"Card Check" is really, really bad
Wall Street ended another unforgiving month with a steep loss -- one that left the Dow Jones industrial average at less than half its record high.
The day's news unsettled investors. Citigroup Inc. agreed to turn over a big piece of itself to the government, a move that fanned worries that other banks would face crippling trouble with bad debt. General Electric Co. slashed its quarterly dividend by 68 percent. Both companies are part of the Dow Jones industrial average, which fell 119 points. . . .
For CCSU student John Wahlberg, a class presentation on campus violence turned into a confrontation with the campus police due to a complaint by the professor.
On October 3, 2008, Wahlberg and two other classmates prepared to give an oral presentation for a Communication 140 class that was required to discuss a “relevant issue in the media”. Wahlberg and his group chose to discuss school violence due to recent events such as the Virginia Tech shootings that occurred in 2007.
Shortly after his professor, Paula Anderson, filed a complaint with the CCSU Police against her student. During the presentation Wahlberg made the point that if students were permitted to conceal carry guns on campus, the violence could have been stopped earlier in many of these cases. He also touched on the controversial idea of free gun zones on college campuses.
That night at work, Wahlberg received a message stating that the campus police “requested his presence”. Upon entering the police station, the officers began to list off firearms that were registered under his name, and questioned him about where he kept them.
They told Wahlberg that they had received a complaint from his professor that his presentation was making students feel “scared and uncomfortable”.
“I was a bit nervous when I walked into the police station,” Wahlberg said, “but I felt a general sense of disbelief once the officer actually began to list the firearms registered in my name. I was never worried however, because as a law-abiding gun owner, I have a thorough understanding of state gun laws as well as unwavering safety practices.”
Professor Anderson refused to comment directly on the situation and deferred further comment.
“It is also my responsibility as a teacher to protect the well being of our students, and the campus community at all times,” she wrote in a statement submitted to The Recorder. “As such, when deemed necessary because of any perceived risks, I seek guidance and consultation from the Chair of my Department, the Dean and any relevant University officials.”
Wahlberg believes that her complaint was filed without good reason.
“I don’t think that Professor Anderson was justified in calling the CCSU police over a clearly nonthreatening matter. Although the topic of discussion may have made a few individuals uncomfortable, there was no need to label me as a threat,” Wahlberg said in response. “The actions of Professor Anderson made me so uncomfortable, that I didn’t attend several classes. The only appropriate action taken by the Professor was to excuse my absences.”
The university police were unavailable for comment.
“If you can’t talk about the Second Amendment, what happened to the First Amendment?” asked Sara Adler, president of the Riflery and Marksmanship club on campus. “After all, a university campus is a place for the free and open exchange of ideas.”
Politics cannot be removed from the political process. But here, partisan politics ran roughshod over pragmatic economic policy. Token concessions (including the AMT provision) to some Republicans weakened the package. Obama is gambling that his flawed stimulus will seem to work well enough that he'll receive credit for restarting the economy -- and not be blamed for engineering a colossal waste.
Judged by his own standards, President Obama's $787 billion economic stimulus program is deeply disappointing. For weeks, Obama has described the economy in grim terms. "This is not your ordinary run-of-the-mill recession," he said at his Feb. 9 news conference. It's "the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression." Given these dire warnings, you'd expect the stimulus package to focus almost exclusively on reviving the economy. It doesn't, and for that, Obama bears much of the blame.
The case for a huge stimulus -- which I support -- is to prevent a devastating downward economic spiral. Spending is tumbling worldwide. In the fourth quarter of 2008, the U.S. economy contracted at a nearly 4 percent annual rate. In Japan, the economy fell at a nearly 13 percent rate; in Europe, the rate was about 6 percent. These are gruesome declines. If the economic outlook is as bleak as Obama says, there's no reason to dilute the upfront power of the stimulus. But that's what he's done.
His politics compromise the program's economics. Look at the numbers. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that about $200 billion will be spent in 2011 or later -- after it would do the most good. For starters, there's $8 billion for high-speed rail. "Everyone is saying this is [for] high-speed rail between Los Angeles and Las Vegas -- I don't know," says Ray Scheppach, executive director of the National Governors Association. Whatever's done, the design and construction will occupy many years. It's not a quick stimulus.
Then there's $20.8 billion for improved health information technology -- more electronic records and the like. Probably most people regard this as desirable, but here, too, changes occur slowly. The CBO expects only 3 percent of the money ($595 million) to be spent in fiscal 2009 and 2010. The peak year of projected spending is 2014 at $14.2 billion. . . .
Big projects take time. They're included in the stimulus because Obama and Democratic congressional leaders are using the legislation to advance many political priorities instead of just spurring the economy. At his news conference, Obama argued (inaccurately) that the two goals don't conflict. Consider, he said, the retrofitting of federal buildings to make them more energy efficient. "We're creating jobs immediately," he said.
Yes -- but not many. The stimulus package includes $5.5 billion for overhauling federal buildings. The CBO estimates that only 23 percent of that would be spent in 2009 and 2010. . . .
During the presidential campaign, Barack Obama tempered his pledge to substantially raise taxes for high earners with an important proviso: He'd simply restore rates to their levels during the Clinton Administration. The implication was that families in the upper brackets would see their total tax bite go back to the levels of the 1990s, but no higher.
Now, it sure looks like Obama is reneging on that promise. The burden will indeed go far higher than in the Clinton years via a technicality -- one that will come as a rude shock even to the taxpayers already braced for a soaking. . . .
Ms. Pelosi, for her part, let it be known in a recent meeting with the president that his requests to hold down the number of earmarked pork-barrel projects were encroaching unacceptably on Congressional prerogatives. "We are reducing them, but members still want them," she told the president, according a Democratic insider's account related to the Web site Politico.com.
Great politics, lousy policy.
That's how criminologists and critics are summing up the Conservative push for more penalties after a spate of 18 shootings in British Columbia blamed on gang warfare.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper heads to Vancouver on Thursday to talk up a new bill that, if passed, is expected to deem any gang-related killing a case of first-degree murder.
The Conservatives also promised in the last election to create a new criminal offence, with a mandatory prison term, for drive-by shootings.
It's the government's latest flex of legislative muscle as it renews a crime-fighting agenda that partly died when Harper forced an early election last fall. . . . .
It is pretty hard to seriously argue that a new so-called “assault weapons” ban would reduce crime in the United States. Even research done for the Clinton Administration couldn’t find that the federal assault weapons ban reduced crime.
There are no academic studies by economists or criminologist that find the original federal assault weapons ban reduced murder or violent crime generally. There is no evidence that the state assault weapons bans reduced murder or violent crime rates – even some evidence that they caused murder to rise slightly. Since the federal ban sunset in September 2004, murder and overall violent crime rates have remained virtually unchanged.
In fact, when the assault weapon's ban sunset in September 2004 there was no explosion of murder and bloodshed as gun control advocates feared. Immediately after the law expired murder rates fell and they fell more in the states without state assault weapon bans than the states with them.
But yesterday, Eric Holder, the new U.S. Attorney General, offered a new justification: “I think that will have a positive impact in Mexico, at a minimum.” . . .
Pelosi throws cold water on weapons ban
By Mike Soraghan
Posted: 02/26/09 11:59 AM [ET]
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tossed cold water on the prospect of reinstating the assault weapons ban, highlighting Democrats’ reluctance to take on gun issues.
Attorney General Eric Holder raised the prospect Wednesday that the administration would push to bring back the ban. But Pelosi (D-Calif.) indicated on Thursday that he never talked to her. The Speaker gave a flat “no” when asked if she had talked to administration officials about the ban.
“On that score, I think we need to enforce the laws we have right now,” Pelosi said at her weekly news conference. “I think it's clear the Bush administration didn’t do that.”
Outside of the dig at the recent Republican president, that phrase is the stock line of those who don’t want to pass new gun control laws, such as the National Rifle Association.
The White House declined to comment on Holder's remarks, referring reporters to the Department of Justice. The DoJ did not respond to The Hill's request for comment.
The Senate passed the Ensign amendment 575 to the D.C. Voting Rights Act, S. 160 in a landslide – 62-36. This amendment will, finally, enable law-abiding Americans in Washington, D.C., to bear arms. It has been over three decades since law-abiding Americans could easily protect themselves in their own homes from intruders.
Based on budget scenarios outlined by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, federal budget deficits will average $870 billion for the next 10 years, according to a new analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
The latest CBO deficit estimates do not include the costly policy initiatives in health care, energy and education that the president mentioned in his Tuesday speech before a joint session of Congress. Mr. Obama will detail some of those plans Thursday when he introduces his first 10-year budget blueprint.
The CBO's estimates also do not include any extension of the temporary tax cuts that were contained in the $787 billion stimulus package that the president recently signed into law. Based on his campaign promises, Mr. Obama intends to extend several costly stimulus provisions well beyond 2011, when many of them are set to expire.
Obama to Seek New Assault Weapons Ban
The Ban Expired in 2004 During the Bush Administration.
By JASON RYAN
WASHINGTON, Feb. 25, 2009—
The Obama administration will seek to reinstate the assault weapons ban that expired in 2004 during the Bush administration, Attorney General Eric Holder said today.
"As President Obama indicated during the campaign, there are just a few gun-related changes that we would like to make, and among them would be to reinstitute the ban on the sale of assault weapons," Holder told reporters.
Holder said that putting the ban back in place would not only be a positive move by the United States, it would help cut down on the flow of guns going across the border into Mexico, which is struggling with heavy violence among drug cartels along the border.
"I think that will have a positive impact in Mexico, at a minimum." Holder said at a news conference on the arrest of more than 700 people in a drug enforcement crackdown on Mexican drug cartels operating in the U.S.. . .
Trader guns down armed intruder
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By FRANCIS MUREITHIPosted Monday, February 23 2009 at 19:53
Four gangsters got more than they bargained for when a businessman, whose house they had broken into, shot one of them dead and injured the others.
The armed gangsters broke into the businessman’s house in Lanet, Nakuru Town, after cutting the window grilles, police said.
They harassed the family as they ransacked the house for valuables.
However, as they were leaving the house laden with electronic goods, the businessman got hold of a gun and opened fire, killing one and injuring the other three, who fled into the darkness.
In another incident, police are holding two university students after a mobile phone stolen in Nakuru Town last December was traced to them by a tracking system.
The first student was arrested at Catholic University of Eastern Africa and led detectives to a colleague at the University of Nairobi who, he claimed, sold him the phone.
Police also arrested three other suspects believed to have been involved in the theft of the phone. . . .
"Excessive intervention in economic activity and blind faith in the
state's omnipotence is another possible mistake.
True, the state's increased role in times of crisis is a natural reaction to market setbacks. Instead of streamlining market mechanisms, some are tempted to expand state economic intervention to the greatest possible extent.
The concentration of surplus assets in the hands of the state is a negative aspect of anti-crisis measures in virtually every nation.
In the 20th century, the Soviet Union made the state's role absolute. In the long run, this made the Soviet economy totally uncompetitive. This lesson cost us dearly. I am sure nobody wants to see it repeated.
Nor should we turn a blind eye to the fact that the spirit of free enterprise, including the principle of personal responsibility of business people, investors and shareholders for their decisions, is being eroded in the last few months. There is no reason to believe that we can achieve better results by shifting responsibility onto the state.
And one more point: anti-crisis measures should not escalate into financial populism and a refusal to implement responsible macroeconomic policies. The unjustified swelling of the budgetary deficit and the accumulation of public debts are just as destructive as adventurous stock-jobbing." . . .
Remember back in February 2008 when President Obama came to Boise and spoke at a big rally? He made a big point of saying, "I won't take away your guns," because those nasty, dishonest Republicans were saying that Obama was going to do that.
It sure didn't take long for Obama to reveal his intentions. The afternoon of the inauguration, the White House Web site's Urban Policy page admitted that he is indeed going to try and do exactly that. "Obama and Biden also favor commonsense measures that respect the Second Amendment rights of gun owners, while keeping guns away from children and from criminals. They support closing the gun show loophole and making guns in this country childproof. They also support making the expired federal Assault Weapons Ban permanent." . . . .
The four-day event in April would have involved between 90 and 100 combat troops arriving in the Carroll County community in a convoy with a Blackhawk military helicopter flying overhead.
Troops would have gone door to door, asking the town's 443 residents about a suspected arms dealer and conducting searches of homes if property owners volunteered in advance to cooperate.
There was no opposition to the Guard's plans from city leaders. But gun-rights advocates were mortified, and news about the exercise became a hot topic nationally on radio talk shows and the Internet.
Arcadia Mayor Oran Kohorst said Monday he was disappointed the exercise had been canceled. He said he had not heard of a single objection from residents, and he said the City Council supported it. . . .
Why has the stock market fallen so much as politicians have talked about nationalizing the banks? If this was such a wonderful way of fixing credit markets, wouldn’t you think that stocks would go up?
The discussion might not be academic any longer with reports in today’s Wall Street Journal and elsewhere that the Obama administration is talking with Citibank about taking over as much as 40 percent of the company’s stock. Such a move would make the government not only Citi’s largest shareholder, by far, but it would effectively give the government complete control.
Politicians from Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) to Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) support nationalization. Democratic economists such as Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman, and Alan Blinder also support it. Even former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan supports a very limited nationalization. President Obama has already been on the record saying he opposed nationalization but now the state of negotiations with Citi has apparently already changed his mind.
Nationalization is being sold as necessary to help the banks but some banks were forced to take bailout funds over their objections last fall. Now some banks such as Bank of America are objecting to this new “help.” And who can blame them? Bank of America has continued to remain profitable despite being coaxed by the Federal Reserve to take over troubled financial institutions. . . .
‘Guns for vasectomy’ deal turns sour
Shaikh Azizur Rahman, Foreign Correspondent
Last Updated: February 22. 2009 11:58PM UAE / February 22. 2009 7:58PM GMT
A government scheme offering fast-tracked gun permits to men who agree to undergo a vasectomy is being criticised by the men who say officials are reneging on the deal.
One year after it started, men in one of India’s most violent regions who underwent the procedure in order to arm themselves for protection are still waiting for their permits.
Vasectomy camps have been held across the country for several years as part of a solution to reduce India’s population, but they often fail to meet their targets because most men refuse to be sterilised, believing that the process strips them of their “manliness”.
But with the arrival of the “guns for vasectomy” scheme in Madhya Pradesh’s Shivpuri district, part of the Chambal Valley, there has been a surge in demand from men eager to get a gun to defend their families from regular attacks on villages by roving gangs of bandits.
Several men have complained that the promised gun permits have not been issued.
“I underwent the operation only for the gun licence,” Lalit Gupta told the Hindustan Times. “The announcement appears to have been a trick.” . . .
SALEM, Ore. (AP) -- Sheriffs around Oregon have been sending an unusual letter to holders of concealed weapons permits with this message: If you don't want the public to know you've got a permit, we'll try to help you out.
The letter from the sheriffs says newspapers and others are trying to get lists of people who have concealed handgun permits, sparking a legal challenge that's pending in the Oregon Court of Appeals.
And as the appeals court mulls the issue, Oregon lawmakers are pursuing legislation to take those records completely out of public view by prohibiting their release under the Oregon public records law.
The bill to close those records has broad support, with half of the members of the Legislature, both Democrats and Republicans, signing on as co-sponsors. . . .
Tighter Regulations - Gun Sales Slump
February 22, 2009
The Association of Arms Retailers says that the recent introduction of tighter regulations for firearm permits, in particular the requirement of a mental health certificate from a physician, has severely impacted firearm sales.
Merchants are seriously concerned about their businesses.
"The requirement for a health certificate in itself has become a economic barrier to legal firearm sales," says Association chairman Pasi Säynäjoki.
The Association estimates that there are tens of millions of euros worth of arms in merchants' stocks that are not being sold at the rate shops had hoped for.
Firearm merchants consider the instructions issued to police on the permit process as chaotic. Their association argues that requiring a health certificate from a physician puts applicants in unequal positions. Additionally, opportunities of obtaining a health certificate locally vary from place to place.
There are also variations in procedure in different municipalities and even among healthcare centres. Applicants for a firearm permit are required to present a certificate from a physician stating that the applicant is not a danger to himself or to others. . . .
"A jury convicted Coats of misdemeanor animal abuse. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail."