Saturday, May 17, 2008

Opinion: Is this good public policy and/or is it the correct decision by the court?

California's top court legalizes gay marriage

By LISA LEFFThe Associated Press Friday, May 16, 2008; 2:45 AM
SAN FRANCISCO -- California's Supreme Court declared that gay couples in the nation's most populous state can marry _ a monumental but perhaps short-lived victory for the gay rights movement Thursday that was greeted with tears, hugs, kisses and at least one instant proposal of matrimony.

Same-sex couples could tie the knot in as little as a month. But the window could close soon after _ religious and social conservatives are pressing to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot in November that would undo the Supreme Court ruling and ban gay marriage.

"Essentially, this boils down to love. We love each other. We now have equal rights under the law," declared a jubilant Robin Tyler, a plaintiff in the case along with her partner. She added: "We're going to get married. No Tupperware, please."

A crowd of people raised their fists in triumph inside City Hall, and people wrapped themselves in the rainbow-colored gay-pride flag outside the courthouse. In the Castro, long the center of the gay community in San Francisco, Tim Oviatt wept as he watched the news on TV.

"I've been waiting for this all my life. This is a life-affirming moment," he said.

By the afternoon, gay and lesbian couples had already started lining up at San Francisco City Hall to make appointments to get marriage licenses. In West Hollywood, supporters planned to serve "wedding cake" at an evening celebration.

James Dobson _ chairman of the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family, which has spent thousands of dollars to get the measure on the ballot _ called the ruling an outrage.
"It will be up to the people of California to preserve traditional marriage by passing a constitutional amendment. ... Only then can they protect themselves from this latest example of judicial tyranny," he said in an e-mailed statement.

In its 4-3 ruling, the Republican-dominated high court struck down state laws against same-sex marriage and said domestic partnerships that provide many of the rights and benefits of matrimony are not enough.

"In contrast to earlier times, our state now recognizes that an individual's capacity to establish a loving and long-term committed relationship with another person and responsibly to care for and raise children does not depend upon the individual's sexual orientation," Chief Justice Ronald George wrote for the majority in ringing language that delighted gay rights activists.

Massachusetts in 2004 became the first, and so far only, state to legalize gay marriage; more than 9,500 couples have taken advantage of the law. But the California ruling is considered monumental by virtue of the state's size _ 38 million out of a U.S. population of 302 million _ and its historical role as the vanguard of many social and cultural changes that have swept the country since World War II.

California has an estimated 108,734 same-sex households, according to 2006 census figures.


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Opinion: Is this good public policy? Does the U.S. Government too often "govern by crisis?"

39 Republicans Join Democrats As Mortgage Bill Passes House

By Lori MontgomeryWashington Post Staff Writer Friday, May 9, 2008; Page A01
The House yesterday approved an ambitious plan to rescue hundreds of thousands of homeowners at risk of foreclosure by helping them trade exotic loans with rapidly rising monthly payments for more affordable mortgages backed by the federal government.

Bucking a White House veto threat, 39 Republicans joined Democrats in supporting the bill, the centerpiece of a broader housing package that represents Washington's most aggressive response to the nation's housing crisis. The measure aims to unfreeze mortgage markets by expanding the Federal Housing Administration's reach and strengthening mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It also would create a $7,500 tax credit for first-time home buyers to try to boost sales and slow plummeting home prices.

GOP House leaders blasted the bill as a bailout for speculators and irresponsible borrowers. But the measure, sponsored by House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.), gained strong support from rank-and-file Republicans worried that escalating foreclosures are ruining lives and decimating neighborhoods.

Despite President Bush's condemnation of the bill this week, White House officials seemed to leave the door open to negotiation. And key Republicans are working with Democrats on a similar plan in the Senate.

"People are in a world of hurt. My sense is there's maneuvering room," said Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), whose state has been among those hardest hit. "There's still a good chance they'll get a bill the president can sign, knowing that a lot of the country needs help."

More than 1.2 million homes are in foreclosure, and an additional 3 million are forecast to join them over the next two years. Home prices have fallen more than 10 percent, and state and local tax collections are suffering. Polls show the economy is the top concern among voters, with one in four respondents saying they have been directly affected by problems in the housing market.

The borrowers most at risk of foreclosure -- and who have drawn policymakers' attention -- are those who have fallen behind on their mortgage payments but cannot sell or refinance because the value of their homes has fallen so far that they owe more than their homes are worth.

The Bush administration has tried to help such borrowers by urging banks to reduce their mortgage debt. The administration also has eased eligibility standards so borrowers who have missed a few payments can qualify for cheaper loans insured by the federal government through the FHA. But those initiatives have helped relatively few families.

Frank's proposal calls for the FHA to respond more aggressively, by offering to insure mortgages for even the least creditworthy borrowers if their banks will forgive a portion of the debt and help them stay in their homes. Under the proposal, lenders would have to take a significant loss, permitting borrowers to pay their original loans with new loans worth no more than 90 percent of their homes' new, lower value. Extra fees charged by the FHA would lower the payoff to lenders to 85 percent of a home's current value.

Borrowers would get lower monthly payments and an immediate equity stake in their property. If home values rise, the plan requires homeowners to share their profits with the federal government when they sell or refinance.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that as many as 500,000 homeowners will benefit from the program. But more than a third of those borrowers are likely to default, the CBO estimates, forcing the FHA to pay off their loans and take possession of their property at a cost to taxpayers of $1.7 billion.

The White House has balked at that price tag, calling Frank's bill an "attempt to shift costs to taxpayers [that] constitutes a bailout." But there are signs that the administration is open to compromise.

In a speech Monday, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke appeared to endorse Frank's plan. Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. and other administration officials have spoken favorably of it. On Wednesday, even as Bush declared his intention to veto the measure, one of his top economic advisers told the Wall Street Journal that differences between the White House and congressional Democrats were not "insurmountable."

Yesterday, White House spokesman Tony Fratto said Bush supports the concept of Frank's plan. "As a basic concept, it's what we're already doing. But it's what we're doing on steroids," he said.

"Is it possible to have additional housing legislation? Yes, it's possible. And maybe the Frank bill could change so much that there could be legislation we could accept," Fratto said. "But I think we're far away from that."

In House debate, many Republicans echoed the administration's concerns. Minority Leader John A. Boehner (Ohio) said Frank's bill would "bail out scam artists and those who were speculating in the market, and they want taxpayers to pick up the tab."

But other Republicans cringed at the indictment of troubled borrowers and said they were disappointed by the veto threat.

"What's offensive is some of the rhetoric," said Rep. Steven C. LaTourette (R-Ohio), who voted for the measure. "They say it rewards speculators. No, it doesn't. It's limited to homeowners. They say it's a $300 billion bailout. No, it's not. It costs $1.7 billion."

"Would I have written the bill the way Chairman Frank did? No, but we're not in charge anymore," LaTourette said. The housing mess "calls for some bold action. People are expecting us to do something."

The House voted 266 to 154 to approve Frank's rescue plan and a broad array of other housing initiatives. The House also voted 322 to 94 to approve an $11 billion package of housing tax measures, including the $7,500 credit for first-time buyers who purchase a home this year. Under the measure, the credit would have to be repaid to the government over 15 years.

The package moves to the Senate, where Banking Committee Chairman Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) and the committee's senior Republican, Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, are working on a similar proposal. Senate Republicans have been more resistant than their House counterparts to broad plans to intervene on behalf of distressed homeowners.

But Francis Creighton, vice president for government affairs at the Mortgage Bankers Association who is working with both the administration and Congress to slow the rate of foreclosures, said he expects a compromise to be reached.

"We believe the administration is as committed to addressing this situation in the market as anybody. There's still a lot of time for negotiation," Creighton said. "Everyone wants to support something that can fix the housing crisis."


Sunday, May 04, 2008


Study, Review, Prepare, Sleep, Eat, Breathe.


Just do it!

Impossible is nothing!

Live in the moment and enjoy it.

You can do it...





P.S. #2 pencils, black or blue pen, a watch to keep track, social security number (optional). No cell phones.