Merry Christmas Everyone!

Obama administration rules now require prescriptions for all Health Savings Account expenditures

Well, this is great.

Section 9003 of the Affordable Care Act established a new uniform standard for medical expenses. Effective Jan. 1, 2011, distributions from health FSAs and HRAs will be allowed to reimburse the cost of over-the-counter medicines or drugs only if they are purchased with a prescription. This new rule does not apply to reimbursements for the cost of insulin, which will continue to be permitted, even if purchased without a prescription.

The Affordable Care Act wants to forcibly reduce demand for health care and thus reduce health care expenditures, but they don't seem to understand how HSA work. In a HSA, you bear the full cost of these expenditures, and thus you are more careful in how things are spent. Instead, Obama and the Democrats want to force people out of these programs and into those programs where someone else picks up most of the cost of each dollar that is spent (thus making them less careful).


Why Fox News viewers are better informed than others

UPDATE: My piece on "The Truth About Fox News Viewers" is available here and has my updated and more clearly written discussion of the report released previously by WorldPublicOpinion.org at the University of Maryland.

Original: A George Soros funded poll is used to claim that Fox News viewers are the most misinformed. The WorldPublicOpinion.org report is available here. The survey is here. And it has gotten incredible news coverage, with a google search of (fox news viewers misinformed "university of maryland") showing 210,000 hits. I have really only gone over the first four of their claims carefully.

-- The poll question was: "Most economists who have studied it estimate that the stimulus legislation saved or created a few jobs or caused job losses." The way it is phrased in the text regarding Fox News viewers being misinformed: "most economists estimate the stimulus caused job losses." The two statements are obviously not the same.

In any case, the report cites two pieces of evidence to support their opinion. First, is the claim by the CBO about the number of full time-equivalent jobs created. But adding up the number of jobs that the money is spent on is not the same thing as a net increase in jobs. The money has to come from someplace. In addition, the Keynesian notion of multipliers is debatable.

Second, they cite one survey from the WSJ of 54 economists from March 2010 to support their claim that most economists believe that the stimulus was helpful, though even these economists said that about a million jobs had been "created or saved," not the several million claimed. But they ignore other surveys. Here are the results from a more recent survey of 68 economists: 73 percent of National Association for Business Economics respondents thought that the stimulus had no impact of the recovery.
Would Unemployment Really Have Been Worse Without the Stimulus?
The Worst Recovery on Record

-- "Among economists who have estimated the effect of the health reform law on the federal budget deficit over the next ten years, more think it will increase the deficit"
The CBO initially estimated that Obamacare would run a $124 billion surplus, and this is what the reports cites on page 6. But just two readjustments by the CBO and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services after the health care bill passed added $149 billion to estimated spending and eliminated the predicted surplus.
"The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services concluded in April that Democrats double-counted projected Medicare spending cuts as savings and for helping ease existing financial strains on the Medicare system. It can't do both. Correcting this accounting gimmick adds $89 billion to government medical costs over the next decade."
"the Congressional Budget Office finally got around to answering a question posed by California Rep. Jerry Lewis, the ranking Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, about discretionary health care spending. It turns out that under the new law, discretionary spending will be more than twice as much as originally estimated by CBO. The new tally is $115 billion rather than $55 billion."
Democratic Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen in his book "Fresh Medicine" warns about how Obamacare will drive our country into debt and raise the health care costs of private companies. “The passage of the Affordable Care Act was made politically acceptable by setting up a straw man: would it reduce the deficit or not? When CBO announced that the legislation would indeed reduce it, the political path to passage was cleared. But if we make even the most obvious and sensible real-world adjustments to their analysis, the answer is different," Mr. Breseden states on page 38. "These are not esoteric adjustments, just commonsense ones. But when they’re made, the legislation no longer ‘reduces the deficit,’ it adds to it. If you don’t believe the Medicare rate reductions will actually happen, it adds even more.”

-- In the survey given from November 6th to 15th, the question was whether "the US economy is getting worse." Possibly the authors for this question meant to ask when the recession ended (see page 7 of their report), but that isn't what they asked. For example, GDP could still be growing, but if it were growing at a slower rate, wouldn't that be classified as the economy getting worse?
Surely in terms of unemployment and the types of temporary jobs that people are getting the economy has been getting worse.
For the November unemployment numbers, I wrote:
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. . . .

For a discussion on the temporary jobs that people are getting see this.

-- "Do you think that MOST SCIENTISTS believe Climate change is not occurring?" Page 8

The most obvious problem with this question is that it doesn't specify what period of time is being discussed. Has there been climate change since the end of The Little Ice Age in 1850? Surely, yes. Has temperature changed significantly over the last decade? Probably not. Most likely though, this poorly worded question was really referring to man-made global warming.

A survey of American weather forecasters, most of whom were certified by the American Meteorological Society or the National Weather Association, found real doubts about man-made global warming claims. Indeed, only about 17 percent of those surveyed believed that there was global warming and that it is caused by man.

"31,000 scientists have signed a petition denying that man is responsible for global warming . . . The academics, including 9,000 with PhDs, claim that greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane are actually beneficial for the environment." The final numbers are "31,487 American scientists have signed this petition, including 9,029 with PhDs"

The Canadian National Post has signatories of an open letter on the UN climate conference The open letter is available here.

Over 400 Prominent Scientists Disputed Man-Made Global Warming Claims in 2007

-- "When TARP came up for a vote, most Republicans opposed it"
The first time that the TARP vote came up it failed by a 205 to 228 vote. It failed because of Republican opposition.
Democratic 140 Yea; 95 Nay
Republican 65 Yea; 133 Nay

The second time it passed by getting more Democrat and Republican votes, though most House Republicans still opposed the bill. The House vote on H.R. 1424 was
Democratic 172 Yea; 63 Nay
Republican 91 Yea; 108 Nay
In the Senate the vote was:
Democratic 41 Yea; 10 Nay
Republican 33 Yea; 15 Nay

Over all, 50 percent Republicans voted for TARP, and 74 percent of Democrats voted for it. However, if the decision had been left to Republicans, TARP would not have passed.

-- How about the poorly worded question on page 12 and 13: "Since January 2009 have YOUR Federal income taxes gone down, stayed the same, or gone up?" If someone's income went up after January 2009, their taxes could indeed have gone up. That is true even if their tax rates have gone down for any given level of income. 38 percent say that their income taxes have gone up. Despite the recession, is it conceivable that 38 percent of people have seen their incomes go up? Sure.

-- The survey question "Is it your impression that the bailout program for Chrysler and General Motors occurred under" is described as "the auto bailout only occurred under Obama" or "The bailout of GM and Chrysler occurred under Pres. Obama only (not Bush as well)."

Other commentary.

David Friedman has this post about the questions to the survey being rigged (see here and here).

The obvious way to rig the results of such a poll is to select questions where the answer you consider mistaken is more popular with one side than the other. Most people who believe Obama was not born in the U.S. are on the right. Most people who believe the Chamber of Commerce used foreign money to influence the most recent election are on the left. By my count, for at least seven of the eleven questions the answer that the study's authors considered misinformed was a view more popular with the right than the left. One—the Chamber of Commerce question—went the other way. . . .

UPDATE: See also this by Brent Bozell.

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Some more of what was in the Obama Tax Compromise

So much for the hope that Obama would just agree to an extension of existing marginal tax rates.

The massive new tax bill signed into law by President Barack Obama is filled with all kinds of holiday stocking stuffers for businesses: tax breaks for producing TV shows, grants for putting up windmills, rum subsidies for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
There is even a tax break for people who buy race horses.
Millions of homeowners, however, might feel like they got a lump of coal. Homeowners who don't itemize their deductions will lose a tax break for paying local property taxes. . . .


Concealed carry on college campuses

It is my understanding that Texas, Florida, and possibly Idaho have good chances of passing concealed carry on campus this coming year. There is apparently also some support in Arizona.

Saying everyone but criminals will be safer, a veteran legislator wants to let qualified faculty carry guns on university and community college campuses.
Sen. Jack Harper, R-Surprise, said Wednesday there has been a history of situations where someone with a grudge comes onto a campus, goes into a classroom and starts shooting. He said the current prohibition against weapons on campus - one which the criminal has ignored - leaves the teacher and student defenseless.
But Harper isn't stopping with arming the faculty. He is crafting a separate measure to allow students with certain training to also arm themselves.
Not everyone would be eligible. Harper's legislation would limit the right to those who have obtained a state-issued permit to carry a concealed weapon.
That permit, which requires a background check and training, is no longer required for individuals to have weapons beneath a jacket or in a purse. But there are special privileges for those who do go through the permit process, such as being able to carry that weapon into a bar or a restaurant where alcoholic beverages are served.
Harper's bill on faculty, HB 2001, and his yet-to-be-filed measure on students would add to that list.
Similar measures have been attempted in the past, including one by Harper himself this past session. All have stalled among stiff opposition from the police chiefs at state universities.
Harper said he expects a different outcome this coming year for two political reasons.
"A couple of ‘country club Republicans' who were opposed ... will not return," he said. The 2010 election swept some of the more moderate Republicans out of office. . . .

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So why the rush on the START treaty?

Remember how the US Senate just had to ratify the START treaty before the end of the year. It was simply not possible for the Senate to wait until January when it would have had more time. Remember that we had to do it to show good faith to the Russians? Well, now it is clear that the Russians are in no rush to ratify the treaty until sometime in at least January. The ultimate irony is that the Russian Parliament is completely dominated by one political party controlled by Putin, and it can do whatever it wants as quickly as it wants.

Russian lawmakers gave preliminary approval Friday to an arms agreement with the United States, but signaled they would slow progress on the so-called New START treaty to a crawl after it was rushed through Congress earlier this week with some 11th-hour arm-twisting by President Obama.
The treaty cleared an initial hurdle through Moscow's lower house of parliament, but a senior lawmaker said the treaty won't get full approval until at least next month.
Konstantin Kosachev, head of the State Duma's foreign affairs committee, said that the treaty would need a total of three required readings before it can be fully ratified. He said full ratification could only happen next month "at the earliest."
The assessment seems to put the brakes on the document Obama called a top priority as he whipped up the Republican votes needed to pass it before the end of the lame-duck session. . . .

Now we have this.

A retired Navy vice admiral who has dealt with Soviet nuclear issues for decades said Friday that the Russians are taunting the Obama administration by dragging their feet on the arms reduction treaty the president just pushed through Congress. . . .


US goes after China for subsidizing Wind Power?

The complaints against the Chinese seems to focus on protectionism more than subsidies per se, but still it is pretty ironic that the Obama administration, which has given huge subsidies to wind power in the US, would complain about China's subsidies.

The U.S. said Wednesday it is requesting consultations with China at the World Trade Organization to end hundreds of millions of dollars of subsidies to boost wind-power production. . . .

China's Ministry of Commerce said Thursday that China is "highly concerned" about the U.S. invoking dispute settlement procedures at the WTO. China will study the U.S. request for talks and handle it in accordance with WTO rules on dispute settlement, while reserving China's "relevant rights," the ministry said without elaborating.

In the past, Chinese officials have called the union's complaints "groundless and irresponsible."

The U.S. says wind energy is the fastest-growing sector in China's renewable-energy market, which overall is expected to reach $100 billion by 2020. Chinese wind-turbine makers now rank among the top 10 producers globally, and foreign companies' share of the Chinese market has been slashed to 13% from 79% in the past five years, according to Goldman Sachs. . . .

Just one recent note on the subsidies to wind-power in the US.

Alas, market forces ruined the Pickens Plan. Mr. Pickens should have shorted wind. Instead, he went long and now he's stuck holding a slew of turbines he can't use because low natural gas prices have made wind energy uneconomic in the U.S., despite federal subsidies that amount to $6.44 for every 1 million British thermal units (BTUs) produced by wind turbines. . . .

. . . "The place where it works best is with natural gas at $7."

That may be true. But on the spot market natural gas now sells for about $4 per million BTUs. In other words, the free-market price for natural gas is about two-thirds of the subsidy given to wind. Yet wind energy still isn't competitive in the open market.

Despite wind's lousy economics, the lame duck Congress recently passed a one-year extension of the investment tax credit for renewable energy projects. That might save a few "green" jobs.

But at the same time that Congress was voting to continue the wind subsidies, Texas Comptroller Susan Combs reported that property tax breaks for wind projects in the Lone Star State cost nearly $1.6 million per job. That green job ripoff is happening in Texas, America's biggest natural gas producer. . . .

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What those pushing "net neutrality" are after

Fairly depressing that these liberal foundations have been so successful in pushing new regulations. Price regulations will probably lead to more government intervention in the future, and possibly the elimination of private companies involved in the internet. From the WSJ:

The net neutrality vision for government regulation of the Internet began with the work of Robert McChesney, a University of Illinois communications professor who founded the liberal lobby Free Press in 2002. Mr. McChesney's agenda? "At the moment, the battle over network neutrality is not to completely eliminate the telephone and cable companies," he told the website SocialistProject in 2009. "But the ultimate goal is to get rid of the media capitalists in the phone and cable companies and to divest them from control."

A year earlier, Mr. McChesney wrote in the Marxist journal Monthly Review that "any serious effort to reform the media system would have to necessarily be part of a revolutionary program to overthrow the capitalist system itself." Mr. McChesney told me in an interview that some of his comments have been "taken out of context." He acknowledged that he is a socialist and said he was "hesitant to say I'm not a Marxist." . . .

Free Press has been funded by a network of liberal foundations that helped the lobby invent the purported problem that net neutrality is supposed to solve. They then fashioned a political strategy similar to the one employed by activists behind the political speech restrictions of the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reform bill. The methods of that earlier campaign were discussed in 2004 by Sean Treglia, a former program officer for the Pew Charitable Trusts, during a talk at the University of Southern California. Far from being the efforts of genuine grass-roots activists, Mr. Treglia noted, the campaign-finance reform lobby was controlled and funded by foundations like Pew.

"The idea was to create an impression that a mass movement was afoot," he told his audience. He noted that "If Congress thought this was a Pew effort, it'd be worthless." . . .

According to the WSJ, the regulations might be used to kill HULU.

One of Washington’s proposed conditions on the Comcast-NBC U deal will force the merged company to offer NBC’s shows to any Web competitor.

So what does that mean for Hulu, which has already locked up exclusive rights to NBC’s Web video?

A couple of possible answers: Perhaps Federal Communications Commission head Julius Genachowski is trying to put a fork in Hulu. . . .

Background: Each of Hulu’s three partners/owners–GE’s NBC, News Corp.’s Fox and Disney’s ABC–has agreed to mutual exclusivity pacts. If you want to watch one of their shows for free online, you can see them on the networks’ own sites, or via Hulu–either on the main site itself, or via other sites that are taking Hulu’s feed. (News Corp. also owns this Web site.)

But one of the primary conditions Genachowski wants to place on FCC approval for the Comcast-NBC deal is that Web competitors will get access to NBC’s shows, . . . .



A new Fairness Doctrine?

Where the new FCC regulations will lead won't be known for many years. What is the new "public value test" for broadcasters?

. . . [Federal Communications Commissioner Michael Copps] points out that while the Fairness Doctrine regulated political speech by mandating equal time for all views on a given topic, the "public value test" will only require that broadcasters serve the "public interest", whatever that may be.

. . . The [new] federal government will not be policing political opinions. It will simply be ensuring that content meets a standard for public value.

What Copps fails to grasp is that "public value" is such a subjective term that it is almost unavoidable for political factors to play into a determination of whether or not certain content satisfies the definition. In other words, there is not official regulation of political speech, but such speech will almost surely be regulated indirectly.

According to Copps, who recently outlined his proposed "public value test" in a lecture at Columbia University, the test would require "quantifiable" increases in "the human and financial resources going into news." The test could mandate other, non-news types of programming, Copps added, such as children's programs and "civic affairs programming." The regulations would determine what news content is important, and mandate "quantifiable" increases in such coverage - Copps mentioned election coverage specifically.

The "public value test" would also mandate "diversity" in broadcast newsroom staff. In other words, the FCC would require radio or television stations to employ more racial and ethnic minorities.

Another hot-button element of the "public value test": it would require "disclosure", both of programming content to the station's listeners, and of information about political advertisements to a certain government agency.

Other elements include "community discovery," localism, and public safety broadcasting. . . .

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So how does the housing market look?

My own guess is that with the tax changes that are being discussed in Washington housing is not going to be a very good investment for years to come. From the Financial Times:

. . . Sales of existing homes grew by 5.6 per cent in November to a seasonally adjusted 4.68m properties, but that is 28 per cent below year-ago levels.

Although house prices rose 0.7 per cent in October, the index compiled by the Federal Housing Finance Agency has fallen 3.4 per cent over the preceding 12 months.

“We thought housing would bottom in 2010, but it looks like it will take another year,” said David Wyss, the chief economist at Standard & Poor’s.

Rising interest rates are also acting as a headwind by making it more expensive to refinance an existing mortgage or get a new loan. Purchase applications fell 2.5 per cent in the most recent week, while refinancing activity was down 25 per cent to its lowest level since April, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

If the cost of a 30-year fixed rate mortgage increases much beyond current levels of 5.07 per cent, half the borrowers will be outside the “refinancing threshold” and the rest will be locked out due to damaged credit or falling home prices, the MBA said. . . .

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TSA harasses pilot who points out security flaws

It is hard to think of what legitimate reason that the TSA should be upset with this pilot. Obviously the TSA might be embarrassed, but as to legitimate reasons anyone who worked at the airport would have understood the problems that he pointed out. Robert Crandall, the former head of American Airlines, was on Fox News earlier today, and he thought that the TSA response was out of all proportion to any harm that the pilot might possibly have done (and he didn't see how any harm had been done).

An airline pilot is being disciplined by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for posting video on YouTube pointing out what he believes are serious flaws in airport security.

The 50-year-old pilot, who lives outside Sacramento, asked that neither he nor his airline be identified. He has worked for the airline for more than a decade and was deputized by the TSA to carry a gun in the cockpit.

He is also a helicopter test pilot in the Army Reserve and flew missions for the United Nations in Macedonia.

Three days after he posted a series of six video clips recorded with a cell phone camera at San Francisco International Airport, four federal air marshals and two sheriff's deputies arrived at his house to confiscate his federally-issued firearm. The pilot recorded that event as well and provided all the video to News10.

At the same time as the federal marshals took the pilot's gun, a deputy sheriff asked him to surrender his state-issued permit to carry a concealed weapon. . . .

The pilot explained why he posted the videos on YouTube here:

The airline pilot who posted video on the Web critical of airport security said he was not prepared for the government's response.

"I just tried to address my concerns and voice it on YouTube," he said in an interview with News10, which broke the story Wednesday.

The 50-year-old pilot has asked that neither he nor his airline be identified while he's under investigation by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

The pilot, who was deputized by the TSA to carry a handgun in the cockpit as a Federal Flight Deck Officer (FFDO), posted a series of six cell phone video clips showing what he believes to be a serious flaw in airport security.

Current regulations require flight crews to pass through a TSA checkpoint, while ground crews can gain access to the same aircraft simply by swiping a card at an unmanned door.

"How effective is security when everybody on board is screened and everybody on the ground isn't?" the pilot asked. . . .

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Compact fluorescent light bulb explodes and causes fire

Well, if people don't like the light from these CFL's, they can use the bulbs for the July 4th fireworks!

A compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL) is to blame for an accidental electrical fire in Hornell Wednesday morning, said Steuben County Fire Investigator Joe Gerych.

“Those are the lights everybody’s been telling us to use,” he said. “It blew up like a bomb. It spattered all over.”

A CFL on the ceiling burst, said Gerych, and gas inside the CFL bulb helped start the fire. He added exploding CFLs are rare.

The North Hornell Fire Department responded to a call from the McNeill residence, 7185 N. Main St. Ext., Hornellsville, a little before 7 a.m. Wednesday, said North Hornell Fire Chief Mike Robbins.

The department arrived minutes later and extinguished the fire in about 15 minutes, said Robbins. The fire didn’t spread beyond the room of origin. Robbins said the room where the fire started, and everything in the room, was destroyed in the blaze. The rest of the house suffered smoke and water damage. . . .

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Obama's continuing promise to focus on jobs and the economy

12/4/2009 Obama puts renewed focus on job creation

1/20/2010 Massachusetts Message: Obama Must Drop Healthcare, Focus on Jobs
1/21/2010 Obama to focus hard on economy after Democratic loss
President Obama already was planning to put a heavy focus on jobs and the economy in next week's State of the Union address, but his top aides are signaling that pivot is going to be even sharper in the wake of the Democrats' stunning election defeat in Massachusetts. . . .

12/22/2010 Obama pledges economic focus during next 2 years



Appearing on Thom Hartmann's THE BIG PICTURE tonight

I will again be on Thom Hartmann's THE BIG PICTURE TV show tonight. My segment on the newest census data and what it means (both in terms of redistricting as well as the changes in income) will be live at about 7:40 PM EST. One can view the show after it airs here.

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An excellent discussion of the Brian Aitken's case

The Philadelphia Daily News has this excellent discussion of the Aitken's case here: "Christie commutes gun term."

UPDATE: The Philadelphia Daily News has this update.
Back at the Aitken residence in Mount Laurel, having left the prison together yesterday, mother and son shared a long, silent embrace in the driveway - just a few yards from where his life fell apart on Jan. 2, 2009. . . . 
On that day, Aitken, an entrepreneur, media consultant and graduate student, had told his mother that his life wasn't worth living anymore after his ex-wife canceled visitation with their young son. When he left the house, Sue Aitken called the police out of concern, but hung up before they answered. 
Police showed up anyway, found handguns in the trunk of his car, and Sue Aitken has grappled with her decision ever since. Although Aitken bought the weapons legally in Colorado, he was convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison. 
"Brian knows how I feel about calling 9-1-1," Sue Aitken, her voice choked with emotion, said yesterday at a kitchen table covered in Christmas cards, paperwork and a white poinsettia. 
Aitken stared at his mother across the table while she grappled with the memory. He has said that he does not blame her for his arrest. . . . 
Christie's commutation does not clear Aitken's conviction or criminal record, and he has yet to hear from the New Jersey appellate court. He is not content with freedom, though, and plans a return to court. 
"This is not over," he said. 
His case, he said, hinges on an exemption in New Jersey's gun laws that allows gun owners to transport their weapons if moving to another residence. Aitken had moved back to New Jersey from Colorado, where he purchased the guns legally in 2007, and claims he was in the process of moving from his family's home in Mount Laurel to Hoboken at the time of the arrest. . . .

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A note on the person making the residency decision for Rahm Emanuel in Chicago's Mayorial race

John Fund has this in the WSJ Political Diary. The most interesting point that I had missed was that the hearing officer is a conservative Republican. Fund might also have mentioned that Emanuel only amended his return after Daley announced that he wasn't running for re-election.

. . . Mr. [Rahm] Emanuel is being challenged by citizens who say his candidacy runs afoul of a law requiring the mayor to have been a resident of the city for a year prior to winning election. Mr. Emanuel, who has lived in Washington, D.C., for the past two years while working at the White House, claims the law doesn't apply because he always intended to resettle in Chicago and left some boxes stored in the Chicago home that he rented out when he moved away.

At a raucous hearing last week, Mr. Emanuel was confronted with his 2009 Illinois state income tax return, on which he listed his residency status as "part-time." He said that he had made a mistake and amended the return, even though he had read and signed the original document.

The initial decision on whether Mr. Emanuel is eligible for the ballot will be made by hearing officer Joe Morris, a distinguished Chicago attorney and staunch conservative. Mr. Morris has been praised by all sides for his fairness during the hearing. He said that both sides should trust him because "a Republican has no dog in the fight." . . .

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Breaking down the Census news by who controls the redistricting process

The most likely gains or losses in congressional seats occurs in states where there are gains or losses in congressional seats. With respect to the presidential election states that Obama won had a net loss of 6 seats (picking up 4 electoral votes and lost 10 votes). The net pick up for Republicans are 6. Given that Obama won the electoral vote by 365 to 173, this is not a huge change. What really needs to be done here is compare the control of redistricting this year compared to 2000. For example, Republicans controlled the process in Illinois in 2000 but now Democrats control everything so that is one state where Democratic pickups are ripe. By contrast, Republicans controlled Texas both now and for the 2003 redistricting so their pickups for pre-existing seats is fairly limited. Republicans may pick up some seats in California where Democrats have controlled the legislature and governor both times, but now there is an independent commission.

Gains for states that Republicans control legislature and governorship

Gains for states that Democrats control legislature and governorship

Gains for states with divided control

Losses for states that Democrats control legislature and governorship
ILLINOIS -1 (Politico mentions that Democrats think that they can pick up as many as five congressional seats in this states -- GOP Rep.-elect Bobby Schilling and the four incoming House Republicans in the suburban Chicago area)
MASSACHUSETTS -1 (can only be a Democrat loss because Democrats control all of the congressional seats)

Losses for states that Republicans control legislature and governorship

Gains for states with divided control

"Independent" Commission

UPDATE: An official at the NCSL claims:

Tim Storey, an expert on redistricting at the National Conference of State Legislatures, said that Republicans were in their strongest position to draw lines in decades. Of the districts drawn by state legislatures, he said, Republicans have the power to unilaterally draw 196, four times as many as the Democrats. A decade ago, he said, Democrats had the advantage. . . .

Political analysts said that Republicans were poised to add anywhere from a net of 3 to a net of 15 Republican-leaning seats. But they note that the impact can be short-lived.

In times of upheaval, said Michael Barone, who covers redistricting exhaustively as a co-author of “The Almanac of American Politics,” it can be hard to predict how voters in some districts will behave. “When opinion changes,” he said, “it turns out some of those 53-percent districts aren’t yours anymore.”

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Biden: Tax Cuts For The Rich Are “Morally Troubling”

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

A transcript is available here:
BIDEN: . . . The one target for us in two years is no longer extending the upper income tax credit for millionaires and billionaires, and scaling back what we had to do to get the compromise , the estate tax for the very wealthy. . . .
The president wrote in " Audacity of Hope " that he found the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy morally troubling.
They are.
Is that still his belief?
It's still his belief.
Your belief as well?
Mine as well.
. . . They're for two years, and we're coming back and going at it again. . . .

My take on this claim is available here.

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Paul Krugman misrepresents what free-market economists believe

I probably made a mistake in reading Krugman's latest NY Times column.

It’s also worth pointing out that everything the right said about why Obamanomics would fail was wrong. For two years we’ve been warned that government borrowing would send interest rates sky-high; in fact, rates have fluctuated with optimism or pessimism about recovery, but stayed consistently low by historical standards.

Free-market economists haven't been arguing this. Free-market economists realize that we live in a world capital market. While the US government borrowing might be a significant portion of the US capital market, it is very tiny compared to the entire world's capital market. For economists, there is also the discussion about Ricardian equivalence, the notion that people anticipate that higher deficits today mean higher taxes tomorrow. Even in a closed economy, the savings from that threat of higher will offset the increased borrowing. The first point about the size of the market is obviously true.

For two years we’ve been warned that inflation, even hyperinflation, was just around the corner; instead, disinflation has continued, with core inflation — which excludes volatile food and energy prices — now at a half-century low.

There has not been deflation. Over the last year, inflation has been at about 2 percent. The notion of core inflation is simply silly. Even if the money supply was constant and the velocity of money unchanged, some prices would go up and some would go down. The only way you can determine if there is inflation is by looking at all prices in the aggregate. As to why inflation hasn't gone up with the increase in the money supply, M1, some free-market types have discussed this. There is no reason to expect Krugman to actually respond to these claims.

The free-market fundamentalists have been as wrong about events abroad as they have about events in America — and suffered equally few consequences. “Ireland,” declared George Osborne in 2006, “stands as a shining example of the art of the possible in long-term economic policymaking.”

Apparently, it is difficult for Krugman to realize that more than one factor is changing at a time. On the one hand, lower corporate income taxes made Ireland an attractive place to invest. On the other hand, the Irish government guaranteeing its banks against default in the fall of 2008 caused them to take riskier positions than they otherwise would have taken. The US government also played a significant role in creating bank problems around the world by Fannie and Freddie mislabeling the housing mortgages that they bundled together.

Right now Mr. Obama is hailing the tax-cut deal as a boost to the economy — but Republicans are already talking about spending cuts that would offset any positive effects from the deal.

How about this discussion: "The problem with this multiplier claim is pretty simple. First, the money has to come from some place.
Second, everyone spends their money one way or another. This claim of some people "spending" their money while others are "saving" it really assumes that saving is the equivalent of burying one's money in a hole in the backyard. In reality, if you don't spend your money, you are putting it in the bank or you are putting it in stocks or bonds, which means you are giving it to someone else to spend. . . ."

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How government works

If you want a good child's book that makes this point, I suggest that you read this long forgotten classic: "Thidwick the Big Hearted Moose."

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So is there any harm from an inheritance tax?

Barney Frank claims "Heirs Didn’t Do Anything to Deserve Inheritance." Even if true (though that question should be left up to the person who is giving the money), taking away the money will still impact the incentive to earn the money to begin with. An inheritance tax works the same way as an income tax in discouraging work.


"Woodbridge (Va) clerk becomes robbers' worst nightmare"

A defensive gun use by a concealed carry permit holder in Virginia.

It was a gas station employee’s worst nightmare, being grabbed by two men after closing up shop for the night.
But it turned out the clerk at the Gordon Boulevard Shell station near Occoquan Saturday night was the nightmare for a pair of would-be muggers.
After locking the doors for the night around 11 p.m., the clerk -- who requested his name not be used since his attackers haven't been captured -- turned his car on to warm it up. While he sat in the driver’s seat, he made a phone call.
That’s when two men opened the door and grabbed him, simultaneously zapping him on his left forearm with a stun gun.
“I was wearing a thick coat,” the 29-year-old clerk said Tuesday afternoon, “so I didn’t get the full effect of the stun gun. It was just moments and I had to react and I realized ‘I better defend myself.’”
A concealed weapons permit holder, the clerk quickly turned the tables on the men, pulling out his handgun and firing twice at the muggers.
“I’ve been carrying it for at least four years,” he said of his gun. “I fired two shots while saying ‘Get out of here. Get out of here.’ I took two shots and they took off.
“It’s not been confirmed, but I’m sure I hit one with at least one shot.” . . . .
Prince William County police spokesman Jonathan Perok said the clerk would not face any charges “as his actions were in self-defense.”
Tynes is proud of how his employee reacted to such a dangerous situation.
“I think he handled it the right way,” the owner said. “It’s your life or somebody else’s. In my eyes, he did the right thing. . . . .

Thanks to Tracy Price of the link.

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Remember the ruckus over Palin's quickly corrected misstatement?: Biden's this weekend is ignored

Biden makes misstatements all the time so this probably isn't news, right?

Biden said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that “we’re going to be totally out of there come hell or high water by 2014.”

What Biden meant to say, Gibbs argued, was that the “combat role” in Afghanistan would end by 2014. . . .

Note on how the media covered Palin's quickly corrected misstatement about North Korea see here.

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Irresponsible spending has gotten states in a really bad financial state

A transcript is available here.

Not all of the problems that Illinois and other states are facing right now can be traced to the recession. But the precipitous drop in tax revenues did expose decades of financial irresponsibility, reckless spending, unrealistic benefit packages for public employees, and the use of political gimmicks to cover up hidden deficits. It's forcing state governors and the public to confront some harsh realities. . . .
"Totally unsustainable. We have a benefit problem," Christie said. "It's not an income problem from the state. It's a benefit problem. And so we gotta change those benefits." . . .

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If the government can mandate you buying health insurance can it mandate that you buy a gun?

Being interviewed on CBS' "Washington Unplugged," Cuccinelli said this:

"Never before in our history has the federal government ordered Americans to buy a product under the guise of regulating commerce. Imagine if this bill were that in order to protect our communities and homeland security, every American had to buy a gun. Can you imagine the reaction across the country to that?"

Just as the government could say that health care impacts everyone's lives, they could say that the threat of crime does so also. Just as they might claim that the government needs to be involved because of externalities, the exact same thing can be said of guns being used to stop crime, possibly even a stronger case. The government has put all sort so regulations on health care and they could put similar regulations on gun ownership (e.g., mandating that people have to practice at a firing range once a month).

A copy of the Virginia judge's decision is available here.

"Neither the Supreme Court nor any federal circuit court of appeals has extended Commerce Clause power to compel an individual to involuntarily enter the stream of commerce by purchasing a commodity in the private market."

If allowed to stand as a tax, the Minimum Essential Coverage Provision would be the only tax in U.S. history levied directly on individuals for their failure to affirmatively engage in activity mandated by the government not specifically delineated in the Constitution. . . .

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Reviewing Obama on guns

Obama has done a lot to push forward gun control, but he has done it in a quite way. The changes that he has pushed forward though are significant.

1) Reversed the Bush administration position on the UN's Arms Trade Treaty.

2) Appointed strong gun control proponents to the Supreme Court: Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

3) Ban the importation of semi-automatic guns. See also here.

4) Nominating Andrew Traver to head the BATFE.

5) Constantly exaggerating the claims about crime guns in Mexico coming from the US.

6) New regulations on guns: Requiring Multiple Sales Reports for Long Guns (see here for an update and the fact that the BATF is enforcing this rule even before the 60 day comment period is over) and the "ATF posted a ruling declaring any shipment of a firearm by a manufacturer (FFL) to any agent or business (e.g., an engineering-design firm, patent lawyer, testing lab, gun writer, etc.) for a bona fide business purpose to be a “transfer” under the Gun Control Act of 1968." What possible problem could be pointed to in justifying this second regulation?

7) Fighting to preserve a ban on carrying permitted concealed handguns when people visit the Post Office.

8) The Department of Defense announced that it would stop selling surplus ammunition casings to the domestic market.

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Montana pushing 20 new gun laws this coming session

Gary Marbut has a detailed discussion available here. One big change would be to join Alaska, Arizona, and Vermont in not requiring a permit for carrying a concealed handgun within the state. Right now a permit is not required "for a law-abiding person to carry a concealed weapon in 99.4% of Montana - outside the limits of cities or towns." They will also try to greatly reduce the number of gun free zones.

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So how were the predictions from the the climatic research unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia

Everyone might remember the ruckus over the leaked emails from the CRU at the University of East Anglia last year. Here is any interesting prediction that they made 10 years ago about snow in the UK.

According to Dr David Viner, a senior research scientist at the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia,within a few years winter snowfall will become "a very rare and exciting event".

"Children just aren't going to know what snow is," he said. . . .

Now this year seems to not exactly fit into their predictions.

Coldest December since records began as temperatures plummet to minus 10C bringing travel chaos across Britain
Last updated at 11:38 AM on 18th December 2010
-- Millions begin the big Christmas and New Year getaway early as the AA urged motorists to beware of the ‘worst driving conditions imaginable’
-- Quarter of train services disrupted, travel warning in Kent
-- Experts warn of a backlog of up to 4 million of parcels which could remain undelivered this Christmas
-- The NHS issues an urgent appeal for blood donors as concerns grow over shortages
-- Councils reveal plans to share grit amid fears the cold snap could last until January 14
-- Odds shortened even further on a ‘White Christmas’ in some parts of the country next Saturday
Swathes of Britain skidded to a halt today as the big freeze returned - grounding flights, closing rail links and leaving traffic at a standstill.
And tonight the nation was braced for another 10in of snow and yet more sub-zero temperatures - with no let-up in the bitterly cold weather for at least a month, forecasters have warned.
The Arctic conditions are set to last through the Christmas and New Year bank holidays and beyond and as temperatures plummeted to -10c (14f) the Met Office said this December was ‘almost certain’ to become the coldest since records began in 1910. . . .

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Who is your preferred pick for the GOP President Nominee

Some names included in other surveys, such as Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, and Rick Perry, are not included here because they have made it very clear that they are not running for president.

Who is your preferred pick for the GOP President Nominee?
Haley Barbour
John Bolton
Herman Cain
Mitch Daniels
Mike Huckabee
Sarah Palin
Tim Pawlenty
Mike Pence
Mitt Romney
John Thune
Free polls from Pollhost.com


TSA failure rates in detecting guns and bombs are so bad that the government says that the results are classified

If you have a "70 percent failure rate" in detecting guns and bombs, might the resources be better spent someplace else? Might their be other approaches? The whole process reminds one of why you don't want government doing these things. A private company that wasn't unionized would probably more closely tie the quality of performance with salary. These jobs might be boring, but you can still do things to improve performance.

According to one report, undercover TSA agents testing security at a Newark airport terminal on one day in 2006 found that TSA screeners failed to detect concealed bombs and guns 20 out of 22 times. A 2007 government audit leaked to USA Today revealed that undercover agents were successful slipping simulated explosives and bomb parts through Los Angeles's LAX airport in 50 out of 70 attempts, and at Chicago's O'Hare airport agents made 75 attempts and succeeded in getting through undetected 45 times. . . . .

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RomneyCare and ObamaCare

Jeff Jacoby has this zinger among many for Romney:

In most important respects, including the individual mandate, RomneyCare became the model for ObamaCare. MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, who helped design the Massachusetts law, told The Wall Street Journal in April that “if any one person in the world deserves credit for where we are now [with passage of the new federal law], it’s Mitt Romney. He designed the structure of the federal bill.’’ . . .

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