The Washington Post completely mangles the Coase Theorem

Timothy B. Lee from the Washington Post surely seems like a nice enough guy, but he grossly distorts the Coase Theorem:
The Coase Theorem says that in the absence of transaction costs — the costs of identifying potential trading partners, negotiating contracts, monitoring for compliance and so forth — it doesn’t matter how property rights are allocated. For example, suppose the law gives a factory owner an unlimited right to pollute. If the pollution does the town’s residents more harm than the value of what the factory produces, then the citizens will pool their funds (remember, we assumed this can be done without cost) and pay the factory owner to shut down his factory. Conversely, if the factory owner has to ask everyone for permission before polluting, then if the factory is economically beneficial he’ll be able to cut a deal where he pays each resident for permission to continue polluting. Either way, the factory will only run if doing so is economically efficient.   
Of course, that “no transaction cost” assumption is ridiculous. In the real world, it’s not practical for millions of people to each pay a few dollars to convince a factory owner to shut down, or for the factory owner to send out millions of tiny checks each month. And that was the point of “The Problem of Social Cost,” the essay that introduced the argument that was later dubbed the Coase Theorem. . . .
Sorry, Tim, but that is not what the Coase theorem says.  Coase, as he explained it to me when I was at Chicago, said that he only used the zero transaction cost example to illustrate the basic point.  It was just an example.  The real point here is that as long as the transaction costs are less than the gains from trade it doesn't matter who you give the property rights to.  If the transaction costs are greater than the gains from trade, it does matter who you give them to.  To argue that the Coase Theorem only applies in a cost free world is ridiculous.  I think that everyone argues that trade occurs when the gains from trade exceed the costs and that is the point that the Coase Theorem makes -- the cost of polluting or creating some other externality is the opportunity cost you lose from not engaging in these trades.

The point of the Coase theorem wasn't that markets would solve all externalities ("it’s not practical for millions of people to each pay a few dollars to convince a factory owner to shut down, or for the factory owner to send out millions of tiny checks each month"), but that there are a lot of transactions where the gains from trade are greater than the costs.  The point of the Coase Theorem was that it doesn't matter in terms of efficiency who you give the property rights to when the gains from trade are less than the costs, but that it does when transaction costs are greater and in that case you should allocate them to the higher cost avoider (e.g., in car accidents it is the car behind you in traffic that is liable). 

This was also the way that I was taught it in graduate school and way that anyone from Landes, Becker, Posner, Easterbrook, Peltzman, Stigler, Aaron Director, Milton Friedman, Demsetz, Alchian, etc. would explain it.  It seems to me that many critics of Coase set up a ridiculous straw man to attack because they can't otherwise criticize his basic point.

I would hope that Tim Lee will explain why the Coase Theorem only applies if transaction costs are zero.

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Newest Fox News piece: "Jobs numbers reflect another bleak month for American workers"

My newest Fox News piece starts this way:
Friday’s new job numbers show something workers already knew: they face a very bleak job market. Unfortunately, Americans have been facing tough times for many years now. According to the latest Gallup poll, Obama’s job approval rating on the economy stands atjust 35 percent
After over four years, this continues to be, by far, the worst recovery on record. And that goes for income as well as for job growth. 
Too often the media’s gauge of whether the economy is improving rests solely on the number of jobs created or the unemployment rate. And indeed, 169,000 jobs were added in August, but what is rarely mentioned is that at the same time 204,000 more working age people were added to the workforce. 
True, the unemployment rate has also fallen from its peak of 10 percent down to 7.3 percent. But that doesn't mean many new jobs. . . . .

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Continued weak job growth during Obama's recovery

Updated with today's new jobs numbers

Click on figure to make it larger.

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Numbers continue to be Stunning. 96 percent of net jobs added this year have been part-time jobs

Updating the job numbers with the new numbers that are out today continues to show that virtually all the jobs created this year have been part time jobs.

So far this year there have been 848,000 new jobs.  Of those, 813,000 are part time jobs (for both economic reasons and noneconomic reasons).   As can be seen in the above screen shots from the BLS.gov, the total part-time jobs changed from 26.437 million in January to 27.250 million in August.  To put it differently, an incredible 96% of the jobs added this year were part-time jobs.  (It isn't clear to me why we see the differences in part time for economic and noneconomic reasons.)  However, these numbers raise a question about whether the employer mandate that has already been forcing some companies to move to part-time workers so as to avoid government imposed penalties is having a significant impact.  Might the relationship between the recent part time jobs and overall job growth be stronger as we were getting closer to what people thought would be the implementation of 
Obamacare's employer mandate?  Might we now see a divergence with the very recent one year delay in the employer mandate?  Or was the 2012 election the defining event for firms to begin to study the impact more?  Data from the BLS.gov.

UPDATE 4: Using the sum of the part-time economic and noneconomic reasons.  The relationship that appears to exist this year seems interesting.

Using the numbers from Table A6

UPDATE: The BLS.gov also provides a sum of these two numbers (available here) where they get a total of 532,000 (thanks to the "Department of Numbers" for pointing this out and to Nick for emailing me about their post).  That implies that 63% of jobs added this year were part-time jobs, which is still an amazingly high number.  
Department Numbers uses this number Total Part Time Workers (LNS12600000) rather than the sum of the Part-Time for Economic Reasons (LNS12032194) and Usually Work Part Time Noneconomic Reasons (LNS12005977).  At least part of what is going on has to do with the seasonal adjustment of the components produces a different result than seasonally adjusting the total.  I can't see any reason that looking at the total makes more sense than looking at the sum of the two components.  Indeed, a strong case could be made that it is better to seasonally adjust the components and not just the total.  In any case, whether it is 63% or 96% or someplace in between, it is still a large portion of the increase in jobs that is due to part time employment.

Steve Bronars, a friend and a labor economist, argued that the most useful comparison might be to look at only Usually Work Part Time Noneconomic Reasons (LNS12005977).  In that case, there was an increase in part-time workers of 875,000, but only an increase in jobs of 848,000.  Thus, the increase in part-time jobs equals 103% of the increase in jobs from January to August.

UPDATE 2: Ben at the Department of Numbers now says that the percentage using Table A-6 is 59%, not 63%, but that is using a different time period.  It is easy to verify the 63% using the "total part-time" number for the change from the beginning of the year (January through August) (63% = 532,000/848,000).  532,000 = 27,999-27,467.  848,000= 144,170-143,322.  It seems pretty clear to me that the number to compare the 96% to is 63%, not 59%.

UPDATE 3:  Tyler Cowan writes: "As Ben Engebreth points out, based on these BLS charts, the correct number seems to be 59% not 96%, though the higher estimate does still seem to hold in Lott’s (more cumbersome and less transparent) sources."  But he provides no explanation for why this should be correct nor does it appear that he has checked the issues discussed in this post.

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Maryland gun applications soar in advance of new gun control law

Of course, gun sales will fall off the cliff as soon as the new law goes into effect and that is exactly what those who pushed the law with all its fees want.  From Fox News:
. . .The Washington Times reported that state police received 85,141 gun-purchase applications this year through Aug. 31. That’s compared with 70,099 applications in all of 2012 and 46,339 applications in 2011. Maryland State Police have increased staffing to cope.
In August 2012, 38 employees were assigned to conduct background checks, but this year 73 employees are doing that work, according to Sgt. Marc Black. Black said 60 temporary staffers are also rotating hours.
“We’re looking at unprecedented numbers,” Maryland State Police Sgt. Marc Black told the newspaper. “We saw this coming.”
So far, officials have processed 46,942 of this year’s applications.
Meanwhile gun dealers say they have been overwhelmed ahead of the law’s Oct. 1 effective date.
“Because of the gun ban, business has been booming,” said Al Koch, store manager at Bart’s Sports World, a Glen Burnie-based gun shop. “It’s been busy like crazy with people making last-minute decisions.” . . . 


64-year-old disabled woman uses here permitted concealed handgun, with some help from her dog, to stop attacker

The attacker apparently ran away after a shot was fired.  Here is a case from Cincinnati, Ohio:
A disabled 64-year-old woman, who says she just got her license to carry a concealed weapon in June to protect herself, repeatedly fired her gun at an intruder during an attempted home invasion robbery overnight, Middletown police said.   
No one was hurt, and the intruder, a 21-year-old woman is under arrest and facing several charges including aggravated burglary and drug abuse, police said. . . . 
Fletcher told them an intruder came into her home while she was sleeping.  
Her dog, a white Bichon Frise named Benji, woke her, so she scrambled in the dark for the 9 mm Glock handgun she bought in February. She keeps it in the nightstand next to her bed.   
Fletcher, who has had a stroke and has heart problems and diabetes, said she confronted the intruder with her gun as the woman came into her bedroom.   
The woman kept advancing and attacked her, so Fletcher squeezed off a round in self-defense. . . . 
No one was hit. The intruder ran into the back of the house, where she threw an ironing board at Fletcher.   
“She was very powerful. She was high. She was wild. I didn’t want to shoot her, but I didn’t want to get hurt,” Fletcher said. “I told her to stop, but she kept coming at me.” . . .

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Hurting the little guy: Obama makes it easier for waitresses' tips to get stiffed by patrons

Many restaurants automatically add tips to the tab for large parties.  There are obvious reasons for this.
1) When there is a large amount of money at stake patrons might be more likely to skip out on payment.
2) When you have a large party there is a potential problem of free-riding.  Suppose that you have a party of eight.  Each patron hopes that if the other seven patrons pay a tip, they might hope that them not paying their tip wouldn't be noticed if everyone else paid theirs.
From the WSJ:
. . . Starting in January, the Internal Revenue Service will begin classifying those automatic gratuities as service charges—which it treats as regular wages, subject to payroll tax withholding—instead of tips, which restaurants leave up to the employees to report as income. 
The change would mean more paperwork and added costs for the restaurants—and a potential financial hit for waiters and waitresses who live on their tips but don't always report them fully. 
Darden Restaurants Inc., owner of Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse and Red Lobster, has long included automatic 18% tips on the bill for parties of eight or more at its more than 2,100 restaurants, but is experimenting with eliminating them because of the IRS ruling, said a spokesman. . . .
Good thing that Obama is going after those tax cheating wealthy waitresses and waiters!



Some evidence that Obama really doesn't want to win the vote on Syria

Obama's political arm, Organizing for America, formerly Obama for America, is so far sitting out the push on Syria.  As anyone who subscribes to their emails knows, when the issue is guns or something else OFA deluges people with emails pushing issues.  But nothing so far on Syria.  Could it be that they don't really want to win the vote?  From Politico:
Barack Obama’s supporters built a political organization to pressure Congress to build public support for him. Yet on one of his biggest efforts since Organizing for Action re-launched early this year — the push to convince Congress to adopt a use-of-force authorization against Syria — the group has so far sat on the sidelines. 
OFA’s silence has been palpable. It didn’t send one of its ubiquitous emails to supporters and volunteers, nor did it signal to top donors how it might help press Obama’s case on Syria — or even whether it would participate in the president’s push at all. 
It’s been a marked departure from how OFA handled Obama’s policy pushes on the environment, gun control, the economy and immigration, all of which came with cross-platform support. And it leaves dormant Obama’s single biggest lobbying army, the group formed with the express purpose of pressuring Congress to pass Obama’s agenda, at a time when House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has said it will be up to the president to whip votes in support of a Syrian attack. . . .
If Obama doesn't really want to win this issue, the question is: why?   Is it because he wants get the issue off his back by blaming Republicans who look likely to vote against authorizing war?  The latest Whip count in the House as of 11 AM from the left wing ThinkProgress is 49 votes "yes" and 200 votes "no."

UPDATE: As of 7 PM tonight, adding in leaners, the nays had picked up 12 votes and the yeas had lost 6.

The Hill newspaper is less certain about these votes.  They also put this out at 7 PM.
According to The Hill’s count, 75 Republicans are opposed to or leaning against the measure. Without Grimm, only 10 Republicans have vocalized support for it. . . .
UPDATE2:  From Politico:
. . . Several Republican leadership aides, who are counting votes but not encouraging a position, say that there are roughly one to two dozen “yes” votes in favor of military action at this time. The stunningly low number is expected to grow a bit. 
But senior aides say they expect, at most, between 50 and 60 Republicans to vote with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who support the president’s plan to bomb Syria to stop Bashar Assad from using chemical weapons on his people. That would amount to less than one-third of the House Republican Conference. 
That would mean the vast majority of the 200 House Democrats will need to vote with Obama for the resolution to pass. But Democrats privately say that Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) can only round up between 115 and 130 “yes” votes. . . . 

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Obama's changes in policies leave the few allies we have regarding Syria in the lurch

Will other allies be willing to agree to work with the US if they think that they will be embarrassed by sudden switches in policy?  Undoubtedly not.  From the Times of London:

President Hollande struggled to maintain French resolve for a strike against Syria last night after Washington’s retreat prompted dismay in his administration and stirred opposition demands for a parliamentary vote. 
Manuel Valls, the French Interior Minister, said that President Obama’s shift had “created a new situation”. He added: “France cannot go it alone. We need a coalition.” 
By backtracking on his agreement with Paris on an immediate offensive, Mr Obama has severely embarrassed the Socialist President. Already weakened by the defection of Britain, France now finds itself as the lone important ally and hostage to the US political tide. Some of the Hollande team voiced frustration over what they said was a letdown by Mr Obama which played into the hands of critics who accuse the French President of becoming a “poodle” to the United States. . . .

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An excellent example of why the government should stay out of the news business

I can definitely understand why France's president wouldn't want this picture to be seen by others, but the key quote below is in bold.  The article is from the Times of London:
President Hollande found himself at the centre of an embarassing debate yesterday after Agence France Presse (AFP), the French press agency, withdrew a photograph that left him looking like a village idiot. 
Critics accused the agency, which depends largely on the French state for its financial equilibrium, of self-censorship in an attempt to avoid ruffling Mr Hollande’s feathers. . . .
Given the desire of government to punish those who run news stories that make them look bad, this story provides a good example why the media should be protected from financial or regulatory pressures that the government can impose on them.  In this case, the desire to hide the picture might have backfired.
But the row merely added to the publicity surrounding the picture, which went viral on French internet sites amid widespread hilarity. . . .

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Obama dishonestly gets around legislation eliminating a controversial program by quietly renaming it

In an ordinary administration, this lawless behavior would get a lot of attention.  From Fox News:
The Obama administration is being accused of trying to pull a fast one on lawmakers by re-branding a controversial immigration job -- a "public advocate" for both legal and illegal immigrants -- after Congress explicitly voted to defund it. 
The administration over the summer quietly changed the name of the position, first created in February 2012, from "public advocate" to deputy assistant director of "Custody Programs and Community Outreach." It was a change in name only. The administration kept the person in charge and the job description the same.  . . . 
“It’s simply part of the president’s well-established pattern of abusing his authority to blow off Congress, especially when it comes to immigration,” the conservative government watchdog group said. . . . 
The position was created to serve almost like an ombudsman, to help both legal immigrants and illegal immigrants facing removal proceedings. . . .


"The Fog of War" cartoon by POLITICO's Matt Wuerker on Obama's confused and tangled rhetoric

I rarely would post a cartoon, but this one by POLITICO's Matt Wuerker is pretty good.

Politico also has an article about the difficult time liberal Democrats might have in supporting the war. As one of the comments after the piece noted: "The Democrats are so obviously hypocritical voting for action on Syria, after recently castigating Bush for going after Saddam who gassed thousands. Boxer, Reid, Pelosi and Kerry, now are all suddenly hawks. And what happens to all of those weapons if the opposition gets them? Have these guys learned nothing from Egypt. And now to see Obama once again trying to backpedal on his comments about a 'red line'...truly priceless. Every Democrat running around trying to save face for their hero."

A third Politico post has this:
Recently retired CENTCOM commander James Mattis warned Saturday that a limited U.S. intervention in Syria will be costly and ineffective, while he also suggested that the U.S. public is not invested enough in resolving the fight there to support broader U.S. involvement. 
"We all want to do something to stop this but...we have no moral obligation to do the impossible and hawk our children's future just because we have the desire to do something," Mattis said at the Aspen Security Forum. "When you go to war, it cant be a half step." 
"If Americans take ownership of this, this is going to be a full-throated, very, very serious war. Anyone who says this is going to be easy or a no-fly zone is going to be cheap, I would discount that at the outset," the retired four-star Marine general said. . . .


University of Virginia Health Plan shows the detrimental impact

This looks like Obamacare is reducing the number of people covered by health insurance.  From UVAToday:
Plan premiums will rise about $40 a month this year. . . .
Working spouse provision: Starting Jan. 1, spouses who have access to coverage through their own employer will no longer be eligible for coverage under U.Va.’s plan. Spouses who do not have coverage elsewhere can remain on the employee’s plan, and coverage of children is not affected. . . .
There would also be changes in co-payment rules, but the Obama administration pushed back those changes for a year. 


Even the head of the AFL-CIO claims that Obamacare is forcing employers to cut back workers to just 29.5 hours of work

RICHARD TRUMKA, PRESIDENT AFL-CIO: The Affordable Care Act does need some modifications to it, because as it does right now, what's happening is, you have employers that the law says if you pay your, if your employees work 30 hours or more a week, you've got to give them healthcare. So they're restructuring their workforce to give workers 29 and a half hours so they don't have to provide them healthcare. They’re also doing some taxing to nonprofit plans to pay for for-profit plans.
It is surprising to see Trumka speak out against the current law.  Possibly the AFL-CIO is risking other unions leaving just as the International Longshore and Warehouse Union has parted ways with the AFL-CIO.

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This robber definitely picked the wrong store to rob

This story is from the Springfield, Missouri News-Leader:
The guy with a gun picked the wrong clerk.  How wrong?
A veteran of four tours in Iraq. A 30-year military man. A former prison guard, private investigator, professional extraditor of federal prisoners and — most important on this particular Sunday night — a proud owner of a Walther PPX 9 mm handgun.
Loaded, with one in the chamber, like he always carries it.  Jon Lewis Alexander, 54, of Marionville, thwarted a robbery about 9 p.m. Sunday at Beer 30 on East Logan Street in Marionville — after the would-be robber pulled his weapon first.
As a store security video shows, Alexander used his left hand to push the robber’s handgun back while — in a smooth but rapid motion — pulling and swinging his 9 mm into the robber’s face. The man’s mouth to be exact, as the robber haplessly holds his own weapon at his side.
“One of the policemen told me later, ‘You’re a lucky man,’ ” Alexander said Monday. “I said, ‘I think he (the robber) is a little luckier than I am.’ ” . . .

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Both Democrats and Republicans see regulatory process as "deeply flawed"

From The Hill newspaper:
“It’s totally broken,” said Peg Seminario, the AFL-CIO’s longtime director of Occupational Safety and Health. “The system is basically a poster child for how government doesn’t work.” . . .  
“Essentially, Congress passes laws and many of the hardest issues, most difficult politically, are delegated to unaccountable, unelected government workers to figure out the details on,” the bill’s author, Rep. Todd Young (R-Ind.), told The Hill. . . . 


A reasonable summary of Ronald Coase's five most important papers

Dylan Matthews has a useful discussion of five of Coase's papers in the Washington Post (available here).

After Milton Friedman, Ronald Coase was probably the most important economist of the last 100 years.  Given the biases of the Washington Post and particularly the wonkblog, I was very surprised that this discussion was as fair as it is.

Take the discussion in the first paper discussed (“The Problem of Social Cost”).  "Coase theorizes that, in an ideal world with no transaction costs, the two could reach a bargain pleasing to both parties without going to court at all."

The Coase theorem really doesn't depend upon transaction cost being zero.  No one, particularly Coase who wrote articles about the importance of transaction costs (see the second paper listed on "The Nature of the Firm"), believed transaction costs are zero.  The point is that as long as the transaction costs are less than the gains from trade it doesn't matter who has the property rights, you will always get the efficient result.  (Who gets the property rights does matter in terms of wealth and who gets the payments but not in terms of the final outcome of output.)  When transaction costs are greater than the gains from trade, it does matter who has the property rights and they should be allocated in a way that would be consistent with who would pay the most for them.

The next three papers discussed seem at first glance to be pretty accurate.

A copy of Coase's Noble acceptance speech is available here.


Obama using taxpayer dollars to keep pushing for Obamacare

From Fox News:
A proposed $8.7 million TV advertising campaign to promote ObamaCare in the lead-up to a key launch date is being targeted by Sen. Marco Rubio, who calls the effort a “blatant misuse of federal dollars.” 
The Florida Republican said Tuesday that such spending is “unconscionable,” considering the uncertainty of the law and urged the Department of Health and Human Services to halt the spending. 
“Until critical questions can be answered regarding the availability and type of health insurance to be provided by ObamaCare, it is unconscionable to spend taxpayer dollars to promote and advertise ObamaCare plans that have yet to be finalized,” Rubio wrote in the Sept. 3 letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. 
The agency did not return a request for comment late Tuesday. . . .


Military can't explain what the administration hopes to accomplish in Syria

The Obama administration might have been literally days away from attacking Syria last week, but the apparently the president hasn't thought it was necessary to explain to the military what exactly he wanted to accomplish.
DEMPSEY: The answer to whether I support additional support for the moderate opposition is yes. 
CORKER: And this authorization will support those activities in addition to responding to the weapons of mass destruction. 
DEMPSEY: I don’t know how the resolution will evolve, but I support – 
CORKER: What you’re seeking. What is it you’re seeking? 
DEMPSEY: I can’t answer that, what we’re seeking.
Here is one of the many news stories from last week.
The U.S. could hit Syria with three days of missile strikes, perhaps beginning Thursday, in an attack meant more to send a message to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad than to topple him or cripple his military, senior U.S. officials told NBC News on Tuesday. 
The State Department fed the growing drumbeat around the world for a military response to Syria's suspected use of chemical weapons against rebels Aug. 21 near Damascus, saying that while the U.S. intelligence community would release a formal assessment within the week, it was already "crystal clear" that Assad's government was responsible. 
Vice President Joe Biden went even further, bluntly telling an American Legion audience in Houston: "Chemical weapons have been used." . . . 
I found this article about the leaks and the motives behind them at Politico of interest.
Many of the leaks about U.S. strike plans for Syria, a copious flow of surprisingly specific information on ship dispositions and possible targets, have been authorized as a way for President Obama to signal the limited scope of operations to friends and foes. 
But a number of leaks have been decidedly unauthorized -- and, according to Obama administration sources, likely emanating from a Pentagon bureaucracy less enthusiastic about the prospect of an attack than, say, the State Department, National Security Council or Obama himself. . . . 
Recently retired CENTCOM commander James Mattis had this to say about the undefined mission:
Mattis said the U.S. also needs to define what "end state" it is seeking in Syria, if further action is to be taken. "Otherwise, you invade a country and pull down a statue and then say: 'Now, what do we do?'….Know what I mean?" he said, in an obvious reference to the chaotic aftermath of the U.S. toppling of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. . . . 

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How the market gets people the level of safety that they want, the case of car safety

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's tests seem to cause car makers to change how their cars are designed without an push from government regulation.  Indeed, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tests are more stringent than those by the government.  From the AP:
. . . The cars were rated for their performance in the insurance institute's "small overlap" test of crashes that cover only 25 percent of a vehicle's front end. These tests, added to the IIHS's evaluations last year, are forcing automakers to bolster the front-end structure of all cars in order to avoid bad publicity from a poor performance. 
The IIHS tests are more stringent than the U.S. government's full-width front crash test. The institute says that in many vehicles, a crash affecting one-quarter of the front end misses the main structures designed to absorb the impact. Yet such crashes account for nearly a quarter of the frontal collisions that cause serious or fatal injuries to people in the front seats, IIHS says. . . .
 Of course, the government's continual push to force people buy smaller cars is what is really endangering lives.  Note that a safe rating for a small car doesn't mean the same thing as it does for larger cars since cars are ranked relative to each other within size classes.  Here is an older article, but the point is still true as demonstrated in an interview provided here.  From the WSJ:
Large, heavy vehicles proved the safest. Nearly half of the 15 models with the lowest death rates were SUVs. Six of the best-performing vehicles were categorized as large or very large. And, not one of the safest cars was classified as small by IIHS. "SUVs haven't always in the past been the best choice for safety," said Ms. McCartt. "As a group they still have higher rollover rates, but they're getting much safer." . . .


Georgia Republicans have figured out a way to stop Obamacare Implementation

Unfortunately, I worry if this is too late to stop Obamacare in other states.

Earlier this month, Georgia discovered a way to obstruct the implementation of Obamacare, causing Democrats across the country to condemn the state’s Department of Insurance for obstructing President Barack Obama’s beloved Affordable Care Act. 
In early August, Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens explained the obstruction method to a crowd of enthusiastic Georgians. Obamacare created many positions within each state’s healthcare exchange for “insurance agents,” or employees that sign customers up for Obamacare coverage. 
Hudgens explained that Georgia passed a law that says, “a navigator, which is a position in that exchange, has to be licensed by our Department of Insurance.” 
“The Obamacare law says that we cannot require them to be an insurance agent, so we said fine, we’ll just require them to be a licensed navigator. So we’re going to make up the test, and basically you take the insurance agent test, you erase the name, you write ‘navigator test’ on it,” Hudgens continued. . . .


Another example for why campaign donations should be anonymous

With the flood of unidentified donations to the Obama campaign, it seems that a huge number of donations are de facto anonymous.  Indeed, anyone who followed the attacks on donors after California's Proposition 8 knows the problems they faced.  While this isn't strictly campaign related, this example shows the attacks people face when they reveal their personal opinions.
A family-owned Christian bakery, under investigation for refusing to bake a wedding cake for a lesbian couple, has been forced to close its doors after a vicious boycott by militant homosexual activists.   
Sweet Cakes By Melissa posted a message on its Facebook page alerting customers that their Gresham, Ore. retail store would be shut down after months of harassment from pro-gay marriage forces.   
“Better is a poor man who walks in integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways,” read a posting from Proverbs on the bakery’s Facebook page.  
“It’s a sad day for Christian business owners and it’s a sad day for the First Amendment,” owner Aaron Klein told me. “The LGBT attacks are the reason we are shutting down the shop. They have killed our business through mob tactics.” . . .
No one minds people not shopping at a particular shop, but the attacks here have gone well beyond that and have been malicious.
Within days, militant homosexuals groups launched protests . . . . Klein told me he received messages threatening to kill his family. They hoped his children would die.   
The LGBT protestors then turned on other wedding vendors around the community. They threatened to boycott any florists, wedding planners or other vendors that did business with Sweet Cakes By Melissa. . . .
My question is whatever one's views on whether marriage should be between a man and a woman or between any set of consenting adults, why isn't this type of threats of violence and other actions condemned?

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Chicago's Police Superintendent warns concealed handgun permit holders will likely be shot by police

Chicago's Police Superintendent had this to say about police shooting citizens with concealed handgun permits:
“You put more guns on the street expect more shootings,” McCarthy said. “I don’t care if they’re licensed legal firearms. People who are not highly trained … putting guns in their hands is a recipe for disaster. So I’ll train our officers that there is a concealed carry law, but when somebody turns with a firearm in their hand the officer does not have an obligation to wait to get shot to return fire, and we’re going to have tragedies as a result of that. I’m telling you right up front.” . . .
So how many times have police accidentally shot concealed handgun permit holders?  Zero?  Wouldn't talking about the actually numbers have been more useful than dredging up these groundless types of fears?

This statement is from early this year, but I just recently seem to have come across it.


Interview with Steve Malzberg: "The [Obama] administration uses these loaded terms [about guns] that scare people"

A link with text from the interview is available here.

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Hiring and Quits have both still lower than they were during the recession

Hiring falls during a recession, but it has continued to fall during this "recovery."  Amazingly, we are 4 years into the "recovery" and monthly hiring over the last three months is still slightly lower than it was during the recession.  Who would have thought that was possible?

Quits over the last three months are also still lower than during the recession.  To put it simply, people are apparently more afraid of quitting their jobs now than they were during the recession.

This data is from the BLS.gov JOLTS data.

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Comparing job growth over recoveries since 1970

Note that job growth during a recovery is usually greatest after more severe recessions.

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A stunning 97 percent of net jobs added this year have been part-time jobs

So far this year there have been 963,000 new jobs.  Of those, 936,000 are part time jobs (272,000 for economic reasons and 664,000 for noneconomic reasons).  To put it differently, an incredible 97% of the jobs added this year were part-time jobs.  28% of the jobs added were part-time jobs where people had tried for full-time jobs.  These numbers make it pretty obvious why Obama wanted to put off the employer mandate that has already been forcing some companies to move to part-time workers so as to avoid government imposed penalties.  Data from the BLS.gov.

As a side note, this graph here also shows how small of growth this 963,000 new jobs is.  So we have few new jobs and those that we do have are virtually all part-time jobs.

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International Longshore and Warehouse Union leaves AFL-CIO over Obamacare and Immigration Reform

Part of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union's August 29th letter announcing it is leaving the AFL-CIO.

The ILWU seems to be upset that Obama taxed health insurance benefits that he promised not to tax and that the immigration reform isn't left wing enough.  Kind of a mixed bag politically.

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From Skokie, Illinois: 4th grade students taught that government is 'your family'

Is it really great that 9 year old students are taught this type of propaganda?
Government is like a nation's family.  Families take care of children & make sure that they are safe, healthy and educated, and free to enjoy life . . . Families make and enforce rules and give appropriate punishments when rules are broken.  Government does these things for its citizens, too.


The Merkel- Steinbrueck campaign debate: So how has "austerity" worked for Germany

The term austerity is a misnomer because it implies that government creates spending when all it really does is move money around.  The point is that money has to come from someplace.  The above figure is from my book "At the Brink."

I bring this up because Germany of the debate between Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Social Democrat challenger Peer Steinbrueck. In fact, despite Steinbrueck's claim, Germany has done quite well compared to the rest of Europe and especially the US.  From Reuters:

The only TV duel of the campaign, watched by an estimated 15 million viewers, was one of SPD candidate Peer Steinbrueck's last chances to change the momentum in a race in which he has trailed the popular Merkel from the very start. 
He accused the conservative chancellor, who is seeking a third term in the September 22 vote, of crushing southern European countries with austerity, failing to properly manage an exit from nuclear energy and overseeing a rise in low wage jobs. 
"For four years we have been at a standstill. I want to change this," Steinbrueck said.
Merkel, 59, said SPD plans to raise taxes would put Germany's prosperity at risk, and noted that Steinbrueck's party had supported her euro policies throughout the crisis. Smiling, she turned to him and said: "You voted for everything." . . . .

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Senator Ted Cruz raises an important point: "U.S.’s chief concern, if it goes into Syria, should be to make sure that chemical weapons do not fall “into the hands of al Qaeda or other terrorists"

Here is part of Ted Cruz's press release from Saturday after Obama's remark:

I remain concerned that the mission proposed by the President is not in furtherance the vital national security interests of the United States. To date I have heard a great deal from the administration about punishing Bashir al-Assad for violating an “international norm” through the use of chemical weapons, and that this is why we must act against him. Abstract notions about international norms should never displace U.S. sovereignty to act, or refuse to act, for our national security.

Assad’s murderous actions have claimed the lives of more than a hundred thousand of his own people, which is a humanitarian tragedy. But our chief strategic concern should not be international norms; it should be preventing the chemical weapons from falling into the hands of al Qaeda or other terrorists who might use them against us and our allies. . . .

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Foreign policy experts turn en mass on Obama

From the left you have Fareed Zakaria:
Whatever your views on the larger issues, it’s hard not to conclude that the administration’s handling of Syria over the last year has been a case study in how not to do foreign policy. . . . 
The nature of the strike, we are told, will be short and symbolic – a shot across the bow. In the midst of a civil war in which both sides are in a high-stakes struggle for survival, does anyone think that this will make any difference? . . . 
the manner in which the Obama administration has first created and then mismanaged this crisis will, alas, cast a long shadow on America’s role in the world.
 On the right you have Elliott Abrams:
This context makes his claim that he must seek a vote now, in the Syrian case, unintelligible. It cannot be a matter of principle, or the principle would have applied to intervention in Libya as well. From all appearances, the president either lost his nerve, or more likely read opinion polls suggesting that intervention would be widely unpopular. He came to this decision abruptly, after sending out his new secretary of state to make two powerful, emotional, and affecting war speeches that explained why we must act. And he came to this decision, by all accounts now appearing in the press, without even consulting Secretary of State John Kerry, relying instead on his mostly young and comparatively inexperienced White House staff. 
This erratic conduct leaves U.S. foreign policy in a shambles. . . . .
Another point that has been raised is Obama's focus on enforcing international norms.  Yet, if these are international norms, why is it that Obama is going to have to go it alone.  Even Canada and the UK, two countries that we have always been able to depend on for support, are unwilling to go along this time.


Drug Enforcement Administration obtains massive about of telephone information on people, AT&T employees are embedded in DEA

It still appears to me that the worse case by far involves the DEA cases based upon NSA information that were reported in August.  While this information is extremely extensive, I am less bothered by subpoenas that cover a specific person or group of people.  I assume that the Obama administration can explain this by saying that they don't want drug lords to know what techniques are being used, but it is very hard to trust the government at this point.  From Fox News:
Federal and local drug officials reportedly have subpoena access to an AT&T database of phone calls whose size dwarfs any collection of data done by the National Security Agency. 
The New York Times reports Monday that a counternarcotics program known as The Hemisphere Project involves the government paying AT&T to place its employees in drug-fighting units made up of both Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents and local detectives. The AT&T employees then supply law enforcement officials with all the phone data going back to 1987. 
By contrast, the NSA stores data for nearly all calls in the United States, including the phone numbers involved, the time the call was made, and the duration of the call, for a period of five years. . . . 
A Justice Department spokesman told The Times "subpoenaing drug dealers’ phone records is a bread-and-butter tactic in the course of criminal investigations," . . . 
However, Jameel Jaffer, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said that the Hemisphere Project raised "profound privacy concerns," adding "I’d speculate that one reason for the secrecy of the program is that it would be very hard to justify it to the public or the courts." . . .



Columbus, Ohio: "It was a rally organized by gun-control supporters, but by the end, it looked more like an NRA rally."

The Mayors Against Illegal Guns rally didn't turn out so well.  This is turing out to be a consistent pattern.  From Channel 10 TV in Columbus:
It was a rally organized by gun-control supporters, but by the end, it looked more like an NRA rally. 
"As a gun owner, I'm a responsible person and I think it's responsible to ask to have all gun owners have a background check," said Blanche Luczyk.  "It's just common sense.  Any responsible person who is willing to take the ownership of a gun should be willing to have that background check." 
Luczyk was one of a half dozen members of the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns who hosted the rally in the Arena District on Friday.  
But when Luczyk started her speech by telling the crowd that former President Ronald Reagan supported background checks, she was drowned out by shouts of "Germany 1933" and "Hitler." 
About 50 guns-rights supporters were on hand, . . . .


Obama threatening constitutional crisis over Syria?

Chuck Todd had previously noted that Obama might go forward with the Syria attack and that he could go forward with it even if Congress rejects authorizing the use of force.  From Fox News on Saturday night:
One senior State Department official, though, told Fox News that the president’s goal to take military action will indeed be carried out, regardless of whether Congress votes to approve the use of force. 
Other senior administration officials said Obama is merely leaving the door open to that possibility. They say he would prefer that Congress approve a military attack on the Assad regime, in response to its alleged use of chemical weapons, and will wait to see what Congress does before making any final decisions on authorizing military force. . . . 
“That’s going to happen, anyway,” the source told Fox News, adding that that was why the president, in his Rose Garden remarks, was careful to establish that he believes he has the authority to launch such strikes even without congressional authorization. . . . 
Does the president really think that he will be more likely to get approval if he makes these threats?  Isn't he worried that out of principle Congress will reject his demands since they don't want to let a president "blackmail" them via threat of constitutional crisis?