7/09/2011

Senate Democrats slowly moving to releasing debt reduction plan

Well, at least it is some progress for these broad outlines for their proposals to be leaked out. Whether they have any real cuts and the exact details remain to be seen (after all, Obama's February budget actually increased the deficit). The piece in the Washington Post would be more accurate to say that Senate Democrats have drafted but not shown their proposal. In any case, the article implies that the majority Senate Democrats couldn't even get this proposal through the Senate.

Senate Democrats have drafted a sweeping debt-reduction plan that would slice $4 trillion from projected borrowing over the next decade without touching the expensive health and retirement programs targeted by President Obama.

Instead, Senate Democrats are proposing to stabilize borrowing through sharp cuts at the Pentagon and other government agencies, as well as $2 trillion in new taxes, primarily on families earning more than $1 million year, according to a copy of the plan obtained by The Washington Post.

With debt-reduction talks under way between Obama and congressional leaders, Senate Democrats are unlikely to adopt the blueprint. However, it has gained broad support among those eager to chart a path to solving the nation’s budget problems without making politically painful cuts to Social Security and Medicare. . . .

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Media Matters trails GOP candidates with cameras

Media Matters Spawn Trailing G.O.P. With Cameras

Aaron Fielding quietly stalks his prey - Republicans - with his video camera, patiently waiting for a political moment worthy of YouTube.

At 27, he is a full-time "tracker" for American Bridge 21st Century, a new Democratic organization that aims to record every handshake, every utterance by Republican candidates in 2011 and 2012, looking for gotcha moments that could derail political ambitions or provide fodder for television advertisements by liberal groups next year. . . .

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Missouri allows Legislators and their staff to carry concealed handguns in the Capitol

The text of the bill that was just signed into law is available here:

Nothing in this subdivision shall preclude a member of the general assembly, a full-time employee of the general assembly employed under section 17, article III, Constitution of Missouri, legislative employees of the general assembly as determined under section 21.155, or statewide elected officials and their employees, holding a valid concealed carry endorsement, from carrying a concealed firearm in the state capitol building or at a meeting whether of the full body of a house of the general assembly or a committee thereof, that is held in the state capitol building; . . .

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Possibly the Alderman should just carry a concealed handgun: Powerful Chicago Politicians have been getting armed bodyguard protections for decades

This powerful city alderman supported gun control at the same time that he demanded two armed body guards protect him at all times.

Mr. Burke, 67 years old, received his security detail in 1983, when he was a prominent critic of Harold Washington, the city's first black mayor, and the city was deep in racial and political strife.

In 1986, the acting Chicago police commissioner tried to reduce the number of Mr. Burke's bodyguards to two from four. The alderman sued the city, arguing that the move was political retaliation. The police countered that the manpower was no longer necessary because threats against Mr. Burke had petered out, according to court transcripts.

Mr. Burke's attorney argued at the time that his client wouldn't be safe with only one officer assigned to him. If he was being pursued by an attacker at high speed in a car, the lone bodyguard would have difficulty driving while simultaneously calling for backup and shooting at the pursuer, the lawyer said, according to transcripts filed in Cook County Circuit Court.

The court sided with Mr. Burke, who went on to become Mayor Richard M. Daley's key legislative ally. The court also said the matter should be reviewed every few years. . . .

In May, before he stepped down, Mr. Daley told reporters he had been the subject of threats throughout his career and defended the need for a continued security detail. "The safety of my family comes first," he said.

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Are there really no limits to campaign donations?

For those who think that there is a limit of $2,300 that you can make in campaign donations to a federal candidate, you might be mistaken. There is an article in the WSJ today about the wealthy heiress who gave money to Edwards' campaign. If I am reading this correctly, I don't understand what limits the amount of money an individual is able to give to a political campaign. In this case, the wealthy heiress apparently tied the gifts that she was giving to Edward's campaign to specific spending made by the campaign.

"From now on," she added, "all haircuts, etc., that are necessary to the campaign—please send the bills to me.… It is a way to help our friend without government restrictions."


How can it be a gift if it is designated to be used in specific campaign activities? If this is accurate, then there are effectively no limits on direct campaign contributions as long as one declares it to be a "gift" and pays the relevant taxes.

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Candidates signing the "Marriage Vow"

Given all the controversy over Michele Bachmann's signing of the "Marriage Vow," I thought that it might be useful to actually read the original text.

 Personal fidelity to my spouse.
 Respect for the marital bonds of others.
 Official fidelity to the U.S. Constitution, supporting the elevation of none but faithful constitutionalists as judges or justices.
 Vigorous opposition to any redefinition of the Institution of Marriage – faithful monogamy between one man and one woman – through statutory-, bureaucratic-, or court-imposed recognition of intimate unions which are bigamous, polygamous, polyandrous, same-sex, etc.
 Recognition of the overwhelming statistical evidence that married people enjoy better health, better sex, longer lives, greater financial stability, and that children raised by a mother and a father together experience better learning, less addiction, less legal trouble, and less extramarital pregnancy.
 Support for prompt reform of uneconomic, anti-marriage aspects of welfare policy, tax policy, and marital/divorce law, and extended “second chance” or “cooling-off” periods for those seeking a “quickie divorce.”
 Earnest, bona fide legal advocacy for the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) at the federal and state levels.
 Steadfast embrace of a federal Marriage Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which protects the definition of marriage as
between one man and one woman in all of the United States.
 Humane protection of women and the innocent fruit of conjugal intimacy – our next generation of American children –
from human trafficking, sexual slavery, seduction into promiscuity, and all forms of pornography and prostitution,
infanticide, abortion and other types of coercion or stolen innocence.
 Support for the enactment of safeguards for all married and unmarried U.S. Military and National Guard personnel,
especially our combat troops, from inappropriate same-gender or opposite-gender sexual harassment, adultery or intrusively intimate commingling among attracteds (restrooms, showers, barracks, tents, etc.); plus prompt termination of military policymakers who would expose American wives and daughters to rape or sexual harassment, torture, enslavement or sexual leveraging by the enemy in forward combat roles.
 Rejection of Sharia Islam and all other anti-woman, anti-human rights forms of totalitarian control.
 Recognition that robust childbearing and reproduction is beneficial to U.S. demographic, economic, strategic and actuarial
health and security.
 Commitment to downsizing government and the enormous burden upon American families of the USA‟s $14.3 trillion
public debt, its $77 trillion in unfunded liabilities, its $1.5 trillion federal deficit, and its $3.5 trillion federal budget.
 Fierce defense of the First Amendment‟s rights of Religious Liberty and Freedom of Speech, especially against the
intolerance of any who would undermine law-abiding American citizens and institutions of faith and conscience for their adherence to, and defense of, faithful heterosexual monogamy.


The Washington Post for example claims:

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) is the first presidential candidate to sign a pledge written by a socially- conservative advocacy group in Iowa that, among other things, endorses the view that homosexuality is a choice rather than a biological trait. . . .


Yet, I can't find anything in the pledge that makes that claim. But take this statement in the accompanying document: "No peer-reviewed empirical science or rational demonstration has ever definitively proven, nor even has shown an overwhelming probability, that homosexual preference or behavior is irresistible as a function of genetic determinism or other forms of fatalism." But it is a long way from saying that existing evidence doesn't prove something and saying that there is no relationship. In any case, I think that the key point here is "irresistible" and you could even have a genetic predisposition towards something, even a strong disposition, but that is not the same as saying that it is "irresistible."

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7/08/2011

Obama's unserious attempt to deal with the deficit

Can people actually believe that Obama, the man who has created the massive deficits, seriously wants credit for restraining them? I have made these points in various pieces, but it is good to see this getting wider coverage. Krauthammer has this discussion:

• Ignored the debt problem for two years by kicking the can to a commission.

• Promptly ignored the commission’s December 2010 report.

• Delivered a State of the Union address in January that didn’t even mention the word “debt” until 35 minutes in.

• Delivered in February a budget so embarrassing — it actually increased the deficit — that the Democratic-controlled Senate rejected it 97 to 0.

• Took a budget mulligan with his April 13 debt-plan speech. Asked in Congress how this new “budget framework” would affect the actual federal budget, Congressional Budget Office Director Doug Elmendorf replied with a devastating “We don’t estimate speeches.” You can’t assign numbers to air.

President Obama assailed the lesser mortals who inhabit Congress for not having seriously dealt with a problem he had not dealt with at all, then scolded Congress for being even less responsible than his own children. They apparently get their homework done on time.

My compliments. But the Republican House did do its homework. It’s called a budget. It passed the House on April 15. The Democratic Senate has produced no budget. Not just this year, but for two years running. As for the schoolmaster in chief, he produced two 2012 budget facsimiles: The first (February) was a farce and the second (April) was empty, dismissed by the CBO as nothing but words untethered to real numbers. . . .

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Looking at the new unemployment numbers


The number of people not in the labor force soared by 450,000 in June. Those not in labor force who want a job grew by 310,000. It is just shocking that people are still leaving the labor force two years into a recovery. The job participation rate is back to where it was over 27 years ago. The data are available here.

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Newest Fox News piece: "The Puzzle of 'Operation Fast and Furious'"

My newest piece starts this way:

There are two puzzles in the so-called “Gunwalker” or “Operation Fast and Furious” case. This is the shocking case where Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) agents ordered American gun dealers to sell guns to obvious Mexican drug gangs over the objections of the gun dealers.
Here are just some of the questions that the Obama administration still has not answered:
1. Why would the government go through with the policy when it was seemingly obvious to everyone that there was no law-enforcement benefit to the operation?
2. Why won’t the Obama administration remove Acting Director Ken Melson from continuing to run the agency? . . . .


Some are thinking of even disbanding the BATF.

many are saying a breakup of the storied agency could just be a matter of time.

“I think something like that is likely to happen,” said Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. “Unless they take some action to give it a director, it’s inevitable it’s going to have to get to that stage. It cannot continue the way it’s going now. … Right now, ATF is so weak it’s amazing.”

Christopher Cox, legislative director for the NRA, the agency’s longtime nemesis, also said arguments for shuttering or breaking up ATF are building.

“Their criminal investigation tactics are going a long way to proving that point,” Cox said. “If they cease to be an effective law enforcement organization, they will cease to be legitimate, and the calls for restructuring or abolishing of ATF are going to become more and more valid.”

Some experts said the ATF, a successor to Treasury’s Prohibition Unit that once counted crimefighter Eliot Ness among its ranks, has outlived its usefulness.

“Even the name of the organization, it’s from the black-and-white movie era,” said Jim Kessler of Third Way, a centrist Democratic group. “I don’t think it should exist. The investigations should be subsumed within the FBI, and the licensing could be done by Treasury, which is a tax-collecting agency.” . . .




Project Gun Runner (Fast and Furious) was launched under the orders of President Barack Obama with the knowledge of Attorney General Eric Holder. Deputy Attorney General David Ogden announced the Obama Administration's new and aggressive 'comprehensive plan' on March, 24, 2009. The plan was aimed at disrupting gun trafficking between the United States and Mexico.
Apr 23, 2011

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Newest New York Post piece: Canada's cold proof: Job growth without 'stimulus'

My piece at the New York Post starts this way:

President Obama insists that our sluggish recovery would've been even worse without his $830 billion "stimulus." Last Friday, the White House released a report purportedly showing that passage of the "stimulus" created up to 3.6 million jobs (even though the economy actually lost 1.8 million jobs since then).

But if Obama's program -- including a 28 percent hike in spending since 2008 and more than $4 trillion in deficits -- worked so well, why has our unemployment rate risen more since those policies were adopted than have the rates of the European Union, South America, Japan, Australia or New Zealand?

Just look north: The recession hit Canada hard. Because its economy and ours are connected, our unemployment rates moved similarly from July 2008 until the "stimulus" passed; both countries' rates were 6.1 percent in August 2008 and rose in lockstep through February 2009, to around 8 percent. . . .



Kal Penn, who served as a liaison to Asian- American groups in the Obama administration, makes the argument about how things would have been even worse without Obama's policies. Note that this doesn't deal with how Obama's promises about the economy didn't work out. Note that it doesn't explain all the broken promises. Note that it doesn't explain why the US has done so much worse than other countries, including Canada.

Obama's top campaign adviser says that unemployment won't be very important in the 2012 election.

“The average American does not view the economy through the prism of GDP or unemployment rates or even monthly jobs numbers,” Plouffe said, according to Bloomberg. “People won’t vote based on the unemployment rate, they’re going to vote based on: ‘How do I feel about my own situation? Do I believe the president makes decisions based on me and my family?’ ” . . .


Obama's Press Secretary, Jay Carney, expanded on this point:

JAKE TAPPER, ABC NEWS: "Lastly, comments by Senior Adviser David Plouffe were criticized today. Earlier this week, he said, quote, “The average American does not view the economy through the prism of GDP or unemployment rates or even monthly jobs numbers. People won’t vote based on the unemployment rate, they’re going to vote based on how do I feel about my own situation: Do I believe the president makes decisions based on me and my family?”
And Republican front runner Mitt Romney said that those comments were — he suggested they were out of touch, and he said that if Plouffe worked for him, he would fire him."

JAY CARNEY: "Well, I understand that we’re engaged in the – or rather, the Republicans are engaged in a primary campaign, trying to get some media attention. I don’t know where, you know, the voters that some other folks might be talking to — but — or — but most people do not sit around their kitchen table and analyze GDP and unemployment numbers. They talk about how they feel their own economic situation is. And they measure it by whether they have a job, whether they have job security; whether their house – whether they’re meeting their house payment, whether their mortgage is underwater; whether they have the money to pay for their children’s education or they don’t; whether they’re dealing with a sick parent and can afford that, or whether they can’t.
They do not sit around analyzing The Wall Street Journal or other — or Bloomberg to look at the — you know, analyze the numbers. Now, maybe some folks do, but not most Americans. I think that’s the point David Plouffe was making; that’s the point the president was making just moments ago in his statement in the Rose Garden."


A copy of Obama's remarks from today is available here. Can't Obama say something new once and a while? Meanwhile the Obama administration has "new talking points" and is blaming Congress for the slow recovery.

"This jobs report and the last one should be calls to action, let's stop with the bickering, let's do at least those things we can agree on," White House economic adviser Austan Goolsbee said on MSNBC.

When President Obama appeared in the Rose Garden Friday to address the latest jobs report, he was a little more circumspect and lighter on the blame.

To get serious on jobs, Obama said Congress should create an infrastructure bank, pass three trade agreements, pass patent reform and extend the payroll tax cut.

"I urge Congress not to wait," Obama said.

Goolsbee, sounding way more exasperated, echoed the same points on cable later but took it further, blaming "bickering" by "folks in Washington."

"My point is, if we get numbers like the ones we've seen, which reiterate how important it's going to be that we get the growth rate back up to what it was for the previous 15 months so we can add millions of jobs, we need to stop with the bickering," he said. . . .


Just take the trade agreements. Obama could get these passed by just forwarding them to Congress, but OBAMA HASN'T FORWARDED them. He wants to have a side piece of legislation that would give money to those who might lose their jobs from foreign competition. But Obama failed to mention his role in not getting this passed.

UPDATE: Note on the 14th Amendment discussion.

The Supreme Court decision in Perry v. United States (1935) states that any legally incurred debt must be paid.

The Fourteenth Amendment, in its fourth section, explicitly declares: "The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, . . . shall not be questioned." While this provision was undoubtedly inspired by the desire to put beyond question the obligations of the government issued during the Civil War, its language indicates a broader connotation. We regard it as confirmatory of a fundamental principle which applies as well to the government bonds in question, and to others duly authorized by the Congress, as to those issued before the Amendment was adopted. Nor can we perceive any reason for not considering the expression "the validity of the public debt" as embracing whatever concerns the integrity of the public obligations. . . .


UPDATE: My piece has an answer to this question.

In a recent post on his Washington Post blog, Chris Cillizza provided the likeliest answer Mr. Obama would give to the "Are you better off?" question. According to Mr. Cillizza, President Obama's argument on the economy will boil down to 10 words: "You should have seen how bad it would have been."

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The New Obama Push for more Gun Control

With no attention being paid to the existing problems with the background checks, the administration is about to make the problems worse (see here and here). From USA Today:

Six months after Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot, the White House is preparing to propose some new steps on gun safety, though they're likely to fall short of the bold measures activists would like to see. . . .
Spokesman Jay Carney said that the new steps would be made public "in the near future." He didn't offer details, but people involved in talks at the Justice Department to craft the new measures said they expected to see something in the next several weeks. Whatever is proposed is not expected to involve legislation or take on major issues like banning assault weapons but could include executive action to strengthen the background check system or other steps.
The shooting rampage in Tucson, Arizona, killed six people and wounded more than a dozen others, including Giffords. Two months later, Obama wrote an opinion piece in Giffords' local paper, the Arizona Daily Star, calling for "sound and effective steps" to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, including strengthening background checks. So far the president has done nothing and administration officials have signaled that no major steps should be expected, given the climate in Congress against gun legislation of any kind. . . .


Of course, this comes on top of the Obama administration pushing for the UN Arms Trade Treaty. The UN will be having meetings starting this coming Monday.

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Change in EU and US unemployment rates since January 2009


Since January 2009, the unemployment rates in many countries have gone up relatively little compared to ours. The US unemployment rate has risen by 1.4 percentage points. The data are available at Tradingeconomics.com.
Australia's has been flat, going from 4.9 to 4.9 percent
Japan's rose by just 0.3 percent
For the countries that I have for South America, the average unemployment rate weighted by population has fallen by 1.8 percentage points.

For the countries the European Union, the average unemployment rate weighted by population has risen by 1.286 percentage points.

My New York Post piece on explaining these relative changes is available here.

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7/07/2011

"Obama extends Extends Mortgage-Free Living For the Unemployed"

Note you only get this subsidy as long as you live in the house. You can't rent it out. This creates the incentive for people to keep living in places that they can't afford. It also makes it costly for people to move to where the jobs are. More of a discussion on this is available here:

The Obama administration is making it easier for out-of-work homeowners to stay in their homes, as it tries to revamp its troubled foreclosure-prevention program.

Starting Aug. 1, the Federal Housing Administration will extend the period for unemployed homeowners to miss mortgage payments to a full year from three or four months. That will allow qualified homeowners to go without making a monthly payment for 12 months before the foreclosure process begins.. . . .

More than 1.6 million troubled homeowners received trial modifications over the past two years. But a majority of the applicants, about 854,000 homeowners, have dropped out of the program entirely. . . .

He acknowledged that the government’s programs to help homeowners were “not enough” and said the administration was “going back to the drawing board.”

Homeowners accepted into the foreclosure assistance program receive interest rates as low as 2 percent for five years. They can repay their loans over a longer period. The median savings for those who remain in the program is about $526 per month.

Those who have their payments delayed must repay them, with interest.

But many homeowners have complained that the program has been a bureaucratic mess. Some have said they were disqualified after banks lost their documents and failed to return their phone calls. Banks have blamed homeowners for failing to submit needed paperwork.

Last month, the Obama administration blamed the three largest U.S. mortgage lenders for the failures of the foreclosure program, saying they hadn’t done enough to help people at risk of losing their homes. . . .

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Armed guards on Indian Merchant ships

It would be a lot cheaper if India let sailors be able to use guns. At least by doing this the government recognizes the benefits of self-defense. From The Hindu newspaper:

In view of the piracy attempts on merchant vessels, the Directorate-General of Shipping will soon issue a notification allowing armed security guards on board Indian merchant vessels. “The process is going on. The draft notification will be issued in 3-4 weeks,” Director-General of Shipping S.B. Agnihotri said here on Saturday. He was addressing a meeting to mark the first year celebrations of the ‘Day of Seafarer'. It will be celebrated on June 25 every year.

Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Nirmal Verma said: “A policy for deploying armed security guards on Indian flagged ships is being examined by the government.” . . .

Referring to the return of some m.v. Suez crewmembers, who had been taken hostage by Somali pirates, the Minister expressed confidence that the 39 other Indian seafarers, who were still held hostage, would be released soon. “The Government of India is doing discreet work. Piracy is an acute problem. I am sure we will be able to bring back the rest of our seafarers.” The Minister felicitated Sachin Pawase, a crewmember, who returned home on Friday.

Admiral Verma said piracy could be best tackled as a shared security threat and multilateral challenge. The International Maritime Organisation had declared ‘Piracy: Orchestrating the Response' the theme for the World Maritime Day this year.

He said maritime piracy cost the world economy around $ 12 billion each year. . . .

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Appearance on Canada's Sun TV "Byline with Brian Lilley"

You watch the interview here.

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7/06/2011

Romney's back-and-forth on whether Obama has made the economy worse


The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, and the LA Times have all given Romney a hard time over is unwillingness to stick to his criticism that Obama made the economy worse. Romney is really making a hash of this for all the Republicans by first saying that Obama made things worse, backing away from that by saying things just haven't improved, then saying Obama made things worse, then backing away, and saying again that Obama has made things worse. He is discrediting the entire argument. He is also only mentioning the regulatory part of the argument, and even then he isn't completely explaining even that point.

In short form, the arguments are several fold:

1) Moving around a trillion dollars in the economy from where you and I and various companies would have spent it to where the Obama has wanted to spend it, has moved not only the money but the jobs that would be associated with that money. People don't instantly move from one set of jobs to another. All this massive churning of jobs has created a lot of chaos. One would also add in here about how the threats of Obama's regulatory policies and taxes have made it so what jobs have been created are overwhelmingly "temporary service sector jobs."

2) The massive new regulations have also created chaos and produced winners and losers. For example, Goldman Sachs liked the financial market regulations because it prevented banks from competing with them in certain operations. This type of change moves jobs around in the economy and also creates unemployment.

3) You could use this opportunity to explain why Obama's policies have depressed housing prices. Having the Obama administration put pressure on mortgage holders to write off parts of their loans makes them very reticent to make new loans. Why would any one want to make a new loan if six months or a year down the road you might have to write off a huge portion of the loan? Without new loans, there will be fewer people who want to buy new homes and that in turn will reduce home prices.

4) This one might be too politically sensitive to discuss, but there is also the issue of the incredibly long unemployment insurance of 95 to 99 weeks. On top of the unemployment insurance has been the government aid for mortgage payments and health insurance. One only gets these payments as long as one in unemployed, making it costly for some of the unemployed to return to work.

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So why do we need new trucking safety regulations?

From the WSJ:

The new limits would "completely change what we're able to do," Mr. Tuttle says.

The rules, proposed in December by a Transportation Department agency, would cut the daily driving limit for truck drivers to 10 hours from 11 hours. They would require drivers to be off duty for 34 hours, including two full nights, once they reached their driving limit for the week.

The agency also has proposed shrinking work shifts for truckers, which might include loading or unloading, to 13 hours a day from 14 hours and requiring a 30-minute break after seven straight hours on the road.

Trucking companies would face fines of as much as $11,000 for exceeding the new limits.

Federal regulators say the measures are necessary to prevent highway fatalities caused by truck-driver fatigue, which was cited as a possible cause in the deaths of six people last month when an 18-wheeler plowed into an Amtrak train in Nevada.

According to Transportation Department data, the number of highway fatalities involving trucks has declined over the past decade, hitting a record low of 2,987 in 2009, down from 4,204 in 2007. Over the same period, the number of truck accidents that caused injuries dropped to 51,000 from 72,000. . . .


Those accident numbers don't really give a good picture of what is going on. Not only are there few accidents involving trucks (though it would be better to get an idea of accidents per mile driven), but those few accidents rarely are the fault of commercial truck drivers and even fewer of them result from fatigue. After all, the regulations are motivated to stop fatigue related accidents.

Fewer than 9% of those deaths involve commercial vehicles. More than 80% of those accidents are the fault of the non-commercial driver. Of those death related accidents only 4% of trucks are fatigue related. . . .

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Notes on Obama rejecting short-term debt ceiling hike

A copy of Obama's public statement is available here. Obama seems to want to push for a tax increase and a short-term deal would make it much easier to make a deal without a tax increase. Interestingly, even Bill Clinton has advised for a short-term deal based on the what both sides could agree to on spending cuts.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) over the weekend said a short-term “mini” deal could be necessary, and on Tuesday he described a short-term increase to the debt ceiling as “more likely than not.”

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and former President Clinton have also suggested that the White House and Congress consider a short-term hike to the debt ceiling.

House Republicans, however, have pushed back hard against such suggestions.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) office said Tuesday that Cantor “has said repeatedly that he doesn’t think a short-term deal could pass the House.”

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), appearing on the “Laura Ingraham Show,” also spoke negatively of the idea, arguing that it would take pressure off lawmakers to reduce spending.

“What they want to do is buy as much time as possible until the election with as little damage to big government as possible,” he said, referring to congressional Democrats. “If they can just stall, win in 2012, they can keep us on this path … they just don’t want to take the medicine.” . . . .

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FBI and DEA are also implicated along with BATF in "Fast and Furious" Coverup

This problem keeps on spreading. How long can the Obama administration keep stonewalling on this?

The Justice Department is obstructing the congressional investigation of a U.S. law enforcement operation intended to crack down on major weapons traffickers on the Southwest border, according to the embattled leader of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Ken Melson, the acting director of the ATF, lobbed the accusation when he sneaked in for an interview with congressional investigators on July 4, two days ahead of his scheduled interview with the inspector general about the operation known as "Fast and Furious," Fox News has learned.
"If his account is accurate, then ATF leadership appears to have been effectively muzzled while the DOJ sent over false denials and buried its head in the sand," Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said in a letter Tuesday to Attorney General Eric Holder. "That approach distorted the truth and obstructed our investigation." . . .
The alleged coverup involves three law enforcement agencies: the ATF, FBI and the DEA, or Drug Enforcement Administration. . . .

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Obama's broken promise: WH staff averages 8 percent raises this last year



Obama on July 6, 2011: By the way, the people who work in the White House have had their pay frozen since I came in, our high wage folks. So they haven't had a raise in two-and-a-half years, and that is appropriate because a lot of ordinary folks out there haven't either. In fact, they have seen their pay cut in some cases.


With firms projecting a 3 percent increase in base pay for executives, Obama's staff got raises almost three times as much. Apparently at least 12 of the 454 WH employees got raises of at least 40 percent.

The last time we checked in on White House salaries, we found that an astonishing 75% of continuing staffers got raises from 2009 to 2010—a huge number given the fact that, according to compensation experts, most companies had skipped routine raises that year in reaction to the economic crisis that the White House was busy failing to solve. This time around—from 2010 to 2011—the ratio is a little less dramatic. Of the 270 White House staffers who have been there for more than a year, 146—or 54%—received raises. The average salary increase was 8%. If you look at only staffers who got raises, the average increase was twice that.

That's a much bigger raise than the average white-collar worker got. According to a survey conducted last year by the human resources consulting firm Mercer, most firms were projecting a 3% increase in base pay for executives. White House workers did nearly three times as well. Overall, it should be noted, the White House's salary budget contracted slightly, from $38.8 million to $37.1 million, largely because the number of staffers fell. The average salary also dropped from $82,721, or 65% above the median household income, to $81,765—or 65% above the median household income. . . .

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Democrats ask Koch Brothers for money

This is amusing, click here for info.

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7th Circuit Appeals Court strikes down Chicago ban on gun ranges within the city limits

This major decision says that the 2nd Amendment should be treated like the Freedom of the Press in the 1st Amendment. This is really a major decision. It also clearly says that gun rights are protected outside the home just as they are in the home. A copy of the Court's decision is available here. Regarding Chicago's claim that people could go to gun ranges in other jurisdictions, the court ruled:

It’s hard to imagine anyone suggesting that Chicago may prohibit the exercise of a free‐ speech or religious‐liberty right within its borders on the rationale that those rights may be freely enjoyed in the suburbs. That sort of argument should be no less unimaginable in the Second Amendment context. . . .

the Court quoted at length from the “massively popular 1868 Treatise on Constitutional Limitations” by judge and professor Thomas Cooley: “[T]o bear arms implies something more than the mere keeping; it implies the learning to handle and use them . . . ; it implies the right to meet for voluntary discipline in arms, observing in doing so the laws of public order.” 554 U.S. at 616, 617‐18 (internal quotation marks omitted); see also id. at 619 (“ ‘No doubt, a citizen who keeps a gun or pistol under judicious precautions, practices in safe places the use of it, and in due time teaches his sons to do the same, exercises his individual right.’” . . .

we can distill this First Amendment doctrine and extrapolate a few general principles to the Second Amendment context. First, a severe burden on the core Second Amendment right of armed self‐defense will require an extremely strong public‐interest justification and a close fit between the government’s means and its end. Second, laws restricting activity lying closer to the margins of the Second Amendment right, laws that merely regulate rather than restrict, and modest burdens on the right may be more easily justified. How much more easily depends on the relative severity of the burden and its proximity to the core of the right. . . .


After the decision, the City of Chicago changed its law, but it is my understanding that it will still have trouble with this new law. From the Peoria Journal Star:

Chicago's City Council has swiftly approved allowing gun ranges to set up shop on the same day a federal court ruled the city can't ban the ranges.

The council approved the Mayor Rahm Emanuel-backed ordinance Wednesday because they anticipated the ruling by the federal appellate court in Chicago would be coming. The court struck down a provision of the city's gun ordinance banning the ranges.

Chicago has long fought to ban gun ownership outright. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the city's handgun ban last year. Then-Mayor Richard Daley pushed through an ordinance that required gun owners to receive firing range training but prohibited ranges in the city. . . .


Thanks to Tony Troglio for this last link.

UPDATE: There is some fallout from this Circuit Court decision.

Capitalizing on its federal appeals court victory Wednesday in Ezell v. City of Chicago, the Second Amendment Foundation today moved for a preliminary injunction against the State of Illinois to prevent further enforcement of that state's prohibitions on firearms carry in public by law-abiding citizens.
The motion was filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois in Springfield. Joining SAF in this motion are Illinois Carry and four private citizens, Michael Moore, Charles Hooks, Peggy Fechter and Jon Maier. The underlying case is known as Moore v. Madigan.
Illinois is the only state in the nation with such prohibitions. The state neither allows open carry or concealed carry, which runs afoul of recent U.S. Supreme Court Second Amendment rulings, including last year's landmark ruling in McDonald v. City of Chicago, another SAF case. SAF was represented in McDonald and Ezell by attorney Alan Gura, who noted after yesterday's appeals court win – forcing a temporary injunction against the city's ban on gun ranges that the city immediately changed after the decision was announced – that "Even Chicago politicians must respect the people's fundamental civil rights…Gun rights are coming to Chicago. The only question is how much the city's intransigence will cost taxpayers along the way."
"Now that the Seventh Circuit has recognized that the deprivation of the right of armed self-defense is an inherently irreparable injury, it is clear that Illinois' law-abiding gun owners are entitled to a protective injunction," said attorney David Jensen of New York, who, along with Glen Ellyn, IL attorney David Sigale, is representing SAF and the other plaintiffs. . . .

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Obama's dishonest claims about regulations


From Obama's press conference last week:
Keep in mind that the business community is always complaining about regulations. When unemployment is at 3 percent and they’re making record profits, they’re going to still complain about regulations because, frankly, they want to be able to do whatever they think is going to maximize their profits.

I’ve got an obligation to make sure that we’re upholding smart regulations that protect our air and protect our water and protect our food. If you’re flying on a plane, you want to make sure that there are some regulations in place to assure safety in air travel, right? So there are some core regulations that we’ve got to maintain. . . .


Obama's claim about doing an unprecedented review of regulations is simply false.

But what I have done — and this is unprecedented, by the way, no administration has done this before — is I’ve said to each agency, don’t just look at current regulations — or don’t just look at future regulations, regulations that we’re proposing, let’s go backwards and look at regulations that are already on the books, and if they don’t make sense, let’s get rid of them. . . .


Even Politifact claims:

Obama claims that his administration is doing something unprecedented -- "no administration has done this before," he said -- by having each agency review existing regulations, with an eye toward eliminating ones that don't make sense. Lots of presidents have done that. We rate Obama's statement Pants On Fire.


Obama was also dishonest in claiming no responsibility for the NLRB decision on Boeing, preventing the company from building a plane in South Carolina. It is an independent board, but it is a board whose majority Obama has appointed. He knew what would happen when he put a majority of union members on it. More from the press conference:

Now, you asked specifically about one decision that was made by the National Labor Relations Board, the NLRB, and this relates to Boeing. Essentially, the NLRB made a finding that Boeing had not followed the law in making a decision to move a plant. And it’s an independent agency. It’s going before a judge. So I don’t want to get into the details of the case. I don’t know all the facts. That’s going to be up to a judge to decide.

What I do know is this — that as a general proposition, companies need to have the freedom to relocate. They have to follow the law, but that’s part of our system. And if they’re choosing to relocate here in the United States, that’s a good thing. And what it doesn’t make — what I think defies common sense would be a notion that we would be shutting down a plant or laying off workers because labor and management can’t come to a sensible agreement. . . .

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7/05/2011

WSJ: "The Year of School Choice"

This WSJ piece is overly optimistic about some of the educational choice changes, but it is still a useful summary. For example, Tennessee removed the limit on charter schools, but it means nothing since none of the state's school districts are even close to the limit and the vast majority have almost no charter schools. The problem is that the teacher unions control the school districts and the districts determine whether there are any charter schools. The law should have instead concentrated on making easier for charter schools to get approved. As it is, the law accomplishes nothing really.

. . . No fewer than 13 states have enacted school choice legislation in 2011, and 28 states have legislation pending. Last month alone, Louisiana enhanced its state income tax break for private school tuition; Ohio tripled the number of students eligible for school vouchers; and North Carolina passed a law letting parents of students with special needs claim a tax credit for expenses related to private school tuition and other educational services.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker made headlines this year for taking on government unions. Less well known is that last month he signed a bill that removes the cap of 22,500 on the number of kids who can participate in Milwaukee's Parental Choice Program, the nation's oldest voucher program, and creates a new school choice initiative for families in Racine County. "We now have 13 programs new or expanded this year alone" in the state, says Susan Meyers of the Wisconsin-based Foundation for Educational Choice.

School choice proponents may have had their biggest success in Indiana, where Republican Governor Mitch Daniels signed legislation that removes the charter cap, allows all universities to be charter authorizers, and creates a voucher program that enables about half the state's students to attend public or private schools.

Florida, Georgia and Oklahoma have created or expanded tuition tax credit programs. North Carolina and Tennessee eliminated caps on the number of charter schools. Maine passed its first charter law. Colorado created a voucher program in Douglas County that will provide scholarships for private schools. In Utah, lawmakers passed the Statewide Online Education Program, which allows high school students to access course work on the Internet from public or private schools anywhere in the state.

Even in the nation's capital, and thanks largely to House Speaker John Boehner, Congress revived the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, a voucher program for poor families that the Obama Administration had wanted to kill at the behest of teachers unions. . . .

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Bachmann was a Democrat

Michele Bachmann worked on Jimmy Carter's presidential campaign. It must be at least a little hard to demonize someone who used to be a Democrat. It is interesting that Perry was also a Democrat.

she met her husband-to-be while volunteering on Jimmy Carter's 1976 presidential campaign . . .

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Tiny video cameras on police uniforms save departments lots of money

Besides helping win cases in court, my guess is that the cameras also cause the police officers to behave even better with those they pull over.

One Mississippi police department has only five officers on its force, but nothing gets by them thanks to a small piece of technology recording every traffic stop and legal encounter.
The Walls, Miss., police department is one of a few in the country equipping officers with tiny clip-on video cameras that attach to the front pocket of an officer’s uniform. The cameras are no bigger than a pack of gum and they hold a small memory card, capable of recording hours of evidence.
"I call it my silent partner,” said Walls Police Chief Gary Boisseau. “We're a small department, there's usually one maybe two of us on at a time and it's good to have that extra set of ears -- that extra set of eyes out there.”
Boisseau’s force has been using the cameras for the past year. Since then, he says, the ‘second set of eyes’ has helped in the quick prosecution of court cases.
That translates into saving the town’s employees time and court costs.
"We had a DUI stop several months ago and this person denied everything that happened,” Boisseau said. “After watching that video – [that person] honestly did not know what happened that day because they had so much to drink. They pled guilty before it ever went to court." . . .

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7/04/2011

"Stimulus" costs $278,000 per government "created or saved" job

And these numbers don't even count the jobs that were lost by the government taking away money from other activities. A copy of government's claims are available here. That is a cost of between $185,000 and $278,000 per job, assuming that someplace between 2.4 and 3.6 million jobs have supposedly been created. About 85 percent of ARRA’s budgetary impact was realized by the end of June 2011.

The report was written by the White House’s Council of Economic Advisors, a group of three economists who were all handpicked by Obama, and it chronicles the alleged success of the “stimulus” in adding or saving jobs. The council reports that, using “mainstream estimates of economic multipliers for the effects of fiscal stimulus” (which it describes as a “natural way to estimate the effects of” the legislation), the “stimulus” has added or saved just under 2.4 million jobs — whether private or public — at a cost (to date) of $666 billion. That’s a cost to taxpayers of $278,000 per job.

In other words, the government could simply have cut a $100,000 check to everyone whose employment was allegedly made possible by the “stimulus,” and taxpayers would have come out $427 billion ahead. . . .


Back in early 2009, President Obama claimed that the ARRA would create 4.1 million jobs.

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S&P: EU & IMF Bailout of Greece will still lead to Default

The last couple of days haven't been good news for the Greek bailout. On Sunday, how bad Greece's numbers are turned out to be even worse than first thought. On Monday, S&P announced that the Greek bailout would still amount to a default.

New figures published by the European Commission make clear just how big Greece’s budgetary hole now is. Over the next three years, the Commission says Greece will need €172bn in financing. But the current bail-out only has another €57bn left – meaning €115bn has to be found.
Greece itself has committed to raising €30bn on its own by privatising government assets. The rest was supposed to be signed off on Sunday. But according to several officials involved in the talks, the decision was held up by an inability to agree enough commitments from private bondholders.
A German-led group of creditor countries, including the Netherlands, wants private bondholders to shoulder a “significant” portion to get support in their national parliaments. Although neither Berlin nor The Hague has given specific figures, both have hinted at anywhere from €20bn to €30bn.
But talks with large holders of Greek debt – French, German and Greek banks – have seen much smaller commitments. A deal with German banks on Thursday netted €3.2bn, while the French-backed plan has raised doubts as to whether it will lower Greece’s debt burden at all.
All four of Greece’s biggest banks have said they will participate, and some executives have suggested they could commit to rolling over as much as €12bn in government debt into new, longer-maturing bonds. But government officials involved in talks with Greek banks anticipate a lower total – closer to €3bn-€4bn. Given the fragility of the Greek banking sector, officials are concerned that any additional commitments could weaken the entire system. . . .


The news on the S&P decision is discussed here.

French and German banks’ plan to roll over their holdings of Greek debt suffered a blow on Monday as Standard & Poor’s, the credit rating agency, said the move would amount to a default.
The proposal to provide up to €30bn ($43.6bn) in financing for Greece had been made conditional on rating agencies not downgrading Greece’s debt. But S&P said on Monday that any rollover would be a “distressed” transaction and thus lead to Greece’s rating being lowered to selective default.
There was no immediate reaction from the Greek finance ministry to the S&P statement. French officials said they were not unduly concerned by the move, which had been anticipated. “It should have no immediate impact on the CDS [credit default swap] markets,” one said.
The German government also had no official comment. But civil servants said they had factored in the eventuality of a so-called ratings event from the beginning.
“The important thing is that we avoid a credit event, with all the resulting negative impact on credit-default swaps which occupied us after the Lehman bankruptcy,” one official said. “If private sector participation does lead to a partial default being called, the biggest problem we’ll face is persuading the ECB to continue to take affected bonds in exchange for providing liquidity to Greek banks.”
But officials also stressed that S&P’s analysis was based on the model for private sector involvement sketched by French banks. “Of course, that’s the basis of what’s likely to come out,” one said. “But we’re still working on all sorts of details and maybe we’ll find ways of even working around the partial-default problem.” . . .


The WSJ had this nice summary.

Standard & Poor's has ruled that a plan by French banks to roll over their exposure to Greek government debt would likely be considered a Greek default. That puts efforts to find a lasting solution to Greece's debt crisis back at square one. Europe's politicians may yet have to compromise and provide a bigger public-sector bailout for Greece. . . .

That puts the euro zone in a bind. Its finance ministers have made clear any new Greek bailout must include significant private-sector funding. But the ECB has repeatedly warned it won't accept defaulted Greek bonds as collateral for its lending operations. It believes this would damage its credibility and encourage further defaults, undermining confidence in the currency. But if the euro zone and ECB stick to their guns, the Greek banking system will collapse. . . .

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Democrats continue to refuse to put out a spending plan, their strategy is to attack Republicans for their proposal but to avoid attacks on themselves

In May, I noted how neither Congressional Democrats nor the President have put forward their own budget plan. The AFP had this story on Sunday:

On Friday, two key Senate Republicans pushed Obama to make public his proposals in closed-door talks with Republican leaders and warned that "a last-minute deal, delivered under the threat of panic, will not be acceptable."
"We can surely agree that the American people deserve time to study the decisions their leaders are making on their behalf," Senators Jeff Sessions and Orrin Hatch, ranking members of the Senate Budget and Finance Committees, wrote in a letter to Obama.
Senate Democrats, led by Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, planned to unveil their own budget proposal by mid-week, potentially opening up another front in the war over US borrowing. . . .


Is not a surprise that the Debt ceiling increase discussions have gone nowhere when Democrats won't even put a proposal on the table? Could it be that the Democrats really want the debt ceiling talks to fail? More complaints about Democrats not putting forward a proposal:

Cornyn said on Fox News Sunday that Obama hasn't outlined a firm proposal for spending cuts to accompany an increase in the debt ceiling. The Treasury Department says Congress must raise the limit by Aug. 2.
"What I'm concerned about is the president by not seriously putting a proposal forward but rather just criticizing those who have," Cornyn said. "We are running up against this deadline. And they're going to try to present it as a fait accompli, nobody is going to have time to read it or consider the implications of it and it's going to say you have to pass it or the economy is going down the tubes. That's just irresponsible." . . .

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7/03/2011

New National Review Online piece: Campaign-Finance Fail

My newest piece this last week starts this way:

In Monday’s 5–4 decision in McComish v. Bennett, the Supreme Court struck down Arizona’s taxpayer funding for political campaigns. Surprisingly, the dissenting opinion by liberals on the Supreme Court conceded that traditional campaign-finance laws have failed. Speaking for the other liberal justices, Elena Kagan wrote:
[Campaign-finance laws] cap campaign contributions; require disclosure of substantial donations; and create an optional public financing program that gives candidates a fixed public subsidy if they refrain from private fundraising. But these measures do not work. . . . Simple disclosure fails to prevent shady dealing. . . . the State remains afflicted with corruption.

This concession is important because, despite the many obvious problems created by campaign-finance regulations, supporters have long justified them as eliminating corruption, or at least the appearance of corruption. . . .

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Atlas Shrugged Part 1 on DVD in Fall, Sequel released soon afterwards

For those who thought that Atlas Shrugged Part 1 was a great movie, you will be able to soon own your own copy.

Atlas Shrugged: The Trilogy is still alive. The producers of the Ayn Rand adaptation will bring the first part of their planned series to home-entertainment platforms this fall, courtesy of a deal with 20th Century Fox, and expect to begin production on "Atlas Shrugged: Part 2" in September. They hope to bring the new film to theaters during the 2012 election season.

"Atlas Shrugged: Part 1," the low-budget adaptation of the first third of Rand's dystopian novel, grossed $4.6 million during its five-week theatrical run this spring. After the film drew scathing reviews, producer John Aglialoro said he was reconsidering whether to move forward with two sequels.

Now Aglialoro has resumed those efforts, according to producer Harmon Kaslow, and will devote all revenue from the release of "Atlas Shrugged: Part 1" to financing "Atlas Shrugged: Part 2."

"John has a much clearer perspective," Kaslow told 24 Frames. "He’s always wanted to have a studio level support for the film and I think feels that his effort in producing Part 1 has been validated by having the largest home video distributor in America aboard." . . .

"What we discovered with the film is that it really doesn’t fit squarely into a lot of business models," said Kaslow. "We got incredible grass roots and community level support for the movie, but what we didn’t have was the polished marketing edge that the studios have perfected. Now we get to use their marketing, their fulfillment capacity. We think that makes more sense for us than mortgaging those rights off for a number."

Deals for TV and pay-TV airings are being negotiated, Kaslow said, and the producers have retained a foreign sales agent to secure international theatrical releases. . . .

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