Saturday, July 31, 2010

Captain Prince Planet

Prince Charles is here to save us all:
Giving a fascinating insight into his view of his inherited wealth and influence, he said: ‘I can only somehow imagine that I find myself being born into this position for a purpose.

‘I don’t want my grandchildren or yours to come along and say to me, “Why the hell didn’t you come and do something about this? You knew what the problem was”. That is what motivates me.

‘I wanted to express something in the outer world that I feel inside... We seem to have lost that understanding of the whole of nature and the universe as a living entity.’

His impassioned comments come during a film about his belief that unbridled commerce has led to the destruction of farmland and countryside.
Al Gore's going to be jealous. The world isn't big enough for two massive egos.

Birthday Boy

What do Democrats do when asking one of their own to quit? Throw him a party, of course:
Democratic leaders and major party donors plan to hold a lavish 80th birthday gala for Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) at The Plaza Hotel in Manhattan next month, despite 13 ethics charges pending against the veteran lawmaker.

Lobbyists and other party donors received invitations this week to join Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and New York Gov. David Paterson (D) at one of New York’s finest hotels to celebrate Rangel’s birthday.
....

While some Democrats think Rangel has become politically radioactive in Washington, the invitation lists a variety of enticements to get people to show up to his birthday bash and contribute to his campaign.

Aretha Franklin, the “Queen of Soul,” will serenade them and guests who pony up $200, $500, $1,000 or $2,500 for tickets. The funds will go to the Rangel Victory Fund, a campaign account.

The 2010 Rangel Birthday Gala is planned for Aug. 11 despite the fact that Rangel’s actual birthday is June 11.
He's still one of their own. Naturally they want to show him a good time while they show him the door.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Mr. Weiner Goes To Washington

Anthony Weiner goes off:



Whether you agree with him or not, you have to admire a guy who actually has the guts to stand up for what he believes in. This is real passion, something the Republicans could take a lesson from.

Just A Little Talk With Jesus

Jesus saves-literally:
When a man tried to rob a MetroPCS cell phone store at gunpoint in Pompano Beach, Fla., store manager Nayara Goncalves, 20, calmly talked to the man about Jesus and her faith until he left without taking any money.

Goncalves said she doesn't know why she began to talk to him about Jesus.

"I believe it was the Holy Spirit of God that really made me want to tell him about Jesus," Goncalves told ABCNews.com.

"I would never be able to do that myself. I would never think that God could use me the way that he did," she said. "[God] impressed me."
....

She slowly walked towards the register and started to speak to the man, who told her not to be afraid.

"I'm not," she said. "I'm just going to talk to you about the Jesus I have."

"May God Bless you for that," the robber said in return. "Just know in mind that I absolutely hate doing this... I'm embarrassed I have to do this and I have no choice."

Goncalves continued to talk to the man about God and it started to work. Already nervous and reluctant, the man slumped onto the counter and looked more and more defeated.
It helped that the robber didn't really seem dangerous, just desperate. It might have ended very differently.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Slippery Online Slope

It's coming:
The Obama administration is seeking to make it easier for the FBI to compel companies to turn over records of an individual's Internet activity without a court order if agents deem the information relevant to a terrorism or intelligence investigation.

The administration wants to add just four words -- "electronic communication transactional records" -- to a list of items that the law says the FBI may demand without a judge's approval. Government lawyers say this category of information includes the addresses to which an Internet user sends e-mail; the times and dates e-mail was sent and received; and possibly a user's browser history. It does not include, the lawyers hasten to point out, the "content" of e-mail or other Internet communication.

But what officials portray as a technical clarification designed to remedy a legal ambiguity strikes industry lawyers and privacy advocates as an expansion of the power the government wields through so-called national security letters. These missives, which can be issued by an FBI field office on its own authority, require the recipient to provide the requested information and to keep the request secret. They are the mechanism the government would use to obtain the electronic records.

Stewart A. Baker, a former senior Bush administration Homeland Security official, said the proposed change would broaden the bureau's authority. "It'll be faster and easier to get the data," said Baker, who practices national security and surveillance law. "And for some Internet providers, it'll mean giving a lot more information to the FBI in response to an NSL."
They probably do have a valid legal argument for doing this. Even so, can we really trust the Feds when they say this is as far as they'll go?

Unlucky 13

It's now official:
The House ethics committee announced 13 charges Thursday against Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), who is accused of breaking House rules as well as federal statutes.

Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas), the chairman of an investigating committee, read the charges against Rangel as the ethics committee began an organization meeting setting up a public trial for Rangel.

The charges deal with four main areas of improper activity.

Rangel, who did not attend the session, is accused of improperly using his letterhead, staff and franking privilege to solicit donations to the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Policy at the City College of New York; of using a rent-stabilized apartment in Harlem for his campaign office; of failing to report more than $600,000 on his financial disclosure report; and of failing to pay taxes on rental income from a villa he owns in the Dominican Republic.

The investigative subcommittee also looked into whether Rangel broke House parking rules by storing his Mercedes too long there and found that the House Administration Committee was not enforcing the parking rules.

“I think it’s safe to say that none of us enjoyed this assignment – no one wants to investigate their peers,” Green said before reciting the specific charges. “But we recognize this was a task that was requested of us and the investigative subcommittee spent a significant amount of time closely examining the factual and legal issues involved in this matter.”
Sorry, Charlie-looks like you're headed for court after all.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

California Crazy

Somehow, I'm not surprised:
Almost 5 million California adults say they could use help with a mental or emotional problem, according to a survey released Wednesday by researchers at UCLA. About 1 million of them meet the criteria for "serious psychological distress."

However, only one in three people who perceive a need for mental health services or are in serious distress have seen a professional for treatment, the survey found.

The survey was conducted among more than 44,000 adults as part of the 2005 California Health Interview Survey, administered through the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. Since the survey was conducted, the recession probably has contributed to worsening mental health for even more people, said the lead author of the study, David Grant.
The one thing California has going for it these days is that it's still big enough to hold all of its fruits and nuts in one place.

Diverse Reform

Coming soon to Wall Street: Enforced affirmative action.
A little-noticed section of the Wall Street reform law grants the federal government broad new powers to compel financial firms to hire more women and minorities — an effort at promoting diversity that’s drawing fire from Republicans who say it could lead to de facto hiring quotas.

Deep inside the massive overhaul bill, Congress gives the federal government authority to terminate contracts with any financial firm that fails to ensure the “fair inclusion” of women and minorities, forcing every kind of company from a Wall Street giant to a mom-and-pop law office to account for the composition of its work force.

Employment law experts say the language goes further than any previous attempt by the U.S. government to promote diversity in the financial sector — putting muscle behind federal efforts to help minority- and women-owned firms gain access to billions in federal contracts.

For advocates of the measure, it is a past-due shove to an elite industry that is heavily male and white — one in which Government Accountability Office studies show women and minorities have made only minimal gains in the past 15 years.

But to opponents, the provision signifies a brazen government intrusion into corporate practices, with language written so vaguely that some believe it could lead to an unofficial quota system.

“This expands exponentially the reach of the federal government in terms of auditing,” said Peter Kirsanow, an attorney and Republican appointee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. “This is an expansion of racial engineering that we haven’t seen in a long time.”
There's no doubt that the white-collar world has traditionally been seen as the province of wealthy white guys. But this goes far beyond attempting to redress past discrimination; it's effectively designed to punish businesses that don't promote "Diversity" as the government sees it-and that could potentially include the smaller businesses and firms that financial "Reform" is supposed to help.

Stimulating The Game

Maybe this explains why Obama likes his golf game so much:
Just yesterday, one of the President’s staunchest allies, Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) introduced legislation to amend the Stimulus legislation to promote an obviously important component of sustained economic growth:

By Mr. CLYBURN:

H.R. 5878. A bill to amend the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to make funds and tax benefit available to assist job creation and workforce diversification in the golf industry, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Ways and Means, and in addition to the Committee on Education and Labor, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned.


Of course, in a certain way, this makes perfect sense.


From the blog White House Dossier:

President Barack Obama has played a remarkable 41 rounds of golf since becoming president, easily outpacing his predecessor and possibly damaging his ability to portray himself in 2012 as a populist advocate of average folks.

With the excursions lasting on average at least five hours, the president has devoted a total of more than 200 hours to golf, not counting time spent on the White House putting green. That’s the equivalent of twenty five eight-hour work days, or five work weeks spent smacking golf balls.
I guess he has to make sure those stimulus dollars are well spent...

Vanishing Act

How do you clean up an oil spill when it's no longer there?
The immense patches of surface oil that covered thousands of square miles of the gulf after the April 20 oil rig explosion are largely gone, though sightings of tar balls and emulsified oil continue here and there.

Reporters flying over the area Sunday spotted only a few patches of sheen and an occasional streak of thicker oil, and radar images taken since then suggest that these few remaining patches are quickly breaking down in the warm surface waters of the gulf.

John Amos, president of SkyTruth, an environmental advocacy group that sharply criticized the early, low estimates of the size of the BP leak, noted that no oil had gushed from the well for nearly two weeks.

“Oil has a finite life span at the surface,” Mr. Amos said Tuesday, after examining fresh radar images of the slick. “At this point, that oil slick is really starting to dissipate pretty rapidly.”

The dissolution of the slick should reduce the risk of oil killing more animals or hitting shorelines. But it does not end the many problems and scientific uncertainties associated with the spill, and federal leaders emphasized this week that they had no intention of walking away from those problems any time soon.
The gist of this, which the Gaia crowd isn't willing to talk about, is that Mother Nature is actually pretty good at cleaning up our messes on her own. Just don't tell Al Gore...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Campaign Finance Reform, R.I.P.?

Let's hope so:
The Senate failed to advance a campaign finance bill Tuesday, dealing a blow to Democrats who were trying to pass a key piece of their agenda before the August recess.

The legislation, called the Disclose Act, would require corporations to make detailed public reports on political spending. It failed on a 57-41 vote that went along party lines. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) voted against the motion, a procedural move to allow another vote to occur in the future.

The three Republican centrists considered most likely to support the bill, Sens. Olympia Snowe (Maine), Susan Collins (Maine) and Scott Brown (Mass.), all voted against it.

They declined to support the bill despite heavy lobbying from liberal groups such as MoveOn.org, which has strong membership in Maine and Massachusetts.
Free speech lives to fight another day...

The Keymasters

Meet the keepers of the keys:
It turns out there are now seven individuals out there holding keys to the Internet. In the aftermath of a cataclysmic cyber attack, these members of a “chain of trust” will be responsible for rebooting the Web.

The seven members of this holy order of cyber security hail from around the world and recently received their keys while locked deep in a U.S. bunker. But the team isn’t military in nature. The Internet safety program is overseen by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a non-profit watchdog group that has access to a security system designed to protect users from cyber fraud and cyber attacks.
....

A minimum of five of the seven keyholders – one each from Britain, the U.S., Burkina Faso, Trinidad and Tobago, Canada, China, and the Czech Republic – would have to converge at a U.S. base with their keys to restart the system and connect eveything once again. We’re imagining a large medieval chamber filled with techno-religious imagery where these knights cyber must simultaneously turn hybrid thumb drive/skeleton keys in a massive router, filling the room with the blinking light of connectivity.

In reality, it’s not so dramatic. The keys are actually smartcards that each contain parts of the DNSSEC root key, which could be thought of as the master key to the whole scheme.
Too bad; I kind of prefer the whole knight theme. No word on which one of these individuals is the Gatekeeper...

"We Don't Need No Stinking Constitution"

I'm sorry, but this is not a good idea:
The Massachusetts Legislature has approved a new law intended to bypass the Electoral College system and ensure that the winner of the presidential election is determined by the national popular vote.

"What we are submitting is the idea that the president should be selected by the majority of people in the United States of America," Senator James B. Eldridge, an Acton Democrat, said before the Senate voted to enact the bill.

Under the new bill, he said, "Every vote will be of the same weight across the country."

But Senate minority leader Richard Tisei said the state was meddling with a system that was "tried and true" since the founding of the country.

"We've had a lot of bad ideas come through this chamber over the years, but this is going to be one of the worst ideas that has surfaced and actually garnered some support," said Tisei, who is also the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor.

The bill, which passed on a 28-to-9 vote, now heads to Democratic Governor Deval Patrick's desk. The governor has said in the past that he supports the bill, said his spokeswoman Kim Haberlin.

Under the law, which was enacted by the House last week, all 12 of the state's electoral votes would be awarded to the candidate who receives the most votes nationally.
....

Opponents say the current system works. They also point to the disturbing scenario that Candidate X wins nationally, but Candidate Y has won in Massachusetts. In that case, all of the state's 12 electoral votes would go to Candidate X, the candidate who was not supported by Massachusetts voters.

Tisei also criticized the proponents for not following the normal procedures to seek a constitutional amendment.

"The thing about this that bothers me the most is it's so sneaky. This is the way that liberals do things a lot of times, very sneaky," he said. "This is sort of an end run around the Constitution."
Well, that never stopped Democrats before...

Suffice it to say that this sounds like another attempt by Democrats still unhappy about 2000 to try and have things their way. Except that, as Tisei points out, they will actually be depriving their citizens of their say in Presidential elections if this comes to pass.

The current system may have flaws, but it isn't broken, except of course in the minds of the losers.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The "D" Word

Even the experts aren't quite sure what it is:
The old bogeyman of deflation has re-emerged as a worry for the U.S. economy. Here's something else to fret about: After studying more than a decade of deflation in Japan, economists have slowly realized they have no idea how it works.

Deflation is usually associated with a Great Depression-like drop in demand. Consumer prices, incomes and asset prices fall. Interest rates go to zero, as low as they can go. As prices and incomes fall, the cost to borrowers of servicing debt does not, sucking life out of the economy and pushing prices down further. A bad situation, in short, gets worse.
....

Economists don't have good answers. "We don't know how deflation works," says Adam Posen, a member of the Bank of England's monetary policy committee who has been studying Japan since 1997. "We don't have a way of rationalizing steady, several-year flat deflation," he says.

This is a pressing issue for the U.S. Federal Reserve and other central banks. Ireland is already experiencing deflation. Spain has flirted with it. The Fed's preferred inflation gauge was up 1.3% in June from a year earlier, below its informal target of 1.5% to 2%. Some officials worry prices could go negative if the recovery falters.
Hmm. Maybe we need more economic "Nuts and bolts" engineers and fewer scientists (i.e., theorists) to work on solutions. Perhaps an Economic Engineering Corps, one that actually understands how free markets and the real impact of government overspending work?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Takin' It To The Streets

Power to the people, recession style:
Several hundred angry residents from a modest blue-collar Los Angeles suburb marched Sunday to call for the resignation of the mayor and some City Council members in a protest sparked by the sky-high salaries of three recently departed administrators.

The residents of the city of Bell marched to Oscar's Korner Market and Carniceria, owned by Mayor Oscar Hernandez, then to his home, demanding that he reduce his own six-figure compensation or quit.

They then did the same with some members of the City Council, with many marchers wearing T-shirts that read "My city is more corrupt than your city."

"I don't think they are taking it seriously. And we're serious," event organizer and longtime Bell resident Nestor Valencia, 45, told the Los Angeles Times. "They need to resign."

The protest was organized by Bell Association to Stop the Abuse, a group founded after the Times reported that Bell's city manager, police chief and assistant city manager were all being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, with city manager Robert Rizzo collecting a check of $787,637. All three resigned on Friday.
These days, you really need to watch out for those pitchforks...

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Decline And Fall Of National Health

Oh, my. Even as Obamacare continues to rack up costs, it seems Great Britain's new government is moving in the opposite direction:
Practical details of the plan are still sketchy. But its aim is clear: to shift control of England’s $160 billion annual health budget from a centralized bureaucracy to doctors at the local level. Under the plan, $100 billion to $125 billion a year would be meted out to general practitioners, who would use the money to buy services from hospitals and other health care providers.

The plan would also shrink the bureaucratic apparatus, in keeping with the government’s goal to effect $30 billion in “efficiency savings” in the health budget by 2014 and to reduce administrative costs by 45 percent. Tens of thousands of jobs would be lost because layers of bureaucracy would be abolished.

In a document, or white paper, outlining the plan, the government admitted that the changes would “cause significant disruption and loss of jobs.” But it said: “The current architecture of the health system has developed piecemeal, involves duplication and is unwieldy. Liberating the N.H.S., and putting power in the hands of patients and clinicians, means we will be able to effect a radical simplification, and remove layers of management.”
Putting thousands of bureaucrats out of work? Oh, the horror!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Metro To Nowhere

Believe it or not, L.A.'s Metro system is now twenty years old. So how effective has it been? Not very, apparently:
Although the region now has a gleaming system of subways and light-rail trains, some transportation experts say the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority's $8-billion effort — less operating costs — has done little to reduce traffic congestion or increase the use of mass transit much beyond the level in 1985, when planning for the Metro Blue Line began.

Rather than bolster ridership, these experts say, the emphasis on rail has come at the expense of the MTA's vast network of buses and may have cost the agency at least 1.5 billion passenger boardings from 1986 to 2006.

"Overall, the push for rail has forced transit ridership down," said Tom Rubin, a veteran transit consultant and former chief financial officer for the MTA's predecessor. "Had they run a lot of buses at low fares, they could have doubled the number of riders."
Try as they might, California lawmakers just can't seem to get the people to give up their cars. Of course, that doesn't mean they're giving up on the light rail dream anytime soon:
Since 1985, the MTA has been planning and building a 79-mile rail network that now includes the Red Line subway as well as light-rail service, such as the Blue Line between Los Angeles and Long Beach, the Green Line between Norwalk and Redondo Beach, and the Gold Line linking downtown Los Angeles, Pasadena and East Los Angeles.

Construction is underway on the light-rail Expo Line between downtown Los Angeles and Culver City. The MTA plans to extend the subway to Westwood and the Gold Line eastward to Azusa. Still another light-rail line has been proposed for the so-called Crenshaw Corridor.
And when these fail to pan out, I'm sure there will be enough money left over for other dubious projects. Or, the way things are going, maybe not...

The Anonymous Unwashed

CNN's defenders of the old guard say that something should be done about those mean, nasty bloggers:
"There's going to have be a point in time where these people have to be held accountable," Phillips said. "How about all these bloggers that blog anonymously? They say rotten things about people and they're actually given credibility, which is crazy. They're a bunch of cowards, they're just people seeking attention."

Phillips demanded to know what Andrew Keen thought needed to be done. Keen, author of "The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet is Killing Our Culture," who suggested that there needs to be an internet "gatekeeper," had been interviewed by Roberts and quoted in the segment.

"Well what Andrew talked about with me was this idea of a gatekeeper but there are huge first amendment rights that come into play here - freedom of speech and all that. And he said the people who need to be the gatekeepers are the media to check into these stories," said Roberts.

Phillips wanted to go even further, asking if "there's going to come a point where something's going to have to be done legally" about anonymous bloggers.

"There has to be some point where there's some accountability. And companies, especially in the media have to stop giving these anonymous bloggers credit," she said.

Roberts responded that anonymous blogging might benefit from "checks and balances."

"If you're in a place like Iran or North Korea or something like that, anonymous blogging is the only way you could ever get your point of view out without being searched down and thrown in jail or worse," said Roberts. "But when it comes to a society like ours, an open society, do there have to be some checks and balances, not national, but maybe website to website on who comments on things?"
One could say the same thing about CNN...

Get Thee Behind Me, Charlie

The first of many?
In a major development, Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Ohio) on Friday night called on beleaguered Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) to resign.

Sutton's statement comes one day after the House ethics committee charged the 80-year-old Democrat with multiple violations.

In a statement to The Hill, Sutton stated, "It is regrettable, but Charlie Rangel needs to resign from his seat in Congress. This isn’t about being a Democrat or Republican, this is about preserving the public trust. Our nation is facing extraordinary challenges and we must be focused on building a sustainable economy that will allow our workers and businesses to flourish."
Translation: Get rid of Charlie before he causes us real problems during the elections.

What Obama Wasn't

Stephen Green laments that Obama turned out to be the liberal nobody wanted:
Barack Obama ran as a moderate. He promised a “net spending cut.” Health reform was not, we were assured, intended to take over the insurance industry or feature an individual mandate. Taxes would go down for anyone making under $250,000 a year. “Too big to fail” was to be a thing of the past. Our nation was to become post-racial by the long-awaited election of a black man to the White House. And so it goes.

Instead, we got… more of everything. Taxes, spending, regulating, mandates, racial division — the entire liberal waterworks turned up to the max and pretty much all at once.
The sad part isn't so much that he turned out that way. The sad part is that people believed his moderate schtick and let him get away with it.

Smarter Than The Average Journalist

James Taranto defends Andrew Breitbart:
Breitbart set a trap for the NAACP, and the NAACP walked right into it. He was able to do so because he correctly identified the organization’s moral weakness. Confronted by a video showing apparent racism at an NAACP function, its leaders appear to have panicked and made a snap decision to denounce one of their own so as to pre-empt the charge of employing a double standard.

It was a very effective bit of Alinskyite political theater, and in a way more so for Breitbart’s having gotten the story wrong. As it turned out, the NAACP condemned Shirley Sherrod based on a false, secondhand accusation of racism. Members of the Tea Party movement know just how she feels.
I still think Breitbart jumped the gun here, although Shirley Sherrod's response is all too typical.

Gimme A Title IX

Cheerleaders will be disappointed:
On Wednesday a federal judge in Connecticut delivered a blow to universities, like Oregon, that classify competitive cheer as a varsity sport, ruling that Quinnipiac University’s team could not be counted toward compliance with Title IX, the federal law mandating gender equity in education.

“Competitive cheer may, some time in the future, qualify as a sport under Title IX,” Judge Stefan R. Underhill of the United States District Court in Bridgeport wrote in his decision. “Today, however, the activity is still too underdeveloped and disorganized to be treated as offering genuine varsity athletic participation opportunities for students.”

While the decision applies only to Quinnipiac, women’s sports advocates said the ruling could lead other universities to reconsider their decision to offer the sport, which has been criticized by those who say institutions view it as an easy fix when they need to pump up women’s participation numbers. Meanwhile, supporters of competitive cheer acknowledged that their sport was in its infancy, but they said the ruling was only a setback in what they see as an inevitable march toward acceptance.
They are the cheerleaders. You will be assimilated?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Keeping The Cuts

Are the Bush tax cuts staying after all? In what looks to be a tough election year for their party, some Democrats are seriously considering it:
During the 2008 presidential campaign, President Obama said he would not extend the Bush-era tax cuts for families earning more than $250,000.

Obama promised that families earning less than $250,000 would not see their taxes increase.

But vulnerable Democrats in Congress are worried about talk of raising taxes, even on the wealthiest families, when the national economic recovery has slowed.

“I think the recovery is sufficiently fragile that we ought to leave tax rates where they are,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly, a freshman Democrat from Virginia.

Connolly said Democrats should not allow the 2001 Bush tax cuts to expire for anybody.

“People in the upper tax brackets have a huge impact, a disproportionate impact on consumer spending,” he said.

Sen. Kent Conrad (N.D.), a senior Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, said he could support a short-term extension of the Bush tax cuts for the highest income earners.

He noted that experts predict continued economic weakness over the next 18 to 24 months.

“My reaction would be don’t cut spending, don’t raise taxes and that would mean on anyone,” he said.

Rep. Bobby Bright, a Democrat facing a tough reelection race in Alabama, said tax increases, even if limited to the wealthiest families, could imperil the recovery.

“I don’t care if it’s the wealthiest of the wealthy, you don’t raise their taxes,” he said. “In a recession, you don’t tax, burden and restrict. The economy is like a ship, and if you sink the ship, all the good you might do goes down with it.”
Maybe they're just scared of losing their jobs. Or they could actually be paying attention to stuff like this:
New data from, of all places, the Democratic-run Joint Committee on Taxation show that in 2011 roughly 750,000 taxpayers with net business income will pay the highest marginal rate of 39.6% or the next highest bracket of 36% (up from 33%). About half of the roughly $1 trillion of total net business income will also be reported on those returns. In a stroke, that will make tens of billions of dollars unavailable to invest or to hire new workers.
Democrats against tax increases. Maybe I should start checking outside my window for flying pigs...

BPhotogate

Is BP taking their cues from Reuters now? Apparently so:
BP has acknowledged their practice of photoshopping some of the official images of their Deepwater Horizon clean-up efforts, and has vowed to stop manipulating photographs going forward. They've also created a Flickr account where you can see the unaltered originals.

The issue surfaced two days ago, when Americablog first unearthed a doctored photo of BP's crisis command center.
....

BP told Telegraph UK that they've issued a new guideline to "refrain from doing (sic) cutting-and-pasting" in the future.

What's galling about the photoshop jobs—aside from how poorly they were done—is how unnecessary they all are. The command center looks plenty busy without extra screen images, the helicopter shot is even more captivating when we know that they're on a helipad about to launch (and at the very least explains that looming tower), and the Sim Ops changes are barely noticeable. But by altering the official documentation of the event, BP erodes whatever trust we have in them even further at a time when we need and deserve to know exactly what's going on.
Oh, I don't think they have to worry about that now...

The Bailout That Wasn't There

Umm, what?
"Isn't it a good thing today in America that we have an automobile manufacturing sector? If it had been up to them [Republicans], General Motors would be gone. If it were up to them, Ford Motor Company would probably be gone. Chrysler definitely would be gone."

Ford did not take any bailout money from the government.
Next time, he might want to check with them first...

Sorry, Charlie

Charlie Rangle's been given notice:
A House investigative committee on Thursday charged New York Rep. Charles Rangel with multiple ethics violations, a blow to the former Ways and Means chairman and an election-year headache for Democrats.

The committee did not immediately specify the charges against the Democrat, who has served in the House for some 40 years and is fourth in House seniority. The charges by a four-member panel of the House ethics committee sends the case to a House trial, where a separate eight-member panel of Republicans and Democrats will decide whether the violations can be proved by clear and convincing evidence.

The timing of the announcement ensures that it will stretch into the fall campaign, and Republicans are certain to make it an issue as they try to capture majority control of the House. Speaker Nancy Pelosi had once promised to "drain the swamp" of ethical misdeeds by lawmakers in arguing that Democrats should be in charge.

Responding to the charges, Rangel said in a statement, "I was notified today, two years after I requested an investigation, that the Ethics Committee will refer the allegations reviewed by an investigations subcommittee to a subcommittee that will review the facts. I am pleased that, at long last, sunshine will pierce the cloud of serious allegations that have been raised against me in the media."
It does seem kind of odd that they waited so long, but what seems odder still is that he's the only Congrescritter so charged...

Judgment Day Definitely Maybe

You know those fundamentalist kooks who think the End Times are right around the corner? Well, it turns out more of them are Democrats:
As part of a larger survey about Americans’ predictions for the next 40 years, just over 1,500 people were asked whether they thought that Jesus Christ would return to the earth during that timeframe. Interestingly enough, it is self-identified Democrats who appear to have more certitude that this will happen than Republicans.

According to the poll, 26% of Democrats believe that the Second Coming “will definitely” happen within the next four decades. In comparison 19% of Republicans believe this.

Among those who think Jesus will probably return to earth in 40 years, there are more GOPers than Democrats. Just under a quarter (24%) of Republicans believe this will happen compared to 18% of Democrats who predict this. Independents are least likely compared to members of both parties to believe in Jesus’ imminent return.
It would be funny if Jesus came back as a libertarian, wouldn't it? And it would probably serve both parties right.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Government Gold Diggers

The IRS literally wants to go for the gold:
Starting Jan. 1, 2012, Form 1099s will become a means of reporting to the Internal Revenue Service the purchases of all goods and services by small businesses and self-employed people that exceed $600 during a calendar year. Precious metals such as coins and bullion fall into this category and coin dealers have been among those most rankled by the change.

This provision, intended to mine what the IRS deems a vast reservoir of uncollected income tax, was included in the health care legislation ostensibly as a way to pay for it. The tax code tweak is expected to raise $17 billion over the next 10 years, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.

Taking an early and vociferous role in opposing the measure is the precious metal and coin industry, according to Diane Piret, industry affairs director for the Industry Council for Tangible Assets. The ICTA, based in Severna Park, Md., is a trade association representing an estimated 5,000 coin and bullion dealers in the United States.

"Coin dealers not only buy for their inventory from other dealers, but also with great frequency from the public," Piret said. "Most other types of businesses will have a limited number of suppliers from which they buy their goods and products for resale."

So every time a member of the public sells more than $600 worth of gold to a dealer, Piret said, the transaction will have to be reported to the government by the buyer.
Perhaps the Obama administration really does want to take us back to the days of FDR. In which case, hoarding the stuff now might not be such a bad idea.

The Fall Girl

Now that Shirley Sherrod has wound up underneath Obama's seemingly endless bus, some are pointing out that the real bad guys actually got away with career murder:
...the point Breitbart was making has nothing to do with the merits of Sherrod or her fitness to continue at the Agriculture Department. The portions of the tape of interest to Breitbart are those in which members of the NAACP laugh at and approve of Sherrod's initial impulse to provide inferior service to a white farmer. These NAACP members have been caught on tape condoning racism by a government official and demonstrating their own racism. Meanwhile, the NAACP condemns the Tea Party for what appears to be phantom racism.

This contradiction might well explain why the NAACP, in a state of panic, rushed to judgment on the hapless Shirley Sherrod.

Similarly, charges of racial bias in the enforcement of the Civil Rights laws by high level officials at the Obama/Holder Justice Department may explain why the administration was so quick to dump Sherrod, a small fry.
The desperate drive for diversity seems to have become a mighty big albatross around the "Post-racial President's" neck.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Bloggin' In The Years: 1962

A guide to Dining in Los Angeles. Anyone up for seeing the Kingston Trio? And I do want me some steak.

Wrightgate

Needless to say, this story has been getting quite a bit of attention on the blogosphere. Not that it's all that surprising:
According to records obtained by The Daily Caller, at several points during the 2008 presidential campaign a group of liberal journalists took radical steps to protect their favored candidate. Employees of news organizations including Time, Politico, the Huffington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Guardian, Salon and the New Republic participated in outpourings of anger over how Obama had been treated in the media, and in some cases plotted to fix the damage.

In one instance, Spencer Ackerman of the Washington Independent urged his colleagues to deflect attention from Obama’s relationship with Wright by changing the subject. Pick one of Obama’s conservative critics, Ackerman wrote, “Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares — and call them racists.”

Michael Tomasky, a writer for the Guardian, also tried to rally his fellow members of Journolist: “Listen folks–in my opinion, we all have to do what we can to kill ABC and this idiocy in whatever venues we have. This isn’t about defending Obama. This is about how the [mainstream media] kills any chance of discourse that actually serves the people.”

“Richard Kim got this right above: ‘a horrible glimpse of general election press strategy.’ He’s dead on,” Tomasky continued. “We need to throw chairs now, try as hard as we can to get the call next time. Otherwise the questions in October will be exactly like this. This is just a disease.”

(In an interview Monday, Tomasky defended his position, calling the ABC debate an example of shoddy journalism.)

Thomas Schaller, a columnist for the Baltimore Sun as well as a political science professor, upped the ante from there. In a post with the subject header, “why don’t we use the power of this list to do something about the debate?” Schaller proposed coordinating a “smart statement expressing disgust” at the questions Gibson and Stephanopoulos had posed to Obama.

“It would create quite a stir, I bet, and be a warning against future behavior of the sort,” Schaller wrote.
Be careful what you wish for, guys...they told me that if McCain ran, we'd have a state run media, and they were right!

Mirror Image

According to The Virginian, traditional dead tree outlets who complain about those nasty bloggers should look in the mirror:
So, where do the bloggers who spew venom on the Internet learn their manners? On the editorial pages of their newspapers. Because it’s fun to call your opponents names. Newspaper people learned that hundreds of years ago when they were the only ones allowed to do that. Today’s blogosphere is a mirror of the abuse that the newsboys and girls have been dishing out. Look in the mirror news people, because these people are you.
Welcome to Thunderdome!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Rent A Marcher

There's a new way to make a buck in the bad economy:
Protest organizers and advocacy groups are reaping an unexpected benefit from continued high joblessness. With the national unemployment rate currently at 9.5%, an "endless supply" of the out-of-work, as well as retirees seeking extra income, are lining up to be paid demonstrators, says George Eisner, the union's director of organization. Extra feet help the union staff about 150 picket lines in the District of Columbia and Baltimore each day.

Online postings recruit paid activists for everything from stopping offshore drilling to defending the Constitution.
....

While the money offers some relief for the unemployed, plugging a cause, even one that seems worthy, can be dispiriting.

"I told one guy today that I was fighting global poverty, and he looked me in the eye and said, 'I don't care,'" says Stephen Borlik, a new college graduate posted outside a D.C. subway stop recently as a $13-per-hour street fundraiser for CARE, the antipoverty nonprofit organization in Atlanta.
Who says the Obama economy isn't creating jobs? As for Mr. Borlik and others like him, now they know how the rest of the world feels about them.

My Best Friend

Welcome to Rent a Friend:
The US-based site already has around 2,000 members, each paying up to £16 a month ($25) to access the site.

When they see a friend they like the look of, they can rent them for as little as £6.50 ($10) an hour.

Rosenbaum said he wanted to "go a step back" from dating sites and offer a service that was, in the words of his website "strictly platonic".

He told The Times: "No one was offering friendship."

The service is not just about getting people to meet up for a drink or a meal. It lists a host of diverse activities that members might like to hire friends for, including "teaching manners", "snowboarding", "family functions" and just "hanging out".
This might actually become more common as we become more and more of an online society. After all, we all need a friend...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Tea Partiers Not Invited

Some Republican establishment types are trying to distance, if not downright dismiss, the Tea Party despite its recent successes. Riehl World argues that's not a smart move:
New media to the GOP simply means taking the same old top down messaging and creating it on websites, or for digital distribution. With some few exceptions, Todd Herman at the RNC being one, the establishment GOP has no real conception of new media as bloggers understand it. Nor do they have much desire to engage with it, beyond the way they currently engage with the establishment media. Here's the press release, or talking point. That's all we got.

That doesn't serve them well, as questions from activist bloggers are actually quite different than ones usually coming from the press.

If the Tea Party and blogs continue to become increasingly powerful, this will begin to change. Electing grassroots candidates will certainly help. But it won't be because the GOP establishment wants it to change. Why should they, when their SOP is message control? Unfortunately for them, you cannot control the message in the era of new media. For now, this disconnect is going to breed plenty of problems for the Right and Republicans as we go forward.
There's a reason they're called the Stupid Party. It usually starts from the top down.

Recovery Slumber

So why isn't this recovery thing working out? Joe Biden knows who to blame:
“But, you know,” Biden told Tapper, “there was a reality. In order to get what we got passed, we had to find Republican votes. And we found three. And we finally got it passed,” Biden said.

But if it wasn’t for the legislative reality, Biden explained, “I think it would have been bigger. I think it would have been bigger. In fact, what we offered was slightly bigger than that. But the truth of the matter is that the recovery package, everybody’s talking about it [like] it’s over. The truth is now, we’re spending more now this summer than we — I’m calling this…the summer of recovery,” the Vice President said.
Except, Joe, maybe you did get what you wanted, and it still didn't work. So, whose fault is that?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Cashing Out

While it may indeed cut down on crime, there's a downside to going cashless:
"The technology exists for a cashless society to work," says Andrew Scott, Professor of Economics at the London Business School.

Cash survives, he says, despite the nuisance of bulging pockets and looking for ATMs that work, partly because it preserves privacy.

"Its key advantage, in an electronic age, is that it is anonymous and tells you nothing about where it's been," he says.

Par Strom, of the New Welfare Foundation in Stockholm, says Sweden's move towards a cashless society is worrying for precisely this reason.

"If it's impossible to pay cash when you buy stuff, it's also impossible not to leave electronic footprints behind you, and the electronic footprints from what you buy put together can tell the entire story about your life. This can be very sensitive information," he says.

"Most people don't want this total surveillance society."
So, I guess the question is, how much will people want to trust Big Banker with their footprints?

When In Doubt, Do Nothing

That seems to be what some people are saying they should do if they win:
Some of the party's most influential political consultants are quietly counseling their clients to stay on the offensive for the November midterm elections and steer clear of taking stands on substance that might give Democratic opponents material for a counterattack.

"The smart political approach would be to make the election about the Democrats," said Neil Newhouse of the powerhouse Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies, which is advising more than 50 House and Senate candidates. "In terms of our individual campaigns, I don't think it does a great deal of good" to engage in a debate over the Republicans' own agenda.

Others are skeptical that any Republican policy proposals will have much of an impact. "They really still have to have a sharp contrast with the Democrats," said John McLaughlin, another leading Republican pollster whose firm counts both the House and Senate campaign committees among its clients. "They really need to drive that home before people will be willing to listen to what Republicans stand for."

It's not that Boehner (Ohio) is arguing for a cease-fire. The debate among Republicans comes down to this: The speaker-in-waiting, for all his love of political combat, thinks that voters will not trust GOP candidates if their attacks don't also provide at least some substance. The consultants argue that public anger, if properly stoked, alone can carry the party over the finish line. In their view, getting bogged down in the issues is a distraction and even a potential liability.

One who begs to differ is the architect of the last GOP takeover of the House. "Consultants, in my opinion, are stupid," former speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) said in an interview. "The least idea-oriented, most mindless campaign of simplistic slogans is a mindless idea."
Well, it wouldn't be the first time the Republicans were accused of being mindless. After all, this the party that blew it the last time they were in the majority. Maybe the problem isn't the message, but who gets to control it.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Stag Party

John Stagliano has reason to celebrate:
A federal judge dismissed the first obscenity prosecution brought in the nation's capital in a quarter-century on technical grounds Friday, tossing out charges against John A. Stagliano and two companies associated with the adult video producer based in Van Nuys, Calif.

Acquitting Stagliano, John Stagliano Inc. and Evil Angel Productions Inc. before they began their defense, U.S. District Court Judge Richard J. Leon said evidence presented by the Justice Department's Obscenity Prosecution Task Force in the four-day trial was "woefully insufficient" to link defendants to the production and distribution of two DVD videos at the heart of the case.

"I hope the government will learn a lesson from its experience," Leon said in a rebuke. He cited a string of "difficult, challenging and novel questions" raised in the case concerning decades-old federal obscenity statutes, the Internet, free speech and criminal defendants' rights.

"I hope that [higher] courts and Congress will give greater guidance to judges in whose courtrooms these cases will be tried," he said.
Now that he's been cleared, maybe politicians will have something to say?

The War On Blogging?

That's what it's starting to look like:
Last month U.S. authorities targeted several sites they claimed were connected to the streaming of infringing video material.

‘Operation In Our Sites‘ targeted several sites including TVShack.net, Movies-Links.TV, FilesPump.com, Now-Movies.com, PlanetMoviez.com, ThePirateCity.org, ZML.com, NinjaVideo.net and NinjaThis.net. In almost unprecedented action, the domain names of 7 sites were seized and indications are that others – The Pirate Bay and MegaUpload – narrowly avoided the same fate.

Fears remain, however, that this action is only the beginning, and that more sites will be targeted as the months roll on. Indeed, TorrentFreak has already received information that other sites, so far unnamed in the media, are being monitored by the authorities on copyright grounds.

Now, according to the owner of a free WordPress platform which hosts more than 73,000 blogs, his network of sites has been completely shut down on the orders of the authorities.
...

...73,000 blogs is a significant number to take down in one swoop, regardless of what some users of the site may or may not have been doing. Time will tell if it was indeed a copyright complaint that took down the service but the signs are certainly there. Not so long ago the conclusion that this type of action could be taken on copyright grounds would have been dismissed out of hand, but the current atmosphere seems to be changing.
We'll see if this will stand up in court, but it does sound like an awfully bad precedent in the name of stopping "Abuse".

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Madness Of Mad Max

TIME Magazine dares to go where others fear to tread: inside the mind of Mel Gibson.
TIME asked marital counselors whether Gibson's behavior was the kind of insanity that required medical or law-enforcement intervention or just a Hollywood-sized version of the behavior often seen at the breakup of an epically bad relationship. The most consistent answer we got, apart from regret at having to hear the tapes, was that Gibson needs help with issues that had clearly been building for a long time. But not all the therapists agreed on how far beyond the pale his behavior really was.

"I've witnessed thousand of arguments at this point and in my opinion this is not typical," says Sharon Rivkin, psychotherapist who specializes in arguments and affairs and is author of last year's Breaking the Argument Cycle. "I think he's got some very serious psychological problems. I think he's dangerous at this point. This goes beyond just a bad relationship. Even if he's been drinking, that's too much."
Of course, being an abusive goon is okay when you're a celebrity, at least according to Whoopi. Or maybe it's just a really bizarre form of performance art...

The Odd Obsessions Of Andrew Sullivan

Weigel responds to Andrew Sullivan's Palin paranoia:
I do think that he's made a huge mistake by indulging this. Politicians suffer when they're called out on things they've done. They thrive when they're called out for things they haven't done, for stories they can call "conspiracy theories," and for stories they can file under "politics of personal destruction." Obsessing over Trig, as much as it annoys the Palins -- and I see why it does -- is one of the best ways of propping her up. It gives her fan base proof that its hero is constantly battling unfair personal attacks that the media won't debunk. It convinces them that critics focus on this nonsense because they've got nothing else to criticize Palin about. She has taken advantage of this impression.

The Trig obsession has also, I'm sad to say, damaged Andrew Sullivan's reputation. I'm stunned by the anger he's generating not just among random Tweeters but among people who've been online for years, part of the rough-and-tumble of blogging. They know that 99% of what Sullivan writes is challenging, smart, and addictive, and that he's very capable of honing in on bigger political and philosophical debates. People want him to take a deep breath and stop obsessing over this conspiracy theory. Count me among those people.
But that's the problem with conpsiracy theorists, isn't it? When they can't see beyond the conspiracy, then it becomes the truth to them and they can't be swayed from it, no matter what their original intentions might have been.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The O Phone

What do President Obama and the iPhone have in common?
They're kind of related.

See, nothing -- not a consumer electronics gadget or a world leader -- could have lived up to the hype that preceded their arrival. These days, with a seemingly infinite number of ways for information to reach us, marketers have to fight harder than ever to make their product -- be it a phone, TV show, band or candidate -- stand out against the background clutter. So we get breathless hype and unrealistic (outrageous?) promises.

And we eat it up.

Why? Because we want to! We wanted to believe that Barack Obama would walk across the Potomac and change the awful situation our country found itself in. We wanted to believe that he was perfect. That's what heroes are, right? They're perfect.
But we live in an age of hype, when products-and politicians-can be rolled out in front of the public with no need for vetting or customer testing beforehand. Isn't that the real problem?

The Government Gourmet

Think school food is bad? Wait until you work for the government:
U.S. Department of Agriculture South Cafe—Grade: D

Sure, there was plenty that a PR guy could tout as healthful. There were 100-calorie snack packs, but inside them were processed cookies and chips. Calories were posted at the salad bar and the grill. But among the options were a cheese quesadilla with 780 calories and 53 grams of fat. Slices of pizza ($2.79) had whole-wheat crusts but tasted just like the school food the agency has vowed to overhaul. The salad bar (41 cents per ounce) was a throwback to the 1970s, with limp greens, mayo-laden tuna, baby corn and bacon bits....Of all the agencies we visited, the USDA should know better.
Considering that the government wants to treat everyone like children, this shouldn't be so surprising.

You Can Never Be Too Rich

Unless you have kids who put you on a guilt trip:
Your child may wonder why you have twice the home you need. Kevin Salwen and his wife were so taken by their daughter’s conviction in this particular matter that their family of four decided to sell their 6,500-square-foot home. They bought a new one less than half the size and are giving away about $850,000, more than the price difference between the homes.

And what if your child gets an idea like that? If you’re not ready to uproot, encourage them to think of other things they can give. “We never encourage anybody to sell their house,” said Mr. Salwen, who wrote a book with his daughter called “The Power of Half” about the family’s experience. “That was just the thing that we had more than enough of. For others it may be time, or lattes or iTunes downloads or clothes in their closet. But everyone has more than enough of something.”
Not if you've earned it. Which is what I thought was one of the good things about living in this country.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Fuglymobiles

It's the World's Ugliest Cars! They've included some true Seventies howlers here, namely the Pinto, the Gremlin, and the Vega-but I think they could have added the Gremlin's sucessor, the AMC Pacer, and the more contemporary Nissan Cube. And who could forget the Urkelmobile?

The Last Yankee

George Steinbrenner is gone:
George Steinbrenner, whose big wallet and win-at-all-cost attitude whipped the New York Yankees into a billion-dollar sports empire, died Tuesday. He had just celebrated his 80th birthday July 4.

Steinbrenner had a heart attack, was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa, Fla., and died at about 6:30 a.m, a person close to the owner told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the team had not disclosed those details.

"George was 'The Boss,' make no mistake," Hall of Famer Yogi Berra said. "He built the Yankees into champions, and that's something nobody can ever deny. He was a very generous, caring, passionate man. George and I had our differences, but who didn't? We became great friends over the last decade and I will miss him very much."

In 37-plus seasons as owner, Steinbrenner led the Yankees to seven World Series championships, 11 American League pennants and 16 AL East titles.
Say what you will, he turned the Yankees into a winning team and helped revolutionize the way athletes were paid. Here he is on Seinfeld:

A Fleeting Word

Well, fleet me!
A federal appeals court on Tuesday found that a government policy that can lead to broadcasters being fined for allowing even a single curse word on live television is unconstitutionally vague.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan tossed out the Federal Communications Commission's policy after finding that it violates the First Amendment.

In 2004, the FCC adopted a policy that profanity referring to sex or excrement is always indecent.

"By prohibiting all `patently offensive' references to sex, sexual organs and excretion without giving adequate guidance as to what `patently offensive' means, the FCC effectively chills speech, because broadcasters have no way of knowing what the FCC will find offensive," the appeals court wrote.

"To place any discussion of these vast topics at the broadcaster's peril has the effect of promoting wide self-censorship of valuable material which should be completely protected under the First Amendment," it added.
Jacob Sullum responds here. Meanwhile, here's Geroge Carlin's classic take (Warning: NSFW):

To Form A More Perfect Coalition

Ilya Somin on why libertarians still need conservatives:
Even if a strong centrist libertarian movement were created, that still would not eliminate the need for political coalitions with either the left or the right. So long as libertarians are not a political majority (and they are in fact about 10–15% of the electorate), they cannot succeed without cooperation from other political movements.

In the short run, I think there is no alternative to some sort of political coalition with conservatives, a position I argued for back in 2008, soon after Obama’s election. As I expected, Obama and the Democrats have heavily emphasized expanded government spending and economic regulation — precisely those issues that divide libertarians from liberals while uniting them with conservatives. Moreover, the conservative backlash against Obama has to a large extent taken a libertarian small-government form rather than the nativist or right-wing populist forms that could easily have happened. It’s noteworthy that the Tea Party movement has overwhelmingly focused on libertarian themes, to the point where some social conservatives have attacked it for failing to emphasize social issues.

Most important, libertarians have a strong interest in restoring divided government, which would make it much harder for the Democrats to enact more massive expansions of government power. Historically, divided government has been a great boon to the small-government cause. For the moment, the only way to restore divided government is to cooperate with conservative Republicans. I hope for a Republican victory in 2010 for much the same reasons as I wanted a Democratic one back in 2006.
Obama has probably done more to advance the cause of libertarianism than any other president in recent memory. Libertarians wanted to go mainstream-here's their chance. Will they take it?

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Big Steal

That's what a Democratid filmmaker is accusing Team Obama of doing to Hillary during the 2008 primaries. I wouldn't put it past them, but in this case I have to side with Ed Morrisey:
If this is all somehow true and Obama “stole” the nomination from Hillary, then why did Hillary (a) endorse Obama, (b) campaign for him, and (c) leave the Senate to take the SecState job? Are we to believe that the biggest victim of the theft is somehow playing along with it? After all, she could have easily stayed in the Senate, win re-election this year (Republicans may not even be able to beat her replacement, and geared up for a 2012 primary challenge to Obama. The fact that she didn’t should tell people that the collection of irregularities doesn’t amount to a stolen election.
Still, it's kind of nice to know that somebody on the Democratic side has finally moved beyond blaming Bush for losing elections...sort of.

Slave To The Game

Leave it to Jesse Jackson to call a guy who makes tens of millions of dollars a "Slave":
Shortly after James announced his decision last week, Gilbert fired off an incendiary letter to Cleveland's fans, ripping the 25-year-old and promising to deliver a title before James wins one. He called James' decision "cowardly" and later told The Associated Press he believes James quit during a handful of Cavaliers playoff games.

"He has gotten a free pass," Gilbert told the AP in a phone interview late Thursday night. "People have covered up for [James] for way too long. Tonight we saw who he really is."

Jackson said Gilbert's comments were "mean, arrogant and presumptuous."

"He speaks as an owner of LeBron and not the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers," the reverend said in a release from his Chicago-based civil rights group, the Rainbow PUSH Coalition. "His feelings of betrayal personify a slave master mentality. He sees LeBron as a runaway slave. This is an owner employee relationship -- between business partners -- and LeBron honored his contract."

Gilbert responded to Jackson's comments on Monday.

"I strongly disagree with Rev. Jesse Jackson's recent comments and we are not going to engage in any related discussion on it. Going forward, we're very excited about the Cavaliers and the positive future of our region," Gilbert said in a statement released by the Cavaliers.
If being rich enough to move to Florida to take advantage of its tax code is slavery, who needs freedom?

The Right To Cookies

Michelle Obama recalls the good old days:
“In my house, in Marian Robinson’s house, we ate what we were served,” she said. “We ate what was there, or we didn’t eat; [and] there was always a vegetable on the plate.”

“In the afternoon, there was no way we’d be allowed to lie around the house watching TV,” she continued. “Our parents made us get up and play outside.”

Later, she added, “As I tell my kids, dessert is not a right.”

Two days before Obama arrived to speak at the Kansas City Convention Center, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People launched the event with a health symposium, sending the message to attendees that, unlike dessert, health is a “true civil right.”
I get her point about being a parent, but really, why can't you have your dessert and health care, too? You'd think she'd want more kids eating dessert so they could go on the government health care rolls later on.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Bloggin' In The Years: 1787

Alexander Hamilton's Federalist Papers are now available to the Public. from the Introduction:
AFTER an unequivocal experience of the inefficacy of the subsisting federal government, you are called upon to deliberate on a new Constitution for the United States of America. The subject speaks its own importance; comprehending in its consequences nothing less than the existence of the UNION, the safety and welfare of the parts of which it is composed, the fate of an empire in many respects the most interesting in the world. It has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force. If there be any truth in the remark, the crisis at which we are arrived may with propriety be regarded as the era in which that decision is to be made; and a wrong election of the part we shall act may, in this view, deserve to be considered as the general misfortune of mankind.
When a government fails to heed the wishes of its People, a crisis is inevitable.

"You Can't Handle The Cost"

The IRS acknowledges what everyone already knows:
A warning that federal tax officials will need more congressional funding to administer the Democrats’ health reform law has rekindled the partisan debate over its cost effectiveness.

Senior Republicans have said for months that the new responsibilities required of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) under the legislation would saddle the agency with billions of dollars in additional costs — expenses not accounted for in the bill.

A Wednesday report from the National Taxpayer Advocate (NTA), an independent watchdog within the IRS, backed those claims, finding that the agency currently lacks the resources to take on the new duties.

"I have no doubt the IRS is capable of administering social programs, including healthcare," Nina Olson, head of the NTA, said in a statement. “But Congress must provide sufficient funding.”

Republicans quickly offered up a message to Democrats that boiled down to this: We told you so.

“Before ObamaCare passed, [Minority Leader John Boehner] and others warned that it would require an army of new IRS agents,” Boehner (R-Ohio) spokesman Michael Steel said in an email. “Democrats denied it. Now we know the truth.”
Even some Democrats are admitting it:
IRS spokesman Robert Marvin said Friday that the agency hasn’t yet determined how much extra funding it will need.

“While the IRS has already started work on the healthcare provisions, many of the key components are several years away from implementation,” Marvin said in an email. “It's premature to discuss funding issues.”

The office of Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Finance Committee, echoed that, saying Friday that funding and staffing levels won’t be decided until the IRS comes up with an implementation strategy.

“Until those factors are determined,” a Finance aide said in an email, “it’s premature to specify what the IRS will need, and certainly premature to infer the IRS won’t be able to handle it.”
Yes, especially since your party never bothered to check how much this was going to cost in the first place. Of course, they didn't read the bill, either, so this shouldn't be too surprising.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Incredible, Edible, Nonorganic Egg

Organic food is naturally better for you, right? Not according to some new research:
The study, led by food technologist Deana Jones, was not designed to explore the question of which egg-laying conditions are best for the hens themselves — simply because there is no question. Factory hens are confined in what are known as battery cages, which leave them crowded and all but immobilized, reduced to little more than egg-laying machines. Free-range and organic chickens have different degrees of freedom to move and are raised on varying levels of higher-quality feed. There's no question what kind of life the birds prefer.

What Jones and her colleagues wanted to learn is whether a happy hen in fact produces a better product. To do that, they relied principally on something known as the Haugh unit — a highly specialized egg-quality metric developed by food technologist Raymond Haugh in 1937. The white of an egg is where all its protein is found; it's made of both thin albumen — the watery fluid that runs farthest from the yolk when the egg is cracked into a cold pan — and thick albumen, the more viscous fluid that stays closer to the middle. The greater the amount of thick albumen, the more nutritious the egg.

"The Haugh unit factors together the weight of the egg and the thickness of the albumen layer at the center," says Jones. And that number, she found in her study, is not affected a whit by how a hen is raised. "We found no meaningful differences at all," she says. "We sampled eggs from a number of stores and kept getting the same results over and over. For shoppers, the decision comes down to your ethical and moral choices."
Seeing food the way you want to instead of the way it really is might be considered a tad arrogant. But if the chickens don't care, why should you?

The $100 Million Dollar Man

Via TaxProf Blog, this might be the real reason LeBron James decided to head South:
Mr. James figures to earn close to $100 million in salary over five seasons in Miami. According to an analysis by Richard Vedder, an economist at Ohio University, Mr. James's net present value tax savings on his salary are between $6 million and $8 million by living in Miami versus his home town of Akron. Professional athletes do have to pay other state taxes for the dates they play in visiting team arenas, but most of Mr. James's considerable endorsement income would be taxed at Florida rates.

The tax comparisons looked even worse for two other teams in the LeBron bidding, the New York Knicks and New Jersey Nets. ... While LeBron's departure got extraordinary media attention, it is hardly unique. In the early 1990s, Ohio was the home of 43 Fortune 500 companies. Twenty years later the number is 24. Census Bureau data show that from 2004-2008 Ohio saw a net outmigration of $6 billion of income and some 97,000 taxpayers. Even Ohio's famously liberal Senator, the late Howard Metzenbaum, moved to Florida late in his life to reduce his estate taxes.

We feel for Cleveland fans, but maybe they should allocate some of their wrath to the state politicians who keep driving high-income individuals and their businesses to financially sunnier climes.
It would be even worse if they found out he was (gasp!) a Republican.

Friday, July 09, 2010

The DOMA Effect

There's the law of the land, and then there's the law of unintended consequences:
Jack Balkin has an interesting post on today’s two Defense of Marriage Act cases from the federal District of Massachusetts, Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, and Massachusetts v. HHS. The latter case found DOMA unconstitutional, as applied to Massachusetts, because DOMA violates the Tenth Amendment by infringing the state’s traditional core sovereign power of defining lawful marriages. The most important parts of the Tenth Amendment analysis are at pages 28–36 of the opinion. Balkin is concerned because the Judge Tauro’s “Tenth Amendment arguments prove entirely too much. As much as liberals might applaud the result, they should be aware that the logic of his arguments, taken seriously, would undermine the constitutionality of wide swaths of federal regulatory programs and seriously constrict federal regulatory power.” In particular:
The modern state depends heavily on the federal government’s taxing and spending powers for many of the benefits that citizens hold dear, including Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and the newly passed provisions of the Affordable Care Act. These programs have regulatory effects on state family policies just as much as DOMA does. If DOMA’s direct interference with state prerogatives is beyond federal power, then perhaps any or all of these programs are vulnerable– and unconstitutional– to the extent they interfere with state policies regarding family formation as well. Put differently, Judge Tauro has offered a road map to attack a wide range of federal welfare programs, including health care reform. No matter how much they might like the result in this particular case, this is not a road that liberals want to travel.
Well, as my former boss, Colorado Attorney General Duane Woodard once put it, “There’s no liberal constitution or conservative constitution. It’s just the Constitution.” The Tenth Amendment is one of the roads that all conscientious American judges must travel, regardless of whether they personally like all of the places its leads.
This is true, although unfortunately it probably won't stop either side from believing otherwise.

Days Of Raid

Another day, another round of pointless pot busts:
Federal agents raided at least four San Diego-area medical marijuana dispensaries today in the early morning hours. Sources say that Green Kross, Unified Collective, SDOC and Kush Lounge were all served federal search warrants and were subjected to aggressive SWAT-style raids which resulted in the arrest of as many as 8 people and the seizure of money, medical marijuana and patient records. These raids come as the City of San Diego is deliberating an ordinance to regulate the local distribution of medical marijuana....

Several federal raids have occurred in San Diego over the past few years, typically with the cooperation of local law enforcement and District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. The latest raids happened in September 2009 under the multi-agency effort called "Operation Endless Summer." Despite the confidence of Dumanis in prosecuting state cases against local dispensary operators, one of them being Davidovich, they have only resulted in jury acquittals. "Despite a failure to win convictions in state court, Dumanis continues to aggressively enforce and prosecute groundless medical marijuana cases," continued Davidovich.
It's a bit like watching a hamster run around in his wheel, isn't it? Sooner or later, you wonder how long it will be before they tire themselves out...

Thursday, July 08, 2010

"We're Outta Here"

The verdict is in, and people who actually work for a living in the Bay Area are out:
As word spread throughout Oakland around 2:30 p.m. that a verdict had been reached in the Johannes Mehserle murder trial, the downtown streets suddenly flooded with workers rushing out of their workplaces to go home.

The normally placid lanes were clogged, people hurried along the sidewalk, and there was an almost electric air of worried anticipation. BART trains streaming in and out of downtown were jammed, and nearby Interstates 880 and 980 filled as if it were already commute hour.

At the downtown federal building, announcements were made over loudspeakers to tell everyone to go home. At many of the big businesses throughout the area, internal e-mails and other notices went out advising the same.

"People are kind of nervous," Cinderella Lee, communications manager for the Public Health Institute at the corner of 12th and Clay streets, said as she prepared to head home shortly after 3 p.m.. "We got official word from Human Resources that we can leave and go home safely."

Most of the co-workers around her had already left.
How long before the follow the lead of other Californians and leave the state entirely?

Watermelon Man

What happens to Eighties has-beens with no life? They become cranky old men:
It's more than just a slide into obscurity that delivered Gallagher to the Admiral rather than, say, the Moore in Seattle. You see, Gallagher is—how best to put this?—a paranoid, delusional, right-wing religious maniac. I HAD NO IDEA.

"Hey, President Obama," he spits out the name like a mouthful of burning hair. "You ain't black. I don't care what you say—you're a latte. You're half whole-milk. It could be goat milk—you could be a terrorist!" I am too busy losing my mind to catch the next joke, which is about Ted Kennedy's brain cancer. Aaaaand we're off.

Gallagher is upset about a lot of things. Young people with their sagging pants (in faintly coded racist terms, he explains that this is why the jails are overcrowded—because "their" baggy pants make it too hard for "them" to run from the cops). Tattoos: "That ink goes through to your soul—if you read your Bible, your body is a sacred temple, YOU DIPSHIT." People naming their girl-children Sam and Toni instead of acceptable names like Evelyn and Betty: "Just give her some little lesbian tendencies!" Guantánamo Bay: "We weren't even allowed to torture all the way. We had to half-torture—that's nothin' compared to what Saddam and his two sons OOFAY and GOOFAY did." Lesbians: "There's two types—the ugly ones and the pretty ones." (Um, like all people?) Obama again: "If Obama was really black, he'd act like a black guy and get a white wife." Michael Vick: "Poor Michael Vick." Women's lib: "These women told you they wanna be equal—they DON'T." Trans people: "People like Cher's daughter—figure that out. She wants a penis, but she has a big belly. If you can't see your dick, you don't get one." The Rice Krispies elves: "All three of those guys are gay. Look at 'em!" The Mexicans: "Look around—see any Mexicans? Nope. They'll be here later for the cleanup." The French: "They ruin our language with their faggy words."

Above all, everything is gay, gay, gay to Gallagher. He leans into it with the borderline-­nonsensical, icked-out, ignorant glee of a boy—or the protest-too-much vigor of a GOP senator. Gallagher delivers your Bible verse for the day: "Without God, we are nothing but dust. What is butt dust? Is that what you get if your homosexual isn't properly lubricated?" He relates a story about spilling mouthwash onto his crotch during a show: "Lucky for me, there was no homosexuals in the area—'cause my balls was minty fresh." At other points during the show, Gallagher says, "Men and women can't live in the same house" and "There's no way men and women can have a relationship." He says he can't remember why he used to feel pleasure in looking at a woman. And, "There's only one kind of homosexual guy, and that's the pretty ones—why do homosexual men have to be so good-looking?" Gallagher. Listen. Is there something you want to share with us?
He does seem to protest a bit too much on the subject, doesn't he?

Don't Ask, Don't Ban

Is this another victory for states' rights?
A U.S. judge in Boston has ruled that a federal gay marriage ban is unconstitutional because it interferes with the right of a state to define marriage.

U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro on Thursday ruled in favor of gay couples’ rights in two separate challenges to the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA.

The state had argued the law denied benefits such as Medicaid to gay married couples in Massachusetts, where same-sex unions have been legal since 2004.

Tauro agreed, and said the act forces Massachusetts to discriminate against its own citizens.

“The federal government, by enacting and enforcing DOMA, plainly encroaches upon the firmly entrenched province of the state, and in doing so, offends the Tenth Amendment. For that reason, the statute is invalid,” Tauro wrote in a ruling in a lawsuit filed by Attorney General Martha Coakley.
As someone who never liked the Defense of Marriage Act, I have to say applying the 10th Amendment might be a bit of a stretch. More on DOMA here. Still, it does raise a question for conservatives-how far will their support of states' rights go in this case?

A Charitable Excuse

One man's sympathizer is another's charity worker?
A former congressman and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations pleaded guilty in federal court today to obstruction of justice and to acting as an unregistered foreign agent related to his work for an Islamic charity with ties to international terrorism, announced Beth Phillips, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri.

Mark Deli Siljander, 59, of Great Falls, Va., pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Nanette K. Laughrey to one charge contained in an Oct. 21, 2008, federal indictment, and an additional charge filed today, involving his work for the Islamic American Relief Agency (IARA) of Columbia, Mo. Siljander was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Michigan and was a U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations General Assembly.
With guys like this, who needs Russian spies?

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Bloodsucking We Can Believe In

It's Obama's newest constituency:
Organizing for America hopes "Twilight" fans will be Team Obama.

The western Pennsylvania chapter of the Obama-supporting grassroots group recently showed up at a premiere for the new "Twilight" flick, "Eclipse," at a Pittsburgh shopping area. And it went well enough that National Press Secretary Lynda Tran said she could see OFA heading to movie premieres again.

"To my knowledge the effort in Pennsylvania is the first time OFA volunteers have turned to a movie premiere to connect with potential supporters," Tran told Yeas & Nays in an e-mail. "Given their success in Pittsburgh I wouldn't be surprised to see other efforts like this one replicated around the country."
Considering that the Democrats have used dead voters in the past, using the undead does seem to be the next logical step.

Baked Sale

Only in San Francisco:
while the casual peddler of edible marijuana on sunny days in the City's parks still faces arrest, the City's Department of Public Health has rules for legitimate edible cannabis treats at medical marijuana dispensaries.

For instance, anything that requires refrigeration is right out unless the dispensary applies for an exemption, so you might want to rethink your plans for a soda fountain at your dispensary.

In fact, making anything look like candy which might attract children -- such as candy bars wrapped in packaging meant to mimic popular brands -- is also forbidden.

The packaging does, however, have to state the amount of marijuana in the food, and whether it contains any potential allergens such as nuts.
Somehow, I don't think those who buy the brownies care all that much...

Self Love Is In The Air

A look at Obama's role as Narcissist-In-Chief:
What we got was a president who suffers from amour-propre. Amour-propre, which translates to self-love, was the term used by philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau to describe a man's need to value himself on the basis of other people's opinions of him. Rousseau contrasted the disease of amour-propre with the healthy amour-de-soi, a love of self which motivates a man to protect himself and his life without really caring how others see him (but still acting with pity and compassion, which Rousseau considered innate).

It's what we today call narcissism, which we use to indicate someone who puts himself at the center of everything, who thinks so much of himself, but has so little personal foundation, that he has to look elsewhere -- outside himself -- for approval and justification.
And, with his own approval ratings continuing to tank, he really has nowhere else to go for love, does he?

The Ration Czar?

Meet Obama's new Medicare czar:
In an interview last year with Biotechnology Healthcare, Berwick said society makes decisions about rationing all the time, and that the "decision is not whether or not we will ration care -- the decision is whether we will ration with our eyes open. And right now, we are doing it blindly."

He has also praised the UK's National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), which he said had "developed very good and very disciplined, scientifically grounded, policy-connected models for the evaluation of medical treatments from which we ought to learn."

Said Berwick, "You can say, 'Well, we shouldn’t even look.' But that would be irrational. The social budget is limited -- we have a limited resource pool. It makes terribly good sense to at least know the price of an added benefit, and at some point we might say nationally, regionally, or locally that we wish we could afford it, but we can’t. We have to be realistic about the knowledge base."

Berwick said the degree to which the knowledge base is "linked directly to policy and decision is a matter of choice. You could make it advisory, or you could make it mandatory, or you could make it a policy rule. But to remain ignorant of the cost implications of a drug that is marginally better than what is already out there is simply bad policy."
Ah, yes, the joys of National Health. Where's Congress when you need them?

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Levi Apologizes

Levi Johnston says he's sorry:
Levi Johnston isn't just getting past his differences with Bristol Palin – he's also hoping to make amends with her famous mom.

"Last year, after Bristol and I broke up, I was unhappy and a little angry. Unfortunately, against my better judgment, I publicly said things about the Palins that were not completely true," he tells PEOPLE exclusively. "I have already privately apologized to Todd and Sarah. Since my statements were public, I owe it to the Palins to publicly apologize."

Bristol added her own statement Tuesday saying, "Part of co-parenting is creating healthy and honest relationships between the parents. Tripp one day needs to know the truth and needs to know that even if a mistake is made the honorable thing to do is to own up to it."
....

Though they had been in a bitter custody battle, Bristol, who recently made her acting debut on ABC Family's The Secret Life of the American Teenager, has said she and Johnston want to turn "a new page here as co-parents … and [put] aside the past because doing so is in [our son] Tripp's best interest."

"So to the Palin family in general and to Sarah Palin in particular, please accept my regrets and forgive my youthful indiscretion," Johnston says in the statement. "I hope one day to restore your trust."
That sound you hear is of Andrew Sullivan weeping.

Cruising Into Retirement

It's the end of an era:
The PT Cruiser was one of the first modern retro vehicles, coming after the VW Beetle and Plymouth Prowler but before the Mini Cooper, Chevrolet HHR, Ford Thunderbird and Fiat 500. Beyond the original sedan, the lineup grew to include a turbocharged performance model, a convertible and more than a dozen special editions.

But despite selling more than 1.3 million PT Cruisers over the years, Chrysler never refreshed the car's looks and features or built on its success by launching any similar vehicles.

The PT had brushes with extinction when Daimler and private investment firm Cerberus Capital Management ran Chrysler. It won reprieve after reprieve because people kept buying it.

"It's plugged along and still has a loyal fan base," Hall said.

But with sales just under 5,500 this year through June, the PT Cruiser's fate was sealed.
Maybe part of the problem was that they tried to sell a niche vehicle as a mainstream one after the fad was over and it never really got beyond its fan base. At any rate, those who still own one may now have a collector's item on their hands. R.I.P. to a quirky car.