Fox News poll indicates that 27 million without health insurance

How does the government know how many people don't have health insurance? It figures this out through polls. A new Fox News poll shows that about 9 percent of Americans, about 27 million people say that they are without health insurance. This is essentially the same percentage that they got in 1998.

Do you have health insurance?
. . . . . . . . . . Yes . . . No (Don’t know)
21-22 Jul 09
Everyone . . . 91% . . 9 . . . -
Democrats . 88% . . .12 . . -
Republicans . 94% . . 6 . . . -
Independents 94% . . 6 . . . -
15-16 Jul 98 . . 91% . . 8 . . . 1

For a more complete discussion see here.

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Nutsy government regulation

While everyone is focused on the massive new legislation being passed in Washington, many smaller but important new regulations are being passed by the Democrats and are being imposed by regulators. Here is one question. Why wouldn't AT&T work together with Apple on what programs would be used on the iPhone? Shouldn't Apple have a say over what programs run on its phone? Wired has the government's intervention here.

Federal regulators want to know if AT&T and Apple worked to together to reject mobile apps for Google’s innovative Voice service, sending letters to the companies asking them to explain this incident and the policies behind the secretive and lucrative iPhone App store.

The letters are the first indication that the feds might be interested in mandating openness for Apple’s iPhone store and similar stores run by Sprint, Verizon and even Google. The iPhone store, run through Apple’s iTunes software, is the only way an iPhone user can install third-party applications without voiding the phone’s warranty.

According to the letters, the FCC wants to know the who, what, why and when of the rejection of the Google Voice app for the iPhone. Google Voice, still an invite-only beta program, lets users channel all their calls through a single Google Voice number which offers cheap international calls, free long distance calls, free text messaging and voicemail transcription - though calls through its mobile app still use the minutes on a mobile phone.

The FCC’s new chairman Julius Genachowski made it clear Friday in announcing the letters that he was not pleased by Apple and AT&T’s actions, while leaving wiggle room about what, if anything, the feds would do. . . . .

In addition, the FCC is wanting to investigate why Apple iPhones can't be used everyplace in the country. Hint: Apple made an exclusive deal with ATT, just as Palm made a deal with Sprint and Google made a deal with T-Mobile, and ATT doesn't cover the entire country. AppleInsider has this:

While it surveys exclusive contracts like the relationship between AT&T and Apple, the Federal Communications Commission will also look into concerns that customers in rural areas can't access limited products like the iPhone.

The U.S. government regulatory agency will investigate smaller markets where major wireless carriers like AT&T and Sprint, which carry the iPhone and Palm Pre, respectively, do not provide service, according to Bloomberg.

"There are markets in the country where if you wanted an iPhone, if you wanted a Pre, you just couldn’t get it -- from anyone," said Julius Genachowski, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission."So one question is, is that consistent with broad consumer interests?"

The FCC was asked in June by four U.S. Senators to look into exclusive contracts like the one between AT&T and Apple, or the agreement between Sprint and Palm for the Pre. Genachoswki said his main focus as the head of the FCC is to promote competition in the best interest of consumers. The request came from a petition filed by the Rural Cellular Association, a group of smaller tier II and tier III wireless carriers that provide service to parts of the U.S. where tier I brands like AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile do not. . . . .

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House votes to restrict restrict how Wall Street executives get paid

If shareholders really valued being able to determine managers' compensation directly, firm share value would rise from firms putting that in their bylaws. The Obama people don't seem to understand that there are costs to making managers have to go out and justify their compensation to others. From the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON (AP) - The House has voted to restrict how Wall Street executives get paid after nine banks that took government aid rewarded thousands of their employees with bonuses topping $1 million each.
The vote advances the first piece of a broader proposal by President Barack Obama to increase oversight of financial institutions.

The legislation goes farther than Obama wanted by prohibiting large companies from fashioning pay incentives that encourage employees to take financial risks that could threaten the economy or the viability of the institution.

The bill includes other Obama suggestions: It would give shareholders a nonbinding vote on compensation packages and prohibit directors on compensation committees from having a financial relationship with the company and its executives. . . . .

From the WSJ:

The bill, introduced by Representative Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts, enables regulators to ban payments that give workers what the legislation calls “perverse incentives” to take risks that could hurt the nation’s financial system. . . .

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Obama on the "evil" insurance companies

Mort Kondracke has some amazing quotes from Obama on insurance.

ARP event, he [Obama] said, "So, the idea behind reform is, No. 1, we reform the insurance industries so they can't take advantage of you."
At Children's Hospital last week, he said, "Health care professionals are doing heroic work every day. ... But they're being forced to fight through a system that works better for the drug companies and insurance companies than for the American people."
He also said, "Even as America's families have been battered by spiraling health care costs, health insurance companies and their executives have reaped windfall profits from a broken system."
And, he added, "Those opposed to reform are doing nothing but working for insurance companies and insurance executives."
He told the American Medical Association in June, "We need to end the practice of denying coverage on the basis of pre-existing conditions. The days of cherry-picking who to cover and who to deny, those days are over.
"I know you see it in your practices, and how incredibly painful and frustrating it is - you want to give somebody care and you find out that the insurance companies are wiggling out of paying."

See also:

No profit motive: Removing incentives in government-run health care

If Dems want competition so much, why not support vouchers for education?

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Rudy Giuliani's advice to Obama on the Gates incident

Where have state health care plans that are similar to Obama's worked?

Here is a discussion of Hawaii's system.

Here is a discussion of Massachusett's system (see also here and here).

Here is a discussion of Tennessee's system.

Notice one common feature of these programs is the huge cost overruns.

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Even after finding out that Dodd and Conrad got special treatment, Dems refuse to subpoena records

If the Republicans refused to subpoena financial records when there were other Republican politicians are already implicated, there would be real howls. Let's see whether this gets any major play. From the AP:

House Democrats have declined to subpoena available records that might reveal whether other members of Congress got discounted VIP mortgages from subprime lender Countrywide Financial Corp. similar to the sweetheart deals given Democratic Sens. Chris Dodd and Kent Conrad.

Republicans say they are willing to risk that the records now held by Bank of America may show that GOP lawmakers were also "friends of Angelo" who got preferential terms on personal mortgages at the behest of then-Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo.

Countrywide, after losing billions of dollars on defaulted subprime loans that triggered last year's financial crisis and the consequent recession, was taken over by Bank of America a year ago.

Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said he has other work to do on the causes of and fixes for the financial crisis and will not interfere with other investigations of the VIP loans.

Towns' committee in recent months has focused on how much pressure the Federal Reserve and former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson put on Bank of America to take over brokerage giant Merrill Lynch, another financial company with losses in the billions of dollars.

The senior Republican on Towns' committee, California Rep. Darrell Issa, has been trying for months to get Towns to subpoena Bank of America for Countrywide's records. He said in an interview with The Associated Press that he asked Towns again this week to issue the subpoena. . . .

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How bad is the government at predicting the impact of different programs?

This program was supposed to last until the end of the October, but it ended up lasting less than one week. From the Politico:

The Obama administration is telling lawmakers that its much-touted "cash-for-clunkers" program is already running out of money, according to three Senate aides familiar with the discussions.

The program — aimed at giving at boost to the U.S. auto industry — was supposed to expire at the end of October. But in the one week since it took effect, it appears to have run dry of the $1 billion allocated to it, aides said Thursday.

The Obama administration had told senators that the program would be suspended at midnight Thursday, aides said, but a White House official told POLITICO that the administration is "working tonight to assess the situation facing what is obviously an incredibly popular program. Auto dealers and consumers should have confidence that all valid CARS transactions that have taken place to-date will be honored." . . . .

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Obama science adviser thinks that Trees Legal Should Have Standing to Sue in Court

Cass Sunstein has argued in favor of animals having the right to sue so I suppose that it is only fair that trees being able to sue also.

Since the 1970s, some radical environmentalists have argued that trees have legal rights and should be allowed to go to court to protect those rights.

The idea has been endorsed by John P. Holdren, the man who now advises President Barack Obama on science and technology issues.

Giving “natural objects” -- like trees -- standing to sue in a court of law would have a “most salubrious” effect on the environment, Holdren wrote the 1970s.

“One change in (legal) notions that would have a most salubrious effect on the quality of the environment has been proposed by law professor Christopher D. Stone in his celebrated monograph, ‘Should Trees Have Standing?’” Holdren said in a 1977 book that he co-wrote with Paul R. Ehrlich and Anne H. Ehrlich.

“In that tightly reasoned essay, Stone points out the obvious advantages of giving natural objects standing, just as such inanimate objects as corporations, trusts, and ships are now held to have legal rights and duties,” Holdren added.

According to Holdren and the Ehrlichs, the notion of legal standing for inanimate objects would not be as unprecedented as it might sound. “The legal machinery and the basic legal notions needed to control pollution are already in existence,” they wrote. . . .

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Germans Hoarding Incandescent Light Bulbs

Something that we have to look forward to in a couple of years.

As the Sept. 1 deadline for the implementation of the first phase of the EU's ban on incandescent light bulbs approaches, shoppers, retailers and even museums are hoarding the precious wares -- and helping the manufacturers make a bundle.

The EU ban, adopted in March, calls for the gradual replacement of traditional light bulbs with supposedly more energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL). The first to go, on Sept. 1, will be 100-watt bulbs. Bulbs of other wattages will then gradually fall under the ban, which is expected to cover all such bulbs by Sept. 1, 2012 (see graphic below).

Hardware stores and home-improvement chains in Germany are seeing massive increases in the sales of the traditional bulbs. Obi reports a 27 percent growth in sales over the same period a year ago. Hornbach has seen its frosted-glass light bulb sales increase by 40-112 percent. When it comes to 100-watt bulbs, Max Bahr has seen an 80 percent jump in sales, while the figure has been 150 percent for its competitor Praktiker.

"It's unbelievable what is happening," says Werner Wiesner, the head of Megaman, a manufacturer of energy-saving bulbs. Wiesner recounts a story of how one of his field representatives recently saw a man in a hardware store with a shopping cart full of light bulbs of all types worth more than €200 ($285). "That's enough for the next 20 years." . . . .


Some problems with the Massachusetts Health Care Mandate

From the Washington Post:

In 2006, the state of Massachusetts required every single one of its residents to get health insurance, and every single one of its businesses to provide it. Otherwise, residents and employers would be fined.

Some have asked, as national healthcare reform works its way through Congress, is there anything we can learn from the Massachusetts experiment?

Yes, according to the state's treasurer, interviewed today on CNBC: Whatever you do, don't do what we did.

In a blisteringly frank interview, treasurer Tim Cahill laid out some jaw-dropping stats, which eviscerated the plan and excited every conservative's worst fears about government getting further into the health insurance business:

-- The program has so far cost 30 percent more than anticipated.
-- It already has a $9 billion shortfall projected over the next two years.
-- Costs have risen 41 percent since the program's inception, well outpacing the rise in healthcare costs nationwide, which stands at 18 percent.
-- We thought this program would mean fewer people would go to hospitals, which is the highest cost any insurance plan has to pay. In fact, fewer people are not going to hospitals.
-- A Harvard study shows 60 percent of state residents are unhappy with the plan. The most unhappy? Those whom it should be helping the most -- those making $25,000 to $50,000 per year.
-- To cut costs, the program is now having to kick out legal immigrants.

Cahill summed up: "This is not a miracle by any stretch of the imagination." . . .

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Learning the lesson that the Swedes have already learned

From Forbes magazine:

Think the answer to America's problems is bigger government? Swedish Finance Minister Anders Borg has seen the result up close and says it's not pretty for the economy or investors.
Anders Borg has a message for those who look to government to take over health care, rescue the financial system and run troubled corporations: I have seen the future--and it doesn't work.

As the finance minister of Sweden, Borg is the chief financial officer of a country long known as a walking billboard for a social welfare state. In Borg's view, the 1970s and 1980s were lost decades for Sweden. Left-leaning politicians pushed government spending, excluding investment outlays, from 22% of gross domestic product in 1970 to 30% in 1980. Real growth fell from an average of 4.4% annually in the 1960s to 2.4% in the 1970s and remained low for the next two decades.

"Like many societies, we went too far in our welfare-state ambitions," say Borg (pronounced "Bor-ee").

These days President Obama is overseeing the largest increase in the U.S. government's share of the economy since it was conducting a world war almost seven decades ago. Economic stimulus, bailouts and expanded health care will all have to be paid for someday with either taxes or inflation. Borg is pushing Sweden in the opposite direction, encouraging the legislature to cut taxes, cap spending and privatize parts of health care.

"If you're working yourselves upwards in taxes and deficits, we're working ourselves downwards," says Borg. (FORBES recently interviewed him in Berlin, where he had delivered a speech.)

If you think Borg has the right idea, put your money on it. Sell some U.S. stocks and buy some Swedish ones (see table, below). . . .

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List of cars eligible for "Cash-for-Clunkers"

You can view the list of cars here.

The program is primarily designed to stimulate the economy, with other supposed benefits in terms of reducing greenhouse gases. Owners of older cars get either $3,500 or $4.500 when buying a new car, encouraging the purchase of new cars.

But if you were even mildly gas-millage conscious early on, forget it, you won't get anything. It only rewards those who bought gas-guzzlers: the EPA spent a month evaluating 30,000 vehicle models made between 1984 and 2004, and decided that only about 8,000 qualify, the ones getting 18 miles per gallon or less. For instance, the Toyota Camry got too many miles per gallon. Ford Taurus sedans, except for some with V8s, don't qualify, but if you happen to have a Ford Taurus wagon, there are some models in some years that qualify. Among cars made in 2004, there are only six models listed as eligible -- all of them trucks or SUVs.

Especially odd is that it does not really matter how big of a difference in gas mileage between your old and new cars. Replacing an 18 mpg car with one that offers 22 mpg, gets you a subsidy. But you cannot get a subsidy if you replace a 19 mpg car with one getting 42 mpg.

It will make the country poorer to subsidize the purchase of new cars, but if it is to be done, it ought to make some kind of sense. If improving miles per gallon is the goal, a sliding scale that varied the subsidy with the difference in miles per gallon between the old and new cars would seem reasonable. If emissions from older cars is important, the subsidy could also be larger when trading in older cars.

There are many other weird details of the program. one is that used cars worth more than either the $3,500 or $4,500 subsidies are not eligible. Essentially rewarding people who have held on to old, cheap gas guzzlers very long, but do we want to reward such behavior? The thought enters your mind: if I buy a new car today with a low gas mileage, might I qualify a decade from now for a similar subsidy program?

And the weirdest is saved for last: the subsidy is only given if the old car is destroyed. Yes, that is right: the cars are to be destroyed. Well, destroying cars at taxpayer expense might be a "stimulus" for the automobile makers and the auto unions. But it simply means that money that would have been spent on other items is now being spent on cars. What is next? How about smashing windows in old houses? After all, newer windows tend to have better insulation and we could generate some new jobs in the window-making industry. Oh, wait, we forgot, there is another program that subsidizes the replacement of home windows.


What is the impact of this on Banks' willingness to lend?: "Barney Frank threatens to stop foreclosures

Do these politicians understand that they help a few people out in the short run and really damage the loan market in the long run? Statements from Barney Frank and the President cause damage even if no bill is ever passed. From the AP:

A senior House Democrat threatened banks Wednesday that if they don't volunteer to save more homeowners from foreclosure, Congress will make them.
In a sternly worded statement, Rep. Barney Frank said Congress will revive legislation that would let bankruptcy judges write down a person's monthly mortgage payment if the number of loan modifications remain low.

Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, also said his committee won't consider legislation to help banks lend unless there is a "significant increase" in mortgage modifications.

Frank's statement was aimed at adding momentum to a deal struck Tuesday between Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and more than two dozen mortgage companies. The two sides agreed to set the goal of adjusting 500,000 loans by Nov. 1.

But it was far from clear whether that would happen.

Loan servicers say they are still trying to play catch up to a deluge of customer requests by hiring and training thousands of new employees. Banks also are trying to sort through which customers face a legitimate financial hardship.

Also, many loans have been bundled and sold to investors as securities, complicating efforts to modify the terms.

Congress tried earlier this spring to pass legislation that would give people a chance to keep their homes by filing for bankruptcy. But while President Barack Obama said he supported the measure, he did little to see it through and it was defeated amid an aggressive lobbying effort by banks. . . . .

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With Government posed to greatly expand Medicare, people might want to keep these government fraud issues in mind

From Fox News:

MIAMI — Federal authorities arrested 30 people, including doctors, and were seeking others in a major Medicare fraud bust Wednesday in New York, Louisiana, Boston and Houston, targeting scams such as "arthritis kits" — expensive braces that many patients never used.

More than 200 agents worked on the $16 million bust that included 12 search warrants at health care businesses and homes across the Houston area, where 27 were arrested.

Federal authorities say those businesses were giving patients "arthritis kits," which were nothing more than expensive orthotics that included knee and shoulder braces and heating pads. Patients told authorities they were unnecessary and many never even received them. But health care clinic owners billed between $3,000 to $4,000 for each kit.

Houston's other scam involved billing Medicare for thousands of dollars worth of liquid food like Ensure for patients who can't eat solid food. Authorities said clinic owners never distributed the food to patients. In some cases, clinic owners billed patients who were dead when they allegedly received the items.

It's the third major sweep since Attorney General Eric Holder, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced in May they were adding millions of dollars and dozens of agents to combat a problem that costs the U.S. billions each year. . . .


New article in Regulation magazine on Health Care

This article responds to what surveys indicate is the major reason for government taking over the health care system. The article is available here:

Using recent survey data, this article examines how Canadians compare with insured Americans and uninsured Americans in their level of satisfaction with their health care. The data reveal that the vast majority of Americans, whether insured or uninsured, get timely access to quality care and are satisfied with it. It further finds that for most comparisons, Canadians are experiencing satisfaction levels much closer to that of America’s uninsured than they are to America’s insured.

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Move to unionize charter schools

A NY Times news article poises the following issue:

But the unionization effort raises questions about whether unions will strengthen the charter movement by stabilizing its young, often transient teaching force, or weaken it by preventing administrators from firing ineffective teachers and imposing changes they say help raise achievement, like an extended school year. . . . .

Here is my question: if this really improved the charter schools, why does it have to be forced on the schools?

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Democrats require that Texas Congressman must say "public option" instead of "government-run" health care

This is why you don't want government to fund things. From CNS:

Rep. John Carter (R-Texas) made public last week an e-mail from the Franking Commission -- a bipartisan panel that oversees messages from lawmakers -- asking him to change the phrase “government run” health care to "public option."

The term was part of an audio message recorded by Carter’s staff for a town hall event on health care. The message said: “The House Democrats unveiled a government-run health care plan.”

The Franking Commission, which is authorized by law to oversee mail and other communications between members of Congress and their constituents that is paid for with federal funds, sent an e-mail to Carter's staff requesting that the wording in the message be changed.

“I received the script back from the majority, and there are a couple of changes that need to be made to make it compliant,” the Franking Commission e-mail said. “In the first paragraph (answering machine message, automatic connection) change ‘House Democrats unveiled a government run health care plan’ to either ‘the house majority (sic) unveiled a public option health care plan’ or ‘Just this past week the House majority (sic) unveiled a health care plan which I believe will cost taxpayers ….’”

“Change this on both scripts and send it back to me,” the e-mail concluded.

Carter unveiled the e-mail at a press conference on Capitol Hill on Thursday. At the same conference, Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) said his colorful chart on “Obamacare” – which was voted into the record on the floor of the House earlier this month – was rejected by the Franking Commission for use in his communications with constituents.

“Now, why can’t I say what I feel about a plan that I’m being asked to vote upon, that has been debated on the floor of the House on multiple occasions, where multiple numbers of people have used the term ‘government run health care plan?’” Carter asked at the press conference last week.

“In fact, I would submit to you, when you look at this chart, how could you not say it’s a government-run health care plan?" he said.

“Why does the Franking Commission have the right to prevent me from freely speaking what I think my folks back home ought to hear and instead tell me I have to speak what the president said last night?” Carter said, referring to President Barack Obama’s televised press conference at the White House last Wednesday. . . .

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Dollar keeps on falling

From Bloomberg:

The dollar fell to the lowest level this year against the currencies of six major U.S. trading partners as speculation the global economy is emerging from the recession reduced demand for a refuge. . . . .

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Obesity the next tobacco?

If the government pays for people's health care, there will be the claim that people can't do what they want with their own bodies because others will have to pay for their actions.

Government Tackles Obesity Anew -- But Can It Show Restraint?

CDC Director Thomas Frieden reportedly told the conference that a tax on sugary drinks could help curb obesity, as he promoted measures that decrease the availability of unhealthy food while increasing their cost.

But he noted the political difficulty in getting such measures passed.

It's not just a political problem. For policy makers, the effort to draw the line between healthy and unhealthy foods, healthy and unhealthy behavior, is a challenge in consistency.

How can you tax soda but not french fries? How can you ban trans fats while doing nothing about salt content? . . . .

States to get "significant" obesity money

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. government plans to give state and local government more money to fight obesity, including investments in public transportation, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said on Tuesday.

She said healthcare reform efforts being worked out by Congress represented an opportunity to boost government funding in programs to get more fruits and vegetables into school lunches and encourage grocery stores to sell more fresh produce in poor communities. . . . .

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Specter says that racist statement just shows ethnic pride

Specter: "I didn't find fault with the 'wise Latina' comment, I find it commendable. There's nothing wrong with a little ethnic pride."

Ethnic pride?

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Obama science adviser: Babies are not "human beings" until "years after birth"

From CNS:

Obama’s Science Czar Said a Born Baby ‘Will Ultimately Develop Into a Human Being’
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
By Terence P. Jeffrey, Editor-in-Chief

(CNSNews.com) - President Obama’s top science adviser said in a book he co-authored in 1973 that a newborn child “will ultimately develop into a human being” if he or she is properly fed and socialized.

“The fetus, given the opportunity to develop properly before birth, and given the essential early socializing experiences and sufficient nourishing food during the crucial early years after birth, will ultimately develop into a human being,” John P. Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, wrote in “Human Ecology: Problems and Solutions.” . . . .

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The cost of divorce

The BBC has this:

Divorce has a lingering, detrimental impact on health that even remarriage cannot fully repair, a study suggests.

A Chicago study involving 8,652 people aged 51 to 61 found divorced people have 20% more chronic illnesses such as cancer than those who never marry.

The figure only drops to 12% for those who remarry, researchers write in the Journal of Health and Social Behaviour. . . . .


"Obama didn't like it when Bush Rushed Through Legislation"

I don't think that the Republicans have done what was done on the recent energy bill, but when Obama was in the Senate he was quite upset with even their actions. Here is an interview with Obama back on November 22, 2004 with Randy Rhodes.

Obama: When you rush these budgets that are a foot high and nobody has any idea what's in them and nobody has read them.

Randy Rhodes: 14 pounds it was.

Obama: Yeah. It gets rushed through without any clear deliberations or debate then these kind of things happen. And I think that this is in some ways what happened to the Patriot Act.

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What the Cambridge Police think about Obama's and other's statements

Here are some very emotional statements from Cambridge police about Obama, Gates, and Crowley.

'I supported him. I voted for him. I will not again'...

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Coldest Chicago July in at least 67 years

This headline should read in at least 67 years since the weather station was next to the lake prior to that. CBS channel 2 has this story:

Chicago Sees Coldest July In 67 Years
Average Temperature Only 68.9 Degrees

CHICAGO (CBS) ― Have you left your air conditioner in the closet this summer, and worn long pants more often than shorts? If so, you may not be surprised to find out that Chicago is seeing its coldest July in more than 65 years.

The National Weather Service says 2009 has seen the coldest July since the official recording station was moved away from the lakefront in 1942. The average temperature this month in Chicago has been a mere 68.9 degrees.

Even in the years before 1942, when the National Weather Service recorded temperatures at the cooler lakefront, there are only three years that had colder Julys through the 26th. . . . .

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Editorials in the Washington Times

Palin's Farewell Address

Palin is an amazing speaker.


"U.S. Pay Czar to Rework Contracts Deemed High"

This will work really well.

The U.S. pay czar, now preparing to vet the compensation at businesses receiving major federal aid, will push to renegotiate contracts that he views as excessive or seek other ways to reduce overall outlays, said people familiar with the matter.

The role of the government in setting pay is reaching a pivotal moment. Seven banks and industrial companies that received significant bailouts must submit proposals for their compensation packages by Aug. 13.: Citigroup Inc., Bank of America Corp., American International Group Inc., General Motors Co., Chrysler Corp., Chrysler Financial and GMAC Financial Services Inc.

Treasury Department official Kenneth Feinberg, who has authority to oversee pay for the 100 highest-paid employees at those companies, has been meeting regularly with the seven firms to help them fix a level and structure of compensation that the government deems proper, say industry and U.S. officials. . . . .

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'Cash-for-clunkers' plan

It hadn't dawned on me that this program requires that the cars being turned in are destroyed. Why not give the money to anyone who buys a car that gets 10 more mpg than the original car that you had? This is a program that only a politician could love. This is from USA Today:

• Passenger car owners could get a voucher for $4,500 if they traded in a passenger car getting 18 mpg or less for a new car that is 10 mpg higher than the old car.

• SUV, pickup or minivan owners who get 18 mpg or less could receive a voucher for $4,500 if the mileage of the new truck or SUV is at least 5 mpg higher than the older vehicle.

• Large trucks (pickups and vans weighing 6,000-8,500 pounds) with mileage of at least 15 mpg would be eligible for vouchers of $3,500 to $4,500.

• Participating dealers can access electronic vouchers from the government for consumers to purchase or lease qualifying vehicles.

• Dealers are directed to ensure that older vehicles are crushed or shredded to get the clunkers off the road.

• The program is aimed at replacing older vehicles, so it would not make financial sense for consumers owning an older car with a trade-in value greater than $3,500 or $4,500.

• Older trade-in vehicles must be in drivable condition, be manufactured in model year 1984 or later and be continuously insured and registered to the same owner for at least one year immediately prior to trade-in.

• The new vehicle must have a manufacturer's suggested retail price of less than $45,000.

• The mpg values are EPA combined city/highway fuel economy as posted on the window stickers of the new vehicles and can be found at www.fueleconomy.gov.

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New Fox News Op-ed: No Apology for Sergeant Crowley?

I have a new piece at Fox News that asks whether President Obama owes Sergeant James Crowley an apology.

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"Newsweek's Obama Correspondent Joins Administration"

From the American Spectator:

Daren Briscoe, a Newsweek correspondent who was embedded with Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, has taken a job with the Obama administration, according to an email sent to a listserv of his classmates at the Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.
The email, written by Time reporter and fellow Columbia grad Jay Newton-Small, said Briscoe would be serving as deputy associate director of public affairs for the Office of National Drug Control Policy as of Monday. . . . .


"U.S. Turns Off News Billboard Atop Its Mission in Havana"

Why would the Obama administration turn this off? Even the NY Times comes across as critical.

The Obama administration has pulled the plug on an electronic billboard outside the American diplomatic mission in Havana that was used to tweak the Cuban government with pro-democracy messages and became a symbol of the bad blood between the two countries.

When the billboard went up in 2006, some saw it as an innovative diplomatic stick in the eye of the government of Fidel Castro. Others, though, considered the 25 electrical panels installed by the Bush administration in the fifth-floor windows of the American Interests Section to be fundamentally silly.

Mr. Castro, who ceded the presidency to his brother Raúl last year, was clearly not amused by the bright red messages, many of which criticized his government for human rights abuses.

In response, he blocked the message board with huge black flags hanging on 100-foot-high flag poles and erected billboards nearby that denounced President George W. Bush. Cuban security guards were also stationed in strategic spots to shoo away any Cubans who might gaze upward at the five-foot-high news ticker, which overlooked the Malecón, Havana’s coastal highway.

President Obama, while keeping in place the economic embargo of Cuba, has taken a series of steps to improve relations with the government. The unplugging of the billboard, which was done quietly last month, follows a loosening of travel restrictions and the beginning of migration talks with the Cuban government. . . . .

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Ethics problems for two powerful US Senators.

Conrad isn't up for re-election until 2012, but Dodd is up this coming year. From the AP:

Despite their denials, influential Democratic Sens. Kent Conrad and Chris Dodd were told from the start they were getting VIP mortgage discounts from one of the nation's largest lenders, the official who handled their loans has told Congress in secret testimony.

Both senators have said that at the time the mortgages were being written they didn't know they were getting unique deals from Countrywide Financial Corp., the company that went on to lose billions of dollars on home loans to credit-strapped borrowers. Dodd still maintains he got no preferential treatment.

Dodd got two Countrywide mortgages in 2003, refinancing his home in Connecticut and another residence in Washington. Conrad's two Countrywide mortgages in 2004 were for a beach house in Delaware and an eight-unit apartment building in Bismarck in his home state of North Dakota.

Robert Feinberg, who worked in the Countrywide's VIP section, told congressional investigators last month that the two senators were made aware that "who you know is basically how you're coming in here."

"You don't say 'no' to the VIP," Feinberg told Republican investigators for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, according to a transcript obtained by The Associated Press.

The next day, Feinberg testified before the Senate Ethics Committee, an indication the panel is actively investigating two of the chamber's more powerful members:

—Dodd heads the Banking Committee and is a major player in two big areas: solving the housing foreclosure and financial crises and putting together an overhaul of the U.S. health care system. A five-term senator, he is in a tough fight for re-election in 2010, partly because of the controversy over his mortgages.

_Conrad chairs the Budget Committee. He, too, shares an important role in the health care debate, as well as on legislation to curb global warming.

Both senators were VIP borrowers in the program known as "friends" of Angelo. Angelo Mozilo was chief executive of Countrywide, which played a big part in the foreclosure crisis triggered by defaults on subprime loans. The Calabasas, Calif.-based company was bought last July by Bank of America Corp. for about $2.5 billion. . . .

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Henry Gates Arrest 911 Call

Crowley: 'He Is Not Cooperative'...

Note also that the 911 caller did not cite race.

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Debate over guns in Virginia Gubernatorial Race

From the Washington Post:

The question of how much to regulate the sale and possession of guns has always been a dividing line in Virginia political contests. This year's gubernatorial candidates -- former attorney general Robert F. McDonnell (R) and state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds (D) -- both have extensive pro-gun records. But the campaign is unfolding at a turbulent and uncertain time in the nation's debate over guns. One unresolved issue in Virginia, where 36 percent of households have a firearm, is whether to close the so-called gun show loophole, which permits freelance sellers like Begay. . . . .

"Virginia is ground zero for this debate," said Alexander Howe, a spokesman for Americans United for Safe Streets. Legislation to require background checks for every transaction at a gun show is pending in Congress as both sides strive for the advantage.

President Obama's election triggered a surge in sales among gun buyers, who feared that he and a Democratic-led Congress would push for new regulations. Instead, gun owners have cheered moves by Congress to allow people to carry concealed weapons in national parks and to link voting rights for the District to looser gun regulations. . . . .

Deeds has a real problem having changed his views on a lot of big hot button issues from Abortion to gun control.

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"Morgenthau Is Wrong About Guns and the Constitution"

A response in the WSJ in the letters section to Robert Morgenthau’s support for gun control. Here is one of the letters.

Robert Morgenthau’s “The Last Thing New York Needs Is More Guns” (op-ed, July 22), regarding the Thune Amendment, asserts that “We need fewer guns on our streets, not more.” This statement is wrong, and has been definitively known to be wrong for over a decade.

Prof. John Lott exhaustively examined every county in the U.S. and found that violent crime rates were lowest in jurisdictions that made it easiest to own and carry firearms. Furthermore, Mr. Lott found that violent crime rates dropped rapidly and precipitously when new laws were passed allowing more carry permits to be issued.

Mr. Lott’s conclusion, in his book “More Guns, Less Crime,” is counterintuitive only to liberals and intellectuals. Criminals much prefer an unarmed population on which to prey, and Mr. Lott shows that when carry rates in a jurisdiction increase even modestly, violent crime drops.

If law-abiding people are permitted to own guns, crime rates drop. If law-abiding people are prevented by law from owning guns, crime rates increase. It is that simple.

James H. Fink

Laurel Park, N.C.

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Nancy Pelosi understands economics?

This is surely comforting. The WSJ's Political Diary has this discussion by John Fund.

Blue Dogs who are dragged into Speaker Pelosi's office should be aware of just how she is selling the health care bill. Yesterday, she told supporters it represented "real change," because it meant "a cap on your [health care] costs, but no cap on your benefit."

Of course, Nancy Pelosi is the same person who believes that the health care and energy legislation are both stimulus packages.

“I do think the health care bill is a stimulus package. I do believe the energy bill was, (with the) creation of new green jobs, a jump start,” Pelosi said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

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Movement on government takeover of health care

During the Presidential campaign, Obama attacked McCain over this issue more than any other one. In addition, McCain proposed an offset of taxing health care plans through employers with providing an individual deduction. No such luck here. In addition, earlier discussions were talking about exempting union members.

From the Politico:

White House officials are embracing a plan to tax "gold-plated, Cadillac" insurance policies, giving momentum to an idea that is receiving bipartisan consideration on Capitol Hill.

"A premium charge on top of the most expensive packages is one of the ways to ensure that there's a lid on health-care costs," a top administration official told POLITICO. "The president believes this is an intriguing idea."

Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, said Friday on Bloomberg TV that he is "taking an intense look at it."

And top House leadership official told POLITICO that the plan is "something we can live with."

The idea meshes with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's comments in recent interviews that the medical industry, including insurers, can do more to contribute to the cost of health-reform legislation.

Obama told Jim Lehrer of PBS' "NewsHour" on Monday: "What's being talked about now, I understand, is the possibility of penalizing insurance companies who are offering super, gold-plated Cadillac plans. . . .

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"3,000 Low Temp Records Set This July!"

Accuweather has a detailed discussion here.

During the last 15 years the highest temperature in Minneapolis in July has been 88 degrees.

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Might Barbara Boxer lose her senate seat next year?

The Rasmussen Reports finds:

The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey finds that Boxer attracts 45% of the statewide vote while Fiorina, her best-known possible Republican challenger, earns 41%. Seven percent (7%) say they’d vote for some other candidate, and seven percent (7%) are undecided.
In March, Boxer led Fiorina by nine, 47% to 38%.
Any incumbent who polls below 50% early in a campaign is considered potentially vulnerable. However, a Democrat running in a heavily Democratic state like California is often able to overcome weak poll numbers. . . . .

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What Sarah Palin reads

This speaks well for Palin.

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Obama's inconsistencies on the Cambridge Police

On Friday, President Obama claimed:

"I think I unfortunately gave an impression that I was maligning the Cambridge Police Department and Sgt. Crowley specifically. And I could've calibrated those words differently."

Obama didn't apologize. Indeed, he still insisted that the police had overreacted: "that there was an overreaction in pulling Prof. Gates out of his home to the station."

So much for Obama's claim the previous day:

“I have to say I am surprised by the controversy surrounding my statement, because I think it was a pretty straightforward commentary that you probably don’t need to handcuff a guy, a middle-aged man who uses a cane, who’s in his own home,”

A transcript of Obama's statement on Friday is here.

Here is the transcript of an interview of Elizabeth Gates by Harry Smith at CBS.

HARRY SMITH (CBS): Is there something in this that says, ‘I'm not going to take this’?

Elizabeth GATES: I think after Sergeant Crowley followed him into his home was when he knew that this wasn't going to be standard procedure. And I think that's when, for my father, the tone changed. And I think that's when the defense went up. I think for anybody, you know, who is violated in their own home in that way, I think they would, you know, also call on their own defenses.

SMITH: In speaking with your father, was he hurt by this?

GATES: My father was so sad about this, and again because he's always – you know, my father might be one of the last black men on earth who actually believed in the justice system. You know, my father is a proponent of, you know, intellectualism can help you outrun the – the war on race. And I think the incident last week is a clear indication that that's not yet true.

SMITH: Was his heart broken by it?

GATES: My father's heart – my father’s very sensitive in this way. You know, he believes in following the rules, and when they're broken, it kind of disturbs his sense of security. And yeah, he was deeply heartbroken. I was not surprised, but he was very surprised.

SMITH: It's interesting because one of the things your father said was ‘all I want is an apology from this guy.’

GATES: Simple human apology.

SMITH: And the officer in question has said no way, no how.

GATES: I just saw that actually for the first time here on this show. I was surprised. I'd actually never seen that before. So yes, I was surprised that he said no way. . . .

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