Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Please let this be a joke!

Don Luskin points out what must be a very bad joke on the New York Federal Reserve web site. OUR Federal Reserve is trying to assure us that our investment in mortgage backed securities is secure because they are guaranteed by...drum role, Fannie Mae.

Link
From the New York Fed's web site, part of an FAQ explaining the central bank's new program to buy mortgage-backed securities:
Does the agency MBS program expose the Federal Reserve to increased risk of losses?

Assets purchased under this program are fully guaranteed as to principal and interest by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Ginnie Mae, so the Federal Reserve's exposure to the credit risk of the underlying mortgages is minimal.

Historical Digital Newspaper Collection Links

An amazing History Resource.

Links for every State. Back to 1800's.

Link

Mitch McConnell inflates a pair...will they deflate? YES

Go get'em tiger Mitch!! Now that he is in the minority ole Mitch is yellin and screamin about that evil runaway spending. Will his new found courage last? NO!!...Senate Republicans and their wonderful inflatable gonads.

Link
"As of right now, Americans are left with more questions than answers about this unprecedented government spending, and I believe the taxpayers deserve to know a lot more about where it will be spent before we consider passing it," McConnell said in a statement, which will be publicly issued later today.

Taxpayers paid $168 bil in State/Local Pension Benefits

in 2007. In 2008, the burden will be much, much higher. Not only will taxpayers have HUGE losses in their own 401ks and IRAs but they will be faced with much higher Government employee pension costs. A DOUBLE WHAMMY!!

The pension plans of Taxpayers are defined contribution plans like IRAs and 401ks. They have NO guaranteed benefits. The retirement benefits go up and down with the value of IRAs and 401ks.

The pension plans of Government employees are very different. They are guaranteed benefit plans. Taxpayers, via our elected representatives, have guaranteed an ever increasing benefit amount and in the case of Tennessee they have written in a generous cost of living adjustment.

Link
State and local government defined-benefit employee retirement systems paid $168 billion to 7.5 million retirees and survivors in fiscal year 2007, the U.S. Census Bureau reported today. This is a $12 billion increase from the previous year when 7.3 million received payments.

There were 2,547 retirement systems in 2007, with memberships of 18.6 million people who could be eligible for regular benefit payments in the future.

She wouldn't allow ANYONE else to make decisions

about her personal, private property, not rich developers or politicians or the opinions of others. What a great legacy of independence and courage she leaves for us all. HT: Mike

Link

Now, THIS is a snow sled

Link

Blogrunner.com-News Aggregator from NYTimes

Link

HERE is the politics page.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Fannie Mae Financed and 22.5 Carbon-Neutral

ponies under the hood. Take a look at "The Pelosi" from Congressional Motors. HT: Flashpoint

Sunday, December 28, 2008

30 Lobbyists for Each member of Congress

Andy Roth at Club for Growth calculates the number of registered lobbyists per member of Congress. Our 200 year experiment in Government De-Regulation simply is not working.

Link

YEAR RATIO
2008 29.8
2007 29.0
2006 28.5
2005 27.1
2004 25.1
2003 24.6
2002 23.1
2001 22.6
2000 23.9
1999 25.1
1998 20.0

Gorgeous Photo Gallery: Birds of Tennessee

Link

Most Dangerous Job in US=Chicago Political hack

Link

The most dangerous job in America?

Underground coal miner? Foundry worker?

How about patronage worker at Chicago's City Hall.

City workers with political clout claim to be injured at a rate that far exceeds any occupation tracked by the U.S. Department of Labor, according to a first-of-its-kind analysis by the Chicago Sun-Times that raises questions about whether all those city workers really were injured, and whether the city adequately investigates workplace accidents.

50% College Dropout=Spectaular WASTE of Money

Link

Which means that financially speaking, the spectacularly high dropout rate boils down to a spectacularly bad investment. Though there’s no specific data, one can imagine the countless millions that are wasted financing educations that never come to fruition. We could try to predict which students would be part of the 46% who don’t finish, then encourage those students not to go to college. But to do this would mean a lot of students who might graduate never get to give it a shot. That wouldn’t be fair. So what we can do instead is identify the 5% or 10% of students who are the least likely to graduate, and not send them to college.

The problem is, the current system provides no way, and no incentive, for doing that. In fact, the Free Application For Student Aid (FAFSA) doesn’t take into account an applicant’s academic record at all. The rationale behind this is reasonable and admirable: we don't want federal student aid to be restricted only to the best and the brightest, many of whom come from backgrounds that made it easy for them to excel. But doesn't it make sense, on some level, to withhold aid from the students who have shown during high school that they’re clearly not equipped to make it through four years of college? Doing so would be a big step toward recouping some of that wasted 46% of lost financing.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Willie K.-The Playboy Vanderbilt

Link

Lots of Progress on Electric Cars

Link

Lighter Cars and Electrification will Reduce Oil Demand

Toyota and others are working on 600kg cars instead of 1000kg. Cheaper titanium, more carbon fiber and other materials.

Steel accounts for about three-quarters of the average car weight in Japan of around 1,350 kg (2,976 lbs). Using carbon fiber to replace steel in key parts could cut vehicle weight by up to 40%, to slightly above an average 800 kg (1,800 lbs). This could improve fuel efficiency and reduce carbon dioxide by approximately 30% per car.

China's BYD has started selling its plugin hybrid electric car in
China for US$21,000.

EEStor's ultracapacitor patent details. They are supposed to be having commercial rollout in 2009.

A lot of better battery and ultracapacitor tech...sufficient for many planned needs for storage it is a matter of cost and scaling up for sufficient industrial impact.

Want to Get Away from the Hustle and Bustle?

This looks like a good candidate (Zoom out)...if anybody knows the name of this place, please email me. We have a winner!! Thanks Paul. More pictures of the Island HERE.


View Larger Map

Friday, December 26, 2008

1of 3 Congressional Staffers Become Lobbyists

This is influence peddling plain and simple. It may be legal but it is corruption in every possible way. We have tried Government De-Regulation and it is a miserable failure.

Link

WASHINGTON — More than a third of top congressional staffers who left their public service jobs this year went to work for private lobbying firms or other groups seeking to influence the government, according to a USA TODAY analysis.

Under an ethics law passed last year, the House and Senate for the first time must list the names of departing staffers earning $127,000 or more per year. So far this year, 32 of the 193 top staffers who left government registered as lobbyists and an additional 42 went to work for consulting firms, law offices, interest groups and trade associations, the analysis showed.

Publicizing names of departing staffers gives the public notice that "they're cashing in on their expertise," says James Thurber, an American University lobbying expert.

Former congressional staffers are free to become lobbyists or otherwise work to influence the government as long as they follow ethics laws, including a cooling-off period. The new rules prohibit former Senate aides from lobbying anyone in the Senate for a year after they leave.

In the House, the one-year lobbying ban only applies to the House office or committee where the staffer worked.

Congress tightened the rules as part of a broader package of ethics proposals backed by Democratic leaders after they took control in 2007.

Bernie Madoff's Contributions and Lobbying

Link
Madoff made a fortune, and he played politics with some of that money. In total, he and his wife, Ruth, have given $238,200 to federal candidates, parties and committees since 1991, with Democrats getting 88 percent of that. Overall, Madoff and other individuals at his company, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, gave $372,100 in campaign contributions since 1991, with 89 percent to Democrats. The firm spent $590,000 on lobbying in the last 11 years, all but $10,000 of it with the lobbying firm of Lent, Scrivner & Roth. A search for funds with "Madoff" in their title in lawmakers' personal investments did not find any members of Congress with their own funds invested with him.

The following party committees, PACs and current members of Congress have received contributions from Madoff and his wife since the 1992 election cycle:

Name

Party

Total

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Cmte

D

$102,000

Securities Industry Assn

$31,000

Wyden, Ron

D

$13,000

Schumer, Charles E

D

$12,000

Markey, Edward J

D

$10,000

Securities Industry & Financial Mkt Assn

$10,000

Lautenberg, Frank R

D

$8,600

Merkley, Jeff

D

$2,300

Clinton, Hillary

D

$2,000

Rangel, Charles B

D

$2,000

Towns, Edolphus

D

$2,000

Dodd, Christopher J

D

$1,500

Ackerman, Gary

D

$1,200

Dingell, John D

D

$1,000

Obey, David R

D

$1,000

Matheson, Jim

D

$250

National Abortion Rights Action League

$250

WishBookWeb.com- Vintage Christmas Catalogs

Link

Environmentalists now want to subsidize tree harvesting

Yes, friends, those wacky environmentalist are now concerned that falling lumber prices will cause the timber companies to sell their land to developers. Wait, those are the same developers that are going out of business because no one wants to buy a house?

Link

You might guess environmental groups would be glad timber prices have collapsed to where loggers' chain saws have fallen silent and sawmills are shutting down.

Instead, they're nervous. If logging doesn't pay, the same timber companies some environmentalists have blamed for ruining the forest may get rid of the forest -- selling off their prime real estate. Then subdivisions could grow instead of trees, absent the wildlife, clean water and other benefits forests typically present.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

2008 TN Comprehensive Annual Financial Report

is now available HERE. This is audited financial report for Tennessee for the Fiscal Year ended June 30, 2008.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Amtrak wants a bailout? AMTRAK WANTS A BAILOUT?

Amtrak wants a bailout?!!! Amtrak needs to be OUT, of business.

Link
Kelly said when she asked a (Amtrak) customer service employee what to do, she was told: "Sometimes life puts you in a situation, where you need to learn a lesson. I would figure out what that lesson is supposed to be."

Monday, December 22, 2008

Poll indicates more Climate Change Skepticism

Link

Polling Data

How serious a problem is global warming?

Dec. 2008

Apr. 2008

Very serious

41%

47%

Somewhat serious

24%

26%

Not very serious

17%

16%

Not at all serious

16%

8%

Not sure

3%

4%

Is global warming caused primarily by human activity or by long term planetary trends?

Dec. 2008

Apr. 2008

Human activity

43%

47%

Long term planetary trends

43%

34%

Some other reason

6%

8%

Not sure

8%

11%

Source: Rasmussen Reports
Methodology: Telephone interviews with 1,000 American adults, conducted on Dec. 13 and Dec. 14, 2008. Margin of error is 3 per cent.

"Taxpayers pouring out of Shelby County"

The Commercial Appeal used IRS migration data to analyze Shelby County migration and income. They found taxpayers moving out of Shelby County but even more important, they are being replaced with immigrants with lower incomes. Oh, and one fact not mentioned in the article, Memphis has the highest property tax rate in the entire State by a huge margin.

Link

The income drain has been most pronounced within Shelby County. During a 10-year period ending in 2007, the county sustained a net loss of $1.83 billion in incomes among residents moving in and those leaving.

Not only did the number of wage-earners leaving (173,601) outnumber those coming in (155,660), but the average income of the outgoing residents was greater than those arriving -- $46,880, compared with $40,544.

The bleeding, however, hasn't been restricted to Shelby's confines. The entire eight-county Memphis metropolitan area suffered net income losses during eight of the 10 years, with the total deficit for the period exceeding $398 million.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Russian Police Crush Tax Protest in Vladivostok

Link with video

About 500 people had gathered in the city's central square to demonstrate against a new tax on imported cars.

Witnesses said police officers kicked protesters, damaged journalists' equipment and made dozens of arrests.

Vladivostok, one of several cities holding protests, depends heavily on car imports from Japan and critics say the tax could push prices up by 50%.

Very Nice Nashville Skyline on Flickr: Josh Hunter

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Liquor by the Drink- A Study in Political Power

On a recent Inside Politics, Pat Nolan's excellent Tennessee politics interview program on Newschannel5, Pat interviewed Eddie Jones about the 1967 campaign to approve liquor by the drink. The campaign involved two interesting and significant abuses of political power.

1- The LT Governor kept secret an AGs opinion which nullified a bill-killing amendment by a Senator. She did amend the bill but, unknown to her of course, the AG had already said the bill could be passed in the House and become law without her amendment, which was a condition to get her vote. She was furious but couldn't stop the bill's passage.

2- Right before the vote occurred in Nashville, Mayor Briley, who supported the bill, said that in order to pass the bill he would have to "make the people thirsty." So, he called the police chief and had him shut down all the illegal liquor sales which had been openly tolerated at country clubs and printer's alley night clubs. Here is audio of the program discussing Mayor Briley's intervention.

Extraordinary online math/econ/finance teaching site

Link HT: Stuart Buck
The Khan Academy is a not-for-profit organization with the mission of providing a high quality education to anyone, anywhere.

We have 700+ videos on YouTube covering everything from basic arithmetic and algebra to differential equations, physics, and finance which have been recorded by Salman Khan.

Census Study: Politicians do NOT create jobs

A new division of the Census has started gathering data on job creation and business start-ups. The stats show that small business start-ups are the major source of job creation. Duh!

I understand that Phil Bredesen and his fellow politicians want us to love, admire, revere and most importantly VOTE them for "creating jobs" but the facts show that jobs are created by small entrepreneurial start up firms. The same firms that go about their business without Phil Bredesen ever once showing up for a photo op. As these stats become more widely known, I am quite sure the politicians will try to take credit for them but, in fact, their best course is to stay the hell out of the way and blow their hot air elsewhere.

Link
One novel feature of the BDS is that business startups (new firms) can be tracked on a comprehensive basis for U.S. private, non-agricultural businesses. The fraction of employment accounted for by business startups in the U.S. private sector over the 1980-2005 period is about 3 percent per year. This measure is interpretable as the employment-weighted business startup rate for the U.S. While this is a small fraction of overall employment, all of this employment from startups reflects new jobs. As such, 3 percent is large compared to the average annual net employment growth of the U.S. private sector for the same period (about 1.8 percent). This pattern implies that, excluding the jobs from new firms, the net employment growth rate for the U.S. is negative on average. This simple comparison highlights the importance of business startups to job creation in the U.S.

Pew: Religious Make-up of Congress

Link

Ok, this is embarassing...Santa wants a bailout

HT: Andy Roth

Friday, December 19, 2008

Congressman John Duncan's Statement on Bailout

Link

Even in the best economic times, thousands of small businesses fail and we do not bail them out. I have been concerned all along with the unfairness of what we have been doing, primarily for the financial companies, and for what we attempted to do for the automobile manufacturers.

No company should be considered by our government as being “too big to fail.” And I realize that if everyone had voted the way I have, some very big companies would have gone under.

However, socialism has not worked anyplace in the world. In my opinion, the pain, as great as it would be, would be a lot less and our economy would recover a lot sooner if we would simply let the free market work.

Herding sheep with a picture of a wolf?

This sounds very familiar....haven't politicians tried this?

Link

Wow, things are REALLY bad when lobbying costs

get cut by local governments. This practice of using taxpayer money to get even more taxpayer money should be illegal but its not and many local TN govts spend lots of taxpayer money on lobbying. Hopefully this ridiculous practice will be outlawed soon in TN.

Link

Current lobbying contracts end Dec. 31.

O'Connor told members Wednesday that outside contracts should be cut before city services are reduced.

For several years the city has contracted with Bill Nolan and Associates of Oak Ridge and The Ferguson Group of Washington, D.C., to advance the city's agenda to state and federal lawmakers.

Nolan and Associates is paid $55,800 a year. The Ferguson Group receives $96,000 annually.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

TN Farm Subsidy Amt Ranked by Congress District

Link

Rank District Direct Payment - Corn
PY 2003-2005*
(# beneficiaries)
Pct of
Total
Running
Percentage
18th district of Tennessee (Rep. John S. Tanner)$20,816,108
(10,312)
48.0%48.0%
24th district of Tennessee (Rep. Lincoln Davis)$6,892,772
(4,604)
15.9%63.9%
37th district of Tennessee (Rep. Marsha Blackburn)$5,780,538
(5,247)
13.3%77.2%
46th district of Tennessee (Rep. Bart Gordon)$5,509,543
(4,493)
12.7%89.9%
51st district of Tennessee (Rep. David Davis)$1,415,757
(1,891)
3.3%93.2%
62nd district of Tennessee (Rep. John J. Duncan, Jr.)$962,132
(832)
2.2%95.4%
73rd district of Tennessee (Rep. Zach Wamp)$848,357
(840)
2.0%97.3%
85th district of Tennessee (Rep. Jim Cooper)$76,209
(178)
0.2%97.5%
99th district of Tennessee (Rep. Steve Cohen)$49,127
(120)
0.1%97.6%

10th Circuit Strikes down OK law barring out of State

petition circulators for initiatives and referendums.

Link

On December 18, the 10th circuit struck down Oklahoma’s ban on out-of-state circulators for initiatives. Yes on Term Limits v Savage, no. 07-6233. The decision is here. It is 16 pages long and says that there is no strong evidence that out-of-state circulators are more likely to engage in fraud than in-state circulators. Also it says that if Oklahoma needs to question circulators after the petition has been submitted, the state is free to pass a law saying that circulators must agree to return for questioning.

There are now four circuits that have invalidated bans on out-of-state circulators (the 6th, 7th, 9th and 10th), and only one circuit, the 8th, that has upheld them. Furthermore, the 8th circuit decision was from North Dakota, a state that has no voter registration, and therefore the 8th circuit decision can be said not to apply to the other 49 states that do have voter registration.

This decision is good news for Paul Jacob and his associates, who have been in jeopardy of a criminal prosecution for conspiring to bring out-of-state circulators into Oklahoma.

TN Congressional Word Clouds

Which words are used most by TN Congress persons? Click on the link to see individual word clouds. Which word is most often used by Marsha Blackburn? Budget.

Link

Here is the word usage for the entire delegation:
  1. 100% 813 energy
  2. 89% 725 tennessee
  3. 76% 624 country
  4. 61% 499 oil
  5. 49% 404 money
  6. 45% 372 budget
  7. 42% 345 gas
  8. 42% 344 percent
  9. 38% 313 world
  10. 38% 312 help
  11. 35% 292 tax
  12. 35% 287 day
  13. 33% 272 electricity
  14. 31% 259 billion
  15. 31% 259 family
  16. 31% 257 prices
  17. 31% 256 issue
  18. 31% 253 republican
  19. 30% 250 believe
  20. 28% 230 security
  21. 27% 221 change
  22. 27% 220 school
  23. 26% 216 home
  24. 26% 215 power
  25. 26% 214 leader
  26. 26% 212 district
  27. 25% 211 week
  28. 25% 210 look
  29. 25% 205 service
  30. 25% 204 education

Food Stamp Participation Rate: US 67%, TN 91%

Link

California Democrats devise plan to hike taxes

Link
Reporting from Sacramento -- California's Democratic leaders were planning a vote today on a brazen proposal to raise gas, sales and income taxes through a series of legal maneuvers that would bypass the Legislature's minority Republicans.

The Democratic gambit, announced Wednesday, would raise $9.3 billion to ease the state's fiscal crisis by increasing sales taxes by three-fourths of a cent and gas taxes by 13 cents a gallon, starting in February. The plan would add a surcharge of 2.5% to everyone's 2009 state income tax bill.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

TARP won't reveal Legal Fees...this is ridiculous

So much of what is going on with the various bailouts can only be characterized as absurd. It sure would be nice if members of Congress could steal a few precious moments to actually OVERSEE what the hell is going on with these programs!!

Link
Once again, the contract that the Treasury Department posted on its web site conceals the hourly rate that the government is paying Thacher Proffitt's lawyers, and omits most other information about the financial terms of the deal.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Very Nice, Free Clipart Collection

Link HT: Interesting Pile

The Best and Worst of Skymall Gifts

Marshmallow Bazooka and Flair Hair Visor

Look closely, it says DECD, as in Dead and the IRS

knew that the payee was, in fact, dead.

Link

Inside was a $238 economic stimulus check issued to her sister, who had died more than a year before.

The real stunner: The government knew Durrant's sister was in no position to spend the money.

The first line of the check listed "Donabea M. Baker Decd" — as in deceased — followed by Durrant's own name as her sister's trustee.

"I thought, it's strange that they should be sending an economic stimulus check to a person who is deceased," said Durrant, 83, a retired pharmacist. "I don't know what they're thinking."

YEA, we gave away hundreds of millions of taxpayer

dollars. YEA, we negotiated the deal in complete and total secrecy so the press and OUR elected officials and taxpaying citizens have no idea what the final bill will be. YEA, we created 500 jobs (in an area of 78,000) but realistically many of those jobs will be filled by Kentucky residents who bear no tax burden for the deal.

The real winners: Politicians.

Link

House Prices: Nashville vs Stockton CA

Brain at Flashpoint points to an article that shows a $2 trillion decrease in US home values in 2008. But some areas like Nashville are doing better than most, mainly due to greater market stability.

Link

Constitutional Officers Candidate Interview Videos

Part I
Part II
Part III

and copies of their applications:

Comptroller of the Treasury

Justin Wilson

Treasurer Candidates

Barry Davis
D.W. 'Bill' McGaughey
David Lillard
Ira Brody
Vance Cheek, Jr

Secretary of State

David Shirley
James Rollins
Jerry Scott
Jim Bryson
Larry Scroggs
Randy Stamps
Tre Hargett
William Baird

Ho-Hum, another report that Fed Govt spending is

COMPLETELY OUT OF CONTROL. And this is before Obama's massive public spending spree that will make past deficits look like child's play. The US Congress simply can NOT control or discipline itself.

Link

A Treasury report out today pegs the U.S. government's operating cost at approximately $1 trillion, excluding transfer payments, which amounts to a trebling since 2007.

Most of the increase can be attributed to nearly $550b worth of "post-employment liabilities" -- pensions, health benefits -- for government employees, mostly veterans, liaibilities that, for some reason, either weren't estimated properly in 2007 or were simply ignored.

According to the report, the government spent a total of $3.0 trillion dollars and took in $2.5 trillion, and borrowed about $455 billion.

The U.S. government has approximately $1.9 trillion in assets; as liabilities, it counts $5.8 trillion in debt held by the public and $5.3 trillion in what the government owes to its employees. (I hadn't realized the government owed so much to its employees relative to other liabilities. Apparently, the government has deferred expenses for DoD pensions, the OPM pension plan).

Monday, December 15, 2008

Toyota decides NOT to start-up New Tupelo Ms plant

Link
Toyota Motor Corp. plans to indefinitely suspend the production start at its newest plant in Blue Springs, Miss., the Associated Press reported Monday.

Production on Toyota’s hybrid Prius was to begin in 2010 but the company said it will delay installing equipment and machinery indefinitely due to a slowdown in consumer demand, the Associated Press reported.

Construction on the $1.3 billion plant northwest of Tupelo began in April 2007 with a plan to build 150,000 Highlander SUVs annually.

2008 State of Tennessee Salary Database

Link HT: Truman

Also, on Tennessean, other Tennessee and Federal Salary Databases:

Lottery employee salaries
2007 state employee salaries
State salary raises
State employees offered buyouts
Tennessee Board of Regents employee salaries
Metro Nashville employee salaries
Federal employee salaries

Cable/Internet News Up, Cable exceeds Network TV

Link

Gallup's Lymari Morales writes, "for the first time since Gallup began asking this question in 1995, significantly more Americans say they turn to cable news networks daily than say they turn to nightly network news programs, though it is worth noting that the popularity of the network news programs has remained fairly stable compared with recent years."

The Internet has shown the biggest increase in popularity as a news source, with 31% of Americans saying it is a daily news source. This marks a nearly 50% increase since 2006 and a more than 100% increase since 2002.

TN Dept of Safety Audit: $2.7 mil contract fraud

Link

The audit, which looked at the agency's operations between mid-2005 and mid-2007, also found other instances where lax policies opened the door for employees to steal or cheat.

Safety officials concurred with each of the audit's four findings and responded that the problems are being corrected, the report shows.

The unnamed fiscal director who worked on the $2.7 million contract for "services relating to the processing of commercial vehicle licensing and tax administration" didn't correctly handle the bidding process, the audit states. She allegedly circumvented the process through a series of steps that included "creating a bogus contract document, forging required signatures" and facilitating the flow of a half-million dollars in contract disbursements by coding the payments incorrectly. The company that received the contract wasn't named in the audit.

Auditors also found other instances where charges were handled incorrectly, such as "payments to a local government data processing company under a sole source contract and payments to a university," the report states.

Repubs got millions protecting Fannie/Freddie

Link
According to confidential company documents obtained by The Associated Press, Reps. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, and Paul Kanjorski, D-Pa., spent the evening in hard-to-obtain seats near the Nationals dugout with Freddie Mac executive Hollis McLoughlin and four of Freddie Mac's in-house lobbyists.

Kanjorski declined comment through a spokeswoman. Ney ultimately served a federal prison term after pleading guilty to trading political favors for a golf trip to Scotland, other gifts and campaign donations in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal.

The Nationals tickets were bargains for Freddie Mac, part of a well-orchestrated, multimillion-dollar campaign to preserve its largely regulatory-free environment, with particular pressure exerted on Republicans who controlled Congress at the time.

Internal Freddie Mac budget records show $11.7 million was paid to 52 outside lobbyists and consultants in 2006. Power brokers such as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich were recruited with six-figure contracts. Freddie Mac paid the following amounts to the firms of former Republican lawmakers or ex-GOP staffers in 2006:

_Sen. Alfonse D'Amato of New York, at Park Strategies, $240,000.

_Rep. Vin Weber of Minnesota, at Clark & Weinstock, $360,297.

_Rep. Susan Molinari of New York, at Washington Group, $300,062.

_Susan Hirschmann at Williams & Jensen, former chief of staff to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, $240,790.

Get ready for a new Wave of ADA litigation

The Americans with Disabilities Act has been amended. It will now be much easier to claim and "prove" a disability.

Link

The ADA-AA rejects prior Supreme Court guidance that the ADA requires a "demanding standard" for establishing coverage and that "substantially limits" should be read to mean that an impairment must "severely restrict" a major life activity. P.L. 110-325, §2(b). The ADA-AA also expresses Congress's expectation that the EEOC will revise its regulation defining "substantially limits" as "significantly restricted." Id. In the absence of these exacting standards, the bar for establishing coverage under the ADA has been greatly reduced, allowing for a wider pool of potential complainants. Until the EEOC publishes new regulations, it remains unclear what the new definition of "substantially limits" will be under the ADA-AA, but it is apparent from the language of the statute that Congress's intent was to establish a definition of disability that did not serve as an insurmountable obstacle to coverage. Further, Congress expressly states that "the question of whether an individual's impairment qualifies as a disability should not demand extensive analysis." Id.

[...]

Though the ADA is silent on issues such as reasonable accommodation and "direct threat," the expanded definition of disability created by the ADA-AA will no doubt impact how employers, including federal agencies, treat these issues. With the sweeping revisions of the ADA-AA, it is certainly likely that an increase in litigation under the ADA will occur. Given direct instruction from Congress to ensure the broadest coverage possible, courts will now attempt to redefine the boundaries of disability discrimination.

548 US Car companies are now out of business

Not one of them asked for a Government Bailout.

A Tax on non-diet drinks? I have an alternative idea

What about a bonus for politicians who leave us alone. If they don't pass legislation that meddles in our lives they will receive a bonus...works for me.

NY Gov Patterson is considering a number of new taxes including an obesity tax.

Link
a so-called obesity tax on non-diet soda to raise $404 million. The governor also is contemplating requiring new license plates to raise cash, reviving sales tax on clothing purchases, removing the tax cap on gasoline and threatening to require Indian retailers to collect taxes on sales to non-Indians by signing into law a bill passed earlier this year by the Legislature.

Cool Spy Gadgets site

Link

and a Google search for more.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Free Globe designs from Logo Designer Siah Design

Very nice, free globe designs from Logo designer, Siah Design. Click HERE for postscript file.

The Extraordinary Voice of Sissel: What Child is This

She is probably best known for the vocals in the Titanic theme. Her voice has the clarity of Judy Collins but with much greater strength and range.

Industrial Robot Population per 10k of workers

Link

Great time for a new $1 billion Convention Center?

Not REALLY!!

Link
"Lodging is probably the most overbuilt commercial real estate sector."

Voting by cellphone in Estonia

Link
Instant democracy is getting closer. In 2011, Estonians will be able to elect their representatives using cellphones. How would it work and, more importantly, will it actually work?

Raul Kaidro, who is the spokesman of the SK Certification Center in Estonia, says that it will be easy and secure: The voters will just need to previously obtain a free authorized chip. This chip will have an encrypted digital signature, which will allow them to identify themselves and vote using a text message.

The mobile voting will not be the only way to vote: It will be an additional method to online and on-site voting, all of them connected to a central database for instant identification and registration of the vote.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Our TN Congressmen can NOT let this continue

Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker and ALL Tennessee Reps MUST insist this secrecy STOP and STOP NOW. This kind of arrogance by OUR Government is simply NOT acceptable.

Link

Dec. 12 (Bloomberg) -- The Federal Reserve refused a request by Bloomberg News to disclose the recipients of more than $2 trillion of emergency loans from U.S. taxpayers and the assets the central bank is accepting as collateral.

Bloomberg filed suit Nov. 7 under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act requesting details about the terms of 11 Fed lending programs, most created during the deepest financial crisis since the Great Depression.

The Fed responded Dec. 8, saying it’s allowed to withhold internal memos as well as information about trade secrets and commercial information. The institution confirmed that a records search found 231 pages of documents pertaining to some of the requests.

“If they told us what they held, we would know the potential losses that the government may take and that’s what they don’t want us to know,” said Carlos Mendez, a senior managing director at New York-based ICP Capital LLC, which oversees $22 billion in assets.

Hey Mayor Dean, it's a beginning but MUCH more

can be done to make public records easily available. Michael Cass writes about Mayor Dean's executive order on Public Records access and to Mayor Dean I would like to say, much appreciated, but it is basically a call to comply with the minimum standards of the TN Law already in place. We can do much better in providing the Citizens of Nashville the type of Open Govt they deserve. A few suggestions for transparency and accountability:


- Put the check register of Metro online so citizens and press can easily access expenditures information. Many cities and counties across the country are providing this service. Also, archive previous years expenditure information in easily accessed spreadsheet format.

- Put all vendor and labor contracts online so citizens can easily find what obligations they have assumed as taxpayers. And again, archive old contracts so comparisons can be made.

- Assign staff to review each department's records and determine if important records can be digitized for easy online access by citizens.


The Goal should be to make it easy as possible for citizens to find public information online. The internet gives us unprecedented opportunities to make OUR government open and accountable like never before.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Another Abramoff related guilty plea

Link

James Hirni admitted to allegations that he had conspired to commit honest services fraud in 2003, when, while lobbying on behalf of a construction equipment rental company, he plied two congressional staffers with a free trip to the World Series.

Hirni’s clients were attempting to tack amendments on to the federal highway bill that would push states to rent, rather than buy, construction equipment and force them to hire companies with high liability insurance coverage.

Of the two staffers, one, Trevor Blackann, was a legislative aide to Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) who on the highway bill’s committee. The other, unnamed staffer worked on the House committee overseeing the bill. Blackann plead guilty in November to failing to report thousands of dollars in gifts on his tax returns.

According to Hirini’s plea, the two staffers traveled to New York, where they were chaufered around the city in a sport utility vehicle and were treated to everything from the game tickets to a $600 evening excursion at a gentleman’s club. The bill was discussed during the trip, and the amendments were later added. Later, both Blackann and the other staffer both worked to keep the amendments intact.

Wow, the Obama PTA meetings will be VERY interesting

Link HT: Intercepts

In a school replete with children of the near-famous, the Obama girls will be in classes with other well-known progeny, including, in Sasha's second-grade class, a grandchild of Vice President-elect Jr. Elsewhere in the school are the children of other well-known Washington figures, such as former recording industry lobbying head and CNN contributor Hilary Rosen, Democratic strategist Nick Baldick, former transportation secretary Rodney E. Slater, and incoming White House staff secretary Lisa Brown, as well as Kurt Campbell, a respected defense expert, and his wife, Lael Brainard, a former White House deputy economic adviser.

The roster also includes many, many journalists, including Gregory's Sunday morning rival, George Stephanopoulos, and two other ABC colleagues, Claire Shipman and Terry Moran; Newsweek's Howard Fineman; Time's Jay Carney (who is married to Shipman); the BBC's Katty Kay; the Wall Street Journal's Monica Langley; the New York Times' Adam Liptak; Assistant Treasury Secretary Anthony Ryan; and more than half a dozen parents who work at The Washington Post, including columnist E.J. Dionne and Pulitzer Prize winner Bob Woodward.

Bailout Fever is spreading to the States

When taxpayer money is looked upon as political spoils then politics becomes a favor factory.

Link
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - A lawmaker has proposed using the anticipated cigarette tax increase to provide incentives for Mississippi's ailing furniture industry.

Sen. Alan Nunnelee, R-Tupelo, says part of increase could be used to provide a $2,000 tax credit to furniture companies for each of their cut & sew employees. Those jobs are being lost to foreign countries that pay much lower wages, he said.

The Senate Finance Committee met Thursday in Jackson with the Mississippi Furniture Association.

The Legislature, with the blessing of Gov. Haley Barbour, is expected to increase the tax on cigarettes. The debate now is centered on what to do with the revenue.

Ken Pruett, president of the Mississippi Furniture Association, said the state has lost 1,100 jobs in the furniture industry this year.

Auto Bailout vote and TN Congress Contributions

Maplight has a fascinating analysis of the House vote on the auto bailout and the amount of money received via campaign contributions from interests that were promoting the bailout. This kind of analysis is rough at best but interesting. Here is the TN delegation (Gordon said he would have voted Yes except for a technical glitch):

Yes Votes

CohenD(TN-9)Yes$40,750
(details…)

GordonD(TN-6)not voting$113,350
(details…)

TannerD(TN-8)Yes$43,500
(details…)

DavisD(TN-4)Yes$117,600
(details…)

No Votes


DavisR(TN-1)No$19,750
(details…)
WampR(TN-3)No$67,026
(details…)

BlackburnR(TN-7)No$58,850
(details…)

CooperD(TN-5)No$41,000
(details…)

DuncanR(TN-2)No$29,300
(details…)

OpThink: Search Electronic Product Reviews

Search Engine for Consumer reviews and opinions on new electronic products. Includes cameras, computers, cell phones, etc. Very clean interface

Link

CA Court: In-state tuition for illegals violates Fed Law

Link
The lawsuit, Martinez vs. Regents of the University of California, was brought by dozens of U.S. citizens who pay out-of-state tuition at California schools who want the state to stop giving undocumented students in-state rates. They also want reimbursement for the extra tuition they have paid.

A three-judge panel of the California Court of Appeals ruled (PDF) in September that the practice violated the federal law and determined the case should go forward.

"Although (the lower court ruling) is not strictly binding, it is very powerful precedent," said Kris Kobach, a law professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City who represents the plaintiffs. The ruling, which courts outside of California aren't obligated to follow, was the first time any court in the country determined whether the policy violated federal law.