The Washington Post's Greg Sargent is at it again: trying to provide some evidence that government spending has helped the recovery

Greg Sargent in the Washington Post doesn't like the claim that the slow job market growth rate is due to "an overweening state." He doesn't provide any evidence on the explosion in government regulations.

It isn’t just that state governments are shedding jobs. Spending from that “job-killing” stimulus is winding down across the board. Dems agreed to the extension of the Bush tax cuts for the rich, which conservatives claimed would help the economy. Dems agreed to deep cuts in spending, which conservatives claimed would send a signal that would restore business confidence. Dems have prioritized deficit reduction over jobs creation, agreeing to the creation of a deficit supercommittee that will likely cut entitlements, and have specifically done so while embracing the conservative argument that signaling this set of priorities would restore the confidence and certainty necessary to create jobs. And we’re still where we are. . . .

There are numerous errors with these claims. As far as I remember, conservatives were claiming that the tax increase would kill the incentive to work and invest. Keeping the tax rates where the were simply prevented the government from causing more problems. Conservatives have advocated permanent tax cuts. The tax changes in the extension were temporary.

As to employment, Sargent buys into the notion that government creates new spending out of thin air. Total government employment has slowly declined, though there are a couple of points to make. 1) As the above diagram indicates, the net drop didn't match the private sector drop until April 2011 (June 2011 if you don't include the USPS). 2) The change has been very gradual. It is hard to argue that there was any sudden change that occurred under the Republicans. 3) Obama has seen a movement of government jobs from state and local governments to the Federal government. 4) Salaries are higher for Federal employees than for those who work for state governments. The Stimulus also raised state and local government worker salaries, also reducing the number of those jobs.

If Sargent wants to see the arguments against government spending he might, as a start, want to see some of the pieces here and here.

Another point about Mr. Sargent. He would probably have a little more credibility if he wasn't so openly partisan. He previously reported that Ford and the Obama administration denied that there had been any pressure from the White House on Ford to pull the ad. He seems awfully accepting of simple pubic denials by interested parties. Yet, sometimes a few well place pointed questions are enough to get people o get a message. Frank Beckman (“White House wrong to lean on Ford,” Detroit News, September 30, 2011) reported (following up on a story by Dan Howes):

“But the Obama administration didn't care for the free market message and . . . the White House contacted Ford to discuss the ad and the company has now pulled the popular spot. . . . such inquiries from the White House represent coercion. . . . The most obvious reason [for the White House concern] relates to the president's re-election bid.”

Simply relying on the public statements of the interested parties, Mr. Sargent basically accused Mr. Howes of lying (OK, making up "tales"). One would hope that a member of the press would be a little more critical before so unconditionally accepting statements by the Obama administration and the Ford PR department. There is a reason why people legitimately tell things to reporters in private sometimes, and it appears that the Detroit News might have better contacts within the auto industry than Mr. Sargent.

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New health care regulations seemed destined to force many off of private health insurance

Almost everyone would like a Porsche or a Volvo, but the question is are we willing to pay the price. For the vast majority, the answer is obviously "no." No matter how much it would nice to own such a car, the cost simply outweighs the benefit. Not everyone wants to buy even a mid level car. Sure it would be nice for many people to own a somewhat nicer car, but the costs aren't worth it either. Notice this news article at Fox News reporting:

The advisers recommended that the package be built on mid-tier health plans currently offered by small employers, expanded to include certain services such as mental health, and squeezed into a real-world budget. . . .

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Did Obama Embellished Teachers Tale?

From Fox News:

When President Obama held a news conference Thursday to push his jobs plan, he told an anecdote about a teacher from Boston he met recently to really drive the point home that Congress needs to act immediately on the American Jobs Act and put teachers back to work. But the tale the president told may have been a bit embellished.

Obama said he had met a young man named Robert Baroz who has two decades of teaching experience, a master's degree and and excellent track record of teaching. "He's an English teacher in Boston who came to the White House a few weeks ago," the president explained to reporters. "In the last few years, he's received three pink slips because of budget cuts. Why wouldn't we want to pass a bill that puts somebody like Robert back in the classroom teaching our kids?"

. . . According to the Boston Herald, Robert Baroz never met the president when he was at the White House. And Robert Baroz is currently employed.

Baroz tells the Herald it's true he was at a White House press conference on jobs last month, but he never actually met with Mr. Obama. Instead, he met with the president's Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

It's also true Baroz has in fact received three pink slips in four years, but he is currently employed as a literacy and data coach. . . .


"Obama Fundraiser Pushed Solyndra Deal From Inside"

The "breathing down my neck" discussion as well as having a guy who was a big fundraiser for Obama could pose big problems for Obama. The whole piece at ABC News is worthwhile reading:

An elite Obama fundraiser hired to help oversee the administration's energy loan program pushed and prodded career Department of Energy officials to move faster in approving a loan guarantee for Solyndra, even as his wife's law firm was representing the California solar company, according to internal emails made public late Friday.

"How hard is this? What is he waiting for?" wrote Steven J. Spinner, a high-tech consultant and energy investor who raised at least $500,000 for the candidate before being appointed to a key job helping oversee the energy loan guarantee program. "I have OVP [the Office of the Vice President] and WH [the White House] breathing down my neck on this."

Many of the emails were written just days after Spinner accepted a three-page ethics agreement in which he pledged he would "not participate in any discussion regarding any application involving [his wife's law firm] Wilson [Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati]." . . .

The $535 million loan to Solyndra was ultimately approved in 2009 and for months was touted by President Obama as a model of his efforts to create new jobs in the emerging field of clean energy. But in late August, the company abruptly shut its doors and days later declared it was filing for bankruptcy. Now the loan is the subject of multiple investigations, by Congress and by the Department of Justice. [Abruptly? weren't there multiple warnings of this to the government starting a year ago when they restructured the loan?]

In one of the new emails shared with ABC News and other news outlets Friday, the White House appears to be bracing for the political fallout -- one high ranking energy official in the White House warns shortly before Solyndra's bankruptcy, on Aug. 26, that what's coming is a "*#~@ show" and "a mess."

In the lengthy email discussions that occurred in the days before the Solyndra loan closed in September 2009, Spinner emerges as a key figure in advocating for getting the deal done, apparently in an effort to score the loan as a political victory for President Obama. Many of the emails surround his efforts to coordinate plans for either President Obama or Vice President Biden to announce it as the administration's first loan approval . . . .

It is Spinner, for instance, who pushes for a "big event" with "golden shovels, bulldozers, hardhats, etc."

He also corresponds with career Department of Energy loan officials who are making the final decisions on the Solyndra loan. In one instance, he writes, "Hopefully, this might spur [the Office of Management and Budget] a little faster to help the closing. . . .

How much more of a mess can this get? This from the Washington Post:

Energy Department officials were warned that their plan to help a failing solar company by restructuring its $535 million federal loan could violate the law and should be cleared with the Justice Department, according to newly obtained e-mails from within the Obama administration.

The e-mails show that Energy Department officials moved ahead anyway with a new deal that would repay company investors before taxpayers if the company defaulted. The e-mails, which were reviewed by The Washington Post, show for the first time concerns within the administration about the legality of the Energy Department’s extraordinary efforts to help Solyndra, the California solar company that went bankrupt Aug. 31. . . .



"BET's Robert Johnson To Obama: Stop Attacking The Wealthy"

A copy of the video at Real Clear Politics is available here.

"Well, I think the president has to recalibrate his message. You don't get people to like you by attacking them or demeaning their success. You know, I grew up in a family of 10 kids, first one to go to college, and I've earned my success. I've earned my right to fly private if I choose to do so.

"And by attacking me it is not going to convince me that I should take a bigger hit because I happen to be wealthy. You know, it is the old -- I think Ted and Fred and I we both sort of take the old Ethel Merman approach to life. I've tried poor and I tried rich and I like rich better. It doesn't mean that I am a bad guy.

"I didn't go in to business to create a public policy success for either party, Republican or Democrat. I went in business to create jobs and opportunity, create opportunity, create value for myself and my investors. And that's what the president should be praising, not demagoguing us simply because Warren Buffet says he pays more than his secretary. He should pay the secretary more and she will pay more." . . .


Does Religion put a constraint on bad behavior?

I may not agree with O'Reilly on a lot of things, but I think that O'Reilly is right here. Thinking that there is something more powerful out there looking over your shoulder will keep people from doing some really bad things. It is interesting that Dawkins doesn't seem to understand this very basic point.


Newest Fox News Piece: The China Currency Bill Will Make Americans Poorer, Not Richer

My newest piece starts this way:

We seem determined to repeat the policy mistakes that made the 1930s Great Depression so deep. Already we have seen the massive increases in government spending and regulation. Today's vote on the China currency bill by the Senate adds another mistake. It resembles the infamous 1930 Smoot-Hawley tariff law.

True, China is manipulating its currency to lower the value of the Yuan relative to the US dollar. This manipulation makes it cheaper for Americans to buy their exports, be it toys, furniture, or manufactured goods. It also makes it cheaper for us to purchase whole companies or shares in Chinese companies. It also means that the Chinese have to pay “too” much for American bonds and American products.

If passed, the Currency Exchange Rate Oversight Reform Act of 2011 would force China to raise the value of the Yuan. And if they refuse to comply, we will increase the tariffs on what we buy from them, equivalent to putting a special tax on the goods we buy.

China’s currency manipulation is a mistake. Yet, their mistake doesn’t mean we should make one also. If Chinese leaders are stupid enough to subsidize Americans by selling their goods and assets too cheaply, why should we stop them? . . .

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So much for Obama's promises that the new health care bill wouldn't fund abortions

Look, I knew that the bill was going to fun abortions. But the promise that it wouldn't was enough to get Obamacare passed by the House. From CNSNews:

Bantering with the audience at a fundraiser in St. Louis yesterday, President Barack Obama bragged about a new regulation, proposed by the Department of Health and Human Services, that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has denounced as an “unprecedented attack on religious liberty.”

"Darn right!" an audience member at the fundraiser shouted as Obama described the regulation.

“Darn tooting!” Obama said back.

The proposed regulation, designed to implement part of Obamacare, will require all private health plans in the United States to cover sterilizations and all FDA-approved contraceptives--including those that cause abortions—without charging any fees or co-pay. These regulations were drawn to implement a provision in Obama’s health-care law that calls for all health-care plans to cover “preventive services.” . . . .

A “religious exemption” in the regulation is so narrowly drawn that it does not include any lay Catholics, or any Catholic hospitals, charitable organizations, or colleges or universities. Thus, many major Catholic institutions in the United States would be forced to choose between dropping health insurance coverage for their employees and students or violating the moral teachings of their own church. . . . .

Here is an article from 2009 where Obama is claiming that a Catholic Bishop is wrong in claiming Obamacare will fund abortions.

President Barack Obama and Cardinal Justin Rigali, chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Pro-Life Activities, have taken directly contradictory positions on whether the health-care bill in the U.S. Congress funds abortion.

Cardinal Rigali says the bill does fund abortion and that those who say otherwise are pushing an “illusion.”

President Obama says the bill does not fund abortion and that those who say otherwise are guilty of a “fabrication.” . . .

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With huge financial losses and bankruptcy looming, Obama administration was "poised" to give Solyndra a second major loan

So you thought that $535 million to a firm with real financial questions was troubling? How about another $469 million with bankruptcy looming and no financial improvement insight? Well that is what the Obama administration was thinking this summer. Note that "White House career staffers" means nonpolitical appointees. From the Wash Post:

The Obama administration’s Department of Energy was poised last summer to give Solyndra a second major taxpayer loan of $469 million, even as the company’s financial situation was growing more dire.

The Energy Department was actively pushing to provide the second loan guarantee to the troubled solar-panel manufacturer in April and May 2010, when Solyndra’s auditors warned the company was in danger of closing due to its rapidly mounting debts and expenses, according to complete e-mails just released by a House committee investigating the original loan.

White House career staffers, who had first raised concerns in the fall of 2009 about the Department of Energy providing Solyndra with its first taxpayer-backed loan of $535 million , wrote e-mails in gallows humor in April 2010 about the prospect of giving Solyndra more money. That spring, industry analysts were publicly questioning how the Silicon Valley startup could so quickly be running out both the federal loan and $933 million in private capital.

“Apparently the loan size for Phase II is $469 million,” one Office of Management and Budget analyst wrote of DOE seeking a second loan for Solyndra. The analysts’s name was not released by the committee. “I’ve been told we should expect the see that project soon for conditional commitment.”

Another joked: “Possible to close and default on one before closing on a second??? Could be a new record.” . . .


"No Guns for University of Wisconsin Employees"

From Fox News:

University of Wisconsin professors won’t be carrying guns anytime soon.

Last night, the faculty senate in Madison, Wisc. unanimously blocked concealed carry for all university employees, except with explicit permission. University police will still be able to carry firearms; the UWPD police chief will be one of the people able to grant exceptions.

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Copy of Heller v. DC Appeals Court Decision from yesterday

A copy of the decision is available here. Unfortunately, intermediate scrutiny is adopted here (p. 24): "the District must show they are 'substantially related to an important governmental objective.'” Holbrook may have made a big mistake in not arguing empirical issues here.

We think the District has advanced, albeit incompletely — almost cursorily — articulated, two important governmental interests it may have in the registration requirements, viz., to protect police officers and to aid in crime control. Cf. United States v. Salerno, 481 U.S. 739, 750 (1987) (“the Government’s general interest in preventing crime is compelling”). The Council Committee on Public Safety explained: “Registration is critical because it ... allows officers to determine in advance whether individuals involved in a call may have firearms ... [and] assists law enforcement in determining whether registered owners are eligible to possess firearms or have fallen into a prohibited class.”

This should have been a slam-dunk case empirically. Crimes do not get solved this way.

Handgun registration -- After the decision on Friday, D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson claimed: "Because law-abiding citizens register their guns, it makes it easier for the police to identify and arrest the criminals." Despite the inaccuracies show on television shows, registration doesn’t work to solve crimes. In theory, if a gun is registered and it is left at the scene, it could theoretically be traced back to the owner. But guns from crimes are virtually never left at the scene of the crime. When they are left at the scene, it is primarily in cases where the criminal has been seriously wounded or killed. Then, of course, the weapon is not needed to catch the perpetrator. Moreover, in the few cases guns are left at the scene, they are traced back to somebody else because the criminals never bothered to register their guns. . . .

As an aside, it hasn't gone over very well in Canada.

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The China currency mess

If China wants to subsidize our purchases of their goods, that is fine with me. Where China is getting its wealth is from stealing our intellectual property, not from selling us their products at below cost. The Obama administration isn't doing what is right and oppose the new law being debated this week in the Senate. Unfortunately, the initial vote yesterday only had 16 Republicans and 3 Democrats opposing penalties on China for a low exchange rate. From the Financial Times:

The chairman of the US Federal Reserve has accused China of damaging prospects for a global economic recovery through its deliberate intervention in the currency market to hold down the value of the renminbi.
Speaking just hours after the Chinese government sharply criticised a US congressional bill that would punish Beijing for alleged currency manipulation, Ben Bernanke told a congressional committee that an undervalued renminbi was preventing the rebalancing of global demand towards emerging market economies.
“Right now, our concern is that the Chinese currency policy is blocking what might be a more normal recovery process in the global economy,” he said. “It is to some extent hurting the recovery”.
The US Senate voted overwhelmingly on Monday to open debate on a bill, clearly aimed at China, that would impose tariffs on imports from countries with undervalued currencies. On Tuesday, the Chinese government blasted the bill in three statements released simultaneously by the foreign ministry, the central bank and the ministry of commerce, saying the legislation could spark a “trade war”. . . .

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"Bernanke: Recovery 'close to faltering'"

Given how incredibly slow the economy has been growing, this news isn't very surprising.

Europe has a debt crisis. America has a jobs crisis. Corporate profits could be in trouble. World financial markets are in turmoil. And no one seems prepared to ride to the rescue.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke bluntly warned Congress on Tuesday of what most of America has sensed for some time: The economic recovery, such as it is, "is close to faltering."

The central bank chief spoke on a day when the stock market spent most of the trading hours in bear market territory — down 20 percent from its most recent highs in April. A late-day rally helped the market finish higher.

Bernanke's exchange with lawmakers seemed to capture the growing belief that no one is prepared to help the global economy in any meaningful way anytime soon. Speaking in unusually frank terms, he also captured the nation's sour economic mood. . . .

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Most Democrats think that Obama and Clinton were about the same, not Independents and Republicans

This Gallup Poll is pretty stunning, at least I am sure that Bill Clinton isn't very happy about it.

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Italy debt significantly downgraded by Moody's

It apparently is pretty common for leaders of countries to bash bond rating companies when they lower a country's bond ratings. From the UK Guardian:

Italy's sovereign debt rating has been cut for the second time in as many weeks, with ratings agency Moody's citing "sustained and non-cyclical erosion of confidence" as it slashed its forecast for the country.

In a report released after US stock markets closed on Tuesday, Moody's downgraded Italy's government bond ratings from Aa2 to A2 with a "negative outlook", suggesting further cuts could be to come. The move threatens to increase Italy's cost of borrowing, and will add yet more pressure to European finance ministers now wrestling with a financial crisis that has spread across the continent.

Italy's prime minsiter Silvio Berlusconi criticised Moody's rival Standard & Poor's when it cut Italy's credit rating last month, saying the ratings agency's action was "dictated more by newspaper stories than by reality". . . .

Look at Greece's interest rate:

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Senator Harry Reid blocks vote on Obama's job bill

From the Associated Press:

“At least put this jobs bill up for a vote so that the entire country knows exactly where members of Congress stand,” the president said. “Put your cards on the table.”
Even as Obama spoke, McConnell was attempting to call his bluff by pushing for a quick Senate vote on the jobs bill, which Senate Democrats have acknowledged doesn’t have the support to pass. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid objected so he could delay action until Democrats can corral more support. . . .

Here is an earlier September 5th story from the Associated Press:

President Barack Obama said today that congressional Republicans must put their country ahead of their party and vote to create new jobs as he used a boisterous Labor Day rally to aim a partisan barb at the GOP. In a preview of the jobs speech he will deliver on Thursday to Congress, Obama said there are numerous roads and bridges that need rebuilding in the US, and over 1 million unemployed construction workers who are available to build them.

Citing massive federal budget deficits, Republicans have expressed opposition to spending vast new sums on jobs programs. But Obama said that with widespread suffering, "the time for Washington games is over" and lawmakers must move quickly to create jobs. "But we're not going wait for them," he said at an annual event sponsored by the Metropolitan Detroit AFL-CIO. "We're going to see if we've got some straight shooters in Congress. We're going to see if congressional Republicans will put country before party." . . .

UPDATE: More on Obama bashing Republicans over the stalled bill.

A combative President Barack Obama challenged a divided Congress on Thursday to unite behind his jobs bill or get ready to be run "out of town" by angry voters. Hoping to use public frustration and economic worry as leverage, he called his proposal an insurance plan against a painful return to recession.

In a news conference long on restatements of his ideas, Obama laid bare the dynamic that now is Washington: The era of compromise is over.

Frustrated over getting nowhere with Republicans, Obama demanded that they explain themselves to the country and promised to keep "hammering way until something gets done."

Despite Obama's taunts, Republicans showed no signs of switching positions. Instead, they pressed unsuccessfully for a symbolic vote later in the day so they could demonstrate their opposition to the bill the president submitted three weeks ago. They also predicted they would prevail next week when Democrats try to advance a reworked version, which Obama supports, with a tax on millionaires.

Speaking at a forum just about the same time as Obama, House Speaker John Boehner said the president had decided to "give up on governing, give up on leading." Said Boehner: "We're legislating. He's campaigning." . . .

UPDATE: Change in Senate rules. Democrats claim that they are changing the rules because Republicans are slowing things down, but they really changed the rules because Republicans were trying to force the Democrats to vote on Obama's proposed jobs bill. They were upset that Republicans were trying to speed up a vote, not slow it down.

Senate Republicans tried to embarrass Democrats who don't support President Obama's job bill by forcing a vote on the measure Thursday, but Democrats responded by stripping Republicans of legislative power.

The GOP tried to force Democrats to vote on Obama's $447 billion jobs-creation bill to prove that even the president's own party doesn't support the proposal. Republicans tried to attach the jobs bill to a measure dealing with China.

However, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., responded to the Republican effort with a proposal, approved 51-48, that changed the rules of the Senate and stripped Republicans of their power to offer amendments to bills once the Senate agreed to cut off debate and vote.

It was an unusual and devastating blow to the minority party.

Reid and Democrats said they retaliated because they have grown tired of Republicans trying to slow down or block legislation with amendments unrelated to the bill on the floor. . . .

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Rove: Bush's 2004 campaign was aimed at convincing non-Republicans to support Bush

I already knew that this was true, but it explains a lot about the problems that Bush created while he was president.

[Charlie] Cook asserts all those gains occurred because the Bush campaign focused on its base rather than throw “huge amounts of resources” at swing voters. . . .
Much of the Bush re-election’s massive volunteer effort was aimed at persuading non-Republicans to support Bush. So was its advertising, . . .

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It would be "historic" for Obama to win after saying Americans are worse off now than when he became president


On Gunwalker case: "They won't quite answer the questions. They still haven't provided all the documents."

Laura Ingraham, host: "So they were literally screaming at you?"

Sharyl Attkisson, CBS News: "Yes. Well the DOJ woman was just yelling at me. The guy from the White House on Friday night literally screamed at me and cussed at me."

Ingraham: "Who was the person? Who was the person at Justice screaming?"

Attkisson: "Eric Schultz. Oh, the person screaming was [DOJ spokeswoman] Tracy Schmaler, she was yelling not screaming. And the person who screamed at me was Eric Schultz at the White House.......They say the Washington Post, the LA Times is reasonable, the New York Times is reasonable. I'm the only one who thinks this is a story, and they think I'm unfair and biased by pursuing it. My side of the story is I never knew where this story was going when I talked to those whistleblowers back in January and February, and I didn't care where it went. I'm just sort of digging away and going where it leads, but I'm sure they take it very personally because they have very important implications." . . .

Here she is on the O'Reilly show talking about Eric Schultz.

She discusses what she calls "pretty incredible developments." It is pretty amazing how much of these memos have been redacted.

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AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka calls Gov. Walker "Lucifer"

Another reason why Obama should publicly correct the head of the AFL-CIO for the language that he uses. From CNSNews:

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said that his union coalition would participate in a planned recall campaign targeting Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) – a man Trumka referred to as “Lucifer.”

“Would I support going after Lucifer?” Trumka said, after being asked if he would support a recall of Walker. “Let me think about that. That's a tough one. Of course we’re gonna' be there.”

Trumka, taking questions after delivering a speech on jobs at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. said that Walker had “overreached” by using a “contrived deficit” to try to strip public-sector unions of their collective bargaining rights.

“I mean, the guy has overreached, he’s been a bad governor,” said Trumka. “He tried to use a contrived deficit to take people out.” . . .


A real cost of female employees (in at least one area?)?

Should women who are just as good as men get the same wage if they are more costly to employ? I would assume not. In the UK they are having to recognize a real cost of female employees. If you need to give workers more flexibility for sudden changes in their schedules, you have to hire more employees to cover possible gap times that might arise. Of course, government is the last place that would actually recognize different costs from hiring different types of employees. From the BBC:

The NHS should make flexible working more available in order to respond to the increasing number of female doctors, a medical group has said.

The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (RCPE) said the move was necessary to maintain patient care.

It said the number of female doctors in the UK had risen by 37% since 2001.

But the RCPE warned there was a "real threat" that women may be unable to continue in their chosen career once they had young children.

The Royal College said 42% of all doctors were women - 28% of hospital consultants and 47% of GPs.

It said that traditionally a higher percentage of women doctors had worked as GPs, due to the more flexible working arrangements available.

But there were now 46% more female doctors registered in their foundation year training in 2010 than males.

The RCPE said this could have significant implications for the NHS if greater emphasis was not placed on adjusting working patterns and career structures. . . .

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Obama and the Economy: Bad leadership or Bad Luck?

So much for Obama's claims that he just has had a lot of bad luck. From Fox News:

. . . President Obama recently said his policies had gotten the economy moving again until a six-month run of bad luck set things back. That run included the earthquake in Japan, uprisings in the Middle East and the European debt crisis.

Still, by 6-to-1 voters blame the economy on bad leadership (75 percent) rather than bad luck (12 percent). That includes 89 percent of Republicans, 72 percent of independents and 66 percent of Democrats.

Whos providing that bad leadership? Almost half of voters -- 45 percent -- think President Obamas actions have hurt the economy. Thats 19 percentage points more than the 26 percent who say hes helped, while 28 percent say he has "not made much of a difference."

By a 28 percentage-point margin, voters are more likely to think the actions of Congressional Democrats have hurt the economy.

The assessment of Congressional Republicans is even worse: By 35 percentage points, voters think they have had a negative impact.

Lawmakers associated with the Tea Party movement fare better than either of the two major parties. Even so, by a 16-point margin, voters think they also did more harm than good. . . .

Two-thirds of voters (66 percent) think raising taxes during an economic downturn is a bad idea. Theres a wide 39-percentage point partisan gap on this issue: 86 percent of Republicans think its a bad idea compared to 47 percent of Democrats.

Independents are three times as likely to say raising taxes in a down economy is a bad idea (67 percent) as to say its a good idea (22 percent).

That said, 57 percent of voters think it is a good idea to tax the wealthiest Americans more because it will help grow the economy and reduce the deficit.

Yet most doubt the tax increases recently proposed by President Obama will be used to reduce the deficit. By a 61-26 percent margin, voters think that money would primarily be used to fund more government spending. . . .

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"Obama warned not to visit Solyndra"

Apparently Obama contributors warned Obama that Solyndra was a particularly bad investment. What Obama doesn't seem to understand is that if these were good investments, he wouldn't need to give them loans.

“A number of us are concerned that the president is visiting Solyndra,” California investor and Obama fundraiser Steve Westly wrote to Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett in May 2010. “Many of us believe the company’s cost structure will make it difficult for them to survive long term. . . . I just want to help protect the president from anything that could result in negative or unfair press.”

The warning, which did not convince the White House to drop the Obama factory visit, was detailed in e-mails released Monday by the Democratic minority on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The panel is investigating a $535 million government-backed loan to the now-shuttered company.

Democrats said the e-mails demonstrate that there was no political favoritism for Solyndra or for the Obama fundraiser whose family foundation held an interest in the company. But the internal messages revealed for the first time the high level of White House interest in the startup and its faltering finances after the Energy Department backed it with $535 million in loans.

On Monday, Obama made his first public comments about Solyndra’s collapse, saying that he does not regret supporting or visiting the company as part of his administration’s backing of clean-energy companies.

“Now there are going to be some failures,” he said in an ABC News/Yahoo online television interview. “Hindsight is always 20/20. It went through the normal review process and people thought this was a good bet.” . . .

Larry Summers apparently pushed for this loan even though he believed that government wasn't a good venture capitalist.

As early as December 2009, only months after the government had finalized the loan guarantee, a partner with private equity firm Redpoint Ventures warned Summers about the investment.

Brad Jones, a founding partner of Redpoint, said the government's spending on clean energy was "haphazard," citing Solyndra as an example. Redpoint was an investor in Solyndra.

"While that (loan) is good for us, I can't imagine it's a good way for the government to use taxpayer money," Jones told Summers in an email released by the House Committee.

Summers agreed that the government is a "crappy VC" (venture capitalist). "If (you) were closer to it, you'd feel more strongly," Summers told Jones. . . .

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So when did Eric Holder know about the "Gunwalker" case?

William Lajeunesse is breaking yet another story on the Gunwalker case.

For the first time, documents appear to show Attorney General Eric Holder was made aware of the Operation Fast and Furious earlier than he claimed -- up to 9 nine months earlier.
The documents seem to contradict what Holder told a House Judiciary Committee on May 3, when he said he could not recall the exact date, but he'd "probably heard about Fast and Furious for the first time over the last few weeks."
However, in a July 2010 memo, Michael Walther, director of the National Drug Intelligence Center, told Holder straw buyers in the Operation Fast and Furious case "are responsible for the purchase of 1,500 firearms that were then supplied to the Mexican drug trafficking cartels."
Also, on October 18, 2010, one of Holder's chief deputies, Lanny Breuer, chief of the department's Criminal Division, told Holder in a memo that prosecutors were ready to issue indictments in Operation Fast and Furious.
Documents also show, contrary to earlier reports, the Justice Department was aware that ATF agents under the department's direction were involved in the controversial practice known as "gun walking" . . . The department has said it did not allow guns to "walk." . . .
However, in an October 17, 2010 memo, Deputy Attorney General Jason Weinstein asks another attorney in the Criminal Division if Breuer should do a press conference when Fast and Furious is announced, but says, "It's a tricky case, given the number of guns that have walked."
His associate, James Trusty writes back, "It's not going to be any big surprise that a bunch of US guns are being used in MX (Mexico), so I’m not sure how much grief we'll get for 'gun walking.'"
Until now, there's been an attempt to portray Operation Fast and Furious as a rogue operation by ATF agents in Phoenix and the Arizona U.S. Attorney's Office. But insiders claim these documents show the Department of Justice in Washington was intimately aware of the case almost from the beginning. . . .

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Mike McConnell interviews me on WGN

Mike's interview with me is available here. I think that the interview went pretty well. Comments can be placed here.

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Greece misses deficit target

Any bets on whether even the current estimate for 2012 will prove estimate? This is a black hole for the EU and the US.
Greece will miss a deficit target set just months ago in a massive bailout package, according to government draft budget figures released on Sunday, showing that drastic steps taken to avert bankruptcy may not be enough.

The dire forecasts came while inspectors from the International Monetary Fund, EU and European Central Bank, known as the troika, were in Athens scouring the country's books to decide whether to approve a loan tranche. Without that installment, Greece would run out of cash as soon as this month.

The 2012 draft budget approved by cabinet on Sunday predicts a deficit of 8.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) for 2011, well short of the 7.6 percent target.

The 2012 deficit is set to meet a nominal target of 14.6 billion euros, but at 6.8 percent of GDP it falls short of a target of 6.5 percent, because the economy will shrink further.

"Three critical months remain to finish 2011, and the final estimate of 8.5 percent of GDP deficit can be achieved if the state mechanism and citizens respond accordingly," the Finance Ministry said in a statement. . . .

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Hugh Hewitt Corrects the Record on the Washington Post Sliming Rick Perry on Race

Hugh Hewitt's piece is available here.

There is no hint of prejudice or race-baiting in Rick Perry's long career in the public eye. But the Washington Post puts the story of a fallen rock with a deeply offensive name at an obscure hunting camp on its front page in a stunning attempt to injure Perry by association with a name no one is quoted saying he ever used or did anything other than cause to have painted over.

The Post article has to be read in its entirety to grasp just how thin is the connection between Perry and the rock with the offensive place name, but here is the key line in the article: "Of those interviewed, the seven who said they saw the rock said the block-lettered name was clearly visible at different points in the 1980s and 1990s. One, a former worker on the ranch, believes he saw it as recently as 2008."

Many, many people were interviewed for the story. Only seven recall seeing the rock, and not one of them connect Rick Perry to it, nor do any of the people --either from among these seven or who knows how many more were contacted for the piece-- tie Rick Perry to offensive comments, language or actions. Though a lot of space is devoted to this story, no detailed reporting on what the seven saw and when they saw it is included, which allows for incredible supposition about the ambiguity to take root. Thus a story that could have major implications for the presidential campaign in 2012 is built on anonymous sources whose stories aren't even detailed. . . .

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Freerepublic removes post of my article

Until I get a reasonable response, no more posts by me on FreeRepublic. FreeRepublic's moderator refuses to respond to requests and has taken down my posts in the past. Now he has taken down the post that I have put up on my most recent Fox News piece ("Media Silence Is Deafening About Important Gun News") claiming that it isn't news worthy enough to be on their front page link. Fine. If he doesn't think that newly released crime data from Chicago showing how Chicago's crime rates have changed after the Supreme Court struck down their gun ban isn't "news," he could remove it from the front page, but it doesn't explain why he removes it completely from their site. From my article:

Newly released data for Chicago shows that, as in Washington, murder and gun crime rates didn't rise after the bans were eliminated -- they plummeted. They have fallen much more than the national crime rate. . . .

Personally, I am giving up posting there. If someone is able to get a response from the moderator with an explanation for why this finding isn't news worthy, let me know, but he hasn't responded to me in the past.


"23 retired union officials from Chicago stand to collect about $56 million"

Well, it only took 20 years to discover this part of the law. From the Chicago Tribune:

All it took to give nearly two dozen labor leaders from Chicago a windfall worth millions was a few tweaks to a handful of sentences in the state's lengthy pension code.

The changes became law with no public debate among state legislators and, more importantly, no cost analysis.

Twenty years later, 23 retired union officials from Chicago stand to collect about $56 million from two ailing city pension funds thanks to the changes, a Tribune/WGN-TV investigation found.

Because the law bases the city pensions on the labor leaders' union salaries, they are reaping retirement benefits that far outstrip the modest salaries they made as city employees. On average, their pensions are nearly three times higher than what the typical retired city worker receives.

No one from either the state Legislature or city government will take credit for the law, which passed in 1991, and the process of drafting pension legislation in Springfield is so shrouded in secrecy that there's no way of knowing exactly whom to hold responsible.

The Tribune and WGN-TV found that Senate President John Cullerton was one of only 10 lawmakers on the committee that inserted the changes into a much larger bill. He's also the only one who is still in office. . . .

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EPA rules closing plants, reducing productivity, raising prices

The WSJ has a detailed discussion available here.

From Roll Call:

The EPA’s Clean Air Act rules on mercury emissions from cement plants are set to roll out next month. The agency says the industry has had years to prepare for the new rules, and environmentalists say warnings of rampant job loss are wildly exaggerated.
But leading trade groups say the rules could be crippling.
“The timing of these EPA regulations couldn’t be worse,” O’Hare said, estimating 20 percent of cement plants would have to shut down, eliminating thousands of jobs at a time when business is already down from the recession.
Though the cement industry only employs about 15,000 Americans, such concerns have caught the attention of Republican leaders looking to highlight ways that regulations are stifling the economy. . . .

From CNN:
Spencer Weitman is the President of National Cement, which recently suspended construction of a new $350 million cement kiln in Ragland, AL due to regulatory obstacles. . . . .

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Senator Durbin attacks banks for charging a fee that he is forcing them to charge

Even the Chicago Tribune isn't very happy with Durbin on this one.

Sen. Dick Durbin must be forgetting that once you've dug yourself into a deep hole, you'd best stop shoveling.

How else to explain the Illinois Democrat's blustery reaction to the $5 a month that Bank of America Corp. plans to charge some of its customers who use debit cards? The charge, which other banks are likely to adopt, is a direct result of his lawmaking. Call it the Durbin Fee.

Last year, Durbin pushed an amendment to the Dodd-Frank financial regulation package that imposes a sharp cut in interchange fees, which banks charge retailers every time a customer swipes a bank debit card to buy something. That rule goes into effect Saturday. In essence, this strips money from banks and hands it to retailers, who will pay sharply lower fees. There's no guarantee that retailers will pass the savings on to customers.

Bankers told Durbin and his fellow lawmakers last year that the interchange fees subsidize free checking accounts and other services, including the convenient practice of making purchases with debit cards at no charge to the buyer. Slash fees to retailers, the banks said, and they would likely recoup the lost revenue by charging their customers for use of the cards. That's exactly what's happening now. . . .

UPDATE: Now this is too rich. Obama is going to try to stop the fee increase that he signed the bill that created it.

Responding to a question about Bank of America's recent decision to charge users a $5 fee for using a debit card, Obama said government should get involved and that he had worked to stop banks from charging hidden credit card fees. . . .

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Obama pushes so-called jobs bill, but Democrats say "no"

Co-sponsors for Obama's jobs plan as of October 2, 2011 (Senate, House)

So with no Democratic co-sponsors in either House and with the Democrats firmly in control of the Senate and they have been delaying bringing it up there, who does Obama attack? Why the Republicans of course.

Politico fails to mention the divisions within the Democratic party over the so-called "jobs bill."

President Barack Obama sent his $447 billion jobs bill to Congress nearly three weeks ago and, he said on Saturday that he wants it back.

“This jobs bill is fully paid for. This jobs bill contains the kinds of proposals that Democrats and Republicans have supported in the past,” Obama said in his weekly address to the nation. “And now, I want it back. It is time for Congress to get its act together and pass this jobs bill so I can sign it into law.”
Republicans have said that they agree with some of what’s in the American Jobs Act, and the president wants to know what those parts of the bill are. He also wants them to say what they’re opposed to.

“Are they against putting teachers and police officers and firefighters back on the job? Are they against hiring construction workers to rebuild our roads and bridges and schools? Are they against giving tax cuts to virtually every worker and small business in America?”

Echoing arguments he’s made since introducing the plan, the president said Washington should rise above politics and do what’s right for the American people, which — in his view — is passing the bill.

“I know one Republican was quoted as saying that their party shouldn’t pass this jobs bill because it would give me a win,” Obama said, referring to a quote published by POLITICO on Sept. 11 about Republican opposition to the bill that he’s cited several times since.

“Well, this isn’t about giving me a win, and it’s not about [Republicans],” Obama said. . . .

From the Washington Post:

In the House, it has been introduced as a bill by Rep. John B. Larson (D-Conn.). In the Senate, the bill has been introduced by Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.).

Neither bill has attracted any co-sponsors.

And, earlier this week, Reid said that the Senate would not take up the bill when it returns from a short recess. Instead, it would first take up a measure to punish China and other nations for currency ma­nipu­la­tion. That bill, in keeping with the Democrats’ strategy, is meant to help several individual senators in manufacturing states, where competition from China is blamed for local job losses.

What about the jobs bill? “We’ll get to that,” Reid told reporters.

So far, the White House has been unwilling to concede that the bill’s chances of becoming law are slim. On Thursday, press secretary Jay Carney said he would buy every reporter in the briefing room a drink if Congress had not taken action on the bill by year’s end.

“I utterly reject your premise,” Carney said, when a reporter said Obama’s bill had little chance of success on the Hill. “Members of Congress will have a lot of explaining to do when they go home at the end of the year if they’ve done nothing, nothing to address the urgent need to help our economy and create jobs. . . . Their constituents are demanding it.”

Meanwhile, even the Democratic controlled Senate isn't going anywhere with the bill in the near future.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said, at the moment, Democrats in Congress don’t have the votes to pass President Obama’s jobs bill . . . “The oil-producing-state senators don’t like eliminating or reducing the subsidy for oil companies,” Durbin said. “There are some senators who are up for election who say ‘I’m never gonna vote for a tax increase while I’m up for election, even on the wealthiest people.’ So, we’re not gonna have 100 percent of Democratic senators. That’s why it needs to be bipartisan and I hope we can find some Republicans who will join us to make it happen.” . . .

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Consumer confidence continuing to fall?

According to Rasmussen Reports:

The Rasmussen Consumer Index, which measures the economic confidence of consumers on a daily basis, dropped a point on Saturday to 61.3. Consumer confidence is down three points from a week ago, nine points from a month ago and 13 points from three months ago. . . .

Just 13 percent say that the economy is getting better.

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New documents reveal frequent direct contact between Obama WH and BATF agent in charge of "Gunwalker" case

This sure seems as if the Obama WH was in frequent direct contact with the BATF about the "Gunwalker" case. Reading all this I have the suspicion that this is just a way for the Obama people to bolster their claims about guns going to Mexico. From CBS:

Late Friday, the White House turned over new documents in the Congressional investigation into the ATF "Fast and Furious" gunwalking scandal.

The documents show extensive communications between then-ATF Special Agent in Charge of the Phoenix office Bill Newell - who led Fast and Furious - and then-White House National Security Staffer Kevin O'Reilly. Emails indicate the two also spoke on the phone. Such detailed, direct communications between a local ATF manager in Phoenix and a White House national security staffer has raised interest among Congressional investigators looking into Fast and Furious. Newell has said he and O'Reilly are long time friends.

Newly-released White House documents (pdf)

ATF agents say that in Fast and Furious, their agency allowed thousands of assault rifles and other weapons to be sold to suspected traffickers for Mexican drug cartels. At least two of the guns turned up at the murder scene of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry last December.

ATF Manager says he shared Fast and Furious with the White House

The email exchanges span a little over a month last summer. They discuss ATF's gun trafficking efforts along the border including the controversial Fast and Furious case, though not by name. The emails to and from O'Reilly indicate more than just a passing interest in the Phoenix office's gun trafficking cases. They do not mention specific tactics such as "letting guns walk."

A lawyer for the White House wrote Congressional investigators: "none of the communications between ATF and the White House revealed the investigative law enforcement tactics at issue in your inquiry, let alone any decision to allow guns to 'walk.'"

ATF Fast and Furious: Who at the White House knew?

Among the documents produced: an email in which ATF's Newell sent the White House's O'Reilly an "arrow chart reflecting the ultimate destination of firearms we intercepted and/or where the guns ended up." The chart shows arrows leading from Arizona to destinations all over Mexico.

Newell email (09.03.10) (pdf)
Arizona Gunrunner Impact Team chart (pdf)

In response, O'Reilly wrote on Sept. 3, 2010 "The arrow chart is really interesting - and - no surprise - implies at least that different (Drug Trafficking Organizations) in Mexico have very different and geographically distinct networks in the US for acquiring guns. Did last year's TX effort develop a similar graphic?"

O'Reilly email (09.03.10) (pdf)

The White House counsel who produced the documents stated that some records were not included because of "significant confidentiality interests." . . . .

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