Monday, May 31, 2010

The Raid

I think it's safe to say that this is going to cause all manner of grief for Israel:
Israeli commandos rappelled down to an aid flotilla sailing to thwart a Gaza blockade on Monday, clashing with pro-Palestinian activists on the lead ship in a botched raid that left at least nine passengers dead.

Bloodied passengers sprawled on the deck and troops dived into the sea to save themselves during several hours of hand-to-hand fighting that injured dozens of activists and six soldiers. Hundreds of activists were towed from the international waters to Israeli detention centers and hospitals.

International condemnation was swift and harsh as Israel scrambled to explain how what was meant to be a simple takeover of a civilian vessel went so badly awry.
Obama wants "answers." The usual suspects condemn. Others sound more ominous. Meanwhile, Netanyahu scrambles in defense. Whatever really happened, he needs to get out in front of this and be as forthright as possible, because the proverbial sh*tstorm is coming.

For the record, here's IDF video, via Hot Air:


Well looky here.

The Googler's Court

A woman sues Google for literally telling her to go jump off a cliff:
She used Google Maps on her Blackberry to get walking directions from one part of town to another. Part of those direction included walking on a road without sidewalks called Deer Valley Drive, aka Utah State Route 224.

According to court documents, instead of finding a different route or walking safely away from traffic, she walked into the street and was (surprise!) struck by a car. Now she's suing Google for in excess of $100,000.

Defendant Google, through its "Google Maps" service provided Plaintiff Lauren Rosenberg with walking directions that led her out onto Deer valley Drive, a.k.a. State Route 224, a rural highway with no sidewalks, and a roadway that exhibits motor vehicles traveling at high speeds, that is not reasonably safe for pedestrians.

The Defendant Google expects uses of the walking map site to rely on the accuracy of the walking directions given…

As a direct and proximate cause of Defendant Google's careless, reckless, and negligent providing of unsafe directions, Plaintiff Laren Rosenberg was led onto a dangerous highway, and was thereby stricken by a motor vehicle.
I'll be when somebody told her to "Go play in traffic," she'd do it-and sue them, too.

Ridin' The Storm Out

I think it might have been an omen:

President Barack Obama's Memorial Day observance was stopped in its tracks on Monday by a torrential downpour accompanied by bolts of lightning and booming thunder.

Obama thrilled the crowd at Abraham Lincoln National Ceremony by appearing under an umbrella as the rain poured down. But he did not deliver his prepared remarks honoring troops who died fighting for the United States.

Instead he urged the crowd to seek shelter.

"We don't want to endanger anyone, particularly the children, in the audience. A little bit of rain doesn't hurt anybody, but we don't want anybody struck by lightning," he said from the podium, the storm so loud his words could barely be heard through the amplifiers.
Maybe God is a Tea Partier?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

License And Regulation, Please

Oh, this'll work:
A Michigan lawmaker wants to license reporters to ensure they’re credible and vet them for “good moral character.”

Senator Bruce Patterson is introducing legislation that will regulate reporters much like the state does with hairdressers, auto mechanics and plumbers. Patterson, who also practices constitutional law, says that the general public is being overwhelmed by an increasing number of media outlets--traditional, online and citizen generated--and an even greater amount misinformation.

“Legitimate media sources are critically important to our government,” he said.

He told that some reporters covering state politics don’t know what they’re talking about and they’re working for publications he’s never heard of, so he wants to install a process that’ll help him and the general public figure out which reporters to trust.

“We have to be able to get good information,” he said. “We have to be able to rely on the source and to understand the credentials of the source.”

Critics say the proposed law will stem press freedoms and is bound to be politicized with disgruntles politicians going after reporters who don’t paint them in a positive light. They say that adding members of the so-called fourth estate to the list of government regulated occupations would likely be found unconstitutional.

“It’s misguided and it’s never going to fly,” said Kelly McBride, media ethics expert, the Poynter Institute. She is currently involved in a project examining the transformation of the journalism profession.

The bill was introduced on May 11 and has been referred to the state legislature’s Committee on Economic Development and Regulatory Reform.

“It’s a single sponsor bill. I think that says it all” said Mike MacLaren, executive director of the Michigan Press Association.

“I’ve not talked to the senator about this but whenever you see a single sponsor it’s usually indicative of what others think of it, which is not much."
It also sounds like a politician who maybe doesn't like the idea that he might be criticized by those uncouth bloggers.

Devil Inside

When life imitates schlock art:
A U.S. cage fighter ripped out the heart of his training partner while he was still alive after becoming convinced he was possessed by the devil, it was alleged today.

Jarrod Wyatt also cut out Taylor Powell's tongue and ripped off most of his face in a brutal assault that police said looked like a scene from a horror film, officers said.

They claim they found the 26-year-old standing naked over his friend's body with parts, including an eyeball, strewn around the blood splattered room in Klamath, California.

Wyatt allegedly told police he had drunk a cup of tea spiked with hallucinogenic mushrooms and became convinced Powell was possessed.

A lawyer representing Wyatt has claimed the wild mushrooms caused him to act in such a violent way and had not control over his actions.

‘My client was trying to silence the devil,’ said James Fallman.

‘I think he was having a psychotic fit based on the mushrooms he had.’
More on the properties of such mushrooms here. Needless to say, I don't think there was anything "Magic" about them in this case.

Back Off, Man

In Arkansas, it's Bill Clinton versus...labor unions?
Former President Bill Clinton returned to his home state Friday to help a beleaguered ally and delivered a broadside against some of the most powerful interests in the Democratic Party.

Using unusually vivid language to describe the threat against Sen. Blanche Lincoln, Clinton urged the voters who nurtured his career to resist outside forces bent on making an example out of the two-term Democratic incumbent.

He pounded the podium with Lincoln at his side, warning that national liberal and labor groups wanted to make her a “poster child” in the June 8 Senate run-off to send a message about what happens to Democrats who don’t toe the party line.

“This is about using you and manipulating your votes to terrify members of Congress and members of the Senate,” Clinton said in the gym of a small historically black college here.

It’s a clash that pits the ascendant forces of the progressive left against a centrist Southern Democrat cut from Clinton’s own Democratic Leadership Council mold, a proxy fight that the former president and longtime Arkansas governor sought to underscore by noting that Lincoln’s “opponent is not her opponent.”

The tension between the two competing models surfaced early Friday, even before Clinton took to the stage, when the AFL-CIO lobbed a pre-emptive strike.

"Bill Clinton and Blanche Lincoln took us in the wrong direction when they supported NAFTA," said spokesman Eddie Vale in an email to reporters. "They sent thousands of Arkansas jobs to Mexico and Canada, and yet they’re still bragging about their support of the job-killing deal. When it comes to protecting and creating jobs in Arkansas, they just don’t get it."
Actually, it sounds like Bill, to his credit, does get it-at least in the sense that it's not his party anymore. But then again, maybe it never was...

Welcome To Chicago

The press meets Farrakhan's posse:
At 7:20 local time the pool was holding at Woodlawn and 49th, next to a large sandstone mansion that the Chicago reporters say is the home of one Louis Farrakhan. Our Secret Service agent allowed us off the bus (Air!) and as a dozen of us congregated on the sidewalk, inevitably some shoes touched grass. Immediately a polite man in jeans and Tshirt emerged to ask us to stay off the grass. Though this grass was the curbside city property, we obliged.

Soon, however, he was pacing and talking on a cell phone. He went inside the mansion's black wrought iron fence, crossed the well-landscaped yard, lifted a water bucket behind rose bushes and, voila!, a walkie-talkie. He was heard to refer to "the CIA" once he began speaking into it.

Soon he approached our agent, asking him to move the van and its occupants, though your pooler could not hear much else he said. But the agent said, "How is this a security breach?" And he asked if the house was a government property.

The man said something else and at that point the agent stuck out his hand to shake hands and introduced himself as a Secret Service agent. He added, "Sir, I can assure you that we will do nothing to interfere with whatever is going on in there."

The man is back to pacing and talking on his cell, walkie-talkie in hand....

Reinforcements arrived--three men in Tshirts reading "Wide or Die!" One surly man has been staring daggers at us. Asked if this is Minister Farrakhan's house, he just stared at your pooler. Asked again, he said, "I don't have no comment."

You should have the WH statement on top kill's failure. At nearly 8 pm local time we are still holding while POTUS and family remain at the Nesbitts.
If there's one thing Chicago doesn't lack, it's readily available goon squads.

Little Creatures

Ronald Bailey says we shouldn't worry too much about our artificial creations getting out of hand:
Before getting too worked up over the potential dangers of escaped synthetic microbes, keep in mind that humans have been moving thousands of exotic microbial species across continents and oceans for centuries. Surely, some have had deleterious effects, but the world has not come to an end.

In any case, many lab-crafted creatures would likely be obliterated by competing organisms honed by billions of years of evolution in the wild. In the future, synthetic organisms could be equipped with suicide genes where their survival is dependent on some chemical that is only available in the lab. For example, if synthetic microbes are created to treat some kind of pollution, they would be supplied with the chemical onsite and once their work was done, they would be starved of it. In addition, future synthetic lifeforms should be “watermarked” like Venter’s new microbe so that their creators can be held accountable for them.
So, Frankenstein will be more or less under control. Of course, that's assuming responsible parties are creating him.

The Great Greenhouse Hunt

Prehistoric hunters may have caused early climate change:
When hunters arrived in North America and drove mammoths and other large mammals to extinction, the methane balance of the atmosphere could have changed as a result, triggering the global cool spell that followed. The large grazing animals would have produced copious amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from their digestive systems. They vanished about 13,000 years ago.

Felisa Smith at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque has calculated that when these animals were around they would have emitted 9.6 megatonnes of methane annually. Ice core records show atmospheric methane levels plunged from about 700 parts per billion to just 500 ppb at the time of their extinction. Disappearance of methane emissions from the extinct species is a possible cause, Smith says (Nature Geoscience, DOI: 10.1038/ngeo877).

"It is conceivable that this drop in methane contributed to the Younger Dryas cooling episode," says Smith.
Maybe those early humans were smarter than we thought...

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Spring Cleaning

We are apparently all seditionists now:
Americans are increasingly optimistic about the economy, but that brightening outlook hasn't softened their outrage over the country's direction and its political leadership, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds.

Two-thirds of those surveyed this week describe themselves as "angry" about the way things are going in the USA, the highest percentage in the decade the question has been asked. By nearly 2-1, they would rather vote for a candidate who has never served in Congress over one with experience.

"We're just going to have to clean house and get people in who really care about the country," says Stephen Besz, 63, of Hokendauqua, Penn., who was among those called in the poll. He worries about the future for his son, an electrical engineer who has been looking for a job for 18 months.
Sounds like it's definitely incumbent-hunting season.

Gangsta Bill

Bill Maher displays how enlightened he is:

So, when does he get the Don Imus treatment?

Thug Love

Oliver Stone, propagandist for hire:
American filmmaker Oliver Stone said Friday he deeply admires Hugo Chavez but suggested the Venezuelan president might consider talking a bit less on television.

Promoting his new documentary "South of the Border" in Caracas, Stone heaped praise on Chavez, saying he is leading a movement for "social transformation" in Latin American. The film features informal interviews by Stone with Chavez and six allied leftist presidents, from Bolivia's Evo Morales to Cuba's Raul Castro.

"I admire Hugo. I like him very much as a person. I can say one thing. ... He shouldn't be on television all the time," Stone said at a news conference. "As a director I say you don't want to be overpowering. And I think he is sometimes that way."

Chavez makes near-daily speeches that run for hours, often reminiscing, lecturing about history, announcing news and breaking into song. His Sunday program can last six hours or more.

"He's a soldier and he speaks from his heart," Stone said. "His vision is huge. ... And he will go down in history."
Well, most dictators do have a way of doing that...

The Cost To Be The Boss

James Taranto responds to Obama's job description:
He has been depicted as a proponent of “activist government,” but this may be a bum rap. Now he tells us he thinks that if he somehow gets people to think about him and how much he’s thinking about what he thinks they think he should be thinking about, his job is done.

Which raises only two questions: First, if the requirements of his job are so modest, why is he still having trouble meeting them? Second, couldn’t all this cogitation be done at a cost of less than $3.5 trillion a year?
I guess all that brainpower is expensive...

"You Don't Talk To The Colonel"

Dennis Hopper, dead at 74:
Dennis Hopper, the Easy Rider director best remembered for playing whacked-out characters during an acting career that spanned six decades, died after a long bout with prostate cancer. He was 74.

Hopper died Saturday morning, the office of his agent, Liz Dalling, told No immediate details were released.

Critics and fans often said no one did crazy roles better than Hopper. For a long time, those roles reflected how he was living.
Now he's gone, but hardly forgotten.

Hopper in Easy Rider:

Friday, May 28, 2010

Wanted: Temps For Photo Op

Who says the Obama administration can't create jobs?
Perhaps you saw news footage of President Obama in Grand Isle, La., on Friday and thought things didn't look all that bad. Well, there may have been a reason for that: The town was evidently swarmed by an army of temp workers to spruce it up for the president and the national news crews following him.

Jefferson Parish Councilman Chris Roberts, whose district encompasses Grand Isle, told Yahoo! News that BP bused in "hundreds" of temporary workers to clean up local beaches. And as soon as the president was en route back to Washington, the workers were clearing out of Grand Isle too, Roberts said.

"The level of cleanup and cooperation we've gotten from BP in the past is in no way consistent to the effort shown on the island today," Roberts said by telephone. "As soon as the president left, they were immediately put back on the buses and sent home."
Well, in all fairness they were probably needed elsewhere-like back in Washington for more damage control...

Maximum Sweep

Scientists confirm what most of us have long known:
Gay people really do have an inbuilt radar that helps them seek out like-minded souls, scientists have shown.

This sixth sense, or 'gaydar', ensures they pay more attention to detail, allowing them to pluck potential partners out of a crowd.

The Dutch researchers looked at whether straight and gay people focus their attention differently when faced with a problem.

A total of 42 men and women were shown pictures of outlines of large squares and rectangles, each of which was packed with smaller shapes.

Our brains are wired to take in the bigger picture, meaning that if we are shown a square filled with rectangles and asked what is inside, we can easily be fooled into saying 'squares'.

When the men and women were asked similar questions, the heterosexuals replied more quickly but were less accurate, the journal Frontiers in Cognition reports.

The homosexuals took longer but got more answers right, particularly when asked about the smaller shapes, suggesting they were able to see the small details as well as the bigger picture.

Researcher Dr Lorenza Colzato, of Leiden University in the Netherlands, said: 'This is the first time that scientific proof has been found for the existence of a gaydar mechanism amongst homosexuals.

‘This perceptual skill allows homosexuals to recognise other gay people faster and we think it's because they are much more analytic than heterosexuals.'
Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course:

Going Nowhere Fast

It's time for tilting at windmills again:
House Republican leaders introduced a bill Thursday to repeal and replace the sweeping healthcare law adopted in late March.

According to Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), the measure would repeal the current law and replace it with the alternative the minority party offered to the original healthcare legislation last November.

“As unpopular as this healthcare bill is today, it’s at the height of its popularity,” Blunt said. “The more the American people know about it, the more concerns they are going to have, and the more they are going to look at alternatives.”

Chances are slim Republicans could get their measure to the floor, given the Democratic majorities in the chamber, but it could make a useful campaign tool for the party.
Well, one party's election-year stunt is another's campaign weapon...

Wanted: A Few Good Lunatics

It's tough finding good fanatics these days:
Al-Qa'ida is struggling to launch frequent suicide attacks in Iraq for the first time because of a shortage of foreign volunteers travelling to the country to carry them out.

Interrogation of prisoners and intercepted messages revealed that local al-Qa'ida commanders are complaining about the lack of foreigners to carry out suicide missions as they had done to devastating effect in the past, Iraq's Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, said in an interview with The Independent.

"The shortage of suicide bombers is because Islamic fundamentalists are more interested in Afghanistan and Pakistan these days, the Americans are withdrawing from Iraq and al-Qa'ida's networks have been disrupted by ourselves and the Americans," said Mr Zebari, whose own foreign ministry building was badly damaged by a vehicle bomb last August that killed 42 staff members and injured many more. "I expect al-Qa'ida will pool its remaining resources and make another spectacular attack in Baghdad very soon."

Mr Zebari said he believes that al-Qa'ida is finding it much more difficult to find safe havens in parts of Iraq dominated by the Sunni Arab community which turned out to vote en masse in the general election in March.
I'm sure they're complaining about how it's no longer like it was in the good old days when they could find useful idiots at random...

Blame It On Bubba

It was apparently "Big Dog" himself who made an offer that Joe Sestak could refuse:
Senior White House advisers asked former President Bill Clinton to talk to Joe Sestak about whether he was serious about running for Senate, and to feel out whether he’d be open to other alternatives, according to sources familiar with the situation.

But the White House maintains that the Clinton-Sestak discussions were informal, according to the sources. The White House, under pressure to divulge the specifics of its interactions with Sestak, will release a formal statement later today outlining their version of events, including Clinton’s involvement.

According to the sources, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel asked Clinton and his longtime adviser, lawyer Doug Band, to talk to Sestak about the race. It’s unclear right now whether the White House will say that Clinton was asked to suggest specific administration positions for Sestak, whether Clinton floated positions on his own, whether Clinton discussed other options not related to the adminstration [sic], or whether employment even came up at all in the talks.
So, was this all much ado about nothing? It sure seems that Sestak is now backpedaling as fast as possible. Regardless of how this pans out, it seems to be another example of the gang that couldn't keep its story straight.

Rich Man, Poorhouse

She still wants to take things from you for the common good:
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she believes the wealthy aren’t being taxed enough and that the economy is suffering for it. Speaking at a national security discussion, Clinton argued the rich aren’t paying their fair share, but it seems data beg to differ… at least in the U.S.

"The rich are not paying their fair share in any nation that is facing the kind of employment issues whether it's individual, corporate, whatever the taxation forms are," said Clinton at the Brookings Institution.
Of course, the truth is somehwat different:
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the top 1% of all taxpayers paid 40% of all federal income taxes. This group earned only about 23% of gross income in the country, however.

The CBO also reports that the top 20% of households paid 86% of all individual income revenue collected by the federal government.

In addition to the CBO numbers, the Tax Policy Center estimates that 45% of Americans pay no net federal income tax at all, as they receive back more in tax credits and deductions than they actually pay into the system.

All this leaves a very small portion of the population in the U.S. paying taxes for everyone else.
I guess it all depends on whether she, like her boss, thinks they're making too much money or not...


In the Czech Republic, they're still around:
In an election that is unlikely to yield a majority for either the leftist Social Democrats or the rightist Civic Democrats, analysts say the Communist Party could come closer to real power than at any other time since the Velvet Revolution here overthrew Communism in 1989.

“We hate the Communists,” said Marek Prchal, 35, an advertising executive who helped create the video. “The Communists should have been banned a long time ago.”

Analysts say the Communist Party is benefiting from a regionwide disappointment over the failure of liberal parties to live up to the promises of 1989.

“The theme across the region is the politics of disillusionment,” said Anna Matuskova, a political consultant here. “In the Czech Republic, there is a new generation of young people with iPhones who don’t remember Communism and will vote for them as a protest vote.”
In America, you vote for the party. In former Communist regimes, Party votes for you.

Legal Home Invasion

When is your home not a castle? When the census workers come calling.
Census workers — from the head of the Bureau and the Secretary of Commerce (its parent agency) down to the lowliest and newest Census employee — are empowered under federal law to actually demand access to any apartment or any other type of home or room that is rented out, in order to count persons in the abode and for “the collection of statistics.” If the landlord of such apartment or other leased premises refuses to grant the government worker access to your living quarters, whether you are present or not, the landlord can be fined $500.00.

That’s right — not only can citizens be fined if they fail to answer the increasingly intrusive questions asked of them by the federal government under the guise of simply counting the number of people in the country; but a landlord must give them access to your apartment whether you’re there or not, in order to gather whatever “statistics” the law permits.

In fact, some census workers apparently are going even further and demanding — and receiving — private cell phone numbers from landlords in order to call tenants and obtain information from them.
Considering that we have a government which treats privacy as a privelage rather than a right, this shouldn't be too surprising. But it does sound all too familiar in this day and age.

What You Talkin' 'Bout, Willis?

Another childhood memory, gone:
Gary Coleman, who soared to fame in the late 1970s as the child star of the hit sitcom "Diff'rent Strokes" and whose post-TV-series life included a stint as a shopping mall security guard and an unlikely run for California governor, died Friday. He was 42.

The diminutive Coleman, whose adult height was 4 feet 8 inches, died at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in Provo after suffering an intracranial hemorrhage earlier this week, according to a statement from hospital spokeswoman Janet Frank.

A resident of Santaquin, Utah, Coleman had been hospitalized Wednesday and lost consciousness the next day. He was taken off life support Friday afternoon with his family at his side, the hospital said.
His run for Governor was largel a publicity stunt, and he became more known for his tabloid troubles than any acting career he had after his hit show, but he'll be missed. R.I.P., Arnold.

Life Doesn't Begin At Egg Time

Regardless of how you might feel about the issue, this is probably right:
South Korea's Constitutional Court has ruled that human embryos left over from fertility treatment are not life forms and can be used for research or destroyed, a court spokesman said Friday.

In its ruling Thursday the court upheld an existing law allowing the use of leftover embryos for research. The law also allows fertility clinics to dispose of frozen embryos five years after fertilisation treatment is completed.

"The ruling means that human embryos that are in their early stage and are not implanted into a mother's womb cannot be seen as human life forms," the spokesman, Noh Hui-Beom, told AFP.

The ruling came after a group of 13 people including pro-life activists filed a petition with the court against the current bioethics law, which allows the use of leftover embryos for research.
In other words, they're not "Potential humans". At any rate, there doesn't seem to be much that can be done with unwanted embryos in the first place. So why not use them to do some good?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Atomic Rock

Just in time for the possibility of a second Korean War: songs inspired by the Bomb.

Iceland, The Sequel

Not again:
A second, much larger volcano in Iceland is showing signs that it may be about to erupt, scientists have warned.

Since the start of the Eyjafjallajökull eruption, which caused cancellations of thousands of flights in Europe because of a giant ash cloud, there has been much speculation about neighboring Katla.

An initial research paper by the University College of London Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction said: "Analysis of the seismic energy released around Katla over the last decade or so is interpreted as providing evidence of a rising ... intrusive magma body on the western flank of the volcano."
Maybe it's time to consider more airships.

Revolution Road

Come for the scenery, stay for the propaganda!
Tourism officials in Argentina, Cuba and Bolivia are collaborating on a historic route that will allow Guevara buffs to retrace the footsteps of the Argentine medical student turned revolutionary in Cuba who was killed in a failed mission to foment an uprising in Bolivia.

Bolivia's vice minister of tourism, Marco Antonio Peredo, said that the international "Caminos del Che" trail will include sites where Guevara was born, fought and died.

Officials say they are being sensitive to Guevara's legacy, long ago co-opted by T-shirt vendors the world over.

"We aren't looking to commodify him – he's not a product that's for sale," said Diego Conca, who coordinates Argentina's portion of the Che trail, inaugurated last year. "His journey transformed him, and we think that following this route can also be transformative for tourists."
And I'm sure the aforementioned t-shirts will be available for half price. Viva La Tourist Trap!

Who Wants To Tax A Millionaire?

New York, of course:
New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is reportedly pitching a plan for an increased "millionaire's tax" aimed at 75-85 thousand New Yorkers making $1 million or more a year.

Political columnist Fred Dicker , who appeared on Wednesday's Good Day New York, says Silver secretly proposed a $1 billion tax hike on the highest income earners to Gov. Paterson.

The plan would jack up a current millionaires tax another 11-percent. The current "millionaire's tax" actually starts affecting people who have incomes over $200,000. High income tax earners would pay more than 13-percent of their salary in local taxes.

The highest one percent of income earners account for about 36 percent of all state taxes.

The state is trying to close a $9.2 billion deficit.
Hmm, maybe if they didn't spend like millionaires themselves in the first place...

Questions And Non-Answers

Fun with press conferences: Obama responds to a question about Joe Sestak, sort of:

Coins Of The Realm

The Harvard Business School discovers that government spending doesn't help private investment after all:
Recent research at Harvard Business School began with the premise that as a state’s congressional delegation grew in stature and power in Washington, D.C., local businesses would benefit from the increased federal spending sure to come their way.

It turned out quite the opposite. In fact, professors Lauren Cohen, Joshua Coval, and Christopher Malloy discovered to their surprise that companies experienced lower sales and retrenched by cutting payroll, R&D, and other expenses. Indeed, in the years that followed a congressman’s ascendancy to the chairmanship of a powerful committee, the average firm in his state cut back capital expenditures by roughly 15 percent, according to their working paper, “Do Powerful Politicians Cause Corporate Downsizing?”

“It was an enormous surprise, at least to us, to learn that the average firm in the chairman’s state did not benefit at all from the unanticipated increase in spending,” Coval reports.
Private businesses have competition as an incentive for improving efficiency and spending more wisely. Government has no such influence, therefore they move much slower when it comes to capitol. In other words, when companies spend money, the effect can be long-lasting and beneficial. When government spends money, the effect is temporary at best-and tends to benefit the Congresscritters who control it.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Night Of The Power Ballads

In case you missed it, Lee won. But the real highlight of Idol's finale was probably this:

Kudos to Michaels for being a trooper, and yes the dude can still rock.


I wonder if this makes them "The Seditious Seven?"
In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder today, all seven Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee "urge the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate Congressman Joe Sestak's claim that a White House official offered him a job to induce him to exit the Pennsylvania Senate primary race against Senator Arlen Specter."

The seven – Sens. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Jon Kyl or Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, John Cornyn of Texas and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma – allege that the offer would appear to violate federal criminal laws, including 18 U.S.C. 600, which prohibits promising a government position “as consideration, favor, or reward for any political activity” or “in connection with any primary election or political convention or caucus held to select candidates for any political office.”

Rep. Sestak, D-Penn., who defeated Specter in the primary last week, told Comcast’s Larry Kane in February that the White House had offered him a position in exchange for not challenging Specter. White House senior adviser David Axelrod said on Monday that White House lawyers had looked into it and judged everything “perfectly appropriate.”

CNN’s John King suggested to Axelrod that such a job offer “marches up into the gray area, perhaps into the red area of a felony. It is a felony to induce somebody by offering them a job.”

“If such things happened they would constitute a serious breach of the law,” Axelrod told CNN, “and when the allegations were looked into there is no evidence of such a thing".
Well, not yet, anyway...

Brass Fudge

If the Pentagon ever really did need a bake sale, would it need to refer to something like this?
The Internet is buzzing with commentary on the government's lengthy, unclassified document, reported by NPR, which details exact instructions for baking brownies and oatmeal cookies for military consumption.

The recipe, or, as it's called in official parlance, the "formula," leaves nothing to chance.

Brownies, it states, must be cut to dimensions not exceeding 3-1/2 inches by 2-1/2 inches by 5/8 inch. The oatmeal cookies, served as rectangles, are similarly restricted.

Even the ingredients are strictly regulated. Walnuts, for example, must be shelled and, "shall be of the small piece size classification, shall be of a light color, and shall be U.S. No. 1 of the U.S. Standards for Shelled English Walnuts." Eggs in frozen or liquid form are permissible, but must conform to "Regulations Governing the Inspection of Eggs and Egg Products."

Jeremy Whitsitt, a Pentagon food specialist, told NPR that the recipe is intended to produce food capable of withstanding the most brutal field conditions.

"What would happen if you cooked a meal, stored it in a stifling hot warehouse, dropped it out of an airplane, dragged it through the mud, left it out with bugs and vermin, and ate it three years later?" Whitsitt asked NPR rhetorically, highlighting the bombproof nature of his brownies.

By Whitsitt's estimation, brownies baked from the lengthy government recipe could last as long as three years.
And it would take about as long to make them...

"We're About To Die Down Here!"

James Carville goes off on Obama:

Why He Matters

Because Rand Paul says stuff like this:
The Founding Fathers warned of a Federal Government bent on usurping the power, rights, and privacy of its States and citizens. In the last nine years, the Federal Government has expanded the scope of its power at an alarming rate, while blatantly ignoring the Constitution.

Whether it’s passing the 315 page Patriot Act without a single member of Congress ever reading the bill, proposing a National ID Card, establishing FISA courts and utilizing warrantless searches, or betraying the medical privacy of ordinary citizens, the Federal Government has overstepped its limited powers as stipulated in the Constitution.

Rand Paul seeks to reassert the rights and privileges of the 50 states and over 300 million Americans. The Federal Government must return to its constitutionally enumerated powers and restore our inalienable rights. Rand proposes that America can successfully protect itself against potential terrorists without sacrificing civil liberties. Rand rejects the premise that the Federal Government must be given a blank check in the name of national security.

America can prosper, preserve personal liberty, and repel national security threats without intruding into the personal lives of its citizens.
He could be our version of Nick Clegg, if he's allowed.

Last House Party

Another TV icon has passed away:
Art Linkletter, the genial host who parlayed his talent for the ad-libbed interview into two of television’s longest-running shows, “People Are Funny” and “House Party,” in the 1950s and 1960s, died on Wednesday at his home in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles. He was 97.

The death was confirmed by Art Hershey, a son-in-law.

From his early days as an announcer on local radio and a roving broadcaster at state fairs, Mr. Linkletter showed a talent for ingratiating himself with his subjects and getting them to open up, often with hilarious results.

He was particularly adept at putting small children at ease, which he did every day on a special segment of “House Party,” a reliably amusing question-and-answer session that provided the material for his best-selling book, “Kids Say the Darndest Things.”

Television critics and intellectuals found the Linkletter persona bland and his popularity unfathomable. “There is nothing greatly impressive, one way or the other, about his appearance, mannerisms, or his small talk,” one newspaper critic wrote. Another referred to his “imperishable banality.”

Millions of Americans disagreed. They responded to his wholesome, friendly manner and upbeat appeal. Women, who made up three quarters of the audience for “House Party,” which was broadcast in the afternoon, loved his easy, enthusiastic way with children.

“I know enough about a lot of things to be interesting, but I’m not interested enough in any one thing to be boring,” Mr. Linkletter told The New York Post in 1965. “I’m like everybody’s next-door neighbor, only a little bit smarter.”
He was certainly a lot smarter than his critics.

Here he is with his favorite audience:

Caught In The Act

A man busts a bad cop. The problem? He could be deported for his troubles:
Abel Moreno now has a six-month deadline to show why he shouldn’t be deported, even though police acknowledge that his 911 call was crucial to their uncovering a dirty cop, and even though they agree that he shouldn’t have been arrested.

That’s because the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office, which runs the county jail where Moreno was held, is one of 67 local law enforcement agencies in 24 states that have signed up under Section 287(g) of the federal Immigration and Nationality Act, which allows some local law enforcement agencies to enforce federal immigration laws during the course of their normal duties. While he was still in jail, Moreno was found to have been in the United States illegally for the past six years, working at a restaurant so he could send money back home to his mother and his five brothers and sisters in Acapulco.

A judge granted Moreno a six-month deferment on his deportation because he is a witness in the criminal investigation. But that reprieve runs out in November.

Moreno’s attorney, Rob Heroy, said he was confident Moreno would eventually be granted a so-called U visa, which allows illegal immigrants who are victims or witnesses in criminal investigations to stay in the country for up to four years. But only 10,000 such visas are available in any year, and while that process works its way through the system, Moreno remains in limbo.
This is where some sort of a line needs to be drawn between real criminals and people like this. Honesty and integrity aren't just for those who followed the rules.

Up In Smoke

You can smoke 'em if you've got 'em-just not too much:
A coalition of groups whose interest is supposed to be in protecting the public's health is instead primarily interested in using cigarette smokers as a source of funding for state programs and is committed to preserving the level of cigarette smoking so as not to threaten that funding.

This story reveals one of the chief problems associated with the anti-smoking groups' indiscriminate and knee-jerk support for all cigarette tax increases: the use of cigarette tax revenue to fund essential government programs makes the state dependent upon continued smoking to fund those programs, and it removes any incentive for programs that would substantially reduce smoking levels.
Well, even hypocrites need to make money...

I Am A Camera

Well, they were warned:
Lawyer Regina Quick, defending two clients from charges that they were photographed running red lights, subpoenaed five traffic cameras at the West Broad Street-Alps Road intersection to testify that her clients did indeed barge through on red.

"I didn't observe them as they came in, so I don't believe they'll be appearing," Quick said.

Jim Davis, the assistant county attorney who prosecuted the cases, said Quick should have subpoenaed county officials to produce the cameras if she needed them to make her case.

"It's not proper to serve an inanimate object, such as a camera," Davis said.

Municipal Court Judge Kay Giese found the defendants not guilty because Athens-Clarke County failed to produce any evidence that they are the registered owners of the cars caught on film illegally turning left on red, she said - not because the cameras did not come to court.
It's probably just as well. They would have probably plead the fifth.

We Are The Forgotten

Amidst the belated outrage from liberals over the oil spill, something seems to be missing: namely, celebrities:
as hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil continue to leak into and spread out across the Gulf of Mexico each day, Hollywood has seemed largely unmoved by the BP oil spill, which is creating its own long list of need: Eleven workers died in the accident that led to the leak, and scientists have so far tallied an animal fatality count of 23 birds, 156 sea turtles and 12 dolphins, numbers that are expected to rise (countless more will simply sink to the ocean floor, undiscovered). Thousands of fishermen are abruptly out of work, and it may take decades for the gulf ecosystem to recover. All in all, most experts say the damage here will eclipse that of 1989's catastrophic Exxon Valdez spill, which dumped 11 million gallons into Alaska's Prince William Sound and cost the company nearly $4 billion.

So what gives? Where are the photos of Lady Gaga in waders? Does Clooney have something against tuna?

According to Indiana University's Center on Philanthropy, donations to help have Haiti added up to $1.3 billion so far; Hurricane Katrina was an even bigger catalyst for altruism, commanding a whopping $5.3 billion. By contrast, the celebrity effort in the wake of the gulf oil spill has been a D-plus, B-list effort at best. Last week, Lenny Kravitz, Mos Def, John Legend and others took part in Gulf Aid, a fundraising concert held in New Orleans, which producer Ben Jaffe says raised $350,000 for fishing families and wetlands restoration. Louisiana native and actor Ian Somerhalder, who earned moderate fame as one of the first major characters to get the boot during season one of "Lost," filmed a few PSAs for the Audubon Institute and told the Los Angeles Times, "I never talk about politics, but right now is a time to be angry and sad."
Of course, an oil spill isn't as glamorous a photo op as a natural disaster. And it couldn't be because they'd rather join their fellow Democrats, could it?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

X-Rated Warfare

It sounds like something they'd do:
On the eve of the Iraq war, the CIA kicked around a rather odd idea: make a gay sex tape featuring a teenage boy and an ersatz Saddam Hussein.

“It would look like it was taken by a hidden camera,” one former intelligence official tells SpyTalk. “Very grainy, like it was a secret videotaping of a sex session.”

The notion was eventually nixed. But “the agency actually did make a video purporting to show Osama bin Laden and his cronies sitting around a campfire swigging bottles of liquor and savoring their conquests with boys,” a CIA officer recalled. The actors were drawn from “some of us darker-skinned employees.”
Or, maybe they ditched the idea because it was too close to the truth...

The Spy Next Door

It sounds creepy:
Author Joe McGinniss has taken up residence in a house next to Palin's lakeside home in Wasilla.

McGinniss previously wrote a critical expose on Palin and her natural gas pipeline plan for the Conde Nast publication Portfolio last year, and is planning a book about the former Alaska governor and GOP vice presidential candidate. It's tentatively titled, "Sarah Palin's Year of Living Dangerously" and could be on the shelves in the fall of 2011.

"Yes, that Joe McGinniss. Here he is about 15 feet away on the neighbor's rented deck overlooking my children's play area and my kitchen window," Palin posted on Facebook late Monday, hours after returning from a trip to the Lower 48 and learning of McGinniss' presence.

"We're sure to have a doozey to look forward to with this treasure he's penning. Wonder what kind of material he'll gather while overlooking Piper's bedroom, my little garden, and the family's swimming hole?" she wrote.

McGinniss is renting the place "for the next five months or so," Palin wrote.
I'm sure Andrew Sullivan will be waiting with baited breath for this masterpiece...

Party In The Rig

Want to know how to party on the job? Become a government inspector.
Employees of a federal agency that regulates offshore drilling—including some whose duties included inspecting offshore oil rigs—accepted sporting-event tickets, meals, and other gifts from oil and natural-gas companies and used government computers to view pornography, according to a new report by the Interior Department's inspector general.

The report—published Tuesday on the inspector general's website—describes a culture in which inspectors assigned to the Lake Charles, La., office of the Minerals Management Service have moved with "ease" between jobs in industry and government, drawing on relationships that formed "well before they took their jobs" with the agency.

Among other things, the report says that in 2005, 2006 and 2007, MMS employees attended a number of events either organized or partly funded by various offshore companies, including hunting and fishing trips and, golf tournaments. It quotes an industry official as describing how he arranged for two MMS inspectors to fly with him on a friend's plane to the 2005 Peach Bowl and to get tickets to the game.

The report also describes one MMS inspector as having admitted to using crystal methamphetamine, and says investigators found "numerous instances" of pornography and "other inappropriate material" on the email accounts of 13 MMS employees, six of whom have resigned.
Sex, drugs, and regulation. I'm sure it was fun while it lasted...


We are increasingly becoming a nation of government beneficiaries:
Paychecks from private business shrank to their smallest share of personal income in U.S. history during the first quarter of this year, a USA TODAY analysis of government data finds.

At the same time, government-provided benefits — from Social Security, unemployment insurance, food stamps and other programs — rose to a record high during the first three months of 2010.

Those records reflect a long-term trend accelerated by the recession and the federal stimulus program to counteract the downturn. The result is a major shift in the source of personal income from private wages to government programs.

The trend is not sustainable, says University of Michigan economist Donald Grimes. Reason: The federal government depends on private wages to generate income taxes to pay for its ever-more-expensive programs. Government-generated income is taxed at lower rates or not at all, he says. "This is really important," Grimes says.

Economist Veronique de Rugy of the free-market Mercatus Center at George Mason University says the riots in Greece over cutting benefits to close a huge budget deficit are a warning about unsustainable income programs.

Economist David Henderson of the conservative Hoover Institution says a shift from private wages to government benefits saps the economy of dynamism. "People are paid for being rather than for producing," he says.
When we live in an age where kids get prizes just for showing up, or a President wins a Nobel Prixe for getting elected, is that really so surprising?

Don't Regulate On Me

The Intertubes are still free, for now:
The Federal Communications Commission’s plan to impose Net neutrality regulations just became much more difficult to pull off.

A bipartisan group of politicians on Monday told FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, in no uncertain terms, to abandon his plans to impose controversial new rules on broadband providers until the U.S. Congress changes the law.

Seventy-four House Democrats sent Genachowski, an Obama appointee and fellow Democrat, a letter saying his ideas will “jeopardize jobs” and “should not be done without additional direction from Congress.”

A separate letter from 37 Senate Republicans, also sent Monday, was more pointed. It accused Genachowski of pushing “heavy-handed 19th century regulations” that are “inconceivable” as well as illegal.

This amounts to approximately the last thing that any FCC chairman, at least one concerned with his future political prospects, wants to happen on his watch. Not only do Monday’s letters inject a new element of uncertainty into whether the FCC will try to repurpose analog telephone-era rules to target broadband providers, but they also sharply increase the likelihood of the process taking not many months but many years.
Hey, whatever works...

To Proudly Serve

One step forward?
Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Tuesday gave lukewarm support to a new White House-backed plan for a vote in Congress to immediately repeal the law that bans gays from serving openly in the military.

Even though the plan would let Gates decide when to implement repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, he has said he would have preferred more time to study the issue before Congress acts.

Gates "continues to believe that ideally the DOD review should be completed before there is any legislation" changing the law, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said. Gates has previously said he didn't want to change the policy until the study is finished in December.

The House was expected to vote as early as Thursday on repeal of the 1993 law, which prohibits the military from asking service members whether they are gay, bans homosexual activity and requires that gay troops not discuss their sexual orientation.

In a compromise worked out Monday between the White House and some Democrats, the Defense Department's personnel policies wouldn't have to change until the president, defense secretary and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff agree that the military was ready.
That part might take a while. Sooner or later, however, Don't Ask, Don't Tell is likely to become history.

Big House Blues

Speaking of Chicago, at least they still have Detroit to laugh at:
Kwame Kilpatrick was sentenced to 18 months to five years in prison today by Wayne Circuit Judge David Groner, who said the former mayor engaged in "contemptible behavior" by hiding assets from the court in violation of his probation.

Groner chastised Kilpatrick before imposing the sentence, and several people in the courtroom gasped when the judge handed down his decision. Kilpatrick's sister, Ayanna, was told by sheriff's deputies to sit down.

"Probation is no longer an option. The terms of your earlier probation no longer apply. That ship has sailed," Groner said. "This is all because of the actions of you, Mr. Kilpatrick. You were convicted ... all because you lied under oath. That lie ... was part of a broader attempt to cover up your misdeeds while serving as mayor.

"You challenged this court's authority," Groner said. "You attempted to utilize semantics and exploit loopholes. The broader context of this issue is that your family living expenses -- including living in a million-dollar home, driving a brand new Escalade and purchasing elective surgery for your wife -- you have made it perfectly clear that it's more important to pacify your wife than comply with my orders."

Kilpatrick will get 120 days credit for time he served in 2008-09 in the Wayne County Jail. That means he will serve 14 months in a Michigan prison before he can apply for parole.
Now, what about the rest of Detroit's government?

Vacationer In Chief

"You guys fix that hole. Meanwhile, I'm taking this crisis off."
According to a White House official, the Obamas will arrive Thursday and stay until Monday, when Obama will participate in a Memorial Day ceremony at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood. The veterans' cemetery is about 50 miles south of Chicago.

A top adviser to Obama, David Axelrod, recently took in a play at the Goodman Theatre about the civil rights movement, and that has some speculating that the Obamas will show up for "The Good Negro," which is making its Chicago premiere.

Denise Schneider, the Goodman's publicity director, said the Obamas have patronized the theater in the past, and the president is known to have a high regard for the play's director, Chuck Smith, who is one of the city's top African-American directors. The play is a fictional examination of civil rights leaders including the Revs. Martin Luther King Jr. and Ralph Abernathy.

Talking about the Obamas, Schneider said: "We would love to have them." Hers is becoming a common refrain.

Said chef Tony Mantuano of Spiaggia, an Obama favorite: "We certainly would be thrilled if they stopped by here."

Obama has visited Chicago three times as president. His first trip, in February 2009, was for three nights; trips last June and July were in-and-out visits for part of a day. After winning the election, he predicted that the South Side would be his "Kennebunkport," a reference to former President George H.W. Bush's summer retreat in Maine. It hasn't happened.
Well, I'm sure Robert Gibbs can handle things while he's gone...

Monday, May 24, 2010

Dude, Where's My Outrage?

Liberal talk show hosts are finally realizing that anti-Obama outrage over the oil spill is real:
Some on the left are clearly beginning to realize the anti-BP OUTRAGE (!!!) machine has begun to lose its effectiveness.

While that won't stop many "progressives" from continuing their relentless tirades against Big Oil, there is increasing worry that the president's mishandling of the situation has become difficult to defend.

That has the state-run media desperately searching for new ways to cover for him, including attacking Sarah Palin and other Republicans. But none other than Official White House Apologist Chris Matthews has now raised the question of Obama's "eventual" responsibility.
This time, they won't have George Bush to kick around anymore.

The Palin Effect

It seems to be working:
In the Republican primary for US Senator, support for former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina is up sharply in the past 2 weeks, from 24% on 05/10/10 to 46% today 05/24/10. Fiorina's support has more than doubled among women, seniors, Hispanics, the less educated, and in the Inland Empire. During these 2 weeks, Former Congressman Tom Campbell's support dropped 12 points, from 35% on 05/10/10 to 23% today 05/24/10.
Some of the Tea Partiers won't like this, but it looks like Sarah Palin picked a winner. Suddenly she doesn't seem so dumb, does she?

Still Flying

A trailer for Browncoats: Redemption, a Firefly fanfilm:

Black Gold Mine

You knew this was coming:

Responding to the massive BP oil spill, Congress is getting ready to quadruple—to 32 cents a barrel—a tax on oil used to help finance cleanups. The increase would raise nearly $11 billion over the next decade.

The tax is levied on oil produced in the U.S. or imported from foreign countries. The revenue goes to a fund managed by the Coast Guard to help pay to clean up spills in waterways, such as the Gulf of Mexico.

The tax increase is part of a larger bill that has grown into a nearly $200 billion grab bag of unfinished business that lawmakers hope to complete before Memorial Day. The key provisions are a one-year extension of about 50 popular tax breaks that expired at the end of last year, and expanded unemployment benefits, including subsidies for health insurance, through the end of the year.

The House could vote on the bill as early as Tuesday. Senate leaders hope to complete work on it before Congress goes on a weeklong break next week.

Lawmakers want to increase the current 8-cent-a-barrel tax on oil to make sure there is enough money available to respond to oil spills. At least 6 million gallons of crude have spewed into the Gulf of Mexico since a drilling rig exploded April 20 off the Louisiana coast.

If one company is guilty, obviously all are. Liberals always love to pass the blame around while deflecting it from themselves.

The Country Of No

Despite its best efforts, the administration hasn't been able to sell Obamacare after all:
Support for repeal of the new national health care plan has jumped to its highest level ever. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 63% of U.S. voters now favor repeal of the plan passed by congressional Democrats and signed into law by President Obama in March.

Prior to today, weekly polling had shown support for repeal ranging from 54% to 58%.

Currently, just 32% oppose repeal.

The new findings include 46% who Strongly Favor repeal of the health care bill and 25% who Strongly Oppose it.

While opposition to the bill has remained as consistent since its passage as it was beforehand, this marks the first time that support for repeal has climbed into the 60s. It will be interesting to see whether this marks a brief bounce or indicates a trend of growing opposition.
I wonder if this means that more voters are turning into seditionists.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Black Beach

While Louisiana wonders what's taking so long, and starts taking matters into its own hands, the Green President's delays are killing the environment.
As officials approached to survey the damage the Gulf oil spill caused in coastal marshes, some brown pelicans couldn't fly away Sunday. All they could do was hobble.

Several pelicans were coated in oil on Barataria Bay off Louisiana, their usually brown and white feathers now jet black. Pelican eggs were glazed with rust-colored gunk, and new hatchlings and nests were also coated with crude.

It is unclear if the area can even be cleaned. It is also unknown how much of the Gulf Coast will end up looking the same way because of a well that has spewed untold millions of gallons of oil since an offshore rig exploded more than a month ago.
I hope Obama still has some of that BP money, because with the lawsuits that are coming, he's going to need it.

By The Book

Via Instapundit, it could all just be a coincidence. Or maybe not:
Author/filmmaker, J. Neil Schulman, today announced his intention to file a lawsuit for copyright infringement of his 1979 novel, Alongside Night, which tells the story of the collapse of the American economy due to massive government overspending and the issuing of unbacked money and credit to pay the interest on the national debt.

“Just look at TV news or read a newspaper,” Schulman said. “Plot point after plot point is identical. In my 1979 novel I have General Motors go bankrupt — General Motors then files for bankruptcy. I have Europe issue a common currency in my novel called the ‘eurofranc’ — the European Union then goes and issues the ‘euro.’ In my novel I have a European Chancellor, based in France, accuse the U.S. President of having the monetary policies of a banana republic — then the President of the European Union — also based in France — slams U.S. plans to spend its way out of recession as ‘a road to hell’ and says President Barack Obama’s massive stimulus package and banking bailout ‘will undermine the liquidity of the global financial market.’ The copycat nature of all these plot points and dialogue” — says Schulman — “could not be more obvious!”
I do have to wonder if Obama got a copy when he was in college...

Take My Job, Please

It seems that nobody wants to be a figurehead:
Prominent political figures and intelligence veterans aren’t exactly leaping at the opportunity to replace Dennis Blair, the director of national intelligence who was ousted by President Barack Obama last week after losing a series of fights with the CIA and presiding over an intelligence system that failed to detect beforehand three significant terror strikes.

Intelligence analysts say the next DNI will inherit a job with a big mandate — overseeing a sprawling U.S. intelligence bureaucracy largely suspicious and resentful of him — but little real power to carry out reforms, and a position first in line to take the inevitable political heat.

The difficulties the Obama administration has run into in filling the post are rekindling questions about whether anyone can successfully do the job as it is currently constructed — doubts that now extend to some of the earliest and loudest voices for creating the new role five years ago.

“The position is extremely difficult and may be unmanageable,” said Lee Hamilton, the former Democratic congressman from Indiana and co-chair of the 9/11 panel that recommended the new post. “Four DNIs in five years when you appoint the new person, for one of the most important jobs in government? That turnover has to be worrisome. We’ve had three very good people appointed to the post and they’ve all come away dissatisfied…. In large part, they stepped aside or came away dissatisfied because of a lack of authority to get done what they think needs to be done.”

“The job hasn’t been going very well,” said Fran Townsend, a former homeland security adviser to President George W. Bush. “Either you give the DNI the authority he needs or change the job so it focuses more on strategy, and then you don’t need the authority.”
A job that nobody wants and seems impossible to do? Isn't that the way most bureaucracies are created in the first place?

Colliding Brains

Mark Souder tries to explain himself:
Retired Rep. Mark Souder says he doesn't know what motivated him to commit adultery with a staff aide, a decision that forced him to pack his bags and leave Washington last week.

"I don't know. Obviously if I knew the answer to that question, I wouldn't have done it," Souder, R-Ind., told the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette.

In the interview published Sunday with his hometown newspaper, Souder said that Tracy Jackson had been more than just a love interest; she was a close adviser who lived in Syracuse but had an acumen for northeast Indiana politics.

"Tracy held her own with some of the smartest staff people in Washington," he told the newspaper. "Our relationship developed because of this, not the other way around, as some have implied."

He said the relationship ended after the couple was spotted in a car at a wilderness preserve. A lot of what-ifs then went through his head.

"Why would somebody who's almost 60 years old and been a congressman 16 years do something juvenile?" he asked himself. "Subconsciously, was I wanting to get caught? Or was God so frustrated with me he said, 'I’ve had it. You're so stupid here I'm going to, in effect, out you.'"
Somehow, I don't think God was all that involved there...

D.C. Tea

We have officially entered a parallel universe:
Right-wing darling Sarah Palin accused US President Barack Obama on Sunday of leading a lax response to the Gulf of Mexico spill because he is too close to the big oil companies.

The former vice presidential candidate and Alaska governor, who champions off-shore drilling, criticized the media for not drawing the link between Obama and big oil and said if this spill had happened under former Republican president George W. Bush the scrutiny would have been far tougher.

"I don't know why the question isn't asked by the mainstream media and by others if there's any connection with the contributions made to president Obama and his administration and the support by the oil companies to the administration," she told Fox News Sunday.

More than 3.5 million dollars has been given to candidates by BP over the last 20 years, with the largest single donation, 77,051 dollars, going to Obama, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Palin suggested this close relationship explained why Obama was, "taking so doggone long to get in there, to dive in there, and grasp the complexity and the potential tragedy that we are seeing here in the Gulf of Mexico."
As Glenn Reynolds would say, "They told me that if McCain ran, we'd have a President who was in bed with the oil companies, and they were right!"

"Why Yes, I Was Offered A Job"

Joe Sestak comes clean, sort of:

Who Ya Gonna Call?

When you can't drink your vodka out of a skull-shaped bottle, there's something very wrong with the world:
In a stark departure from every other state and province on the continent, one of the world’s hottest new vodka brands has been banned from Ontario stores. Yes, outlawed in Ottawa, banished from Brampton, taboo in Toronto and verboten in Verner.

The funny thing is, the brand’s creator, Canadian-born actor Dan Aykroyd, doesn’t seem to be losing his head over it all.

“The image of the human skull is the thing that’s really problematic for us,” said LCBO spokesman Chris Layton. “That’s an image that’s commonly associated with death. It’s especially problematic at a time when there are concerns around binge drinking by younger adults, which in some cases unfortunately has resulted in alcohol poisoning.”

Besides, Mr. Layton notes, the brand has been okayed for sale in Ontario bars and restaurants and can be ordered by consumers by the case through the LCBO’s private-stock system.
Translation: They want their cut before anyone else.

Evil Capitalists 1, Team Obama 0

It looks like Goldman-Sachs now has something to look forward to:
The U.S. Justice Department has dropped a probe of American International Group Inc executives involving the credit default swaps that sent the insurer to the brink of bankruptcy and forced a huge taxpayer bailout, lawyers for the executives said on Saturday.

The investigation had centered on AIG Financial Products, which nearly brought down the giant insurer after writing tens of billions of dollars on insurance-like contracts on complex securities backed by mortgages that turned out to be toxic.

The U.S. government stepped in with a $182 billion bailout to avert a bankruptcy filing by AIG.

The criminal probe had focused on whether Joseph Cassano, who ran the financial products unit, and Andrew Forster, his deputy, knowingly misled investors about the company's accounting losses on its credit default swaps portfolio.

"Although a 2-year, intense investigation is tough for anyone, the results are wholly appropriate in light of our client's factual innocence," F. Joseph Warin and Jim Walden, Cassano's lawyers, said in a statement.

Forster's lawyers also confirmed the probe had been dropped.

"We were very pleased but not surprised to hear from the DOJ late yesterday that they were dropping the criminal investigation of our client," David Brodsky, one of Forster's lawyers, said in a statement. "In the end, the facts were stronger than the emotions surrounding AIG's problems."

The Department of Justice declined to comment.
A lack of evidence will do that to you...

In The Dark

The age of non-transparancy continues:
The Obama administration has failed to keep congressional intelligence officials in the loop on the investigation into the botched Times Square bombing, as required by law, the top Democrat and Republican on the Senate intelligence committee charged in a letter this week.

"Having to fight over access to counterterrorism information is not productive and ultimately makes us less secure," wrote Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein and Vice Chairman Christopher S. "Kit" Bond in a letter to President Obama on Thursday.

The senators said the lack of information has "caused serious friction in the relationship of the committee, on both sides of the aisle, and the executive branch."

In the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times, the senators say U.S. intelligence agencies have repeatedly refused to provide relevant information on the probe into suspect Faisal Shahzad that would allow the committee to conduct oversight activities without hampering the ongoing investigation. Senate intelligence staffers were told that the Department of Justice had instructed the agencies not to convey information on the Times Square plot without its approval, they said.
"Don't worry your little heads about anything. We know what's best for you to know."

Dear Leader Did It

Not too surprisingly, Mini Me himself was apparently behind the South Korean ship sinking:
A new American intelligence analysis of a deadly torpedo attack on a South Korean warship concludes that Kim Jong-il, the ailing leader of North Korea, must have authorized the torpedo assault, according to senior American officials who cautioned that the assessment was based on their sense of the political dynamics there rather than hard evidence.

The officials said they were increasingly convinced that Mr. Kim ordered the sinking of the ship, the Cheonan, to help secure the succession of his youngest son.

“We can’t say it is established fact,” said one senior American official who was involved in the highly classified assessment, based on information collected by many of the country’s 16 intelligence agencies. “But there is very little doubt, based on what we know about the current state of the North Korean leadership and the military.”
This could well be a big story in the coming days, so we'll see how bombastic Lil' Kim is going to be-and how close his Chinese friends will want to stand next to him.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Decline And Fall Of The Welfare State Empire

Nobody can tell them they weren't warned:
The deficit crisis that threatens the euro has also undermined the sustainability of the European standard of social welfare, built by left-leaning governments since the end of World War II.

Europeans have boasted about their social model, with its generous vacations and early retirements, its national health care systems and extensive welfare benefits, contrasting it with the comparative harshness of American capitalism.

Europeans have benefited from low military spending, protected by NATO and the American nuclear umbrella. They have also translated higher taxes into a cradle-to-grave safety net. “The Europe that protects” is a slogan of the European Union.

But all over Europe governments with big budgets, falling tax revenues and aging populations are experiencing rising deficits, with more bad news ahead.

With low growth, low birthrates and longer life expectancies, Europe can no longer afford its comfortable lifestyle, at least not without a period of austerity and significant changes. The countries are trying to reassure investors by cutting salaries, raising legal retirement ages, increasing work hours and reducing health benefits and pensions.

“The easy days are over for countries like Greece, Portugal and Spain, but for us, too,” said Laurent Cohen-Tanugi, a French lawyer who did a study of Europe in the global economy for the French government. “A lot of Europeans would not like the issue cast in these terms, but that is the storm we’re facing. We can no longer afford the old social model, and there is a real need for structural reform.”
They can blame Greece for part of this, but the real culprit is decades of Keynesian economics coming home to roost. The Germans, to their credit, understood this. Whether their neighbors will remains to be seen.

Dora The Detainee

Why can't some people just leave cartoon characters alone?
In her police mug shot, the doe-eyed cartoon heroine with the bowl haircut has a black eye, battered lip and bloody nose.

Dora the Explorer's alleged crime? "Illegal Border Crossing Resisting Arrest."

The doctored picture, one of several circulating widely in the aftermath of Arizona's controversial new immigration law, may seem harmless, ridiculous or even tasteless.

But experts say the pictures and the rhetoric surrounding them online, in newspapers and at public rallies, reveal some Americans' attitudes about race, immigrants and where some of immigration reform debate may be headed.

"Dora is kind of like a blank screen onto which people can project their thoughts and feelings about Latinos," said Erynn Masi de Casanova, a sociology professor at the University of Cincinnati. "They feel like they can say negative things because she's only a cartoon character."

The depictions, whether through irony or protest, are being used by those who oppose and support Arizona's law. On one hand she's a likable symbol who many can relate to, and at the same time, perceived as an outsider who doesn't belong anywhere.
And some people just have way too much free time on their hands...

It's The Spill, Stupid

Oh, my. First it was Chris Matthews losing the thrill up his leg over the oil spill; now it's James Carville.
Carville, one of the President Bush's harshest critics in the wake of the 2005 hurricane that decimated New Orleans, called Obama's response "lackadaisical."

"They are risking everything by this 'go along with BP' strategy they have that seems like, lackadaisical on this," Carville told CNN's Anderson Cooper on Friday. "They seem like they're inconvenienced by this, this is some giant thing getting in their way and somehow or another, if you let BP handle it, it'll all go away. It's not going away. It's growing out there. It is a disaster of the first magnitude, and they've got to go to Plan B."
I assume that means blame Bush...

He's Their Boogeyman

It's broken record time for the team that wanted to "Move America forward":
It doesn’t matter that George W. Bush left office 16 months ago.

The White House’s mid-term election strategy is becoming clear – pit the Democrats of 2010 against the Republicans circa 2006, 2008 and 2009, including Bush.

It’s a lot to ask an angry, finicky electorate to sort out. And even if Obama can rightfully make the case that the economy took a turn for the worse under Bush's watch, he's already made it - in 2008 and repeatedly in 2009.

It’s not clear that voters still want to hear it.

“If you’re the leader of a large corporation and you’re in power for a year and a half and you start off a meeting with your shareholders by blaming your predecessor, that wouldn’t go over very well,” said Merle Black, a political science professor at Emory University. “This is a very weak approach. ... And I can’t imagine it having an impact on these very swing voters.”
Sometimes you just have to learn to let go...

Bagram Blues

As one of those who was critical of Bush's Guantanamo policy, I have to wonder what Obama's supporters will have to say about this:
The Obama administration has won the legal right to hold its terrorism suspects indefinitely and without oversight by judges — not at Guantanamo or in Illinois, but rather at the Bagram air base in Afghanistan.

In a 3-0 decision, the U.S. appeals court in Washington ruled for the administration Friday and said the Constitution and its right to habeas corpus does not extend to foreign prisoners held by the U.S. military in Afghanistan because it is a war zone. The judges dismissed claims from three prisoners who were taken to Bagram from Pakistan and Thailand and have been held for as long as seven years.

"It is undisputed that Bagram, indeed the entire nation of Afghanistan, remains a theater of war," said Chief Judge David Sentelle, a conservative who was appointed by President Reagan. Joining him were two Democratic appointees, Judges David Tatel and Harry Edwards.

The decision could bring an ironic end to years of legal wrangling over prisoners held by the U.S. military. The ruling, unless overturned by the Supreme Court, appears to the give the Obama administration what the George W. Bush administration had long sought: a place where foreign prisoners can be held by the military out of reach of lawyers and courts.
So, when do we get to hear that Obama is a war criminal?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Fascism Is Teh Gay

It's the Fuher as a fashion plate:
Giant posters of Hitler dressed in bright pink, with a love heart in place of a swastika, have provoked a furious debate in Italy.

The 18ft high posters of the Nazi leader advertise a line of clothing for young people and adorn street corners and bus stops in Palermo, Sicily's biggest city.

The ads show the Fuhrer in a lurid pink uniform, with his swastika armband replaced with one bearing a bright red heart, above the slogan "Change Style – Don't Follow Your Leader".

A council official, Fabrizio Ferrandelli, said: "Having Hitler's face on a poster... cannot be passed off as an innocent advertising message. Seeing these posters in front of schools is an embarrassment." But the advertising agency which came up with the idea said critics of the campaign were over-reacting.

The Hitler poster was a tongue-in-cheek way of encouraging young people not to follow the crowd in their fashion choices.

"We have ridiculed Hitler in a way that invites young people to create their own style and not to be influenced by their peers," said the agency's Daniele Manno.

Impressionable locals will now have to brace themselves for a fresh affront – the company plans to bring out a new poster campaign in the next few weeks featuring Mao Tse Tung.
But who would really be offended? Gay Nazis? The ghost of Ernst Rohm, perhaps?

Comrades For Capitalism

Like his Chinese overseers, the Dali Lama seems to want to have it both ways:
TIBETAN spiritual leader the Dalai Lama says he's a Marxist, yet credits capitalism for bringing new freedoms to China, the communist country that exiled him.
"Still I am a Marxist," the exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader said in New York, where he arrived today with an entourage of robed monks and a heavy security detail to give a series of paid public lectures.

"(Marxism has) moral ethics, whereas capitalism is only how to make profits," the Dalai Lama, 74, said.

However, he credited China's embrace of market economics for breaking communism's grip over the world's most populous country and forcing the ruling Communist Party to "represent all sorts of classes".

"(Capitalism) brought a lot of positive to China. Millions of people's living standards improved," he said.

Although China, which forced him to escape for his life in 1959, is loosening up, he had harsh words for a Communist leadership that he said still seeks to rule by fear.

As Chinese become richer, "they want more freedoms, they want an independent judiciary, they want to have a free sort of press", he said.

The Chinese Government, he said, seeks harmony, "but harmony must come out of the heart, not out of fear. So far, methods to bring harmony mostly rely on use of force."
Er, isn't that exactly the way Marx wanted things done in the first place?

Door, Meet Hair

There's really not much of a point to this, except maybe to extend Justin Bieber's fame for another fifteen minutes:

What Makes Christie Cut

There's a reason Chris Christie is kicking fiscal butt:
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie may have set a record for the speediest veto in American history on Thursday when he rejected an income tax surcharge passed by the Democratic legislature two minutes after it arrived on his desk.

That bill would have resurrected former Governor Jon Corzine's "temporary" income tax surcharge on millionaires that expired at the start of this year. Democrats want to reinstate a top tax rate of 10.75%, up from an already high 8.98%. Mr. Christie stated what is obvious to every taxpayer in the Garden State not on the public payroll: "New Jersey does not have a tax problem; New Jersey has a spending and size of government problem."

Trenton gained virtually no additional revenue by raising the income tax rate in 2007. Imposing the third highest income tax in the U.S. (after Hawaii and Oregon) didn't prevent a $11 billion budget deficit.

Democrats nonetheless played the class warfare card, tying the increase to a reduction in drug co-payments by seniors. They argue that Mr. Christie is merely protecting a privileged few—16,000 New Jersey millionaires—from paying $637 million more in taxes to "share the pain" of balancing the state budget.

Share the pain? New Jersey is already dependent on a handful of rich tax filers to pay the state's bills. The richest 1% of filers in New Jersey pay a little under half, or 46%, of all state income taxes. Inviting those with the highest tax payments to pack up and leave for states that are less hostile to business and wealth will only send the state into a deeper fiscal ditch.
What his critics call "Harsh," Christie has called necessary. This is the way a fiscal conservative is supposed to behave in a bankrupt state. Are you paying attention, Arnold?

A Round In Your Rear

In his defense of gun control, Mayor Daley literally offers to shoot the messenger:
He grabbed a rifle, held it up, and looked right at me. He was chuckling but there was no smile.

“If I put this up your—ha!—your butt—ha ha!—you’ll find out how effective this is!”

For a moment the room was very, very quiet. I took a good look at the weapon. It had a long bayonet. (Was it seized during the Civil War?)

“If I put a round up your—ha ha!”

The photographers snapped away. Suddenly everybody started cracking up.

Hizzonor in action:

I wonder how funny hizzonor would find it if somebody stuck that gun's bayonet up his ha-ha.


Call it the B-Ball Bomb:

How to Fail In Business Without Really Trying

This is what happens when you let hippies take over a restaurant-or practically any business, for that matter:
the notion of letting diners choose what they pay for their meals has been gaining traction over the last decade as an outgrowth of the organic food movement and the advent of social entrepreneurs — those who believe that making a profit and doing good are not mutually exclusive.

The intention is that these restaurants will take in enough cash to cover their expenses. If money is left over, restaurants embracing the concept say they plan to use it to help needy people by feeding them or giving them jobs.

Such restaurants are not charities in the traditional sense, though many rely on support from nonprofit groups. Panera, for example, will offer financial and other support, like donated food, to its new concept store here.

Ron Shaich, the chairman of Panera and a co-founder of the chain, says that if “we see people are gaming the system, we’re going to say, ‘Why don’t you come in and volunteer?’ ”

“It’s a test of human nature,” Mr. Shaich added. “The real question is whether the community can sustain it.”
Well, apparently it can't:
The phone at the Java Street Cafe in Kettering, Ohio, which last year embraced the pay-what-you-want strategy, has been disconnected, and it appears to have closed.

And Tierra Sana in Queens folded — though it offered customers a pay-what-you-want option only one day a week.

The Terra Bite Lounge, a cafe in Kirkland, Wash., operated as a pay-what-you-want restaurant for a year or so. But Ervin Peretz, its owner and a lead technical designer at Google, said the cafe now charges for its meals. He said he dropped the model in part because of issues particular to its location — it is in a neighborhood popular with teenagers.

Founded in 2003, One World Everybody Eats in Salt Lake City is one of the oldest pay-what-you-want restaurants, and like Mr. Peretz, its operators have found the concept a bit challenging. It is now owned by a nonprofit group and suggests customers pay a small amount, say, $4 for a meat or fish entree.

“I used to let people put their money in a basket and make their own change, but then I went to a lockbox,” said Denise Cerreta, the cafe’s founder. “You learn how to cut down on the people who will take advantage of the concept.”
Unfortunately, taking advantage of idealists is part of human nature, too.

Unfair Play

Some politicians are more equal than others: In the case of Clinton’s email probe, Comey relates numerous issues with Lynch’s actions that ...