9/08/2012

Why the lawsuit planned against the Cinemark Aurora Movie Theater over the July 20th shooting could be much stronger



I think that the lawsuit by the New York law firm of Napoli, Bern, Ripka and Scholonik, the same firm that represented 9/11 first responders, is missing the mark on what they are looking to push here.  I would note the issue of gun-free zones.

'The victims here are some of the worst types of injuries that I have seen in over 37 years of practice,' said Mr Bern. 'I believe that the primary responsibility at this point rests with Cinemark.' 
Partnering with a local law firm, Mr Bern said they're currently investigating whether there were any past incidents at the theatre and whether they should have had more security on the night of the July 20 shooting. . . .
An earlier news story had this mention:
The Colorado movie theater at which 12 people were killed and 58 wounded by a gunman this month did not have any uniformed security guards on duty the night of the July 20 shootings, even though other US theaters had additional protection that night.Guards hired by movie theater complexes generally spend their time roaming the complex, checking bags and dealing with disputes, the Associated Press reports. While it is impossible to know whether guards would have found the weapons brought into the Aurora theater by James Holmes, they would have had the authority to check his bags and possibly prevent a tragedy.
Holmes entered the theater with an AR-15 assault rifle, a shotgun, and two .40 caliber Glock handguns.
Cinemark normally hire off-duty police guards to work at the Aurora theater on busy Friday and Saturday nights – except on the opening night of “The Dark Knight Rises,” during which the shootings occurred.
The theater complex also hired security on other nights on a case-by-case basis, depending on how much trouble was likely to occur. . . .
Some theaters, including Beaumont, had armed security guards during the first few days of the Batman showings. . . . .
The New York Daily News reported:
THE COLORADO movie theater where the “Dark Knight” massacre took place didn’t have uniformed security guards on duty that night, even though other theaters operated by the same company provided guards for the film’s premiere.
Cinemark provided off-duty police guards at the Aurora theater on busy Friday and Saturday nights, but the company declined to explain why there were no guards the night of the July 20 show. . . . .
But in this case the killer didn't bring the guns through the front theater doors.
A gunman clad in black SWAT gear came through an emergency door at a movie theater in Colorado early Friday, hurled two canisters of an unknown gas and opened fire on the stunned audience, killing at least 12 people and wounding 59 others who were watching the midnight premiere of a new Batman film. . . .
The Hollywood Reporter has this:
Mike Dorn, a security consultant in Macon, Ga., says hiring armed security officers and training employees to flag unusual behavior are likely the best answer. He cautions against using metal detectors and X-ray screeners, which could cost a theater as much as $1.5 million a year to operate including personnel. For Cinemark, which runs 298 U.S. theaters, that could cost $447 million if every theater was equipped -- not to mention annoying customers who would be subjected to airport-style screenings. If the machines aren't manned properly, there's little point. "This happened with schools," says Dorn. "They spent hundreds of millions of dollars with little or no improvement, and guns still got through." . . .
The video mentions that the law firm might also go after the people providing mental health care to the killer.  From the CBS affiliate in Denver:
Also in their crosshairs, the mental health professionals suspect James Holmes saw in the past.
“Either they did warn, and if they did, who did they warn. And if they failed to warn, should they have warned?”
That has been a central question in the case, and because of doctor-patient confidentiality, it’s something that may never be revealed.
Aurora police say no major incident like a shooting has ever happened before in the theater, but has happened in the nearby mall. Cinemark has yet to comment on the impending litigation. . . .
It is hard to believe that there will be enough past incidents at or near the movie theater that will create a pattern that the plaintiffs can successfully say represents negligence by the movie theater.  Looking at the other movie theaters in Aurora or east Denver is it unlikely that the Cinemark theater had less security than other theaters.  Possibly Mr. Bern thinks that the horror of this crime and the desire by a jury to make someone liable will be enough, but I doubt it.  Instead, why not go after the fact that this was the only theater that prevented people from protecting themselves.

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Some somewhat useful charts on the economy

Some of these charts don't put values in real terms and others don't put things in per capita terms.  Either the choice was political or the person picking the charts doesn't understand the issues involved or both may be true.

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"Mexico arrests suspect in Fast and Furious killing of Brian Terry"

One caught, four to go.  From Fox News:
Mexican federal police announced Friday that they have arrested a suspect in the killing of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry, the slaying at the center of the scandal over the botched U.S. gun-smuggling probe known as Operation Fast and Furious. 
Jesus Leonel Sanchez Meza is one of the five men charged with killing Terry in December 2010 during a shootout in Arizona near the Mexico border. One is on trial in Arizona and the other three remain fugitives. Sanchez was arrested Thursday in Sonora state. 
Two guns found at the scene were bought by a member of a gun-smuggling ring that was being monitored in the Fast and Furious investigation. Critics have knocked U.S. federal authorities for allowing informants to walk away from Phoenix-area gun shops with weapons, rather than immediately arresting suspects. . . .
BATF documents reveal admitted "relatiation" and "ethical violations" involving attacks whistleblowers.  

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Labor force participation rate falls for normal working age population and rises for those who normally would have been retired

Political Math reconfirms what I have pointed to previously.  It is pretty hard to look at this change in participation rates from January 2008 to April 2012 and say that the drop in the labor force is simply due to people voluntarily retiring early.  Also note how it is the younger people who are being hammered the hardest.  The BLS data is available here.

image

The trend continues.  Note that the WSJ has this for the latest monthly change.

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Another reason Amtrak is losing so much money

From the Washington Times (Jim McElhatton, "Fraud, abuse found rampant at Amtrak," Thursday, September 6, 2012):

One Amtrak employee spent much of his time in the office sending emails to women he met through a half-dozen online dating sites and claimed overtime pay for hours he spent officiating high school sporting events. Another worker may have received more than $100,000 in bogus overtime, records show.In what Amtrak’s watchdog agency is calling a host of “serious abuses,” an undercover surveillance operation during 2010 and last year has found multiple employees in the mid-Atlantic region’s communications and signal department claiming overtime pay for hours they didn’t work.Amtrak’s inspector general’s office declined to release its full report Thursday, citing what it called “sensitive information” in its findings of overtime fraud and abuses.But officials released a two-page summary this week saying they found that overtime abuses weren’t the only problem in the department.“We also identified other serious abuses, including misuse and potential theft of property, misuse of computer resources and a pervasive lack of supervision,” the summary said. . . .

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Rahm Emanuel claims that Auto Industry and GM are "thriving"?

I wrote this in May:
The “million jobs” contention is quite a stretch. Before filing for bankruptcy in July 2009, GM had 91,000 employees in the United States. You can reach a 400,000 total by assuming that all of GM’s jobs, as well as all the jobs of its parts suppliers and car dealers, would have been lost. Last year, employment in the entire automotive industry in the U.S. (counting Ford, Toyota, and other companies and their suppliers, in addition to GM and Chrysler) was only 717,000. . . .
You can see how the company is doing from the changes in its stock price over the last couple of years.  It hardly looks like a thriving company. Of course, Ford Motors was hurt by its competitors getting massive government subsidies.  In any case, Ford has also had some rough times, though over the whole two year period its stock might not have fallen by as much as GM's.



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With Greeks able to easily move to other countries, why is Greece's unemployment rate so high?

Greece's unemployment rate is 24.4%.  People can easily move to other countries within the EU for jobs.  So why don't they?  Could it be unemployment insurance benefits?  But people are only eligible for the benefits if they have already held a job and paid into the insurance system.  One would then think that the unemployment rate among older people would be high relative to that for younger ones, but the unemployment rate for young Greeks is 51.1%.  The ability to move should also be easier for younger people so that would also work to lower their unemployment rate.

Another possibility is that Greece just has high general levels of welfare benefits.  Greece recently went so far as wanting to classify paedophiles, compulsive gamblers, fetishists, exhibitionists and sado-masochists, and pyromaniacs as eligible for disability benefits.
First, Greece launched a large scale welfare upgrading, including an expansion of social insurance coverage and an increased access to health care in the 1980s.
While government revenue is approximately 37 per cent of GDP, the over-committed social welfare benefits have pushed up public current expenditure to nearly 90 per cent of its total revenue, leaving only a small remaining portion for interest payments and investment. . . .
From Bloomberg:
Clearly, the welfare-state expansion in Greece and Portugal was part of the reason these two countries ended up as clients of Europe’s bailout mechanisms. . . . Yet surprisingly few people in Europe have bothered to understand the role that the welfare state played in creating it.  . . . . State spending in Spain will have to shrink by at least a quarter; Greece should count itself lucky if the cut is less than a half of the pre-crisis expenditure level.  The worse news is that this is likely to be only the first round of welfare-state corrections. The next decade will usher Europe into the age of aging, when inevitably the cost of pensions will rise and providing health care for the elderly will be an even bigger cost driver. . . .
Robert Samuelson:
The threat to the euro bloc ultimately stems from an overcommitted welfare state. Greece's situation is so difficult because a low birth rate and rapidly graying population automatically increase old-age assistance even as the government tries to cut its spending. At issue is the viability of its present welfare state.
The main discussion in these articles are the extremely generous pension benefits that allow people to retire in their early 50s.  Yet, that won't explain why young Greeks won't move to other countries to look for work.  It would be nice to get detailed data in English of Greece government spending.  If someone has this, I would find it very helpful.

The New York Times described the necessary spending cuts as "the dismantling of a middle-class welfare state in real time."

A comparison of overall to youth unemployment rates is available here.

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Obama officials allegedly used threats of budget cuts by Republicans to push government employees to vote for Democrats

From Fox News:
Two federal agency supervisors allegedly warned employees earlier this year that a Republican takeover in Washington could threaten their jobs -- comments that some workers apparently took as guidance on "how to vote" and that one group claims may have violated federal law.  
Nonprofit watchdog Cause of Action wrote a letter Wednesday asking the Department of Transportation's inspector general to launch a probe into the incident, involving senior officials with the Federal Aviation Administration. The incident occurred in May during a meeting at the FAA's Seattle office, according to the letter.  
Emails obtained by FoxNews.com show one FAA employee recalling what John Hickey, deputy associate administrator for aviation safety, said at the meeting.  
"I would not be able to quote Mr. Hickey (sic) exact words but what I took out of it was, if the conservative (Republicans) gain control of congress then the FAA could be looking (at) as much as a 15% cut in budget and we (may) be looking at furloughs. If the liberal Democrats take control of congress then we would be looking at a flat budget," the email said. "In short if the Republicans win office our jobs may be (affected) ... if the Democrats win office then our jobs would not be (affected)." . . .
IF this occurred it would apparently a clear violation of the Hatch Act.
"The FAA takes Hatch Act violation allegations very seriously and will cooperate fully with any review of the allegations," the spokesman said.  
Dan Epstein, executive director of Cause of Action, called the alleged incident an "egregious abuse of power for political gain."  
"These career employees were led to believe their jobs were at risk if their political support did not line up with the agenda of the administration," he said. . . .
The Hill newspaper explicitly links the pressure to votes for Obama.
A government accountability group is accusing supervisors at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of urging the agency's employees to vote for President Obama and other Democrats in November. . . . 
CBS has a story available here.

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9/07/2012

Obama makes it easier for government to seize people's guns

From Nita Ghei in the Washington Times ("ATF’s latest gun grab," September 6):

The Obama administration is making it easier for bureaucrats to take away guns without offering the accused any realistic due process. In a final rule published last week, the Justice Department granted the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) authority to “seize and administratively forfeit property involved in controlled-substance abuses.” That means government can grab firearms and other property from someone who has never been convicted or even charged with any crime. 
It’s a dangerous extension of the civil-forfeiture doctrine, a surreal legal fiction in which the seized property — not a person — is put on trial. This allows prosecutors to dispense with pesky constitutional rights, which conveniently don’t apply to inanimate objects. In this looking-glass world, the owner is effectively guilty until proved innocent and has the burden of proving otherwise. Anyone falsely accused will never see his property again unless he succeeds in an expensive uphill legal battle. 
Such seizures are common in drug cases, which sometimes can ensnare people who have done nothing wrong. James Lieto found out about civil forfeiture the hard way when the FBI seized $392,000 from his business because the money was being carried by an armored-car firm he had hired that had fallen under a federal investigation. As the Wall Street Journal reported, Mr. Lieto was never accused of any crime, yet he spent thousands in legal fees to get his money back. . . .

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My newest op-ed at Fox News: Do the math, Mr. Obama, you've run out of excuses on jobs

My newest Fox News piece starts this way:
Despite a growing population, fewer Americans have jobs today than when Obama took office. And the jobs pay less, too. 
With the release today of the August job numbers, there are still 261,000 fewer Americans employed than when Obama became president. Almost a million -- 822,000 -- fewer Americans have permanent jobs. 
And we have fewer jobs despite there being many more Americans than four years ago. There are now over 8.4 million more working age Americans. Normally about 60 percent of the working age population have jobs. Thus, it would have been necessary to add about 130,000 jobs each month just to keep the share of the working age population employed from falling. 
The middle and upper income jobs lost during the recession are being replaced lower-wage jobs during Obama’s recovery. Middle income occupations accounted for 60 percent of the jobs lost from the first quarter of 2008 to first quarter of 2010, but 58 percent of the jobs created since then have been in lower-wage occupations. While we have lost jobs in skilled construction, real estate, and supervisors, most new jobs are in retail sales and food preparation. . . .



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9/06/2012

Obama adm thuggishly threatening polling company with Dept of Justice Suit?

Does this remind people of what happened with GM?  From Fox News:
Employees at the venerable Gallup polling firm suggested they felt threatened by Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod when he questioned the methodology of a mid-April poll showing Mitt Romney leading the president – according to internal emails published Thursday. . . . 
According to the email chain titled “Axelrod vs. Gallup,” the White House in addition asked that a Gallup staffer “come over and explain our methodology,” which was apparently perceived as a subtle threat. 
A Gallup official said in an email he thought Axelrod’s pressure “sounds a little like a Godfather situation.” . . .   
However, when Gallup declined to change its polling methodology, the Obama administration’s Justice Department revived a 2009 whistle-blower lawsuit against the firm by joining the suit, a senior Gallup official alleges. 
The suit was filed by former Gallup employee Michael Lindley, who claims the firm violated the False Claims Act by overcharging the federal government for its services. . . . .

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Politico: Obama's campaign far more negative than Romney's

One would think that this should be obvious.  Has the Romney campaign ever called Obama a felon?  Implied that Obama was responsible for a woman's death?  Or have Republican Senators called Obama a tax cheat?  From Politico:
. . . Obama and his top campaign aides have engaged far more frequently in character attacks and personal insults than the Romney campaign. 
With a few exceptions, Romney has maintained that Obama is a bad president who has turned to desperate tactics to try to save himself. But Romney has not made the case that Obama is a bad person, nor made a sustained critique of his morality a central feature of his campaign. 
Obama, who first sprang to national attention with an appeal to civility, has made these kind of attacks central to his strategy. The argument, by implication from Obama and directly from his surrogates, is not merely that Romney is the wrong choice for president but that there is something fundamentally wrong with him. 
To make the case, Obama and his aides have used an arsenal of techniques — personal ridicule, suggestions of ethical misdeeds and aspersions against Romney’s patriotism — that many voters and commentators claim to abhor, even as the tactics have regularly proved effective. . . . .

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WaPo Fact checking Bill Clinton’s speech


Glenn Kessler at the Washington Post has singled out some of these claims by Bill Clinton.

“He [Obama] has offered a reasonable plan of $4 trillion in debt reduction over a decade. For every $2.5 trillion in spending cuts, he raises a dollar in new revenues, 2.5 to 1. And he has tight controls on future spending. That’s the kind of balanced approach proposed by the Simpson-Bowles commission, a bipartisan commission. … It passes the arithmetic test.”
— Former President Bill Clinton
“We could have done better, but last year the Republicans blocked the president’s job plan, costing the economy more than a million new jobs. So here’s another job score. President Obama: plus 4.5 million. Congressional Republicans: zero.”
— Clinton
WaPo - "Obama’s jobs plan was more of a rhetorical device, aimed at Republicans, rather than a real plan."
“During this period, more than 500,000 manufacturing jobs have been created under President Obama. That’s the first time manufacturing jobs have increased since the 1990s.”
— Clinton
WaPo - "Clinton is referring to the period since February 2010, the administration’s preferred date for counting employment figures. If you count from the beginning of Obama’s term, Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that manufacturing jobs have declined by more than 500,000. Manufacturing jobs have been on a long steep decline since the middle of Clinton’s term, with some 2 million jobs lost during the recession that started at the end of George W. Bush’s term."
“The administration agreed to give [welfare] waivers to those governors and others only if they had a credible plan to increase employment by 20 percent and they could keep the waivers only if they did increase employment.”
— Clinton
See my previous post available here.


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Multiple victim public shooting in France - four dead, two injured

The four and eight-year-old sisters have survived.  The four-year-old hid under her dead mom, and the eight-year-old was shot three times and is in critical condition. 
A four-year-old girl miraculously survived a shooting in the French Alps that left four people dead by curling up under the bullet-riddled corpses of her mother and grandmother, officials said Thursday. 
The little girl spent eight hours concealed on the back seat of her family's car following a mysterious and brutal gun attack which also left her elder sister seriously injured and killed a passer-by. 
Her father, who was found dead in the driver's seat, was identified Thursday as Saad al-Hilli, a 50-year-old born in Baghdad but resident in Claygate, Surrey in the southeast of England. 
The fourth man who died is believed to be a local who happened to be cycling past the scene of the crime. . . . 
There is some discussion of this being a professional hit, but it seems unlikely that a professional hit man would leave potential witnesses.

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Great advertisement that makes an accurate economic statement



Thanks to Steve Bronars for finding this.

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US's competitiveness ranking has slipped from 1st in 2008 to 7th in 2011

Unfortunately, the article doesn't mention where we were ranked number 1 by the World Economic Forum from 2004 to 2008.  From the Wall Street Journal:
Northern European countries topped the overall ranking of a global competitiveness report released Wednesday by the World Economic Forum, as the United States slipped for the fourth year in a row. . . . .
This year's survey showed the U.S. fell to seventh position from fifth in the global ranking but the country remains an innovation powerhouse and its markets work efficiently, the WEF said.
Switzerland took the top post for the fourth consecutive year, while Singapore remained in second position followed by Finland, overtaking Sweden which dropped to fourth place. . . .
See more on the WEF ranking here.  A copy of their latest report is available here.

The Heritage/WSJ rankings are available here: 2007 (p. 9), 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012.

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Democrats views from their National Convention on fairness and capitalism


Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren: I'm here tonight to talk about hard-working people: people who get up early, stay up late, cook dinner and help out with homework; people who can be counted on to help their kids, their parents, their neighbors, and the lady down the street whose car broke down; people who work their hearts out but are up against a hard truth—the game is rigged against them. . . .People feel like the system is rigged against them. And here's the painful part: they're right. The system is rigged. Look around. Oil companies guzzle down billions in subsidies. Billionaires pay lower tax rates than their secretaries. Wall Street CEOs—the same ones who wrecked our economy and destroyed millions of jobs—still strut around Congress, no shame, demanding favors, and acting like we should thank them.  . . . We just don't want the game to be rigged. . . . No, Governor Romney, corporations are not people. People have hearts, they have kids, they get jobs, they get sick, they cry, they dance. They live, they love, and they die. And that matters. That matters because we don't run this country for corporations, we run it for people. . . . For years, families had been tricked by credit cards, fooled by student loans and cheated on mortgages. . . .[President Obama] believes in a country where nobody gets a free ride or a golden parachute. . . .Where no one can steal your purse on Main Street or your pension on Wall Street. . . .


Democratic convention delegates in favor of banning or capping corporate profits. 




Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, has a different view on this: "We [workers] are the ones who built America. We are the ones who build it every single day — because it is our work that connects us all."


My take: Workers getting paid according to their productivity.  Firms sell their products for what people are willing to pay for them.  In a free market economy, people get paid in accordance with the value that they provide others.  Government rearranges those deals and takes money from those who offered the better deals and thus made profits to those who didn't have as much to offer others.


Meanwhile, the big surprise is: "U.S. Competitiveness Slips."  
Northern European countries topped the overall ranking of a global competitiveness report released Wednesday by the World Economic Forum, as the United States slipped for the fourth year in a row. . . . This year's survey showed the U.S. fell to seventh position from fifth in the global ranking but the country remains an innovation powerhouse and its markets work efficiently, the WEF said. . . .

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The Obama Campaign: No wonder some cities are having a hard time paying their bills

Obama doing his part to make life tough for some local governments.  Obama's campaign apparently comes before compassion for residents.

. . . The Portsmouth City Council voted 5-4 on Tuesday to bill the Obama campaign, Portsmouth Patch reported, following a fierce debate over additional security costs the city will incur during his visit -- which is also forcing three schools to close due to logistical challenges, according to local press reports. 
The president and first lady Michelle Obama are expected to hold a campaign event Friday at Strawbery Banke Museum, along with Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden. 
Because the visit will require several road closures, the Portsmouth School Department announced it would cancel school for the day -- a decision that has angered many parents, especially those who must hire babysitters to watch their children, SeacoastOnline.com reported. 
"I just think it's unbelievable," parent Kathy Logan told the website. "All of a sudden, the president is coming to Portsmouth and everything has to shut down. I don't think it's right."
She said she blames the Obama campaign. 
"I don't think the school department had much of a choice," she said. "I love being in New Hampshire. I love the fact that the politicians come through the state. I think we're so lucky, but I just don't think you shut down your whole school system." . . .
The Romney campaign is apparently having a nearby event later in the day so as to avoid some of these costs on the locals.  My advice is for Portsmouth should bill the Obama campaign for these costs, but if they do they should get an ironclad agreement to ensure that they will get paid.  From a recent Fox News piece:
The Democratic National Committee has informed a Connecticut town it will not be reimbursed for the thousands of dollars the city spent on costs for President Obama's fundraising visit earlier this month.  
Gordon Joseloff, the first selectman of Westport, says he was informed this week the town's request to have the DNC and Obama for America cover the $14,812 the city paid in police and fire overtime was denied.  
The president traveled to the area on Aug. 6 to attend a fundraiser in Stamford and a $35,800 per person dinner at the Westport home of movie producer Harvey Weinstein. . . . 

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New Audio Book version released for "Debacle: Obama's War on Jobs and Growth and What We Can Do Now to Regain Our Future"

The audio version of the book is available here.  Some past coverage of my book is available here.

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Vote Fraud in Arkansas

Well, at least we know that there are no cases of vote fraud.  No one would go to the trouble of trying to rig an election.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - A Democratic state legislator from east Arkansas, his father and two campaign workers pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiracy to commit election fraud after federal prosecutors said the lawmaker's campaign bribed absentee voters and destroyed ballots in a special election last year. 
Prosecutors said Democratic Rep. Hudson Hallum of Marion, Kent Hallum, Phillip Wayne Carter and Sam Malone acknowledged that they participated in a conspiracy to bribe voters to influence absentee votes in the Arkansas District 54 primary, runoff and general elections in 2011. The four were released pending a sentencing hearing. 
"In a nation in which every person's vote matters, protecting the integrity of the electoral process from those who seek to win office by cheating the system is critical," Assistant U.S. Attorney Jane Duke said in a statement released by her office. "Voter fraud schemes such as that carried out in the 2011 District 54 race have the devastating effect of eroding public confidence in elected officials and disenfranchising voters." . . .
Here is also another interesting side note from Colorado.
. . . Democrats have launched yet another specious attack on Colorado's Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler after his office mailed letters to several thousand registered voters suspected of being non-citizens.
They were under suspicion because they had applied for a driver's license using non-citizen identification. Some may have become citizens since then, or not, but all have been asked to prove they're legally qualified to vote or, otherwise, have their names removed from registration lists.
While this seems perfectly reasonable, Democratic Rep. Crisanta Duran has theatrically accused Gessler of devious, partisan motivations. Her evidence? Of the 3,903 letters sent, only 486 went to registered Republicans, while 1,566 went to Democrats and 1,794 to independents. Therefore what? Gessler explains there was no manipulation; it's just the way the list played out. Couldn't it innocently be that Republicans in Colorado are simply less likely to have applied for driver's licenses with non-citizen identification?
Piling on, Democratic Party chairman Rick Palacio criticized Gessler for sending out the letters in a "rushed process" so close to the election. This is hypocritical chutzpah on steroids since it was Barack Obama's Department of Homeland Security that stalled for months in cooperating with Gessler's request for access to its database for verifying citizenship. . . . 

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Three completely privately run cities being set up in Honduras

I assume that this is the project that Patri Friedman (David Friedman's son) is involved with.  It is presumably a lot cheaper than the old sea steading concept, but it does run the risk that the Honduras government could change and not honor its agreement (though I assume that the private investors feel that they have an ironclad agreement and some type of collateral).  If competition can attract people from the rest of the country to live there, the project could succeed even if they don't get people from the rest of the world to move there.
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) -- Investors can begin construction in six months on three privately run cities in Honduras that will have their own police, laws, government and tax systems now that the government has signed a memorandum of agreement approving the project. 
An international group of investors and government representatives signed the memorandum Tuesday for the project that some say will bring badly needed economic growth to this small Central American country and that at least one detractor describes as "a catastrophe." 
The project's aim is to strengthen Honduras' weak government and failing infrastructure, overwhelmed by corruption, drug-related crime and lingering political instability after a 2009 coup. . . .

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9/05/2012

Just too funny, Democrats make problem worse by amending platform to include the word God and reference to Jerusalem, showing half the Dems disagree


JHPolitics shows an audio test of the two sides in one of the three votes.


So how is the media going to report this?  And how hard are they going to push the story if they do report it?  The AP has this:
Embarrassed by Republicans, Democrats amended their convention platform Wednesday to add a mention of God and declare that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.
Many in the audience booed after the convention chairman, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, ruled that the amendments had been approved despite the fact that a large group of delegates objected. He called for a vote three times before ruling. . . .
The LA Times has this:
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa might have heard two-thirds of delegates in the Time Warner Cable Arena approve changes to the Democratic Party platform early in the proceedings Wednesday night. But some delegates who were on the floor weren’t so sure he got the count right. 
“I think it failed,” said Don Kershner, a delegate from Boise who said it sounded to him — sitting in the opposite end of the arena from the speaker’s platform — that at least 50% of delegates opposed the changes. Kershner was one of the only delegates from Idaho in the arena when the changes were made — itself a problem, he said. But he said he thought the party should have left well enough alone. . . . 
President Obama personally had a hand in getting the language reinstated. . . . 
The notion that an incumbent president who ran unopposed doesn't control everything that goes in the platform simply doesn't seem credible.  The fact that the LA Times takes this claim unquestioningly is disappointing.  At around 10 PM Wednesday night, Jim Glassman tweeted this:



UPDATE: At 9:45 AM the morning after the controversy here are the way the websites looked for Fox, CNN, NBC News, and New York Times (Click to make pictures larger).  Neither CNN nor the New York Times thought that this event was newsworthy enough to make their website.



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More evidence of the continuing poor economy

From the WSJ:
. . . On Tuesday, the Institute for Supply Management said industrial production contracted in August for the first time since May 2009 as overall activity slowed for the third consecutive month.Labor Department report Wednesday showed manufacturing productivity grew just 0.1% in the second quarter — the weakest gain since productivity declined a year earlier.
A slowdown at factories could be a troubling sign for Federal Reserve officials as they debate infusing another round of stimulus into the economy.
The manufacturing sector has been a steady jobs engine during much of the recovery, adding 233,000 jobs last year and 182,000 through July of this year. . . .
Meanwhile, CNN's "fact check" doesn't get around to mentioning that there are fewer jobs now than when Obama became president until the last paragraph.
The figure of 4.5 million jobs is accurate if you look at the most favorable period and category for the administration. But overall, there are still fewer people working now than when Obama took office at the height of the recession. 

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Democrats' mindset: "The Government Is The Only Thing We All Belong To"

Fundraiser who pushed Solyndra loan favored guest at Dem National Convention

From ABC News:
. . . The Obama campaign rolled out the red carpet this week for a former top Energy Department official who was at the center of the ill-fated government loan to Solyndra, a California solar panel firm that wound up in bankruptcy. . . . 
Spinner was last in the headlines in October, when emails surfaced showing he had pushed for the Solyndra loan from his post in the Energy Department, apparently in an effort to score the loan as a political victory for President Obama.   
"How hard is this? What is he waiting for?" Spinner wrote in one of them. "I have OVP [the Office of the Vice President] and WH [the White House] breathing down my neck on this." . . . 
ABC News made repeated attempts to interview Spinner as the Solyndra saga unfolded, and he declined. When he was approached by ABC News on the convention floor Monday, he bolted for an exit. A DNC employee blocked ABC News reporters from following Spinner as he broke into a run. "You can't follow people," the aide said, as he held up his arms to keep the camera from filming Spinner as he left the venue. . . . .

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Austan Goolsbee continues to make outrageous claims

Goolsbee's halting discussion here seems consistent with even him being uncomfortable with the claims that he is making.


Austan Goolsbee: Well, the milestone of the government debt has virtually nothing to do with the reasons that the deficits have been large in the last two years.  The long run fiscal challenge facing the country, as you have highlighted many times, are associated with the aging of the population, the rise of health care costs, and the choices that we have made about tax rates. . . . 
The fact that the Congressional Budget Office is saying that the deficit is going to be record breaking before Obama has ever gotten into office is, I think, a little indicative of what the true reasoning of the increase in the deficit is.  Which is that we had the worst economic downturn of our lifetimes. . . . 
And there the Romney Plan that they have outlined would make that substantially worse is $3 to $5 trillion in tax cuts that you try to pay for in addition to whatever deficit reduction that you try to have . . . 
Neil Cavoto: They do spur growth . . . 
Austan Goolsbee: Depending on what rates they are they can spur some growth. . . .

Ironically, just a few days ago the message from the Obama administration was that we can't cut the deficit now because of the Keynesian arguments that doing so would hurt the recovery.

1) The aging population can't explain the deficit over the last two years.  In 2008, Social Security and Medicare as a percentage of total Federal government spending was 33.8% (see Table B-81).  In 2012, it is supposed to be 33.2%.  Thus they haven't even gone up as fast as the rest of government spending.

2) Similarly if you add together Medicare and the categories of spending designated at "Health," their share of Federal spending is again flat: 22.5% in 2008 to 22.3% in 2012 (see Table B-81), and that is despite Obama expanding health care even outside of Obamacare with the $33 billion State Children's Health Insurance Program.  Obamacare appears to have not only increased the costs of insurance (see also here), but it has also greatly increased government spending (hardly controlling spending as Goolsbee claims that he is concerned with doing).

3) Government spending as a share of GDP soared under Obama.  See a discussion here.  Note that the last year that Republicans controlled both the presidency and the congress the 2007 budget deficit was $160.7 billion (see Table B-78).  This discussion is also relevant for the second paragraph.  I have previously written up a response to the CBO point and I will link to it here when I find it.

The rest of Goolsbee's discussion here is quite misleading.  His attacks on the Republicans not making an agreement ignores the fact the tax increases are to go into effect now, but the spending cuts are delayed for years.  There is no way to bind future congresses to ensure that those spending cuts will be made.  In addition, American's taxes are already extremely high compared with other countries.

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Enough of this myth that Obama grew up in poverty

Michelle Obama paints Barack as someone who grew up in poverty.
You see, even though back then Barack was  Senator and a presidential candidate…to me, he was still the guy who’d picked me up for our dates in a car that was so rusted out, I could actually see the pavement going by through a hole in the passenger side door…he was the guy whose proudest possession was a coffee table he’d found in a dumpster, and whose only pair of decent shoes was half a size too small. . . .
Yet, here is a guy who attended the Punahou School in Hawaii from fifth through twelfth grades.  This school is often described as the school for the elite in Hawaii.  During the 2012-2013 school year tuition is $19,200, though much of the cost is covered by the school's large $174 million endowment.  

Michelle and Barack met when he was a summer associate at Sidley & Austin (he was between his first and second years at the Harvard Law School).  It is possible that Barack didn't buy a fancy car because he only needed something for the summer or that he picked up a cheap table that someone else had thrown out for a similar reason, but summer associates at Sidley & Austin are paid extremely well.  They are not living in poverty.  He was attending Harvard Law School at the time.  Life was not difficult for him.

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9/04/2012

Useful tool for comparing publicly held debt across countries

The Economist Magazine has this very useful tool.  Publicly held debt is the only reasonable way to make these comparisons (that is excluding debt that the government owes to itself).

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Why the "Fact Checkers" are wrong about Obama's welfare reforms

Mickey Kaus has this:
. . . the oft-cited CNN-”fact check” of Romney’s welfare ad makes a big deal of HHS secretary Sebelius’ pledge that she will only grant waivers to states that “commit that their proposals will move at least 20% more people from welfare to work.” CNN swallows this 20% Rule whole in the course of declaring Romney’s objection “wrong” . . . 
Turns out it’s not as big a scam as I’d thought it was. It’s a much bigger scam. For one thing, anything states do to increase the number of people on welfare will automatically increase the “exit” rate–what the 20% rule measures–since the more people going on welfare, the more people leave welfare for jobs in the natural course of things, without the state’s welfare bureaucrats doing anything at all. Raise caseloads by 20% and Sebelius’ standard will probably be met. (Maybe raise caseloads 30% just to be sure.) So what looks like a tough get-to-work incentive is actually a paleoliberal “first-get-on-welfare” incentive. But the point of welfare reform isn’t to get more people onto welfare. . . .

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Obama used landmark lawsuit to force banks to make subprime loans to those who couldn't afford them

With all the false claims about so-called predatory lending, we may have found the person initially responsible for the problem.  From the Daily Caller:

President Barack Obama was a pioneering contributor to the national subprime real estate bubble, and roughly half of the 186 African-American clients in his landmark 1995 mortgage discrimination lawsuit against Citibank have since gone bankrupt or received foreclosure notices. 
As few as 19 of those 186 clients still own homes with clean credit ratings, following a decade in which Obama and other progressives pushed banks to provide mortgages to poor African Americans. 
The startling failure rate among Obama’s private sector clients was discovered during The Daily Caller’s review of previously unpublished court information from the lawsuit that a young Obama helmed as the lead plaintiff’s attorney. [RELATED: Learn about the 186 class action plaintiffs] 
Since the mortgage bubble burst, some of his former clients are calling for a policy reversal. 
“If you see some people don’t make enough money to afford the mortgage, why would you give them a loan?” asked Obama client John Buchanan. “There should be some type of regulation against giving people loans they can’t afford.” . . .

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Not only have the total number of jobs fallen, but what jobs are being created are low paying ones

There are still over 316,000 fewer jobs than when Obama became president.  What has grown are temporary service sector jobs -- we have 892,000 fewer permanent jobs than when Obama became president.  People have also noted how family income has fallen.  While that drop in family income might be occurring simply because of the drop in the number of people working, not surprisingly, wages have also been falling.  
“The overarching message here is we don’t just have a jobs deficit; we have a ‘good jobs’ deficit,” said Annette Bernhardt, the report’s author and a policy co-director at the National Employment Law Project, a liberal research and advocacy group. 
The report looked at 366 occupations tracked by the Labor Department and clumped them into three equal groups by wage, with each representing a third of American employment in 2008. The middle third — occupations in fields like construction, manufacturing and information, with median hourly wages of $13.84 to $21.13 — accounted for 60 percent of job losses from the beginning of 2008 to early 2010. 
The job market has turned around since then, but those fields have represented only 22 percent of total job growth. Higher-wage occupations — those with a median wage of $21.14 to $54.55 — represented 19 percent of job losses when employment was falling, and 20 percent of job gains when employment began growing again. 
Lower-wage occupations, with median hourly wages of $7.69 to $13.83, accounted for 21 percent of job losses during the retraction. Since employment started expanding, they have accounted for 58 percent of all job growth. 
The occupations with the fastest growth were retail sales (at a median wage of $10.97 an hour) and food preparation workers ($9.04 an hour). Each category has grown by more than 300,000 workers since June 2009. . . .
A copy of the National Employment Law Project report is available here

Meanwhile, the Cleveland Fed reports that the gap between output per hour and labor compensation is much larger than any time since WWII.  Since the recession hit, labor income share (compensation as a percentage of output) in the nonfarm business sector has fallen from 62% to below 58%.  There is no doubt that technological change and globalization have contributed to these trends.  The clearest path to mitigating these trends is better education and training programs as well as more investments by companies.

Obviously the key is worker productivity at the margin, which is difficult to measure.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports average output per hour (which is higher than marginal output per hour) and has shown that wages and average productivity have diverged over the past two decades.  Is the gap due to the costs of greater regulation?  Are firms afraid to make permanent hires for fear that they may face large costs in firing these workers in the near future?

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With North Korea possibly dumping communism, is there any place left?

North Korea's agricultural reforms are only about 80 years behind those in the former USSR, where private plots were created under Stalin and later encouraged under Khrushchev, but it is still a start.  While private plots in the former USSR may have accounted for just a tiny fraction of the farm land (just 2.8 percent in 1974), they made up a huge percentage of total agricultural output.  In 1974, 41% of eggs, 32% of milk, and 64% of potatoes were produced on these private plots.  You would think that the benefits of private property would then be obvious to even many of the most loyal socialists/communists.  Hopefully, this change in North Korea will eventually have the same impact.  Meanwhile, Obama wants to take the US in the opposite direction in areas such as health care.

From the Washington Post:
Under new leader Kim Jong Eun, North Korea in recent months has shifted its rhetoric to emphasize the economy rather than the military and is introducing small-scale agricultural reforms with tantalizing elements of capitalism, according to diplomats and defector groups with informants in the North. 
The changes, which allow farmers to keep more of their crops and sell surpluses in the private market, are in the experimental stage and are easily reversible, analysts caution. But even skeptical North Korea watchers say that Kim’s emerging policies and style — and his frank acknowledgment of the country’s economic problems — hint at an economic opening similar to China’s in the late 1970s. . . .
Yet, some caution is in order and the North Korean reforms are different from those in the former USSR.  In particular, farmers can only keep for private use output above their quotas.  One problem with this is that farmers might feel that if they exceed their quotas, the government could come back and simply raise their quotas in the future.  The farms are still collectively run, though the free-riding problem might be somewhat reduced.
Those measures, according to the reports, reduce the size of cooperative farm units from between 10 and 25 farmers to between four and six. The decrease is critical because it allows one or two households, not entire communities, to plan and tend to their own farms. . . .  

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So much for the new tone Obama and the Democrats keep calling for, Prominent Dem compares Paul Ryan to Nazis

What would the media be saying if a prominent Republican publicly linked a Democratic Vice Presidential candidate to the Nazis?  Obviously, Democrats have made these types of claims in the past.  The media instead goes nuts about misleading claims that the Tea Party were calling Democrats Nazis.
California’s Democratic state party chairman has compared GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan to Joseph Goebbels. 
“They lie and they don’t care if people think they lie ... Joseph Goebbels — it’s the big lie, you keep repeating it,” John Burton, the state party chairman, said in an interview with two California reporters on Monday. 
Burton was criticizing Ryan's address to the Republican convention when he made the comparison to Hitler's propagandist. . . .
UPDATE: The "head" of the Kansas delegation to the Democratic National Convention had this to say:
She said the purpose is to suppress the vote, especially among Democratic-leaning constituencies such as elderly voters. And she scorned the Republicans’ contention that the laws are designed to combat voter fraud.
“It’s like Hitler said, if you’re going to tell a lie, tell a big lie, and if you tell it often enough and say it in a loud enough voice, some people are going to believe you,” Lehman said. . . .

Read more here: http://www.kansas.com/2012/09/04/2474417/kansas-delegates-head-to-nc-for.html#storylink

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Associated Press piece sensationalizes Online concealed carry course

The Associated Press continues its tradition of misleading and highly sensationalistic gun pieces.  The problem is that this is not new.  There are lots of states that let out of state residents get permits and many of them don't require training.  The news story should have made two points: 1) that other states without any training at all such as Pennsylvania (the biggest state with 820,000 permits issued) and New Hampshire allow out of state permit holders and 2) there is no history of problems regarding permits from these states (the revocation rates are the same across states with and without training requirements).  This article, with all its implications about threats to safety, really should have provided some context.  The Associated Press piece starts this way:
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia is issuing a rising number of concealed-carry gun permits to people who live in other states in a trend that may be helped along by online gun classes. 
The commercial courses allow applicants to seek a permit from Virginia that is valid in their state, but without having to meet tougher requirements their home states may impose, such as firing a gun with an instructor. 
Virginia State Police issued 1,632 concealed-carry permits to nonresidents through the first half of 2012, topping the previous year’s total of 1,321 nonresident permits. There was no corresponding increase in demand for resident permits, with just under half the previous year’s number reached by mid-2012. . . .

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9/03/2012

Will future Olympics have fierce debates over the length of artificial limbs?

Oscar Pistorius made quite the splash in the London Olympics by being the first person who had his legs amputated to compete in the track races.  Apparently, if one believes Mr. Pistorius, not all artificial limbs are the same.   Longer limbs apparently make one go faster. So how is the Olympics Committee to decide the proper length of the artificial limbs?  The longer they make them, the better the chance given to win the race.  How high should the Olympics committee make that probability?  From the UK Guardian:
"Don't focus on the disability," Oscar Pistorius told the world before these Games. "Focus on the ability." How right he was. There was no room for sentimental thoughts or emotional notions after the T44 200m final. 
It was not a procession or a coronation, but a race, raw and fast. And Pistorius came second. He was beaten to the line by Brazil's Alan Fonteles Cardoso Oliveira, who won in 21.45sec. Pistorius was .07sec behind him. He reacted furiously, telling the TV cameras in his post-race interview that "we aren't racing a fair race". 
Pistorius was convinced that the running blades Oliveira was using were too long, and called for the International Paralympic Committee to investigate. This from a man who has had to fight long and hard to overturn doubts about whether or not he himself has an unfair advantage when he is competing against non-disabled runners. . . .

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Obama simultaneously gets people with misdemeanors fired from jobs, he pushes for violent felons to vote

Could someone please explain the why people with nonviolent misdemeanors should lose their jobs but violent felons should be able to vote?  Why should a rapist be able to vote on issues that directly impact women but someone who put a fake coin in a laundromat as a teenager should lose his job 50 years later?  Nutty Obama regulations:

The former farm boy speaks deliberately, can't remember the last time he got a speeding ticket, and favors suspenders, horn-rim glasses and plaid shirts. But the 68-year-old Vietnam veteran is still too risky for Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, which fired him on July 12 from his $29,795-a-year job as a customer service representative.
Egger's crime? Putting a cardboard cutout of a dime in a washing machine in Carlisle on Feb. 2, 1963.
"It was a stupid stunt and I'm not real proud of it, but to fire somebody for something like this after seven good years of employment is a dirty trick when you come right down to it," said Eggers of Des Moines. "And they're doing this kind of thing all across the country."
Big banks have been firing low-level employees like Eggers since the issuance of new federal banking employment guidelines in May 2011 and new mortgage employment guidelines in February.
The tougher standards are meant to weed out executives and mid-level bank employees guilty of transactional crimes, like identity fraud or mortgage fraud, but they are being applied across-the-board thanks to $1 million a day fines for noncompliance.

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Incredible: While Chicago asks federal government for law enforcement officers, it is sending 50 Chicago police officers to the Democratic Convention in Charlotte

Why are Chicago taxpayers subsidizing the Democratic National Convention?  Why are Federal law enforcement agents being used to subsidize Chicago?  In a sense then the Federal government is subsidizing the Democratic National Convention.  How is any of this reasonable?  You know that something is shady when the Chicago police are ordered not to talk to the press.  From ABC News:
Only days after Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel asked for federal agents and U.S. Marshals to help combat the city's wave of violence, about 50 Chicago police officers have arrived in Charlotte to work perimeter security details for a week at the Democratic National Convention.
The Chicago officers, in their distinctive uniforms and checkerboard-brimmed hats, said they had been instructed not to talk with reporters about their out-of-town assignment.
Monday morning some of the Chicago officers were stationed near security screening posts where delegates enter the Charlotte Convention Center. . . . .

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