Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Liberty Forum 2012

Rick Santorum was the headliner for Chattanooga Tea Party's Liberty Forum Feb. 25, 22012 at Abba's House in Hixson, according to the Chattanooga Tea Party.
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Fannie asks gov't for almost $4.6B after 4Q loss

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Mortgage giant Fannie Mae said Wednesday that it lost money in its fourth quarter and is asking the federal government for $4.57 billion in aid to cover its deficit.

Washington-based Fannie said it lost $2.41 billion in the October-December quarter, stung by declining home prices. Revenue was $4.53 billion.

The government rescued Fannie and sibling company Freddie Mac in September 2008 to cover their losses on soured mortgage loans. Since then, a federal regulator - the Federal Housing Finance Agency - has controlled their financial decisions.

Taxpayers have spent more than $150 billion to prop up Fannie and Freddie, the most expensive bailout of the 2008 financial crisis. The government estimates that figure could top $259 billion to support the companies through 2014 after subtracting dividend payments.

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Philadelphia Fed president notices that Fed is rigging markets

By Joshua Zumbrun

Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank President Charles Plosser said that central bank purchases of mortgage-backed securities may be an inappropriate foray into policy that should be conducted by the U.S. Treasury.

"When the Fed engages in targeted credit programs that seek to alter the allocation of credit across markets, I believe it is engaging in fiscal policy and has breached the traditional boundaries established between the fiscal authorities and the central bank," Plosser said according to prepared remarks of a speech he's giving in New York today.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and the Federal Open Market Committee are debating a new round of mortgage bond purchases to help boost the housing market and the economy.

"Central banks and monetary policy are not and cannot be real solutions to the unsustainable fiscal paths many countries currently face," Plosser said on a panel at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business 2012 U.S. Monetary Policy Forum. "The only real answer rests with the fiscal authorities' ability to develop credible commitments to sustainable fiscal paths."

... Dispatch continues below ...

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Our Top Five Stalled Energy Projects

By Nash Keune

In 2010, as a direct result of environmental concerns, NIMBY activism, and a sluggish permit-granting process, there were 351 energy projects that were being delayed, postponed, or outright terminated. This is according to a study published by the Chamber of Commerce entitled Project No Project. Together, these projects were estimated to be worth $1.1 trillion and expected to create 1.9 million jobs. The overriding lesson from the report was that, given America’s byzantine permit system, opponents of any project can find a violation somewhere within the mountains of paperwork a firm is required to submit. This lesson is still relevant today. Here are just five examples:

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Obama’s Infanticide Votes

By Patrick Brennan

In last Wednesday’s debate, when the Republican candidates were asked about their positions on birth control, Newt Gingrich parried with one of his usual tactics, a fusillade against the mainstream media. He told CNN’s John King, “You did not once in the 2008 campaign, not once did anybody in the elite media ask why Barack Obama voted in favor of legalizing infanticide. If we’re going to have a debate about who is the extremist on these issues, it is President Obama, who, as a state senator, voted to protect doctors who killed babies who survived the abortion.”

Two points of Gingrich’s barrage warrant assessment. First, did Barack Obama, as a state senator, vote “in favor of legalizing infanticide,” by voting “to protect doctors who killed babies who survived the abortion”? And second, has no one in the elite media ever discussed his record on the issue? Yes; and no, but essentially yes.

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By Paul Walter


I immigrated to the United States with my family when I was 15 years-old. I was in awe to find a country where you could be anything you wanted to be as long as you were honest, moral and hard-working. This wasn't possible in the communist country from which my parents and I had escaped. There, government control was from the cradle to the grave. They kept the people poor, and controlled, while the aristocrats and politicians (gov't.) were living high on the hog with big benefits and salaries. They policed our every move and restricted our God-given freedoms. 

America was the light of the world and it gave hope to the oppressed.

Now, there are forces at work destroying our nation, and our individualism for the sake of the world's collectivism. I'm not just talking about Obama; he is a minute player in the grand scheme of this fast approaching New World Order. Our very culture is being threatened; our way of life; our liberties; and the legacy that we are leaving our children, and theirs, is one of indentured servitude to a government that has wildly swung from being representative by design to being dictatorial in practice. 

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O’Reilly, Gas Prices and Reality

Derek Hunter

Last week, Bill did one of his “Talking Points Memos” on high gas prices, blaming oil companies for the price at the pump. He opened up by paraphrasing Lou Dobbs, saying, “…because of the mild winter, there is plenty of oil and gas in the U.S.A. So supply and demand here should dictate lower prices. But of course, they are not lower. They are much higher because the oil companies are shipping their products overseas. Measured in dollars, oil products are now America's largest export worth $88 billion a year to the oil companies.”

In other words, the amount of gasoline has no impact on the price at the pump. The cost of oil does. In fact, crude oil accounts for about 80 percent of the cost of fuels. As oil prices rise, gasoline prices rise. As gasoline prices rise, demand for gasoline drops, particularly in a sluggish economy. That’s why we have gasoline to export to the rest of the world, not some black helicopter conspiracy to drive up prices at the pump.

What O’Reilly doesn’t tell his audience is that exporting refined oil products is actually a good thing for our economy. When American manufacturers, like oil refiners, export their products, they create and sustain good-paying jobs, lower America’s trade deficit, and increase revenues for our Federal Treasury.

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The Autoworkers Obama Left Behind

Michelle Malkin

The White House fairy tale about the Happily Ever After Auto Bailout is missing a crucial, bloody page. While President Obama bragged about "standing by American workers" at a rowdy United Auto Workers meeting Tuesday, he failed to acknowledge how the Chicago-style deal threw tens of thousands of nonunion autoworkers under the bus.

In a campaign pep rally/sermon billed as a "policy speech," Obama nearly broke his arm patting himself on the back for placing his "bets" (read: our money) on the $85 billion federal auto industry rescue. "Three years later," he crowed, "that bet is paying off for America." Big Labor brass cheered Obama's citation of GM's "highest profits in its 100-year history" as the room filled with militant UAW chants of "union made."

"Union made" -- but who paid? Scoffing at the criticism that his bailout was a massive union payoff, Obama countered that all workers sacrificed to save the auto industry. "Retirees saw a reduction in the health care benefits they had earned," Obama told the congregation, er, crowd. "Many of you saw hours reduced," he sympathized, "or pay and wages scaled back."

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So, how can bankers live with themselves?

Many bankers see themselves as part of a global elite – spaceship finance – with little sense of national belonging

So what would you like to know about bankers, I like to ask people, and most answer: how can they live with themselves? How can bankers take home those salaries and bonuses when the rest of us are facing austerity and very painful cuts in public services?

A little while ago I put this to a financial recruiter. I'll call him Philippe. Philippe is working with the well-paid bankers everyone else seems so angry with. They come to him when they want to move to a new job, or he poaches them on behalf of banks or financial firms. Being at the high end of the industry he has extensive conversations with clients about their motives, fears and ambitions.

So how can they live with themselves?

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Right Minds

By Samuel Goldman

Radicals, liberals, and progressives have dismissed conservatism as a mental defect ever since it emerged as a distinctive brand of political thought with the publication of Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France in 1790. According to Thomas Paine, Burke’s opposition to the revolution was based on an “obliteration of knowledge.” Several decades later, John Stuart Mill asserted that, although not all conservatives are stupid, “most stupid people are conservative.” In the mid-20th century, Theodore Adorno diagnosed conservative views as symptoms of a pathological “authoritarian personality.” More recently, some neuroscientists have argued that conservatives have bigger amygdalae than liberals. This turns out to be far from complimentary: the amygdala is the region of the brain associated with feelings of fear and disgust rather than thinking.

Corey Robin, a professor of political science at Brooklyn College, rejects such reductive accounts. As the title of his recently published The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism From Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin suggests, he thinks conservatives do have functioning brains. The purpose of the book is to “get inside” them more deeply than other writers on the left have been able to do.

The results of his exploratory surgery are provocative. Robin concludes that conservatism is neither a disposition in favor of the tried and true, as the British philosopher Michael Oakeshott proposed, nor a principled commitment to limited government, as many contemporaries believe. Instead, he argues, conservatism is a “reactionary ideology” that defends hierarchy against the upheavals that began with the French Revolution.

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The American Left’s Two Europes Problem

The American Left is far more interested in northern Europe than it is in southern Europe, despite the fact that southern Europe constitutes the majority of the population of the core 15 European Union members. Why?
A century or so ago, German sociologist Max Weber observed that Protestant countries in northern Europe tended to outperform the Catholic and Orthodox countries in the south of the continent. Weber believed that the northerners had a stronger work ethic, were thriftier, and possessed more of what is today called “social capital.” Though Weber attributed these differences to Protestantism itself, we should note that countries did not randomly convert to Protestantism. The roots for the cultural differences might very well go even deeper.

Economists have since largely abandoned Weber’s insights, and in general have turned against “cultural” explanations for economic outcomes. Yet Weber would not be surprised if shown a map of credit downgrades in Western Europe anno 2012. Western Europe can still roughly be divided into a northern, Germanic language, Protestant region, and a southern, Latin/Greek language, Catholic/Orthodox region.
These two Europes differ both in terms of culture and in terms of social and economic outcomes. France, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Portugal, and Greece have all been downgraded by Standard and Poor’s, sometimes repeatedly. Meanwhile, Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland all currently maintain the highest credit rating.1 Southern Europe on average has a debt-to-GDP ratio of more than 100 percent and deficits as a share of GDP of more than 5 percent, while northern Europe is closer to a balanced budget.

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Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the MBS sleeper defense

On Friday, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom filed a new brief in what is shaping up as the fight that will make the statute of repose a household phrase. I'm kidding, but not entirely. On behalf of UBS, Skadden filed a reply to the Federal Housing Finance Authority that lays out exactly why, in the bank's view, the conservator overseeing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac didn't sue UBS for alleged MBS failings in time to comply with the statute of repose.

As I've explained, UBS is the lead case in FHFA's MBS onslaught against more than a dozen MBS issuers, so Skadden's argument on the statute of repose will have huge consequences. Essentially, the firm contends that when Congress enacted the law that created FHFA and sent Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into conservatorship, it explicitly extended the statute of limitations on Fannie and Freddie's state law tort and contract claims, but did not address the statute of repose at all. And because the FHFA waited at least four years to sue UBS over mortgage-backed securities purchased by Fannie and Freddie, its federal securities claims should be barred the three-year statute of repose, according to Skadden.

FHFA's lawyers at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan argued in a Feb. 10 opposition to UBS's dismissal motion that the statute of repose dates from the creation of FHFA, not the purchase date of the securities. Moreover, they argued, Congress (like my learned Reuters colleagues) is more familiar with the statute of limitations than the statute of repose, so when it extended the statute of limitations in the law establishing the FHFA, it meant, by extension, to extend the statute of repose as well. "Congress's consistent use of the term 'statute of limitations' to encompass all time limitations, including what courts describe as 'statutes of repose,' makes clear that Congress gave FHFA at least three years after it was appointed conservator to file suits asserting claims like those here," the brief said. (FHFA counsel Philippe Selendy of Quinn declined an email request for comment.)

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Insurers push disaster costs to consumers and taxpayers, report finds

Insurance companies that cover property damage from catastrophes are increasingly pushing costs onto the backs of consumers and taxpayers, according to a new report from the advocacy group Consumer Federation of America.

Corporate insurers have “mastered” making money off hurricane coverage while keeping their own costs low, says the federation. It says that despite record-breaking damage costs from disasters over the last decade, policy providers steadily increased their surplus cash by raising rates, paying for fewer types of damage, increasing the deductibles of disaster victims and placing caps on certain rebuilding costs.

One maneuver the consumer federation called “Draconian” involves insurers refusing to pay out any claims in which one type of damage is covered but another is not, such as gales of wind turning a home into rubble and stormwater later flooding the same property. Beyond the coverage amount, other unanticipated costs can be dumped on consumers, such as a spike in prices for construction materials or new building codes enacted after disasters.

Does Anyone Deserve to Lose His Rights?


Short weeks ago, the political world was in welcome upheaval at the news that Barack Obama's latest healthcare fiat was being met with great opposition, particularly by the Catholic Church. His dictate that certain forms of contraception be covered by all employers regardless of their religious beliefs had folks from both right and left arrayed against him, outraged at his blatant disregard for the First Amendment's protection of religious liberty. But then a funny thing happened.

Rush Limbaugh, influential in liberal as well as conservative circles, read on air from a column written by Dr. Paul Rahe, a professor at Hillsdale College, who basically said that the Catholic Church deserved what it was getting, as a result of its "Pact with the Devil," made decades ago. The piece makes numerous contentions against the Church in America; most of them true and some of them not so true, with further inference by Rush, suggesting that the Church was indeed in league with the Democratic Party and therefore rightfully deserving of its treatment by Obama and friends. Sort of what I call the William Kennedy Smith defense: that girl walked into the bar with me; ergo, she deserved to be raped.

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Phone-hacking will be the single largest corporate corruption case for 250 years because 'cover up' went up 'to the very highest levels', says MP

By Daily Mail Reporter

  • Chris Bryant sensationally claimed the 'cover-up' extended to James Murdoch, boss of News     Corporation

  • Calls for U.S. authorities to investigate directors

  • Claimed senior NI figures ordered the 'mass destruction of evidence'

  • He says 486 lies have been told to Parliament over phone-hacking

  • Glenn Mulcaire 'provided daily transcripts of hacked voicemail messages', court papers allege

  • Phone-hacking will be the single largest corporate corruption case for 250 years and the 'cover up' went up 'to the very highest levels', a senior Labour MP sensationally claimed today.

    Speaking at a private members' debate held in Westminster Hall, Chris Bryant claimed the scandal at News International extended to executives and chairman James Murdoch. He said that senior figures 'ordered - we know this for sure - the mass destruction of evidence'.

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    Japan's energy crisis puts ETS launch on ice

    Leo Shanahan

    JAPAN has become the latest major world polluter to rule out introducing a carbon price or carbon tax in the near future, as it struggles with power shortages and a rising yen caused by the euro crisis.

    Senior Japanese diplomatic officials in Tokyo have told The Australian there is "no chance" of the country adopting a scheme similar to Australia's carbon tax or emissions trading scheme in the foreseeable future.

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    Facing Up to Darwin


    It is fair to say that "Darwin's dangerous idea," as Daniel Dennett has described it, has caused more trouble to the ordinary conscience than just about any other scientific hypothesis. We cannot easily reject the theory of evolution, which explains so much that we observe in the lives of plants and animals; and we cannot easily accept it either, when it comes to understanding human beings. It is not only the religious world-view that seems so precarious in the light of it. All kinds of moral aspirations, set against what we can know or surmise about our hunter-gatherer ancestors, seem to be so much wishful thinking. How can we entertain the liberal hope for equality between the sexes, for universal human rights, for a global community without wars, when we reflect on the harsh conditions in which our species is said to have evolved, and for the need, in those conditions, for belligerence, relations of domination, and an innate division of labor between woman and man?

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    ECB’s Second Three-Year Loan May Be Last

    The European Central Bank may decide all good things must come to an end after today’s allocation of long-term loans.

    The ECB’s three-year lending may approach a total of 1 trillion euros ($1.35 trillion) when the second Long Term Refinancing Operation is allocated at 11:15 a.m. in Frankfurt. Banks will ask for 470 billion euros, according to the median of 28 forecasts in a Bloomberg News survey, after taking 489 billion euros at the first tender in December.

    While the flood of three-year cash has been credited with fueling a rally on Europe’s crisis-roiled bond markets and safeguarding the region’s banks, the ECB will be reluctant to issue a third tranche, according to Deutsche Bank AG and UBS AG. Doing so would fan tensions among ECB policy makers and reduce pressure on governments and banks to fortify balance sheets themselves, the analysts said.

    Monsanto prevails in suit brought by organic growers

    (Reuters) - A federal judge has ruled in favor of global seed giant Monsanto Co, dismissing a lawsuit brought by a consortium of U.S. organic farmers and seed dealers who said their industry is at risk from Monsanto's growing market strength.

    U.S. District Court Judge Naomi Buchwald, for the Southern District of New York, threw out the case brought by the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) and dozens of other plaintiff growers and organizations, criticizing the groups for a "transparent effort to create a controversy where none exists."

    The Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) filed the suit last March on behalf of more than 50 organizations challenging the agricultural giant's patents on its genetically modified seeds. The group wanted a ruling that would prohibit Monsanto from suing the farmers or dealers if their organic seed becomes contaminated with Monsanto's patented biotech seed germplasm.

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    Obama Loses His First Debate


    In a speech that the Gingrich campaign has begun broadcasting around the country, and which is posted at, Gingrich presents a unique new vision for a booming American economy. I think you will find it pathbreaking. It is so compelling that it drew Obama into a transcontinental debate with the former Speaker, the first exchange that Obama has decisively lost since he appeared on the national stage.

    Gingrich began the explanation of his vision like this:

    What if we had a program that enabled the American people to develop so much new energy that we were, in fact, no longer reliant on Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran. We didn't care what the Iranians did in the Strait of Hormuz because we were safe in national security terms.

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    Hi, I’m from the IMF. I’m here to help.

    As I mentioned yesterday, the results of the third EU-IMF mission to Lisbon to assess Portugal’s implementation of its €78bn bailout were to be release today. Amongst mounting speculation that the country is struggling to meet the specified targets, remembering it only met the 2011 targets by using one-off pension transfers from banks to the state , the report appears relatively positive.

    The program is on track, but challenges remain. Policies are generally being implemented as planned and economic adjustment is underway. In particular, the large fiscal correction in 2011 and the strong 2012 budget have bolstered the credibility of Portugal’s front-loaded fiscal consolidation strategy. Financial sector reforms and deleveraging efforts are advancing, while steps are taken to ensure that credit needs of companies with sound growth prospects are met. Reforms to increase competitiveness, growth, and jobs have also progressed, although many reforms still await full implementation. The broad political and social consensus that is underpinning the program is a key asset.

    Looking ahead, the Portuguese economy will continue to face headwinds. In 2012, trading partner import growth is expected to weaken further, while domestic demand adjusts, and unemployment and bankruptcies are rising. As a result, GDP in 2012 is expected to decline by 3¼ percent, following a fall of 1½ percent in 2011. In 2013, a slow recovery should take hold, mainly supported by private investment and exports. External adjustment is proceeding.

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    New Report Likely to Fuel Debate Over TSA Scanners

    by Michael Grabell

    Feb. 28: This post has been updated.

    A new report from the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security is likely to fan rather than extinguish the debate over the safety of X-ray body scanners deployed at airports across the country.

    Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and other lawmakers have called on the Transportation Security Administration to conduct a new, independent health study. No such tests were carried out for the report, which instead relied on previous radiation tests, most of which have been available on TSA’s website.

    "This report is not the report I requested," Collins said in a statement to ProPublica. "An independent study is needed to protect the public and to determine what technology is worthy of taxpayer dollars."

    The amount of radiation emitted by the body scanners, known as backscatters, is “negligible” and “below acceptable limits,” according to the report obtained by ProPublica and scheduled for public release on Tuesday.

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    Shooting a RINO


    Despite his wins on Tuesday in Arizona and Michigan, Mitt Romney remains the convictionless centrist who simply can't inspire the right, or even the center for that matter. Analysts across the ideological spectrum deem him a dud candidate -- a flawed and wounded frontrunner who pays for his demoralizing squeakers and empty victories on his debit card.

    Even a paltry win in Michigan is a loss, said a few pundits, noting the erosion of support Romney saw in his home state since winning it easily in 2008 over John McCain.

    Romney's success in the primaries, to the extent that it exists, appears largely artificial -- a function not so much of his personality and political philosophy but his fat wallet, SuperPac assassination team, and the sheer luck of finding himself in a field of wan and cashless candidates.

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    We won't give US advance warning of Iran strike, says Israel

    Catrina Stewart 

    Relations between Israel and its staunchest ally, the United States, appear increasingly strained after Israeli officials said they would not give Washington any advance warning of a decision to strike Iran's nuclear facilities, according to US intelligence sources.

    Israel's message was conveyed during recent high-level talks with Pentagon officials and is apparently aimed at absolving Washington of blame for failing to prevent an Israeli strike, the Associated Press reported, citing an anonymous US intelligence source. Israeli officials declined to comment on the report.

    Far from allowing Washington a veneer of deniability, however, the claims seem likely to drive a deeper wedge between the two countries at a time of deep frustration in Washington over Israel's hawkish intentions towards Iran, which many fear could draw the US into a prolonged Middle East war.

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    The Blood of Religious Liberty Enabled Freedom of Speech

    By Geoffrey P. Hunt

    Around the turn of the 2nd century, St. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, was condemned by a Roman tribunal to be torn apart and eaten by lions in the Coliseum.  What was his crime?  Ignatius was condemned because his speech was subversive to the Roman social order.  Having a public audience worsened his exercise of free speech; speaking freely in front of an assembled mob was the real crime.

    Speaking and teaching the Gospels, according to the Apostles, of whom John was Ignatius' mentor, was the content of Ignatius' speech.  Moreover, Ignatius is credited with asserting the notion of the Church as universal and catholic, from the Greek katholikos.

    But Ignatius's death sentence didn't chill his free speech.  He managed to preach in dozens of venues along the route of a condemned man from Syria to Rome.  There are at least seven letters from Ignatius, written during his death march, considered to be authentic, and perhaps another half dozen attributed but of disputed origin.  His epistles ranged from declaring the divinity of Jesus to the central truth of the Eucharist being the body of Christ to the need for hierarchy and structure in the Church.  All religious speech -- all about religious doctrine and religious polity.

    Media Matters on Daily Caller series: We don’t ‘respond to trolls’

    By Vince Coglianese

    WASHINGTON — Media Matters for America officials resorted to name-calling Monday as they again dismissed questions regarding revelations about their organization as reported by The Daily Caller.

    “I generally make a policy not to respond to trolls, basically,” Media Matters Executive Vice-President Ari Rabin-Havt said, referring to TheDC, when asked about the group’s silence amid the continuing investigative series, “Inside Media Matters.”

    “I’m not going to respond to an article that’s basically filled up with just crap,” Rabin-Havt continued. “There’s no point getting into a match back and forth with The Daily Caller, and that’s why we chose not to respond.”

    Rabin-Havt and Media Matters founder David Brock addressed the question at a D.C. event promoting their organization’s latest book, “The Fox Effect.”

    The move to remain silent is an uncharacteristic one for the flame throwers at Media Matters, who are often quick to address perceived media inaccuracies on their blog. The ranks of the organization, including regular agitators like senior fellow Eric Boehlert, have maintained silence on the reports.

    Token Roughing Up of Crisis Bad Banksters, While Corzine Gets a Free Pass

    Yves Smith

    It’s bad enough that we are being subjected to relentless propaganda about how housing is just about to turn the corner and the state-Federal mortgage settlement is such a great deal for homeowners. In fact, as we’ve stressed, and bond investors such as Pimco have reiterated, the deal is above all a back door bailout of the banks. Bloomberg weighed in yesterday:
    Bank of America Corp., Wells Fargo & Co. and three other banks that settled a nationwide probe of foreclosure practices this month will get a bonus from the deal: protection for $308 billion of home-equity loans they hold…
    It’s “a gift to the banks, at investors’ expense,” said Goodman, a member of the Fixed Income Analysts Society’s Hall of Fame. “A proportionate write-down of the first and second represents a reversal of normal lien priority.”
    But to add insult to injury, the chump public will be given bread and circuses enforcement theater to distract it from the fact that the banks are getting a sweetheart deal.

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    Culture Wars: Conservative Freedom vs. Liberal Liberation

    By Christopher Chantrill

    The recent skirmish over compelling Catholic organizations to offer contraception and abortifacient services to their employees reminds us of the big issue between conservatives and liberals in the culture wars.  It bears repeating: conservatives believe in freedom; our liberal friends believe in liberation.

    Both traditions start with the same impulse: breaking the chains of slavery, and that is why both conservative and liberal celebrate the redemption of America's Original Sin.  Actually, our great victory over slavery was unique, for it was only in America that the slavery issue was resolved in a bloody civil war.  Chalk that up to the American can-do spirit.  Americans had made plantation slavery so efficient and so profitable that many of us were unable to see beyond the profits to the monstrosity of slave-holding in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

    GAO finds billions of dollars in redundant gov’t programs


    The government could save tens of billions of dollars each year if redundant and duplicative programs were cut, according to a report released by the Government Accountability Office on Tuesday.

    The GAO report examines programs and services that could be streamlined to increase efficiency of government and save money. It looked at areas of where it found either duplication or overlap of services — when “two or more agencies or programs are engaged in the same activities or provide the same services to the same beneficiaries — and fragmentation, when “more than one federal agency (or more than one organization with an agency) is involved in the same broad national interest.” Fragmentation often amounts to an overlap.

    The report specifies 51 new areas where government can be made more efficient, in addition to 81 areas identified in a report last year. Many of those issues have been at least partially addressed since that report was released, according to this new GAO report, but a number still need to be dealt with.

    Republicans took issue with a White House blog post that touted the number of issues from the previous report that had been addressed.

    Law firm with ties to Democrats advised DOE on Fisker loan


    A law firm with a history of donating to President Obama and other Democrats received lucrative stimulus grants to advise the Department of Energy on loans to automotive companies, including the struggling electric car manufacturer Fisker Automotive, the National Legal and Policy Center reports.

    Fisker received a $529 million loan promise to produce two lines of plug-in hybrid cars. But the project has been plagued by delays, unmet goals, and lay-offs, as well as news that Fisker was using its federal loans to produce cars in Finland.

    The National Legal and Policy Center writes:

    The firm, Debevoise & Plimpton LLC, received $1,842,180 in Recovery Act funds to provide legal advice, conduct due diligence, and review documents for two loans from DOE’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program. One $529 million loan award was to Fisker Automotive to develop and produce two lines of electric vehicles, with plans to create 2,000 new jobs at a renovatedGeneral Motors plant in Delaware. After receiving $193 million under that loan, DOE halted payments to Fisker in May 2011 after it failed to reach milestones set out in the agreement. Work on renovations to the Delaware plant was suspended, and the company let go about 65 employees – “green jobs” – earlier this month. …

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    Projection: Less Than Half of 1.5 + Million Walker Recall Petitions will be Eligible

    James Simpson

    True the Vote issued a press release today detailing preliminary results of their recall analysis. While the unions will likely get the approximately 540,000 petitions they needed to force a recall vote against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, hundreds of thousands of submitted petitions had problems. 

    Following is the breakdown:

    Total Number of Pages Submitted
     x 10 records/page (many left blank)
    Actual Records
    Blank Lines
    Unique Records
        Incomplete / Indecipherable Records
        Sign Date Out of Range
        Out of State
        Duplicate Signatures
    Total Ineligible Signatures
    Total Signatures for Further Investigation*
    Total Eligible Signatures based on data available

    * Signatures that were partially marked through, illegible, possibly false, mismatched or otherwise compromised

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    Gallup poll: 72 percent of Americans call individual mandate ‘unconstitutional’


    Even among Americans who support President Obama’s health care overhaul, a large majority believe that the law is out of step with the U.S. Constitution, a Gallup poll released Monday revealed.

    The poll, conducted Feb. 20–21, indicates that 72 percent of Americans believe the individual mandate — the government’s requirement for Americans to purchase health insurance — is unconstitutional. Even among Americans who feel the president’s health care law is a “good thing,” 54 percent think the provision is unconstitutional.

    Just 37 percent of Democrats said the individual health care mandate is constitutional. A mere 6 percent of Republicans and 21 percent of Independents agreed.

    The poll question read, “As you may know, the Supreme Court will hear arguments next month concerning a requirement in the healthcare law that every American must buy health insurance or pay a fine. Regardless of whether you favor or oppose the law, do you think this requirement is constitutional or unconstitutional?”

    Despite criticism, major campaign donor is Virgin Islands tax haven specialist


    One of President Obama’s major bundlers is a lawyer who helps her wealthy clients exploit the very offshore tax benefits the president has criticized.

    Marjorie Rawls Roberts, a Virgin Islands tax lawyer who specializes in offshore funds, has committed to bundling at least $100,000-$200,000 for the Obama Victory Fund 2012. Roberts runs her own law firm, Marjorie Rawls Roberts, P.C., based in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI). According to the firm, Roberts “specializes in the areas of tax, investment, and offshore funds.”

    Prior to starting her own firm, Roberts served from 1995 to 1999 as vice president and chief counsel for Globalvest Management Company, a “St. Thomas-based investment company managing approximately $1 billion in investments in Latin America and Russia through offshore funds.”

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    U.S. Behind in Fighting Islamic Radicalization Via the Internet?

    J. Robert Smith

    Islamic terrorist groups have the edge on the internet, reports the Washington Post.  Islamic bad guys are using the internet to radicalize youth here in the U.S., contends a study done for the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.

    But is this the problem that the Senate committee study claims it to be?  If so, what will Uncle Sam's solution be?  More control of the internet or a more savvy approach to combating terrorists across cyberspace?  Or both.  Will Washington seek to diminish liberties?    

    The Washington Post cites the case of Zachary Chesser, a twenty-two-year-old now doing a twenty-five year stretch in the federal pen for terrorism crimes.  The Senate committee study claims that Chesser was transformed via Islamic extremist sites "from an average American kid to a hardened supporter of terrorist organizations" in less than a couple of years.

    But there are red flags about the study's contention that Chesser was just an "average" kid.  Fox News reported in the spring of 2010:

    The United Steelworkers: an anti-worker union


    While refinery workers affiliated with the United Steelworkers held demonstrations in Washington Feb. 15 to protest the closure of two Pennsylvania refineries, their union’s leader, Leo Gerard, continued to express his support for policies that might lead more refineries to cut back operations or shut down — costing even more of his own members their jobs.

    The Keystone XL pipeline, the bane of radical environmentalists throughout the country, would bring oil from Canada to U.S. refineries on the Gulf Coast, creating jobs and stimulating local economies and industries along the way. Unfortunately, President Obama figures he needs the support of radical environmentalists more than he needs the support of middle-class workers, so he’s denying permits for the pipeline’s construction. The project would create 20,000 construction and manufacturing jobs almost immediately as well as nearly 120,000 indirect jobs over the next few years.

    Astoundingly, Gerard has applauded Obama’s decision instead of criticizing it. Gerard’s opposition to the pipeline makes no sense given how many USW members work in U.S. refineries that could manufacture gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel, home heating oil, asphalt and other essential products from the oil that the Keystone XL pipeline would transport.

    When The Deflation Tsunami Hits, Losing The Least Is A Winner

    The Automatic Earth

    A subject that commonly comes up in TAE is what to do with your savings if you have too much to stuff in "that creative place" that Nicole often refers to. And what she suggests is that the safest place to put it is in short term treasuries. If you are a citizen or a legal alien in the USA, that means T-bills, and if your money is not tax deferred, the only sensible way to do it is via Treasury Direct. A couple of days ago one of my closer friends sent me the following piece by Robert Moore on Rick’s Picks:
    She sent it with the message, "What's this mean?" She is never one for verbose emails. As you might imagine, the title of the article by Robert Moore, intrigued me, but as I read through it I became a bit irate, and I decided to reply with a comment. Well this comment got supersized and I thought it might have the makings of a feature on TAE. I haven't done one for almost a year. Instead of interleaving my commentary with the offending article, I would like to present it in a continuous format. So may I suggest that you read the Moore article and perhaps some of the comments and then come back.

    Read more:

    A Guide to the Liberal Mind

    By Victor Volsky

    As a great fan of Jeff Foxworthy, it occurred to me that it might be a good idea to use his hilarious you-might-be-a-redneck comedy routine in an attempt to characterize the liberal mindset (tweaking Jeff's formula a bit to convert it from the suppositional to the unconditional).  So, with apologies to the wonderful country comedian, here are some of the notable features of the liberal's mental landscape:
    • If you believe that freedom of expression is sacrosanct but would like nothing better than to deny it to anyone who doesn't share your views, you are a liberal.
    • If you believe that the 1st Amendment separates church from state, but not state from church, you are a liberal.

    Read more:

    The self-fulfilling prophecy of an all-powerful president


    During last week’s Republican presidential debate in Arizona, Mitt Romney said: “I will repeal Obamacare.” In a February 4 tweet, Newt Gingrich said: “On day one I will repeal Obamacare.” In a campaign ad released on December 9, Rick Perry said: “I’m an outsider who will repeal Obamacare.” Last June 14 on “Good Morning America,” Michele Bachmann said: “I will repeal Obamacare.” The Obama/Biden 2012 campaign website states: “President Obama passed the Affordable Care Act.”

    So there you have it. Our sitting president and four Republicans who aspire to the office assert that they can single-handedly enact or repeal the laws of our nation. In the president’s case, he may actually believe it. It was only a few days ago that he said, “When Congress refuses to act, Joe and I will act.” But he and two of the four Republicans have served, or now serve, in the United States Congress. You would think they might show a little more respect for the constitutional role of the people’s elected representatives.

    To his credit, former senator Rick Santorum has been a little more circumspect. He wrote in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal that “I’ll submit legislation to repeal Obamacare.” But then he also wrote that “all Obama administration regulations that have an economic burden over $100 million will be repealed,” and “I’ll cut means-tested entitlement programs by 10% across the board, freeze them for four years, and block grant them to states.”

    Obama Should Fear Santorum More Than Romney

    JD Rucker

    Something has been really weird about this GOP primary season. It's easy to understand why the Republican Establishment has supported Mitt Romney from the start based upon their support of previous moderates like John McCain and Bob Dole. What hasn't been as clear is why the Obama campaign team has been working on helping Romney get the nomination through their actions (or lack of actions in many cases).

    Conventional wisdom would say that it would serve the Obama campaign to prolong the GOP primary season for as long as possible, allowing the candidates to soften up each other through attacks and drain the money that will eventually be pointed at Obama. The fact that they have not started to attack frontrunner Romney in full force in hopes of casting doubts on his abilities and extending the race has been viewed as a mistake by many analysts.

    Some 'Splainin' to do in Chicago

    By Lee Cary & Marty Watters

    On February 27, a Chicagoland website, Illinois PayToPlay, cited the star witness in the Operation Gambit trials of the early '90s, Robert Cooley, as a primary source for the news that Daniel Frawley says he gave $400,000 in cash to Tony Rezko, who then passed it on to Barack Obama. 

    In case you missed Cooley's story, James Peterson, writing for Andrew Breitbart's Big Journalism, noted that "[i]n the mid-1980's, Chicago Outfit Lawyer Robert Cooley voluntarily went undercover for the FBI as part of an investigation called Operation Gambat. Cooley wore a wire on, among others, [Alderman Ed] Burke's good friend and made-man, Alderman Fred Roti. The Chief Judge of Cook County's Chancery Court and an Assistant Senate Majority Leader of the Illinois State Senate were also targeted. Cooley's work eventually led to the only judge in U.S. history being convicted of fixing a murder trial." 

    Cooley is a Chicago legend.

    As the star witness for the prosecution back then, Cooley's credibility was validated by 26 convictions.  Now, Cooley is back on the Chicago scene along with news that leaves a number of current, and former, Chicagoans with some splainin' to do.  Among the short list are these persons of interest.

    Only consumers should decide who succeeds in business


    Should a government bureaucrat have the power to arbitrarily decide who’s allowed to start a business and who isn’t? Most readers of this website — and most Americans — have a ready answer to that question: No.

    But in many cities and states, government officials have the power to do just that.

    Consider the case of Julie Crowe.

    A veteran of the Marine Corps now in her 50s, Julie worked for years as a shuttle van driver in her hometown of Bloomington, Illinois, taking Illinois State University students to and from downtown bars at night. She liked the work, and her customers liked her — especially young women who preferred a female driver who would make sure they got home safely in their inebriated state after nights on the town. Her customers also preferred riding in her relatively small van to riding in what many of the other vehicle services in town offer: giant “party buses” where fights, vomiting and overcrowding are the norm.

    The LTRO Bubble Has Popped, And Europe Is About To Find Itself In A World Of Trouble

    Simone Foxman

    The European Central Bank's second and final 3-year, long-term refinancing operation is coming tomorrow and while analysts are finalizing their bets on the take-up, they generally agree on one thing: The optimism is over.

    The ECB's massive liquidity operation has effectively removed the possibility of a banking crisis in the short term by averting a liquidity crisis and giving banks tons of cheap cash. Consequently, Spanish and Italian banks in particular purchased vast amounts of Italian and Spanish debt, as those bonds can be used as collateral against borrowing from the central bank.

    That's all been positive in the short run. In fact some optimists even suggested that this could bring an end to the crisis by relieving so much pressure off the banks.

    But by now, everyone's recognized that there are major flaws in this argument.

    New $750 grand soccer field for Gitmo terrorists

    Rick Moran

    They're cutting military pensions and health benefits but the Pentagon found $750,000 for a new soccer field at Guantanamo for the terrorist detainees.
    Fox News:
    At a time of record deficits, a new soccer field for detainees at Camp 6 in Guantanamo Bay is just getting the finishing touches -- at a cost of $750,000 to taxpayers.
    The project was the highlight of a tour Tuesday of the detention camp for reporters at the facility covering the arraignment in a military court of Majid Khan, a former Baltimore resident and the the only legal U.S. resident on trial at Guantanamo.
    The project began in April 2011 and is due to finish this spring. The detainees will now have three recreation facilities at Camp 6, which is home to "highly compliant" detainees who live in a communal setting.

    Read more:

    The Democrats’ Potemkin budget hearings


    Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta appeared before the Senate Budget Committee on Tuesday to testify about the president’s budget proposal, which has almost no chance of passing.

    Last year, the president’s budget was so well received that it achieved precisely zero votes in the Senate — and this year’s edition looks like it will be just as enthusiastically welcomed. In fact, Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he is so confident that even Democrats will reject the bill that he will introduce it for a vote himself.

    What’s more, even though the Senate Democrats haven’t passed a real budget in over 1,000 days, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has vowed not to bring a budget of their own to the floor this year either.


    Joe Weisenthal

    The LTRO basically is this: The ECB has made it so that stressed Eurozone banks can pledge a wide range of capital in exchange for super-cheap funding that lasts three years.

    The goal is to insulate the banks from the viciousness of the market for awhile. As an added benefit, some banks are able to take advantage of the cheap funding to buy peripheral sovereign debt, which carries some juicy yields, making a lot of money on the carry.

    The first operation in December was big, and since then Europe has rallied strongly. That includes generals tock markets, government bonds, and of course banks. That initially lead to the assumption that this second (and possibly last) LTRO would be even bigger, but now expectations are more tempered.

    Climate Deniers Are Giving Us Skeptics a Bad Name

    By S. Fred Singer

    Gallia omnia est divisa in partes tres.  This phrase from Julius Gaius Caesar about the division of Gaul nicely illustrates the universe of climate scientists -- also divided into three parts.  On the one side are the "warmistas," with fixed views about apocalyptic man-made global warming; at the other extreme are the "deniers."  Somewhere in the middle are climate skeptics.

    In principle, every true scientist must be a skeptic.  That's how we're trained; we question experiments, and we question theories.  We try to repeat or independently derive what we read in publications -- just to make sure that no mistakes have been made.  

    In my view, warmistas and deniers are very similar in some respects -- at least their extremists are.  They have fixed ideas about climate, its change, and its cause.  They both ignore "inconvenient truths" and select data and facts that support their preconceived views.  Many of them are also quite intolerant and unwilling to discuss or debate these views -- and quite willing to think the worst of their opponents.

    Holder loses cool during House hearing when asked about Fast and Furious

    By Matthew Boyle

    A visibly frustrated Attorney General Eric Holder slammed the table when responding to a question about Operation Fast and Furious during a Tuesday budget hearing before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies.

    “That was a fundamentally flawed program, fundamentally flawed,” Holder said of Fast and Furious. “And, I think that I can agree with some of my harshest critics that there are legitimate issues that need to be explored with regard in which the way Fast and Furious was carried out.”

    “But, I think one thing that also has to be understood is that once this was brought to my attention” — Holder said before slamming his hand on the committee room table he was sitting at — “I stopped it. I stopped it.”

    Read more:

    Tuesday, February 28, 2012

    European banks to soak up more ECB money

    NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- After unleashing a wave of liquidity earlier this year, the European Central Bank is set to offer European banks another chance to soak up billions of euros in cheap loans.

    On Wednesday, the ECB will announce the results of its second Long-Term Refinancing Operation, in which banks will be able to borrow money for 3-years at interest rates as low as 1%.

    In December, the ECB allotted nearly €500 billion under the first round of the operation, which went to 523 banks in the eurozone.

    Officially, the loans are part of the ECB's effort to prevent a credit crunch in Europe, where banks have been struggling to fund themselves since late last year amid concerns about exposure to bad sovereign debt.

    Read more: