Archive for October, 2009

Isakson should join with John Lewis

My colleague Jim Galloway has called attention to the hearing conducted this morning by Atlanta Congressman John Lewis, a Democrat, who focused on fraud in the program designed to juice the housing market by giving a tax credit to first-time home buyers. Meanwhile, Sen. Johnny Isakson, a Georgia Republican, is leading the charge to expand the tax credit. (I talked to Isakson about it a few weeks ago.)
Given the stereotypes that adhere to the two parties — Democrats tolerate/invite fraud while the GOP fights fraud — it is interesting. More interesting are Lewis’ charges, from a report by the Treasury Deparment’s inspector general:

We will hear today that taxpayers claiming the credit include those: who already owned a home, who had not yet bought a home, and who are children—some as young as four years old. There are possibly hundreds of millions of dollars that have been paid to taxpayers who are not entitled “ to the credit. We want to, and we need to, stop this fraud and …

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Wall St: Still masters of the universe

Despite having driven the economy into the ditch, bankers and Wall Street moguls are shameless. With bailed-out banks suddenly showing huge profits, they moved to again reward their executives with huge bonuses.

The Obama administration has little choice but to step in to stop that nonsense. The administration’s special master on compensation has signaled that he will order several firms that received taxpayer bailouts to slash their compensation.

The cuts will affect 25 of the most highly paid executives at each of five major financial companies and two automakers, according to the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the plan has not been made public. Cash salaries will be cut by about 90 percent compared with last year, they said.

The administration will also curtail many corporate perks, including the use of corporate jets for personal travel, chauffeured drivers and country club fee reimbursement, people familiar with the matter have said. Individual …

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Obama: effete or “street-brawler”?

Since the Democratic presidential primaries, Barack Obama has been accused by friends and enemies alike of being too weak, too passive, too effete. His Democratic supporters wanted him to attack Hillary Clinton and, later, to bash John McCain. More recently, Washington pundits have started opining about whether he’s tough enough for the job and whether he incites enough fear in his opponents.

With all that chatter about Obama’s alleged weakness, it was a little weird to hear of a Republican taking to the floor of the Senate to accuse the president of the opposite: “streetbrawling” with his foes and keeping an enemies list.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) accused the White House on Wednesday of “street-brawling” with opponents, and said the West Wing’s strategy of freezing out opponents amounts to a latter-day “enemies list,” a reference to an infamous practice of President Richard Nixon.

“An ‘enemies list’ only denigrates the Presidency and the Republic itself,” Alexander said …

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Hampton’s new campus queen erases color line

The newly-crowned campus queen was upset that she drew some jeers from the crowd at a college football game, as well as some disparaging comments in the blogosphere, when she and her court were introduced on Oct. 10. So she wrote an open letter to President Obama and posted it online.

“I feel as though you could relate to my situation. I am hoping that perhaps you would be able to make an appearance to my campus, Hampton University, so that my fellow Hamptonians can stop focusing so much on the color of my skin. . .”

Oops. That’s when things got, ah, ugly. Nikole Churchill had inadvertently struck a match to the tinderbox of race, culture and traditional beauty standards, fueling a full-fledged row over her status as the first non-black homecoming queen at Hampton University, a storied historically black institution.

While some students admitted a preference for a black queen, others thought the student body should elect the homecoming court. (The pageant judges included two …

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They’ve been watching Red Dawn again

The paranoia and racism of the unhinged fringe ought to be taken seriously, and it seems the Secret Service is doing exactly that. According to a report in the Boston Globe, President Obama has drawn an unprecedented number of threats against his life, overwhelming the ability of the Secret Service to check out all the lunatics to see how serious they are.

The domestic threat is also growing, fueled in part by Obama’s election as the nation’s first black president, according to specialists who study homegrown radical movements.

Obama, who was given Secret Service protection 18 months before the election – the earliest ever for a presidential candidate – has been the target of more threats since his inauguration than his predecessors.

UPDATE: Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan says that while there was a rise in threats right after the inauguration, the number of threats against Obama is now “within the range” of the number of threats against the last two presidents.
On the …

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Start making those medicinal brownies

Here’s a commonsense decision from the Justice Department that should be welcomed by several groups, including the less-government libertarians. Attorney General Eric Holder has told his prosecutors to stop going after people who use marijuana for medical purposes if they are not violating state laws.

The government’s top lawyer said that in 14 states with some provisions for medical marijuana use, federal prosecutors should focus only on cases involving higher-level drug traffickers, money launderers or people who use the state laws as a cover.

Even in states that have laws allowing marijuana use for medical purposes, the Bush administration insisted on using federal laws to conduct raids. That was not only impractical but also a philosophical contradiction since conservatives are supposed to favor local control.
The new edict may not pave the way for de-criminalizing marijuana use, as some advocates hope. But it will get the feds out of the stupid business of arresting …

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Bailed-out bankers love their perks

Bankers are different from you and me.

While the average person would experience some sense of shame at having brought the economy to the brink of collapse with reckless lending, big shot bankers have no such shame. Even as they were accepting government (read, taxpayer) bailouts, they increased their lavish perks, according to The Washington Post.

Even as the nation’s biggest financial firms were struggling and the federal government was spending hundreds of billions of dollars to save many of them, the companies as a group were boosting the perks and benefits they pay their chief executives.
Some chief executives, such as Kenneth D. Lewis of Bank of America and Jeffrey M. Peek of CIT Group, the major small-business lender now on the brink of bankruptcy, each received about $100,000 more than a year earlier for personal use of corporate jets. Others saw an increase in the value of chauffeured services, parking or personal security.

Ralph W. Babb Jr., chief executive of …

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The right (and political) reasons for mini-stimulus

House Minority Leader John Boehner wasn’t that impressed when the Dow Jones Industrial Average shot past 10,000 last week, a psychological milestone in a stunning six-month comeback. “At the end of the day, the American people aren’t looking at the stock market in terms of putting food on the table,” he said.
That’s a bit surprising, since Boehner was concerned about the Dow’s poor performance a few months ago, characterizing its doldrums as a reflection on Obama. “Certainly the stock market hasn’t acted very well” since Obama’s inauguration, he said.

But let’s take Boehner at his word and ignore the evidence of yet more Republican hypocrisy. He’s right about the average worker’s disconnect from the Dow, since half of American households don’t own equities of any sort — not even investments in a  401 (k).

Those workers who do have retirement portfolios are much more worried about the here and now: will I keep my job? Can I make the car note? How will I pay escalating health …

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Would parents stage such a hoax?

Well. Cops say the balloon boy story was a hoax. The report of a boy stranded aloft in a runaway weather balloon — which captivated the nation last Thursday — was a publicity stunt put together by parents trying to negotiate a reality TV show, according to Colorado police.

The desperate desire for celebrity — of any sort — has long been a dominate feature of our culture, no matter how ignoble or notorious the acts people may have to pull off for their 15 minutes of fame. You see the desperation in the behavior of the so-called Octomom, in parents Jon and Kate, and in the proliferation of unscripted TV shows, in which self-humiliation is the common theme. You see it in the young adults who make video of themselves committing criminal acts and then post the video on YouTube.

But, if the police are right, the culture may have reached a new low in which parents involve their children in huge lie with huge consequences: the Denver airport was shut down and Black Hawk helicopters …

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Greatest generation becomes greediest generation

To placate cranky seniors, the Obama administration wants Congress to send out $250 checks to all Social Security recipients. The checks would be in lieu of cost-of-living increases, which SS recipients are not scheduled to receive. Why not? Because the economy is in the toilet, and there is NO inflation.

For the first time in more than three decades, people who rely on Social Security and federal pensions will not get an increase in their monthly benefit checks because consumer prices have stagnated lately in the weak economy, the government announced Thursday.

The twin statements, by the Labor Department and the Social Security Administration, came less than a day after President Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress tried to salve the impact on older and disabled Americans by saying the government should provide $250 payments to 57 million people who depend on Social Security, pensions, or disabled veterans benefits.

The cost-of-living adjustment is supposed to reflect …

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