Saturday, February 21, 2009

Obama nixes plan to tax motorists on mileage

Obama nixes plan to tax motorists on mileage: "WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama on Friday rejected his transportation secretary's suggestion that the administration consider taxing motorists based on how many miles they drive instead of how much gasoline they buy.

'It is not and will not be the policy of the Obama administration,' White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters, when asked for the president's thoughts about Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood's suggestion, raised in an interview with The Associated Press a daily earlier."

Do you get the sense that this administration is basically winging it on everything? It isn't surprising, considering that we have a president who has never administered anything. Don't say "he ran his campaigns," because he didn't. He was the front man, not the guy who wrote the music.

Pajamas TV - American Tea Party

Pajamas TV - American Tea Party
It will be interesting to see how far this goes and what it turns into.

Colorado sends kisses to California : More Business : The Rocky Mountain News

Colorado sends kisses to California : More Business : The Rocky Mountain News: "Colorado is blowing kisses and singing love songs to California companies and talent, hoping to woo those fed up with the state's budget and political troubles.

The Metro Denver Economic Development Corp. has taken to the skies, YouTube, snail mail and newspapers to tell Golden State execs that the grass is greener, the taxes are lower and the business climate is better in the Centennial State."

Hey, you mean there is a state that actually wants businesses?


THE FORECLOSURE FIVE - New York Post: "The beneficiaries of taxpayer charity will be highly concentrated in just five states - California, Nevada, Arizona, Florida and Michigan. That is not because the subsidized homeowners are poor (Californians with $700,000 mortgages are not poor), but because they took on too much debt, often by refinancing in risky ways to 'cash out' thousands more than the original loan. Nearly all subprime loans were for refinancing, not buying a home."
Check the table for % of mortgages underwater.

SNLBailoutSkit.wmv (video/x-ms-wmv Object)

SNLBailoutSkit.wmv (video/x-ms-wmv Object)
This hilarious skit is about how the housing market crashed. I am told it was spiked by Saturday Night Live, but I don't know. All I know is this contains some truth.

Orrick Argues for Vallejo Bankruptcy

Orrick Argues for Vallejo Bankruptcy: "With California's economic and budget woes capturing headlines this week, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments Thursday in Pasadena over one city's eligibility for bankruptcy protection."
So far Vallejo, CA, has been the winner, but the municipal unions are challenging the city's eligibility for bankruptcy in court. : Village, Pinewild Differ On 'Taking': "The attorney for the village of Pinehurst says a new lawsuit by Pinewild annexation opponents is wrong, filed in the wrong court and filed at the wrong time.

Pinewild resident Lydia Boesch and other plaintiffs in the suit want a state court to declare that annexation laws don't apply to gated communities such as Pinewild.

Their complaint asks the court to ' interpret the forced annexation statutes and declare that said statutes do not apply to private, gated common interest communities ' and declare that municipalities such as Pinehurst cannot use these laws 'to involuntarily annex private, gated common interest communities.'"

This is an argument I have not run across. The village attorney, of course, says annexing a private community is no different than any other property. There is also a takings clause claim. These are intriguing ways to defend against annexation and it would be interesting to see their briefs.
Chu jumps in 'deep end of the pool' - First Read - "Energy Secretary Steven Chu may be a Nobel laureate Ph.D. in physics, but his first forays into energy policy suggest he's a neophyte when it comes to the ways of Washington."
Such as, when asked what the Administration's message was for OPEC, which is meeting next month, he said he didn't know and felt "like I've been dumped into the deep end of the pool" or oil policy. And when asked about OPEC output levels, he said that was "not in my domain."

Oil policy isn't in the domain of the Secretary of Energy? Obviously he is talking complete nonsense. It is, and always has been.

Then later he said those answers reflected "more of my naivete than anything else."

I'd say "naivete" is the wrong word. "Ignorance" would be a better one, I think. Maybe being a Stanford University physics professor isn't the best preparation for that job.

Local News | $1.5M condo on $20K income? Prospective buyers lose $175K in Bellevue | Seattle Times Newspaper

Local News | $1.5M condo on $20K income? Prospective buyers lose $175K in Bellevue | Seattle Times Newspaper: "Six immigrants who were prequalified for huge mortgages are suing Bellevue Towers and JP Morgan Chase Bank after they lost a combined $174,050 in earnest money. They allege the preferred lender put down false numbers for their income, which made it possible to prequalify but not to qualify for the actual loan, resulting in the loss of their earnest money."
Limo driver. Barely above minimum wage. Prequalified for a $724,000 loan...but sorry, now that we think about Too bad about that earnest money.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Open-primary proposal could shake up politics

Open-primary proposal could shake up politics: "SACRAMENTO — Among the final concessions Democrats granted to end the state's epic budget stalemate was a ballot measure that some say could open the Capitol's doors to moderates and forever change a polarized climate that often paralyzes the Legislature.

The proposal calls for open, nonpartisan primaries that would allow voters to cross party lines in elections for the Legislature, statewide elected officials and congressional districts, but not presidential primaries.

“It could be as significant as the Hiram Johnson reforms,” political analyst Allen Hoffenblum said, alluding to the Progressive-era governor who pushed through California's initiative, referendum and recall statutes in 1911.

Not everyone agrees, and the proposition on the June 2010 ballot almost certainly will face opposition from the state's political establishment and many powerful special interests."

Thanks to Don Nordeen for this link. I'm not sure this will solve California's problems, but there must be some angry voters ready for change.

Surveillance cams help fight crime, city says :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Politics

Surveillance cams help fight crime, city says :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Politics: "Mayor Daley has argued that security and terrorism won’t be an issue if his Olympic dreams come true because, by 2016, there will be a surveillance camera on every street corner in Chicago."
And this is supposed to be a good thing? Daley has always believed that government should have unlimited power over people, that he was born to rule all us peons, and that he and his corrupt family and friends are entitled to help themselves to whatever they want.

Family to sell cave home on eBay - "FESTUS, Mo., Feb. 19 (UPI) -- A Missouri family says the credit crunch has forced them to put up for sale the 17,000-square-foot home they created in a cave.

Curt Sleeper told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he and his family, like so many others, are victims of the credit crunch. He has been unable to obtain mortgage refinancing for the cave."

At least they didn't have an HOA.

Would You Join Santelli's "Chicago Tea Party?" - General * US * News * Story -

Would You Join Santelli's "Chicago Tea Party?" - General * US * News * Story -
Vote: Would you join the Chicago Tea Party?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Video -

The Chicago Board Options Exchange Tea Party
Don't miss this. CNBC's Rick Santelli broadcasting from the CBOE, showing you how they feel about the President's housing market proposals.

Barack Obama's Mortgage-Relief Plan Rewards Fraud and Defaulters -

Wall Street Journal: Barack Obama's Mortgage-Relief Plan Rewards Fraud and Defaulters - "The recent history of mortgage modifications isn't encouraging. According to the December report by the Comptroller of the Currency and the Office of Thrift Supervision, 'The number of loans modified in the first quarter that were 30 or more days delinquent was 37 percent after three months and 55 percent after six months. The number of loans modified in the first quarter that were 60 or more days delinquent was 19 percent at three months and nearly 37 percent after six months.'

Said Comptroller John Dugan, 'One very troubling point is that, whether measured using 30-day or 60-day delinquencies, re-default rates increased each month and showed no signs of leveling off after six months and even eight months.'"

This is a detailed and basically negative analysis of the Obama proposal. The biggest hole in the proposal that I see is the text I cut and pasted above. You can save people from default today, and you can give them a lower payment, but more than half of them will just default again. Some people will be helped, and that is a good thing, but is it worth the price?

The problems in the economy started with mortgages and housing prices, but now we are dealing with broader economic issues that will not be solved by fixing house payments at more reasonable levels.

OKC officer pulls man over for anti-Obama sign on vehicle |

OKC officer pulls man over for anti-Obama sign on vehicle | "An Oklahoma City police officer wrongly pulled over a man last week and confiscated an anti-President Barack Obama sign the man had on his vehicle."
The sign said "Abort Obama, not the unborn." Despite receiving a completely satisfactory explanation from the man, these intrepid cops confiscated the sign, told the man he was "part of an investigation," and called the Secret Service. The Secret Service told the brain trust to give him back his sign.

If this had happened six months ago, and the offending sign insulted Bush, there would be a Congressional investigation and we'd be hearing about the emerging police state.

Home sweet home - The Atlantic Business Channel

Megan McCardle: Home sweet home - The Atlantic Business Channel: "Well, the obvious point is that it represents a massive transfer to borrowers from lenders and the rest of us. As far as I can tell, there is no penalty for having borrowed more than you could realistically afford to repay--not so much as a speck of dirt on the credit report. The administration's release talks a lot about 'responsible homeowners', but very few responsible homeowners have payments that amount to 43% of their monthly income. There are exceptions, of course, such as people who have just lost their jobs, but most of the people being helped are, nearly definitionally, people who bought more house than they could afford in the belief that prices would keep rising indefinitely and they would make big bucks. It was leveraged investing, just like a hedge fund, and often at the same kind of leverage ratios."

As jungles grow, a new debate on rain forests - International Herald Tribune

As jungles grow, a new debate on rain forests - International Herald Tribune: "Here, and in other tropical countries around the world, small holdings like Ortega de Wing's - and much larger swaths of farmland - are reverting back to nature, as people abandon their land and move to the cities in search of better livings.

These new 'secondary' forests are emerging in Latin America, Asia and other tropical regions at such a fast pace that the trend has set off a serious debate about whether saving primeval rain forest - an iconic environmental cause - may be less urgent than once thought. By one estimate, for every half a hectare of rain forest cut down each year, more than 20 hectares, or 50 acres, of new forest are growing in the tropics on land that was once farmed, logged or ravaged by natural disaster."

Where is Sting when you need him?

Wholesale inflation takes biggest jump in 6 months - Yahoo! Finance

Wholesale inflation takes biggest jump in 6 months - Yahoo! Finance
Well...that didn't take long.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

VatorNews - Will Google be broken up? Shades of IBM?: "Christine Varney, nominated by President Obama to be the next U.S. antitrust chief, may be out to break up Google. Or at the least, she seems to be letting it known that she'll be keeping a close eye on it. Varney has described Google as a 'monopoly' that will be as powerful in the computing world as Microsoft was in the software."
I hope the Obama administration has sense enough to leave Google alone. She said this back on June 19, before the stock market tanked. But the information on Christine Varney from her law firm's website shows that she is a major Democratic Party figure who has the clout to move the federal government against Google...and showing what may be a previous experience with Google that calls her objectivity into question:

"Christine has provided antitrust, competition policy, and regulatory advice to a variety of companies, including eBay, Fox Interactive Media/MySpace, Orbitz Worldwide, Inc., DoubleClick, Ernst & Young, EMI, Intelius,, American Hospital Association, Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive, Dow Jones & Company, AOL, Synopsys, Compaq Computer, Gateway, Netscape, The Liberty Alliance, and Real Networks....During her U.S. government tenure, Christine served as a Federal Trade Commissioner from 1994 to 1997. At the Federal Trade Commission, she was a leading official on a wide variety of Internet issues....In addition, she served as Chief Counsel to the Clinton/Gore Campaign, General Counsel to the 1992 Presidential Inaugural Committee, and General Counsel to the Democratic National Committee from 1989 to 1992."

Now check out this quote from the article I linked to, quoting her June 19 talk:
"I’m deeply troubled by their acquisition of DoubleClick, and I’m deeply troubled by their deal with Yahoo."

She is "deeply troubled" by their acquisition of DoubleClick, a company she "provided antitrust, competition policy, and regulatory advice to." Did she advise Doubleclick about defending against their acquisition by Google? If so, I think she isn't the person who should be deciding whether the feds should take on Google.

Credit-crunched Russian billionaire asks for the £39million deposit he put down on world's most expensive house | Mail Online: "Mikhail Prokhmorov - who is Russia's richest an and is worth £9.8billion - offered £500million to buy Villa Leopolda on the French Riviera last August.

But since then the 48-year-old metal tycoon has lost billions thanks to the international financial crisis."

World's worst case of buyer's remorse? For shizzle, my communizzle.
Albright College notes Black History Month with reminders of segregation: "Walking around Albright College's student center Tuesday afternoon was a bit like stepping back to the days before the civil rights era.

Two signs hung on a drinking fountain near the Campus Center dining hall. One was marked 'White' and the other read 'Colored Only.'

Similar signs were posted at two dining hall entrances - one for whites and one for everyone else.

A student committee organizing campus events for Black History Month came up with the idea to promote awareness of how far civil rights have advanced in America in the past 50 years."

I taught at Albright from 1990 to 1994. It is the most relentlessly PC college you can possibly imagine. That's why people would come up with such a horrible and offensive idea. They are so liberal that they believe nobody could ever think that anything they did was racist. In their own minds, they are so virtuous as to be incapable of racism--and doesn't everybody know that?

Actually, no.

RealClearPolitics - Articles - Obama's Governing Style

RealClearPolitics - Articles - Obama's Governing Style: "President Obama: 'And we then provide, uh, the process whereby Guantanamo will be closed, uh, no later than one year from now. We will be, uh. ... Is there a separate, uh, executive order, Greg, with respect to how we're going to dispose of the detainees? Is that, uh, written?'

White House counsel Greg Craig: 'We'll set up a process.'"

Closing America's most notorious gated community without at the same time figuring out what is to be done with the unsavory folks who reside there strikes me as a rather cavalier approach to governing. How's that "process" coming along, I wonder?

Why Not Bring a Neanderthal to Life? - TierneyLab Blog - "Now that the Neanderthal genome has been reconstructed, my colleague Nicholas Wade reports, a leading genome researcher at Harvard says that a Neanderthal could be brought to life with present technology for about $30 million.

So why not do it? Why not give Harvard’s George Church the money he says could be used to resurrect a Neanderthal from DNA?"

I have been posting about this for some time, making cheap jokes along the way. But I think it is virtually certain that somebody will actually do it in the relatively near future. If Michael Crichton's logic is right, it will be about entertainment rather than pure science or the betterment of human existence.

That's right: Welcome to Neanderthal Park!

My Way News - Obama plan seeks to save millions from foreclosure

My Way News - Obama plan seeks to save millions from foreclosure: "The ambitious plan he was announcing at a Phoenix high school Wednesday was expected to offer government cash to mortgage companies that reduce interest rates - and therefore monthly payments - for homeowners in danger of default, according to several people briefed on the plan. What remained unclear was how the government will decide who qualifies for relief.

One Democratic official familiar with the plan said it also would allow homeowners to refinance their mortgages if they owed more than their homes were valued. Still another section would give bankruptcy judges more authority to change mortgages. That last provision has been opposed by lenders, who said it would add risk and lead to higher interest rates.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid pre-empting the president, said the Obama administration also would use Fannie Mae (FNM) and Freddie Mac (FRE) to help prevent borrowers from defaulting on their mortgages, and create national standards for loan modifications."

OK--but that business about letting judges change mortgages is a terrible idea. How can you expect banks to be more willing to make loans if judges can change the terms of those loans so they don't get paid as much as they calculated up front? This is one of the issues that led to scrapping the Articles of Confederation and adopting the US Constitution. State legislatures and judges were tampering with the terms of loans to help debtors. The role of the national government is supposed to be neutral. If it becomes the friend of the debtor class, we are in for a financial miasma like we have never seen.

Dow slips nearly 300 points - International Herald Tribune

Dow slips nearly 300 points - International Herald Tribune: "The downward spiral came as President Obama signed the $787 billion economic stimulus package and executives at General Motors and Chrysler prepared to submit major restructuring plans to the U.S. government after receiving billions in bailout money."
The stock market fell like a rock while the President was signing the bill that is supposed to rescue the economy. The stock market had already plummeted 2000 points in a nose dive that started on November 4, 2008--election day. If Obama doesn't do something soon to reassure the markets that his government is on the side of capitalism, I think we are in for that major depression people keep talking about.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Condo Commando Special Forces green t-shirt - CafePress

Condo Commando Special Forces green t-shirt - CafePress
I may have to order one of these for myself.

Wedgie as good as handcuffs in suspect detention
There should be a Pulitzer Prize category for headline writing, and whoever wrote this one should win.

The Associated Press: Homeowners' rallying cry: Produce the note

The Associated Press: Homeowners' rallying cry: Produce the note: "ZEPHYRHILLS, Fla. (AP) — Kathy Lovelace lost her job and was about to lose her house, too. But then she made a seemingly simple request of the bank: Show me the original mortgage paperwork. And just like that, the foreclosure proceedings came to a standstill. Lovelace and other homeowners around the country are managing to stave off foreclosure by employing a strategy that goes to the heart of the whole nationwide mess. During the real estate frenzy of the past decade, mortgages were sold and resold, bundled into securities and peddled to investors. In many cases, the original note signed by the homeowner was lost, stored away in a distant warehouse or destroyed. Persuading a judge to compel production of hard-to-find or nonexistent documents can, at the very least, delay foreclosure, buying the homeowner some time and turning up the pressure on the lender to renegotiate the mortgage."
Slick. Turnabout is fair play. Produce the note! / US / Politics & Foreign policy - Bank nationalisation gains ground with Republicans / US / Politics & Foreign policy - Bank nationalisation gains ground with Republicans: "Barack Obama, the president, who has tried to avoid panicking lawmakers and markets by entertaining the idea, has moved more towards what he calls the “Swedish model” – an approach backed strongly by Mr Graham. In the early 1990s Sweden nationalised its banking sector then auctioned banks having cleaned up balance sheets. “In limited circumstances the Swedish model makes sense for the US,” says Mr Graham. Mr Obama last weekend made clear he was leaning more towards the Swedish model than to the piecemeal approach taken in Japan, which many would argue is the direction US public policy appears to be heading. “They [the Japanese] sort of papered things over,” Mr Obama said. “They never really bit the bullet . . . and so you never got credit flowing the way it should have, and the bad assets in their system just corroded the economy for a long period of time.” Administration officials acknowledge that the rescue plan unveiled by Tim Geithner, Treasury secretary, last week could result in the temporary nationalisation of some weak banks."
Tough time to be a libertarian, I'd say.

Householders to be charged for each flush of toilet | PerthNow

Australia: Householders to be charged for each flush of toilet | PerthNow: "HOUSEHOLDERS would be charged for each flush under a radical new toilet tax designed to help beat the drought."

Monday, February 16, 2009

Baby boomers expected to flock to Mexico | mexico, marybeth, down - Local - Brownsville Herald

Baby boomers expected to flock to Mexico | mexico, marybeth, down - Local - Brownsville Herald: "With 76 million baby boomers approaching retirement in a country with an ailing economy and rising health care costs, many are choosing to move south of the border to live more comfortable lives for less money. Retirement experts in Mexico say the cost of living for American citizens in Mexico is about 40 percent cheaper than in the U.S. And a visit to a general doctor typically costs about $35."
Life in a condo in Mexico can be nice, I gather.

Katzman Garfinkel Rosenbaum Attorneys Win Federal Jury Trial Over Hurricane Insurance Proceeds for Structural Damages at Buckley Towers - MSNBC Wire Services -

Katzman Garfinkel Rosenbaum Attorneys Win Federal Jury Trial Over Hurricane Insurance Proceeds for Structural Damages at Buckley Towers - MSNBC Wire Services - "MIAMI, FL - Katzman Garfinkel Rosenbaum Partner Daniel Rosenbaum, lead counsel for Buckley Towers, won a $20.4 million verdict against QBE Insurance Company in Miami Federal Court on February 13, 2009, after two weeks of testimony, for Hurricane Wilma damages. Buckley Towers is a 39-year-old condominium complex with 564 units in two seventeen-story towers in North Miami, Florida.

Buckley Towers owners claimed that the twin towers sustained major structural damages from Hurricane Wilma when it struck South Florida on October 24, 2005. At issue was whether Buckley Towers was committing insurance fraud for exaggerating the claim and if not, whether the damages were attributable to poor building maintenance or were otherwise excluded by the insurance policy from coverage."


Rabid coyote attacks girl waiting for school bus | Spartanburg, South Carolina
And she is saved by two neighbors. One has no shoes and bare hands. The other has a .22 pistol. No cops to be found. Yikes.

AFP: Historians rank Lincoln best US president

AFP: Historians rank Lincoln best US president: "Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865), the first US president George Washington (1789-1797) and New Deal architect Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945) were ranked the top three out of the 42 men who have been the country's former chiefs, according to a survey by cable channel C-SPAN.

John F. Kennedy came in sixth, ahead of Ronald Reagan (10th) and Bill Clinton, who jumped to 15th from 21st during the last survey in 2000, when Lincoln also ranked first.

Of all modern presidents, Bush, who left office last month after an eight-year tenure, fared worst at 36th, nearly 10 spots behind Richard Nixon (27th), who was forced to resign in disgrace in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal."

Interesting list. Can't argue with Lincoln and Washington. FDR is harder to rank. He dealt unflinchingly with world-shaking crises, but the way he restructured the presidency and the executive branch may still prove to be disastrous...and soon. How anybody can rate JFK as a great president has always eluded me. Start listing his accomplishments sometime and see what you come up with. The Bay of Pigs? No. That was a failure, an unnecessary and terrifying crisis that happened because he projected weakness in his dealings one-on-one with Khrushchev. He launched the Viet Nam war. But his support for science and restoration of a sense of national purpose proved to be enormously important.

Slick Willie does fine as usual. Whatever.

G.W. Bush lucked out if you ask me. He's fortunate they didn't create a special sub-basement for him. And if Obama keeps shoveling money we don't have at people who don't deserve it, and pretending we don't have enemies around the world, W will have company down there in a few years.

Clinton Says Don't Blame Him for the Economic Crisis - TIME

Clinton Says Don't Blame Him for the Economic Crisis - TIME: "On Monday morning's Today Show, Ann Curry's interview with the former president — recorded over the weekend outside a Clinton Global Initiative event in Texas — addressed Clinton's inclusion on TIME's list of the '25 People to Blame' for the global economic collapse. 'Oh no,' he responded, 'My question to them is: Do any of them seriously believe if I had been president, and my economic team had been in place the last eight years, that this would be happening today? I think they know the answer to that: No.'"
Bill Clinton has always loved to ask self-serving questions of hypothetical others and then supply his own self-serving answers. It is one of the clever little ways he slimes his way out of responsibility for the enormous problems he caused. This one is particularly egregious. All the people who say that his housing policies started the industry-wide collapse (which is everybody except him) would, he says, acknowledge that if he had received the full 16 years in office he deserved, none of this would have happened.

He is not done with us yet, mark my words. He will be back, just like the Joker, Lex Luthor, Dr. Octopus, and the rest of them.

Police shoot, kill chimp that attacked woman -
Time to write "no chimps!" into the CC&Rs of every private community in the US. These things are terrifying.

Obama to sign stimulus bill Tuesday in Denver | Reuters

Obama to sign stimulus bill Tuesday in Denver | Reuters: "CHICAGO, Feb 14 (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama on Saturday hailed congressional approval of a $787 billion economic stimulus bill as a 'major milestone on our road to recovery' and the White House said he would sign the legislation on Tuesday in Denver.

'I will sign this legislation into law shortly, and we'll begin making the immediate investments necessary to put people back to work,' Obama said, savoring his biggest legislative victory since taking office on Jan. 20."

Did anybody else notice that this bill provides aid to just about every private and public institution in America except homeowner and condominium associations? Moreover, I gather there will be additional "recovery" legislation that won't benefit associations. The banks will get another infusion of monopoly money. Something will be done for the auto industry. And I think there will be a special cornucopia for the housing industry, including people with too much mortgage and too little house.

However, I will be surprised if the federal government provides aid to the many struggling community associations. In fact, there could be an additional burden. If Congress decides to protect people against mortgage foreclosure, those folks will still have to pay their assessments, but they won't be getting any money from Congress to do that. And if they don't, which is entirely possible, they will be foreclosed on anyway, by their association.

If the "stimulus" bill works and the economy recovers, all the boats will float. But if the recession continues we may see another round of institutional failure as thousands of the nation's private governments head into insolvency. - Islamic Law to Be Imposed in Parts of Pakistan - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News - Islamic Law to Be Imposed in Parts of Pakistan - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News: "The government agreed to impose Islamic law and suspend a military offensive across a large swath of northwest Pakistan on Monday in concessions aimed at pacifying a spreading Taliban insurgency there.

The announcement came after talks with local Islamists, including one closely linked to the Taliban.

The move will likely concern the United States, which has warned Pakistan that such peace agreements allow Al Qaeda and Taliban militants operating near the Afghan border time to rearm and regroup."

So how is that new foreign policy working, Secretary Clinton? President Obama? Hello? Anybody there?

On brink of financial collapse, state lawmakers struggle with budget passage - Los Angeles Times: "The plan would nearly double the vehicle license fees Californians pay, increase sales taxes by 1 cent, increase gasoline taxes by 12 cents per gallon and add a surcharge of as much as 5% to income tax bills. It also would reduce the dependent care credit by about $200 per year. The increased taxes would remain in effect for two to four years. In addition to the tax hikes, the proposal includes $15.1 billion in program cuts and $11.4 billion in borrowing, some of which would be erased by the stimulus package Congress just approved. Sacramento's spending plan would balance the state's books through mid-2010."
In order to deal with a $41 billion estimated budget deficit, the Democrats who control California insist that there must be a mammoth tax increase in the middle of the worst recession in memory. They can't pass it unless they get one Republican vote at this point--and they may not be able to get it.

We have several states operating at or near this level of insanity--states that are drowning in red ink, but the Democratic legislative majorities are at odds with Republican minorities so they can't agree on a solution. The Democrats want tax increases and hate cutting spending; the Republicans want tax cuts and major spending reduction. California, Illinois, New York, and New Jersey are probably the worst cases. I wonder how long the game of chicken will last?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Pill to erase bad memories: Ethical furore over drugs 'that threaten human identity' | Mail Online

Pill to erase bad memories: Ethical furore over drugs 'that threaten human identity' | Mail Online: "A drug which appears to erase painful memories has been developed by scientists. The astonishing treatment could help sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder and those whose lives are plagued by hurtful recurrent memories. But British experts said the breakthrough raises disturbing ethical questions about what makes us human. They also warned it could have damaging psychological consequences, preventing those who take it from learning from their mistakes."
I want some of this. They can take this "what makes us human" stuff and forget about it. Well, you know what I mean. But perhaps you forgot.

Obama warned over ‘welfare spendathon’ - Times Online

Obama warned over ‘welfare spendathon’ - Times Online: "RONALD REAGAN started it, Bill Clinton finished it and last week Barack Obama was accused of engineering its destruction. One of the few undisputed triumphs of American government of the past 20 years – the sweeping welfare reform programme that sent millions of dole claimants back to work – has been plunged into jeopardy by billions of dollars in state handouts included in the president’s controversial economic stimulus package."
Today's newspapers had the first semi-detailed analyses of what is in the so-called stimulus package. Some parts of it look good to me, such as sending money to states for highway construction, and to to school districts, and...and...well, there must have been something else. But I was horrified to read that the Democrats are determined to get more people back on the dole. This reinforces the Republican claim that Democrats try to create welfare dependency to buy votes, using money from the middle class.

Camera convicted him but raised battle over privacy | |

Camera convicted him but raised battle over privacy | | "Farmers beware: Big Brother may be watching. Eastern Shore soybean farmer Steve Van- Kesteren learned that the hard way when he was charged with taking two red-tailed hawks, a violation of the federal Migratory Bird Act. The evidence against him was a video recording showing him dispatching the birds with an ax. Game wardens had put a hidden camera in a tree, pointed at VanKesteren's soybean fields, after receiving a complaint about protected birds getting caught in predator traps. The wardens had to walk or drive off a road, past a hedgerow, and travel about a quarter mile through one field and past a second hedgerow. VanKesteren said it appears they cut a swath through some brush to get to the tree."
This the "open fields" doctrine. It was developed by the US Supreme Court. They decided there is no reasonable expectation of privacy in open fields, so government officials can trespass there and gather evidence like this, and it is not a Fourth Amendment violation.

But it really sticks in the craw of anybody who (still) believes in individual liberty and the rights of property owners, doesn't it?

He killed the birds because they were caught in traps he had set for foxes. Apparently he was supposed to go get a permit to kill them, but didn't bother.

HOA boards must keep finances stable at any cost | | The Desert Sun

HOA boards must keep finances stable at any cost | | The Desert Sun: "It is true that even though owners may be about to lose their homes due to a variable rate loan gone crazy, they still owe their HOA fee, and that bill should be paid. Sadly, most who are about to lose their home don't have much interest in maintaining the association or its community.

The board of directors of an association with delinquent owners has a duty to place a lien on those units owned by anyone who fails to pay his or her maintenance fee on time. This is done in accordance with a delinquency policy established in the association's governing documents. Unfortunately, this is not inexpensive. The cost of collection is billed to the delinquent owner, but actually making that collection can be difficult. In the end, uncollected delinquencies are made up by increased fees to the rest of the owners."

Nice headline. At any the owners. Notice how quickly this property manager jumps to placing liens on all delinquent owners ASAP.
Illinois lawmakers mull Burris perjury probe. - Lynn Sweet: "State lawmakers are calling for a criminal investigation into whether U.S. Sen. Roland Burris committed perjury before a state impeachment panel, in the wake of a Sun-Times exclusive story published online today.

The development comes after the Chicago Democrat failed to initially disclose under oath to a House panel that he was hit up for campaign cash by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's brother...The Sun-Times investigation found that former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's brother solicited Burris for up to $10,000 in campaign cash before Blagojevich named Burris to the coveted post -- something Burris initially failed to disclose under oath before an Illinois House impeachment panel.

The affidavit is dated Feb. 5 -- three weeks after Burris was sworn in to replace President Obama in the Senate."

Roland Burris said he had not been contacted by Blago's brother or two other henchmen. He also said he had not been asked for money. Now that it is too late to derail his Senate appointment, he has suddenly remembered that, oh yeah, actually I did talk with those three guys, and oh yeah, Blago's brother did ask me to raise money. But I sure didn't give them any. No, sir. And you can believe me.

That's how things are done here in Illinois. The basic assumptions are (1) the voters are idiots and (2) you can lie your way through anything if you just stick to your story, because (3) the Chicago Democrat machine controls everything and will protect you.

So the Republicans are trying to fire up a perjury investigation, using a local prosecutor. If the Illinois Republican Party runs on any platform except reform of Illinois politics, the entire leadership should be canned. They have one and only one way to return to relevance, and it isn't cutting taxes. It is cleaning up the stinking sewer that is Chicago-Cook County-Illinois politics.

The Tribune buried this story on p. 3 of the local section today. I'd say it was incredible but unfortunately it is typical of that paper these days.
Follow The Money | National Institute on Money in State Politics
This is a great site for finding out how your state politicians are doing business. You can go state by state and look up campaign money, lobbyist activity, and all sorts of things. Good way to see who is active in the housing industry.