Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Musical Interlude

After Careful Review - Pelosi Should Resign as Speaker!

After digesting everything that went down yesterday, besides the American taxpayer, the Biggest loser for this whole debacle over the last several days, is not who you think.

Its not John McCain, George Bush, House Republicans or even Barack Obama.
The biggest loser in all of this is none other than Nancy Pelosi, here is she was sitting on a Majority and all she had to do was whip her fellow Democrats into line and pass the bill.

It surely would have made a statement that the Democrats were ready to rebuild the failed policies of the last eight years and it will be even better once Barack Obama is in the White House.

It would have solidified the point that Change is Coming to Change has arrived!

But, Pelosi was not a leader yesterday, she failed not only Democrats, but also every American Taxpayer.

She wanted political cover from the House GOP, she was going to probably get it, until she took the floor and made her remarks.

Now last night there was a lot of chatter from the MSM to the fact that at least 15 Republicans who rode the fence, but, would vote for the measure decided upon hearing here speech, voted it down.

Now that is not surprising, but she also allowed 95 members of her own party to vote it down as well. She apparently didn't have the numbers, but wanted to make John McCain pay dearly for this.

Let me go back to the chatter on MSM, there was a lot of dismissal of the House GOP's feelings about the language the Speaker used yesterday as being childish, but I think what Pelosi said yesterday was the final straw. If you had followed everything over the last several days, she was always making comments about the failed polices, also about the Republicans were unable to work with the Democrats and finally she called the House GOP members unpatriotic because they didn't show up to a strategy meeting that the GOP wasn't even invited it too.
So in its totality, she pushed the Republicans over the edge and the measure failed.

I think the Wall Street Journal said it best:

The 228-205 defeat reflects badly on all concerned, starting with the Democrats who run the House. The majority party is responsible for assembling a majority vote, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi failed in that fundamental task.

To put it bluntly, Nancy Pelosi failed in her leadership position and should not be two heartbeats away from a Presidency.

There seems to be a growing sentiment regarding Nancy Pelosi's responsibilities or lack thereof as Speaker and Leader of her Party in the House of Representatives.

Here is Karl Rove's views from an interview with John Gibson:

Courtesy of Johnny Dollar's Place

America Deserves Better

I found this a little amusing:

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Clinton Factor to the CRA

To further a point on the Democrats are just as guilty in the current Freddie/Fannie meltdown as the Republicans.

The Trillion-Dollar Bank Shakedown That Bodes Ill for Cities
by Howard Husock

The Clinton administration has turned the Community Reinvestment Act, a once-obscure and lightly enforced banking regulation law, into one of the most powerful mandates shaping American cities—and, as Senate Banking Committee chairman Phil Gramm memorably put it, a vast extortion scheme against the nation's banks. Under its provisions, U.S. banks have committed nearly $1 trillion for inner-city and low-income mortgages and real estate development projects, most of it funneled through a nationwide network of left-wing community groups, intent, in some cases, on teaching their low-income clients that the financial system is their enemy and, implicitly, that government, rather than their own striving, is the key to their well-being.

The CRA's premise sounds unassailable: helping the poor buy and keep homes will stabilize and rebuild city neighborhoods. As enforced today, though, the law portends just the opposite, threatening to undermine the efforts of the upwardly mobile poor by saddling them with neighbors more than usually likely to depress property values by not maintaining their homes adequately or by losing them to foreclosure. The CRA's logic also helps to ensure that inner-city neighborhoods stay poor by discouraging the kinds of investment that might make them better off.

The Act, which Jimmy Carter signed in 1977, grew out of the complaint that urban banks were "redlining" inner-city neighborhoods, refusing to lend to their residents while using their deposits to finance suburban expansion. CRA decreed that banks have "an affirmative obligation" to meet the credit needs of the communities in which they are chartered, and that federal banking regulators should assess how well they do that when considering their requests to merge or to open branches. Implicit in the bill's rationale was a belief that CRA was needed to counter racial discrimination in lending, an assumption that later seemed to gain support from a widely publicized 1990 Federal Reserve Bank of Boston finding that blacks and Hispanics suffered higher mortgage-denial rates than whites, even at similar income levels.

In addition, the Act's backers claimed, CRA would be profitable for banks. They just needed a push from the law to learn how to identify profitable inner-city lending opportunities. Going one step further, the Treasury Department recently asserted that banks that do figure out ways to reach inner-city borrowers might not be able to stop competitors from using similar methods—and therefore would not undertake such marketing in the first place without a push from Washington.

None of these justifications holds up, however, because of the changes that reshaped America's banking industry in the 1990s. Banking in the 1970s, when CRA was passed, was a highly regulated industry in which small, local savings banks, rather than commercial banks, provided most home mortgages. Regulation prohibited savings banks from branching across state lines and sometimes even limited branching within states, inhibiting competition, the most powerful defense against discrimination. With such regulatory protection, savings banks could make a comfortable profit without doing the hard work of finding out which inner-city neighborhoods and borrowers were good risks and which were not. Savings banks also had reason to worry that if they charged inner-city borrowers a higher rate of interest to balance the additional risk of such lending, they might jeopardize the protection from competition they enjoyed. Thanks to these artificially created conditions, some redlining of creditworthy borrowers doubtless occurred.

The insular world of the savings banks collapsed in the early nineties, however, the moment it was exposed to competition. Banking today is a far more wide-open industry, with banks offering mortgages through the Internet, where they compete hotly with aggressive online mortgage companies. Standardized, computer-based scoring systems now rate the creditworthiness of applicants, and the giant, government-chartered Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have helped create huge pools of credit by purchasing mortgage loans and packaging large numbers of them together into securities for sale to bond buyers. With such intense competition for profits and so much money available to lend, it's hard to imagine that banks couldn't instantly figure out how to market to minorities or would resist such efforts for fear of inspiring imitators. Nor has the race discrimination argument for CRA held up. A September 1999 study by Freddie Mac, for instance, confirmed what previous Federal Reserve and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation studies had found: that African-Americans have disproportionate levels of credit problems, which explains why they have a harder time qualifying for mortgage money. As Freddie Mac found, blacks with incomes of $65,000 to $75,000 a year have on average worse credit records than whites making under $25,000.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas had it right when it said—in a paper pointedly entitled "Red Lining or Red Herring?"—"the CRA may not be needed in today's financial environment to ensure all segments of our economy enjoy access to credit." True, some households—those with a history of credit problems, for instance, or those buying homes in neighborhoods where re-selling them might be difficult—may not qualify for loans at all, and some may have to pay higher interest rates, in reflection of higher risk. But higher rates in such situations are balanced by lower house prices. This is not a conspiracy against the poor; it's how markets measure risk and work to make credit available.

Nevertheless, until recently, the CRA didn't matter all that much. During the seventies and eighties, CRA enforcement was perfunctory. Regulators asked banks to demonstrate that they were trying to reach their entire "assessment area" by advertising in minority-oriented newspapers or by sending their executives to serve on the boards of local community groups. The Clinton administration changed this state of affairs dramatically. Ignoring the sweeping transformation of the banking industry since the CRA was passed, the Clinton Treasury Department's 1995 regulations made getting a satisfactory CRA rating much harder. The new regulations de-emphasized subjective assessment measures in favor of strictly numerical ones. Bank examiners would use federal home-loan data, broken down by neighborhood, income group, and race, to rate banks on performance. There would be no more A's for effort. Only results—specific loans, specific levels of service—would count. Where and to whom have home loans been made? Have banks invested in all neighborhoods within their assessment area? Do they operate branches in those neighborhoods?

Crucially, the new CRA regulations also instructed bank examiners to take into account how well banks responded to complaints. The old CRA evaluation process had allowed advocacy groups a chance to express their views on individual banks, and publicly available data on the lending patterns of individual banks allowed activist groups to target institutions considered vulnerable to protest. But for advocacy groups that were in the complaint business, the Clinton administration regulations offered a formal invitation. The National Community Reinvestment Coalition—a foundation-funded umbrella group for community activist groups that profit from the CRA—issued a clarion call to its members in a leaflet entitled "The New CRA Regulations: How Community Groups Can Get Involved." "Timely comments," the NCRC observed with a certain understatement, "can have a strong influence on a bank's CRA rating."

The Clinton administration's get-tough regulatory regime mattered so crucially because bank deregulation had set off a wave of mega-mergers, including the acquisition of the Bank of America by NationsBank, BankBoston by Fleet Financial, and Bankers Trust by Deutsche Bank. Regulatory approval of such mergers depended, in part, on positive CRA ratings. "To avoid the possibility of a denied or delayed application," advises the NCRC in its deadpan tone, "lending institutions have an incentive to make formal agreements with community organizations." By intervening—even just threatening to intervene—in the CRA review process, left-wing nonprofit groups have been able to gain control over eye-popping pools of bank capital, which they in turn parcel out to individual low-income mortgage seekers. A radical group called ACORN Housing has a $760 million commitment from the Bank of New York; the Boston-based Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America has a $3-billion agreement with the Bank of America; a coalition of groups headed by New Jersey Citizen Action has a five-year, $13-billion agreement with First Union Corporation. Similar deals operate in almost every major U.S. city. Observes Tom Callahan, executive director of the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance, which has $220 million in bank mortgage money to parcel out, "CRA is the backbone of everything we do."

In addition to providing the nonprofits with mortgage money to disburse, CRA allows those organizations to collect a fee from the banks for their services in marketing the loans. The Senate Banking Committee has estimated that, as a result of CRA, $9.5 billion so far has gone to pay for services and salaries of the nonprofit groups involved. To deal with such groups and to produce CRA compliance data for regulators, banks routinely establish separate CRA departments. A CRA consultant industry has sprung up to assist them. New financial-services firms offer to help banks that think they have a CRA problem make quick "investments" in packaged portfolios of CRA loans to get into compliance.

The result of all this activity, argues the CEO of one midsize bank, is that "banks are promising to make loans they would have made anyway, with some extra aggressiveness on risky mortgages thrown in." Many bankers—and even some CRA advocates—share his view. As one Fed economist puts it, the assertion that CRA was needed to force banks to see profitable lending opportunities is "like saying you need the rooster to tell the sun to come up. It was going to happen anyway." And indeed, a survey of the lending policies of Chicago-area mortgage companies by a CRA-connected community group, the Woodstock Institute, found "a tendency to lend in a wide variety of neighborhoods"—even though the CRA doesn't apply to such lenders.

If loans that win banks good CRA ratings were going to be made anyway, and if most of those loans are profitable, should CRA, even if redundant, bother anyone? Yes: because the CRA funnels billions of investment dollars through groups that understand protest and political advocacy but not marketing or finance. This amateur delivery system for investment capital already shows signs that it may be going about its business unwisely. And a quiet change in CRA's mission—so that it no longer directs credit only to specific places, as Congress mandated, but also to low- and moderate-income home buyers, wherever they buy their property—greatly extends the area where these groups can cause damage.

There is no more important player in the CRA-inspired mortgage industry than the Boston-based Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America. Chief executive Bruce Marks has set out to become the Wal-Mart of home mortgages for lower-income households. Using churches and radio advertising to reach borrowers, he has made NACA a brand name nationwide, with offices in 21 states, and he plans to double that number within a year. With "delegated underwriting authority" from the banks, NACA itself—not the banks—determines whether a mortgage applicant is qualified, and it closes sales right in its own offices. It expects to close 5,000 mortgages next year, earning a $2,000 origination fee on each. Its annual budget exceeds $10 million.

Marks, a Scarsdale native, NYU MBA, and former Federal Reserve employee, unabashedly calls himself a "bank terrorist"—his public relations spokesman laughingly refers to him as "the shark, the predator," and the NACA newspaper is named the Avenger. They're not kidding: bankers so fear the tactically brilliant Marks for his ability to disrupt annual meetings and even target bank executives' homes that they often call him to make deals before they announce any plans that will put them in CRA's crosshairs. A $3 billion loan commitment by Nationsbank, for instance, well in advance of its announced merger with Bank of America, "was a preventive strike," says one NACA spokesman.

Marks is unhesitatingly candid about his intent to use NACA to promote an activist, left-wing political agenda. NACA loan applicants must attend a workshop that celebrates—to the accompaniment of gospel music—the protests that have helped the group win its bank lending agreements. If applicants do buy a home through NACA, they must pledge to assist the organization in five "actions" annually—anything from making phone calls to full-scale "mobilizations" against target banks, "mau-mauing" them, as sixties' radicals used to call it. "NACA believes in aggressive grassroots advocacy," says its Homebuyer's Workbook.

The NACA policy agenda embraces the whole universe of financial institutions. It advocates tough federal usury laws, restrictions on the information that banks can provide to credit-rating services, financial sanctions against banks with poor CRA ratings even if they're not about to merge or branch, and the extension of CRA requirements to insurance companies and other financial institutions. But Marks's political agenda reaches far beyond finance. He wants, he says, to do whatever he can to ensure that "working people have good jobs at good wages." The home mortgage business is his tool for political organizing: the Homebuyer's Workbook contains a voter registration application and states that "NACA's mission of neighborhood stabilization is based on participation in the political process. To participate you must register to vote." Marks plans to install a high-capacity phone system that can forward hundreds of calls to congressional offices—"or Phil Gramm's house"—to buttress NACA campaigns. The combination of an army of "volunteers" and a voter registration drive portends (though there is no evidence of this so far) that someday CRA-related funds and Marks's troop of CRA borrowers might end up fueling a host of Democratic candidacies. During the Reagan years, the Right used to talk of cutting off the flow of federal funds to left-liberal groups, a goal called "defunding the Left"; through the CRA, the Clinton administration has found a highly effective way of doing exactly the opposite, funneling millions to NACA or to outfits like ACORN, which advocates a nationalized health-care system, "people before profits at the utilities," and a tax code based "solely on the ability to pay."

Whatever his long-term political goals, Marks may well reshape urban and suburban neighborhoods because of the terms on which NACA qualifies prospective home buyers. While most CRA-supported borrowers would doubtless find loans in today's competitive mortgage industry, a small percentage would not, and NACA welcomes such buyers with open arms. "Our job," says Marks, "is to push the envelope." Accordingly, he gladly lends to people with less than $3,000 in savings, or with checkered credit histories or significant debt. Many of his borrowers are single-parent heads of household. Such borrowers are, Marks believes, fundamentally oppressed and at permanent disadvantage, and therefore society must adjust its rules for them. Hence, NACA's most crucial policy decision: it requires no down payments whatsoever from its borrowers. A down-payment requirement, based on concern as to whether a borrower can make payments, is—when applied to low-income minority buyers—"patronizing and almost racist," Marks says.

This policy—"America's best mortgage program for working people," NACA calls it—is an experiment with extraordinarily high risks. There is no surer way to destabilize a neighborhood than for its new generation of home buyers to lack the means to pay their mortgages—which is likely to be the case for a significant percentage of those granted a no-down-payment mortgage based on their low-income classification rather than their good credit history. Even if such buyers do not lose their homes, they are a group more likely to defer maintenance on their properties, creating the problems that lead to streets going bad and neighborhoods going downhill. Stable or increasing property values grow out of the efforts of many; one unpainted house, one sagging porch, one abandoned property is a threat to the work of dozens, because such signs of neglect discourage prospective buyers.

A no-down-payment policy reflects a belief that poor families should qualify for home ownership because they are poor, in contrast to the reality that some poor families are prepared to make the sacrifices necessary to own property, and some are not. Keeping their distance from those unable to save money is a crucial means by which upwardly mobile, self-sacrificing people establish and maintain the value of the homes they buy. If we empower those with bad habits, or those who have made bad decisions, to follow those with good habits to better neighborhoods—thanks to CRA's new emphasis on lending to low-income borrowers no matter where they buy their homes—those neighborhoods will not remain better for long.

Because many of the activists' big-money deals with the banks are so new, no one knows for sure exactly which neighborhoods the community groups are flooding with CRA-related mortgages and what effect they are having on those neighborhoods. But some suggestive early returns are available from Massachusetts, where CRA-related advocacy has flourished for more than a decade. A study for a consortium of banks and community groups found that during the 1990s home purchases financed by nonprofit lenders have overwhelmingly not been in the inner-city areas where redlining had been suspected. Instead, 41 percent of all the loans went to the lower-middle-class neighborhoods of Hyde Park, Roslindale, and Dorchester Center/Codman Square—Boston's equivalent of New York's borough of Queens—and additional loans went to borrowers moving to the suburbs. In other words, CRA lending appears to be helping borrowers move out of inner-city neighborhoods into better-off areas. Similarly, not-yet-published data from the state-funded Massachusetts Housing Partnership show that many new Dorchester Center, Roslindale, and Hyde Park home buyers came from much poorer parts of the city, such as the Roxbury ghetto. Florence Higgins, a home-ownership counsellor for the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance, confirms the trend, noting that many buyers she counsels lived in subsidized rental apartments prior to buying their homes.

This CRA-facilitated migration makes the mortgage terms of groups like NACA particularly troubling. In a September 1999 story, the Wall Street Journal reported, based on a review of court documents by Boston real estate analyst John Anderson, that the Fleet Bank initiated foreclosure proceedings against 4 percent of loans made for Fleet by NACA in 1994 and 1995—a rate four times the industry average. Overextended buyers don't always get much help from their nonprofit intermediaries, either: Boston radio station WBUR reported in July that home buyers in danger of losing their homes had trouble getting their phone calls returned by the ACORN Housing group.

NACA frankly admits that it is willing to run these risks. It emphasizes the virtues of the counselling programs it offers (like all CRA groups) to prepare its typical buyer—"a hotel worker with an income of $25K and probably some past credit problems," says a NACA spokesman—and it operates what it calls a "neighborhood stabilization fund" on which buyers who fall behind on payments can draw. But Bruce Marks says that he would consider a low foreclosure rate to be a problem. "If we had a foreclosure rate of 1 percent, that would just prove we were skimming," he says. Accordingly, in mid-1999, 8.2 percent of the mortgages NACA had arranged with the Fleet Bank were delinquent, compared with the national average of 1.9 percent. "Considering our clientele," Marks asserts, "nine out of ten would have to be considered a success."

The no-down-payment policy has sparked so sharp a division within the CRA industry that the National Community Reinvestment Coalition has expelled Bruce Marks and NACA from its ranks over it. The precipitating incident: when James Johnson, then CEO of Fannie Mae, made a speech to NCRC members on the importance of down payments to keep mortgage-backed securities easily salable, NACA troops, in keeping with the group's style of personalizing disputes, distributed pictures of Johnson, captioned: "I make $6 million a year, and I can afford a down payment. Why can't you?" Says Josh Silver, research director of NCRC: "There is no quicker way to undermine CRA than through bad loans." NCRC represents hundreds of smallish community groups, many of which do insist on down payments—and many of which make loans in the same neighborhoods as NACA and understand the risk its philosophy poses. Still, whenever NACA opens a new branch office, it will be difficult for the nonprofits already operating in that area to avoid matching its come-one, come-all terms.

Even without a no-down-payment policy, the pressure on banks to make CRA-related loans may be leading to foreclosures. Though bankers generally cheerlead for CRA out of fear of being branded racists if they do not, the CEO of one midsize bank grumbles that 20 percent of his institution's CRA-related mortgages, which required only $500 down payments, were delinquent in their very first year, and probably 7 percent will end in foreclosure. "The problem with CRA," says an executive with a major national financial-services firm, "is that banks will simply throw money at things because they want that CRA rating." From the banks' point of view, CRA lending is simply a price of doing business—even if some of the mortgages must be written off. The growth in very large banks—ones most likely to sign major CRA agreements—also means that those advancing the funds for CRA loans are less likely to have to worry about the effects of those loans going bad: such loans will be a small portion of their lending portfolios.

Looking into the future gives further cause for concern: "The bulk of these loans," notes a Federal Reserve economist, "have been made during a period in which we have not experienced an economic downturn." The Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America's own success stories make you wonder how much CRA-related carnage will result when the economy cools. The group likes to promote, for instance, the story of Renea Swain-Price, grateful for NACA's negotiating on her behalf with Fleet Bank to prevent foreclosure when she fell behind on a $1,400 monthly mortgage payment on her three-family house in Dorchester. Yet NACA had no qualms about arranging the $137,500 mortgage in the first place, notwithstanding the fact that Swain-Price's husband was in prison, that she'd had previous credit problems, and that the monthly mortgage payment constituted more than half her monthly salary. The fact that NACA has arranged an agreement to forestall foreclosure does not inspire confidence that she will have the resources required to maintain her aging frame house: her new monthly payment, in recognition of previously missed payments, is $1,879.

Even if all the CRA-related loans marketed by nonprofits were to turn out fine, the CRA system is still troubling. Like affirmative action, it robs the creditworthy of the certain knowledge that they have qualified by dint of their own effort for a first home mortgage, a milestone in any family's life. At the same time, it sends the message that this most important milestone has been provided through the beneficence of government, devaluing individual accomplishment. Perhaps the Clinton White House sees this as a costless way to use the banking system to create a new crop of passionate Democratic loyalists, convinced that CRA has delivered them from an uncaring Mammon—when, in all likelihood, banks would have been eager to have most of them as customers, regulation or no.

CRA also serves to enforce misguided views about how cities should develop, or redevelop. Consider the "investment" criterion—the loans to commercial borrowers rather than individual home buyers—that constitutes 25 percent of the record on which banks are judged in their compliance review. The Comptroller of the Currency's office makes clear that it is not interested in just any sort of investment in so-called underserved neighborhoods. Investment in a new apartment building or shopping center might not count, if it would help change a poor neighborhood into a more prosperous one, or if it is not directly aimed at serving those of low income. Regulators want banks to invest in housing developments built through nonprofit community development corporations. Banks not only receive CRA credit for such "investment"—which they can make anywhere in the country, not just in their backyard—but they also receive corporate tax credits for it, through the Low Income Housing Tax Credit. Banks have little incentive to make sure such projects are well managed, since they get their tax credits and CRA credits up front.

This investment policy misunderstands what is good for cities and for the poor. Cities that are alive are cities in flux, with neighborhoods rising and falling, as tastes and economies change. This ceaseless flux is a process, as Jane Jacobs brilliantly described it in The Economy of Cities, that fuels investment, creates jobs, and sparks innovative adaptation of older buildings to new purposes. Those of modest means benefit both from the new jobs and from being able to rent or purchase homes in once-expensive neighborhoods that take on new roles. The idea that it is necessary to flash-freeze certain neighborhoods and set them aside for the poor threatens to disrupt urban vitality and the renewal that comes from the individual plans and efforts of a city's people.

But keeping these neighborhoods forever poor is the CRA vision. CRA will help virtually any lower-income family that can come close to affording a mortgage payment to purchase a home, often in a non-poor neighborhood. Thanks to CRA-driven bank investment, poor neighborhoods would then fill up with subsidized rental complexes, presumably for those poor families who can't earn enough even to get a subsidized, easy credit mortgage. The effects of all this could be to undermine lower-middle-class neighborhoods by introducing families not prepared for home ownership into them and to leave behind poor neighborhoods in which low-income apartments, filled with the worst-off and least competent, stand alone—hardly a recipe for renewal.

It will take a Republican president to change or abolish CRA, so firmly wedded to it is the Clinton administration and so powerfully does it serve Democratic Party interests. When Senator Gramm attacked the CRA for its role in funding advocacy groups and for the burden it imposes on banks, the Clinton administration fought back furiously, willing to let the crucial Financial Services Modernization Act, to which Gramm had attached his CRA changes, die, unless Gramm dropped demands that, for instance, CRA reviews become less frequent. In the end, Gramm, despite his key position as the chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs (even the committee's name reflects a CRA consciousness) and his willingness to hold repeal of the Glass-Steagal Act hostage to CRA reform, could only manage to require community groups to make public their agreements with banks, disclosing the size of their loan commitments and fees.

A new president should push for outright abolition of the CRA. Failing that, he could simply instruct the Treasury to roll back the compliance criteria to their more relaxed, pre-Clintonian level. But to make the case for repeal—and ensure that some future Democratic president couldn't simply reimpose Clinton's rules—he might test the basic premise of the Community Reinvestment Act: that the banking industry serves the rich, not the poor. He could carry out a controlled experiment requiring no CRA lending in six Federal Reserve districts, while CRA remains in force in six others. A comparison of lending records would show whether there is any real case for CRA. In addition, CRA regulators should require nonprofit groups with large CRA-related loan commitments to track and report foreclosure and delinquency rates. For it is these that will reflect the true threat that CRA poses, a threat to the health of cities.

Winter Edition 2000

Is the MSM catching on to Biden/Obama

It seems that CNN did a story on Senator Biden's earmarks, sounds like he has done some bridge work as well.

h/t Prof. Reynolds

Markets Closed

In just a matter of a few hours the bottom dropped out

The Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 778 points for its biggest point drop ever as $1.2 trillion in market value was erased from American equities. The MSCI World Index of 23 developed markets slid 6.9 percent, the most in 21 years.

My guess this will be only the start of a very long week.

Here is the Roll Call Votes

Ohio Congressional Delegation Votes
John A. Boehner (R - 08)
Deborah Pryce (R - 15)
Ralph Regula (R - 16)
Tim Ryan (D - 17)
Zack T. Space (D - 18)
Charles Wilson (D - 06)

Steve Chabot (R-01)
David L. Hobson (R - 07)
Jim Jordan (R - 04)
Marcy Kaptur (D - 09)
Dennis J. Kucinich (D - 10)
Steve C. LaTourette (R - 14)
Robert E. Latta (R - 05)
Jean Schmidt (R-02)
Betty Sutton (D - 13)
Patrick J. Tiberi (R - 12)
Mike Turner (R-03)

More on the Democrats Lie about the Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac Bailout

Over the past week Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi sought to make sure that the Democrats had political cover for the bailout by making sure the Republicans were on board for any bailout plan. It seemed to me if the Democrats really wanted to pass this legislation, they had enough votes on both sides of the house.

If you listen to every press briefing, Pelosi laid the blame for the failures of the Fannie and Freddie at the feet of the Bush administration as well as the Republicans in Congress and wanted them to be held accountable and accept the blame for this mess, but, Speaker Pelosi is loathed to accept any blame on behalf of the Democrats on this issue.

This mess is an Equal Opportunity Financial mess, there are no unclean hands!

Its interesting that some of the very same people over the past week are blaming the GOP, yet here they are in 2005 saying there is not a shred of evidence that there is a problems with Freddie and Fannie.

Bailout goes down to defeat in the House 228 - 205
95 Democrats
133 Republicans
140 Democrats
65 Republicans

I thought Republicans Are the Only Ones to Restrain Speech!

Well at least no one in this state is trying to put down free speech, maybe just voting but not political ads.

This is truly disturbing on many levels.

So much for Hope and Change!

Ohio Tracking Polls

Here is a look at the polling data from Electoral-Vote.com for Ohio

Here is a look back at the 2004 data:

It seems that the polling data is beginning to look like it was back in 2004, when everything was down to the end.

Disarming America

I see now how Obama is going to pay for all his plans:

This seems reminiscent of the Clinton and Carter administrations, let's talk about how great our men and women in the Armed Forces from one side of the mouth and cut defense spending out of the other. It would seem that based on his priorities there will be a major reorganization of the military, whereby the size of the armed forces will be reduced, which might put some of our overseas bases at risk and allies out on a limb.

As to the nuclear weapons issue, he only speaks about Russia, but what about North Korea, Iran, India, Pakistan, Israel and all the rest of the remaining nuclear family.

Major questions still to be answered if he wants to be elected.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Parish Cluster Follow Up

As I said yesterday, all the parishes were to meet to discuss the scenarios.

They provided a copy of a power point presentation with various topics.

The first was "Why We Need to Cluster"

The discussion had several sub-parts to it, relating to shifting population generally in the eight county diocese, to decline in mass attendance/registered households as well as the diminishing numbers of priests to tend to the flock.

As a result of the decline in attendance, the clustering is also seeing a decline in Parish collections and in Parish/School Incomes. The sad fact is that the 6 parishes in the Lakewood/Cleveland Cluster have lost over the last 3 years a combined $460,000 and continue to lose money.

The next part of the discussion was what the charge was for the committee to determine what was the vibrancy of each parish and how to enhance that vibrancy after a consolidation of the parishes.

Here the discussion was on parish demographics and statistics. Included in this discussion was the ministries of each parish, finances and facilities.

The reason we were there, what is the committee's recommendation:

They are two fold; A majority of the committee has determined the cluster would be of better service to the community if there were three remaining parishes.

Here are the preferred choices for the 3 Church Scenario:
1) St. Clement, St. Luke, St. James
2) St. Cyril & Methodius, St. Luke, St. James
3) St. Clement, St. Cyril & Methodius, St. Luke

There is a minority report that will signify just a 2 church scenario.

Here are the preferred choices for the 2 Church Scenario;
1) St. Clement, St. Luke
2) St. Cyril & Methodius, St. Luke
3) St. Luke, St. James
4) St. Rose, St. James

There is also a major discussion as to the survival of the schools, Lakewood Catholic Academy and St. Cyril & Methodius.

Whatever churches close there will be a consideration of the transferring of some of the traditions and trappings from the closed parishes into the surviving parishes.

The other issues upon closing, is the debt reductions and what to do with the facilities left behind. Also to be considered, what to do with the facilities of the surviving parishes and the needs for possible expansion to deal with the influx of new parishioners and ministries.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Parish Clustering

Tonight all the Catholic parishes in Lakewood and St. Rose's in Cleveland will be conducting a Townhall Meeting regarding the closing of some of the churches in Lakewood.

The consensus is that there will be a majority report, along with a minority report submitted to Bishop Lennon in October.
I have no real concern for the content of the Majority Report, which would consist of closing three parishes and have three survive. The three surviving would be Sts. James, Luke and either Clements or Cyril & Methodious.

The Minority Report if adopted could have grave consequences on the City, by the elimination of 4 parishes and having two survive. In the one two church scenario, its is described as having no Catholic Church west of Bunts Road in Lakewood.

I will update after the meeting as to what the plans will be.

Here is the post from June regarding this topic.

UPDATE - 10:30pm: Just returned from meeting, may not be as bad as I first thought. Will follow up a little later.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Electoral Vote Tally

On the lower left, below the site stats is a widget for reviewing the Electoral Vote tallies and also provides updated polling data.

I followed this back in 2000 and then again 2004 and they were pretty close on the numbers.

If you would like to just go straight to the website, here is the link.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

More Hurts Put on Obama

From the Democratic Strategist relating to Sen. Obama's campaign message on the economy:

An Open Letter From William Galston:

I'll get right to the point: You are in danger of squandering an election most of us thought was unlosable. The reason is simple: on the electorate’s most important concern – the economy -- you have no clear message, and John McCain has filled the void with his own.
This is more than my opinion. The Democracy Corps
survey released yesterday proves the case beyond a reasonable doubt. Backed by a wealth of persuasive detail, here is the nub of their conclusion:

In the absence of a coherent change message from Obama, many voters are accepting McCain’s definition, particularly since they want to change Washington and clean up government. As a result, Obama has lost his double-digit advantage over McCain on the right kind of change.

When I say you have no message, here’s what I mean:

First, you are not offering a coherent account of what has gone wrong with the economy – why it is no longer working for average families. People are anxious and bewildered; they want to know why jobs are disappearing, why incomes are stagnating, and why prices are soaring. If you don’t offer an explanation, McCain’s will carry the day by default: the problem is the corrupt, self-interested politicians in Washington; the solution is getting them – and government in general – out of the way.

Second: you are not offering a focused, parsimonious list of remedies for the economic ills you cite. As a result, few if any voters can actually cite a single signature economic proposal you have made. It’s not that you don’t have ideas. If anything, you have too many. At some point, more becomes less, and you are well beyond that point. You need to decide which three or four economic proposals are most important and repeat them relentlessly for the next seven weeks.

Your campaign already contains everything you need to do this. You could offer a focused economic message with four elements: rebuilding the United States, with an infrastructure bank, generating millions of good jobs that can’t be outsourced; creating millions more jobs by leading the world in environmental innovation; significantly reducing the tax burden on average families; and offering health insurance to everyone at a price they can afford. If you say that about your economic plan – and nothing else – from now until November, there’s a good chance your message will get through.

Third: you are not drawing crisp, punchy contrasts between your plans and McCain’s. An example: the centerpiece of his health care plan is the taxation of employer-provided health care benefits. Pound away at that, and let him explain why throwing workers into the individual health insurance market unprotected is such a wonderful idea. And by the way, while your plan would increase coverage, his would do the opposite. Is that the change Americans want?

Fourth: your stump speech is too long and discursive. It shouldn’t last more than fifteen minutes, it should focus on your agenda, not today’s news story, it should feature short, declarative sentences, and it should leave no doubt about what you care about the most. Right now, regrettably, few Americans believe that you feel real passion about their economic plight and are willing to wage a tough fight on their behalf. It’s your job to convince them otherwise, and you don’t have much time to do it.

A message is a thought not only sent, but also received and understood. If your hearers aren’t getting it, it’s not a message. The essence of political speech is functional, not aesthetic. It is a tree judged by its fruit, and the fruit is persuasion. Right now you’re not persuading the people you need to persuade, and nothing else matters.

Fifth: there’s no coordination between an economic message and the rest of your campaign. If you want the focus to be on the economy, that’s what your paid advertising and your surrogates should be doing as well. Attacking McCain for employing lobbyists is a waste of precious time and resources; it plays on his turf and accepts his definition of the problem. Moreover, It diverts attention from the core issue – a Republican approach to the economy, shared by Bush and McCain, that shafts ordinary Americans and does nothing to help them deal with the challenges of global competition. So far, while the McCain campaign has gone for the jugular, you’ve gone for the capillaries.

Some Americans won’t support you because they think you’re too young and inexperienced to be president, or that you’re too liberal, or not patriotic enough, or because you might raise taxes, or because you’re African-American. That’s inevitable. The good news is that by themselves, these Americans are not a majority. The bad news is that they might become part of a majority if they are joined by the many Americans who are open to supporting you but are turning away because they don’t hear you speaking to their concerns in a manner that they can understand.

This is not about you alone; it’s a matter of political responsibility. Millions of Americans have invested their hopes and dreams in you, and you owe it to them to campaign effectively, which isn't happening right now. Yes, the McCain campaign is replete with exaggerations, evasions, and outright fabrications. It’s your responsibility to defeat them, not complain about them. If this means listening to advice you don’t want to hear, and getting out of the "comfort zone," so be it.
Three months ago, when you were riding high, the McCain campaign was flat on its back. But give McCain credit: when he was told that to win he had to change, he did. He focused, and he accepted a kind of discipline that he had previously resisted. Now it’s your turn.

If you had told me 180 or even 90 days ago that the battle for the White House would be essentially even going into the debates, I would have thought you as crazy. I had pretty much given up hope that the GOP would be able to retain the Presidency, based on fears about Iraq, Iran, the War on Terror and just plain BDS, attached to the seeming lingering of bad economic news, but here we are less than 6 weeks away (still with even worse economic news), tied in the polls with everyone scrambling to conduct their own math as to what states are still in play.


If Obama is not able to pull out a victory, even with what appears to be a better ground game than the McCain's, then this election will studied for a long time by political operatives and historians.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Blame is not always on the GOP

This morning Douglas Turner of the Buffalo News provides a scathing attack on none other than the Democratic VP Nominee Sen. Joseph Biden and former Democratic Presidential hopeful, Sen. Chris Dodd regarding the Mortgage and Banking crisis.

What is astonishing is the Buffalo News has always been a left leaning paper, but as this election cycle has move forward I am finding it to becoming more despondent with the Democratic planks and becoming more centrist.

I will post the Op-Ed piece in its entirety, since the online version sometimes goes behind registration.

WASHINGTON — Two years ago, voters reacted strongly
against a Republican Congress that blithely blessed a disastrous pre-emptive war
and was the most corrupt since the post-Civil War Reconstruction days.
What we got in exchange is a Democratic Congress that is only marginally less
crooked, that still fosters the Iraq war and whose leaders are just plain inept.

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., for instance. If the next Senate stays Democratic, he ought to be ousted as majority leader. Reid has not even been able to replace Sen. Joe Lieberman, Independent Democrat of Connecticut, as chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee as just punishment for campaigning with the Republican presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain of Arizona. Worse, Reid llowed two important committee chairmen to play hooky for a year while their issues allowed. One, Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Joe Biden, D-Del., is running as vice president in order to lend supposed strength to the Barack Obama ticket on overseas issues. In the chairman’s saddle 19 months, the eternally grinning Biden has called his very first hearing on Russia for Wednesday.

Pathetic. Dictator Vladimir Putin has been signaling for more than two years
that he intended to menace former Soviet satellites like Poland and Ukraine.
Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., has behaved even more outrageously. He’s the
fast-talking chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, which has been looking
the other way while the government has bailed out one slimy securities operation
after another.
The best-known effect of his seniority on that panel is his getting favorable mortgage terms from a troubled bank. The recipient of massive campaign gifts from the securities industry, Dodd stayed with his delusional campaign for president while the mortgage market and the banking industry tanked.

Thanks in large part to Dodd, the government has been blind-sided by the troubles of two huge g overnment-sponsored entities, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. These are backstops for bankers who profited handsomely on mortgages they sold to borrowers who could not pay them back. Estimates of the cost to taxpayers of the Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae bailouts range from zero to $300 billion. Little is said about two former high-ranking Clinton administration officials, Franklin D. Raines and Jamie Gorelick, who got paid $52 million and $26 million, respectively, at Fannie Mae while the agency cooked its books.

The Joint Economic Committee, chaired by Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N. Y., sounded the alarm about the two big agencies a full year ago. But the committee’s findings are advisory. Dodd himself ran a hearing on Freddie and Fannie last March. There, a spokesman for the Mortgage Bankers Association urged passage of laws mandating a complete overhaul and stringent oversight of the two agencies. But Dodd walked off to the hustings and the talk shows.

This marks the second time in a generation that a Democratic

Congress looked aside while banks were bailed out at taxpayer expense. The 1980s
savings-and-loan bailout cost taxpayers more than $130 billion.

The explanation is easy. Since 1990, the financial industry has spent at least $900
million on campaign gifts to federal candidates of both parties. Since 1998, the
banks, insurance and securities industry has spent $3.2 billion lobbying the

And they got what they paid for: Your tax money!

An assessment of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., must wait for another day. For now, let it suffice to say she is looking favorably on a $50 billion bailout for the Big Three U. S. automakers, whose CEOs are getting upwards of $17 million apiece.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

This has to hurt a little bit for Sen. Obama

Yes, Palin Did Stop That Bridge

By JIM DEMINT September 10, 2008; Page A15

"But, you know, when you've been taking all these earmarks when it's convenient, and then suddenly you're the champion anti-earmark person, that's not change. Come on! I mean, words mean something, you can't just make stuff up." -- Barack Obama, Sept. 6, 2008

In politics, words are cheap. What really counts are actions. Democrats and Republicans have talked about fiscal responsibility for years. In reality, both parties have a shameful record of wasting hundreds of billions of tax dollars on pork-barrel projects.

My Senate colleague Barack Obama is now attacking Gov. Sarah Palin over earmarks. Having worked with both John McCain and Mr. Obama on earmarks, and as a recovering earmarker myself, I can tell you that Mrs. Palin's leadership and record of reform stands well above that of Mr. Obama.

Let's compare.

Mrs. Palin used her veto pen to slash more local projects than any other governor in the state's history. She cut nearly 10% of Alaska's budget this year, saving state residents $268 million. This included vetoing a $30,000 van for Campfire USA and $200,000 for a tennis court irrigation system. She succinctly justified these cuts by saying they were "not a state responsibility."

Meanwhile in Washington, Mr. Obama voted for numerous wasteful earmarks last year, including: $12 million for bicycle paths, $450,000 for the International Peace Museum, $500,000 for a baseball stadium and $392,000 for a visitor's center in Louisiana.

Mrs. Palin cut Alaska's federal earmark requests in half last year, one of the strongest moves against earmarks by any governor. It took real leadership to buck Alaska's decades-long earmark addiction.

Mr. Obama delivered over $100 million in earmarks to Illinois last year and has requested nearly a billion dollars in pet projects since 2005. His running mate, Joe Biden, is still indulging in earmarks, securing over $90 million worth this year.
Mrs. Palin also killed the infamous Bridge to Nowhere in her own state. Yes, she once supported the project: But after witnessing the problems created by earmarks for her state and for the nation's budget, she did what others like me have done: She changed her position and saved taxpayers millions. Even the Alaska Democratic Party credits her with killing the bridge.

When the Senate had its chance to stop the Bridge to Nowhere and transfer the money to Katrina rebuilding, Messrs. Obama and Biden voted for the $223 million earmark, siding with the old boys' club in the Senate. And to date, they still have not publicly renounced their support for the infamous earmark.

Mrs. Palin has proven courageous by taking on big spenders in her own party. In March of this year, the Anchorage Daily News reported that, "Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens is aggravated about what he sees as Gov. Sarah Palin's antagonism toward the earmarks he uses to steer federal money to the state."

Mr. Obama had a chance to take on his party when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid offered a sham ethics bill, which was widely criticized by watchdog groups such as Citizens Against Government Waste for shielding earmarks from public scrutiny. But instead of standing with taxpayers, Mr. Obama voted for the bill. Today, he claims he helped write the bill that failed to clean up Washington.

Mr. Obama has shown little restraint on earmarks until this year, when he decided to co-sponsor an earmark moratorium authored by Mr. McCain and myself. Mr. Obama is vulnerable on this issue, and he knows it. That is why he is lashing out at Mrs. Palin and trying to hide his own record.

Mrs. Palin is one of the strongest antiearmark governors in America. If more governors around the country would do what she has done, we would be much closer to fixing our nation's fiscal problems than we are.

Mrs. Palin's record here is solid and inspiring. She will help Mr. McCain shut down the congressional favor factory, and she has a record to prove it. Actions mean something. You can't just make stuff up.

NOTE: The original link for the article on killing the project is from the Democratic Party website. But, since its was located, the Alaska Dems took the page down and refashioned it as a "Retire Ted" site.

A small look into Gov. Palin's style of governing.

From an article regarding then Mayor Sarah Palin's reasoning for the building of a recreation complex in Wasilla.

Among the documents is this email written from Palin’s account to the “Dept Heads” of the council in January 2001. Although its left margin is sliced off, the message of the email is clear. Palin writes:
Palin's Email To "Dept. Heads" Of City Council
“…as I look at the money that government [spends] on projects, programs, personnel and facilities to ‘fix’ societies ills and I realize that it’s [be]come more politically correct and accepted for government to throw money towards ‘after-the-fact [services]’, instead of preventive measures that a community could take to support and promote…family oriented, positive, constructive activities and lifestyles. Even on the local level we [spend] hundreds of thousands of dollars on our Police Dept., Youth Court, DARE Program, etc... ‘after the fact’ fixes for juvenile problems. We are in a position to help prevent (Palin’s emphasis) the [problems] that we are now forced to pay to attempt to remedy.”

The article goes on to state:

"...This approach sounds surprisingly similar to Senator Barack Obama’s philosophies about youth violence and health care spending. Obama’s “Blueprint for Change” bemoans the lack of money spent on preventive health measures, “The nation faces epidemics of obesity and chronic diseases as well as new threats of pandemic flu and bioterrorism. Yet despite all of this less than 4 cents of every health care dollar is spent on prevention and public health.” ...

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Presidential Race

Everywhere you read over the last 10 days has been about the McCain/Palin ticket. Quite frankly the selection of Gov. Sarah Palin was a stunner to just about everyone. I had read some early prognostications last spring that included her name as a possible candidate. Never thinking or doing any research on her. Of course everyone now is doing their due diligence.

The Left and the Media are trying to throw whatever they can to knock the Palin train off its tracks. For a local glimpse of it you can go over to the Lakewood Observer or the Lakewood Buzz. Thankfully, they are not as slimy as what appeared the Saturday after the Veep announcement. But, they are walking a fine line.

Let's face it, the Democrats and the Media basically have done what John McCain couldn't do for the GOP rank and file, that is solidification.

I for one was at best luke warm to the McCain campaign, I would have voted for him anyway, because of the platform of Obama's.

Since the smears and innuendos from the Koz' kids, Salon, NY Times, (of course) MSNBC and all the rest so firmly leaning Obama's way on the Saturday after the announcement, I became a more hardened supporter. Not only is the party going to get my time, but now they will get my money.

The recent polls after the conventions have certainly turned towards McCain/Palin, but its still early. I think the time to get excited will be come at the end of September and into mid- October. By that time we will have had at least one Presidential debate and the one and only VP debate (probably most watched debate on TV). Those polls will provide the best indicator of where the two candidates will be for November.

After that point, it will just come down to who has the better ground game. Right now that edge could be with Obama.

Let's go back to the Palin smears and distortions, I have already stated that some have been pretty bad, while others borderline. The Left and the Media is harping about her record, well today I have noticed that FactCheck.org has now a link to debunking some of the distortions that are out there. Here is one that I have seen over at the observation deck where they were crying about her cutting special ed funds.

  • Palin did not cut funding for special needs education in Alaska by 62 percent.
    She didn’t cut it at all. In fact, she tripled per-pupil funding over just three

They don't have a lot, but I am sure they will continue to update.

Final point about the local comments, judging by the outrage/dementia (BDS kind) on the Observation Deck and the Lakewood Buzz over Sarah Palin and her fitness to be Vice President, I really wonder what will happen if McCain wins. Right now that is a very good possibility.

Dear Mr. Obama

I have seen this on Blackfive and LawDog and already has shown up in several emails to me.

Go view it, simplistic in its delivery, but devastating in its message.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Invitation to Gov. Palin

Now I would love to invite Republican VP Nominee Gov. Sarah Palin to visit Lakewood, but unfortunately she is not allowed.