Bret Baier has an excellent interview with Romney

Increasing unemployment insurance benefits to put people back to work?

Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis really seems to understand how economics works.

That's why I think the president's plan to come up with some alternatives like extending the payroll tax (?), extending U.I. (unemployment) benefits are all going to help put people back to work and also generate more activity at the local level so people will spend money. And that's what's the good thing in this report. People have confidence, they spent money this last month and I hope that we can continue on do that. . . .

Here is an alternative view.

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How have presidential approval numbers looked a year before the general election

Gallup presidential approval numbers a year before the presidential election.

-- Harry S. Truman: 54 percent.

-- Dwight Eisenhower: 78 percent.

-- Lyndon B. Johnson: 44 percent.

-- Richard M. Nixon: 50 percent.

-- Jimmy Carter: 51 percent.

-- Ronald Reagan: 54 percent.

-- George H.W. Bush: 52 percent.

-- Bill Clinton: 51 percent.

-- George W. Bush: 55 percent.

-- Barack Obama: 43 percent.


Price hikes, big operating deficits, and now even slower delivery

When a private company's products aren't selling does it raise prices and reduce quality? That is the way that government operates. Beyond ending Saturday delivery and raising prices, they are now saying that overnight delivery for even short differences is a thing of the past. From Fox News:

The Postal Service on Monday plans to formally propose eliminating "overnight standards" for first-class mail, as it makes sweeping changes in a bid to avoid insolvency.
Sue Brennan, Postal Service spokeswoman, confirmed to Fox News that the service is moving forward with the overnight standard change. If approved, it means first-class mail would generally take more than a day to reach its destination.
"For example, D.C. mail to Northern Virginia could take an additional day," she said. . . . .


How the US subsidies Europe through the IMF

Normally, the US share of the IMF costs are 17 percent, though it is my impression that the cost share here will be significantly higher. In any case, 17 percent of 600 billion euros is (102 billion euros = $137 billion at the current exchange rate of $1.34 to 1 Euro).

The IMF is preparing a 600 billion euro bailout for Italy in case the debt crisis worsens, Italian daily La Stampa reported citing IMF officials (via AFP).

The IMF would guarantee rates of 4 or 5 percent on the loan, far better than borrowing costs far better than the commercial debt market where yields have reached as high as 8 percent. . . .

Something earlier:

As Greece teeters on the brink of defaulting on its government debt and Italy appears a strong contender to be the fourth European country in need of a financial bailout, the head of one of the key organizations in the attempt to financially rescue Europe signaled it will very likely need to increase its bailout fund—something that the U.S. has contributed more than $100 billion to already.

In a little-noticed, but very significant, development at the fall meeting of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) this weekend, IMF Managing Director Christine LaGarde distributed a document to the organization’s steering committee warning that it will need more than the $384 billion now in its financial war chest to deal with the uncertain financial situation in Europe. . . .

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There will be fewer shortages of bone marrow

This will probably ensure that there will be some more people who won't die premature deaths. From the Wash Post:

A federal appeals court ruled Thursday that most bone marrow donors can be paid, overturning the government’s interpretation of a decades-old law making such compensation a crime punishable by up to five years in prison.

In its ruling, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said a technological breakthrough makes donating bone marrow a process nearly identical to giving blood plasma.

It’s legal — and common — to pay plasma donors. Therefore, the court ruled, bone marrow donors undergoing the new procedure can be paid as well and are exempt from a law making it a felony to sell human organs for transplants.

The unanimous, three-judge panel of the court did say it remains a felony to compensate donors for undergoing an older transplant method, which extracts the marrow from the donors’ bones. . . .



Solyndra in bad shape before Obama's May 25, 2010 visit

So Solyndra was in very bad financial shape even before Obama went there to praise the government investment. How could Obama not know that the IPO was in trouble? From Reuters:

In the weeks leading up to a visit by President Barack Obama to Solyndra on May 25, 2010, the California solar-panel maker was in crisis.
Prices for solar panels were in free-fall and the company's chief executive officer was bickering with customers unhappy with the amount of electricity produced by the cylindrical panels he invented, according to new e-mails released by Republicans investigating the now-bankrupt company.
An initial public offering was on the skids, and finally, there was a "mutiny" by the company's entire executive team, who flagged the crisis to the company's board of directors. . . .
The new emails highlight how the government backed a company that was in trouble from its early stages, giving more fuel to critics who believe the government threw good taxpayer money after bad.
Energy Secretary Steven Chu's top adviser on stimulus projects brushed aside White House questions about financial red flags ahead of Obama's May 25 visit. . . .

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Memo contradicts Obama DOJ claims

As if there weren't already enough contradictions to deal with. This from Fox News:

While federal officials publicly denounced a lone whistleblower and told Congress the Obama administration had done everything it could to stop guns from going to Mexico, administration officials had signs that Fast and Furious investigators were losing track of weapons, a new memo obtained exclusively by Fox News suggests.
The memo, written in early February by Agent Gary Styers with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, appears to corroborate allegations made a few weeks earlier by whistleblower ATF Agent John Dodson about the gunrunning probe. It also conflicts with a letter from Assistant Attorney General Ron Weich to Congress, in which he insisted, "The allegation ... that ATF ‘sanctioned’ or otherwise knowingly allowed the sale of assault weapons ... is false.”
Styers' memo to top ATF officials was dated Feb. 3, a day before Weich told Congress on Feb. 4 that Dodson's claims were false. Styers explained that Fast and Furious "divided and isolated agents," and the agent in charge called off surveillance. He detailed one instance in which agents monitoring a firearms transaction at a gas station were told they were too close to the scene -- while they repositioned, the buyer left the area without agents following.
"It is unheard of to have an active wiretap investigation without full time dedicated surveillance units on the ground," he wrote. . . .The memo was meant to describe conversations Styers had with staff for Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, after the senator's staff contacted him with questions about Fast and Furious. And it presents a starkly different portrait of the probe than that portrayed by the Feb. 4 letter from Weich -- that letter is at the center of the controversy on Capitol Hill.
And while Attorney General Eric Holder now admits Weich's letter was inaccurate, many in Congress feel deliberately misled. . . .Grassley has demanded to know who at Justice approved the Weich letter before it was sent out. So far, Justice has failed to comply, prompting Grassley to speak out Thursday afternoon on the Senate floor. . . .


What is this world coming to?: "TSA Stops Passenger Over Purse Design"

Can anyone possibly even for an instant think that this design on this purse is a real gun? This story and the picture are from News4Jax.com in Jacksonville, Florida (they have a video of the news story available here). I love the part of the story where it says "after agents figured out that the gun was a fake."

"She was like, 'This is a federal offense because it's in the shape of a gun,'" Gibbs said. "I'm like, 'But it's a design on a purse. How is it a federal offense?'"

After agents figured out the gun was a fake, Gibbs said, TSA told her to check the bag or turn it over.

By the time security wrapped up the inspection, the pregnant teen missed her flight, and Southwest Airlines sent her to Orlando instead, worrying her mother, who was already waiting for her to arrive at JIA.

"Oh, it's terrifying. I was so upset," said Tami Gibbs, the teen's mom. "I was on the phone all the way to Orlando trying to figure out what was going on with her. It was terrifying. I don't ever want to go through it again."

Vanessa and her mom said it's hard to believe anyone could mistake the design on the purse for a real gun because it's just a few inches in size and it's hollow, not to mention Vanessa has taken it on planes before. . . .

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Newest Fox News piece: What the New Unemployment Numbers Are Telling Us

My newest piece starts this way:

The new unemployment numbers are a lot worse than the headlines indicate. The news media breathlessly reports that 120,000 jobs were created in November, but the working age population increased by about 160,000 people. But with job creation not even keeping up with the number of people entering the work force, how is it possible for the unemployment rate to fall from 9.0 to 8.6 percent?

The explanation is actually pretty simple. People are only counted as unemployed as long as they are actively looking for work. The obviously good for it to fall is from people getting a job. It is bad reason is if people simply give up looking for work.

In November, the numbers could hardly have been worse -- 487,000 people simply gave up looking for work and left the labor force. It is the 6th worst report since the recession started 48 months ago. Even more startling, 5 of those 6 worst reports have occurred since the “recovery” supposedly started in June 2009 (See this link here). . . .

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487,000 people left the labor force in November

The unemployment rate fell because so many people gave up looking for work. The 120,000 job growth pales in comparison to the 160,000 monthly growth in the working age population and the number of people leaving the work force.

The monthly change in the number of people "not in the labor force" is available here.



Sachs' amazing claims don't seem to hold water

The Economist Magazine points out that there might be a few problems with Jeffrey Sachs phenomenal claims.

Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University argues that if public investment and foreign aid are big enough, they will boost household incomes, spurring savings and boosting local investment. They should also “crowd in” external investment by improving infrastructure.

Unlike most economists, Mr Sachs can put other people’s money where his mouth is. He set up the “millennium village project”, taking 14 places in rural Africa with about 500,000 people and, since 2006, making them the subjects of a $150m project run by his university and African governments.

The project—motto: “no single intervention is enough…we must improve them all”—carries huge hopes. Touring a village in Malawi, the UN’s secretary-general says he saw the potential of technologies such as smartphones and drip irrigation “to advance human well-being in ways that simply were not feasible even a few years ago”. George Soros, a financier, gave the project $47m and predicted that it would transform entire regions. . . .

The projects’ backers claim extraordinary results: a 700% increase in the use of antimalarial bednets; a 350% increase in access to safer water; a 368% increase in primary-school meal programmes. On closer inspection, though, these numbers turn out to be less dramatic. . . .

Michael Clemens of the Centre for Global Development, a think-tank, and Gabriel Demombynes of the World Bank says that a randomised trial is needed to disentangle what the millennium programme is doing from what is happening anyway. In such a trial, each village would be paired with a similar one not getting the same help—and the results compared. . . .

Now a Kenyan economist, Bernadette Wanjala of Tilburg University in the Netherlands, has raised further doubts about the project. She interviewed 236 randomly selected households in Sauri who had been offered the benefits and 175 randomly selected ones who had not. In a study with Roldan Muradian of Radboud University, she concluded the first group had raised their agricultural productivity by an impressive 70%. Yet she found that the impact on household income was “insignificant”, and that there had been little extra saving or investment. The villagers had grown more food—and eaten it. They became better nourished, but this did not affect the wider economy. . . .

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Obama breaks promise on horse slaughter law

Personally, I think that Obama is right to sign this legislation. It is better to have the horses put to death quickly then to have them suffer by being abandoned someplace. But this post isn't about that issue, it is about Obama breaking another campaign promise. From Andrew Malcolm, who is now at IBD.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, animal anti-cruelty activists sought then Sen. Barack Obama's support for "a permanent ban on horse slaughter and exports of horses for human consumption."

They were delighted to get an unequivocal "Yes" from the non-pet owner.

But that was then. This is now. Last month slipped into the Agriculture Department spending bill in the Republican House was a continuation of the inspection defunding. The Democratic Senate version wanted the horsemeat industry kick-started again.

In the conference committee, the Senate version won by a nose. And Obama quietly signed the death warrant legislation on Nov. 18. He was abroad again at the time. So the White House used a robot pen. . . .


Which private measure of total jobs is best?

The Street has this interesting article on two private measures of employment. The TrimTab estimate traditionally seems to be closer than the ADP number.

ADP's estimate compares with economists' consensus of 126,000, according to a survey by Bloomberg. TrimTabs Investment Research is even more cautious. The company said Wednesday that the U.S. economy likely added only 64,000 jobs in November . . .
How could two firms measuring employment come to such disparate figures? The difference between ADP's call of 206,000 and TrimTabs' 64,000 is a staggering 142,000. For some context, the Bureau of Labor statistics said the U.S. economy added only 80,000 jobs in October.
ADP says its estimate for private payrolls growth is derived from actual payroll data. Chances are that your paystub has the ADP logo in the top right corner, which means the firm is measuring jobs in the most direct way it can.
TrimTabs' employment estimates are based on an analysis of daily income-tax deposits to the U.S. Treasury from all salaried U.S. employees. Schnapp says that while the measure isn't perfect, it's a better view than a survey subject to revision. . . .
TrimTabs says estimates using tax deposits are historically more accurate than initial estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Schnapps says that once the government is through with revisions, TrimTabs' estimates are usually within 10% of the final figure.
So how did Schnapp react when she saw the ADP Employment Report show a substantially greater increase to private payrolls than her firm's estimates?
"It is frustrating because it moves the markets," she says of the ADP report. "One of us is going to be closer to the truth. Everyone looks at how close you are to the BLS. I can only call what the numbers are telling me." . . .
But as the chart below shows, the total employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't always match up perfectly to the private sector employment data ADP collects. . . .


Obama pushes new regulations to stop children working on family farms

Yet, more bizarre regulations from the Obama administration.

Under the proposed rules, according to the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, someone under 18 would not be allowed to do many chores for a neighbor or even their own family's farm if it's set up as a corporation or a business partnership.

Today, many family farms are legally structured as corporations or partnerships.

"It could take away a lot of opportunity," said Mayer, who also is executive director of Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin. . . .

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"'Massive blow' if GOP blocks payroll tax"

Does it matter that the Republicans also support this extension or that the idea for this type of cut originally came from Republicans? The only reason that there is a debate over this tax cut is because the Democrats are insisting on attaching it to a tax increase on other people. The Associated Press:

Blending governing with re-election politics, President Barack Obama roused a cheering northeast Pennsylvania crowd Wednesday as he warned of a "massive blow to the economy" if Republicans block a payroll tax extension.

Obama then contradicted this claim at a later talk the same day.

Later, in donor-rich New York City where he was raising money for his already flush re-election bid, he took a more conciliatory tone, acknowledging that Republicans such as House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky were also willing to extend the payroll tax, though not with a tax increase on millionaires.

"For the last couple of days Mr. Boehner and Mr. McConnell have both indicated that it probably does make sense not to have taxes go up for middle class families, particularly since they've all taken an oath not to raise taxes," Obama told about 50 donors at a Greenwich Village restaurant. "And so it's possible we'll see some additional progress in the next couple of weeks that can continue to help strengthen the economy." . . .

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Obama as tax cutter?

This is too funny. Remember Obama's promise:

"I can make a firm pledge. Under my plan, no family making less than $250,000 a year will see any form of tax increase. Not your income tax, not your payroll tax, not your capital gains taxes, not any of your taxes."

Even the liberal Politifacts.com finds that Obama has broken this promise multiple times.
-- "Smokers, tanning aficionados, the happily uninsured: More taxes coming at ya!"

Obama's new line is:

"I know you hear a lot of folks on cable TV claiming that I am this 'big tax and spend liberal.' Next time you hear that, you just remind the people who are saying it that since I've taken office, I've cut your taxes. Your taxes -- your taxes today, the average middle class family, your taxes today are lower than when I took office. Just remember that. We have cut taxes for small businesses, not once, not twice, but 17 times. The average family's tax burden is among the lowest it's been in the last 60 years. So the problem is not that we've been raising taxes. We've been trying to give families a break during these tough times."

Obama has lowered the average tax rates for some individuals (credits for college tuition and the earned income tax credit), but they are phased out with higher incomes raising people's effective marginal tax rates. But the claim to be lowering taxes for small businesses is amazing. He has had small targeted tax cuts for firms that make the types of investments that Obama wants. Obama wanted to raise their taxes multiple times but was only stopped by Republicans. He really wants to take credit for this? This is serious?

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An amusing story about how one person reacted to the increase in US gun ownership rates

From the email:

A recent Gallup U.S. Crime Poll survey shows that gun ownership in the U.S. has soared. Some 47% of American adults report they have a gun in their home or on their property up sharply from 41% a year ago and the highest recorded since 1993. For U.S. this side of the pond, we find these numbers absolutely staggering and somewhat scary. Had I known this before my trip, I might have purchased the executive, lightweight bullet proof vest that one of our Italian salesmen modeled for me on an earlier trip to Milan.

Two other things really stood out in the survey. Over the last two years gun ownership among Democrats (including Independents who lean towards the Democrats) surged a staggering 10 percentage points from 30% to 40%, while Republican ownership was essentially unchanged ... Second, the number of women who reported household gun ownership also surged by 10 percentage points to 43%, whereas male ownership was essentially unchanged. I'm really not sure what this all means, except clearly female Democrats appear to be a lot more uncomfortable with the reality of the Ice Age than male Republicans do.


Even Left wing Daily Kos worries that there is too much regulation of small business

This is a sufficiently unbelievable post at Daily Kos that I took a screen shot of part of it. However, it should be noted that I don't think that this post ever made their front page (see how few comments the post got), so they get only partial credit.


Obama threatens to veto any attempt to reform regulatory process

From the Politico:

"President Obama today threatened to veto the “Regulatory Accountability Act” (H.R. 3010), a bill the House is set to take up this week that would revamp the regulatory process. In a Statement of Administration Policy, the White House said the bill “would impose unprecedented procedural requirements on agencies that would prevent them from performing their statutory responsibilities. It would also create needless regulatory and legal uncertainty and increase costs for businesses, as well as state, tribal, and local governments, and further impede the implementation of commonsense protections for the American public.” The White House also threatened to veto the Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act of 2011.

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A discussion of the costs of abortion

Bill Flax has a useful discussion of the abortion debate and the costs of abortion available here.


Obama punishes BATF agent Whistleblowers in "Fast and Furious," rewards those who started the program

William Lajeunesse has another story on the "Fast and Furious" scandal:

Six months ago, several agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives stood before Congress to testify about the details of a U.S. government program that armed Mexico's largest drug cartel with thousands of assault rifles.
The administration denied it at the time and questioned the agents' integrity. The men were nervous and scared. They said they feared for their careers, their reputation and their families.
"Any attempt to retaliate against them for their testimony today would be unfair, unwise and unlawful," Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, warned the Department of Justice. . . .
And while President Obama has said the operation was a mistake and that "people who screwed up will be held accountable," the record so far does not bear that out. Those in charge of the botched operation have been reassigned or promoted, their pensions intact. But many of those who blew the whistle face isolation, retaliation and transfer.
Here's what has happened to the managers of the operation:
-- Acting ATF Chief Ken Melson, who oversaw the operation, is now an adviser in the Office of Legal Affairs. He remains in ATF's Washington, D.C., headquarters.
-- Acting Deputy Director Billy Hoover, who knew his agency was walking guns and demanded an "exit strategy" just five months into the program, is now the special agent in charge of the D.C. office. He, too, did not have to relocate.
-- Deputy Director for Field Operations William McMahon received detailed briefings about the illegal operation and later admitted he shares "responsibility for mistakes that were made.” Yet, he also stays in D.C., ironically as the No. 2 man at the ATF's Office of Internal Affairs.
-- Special Agent in Charge of Phoenix Bill Newell, the man most responsible for directly overseeing Fast and Furious, was promoted to the Office of Management in Washington.
-- Phoenix Deputy Chief George Gillette was also promoted to Washington as ATF's liaison to the U.S. Marshal's Service.
-- Group Supervisor David Voth managed Fast and Furious on a day-to-day basis and repeatedly stopped field agents from interdicting weapons headed to the border, according to congressional testimony. ATF boosted Voth to chief of the ATF Tobacco Division, where he now supervises more employees in Washington than he ever did in Phoenix. . . .

Remember the most transparent administration ever? Obama Admin seals records of murdered Border Agent in Fast and Furious Case. From the Weekly Standard:

And to think that Attorney General Eric Holder is getting testy about congressional calls for his resignation. After all, the Justice Department has nothing to hide, right?:

The Obama Administration has abruptly sealed court records containing alarming details of how Mexican drug smugglers murdered a U.S. Border patrol agent with a gun connected to a failed federal experiment that allowed firearms to be smuggled into Mexico.

This means information will now be kept from the public as well as the media. Could this be a cover-up on the part of the “most transparent” administration in history? After all, the rifle used to kill the federal agent (Brian Terry) last December in Arizona’s Peck Canyon was part of the now infamous Operation Fast and Furious. Conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the disastrous scheme allowed guns to be smuggled into Mexico so they could eventually be traced to drug cartels.

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Hollywood tries to rewrite History: J. Edgar Hoover

I trust that too many people don't take the new Eastwood film seriously. From the Washington Post:

Many former FBI agents share Schwartz’s pique with the film’s dropped hints of an abiding love between Hoover and aide Clyde Tolson, who is buried a few grave sites away. Historians agree that there is no evidence that either man was gay, and a request for comment from either Eastwood or screenwriter Dustin Lance Black was declined. . . .
The widespread unhappiness over Hollywood’s imagined rendering of Hoover’s rumored-but-never-proven personal life largely comes from men who started their FBI careers when Hoover was still in charge. Their devotion is undimmed almost four decades after his death. . . .
John Fox, the FBI historian, said speculation about Hoover’s sexuality never got very far. “Hoover was single all those years,” Fox said. “His closest friend and associate was another man. Periodically through the history of his tenure, there was an innuendo here, an innuendo there that he was homosexual. But that was the extent of it.” . . .


"Android handsets secretly logging keystrokes, SMS messages?"

CNET has this discussion:

In the nearly 20-minute video clip, Eckhart shows how software developed by mobile-device tracker Carrier IQ logs each keystroke and then sends them off to locations unknown. In addition, when Eckhart tried placing a call, Carrier IQ's software recorded each number before the call was even made.
Eckhart started making waves across the privacy community earlier this month after he dug into software developed by Carrier IQ that, he said, runs behind the scenes in Android-based devices to track what users are doing. Eckhart called the software a "rootkit," due to its ability to access device data while concealing its presence.
As one might expect, Carrier IQ took offense to Eckhart's claim, saying that its software is a "diagnostic tool" for companies to "improve the quality of the network, understand device issues, and ultimately improve the user experience." The company also sent Eckhart a cease-and-desist letter and demanded he issue an apology for calling its software a rootkit.
Just days later, Carrier IQ did an about face after the Electronic Frontier Foundation responded to its cease-and-desist letter, saying that Eckhart's comments and research are protected under the Copyright Act's fair use provision.
"Our action was misguided and we are deeply sorry for any concern or trouble that our letter may have caused Mr. Eckhart," the company said in response to the EFF's letter. "We sincerely appreciate and respect EFF's work on his behalf, and share their commitment to protecting free speech in a rapidly changing technological world." . . .


Did Henry Paulson as Treasury Secretary facilitate insider trading?

From Bloomberg:

. . . On the morning of July 21, before the Eton Park meeting, Paulson had spoken to New York Times reporters and editors, according to his Treasury Department schedule. A Times article the next day said the Federal Reserve and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency were inspecting Fannie and Freddie’s books and cited Paulson as saying he expected their examination would give a signal of confidence to the markets.
A Different Message
At the Eton Park meeting, he sent a different message, according to a fund manager who attended. Over sandwiches and pasta salad, he delivered that information to a group of men capable of profiting from any disclosure.
Around the conference room table were a dozen or so hedge- fund managers and other Wall Street executives -- at least five of them alumni of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS), of which Paulson was chief executive officer and chairman from 1999 to 2006. In addition to Eton Park founder Eric Mindich, they included such boldface names as Lone Pine Capital LLC founder Stephen Mandel, Dinakar Singh of TPG-Axon Capital Management LP and Daniel Och of Och-Ziff Capital Management Group LLC. . . .
Paulson explained that under this scenario, the common stock of the two government-sponsored enterprises, or GSEs, would be effectively wiped out. So too would the various classes of preferred stock, he said.
The fund manager says he was shocked that Paulson would furnish such specific information -- to his mind, leaving little doubt that the Treasury Department would carry out the plan. The managers attending the meeting were thus given a choice opportunity to trade on that information. . . .

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The limits to using an executive order to stop Obamacare

With Republican candidates promising to issue an executive order to stop Obamacare, a Congressional Research Service report suggestions some caution. From the Washington Times (Paige Winfield Cunningham, "Altering Health Law by Executive Order a no-go, Report says"):

Despite promises by Republican presidential candidates that they would gut key parts of President Obama’s health care law on their first day in office, Congress‘ nonpartisan research agency says that trying to repeal major components of the overhaul through executive order just won’t work.

The Congressional Research Service has weighed in on questions of whether a Republican successor to Mr. Obama could halt portions of the Affordable Care Act by wielding an often-controversial power reserved exclusively for the president.

Courts likely would view an executive order to block new initiatives mandated by the law — such as insurance exchanges and a massive Medicaid expansion — as massively overstepping a president’s constitutional boundaries, the agency concludes.

“Such an executive order would likely conflict with an explicit congressional mandate and be viewed ‘incompatible with the express … will of Congress,’ ” says the report, issued in response to a request by Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican. . . .

“You can’t get rid of the exchanges, or the Medicare cuts or the Medicaid expansion,” Mr. Coburn said. “But you could absolutely gut the vast majority of it.” . . .


Norway Massacre murder declared "insane," may only be confined until he is no longer declared insane

Pretty amazing. It seems pretty clear that just because this guy had nutty views he would not be declared insane in the US. He meticulously his attacks. He recognized that taking life was wrong (the article below says he acknowledged that the "attacks were atrocious"), but thought that it was justified because of his kooky political beliefs. By this standard, Mao, Stalin, Hitler and others would be deemed "insane" and not able to be punished. From the BBC:

Psychiatrists assessing self-confessed Norwegian mass killer Anders Behring Breivik have concluded that he is suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.

They believe he was in a psychotic state both during and after the twin attacks on 22 July that led to the deaths of 77 people and injured 151.

Their report must still be reviewed by a panel of forensic psychiatrists.

Breivik will still be tried in April but it seems likely he will be placed in psychiatric care rather than prison.

Breivik admits carrying out the attacks but has pleaded not guilty to charges, arguing that that the attacks were atrocious but necessary for his campaign to defend Europe against a Muslim invasion. . . .

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Democrat chances to retake US House of Representatives

Reading the tea leaves. From The Hill newspaper:

Frank became the 17th Democratic member of the House to decide not to run for reelection next year, compared to just six on the Republican side. All six GOP members are departing to run for another office, while only eight of the 17 Democrats have their eyes focused upward. . . .

Democrats were initially apprehensive that the once-per-decade redistricting process would prove catastrophic for the party, because Republicans controlled the map-drawing process in so many states.

But while the process is far from complete in many states, results thus far indicate redistricting will amount to a wash for both parties. . . .



You have to love Texas: "Strange town names decorate the Texas map"

There is of course a Lott, Texas. From the UPI:

Texas is host to hundreds of towns with strange names, including one dubbed Nameless, a folklorist says.

The town of Nameless got its handle after several other names for the proposed town were rejected by the U.S. postmaster in 1880, the San Antonio Express-News reported Sunday.

Finally, after the sixth rejection, a resident sent a note to the postmaster saying, "Let the post office be nameless and be damned!" And thus the town of Nameless was born.

Other towns adopted names for specific reasons, said Rhett Rushing, a folklorist at the Institute of Texan Culture.

Some residents named their towns after large cities as a way of raising attention, such as Atlanta, Detroit, Paris and Carthage.

Others were named after the town's roots, like Bovina, where cattle were shipped to market, and Muleshoe, which grew around a blacksmith's shop.

Happy, Joy, Utopia, Paradise, Eden, Placid, Prosper and Loyal Valley were all named with good feelings. . . .


The Federal Reserve's massive wealth transfer

The article neglects to mention that many banks were forced to take loans against their will. But it sure was a way to increase bank profits. From Bloomberg:

The Fed didn’t tell anyone which banks were in trouble so deep they required a combined $1.2 trillion on Dec. 5, 2008, their single neediest day. Bankers didn’t mention that they took tens of billions of dollars in emergency loans at the same time they were assuring investors their firms were healthy. And no one calculated until now that banks reaped an estimated $13 billion of income by taking advantage of the Fed’s below-market rates, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its January issue. . . .

The amount of money the central bank parceled out was surprising even to Gary H. Stern, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis from 1985 to 2009, who says he “wasn’t aware of the magnitude.” It dwarfed the Treasury Department’s better-known $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP. Add up guarantees and lending limits, and the Fed had committed $7.77 trillion as of March 2009 to rescuing the financial system, more than half the value of everything produced in the U.S. that year.

“TARP at least had some strings attached,” says Brad Miller, a North Carolina Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, referring to the program’s executive-pay ceiling. “With the Fed programs, there was nothing.” . . .

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New Zealand voter decisively reject Obama-type bash the rich policies

From Business Week:

National won 48 percent of votes, the most it has taken since 1951, beating the main opposition Labour Party on 27 percent, according to the Electoral Commission. . . .
[National] has pledged to sell part of the government’s stake in four energy companies and the national airline to help erase a NZ$18.4 billion ($13.6 billion) budget deficit. . . .
Support for Labour slumped from 34 percent in the 2008 election as voters rejected Goff’s plans to raise taxes on capital gains and high income earners. Labour, which secured 34 seats, opposes the proposed asset sales and pledged to remove sales tax on fresh fruit and vegetables to ease the cost of living for low income families. . . .