Saturday, February 21, 2009

If you find it hard to achieve and maintain growth, maybe Stimulis is right for you.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

UT Board votes $1/2 million for President they forced to resign

The headline in this morning's Tennessean announced “Embattled UT president resigns.” According to the report, University of Tennessee John Petersen announced his resignation as the UT Board of Trustees was preparing to complete an unfavorable five year review. With Petersen announcing his resignation a Board spokesman said there was no need to continue the review.

According the Tennessean, “He will continue on paid administrative leave for four months, through June 30, and then receive a $410,177 severance on top of that, equal to one-year salary.”

What? The man does a lousy job. He is going to get an unsatisfactory review and yet they are going to give him a half million dollars severance package! Not only was his salary $401, 177, he lived in University provided housing and had an expense account, a car, and other perks. Maybe that is what it takes to get a university president. I am not going to second guess the pay package. But, I do question giving the man a bonus as you kick him out the door.

With UT facing a $90 million budget short fall this year I do not see how they can justify giving this man who did a poor job a half million dollar going away present. He was not even under contract, his contract having expired last June. In defending the severance package UT Board of Trustees Vice Chairman Jim Murphy said the package was in line with typical deals for departing presidents. If it is in line with typical deals, then we should not be typical

Maybe ½ million dollars could have made tuition increases less. Maybe with an extra half million some classes that will not be offered could be offered. Maybe half a million dollars would fund a few scholarships. I don’t know what a half million dollars would have meant to the University but with a $90 budget shortfall, I am sure the money could have been put to good use.

Board members are appointed by the Governor, who also serves as chair of the Board of Trustees. Governor Bredesen should be ashamed of himself for allowing this outrage to occur. Where was his leadership?

The next Governor should ask for the resignation of every board member who voted for this severance package and should appoint people who will take their responsibility seriously. Maybe it is time to have some people of modest income on the board who think that half a million dollars is real money. Maybe it is time to let the non-voting student board member have a vote. If I was on the Board, I would not hesitate to vote against a severance package for a departing president we are kicking out the door.

In the next few days, I will be at meetings where I will get to hear from Republican candidates for Governor, Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam and Congressman Zach Wamp. I intend to ask each of them what they think about this. I want to know what kind of people they would put on the Board. The candidate that shares my outrage about this event and promises to appoint different type of people to the Board will go a long way toward winning my support.

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First-hand Report from the Mortgage Default Trenches

As a housing counselor for a HUD-approved Housing Counseling Agency, I see first-hand the problem of home foreclosures. Unfortunately, we can continue to expect high rates of mortgage defaults for sometime to come. It is estimated that one out of five subprime loans issued since 2002 will fail. In addition to the people with subprime loans who are at risk, many other borrowers are also at risk due to the declining economy. I personally counsel about eight people a week who are on the verge of losing their home and I supervise other housing counselors so I see a lot of people who are in default. While my experience is not a scientific sampling, I observe five categories of clients who are at risk of losing their home and the people I serve are about evenly split between the five categories. There is some overlap in these categories and often a client fits in more than one category.

(1). Good people to whom bad things happen: Illness, lost of job, divorce, and reduction of income or unplanned increases in expenses cause many people to become late on their payment.

(2) Homeowners who bought too much house. Many customers took out loans they could not afford. People in this category often could have qualified for a $100,000 house with a good loan, but instead got an adjustable rate mortgage or some other "creative financing" so they could buy an $180,000 house. Many times they were steered into a bad loan by a realtor or a loan officer, nevertheless the homeowner should have exercised due diligence and educated themselves before signing on the dotted line. Often the house payment on the $180,000 mortgage, during the period that the loan had the introductory teaser rate, is no higher than the house payment would have been for a $100,000 mortgage with a good loan. During the introductory teaser rate period the buyer is fine, but as soon as the loan resets the homeowner is in trouble. The customer did not think ahead about what would happen when the interest rate reset.

(3) Clients who should have kept renting. This is similar to the case above but instead of buying too much house, these are people who should not have bought any house. Since they were poor credit risk, the only loan they could get was a loan with a high interest rate. These clients are also often “house payment burdened.” They are spending too large of a portion of their income on housing. They often have poor money management skills and when the loan resets or they have any other financial difficulty they default.

(3) Clients who have poor money management skills and make poor decisions. Many people fail to build any saving, live payday to payday, and live beyond their means. A little bump in the road puts their home at risk. They feel entitled to a nice home and a new car. They may not be able to pay their house payment yet they spend $100 a month for cable and $250 for cell phones and eat out often.

Recently I had a couple come see me who was three months behind on their house payment. The wife had had a problem pregnancy and had missed several months work. The couple had exhausted what little saving they had. While working with them on their budget, I noticed that just a couple months before the wife had had to take unpaid sick leave from her job that they had purchased a new car and had taken on a $465 car payment. I asked them why they had taken on such a large care note. The new mother explained to me, “Well, I got pregnant, and we had to have an SUV.”

(5) Clients who are victims of predatory lending or poor lending practices. I have witnessed inflated appraisals, phony "gift letters", falsified income, and people having their loan product switched the day of closing and then being pressured into closing.

I recently had a client come to me, who had inherited a house in the Belmont area of Nashville about eight year ago from her aunt who passed away. The house was paid for but was in bad need of repair. The new owner borrowed a little over $40,000 to repair and upgrade the home. Despite having credit that would have made her eligible for a good loan, she was giving an adjustable rate mortgage and a loan with high closing fees. About a year later, the same loan officer called her and told her she had a bad mortgage that was going to adjust to a higher payment and he offered to refinance her to a new loan that would keep the payments from going up. She refinanced, and again the same thing happened about a year later. All together, in eight years, she got the original loan and was "flipped" (refinanced) four times, each time losing equity in her home. After the fifth loan she could not be refinanced anymore and her gross annual income was actually less than the total of her annual house payments. Unfortunately, this lady lost her home.

Part of the problems that caused the flood of foreclosures has already self-corrected. Investors are no longer buying subprime loans so few new borrowers will find the same easy credit available as did the homeowners who got the bad loans. Nevertheless, there may be a need for reform and greater regulation so this does not happen again. We may also need new laws against some predatory lending practices. More than new laws however, we need vigorous enforcement of existing lending laws and prosecution of offenders. A lot of people need to go to jail. Mortgage lending needs to become a profession with licensing and a code of ethics. We also need basic financial literacy taught in schools and we need policies that encourage savings.

More than anything, we need a change in societal attitudes so that people don’t feel ‘entitled’. No one owes you a new SUV just because you are pregnant and if you can only afford a $100,000 home, you are not entitled to an $180,000 home. You can't have it all.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

It's time for U. S. drug laws to be reformed

Sometimes a Smoke is Just a Smoke

Kathleen Parker, WASHINGTON, February 13, 2009

Drink and drive and it's grrrrrrrr-eat! Smoke pot and your flakes are frosted, dude.

So seems the message from Kellogg, which has decided not to renew its sponsorship contract with Michael Phelps after the Olympian was photographed smoking marijuana at a party in South Carolina.

In our peculiar obsession to track down the Willie Nelsons, Rush Limbaughs, and now Michael Phelpses of society -- nonviolent, victimless imbibers of drugs -- we've actually made society less safe. That's the conclusion of 10,000 cops, prosecutors, judges and others who make up the membership of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. (link)


Great article! I agree. Like Kathleen Parker, I am not convinced that all drugs should be legalized but it is time for the silliness of pot prohibition to end.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Stimulus Bill to the Rescue

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Meetup Announcement: 1st Tuesday Group

Meetup Announcement
1st Tuesday
Your group has a Meetup Tuesday, March 3, 2009 11:30 AM!
What : 1st Tuesday with Mayor Bill Haslam
When : Tuesday, March 3, 2009 11:30 AM
Where: Waller Lansden 511 Union St Floor 27 Nashville TN 37201
How Much: Price: $20.00 per person

Here's what people are saying about this Meetup Group

"Wonderful professionals..... A great way to meet top notch individuals."
— Paula

"For those interested in gettng to the roots of Tennessee Politics."
— Bob the Builder

Learn more about this Meetup
Meetup Description
Mayor Bill Haslam of Knoxville and Governor Candidate will speak. He will be coming early so join us early and pay early now.
As usual, we will meet at the Law Offices of Waller/Lansden - 511 Union Street - 27th floor. Alexander's Catering will have lunch available at 11:30 -- $15 for those who have paid 2009 dues and $20 for guests
Just a reminder, starting for our big MARCH meeting, we will be taking RSVPs on line.
Pay On-line

If you live in the Nashville area and are looking for an opportunity to network with fellow Republicans and stay informed, this is a great opportunity. The 1st Tuesday Group has been meeting in Nashville for about 20 years, or so someone told me, but I just discovered it.

The first meeting I attended was in December where we heard a debate on the proposed English Only charter amendment. The January meeting featured a speech by Jason Mumpower, the man who was going to be Tennessee's Speaker of the House until Republican turncoat Kent Williams maneuvered to gain the post with the backing of the entire Democratic minority.

The setting for the meeting is the 27th floor of 511 Union with a beautiful view of the city. The food is good. In addition to a speech there are opportunities for Q&A and you hear announcements and discussion of other issues. The official meeting starts promptly at noon and ends at exactly 1PM. Parking can be a problems, but I have parked in the public parking garage beneath the library without any trouble and that is only two blocks form the meeting site.

If you are in Nashville and looking to get involved, I recommend you attend this meeting.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

How to Drive Drunk

I have never been arrested for drunk driving but I admit I have been guilty of it. I guess I have been lucky. As a young adult I was more often guilty of it than I have been as an older adult. Nevertheless, from time to time, I still have probably technically met the blood alcohol level for being drunk.

I don’t encourage anyone to drive drunk. Don’t do it. Drunk driving kills people. Getting arrested can be costly and humiliating. It can ruin your life. You can go to jail and loose your license. Have a designated driver. Call a cab. Have a friend drive you. Having said all of that however, there may be times when you will have a sufficient amount of adult beverage that you could register drunk even though you don’t think you are drunk. I am offering this guide to help you improve your drunk driving skills.

Know that you don’t have to be “drunk” to register DUI. You do not have to be sloppy, falling down drunk to register as DUI. If you go out with your friends and spend an evening drinking and partying you very well may end up drunk. If you think you should not drive then by all means don’t. Often you will not know if you are drunk or not, so unless you know exactly how much you have had to drink and weather or not that would constitute drunk driving, then assume you are technically drunk.

This weekend, I had a dinner at my sister’s house where we celebrated the birthday of her two children. We had wine with dinner then had mango-peach flavored brandy with coffee for desert. This was not a wild party but we had a fun evening. I was not drunk. No one was drunk. But, I don’t know how many drinks I had and it is possible that I or someone else at the party had enough alcohol to fail a Blood Alcohol Concentration test. You do not have to appear intoxicated or have any of the symptoms that we think of as “drunk” to have a BAC that legally makes you guilty of Driving Under the Influence. If you drink and you drive you have probably driven “drunk.”

Track your consumption and don’t have “one for the road.” At the birthday party at my sister’s this weekend, I don’t think I had too much to drink, but I did not keep track of my intake. That is what often happens. If you are having dinner with friends and you have a pre-dinner cocktail and wine with dinner and after dinner liquore with coffee, you might register drunk. Try to keep your alcohol consumption to a level that falls below the BAC limit.

On occasion I like to go to Lower Broadway to listen to live music and party. If I have 8, 12-ounce beers in a four-hour period I should have a BAC of about .068, however if I have 9 beers in four hours that means I have a BAC of .085 and am legally drunk. “One for the road” could put me over the limit. Actually, I seldom have eight in a four hour period, but it has happened.

My wife and I like to go to the monthly “art crawl,” an event on the first Saturday of every month where several art gallery have openings. A shuttle takes you from gallery to gallery. Most of the galleries serve h’orderves and wine. Five 5-ounce glasses of wine in two hours is under the limit; six glasses in two hours is over the limit. On the normal art crawl event, my consumption would be well below the BAC limit but sometimes it may approach that limit.

A female can drink less than a male and a slender person can drink less than a heavy person. For a 115 pound female, three glasses of wine in two hours is drunk. Don’t try to keep up with the other people in your party. Know your limit. Skip a round. Drink slower. Some people assume that wine is less inebriating than tequila shots. That is not so. A 12-ounce beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits have the same impact on an individual's BAC level.

Here is a calculator that will give you guidance on how much alcohol you can consume and an estimate of BAC. Please be aware that this is only a guide. If you are drinking on an empty stomach, your BAC may be higher than indicated in the calculator.

Plan your trip. Avoid places where the police might see you. When I go to the honkytonk strip on lower Broadway to party, I never park on Broadway. I live on the south side of town, so I park a block or two south of Broadway on one of the one-way streets heading south. The less exposed you are to the police the less chance you have of getting caught.

Be aware that you are impaired. If you didn’t keep track of how much you drank then assume you are may have had enough to register drunk and use your best drunk-driving skills. "Thinking" skills, like perceiving and evaluating risks, or processing information are not easily visible to outside observers, but they are the first skills to be adversely affected by alcohol. Be aware of this.

Stop the Party. You are having a good time. You are joking and singing and laughing. You hate to end the party, but if there is any chance that you are driving with an elevated BAC, then stop the party. Say, “OK folks, we need to straighten up. I need your help in getting us home.” Don’t sing or engage in distracting conversation. Turn off the radio. Don’t talk on the cell phone. Give driving your undivided attention. Don’t let anyone in the car have an open container.

Check the checklist. Have a mental checklist. You don’t want to get stopped because you failed to use your turn signal. I was once stopped by the police on lower Broadway and forced to take a Breathalyzer. I knew I had only had two beers in a two-hour period so I was not concerned. The reason they stopped is that I had not tuned on my headlights as I pulled out into the street. The downtown area is well lit and this was just an oversight. The police are looking for excuses to stop you; don’t give them one. Seat belts? Check. Adjust the mirror? Check. Turn off the radio? Check. Turn on the headlights? Check.

Consecrate; pay attention. Be aware of your driving. Don’t relax. Keep both hands on the wheel. Don’t be distracted. Make sure you do not weave. Are you staying within the lines? Drive just below the speed limit. Don’t tailgate. Pay attention to the car in front of you. If they put on their brakes, notice it. If you are approaching an intersection with a traffic light, pay close attention. Plan that traffic light stop. Don’t run a yellow light.

Use your co-pilot. Ask the person in the passengers seat to help you drive. Ask them to tell you if you weave or tailgate or go too fast.

If you get stopped. Unless you are certain that you have had less than the number of drinks it would take to raise your BAC level to the .08 level, then common wisdom holds that it is a good idea to refuse the breathalyzer test. It generally is more difficult to convict a driver of drunk driving if no chemical tests are taken.

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Democrats Delay Bill Release to Conceal Details

by Connie Hair, Human Events, Posted 02/13/2009 ET

Democratic staffers released the final version of the stimulus bill at about 11 p.m. last night after delaying the release for hours to put it into a format which people cannot “search” on their home computers.

Instead of publishing the bill as a regular internet document -- which people can search by “key words” and otherwise, the Dems took hours to convert the final bill from the regular searchable format into “pdf” files, which can be read but not searched. (link)

Didn't Candidate Obama promise something about "transparency?"
Updated Comment
In the comments below, Robert and Orient-Lodge offer a counter argument. They each make a valid point. Facts may be on their side. I may have been hasty in jumping to conclusions and in accepting the opinion of the author of this news item. This may very well be much to do about nothing.

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Obama Lied!

There is no nice way to say it. Obama lied.

He promised an administration that would be transparent. He promised there would be no lobbyist in his administration. He promised that government would not draft laws in secret. He promised no pork barrel spending. He promised that before he signed a bill, it would be posted and he would wait five days to sign it.

He is planning on signing the Democratic super spending bill, which is pork laden and was drafted in secret, on Tuesday, a little less than four days since it was passed. We won't know what is in it until after it is signed. Even the Congressmen who voted on the 1100- page bill do not know what is in it. To watch him lie, see the following video. Has he no shame?

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