Bad regulations are OK because they just won't be enforced

From the WSJ:

The Federal Trade Commission is still trying to define how it will enforce new disclosure guidelines for bloggers who may have received free products from the companies they cover, according to northeast regional director Leonard Gordon.

“If the consumer wouldn’t understand that the endorser, whether it’s a celebrity or a mommy blogger, is being paid…to talk about the product, that’s something that we’re concerned about, because we think consumers are being mislead,” said Mr. Gordon in a panel discussion on Thursday.

He said the blogosphere “went a little crazy with visions of storm troopers taking down suburban houses and seizing the computers of mommy bloggers,” but that the FTC has no plans to enforce the rules so aggressively.

Instead, he said, the agency wants to focus on people who are being paid to make plugs for products in “non-traditional contexts” such as tweeting. In particular, they’ll go after companies that make claims that aren’t true or can’t be substantiated, essentially the same mission of the FTC in holding companies accountable offline.

While the FTC is still deciding how the new blogger guidelines will be enforced, it’s concerned that consumers may not have sharpened the same sense of skepticism for online claims that they’ve developed for sources offline.

But the line for whether or not disclosure is necessary will likely be drawn in cases where consumers have a “reasonable expectation” that the author was not being paid to plug a product. “If the consumer knew that the person who was making that endorsement was being paid, would the consumer view that endorsement differently? I think that’s the bottom that we’re trying to get at,” said Mr. Gordon. . . . .

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Big Intrade Change in the probability that Scott Brown will win Massachusetts Senate Race

Here are the Intrade odds as of about 4:20 PM EST on January 16, 2010. It looks like the market solidly believes that the Republican will win this race. Since yesterday, Brown's shares have gone from 41.0 to 54.5.

It tells you something when the best that anyone thinks that Coakley will do is have a 49 percent chance of winning.


Apps used to commit crime

People might be familar with the ability to use apps to help the user break the law (e.g., avoiding speed traps), but it is much less well known that apps on the Google Android system have apparently been used to commit crimes against the user.

Rogue applications developed to steal banking credentials from users were discovered late last month in Google's Android Market online software store.The malicious programs were disguised as a legitimate mobile banking apps and were designed to steal users' online banking credentials, according to Oregon-based First Tech Credit Union, which posted a fraud alert about the threat on Dec. 22. The malicious apps, which have targeted customers of First Tech Credit Union and California-based Travis Credit Union, were developed by a user with the alias Driod09. “Droid09 launched this phishing attack from the Android Market and it's since been removed,” First Tech Credit Union said in its alert.Users who have downloaded an app from Droid09 are being advised to immediately remove it and bring their phone to their mobile provider to ensure the program has been fully removed. A source close to Google confirmed to SCMagazineUS.com on Monday that several applications using the names of banks, without permission, were removed from the Android Market. The applications were investigated and Google "didn't find any malicious activity such as attempts to collect user information or passwords,” the source said. Google launched the Android cell phone operating system in September. At the time, Google began touting that its app store was open, making it and easier for developers to distribute their apps for Android-powered devices. “Android Market is open to all Android application developers,” Google says on its Android Market Publisher Site login page. “Once registered, developers have complete control over when and how they make their applications available to users.”That runs in contrast to Apple, which personally vets every application, it says, to guard customer privacy and shield users from inappropriate content. A Google spokeswoman told SCMagazineUS.com in an email Monday that applications on Android Market that identify themselves with third-party marks [such as bank names] without permission are not allowed. "If an application violates the content policy, we will remove it from Android Market, and developer accounts will be terminated for repeated violations," a Google spokeswoman said.


After being shot, 11-year-old boy uses gun to stop three burglars

The McAllen Texas Monitor has this story. As I have tried to point out after I wrote The Bias Against Guns, these incidents of children using guns to protect themselves and others are a lot more common then one would think from the news coverage that they get. Given how rare people think that these events are, one would think that such a rare heroic story would get picked up on the wires, but this one certainly didn't.

Boy, 11, shoots home invader
The Palmview child returned fire after being wounded by the intruder
January 15, 2010 10:02 PM
Jeremy Roebuck
PALMVIEW — An 11-year-old boy shot a man who broke into his home north of the city early Friday.

Three men burst into the house near the intersection of Minnesota Road and 8 Mile Line just before 12:30 a.m., Hidalgo County sheriff’s deputies said.

The child and his mother were hiding in a bedroom when the gunmen tried to force their way in. One of the men shot through the door, striking the boy in the groin area.

The child, who was carrying a .22-caliber rifle, shot back, hitting one of the criminals in the neck. The men fled the scene shortly thereafter, investigators said.

Both the boy and the injured attacker remained hospitalized Friday afternoon. Authorities said the child was in stable condition and was expected to make a full recovery.

The wounded burglar was transferred to a San Antonio hospital under police guard.

Deputies have detained two other men believed to be involved in the attack.

Thanks very much to Karl Christensen for this link.


Recent Polls on Brown/Coakley Massachusetts Senate Race

American Research Group poll -- Scott Brown (R) leading Martha Coakley (D) in the U.S. Senate race, 48% to 45%.

Coakley Trails in Her Own Internal Poll -- Scott Brown (R) leading Martha Coakley (D) in the U.S. Senate race, 47% to 44%.

Suffolk University/7News -- Scott Brown (R) leading Martha Coakley (D) in the U.S. Senate race, 50% to 46%.

BMG/Research 2000 poll -- Martha Coakley (D) leading Scott Brown (R) in the U.S. Senate race, 49% to 41%.

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Massachusetts Senate Candidate Martha Coakley's Controversial Past

Hannity has an important interview here. An extremely rough computer generated transcript is here.

See also this from the Palm Beach Post in Florida.

Coakley also has some silly mistakes that show her as a bit of an elitist and out of touch.



Dems make threats over Massachusetts Senate Election Vote

First it was Democrat threats to simply delay certifying the Massachusetts election if the Republican would win. Now the Democrats are saying that they will simply change the rules and use the "reconciliation option." But there is a lot of confusion with other Democrats saying that a Republican win in the race will end the health care bill: "If Scott Brown wins, it'll kill the health bill." In any event, even the media can't help but notice that the health care negotiations have sped up as it looks like Brown could win, with Democrats suddenly doing late night negotiation sessions.

Comments such as this surely haven't helped Coakley: Devout Catholics 'Probably shouldn't work in the emergency room'

Here is another mistake was discussed by John Fund:

But perhaps her worst error was appearing to have dissed baseball fans who congregate at Boston's Fenway Park, a Massachusetts shrine even in the off-season. Asked to answer charges that she wasn't campaigning hard enough, she fired back: "As opposed to standing outside Fenway Park? In the cold? Shaking hands?" (An ad for her GOP opponent Mr. Brown showed him shaking hands in front of the ballpark.)

The crack drew an instant response from former Red Sox star Curt Schilling, who attacked Ms. Coakley for being one of those pols who are "so far out of touch with their constituents it's laughable and pathetic." . . .

One has to think that despite the polls, a Brown victory will still, but this race has put a scare into Democrats pushing the health care bill.

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Michael Mann of Climategate and Hockey Stick Fame Gets $541,000 in Stimulus money


Retail sales drop by largest amount since 1992.

The problem with a lot of these statistics is that they only go back a short time. As a consequence, claims that sales have "plung[ed] by a record amount" sound even worse than it is. My guess is that the drop in the early 1980s was at least as large, but saying that sales fell by a record amount sounds a lot worse than to say that they have fallen by the largest amount since 1982.

Retail sales fell in December as demand for autos, clothing and appliances all slipped, a disappointing finish to a year in which sales had the largest drop on record.

The weakness in consumer demand highlighted the formidable hurdles facing the economy as it struggles to recover from the deepest recession in seven decades.

The Commerce Department said Thursday that retail sales declined 0.3 percent in December compared with November, much weaker than the 0.5 percent rise that economists had been expecting. Excluding autos, sales dropped by 0.2 percent, also weaker than the 0.3 percent rise analyst had forecast.

For the year, sales fell 6.2 percent, the biggest decline on records that go back to 1992. The only other year that annual sales fell was in 2008, when they slipped by 0.5 percent. . . .


A short list of President Obama's Broken Promises

The AP has an article here that covers terrorism, health care, the economy, foreign policy, and a couple other issues. But on taxes and health care they don't even mention one of the major promises of his campaign where he promised not to tax health insurance. I am not surprised that they did mention his promise to cut government spending.

See also this list at Politifact.com. They also have a list of "stalled" promises.

I have problems with both lists, but I will post that later.

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"Progress," but "I'm not going to go into specifics" -- So Much for Transparency

Nancy "There has never been a more open process for any legislation" Pelosi isn't releasing any specifics on the health care negotiations. No one else is giving any specifics.

After two and a half hours talking health care at the White House, congressional Democrats and President Obama are making progress, but don't expect to reach an agreement on pay-fors today, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters a short while ago.

"I'm not going to go into specifics because it's a whole package, and we have to reach agreement on the whole package," he said. "I think this president's participation in the details is an indication of how critically important he thinks it is for the American peope to do what he said he would do and that is to be sure that every American has access to afforable quality health care. And that's not just rhetoric. He's walking the walk."

Hoyer said there is an understanding in the room about how angry House members are over the inclusion of a tax on high-end insurance plans, but that was not the focus of the meeting.

"We've been talking about the whole gamut of issues that are raised by differences by the Senate and the House, the whole gamut," he said.

Asked if Obama told lawmakers what he wants in the bill, Hoyer showed a little separation-of-powers leg.

"Yes, of course, he's given his opinions," Hoyer said. "Congress is an independent body, but we're very interested in what the president's views are."

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Small margins in passing both the House and Senate bills making it difficult for them to negotiate (even in secret) a compromise bill

My guess is that whether this passes depends a lot on what happens in Massachusetts. From the Hill:

Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) issued a blunt, angry statement on Wednesday, accusing the Senate of conducting negotiations with the House while holding "a gun to our head."

"The House has shown deference to the Senate in this process. But I am tired of hearing how hard it was to get 60 votes in the Senate — getting 218 votes to pass our healthcare bill in the House wasn’t easy," said Weiner, who has taken an increasingly prominent role during the healthcare debate.

"We don’t like negotiating with a gun to our head," he added.

Democratic leaders are working to reconcile the House and Senate bills, particularly a handful of issues — including a tax on "Cadillac plans" and restrictions on abortion funding — that have the two chambers at loggerheads. . . .

Meanwhile the Republicans are sounding a little more optimistic.

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) proclaimed Wednesday morning after meeting with his conference that "this healthcare bill can be defeated." . . .

"We’re looking at 37 Democrats who are in districts that are particularly upset and vulnerable to the provisions of this healthcare bill," Cantor said, highlighting the key theme to be pursued: "Are they going to be with the people or are they going to be with Pelosi?" . . .


Dems unnerved by fact that Dem Senate Candidate in Massachusetts is being successfully attacked over health care

Here is the way that the Politico sums it up:

It’s hard for some Democrats to believe that the candidate running to replace Ted Kennedy is being attacked over health care reform — in one of the bluest states in the union, no less.

But Republican Scott Brown has got Democrats nervous — not just for his opponent Martha Coakley but about the fact that a loss in Massachusetts would be a body blow to Democratic reform efforts in Washington.

Republicans are watching public approval of reform continue to tank while their candidates’ poll numbers rise. And they still view the bill’s Medicare cuts, tax increases and lack of transparency as key to a 2010 message that voters should bring GOP checks and balances to a Democratic-run Washington. . . .

UPDATE: Internal Memo To Top Dem Donors Warns Mass Senate Race Is “Very Tight,” “Urgent”

In a sign of serious worry about the increasingly tense battle for Ted Kennedy’s seat, the Democratic National Committee and the Martha Coakley campaign have blasted a private memo to top national Dem donors claiming internal polling shows the race is “very tight” and making an “urgent” appeal for donations. . . .

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British woman in trouble with police for waving a knife at two peeping Toms who had broken into her garage and were looking into a widow of her home

The BBC has this discussion, but the radio interview that they have available has significantly more information.

Television presenter, Myleene Klass, has criticised the law after being spoken to by police for waving a knife at two people who had peered through a window at her home.
The former pop star was at home with her young daughter when she spotted the teenagers and she grabbed a knife and in an effort to get them to leave.
Klass said the law is "ridiculous" stressing that everyone should have the right to protect their family and property at "any lengths possible".

Another BBC piece is here, though it also doesn't go into quite the detail of her radio interview.

The former pop star was in the kitchen when she spotted the teenagers and grabbed a knife and banged the windows in an effort to get them to leave.
She says Hertfordshire Police officers told her that brandishing an "offensive weapon" was illegal.
But a police spokeswoman said that "at no point" were any warnings given.
The 31-year-old was at her Potters Bar home on Friday with her daughter upstairs when she spotted the youths peering into the house.
Klass said: "It was a scary incident but I've got no regrets as to how I reacted. I think I did what any other mother would do.
"This is my house and that's my daughter up there and I will do anything to protect my daughter and my family. That's what I did."
The star was speaking at the launch of new ITV1 series Popstar To Operastar - which features former chart stars as they try to make it as classical singers.
'Utmost respect'
Klass's spokesman, Jonathan Shalit, told the Sunday Telegraph the singer had been "utterly terrified" and was stepping up security at her home.
"Myleene was aghast when she was told that the law did not allow her to defend herself at home," he said.
"All she did was scream loudly and wave the knife to try and frighten them off.
"She is not looking to be a vigilante, and has the utmost respect for the law, but when the police explained to her that even if you're at home alone and you have an intruder, you are not allowed to protect yourself, she was bemused." . . .

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Radio interviews tomorrow

Just out of curiosity, why do the Dems think that convincing a journalist not to run the Reid "Negro" quote was so plausible?

Why do these guys think that they could have convinced the reporters not to use the explosive quote? How would they have convinced the reporters not to use it?

On Friday at 10 p.m. — half a year after the interview — The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder e-mailed Reid’s staff with questions about a “light-skinned” candidate without a “Negro dialect.”

In the second-guessing that followed, Capitol Hill veterans said there was no way that such inflammatory words from a Senate majority leader would remain off the record, even if that had been the arrangement.

But because Manley had not sounded an internal alarm, he and the rest of the damage-control squad were caught flat-footed by Ambinder’s e-mail, several people close to the situation told POLITICO.

“They could have had weeks to prepare for this or to try to convince Halperin not to run it,” said a Democrat who participated in some of the damage control.

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The Marriage Penalty in the Health Care Bill

It is pretty clear that there is a lot of redistribution going on in the health care bill. Phyllis Schlafly on the marriage penalty:

Here is the cost in the House bill for an unmarried couple who each earn $25,000 a year (total: $50,000). When they both buy health insurance (which will be mandatory), the combined premiums they pay will be capped at $3,076 a year.

But if the couple gets married and has the same combined income of $50,000, they will pay annual premiums up to a cap of $5,160 a year. That means they have to fork over a marriage penalty of $2,084.

The marriage penalty is the result of the fact that government subsidies for buying health insurance are pegged to the federal poverty guidelines. Couples that remain unmarried are rewarded with a separate health care subsidy for each income.

When the Wall Street Journal reporter quizzed the Democratic authors of the health-care bill, they made it clear that this differential was deliberate. The staffer justified the discriminatory treatment because "you have to decide what your goals are." . . .

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60 Minutes spends most of their interview on new book tilling old claims against Palin, not the new claims against Democrats

Another take on the 60 Minutes coverage can be seen here: "How Did '60 Minutes' Miss Reid's Remarks?"

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Obama's TSA Nominee's views on the greatest domestic terrorist threats

Here is an interview with TSA nominee Erroll Southers from 2008.

The most threatening homegrown terror groups in the U.S. are 'Christian identity-oriented,' 'anti-government, anti-abortion,' 'survivalist,' 'white supremacist' groups.

A 'common misconception' about terrorism is that it's committed by 'Muslim radicals.' Also, the risk of 'nuclear terrorism' is 'quite low.' That just makes good TV.

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How far can Democrats distort the commerce clause?: The question for the health insurance bill

This discussion in the WSJ puts the point very simply.

Last week, the Texas attorney general, Republican Greg Abbott, wrote that a federal mandate to carry health insurance "threatens individual liberty." Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, a Republican running for governor, held a press conference in December to make the same point.

Democrats dismiss the Republican arguments as a last-ditch effort by the minority party to block the majority's will. They say the plan is grounded in basic powers the Constitution grants Congress: to regulate interstate commerce, collect taxes and "provide for the general Welfare."

Since the New Deal era, the Supreme Court has broadly interpreted congressional authority under the Commerce Clause. Congress has successfully invoked that power to limit the amount of wheat farmers can grow, ban racial discrimination at restaurants and prosecute medical patients for raising marijuana to alleviate their symptoms.

But the court has never considered a federal program structured like the health overhaul, which would require people without insurance to buy it or face a tax or penalty. The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service said in July that it was a "challenging question" whether the commerce power extends that far.

Democrats and their allies say that despite its novelty, the insurance mandate falls within the definition of interstate commerce. The Senate bill cites data to show the importance of the health-care industry to the national economy and the damage caused by leaving millions of Americans uninsured.

Requiring the uninsured to buy coverage will "create economies of scale" and "is essential to creating effective health-insurance markets," the bill says.

Republicans argue that while Congress can regulate economic activity, the failure to buy insurance amounts to inactivity -- and the Constitution doesn't give Congress power to regulate that.

"Anything we have ever done, somebody actually had to have an action before we could tax or regulate it," Mr. Ensign said on the Senate floor. . . .

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Speeding tickets based on the driver's income?

Europe has all sorts of progressive taxation, so why not have progressive income based penalties for speeding? It doesn't make any more sense than having the price of cars or bread or anything else based on income. Efficiency requires that people buy goods up to the point where the marginal benefit that they receive is equal to the marginal cost. Varying prices with income will move the market away from that optimal output. The traditional argument for penalties for speeding is the same. There is a cost from speeding in terms of increasing the likelihood of accidents, and there is a benefit in terms of saving time by getting to the driver's destination faster. Unless one wants to argue that the expected damage from a wealthy speeder going a certain speed is greater than a poorer one going the same speed, one wouldn't want the penalty for speeding to vary with the wealth of the speeder. The only exceptions would be if wealthier criminals were some how harder to catch to begin with. From Fox News:

European countries are increasingly pegging speeding fines to income as a way to punish wealthy scofflaws who would otherwise ignore tickets.

Advocates say a $290,000 speeding ticket slapped on a millionaire Ferrari driver in Switzerland was a fair and well-deserved example of the trend.

Germany, France, Austria and the Nordic countries also issue punishments based on a person's wealth. In Germany the maximum fine can be as much as $16 million compared to only $1 million in Switzerland. Only Finland regularly hands out similarly hefty fine to speeding drivers, with the current record believed to be a $190,000 ticket in 2004.

The Swiss court appeared to set a world record when it levied the fine in November on a man identified in the Swiss media only as "Roland S." Judges in the eastern canton of St. Gallendescribed him as a "traffic thug" in their verdict, which only recently came to light.

"As far as we're concerned this is very good," Sabine Jurisch, a road safety campaigner with the Swiss group Road Cross.

She said rich drivers were lightly punished until Swiss voters approved a 2007 penal law overhaul that let judges hand down fines based on personal income and wealth for moderate misdemeanors including excessive speeding and drunk driving. Before, they had to assign relatively small fixed penalties or — rarely — a few days in prison.

The fines were traditionally insignificant for rich people, and in the rare cases where prison terms for small-time offenders were handed down, they were usually suspended anyway. And even when they were sent to jail, the deterrent was limited compared with the costs of incarceration borne by the taxpayers, officials said. . . .

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Florida North of the Keys in the 10s or 20s or 30s, most in the 20s

News Analysis Piece for Fox News: High Robbery Rate Gives NBA Players Reason to Carry Arms

The new analysis piece by Roger and myself starts this way:

Some people ask why a man who stands 6-foot-4, weighs 215 pounds and doesn't have an ounce of fat on him needs to carry a gun.

But Gilbert Arenas is not an anonymous physical specimen. He's a player for the NBA's Washington Wizards. And statistics show that the point guard's fame and recognition make him much more likely than the average man on the street to become the victim of a violent crime.

Arenas, who has no previous criminal record, was indefinitely suspended without pay Wednesday by NBA Commissioner David Stern for bringing unloaded guns into his team's locker room. Federal and local authorities are looking into criminal charges, particularly possible violations of the District of Columbia's strict gun laws.

In suspending Arenas, Stern said: "The possession of firearms by an NBA player in an NBA arena is a matter of the utmost concern to us."

While Stern was originally expected to wait for the outcome of the investigations before acting, he reportedly felt compelled to suspend Arenas immediately when the extent of Arenas' actions — and his consequent behavior — became known. . . .

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"The Shifting Job Market"

The number unemployed has been rising more slowly.

But one must understand that unemployment is measured in terms of people who are still looking for work. The number unemployed has slowed because so many people are leaving the labor force. Just as the number of people unemployed has slowed, the number not even looking has increased.

It is amazing to see how the sum of the number Unemployment + Not in Labor Force just goes marching up in a straight line. Does this look like things are improving at all?

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Who has lost and gained jobs?

What job sectors have shrunk and grown over the last year. From the WSJ:


Obama still blaming Bush, even the AP notes that Obama doesn't really mean it when he says that the buck stops with him

At some point will it begin to bother people that Obama is constantly blaming his predecessor? Given Bush's success on terrorism, that would seem to be the hardest case for Obama to make. Here is a piece from the AP:

WASHINGTON – He says "the buck stops with me," but nearly a year into office, President Barack Obama is still blaming a lot of the nation's troubles — the economy, terrorism, health care — on George W. Bush.
Over and over, Obama keeps reminding Americans of the mess he inherited and all he's doing to fix it. A sharper, give-me-some-credit tone has emerged in his language as he bemoans people's fleeting memory about what life was like way back in 2008, particularly on the economy.
"Yes, we can"?
Try "Yes, I have."
While candid about what he called his team's "screw-up" in the botched Christmas airliner attack, Obama has made a point of underlining all the good he believes his government has done, too.
"Our progress has been unmistakable," Obama said as the new year began. "We've disrupted terrorist financing, cutting off recruiting chains, inflicted major losses on al-Qaida's leadership, thwarted plots here in the United States and saved countless American lives."
Yet every time Obama tries to offer a dose of perspective like that, he faces the reality that people live in the moment.
On terrorism, Americans are less concerned about quiet successes than troubling failures, especially one that evoked harrowing memories of Sept. 11, 2001.
On the economy, people prefer good news now, not updates on how things are gradually getting less bad.
The way Obama sees it, the problems he took on — recession, war, health care, a warming planet — were always too huge and complicated to fix that fast.
So he emphasizes progress by taking people back to where he began.
Which means taking them back to Bush.
"I don't need to remind any of you about the situation we found ourselves in at the beginning of this year," Obama told people at a Home Depot stop last month. And then he reminded them anyway, detailing a nation in financial free fall when he took office.
The economy now is both groaning and growing. . . .

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