Friday, August 01, 2014

Final Act

What now, people?
The Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld Gov. Scott Walker's signature labor legislation Thursday,delivering an election-year affirmation to the governor in one of the three major rulings issued by the justices on union bargaining, election law and same-sex couples.

In addition to ruling Walker's labor law constitutional, the state's highest court also upheld the state's voter ID law and a 2009 law providing limited benefits to gay and lesbian couples, leaving liberals with one consolation to soften the sting of the two larger conservative victories.
....

The decision was 5-2, with Justice Michael Gableman writing the lead opinion, which found that collective bargaining over a contract with an employer is not a fundamental right for public employees under the constitution. Instead, it's a benefit that lawmakers can extend or restrict as they see fit, he said.

"No matter the limitations or 'burdens' a legislative enactment places on the collective bargaining process, collective bargaining remains a creation of legislative grace and not constitutional obligation. The First Amendment cannot be used as a vehicle to expand the parameters of a benefit that it does not itself protect," Gableman wrote.

Rejecting arguments made by the Madison teachers union and Public Employees Local 61, a group of city of Milwaukee employees, Gableman said that public employees still had the right to form unions to influence their employers, but government officials aren't obligated to listen to them.

"The plaintiffs remain free to advance any position, on any topic, either individually or in concert, through any channels that are open to the public," Gableman wrote.
I assume that includes the wailing and gnashing of teeth...

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Paying For Green

The head of the IMF wants Europeans to pay up:
"On this point, let me be crystal clear: we are generally talking about smarter taxes rather than higher taxes," Lagarde said, according to prepared remarks for the launch of the book.

She said higher energy taxes are the most efficient and simple way of dealing with environmental harm and would allow governments to stop relying on a "patchwork" of other uncoordinated policies to deal with climate change, such as subsidies for renewable energy.

Higher energy prices would prompt people to shift to cleaner fuels or more fuel-efficient vehicles on their own, Lagarde said, adding that they could also allow governments to lower other taxes on consumption or income to reduce the burden on people, or pay down more public debt.
At least she's honest about wanting to kill Europe's economy...

California Rising

Obamacare in California hasn't quite worked out so well:
The cost of health insurance for individuals skyrocketed this year in California, with some paying almost twice what they did last year, the state’s insurance commissioner said. …

For 2014, consumers purchasing individual policies paid between 22% and 88% more for health insurance than they did last year, depending on age, gender, type of policy and where they lived, Jones said Tuesday.

[State Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones] said he has authorized a study of health insurance rates after receiving numerous complaints about rising costs.

“The rate increase from 2013 to 2014, on average, was significantly higher than rate increases in the past,” Jones said in a news conference in Sacramento.

The hardest-hit were young people, he said. In one region of Los Angeles County, people age 25 paid 52% more for a silver plan than they had for a similar plan the year before, while someone age 55 paid 38% more, according to a report that Jones released Tuesday.
Why does Obama hate the kids so much?

Default Lies Within

Argentina's semi-hot former soap opera star president is not happy:
Argentine stocks plummeted Thursday as the repercussions of the default began to set in, and were down 6.45 percent in afternoon trade.

Argentine President Cristina Kirchner's cabinet chief, Jorge Capitanich, blamed the American government for the default, brought on by a US court ruling that blocked Buenos Aires from servicing its restructured debt without also paying the hedge funds in full.

"If there's a judge who's an agent of these speculative funds, if the mediator is their agent, what is this justice you're talking about? There's a responsibility of the state here, of the United States, to create the conditions for the unconditional respect of other countries' sovereignty," he told a press conference in Buenos Aires.
But whose fault is it?

King Andrew's Fall

Andrew Cuomo is in more trouble with the US Attorney's office over his in-state shenanigans:
In an escalation of the confrontation between the United States attorney in Manhattan, Preet Bharara, and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo over the governor’s cancellation of his own anticorruption commission, Mr. Bharara has threatened to investigate the Cuomo administration for possible obstruction of justice or witness tampering.

The warning, in a sharply worded letter from Mr. Bharara’s office, came after several members of the panel issued public statements defending the governor’s handling of the panel, known as the Moreland Commission, which Mr. Cuomo created last year with promises of cleaning up corruption in state politics but shut down abruptly in March. …

At least some of those statements were prompted by calls from the governor or his emissaries, according to people with direct knowledge of the situation who were unwilling to be named for fear of reprisal.

One commissioner who received a call from an intermediary on behalf of the governor’s office said he found the call upsetting and declined to make a statement.

The letter from prosecutors, which was read to The New York Times, says, “We have reason to believe a number of commissioners recently have been contacted about the commission’s work, and some commissioners have been asked to issue public statements characterizing events and facts regarding the commission’s operation.”

“To the extent anyone attempts to influence or tamper with a witness’s recollection of events relevant to our investigation, including the recollection of a commissioner or one of the commission’s employees, we request that you advise our office immediately, as we must consider whether such actions constitute obstruction of justice or tampering with witnesses that violate federal law.”
You can't fool all of the prosecutors all of the time...

Too Warm For The Room

Climate changers versus cool temperatures:
The Climate Reality Project brought its “I’m Too Hot” trucks and offers of free ice cream to this week’s Environmental Protection Agency hearings on power-plant emissions, but the climate wasn’t cooperating.

The plan was to tout the EPA’s emissions proposal as a solution for hot weather brought on by global warming, but when the hearings began at 9 a.m. Wednesday in Denver, the temperature was a chilly 58 degrees. Plus, it was raining.

The other cities hosting the hearings Wednesday were also hit by cooler-than-usual temperatures. The high in Atlanta was forecast at 82 degrees, while it was a pleasant 70 degrees in Washington, D.C., when the hearings began at 9 a.m.
Mother Nature just doesn't seem to want to listen to its own Cult...

Organization For Inaction

What, exactly, have they done lately?
By the most important metric, the group is largely ineffective. Of the priorities above — which, according to the group’s mandate, are meant to bolster federal efforts — none has seen national legislative action. The president introduced new restrictions on carbon pollution, but that was an executive action, not legislation. Immigration reform has stalled; there hasn’t been a national minimum wage increase. All of these things are difficult, given the opposition the president faces from Republicans in Congress, but that’s the point, right? Encourage people to take action in their communities? Bottom up change and all that?

Carson sent updates from a variety of places, but most were areas that already have Democratic legislators. Los Angeles, New York, and lots of Chicago, of course. It’s clear that Sonoma County has an active OFA membership, but that’s northern California. Same with Albuquerque, New Mexico — which is represented by Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D). There were some events in Tennessee and Texas and the redder parts of Michigan, but most of the activity appeared to be in Democratic areas.

Among the smattering of tweets and photos and reports that Carson sent, a few activities stood out. There was a report on a day of action around climate change in late June. Another report looked at a series of events meant to build support for economic issues. There was OFA engagement in a minimum wage fight in New Mexico. And an unexpected fight over an arcane policy in California.
But hey, at least they got to wish President Obama happy birthday...

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The GAO Report

Yes, they did screw up:
GAO concluded:

— Contractors were not given a coherent plan, and instead they were kept jumping around from issue to issue.

— The cost of the sign-up system ballooned from $56 million to more than $209 million from Sept. 2011 to Feb. 2014. The cost of the electronic backroom jumped from $30 million to almost $85 million.

— CMS, representing the administration, failed to follow up on how well the contractors performed. At one point the agency notified one contractor it was so dissatisfied it would start withholding payments. Then it quickly rescinded that decision.
I am shocked that they didn't think this through-or maybe they did...

Court Date

There may be no impeachment (yet) but the lawsuit goes on:
In a strict party-line 225-201 vote, Republicans approved the legislation that accuses the president of exceeding his Constitutional authority by changing how his signature health care bill was implemented. The measure does not require Senate approval.

No Democrats voted for the bill.

Democrats, including Obama, have called the suit a waste of taxpayers time and money. Some have also said it is the first step towards Republicans ultimate goal of impeaching the president, something the president’s party has used as a rallying cry to raise campaign donations in recent days.

“‘Impeachment is off the table,’ why hasn’t the speaker said that?” Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said ahead of the vote.
That's strange, I thought he had...

Damaged Goods

Jesse Ventura isn't helping himself here:

Bringing The Crazy

Maybe she should have destroyed those emails, after all:

as

For The Love Of Money

Liberals like the rich:
Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen has said the central bank's goal is "to help Main Street not Wall Street," and many liberal commentators seem convinced that she is advancing that goal. But talk to anyone on Wall Street. If they are being frank, they'll admit that the Fed's loose monetary policy has been one of the biggest contributors to their returns over the past five years. Unwittingly, it seems, liberals who support the Fed are defending policies that boost the wealth of the wealthy but do nothing to reduce inequality.
It's only inequality if it's not their share...

Incompetent Minds

The FBI is in some hot water over a lot of old cases:
U.S. officials began the inquiry after The Washington Post reported two years ago that flawed forensic evidence involving microscopic hair matches might have led to the convictions of hundreds of potentially innocent people. Most of those defendants never were told of the problems in their cases.

The inquiry includes 2,600 convictions and 45 death-row cases from the 1980s and 1990s in which the FBI’s hair and fiber unit reported a match to a crime-scene sample before DNA testing of hair became common. The FBI had reviewed about 160 cases before it stopped, officials said.

The investigation resumed after the Justice Department’s inspector general excoriated the department and the FBI for unacceptable delays and inadequate investigation in a separate inquiry from the mid-1990s. The inspector general found in that probe that three defendants were executed and a fourth died on death row in the five years it took officials to reexamine 60 death-row convictions that were potentially tainted by agent misconduct, mostly involving the same FBI hair and fiber analysis unit now under scrutiny.
Unfortunately, the real FBI isn't always like a TV show...

Don't Be Hatin'

Well, maybe his critics have reason to:

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Fluke For Fluke

When in doubt, support yourself:
Liberal darling and free-birth-control advocate Sandra Fluke is her own biggest donor in her state Senate race, according to official California campaign finance reports.

Fluke donated $12,000 to her campaign and $4,826.27 in non-monetary contributions. While $16,826.27 may not sound like a lot, Fluke also loaned her campaign $100,000.
....

As a family, the Mutterperls have given Fluke $20,500. Fluke’s own family has donated $9,600 to her campaign (her mother gave one donation as Betty and one as Elizabeth).

While it’s not unusual for family members to donate to a campaign (it would be far more telling if they didn’t give), the fact that the donations, along with Fluke’s loan, accounts for 33 percent of Fluke’s fundraising is notable.

In total, Fluke has raised $416,185.28, according to disclosure forms.
Self-sufficiency, politics style...

Incompetency Test

Obama gets a failing grade:
Obama was elected in 2008 on a stated promise that he would restore competence to government. He pitched himself as the antidote to "Heck of a job, Brownie" and the Bush years, the person who would always put the most qualified candidate in every job in his Administration. That the basic functioning of government would never be in question.

Almost six years on from that election, however, Obama is faltering badly on the competence question and, in so doing, badly imperiling not only his ability to enact any sort of second term agenda but also Democrats' chances this fall. A series of events -- from the VA scandal to the ongoing border crisis to the situation in Ukraine to the NSA spying program -- have badly undermined the idea that Obama can effectively manage the government.
One could argue that the bar wasn't set very high to begin with...

No Labels No More

The curious fate of No Labels:
Like many other outside political groups, No Labels spends a disproportionate part of its budget maintaining and promoting its own organization, trying to keep its profile high while ensuring a steady flow of fundraising dollars, whose donors they keep secret, in a cluttered nonprofit environment. As part of its efforts to gain legitimacy and grow its membership, No Labels has also occasionally waded into congressional contests in ways that have raised suspicions among Democrats about the group’s own commitment to bipartisanship.

And though No Labels has positioned itself as a warrior against gridlock, an internal document obtained by Yahoo News suggests the group is banking on more political dysfunction in an attempt to find “opportunity” and relevance for itself.
In other words, No Labels now has labels...

The Big Scare

Sorry, Democrats-no impeachment for you:
"We have no plans to impeach the president; we have no future plans," House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told a news conference on Tuesday. "This whole talk about impeachment has come in from the president's own staff and coming from Democrats on Capitol Hill. Why? Because they're trying to rally their people to give money and to show up in this year's election. "Listen, it's all a scam started by Democrats at the White House."
Just for the record:

You're Not Fired

They want to keep their phony-baloney jobs:
In a statement on Monday, the Senior Executives Association said it “continues to take exception to the belief that large numbers of senior executives are problem employees who are not held accountable.”

The planned legislation would allow the VA to fire or demote senior executives for “poor performance and misconduct,” according to a summary from Miller’s office. Employees would have one week to appeal the decisions, and the Merit Systems Protection Board would have to issue a ruling within three weeks.

Questions remain about whether the MSPB, which ensures fair treatment for federal workers, can handle a likely increase in appeals. The tiny agency is still digging itself out from thousands of furlough appeals that came after spending cuts last year forced many government employees to stay home without pay for several days.

“There’s no way the MSPB can process these cases within 21 days — it’s not physically possible,” said Kristin Alden, a D.C.-based attorney who specializes in federal-employment law and litigation. She added that the agency aims to issue rulings within 120 days under its own regulations.
Being unaccountable by design is no policy...

Monday, July 28, 2014

Sanctioned Sales

Sanctions? What sanctions?
U.S. Census Bureau foreign trade data show that exports rose 17 percent from March through May _ the most recent months for which the data is available _ compared with the previous three months, before sanctions were imposed. The value of exports has risen in each consecutive month this year, an unusual trend in a trade relationship that historically fluctuates on a monthly basis.

Russian markets account for less than 1 percent of U.S. exports, but what the U.S. sells to Russia is largely high-tech and expensive goods, including technology and equipment for the energy sector, which faces the threat of targeted sanctions.

Robert Kahn, a senior fellow in international economics at the Council on Foreign Relations, said the rise in exports was evidence that Russian companies were stockpiling goods with the expectation that future sanctions would prevent U.S. companies from selling to their country.
Not that they would seem to matter much...

Cat Food

Your cat, their cuisine?
Despite an official ban on eating cats, restaurants in the Southeast Asian nation still offer the forbidden meat on their menus, reports Agence France-Presse. In fact, the consumption of felines appears to be rising, prompting cat owners to fear for their pets’ safety.

“Eating cat meat is better than eating dog as the meat is more sweet, more tender than a dog,” said chef Le Ngoc Thien.
Of course, this is not unique to Vietnam, or even Asia:
This recipe for "Roast Cat as It Should Be Prepared" is from Ruperto de Nola, Libro de Cozina, 1529: Take a cat that should be plump: and cut its throat, and once it is dead cut off its head, and throw it away for this is not to be eaten; for it is said that he who eats the brains will lose his own sense and judgement. Then skin it very cleanly, and open it and clean it well; and then wrap it in a clean linen cloth and bury it in the earth where it should remain for a day and a night; then take it out and put it on a spit; and roast it over the fire, and when beginning to roast, baste it with good garlic and oil, and when you are finished basting it, beat it well with a green branch; and this should be done until it is well roasted, basting and beating; and when it is roasted carve it as if it were rabbit or kid and put it on a large plate; and take the garlic with oil mixed with good broth so that it is coarse, and pour it over the cat and you can eat it for it is a good dish.

In England in the Middle Ages, it was considered lucky to roast a cat alive on a spit before a slow fire prior to eating the first meal in a new house. Whether the cat formed part of the meal was uncertain as cat-torture was rife at the time. However, the cat was also used in medicine. An old recipe "for hym that haves the squyhansy [quinsy" begins "tak a fatte katte, flae hot wele and clene." The cat is then stuffed with hedgehog fat, resin, fenugreek, wax and other ingredients before being roast. After roasting, it's not the flesh that is consumed, but the grease that is used to anoint the patient. While not eating a cat, it certainly demonstrates a willingness to roast one.

During Britain's Industrial Revolution (late 18th to early 19th century), the Livestock Journal and Fancier's Gazette published and article called "Eating Cats in West Bromwich" (a West Midlands town close to Birmingham). Cat has also been eaten in Britain. During wartime rationing, cats found their way into "rabbit" stews/pies and hence earned themselves the nickname "roof-rabbit".
So, historically speaking, cultural attitudes and tastes literally change with time, and need...

The War On Other Women

The women against feminism that has gone off the rails:
For the most part, Women Against Feminism are quite willing to acknowledge and credit feminism’s past battles for women’s rights in the West, as well as the severe oppression women still suffer in many parts of the world. But they also say that modern Western feminism has become a divisive and sometimes hateful force, a movement that dramatically exaggerates female woes while ignoring men’s problems, stifles dissenting views, and dwells obsessively on men’s misbehavior and women’s personal wrongs. These are trends about which feminists have voiced alarm in the past — including the movement’s founding mother Betty Friedan, who tried in the 1970s to steer feminism from the path of what she called “sex/class warfare.” Friedan would have been aghast had she known that, 50 years after she began her battle, feminist energies were being spent on bashing men who commit the heinous crime of taking too much space on the subway.
Feminists in the USA do have the unique luxury of having the freedom to claim that women are oppressed when, for the most part, they're not...

Environmental Patrol

Don't disturb the crossings:
GOP lawmakers argue federal regulations intended to protect land and wildlife have become an obstacle for Customs and Borders Protection officers because they restrict their ability to drive near the border, build infrastructure or install surveillance technology.

“There is no doubt that the restrictions on accessing land along the border have made it more difficult for the Border Patrol to do their job,” said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who traveled to McAllen County, Texas, earlier this month to meet with officials about the surge of child migrants into the United States.

Smugglers know where agents cannot patrol or monitor, Cruz said, so they target those areas when moving people across the border.

“It seems a commonsense reform to say that the border patrol should be able to fully access and patrol the border,” he said.
Everyone else seems to be able to...

Drive Time

Destroying a hard drive:

Does Whatever A Felon Can

Spiderman gets busted:

The Right To Remain Stifled

Is surveillance intimidating those who defend us?
Journalists and lawyers face challenges—both to their ability to disseminate information and to hold the U.S. government accountable—said the report by Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union. The groups said the government's "massively powerful surveillance apparatus" limits and jeopardizes the privacy required by both groups.

"Journalists and their sources, as well as lawyers and their clients, are changing their behavior in ways that undermine basic rights and corrode democratic processes," it said.

The report is based on 92 interviews, including 46 with journalists, 42 with attorneys and five with current or former senior government officials.
There are creeps in both professions, but there are also good people who are trying to do their jobs. Are they being prevented from doing so?

Voter's Remorse

Well, it's too late now:
Americans are so down on President Obama at the moment that, if they could do the 2012 election all over again, they'd overwhelmingly back the former Massachusetts governor's bid. That's just one finding in a brutal CNN poll, released Sunday, which shows Romney topping Obama in a re-election rematch by a whopping nine-point margin, 53 percent to 44 percent. That's an even larger spread than CNN found in November, when a survey had Romney winning a redo 49 percent to 45 percent.
Of course, some people have been feeling this way since 2008...

Hashtag Evil

The devil's phone?
Parish priest Father Marian Rajchel from Jaroslaw, a town in south-eastern Poland, said he started getting the texts after carrying out an exorcism on a teenage girl.

But he said that the attempt to drive out the devil from the girl's soul clearly failed, and that it was now using the teenager to attack him by using mobile phone messages.

He told local media: "The author of these texts is an evil spirit who has possessed her soul."

He said that the devil and his followers were not shy about using modern technology but that in many cases their actions were not identified as being the work of evil.

He said: "Often the owners of mobile phones are not even aware that they are been used like this, however in this case it is clear."
Phone services are already evil; they don't need any help...

Bench Press

A man tries to sue the judge who was having an affair with his wife:
On Monday, the Sixth Circuit correctly (if you mean “applying the law as it currently exists,” and “incorrectly” if you mean “adopting the better policy”) held that Judge McCree is immune from a civil suit brought by a man McCree slapped with a tether and high child support payments. The man’s complaint is that while Judge McCree was coming down hard on him, Judge McCree was also coming down hard on the child’s mother — specifically sexting her from the bench and carrying on an affair that ultimately ended in an abortion. The man and his lawyer are seeking an appeal to the Supreme Court.
There went the judge...

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Better Man

Hillary Clinton offers praise for...George W. Bush?
George W. Bush is very popular in Sub-Saharan Africa. Why? Because of the president's emergency program for AIDS relief. Whether you agree or disagree with a lot of what else he did — and I disagree with a lot of it — I am proud to be an American when I go to Sub-Saharan Africa and people say, ‘I want to thank President Bush and the United States for helping us fight HIV/AIDS.’
Isn't it about time somebody did?

Blogging In The Years: 1934

Gertrude Stein opines:
"I say that Hitler ought to have the peace prize," she says, "because he is removing all elements of contest and struggle from Germany. By driving out the Jews and the democratic and Left elements, he is driving out everything that conduces to activity. That means peace."

Her speech is already natural and marked by a strong feeling for the values and the niceties of words. It is the Gertrude Stein of the Toklas biography who is talking. You cannot find the faintest trace of "Tender Buttons." That is her experimental, her provocative side, and it does not appear in her everyday life.
With her it's hard to tell if she's being ironic or not...

Don't Eat The Rich

Look for the party label:
Republicans should be the party of the rich. But that also includes those who also aspire and work to become rich. The wealthy and successful build the structure for others to participate and follow the ladder upward. The government, by contrast, collects the earned rewards of others and redistributes them while building no structure for others to climb. That’s the message which voters need to be made to understand.
Success is not evil; the hypocrisy against it is.

The New Punk Rockers

Conservatives are the new rebels:
We conservatives want to tear it all down. We conservatives want to smash it up. Liberalism, I want to destroy you. We're where the action is, where the excitement is, where you can hear new music from bands you mainstream liberals have probably never heard of.

Liberals want to see themselves as punks. They aren't. They are sad conformists who frankly deserve the consequences of their inaction.
They wanna be sedated...

Enrollment Ironies

The reality of Obamacare becomes apparent:
Nationally, regulators and insurance agents are inundated with complaints, while lawmakers are considering rules to ensure consumers' access to doctors. For plans being submitted for sale next year, the federal Department of Health and Human Services said it will more closely scrutinize whether networks are adequate.

Insurers say they are simply trying to provide low-cost plans in a challenging environment. The new federal health law doesn't let them reject enrollees with health problems or charge them more just because they are sick. So they are using the few tools left to them — contracting with smaller groups of hospitals and doctors willing to accept lower reimbursements; requiring referrals for specialty care; and limiting coverage outside those networks.

"Obamacare products have lower prices than they would have if they had had (larger) commercial networks," said Robert Laszewski, an industry consultant and former insurance executive. "They're one-size-fits-all networks designed for low-income people accessing insurance for the first time."
Just a reminder for those who were expecting different:

Worker's Payday

Right to work makes workers more money:
Michigan’s per-capita personal income increased from $38,291 in 2012 (before right-to-work became law) to $39,215 in 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis. That increase was the ninth highest in the country. (snip)

“The dire predictions of right-to-work detractors have not come true — Michigan has been a leader in income growth since passage,” said James Hohman, assistant director of fiscal policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

A study released this week by Richard Vedder, a distinguished professor of economics at Ohio University and an adjunct scholar with the American Enterprise Institute as well as with the Mackinac Center, found that “incomes rise following the passage of RTW laws, even after adjusting for substantial population growth that those laws also induce. RTW states tend to be vibrant and growing; non-RTW states tend to be stagnant and aging.”
Kind of like the union leadership there...

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Half-Baked Sale

Schools are rebelling against government-regulated bake sales:
The pushback is not about students' taste buds, but their wallets. Food fundraisers are a crucial source of revenue for schools, state education officials say. "Tough economic times have translated into fewer resources and these fundraisers allow our schools to raise a considerable amount of money for very worthwhile education programs," the Georgia Department of Education wrote in a recent press release. "While we are concerned about the obesity epidemic, limiting food-and-beverage fundraisers at schools and school-related events is not the solution to solving it."
Money is more important than Michelle Obama's menu...

Retirement Run

Has President Obama already checked out?
Obama’s not dumb, and he’s clearly capable of marshalling an effective propaganda campaign when he wants to. So what explains this series of bad optics, which might be described by PR professionals as political malpractice?
The only thing that makes sense is that he is exhausted and, perhaps, has checked out of the job early.
When you don't care, it shows...