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NSA Phone Call Monitoring Creates Controversy; Medicare Plan Confuses Many Seniors; Americans' Love of "Get Rich Quick" Trends; Kinky Friedman Discusses Texas Gubernatorial Campaign

Aired May 13, 2006 - 13:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: From New York City, America's financial capital, this is IN THE MONEY.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to the program. I'm Jack Cafferty. Coming up on today's edition of IN THE MONEY, give it up for Uncle Sam, whether you want to or not. There's a brushfire in Congress over the NSA phone debacle. We'll see what your privacy's worth when a company agrees to hand over your telephone records.

Plus, it's the street, not the strip. Back in the dot-com days, America treated Wall Street like it was Vegas. See why investors get stupid over all these get rich fads.

And a candidate who calls himself Kinky because that's his name. Country singer Kinky Friedman running for governor of Texas. I hope he wins. We'll ask him what it takes moneywise and other wise to defeat the establishment in the Lone Star state.

Joining me today a couple on IN THE MONEY veterans, Headline News correspondent Jennifer Westhoven, "Fortune" magazine editor at large Andy Serwer.

So we've got no immigration bill, but we can get tax cuts through Congress: $70 billion worth went through there like bacon through a goose this last week.

ANDY SERWER, MANAGING EDITOR, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: And the president's expected to sign it next week, Jack. What's interesting to me is about half of it, half of that $70 billion, $33 billion, comes from raising the threshold, I should say, for the alternative minimum tax, meaning less people will have to pay it.

CAFFERTY: That's a good thing.

JENNIFER WESTHOVEN, HEADLINE NEWS CORRESPONDENT: At a time when we're so worried about the deficit. What do these studies say, like $42,000 you get in tax breaks if your family makes a million bucks and if your family doesn't make a million bucks, you get something like $25 or $50 back? It's not a big boost.

CAFFERTY: We're worried about the deficit as in the people in the table; the people behind the cameras, the people in New Jersey, the people who spend the money don't give a damn about the deficits it doesn't seem. SERWER: Yes, we'll worry about it tomorrow. Some president in the year 2038 will have to worry about it. Look what happened with General Motors with that kind of mentality, putting thins off until tomorrow. That's a real good example, I think.

CAFFERTY: It is a good example, things to think about.

All right. If you think Uncle Sam has your number, he does. "USA Today" reporting in a big story last week three major telephone companies agreed to hand over customer phone call information to the NSA. The NSA does -- well, if they told us what they did, they'd probably have to kill all of us. It's all very secret stuff.

Jim Harper is going to talk a little about what it all means for us consumers out here who are having our phone bills and records handed over to a spy agency, the federal government. He's consumer director of the Information Policy Studies at the CATO Institute in Washington, D.C.

Jim, nice to have you us. Thanks for coming on the program.

JIM HARPER, CATO INSTITUTE: Thanks for having me.

CAFFERTY: Can my phone company do this? Isn't there something called a communications act that says they're not allowed to give my information out to other folks?

HARPER: Section 222 of the Communication Act specifically bars telephone companies from sharing this kind of information. The lawyers are pouring over it right now to figure out what exactly the exception is they're acting under. Certainly, it's a legal lack of clarity. Obviously Qwest should be saluted for refusing to share this information. The other phone companies seemed to have caved. They may well have been pressured by the NSA and other authorities to cooperate.

WESTHOVEN: Some reports said they were pressured, saying that the NSA was appealing to their patriotism and there was also apparently, they were talking about whether or not Qwest would be getting future government contracts. I want to ask a little bit -- it seems like what the Republicans seem to be saying on this is that when you look at Section 222, eavesdropping is illegal, but they weren't eavesdropping. They're not confirming the program, but if there was a program like this there is no eavesdropping. It would only be looking at whom you called what time you called, for how long you called. Isn't that kind of eavesdropping?

HARPER: How many angels can dance on the head of a pin, really. The information they're collecting is a window into our lives. Who you called, how often you called, how long you talked. That tells investigators a lot about people and about all of our calling patterns. You could be calling your priest. You could be calling your lawyer. You could be calling a paramour. There's a lot of information that's being collected here, and we shouldn't ignore that just because it's traffic data about our calls. SERWER: Jim, is it really true that they don't have any cell calls, though no mobile calls? And if that's true, isn't that just utterly moronic? I mean, you know, most people making a lot of cell phone calls, terrorists, certainly using cell phones. I mean it's just a piece of the picture. What is this program anyway?

HARPER: Well, we don't know yet. I think we're starting to see a trend developing. The revelation in December that foreign touching calls is being listened in on. Now we learned domestic calls are being monitored. What's next? Of course, I think we'll learn that mobile calls are involved, and we may learn that domestic calls are being listened in on. So the other shoe has yet to drop. I suspect it may soon.

CAFFERTY: An interesting poll report was done very quickly on the heels of this story in "USA Today." ABC News did it. Sixty-six percent of the public questioned in this poll said that they thought this was all right. It was an acceptable way of fighting terrorism. Now, we still don't know where Osama bin Laden is and we still haven't done anything about securing the borders of this country and we still don't inspect the cargo containers that come into the nation's ports.

But almost two-thirds of the public in this particular poll said it's OK for the telephone companies to hand over records about our phone calls to a secret government spy agency. What is the psychology there? Is this just the product of using fear as a way to beat us on the head for five years, since September 11th, or what?

HARPER: It's understandable after 9/11 that people want to do anything and everything to get terrorists. Now that we're nearly five years since then, we can do a lot better than do anything and everything. We should balance our interest in security against our need for privacy and civil liberties. Programs like this, I quite firmly believe that don't work well. They're fascinating intellectual ventures for the folks at the NAS who aren't overseen well by Congress. But do they provide us protection against terrorism? I don't think so. There are no good theoretical explanation why data mining would catch terrorists.

I think people who haven't studied this carefully believe anything that could be done, should be done, but if you study this carefully, this probably is a waste of not only law enforcement, national security resources, but a waste of our privacy and civil liberties as well.

CAFFERTY: Worse case scenario, what else could be done with these phone numbers?

HARPER: Just about anything. Databases like this are not built and kept to one purpose. It will be expanded, the uses of it, down to trying to catch murders at first, drug dealers, drug traffickers, than other violent criminals. Than before too long, a database of all our movement law enforcement can dip into any time they want. That's why we look ahead, look down the horizon, and decide now that having a database like this held by the federal government is inappropriate. WESTHOVEN: Can you also talk just a little bit about when you -- we don't know much about this program as it is now. It seems in the past the president has said the only kinds of calls they were looking at were calls that maybe one side was in the United States but that the other side was international, was overseas, was somewhere else.

This seems to be a complete contradiction of that when you try to get a sense of what this plan is -- what does that mean, too, the fact that they seem to be not sticking to their word, either?

HARPER: Well, the administration has characterized what they've done so far as a terrorist surveillance program. That would be acceptable to people, I think most can be assured that only terrorists were in the program. But now it is becoming much more clear that millions and millions of American law-abiding citizens are being involved in this surveillance and that's why new questions have come up and that is why more and more people are being concerned with this.

SERWER: If you're a customer, Jim, what can you do about this?

HARPER: You can thank Qwest if you're a Qwest customer. Leave the others, AT&T, BellSouth -- the others who have been involved in this. Verizon. Another option is go to voice over Internet protocol, which at least we know is incepted. There's not full protection because there's ways of getting information on these services. People have to take this into their own hands as consumers and look at technological services like voice-over Internet protocol services. Cable apparently is better protected for the time being than traditional voice. Consider getting your voice services through the cable companies.

CAFFERTY: You can shop through your feet, in other words. Jim, we have to leave it there, thank you very much. It's good to have you with us. Jim Harper, the director of Information Policy Study at CATO Institute down there in the nation's capital.

When we come back, fast bucks. America loves a get rich quick fad, from the dot-com boom to real estate. We'll look at what's driving the next trend.

Plus, buying health coverage like you buy a shirt. Medicare Part D is a big test for consumer-driven care. Find out what the results mean for all of us.

And the running tally, country singer Kinky Friedman is in the race for Texas governor. See what it took to get his name on the ballot.


WESTHOVEN: You can say we're keeping up with the Jones kind of people. That's true when it comes to investing, as well. A few years ago Americans were jumping at dot-com stocks. When that went bust, we moved into real estate. Now there's a big spike up in blue chips and commodities like gold. Many investors are wondering if they ought to make a move. Is it too late to take the plunge? Michael Farr, CEO of capital management, Farr, Miller & Washington joins us now. Welcome. My first question to you is, does it worry you when a topic like this shows up on CNN, you know? Because there's always that line that when you start to see gold in the headlines, when it's on the front page of the paper and not just the business page, that's a sign of the top. What do you think?

MICHAEL FARR, CEO, FARR, MILLER & WASHINGTON: I think, absolutely. You know, when were you really supposed to buy the big blue chips and the tech stocks and the dot-coms and the Venture Capital money? You were supposed to buy all of that stuff in 1999. It was really hot. And guess what it did for the next five or six years, you know, boom. What were people saying about oil in 1999?

The economists on oil in 1999 said drowning in oil. It was $25 a barrel, and the target price in "The Economist" was $10 a share and nobody wanted it. That was probably the time to buy oil, when it was low. See, 20 years -- my 20 years in the business tells me to try to buy them when they're low, not when they're high. I think they're high now and people want to buy them. Bad news.

SERWER: Michael, I agree with you to an extent certainly about gold, I mean there's hype there. Oil, we know there is speculation in the market. If you look at the commodities and try to understand why they've gone up, demand from China, demand from India. There are a lot of reasons why. Copper is at an all-time high. If you adjust for inflation, it doesn't look quite so scary. Shouldn't we ignore the fact they're up and try to look at the fundamentals and understand if the demand is strong?

FARR: Andy, I think that the fundamental trends in the market argue that we could go higher, still. But, basically at every top we come up with these wonderful arguments as to why it's going to keep going -- these trees are going to keep growing to the sky. If you think back to 1999 and we make up fancy terms and words. We had a paradigm shift, is what was going on in 1999 and 2000, or the new paradigm.

And maybe if we can come up with the right high-falutin' words right now for oil, it will make us feel better about owning something that's up threefold, that gold's up, copper's up, commodities across the board. Silver's up threefold. They're all up.

I think after a rally of this nature to be buying in, yes, there's a fundamental argument about global expansion and everything else. But we saw data today that showed that the actual projections for oil consumption are coming down because the price is so high people have changed their habits. I think there's an argument. But I think the big moves over with.

CAFFERTY: What about the stock market, Michael? We've had very good earnings for the last couple years and stock prices haven't really done much. When the Fed finished their little get-together last Wednesday, the market headed straight south ever since. I think Thursday was the biggest decline in four months on Wall Street. Yet we have good corporate earnings. What's going on? FARR: You know I think it's good evidence not to talk to Maria Bartiroma (ph) at a cocktail party.

CAFFERTY: Or any other time.

FARR: Who knew the word "yet" would tank the market in the Fed's minutes as it has? Earnings have gone up. Therefore the valuations on domestic equities have come way down. We're trading at about 15 1/2 or 15 3/4 times as if that is the price to earnings multiple for next year's estimate. Stocks and big blue chip stocks are cheap.

You want to talk to somebody about buying blue chip stocks right now, they're not interested. Well they weren't interested in buying oil in 1999. They're never interested in buying whatever's down. Americans love to buy stocks when they're expensive. Our stock market looks cheap. Big multinational blue chips have, within them, huge foreign operations and huge currency hedges built in. They have foreign-based operations that are denominated in foreign currencies that stay in those foreign countries. Big portions of their revenues. This is a time to buy America. I think this is when you buy big blue chip stocks.

WESTHOVEN: One of the things you talked about is the market going in these five-year cycles. I think it's funny the way you described them. Would you describe them for us? And also tell us where we are?

FARR: We always see this come through these five-year cycles. I'm really borrowing, we could say steal if we want to be honest but I think borrow is a nicer word, from Bill Miller, in his latest record from the Legg Mason Value Trust who suggested that we really have seen these five-year cycles over and over again. Nothing more, I think than a market cycle.

I think we're going to change leadership here. We changed leadership from the tech stock boom and the blue chip boom through the late '90s to these commodity-driven stocks. We've seen one of the greatest bull markets in commodities. Bull markets and bear markets occur in three psychological stages.

The first stage is disbelief. You remember after 1999 or 2000 and the market started to crack and we went down the first 300 points, 500 points. And people said, oh, it's a buying opportunity. It was on its way to 7700 from 11,000. The first down stage -- or the first up stage is met with disbelief. Then we sort of accept it. OK, maybe it's really down to stay. Then we go to capitulation. At the bottom, we capitulate. At the top, we capitulate. At the bottom, we say, OK, I want to sell everything, go to cash. All I ever want to own is a bond. I hate the stock market. That's when you buy it. When it goes to the top and your mailman, when the taxi driver is giving you stock tips that is when you sell it.

CAFFERTY: Michael, we are going to have to leave it there. It is interesting stuff. Thank you for coming on the program. Haven't seen you in a while.

FARR: Thank you. I missed you guys.

CAFFERTY: Michael Farr, CEO, Farr, Miller & Washington.

Now for this week's look ahead. On Tuesday, we'll get numbers for housing starts building permits for the month of April. Should give us a look at how the real estate market is really changing. Slowing down a little bit. We'll see how much. Also Tuesday the producer price index is out, measure the prices of goods at the wholesale level. Wednesday, we'll get a look at where prices at the retail level are going. That's consumer prices, the CPI, it's called, and that comes out Wednesday.

Coming up after the break on IN THE MONEY, the numbers crunch. United Health Care is getting attention over some of its earnings reports. Not the kind you'd like. We'll look at whether the stock might be on the critical list.

Also ahead, find a camera that you click with. See how to shop for a digital camera. Whether you're shooting for fun or for money.

And code green, "The Da Vinci Code" movie mixes star power and controversy. Alan Wastler has some thoughts on how that might play out at the box office. Stick around.


SEWRER: It's not like you need another reason to hate the health insurance companies. But United Health Group threw some fuel on the fire this week when it announced it might have to restate past earnings reports because of an informal SEC investigation. The government wants to know if UNH allowed its CEO and others to back- date their stock options so they could make maximum profits and make out like back debts.

Not disclosing that kind of sweetheart deal is illegal. United Health shares have been on a steady decline since the beginning of the year and now they're near a 52-week low. That makes United Health Care our "Stock of the Week." There are a couple different issues going on here.

One, these guys just sort of look crooked. Let's be honest here. And number two, another issue about how do you pay CEO, CEO compensation. Because this stock went up 70 fold, 70 times. That's why the guy ended up with $1.6 billion of stock options. But then it was this whole monkey business of dating them at the best possible day, which is unbelievably stupid.

CAFFERTY: How greedy do you have to be? Isn't $1.6 billion enough?


WESTHOVEN: I should say -- well, I think it brings up a really interesting conversation about how much do we pay CEOs. A lot of people get really upset when we talk about this. If you have any kind of feeling that's obscene, people get angry. They think it's a free market issue. But not when everybody sitting around the board is your buddy and the CEO somewhere else and you're all paying each other.

SERWER: I was at Berkshire Hathaway's annual meeting, Warren Buffet's love fest out there. It was interesting. Someone asked him about that, because they said how much should you pay the CEO of a company that is in the commodity business a d I think he was referring to, say, Lee Raymond of Exxon who got all this money. You make money because the stock goes up, because oil prices go up.

Buffet was saying maybe you should make a lot of money if you are the lowest cost producer, or in the case of an insurance company the lowest cost per buyer, not just that the stock goes up or you make a lot of profits. If you get the wind at your back like an oil company or an insurance company in this environment with deregulation, you'll make ton money. But that leaves aside, that he is maybe a crook.

WESTHOVEN: And they don't lose when the stock goes down, they don't.

CAFFERTY: Is there any such thing as a practical matter as an informal SEC investigation?

SERWER: Yes, I like that. That just means we're looking at you and then we're going to come down like a ton of bricks.

CAFFERTY: Step on your neck.

SERWER: How stupid can you be, you know that someone wouldn't notice that you pick -- you're not supposed to pick, you're not supposed to go back and pick the three days the stock traded at the absolute lowest point. And now they're going to have to restate earnings to the tune of $200 million. The investigation is going back to 1994. I mean, it is a real mess that company. We're not even talking about whether or not you should buy the stock. Because the cockroach theory suggests that you should avoid this thing like the plague.

CAFFERTY: Thanks, Andy.

SERWER: All right. Coming up on IN THE MONEY, it's down to the wire for getting Medicare Part D. See what consumer-driven health care means for all of us.

Plus, can you say Governor Kinky with a straight face? Country star Kinky Friedman wants the top job in Texas. He'll join us to talk about his campaign.

And bling on a plate. We'll show you food with an ego problem on our "Fun Site of the Week."



CAFFERTY: Monday's the deadline to enroll in the Medicare Part D prescription drug plan. Polls have shown seniors find it confusing and the reason why -- too many choices. It's a step toward the whole consumer-driven health care idea that the Bush administration is so fond of. But is it working? We are going to try to find out.

Len Nichols is the director of the Health Policy Program at New American Foundation, a public policy institute. Len welcome to the IN THE MONEY broadcast.


CAFFERTY: Is this thing working? I find it confusing. My father- in-law is 93 years old. He lives in an assisted living facility. My wife and I had to go to a seminar at our church and have a representative of one of the drug companies, who also happens to be a member of the church, explain this stuff to us. How is the 93-year-old guy in an assisted living facility supposed to make any choice on something as complex as this Medicare Part D thing?

NICHOLS: Well you hit the nail on head with the word "complex." There's no question, it's beyond a normal person's capacity. That's true for health insurance in general. What you're seeing is a playing out of philosophy, like you said, of individuals going it alone. I liken it to we need to get from Florida to England. And the Bush administration would like to wind surf with a map in their hand.

CAFFERTY: I like it, metaphor.

NICHOLS: And most of us would rather have a sea captain who actually has a boat big enough to withstand a storm. With want to talk with the captain about whether to go through the storm or go around it. But you get my point.

WESTHOVEN: I was going to ask you if you would give the Bush administration a grade on health care, what would you give them?

NICHOLS: Well health care in general, I would give the a D-. For Medicare Part D, I will say this, the person running the program is doing about as good a job as you can do, trying to make that wind surf actually limp on into Bristol. But the bottom line is, the philosophy is extreme individualism, it is extreme go it alone do it by yourself.

The Bush administration as a whole used health care just like any other commodity, like ice cream, say, and expects us all to make choices in the same way. It's far too complex. Most of us need a guide. And for that, we need some structure. I'm all for markets. In fact, I spend a lot of my time arguing, we need to have market forces applicable. But markets need to have rules. The Bush administration basically doesn't believe in rules.

SERWER: Then to what extent is this all partisan, though? Are you coming from a Democratic perspective?

NICHOLS: No, we are absolutely nonpartisan, nonprofit. And I -- if you can ask people around town, I'm someone who straddles the middle of the fence. Therefore, my job, in some ways, is to piss off both sides every day. I think it's fair to say is assessment is the philosophy the Bush administration is have people go it alone.

The good news is there are a lot of choices. That can be good. The bad news is, the choices are so confusing it has actually been negative for a lot of people. The premiums that came out of the bidding process were lower than a lot of people predicted.

So there is some indication that that kind of competition works. But here's the bottom line. Of the six million people who are still not signed up for the drug benefit, probably five million are low income. What this shows is that a pure market unaided system leaves the most vulnerable behind and we have to think harder how to make rules so that won't happen.

CAFFERTY: This wasn't a surprise to anybody. This thing was drawn up by big pharmaceutical companies; this thing was done with the idea of protecting their bottom line. If we can help somebody save a couple bucks along the way, OK. But we're not going to put big pharma in jeopardy.

NICHOLS: Well, it's interesting how the law actually prohibits the government from negotiating with manufacturer that is, to say, bring the most powerful buyer to the equation and leave the bargaining to the individual pharmaceutical management companies. They do the best they can and some of them are very good at it. But the government would clearly be stronger.

The argument is often used against using the government buying power here. It's setting price controls. We don't seem to have that argument when it comes to buying submarines, one buyer and one seller. In this case, you want to use all the tools you have and the government buying power would have been helpful.

It will be used in the future, whichever administration -- I would say it's important to keep a distinction between the Bush administration philosophy and Republican philosophy. In my opinion, the Bush administration is the far right of edge and most Republicans are not there. Which is why Chuck Grassley, the chair, Senate and finance, among others, have worked very hard to correct the mistakes of this implementation process and I think as we go forward we do have hope of bipartisan success.

WESTHOVEN: Len Nichols, director of the health policy program at the New America Foundation. Thank you very much. We do hope that there will be some different political leaders at some point, maybe after election who is looking out for people getting left out by some of these programs. Thank you.

NICHOLS: Glad to be here.

WESTHOVEN: There are lots more to come here. Up next, lone stardom. Country singer Kinky Friedman is running to become the next governor of Texas. See what it takes to get a campaign on the move.

And cameras with brainpower. How to find a digital machine that knows how to take a picture, even if you don't.


SERWER: The campaign slogan says it all. Why the hell not? Our next guest is already known as a singer, comedian and author. Now he wants to add a new title to his resume, governor of Texas. We're joined now by Kinky Friedman, who this week submitted more than four times the signatures needed to get him on the November ballot as an independent candidate.

Welcome to the show, Kinky. Thanks for coming on. I guess the first question I've got to ask you is about your candidacy. I mean, did this start off as kind of a lark and now it's kind of picking up steam and getting more, more real?

KINKY FRIEDMAN, GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE, TEXAS: I think you could say that. You know, I'm kind of like -- Will Rogers has been a hero of mine. And Will Rogers said he enjoyed being with politicians because they're the greatest comedians of them all. He says the only problem is every time they make a joke it turns into a law. And every time they make a law it turns into a joke.

WESTHOVEN: One of the things you talked about, one of your campaign promises, you promised to offend. Also, what you called de- wussify of Texas. Tell us some of the real stuff that your are out there campaigning for and what you really stand for when it comes to Texas' future.

FRIEDMAN: Well, I think our governor has wasted a lot of time banning gay marriage, while education in Texas has cratered completely and now we're 50th in education and Guam and Samoa are sneaking up on us. So what I would do is legalize casino gambling. We could have this $5 billion permanent revenue stream to pay for education and lower property taxes.

CAFFERTY: How much of the dissatisfaction with the Bush administration has carried over into the state of Texas? Is there evidence of that, he is from there? The Bush family lives down there, the country is not exactly enamored of the way he's doing a lot of stuff these days --

FRIEDMAN: Well, you know, George is my friend, but I consider him to be a good man trapped in a Republican's body basically. And...

CAFFERTY: Very nice.

FRIEDMAN: I think he and our governor have gone right on the whole illegal alien situation. I think that too many people have died trying to become American citizens and too many people have waited a lifetime to do that and still not made it. To give citizenship easily to people who have cut in line.

SERWER: Let me ask you to follow up on that, Kinky. Are you for paving over the river Rio Grande and letting everyone in or you want to erect a 38 foot concrete wall? What is going on? That's a big issue.

FRIEDMAN: No, I just want to pay attention to the issue and our governor has been ignoring it because he doesn't want to offend Hispanics. That's why you find dead bodies in the back of container trucks on Texas soil, because we've ignored the border for six years. The governor hasn't called Bill Richardson or Janet Nappaltanno (ph), maybe because they're Democrats. Could that be? The Hispanics I talk to here very much feel the way I do, that we need to pay a lot of attention to this border and take a much harder line with Vicente Fox.

WESTHOVEN: So how do you do it? What kind of harder line do you take and what do you do about the border?

FRIEDMAN: Well one suggestion I have offered was presented to me by Joaquin Jackson (ph), a famous retired Texas ranger. It's called the five Mexican generals plan. We divide the border into five jurisdictions, we appoint a Mexican general to each. We give each man a million bucks, give him 10 million bucks, doesn't matter, he's cheap. We hold money for hill. And every time we catch an illegal coming through his section or a drug bust in his section, we dock him $25,000.


FRIEDMAN: Now, this will work and it's cowboy logic. And I was talking about this at Texas A&M last month, when I met John McCain for the first time. John McCain said, you know, the five Mexican generals plan is probably better than anything we've got right now.

CAFFERTY: You bet it would work, but it ain't going to happen and you and I both know it. One of the reasons nothing's being done about closing up that border it is a lot of big fat cat Republican contributors on this side the border want that border open because they're exploiting these people who sneak into the country, paying them below minimum wage, and their profit line is expanding because of it. So there's a lack of political will to do anything about this.

FRIEDMAN: And they're doing worse than that. There's a contractor in Houston who hires illegals to do roofing work and when the payroll comes due, he calls the border patrol.

CAFFERTY: What do you do about that kind of mentality? This thing is being sanctioned at the highest levels federal government. You and I both know it.

FRIEDMAN: I don't have all the answers to this, but I agree the two things are greed and politics. The Hispanics are trending Republican. Think the George W. and our Governor Rick Perry do not want to get in the way of any good news for the Republican Party. My only agenda is to do the right thing for Texas. I mean, remember the Alamo. If we can't at least focus on the boarder as a major issue to Texas, I don't know what is a major issue.

SERWER: Quick last question Kinky is it true that I read you want to have an oil tax? How are you going to get elected in Texas with that?

FRIEDMAN: Easy. Because this -- I'm not talking about the little fellers, now, the independent guys. I'm talking about the Rockefellers. I'm talking about big oil, big gas, a 1 percent surcharge at the wellhead. A lot of oil people like it because they know it's great PR because the profits will go strictly to increasing salaries of teacher's cops and firefighters. That's the trust for Texas heroes.

SERWER: All right. We're going to have to leave it at that. What if we say some day very soon, Kinky Friedman, the next governor of the state of Texas?

FRIEDMAN: It will be a great day for Texas and I always say never re-elect anybody, including me. If I can't fix it in four years.

SERWER: Thanks for coming on the program.

Summer is just around the corner and the warm weather brings lots of great photo ops. If you plan on taking a special vacation or spending time with friends or family, it may be a good time to invest in a new digital camera. Whether you're in the market for a point and shoot that won't break the bank or professional job with all the work, has chosen a few top performing cameras.


DAVID CARNOY, EXEC. EDITOR, CNET.COM: These days it's really hard for consumers to pick out a digital camera. A lot of models that looks alike. At CNET, we picked out a few good options. Whether you're looking for a snap shoot camera or a high end digital SLR. If you're on a tight budget, you have a lot of choices these days. A lot of people are looking for nice compact cameras with high megapixel count.

This is a 7.2 mega pixel camera from Sony, the DSC-W 70. It has a nice big 2.5 inch LCD on the back. Also has a view finder, has a movie mode. Good picture quality in a relatively inexpensive package. This is just a tad less than $300.

If you want to step up to a camera that has more features, a little bit more expensive, this Casio EX-Z 850 is a great choice. It has an optical view on the back, finder, what it has is more manual controls. It has 35 C-Modes which are essentially pre-lighting settings that you can set up. It also has in-camera editing capabilities. Which means you can crop your photos right in the camera. It also has a more extensive auto focus feature, which allows you to put a dot literally right on the area where you want to auto focus. This camera costs about $400. That's really where the midrange starts.

If you're looking for professional cameras, you can get this Canon Mark II N. It's a $4,000.00 camera; it is an 8 megabucks model. It shoots 8.5 frames a second for 48 seconds. It also has a big battery pack at the bottom. This has a very high shutter rate, up to 1/ 8,000ths of a second. As well as high settings, which allow you to bring in more, light into the camera.

If you want to take professional quality pictures but you don't have a big budget and you want something that isn't too complicated, you can get this Canon, it is about $800.00 with the lens, and it's an 8-mega-pixel camera. Nice and responsive, fast. What's nice about it is you can just set this dial to program mode and it will take nice images in a lot of lighting environments. It will also accept a lot of Canon lenses. You can graduate to better lens and you can grow into a camera like this.


SERWER: You find out more information about these digital cameras and many others by logging on to

Coming up next on IN THE MONEY, controversy loves company. "The Da Vinci Code" movie comes with all the makings of a blockbuster. Allen Wastler is going to tell us whether he thinks it will deliver.

And it is time to read your emails from the past week. You can send us one right now too; we are at


CAFFERTY: There aren't a lot of sure bets in the world these days. But "The Da Vinci Code" is probably as close to a sure-fire blockbuster as any movie that comes out of Hollywood these days. Or is it? Web master Allen Wastler joins us now with a look at that and "Fun Site of the Week." Now everybody says this thing is going to make tons of money.

ALLEN WASTLER, MONEY.COM: It's going to make tons. There's been some Catholic backlash against it, with a high-ranking Vatican official saying you shouldn't go see it.


WASTLER: Have you read "The Da Vinci Code" there, Jack?


WASTLER: Basically and spoiler alert. For the two of you who haven't read the boo, basically it challenges the idea that Jesus Christ basically was the man -- basically they say he married Mary, went on to have basically a bloodline. So the Catholic Church obviously has issues with that. It's also portrayed very badly in the story.

However -- some groups are calling for a boycott. However if you look at how boycotts have happened with movies these days, it just feeds the fire, baby, you know, it's people -- I want to see what everybody's getting upset about.

CAFFERTY: What was that thing that Mel Gibson came out with a few years ago?

WASTLER: "Passion of the Christ."

CAFFERTY: It was huge, huge.

WASTLER: Some people say exactly the same phenomena will go on here, especially because you have Tom Hanks and Ron Howard --

WESTHOVEN: Well, the book was like an intellectual challenge, you know, you are guessing along. Do you really get that in two hours, it is just not the not the same.

WASTLER: Well some of the reviews of the movie are that they actually do bring out the elements of the book and do make it intellectually challenging like that. Some groups are saying look a boycott is not going to work. They're trying other things, like discussion groups about what's right and wrong about the theory. We'll see how it works. I say it will be a huge blockbuster.

CAFFERTY: They can never make as good a movie if it's a great book. The book is always better. Plus it would be like a nine-hour movie.

SERWER: Movie's easier.

CAFFERTY: What's our "Fun Site of the Week?"

WASTLER: Well, you hungry, Jack?


WASTLER: Let's pimp your snack, baby. They take ordinary snacks -- how about your M&M? There's a giant M&M. See that little speck next to it, that's a regular M&M. These people, they take it and -- want more? How about a Snickers bar? Look at that.

SERWER: They really pimp that thing out.

WASTLER: They got the recipe and step-by-step instructions on how you do it and then finally, Oreo, baby. With a glass of milk.

CAFFERTY: So you can get diabetes just with one snack.

WASTLER: Just looking at the Website. It's a fun place.

WESTHOVEN: I'm going to make that next week.

CAFFERTY: What do you have for us, Miss Westhoven?

WESTHOVEN: In our "Life After Work" story this week, this California couple decided to be a little bit like Indiana Jones in their retirement. Jimmy and Judy Smith took classes to learn all about fossils so they could hunt for signs of big game that used to roam the California desert.


WESTHOVEN (voice-over): Jimmy and Judy Smith are out in the desert searching for bones of prehistoric life like saber tooth cats and giant sloths.

JIMMY SMITH, PALEONTOLGIST: You really would have to look at it to see if it's bone, but I think I know what it is.

WESTHOVEN: They left jobs as financial planners to hunt for fossils hidden in the hills of southern California.

JIMMY SMITH: I wonder what that is?

WESTHOVEN: Jim's curiosity about the earth was sparked years ago when he was an air force pilot.

JIMMY SMITH: Was always up looking down at the earth and looking at strange kinds of formations and wondering what the heck was going on there.

JUDY SMITH, PALEONTOLOGIST: Over here are some more of the bones, mammoth bones. We've educated ourselves in the field of paleontology to a working level. Over here, we have giant land tortoise.

WESTHOVEN: Now they drill and dust and teach California schoolchildren about the prehistoric camels, mammals and birds that roamed the earth millions of years ago.

JIMMY SMITH: We have very few worries and very much excitement. I can't imagine a better situation than to say live the last third of your life.


WESTHOVEN: Next week an inspiring story about a guy who used to be a navy officer stationed in San Diego. He got so upset seeing all the homeless kids out on the street that he decided to spend his retirement try to help them. We'll be right back with more IN THE MONEY.


CAFFERTY: Time now to read your answers to our question of the week about whether high gas prices are making you considering using mass transit.

Bobby in Hampton, Virginia wrote this, "Because mass transit is very inconvenient and rare in my area, I'm still not choosing to take the bus. But these high gas prices are convincing me to simply stay home."

Chuck in Delaware, "Mass transit in my area, absolutely lousy. But I have been using it more because I was putting on some weight. So having to walk to and from my stop is actually helping me get fit again."

Pat in Boise, Idaho, wrote this, "I work the night shift so public transportation is not an option for me. I am considering buying a Honda Scooter."

Here is next week's email question of the week. Are higher interest rates hitting you harder than higher gas prices? Send your answers to, and you should visit our show page at, which is where you will find the address of our "Fun Site of the Week."

Thank you for joining us for this week's edition of the program. My thanks to Headline News correspondent Jennifer Westhoven, "Fortune" magazine editor-at-large Andy Serwer, and managing editor Allen Wastler.

Hope to see you back here next week Saturday at 1:00, Sunday at 3:00. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.



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