Is it really that difficult for Democrats to believe that Republicans really think that the Dem Health Care bill will make things worse? No

Joe Klein at Time magazine claims:

But the obvious truth here is that the Republicans do not want any sort of health care bill to pass at all because they do not want to hand President Obama a victory. Shame on them.

Is it really that hard to believe that the current problems are due to government regulation and that even more government regulations will make things even worse? I would hope not. To be honest, I think that even the threats of regulation harm health care, reducing the expected returns to it and the investments that would have been made. If you want a list of some of the problems that I have with the Democrat health care claims see this.

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Fundamental Flaws in IPCC Report

I have written on this before, but I think that they do a good job in summarizing the issue. I had also forgotten to mention the false claims regarding Africa.

The chief defence offered by the warmists to all those revelations centred on the IPCC's last 2007 report is that they were only a few marginal mistakes scattered through a vast, 3,000-page document. OK, they say, it might have been wrong to predict that the Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035; that global warming was about to destroy 40 per cent of the Amazon rainforest and cut African crop yields by 50 per cent; that sea levels were rising dangerously; that hurricanes, droughts and other "extreme weather events" were getting worse. These were a handful of isolated errors in a massive report; behind them the mighty edifice of global warming orthodoxy remains unscathed. The "science is settled", the "consensus" is intact.

But this completely misses the point. Put the errors together and it can be seen that one after another they tick off all the central, iconic issues of the entire global warming saga. Apart from those non-vanishing polar bears, no fears of climate change have been played on more insistently than these: the destruction of Himalayan glaciers and Amazonian rainforest; famine in Africa; fast-rising sea levels; the threat of hurricanes, droughts, floods and heatwaves all becoming more frequent.

All these alarms were given special prominence in the IPCC's 2007 report and each of them has now been shown to be based, not on hard evidence, but on scare stories, derived not from proper scientists but from environmental activists. Those glaciers are not vanishing; the damage to the rainforest is not from climate change but logging and agriculture; African crop yields are more likely to increase than diminish; the modest rise in sea levels is slowing not accelerating; hurricane activity is lower than it was 60 years ago; droughts were more frequent in the past; there has been no increase in floods or heatwaves. . . .

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Despite the Obama administration demonizing insurance companies more people still fear the government than private insurance companies

From Rasmussen Reports:

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 51% fear the federal government most when it comes to such decisions. Thirty-nine percent (39%) fear private insurance companies more. . . .

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GM getting subsidies from the EU

So does this mean that GM is using US government dollars to invest in the European Union?

General Motors Co. is considering putting more of its own money into the restructuring of its Opel unit in Europe in a bid to win €2.7 billion in state aid from European governments, people familiar with the situation have said. . . .


If this stays in effect there will be a huge drop in the unemployment rate

CNN doesn't understand why this will lower the unemployment rate.

Starting Monday, the jobless will no longer be able to apply for federal unemployment benefits or the COBRA health insurance subsidy.

Federal unemployment benefits kick in after the basic state-funded 26 weeks of coverage expire. During the downturn, Congress has approved up to an additional 73 weeks, which it funds.

These federal benefit weeks are divided into tiers, and the jobless must apply each time they move into a new tier.

Because the Senate did not act, the jobless will now stop getting checks once they run out of their state benefits or current tier of federal benefits.

That could be devastating to the unemployed who were counting on that income. In total, more than one million people could stop getting checks next month, with nearly 5 million running out of benefits by June, according to the National Unemployment Law Project.

Lawmakers repeatedly tried to approve a 30-day extension this week, but each time, Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., prevented the $10 billion measure from passing, saying it needs to be paid for first. . . .



Glenn Beck and gun registration

Glenn Beck is a fairly brilliant guy and he deals in this show with a lot more than guns, but I think that this is one case that he could make his argument stronger with respect to gun control. Registration programs in Hawaii, DC, and Chicago can't point to any crimes that have been solved as a result of registration. In Canada, the government claimed that since the 1930s it could point to three handgun crimes that registration solved. I believe that long gun registration still hasn't solved any crimes in Canada. (All these figures are from a few years ago, but I don't believe that anything has changed.)

Why? The theory is that if a gun is registered and it is left at the scene, it could theoretically be traced back to the owner. There are a couple of problems with that. 1) Crime guns are virtually never left at the scene of the crime. When they are left at the scene it is almost always because the criminal has been seriously wounded or killed, and thus you are going to catch the criminal anyway. 2) Even when the crime guns are left at the scene they turn out not to be registered to the criminal who left them at the scene.

While Beck has few equals in getting ideas across to people, I think that he is making a mistake in this case by letting the debate be set up as freedom versus safety. Freedom and safety go together at least in this case. Registration raises the costs of law-abiding citizens getting guns relative to criminals. Of course, if guns are eventually confiscated as discussed in the show, gun bans only end up with criminals having guns.

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Poll: Should Al Gore remain on Apple's Board of Directors?

No difference between the political parties?

The National Journal ranks politicians from most liberal to most conservative. The most liberal Senator is in the top most left square and the most conservative in the bottom most right square. In the Senate, as this picture above shows, there is virtually no overlap between the political parties in the Senate. Olympia Snowe is to the left of a couple Senate Democrats, but that is the only overlap. Snowe gets this relatively liberal ranking primarily because of her votes on social issues.

It is much harder to see the differences for the House because the pictures of individual members of the House are much smaller, but given the number of congressmen there is really not much more of an overlap. Michael Castle (R-DE) is the most liberal Republican and Bobby Bright (D-AL) is the most conservative Democrat, but both are fairly close to each other (both are on the 12 row within 16 spaces of each other).

The information on the 2009 vote rankings is available here.


Growth in first quarter of 2010 expected to slow from the one good quarter the end of last year

From the Associated Press:

Even so, it didn't change the expectation of much slower economic activity in the current January-to-March quarter.
Adding to that picture was a separate report Friday that sales of previously occupied homes fell sharply in January for the second straight month, to their lowest point since summer. The results were far worse than forecast. They are another sign the housing market's recovery is faltering.
The stock market managed modest gains as investors seemed to shake off the latest round of economic news. But by midday, stock prices were roughly unchanged.
Roughly two-thirds of last quarter's GDP growth came from a burst of manufacturing — but not because consumer demand was especially strong. In fact, consumer spending weakened at the end of the year, even more than the government first thought.
Instead, factories were churning out goods for businesses that had let their stockpiles dwindle to save cash. If consumer spending remains lackluster as expected, that burst of manufacturing — and its contribution to economic activity — will fade.
The signs aren't hopeful. Consumer confidence took an unexpected dive in February. Unemployment stands at 9.7 percent. Home foreclosures are at record highs. And many Americans are still having trouble getting loans.
Forecasters at the National Association for Business Economics predict the economy will expand at only a 3 percent pace in the first quarter of this year. The next two quarters should log similar growth, they predict. . . .

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Extremist "anti-gun" candidate running in Virginia Special election

Robert Byrd on using Reconciliation to pass Health Care

Using reconciliation to pass health care is an "abomination," according to Senator Robert Byrd, the author of the Byrd rule.

UPDATE: Other Democrats seem to agree:

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) threw cold water on the idea of using the reconciliation process Sunday during an appearance on CBS' "Face the Nation program."

"Reconciliation can not be used to pass comprehensive health care reform," said Conrad, who is the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. "The major package would not be done through reconciliation."

Asked by host Bob Scheiffer to elaborate, given that the White House suggested earlier Sunday that they could pass the main bill with a simple majority of 51 votes, Conrad said thaat reconciliation was not, in fact, an option.

"I am the chairman of the committee in the Senate and I think I understand how reconciliation works and can't work," he said, arguing that the so-called Byrd Rule would prevent the use of reconciliation for the main health care bill. "The only possible role I can see for reconciliation would be to make modest changes in the major package."

Conrad said only "side car" issues could be affected through the reconciliation process. . . .

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Dems can't treat Republicans fairly in Health Care Summit


Democrats' Seminar Callers

Well, it looks like the Democrats are publicly admitting something that radio hosts have seen happen for a while. From the Politico:

The Democratic National Committee's Organizing for America has quietly launched an initiative aimed at making Obama supporters' voices heard on the largely conservative airwaves.

"The fate of health reform has been a focus of debate in living rooms and offices, on TV and online — and on talk radio. And since millions of folks turn to talk radio as a trusted source of news and opinions, we need to make sure OFA supporters are calling in with a pro-reform message," says the introduction to the online tool.

The online tool presents users with a radio show discussing political topics, to which supporters can listen live, and the phone number for that station, for when health care comes up. It also offers tips for callers and talking points on the issue.

My quick sampling produced Christian radio, a local talk station in Buffalo, and the syndicated talk shows of Dr. Laura Schlessinger and Sean Hannity — who will no doubt be thrilled with their new, liberal callers.

Supporters are then encouraged to report back on their encounters. . . . .

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If this catches on there won't be many over the air radio stations

In some very real sense I view this as theft. The way people pay for "free" radio is to listen to the ads (see Freedomnomics for a history of this). As prices fall, presumably this device will become more common.

Myine Electronics' Abbee radio strips out ads and DJ chatter

By Edward C. Baig, USA TODAY
You adore listening to tunes on the radio. You just don't adore the lame commercials and blathering DJ chatter that accompanies the music. The $250 Abbee Commercial-Free Music System that I've been testing aims to solve this age-old predicament. The product, from Michigan start-up Myine Electronics, consists of two main components: a tabletop base stereo speaker system with a built-in FM tuner and a portable player called Music Lock, which plugs into the base. The twist: Abbee can automatically record songs from whichever FM station you're tuned to — but it manages to do so without the ads and idle chitchat. . . .

For the most part, Abbee works as promised. On only one song —The Young Rascals' Good Lovin' — did I hear a DJ who yammered well into the start of the selection. On a couple of other tracks, I heard a single word (e.g., "Supremes") from a DJ. The music sounded fine at the digital audio broadcast quality of 192 kilobits per second, though there were slight variations in volume on some tunes. I listened through the supplied earbuds and my car stereo (an auxiliary cable is included).

Still, there are drawbacks. On some songs, eliminating the DJ also means clipping the beginning or end of a track, just enough in a few instances to be bothersome. . . .

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The media's take on the Health Care Summit this morning

Some comments from the media:

CNN’s WOLF BLITZER: “It looks like the Republicans certainly showed up ready to play.” (CNN’s “Live,” 2/25/10)

CNN’s GLORIA BORGER: “The Republicans have been very effective today. They really did come to play. They were very smart.” (CNN’s “Live,” 2/25/10)

· BORGER: “They took on the substance of a very complex issue. … But they really stuck to the substance of this issue and tried to get to the heart of it and I think did a very good job.” (CNN’s “Live,” 2/25/10)

· BORGER: “They came in with a plan. They mapped it out.” (CNN’s “Live,” 2/25/10)

CNN’s DAVID GERGEN: “The folks in the White House just must be kicking themselves right now. They thought that coming out of Baltimore when the President went in and was mesmerizing and commanding in front of the House Republicans that he could do that again here today. That would revive health care and would change the public opinion about their health care bill and they can go on to victory. Just the opposite has happened.” (CNN’s “Live,” 2/25/10)

· GERGEN: “He doesn’t have a strong Democratic team behind him.” (CNN’s “Live,” 2/25/10)

THE HILL’S A.B. STODDARD: “I think we need to start out by acknowledging Republicans brought their ‘A Team.’ They had doctors knowledgeable about the system, they brought substance to the table, and they, I thought, expressed interest in the reform. I thought in the lecture from Senator John McCain and on the issue of transparency, I thought today the Democrats were pretty much on their knees.” (Fox News’ “Live,” 2/25/10)

THE WEEKLY STANDARD’S STEVE HAYES: “I think to me the most important thing to come out of the morning so far is that Republicans have spent a great deal of time talking with great passion, and I think eagerness about their plans, detailing the plans that until this morning them democrats had been saying didn't exist. Well, you now see, I think, in great detail that Republicans do have plans, that they care about the same issues and that they feel passionately about it.” (Fox News’ “Live,” 2/25/10)

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"'Toy' rifles seized by federal agents"

From going after gun shows in Texas to false statements about the source of illegal guns in Mexico to things like this, the Obama administration is doing what it can at the margin to harass gun owners. This claim that the guns could be refitted to turn into a machine gun is bizarre.

Earlier this month, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Port of Tacoma seized a shipment of 30 toy M-4 automatic rifles that had arrived on Oct. 20 in a 40-foot ocean container.

The shipment's manifest listed the contents as "Toys and Parts" and was shipped from a manufacturer in Taiwan, according to a Customs and Border Protection news release. The rifles were the same size, weight and look of an M-4 automatic rifle, which is used by the U.S. military. The rifles had no serial numbers and did not have an orange-blaze tip which is required for all imported of toy guns.

Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) tested the files and determined they were tooled to shoot plastic balls. However, ATF also found that the internal components could easily be refitted with original machine gun components, making the rifles capable of firing live ammunition. ATF lab results indicated the rifle to be a WE-Tech, Model AWSS M4CQBR, Airsoft M-4 copy.

ATF also confirmed the shipment did not arrive with the proper permits to enter the U.S.

The machine guns were turned over to the ATF to be destroyed.

"These rifles could have had far-reaching and potentially devastating ramifications if they had gotten into the hands of individuals who wanted to do harm in the American population", Customs and Border Protection Area Port Director Rolando Suliveras Jr. said in a news release.

Thanks to Ken Mott and Alec Dawson for this link.

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Larimer County Sheriff James Alderden will work to prevent implementation of Colorado State University Concealed Handgun Ban

Alderden is an amazing guy to stand up on this issue. There is a poll in the news article and right now the vast majority of respondents are supporting the sheriff.

The Colorado State University Board of Governors voted unanimously Tuesday to place students at both of its campuses in harm’s way with a sweeping weapons ban law-abiding citizens will obey and criminals will ignore.

Larimer County Sheriff James Alderden, outraged by the ban, told The Gazette’s opinion department he will undermine it in the interest of student safety. . . .

Alderden said ban advocates have been unable to cite a single study or statistic to show that students will be safer as a result of a weapons ban. He’s convinced they will be much less safe as a result of the ban, which will leave most students defenseless. The ban establishes the campuses as “soft targets,” meaning armed criminals will have a reasonable expectation their intended victims aren’t armed.

“There are volumes of statistical and anecdotal data that show populations are safer when law-abiding citizens are permitted to carry concealed weapons,” Alderden said.

Six years after Alderden began issuing permits, he noticed the homicide rate in his jurisdiction had dropped.

At CSU-Fort Collins, the ban includes pepper spray, in quantities greater than an ounce, and Tasers.

“This ban, which is broad and encompassing, basically denies students at the Fort Collins campus any defensive capacity at all,” Alderden said. “It’s a weapons-free zone for law-abiding people, and it won’t do a single thing to keep armed criminals off of campus. It will only ensure them a lot of defenseless victims. The people who did this are lost in their own world of ideological liberalism. You would think people involved in academia would want to deal in data and experience, but this has been all about emotion.” . . .

Greg Campbell over at the Huffington Post concurs:

The near-tragic irony of the Board of Governor's decision was that it was taken the same day a gunman opened fire at Deer Creek Middle School, injuring two children before teachers tackled him. It's a different situation, of course, because guns are banned at K-12 schools under state law -- but it serves to underscore Alderden's point. The suspect in the middle school shooting is reported to have heard voices and struggled with anger issues. That guns are banned on middle school campuses obviously means nothing to people who are unhinged and bent on violence -- why increase their odds of inflicting mayhem on yet another defenseless population, college students? . . .

I would go one point further. If someone is planning on killing people, does the three year prison sentence for violating a gun free school zone really deter the crime? Take a university setting where the penalty is expulsion. Would the VT killer who would have faced 32 death penalties or 32 life sentences had he lived said that it was the threat of expulsion that would deter him? It seems a joke to even ask, but a law-abiding citizen who was expelled would have had their life truly altered. There is almost no way that they could have gotten a college degree any place else in the country with a firearms violation on their record. Similarly for a professor or staff member who was fired. A professor who was fired for a firearms violation would see the end of his academic career. The point is that these penalties are much more likely to deter the law-abiding than a criminal.

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Health care summit is so unbalanced!

I have been listening to the discussion this morning: Obama, Lamar, Pelosi, Reid, and Obama. Obama right now isn't even letting Lamar have a discussion with him. The Dems are also talking down to Republicans. Questioning the facts of Republicans. At some point I wonder if the Republicans will want to walk out of the meeting.

Morning times:

Democrats 108 minutes (58 minutes for Obama/ 50 minutes for other Democrats)
Republicans 56 minutes

Of course, Obama claims: "I Don't Count My Time Because I'm The President."


Obama's backup health insurance regulations

I don't trust these guys at all. This doesn't sound half as bad as what was otherwise going to happen, but I have little doubt that it will still do lots of damage to the health care system.

His leading alternate approach would provide health insurance to perhaps 15 million Americans, about half what the comprehensive bill would cover, according to two people familiar with the planning.

It would do that by requiring insurance companies to allow people up to 26 years old to stay on their parents' health plans, and by modestly expanding two federal-state health programs, Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program, one person said. The cost to the federal government would be about one-fourth the price tag for the broader effort, which the White House has said would cost about $950 billion over 10 years. . . .

UPDATE: Well, Kathleen Sebelius denies that this is true.

Kathleen Sebelius, the Health and Human Services secretary, rejected reports Thursday that President Obama has a so-called Plan B for health-care reform.

"I don’t think there is a Plan B as far as I know, and I’m pretty involved in all these conversations," Sebelius said in an interview before the start of Obama's bipartisan health care summit. The secretary was addressing reports Thursday morning that Obama, depending on the summit outcome, is weighing alternative, more modest approaches to reform. . . .

Sebelius downplayed possible individual "concessions" from Republicans, and instead stressed the "comprehensive." . . .

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Even by the Administration's own claims the cost containment elements have been removed

I have written many times about how different parts of the Democrats' government takeover of health insurance will raise costs. Dems have focused on insurance taxes that would reduce demand for health as their way of reducing costs, but now that is gone also. Of course, Obama promised in the campaign not to use such taxes, then he promised to use them, not he isn't using them. So Is this returning to his original promise or breaking a broken promise?

At Thursday’s health summit, President Barack Obama is almost certain to highlight the importance of reining in skyrocketing health care costs.

But in his own health care bill, it’s a different story.

Obama has put off a tax on high-cost health plans until 2018 — long after he’s out of office, even if he’s a two-termer.And in doing so, he’s essentially neutered the last significant Democratic push to control health costs.

When Obama launched his health care project, the case for reform rested on two pillars. One was helping people who had no insurance or were otherwise struggling with the current system. The other was taking dramatic steps to halt the growth in costs. As the debate lurches toward a close, the emphasis in Obama’s plan now rests overwhelmingly on the first pillar — with only the most modest and preliminary measures being embraced for cost control.

“They thought [the tax] was a major part of their ability to slow the growth in private-sector premiums. And now, at least until after 2017, it doesn’t look like they will bend the cost curve,” said Ken Thorpe, an Emory University professor and Democratic health policy adviser.

In fact, the delay raises questions about whether the tax will ever return. Obama’s punted the decision to some future president and some future Congress that would have to let a brand-new tax come into effect on their watch. . . .

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More than half of Texas Hispanics identify themselves as conservatives

I guess the issue of why people oppose illegal immigrants needs to be explained better. The poll is from the Dallas Morning News.

more than half of Texas Hispanics call themselves conservative, and a surprising 23 percent say they might participate in Tuesday's GOP primary. Among those, Perry leads Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison by 2 to 1, according to the poll, commissioned by an Austin consultant for a national group of Hispanic legislative leaders. . . .

The poll found that only 18 percent of Texas Hispanics say they're liberal or progressive, while 54 percent say they're conservative, moderate conservative or religiously conservative.

But Camarillo said many Hispanics who identify themselves as conservative aren't talking about "less taxes, less government," the way white conservatives would.

"When a Latino says that he or she is conservative, they're thinking about how they are raising the kids and ... the family," she said. "It's more about work ethic, and that when you give your word, you give your word. Those kinds of things are what they're thinking of. It's a different frame of mind, and pollsters have yet to define it." . . .

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Major Garrett: Obama will use Health Care Summit to get on Offense

So much for the notion of working together with Republicans (as if more evidence against that idea was really necessary).

"We're always better when we're on offense," a senior official told Fox. "The summit is us on offense. At the end it will be painfully clear to American that Republicans have absolutely no intention of cooperating on health care."
The Obama dynamic that works, the White House believes, is one where he's seen as a facilitator, a leader on complex issues who can debate policy nuances without notes or a cadre of whispering aides.
Obama intends to put all of these skills on display. That's why he's set aside six hours (minus time for lunch) for the summit - a virtually unprecedented allocation of presidential time for bi-partisan policy talks.
A look at the White House agenda, meticulously designed to amplify Obama's role and voice, indicates Republicans will spar with Obama - still more popular than they are, rather than Democratic congressional leaders who are not. . . .

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TARP "a recipe for political corruption"

The Fox Business Channel has the latest problems with the TARP money being used as a political slush fund here. The transparency issue is also relevant because the administration won't allow TARP's Inspector General to monitor where the money is being spent.

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Democrats say that use of Nuclear Option in Senate was "Arrogant," "Abuse of power"

Note that the Republicans didn't use this Nuclear option.

The Politico has this about Dems warming towards Nuclear option now.


Radio interview on Garrison's show on WIBC in Indiana at 11 AM

I will be on his show for a half hour from 11 to 11:30 AM. Always fun.

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Google says that it can't be held responsible for videos posted on its Youtube website

Do I like using Youtube? Sure. I think that it is valuable despite the many problems that I have with Google. Possibly if Google can't monitor defamatory videos that are put up it shouldn't let anyone put anything up.

Google, based in Mountain View, California, had said it considered the trial a threat to freedom on the Internet because it could force providers to attempt an impossible task - prescreening the thousands of hours of footage uploaded every day onto sites like YouTube.
"We will appeal this astonishing decision," Google spokesman Bill Echikson said at the courthouse. "We are deeply troubled by this decision. It attacks the principles of freedom on which the Internet was built."
Convicted of privacy violations along with Fleischer were Google's senior vice president and chief legal officer David Drummond, retired chief financial officer George Reyes. Senior product marketing manager Arvind Desikan was acquitted.
Prosecutors had insisted the case wasn't about censorship but about balancing the freedom of expression with the rights of an individual. . . .
All four executives, who were tried in absentia, denied wrongdoing. None was in any way involved with the production of the video or uploading it onto the viewing platform, but prosecutors argued that it shot to the top of a most-viewed list and should have been noticed. . . .

This is a defense: "None was in any way involved with the production of the video or uploading it onto the viewing platform"? So, they were involved in making sure that a large number of people could see the video. If someone helps another spread defamatory statements (that means spread false statements) about another person, they bear some responsibility for the damage that those false statements do. Both the person who makes the false statement and the person who helps spread those false statements should be punished for the harm that they do.


The Washington Times on the Health Care Summit


Will Wyoming join Alaska, Montana (99 percent of state), and Vermont in doing away with permits for concealed carry?

Wyoming looks like it will soon join an ever growing club.

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - The Wyoming House has advanced a bill that would allow residents to carry concealed guns without a permit provided that they can demonstrate they're familiar with firearms.

The House voted 42-15 on Monday to send House Bill 113 to the Senate.

The House amended the bill to specify that citizens would have to demonstrate their familiarity with guns by passing a certified firearms safety course or have a background of military or police service. . . .

UPDATE: Some have asked me about Montana. Here is their code.


"Consumer Confidence Falls Sharply"

Current economic conditions are now listed as the lowest since 1983. The problem is that this is a survey and we will probably want to wait at least a month or two to make sure that they just didn't get a bad draw here.

The next question is: why there was this large sudden drop? What happened in February? It isn't clear to me what that new news would be. Possibly readers of this blog have some idea.

A monthly poll showed consumers' confidence took a surprisingly sharp fall in February amid rising job worries. The decline ends three straight months of improvement and raises concerns about the economic recovery.

The Conference Board said Tuesday its Consumer Confidence Index fell almost 11 points to 46 in February, down from a revised 56.5 in January. Analysts were expecting only a slight decrease to 55.

The increasing pessimism is a big blow to hopes that consumer spending will power an economic recovery. Economists watch the confidence numbers closely because consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of U.S. economic activity.

The February reading is a long way from what's considered healthy: A reading above 90 means the economy is on solid footing. Above 100 signals strong growth.

The news sent stocks lower, overshadowing retailer reports that showed stronger holiday profits. The Dow Jones industrial average falling 74.29 points to 10,309.09 by midmorning.

One gauge, measuring consumers' assessment of current conditions, dropped to 19.4 from 25.2, the lowest level since 1983. The other barometer, which measures their outlook over the next six months and had been rising since October 2009, fell to 63.8 from 77.3.

The overall Consumer Confidence Index hit a historic low of 25.3 in February 2009 but then enjoyed a three-month climb to 54.8 in May, fueled by signs the economy might be stabilizing. Since then, it has been mired in a narrow range, dropping as low as 47, as rising unemployment took a toll, before climbing again for a three-month stretch.

February's reading is well below the 61.4 figure in September 2008, when the financial crisis intensified with the collapse of Lehman Brothers. The index has had an average reading of 95.6 since the Conference Board starting tracking the figures in 1967. . . .

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Canadian Provincial Premier Defends Having Heart Surgery done in US

Despite being diagnosed with a "severe" heart problem that required immediate surgery, this premier would have been seen as "jumping a line or a wait list" if he had the surgery in Canada.

The 60-year-old Williams said doctors detected a heart murmur last spring and told him that one of his heart valves wasn't closing properly, creating a leakage.
He said he was told at the time that the problem was "moderate" and that he should come back for a checkup in six months.
Eight months later, in December, his doctors told him the problem had become severe and urged him to get his valve repaired immediately or risk heart failure, he said.
His doctors in Canada presented him with two options - a full or partial sternotomy, both of which would've required breaking bones, he said.
He said he spoke with and provided his medical information to a leading cardiac surgeon in New Jersey who is also from Newfoundland and Labrador. He advised him to seek treatment at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami.
That's where he was treated by Dr. Joseph Lamelas, a cardiac surgeon who has performed more than 8,000 open-heart surgeries.
Williams said Lamelas made an incision under his arm that didn't require any bone breakage.
"I wanted to get in, get out fast, get back to work in a short period of time," the premier said.
Williams said he didn't announce his departure south of the border because he didn't want to create "a media gong show," but added that criticism would've followed him had he chose to have surgery in Canada.
"I would've been criticized if I had stayed in Canada and had been perceived as jumping a line or a wait list. ... I accept that. That's public life," he said. . . . .

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What are the odds of getting the government health care takeover passed?

Megan McArdle has this take over at The Atlantic and she thinks that it is very unlikely.

. . . Despite having declared the death of the health care bill before almost anything else, I don't want to say that the thing's impossible. But the House has lost three of the votes it used to pass their bill 220-215 . . . which means that you have to persuade someone (probably a Blue Dog) to vote for it, who already voted against it. Progressives have been making the almost-plausible argument that the public is going to treat a vote for the House or Senate bill as a vote for final passage, so Democrats might as well go ahead and pass the thing. But their best argument totally falls apart for those who originally voted no.

And that's the best case scenario. It assumes that you can keep Bart Stupak's pro-life caucus, even though it's unlikely that they'll be able to "fix" the Senate's more liberal abortion language in reconciliation. This is a pretty heroic assumption. If you lose many of the Stupak folks, then the bill's done; there is not a snowball's chance in hell that you are going to persuade any significant number of the prior "no" votes in the Democratic caucus to throw their careers on the pyre of Democratic health care ambitions. . . .

Are we sure they have 51 Democrats for reconciliation? Reid has made these sorts of claims before, only to slip another deadline.

And deadlines are yet another big problem. Reid says they'll be ready to do reconciliation within 60 days. Really? Democrats are going to pass a mongo, costly new entitlement right around tax day? The caucus might as well pass the hat for the GOP election fund. But if you delay it, you're leaving an unpopular bill very fresh in peoples' minds as they go into the 2010 elections. You're also eating up air time that senators and congressmen would presumably like to have for initiatives that are actually, y'know, popular. . . .


Michael Steele

Michael Steele is sure spending money on some questionable things.

A POLITICO analysis of expenses found that compared with 2005, the last comparable year preceding a midterm election, the committee’s payments for charter flights doubled; the number of sedan contractors tripled, and meal expenses jumped from $306,000 to $599,000.

“Michael Steele is an imperial chairman,” said one longtime Republican fundraiser. “He flies in private aircraft. He drives in private cars. He has private consultants that are paid ridiculous retainers. He fancies himself a presidential candidate and wants all of the trappings and gets them by using other people’s money.” . . .

But disclosure reports document the exodus of prominent donors who have decided to shift their giving to other party committees. In 2005, the RNC raised $46 million from donors who gave more than $250 and $55 million from small donors. In 2009, Steele’s RNC brought in just $24 million — nearly half as much — from big donors and $58 million from small donors.

When Steele took over the chairmanship last winter, he inherited a $23 million surplus. Since then, the former Maryland lieutenant governor has raised $10 million less than the party collected in 2005 and has spent $10 million more. By the end of 2009, the committee’s surplus had shrunk to $8.4 million, according to campaign finance reports.

Just last week, RNC officials touted a January fundraising haul of more than $10 million. But after hosting the sun-filled winter meeting in Hawaii, paying for the holiday party and taking care of other bills, the committee spent almost all of it. Consequently, the RNC added only $1 million to the committee’s $8.4 million in cash, the reports show. . . . .


"Doctors Urging for a Safer, Choke-Free Hot Dog"

Choking to death on food of any type is very rare. There are about 60 million kids under age 15 in the US. 61 choked to death on food. I don't know how many of those choked on hotdogs, but I assume that given everything that kids eat it couldn't have been that many.

Choking kills more than 100 U.S. children 14 years or younger each year and thousands more — 15,000 in 2001 — are treated in emergency rooms. Food, including candy and gum, is among the leading culprits, along with items like coins and balloons. Of the 141 choking deaths in kids in 2006, 61 were food-related. . . .

So how many hotdog were eaten each year? Apparently about 9 billion!

Suppose that children eat hotdogs in proportion to their share of the population. That would be about 1.8 billion hotdogs (that may be high or low, but take it as a rough guess). If all choking deaths from food were due to hotdogs, that is 61/1.8 billion, a 0.0000034 percent rate. You are probably at more risk crossing a street.

UPDATE: Another estimate of the number of hotdogs puts the annual total at 7 billion (National Hot Dog and Sausage Council for 2007), or using our above assumptions 1.4 billion eaten by children. The risk rate rises to 0.0000044 percent.

UPDATE2: From "Kids and Killer Hot Dogs? 3 Tips to Prevent Choking on Food"

Between 66 and 77 children under age 10 die from choking on food each year. And because of the cylindrical shape that seems custom-made to lodge in a kid's throat, hot dogs are the food most commonly associated with fatal choking among children. . . .

On fatal food-related chokings, hotdogs make up 17 percent (Policy Statement␣Prevention of Choking Among Children, in the Journal Pediatrics, p. 602). 17 percent of 66 to 77 is between 11 and 13.

Hot dogs accounted for 17% of food-related asphyxiations among children younger than 10 years of age in a 41-state study by Harris et al.

By means of comparison, in 2006, 54 children under 15 died from gun accidents (this is the latest year for which the data is available).



New Fox News Op-ed piece: "Why We Shouldn't Fear an End to the Ban on Guns In National Parks"

My newest Fox News piece starts off this way:

A two-decade-old ban on loaded guns in national parks ends today. Loaded guns will be allowed in Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Great Smoky Mountains, and other national parks. Guns will still be prohibited in some areas in the parks, federal facilities that are regularly staffed by National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees, but everywhere else they will be allowed.

“You're raising the level of risk in the parks, and the chance that people will use the parks less than they have in the past,” Paul Helmke, President of the Brady Campaign gun control group warned during February 2009. As evidence for his claim, Helmke pointed to a New York school teacher who said that she would cancel school trips to national parks if guns were allowed. Helmke and others opponents have largely focused on permitted concealed handguns again being allowed in the parks.

Yet, despite the opposition of the Obama administration, the new federal law is hardly radical, as it simply defers to state law. It passed the Congress with about 2-to-1 majorities in both the House and Senate. If a state allows people to carry permitted concealed handguns, permit holders can carry their guns in the national parks in that state.

Opponents worry . . . .

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The Most Transparent Administration Ever hasn't had a press conference for 215 days

From the Washington Times:

President George W. Bush's longest stretch between prime-time, nationally televised press conferences was 214 days, from April 4 to Nov. 4, 2004. Mr. Obama tops that record on Monday, going 215 days - stretching back to July 22, according to records kept by CBS Radio's veteran reporter Mark Knoller.

The president has seemingly shunned formal, prime-time sessions since his last disastrous presser, when he said police in Cambridge, Mass., "acted stupidly" by arresting a Harvard professor who broke into a home that turned out to be his own. The off-the-cuff comment took over the news cycle for a week, overshadowing his push for health care reform, and culminated in a White House "Beer Summit," where the president hosted white police officer James Crowley and the black Harvard professor, Henry Louis Gates Jr.

"He does seem a little snakebit on the whole presser thing," said Julie Mason, a longtime White House reporter and board member of the White House Correspondents' Association.

"At his last big press conference in July, he lost control of the message with his response to the Gates question, and then returns six months later with an unannounced, five-question avail in the briefing room - on a snow day. Was it something we said?" , , ,

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Makes me want to buy a Toyota

Will Obama be attacked more because Toyota views Democrats as being "not industry friendly."

Internal Toyota documents derided the Obama administration and Democratic Congress as “activist” and “not industry friendly," a revelation that comes days before the giant automaker's top executives testify on Capitol Hill amid a giant recall.

According to a presentation obtained under subpoena by the House Oversight and Government Relations committee, Toyota referred to the “changing political environment” as one of its main challenges and anticipated a "more challenging regulatory" environment under the Obama administration's purview.

This document, in addition to piles of other records, will be front and center this week as the Japanese automaker girds to face lawmakers hungry for answers about a recall that has the company teetering. . . .

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Jeff Sachs believes: "Climate sceptics are recycled critics of controls on tobacco and acid rain"

Here is someone on the other side of the Climategate debate. One can judge for themselves whether this actually deals with the substance of the critiques. Personally, I think this involves a lot of name calling.

Merchants of Doubt, a new book by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway set for release in mid-2010, will be an authoritative account of their misbehaviour. The authors show that the same group of mischief-makers, given a platform by the free-market ideologues of The Wall Street Journal's editorial page, has consistently tried to confuse the public and discredit the scientists whose insights are helping to save the world from unintended environmental harm.

Today's campaigners against action on climate change are in many cases backed by the same lobbies, individuals, and organisations that sided with the tobacco industry to discredit the science linking smoking and lung cancer. Later, they fought the scientific evidence that sulphur oxides from coal-fired power plants were causing "acid rain." Then, when it was discovered that certain chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were causing the depletion of ozone in the atmosphere, the same groups launched a nasty campaign to discredit that science, too.

Later still, the group defended the tobacco giants against charges that second-hand smoke causes cancer and other diseases. And then, starting mainly in the 1980s, this same group took on the battle against climate change. . . .

Sachs pretty much loses all credibility here, because there are plenty of scientific studies that disagree with his claim here on secondhand smoke. Much of the debate here is over whether there is actually an externality since the store or restaurant owner has an incentive to give their customers what they want (see my book Freedomnomics).

whether it is companies that don't want to pay the extra costs of regulation, or free-market ideologues opposed to any government controls. . . .

We are now at 7 paragraphs, 410 words and we still don't have any specific responses to the objections.

The latest round of attacks involves two episodes. The first was the hacking of a climate-change research centre in England. The emails that were stolen suggested a lack of forthrightness in the presentation of some climate data. Whatever the details of this specific case, the studies in question represent a tiny fraction of the overwhelming scientific evidence that points to the reality and urgency of man-made climate change.

1) Not clear it was hacking versus a whistle blower.
2) As I have written in my own editorial pieces, there are problems with other data. Data not being made available to other scientists. Questions about whether there were biases in how it was collected.
3) Not much of a response.

The second issue was a blatant error concerning glaciers that appeared in a major IPCC report. Here it should be understood that the IPCC issues thousands of pages of text. There are, no doubt, errors in those pages. But errors in the midst of a vast and complex report by the IPCC point to the inevitability of human shortcomings, not to any fundamental flaws in climate science.

There were a lot of errors in the IPCC report.

The rest of Sachs' op-ed then goes back to personal attacks.

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The rate that concealed carry permit holders are now losing their permits for gun related violations

Between, October 1, 1987, and November 30, 2008, Florida issued permits to 1,439,446 people, many of whom have had their permits renewed multiple times. Only 166 had their permits revoked for any type of firearms related violation – about 0.01 percent. I was just looking up the new numbers. Updating those numbers to January 31, 2010, Florida has now issued permits to 1,704,624 people. The number who have had their permits revoked has risen to just 167. In 14 months, just one person with a Florida permit has lost his permit for a fire arms related violation. There are currently 692,621 valid permits. That is a revocation rate of 0.00014 percent.


Senate to push global warming bill this week?

This push, if it materializes, is surprising given that big Senate debate over health care. From Reuters:

A last-ditch attempt at passing a climate change bill begins in the Senate this week with senators mindful that time is running short and that approaches to the legislation still vary widely, according to sources.
"We will present senators with a number of options when they get back from recess," said one Senate aide knowledgeable of the compromise legislation that is being developed. The goal is to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that scientists say threaten Earth.
The options will be presented to three senators -- Democrat John Kerry, independent Joseph Lieberman and Republican Lindsey Graham -- who are leading the fight for a bill to battle global warming domestically.
The aide said the Senate's drive for a bill got a boost last week with President Barack Obama's announcement of an $8.3 billion government loan guarantee to help start expanding the nuclear power industry, a top Republican priority. "The administration is really putting their money where their mouth is," the aide said.
The Senate trio's success or failure likely will have a profound impact on international efforts to reduce carbon emissions and prevent Earth's temperature from exceeding a possibly dangerous 2 degree Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) increase from pre-industrial times. . . .

This last paragraph is in something that claims to be a "news" story.

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Tiger Woods

Here is an interesting take at the WSJ on the Tiger Woods story. The thing that I don't understand was the unprotected sex. Fortunately, one of them is reported to have had two abortions. It would seem like a billionaire would be a prime candidate to hold up, that she could embarrass him with the news that he had an affair that resulted in a pregnancy.


Losing count on the number of broken Obama promises: funding NASA

Whatever one thinks of the space program, here is another broken promise by Obama. Here was Obama's promise in 2008 during the General Election:

Sen. Barack Obama promised not to cut NASA funding and said Saturday at a town hall meeting he will rely on Florida Sen. Bill Nelson and revered astronaut and former Sen. John Glenn to help form his space policy.

"Under my watch, NASA will inspire the world once again and is going to help grow the economy right here in Brevard County," said the presumptive Democratic nominee, speaking to a crowd of 1,400 at Brevard Community College's Titusville campus.

Obama has changed an earlier position, in which he planned to delay the Constellation program five years and use up to $5 billion from the NASA budget for education.

"Here's what I'm committing to: Continue Constellation. We're going to close the gap (between the end of shuttle flight and the next program, Constellation). We may have additional shuttle flights," he said.

"My commitment is to seamless transition, where we're utilizing the space station in an intelligent way, and we're preparing for the next generation of space travel." . . .

Now Obama plans on stopping the Constellation program:

American astronauts will not return to the moon as planned if Congress passes President Obama's proposed budget.
Obama's budget -- which aims to tighten the nation's purse strings in certain areas while increasing money used to create jobs -- would cancel NASA's Constellation Program, which had sought to send astronauts back to the moon by 2020.
Constellation also intended to study the idea of establishing a moon colony. The program was set to follow the U.S. space agency's shuttle missions, which are due to end in September. . . .

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