Remember Biden's advice to everyone just to be patient on the economy?

Job creation using the Establishment (employer) and Household surveys (click on figure to make it bigger).

As more people give up looking for work and leave the labor force.

WH economic adviser Austan Goolsbee told CNBC:
"The trend is clearly going the right way. You know, we have the unemployment rate. So far in the last five months is down 8/10 of a point. We added more than a quarter million jobs a month over the last quarter and we've got more than 2 million over the last 14 months. That's -- where we are moving the right way."

The right direction? Well, one thing that is interesting is that Goolsbee picks the lowest employment point 14 months ago in February 2010 for his comparison to get the 2 million job private sector growth using the Establishment survey? Why that month besides the fact that it gives him the largest number? Why not the beginning of the recovery? It is then about 900,000 jobs. If he looked at all jobs (probably the most relevant number), it would drop to 535,000. Why not from the beginning of the stimulus? It is actually a minus 6.6 million. Why not the beginning of last year in January 2010? Why not the number of permanent jobs since the recovery started? It is only 35,000. 535,000 total nonfarm jobs - 500,000 temporary service sector jobs. Someone in the media needs to call the Obama people on these weird definitions of changes in the number of jobs.

This is from a discussion back in 3/10/2010.

BIDEN: What I keep saying in the White House -- patience. Have a little patience here. Things are beginning to turn around. They're beginning to turn around not only in fact in the economy, they're beginning to turn around in figuring out the Republicans are for nothing. What are they for? What have they offered?
And it is true that when you see in the news every single night X hundred billion dollars for banks, no matter who started it -- no matter who started it -- it's awful hard for the guy sitting at the kitchen table in North Philly saying, Hey, man, I don't have a job, and they're giving all this money to banks. This is a hard thing to sell until we start actually every month seeing 100,000 created, 200,000 jobs created, the economy moving. It's going to move. Patience. . . .

UPDATE: A friend of mine, Steve Bronars, wrote me a note about the smoothness of the Establishment survey numbers. Unlike the Household survey numbers, the Establishment survey numbers have a lot of adjustments and imputations made by the government before the numbers are released.

The establishment survey has many adjustments built into it.

Its a voluntary program and in each month some companies may be slow to get their payroll numbers in. Consequently the BLS reports preliminary numbers for 2 months before reporting the final totals. They must have an algorithm to impute the companies that have not yet responded.

The BLS oversamples large companies because with a sample of size N, if you want a more precise estimate of total employment, you want large employers included in N. They do this despite the fact that most companies are small.

The BLS has an algorithm for imputing the jobs due to firms being born. The have no way of getting an unborn firm into the survey but they know that this is an important phenomenon for employment changes. I think they have the same problem with deaths of firms. The firms they sample may have a lower death rate than most firms, which they must adjust for. Even if one of their firms does die, it is unlikely that the firm will send in a report to the BLS saying that they closed down.

Look at the magnitude of the annual revisions to the BLS establishment numbers over the past few years. The apparent smoothness is because the numbers have been processed.

The CPS sends people out to a given set of addresses each month and does their best to interview someone in each household and come up with the number of employed persons. There are no revisions, and in theory it is benchmarked to the population.


in 2009 51 percent of "taxpayers" paid no income tax or had a refundable credit

If you want evidence that the current tax system is unfair, go here. How about this article from The Hill newspaper.

The new data cited by the GOP committee members came from the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, which forecasted that roughly 51 percent of taxpayers had zero federal income tax liability or had received a refundable credit in the 2009 tax year.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the panel’s ranking member, also cited a 2008 study from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development that said that the U.S. had a more progressive tax system than other industrialized countries. (That study also said that income inequality had been rapidly increasing in the U.S.)

With all that data in mind, Republicans and some of the witnesses at the hearing called for every taxpayer to contribute at least something in income tax — to put some “skin in the game,” as some at the hearing put it.

“It’s an essential part of citizenship to be invested in this nation. And I think paying income taxes is one key to that,” said Scott Hodge, president of the Tax Foundation. . . .


Fannie Mae suffers $8.69 billion loss in first quarter

Great, even more federal money may be going to Fannie and Freddie to cover their continuing losses.

Mortgage buyer Fannie Mae reported a loss of $8.7 billion for the January-March quarter, and asked for an additional $8.5 billion in federal aid.

The new request is more than three times the $2.6 billion in government aid it sought in the final three months of last year.

The loss was caused by declining home prices around the country, Fannie Mae said. It said prices declined on average 1.8 percent, leading more homeowners to default on loans that the mortgage giant had guaranteed. . . .


"Gunwalker" case heats up with Obama administration refusing to provide information

The Justice Department is refusing to provide information on the "Gunwalker" case

It started with one whistleblower, but now involves dozens of investigators, has created a standoff between the Department of Justice and lawmakers and threatens Mexico’s diplomatic relationship with the United States.
Friction is growing over the probe into the failed “Project Gunrunner” program -- run by the Justice Department's Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms that intended to stop the flow of guns to criminals in Mexico. Whistleblowers claim the bureau actually encouraged the illegal sale of firearms to known criminals, then allowed those guns to be smuggled to Mexico and tracked.
On Tuesday, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) went after Attorney General Eric Holder for refusing to answer questions and subpoenas for documents that implicate who approved the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives project that allowed guns purchased illegally in U.S. to be smuggled into Mexico on behalf of the drug cartels with the knowledge and consent of the ATF.
"We're not looking at straw buyers, Mr. Attorney General, we're looking at you," Issa said. "We're looking at you, we're looking at your key people who knew or should've known about this." . . .
Also on Tuesday, in a letter to the attorney general signed by both Issa and Sen.Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), the Congressmen say they are “disappointed that you do not appear to be taking this issue seriously enough”. Grassley, in a handwritten postscript, tells Holder he is being ‘ill-served’ by staff who are not telling him the whole story. . . .

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Greece mulling pulling out of Euro

If this is accurate, the question is whether Greece thinks that they can inflate their way out of their debt.

. . . Der Spiegel Online, citing German government sources, says that Greece, faced with daily protests and a terrible economy, is mulling the idea of returning to its own currency.

The euro is down about 0.9% against the dollar at 1.4427 after trading as high as 1.46 earlier in the New York day.

Speculation of a possible Greek debt restructuring (default) has rattled through the markets for the past several weeks, with Eurocrats consistently denying any such thing will occur. Greece was the first of three euro-zone countries to require a bailout from the EU and IMF. Ireland and Portugal have since joined the club.

The Spiegel Online report is being met with some skpeticism. In the report, it said European Commission leaders would hold a crisis meeting tonight to discuss the Greek situation. But a Eurocrat spokesman said no such meeting is taking place tonight or over the weekend and called the reports of a Greece meeting “totally wrong.”

A Greek official has also denied that Greece is considering an exit from the euro-zone.

Also undercutting the report a bit: yield spreads between Greek debt andd similar German debt haven’t moved very much. Of course, those spreads are already at massive wides.

“Suggestions that Greece is threatening to leave the euro zone…nothing more than a bargaining tactic,” says Douglas Borthwick of Faros Trading. . . .


So how does this "recovery" look?

The Weekly Standard has some graphs available here.

I am not completely sure that some of their graphs are correct. Here are some sources here, though I will have to go through this later. For those interested, historical US Employment and Earnings data is available here. The newest data is available here.

Personal income by quarter is available here.


Michael Medved reviews Atlas Shrugged

You can listen his review here. A written copy of the review is available here. Michael gives the movie just two stars out of four, but I think that he is being much too harsh on the decision to move the movie to the current day. It seems to be much of his motivation for only giving the movie two stars. That said, I agree with him that Taylor Schilling is "luminous" in the role of Dagny Taggart.


With gas prices so high, Obama administration floats mileage tax for cars

You would think that with gas prices already so high that there would be a backlash against even discussing this.

The Obama administration has floated a transportation authorization bill that would require the study and implementation of a plan to tax automobile drivers based on how many miles they drive.

The plan is a part of the administration's Transportation Opportunities Act, an undated draft of which was obtained this week by Transportation Weekly.

The White House, however, said the bill is only an early draft that was not formally circulated within the administration. . . .

The proposal seems to follow up on that idea in section 2218 of the draft bill. That section would create, within the Federal Highway Administration, a Surface Transportation Revenue Alternatives Office. It would be tasked with creating a "study framework that defines the functionality of a mileage-based user fee system and other systems." . . .


Despite more than 2-to-1 vote, Illinois still couldn't pass right-to-carry law

From the Associated Press:

It would have allowed people to carry guns if they were properly registered and had completed eight hours of training, including target practice. Applicants would have needed to pass a background check and a review of their mental health history.
The vote was 65-32, giving the measure a solid majority. But it needed 71 votes to pass, a standard requirement for legislation that restricts local communities' regulatory power.
Conservative Democrats have watched as the Legislature approved several liberal measures, including legalizing civil unions and abolishing the death penalty. They had hoped legislative leaders would help legalize concealed carry as a way of shoring up Democrats outside the Chicago area.
"Downstate needs something to hang their hat on," Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, said earlier this week. "We haven't got anything. This is one thing we ask." . . .

Personally, it would have been useful to let those parts of the state carry concealed handguns that wanted to carry and then deal with making the law uniform once the concerns about right-to-carry laws. Doing that would mean that the legislature would only need a two thirds vote to overcome Gov. Quinn's threatened veto.

Thanks to Tony Troglio for the link.

On the other hand, Wisconsin is getting closer to passing the bill.



Tennessee 'Guns on Campus' and 'Guns for Legislators' stalled until next year

Knoxnews' Nashville Bureau Chief Tom Humphrey has this piece today.

The campus guns bill, SB399, would apply to full-time faculty and staff who have handgun carry permits. The House Judiciary Committee sent the bill to a "summer study" on Tuesday, assuring that the measure cannot pass both the House and Senate this year.

When Campfield brought the bill up on the Senate panel Wednesday, Sen. Douglas Overbey, R-Maryville, immediately asked the Knoxville lawmaker to voluntarily send his bill to "summer study" as well, arguing "going forward really doesn't accomplish anything, given what has happened in the other chamber."

Campfield refused, noting people in the audience waiting to testify on the bill and saying "it would be an injustice not to let them speak." Most of those in the audience were campus police officers from across the state, including University of Tennessee Police Chief Gloria Graham, who prepared to speak against the bill.

But Nikki Goeser of Nashville, whose husband was killed by a gunman who was stalking her, was also prepared to testify in favor of the bill. Goeser said she worked at a college campus and the killer, who killed her husband in a bar where she worked part time, could as easily attacked on campus. . . .

UPDATE: Nikki Goeser informs me that there is an interesting twist to this story. State Senator Stacey Campfield actually got a bill through the state Senate Judiciary Committee: "permits UT or TBR's farm employees to carry weapons on farms owned, used or operated by public higher education institutions."

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Tennessee Guns in Bars one year later

Despite the fears about what might happen, there are no reports of any problems occurring.

Tennessee's so-called "guns in bars" law is almost a year old. It took two years, two vetoes by the governor and two legislative overrides, not to mention a couple of court cases before it took effect. . . .

"People might get drunk and start shooting," Richard McDowell said.

"Altercations can break out and they can go shoot somebody so I wouldn't go," Charles Thomas said. . . .

So what happened?

In fact, the Knox County Sheriff's Office reports that out of 61 calls in the last year from businesses that serve alcohol, none of them involved a gun.

"This law hasn't changed your job at all. Not a bit," said Knox County Sheriff's Assistant Chief Deputy Rich Wilson.

But that's still not enough to convince some gun opponents the new law is okay.

"I'm glad to hear that and I'm glad to hear that gun owners with permits are responsible, but guns make me nervous anywhere they are and I would like to see less guns not more in any place that I am sitting in," said Ruth Horton.

"I don't think anyone should be able to carry a gun, with or without a permit, in a bar," said Kevin Connatser.

Gretchen Millsaps said, "It could be a potential for a dangerous situation in some event. It could be awful."

Be serious Mr. President: Obama administration says that anything done to stop new Obama regulations will hurt job creation

From CNET:

The head of the Federal Communications Commission will warn Congress not to repeal the controversial Internet regulations enacted last December, CNET has learned.
Undoing the agency's Net neutrality rules will "increase uncertainty, decrease investment, and hurt job creation," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski will say, according to a draft of his prepared remarks.
Genachowski will offer an unyielding, point-by-point defense of the FCC's 3-2 vote, which fell along party lines, saying that it's already increased investment and that relying on antitrust laws to police errant behavior would be "problematic" and "ill-suited to the fast-changing nature of Internet technology."
The Democratic chairman's remarks highlight how polarized--and partisan--the Washington debate over regulation of broadband providers' business practices has become.
Robert McDowell, a Republican FCC commissioner, is also testifying before a House of Representatives committee and is likely to reprise his earlier warnings that the agency has no legal authority to enact the rules, that antitrust laws are sufficient, and that the regulations will cause more harm than good. . . .

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Outrage: Administration caught apparently releasing staged photo of Obama and others watching military operation against Osama

This is outrageous. Putting together a staged photo that did not accurately describe what happened should generate a lot of anger, though I am still waiting for an explanation for why the administration gave orders to kill and not capture Osama.

Leon Panetta, director of the CIA, revealed there was a 25 minute blackout during which the live feed from cameras mounted on the helmets of the US special forces was cut off.
A photograph released by the White House appeared to show the President and his aides in the situation room watching the action as it unfolded. In fact they had little knowledge of what was happening in the compound.
Mr Panetta said: "Once those teams went into the compound I can tell you that there was a time period of almost 20 or 25 minutes where we really didn't know just exactly what was going on. And there were some very tense moments as we were waiting for information.
"We had some observation of the approach there, but we did not have direct flow of information as to the actual conduct of the operation itself as they were going through the compound." . . .
The President only knew the mission was successful after the Navy Seals commander heard the word “Geronimo” on the radio, a code word from commandos reporting that they had killed bin Laden.
The absence of footage of the raid has led to conflicting reports about what happened in the compound. According to Pakistani authorities one of bin Laden’s daughter’s, who was present during the raid, claimed that her father was captured alive before he was killed.
There was also growing doubt about the US claims that Pakistan’s intelligence agencies involved in the raid.
Lieutenant General Asad Durrani, former head of the ISI, Pakistan's intelligence service, said it was "inconceivable" that his government was unaware of the US raid on Osama bin Laden's compound. . . .

The rest of the article details how the administration is going back and forth with the Pakistani government over whether the Pakistanis were involved in the operation. If the Pakistanis were involved, why would the Obama administration keep insisting that they were when it is obviously putting the Pakistani government in a difficult position? If the Pakistani weren't involved, it makes even less sense to make these claims.

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Despite a 21-10 vote, Concealed Carry on Campus having trouble in Texas

So close but not close enough yet.

Concealed carry on campus may have hit another dead end after Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, pulled down her higher education bill Tuesday.

Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, had attempted to add his controversial guns on campus legislation as an amendment to Zaffirini’s bill, which would have reduced reporting requirements for universities and in turn lowered tuition rates.

The move to propose the amendment came after Wentworth lost key Democrat supporters when he tried to pass his initial bill, which would have allowed concealed handgun license holders to carry guns on college campuses.

Senators, including Zaffirini, were surprised when Wentworth proposed the legislation as an amendment last Thursday. Senators approved the amendment 21-10 Tuesday.

Zaffirini withdrew her bill after she employed several parliamentary tactics to remove the amendment. She argued the amendment was not germane to her bill and asked for an immediate vote on the bill under the “five-second rule” because she said Wentworth had not asked senators to consider an amendment within certain time restraints. . . .

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Obama administration won't reveal picture of Osama's death, but will reveal the unit that got him

It seems that there are some safety concerns to not outing any information on the military unit that took out Osama. The military recognized this point, even if the Obama administration didn't. From the UK Telegraph:

Here’s a typical response to a question about the SEALs from a senior defence official in a Pentagon briefing on Monday:
QUESTION: Can I ask you, can you confirm that it was a (Navy) SEAL team? And was this a specially designated team that had been practising or reviewing intelligence for a while and they were the unit of choice?
SENIOR DEFENCE OFFICIAL: Not going to comment on units or numbers.

But here’s what the legendarily verbose and loose-lipped Vice President Joe Biden said at a dinner at Washington’s Ritz Carlton Hotel last night to mark the 50th anniversary of the Atlantic Council:
Let me briefly acknowledge tonight’s distinguished honorees. Admiral James Stavridis is a, is the real deal. He can tell you more about and understands the incredible, the phenomenal, the just almost unbelievable capacity of his Navy SEALs and what they did last Sunday.

Folks, I’d be remiss also if I didn’t say an extra word about the incredible events, extraordinary events of this past Sunday. As Vice President of the United States, as an American, I was in absolute awe of the capacity and dedication of the entire team, both the intelligence community, the CIA, the SEALs. It just was extraordinary.

UPDATE: Now we have this concern.

Carney may also have wanted to avoid a public spat with Defense Secretary Gates, who yesterday appeared to be suggesting that White House officials broke an agreement to keep quiet about how the Bin Laden raid went down.

Frankly, a week ago Sunday, in the Situation Room, we all agreed that we would not release any operational details from the effort to take out bin Laden. That all fell apart on Monday, the next day.

Gates added that Navy SEALs who performed the operation now have concerns for the safety of their families.


Environmentalist predictions from Earth Day in 1970

A list of fifteen incredibly wrong prediction is available here. A little more information on the sources for these quotes would have been useful, but I have seen some of them before.

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Will Illinois pass right-to-carry this year?

I have been told that there is an 80 percent probability that right-to-carry will become law in Illinois this year.

A new version of the concealed weapons bill passed out of a House committee today. Harrisburg Democrat Brandon Phelps warned Quinn that opposing concealed carry will cost the governor during a politically sensitive time, with state officials working on a new state budget.

The House Agriculture and Conservation Committee approved the gun legislation 12-1. It would let Illinoisans 21 years and older carry handguns in public following training and background checks.

Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg, the bill's chief sponsor, said he is close to securing a veto-proof, 71-vote majority. He plans to call a vote Thursday in the House.

Phelps predicted Quinn's announcement that he would veto any concealed-carry measure will cost him key votes among downstate Democrats during a politically sensitive time. Both chambers are back in Springfield this week and hope to approve a budget for the next fiscal year before adjourning May 31. . . .

The governor looks like he is completely making things up. Where is the evidence that bystanders are harmed by concealed handgun permit holders or in the cross fire from these permit holders with criminals? No evidence that I know of supports this.

"The concept of concealed, loaded hand guns in the possession of private citizens does not enhance public safety, on the contrary it increases danger for everyday people as they go about their lives," Quinn said. . . .



Kindle edition of The Bias Against Guns is now available

Finally, a Kindle edition is available of The Bias Against Guns! With the continued debates over multiple victim public shootings (e.g., gun-free zones on college campuses and other places), the assault weapons ban (e.g., the recent debate over large magazine sizes for guns), and how the media covers the gun issue, I would like to believe that this book is as timely and useful as ever. It is now selling for more than 50 percent off the original price.

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It looks as if Canada will finally get rid of the gun registry

With Conservatives gaining a majority in Canada, there goals seem pretty clear:

My take is that [Harper] will do exactly what he’s been saying he has wanted to do for the past five years — Senate reform, abolish the gun registry, get tough on crime and shrink the size of government. As someone who knows him well put it: “The hidden agenda has been sitting on the order paper in the House of Commons for five years.” . . .

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New Roger Lott column: "An Alarming Shade of Green"

My son Roger has a new column in the Dartmouth school newspaper. The piece starts this way:

“Fire and brimstone,” “real collapse” and “biblical concern” are the kinds of phrases many of us have come to associate with global warming. Economist Eban Goodstein did not disappoint in his lecture at Dartmouth this April, using these terms and many others as he called on his audience to save the planet by redesigning “every city on Earth” and becoming superheroes like characters from “The Lord of the Rings.” Before trying to build a new world order, however, it’s worth taking all the hysteria about climate change with a grain of salt.

There’s certainly been a lot of unfounded alarmism in recent decades. In 1970, ecologist Kenneth Watt said, “If present trends continue, the world will be … 11 degrees colder by the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us in an ice age.” In 2000, University of East Anglia senior research scientist David Viner predicted that within a few years, “Children just aren’t going to know what snow is.” It’s time to stop taking people with academic credentials so seriously when they engage in such nonsensical speculation. . . .

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Obama administration changes story on what happened with Osama

So did Osama fight back? Did he use one of his wives as a shield? This is very embarrassing.

The White House backed away Monday evening from key details in its narrative about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, including claims by senior U.S. officials that the Al Qaeda leader had a weapon and may have fired it during a gun battle with U.S. forces.

Officials also retreated from claims that one of bin Laden’s wives was killed in the raid and that bin Laden was using her as a human shield before she was shot by U.S. forces.

At a televised White House briefing Monday afternoon, Deputy National Security Adviser John Brennan said bin Laden joined in the fight that several residents of the Abbottabad, Pakistan, compound put up against the Navy SEALs during the 40-minute operation.

“He [bin Laden] was engaged in a firefight with those that entered the area of the house he was in. And whether or not he got off any rounds, I quite frankly don’t know,” Brennan said.

At a Pentagon briefing earlier in the day, a senior defense official said bin Laden used a woman as a human shield so he could fire shots. “He was firing behind her,” the official said.

In another background briefing early Monday morning, a senior administration official also said bin Laden put up a fight. “He did resist the assault force. And he was killed in a firefight,” the official said.

However, during a background, off-camera briefing for television reporters later Monday, a senior White House official said bin Laden was not armed when he was killed, apparently by the U.S. raid team.

Another White House official familiar with the TV briefing confirmed the change to POLITICO, adding, “I’m not aware of him having a weapon.” . . .

UPDATE: Where are people asking why we had an execution order for Osama? Why didn't we even try to capture him? Osama apparently wasn't even armed so why shot him? If they could wound one of his wives, why not him also?

Osama bin Laden was not armed when he was shot during a U.S. commando raid early Monday on his fortress-like compound in Pakistan, U.S. officials said Tuesday, contradicting initial accounts of the top-secret operation.

Officials also backed away further from initial suggestions that bin Laden and other men in the compound had used women as human shields as they battled the raiding force consisting of U.S. Navy SEALs.

In a White House news briefing, press secretary Jay Carney said bin Laden “resisted” when at least one member of the raiding party entered his third-floor room, but he declined to say how the long-hunted al-Qaeda leader had done so.

A woman described as one of bin Laden’s wives “rushed the assaulter” and was shot and wounded in the leg, Carney said. Bin Laden was killed with shots to the head and chest, leaving him with gory wounds that have made U.S. officials reluctant to release a photograph of the body, Carney said. . . .

The BIG question. Why would they give the order to simply kill Osama? The administration claims that they got a lot of information from Osama's compound. But they could have gotten more from Osama himself. One issue is that possibly the Obama administration didn't believe that THEY could get much info from Osama because they had already ruled out all sorts of torture. If so, did the orders forbidding torture make it more likely that they were going to kill Osama?


How the Obama administration intimidates opponents

The federal government has tremendous power. This is just one example of government coercion of opponents.

Forest Labs entered into a federal plea agreement in September over misconduct in its marketing of antidepressants Celexa and Lexapro. The allegations were among a rash of government suits claiming that marketing to doctors common among drug companies amounted to fraud against Medicare and Medicaid. The charges were odd given their implication that major companies would be dumb enough to try to hoodwink their biggest customer. The charges also had a political flavor as an attempt to blame drug companies, rather than the fee-for-service design of the federal programs, for runaway costs. But some companies including Forest chose to settle rather than engage in extensive litigation.

In any case, the federal complaint contained no suggestion that Mr. Solomon was involved with, or even aware of, misconduct. And the question of his continued leadership was never part of the plea deal.

Only after a federal court ratified the deal in March did HHS drop its intent-to-ban bomb. Mrs. Sebelius unearthed a dusty provision in the Social Security Act that allows officials to bar executives of health companies from doing business with the government when the firms are guilty of criminal misconduct.

The feds have rarely invoked this awesome power, given the potential for coercive abuse. . . .

This is a threat to every health CEO in America. If Forest wants to continue to sell its drugs to Medicare, Medicaid and the Veterans Administration—the biggest buyers of pharmaceuticals—it will have to change management. . . .

it looks more like the Administration's latest bid to intimidate the health-care industry into doing its bidding on prices, regulations and political support for ObamaCare. This is the same agency that has threatened insurers with exclusion from new state-run health exchanges if they raise their premiums more than Mrs. Sebelius wants, or if they spread what she deems to be "misinformation" about the President's health bill. . . .

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What to make of the claim that 247 people on the terror watch list bought guns last year

Part of what I will be discussing on Coast-to-Coast AM tonight.

Here is the claim in the left-wing Huffington Post.

More than 200 people suspected of ties to terrorism bought guns in the U.S. last year legally, FBI figures show.

The 247 people who were allowed to buy weapons did so after going through required background checks as required by federal law. . . .

The secret, fluid nature of the terror watch list has made closing what Lautenberg calls a "terror gap" in the nation's gun laws a challenge. About the same number of people suspected of ties to terrorism also successfully purchased guns in the U.S. in 2009. The FBI provided the new numbers to the Government Accountability Office, Congress' investigative arm, and the figures were obtained by The Associated Press.

The government can only prevent people from buying guns for any of 11 reasons. Convicted felons and illegal immigrants, for example, cannot buy weapons. But the terrorist watch list is different. People become convicted felons only after a court process and an opportunity to defend themselves. The watch list is secret and generated at the government's discretion. It is not a list of people convicted of terrorism crimes.

The list of about 450,000 people includes suspected members of al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations, terror financiers, terror recruiters and people who attended training camps. People's names are added to and removed from the watch list every day, and most people never know whether they're on it. . . .

As the late Senator Ted Kennedy learned the hard way, getting flagged by the secret terror list simply means that you have the same name as someone else on the list. There are several big problems with background checks and the terror list. 1) That background checks don't stop criminals from getting guns. 2) That the people denied buying guns by the NICS checks are virtually all false positives. And these false positives will stop some people who are being stalked and threatened from getting a gun quickly. 3) That people get on this "secret" terror list without any court decision that would cause people to lose their right to own a gun. Here is something that I wrote up recently at BigGovernment.com.

The same problem occurred five times for the late Senator Ted Kennedy when he was placed on a “no fly list.” If someone is flagged by the NICS system, it is because it appears that they didn’t put down something in their background that disqualified them from buying a gun. Yet, an initial denial does not mean that the individual is actually disqualified from owning a gun. Take the numbers for 2008, the latest year with data available. There were 78,906 initial denials. Of those, only 5,573, or 7 percent, were referred to the BATF for further investigation. As a report on these denials by the U.S. Department of Justice indicates, “The remaining denials (73,333 – 93%) did not meet referral guidelines or were overturned after review by Brady Operations or after the FBI received additional information.” To put it differently, the initial review didn’t find that these individuals had a record that prevented them from buying a gun.
Still that isn’t the end of the story. Of these 5,573 referrals, over 44 percent, or 2,472 cases, involve “delayed denials,” cases where a check hasn’t even been completed. Of the rest, 3,101 covered cases where initial reviews indicated that the person should have been denied buying a gun. But the government admits that upon further review about a fifth of these referrals involved “no potential or unfounded” violations of the law, leaving about 4,400 cases. That implies an initial false positive rate of roughly 94.4%. And it still doesn’t mean that the government hasn’t made a mistake on the remaining cases. In some cases for example, a person’s criminal record was supposed to be expunged, and it had not been?
Up until this point, no discretion about the merits of the case has entered the picture. If a review of the records indicates that someone is a prohibited individual, they are included. But of these 4,400 cases, only 147 cases involving banned individuals trying to purchase guns being referred to prosecutors. Of those 147 cases, prosecutors thought the evidence was strong enough to bring a case only 105 times.
Prosecution may be declined either because further investigation revealed that the person wasn’t prohibited from owning a gun, because false information hadn’t knowingly been provided, or prosecutors didn’t believe that the cases “merited” prosecution. But if someone is indeed prohibited from owning a gun and they left that information off their NICS form, it is relatively easy for authorities to prove they knowingly concealed that information. The most frequently claimed reasons that people failed the background checks are: “restraining orders, domestic violence misdemeanors, non-immigrant aliens, violent felonies, warrants, and indictments.” How hard is it for prosecutors to prove that someone hadn’t accidentally forgotten that they had a conviction for a violent felony or they had a restraining order?
While prosecutors tend to go forward with their strongest cases, those prosecuted are often not found guilty. By the end of 2009, prosecutors had only 43 convictions, and only 22 of those involved falsified information when buying a gun or illegal possession of a gun, that translates into just 0.03% of the 78,906 initial denials. . . .

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Canadian Conservatives win Majority

It looks as if American companies are going to be able to move to a low tax haven for at least the next four years. The conservatives have picked up a comfortable majority. The only really bad outcome in the voting was that the really openly socialist party, the NDP, has come in second and is the official opposition party. The not quite as openly socialist liberals were demolished in the voting. Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff even lost his seat to Conservatives. That is something that just doesn't happen in Canadian politics.



Debt Ceiling "will" be hit on May 16

It isn't like hitting the debt limit on a particular day is written in stone. Expenditures can be delayed (or even speeded up), unexpected payments into the Treasury can occur. The more surprising point in this article is the second to last sentence below in bold:

The emergency measures to avoid a debt ceiling crisis begin this week.
We will hit the debt ceiling May 16.
Then, following that, emergency moves will get the country to be able to borrow until August 2.
The good news: Projected net borrowing needs for the April-June period has been reduced somewhat to $142 billion. . . .

I am not sure how the government will be able to keep borrowing after the debt limit is hit. Even today the Obama administration is still fighting not to cut any more spending.

The Obama Administration would like a straightforward, up-or-down vote on the debt ceiling, unencumbered by any conditions. Republicans, however, are insisting that any deal on raising the debt ceiling has to include meaningful budget cuts if it is going to attract the votes necessary for passage in the GOP-controlled House of Representatives. . . .

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Appearing on Coast-to-Coast AM tonight

I will be appearing on the first hour of the show at 1AM EDT/10PM PDT. We are supposed to talk about the background checks involved in buying guns. My name isn't up yet, but I suspect that it should be up soon.

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Evidence that Obama has run GM based on political considerations

Early after the government took over GM, President Obama promised that he wouldn't be interfering with the company's business decisions. Yet, while the government has owned the company, GM clearly stopped lobbying against new government regulations it viewed as being against the company's interests.

General Motors Co. has stepped up its lobbying in Washington in recent months, federal records show, as Detroit's two rescued auto makers unwind their ties to the government and return to pursuing their own interests—which sometimes are at odds with the Obama administration.

GM spent nearly $3.6 million on lobbying in the first quarter of 2011, more than twice what it spent in the three months after it emerged from a restructuring in bankruptcy court in 2009, according to its lobbying disclosure forms.

It also outspent Ford Motor Co., the only one of the Detroit three to avoid a bailout and trip through bankruptcy court. Ford spent about $1.7 million on lobbying in this year's first quarter and $5.6 million in all of 2010.

In recent months, GM—still partly owned by American taxpayers—has lobbied to shape proposed emissions and fuel-mileage standards, influence implementation of a new financial-overhaul law, and lift limits on its executive pay.

That's a stark contrast to a couple of years ago, when GM, in the wake of a $50 billion government bailout, treaded lightly around some hot-button issues. . . .

It is the kind of advocacy GM shied away from in the months following the bailout, when it even scrapped, at the White House's behest, a money-saving plan to move its headquarters out of Detroit. . . .

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Question: Where is the liberal anger over Obama ordering Special Forces to kill and not capture Osama?

I thought that liberals abhorred assassinations. Here is what Obama said in 2008:

'What would be important would be for us to do it in a way that allows the entire world to understand the murderous acts that he's engaged in and not to make him into a martyr, and to assure that the United States government is abiding by basic conventions that would strengthen our hand in the broader battle against terrorism.' . . . 'First of all, I think there is an executive order out on Osama bin Laden's head,' Mr Obama said. 'And if I'm president, and we have the opportunity to capture him, we may not be able to capture him alive.' . . .

Where is the push back on not making any attempt to capture Osama? On a practical matter there is the information that could have been obtained from capturing Osama. From Reuters:

The U.S. special forces team that hunted down Osama bin Laden was under orders to kill the al Qaeda mastermind, not capture him, a U.S. national security official told Reuters. . . .

BY the way, couldn't Obama bring himself to say anything nice about Bush and his efforts. Apparently some of the key intelligence information used to get Osama was developed under the Bush administration. Obama only mentions Bush once in passing and it has nothing to do with acknowledging his efforts.

I’ve made clear, just as President Bush did shortly after 9/11, that our war is not against Islam. . . .

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Will Conservatives finally get a majority in Canada?

After several estimates show that the Conservatives may finally get a small majority in the Canadian Parliament, but some surveys are suggesting that it will still be a Conservative minority government. A nice summary of the discussion is available here. Conservatives have done a truly excellent job in running Canada over the last couple of years, piloting the country safely through the recent worldwide recession.


Six simple things that increase life expectancy

Fox News as a useful summary available here. I had one issue to raise:

In fact, studies suggest that daily exercise can add up to three years to your life. . . .

Assuming one works out one hour a day, that you are awake for 16 hours a day, and a zero interest rate, in 48 years you would have spent an amount of time exercising to the increase in life expectancy. Discounting by even a small interest rate would dramatically reduce the number of years that one would have to exercise before the work canceled out the benefit.



Obama sets record golfing "for fifth week in a row"

The whitehousedossier.com has this:

This is Obama’s 66th time golfing as president and his eighth time this year. . . .
While there are no official statistics being kept, it’s probably safe to say that no president has ever golfed five weeks in a row. It’s not even clear that Dwight Eisenhower, who also loved to hit the greens, ever pulled this off. . . .