submission to every carnival I submit to, but Will's got a point. A lot of them are simply traffic whoring with drivel, and I make a point to stay away from such blogs in the future. I think, "If that's your best post on the subject," and you can imagine where I go from there. I'm not going to do what Will did unless the traditions of the particular carnival permit, which Liberty doesn't, but every time I host I'm seeing posts that are nothing more than a quick link and a line or two of text, not clever at all. When I submit, I try and tell the person that I won't be offended if they decide not to include it. So I got a 6 rating from Will when I would have hoped for a seven or eight. It doesn't crush my poor little ego. Maybe he didn't think my snarky humor was as good as I did. Maybe he thought I should have done more digging. Maybe he thought I should have fleshed it out more. Big surprise - lot of QC failures going around all over the 'sphere. At least I got a 6 - he considered it actually good. I may not have agreed with all his ratings. But he gave me what can be regarded as a small amount of constructive criticism with his rating. Maybe I can use it to improve. There's a lot of dreck out there. That's why the sites that are consistently good get traffic. Will was Carnival Host and is entitled to his opinions. The host who refuses to include my post, which may I think is good but is in fact drivel, is likely to be doing me a favor. If the clown Will rated zero to gets mad at Will, he's hunting the wrong target. The post was drivel, and I should have taken Will's word for anything below 4. The constructive solution, of course, to do is submit better posts.



(and the fact that many people do quick checkouts is why I try and pick out posters who put effort and thought in and give them a recommendation when I link the carnival. I may not agree with the post, but if it's a good thoughtful post when so many aren't, it deserves to stand out somehow. Two rules: my own posts aren't eligible for carnival recommends. Nor are posts I've already linked.)



Real Estate Roundup

| | Comments (0)

No finished article today, so I thought I'd do a round-up of interesting stuff on one of my pet topics elsewhere.



This study was in the news today. Here is the article. If you're a regular here, it was old news.



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Speaking of the housing market, I've been getting spam the last few days saying "refinance and skip two payments!" This is the mark of scum, as I explain in this article.



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Some issues from the North County Times. All previously reported here.



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Internet Fraud and Complaint Center. If you've been a victim of mortgage fraud, or believe you have, here's an easy place to report it. I also put it in the resource list to the right.



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Michigan looking at predatory lending. Iowa passes one.



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A Neat little resource here at Stop Mortgage Fraud.com. Go here to actually report fraud. I'm also adding these links to the resources list to the right. They repeat the basics of several things I say in my articles.



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A disturbing case that I just found out about. These people are con artists. Inflexible rule: If it seems too good to be true, it isn't true. If we could really do this, why isn't everyone doing it?



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This guy is stuck at denial. Both San Diego asking and selling prices have slipped in the last several months, up to 5% and maybe more in what were some of the hottest neighborhoods, a fact he could verify by looking at MLS. Income is still rising, and unemployment remains essentially unchanged.



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San Diego Housing a few months old. We're not seeing this now.



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An interesting correlation. Bigger gap between top earners and median earners drive housing prices higher.



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A recent article on an ongoing problem that I have noted here several times. People are committing fraud. Agents and loan providers and clients.



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No mortgage discrimitation found.



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Reasons why the government wants appreciation to continue. Somehow, I doubt they are prepared for when it stops.



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Independent verification of the difficulties I talk about in this article, although I go into more depth and specifics about the problems.



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Scams:



HELP FOR FIRST-TIME HOME BUYERS VICTIMIZED IN REAL ESTATE SCAM

Home-buying scam leads to prison





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Some more resources:

Don't be Fooled by a Mortgage Scam

Bankruptcy Scam Operators Can Lock You Out of Your Home

Beware of Predatory Practices in Home Mortgage Lending

Carnival of Vanities is up at Willisms. Favorites: Mr. Snitch, The Idiom, ROFASix,



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This is an interesting idea. Introducing African and Asian species into North America. I'm curious to know what the impact on native endangered species might be, and if we did it, would we essentially be saying that the preservation of elephants is more important than the Lesser Bell's Vireo, or lions more important than mountain lions? Also obvious issues in regards to whether beasts that have evolved for higher temperatures can survive a Nebraska winter, so we might be condemning both sets of species to extinction. More obvious issues in human political fallout - where are we going to get the land? Where's it going to come from? What uses is it going to be withdrawn from? Finally, I'm curious about what happens when (not if) something large gets loose? I seriously doubt that approval will be forthcoming for large carnivores. The article deals with none of these.



If properly thought through and feasible, I'll admit the notion is attractive to me. It'd be cool to be driving cross country and see elephants and maybe lions and tigers and cheetahs roaming free. But I don't want it to do more damage than good. Disturbing the ecological balance in this manner is something that requires a trembling hand of fear.



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Piling On Department: Pigilito says found a good article on what killed Zimbabwe. High taxes. Making war on the rich.



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Jawa Report has stuff on terrorists going to Bosnia. Are we playing whack a mole here, or do the French actually enjoy creating these problems?



On a similar note, Restless Mania tells us that the violence in Darfur is on the rise again, and now they're going after the displaced person camps.



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Dear RINOs and LLPers: I really am trying to hit ten different of each of you every day. Sometimes the bloglists I use get mixed up. Real Soon Now, I'm going to try to add everybody who isn't there already to my site blogroll so I have something under my own control to hit.



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Zenophobia has a report of a Marine who was serving in Iraq being denied Texas state resident tuition. I'd expect this crap in New Yok, but not in Texas. Maybe he should tell them he's an illegal alien. It works in California.



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Boxing Alcibiades has more on Hamas in the wake of the Gaza pullout. See the top of my Links and Minifeatures post yesterday for my thoughts.





Stephen Den Beste over at Daily Pundit covers the Gaza withdrawal from a dispassionate viewpoint. I agree with the allegation that it is unfair, anti-Jewish racism. I agree that Israel has bent over backwards to be accommodating to any hint that the Palestinians would act civilized, and repeatedly been stabbed for it. I'm sorry those people lost their homes. Nonetheless, it was a tactical and strategic mistake for them to be there. I hope they are able to start over again, but given that Israel wasn't willing to annex Gaza, the settlements in Gaza were calculated risks from day one. They lost.



And I suspect and hope that this is the last installment of rope that Israel is going to sell the Palestinians. I think they're going to be looking at regular rocket attacks. Attempts to evade the security barrier both by terrorists and by job seekers are going to be an ongoing flood. But the reason they're bringing the Jewish settlers out of Gaza is so they can keep the Palestinians out of Israel. Israel is going to have to explain over and over that the Palestinians can now make their own destiny (How the Jooooos™ can keep the Palestinians impoverished when there are none around and the Palestinians control the area is beyond me; nonetheless that is what the PA is going to claim). The hope on the part of Israel is going to be that everyone will acknowledge they've done so much that they cannot do any more and still the Palestinians are killing Israelis for no good reason. I think Sharon is underestimating the power of denial, but I can see where this separation has to be tried, politically.



If it were the United States, we'd have lost patience with the problem a long time ago and solved it completely. Can you imagine if native american tribes were lobbing rockets at our major cities off their reservations? Sending out suicide bombers? Spewing the kind of hate that Palestinian TV is famous for? The Palestinians would be in one of three categories: Dead, Assimilated, or Exiled permanently and for real. Okay, four. There's also Jail, in all of its incarnations. But Israel is not the United States, and has constraints that we do not.



With stuff like this going on, I'd like to know how anyone henceforward and forevermore could possibly agree that Israel has not done everything it could to treat the Palestinians well and fairly. I'd really like to know.



LLP's Willow Tree has more. I hope she will accept my apologies for not remembering to seek her out sooner on this issue. I keep thinking I'm going to do a comprehensive list of issue blogs, and haven't done it yet.



(So I'm going to do it. Email me with your issue of choice. If it's too broad, like "Politics", I'll ignore it. But Isreali politics, that I'll note. Or to give a specific example, Decision '08, where his angle is how it effects the next presidential election.)



Related, and in both the Just What We Need Department and Business As Usual Department: United Nations Bankrolled Latest Anti-israel Propaganda with a HT to LGF. If ever terrorists attack New York again and only manage to hit the UN, that would fall under Poetic Justice Department.



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Captain's Quarters has more on Colenel Shaffer coming out of anonymity. He also points us to The Corner who has some worthwhile background supporting Col. Shaffer's credibility. I'm don't think posting the whole interview would qualify as "fair use", so Here's the link (It's at the bottom). My impression is that Col. Shaffer is being very careful to keep it fact oriented. He has an opportunity to say that the commissioners were lying, and instead of allowing the reporter to put words in his mouth corrected the reporter to say that he didn't know why the report was wrong, but he could attest that it was wrong.



Austin Bay thinks it's time for the President to address this issue. I agree. It's not going to get the sustained light of scrutiny it needs otherwise. If it ends up looking like a political vendetta, so be it. Mr. Bush isn't running for anything, ever again. And when you have everything that has been documented on this subject, not investigating becomes dereliction of duty.



LLP's own Mover Mike adds more.



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Michelle Malkin appears to have has the definitive scoop on the Air America stuff. I said some time ago that Air America looks to be teetering on the edge of insolvency, perhaps the kind of criminal insolvency where the feds show up and arrest the receptionist who doesn't know anything because everybody who does has flown the coup. This only strengthens that belief of mine.



Radio Equalizer is supposed to have part II this evening.



Somehow, I don't think Al Franken is a serious threat for the Senate in Minnesota. Now if he were to run for Barbara Boxer's seat here in California, or Nancy Pelosi's, or Hillary Clinton's...



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Wholly Double Standards Batman! Generation Why talks about the disconnect between the Berger case (Admitted, convicted, felony level theft of classified National Security documents) and the fact that a few public documents on John Robert's affirmative action work for the Reagan administration were borrowed by White House lawyers, and returned but subsequently went missing.



La Shawn Barber has more, as well as a hat tip for the lead.



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Who says it's slow season? All kinds of good stuff going on today! Volokh Conspirator Eugene Volokh debunks an ACLU spokesman, as well as carrying the guy's response, which in my opinion does not in any way explain or mitigate his offense. Evenhanded, fair, and still damning. Things of this nature are why that site deserves special mention on a blogroll.



Professor Volokh is also searching for


Unreliable Assurances: I'm looking for examples where (1) the opponents of some proposed law, constitutional amendment, or judicial decision argued "this action will be interpreted in this particular bad way" or "this action will set a precedent that will be used to reach this particular bad result," (2) the supporters assured the public that no, of course this won't happen, and (3) some time down the line -- preferably no more than 50 years, just to avoid especially hard questions of causation -- the foretold result did take place, despite the supporters' reassurances. (It doesn't matter whether you like the ultimate result or not; and it also doesn't matter whether you think the assurances were sincere or not.)





Now, I tried this morning on Yahoo and Google to come up with the cites for the debate in the Senate that proposed a ten percent cap on income tax in the original Amendment that allowed it, and also the warnings that allowing unwed mothers to collect welfare would cause an explosion in unwed mothers. But both of those debates are over fifty years old and I couldn't find a web citation through search engines. If one of you has one, you might send it to the professor. I found a cite here that AFDC does increase illegitimate childbirth, but couldn't find any cites on the original debate. On the Sixteenth Amendment, I couldn't find references to the original debate, although I did find a Cato report on the circumstances here, including other things that were warned about and have largely come to pass.



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"If I Got My News From the Newspapers I'd be Pretty Depressed As Well" Chortle!



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Iraq and the War on Terror:



I do subscribe to US News and World Report. Dead Tree Edition. It's worth it. My issue is late this week and I hope it'll be there when I get home today. In the meantime, thanks to the Instapundit for highlighting this Michael Barone piece about Multiculturalism.



Rising cost of oil may be saviour for Iraqi economy. HT to Austin Bay



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State of Flux has a good take on Japan taking its place in the world by sending peacekeepers. I disagree with a couple of his analogies, but it's a good article.



All Things Jennifer has a cute "marriage" story.



Big Cat Chronicles has good suggestions on planning. I've just sent myself a reminder e-mail to do an article on it ... eventually.



Done with Mirrors has a nice post about Christianity and the separation of church and state. Actually, it's two posts, this one first.



My response to Environmental Republican is that I was actually wondering about the lack of public connections being made. I'm wondering if the press hasn't been asked to de-emphasize connecting the dots, and miracle of miracles, has actually complied. For those travelling domestically, please note that all of the significant events I noted have been not only foreign, but international - so no law enforcement on board. I also wonder what, if anything, is going on behind the scenes. (Keep in mind, also, that the average US yearly toll for traffic accidents is over 50k, as opposed to 3k for the worst year ever on this subject.)



Boxing Alcibiades has a good piece on modern political thought.



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My Summer Ride was a Mustang Convertible, which is probably as close as they can get. I doubt they've got Morgan or Bug-Eyed Sprite listed. Not particular muscle cars, and I've never actually owned either, but can attest that they're both a joy and a blast to drive in a way that nothing else compares.



While I was reading up on the Able Danger controversy this morning, I ran across some side information on a recurring theme of mine. I want to bring this to the attention of my readers:



From the CNN interview of Colenel Shaffer





What I did was I married the land information warfare activity, LIMA, at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, an Army unit, Army capability, to the special operations command for the purposes of this exercise, this targeting exercise of al Qaeda. What the LIWA did — and it was their ability to go through massive amounts of open-source data, 2.5 terabytes, and look for patterns that related to previously-known terrorists. It was that information then which popped up...



S. O'BRIEN: So, by trolling the Internet and LexusNexus, things like that, I think that's what you mean by open source data? Am I right about that?



SHAFFER: Open source — anything that's not a classified database. We're talking about commercial databases, financial databases. Anything that's out there that relates to the real world.



And let me be specific on this. S. O'BRIEN: And his name pops up?



SHAFFER: Well, yes, because terrorists live in the real world. As we recognize from the London bombings, there's a picture of the terrorist in a whitewater rafting trip. They live in the real world just like we do. They plan in the real world.



S. O'BRIEN: What were those documents that — give me a sense of what kinds of documents targeted Mohamed Atta a year before 9/11 as a potential terrorist.





Look at this. This man is telling you that you have no privacy. Just the illusion. If someone wants to find out about you, they can. So don't do anything that you wouldn't want to see on the front page of every paper in the world.



Now, this illusion of privacy allows for a lot of evil things to go on. Identity theft. Cons and scams. Evil men and women going from place to place to place to catch new victims. It allows the powerful to protect their privacy legally while invading yours in fact. They can prevent us from looking at them; it is much easier for them to look at us.



It also allows for the perpetuation of more hypocrisy than most people think about. If it were legal and trivial for me to find out if Mr. Rich or Ms. Powerful violated any number of vice statutes (drugs, prostitution, gambling, blue laws, etcetera), how long would the police be able to hassle ordinary citizens on these points? How long would vices of personal choice like this remain illegal? What would this do to the economic underpinnings of organized crime and gangs? Why should anyone pay Mr. Criminal Drug Dealer whatever the street price of illegal drugs is when they can go buy it at the pharmacy? How much would we save on all the enforcement activities and incarceration? How much would we lower theft, burlary, and mugging when the stuff is no more expensive than aspirin?



On the economic front, imagine if every Good Faith Estimate for every loan that every loan officer ever did was freely available to prospective clients, along with the subsequent HUD-1 when the loan funded. Prospective clients could see if a loan officer did or did not have a track record of delivering what they said they would. Imagine if every real estate transaction had a subsequent issues attachment in a public file, and you could search the database for past performance by an agent, by an owner, or by a property. Imagine if every piece of investment advice could be tracked on a database by who gave it, who followed it (and whether the person giving the advice was among them), and what the results were. The deadwood and parasites would vanish from all three of these professions. Con games and fraud would shrink to a fraction of their current size. Real Estate and loan transactions would have large portions of their costs demolished.



This is not a complete list, by any means. But I've long since decided that this illusion of privacy is far too expensive. It allow the powerful the ability to restrict our liberty while maintaining theirs. It allows the criminal to steal our property. It allows the incompetent to remain anonymous, and the con man to prevent their victims from being warned. It forces us to spend our tax money places it doesn't need to be spent. It allows too much of the way we spend our tax money, and the process by which it is allocated, to remain unscrutinized. It allows the very process by which our tax money is collected to remain unscrutinized, and if potential IRS abuse of the tax code doesn't bother you, or abuse of the tax code by those who can afford "protection money" (i.e. lawyers, accountants, etcetera), then something is wrong.



Bottom line: This illusion of privacy allows those who would do us harm to walk among us undiscovered. It allows those with power the ability to harrass those who aren't hurting anyone. It allows those who have harmed us to escape what should be the consequences of their actions.



This is one book with a very worthwhile explanation of the issues. I've been hitting this subject since before it came out, but Mr. Brin does a more comprehensive job here with these issues than I have seen elsewhere. It also discusses what some limits to transparency should be.



Take your time and decide which is more important to you: Being able to pretend in public, or not having to pretend because no one else can, either. Lies, Hypocrisy, and Demogoguery to distract us, or public disclosure and scrutiny of real issues. Criminals and incompetents and rip off artists being able to pretend in public that they are fine upstanding citizens with our interests at heart, or being carted off to jail, losing their licenses, and just plain being put out of business? Being able to escape accountability for your actions, or being able to ensure that everybody is accountable.



I know which side I'm on.



(If you'll check this article, you'll see that this is a theme I keep returning to, and a Hat Tip to Captain's Quarters for the original link.)



This makes me sick. The constitution and rule of law exist to stop stuff like this from happening. "Accuse a judge of misconduct, get hauled off to jail, and no communication with the outside world." Pass it along if you have a venue to do so. This needs as much Searchlight as it can get.



HT to Libercontrarian.



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Anybody else been noticing an increase in Plane crashes lately? It's gotten to the point where I'm wondering if it's coincidence or enemy action.



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More good news from Iraq, courtesy of Arthur Chrenkoff and Winds of Change. We're going to miss Mr. Chrenkoff when he goes, but looks like others will be taking over.



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Powerline has an excellent debunking of Paul Krugman's foaming at the mouth while keeping head in the sand technique on Social Security.



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Captain's Quarters covers an Independent Sources research about Barbara Boxer's campaign donations from Milberg Weiss. For anyone else reading this in California, I suggest that it's long past time to vote her out. This shows where her loyalties lie, and it's not with the economic well being of this state (Disclosure: I've always voted against her).



While we're talking about Captain's Quarters, he has a good article/editorial about the consequences of the Democrats deciding to offer only token opposition to Roberts. It would be nice if they did more of this. I may be a Elephant-leaning somewhat-libertarian, but the thought that the Donkeys may not be nationally competitive upsets me. We need at least two competitive national parties for a true democracy. We shouldn't allow any party a long-term monopoly of power. So when outbreaks of rationality on the part of the Donkeys happen, I think of it as an good sign and it makes me happy and I want to encourage it. ("Sir," says the sensor operator on the US Rational, "We just had a momentary contact. One ping and it was gone. Sir, do you think it might be the Democrats, come back to look for us after all these years?")



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Carnival of Liberty is up over at Eric's Grumbles. Especially worthwhile: The Unrepentant Individual, No Government Cheese, Kid Various, Different River





I'm hosting next week. Please send your entries either to carnivalofliberty@gmail.com or submit using the form at Conservative Cat here. You may also submit to me direct at the email listed, but that means I have to forward the submission for the archives.



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This and this from Iraq the Model are good signs. If you really want to read an excellent response to a certain unhappy camper in Crawford that I'm doing my best to ignore here, use the link on the right to go to their main page and scroll down to the entries for August 12th. I'm sorry the woman lost her son. It doesn't improve her grasp of any other subject, which, as far as I can tell by the way she runs her mouth, is non-existent. She wants attention, but I don't have to give it to her. 'nuff said.



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INDC Journal has a wonderful debunking of the Anti RU-486 hysteria. I really don't like abortion. The whole idea behind having an abortion is you're killing what would otherwise and in the normal course of events become a human being. I have this old and outdated idea that if I help start a life, I'm indebted to that life to a certain extent, and even if I was a female, nine months of pregnancy is well within the bounds. But I can't build up anything more than a desire for fewer women to use RU-486. Maybe it's just the chemical nature of what's going on that bothers me less, and logically, I realize this is ridiculous; the same objections apply just as strongly to RU 486. But I don't want abortion banned, either. Severely discouraged, yes. Harder to get, yes. Banned? No.



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I try to get to Michael Yon's site at least once per week. He's got three wonderful reports of what he saw while embedded. I suggest you read him for a real idea of what it's like in Iraq.



Every day I pass by another real estate office where the agent has a big banner outside "I SOLD 101 HOMES IN 2004!"



This is what is called a production metric, and this one sounds fairly impressive at first glance, right?



The question I want to ask is how good the price was for the seller. Anybody can sell homes quickly by pricing them 10% under the market. Last year's market was a hot seller's market. In some neighborhoods, a monkey could have sold it for $20,000 over the asking price.



Is there a general "did you sell it for a good price?" metric? Not really. The best I can come up with is whether the appraiser has difficulty getting value to support the sales price so the loan can fund. If the appraisal comes in less than the sale price, the loan will be based off of the appraised value, rather than sale value, and so whereas this is always a difficult situation to be in, that your sale in in this situation says that your agent really did get you a good price. It's comparatively rare, and with the buyer's market we have now, practically non-existent.



Production metrics of this nature are easy to game. When I worked in the financial planning business, the metric used was GDC - Gross Dealer Compensation. How much your firm got paid because of your work. Problem was, it always has two components: how much business you really brought in, and how much turnover there is in your clients accounts. I know people who work at the "no load" fund houses, also. That's their metric as well.



It's a good metric to have. Firms that don't get paid enough, don't stay in business. But, as a consumer, it's not precisely the sort of metric you want your financial planner to be judged on, and neither of these components measures anything important to you. Actually, I take that back. If there's a high ratio of turnover in the client account, it's always bad. There's always the temptation to call an existing client and sell them the "hot new investment" than it is to generate new business. If I was shopping for a planner, I'd look for a low ratio of Gross Dealer Compensation to total assets under management.



Matter of fact, there really isn't a metric in the investment world to measure how good an investment person is on any objective scale. What I'd really like to know is something like the return on investment of their lowest 25 percent of clients and highest 25 percent of clients, and compare that market averages and each other. This would tell me things like "How much (of any gain or loss) is the environment of the market, and how much is them?" and "Are they giving consistent advice?" (Low spread = yes, high spread = no). And not one firm I'm aware of computes this information. Not to pull any punches, what they are all set up to reward is sales ability, not investment genius.



The same can be found in real estate. There are any number of production metrics, but none of "Did Agent A's clients get the best price?", or on the purchase side "Did Agent B's clients pay no more than they needed to?"



Nonetheless, here are a couple of other ideas. If everything I sell is bought by real estate agents acting for themselves, it's not a good sign. The average real estate agent is buying property because the price is below market. They think they can re-sell for a profit, and it's usually not a little one. They're probably not interested in the property that doesn't have immediate equity built in.



If everything I sell is back on the market within a few months for a higher price, that's also not a good sign. That also means it was probably priced below the market.



The agent I talked about at the beginning of this article? I picked up a flyer listing about a third of those sales (thirty-two). Then I went to MLS and did a little search. Over half (18) were back on the market within 6 months for much higher prices. Almost forty percent (12) of total number of new owners identified themselves as being owned by licensed real estate agents on the listing. Seven been subsequently resold for at least a 10% profit, closing within three months of the original sale, even in what became a softening market. Only three are still active. The rest have sold, all at a significant profit, even in this market.



So now tell me, does this agent's "101 houses sold" seem like something that would cause you to want to do business with them?



Didn't think so.



Caveat Emptor.

UPDATED here

RINO Sightings is up over at Balloon Juice. Particularly excellent: MSM Misses Point Again, Oh Man, Why Does He Say This Kind Of Stuff?, The Hitler Zombie Escapes





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This says the ACLU is counting more private security cameras. They don't like it. I disagree. I think that the more records there are the sooner bad guys are going to be caught, the more often they are going to be caught, and the more evidence that those who are in fact innocent will have to present on their own behalf. I think the trends show in the article are Good Things and Encouraging Signs.



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Some non-technical stuff on the Mars Reconaissance Orbiter





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Okay, this is weird: Ukraine gets steamed up over planned Russian porn film



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Armies of Liberation talks about censorship in Yemen.



Armies of Liberation also has an article on malnourished children. This is despicable. Does anyone reading this not think there is be a connection between these data points?



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Anyone doubting the kind of man our president is should read 'I'm So Sorry'. I don't know of any other president who made a habit of this. Certainly none have done so without the press there. You tell me if this is a warmongering cowboy, who had his mind made up that he wanted war with Iraq before 9/11. You tell me if this is the bloodthirsty tyrant eager to sacrifice our children in order to steal Iraqi oil. Ladies and gentlemen, I might have the strength to do this once, with one family. Again and again and again with multiple families, as our president has done? No way. I do think it explains how he keeps himself so focused on the end result of the War on Terror, however. (HT to Balloon Juice for the new article. I've seen similar ones before over the course of the last few years).



I have my disagreements with George W. Bush. Excessive spending and Intelligent Design are two that spring to mind right now. But whatever gods there may be blessed us when he was President on September 11, 2001. So far, his leadership on the front had been not only without significant fault, but stunningly brilliant and focused strategically. I can only hope that his replacement in 2008 will have a fraction of Mr. Bush's clarity and resolve in the War on Terrorism.



Michelle Malkin has a round up on the subject



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Opinion Journal has some good stuff on the immigration debate.



Victor Davis Hanson has more ideas.



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Captain's Quarters on Sunni denial and trying the hold the constitution hostage.



Victor Davis Hanson on the Palestinian Authority promising another Holocaust. And they wonder why nobody will trust them?



The Last of the Light Brigade



There were thirty million English who talked of England's might,
There were twenty broken troopers who lacked a bed for the night.
They had neither food nor money, they had neither service nor trade;
They were only shiftless soldiers, the last of the Light Brigade.

They felt that life was fleeting; they knew not that art was long,
That though they were dying of famine, they lived in deathless song.
They asked for a little money to keep the wolf from the door;
And the thirty million English sent twenty pounds and four!

They laid their heads together that were scarred and lined and grey;
Keen were the Russian sabres, but want was keener than they;
And an old Troop-Sergeant muttered, "Let us go to the man who writes
The things on Balaclava the kiddies at school recites."

They went without bands or colours, a regiment ten-file strong,
To look for the Master-singer who had crowned them all in his song;
And, waiting his servant's order, by the garden gate they stayed,
A desolate little cluster, the last of the Light Brigade.

They strove to stand to attention, to straighten the toil-bowed back;
They drilled on an empty stomach, the loose-knit files fell slack;
With stooping of weary shoulders, in garments tattered and frayed,
They shambled into his presence, the last of the Light Brigade.

The old Troop-Sergeant was spokesman, and "Beggin' your pardon," he said,
"You wrote o' the Light Brigade, sir. Here's all that isn't dead.
An' it's all come true what you wrote, sir, regardin' the mouth of hell;
For we're all of us nigh to the workhouse, an, we thought we'd call an' tell.

"No, thank you, we don't want food, sir; but couldn't you take an' write
A sort of 'to be continued' and 'see next page' o' the fight?
We think that someone has blundered, an' couldn't you tell 'em how?
You wrote we were heroes once, sir. Please, write we are starving now."

The poor little army departed, limping and lean and forlorn.
And the heart of the Master-singer grew hot with "the scorn of scorn."
And he wrote for them wonderful verses that swept the land like flame,
Till the fatted souls of the English were scourged with the thing called Shame.

O thirty million English that babble of England's might,
Behold there are twenty heroes who lack their food to-night;
Our children's children are lisping to "honour the charge they made-"
And we leave to the streets and the workhouse the charge of the Light Brigade!


Rudyard Kipling

Please help if you can.

Soldier's Angels Project Valor

Soldier's Angels Home Page

Reference Tool: IRS Charity Search

My wife and I have an ongoing joke about the alleged thriftiness of my Scottish ancestors. While I was cleaning out the fish tank, my wife showed my elder daughter the virtual bubble wrap popping thing that's been going around. I heard my wife tell my daughter that she couldn't create a new sheet until she popped the last bubble. Conserving virtual bubble wrap? I paused in what I was doing and went over to her, kissed her, and on the spot inducted her into The Ancient and Thrifty Order of Honorary Scottish.



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Done with Mirrors has a great letter from an Iraqi man to Cindy Sheehan.



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On an impulse, picked up Disney's "The Kid" on DVD, and my wife, elder daughter, and I watched it last evening. It was a thoroughly enjoyable movie, maybe a little heavy on the moralizing shtick, but nothing anybody who reads political stuff should have difficulty handling. Bruce Willis, Lily Tomlin, some young actress as the love interest, and a chubby little kid to play Bruce Willis' character as an eight year old. Bruce Willis does a really good job (don't let the fact that most people know him from the Die Hard series fool you - he can act, as those who watched even a little bit of "Moonlighting" know), Lily Tomlin is thoroughly enjoyable, and the kid is a joy to watch as well. All in all, an enjoyable family movie well worth the $10 I spent on it in the bargain bin at Target, and I imagine we'll be watching it again (knowing my daughter, and again and again...). By comparison with a lot of mindless melodramatic dreck out there, I have no idea why it didn't do better in the theaters. Ramona thinks it's because people don't expect Bruce Willis in this kind of role. I say, "Their loss."



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Which Swear (Curse) Word Are You?



HT:Right Thoughts



Your word is BUGGER. You are generally quite
restrained, but sometimes your anger or
frustration come to the surface and it all
comes out. Yet you somehow can't stop sounding
polite, despite it all.



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MuD and PHuD has a good article on the status of the second amendment in New Jersey (locked in the cupboard under the stairs).



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Ogre has a funny worth reading.



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Off to do workout and hold an open house.



Pigilito says found an article on whether the sun was burning when life started on Earth. Cool!



Nose on Your Face has an amusing satire of the blog poll.



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Scrappleface take the right tack on the Indian names controversy. Read the comments, too! Most of the pro teams here in San Diego are already PC enough, but we'd have to change the San Diego State Aztecs to something else. Not as if the Aztec Empire ever got this far. So we need something relevant to the San Diego area that would strike fear into the hearts. Since the San Diego State Lawyers would be inappropriate (no law school), and San Diego State Illegal Aliens would have PC issues of its own, I'd have to suggest San Diego State Marines. Or Navy. (Yes, the last two suggestions are serious, although nothing else about the suggestions)



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LGF has the scoop on why the Iranians even bothered to talk about nuclear weapons.



Captain's Quarters has more about the complete failure of the negotiations to accomplish anything positive, at least from the point of view of preventing the mullahs from frying however many millions of people, or delaying their ability to do so. When you're looking for an excuse not to take action, they'll talk. It won't mean anything except that they're giving the useful idiots cover, while they proceed with work on their facilities. Everybody with a brain predicted this months ago. Why is anybody surprised? I would really like to know. Or was this some kind of research project on the power of Denial? Can I request that next time we make the global consequences a little less extreme? Like say, using sports fans instead of totalitarian religious nutcase regimes that want to be nuclear powers as the research subjects?



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Trying not to chase my tail: I know it's the August slow season, but I'm trying not to chase my tail repeating old information ad nauseum.



If you really want more on the Able Danger stuff, may I suggest Jim Geraghty over at NRO? Barring new revalations, this seems to be the definitive take. Everything else I've seen was tail-chasing without any real new information.



I don't anticipate much new of substance on John Roberts until the hearings begin on September 6, but Captain's Quarters has an excellent article on NARAL pulling their slanderous ad.



Michelle Malkin notes that The NY Times Wall of Silence on Air America has finally cracked. Now they're playing the "can we downplay this any more?" game. Would they have managed to avoid saying anything had it been any time other than August Slow Season?



One wonders why that this story hasn't gotten more attention. Of course, it isn't information on 9/11. But this is where the war on terrorism will be won or lost - by getting serious about the borders and security, not playing politics because politicians are afraid of offending a certain minority which actually wants the problem dealt with. There's quite a disconnect between what hispanics want and what leaders of "hispanic organizations" want. If we can't keep illegal aliens out of the Border Patrol, we've lost.



Yesterday, I checked my referral logs and found an article where somebody was essentially saying "If you want to be depressed, go read this site and then go rent somewhere for the rest of your life".



I can understand where the sentiment is coming from, particularly if they were of the sort of person who wants to meander around occasionally looking at houses until they find one they like, then sign a couple of papers and move in. Lest it not be obvious to you, these are the elements of disaster. I would never put an offer in without looking at at least ten to fifteen properties in the area, without aggresively shopping the mortgage market, or without taking positive steps to insure that I have at least as much leverage over the service providers as they do over me.



The fact is that for most people, the largest transactions of their life are all going to be real estate related. When the average transaction is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and those transactions are so complex as to defy understanding by non-professionals, you have the elements for a system that's going to suffer abuses. Many past abuses have been corrected through the passage of legal impediments, but many others remain, and some are illegal but keep happening anyway (See my article on "What to beware in Third Party Services linked at the bottom of this article).



What I am trying to do here is give you the insider's appreciation for what goes on (although not the professional's specialized knowledge. It may not be "rocket science", but to pretend you can pick up everything a working professional learns and gets exposed to every day by reading a few articles would be false, and of no service to you). With this information, you can debunk the worst of the nonsense that you are told and get a better bargain for yourself no matter who your real estate agents and loan providers and financial planners and whatnot are. I am writing about knowledge that you need to have to understand the system, and I'm not pulling any punches about what goes on, anywhere in the transaction. I'm trying to show you limitations and blind spots in the information you may receive, and show you strategies that put you in a stronger position. Most of the articles I have written thus far pertain to real estate and mortgages, but this applies to other areas I intend to work in as well.



So if you're the sort of person who prefers to go on in an "ignorance is bliss" state of mind, the education may be disturbing. Indeed, many people seem determined to go about their real estate (and other) transactions in this state of mind. They resist when I attempt to educate them in the realities of the market, figuratively in the same vein as people who put their hands over their ears and say "la-la-la! I am not listening! la-la-la! I am not listening!" It's like they want to get taken, or at least not having to think about it is worth more to them than the money they're being taken for. Since the money they're being taken for can easily go into five figures whether it's a purchase or a refinance, I find this difficult to believe. If you're making that much, you shouldn't need a loan.



Nobody does loans for free. Nobody does real estate for free (nobody does financial planning for free, legal advice for free, etcetera). "Free" is likely to be the most expensive service of all (This is different from at such a rate that yield spread pays all costs). If you're of the school that forewarned is forearmed, what you're reading here should give you the information you need to guard yourself against the deceits in the system. I've done lists of "red flags," warning signs not to do business there, "Questions to ask" that you can print out and take with you, "Salesgoodspeakian to English," debunking of pat phrases used to mislead you and what they really mean. I've given you strategies (apply for back up loans, order the appraisal yourself, don't sign exclusive buyer's agreements, etcetera) that give you more leverage down the line. I've gone through what real closing costs are, what points are, and warned you of the dangers of shopping for loans or real estate by what they tell you the payment will be. Most importantly, I've shown you how to keep control of your transaction by being aware at the start of the process what the likely bumps are going to be.



Not everyone in the business does everything I've warned you about. There are ethical providers out there; people like myself who will walk away from business or tell clients the pitfalls if something is not in the client's best interest. You can find us if you look for us. Nor are those who practice otherwise necessarily evil. Real Estate, financial planning, and many other fields are set up such that someone new in the business learns from somebody experienced. In many cases, they've been told "This is the way things are," and they just don't know any better. The person who taught them didn't know any better. It is my aim to ensure that people "know better." The change is not going to come from within the industry - the system is set up for their best advantage, and any one agent or loan provider unwilling to toe the industry line is at a competitive disadvantage, and their business is likely to fail. It's kind of the tragedy of the commons: their own individual behavior shows them nothing to gain, and everything to lose, by full truthful disclosure, and where there are people who do it anyway, we are comparatively few. Therefore, the change must come from outside the industry. So by being knowledgeable consumers and helping yourselves, you provide impetus for practitioners to reform their practices for everyone. It may take a long time, and it may never be complete, but if it's never started I can guarantee it won't get done.

Cool! They're starting to decipher Inca knotwork!



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Frivolous lawsuit number 123,456,789. I don't use Ameritrade, but universals of the business: It is never guaranteed to execute immediately, and the larger the order, the less likely it becomes, and the more likely it is that your order will have an effect upon the price before it is executed in full. Just because you tell your computer to do it now, doesn't mean it gets done now. If you're worried about a delay of a few hours affecting profitability, you shouldn't buy or sell. If you're worried about the price, put a limit order in. Of course, that costs more.





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Strenthen Your Allies Project



Louisiana Libertarian has some good thoughts. It'd be nice if NASA would just get out of the way, but that jeopardizes bureaucratic jobs and power structures.



Art of The Blog makes a good point on money for stem cell research.



I'm The Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog Which Monty Python and the Holy Grail character are you? HT to Unrepentant Individual



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Okay, they've got a point. The drilling proposal doesn't belong in the budget bill. On the other hand, it's necessary, it's wise, and it won't hurt the environment. It's got to be done sometime, and although I'd prefer holding a drilling debate based upon its own merits and with a vote where we know who voted for it and who voted against it, at least this way they'll have to move it along. My guess is that the reason is that your vote on the budget bill is indicative of the pork your district is going to get next year, so it's harder to vote against. (HT to Hugh Hewitt).



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Iraq and the War on Terror:



Politechnical has a good post about throwing the terrorists out.



I'm thinking this is not a good sign: the Palestinians are competing to get credit for the Isaeli pullout from Gaza. The factis the Israelis are leaving because they want to, due to a combination of not wanting the hassle of Gaza and selling the Palestinian authority rope with which to hang itself. The idea of the Palestinians throwing the Israeli's out is on a par with "Neddie, how dare you attack Moriarty's boot with the full force of your teeth!"



Michelle Malkin has a great followup on the 9/11 Report, and Captain's Quarters has more. As CQ notes, it has become past time for Congress to hold hearings. The commissioners have buried evidence and one of them was likely responsible for the failure to deal with the problems before they hijacked four airliners.



Mudville Gazette has a wonderful series of stories on the "Wounds of War". This is part III. It will link you to the first two parts, as well. Let us hope that we don't have a case of "and the thirty million English sent twenty pounds and four" here. Yeah, there's partisan sniping in the article. But let's not lose the main message. These heroes served us when we needed it. When others ducked, they stepped forward. It is incumbent upon all of us to treat them correctly should they need it.



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Bwahahaha! Woman loses 37 pounds eating only at McDonald's. In 90 days.



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Air America



Recovering Democrat has some worthwhile thoughts on Air America.



Michelle Malkin has all kinds of interesting news. Cohen moved to Hawaii, looking for jobs with nonprofits there. Maybe the ACLU will hire him. We can only hope.



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More games with affirmative action, in this case trying to keep a "no preferences" measure off the ballot.



Former Border Patrol agent accused of smuggling denied bail.



The judge even seems rational: "You are an illegal alien," Battaglia told the defendant. "You have no right to work here. You have no right to live here."



Money Quote:



People who know the defendant were "shocked" when they found out about his arrest, and his performance at the Border Patrol was deemed excellent, White told the judge.





What exactly was he evaluated on, and what metrics did they use in those evaluations? See about the seventh paragraph in this article for an idea.





Other stuff on same topic:

The Border Patrol Hired an Illegal Alien and Gave Him a Gun



Horseback Rider compares him to the guy who got caught providing illegal aliens with driver's licenses.



Americans for Legal Immigration has a post



A GAO report that suggests some Border Patrol Sectors work better than others. Ya think?



The Washington Times is covering it



Activists charged because had "entrants" in car. This is pravda. Does anybody have any doubt as to what they were really doing?



Right Side of the Rainbow picked up the story as well.



Counterterrorism blog picked up on it also



Amazing how these birth certificate sites keep popping up very high in my searches for "Illegal Border Patrol Agent Smuggling", isn't it?







Teens urged to be future thinkers. Contest with kind of cool prize.



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Iraq/War on Terror



Jawa Report has some good ideas and good thinking on how we can really win the war on Terror. Wars are won when 1) The other side is all dead, or 2) the other side believes it has lost. Jawa Report has some ideas to convince them they've lost. (Go Penguins!)



Chrenkoff isn't gone yet! Working for the KKKaliphate



Doesn't get much bigger than this StrataSphere has an article on how 9/11 Commissioner Jamie Gorelick kept the 9/11 hijackers from being spotted. Look, we were already at war, we just didn't realize it. I'm sure the Democratic partisans will point out that Ms. Gorelick did us a service in allowing up to be woken up. Except that this might be taken as an endorsement of George Bush's subsequent actions. Quite the challenging dilemma for the "Denial" wing. So of course, they'll try and ignore it, and change the subject. How about those Florida Hurricanes? Did you hear that failing to ratify Kyoto is all George Bush's fault?





On June 25, 1997, before the Kyoto Protocol was to be negotiated, the U.S. Senate passed by a 95-0 vote the Byrd-Hagel Resolution (S. Res. 98), which stated the sense of the Senate was that the United States should not be a signatory to any protocol that did not include binding targets and timetables for developing as well as industrialized nations or "would result in serious harm to the economy of the United States". On November 12, 1998, Vice President Al Gore symbolically signed the protocol. Aware of the Senate's view of the protocol, the Clinton Administration never submitted the protocol for ratification.





oops! See also: Wikipedia



The left is running out of subjects to change to.



Jawa Report has a report on finding bombs belonging to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in Iraq.



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Bad news for California: Schwarzenegger Redistricting Rejected



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Yemen:



YAY! Saleh orders minors released!



Move along! Nothing to see here. Move along! It NEVER happened!



Well, Papa Joe never pretended he was ready to relinquish power, but Ali Saleh: A Stalinist?





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Big Hat tip to Dr. Sanity for pointing me to this: George W. Bush allowed 9/11 to happen so that Ann Coulter could kill The French. Go generate your own conspiracy theory! Why let the "progressives" have all the fun?



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If this is what's going on, why are they there? Some question third year of law school



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LaShawn Barber takes down Affirmative Action nonsense and points out the cognitive dissonances. I read people complain about her having a "queen bee" attitude, but I love reading someone who is not only determined to make it based on her own abilities, but who has done so, and expects others to do so. To those who criticise her (and my) anti-affirmative action stance, flame away.



While we're at it, Michael Barone comes out convincingly against Native Hawaiian sovereignty. I made my opinion clear in this article.



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John Roberts Supreme Court stuff:

Boston Globe suggests catholics not be permitted to be Supreme Court justices as they have an allegiance to Catholicism, not Roe vs. Wade. I'm sure most readers are aware that there is a constitutional prohibition on sectarian requirements or prohibitions for public office, but the Boston Globe (among others) has forgotten. OpinionJournal has the best take down I've seen of this nonsense. Maybe it's time I ran my old essay on "atheism vs. Atheism".



Captain's Quarters has some wonderful reporting on the NARAL ad against John Roberts.



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Speaking of Opinion Journal, Brendan Minter has a good article on why Jeb Bush may be a good pick for 2008. Assuming Condi really won't run, he'd be up there for me, too.



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Air America:



Professor Bainbridge and Captain's Quarters have some thoughts well worth reading on the transfer to the current ownership of Air America.



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Is there anybody who is not disgusted by this? Despite Illegal Status, Buyers Get Home Loans. This is actively circumventing the loan process so you can do business with lawbreakers. I've done hundreds of real estate loans. I ask a bank to do one without a social to check credit for legal residents, and I can hear the laughter and hoots of derision from underwriters across the country. Not going to happen. Why do illegal aliens get special priveleges?





Well he is a Navy Veteran, I'll give him that.



But the allegations are:



Not US Citizen (Veterans get citizenship at 8 years, I believe. I think it should be shorter, but this isn't the issue)



Perjury (lied about being a citizen)



Smuggling of Illegal aliens and conspiracy to smuggle same



Having business with a gang being investigated for drugs



submitting false documents



Not to mention little details like dereliction of duty, the fact that he's a citizen of another country that he can walk to, that nobody has been able to find documentation that he entered the country legally, and that there are likely to be bad folks who want him to disappear given what he can probably testify to.



I'm not a lawyer or a judge. I have no idea what the requirements for denying bail are. But it seems to me this is a one time it should be considered.



Question: When do you know it's really bad?



Answer: When even the Moonbats on Democratic Underground sound comparatively rational (so far...)





P.S. Here's the site that came up # 9 on my search for Illegal Border Patrol Agent Smuggling. Does anyone wonder why? This site was #11 on the same search.



P.P.S. Here's a resource I just stumbled on : American Patrol Report here's another



Traffic Whore Update: Jawa Report is inviting do it yourself fatwas. Don't mind if I do.



This is one instance where life should imitate Scrappleface: Hiroshima Survivors Celebrate Life-Saving Atomic Bomb



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I would really love to have more for you folks on the Illegal Alien who got a job as a Border Patrol agent and was helping smuggle other illegals into the country (as well as being connected to a drug gang), but it's like the story has fallen off the edge of the earth. There is literally nothing. I sent emails yesterday, and I even called to ask OPM exactly how long background checks are taking, how long a typical agent is working before it is complete. Stone wall. Maybe I'll try a FOIA request, but those take a while.



If anybody missed it, start here and read the other articles in the thread.



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Iraq/War on Terror



Al Qaeda Magazine Published Openly in Turkey! (HT: LGF)



On the plus side, Captain's Quarters tells of discontent in the ranks in Iraq.



Victor Davis Hanson posted an essay on Saturday with more on more on comparisons between Islam and Christianity, which I covered in this article



I'm thinking this is not a good sign: Mauretania junta frees jailed Islamists. HT to Little Green Footballs



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Air America/Gloria Wise



HT to Powerline for directing me to Radio Equalizer who shows that I may have been right in my speculation at the end of this post



Chortle!: "If every one of their listeners gave a dollar, they'd have, like, a dollar" Michelle Malkin has more.



Captain's Quarters shows us exactly how few Legacy Media crickets are chirping on this story, with a comparison to the Martha Steart story.



Michelle Malkin has the smallest violin in the world: It's Alive! Al Franken speaks on the scandal. Macho Nachos has more on Franken not being paid. My hunch is that he's still being paid too much.



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Housing Bubble: "statistical canary in a mine shaft".



Given the state of the market here, the canary hasn't exactly died, but it's having difficulty remaining conscious.



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Things like this article give me hope that we may conquer poverty and hunger after all.



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Holy Shades of Tammany Hall, Batman! Michelle Malkin links to a Newark Star-Ledger about the governor's office steering Homeland Security funds to Donkey districts.



Stop the ACLU has an article about how the Florida ACLU is funded. Why do I feel like Kate Capshaw's character in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Bugs?



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La Shawn Barber celebrates real diversity.



Scrappleface has more along the same lines



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Amusing timewaster department: Virtual Bubble wrap (HT to Owlish Mutterings)



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How did this guy get on the Huff'n'Puff? Greg Gutfeld. It's almost like something out of Sesame Street, "One of these things is not like the others" - amusing, that is. I had no idea who he was until I ran a Yahoo search on him, and I only looked at the first page of results, so that may not be representative, but I guess he's not quite a big enough name to get into a really top notch celebrity lobotomy clinic yet, so in the meantime he may be worth watching.



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Powerline debunks a NARAL ad aimed at John Roberts. This is, sad to say, the sort of nonsense I've come to expect of them - "But trust us, it's okay , we're the good guys! Honest! Really! Would we lie to you?"



The background sound you hear is me losing my lunch again. Probably for the best, given my current weight, but it's no fun while it's happening.



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Q and O has a good taxonomy of liberal blogs. Time to do a couple of quick adds to the roll. It doesn't cause cancer. I figure a certain portion of the time I will learn something, the rest I'll be able to get a laugh.



And for those who actually are enemies, I'd rather find out what they're up to now than find it out later. Everybody from Sun Tzu to Macchiavelli to Clausewitz and on has things to say about that.





From an email:



I was in the process of buying and selling the house when we saw a FSBO house we liked was for sale. But sale fell through, which is a good thing anyway because of contigency on our house. But I also suspected it failed ecause the seller refuses to pay commission to our buyer agent.



My question is that this real estate agent that would represent us as a listing agent is also a buyers agent. However, I had another friend look into the contract and the buyer's agent agreement is valid until December 31, 2005. So that means anytime we find a house, he will be paid? We do the work to find a house and he gets paid? It didn't strike to me as ethical or fair. It will simply takes us off the real estate market until January 1, 2006 when we can start all over with a clean slate. Correct?



We don't think it should've been in effect until December 31. It should be in effect only for that FSBO house we liked, and if the deal falls through, then his job as a buyer's agent also stops.



Am I dealing with a greedy real estate agent or is this typical?



Can I have one agent to sell our house and another agent that represents us to buy a house?





This depends upon the nature of the agreement you signed with him. I use non-exclusive buyer's agreements, which basically say that if I introduce you to the house, then I get paid when you buy it. Others use exclusive buyer's agreements, where they get paid no matter who finds the house.



If I have an exclusive buyer's agreement with you, then I am going to get paid on any house you buy. If I have an non-exclusive agreement, I will only get paid if I introduce you to the house, and you may have any number of non-exclusive agreements in effect as long as you are careful to inform each agent you are working with that you have previously been introduced to a given property, and therefore, any commission that takes place will be paid to the other agent. All of the forms used by California Association of Realtors state that you will pay a commission to the agent if the seller won't, so an agent has comparatively little stake in which house you buy, as long as you buy one through them. This gives them the largest possible incentive to work on your behalf, without binding you to one particular agent who rather be working with another client who came along with a bigger budget, and therefore a bigger commission in the offing. When looking for homes to show, ethical agents won't seek out a For Sale By Owner (FSBO) for reasons I go into near the bottom of this article (basically, protecting your pocketbook), but these do not apply if you, the client, choose to make an offer on a FSBO.



I suspect that you signed an Exclusive Buyer's Agent Contract with him, something I would not do unless he's providing you with lists of foreclosures or something. Once such a thing is signed, that agent is going to get paid no matter what house you buy during the agreed upon period. I would never agree to either a listing or buyer's agents period longer than six months. This gives the agent plenty of time to sell your house or find you one. So if the agreed upon expiration is December 31, 2005, then if you buy before then, that agent will be paid - out of your pocket, if not the seller's.



There are two competing factors here. One is your desire not to pay for services not provided for this particular transaction, versus the agents desire to get paid if they actually do the work anyway. If they serve as your negotiating agent, or help expedite the transaction by providing services, they are ethically entitled to be paid whether or not they introduced you to the property. On the other hand, if all they do is obstruct, there is neither a legal nor an ethical reason why they should be paid. Depending upon the nature of their obstruction and how much it cost you, you may wish to contact an attorney to recover, or your state's Department of Real Estate



Sad to say, there are agents out there looking to line their own pockets in any way they can. A better agent wants to get paid, but realizes they will make an excellent living - better in the long term - by putting your interests first. Without more evidence, I cannot say for certain, but it appears at first glance that this agent had you sign an exclusive buyer's agent agreement in order to represent you in a transaction you found. I am not aware of any regulation prohibiting this, but it does seem like it's excessive from a neutral viewpoint. It is probably not voidable, however.



There are standard California Association of Realtors (CAR) forms for both exclusive and non-exclusive buyer's agents agreements. Look up at the title of your copy. If it says "Exclusive", you are stuck with this person. If it says "Non-exclusive" you may do business with anyone you please, as it applies only to those properties this particular agent works on. Of course, many agents and brokers use non-standard forms for this, as the standard CAR forms are readable and understandable by anybody. If they want to throw curves, non-standard forms are one of the best ways to do it.



As to whether you are dealing with a greedy agent or if this is typical, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. As in all sales occupations, the idea of locking up your business creates powerful motivations for them to have you sign exclusive agreements. There are nonetheless, people such as myself who feel that if I am not helping you, I don't deserve to be paid, and let someone else have a shot. But if I've got an exclusive agreement with you, I should be providing daily foreclosure lists, copies of all new listings, or at least something that goes above and beyond sitting on my hands.



Many agents want you to sign an exclusive buyer's agent agreement before they do anything else. Unless you're getting something special out of it, you shouldn't sign one at all. Offer to sign a non-exclusive buyer's agent agreement - that way you have leverage over them, not them over you. They are motivated to work for you and find you a property that is attractive to you at a price you want to pay, because if they don't, someone else will. Even the best agent can't find stuff that doesn't exist, like a 3 bedroom home in La Jolla for $250,000, but if it does exist I'm going to work to find it first, and I will get paid for it because our agreement says I will get paid if I introduce you to it. If you have signed an exclusive agreement, there is no particular hurry for them to help you.



Finally, listing agreements for sale are (in general) individual agreements for a particular piece of property for a particular period of time. As long as there is no more than one listing agreement per property in effect at a time, you can have any number of different agents for sales, even if you have signed an exclusive buyer's agreement for purchases.



Please let me know if this does or does not answer all of your questions.




UPDATED here

RINO Sightings

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Welcome to RINO Sightings for the week of August 8th, 2005. Rather than weaving into a single lyric like the last two hosts, I tried to find appropriate lyrics for at least every category. Everybody says my music collection is eclectic, but I hope you approve. If one particular name seems to predominate, well, he's one of the best society and political songwriters out there. Enjoy!



(As a side note, some entries inadvertently got left out last week, and that oversight has now been repaired.)



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And all the science, I don't understand

It's just my job five days a week

(Elton John "Rocket Man")



Respectful Insolence explains the difference between science and faith in The final straw: Bush endorses intelligent design



Big Cat Chronicles gives us Now let's talk about faith-based versus science teachings. If there is no possible method where it can be unequivocally disproven, it's not science.



Mossback Culture tells us why we shouldn't teach Intelligent design in school with Exposing the children to different ideas



StandingOutInTheCold has a radical suggestion for parents who want intelligent design taught in Unintelligent Debate



aTypical Joe has some give and take in On the future (& Intelligent Design)





You say Tomato, I Say Toe-mah-toe

You say Potato, I say Po-tah-toe

Tomato, Toe-mah-toe, Potato, Po-tah-toe

Let's call the whole thing off

(Partisan Politics)



Politburo Diktat talks of who is and is not doing worthwhile work in Restless Mania sends us Hooray, we LOST, but only by four points!. Here's to manufactured triumph!



Don Surber presents Anti-Byrd Ad Gets An A. Of course, it's up against the guy who brings home the bacon so much that a government supported drive to canonize him would get lost in the shuffle.



Louisiana Libertarian gives us Another Reason Why The LP Shouldn't Be Taken Seriously, or, how the LP prevents themselves from being taken seriously.



Decision '08 give Arianna a lesson in mathematics and disclosure with News Flash: 8 of 10 Americans Make 80 Percent



Countertop Chronicles sends us The Rino In The Middle





A messenger came, blood on his feet and a wound on his chest

"The Christians are coming," he said, "I have seen their cross in the west"

In a rage Saladin struck him down with his knife

and he said, "I know that this man lies

They quarrel too much, the Christians could never unite!"

(Chris DeBurgh, "Crusader")



Don Surber sends us Al-Jazeera's New Hero: Tojo. Always looking for advantage?



Don Surber presents Banned Word, although he slides by with the same tactic as ancient writers of Hebrew.





You got the price of admission

You don't have to ask permission

To take somethin' from another man

You cross a lawyer with the godfather baby

Make you an offer that you can't understand

(Don Henley "Gimme What You Got")



The Art of the Blog presents Texas Moves to Stop Eminent Domain Abuse. I really hope it works.





Here we are, born to be Kings

We're the princes of the Universe

(Queen, "Princes of the Universe")



Tinkerty Tonk debunks the myth about women being unable to lead in Women presidents



The Art of the Blog tells us that Supreme Court Justices are still human in A Note About the SCOTUS. I seem to remember something about the Romans commissioning a slave to ride beside a hero in their triumphal parades.



Tom Hanna at Tom Rants talks about recess appointments in Abuse it how?





Every evening, you come around here

in your cloak of lies

(Al Stewart "Angel of Mercy")



Countertop Chronicles tells us about Phoney Baloney Democrat BS





There's a sign in the desert that lies to the west

Where you can't tell the night from the sunrise

and not all the king's horses and all the king's men

have prevented the fall of the unwise

(Alan Parsons Project, "Turn of a Friendly Card")



Your host at Searchlight Crusade has a topical paragraph with links on Real Estate Bubble





Soho feeds the needs and hides the deeds, the mind that bleeds, disenchanted, downstream in the night

(Al Stewart, "Soho")



Environmental Republican tells us about a man driven to suicide in The Power of Life and Death



All Things Jennifer talks about disillusionment with I hate these people



Inside Larry's Head talks about Wow It's been a while... (Hiatus UPDATE)





I sit here now on the banks of the Rhine

Dipping my feet in the cold stream of Time

And I know I'm a dreamer, I know I'm out of line

With the people I see everywhere



The couples pass by me, they're looking so good

Their arms round each other, they head for the woods

They don't care who Ernst Roehm was, no reason they should

Just a shadow that hangs in the air

(Al Stewart, "Last Day of June 1934)



Classical Values gives us a creepy parallel in Inflammatory talk beats colorless totalitarianism





Every night I say a prayer in the hopes that there's a heaven

But every day I'm more confused as the saints turn into sinners

(Styx, "Show Me The Way")



Louisiana Libertarian tells of of James Dobson violating Godwin's Law in James Dobson compares embryonic stem cell to Nazi Germany



phin's blog doesn't think it's a smiting in A smiting or not?





I'll never know, I'll never know

Why I was taken from the line and all the others

To board a special train and journey deep into the heart of holy Russia

And it's cold and damp in the transit camp and the air is still and sullen

and the pale sun of October whispers the snow will soon be coming

And I wonder when I'll be home again and the morning answers "Never"

And the evening sighs, and the steely Russian skies go on forever

(Al Stewart, "Roads to Moscow")



Armies of Liberation gives us Yemen: The Week in Review





I can't deal with these periscope views

And the caveman scrawl that you call news

Hey, why don't you make a note to cancel your next visit?

Well I knew that things were getting out of control

When you found your faith and lost your soul

(Al Stewart, "Here in Angola")



Pigilito Says covers the ground in Another explanation of Islamic terror which leaves out Islam





Pandora comes today

The warning signs flash in her eyes

The old familiar feelings rise again

(Al Stewart "Pandora")



World According to Nick tells us about Bill O'Reilly's Whoops





Ah remember the first day of man on the Moon

The whole world was watching, the whole world in tune

It was hard to believe he was the same as me and you



Oh, look back to the future and look down the years

It wasn't all battles and bad news and tears

We have brought to this place a desire to have a Dream

(Chris DeBurgh, "The Spirit of Man")



Finally, your host wishes to make discourse less rancorous with Let us Disagree Without Being Disagreeable



Feel the Anchor sinking

And voices ringing clear

Oh Welcome my kindred

And friends are none so dear

("Journey's End" traditional, arrangement Clannad)





This concludes our tour. Please return your seats to the full upright position. Make sure you have all your valuables with you as you debark. Have a great day and come see us again. Your next week's host: Balloon Juice



"RINO Sightings can also be found at The Truth Laid Bear's ÜberCarnival."



Eric's Grumbles responds to one of my posts responding to one of his.



Now, Eric, before I get started on the issues you managed to embed in your attack tirade, let's pull a few quotes from your response:





Wow, where to start with this mishmash of thought!



The Constitution is written in plain English, albeit late 18th century vernacular. But that is not so different from today's English that an 8th grader can't understand what it says. In fact, I first read the Constitution in its entirety and analyzed its meaning in 8th grade, in my US History class. This clearly means to say that I have a right to be secure in my property, and not just my house. I hate to restate the language, since it is so clear, but apparently I must.





This leaves out misstatements of my points and straw men which I intend to demolish later. These are pure ad hominem attacks. Where, precisely, in my response did I say anything to deserve either of these? That you perhaps do not understand my position, or choose to pretend you do not understand my position, is not grounds for this.



Basically, I thought better of you and if this is an example of how you deal with an argument perhaps I would be better off not interfacing with you. If we cannot agree to go after the issue rather than the individual espousing it, I'm afraid this will be my last communication to you.





Now, to the issues:



First off, you either misunderstood or misstated the effects of the following passage:



Me:



That it is unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment, or as a violation of privacy, is incorrect and at best an easy excuse to harrass the government. My right not to be killed or wounded in a public conveyance trumps your right to keep explosives in your backpack, or to keep items of whatever nature private in your backpack, and one has no reasonable expectation of privacy in a public conveyance.





Eric:



You don't have a "right to privacy" in a public place, thus the 4th Amendment doesn't apply.





That's public conveyance, actually. The distinction between what I actually said and what Eric said I said is important, for reasons that become clear later. See below.



He actually spends paragraphs on it later:



Now, personally, I wouldn't tackle this problem with a lawsuit as the NYCLU did. If I lived in New York and a Transit Authority police officer tried to search me, I would demand to see a warrant and then refuse to be searched when the officer couldn't produce one, nor show probable cause to my satisfaction that I was a threat or public danger. If I was prevented from entering the subway, or arrested, I would fight the case as far as I had to, which I suspect wouldn't be very far, to show that the attempted search, and subsequent arrest, was unconstitutional. If I were simply prevented from entering the subway, I would bring a lawsuit under Article 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment:



1. 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.



The important part is that no state shall make/enforce laws that abridge my privileges and immunities, specifically search and seizure and the right to peaceably assemble.





The problem is, you're hunting the wrong target.



A public-benefit corporation chartered by New York State in 1965, the MTA is governed by a 17-person Board. Members are nominated by the Governor, with some recommended by New York City's mayor and the county executives of Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Dutchess, Orange, Rockland, and Putnam counties, with the members representing the latter four casting one collective vote. The Board also has six rotating non-voting seats held by representatives of organized labor and the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee (PCAC), which serves as a voice for users of MTA transit and commuter facilities. All Board members are confirmed by the New York State Senate. Source here





In short, it's a corporation. Publicly chartered, publicly controlled, but a corporation - not the state, not the feds, not the government. They issue bonds to investors in their own name. The related entity supplement does not discuss any aspect of government at any level. Various government agencies are on the board of directors, but it remains a corporation legally independent of them as much as Microsoft is legally independent of Bill Gates. When you deal with MTA, you are not dealing with a government, federal, state, local, or otherwise. YOU ARE DEALING WITH A CORPORATION. Yes, the Mayor of New York has a relationship with the corporation. This doesn't mean that it is not legally distinct. Corporations are not bound by the Fourth Amendment - As I understand it, only a governmental entity can be the proper object of a fourth amendment suit. If I had realized you didn't know this, I probably would have stated it more explicitly, as I do not know of a public conveyance which isn't run by a public corporation. It's kind of universal in this country, although there are likely exceptions somewhere.



This corporation has a legal duty of care to take all possible steps to ensure that the conveyances are safe, not only from poor practices on their part, but from actions of third parties who may have active hostile intent. You are under no obligation to do business with the corporation, and aside from things such as Title VI covering non-discrimination, the corporation is under no obligation to do business with you. If it announces it will allow no riders wearing green on March 17th, and you want to ride, you'd better leave the green leprechaun hat at home. They want to search every backpack going in, the state of the law allows it. If you refuse to be searched, they are within their rights not permit you to ride. If you sue, you'd better be prepared to pay their attorney's fees.



More Eric:



Moving onwards with Dan's arguments. The idea that Dan's right to be protected from a terrorist means that the government can take away (or trump, to use his terms) some right of mine is the entire foundation for the Patriot Act, among other things. Yet, in historical terms, when the US has taken such actions, we have later decided that they were wrong, or even unconstitutional. The clearest one, of course, was the relocation and internment of American citizens of Japanese descent (Nisei) during World War II. This was clearly unconstitutional and was based in just the concept that Dan expresses. The fear that one of these Americans might be a spy or saboteur caused us to infringe their inherent rights. Not only was it wrong, morally, but it was also ineffective.





This is a classic logical fallacy: The straw man. Setting up a different example which you flame away at, and burn up. To many people, in many situations, it might appear that you have made a valid argument. You haven't. Previous examples are not this one. The USA PATRIOT Act has been ruled constitutional, as a matter of fact. (As an irrelevant aside, you might talk to Michelle Malkin as to whether Internment was effective and reasonable. We already know it was ruled unconstitutional, correctly in my opinion, albeit by a generation of justices who I'm not convinced understood the situation.)





The idea that somehow Dan's rights are more important than mine is a fallacy. It creates a set of citizens who have more rights than others. And it is part of the slippery slope from individualism to collectivism. If you believe in life, liberty and property, limited, constitutional government and the individual over the group, then you have to see this fallacious argument for what it is, an argument that uses consequentialism to elevate the needs of the group above the needs of the individual.





Actually, this is a misrepresentation of what I said, namely, one right of mine trumps a different one of yours. In this particular context, my statement happens to be true, as I believe that I have demonstrated above. Also, I was speaking in the aggregate although I am to fault for not making this explicit. I thought it was obvious, but evidently I was wrong.



But this whole argument of Eric's also rests on another logical fallacy: appeal to popularity. In fact, I do not see it; I actively disagree. I think we are far safer, and individual rights are more assured, when everybody has to submit to those searches. No exceptions for Mr. Millionaire or Ms. Politician. They're going to search us anyway, legally or not, if not in this setting, then in another (From Heinlein or realpolitik: What happens if you outlaw bugs?). It is my considered opinion that we are better off if the law gives us the same right to search them and their cronies.



Me (repeat of above quote)



That it is unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment, or as a violation of privacy, is incorrect and at best an easy excuse to harrass the government. My right not to be killed or wounded in a public conveyance trumps your right to keep explosives in your backpack, or to keep items of whatever nature private in your backpack, and one has no reasonable expectation of privacy in a public conveyance.





Eric:



And I must say that the idea that I shouldn't "harrass the government" is certainly not consistent with the founding of this country. Indeed, Dan betrays, here, a very clear "classic conservative" approach to politics. Not an ideological "neo-con" approach, but rather the way that the Tories of 18th Century England thought. This is a paternalist way of thinking, a "father knows best" sort of statement. The government knows best until they are clearly demonstrated to have done something wrong. This is 180 degrees opposite from how I think, and, indeed, how our Founding Fathers thought. I have the right, indeed the duty and and obligation, to "harrass" the government any time I think it has overstepped its limited authority granted within the Constitution. And I don't intend to stop because of the global war on terror, or whatever we're calling it today. In fact, the destruction of my freedom to behave as I please and say what I want is precisely one of the goals of our enemies. Given that, Dan, you should be supporting my harrassment of the government, not opposing it.





The relevant part of my quote being the first sentence. Actually, I didn't say that I necessarily oppose, nor do I actually oppose, harrassing the government. In this case, however, it is harrassing the government to no good purpose as they are not the proper object of your ire, which is something I do oppose. I did not, nor am I going to argue that you can't do it, but you'd be wasting tax money to no good purpose. We're all paying for this crap, every time it happens. That you have the right to bring a case does not imply that you should.



One last bit of Eric:



Finally, we come to my own consequentialist argument. Now, in my opinion, my consequentialist argument is the weakest portion of my argument, but Dan takes it as the strongest portion of the argument. This betrays a position that is founded in utilitarianism, not principle, rights of the individual and the Constitution. It is absolutely true that the random searches are completely ineffective, and should be stopped. But if they were constitutional and moral then the only argument I could make would be that they were not going to work. This, alone, might not be reason enough for me to go along with trying to stop the searches. However, when you combine the consequentialist and the moral to arrive at the same position, then you have an argument I cannot ignore. And clearly the searches are a waste of time and money, they cannot possibly work, as constituted. If I have malicious intent and I see a police officer conducting searches at the subway entrance I plan to use, I can simply turn around, walk a few blocks and enter the subway by an entrance that is not the site of an illegal search.





The part about my belief that it's the strongest argument "betrays a position founded in utilitarianism" is an ad hominem, as it implies that a position founded in utilitarianism, or that someone who espouses utilitarianism, cannot be right. This is not the case. Now, the reason I believe it is your best case is because it's your only case with a solid legal basis, as I believe that I have shown above. Yes, judges rule Fourth Amendment applies this all the time, and if the MTA doesn't appeal, the ruling stands. But my understanding is that all the standing precedents go the other way.



Now it happens that my position does flow not only from love of liberty but from utility (not utilitarianism, in the sense I belive you mean) as well. Love of liberty is not my only parameter, I admit it. Actually, I'll shout it from the rooftops if you so desire. So what? I've got kids, and nephews and friend's kids whose future I care about as deeply as my own, if not more. I want a society that works and perserveres and continues to grow, and purist positions are often not sufficiently grounded in reality to perservere. For example, the platforms of the Communist and Green and Libertarian parties. Reading L. Neil Smith makes a pleasant fantasy, but in the real world it'd last about three weeks. I am an incrementalist. I want to construct society in such a manner that it is stable in the mathematical sense, as well as tending further towards personal freedoms. Better pretty good and stable or getting better for the forseeable future than perfect for a short time and then gone. Furthermore, a lot of the libertarian positions has never really been tried, or not on the scale of the United States - there is no data as to whether it actually works. Maybe we've got a wonderful theory that doesn't work quite as we think. If the evidence says that a given idea doesn't work out as planned, I'd like the ability to change it back. Maybe we even have an idea like communism, where it isn't going to work at all if we ever get to try it. Some metaphorical prices I will not pay, and I suspect (without evidence) that most folks, and even most of those sympathetic to libertarian positions, agree with me. And for what it's worth, I think those libertarians determined to accept nothing less than a purist vision are part of the problem, not part of the solution, but instead of coercion (believe my way or else!) like the dreaded statist of libertarian lore, I believe in persuasion and rational argument to the issue and even (gasp!) agreeing to disagree.



Now, my understanding of the libertarian position says that this still makes me a libertarian if I want to be. But if we're going to get into persecutions for being imperfectly pure of belief according to the beliefs of one (or any other number of) self-appointed high priest(s), perhaps I just need to leave the church on my own, as I understand this being the United States of America, I still have that option. Your call.



UPDATE: Snippiness forgiven. Eric in comments makes a reply, so here is mine. References are to the comment.



Paragraph two: This is the definition of a straw man argument. Guilt by association.



Paragraph three: Does not matter who is conducting the searches, only who is requiring them. It is the MTA. That the NYPD is helping out is nice, and helps the searches go faster, but it is the MTA requiring them. Does not matter really matter that MTA is publicly owned, what matters is that it is an independent non-governmental body which the average citizen does have a realistic choice of not patronizing.



From the local NBC affiliate



North County Times:Border Patrol agent charged with smuggling, faking citizenship



San Luis Obispo Tribune: same thing with minor differences Border Patrol agent charged with smuggling, faking citizenship



Yahoo News:Border Patrol Agent Accused Of Smuggling Immigrants (appears to be a marginal rewrite of the AP wire story)



AP Wire from Contra Costa times with a few more details: Border Patrol agent charged with smuggling, faking citizenship



Some background here.



In my opinion, every Border Patrol agent needs to know the following spanish:



"Alto!" (Halt)

"Pone sus manos en la cabeza!" (Put Your Hands On Your Head!)

"Va alli" (Go there!)

"Sea reservado" (be quiet)



Everything else can wait until they get back to HQ for processing. The part about "You are under arrest. You have the right to remain silent..."? This should be in english. Repeat in spanish later, from the translator at HQ. If they can't communicate with the agent anyway, what's he going to do? Torture him into confession using sign language?



SF Chronicle



The story even got to India!



All of these folks need to be told they are under heavy scrutiny (from NPR). Not that I care about cannabis, but Aliens aren't the only thing the Border Patrol is smuggling



Some seriously scary stuff (almost up to my initial snark on the subject, linked below)



I know he's a federal bureaucrat playing Advance Your Career, but how stupid does this guy thing we are? I don't work for the government anymore. I don't have to act like I believe things this stupid.





To leave the field clear for RINO Sightings here tomorrow, other posting will be light. No daily personal finance post, and any links/minifeatures I do will not post until Tuesday. I will continue with the saga of the illegal Border Patrol Agent if I find out anything more. Also, it seems I'm back at the "Large Mammal" level, and likely to stay there this time (Whether Powerblogs or Sitemeter is correct in my traffic count, the former saying about 250 per day, the latter saying 110, Large Mammal is good, and I'm not likely to go higher for a long time, if ever. I do tend to believe the figure that determines how much I pay in bandwidth charges, however).



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Mudville Gazette has a moving tribute to some Every Day Heroes. If it doesn't move you, my utmost condolences.



Blackfive has a different take on the same subject, and also a Poem that should cause certain people to go into hiding if they had any kind of a conscience. If you think it's all about political gain, you should maybe step aside and let others talk, because you certainly don't understand what's going on. A turning point in the Byzantine empire was the battlefield betrayal of an emperor by a politician general who wanted his ally to be emperor. The battle turned out to be a disaster for the empire from which it went steadily downhill. These days, it doesn't have to happen on the actual battlefield to be a betrayal.



Makaha Surf Report explains things very well to a willful ignoramus.



365 and a Wakeup has an article about the infantry, and one about golden tracework repairs.



Michael Yon has the Boots on the Ground take; good, bad, and simply too sad for words at least twice.



Castle Argghhh! has an extended version of General McCaffrey's report on Iraq to the Senate Foreign Relations Comittee. I thought the predictions were interesting.



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Armies of Liberation has more on the situation in Yemen.



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Texas Best Grok links to a book review by a friend of mine, William H. Stoddard, on The Martial Arts of Renaissance Europe

by Sydney Anglo. Bill is a wonderful encyclopedic synthesist, easily the best I know. Of course, it doesn't hurt that he's spent most of his working life as an editor for academic books and journals. And he writes and runs excellent RPGs, too.



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State of Flux has an excellent article on failure of oversight.



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Say Uncle has an article about 20 synonyms for canine flatulence. As a dog owner I found it tears-in-the-eyes hilarious (and no, neither of my two dachshunds was responsible for the tears. This time.).



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Politburo Diktat has more, relevant, information on the ACVR, whose report alleged greater Democratic than Republican voter intimidation. I agree now that there are serious concerns about the group's bipartisan or non-partisan nature. So we have to examine the report itself that much closer. Just because a report is assembled by a partisan group doesn't mean it's wrong. If the report is that partisan, why did it report some Elephant dirty tricks? So I need to find the time to look at the report critically. I do suspect the balance is off, if nothing else. But is there any serious allegation of the ACVR making stuff up, or is it more in the line of "they say they're non-partisan and we don't believe it" like every left winger I've read keeps harping on without touching on the allegations themselves? Invalidating the report of Donkey wrongdoing just because it's reported by an Elephant group is equivalent to invalidating reports of criminal activity like rape or assault because the victim is the one reporting it. This is what is known to logical people as an "ad hominem," with perhaps a bit of "red herring" mixed in. Now let's have a Donkey report on Elephant shenanigans. Then have a good long public examination of the evidence, and what sorts of verifications of data and whether independent confirmations or contradictions exist then let us agree to and fix the real problems brought to light by both reports, while debunking the hype. That's the intelligent tack to take, not "Let's keep our heads in the sand and pretend it didn't happen" because the person reporting the crime happened to be the victim.



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You should probably check out Jihad Watch every few days. Go ahead. I'll wait.



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There has been a lot posted on the good and the bad of the atomic bombs, preceding and with the 60th anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasakai. I haven't paid much attention; I considered the situation in depth years ago and made up my mind that knowing what Truman knew at the time, he made the right decision. Even with greater information available later, he made the right decision. Not that there wasn't a huge downside, but usually the choice war gives you is which option sucks the least. Even so, what the man put up with in the way of second-guessers the whole rest of his life (and it's only gotten worse since he died) should qualify him for sainthood right there, and I'm not exactly the biggest Truman fan in the universe. So I'm just not interested in plowing the ground for the millionth time unless you push your ignorance in my face to the point where I get angry enough to disassemble your pathetic pronouncements.



Pigilito says, however, has a unique angle that I hadn't considered before. His family were Dutch colonists of Indonesia under Japanese rule at the time.



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Strange Fictions has a worthwhile take on the Intelligent Design thing. I'd link to a couple of others, but they've already sent them to me for RINO Sightings.



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Dean's World has a great article on offshoring. I think it's simply that those who have been getting bonuses from offshoring other jobs are next on the list to be offshored. Mind you, I have no objection to american investors getting benefits from worldwide profits of formerly american companies, but many "american" companies don't produce anything in the US anymore. Nor do they research in the US. When only their corporate boardroom has an american address, you have to ask, "how american is this company, anyway?" Just keep moving offshore but don't object when we start treating you like a foreign company as we likely will within the next few years. Meanwhile, the people here will keep on creating jobs, and going to work at them. It's what we do. The corporate world is becoming less and less relevant to us.







No bail for ex-border agent in conspiracy



Looks like they're throwing all the books at him, in a "How dare you embarrass us like this?" sort of way.



Got to go to work. More later.



In comments to my Links and Minifeatures yesterday





...my argument is not rooted in a "right to privacy", rather it is rooted in the combination of the unreasonable search and seizure, lack of a warrant and complete ineffectiveness of the strategy. By the way, my opinion is the same with regard to any other public facility. The same goes for the searches prior to entering an airport terminal. IF it was not mandated by the government and was, instead, a requirement of the airline, it would be different. It would be voluntary and a private contract between customer and airline.





The "unreasonable search and seizure" is rooted, albeit not explicitly, in privacy, as is lack of a warrant. The complete ineffectiveness of the strategy as enacted is a separate issue. That the strategy is an ineffective token, and as such, basically an excuse to hassle your average citizen is a valid reason to oppose it. That it is unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment, or as a violation of privacy, is incorrect and at best an easy excuse to harrass the government. My right not to be killed or wounded in a public conveyance trumps your right to keep explosives in your backpack, or to keep items of whatever nature private in your backpack, and one has no reasonable expectation of privacy in a public conveyance.



The problem is that opposing it on grounds of being ineffective harrassment is legally difficult at best, and while I'm no lawyer, I believe precedents are few on the ground and go mostly the other way (Just because it's not perfect doesn't mean you can't do anything). Fourth Amendment is legally easy and you might just win via judicial fiat. Harder but the correct response would be to get the public on board for a campaign to either get rid of it or make it effective. But that's not in the ACLU playbook anymore, and not in accordance with their not-so-hidden agenda.

First, be sure to check back here Monday morning for RINO Sightings carnival!



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Eric is begging for traffic to hit his 40k unique mark a little earlier. But he's got a couple actually worth reading so he doesn't really need to be begging. Scratch wherin he wonders how much support the elephants are going to get from the Libertarian/Independent wing of their coalition next time, and Finally about the subway searches in New York. I disagree with the latter post, but don't have the energy for more than a pocket refutation right now. It's still worth reading.



Pocket refutation: Traveling the New York Subway is not a right, much less using it with a backpack, and exposes all aboard to a certain degree of risk if those around you are not searched. There certainly is reasonable suspicion of intent on behalf of our enemies. Would you suggest that you could go into the White House, the Capitol, the Pentagon, without being cleared? What about airline travel, or is that somehow different, and if so, how? If there were no searches performed, could we not hold the subway liable for breaching a duty of care should there be any incidents? (Actually, with the token measures that are being taken, they're likely to be liable anyway.)



I like my privacy when we're talking about home and private property. But privacy in public spaces is a fallacious argument in the first place, and if you have read this book, you should understand the dangers of privacy. However much I enjoy my privacy, I have come to appreciate how much better off we would be with a right of public surveillance. Police Interrogation rooms? On webcam. Public offices? On webcam. Public spaces? On webcam. Anytime there's a crime in the area, access the webcams and find out who did what. Anytime you want to, look at any given webcam. You want to conceal something that happens in a public space? That requires a court order and legal witnesses.



Surveillance in public spaces is already here. We can call it evil, pretend socially that it doesn't exist, and refuse to benefit - and the rich or powerful or criminal use it anyway, and block it from being used on themselves. Or we can put it in our arsenal as well. Given a choice, I'd rather the latter.



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Combs Spouts Off has an excellent critique of the special election in Ohio.



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Louisiana Libertarian has another reason the Libertarian party shouldn't be taken seriously.



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Watchful Investor disagrees with me on the 30 year bond. Seems our disagreement is the assumption of long term inflation. I don't think we're going to see huge inflation numbers, he fears that we are. Whatever happens, though, it's not going to happen all at once. Of course you can get hit big if the government does something severely inflationary, but there is a market for Treasuries. You can always sell. Of course, the government would still have the money locked at a low figure for 30 years, but unless you completely ignore the market or are king of the wishful thinkers you can sell if things start looking less than solid. Of course, you might get less than the cost of the bond, but that's the risk you take when you buy it.



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Libercontrarian has more about the Zetas. Scary.





I want to know how this guy got hired.



There is no way they should be working the border until the FBI background check is completed. Some Department of Homeland Security.



Why was he even hired before the background check was complete? I know it's standard practice but that doesn't make it intelligent, only convenient.



I can only wait until the this conversation is reported:



"Okay, John"



"Please sir, call me Mohammed"



"Interesting nickname you've got Mohammed, but whatever you say. Wouldn't want you to feel unwelcome. Anyway, now that you're working for the department of Homeland Security, you'll want to know what your days off are. I see here it says you're Jewish, so you're going to want Saturday off whenever we can give it to you?"



"Actually, sir, I prefer Fridays."



"Okay, sure if you need that day. Now this is your partner Patrick McDougal. He likes us to call him Abdul for some reason."



"Actually, sir, we already met. We took flight training together."



"Wow, that's great. No wonder they hired you two guys. If anything happens to the flight crew, you can take over and fly the airplane, right?"



"Yes, sir! That's actually kind of a dream of mine."



"Well, you're going to have to understand why I kind of hope it doesn't happen. Now get down to the armory and draw your weapons. We've got something special for you on your first day, a Delta 777 non-stop to Washington National. Make sure you visit the Capitol while you're there. Because you work for us, you can get right in, no problem."



"Thank you, sir. We'll make a point of it."



"And don't worry about that FBI check. I'm sure it'll come back fine!"



"We're not concerned with that, sir. Far as we're concerned, we're in paradise already."









I mean, I know neither party's heart is in it, but can't they at least pretend to care?



UPDATE: Welcome to readers of Lt. Smash and Indepundit readers (and a large thank you to Citizen Smash himself). Also added one more snark above.





The scope of the problems that exist in the United States Mortgage market are huge. Enormously, mind-bogglingly, "How Big Is Space?" type huge. Yet, the problems are almost entirely on a retail level, when one provider works with one consumer. The system works, and it works extremely well. Consider:



Most consumers in Europe or any other country in the world would trade their loans for yours in a heartbeat. Rates there are typically around nine percent or so. Here, that's a ratty sub-prime rate. Mexican rates start at about fourteen percent. Hard money lenders here can sometimes do better than that.



No matter where you are in the United States, you have ready access to home loan capital. It's considered almost a one of our inalienable rights. Due to our secondary markets, as long as you can meet some pretty basic guidelines, you can find somebody eager to lend to you. You can find very long mortgage terms and very short terms. You can find loans without prepayment penalties, and you can choose to get a lower rate by taking a prepayment penalty. You may end up with something that's not as good as someone else if their situation is better, and the lender wants more money to compensate them for the risk of your loan, but even so, the rates here are better than almost anywhere else in the world.



Consumer protections are also better here than almost anywhere else in the world. There are federal laws that give you time to call off a transaction if you change your mind, disclosure requirements, consumer protections against builders with teeth in them, and a tort system that, if it does go overboard some times, still gives you an excellent chance at recovering what unethical people took from you. Many states (California, for instance) go well beyond mandatory federal consumer protections.



So keep this in mind when you see me ranting on and on about the problems with our financial markets here. Consider a capital market willing to loan the average person several years worth of wages. I can get a family making $6000 per month a loan for nearly $400,000 on an A paper 30 year fixed rate basis - most expensive loan there is in the most favorable, hardest to qualify for loan market - no surprises, no prepayment penalties, no "gotchas!" of any kind, and I can do it without hiding or shading the truth in the least. That's more than every dollar they will make for the next five years, and this family is every bit as chased after as the richest person in the world (more actually, because there are more of them). When you stop and think about it, that's a pretty wonderful situation. For all of the rants I make, the unethical things that happen, and the problems that exist in our capital markets, they are pretty damned good, and have chosen a set of tradeoffs that appears to be working better than anywhere else in the world, at any other time in history.







Carnival of The Clueless is up.



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A Passion for Teaching and Opinions is being accused of racism. It is not racism to want those of all ethnicities already here not to face such a buyer's market for their labor that they cannot live. It is not bigotry for someone not to want the border to be porous to those who may wish us ill. HT: News, The Universe, and Everything



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SMACKDOWN! Victor Davis Hanson put a column up on Monday that I just got to, talking about historical facts versus hysterical theory and putting things in perspective by remembering all of the facts.



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I went so far as to Google and Yahoo and Ask Jeeves about new stuff on Air America, but there's nothing new aside from tail-chasing.



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Here's a good article in USA Today about the problems with our textbooks.



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In case you missed it, there was a coup in Mauretania yesterday. I don't know enough to comment intelligently. Here are a few relevant articles and studies and rankings. CIA World Factbook entry



Evidently, the government was autocratic, not democratic, and the two indices I reference above were not imporoving. The military people who took over are saying the right things, but when haven't they? The proof is in the actual doing of what they say. One thing I did spot in the factbook is a nasty demographics bomb in that they've got a lot of young people - always bad for stability. Add desertification in there, and that's almost the classic recipe.






There's really not a lot of new stuff except for tail chasing, but I found a couple of things.



dKosopedia's entry on John Roberts is surprisingly factual and readable.



I knew it was too good to be true department: Michelle Malkin uncovers a rather large fly in the John Roberts ointment: He appears to be in favor of preferences rather than color-blindness. Mind you, he was the lawyer involved in the the case, and so had to represent his clients best interests publicly from start to finish, and his quote does start with the words, "It could have been worse."



President Bush, who will apparently do almost anything in the quest to move another state into the Elephant column, has come out in favor of self-government for indigenous Hawaiians. Just what we need: another Bureau of Indian Affairs and another set of tribal governments.



Let me make one thing perfectly clear: colorblindness in the law is a good thing, indeed, a necessary thing if we are to continue living together indefinitely as the United States of America. Tribal Spoils systems are a large part of why Yugoslavia split apart, why sub-saharan Africa is so so screwed up, and why we are having so many problems in Iraq. This may be a long-term concern but we have had people trying to force us to live in the hispanic States of America or the Black States of Afro-America pretty much from the instant the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act became law forty years ago. The idea was to demolish racism, not set it up with new beneficiaries. The idea was to abolish discrimination not set it up in favor of those previously discriminated against because "Hey, they're an organized interest group now!" When I hear people claiming to be philosophical children of Martin Luther King supporting segregated college dormitories, I cannot help but marvel at the disconnect from I have a Dream.



We're a lot closer in the United States, and have more in the way of common experiences than the tribes of Africa prior to Independence (What names have I heard in the news over the last forty years?), or the ethnicities of Iraq (Sunni, Shiite, Kurd, Chaldean - where have I heard those names in the news since 1991?), or even the six republics (Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Macedonia, Serbia, and Montenegro - where have I heard those names in the news since 1991?) and two autonomous areas (Vojvodina and Kosovo - where have I heard those names in the news since 1991?) of Yugoslavia. It will take us longer to fly apart than it took them. But fly apart we will, and until it is imminent nobody except "crackpots" like me will believe it can happen.



So I happen to think real colorblindness in the law is important. I heavily oppose anything that smacks of a Racial Spoils System or so-called Reverse Discrimination. When people feel that their skin color or gender prevents them from getting ahead, they opt out of the system that produces such feelings. This is about as surprising as the law of gravity, but we cannot stop them and we cannot afford for them to go. Our federal government has personnel practices in place such that if you are a member of group A, and you think you've been unfairly treated in your yearly evaluation, the burden of proof is on the supervisor, even if that supervisor is the same ethnicity and gender as yourself, to prove that the evaluation was correct, and the supervisor will not be praised if the supervisor wins the case, indeed, giving good evaluations to members of group A is part of what they are rated on. If you are of group A, the hiring authority must document why somebody not of your group was clearly better qualified, and hiring persons of group A is part of what they are evaluated on even if they are members of group A themselves. If you are of group A, you are to receive first priority for all career enhancing training, and getting you that training is part of what your supervisors are evaluated on. Group B has no such advantages. The burden of proof is on them to prove their evaluation was flawed. They can be passed over without documentation, and if they never get career enhancing training, hey, that's money saved for the taxpayers! It's great if you're a member of group A, but if you're a member of group B, you want out. And if anyone needs me to sketch out the historical flips in polarity of this, you haven't been paying attention.



So I am not happy about the prospect of John Roberts favoring "Hawaiian only," and I'll be less happy about it if it bleeds over to other racial (and gender) issues. I do hope it was the consummate lawyer speaking his professional case, not his personal convictions, which is one reason why I have decided that I still support him. This will change if I lean of personal convictions favoring affirmative action. This is a lot more important to the long term health of our country than Roe vs. Wade or Kelo vs. New London. We can survive either of them indefinintely. People will be upset, not the least of whom is myself. What violence they have caused or may cause is individual, small scale. But when you play with a racial spoils system, or anything that advantages one group at the expense of another (and you cannot give advantage to one without giving disadvantage to another), you are playing with dynamite that could cost millions of lives, tear the country apart into fragments, and depending upon who becomes the greatest power in the world after us (most likely China), undo all of the progress towards democracy and human rights that we have made these last two centuries. We have to very pointedly stop this and turn our backs on it for all time.



We are a nation of individuals, some worthy, some less so. Those who climb to the top of the ladder deserve to know that they didn't get there based upon what group they were a member of. And those who go nowhere should not be allowed the illusion that it was because they were born a member of some group, and the only way to ensure this is to actually give all people an equal opportunity, no matter what group they are a member of. Failing to do so is not an option. That way lies more civil wars, and more destruction, than anybody except dedicated historians can really tell you. It can happen here - it'll just take a little longer. The true test of our society is not whether we've got (or had) a woman president, a non-white president, or a congress or supreme court that happens to always be represented exactly in the proportions they exist in the population. We will have arrived where we want to be when nobody gives a damn, when it is unacceptable for anyone to support or oppose anyone because of what group they were born in, and when the question that's important is "What kind of a job will X do?"



Real Estate Bubble

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Here are a pair of worthwhile articles on the state of the housing market. Here's another look at the situation from a newspaper here in San Diego County. Inventory is up, sales are down, and mean time to sale is way up. I'm seeing MLS listings at six and even seven percent just to get the houses sold, when default had dropped to five percent. Discount real estate brokers are great when the market is as hot as it was the last couple of years, to where a monkey could sell a home. They're the pits when the market slows. When the house will sell, paying a couple percent less may be a great idea and save you a lot of money. If you need to sell when the market slows, particularly if you need to sell at a good price, it's becoming the true full service full price brokerages who are getting it done.



More distilled data here.



Carnival of Liberty is up at Owlish Mutterings.



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Oh-oh! Look out for interest rates to rise! Treasury bringing back thirty year bond. The ten year has been the index that mortgage people have gotten used to because it's been what has been issued for the past several years. Given the realities of the situation, I had hoped that the administration would resist bringing back the 30, which carries a higher interest rate than the 10 year bond, and so costs more. I'd like to see the study that says this will benefit anybody except bond investors and banks. It certainly won't benefit our treasury, and is going to be one more (albeit minor) factor in cooling off the housing market.



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Iraq and War on Terror



Palestine Authority Prime Minister: Today Gaza, Tomorrow Jerusalem (HT: LGF



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Air America:



Radio Equalizer tells us the amount under scrutiny is $800,000, not $500,000, among other things. (HT: Powerline



Michelle Malkin has a column exposing the Jackson/Sharpton hypocrisy on this. I just have a hard time believing anybody is actually surprised. She also points us to a NY Sun article that tells us that Air America has known of the funds for some time, and didn't disclose! She also directs us to Macho Nachos who tells us that Piquant Media, the current owners, is composed of the same people as Progress Media, and was likely formed in order to dodge Progress Media's debts.



Captain's Quarters wonders why we still have the sounds of crickets chirping from the Legacy Media on this, which seems to be their favorite narrative except in the perpetrators. He also has an email from a lawyer on the subject, and goes into the give and take of the exchange.



It Comes In Pints? has a hilarious take on the scandal. HT: Wizbang



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Captain's Quarters links us to a report that says although the Republicans do have some voter intimidation and suppression to be ashamed of, the Democrats have done much more of it. Captain Ed's link seems to have gone bad but here is the link on the ACVR Website.



On the other hand The Moderate Voice has a caution that ACVR may not be a bipartisan group. Captain's Quarters shows they have a Donkey edge as well as Elephant.



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Austin Bay tells us in one word why Japan is rearming: China. Well, duh. Nuclear power, largest military in the world in terms of numbers, totalitarian government, grudge against Japan for WWII, rapidly expanding economy looking for further ways to grow and more access to resources (What that compares to, I have no idea).



In short, when the Chinese decide they are ready to attempt world domination, we had better be ready for them.



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Indepundit channels Monty Python to make a point.



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Politburo Diktat has some information on the eventual shuttle replacement.



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I thought I was the only one who felt this way. Wizbang has a great op-ed on why we should make it more difficult to register and vote. I want to set the bar higher, not lower. (Apportion districts by registered voters, or better yet, actual voters, not total population, for a true one person, one vote experience. This would really cause liberals to flame out in the legislative branch, so expect screams of displeasure from the left). Among these things is I don't want anybody voting who cannot participate in the political discourse directly, rather than by reading some third party's opinion because they cannot communicate in english. Voting materials should be in english only. Motivate people to learn enough english to join the debate, and join the rest of us. If we can't all talk to one another, we aren't really one country.



If you haven't heard about the thirty year fixed rate mortgage, welcome to planet earth and I hope we can be friends.



The thirty year fixed rate loan seems to be the holy grail of all mortgages. It's what everyone wants, and what they're calling about when they call me to talk about refinancing a loan.



Well, it is secure, and it is something you can count upon today, tomorrow, and next week, etcetera, until the mortgage will theoretically be paid off.



The problems are three fold: First, it is the most expensive loan out there. It always has had the highest rate of any loan available, and always will (Except for the 40 year loan which is making a comeback for no particularly good reason). This means you are paying more in interest charges every month for this loan. Second, according to data gathered by our government, the vast majority of the public will refinance or move about every two years, whether they need to or not, paying again for benefits they paid for last time, and didn't use. This is essentially paying for 30 years of insurance your rate won't change, and then buying another 30-year policy two years down the road, then another two years after that, etcetera. Finally, because it is always the highest rate and this is what everyone wants, many mortgage providers will play games with their quote. They will quote you a rate on a "thirty year loan", meaning that it amortizes over thirty years, not that the rate is fixed the whole time. Or they'll even call it a "thirty year fixed rate" loan, but the rate is only fixed for two or three years. Every time you hear either phrase, the question "How long is the rate fixed for?" should automatically pop into your mind and proceed from there out of your mouth.



The fact of the matter is that there are other loans out there that most people would be better off considering. In the top of the loan ladder "A Paper" world, there are thirty-year loans that are fixed for three, five, seven, and ten years, as well as interest only variants and shorter-term loans (25, 20, 15, 10, and even 5 year loans). The shorter-term loans tend to be fixed for the whole length, but of course they require higher payments.



I personally would never consider a 30 year fixed rate loan for myself, and here's why. First, the available rates go up and down like a roller coaster. They are the most volatile rates out there. Given that I will lock it as soon as I decide I want it, it's still subject to more variations that any other loan type. Back when I bought my first place, thirty year fixed rate loans were running around ten and a half percent. Five years before that, they were fourteen percent and up. Second, having some mortgage history, I can tell you I refinance about every five years. Why would I want to pay for thirty years of insurance when I'm only going to use about five?



Even two years ago when I could do a 30 year fixed rate mortgage at 5 percent without any points, I could do a 5 year ARM (fixed for five years, then goes adjustable for the rest of thirty) for four percent on the same terms. I keep using a $270,000 mortgage as my default here, so let's compare. The 30 year fixed rate loan gives you a payment of $1449, of which $1125 is interest and $324 is principal. The five-year fixed rate loan gives me a payment of $1289, of which $900 is principal and $389 is principal. I saved $225 in interest the first month and have a payment that is $160 lower, while actually paying $65 more in principal. What's not to like? If I keep it the full five years, I pay $51,549 in interest, pay down $25,791 off my balance if I never pay an extra dollar, as opposed to paying $64,903 in interest on the thirty year fixed rate loan, while only paying down $22,062 of my balance - and I've got $13,500 in my pocket, as well as the $13,300 in interest expense I've saved and $3700 lower balance. If I choose the five-year ARM and make the thirty-year fixed-rate payment, I cut my interest expense to $50,539 while paying off $36,426 of principal (remember, every time I pay extra principal it cuts what I owe, and so on the amount of interest I pay next month.). If I then pay $3500 to refinance, adding it to my balance, I have saved many times that amount. I still only owe $237,074, as opposed to the 30 year fixed rate loan, which has a balance of $247,938. That's over $10,800 off my balance I've saved myself, plus over $14,300 in interest expense, simply by realizing that I'm likely to refinance every five years. And the available ARM rates are more stable as well as lower. From the first, I haven't had one with a rate that wasn't in the sixes or lower. Finally, if I watch the rates and like what I see and so I don't refinance, I'm perfectly welcome to keep the loan. And all of this presumes that the person who gets the thirty-year fixed rate loan doesn't refinance or sell the home, which is not likely to be the case. Statistically, the median mortgage is less than two years old, and less than 5 percent are five years old or more.



At rates prevailing today, I can get the same loans at 5.75 and 5.125 percent (without points), respectively - which is about the narrowest I've ever seen the gap. Assuming a $270,000 loan, for the 30 year fixed rate loan that gives a payment of $1576, which five years out means that I have paid just under $74,996 of interest, $19542 of principal and have a balance of $250,457. If I choose the 5 year ARM, my payment is $1470, so if I keep it five years I've paid $66,581 in interest, $21,626 in principal, and my balance is $248,373. Plus I've kept $6300 in my pocket, or alternatively, if I used the $106 per month to pay down my loan, I've only paid $65,713 in interest, have paid $28,826 in principal, and have a balance of $241,174. Even if I then add $3500 in order to refinance and the thirty year fixed rate does not, I'm still ahead $5700 on my balance plus the $9200 in interest I've saved, and the chances of the person who chose the thirty year fixed rate loan not having refinanced is less than 5%.



ARM mortgages are not for everyone. If you're certain you are never going to sell and never going to refinance, it makes a certain amount to sense to go for the thirty year fixed rate loan. And of course, if you're going to lie in bed awake every night worrying about it, the savings work out to a few dollars a day and my sleep is worth more than that to me, and so I'm going to presume it is to you, as well.



But what most people should be trying to do is cut interest expense while not adding any more than necessary to the loan balance. As I've gone into elsewhere, money added to your balance sticks around an awful long time, usually long after you've sold or refinanced, and you end up paying interest on it, as well.



So even though various unethical loan providers tend to quote you rates on loans that aren't really what you are looking for if you want a thirty year fixed rate loan, they're actually doing you a favor in an oblique and unintentional way, and somebody who is up front about offering you a choice between the thirty year fixed rate loan and an ARM is quite likely trying to help you. Consider how long most people are likely to live in their home (average is about nine years right now), how long they're likely to go between refinancings (less than two years), and your own mindset. It is quite likely you can save a lot of money on ARMs. Why pay a higher interest rate in order to buy thirty years of insurance that your rate won't change, when you're likely to voluntarily abandon it about two years from now anyway? Why not just buy less insurance in the first place?



Caveat Emptor





UPDATE: I had someone question the numbers in the paragraph comparing the 4% 5/1 ARM against the 5% 30 year fixed rate loan, both of which were available at the same time in the summer of 2003. Now I have had it pointed out to me that I made a mistake in calculations somewhere. The numbers for interest and balance savings are correct, but those for payment savings are $9623, not counting the time value of money. Your savings are not the sum of the three numbers. It depends upon your point of view as to which is most important to you. The interest savings and the dollars in your pocket plus lowered balance are essentially the same dollars. They are two sides of the same coin. It's just a question of what you're most interested in. Not that $13,000 plus is chump change, even on this scale, and no matter how you look at it, you're $13,000 plus to the good. You've either got $9623 in payment savings plus $3670 in lowered balance, both of which are "in your pocket" in one sense or the other. You wrote checks totaling $9623 less, and you've got $3670 in lowered balance, which translates to increased equity - not to mention that you're not paying interest on it any longer. Or you could look at it as simply 13,000 plus in interest you didn't pay. Most folks will lose some of the interest in the form of taxes they don't pay, but 1) That's never dollar for dollar and 2) I wasn't going that deep when I wrote this article.



UPDATED here

RINO Sightings is up! Favorites: I Want My CCTV and Santorum on gay marriage, his take and mine





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John Roberts Supreme Court stuff



Captain's Quarters has an excellent post vaguely about Roberts disliking affirmative action. Except for the fact this guy is both a lawyer and a catholic, I haven't found any place where I disagree with him yet. This is scary. Affirmative action needs a stake driven through the heart of the whole concept yesterday, for many different reasons.



Ann Althouse has more on his clerking days. Evidently his writings stood out then for clarity also.



The Sacramento Bee has a good article on how there has been a reduction in abortions of late (which is a very good thing), and how the seemingly correlated decline in abortion related activism has made a difference on how much anti-Roberts activism there has been. It is good that people seem to be planning ahead more, from contraception to emergency anti-pregnancy measures.



Lest I not have made myself clear in the past, I do favor overturning Roe vs. Wade, as it was a bad decision. On the other hand, I also want abortion to be legal, although difficult to obtain, and I can't really think of a case where it should be publicly subsidized. This baby or fetus is at least a potential human being, and the presumption behind having an abortion at all is that it will be born a human baby if nothing happens. I happen to have a serious problem with people who want to kill others because they don't want to put up with a few months of inconvenience. On the other hand, I must concede that in the final analysis, nobody else is in a position to make that decision so much as the woman involved. I may dislike the decision she makes, but she has the right to make it.



Paul Mirengoff of Powerline has a column in The Weekly Standard recommending against non-judges on the Supreme Court.



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Captain's Quarters has a great article, based upon one out of the Washington Post detailing Condolezza Rice's accomplishments in six months, and how she had outdone her predecessor. I'd love to see Condi change her mind and run for president - and her Secretary of State can be George W. Bush!





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Volokh Conspiracy notes that the Washington DC market is cooling off in the footsteps of others such as San Diego.



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Illegal Immigration:



Wizbang spots authority in the tenth amendment for the states to defend the borders if the feds won't. I'd like to see Arnold try it, but I doubt he'd get far.



The Immigration Blog has a great article about $50,000 bounties on American law enforcement officers, as well as another one on WHAT HISPANIC IMMIGRATION MEANS FOR AMERICA.



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According to The Inquirer, the discoverers of the tenth planet wouldn't have announced it for a while longer, if their website hadn't been hacked with the hacker threatenting to release the information. Whereas I kind of see the hacker's point of view, it's not like there are a lot of people awaiting the discovery of a tenth planet so they can die happy. It's not like it's a cheap, easy-to-build FTL drive or anything. It just doesn't make a lot of difference to the average person on the street, and I suspect most astronomers were aware an application to IAU for a tenth planet name was in the works. But in today's academic environment you want to be certain you've got it before you announce it. That's kind of what peer reviewed journals are for.



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Thank you, Senator Robert C. Byrd. May I have another? Japan imposes retaliatory duties. The EU and Canada have already done so.



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Yet another reason not to smoke. Women who smoke while pregnant have about three times the chance of having an unruly child as those who don't.



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My humor style: the Prankster



(43% dark, 34% spontaneous, 22% vulgar)

your humor style:

CLEAN | COMPLEX | LIGHT

My test tracked 3 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:



You scored higher than 99% on dark



You scored higher than 99% on spontaneous



You scored higher than 99% on vulgar



The 3 Variable Funny Test.



While I was there: The Would You Have Been a Nazi Test

Der Resistance

Achtung! You are 30% brainwashworthy, 13% antitolerant, and 57% blindly patriotic

Welcome to the Resistance (Der Widerstand)! You believe in freedom, justice, equality, and your country, and you can't be converted to the the dark side.



Breakdown: Your Blind Patriotism levels are borderline unhealthy, but you show such a love of people from everywhere and a natural resistance to brainwashing, you would probably focus your energy to fight Fuehrer with furor, so to speak.



Conclusion: Born and raised in Germany in the early 1930's, you would have taken up ARMS against the oppressors. Or even your friends' oppressors. Congratulations!



Less than 5% of all test takers earn a spot in Der Resistance!



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Iraq and the War on Terror:



The United States stands on principle and loses a base in central Asia. HT to Austin Bay, who also points us to BBC links. It was the correct thing for the Bush administration to do.



From LGF comes a pointer to this story: Bombing suspect tried to have moderate imam sacked, and also a story about a Hamas Youth Camp



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Worth Reading: President Bush's address to the Boy Scouts at the Jamboree.





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Michelle Malkin has the best round up of the Air America bilk-the-Boys and Girls Club that I've seen. It is past time for their spinning to stop and their damage control to start. Unless, of course, a possibility that crossed my mind while reading Captain's Quarters is correct, and Air America is getting close to the end of the line anyway, like a Ponzi scheme just before the feds show up and arrest the receptionist who didn't know anything. I'd be curious to see their unaltered books. Their "talent" is evidently getting paid too much, because they are apparently going broke.







Reactions to Bolton's recess appointment





"At a time when we need to reassert our diplomatic power in the world, President Bush has decided to send a seriously flawed and weakened candidate to the United Nations. It's an unnecessary result, and the latest abuse of power by the Bush White House. ... Bolton arrives at the United Nations with a cloud hanging over his head." _ Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.



Gee, Mr. Reid, why didn't you vote against him, then? Oh, that's right, your party is doing everything it can to keep him from getting a vote on the floor of the senate, and you're orchestrating the obstruction. Something having to do with the majority of the senate disagreeing with you? Just keep it from coming to a vote and you can pretend your serving the interests of the country instead of playing politics.



But Teddy Kennedy takes the Moonbat cake today:





"The abuse of power and the cloak of secrecy from the White House continues. ... It's a devious maneuver that evades the constitutional requirement of Senate consent and only further darkens the cloud over Mr. Bolton's credibility at the U.N." _ Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass



What Teddy, couldn't bother to emerge from stupor long enough to figure out that the President nominated him five months ago? That evidently your staff has been keeping him filibustered without your knowledge? Thus sayeth the Senate's resident expert on devious manouvers and darkening clouds on credibility. (Mary Jo Kopechne could not be reached for comment).

Of course, the electorally unendangered Lesser California Moonbat has to chime in:



"John Bolton has placed his faith in a unilateral, go-it-alone foreign policy that has stretched our military thin, and I believe his inability to be an effective and constructive ambassador could produce dire consequences for American foreign policy." _Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.



As opposed to our great foreign policy successes during the accomodationist years like Rwanda, Bosnia, Somalia...



After all the failures of the accomodationists to make the UN into a better organization, it's time to give someone with a different philosophy a chance. It's not like they can do much worse.



UPDATE: Decision '08 has evidence on lesser-known left wing heads exploding!







There are a fair number of specific helpful suggestions to make in helping you purchase a home. All of them revolve around the loan. Let's face it, the loan is far and away the most hypothetical and uncertain part about most real estate transactions. If there is a non-loan related problem, chances are that you really didn't want to buy that particular property anyway. Most of the time, these problems mean that you would be buying into trouble, and nothing but. Unless you have specialized knowledge in sorting out that particular problem, it's likely to be more expensive than any money you saved through reduced purchase price.



A poor loan officer can always botch a loan, of course, and even the best may not be able to push it through if you are a marginal enough case. So how do you improve your case standing?



The first thing is to get a credit score above 720. If you're there already, keep doing what you're doing. Even if you're not there yet, it's easier to improve than most people think, although it takes time. Make all of your credit payments on time, especially any mortgages and rental payments. These are the most important things to mortgage lenders. Note that you make a payment a few days later than it is due, and you may even pay a penalty, but the lender will not report it as late until 30 days later, and that's when it counts as late. In order to qualify for the A paper loan, at the top of the market, the general rule is no more than two 30 day late payments on revolving debts within two years, or one 30 day late on mortgages or rent.



Most lenders want you to have three lines of credit, and a twenty-four month credit history. If you don't have at least two open lines of credit, a given reporting bureau may not report a score, and if you don't have two different scores from the three big bureaus, only a few sub-prime lenders will give you a loan. The longer your lines of credit are open, the higher your score will be. So if you keep opening new lines of credit, expect your score to be low.



Revolving credit balances should be kept low, less than half of their limit. There is a significant hit if your credit line is more than half its limit, and the higher you go, the worse it is. If you have two $5000 limit credit cards, it is much better to have $1500 on each than $3000 on one and nothing on the other. It make even more difference if you have $2000 balance on each as opposed to $4000 on one. And if you're one of those people who keeps buying off on the "transfer your balance to a new card and get zero interest for six months", it will really impact your credit in a negative way, because if your credit balances sum to $8000, that's usually what the limit on the new card will be, and so you've got a brand new credit card that's maxed out, which is a major hit on your credit.



One of the best ways to improve your credit score relatively quickly is to use your credit regularly but pay it off every time you get a bill. Once per month, charge something small that you know you will be able to pay off when the bill arrives. This will still take some months, but better months than years.



The next way to improve your ability to afford a house is not to have any large monthly payments. The best rates are for full documentation loans, where you prove to the lender that you make enough money to be able to afford all of your payments. "A paper" lenders will allow you to have total monthly payments of 38 to 45 percent of your gross monthly income. Some sub-prime lenders will go to 55 percent. If your family makes $6000 per month, this means that total payments can be up to $2700 for certain A paper loans, up to $3300 for sub-prime and still qualify full documentation. This also means that the more income you can document, the more house you can afford.



This number includes not only the amount of the mortgage, but also the property taxes, homeowners insurance, association dues (if applicable), and anything else you may need to pay in order to keep the home, as well as car payments, credit card payments, and any other debts you may have. This means that somebody with other payments of $80 per month can afford a lot more house than somebody with other payments of $900 per month. This should be intuitive, but you'd be surprised how often people don't realize it.



The final thing that is helpful is a down payment. The larger your down payment, the less you have to borrow. Lending money is a risk-based business. Up to a point, the lower the ratio of loan balance to value of the property will help you get a lower interest rate and more favorable terms, because the bank will be more certain of getting all of their money back. A 5% down payment is better than none. 10% is better than 5%. The first 5% makes the most difference, but every bit helps. Of course the larger your down payment, the less you have left over for other purposes. It seems to be a phenomenon today that people don't want to risk any more of their own money that they have to, and 100% loans can be done right now, although how much longer that will be the case is anyone's guess. Still, people who make a habit of saving money are always in a stronger position that those who do not.



Caveat Emptor

UPDATED here

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