Politicians on Trent Lott and Harry Reid

Former Mississippi GOP Senator Trent Lott. Mr. Lott found himself in trouble after praising fellow Republican Senator Strom Thurmond (once a segregationist) at the late South Carolinian's 100th birthday.

"I want to say this about my state. When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years either."

Everyone knew that Trent Lott was just trying to be nice to an old man on his 100th birthday. There was no mention of any particular part of Thurmond's platform that he supported, and I assume that if someone had asked Trent Lott right at that moment if that meant that he had supported segregation, Trent Lott would have recoiled in horror. Was it a smart thing for him to say? Hardly. But did he same that he supported segregation? No. So how did the Democrats respond to Trent Lott's apology? Note that it took over a year for Reid to make his apology.


“It seems to be that we can forgive a 100-year-old senator for some of the indiscretion of his youth, but, what is more difficult to forgive is the current president of the U.S. Senate (Lott) suggesting we had been better off if we had followed a segregationist path in this country after all of the battles and fights for civil rights and all the work that we still have to do,” said Obama.

He said: “The Republican Party itself has to drive out Trent Lott. If they have to stand for something, they have to stand up and say this is not the person we want representing our party.”

Nancy Pelosi, December 10, 2002 (thanks to Kerry Picket for point to this):

"He can apologize all he wants. It doesn't remove the sentiment that escaped his mouth that day."

The media firestorm was incredibly intense. Virtually no one defended Trent Lott. At the very least, those who demanded that Trent Lott be demoted should be asked by the media why they are not holding Harry Reid to the same standard.

Al Sharpton NOW AND THEN

In 2002, Sharpton had this to say about Trent Lott:

Well, I think that the fact is that he didn't just make an off-color remark. People are trying to act like he just said something out of line. To say that he wished the country had elected a segregationist ticket ... and then sit at the head of the Republican Party -- the majority party in the Senate that will review U.S. attorneys being confirmed -- is a frightening occurrence for those of us that had parents that in 1948 couldn't even vote and had to sit in the back of the bus.

This is not just an off-color remark. We're talking about somebody in power ... he can't say he didn't say it. You have the tape that shows that he said it. You also have the tape that shows that he said it before. You can go to any local penitentiary, and any crook will say, "I didn't mean it, I'm sorry." But you still pay for what you do.

Mr. Lott said it, and he said it again. He ought to pay for what he said. He should step aside. No one is saying that if the people of Mississippi want to elect him to the Senate that they don't have the right to do that. But to be the head of the party in the Senate, given the sensitivity of that position, if the Republican Party wants to sincerely reach out to people as they claim they have, and as you almost nightly claim they want to, they certainly have an opportunity here by saying, for the interest of the country and the party, Mr. Lott should step aside since he either has very segregationist views or he at least has a repeated problem of being misunderstood when he endorses segregationists.

Now for Reid this is what Sharpton has to say:

I have learned of certain unfortunate comments made by Senator Reid regarding President Barack Obama and have spoken with Senator Reid about those comments. While there is no question that Senator Reid did not select the best word choice in this instance, these comments should not distract America from its continued focus on securing healthcare or creating jobs for its people. Nor should they detract from the unquestionable leadership role Senator Reid has played on these issues or in the area of civil rights. Senator Reid's door has always been open on hearing from the civil rights community on these issues and I look forward to continue to work with Senator Reid wherever possible to improve the lives of Americans everywhere.

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Obama's broken promise not to tax health care insurance

Breitbart TV has this video of Obama's broken promises on taxing health insurance. I have written on this before, but it is useful to see it on a video.

"I can make a firm pledge: no family making less than $250,000 will see any form of tax increase - not your income taxes, not your payroll taxes, not your capital gains taxes, not any of your taxes. And my opponent can't make that pledge. and here is why: for the first time in American history, John McCain wants to tax your health care benefits."

The full Obama quote is here:

For example, I'm on record as saying that taxing Cadillac plans that don't make people healthier but just take more money out of their pockets because they're paying more for insurance than they need to, that's actually a good idea.

John McCain calls these plans Cadillac plans and in some cases it may be that a CEO's getting too good a deal. But what if you're a line worker making a good American car like the Cadillac? What if you're one of the steel workers who are working right here at Newport News and you've given up wage increases in exchange for better healthcare? Well, Senator McCain believes you should pay higher taxes, too. The bottom line: The better your healthcare plan, the harder you fought for your good benefits, the higher the taxes you'll pay under John McCain's plan.

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

And my opponent can't make that pledge and here's why. For the first time in American history John McCain wants to tax your healthcare benefits. Apparently Senator McCain doesn't think it's enough that healthcare premiums have doubled. He thinks you should have to pay taxes on them, too. That's a $3.6 trillion tax increase potentially on middle class families.

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"Caveman" lifestyle catches on some in New York City

My friend, Art DeVany, has gotten a devoted following in NYC. There is certainly something to be said for the diet.


Reid made 'Negro dialect' comment

So if Reid is saying that Obama has "no Negro dialect unless he wanted to have one," does that mean that he goes around saying that other blacks have a "Negro dialect"? Would an apology be enough to get a Republican excused for saying this? Will all the Democrats on the Sunday talk shows tomorrow be asked about this? Will they be pressed for a comparison with Trent Lott being removed from his leadership position? From the AP:

The top Democrat in the U.S. Senate apologized on Saturday for comments he made about Barack Obama's race during the 2008 presidential bid.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada described then-Sen. Barack Obama as "light skinned" and "with no Negro dialect." Obama is the nation's first African-American president.
"I deeply regret using such a poor choice of words. I sincerely apologize for offending any and all Americans, especially African-Americans for my improper comments," Reid said in a statement released after the excerpts were reported on the Web site of The Atlantic.
"I was a proud and enthusiastic supporter of Barack Obama during the campaign and have worked as hard as I can to advance President Obama's legislative agenda." . . .

Just out of curiosity, why did it take over a year to issue this apology? Didn't Reid know in 2007 that this was the wrong thing to say?

A new survey in Nevada shows:

52 percent had an unfavorable opinion of Reid, 33 percent had a favorable view and another 15 percent said they're neutral. In early December, a Mason-Dixon poll put his unfavorable-favorable rating at 49-38. The lowest Reid's popularity had slipped before in the surveys was 50 percent -- in October, August and May of 2009, when Mason-Dixon started tracking the senate race for the Review-Journal. . . .

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One small way that California is planning on getting out of its financial problems

Brett Decker, the editorial page editor at the Washington Times, tells me that there are a lot of studies indicating that these cameras actually increase accident rates -- people who know where these cameras are slow down suddenly and there are rear end crashes. From the Sacramento Bee:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is counting on lead-footed California drivers to help dig the state out of its latest budget hole.

Buried in the details of the governor's spending plan released Friday is a proposal to raise nearly $400 million by allowing cities and counties to install "automated speed enforcement systems," also known as speed cameras.

The devices could be attached to existing cameras that monitor red light violations, and would track speeders by license plate. The tickets would come in the mail.

Infractions would result in fines of $225 for going up to 15 miles an hour above the limit, and $325 for more than 15 mph. The state's share of the take, an estimated $337.9 million, would help pay for trial court operations and court security. Local governments would keep 15 percent, an estimated $59.6 million, of the total $397.5 million collected. . . .

"To the extent drivers choose to curb their tendencies to violate speeding laws, there would be significant benefit to public safety in the form of fewer accidents and injuries to drivers," the department said. . . .

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If Republican were to win Massachusetts Senate Seat, Democrats would delay him being seated so that Health Care takeover would be passed

This must upset a few people in Massachusetts. Democrats don't care how the people vote. They will stretch out the process as long as possible to ensure that health care gets passed. From the Boston Herald.

Few have considered the Jan. 19 election as key to the fate of national health-care reform because both Kirk and front-runner state Attorney General Martha Coakley, the Democratic nominee, have vowed to uphold Kennedy’s legacy and support health-care reform.

But if Brown wins, the entire national health-care reform debate may hinge on when he takes over as senator. Brown has vowed to be the crucial 41st vote in the Senate that would block the bill.

The U.S. Senate ultimately will schedule the swearing-in of Kirk’s successor, but not until the state certifies the election.

Today, a spokesman for Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin, who is overseeing the election but did not respond to a call seeking comment, said certification of the Jan. 19 election by the Governor’s Council would take a while.

“Because it’s a federal election,” spokesman Brian McNiff said. “We’d have to wait 10 days for absentee and military ballots to come in.”

Another source told the Herald that Galvin’s office has said the election won’t be certified until Feb. 20 - well after the president’s address.

Since the U.S. Senate doesn’t meet again in formal session until Jan. 20, Bay State voters will have made their decision before a vote on health-care reform could be held. But Kirk and Galvin’s office said today a victorious Brown would be left in limbo. . . .


Amtrak's happy customers

View more news videos at: http://www.nbcchicago.com/video.

From NBC Chicago:

Arriving almost 24 hours behind schedule, Amtrak's California Zephyr arrived in Chicago with a trainload of passengers who described themselves as "tired, hungry and stinky." . . .

Possibly the government will now pass a regulation for trains (just like they did for planes) regarding about how long you can be stuck on the train. (This is a joke.)


More on Google not caring about property rights: Look at the name for its new phone

Google has a long history of ignoring others property rights (see here and here). Google's approach is simply to take others property and then make them have to fight to recover it. My own guess that Google will face a tough legal challenge to change the name of its phone.

When Google announced the launch of its new mobile phone, Nexus One, it wanted to make waves. It probably didn't expect to ruffle the likes of the literary set. Philip K. Dick's daughter, Isa Dick Hackett, says that the phone's name is swiped from one of her dad's most famous novels — and is a clear infringement.

Sound far-fetched? Let's examine the evidence. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, Dick's novel "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" became the sci-fi movie "Bladerunner." Name of the android-chasing hero: Nexus-6. Name of the Google operating system that runs Nexus One: Android. Coincidence? Dick's daughter thinks not. Google had no comment. . . .

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"It’s Google’s autistic approach to relationships"

I guess that I thought that Google's decision to offer its own phone would wreck also sorts of problems with other phone makers that were using Android. Besides having no regards for other's property rights as has been noted previously, this piece discussions how Google relentless lobbies government to get special favors to help it compete against other companies.

Even before Google started competing with it head on this week, the mobile industry was already wary of the Mountain View Chocolate Factory, and its inclination to hoover up every morsel of service revenue. Now complaining about that may be a bit hypocritical, you might think, if you look at how much of a transaction operators such as Docomo have traditionally retained, and how much they want to keep now. But look at the alternative, Google told the networks and device makers. That Mr Jobs doesn’t leave anything on the table. And besides, we Do No Evil. . . .

Google has lobbied for this for years now; it's also why Google has its own private internet. Googlenet already carries 10 per cent of the net’s traffic internally, and this is a testbed for replacements for the open protocols we use today such as http and dns. And it sure as hell isn’t neutral. Google has no obligation to open this to anybody else. The huge data centres are simply the physical manifestation of the private internet – like the vast cooling towers at each end of the Holland or Rotherhithe Tunnels. . . .

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Bigjournalism: "As Climategate Becomes Pressgate, Questions for the Media"

I don't know if I would have picked this title, but here is a piece that I did with my son Roger that appeared at BigJournalism:

Take an in-depth analysis of Climategate provided by the Associated Press. The piece appeared in hundreds of publications, with many newspapers carrying it on the front page of their Sunday December 13th edition under the headline, “Science not faked, but not pretty.” The five AP-reporters interviewed three scientists about the emails, and concluded: “no evidence of falsification or fabrication of data, although concerns could be raised about some instances of very ‘generous interpretations,’” as the AP quoted Dr. Mark Frankel, director of scientific freedom, responsibility and law at the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The AP had provided him a copy of the emails, without any other important documents.

But we spoke with Dr. Frankel about his interview with the AP, and it appears that AP portrayed him as not too concerned about Climategate. Asked whether it was possible for him to conclude from the emails whether there was “no evidence of falsification or fabrication of data” based on the emails, Dr. Frankel replied:
No, you can’t do that on the emails alone, you can’t do it on the emails or the program. You know, you owe it to people to interview and get their responses, and you owe it to people to ask people within the discipline, other scientists within that discipline, you know what are the expected practices, forms, etcetera in your field. And that takes a little bit of time, I mean that’s why these investigations often take a long time and that you involve experts who know that scientific field.

When pushed further, “Just trying to clarify that you couldn’t make an answer as to whether there was evidence of falsification or fabrication of data,” Dr. Frankel said:
No, I couldn’t make it on the basis of what I’ve seen, and I consider myself to pretty much be an expert in areas of research misconduct. However, I’m not in the area of climate change, so clearly whoever was doing the investigation would have to be sufficiently… have sufficient expertise as resources in order to carry out this investigation.

. . .


For more than a century and a half, men and women of The Associated Press have had the privilege of bringing truth to the world. They have gone to great lengths, overcome great obstacles – and, too often, made great and horrific sacrifices – to ensure that the news was reported quickly, accurately and honestly. Our efforts have been rewarded with trust: More people in more places get their news from the AP than from any other source.In the 21st century, that news is transmitted in more ways than ever before – in print, on the air and on the Web, with words, images, graphics, sounds and video. But always and in all media, we insist on the highest standards of integrity and ethical behavior when we gather and deliver the news.

That means we abhor inaccuracies, carelessness, bias or distortions. It means we will not knowingly introduce false information into material intended for publication or broadcast; nor will we alter photo or image content. Quotations must be accurate, and precise.

It means we always strive to identify all the sources of our information, shielding them with anonymity only when they insist upon it and when they provide vital information – not opinion or speculation; when there is no other way to obtain that information; and when we know the source is knowledgeable and reliable.

It means we don’t plagiarize.

It means we avoid behavior or activities that create a conflict of interest and compromise our ability to report the news fairly and accurately, uninfluenced by any person or action.

It means we don’t misidentify or misrepresent ourselves to get a story. When we seek an interview, we identify ourselves as AP journalists.

It means we don’t pay newsmakers for interviews, to take their photographs or to film or record them.

It means we must be fair. Whenever we portray someone in a negative light, we must make a real effort to obtain a response from that person. When mistakes are made, they must be corrected – fully, quickly and ungrudgingly.

And ultimately, it means it is the responsibility of every one of us to ensure that these standards are upheld. Any time a question is raised about any aspect of our work, it should be taken seriously.

“I have no thought of saying The Associated Press is perfect. The frailties of human nature attach to it,” wrote Melville Stone, the great general manager of the AP. But he went on to say that “the thing it is striving for is a truthful, unbiased report of the world’s happenings … ethical in the highest degree.”

He wrote those words in 1914. They are true today.

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"Why don’t TV weathermen believe in climate change?"

Very amusing and interesting piece.

Those were the first two acts of Coleman’s career. On a Sunday night in early November 2007, Coleman sat down at his home computer and started to write the 967 words that would launch the third. “It is the greatest scam in history,” he began. “I am amazed, appalled and highly offended by it. Global Warming: It is a SCAM.”

What had set him off was a football game. The Eagles were playing the Cowboys in Philadelphia on Sunday Night Football, and as a gesture of environmental awareness—it was “Green is Universal” week at NBC-Universal—the studio lights were cut for portions of the pre-game and half-time shows. Coleman, who had been growing increasingly skeptical about global warming for more than a decade, finally snapped. “I couldn’t take it anymore,” he told me. “I did a Howard Beale.” . . .

Here is an interesting survey cited in the piece.

Respond to this IPCC conclusion: “Most of the warming since 1950 is very likely human-induced.”

Strongly Agree (1)
Agree (2)
Neutral (3)
Disagree (4)
Strongly disagree (5)
Average score is 3.44

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New Fox News Op-ed piece: Unemployment: The Dirty Little Secret Everyone's Ignoring

My new piece at Fox News starts this way:

The unemployment rate might be stuck at 10 percent, but the more detailed numbers in the Department of Labor's Household survey data paint a more dire picture. The number of people with a job fell by 589,000 in December. Even worse, the number of people not in the labor force grew by an astounding 843,000 during just the last month. The Household survey data is what is used to measure the unemployment rate.

To get an idea of the size of this increase in the number of people not in the labor force, since February, when the stimulus package was passed, I repeat, the number of people not in the labor force has grown by 3.2 million. But the number for December represents 26 percent of the entire increase over that period of time. The problem of people getting discouraged and giving up looking for work is ballooning. Of course, they have had good reasons to be discouraged. Similarly since February, the total number of people employed has fallen by 4 million. . . .

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Academic fails to acknowledge that he was being paid by the Obama administration while he was pushing for their policies in the media

Will he be attacked in much of the media for this? Will the Washington Post run a story on Gruber given that they published an op-ed piece by him without stating that he was being paid by the Obama administration?

MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, one of the leading academic defenders of health care reform, is taking heat for failing to disclose consistently that he was under contract with the Department of Health and Human Services while he was touting the Democrats' health proposals in the media.

Gruber, according to federal government documents, is under a $297,600 contract until next month to provide "technical assistance" in evaluating health care reform proposals. He was under a $95,000 HHS contract before that. . . .

Gruber claims that the money didn't influence his policy recommendations, but he misses the point. He should have revealed that he was getting $392,600 from the Obama administration and then let the viewers of the shows that he was on make the call. Here is what Kate Pickert wrote on a blog for Time Magazine:

Still, if I had known Gruber had such a contract, I would have disclosed this fact to readers when I quoted him. (For the record, I would have still quoted him and I was aware that he was one policy expert among many who advised Congress. Quoting him in an Oct. 13, 2009 story I identified him as "a respected MIT economist who has advised lawmakers on health reform.") But the attribution should have gone further. I'm of the belief that readers should have as much information about sources as possible within the confines of journalistic writing. . . .

A blog at the Washington Post has this:

I wasn't aware of that, and if I had been, I would've made sure it was disclosed when I quoted Gruber. On the other hand, the implication that Gruber is somehow a paid shill for this bill belies a fairly long and consistent record in support of health reform, and in particular, this type of health reform. . . .

What surprises me is how sympathetic these discussions are towards Gruber. I can't find any correction or note on this in the newspaper or main website for the Washington Post. Here is a critique of Gruber's piece. So how much of the media is mentioning the amount of money that Gruber received? A Google News Search at 2:30 AM the day after the story on Gruber broke got 10 hits searching on ""Jonathan Gruber" $296,600 OR $400,000 OR $392,600." Five of those ten were to the leftwing blog (FireDogLake).

Personally, I don't think that the $392,600 altered Gruber's views, though I would be willing to bet that Gruber supports campaign finance regulations because he claims that even much, much smaller amounts can corrupt politicians. However, the amount of money that he was given is also pretty amazing for an academic doing consulting for the government. A Google News Search on "Jonathan Gruber" for 2008 and 2009 found 240 hits, most very prominent places.

UPDATE: In defending himself, Gruber told Politico: “I have been completely consistent with my academic track record.” Did Gruber alter his position on health care regulations over time? Say since 2007? It appears that the answer is "yes." Merrill Goozner, a health care policy blogger and NYU professor, notes:

Hmmm. What about this March 2007 paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research, which he co-authored. It looked at the effect of higher out-of-pocket co-pays for retired public employees in California. Gruber found that they led to higher hospitalization rates as old folks with chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease cut back on physician visits and necessary drugs.

These offset effects are concentrated in patients for whom medical care is presumably efficacious: those with a chronic disease. . . Our findings suggest that health insurance should be tied to underlying health status, with chronically ill patients facing lower cost-sharing.

What will happen after the excise tax hits high-cost insurance plans, according to Gruber today? 80 percent of employers will ratchet down plan benefits to keep their costs under the tax cap. The only way they can do that is by raising co-pays and deductibles and eliminating benefits. The extra money employers save will be returned to workers as higher wages, which they can choose to either use to pay for health care or pay other bills. And as his own research points out, many will choose to cut back on necessary care, and some will wind up in the hospital.

“There’s literally no evidence out there that people are going to suffer,” he told the Washington Post earlier this week. He should re-read his own paper.

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Will Judges Throw Out Important Evidence in Terror Trials because confessions were coerced?: They already are

Here is one example:
Judge tosses out most evidence on Gitmo detainee
Jan 8 03:00 PM US/Eastern
Associated Press Writer
A federal judge has tossed out most of the government's evidence against a tarrorism detainee on grounds his confessions were coerced, allegedly by U.S. forces, before he became a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay.
In a ruling this week, U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan also said the government failed to establish that 23 statements the detainee made to interrogators at Guantanamo Bay were untainted by the earlier coerced statements made while he was held under harsh conditions in Afghanistan.
However, the judge said statements he made during two military administrative hearings at the U.S. detention center in Cuba, where he was assisted by a personal representative, were reliable and sufficient to justify holding the detainee. . . .


Change in Number of People Unemployed


Change in Number of People Not in Labor Force


Number of People Unemployed + Not in Labor Force (trend line included)


State tax revenue is far down

The source for this data is here.


"Green jobs" costing $135,294 per job

From Investors' Business Daily:

The White House announced Friday the awarding of $2.3 billion in tax credits — the money comes from last year’s stimulus bill — to companies to create “green jobs.”
The announcement was rather obviously timed to counter the news that the nation lost 85,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate stayed at 10% — bad news for an administration that once promised to hold unemployment to 8% by the end of 2009. . . .
Obama says the grants will create 17,000 cleantech jobs. Well, get out your calculator. $2.3 billion for 17,000 jobs equals $135,294 per job. (And that’s not including the eventual interest on this deficit spending). Those green jobs had better pay well over six figures to justify that expense. . . .


Zero tolerance policy nails student who thought that he was following the rules on guns near school

Unloaded guns in a locked car off of school property get student in a lot of trouble because of zero tolerance policy. Here is an editorial from the NewsReview in Chico, California:

By now the story of Gary Tudesko, the Willows High School junior who was expelled after Interquest search dogs sniffed out two unloaded shotguns in his pickup, has spread far and wide, thanks to the Internet. Both the National Rifle Association and the California Rifle and Pistol Association Legal Foundation have come to the youth’s aid.

Like many Willows youths, Gary is a hunter, and last November he and a friend went duck hunting before school. Returning just as classes were starting, and knowing that guns weren’t allowed on campus, Gary parked his pickup on nearby Willow Street, with the two shotguns unloaded and the doors locked. The dogs, after finding no drugs or guns on campus, had searched the surrounding area and located his vehicle.

As it turned out, there is nothing in the student handbook about unloaded weapons in locked vehicles off campus, and Gary had no way of knowing it was a no-no. Nevertheless, Willows High School officials kicked him out of school—a decision subsequently upheld by the Willows Unified School District board. In their determination to carry out a zero-tolerance policy, these officials defied common sense.

Let’s hope the Glenn County Board of Education, which will hear the matter on appeal at 10 a.m. on Jan. 15, acts reasonably and lets Gary Tudesko return to school.

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French looking at taxing Google to fund french writers

I have no love lost for Google, but this sounds like using taxes to create an unequal playing field.

President Nicolas Sarkozy instructed his finance ministry to examine the merits of a tax in response to complaints from the French media that Google and other sites are generating advertising income using their news and other content. He also called for an inquiry by French competition authorities into a possible “abuse of dominant position” in the advertising business of big internet sites. . . .

However, Google has run roughshod over property rights.

Last month a Paris court ruled that Google had violated the copyright of authors and publishers by scanning French books held in US libraries without consent. The court ordered the group to stop scanning titles published by La Matinière, the company that brought the case, without prior authorisation, and instructed it to pay €300,000 in damages and interest. . . .

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May Cell Phones Prevent Alzheimer's?

After all the lack of findings that cell phones cause cancer, it is interesting to see this work that indicates a benefit from cell phones.

A study in mice suggests using cellphones may help prevent some of the brain-wasting effects of Alzheimer's disease, U.S. researchers said on Wednesday.

After long-term exposure to electromagnetic waves such as those used in cell phones, mice genetically altered to develop Alzheimer's performed as well on memory and thinking skill tests as healthy mice, the researchers wrote in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

The results were a major surprise and open the possibility of developing a noninvasive, drug-free treatment for Alzheimer's, said lead author Gary Arendash of the University of South Florida.

He said he had expected cell phone exposure to increase the effects of dementia.

"Quite to the contrary, those mice were protected if the cell phone exposure was stared in early adulthood. Or if the cellphone exposure was started after they were already memory- impaired, it reversed that impairment," Arendash said in a telephone interview.

Arendash's team exposed the mice to electromagnetic waves equivalent to those emitted by a cellphone pressed against a human head for two hours daily over seven to nine months.

At the end of that time, they found cellphone exposure erased a build-up of beta amyloid, a protein that serves as a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease.

The Alzheimer's mice showed improvement and had reversal of their brain pathology, he said.

"It (the electromagnetic wave) prevents the aggregation of that bad protein of the brain," Arendash said. "The findings are intriguing to us because they open up a whole new field in neuroscience, we believe, which is the long-term effects of electromagnetic fields on memory."

Arendash said his team was modifying the experiment to see if they could produce faster results and begin testing humans. . . .

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A sign of the times: DC looks to topple NYC as city with the highest rental prices

With all the huge increase in government spending in DC, it isn't really surprising that rents in DC would go up relative to NYC.

The office market in Washington, D.C., is poised to topple New York as the nation's most expensive, reflecting the declining fortunes of the nation's financial center and the government expansion under way in the U.S. capital.

Rents declined in almost all of the 79 American cities tracked by Reis Inc., a New York based-research firm, in the fourth quarter of 2009. The largest fall was in New York, where average effective rents -- or the net amount tenants pay after landlord concessions -- fell nearly 20% to $44.69 per square foot annually. It was the sharpest decline in rents ever recorded by Reis since it began compiling data in 1981.

By contrast, average rents in Washington were $41.77 per square foot, down 3% annually. Reis estimates that by the end of this year, rents in New York will come down to around $41.07, slightly below their estimates for Washington of $41.27.

"The financial crisis hit New York hard, which is why it's down so much, whereas the government is one of the few sectors that has actually added jobs," said Robert Bach, chief economist for Grubb & Ellis, a Santa Ana, Calif.-based brokerage firm. . . .

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Dems planning on pushing for rules that will give vote to illegal aliens and criminals

Letting crooks & illegals vote: Democrats plan to manipulate elections with universal registration

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, and Rep. Barney Frank, Massachusetts Democrat, have plans to ram through legislation that will produce universal voter registration. No matter what they claim, the rule changes will make it possible for illegal aliens to register to vote and for others to register multiple times. . . .

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The IRS as Insurance Regulator

Everyone's favorite agency, the IRS, will be deeply involved in their health care.

As if U.S. tax forms aren't complicated enough, Congress is expected to include in its final health care reform bill a requirement that nearly all Americans have health insurance -- and prove it on their tax returns or face a fine.

The Internal Revenue Service would be tasked with enforcing this new health insurance mandate, prompting some in the tax preparation business to say this is going to add a whole new burden to the tax agency.

"Just the audits of this is going to be huge because our system is a voluntary compliance system," said Terry Jones a private certified public accountant. "The IRS can audit, of course, and this is a whole new area opening up that the IRS is going to have to be on top of."

In addition, the health care reform bill likely would require the IRS to dole out taxpayer dollars -- subsidies -- to low-income Americans to help them pay for health insurance, administer tax credits to small businesses to help them offer health insurance to workers and collect billions of dollars in new taxes on employers, insurance companies and medical device companies. . . .

One top Senate Republican says he's not convinced the IRS is up to the job and wanted some assurances before the Senate voted on the bill . But that didn't happen. . . .

Interestingly, I also saw this headline today: "3 in 10 calls to IRS expected to be ignored."

The Internal Revenue Services is warning tax filers that 3 in 10 calls to the agency will likely be ignored this year,

The IRS said in its annual report to Congress that the IRS is overwhelmed because more people are phoning the IRS with increasingly complex questions than in years past. As a result, the agency has lowered its target rate of answering calls to only 71 percent for the fiscal year 2010, down from 83 percent in fiscal year 2007.

“In other words, the IRS has set its priorities so that nearly three out of every ten calls seeking to reach an IRS telephone assistor will not get through, and callers who do receive assistance will first have to wait on hold for an average of nearly 12 minutes,” the report said.

Although a goal of 71 percent may not seem high enough to tax filers, it would be a better rate of answering calls than the IRS achieved last year.

During the fiscal year 2009 tax season the IRS reported answering only 64 percent of calls with wait times of roughly eight and a half minutes.

Things don't appear to have improved over time and with congressional intervention, either. In 1998 Congress passed legislation to help improve service for taxpayers. That year the rate of service was 69 percent, four points better than the 2009 rate.

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Stimulus money disappearing to unknown places

The Washington Examiner has this interesting story:

Phantom zip codes also found in Virginia
Local Opinion Editor
01/06/10 10:40 AM EST

As much as $9.5 million in federal stimulus dollars went to 14 zip codes in Virginia that don’t exist or are in other states, Old Dominion Watchdog (http://virginia.watchdog.org) reports. The fake zip codes were listed on Recovery.gov, the federal Web site that is supposed to track how the stimulus money is being used.

The phony zip codes are a new wrinkle in Recovery.gov’s increasingly tattered credibility. In November, Ed Pound, director of communications for the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, said a rash of phantom congressional districts found on the website were the result of confusion by fund recipients, who apparently didn’t know who their congressman was.

But who would give millions of dollars to somebody who doesn’t even know their own zip code?
More fake zip codes here
UPDATE: Even with a real zip code, it takes seven hours for one firm to report back to Recovery.gov on its $2,000 stimulus contract.


FDIC to determine insurance rate fees based on manager's salaries, not just the direct risk of the bank's investments

It isn't it bad enough that the FDIC is responsible for the S&L crisis and it was responsible because it didn't charge premiums that reflected the riskiness of the bank's assets. Apparently, they didn't learn their lesson.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.'s board could vote next week to propose tying the fees lenders pay the agency for deposit insurance to the risk profile of compensation packages for executives, people familiar with the matter said.

The plan, if adopted by the regulator, could serve as both a carrot and a stick for lenders. Banks with compensation structures the FDIC views as less risky, such as those that allow firms to claw back pay from executives, could be given a break on the fees they pay on deposit insurance. Firms that have pay structures the FDIC views as giving officials an incentive to put the company at more risk could be forced to pay more.

The proposal is in an early stage, but it represents the latest government effort to curb financial companies' pay structures. Federal officials have criticized banks for offering too many incentives to loan officers and traders with little regard for whether loans or trades eventually went sour. Federal Reserve officials are working on a separate plan to curb the incentives and bonuses banks pay certain employees.

The FDIC has already used its deposit insurance assessment structure to target risky bank behavior. The agency requires banks to pay more in deposit insurance fees if they are on shakier footing, accept large amounts of high-risk deposits, or rely too heavily on funding from Federal Home Loan Banks. . . .

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Three-year-old's threat to airline averted

I suppose that the family with two small children (3 and 1.5 years old) looked suspicious.

A TSA screener in New Orleans confiscates a Wildwood three-year-old's favorite toy.

Josh Pitney was not allowed to take a pack of play doh on board his return flight to St. Louis, even though play doh is not on the TSA's list of prohibited items.

Monday afternoon, Josh and his 15 month old little brother sat on the carpet of their home, making fun shapes out of play doh. "You know, all you have to worry about is it getting in the carpet," said their mother, Christy, as she watched them play, "small problem to have when you have a child who is entertained for half an hour."

And play doh probably would have entertained Josh and Nathan for much of their flight home from a post-Christmas trip to New Orleans last week, but a TSA screener decided not to allow the play doh through security. The screener allowed them to keep the plastic mat and tools for molding the play doh, but took the 20 cans of clay out of the box.

"I had the kids and my husband was there with all our bags," recalled Christy. "Josh and I were sitting, getting our shoes on and, my husband kinda motioned to us and said, 'They took our play doh.' And the man from TSA was taking every can out one at a time and putting it on a table, and Josh saw it and he started fussing." . . .

"I tried to explain that those were the rules, but it turns out its not prohibited on the TSA's website, so apparently those aren't the rules." . . .


Terror trial in NYC to cost $216 million

How much security could the US buy with $216 million (note that is just NYC's costs)? How many other things could you buy with that money?

In a letter obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, Mayor Michael Bloomberg put the cost at $216 million for the first year after Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other suspects arrive in Manhattan from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. After that, the mayor said it would cost $200 million annually for as long as the men are detained in the city -- mainly overtime for extra New York Police Department patrols. . . .

Federal officials have said they're still determining the security costs and how they will be paid. No date has been set for the trial.

Attorney General Eric Holder announced last month that Mohammed, the professed mastermind of the 2001 attacks, and four accused of being al-Qaida henchmen would be tried in federal court in lower Manhattan. The court complex, including a jail that would hold the men, is just blocks from where the World Trade Center towers were destroyed in the attack on Sept 11, 2001. . . .

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9th Circuit decision gives felons the right to vote while they are serving in prison

The decision: Felons should be allowed to vote because the criminal justice system supposedly incarcerates blacks relative to whites more than it should. The AP discussion on this is here.

A small part of my discussion on felons voting in my book Freedomnomics.

Two, many convicted criminals face severe penalties in addition to a prison sentence. Many jobs are forbidden to felons, often making it hard for them simply to earn a living. Yet, since the 2000 election, the loss of voting rights has suddenly emerged as the most pressing problem that former convicts supposedly face. Restoring voting rights, we are told, is indicative “in so many ways of citizenship that it is more important than owning a gun or being able to hold [a particular job].”
Felons themselves, however, have other priorities. In addition to finding a job, felons, who frequently live in poor, high-crime neighborhoods want to be able to defend themselves. In Virginia, the number one reason felons cite for asking for clemency is the desire to regain their right to own a gun. The Assistant for Clemency for the Governor of Virginia for 1994 and 1995 reported that restoring “voting rights was never on the application for clemency.”
According to academic studies, from 1972 to 1996, on average 80 percent of felons would have voted Democratic. An overwhelming 93 percent ostensibly would have voted for Bill Clinton in 1996. In addition to giving the Democrats the White House in 2000, this “felon vote” would have given Democrats control of the Senate from 1986 to 2004.
But these studies are problematic. Felons’ voting patterns are assumed to be the same as those of non-felons of the same race, gen- der, age, and educational status. The estimates do not account for the possibility that there is something fundamentally different about felons that could cause them to vote differently. If two people are of the same race, gender, age, and educational status but one person commits mur- ders or rapes, there might be something quite different between these two people that could affect how they vote.
Public Opinion Strategies surveyed 602 adults in Washington State in May 2005. Of the respondents, 102 were felons who had their voting rights restored, while 500 were non-felons. They were asked about their political preferences, as well as background information about their race, gender, education level, religious habits, employment, age, and county of residence. This survey makes it possible to test the assumption that felons and non-felons are essentially the same.
The survey’s results indicate that felons vote even more frequently for Democrats than one would estimate based solely on their personal characteristics. After accounting for all these factors, I found that felons were 36 percent more likely than non-felons with the same character- istics to have voted for Kerry over Bush and 37 percent more likely to be registered Democratic. While African-American and Asians in Wash- ington tend to vote for “a few more Democrats than Republicans,” felons among those groups vote for “mostly Democrats.” In fact, felons in both groups voted exclusively for Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry. . . .



Global warming strikes Europe (and China and US and . . .)

From the BBC.

Severe winter weather has brought dangerous conditions and transport disruption to parts of Europe.

In the UK, thousands of schools are closed and travellers have been hit by major delays after heavy snowfall affected large parts of the country.

Temperatures as low as -22C (-8F) have left 122 dead in Poland this winter and the main river, the Vistula, has frozen over, causing fears of flooding.

In the Swiss Alps avalanches have killed at least seven people.

Western France has issued a weather alert for 14 regions hit by heavy snow. . . .

Accuweather is forecasting that there will be record cold this winter for the US.

Winter of 2009-2010 Could Be Worst in 25 Years
Posted 2010-01-04
Nearly the entire eastern half of the United States is enduring bitterly cold temperatures not experienced since 1985. Even Florida, which has been hovering around freezing levels overnight recently, is also feeling the almost-nationwide chill.

"It'll be like the great winters of the '60s and '70s," said AccuWeather.com Chief Meteorologist and Expert Long Range Forecaster Joe Bastardi.

The last time a large swath of severely low temperatures struck the nation was in January 1985. That historic arctic outbreak had below-zero temperatures Fahrenheit stretching from Chicago eastward to New York City, and all the way south to Macon, Ga.

While Bastardi says the upcoming days will bring cold not seen since 1985 or 1982, he believes this winter is shaping up much that of like 1977-78. That winter, nearly all of the United States east of the Rockies had a cold October followed by a warm November, with the cold returning in December. . . . .

And this about China:

Much of China's manufacturing and farming heartland shivered on Wednesday under snow, sleet and unusual cold that drove south after dumping big snowfalls on Beijing and much of the country's north in past days.

Daytime temperatures in Shanghai and across the nearby coastal provinces of Jiangsu and Zhejiang skidded close to 0 degrees Celsius (32 F), and many areas inland were hit by snow or sleet, according to meteorological departments.

The harsh weather has pushed energy demand to new peaks, while transport snarls have slowed coal supplies, already low as power and coal companies haggle over prices.

The confluence of soaring demand, transport snarls and brinkmanship over coal prices could force power cuts and upset production in some big economic provinces, if conditions worsen.

"Conditions for thermal coal supply and shipment do not allow for optimism," said the China Electric Power News, mouthpiece of the State Electricity Regulatory Commission.

"In central and eastern China, power plants' inventories of thermal coal remain as tight as they were at the end of last year, and already strained shipment of coal has suffered more hardships after being hit by the snow storms." . . .

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Economists explaining why bailouts cause those being bailout to take riskier behavior

From the WSJ, some pretty simple economics.

Over the past few days, economists here highlighted the many ways in which the lessons of the crisis have yet to sink in. Few think the U.S. and other governments have made needed repairs to the financial regulatory system. And some suggest governments' response has increased the chances of a repeat, making the banking system more crisis-prone, putting new strains on institutions such as the Federal Reserve and stretching government finances closer to the breaking point.

"Our response has made us more vulnerable to a bigger crisis," said Tom Sargent, a New York University economist. "It's distressing."

Banks present the most immediate worry. By providing massive bailouts to commercial banks and securities firms, the logic goes, governments have given bank executives a sort of catastrophe insurance -- and an incentive to take even greater risks than they did before the crisis. But it could take years for policy makers to impose the controls, such as tougher capital requirements, that would prevent the pain from spreading to taxpayers and the broader economy next time the banks get into trouble. . . .


Obama's Promise on Health Care Reform Transparency

“I respect what the Clintons tried to do in 1993 in moving health reform forward, but they made one really big mistake, and that is, they took all their people and all their experts and put them into a room, and then they closed the door. We will work on this process publicly, it will be on C-SPAN, it will be streaming over the net.” November 2008

Yet, another broken promise by President Obama.

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"Gallup: Obama Begins 2nd Year w/Highest Disapproval Rating in Modern Era"

Ping pong process previously used rarely and for minor differences between houses

Realclearpolitics has this discussion on how unusual it has been to use the so-called "ping pong" process to reconcile different House and Senate versions of legislation.

In the 109th Congress (2005-2006), the last under GOP control, the House and Senate reconciled major bills through a conference committee 18 of 19 times, according to a report by congressional scholar Don Wolfensberger that was cited in an August 2008 Congressional Research Service analysis of the committee process. In the 110th (2007-2008), major bills were reconciled in conference just 11 of 19 times -- meaning Democrats negotiated eight times as many bills outside of conference as their Republican predecessors.

"While the conference bypass approach is just as legitimate under the rules as going to conference (and sometimes advisable when there are only minor differences to iron out), the procedure is more suspect when used on major bills on which numerous substantive disagreements exist between the houses," Wolfensberger wrote in his April 2008 column, printed in Roll Call. . . .


Massive amount of porn hidden in children's clips at Youtube

This is pretty disgusting.

Video-sharing website YouTube has removed hundreds of pornographic videos which were uploaded in what is believed to be a planned attack.

The material was uploaded under names of famous teenage celebrities such as Hannah Montana and Jonas Brothers.

Many started with footage of children's videos before groups of adults

performing graphic sex acts appeared on screen.

YouTube owner Google said it was aware and addressing the problem. . . .

It is also disappointing that 40 percent of the email to the BBC viewed this as just a fun joke.

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Insurance companies say it makes sense for ships to have armed guards

This seems like an anti-pirate policy that works:

Shipping firms in the modern era have resisted packing heat even in areas where attacks are common. Their reasoning: A firefight leading to lawsuits, damaged goods or a sunken ship could cost hundreds of millions of dollars, a sum far exceeding the few million dollars in ransom that pirates usually demand.

But some shipping companies and fishing vessels are tacking away from a longstanding tradition of unarmed sailing amid escalating violence on the high seas. And pirates, who once used small arms as their weapon of choice, now resort to heavier armaments such as grenade launchers, shipping and security firms say. Besides, they note, recent armed conflicts have had some success repelling pirates.

Still, the majority of the international maritime community resists using lethal force because it "poses incredible logistical challenges, potentially violates many national and international laws, and is contrary to maritime conventions," says James Christodoulou, chief executive of Industrial Shipping Enterprises Corp. . . .

Piracy -- and mustering the arms to thwart it -- stretches back to the dawn of ocean trading. In the 16th century, commercial sailing ships "could be as well armed as warships," says Brian Lavery, author of "Ship: 5000 Years of Maritime History."

But in the 19th century, the end of monopolies like the East India Company meant greater competition, and amid the industrial revolution, there was a new emphasis on speed. Fast sailing vessels like the clipper, rushing to transact business, couldn't afford to be weighed down by ammo. And they could outrun pirates. . . .

Today, most fast ships, which cruise at speeds of 25 knots, can still outrun pirates. But oil tankers and bulk carriers, which typically cruise at 12 knots, aren't so nimble. Recent risk assessments by insurance companies and others have concluded that "sometimes the only way of keeping the ship safe is an armed guard," says Peter Hinchcliffe of the International Chamber of Shipping, another London-based trade group. . . .

Rates for a team of armed guards vary greatly, between $25,000 and over $100,000 for crossing the Gulf of Aden. They board ships at ports in Yemen, Djibouti or Oman. They hire local fishermen to take them out to the freighter that needs protection. After reaching the Suez canal, the men are flown back to the Gulf, or put on board a ship heading southward toward the Gulf of Aden.

The guards carry handguns, but the risk of a catastrophic escalation is minimal, says Maritime Asset Security & Training co-director Philip Cable. Pirates "are there to take the ship, not kill people." So far, MAST guards have helped fend off seven attacks, none involving weapons. . . .



About 9 Percent of South Dakota's Adults have a Concealed Handgun Permit

The number of permitted concealed handguns in South Dakota continues to increase. The South Dakota Secretary of State has this information:

Pierre, SD – Secretary of State Chris Nelson announced that a record number of concealed weapons permits were issued in South Dakota in 2009.

16,907 permits were issued by sheriffs throughout the state which was 15.6% more permits than the previous record set in 2008. Permits are valid for four years. The number issued in 2009 was 68% higher than the 10,062 permits which were issued in 2005.

Any person wishing to carry a weapon in a concealed manner must first obtain a permit from their local sheriff.

South Dakota has concealed weapons permit reciprocity with 26 other states allowing South Dakota permit holders to have their permits recognized when traveling in those states. This number has increased by three this past year. A complete listing of the reciprocity states can be found at www.sdsos.gov.

There are 55,770 concealed weapons permit holders in South Dakota.

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Young Children who are spanked end up being happier and more successful

As far as these types of studies go, this sample of 2,600 people is relatively large.

Young children spanked by their parents may grow up to be happier and more successful than those who have never been hit, a study has found.

According to the research, children spanked up to the age of 6 were likely as teenagers to perform better at school and were more likely to carry out volunteer work and to want to go to college than their peers who had never been physically disciplined.

But children who continued to be spanked into adolescence showed clear behavioral problems.

Children’s groups and lawmakers in the UK have tried several times to have physical chastisement by parents outlawed, the Times of London reported. They claim it is a form of abuse that causes long-term harm to children and say banning it would send a clear signal that violence is unacceptable.

However, Marjorie Gunnoe, professor of psychology at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, said her study showed there was insufficient evidence to deny parents the freedom to choose how they discipline their children.

“The claims made for not spanking children fail to hold up. They are not consistent with the data,” said Gunnoe. “I think of spanking as a dangerous tool, but there are times when there is a job big enough for a dangerous tool. You just don’t use it for all your jobs.” . . .

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"Democrats Considering Health Care-Immigration Deal To Overcome Key Sticking Point"

The Talking Points Memo (a liberal Democrat website) claims that there is a deal getting put together to pass the health care bill. Of course, this provides evidence that Democrats are negotiating secretly behind the scenes on the health care bill.

Lawmakers who want to extend health coverage to illegal immigrants will not block the passage of the final health care reform bill so long as the White House offers a substantive promise to start pushing comprehensive immigration legislation this year.

Democrats who want a comprehensive bill that reforms immigration law but also offers a pathway to citizenship have threatened to vote against health care if illegals aren't included in the new system, making immigration one of the sticking points as Democratic leaders negotiate the final details.

Democratic leadership aides believe that a firm White House promise of a comprehensive immigration bill will be enough to quell any House dissent.

TPMDC sources have been telling us that members won't admit it publicly but they are ready to concede on immigration in the health care bill. Political aides in the White House have told key parties in Congress that President Obama wants to see a bill this year, and negotiations are under way for how it would be written. . . .

Doesn't this deal violate at least the spirit of President Obama's promise to congress and the American people during his September 24 address to Congress?

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Vote fraud about to be completely out of control

John Fund has this very depressing prediction.

In January, Chuck Schumer and Barney Frank will propose universal voter registration. What is universal voter registration? It means all of the state laws on elections will be overriden by a federal mandate. The feds will tell the states: 'take everyone on every list of welfare that you have, take everyone on every list of unemployed you have, take everyone on every list of property owners, take everyone on every list of driver's license holders and register them to vote regardless of whether they want to be...


Adjusted versus Raw temperature data for Australia

A discussion on this can be found here.

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New piece at the Washington Times


A copy of the video can be seen here.



Concealed Carry in Riverside County California just got easier

This new rule (at least to the extent that the Sheriff obeys it) would move the county in a decidedly right-to-carry direction.

An effort by the Riverside County Board of Supervisors to make it easier for residents to carry concealed firearms isn't likely to change policy, the Sheriff's Department said.

In a 3-1 vote in November, supervisors passed a resolution asking the sheriff to consider applications for permits based solely on "personal defense."

Supervisor Jeff Stone, author of the resolution, pegged the issue to the potential release of thousands of California inmates as part of a plan to meet a federal mandate to reduce the state's prison population. . . .

Supervisor Bob Buster was the lone vote against the resolution. He said he believed that existing regulations were adequate.

Applicants must show they need a concealed carry permit. That could mean they have a job that requires travel to dangerous areas, or an order of protection against a stalker or assailant.

Stone's resolution would allow Riverside residents to get a permit for "personal protection." . . .


More confirmation that the Dems will do the Health Care Conference in Secret

Dems to secretly put together the health care bill in conference.

Despite their claims to the contrary, the way that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have handled the healthcare bill has been anything but transparent. And, if the left-wing blogosphere is to be believed, the two congressional leaders intend to keep the deliberations secret as they try to merge the House and Senate versions of the legislation into something that will pass both chambers.

The Talking Points Memo website reported Monday that Democrats in both the House and Senate are saying the process will likely follow the path of the House taking up the Senate-passed legislation, amending it and sending it back to the Senate, which will have to pass it again. "This process cuts out the Republicans," a House Democratic aide told TPM, indicating the congressional majority intended to make sure the Republican minority would "not have a motion to recommit opportunity."

It also, say those who are following the issue, allows Pelosi to avoid having to cut deals with problematic House Democrats like Michigan's Bart Stupak, who has promised to do what he can to scuttle the final bill if it provides for federal funding of abortions. . . .

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How to make banks riskier

For some reason many politicians don't seem to understand what diversification means. Just as economists advise individuals to hold diversified portfolios, the same reason applies to other institutions. Returning to the Depression era rules, as McCain and Cantwell propose, will make the system riskier.

The bipartisan duo’s bill would reinstate the Depression-era law that built a wall between commercial banking and the riskier activities of investment banking. The separation — originally set up in the Glass-Steagall Act — was repealed in 1999.

But reinstating Glass-Steagall has become something of a rallying cry among progressives, as well as some conservatives. They believe that allowing banks to provide all services to all people creates the very sort of “too big to fail” institutions that threatened the stability of the global financial order in 2008. . . .

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With a trillion dollar health care bill heading towards approval, I thought that it might be useful to remember what Obama promised

Obama's health care promise included:

Access to Health Insurance
Supports a national health insurance program for people who do not have employer-provided health care and who do not qualify for other existing federal programs. Would mandate health insurance coverage for children but not for adults.
Would require employers that do not provide health coverage for employees to pay into his proposed national health insurance program.
The plan's $50 billion to $65 billion price tag would be paid for by discontinuing Bush's tax cuts for those earning more than $250,000 a year.

This is both a lot more expensive than Obama promised. He is also breaking his promise that it wouldn't be mandatory.

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Mexico is one country that could really use a right-to-carry law

Mexico has always had a much higher murder rate than the US. But with the drug gangs even what had once been safe areas are no longer safe. With gun bans, it seems like only the drug gang members are carrying around guns.

They were aware of the dangers. Agustin Roberto "Bobby" Salcedo and his wife, Betzy, knew that this town, like much of Mexico, was no longer the tranquil spot it had been.

"I've been coming regularly," Salcedo's widow said Saturday of her hometown. "We knew how bad it had become."

And yet, the Salcedos ventured out for a few beers the night before New Year's Eve.

"We were just going out with a group of friends," Betzy Salcedo said, speaking slowly and casting her eyes downward. "You are careful, you look around, but you never think this kind of thing can happen . . . to innocent people. We were having a good time. Then we were in the mouth of the wolf."

Hours later, Bobby Salcedo was dead, hauled away from the bar with five other men, their bodies dumped in a dried-grass field on the outskirts of town.

Arrangements were being made Saturday to repatriate Salcedo's body. The 33-year-old, who was born and raised in the Los Angeles area, was an assistant principal and school board member in El Monte.

His slaying underscores the random volatility of the violence in Mexico and the ease with which the pain it causes can seep past the country's borders. . . .

Thanks to Ben Zycher for this link.

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How health insurance stock prices have changed over the last two years

Click on figure to make it larger.


How health insurance stock prices have changed relative to the S&P 500

Click on figure to make it larger.



Top 10 Conservative Movies of the past decade

Nile Gardiner has put in his list for the top 10. I would be curious what readers think should be included on the list.

1. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (Peter Weir, 2003)
2. Black Hawk Down (Ridley Scott, 2001)
3. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (Peter Jackson, 2001, 2002, 2003)
4. Gladiator (Ridley Scott, 2000)
5. The Pursuit of Happyness (Gabriele Muccino, 2006)
6. The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, 2008)
7. The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow, 2009)
8. Hotel Rwanda (Terry George, 2004)
9. The Lives of Others (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2006)
10. 300 (Zack Snyder, 2007)

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Will Virginia get rid of one handgun a month regulation?

Virginia State Delegate Scott Lingamfelter (R - Prince William & Fauquier Counties) has pre-filed House Bill 49 for the 2010 Virginia General Assembly session to repeal the current one-gun-a-month limit. Right now only 3 other states ration handgun purchases: California, Maryland, and New Jersey (South Carolina repealed their gun rationing law several years ago). Back in 1993, Governor-elect Bob McDonnell (R) voted for the one handgun a month law when he was in the state House of Delegates, but he has now signaled that he would back repeal. The Second Edition of More Guns, Less Crime and The Bias Against Guns both looked at one-gun-a-month rules, but found no benefits from these laws.

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Gang member's advice on how to cut down on murder: "Buy a gun"

This article also points out something that I have been saying for sometime that a large portion of crime are drug gang related. I would point out again that just as gangs can get the drugs to sell they can get the guns that they need to protect those drugs from other gangs.

Gang violence boosts death tally
A spike in the number of deadly gangland quarrels pushed last year's homicide count to 60
by Lou Michel
Updated: January 03, 2010,

. . . "Buy a gun," a member of a recently busted inner-city gang told The Buffalo News last week when asked what could be done to curtail homicides. "Hey, I'm just being honest. You asked."

Tall and good looking, the young man half smiled, shrugged and seemed to disappear into his oversized winter coat.

Twice the victim of gunfire — a fact a street cop confirmed — the young man said he views self-protection as the best means of avoiding death on the streets.

The gangs that fight over territory and drugs, he said, are often not well organized. . . .

Thanks to Peter K for sending me this link.

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New Airport Scanners would not have stopped Christmas Day Bomb Attempt

I suppose that this isn't too surprising. The question is: how invasive are you willing to be? Are we going to pat down everyone's crotch? Or do full body searches? The problem is also that liquids that are completely harmless by themselves can cause real problems when combined.

The explosive device smuggled in the clothing of the Detroit bomb suspect would not have been detected by body-scanners set to be introduced in British airports, an expert on the technology warned last night.

The claim severely undermines Gordon Brown's focus on hi-tech scanners for airline passengers as part of his review into airport security after the attempted attack on Flight 253 on Christmas Day.

The Independent on Sunday has also heard authoritative claims that officials at the Department for Transport (DfT) and the Home Office have already tested the scanners and were not persuaded that they would work comprehensively against terrorist threats to aviation. . . .

And experts in the US said airport "pat-downs" – a method used in hundreds of airports worldwide – were ineffective and would not have stopped the suspect boarding the plane. . . .


The White House Rewriting History on Yemen

The Obama administration just can't seem to admit that they had made a mistake.

The New York Times on December 12, 2009:

But the senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was discussing sensitive security matters, said the government was gaining confidence in Yemen’s willingness to handle returning detainees after months of “intense” talks under the Obama administration, as well as counterterrorism assistance from the United States that dates back to the Bush years.

“Over the past year and even longer, we have invested in the Yemeni security and intelligence services, in terms of training and equipment and in terms of continuing to work with them on a variety of counterterrorism programs and making sure they are firm in their commitment against Al Qaeda,” the official said. “That has given us greater confidence that the Yemeni government and president would deal with this issue very seriously and was not going to ignore the potential security risks associated with returning detainees.” . . .

The New York Times on January 1, 2010:

But a senior administration official said Thursday that Mr. Obama’s interagency team had already decided quietly several weeks ago that the security situation in Yemen was too volatile to transfer any more detainees beyond six who were sent home in December. The government concluded it had to release those six because it was about to lose habeas corpus hearings in court that would order them freed.
As for the rest, "we all agreed we couldn’t send people back because of the security situation," said the official, who like others requested anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. . . .
The administration will re-examine the question in late 2010, when an Illinois prison is ready to take remaining Guantánamo detainees, the official said. . . .

Of course the Obama administration had just transferred 12 more Gitmo detainees to Yemen and other countries (six went to Yemen) right before Christmas. The Obama administration ignored various pleas from different congressmen.

The announcement came after Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., sent a request to President Obama on Friday to stop the release. The nearly 100 Yemenis remaining at the Cuba facility make up the largest group there. But releasing more detainees to Yemen is raising concerns, because of the country's security problems and lack of resources.

"I have written you and others in your administration on three occasions imploring you to halt the release of detainees to these countries due to the deteriorating security situations and the dangerous potential for recidivism," Wolf wrote in his letter.

"I am deeply concerned that American lives will be at risk because of this terrible decision," he said. . . .

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