More Stimulus for Europe? Note which countries are doing best and which ones the worse

So which countries in Europe are having problems? The ones where government spending over the last few years have been completely out of control. Which are doing best? The ones where spending has been restricted: Germany and Poland being obvious examples. The New York Times has this headline: "European Leaders Use Debt Downgrades to Argue for Austerity, and for Stimulus." But the accompanying story has little arguing for an Obama type Stimulus.

European leaders sought to limit damage from a ratings agency’s downgrade of nine countries on Friday, or even turn the news to their advantage, saying that it showed the need to impose more austerity or else do more to stimulate growth.

Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, said Saturday that the downgrade by Standard & Poor’s meant the euro area must speed up measures to create a more centralized currency union.

“We are now challenged to implement the fiscal pact quickly,” Mrs. Merkel said in a statement Saturday, a day after S.& P. downgraded France, Austria and seven other countries — but not Germany. She added that leaders should not water down the agreement and instead quickly pass other measures they have agreed to, like limits on debt.

In Italy, Prime Minister Mario Monti used the downgrades to bolster his argument that austerity alone would not solve the euro crisis. Europe needs to support “national efforts in favor of growth and employment,” Mr. Monti told the newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, according to Bloomberg News. . . .

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Could someone explain to me what law gives the Obama administration the power to make up new gun control regulations?

A federal judge has upheld the Obama administration's ability to impose new reporting requirements on gun dealers. Here is a copy of the original filing by the NSSF. Here is their statement on yesterday's district court ruling.

We respectfully disagree with the court’s reasoning which places our industry on a “slippery slope.” Today’s ruling will allow ATF to demand whatever information it wants from any law-abiding retailer anywhere in the country for any reason ATF wants simply by sending a letter demanding information. While we understand ATF’s motivation is to try to curtail violence in Mexico, Congress simply has not granted ATF regulatory carte blanche. NSSF looks forward to having the Court of Appeals review the district court’s flawed decision. . . .

The main quote that I get from the above filing is this:

In response to the DOJ Office of Inspector General's review of proposed ATF action" seeking a requirement for reporting multiple sales of long guns[,]" the ATF itself questioned its authority to impose such a new legal requirement:

ATF concurred with this recommendation, but noted that it may require a change in the Gun Control Act, which is beyond the ATF's and the Department's authority. ATF stated that it would explore the full range of options to seek information regarding multiple sales of long guns.

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Charles Krauthammer on how Romney should handle the Bain issue

Krauthammer's advice?

Charles Krauthammer: Number one. Never use the phrase net-net. It makes you sound like some cold-blooded capitalist.

Number two. Here's what I would do, a jujitsu on Obama, and say look, Obama and the government went in and tried to rescue GM and Chrysler. What did they do? They went in and they slimmed it down. A lot of workers lost their work. A lot of dealerships were closed. The Pontiac line and other lines were shut down. A lot of individual suffering. And that was the Democrats, that was the government. That was the people who supposedly are the ones who care about the workers of the middle-class. That's what you have to do when a business is about to go under and everyone is going to lose his job. You slim it down, make it efficient and productive, and then you save the jobs and then you grow it so that later on you add on to other jobs. Which is in fact what happened to some of the failing companies that the Bain Corporation invested in. . . .

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Bill Press: "Newt Gingrich is ‘Suicide Bomber Of Republican Party’"

Calling someone the ‘Suicide Bomber Of Republican Party’ is supposed to be constructive language? This can be viewed here.


Bill Maher makes a prediction about Obama

This is one time that I think Bill Maher is at least partially right. On the gay marriage issue, Maher is undoubtedly correct. Obama is indeed probably an atheist (note what percentage of elitist liberals in academia are atheist, particularly if exclude Jewish people, 90+%), though I don't think that he will ever explicitly come out and say this. From Real Clear Politics:

"I'm just trying to get it real and keep it fair. And I think he will (Obama will come out in favor of gay marriage). I think in the second term, when he's got nothing to lose you're going to see the real Obama come out, including his admission that he's an atheist too."

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US Banks having a tough time

JPMorgan kicks off bank earnings season with 23% drop in profit

Here is another story from the WSJ: "Bank of America Corp. has told U.S. regulators that it is willing to retreat from some parts of the country if its financial problems deepen, according to people familiar with the situation."

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New EPA rules could add 25 cents to the price of gas

Obama can take credit for raising the price of gas. From Fox News:

Senators from both sides of the aisle are warning that looming EPA regulations on gasoline could impose billions of dollars in additional costs on the industry and end up adding up to 25 cents to every gallon of gas.
The senators, in a letter this week to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, urged the agency to back off the yet-to-be-released regulations. Though the EPA has not yet issued any proposal, they claimed the agency is planning to call for a new requirement to reduce the sulfur content in gasoline.
Citing the nearly $3.40-a-gallon average price of gas and the state of the economy, the senators said "now is not the time for new regulations that will raise the price of fuel even further."
They said it would be "expensive" for companies to meet the sulfur targets and cited a study that found it could add up to $17 billion in industry-wide, up-front expenses, in addition to another $13 billion in annual operating costs.
This could in turn add between 12 and 25 cents to an average gallon of gasoline "depending on the stringency of the proposed rule," they wrote. . . .

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Chicago Fed President thinks Unemployment is likely to temporarily rise, at end of the year about where it is now

Another depressing forecast. The jobs added last year didn't keep up with the growth in population (1.64 million jobs versus about 1.9 million new working age people). From Bloomberg:

Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago President Charles Evans said the drop in the unemployment rate to 8.5 percent may be partially reversed in coming months.
“I’m a little concerned that the most recent improvement is going to be transitory and it might move up above 8.5 percent,” Evans said in response to audience questions after a speech today in Carmel, Indiana.
Evans said he forecasts that “at the end of the year, we’re not going to be very different from 8.5 percent unemployment.” . . .



"'Daily Show' Exposes Liberal Columnist's Hypocrisy On Civil Discourse"

John Oliver talks to Froma Harrop, the president of the National Conference of Editorial Writers, to find out how to restore civility to America's public discourse. Harrop wrote this past summer that "tea party Republicans have engaged in economic terrorism" and they are "like al-Qaida bombers" in response to their actions during the debt ceiling debate. I might not like some of the Daily Show pieces, but this is pretty entertaining.


"CBS News: 11 More Solyndras In Obama Energy Program"

CBS News counted 12 clean energy companies that are having trouble after collectively being approved for more than $6.5 billion in federal assistance. Five have filed for bankruptcy: The junk bond-rated Beacon, Evergreen Solar, SpectraWatt, AES' subsidiary Eastern Energy and Solyndra. . . .

Beacon Power was given its money even though Standard and Poor's had given it a CCC+ rating.

"They had built into the program $2.4 billion in potential losses. That is already factored in."

Well, they may already have $6.5 billion in losses from the five that have gone bankrupt with Solyndra alone at a half a billion by itself.

Fox News has this: "More Solyndra-esque debacles?"

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One more reason why Obama should have been in the private sector

I have worked in the federal government, and this statement by Obama is absurd.

you won't meet harder working folks than some of the folks in these federal agencies.

Now I am sure that Obama feels that he has an out by saying the word "some." Is he saying that there might be 4 or a few more workers there who are as hard working as any others that you would meet? But that is not how most people will take this. There is no way that a private company would last very long with the work ethic in government. Virtually no one else worked on evenings and weekends. There were people who would seem to do about one week's worth of work a year. I was at the US Sentencing Commission. One person I knew had the task of forecasting prison populations. I suppose that the first year he did it the task may have taken a few months, but when he updated the program each year it basically involved adding one more line of data, rerunning the regression, and changing some numbers from the previous report. It is hard to see how all this could have taken more than a week, but the rest of the year he would disappear into his office. Unfortunately, there were many other similar examples.

All that said, Milton Friedman used to say that we should be thankful that we never got the government that we paid for. Could you imagine how much more intrusive the government would be in our lives if people actually worked as hard as Obama claims?

Add this to Obama not understanding issues such as the role that profits play in motivating work. The full quote is here:

"So much has happened and yet the government we have today is largely the government we had back then. And we deserve better. Go talk to the skilled professionals in government serving their country. And by the way, you won't meet harder working folks than some of the folks in these federal agencies. They devote countless hours to trying to make sure that they're serving the American people, but they will tell you their efforts are constantly undermined by an outdated bureaucratic maze."


Unemployment since Obama became president

Unemployment Rate

Total unemployed, plus all marginally attached workers plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of all civilian labor force plus all marginally attached workers

Will the unemployment rate still be above what it was when Obama became president three years ago? It sure looks that way.

Peter Ferrara has this discussion available here.

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So much for claims that Christmas sales were good

With all the positive spin on the economic news, this anemic sales growth is pretty amazing. From the Financial Times:

. . . . Retail sales increased 0.1 per cent in December to $400.6bn, missing forecasts of a 0.3 per cent rise and logging the weakest growth since last May, according to a commerce department report.
Separately, first-time claims for unemployment benefits rose to 399,000. Economists say claims need to stay below 400,000 to sustain job growth.
December sales of electronics and appliances fell 3.9 per cent and department store purchases slipped 0.2 per cent. Meanwhile, cheaper fuel prices brought down receipts at petrol stations 1.6 per cent last month, while food and beverage sales fell 0.2 per cent.
“December’s retail sales figures suggest it was not a happy holiday season for US retailers,” said Paul Dales, senior US economist at Capital Economics. “In other words, households have started to pare back their spending, most probably because their real incomes have continued to fall.”
An upward revision to November's sales reading, from 0.2 per cent to 0.4 per cent, suggested that consumers did most of their holiday shopping early in the season.
“While there were several media reports suggesting holiday shopping was solid, [year-on-year] growth in chain store data did disappoint, and this data suggests the consumer, restrained by weak income growth, has lost some momentum outside autos,” said David Sloan, an economist at IFR Economics. . . .

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Ben Stein loses gig for being "unsure" about man-made global warming, but that is only a part of the story

Ben Stein's unsureness about man-made global warming (note he was just "unsure") seems to have cost him this job for a Japanese company. From Reuters:

The conservative pundit and actor -- and former Nixon speechwriter -- alleges that his position on climate change had him kicked off a $300,000 acting gig, only to be replaced by a lookalike.

Stein filed a discrimination suit against Japanese company Kyocera Corporation and New York ad agency Seiter & Miller Advertising, in Los Angeles Superior Court on Wednesday. . . .

In February, Jao called Hurwitz and said "questions had been raised by defendant Kyocera about whether [Stein's] views on global warming and on the environment were sufficiently conventional and politically correct for Kyocera," according to the suit.

Stein then told Kyocera and Seiter & Miller that he was extremely concerned about the environment but unsure whether humans are responsible for global warming.

"He also told Hurwitz to inform defendants that, as a matter of religious belief, he believed that God, and not man, controlled the weather," the suit claims.

That same month, Seiter & Miller President Livingston Miller emailed Hurwitz, telling her the agency had decided to withdraw its offer. . . .

The person who replaced Stein is University of Maryland economist Peter Morici. It is pretty ironic that Morici is working for a Japanese firm that is trying to sell its products in the US given that he blames Japanese and Chinese companies doing this as the cause of the so-called "Great Recession."

The seeds of the Great Recession were sowed by an imbalance of demand between the United States and Western Europe, on the one hand, and China and other Asian economies, on the other. . . .

Despite Morici hating our trade deficit with Japan, it was global warming that seemed to be the more important issue for Kyocera.

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A new Fast & Furious?: White Gun operation

This operation apparently involved real military grade weapons. Not the types of weapons that you can buy from your local gun store. From the LA Times:

Now members of Congress who have spent months scrutinizing the Fast and Furious debacle are seeking to determine whether White Gun was another weapons investigation gone wrong.

"Apparently guns got away again," said one source close to the investigation, led by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) and Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa). "How many got into Mexico, who knows?"

Officials from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives declined to comment on whether any firearms were lost in White Gun. But unlike Fast and Furious, they vigorously defended the previously unreported White Gun operation as a well-managed investigation that produced three arrests and convictions.

The three men "were looking to acquire military-grade weapons for a drug cartel," said an ATF official, who asked for anonymity because the case involves an undercover operation. "This was a classic example of bad guys showing up at a location to get the weapons they desire but getting arrested by law enforcement instead." . . .


It is nice to know that George Stephanopoulos is taking the presidential debates so seriously

Do you think that Stephanopoulos had a similar bet when he moderated a debate with Obama? Should this be grounds to exclude him from moderating future political debates? From Real Clear Politics:

Colbert: OK, OK. Romney’s basically saying you’re a silly little child. And the audience is going, “We hate him, too.” What does it feel like at that moment?
Stephanopoulos: At that moment, I’m thinking, I really want to win this bet.
Colbert: What was the bet?
Stephanopoulos: Diane Sawyer bet me that I couldn’t get Mitt Romney to say “contraceptions are working just fine.”
Colbert: Really?
Stephanopoulos: I won.
Colbert: You got him to say “contraceptions are working just fine.” Even though, from the number of children he has, he has no idea how they work. . . .

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I hope that Stephen Colbert really runs for president

For some reason I think that Colbert only drawing votes from liberals would make his political biases more difficult to ignore. Besides that it wouldn't be bad if he drew votes from Obama, though I suppose that if the race got close, he would be likely to drop out and tell his few percent of supporters to go for Obama. From The Hill newspaper:

Comedian Stephen Colbert is giving up control of his super PAC and forming an exploratory committee for a presidential run.
Colbert made his announcement at Thursday night's taping of his Comedy Central show, The Colbert Report.
"I'm proud to announce I plan to form an exploratory committee to lay the groundwork for my candidacy in the United States of South Carolina," Colbert said, according to CNN.
To satisfy election laws, fellow Comedy Central host Jon Stewart will take control of Colbert's super PAC, Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow. . . .



CNN Prime Time Anchor To Breitbart: 'You Are Notoriously Evil'

One of my favorite guys, Dennis Miller, has a response available here.

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Obama chief economist uses Occupy Wall Street Rhetoric

It is hard to believe that Krueger really thinks that redistribution of income would increase spending. It is this notion of saving that is equivalent to putting the money in a hole in the backyard. If wealthy people leave money in the bank or bonds or stocks, someone else will spend it. From The Hill newspaper:

Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Alan Krueger echoed Obama's 2012 campaign theme of defending the middle class against Wall Street, arguing income inequality is a “threat” to the economy.

“The evidence suggests a more fair distribution of income would stimulate economic growth,” Krueger said.

He argued that a more progressive tax code would reduce inequality and increase consumer spending, since middle-class workers tends to spend most of their income.

The result could be in the neighborhood of $440 billion in greater consumption, and a higher GDP, Krueger said. . . .

Krueger argued that the Bush-era tax rates should be allowed to expire for the wealthy at the end of this year and said the estate tax should return to 2009 levels.

Doing so would help reverse an estimated shift of $1.1 trillion of annual income to the top 1 percent from the bottom 99 percent, he said. . . .

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So why do we pay corporate executives so much?

Take this discussion from Seeking Alpha:

Unlike Steve, Tim (aside from family) has no other issues that would distract him from focusing on what he does best - running Apple. Seriously, up at 4:30am religiously to start his day? I'm still dreaming of Sport Illustrated's swimsuit models! Meetings on Sundays? Who would want to do that? . . .

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Homicides are no longer in the top 15 ways that people die

I don't know what is magical about the "top 15," but this is still good news.

For the first time in 45 years, homicide dropped out of the top 15 causes of death in the United States in 2010, according to a new government analysis of mortality trends. . . .

Thanks to TVGuy4 for the link.


Unions for Hostess Bakery Brand into Bankruptcy

Unions are problematic. They are particularly problematic when a company has to deal with multiple unions. Each union hopes that the other unions will give in and it won't have to. From the WSJ:

The privately held Irving, Texas, company's move marks the second significant court restructuring in the past several years. In a statement, Hostess said the current cost structure "is not competitive, primarily due to legacy pension and medical benefit obligations and restrictive work rules." It said it would be able to maintain operations thanks to a $75 million financing commitment from a group of lenders.

In bankruptcy, Hostess said it plans to continue negotiating with 12 unions to modify the collective-bargaining agreements governing the employment of its union workers, who comprise 83% of its approximately 19,000 employees.

"Whether the debtors can achieve long-term viability depends directly and substantially on the debtors' ability to achieve dramatic change to their labor agreements, with a corresponding material reduction in their cost structure and legacy pension and medical obligations, and a restructuring of their capital structure," Hostess said in court papers. "That is the purpose and the focus of these Chapter 11 cases." . . .



Some Republicans jumping the shark on class warfare?

I don't see what Romney did with Bain as being remotely similar to what Obama did with GM. Still, I am very disappointed with Newt's and Perry's statements on this, but Romney is an idiot. This makes it look like what Obama did was alright.

Here is a Ted Kennedy ad about Romney and Bain capital. This is clearly a preview of Obama's campaign in the fall.

Here is Rush Limbaugh's comments on Romney comparing his experience with Bain to Obama's experience with GM.

A transcript is available here.
Are you sitting down? If you're driving, you might want to pull off to the side of the road here. "[S]peaking Wednesday on CBS, Romney said that what he did [with Bain Capital] was no different..." Are you sitting down? Are you paying very close attention? Look at me. Do I have you here? According to TheHill.com and Jonathan Easley. Today on CBS, "Romney said that what he did [with Bain Capital] was no different..." Dadelut dadelut dadelut! from what Barack Obama did bailing out the auto industry. Thud! Kerplunk! You've got to be kidding me. The next paragraph is a quote from Romney. Are you still sitting down?

"In the general election I'll be pointing out that the president took the reins at General Motors and Chrysler -- closed factories, closed dealerships, laid off thousands and thousands of workers -- he did it to try to save the business." So TheHill.com is reporting that Romney on CBS today said that what he did with Bain Capital is no different than what Obama did in taking over the auto companies. Obama had to lay people off; Obama had to streamline the place to make them profitable. So he's accepting the premise that Newt and Perry have put out there, apparently, that he has gone into these companies with a chainsaw -- and now he is using Obama and what he did at General Motors and Chrysler as: Hey, the president did it! Now, General Motors and Chrysler are not profitable, and... (sigh)

You just don't, if you are the leader in the race for the Republican nomination, come out and give tacit approval to the government takeover of General Motors and Chrysler and then compound that by saying: Hey, what I did is no different. I was trying to save the businesses. (interruption) I did leave the possibility that this is not accurate. Yes. It's in TheHill.com. I've not seen it anywhere else. So, yes, I've held out the possibility that this is inaccurate. For example, there was a story all day yesterday on Drudge that Newt is gonna go into South Carolina and meet with the former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucasians (Clyburn, James Clyburn, whose daughter is named Mignon Clyburn) and gonna have a joint press conference, appearance about the housing industry, that Newt is gonna meet with a Democrat -- a ranking Democrat -- member of the Congressional Black Caucasians. So I fired that off to some people I know who are dyed-in-the-wool, Newt-can't-do-anything-wrong supporters, and I said, "Can you explain this to me?" and a few hours later I had a reply. "Newt says this isn't true. He thinks Romney people are spreading this rumor. He's not got a meeting with Clyburn," but it's in The State newspaper in South Carolina. So I share with you this Hill.com story with the proviso that it might not be true, but there it is. Okay. . . .

Fact checking some of the attacks on Bain. The video focuses on four Bain-financed companies:

•The film talks about layoffs at DDi Corp. and discusses questionable manipulation of stock prices after the circuit board company went public. But Romney had left Bain Capital a year before any layoffs and a public stock offering that ultimately netted Bain and Romney a big payday. The company's subsequent bankruptcy filing came two years after Bain had largely divested from the company, and was the result of the dot-com bust. Moreover, the company emerged from bankruptcy, and its current CEO credits those early Bain investments for setting the foundation for the company's current success.
•The film claims Romney was involved in the acquisition, management and demise of the now-defunct KB Toys. He wasn't. Bain bought the toy company nearly two years after Romney left Bain.
•Likewise, the closing of UniMac's plant in Marianna, Fla., occurred seven years after Romney left Bain and nearly two years after Bain sold UniMac's parent company to another private equity house. . . .
the video presents a myopic view of Bain Capital, cherry-picking some of the worst Bain outcomes to portray Bain in the worst possible light. Romney's record at Bain Capital also includes some success stories . . . .
"Their overall performance was terrific," concurred Steven Neil Kaplan, a professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. "He's got lots of deals that worked." . . .

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Vote fraud in New Hampshire?

Yet more evidence of what happens when voter IDs aren't required. From the Daily Caller:

Video footage provided exclusively to The Daily Caller shows election workers in New Hampshire giving out ballots in the names of dead voters at multiple voting precincts during the state’s primary election on Tuesday.

The bombshell video is the work of conservative filmmaker James O’Keefe and his organization, Project Veritas.

Voters in the Granite State are not required to present identification to vote. O’Keefe’s investigators were able to obtain ballots under the names of dead voters at polling locations Tuesday by simply asking for them, he said. . . .


Women's suffrage and the size of government

For those who wanted a more formal discussion of the link between women's suffrage and the size of government than is available in my book Freedomnomics, a copy of my academic paper on the topic has been posted here.

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My willingness to go bungee jumper just "plummeted"

The video available here is quite self explanatory.


The ideal Stimulus project?

If this wasn't costing $6 billion, it would be just too funny. From the Washington Post:

if California does start building without securing future funding, it could end up with a $6 billion track to nowhere. As the Peer Review Group (PRG) explains, that’s because, for economic-stimulus reasons, Washington insisted that California build the initial stretch between two outposts in the lightly populated San Joaquin Valley. . . .

How exactly is building a massive train track between to places no one wants to go between the best place to spend Stimulus money? Wouldn't it "create" jobs if you built it between two places that people actually lived? What can people do with this money that would actually produce something of value?

I understand the crazy logic here. If you spend the money on something that people would have spent their own money on, the government spending will be offset by a reduction in private spending. But this whole discussion ignores the crowding out regarding where the money has to come from to fund the train project to begin with.

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Obama administration wasn't trying to downplay the big 2009 Halloween party when they left Hollywood celebrities off the White House visitor logs?

The Obama administration seems to be digging in deeper here. From Politico:

The White House is under fire for reportedly trying to downplay the role that two Hollywood stars played at a 2009 Halloween party, with press secretary Jay Carney today calling the media's reporting on the incident "irresponsible" and denying reports of an attempted cover-up. But no record of the two stars, Johnny Depp and Tim Burton, appears in the official White House visitors logs.

An administration source said that entertainers are generally not recorded in the visitors logs. "Entertainers and production crews who are working events are generally not WAVED in since they are not guests visiting the White House, they are working," the official said.

The initial revelations about the 2009 party come from New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor's new book "The Obamas." Kantor reports that staffers were concerned about the White House hosting a Hollywood-style, 'Alice in Wonderland'-themed Halloween party in the midst of an economic downturn. As a result, Kantor charges, the White House did not publicize the role that director Tim Burton and actor Johnny Depp played at the event. Burton helped decorate and choreograph the party, while Depp attended in costume as the Mad Hatter.

Other stars — even when they are the entertainment — have appeared in the logs. A May 11th poetry reading by the rapper Common, for example, was logged. So were musicians Herbie Hancock and Stevie Wonder when they played at President Obama's 50th birthday. Singer Beyonce Knowles, however, does not appear in the visitor logs when she performed at a 2010 state dinner. . . .

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Does Google allow itself to be used to tilt the political debate?

Dan Gainor has this discussion at Fox News:

When Rick Santorum essentially tied in Iowa, he gave his campaign new life. He also guaranteed America would finally learn just how disgusting, vile and despicable the left is in this country. And how major news outlets and one of the most well-known businesses in the world – Google – are complicit in trying to destroy Santorum because he opposes gay marriage.
Santorum is the victim of what Reuters partner The Wrap and many other organizations call a “Google problem.” That’s quite the understatement. He was attacked with a Google bomb from Dan Savage, a gay advocate and sex columnist who hates straight people who don’t agree with him. He also thinks they should be silenced, bullied and blackmailed. That’s exactly how he’s treated Santorum. . . .


A simple test of union control of local public schools?

New Jersey is going to allow school districts to decide whether to leave their school board elections in April or to change them to November. Public teacher unions like April because the low voter turnout during those off elections give teacher union members who always vote a great say in determining who wins the elections. The issue here is simple: the public school districts where teacher unions have the greatest influence will be the least likely to switch from April to November.

The school elections bill passed the Senate by a vote of 34-3 and the Assembly by a vote of 62-11 with three abstentions.
It makes moving the election to November optional but allows school districts that do move to forgo votes on the district’s school budget, provided the spending plan calls for a tax levy within the state’s 2 percent cap.
Supporters of the measure claim it will save money on election expenses and increase voter participation.
“Politicians and pundits have talked about doing this for years, but special interests and inertia have prevented progress on this important issue — until today,” said Assemblyman Lou Greenwald, D-6th of Voorhees, who sponsored the legislation. “Empowering towns to move their school elections to November will give voters better control of their local finances while saving property taxpayers the costs of holding yet another local election.” . . .

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Greece races clock to avoid default

The Financial Times has this discussion:

. . . a race against time to secure a second financing package from the country’s international creditors if Greece is to avoid a disorderly default in March.
The country must redeem a €14.4bn bond on March 20. Almost all analysts agree it will be unable to do so unless its official creditors approve a second €130bn bail-out package and unless a deal is agreed to cut the country’s debt by imposing a 50 per cent haircut on €206bn of privately held bonds.
Greece has already received about €73bn from the first bail-out package of €110bn, financed by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. That package was approved in May 2010 to help the country stave off default.
Government officials hope the terms of the bond exchange, known as private sector involvement, or PSI, will be finalised well in advance of the EU summit on January 30. By the same deadline, the government hopes to have reached an agreement on “conditionality” – the set of economic policies and structural reforms required by the EU, IMF and European Central Bank.
Only when these requirements have been met will the so-called troika of lenders agree to disburse a large amount of funds, estimated at €89bn, in the first quarter of this year. That will include money towards implementing PSI, since private creditors will most likely receive €30bn in cash or equivalent upfront, while Greek banks will also be recapitalised by some €30bn. . . .

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Pedophilia as a government funded Disability in Greece?

This seems hard to believe, but it also seems part of a longer term trend. From ABC News:

Greek disability groups expressed anger Monday at a government decision to expand a list of state-recognized disability categories to include pedophiles, exhibitionists and kleptomaniacs.

The National Confederation of Disabled People called the action "incomprehensible," and said pedophiles are now awarded a higher government disability pay than some people who have received organ transplants.

The Labor Ministry said categories added to the expanded list — that also includes pyromaniacs, compulsive gamblers, fetishists and sadomasochists — were included for purposes of medical assessment and used as a gauge for allocating financial assistance.

But NCDP leader Yiannis Vardakastanis, who is blind, warned the new list could create new difficulties for disabled Greeks who are already facing benefit cuts due to the country's financial crisis.

"What's happened is incomprehensible. I think there is some big mistake. The ministry should have a different policy on disability," Vardakastanis told the Associated Press. "The list contains major changes to disability quotients, which could effectively remove many people from access to benefits."

The new list gives pyromaniacs and pedophiles disability pay up to 35 percent, compared to 80 percent for heart transplant recipients.

"It's really not serious to grant Peeping Toms a 20-30 percent disability rate, and 10 percent to diabetics, who have insulin shots four or five times a day," said Vardakastanis. . . .

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The Palins on the Republican Presidential Primary

I think that Sarah Palin is right about Romney.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin said the mainstream media and President Barack Obama “want to face Mitt Romney in the general election.” She made those comments on “Justice With Judge Jeanine” on FOX News on Saturday during the same time the Republican presidential candidates were debating in New Hampshire on ABC.

Palin said the mainstream media would take a hands-off approach to Romney “in order to bolster Romney’s chances” to “finally face Obama.”

According to Palin, the mainstream media and Obama would then portray Romney as someone who is out of touch with regular Americans in the general election.

“They are already gearing up to portray him, accurately or inaccurately … as being out of touch with the working class,” Palin said, noting that Romney’s wealth and perfect family may make it easy to paint him as someone “being a bit out of touch from working and middle class Americans and from the challenges we all face.”

Palin continued: “My opinion is that I can see what’s coming ... the media will try to bolster Romney so they can tear him down, and that is quite unfortunate.” . . .

Now this from ABC News:

Sarah Palin’s husband is endorsing Newt Gingrich for president, Todd Palin told ABC News today.
But Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor and John McCain’s 2008 Republican running mate, has yet to decide “who is best able to go up against Barack Obama,” Todd Palin said.
Palin said he has not spoken to Gingrich or anyone from the former House speaker’s campaign. But he said he respects Gingrich for what he went through in the 1990s and compared that scrutiny in public life to what Sarah Palin went through during her run for the vice presidency.
Todd Palin said he believes that being in the political trenches and experiencing the highs and lows help prepare a candidate for the future and the job of president.
He did not criticize any of the other candidates and said his “hat is off to everyone” in the Republican race.
But Todd Palin did point to last summer, when a large portion of Gingrich’s staff resigned and the candidate was left, largely by himself, to run the campaign. . . .

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Pedestrian directions taking into account dangerous areas

Microsoft's "avoid ghetto" patten seems like one of those obvious ideas once someone thinks about it. CNET's discussion is available here.

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Chris Wallace asks some interesting questions of DNC Chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz

On Solyndra and Obama's non-recess appointments, Chris Wallace asks some interesting questions.

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"Why is 'Obstructed' Obama the Beneficiary of Good Economic News?"

Here is an interesting question. John Daly at Bernie Goldberg's website asks how Obama seems to have the media playing a "heads I win, tails I win" game. If things don't go well, it is because Congress is obstructing what he has done. If things go well, it is because of his policies. My answer? There is a third option: no new harmful Stimuluses have been pasted. All that said, the annual rate of GDP growth during 2011 never got above 1.7 percent in any quarter and during the first quarter the GDP annualized growth rate was only 0.4%. Note that 85% of the Stimulus had been spent by June 2011.

From the left-wing Daily Kos:

Last week, Suffolk University asked an excellent question about Florida voters' opinions as to whether Republicans are deliberately harming economic recovery efforts for partisan gain. The results were very interesting: Almost half (49%) of Floridians said yes, the GOP was cynically hampering attempts to "to jumpstart the economy" in order to thwart Barack Obama's re-election chances.

In response to Suffolk's poll, multiple commentators suggested that this question be asked nationally, so that's exactly what we did.

Public Policy Polling for Daily Kos & SEIU. 11/3-6. Registered voters. MoE ±3.1% (no trendlines):

Q: Do you think the Republicans are intentionally stalling efforts to jumpstart the economy to insure that Barack Obama is not reelected or not?
Yes: 50
No: 41
Unsure: 10

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So much for the solution to make Obama's non-recess appointments legitimate

Akhil Reed Amar and Timothy Noah tried this week to show how Obama could make his appointments to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the National Labor Relations Board legitimate. Their plan was to have 51 Senators sign a letter saying that they supported the nontraditional appointments.

Personally I don't see the problem with the Senate refusing to go out of recess. The constitution gives the president the power to make recess appointments when the Senate is not in session to make sure that important tasks keep occurring, but the constitution explicitly refers to vacancies that open up during these recesses. That wasn't true with any of these appointments. The Senate has the power to disagree with the president on whether these appointments are really crucial.

In any case, Amar and Noah's plan, no matter how far fetched, has a more practical problem. It appears only one Democrat Senator supports Obama's recess claim (Democratic Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware).

The reason why their idea is farfetched is that the Senate doesn't make this decision based solely on a majority vote. Now if they had changed the rules before Obama made his non-recess appointment, that would be one thing, but the Supreme Court shouldn't care that a nominee could have gotten through using a different set of rules than those that were in place at the time.


Obama contest winners have lunch with him

It would be interesting to know how many people entered this contest to have lunch with the president. I assume that one reason for this contest is to try to lower the average size of contributions to the Obama campaign. Another reason might be to get people invested in his reelection. From the AP:

In a sort of power lunch for the not-so-powerful, President Barack Obama broke bread Friday with four winners of a contest for people who give to his campaign in small amounts.
The suggested donation to enter the drawing: $3.
The winners, including a teacher and an Afghanistan war veteran, gathered at Scion, a restaurant serving trendy, Asian-inspired cuisine in Washington. The Obama re-election campaign has offered the meals with the president, first lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden to boost online contributions. . . .

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