"California Won't Accept Its Own IOUs"

Pretty amazing. It will be very interesting to see what the courts do on this.

Small businesses that received $682 million in IOUs from the state say California expects them to pay taxes on the worthless scraps of paper, but refuses to accept its own IOUs to pay debts or taxes. The vendors' federal class action claims the state is trying to balance its budget on their backs.
Lead plaintiff Nancy Baird filled her contract with California to provide embroidered polo shirts to a youth camp run by the National Guard, but never was paid the $27,000 she was owed. She says California "paid" her with an IOU that two banks refused to accept - yet she had to pay California sales tax on the so-called "sale" of the uniforms.
The class consists mostly of small business owners, many of whom rely on income from government contracts to keep afloat. They say California has used them as "suckers" as it looks for a way to bankroll its operations while avoiding its own financial obligations.
"Instead of seeking funds through proper channels, the State has created a nightmare," the class says. "Many of these businesses will not survive if they are required to wait until October 2009 to have these forced IOUs redeemed by the State."
The class claims the state is violating the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. It demands that California be ordered to honor its own IOUs, plus interest. They are represented by William Audet.

From Kirt McAlexander.


Obama on bipartisanship

"I don't want the folks who created the mess to do a lot of talking. I want them to get out of the way so we can clean up the mess . . ."

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Stories on Congressional jets indicate that more is being spent on Congressional Travel

Sotomayor sworn in on August 8th, 2009

Senate confirmed Sotomayor's nomination Thursday by a 68-31 vote. On May 26th, Sotomayor was nominated. The confirmation from nomination to the Senate vote took 72 days. She was sworn in today.

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Democrats going crazy over Michele Bachmann

The Politico has this:

"Michele Bachmann is just nuts," said Jeremy Powers, a local DFL chair in Bachmann's district. "She is just an utter embarrassment."

And some Democrats — Powers included — don't hesitate to compare Bachmann with the aforementioned Palin, another conservative lightning rod in her mid-40s who speaks with an upper-Midwestern accent, is the mother of a large family and touts a stridently socially conservative agenda that Democrats regard as outright right wing.

"She is so principally and diametrically opposed to the core principles that we have," Donald McFarland, a Minnesota-based Democratic strategist, said of Bachmann. "She is further to the right than Attila the Hun."

"She's the poster girl for the radical fringe element," added Brian Smoot, who served as political director at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee last campaign cycle.

“I think they’re passionate about trying to beat Michele Bachmann,” said Michael Brodkorb, deputy chairman of the Minnesota Republican Party of Democratic efforts. “I think she probably frustrates them because she’s able to win every time.”

Democrats almost took out Bachmann in 2008, when national Democrats spent nearly $1.1 million blasting her in ads after she appeared to suggest in an October interview with MSNBC's Chris Matthews that the media should investigate then-Sen. Obama and other Democrats in Congress for anti-American activities.

But as they prepare for the 2010 cycle, they are doubling down on their efforts to unseat the 43-year-old congresswoman.

Much of the Minnesota Democratic establishment has already thrown its backing to state Sen. Tarryl Clark in her bid to oust Bachmann. After announcing her candidacy last week, Clark — widely regarded as a political heavy-hitter in the state who was also touted as a potential gubernatorial candidate — immediately won the backing of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees and St. Cloud College Democrats.

The backing forced former candidate El Tinklenberg, who came within 3 percent of defeating Bachmann in 2008, to drop out of the race — just one week after announcing he was running again.

The DCCC and the Minnesota DFL denied to POLITICO this week that they were working behind the scenes to clear the field for Clark, but strategists for both parties say there is little question the national Democratic Party will take an active role in the 2010 effort to oust Bachmann.

"There has been a lot of passion to defeat Michele Bachman, which will carry on from last cycle," said John Lapp, who served as executive director of the DCCC during the 2006 cycle under then-chair Rahm. . . .

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New Fox News Op-ed: Dissecting the New Unemployment Numbers

I would have picked a different title for the piece, but, in any case, my Newest piece starts this way:

The announcement today that the unemployment rate declined slightly to 9.4 percent in July while only 247,000 additional jobs were lost has been greeted as good news. The change in the unemployment rate puts the rate at what it was in May. Yet, even a rough look at the numbers indicates that the true unemployment rate has been getting significantly worse over the last few months.

How is it possible for the unemployment rate to essentially remain unchanged when 247,000 jobs have been lost? The reason is simple -- the number of people who stopped looking for work rose dramatically. Six hundred thirty-seven thousand additional people no longer consider themselves looking for work. This is by far the largest drop in the number of people who consider themselves in the labor force during the last year. -- It is almost twice the 358,000 increase in the people who left the labor force during June and almost four times the average monthly increase of 167,333 over the last year. Jobs are sufficiently scarce and the prospects of people finding them at wages that they are willing to work for so low that many individuals don't think that it is worth their time to even look for a job.

Part of the drop in unemployment is also due to the fact that some people are running out of unemployment benefits and taking part-time jobs. There is usually a big increase in the rate that people find jobs during the last few weeks that they have unemployment benefits. In July 102,670 people saw their unemployment benefits run out. That number rose to 141,538 in August and is expected to soar to 486,049 in September. It will keep on rising each month hitting 1.5 million in just December alone. . . . .

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Russians may have taken down Twitter, Facebook, and LiveJournal while trying to stop a Georgian Blogger

So what does the US government say to the Russians when they disrupt the operation of a few American businesses. ABC News has this:

Twitter, Facebook, LiveJournal, Google Blogger and other Web sites were hobbled Thursday -- Twitter was completely down for many users -- and it all appears to have been because of a coordinated online attack on one political blogger in the Republic of Georgia.

The man called himself "Cyxymu." ABC News tracked him down in Tblisi, Georgia, and spoke to him by phone.

He said he is a 34-year-old economics professor named Georgy (he wouldn't give his last name), a married father of two. He said he is a refugee from Abkhazia, a region of Georgia that declared its independence in 1991 after the breakup of the Soviet Union, but is recognized by only a few of the world's governments.

Georgy said he started a blog on the LiveJournal site to unite fellow refugees who would like Abkhazia to recognize Georgia's authority over it. Last summer, Georgia and Russia went to war with each other, and Georgy started criticizing Russia -- which recognized his homeland's independence -- online.

Georgy said he believes he was targeted by a group linked to the Kremlin. "It's hard to say who did it but I looked at how it was done and it definitely cost a lot of money. An operation like this couldn't have been done by a group of enthusiasts."

What they did is known as a Denial of Service attack (DoS). They sent out computer viruses that infected thousands of computers around the world -- and, at a specified time, inundated the sites used by Georgy with e-mails. . . . .

See also a discussion at USA Today.

It appears that the denial of service attacks that cut off access to Twitter and disrupted Facebook and LiveJournal on Thursday morning stemmed from an attempt to obliterate the social network accounts of an anti-Russian blogger, nicknamed Cyxymu.

In this Guardian interview, Cyxymu blames the Russian government for trying to muzzle him, on the eve of the anniversary of the Russia-Georgia war.

A half-dozen security researchers interviewed this morning agree that Cyxymu was the target of denial-of-service attacks that got out of control. But it makes no sense that the Russian government would use a sledgehammer to squash a mosquito, says Nick Bilogorskiy, antivirus researcher at security firm SonicWall.

Bilogorskiy estimates that it took a few hundred thousand bots sending nuisance messages aimed at Twitter's servers to cut off Cyxymu's Twitter account. In today's cyber underground, it would cost about $5,000 to rent a botnet of that size to conduct such an attack, he says.

Cisco security researcher Patrick Peterson says its like "throwing a hand grenade to kill a fly." The big beneficiary: Cyxymu, who now "has gained exactly the visibility the attackers presumably were trying to smother," says Peterson. On Wednesday, Cyxymu had about 100 followers on Twitter; as of Friday morning he had 816.

Another surprising beneficiary: Twitter. "The only thing that I'm sure is going to happen after these incidents is that Twitter will gain even more popularity as a result," says Stephan Tanase, senior researcher at Kaspersky Lab. "Everybody's talking about it, the story is all over the news, all over the world. So the only thing that will happen is that Twitter will be even more popular after this." . . .

A discussion of the costs here:

For Twitter's approximately 30 million users, life — even a few hours — without the popular service meant no tweeting about breaking news, work or the fact that Twitter was down.
Social networks Twitter, Facebook and LiveJournal on Thursday morning were overwhelmed by denial-of-service attacks disrupting access to more than 300 million users. Botnets — thousands of infected home and workplace PCs — flooded the websites with nuisance requests, thus cutting off access to anyone else. . . .

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Palin views the rationing of health care as evil

Palin weighs in on one aspect of the health care debate.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin called President Obama's health plan "downright evil" Friday in her first online comments since leaving office, saying in a Facebook posting that he would create a "death panel" that would deny care to the neediest Americans.

"Who will suffer the most when they ration care? The sick, the elderly, and the disabled, of course," the former vice Republican presidential candidate wrote on her Facebook page, which has nearly 700,000 supporters.

"The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil," Palin wrote.

An e-mail sent to Palin's spokeswoman to confirm authorship was not immediately returned Friday.

Obama, a Democrat, campaigned on a promise of offering affordable health care to all Americans. He has proposed a system that would include government and private insurers.

Republicans say that private insurers would be unable to compete, leaving the country with only a government-run health program. They warn that could leave Americans with little control over their health care. . . .

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Glenn Beck on Cass Sunstein



So now the question about the right to bear arms

Last year in Heller the Supreme Court said that people have a right to own guns. The Second Amendment read that people have the right "to keep and bear arms." So what about the "bear" part? CBS News has this story:

One question left unanswered by the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark Second Amendment ruling last year is this: When do law-abiding Americans have the right to carry firearms in public for self-defense?

In a lawsuit filed against the city of Washington, D.C. on Thursday, the Second Amendment Foundation aims to find out.

The plaintiffs are four gun owners who were denied licenses to carry firearms in public on their person, which nearly all states permit. All U.S. states except Illinois and Wisconsin grant licenses for concealed carry, and 36 states require local police to issue the licenses unless there's a valid reason (such as a criminal history) not to do so.

The District of Columbia is a special case. Its city code says nobody may carry "either openly or concealed on or about their person, a pistol, without a license." But a law enacted in December 2008 appears to have curbed the ability of the police chief to grant those licenses.

"This really isn't about concealed carry," Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, told CBSNews.com in an interview on Thursday evening. "It's about being able to carry a gun, period. D.C. can prescribe some form or fashion or regulation or restrictions, but there's no way they can say you can't do it at all." . . . .

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Pelosi's evidence of opposition to health care plan "carrying Swastikas"

Yesterday I pointed to Nancy Pelosi's claim that those protesting health care plan of "carrying Swastikas and symbols like that." Well, I contacted Pelosi's office about their evidence of these people "carrying Swastikas." Surely the implication is that those opposing the Democrats health care plan are Nazis. Nadeam Elshami, a spokesperson for Pelosi's congressional office, told me on Thursday that they had one picture of someone carrying a sign. See this:

Note this is not a pro-Swastika sign. It is a ban Swastika sign. I emailed Mr. Elshami about this inconsistency, but I received no further response. I wouldn't have used this sign myself and, while I understand people's fear about what is happening to health care, I think that such a sign is a mistake.

Obviously, Pelosi's claim makes it sound as if the signs are common -- a picture of one sign doesn't make it common. More importantly, if Pelosi had said that people were ""carrying anti-Swastika signs," what would have been the response to that?

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The reason why Democrats have refused to find out what other politicians that Countrywide Financial gave money to?

One would think that the stonewalling on the investigation already looked bad enough. Boy, with the news that a powerful committee chairman who also apparently got one of these favorable loans was blocking the investigation should produce a firestorm from the media. From the WSJ:

A powerful House Democrat who has turned down a Republican's call to subpoena records of a mortgage program at Countrywide Financial Corp. received two home loans from the lender.

Some information in the lawmaker's mortgage documents raises the possibility they were made through the program, which provided loans to public figures and other favored borrowers often at lower interest rates or with lower origination fees than were available to the general public.

The loans were made to Rep. Edolphus Towns of New York, who heads the House Oversight and Government Reform committee. The panel's ranking Republican, California Rep. Darrell Issa, has been pushing to have the committee subpoena mortgage records showing who received loans through Countrywide's VIP program -- operated under former Chief Executive Angelo Mozilo and known within the company as "Friends of Angelo." . . .

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Appearing on FOX Business at 5:05 PM EDT tonight

I will be on FOX Business tonight to talk about the Cash for Clunkers program.

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Be careful of putting too much weight on recent GDP numbers

From the beginning of a piece at the Washington Times:

Administration officials have been touting the good news that gross domestic product fell at an annual rate of "only" 1 percent in the second quarter. We are glad GDP didn't fall by more, but the outlook is still not good. Government spending launders GDP numbers to make the economy look better off than it really is.

In the second quarter, the private sector shrank at the alarming rate of 3 percent. The only reason total GDP did not fall by more than 1 percent is that real federal expenditures and gross investment soared by 11 percent in the second quarter. Real state and local government consumption expenditures and gross investment increased by 2.4 percent.

This matters because government projects always add to GDP by how much they cost. If the government dug a ditch and filled it in, the expense for the digging and the filling would both count toward GDP. Whether a project is worth the cost -- or even needed at all -- is not considered.

For instance, $11 million in the stimulus package was used to build a bridge connecting two adjacent parts of Microsoft's headquarters in Redmond, Wash. If Microsoft had figured the bridge was worth the investment, the company would have tapped its own vast resources to build it without stimulus money. Maybe the $11 million bridge is only worth $6 million to Microsoft, but it is certainly worth less than $11 million. Regardless, the expenditure is counted as $11 million as far as GDP is concerned. . . .

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Corruption over state college admissions

"The scandal adds to the state's reputation for rampant political corruption." From the WSJ:

Two University of Illinois trustees have resigned and a commission appointed by Gov. Patrick Quinn is expected Thursday to recommend that the remaining seven step down following charges that trustees eased admissions for hundreds of politically connected students.

Following a six-week inquiry, the Illinois Admissions Review Commission found that trustees created separate admissions criteria for applicants sponsored by elected officials, trustees and donors.

"It became a formal, underground, parallel admissions process that had a structure of its own," review commission member Zaldwaynaka Scott said at a meeting last week. "It was a completely independent system that operated without regard to academic records, academic potential." . . .

"It makes me angry to think that someone who didn't put in the hours or work as hard as me has my spot," said John Suo, who earned a 4.0 grade-point average at Naperville Central High School outside Chicago but was rejected by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's business school. . . . .

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Sestak makes it official, will challenge Specter next year

The question is whether Sestak is too liberal for Pennsylvania. U.S. Congressman Joe Sestak (D), who represents Pennsylvania’s 7th Congressional voting district and most of Delaware County, has one of the most politically liberal voting records in Congress.

On the right, the American Conservative Union says Sestak voted conservatively zero percent of the time. According to the Americans for Democratic Action on the left, Sestak voted liberally 95 percent of the time. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), also on the left, has given Joe Sestak an overall grade of 100.

Sestak votes down the line with unions. The American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, people who work for the government, said that Sestak supported them 100 percent of the time in 2007. The AFL-CIO gave him just a slightly lower rating, saying he voted with them 96 percent of the time in 2007. A conservative business orientated group such as the Club for Growth gave him a rating of just 2 percent.

The League of Conservation Voters said that he voted every single time for more environmental restrictions in 2008.

With the national debt no exceeding $10 trillion, people on both sides of the aisle may be troubled to learn that Sestak is given an “F” by the National Taxpayer’s Union because he voted virtually always for more spending.

The Washington Times has his announcement that he is running here.

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Pelosi accuses those protesting health care plan of "carrying Swastikas and symbols like that"

Pelosi is accusing people of not genuinely being upset about the government takeover of health care. That they are merely being put up by others to protest. She is also saying that they are "carrying Swastikas and symbols like that."

Apparently, Pelosi isn't the only person of claiming the protests involve AstroTurfing. The WSJ:

Briefing reporters Tuesday, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs suggested that the opposition is being organized by a small group seeking to create "manufactured anger."

"I hope people will take a jaundiced eye to what is clearly the AstroTurf nature of so-called grass-roots lobbying," Mr. Gibbs said.

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White House asks citizens to tell them about people who are critical of the President's health care changes?

ABC News has this.

A Republican senator is calling for the White House to suspend a new project that asks members of the public to flag “fishy” claims about President Obama’s health care plans, arguing that it raises privacy concerns and will serve to chill free speech.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, is sending a letter to the White House today asking the president to “cease this program immediately” -- or to explain how Americans’ privacy will be protected if e-mails are forwarded to the White House as requested.

“I am not aware of any precedent for a President asking American citizens to report their fellow citizens to the White House for pure political speech that is deemed ‘fishy’ or otherwise inimical to the White House’s political interests,” Cornyn writes

“I can only imagine the level of justifiable outrage had your predecessor asked Americans to forward emails critical of his policies to the White House. I suspect that you would have been leading the charge in condemning such a program -- and I would have been at your side denouncing such heavy-handed government action.”

Yesterday, White House director of new media Macon Phillips wrote a blog posting urging readers to flag questionable claims about health care proposals.

“There is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform out there, spanning from control of personal finances to end of life care. These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation. Since we can’t keep track of all of them here at the White House, we’re asking for your help. If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to flag@whitehouse.gov.” . . . .

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Dems in Congress order jets for their own travel

So where is all the outrage about Car makers traveling by private jet to DC? This was not classified as an earmark because it simply was placed in as an expansion of an existing federal government program. As a result, the name of the person who asked for the additional money will not be made public. From Roll Call magazine:

Last year, lawmakers excoriated the CEOs of the Big Three automakers for traveling to Washington, D.C., by private jet to attend a hearing about a possible bailout of their companies.

But apparently Congress is not philosophically averse to private air travel: At the end of July, the House approved nearly $200 million for the Air Force to buy three elite Gulfstream jets for ferrying top government officials and Members of Congress.

The Air Force had asked for one Gulfstream 550 jet (price tag: about $65 million) as part of an ongoing upgrade of its passenger air service.

But the House Appropriations Committee, at its own initiative, added to the 2010 Defense appropriations bill another $132 million for two more airplanes and specified that they be assigned to the D.C.-area units that carry Members of Congress, military brass and top government officials.

Because the Appropriations Committee viewed the additional aircraft as an expansion of an existing Defense Department program, it did not treat the money for two more planes as an earmark, and the legislation does not disclose which Member had requested the additional money. . . . .

UPDATE: John Fund has this at the WSJ's Political Diary.

How to Travel Like a CEO on a Government Salary

The country is in tough economic straits, but you wouldn't know it by how much Congress is spending on itself. The budget for the legislative branch is up over 10% this year, leading former Government Accountability Office chief David Walker to decry "just how much they are not setting an example for the rest of the government."

The spending spree is so big that the House Appropriations Committee has just authorized $195 million for the Pentagon to buy three Gulfstream jets. All three planes will be used to ferry government officials and members of Congress around the country on "official business." The jets are well appointed and feature what Gulfstream calls an "impeccably equipped cabin" with "best-in-class comforts."

"This just makes no sense. Talk about the wrong message at the wrong time," Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri told reporters after vowing to block the funding in the Senate. She noted the Air Force itself had only requested funding for one additional plane, but the House is tripling the size of the order.

You'd think the House leadership would have thought twice about such poor symbolism. Just after the Democratic takeover of Congress in 2007, it was learned that new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had asked the Pentagon to provide her with a new jet that could fly her back to San Francisco without refueling. House speakers have had access to government planes ever since post-9/11 security concerns prompted a change in procedures.

No one begrudges Ms. Pelosi access to a government jet from time to time. But the watchdog group Judicial Watch documented last March just how difficult it's been for the Pentagon to accommodate Speaker Pelosi's demanding schedules. Judicial Watch obtained internal Pentagon correspondence that expressed frustration with the Speaker's office. One Defense Department official wrote in response to the numerous requests from her office for transportation, "Any chance of politely querying [Pelosi's team] if they really intend to do all of these or are they just picking every weekend? . . .[T]here's no need to block every weekend 'just in case' . . ." The email also notes that Pelosi's office had, "a history of canceling many of their past requests."

The emails also show that intermediaries for Speaker Pelosi frequently expressed anger when they were told transportation demands couldn't be met. "It is my understanding there are no (Gulfstream) 5's available for the House during the Memorial Day recess. This is totally unacceptable . . . The speaker will want to know where the planes are," wrote Kay King, Director of the House Office of Interparliamentary Affairs. In a separate email, when told a certain type of aircraft would not be available, Ms. King wrote, "This is not good news, and we will have some very disappointed folks, as well as a very upset [s]peaker."

Apparently, such problems may be resolved if the House is able to order up its new planes and assign them to the Pentagon's air pool. With the arrival of the new jets perhaps Speaker Pelosi's office will have less reason to complain in the future.

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"UN IPCC Lead Author Dissents on man-made warming: 'We're not scientifically there yet'"

From the Climate Depot:

Tom Tripp, a member of the UN IPCC since 2004, is listed as one of 450 IPCC "lead authors" who reviewed reports from 800 contributing writers whose work in turn, was reviewed by more than 2,500 experts worldwide. (Tripp, a metallurgical engineer, is the Director of Technical Services & Development for U.S. Magnesium.) [...]
At Thursday's [Utah Farm Bureau] convention, Tripp found a receptive audience among the 250 people attending the conference. He said there is so much of a natural variability in weather it makes it difficult to come to a scientifically valid conclusion that global warming is man made. "It well may be, but we're not scientifically there yet." . . .

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California to reduce its prison population by 25 percent

The outcome of the judges' decision:

The three-judge panel gave the governor and lawmakers 45 days to present a plan to cut the inmate population from about 150,000 to 110,000 over two years. The judges delivered a stern message about conditions that are so poor in some prisons that they violate inmates' constitutional rights. . . .

So what do people think that a 25 percent drop in the prison population will have on crime?

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Update on Cass Sunstein's nomination

From the Washington Times:

President Obama's choice to head the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs had Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, so upset that he blocked it - a move that puts only a temporary hold on the appointment. Now the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance, a hunter advocacy group, says American sportsmen need to step in to make sure the block stays in place.

According to the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance, Cass Sunstein supports animal rights. This is an important office that has the authority to block rules, including those that protect hunting and conservation. The pro-hunting organization says Sunstein has mentioned the possibility that hunting could be banned altogether if its sole purpose is human recreation.

There's no way of knowing how Maryland's senators, Barbara Mikulski and Benjamin L. Cardin, both Democrats and normally supportive of the president's appointees, will react to Sunstein's nomination. The same holds for Virginia's two senators, Jim Webb and Mark R. Warner, also Democrats. But it probably wouldn't hurt to let them and your house representatives know how you feel about having an animal rightist in a position to seriously affect hunting and massive conservation programs funded by recreational hunters.

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Canadian gun registry not working

Gary Mauser has this piece at Canada.com.

Dear Editor:
Is the gun registry a failure or a success? Recent letters have shed little light on the question even though they were stuffed with statistics. It's time to compare competing claims.
Anti-gun zealots claim the registry is working because gun deaths have declined since the long-gun registry began in 2001. The primary problem with this claim is that counting gun deaths is not an appropriate way to measure success. Gun laws should improve public safety, not just reduce one way of killing. Would Canadians be safer if murderers somehow abandoned guns for knives and bombs?
Gun death accounting ignores the problem of "substitution."
Eliminating just one of the many alternative weapons is not likely to reduce murders or suicides. Two examples illustrate this point.
First, in many countries where guns are banned, such as Mexico and the former Soviet Union, the murder rates are more than 10 times greater than in Canada. Second, suicides in Canada involving shootings have dropped over the past few decades, while hangings have increased correspondingly so that there is little net change in overall suicide rate. You decide: Does this make the gun registry a success?
One of the original justifications for the gun registry was that it would protect vulnerable women. Unfortunately, no changes are seen: More domestic murders continue to be committed with kitchen knives than with firearms.
The best measures to use in evaluating the gun registry are murder and suicide rates. The statistics are unequivocal: the gun registry has not had a meaningful impact on either. The homicide rate had fallen impressively before 2001 but has remained relatively stable since.
Due primarily to a booming economy and an aging population, the homicide rate slipped from 2.7 per 100,000 in 1991 to 1.8 in 2000. After the long-gun registry was introduced, the homicide rate had risen to 2.0 by 2005.
The gun registry has failed to improve public safety. It is time we stopped wasting money on harassing hunters and target shooters. We should focus on jailing violent criminals and repeat offenders. Study after study has shown that almost all (85 to 99 per cent) guns used by criminals are smuggled into Canada and have never been registered. The Conservatives under Stephen Harper are introducing laws that will actually improve public safety. Research backs up common sense; putting violent criminals and repeat offenders in jail longer significantly reduces crime rates. Liberals continue to be more concerned with the rights of criminals than the safety of Canadians.
Gary Mauser, professor emeritus,
Simon Fraser University

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Schoolteacher exchanges gunfire with carjackers

Defensive gun use in Georgia.

A DeKalb County schoolteacher carjacked early Sunday scored a measure of revenge against his attackers -- thanks in part to their poor sense of direction.

Derek Harper, 47, had just returned to his Lithonia home around 1:15 a.m. when two unidentified gunmen surprised him from behind, forcing the Evansdale Elementary teacher out of his car and onto the ground, demanding money.

“After they figured out I didn’t have any cash on me they got into my van,” he said. His narrow garage helped Harper sneak away.

“One of them was having trouble getting into the passenger’s side, so while he was doing that I took off,” said Harper, also the assistant track coach at Stephenson High.

As he ran the gunmen started firing, striking Harper once in the arm before speeding off in his van, heading directly toward a dead end on Phillips Place.

Knowing they’d be forced to turn around, Harper ran inside and grabbed his .380 pistol.

“I was waiting for them,” he said. Harper estimates he fired two to three bullets, which might have contributed to the driver crashing the van less than a block away. A small amount of blood was found inside the vehicle. . . . .

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"Cash for Clunkers: What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen"

From my friend David Hirshleifer at Psychology Today:

Our cognitive limitations often debase political debate, making politics a battle for voters' attention. Hence, the power of soundbites and slogans, such as "Cash for clunkers." The way to make a policy attractive is to hide the damage it does, and make its alleged benefits salient. This point was made vividly by Frédéric Bastiat in his 1848 essay "What is seen and what is not seen." He points out, for example, that even a nutty policy like going from house to house breaking windows can seem attractive as a way of providing employment to glaziers. What is not seen is that the resources people spend getting their windows repaired might otherwise have been devoted, for example, to buying shoes. So even in the short run breaking windows is not a stimulus, because it puts the cobbler out of work. And in the long run, it reduces the total wealth of society. . . .

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Democrats attacking Democrats

With the Democrats having large majorities in both the House and Senate, they don't really need Republicans. It isn't too surprising that many Democrats think that one way to get things passed is to put pressure on other Democrats. From the WSJ:

The news is how the political left and its lobbies are roughing up fellow Democrats who won’t get with President Obama’s government-run program. They’re treating the centrists who helped make them a majority as if they were Newt Gingrich without the social conscience.

On Friday, Democracy for America and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee put out a “rapid-response ad” against Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson, who is lukewarm about a government-run insurance scheme, the so-called public option. “Will Sen. Nelson choose the insurance interests who fund his campaigns to the tune of over $2 million dollars?” the ad declares. Democracy for America calls the ad “a warning shot to any Senator who tries to block President Obama’s public health insurance option.”

Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus is another target because he’s negotiating with Republicans. The same “progressive” outfits recently ran an ad attacking Mr. Baucus for “threatening” the public option and “taking” $3.9 million “from health and insurance interests.” The Montana Democrat was also rapped for trying to scale back the cost to under $900 billion. In case Mr. Baucus didn’t get the hint, fellow Senator Tom Harkin publicly noted last week that Democrats hold a secret ballot for committee chairmen every two years. Better hire a food taster, Max.

Over in the House, the Blue Dogs have received similar treatment since they raised doubts last months about the 5.4% surtax, among other problems in the House bill. The DNC immediately targeted the districts of 12 Democratic Members of Henry Waxman’s Energy and Commerce Committee with a “‘It’s time for reform” television ad. MoveOn.org also called out its troops to pressure Blue Dog Democrats not to miss “a once-in-a-generation chance to pass real health care reform.” The pressure seems to have worked because enough Blue Dogs fell in line to pass the bill with only token changes through committee last week.

Here’s a typical email letter we’ve been receiving lately by the thousands targeting Democrats from the left, this one aimed at five-term Democrat Jim Matheson of Utah:

“Subject: Who Does Jim Matheson Work For—Blue Cross, or the Voters?”

The text says “Jim Matheson claims that he’s ‘taking on’ the insurance industry by asking for ‘triggers’ [before a public option would begin]. But ‘triggers’ are just what the insurance industry lobby wants. They don’t want anyone eating their profits . . . and Jim Matheson is helping them protect their profits. Jim Matheson’s district has a 12.6% uninsured rate, one of the highest in the country. Why would he want people in his district to suffer so Blue Cross can make more money? ” The letter is signed by a KEVIN SNOW, who is clearly part of some left-wing blast attack group. Mr. Matheson voted against the Waxman bill last week.

Even the Democratic National Committee is trashing Democrats, presumably with a green light from Mr. Obama and Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. Mr. Obama’s political arm, Organizing for America, which is officially a wing of the DNC, is running ads to press Democratic Senators in Arkansas, Indiana, Florida, Louisiana, North Dakota, Nebraska and Ohio. The outfit has also staged demonstrations outside Senator Bill Nelson’s Florida offices. The campaign is heavy-handed enough that even Majority Leader Harry Reid denounced it as “a waste of money.” . . .

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USA Today reports: "Gun owners are packing heat in record numbers"

USA Today points out that more people are getting concealed handgun permits.

Gun owners are packing heat in record numbers, fearful of stricter gun control under the Obama administration and higher crime in a sour economy.
Some states and counties report a surge in applications for concealed weapons permits since the November election. All states but Illinois and Wisconsin allow concealed weapons, but requirements differ.

Applications already have hit a record this year in Clay County, Mo., where the sheriff's office received 888 through June, compared with 863 in all of last year, says Sheriff Bob Boydston. The office recently hired two part-time workers to deal with the rush.

In the past, applicants tended to be middle-aged men, he says, but recent applicants include "grandmothers, older folks, young women, young men." . . .


Obama administration likely to make life difficult for Apple

Some are upset that Apple is honoring its agreement with AT&T: "Apple Should Accept Google Voice"

It's time for Apple and AT&T to fully consider what is at stake and do the right thing. Give the FCC a win if that's what it takes, but let your customers have Google Voice if they want it--as they obviously do.

The era of total control that Apple and AT&T have enjoyed with the iPhone is over. AT&T has admitted it won't have exclusivity on the iPhone forever and Apple is under increasing federal scrutiny. It's only a matter of time before the Apple anti-trust inquiry begins.

The two companies would vastly improve their standing with their most influential customers by getting Google Voice apps into the App Store as quickly as possible and admitting the error of their ways. It's going to happen regardless at some point, so why not admit defeat while it can still be done gracefully?

For AT&T, this offers some hope that the moment the iPhone is available from another U.S. carrier that customers won't jump ship in large numbers, even if they have to buy new hardware to do it. (I'd imagine Apple would be just fine with that). . . .

Meanwhile Palm is upset with Apple for Apple not letting Palm use its software.

Palm has filed a complaint with the USB Implementers Forum claiming Apple is restricting trade by not allowing the Pre smartphone to use iTunes to sync and manage content. . . .

Also the FTC is still investigating Apple and Google for Google's CEO having served on Apple's board. Under the "Too little too late?" heading:

The Federal Trade Commission commends Apple and Eric Schmidt's decision on their parting of the ways this morning, but it appears that the federal investigation into the so-called "interlocking directorates" will continue, and that cannot be good news for either company.

In a statement released this afternoon, FTC Bureau of Competition Director Richard Feinstein says "We will continue to investigate remaining interlocking directorates between the companies.” . . . .



New Zogby Poll has some amazing numbers on gun control issues

According to Zogby, an overwhelming number of Americans support people being able to carry concealed handguns. A huge majority would also oppose Judge Sotomayor's nomination if they actually knew where she stood on the right of people to own guns. The O'Leary Report discussion of the survey is here.

"Would you support or oppose a U.S. Senator who voted to confirm a Justice to the U.S. Supreme Court who does not believe in the right to keep and bear arms and the right to self-defense?"

Fifty-two percent of American voters would oppose the re-election of any Senator who votes to confirm a Supreme Court nominee who does not believe in the right to keep and bear arms. Only 26 percent of voters would support such a Senator.

Among Independent voters, 57 percent would oppose such a Senator, and only 17 percent would support. Forty-nine percent of young voters (age 18-29) would oppose a Senator who votes to confirm a nominee who does not believe Second Amendment rights apply to all Americans, and just 31 percent would support such a Senator. A plurality of Hispanic voters (42 percent) would oppose such a Senator, and only 28 percent would support. A large percentage of Hispanics (30 percent) are not sure. A majority of union members (54 percent) would also oppose, and 29 percent would support.

The Right to Carry a Firearm

An amendment that would have permitted law-abiding gun owners with concealed-carry permits to carry their firearms across state lines recently fell short in the Senate. Although the amendment received a majority of votes (58-39), a filibuster-proof 60 votes were required for passage.

Zogby/O'Leary asked voters:

"Currently, 39 states have laws that allow residents to carry firearms to protect themselves, only if they pass a background check and pay a fee to cover administrative costs. Most of those states also require applicants to have firearms safety training. Do you support or oppose this law?"

An overwhelming majority of Americans (83 percent) support concealed-carry laws, while only 11 percent oppose them. A majority of Independent voters (86 percent), Democrats (80 percent), young voters age 18-29 (83 percent), Hispanic voters (80 percent), and those who voted for President Obama (80 percent) support the right to carry a firearm.

The poll might give a little bit of caution to those on the gun control side who believe that they are winning the debate.

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"Hunting, shooting and fishing with Vladimir Putin"

At least that is what the UK Telegraph claims.

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More discussion by Democrats on raising middle class taxes

First it was Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and economist Larry Summers who discussed the topic on the Sunday talk shows. Now Democrat Congressman Charlie Rangel (D-NY) chimes in saying: "it is very possible that we would still have to raise taxes, but it is not our intention to do that."

The amazing things to me that he claims: "there is over $2 trillion worth of waste out there in the health care delivery system." I suppose that this fits in with Larry Summers' claim that there is over $700 billion dollars of unneeded surgery occurring.

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Geithner is losing it

This is comforting. From the NY Times:

Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner blasted top regulators in an expletive-laden tirade amid frustration over President Barack Obama’s faltering plan to overhaul financial regulation, Reuters reported, citing a Monday story in The Wall Street Journal.

A person familiar with the meeting said that Mr. Geithner told regulators “enough is enough,” the newspaper said. The meeting took place last Friday with Federal Reserve chairman Ben S. Bernanke, Securities and Exchange Commission chairwoman Mary Schapiro and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Chairwoman Sheila Bair.

The Treasury secretary said regulators had been given a chance to air their concerns, but that it was time to stop, the newspaper said, citing the person.

A Treasury Department representative had no immediate comment. The Fed, the S.E.C. and the F.D.I.C. did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Mr. Obama in June unveiled a financial regulatory overhaul, sometimes called the biggest since the 1930s. Among other things, the plan would give the Fed added powers, award the government more power to break up troubled companies and create a new agency to oversee consumer finance.

Many major banks and industry trade groups have criticized the plan, as have some regulators wary that any redistribution of power would reduce their own.
According to the newspaper, Friday’s roughly hour-long meeting was unusual because of Mr. Geithner’s repeated obscenities and his aggressive posture toward regulators generally deemed independent of the White House.

The newspaper said Mr. Geithner told attendees that the administration and Congress set policy. It also said the Treasury secretary, without singling out officials, raised concerns about regulators who have questioned the wisdom of giving the Fed more power.

Ms. Schapiro and Ms. Bair have argued that more authority should be shared among a council of regulators.

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More broken promises by Obama on transparency

While there are a few stories about these broken promises, whole books could be written on them at this point. While I don't think that this stimulus package has anything to do with creating new additional jobs, the Senate should refuse to pass the stimulus until after this information is released. From the Associated Press.

The Obama administration is refusing to release government records on its "cash-for-clunkers" rebate program that would substantiate—or undercut—White House claims of the program's success, even as the president presses the Senate for a quick vote for $2 billion to boost car sales.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Sunday the government would release electronic records about the program, and President Barack Obama has pledged greater transparency for his administration. But the Transportation Department, which has collected details about 157,000 rebate requests, won't release sales data that dealers provided showing how much U.S. car manufacturers are benefiting from the $1 billion initially pumped into the program.

The Associated Press has sought release of the data since last week. But the public and Senate Republicans demanding more information will have to wait for details because federal officials running the program don't have time to turn over data delivered by car dealers, said Rae Tyson, spokesman for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

LaHood said in an interview Sunday he would make the electronic records available. "I can't think of any reason why we wouldn't do it," he said.

DOT officials already have received electronic details from car dealers of each trade-in transaction. The agency regularly analyzes the data internally, producing helpful talking points for LaHood, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs and other officials to use when urging more funding. . . .

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House Democrats Health Care Talking Points Cheat Sheet

Note just the first point about increases in health care costs. 1) The Democratic controlled CBO says that their proposed changes will increase costs even more than they are already likely to increase. 2) The government regulations are already responsible for much of the increase in insurance costs. 3) The way that the Dems bill will be paid by reducing reimbursements to doctors and hospitals for Medicaid and Medicare will only increase private insurance costs even more.
Second point: Look at the surveys that show Americans are overwhelmingly happy with their insurance programs.
Third point: Does anyone think that the government can do things at a lower cost than private companies? Instead of people paying premiums they will pay taxes. The costs won't go away.

Obtained from Talkingpointsmemo.com.

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Another Democratic Congressmen get an earful about medical changes during town meetings

Congressman Steve Driehaus (D-OH) loses control of a town meeting over questions about health care changes.

UPDATE: Steny Hoyer ran into thisangry constituent here:

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Plaxico Burress indicted

I have tried to paint a more sympathetic picture of Plaxico Burress in my writings (here and here). I think that Plaxico's lawyer had it correct when he said:

“Although disappointed, we are not surprised, as the facts of this case have not been in dispute since the date of the incident,” Mr. Burress’s lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, said in a statement Monday. “When you have the mayor and the district attorney both publicly demanding a maximum prison sentence, it was perhaps too much to hope for the grand jury to conduct a sympathetic review of the unique facts of this sad case.”

When the government can't protect these high profile individuals what does one expect them to do?

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Government spying on computers

This is pretty outrageous. The unwillingness of the government to discuss what happened is also disappointing. The Washington Times has this:

It's always important to read the fine print. Car dealers were reminded of that rule when logging onto the government's "cash for clunkers" Web page. In return for information about the Car Allowance Rebate System, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) required that dealers surrender all privacy on their private computer networks.

NHTSA's warning said: "When logged on to the CARS system, your computer is considered a Federal computer system and is the property of the U.S. Government. Any or all uses of this system and all files on this system may be intercepted, monitored, recorded, copied, audited, inspected and disclosed to authorized CARS, [Department of Transportation] and law enforcement personnel, as well as authorized officials of other agencies, both domestic and foreign."

When asked if similarly intrusive warnings were posted in the past, NHTSA spokesman Debbie Boykin told us: "I haven't heard of that happening before at all." It was only at the close of business yesterday that Sasha Johnson, press secretary for the Department of Transportation, informed us that the warning had been replaced with a note saying, "We are working to revise the language." Despite repeated requests, no explanation was ever offered for why the original warning was used or why it was taken down.

We're curious why civil rights advocates aren't up in arms over this invasion of privacy. . . . .

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Gun control groups point to Sotomayor's nomination as one of the signs that they are winning

I agree that Sotomayor's nomination does not bode well for gun ownership issues. From the Washington Times:

After years of losing, gun control advocates say this week's vote on confirming Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court will be their long-awaited win that shatters conventional wisdom and proves that the Second Amendment is no longer the unstoppable force of Washington politics.

Proponents of gun control say the National Rifle Association (NRA) and similar groups have overreached. They point to a Senate vote last month blocking an effort to expand concealed-carry laws.

"The lesson that's going to come out of this is you can vote against the NRA and still win, and win in gun-friendly areas," said Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, the nation's leading gun control group, which is billing this week's vote as a chance to defeat the NRA.

Gun rights supporters dismissed suggestions that they've lost their long hold on the Capitol. The NRA's spokesman dared lawmakers to test Second Amendment voters at their "own peril."

Since the 2000 elections, few lawmakers have bucked gun advocacy groups, and the NRA in particular. The powerful lobby had proved too often that it could swing elections in battleground states simply by sending its traditional election-time blaze-orange postcards telling voters how their elected officials scored on gun rights. . . .

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The most difficult restaurant in the US to get reservations?

Here is an article on the five most difficult restaurants to get reservations. The most difficult is Rao's in New York.

Frank Pelligrino, owner of Rao's, has a nickname: "Frankie No." You would have better luck getting invited to dinner at the White House than getting a proper reservation at this wiseguy Italian joint, and this is because tables at Rao’s are not so much reserved as controlled. They’re paid for an entire year in advance, so to speak, like season tickets, and just like you can’t sit in the owners’ box at Yankee Stadium via any sort of public market, you can't really get into Rao's either. A table for four at 8 p.m. every Tuesday, say, will cost you between $1,000 and $25,000 annually, depending on who you are — and that's just for the table, not including food. Some season ticket holders have been Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, and Bill Clinton. And Frankie Fingers. Of course, there are loose tables around, but those, too, are doled out via unlisted phone numbers, or perhaps you can score one if you know someone. But maybe you’re better off not knowing those kinds of people, capisce?

Hat tip Craig Newmark.



A beautiful Volvo being destroyed under the "Cash for Clunkers" program

Will someone please explain to me how the country is wealthier with this type of destruction? The video can be seen here.

Of course, the government even has a 136 page booklet on how the cars should be destroyed.

To receive government reimbursement, auto dealers who offer rebates on new cars in exchange for so-called clunkers must agree to "kill" the old models, using a method the government outlines in great detail in its 136-page manual for dealers: Drain the engine of oil and replace it with two quarts of a sodium-silicate solution.

"The heat of the operating engine then dehydrates the solution leaving solid sodium silicate distributed throughout the engine's oiled surfaces and moving parts," says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration publication. "These solids quickly abrade the bearings causing the engine to seize while damaging the moving parts of the engine and coating all of the oil passages." . . .

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Is it really appropriate for the White House to call up the heads of TV Networks' parent companies to lobby for TV time for President?

This is one reason that the Federal government should not be giving large amounts of money to GE and other companies. Surely it seems like there is pressure and a possible connection between the aid and the granting of TV time. From Howard Kurtz at the Washington Post:

In the days before President Obama's last news conference, as the networks weighed whether to give up a chunk of their precious prime time, Rahm Emanuel went straight to the top.

Rather than calling ABC, the White House chief of staff phoned Bob Iger, chief executive of parent company Disney. Instead of contacting NBC, Emanuel went to Jeffrey Immelt, the chief executive of General Electric. He also spoke with Les Moonves, the chief executive of CBS, the company spun off from Viacom.

Whether this amounted to undue pressure or plain old Chicago arm-twisting, Emanuel got results: the fourth hour of lucrative network time for his boss in six months. But network executives have been privately complaining to White House officials that they cannot afford to keep airing these sessions in the current economic downturn.

The networks "absolutely" feel pressured, says Paul Friedman, CBS's senior vice president: "It's an enormous financial cost when the president replaces one of those prime-time hours. The news divisions also have mixed feelings about whether they are being used."

While it is interesting to see how a president handles questions, Friedman says, "there was nothing" at the July 22 session, which was dominated by health-care questions. "There hardly ever is these days, because there's so much coverage all the time." . . . .

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Where is the Obama administration outrage over this action in Venezuela?

The Obama administration seems to have no problem getting involve in Honduras' Supreme Court and Parliament's decision, but where are the comments about Venezuela? What about this move to take over the rest of the Venezuela's media.

More than a dozen of 34 radio stations ordered shut by the Venezuelan government went off the air on Saturday, part of President Hugo Chavez's drive to extend his socialist revolution to the media.

The association of radio broadcasters said 13 stations had stopped transmitting, following an announcement Friday night by government broadcasting watchdog Conatel that 34 radio outlets would be closed because they failed to comply with regulations. . . .

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New Fox News Op-ed: Cash for Clunkers Is No Success

Here is the beginning of my new piece up at Fox News.

Only in Washington could a program that is spending money 13 times faster than planned be labeled a "success." The "cash-for-clunkers" program ground to a halt last week because in less than a week, a program that was supposed to last until November 1, had spent the entire $1 billion allocated to it. Let's just hope that the government takeover of the rest of the health care industry doesn't result in similar "success."

Unfortunately, the House voted late last week by an overwhelming 316 to 109 margin to spend $2 billion more on the program. The Senate is scheduled to take up the issue this week.

The "clunkers" program is supposed to stimulate the economy as well as to reduce greenhouse gases. To encourage new car sales, owners of older cars get either $3,500 or $4,500 when buying a new car. The program has been plagued with just about every problem possible. The Department of Transportation computer system has been unable to register deals made under the program. Car dealerships find themselves saddled with expensive ad campaigns touting the government subsidies at the same time the subsidy program is in limbo. . . .

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Obama admitting that he wants to get rid of private insurance

UPDATE: The White House responds claiming that the quotes are misleading, but refuses to say in what way they are misleading.

"because he is talking to the American people so much there are people out there with a computer and a lot of free time and they take a phrase here and there and they simple cherry pick and put it together and make it sound like he said something that he didn't really say"
"very deceiving headlines"

The problem if you listen to this entire video is that Linda Douglass never explains why the quotes that are pointed to above were taken out of context or were misleading. She just provides some other quotes. But as I understand it the point of the first video was not to deny that the president is making the claims that Douglass points to, but to show that two years ago Mr. Obama was saying that a government insurance plan would be used to replace private insurance. Indeed, the "shock" value of these older quotes was how they were in contrast to what Mr. Obama is now claiming. What was the "shock[ing]" headline that upset Douglass: "Uncovered Video: Obama explains how his health care plan will 'eliminate' private insurance." View the first video and please tell me what is inaccurate about that headline.

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Amazing: If you value your privacy, be very careful with the "Cash for Clunkers" program

Glenn Beck deserves a lot of credit for pointing this out. This is the privacy agreement for the "Cash for Clunker" website that you sign into when you do the program.

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Always a rush, always a panic to pass things

As soon as they start yelling that things must be passed instantly, you that they realize that they don't have a case. Last Friday everything was fine, but now we have to do it by Tuesday. From the WSJ:

WASHINGTON -- Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Sunday that unless the Senate approves $2 billion in additional funding, the Obama administration could be forced to halt as early as Tuesday the "cash for clunkers" program that has become one of the most visible and fast-acting of the government's economic-stimulus programs. . . . .

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The government plays favorites in the housing market

Like with everything else the government is using its power to redistribute wealth. From the WSJ.

The divide between the mass market and the high-end -- generally defined as homes that cost above $750,000 -- partly reflects the effects of Washington's housing-rescue plan, which is producing winners and losers.

Policymakers have helped spur sales of lower-priced homes by offering first-time buyers a federal tax credit of as much as $8,000, by driving mortgage rates to near 50-year lows and by expanding the mission of the Federal Housing Administration, which will guarantee mortgages for consumers buying homes with down payments as low as 3.5%.

Sales at the lower end are also helped by the large number of foreclosed homes that banks have dumped at fire-sale prices, which has pulled down values of neighboring houses and sparked bargain hunting. Prices in both Las Vegas and Phoenix are down more than 50% from their peaks of several years ago, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller index.

Home prices tracked by that index rose 0.5% for the three-month period ending in May versus the three-month period ending in April, the first monthly gain in nearly three years. Prices have shown signs of stabilizing in recent months as the share of distressed homes, including those that sell out of foreclosure, falls from highs reached earlier this year. . . .

For affluent buyers, it's a different story.

The $8,000 tax credit for first-time homeowners phases out for single buyers whose incomes exceed $75,000, or married couples earning more than $150,000. Low-interest-rate mortgages backed by the FHA and government-controlled mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are only available on loans below limits set by Congress. Last year, Congress increased those limits to $417,000 in most markets, and to as high as $729,750 in certain high-cost markets, including parts of Hawaii, California, New York and Washington, D.C.

Mortgages for amounts that exceed those limits are called "jumbo" mortgages, and face higher interest rates. Last week, the average rate on a 30-year mortgage below the limits was 5.42% compared with 6.33% for jumbos, according to HSH Associates, a financial publisher.

Extremely wealthy people may not need a mortgage. But buyers who take mortgages for expensive homes generally face higher rates and tighter lending standards. Most banks that offer jumbo mortgages are generally requiring down payments of 20% to 30% or more, knocking out potential buyers who don't have much equity in their homes and have seen retirement savings fall. . . . .

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So with people running out of unemployment benefits what is the government going to do?

From Politico:

On ABC’s “This Week,” Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said in response to a question by host George Stephanopoulos about extending benefits: “I think that is something that the administration and Congress are going to look very carefully at as we get closer to the end of this year.”

From the NY Times on Saturday:

Over the coming months, as many as 1.5 million jobless Americans will exhaust their unemployment insurance benefits, ending what for some has been a last bulwark against foreclosures and destitution.

Because of emergency extensions already enacted by Congress, laid-off workers in nearly half the states can collect benefits for up to 79 weeks, the longest period since the unemployment insurance program was created in the 1930s. But unemployment in this recession has proved to be especially tenacious, and a wave of job-seekers is using up even this prolonged aid.

Tens of thousands of workers have already used up their benefits, and the numbers are expected to soar in the months to come, reaching half a million by the end of September and 1.5 million by the end of the year, according to new projections by the National Employment Law Project, a private research group.

Unemployment insurance is now a lifeline for nine million Americans, with payments averaging just over $300 per week, varying by state and work history. While many recipients find new jobs before exhausting their benefits, large numbers in the current recession have been unable to find work for a year or more.

Calls are rising for Congress to pass yet another extension this fall, possibly adding 13 more weeks of coverage in states with especially high unemployment. As of June, the national unemployment rate was 9.5 percent, reaching 15.2 percent in Michigan. Even if the recession begins to ease, economists say, jobs will remain scarce for some time to come.

“If more help is not on the way, by September a huge wave of workers will start running out of their critical extended benefits, and many will have nothing left to get by on even as work keeps getting harder to find,” said Maurice Emsellem, a policy director of the employment law project.

For many desperate job seekers, any extension will seem a blessing. Pamela C. Lampley of Dillon, S.C., said she sat outside the post office last month and cried because “it was the first Wednesday in quite some time that I’ve gone to the mailbox and left without an unemployment check.” The jobless rate in her state is 12.1 percent. . . . .

UPDATE: Is it surprising that there is a drop in the total number of people getting claims:

The Labor Department said initial claims increased to a seasonally adjusted 558,000, from 554,000 the previous week. Analysts expected new claims to drop to 545,000, according to Thomson Reuters.

The number of people remaining on the benefit rolls, meanwhile, fell to 6.2 million from 6.34 million the previous week. Analysts had expected a smaller decline. The continuing claims data lags initial claims by one week.

The figure is available here.


"Grad Sues College for $70,000 Because She Can't Find a Job"

From Fox News:

She has given new meaning to a class-action lawsuit.

Trina Thompson gave it the old college try, but couldn't find work. Now she thinks her sheepskin wasn't worth her time, and is suing her alma mater for her money back.

The Monroe College grad wants the $70,000 she spent on tuition because she hasn't found gainful employment since earning her bachelor's degree in April, according to a suit filed in Bronx Supreme Court on July 24.

The 27-year-old alleges the business-oriented Bronx school hasn't lived up to its end of the bargain, and has not done enough to find her a job.

The information-technology student blames Monroe's Office of Career Advancement for not providing her with the leads and career advice it promised.

"They have not tried hard enough to help me," the frustrated Bronx resident wrote about the school in her lawsuit. . . . .


Have the Democrats learned anything from the existing financial problems?

From the Washington Times: Robbing the bank: Congress has its way with financial institutions

Some risks don't pay off. The time comes when the right thing to do is to let a bad investment sink. This is more responsible than continuing to throw good money after bad to keep unwise ventures afloat. For the housing market to turn around, bad mortgages must be allowed to sink -- but Congress has other plans.

Rep. Barney Frank, Massachusetts Democrat, is threatening to revive legislation that would let bankruptcy judges rewrite mortgage contracts if banks don't "voluntarily" write off a larger percentage of bad home loans. The policy ideas of the savvy chairman of the House Financial Services Committee should be taken seriously.

Mr. Frank was among the politicians who pushed for changes in underwriting standards over the past decade. Those new rules involved eliminating verification of income or assets and virtually eliminating down payments to get a house. Those modifications greatly contributed to the current financial crisis. There was a seemingly noble goal in loosening lending standards to increase homeownership among poor and minority Americans, but the changes created a time bomb that was set off as soon as property values began to decline. . . .

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Left wing Dem Congressman faces an angry crowd in Central Texas

From the Austin-American Statesman:

Back in Central Texas while Congress is on a month-long recess, Congressman Lloyd Doggett faced an angry reception at a town hall meeting at an Austin Randalls store yesterday.

Doggett, D-Austin, spoke at the Randalls at Brodie and Slaughter lanes on Saturday. A video of the event on YouTube shows many in the crowd showed up with signs denouncing President Obama’s proposed health care plan.

Witnesses say that when Doggett was asked if he would support the plan even if he found his constituents opposed it, Doggett said he would still support the plan. From there, the crowd began chanting “Just Say No,” and overwhelmed the congressman as he moved through the crowd and into the parking lot.

“The folks there thought their voices weren’t being heard,” said Kathy Acosta, a Bastrop resident who attended the meeting at Randalls and another one later that day in her hometown. “They were angry, but they were respectful. There wasn’t any violence.”

Calls and emails to a Doggett’s office were not immediately returned today.


Sean Hannity - Obama & Friends History of Radicalism

More broken promises:Obama administration talking about raising taxes on middle class?

Well, put aside that this promise on taxes has already been broken, the administration is seriously talking about breaking this promise in a big way.

To get the economy back on track, will President Barack Obama have to break his pledge not to raise taxes on 95 percent of Americans? In a “This Week” exclusive, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner told me, "We’re going to have to do what’s necessary.”

Geithner was clear that he believes a key component of economic recovery is deficit reduction. When I gave him several opportunities to rule out a middle class tax hike, he wouldn’t do it.

“We have to bring these deficits down very dramatically,” Geithner told me. “And that’s going to require some very hard choices.”

“We will not get this economy back on track, recovery will be not strong and sustained, unless we convince the American people that we are going to have the will to bring these deficits down once recovery is firmly established,” he said.

While Geithner told me, “There are signs the recession is easing,” he warned that, “We have a ways to go.”

“I want to emphasize the basic reality that unemployment is very high in this country,” the secretary said. But, he underlined that the administration is “going to do what is necessary to bring growth back on track.” . . . .

Geithner also strongly endorsed legislation currently pending in the House that would increase the power of the SEC and give shareholders more rights to vote on executive compensation. He insisted that Republican criticism that the government is overly involved in the financial system is unfounded. . . .

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