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REGISTER FIDO OR FACE JAIL TIME?
by Special to DallasBlog.com    Mon, Mar 27, 2006, 11:32 PM

puppy1.jpgMark Levin is the director of the Center for Effective Justice at the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation.  So it will not be much of a surprise that he is skeptical of new government programs.  But his recent paper for that organization addresses a new federal law that will require the registration of animals with the National Animal Identification System.  In Texas a law past in the last session makes it a criminal offense not to comply.  So if you plan on giving one of those puppies away you better get them registered or else face fines and maybe jail. 

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OUR BANKING SYSTEM IS TOO DEPENDENT ON REAL ESTATE LENDING
by Tom Pauken    Mon, Mar 27, 2006, 06:18 PM

Danielle DiMartino, the savvy business columnist at the News, has another interesting article today on a subject we have been following closely here at DallasBlog: the housing bubble.

She warns of the "systemic risk" to the mortgage market as a result of "loose lending standards of recent years" colliding "with a buckling house market".

She cites a number of facts that point to serious problems with our credit system:

  • "The collateral backing mortgages is stretched precariously thin -- one in 10 homeowners has zero-to-negative home equity.
  • Recent estimates put one-quarter of all mortgages underwritten last year in the subprime, or riskiest, category. That's well above the 13 percent average share for the decade through 2005.
  • Even after adjusting the rate downward to account for Hurricane Katrina, mortgage delinquencies ended last year at 4.55 percent, an 18-month high. And subprime delinquencies are pushing 12 percent.
  • Despite historically low borrowing costs, households spent a record amount of after-tax income at year-end to pay required principal and interest payments.
  • In the next two years, about a quarter of all outstanding mortgages -- or more than $2 trillion worth -- will reset at higher rates.
  • A record 62 percent of commercial banks' earning assets are mortgage-related."

Ms. DiMartino suggests that, if you combine all of these troublesome factors relating to the mortgage market, you have a prescription for "systematic risk" to our credit and banking system.

To read her entire column, link here (registration required).

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AFTER PRIMARIES, EDUCATOR ORGANIZATIONS HAVE INCREASED CLOUT
by Brian Bodine    Mon, Mar 27, 2006, 03:20 PM

According to the Star-Telegram, an “army of educators” consisting of teachers, parents, and school executives is trying to use their increasing clout on education issues to influence the upcoming special session. They have also been credited with being a significant factor in the defeat of State Rep. Kent Grusendorf.

Lawmakers from both parties now seem to recognize that these educators are a force to be reckoned with. As a result, lawmakers may need their support in coming to an agreement on issues such as remaking the state’s tax structure and restructuring teacher salaries. But at the same time, as one prominent Republican lawmaker has pointed out, the conflicting agendas of different education groups could mean that property taxes - something that most want reduced - will end up being the chief source of unity among the groups with competing agendas.

Click here for story 

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FORECLOSURES UP 13% IN FEBRUARY
by Special to DallasBlog.com    Mon, Mar 27, 2006, 01:19 PM

Our resident economist Carl Pellegrini brought to our attention the recently released figures on foreclosure properties from RealtyTrac.  Its February 2006 Monthly U.S. Foreclosure Market Report shows that 117,259 properties nationwide have entered some stage of foreclosure.  This is a 13 per cent increase from the January 2006 numbers and a 68 per cent increase from February a year ago. 

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NEW LINKS UP IN TEXAS EDUCATION
by Brian Bodine    Mon, Mar 27, 2006, 01:18 PM
Click here for links
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MOLLY IVINS: NEWSPAPER DEATH? NO, SUICIDE
by Trey Garrison    Mon, Mar 27, 2006, 12:34 PM

I'm not the biggest Molly Ivins fan - always seems like she can't wait to hear what she will say next - but she's got an interesting take on the ongoing decline of the traditional newspaper media.

And by interesting I mean I wonder if this is what it sounded like 65 million years ago when the dinosaurs started dying off.

Click here to access the interweb highway net thing.

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LAWMAKERS TO REVIEW TABC IN-BAR ARREST POLICY
by Trey Garrison    Sun, Mar 26, 2006, 06:08 PM

Remember how we told you (several days before the daily caught wind, I might add) about the TABC busting people in Irving bars, including hotel bars where they had no intention of driving?

Sparked quite a bit of outrage, including one, um, critic who suggested that the TABC spokesperson go 'die in a fire.'

Anyway, state lawmakers are going to revisit the law, with some like state Sen. Chris Harris, suggesting the TABC went too far, and more than a few suggesting that in-bar busts don't go far enough. L'Chaim.

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TWO TEXAS BLOGS: TWO VIEWS OF IMMIGRATION
by Scott Bennett    Sun, Mar 26, 2006, 04:47 PM

Two Texas Blogs of note, the liberal political Blog Burnt Orange Report and the conservative political Blog Lone Star Times, both have interesting posts on the immigration issue.  The Burnt Orange Report's Andrew Dobbs is racking his brain to find even one reason to be against immigration given that it brings people who work hard for very low wages (article).  The Lone Star Times' David Benzion offers up a column by Conor Friedersdorf of the San Bernadino County Times (article) in which he relates a supposed true story of how an older American views the issue.  The two views represent a divide that will be hard to bridge.

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MCCAIN COURTS BUSH SUPPORTERS IN TEXAS
by Tom Pauken    Sun, Mar 26, 2006, 04:06 PM

Todd Gilman has a very interesting story in today's Dallas Morning News about how Sen. John McCain is successfully courting key Texas supporters of George W. Bush in his campaign for the Presidency in 2008.  Gilman notes that former Gov. Bill Clements has given McCain's campaign $5000, that Bush backer Tom Hicks has hosted a luncheon for McCain, and that Bush's media man in Austin Mark McKinnon has signed on to the McCain 2008 campaign.  A key Texas fundraiser for McCain is former Congressman and bigtime Washington lobbyist Tom Loeffler.

Gilman reports that McCain will speak at the Bush  Presidential library at Texas A & M on April 3rd.  The Bush campaign is being run by John Weaver, a longtime political consultant who spent many years here in Texas.  The irony is that Sen. McCain, who was seen as the anti-Bush candidate in the 2000 Republican Presidential primaries is positioning himself to be the heir to the Bush political machiney in 2008.  And, on one issue, Bush and McCain see eye to eye.  Sen. McCain was a strong proponent of the War in Iraq and supports our continued military presence there for an extended period of time.

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HAS THE BATTLE FOR BAGHDAD BEGUN?
by Special to DallasBlog.com    Sun, Mar 26, 2006, 02:56 PM

The UK Independent is reporting this weekend the the "battle between Sunni and Shia Muslims for control of Baghdad has already started...Iraqi political leaders...predict fierce street fighting will break out as each community takes over disticts in which it is strongest."  The article quotes Iraqi leaders as saying that, while they believe civil war is inevitable in Iraq, it "will be confined, at least at first, to the capital and surrounding provinces where the population is mixed."  One senior official was quoted as saying:  "The real battle will be the battle for Baghdad where the Shia have increasing control.  The army will disintegrate in the first moments of the war because the soldiers are loyal to the Shia, Sunni or Kurdish communities and not to the government."  The senior official expected the Americans to stay on the sidelines when the civil war breaks out, according to the Independent.

The article describes the mood among Iraqi leaders as "far gloomier in private than the public declarations of the US and the British governments."  As one leader stated, "the real problem is that the Shia and Sunni hate each other and not that we haven't been able to form a government."

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