Archives for the Month of March 2008 on Through the Magnifying Glass

Lawmakers choose to love pork

It's 2008, an election year. We are likely in a recession. Some lawmakers want to get re-elected.

That means, it's time to file their "pork" projects, earmarks, projects designed to waste your taxpayers' dollars.

Sure, Clinton, Obama, McCain, and Paul have denounced earmarks, but the rest of Congress are not following suit.

After the Senate did a thumbs down on a ban of legislative earmarks in next year's budget, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi surrendered as well by shelving the idea of a one-year moratorium.

Of course, lawmakers insist that earmarks means jobs back in their home districts. As long it is sensible and justified.... of course we have seen examples of pet projects that border on the insane and idiotic.

News Link

Russian players at Blackjack

In addition, I do have to rant on one thing that happened this past weekend. I took a few friends down to Atlantic City and we had a good time. I did pretty well at the blackjack tables and just before heading back home, I was at one table where everyone was doing great. Over half of the table decided to take their winnings and leave, and three russian players (all brothers) took the seats.

Then they decided to screw the usual rules and make lousy decisions. On most cases they follow the "book." In other cases, they started to make dumb choices and screw the rest of the table. In the end, I lost half of my winnings. They berated one player for splitting two 6's against a dealer showing a 2. Of course, if you have a 12 against a dealer showing a 2, you can choose to hit or stay. Some players would adopt a policy of staying or hitting on a 12 if a dealer is showing a 2. But if you have a split-combination, then you should split against a 2. The russians weren't happy, and they were being obnoxious and strong-headed.

I finally decided it was time to go when one of them decided to stay on 14 with the dealer showing a Queen. Of course, if he had hit, the next card was a 4 giving him an 18. The dealer would have later busted if he took that card. Instead, the dealer won against everyone except me (I had a higher number). If he took the card, then the dealer would have busted, so everyone would have won.

I think in the best interests of everyone playing blackjack, never have more than one russian playing at the table. If you have more than one, they're a dangerous factor.

Time: Why Ron Paul scares the GOP

Link

I like this part...

....

When his fellow candidates denounced big government, Paul was there to remind them that President Bush and the G.O.P. Congress had shattered spending records and exploded the deficit. When they hailed freedom, Paul asked why they all supported the Patriot Act and other expansions of executive power. And when they called themselves conservatives, Paul asked what was so conservative about sending thousands of young Americans to try to transform the Middle East.

....

C'mon, neo-conservatives, got anything else left to say?

Ron Paul to visit Penn State on April 11

Wanted by popular demand by Penn State students, Congressman Ron Paul will speak at the university on April 11.

He will be speaking at 5:30PM in 100 Thomas, where he will address "freedom and the Constitution," said Jesse Benton, communications director for Paul.

Members of the College Democrats, Libertarians, and Republicans are all looking forward to the event.

Link

Fiscal News: National Debt Interest

With our national debt reaching almost $9.4 trillion, the federal budget's amount to pay the interest on that debt has passed $400 billion.

The interest expense paid on the National Debt is the third largest expense in the federal budget, right after Defense and Health and Human Services, HUD, and Agriculture.

Link

Don't go for the discount - store card deals

Remember shopping at Gap, Macy's, Banana Republic, etc.? When you are ready to purchase your items, the cashier would ask you if you wanted to sign up for their store credit card and get 10 or 15% off your purchase and for the rest of the day.

Of course, they don't bother telling you that the APR rate is sky high!

ABC Carpets 23.99% 0% APR for 6 months**
Radio Shack 23.85% 0% APR for 2-12 months**
K-Mart / Sears 23.15% 0% APR for 24 months** 20 days
Bloomingdales 22.90% 10% off first purchase -
Macy's 22.90% 10% off first purchase 25 days
Saks 5th Avenue 22.90% 10% off first purchase -
Fashion Bug 22.90% - 25 days
Lane Bryant 22.80% 15% off first purchase 25 days
Express 22.80% - 25 days
Ann Taylor 22.80% 10% off first purchase 25 days
Abercrombie & Fitch 22.80% - 25 days
New York & Company 22.80% - 25 days
Design within Reach 22.80% 9.9% APR for 12-24 months -
Ikea 22.65% 0% APR for 3 months 25 days
Neiman Marcus 22.25% - 25 days
Bergdorf Goodman 22.25% - 27 days
Circuit City 21.99% 0% APR for 3 months 20 days
Target 21.99% 10% off with first use 25 days
Victoria's Secret 21.99% Up to $75 back 25 days
Toys "R" Us 21.99% - 20 days
PC Richard 21.98% 0% APR for 12 months** -
Staples 21.96% - 20 days
Average 21.96% - 25 days

Brooks Brothers 21.60% 10% off first purchase 26 days
Lord & Taylor 21.60% 10% off first purchase 25 days
JC Penny 21.00% 10% off first purchase 25 days
Home Depot 21.00% 0% APR for 6 months 26 days
Gap / Banana Republic / Old Navy 21.00% 15% off first purchase 26 days
Barney's New York 21.00% - 26 days
Nordstrom 20.90% $20 rewards certificate 25 days
J. Crew 20.99% 10% off first purchase 25 days
West Elm 20.75% - 25 days
Pottery Barn 20.75% 5% off for 90 days 25 days
Best Buy 20.40% 0% APR for 3 months** 25 days
Fortunoff 19.92% - 25 days
Crate & Barrel 19.80% - 25 days

**Special interest periods may vary based on the cost of the item purchased or speed of repayment.

Usually, I kept low balances on my Bloomingdale's and Macy's cards, but I finally closed them after seeing them raise my APR to over 21%.

Craigslist hoax is a concern for all

Some folks may believe that anything posted on the internet could be true. If you look at a blog site, note the contents and you would have to decide if the article or posting is true or false. Some entries would be backed up with research or links citing such facts. Sometimes, it could be just word-of-mouth.

This incident should not be treated lightly.

Someone posted an ad on Craigslist telling folks that a Southern Oregon man's property was up for grabs stating that the owner was forced to leave the area suddenly and his belongings were free for the taking.

However, the ad was a hoax.

Unfortunately, some people thought it was true. They took the man's work ladders, his lawn mower, weed eater, his porch swing, and others. When the owner got home, there were 30 people going through his barn and front porch. Most of them were armed with the Craigslist printout. Because of it, they told the owner they had a right to his stuff. Ridiculous...

Of course, when it was finally confirmed that it was indeed a hoax, some folks did return his stuff, but he is still missing some of his belongings.

This is very dangerous especially after other incidents where party events advertised on Craigslist without the owner's knowledge have resulted in hundreds of people crashing parties and causing property damage. Other similar postings have resulted in the owner's house being ransacked.

Repeal the REAL ID Act

Link

It passed with almost no debate in 2005, how about we just repeal it in order to preserve our liberty?

If the federal government wants to take over traditional state functions, then they should pay the $4 billion cost.

One reason not to trust the MSM

lawyers: don't say cancer, say human health implications ...wtf???

History Channel Satire: 2008 election future

I know I know, it's a Ron Paul production... but when you look at what's been going on, do you really think the Democrats or neo-Republicans are out there for our interests???

Hmm, the Republican Party -> the new Liberal Party

Hmm, the Democratic Party -> the new Socialist Party

Are we too late???

LA Times: Ron Paul runs a conservative campaign

From their blog:

Not only does Paul talk the conservative talk, it seems; he walks the conservative walk. He reported having raised $34.65 million since he launched his (get ready, Paulunteers) longshot White House bid last year. Paul reported spending about $29 million as of Feb. 29. And he reported having an impressive $5.57 million cash left in the bank.

Now, get this: The Ron Paul presidential campaign reported no debts. Not a dollar. Not even a penny. What has this country come to when half the members of Congress run for president and fully one of them campaigns within his means? This conservative revolution will not be run on funny money like the Federal Reserve system they want to abolish.

Perhaps RP can loan McCain a few million...

The Neocons are blasting the Ron Paul supporters

I find it quite amusing when the neocons and other anti-RP folks are classifying all Ron Paul supporters as bigots, racists, 9/11 Truthers, isolationists, even terrorist sympathizers.

Michael Goldfarb, The Weekly Standard has told us to "get lost."

Allahpundit on HotAir told us to go organize some terrorist-themed fundraisers.

Why would such people give Ron Paul over $33 million dollars in donation for his presidential campaign? From their viewpoint, they consider us to be nuts, a bunch of crackpots.

Not everyone would believe 9/11 was a conspiracy. I would even bet very few would even think there is a Pearl Harbor conspiracy either. A large portion of RP supporters are interested in smaller government, full personal liberties and rights, and less taxes. Of course, we would like to see us withdraw from Iraq given that it is now a black hole sucking up taxpayers' funds and the lives of our military men and women. We are not for pre-emptive war. We are not in favor of empire/nation building. We are not in favor of a Big Brother society. We are for an American republic, not an American empire.

The neocons ignore the 12 years of GOP control where power and free spending went unchecked. Now with the Democrats in control, President Bush is acting all fiscal conservative. Where was that when the GOP was in power?

The neocons want more surveillance, wiretapping, security cameras, regardless of personal liberty. Let us not forget the words of Benjamin Franklin - "Anyone who trades liberty for security deserves neither liberty nor security."

They rather want to bomb or invade Cuba instead of conducting open trade.

They want to nuke Iran and cause a systematic collapse of the Middle East region. Imminent threat to the U.S.? Do they have hundreds of missiles with ballistc capability? I would have thought China or Russia would fit in that profile.

Of course they want to cut taxes. They would just borrow more or print more money. Let me know when the national debt reaches past $10 trillion.

The neocons are the warmongers. They are the war hawks. They are the empire-building folks. They want to throw out the constitution. They are the threat, not us.

FEC: Latest figures on Ron Paul

Republican congressman from Texas' 14th District and candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.

•Has drawn 803,217 votes, or 4.55 percent of ballots cast in this year's primaries and caucuses, putting him fourth among Republicans, with more than Rudolph W. Giuliani or Fred Thompson.

Raised $32.6 million for his campaign through the end of January, including a one-day online record for either party of $6 million on Dec. 16.

•Had his best show of support in Washington's caucuses, where his 20.8 percent was good for third place.

•Had his best showing with a second-place finish in Nevada's caucuses, with 13.7 percent of the vote.

•Claims to have secured 42 delegates to September's nominating convention, although other estimates show him with less than half that number.

•Was the Libertarian Party's candidate for president in 1988.

Sources: Federal Election Commission; www.TheGreenPapers.com; the Paul campaign

Jon Stewart: Broken Arrow

I believe that for the rest of his term, Bush is not allowed to make any more speeches or statements regarding the nation's economy.

Five Years - the Iraq War

Today marks the fifth anniversary of the Iraq war.

We knew what was true. We overthrew a dictator. We knew that demolishing Saddam Hussein's military power and liberating Iraq would be quite easy. But everything else was proven wrong.

There were no weapons of mass destruction. As for the alleged link between Hussein and Osama bin Laden's al-Qa'ida, there is no link. The Pentagon acknowledged that fact after reviewing more than 600,000 captured Iraqi documents.

Is Iraq safer five years later?

The Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, still needs a massive convoy to travel from the Green Zone to the headquarters of the Dawa party, a half-mile away. First you get soldiers clearing the traffic from the streets. Then you get four black armoured cars, each with three machine-gunners on the roof, followed by sand-colored American Humvees, and more armoured cars. Finally, you would see six identical bullet-proof vehicles with black windows, one of which must have been carrying Mr. Maliki.

President Bush stated that crime and violence is decreasing. It is probably because journalists are being told not to mention the continuing violence. For one Independent UK reporter, he saw a television cameraman being beaten by police when he attempted to take pictures of a bombing near his hotel. As for the fall in the death rate, perhaps one fact that was overlooked is that ethnic cleansing between the Shia and Sunni has done its bloody work, and there is really no more mixed areas left in Baghdad. Besides, if you look at this capital city, it is now a collection of Sunni and Shia neighborhoods divided by high concrete walls.

There is now an 80,000 strong Sunni militia, paid for and allied to the US but hostile to the Iraqi government. That is the assistance Bush is talking about.

Remember all that talk about American military might. The invasion ended in less than a month because most of the Iraqi army would not fight. Even the elite Republican Guard units went home. Of course, you would find burnt-out Iraqi tanks littered around the streets of Baghdad, giving the impression of heavy fighting, but almost all had been abandoned by their crews before they were hit. Whoever was left was easily outmatched by America's military. Iraqi's former military was quite different back in 1991.

We are still pretty much stuck in a quagmire. The American and British, and other remaining allies that are left are the ones preventing the Iraqi Sunni and Shia from killing each other. Plus, how can you really solve the political problems where the Shia religious parties who are linked to Iran continued to win elections, just like that did in two elections back in 2005? It would seem the U.S. would support democracy only if Iraq acts as a buffer against Iran.

Let us also not forget history. It would seem Bush and his neocons are walking down the same steps the British Government did back in the early 20th century. They did not know that three after Britain captured Baghdad in 1917 it was fighting a ferocious tribal revolt along the valley of the Euphrates. We should know that the United States is not in the business of occupying other countries. We should also know that the Iraqi people are not Germans or Japanese in 1945.

Bush and probably McCain still want to keep our troops there until Iraq becomes a stable and secure country. The question is how long? Could it be that the Iraqi people are just tired of being occupied by a foreign power? Could it be that by being there, we are giving al-Qa'ida to use us as an excuse to keep up the insurgency?

We still got Afghanistan to worry about, and perhaps Pakistan, then of course Iran. Plus add in a resurging Russia.

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Link

Housing Bubble

Falling Dollar hurting expats worldwide

American expats living in London, Paris, Tokyo, and other countries are getting slammed by the falling dollar. Another expected interest rate cut by the Fed won't help.

If you live in Tokyo, a year ago, one dollar could get you 116-117 yen. It even went above 120 yen back in July. Today, it is about 97-98 yen. A 16% decrease.

In Europe, it was 1.34 to every dollar. Today, it is 1.58. Dollar has lost 16%. If you compare two years ago, the dollar lost about 24%. Five years, the greenback lost almost 33%.

Even in Canada, their dollar has pretty much reached parity. Same goes for the Swiss Franc. Go to Australia, they are almost within parity. Five years ago, you could have fetch about 1.7 AU for every US dollar.

In Amsterdam, small currency outlets are refusing to sell dollars for local money because they cannot afford the buy/sell spreads. Tourists would have to go downtown, to the central station, or post office.

US Dollar Index

A possible 1-percent cut by the Fed will cause the dollar to fall again, and we may see another record low in the US Dollar Index.

In July 2001, the index hit a high of 119.61. Since then, it has lost about 40 PERCENT!

Why is McCain playing the "Fear Card"

With high oil prices, a falling dollar, turmoil in the financial and mortgage markets, economists stating that we are in a recession, and inflation, you would think that the presidential candidates would be more focused on our economy and other critical domestic issues.

Not Sen. John McCain.

For some reason, he thinks Iraq is still a number one concern for American voters.

At a town hall style forum in Pennslyvania, a questioner asked if the senator feared al-Qaida in Iraq or another group might attack in an effort to aid the Democratic nominee, because Democratic Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama both favor a withdrawal of U.S. forces.

McCain replied, "Yes, I worry about it and I know they pay attention, because of the intercepts we have of their communications."

One can easily twist that in the other way. If it were Clinton or Obama hold a town hall meeting, one questioner could have asked if they feared that al-Qaida or another group might try to step up attacks and bombings in Iraq in order to aid the Republican nominee because voters would want U.S. troops to remain there to protect Iraqi civilians and infrastructure and to combat the insurgents. And of course Clinton and Obama would respond with the same answer McCain gave to that questioner.

Economic concerns are seizing a top spot in many voters' minds. The war in Iraq and terrorism have been supplanted by falling housing prices, rising gasoline prices, health-insurance worries, job security, and taxes.

Gallup poll shows 41% of Americans believing that the economic performance of the U.S. is poor. 86% of Americans are saying the economy is "getting worse."

Another Gallup poll shows 35% of Americans think that the economy is the most important problem facing this country. The situation in Iraq has dropped to 21%. For most of the last four years, Iraq was considered more important.

Not anymore.

McCain tells us to be wary of the Iraqi insurgents. He tells us that it's all a plan to get the Democrats elected because they want to leave Iraq. He implies that the terrorists will win if the Democrats win.

Should we believe that line of reasoning? Are we that stupid? Does it mean that we must stay in Iraq for another 5 years? 10 years? All because of them trying to influence our vote?

Frankly, I am more worried about not losing my house, not getting laid off / fired, not losing my health insurance, not paying more taxes, being able to retire with my 401k intact since my social security benefits won't be worth anything after I retire, and hopefully not seeing New York City under a couple of feet of water.

It's the economy, stupid.

Time to pay for that second piece of luggage

United Airlines and US Airways Group, Inc. will begin charging $50 round-trip for checking a second piece of luggage on May 5. Other airlines may follow, eager to collect hundreds of millions of dollars without raising ticket prices.

Will customers agree to giving up the basic airline cost of checking in two bags without additional fees?

After May 5, if you brought in a second bag which is overweight and oversized, you would have to pay $450 at United Airlines. At Delta, a third checked suitcase which is overweight and oversized will knock you back $660.

Is two bags a reasonable expectation? With security rules limiting liquids as well as decreasing reliability of your luggage being able to reach your destination in one piece, customers want two.

Ron Paul Rally in Washington, D.C. - April 15th

There will be a mass rally in Washington, D.C. on the west lawn of the Capitol building.

April 15, 2008 @ 11AM

Guest speakers include Ron & Carol Paul

Link

Ron Paul - "The High Tide" Ad

Can the Fed prevent a total collapse of the mortgage industry?

Sometimes, it is better to get a UK perspective.

Telegraph UK reported that the US Federal Reserve has accepted $200 billion of housing debt as collateral to prevent an implosion of the mortgage finance industry and head off a full-blown economic crisis.

This came after an emergency conference call by the Fed governors on Monday night. It followed the melt-down of the US chartered agencies -- Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and other lenders -- which together guarantee 60 PERCENT of the entire US home loan market. Fannie Mae's share price has already fallen 19 percent in panic trading on Monday after Barron's suggested it may need a rescue package.

Keeping them solvent is a must since they wrap or insure $6 TRILLION in mortgages.

But is it going to be enough?

The Bank of England had to widen their range of eligible collateral. Even the ECB and the Swiss have boosted swap agreements with the Fed.

Will Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have to be nationalized, as part of a huge government bailout?

After a 400+ point rally in the markets on the 11th, the rally has again fizzled out.

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Of course, a March 2nd article by the Telegraph titled "The Federal Reserve's rescue has failed" showed even worse news. According to recent estimates, we are only halfway through the tsunami of rate resets on teaser loans.

UBS estimates the cost of the credit debacle to reach $600 billion. Some say it could even reach $1 trillion.

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Bear Stearns had to deny news that it was facing a cash shortage. CEO Alan Schwartz stated that they still have a $17 billion cash position. Shares went down 11 percent two days ago based on speculation that the firm, which is the second-biggest underwriter of mortgage-backed bonds after Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., was running short of funds to cover liabilities.

Dollar Falls Below 100 Yen for the first time in 12 years

The dollar dipped below 100 yen for the first time in 12 years Thursday and hit record lows against the euro amid a growing consensus that synchronized efforts by central banks will not stop a deterioration in the U.S. economy.

Meanwhile, the euro exceeded $1.56 for the first time.

The British pound hit a 3-month high, reaching $2.0374.

Of course, the yen has bounced back above the 100 mark, trading at 100.16. The U.S. currency has never fell below 100 since November 1995.

Japan is now worried because the yen has risen 10 percent against the dollar and may hurt their economic growth.

Link

Now they are blasting the airwaves with the lady

Does the MSM have anything else better to do?

After the three-day suspenseful wait for New York Gov. Spitzer to resign, every goddamn local and national media group are saturating the tv and internet with the "woman who rocked NY" as defined by The Drudge Report. The "Governor's hooker" by the New York Times.

Of course the NYT reveals the call girl behind the name "Kristen." Now, every media group is searching out her estranged family, friends, and taking excerpts and her singing songs from her MySpace page

Obviously, thousands of people have flocked to her web page, leaving sympathetic and hurtful comments.

What's next? A 60 Minutes special on the lady's life history. Next, there will be a made-for-tv movie of Spitzer's rise and fall. How long can they milk this stuff?

C'mon, let's go back to the white-on-black crime, black-on-black crime, gang fighting, national debt, Republican vs Democrat, and the cute cats.

Did she caused Spitzer's downfall? Of course not. She was just the girl that was hired for him.

Of course, I bet the MSM will start asking Bush, Obama, Clinton on their thoughts, and it's going to keep going and going. Argh!

Idiotic: 8th Grade Honors Student suspended for buying candy

Update 3/13 - Michael gets his student council post back, disciplinary record cleared

If you can get suspended for buying candy in school, I would like to know the punishment for selling drugs. Is it death by firing squad? Or perhaps 52 weeks of getting a noogie?

Michael Sheridan, an eighth grade honors student at Sheridan Middle School, part of the New Haven, CT school system, was initially suspended for three days and stripped of his title as class vice-president for buying a bag of Skittles from a fellow classmate. He was even barred from an honors dinner event.

A school spokeswoman says the school system banned candy sales and fundraisers in 2003 as part of the district-wide school wellness policy.

The student who sold the candy to Michael was also suspended.

After the incident, Michael's suspension was reduced to one day, but he has not been reinstated as class vice-president.

* * * * * * * * * *

I guess the school's wellness policy was quite literal in saying that all kinds of candy sales were prohibited. How about a slice of chewing gum? Or maybe a square from those Listerine's mouth fresheners? Does it cover freebies too?

However, does the punishment fit the crime? A bag of Skittles means several days of suspension and losing your class officership. Does his name get removed from the honor roll too?

Also, Michael never had any previous disciplinary problems. He has never had detention.

I really fail to see how removing him from student office is connected to buying some candy. He did not abuse his duties or obligations as class vice-president.

I understand the intent of banning candy sales is to get kids to learn about good eating habits and a more balanced nutrition, but not to the point where the school aides are acting like candy-nazis.

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School's argument:

Superintendent Reginald Mayo said Wednesday that Sheridan Middle School principal Eleanor Turner just wanted to keep students safe

"She had concerns about the safety of students carrying large amounts of cash in school," Mayo said. "The question is, was the punishment too harsh? That's something we need to evaluate."

Large amounts of cash??? We are not talking about some big candy-dealing gone beserk.

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District's policy:

It states that "no candy or junk food fundraisers will be allowed on school grounds" and that only healthy snacks will be sold in vending machines.

The policy also prohibits bake sales and other food sales during school hours. The policy does not say anything about students sharing snacks when no money is exchanged.

Honestly, let's stop being candy-nazis and use some decent common sense. How would explain it to a college admissions counselor about that suspension? Yes sir, I was suspended for selling candy. They would be laughing off their seats!

I declare New Haven, CT, the home of the candy nazis. Perhaps you would like to meet the Soup Nazi too.

School Backs Off Punishment (3/13)

The Associated Press is reporting that the school will give Michael his student council post back.

Superintendent Reginald Mayo said in a statement late Wednesday that he and principal Eleanor Turner met with student Michael Sheridan's parents and that Turner decided to clear the boy's record and restore him to his post.

Turner said she should have reinforced in writing the verbal warnings against candy transactions.

Now, your common sense has finally kicked in. Perhaps we can even get rid of that zero-candy policy too.

News Links

CNN - Student suspended for buying Skittles at school

CBS News - Conn. Student Suspended for Buying Candy in School

Wikipedia - Soup Nazi

Humph! For the "good of the party"

Sen. John McCain will be the Republican nominee for President of the United States, having garnered the required delegates needed from the various caucuses and primaries that were held over the last few months.

However, not everyone in the party are quite happy with the presumptive nominee. For example, exit polls in Texas and Ohio showed that evangelicals voted overwhelmingly for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, while almost every other Republican demographic group chose McCain.

In fact when you compare McCain against Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts Governor, Romney was deemed more conservative than the senator. Even Texas Congressman Ron Paul's record was more conservative too.

Yet, after the bickering and mud-slinging, the Republican nominee is finally selected and we are all expected to stand behind that person for the "good of the party." It seemed so easy for Romney, Huckabee, Giuliani, and Thompson to do this, but Ron Paul refused to follow the rest of the team.

How can [he], in good conscience, support a candidate that does not follow true conservative ideals?

Instead of the argument that we must support a candidate who represents the ideals of the Republican Party, leaders argue that the candidate who has the best electability must be supported. Thus, we must compromise in order to get a result that is favorable to us. It may seem alright for most folks but is McCain really the right choice?

We certainly have the right to keep on criticizing McCain's record no matter what. Where is his straight talk business? Where is his pledge of not raising taxes? How about him getting a rating of "D-minus" from the Gun Owners of America from 2000 to 2006? How can he handle a failed Iraq War and a huge national debt?

But these questions are not being answered. We are being told to shut up and just support him.

This happened to Emily L. Mullin, a student at Ohio University studying journalism and political science. She writes for the local newspaper as a campus reporter and is the vice-president and acting president of the OU College Republicans. She was actively involved with the Ron Paul presidential campaign.

She recently wrote a column in The Athens News giving her assessment on GOP presidential candidate and nominee, John McCain. Unfortunately, members of the club and local county Republican Party were not happy with her candid evaluation of the senator. They accused her of being "divisive" and "irresponsible." She was advised that she must support John McCain for the "sake of the club" and the "good of the party." She was even asked to resign from her club post because it compromised party and club unity. If she did not do so, she would be impeached.

While the controversy has mostly blown over, the actions taken by Ms. Mullin's peers has shown us the dangers of trying to uphold our principles against "the greater good."

But what can you do? Pick the lesser of two evils. But it is still evil.

I liked her summation of both political parties.

"The Democrats want to maximize central planning in domestic and economic issues while the Republicans want to limit personal freedom and perpetuate a modern form of imperialism. In effect, one party advocates socialism, the other, fascism. Neither party promotes a smaller government. Rather, both parties want more government control – just in different aspects."

It is unfortunate that the reception she received for trying to uphold her beliefs have led her to deciding not to run for re-election or seek a new position in the OU College Republicans club.

She is correct that change will probably come in a different way instead of our failed democratic system in order for free-thinking, free-willed individuals who are trying to preserve a free society.

It would seem that we are truly alone while we are in our pursuit of that word called "freedom."

Which is worse?

Getting caught in a federal wiretap involving high-priced call girls or committing an act of adultery and lying about it while in public office?

It is just so easy to compare this with Presidient Bill Clinton. He did in fact lied under oath and chose not to resign. The House passed acts of impeachment, but the Senate acquitted him of all charges, and despite the scandal, he still stayed in office.

Were his opinion polls that high? Or adultery is a tolerable sin?

Cancelled Las Vegas: Send Baby Socks to NBC

The campaign to save NBC's Las Vegas series is sending baby socks to Ben Silverman, head of NBC.

Why baby socks?

We chose baby booties as our campaign item because it represents the biggest cliffhanger Vegas ended on: Delinda's unborn baby. Baby booties are also cheap to purchase and can easily donated to charity.

If you wish to donate, click here!

Sign the petition!

NY Gov. Spitzer involved in prostitution ring

The one comment I have heard the most in the office was "why didn't he do a good job in making sure this highly expensive call-girl business was totally discreet and not attracting the attention of federal agents."

Unfortunately, the rising star amongst the Democrats has hit a potential career-ending roadblock. It would appear that he was a client (known as "Client No. 9") at the Emperors Club VIP which arranges really high-priced call girls with clients in New York, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Miami, London, and Paris.

His statement:
"I have acted in a way that violates my obligations to my family,'and violates my, or any, sense of right and wrong,' Spitzer said just now, in a brief public statement, taking no questions. "I apologize first and most importantly to my family. I apologize to the public, whom I promised better.

"I do not believe that politcs, in the long run, is about individuals. It is about ideas, the public good and doing what is best for the state of New York,'' said the father of three, with his wife, Silda, standing at his side. "But I have disappointed, and failed to live up to the standard that I have set for myself.

"I must now dedicate some time to regain the trust of my family,''' the governor told reporters. "I will not be taking any questions... I will report back to you.''

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It appears that the feds are using an almost century-old legislation called the Mann Act of 1910 which makes it a crime to transport someone between states for the purpose of prostitution. Of course, during the early 20th century, prostitution and human trafficking was considered immoral in general. If Spitzer was using a NY-only call girl business, then he won't be charged with a federal crime, and may not even get charged by the state.

Isn't it time for this archaic legislation to be repealed? It is interesting to note that some of the cases involving the Mann Act and the U.S. Supreme Court tells us that "debauchery" can be considered as immoral (1913), consensual sexual liaisons going across state lines was also immoral (1917), and if your marriage is polygamous, that can be considered immoral too (1946).

Of course, everyone is asking whether Gov. Spitzer will resign. WCBS2TV is reporting that Spitzer could resign as soon as tonight, with Lt. Gov. David Paterson being sworn into office right after his announcement. However, some pundits believe he should take the time to weigh his options before stepping down.

Let's take former President Clinton for example. He initially denied having an affair with former White House intern, Monica Lewinsky. That lasted for months, and eventually he admitted in a taped grand jury testimony that he did have an "improper physical relationship" with her. Then he made a nationally televised statement admitting his relationship with Lewinsky was "not appropriate." Since he did committ perjury, he was disbarred in Arkansas and was fined $90,000.

This led to Republicans, who were in control on Congress, to file impeachment charges against President Clinton for obstruction of justice and perjury. After a 21-day trial in the Senate, Clinton was acquitted of all charges and remained in office.

If a President can survive a sex scandal in office, I believe a Governor can survive a prostitution scandal too.

Why is it a surprise? Everyone should know that Washington, D.C. is the pimping capital. It beats flying to Nevada for one of their legal brothels.

At least he admitted the truth to his family and the public. He tells us that he is not perfect. He made a mistake and regretted it. But compared to the rest of the politicians in Albany, he is still probably the least corrupted of the whole bunch.

Spitzer is still probably the only governor that can clean up one of the nation's worst state governments. I really don't think Lt. Gov. Pearson can do much and he has two big shoes that he needs to fill up pretty quickly.

The Smoking Gun - Spitzer Linked to Hooker Probe

NY Times - Spitzer is Linked to Prostitution Ring

Screw the PTC! End of Las Vegas series?

las_vegas.jpgThe first sad news is that the Parents Television Council (PTC) filed an indecency complaint with the FCC on the February 15th episode where it cited a scene on the fictional Montecito Casino's security monitors showing three women disrobing and running around the casino naked.

Of course if you look at the scene in question, the editors did a pretty good job blurring out the naughty parts. Also, the scene wasn't concentrated on the girls running around the casino naked; it was part of the plot designed to distract the main characters.

But the PTC doesn't care about that. All they care is that the "children are watching." Then tell those bloody children to go to sleep at 8pm instead of 9 or 10pm. Or tell the parents to change the bloody channel or filter it. Sheesh.

Besides the FCC complaint, they made their protest with the show's sponsors too. I really wish those sponsors can just say, "screw you PTC and leave us alone."

Unfortunately, the second piece of sad news is that NBC announced they were cancelling the five-year series.

This sucks. It's their fault for moving the show from Monday to Friday nights which is known for low-ratings. Of course, the final episode of the 5th season was a cliffhanger. We need to know what will happen to Danny and Delinda's pregnancy/baby, and if Cooper manages to keep the casino.

Fans of the show have created a web site - "Save Las Vegas: Operation Baby Booties" - and they're demanding a proper resolution for the series.

Series' creator, Gary Scott Thompson has also expressed his disappointment with the abrupt ending. In a Q&A with TV Guide he states: "The strike did us in. We had three more episodes to shoot for the season, which we didn't get done. And the 'To be continued ...' was actually supposed to be the first part of a two-parter. But that's as far as we got." When asked if he holds out any hope of being a able to deliver a real ending to the fans in some form; TV movie, direct to DVD, etc., he states "This is Las Vegas; there's always hope."

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It does kinda suck. I guess we could blame the writers' strike because the end result would hurt shows like Las Vegas which do pretty well, but not great in the ratings but come with decent plots and storylines.

They should have moved the show from Friday to either Monday or Tuesday. NBC is at fault for starting the countdown that would eventually end the series.

Perhaps another network can pick up the series.

The Florida and Michigan Debacle

Honestly, the DNC should have followed the RNC and penalized Florida and Michigan by taking half of their delegates, but still let the candidates campaign there.

But they chose to ignore the rules and decided to bring up their primaries on an earlier date, and they lost their delegates. Those were the rules.

Now Florida and Michigan are complaining about being silenced. Don't ignore the cries of over 5.1 million Americans, they said. They say it's "intolerable" that the Democratic National Committee has denied their citizens their vote.

But wait a minute, you broke the rules, so you got punished.

Florida, you lost your 241 delegates.

Michigan, you lost your 156 delegates.

All of the candidates removed their names from the ballot except for Clinton (how convenient!).

Now you are demanding the right to seat your delegations at the National Convention. You are saying that over 5.1 million voters will lose their say. Then I would say you are damaging the legitimacy of the entire nomination process by potentially deciding the winner and depriving millions of voters their say.

You are also telling the rest of the Democratic state parties that no matter what the rules, your delegates get counted in the end.

Of course the Clinton campaign wants the delegates to be seated because their candidate won both states.

Howard Wolfson states “Our position is the voters of Michigan and Florida have spoken. Those votes ought to count and the delegations ought to be seated.”

But if you ask him if seating the Michigan [and Florida] delegates would cast a pall of illegitimacy over the election because she was the only candidate on the ballot, he says, “I think not giving participation to delegates from those states would send a very unsettling signal to the people of those states.”

Answer the question! Just say yes, we want those delegates because Clinton stayed on the ballot and she knew she would get the votes and knew that by the end of the campaign, the Florida and Mchigian delegates will get counted, and she can win the nomination.

Was that hard to say? Sheesh!

Now they got all these options:

1) The DNC will let the Florida and Michigan delegates sit at Convention, and they will vote based on the current results.

2) The Florida and Michigan state democratic parties will organize a do-over primary at their expense.

3) The Florida and Michigan state democratic parties will organize a do-over primary at the national DNC expense.

4) The DNC Credentials committee can choose to recognize the Florida and Michigan delegates but they lose half of their allotment. (I would choose this)

5) The DNC Credentials committee can choose to deny both state delegations their right to sit at Convention.

I would say "abide by the rules," but I think giving both state delegations half of their delegates would be an appropriate compromise. I would bet that the Clinton campaign won't like that because they need all those pledged delegates to overtake Obama.

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A bit overzealous? TSA Screener Opens Teen's Sterile Equipment

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A sick teenager said an over-zealous security screener at Orlando International Airport put his life in danger. After Channel 9 started making calls, the TSA opened an investigation into the matter.

James Hoyne, 14, has a feeding tube in his stomach and carries a back-up in a sealed clear plastic bag. Hoyne said two weeks ago a TSA officer insisted on opening the sterile equipment, contaminating his back-up feeding up tube which he later needed.

"I said 'Please don't open it' and she said 'I have to open it whether you like it or not. If I can't open it, I can't let you on the plane,'" Hoyne said of his conversation with the TSA screener.

TSA officials apologized to James and said they're looking into the incident to see what corrective steps need to be taken.

A Double Standard of Tolerance for Janitor at Indiana University

Janitor Keith John Sampson, who works at Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis was investigated by the campus Affirmative Action Office for nothing other than reading a book about Notre Dame and the Ku Klux Klan in front of blacks on campus.

Sampson was ordered to stop reading the book in the immediate presence of his coworkers and, when reading the book, to sit apart from them.

Of the book was about how the Fighting Irish defeated the Ku Klux Klan.

I thought we were told not to judge a book by its cover.

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2008 Primary Election - Ron Paul v Chris Peden

State Primary Results Link

Pay-Option Loan Risk plagues Countrywide

Blame the lender or blame the borrower?

Countrywide Financial Corp., the largest home loan provider, could see further trouble ahead with another risky slate of loans -- pay-option adjustable rate mortgages.

These pay-option loans give borrowers the option to make a lower payment but can result in the unpaid portion being added to the principal balance. In most cases, the borrower would just pay the interest, leaving the principal balance untouched. The objective of these borrowers were to capitalize on the housing boom to exact a substantial profit when they sell the home after a few years.

Unfortunately, with the housing market in the dumps, these borrowers are stuck with these pay-option loans which have grown beyond their original loan amount because they cannot make the payment. Countrywide says they had nearly $29 billion in these risky loans at the end of December, of which $26 billion of the total have grown beyond their original amount.

81 percent...that's EIGHTY-ONE PERCENT of these loans were made out to borrowers who provided little or no documentation of their income.

71 percent with pay-option loans elected to make less than full interest payments.

5.71 percent of borrowers are at least 90 days late, up from 0.65 percent a year earlier.

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Honestly, why pick a loan where you just pay off the interest? Plus you got folks not paying the full interest which basically increases the overall balance of the loan. Then of course these borrowers are claiming that their lender or broker were hiding the real facts from them. Boo hoo. Total bullsh*t. Even if the housing market was going up 15-20% per year, the profit take will be small if you let the interest pile up on the original loan. A majority of these Countrywide loans originated in California and Florida which may explain the tempting aura of high profits to these borrowers.

You can blame the bank for offering the loans, but also blame the borrower for being stupid enough to take it.

Business Week

Could war break out in South America?

Did the foreign policy analysts at the intelligence agencies miss this one?

Could it be just a bunch of leaders making a temper tantrum at each other or could war break out between Ecuador and Venezuela, and Colombia?

And will the United States intervene?

It's the economy, stupid.

I just love that phrase. "The economy, stupid," was a phrase used during Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign against George H. W. Bush.

Remember after the end of the Cold War and the Persian Gulf War in 1991, Bush had high opinion polls and was considered unbeatable. Unfortunately, the economy went through a recession, and most voters felt Clinton was better qualified to address the economic issues.

Now Sen. McCain is using his national security credentials to get voters to side with him for the 2008 presidential contest.

However, our economy is progressing towards a recession.

Opinion polls show that voters care more about the economy rather than promoting democracy in Iraq. Americans are more worried about their money and standard of living. They are more concerned with China overtaking the U.S. as the world's leading economic power.

Sen. McCain... "It's the economy, stupid."

Rick Santelli on Ron Paul's Fed Testimony

C'mon folks, listen to him.

Another low for the dollar, oil hits high

The Euro (EUR) rose to another record, $1.5274 in early New York trading.

The dollar also fell to its lowest level in three years against the yen.

Oil prices marched past $103 a barrel today.

AAA reports average price of a gallon of gasoline at $3.165.

Diesel prices hit another new record of $3.674 a gallon.

Builders are building less, the government reported. Manufacturers are cutting back.

Another interest rate cut will not help this economy.

The nation's unemployment rate is expected to bump up to 5 percent.

The economy grew 0.6 percent for Q4 2007.

Economists believe Q1 2008 will be a 0.4 percent uptick, but most folks really doubt that.

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We may see $4 per gallon in the summer.

We may see the Euro hit $2.

We will see inflation skyrocket in the later months. Core price index be damned. Labor Dept says food prices went up 0.7 percent in January, but could they be underestimating it?

We are entering a recession. We cannot continue to delay the inevitable. Let it come, let us weather the storm, and let the business cycle work the market. The Fed has failed.

Scientology taking hits online

LA Times Link

All they want is your money and your loyalty. Keep the criticisms going and tell folks the truth.

US Marine Throws Dead Puppy Off Cliff (viewer discretion)

It looks like the puppy is dead, seeing that it failed to move while the soldier is holding it. The sounds emitted after the marine throws the puppy off the cliff could be fake.

But why do it in the first place? Were they bored? Who knows...it could be only a dead puppy, then maybe they will start throwing dead bodies next and mimic their dying cries.

It's pretty sick.

Chicago has the highest sales tax

Early Saturday, Cook County Board President Todd Stroger struck a deal with board members, who approved a 1 percent increase in the sales tax - driving Chicago's overall sales tax to double digits at 10.25 percent, easily among the highest of any big city. And it will be enacted just in time for the Christmas shopping season.

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So if folks are looking for something cheaper, Indiana's sales tax is 6%. Iowa ranges from 5-7%, Missouri is 4.225%, Wisconsin is 5.0-5.5%.

Latest foreign exchange reserves - Jan 08

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UNITED STATES - $71.6 billion

UNITED KINGDOM - $99.1 billion

FRANCE - $115.7 billion

GERMANY - $147.3 billion

HONG KONG - $159.9 billion

BRAZIL - $189.4 billion

SOUTH KOREA - $261.9 billion

TAIWAN - $272.8 billion

INDIA - $290.8 billion

RUSSIA - $481.3 billion

EUROZONE - $511.3 billion

JAPAN - $996 billion

CHINA - $1.53 TRILLION DOLLARS

At the end of 2007, 63.77% of the identified official foreign exchange reserves in the world were held in United States dollars and 26.4% in euros.

Just how long before those countries holding our dollars start moving their reserves into euros or yen?

Jon Stewart on the Iraq Movies

Falling Hillary

Watch Hillary fall all the way down...

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