Thursday, January 26, 2012

Last Call

Reiuters conveniently gives the Republican party a way out of having to consider Sen. Marco Rubio for the Veepstakes later this year by noting of all things that like thousands of Floridians who are his constituents, Rubio is way, way underwater on his ritzy Miami mortgage.

In some ways, the story of Rubio's finances is similar to those of hundreds of thousands of his constituents in a state where more than 40 percent of homeowners are "underwater," owing more on their homes than the homes are worth.

It is a crisis driven by falling property values and ill-advised home equity loans that drove up homeowners' debts.

Rubio owes far more on his $384,000 Miami home than it is worth, and at times has had difficulty paying his mortgage.

He bought the home in 2005 for $550,000 with a $495,000 mortgage. He soon had it appraised for $735,000 and took out a home equity line of credit for $135,000.

In 2008, despite earning a declared $400,000 - including his $300,000 salary from the Miami law firm Broad and Cassel - Rubio failed to pay down the principal on his home for several months, according to Florida campaign finance disclosures.

During the same period he did not make payments on a $100,000-plus student loan from his days at the University of Miami, the disclosures said.

Rubio's spending habits also have gotten attention in Florida.

Before joining the Senate last year, he was caught up in an Internal Revenue Service investigation of the Florida Republican Party's use of party-issued credit cards. He frequently had used his party credit card for personal use, and later reimbursed the card company for about $16,000.

Rubio's handling of his personal finances contrasts sharply with the image of him on his Senate website, which highlights Rubio's efforts to prevent Washington from "piling up debt."

"We need a government that stops spending more money than it takes in," the website says.

Rubio's financial issues have led Florida Democrats to cast him as a hypocrite.

I'm honestly not sure whose neck Rubio would be a bigger anchor around:  Romney (who could pay off Rubio's debts with the collective change in his couch cushions in all of his many, many houses) or Gingrich (whose awful comments on Latinos "not understanding" wealth and entrepreneurship aren't exactly going to resolved by a guy who can't pay off his debts in a fiscally austere party of wackos.)

And that's before you factor in what race would mean to Republican voters with Rubio on the ticket.

On the other hand, counting anyone out when the party in question nominated Sarah Palin last time this happened is a huge mistake, frankly.  Guessing veeps at this point is an exercise in futility.  But I finally get to break out the Veeps tag again, huh.

Just The PolitiFacts, Ma'am

I tossed PolitiFact from this blog last month, and I'm glad to see others in the media finally getting sick of their "but we're a fact-check outfit that equivocates our judgment!" nonsense.  Rachel Maddow unloaded on them last night.

During the State of the Union address on Tuesday night, Obama stated: “In the last 22 months, businesses have created more than 3 million jobs. Last year, they created the most jobs since 2005.”

PolitiFact confirmed that both statistics were correct, only to rate Obama’s statement as “half true” on their Truth-O-Meter. The site said the statement was only half true because “he implicitly credited his administration.”

“PoiltiFact, what is wrong with you?” Maddow said. “You think the president calls himself ‘businesses?’ Like it is a nickname for himself?”

PolitiFact later revised its Truth-O-Meter rating to “Mostly True.”

Mostly true? PolitiFact, you are fired,” Maddow said. “You are a mess. You are fired. You are undermining the definition of the word ‘fact’ in the English language by pretending to it in your name.”

Ouch.  But she's right.  It took a completely awful spin in order to make a TV news host cast them out of the temple, but it's done.  I hope that others follow suit pretty quickly.  PolitiFact trades solely on its credibility and reputation in keeping that credibility, and they failed that smell test months ago.

They're done, hopefully.  Maybe they'll be replaced by an actual fact checking outfit, other than the Washington Post's even worse Glenn Kessler.

Dirty Art (Totally Safe For Work)

Who would have thought dirty cars would be so pretty?  This article has some awesome examples, but I wanted to share my two favorites with you.  I'm not sure if Scott Wade, the artist featured here, is the same guy I have seen in the past, but I saw one "car dirt artist" chased and assaulted by the car owner, who didn't understand what was happening.

Because I like the unusual, if any of our readers know of some great and unique types of art, please share them!

Heroes, Heroes Everywhere!

An 85-year-old woman saved her husband by beating a moose with a shovel.

I know, it's cool.  Roll that around and digest it slowly.  You read it right.  She heard the dogs barking, and knew her husband was outside.  She originally thought the moose was charging her pets, it wasn't until she had grabbed a weapon and been charged herself that she saw her husband in the snow, seriously injured.  She is only five feet tall and doesn't weigh a hundred pounds, but she didn't waste a second when it came to defending those she loved.

Everybody survives, including the dogs.  It's a feel-good story that reminds us that older people aren't shells of faded youth.  They are capable of mighty impressive things, and have the wisdom to back up their instinct.

Oh Google, How Could You?

Google's decision to unite user information across services isn't surprising.  It makes good sense, actually.  Instead of having to manage several sub-accounts, users can set one group of rules and their favorite services will fall into line.  Preferences, privacy controls, even color schemes can unite.

What is a big deal, however, is that you can't opt out of this information use.  It's mandatory, and that sucks.  Not because my color schemes is a moral dilemma, but the fact that users have no choice in how the information is used sure is.  While I can understand the benefit of selling the merged accounts, in the end users should be able to maintain their privacy, if they are willing to deal with the inconvenience.

I do understand the logic that says Google has the right to run their services however they wish.  After all, we don't pay for them, so we don't have a lot of say in how the business is run.  However, like paying customers, we directly control their future success.  If Google can take our info, tell us it's just the law, and flourish... well, we've voted in our own way to accept it.

I will begrudgingly accept it, but the first cloud service to dare break the mold and honor its customers requests will come through this like a wrecking ball.  I can't wait.

Timmy's Tentative Tenure

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner says that he doesn't believe President Obama will ask him to serve again in a second term.

“He’s not going to ask me to stay on, I’m pretty confident,” Geithner said in an interview with Bloomberg Television yesterday in Charlotte, North Carolina. “I’m confident he’ll be president. But I’m also confident he’s going to have the privilege of having another secretary of the Treasury.”

Geithner, 50, has led President Barack Obama’s efforts to pull the U.S. economy out of the worst recession since World War II, including overseeing bailouts of automakers General Motors Co. (GM) and Chrysler Group LLC, which have since emerged from bankruptcy. Before joining the administration in 2009, Geithner was president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, playing a key role in the government’s rescue packages for banks such as Citigroup Inc. (C) and Bank of America Corp. (BAC)
In the interview, Geithner said he would do “something else” after leaving the Treasury Department, without specifying what that would be. In August, an administration official said Geithner would stay in his job at least through this year’s presidential election.

Erskine Bowles, chief of staff under President Bill Clinton, and Democratic Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota could be among the potential candidates to succeed Geithner, said Mark Calabria, director of financial regulation studies at the Cato Institute in Washington. 

I have to say I'd rather have Geithner over anyone the Cato Institute would mention.   Both of those meatballs would be as bad as Larry Summers on deficits and cutting the safety net.  If Geithner is replaced, he needs to be succeeded by someone who actually got the last 3 years plus right financially and economically, but that's just my opinion.

The Odious Primary

Back home, I see my good friend The Odious Patrick McHenry has drawn a particularly mean primary challenger in Ken Fortenberry, who's wasting no time in attacking McHenry ahead of May's primary in NC-10 over ethics and his whole "lapdog to the banks" act.

“When I asked Rep. Patrick McHenry last week why he would not co-sponsor the STOCK Act, a bill that would prohibit insider stock trading by members of Congress, he replied that the legislation was the creation of  ‘liberal Democrats’ and not worthy of his support,” Fortenberry said.

“Restoring the public’s trust in government has never been a priority for McHenry, who turns everything into a petty partisan battle,” he added. “This is one of the reasons Washington is broken and not working for the people, and why we need to clean House on Election Day.”

“Members of Congress should play by the same rules as all Americans,” Fortenberry asserted. “McHenry is dead-wrong in putting his friends above the people he is supposed to represent.”

When asked for comment on these allegations, Ryan Minto, who handles press for the congressman’s office, offered a statement from McHenry to the Times-News on Tuesday.

“While I personally don’t trade stocks, I understand the concern over this issue,” McHenry said. “The STOCK Act does not address holes in the existing insider-trading law, which may allow lawmakers to improperly enrich themselves. It would not, for example, address the troubling practice of access to exclusive IPOs by high-ranking members.

“Members of Congress should have to report all of their stock trades publicly in every instance — period,” McHenry added. “Increased disclosure will add transparency to help enforce the current insider-trading law, and anyone guilty of committing a crime should be prosecuted.”
In his release, Fortenberry additionally stated that ethics and honesty in government should not be viewed as a partisan issue.

Furthermore, he also said he would introduce legislation, if elected, that would prohibit members of Congress and Cabinet-level officials from lobbying for four years after they leave their positions, in addition to requiring them to fully disclose all of their personal finances during that time period.

“It’s bad enough that Mr. McHenry ignores the shenanigans of the big banks and securities firms, but it’s made even worse when he turns a blind eye to the corruption among his colleagues,” Fortenberry concluded.

It's damn impressive to see with as many bank employees in the Charlotte suburbs of NC-10 that the Republican is attacking McHenry on being too friendly with banks and stocks.   It's entirely true, of course.  But it's interesting seeing the Republican challenger pull a Ron Paul and go after McHenry on this angle in arguably one of the reddest districts in the country.

We'll see how it turns out.


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