Friday, October 23, 2009

A Slippery Slope

Back in J school, I had a professor that would always say, "If you start down that path it is a slippery slope." I think that is the same thing he would say about what the current administration is doing in relation to speech. This administration is very savy in Internet and propaganda. They also tend to play Chicago style politics. The two make for a very unique and possibly ugly combination.

The Obama administration has not been shy about using the media to propel their message. It has been that way since he was candidate Obama. In fact, other Democrats complained about how the media was not asking him the hard questions and not being balanced in their reporting. It was so apparent SNL even did a skit based upon it. Once he was elected, it did not really change. Except there are a couple of problems:
  1. Bloggers
  2. Talk Radio
  3. Fox News

Obama cannot control those three entities and the work they are doing is causing problems for this White House. So rather than engage and retort them, like most administrations would, Obama has instead started working to circumvent the system to quiet dissenters.

Let's go through this and look at how the White House is dealing with this.

This may be one of the most difficult issues for the administration. It is not easy to limit speech and that is exactly what they would have to try and do. The power of bloggers was truly showcased when Dan Rather was put in his place when he attempted to defame President Bush. Since then, blogging has become a way for many people, including yours truly, to report and and analyze the events of the day without having to belong to a newspaper or television organization. Obama took advantage of the power of the Internet to get himself elected. Since that time, it has been many of the bloggers who have risen up to become a political movement of their own and created the Tea Party. Add to that the far left bloggers who are unhappy with Obama not being progressive enough in their mind and you can see that Obama has a blogger problem. So what are they to do? This starts with FTC cracking down on bloggers for payola schemes. This seems obvious, bloggers are going to have to let people know that they were given a product or were paid to promote an item in their blog. While this is the ethical thing to do, the interesting part of this is that it paves the way for the government to force ISP's and providers to provide private information of bloggers. There is not litmus test for this either. If I, as a blogger, am given a book on politics in the digital age by the author and I Tweet or post that I am reading this book, the FTC has a right to come after me if I do not disclose that I know the author and they gave me the book. Even if I did not run out and tell everyone to go out and buy this book, the FTC can come after me. Add to this the recent court case where a Manhattan federal judge has ordered Google to tell a model the name of an anonymous blogger so she could sue them for libel. We are in very dangerous waters here. Some people, like myself, have to stay anonymous so that we may keep our jobs or to keep our families from harms way. In these cases, the government has begun paving the way to remove the anonymity and pressure those that we are speaking of.

In addition, the administration has used their own Internet savvy to try and counter the bloggers. Locally here we have the FiredUp Missouri blog which is one of many Democratic controlled blogs that are made to feel like the authentic blogs like yours truly, Jim Hoft of the Gateway Pundit and Sharp from Sharp Elbows have created. BTW, hat tip to 24th state on all the good work he has done researching FiredUp's links to Robin Carnahan's office. Barack Obama himself has used his own website to transform from a campaign website to one that pushes for organizing support for his plans. In addition, Dana Loesch has found some great stuff on how was linking to groups like Acorn. Since the administration cannot completely stop their critics, they crowd the market with spokespersons perpetrating to be regular folk and linking back to their supporting organizations.

Talk Radio
This is where things start getting uglier and more apparent. Candidate Obama came out and said that he was against the "Fairness Doctrine". That sounds great, but listen to what his surrogates are saying. Mark Lloyd, the FCC diversity "czar" was quoted as saying, "Unless we're conscious of the need to have more people of color, gays, other people in those positions, we will not change the problem. We're in a position where you have to say who is going to step down so someone else can have power." These statements were made in regards to talk radio hosts and ownerships. Lloyd's solution in a report entitled "The Structural Imbalance of Political Talk Radio" and a subsequent essay, "Forget the Fairness Doctrine", he calls for he called for "equal opportunity employment practices," "local engagement" and "license challenges" to rectify a perceived imbalance. "Nothing in there about the Fairness Doctrine," he wrote. He continues by saying, "The other part of our proposal that gets the 'dittoheads' upset is our suggestion that the commercial radio station owners either play by the rules or pay. In other words, if they don't want to be subject to local criticism of how they are meeting their license obligations, they should pay to support public broadcasters who will operate on behalf of the local community." So instead of mandating equal time, he wants to make stations pay to allow commercially successful free speech.

Implementing a program like this would be no less than bullying media outlets to either pay for play or support the likes of "Air America". Never-mind that the government already supports National Public Radio but under Lloyd's plans, media outlets could be forced to pay for government favorable views. If you want to know more about Lloyd and his interesting interactions, check out this transcript from Glenn Beck.

Fox News
This one kind of blurs between talk radio and FNC since many of the opinion shows are hosted by people who are part of the conservative talk radio movement. That said, let's talk about Fox News and the Fox News Channel. Within recent weeks, the Obama administration has made it clear that they are going to go after their opponents. They have publicly statedthat they are going after their critics. In the case of Fox News, the news channel itself has been fair in their reporting, showing both sides of the issues. That said, the administration takes issue with FNC's opinion shows that lean anywhere from Libertarian to hard right, with Greta Van Susteren being probably the only center to left of center opinion show. The Obama administration hates that. They would prefer to have everyone emulate MSNBC and the New York Times. Why else would it be that Barack Obama met privately with a group of commentators from these two groups to talk about the media.

What the administration is trying to do is paint Fox News as not a news outlet, but an opinionated news forum, therefore not worthy of being considered in the same vain as network news, including MSNBC and CNN. They are attempting to pressure other news organizations from allowing Fox News into the White House press corp and not reporting on news items broken by Fox News. In addition, the administration has banned all officials from appearing on Fox News shows and recently tried to keep Fox News from interviewing the "Pay Czar" when he was made available to the White House pool.

While Fox News is the most apparent act of the administration, all three are a scary attempt to control the free press. Any J school student at Mizzou will tell you that the press has long been seen as the fourth establishment, there with the Presidency, the Congress and the Supreme Court. While the press does not have federal power, they do have the power to keep these entities honest. They are also taught the history of other governments who have attempted to silence the press and the ways that they go about that. Even though the press has become a business whose model is changing, they all still respect the sanctity of the First Amendment and of free speech. There is a reason that some professors make every student learn, word for word, the First Amendment. Knowingly or not, the Obama administration is taking their leads from the likes of Hugo Chavez, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and even Adolf Hitler. Secretly, the press is not happy with the way they were manipulated by candidate Obama, as explained by Anita Dunn.

Obama is asking the news organizations that he favors to enter and engage a slippery slope that they do not want to go down. They no full well that if they act in concert with this president, it will set a dangerous precedent for the future. In addition, much like it has happened with other countries, they know what happens when the president starts bullying the press. These issues are not a matter of national security so the administration does not have a leg to stand on. While the pundits who back Obama will continue to do so, they may lose some of their zeal. Most Democratic strategist think this is a bad idea. Many in the print press, who dislike Fox News, think this is a bad idea. This is not going to end well for the administration. It may cost them some seats in 2010 and will probably cost someone their job if not the entire presidency in 2012.

UPDATE - On Thursday 10/29, Glenn Beck did an outstanding show covering many of these things and much more. It was well worth a view. You can watch them over at the P/Oed Patriot's website here.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Democrats and the 2010 Census

Lacy Clay has chimed in again, this time regarding the upcoming 2010 census. In what is a move that many believe will bolster their ranks, the Democrats are blocking an amendment by Louisiana Sen. David Vitter to only count US citizens in the upcoming census. Clay believes that this is a stalling tactic and one Vitter is using to keep Louisiana from losing representation since many people have left the area since Katrina and have not returned. Vitter, instead states that he is truly concerned that areas with high immigrant, legal and otherwise, populations will wrongfully take away representation from Louisiana.

Currently, Vitter's amendment has stalled an appropriations bill to fund the census, but barely. Of the 60 votes needed to push the bill through without the amendment, it only received 56. The problem with that 56 is that 3 Democrats were out absent from the vote and Harry Reid voted against ramming the bill through.

So what does this all mean? Well, it means that Harry Reid could be really concerned about his election chances next year. He is in what is appearing to be a tight race for his Senate seat. He is from Nevada which has a large illegal immigration issue and could be fearing repercussions of constituents who may not approve of him giving legal representation to illegal aliens.

Now, why would Clay be so gung ho to back this measure? It could be because north St. Louis city and county have a decent size immigration problem of our own. Unless you are in union circles you may not hear about the problems arising from Cuban/Latino and Bosnian immigrants, both legal and illegal, coming into St. Louis. These immigrants are working for cash and are being employed in construction, day laborers and flooring to name a few. In fact, the St. Louis business journal did an article which highlighted the hiring of Bosnians in hotels. The unions are not happy with this as a whole as many of these workers are non union and work for much less money and are willing to work more hours and even weekends (this is not a union debate just a statement of fact).

Clay knows that since he is the only guy in town as far as the north St. Louis city and county, he can afford to disgruntle the unions as they have no where else to turn. In addition, if illegal immigrants are counted in the upcoming census, it can help to concentrate his north city and outlining area base. In addition, Clay knows that by allow illegal immigrants to be counted in the upcoming census, it will help the Democrats retain control of the house.

Once again, this is a purely partisan move that has nothing to do with counting those who live in the US. Vitter's amendment will still count everyone living in the US, but will also allow those who are here illegally to be filtered out of the population numbers used to determine representation. His amendment makes total sense, which could be why Lacy and the other Democrats are against it. They claim that this amendment is discriminatory which is a completely bogus argument. They also claim that this will delay the Census’ start and cost hundreds of millions of dollars. This may be true since several million of the questionnaires have already been printed and addendums would have to be added.

The fundamental question really comes down to this. Do illegal immigrants, non US citizens, deserve representation in government. This all goes back to the question "how do we handle illegal immigration?" This just reinforces the concept that the Dems would rather do nothing.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

More on Lacy Clay and Payday Loans

As I previously stated, I have been digging in to Lacy Clay's financial contributors. After reporting his ties to the Rent to Own industry I continued my research and found that Lacy has been receiving a lot of money from the owners and officials of many in and out of state "payday loan" companies.

These contributions intrigued me since Lacy Clay is a co-sponsor of H.R. 1214, The Payday Loan Reform Act of 2009. This bill aims to "establish additional payday loan disclosure requirements and other protections for consumers, and for other purposes". You would think that these companies would do anything they could to keep restrictions from coming into place. That is, until I did more research.

If you go back several years, it appears that Illinois Rep Luis Gutierrez was working on severely crippling if not killing the payday loan industry. The belief was that this industry was/is operating on a predatory lending premise and creating a viscous cycle of lending allowing these companies to make exorbitant amounts of money by repeatedly extending the lending cycle beyond the original terms of the agreement while continuing to charge the already high fees and interest rates. Customers who could not pay the entire loan amount back with their next paycheck, usually within two weeks of the loan, are extended another two or more weeks at the same interest rates and sometimes additional fees.

It is easy to see why a Democrat like Rep Gutierrez would be working to severally limit and/or regulate this industry considering the demographic he serves. Well, then comes Lacy Clay who sends a letter to Rep Gutierrez requesting he withdraw a proposed amendment back in 2005.

Afterwards, Lacy began working with Gutierrez to create a new bill. This new bill is much weaker than the original with many loopholes. Gutierrez himself admits that this new bill is not as strong as desired but was made weaker due to the influence of the payday loan industry and their campaign donations.
Why would Lacy Clay, a man who has attempted to identify himself as a progressive intent on protecting the welfare of the people, block a 2005 amendment that would cripple this industry. Could it be because the Community Financial Services Association (CFSA), the group that represents payday loan companies, donated between $15,000 - $29,999 to the Congressional Black Caucus in 2004.

After further research, I found out that the Rent to Own community is part of the payday loan community. Hmmm, now things are starting to come together. Apparently several of the rent to own facilities have started offering payday loans. It has gotten to the point where one of the board of directors for the CFSA is a senior executive with Rent-a-Center. To get an idea of how into this industry the Rent to Own companies are, just do a google search of "Rent to Own" "Payday Loans". You will find several rent to own facilities throughout the US that offer these services.

So once again, we find that Lacy Clay is doing whatever he can to support himself and his friends and not the community. Hey, I am a free market guy and think that these businesses have a right to exist, but they should not do so at the expense of those that do not know better or truly cannot afford these loans. In Lacy's case, he is purposefully reducing the restrictions that others have created to protect those that donate thousands of dollars to his campaign coffers. Of course, this is Lacy Clay, should we expect much more from him?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Lacy Clay & Payday Loans

Hmmm. I have been doing some more digging into public records and have been finding some very interesting stuff. While investigating Lacy Clay and his links to rent to own facilities I stumbled across something very interesting. He gets a lot of donations from payday loan and easy finance operations.

The reason I bring this up is because Lacy is the co-sponsor of H.R. 1214, The Payday Loan Reform Act. So why would Lacy Clay receive and accept several campaign donations from companies that his bill would hurt.

To quote the bard, "Something Is Rotten in the State of Denmark" or in this case Washington DC/St. Louis.

I'll keep digging into it and update this post.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Obama Wins Nobel Peace Prize

Read the title and let that simmer a moment. I about fell out of my chair when I read it. With less than a year in office, Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. You can read the full article here.

Once you read the article, you will see that this was a purely political move made to look the Bush administration bad and bolster the Obama presidency. The cutoff date for submissions is February 1st. Obama had not been in office for more than two weeks. He had not even put his full cabinet together but the people in Oslo thought he had done enough already to earn a Nobel Peace Prize. Somehow in that two weeks he

"a new climate in international politics"
Come one, give me a break.

Of course, this is the same group that gave a prize to Jimmy Carter and Al Gore, so we know there is an agenda.

It would be interesting to know who nominated Obama for this prize. You think there is any chance we will ever find out?
You know the left is going to really tout this one, especially come 2012. I pray the masses don't fall for it.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Why McCain Not Winning Is A Good Thing

In an interview with Katie Couric Glenn Beck said he was glad that John McCain did not win the presidency. I know that I am a little behind on this but what can I say, we have Cardinals' baseball, apple picking with the kids, the daily grind, and trying to keep up with the healthcare debate and some research on my favorite target, Lacy Clay, so yeah, I am a little behind.

Anyway, I watched this interview online and I have to say that before Glenn even gave any type of explanation I agreed with him. The best thing that could have happened not just for the Republican party, but for America, was the election of Barack Obama. Why is that you may say, well let me tell you.
  1. No longer will Pelosi and Reid be able to blame everything on Bush and the Republicans. Anytime something went wrong it was the Republicans fault. Never mind the facts that Bush and many Conservatives tried to end the sub-prime mortgage practices and were blocked by filibustering Dems like Obama. They are being exposed for their hypocrisy and their failed policies. A failure of this magnitude will really make people think when they vote again in 2010 and 2012.
  2. This was a splash of cold water to the Republicans. Let's face it, the Republicans got lazy and were really shifting away from the core beliefs. Many in the RNC became to worried about appeasing the left, instead of taking care of the issues and doing what's right. They also became drunk with power and started participating in some massive pork spending. Losing in 2006 and 2008 has made the RNC have to refocus and find their identity. The question really becomes, will that identity be centrist right, conservative or somewhere in the middle.
  3. In one 2 - 4 year period, this could create some drastic changes in the House and Senate that would not have happened. Pelosi and Reid are both going to have to run against serious challenges in their home state. Both could wind up losing their seats along with a slew of others including St. Louis' own Russ Carnahan. Add to that the people that work for and with Pelosi, Reid and Obama, people like Van Jones, are being brought to light.
  4. The Democrats have overplayed their hand and showing their real far left agenda. People are seeing this and are not feeling comfortable with what they are seeing. Barack Obama has an approval rate between 48-52% and the Congress as a whole has an approval rating of 21%.
  5. More people are standing up and becoming active in politics. This is potentially one of the most dangerous aspects to the Democrats. Their refusal to listen and in some cases brazen disregard for their constituents has led many people to stand up and become politically active. Do you think there would be a strong Tea Party movement if McCain were elected. I do not. The activist agenda that is in play right now would not have happened and many people would still be sitting at home, quietly simmering in anger at the government.

So yes my friends, it is a good thing McCain was not elected. Are we hurting, yes. That said, in the end we will be better for this pain. Sometimes you have to walk through the desert to get to the promised land. Now, if we could just bring back Ronald Reagan.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

On the Turning Away

Apparently my last posting stirred up a little bit of a hornet's nest. I have suddenly noticed a lot of traffic coming from Washington DC as well as some of the various members of APRO. To my new readers, I say welcome. Now on to the matters at hand.

Have you noticed how the media, the group that did everything they could to get Barack Obama elected, are slowly starting to turn on him? More and more we are hearing the media, and I am talking about more than just Fox News, start to reference his inability to bring about the change that was promised. We are hearing complaints that the transparency that was promised is not there and we are hearing criticism that he is not as good as advertised.

Just take, for example, this excerpt from last week's Newsweek editorial from Howard Fineman

Obama can seem a mite too impressed with his own aura, as if his presence on the
stage is the Answer. There is, at times, a self-referential (even
self-reverential) tone in his big speeches. They are heavily salted with the
words "I" and "my." (He used the former 11 times in the first few paragraphs of
his address to the U.N. last week.) Obama is a historic figure, but that is the
beginning, not the end, of the story.
This is not a glowing review of the president by any stretch of the imagination and Newsweek is a far stretch from the National Review.

Even Jon Stewart and SNL has had some recent digs at Obama. Just look at this from last weeks Saturday Night Live

Now, I am in no way of saying that the media is abandoning Barack immediately, but I think they are starting to get a sense that this ship is taking on water. Sure, they will do their best to act as his personal bilge pump but believe me, they are going to start hedging their bets.

It's just something to start thinking about and watching for.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Interesting Find on Lacy Clay

My friends, I have been asking myself some questions. One of those questions is "Who is the Association of Progressive Rental Organizations and why do they donate so much money to Lacy Clay?" To answer that question, I started doing some digging.

The Association of Progressive Rental Organizations or
APRO is a group of rent to own businesses and their associated political action committee. According to their own site they are...

"the international voice for the rent-to-own industry founded in 1980. APRO is
the nonprofit trade association advocating and representing the rent-to-own
industry before the U.S. Congress, Internal Revenue Service, state legislatures,
the courts, media and the public."
So basically this is a group of companies like National Rent to Own and Aaron's to name a few. Knowing this, I had to start asking myself, why would they donate $5000 to his re-election campaign. What makes Lacy Clay so important to them.

In March 2007, Clay introduced H.R. 1767 the Consumer Rental Purchase Agreement Act. This bill did not make it through and was reintroduced as H.R. 1744 in 2009. On the surface, the law reads as a consumer protection act, requiring rent to own companies state their rental policies etc. I started thinking, why would APRO be so supportive of this law. In essence, H.R. 1744 would establish a federal law that makes rent to own a self-terminable lease.

OK, so what. We need a federal law to establish rent to owns as a self terminable lease? Why? And as I dig more into this, why do I find out that the APRO:

  • Had their annual convention in Lacy Clay's distrinct in downtown St. Louis in 2008 at which time they had Lacy Clay as a key note speaker. It should be noted that Lacy's wife, Ivie, is a director for the St. Louis Development Corporation which is charged with bringing commerce to the St. Louis region.

  • Donated 28 new computers to Imagine Middle High School College Prep on North Jefferson Avenue in downtown St. Louis.

  • Donated $50,000 worth of cash and products to the Congressional Black Caucus Spouses Education Scholarship Fund. Of course we know that Lacy is and his father was the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.

  • Sponsored the William L. Clay Scholarship and Research Golf Tournament for $14,000. As we know, Lacy is the chairman of the board for this fund which was created in honor of his father.

So as I did into this, and there is not a lot out there on this bill. So I sat down and read the bill (HR 1744) and found:

  • It sets the Federal Trade Commission as the governing body of rent to own businesses and requires state attorney generals to provide written notice to the FTC before any action can be taken. In addition, it allows the FTC to intervene in any and all cases. Gosh, maybe it is just me but doesn't that seem like overkill. Why wouldn't we want a state attorney to be able to prosecute a rent to own business? Why would we want to make it a federal case?

  • It sets a standard that if a state law is considered inconsistent by the Federal Reserve based upon submission of an "interested party" the law does not have to be followed by the businesses in that state.

  • It nullifies any state law that regulates a rental-purchase agreement as a security interest, credit sale, retail installment sale, conditional sale or any other form of consumer credit, or that imputes to a rental-purchase agreement the creation of a debt or extension of credit.

  • It nullifies any state law that requires the disclosure of a percentage rate calculation, including a time-price differential, an annual percentage rate, or an effective annual percentage rate.

So why would Lacy Clay want to do all of this for the rent to own industry in St. Louis. For someone who claims to be concerned about the welfare of his constituents, this does not look like it has any benefit to them at all. When you consider that based upon APRO's own data, 97% of their client base makes under $75,000 a year and a little over 65% have the equivalent of only a high school degree or less, you would think he would want to do anything he can to protect these people. Apparently not.

Once again, this just goes to show you that Lacy Clay is not looking out for his constituents. He is looking out for himself and his personal interests. Who knows where else this interesting relationship goes. As always, I will continue to dig.