Saturday, July 21, 2007

Whose Reagan?

Inside Track: Whose Reagan?
by Sean R. Singer

"General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" Ronald Reagan famously told Mikhail Gorbachev in Berlin on June 12, 1987.

Usually only the last sentence of this quote garners attention, its context lost on casual observers who interpret it as a crusader’s command. But when read in context, it is not a demand; it is a conditional statement. Reagan does not assume Gorbachev wants peace, prosperity and liberalization, but observes that if the general secretary chooses them, there remains only one course of action: Gorbachev—and not Reagan or the U.S. military—must tear down the wall, not out of compulsion, but of his own volition.

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This short article from the National Interest reminds us that Reagan was a "optimistic realist" in foreign affairs and " a reasonable and cautious man", who displayed "flexibility and pragmatism" These characteristics are absent in the current administration and those Republicans aspiring to succeed it. Unfortunately no Republican today is in the mold of Ronald Reagan or can lay claim to his mantle.

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Friday, July 20, 2007

Al Gore's Chilian Bass Dinner Party was "Green" After all.

Pity poor Al Gore. It is tough being a prophet; everyone wants to see if you have feet of clay. Looking for any inconsistency by Gore to justify their dismissal of his global warming message, people even look to see what he is eating. Talk radio and the Internet were full of stories that he served endangered Chilean Sea Bass at his daughters' wedding party.
Well, it turns out he was serving an endangered species but the Chilean Sea Bass he served were farm-raised and did not endanger the endangered species.

Even if we do find that Mr. Gore is not "Mr. Green" in some of his personal behaviour, that should not invalidate the message. Bill Bennett wrote a book called "Book of Virtues", and then we discover that he is a high stakes gambler, hardly a virtuous activity. I resent being lectured to about conserving by people who fly private jets and consume more carbon fuel in a day than I will in a year. And, I resent being told to be virtuous by a high-stakes gambler. But the message is no less valid, because the messenger is flawed.

This time, Al was vindicated. The original story got a lot more attention than the follow-up that proved he was eating "green" after all. Those who jumped on Al ought to help set the record straight, but I won't be holding my breath.
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Americans Would Drive less if Gas Cost More

Wow! What a concept! If something cost more, you will purchase less of it. Rod

Americans would hit brakes if gas hits $3.50: poll
Wed Jul 18, 2007 10:25AM EDT
By Rebekah Kebede
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Some 40 percent of Americans would curb their driving habits if retail gasoline prices shot up to $3.50 a gallon, according to a Reuters/Zogby poll released on Wednesday.
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Vermont Town Bans Public Nudity

Hey! I got an idea! To keep winning elections we Republicans need to reenergize the religious right and take people's mind off the war and Bush's abuse of power. We can't allow Vermont to let people run around nude, can we? How about, Let's pass a constitutional amendment to ban public nudity? Rod

Vermont town bans public nudity after brash displays
Thu Jul 19, 2007 9:43AM EDT
By Zach Howard
BRATTLEBORO, Vermont (Reuters) - A Vermont town that is gaining national attention for brash displays of nudity -- from teens in the buff to naked elderly people -- awoke on Wednesday to an emergency ban on nakedness in most public places.
Officials in Brattleboro voted 3 to 2 on Tuesday night for a temporary 30-day ordinance prohibiting people from going about in the nude.

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Why the United Nations Belongs in Iraq

Part of the way forward and out of Iraq is to recognize that Iraq is a "problem for the whole world". A humanitarian crisis in Iraq and a regional war should be of concern to all the world. If we fail, while we will be responsible for causing the crisis, it will not be our problem alone. If the UN can help us get out of the mess we created, we should grab it. It is encouraging that our UN Ambassador is welcoming the help being offered by the UN. I hope Bush has the wisdom to listen to his UN Ambassador and pursue UN help in solving the Iraqi crisis. In this New York Times editorial, United States UN Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, the former U.S. ambassador to Iraq, explains why the UN needs to intervene. Rod
July 20, 2007
AFTER meeting with President Bush on Tuesday, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that the Iraqi situation is “a problem of the whole world” and that the United Nations is prepared to contribute to the “Iraqi government and people to help them overcome this difficulty.”
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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Predatory Lenders Lose one

Tennesseans to share $2.7M predatory loan settlement
Associated PressPublished: Tuesday, 07/17/07

Thousands of Tennessee consumers are eligible for a share of $2.7 million in restitution from Ameriquest Mortgage Co. and its affiliates as part of a national settlement of a predatory lending lawsuit against the companies, state officials said.
Under the settlement, more than 481,000 borrowers who were customers of Ameri quest Mortgage Co., Town and Country Credit Corp., and AMC Mortgage Services Inc. between Jan. 1, 1999, and Dec. 31, 2005, are eligible for the restitution payments.
In Tennessee, about 5,690 consumers are eligible for shares of the settlement, which is estimated to be $325 million nationally.
The settlement resolves allegations that Ameriquest and its affiliates, among other things, misrepresented and did not adequately disclose the terms of home loans, such as whether a loan carried a fixed or an adjustable rate.
Other allegations were that Ameriquest and its affiliates charged excessive loan origination fees and prepayment penalties, and improperly in flated appraisals used to qualify borrowers for loans.

As a Housing Counselor with a HUD-approved non-profit organization providing Loss Mitigation and Mortgage Default counseling, I witness the abuse by the low-life predatory lenders. I have witnessed customers who were refinanced five times in five years with each refinance stripping equity from the home until the customer lost their home. I know of one clients who's annual income was less than her annual house payment and the loan officer was aware of her income when he took the loan application. I have seen fraudulent appraisals and phony gift letters. I am pleased justice was served in this case. Hopefully Ameriquest will mend their ways and this will send a message to other lender. Real justice would result in some predatory lenders ending up in jail. Rod

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When "Good News" is Bad News

Consumers Finally Get a Break on Gas Prices
Wednesday, July 18, 2007 9:35 a.m. EDT
WASHINGTON -- Food costs went up again but consumers finally got a break at the gas pumps in June, helping to lower inflation to the smallest increase in five months.
The Labor Department reported Wednesday that the Consumer Price Index edged up a virtually minuscule 0.2 percent in June following a 0.7 percent surge in May, which had been the biggest jump in 20 months.
The price moderation reflected a 1.1 percent decline in gasoline prices, which pushed total energy costs down by 0.5 percent, offsetting a 0.5 percent rise in food costs.

When is “Good News” bad news? Every time consumers get a break on gas prices.
That sound you hear is not only change in the pocket of the consumer, but the sounds of a warming planet, and the sounds of another exploding bomb purchased with petrodollars. The decrease in gas prices means another consumer decided to purchase a gas-guzzling SUV rather than a fuel-efficient compact, another home buyer decided to move to the distant suburbs, a developer decided to close the deal on a low-density sprawl development rather than an in-fill development in the city, someone drove their car to work rather than took the bus, and an alternative fuel development became no longer viable. rod

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Campaigns and Cleavage

Sunday morning as I was hanging around the house preparing to go out and work in the yard, I had the TV on in the background but was in and out of the room and only vaguely aware of the program that was on. The program was To the Contrary which describes itself as “commentary from a variety of women’s perspective” or some such characterization. Suddenly the words “push-up bra” and “cleavage” caught my attention. (Words like that always seem to catch my attention.) The panelist were discussing the wife of Presidential undeclared, maybe-a-candidate Fred Thompson. I did not catch enough of the program to find out which panelist was saying what, but they were speculating how the public would respond to the wife of Fred Thomson as the potential first lady. I was surprised that they were even having this conversation and discussing her cleavage. The gist of the conversation seemed to be that she is so glamorous and sexy that it may cost him some votes, if he should run.

Wanting to know more, I later in the day, googled “Fred Thompson’s wife” and surprisingly found 1,570,000 hits! It seems that she has been fodder for gossip columnist and political pundits recently. Joe Scarborough who hosts a daily newscast on MSNBC as well as providing commentary on CNBC and NBC’s “Today Show” created controversy by speculating whether she “works the pole”.

A New York Times story referred to her as Fred’s “Trophy wife”. A feminist site called “Guerrilla Women of Tennessee” questioned: “The church ladies are going to vote for Jeri as First Lady?”

While the hip and sensitive are quick to condemn the slightest hint of sexism, bigotry or the slightest prejudicial remark or characterization of any group, it seems that beautiful women are still fair game. After all, people will tell a “dumb blond” joke who would not dare joke about any other identifiable group. And, in an age when "profiling" is taboo and we are to consider an Arabic-speaking, dark-skinned man in robes as an equal security threat to airline security as granny on her walker, it is still OK to assume that a younger attractive women with an older successful man is with him for suspect motives.

When we elect a President it is not just his policies we are voting for but whether or not we like the person. In the television age, the campaign is, in part, a beauty contest. “Charisma” may be more important than the candidates position on Social Security reform. Ronald Reagan had a likability that certainly helped him. Bill Clinton also benefited from being likable. He seemed like a guy with whom I would like to go bar hoping. I never voted for Bill Clinton, but I couldn't help but kind of like the guy. On the other hand, Al Gore seemed to suffer from a lack of personality. If Al Gore would have had only a little bit more of Reagan's or Clinton's likability, he might have been president.

Fred Thompson just looks “Presidential” and inspires trust and confidence. Maybe it is that deep voice and the roles he has played in the movies. He is the strong father-figure type and that can’t help but benefit him, should he seek the office. Along with the candidate however, the candidate’s family is also a consideration. We are not just selected the President but The First Family. JFK was certainly helped by having Jacqueline for a wife. She brought style and grace to the office along with JFK’s vitality and good looks. On the other hand, having Teresa Heinz Kerry as his wife did not help John Kerry.

Jeri Thompson is not the first beautiful glamorous blond in the life of Fred Thompson. When Fred was serving as Tennessee’s Senator he dated another beautiful, glamorous blond; country music star Lorrie Morgan. Jeri Thompson, it turns out, is not a country music singer or a Hollywood starlet. She has worked as a political media consultant for a large Washington law firm and has worked for the Senate Republican Conference and the Republican National Committee. She is 24 years younger than Fred Thompson and they have two young children. She is not a home-wrecker. Fred Thompson was divorced for seventeen years before he even met his second wife.

If Fred Thompson runs, it will be interesting to speculate which demographic will most likely vote against him because of his attractive wife. Will it be the “church wives” or the drab and less attractive, which may or may not be "church wives"? Single women or married? Will it help him with any demographic? Maybe it will actually help him with some voters. Maybe people won't hold the couples' good looks and charm against them. As for me, I will not hold it against Fred Thompson that he has a young, blond, beautiful, busty, brainy wife.

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Senator Alexander Breaks with President on Iraq, Advocates Baker-Hamilton Report

I am very proud of my own Senator Lamar Alexander for breaking with the President on Iraq and advocating a responsible way to get out of the mess we created. He has co-sponsored legislation with Senator Ken Salazar (D-Colorado) that would make the Baker-Hamilton report law. Alexander has been consistent supporter of the Iraq Study Group recommendations since it was issued late last year. The legislation he is sponsoring would not set a timetable for withdrawal but it would, said Alexander, get the US military “out of the combat business in Iraq and into the support, equipping and training business in a prompt and responsible way.”

The handwriting is on the wall. The US is not going to continue our current combat level of commitment to Iraq indefinitely. With many troops on their third tour of duty in Iraq, we cannot continue the current commitment with our worn-out all volunteer military and no one is going to support a draft.

However, an immediate withdrawal, which many Democrats desire, could be a disaster. It is not inconceivable to see genocide on the scale of Darfur. Al qaida could gain a foothold in the country, and an expanded war with Iran supporting Shai and Saudi Arabia supporting Sunni factions is a realistic possibility. Also, Turkey is not happy with a Kurdish state on their border and the incursion of Kurdish gorillas into their country. The tension between Turkey and Kurdistan could lead to war.
I hope we use much more care getting out of Iraq than we did getting in. An immediate withdrawal would be the heights of irresponsibility, equal to the irresponsibility that got us in Iraq.

While most Republicans want to wait until September when General Petraeus gives his report on the result of the surge before taking any action, Alexander has said there is no reason to wait. Lamar says we need a strategy for getting out of Iraq and said the surge is “a tactic, not a strategy” and that, “The surge makes much more sense when it’s considered in the context of the Baker-Hamilton recommendations because it’s part of a long term plan.”
Senator Alexander said, “President Bush is right that we can’t afford to fail in Iraq. That is why I support the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group,” “It is important for the president, the Congress, our country and our troops if we speak with one voice on Iraq. The Iraq Study Group report is a way to build that bi-partisan consensus.”

We need more Senators like Lamar Alexander who do not blindly following the President but neither do they advocate an irresponsible policy of “cut an run”.

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Conservatives Challenge Presidential Power Grab, Demand Reforms to Restore Checks and Balances, Protect Civil Liberties

The following is a press release from American Freedom Agenda

WASHINGTON– An alliance of prominent national conservatives today announced the formation of the American Freedom Agenda (AFA), a campaign to restore governmental checks and balances and civil liberties protections under assault by the current Administration.

The AFA’s mission is to reign in abuses of executive power that reach into three primary realms of our national foundation of government that have the greatest likelihood of adversely affecting personal liberties without appropriate checks and balances: the judicial and criminal justice system; national security; and the proper role of congressional oversight.

The launch of the AFA, and its mission to restore executive accountability, Tuesday coincided on the same day that the Justice Department’s Inspector General testified before Congress on his findings regarding DOJ’s misuse of its power to use warrantless searches to secretly go through people’s financial, Internet and other records. In addition to these hearings, the introduction of the AFA occurred in a week where Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez is facing calls for his resignation from some Members of Congress in light of a series of revelations over the abuse of executive power ranging from the FBI’s exploitation of national security letters of inquiry to controversy over misleading statements by DOJ and White House officials regarding the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys.

“The controversy with the Attorney General is symptomatic of a more serious illness within this Administration – which is the desire for unchecked power,” said AFA Chairman Bruce Fein. “As fellow conservatives, we believe we have a greater responsibility than most to stand up to this particular Administration and demand that it respect the checks and balances established by the Founding Fathers. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, regardless of party affiliation, and we can no more remain silent to the abuses occurring under President Bush than we could if a President Clinton were in office. In advancing the American Freedom Agenda, we are all Conservatives, we are all Liberals, we are all Republicans, we are all Democrats. We are above all Americans who cherish the Constitution more than partisan advantage.”

Fein, a constitutional scholar and former Associate Deputy Attorney General under President Reagan, was joined at the launch of the AFA by David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, the nation’s oldest and largest grassroots conservative lobbying organization; Richard Viguerie, a writer and political activist who is considered one of the main architects of the conservative grassroots movement over the past quarter century; and Bob Barr, a former Member of Congress who served as an impeachment manager of President Clinton.

At its launch, the AFA outlined a legislative package that would bind the current and all future occupants of the White House, irrespective of party affiliation, to restore congressional oversight, personal civil liberties, and governmental checks and balances through the following:
*Restore habeas corpus to prevent the illegal imprisonment of American citizens;
*Prohibit torture and extraordinary rendition;
*Prohibit unconstitutional wiretaps, email and mail openings via warrantless searches;
*Protect journalists from prosecution under the Espionage Act for reporting on stories on national significance that do not reveal troop locations;
*Prohibit Presidential Signing Statements that allow the President to sign into law legislation passed by Congress while rejecting line-item aspects of that same law;
*Reform the ability of the federal government to win dismissal of constitutional grievances by private parties by claiming state secrets;
*Reform executive privilege by creating legislative-executive committees to arbitrate disputes.

“We do not favor a crippled Executive,” said Congressman Barr, who will work with his former colleagues to seek passage of the AFA’s legislative package. “Rather, it is our belief that in times of danger, checks and balances will make for a stronger – not weaker – government because the people will more readily accept a muscular Executive if barriers against abuses are strong. We want to ensure that no man is above the law.”

Keene and Viguerie, two of the most active conservatives in working to build a national grassroots conservative movement during the past decades, noted that one of the key objectives of the AFA would be to create a national grassroots network of support for the effort to return to basic conservative values that cherish individual liberty over excessive governmental power.

“We’ve spent the greater part of our lives working to build a national network of like-minded conservatives who remain true to the founding principles of our country, outlined in our Constitution, and we do not believe that any President– Republican or Democrat – trumps these principles,” the two men said. “We plan to work through our networks, and to reach out to all Americans, regardless of partisan or ideological affiliation, to build a movement that demands that our government return to those principles upon which our nation was founded.”

As a means to gauge the seriousness of current candidates for the Office of the President, the AFA unveiled a "Freedom Pledge," based on the principles outlined in its legislative package, which it is issuing to all Presidential candidates of both parties to sign.
Congressman Ron Paul, who has announced his candidacy for the Presidency, has signed the pledge, and the AFA will continue to work with the campaigns of all other candidates of both parties to secure their signatures, especially Republican aspirants.
My commentary: I applaud these prominent conservative luminaries for their patriotism and putting country above party and initiating the freedom pledge. Look at the list of complaints. These are serious charges. With our constitutional liberties under attack, it is no time to play partisan politics. Richard Viguerie has been called the “funding father” of the modern grassroots conservative movement and has been the fundraiser for dozens of conservative organization for the last thirty-five years. With people like Barr, David Keen and Richard Viguerie taking the lead, no one can claim that the criticism of Bush is simply a left-wing effort to get Bush. It is time for other Republican candidates to step up to the plate and take the pledge.

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Surrendering Our Freedom in the Name of Security

NSA Sued On Wiretap Claim
PORTLAND, Ore., March 1, 2006
(AP) Civil rights attorneys have sued the National Security Agency, claiming it illegally wiretapped conversations between the leaders of an Islamic charity and two of its lawyers. The charity, Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, had been accused of aiding Muslim militants, though charges were later dismissed.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Portland asks that electronic surveillance by the NSA be shut down, arguing the agency illegally wiretapped electronic communications between a local chapter of the charity and Wendell Belew and Asim Ghafoor, both attorneys in Washington, D.C. The complaint also seeks $1 million in damages for each of the plaintiffs. It alleges the NSA did not follow procedures required by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, and failed to obtain a court order authorizing electronic surveillance of the charity and its attorneys.

Dave Fidanque, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union chapter in Oregon, said the complaint is similar to other lawsuits the ACLU has filed recently. “The law couldn't be clearer on this issue,'” he said. “Not only is the NSA's spying program unauthorized by federal law, but we suspect that conversations of thousands of Americans have been subjected to illegal surveillance by the NSA.”

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I want our government to protect us from terrorist. It would be dereliction of duty, it they did not. But, I am fearful we are surrendering our freedom in the name of security and we can have both. Following the law is not burdensome. I am not ready to repeal the 4th Amendment for the sake of convenient surveillance.

"Amendment IV: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. "

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