Letter of Correction in the Economist Magazine

From The Economist magazine print edition:

Apr 23rd 2009

Ammunition in the debate
SIR – Your article on the drug wars in Mexico claimed that half the guns seized by the Mexican police were “assault weapons” and that “nearly all” of those were bought in the United States (“Taking on the narcos, and their American guns”, April 4th). However, Mexico doesn’t trace all guns, and those traced are not picked at random. When Mexico seizes guns from criminals it sends to the United States those guns that it identifies as having come from the United States. This isn’t a hard task as such guns are marked with a serial number and “Made in the USA”. Only 17% of all guns were actually traced back to the United States.

Mexico is a virtual arms-bazaar, with AK47s from China, shoulder-fired rockets from Soviet-block manufacturers, and fragmentation grenades from South Korea. These weapons aren’t sold in the United States. Americans can buy civilian versions of AK47s only—semi-automatic rifles that operate like deer-hunting rifles, not the guns used by armies around the world. Mexican drug gangs don’t want the American “assault weapons” that “look like” military weapons; they want guns that are military weapons.

John Lott
Senior research scientist
University of Maryland
College Park, Maryland

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Self defense shootings from last few days

Bartow, Florida: Homeowner Cleared in Shooting

Cornwell arrived at his Grove Avenue home just before 7 a.m. His wife left for work, and he was alone with his 3 1/2-month-old son and 3 1/2-year-old daughter.

A noise awoke him from his sleep and, armed with a semi-automatic pistol, he went to find out what was happening, Antonello wrote.

Cornwell came "face-to-face" in the hallway of his home with Michael Collins who swung a crowbar at Cornwell's head. Cornwell chased Collins out the back door and fired two shots, Antonello wrote.

Collins ran to his vehicle parked in the house's driveway, Antonello wrote. Cornwell ran back through his house, out the front door, and "instinctively opened fire on the vehicle (at the tires and body) in an attempt to disable it and prevent the intruder from leaving."

Collins drove about 200 feet up the road to an orange grove where his vehicle overturned, and he was captured.

Lake Wales police say Collins, 45, was struck in the head and left arm by the gunfire, but survived. . . . .

Springfield police say fatal shooting was self-defense

Springfield (KMTR) – Police say a fatal shooting in Springfield was an act of self-defense.

The shooting happened Monday night at a home on the 2300 block of E Street. Investigators say Rodolfo Baldenegro, 47, went to the home looking for his estranged girlfriend. Investigators say the woman had filed a restraining order against him.

Police say Baldenegro forced his way into the residence and got into a fight with the woman and another man. Police say the other man shot Baldenegro in self-defense. Baldenegro died at the hospital.

South Carolina Shootings found to be in Self-defense

Spartanburg County deputies determined that a man who shot two people Monday night outside his residence was acting in self-defense and charged the two men on Tuesday.

Daniel Scott Byrd, 22, of 115 Keith Street, Greer and Josh Duncan, 24, of 207 Church St., Wellford were each charged with one count of assault and battery.

Byrd's stomach was grazed by a bullet and Duncan was struck in the buttocks during a fight Monday night outside a Keith Street residence.

Larry James Pruitt Jr., 41, told deputies that a group of people were causing "a bad ruckus" outside his home and he asked them to keep it down. Pruitt said Byrd and Duncan then came into his yard and began choking and assaulting him.

Pruitt said he pulled a revolver from his pocket and fired several times, then ran into his home, reloaded his gun and waited for deputies.

Multiple people who said they witnessed the incident told deputies Pruitt was truthful about what happened.

When the deputy arrived, Duncan and Byrd were still on the ground outside of Pruitt's home. . . .

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Rep. Dingell on Cap and Trade

Dingell points out that Cap and Trade is really a big tax.

Al Gore wants both a carbon tax and cap-and-trade. Is this guy a complete idiot?

UPDATE: This is from the debate engendered by the hearing that Gore spoke at:

"This bill is an energy tax," Gingrich said. "An energy tax punishes senior citizens, it punishes rural Americans, if you use electricity it punishes you. This bill will increase your cost of living and may kill your job."

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee that is writing the bill, shot back that Gingrich was resorting to "the old scare tactics" designed to undermine any congressional effort to address the problem.

Gore defended the science that warns of a potential climate crisis later this century and insisted the blueprint outlined by House Democrats would address the problem without soaring prices for Americans.

"I think the cost of energy will come down when we make this transition to renewable energy," said Gore, who predicted economic costs would be much greater if global warming is not reined in by a shift from the use of fossil fuels. Democrats argued that the development of renewable and energy efficient technologies will produce jobs and mitigate cost increases.

The House bill calls for mandatory reductions in carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases by 20 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, and 83 percent by mid-century. It also would require utilities to produce a quarter of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025 and impose new efficiency requirements. . . . .

Some info on Global Warming is here.

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The nonsense of Obama's inconsistent standards in running companies

This piece nails the arbitrariness of Obama's policies on the auto companies.

as [Obama] tries to dictate the terms of what amounts to an out-of-court bankruptcy for Chrysler and GM. He wants Chrysler's secured lenders to give up their right to nearly full recovery in a bankruptcy in return for 15 cents on the dollar. They'd be crazy to do so, of course, except that these banks also happen to be beholden to the administration for TARP money.

Wasn't TARP supposed to be about restoring a healthy banking system? Isn't that a tad inconsistent with banks just voluntarily relinquishing valuable claims on borrowers? Don't ask.

Kingly prerogative also conflicts with kingly prerogative in the case of GM's unsecured creditors, who are the sticking point in agreeing to a turnaround plan by the drop-dead date of June 1. His retainer, Steven Rattner, has delivered word that the king's pleasure is that these unsecured creditors give up 100% of their claims in return for GM stock.

It may also be the king's pleasure, he advised, to convert at some point the government's own $13 billion in bailout loans into GM stock.

There's just one problem: Why on earth would GM's creditors -- who include not just bondholders but the UAW's health-care trust -- want any part of this deal?

They've already seen that the rights and privileges of shareholders are not worth diddly when the king is throwing his prerogatives around. He dispensed with the services of GM chief Rick Wagoner, though the king owned not a single share of GM stock at the time. His minions communicated the king's pleasure that GM consider discontinuing its GMC brand, maker of pickups and SUVs that offendeth the royal eye -- though these vehicles earn GM's fattest profit margins.

His minions haven't asked GM to give up the Chevy Volt, even after determining it will be a profitless black hole, because of the king's fondness for green.
. . .

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Some Texas Economics Professors Push to End Gun Free Zones on College Campuses

The Dallas Morning News has this op-ed piece:

Mass public shootings are a horrific feature of modern life. Many of the bloodiest examples of this scourge have occurred on college campuses. As professors, we are particularly sensitive to this danger.

Despite this – no, because of this – we support a bill currently pending in the Texas Legislature that would permit the concealed carrying of firearms on college and university campuses in the state by holders of concealed-handgun permits.

Any public policy involving matters of life and death should be decided only after weighing carefully the competing risks. Examining the relevant facts and data indicates that permitting Texas permit holders to carry weapons on college campuses would improve safety because:

•The best available empirical evidence shows that concealed-carry laws reduce the incidence of mass public shootings.

•Mass public shootings occur almost exclusively in places – like universities – where concealed carry is proscribed.

•There are numerous examples of firearms owners acting to disarm would-be mass murderers, thereby saving lives.

•Concealed-handgun-permit holders are overwhelmingly law-abiding individuals. . . . .

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ATF says "military-grade machine guns used by Mexican drug cartels are being imported from Central America"

Greta Van Susteren's interview with the ATF isn't very useful, but it does have one useful point.

According to the ATF spokesperson interviewed, while the military-grade machine guns used by Mexican drug cartels are being imported from Central America . . .

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With Open carry now allowed, will Wisconsin soon move to concealed carry?

Will gun control activists who oppose open carry agree to a concealed handgun law?

RACINE COUNTY — An important new gun-carry ruling has even gun rights advocates seeing imperfection in this state’s gun-carry laws.

Tuesday gun rights advocates and top law enforcement officials here were asked to weigh in on Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen’s Monday memo. It stated that openly wearing a holstered gun is not grounds for a disorderly conduct charge.

The case involved a West Allis man who was charged with disorderly conduct for openly carrying a gun on his property while planting a tree.

The result of Van Hollen’s opinion is that one cannot legally carry a concealed weapon in this state — but bearing one in plain sight is within the law.

That doesn’t mean all gun rights supporters are happy with the situation. “I don’t agree with the open carry,” said Jim Schunk, owner of Shooters Sports Center, 4900 6 Mile Road.

“I believe you should have to go through a class and get a certification to be able to carry,” said Schunk, a former police officer.

But Schunk said he thought Van Hollen’s ruling was sensible under current law. “I think it’s going to push our political system to take a second look at this,” he said. “We’ve got to regulate this somehow.”

State Rep. Scott Gunderson, R-Waterford, pointed out that state law forbids concealing a weapon — but says nothing about carrying one openly. “It’s not addressed, so it can’t be illegal,” he said.

He said concealed-carry law opponents may have induced the current state of affairs. Gunderson twice worked to pass a concealed-carry bill through the Legislature, but both times Gov. Jim Doyle vetoed it.

“It just seems to me if we would have passed concealed carry law, I have a hard time believing we would be at this point today,” Gunderson said. . . . . .

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"Why would you need a gun on a University (or school) campus?"

An anonymous person at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville sent me this. Obviously, the criminals in this case decided not to obey the gun free zone.

April 22, 2009
To: Knoxville-area UT Students, Faculty and Staff
From: UT Police
Subject: Armed Robbery at Reese Hall

At approximately 6:45 p.m., today, April 22, three men, one of whom was armed with a handgun, entered Reese Hall on the UT campus. They proceeded to the 6th floor, where they robbed a resident in his room at gunpoint.

The suspects fled the area of Reese Hall. All three were seen heading toward Cumberland Avenue. The student contacted UTPD within minutes. Two of the three suspects were apprehended by UTPD officers on Cumberland Avenue near Walgreens, also within minutes. One of the suspects was identifed as the same person with the firearm in Reese Hall.

At this time, the gun has not been recovered. UTPD and Knoxville Police continue to search for the third suspect.

Additional officers are now stationed in the west area of campus. UTPD advises everyone to exercise caution and report any suspicious activity immediately. . . . .

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This type of explanation for when things will recover indicates to me that the Obama people think things will take awhile

From AFP:

The United States needs the rest of the world economy to emerge from its slump as much as other economies need a US recovery, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said Wednesday.

Geithner, in a speech ahead of gatherings of global finance officials in Washington, highlighted the interdependence of the US and world economy amid the worst global slump in decades.

"The rest of the world needs the US economy and financial system to recover in order for it to revive. We remain at the center of global economic activity with financial and trade ties to every region of the globe," he told the Economic Club of Washington.

"Just as importantly, we need the rest of the world to recover if we are to prosper again here at home." . . . .


Self defense shooting in Springfield, Oregon

Here is the story from the Register-Guard:

SPRINGFIELD — Police believe that a Springfield man shot and killed an unwanted visitor to his home Monday night in self-defense.

The 39-year-old owner of the home in the 2300 block of E Street fired a single shot from a large-caliber revolver to protect himself and a female friend from an angry Rodolfo Leon Baldenegro Jr., Springfield police Capt. Richard Harrison said. . . . .

“When you fear for your life or serious injury, you have the right to protect yourself,” Harrison said.

Lane County prosecutors will review investigative reports compiled by Springfield police to determine if any criminal charges should be filed. A member of the district attorney’s office assisted with the initial investigation.

Springfield officers went to the mid-Springfield home about 9:30 p.m. and learned that Baldenegro had arrived there with others who remained in a vehicle while he went to the front door, Harrison said.

Baldenegro, who was unarmed, went to the house hoping to speak with a 37-year-old Springfield woman — a former girlfriend — who was visiting the homeowner at the time, Harrison said.

Court records show that a Lane County Circuit Court judge barred Baldenegro from contacting the woman last November, after she filed a restraining order petition against him.

The homeowner refused to allow Baldenegro inside the residence. Police said Baldenegro became angry and forced his way through the partially open door.

He got into a brief scuffle with the resident and his ex-girlfriend, which ended with Baldenegro being shot.

Harrison said the shooter and the woman were unhurt in the altercation.

The shooter’s mother said she went to her son’s house after the shooting and spoke with him about it.

“He said, ‘Mom, I feel really terrible because I didn’t want something like that to happen,’ ” she said. “He had a lot of sorrow, but he said he had to defend himself and (the woman) because the guy was very threatening and wouldn’t leave.” . . . . .

Thanks to Truman Stone for sending me this link.


Democrats plan for getting Health Care Plan through Congress

The NY Times has the story here:

WASHINGTON — With solid majorities in both houses of Congress, Democrats are tempted to use their political muscle to speed passage of health care legislation with minimal concessions to the Republican minority.

That approach may be the only way they can fulfill President Obama’s campaign promises, but it carries high risks as well.

In the budget blueprint for the coming year, Democrats may resort to an obscure procedure known as reconciliation to clear the way for Senate passage of a comprehensive health bill with a 51-vote majority, rather than the 60 votes that would otherwise be needed.

“It may be a struggle to get to 60,” said Senator Jeff Bingaman, Democrat of New Mexico, who is working on the legislation.

Use of the expedited procedure, to prevent a Senate filibuster, could both help and hurt the Democrats. It would enable them to overcome Republican objections to a big increase in federal spending and a huge expansion in the role of government. On the other hand, it could fundamentally alter the political dynamic of the health care debate, detonating an explosive reaction among Republican senators who have been working with Democrats on the issue.

If Democrats use the fast-track procedure, it would be tantamount to “a declaration of war,” said Senator Michael B. Enzi of Wyoming, the senior Republican on the health committee. . . . .

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The Danger of Small Cars

The WSJ has this:

Critics of a shift to smaller cars have a powerful ally in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The IIHS, the insurance industry's auto-safety research arm, has long argued against small cars on safety grounds. Earlier this month, the IIHS upped the ante with a video of crash tests it conducted pitting midsize cars against three new minicars.

The Institute's images of a Smart for two getting crushed and thrown spinning into the air after a head-on collision with a midsize Mercedes C-Class sedan dramatize every driver's worst fear -- that no matter how careful you are, someday a car will veer into your lane. That's the moment when you want your car to save your life, and never mind the mileage. . . . .

Why aren't people's safety and lives as important as saving some gas? Why can't we let consumers make these decisions on the trade-offs that they are willing to make?

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Government as the killer of innovation

"Nolan Bushnell founded Atari, employed Steve Jobs, built a bunch of robots . . . " Inc. magazine has this interesting discussion:

Nolan Bushnell is an aging entrepreneur with a white beard -- and, as one might expect, he is sympathetic to the dreams of singularitarians. He believes that robots, of one kind or another, will be central to our lives within two decades. Ask him to imagine the future, and he will tell you about cell phones implanted in our ears and MP3 players controlled with buttons under our tongues. And, of course, cars will drive themselves. "There are so many benefits," Bushnell says, as if to marvel at the fact that it hasn't happened yet. "Accident rates go to zero. You can get home when you're drunk. Kids can get to school without parents. Gas mileage goes up." He could go on and on.

But, unlike committed believers in the singularity, Bushnell also has deep-seated doubts about the future. He worries that regulations will derail the next generation of inventors, and that venture capitalists -- or "lemming capitalists," as he calls them -- will systematically ignore important ideas in pursuit of short-term returns. Much as he'd like to have his Prius run on autopilot, he doesn't know if it will happen in his lifetime. "It all depends on how big the government will get, how pervasive regulation will be," he says. "Right now, the pace of technological growth is just not fast enough." . . . .



Chrysler refuses New Government Loan

The Washington Post has this story:

Top officials at Chrysler Financial turned away a government loan because executives didn't want to abide by new federal limits on pay, according to new findings by a federal watchdog agency.

The government had offered a $750 million loan earlier this month as part of its efforts to prop up the ailing auto industry, including Chrysler, which is racing to avoid bankruptcy. Chrysler Financial is a major lender to Chrysler dealerships and customers.

In forgoing the loan, Chrysler Financial opted to use more expensive financing from private banks, adding to the burden on the already fragile automaker and its financing company.

Chrysler Financial officials denied in a statement that the company's executives had refused to accept new limits on their pay, adding that the firm turned down the loan because it no longer needed it. But their account conflicts with a report set to be released today by the Treasury's special inspector general for the federal bailout, saying the executives' refusal led Treasury to withdraw the loan offer. . . . .

Thanks to Tony Troglio for this link.


Some interesting editorials from the Washington Times

From something that I wrote for the Washington TImes:
Rationing health care

Appearing on "Meet the Press" on Sunday, Lawrence H. Summers, President Obama's chief economic adviser, stated, "Whether it's tonsillectomies or hysterectomies ... procedures are done three times as frequently [in some parts of the country than others] and there's no benefit in terms of the health of the population. And by doing the right kind of cost-effectiveness, by making the right kinds of investments and protection, some experts ... estimate that we could take as much as $700 billion a year out of our health care system."

Let's be clear - Mr. Summers is talking about rationing. Total health care expenditures in the United States in 2008 came to $2.5 trillion. The implication of his statement is that health care expenditures can be cut by almost 30 percent. That's a major amputation to the system. Mr. Summers tried to kill the pain by saying it all wouldn't have to be cut right away. That's only comforting if it's not your loved one's transplant that bureaucrats reject. . . .

The ridiculous offer by Obama to cut $100 million from the budget.

President Obama ordered his Cabinet to cut $100 million from the budget yesterday. This charade shows that Mr. Obama heard last week's "tea-party" protests against government spending. It also proves that popular pressure can force some fiscal discipline.

The White House is using the cut to claim that Mr. Obama is keeping his campaign promise "to go through the federal budget line by line, page by page" cutting wasteful government programs. But yesterday's tiny effort works out to about 35 cents per American. That's less than a drop in the spending bucket.

By comparison, the stimulus bill Mr. Obama signed into law on Feb. 17 was $787 billion. That's almost 8,000 times more money. . . . .

The AP has a similar piece:

The bottom line: Not much.

The president gave his Cabinet 90 days to find $100 million in savings to achieve over time.

For all the trumpeting, the effort raised questions about why Obama set the bar so low, considering that $100 million amounts to:

_Less than one-quarter of the budget increase that Congress awarded to itself.

_4 percent of the military aid the United States sends to Israel.

_Less than half the cost of one F-22 fighter plane.

_7 percent of the federal subsidy for the money-losing Amtrak passenger rail system.

_1/10,000th of the government's operating budgets for Cabinet agencies, excluding the Iraq and Afghan wars and the stimulus bill. . . . .

Obama's marching orders to the Cabinet on Monday were less than meets the eye. Many of the savings he asked them to achieve are already under way and are included in the calculation.

To be sure, this is an extra effort, on top of an agency-by-agency review of programs and proposed multibillion-dollar cuts in weapons programs. But it is decidedly marginal.

"It's always a good sign when the president is talking about savings," said Marc Goldwein, policy director of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a nonpartisan group that advocates fiscal discipline.

"It's valuable as a symbol," he said, "but $100 million is just not going to cut it." . . . .

Obama's gun lies

On Thursday, while on a visit to Mexico, the president continued his Blame America First tour. "This war is being waged with guns purchased not here but in the United States," he said, referring to the drug wars that are tearing apart our neighbor to the south. "More than 90 percent of the guns recovered in Mexico come from the United States, many from gun shops that lay in our shared border."

It is completely untrue that 90 percent of guns recovered in Mexico are from America. The Mexican government separates guns it confiscates that were made in the United States and sends them here to be traced. U.S. weapons are easy to identify because of clear markings.

Of the ones sent here to be traced, 90 percent turn out to be from America, but most guns recovered in Mexico are not sent here so are not included in the count. Fox News reported that 17 percent is a more accurate number. . . .

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Animal Rights Activist Listed as First Domestic Terror Suspect

The Washington Times has this:

The FBI on Tuesday will for the first time add the name of a domestic-terrorism suspect to its list of Most Wanted Terrorists, a post-Sept. 11 creation that until now has included only suspected Islamist terrorists, a law enforcement official told The Washington Times.

Daniel Andreas San Diego, a 31-year-old animal rights activist, is wanted in connection with the 2003 bombings of two companies in the San Francisco Bay Area linked to an animal-testing laboratory.

San Diego will take his place on a list that has included notorious international terrorists such as Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahri and Adam Gadahn, the American-born al Qaeda spokesman, said the law enforcement official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity so as not to pre-empt the official announcement. . . . .

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Did comment about homosexual marriage costs Miss USA contestant the title?

It seems inappropriate to me that such a political question was asked during the contest. The UK Daily Mail has this:

Prejean picked celebrity blogger Perez Hilton, who is openly gay and calls himself 'queen of all media'.

Hilton asked her :'Vermont recently became the 4th state to legalize same-sex marriage. Do you think every state should follow suit. Why or why not?'

Prejean paused for a moment before replying: 'Well, I think it’s great that Americans are able to choose one or the other. We live in a land where you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage.'

She continued: 'And you know what, in my country, in my family, I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman.

'No offence to anybody out there, but that’s how I was raised and that’s how I think it should be - between a man and a woman. Thank you very much.'

He went on to describe Prejean as having 'half a brain' and said he would have stormed onto the stage and ripped off her tiara if she had won.

There was speculation that the reply had cost her the Miss USA crown, as she was named runner-up with Miss North Carolina, Kristen Dalton, winning the title. . . . . .

Fox News has this follow up:

FOXNews.com: How are you feeling today?

Carrie Prejean: Honestly, happy. This happened for a reason. By having to answer that question in front of a national audience, God was testing my character and faith. I'm glad I stayed true to myself.

FOXNews.com: Have a lot of people been trying to get in touch with you?

Carrie Prejean: Yes, lots of phone calls. I've gotten over 500 facebook friend requests, hundreds of messages from people I don’t know, saying how proud of me they are that I stood my ground. That made me the real winner of the night.

FOXNews.com: Did your stomach sink when you first heard you picked Perez Hilton's question?

Carrie Prejean: I had a gut feeling. I knew he was controversial, and so was the question. Out of all the topics I studied up on, I dreaded that one, I prayed I would not be asked about gay marriage. If I had any other question, I know I would have won.

FOXNews.com: Did you think right away your answer may have killed your chances of winning?

Carrie Prejean: Yeah, I thought I was going to be 4th runner up for sure. I was surprised I made it to first runner up!

FOXNews.com: Before "the question," did you think you would win Miss USA?

Carrie Prejean: There was a lot of talk about me, people saying I was the frontrunner. During the whole two-week experience leading up to the pageant, I was very confident and relaxed. Not too nervous.

FOXNews.com: Were you sad you didn't win? Did you go to the party afterwards, or go home and cry?

Carrie Prejean: No, I got together with my family. I ate my first hamburger in a long time! . . . .

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A 9th Circuit Decision on "whether the Second Amendment prohibits a local government from regulating gun possession on its property"

Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, this decision as far as I can tell with respect to the 2nd Amendment is dicta. From O'Scannlain's opinion:

"We therefore conclude that the right to keep and bear arms is “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition ... The crucial role this deeply rooted right has played in our birth and history compels us to recognize that it is indeed fundamental, that it is necessary to the Anglo-American conception of ordered liberty that we have inherited. We are therefore persuaded that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment incorporates the Second Amendment and applies it against thestates and local governments."

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Making it hard to repay TARP money

The Financial Times has this:

Strong banks will be allowed to repay bail-out funds they received from the US government but only if such a move passes a test to determine whether it is in the national economic interest, a senior administration official has told the Financial Times. . . . .

The official, meanwhile, said banks that had plenty of capital and had demonstrated an ability to raise fresh capital from the market should in principle be able to repay government funds. But the judgment would be made in the context of the wider economic interest. He said the government had three basic tests. It needed first to “make sure the system is stable”. Second, to not create “incentives for more deleveraging which would deepen the recession”. Third, to make sure the system had enough capital to “provide credit to support the recovery”. . . . .


EPA: Proposing to classify Carbon Dioxide as health hazard II

The Obama administration is really focused on deficits?: Sure, we believe you

This is from an interview on Meet the Press this morning.

that focus on taking the debt burden off of our children is very much there. . . . .

MR. GREGORY: The CBO, the Congressional Budget Office, says the nation's debt is expected to surge over the next 10 years from nearly $6 trillion to $15 trillion. Last September when you testified before Congress, you spoke about the perils of the long-term debt situation, and I'm going to play now what you said then.

(Videotape, September 9, 2008)

DR. SUMMERS: Excessive accumulation of federal debt over the next decade threatens to reduce investments and slow growth, compromise financial stability, and increase America's vulnerability and reduce its influence in the world.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: Given the current debt picture, is that outcome that you described inevitable?

DR. SUMMERS: I don't think so. And I'm confident that if we had not moved to support this economy right now, we'd allowed a full-scale collapse with the loss of tax base that you would've seen, the vulnerability of the American people would have been much, much greater. But I said it in September and I will say it now: We need to make sure this economy recovers. But as soon as this economy recovers we need to be very focused on reducing that deficit, bringing down the debt burden, bringing down the ratio of the debt to the GDP, living more sustainably if we're going to have a healthier expansion than the ones that we did. . . . .

What do these massive deficits 4, 5, 6, 10 years out have to do with making sure the economy recovers? I don't even think that the current deficits have anything to do with it.

Worse, Obama was claiming that the deficits needed to be cut right up until the election. Summers statement does not explain why Obama's policy goals changed. It doesn't explain why his changed. Summer says that he knew in September that the economy needed to recover first. Obama surely knew about the economy in early November.

More on the deficit here:

MR. GREGORY: I want to spend a couple of minutes talking about the issue of spending and taxes. The administration is proposing--or projecting, rather, a budget deficit this year that approaches $2 trillion, four times the level as last year. This week when the president spoke about the economy, he talked about tackling that deficit. This is what he said:

(Videotape, Tuesday)

PRES. OBAMA: Already we've identified $2 trillion in deficit reductions over the next decade. We need to do more, but we've already done that.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: But there are critics who say, in fact, that number has been debunked, that that's, that's fuzzy math. This is how Peter Baker reported it in The New York Times, that $2 trillion figure: "Three-quarters of those `reductions' reflect assumptions that the nation would have had as many troops in Iraq in 10 years as it does now, even though President Bush signed an agreement with Baghdad before leaving office that will result in the withdrawal of all American forces within three years." Why is the president still talking about that $2 trillion figure when it doesn't appear to be right?

DR. SUMMERS: What the president's made clear--and, you know, you could always argue, and it's a great Washington sport, but frankly not a sport that excites much of anybody else--what the right baseline is. But you can take away the whole question of the baseline and you can look at what the president's projecting, and the president's projecting that the budget'll be cut in--budget deficit'll be cut less than in half in--over the next four years. . . .

1) It seems to me that Summers just folds on the claim of cutting spending. 2) As Summers says, you can look at the President's own projections and they show huge deficits well into the future.

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Can you say rationing of health care?

This is from an interview on Meet the Press this morning.

Lawrence Summers: . . . . And the steps, whether it's on the programs, whether it's by taking care of--by addressing health care spending with the most ambitious program of health care cost-cutting in a very long time, whether it's collecting taxes that are owed but not paid, that focus on taking the debt burden off of our children is very much there.

MR. GREGORY: All right, well, you talk about transparency, and you just brought up the issue of, of a health care program. What the president is proposing is a universal health care program that won't increase the deficit, and yet the projections are that this is a program that would cost at least a trillion dollars. Where will the money come from to fund such an ambitious program without impacting the deficit?

Lawrence Summers: . . . . But the really important issue for the long run, David, is changing the way in which we deliver health care in this country. You know, there have been a whole set of studies done, they look at health care, the frequency of different procedures, whether it's tonsillectomies or hysterectomies in different parts of the country, and what you see is that in some parts of the country procedures are done three times as frequently and there's no benefit in terms of the health of the population. And by doing the right kind of cost-effectiveness, by making the right kinds of investments and protection, some experts that we--estimate that we could take as much as $700 billion a year out of our health care system. Now, we wouldn't have to do anything like that, we wouldn't have to do a third of that in order to pay for a very aggressive program of increased coverage. And so really the president and OMB director Orszag have identified a number of items that they call the game changers: prevention, cost-effectiveness, research, doing a better job on, on reimbursements. . . . .

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Canada faces huge price tag for reducing carbon emissions by 20 percent

113.5 gallons of gasoline produces 1 metric ton of carbon dioxide. A C$100 a metric ton tax is the equivalent of an 88.1 Canadian cent per gallon tax. The proposed US policy would force an even greater reduction in Canada's carbon emissions and thus an even greater increase in taxes. That works out to be a 22 percent increase in the cost of Canadian gas, which is currently selling for $3.41 US. Given a US price of $2.04, a 73 US cent increase would increase prices by 36%.

A C$200 a metric ton tax would of course double all this, but note that even this won't come close to producing the 65% cut in emissions desired by 2050. The WSJ has this:

Canada needs a carbon price of C$100 a metric ton to help meet national emissions goals by 2020, a policy group said Thursday, as it set out recommendations for unifying Canada's fragmented environmental rules.

The high carbon price - well above the federal government's $20 estimate - is essential to meet Canada's target of slicing a fifth of 2006 greenhouse-gas levels by 2020, the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy said in a report.

Prices would be capped at C$200 a ton in 2025 to relieve the cost pressure on participating industries, bringing in other measures to meet the 2050 goal of a 65% cut in emissions.

Existing provincial policies should be harmonized with a Canada-wide cap-and-trade system by 2015, the report said, which would set a fixed emissions limit allowing participating facilities to buy and sell emissions credits as needed.

These emissions credits, initially handed out for free, would be fully auctioned off by 2020, raising C$18 billion that would primarily be used to boost clean-technology development. Part of the revenue would also go toward cutting corporate and personal taxes.

Canada's federal government has chosen to target emissions intensity - the ratio of greenhouse gases to gross domestic product - instead of an overall limit, saying that adhering to stricter rules would devastate the economy. But U.S. moves to toughen up domestic climate-change policy may force the Canadian government's hand, said NRTEE chairman Bob Page. . . . .

The proposed cap-and-trade system could shave up to 2% off Canada's projected growth for 2020, and up to 6% off estimated growth for 2050, according to the report. . . .

Waxman proposes a 20 percent cut in carbon dioxide from 2005 levels by 2020, an even larger reduction than that proposed for Canada. He promises a 83 percent reduction by 2050.

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EPA wants to mandate even higher Ethanol Mix

The government thinking of raising the ethanol blend to 15% to bail out farmers and the biofuel business:

The agency Thursday said it is seeking comment on whether to allow ordinary gasoline to consist of as much as 15% ethanol, an additive that has been heavily promoted by farm states. For decades, the EPA has allowed gasoline to include up to 10% ethanol.

The EPA's move came in response to a petition filed last month by the trade group Growth Energy to allow motor fuel ethanol blends of as much as 15%, citing an Energy Department study that found "no operability or driveability issues" with blends as high as 20% ethanol.

Most car warranties, however, have followed the 10% standard, which means consumers who use blends with greater than 10% ethanol could get stuck paying the bills if there's damage to fuel lines or other components unless auto makers agree to shoulder the costs.

Auto makers offer so-called flex-fuel vehicles designed to accept up to 85% ethanol fuels. But many current and older model cars aren't designed for ethanol concentrations above 10%.

Alan Adler, a spokesman for General Motors Corp., said if the EPA allows higher ethanol blends "we want to be sure that we're not on the hook for vehicles" that end up having problems with higher blends. . . . . .

Currently nearly a quarter of all corn produced in the U.S. is used to make ethanol. That's up from about 12% in 2004. A higher blend ratio would help support corn prices. . . . .

Of course, there are already large subsidies for these fuel blends.

Back in 2005, Congress passed a highway bill. In its wisdom, it created a subsidy that gave some entities a 50-cents-a-gallon tax credit for blending "alternative" fuels with traditional fossil fuels. The law restricted which businesses could apply and limited the credit to use of fuel in motor vehicles.

Not long after, some members of Congress got to wondering if they couldn't tweak this credit in a way that would benefit specific home-state industries. In 2007, Congress expanded the types of alternative fuels that counted for the credit, while also allowing "non-mobile" entities to apply. This meant that Alaskan fish-processing facilities, for instance, which run their boilers off fish oil, might now also claim the credit. . . .

Of course, wouldn't you know that "California regulators may rule that the biofuel is no better--and might be worse--than petroleum" for producing greenhouse gases. I am may agree that corn ethanol increases carbon dioxide, though I am not sure that I agree with their reasons and I definitely am not concerned by this increase.

Thanks very much to AJ Troglio for this second link.

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"Antarctic Ice Growing, Not Shrinking"

Fox News has this report.

Ice is expanding in much of Antarctica, contrary to the widespread public belief that global warming is melting the continental ice cap.

The results of ice-core drilling and sea ice monitoring indicate there is no large-scale melting of ice over most of Antarctica, although experts are concerned at ice losses on the continent's western coast.

Antarctica has 90 percent of the Earth's ice and 80 percent of its fresh water, The Australian reports. Extensive melting of Antarctic ice sheets would be required to raise sea levels substantially, and ice is melting in parts of west Antarctica. The destabilization of the Wilkins ice shelf generated international headlines this month.

However, the picture is very different in east Antarctica, which includes the territory claimed by Australia.

East Antarctica is four times the size of west Antarctica and parts of it are cooling. The Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research report prepared for last week's meeting of Antarctic Treaty nations in Washington noted the South Pole had shown "significant cooling in recent decades." . . . .

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Huge swing in the percentage of people who think that Global Warming is man made

Rasmussen Reports finds this huge swing -- going from 47 percent blaming human activity to 34 percent.

Just one-out-of-three voters (34%) now believe global warming is caused by human activity, the lowest finding yet in Rasmussen Reports national surveying. However, a plurality (48%) of the Political Class believes humans are to blame.

Forty-eight percent (48%) of all likely voters attribute climate change to long-term planetary trends, while seven percent (7%) blame some other reason. Eleven percent (11%) aren’t sure.

These numbers reflect a reversal from a year ago when 47% blamed human activity while 34% said long-term planetary trends.

Most Democrats (51%) still say humans are to blame for global warming, the position taken by former Vice President Al Gore and other climate change activists. But 66% of Republicans and 47% of adults not affiliated with either party disagree.

Sixty-two percent (62%) of all Americans believe global warming is at least a somewhat serious problem, with 33% who say it’s Very Serious. Thirty-five percent (35%) say it’s a not a serious problem. The overall numbers have remained largely the same for several months, but the number who say Very Serious has gone down.

Forty-eight percent (48%) of Democrats say global warming is a Very Serious problem, compared to 19% of Republicans and 25% of unaffiliateds. . . . .

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Steven Rattner, leader of the administration's auto task force, tied to pay-to-play criminal investigation

The WSJ has this.

Mr. Rattner's former private-equity firm, Quadrangle Group, is one of about 20 investment firms allegedly involved in a long-running pay-to-play investigation. The New York state attorney general's office and the Securities and Exchange Commission allege that investment firms made payments in exchange for investments from the $122 billion New York State Common Retirement Fund.

Mr. Rattner wasn't named in the SEC's complaint, but a person familiar with the matter said he was the senior Quadrangle executive the complaint identifies as meeting with a politically connected consultant about a finder's fee, which Quadrangle later paid after receiving an investment from the New York fund. . . . . .

and they note this.

A Securities and Exchange Commission complaint says a "senior executive" of Mr. Rattner's investment firm met in 2004 with a politically connected consultant about a finder's fee. Later, the complaint says, the firm received an investment from the state pension fund and paid $1.1 million in fees. . . . .


Pew Center has new estimates on illegal aliens in US

The Pew results are here:

Unauthorized immigrants living in the United States are more geographically dispersed than in the past and are more likely than either U.S. born residents or legal immigrants to live in a household with a spouse and children. In addition, a growing share of the children of unauthorized immigrant parents--73%--were born in this country and are U.S. citizens.

These are among the key findings of a new analysis by the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center, which builds on previous work estimating the size and growth of the U.S. unauthorized immigrant population. A 2008 report by the Center estimated that 11.9 million unauthorized immigrants lived in the United States; it concluded that the undocumented immigrant population grew rapidly from 1990 to 2006 but has since stabilized. In this new analysis, the Center estimates that the rapid growth of unauthorized immigrant workers also has halted; it finds that there were 8.3 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. labor force in March 2008.

Based on March 2008 data collected by the Census Bureau, the Center estimates that unauthorized immigrants are 4% of the nation's population and account for 5.4% of its workforce. Their children, both those who are unauthorized immigrants themselves and those who are U.S. citizens, make up 6.8% of the students enrolled in the nation's elementary and secondary schools.

About three-quarters (76%) of the nation's unauthorized immigrants are Hispanic. . . . .