Saturday, September 20, 2008

Why isn't the government taking its share of the blame for the foreclosure mess?

Who's to blame for the foreclosure mess that's tanking the U.S. economy and bearing down hard on markets around the world?

Why, those nasty, greedy bankers, of course!

Honestly, that's about half the story. Yes, some banks took on far too much risk and are partially to blame. We've watched the likes of Countryside fall into financial ruin and let's not forget that the pinheads running Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac contributed to the mess we're in, too.

Amazingly, however, the media and the government have almost entirely overlooked how Congress contributed to the whole mess. One of the best and most concise articles you'll find on the government's roll in the death of the subprime lending market can be found right here. Read it and Digg it, or at least consider what the author has to say about the government's role in subprime lending. Sadly, that analysis was written a year ago and has largely been ignored.

In a nutshell, the subprime lending market has its roots in the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act, which was pushed for by that walking disaster known as Jimmy Carter. That act, in essence, encouraged making mortgages available to people with bad credit. The idea was that it was somehow discriminatory and/or downright unfair for banks to look solely at economic criteria and seek to minimize risk when granting mortgages.

The act has been refined over the years and, eventually, led to the authorization of subprime mortgages (via an revision to the act signed by the perpetually addled George Bush -- he also signed that hideous bankruptcy reform junk into law, so an argument can be made he'll approve damn near anything stuck in front of him).

So, banks were encouraged and, at times, compelled to extend those wretched subprime things in an attempt to make it easier for more Americans to own homes. Thank God for banks like Bentonville, Ark.-based Arvest which refused to have any part of that nonsense.

I point at Arvest as an example because that bank is still doing well. It's the largest bank in Arkansas and is rapidly spreading to other states, as well. An Arvest official told me a few months ago that shareholders and customers put the bank under a lot of pressure to give out subprime loans, but cooler heads prevailed. Thank goodness for those cooler heads.

At any rate, there was another disastrous trend that emerged years before the birth of the subprime market -- the elimination of usury laws. Those laws, of course, put a cap on interest rates and mostly impacted short-term rates.

There is a significant distinction between the traditional, 30-year, fixed-interest rate mortgage and the more variable packages put together for the subprime market. Forget about the notion that long-term rates will be impacted when the Fed cuts the federal funds rate. That long-term mortgage rate moves along with the bond market and tends to behave independently on what the feds are doing.

Contrast that with, say, an adjustable rate mortgage that's part of a subprime package. That rate will typically be low for an initial period and then float along with a short-term index.

In other words, you had usury caps removed and a national policy that encouraged (and, in some cases, bullied) lenders into assuming risky loans. Banks, when they assume risk, pump up that interest rate and were allowed a lot more leeway without usury laws standing in their way.

So, everything looked great when the subprime market was booming as loans were getting written, people who thought they'd be renting forever were able to purchase homes and a lot of money was flowing through the economy. The problem of that entire system was masked -- all those subprime mortgages came with outstanding initial terms and rates.

Reality set in, however, when that initial term expired and higher rates and more unfavorable terms kicked in. All of the sudden, a lot of people couldn't afford their mortgage payments and were forced into foreclosure.

It's worth pointing out that the people who saw disaster looming when everything appeared to be great on the surface were told to shut the hell up and quit being so "negative."

At any rate, here's the point -- the government had a significant role in creating this mess. How much do we believe the people stupid enough to put us in this position will fix it? Yes, Congress may come up with a solution but we should be wary and really should pay more attention to what's happening.

Too much government involvement will often lead to disaster. Want to keep this kind of thing from happening again? Leave the lenders alone and let them go back to the "bad old days" when fixed interest rate mortgages were one of the few things available and you'd better have a down payment of some sort and a decent credit history if you want to borrow money from a bank.

If that too restrictive? Maybe, but setting up a system in which high risk loans are encouraged and the feds will be there to bail out banks when the very foreseeable mortgage defaults take place just ruins the economy, hurts tax payers and invites a future rash of foreclosures.

Hogs get slaughtered, no Arkansan should be surprised

Arkansas got slapped all over its home field on Saturday when the 9th-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide came to town and whipped the poor Hogs 49-14.

No Arkansan -- hell, no Arkansas Razorbacks fan anywhere on the planet -- should be surprised. If you want to analyze how bad of a game it was, click right here to check out an AP story on the slaughter or take a look at the box score by clicking right here.

We Arkansas Razorbacks fans, however, shouldn't have been surprised that a team showed up in Fayetteville and treated the Hogs like chumps right on Reynold Razorback Stadium. Why? This is a building year and Arkansas has played horribly so far.

Arkansas won it's first two games of the year, but only barely. Who did the Razorbacks beat? Western Illinois and Louisiana-Monroe -- not exactly high powered ball clubs. If the Razorbacks barely beat teams that should have been handled easily, there was no way in hell they'd be able to take on Alabama.

So, what happened? Why did Arkansas stink so completely on Saturday? Here are just a few reasons:

1. Houston Nutt is a complete and total bastard. The Razorbacks are steeling reeling from the hangover left after 10 years of being coached by that filthy Nutt. He, of course, left last year before he was thrown out of the state by irate Razorbacks fans. Ol' Boxcar's selling his snake oil over at Ole Miss now and good riddance.

By the way, that "Boxcar" nickname is one of my inventions. Why call him Boxcar? Because Nutt is a bum.

That worthless scalded chicken-dancing moron left head coach Bobby Petrino an absolute mess, see. Nutt managed to completely screw up recruiting and run off some pretty good players his last few years here.

"But, what's a scalded chicken dance, The Hawg?"

It's the panicked jig that Nutt does on the sidelines when his team is losing and the ol' ball sack is in a panic. He was probably doing that tonight when Ole Miss was busily losing to Vanderbilt, in fact. Regret that hire yet, Ole Miss? You will.

Yes, it's popular to blame former head coaches when their former teams are rotten, but Nutt actually does deserve to be loathed here in the Natural State. Here's what I mean. In a state like Arkansas, it is crucial for a coach to keep talented kids in the state. Nutt always struggled with that, but he scored a major coup when he recruited five kids from the 2005 Springdale High School team -- a state championship team that was ranked third in the United States.

He managed to alienate those kids and they left for other schools. How bad did that hurt the team? Just as an example, Damian Williams is having a hell of a year at USC. So Arkansas is currently lacking in the talent department, partially because of Nutt's idiotic handling of the Springdale kids.

Ah, but his mistreatment of those recruits had another sinister impact -- a lot of Arkansas high school kids simply didn't trust Nutt. Auburn was just one school that capitalized on that distrust. I mention Auburn because that team was able to show up and simply cherry pick the 2006 recruiting class.

Even before all of that, Nutt had trouble recruiting in this state. Let's say you've got a kid that's being recruited by, say, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Florida. Why on earth would that player want to play for a goofy bastard who couldn't even beat lowly UNLV in the Las Vegas Bowl? A good number of Arkansas players said "no thanks" and headed elsewhere, and let's not even get into the trouble that a subliterate goon like Nutt has recruiting kids in other states.

So, Nutt sucks and he's the primary reason Arkansas is terrible right now. He'll be back in Arkansas later this season when Ole Miss comes to town to play the Razorbacks. I hope Nutt gets booed even more than he did when he was the coach here. I hope Arkansas fans let the air out of his tires and throw garbage at him. Harsh? Nutt and his white trash brigade didn't contribute a damn thing to athletics here and the man deserves whatever shabby treatment he gets from Arkansans.

2. Arkansas is small. Alabama's offensive line simply shoved the Arkansas defense all over the field on Saturday. The Crimson Tide rushed for 328 yards on Saturday as that offensive line just wore down Arkansas defenders and dominated the line of scrimmage.

3. Arkansas is young. The Hogs lost a lot of players last year to either graduation or the NFL draft. Young players make bonehead mistakes and they sure made their share on Saturday. For example, Arkansas stopped the Crimson Tide on Alabama's first offensive drive of the game. Alabama punts, a Razorback roughs the kicker, the Crimson Tide gets the ball back and scores.

They'll learn.

4. Arkansas has no passing game. Yes, Casey Dick has been a liability for the past couple of seasons. He hasn't gotten a whole lot better and managed to throw three interceptions on Saturday. What was really pitiful was watching Dick awkwardly try to tackle 'Bama defenders as they rushed past him on the way to the end zone (he kind of flopped at them like a fish and utterly failed to even slow them down).

See the photo I posted at the top of this nonsense? That's a 'Bama player picking off another wayward pass from Dick. Sadly, that was a common sight in this rotten game.

After Petrino got tired of that interception-flinging Dick, he put freshman Tyler Wilson in the game. Wilson completed a pass for a touchdown but also managed to throw an interception (causing Dick to sulk on the sidelines and mumble, "Hey, I could do that.")

Fortunately, Ryan Mallett will be eligible next year. He transferred to Arkansas from Michigan in January. Under NCAA rules, he has to redshirt this season but will be cleared to play in 2009. That's great news for Arkansas. Don't believe me? Just click right here to read all about Mallett.

So, did anything encouraging come out of Saturday's game?

Actually, there were some decent things. While the defense is small, they are quick and athletic. The major problems were that they seemed to miss assignments like crazy and get worn down over time. Some coaching can help with those assignments and some weight training will help them bulk up a bit.

I don't expect a whole lot out of the Hogs this year as those young players need to grow and Dick just sucks (pun intended). Whenever the Hogs would get a drive going, Dick reverted to his "graceless under pressure" ways of the past two seasons and started throwing interceptions. He's just not a great quarterback and is typical of the type of backs that worked well in Nutt's system (i.e., someone who could turn around and hand off the ball to either Felix Jones or Darren McFadden -- two running backs who are making their marks as rookies in the NFL).

There is one player, however, who was very impressive on Saturday --junior Michael Smith rushed for 92 yards and caught six passes for 67 yards. He looks like a man who's gearing up for a very solid senior year. I sure hope so.

Last week, of course, Arkansas' game against the Texas Longhorns was called due to a hurricane. They'll make that up next week on Sept. 27. It probably won't be pretty.

I just hope that Razorbacks fans don't get too discouraged this season. We knew it was going to be bad this year, what with McFadden and Jones heading off to the NFL. The good news, of course, is that Nutt is gone and we've finally got a great coach in Fayetteville. If Petrino actually manages to stick around for awhile (something he's not known for), then we may actually see the Hogs become a competitive team in the SEC. Arkansas has been a middle-tier team since joining the SEC, so here's hoping that Petrino is the guy to change all of that.

Oh, and a weird thing happened when I was watching the game on TV. At some point, the Arkansas band was clearly playing the White Stripes' Seven Nation Army. What the hell?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Enjoyable evening -- Benton won and I met two great bloggers

Yes, indeed! The fighting Benton Panthers won their first game of the season tonight, improving their record to 1-2 before going into conference play in the 6A-South.

There are few things I enjoy more than high school football on Friday nights. My father and I are both Benton High School Alums, so we try to catch every Panthers home game. It'll be a rough year for central Arkansas' scrappiest ball club, but at least the Panthers chalked up a win tonight by beating the Conway Wampus Cats 15-14 in a bit of a nail biter.

It was great being in C.W. Lewis Stadium here in scenic Benton for that victory, but the best thing about the evening was having the pleasure of meeting two fellow Bloggers -- Paul and Laura Eilers. Paul runs Paul's Health Blog and Laura runs Junk-Foodaholic. If you haven't visited those two sites, you really should.

Oh, I went ahead and posted a picture that Laura took of Paul and me (I'm the one on the left, proudly wearing Panthers maroon). Thanks for sending that photo along, folks!

Dad and I agreed that their presence at the game made it that much enjoyable as they are both wonderful, friendly people who make an already fun outing even better. Why were the Eilers there? Their son, Dylan, plays for the Wampus Cats, so they journeyed down from Conway to watch the fun.

The only thing that's too bad here is that the mighty, fighting Panthers defeated Dylan's team. However, Benton doesn't look that solid this year, so I'll cherish any victory that's available.

By the way, there's a blog dedicated to Dylan's football photos right here. Give that a look if you're so inclined.

I also decided to quit being lazy about a question I've had for years -- what is a wampus cat? In the past, I've been told it's a magical, six-legged cat and I've left it at that. I checked on Wikipedia, however, and found a more detailed explanation right here. Fascinating stuff, and I found out that no fewer than seven high schools in the U.S. have chosen the unusual wampus cat as a mascot.

But, back to the significance of tonight's game. Conway is in a higher high school athletics classification at 7A than Benton is at 6A. Benton's taken a whipping at the hands of two 7A schools this year, so the lads have some hope before they enter the regular season -- they've beaten one 7A team, so the hope is that will do wonders for their confidence when they're battling it out against peers in the 6A-South.

An alarming thing about the game, however, is that Benton has a tendency to fumble and get penalties for stupid stuff at the absolute worst times. Also, the team still has a tendency to fade in the second half and has a miserable kicking game. Things, apparently, haven't changed that much from last season.

Regardless, tonight's victory over Conway gives the team and its loyal fans a reason to celebrate and view the start of the regular season with optimism. That's nothing but good.

Anyone who is wondering why I, The Hawg, would bother with a high school football game has obviously spent very little time in the South. Towns in these parts rally behind their high school teams and treat games as a major social event.

In my case, I get to hang out with my father, get to visit with old friends on occasion and meet new ones like the Eilers. My hometown boasts a population of just 27,000 people, so Friday night football is a huge deal to a small city like this one that doesn't have any pro or college sports at all. The encouraging thing is that fans still turn out even if the Panthers stink -- most of us graduated from high school here and still turn out to support our local kids. That's nothing but good, right?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Why too much risk is bad

The housing markets in many parts of the nation are struggling.

Things are considerably better here in Arkansas and I'll explain why in a minute. For now, I think it's important to mention just how we got from one of the most robust housing markets in history just a few years ago to what we have now.

No, I'm not an economist, but I've had a ringside seat to a lot of this in my position as director of media relations for the Arkansas Realtors Association. Part of my job is to compile statewide housing stats and keep my ear to the ground in hopes of picking up on trends before they happen.

So, I'm not an expert. I've visited with plenty of experts over the past few years, however, and there is a commonality in their analysis of housing markets -- everyone took entirely too many risks. Yes, everyone from home buyers to lenders assumed quite a bit of risk and some of them got burned for it.

Let me explain. Not too long ago, they traditional way to purchase a home was to save up enough to put a down payment on a mortgage (20 percent was preferred, but lenders would typically accept less) then get a traditional, fixed mortgage. That traditional method was seen as prohibitive, so lenders started to get creative.

The argument, of course, is that owning a home is part of the American dream so it's in everyone's best interest to make sure as many people realize that dream as possible. In other words, why should someone who has poor credit or no down payment be unduly penalized? Shouldn't those people be allowed to get homes, too?

There is certainly merit in that argument. There were a number of lending practices that were far too restrictive and it was a good move to relax them.

Ah, but some lenders went crazy when it came to relaxing standards and would find some way -- any way -- for anyone with a job and a pulse to get into a home. So, we saw the development of the subprime market and some fairly exotic (and risking) mortgage packages. That market was designed specifically to allow people who were unable to get into a traditional mortgage to finance a home.

That's all well and good, so long as it's done in moderation. It wasn't. The end result of that was that a number of lenders secured mortgages for people that put them into homes that were otherwise unaffordable. The lender was happy because they love closing mortgages and buyers were happy because they managed to get into homes they never believed they could afford.

That all looked wonderful initially, of course, but there's a catch with your more exotic loans -- there are always terms that kick in at some point that push up those monthly mortgage payments. For example, an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) generally feature a very low initial interest rate but are set up so that rates fluctuate with the market after, say, five years.

The problem when you're dealing with anything other than a standard, fixed interest rate mortgages is that borrowers run the risk of having their monthly payments shoot up on them after the initial period when payments are low ends. In a lot of cases, borrowers got into homes that they really couldn't afford and were doing well to meet the payments during that "safe" period.

Why on earth would banks assume that kind of risk and why would homeowners leap to take advantage of loan packages that should have looked problematic on their face? That's pretty simply, really. Not too long ago, there were a number of economists who claimed that it was actually good for the economy when people carried a lot of debt. Mortgages do generate money in the economy, after all, and the economy does benefit when people pay off their debts.

Furthermore, I used to be a lawyer in the bad ol' days and filed a lot of bankruptcies. In this day and age, people simply aren't conditioned to save up and buy anything -- they want great things now and they're willing to go into debt to get them if their credit allows it. So, there were some unfavorable payments down the road? Big deal! The attitude was, "I deserve this great home and I'll not worry too much about what could happen down the road."

What happened when those mortgage payments went up? A bunch of foreclosures, that's what. A lot of buyers were so wowed by the thought of the homes they were getting that they didn't bother to think about what would happen when those unfavorable terms kicked in and those who thought about the future at all figured they would be able to sell their homes and get out from under their mortgages before they got hurt.

And who could blame them? Back in 2002, my wife and I bought a house in Springdale, Ark. We sold it a mere two years later and made a nice profit on the deal. And that was on a cheap house that cost us about $85,000 and sold for $105,000. Imagine the gains that people who owned expensive homes were realizing.

Gains such as the ones that people were realizing from around 1999 to 2005 were atypical, but people started to assume those increases in value were normal. So, if some unfavorable terms in a mortgage weren't going to kick in for five years, people assumed their homes would have increased in value more than enough to allow them to sell their houses and pocket some cash long before it was time to pay the piper.

As it turned out, that kind of gambling didn't work well at all for a lot of people and they were stuck with mortgage payments they simply couldn't afford. It's worth mentioning that there were a number of economists who were alarmed over the lending practices that came to a head in 2005. They were all told to shut the hell up as there was a lot of money being made around that time and who wants to listen to negativity, anyway?

Here's how all of that has played out in the current market. According to statistics from the National Association of Realtors (NAR), nine percent of all homes in the United States are under subprime mortgages -- the loan vehicles that account for 54 percent of all foreclosures.

In other words, the banks that traded heavily in those things took on far too much risk. A lot of those lenders simply aren't around these days as a rash of foreclosures just killed them.

Is there any good news in all of this? Actually, there is. Buyers are in a better position to purchase homes than they have been for years. If you've got something to put up for a down payment and can swing a conventional loan, you're in great shape -- there are a lot of homes to choose from these days and there are a good number of sellers willing to negotiate.

Another benefit, of course, is that there's downward pressure on prices across the nation. Here in Arkansas, our growth in value is relatively flat, but you'll see sales prices dropping across the nation. That's more good news for buyers.

Also, banks have been forced to reform their lending practices so that higher standards are in place. Hopefully, then, we won't see another housing market crash that takes the U.S. economy with it.

One of the biggest benefits, of course, is that people have been forced to view home values more realistically. Hopefully, at least. Buyers seem to be more interested in purchasing homes they can realistically afford and are no longer looking at real estate as a short term investment like a stock. There were a lot of people who thought they could purchase a house, sit on it for a year and then sell it for a ridiculous profit.

There's some good money to be made in real estate, for sure, but most homeowners won't realize a substantial profit unless they purchase a house and decide to live in it for a few years.

Of course, the housing market will pick up again and will be considerably stronger as both banks and buyers have learned a little something about what comes of taking on too much risk.

So, what's different in Arkansas?

The Natural State may not be immune from slowing sales, but at least average sales prices have remained stable and most sellers are finding buyers if they price their homes in accordance with fair market values. How can that be?

Looking again at NAR stats, we see that more people own their homes outright here and there weren't as many subprime loans issued to Arkies. Here in Arkansas, 42 percent of all homes are owned outright -- quite a bit higher than 32 percent across the nation. Also, only 5 percent of all homes in Arkansas are covered by subprime mortgages -- quite a bit less than the national average of 9 percent.

That low subprime percentage is very important. If we look at all homes in foreclosure across the country, 54 percent of them involve homes covered by subprime mortgages.

That's pretty basic stuff, really. Fewer subprime mortgages mean fewer foreclosures and homes that are free and clear of mortgages tend to not get foreclosed on unless you've got a tax lien or something involved.

The result of the nature of home ownership in Arkansas, then, is that we don't have as many foreclosures here as in other parts of the country so the housing markets have remained relatively stable.

That's actually encouraging. The downside of a bunch of foreclosures and people who need to sell their homes but can't is that we're not talking about numbers -- we're talking about people with families who are suffering. If nothing else, we can be grateful that suffering is at least limited here in Arkansas.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

If you rob a Waffle House, you just might be a redneck...

Honestly, I didn't figure on posting anything today except for that dandy Screeching Weasel video.

I'm home sick for the week, so I figured on sleeping most of the day away and ignoring blogging. Ah, but there are just some stories that are too good to leave alone.

Early this morning, two Waffle Houses in Little Rock were robbed. Go ahead and read the story at the link if you want, but I'll provide the synopsis.

Just after midnight, the Waffle Houses on Bowman and Shackleford were filled with diners who were relaxing after the Eagles concert in downtown North Little Rock. Now, those two Waffle Houses are within a couple of miles of each other (the one on Shackleford is near my office, in fact) and they were both robbed within five minutes of each other.

They got the guy who robbed the Shackleford Waffle House and police are trying to figure out if the two felonies are connected (Waffle House employees say they certainly are seeing how the two restaurants were hit one after another). In both instances, the robber held customers at gunpoint and cleaned the store out of whatever money was in the cash register. Oh, and customers were robbed, too.

At the Shackleford location, the robber took time to order a sandwich while he was waving his gun around and terrifying customers. He then ran outside, got shot in the butt by the police, went to the hospital and is now behind bars. Serves him right. The little punk.

Here's why I couldn't leave this one alone -- the whole thing seems to line up very well with a redneck joke I sent the great Jeff Foxworthy not long ago. That joke, of course, is -- if you lost your virginity to a Waffle House waitress, you just might be a redneck.

Considering the events of this morning, it seems that it's almost as funny to say, "If you rob a Waffle House, you just might be a redneck."

Works for me, anyway.

And I should point out that the whole robbery thing bothers the hell out of me. That Shackleford Waffle House is right near my office. See, look at this photo taken from one of the offices in my building.

Scary, huh? I've eaten lunch over there quite a bit as I love the Waffle House. Yes, there's nothing like some hash browns with chunks of ham in them and a big ol' butterscotch chip waffle to really pep up a day (they don't have butterscotch chips anymore, but I remain hopeful that they'll return).

Now, that's not the only time something scary has taken place near my office. A couple of years ago, there was a dead guy in a ditch outside of my office -- he was shot at some early hour and tossed out of a car.

West Little Rock is turning into a damned circus. Glad I live 22 miles away in Benton and commute to work every day.

Extra special thanks to the incomparable David Hudson for superimposing Squidbillies characters on the Waffle House photos. I appreciate it, man!

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday -- Screeching Weasel's 'Cool Kids'

Believe it or not, the kid who put this video together for media project got a "D!"

Talk about a teacher with no imagination. Stick figure animation to one of the coolest songs ever committed to tape? Sounds like a winner to me.

Oh well. Turn those speakers up, hit "play" and enjoy...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

What's wrong with sitting home on election day?

Ever since I was earning my bachelor's in political science, I've heard that we -- as Americans -- have an almost sacred duty to vote.

It has been suggested, time and time again, that those who don't vote ought not complain. All of the hubbub over voting is simply obnoxious and designed to shame people into going out and taking part in the democratic process whether they like the candidates involved or not.

Lately, however, I've been wondering -- if someone hates both of the major party choices for president or whatever else, what's wrong with saying "the hell with it" and sitting home on election day? All we've managed to do with all this "it's your patriotic duty to vote" nonsense is potentially extend the longevity of the Democrats and Republicans.

How? A component to this "sacred duty to vote stuff" is the suggestion that voting for a third-party is, in effect, worthless. Casting a vote for the Libertarians, the Green Party or anything else is discouraged -- candidates from those parties won't win a thing, so why bother?

The message the average citizen is beaten over the head with, then, is that everyone should go out and vote (even if you have to hold your nose while doing it because you hate both major party candidates involved) and that only a fool would waste a vote on a third party. These two messages, taken together, appear to undermine Thomas Jefferson's ideal of our American democracy -- that institutionalized revolutions are essential to the health of the Republic.

Jefferson, see, was adamantly opposed to the status quo. However, suggestions that we've all got to run out and vote and that supporting anyone but major party candidates is worthless does nothing but preserve the status quo.

Now, I'm a firm believer in exercising the right to vote and have always had an interest in Politics. I saw Ronald Reagan speak in St. Louis in 1980 and Little Rock in 1984. I saw Mike Dukakis speak in Little Rock in 1988 and have attended speeches for everyone ranging from Bill Clinton to Mike Huckabee. In college I got deputized and registered other candidates to vote and I've worked in campaigns for Bob Dole and both Democrats and Republicans running for governor in Arkansas (I never worked in Bill Clinton's campaign -- he's a bastard).

What's my point, then? I'm merely suggesting that supporting Democrats and Republicans if you hate what both parties are up to is a terrible idea. Want some real change? Ignore the process entirely (that does send a message) or find a third-party candidate that you do like and work hard in that person's campaign.

Political parties don't last forever, after all -- look at what happened to the Federalists and the Whigs. Yes, the Federalists and the Whigs were essentially replaced by alternative parties that people believed reflected the interests of Americans more effectively. One can't help but think the Democrats and Republicans will go the way of the Federalists and the Whigs one day, but that natural evolution of the establishment of new major parties can't happen if people subscribe to the notion that voting is a duty and supporting third parties is a waste of time.

The first presidential election I voted in was the Bush-Dukakis race in 1988. I wasn't thrilled with Bush, but hated Dukakis so I held my nose and voted Republican. I did the same thing in the Bush-Clinton race in 1992, the Clinton-Dole race in 1996, the Bush-Gore election in 2000 and the Bush-Kerry race in 2004. That Bush-Kerry one was such a miserable thing that I was on the phone with my brother on election day and said, "Well, I guess I'd better go and crap out a vote for Bush."

In other words, I'm like a lot of Americans in that I haven't voted for a candidate in years (on a national level, at least), but I've voted against a heck of a lot of them. It occurs to me that some change may be in order, but how are we going to get to that point if society emphasizes both voting and supporting the major parties?

Well, it's just a thought. And an odd one to have at this point, too, as I haven't been this interested in a presidential election for years. I'm firmly back in the Republican camp (thanks to that snarky Sarah Palin), but I can't help but wonder about the individuals who look at the choices from both parties and wonder, "What the hell?"

Don't like who's running? Don't bother voting or support a third party you do like. And don't feel a bit bad about it, either.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Denver's looking pretty good, huh?

It's been rough rooting for the mighty, mighty Denver Broncos since John Elway retired after the 1998 season.

One of the major problems with Denver is that the team has always revolved around a top-notch quarterback. A lot has been said about Denver's running game, but there was a time when the Broncos made it to Super Bowls based solely on the determination of Elway.

Just remember the problems the Broncos had in those painful Super Bowls of 1988, 1989 and 1990 -- the team didn't have much in the way of a running game and suffered because of it. When the team did achieve a balanced attack, the Broncos won a couple of Super Bowls in 1998 and 1999 because Elway's talents were complimented by an excellent running game.

Yes, the run game has remained solid, but Denver hasn't gotten far without a solid passing game.

After Elway retired, there was a lot of talk about how any quarterback could step into Denver's system and do well. That wasn't the case as quarterbacks Brian Griese and Jake Plummer were both failures. Longtime fans like me found it ironic that Denver finally had a great running game but was lacking in the passing department.

Those of us who follow the Broncos, then, can't help but be encouraged by Jay Cutler's performance so far this year. Cutler was drafted from Vanderbilt, played a bit in the 2006 season and started throughout the 2007 season. Last year, he managed to put together a fair-to-middling QB rating of 88.1, but has come out on fire this year.

Just take a look at the stats so far -- QB rating of 118.6, a 70.3 pass completion rate 650 passing yards and 6 touchdowns. That's pretty good and here's hoping he keeps up that level of play. Denver Coach Mike Shanahan obviously has faith in Cutler as evidenced by that risky, two-point conversion that put the Broncos past the Chargers in the final few seconds of Sunday's game.

By the way, that play in the final seconds in which an errant whistle gave a fumble back together was such a fundamentally unfair call that the NFL is considering a rule change. Good for them. San Diego got robbed. I'm thrilled that Denver won, but fair is fair, right?

But, back to Cutler. Remember that even the great Elway struggled for a couple of seasons. He needed time to mature. Hopefully, Cutler is going through that maturation process right now and will turn into the quarterback that we Broncos fans have been wanting for a decade.

Those of us in Arkansas certainly know that Cutler is an impressive quarterback. The beloved Razorbacks struggled with Vanderbilt, in fact, when Cutler was leading that team. Generally, when the Hogs dropped a game to the likes of Ole Miss, Mississippi State or Vanderbilt, we'd blame it on that idiot, Houston "Stinkbutt" Nutt, who wound up coaching the Razorbacks because we evidently don't discriminate against embarrassing fools in Arkansas.

Cutler and Vanderbilt beat the Razorbacks legitimately. Nutt only gets half the blame for that loss.

Razorbacks tearing up the NFL!

I don't give a damn for either the Dallas Cowboys or the Oakland Raiders, but it's been fun watching two rookies who played for the Razorbacks making a splash on those teams this year. Darren McFadden rushed for 164 yards and a touchdown for Oakland on Sunday, whereas Felix Jones returned a kickoff for 98 yards for Dallas on Monday.

Jones, in fact, compiled a ridiculous 247 return yards. Oh, and last week, Jones rushed for 62 yards and scored a touchdown.

Bear in mind that McFadden and Jones were the central performers in the Razorbacks' backfield last year. Arkansas had a great rushing game, indeed, and the team really should have put together an outstanding season rather than another one capped by a loss to an inferior team in a middle-tier bowl (the Hogs lost to Missouri in the Cotton Bowl).

What was the problem? The problem was the Razorbacks were coached by a man who is roughly as intelligent as a chunk of balsa wood. It's absolutely shocking to me that furious Razorbacks fans didn't shower Nutt with garbage or descend upon Fayetteville with torches and pitchforks during that horrible little man's last few seasons here. Thank goodness he's at Ole Miss now. Fans over there can put up with his subliterate babble and rudimentary coaching skills until they run him out of their state.

I find it funny as hell that McFadden has been given credit for saving the job of Oalkand's head coach, Lane Kiffin. Why? McFadden saved Nutt's job a couple of times. He really is that good of a player.

By the way, fellow Arkansan -- Paul at Paul's Health Blog -- posted a comment on an earlier post of mine asking why I didn't acknowledge another former Razorback, Peyton Hillis.

Well, Paul, I figured Peyton has done well enough for himself by playing for the Denver Broncos. He plays for the supreme team in the NFL, so what congratulations could I possibly add to that? At any rate, let Hillis make a highlight reel, and you'd better believe I'll be crowing about him.

I'm all set to visit with Paul on Friday, by the way. He's coming to Benton to watch his Conway Wampus Cats take on my beloved Benton Panthers. Paul's got a kid who plays for Conway. I go to all the Benton home games with my dad, so I'm looking forward to meeting Paul and his wife, Laura (she runs Junk-Foodaholic).

I should point out that Benton is absolutely horrible this year and the Wampus Cats (I still don't know what the hell a wampus cat is) ought to absolutely roll over the poor Panthers. Regardless, believe my write-up of the game before you believe Paul's. Since he's got a kid playing I'm sure he'll be biased.


Good luck to your team and your son, Paul!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Where the heck is my Broncos game?

How do you like that old school Denver Broncos logo?

Yes, that can only mean one thing -- football season is in full swing and The Hawg is already mad about something.

Why? Let me explain. I've been a Broncos fan since that old school logo I posted here was relatively new. When it's football season, I don't bother much with anyone else in the NFL but Denver.

How much do I like Denver? I'll put it this way. Back in 1988 the Broncos were getting stomped in the Super Bowl by the Redskins. I was a college freshman and was watching the game in my room with about a dozen other dejected Broncos fans. A Redskins fan showed up and started running his mouth.

We chased him through the dorm, grabbed him and shoved him a trash can. He had it coming.

You do realize why there are 32 teams in the NFL, don't you? That's so Denver can have someone to play.

At any rate, I was all set to watch the Broncos play this afternoon, so I turned over to CBS and was greeted with -- the Jets/Patriots game.

What the hell? Who makes these decisions? I was all ready to fire off an angry letter to the pinhead at CBS and had imagined it would read something like this:

Dear Mr. P. Head:

What the hell, man?

Warmest regards,
The Hawg

I figured that would do no good, however, so I started thinking up a new plan. I need to invest in one of those football packages so I can do what God intended and watch the mighty Broncos whenever they take to the field. The network guys are obviously heathens and can't be counted on to air the Broncos here in central Arkansas, so I'll have to take matters into my own hands if I want to watch America's team -- God's favorite team! -- play.

There are two problems with that plan, however. First of all, I'm a cheap bastard and things like football packages cost money. I don't like spending money. Second, my wife hates the Broncos and probably wouldn't go for spending money on a package so I could watch the Broncos all season.

I am ashamed, by the way, to be married to an anti-Broncite. She's a Dallas fan. Oh, the pain!

I'll still think about that football package, of course. That might be the way to go.

I did get to see the last quarter of the Broncos game after that snooze fest that the Patriots and Jets participated in ended. I'm proud to say that the Broncos beat the Chargers and that puts my lads at 2-0. The first when of the season, of course, came last week when they simply ground the Raiders into the dirt.

There's one thing I can't help but mention about that Broncos-Chargers game, however. I'll say it once and then never repeat it:

The Chargers were totally robbed!

It's true. Any Chargers fan knows what I'm talking about. Denver clearly fumbled the ball in the last few seconds of the game, a bonehead official ruled it an incomplete pass, Denver took over on the Chargers' 10-yard-line and promptly won 38-37. Calls like that stink because you just know your team will get popped with one of those eventually.

Go right here if you want to read about the controversial calls against San Diego for yourself. Hey, I'm a Broncos fan and even I was wondering what the heck was happening.

In addition to the Broncos winning their home opener on Sunday, another great thing happened in the NFL -- Darren McFadden rushed for 164 yards and scored a touchdown. McFadden, a former Arkansas Razorback, is a rookie and a first-round draft pick for the Raiders.

He set all sorts of records for the Hogs and we're all hopeful he'll make a big splash in the NFL. He ought to be playing for Denver, of course, but it's good to see a local kid doing well in the pros, regardless.

Oakland went on to beat the Chiefs in Kansas City, 23-8. Keep an eye on McFadden. He may well make a lot of defenses cry in the years to come.


Our friend Theresa Komor over at A Bumpy Path and Eyebald got the lead story this morning in the Daily Citizen of Searcy, Ark. Way to go, Theresa!

My sidebar runneth over...

Thanks to the remnants of Ike, I can't sleep so I might as well give a heart-felt "thank you" to three great bloggers who sent me some awards over the past week and pass those awards along to some people I truly respect.

At this very moment, what's left of hurricane Ike is blowing through Arkansas and is simply being a nuisance. I've got limbs dropping on my roof at an alarming rate and the wind noise is alarming.

So, instead of sleeping, I'm worrying over this blasted storm while listening to some 0ld time radio (OTR). As I've mentioned before, Jon over at sent me two discs full of Duffy's Tavern and My Favorite Husband MP3 files as his way of thanking me for mentioning his excellent site on this here blog.

I can't shut up about these things because the quality is outstanding and I love old time radio. Also, I think it's funny as hell that I'm using all of this technology to enjoy radio programs that are over 60-years-old. I've got a slew of OTR programs on a portable hard drive, and I'm streaming them into my surround sound system through my Nintendo Wii via the Winamp Remote client that's running on my PC.

That's a lot of trouble to listen to some old radio programs, but I love the convenience of it all.

At any rate, I was honored with a slew of awards when I was busy earlier this week with the Arkansas Realtors Association Convention in Little Rock. I truly appreciate it when people take the time to recognize and honor my sloppy little blog, particularly when the people sending me awards are bloggers that are simply outstanding. It's been a rough week, but the very fact that some excellent bloggers think well enough of me to ship awards this way helped take the edge off of it all.

So, here are the awards and the cats that shipped them.

Lot 2 Learn over at Did I Miss Something? sent me the Brillante Weblog Premio 2008 Award. Lot 2 Learn blogs about anything and everything and is well worth regular visits.

Lot 2 Learn digs John Wayne and that's a definite plus. Wayne was the man and fans of his automatically have at least something in common with me. Every time I visit Did I Miss Something? and see The Duke on the banner, I tend to want to watch some of those old Wayne westerns and wear a hat.

Lot 2 Learn is one of those conservative bloggers, but he sure doesn't feel exclusionary in his approach. Pay him a visit.

Of course, thank you, Lot 2 Learn! It's great to be recognized by a peer I respect.

Lyndon at Lyndonology sent me the BFF Gold Card Award and the I 'Heart' Your Blog Award. Actually, I "hearted" Lydon's blog first and he "hearted" mine right back.

Lyndon is one of those people I'm more than a bit jealous of because he actually blogs for a living while I've got to head to work every day and make my money in an office. I don't have a bad job at all, but having to go spend 40 hours a week doing something for someone else to make a buck pretty well stinks.

Lyndon's blog is so much fun that he deserves to make a living off of Lyndonology. Still, I can't help but think he's dog lucky -- not in a resentful way, of course.

Thanks for the awards, Lyndon. I'll not send the I 'Heart' Your Blog Award back your way as that would start a loop that could go on for months.

Steve at the Axis of Stevil sent me the Brainy Blog! Award and the Kick Ass Blogger Award. I have now been presented the Kick Ass Blogger Award twice now.

In other words, I suppose this all means that I kick twice as much ass these days. I interpret things that way, at least, and will fight anyone who tells me different.

For those who haven't visited The Axis of Stevil, you're missing out on something that's pretty great. He's a political conservative who has a nifty podcast of a radio show that's entertaining and cutting and he writes with a passion and insight that's impressive.

He's as much of a Sarah Palin fan as I am, so that automatically makes him OK in my book. His very well-articulated views on various issues makes his site one I visit regularly. Anyone who thinks the right is stodgy and no fun at all hasn't spent much time over at The Axis.

So, thanks for the honor, Steve!

Passing along some awards

There are rules that come with each award about how we're supposed to pass them on to other bloggers and etc. I don't much feel like following these rules. So there. Take that!

So, I'm going to name 12 bloggers that I like and ask them to pick up to two awards of the five I have received and claim them. I'll also ask them to pass the ones they chose to other bloggers. That's all there is to it.

So, here are the 12 blogs that I want to acknowledge (in no particular order):

1. Paul's Health Blog
2. Junk-Foodaholic
3. Stud Kickass (an obvious candidate for the Kick Ass Blogger Award, by the way)
4. News from NOLA
5. A Bumpy Path
6. Political Rants from the Right
7. Matt-Speak
8. I Do Things So You Don't Have To
9. Crotchety Old Man Yells at Cars
10. Freaky Frugalite
11. Hillbilly Willy
12. Brazoscowgirl

So, there they are! I could have added more, but 12 seems to be about enough. Do yourself a favor and check out those blogs. I hope the rule makers don't get to irate about my skirting around the technical requirements of passing the awards out. However, this method seems like more fun.