Honesty Ratings

The Gallup Poll is available here. It might be interesting to see what can explain the variations in these survey numbers over time.

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Gun control out of control, Life in New Jersey

Just another cost of gun ownership? These laws just complicate gun ownership even among the most law abiding citizens.

The case of a New Jersey man who is serving seven years in prison for possessing two locked and unloaded handguns he purchased legally in Colorado is a perfect example of how a law-abiding citizen can unwittingly become a criminal due to vastly differing gun laws among the states, gun rights experts say.
Brian Aitken, a 27-year-old entrepreneur and media consultant with no prior criminal record, now spends his days "bored and depressed" behind bars at New Jersey's Mid-State Correctional Facility, his father, Larry Aitken, of Mount Laurel, N.J., says.
Brian was trying to get his life back on track two years ago when he moved back to New Jersey from Colorado to be closer to his young son and estranged wife. But on Jan. 2, 2009, his mood darkened when his planned visit with his son was canceled at the last minute. His mother, concerned for his safety, called the police, and when the police located him, they searched his car and found two locked and unloaded handguns in the trunk.
Aitken had purchased the guns legally in Colorado, and he passed an FBI background check when he bought them, his father said. And he said Brian also contacted New Jersey State Police before moving back back home to discuss how to properly transport his weapons. But despite those good-faith efforts, he said, Brian was convicted on weapons charges and sent to prison in August. . . . .
Brian's relatives and his lawyer, Evan Nappen, believe he had a legal exemption to have the handguns in his car because they say he was in the process of moving from his parents' home in Mount Laurel to Hoboken when the guns were found. A formal appeal and clemency petition have been filed with the office of Gov. Chris Christie, and a "Free Brian Aitken" Facebook group has garnered roughly 7,000 supporters. A brief on his appeal is due on Dec. 30, officials told FoxNews.com.
Nappen claims the moving exemption issue was raised both during the trial and in a pretrial motion to have the entire case dismissed, but he said the jury was never given the exemption statute because then-Superior Court Judge James Morley refused to provide it to them. . . .

Because of other strange rulings by Morley, Governor Christie has refused to renominate him when his term recently expired.

Morley, 62, is the presiding judge of the Burlington County criminal courts. His reappointment had been in doubt over comments made at the sentencing of a 45-year-old teacher’s aide who had sex with a 16-year-old student, as well for throwing out animal cruelty charges against a former Moorestown police officer who allegedly received oral sex from young cows because he said there was no way to prove the actions were actually cruel. . . .

The judges comments were:

During the sentencing of teacher's aide, Donna Goebel, Morley said "But for the defendant's status, there would be no crime here (because) the relationship was entirely consensual," according to the Courier-Post. He also noted that "It's possible she just wanted to be around someone who was nice to her and got caught up in something she shouldn't have."

Morley made national headlines when he threw out animal cruelty charges against suspended Moorestown Police Officer Robert Melia - who is facing much more serious charges of assaulting three young girls - because it was unclear if the sexual contact he engaged in with calves "tormented" or "puzzled" them.

"If the cow had the cognitive ability to form thought and speak, would it say, 'Where's the milk? I'm not getting any milk,'" he said, according to the Philadelphia Daily News. . . .


The temporary jobs recovery

Comparing "temporary help service" jobs across recoveries

Comparing "temporary help service" jobs to overall service jobs and goods producing jobs (from WSJ)

In the past Democrats have deriding recoveries that produced a lot of new service industry jobs. The media is surprisingly quite about the way that "temporary help service" jobs have exploded by 460,000 since June 2009. But total private sector jobs only increased by 203,000. That means that non-temporary help jobs fell by 257,000 since the recovery started. The BLS defines these jobs this way:

Temporary help services, also referred to as temporary staffing agencies, provide employees, on a contract basis and for a limited time, to clients in need of workers to supplement their labor force.

Take away the "Temporary Help Service" jobs from last month's report and there were only 10 private sector jobs created. There was actually a net loss in jobs of about 1,000 if you are only asking about permanent jobs and "Temporary Help Service" jobs are subtracted from the total. Indeed, in five of the last six months would have seen drops in total employment without the increases in "Temporary Help Service" jobs.

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Senate Democrats who voted against tax increases

For the two Democratic tax increase bills, the votes were as follows:

The vote was 53 to 36, on a bill adopted by the House on Thursday that would end the cuts on income above $250,000 a year for couples and $200,000 a year for individuals.

Republicans voted unanimously against the House-passed bill, and they were joined by four Democrats — Senators Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, and Jim Webb of Virginia — as well as by Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut. . . .

The roll call on the so-called millionaire’s tax, which also needed 60 votes to advance, was 53 to 37 with Republicans again unanimously opposed and joined this time by Mr. Feingold, Mr. Lieberman, and Senators Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, Tom Harkin of Iowa and John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia. . . .


Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia has already broken one campaign promise

Barely in office for a couple of weeks and Joe Manchin of West Virginia has already broken one campaign promise and voted for income tax increases for some people.

To Fox in September, Manchin said, "Whatever side you might be on, whether I think you're too rich, or you think someone's too poor, whatever it may be... and you think well you can afford it but you can't, the bottom line is, until you can run the government as efficiently and as effectively, and you start paying attention to the debt that this nation is carrying and you're passing on - until you really get serious about that - I wouldn't (raise taxes)."

But now, a change of heart.

Manchin voted for a proposal by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, that would extended current tax rates, lowered during the Bush era, only for those families making less than $1 million. . . .


Rampant cheating in academia

Given how poor the English is of these students, it seems that these essays will only temporarily benefit these students. But presumably there are many students who do get long term advantage from this cheating. The discussion is available here.


How Obama tried to use money and threats to get UN to adopt Climate treaty

Diplomacy as practiced by the Obama administration.

The US diplomatic cables reveal how the US seeks dirt on nations opposed to its approach to tackling global warming; how financial and other aid is used by countries to gain political backing; how distrust, broken promises and creative accounting dog negotiations; and how the US mounted a secret global diplomatic offensive to overwhelm opposition to the controversial "Copenhagen accord", the unofficial document that emerged from the ruins of the Copenhagen climate change summit in 2009. . . .

Some countries needed little persuading. The accord promised $30bn (£19bn) in aid for the poorest nations hit by global warming they had not caused. Within two weeks of Copenhagen, the Maldives foreign minister, Ahmed Shaheed, wrote to the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, expressing eagerness to back it.

By 23 February 2010, the Maldives' ambassador-designate to the US, Abdul Ghafoor Mohamed, told the US deputy climate change envoy, Jonathan Pershing, his country wanted "tangible assistance", saying other nations would then realise "the advantages to be gained by compliance" with the accord.

A diplomatic dance ensued. "Ghafoor referred to several projects costing approximately $50m (£30m). Pershing encouraged him to provide concrete examples and costs in order to increase the likelihood of bilateral assistance."

The Maldives were unusual among developing countries in embracing the accord so wholeheartedly, but other small island nations were secretly seen as vulnerable to financial pressure. Any linking of the billions of dollars of aid to political support is extremely controversial – nations most threatened by climate change see the aid as a right, not a reward, and such a link as heretical. But on 11 February, Pershing met the EU climate action commissioner, Connie Hedegaard, in Brussels, where she told him, according to a cable, "the Aosis [Alliance of Small Island States] countries 'could be our best allies' given their need for financing". . . . .

The confidential cable records a blunt US threat to Zenawi: sign the accord or discussion ends now. Zenawi responds that Ethiopia will support the accord, but has a concern of his own: that a personal assurance from Barack Obama on delivering the promised aid finance is not being honoured.

US determination to seek allies against its most powerful adversaries – the rising economic giants of Brazil, South Africa, India, China (Basic) – is set out in another cable from Brussels on 17 February reporting a meeting between the deputy national security adviser, Michael Froman, Hedegaard and other EU officials.

Froman said the EU needed to learn from Basic's skill at impeding US and EU initiatives and playing them off against each in order "to better handle third country obstructionism and avoid future train wrecks on climate". . . .

Perhaps the most audacious appeal for funds revealed in the cables is from Saudi Arabia, the world's second biggest oil producer and one of the 25 richest countries in the world. A secret cable sent on 12 February records a meeting between US embassy officials and lead climate change negotiator Mohammad al-Sabban. "The kingdom will need time to diversify its economy away from petroleum, [Sabban] said, noting a US commitment to help Saudi Arabia with its economic diversification efforts would 'take the pressure off climate change negotiations'." . . . .

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Cost-benefit analysis of Rear-view video on cars

The Obama administration wants to add about $200 to the price of every car and light truck in the US.

Such technology currently boosts the price of a car by as much as $200. But administration officials said the added cost is justified because the technology could potentially halve the number of deaths and injuries each year attributed to "back over" crashes, currently at about 207 and 15,446, respectively. Such crashes disproportionately affect children and elderly people. . . .

Suppose that a value of life is $4 million (probably an over estimate for the elderly and young people killed accidentally here) and that the average injury is $50,000 (definitely an overestimate since most injuries tend to be very small), the total cost from these accidents is $1.6 billion. There are about 12 million cars and light trucks sold in the US this year. In that case, any cost over $133 per car would produce costs greater than the benefits. If the average injury costs $10,000, any cost of the rear-view cameras over $82 is too much.

The LA Times notes that Ford says the systems add about $400 to the price of their cars.

The rear-view camera system adds about $400 to the price of a Ford. . . .

A Toyota Camera costs about $239.95, a Gray monitor added another $265.95, and a color monitor adds $369.95.

The WSJ notes:

The rule could cost the auto industry between $1.9 billion and $2.7 billion a year . . .

The $2.7 billion at $200 per car implies that 13.5 million cars will be sold each year. The 12 million is probably low given that sales are probably still low from the recession.

The Detroit News makes the right point:

No matter what system you choose or the government forces carmakers to install, the most important thing to remember is that technology will never replace a careful driver. It may assist us, make us a little safer and enhance the driving experience, but it cannot replace a driver aware of his or her surroundings. . . .

The numbers above assume that adopting these cameras will eliminate deaths and injuries from cars backing over children. That is obviously incorrect. Even if half of them are avoided, the regulation will probably be surprisingly successful.



Two years of unemployment insurance isn't doing a lot of people a favor

This article completely ignores the question of why people are unemployed for a long period of time. The impact of being unemployed for a long time is pretty bad. With 6.3 million people unemployed for longer than six months, a lot of people are in this boat.

This country has some of the highest levels of long-term unemployment — out of work longer than six months — it has ever recorded. Meanwhile, job growth has been, and looks to remain, disappointingly slow, indicating that those out of work for a while are likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. Even if the government report on Friday shows the expected improvement in hiring by business, it will not be enough to make a real dent in those totals.

So the legions of long-term unemployed will probably be idle for significantly longer than their counterparts in past recessions, reducing their chances of eventually finding a job even when the economy becomes more robust. . . .

people who become disconnected from the work force have more trouble getting hired, probably because of some combination of stigma, discouragement and deterioration of their skills. . . . . studies comparing the fates of similar workers have also shown that the experience of unemployment itself damages job prospects. . . . .

“From what I’ve seen, employers do tend to get suspicious when there’s a long-term gap in people’s résumés,” said James Whelly, deputy director of work force development at the San Francisco Human Services Agency. “Even though everyone on an intellectual level knows that this is a unique time in the economy, those old habits are hard to break with hiring managers and H.R. departments who are doing the screening."

The problem is that the Obama administration is calling for more of the cause of the disease.

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. called the weak November jobs report is “disappointing” and urged Congress to extend unemployment benefits and tax cuts for the middle class. . . .

And this is a real puzzle? The NY Times seems to think so, but they don't seem to understand that it is future profitability that determines whether people are hired.

The lack of strong hiring has puzzled some because companies are enjoying strong profits and building large cash reserves. But economists said that employers are still holding back on adding new workers. . . .

David Leonhardt at the NY Times seems to believe that the way to create jobs is through at least in part increasing unemployment insurance extensions.

Today’s report is another argument in favor of the Federal Reserve’s attempts to reduce long-term interest rates, through its so-called quantitative easing program. It’s also an argument for making sure that any extension of the Bush tax cuts includes measures that are more likely to create jobs, like business tax cuts, a payroll tax cut and an extension of unemployment benefits.

If you want some comedy, Austan Goolsbee warned:

Austan Goolsbee, chairman of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, put the best face possible on the ugly news, warning that observers shouldn't “read too much into any one monthly report.” He added that such reports are “volatile” and subject to revisions — as were the October employment gains, which were upgraded Friday from an initial estimate of 150,000 to more than 170,000. . . . .

Goolsbee then goes on to selectively pick the dates that he wants to compare. I am not sure why they don't use the end of the recession or when Obama became president or when the stimulus passed besides the point that things have obviously gotten much worse than those dates.

The economy has added 1.2 million new jobs since December 2009, he said. . . .

Fine, let's take his preferred reference date. Unemployment has gone down all the way from 10 percent to 9.8 percent. A million more people have left the labor force and virtually the same number of people are unemployed.

UPDATE: Obama says that he will only sign a tax bill if it includes extended unemployment insurance benefits. Presumably he means unemployment insurance benefits without paying for it.

President Obama told Congressional leaders Saturday that he was open to a compromise on extending the Bush-era tax cuts, but threatened to veto if the deal didn’t include an unemployment extension.
Speaking with Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Obama said he would consider permitting a renewal of Bush era tax cuts for all taxpayers, including the wealthy, but that Republicans would be expected to include commitments to some Democratic priorities.
Obama wants an extension of jobless benefits in addition to extensions of the tax cuts that benefit middle class families. . . .

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With all the previous leaks from WikiLeaks why hasn't the Obama administration already figured out how to prosecute them?

So why is the Obama administration only figuring this out now?

Attorney General Eric Holder said this week that the Justice Department is examining whether Assange can be charged with a crime for posting hundreds of thousands of leaked government intelligence documents and diplomatic cables. . . .

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New Fox News piece: What the new job numbers mean

My new piece starts this way:
It's official. The new jobless figures are out and we learned this morning that the nation's unemployment rate climbed to 9.8 percent last month. -- It has remained at least at 9.5 percent for a record 16 months. Today, reacting to the news, many hosts and analysts on cable news are shocked at the worsening unemployment numbers. But economists have been anticipating the increase for sometime. The depressing problem is that the increase didn't occur for the reason we thought that it would.

Economists thought that the unemployment rate would rise because as some of the Americans who had completely left the labor force began to look again for jobs. Remember, people are only counted as unemployed if they are actively searching for work. But millions of Americans were no longer listed as unemployed over the last couple of years because they simply gave up looking for work.

Unfortunately, the bad news today is that not only is the number of unemployed rising, the number of people who have given up and left the labor force is also still going up. . . .

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Unemployment + Not in Labor Force


The Five Worst Federal Government Services


"Rendell calls bid to curb guns in Pennsylvania 'a lost cause'"

In reading this discussion by Rendell note that this last year Democrats controlled the Assembly.

On Monday, Rendell defended his weekend veto of a bill expanding gun owners' self-defense rights - but declared his efforts to reduce gun violence through legislation "an abject failure."

"It's a lost cause in Pennsylvania," Rendell said in a conference call with reporters. He accused the General Assembly of kowtowing to the National Rifle Association. . . .

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Lame Duck Session passes reparations for discrimination without any evidence that discrimination occurred

Those getting compensation also don't even need to show that they applied for a loan and got turned down. Farmers who got loans or who never applied are eligible compensation. Nor is there any evidence that loans were given out at different rates to the different types of farmers.

The congressional approval of a whopping $4.6 billion settlement for black and Native American farmers who claimed they were discriminated against has cleared the way for a similar pair of costly lawsuits -- drawing complaints that the government may be buckling to pressure and rewarding dubious claims.

The so-called "Pigford" case involving black farmers who allege the Agriculture Department cheated them for decades drew to a close Tuesday when the House joined the Senate in approving the second settlement in the case to date. But the lawsuits don't end there. Though Pigford has attracted the most attention, a separate set of cases filed by Hispanic and female farmers has been working its way through the courts since shortly after Pigford was filed more than a decade ago.

Those cases are set for a hearing in federal District Court in the nation's capital on Friday, and once again a large pot of taxpayer money is on the line. The farmers were offered a $1.3 billion settlement back in May, but the plaintiffs have since then pushed for more. Some Democratic lawmakers argue they deserve it. . . .

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The Amtrak ban on guns has been lifted

My guess is that after a few months people will forget that there was ever such a complete ban, but it is still a pain to go through the pre-notice requirements. Of course, it would be even better if they let permit holders carry their guns on trains.

Amtrak will let passengers transport unloaded guns on trains, reversing a ban in place since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. The ban lifts on Dec. 15.
Travelers can check firearms, — including handguns, starter pistols, rifles and shotguns — and up to 11 pounds of ammunition at any train station that offers checked baggage service and if the travelers' itinerary includes a train with a baggage car. Most big-city train stations — including New York, Boston, Chicago and Washington — have checked-baggage service.
The gun prohibition "was an overreaction" after the 9/11 attacks, said Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., who proposed lifting the ban as part of a 2010 appropriations bill.
"The rule was not based on any facts or any reality and was frankly punitive toward sportsmen, hunters and gun owners," Wicker said. "Amtrak was unable to accommodate hunters and sportsmen. They were forced to choose only air travel." . . .
To transport a gun, passengers must notify Amtrak at least 24 hours before their departure. The gun must be stored unloaded in a locked, hard-sided container, the guidelines say. . . . .

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Newest piece at National Review Online: Assault Weapons and the Truth

My newest piece there starts this way:

The Obama administration is moving into high gear in putting gun-control advocates into important government positions. The administration’s nominee to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE), Andrew Traver, should be of particular concern. His attacks on the civilian use of so-called assault weapons raise real questions about his willingness to distort the truth for political purposes. The person nominated to be the nation’s top gun cop shouldn’t use inaccurate descriptions to scare people into supporting gun control. . . .

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Soros helping Mark Dayton raise money for Minnesota recount

From the left wing Talking Point Memo:

As Minnesota Public Radio reports, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Mark Dayton has a very special fundraiser coming up, to help pay for his efforts in the state recount. The headliner at the December 13th event will be none other than former President Bill Clinton.

But that's not all. It will also be held in New York, at the home of George Soros. . . .

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The Biggest wealth transfer of all time

GE gets secret bailout money from the government and then runs positive news coverage on the Obama administration without mentioning the conflict. From the front page of the Washington Post:

. . . the Federal Reserve rushed trillions of dollars in emergency aid not just to Wall Street but also to motorcycle makers, telecom firms and foreign-owned banks in 2008 and 2009.

Fed's efforts to prop up the financial sector reached across a broad spectrum of the economy, benefiting stalwarts of American industry including General Electric and Caterpillar and household-name companies such as Verizon, Harley-Davidson and Toyota. The central bank's aid programs also supported U.S. subsidiaries of banks based in East Asia, Europe and Canada while rescuing money-market mutual funds held by millions of Americans.

The biggest users of the Fed lending programs were some of the world's largest banks, including Citigroup, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Swiss-based UBS and Britain's Barclays, according to more than 21,000 loan records released Wednesday under new financial regulatory legislation. . . .

"The American people are finally learning the incredible and jaw-dropping details of the Fed's multitrillion-dollar bailout of Wall Street and corporate America," said Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), a longtime Fed critic whose provision in the Wall Street regulatory overhaul required the new disclosures. "Perhaps most surprising is the huge sum that went to bail out foreign private banks and corporations. As a result of this disclosure, other members of Congress and I will be taking a very extensive look at all aspects of how the Federal Reserve functions."

The Fed launched emergency programs totaling $3.3 trillion in aid, a figure reached by adding up the peak amount of lending in each program.

Companies that few people would associate with Wall Street benefited through the Fed's program to ease the market for commercial paper, a form of short-term debt used by major corporations to fund their daily activities.

By the fall of 2008, credit had frozen across the financial system, including the commercial paper market. The Fed then purchased commercial paper issued by GE 12 times for a total of $16 billion. It bought paper from Harley-Davidson 33 times, for a total of $2.3 billion. It picked up debt issued by Verizon twice, totaling $1.5 billion. . . .

The data revealed that the Fed continued making purchases into the summer of 2009 - after the official end of the recession - showing that it was still concerned about a fundamental part of the financial system even as economic growth was returning. . . .

Foreign-owned banks also benefited from the Fed's commercial-paper facility. The Korean Development Bank, owned by the South Korean government, used the program to the tune of billions of dollars, including a $407 million short-term loan on a single day. Many foreign banks, including the French BNP Paribas, the Swiss UBS and the German Deutsche Bank, took extensive advantage of various programs. Even a major bank in Bavaria benefited, as well as another one headquartered in Bahrain, a tiny island country in the Middle East.

Another Fed program allowed investment banks for the first time to borrow directly from the Fed as officials sought to stem the panic that had taken down Wall Street titan Bear Stearns. The central bank assisted 18 companies through this program. Among the biggest beneficiaries was Citigroup, which in a single day in November 2008 borrowed $18.6 billion from the Fed.

The data also demonstrate how the Fed, in its scramble to keep the financial system afloat, eventually lowered its standards for the kind of collateral it allowed participating banks to post. From Citigroup, for instance, it accepted $156 million in triple-C collateral or lower - grades that indicate that the assets carried the greatest risk of default. . . . .

From the Financial Times:

Foreign banks were among the biggest beneficiaries of the $3,300bn in emergency credit provided by the Federal Reserve during the crisis, according to new data on the extraordinary efforts of the US authorities to save the global financial system. . . .

Barclays was the biggest cumulative borrower from TAF. The UK bank, which bought the US operations of Lehman Brothers out of bankruptcy in September 2008, borrowed a cumulative $232bn from the TAF through various subsidiaries.

Bank of Scotland and RBS of the UK, Société Générale of France, Dresdner Bank and Bayerische Landesbank of Germany, and Dexia of Belgium were all among the top 10 cumulative users of TAF. At any given time, these borrowers owed less than the total amount because the short-term loans were extended after they expired. . . .

Some of the beneficiaries:

New documents show that the most loan and other aid for U.S. institutions over time went to Citigroup ($2.2 trillion), followed by Merrill Lynch ($2.1 trillion), Morgan Stanley ($2 trillion), Bear Stearns ($960 billion), Bank of America ($887 billion), Goldman Sachs ($615 billion), JPMorgan Chase ($178 billion) and Wells Fargo ($154 billion). . . .
Foreign banks also benefited from the Fed's aid. They included Swiss bank UBS, which borrowed more than $165 billion, Deutsche Bank ($97 billion) and the Royal Bank of Scotland ($92 billion).
Many of the individual loans the banks took were worth billions and had short durations but were paid back and renewed many times.
Among the largest recipients were foreign central banks, such as the European Central Bank, Bank of England and the Bank of Japan. They borrowed huge amounts of dollars from the Fed to assist their own banks.
The documents are a reminder of how crippled the financial system had become during the crisis and how much it's recovered since. Banks earned $14 billion from July through September this year. . . .
Big U.S. and foreign banks made repeated use of the programs. Bank of America, for instance, took out 14 loans worth $15 billion each under the Fed program that provided short-term loans. The loans were repaid after either one month or three months. The last was repaid by July 2009.
Barclays, a British bank, tapped the same facility 49 times. Its individual loans ranged from $300 million to $15 billion. Citigroup used the program 26 times.
The documents help illustrate the global scope of the crisis. The Federal Reserve provided credit lines to some of the largest central banks overseas: The European Central Bank took $8 trillion in temporary credit lines, while the Bank of England took $918 billion. That credit ensured that overseas markets wouldn't freeze for a lack of U.S. dollars, the global reserve currency. . . .

Unfortunately, the Fed is refusing to release data on everything that they have done with the money. Another reason for Ron Paul's auditing the Fed bill?

The Federal Reserve withheld details on individual securities pledged as collateral by recipients of $885 billion in central bank loans, denying taxpayers a measure of the risks they faced from its emergency aid. . . .

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Another Student Senate in Texas at Texas A&M University at Galveston endorses concealed carry on campus

A copy of their resolution is available here.

That the Texas A&M at Galveston Student Government Association supports the legislation that gives students, faculty, and staff the right to carry a concealed weapon on the campus of Texas A&M University at Galveston.

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Palin and the Iowa Caucuses

One Iowa reporter thinks that the Iowa caucuses are Palin's to lose.

It’s possible, maybe even probable, that Sarah Palin’s highly lucrative “keep ’em guessing” game won’t result in an actual run for president.

She may indeed be playing us. I, for one, hope so.

But if she takes the plunge, I think Palin will win the Iowa caucuses.

Now wait just a cornpickin’ minute, you might be thinking.

Surely, the Wasilla whirlwind won’t pay sufficient homage to Iowa activists, or sit at humble kitchen tables with mismatched salt and pepper shakers or serve herself up with a side of over-easy eggs at cafes or grant 30-minute interviews to the Woodbine Twiner.

As they say in the hustings, bunk.

Sure, I could be wrong. Maybe Mitt Romney finally finds just enough flips and flops to triumph this time. Maybe Tim, what’s his name again, Pawlenty catches fire. Perhaps Mike Huckabee scores a rare two-peat. I guess it’s always possible Iowa Republicans will harbor love for Barbour, or put their loot on Newt.

But can any of them stop a roaring “Mama Grizzly” from mauling the caucuses? I doubt it. . . .

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It was bad enough that the US was bailing out US Banks, it is bizarre to think that we are also bailing out European Banks

From Reuters:

"There are a lot of people talking about that. I think the European Commission has talked about that," said the U.S. official, commenting on enlarging the European stability fund. "It is up to the Europeans. We will certainly support using the IMF in these circumstances." . . .

The IMF, whose biggest single shareholder is the United States, has now contributed 250 billion euros or one third of the EFSF financial rescue mechanism. . . .

And why can't countries such as Germany and the UK take care of these problems to the extent that anyone needs to bailout Greece and Ireland?

From the Financial Times:

Foreign banks were among the biggest beneficiaries of the $3,300bn in emergency credit provided by the Federal Reserve during the crisis, according to new data on the extraordinary efforts of the US authorities to save the global financial system.

The revelation of the scale of overseas lenders’ borrowing underlines the global nature of the turmoil and the crucial role of the Fed as the lender of last resort for the world’s banking sector . . .

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Newest Fox News piece: Who Knew? Cutting Government Spending IS Actually Possible

My newest piece starts this way:

Federal government spending is on a course with disaster. $2.7 trillion has been added to the national debt in just 2009 and 2010. Under current budget plans, the federal government's debt will likely exceed our income in just over a decade from now. President Obama's Debt Commission (The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform) released its solution today.
The commission, composed of twice as many Democrats as Republicans, proposes limiting federal government revenue and spending to 21 percent of GDP. Assuming that promises are actually kept, that would mean an increase in what revenue the federal government has traditionally taken in and a return to what government spending has been prior to the huge surge we have seen over the last two years. -- Over most of the last 60 years, federal government revenue has been about 19 percent of GDP. Spending over that period has been around 21 percent or less.
To make up this revenue, . . .

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Dems divided over how to deal with taxes

From the left wing Talking Points Memo:

At an undisclosed White House meeting yesterday with Senate Democratic leaders, President Obama pushed back on a controversial, but politically potent tax cut plan that has knocked Republicans off message in recent days.

Pushing hardest for the new approach was Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the third ranking Democrat in the Senate and the Dems' new point man for combining message and policy. He proposes to create a new tax bracket above the $1 million income threshold, and let Republicans decide whether to fight to the death to give those people a tax cut. It's the one compromise that polls well and wrongfoots the GOP at the same time. . . .

But Democratic leaders (other than Schumer) and Obama himself oppose the plan for a few reasons. At the meeting yesterday, according to a source familiar with the discussions, "the concerns expressed were about the cost [to the deficit] and the risk of redefining the middle class as those making over one million."

(Estimates suggest that lifting the threshold from $250,000 to $1 million could cost as much as $400 billion over 10 years.)

A Senate Democratic aide said that, for these reasons, the idea hasn't really gained wide traction in the caucus. And a third source noted that a number of progressive members don't want to start negotiations by giving up what they really want: a vote to let the Bush tax cuts expire above a threshold of $250,000 a year.

Sensing that that $250,000 goal is already out of reach, supporters of Schumer's proposal worry that if Democrats don't coalesce around something soon, they'll end up agreeing to extend all the Bush tax cuts until 2012. . . .


Copy of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform Report

A copy of the Commission report can be obtained here.


"Unemployment Benefit to Dry Up for 2M Americans"

Is it really surprising that these two event are occurring at the same time? The extended unemployment insurance benefits run have ended.

Extended unemployment benefits for nearly 2 million Americans begin to run out Wednesday, cutting off a steady stream of income and guaranteeing a dismal holiday season for people already struggling with bills they cannot pay.

Unless Congress changes its mind, benefits that had been extended up to 99 weeks will end this month.

That means Christmas is out of the question for Wayne Pittman, 46, of Lawrenceville, Ga., and his wife and 9-year-old son. The carpenter was working up to 80 hours a week at the beginning of the decade, but saw that gradually drop to 15 hours before it dried up completely. His last $297 check will go to necessities, not presents. . . .

And this:

The number of people applying for unemployment benefits fell sharply last week to the lowest level since July 2008, a hopeful sign that improvement in the job market is accelerating.

The Labor Department said Wednesday that weekly unemployment claims dropped by 34,000 to a seasonally adjusted 407,000 in the week ending Nov. 20. Wall Street analysts expected a much smaller drop.

A Labor Department analyst said weekly claims are volatile during the week between the Veteran's Day and Thanksgiving holidays. A key question is whether claims will remain this low in future weeks, or bounce back.

Still, applications for jobless aid are steadily moving lower. Claims have fallen in four of the past six weeks.

The four-week average, a less volatile measure, dropped for the third straight week to 436,000, the lowest since August 2008. That's a month before the financial crisis intensified with the collapse of Lehman Brothers, worsening the recession.

The improvement can't come fast enough for frustrated jobseekers. Applications for jobless aid need to stay below 425,000 for several weeks to signal that hiring is accelerating, economists say.

For the first 10 months of this year, claims mostly fluctuated around 450,000 until they began dropping in late October. They fell steadily last year from a peak of 651,000 in March 2009. . . .


Bogus Estimate of TARP losses falls to $25 billion

The CBO claims this supposedly good news:

Reporting from Washington — The projected cost of the $700-billion financial bailout fund — initially feared to be a huge hit to taxpayers — continues to drop, with the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimating Monday that losses would amount to just $25 billion.

That's a sharp drop from the CBO's last estimate, in August, of a $66-billion loss for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, known as TARP. Going back to March, the budget office estimated that the program would cost taxpayers $109 billion. . . .

The cost estimates for TARP cannot be separated from the overall cost of the financial bailouts. For example, the $45 billion in reduced taxes on GM in early November must have had a real impact on how much money people were willing to pay for the new stock. That stock price in turn impacted how much money the government says that it got back on its TARP investment. Suppose that the government had reduced GM’s tax bill by $100 billion and the stock price then rose above the $44 the government had originally paid for GM stock, would you want the CBO to then claim that the government had made a profit on the TARP funds? I don’t see how one can evaluate how good of a move TARP was unless you take into account all these other financial moves taken by the government.

No does this CBO accounting actually take into account costs such as the $45 billion in tax breaks given to GM in November? No. Does it take into account other subsidies given to GM such as the cash for clunkers program or the guarantees given to pension funds? No. And those are just the additional uncounted costs borne for GM.

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New Fox News piece: Why Does the Media Love to Pick On Palin?

My newest Fox News piece starts off this way:

The media just loves to hate Sarah Palin. And, if polls are to be believed, the constant media bombardment has hurt her standing among many independents.

Unfortunately, over the last couple of weeks, even conservative media pundits such as Mona Charen, Peggy Noonan, George Will, Joe Scarborough and Matt Labash see these attacks and warn that she can’t win the presidency. They even buy into the attacks on her judgment, intelligence, and competence. But what these conservatives don’t appreciate is that Palin is being attacked because she is smart and effective, not because she is dumb.

For just how far off base her coverage by the media has been, consider the reaction when Sarah Palin, a Fox News contributor and former Alaska governor, last Wednesday accidentally referred to North Korea as an ally. It was an obvious slip of the tongue and she corrected the trivial gaffe immediately in her very next sentence. The local, national, and even international news coverage was massive, making the trivial error front-page news. A Google news search finds 834 separate news stories run just that day alone.

This is just the surface of the attacks. . . . .

Mark Levin read the piece here.

My piece discusses how Sarah Palin is willing to take unpopular stands because they are the right things to do. As if on cue to show that Palin is different than other Republicans, we have this:

House Republicans are looking to repeal the healthcare reform law and replace it with one of their own early next year without interrupting two popular parts the administration has already begun to implement.

They include a mandate that bars discrimination of pre-existing conditions and a stipulation that allows young people to remain on their parents' insurance plans until age 26.

Incoming Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said Monday that they would do this by passing a GOP healthcare bill at the same time as repeal efforts are underway.

Speaking to more than 100 students at American University, Cantor said, "What you will see us do is to push for repeal of the healthcare bill, and at the same time, contemporaneously, submit our replacement bill, that has in it the provisions [barring discrimination due to pre-existing conditions and offering young people affordable care options]." . . .

Here is a piece from the Washington Post that parallels my Fox News piece closely in terms of pieces that I cite and general issues that I address. The viciousness against Palin can be seen in Kathy Griffin's attacks on Bristol Palin below.

Of course, that isn't the only attack on Palin or Bristol (see here).

UPDATE: Speaking of accidental misstatements, Obama can't get Senator Mitch McConnell's name correct.

Politico did note:

President Obama thanked a host of Democrats and Republicans on Monday for helping to pass a childhood nutrition bill -- including the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell.

Obama goofed up on McConnell's name, though, calling him "Mike" and moving on without correcting himself. . . .

UPDATE: Another example of the media attacking Palin. Recently the media went after Palin for supposedly taking a hairdresser with her on her trip to Haiti. It turns out that the hairdresser was her daughter, Bristol. For a discussion of the misinformation see this.

UPDATE2: I wasn't sure whether to link this in with my AOL piece on the reaction after the Tucson attack or to put it here, but Rush Limbaugh weighs in on the attacks on Palin and the piece that he is reading is very similar to what I wrote above.

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Texas State University students endorse allowing concealed carry on campus

The debate here is no different than the debate over concealed carry generally. Soon after concealed carry is allowed on campus this whole debate will soon be forgotten because all the concerns will prove to be unfounded.

SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) - Texas State University has become the first college in the state to endorse carrying concealed handguns on campus.

After students and faculty shared their views on the issue during a forum the week before, the Associated Student Government at the university voted Monday to endorse legalizing carrying licensed concealed handguns on Texas college campuses.

“This is something you never would have seen two years ago, when most people still believed that legalizing campus carry would somehow enable drunk kids to carry guns at keg parties," said W. Scott Lewis, Texas legislative director for Students for Concealed Carry on Campus . "The students at Texas State should be commended for educating themselves on a complex issue that has been completely misrepresented by gun control activists and certain elements of the mainstream media.”

The endorsement from the sixth-largest university - with more than 32,500 students - in the state came by a vote of 24-10, becoming the first postsecondary institution in Texas to pass a resolution endorsing what's known as “campus carry.” . . .

The passage of a campus carry bill during the 2011 Texas legislative session would amend state law so that people over 21 years old who have undergone the training, testing and extensive background checks required to obtain a state-issued concealed handgun license would also be allowed to carry concealed handguns at state colleges.

Under the amended law, concealed carry would be regulated on college campuses in the same way it is currently regulated in churches, movie theaters, shopping malls, office buildings, grocery stores, restaurants, banks and even the Texas Capitol - which basically means as long as they have the correct permit, people will be allowed to carry their concealed handguns. . . .

Licensed concealed carry is currently allowed on 71 U.S. college campuses outside of Texas, where 33 of those campuses have allowed it for an average of more than five years. The other 38 began allowing it at the beginning of the 2010 fall semester.

To date, not one of those 71 campuses has seen a single resulting incident of gun violence, including threats and suicides, according to Crocker. Neither has there been a single resulting gun accident or a single resulting gun theft, Crocker said. . . .

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Senators who voted to maintain earmarks

Republicans needed two more votes to maintain a filibuster on this issue. This is one reason that Murkowski's (R-AK) vote matters. Here is the list of Senators who voted to maintain earmarks:

Akaka (D-HI), Baucus (D-MT), Begich (D-AK), Bennett (R-UT), Bingaman (D-NM), Brown (D-OH), Cantwell (D-WA), Cardin (D-MD), Carper (D-DE), Casey (D-PA), Cochran (R-MS), Collins (R-ME), Conrad (D-ND), Coons (D-DE), Dodd (D-CT), Dorgan (D-ND), Durbin (D-IL), Feinstein (D-CA), Franken (D-MN), Gillibrand (D-NY), Hagan (D-NC), Harkin (D-IA), Inhofe (R-OK), Inouye (D-HI), Johnson (D-SD), Kerry (D-MA), Klobuchar (D-MN), Kohl (D-WI), Landrieu (D-LA), Lautenberg (D-NJ), Leahy (D-VT), Levin (D-MI), Lieberman (ID-CT), Lincoln (D-AR), Lugar (R-IN), Manchin (D-WV), Menendez (D-NJ), Merkley (D-OR), Murkowski (R-AK), Murray (D-WA), Nelson (D-NE), Pryor (D-AR), Reed (D-RI), Reid (D-NV), Rockefeller (D-WV), Sanders (I-VT), Schumer (D-NY), Shelby (R-AL), Specter (D-PA), Stabenow (D-MI), Tester (D-MT), Udall (D-NM), Voinovich (R-OH), Webb (D-VA), Whitehouse (D-RI), Wyden (D-OR)


So much for Al Gore's predictions on Hurricanes

Al Gore claimed that hurricanes where caused by global warming. In "An Inconvenient Truth" Gore claims:

Now I'm going to show you, recently released, the actual ocean temperature. Of course when the oceans get warmer, that causes stronger storms. We have seen in the last couple of years, a lot of big hurricanes. Hurricanes Jean, Francis and Ivan were among them. In the same year we had that string of big hurricanes; we also set an all time record for tornadoes in the United States. Japan again didn't get as much attention in our news media, but they set an all time record for typhoons. The previous record was seven. Here are all ten of the ones they had in 2004.

The science textbooks that have to be re-written because they say it is impossible to have a hurricane in the South Atlantic. It was the same year that the first one that ever hit Brazil. The summer of 2005 is one for the books. The first one was Emily that socked into Yucatan. Then Hurricane Dennis came along and it did a lot of damage, including to the oil industry. This is the largest oil platform in the world after Dennis went through. This one was driven into the bridge at Mobile.

And then of course came Katrina. It is worth remembering that when it hit Florida it was a Category 1, but it killed a lot of people and caused billions of dollars worth of damage. And then, what happened? Before it hit New Orleans, it went over warmer water. As the water temperature increases, the wind velocity increases and the moisture content increases. And you'll see Hurricane Katrina form over Florida. And then as it comes into the Gulf over warm water it becomes stronger and stronger and stronger. Look at that Hurricane's eye. And of course the consequences were so horrendous; there are no words to describe it. . . .

Now we get this news: "US escapes major hurricanes for 5th straight year"

The Atlantic hurricane season ends Tuesday, going down as one of the busiest on record but blissfully sparing the U.S. coastline a major hurricane for a fifth straight year.
While extreme tropical weather ravaged Haiti, Mexico and elsewhere, U.S. forecasters are wondering if the nation can make history and extend its luck into 2011. If so, it would be the first time ever that the U.S. escaped a major hurricane for six years.
"That would be a record I would like to break," said Dennis Feltgen, a spokesman for the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
All told, 19 named storms formed in the Atlantic, tying with the 1887 and 1995 seasons for third-highest on record. Twelve became hurricanes, tying with the 1969 season for the second-highest on record. . . .

See also this.

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Push for concealed carry on campus in Kansas

One outcome of the Republican sweep in state legislatures may be that a more reasonable approach will be taken towards self-defense and the elimination of gun free zones.

A state lawmaker said he'll try again to push through a law allowing concealed firearms to be carried on college campuses.

The effort to allow guns on campus was supported by the House during the 2010 legislative session, but died in the Senate.

Republican Rep. Forrest Knox said he intends to try again to push through such legislation when the 2011 session begins in January. His proposal would allow Kansans with concealed carry permits to bring their weapons into public buildings if those buildings aren't equipped with security measures such as metal detectors and guards.

"My plan is to move that forward," he said. "We will revise it somewhat and try to deal with situations, realistic situations, in public buildings."

"If you deny my right to provide for my own security, then you need to provide for my security." . . .

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Clear evidence of vote fraud in very close NY Congressional Race

It would be nice if a few more media organizations did the analysis that Fox News did here.

The closest Congressional race in the nation could be decided by people who don't really live in the district, and a Fox News investigation has uncovered evidence of voter registration illegalities, including one voter who apparently voted twice.

The candidates, Long Island Democratic incumbent Congressman Tim Bishop and Republican challenger Randy Altschuler, have been as close as just 15 votes apart, out of roughly 180,000 cast in New York's 1st Congressional District. The latest count puts Democrat Bishop ahead by about 235 votes. But both sides are now challenging roughly 2,000 absentee ballots that will eventually determine if the seat stays Democratic or falls to the Republicans.

A Fox News Voter Fraud Unit review of approximately 438 of the absentee ballot voters, who also maintain mailing addresses in New York City, reveals that 48 have double registrations. They voted by absentee ballot in Suffolk County, but are also listed as current "active" voters on the New York City rolls. Being registered in two separate jurisdictions is illegal and is a felony in New York State.

In addition, our investigation reveals that one absentee ballot was apparently submitted in the name of a Democratic voter enrolled in Suffolk County, while election records at the Board of Elections in New York City show that the same voter voted, on Election Day, in Manhattan. . . .



The so-called "Food Safety" Bill

Jim Prevor has a useful discussion here on the bill before the Senate tomorrow.

UPDATE: Well, Americans may have lucked out.

A food safety bill that has burned up precious days of the Senate’s lame-duck session appears headed back to the chamber because Democrats violated a constitutional provision requiring that tax provisions originate in the House.
By pre-empting the House’s tax-writing authority, Senate Democrats appear to have touched off a power struggle with members of their own party in the House. The Senate passed the bill Tuesday, sending it to the House, but House Democrats are expected to use a procedure known as “blue slipping” to block the bill, according to House and Senate GOP aides.
The debacle could prove to be a major embarrassment for Senate Democrats, who sought Tuesday to make the relatively unknown bill a major political issue by sending out numerous news releases trumpeting its passage.
Section 107 of the bill includes a set of fees that are classified as revenue raisers, which are technically taxes under the Constitution. According to a House GOP leadership aide, that section has ruffled the feathers of Ways and Means Committee Democrats, who are expected to use the blue slip process to block completion of the bill. . . .

UPDATE 2: I love this claim about error here. If I suspect that Harkin would not be very sympathetic to others raising the same defense.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) remains optimistic that a procedural error wouldn’t derail the food-safety bill that cleared the Senate on Tuesday, saying “nothing is going to kill this bill.” . . .

“Human error happens sometimes. No one is trying to jam anybody – it’s just a human error, no one made a mistake,” Harkin said. “Nothing is lethal here, nothing is going to kill this bill.


Howard Dean: "you would actually have to have some [government] sanctioned human beings talking" on TV news shows

Ohio considers legislation to allowed concealed carry in restaurants that serve alcohol

A discussion of the legislation is here.


News coverage of Obama's "57 states" gaffe

Obama told supporters on May 9, 2008: "I’ve now been in 57 states? I think one left to go. Alaska and Hawaii . . . ." But a Google news search shows only six news stories mentioning the "57 states" mention over the first three days (virtually all in conservative publications) and only 14 after a week.

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News coverage of Obama's gaffes

Some mistakes by Obama and the resulting news coverage.

Obama thinks that Europe is a country.
The Constitutions written "20 centuries" ago (when he nominated Sonia Sotomayor).
There is much to celebrate from the FBI's first 100 days?
Barack Obama thinks Austrian is a language
"Halt the rise of privacy"
Obama corrected twice on misspelling Syracuse

Most of these news stories are really just dealing with the first 100 days of the Obama administration.

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Media Coverage of Palin's "North Korean allies" gaffe

Presumably everyone in the media understands that Palin gaffe on North Korea was corrected in the next sentence, but it still got an amazing amount of news coverage. Here are the results of a Google news search.


Possibly now the Obama administration will be a little more aggressive on WikiLeaks

WikiLeaks is now including documents from the Obama administration. Some of these include:

¶ Bargaining to empty the Guantánamo Bay prison: When American diplomats pressed other countries to resettle detainees, they became reluctant players in a State Department version of “Let’s Make a Deal.” Slovenia was told to take a prisoner if it wanted to meet with President Obama, while the island nation of Kiribati was offered incentives worth millions of dollars to take in Chinese Muslim detainees, cables from diplomats recounted. The Americans, meanwhile, suggested that accepting more prisoners would be “a low-cost way for Belgium to attain prominence in Europe.”

¶ Suspicions of corruption in the Afghan government: When Afghanistan’s vice president visited the United Arab Emirates last year, local authorities working with the Drug Enforcement Administration discovered that he was carrying $52 million in cash. With wry understatement, a cable from the American Embassy in Kabul called the money “a significant amount” that the official, Ahmed Zia Massoud, “was ultimately allowed to keep without revealing the money’s origin or destination.” (Mr. Massoud denies taking any money out of Afghanistan.)

¶ A global computer hacking effort: China’s Politburo directed the intrusion into Google’s computer systems in that country, a Chinese contact told the American Embassy in Beijing in January, one cable reported. The Google hacking was part of a coordinated campaign of computer sabotage carried out by government operatives, private security experts and Internet outlaws recruited by the Chinese government. They have broken into American government computers and those of Western allies, the Dalai Lama and American businesses since 2002, cables said. . . .

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