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Monthly Archives: July 2012

Article by Ed Morrissey

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel insists that he won’t back down from his suggestion that Chick-fil-A doesn’t meet his standard of “Chicago values,” although his staff has tried tobackpedal a little since.  In a press conference yesterday, Emanuel sounded defiant as he defended “Chicago values”:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Monday he has no regrets about saying that “Chick-fil-A’s values are not Chicago’s values” because the company president opposes gay marriage.

“No. I don’t” regret it, the mayor said under questioning at an unrelated jobs announcement.

“And the simple reason is, when it comes to values, there’s a policy as it relates to gay marriage. The values of our city are ones that welcome and recognize that, and I will continue to fight for that.”

“Values that welcome”?  To have any meaning at all, “welcome” means open to those who disagree with you.  Tolerance means engaging with those whose religion or political beliefs differ.  Engaging with only those who march in lockstep with your own agenda is actually the antithesis of “tolerance” and “welcoming.”

We’ll get back to that in a moment.  First, a native Chicagoan who also happens to lead the Archdiocese of Chicago wrote an open letter to Emanuel asking for clarification on the meaning — and enforcement — of “Chicago values.”  Francis Cardinal George called this “a defining moment” for civil unions, and not the kind related to marriage:

Recent comments by those who administer our city seem to assume that the city government can decide for everyone what are the “values” that must be held by citizens of Chicago. I was born and raised here, and my understanding of being a Chicagoan never included submitting my value system to the government for approval. Must those whose personal values do not conform to those of the government of the day move from the city? Is the City Council going to set up a “Council Committee on Un-Chicagoan Activities” and call those of us who are suspect to appear before it? I would have argued a few days ago that I believe such a move is, if I can borrow a phrase, “un-Chicagoan.” …

People who are not Christian or religious at all take for granted that marriage is the union of a man and a woman for the sake of family and, of its nature, for life. The laws of civilizations much older than ours assume this understanding of marriage. This is also what religious leaders of almost all faiths have taught throughout the ages. Jesus affirmed this understanding of marriage when he spoke of “two becoming one flesh” (Mt. 19: 4-6). Was Jesus a bigot? Could Jesus be accepted as a Chicagoan? Would Jesus be more “enlightened” if he had the privilege of living in our society? One is welcome to believe that, of course; but it should not become the official state religion, at least not in a land that still fancies itself free. Surely there must be a way to properly respect people who are gay or lesbian without using civil law to undermine the nature of marriage.

Surely we can find a way not to play off newly invented individual rights to “marriage” against constitutionally protected freedom of religious belief and religious practice. The State’s attempting to redefine marriage has become a defining moment not for marriage, which is what it is, but for our increasingly fragile “civil union” as citizens.

In my column for The Week today, I argue that Emanuel’s intolerance — selective intolerance, actually — bears a lot more resemblance to the intolerance of noted 20th-century authoritarian systems than to traditional American ideas of freedom:

The past two weeks have brought to light a truly disturbing political demonstration — and it has nothing to do with presidential elections or generic congressional ballots. At least three mayors in some of America’s largest cities, as well as plenty of other city officials, have publicly demanded political orthodoxy as a condition of doing business in their metropolises. Political correctness has transformed into a strange American version of fascism — over a chicken filet sandwich and an opinion about marriage that even our Democratic president officially held as recently as two months ago. …

In Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel declared that Chick-fil-A did not represent “Chicago values,” and suggested that Chick-fil-A invest its money elsewhere. Chicago, by the way, has the third-highest unemployment rate in the nation among major cities, so it seems odd that its mayor would tell Chick-fil-A to take a hike for having the exact same position on marriage that Emanuel’s former boss — President Barack Obama — held the entire time Emanuel worked at the White House. Even more odd, at the same time Emanuel declared Chick-fil-A fast-fooda non grata, he rolled out the red carpet for Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan to have his acolytes patrol Chicago neighborhoods. Not only is Farrakhan a well-known anti-Semite, he also opposes same-sex marriage. In fact, Farrakhan publicly blasted Obama for flip-flopping on the issue in May.

Emanuel later backed down, but not one of the local alderman, who still demanded a pledge from Cathy to quit associating with groups that oppose gay marriage as a prerequisite for a business permit. A councilman in New York made a similar threat. San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee kept his attack on freedom of thought to Twitter, noting that the closest Chick-fil-A outlet was 40 miles away — and that the company shouldn’t try to get any closer.

People can certainly choose not to eat at Chick-fil-A if they don’t like Cathy’s views on same-sex marriage.  That’s a free-market response to political activism, and comes from the liberty of individuals being able to choose for themselves the free associations that best fits their needs.  When government demands loyalty to a political agenda rather than compliance with the law as a prerequisite for businesses to operate in their jurisdiction, that’s not freedom or a free market: it’s fascism, plain and simple, as well as extortion, which always goes hand in hand with fascism.

Update: Aaron Walker concurs, and adds this:

[The] syllogism is simple, but it bears repeating:
1.         The right to vote implies the right to choose freely on every subject relevant to that vote.
2.         The right to choose implies the right to receive information and hear arguments about that choice.
3.         We cannot receive information and arguments about the choices we make in our democracy unless people are free to express themselves.
4.         Therefore freedom of expression is essentially to democracy.
And so when an official seeks not only to regulate behavior but even opinion andexpression, then that person is seeking to create a very real tyranny, to strike at democracy itself.  And we should have absolutely no tolerance of that.
So yes, even if you support gay marriage—hell even if you are gay—get a sandwich at Chick-Fil-A.  Because this isn’t about gay marriage anymore.  This is about freedom of speech.

Exactly.

Update II: These days, new Chick-fil-A outlets are likely to be licensed rather than corporate owned, and that means that Emanuel and others may be locking out those who agree with them anyway.

Gulp.  Not good.

In prepared testimony to Congress on Tuesday, Mr Bernanke forecast slower growth for this year and next.

Shares on Wall Street turned negative when he said the central bank stood ready to offer additional monetary support for the world’s biggest economy but provided few details.

In a blow to Barack Obama and others hopeful for better economic news ahead of November’s presidential elections, he said US economic data had been “disappointing”.

“Given that growth is projected to be not much above the rate needed to absorb new entrants into the labor force, the reduction in the unemployment rate seems likely to be frustratingly slow,” he said in his semi-annual testimony.

Unemployment is still stuck above 8%, nearly four years after the worst of the financial crisis.

In terms of risk to the US recovery, Mr Bernanke pointed to the double barrels of the eurozone crisis and US debt.

“The possibility that the situation in Europe will worsen further remains a significant risk to the outlook,” he said, adding that European nations had both the incentive and the means to tackle the crisis.

He again urged Congress to put in place a plan that would reduce US debt while keeping short-term stimulus in place.

Growth rose a modest 2pc in the first quarter of this year, but Mr Bernanke said “available indicators point to a still-smaller gain in the second quarter”.

He said members of the Fed’s top policy-setting panel had predicted that growth will reach 1.9% to 2.4% this year.

“These forecasts are lower than those we made in January, reflecting the generally disappointing tone of recent incoming data.”

He said households remained concerned about their prospects for jobs and income and their “overall level of confidence remains relatively low”.

Again, you can’t make this stuff up.  This d-bag was falsifying documents for almost 20 years!

From the Wall Street Journal:

The chief executive of collapsed brokerage firm Peregrine Financial Group Inc. was arrested last Friday and charged with lying to regulators, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Russell Wasendorf Sr. admitted to law enforcement authorities this week that he embezzled “millions of dollars” and forged bank statements for “nearly twenty years,” according to a court complaint released Friday.

In a signed note discovered in Wasendorf’s vehicle Monday morning — where he attempted suicide — Wasendorf said that he had used computer software, scanners and laser printers to falsify bank documents for nearly two decades, according to court documents.

Wasendorf said he spent most of the money allegedly embezzled from customers to cushion his brokerage’s capital, fund a new corporate headquarters and pay regulatory fines and fees, according to previously undisclosed parts of a suicide note and signed statement.

The note and the statement, which a person familiar with the situation said were left by Peregrine Chief Executive Russell Wasendorf Sr., blames the fraud on ‘mean spirited’ regulators that dogged his firm, saying they were looking to put firms out of business rather than protect commodities investors. The statement also said that deceiving the regulators was “relatively simple.”

READ FULL ARTICLE HERE

What can you say?  Wells Fargo is simply another bad, bad American bank.  Drop ’em people.

From the Washington Post:  “In one of the largest fair-lending payouts in history, Wells Fargo agreed on Thursday to spend at least $175 million to settle federal accusations that it steered black and Latino borrowers into high-cost loans and charged them excessive fees.

The settlement with the nation’s largest home mortgage lender is rooted in a lawsuit filed four years ago by Baltimore over fair-lending violations. It culminated Thursday in what federal officials called “systemic discrimination” spanning 36 states and involving more than 34,000 minority customers over five years.

“This is a case about real people — African American and Latino — who suffered real harm as a result of Wells Fargo’s discriminatory lending practices,” said Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for civil rights.

The Justice Department identified about 4,500 black and Hispanic Wells Fargo homeowners in the Washington and Baltimore regions who were targeted for unfavorable loans or charged what Perez dubbed a “racial surtax.” As part of the settlement, Wells Fargo is directing $50 million to the Washington region, Baltimore and six other metropolitan areas to help residents afford down payments for new homes.

However, the bank has denied any wrongdoing. In the settlement, Wells Fargo said it treated all of its customers fairly but that it wanted to avoid protracted litigation and provide “important and meaningful” assistance to borrowers. The payout represents 4 percent of the bank’s $4.2 billion profit during the most recent quarter.

“Our commitment to our customers and to turning the housing market around is stronger than ever,” Mike Heid, president of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, said in astatement Thursday.

The settlement carried particular significance in Baltimore. The city was among the first to accuse the bank of discriminatory lending, spawning similar lawsuits across the country. The case prompted Justice and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency to launch their own investigations, which they later combined into the complaint that was settled Thursday.

In a separate move, Baltimore withdrew its lawsuit Thursday after Wells Fargo agreed to provide an additional $3 million in homeowner assistance to residents. It also committed to making $125 million in prime loans to low- and moderate-income borrowers in the city over the next five years.

“This in a way brings to a close a certain chapter,” said John Relman, who led the city’s case against the bank. “This is the way you start to make things better on the ground.”

Justice’s investigation centered on Wells Fargo mortgages made between 2004 and 2009 by independent brokers. It found that highly qualified black borrowers were four times as likely to receive a subprime loan as similarly qualified white applicants. Hispanic borrowers were three times as likely to get a subprime loan. Those mortgages carried higher interest rates and unfavorable terms that often resulted in borrowers falling behind on payments or losing their homes altogether…

READ FULL STORY HERE

How corrupt is Bank of America you ask?  Well, even Mexican drug traffickers were using BofA on a regular basis and ran roughly $1 million per month for two years through Bank of America accounts.  And not to be outdone, Wells Fargo has also banked with Mexican drug lords.

From Fox News:  “A notoriously violent cocaine-trafficking cartel funneled drug money through accounts at Bank of America to purchase race horses in the United States, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Los Zetas routed roughly $1 million per month for two years through Bank of America accounts, FBI Special Agent Jason Preece said in an affidavit filed June 11. The money allegedly flowed through a personal and business account owned by José Trevino Morales, the brother of two of the drug gang’s top leaders—Miguel Angel Trevino Morales and Omar Trevino Morales.

José Trevino Morales has pled not guilty to money laundering charges.

Bank of America is not accused of wrongdoing. The second-largest U.S. bank is cooperating with the authorities, the Wall Street Journal reports, citing unnamed sources with knowledge of the investigation.

The Los Zetas leaders set up José Trevino as the front man for the alleged money laundering operation, according to the filing, sending him to Texas to establish Tremor Enterprises, LLC. The company bought quarter horses, a type of horse known for its skill at sprinting, according to the Journal.

One of the horses allegedly financed with the Zetas’ cocaine profits, Mr. Piloto, won the $1 million first-place prize at the All American Futurity race at Ruidoso Downs, New Mexico—one of the sport’s most important races, according to the Journal.

The FBI bases its case against the Trevino brothers on bank records, state racing commission records, surveillance, border crossing records and other sources, the affidavit says.

Preece filed the affidavit to a request a warrant to search José Trevino’s property for records documenting the suspected laundering of drug money through purchases of horses.

It wouldn’t be the first time a major U.S. bank has been put under scrutiny over its relations with Mexico’s drug cartels. In 2010, Wells Fargo settled a case brought by the Justice Department alleging its bank controls failed to detect money laundering. The settlement cost the bank $160 million.

Bank of America defended the safeguards it has set up against money launderers.  “We have strong anti-money-laundering procedures and work closely with the authorities when suspicious activity is discovered,” Larry Di Rita, a Bank of America spokesman, told Bloomberg News.”

Read more: http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/news/2012/07/09/mexico-drug-cartel-funneled-money-through-bank-america-fbi-says/#ixzz20f1ntQ76

One of President Obama’s former Harvard professors is calling for the president’s defeat in November, releasing a scathing video in which he accuses the president of abandoning America’s workers while pushing a policy of “food stamps.”

The video by Brazilian scholar and politician Roberto Unger serves as an indictment of both parties. But in it, Unger says Obama must be defeated in order for the Democratic Party to restore itself “as the vehicle for the progressive alternative in the country.”

Obama, he said, has not advanced that cause. 

“President Obama must be defeated in the coming election. He has failed to advance the progressive cause in the United States,” he said in the eight-minute video, titled “Beyond Obama” and posted to YouTube.

“He has spent trillions of dollars to rescue the moneyed interests and left workers and homeowners to their own devices,” Unger said. 

Obama, when he attended Harvard, took two classes with Unger — Jurisprudence and Reinventing Democracy, according to David Remnick’s book “The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama.” Unger continued to correspond with Obama via BlackBerry going into the presidential campaign, Remnick reported, though Unger said he never became Obama’s “friend” and kept his distance from the then-candidate out of concern that Unger’s own “leftist” leanings might do “harm” to Obama.

In the recent web video, Unger’s accusations against his former student become increasingly caustic. Toward the end, the professor claims Obama pursued health care reform at the expense of economic recovery. 

“He has subordinated the broadening of economic and educational opportunity to the important but secondary issue of access to health care in the mistaken belief that he would be spared a fight,” Unger said. “He has disguised his surrender with an empty appeal to tax justice.”

He went on to say Obama “reduced justice to charity” while embodying a policy of “financial confidence and food stamps” and a “politics of hand-holding.” 

Unger wasn’t exactly thrilled about the thought of a Mitt Romney presidency, either. He warned that should Obama be defeated, “there will be a cost for his defeat in judicial and administrative appointments.”

But, he said, the risk of “military adventurism” would be the same under either Obama or Romney.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/06/18/former-obama-prof-president-must-be-defeated-in-november/?intcmp=obinsite#ixzz1zuYXxZYg