Catholic and Protestant Hospitals in Europe face lawsuits if they have Crucifixes in their buildings?

The UK Daily Mail has this story:

Organisations which hang crucifixes on walls could be sued if they upset atheists under equality laws proposed by the European Union.

Any group offering a service to the public, including hospitals, charities, businesses and prisons, would be at risk.

Legislation may also allow Christians to bring an action against a hotel if it displayed something they deemed offensive - such as a poster for the 1979 Monty Python film The Life Of Brian.

There are already laws banning harassment in the workplace, but the new Brussels regulations are designed to offer people protection from providers of goods and services. . . . .

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Obama’s Crutch — Why Is He So Afraid of Speaking Without a Teleprompter?

My new piece at Fox News starts this way:

Late night comedians have had a difficult problem. Presidents are usually the source of most late night joke, but comedians are having a hard time finding any material to make jokes about President Obama. This isn’t anything new, it was also true during the campaign.

Possibly they just need some help. Could you imagine if Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush had used a teleprompter to answer questions during a press conference? The late night joke writers wouldn’t have let it go until the President gave in to the merciless ridicule as he was painted as an idiot who couldn’t tie his shoes without being fed instructions on how to do it.

While people who watched Obama’s first national press conference noticed his use of a teleprompter to give his initial presentation as well as in answering questions, the media and late night joke writers completely ignored it. . . .

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"Never waste a good crisis, Clinton says on climate"

This is very depressing, but probably true.

[Hillary] Clinton told young Europeans at the European Parliament that global economic turmoil provided a fresh opening. "Never waste a good crisis ... Don't waste it when it can have a very positive impact on climate change and energy security," she said.

Europe sees the United States as a crucial ally in global climate talks in Copenhagen in December, after President Barack Obama signaled a new urgency in tackling climate change, in stark contrast to his predecessor George W. Bush. . . . .

Why shouldn't Obama, Clinton and others travel by small high mileage cars?

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Taxing guns for their costs, but not subsidizing them for their benefits

So how about if they also subsidize gun owners for the benefits that they create? I don't mind if they tax if they also recognize the benefits because on net they will be subsidizing the purchase of guns.

Now one lawmaker in Illinois wants to mandate gun owners in the Land of Lincoln purchase a million dollar liability insurance policy each year in order to keep their guns.

Representative Kenneth Dunkin proposed Illinois House Bill 0687 in early February.

He says the money collected would keep taxpayers from footing hospital or funeral expenses for people killed by gun violence.

"There is a cost associated with loss of life through one's negligence," said Dunkin. "This is closing an economic gap so you the taxpayer won't have to continue to pay." . . . .



Missouri could lower concealed carry age

From St. Louis Today:

Missouri lawmakers have proposed lowering the nation's oldest minimum age requirement for carrying concealed weapons, so that those allowed to drink alcohol can carry a gun.

Currently to qualify for a Missouri concealed weapon permit, applicants must be at least 23 years old, live in the state, have no felony convictions and pass a firearms training course and background check.

Now many of the people who pushed the state to set up that system for allowing concealed weapons want the minimum age lowered.

Of the 48 states that allow for concealed weapon permits -- only Illinois and Wisconsin do not -- about three-quarters require applicants to be 21 years old, according to Handgunlaw.us, a Web site operated by gun rights supporters to track state firearms laws. Other states allow permits even younger, at age 18. . . . .

The trend to reducing restrictions after the fears have proven wrong continues.

Thanks to Tony Troglio for the link.


Obama shifts ending secret vote for union elections into high gear

The WSJ has this:

President Barack Obama's public backing this past week of a bill that would make union organizing easier is driving companies to step up opposition.

Mr. Obama embraced the Employee Free Choice Act, a top legislative priority for unions, in a video address to the AFL-CIO winter meeting on Tuesday in Miami. It was one of his most vocal statements in support of the bill, which would let workers opt for unionization simply by signing cards, rather than through secret-ballot elections. An election gives an employer the opportunity to campaign against a union.

Many companies have said the bill, likely to be introduced in coming weeks by congressional Democrats, would add to their costs while hurting their ability to boost productivity and keep their work forces flexible enough to respond to changing markets. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has said it will spend at least $10 million this year fighting it. . . . .


How to mess up credit markets

Capping credit card fees is a really bright way to help make credit markets work.

lawmakers have introduced new versions of old bills capping credit card fees, limiting executive compensation, regulating hedge funds and carving away at corporate tax breaks. . . . .


Obama's unusual dependence on a teleprompter

The Politico notes Obama's unusual use below. I can only imagine what would happen to Bush or another Republican if they needed a teleprompter this much.

It’s just something presidents haven’t done,” said Martha Joynt Kumar, a presidential historian who has held court in the White House since December 1975. “It’s jarring to the eye. In a way, it stands in the middle between the audience and the president because his eye is on the teleprompter.”

Just how much of a crutch the teleprompter has become for Obama was on sharp display during his latest commerce secretary announcement. The president spoke from a teleprompter in the ornate Indian Treaty Room for a few minutes. Then Gov. Gary Locke stepped to the podium and pulled out a piece of paper for reference.

The president’s teleprompter also elicited some uncomfortable laughter after he announced Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius as his choice for Health and Human Services secretary. “Kathy,” Obama said, turning the podium over to Sebelius, who waited at the microphone for an awkward few seconds while the teleprompters were lowered to the floor and the television cameras rolled.

Obama has relied on a teleprompter through even the shortest announcements and when repeating the same lines on his economic stimulus plan that he's been saying for months — whereas past presidents have mostly worked off of notes on the podium except during major speeches, such as the State of the Union. . . . .

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Most right-to-carry states conceal names of permit holders

Arkansas is moving towards concealing permit holders names, but in the story was this claim.

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence said 26 states currently keep concealed-carry permit records confidential.


25% of Tennessee State Legislators have concealed handgun permits

The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports:

Tennesseans may want to treat their state legislators with a little more respect in the future: Records show one out of every four members of the Tennessee General Assembly has a state-issued permit to carry a loaded handgun.

Thirty-four of the legislature’s 132 members hold handgun-carry permits, according to Department of Safety records cross-referenced with other available information such as home addresses.

That comes to 25.75 percent of the membership of the House and Senate, a figure about five times the percentage among the state’s general population.

In the 33-member Senate, one third or 11 senators, have a handgun-carry permit. Twenty-three legislators in the 99-member House — or 23.2 percent — have permits, records show.

Statewide, 219,236 Tennesseans have permits, meeting requirements that include being at least 21 and passing a handgun safety course. In 2007, they comprised about 4.67 percent of the estimated 4,687,000 adult Tennesseans ages 18 and older, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates. No 2007 data on how many adult Tennesseans who are 21 and above was available. . . .


Soldier Hero in Iraq not allowed to buy a gun in Omaha

The Omaha World-Herald has this remarkable story.

Sgt. Tim Mechaley trained fellow Marines to fire .50-caliber machine guns. He qualified as a marksman. He fought in the battle for Fallujah, Iraq, and received a combat medal with a "V" for valor.

Back home, he uses a rifle for target shooting.

Yet, when Mechaley sought to buy a 9-mm Ruger pistol for protection at his midtown apartment, the Omaha Police Department rejected his application for a gun permit.

"I was trusted by the {federal} government to carry a loaded weapon, but now I am not allowed to purchase one by my local government," he said.

Mechaley, 32, has received counseling for post-traumatic stress disorder related to his service in Iraq. While completing an application for a gun permit, he responded "yes" to a question that asked whether he was being treated for a mental disorder.

"I circled yes because I wanted to be completely honest," he said.

As explanation, he wrote "PTSD from Iraq Marine combat veteran" on the form.

Mechaley's application on Jan. 10 was rejected, he was told, because of that answer.

After talking with police, Mechaley said he had been "too truthful" on the application. . . .



Treasury has no nominees even named for positions below Treasury Secretary

This is pretty amazing.

Nazareth's withdrawal from consideration comes as critics say Geithner's lacks the senior staff he needs to make critical decisions about the financial crisis. Not one of his top 17 deputies has been named, let alone confirmed.

Without senior leadership, lower-level Treasury employees can't make decisions or represent the government in crucial conversations with banks and others. . . . .


Appearing on Jason Lewis' New National Radio Show tonight at 8 PM EST

Jason has gone national, and I am on his show tonight at 8 PM EST. You can find it here.

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Judge Napolitano interviews me on gun control issues

We are not on until about 6 minutes into the first file and we are only on at the very beginning of the third file.

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Some hopefully interesting editorials from the Washington Times

I have been having fun writing some of the unsigned editorials this week for the Washington Times. I helped write three lead editorials (most, but not all the pieces were mine).

A look at Maryland's debate on the Death Penalty -- O'Malley's misguided crusade
On Obama's broken promises -- From Bunyan to Appleseed on spending
On cutting waste in government -- Obama vs. Pentagon waste

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Stealing from Banks to bailout Borrowers and Fanny and Freddie

Forcing banks to make agreements that they wouldn't do so voluntarily.

People with mortgages as high as $729,750 could qualify for help, and there is no ceiling on how high their income can be as long as they are in danger of losing their homes. Interest rates on loans could go as low as 2 percent for some. Many homeowners could see their mortgage payments drop by several hundred dollars a month, and some could save more than $1,000 a month.

Administration officials estimate that the plan will help as many as four million people avoid foreclosure, at a cost to taxpayers of about $75 billion. In addition, the Treasury Department said it intended to follow up with a plan to help troubled borrowers with second mortgages, which many homebuyers used as “piggyback” loans to buy houses with no money down.

The plan is bolder and more expensive than any of the Bush administration’s programs, which were based almost entirely on coaxing lenders to voluntarily modify loans. While the number of loan modifications has climbed sharply, the number of foreclosures skyrocketed to 2.2 million at the end of 2008, a record.

The new plan, which takes effect immediately, is intended to win much bigger concessions from lenders by offering a mix of generous financial incentives and regulatory arm-twisting. The final impact will depend on how both lenders and the investors who own mortgages respond, but housing experts said the administration had a good chance of achieving its goal. . . . .

The requirement is that you have a house that you can't afford. Talk about a moral hazard problem. People who were profligate get rewarded. Those who were frugal and didn't spend beyond their means don't get anything (expect paying the higher taxes).

Also, what about those who got the loan by claiming that their incomes were larger than they actually were?

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Qoute to remember from Obama

I am putting this quote up just so that I can get easy access to it.

Not because I believe in bigger government – I don’t. Not because I’m not mindful of the massive debt we’ve inherited – I am. . . .

This is a guy who promised voters repeatedly that he wanted to cut the size of government in each of the presidential debates and in the campaign right up to November 4th. In just a couple of weeks he went from claiming that we needed to cut the net size of government to supporting massive increases in government spending. The question that I have asked is: what did he learn that changed his mind in November? Wasn't he already claiming that we had the worst financial crisis ever?

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Bogus "no cost" plan offered by economist and law prof

Here is the bottom line. If this was in the interest of the mortgage holders, they would offer it on their own. The government wouldn't have to force them to do it. Fox News has the discussion here:

But University of Chicago professors Eric Posner and Luigi Zingales offered what they described as a no-taxpayer-cost plan that would require the government to force lenders to reduce mortgages for all homeowners who live in a neighborhood where house prices have dropped more than 20 percent of the market value of the house.

"In exchange, these homeowners would yield to their lenders 50 percent of the future appreciation of the house," they wrote in an article for Slate this week.

"This plan is very low-cost," they wrote. "It could be introduced as a prepackaged bankruptcy, requiring just a judicial stamp of approval." . . . .

Posner and Zingales noted that Congress is considering similar plans that would allow homeowners to enter Chapter 13 bankruptcy to reduce their mortgages to the market value of the house.

"But Chapter 13 cases are slow and expensive, and the country's few hundred bankruptcy judges cannot handle millions of these full-blown proceedings," they wrote.

"Our plan, by contrast, is quick and dirty: It strips away the irrelevant elements of Chapter 13 as well as relying on zip code-level housing price indexes to deal with appraisals." . . . .



So with member unions getting help from the government bailouts will the media and Democrats get upset about this? The video of the story is here.


Repeal of DC gun laws too much of a price for DC vote in Congress?

Apparently, legislation giving DC the right to vote can't come up until the House leadership figures out what to do about letting people in DC have guns. Letting DC have a vote in Congress has been a major goal for years, so it shows how strongly liberal Democrats must support having a gun ban. DC's new gun law still makes it exceedingly difficult for residents to own a handgun and use it for self defense.

Advocates for a bill that would add a vote for D.C. in Congress are asking supporters to call congressional leaders to revive the measure after it stalled in the House.

A controversial amendment that would repeal many D.C. gun laws has been attached to the voting rights bill and could derail the measure. The bill to add one vote in the House for heavily Democratic D.C. and another seat for Republican Utah passed the Senate last week -- the closest D.C. has come to a full vote in Congress in 30 years.

D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton said Tuesday that House leaders put the bill on hold when they learned the National Rifle Association was pressuring its members to keep the gun measure in the bill. . . . .

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Maxim has a piece up at Fox News on strange case where a teacher reported a student to the police because the student discussed defensive gun uses

The piece at Fox News starts this way:

A professor in Connecticut reported one of her students to the police after he gave a class presentation on why students and teachers should be allowed to carry concealed weapons on campus. Now, free speech activists say the professor’s actions are what really need to be investigated.

Last October, John Wahlberg and two classmates at Central Connecticut State University gave an oral presentation for a communications class taught by Professor Paula Anderson. The assignment was to discuss a “relevant issue in the media,” and the students presented their view that the death toll in the April 2007 Virginia Tech shooting massacre would have been lower if professors and students had been carrying guns. . . . .

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Some Liberal Legal Scholars see advantages to Pushing Heller Supreme Court Decision

Law.com has this note.

The Supreme Court's 2008 ruling in D.C. v. Heller was a constitutional earthquake, breathing life into the Second Amendment as a guarantee of an individual right to bear arms.

But the aftershock of that decision is beginning to transform the constitutional landscape well beyond gun rights, in ways that have liberals cheering and even joining hands with one-time adversaries like the National Rifle Association.

In a follow-on case pending before the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a progressive legal group and liberal law professors including Yale Law School's Jack Balkin earlier this month joined gun-rights advocates in urging that the right established in Heller, which involved only the District of Columbia, be extended to apply against gun restrictions in the 50 states. The case is McDonald v. Chicago, a challenge to that city's strict gun control law and, no matter what, the outcome is likely to be appealed to the Supreme Court.

But these academics and the liberal Constitutional Accountability Center, which filed a brief in the case, have not suddenly taken up the Second Amendment cause, Charlton Heston-style. Rather, they joined the case to urge the court to adopt a new way of making the rights protected by the federal Constitution apply to the states (a process known as "incorporation"). . . . .

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Jim Cramer gets it right: Obama budget "Greatest Wealth Destruction By a President"

See the discussion here:

NBC's Tom Costello, on duty at the White House today, asked press secretary Robert Gibbs about some comments made by his CNBC colleague Jim Cramer. On the Today show this morning, Cramer called Pres. Obama's budget a "radical agenda," adding, "This is the greatest wealth destruction I've seen by a President."

"I'm not entirely sure what he's pointing to to make some of the statements," said Gibbs. "And you can go back and look at any number of statements he's made in the past about the economy and wonder where some of the back-up for those are too."

When pressed further by Costello, Gibbs said, "If you turn on a certain program it's geared to a very small audience. No offense to my good friends, or friend at CNBC. But the President has to look out for the broader economy and the broader population." . . .


What are the illegal guns being obtained by Mexican drug gangs?

Of course the media are picking up on Eric Holder's concerns about Mexican drug gangs getting their guns from the US. This is one example of a piece from the WSJ.

This week, an Arizona gun shop goes on trial in state court in what law-enforcement officials are calling a landmark case against gun dealers who sell weapons that end up in the hands of Mexican drug cartels, fueling horrific violence south of the border that killed more than 6,000 people last year. . . . .

I have already noted that if you can't stop the gangs from smuggling drugs, how are you going to stop them from getting the guns to protect their valuable drugs? But here is a piece that claims that the types of guns used by the gangs are not the types of guns sold to civilians in the US.

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Explaining Obama's broken promises

Time magazine tries to explain why Obama isn't breaking his promises. Hint: the new spending is for this year's budget so it doesn't cost. Is this really serious?

On Wednesday, those same House Democrats, led by Pelosi, passed a budget with, by some counts, nearly 9,000 earmarks, worth an estimated $7.7 billion. . . . .

It may seem like yet another example of Washington hypocrisy, but the Obama Administration insists there is no contradiction between its words and actions. The $410 billion budget in question was passed to keep the government running for the rest of fiscal 2009, since Congress agreed on only three of the 15 appropriations bills last year and the stopgap measure it passed expires on March 6. Despite the fact that congressional Democrats crafted much of the bill after Obama was elected, the White House argues that the pork-laden bill — which increases federal spending across a range of Cabinet departments by 8% — is part of the prior Administration's legacy. "What may be next week's bill is last year's legislation," said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs. . . . .

both Obama and Republican nominee John McCain tried to outdo each other with their pledges to rid Washington of the notorious pet projects that legislators slip into spending bills. Obama, who authored 2007 legislation to overhaul congressional ethics rules governing lobbying and earmarks, runs a real credibility risk when he makes exceptions to his own rules. He was already heavily criticized in the first weeks of his Administration for doing just that with respect to some appointees whose lobbying records technically violated the White House's new strict guidelines. . . .

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Bank of America regrets taking government money

Of course, Bank of America did the government a "favor" by taking over Merrill Lynch. The problem was that Merrill's losses were so huge that that BoA found it necessary to take the government money. Ex post Merrill probably would have fought much harder against doing the government a favor. I can't understand what the problem would have been in letting Merrill go bankrupt. The Financial Times as some interesting info here:

Bank of America’s request for $20bn of government money to prop up its acquisition of Merrill Lynch was a “tactical mistake” that made the bank appear as weak as Citigroup, Ken Lewis, BofA’s chief executive told the Financial Times on Monday.

Mr Lewis vowed to stay on as chief executive of the North Carolina-based bank until it paid back the $45bn of government money it received under the US Treasury’s bank recapitalisation programme, possibly within two to three years. This is the first time he has signalled his plans to leave the company.

However, he expressed regret that an “abundance of caution” had led him to take more aid than he said was necessary to absorb Merrill’s $15bn fourth-quarter loss.

BoA received an initial $25bn from the Treasury in September. It requested a further $20bn at the end of December as the scale of Merrill’s losses eclipsed BofA’s initial forecasts. . . . .



Big fight over gun laws in Illinois

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has this article. It looks like there will finally be a big fight over concealed carry in Illinois.

Springfield is headed toward a political showdown over guns, with both sides loading up like they haven't in years.

The gun owners lobby is close to getting a floor debate in the Legislature on its pinnacle goal of allowing residents to carry concealed handguns in Illinois, which is one of just two states that still outlaw it. (Wisconsin is the other.)

"It's heating up. We think we're close," said Todd Vandermyde, a National Rifle Association lobbyist who has pushed the concealed-carry proposal in Springfield before. "You've got 48 states that have this. That's a statement."

Gun control advocates are firing back with bills to create new restrictions on the sale and transfer of those guns, while trying to stop the concealed-carry movement. . . . .

Thanks to Anthony Troglio for the link.

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Hugo Chavez seizes rice processing plants that refuse to sell rice at the government approved price

What is interesting is how interesting is how both Chavez and Obama blame companies for any problems. From the BBC:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has ordered the army to take control of all rice processing plants in the country.
Mr Chavez accused some firms of overcharging by refusing to produce rice at prices set by the government.
He warned that some companies could be nationalised if they tried to interfere with supplies of the grain.
Mr Chavez - who has nationalised large swathes of Venezuela's economy - did not say how long the government intervention would last. . . . .
Announcing the move to send troops to the rice plants in a televised address to the nation on Saturday, Mr Chavez criticised the producers for failing to sell their rice at government prices. . . . .

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