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This week I participated in the Carnival of Personal Finance

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IMPORTANT NEWS

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are so pleased with their 105% refinancing program that they have announced they will be expanding the eligibility to 125% in about a month. This will help a lot of people who were left out in the cold by the 105% program

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Carnival of Real Estate

Carnival of Personal Finance


Sorry I'm too busy to write these but have to link this week's carnivals before any more time goes by

Carnival of Real Estate

Carnival of Personal Finance


Sorry, I've been really busy but I have to at least link the carnival for the week!

Carnival of Personal Finance


Carnival of Personal Finance

Carnival of Real Estate

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Baseless Bias and the New Second Sex

The unfortunate news is that this temperate, well-reasoned, and objective new NAS study has come after the Shalala/Bias and Barriers report has already accomplished its purpose. Many members of Congress from both parties (especially Republican Congressman Vernon Ehlers and Democratic Senators Ron Wyden and Barbara Boxer) were electrified by the Bias and Barriers report--as well as by the volumes of highly tendentious advocacy research that preceded it (see my "Why Can't A Woman Be More Like a Man?"). Congress has already authorized NSF to spend millions of dollars on anti-bias programs, and instructed federal agencies such as NASA and the Department of Education to begin stringent Title IX gender equity reviews of science programs in the nation's universities. These expensive and aggressive policies and programs were put in place without any genuine evidence that sexist bias against women in academic science is actually a problem.

Powerful interest group twists reality to benefit its own agenda. It doesn't just happen with one side of the political spectrum.

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1984: Sixty years later

Yet "1984" does have lessons beyond the totalitarian experience. Take the book's definition of "doublethink," the ideal mental state of the citizen of Orwell's dystopia: it is "the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them," the ability "to tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies."

It is not just governments - democratic or not - that engage in a less extreme version of such mental gymnastics. It's activists of all stripes; talk show hosts and pundits across the political spectrum; and, finally, ordinary people. The same is true of "newspeak," terminology invented to shade the real meaning of certain beliefs or acts and make them more appealing. (Even such popular terms as "pro-choice" for "pro-abortion rights" and "pro-life" for "anti-abortion" have overtones of newspeak.)

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Sheila Bair is On Your Side

The most glaring example of this conflict has been the battle over the management of Citigroup, the "too big to fail" banking conglomerate that became the largest in the world thanks to changes in the law advocated by Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin. Rubin then left the government to become chairman of the executive committee at Citigroup, a post he occupied as it made risky bets on derivatives and incurred record losses. Citigroup was saved from oblivion by a plan engineered by Geithner, whom Rubin had successfully pushed for the top job at the New York Fed.

That plan, endorsed by the Bush administration, left the US government pumping $50 billion into Citigroup and guaranteeing an additional $300 billion of its "toxic" holdings. In return, we taxpayers were to receive preferred stock with the promise of significant interest payments, but now the terms have been changed. Thanks to Geithner's intervention, Citigroup will be allowed to convert half of the government's preferred stock into almost worthless common stock.

Enter Bair, who has been insisting, over Geithner's objection, that major changes occur in the leadership of Citigroup to give the taxpayers a better chance to get some of that money back. She has an obligation to make that demand because the FDIC is a part guarantor not only of Citigroup banking deposits but also of the $300 billion toxic assets package.

Read the whole thing.

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Did David Letterman get a free pass?

Examine the symptoms of this infection, beginning with David Letterman's comments (widely noted but insufficiently analyzed) about Sarah Palin "buying makeup at Bloomingdale's to update her slutty flight attendant look," as well as his joke about Palin's teenage daughter: "Sarah Palin went to a Yankees Game yesterday ... during the seventh inning stretch, her daughter was knocked up by Alex Rodriguez." (Letterman insists he was talking about her 18-year-old daughter, Bristol, who actually had been, well, knocked up, not her 14-year-old, Willow, the daughter who attended the game.)

According to the feminists, it's okay because Sarah Palin is One of Those Horrible Republicans. Worse, she's likely to be elected president in 4 to 8 years if they don't get busy destroying her now. It won't work, by the way. They gave Ronald Reagan exactly the same treatment from the time he started running for President, and possibly before (I was too young to remember his campaigns for California Governor).

Hope the feminists enjoy the plantation the Democrats are keeping them down on. Of course, one of these days they'll figure it out.

Imagine if, say, Michelle Obama, or Rachel Maddow, or Nancy Pelosi became the target of similar invective. The outcry from the left would be deafening. Shouldn't liberals exhibit the same sort of decorous treatment we demand for ourselves? Sexist comments like Letterman's and Cimbalo's also evoke a troublingly insular, clubhouse atmosphere in lieu of an inclusive political party. What's more, the gender-based stereotypes they conjure are as stale and ignorant as any voiced by the old Neanderthal right: Pretty women are de facto stupid, sexually promiscuous and low-class. Indeed, it's the latter slight that has been least remarked upon and is, perhaps, the most disturbing. "Slutty flight attendant" is not just a sexual put-down; it's a socioeconomic one.

And a clear double standard. If Rush Limbaugh (to name an equivalent figure on the right) had said anything remotely like that about a woman on the Democratic side of the aisle, the demands for his career scalp would be immediate and deafening. Don Imus, a Democrat but less consistently left wing than others lost his job over much less.


Victor Davis Hanson: David Letterman, Rev. Wright, and Thoughts on a Creepy Culture

The metrosexual, hip David Letterman offered an apology I think that essentially was something along the following lines. Here's my paraphrase: 'Sorry, I confused the 14-year-old Willow Palin with the 18-year-old Bristol Palin, so I was wrong for suggesting the younger Palin girl would be "knocked up" during a baseball game by Alex Rodriguez, or draw in Eliot Spitzer for sex, when I really meant that Bristol certainly would." (Note the silence about calling Governor Palin "slutty" looking. So if some right-wing nut says that Michelle Obama is "slutty" looking, are we to expect no consequences?)

No, Mr. Letterman would never joke about a 14 year old girl being (at least statutorially) raped by an athlete in his thirties. But it's okay to joke about an 18 year old? I think Mr. Letterman sabotaged his own claim.

What it is about Sarah Palin that drives the Left insane? Her charisma? Her authentic blue-collar roots? The accent? Todd? The pregnancies? The ability to galvanize crowds. Joe Biden tried to fake his working class origins, but Palin seems to live, not romanticize, the life of the middle strata, so would not the Left appreciate someone from the non-elite?

I suggest two reasons for the fury of the aristocratic Left. One was Palin's stance on abortion. In the elite feminist mind, the perfect storm would be for a 40ish career woman, on the upswing of her cursus honorum, getting pregnant and, then, heaven forbid, delivering the child with full fore-knowledge of chromosomal abnormality. Or having her 17-year old come to full term with a child, unmarried, and without money?

All types of diversity are welcome on the left. Except of course, for ideological diversity, the most important one. Indeed, I could argue it's the only important one, and I will if you really need me to.

The Democratic press and media, who wanted Obama to win, painted Palin as a right wing reactionary promoting abstinence only sex education. But that doesn't make it true

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Left Cries 'Racist' in Crowded Country

While Mr. von Brunn is currently being made out to be the poster child of the Republican Party, even a cursory look at his professed views shows he is the avowed enemy of the GOP in its current incarnation. Among many others, Mr. von Brunn hates Rupert Murdoch, Fox News (that means you, too, Shep!), George W. Bush and John McCain. And according to the FBI, Mr. von Brunn even had in his vehicle the address of the Weekly Standard, home base of the dreaded "neo-cons."

Seems Mr. von Brunn wasn't a big fan of the Iraq War and also believed that 9/11 was an "inside job." Given this political sketch, Mr. von Brunn would feel at home at Camp Casey, Cindy Sheehan's antiwar outpost in Crawford, Texas, and at the Daily Kos convention, rather than partaking in a National Review cruise with pro-Israeli war hawks Mark Steyn and Victor Davis Hanson.

It's not Charles Lindbergh's Republican Party any more. And it hasn't been for more than a half-century. But don't tell that to the facile minds at the DHS and CNN.

The inconvenient truth is that David Duke and James von Brunn currently share more in common with Markos Moulitsas and Arianna Huffington than with Bill Kristol and Charles Krauthammer. But the right wouldn't be so crass or foolish to try to blame the political left for the existence of - or motivation behind - haters like Mr. von Brunn.

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Many instances of Obama being Inept at History

Actually, inept is charitable, in that it assumes he did not deliberately distort the record.

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The curious firing of Gerald Walpin gets ... curiouser

Senator Charles Grassley has demanded records from the Obama administration over the dismissal of the Inspector General for Americorps and raises the possibility that Barack Obama broke a law he co-sponsored in the Senate that protects the independence of the IGs. The firing comes as the Obama administration cut a sweetheart deal with a major Obama backer that allows him to receive federal funding as mayor of Sacramento, and fails to repay taxpayers for the money Kevin Johnson admittedly took illegally:

This is real, and an actual violation of the law, as opposed to all of the manufactured claims that Bush did this or that. Where are the calls to impeach Obama?

Via Instapundit: Gerald Walpin speaks: The inside story of the AmeriCorps firing

"Culture of Corruption" anyone?

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Video: Five reasons why Class-warfare economics won't work

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UPDATE: Almost forgot. I have a problem with shaving. Specifically, the fact that I have extremely tough facial whiskers, combined with facial skin that's the classic easily cut baby face. Put it all together, and not only do I hate shaving, I quite often emerge from shaving looking like I've lost a war with my razor. I've spent a lot of time and effort trying different solutions to the problem, which only got worse when my doctor put me on blood thinners after my heart attack.

So when my wife wanted me to try Mary Kay's Shaving Cream for men, I was understandably skeptical, but I understood this was Something Spouses Do For Each Other. She's certainly done equivalent things for me in the past.

I was very pleasantly shocked at how much better of a job it did. I've been using it now for almost two weeks, and the incidence of cuts is drastically reduced over the product that formerly did the best job.

So in penance for my skepticism, I'm posting this here. I highly recommend Mary Kay's Shaving Cream. I'm going to keep using it.

Disclosure for the clue challenged: Yes, my wife makes money every time she sells a can of this stuff. But she still did a good thing by making me try this. And she's the World's Only Perfect Woman too. I'll even send you the link to her Mary Kay website if you ask, but this stuff is available from every Mary Kay person.


I have just about had it with Cox Cable. I pay them close to $2000 per year for internet, phone and basic cable TV. For the last three months, I've been having connectivity issues. For no apparent reason, at random times I suddenly have trouble reaching the internet. I have replaced literally everything from the wall out except the computer itself - and that works fine according to my repair shop. At Cox's request to deal with this problem, I have first replaced, then removed the router altogether. I replaced the cable splitter. They finally sent a technician out - who was there for a whole thirty seconds - just long enough to tell me to replace a modem that was completely functional, if older. So I replaced the cable modem, despite the fact that repair shop (which could have sold me a new one had they told me it was bad) had told me the modem was fine. So I replaced the modem anyway, which gave me a whole two days grace before I woke up this morning with connectivity so limited that 2400 baud dial up would be better. Spent a half hour on the phone trying again to fix the problem, with no help. Cox apparently wants to blame everything except their service. Well now I have replaced literally everything, and according to them, I'm still getting 30-50% packet loss. Completely unacceptable.

I have tried to remain silent about the reasons for my somewhat limited online presence of late, but this is just beyond human endurance. I used to be one of their biggest boosters, and sent them a significant number of clients. I take it all back. I'm considering going over to AT&T for internet and phone, and if my wife absolutely has to have cable, getting a dish.

It's 11:00. I should have been looking at properties two hours ago. So what I have to do is use the library's wireless internet, and hope that my portable printer is quiet enough that nobody objects (it is pretty darned quiet - the only noise I hear is the paper feed). But it's still a bloody pain, and ten times more expensive that the laser printer I have sitting useless on my desk. Not to mention way slower than what I'm paying for - and not getting - from Cox Cable.

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Correcting the record on the Chrysler and GM loans

1. The Obama team declined to respond to the Bush team's offer to work together to create a joint process that would have resulted in a resolution by March 1st or April 1st, rather than by June 1st for Chrysler and maybe September 1st for GM.

2. We then worked with the Democratic majority to enact legislation that would have limited funds to be available only to firms that would become viable.

3. After Congress left town for the holidays without having addressed the issue, President Bush was faced with a choice between providing loans and allowing these firms to liquidate in early January, which would have further exacerbated the economic situation for the incoming President. President Bush chose to provide the loans.

4. We provided GM and Chrysler with sufficient funds to get to March 31st, not January 20th, and in those loans we gave the incoming Administration the ability to extend them for 30 more days.

5. The loans were conditioned on restructuring to become viable, with a precise definition of viability, specific restructuring goals, and quantitative targets.

6. The Obama Administration followed the restructuring process laid out in the Bush-era loans. They are now measuring that deal against the targets established in the Bush-era loans. The only changes the Obama team made were that they extended GM for 60 days rather than 30, and the Obama Administration directly inserted themselves into the negotiations as the pre-packager.

HT: Megan McArdle

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Victor Davis Hanson (himself an academic) contrasts what academia teaches with the real world:

Here was his final compliment, one that apparently connected my once elite disdain for his grubby world of the muscular classes with my inevitable failure and bankruptcy to come. It went something like this, though after three decades I have forgotten his exact phraseology: "Victor, I used to drive by your grandfather's house, and see you up there on the scaffold, scraping off the old paint. I'd say to my friends -- look at that young fool, he's painting my house. You see, I knew you'd go broke, and I'd buy your place. Always wanted it, and knew you were getting it ready for me. Why not let you finish before I took it?" (I didn't tell him, that in fact he used to say that not just to friends, but to me as I was chipping away.)

Read the whole thing. I suspect most of the people who need to won't, because it calls into question a key assumption of theirs about the world. The rest of you already know the point, but are likely to enjoy Mr. Hanson's means of illustrating it anyway.

On the same tack: The Dowd Conundrum

also: It's all so obvious (except to Obama)

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economic reporting: then and now

AP kinda sorta admits: The stimulus isn't working

Maybe the reporters ought to throw away their pom-poms and do their jobs before any hope of regaining credibility is lost.

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Arizona Judge Throws Out Political Arrest Based on Photo Ticket

Arrowhead Justice Court Judge John C. Keegan last week dismissed the photo radar-based reckless driving charges filed against the Executive Director of the Arizona Republican Party. On May 6, officers from the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS), which is headed by Democrat Roger Vanderpool, showed up at the state GOP headquarters with a speed camera ticket in hand to arrest Brett Mecum, 30

How long until they trump up charges against this judge?

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Holy Mackerel! It's Yahoo, and therefore likely impermanent but look into the eye of a tornado

What the heck - here's the embed of the video

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Gingrich: Obama has already failed

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said President Barack Obama's plan to fix the economy through stimulus spending and government intervention to boost companies like General Motors Corp. has "already failed."

Well, duh

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Obama to banks: You can repay TARP, but Treasury keeps warrants

Yes, we can trust them not to exercise the warrants, because after all, when has this administration ever used power it didn't have? Never mind the fact that it extorted concessions from Chrysler and GM bondholders in order to benefit Obama's political allies in the unions, stomping all over contract law. The White House would never in a million years use the warrants to extort concessions on business operations from the bankers ... right?


Megan McArdle is blogging up a storm with lots of really good points about abortion and the murder of George Tiller.

This debate is not going away. Those who believe abortion is murder are not going to mysteriously vanish, or stop believing thus one special day. The fact that the Supreme Court has short-circuited the political process on this makes it more problematical, not less. Just because you happen to agree with the result does not make the Supreme Court's ruling on Roe v. Wade a good thing. Indeed, those who subvert the political process to shelter Roe v Wade are making things worse - the way that gets done every time a Republican president has nominated a potential justice ever since.

The Supreme Court should not be the final word on this subject. There is nothing in the constitution about the subject of mothers killing babies. Indeed, all of the background legal tradition until the moment Roe v. Wade was handed down supported the other side. Which means we need to deal with this question the hard way - have a national argument discussion, vote and have our elected representatives vote, and come to a compromise that, if perfect for no one, has at least the virtue that everyone has had their input, their chance to convince others, their vote at appropriate spots, and therefore everybody feels they're had their due influence upon an honest political process.

I suspect that the end result would vary from state to state. That is fine and as it should be. It isn't the end of the world for fourteen year olds to need parental permission for an abortion or even for eighteen year olds to have to hop a bus to another state. And if a legal adult wants to make the decision, as a parent as well as the person carrying the child, that abortion is the best thing to do, I do not believe the state is justified in using the brute force of the law to prevent it. However, neither do I believe that the decision to abort should be easy or convenient. In fact, it should be both difficult and inconvenient so long as these obstacles do not rise to effective prohibition. Abortion is murdering babies, at least once they have passed the point of viability. Even before that point, you are killing a living thing that will be human one day if not killed. When you consider that, it's a pretty massive bad deal to put any current or future human being through with no input from them, and a certain number and height of obstacles are pretty much obligatory to balance that out. Compared to what happens to that baby, I think temporary inconvenience or embarrassment to the mother is pretty much a nonstarter as an argument. I think that abortion should remain legal with obstacles, the strength of which should increase as the pregnancy advances, but that is the result of a long drawn out careful consideration and considering both sides of the question with their advantages and drawbacks. Furthermore, my position has evolved over time, and may evolve some more in the future.

I do not find those who disagree with me to be evil, especially the ones who acknowledge the strengths of the other side's arguments as well as the weaknesses of their own; I do find those on both sides who insist it's a simple question on which no moral person could possibly disagree with them to be incredibly dishonest as well as moral monsters who should never be allowed any sort of control over another human being (or potential human being). I don't insist that the final decision mirror my own conclusions; only that the ordinary voters have a voice and that their elected representatives be forced to take a stand for what they believe is the right course. Let the elected representatives lead for once; that is the responsibility they campaigned so hard for, spent so much of their contributor's money for. Let them convince us they have the right of it - that is what we elected them for. And if some of them lose elections because their stance disagrees with the vast majority of their constituency whom they fail to convince, that is right and proper and as things should be. The Supreme Court should not be used to allow elected representatives to duck responsibility; that is not its intended function.

Nor does the action of a single lunatic, or a group of lunatics, on either side of the question alter my judgment on the base matter, which is the morality of abortion. It merely earns my contempt for their attempted distortions of the political process, taking the law into their own hands, and killing human beings. My attitude on these twits is the same whichever side of the question they are on.

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Actually, I would claim that it is not reasonable: It's Not Fair To Casually Call People Racist

Sen. Feinstein is right as far she went. She avoided one undeniable fact though. If a white male nominee had been discovered to have said something similar -- that he was better situated to judge due to his background and life experiences than a Latina woman -- he would be cashiered so fast as to induce whiplash. Those are the unwritten rules that Limbaugh and Gingrich are attempting, one suspects, to expose for their one-sidedness. Nevertheless, the instant labeling of the woman, based on one unwise remark, is hardly fair. If Democrats are learning this now, that's excellent news. One hopes they will remember this discovery when the wheel turns and a Republican nominee is before the Senate. Certainly they didn't seem to get it as recently as 2002, when President Bush nominated Judge Charles Pickering to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The article uses Judge Pickering's media lynching as an example of Democratic tactics. Democrats have been using the racism brush to tar any Republican judicial nominee they could for at least two decades. They've been trying on the flimsiest of evidence even when it wasn't applicable, simply because they didn't want people on the bench with philosophies they didn't agree with - especially highly competent, highly articulate ones. Now we see how the Democrats react when that same exact standard is applied to one of their own nominees. Calling someone racist has developed into one of their favorite forms of blackmail, far more often than not, to the point where the accusation should no longer have power over anyone.

I think we should apply exactly the same standard to Sotomayor as was used on Pickering, Gonzales, Alito, Bork, etcetera. And then in the aftermath, before Obama tries another nomination, maybe the leading senators of both parties can come to some mutual understanding on what does and does not constitute grounds for denying a judicial nomination, an understanding that's going to outlast the current occupant of the White House. The current circus atmosphere for judicial appointments is only one undesirable consequence of using the courts as a shield so the legislature doesn't have to do its job.

(See previous entry)

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Show us the money

The government will do health care cheaper and better, the president said.

OK, show us the money.

Let our president show the American people that the federal government can save money by saving money in the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

He's got Medicaid and Medicare backwards, but otherwise he's right on the money.

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The best and brightest?

Imagine you had to pick someone to shepherd a gigantic multinational corporation through a bankruptcy in order to salvage it. Would you look for someone with extensive experience in the firm's industry, or would you prefer someone with demonstrated savvy on Wall Street in turning around troubled firms? If the firm made cars, perhaps you could think of it as a choice between a Lee Iacocca or a Mitt Romney.

Or, maybe, you'd just pick someone from the mail room, as Barack Obama apparently has in the GM bankruptcy:

A 31 year old law student whose entire resume is in campaign work. Does that sound like the ideal candidate to steer GM out of bankruptcy in a healthy direction? Or does it sound more like he was picked for backing the right horse politically?

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Thomas Sowell

Looked at in the context of Judge Sotomayor's voting to dismiss the appeal of white firefighters who were denied the promotions they had earned by passing an exam, because not enough minorities passed that exam to create "diversity," her words in Berkeley seem to match her actions on the judicial bench in the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals all too well.

The Supreme Court of the United States thought that case was important enough to hear it, even though the three-judge panel on which Judge Sotomayor served gave it short shrift in less than a page. Apparently the famous "empathy" that President Obama says a judge should have does not apply to white males in Judge Sotomayor's court.

Without this decision, I would be a lot more charitably inclined towards her racist remarks. People can say whatever they like. But a judge's job is to apply the law equally to everyone, and considering the way she and most of her panel tried to sweep this decision under the rug judicially is also troubling. They were acting as if they were ashamed of it, and for good reason. Suppose the firefighters in question had all been minority instead of white, and their promotions had been pulled because no whites came in the top 18. Is there any question in your mind the decision would have been different? The issue almost certainly would never have come up, as New Haven would not have failed to promote the top 18 candidates just because none of them were white.

This is one standard applying to one group, and a different, more difficult standard applying to another group because of nothing they did, but rather the way they were born. Wasn't ending that what the Civil Rights movement was all about? I seem to remember someone very revered asking the American people to judge people not by the color of their skin, but by the contents of their character.

I don't like what Ms. Sotomayor's actions say about the content of her character.

Defining oneself shouldn't define court decisions

Sotomayor's claim that ''a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life'' wasn't some blundering parenthetical reference. It was part of a full-scale repudiation of the idea that the law, or the judges who interpret it, should be color-blind. It even questions whether judicial objectivity is a desirable goal.

The more I discover about Ms. Sotomayor, the less I like the thought of someone with those views and with a history of undertaking those actions sitting upon the Supreme Court, likely for thirty years or more.

Victor Davis Hanson: The Diversity Mess

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has scolded Americans for being "cowards" and not talking more about race. Now, Holder is getting that "dialogue" with the recent controversy surrounding President Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor.

Most of the furor surrounds statements on race by Sotomayor herself: "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."

Sotomayor was clear enough. In a broad discussion about sex/race discrimination cases and their history, she stated that judges' ethnicity and gender make them better or worse at what they do.

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Disgusting: Banks trying for taxpayer ok and guarantees on sub-prime loans (video)

(more video) Bush and Obama's "Help for Homeowners" plan: $500 million for precisely fifty-one loans - fifty of which are under investigation for fraud My that $500 million worked so well, the Obama administration decided to throw tens of billions at the same program!

I seem to recall predicting this mess on both occasions. All it took was elementary economics and an unwillingness to lie to myself.

(The second video also has some Timothy Geithner schadenfreude, although HVCC is primarily Andrew Cuomo's fault)

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People like this give you an understanding of how much further you can go: Oldest serving cop in US dies at age 84

The oldest active duty police officer in the United States, who battled the Nazis on the beaches of Normandy and the chaos which ravaged New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, has died at the age of 84.

1 day shy of the 65th anniversary of him going ashore on D-Day at Omaha Beach. May flocks of angels guide thee to thy rest, sir.

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A more honest headline would be "Obama reassures World Tyrants They Have Nothing To Fear From US": Obama proclaims an end to Bush's regime-change doctrine

His message? America recognizes a universal yearning for the right to self-government, but regime change in democracy's name is over.

"No system of government can or should be imposed by one nation on any other," Mr. Obama said

Democracy is not a panacea, much less the appearance or outward form of democracy. Germany in 1933 was a democracy. Many of the world's worst hellholes are democracies or republics in name, even today. North Korea, Iran, China, Yemen, Zimbabwe, Russia, Cuba, Venezuela - the list goes on and on. Nor did President Bush impose democracy upon Afghanistan or Iraq - the governments there found sufficient native support to begin with. All he did was remove the tyrants who prevented democracy from having a chance, and both regimes had given us more than enough in the way of reason in terms of US interests. Also, Bush helped persuade Musharraf to leave power in Pakistan without civil war or even invasion.

But President Obama is telling those dictators that no matter what they do, the United States will do nothing to make them accountable to their people. Not necessarily that he'll directly help the regime hold the people down (although how do you think China has kept the lid on this long? Our leaders of the last fifteen to twenty years are as guilty in the repression of the Chinese people as any accomplice of a crime) but that he won't do anything active to bring them down. If I were named Kim Jong Il or Bashar Al-Assad (not to mention Khameini), I'd be feeling a lot happier right now. Especially as the Obama Administration has already shown itself very amenable to actions that indirectly help tyrants hold their people in thrall.

We can't go practicing regime change everywhere, of course. But reserving the ability to cut a particularly bad example out of the herd furnishes a marvelous incentive for these tyrants not to be that particularly bad example. Witness the behavior of of Qaddafi in Libya since the Iraqi invasion.

Of course, with Obama he's quite likely to do something else entirely than what he talks about. In this case, however, that would only exacerbate the feelings of betrayal of any Arabs who believed him today.

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Death by Deficit

Not only does continued, increased government borrowing ever more sap our economy but also, as the baby boomers retire, we will move from the recent statistic of four workers for each retiree to two workers for each retiree. That means a weaker economy, as this smaller work force will not produce enough to support all of government's costs -- even with massive and persistent tax increases. And if, as seems possible, sometime in the next decade the world resists lending our government sufficient money (because our economy will be too small to produce enough to pay the ever-growing interest on the debt), then we finally will be forced to make choices of what to buy and what to forgo

I think it's much later than Mr. Blankley evidently believes. What happens when the interest rates we need to pay to borrow start rising? The answer is that we need to borrow even more, resulting in still higher interest rates, etcetera. This is what engineers call a positive feedback effect - the more out of balance things are, the greater the forces that make it worse will get.

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I don't often agree with Bill Reilly, but he's got it right here: LEFT EXPLOITS DOC'S SLAY TO SILENCE FOES LIKE ME (sic)

But the bigger picture here is the glorification of Tiller.

The uber-liberal New York Times led the way, editorializing: "For his principled devotion to women's health and constitutionally protected rights, Dr. Tiller was the target of protests at his clinic, his house and his church."

The Times made Tiller out to be a hero. The paper's editorial never mentioned that he aborted fetuses after 21 weeks, when they could live outside the mother's womb.

The Times opinion also did not mention that Tiller became a millionaire doing this, or that only three late-term abortion clinics exist in the entire country. Nor did the editorial writer put forth that 36 states restrict late-term abortions without violating the Constitution.

As usual, The New York Times editorial page failed to tell its readers the whole story.

I also agree with "No matter what you think about abortion, it is a sad day for the country when vigilantism takes a life."

Nobody deserves to be murdered. But that doesn't make Tiller a saint. He was, in fact, apparently quite the opposite. And using his death to hijack the discussion and make it appear as if nobody opposed to abortion can have a valid point because one supporter agreed with his cause would be precisely the same logic as saying that environmentalism is evil and/or indefensible because Adolf Hitler was an environmentalist. Neither of these arguments is valid, but if one is, they both are, because they both use precisely the same argument of contagion. Identical logic cannot be valid in one case and not valid in another. Adolf Hitler was an environmentalist, but that doesn't taint environmentalism. Neither does the murder of an abortionist by an anti-abortion activist taint the cause of working against abortion.

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If Obama Had Carter's Courage

That fortitude is exactly what's missing today, as it was missing from Mr. Obama's statement on Monday, which attributed GM's failure to sins by everyone but Washington.

We're still waiting for the brave, original thinking that we were told Mr. Obama represented. Like Washington circa 1978, he has landed for once in a situation where something more than symbolism is required of him. He has finally glided into the land of the real, where the key measurable outcome is no longer whether an audience is glowing with self-approval when he leaves the room.

I'm no admirer of Mr. Carter in general, but this is one of those things he demonstrably got very right. Obama is failing a similar test badly.

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(begin sarcasm)

Boy it's a good thing we passed that "stimulus" Obama wanted

(end sarcasm)

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Reporters with pom-poms

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Banks retreating from partnership with Obama administration

Not that the banks had much choice on the TARP funds anyway, as Judicial Watch has already reported. Hank Paulson threatened them with regulatory action if the banks didn't willingly take government money and along with it further government control. However, as the Post explains, the government doesn't have the regulatory power to compel them into the public/private partnership on toxic assets (at least not directly), and therefore they have chosen not to willingly yoke themselves yet again to Treasury and the Obama administration. In fact, many of them are trying to find ways to give back the TARP funds to end the forced partnerships they already endure


Carnival of Personal Finance

Carnival of Real Estate

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Did Obama Target GOP Donors In Chrysler Dealer Closings?

every single dealer he checked out except one were either GOP donors or donated to Obama's rivals in the democratic primary.

and

Unreal. This is the kind of thing they do in Marxist regimes and Chicago. Could this really be happening in America?

How many laws does this violate, if true? There's a better chance of flying to the moon by flapping your arms than this kind of thing happening by chance. If verified, the statistical probability of it happening is more than enough to constitute a smoking gun worthy of impeachment and removal from office for anyone who understands mathematics.

Of course, the Democrats are a majority in both houses of Congress, so that may be an obstacle to Congressional understanding of basic mathematical fact.

Things are not looking good for the "just a coincidence" explanation

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Ralph Peters: Instant justice for terrorists

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The hidden costs of presidential empathy.

Here is one straw in the wind that does not bode well for a Sotomayor appointment. Justice Stevens of the current court came in for a fair share of criticism (all justified in my view) for his expansive reading in Kelo v. City of New London (2005) of the "public use language." Of course, the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment is as complex as it is short: "Nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." But he was surely done one better in the Summary Order in Didden v. Village of Port Chester issued by the Second Circuit in 2006. Judge Sotomayor was on the panel that issued the unsigned opinion--one that makes Justice Stevens look like a paradigmatic defender of strong property rights.

It seems that the more I learn about Ms. Sotomayon, the less I like. A direct quote: "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life."

Suppose it had been Samuel Alito or John Roberts who said that, 180 degrees reversed? He would have been lucky to keep his previous position, much less be confirmed to the Supreme Court.

Judge Sotomayor's Identity Problem

The essence of the rule of law is that identity doesn't matter. The law means the same thing regardless of the identity of people applying the law or subject to it. We don't have one law for Jews and another for Catholics, one for Italian-Americans and another for Hispanic-Americans. We don't need to know who the judge is to know what the law is.

Judge Sotomayor's nomination is predicated on almost exactly the opposite understanding of what law is and should be, of what matters in our judges and their

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The Need For Failure

First, the very notion of "too big to fail" is dangerous. It suggests that there is an insurance policy that says, no matter how risky your behavior, we will make sure you stay in business. It encourages banks to get bigger (or more interconnected), and it subsidizes risky behavior.

I have long thought that if a company is too big to fail, it needs to be broken up.

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Obama, Incorporated

The interlocking directorate is anathema to trustbusters and corporate watchdogs. It occurs when a board member or top executive of one company sits on the board of another company, accumulating undue power over a given industry. When it reduces competition, the arrangement is forbidden by the Clayton Antitrust Act of 1914.

If Henry De Lamar Clayton, the Alabama congressman who introduced the aforementioned act, were still with us, he'd presumably be shocked at the creation of the most far-reaching interlocking directorate in U.S. history. Obama Inc. has effectively won a seat on the board of companies at the heart of the nation's industrial production and its financial system. The robber barons of old would marvel at the tentacles of influence of Barack Obama, a CEO whose power would overawe J. P. Morgan (the famous industrialist, not the bailed-out bank)

Taking control of all the major capital corporations. Taking control of the banks. Taking direct political control of the census (putting it under White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, whose job it is to be partisan and who performs that part of it splendidly). Threatening dissenters with severe government harrassment. Spending trillions to subsidize supporters at taxpayer expense. Apparently favoring political supporters by closing auto dealerships belonging to those who supported others.

Is anyone else starting to see a pattern here? I can name some really horrible totalitarian hellholes that started their transition from democracy with less power concentrated in the strongman and cronies. Heck I've been liberally linking Armies of Liberation for four years who has documented the control over the country of Yemen wielded by the Saleh government with much less complete control of the country's power centers. I can't name any countries that became more free and more prosperous rather than less once they had ceded that much power to a given individual and his cronies.

Think it can't happen here? That's what they said about China, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Syria, and Cuba. More recently, they said it about Venezuela.

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You call this an amusement park? Depends upon whose amusement it's for

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Want to figure out how biased your news source is? Compare the coverage of these two events:

Military recruiter killed in Ark shooting

Suspect jailed in Kansas abortion doctor's killing

While the second was was unmistakeably vile, the first one is worse. I disagree vehemently with the alleged person who shot Tiller, but at least he did target his victim because that victim engaged of his own free will in a specific activity, to wit, the killing of late term babies (I may agree that it should be legal, but I refuse to shrink from the full consequences thereof by using euphemisms that deny the humanity of those babies). The second dominated news yesterday; I couldn't get away from it every time I opened my homepage. The first is receiving only a fraction of the attention. To be fair, the second is a day older than the first. But, as Michelle Malkin notes every pro-life organization has condemned the actions of the twit that killed Mr. Tiller in no uncertain terms. Let's see how many organizations like Code Pink condemn the killing of two soldiers who were simply assigned to sit in a recruiting office for two weeks straight out of training before being assigned to their units. Let's see if the media gives the two stories equal play.

I'd like to see both of these perpetrators fried. But the person who assassinated two soldiers willing to stand between the rest of us and people who want to kill us, simply because they happened to be in a recruiting office, deserves to fry slowly.

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Why is the Obama Justice Department protecting people who intimidate voters? (video included!)


Political appointees at Justice pressured career prosecutors into giving up on the case of voter intimidation by the New Black Panthers group in Philadelphia, who attempted to frighten voters away from the polls in the presidential election:

Q and O:

A default judgment. A done deal. Guilty.

But they were ordered to drop the charges and case and settle for this:

A Justice Department spokesman on Thursday confirmed that the agency had dropped the case, dismissing two of the men from the lawsuit with no penalty and winning an order against the third man that simply prohibits him from bringing a weapon to a polling place in future elections.

Witness affidavit in NBPP voter bullying case It's damning.

So why is the Obama administration dropping charges after conviction?

Related: Obama administration: It's OK When We Politicize the Justice Department

The "politicization" of the Justice Department was one of many aspects of the Bush administration which the Obama administration was going to cure. But it appears that while the party of the administration has changed, we are seeing a level of political meddling at the Justice Department which the Bush administration never remotely approached
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Advice to College Grads

HT Instapundit


Carnival of Personal Finance # 206

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Democrats Discover Gitmo's Virtues

If so, Guantanamo will join the growing list of security tools that President Obama once criticized as out of keeping with American values but has since discovered are very in keeping with protecting the nation. Wiretapping, renditions, military tribunals, Gitmo -- it turns out the Bush people weren't a bunch of yahoos but often thoughtful defenders against terrorism. This is all progress, though America might wonder if it could have been spared the intervening drama.
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Michael Barone: Obama Changes Course on Antiterrorism

But that didn't end political debate, as Obama apparently hoped, but heated it up. Dick Cheney demanded the release of memoranda showing whether the interrogations had produced intelligence that saved American lives. Left Democrats protested Obama's decision to rule out prosecution of CIA interrogators, while conservatives decried his refusal to rule out prosecutions of Bush administration lawyers (a matter for Attorney General Eric Holder, he said, as if he couldn't issue a direct order). Word was given out that Holder would decide against prosecutions. Then, last week, Obama reversed himself and said the government would appeal the court order and not release the photographs.

I'd say Dick Cheney is decisively winning the debate on what the Bush Administration did and whether they were justified in their actions. By his actions, Obama has conceded every point to date, deciding to stay basically in lock-step with Bush era policies.

Victor Davis Hanson: Ministers of Truth

Perhaps the media doesn't get it that the American people can more easily take the bias of an attack-dog, go-for-the jugular media that claims it is the watchdog of the public trust and therefore must skin the president, far more than such carnivores suddenly becoming sheepish and obsequious, as ministers of truth, rephrasing and repackaging the party line. How odd that just six months ago we had screaming reporters and columnists talking about the near-end-of-days with Bush -- and now doing contortions to assure us that things suddenly aren't that bad after all, or that we must give Obama flexibility and time to sort out the prior mess. Quite scary, all this chest-thumping about tough journalistic integrity of 2001-8 suddenly devolving into, "Hey everyone, we can reassure you that the Emperor really does have clothes on."

Our president isn't quite as advertised.

In both cases, though, we have learned something about Mr. Obama. What animated him during the campaign is what historian Forrest McDonald once called "the projection of appealing images." All politicians want to project an appealing image. What Mr. McDonald warned against is focusing on this so much that an appealing image "becomes a self-sustaining end unto itself." Such an approach can work in a campaign, as Mr. Obama discovered. But it can also complicate life once elected, as he is finding out.
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Obama's dangerous debt

The wonder is that these issues have been so ignored. Imagine hypothetically that a President McCain had submitted a budget plan identical to Obama's. There would almost certainly have been a loud outcry: "McCain's Mortgaging Our Future." Obama should be held to no less exacting a standard.

The question actually is a fair one. If McCain had done what Obama did, the reaction would have been swift, cacophonous, and entirely negative. The difference is that McCain wouldn't have done this. Look at the man's long record of public service - he's devoted a lot more energy to eliminating waste than funding it. But Obama (predictably) did otherwise.

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Wow! Republican Chairman Michael Steele channels Martin Luther King

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Peace isn't Arab goal

International consensus or no, the two-state solution is a chimera. Peace will not be achieved by granting sovereignty to the Palestinians, because Palestinian sovereignty has never been the Arabs' goal. Time and time again, a two-state solution has been proposed. Time and time again, the Arabs have turned it down.

When one side wants war, the alternatives for the other are war or baring their throat for the knife. It takes both sides to achieve peace. The central truth is that the Arabs want the Jews eradicated more than they want peace.

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I may not agree with everything Greg Swann says here, but he's certainly more right than wrong. NAR exists for the purpose of pulling the wool over the eyes of legislators and consumers so the big chain brokerages which control it can continue pocketing absurd amounts of money.

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Don Surber: There are two Americas. People who work for a living, and public employees.

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Turns out when you win elections, you'd better not free the terrorists you promised to free while demonizing your predecessor unjustly, lest the voters hold you responsible for the results: Senate votes 90-6 not to close Guantanamo prison

By their votes, congressional Democrats unveil the hypocrisy of pretending the unlawful combatants at Guantanamo Bay are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

So, now we get the truth.

The big ugly snarling truth.

The facts that we knew all along: The terrorists at Gitmo belong at Gitmo.

All these nations that protested? Not a one of them will take these critters off our hands.

Congressmen who railed against Gitmo are showing their true colors.

The Gitmo Myth and the Torture Canard

What this account and others like it fail to take into consideration are the aggressive and unending efforts of a cadre of lawyers, activists, left-leaning Democrats in Congress, and civil libertarians against the facility, its purpose, its goal, and its existence. These efforts began even before it was opened, in November 2001, and continue to this day. The anti-Gitmo forces worked tirelessly to shape the public perception that Gitmo was the red-hot center of an aggressive policy approach that led the leftist financier George Soros to declare: "The biggest terrorist in the world is George W. Bush."

The enemies of Bush and Gitmo have succeeded brilliantly. But in so doing, they have done grave violence to the truth about the Guantánamo Bay facility, have aided in the release of prisoners who have since committed acts of terrorism outside the United States, and may yet succeed in having Barack Obama's government release young men with terrifying ambitions for murder and mass destruction onto the soil of the United States.

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Federal government: we've run the 46% of the health care segment we have into $38 trillion of unfunded debt. The way to fix that is to give us the rest

If this seems like a "What the...?" moment to you, you're not alone. I doubt comedians could get laughs with this material. It's too far out there; the audience would be unable to follow them. But it's the line Obama and company are trying to sell.

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Far and away my most searched article the last couple weeks has been When The Appraisal Is Below The Purchase Price for Real Estate

Everything I predicted in The Home Valuation Code of Conduct (New Appraisal Standards) is coming true. I've had appraisers choose trashed lender owned properties as appropriate comps for well cared for family properties. I'm doing a refinance for a client right now where the appraisal somehow came in forty thousand dollars below any close comparable sale - and it isn't the condition of the property. It's HVCC and the incentives it gives the appraisers to come in too low. Luckily in my client's case, I can still get it done (at least the guidelines say I can), but it's just sheer luck of circumstance that he didn't just waste his appraisal money, and there is nothing I can do to prevent situations where that happens. Nor can I so much as discuss the situation with the appraiser (for instance by furnishing the appraiser alternate, better comparables) when it does happen due to . People are paying these prices for these properties. If the appraisals we're getting don't reflect that, that is a problem at least as big as the inflated appraisals they're claiming were the reason they mandated HVCC.

Furthermore, given the state of my local market, we're seeing bidding wars on just about anything that's close to correctly priced and reasonably attractive. I strongly suspect the appraisal contingency is going to be on its way out, especially given the number of offers being thrown around where the buyer is putting way more than the minimum down.

Who does this hurt? Not the big investors. They've got the cash. It's the little guy trying to scrape together the money for his first property, for his family to live in.

I'll bet you the working people of this country are going to be so grateful to Andrew Cuomo that they do something appropriate to express their gratitude to him (and those behind him). I'd be saving up for bodyguards were I in their position. They're going to need them when people figure it out. Of course, they've got the money. Guess where it came from?

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Identity Politics And Sotomayor

Indeed, unless Sotomayor believes that Latina women also make better judges than Latino men, and also better than African-American men and women, her basic proposition seems to be that white males (with some exceptions, she noted) are inferior to all other groups in the qualities that make for a good jurist.

Any prominent white male would be instantly and properly banished from polite society as a racist and a sexist for making an analogous claim of ethnic and gender superiority or inferiority.

So why isn't Sotomayor a racist? Quite simply, because minorities are still in Denial over what the mirror shows them.

In other words, she is a racist; it's just that our identity politics industry refuses to see in a Latina female what it would demand everyone see in a white male guilty of a fraction of the same offense.

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How Joe Biden Wrecked the Judicial Confirmation Process

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This isn't just a three day holiday. Take a moment to remember what it's about. Memorial Day specifically arose as a tribute to those who fought in the Civil War, but it now honors everyone who made the sacrifice from the Revolutionary War until today. Nor is it just for the troops who died - there's plenty of them who survive with life altering injuries. There are also families missing a dad or mom or brother or sister or son or daughter.

For all of those this day was meant to honor: Thank you isn't enough. We have a collective debt to you. I will always do what I can to see that we honor it as much as mortal humans can.


Carnival of Personal Finance #205

Carnival of Real Estate

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Tomorrow (likely today by the time I get this published), California has a special election. Six propositions, five of which have to do with bond issues that will allow the legislature to continue spending too much money a little bit longer. I strongly recommend a "No" vote on 1A through 1E. Allowing them to put off the need to stop spending so much money won't do the state any favors - in fact, it will make things worse in at least three different ways.

For the final proposition, 1F (no pay increases for legislators in deficit years), I'm leaning "Yes" but am prepared to entertain arguments the other way.

The economic future of our state will be determined by how many of Propositions 1A through 1E go down in flaming, ignominious defeat.

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Tax The Rich? Watch The Inevitable Happen

Notice that the exodus from the high-tax states to low-tax states with more opportunity has been significant since 1998. But now with the plan to increase taxes again on the "richer", high-tax states are providing even more of a financial incentive for those in higher income brackets to leave them and move to low or no-income tax states. While such a relocation might have had marginally positive financial results for those leaving in the past, high-tax states are about to make relocation for financial reasons a no-brainer. And states like California and New York can hardly afford to run off the class of tax payer that presently pays the largest percentage of state taxes. But, with alternatives available, that's precisely what they're getting ready to do.

The rich needn't stop at moving from a high tax state to a low tax one. They can also move to places like Hong Kong and Kolkata. After all, they've got the money to protect their interests.

ARTHUR LAFFER and STEPHEN MOORE lay it all out.Soak the Rich, Lose the Rich

Did the greater prosperity in low-tax states happen by chance? Is it coincidence that the two highest tax-rate states in the nation, California and New York, have the biggest fiscal holes to repair? No. Dozens of academic studies -- old and new -- have found clear and irrefutable statistical evidence that high state and local taxes repel jobs and businesses.

and

We believe there are three unintended consequences from states raising tax rates on the rich. First, some rich residents sell their homes and leave the state; second, those who stay in the state report less taxable income on their tax returns; and third, some rich people choose not to locate in a high-tax state. Since many rich people also tend to be successful business owners, jobs leave with them or they never arrive in the first place. This is why high income-tax states have such a tough time creating net new jobs for low-income residents and college graduates.
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If you think that the national media weren't doing everything they could to elect Obama, read this: How the NYT buried an Obama/ACORN expose just before the election

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Hilarious! President Palin's First 100 Days

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How the Mighty Fall: A Primer on the Warning Signs

Our comparative and historical analysis yielded a descriptive model of how the mighty fall that consists of five stages that proceed in sequence. And here's the really scary part: You do not visibly fall until Stage 4! Companies can be well into Stage 3 decline and still look and feel great, yet be right on the cusp of a huge fall. Decline can sneak up on you, and--seemingly all of a sudden--you're in big trouble.


Something is rotten in Obama's America

But what happened to the non-TARP bondholders was even worse. When they squawked, the administration tried to muscle them. Lawyers for the bondholders contend that senior representatives of the Obama administration threatened them. Michael Barone, the ultra-knowledgeable (and normally unflappable) editor of the Almanac of American Politics called it "gangster government."

and

The state of California faces a desperate fiscal situation. California now has the worst credit rating of any American state. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Democratic majority legislature have struggled to balance the books, as they are constitutionally obliged to do. They have raised taxes dramatically, but they have also cut some programs. Among the cuts: a $2-an-hour cut in the wages of home health-care workers.

Those workers were unionized, and their union -- the Service Employees International Union - carries clout in Obama's Washington. On Thursday, California state officials told the Los Angeles Times that they had received a warning: The federal government would deny California $6.8-billion in stimulus funds unless the wage cut was rescinded. Since the wage cut will save only about $74-million, the state will have little choice but to surrender.

If this doesn't disturb you, it's time to cut your soma intake.

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The weakness and strength of Wikipedia. The weakness of the world media: Irish student hoaxes world's media with fake quote

He said it took him less than 15 minutes to fabricate and place a quote calculated to appeal to obituary writers without distorting Jarre's actual life experiences.

If anything, Fitzgerald said, he expected newspapers to avoid his quote because it had no link to a source - and even might trigger alarms as "too good to be true." But many blogs and several newspapers used the quotes at the start or finish of their obituaries.

Wikipedia did catch the error fairly quickly. But the major media did not, because it appealed to their prejudices.

Never trust Wikipedia without independent confirmation. It's not intended as a primary source. It's not trustworthy as a primary source - and to its credit, admits it. But that doesn't stop lazy idiots from using it as one.

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Remember how the Obama administration frightened the public into spending at least $1.2 Trillion (looking more like $3 trillion) on Democratic interest groups while using scare language of what would happen if it wasn't passed?

Well compared to what actually happened after we did pass it, the scary unemployment scenario for if we hadn't is starting to look downright good.

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The Worsening Social Security Outlook: A Guide to the 2009 Trustees' Report

The public has been ill-served by those who have groundlessly minimized the Social Security shortfall. The current wake-up call is coming too late to allow for a Social Security fix as benign as the one that could have been enacted years ago. It is still the case, however, that we will get a better solution and a more effective Social Security program if we act sooner rather than later.

Hot Air reemphasizes:

There is no trust fund. Social Security surpluses have always been used by the federal government for general-fund allotments, replaced essentially by IOUs. This became an issue in the 2000 presidential election, when Al Gore talked about a "lockbox" to keep Congress out of the surpluses. The "trust fund" consists of bonds, not cash, and they have to be redeemed by the US government, which already runs massive deficits.
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Video: Are the elderly cost-effective?

What happens when the state controls all the resources? New resources do not develop, and the government winds up rationing care based on its own priorities, and not the priorities of the patients or caregivers. Professor Altman's suggestion that the elderly get hospice treatment to save scarce care resources is exactly the kind of decisions the state will make for its citizens, and it won't be limited to the elderly, either. Anyone whose value does not show a positive "cost-benefit" ratio to the state will also likely wind up without the kind of care necessary to stay alive and healthy.
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The coming tax regime that will kill American productivity

This is a recurring theme with Obama and tax policy. He and his advisors use static analysis to predict results from tax increase, ignoring the effect that tax changes have on revenue. He assumes that a 7% increase in the capital-gains tax, to use one example, will result in a 7% increase in revenue from the previous year, but that's simply not the case. The tax hike will cause people to change behaviors to avoid paying higher taxes, either by cashing out this year (resulting in a loss of capital to the marketplace) or not selling off stakes in companies and investing the profit elsewhere. The effect of the change will itself limit revenues, probably more than the increased percentage will capture, making the policy a net loss to the government.

They know better, but using intentionally wrong figures makes it easier to sell to the public.

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Very interesting. Unprecedented even FHA Ok with Up Front Tax Credit or, in other words, using the tax credit money at closing.

We all want to enable FHA consumers to access the tax credit funds when they close on their home loans so that the cash can be used as a downpayment. So FHA will permit trusted FHA-approved lenders and HUD-approved nonprofits, as well as state and local governmental entities to "monetize" the tax credit through short-term bridge loans. We think the policy is a real win for everyone, ensuring that borrowers can tap into the numerous organizations that are already part of the FHA network to receive this additional benefit. FHA will be publishing the details shortly.

This isn't necessarily to say the lenders themselves will permit it - but it's fine with the FHA. I suspect the lenders are going to run with it, myself. The stumbling block in the past has always been that people with a tax credit coming don't necessarily get the money. Sometimes they have other debts, sometimes they have an unexpected tax liability. When that happens, there's a short that has to be repaid, creating a debt and usually payments, impacting debt to income ratio among other things. But if the financial guarantor of FHA loans is saying they'll write the loan guarantee with such a bridge loan in place, who are the lenders (whose profit making loans are being guaranteed) to argue? The real question will be "on what terms will these short term bridge loans be written?"

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Chrysler and the Rule of Law

Fleecing lenders to pay off politically powerful interests, or governmental threats to reputation and business from a failure to toe a political line? We might expect this behavior from a Hugo Chávez. But it would never happen here, right?

Until Chrysler.

and

The Obama administration's behavior in the Chrysler bankruptcy is a profound challenge to the rule of law. Secured creditors -- entitled to first priority payment under the "absolute priority rule" -- have been browbeaten by an American president into accepting only 30 cents on the dollar of their claims. Meanwhile, the United Auto Workers union, holding junior creditor claims, will get about 50 cents on the dollar.

Lots of people don't understand what a big deal this is. As Prof. Zywicki makes clear, it's an actual constitutional violation Actually, it's at least two different constitutional violations, as well as an entire phalanx of lesser laws.

It the laws don't protect everyone, they don't protect anyone. For all of the accusations of highhandedness leveled at Obama's predecessor, that predecessor was diligent in following the rule of law. Complaints about his predecessor were essentially "he didn't give us everything we wanted! Waah!" Obama himself, however, has sponsored several actual legal violations, where those he treated roughly have been shorted upon what they were entitled to under the law.

Why is there not a fraction of the hue and cry his predecessor faced over much lesser accusations?

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A budget with no shortage of lies

It's nothing new for presidents to give us bloated budgets with phony promises of belt-tightening at the end of the day. But never, ever, in the history of the republic has there been so irresponsibly gargantuan a budget defended by rhetoric so duplicitous as we are now seeing from President Barack Obama. "We cannot settle for a future of rising deficits and debts that our children cannot pay," he said last month, and he has talked as well about fiscal discipline, eliminating waste, increased efficiency, more focused policies and how dishonest President Bush was in leaving the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan "off the books." Well, yes, Bush did that thing and he shouldn't have, but everyone knew that money was being spent and the dishonesty, such as it was, is nothing - zero, zip, nada - next to Obama dressing up as a miser as he promotes a $3.59 trillion budget with a $1.2 trillion deficit on its back.

Read the whole thing.

Obama pretends to be frugal as we sink deeper in debt.

Actually, he doesn't even pretend to be frugal. He just says he's frugal

Remember President Obama's New Era of Responsibility? It got off to an inauspicious start, with a $787 billion economic stimulus package, a $410 billion appropriations bill, and a record $1.8 trillion budget deficit.

But now Obama wants to signal that he's getting serious about cutting the federal budget. Unfortunately, his plan hinges on the assumption that Americans do not know how to calculate percentages.

Last week the Obama administration, after going through the budget "line by line," unveiled $17 billion in budget cuts. That amounts to less than 0.5 percent of the president's proposed $3.6 trillion budget for the next fiscal year and less than 2 percent of the projected $1.3 trillion deficit.

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'Thought Crimes' Bill Advances

Why is the press remaining mostly silent about the so-called "hate crimes law" that passed in the House on April 29? The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act passed in a 249-175 vote (17 Republicans joined with 231 Democrats). These Democrats should have been tested on their knowledge of the First Amendment, equal protection of the laws (14th Amendment), and the prohibition of double jeopardy (no American can be prosecuted twice for the same crime or offense). If they had been, they would have known that this proposal, now headed for a Senate vote, violates all these constitutional provisions.

Why is it suddenly acceptable for some people to be more equal than others?

The extra punishment applies only to these "protected classes." As Denver criminal defense lawyer Robert J Corry Jr. asked (Denver Post April 28): "Isn't every criminal act that harms another person a 'hate crime'?" Then, regarding a Colorado "hate crime" law, one of 45 such state laws, Corry wrote: "When a Colorado gang engaged in an initiation ritual of specifically seeking out a "white woman" to rape, the Boulder prosecutor declined to pursue 'hate crime' charges." She was not enough of one of its protected classes.

If this was a group of white men looking for a minority woman to rape, I doubt the same logic would have prevailed.

Rape is rape. Murder is murder. The racial, sexual, or religious identity of the victim being grounds for additional punishment contends that some people are more value than others, that it is somehow worse to commit these crimes with a certain specially protected class as the victim.

It also violates equal protection under the law.

This is a huge problem, and a guaranteed cause of additional violence in the future. Civil wars have been fought over this. Nations have shattered.

Not to mention that it's a constitutional violation.

It doesn't matter the angle, practical or theoretical, that you want to pursue. This creates special protected classes, and is no different in its roots than the century old (and now discontinued) practices of the Old South where a black person who killed a White Person got the death penalty while a White person who killed a Black person got a short jail sentence, if anything. Only the identities of who is protected and valued has changed.

Same old racist nonsense for a different era. Just because the identities of who is valued and who is not have been switched doesn't mean it's not still racism.

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Obama Offers Security at the Expense of Liberty

Our would-be soft despots are offering Americans money and the promise of security against economic distress. The vastly increased cost of government will nonetheless nearly leave half of households free from the burden of paying federal income tax and eligible for occasional rebates. As CNN reporter Susan Roesgen said to a tea party protester, "Don't you realize that you're eligible for a $400 tax cut?"

In other words, take the money and shut up. Which brings to mind Tocqueville's warning: "Every measure which establishes legal charity on a permanent basis and gives to it an administrative form creates thereby a class unproductive and idle, living at the expense of the class which is industrious and given to work."

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

Not to mention that they won't have the safety for long - and the next time the bill comes do, will have nothing to trade for more security. And that they've already given up the means of getting more.

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Unions vs. Taxpayers

But then there is the U.S. public sector, where the mood seems very European these days. In New Jersey, which faces a $3.3 billion budget deficit, angry state workers have demonstrated in Trenton and taken Gov. Jon Corzine to court over his plan to require unpaid furloughs for public employees. In New York, public-sector unions have hit the airwaves with caustic ads denouncing Gov. David Paterson's promise to lay off state workers if they continue refusing to forgo wage hikes as part of an effort to close a $17.7 billion deficit. In Los Angeles County, where the schools face a budget deficit of nearly $600 million, school employees have balked at a salary freeze and vowed to oppose any layoffs that the board of education says it will have to pursue if workers don't agree to concessions.


I'm hosting this week's Carnival of Real Estate over at my "professional voice" website. My third time hosting; first time at the other site. Read it here: Carnival of Real Estate #141

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HOW CHURCHILL DEALT WITH THUGS

But Churchill also understood that, if barbarism was one enemy of civilization, another was a moral cowardice disguised as moral qualms -- an instinctive flinching in the face of danger, dressed up as "upholding our values."

Churchill had seen this flinching in such 1930s appeasers as Neville Chamberlain, and he feared that he'd see it again among Britons and their leaders after the war.

"There is no place for compromise in war," Churchill wrote. In choosing between civilized restraint and the British people's survival, he never hesitated. He contemplated using mustard gas if the Nazis invaded England. He authorized the fire bombing of German cities, the so-called terror bombings, in order to cripple the German war effort and morale. He was prepared to let Mahatma Gandhi die during his hunger strike in 1943 rather than be blackmailed into abandoning India, the last bastion against Japanese domination of Asia.

It isn't easy, or something to make you proud when you make a decision to do something you see as uncivilized. If the consequences of not doing so are worse, however, you are becoming even more uncivilized when you fail to do them.

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Thomas Sowell: 'Empathy' Versus Law

Justice David Souter's retirement from the Supreme Court presents President Barack Obama with his first opportunity to appoint someone to the High Court. People who are speculating about whether the next nominee will be a woman, a Hispanic or whatever, are missing the point.

That we are discussing the next Supreme Court justice in terms of group "representation" is a sign of how far we have already strayed from the purpose of law and the weighty responsibility of appointing someone to sit for life on the highest court in the land.

That President Obama has made "empathy" with certain groups one of his criteria for choosing a Supreme Court nominee is a dangerous sign of how much further the Supreme Court may be pushed away from the rule of law and toward even more arbitrary judicial edicts to advance the agenda of the left and set it in legal concrete, immune from the democratic process.

Would you want to go into court to appear before a judge with "empathy" for groups A, B and C, if you were a member of groups X, Y or Z? Nothing could be further from the rule of law. That would be bad news, even in a traffic court, much less in a court that has the last word on your rights under the Constitution of the United States.

Read the whole thing.

A Litmus Test That Counts

As the time approaches for President Obama to choose a successor to Justice David Souter, the term "litmus test" will be heard throughout the land. The White House will deny applying any such thing, but the nominee will undoubtedly be chosen according to where she stands on abortion, unions and other issues beloved by liberals. This is fine with me, but what I want to know is where she stands on Frank Ricci. He's a fireman.

He is also the lead plaintiff in a case recently argued before the Supreme Court. It was Ricci's misfortune to take -- and pass -- the New Haven, Conn., fire department's promotion exam for lieutenant, and then have the job denied him because he is white. Others will argue -- fatuously and, when they are before St. Peter, with head bowed in shame -- that race had nothing to do with what happened to Ricci, but the fact remains that had he been black, his uniform would already sport a lieutenant's bar.

Jeff Jacoby, definitely left of center, has no sympathy for an empathy standard either.

**********

Michael Barone: White House Puts UAW Ahead of Property Rights

But my sadness turned to anger later when I heard what bankruptcy lawyer Tom Lauria said on a WJR talk show that morning. "One of my clients," Lauria told host Frank Beckmann, "was directly threatened by the White House and in essence compelled to withdraw its opposition to the deal under threat that the full force of the White House press corps would destroy its reputation if it continued to fight."

This is vile, for two reasons. One, that the President would resort to such tactics at all, threatening private citizens with the power of the press. Two, the expectation that the White House Press Corps would actively cooperate with that agenda. This is not the way it's supposed to happen, not the reason why the press enjoys a privileged position (no other profession has a shield law). Would the press have cooperated thus with any previous administration? Would there have been any expectation they would do so?

a violation of one of the basic principles of bankruptcy law, which is that secured creditors -- those who loaned money only on the contractual promise that if the debt was unpaid they'd get specific property back -- get paid off in full before unsecured creditors get anything.

The reason is plain and simple: UAW's political support for the Democrats.

A hedge fund manager lays it all out: Unafraid In Greenwich Connecticut

He speaks truth to power, taking more risk in standing up to Obama than anyone did during the eight years of the Bush Administration. We've already seen how Obama deals with dissenters - going after them personally, abusing the power of the government - something George W. Bush (for all accusations to the contrary) never did. But somehow I don't think that those who lauded the idiot conspiracy theories accusing the Bush Administration of everything from silencing opponents to faking 9/11 will laud this man who has objectively taken more risk than all of those nitwits together in order to publicize the simple truth.

Q and O reports more government threats and intimidation

Confronting the head of a non-TARP fund holding Chrysler debt and unwilling to release it for any sum less than that to which it was legally entitled without compelling cause, this country's "Car Czar" berated the manager of said fund with an outburst of prose substantially resembling this:

Who the f*** do you think you're dealing with? We'll have the IRS audit your fund. Every one of your employees. Your investors. Then we will have the Securities and Exchange Commission rip through your books looking for anything and everything and nothing we find to destroy you with.

Faced with these sorts of threats, in this environment, with valued employees in the crosshairs and AIG a fresh, open wound upon the market, the fund folded.

I knew this clown Obama and his administration would be bad. But I didn't think it'd get this bad this fast. This is clear impeachment material - of the person uttering it, and all the way up the chain of command if they were complicit or instructed to say it by their superiors. Extortion is a felony, the more so because there were billions of dollars at stake.

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Our Have-It-Both-Ways Generation

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The Obama Lexicon

Washington always has been a thermonuclear cliché generator. But the Obama administration, with all its super-smarts, has taken the exploitation of the euphemism to spectacular new heights.

This week, we learned a bit more about what the terms "sacrifice" (do what we want, you filthy, unpatriotic swine), "era of responsibility" (double the "sacrifice," half the prosperity) and "investments" (we squander money so you don't have to) really mean.

I have never heard such a double-speaking tale-spinning opportunist as our current President and his administration. David Harsanyi lays it all out.

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The Obama Girls Aren't Like You and Me

If you know me on this issue, you know that I am very, very upset. And that I think that there is probably a special place in hell reserved for politicians who betray our nation's most helpless children for the benefit of a sullen and recalcitrant teacher's union. There they spend all eternity explaining to their victims why they couldn't possibly have risked their precious babies' future in the public school system, yet felt perfectly free to fling other peoples' children into it by the thousands.

Megan is definitely left of certer, politically. But she's willing to examine the facts and where they lead honestly, and she is not buying the difference between Obama's speech and his actions.

**********

If we're going to prosecute the Bush Administration for illegal torture, it looks like we're going to need to prosecute the Obama Administration right beside them

As the Holder Justice Department puts it on pp. 20-21 of the elusive DOJ brief:

[T]orture is defined as "an extreme form of cruel and inhuman treatment and does not include lesser forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. . . . " 8 C.F.R. § 1208.18(a)(2). Moreover, as has been explained by the Third Circuit, CAT requires "a showing of specific intent before the Court can make a finding that a petitioner will be tortured." Pierre v. Attorney General, 528 F.3d 180, 189 (3d Cir. 2008) (en banc); see 8 C.F.R. § 1208.18(a)(5) (requiring that the act "be specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering"); Auguste v. Ridge, 395 F.3d 123, 139 (3d Cir. 2005) ("This is a 'specific intent' requirement and not a 'general intent' requirement" [citations omitted.] An applicant for CAT protection therefore must establish that "his prospective torturer will have the motive or purpose" to torture him. Pierre, 528 F.3d at 189; Auguste, 395 F.3d at 153-54 ("The mere fact that the Haitian authorities have knowledge that severe pain and suffering may result by placing detainees in these conditions does not support a finding that the Haitian authorities intend to inflict severe pain and suffering. The difference goes to the heart of the distinction between general and specific intent.")

I can see where the left would get upset that a Republican president would claim that something is not legally torture because there is no specific intent. I disagree with them, but I understand the merits of the position and the fact that they're using an available means to oppose someone of the opposing political viewpoint. Now it turns out that the Obama administration is making the exact same argument after condemning it (and still condemning it in speeches) in Bush's.

Once upon a time, I thought Obama might be an interesting guy to hang with. I take it back. I may have respect for the office of the President and the fact that he won the election, but it is hard to express my personal contempt for the deliberate bifurcation between words and deeds that has become the hallmark of the Obama administration.

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President of Yemen Personally Issues Death Threat to Former President of Yemen

Vienna - London, "Aden press," Special: 9-5 - 2009

Yemeni authorities have today carried out a telephone conversation with President Ali Salem Albied in the country, who lives in Austria and threatened him by physical liquidation by an official way , and accused President Ali Salem Albied in a telephone conversation with the "Aden press," Immediately after receiving the call, that the people spoke, by SANAA formal way and by the President regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh spoke to him this morning and told him explicitly that we know where you will be, where do you get rid if it did not stop what he described as "a farce and the storm," which raised Albied since announced his departure from Muscat and his call for the people of the South to unite behind their cause, just published in the In an earlier statement, "Aden press ."

Saleh Urges Real Dialog (after muzzling opponents)

Perhaps you buffoon, if there had been electoral reform as promised in 2006 and under the guidance of the EU, then the growing tensions would have been short circuited by authentically contested Parliamentary elections. Duh!

Are we all getting the causal relationship between the delayed elections and the uptick in tensions? The elections were delayed because...Saleh lied again.

Why would anyone, anywhere believe Saleh? Everything is smoke and mirrors, lies, propaganda and threats. Closing the newspapers while calling for dialog is the supreme example of hypocrisy.

Corruption Undermines Yemeni Unity

These three data points all tell you the way Yemen is heading - to a civil war.

It could happen here. I can make a very good case that our current administration is moving us in that direction. There is only a difference of degree between Saleh and Obama, and I have no reason to expect that said difference of degree will persist.

The left accused George W. Bush of wanting to create a theocracy and hang onto power after it's term was up. Here we are, four months after George W. Bush gave up power precisely when he was supposed to. However, Obama's quick moves to concentrate all power in his own hands - economic power, financial power, census power, together with his encouragement of voter fraud, his unwillingness to negotiate meaningfully with the minority party (something George W. Bush was often accused of, but in actuality negotiated far more than either his successor or predecessor), Obama's threats and actions against private citizens, his administration's attempts to define opposition as terrorists and threats and worthy of law enforcement intimidation - all of this paints a very coherent picture, and I don't like what it shows.

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Before Congress considers any form of government-run health care, they should hear the voices of patients denied care because the government deemed it too costly or delayed care because of long waiting lists for surgery or diagnostic tests.

Look at our own VA system. Most vets I know prefer private health insurance and health care, going to the VA only when they have no other alternative.

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This needs the widest circulation it can get. Video, 17 minutes

The True Story of the Atomic Bomb

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TARP: The Tragedy Deepens

Not only is the TARP program pernicious to the banking and financial sector, but it's implications go much deeper than that, and corrupt the rest of the economy as well. And most importantly, this is only the beginning.

The corruption expresses itself in a number of ways. Take a look at the GM/Chrysler situation. In both cases, the UAW emerge as the clear winners in the bankruptcy proceedings. In the case of GM, bondholders with $27 billion in bonds are supposed to accept 10% of the company's equity, while the UAW's retirement fund, which holds $10 billion in bonds, is supposed to receive 40%, with the Government taking the remainder of the equity. In what possible way is this supportable?

TARP as Shakespearean Tragedy

By inducing banks to take TARP money, whether through tactics or intimidation, the government has neatly cornered the capital flow of the country. Much like Hamlet surreptitiously forced his uncle to publicly face scorn for his act of regicide (by having performed the "Murder of Gonzago," aka the "Mouse-Trap"), the government has successfully lured failing banks into the public square for ridicule. Whereas Hamlet sought to elicit a sign of guilt in order to justify his vengeance, however, the government seems intent on effusing guilt throughout the banking industry so as to justify its controlling moves. By tainting the public view of the financial sector, the government seeks to undermine public confidence and build a chorus calling for its heavy-handed involvement. As mentioned above, protestations by the beggars for such action protest too much, methinks, but those who truly have no need of the interference have much cause to cry foul.
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California heading towards collapse, auditor warns

On the eve of a series of referendums proposed to increase taxes on Californians, the Golden State's legislative budget analyst warns that both the legislature and the governor have seriously underestimated the budget shortfall. The state has a $23 billion gap even after the legislative compromise earlier this year supposedly eliminated the red ink and could default by July:

We spend too damned much money. I'm not going to say that all of the causes are unworthy, because that is not the case. I am saying that there is no way the government (at any level) can create money without taking it from someone. Every single method the government (at any level) has of getting the money it spends hurts people at least dollar for dollar, and if you don't understand this, you are not a competent adult. We have got to limit government spending, and prioritize what we do spend. Because the whole system is near economic collapse, and if we don't do what is necessary to avert that collapse, the people we are trying to show "compassion" for will be hurt much worse by that economic collapse.

The oft-quoted Cruel versus stupid is a false dichotomy, because stupid ends up being far more cruel than "cruel" might ever consider.

Don't believe me? Read this" Hemorraging - especially Uncle Sam

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What have we learned?

The point was not that Obama likes Dijon mustard -- I do, too, as does the man who named it "DijonGate" -- but rather that MSNBC and other major media are no longer in the news business. They're doing public relations for the Obama administration and the Democratic Party.
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I have written the following to each of my Senators urging them to work against HR 1728:

Senator*,

I write you today as a constituent and mortgage professional urging you to act and vote against HR 1728 (Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act).

Everything this act accomplishes is found elsewhere in Federal Law, with one exception: The prohibition of paying yield spread to brokers.

I'm a correspondent, not a broker. I don't get yield spread. This bill, however, will prohibit brokers from sharing in EXACTLY THE SAME PROFITS EARNED BY LENDERS UNDER EXACTLY THE SAME CIRCUMSTANCES. I can't see that it is any more evil for a broker to receive yield spread, paid voluntarily by lenders under no compulsion to offer it, while those lenders receive much larger premiums from the secondary loan market for precisely that same loan.

Whereas I personally stand to actually benefit from this bill, it adversely impacts consumer choice and ability to shop their mortgage around in search of the best possible loan. It removes the ability of legal adults to *choose* to pay a higher rate in return for removal of certain costs - but it only so restricts their choice if they choose to do business with brokers. I do not believe it is in anybody's best interest to do this - except possibly the major lenders themselves.

I have written a somewhat lengthy analysis of this bill at

http://www.searchlightcrusade.net/2009/05/hr_1728_proof_that_this_congre.html

if you are interested in more background.

Please do everything in your power to prevent this monstrosity from passing. If you don't succeed, at least you will be able to say that you tried when research indicates that lender profit margin per loan on the secondary market has doubled or more, at the expense of consumers.

I am very sorry I haven't had much time to write new articles of late. All of the easy articles are written. New articles are generally taking me two hours plus to write - and I just haven't had two hours to write them. I am working on it. I have something over 90 article ideas saved and many actually have some significant development. It's for good reasons - clients and family - but I have been working 90 plus hours every week and there just hasn't been any energy left over in the evenings. I haven't even looked at my newsfeeds in over a week, and I'm a little scared as to what they probably look like. The one linked article below was headlined on my home page.

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Carnival of Personal Finance

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Worst Cities For Jobs

So what about California? The economic well-being of many metropolitan areas in the Golden State has been sinking precipitously since 2006. This year, three California regions--Oakland, Sacramento and San Bernardino-Riverside--have sunk down into the bottom 10 on the large cities list. That's a phenomenon we've never seen before--and never expected to see.

and

Much of the problem lies with the state's notoriously inept government. The enormous budget deficit will almost certainly lead to tax increases, which will fall mostly on the state's vaunted high-income entrepreneurial residents. Stimulus funds won't do much good either, Adibi notes, since "the state is grabbing all of the federal stimulus money" to keep itself afloat.

A draconian regulatory environment also could dim California's prospects for growth. Despite double-digit unemployment, the state seems determined not only to raise taxes but also to tighten its regulatory stranglehold.

and

It's sad because California has the capacity to recover more quickly than the rest of the country if the state moderates its spending and stops regulating itself into oblivion. This current round of legislation is so dangerous precisely because it could eviscerate the heart of the economy by slowing down entrepreneurial growth, the state's greatest asset.

It's obvious to him and to practically everyone else I talk to. Why are elected officials unable to see it? Because they stay in office by handing out state funds to people who want them in exchange for their votes.

Read the whole thing.


Come back Thursday morning for the Consumer Focused Carnival of Real Estate

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For those who missed my article on Home Valuation Code of Conduct (the new appraisal standards), or just decided not to believe me, here's a video explaining a lot of the practical points once again. They don't get everything, but they do manage to paint a basic picture of the most common issues we are facing.

HVCC is here. Even if you were applying for a loan today (April 28th), the lenders have already implemented it. I've been insisting upon every loan HVCC compliant for a couple weeks now. Even if you got a signed dated loan application done before May 1st, it is entirely common that lenders insist upon another application at a later point and use that as the origination date. What happens if you've done a non-HVCC compliant appraisal? The answer is that you're going to pay for another appraisal.

The video is aimed at agents, but the general public can get some good information out of it. Here's some important information about it I've already discovered: Lots of agents are in denial about this. Most of them are going to lose multiple transactions before they figure it out. Make sure your agent isn't one of them.

HVCC is a foetid rotting cow carcass full of its own excrement, the moral equivalent of a royal monopoly from the middle ages. It doesn't help lenders, it doesn't help buyers, it doesn't help sellers, It doesn't help owners trying to refinance, it doesn't help agents, it doesn't help loan officers and it doesn't even help appraisers. Indeed, it harms all of these. Nonetheless, we have to comply until such time as the outrage causes politicians to repeal it or do something that's actually better. I'd advise being ready for a long wait, because the appraisal management companies (who it does help by distorting the appraisal process and adding the Appraisal Management Company layer/bottleneck to the process) have some heavy duty influence.

I just got this email:

Dear NAMB Member,

IMMEDIATE ACTION REQUIRED! Today the House Financial Services Committee will
hold a mark-up session on H.R. 1728 to decide which provisions will be
included in the bill. Please contact your Congressmen and urge them to
support the Childers/Miller Amendment (which imposes a 12-month moratorium
on the Home Valuation Code of Conduct ["HVCC"]). Click here
to find your Congressman's contact
information.

In addition, please stress the importance of Title I, Section 103 that was
carefully drafted and negotiated as part of HR 1728. This Section does its
part to ban incentivized compensation from all distribution channels while
still protecting mortgage brokers' ability to earn a living. It offers true
consumer protection.

You must act NOW! Below are talking points to assist in your conversations.
Preserve your ability to make a living by urging your Congressmen to vote
for the Childers/Miller Amendment in H.R. 1728!

_____

Talking Points:

I. Support the Childers/Miller Amendment
A) Imposes a 12 month moratorium on the HVCC.
B) Additional information about the HVCC is available here
.

II. Title I, Section 103: YSP
A) Protects small business.
B) Bans incentivized compensation from all distribution channels.
C) Provides true consumer protection: protection from incentive-driven
practices while still allowing competition in the market.
D) Consumers want zero-point or no cost loans. In order to make a living and
compete with larger banks, brokers must be able to earn indirect
compensation as part of the rate or financed into the mortgage amount.

I don't blindly parrot anyone's talking points, but they're mostly right.

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The Politics of Liberal Amnesia

Or maybe the speaker missed what former CIA Director (and Bill Clinton appointee) George Tenet writes in his memoir, "At the Center of the Storm," about the CIA interrogation of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed:

"I believe none of these successes [in foiling terrorist plots] would have happened if we had had to treat KSM like a white-collar criminal -- read him his Miranda rights and get him a lawyer who surely would have insisted his client simply shut up. In his initial interrogation by CIA officers, KSM was defiant. 'I'll talk to you guys,' he said, 'after I get to New York and see my lawyer.' Apparently he thought he would be immediately shipped to the United States and indicted in the Southern District of New York. Had that happened, I am confident that we would have obtained none of the information he had in his head about imminent threats to the American people."

Sometimes the necessary steps are in conflict with the desire to see ourselves as "nice people," or "the good guys." This isn't a novel; it certainly isn't a Hollywood movie. The end has not been predetermined by a scriptwriter, and there are no certain choices. One of the few certainties is that if we let our need to be seen as "the good guys" control us too much, innocent people will die. Perhaps a lot of innocent people - perhaps our own families. And that is one thing real "good guys" do not do - sit around wringing their hands because in order to prevent a great evil they must perpetrate a smaller one.

I'm not involved in the day-to day decision-making of what is still a War on Terror, no matter what the current administration's lawyers are calling it this week. I have never been directly involved with anything similar. But I have been following the decisions, their rationale, and their results for thirty years now. The decisions that we are making to act like lawyers determined to uphold the law, rather than fighters determined to win a war, are going to get lots of Americants killed. Perhaps they will even cause us to lose. And that is emphatically not a good thing.

"Scooter" Pelosi

Richard Fernandez has been there

I fear that one day, perhaps soon, and perhaps under Barack Obama's Presidency, that an attack on US soil will be made which will dwarf 9/11 both in destructiveness and brutality. And I predict that when it happens, many of the people who are now baying for the prosecution of Bush era officials will be demanding that they be protected -- at all costs. They demand protection not because they are morally inferior, intellectually infirm or ideologically corrupted, but because survival is the first rule of life. Anybody who has gone through a hospital ward and heard the patients, request and then demand their pain medication knows that to the question "how far can you go?", there is no easy answer. Nobody really knows the meaning of "last and desperate" until he's been there.

"How far are we willing to go?" isn't an easy question, and any attempts to treat it as one are doomed to failure, because there will be a successful attack we could have averted by going further. I might agree, both now and then, that going further will be something we shouldn't have done. But most people don't - won't - stop and think rationally when something punches them emotionally. The mood in the country today is very different than it was seven and a half years ago before the Bush Administration had kept us safe against subsequent attacks for seven years. Run a search engine for some random articles from September 12th, 2001 on for the next six months. That's likely to be the mood the country will be in after the next successful attack - the survivors anyway. Actually, it will probably be stronger.

It's a cheap and tawdry trick to, with the current perception of safety, project an unalloyed "The US doesn't do any of that ever because we're the good guys." Explode one suitcase size "dirty nuke" in New York Harbor or San Francisco Bay or any of a long list of other candidates, and that stance will become a political non-starter. Until we allow ourselves to forget again that the real world has people with differing agendas who won't hesitate a single microsecond to commit mass murder if it furthers their cause even slightly.

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Arlen Spector switches parties

Specter, 79 and seeking a sixth term in 2010, conceded bluntly that his chances of winning a Pennsylvania Republican primary next year were bleak in a party grown increasingly conservative

and

Tuesday's switch was not Specter's first.

He was a Democrat until 1965, when he ran successfully on the Republican ticket for district attorney in Philadelphia.

His career moves and votes paint a very coherent picture. Arlen Specter acts as he does not out of any inborn conscience. If he did, I'd respect him. He acts as he does to advance his political career (if you want to take issue with this, name me at least one time in his Senate career he stood up to be counted in a way that was likely to cost him votes). He votes to maintain his political career. He will do anything to get 50% plus one of available votes and stay in office one more term.

But let me ask: What is the value of electing a weathervane?

Leaders don't act in a certain way because that's the way 50% plus one want them to act. They persuade 50% plus one of the people that theirs is the correct course of action. Arlen Specter is not a leader. He simply pretended to be something he wasn't for as long as it was an advantage, until it become politically untenable. He's neither a centrist nor a moderate - what he is is a political whore (and I feel like I'm insulting whores with that remark). Quite frankly, a committed leftist would be better for the country and for Pennsylvania - and I say this as someone who doesn't like leftists very much. Here's hoping Specter gets beaten badly next year - either by a Democrat in the primaries, or by a Republican in the general.

**********

The growing opacity of the Obama administration

Darn right they were because, you know, they were catching corrupt union officials. Can't have that. So "unfair and burdensome" - something that tax payers are never able to plead about the gigantic and undecipherable tax code - now takes priority over transparent and accountable.

Political payoff, plain and simple.

**********

Steve Forbes: The Looming Fight for 17% of the U.S. Economy

Rationing. Bureaucracy. Driving doctors and other health care providers out of business. How we're supposed to get more, better, and cheaper health care out of the government running it is something nobody rational can figure out, and Mr. Forbes shows the insanity.

He's got good ideas too.

**********

The Truth About Cars and Trucks . And the UAW

Chrysler was bailed out directly with government loan guarantees; the Big Three all benefited from Reagan era "voluntary" quotas on Japanese imports to prop up domestic car prices. But these were temporary fixes. For more than 40 years, a 25% tariff has kept out foreign-built pickup trucks even as a studied loophole was created in fuel-economy regulations to let the Big Three develop a lucrative, protected niche in the "passenger truck" business.

This became the long-running unwritten deal. This was Washington's real auto policy.

For three decades, the Big Three were able to survive precisely because they skimped on quality and features in the money-losing sedans they were required under Congress's fuel economy rules to build in high-cost UAW factories. In return, Washington compensated them with the hothouse, politically protected opportunity to profit from pickups and SUVs.


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(Eliminate the spaces and change parentheticals to the symbols, of course)

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If you don't see an answer to your question, please consider asking me via email. I'll bet money you're not the only one who wants to know!

Requests for reprint rights, same email: dm (at) searchlight crusade (dot) net!
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About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries in the Zee Links and Minifeatures category.

Society & Events is the previous category.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

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