June 30, 2008

Victoria Wells Wulsin’s ‘Brilliant!’ Insights on Iraq and Energy

Victoria Wells Wulsin Whatever, affectionately referred to around here as VW3, has a full, complete, all-angles-considered, and simply fabulous plan for Iraq at her OH-02 congressional campaign web site.

I really can’t understand why no one in the Bush Administration, the military, or in Iraq has thought of this (saved here in case Team VW3 changes it, for fair use and discussion purposes):

• Iraq:

We need to set benchmarks and goals for the war in Iraq, and we need to have a plan to bring our troops home safely and quickly. We should also establish clear goals and benchmarks for the Iraqi government, and bring the troops home if they’re not met.

GuinnessBrilliant

Brilliant!

GWBush430606

Upon learning of Wulsin’s plan, President George W. Bush was heard to say, “I should have figured that out with my huuuuuge brain. ….. Wait a minute — We did, and I was in charge. How ’bout that!”

Petraeus0608

General David Petraeus said, “I should have felt that in my biiiiiig heart. ….. Hold on — The Iraqis have met or are working towards meeting those benchmarks.”

ObamaSmoking

Barack Obama said, “I should have had the cour- …. uh, never mind.”

“Hey — Stop talking about my gun flip-flop ….. and my wife ….. and my race ….. and my former old pastor ….. and my former new pastor ….. and Father Pfleger ….. and my smoking ….. and my campaign finance “flip-flop of epic proportions” ….. and my FISA flip-flop ….. and my twenty-plus other flip-flops.”

“And I’m putting you on notice — You’d better not say another word about my ears!”

“Anybody got a light?”

Maliki0606

Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki muttered, “You Americans need to keep this Wulsin woman out of your Congress …. and her little dog too (scroll to “6/17/2006″ at the link; backup file here). Oh, and remind Obama that he hasn’t been to Iraq in over 900 days. So he’d best go to an airport, notify air traffic control, start flapping those ears (snicker, snicker), and get over here.”

++++++++++++++++++++

The above policy statement by Ms. Wells Wulsin Whatever should not surprise anyone who has read the full, complete, all-angles-considered, and simply fabulous text of her energy statement at the same web page (backup file here), as it comes straight from the Land of Oz:

Gas prices are too high. We should reduce our dependence on foreign oil and reduce our dependence on the foreign powers that provide it. Southern Ohio is well positioned to develop alternative energy sources for the nation – let’s invest in cleaner, renewable power produced here at home.

VW3 will just click those ruby slippers together a few times (“there’s no energy like clean energy, there’s no energy like clean energy …..”). Just like that, we’ll have all the “cleaner, renewable power” we’ll eeeeever need, right now, without having to do any messy drilling for that nasty black stuff.

Brill- Whatever, Vic.

How Will Media Report Lowest-Ever 2-Month US Troop Death Toll in Iraq?

With less than 10 hours remaining until the end of June in Iraq at the time of this post, it is clear, barring heavy last-minute casuaties, that May and June will show the lowest two-month total of US troop deaths in the five-year history of our involvement there.

How with the media handle the news?

Here is the detail (source: icasualties.org):

IraqUStroopDeathsAsOf0608

As you can see, May-June two-month total of 48 troop deaths from all causes is quite a bit lower than any other two-month period in the entire war. The next-lowest is 60, in November and December of 2007.

The two-month death toll of 38 from hostile causes is the lowest since August and September of 2003.

The icasualties.org home page also shows that June’s death toll of 422 Iraqi Security Forces and Civilians is the lowest since the web sit began tracking such information in January 2006.

The results would seem to support that notion that last year’s troop “surge” has been successful in reducing violence beyond the period of the higher troop presence.

So how will the media handle the unprecedented improvement? Some possibilities:

  • Point out that June’s total of US troop deaths is 50% higher than May’s.
  • Adopt the approach of the Associated Press, which has telegraphed that it will lighten up on reporting from Iraq because people are “war-weary.”
  • Note that the improvements should create expectations for bringing troops home sooner rather than later.

Readers are welcome to provide other possible, and perhaps more creative, media-spin predictions.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

________________________________

UPDATE, 11 p.m.: The answer is …. “Afghanistan is worse” (HT to a NewsBusters commenter).

UPDATE 2, 11:30 p.m.: Looks like the June numbers are final, with no change.

Positivity: One-in-a-hundred girl comes of age

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 7:49 am

From England:

TINY Emmie Laughton was given just a one-in-100 chance of survival when she was born four months premature.

Weighing one pound and measuring just eight inches long, her parents Heather and Al, of Hedon, were told to prepare for the worst and were warned if she did survive she would be more than likely to die soon after.

But now, looking the picture of health, Emmie has beaten the odds and yesterday celebrated her 21st birthday.

Proud mum Heather of Burnsalls Road, said her daughter’s achievements are nothing short of a miracle.

She said: “When I went into labour the doctors told me I was having a miscarriage.

“We were devastated, it was our first child and we desperately wanted the baby to be okay.

“The doctors said they would have special baby care units on standby in case she survived, but told us if she did survive the birth, she would most likely die and if she did survive there would be severe complications.

“We were told she may have brain damage due to a lack of oxygen and would most likely be deaf or blind.

“Although she was tiny she was perfectly formed and I just knew she would be all right.”

For the first three weeks, Emmie’s parents were unable to hold her and doctors found it hard to get an accurate weight because of the amount of tubes and wires that were attached to her frail body.

But 13 weeks later, weighing five pounds two ounces, Emmie was finally allowed home, three weeks before she was originally due to be born.

By the age of five Emmie had triumphed in the world of dancing and passed the infants ballet exam with flying colours.

Heather said: “After we were told she would not survive, it is a miracle she is healthy.

“She has never had any health problems.

“She is full of life and has never even needed to wear glasses.”

Now 21, Emmie has completed a Btec in fine art and a Btec in beauty therapy at Hull College.

She said: “When I look back at pictures of myself I can’t believe I was ever that small.

“I feel really proud to have overcome that and I’m just thankful I’m alive and healthy. …..

Go here for the rest of the story.

June 29, 2008

How Will Print Media’s Financial Problems Affect Its Coverage?

Filed under: Business Moves,MSM Biz/Other Bias — Tom @ 9:58 pm

The question that is this post’s title occurred to me as I read through this report earlier today by Seth Sutel of the Associated Press. I believe the question is important, and that its potential implications are underappreciated.

Sutel first summarized the week’s financial events in the media business. It wasn’t pretty:

Even for an industry awash in bad news, the newspaper business went through one of its most severe retrenchments in recent memory last week.

Half a dozen newspapers said they would slash payrolls, one said it would outsource all its printing, and Tribune Co., one of the biggest publishers in the country, said it might sell its iconic headquarters tower in Chicago and the building that houses the Los Angeles Times.

The increasingly rapid and broad decline in the newspaper business in recent months has surprised even the most pessimistic financial analysts …..

In a supreme irony, a media trade group, representing those who continually demand full disclosure from politicians, parties, political groups, businesses, and other organizations, is reducing the public visibility of its own industry information:

Advertising is by far the most important source of revenue for newspapers. And in the first quarter, their overall ad revenue slumped 12.9 percent, led by a 24.9 percent drop-off in classifieds, compared with the same period a year earlier.

In fact, the industry group that compiles and releases ad revenue figures, the Newspaper Association of America, this month stopped putting out quarterly press releases with the numbers, though it quietly updated them on its Web site.

NAA spokeswoman Sheila Owens said in an e-mailed statement that the organization will now put out press releases only with full-year data “to keep the market focused on the longer-term industry transition from print to a multiplatform medium.”

But it’s the final paragraph in Sutel’s piece that is the most troublesome:

Given the current poor climate for the business, (Emile Courtney, a media industry credit analyst for Standard & Poor’s) said: “I have doubts banks will be as willing as they were in the past to waive or amend covenants.”

“Covenants” are financial requirements borrowers agree to meet as conditions for obtaining financing and continuing to remain in good standing with their lenders. Without getting too detailed, typical covenants could include promises to have annual financial statements audited, and to get “clean” auditor’s reports as a result of those audits; to continually maintain certain levels of liquidity, such as ratios of current assets to current liabilities; to achieve minimum levels of quarterly cash flow; and to limit pay to key executives.

A covenant violation is potentially a very serious matter. Very often, an understanding lender will “waive” a violation if it feels that it was a one-time problem, and that the borrower’s overall financial viability is not in jeopardy. But it’s a fact that any time a borrower fails to meet any one of the agreed-upon covenants, the lender has the legal right to “call” the loan, meaning that it must be repaid in full immediately. Frequent covenant violations, especially if the borrower is in an industry experiencing serious problems, or if the borrower appears unable to get back into compliance, increase the likelihood that the lender won’t grant waivers, but will instead call the loan. If such a call occurs, a borrower unable to find alternative financing can be forced to go into bankruptcy or liquidation.

It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to understand that a highly-leveraged media company in dire financial straits that knows it is in danger of violating covenants — or, even worse, has been doing so for some time and realizes it may be living on, if you excuse the expression, borrowed time — could be a very dangerous player in covering and reporting the news. Among the many possibilities: It might lighten up, or even puff up, its coverage of a person or group with a chance to financially harm it, such as a major advertiser, politician, political party, or the lending bank itself. Or it might overreact and become recklessly aggressive and sensationalist in a desperate attempt to get more attention, readership, and cash flow.

On the plus side, you might hope that serious financial times might cause the media companies involved to question whether they need to move away from the insufferable bias and political correctness that permeates so much of their reporting, and that has been chasing readers away for so many years. That would be nice, but I am not the first to observe many of the journalists at these companies would rather see the ship sink than make this common-sense adjustment.

Thus, I believe it’s fair to say that the conduct and motivations of reporters, editors, and editorialists whose companies are experiencing financial difficulty deserve special scrutiny, especially during this election year.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

______________________________________

UPDATE: Courtesy of Newsosaur, the Default-o-matic! (HT commenter dscott)

Obama’s Taxes: The $2 Trillion ’1970s Show’ Mirage

Filed under: Economy,Soc. Sec. & Retirement,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 2:52 pm

Note: This post originally appeared on Friday at Pajamas Media under the title “Obama’s Taxes: A $2 Trillion Trip Back to the 1970s.”

_____________________________________

Remember how the press made George Bush’s tax-rate cuts look so “huge” in 2001 and 2003?

A March 10, 2001 New York Times article by reporters Frank Bruni and Richard W. Stevenson typified the approach. The trick was to talk about the (scary) $1.6 trillion impact of the “cuts” while minimizing attention to their time frame. At the linked article, the reporters waited until the ninth paragraph to tell us that it was a “$1.6 trillion, 10-year package” — that is, a less-intimidating average reduction of $160 billion a year.

Using consistent language, Barack Obama’s tax proposals involve tax hikes of at least $2 trillion, and possibly $3 trillion, over the next 10 years.

Obama would bring tax policy back to the 1970s, or about where we were before the Reagan-era tax-rate cuts that triggered The Seven Fat Years of 1983-1989. Despite being partially offset by Bush 41′s and Bill Clinton’s rate hikes, the Reagan rate cuts and their remnants propelled the economy forward almost non-stop for almost 18 years until the 2000 bubble-burst.

Using “static analyis,” the non-business press and rate-cut opponents assumed that Reagan would deprive the government of huge sums of money. Supply-side rate-cut proponents knew better, and predicted that more money, not less, would flow into the federal treasury, as the unleashed economy would grow faster than if rates were not changed.

That supply-siders’ predictions were correct is indisputable. Congressional Budget Office data show that federal fiscal-year receipts increased by 65% from 1983 to 1989 — a compound annual rate of 8.7%.

The Bush rate-cut success story is similar. While the rate reductions on earned income were less substantial than many would have liked, bringing the top rate down only to 35% from Clinton’s 39.6%, the 2003 Bush capital-gains and dividend rate cuts were more aggressive than their Reagan-era counterparts.

Those investment-related rate cuts have favorably influenced behavior far beyond even proponents’ wildest dreams. Federal fiscal-year receipts increased by 44% from 2003 to 2007 — a compound annual rate of 9.6%. Even in fiscal 2008, as the media and Alan Greenspan obsess over a possible recession, federal receipts before economic stimulus payments are on track to increase by about 4%. April 2008 receipts set an alltime single-month record.

If a President Barack Obama gets his desired tax increases, he will show us that supply-side economics has a painful reverse gear. Just as Uncle Sam never had to do without the $1.6 trillion the New York Times and the rest of the media fretted over in 2001, an Obama administration will never see anywhere near the multitrillion-dollar tax-increase windfall it hopes for.

Let’s look at the static Obama numbers. I started with the most recent available IRS tax-return data from 2005 (specifically Table 1.4, a download accessible at this IRS link). Adjusting for estimated inflation since then, and (naively) assuming no change in behavior, here are my first-year lowball estimates of the impacts of the major proposed tax hikes:

  • Obama has said he will let the Bush tax-rate cuts expire for incomes over $250,000. This will push those taxpayers into either the 36% bracket (up from 33%) or the the 39.6% bracket (up from 35%). Estimated annual impact, before considering the investment-related items that follow: at least $110 billion.
  • Although waffling a bit, it appears that Obama plans to increase the capital gains rate nearly to its pre-2003 level, and to once again make dividends fully taxable as ordinary income — again, apparently, on incomes of over $250,000. Estimated annual impact: at least $50 billion.
  • Third, as discussed in last week’s column, Obama plans to impose the Social Security payroll tax on all income from work and self-employment above $250,000. Estimated impact: at least $40 billion.

That’s at least $200 billion a year in tax hikes; if 2007 IRS data were available, we might find that the static impact is really closer to $300 billion. Consistent with media treatment earlier this decade, we’re talking about “at least $2 trillion (over the next 10 years).”

But Uncle Barack will never see most of that revenue, because taxpayers will make adjustments. Among them: CEOs will restructure their pay packages; entrepreneurs will work less hard, and pay themselves lower salaries; investors will move funds between investments less often, and push for smaller dividend payouts. In the Wall Street Journal last week, Lawrence Lindsey estimated that the Social Security payroll tax hike alone will “make the private sector $5 poorer …. (and only) make the government $1 richer.”

Barack Obama, in bringing back the tax structure of the 1970s, would cause many of the highest-earning taxpayers with income from work or self-employment to face a top marginal rate of 60% or more: 39.6% federal, 12.4% Social Security, 2.9% Medicare, and often 5% or higher state and local income taxes.

This is one 1970s show that we don’t need to see. Economic stagnation in the name of class warfare doesn’t play well, even in re-runs.

Yet Another Obama Flip-Flop Flagged, This Time on Iraq

At The Corner over at National Review Online (HT Instapundit via Weapons of Mass Discussion), Pete Hegseth calls it a “zigzag.”

Given how fundamental Barack Obama’s former position was to his credibility as a candidate during the Democratic primaries, I’d say it’s yet another a full-fledged, full-throated flip-flop, accompanied by a fundamentally flawed reading of the Bush Administration’s current policy — both of which we can be confident Old Media will try to ignore.

Hegseth explains (link to transcript added by me; other links are in original; bolds are mine):

Recent reports and rumors have indicated that Senator Obama plans to aggressively move to the middle on Iraq in the coming months. This is a good political move for Obama, if only because he’s finally starting to recognize reality. However, it’s no surprise that he will continue to try and have it both ways: moderating his withdrawal language without giving any credit to surge/Petraeus advocates.

….. Standing alongside Hillary (Friday in Unity, NH), Obama said:

“We can follow a policy that doesn’t change whether violence is up or violence is down, whether the Iraqi government takes responsibility or not; or we can decide that it’s time to begin a responsible, gradual withdrawal from Iraq.

….. Just months ago, Obama clamored for an “immediate” withdrawal, regardless of the situation on the ground; today, his withdrawal would be “gradual.” Maybe he was channeling Hillary Clinton, or maybe he finally realizes that very few people—except the MoveOn crowd—want an immediate withdrawal. His website, I should note, still touts an “immediate” withdrawal.

Despite this move, Obama insists that America’s policy in Iraq “doesn’t change whether violence is up or violence is down.” This is verifiably false. ….. What was the new counter-insurgency strategy, Mr. Senator?

….. True to form, Obama is trying to have it both ways—attempting to use moderate rhetoric to mask an irresponsible Iraq policy, all the while unwilling to recognize the incredible progress on the ground. His website says the surge has only reduced violence to mid-2006 levels. Again, verifiably false. Today, we are at the lowest violence levels in Iraq in four years.

Here’s the “mid-2006″ reference Hegseth cited, from Obama’s web site (also saved at host for future reference, for fair use and discussion purposes):

ObamaOnIraq2006violenceCite0608

In fact, Obama’s web site not only is not in sync with what the candidate said on Friday it’s not even in sync with itself, even within that very same web page:

ObamaConflictingIraqWDs0608

Much as he might think that he’s already got the election in the bag, even arrogantly having his own “presidential seal” designed in advance of the election, a President Obama would not take office until January 20, 2009. Sixteen months from that point in time would be May 2010, not “the end of next year.”

As to Hegseth’s first-paragraph claim that all of this flipping, flopping, and flailing by Obama is “a good political move”: Baloney. It is instead a cravenly cynical strategy that only has a chance of working as long as Old Media stays in the tank for him. Howard Kurtz at the Washington Post noted that the strategy largely worked in the Heller ruling (so far). But there have been some defectors, including PBS’s Bonnie Erbe (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog); there will be more if (or is it as?) the flagrant flip-flops continue. And there’s always New Media, which has shown little patience, even in some cases on the left, for much of Obama’s recent nonsense.

One sign that Old Media is worried about Obama’s frequent flip-flopping: Newsweek’s Jonathan Darman came out yesterday with a howler about how “flip-flopping has a noble history in this country.” Uh-huh.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

WaPo’s Kurtz Notes Media’s Free Pass Given Obama’s Heller Flip-Flop

Filed under: MSM Biz/Other Bias,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:45 am

Full disclosure: I have reasons, explained here and here, not to be particularly fond of the Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz.

Having said that, it should be noted that Kurtz is one of the few in Old Media who has called out his colleagues for whitewashing the difference between Barack Obama’s pre- and post-Heller statements on the now-unconstitutional District of Columbia gun ban.

In a Friday column entitled “Pretzel Logic” (HT Instapundit via Weapons of Mass Discussion), the Washington Post columnist first recited the contradictions in Obama’s statements (links are in original; bold is mine):

Barack Obama is under hostile fire for changing his position on the D.C. gun ban.

Oh, I’m sorry. He didn’t change his position, apparently. He reworded a clumsy statement.

….. Regardless of what you think of the merits of yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling overturning the capital’s handgun law, it seems to me we’re entitled to a clear position by the presumed Democratic nominee. And I’m a bit confused about how the confusion came about.

….. Here’s how the Illinois senator handled the issue with the Chicago Tribune just last November:

“The campaign of Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama said that he ‘ . . . believes that we can recognize and respect the rights of law-abiding gun owners and the right of local communities to enact common sense laws to combat violence and save lives. Obama believes the D.C. handgun law is constitutional.’”

Then Kurtz got into how the media mostly free-passed the blatant contradiction:

And here’s what ABC reported yesterday: “‘That statement was obviously an inartful attempt to explain the Senator’s consistent position,’ Obama spokesman Bill Burton tells ABC News.”

Inartful indeed.

But even though the earlier Obama quote and the “inartful” comment have been bouncing around the Net for 24 hours, I’m not seeing any reference to them in the morning papers. Most do what the New York Times did: “Mr. Obama, who like Mr. McCain has been on record as supporting the individual-rights view, said the ruling would ‘provide much-needed guidance to local jurisdictions across the country.’ ”

Supporting the individual-rights view? Not in November.

Even the Tribune–the very paper that the Obama camp told he supported the gun ban–makes no reference to the November interview. Instead: “Democrat Barack Obama offered a guarded response Thursday to the Supreme Court ruling striking down the District of Columbia’s prohibition on handguns and sidestepped providing a view on the 32-year-old local gun ban. Republican rival John McCain’s campaign accused him of an ‘incredible flip-flop’ on gun control.”

So McCain accuses Obama of a flip-flop, and the Trib can’t check the clips to tell readers whether there’s some basis in fact for the charge?

Kurtz then cited similar shoddy reporting by USA Today, his own Washington Post, and New York Post columnist Charles Hurt. He then notes the substantial critical response to Obama’s Fosbury-like flip-flop from conservative bloggers, and that he was “not seeing much” on the liberal blogs.

By the way, here’s a memo to the “articulate” Obama: “Inartful” isn’t a word.

Positivity: Kevin Everett recovers, reaches out

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 7:01 am

From Houston:

June 21, 2008, 11:58PM

Mornings are the worst time for Kevin Everett. That’s when the pain is at its most intense, when he’s reminded that things probably will never be the way they once were.

“I’m still faced with challenges,” he said. “I pray every day that things will get better. I’ve got to cope with ‘em the best way I can in everyday life.”

He knows he shouldn’t complain. Lord knows, it could have been so much worse. He thanks God every day that he can walk and talk and do the things thousands of others can’t. Therein lines the contradiction.

“I want people to know I’m blessed,” he said. “You’ve got to maintain your faith in the good times and the bad.”

He knows this better than almost anyone because he has etched the faces of other spinal cord patients in his heart and mind. He has heard the desperation in their voice, seen the hopelessness in their eyes.

He knows they see him as a medical miracle, as the reason they continue to grind through those torturous rehab sessions. They want their own Kevin Everett miracle.

He’s a living, breathing, walking advertisement for landmark treatment and a wonderful medical team. He was injured in the right place with the right hospital nearby and the right doctor available.

And yet.

His life is nowhere close to normal and might never be. That’s the harsh truth for Kevin Everett nine months after he lay on that football field in Buffalo, N.Y., his spinal cord crushed.

“It’s the spasms,” he said. “They say it could be like this for the rest of my life. They don’t know. I’m not 100 percent. I don’t know if I’ll ever be 100 percent. I’ve just got to pray every day and try to keep doing the right things.”

Yes, the spasms. They scream through his body, through his legs and hands and arms.

Some mornings, he spends hours in bed waiting for his body to unlock, for the pain to fade. Those Sundays when he would fly down the field throwing his body around like a missile are gone for good. His life is lived an inch at a time.

“Around midday, the blood starts flowing, and everything seems to get a little better,” he said.

Someone slides a book in his direction, and he’s asked to sign it. This happens all the time, a product of his amazing recovery and those few weeks last fall when he had one of the most recognizable faces in the country.

Fatigue comes easily

He carefully places the pen in his hand and signs his name, not with his hand, not in the usual way, but by keeping his hand steady and guiding his entire arm across the page.
“I can’t really write,” he said. “I just scribble a little bit. I’ve got the motion down pat.”

His handshake is weak, his walk slow and cautious. Things that you and I take for normal exhaust him.

“I fatigue real easy,” he said. “It’s just my whole body. It happens with this type of injury.”

He’s 26 years old and still adjusting to all of this. He misses football. Yes, after everything he has been through, there’s a certain disappointment. He’s so lucky, and yet he still hurts and he still misses the thing he once loved so much. In other words, he’s human. …..

Go here for the rest of the story.

June 28, 2008

Heroic Detroit Paper Portrayals of ACORN Ignored Its Sordid History

Two June 23 Motor City newspaper reports — one in the Detroit Free Press (“Group blasts subprime loans,” by Amber Hunt), the other in the Detroit News (“ACORN focuses on vote,” by Mike Martindale) — portrayed the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) as a noble enterprise dedicated to helping troubled borrowers and increasing voter involvement in the political process.

Reality differs.

Hunt and Martindale were either unaware, or perhaps didn’t care, that ACORN has had myriad problems over several years, including but not limited to voter-registration fraud, employee mistreatment and intimidation, and home-loan irregularities. Days before the group’s national convention in Detroit, the Consumer Rights League, a group whose stated mission is “protecting consumer choice,” issued a scathing whistleblower report charging ACORN with “misusing taxpayer dollars for political ends and by attacking lending corporations for the same ‘predatory’ lending practices it regularly engages in.”

Here are selected paragraphs from each reporter’s virtual press releases (HTs to Michelle Malkin here and here):

(Detroit Free Press)

Long before the mainstream media began reporting on those sneaky subprime mortgage loans that have forced millions into foreclosure, the Association of Community Organization for Reform Now was blasting them.

On Sunday the group continued to raise awareness about the need for changes, highlighting the issue as it relates to Detroit, which earlier this year had one out of every 153 households in foreclosure.

“They targeted African Americans and Latinos,” U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., said of certain mortgage companies.

….. ACORN is a liberal-leaning grassroots organization with more than 400,000 members who gather to address issues such as funding for urban schools and affordable housing.

(Detroit News)

About 2,000 members of ACORN, an advocacy group for low-income individuals, focused on getting out the vote this fall as they gathered for their national convention Sunday.

ACORN, or Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, is the nation’s largest such group, with offices and 400,000 member families in 42 states.

….. It’s estimated that this year, ACORN will help 1.2 million people register to vote in 26 states, including 120,000 in Michigan to date.

Sunday’s sessions at times resembled part political rally and part revival meeting.

ACORN’s involvement with electoral process-related irregularities has been extensive. Links to related posts on that topic are here, here (at NB; at BB), here (at NB; at BB – last item at each link), and here (at the Employment Policies Institute).

Employee treatment issues at ACORN have included alleged union-busting and violations of minimum-wage laws.

As to housing, here are just a couple of key excerpts from the CRL’s full press release (PDF accessible at this link):

Executive Summary (in part)

ACORN leveraged the Community Reinvestment Act in order to attack lenders’ reputations and secure financial resources for itself; it has also endorsed loans offered by companies that fund ACORN operations.

ACORN’s decades of lobbying and publicity seeking have contributed to the current housing crisis by lowering lending standards.

It’s Documented: ACORN Housing Works for its donors, Not for the poor

Most people unfamiliar with AHC (ACORN Housing Corporation) would assume that a group dedicated to protecting consumers from abusive loans would advocate safe, traditional 30-year mortgages which build equity and help buyers experience the American dream.

Records show otherwise. Professor Liebowitz notes: “On the Web, you can still find CRA loans available via ACORN with ‘100 percent financing . . . no credit scores . . . undocumented income . . . even if you don’t report it on your tax returns.’ Credit counseling is required, of course.”

Conclusion

ACORN’s long history of abusing the public’s trust seems to have continued through the housing bubble. Its advocacy for loose credit played a role in the current subprime mess. Its advocacy of exotic loans calls into question the wisdom of giving taxpayer money to the organization. And its record of inappropriate ties between a non-profit that receives government funding and a political organization may violate federal laws.

In late May, Stanley Kurtz at National Review Online extensively chronicled ACORN’s awful history and aggressive tactics, while noting that the organization may be Barack Obama’s “most important radical connection.”

Among other things, reporters Hunt and Martindale totally missed the hypocrisy of ACORN’s complaints about the subprime loan mess it helped create. Given all the evidence readily available, their whitewashes were negligent and inexcusable.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Positivity: Baby daughter for Chinese earthquake survivor

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:59 am

From Western China:

June 19 2008

A WOMAN pulled from the rubble of the China earthquake after 50 hours has given birth to a healthy girl.

Zhang Xiaoyan’s dramatic rescue while eight months pregnant was shown on TV screens around the world.

And Zhang, 35, said she had prayed hardest not for her own life but for her baby’s survival.

Yesterday, she got her wish when she gave birth to a 7lb 5oz girl at a maternity hospital in Xinjiang in China’s far west.

The happy new mum said: “Even if I didn’t make it, I just wanted my baby to survive.

“I was holding out hope during the earthquake that this day would come”

Zhang, 35, leaned over to kiss the baby she has named Ai.

The name means love – in honour of the rescue workers and strangers who have showered her with kindness in the month since she was pulled out of the debris.

The rescue of Zhang, along with her 63-year-old mother, from the ruins of a seven-floor block of flats in Dujiangyan set off celebrations among the rescuers. …..

Go here for the rest of the story.

June 27, 2008

The Heller Decision: Right Call, But Golden Opportunity Missed

Filed under: Life-Based News,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:55 pm

11 p.m. Update: The person involved, John Haskins at UndergroundJournal.net, a free membership site for correctly-defined and delineated conservatism, has given me permission to use his name. This post has been carried to the top to give John’s site a bit of visibility.

June 28: Also, see John’s comment #3 below re Scalia.

June 30: See Comments section about Scalia’s roundabout citation of what could be natural law.

________________________________________

This is an e-mail I sent to someone who stunned me a bit a few days ago when he claimed that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is not a conservative:

I’m not good at enduring long TV interviews, so I only watched a bit of the Scalia-Rose interview you referred me to.

But I saw enough to understand what you mean when you say that Scalia is NOT a conservative, in this sense: He, like so many others, has fallen into the trap of believing that whatever a majority of his gang of nine says is the last word on things, and that the other branches of government, and the people themselves, must yield to their judgment, regardless of whether or not there is merit in what they say.

I went through Scalia’s Heller opinion (PDF) yesterday, along with the dissents. The dissents are pitiful, as they attempt to twist “the people” referred to in the Second Amendment (i.e., it’s only “the people” who could be in militias) to be different from “the people” referred to in Amendments 1, 4, 9 and 10 (which clearly refer to each and every individual citizens).

But I believe Scalia and the majority gravely erred, as judges have for decades, in not citing natural law, which includes a God-given right to self-defense, as the most obvious argument supporting an individual right to keep and bear arms.

You don’t have comfort as to your continued Life, you don’t really have Liberty (but instead are a prisoner within your own home, office, or place of work), and you’re certainly not fully able to Pursue Happiness, if you are “legally” prevented by your government from adequately defending yourself. Gun restrictions on law-abiding citizens are thus prima facie illicit encroachments on the inalienable rights our Creator has endowed us with as enumerated in the Declaration of Independence.

Our Founders knew what they were doing when they put “the Blessings of Liberty” into the very first sentence of the Constitution. Those aren’t just a few flowery words; they refer to the Declaration’s God-given rights of Life, Liberty, the Pursuit of Happiness, and others (given the presence of the words “among these”). God has given us the right to defend ourselves. The government has no authority to take that God-given right away except in cases of national emergency, unless a person has proven himself or herself unworthy by committing crimes, or unless that person is mentally unstable.

Scalia’s majority opinion, when considered in combination with the intellectually dishonest and bankrupt dissents, leaves the door open for a future, agenda-driven court to come back and say “No, the militia clause governs the definition of ‘the people’ as used in the Second Amendment. Never mind how ‘the people’ is defined in the other amendments; we think Stevens was right, and Scalia was wrong.” Scalia and the majority needed to roll out a defense based on natural law and our God-given rights to seal the deal once and for all, and failed.

I believe that the judicial hubris I mentioned at the beginning of this e-mail — that the Supreme Court is the last word on what will be — blinded Scalia and his majority to the best defense they had — one that was, and would be, bulletproof (if you excuse the expression) if ever used. His failure to employ it leaves us vulnerable to the whims of a future court.

Tom

NYT Recites Litany of Excuses in Report on Mbeki and Mugabe

Robert Mugabe continues to take Zimbabwe into utter ruin. A former breadbasket when it was colonial Rhodesia, it is now a starving, rotting basket case.

The latest development in the ongoing nightmare: A sham “runoff” election where Mugabe is the only candidate, thanks to “violence against …. opposition members,” whose candidate dropped out of the race less than a week ago.

For nearly a decade, we’ve been told, “Don’t worry, (South African President Thabo) Mbeki will handle him.”

In an article carrying today’s date, the New York Times’s Celia W. Dugger and Barry Bearak continue to make excuses for Mbeki. More on that shortly.

Meanwhile, the downward spiral has continued to the point where the country of roughly 13 million is now in a dire humanitarian crisis:

Two million children face starvation in Zimbabwe, according to a personal account of the unfolding tragedy in the country by a young church leader published in an attempt to force further action by the international community.

….. half the population, including close to two million children, (are) “facing starvation”, according to the account on the World Council of Churches (WCC) website on Thursday.

Given that reality, the report by Dugger and Bearak is a near-complete cop-out, from its the headline to its final word, as it indulges in the fantasy, at least based the track record, that Mbeki has the power and the will to do something:

Complex Ties Lead Ally Not to Condemn Mugabe

(In April 2000) President Robert Mugabe’s enforcers had already begun to rampage across Zimbabwe, beating his political opponents, when television cameras captured a startling image of Mr. Mugabe holding hands with the smiling South African president, Thabo Mbeki, a professed champion of African democracy.

….. Eight years later, in April 2008, much the same scene repeated itself. ….. Again, the despot and the democrat genially clasped hands as Mr. Mbeki declared that there was no political crisis in Zimbabwe.

The complex relationship between these men, stretching back almost 30 years, is crucial to fathoming why Mr. Mbeki, picked last year by regional leaders to officially mediate Zimbabwe’s conflict, does not publicly criticize Mr. Mugabe, nor use South Africa’s unique economic leverage as the dominant nation in the region to curb his ruthless methods despite years of rigged elections.

….. Mr. Mbeki’s policy, typically called “quiet diplomacy,” is built on the staunch conviction that his special bond with Mr. Mugabe can resolve the crisis in Zimbabwe through patient negotiations, his colleagues and chroniclers say.

Mr. Mbeki’s biographers, his colleagues, even his brother debate why he has stuck with his approach despite years of bad faith by Mr. Mugabe. Mr. Mbeki’s consistency is variously attributed to a hubristic resistance to admitting failure, a worldview deeply suspicious of Western interference in African affairs, a hard-nosed calculation of political interests and a realistic assessment of the limits of South Africa’s power when confronted with an unrelenting autocrat.

….. While Mr. Mbeki had no illusions about Mr. Mugabe, Mr. Gevisser and others say, he felt a kinship with the hero of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle against white supremacist rule.

Zimbabwe became a separate, non-”white supremacist” nation 28 years ago.

How is it that the Times, or for that matter the rest of Mbeki’s apologists, never entertain another very real possibility: that the South African President is serving as Mugabe’s personal human shield, deflecting critics with his false “I’ll solve it” promises, while in reality being sympathetic with Mugabe’s totalitarian tactics? Is it because that would force a question as to whether Mbeki and his African National Congress might like to take South Africa to a similar place? And does anyone think a mediator trying to persuade an undemocratic right-wing regime to reform would get a decade’s worth of slack from the media?

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Latest Pajamas Media Column (‘Obama’s Taxes: A $2 Trillion Trip Back to the 70s’) Is Up

Filed under: Economy,News from Other Sites,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 2:28 pm

It’s here.

It will appear at BizzyBlog on Sunday afternoon (link won’t work until then) under the title, “Obama’s Taxes: The $2 Trillion ‘1970s Show’ Mirage.”

Not That I’m in a Hurry to See Them (Ever) …..

Filed under: Business Moves,MSM Biz/Other Ignorance — Tom @ 8:20 am

….. but is anyone else wondering where those Associated Press Blog Guidelines are?

AP and Ohio’s main newspapers are not getting along well (HT Jill at WLST):

This past spring, prompted by unhappiness with the AP’s fees and reduced coverage of state and local news, the eight largest newspapers in Ohio created a cooperative called the Ohio News Organization, or OHNO, which allows its members to sidestep the AP by sharing stories.

….. Ohio is ground zero for the widening rift between the AP and its member newspapers. Ben Marrison, editor of the Columbus Dispatch, says a recent trial in Akron involving the theft of state money epitomizes members’ frustrations. Before the trial Mr. Marrison placed a call to the AP Ohio bureau to find out if it would be sending a reporter.

In the past, Mr. Marrison says, he could usually count on the AP to cover such a trial if he wanted to commit more reporters to a bigger story. When he was told the AP wouldn’t have a reporter there, he sent one of his own to Akron. Shortly after the story was posted on the Dispatch’s Web site, an AP staffer rewrote it for a broader audience and put the new version on the state wire. “So it was important enough for them to move, but not important enough for them to cover,” Mr. Marrison said. “What has happened is we’ve become the wire service for the wire service.”

AP has also become a lead blog-troller that occasionally passes off what it finds as freshly-minted “news.” Other times it will refer to the blogs and others where the news came from without linking. Then they act as if they own the content. What nerve.

Most Dangerous Liberal Lie Exposed

Filed under: Life-Based News,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:00 am

That would be:

“We Don’t Want Your Guns.”

The Supreme Court’s minority in the Heller case showed that this is EXACTLY what they want.

Justice Breyer’s dissent, which Justices Souter, Stevens, and Ginsburg joined, demonstrates this:

(From Page 23 of Breyer’s dissent):

These empirically based arguments (against handgun bans) may have proved strong enough to convince many legislatures, as a matter of legislative policy, not to adopt total handgun bans. But the question here is whether they are strong enough to destroy judicial confidence in the reasonableness of a legislature that rejects them (handgun bans). And that they are not.

(From Page 32):

In weighing needs and burdens, we must take account of the possibility that there are reasonable, but less restrictive alternatives. Are there other potential measures (besides a ban) that might similarly promote the same goals while imposing lesser restrictions? ….. Here I see none.

The reason there is no clearly superior, less restrictive alternative to the District’s handgun ban is that the ban’s very objective is to reduce significantly the number of handguns in the District, say, for example, by allowing a law enforcement officer immediately to assume that any handgun he sees is an illegal handgun. And there is no plausible way to achieve that objective other than to ban the guns.

These people are totally unmasked.

Oh, and so is the presidential candidate I refer to as Mr. BOOHOO-OUCH (Barack O-bomba Overseas Hussein “Obambi” Obama – Objectively Unfit Coddler of Haters). His campaign said this in November (final two sentences at link):

But the campaign of Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama said that he ‘…believes that we can recognize and respect the rights of law-abiding gun owners and the right of local communities to enact common sense laws to combat violence and save lives. Obama believes the D.C. handgun law is constitutional.’

Obama wanted guns banned in November; this statement was not disputed at the time. Why should anyone believe that his position is even slightly different now?

The gun-grabbers are one vote away from a Supreme Court majority. (I’m semi-amazed that Kennedy joined the majority.)

Does anyone seriously think that Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominees wouldn’t agree with the Heller minority?