"Budget-cut baloney"

From a piece that I wrote for the Washington Times:

"The President's 2010 Budget seeks to usher in a new era of responsibility. ..." That's how a White House budget document released Thursday characterizes $17 billion in budget trimming. Luckily for President Obama, the media focused on these small cuts instead of his more than $300 billion in spending increases.

In 2008, the George W. Bush administration projected that the 2010 federal budget would hit $3.09 trillion. Mr. Obama requested $3.55 trillion and Congress cut that down to $3.4 trillion. This $3.4 trillion is a $300 billion increase over what Mr. Bush projected for the year. The $17 billion in cuts represents just 5.5 percent of the increase in what Congress authorized over what Mr. Bush planned. It is only about one-half of 1 percent of the total $3.4 trillion budget. The cut is swamped by the $787 billion increase in spending in the stimulus package and the $31 billion (8 percent) increase that Mr. Obama signed for this year's current discretionary budget.

Despite tax increases, the Congressional Budget Office expects Mr. Obama's policies to balloon the nation's debt over the next 10 years from nearly $6 trillion to $15 trillion. A mere $17 billion isn't even a rounding error for these spending increases. . . . .

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Democrats plan lots of spending to help Dems win re-election next year

From Roll Call:

The House wants to increase Members’ office budgets next fiscal year by almost 15 percent, partly because 2010 is an election year and lawmakers anticipate a surge in franked mail.

In a recently released budget request, the House Chief Administrative Officer asked appropriators to raise the Members’ Representational Allowances — which fund everything needed to run offices, including salaries, travel and supplies — by $90 million, citing increases “due to the election year cycle.”

“In an election year the expenditures increase and then decrease in a non-election year,” the request reads.

Increases for most expenses are usually modest from year to year, accounting mostly for inflation and cost-of-living adjustments. But during election years, some accounts get a big bump.

The fiscal 2010 request includes an extra $16 million for franked mail — an 80 percent increase from fiscal 2009. The stated reason: Members send more mail to their constituents during an election year. . . . .

Ironically, the UK's MPs are undergoing their own scandal with expenses.

The public's view of MPs has been badly damaged by a series of revelations about expenses claims, a new survey has revealed. . . . .


Montana Passes Gun Sovereignty Law that Forbids Federal Regulation of Firearms Made in Montana

Didn't the Obama administration predict that the unemployment rate would peak at 8.1 percent this year?

From Fox News:

Obama Economic Adviser Predicts Relief Within Weeks of Stimulus Passage
Sunday, January 25, 2009

Measures to save law enforcement and teaching jobs will help cities see changes rapidly while withholding changes on paychecks could come "within weeks" of passage of an economic stimulus plan now being considered by Congress, one of President Obama's top advisers said Sunday.

National Economic Council director Lawrence Summers said despite the fact the U.S. economy's problems took months or years to create -- and it may take just as long to solve them -- immediate stimulus could come with hundreds of billions of dollars in government spending and tax cuts. . . . .

The Obama administration predicted that the national unemployment rate was going to peak at 8.1 percent this year and then decline to 7.9 percent next year (See Table S-8 in the February 28, 2009 report). These predictions may have made some sense when the national unemployment rate was 7.6 percent in January and they were made before the unemployment rate had jumped to 8.1 percent in February. They were made after the stimulus bill had passed.

In December, the Wall Street Journal survey of business economists predicted this: "The unemployment rate will rise from 6.7 percent now to 8.1 percent by next December." In February, the NABE survey predicted: "The survey of 47 NABE forecasters has the jobless rate rising to 9% by the end of the year. It is currently 7.6%."

In March, the WSJ survey of Business Economists made this prediction.

Meanwhile, the economists surveyed this month predict that the economy will shed another 2.8 million jobs over the next 12 months as the unemployment rate climbs to 9.3% by December, up from the 8.1% rate recorded in February. Economists also see nearly a one-in-six chance that the U.S. will fall into a depression, defined as a decline in per-person GDP or consumption by 10% or more.

In April, the WSJ's Economic Forecasting Survey predicted that the unemployment rate would go to 9 percent by June, 2009 and 9.5 by December. The December 2008 survey had predicted that the unemployment rate would rise to 7.9 percent by June. In that survey, out of 53 economists, one predicted a 9 percent unemployment rate by June, one at 8.9 percent, and two at 8.5 percent, and three at 8.4 percent. Remember we are two months away from the June unemployment rate being announced.

In the January survey, only one economist predicted a June unemployment rate as high as 9 percent, one at 8.9 percent, and a third at 8.8 percent.

In February, the WSJ's Economic Forecasting Survey predicted an unemployment rate of 8.3 percent in June. In March, a 8.7 percent rate in June. In April, a 9 percent rate in June. Note that the April unemployment rate implies that both of these forecasts were overly optimistic.

One thing is clear and that is the forecasts have been getting progressively more pessimistic. The administration was also wildly wrong about the impact that its economic program would have on the economy. They had argued that as soon as the program was enacted the economy would start to improve.

A month ago, the Wall Street Journal had this headline: "Jobless Claims Suggest Recession’s End Could Be Near." Since then the unemployment rate has gone up from 8.5 to 8.9 percent.

Of course, despite all this background on things being worse than continually predicted, the media has managed to turn the 8.9 percent unemployment rate into a positive thing.

The Miami Herald headline reads: "Job figures not as bad as feared"

Of course, I know that the the drop in jobs was "less than a loss of 620000 expected by analysts and far below the 699000 drop in March." But the media could also have gone with the headline that the unemployment rate is the highest in over 25 years. You really have to dig hard to come up with a positive headline from a 539,000 job loss. The change in the unemployment rate was also the same in the last two months, so that hasn't been changing.

This headline from the AP is just in the tank for the Democrats:

Evidence piling up that worst of recession is over

Finally, despite all this unexpected increase in the unemployment rate, this note on Fox News caught my eye.

Obama has claimed that his stimulus package has already saved or created more than 150,000 jobs. But the U.S. economy has lost more than 2 million jobs since he took office, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, seeming to undercut Obama's claim.

Since the unemployment rate has gone up much faster than the Obama people forecast, wouldn't one think that the stimulus package has made things worse rather than better?

I did notice one interesting fact. While much of the media is talking about things looking better, the WSJ survey of economists indicates that the length and severity of the recession has been increasing over time. The predicted increase in unemployment is greater for December 2009 than the increase for June 2009. The predicted drop in GDP growth is greater for the 4th quarter than the 3rd quarter.

Now the Administration says this:

President Obama’s chief economics forecaster said on Sunday that the country was not likely to see positive employment growth until 2010, even if the economy began to grow later this year.

Speaking on C-SPAN, Christina Romer, chairwoman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said that she expected the G.D.P. to begin growing in the fourth quarter of this year. Ben S. Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, made a similar prediction last week.

But Ms. Romer also said that she expected unemployment to rise even after the economy turns, saying that the G.D.P. has to grow at a rate of about 2.5 percent before unemployment will fall. Before that happens, she said, it is “unfortunately pretty realistic” that the unemployment rate could reach 9.5 percent. A reasonable estimate for the G.D.P.’s growth rate in 2010, she said, is three percent. . . . .

Also the administration is predicting a 3.5 percent growth in GDP the end of the year, but private forecasts are down to just 1.6%.

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Sympathetic judge shoots down student lawsuit over concealed handguns on University of Colorado campus

Fox News has the article here:

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — A lawsuit challenging the concealed weapons ban at the University of Colorado campuses was thrown out by a judge.

A district judge threw out the lawsuit filed last year by Students for Concealed Carry on Campus. El Paso County District Judge G. David Miller's action means the university's three campuses can continue to ban concealed weapons.

Miller wrote that while "any right-thinking person" could see that a campus shooting spree could be mitigated by a well-placed concealed weapon, the students' argument was flawed.

The students claimed that the state Board of Regents was an agent of government subject to state law allowing concealed weapons in certain circumstances. Miller ruled that regents are a statewide authority with their own legislative powers. He also found nothing in the state constitution that would prohibit the regents from enacting a campus gun ban. . . . .

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Were Stress Test Results Compromised?

The WSJ raises questions about the usefulness of the stress tests.

The Federal Reserve significantly scaled back the size of the capital hole facing some of the nation's biggest banks shortly before concluding its stress tests, following two weeks of intense bargaining.

In addition, according to bank and government officials, the Fed used a different measurement of bank-capital levels than analysts and investors had been expecting, resulting in much smaller capital deficits.

The overall reaction to the stress tests, announced Thursday, has been generally positive. But the haggling between the government and the banks shows the sometimes-tense nature of the negotiations that occurred before the final results were made public.

Government officials defended their handling of the stress tests, saying they were responsive to industry feedback while maintaining the tests' rigor.

When the Fed last month informed banks of its preliminary stress-test findings, executives at corporations including Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co. were furious with what they viewed as the Fed's exaggerated capital holes. A senior executive at one bank fumed that the Fed's initial estimate was "mind-numbingly" large. Bank of America was "shocked" when it saw its initial figure, which was more than $50 billion, according to a person familiar with the negotiations.

At least half of the banks pushed back, according to people with direct knowledge of the process. Some argued the Fed was underestimating the banks' ability to cover anticipated losses with revenue growth and aggressive cost-cutting. Others urged regulators to give them more credit for pending transactions that would thicken their capital cushions. . . . . .

The question is: what were the original estimates and how much did the government back down on them? Sure we expect some mistakes (even though billions of dollars are at stake), but you imagine that sometimes they will overestimate and others underestimate the amount of money required.


Australia's Government has second thoughts on carbon emissions

From the WSJ.

Mr. Rudd announced on Monday that he will delay implementation of his trademark cap-and-trade proposal until at least 2011. With luck, that will be after the clouds of a global economic slowdown have started to clear and -- more important for Mr. Rudd's Labor Party -- after the next parliamentary election. . . . .

The proposed delay is widely characterized as a "backflip" and has caused Mr. Rudd a lot of embarrassment this week. He may yet push ahead with legislation in some form -- as he certainly promised to do when running in the 2007 election. But it's becoming clear the proposal won't be a shoo-in, despite all the votes Mr. Rudd won when he campaigned on environmentalism. . . . .

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Texas House Vote Set for Allowing Permitted Concealed Handguns on College Campuses

I got an email from Brock Adams with this message tonight.

On Friday, the House Calendars Committee took an important step and set HB 1893, landmark pro-Second Amendment legislation, for a vote next week by the full House.

House Bill 1893 by State Representative Joe Driver (R-Garland) would allow Concealed Handgun Licensees to protect themselves on the campuses of public colleges and universities. Campus settings are not "crime-free" zones. Adult students, faculty, staff and visitors who are 21 or older, who pass an extensive state and federal criminal records check, and who complete a rigorous handgun training course, should not be denied their right to self-defense simply because they study, live, work on or visit a college or university campus. CHLs have been lawfully carrying handguns for protection virtually everywhere in Texas for more than a dozen years, and there is no statistical data or evidence that they would suddenly transform into irresponsible criminals if legally allowed to enter a college or university setting. . . . .

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Video of a pharmacist pulling a Glock on a would-be oxycodone robber

There is an interesting video and news story of a pharmacist stopping a robbery with his gun here.

Thanks to Karl Christensen for the link.

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Newest piece at Fox News: "Thugs In the White House"

My piece starts off this way and can be found here:

So much for any hope that the government would uphold rules and abiding by contracts. Instead, we keep getting examples of something else – that when President Obama fails to persuade firms to follow his wishes, he does not hesitate to use threats of financial destruction.

Cliff Asness, the co-founder of the $20 billion hedge fund AQR Capital Management, laid bare the latest attacks with an open letter on Wednesday:

“The President screaming that the hedge funds are looking for an unjustified taxpayer-funded bailout is the big lie writ large. Find me a hedge fund that has been bailed out. Find me a hedge fund, even a failed one, that has asked for one. In fact, it was only because hedge funds have not taken government funds that they could stand up to this bullying. The TARP recipients had no choice but to go along.”

This is just the latest in a string of intimidating tactics starting with threatening costly public audits to get compliance. Then there were the threats of firing CEOs who had the audacity to oppose government plans. The very latest is threats to use “ the full force of the White House press corps [to] destroy [the firm Perella Weinberg's] reputation” if it resisted the government stealing their money, according to Thomas Lauria who represented the firm up until last week. ABC News’s Jake Tapper reports that Mr. Steven Rattner, the head of the auto task force, made the threat. . . . .

See a related piece by James Glassman at Forbes here.

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Info on confiscation of guns in the UK

This is from Richard Munday, who is undoubtedly the leading expert on gun control in the UK.

Rifles and pistols have been individually registered as such on personal Firearm Certificates in Britain since 1920, and magazine-fed shotguns with a capacity over three shots since 1988. Firearm Certificates, giving individual permission to possess specific serial numbered weapons, are subject to renewal by the police every five years (formerly every three years). At renewal, the police may make individual judgements about which particular firearms an owner will be allowed to retain, on the basis of recorded regularity of use, etc.

When the 1997 ban was implemented, the police had a complete list of every licensed pistol: unless one exported the weapon (and could prove it) or could satisfy the police that one had somehow destroyed it, one had no option but to hand it in. Every holder of licensed pistols received a letter from his local police authority, detailing when and where his registered weapons were to be surrendered. I rather doubt that many copies of those letters are still extant, and I cannot offer other references for what happened because it was simply not a matter for discussion: it was the obvious and inevitable way the system worked.

Shotgun Certificates in Britain are subject to slightly different issue criteria from Firearm Certificates. All legal shotguns have been individually registered by serial number to their owners since 1988; prior to that Shotgun Certificates did not record registration numbers. When the 1988 Act was implemented and magazine-fed shotguns were elevated to the higher Firearm Certificate control level, Colin Greenwood estimated that over the previous ten years some 300,000 such guns had been imported into Britain; only 50,000 were subsequently registered. One may speculate as to how many other single and double barrelled shotguns were not submitted for registration at that date; the confiscation of all licensed fullbore self-loading rifles in that year (on the same basis as that used for pistols in 1997) might have influenced the thinking of some owners.

Interestingly, the Home Office estimated that there were some 8,000-10,000 fullbore SLR's in Britain in 1988 (the licensing system accurately segregated rifles from pistols, but did not specify action type), and the British Shooting Sports Council (which might have wished to stress the likely compensation cost) estimated that there were 20,000 such weapons in circulation. In fact, only 3,548 rifles were recorded as having been handed in. Others may have been deactivated (which would have been subject to police check) or personally exported, or (probably the majority) simply sold to the gun trade for export. The mechanism for the seizure of self-loading rifles should otherwise have been as watertight as it later was for pistols. Reference for the 1988 events may be found in my book Most Armed & Most Free? (Piedmont 1996) p.42.

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ACORN and the census

I am not sure what the term "provide" means here. Presumably the individuals provided are not still working for the groups who provided them, but this article raises some interesting questions.

Criminal Charges Against ACORN Raise Concerns About Its Partnership With Census Bureau
Wednesday, May 06, 2009
By Fred Lucas, Staff Writer

Seal of the U.S. Census Bureau
(CNSNews.com) – Criminal charges filed in Nevada against ACORN, a liberal activist group that is under investigation in several other states for alleged voter registration fraud in 2008, have sparked increased concerns about the organization’s partnership agreement with the U.S. Census Bureau to help recruit workers for the 2010 Census.

ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, is among 281 non-profit groups and 111 corporations that have signed partnership agreements with the Census Bureau as of April 13. Those partners will help provide 1.4 million workers to conduct door-to-door operations. (See Partner List)

“The Bureau needs to reconsider ACORN’s involvement as a partner in light of these new charges in Nevada,” Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told CNSNews.com.

“I previously spoke about ACORN’s involvement in the Census,” said McHenry. “But in light of these charges, I think it makes clear that they should not be part of the partnership program with the Census.” . . . .

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Some research that I consider important on health care

Please consider downloading the research here.

Uninsured Americans vs. Insured Canadians: Who is More Satisfied with Their Health Care?

John R. Lott, Jr.
University of Maryland

The debate over government-provided insurance for Americans frequently makes two assumptions: that the uninsured are unsatisfied with the health care they receive and that government health insurance would improve the quality of care for the uninsured. This paper finds that the vast majority of uninsured Americans are satisfied with their health care. Indeed, only 2.3 percent of Americans are both uninsured and very dissatisfied with the quality of the medical care that they receive. The paper finds that Canadians are much closer to uninsured Americans than to insured Americans in their satisfaction with their health care. There is also little difference in the level of Americans' satisfaction with their health care based upon race, marital status, educational attainment, income, or political views. There is some difference in satisfaction based on age and between the most extreme levels of educational attainment.

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Appearing on CNBC on Friday, May 8 at 2:20 PM

I will appear as a guest on Street Signs with Erin Burnett on Friday at about 2:20 ET. The debate can be watched here.

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Obama's opposition to school choice in DC

From a piece that I wrote for the Washington Times:

Fighting to save the District's popular school-voucher program, some 1,000 parents, pupils and politicians gathered near Mayor Adrian Fenty's office on Wednesday to protest Congress' plans to end school choice in Washington.

That same day, the Senate approved a $4,500 voucher for cars, encouraging citizens to trade in their old automobiles for newer ones that burn less fuel.

So, Congress thinks that vouchers for schools are bad, but vouchers for cars are good.

Slashing school vouchers spares teachers' unions from competition. On the other hand, car vouchers are supposed to boost demand for cars built by the United Auto Workers. The obvious explanation for this schizophrenia: Congress does whatever helps unions.

A closer look reveals that Congress has it wrong in both cases - which is what happens when lawmakers let interest groups trump common sense.

The economics of a new car voucher are laughable. . . . . .

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Ending the deregulatory philosophy of the Bush administration?

I would like some examples of deregulation under Bush. Just a few, but this article in the WSJ just asserts that there was deregulation.

President Barack Obama's inaugural budget sets the stage for an expansion of the federal work force and for hundreds of new rules that would widen Washington's involvement in the workings of private business.

If enacted by Congress, the budget initiatives will mark a clear end to the deregulatory philosophy of the Bush administration, signaling profound change for the nation's biggest businesses. . . . .


"Man pulls gun in self-defense on group of harassing teenagers"

What makes this story most noteworthy is how the schools overreacted.

A report of a man pointing a gun at some teenagers on bikes at the Sears mall spurred an extensive police response and prompted school district officials to lock the doors at Fairview Elementary School Thursday afternoon.

But it turned out the young adults had in fact been harassing the man and that he pulled a weapon from his vehicle for protection, police Lt. Dave Parker said.

The two parties split after the incident at about 1:45 p.m., but witnesses followed the man with the gun north on the Seward Highway to 13th Avenue and Gambell Street, where police with guns drawn stopped the man and a passenger.

Seeing that activity, the principal of the Fairview school locked the doors, school district spokeswoman Heidi Embley said. It was the only school to take any action and reopened a short time later, she said. . . . . .

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Replacing Souter will make a difference

The New York Times has this:

In replacing Justice Souter, President Obama will almost surely pick another liberal. But Mr. Obama may also consider Justice Souter as a kind of counterexample and choose a bigger and bolder figure, one who sets agendas, forges consensus and has a long-term vision about how to shape the law.

Legal scholars have praised Justice Souter’s care, candor and curiosity. But they have said that he is, by temperament and design, a low-impact justice devoted to deciding one case at a time, sifting through the facts and making incremental adjustments in legal doctrine to take account of them. . . . . .


Possible paper idea

The WSJ has this:

The Obama budget details drastic changes in areas as diverse as sex education and arms control after eight years of former President George W. Bush's conservative priorities. Mr. Bush's program to promote only sexual abstinence to teens, for instance, would be replaced with a teen-pregnancy prevention program that would discuss contraception. . . . .



Wasn't the government supposed to make money on these bailouts?

How many times did we hear that the government could make a profit? The potential losses are pretty large for just the top 19 banks.

The federal government projected that 19 of the nation's biggest banks could suffer losses of up to $599 billion through the end of next year if the economy performs worse than expected and ordered 10 of them to raise a combined $74.6 billion in capital to cushion themselves.

The much-anticipated stress-test results unleashed a scramble by the weakest banks to find money and a push by the strongest ones to escape the government shadow of taxpayer-funded rescues.

The Federal Reserve's worst-case estimates of banks' total losses and capital shortfalls were smaller than some had feared. Optimists interpreted the Fed's findings as evidence that the worst is over for the industry. But questions remain about the stress tests' rigor, in part since the Fed scaled back some projected losses in the face of pressure from banks. . . . .

The Wall Street Journal nails the whole idea of these stress tests here:

On the other hand, all we really have to go on is the word of the federal employees who looked at the banks and estimated their losses against certain economic assumptions. Did they go easier than they might have, and how much did they bend when the banks fought back? The Fed's overview yesterday claimed they ran a "deliberately stringent test" and pegged potential "adverse"-case losses at the 19 largest banks at $600 billion this year and next.

Yet markets are also full of reports that regulators showed more than a little forbearance, especially after it became clear that President Obama had no desire to go back to Congress to ask for more public money. With only $110 billion or so in Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds left uncommitted, it's probably no coincidence that Treasury now sees new net bank capital needs as a manageable $75 billion.

And maybe that optimism will prove correct. Most banks are earning healthy profits again, thanks to a low cost of funds and steep yield curve. They're also taking steps to burn bad debt and clean up their balance sheets. Some banks that got too big during the boom are looking to sell some of their operations in order to raise cash. This is how a financial system shapes itself up under the market pressure of recession, with or without stress tests.

Not that there still aren't plenty of financial risks out there. On the credit side, commercial real estate is ugly and both home mortgage and credit card losses are a long way from receding. While the economy seems to be bottoming out at last, unemployment will keep rising for several months, which will mean more bank losses.

But our biggest question concerns interest-rate risk. Thanks to the Federal Reserve's emergency easing, short-term rates are close to zero. That can't last forever, and the longer the Fed keeps rates this low the more likely it is that rates will have to climb higher down the road to prevent inflation. Remember how the Fed's 1% rate of 2003-2004 rose to 5.25% by 2006 and what that did to housing prices and the cost of bank funds? Yet the Fed didn't disclose the interest-rate projections for 2010 and beyond that it built into its stress test models. . . . .


ACORN workers charged with voter fraud

The AP has this story here:

PITTSBURGH (AP) - Authorities in western Pennsylvania have accused seven people who worked for the community group ACORN of falsifying voter-registration forms.
The seven have been charged with either forging, illegally soliciting or illegally filling out voter-registration cards in the lead-up to the 2008 election.

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala Jr. announced the charges at a news conference Thursday.

ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, has come under scrutiny for registration irregularities in other states.

Authorities in Nevada filed charges Monday against ACORN and two former employees on charges they illegally paid canvassers to sign up voters. ACORN denied those accusations.

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"Eco-sailors rescued by oil tanker"

From the BBC.

An expedition team which set sail from Plymouth on a 5,000-mile carbon emission-free trip to Greenland have been rescued by an oil tanker.
Raoul Surcouf, Richard Spink and skipper Ben Stoddart sent a mayday because they feared for their safety amid winds of 68mph (109km/h).
All three are reportedly exhausted but safe on board the Overseas Yellowstone.
Mr Surcouf, 40, from Jersey, Mr Spink, 31, and Mr Stoddart, 43, from Bristol, are due to arrive in the USA on 8 May.
'Heartfelt thanks'
The team, which left Mount Batten Marina in Plymouth on 19 April in a boat named the Fleur, aimed to rely on sail, solar and man power on a 580-mile (933km/h) journey to and from the highest point of the Greenland ice cap.
The expedition was followed by up to 40 schools across the UK to promote climate change awareness.
But atrocious weather dogged their journey after 27 April, culminating with the rescue on 1 May after the boat was temporarily capsized three times by the wind.
In one incident Mr Stoddart hit his head and the wind generator and solar panels were ripped from the yacht.
Water was also getting into the boat from waves breaking over it and the crew took refuge in the forward cabin.
The crew were 400 miles (644km) off the west coast of Ireland when they sent a mayday to Falmouth coastguards who co-ordinated the rescue with Irish coastguards.
The transfer from the Fleur to Overseas Yellowstone was achieved in 42mph (67km/h) winds. . . .


Defensive gun use in Wisconsin (Open carry self-defense)

Wisconsin is one of only two states that completely ban concealed carry, but that hasn't stopped defensive gun uses from people carrying guns. Here is one interesting example.

Biker scares away robbers with gun, legal question remains

By Marci Laehr Tenuta

Tuesday, May 5, 2009 9:08 PM CDT
RACINE — Four teens knocked a 42-year-old Racine man from his bike Friday night. He thought they were going to rob him.

The man pulled a Smith and Wesson revolver from his side holster, pointed it at the sky and yelled, “Gun!”

The four suspects ran, and the man flagged down a Racine police officer.

The incident will perhaps mark the first time a new opinion allowing open carry of firearms is put to the test here, as it conflicts with another state statute that makes it illegal to possess a gun within 1,000 feet of a school, if not on private property.

The Racine man involved, who asked not to be named and declined to comment on the alleged robbery attempt when contacted by The Journal Times, was assaulted in the 1100 block of Grand Avenue, which is within 1,000 feet of Walden School, 1012 Center St.

Police did not arrest the man. After he was treated for head and wrist injuries at the scene by Racine rescue, officers escorted the man home and returned his gun to him.

But that doesn’t mean charges won’t be filed against the man, and police are questioning how such situations should be handled in the future.

“It’s difficult with the way the laws are written to carry (a gun) and not get into trouble,” said police spokesman Lt. Jim Dobbs.

He said the new open carry ruling will probably prompt more and more people to wear firearms, but in many places in the city, even stepping off their front porch would mean they are breaking the law.

“People will break the law inadvertently,” Dobbs said. “We want clarification from the state on what we should be doing.”

Last month, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen sent out a memo saying openly wearing a holstered gun is not illegal. While Wisconsin law states a person cannot legally carry a concealed weapon, it does not address carrying a firearm in plain sight. . . . . .

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So who is it that benefits from getting rid of vouchers?

Well, the students and their parents surely seem to be happy with the vouchers.

Supporters of a celebrated school voucher program in Washington rallied near the mayor's office Wednesday to save the scholarships from being slashed by Congress -- nearly 40 percent of whose members send their own children to private schools.

An estimated 1,000 parents, children and community leaders attended the afternoon protest in Washington's Freedom Plaza, where they called on D.C. politicians to help preserve a federal school choice program that currently assists more than 1,700 students with scholarships worth up to $7,500. . . . .

The same congress that thinks that vouchers for education are bad, vouchers for cars good?

Congress has approved legislation to offer consumers $4,500 for trading in their gas-guzzling clunkers in exchange for newer, fuel-efficient vehicles.

Dubbed the “Cash for Clunkers” bill, the legislation was approved on May 5 by Congress and is headed for the House. The bill would be active for one year after it is signed, and would fund up to one million new vehicles. This could cost anywhere between $3 billion and $4 billion. . . . .

Qualifying passenger cars must get less than 18 miles per gallon to be eligible. If the desired new car gets at least 4 miles per gallon more than the trade in, the owner will get a voucher worth $3,500. However, if the new car gets 10 or more miles per gallon, the voucher value is upped to $4,500.

Some education numbers for DC available here.


Nonprofit newspapers will surely be very aggressive going after news, right

I think that this tells us more about the political nature of the newspapers having trouble than anything else.

The U.S. government could provide tax breaks for newspapers or allow them to operate as nonprofits to help the struggling business survive, Sen. John Kerry said Wednesday.
Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, said Congress can help the industry hit by a collapse in advertising revenue, debt that is getting harder to repay and the drift of print subscribers to free online news websites.
Without newspapers, Kerry and other lawmakers said at a Senate subcommittee hearing Wednesday, there will be too few journalists investigating governments, companies and individuals.
"I think there are definitely some things we can do to encourage, to help the situation without stepping over any line," Kerry told Reuters after holding a hearing on the future of journalism. . . . . .


Captain Richard Phillips' statement on arming the crew against pirates

His testimony is available here:

"I do believe that arming the crew as part of an overall strategy could provide an effective deterrent under certain circumstance and I believe that as part of a measured capability in this respect should be part of the overall debate about how to defend ourselves against criminals on the seas."

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More on Thuggish Government behavior on bailouts

Hedge funds strike back on Obama's attacks.

Cliff Asness, whose firm manages some $20 billion of assets, has written an open letter blasting President Obama for his attack on the hedge fund industry in the wake of the Chrysler bankruptcy.

As you'll recall, hedge funds, which hold approximately $1 billion in Chrysler bonds, refused the government's offer to take approximately thirty cents on the dollar. Obama accused hedge funds of holding out "for the prospect of an unjustified taxpayer-funded bailout."

These comments have enraged many in the industry but few have spoken out publicly. Asness, whose firm doesn't hold Chrysler bonds, says the industry is genuinely afraid in the face of Obama's power. Stating that he himself is "fearful writing this," Asness still pulls no punches:

"Let’s be clear, it is the job and obligation of all investment managers, including hedge fund managers, to get their clients the most return they can. They are allowed to be charitable with their own money, and many are spectacularly so, but if they give away their clients’ money to share in the “sacrifice”, they are stealing."
"The President screaming that the hedge funds are looking for an unjustified taxpayer-funded bailout is the big lie writ large. Find me a hedge fund that has been bailed out. Find me a hedge fund, even a failed one, that has asked for one. In fact, it was only because hedge funds have not taken government funds that they could stand up to this bullying. The TARP recipients had no choice but to go along."
"The President's attempted diktat takes money from bondholders and gives it to a labor union that delivers money and votes for him. Why is he not calling on his party to "sacrifice" some campaign contributions, and votes, for the greater good? Shaking down lenders for the benefit of political donors is recycled corruption and abuse of power."

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House passes credit-card curbs, debate moves to Senate

From the WSJ.

Many Senate Democrats want stricter limits on card companies' ability to raise rates on consumers who are paying their credit-card bills on time. But most Senate Republicans want credit-card companies to have the right to establish a price for credit based on risk. That means adjusting terms if a consumer's credit quality has deteriorated -- even if that consumer hasn't been delinquent.

Industry officials say that is necessary to offer credit fairly to consumers. "If you cannot adjust for the behavior of a consumer or the risks that they pose, you're going to have to raise rates for everybody at the outset," said Kenneth Clayton, senior vice president of card policy at the American Bankers Association, an industry trade group. "That's unfair to consumers that have been playing by the rules because they're going to pay the price."

The House overwhelmingly passed legislation last week that would ban numerous practices, such as the retroactive interest-rate increases on existing balances, and require clearer disclosure and advance notice for changes to terms. Most of the House provisions mirror federal regulations, approved by the Federal Reserve in December, that take effect in July 2010. . . . .

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) said companies are instituting "arbitrary credit-rate increases" -- with interest rates doubling or tripling "without any misconduct" by cardholders. "The companies are doing more of this now. And the feeling is they're doing more of it because they know your rules will go into effect" in more than a year, he told Mr. Bernanke.

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Why Democrat Politicians send their kids to private schools

From the WSJ:

Two weeks ago, the Heritage Foundation highlighted this double standard with the release of a new study showing that 38% of the members of Congress are sending or have sent their children to private schools. That's more than three times the rate for rest of America. For Democrats especially, their choice of a private school for their own families tends to make them opponents of choice for others. . . . .

- President Barack Obama. Though the president talks a good game about putting kids first, and could save the Opportunity Scholarships Program with a few words, he remains silent -- even as his daughters attend the exclusive Sidwell Friends School.

- Education Secretary Arne Duncan. When Mr. Duncan chose a safe suburban school in Virginia for his kids, he explained it this way: "I didn't want to try to save the country's children and our educational system and jeopardize my own children's education."

Fair enough. Mr. Duncan also stated that the children who now have scholarships should be grandfathered. This reporter called his office to ask what, specifically, his department is doing to make that happen. A spokesman said they are working on a budget request -- though the administration has not yet decided whether the funding would be just for their existing schools or stay with them through high school.

- Mayor Adrian Fenty. The mayor nominally favors the Opportunity Scholarships, but he's been an uncertain trumpet -- and his lack of leadership was a green light to a Democratic Congress itching to end the program. Though the mayor has promised that his two sons will go to D.C. public schools come fall, right now they too are in a private school.

- Sen. Durbin. In his floor statement defending his killer amendment, Mr. Durbin admitted he chose Catholic schools for his own children. "If I entrusted my own children to [private education], I certainly believe in it." But he went on to say this choice should be there only for Americans who pay for it.

Hmm. Wonder if Mr. Durbin's voting record reveals a consistent respect for not funding things when Americans can't afford them -- or if this fiscal rectitude is reserved only for programs that rile his friends in the teachers unions? . . . .


What did Specter get by switching parties?

Moving the Democrats to 60 votes seems to be an extremely valuable gain for them. A loss of his seniority and the prospect of a tough Democrat primary makes wonder why he switched. However, the Hill reports:

Despite promises from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) that Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.) would retain his seniority after switching parties, Specter will be put at the end of the seniority line on all his committees but one under a resolution on the floor late Tuesday.

Under the modified organizing resolution, Specter will not keep his committee seniority on any of the five committees that he serves on and will be the junior Democrat on all but one — the chamber’s Special Committee on Aging. On that committee, he will be next to last in seniority. . . . . .

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has two prominent Democrats predicting that Specter will face a tough Democrat primary next year.

"I'm pleased that he saw the light and decided he would be a better fit for the Democratic Party and I think you have to allow for his political views to evolve," said former DNC chairman Howard Dean in an interview with the Huffington Post. "But he won't win the Democratic primary by taking the position that you should not have [the Employee Free Choice Act] or a public option for health insurance... If he takes these kinds of views, of course there is going to be a Democratic primary."

In a separate interview with the Huffington Post, Democratic strategist James Carville was equally sour on Specter's recent party switch, calling the defection a potential "major event in terms of how the Senate conducts its business," but "a relatively minor event in political history."

"[Specter] was the least reliable Republican. So he will just switch to become the least reliable Democrat," said the longtime Clinton confidant and author of the upcoming book, "40 More Years: How the Democrats Will Rule the Next Generation." "I wouldn't try to make much more out of it than the political survivor comes up with one more act in a long running play of political survival... The one thing I will give him is I will give him some points for candor for being so upfront about [his switch]."

"I'm not sure this is going to have a great ending," added Carville, who has worked extensively in Pennsylvania politics. "He could get primaried, you know... If [Rep. Joe] Sestak runs, [Specter] will have to fight."

The strange thing is that the Democrats were courting Specter.

In the Democratic Party’s courtship of Arlen Specter, no one may have played a bigger role than Vice President Joe Biden.

Biden has been trying to convince Specter to switch parties for at least the past five years, but those efforts were stepped up once he was sworn in as vice president, a senior White House official said.

Biden has met or spoken on the phone with Specter an average of once a week since the Inauguration. And after Specter became one of three Senate Republicans to support the administration’s stimulus package, those conversations were increased.

In the past 10 weeks, Biden has spoken with Specter 14 times — six in person and eight on the phone, according to the senior official.

Biden said at a fundraiser in Houston Tuesday that he's been trying to convince Specter "that he is really Democrat" for over two decades.

But, he added, "I have been working on that in earnest for the past four years and double-time for the past 100 days."


The US apparently has an extra $63 Billion for world health

An amount equal to $210 per American will be spent on health care for the rest of the world.

The Obama administration wants the United States to spend $63 billion over the next six years to fight global diseases and provide more aid for prenatal and postnatal care, children's health and fighting tropical diseases.

"We cannot fix every problem," Obama said in a written statement Tuesday. "But we have a responsibility to protect the health of our people, while saving lives, reducing suffering, and supporting the health and dignity of people everywhere. America can make a significant difference in meeting these challenges and that is why my administration is committed to act." . . . . .

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Chrysler will not repay bailout money

CNN has the story here:

Chrysler LLC will not repay U.S. taxpayers more than $7 billion in bailout money it received earlier this year and as part of its bankruptcy filing.

This revelation was buried within Chrysler's bankruptcy filings last week and confirmed by the Obama administration Tuesday. The filings included a list of business assumptions from one of the company's key financial advisors in the bankruptcy case.

Some of the main assumptions listed by Robert Manzo of Capstone Advisory Group were that the Treasury would forgive a $4 billion bridge loan given to Chrysler in the closing days of the Bush administration, a $300 million fee on that loan, and the $3.2 billion in financing approved last week by the Obama administration to fund Chrysler's operations during bankruptcy. . . . .


Heroic College Student uses Gun to Save lives of Other Students

WSB TV has this:

COLLEGE PARK, Ga. -- A group of college students said they are lucky to be alive and they’re thanking the quick-thinking of one of their own. Police said a fellow student shot and killed one of two masked me who burst into an apartment.
Channel 2 Action News reporter Tom Jones met with one of the students to talk about the incident.
“Apparently, his intent was to rape and murder us all,” said student Charles Bailey.
Bailey said he thought it was the end of his life and the lives of the 10 people inside his apartment for a birthday party after two masked men with guns burst in through a patio door.
“They just came in and separated the men from the women and said, ‘Give me your wallets and cell phones,’” said George Williams of the College Park Police Department.
Bailey said the gunmen started counting bullets. “The other guy asked how many (bullets) he had. He said he had enough,” said Bailey.
That’s when one student grabbed a gun out of a backpack and shot at the invader who was watching the men. The gunman ran out of the apartment.
The student then ran to the room where the second gunman, identified by police as 23-year-old Calvin Lavant, was holding the women.
“Apparently the guy was getting ready to rape his girlfriend. So he told the girls to get down and he started shooting. The guy jumped out of the window,” said Bailey. . . . . .
Lavant, who was found dead near his apartment, only one building away. . . . .

Thanks to David Burnett for the link.


More taxes from Obama

This will increase the tax rate on foreign investments relative to those in the US.

Americans and American businesses earning profits overseas will pay an estimated $210 billion dollars more in taxes over the next decade if Congress approves stricter international tax laws outlined by the Obama Administration Monday. . . . .

Currently, most American-owned businesses investing overseas can delay paying federal taxes on their profits until they bring that money back to the United States. These businesses can also take tax deductions on their overseas investments. The President is proposing Congress eliminate those deductions unless the company pays its U.S. taxes on international profits. There would be an exception for research and experimentation expenses that have a spillover benefit to the U.S. . . . . .

The WSJ has this:

The President's argument is that U.S. tax-deferral rules make it more expensive for American companies to reinvest overseas profits at home than abroad. This, he claims, creates a perverse incentive for companies to "ship jobs overseas" and reduces investment and job creation in the U.S.

He's right, except that his proposals would only compound the problem. His plan would limit the tax deferral on income earned abroad by tightening the rules, limiting allowable deductions and restricting eligibility for foreign-tax credits. This "solution" is antigrowth, job-destroying, protectionist and unlikely to raise the tax revenue Mr. Obama predicts. Other than that . . .

The current tax-deferral system is a clumsy attempt to deal with the fact that most other countries don't tax their companies' overseas profits. A German firm doing business in Ireland, say, pays no German income tax on its Irish profits, but it does pay Ireland's corporate income tax at its 12.5% rate. The U.S. company competing with that German business in Ireland, by contrast, pays Ireland the same 12.5% on its profits -- and it then pays Uncle Sam up to 35%, minus a credit for what it paid the Irish. And because almost everyone else's corporate tax rates are lower than America's (see nearby table), U.S. companies end up paying higher taxes than their international competitors. . . . .

The explicit goal of this plan is to reduce the incentive for U.S. companies to invest abroad, which Mr. Obama derisively calls "shipping jobs overseas." Foreign companies may relish the loss of U.S. corporate competitiveness that his proposal will bring in the short term. But in the long term, reducing U.S. investment globally will hurt everyone. . . . . .

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Movement to end gun-free zones in restaurants in Tennessee

The discussion is here:

A joint committee on a bill to allow handgun carry permit holders to take their weapons into restaurants that serve alcohol decided to remove restrictions passed in the House that would not have allowed the guns in age-restricted restaurants and would have barred the weapons from any restaurant from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.

The House panel in the committee voted 3-2 to recommend a Senate amendment that contained neither of the stipulations that passed the House. Rep. Curry Todd, R-Collierville and the sponsor of the bill, indicated to the AP that the restrictions he fought for in the House didn’t matter once the bill went to a conference committee.

Todd indicated in the committee that he might want to move its decision to the House floor as early as tonight. The Senate will have to wait at least 24 hours before considering the measure, according to Sen. Doug Jackson, meaning it will likely come to the Senate floor Thursday.

The amendment indicated the bill, if passed into law, would go into effect June 1.

Thanks to Caleb C. for the link.

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Coast to Coast AM show started an hour early

Show started at 1 AM EDT. You can get the link here.



Captain who had been held by pirates urges that crew members be armed

The LA Times has this story:

Reporting from Washington -- The freed captain of a merchant ship attacked by pirates near Somalia last month called Thursday for military protection and armed crew members to thwart attacks in dangerous waters.

Capt. Richard Phillips, skipper of the Maersk Alabama, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that it was the "responsibility of the U.S. government" to protect any ship flying an American flag, through military escorts or onboard squads of highly trained security forces.

He added that an armed brigade of specially trained senior crew members also could deter pirate attacks in certain situations.

"And I don't mean a security guard. I don't mean a mall cop. I mean someone who's sufficiently trained," Phillips said

Phillips and the private shipping line's chairman, John Clancey, differed in their prescriptions for addressing piracy in testimony Thursday. Clancey said arming and training crew officers would be prohibitively expensive and would result in a potentially deadly arms race with pirates.

But the recommendations from Phillips, widely regarded as a hero for selflessly trading his freedom in exchange for that of his 20-person crew, are likely to pressure the U.S. military to consider steps he outlined in the hearing. At the same time, military officials have said that world navies could not protect every ship, and they have recommended that vessel operators adopt more aggressive defenses.

Since the Maersk Alabama attack, the military has held several meetings with shipping companies, looking for better ways to deter pirates. Clancey said those talks were continuing.

He said Maersk Inc. had more than 500 merchant ships at sea, making the cost of training and arming crews a "very tall order," and not one with guaranteed results.

"Our belief is that arming merchant sailors may result in the acquisition of ever more lethal weapons and tactics by the pirates, a race that merchant sailors cannot win," Clancey said.

He also pointed out that most nations did not permit armed ships to enter ports or dock. Besides talks with military officials, Clancey said ships were being "hardened," including the addition of electrified rails and pressure hoses. . . . . .

This point about "most nations did not permit armed ships to enter ports or dock" may explain why we don't see more armed ships. Another gun free zone has its problems. We ran into this problem with arming pilots and that seems to have been worked out with some countries.

Thanks very much to Gus Cotey for sending me this link.



See this piece from Lou Dobbs' show on CNN here. Would be used to justify registration of guns.

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More abusive actions by the government

The list of abuses from government coercion is getting too long to keep track of. Here is another example from Jake Tapper at ABC News.

White House Denies Charge By Attorney that Administration Threatened to Destroy Investment Firm's Reputation
May 02, 2009 3:17 PM

A leading bankruptcy attorney representing hedge funds and money managers told ABC News Saturday that Steve Rattner, the leader of the Obama administration's Auto Industry Task Force, threatened one of the firms, an investment bank, that if it continued to oppose the administration's Chrysler bankruptcy plan, the White House would use the White House press corps to destroy its reputation. . . . .

Perella Weinberg Partners, Lauria said, "was directly threatened by the White House and in essence compelled to withdraw its opposition to the deal under the threat that the full force of the White House press corps would destroy its reputation if it continued to fight. That’s how hard it is to stand on this side of the fence."

Perella Weinberg Partners, which owned Chrysler debt through its Xerion Fund, was one of Lauria's clients in this bankruptcy, but no longer is. Before the Thursday deadline, Joseph Perella and Peter Weinberg tried to join the larger creditors -- JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, and Goldman Sachs -- who are owed roughly 70% of Chrysler's debt and had already agreed to participate with the administration's plan.

All four financial institutions are recipients of up to $100 billion in federal government bailout funds, though the Obama administration insists the matters were kept completely separate. . . . .

President Obama singled out Lauria's clients for criticism when he announced the Chrysler plan on Thursday.

"While many stakeholders made sacrifices and worked constructively, I have to tell you some did not," the president said. "In particular, a group of investment firms and hedge funds decided to hold out for the prospect of an unjustified taxpayer-funded bailout. They were hoping that everybody else would make sacrifices, and they would have to make none."

Lauria said the president's assertion that his clients weren't willing to make any sacrifice is false. The clients were willing to take 50 cents on the dollar from Chrysler for their debt, he said. . . .

1) Well, the President appears to have carried out his threat at the press conference.
2) The large creditors that the government owns did what the government wanted, but the ones it doesn't own didn't. And there is no connection between these actions and government ownership? Dubious.
3) $27 billion loaned by both the government and creditors to GM, yet gov is supposed to get 50 percent and the creditors are to get 10 percent of the stock. It is then surprising that the non-government owned creditors are upset by the deal?

UPDATE: The Detroit News mentions the consequences for the companies that Obama criticized.

Creditors objecting to Chrysler LLC's efforts to speed the company's move through bankruptcy won a delay in a key hearing today, and a lawyer said some had received death threats.
The major proposal on tap for today was winning approval of the company's plan to establish bidding procedures -- in an effort to quickly allow the "good" assets of Chrysler to be auctioned off so the company can quickly emerge from bankruptcy. . . . .

A lawyer for the objecting creditors, Thomas Lauria, told Gonzales that some creditors had received death threats -- and those had been referred to the FBI and local police. Lauria wants court permission to keep the identities of some of those creditors secret. . . . .

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"NYT Corrects Article Gore Cited in Congressional Testimony"

On April 23rd the NY Times had this:

“The role of greenhouse gases in climate change is not well understood,” the coalition said in a scientific “backgrounder” provided to lawmakers and journalists through the early 1990s, adding that “scientists differ” on the issue.

But a document filed in a federal lawsuit demonstrates that even as the coalition worked to sway opinion, its own scientific and technical experts were advising that the science backing the role of greenhouse gases in global warming could not be refuted.

“The scientific basis for the Greenhouse Effect and the potential impact of human emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 on climate is well established and cannot be denied,” the experts wrote in an internal report compiled for the coalition in 1995. . . . .

On May 2, 2009, had this correction.

The article cited a “backgrounder” that laid out the coalition’s public stance, published in the early 1990s and distributed widely to lawmakers and journalists. However, the article failed to note a later version of the backgrounder that included language that conformed to the scientific advisory committee’s conclusion. The later version was distributed publicly in 1998, but existed in some form as early as 1995, according to an online archive kept by Greenpeace. The amended version, which was brought to the attention of The Times by a reader, acknowledged the consensus that greenhouse gases could contribute to warming. What scientists disagreed about, it said, was “the rate and magnitude of the ‘enhanced greenhouse effect’ (warming) that will result.”

As this You Tube clip shows, Gore used the original article from the NY Times in his testimony.

The text of the relevant part of Gores statement includes this:

Sen. Warner made reference in his opening statement to the story on the front page of the New York Times this morning. Absolutely incredible. The largest corporate carbon polluters in America, 14 years ago, asked their own people to conduct a review of all of this science. And their own people told them, “What the international scientific community is saying is correct, there is no legitimate basis for denying it.” Then, these large polluters committed a massive fraud far larger than Bernie Madoff’s fraud. They are the Bernie Madoffs of global warming. They ordered the censoring and removal of the scientific review that they themselves conducted, and like Bernie Madoff, they lied to the people who trusted them in order to make money. . . .

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One reason why public schools are so bad

This is just the very beginning of a very long article in the LA Times. It is very interesting. The unionization of public schooling helps explain how bad public schools are, but that is only part of the reason.

Firing tenured teachers can be a costly and tortuous task
Los Angeles Times
By Jason Song
May 3, 2009

Joseph Walker, former principal of Grant High School in Van Nuys, says that because of the uphill battles that administrators face in terminating teachers: “You’re not going to fire someone who’s not doing their job. And if you have someone who’s done something really egregious, there’s only a 50-50 chance that you can fire them.”

The eighth-grade boy held out his wrists for teacher Carlos Polanco to see.

He had just explained to Polanco and his history classmates at Virgil Middle School in Koreatown why he had been absent: He had been in the hospital after a failed attempt at suicide.

Polanco looked at the cuts and said they "were weak," according to witness accounts in documents filed with the state. "Carve deeper next time," he was said to have told the boy.

"Look," Polanco allegedly said, "you can't even kill yourself."

The boy's classmates joined in, with one advising how to cut a main artery, according to the witnesses.

"See," Polanco was quoted as saying, "even he knows how to commit suicide better than you."

The Los Angeles school board, citing Polanco's poor judgment, voted to fire him.

But Polanco, who contended that he had been misunderstood, kept his job. A little-known review commission overruled the board, saying that although the teacher had made the statements, he had meant no harm.

It's remarkably difficult to fire a tenured public school teacher in California, a Times investigation has found. The path can be laborious and labyrinthine, in some cases involving years of investigation, union grievances, administrative appeals, court challenges and re-hearings.

Not only is the process arduous, but some districts are particularly unsuccessful in navigating its complexities. The Los Angeles Unified School District sees the majority of its appealed dismissals overturned, and its administrators are far less likely even to try firing a tenured teacher than those in other districts.

The Times reviewed every case on record in the last 15 years in which a tenured employee was fired by a California school district and formally contested the decision before a review commission: 159 in all (not including about two dozen in which the records were destroyed). The newspaper also examined court and school district records and interviewed scores of people, including principals, teachers, union officials, district administrators, parents and students.

Among the findings:

* Building a case for dismissal is so time-consuming, costly and draining for principals and administrators that many say they don't make the effort except in the most egregious cases. The vast majority of firings stem from blatant misconduct, including sexual abuse, other immoral or illegal behavior, insubordination or repeated violation of rules such as showing up on time.

* Although districts generally press ahead with only the strongest cases, even these get knocked down more than a third of the time by the specially convened review panels, which have the discretion to restore teachers' jobs even when grounds for dismissal are proved.

* Jettisoning a teacher solely because he or she can't teach is rare. In 80% of the dismissals that were upheld, classroom performance was not even a factor. . . . .

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